Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Forbidden Planet

We begin our Science Fiction extravaganza on Altair IV where Dr. Morbius and his beautiful daughter Altaira have unknowingly taken up residence with their faithful robot, Robby in the year 2200. Commander Adams and his all male crew are now approaching the planet in United Planets Space Cruiser C57D to search for survivors of the Space Ship Bellerophon last heard from 20 years earlier.

(REAL FACT: It should be noted it was not until 1995 astronomers found the first actual planet orbiting around a star much like earth orbits around the sun. No other in all the heavens has ever been found. It was named "BELLEROPHON".)

Having established radio contact with the planet Commander Adams soon learns that Dr. Edward Morbius , a philologist on the Bellerophon mission, has survived but insists he needs no assistance and warns Commander Adams that harm may indeed come to the crew of the C57D if they land....

...and so our sojurn begins....

Well here it is. A defining moment in film making history. Not unlike Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" nothing was ever quite the same after this movie as it was before this movie. Hollywood's first big budget SciFi thriller. Oh there were many SciFi movies out at the time but all were generally considered to be low budget two dimensional B-Movies aimed at the youth market and good for that "First Date" where your girl would grab you in fear in the balcony.

This on the other hand was a major Hollywood production
Landing On The Forbidden Planet
effort and much of what you see on screen today in movies like Alien, The Terminator, Star Wars and yes, even Star Trek can be traced directly to this landmark movie. Although still aimed at a younger audience this was a grown up SciFi with a psychological plot drawn roughly from Shakespeare's The Tempest. Featuring an innovative all electronic sound track (before synthesizers), a first rate production crew, seasoned director (Fred Wilcox) and popular actors Walter Pidgeon (as Dr. Edward Morbius), Leslie Nielsen (Commander Adams) and beautiful ANNE FRANCIS (as Altaira Morbius).

The original concept for this film was much different than the version you see today. The producer/writer/special effects team consisting of Allen Adler and Irving Block ran a very popular optical effects company pumping out numerous B-Movies with a few classics thrown in like the "Night of The Hunter" (1955) with Robert Mitchum. They originally came up with an idea named "Fatal Planet" for a B-Movie studio project. Instead they decided to take a chance on the big time and pitch the story line to the Studio Exec's at MGM. I would loved to have been a fly on the wall as these two actually acted out the story (including an impersonation of the invisible monster) in a conference room for the benefit of the potential investors!

Crewman firing weapons at the invisible monster!

Move Your Mouse Over The Pic Just Above

Crewman being consumed by invisible monster !

Move Your Mouse Over The Pic Just Above

Sit back a moment and listen to this NPR description of the soundtrack effort.
Robby The Robot and Doctor Morbius !To the absolute amazement of everybody the studio went for it and decided to make this effort their very first Science Fiction film with a huge budget of a million dollars. Remember this was 1956 and a million bucks was a vast sum (The final product actually cost almost twice that amount). To write the SCRIPT for this endeavor they sought out Cyril Hume, a descendent of the great philospher David Hume whose movie experience up to this point was writing for the popular Tarzan series (he had also worked on the first version of "Ransom" in 1956 and Nicholas Ray's classic melodrama "Bigger Than Life" 1956). His insights into the mission brought unusual depth to the characters which lifted the roles from the two dimensional B-Movie thriller to the Hollywood "A" list.
On the down side the MGM studio execs insisted Hume add several "humorous" scenes revolving around the ship's cook, 'Cookie' (Earl Holliman). These sorts of executive decisions made by business men are exactly the sort of thing that kills much of the "quality" in a quality production. Fortunately for all the viewers a scene wherein the cook's constant comments about the scarcity of women on the planet are answered by Robby (the Robot) bringing Cookie a female chimp was never filmed.
Firing their weapons at the Invisible Monster
The center piece of fear in this production was the mysterious marauding invisible monster created by Disney Studio animators. It being one of the few times those clever Disney animators ever worked on a project outside Disney Studios. They were the best! It was the unique look of the strange underground society that earned the film an Academy Award nomination for Best Special Effects (the award went to "The Ten Commandments" that year.). Take a look at the fabulous underground powerhouse set just below.
Two of my favorite subjects about this movie are Anne Francis and Robby the Robot. Robby of course went onto great fame and fortune appearing in many subsequent movie and TV productions. In fact if you wish to purchase your own Life-Size version of Robby for a mere $17,000.00 just CLICK HERE or if you wish to save a few pennies and build your very own Robby at home CLICK HERE.
For all those with a true love of the original and wish to study in detail his long and glamorous career CLICK HERE. His long and distinguished career had him at the very top the "A" List of People To Know in Hollywood until finally usurped by the upstart R2D2.
Miss ANNE FRANCIS was finally the one to blow the whistle on Robby and come clean about his foot fetish with Anne. Here is an excellent BIO about Miss Anne who is with us today and may be contacted at PO Box 5608, Santa Barbara, CA 93150.
Notice the opening credits rolling up into the stars in the Movie Trailer on the left above. Look Familiar? Star Wars maybe? One of my favorite films of hers was BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK (1955) with Spencer Tracy. Well I certainly hope you get a chance to see this wonderful film and I'm sure you will be able to see traces of your favorite modern SciFi somewhere in this very first big budget effort. It has held up well with time and is still very enjoyable without all the high-tech digitizing surround sound effects. Let me know what you think !

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We love Vintage Hollywood! The likes of Errol Flynn, Richard Widmark, Cary Grant, Sterling Hayden and those magnificent ladies of yesteryear!
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