When I saw Forbidden Planet listed on TCM, I got all excited.
“That’s a famous bad movie,” I told Steven. Turns out I was half right: it’s famous. I remembered that the movie was based on The Tempest by William Shakespeare (loosely, I believe) and that it is the movie that introduced Robbie the Robot.
I know Robbie the Robot from Lost in Space. I remember in one episode he played The Robotoid, who was apparently a better robot than The Robot, and The Robot got all jealous and sad. And I seem to remember Robbie being an evil robot as well, but that may have been the same episode. (Of course The Robot started out evil, but let’s not get all bogged down in Lost in Space reminisces.)
When Ben Mankiewicz gave his pre-movie commentary (which I love), he informed me that Forbidden Planet broke the mold of previous science fiction movies by having a budget and taking pains with the script, sets and acting. Who knew? Well, I’ve mentioned in the past it seems foolish to not watch a movie because I’m afraid it will be too good. I thought I’d give it a try.
I almost didn’t recognize Leslie Nielsen without his white hair and with his tongue not in his cheek. Ann Francis is the only girl both on the planet and in the movie, and Walter Pigeon plays her father. Those were the names I recognized in the cast.
I thought the plot of the movie was a little bit “Waaait a minute.” Leslie and ship have traveled two years through space to check on a group that set out to colonize some planet (I forget the name of the planet, and you know, nobody in the movie actually refers to it as “forbidden.” Just saying). Hello, 20 years? They didn’t let the Pilgrims go that long without checking on them, and proportionally travel and communications was a lot less sophisticated back then (I say “proportionally” because, you know, space vs oceans).
Then, after they find all is not well, although Walter Pigeon insists that it is, it’s going to take them like a month to cannibalize their ship to build a device to communicate with earth for further instructions. Excuse me, what? What were their original instructions and what did they expect to find? Didn’t they think they MIGHT need to call home? And how are they going to get back home once they’ve dismantled the ship to build this fancy telephone?
Perhaps I read too much into it. Or perhaps I was not paying enough attention, as you know is sometimes the case with me. I must observe, the movie got a little dull. It certainly moved slowly. The monster didn’t show up till like 45 minutes into it, and then it was just mysterious breathing. We don’t actually see the monster till much later and then we don’t exactly see it.
That, by the way, is my favorite special effect in the picture. The effects and the sets are pretty good for the time. A couple of the scenes look pretty definitely painted, but they’re lovely and nothing really looks fake.
The ending gets exciting. I don’t want to say a whole lot about how things develop and what happens, but it gets kind of heady and philosophical, while still remaining exciting. Not an easy trick to pull off.
On the whole, I would say Forbidden Planet is worth a watch if you’re interested in science fiction, movies and their history together. Next I’m going to read The Tempest, so I can do a compare/contrast on the plots. That might be good for another blog post.