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Forbidden Planet - Pivotal Science Fiction

Forbidden Planet Broke So Much New Ground

By Mike Singleton - MikeydredPublished 3 years ago 3 min read
Forbidden Planet

I remember seeing my first Star Wars film (Episode 4 A New Hope) when it was the first Star Wars film , and that huge spaceship that seemed to never stop as it just filled the cinema screen. How could something be that huge and move and be filmed. You know it’s just special effects that some guys put this together to impress you. This was pre CGI so it was all models and film retouching.

I’m also a fan of Ray Harryhausen stop motion work , the Disney science fiction adaptations of HG Wells and the like that defined Steampunk , and going back much further, Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis”.

But the film I want to talk about is “Forbidden Planet”, very loosely based on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”. It gave its name to a book chain , and is considered a pivotal science fiction film, one of the greats of the 1950s (it was released in 1956).

It starred Anne Francis as Altaira "Alta" Morbius , Walter Pidgeon as Dr. Edward Morbius, and Leslie Nielsen in a serious role as Commander John J. Adams .

It was a film of many pioneering firsts in the science fiction and other genres:

  • It was the first science fiction film to show humans traveling in their own faster-than-light starship.
  • Also the first one to be set entirely on another planet in interstellar space, far from Earthbound
  • Robby the Robot is one of the first film robots that was more than just a "tin can" on legs. He displays a distinct personality and is an integral character.
  • Outside science fiction, the film was the first of any genre to use an entirely electronic musical score, from Bebe and Louis Barron

In 2013, the picture was entered into the Library of Congress' National Film Registry, as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant"

Tony Magistrale says it is one of the best examples of early techno-horror.

The film is often referenced by writers such as Stephen King in The Tommyknockers and Terry Pratchett in Strata and probably a lot mor than that.

The film is obviously rooted in the 1950s in the dress and characteristics with underlying hints of the red menace and the like but is still remarkable , the major monster the threat being the creature from the id which still impresses me and film monsters usually don't unless Ray Harryhausen did them.

The plot goes along the lines of In the 23rd century, the United Planets starship C-57D reaches the distant planet Altair IV to determine the fate of an expedition sent there 20 years ago.

Morbius, one of the earlier expedition's scientists, warns the ship not to land because he cannot guarantee their safety, but Commander Adams ignores the warning and lands.

Robby the Robot greets the expedition and takes them to the Morbius residence.

Morbius informs Adams that he has been studying artefacts of the Krell (an advanced race that were wiped out 200,000 years ago). One is a device that enhances the intellect, which Morbius had used. And doubled his intellect. Another is a 20 miles (32 km) square underground machine, still functioning, powered by 9,200 thermonuclear reactors.

When Morbius shows the visiting Space travellers the Krell machine I thought , so that’s where George Lucas got his idea for that set twenty odd years later.

Adams tells Morbius to share his discoveries with Earth. Morbius refuses, saying "humanity is not yet ready to receive such limitless power"

Altair IV does not survive the film but this was a quantum leap in Science fiction on the screen. It is still worth watching today both as a historical throwback to the fifties and a testament to how far imagination can take us with what were at the time limited technology and resources.

If you you have not seen it make a date and get it seen.

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Comments (1)

  • Made in DNA2 years ago

    I didn't know this was based on The Tempest! Pretty obvious where Lucas got some of his ideas for Star Wars (but who's complaining?). Both FB and SW are great films!

Mike Singleton - MikeydredWritten by Mike Singleton - Mikeydred

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