Forbidden Planet (1956)

Forbidden Planet (1956), directed by Fred M. Wilcox.

First review

When I was a boy (the tedious old man began) we were desperate for serious science fiction in film and hardly ever got it. We made the most of what we had, in this case tending to ignore the romance plot and comic silliness with Robby and ship's cook Earl Holliman. What we extracted were elements that could have come from written SF, something rare even unto this very day.

It is cool that the space crew have to convert to some sort of gaseous or plasma state when enduring hyperdrive. It looks unpleasant. And that their ray guns are recoilless; decades later Star Wars (1977) was much more retro with the big heaving laser canons. Think about it: a pound of light is a lot of light.

We get a fine presentation of the lost, unknown, almost omnipotent Krell. The tour of their underground works, still operating after so many centuries, is a wonderful show. That Morbius does not realize his own subconscious demons are operating the machinery and causing the disaster: introduction to psychology! The soft sciences might be good for something after all... The lurking, invisible presence is a nice monster plot and one can imagine a darker and more serious treatment of the same story.

Robby is an elegant creation, a combination of the futuristic with old fashioned radio loops and visible relays. Does everyone notice that he knows how to lie?

As a kid it seemed entirely reasonable that the spaceship would be run on military lines based on the US Navy with a hard as nails commander. This time I noticed how Oz-like some of the painted vegetation seemed.

Unusually the spacey soundtrack is not from a theremin but some other electronics effects apparatus. It reminds me of what little I remember of Stockhausen.

Available on Blu-ray, and the disc includes another full length movie, The Invisible Boy (1957), and an episode of the Peter Lawford series The Thin Man, both featuring Robby the Robot.

Second review

Today's film works of imagination are dominated by superhero stories. I wonder if young people who enjoy them will still be rewatching them in their old age. I don't remember ever thinking about that when I was young and I don't suppose young people do today.

In my case: some things of childhood you leave behind. Some things you revisit out of fond nostalgia. And some you just continue to enjoy on their own merits, maybe seeing more of their limitations but also appreciating their strengths.

The works of imagination of my youth are still valuable to me: the old Universal monster films, the 1950s SF stories, some of the westerns and other adventures. It is a strange combination of time travel and seeing old things with new eyes.

Forbidden Planet was a rare big-budget 1950s SF film, a great combination of gloss and cheesiness.

It also has something of a high concept: that forces of the subconscious ("Id! Id! Id!") are projected into the external world as monsters is an idea worth considering. Much of what we struggle with in the world is the projection of our internal "stuff" out onto a cosmic stage. It might be less wear and tear on other people if we were to work out our dreams and nightmares internally rather than drafting others to play roles in our terrible dramas.



Miranda: How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world that has such people in't!.

Prospero: 'Tis new to thee.


Altaira: I've always so terribly wanted to see a young man and now three at once... You're lovely, doctor.

Or when she awakes from a nightmare about the storm when her father is sending out the monster in his sleep (conscious magic in the original play):


Miranda: O, I have suffered with those that I saw suffer! A brave vessel, who had no doubt some noble creature in her, dash'd all to pieces!


Altaira: Father! I just had a terrible dream. There was blood and fire and thunder and something awful was moving in the middle of it. I could hear the roar and bellow.

Available on Blu-ray with a nice set of extras, including another feature film with Robby: The Invisible Boy (1957), in standard definition.