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Forbidden Planet

Director:

U.S.A.| 1956. Colour. Anamorphic. 97 min.


Revived in a splendid new CinemaScope print, Forbidden Planet is one of the classic science fiction movies of the ’50s. A lavishly produced, completely studio-bound extravaganza, it features Leslie Nielsen in an early role, special effects that are still impressive, and the first musical score for a film created entirely electronically.
Nielsen plays Adams, the commander of a spaceship sent to the planet Altair-4 in the year 2000 AD to investigate the destruction of most of its inhabitants by some invisible, unstoppable monster. Adams and his crew find two human survivors, a saturnine philologist named Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) and his slightly thick daughter Altaira (Anne Francis). Living with them is Robby the Robot (for many the real star of the film), one of the legacies of the planet’s technologically sophisticated previous inhabitants. Soon after Adams and his crew turn up the monster responsible for the deaths raises its head again.
The parallels with Shakespeare’s The Tempest are immediately apparent: Morbius is Prospero, his daughter a Miranda who has never known men, Robby the Robot serves as the spirit Ariel, and the monster is Caliban the witch-child. Such highbrow allusions lend the film some weight, but the rather camp performances make it difficult to take the piece very seriously on a dramatic level. What really distinguishes Forbidden Planet is its fascination with technology and artifice. A lot of money went into creating the giant set that represents Altair-4 as a surreal planet with a green sky, pink sand and two moons. Robby the Robot is the film’s most delightful invention, a benign creation fluent in 88 languages and capable of almost any task.

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