Directed By: Fred M. Wilcox
Starring: Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen, Warren Stevens, Jack Kelly, Marvin Miller
| Studio: Warner Bros. |
Film Length: 98 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, German, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish
Release Date: September 7, 2010
The Film ****
Set in the 22nd century, Forbidden Planet follows the adventures of the crew of the C-57D space vessel led by Commander J.J. Adams (Nielsen), medical officer Lieutenant "Doc" Ostrow (Stevens), and Lieutenant Jerry Farman (Kelly). They are investigating the apparent disappearance of the crew of a colonization mission from 20 years previous to the planet of Altair IV. Arriving at the planet, they find the only survivors of the earlier mission are Dr. Edward Morbius (Pidgeon) and his daughter Altaira (Francis), who was born on Altair IV. Morbius and Altaira are attended by a sophisticated Robot named Robby (voice of Miller) Morbius allows them to land on the planet, but ominously warns that he cannot guarantee their safety. Soon after arriving, Adams' crew is attacked by the same monster that wiped out the previous colonists. Adams begins to suspect that Morbius is withholding information from him, and must attempt to unravel the connection between the monster, the remarkably intelligent Morbius, and the Krell, the technically advanced extinct species who were the previous occupants of the planet.
With its 50s stylings and handmade special effects, Forbidden Planet may look dated to modern viewers, but it was quite the groundbreaking film in its day. Not only was it arguably the single most influential film in the science fiction genre from the day it was released until the release of 2001: A Space Oddysey a dozen years later, but it fired the imagination of a generation of filmmakers who would go on to create some of the most popular films of the past four decades (think Spielberg, Lucas, Ridley Scott, ... all of whom are represented in the 50s science fiction documentary included as an extra on this Blu-ray release.) The story, loosely following the template of Shakespeare's The Tempest, the earnestness with which the screenplay approached the scientific elements, and the psychological concepts underlying the characterizations appealed to fans of the genre that rarely saw it taken so seriously in the film medium. Technically, the detailed miniatures, sumptuous matte drawings, elaborate production design, and optical effects were state of the art for the time. They would not just influence other efforts in the genre (such as the transporters in Star Trek which looked a lot like the light tubes entered by the crew of the C-57D when they transitioned out of light speed), but elements of the production would literally be recycled to turn up in subsequent films. MGM had given the film an uncharacteristically large production budget, and managed to squeeze some extra value out of it by creating another feature for Robby the Robot and loaning out a number of props and/or costumes to lower budget fare such as Allied Artist's 1958 Queen of Outer Space.
Recognizing its historical significance, the film's drawn out pace, aforementioned dated elements, and the dead seriousness with which every actor approaches their role could very well undermine any chance a modern viewer has of appreciating it as a piece of pop entertainment. The style of acting exhibited in this film was lampooned so effectively in the 1980 film Airplane (with Leslie Nielsen on board), that it almost seems self-parodying. Viewers able to reset their expectations appropriately for the context in which the film was originally released will no doubt find it more engrossing than those who cannot.
The Video ****The VC-1 encoded 1080p transfer of the film is letterboxed to its original "CinemaScope" proportions of approximately 2.5:1. The high definition presentation reveals the limitations of the film's early Eastmancolor CinemaScope source, but does not introduce any significant new artifacts in the process of transfer or encoding. Natural looking film grain is present throughout with an occasional increase in coarseness during opticals. Quite a bit of work appears to have been put into eliminating most signs of element wear and tear without going overboard on the filtering.
The Audio ***Sound is courtesy of a DTS HD-MA rendering of the same 5.1 remix that appeared on the 50th Anniversary DVD releases. The primary beneficiary of the lossless encoding is the film's groundbreaking electronic music score. Dialog was apparently not as well recorded as the score, and exhibits some limitations in fidelity. Alternate Dolby Digital 1.0 mono tracks are available in French, German, Portuguese, Spanish (Latin), and Spanish (Castellano)
The Extras ****Extras are plentiful and carried over from the previous 2-disc 50th Anniversary DVD. All are presented in MPEG-2 encoded 16:9 480i video with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound unless otherwise indicated below:
Under the heading of Behind the Story are the following features:
Watch the Skies!: Science Fiction in the 1950s and Us (4:3 video - 55:31) is a 2005 documentary from film scholar Richard Schickel looking at the science fiction films of the 1950s and 1960s and how they played on the era's cold war psychology. The films and times are discussed from the perspectives of directors Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Ridley Scott, and James Cameron. Narration is provided by Mark Hamill. Films discussed include Them!, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Destination Moon, Rocketship XM, Forbidden Planet, The Thing from Another World, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Invaders from Mars, The Space Children, and The War of the Worlds with entertaining montages from several lesser known films used to illustrate a number of the analytical and thematic points being made.
Amazing!: Exploring the Far Reaches of Forbidden Planet (26:35) is a retrospective featurette which blends film clips. behind the scenes footage, and talking head interviews to offer up an appreciation of the film, information about its origins, discussion of its uniqueness for an MGM production, and details about various aspects of its production. On camera comments are provided by Visual Effects Artist Dennis Muren, Director Joe Dante, Actor Leslie Nielsen, novelist Alan Dean Foster, Visual Effects Artist John Dykstra, Director John Carpenter, Director William Malone, Historian Bob Burns, Director John Landis, Historian Rudy Behlmer, Theater Director Geoff Elliot, actress Anne Francis, actor Earl Holliman, Author Bill Warren, Robby the Robot Co-Designer Robert Kinoshita, Actor Richard Anderson, Visual Effects Artist Phil Tippett, actor Warren Stevens, Composer Bebe Barron, and Sound Designer/Editor Ben Burtt,
Robby the Robot: Engineering a Sci-Fi Icon (13:45) Is a featurett looking specifically at the character of Robby the Robot. Topics covered include his design, his enduring popularity, his subsequent appearances in various media, and even some real world robotics. On camera comments are provided by Dante, Foster, Burtt, Holliman, Behlmer, Author Steven Kotler, Malone, Kinoshita, Dykstra, Replica Builder Fred Barton, Nielsen, Francis, Carpenter, and Co-Director of USC Robotics Lab Professor Maja Mataric.
Two promos appear under the heading of "Trailers":
Forbidden Planet (1956) (3:41)
The Invisible Boy (1957) (4:3 video - 2:31)
The following features appear under the heading of "Additional Footage"
Deleted Scenes (4:3 video 13:14) is a reel of deleted, extended, and pre-visual effects scenes from a workprint. The scenes are separated and introduced via text title cards, and are not selectable separately via either menu selections or chapter stops.
- Opening with alternative narration
- Three scenes aboard the C-57D Space cruiser approaching Altair IV with additional dialog not in the final film.
- Landing of the C-57D on Altair IV without finished visual effects animation
- Robby greets Commander Adams and the C-57D crew without Marvin Miller's voice.
- Deleted scene where Robby transports the crewmen to the home of Dr. Morbius includes a deleted scene concept involving Robby speaking in foreign languages
- Dr. Morbius demonstrating his disposal unit minus the finished visual effects animation
- Extended scene with additional dialog of Doc Ostrow explaining Alta's unique relationship with animals
- Deleted scene with Commander Adams and Doc Ostrow further discussing Alta's friendship with animals
- Deleted scene in which Commander Adams assembles an envelope with the personal affects of a deceased crewman.
- Alternate scene of the monsters assault on the C-57D with a lion's roar "voice" instead of the sound effect used in the finished film.
- Extended scene from near the end of the film with additional dialog from Commander Adams
Lost Footage (4:3 video - 9:22) consists of various pieces of outtake footage from the film's production. They are accompanied by various electronic sounds created for the film. The pieces of footage are separated and introduced via text title cards, and are not selectable separately via either menu selections or chapter stops.
- Shots detailing elements that would be composited together for the deceleration tube "light beam" effect aboard the C-57D Spacecruiser
- Unused footage from the planets and star fields created for the film
- Shots of the C-57D Spacecruiser flying over Altair IV
- Alternate take of the C-57D saucer attempting to land on the surface of Altair IV
- Montage of matte paintings created by MGM's art department for the film including a brief shot of Morbius, Commander Adams, and Doc Ostrow walking through the frame that was not used in the finished film
- Alternate take of the monster leaving its massive footprints on the planet's surface
- Shots of the crew manning the laser cannons and rifles while fighting with the monster minus the final animated "laser beam" and creature effects
- Shots of a crewman in the clutches of the monster without final creature effects
The following features appear under the heading of "Extras":
The Invisible Boy Movie (Black and white video - 23 chapter stops - 1:29:29) is an entire feature film starring Robby the Robot produced shortly after Forbidden Planet. It was directed by Herman Hoffman and stars Richard Eyer as the young son of a computer scientist who gets pulled into a plot by a supercomputer to take over the world that also involves his reassembling of a certain decomissioned robot (guess who?). It is a pretty plain vanilla piece of sci-fi mad disjointed by the flights of fancy incoporated to appeal to kid audiences.
Excerpt from MGM Parade Ep. 27 (4:3 Black and white video - 2:17) is an excerpt from the MGM promotional TV series featuring Walter Pidgeon introoducing and providing narrating over some footage from Forbidden Planet.
Excerpt from MGM Parade Ep. 28 (4:3 Black and white video - 4:00) features Pidgeon providing some additional sneak peeks, this time accompanied by Robby the Robot.
The Thin Man: Robot Client TV Episode (4:3 Black and white video - 23:56) is a 1958 episode from the mystery TV series starring Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk as Nick and Nora Charles that featured an appearance by Robby the Robot. Lawford and Kirk are no Powell and Loy, and Robby is barely Robby without the voice of Marvin Miller. The video quality is acceptable, but it clearly comes from a composite video source as evidenced from some color aliasing in detailed patterns.
Note: For those keeping score, the only on-disc extras not carried over from the previous 2-disc 50th Anniversary Collection DVD are trailers for The Thing from Another World, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Them!, The Black Scorpion, and George Pal/Rod Taylor version The Time Machine. On the previous DVD release, these were included in a science fiction trailer gallery along with the trailers from Forbidden Planet and The Invisible Boy that are included on this Blu-ray release. Additionally, the bonus feature film The Invisible Boy does not contain its own chapter menu like it did on the DVD, although it is encoded with just as many chapters accessible through remote control skipping.
PackagingThe disc is enclosed in a standard "Elite" Blu-ray case with a single insert promoting Forbidden Planet themed merchandise - most notably a life-size replica of Robby the Robot. The price is not listed, but if you have to ask, you probably can not afford it. The film and extras are encoded with minimal java so that the "resume" function of most players should work after stopping or powering off the player.
Summary ****Forbidden Planet is a bona fide classic of 1950s science fiction. While jaded modern viewers may have a hard time adapting to its 1950s stylings, fans of the genre and viewers willing to accept the context of its era will likely enjoy its detailed hand-crafted design, Shakespeare-inspired plot, and Freudian themes. It is presented on Blu-ray disc with high-definition video limited only by its vintage Eastmancolor CinemaScope source element and a lossless audio track that showcases the film's unique electronic score. Extras are carried over from the previous 50th Anniversary 2-Disc DVD release of the film and include excellent behind the scenes featurettes, an outstanding one hour television documentary on 1950s science fiction films, an entire additional feature film featuring Robby the Robot, and some vintage television materials.