Cast & Crew
Fred Mcleod Wilcox
Able to travel at speeds far exceeding the speed of light, humans, by the year 2200, are involved in the conquest of deep space. In United Planets space cruiser C57D, Commander Adams and his all male crew approach the distant star Altair-4 to search for survivors from the spaceship Bellerophon, which landed there twenty years earlier. Receiving radio contact from the star, Adams soon learns that Dr. Edward Morbius, a philologist on the Bellerophon mission, still remains but insists that he needs no assistance and warns Adams that harm may come to the C57D crew if they interfere. Adams finally secures landing coordinates and lands the spaceship on Altair-4, a strange, barren land with a green sky and an atmosphere suitable for human life. Within minutes, a robot named Robby approaches on a gliding transporter and takes Adams, Lt. "Doc" Ostrow and Lt. Farman to Morbius' house. The reclusive Morbius invites them to eat a lunch Robby has "cooked" for them and demonstrates that Robby, his own creation, can insert food in a small aperture, where a built-in chemical lab replicates it to perfection. Also the house servant and guard, Robby has a built-in safety directive that prevents him from hurting humans. When asked about the earlier mission, Morbius explains that all others succumbed to a terrible planetary force that ripped them from limb to limb. Only his wife and he were immune because of their special love of the planet, however, his wife died several months later. Suddenly, Altaira, Morbius' daughter, enters, and having never seen any other humans besides her father, is mystified by the men. Although Morbius realizes that Alta must have more human contact to develop properly, he resists exposing her to the men. When Adams informs Morbius that he and his crew must remain for ten days to await new orders from earth, Morbius worries that the force will attack again if they remain. Back at the ship, when Cookie, the cook, secretly asks Robby to help him locate some bourbon, the robot offers to replicate over 60 gallons, causing Cookie to gasp in disbelief and joy. Meanwhile at the house, after Farman suggests to Alta that kissing might be good for her health, the naïve young woman eagerly submits, but even after several prolonged encounters, she claims to feel no "stimulation." Soon after, a frustrated Adams interrupts the flirtation and demands that Alta refrain from wearing promiscuous clothing that tempt his men. Later that night, an invisible force enters the ship, sabotaging valuable equipment while the crew sleeps. Soon after, Adams learns from onboard engineer Quinn that they must unship the main drive to get sufficient power to repair the cruiser. The next morning, as Adams and Doc await Morbius at the house, Adams finds Alta swimming nude in a nearby pool. She quickly dresses into her new "eye proof" attire, which, despite her attempts to concede to his earlier wishes, still seduces the commander into embracing and kissing her, but the romantic moment is interrupted when Alta's pet tiger suddenly attacks. As Adams is forced to disintegrate the beast with his blaster gun, both he and Alta cannot understand the tiger's sudden change of behavior. Later, Adams and Doc enter Morbius' study, where the scientist appears from behind a secret panel and guides the men into a huge network of underground rooms, which Morbius explains, are the remains of an advanced civilization known as the Krels. Centuries ahead of humans in terms of technological and scientific development, the Krels perished in a catastrophe 2,000 centuries ago, before humans existed. Once inside the Krel main laboratory, Morbius introduces the men to the "plastic educator," a machine the Krel used to test their mental skills and which Morbius now uses to increase his intelligence in order to understand the Krel's complex civilization. Through years of careful study, Morbius has discovered the Krels were devoted to creating a self-maintaining and infinite power source drawing from Altair's core to free themselves from any "physical instrumentalities." Meanwhile when Cookie leaves the ship to secretly meet with Robby and pick up over 480 pints of bourbon, the monster shorts the ship's protective fence, enters the craft and kills Quinn, leaving his footprints behind. Back at the house, after Adams informs Morbius that the United Planetary front must take over the Krel investigation, he learns of the attack by radio and returns to the ship with Doc. After making a model of the footprints, they assess that creature is a giant biped monster with sloth-like claws. At first suspecting Robby was involved in the destructive plot, Adams questions Cookie, who gives Robby an alibi by admitting that he was drinking with the robot at the time of the attack. When Morbius tells Adams that he has a "visualization" of more destruction, Adams suspects the scientist somehow controls the attacks. That night when radar picks up the invisible monster, the crew fire atomic power weapons, which produce an outline of an enormous roaring beast which kills several men. Back at the house, Alta, awakened by a nightmare about the monster, rushes into the lab. As she wakes her sleeping father, dozens of gauges chaotically registering a sudden surge in the power supply slowly quiet while the monster simultaneously halts its attack at the ship. Later, Doc deduces the monster must be made of nuclear material in order to regenerate and suggests they abandon the mission immediately, but Adams wants to first retrieve Alta and receive an intelligence boost from the plastic educator. Arriving at the house, Adams envelops Alta in his arms while Doc secretly slips away to the plastic educator. When Robby returns with the half-conscious Doc in his arms minutes later, the dying man tells Adams that the Krel were very close to living without "physical instrumentation," but forgot about the "monsters from the id." After Morbius suddenly appears and calls Adams a fool, Alta finally sees her father's hatred for the outside world and decides to leave with the commander. Adams deduces that the Krel's plan to control the civilization centered around a machine enabling them to create matter anywhere on the planet by mere thought; however, the Krels forgot that their subconscious hate and lust for destruction would also destroy the civilization. As Morbius retorts that his own mind cannot be creating the monster, they all watch as another invisible beast punctures the house's shuttered metals walls. When Morbius orders Robby to kill the beast, the robot malfunctions, unable to harm humans, even the beast created from a human mind. As the group hides behind the metal door of the underground laboratory, Adams tells Morbius that the plastic educator, far from helping him understand Krel machinery, has made his subconscious able to manipulate it. He goes on to explain that when Morbius' twenty comrades voted to return to earth, Morbius' rage sent a secret "id" to kill them, which will now kill his daughter for defying him. When Alta begs her father to stop the beast as it melts through the door, Morbius finally admits that Adams' conclusions must be true and then yells out for the monster to die. As the raging beast quiets and power gauges shut down, a dying Morbius orders Adams to throw a switch, which sets in motion the irreversible destruction of Altair within 24 hours. Hours after taking off in their spaceship, Adams, Alta, Robby and the crew watch on a monitor as Altair explodes in a blinding blue light. With Alta in his arms, Adams predicts that humans will come to develop technology as advanced as that of the Krels and that her father's name will stand like a "beacon in the galaxy" to remind them that they are not "Gods."
Fred Mcleod Wilcox
Harry Harvey Jr.
George J. Folsey
A. Arnold Gillespie
Charles K. Hagedon
Dr. Wesley C. Miller
Irving G. Ries
Edwin B. Willis
Best Special Effects
The basic premise of Forbidden Planet would serve as the blueprint for a slew of sci-fi films and TV shows in its wake such as the television series, Star Trek. The film opens with the approach of Cruiser C-57D toward Altira IV, a planet with a strange history. It seems an exploration ship vanished there twenty years earlier. The cruiser's crew (commanded by Leslie Nielsen) discovers that only two people are left from the previous expedition: the scientist Morbius (two-time Oscar nominee Walter Pidgeon) and his beautiful daughter Altaira (Anne Francis). These two have built a home above the remains of an ancient civilization (one of the benefits of which is their servant Robby the Robot). However, Morbius surprisingly refuses to return to Earth, a decision that becomes all the more mysterious when an invisible force attacks the ship.
Forbidden Planet was initially conceived as a much different - and decidedly cheaper - film. The producer/writer/special effects team of Allen Adler and Irving Block ran a popular optical effects company, working on numerous schlock films but also classics like The Night of the Hunter (1955). They came up with the idea for something called Fatal Planet as a potential project for one of the B-movie studios. Instead they pitched it to the high-rollers at MGM, a process that required the duo to act out the story, including an impersonation of the invisible monster, for the benefit of the investors. To everybody's surprise, the studio decided to make this their first science fiction film and budgeted the film at $1 million, later expanding it to almost double that amount.
For the script they enlisted novelist Cyril Hume, a descendant of philosopher David Hume whose main claim to film was writing screenplays for the popular Tarzan series (He also worked on the first version of Ransom (1956) and Nicholas Ray's classic melodrama, Bigger Than Life, 1956). Luckily, Hume's script for Forbidden Planet brings unusual depth to what might have been yet another tacky science fiction film. It also has its down side: MGM insisted Hume add several "humorous" scenes revolving around the ship's cook, Cookie (played by Earl Holliman). It's Hollywood executive decisions like this that lead some viewers to agree with literary historian James Kincaid's famous essay, "Who Is Relieved by Comic Relief?" Interestingly enough, a scene where the cook's constant comments about the scarcity of women on the planet are answered by Robby bringing him a female chimp was never filmed.
Forbidden Planet was made inside MGM studios (except for a handful of shots) and used a 10,000 foot circular painting as a backdrop. One oddity about Forbidden Planet is that the film we see today is more or less an unfinished rough cut. What happened is that experimental composers Louis and Bebe Barron had been asked to supply the music for the film. (They'd previously only scored a few avant-garde shorts.) It would turn out to be a landmark score, utilizing only generated sounds (no conventional instruments like violins or pianos) and paved the way for both new forms of film scoring and for a more open approach to music. But the studio was a bit uneasy about the eerie score so they arranged a sneak preview to see how audiences would react. The response was so positive that MGM decided to release the film as it was, not even letting the editor tighten up the pacing or rework some rough patches.
Robby the Robot was such a hit that he was used again the following year for The Invisible Boy (1957) but then vanished from the screen until a cameo in 1984's Gremlins (where he reuses some dialogue from Forbidden Planet). The 6-foot, 11-inch creation required a person inside to man the controls as well as some outside electronic manipulation, none of which kept Robby from occasionally toppling over (One popular rumor reported that Robby was a drunk). The robot's voice was supplied by Marvin Miller who did vocal chores on projects ranging from MASH to Electra Woman and Dyna Girl though he also did acting in front of the camera (he was the guy giving out checks on the TV show The Millionaire). Miller even won two Grammies for audio versions of Dr. Seuss stories.
The mysterious marauding monster was the creation of Disney animators, one of the few times they have ever worked on an outside film. But it's the unique look of the surreal landscapes of Altira IV to the detailed spaceship to the design of the strange underground civilization that earned the film an Academy Award nomination for Best Special Effects (the award went that year to The Ten Commandments).
If you're a hardcore Forbidden Planet fan, here are some more fun trivia facts. For example, actor Harry Harvey Jr., who plays Randall in the film, also appeared in the exploitation classic Reefer Madness (1936) and ended his career with an uncredited role as a slave in Spartacus (1960). James Drury (future star of the TV series, The Virginian, 1962) and James Best (Shock Corridor, 1963) also turn up in supporting roles. Also, you might notice a sudden jump in a scene toward the end of the film that looks like something was cut: It was but not by TCM. The filmmakers wanted to speed things up and just clipped out a few seconds thinking nobody would ever care.
Director: Fred M. Wilcox
Producer: Nicholas Nayfack
Screenplay: Cyril Hume (based on a story by Irving Block and Alan J. Adler)
Cinematography: George J. Folsey
Editing: Ferris Webster
Electronic Tonalities: Louis and Bebe Barron
Cast: Walter Pidgeon (Dr. Morbius), Leslie Nielsen (Commander John J. Adams), Anne Francis (Altaira Morbius), Warren Stevens (Doc Ostrow), Earl Holliman (Cookie), Richard Anderson (Chief Quinn), Jack Kelly (Lt. Farman), Robert Dix (Grey).
C-99m. Closed captioning. Letterboxed.
by Lang Thompson
I rarely use it myself, sir. It promotes rust.- Robby
I'm in command of 18 competitively selected super-fit physical specimens with an average age of 24.6 who have been locked up in hyperspace for 378 days. It would have served you right if he... they... oh go on, get out of here before I have you run out of the area under guard - and then I'll put more guards on the guards.- Commander John J. Adams
The total potential here must be nothing less than astronomical.- Doc Ostrow
Nothing less. The number 10 raised almost literally to the power of infinity.- Dr. Edward Morbius
The fool, the meddling idiot. As though his ape's brain could contain the secrets of the Krell.- Dr. Edward Morbius
Yes, a single machine, a cube 20 miles on each side.- Dr. Edward Morbius
First mainstream film to have the music performed entirely by electronic instruments.
Louis Barron and Bebe Barron, worked on the electronic soundtrack music "tonalities" for only three months - the length of time given them by Dore Schary, Executive Producer at MGM. He authorized the studio to send them a complete workprint at Christmas 1955. They received the complete 35mm Eastmancolor workprint at New Year's 1956, a week later, still with many visual effects sequences missing and timed in with blank leader by the editor Ferris Webster. From January 1, 1956 to April 1, 1956, they worked on the soundtrack score in their Greenwich Village studio on the East Coast while the film was in post production in Culver City. The score was completed and delivered to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on April 1, 1956, and the film was released for a studio sneak preview soon afterward.
Loosely based on Shakespeare's "The Tempest."
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 an episode of the "Twilight Zone, The" (1959).
Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry, eventually admitted this film was a major inspiration for his own science fiction TV series.
A novelization of the movie, also entitled Forbidden Planet (New York, 1956), was written by W. J. Stuart and published following the release of the film. The film's opening cast credits differ in order from the closing credits. Louis Barron and Bebe Barron are credited onscreen as "Louis and Bebe Barron." Voice-over narration at the beginning of the film explains that humans developed space travel at the end of the 21st century and began the conquest of outer space on space cruisers.
A August 20, 1954 Los Angeles Times article states that director Fred McLeod Wilcox had planned to do extensive research at several university libraries to use current scientific thought and experimentation to shape his portrait of the future. The March 12, 1956 Hollywood Reporter review of the film noted that the electrical rays sent out from the human brain stemmed from current reputable theory about the subject and had "already been measured in laboratories." Forbidden Planet marked the first major science fiction film under production at M-G-M.
A April 5, 1955 Hollywood Reporter noted that Forbidden Planet required over 89,000 square feet of sound stage space, making it one of the largest productions for M-G-M. According to a March 15, 1955 Daily Variety article, the studio chose to restrict access to the sets during construction and production to prevent public exposure to the new innovations to be unveiled in the film. Cinematographer George J. Folsey wrote in an August 1955 American Cinematographer article about the film that the production had required two years of research. Among the more difficult and important props used in the film, he listed: the atomic cannon, the space Jeep, an electro-magnetic tractor and Robby, the robot. Several of the stages, including the Krel laboratory and the spaceship's interior, required extensive electrical wiring and control panels to make gadgets, meters and controls appear realistic. In addition, Folsey stated that light problems occurred repeatedly through the filming because of the number of reflective surfaces in the sets. Particularly, he suggested that the lighting effects to imply the body of the invisible "id monster" as it approaches the ship were the most difficult. Folsey stated that he shot the sequences from a height of ten feet, as if seen from the monster's eyes, and used shadowing and color effects to produce the body's presence.
The onscreen credits read "and introducing Robby the Robot," but do not list the actor playing the role of Robby. Marvin Miller provided Robby's speaking voice. Although an April 18, 1955 Hollywood Reporter "Rambling Reporter" column stated that Frankie Darro was to act as the robot, modern sources add that Frankie Carpenter replaced Darro in the production. Robby appeared again in the M-G-M 1957 film The Invisible Boy . An March 11, 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that actors Steve Forrest and John Ericson were suspended from M-G-M after turning down roles in the film.
A February 26, 1956 Los Angeles Times article noted that composers Bebe and Louis Barron manipulated electronic circuits to create the "electronic tonalities" that not only provided sound for the more scientific and futuristic gadgets and beings in the film, but also provided the musical score. A modern source claims that when the rough cut of the picture by film editor Ferris Webster received rave reviews after initial previews, M-G-M decided to leave the film in this version and refused Webster's requests to make a finished cut of the film. A modern source also adds that Joshua Meador, a Disney animator who rarely worked on outside projects, created, in addition to other animations, the "id monster," fence and lightning effects and ray bolts. Forbidden Planet has been ranked as one of the seminal 1950s science fiction films by many modern critics and was nominated for an Academy Award for Special Effects, but lost to The Ten Commandments. The film marked Leslie Nielsen's motion picture debut.
Although several modern sources indicate that Forbidden Planet is a remake of William Shakespeare's play The Tempest, there are only a few similarities. For example, in The Tempest, Prospero and his daughter Miranda have been isolated on a island for twelve years, when Prospero causes a "tempest" to wreck a passing ship containing his relatives. Miranda is smitten with one of the surviving passengers, Ferdinand, the only man she has seen besides her father and his servant. The film's plot then diverges greatly from that of the play: In the play, the malicious servant conspires with shipwreck survivors to kill Prospero, while Prospero accepts Ferdinand as his daughter's fiancé. When murder is avoided, Prospero safely returns to the mainland with his daughter and new son-in-law. In Forbidden Planet, Morbius has to remain behind and die to secure his daughter's future on a new world.
Released in United States Spring March 1956
Released in United States March 1975
Released in United States 1997
Shown at WideScreen Film Festival in Los Angeles October 31 - November 16, 1997.
Released in USA on video.
Released in United States Spring March 1956
Released in United States March 1975 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Science Fiction Movie Marathon) March 13-26, 1975.)
Released in United States 1997 (Shown at WideScreen Film Festival in Los Angeles October 31 - November 16, 1997.)