Sci-Fi Storm

The classic Forbidden Planet Blu-ray review

by on Sep.06, 2010, under Movies

Warner Bros. has a pretty busy release day this Tuesday, September 7th. As well as the previous several reviews, the classic 1956 science fiction masterpiece Forbidden Planet sees Blu-ray for the first time. Does high definition do a 55 year old movie justice?


A dutiful robot named Robby speaks 188 languages. An underground lair provides astonishing evidence of a populace a million years more advanced than Earthlings. There are many wonders on Altair-4, but none is greater or more deadly than the human mind.

Forbidden Planet is the granddaddy of tomorrow, a pioneering work whose ideas and style would be reverse-engineered into many cinematic space voyages to come. Leslie Nielsen portrays the commander who brings his spacecruiser crew to the green-skied Altair-4 world that’s home to Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), his daughter (Anne Francis), the remarkable Robby…and to a mysterious terror. Featuring sets of extraordinary scale and the first all-electronic musical soundscape in film history, Forbidden Planet is in a movie orbit all its own. Directed by Fred M. Wilcox.

If you read this site and have not seen this movie yet, get this movie now and watch it. It really defines a great science fiction story, based on William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. You may laugh at the special effects nowadays, but I still feel that they hold up will, especially given the lack of computer technology available now. Not to mention that it gave us some classic elements – Robby the Robot (who inspired – and later co-starred with – the B9 robot from Lost In Space, which also borrowed heavily in general from the set and prop designs), the flying saucer ship (used as a prop several times afterwards), the uniforms (likewise reused in other movies and TV), and the fright of an invisible monster. And who can forget Leslie Nielsen in a totally serious role before becoming well known as a comedic actor.

The visual effects were great for the time, but you can still see in. The matte backgrounds and the “dust” effect look no better in high def than regular television. I don’t think the Blu-ray improves much here, although it probably looks better on large television sets that an upconverted DVD. I’ve always like the blaster effects, especially the “batteries” with the quad blasters that had the ability to focus the beams for close and long range, although during the big scene the handhelds seemed rather silent. And you can perhaps better see the split-screen issues with Altaira and the tiger – when she gets too close to the tiger, you can see part of the tiger become transparent – they were filmed at different times and a split-screen swipe was used to composite them together and have her follow the tiger off screen.

This was also the first film to feature a totally electronic soundtrack, and the eerie background sounds that represented the invisible monster’s approach to heighten the fear of the unseen for the viewer worked well. All with hand-built equipment at the time.

I think where Blu-ray shines in this case is in the disc capacity. Not only do you get Forbidden Planet plus some extras, but a whole second movie (The Invisible Boy, which some call a sequel but was really just an excuse to use the expensive Robby in another film), and an episode of the TV show The Thin Man which also features Robby. That’s about twice the running time of the feature itself, all on one single disc!

Special Features:

Behind The Story:
Watch the Skies!: Science Fiction, the 1950s and Us (55:31) – Interviews with major Hollywood SF producers, discussing the Golden Age of Science Fiction, and how wars and nuclear power drove stories. Narrated by Mark Hamill.

Amazing!: Exploring the Far Reaches of the Forbidden Planet (26:35) – How Forbidden Planet changed science fiction movies with interviews of various Hollywood and SF personalities.

Robby The Robot: Engineering a Sci-Fi Icon (13:45) – Creating the technological marvel and classic SF icon.

Trailers:
Forbidden Planet (3:41) – Classic 50s SF trailer, with Marvin Miller’s voiceover (Miller also was the voice of Robby)
The Invisible Boy (2:31) – the 1957 film featuring Robby the Robot.

Additional Footage:
Deleted Scenes (13:14) – workprint shots of deleted or alternate scenes, with introduction slides.
Lost Footage (9:21) – Rare test footage, found in various vaults.

Extras:
The Invisible Boy (1:35:00) – the complete “sequel” movie featuring Robby the Robot.

Excerpt from MGM Parade Eps. 27 (2:16) – Walter Pidgeon giving a preview of Forbidden Planet

Excerpt from MGM Parade Eps. 28 (3:59) – More of Walter Pidgeon previewing Forbidden Planet, and Robby says who really built him.

The Thin Man: Robot Client TV Episode (25:35) – The episode of the TV series which also features Robby the Robot.
Warner Bros. has a pretty busy release day this Tuesday, September 7th. As well as the previous several reviews, the classic 1956 science fiction masterpiece Forbidden Planet sees Blu-ray for the first time. Does high definition do a 55 year old movie justice?

A dutiful robot named Robby speaks 188 languages. An underground lair provides astonishing evidence of a populace a million years more advanced than Earthlings. There are many wonders on Altair-4, but none is greater or more deadly than the human mind.

Forbidden Planet is the granddaddy of tomorrow, a pioneering work whose ideas and style would be reverse-engineered into many cinematic space voyages to come. Leslie Nielsen portrays the commander who brings his spacecruiser crew to the green-skied Altair-4 world that’s home to Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), his daughter (Anne Francis), the remarkable Robby…and to a mysterious terror. Featuring sets of extraordinary scale and the first all-electronic musical soundscape in film history, Forbidden Planet is in a movie orbit all its own. Directed by Fred M. Wilcox.

If you read this site and have not seen this movie yet, get this movie now and watch it. It really defines a great science fiction story, based on William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. You may laugh at the special effects nowadays, but I still feel that they hold up will, especially given the lack of computer technology available now. Not to mention that it gave us some classic elements – Robby the Robot (who inspired – and later co-starred with – the B9 robot from Lost In Space, which also borrowed heavily in general from the set and prop designs), the flying saucer ship (used as >a prop several times afterward), the uniforms (likewise reused in other movies and TV), and the fright of an invisible monster. And who can forget Leslie Nielsen in a totally serious role before becoming well known as a comedic actor.

The visual effects were great for the time, but you can still see in. The matte backgrounds and the “dust” effect look no better in high def than regular television. I don’t think the Blu-ray improves much here, although it probably looks better on large television sets that an upconverted DVD. I’ve always like the blaster effects, especially the “batteries” with the quad blasters that had the ability to focus the beams for close and long range, although during the big scene the handhelds seemed rather silent. And you can perhaps better see the split-screen issues with Altaira and the tiger – when she gets too close to the tiger, you can see part of the tiger become transparent – they were filmed at different times and a split-screen swipe was used to composite them together and have her follow the tiger off screen.

This was also the first film to feature a totally electronic soundtrack, and the eerie background sounds that represented the invisible monster’s approach to heighten the fear of the unseen for the viewer worked well. All with hand-built equipment at the time.

I think where Blu-ray shines in this case is in the disc capacity. Not only do you get Forbidden Planet plus some extras, but a whole second movie (The Invisible Boy, which some call a sequel but was really just an excuse to use the expensive Robby in another film), and an episode of the TV show The Thin Man which also features Robby. That’s about twice the running time of the feature itself, all on one single disc!

Special Features:

Behind The Story:
Watch the Skies!: Science Fiction, the 1950s and Us (55:31) – Interviews with major Hollywood SF producers, discussing the Golden Age of Science Fiction, and how wars and nuclear power drove stories. Narrated by Mark Hamill.

Amazing!: Exploring the Far Reaches of the Forbidden Planet (26:35) – How Forbidden Planet changed science fiction movies with interviews of various Hollywood and SF personalities.

Robby The Robot: Engineering a Sci-Fi Icon (13:45) – Creating the technological marvel and classic SF icon.

Trailers:

Forbidden Planet (3:41) – Classic 50s SF trailer, with Marvin Miller’s voiceover (Miller also was the voice of Robby)
The Invisible Boy (2:31) – the 1957 film featuring Robby the Robot.

Deleted Scenes (13:14) – workprint shots of deleted or alternate scenes, with introduction slides.

Lost Footage (9:21) – Rare test footage, found in various vaults.

Extras:
The Invisible Boy (1:35:00) – the complete “sequel” movie featuring Robby the Robot.

Excerpt from MGM Parade Eps. 27 (2:16) – Walter Pidgeon giving a preview of Forbidden Planet

Excerpt from MGM Parade Eps. 28 (3:59) – More of Walter Pidgeon previewing Forbidden Planet, and Robby says who really built him.

The Thin Man: Robot Client TV Episode (25:35) – The episode of the TV series which also features Robby the Robot.


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