Forbidden Planet

Forbidden Planet
Forbidden Planet

Film poster
Directed by Fred M. Wilcox
Produced by Nicholas Nayfack
Screenplay by Cyril Hume
Story by Irving Block
Allen Adler
Starring Walter Pidgeon
Leslie Nielsen
Anne Francis
Music by Louis and Bebe Barron
Cinematography George J. Folsey
Editing by Ferris Webster
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Release date(s) April 1, 1956 (1956-04-01)
Running time 98 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $4.9 million
Box office $23.5 million (United States)

Forbidden Planet is a 1956 science fiction film[2][3] directed by Fred M. Wilcox, with a screenplay by Cyril Hume. It stars Leslie Nielsen, Walter Pidgeon, and Anne Francis. The characters and its setting have been compared to those in William Shakespeare's The Tempest,[4] and its plot contains certain story analogs. Forbidden Planet was the first science fiction film that was set entirely on another planet in deep space, away from the planet Earth. [5] It is considered one of the great science fiction films of the 1950s, [6] a precursor of what was to come for the science fiction film genre in the decades that followed.

Forbidden Planet features special effects for which A. Arnold Gillespie, Irving G. Ries, and Wesley C. Miller were nominated for an Academy Award. It was the only major award nomination the film received. Forbidden Planet features the groundbreaking use of an all-electronic music musical score. It also featured "Robby the Robot", one of the first film robots that was more than just a mechanical "tin can" on legs; Robby displays a distinct personality and is a complete supporting character in the film.[7]


Plot synopsis

Leslie Nielsen along with co-star Anne Francis in a trailer for Forbidden Planet

Early in the 23rd century, the United Planets Cruiser C57-D has been sent to the planet Altair IV, 16 light-years from the Earth. Its mission is to discover the fate of an expedition sent 20 years earlier to establish a colony on the planet. Soon after achieving orbit, the cruiser receives a radio contact from the surface: Dr. Edward Morbius of the Earth expedition warns them to stay away. The starship's captain, Commander John J. Adams, ignores the warning, following his specific orders, and asks for landing coordinates; Morbius reluctantly complies.

The C57-D is met by Robby the Robot, who takes Adams, Lieutenant Jerry Farman, and Lieutenant "Doc" Ostrow to meet Dr. Morbius. At his elegant home, Morbius explains that an unknown planetary force killed nearly all of the other members of his expedition, vaporizing their starship, the Bellerophon, as it tried to leave the planet. Only Morbius, his wife (who died of natural causes), and their daughter Altaira survived, having chosen to stay behind on this new world they adopted. Morbius fears the crew of the C57-D will also meet the same fate. Teenaged Altaira cannot recall any man but her father; after meeting the attractive officers of the Earth ship, she becomes interested in learning about personal human relationships.

In a subsequent visit to the residence, Adams and Ostrow learn from Morbius that he has been studying the "Krell," the ancient civilization of Altair IV who, despite being far more advanced than humanity, had all died mysteriously during a single night, some 200,000 years before – just as they had achieved their greatest triumph. Inside a still functioning Krell laboratory, Morbius shows Adams and Ostrow a device he calls a "plastic educator," capable of measuring and enhancing intellectual capacity, although its main purpose is to enable three-dimensional projection of any thought in the user's mind. Morbius explains that the captain of the Bellerophon had tried it and had been killed instantly.

When Morbius used the machine the first time he barely survived; as a result, he found his intellectual capacity had been permanently doubled. This enabled him to build Robby and the other technological marvels in his house. "Childsplay," he observes. Morbius then takes them on a tour of a vast cube-shaped underground Krell installation, 20 miles [30 km] in all directions and powered by 9,200 thermonuclear reactors. This amazing complex had been operating and maintaining itself since the extinction of the Krell, some 2000 centuries before. When asked about its purpose, Morbius only hints at some minor functions, but says it is capable of generating and functioning at practically limitless power: "the number 10 raised almost literally to the power of infinity."

Later the next night, a valuable piece of equipment in Adams's starship is sabotaged, though the posted sentries never spot the intruder. In response, Adams commands that a defensive force field fence be set up around his ship. This defense proves to be useless, however, when whatever caused the damage returns, passes unseen and unharmed through the fence, and violently murders Chief Engineer Quinn. Later, Ostrow is confused after examining the footprints that the creature left behind, saying that it appears to violate all known evolutionary laws, "a nightmare in anyone's book."

The silent intruder returns again on the next night, and it is discovered to be invisible. Its monstrous appearance is revealed only as fiery, now bellowing outline in both the energy beams of the force field and the crew's many energy weapons directed against it in the fight that follows, both of which have no effect. Several of the ship's crew are killed by the creature, including Farman, while defending the ship. Simultaneously in a Krell laboratory, Morbius is awakened from a pitched nightmare by a scream from Altaira; at that instant, the thing in the energy beams simply vanishes.

Later, while Adams confronts Morbius at the house, Ostrow sneaks away to use the "plastic educator." His goal is to boost his intelligence and thereby solve the mystery of recent events. Like the captain of the Bellerephon, however, he is mortally injured by the process. Just before he dies, Ostrow explains to Adams that the underground installation was built to materialize and project any object that the Krell could imagine anywhere on the planet: physical creativity by mere thought. However, the Krell had forgotten one vital thing: "Monsters from the id! Monsters from the subconscious." When confronted by Adams with these details, Morbius objects, pointing out that there are no Krell left on the planet. Adams replies that Morbius's mind – expanded by the "plastic educator" and thus able to interact with the gigantic Krell device – had created the monster that had killed the rest of his expedition 20 years earlier – after they had voted to return to the Earth; Morbius scoffs at Adams's theory.

When Altaira declares her love for Adams in defiance of her father's wishes, the invisible alien monster of Morbius' mind suddenly reappears not far from the house, coming straight for them. Robby sounds the alarm and Morbius commands him to kill it. Robby recognizes the monster as an extension of Morbius, and the only way to destroy the invisible creature would be to kill Morbius; the clash of his voiced order against the robot's programming to never harm humans shuts down Robby's circuits. The invisible creature breaks into the house and then melts its way through the nearly indestructible, thick metal doors of the Krell laboratory, where Adams, Altaira, and Morbius have now taken refuge.

Morbius finally accepts the truth: The monster is an extension of his own mind, and he tries to renounce it. When Morbius is mortally injured trying to intervene, the creature disappears permanently. While Morbius lies dying, he directs Adams to depress a vertical lever that ultimately sets the Krell complex's atomic reactors to overload. He warns them with his dying words that they must be safely away from Altair IV and in deep space within 24 hours.

From that safe distance, Adams, Altaira, Robby, and the rest of the C57-D's crew witness on the ship's viewplate the destruction of Altair IV as a distant bright flash of light that quickly fades. As Adams voices a quiet requiem for Morbius to Altaira, the starship begins its long return journey to Earth.


Near the ship, First Officer Lt. Jerry Farman converses with Dr Morbius' daughter, Altaira.
The crew works on jury-rigged communications circuits. Ostrow is in the middle, with Adams and Quinn on the right.


United Planets Cruiser C-57D lands on Altair's 4th planet.
Id Monster – plaster cast of footprint, and outlined in electric field and blaster rays

The original screen story by Irving Block and Allen Adler in 1952 was titled Fatal Planet. The later screenplay by Cyril Hume renamed the film Forbidden Planet, because this was believed to have more box-office appeal.[8] Block and Adler's drama took place in the year 1976 on the planet Mercury. An expedition headed by John Grant was sent to the planet to retrieve Dr. Adams and his daughter Dorianne, who have been stranded there for twenty years. From then on, its plot is roughly the same as that of the final film, though Grant is able to rescue both Adams and his daughter and escape the invisible monster stalking them.

The film sets were constructed at a Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) sound stage on its Culver City film lot, and they were designed by Cedric Gibbons and Arthur Longeran. This film was shot entirely inside studios, without any genuine outdoor scenes. All of its "outdoor" scenes were simply simulated with sets, visual effects, and matte paintings.

A full-size mock-up of about three-quarters of the C57-D was built to suggest its full width of 170 ft (51 m). This simulated starship was surrounded by a huge, painted cyclorama featuring the desert landscape of Altair IV. This one set took up all of the available space in one Culver City sound stage.

Forbidden Planet is the first film in which humans are depicted traveling in a starship of their own construction.[9]

The Great Machine, dwarfing the three men walking on the platform.

Later on, C57-D models, special effects, and the full size set were reused in several different episodes of the television series The Twilight Zone, which were filmed by CBS at the same MGM studio location.

At a cost of about $125,000, Robby the Robot was very expensive for a single film prop at the time.[10] Both the electrically controlled passenger vehicle driven by Robby and the tractor-crane truck off-loaded from the C57-D starship were also constructed specially for this film. Robby later starred in the film The Invisible Boy, and appeared in many following TV series and films. Like the C57-D, Robby (and his vehicle) appeared in various episodes of The Twilight Zone, usually slightly modified for each appearance.

The animated sequences of Forbidden Planet, especially the attack of the "Id Monster", were created by the veteran animator Joshua Meador,[11] who was loaned out to MGM by Walt Disney Pictures. According to a "Behind the Scenes" featurette on the film's DVD, a close look at the creature shows it to have a small goatee beard, suggesting its connection to Dr. Morbius, the only character with this physical feature. The bellowing, now visible Id monster, caught in the crewman's high-energy beams during the attack, is also a visual pun on MGM's famous roaring mascot Leo the Lion, seen at the very beginning of all the studio's films of the era.


Forbidden Planet was first released on April 1, 1956, across the United States of America in CinemaScope and Metrocolor, and with stereophonic sound in some cinemas (either by the magnetic or Perspecta processes). The premiere of Forbidden Planet in Hollywood was at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, and Robby the Robot was on display in the lobby. Forbidden Planet ran every day at Grauman's Theater through the following September.

Forbidden Planet was re-released in film theaters during 1972 as one of the "Kiddie Matinee" features of MGM, with about six minutes of film footage cut to ensure that it received a "G" rating from the Motion Picture Association of America.[9] Video releases feature the "G" rating; however, they are all uncut.

Home media

Forbidden Planet was first sold in the pan and scan format on MGM VHS and Betamax Video tapes in 1982, then was re-issued again by MGM/UA on widescreen VHS for the film's 40th anniversary in 1996. The film was also released on laser disc the same year by MGM/UA and later in its original CinemaScope widescreen format from The Criterion Collection. The Warner Bros. company next released it on DVD in 1999. (MGM's catalog of films had been sold to AOL-Time Warner by Turner Entertainment and MGM/UA in 1998. Their version came with both the standard and original widescreen format on the same disc.)

Warren Stevens, Richard Anderson and Earl Holliman at San Diego Comic Con July 2006 – Photograph by Patty Mooney

For the film's 50th anniversary, the Ultimate Collector's Edition was released on November 28, 2006 in an oversized red metal box, using the original movie poster for its cover. Both DVD and high definition HD DVD formats were available in this deluxe package. Inside both premium packages were the films Forbidden Planet and The Invisible Boy, The Thin Man episode "Robot Client" and a documentary Watch the Skies!: Science Fiction, The 1950s and Us. Also included were miniature lobby cards and a 8 cm (3-inch) toy replica of Robby the Robot.[12] This was quickly followed by the release of the Forbidden Planet 50th Anniversary edition in both standard DVD and HD DVD packaging.[9] Both 50th anniversary formats were mastered by Warner Bros.–MGM techs from a fully restored, digital transfer of the film.[13] A Blu-ray Disc edition of Forbidden Planet was released on September 7, 2010.


After the film was released, a novelization quickly followed in both hardcover and mass-market paperback by W. J. Stuart (the mystery novelist Philip MacDonald writing under the pseudonym), [14] which chapters the novel into separate POV narrations by Dr. Ostrow, Commander Adams, and Dr. Morbius. The novel delves further into the mysteries of the vanished Krell and Morbius's relationship to them. In the novel, he repeatedly exposes himself to the Krell manifestation machine, which (as suggested in the film) boosts his brain power far beyond normal human intelligence. Unfortunately, Morbius retains enough of his imperfect human nature to be afflicted with hubris and a contempt for humanity. Not recognizing his own base primitive drives and limitations proves to be Morbius's downfall, as it had for the extinct Krell. While not stated explicitly in the film (although the basis of a deleted scene found on the film's 50th anniversary DVD), the novelization compared Altaira's ability to tame the tiger (until her sexual awakening with Commander Adams) to the medieval myth of a unicorn being tameable only by a virgin.

The novel also clarifies an issue only hinted at in the film. When Dr. Ostrow dissects one of the Earth type animals, he discovers that its internal structure is altogether unlike that of any real animal. The tiger, the deer, the monkey are all conscious creations by Dr Morbius and only outwardly resemble these creatures. Since the Krell's Great Machine can project matter "in any form", it can create life. The Krells' destruction was, in part, punishment for appropriating the powers of God. This is why Commander Adams says in his closing speech "...we are, after all, not God".

Anthony Boucher dismissed the novelization as "an abysmally banal job of hackwork."[15]


Forbidden Planet's innovative electronic music score, credited as "electronic tonalities" – partly to avoid having to pay any of the film industry music guild fees – was composed by Louis and Bebe Barron. MGM producer Dore Schary discovered the couple quite by chance at a beatnik nightclub in Greenwich Village while on a family Christmas visit to New York City; Schary hired them on the spot to compose his film's musical score. While the theremin (which was not used in Forbidden Planet) had been used on the soundtrack of Alfred Hitchcock's 1945 film Spellbound, the Barron's electronic composition is credited with being the first completely electronic film score; their soundtrack preceded the invention of the Moog synthesizer by eight years (1964).

Using ideas and procedures from the book, Cybernetics: Or, Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine (1948) by the mathematician and electrical engineer Norbert Wiener, Louis Barron constructed his own electronic circuits that he used to generate the score's "bleeps, blurps, whirs, whines, throbs, hums, and screeches".[10] Most of these sounds were generated using an electronic circuit called a "ring modulator". After recording the basic sounds, the Barrons further manipulated the sounds by adding other effects, such as reverberation and delay, and reversing or changing the speeds of certain sounds.[16]

Since Louis and Bebe Barron did not belong to the Musicians Union, their work could not be considered for an Academy Award – in either the "soundtrack" or the "sound effects" categories. MGM declined to publish a soundtrack album at the same time that Forbidden Planet was released. However, film composer and conductor David Rose later published a 7" (18 cm) single of his original main title theme that he had recorded at the MGM Studios in Culver City during March of 1956. His main title theme had been discarded when Rose, who had originally been hired to compose the musical score in 1955, was discharged from the project by Dore Schary sometime between Christmas 1955 and New Year’s Day.[citation needed]

The Barrons finally released their soundtrack in 1976 on a vinyl LP album for the film's 20th anniversary; it was on their very own PLANET Records label (later changed to SMALL PLANET Records and distributed by GNP Crescendo Records). The LP was premiered at MidAmeriCon, the 34th World Science Fiction Convention, held in Kansas City, MO over the 1976 Labor Day weekend, as part of a 20th Anniversary celebration of Forbidden Planet held at that Worldcon; the Barrons were there promoting their album's first release, signing all the copies sold there. They also introduced the first of three packed-house screenings that showed an MGM 35mm fine grain vault print in original CinemaScope and sterophonic sound. A decade later, their soundtrack was released on a music CD in 1986 for the film's 30th Anniversary, with a six-page color booklet containing images from Forbidden Planet, plus liner notes from the composers, Louis and Bebe Barron, and Bill Malone.[16] The soundtrack is also available on disc one of the album Forbidden Planet Explored.

Track list

The following is a list of compositions on the CD:[16]

  1. Main Titles (Overture)
  2. Deceleration
  3. Once Around Altair
  4. The Landing
  5. Flurry Of Dust – A Robot Approaches
  6. A Shangri-La In The Desert / Garden With Cuddly Tiger
  7. Graveyard – A Night With Two Moons
  8. "Robby, Make Me A Gown"
  9. An Invisible Monster Approaches
  10. Robby Arranges Flowers, Zaps Monkey
  11. Love At The Swimming Hole
  12. Morbius' Study
  13. Ancient Krell Music
  14. The Mind Booster – Creation Of Matter
  15. Krell Shuttle Ride And Power Station
  16. Giant Footprints In The Sand
  17. "Nothing Like This Claw Found In Nature!"
  18. Robby, The Cook, And 60 Gallons Of Booze
  19. Battle With The Invisible Monster
  20. "Come Back To Earth With Me"
  21. The Monster Pursues – Morbius Is Overcome
  22. The Homecoming
  23. Overture (Reprise) [this track recorded at Royce Hall, UCLA, 1964]


The biography of Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek Creator, notes that Forbidden Planet was one of the inspirations for the series Star Trek.[17] The Doctor Who story Planet of Evil was consciously based partly on Forbidden Planet.[18]

The musical Return to the Forbidden Planet was inspired and loosely based on Forbidden Planet[19] and won the Olivier Award for best musical of 1989/90.[20]

A scene from the science fiction television series Babylon 5, set on the Epsilon III Great Machine bridge, strongly resembles the Krell Great Machine. While this was not the intent of the show's producer, the special effects crew tasked with creating the imagery stated that the Krell Great Machine was a deliberate reference to their Epsilon III homage.[21]

The film is named alongside several other science-fiction cult films in the opening song of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.


The film appeared on two American Film Institute Lists.


New Line Cinema had developed a remake with James Cameron, Nelson Gidding and Stirling Silliphant involved at different points. In 2007, DreamWorks set up the project with David Twohy set to direct. Warner Bros. re-acquired the rights the following year and on October 31, 2008, J. Michael Straczynski was announced as writing a remake. Joel Silver will produce.[24] Straczynski explained that the original had been his favorite science fiction film, and it gave Silver an idea for the new film that makes it "not a remake", "not a reimagining", and "not exactly a prequel". His vision for the film will not be retro, because when the original was made it was meant to be futuristic. Straczynski met with people working in astrophysics, planetary geology and artificial intelligence to reinterpret the Krell back-story.[25]

See also


  1. ^ "Forbidden Planet (1956)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2006-08-14. 
  2. ^ Variety film review; March 14, 1956, page 6.
  3. ^ Harrison's Reports film review; March 17, 1956, page 44.
  4. ^ Wilson, Robert Frank (2000). Shakespeare in Hollywood, 1929–1956. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. p. 10. ISBN 0838638325. Retrieved 14 March 2010. 
  5. ^ Robert C. Ring, Sci-Fi Movie Freak, page 22 (Krause Publications, a division of F+W Media, 2011). ISBN 978-1-4402-2862-0
  6. ^ M. Keith Booker, Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction Cinema, page 126 (Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2010). ISBN 978-0-8108-5570-0
  7. ^ "The Robot Hall of Fame : Robby, the Robot". The Robot Hall of Fame (Carnegie Mellon University). Retrieved 2006-08-14. 
  8. ^ "tkm fav the forbidden planet". Retrieved 2006-08-16. 
  9. ^ a b c "Forbidden Planet: Ultimate Collector's Edition from Warner Home Video on DVD – Special Edition". Retrieved 2010-08-15. 
  10. ^ a b "Forbidden Planet". MovieDiva. Retrieved 2006-08-16. "He cost $125,000; a lot of money for a single prop, and was inhabited by a couple of different actors and voiced by Marvin Miller, whose other brief moment of fame was the title role in The Millionaire, a 50s tv show." 
  11. ^ Lev, Peter (2006). Transforming the screen, 1950–1959. History of the American cinema. 7. University of California Press. p. 176. ISBN 0520249666,. 
  12. ^ "Forbidden Planet". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2010-08-15. 
  13. ^ "HD DVD review of Forbidden Planet (Warner Brothers, 50th Anniversary Edition)". 2006-11-28. Retrieved 2010-08-15. 
  14. ^ W. J. Stuart, Forbidden Planet (A Novel), London: Transworld Publishers, 1956.
  15. ^ "Recommended Reading," F&SF, June 1956, p.102.
  16. ^ a b c Notes about film soundtrack and CD, MovieGrooves-FP
  17. ^ Alexander, David (1996-08-26). "Star Trek" Creator: Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry. Boxtree. ISBN 0-7522-0368-1. 
  18. ^ A Darker Side, documentary on Planet of Evil DVD (BBC DVD1814)
  19. ^ Return to the Forbidden Planet, The Henley College
  20. ^ "Oliviers:Olivier Winners 1989/90". Society of London Theatre. Retrieved 2010-11-11. 
  21. ^ Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5, "A Voice in the Wilderness (Pt 1)" episode guide, 'JMS Speaks' section
  22. ^ AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees
  23. ^ AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot
  24. ^ Borys Kit and Jay A. Fernandez (2008-10-31). "Changeling scribe on Forbidden Planet". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2008-10-31. [dead link]
  25. ^ Casey Seijas (2008-12-01). "J. Michael Straczynski Promises His Take On ‘Forbidden Planet’ Will Be Something ‘No One Has Thought Of’". MTV Movies Blog. Retrieved 2008-12-02. 

External links

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