Forbidden Planet (1956) - Monsters from the Id
"Monsters John! Monsters from the Id."
Forbidden Planet was directed by Fred M.Wilcox and premiered on 15th March 1956. It starred Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen, Warren Stevens and Jack Kelly. Screenplay by Cyril Hume. Electronic Tonalities by Louis & Bebe Barron. 98mins.
One of the great classics of SF cinema, Forbidden Planet (1956) is an updating of Shakespeare's The Tempest (c1611). Prospero is Dr. Morbius, an obsessive scientist living alone with his daughter Altaira (the virginal Miranda figure) on the planet Altair IV. Ariel is the charming Robby the Robot. And Caliban, the invisible Id Monster.
Originally written as a wholesome family movie, director Fred M. Wilcox (1907-1964), whose best known film was Lassie Come Home (1943), turned the script on its head and presented an intelligent film about the possible hazards of technology and space travel, subverting the story and transforming it into a nightmare.
Morbius: The fool, the meddling idiot! As though his ape's brain could contain the secrets of the Krell!
Walter Pidgeon (1897-1984) / Dr. Edward Morbius.
Anne Francis (1930-2011) / Altaira, Morbius daughter.
Leslie Nielsen (1926-2010) / Commander J.J. Adams, captain of the United Planets Cruiser C57D.
Warren Stevens (1919-) / Lt. 'Doc' Ostrow.
Jack Kelly (1927-1992) / Lt. Jerry Farman.
Richard Anderson (1926-) / Chief Quinn.
Earl Holliman (1928-) / Cookie, the ships cook.
Robby the Robot - voiced by Marvin Miller (1913-1985)
Robby the Robot: If you do not speak English, I am at your disposal with 187 other languages along with their various dialects and sub-tongues.
Morbius: In times long past, this planet was the home of a mighty, noble race of beings who called themselves the Krell. Ethically and technologically they were a million years ahead of humankind, for in unlocking the meaning of nature they had conquered even their baser selves, and when in the course of eons they had abolished sickness and insanity, crime and all injustice, they turned, still in high benevolence, upwards towards space. Then, having reached the heights, this all-but-divine race disappeared in a single night, and nothing was preserved above ground.
It is the 23rd Century and Commander Adams and the crew of United Planets Cruiser C-57D are on a rescue mission to the distant planet Altair-IV, upon which a previous vessel the Bellerophon had landed. Upon arriving at Altair-IV, the team discovers two survivors, Dr. Edward Morbius and his beautiful daughter, Altaira.
Forbidden Planet has sumptuous visual effects and sets depicting Altair IV with it’s twin suns and green skies, and the underground cities of steel and porcelain of the Krell, the alien race whose dangerous secrets Morbius has partially unravelled.
It transpires that the Krell developed the ability to manifest their psyche into physical form. The Krell died when, in the course of their development, they reached the point where they not only freed themselves of material restrictions, they also made material their nightmares which led to the extinction of their race
Although unaware of the awesome power he has tapped, Morbius has similarly unleashed the power of his own subconscious, his Id. He kills his fellow explorers when they want to return home, only his daughter is spared.
The significance of this becomes clearer when Commander Adams and his crew arrive to investigate. First Morbius tries to warn them off but when they land members of the crew are killed by an invisible force. Morbius is clearly jealous of the attention paid towards his innocent daughter for whom he has incestuous feelings.
Morbius: Guilty! Guilty! My evil self is at that door, and I have no power to stop it!
After the climactic battle against the Id monster, the literalization of his jealousies and unspeakable desires, Morbius realises what he has unleashed and makes a move towards redemption. He throws himself into the arms of his manifested Id.
Mortally wounded, Morbius tells Adams to push a lever which sets off an irreversible chain reaction deep inside the planet, with his dying breath he calls out the name of his daughter.
Altaira, Robby, Adams and his crew fly off into deep space, they watch as Altair IV explodes, taking along with it the secrets of the Krell.
The music or “electronic tonalities” by Louis and Bebe Barron, was innovative for it’s time, the first completely electronic film score. The soundtrack album was first released in 1976, the movie's 20th anniversary.
Altaira: Where have you been? I've beamed and beamed.
Robby the Robot: Sorry, miss. I was giving myself an oil-job.
Robby the Robot (voiced by Marvin Miller) was so popular he became a science fiction icon (and also appeared in the movie The Invisible Boy in 1957).
Forbidden Planet was nominated for a Best Special Effects Oscar, losing to The Ten Commandments (1956).
A novelization of the film was published after the films release, written by W.J.Stuart (Philip MacDonald).
Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry has stated in interviews that Forbidden Planet was an inspiration for the series.
Forbidden Planet is a SF classic, perhaps the greatest from SF cinema’s golden age. The visual effects even today still convey a sense of wonder, particularly the scenes depicting the vast underground labyrinth of the Krell reactors.
The critics wrote -
"Engaging science fiction hokum with its head in the psychological clouds and the tongue planted firmly in cheek." (Sunday Express)
“An ingenious script, excellent special effects and photography, and superior acting make it an endearing winner.” (Geoff Andrew, Time Out)
“Elaborate beyond the dreams of SF fans, Forbidden Planet was and still is the most remarkable of SF films, the ultimate recreation of the future. (John Baxter, Science Fiction in the Cinema)
“It's a pity they didn't lift some of Shakespeare's dialogue: it’s hard to believe you’re in the heavens when the diction of the hero (Leslie Nielsen) and his spaceship mates flattens you down to Kansas.” (Pauline Kael, 1977)
“Imaginative gadgets galore, plus plenty of suspense and thrills, make the production a top offer in the space travel category.” (Variety)
“It offers some of the most amusing creatures conceived since the Keystone Kops... If you've got an ounce of taste for crazy humor, you'll have a barrel of fun.” (New York Times)
“I haven't enjoyed a science-fiction so much since Them! … Ingenious, inventive, spectacular- Forbidden Planet has another distinction. It is the first Freudian space-film; and to all the Beasts and Creatures we can now add the Thing from the Id.” (Dilys Powell)