Theremin music rocks!*
Okay, maybe it's an acquired taste, but if you were raised on horror and sci-fi movies there's gotta be a special place in your heart for that weird electronic scary music.
FORBIDDEN PLANET was directed by Fred M. Wilcox (Shadow in the Sky) and written by Cyril Hume (Tarzan's Savage Fury, Ransom), Allen Adler (PARASITE) and Irving Block (THE 30 FOOT BRIDE OF CANDY ROCK, THE SAGA OF THE VIKING WOMEN AND THEIR VOYAGE TO THE WATERS OF THE GREAT SEA SERPENT) and is based on Shakespeare's "The Tempest".
The story begins with the arrival at Altair (a star similar in size to our sun but quite a bit brighter) of a military starship from Earth. Commander John J. Adams (Leslie Nielsen: CREEPSHOW, DAY OF THE ANIMALS) and his men have spent a year in hyperspace to reach Altair in order to find out what happened to an ill-fated previous expedition. A group of scientists went to explore the Altair system and and were never heard from again.
They go into orbit around Altair IV after the Commander and his close shipmate Doc Ostrow (Warren Stevens: CYBORG 2087, THE STUDENT BODY) pause to admire an arranged eclipse.
At first they can find no trace of the previous expedition. Then frighteningly powerful radar scans hit the ship followed by a radio message from Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon: THE NEPTUNE FACTOR) asking just who the hell they are. When Commander Adams delivers what he thinks will be welcome news, that he's there to rescue Morbius and his colleagues, Morbius just says thanks but no thanks, no need to land, goodbye! A little miffed at the lack of gratitude but determined to follow his orders, the Commander lands anyway.
The ship sets down in a desert surrounded by rocky hills. No sooner have the men left the ship, hardly having time to admire the green sky and two moons, than a vehicle approaches at a mad pace. The very 50's-futuristic looking ground car is driven by Robby the Robot (Marvin Miller - voice: THE DEADLY MANTIS, KING DINOSAUR) who politely asks Commander Adams and company to get in, please. Clearly AI (Artificial Intelligence) tech like this doesn't exist on Earth. Adams and Doc aren't certain what to make of Robby. The Commander, apparently just trying to make conversation, comments to Robby about Altair IV's atmosphere, noting the high oxygen content. Robby replies,"I rarely use it myself, sir. It promotes rust." Since Robby would have to be made out of advanced synthetics and little or no iron, this wasn't a Data-like misunderstanding. This was dry AI humor.
Robby delivers Adams, Doc and Lt. Jerry Farman (Jack Kelly: THE NIGHT HOLDS TERROR, CULT OF THE COBRA) to the house of Dr. Morbius (the only building on the whole planet). Morbius apologizes for being short with them before they landed, explaining that he's been a recluse for many years. He is more polite, but still tries to give them the bum's rush, basically saying, "See, I'm fine, everything's fine, now please leave."
The beautiful Altaira (Anne Francis: THE SATAN BUG, BRAINSTORM), Morbius' adult daughter, chooses that moment to enter the room. She's a sight for sore eyes to the lonely spacemen and is quickly cornered by the very horny Lt. Farman.
While Farman is busy bad-mouthing his friends to deflect Altaira's interest in them, Morbius explains that the rest of the members of his expedition are long dead. A mysterious, unseen creature came in the night and tore them limb from limb killing most of them. The few survivors attempted to lift off in the expedition's ship, but the ship was immediately vaporized. Only Morbius and his wife (who stayed behind because they loved this planet) were inexplicably immune. Morbius' wife died not long after, of natural causes.
Altair IV's bloody past and the combination of Morbius' refusal to leave and his dire warnings about the fate of the unwelcome space men if they don't leave puts Commander Adams in an awkward position. He decides he must consult his superiors back on Earth. Unfortunately this means building a communications facility, which will take several days.
Strange happenings begin immediately. Late at night an invisible intruder enters the ship and sabotages vital equipment. This results in Adams and Doc paying an unexpected visit to the Morbius house where they discover what Morbius was trying to keep secret.
His house is built on the entrance to the underground ruins of a powerful race, called the Krell, that inhabited this planet 200,000 years ago. "Ruins" really isn't the right word, since everything built by the Krell is self-repairing and self-cleaning and all in perfect working order.
The unrepentedly arrogant Morbius (I love that guy!) explains that his exposure to a Krell device has dramatically boosted his intelligence and thus he alone is able to decide which of the Krell wonders humanity is ready for. He makes it clear that it'll be a short list as Morbius has a low opinion of his fellow man.
It was this brain boost that allowed Morbius to build Robby. The robot is tremendously powerful but Morbius was apparently an Asimov fan because Robby's programming includes Asimov's laws of robotics, making Robby incapable of harming any rationale being.
This is excellent, good old-fashioned sci-fi. The invisible monster (which you do get to see, eventually) gave me nightmares as a kid and still makes me nervous. And the explanation behind it, which also explains Morbius' immunity and the fate of the Krell, is elegant and insightful into human nature.
I give FORBIDDEN PLANET an easy five Shriek Girls.
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