- May 7, 2001
50th Anniversary Two-Disc Special Edition
Studio: Warner Brothers
Film Length: 98 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Enhanced Widescreen
Audio: DD 5.1
Languages: English & French
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
Package: Two discs/double Keepcase
To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the heralded MGM Sci-Fi classic, Warner Brothers is set to release Forbidden Planet as a Two-Disc Special Edition with a brand-new restored transfer and a remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The film is often cited as one of the most important science-fiction films to come out of Hollywood and led to Robby the Robot becoming as popular as many of the stars he shared the screen with during the period.
Commander John J. Adams (played by the straight laced Leslie Nielsen) and his crew set out to investigate the disappearance of a colony of scientists on the planet Altair-4. After landing, they discover only two survivors, Dr. Edward Morbius (played by Walter Pidgeon) and his exquisite daughter Altaira (played by Anne Francis). The Morbiuses live a surprisingly prosperous lifestyle, attended to by Robby the Robot, a super-butler who performs many impressive tasks. But lurking in the background is an invisible force -- which may or may not have been responsible for the disappearances of those scientists – and about which only Morbius knows the truth. But Morbius is not about to share his secret (or his daughter!) with anyone else.
While the first half of the film plods alongs at a rather slow pace, director Fred M. Wilcox invigorates the second half with plenty of action, as we learn of the extinct Krell – the technoligically advanced civilization that once inhabited the planet. Walter Pidgeon brings an intellectual presence to Morbius, while the lovely Anne Francis adds youth and innocence. Long before his Naked Gun stardom, Leslie Nielsen plays Commander Adams with a great amount of seriousness.
The Feature: 3.5/5
Presented in it’s original 2.35:1 CinemaScope aspect ratio (Eastman color) – enhanced for widescreen, the film looks excellent. Appreciating the importance of the film WB pulled out all the stops and afforded the film a full digital restoration.
Colors looked excellent displaying great vibrancy with solid black levels. Contrast and shadow details were equally impressive. The film has a reasonably good amount of texture and depth with only a slight amount of fine film grain. Image definition was fine, albeit slightly on the soft side.
The print was as clean as one would hope for with only minute amounts of marks or blemishes. Authoring seems to have been handled well as compression errors were basically non-existent as were any signs of edge enhancement.
Overall, a fine job.
This soundtrack provided has been souped up with a new DD 5.1 mix which offers a slightly more expansive soundfield. Thankfully, the track hasn’t emerged as a modern day 5.1 extravaganza. It is tactfully upgraded merely as a means of allowing the track to “open up”.
Dialogue was always bold and clear – always intelligible. The track is clean and virtually free or any hiss or other noisy distractions. There is little in the way of heft or punch as dynamics are fairly basic. Also, surrounds are used only as ambiance enhancement and don’t expect much in terms os LFE.
The Special Features contain a bevy of supplements most of which are contained on disc two, however the set looks like this:
Aside from the feature film, disc one contains several special features, starting with Deleted Scenes. This is a collection of deleted scenes, work prints, lost footage as well as rare test scenes. These appear in a wide variety of quality (some looking better than others), however, all of these should appeal greatly to true fans of the film.
Up next are a series of excerpts from the MGM Parade TV show, hosted by Walter Pidgeon who introduces the audience to Forbidden Planet and “Robby the Robot”.
The next supplement is Robot Client, a 1958 episode of "The Thin Man" TV series with Peter Lawford, Phyllis Kirk, and Robby himself.
Closing out the disc is a Theatrical Trailer Gallery that includes trailers for a number of popular sci-fi flicks including the feature film – which appears in reasonably good shape.
The second disc contains a number of other supplements starting with, The Invisible Boy, Robby the Robot's follow-up film from 1957. The film plays on a much different level than that of it’s predecessor, although the presentation is better than I anticipated.
Up next are several newly made documentaries which serve the film well. The first is entitled, Watch the Skies: Science Fiction, the 1950’s and Us (narrated by Mark Hamill), the second is Amazing: Exploring the Far Reaches of Forbidden Planet and the third, Robby the Robot: Engineering a Sci-Fi Icon – a short featurette dedicated to the tinny guy himself. A number of heavy hitters appear here including the likes of Steven Speilberg, Ridley Scott, James Cameron and George Lucas. Leslie Nielsen and Anne Francis also appear and offer up their comments.
Special Features: 5/5
**Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**
I have to admit, watching the Naked Gun star several decades earlier in a serious role – particularly just after watching the recently released “Police Squad” TV series - it’s now hard to picture Nielsen in anything other than comedy. Be that as it may, one can’t deny the film’s accomplishments and appreciate it for what it is as it clearly paved the way for other sci-fi franchises such as Star Wars and Star Trek… just to name a couple. And really, anyone entering a 50’s science fiction flick, should realistically keep their expectations in check.
Once again, Warner has done a terrific job with this Two-Disc Special Edition – not only in terms of the presentation itself, but the special features are both highly informative and entertaining.
Overall Rating: 4/5 (not an average)
Release Date: November 14th, 2006