Movie: Forbidden Planet (1956)

FOrbidden Planet (1956)
Release Date: 13 Jun 1956
98 Minutes

IMdb synopsis: A starship crew goes to investigate the silence of a planet’s colony only to find two survivors and a deadly secret that one of them has.

See androids fighting Brad and Janet. Anne Francis stars in Forbidden Planet. Woah oh, oh oh oh at the late night double feature picture show!

Next up in the Rocky Horror movie mention binge – FORBIDDEN PLANET with Anne Francis!

This is a recap that will include commentary, thoughts, trivia and pictures. I hope you enjoy!

The famous poster for the film shows a menacing robot carrying a struggling pretty girl – a staple of “monster movie” posters from the 1950’s. In fact, no such scene occurs in the film itself and the robot portrayed in the poster is of course actually the very likeable Robby the Robot. The poster was chosen #5 of “The 25 Best Movie Posters Ever” by “Premiere” magazine.

First mainstream film to have the music performed entirely by electronic instruments.

Anne Francis and Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet (1956)

Introducing: Robby, The Robot

This film marked one of the first times a science-fiction project had received a large budget. The genre had rarely been taken seriously by studio executives, and sci-fi films generally received the most meager of budgets. The critical success of this film convinced many in the film industry that well-funded science-fiction projects could be successful. Film historian Ben Mankiewicz has claimed that this film’s success made future big-budget science-fiction films possible.

Filmed on the same stage as The Wizard of Oz (1939) 17 years earlier; the set of Altaira’s garden is a reuse of the Munchkin Village set.

The reaction from the preview audience was so positive that the movie was released as it was, with no further changes. That is why there are several rapid takes toward the end

We are inside a spaceship far into the future. Large crew. They are explorers. They can teleport like what you would see on Star Trek. This movie is 10 years before Star Trek first aired. Did they teleport? They did something to help reduce their speed from light speed. It is hot when they return to their stations.

Star Trek: The Original Series (1966) creator Gene Roddenberry has been quoted as saying that this film was a major inspiration for that series. Perhaps not accidentally, Warren Stevens, who plays “Doc” here, would later be a guest star in Star Trek: The Original Series: By Any Other Name (1968), where the true shape of the alien Kelvans, like the Krell in this movie, was implied to be extremely non-humanoid but never shown. 1701, which is the serial number of the Starship Enterprise, allegedly comes from the clock mark 17:01 when the C57D enters orbit around Altair IV.

Their mission is to search for survivors on this earth like planet that was colonized some years before.

The green sky paid homage to the 1933 novel “When Worlds Collide” by Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer. In it, the sky on the primary alien planet was green. A species of green algae there used sunlight to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen and stored the hydrogen in sacs, allowing it to float in the air.

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Another one of those worlds “no women, no pool parlors, no beer”, HA! As they get closer to the planet, they are “scanned” by someone on the planet’s surface. They receive a message from Dr. Morbius asking what their intentions are. He tries to send them away and tells them to turn back at once. “If you set down on this planet, I cannot be responsible for your safety or your crew.” Ominous!

To increase the sense of depth, the opening image of the spaceship approaching the camera is actually composed of two shots: the first of a small model, the second of a larger model travelling on the same track. The ship passes into and out of a shadow to conceal the cut.

"The Forbidden Planet" Space Ship 1956 MGM

They land, against the wishes of the doctor. They leave the spaceship to explore planet’s surface. They are met with a line of flying dust coming right at them. It is a vehicle, manned by ROBBY THE ROBOT!

Forbidden Planet (1956)

The model of the “flying saucer”-style Earth space cruiser was retained by the MGM prop department and subsequently used in a number of productions on the MGM lot, including The Twilight Zone: To Serve Man (1962). Robby the Robot, his ground transporter, and crew uniforms would be used on The Twilight Zone (1959) as well.

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“For your convenience, I am programmed to respond to the name Robby.” They agree to go along with Robby. “Passengers will please fasten their seat belts.”

Leslie Nielsen, Jack Kelly, Walter Pidgeon, Warren Stevens, and Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet (1956)

Robby takes them back to Dr. Morbius’ facility where he brings them in for lunch. The lunch was prepared by Robby, the food was grown by Robby and Robby will clean up. He does whatever the doctor asks, no matter the consequence to himself. He is also programmed to never harm a human – if he is told to do so, he will short circuit before carrying out the command.

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The doctor, once he shows that he is all good and fed and safe – tries to shuffle the out the door. But the commander is not too keen to leave without seeing the others here. They are informed that the rest of the crew died. Only he and his wife were immune to the planet’s vicious planetary force. It is an invisible creature that never showed itself. Then his daughter shows up all beautiful.

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She never gets to see men and now here are three up close and personal! Flirt flirt and then flirt some more. “One day I will need to make the trip to earth, for her natural development.” ha!

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Again, the doctor tries to usher them along and off the planet. Commander is forced to touch base with command to see what he should do next because now that fatalities are known, his mission may have changed. He will be here for at least ten days and nights to get the word to earth. They head back to the ship in the vehicle driven by Robby.

Anne Francis and Jack Kelly in Forbidden Planet (1956)

The planet on which Edward and Altaira Morbius live is Altair IV, which according to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993) is also a Federation planet. Director Fred M. Wilcox consulted with scientists before making the decision that the planet’s sky would be green.

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The Doctor sends steel out to the ship to help them along with the communications needs. His daughter accompanies Robby on the trip. The cook brings Robby off to the side to ask him if he could help him find “Ancient Rocket Bourbon”. Robby take the bottle and turns it up, “to analyze”. He is able to produce 60 gallons for him, no problem.

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Around the corner, there is a member of the crew trying to convince Altaira she needs to try a kiss for the betterment of her health. She is not “stimulated” at all. The Commander interrupts them. And he chastises her for being scantily dressed and carrying on the way.

Forbidden Planet (1956)

Robby the Robot was originally operated by stuntman/actor Frankie Darro. He was fired during filming after almost falling over while in the expensive prop, following a five-martini lunch.

The next scene is Altaira and her father discussing, in detail, what went on, how the Commander fussed at her for “kissing and stimulating” with the crew mate. The Doctor leaves to go to his study and Altaira calls in Robby. She asks him to make her a new dress that covers her in all the places but fits perfectly.

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Back at the ship, some invisible creature (you can only hear the breathing of) has made its way onto the ship. While there, it sabotaged equipment. Which leads to the next morning the Commander punishing the crewmates who are perplexed by how the sabotage happened.

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The next day they head over to the Doctor’s facility and the Commander leaves the kissing crewmate back at the ship. At the Doctor’s place we see a space monkey. He is in addition to the space deer and space tiger we saw in previous scenes. Through the window, they see Altaira swimming. When the commander goes to speak to her, he realizes that she has never been introduced to the concept of “swimsuit”.

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She slips into the dress that she had Robby made to the specifications the Commander suggested (covering the body and hiding the sexy). She has a thing for the Commander and asks him to kiss her.

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I think she understands the “stimulation” the previous crewmate tried to teach her. Meanwhile, her pet tiger tries to attack them. Commander obliterates it with his ray gun. He goes back inside to demand to see the Doctor!

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It was at this point, my good friend Nau turned to me and said “That’s Leslie Nielsen!” Yes, yes it is! It was his film debut.

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The Doctor takes the Commander into an arch that was left behind by a higher beings (The Krell) that no longer inhabit the surface of the planet. Inside the archway is a laboratory.

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The Doctor has been able to learn how to read their words, their language. For two decades he has figured out such small portions of the data. THere is a piece of equipment that allows them to project a hologram onto a surface.

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The scene in which the image of Altaira appears in the Krell’s “plastic educator” device was achieved with several special effects, including superimposed film footage of the charge from an electrical generator, hand-drawn animation, and a traveling matte cut from film footage of Anne Francis.

The Doctor discusses the energy source that was used by the Krell. They go into a shuttle car that is underground. He introduces them to a new scale of engineering that the Krell utilized. They are in a ventilator shaft for the Krell, who go unseen at this point.

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In addition to animating the monster that invades the camp, Walt Disney Studios artist Joshua Meador provided approximately 29 other animation effects depicting laser beams and other forms of visual energy.

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Back at the ship, the cook heads out to meet Robby and pick up his alcohol. But back at the ship, the invisible monster makes its way back into the ship. They hear a scream from inside.

When Robby the Robot analyzes the cook’s bourbon, he says there are traces of fusel oil. Fusel oil is a byproduct of alcoholic fermentation and is purported to lessen the severity of hangovers. Later in the movie when the cook is being questioned about drinking with Robby, he comments that drinking four pints of whiskey without getting a hangover isn’t natural, thus supporting the “no hangover” idea.

Leslie Nielsen in Forbidden Planet (1956)

While plenty of previous science-fiction films had earthlings exploring other worlds, this was the first film to be set entirely on a foreign planet. While there are plenty of outdoor sequences in the film, all of them were shot indoors on a studio sound stage, while many exterior landscape shots are comprised of colorful and detailed matte paintings.

We realize that the Doctor has been using the technology of the Krell to expand his abilities and mind. While he is telling the Commander this, they receive a call from the ship to let them know the chief has been murdered.

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Using plaster paris, they make a mold of the footprints left behind.

The sound of the Id monster’s footfalls were used in the last scene of Breaking Bad: Crawl Space (2011).

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The next day, as they bury their fallen crewmate, the Doctor and his daughter comes by to once again warn them and suggest they leave. He tells the Commander they will be in grave danger, call it a premonition.

Side note: there is a such thing as “monition”. The definition is: a warning of impending danger. So a PREmonition gives you the heads up before the shit hits the fan.

The Commander has secured all the gear, and prepared the weapons to protect the ship. They are ready! The radar picks up something and they are on the alert! They fire on the target but cannot see anything! They see a blip on the radar but they cannot see anything in front of them! It’s the size of a house the radar tech yells! Between their electronic forcefield and the ray guns, the invisible is made visible!!

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They continue to blast away and it finally disappears! Back at the Doctor’s office, Altaira wakes from a horrible dream…

According to various sources, when the crew members are firing at the Monster and it roars, menacingly moving its head from side to side (before it ultimately kills two of the crew members), the actions of the Monster are, in an “inside joke”, actually mimicking those of “Leo the Lion”, the MGM mascot who appears at the beginning of this and every other MGM film.

Back at the ship, they realize they need the power source shown to them by the doctor to be able to lift off and leave the planet. The doctor and the Commander head to the Doctor’s facility to secure the equipment. They are greeted by Robby who informs them he is not allowed to admit anyone at this hour. He disables their blasters.

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Altaira meets them at the door and gives Robby the emergency cancelation orders that allows the men into their facility. She tries to convince the Commander to leave the planet.

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While distracted, the doctor sneaks into the laboratory and uses the brain booster. He has collapsed and speaks gibberish before he dies. “The monsters from the ID the monsters from the subconscious”. They realize that the Krell is using “creation by mere thought”.

Leslie Nielsen, Anne Francis, and Walter Pidgeon in Forbidden Planet (1956)

They realize that the Krell fell victim to their own power and the machinery left behind has been running nonstop on the energy source, the animals they collected were let loose (including invisible monster). They run through the arch, trying to escape the invisible monster!

Leslie Nielsen and Anne Francis in Forbidden Planet (1956)

The Doctor tries to command Robby to kill the intruding invisible monster. However, he short circuits. That is when the Commander remembers that the monster cannot kill the humans, because of the programming!

Forbidden Planet (1956)

By using the mind expander, the Doctor has become the Krell! It is “his other self”, he has created the monster!! He refuses to believe that it is his subconscious fueling the monster. As he is forced to realize this, he succumbs to his injuries.

As they escape on the ship Robby, Altaira and the remaining crew watch from command central and they see the planet explode and all the Krell tech lost. Altaira is overcome with grief at the loss of her father and the Commander consoles her. Fade to black…

Leslie Nielsen and Anne Francis in Forbidden Planet (1956)

The End.

It was a solid movie. I really like it. The techo electrical music and sound effects were great. It wasn’t too long. I would recommend this one, no doubt!

Anne Francis in Forbidden Planet (1956)


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Walter Pidgeon Dr. Morbius
Anne Francis Altaira Morbius
Leslie Nielsen Commander Adams
Warren Stevens Lt. ‘Doc’ Ostrow
Jack Kelly Lt. Farman
Richard Anderson Chief Quinn
Earl Holliman Cook
George Wallace Bosun
Robert Dix Crewman Grey (as Bob Dix)
Jimmy Thompson Crewman Youngerford
James Drury Crewman Strong
Harry Harvey Jr. Crewman Randall
Roger McGee Crewman Lindstrom
Peter Miller Crewman Moran
Morgan Jones Crewman Nichols
Richard Grant Crewman Silvers
Robby the Robot Robby the Robot (as Robby The Robot)
"Forbidden Planet" Anne Francis, Robby the Robot, MGM, 1956, **I.V.
Leslie Nielsen, Anne Francis, and Walter Pidgeon in Forbidden Planet (1956)


    1. I loved watching these when I was a kid! Looking back at them know – some have really held up well. To watch movies that are not overburdened by CGI, it’s refreshing!

      1. If a person had the time I think that building old sets and creating a storyline in the same style might actually be a hit on the internet today. Actually, now that I think about it it’s been done. Star Trek Continues actually got licensed to finish the original Star Trek story and even got help from the original production crew.

      2. This movie was an inspiration for the creators of Star Trek… One of my favorite Sci-Fi bits of trivia is how Lucille Ball helped make sure Star Trek was made when no one else gave it a chance.

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