Two of my favorite things – Sci-Fi and Shakespeare – are brought together in this pioneering classic, “Forbidden Planet.”
A spaceship is launched from Earth filled with scientists out to discover new planets and colonize, spreading the human race across the galaxy. However, something happens to them and they are never heard from. Fastforward 20ish years later, and another ship is launched, headed by Commander Adams (Leslie Nielsen) to find the first ship. When they arrive at the destination planet, they discover only one survivor, Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon). After Morbius’s ship crashed, the passengers discovered an advanced ancient alien civilization filled with technological wonders.
While they were exploring these wonders, however, something began picking off the passengers one by one, until only Morbius and his pregnant wife were left. Morbius’s wife died in childbirth, and finally it was only Morbius, his daughter and whatever lived on that planet. Oh, and Robbie the Robot – the magical machine that can create anything you want – diamonds, plate steel, liquor – out of thin air. And he does dishes, too.
Morbius tries to distract Adams and his crew with the technological wizardry left behind by a species knows as the Krell, but it’s a lost cause. His beautiful, young, blonde daughter, Alta (Anne Francis) has never met another human – another man – other than her father, and can’t resist the chance to get a look at one in the flesh. They are pretty excited to get a look at her, too.
Morbius begs Adams and the crew to leave him and his daughter alone on the planet, convinced that whatever killed all his fellow travelers will return and kill them, as well. Adams blows off his warnings, and secretly wonders whether or not Morbius actually had a hand in his associates’ deaths. Before he can launch a real investigation, however, his ship is attacked by something….
Slowly members of his crew are killed in mysterious ways that defy the laws of physics, and when he confronts Morbius, the creature begins to ramp up its attacks. Meanwhile, Adams and Alta grow closer together, putting them both in danger. The only way they will all survive is if they can identify what is attacking them and kill it at its source. But at what cost?
If any of you are Shakespeare buffs, you were probably able to pick up shadows of “The Tempest,” one of his comedies. One of my favorite memories from college is convincing one of my Shakespeare professors (I took a lot of Shakespeare) to watch “Forbidden Planet” when we were covering “The Tempest.” But a familiarity with Shakespeare isn’t required to enjoy this landmark film. “Forbidden Planet” was a pioneer piece, not just because of the use of special effects and sound effects, but in the way that the science fiction was an integral driving part of the plot, not just as window dressing. I can’t be more specific without giving away the ending. “Forbidden Planet” set the standard for really good sci-fi by exploring themes such as the definitions of good and evil, the nature of man, the limitations of science – and whether or not science should have limits.
Of course, there are some elements of the film that are dated to the period it was made. I mean, if you grew up alone on a deserted planet with no one else but your dad, wouldn’t you run around barefoot, in miniskirts designed by Adrian with full hair and makeup all day? By the way, did you catch that the leading man is Leslie Nielsen? Yes, that Leslie Nielsen, from the Airplane movies and other great movie spoofs. Once upon a time, he was quite the heartthrob.
“Forbidden Planet” is airing on TCM on Thursday, the 19th, at 7:00pm CST.
No Time for Sergeants (1958) – Wednesday, 9:15 PM CST
The Magnificent Seven (1960) – Saturday, 4:45 PM CST
The Blob (1958) – Saturday, 10:00 PM CST
Gidget (1959) – Sunday, 11:00 AM CST
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) – Sunday, 1:00 PM CST
Wuthering Heights (1939) – Sunday, 5:00 PM CST
The Great Escape (1963) – Sunday, 7:00 PM CST