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Forbidden Planet

Forbidden Planet is a 1956 science fiction film directed by Fred M. Wilcox, with a screenplay by Cyril Hume. It stars Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, and Leslie Nielsen. The characters and its setting have been compared to those in William Shakespeare's The Tempest, and its plot contains certain story analogs and a reference to one section of Jung's theory on the collective subconscious. Forbidden Planet is the first science fiction film in which humans are depicted traveling in a starship of their own construction. It was also the first science fiction film that was set entirely on another planet in deep space, away from the planet Earth. Forbidden Planet is considered one of the great science fiction films of the 1950s, a precursor of what was to come for the science fiction film genre in the decades that followed.
Forbidden Planet features special effects for which A. Arnold Gillespie, Irving G. Ries, and Wesley C. Miller were nominated for an Academy Award. It was the only major award nomination the film received. Forbidden Planet features the groundbreaking use of an entirely electronic musical score by Louis and Bebe Barron. It also featured "Robby the Robot", one of the first film robots that was more than just a mechanical "tin can" on legs; Robby displays a distinct personality and is a complete supporting character in the film. In the biography of Gene Roddenberry, the Star Trek Creator, notes that Forbidden Planet "was one of my inspirations for Star Trek."

The story takes place early in the 23rd century. The United Planets Cruiser C57-D travels to the planet Altair IV, 16 light-years from Earth, to discover the fate of an expedition sent 20 years earlier. Soon after entering orbit, the cruiser receives a transmission from Dr. Edward Morbius (Pidgeon), the expedition's linguist. He warns the starship away, saying he cannot guarantee their safety; he also states further assistance is not necessary. Commander John J. Adams (Nielsen) by passes the warning and insists on landing coordinates.
They are met on landing by Robby the Robot, who takes Adams, Lieutenant Jerry Farman, and Lieutenant "Doc" Ostrow to Morbius's home. There, Morbius explains that an unknown "planetary force" killed nearly everyone and then vaporized their starship, Bellerophon, as the survivors tried to lift-off the planet. Only Morbius, his wife (who later died of natural causes), and their daughter Altaira (Francis) were somehow immune. Morbius fears that the C57-D and its crew will meet the same fate; Altaira is fascinated to meet other Earthmen after knowing only her father.
Later the next night, equipment aboard the C57-D is sabotaged, though posted sentries never spot the intruder. Adams and Ostrow confront Morbius the following morning. They learn he has been studying a highly advanced native species, the Krell, a race that mysteriously died suddenly 200,000 years before, just as they achieved their crowning scientific triumph.
In a still functioning Krell laboratory, Morbius shows Adams and Ostrow a device he calls a "plastic educator," a machine capable of measuring and enhancing intellectual capacity; he uses it to display a three-dimensional, moving thought projection of Altaira. The Bellerophon's captain tried the machine and was instantly killed. When Morbius first used the machine, he barely survived; he later discovered his intellect had been permanently doubled. His increased intelligence, along with information from a Krell "library", enabled him to build Robby and the other "technological marvels" in his home. Morbius then takes them on a tour of a vast cube-shaped, underground Krell complex, 20 miles [30 km] on each side, still functioning and powered by 9,200 thermonuclear reactors.

In response to the sabotage, Adams orders a defensive force field fence deployed around the starship. This proves useless when the intruder returns undetected and murders Chief Engineer Quinn. Later, Dr. Ostrow is confused by a casting made from one of the large footprints the intruder left behind: its contradictory features appear to violate all known evolutionary laws. 

When the intruder returns, the C57-D's crew is prepared but discovers it is invisible. Its roaring image becomes visible as it stands within the fence's force field, further enhanced by the crew's directed high-energy weapons' fire, which has no effect. Several of the crew are killed during the battle, including Farman. Back in the Krell lab, Morbius is startled awake by Altaira's screaming; at that same instant, the large creature suddenly vanishes.
Later, while Adams confronts Morbius at his home, Ostrow sneaks away to use the Krell educator; he is fatally injured. As he lies dying, Ostrow explains to Adams that the great machine was built to materialize anything the Krell could imagine, projecting it anywhere on the planet. However, with his dying breath, he also says the Krell forgot one thing: "Monsters from the Id!" When confronted by Adams, Morbius objects, pointing out that there are no Krell alive. Adams counters that Morbius' subconscious mind, expanded by the "plastic educator," can access the great machine and recreate the monster that killed the original expedition; Morbius refuses to believe it.

After Altaira declares her love for Adams in defiance of her father's wishes, Robby detects the creature approaching the house. Morbius commands the robot to kill it, but Robby knows it is a manifestation of his master. His programming conflict to never harm humans forces Robby to shut down. Powered by the great machine, the creature melts through the indestructible doors of the Krell laboratory where Adams, Altaira, and Morbius have taken refuge. Morbius finally accepts the truth: The creature is an extension of his own mind, "his evil self". He is fatally injured trying to stop the monster, which then immediately disappears. Morbius directs Adams to activate a floor switch (a self-destruct mechanism) and warns them that they must be 100 million miles away within 24 hours.

From deep space, Adams, Altaira, Robby, and the rest of the crew witness the destruction of Altair IV and the entire planetary system.



For many, Forbidden Planet is the granddaddy of Star Trek. A pioneering work whose ideas and style would be reverse-engineered into many cinematic space voyages to come. Leslie Nielsen plays the commander who brings his spacecruiser crew to Planet Altair-4, home to Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), his daughter (Anne Francis), a dutiful robot named Robby and to a mysterious terror. Featuring sets of extraordinary scale and the first all-electronic musical soundscape in film history, Forbidden Planet is in a movie orbit all its own.




The screen story by Irving Block and Allen Adler, written in 1952, was originally titled Fatal Planet. The later screenplay draft by Cyril Hume renamed the film Forbidden Planet, because this was believed to have greater box-office appeal. Block and Adler's drama took place in the year 1976 on the planet Mercury. An Earth expedition headed by John Grant was sent to the planet to retrieve Dr. Adams and his daughter Dorianne, who have been stranded there for twenty years. From then on, its plot is roughly the same as that of the completed film, though Grant is able to rescue both Adams and his daughter and escape the invisible monster stalking them.
The film sets were constructed on a Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) sound stage at its Culver City film lot and were designed by Cedric Gibbons and Arthur Longeran. The film was shot entirely indoors, with all the Altair IV exterior scenes simulated using sets, visual effects, and matte paintings. A full-size mock-up of roughly three-quarters of the C57-D starship was built to suggest its full width of 170 ft (51 m). The ship was surrounded by a huge, painted cyclorama featuring the desert landscape of Altair IV; this one set took up all of the available space in one of the Culver City sound stages. Later, C57-D models, special effects shots, and the full-size set details were reused in several different episodes of the television series The Twilight Zone, which were filmed by CBS at the same MGM studio location in Culver City.

At a cost of roughly $125,000, Robby the Robot was very expensive for a single film prop at this time. Both the electrically controlled passenger vehicle driven by Robby and the truck/tractor-crane off-loaded from the C57-D starship were also constructed specially for this film. Robby the Robot later starred in the science fiction film The Invisible Boy and appeared in many TV series and films that followed; like the C57-D, Robby (and his passenger vehicle) appeared in various episodes of CBS' The Twilight Zone, usually slightly modified for each appearance.

The animated sequences of Forbidden Planet, especially the attack of the "Id Monster", were created by the veteran animator Joshua Meador, who was loaned out to MGM by Walt Disney Pictures. According to a "Behind the Scenes" featurette on the film's DVD, a close look at the creature shows it to have a small goatee beard, suggesting its connection to Dr. Morbius, the only character with this physical feature; the bellowing, now visible Id monster, caught in the crewman's high-energy beams during the attack, is a direct reference to and visual pun on MGM's familiar roaring mascot Leo the Lion, seen at the very beginning of Forbidden Planet and the studio's other films of the era.

Forbidden Planet was first released on April 1st, 1956, across the United States of America in CinemaScope and Metrocolor, and with stereophonic sound in some cinemas (either by the magnetic or Perspecta processes). The premiere of Forbidden Planet in Hollywood was at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, and Robby the Robot was on display in the lobby. Forbidden Planet ran every day at Grauman's Theater through the following September. The film earned rentals of $1.6 million in North America in 1956.

Forbidden Planet was re-released in film theaters during 1972 as one of the "Kiddie Matinee" features of MGM, with about six minutes of film footage cut to ensure that it received a "G" rating from the Motion Picture Association of America. Video releases feature the "G" rating; however, they are all uncut.


New Line Cinema had developed a remake with James Cameron, Nelson Gidding and Stirling Silliphant involved at different points. In 2007 DreamWorks set up the project with David Twohy set to direct. Warner Bros. re-acquired the rights the following year and on October 31, 2008, J. Michael Straczynski was announced as writing a remake, Joel Silver was to produce. Straczynski explained that the original had been his favorite science fiction film, and it gave Silver an idea for the new film that makes it "not a remake", "not a reimagining", and "not exactly a prequel". His vision for the film would not be retro, because when the original was made it was meant to be futuristic. Straczynski met with people working in astrophysics, planetary geology and artificial intelligence to reinterpret the Krell back-story as a film trilogy. As of January 2013, no more information had been released about this possible Forbidden Planet remake; Straczynski's and Silver's project appears to have either disappeared into development limbo or possibly gone directly into industry turnaround


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