September 3, 2018
Forbidden Planet (1956)
Grade: 52/100

Director: Fred McLeod Wilcox
Stars: Leslie Nielsen, Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis

What it's about. A science fantasy loosely based on William Shakespeare's play "The Tempest." Stately Walter Pidgeon and his hottie young adult daughter Anne Francis are the only survivors from an expedition to a remote planet 20 years ago. With the exception of Pidgeon's wife, who died from nature causes, the remaining colonists were violently murdered by a powerful invisible monster. Yet, oddly, Pidgeon and Francis do not worry that this monster might attack them. They spend their idyllic life with Robbie the Robot, a polite and handy servant.

A spaceship lands on the planet despite Pidgeon's warnings and objections. Leslie Nielsen is the captain, Warren Stevens and Jack Kelly are lieutenants, Richard Anderson is the engineer, and Earl Holliman is the comic relief cook. The ship's officers meet Pidgeon and learn about his research of the Krell, a vanished advanced humanoid civilization that left behind remarkable technology.

In short order, first Kelly and then Nielsen romance the willing Francis, and threaten to take her with them when the crew leaves the planet. But Pidgeon's premonition proves correct: the invisible monster shows up and attacks the crew.

How others will see it. Forbidden Planet was MGM's first science fiction film since 1929. An A-list budget allowed for exceptional sets and one of the genre's best props, Robby the Robot.

The movie was not a great commercial success, but it did turn a profit, and proved highly influential. It takes little imagination to see it as an episode of "Star Trek", for example. Its legacy was cemented by its 2013 admission to the prestigious National Film Registry.

Today at, the film has a respectable 40K user votes, and a user rating of 7.6, which rises to 7.9 among viewers over 45. The user reviews are laudatory, with "Best SF Film of the 1950s" as a typical remark.

How I felt about it. Forbidden Planet is a mixed bag. It does have great sets, and Robbie the Robot is great fun. Also, Francis is sexy, Pidgeon is as reliable as ever, and the film's premise of monsters from the Id is fascinating. But overall, the movie is too campy, sexist, and stereotypical for acceptance.

The film's biggest handicap is its director, Fred McLeod Wilcox, previously best known for saccharine A-list family dramas (Lassie Come Home, The Secret Garden). Wilcox directs the cast into overripe performances and makes embarrassing use of Holliman as the Sad Sack of the outfit.

There are many moments that don't ring true. For example, Nielsen cuts off communication with Pidgeon while the latter is warning of risks to the crew (five crew members die within days). A "tame" tiger that doesn't belong on the planet launches an unexplained attack on Francis and Nielsen, and she shows little remorse over its death. The ship should leave the planet after the first death, and wait for further orders from headquarters.

It is unprofessional for the ship officers to romance Francis, no matter how short her miniskirt might be. Francis falls in love with Nielsen and turns against her father all too quickly. Pidgeon dies for no reason. Nielsen somehow knows to the second when the planet will explode.

By great coincidence, this is the second consecutive movie I have seen (along with Mission: Impossible II) which references obscure mythological Greek hero Bellerophon and his monster adversary Chimera. Spoiler alert: Bellerophon wins.