During the continuing series of “catching up with reviews of the older movies”, Kevin O’Connor’s presentation of Forbidden Planet, the 1956 sci-fi flick directed by Fred M. Wilcox (Lassie Come Home), came by on the TV – so I’m re-viewing it while reviewing it. (If there was a short shown with this film, its identity has been lost to the annals of time). For what it’s worth, Forbidden Planet is given credit as an early example of the high-budget sci-fi film (as opposed to your typical low-budget sci-fi film of the ’50s).
Notably, “Robby the Robot” is given a title in the opening credits, as if the robot itself were a star of the film.
Our heroes start the film on a mission to the planetary system of Altair. And they totally have Star Trek transporters, except that instead of transporting people, they act as some sort of inertial buffer during spaceship deceleration, which, when you think about it, is a pretty solid concept. Why are they going to Altair? They’re looking for survivors from the Bellerophon landing twenty years earlier. Bellerophon, of course, was a Greek hero who captured the Pegasus and killed the Chimera, though whether that’s relevant is yet to be seen. (Yeah, OK, it really wasn’t relevant at all.)
Sure enough, they find survivors – Dr. Edward Morbius hails them on the radio before they land, saying he does not need help and strongly recommending that they do not land. One of the crew notes that something funny is going on down there. Duh.
The crew ignores his warning and sets down on the matte painting of Altair IV and are met by Robby the Robotic Taxi Driver, who takes Commander J.J. Adams (later to use his experiences on Altair IV in directing his reboot of Star Trek?) and two other crew members to Morbius’ home. Morbius throws out a soliloquy then offers them a synthetic lunch created by Robby the Lunchlady, then demonstrates Robby’s inability to kill humans (Asimov would be proud).
Morbius tells the crew that every member of the Bellerophon crew except he and his wife (who instead died in childbirth) were killed within the first year by “a planetary force” – torn limb from limb by an invisible force, when their discussion is interrupted by his hot eponymous daughter Alta. They figure she’s lonely (at least they hope so – va-va-va-voom!) but she’s got her dad and some pretty nifty tame deer and tigers, so she’s happy – for now.
Anway, the ship’s crew decide they need to build a communicator to tell Earth what’s the haps, and they need lead shielding for it – Robby the Violator of the Laws of Physics is happy to provide it.
Alta comes along to the spaceship and gets taken advantage of by a crewman who takes her aside and convinces her that kissing is good for the health. The Commander is upset about this, and blames Alta herself (she was asking for it – just look at how she was dressed!) so Robby the Seamstress makes up a new dress for her. You see, the Commander and Alta have the hots for each other (though I’m not sure Alta understands what the hots are yet) and they’ll end up together.
That night, the crew apparently are visited by the invisible force – a scene which fortunately didn’t eat up any of the special effects budget at all. It did sabotage a piece of equipment, and (after the Commander does a bit of romancing of Alta) Morbius explains the mystery of the Krell – a civilization far more advanced than Earth ever was that once lived on Altair IV. He shows the Commander one of their laboratories and explains how he learned some of their language and is in the process of cracking their Wikipedia. They also have a dangerous Brain Booster, which makes you smart but is also liable to leave you dead, you mere human.
The Doctor then takes them to the Ancient Subaltairian Krell Power Plant (8000 cubic miles worth of it), where the amount of energy that is produced is “the number 10 raised almost literally to the power of infinity.” Despite the fact that the Krell have been dead for 2,000,000 years, the power plant still hums right along. Still, none of this actually explains the invisible beast, but it’s a pretty effective diversion.
In the meantime, the crew at the ship have created an energy fence to keep out the Invisible Krell Beast Thingy. It doesn’t work, and the Chief is killed by “some impossible treesloth” while the ship’s cook is outside of the fence retrieving 480 pints of “real” Kansas City Bourbon supplied by Robby the Bootlegger. At least Robby is off of the list of suspects. And then – another attack. The crew build some big guns and fight off the giant invisible baboon, though it does take out three of them in the meantime.
That leads the Commander and the ship’s doctor back to the Morbius residence to try out the Brain Booster. If they’re only smart enough, they can figure out how to kill the invisible monster. The doctor tries it first, and learns the truth – the Krell were great, but they forgot about “monsters from the id!” Then he dies. Yes, it turns out that the creature is in fact Morbius’ own id monster, fed by the Subterranean Krell Power Plant, not that he knew it.
But when Alta announces her decision to travel to Earth with her new beau, the id monster begins to come after her. Finally, Morbius nobly realizes the jig is up: “Kill me! My evil self is at that door and I have no power to stop it!” But does the Commander kill him? No, he lets the invisible id monster get Morbius instead, which turns out to be the better move because the id monster isn’t able to kill Morbius off completely before dying itself. That allows a fatally wounded Morbius to show the commander how to throw the 24-hour self-destruct on the power plant. 24 hours gives the Earthship plenty of time to escape the catastrophic destruction of the planet (Altair V, you just got promoted!). Also, the hole in the blast doors kinda made it easier to leave. So good call, Commander. The end.
So, it’s kind of a goofy movie all wrapped up in an adaptation of The Tempest. I can take it or leave it, but I’ll note that for all of its “high-budgetness”, they sure saved a ton by making the monster invisible.