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Forbidden Planet (1956)

by on 2010/11/29

“Your mind refuses to face the conclusion!”

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For some people, Forbidden Planet is a primitive space opera, a science fiction excursion which anticipates (or inspired) Star Trek.  It features advanced technology, an alien world, and the ultimate test of humanity.

For others, it is a fable, a drama recalling elements of Shakespeare’s Tempest, transposed into a new world, where Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law has been inverted, and the theories of Freud are explored.

For my part, I will always think of Louis and Bebe Barron’s groundbreaking electronic score, and an impossibly-young, unrecognizably-serious leading man, Leslie Nielsen.

This Canadian comedy giant recently died of pneumonia at the age of 84.  Though I first became aware of him in the movie Airplane! I grew to admire him especially for his work in the criminally short-lived TV series, Police Squad!

In Forbidden Planet, Nielsen portrays John Adams, the commander of a ship sent to Altair IV, to check on the crew of an earlier mission.  There he discovers only two people (Anne Francis and Walter Pidgeon), a robot named Robby, and a mysterious ancient menace.  The new crew hopes to protect the original survivors, but it would appear their own days may be numbered…

One of my prized possessions is a large Forbidden Planet poster, hanging in landscape over my television set.  That image is a classic:  Nielsen, gritting his teeth, pointing his ray gun at Robby who (understandably) appears to be absconding with the scantily-clad Anne Francis.  It never ceases to impress.

Likewise the movie impresses me still, as wondrous and complex now as it must have been in its time.  My only regret is that Altair IV will feel a little lonelier now, more distant and more empty for the loss of its chivalrous hero.

Rest easy, Shirley.

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Please note:  This review is a placeholder “stub” intended for future revision.

Rated PG for adult situations and disturbing scenes

98 minutes

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