Forbidden Planet (1956)

It’s the 23rd century and Commander J. J. Adams, along with the crew of United Planets Cruiser C-57D, is on a mission to discover the fate of a group of colonists on Altair IV, a planet many light years away from earth.

Upon arrival they are greeted by a hostile Dr. Morbius who warns them not to land. Adams and crew insist and proceed to touchdown close to the only sign of civilisation visible on the planet’s surface. They find that the doctor and his daughter, Altaira, are the only survivors from the original group of colonists; the others were killed by a mysterious force to which Morbius and Altaira are immune. It doesn’t take long for the murderous presence to awaken once again.

Sad news this week as movie legend Leslie Neilson passes away. Best known for his comedic roles in movies such as Airplane! (1980), the Naked Gun Trilogy and TV show Police Squad, Mr Neilson had a lengthy career with a list of credits spanning the last 60 years. He also appeared in Repossessed (1990), a fun spoof of The Exorcist (1973), and in Scary Movie 3 (2003), Scary Movie 4 (2006). At the beginning of his career many of Leslie Neilsons’ roles were more serious, and of those one of his most memorable characters is Commander J. J. Adams from Forbidden Planet.
I first watched Forbidden Planet way back in the 80’s, late on a Friday or Saturday night and probably on Channel 4 (usually the place to see all the interesting stuff back then). The movie was thirty years old by then and it was still a great science-fiction flick; it’s still a great one now.

The many imaginative props featured in Forbidden Planet are at this stage pieces of movie making history: The smooth saucer design of the C-57D and its strange retro interior; the shambling, whirring presence of Robbie the Robot, one of the first representations of an intelligent robot seen on screen. the amusing communications device that extends from the Commanders’ belt on a wire, not unlike those extending key chains you see today. The movie drips retro cool and you can’t help wondering at the future vision of those who imagined it in the 1950’s. Try to imagine the Krell for a moment thinking about the evidence provided (you’ll have to watch it if you don’t know what I’m referring to). Can you come up with anything that isn’t strangely Lovecraftian?

Although there are some action scenes Forbidden Planet is not an action movie. Its plot is intelligent and thought provoking, there are some laughs along the way and a dash of romance too; something to interest everyone in the family. Of course there are some mistakes but nothing that intrudes on your enjoyment. If you haven’t seen Forbidden Planet then do yourself a favour and watch it.

4 out of 5.

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