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Review - Forbidden Planet 50th Anniversary Edition (DVD-2006)
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Forbidden Planet 50th Anniversary Edition (DVD-2005)

Warner Home Video

Reviewed by Dennis Kwiatkowski

 

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s 1956 science fiction extravaganza, Forbidden Planet, is the quintessential science fiction film of the 1950’s.  It is now available in a special edition two-DVD set from Warner Home Video. 

 

Based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest and set in the distant future, the story unfolds leisurely but compellingly as it follows Commander Adams, played by Leslie Nielsen, and his crew, who travel in a space cruiser to the distant planet Altair Four to investigate the disappearance of a colony of scientists.  Upon landing, they discover only two survivors, Dr. Edward Morbius, portrayed by Walter Pidgeon, and his beautiful daughter, Altaira, played by Ann Francis, living in lavish prosperity and attended to by a super- robot known as Robby. 

 

Lurking in the background is an invisible deadly force which may have been responsible for the scientists’ disappearance and an amazing secret known only to Dr. Morbius which he is not about to share.     

 

Earthbound Metro-Goldwyn Mayer may have seemed an odd choice to produce the film, but the studio’s involvement assured superior production values, first-rate acting and outstanding special effects.  Even the Disney studios pitched in to provide some tricky animation effects.  Also, alumni from the MGM film, The Wizard of Oz, helped to shape the unique look of Forbidden Planet. 

 

Walter Pidgeon’s grave delivery and presence added stature and dignity to the production, and for those who know Leslie Nielsen primarily through his comedy roles in Police Squad, Airplane! and The Naked Gun, Forbidden Planet finds him in an earlier rather serious performance.  In addition, the film boasts the debut of Robby the Robot, the most unique and famous robot in all of cinema... 

 

Exquisite set design, including the space cruiser which is a flying saucer used, not only in Forbidden Planet, but in many eerie Twilight Zone TV episodes, contributes visual poetry, as do the spacious landmarks of the lost alien civilization, the Krell.  The film’s music score by Louis and Bebe Barron consists of truly unsettling and groundbreaking electronic tonalities which serve as both music and sound effects.  The sound design has unnerved viewers since the film’s premiere and remains effective to this day.

 

Extras include a documentary on science fiction films of the 1950’s, a splendid behind the scenes  look at the design of Robby the Robot and a superb documentary on the making of the film itself.  The feature film The Invisible Boy, and a TV episode of The Thin Man, both of which include Robby the Robot as a central character, are also included as bonuses along with rare Forbidden Planet deleted scenes and lost special effects footage.  The film transfer for this new DVD release is pristine and spectacular with stunning clarity and rich color.  It is vastly superior to the earlier 1999 DVD release, which had seemed pretty good itself at the time.

 

Forbidden Planet heavily influenced George Lucas’ Star Wars, Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek and even Stanley Kubrick’s 2001.  Warner Home Video’s new two-DVD special edition of Fobidden Planet is certain to please any and every fan of great science fiction movies.

 

2006 Dennis Kwiatkowski/Celluloid Dreams

 

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