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Greatest Golden Age Sci-Fi Movies - 1956: Forbidden planet

Updated on April 30, 2009

A faraway desolate planet is coming into sight of a spacecraft which is swiftly approaching. The crew is searching for the lost complement of an earlier spaceship which had been lost. The beginning of this motion picture seems to be nothing out of the ordinary, but everything changes when someone sends a radio message to the approaching ship, warning them not to land. It is a survivor, apparently, who prefers to be left alone.

The captain (a strikingly young Leslie Nielsen) ignores the warnings and lands his craft, and comes face to face with the man who sent the message, the ambiguous and mysterious Doctor Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) who, accompanied by his daughter (Anne Francis) and the amazing Robby The Robot (the prototype for all semi-humanoid robots since, and a virtual twin to the one in Lost In Space), spends his time studying the gigantic machinery left on the planet by the now extinct civilization of the Krell.

When Morbius' daughter falls in love with the young dashing captain, a giant invisible monster starts killing off the spaceship's crew. At the end we discover that the monster was really only Doctor Morbius' subconscious mind, amplified and made telekinetic by the huge Krell machines. When Morbius realizes what has happened, he commits suicide and inadvertently sets off a self destruct sequence for the entire planet, but of course, the captain and his young lover are able to escape in the nick of time.

Although many critics have hailed this film as a cinematic version of Shakespeare's The Tempest, but in actual fact the screenplay is not connected in any tangible way to the work of the Bard. The fame of Forbidden Planet lies not in its Elizabethan drama, but in the truly innovative ideas which are so indelibly associated with this motion picture that unlike almost every other original story idea from Fifties science fiction movies, has never formed the core of any other motion picture screenplay.

The terror invoked by the monster in the famous scene where he approaches the spacecraft and all that can be seen are his footprints forming in the sand, is completely unforgettable. It is true that the invisibility of this monster created a fear and anxiety in the audience that couldn't be duplicated by any modern CGI creature, no matter how complex. As Alfred Hitchcock well knew, in many cinematic occasions, the imagination of the audience is far more frightening than any well defined, clear, obvious, and unmistakeable presentation of the horrific. After all, how many people who have seen Psycho realize that at no time in the shower scene do you ever see the knife make contact with the actress' skin? You never see a wound of any type. If you don't believe that, go back and watch it again, and you will see true directorial genius at work!

1956: Forbidden planet

Directed by
Fred M. Wilcox (as Fred McLeod Wilcox)
Screenwriting by
Cyril Hume (for the screenplay)
Irving Block (for the story) &
Allen Adler (for the story)

 Dr. Edward Morbius - Walter Pidgeon
 Altaira 'Alta' Morbius - Anne Francis
 Commander J. J. Adams - Leslie Nielsen
 Lt. 'Doc' Ostrow M.D. - Warren Stevens
 Lt. Jerry Farman - Jack Kelly
 Chief Quinn - Richard Anderson
 Cook - Earl Holliman
 Himself - Robby the Robot
 Bosun - George Wallace


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    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 8 years ago from Toronto

      I agree fully. I just wrote:

      which deals with that very issue.

    • profile image

      Opinion Duck 8 years ago

      Forbidden Planet was a great movie of the fifties.

      The fifties sci fi and horror movies were a product of the cold war some would say.

      Mans worst enemy is himself and there is little protection against it.