johnlink ranks FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956)

I had seen this once before in for a Sci-Fi film class. I saw so much stuff from the 50s in those three months that I wouldn’t have been able to tell you much except that I remembered the father-daughter relationship, Robby the Robot, and I could vaguely recall the monster trying to attack the ship. So when the movie came across TCM last week, I figured I’d throw it on the DVR and get back to it, because I remember it being good if nothing else.


I watched FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) on 8.22.10. It was my second viewing of the film, my first being  2003ish. TRAILER HERE

So this is a serious sci-fi rescue film starring Leslie Nielsen (yes, that Leslie Nielsen) as a ship commander. The catch being that the rescuees do not want to be rescued off their distant planet. A father has raised a daughter, though all the rest of his original expedition are dead. The planet holds some uncertain danger, and the father warns the rescue team to just up and leave.

First, I give this movie credit for being from the late 50s and NOT being about communism and the evils of the Russians. Everything from INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS to THEM was about this subject, even if the thickness of the veil changed. Instead, FORBIDDEN PLANET is about libido, sexuality, exclusivity, and the id.

Anne Francis is just stunning as the daughter. She has no sense of discretion or indecency. I’m sure young men in the late 50s had to pull their jaws off of their chests after seeing a few minutes of her. She kisses who she wants, not knowing the social questions it raises (especially in the 50s). She swims naked and, when listing studies she has undertaken like logic, math, and history, she says ‘bi…’ before trailing off. When Nielsen offers ‘Biology?” She gives a coy little non-answer. It’s all very sexually charged, and she plays the role without inhibition (or at least with as little inhibition that can be allowed in a G rated 50s film).

She is the physical and visible manifestation of her father’s id. We learn later what the more abstract portions of his id can produce. But in her, he has thrust into the world a sexual, pleasure seeking being who has no filter. When she loses this, she also loses her connection to the planet as demonstrated when her former pet tiger attacks her.

Much of this script is solid. There is maybe fifteen minutes too much of exposition, and it could use a little more meat. But the concepts it was playing with were rather revolutionary and futuristic for its time, so I can forgive some explanatory short comings. It does get a little long-winded when we get to the planet’s home species’ exploits. A little more MacGuffin and a little less laying out of everything would have worked fine.

Robby the Robot is an icon. He’s great. Everythign you want from a 50s sci-fi robot. I don’t have much more to say about him, other than to point out his great contribution to this film.

Ultimately, what we have here is a subversive sci-fi flick which entertains while it also comments on the society it came from. This one truly is a classic, funnier than I remembered, and is worth seeking out!



The bonus here is for the music (oh, I’m sorry… the electronic tonalities). They populate the film with that particular sci-fi feel, and they increase both the tension and the other-worldliness of the forbidden planet.

8+7+6+8+1= 30


~ by johnlink00 on August 22, 2010.

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