Captain Adams and the crew of the Starship C57D fly towards planet Altair 4 in search for the Bellerphon spaceship that has been missing for twenty years. To their surprise they are already being expected. A classic science fiction film from 1957 starring Leslie Nielsen.
Sometimes a classic film comes from an unexpected place. Director Fred Wilcox had directed nothing of note before – “Lassie Comes Home” was his best known movie until this.The leading man in the movie is a young Leslie Nielsen, much better known decades later for his comedy role in the “Police Squad” series. From such unpromising soil sprang what is widely regarded as one of the finest science fiction movies of all time.
Loosely based on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”, the story follows a spaceship on a rescue mission to a distant planet to see whether a lost expedition had survived from a couple of decades earlier. Nielsen and his crew find Dr Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) and his daughter Altaira (Anne Francis), with the good doctor comfortably set up and attended to by a surprisingly sophisticated robot (Robbie) that he has “tinkered together”. As Morbius encourages the rescuer party to leave it becomes clear that a mysterious force lurks on the planet and may pose a danger to the crew.
Forbidden Planet had quite a high budget for its day, and the special effects are at times very impressive, even over half a century later. It had the first ever electronic-only film score, composed by a couple of New York experimental artist/musicians. Commissioned only to provide a sample, they actually got carried away and scored the entire movie, and the studio adopted it completely once they realised how good it was. The eerie music undoubtedly adds to the tension of the film. Walter Pidgeon is excellent as the tortured Morbius, and Anne Francis manages to convincingly play a beguiling teenage temptress even though she was 26 at the time the movie was shot. Even Leslie Nielsen manages to keep a straight face and a well-set jaw as the action-hero captain. Robbie the Robot was such an engaging character that he made it into several later TV and film appearances, such as the series “Lost in Space”.
There is something magical about Forbidden Planet – everything just comes together beautifully in a film that at times now shows its age yet still retains its charm and capacity to entertain and delight.