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arts / rec.arts.sf.movies / Re: FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)

SubjectAuthor
* FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)Mark Leeper
+* Re: FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)Paul S Person
|`- Re: FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)Jack Bohn
+- Re: FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)Jack Bohn
`- Re: FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)T987654321

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FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)

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Subject: FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)
From: mlee...@optonline.net (Mark Leeper)
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 by: Mark Leeper - Sun, 31 Oct 2021 14:34 UTC

I saw that TCM is going to show one of the great and iconic science
fiction films of all time. As I have never written my comments on
this film, it is about time.

Turner Classic Movies has shown the visionary FORBIDDEN PLANET, one
of the most imaginative and influential science fiction films ever
made, but I had never actually made it my pick of the month. I
guess that was on the theory that everyone already knew about it.
It has been (inaccurately) claimed to be the first science fiction
film to ever take place entirely in space. No scenes of this film
take place on earth or even in our solar system, though the
characters are all humans or one of a couple of zoo animals. Well
.... that is if we disqualify a robot from being a character. And
sadly it does not even hold the distinction of being the first
truly space-bound film. That distinction probably goes to CAT
WOMEN OF THE MOON.

FORBIDDEN PLANET is probably the best science fiction film of the
1950s. It is the closest to the quality of contemporaneous written
science fiction, a genuine scientific puzzle with a sophisticated
problem solution. Along the way we really are given all the clues
necessary to solve the murder. Visually the film probably shows
the greatest imagination of any Fifties film (in any genre) and
when seen in its widescreen format, much of it still looks very
good sixty-five years later. The beautiful planet-scapes and
space-scapes would not be surpassed until STAR WARS. For the pre-
digital age, the effects are very impressive. And the scenes are
all the more impressive in widescreen format. And this in spite of
the fact that what was released was only a rough-cut of the film
with what we shall see are plenty of errors. Not that it is so
much a tribute to this film, but when Gene Roddenberry was planning
the original "Star Trek" series, he pitched it as being "'Wagon
Train' to the stars," but what he was really planning was
"FORBIDDEN PLANET: The TV Series." The film is almost a template
for the original "Star Trek." Bits of the ideas show up throughout
science fiction to come like bits of the props showed up in
"Twilight Zone" episodes.

The characters are a little stereotypical and 1950s-ish in their
sensibilities and their morality. Much has been made of the idea
that the story was built around the plot of Shakespeare's TEMPEST.
That may be true, but little more than the basic situation and some
of the characters are taken from the Shakespeare. The murder
mystery, which is the main thrust of the plot, and the character's
motivations, are entirely different from the Shakespeare. For
those who have not seen it, the story, in short, deals with a
rescue mission to the planet Altair IV. An expedition to the
planet two decades before had disappeared without a sign. From
Earth United Planets Cruiser C-57D captained by Commander Adams
(played by Leslie Nielsen) comes to investigate and discovers the
sole survivor living on the planet with his daughter. Nearly
everyone else from the expedition had been killed under very
mysterious circumstances, ripped apart by an unseen force. Only
Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) and his wife survived, and the wife
died of what we are told were natural causes a year or so later.
(In the light of the denouement one wonders if that is actually
true.) Morbius's only company is his daughter Altaira (Anne
Francis) who was born on this planet and Robbie, a fascinating
robot who talks but prefixes every speech with the sound of an old-
fashioned mechanical adding machine.

Connected with the mystery of what happened to the original
expedition is the fact that the planet was at one time millions of
years earlier inhabited by a super-scientific civilization that
were called the Krell. One of the points of the story was to show
the immense power that the Krell had, and for once, what we see
really seems to confirm the fact. The great set piece of the film
is a visit to one of four hundred Krell power shafts. We see four
or five levels of what we are told are 7800 levels. So what we are
seeing is a tiny fraction of what the film claims the Krell had,
but what we do see is dumbfoundingly immense. This is a film that
really dwarfs the human and overwhelms the viewer with the
magnitude of what is possible.

This is a film with beautiful effects that rely in large part on
matte paintings and not models. That approach gave the effects
department much more artistic freedom in the images it could
create. Mostly the effect was used for planet-scapes and space-
scapes, but they are impressive. Then there is Robby, the most
famous film robot outside of the "Star Wars" universe. Over the
years the suit became almost a star in itself. The design is
incredibly creative, a flurry of moving parts and flashing neon to
make it look more a mechanical device than man in a robot suit.
Each time the robot speaks it is prefaced by the noise of a cash
register as if it is computing mechanically. The voice is Marvin
Miller, a familiar voice often used for narration and dubbing at
the time. And those who remember 1950s television may remember him
as Michael Anthony in the television series "The Millionaire."

Special mention should be made of the electronic music by Louis and
Beebe Barron. It was the first totally electronic score in a
feature film and the MGM music department would not even allow it
to be called a score. They were somewhat disappointed that there
was not more interest in their new musical form, "electronic
tonalities." In 1976 Louis Barron decided that there might be a
market for the soundtrack on record. He still had LPs so packed
some cases at his own expense. He brought a case to MidAmeriCon,
the World Science Fiction Convention, in the hopes that there might
be some interest in the record. He told himself that some people
might still be interested in the unusual score after twenty-one
years. After selling in the huckster room for an hour he put in an
emergency call home to Beebe saying to ship him the all rest of the
cases as quickly as possible. He had no idea the demand that there
would be either for the record or for himself. He suddenly found
himself to be a celebrity. For years I remember seeing copies of
the record for sale. I believe it is even on CD. I hope the
latter-day popularity of the score helped the Barrons in their
later years.

Leslie Nielsen plays his role straight, as he would his roles for
many years to come. But it is hard to see him in this film without
being reminded of his later slapstick comedy roles. Walter Pidgeon
is clearly a bit uncomfortable in a role very unlike what he is
used to playing. Of course that quality may be just what Morbius
needs. Anne Francis in an ingenue role is somewhat better than
many young starlets have been in similar roles. Les Tremayne who
played a general in WAR OF THE WORLDS narrates three or four
sentences at the beginning.

But even so great a film as FORBIDDEN PLANET has a few flaws, and
I will talk about them this week.

Apparently MGM wanted to get the film out with as little expense as
possible. It already has cost $1.9 million, then the most ever
spent to make a science fiction film, and they did not want to sink
much more in. The executives decided on releasing the rough-cut of
the film that it did not want to pay for a final editing. As a
result we see many editing problems that really should have been
corrected. There are little pieces of conversations that seem
either incomplete or totally incoherent. When the cruiser comes out
of hyperspace, Cmdr. Adams (Leslie Nielsen) is momentarily angry at
Jerry, perhaps for navigating the cruiser so close to a star. But
Adams never finishes his sentence and the matter is totally
dropped, so we have no confirmation what it was all about.

In another scene we can suppose that Dr. Ostrow (Warren Stevens)
has started to say something to Adams and stopped himself. But it
would seem the scene was cut. All we have left is him telling
Adams "nothing important, skipper." In another scene Altaira has
decided she loves Adams, but there is nothing that makes it obvious
when seeing her. Still Adams tells Ostrow, "Something new has been
added." Ostrow looks at Altaira and somehow knows what Adams
means. He comments, "That will complicate things." He can see
love in Altaira somehow, but what he is seeing is invisible to the
viewer. It can also be seen by the tiger apparently and he turns
on her, though why a tiger should behave differently to her because
she was in love is never explained. Adams seems surprised that
Alta does not understand, but I have to admit I don't either. Much
of the dialogue is scientifically absurd, like the implication that
lead isotope 217 is lighter than ordinary lead. Some of the
science jargon is complete nonsense, with phrases like "short-
circuit the continuum on a 5 or 6 parsec level."

I might be overruled on this but that sounds like a load of jargon
duck tires.


Click here to read the complete article
Re: FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)

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Subject: Re: FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)
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 by: Paul S Person - Sun, 31 Oct 2021 16:08 UTC

On Sun, 31 Oct 2021 07:34:59 -0700 (PDT), Mark Leeper
<mleeper@optonline.net> wrote:

>I saw that TCM is going to show one of the great and iconic science
>fiction films of all time. As I have never written my comments on
>this film, it is about time.
>
>Turner Classic Movies has shown the visionary FORBIDDEN PLANET, one
>of the most imaginative and influential science fiction films ever
>made, but I had never actually made it my pick of the month. I
>guess that was on the theory that everyone already knew about it.
>It has been (inaccurately) claimed to be the first science fiction
>film to ever take place entirely in space. No scenes of this film
>take place on earth or even in our solar system, though the
>characters are all humans or one of a couple of zoo animals. Well
>... that is if we disqualify a robot from being a character. And
>sadly it does not even hold the distinction of being the first
>truly space-bound film. That distinction probably goes to CAT
>WOMEN OF THE MOON.
>
>FORBIDDEN PLANET is probably the best science fiction film of the
>1950s. It is the closest to the quality of contemporaneous written
>science fiction, a genuine scientific puzzle with a sophisticated
>problem solution. Along the way we really are given all the clues
>necessary to solve the murder. Visually the film probably shows
>the greatest imagination of any Fifties film (in any genre) and
>when seen in its widescreen format, much of it still looks very
>good sixty-five years later. The beautiful planet-scapes and
>space-scapes would not be surpassed until STAR WARS. For the pre-
>digital age, the effects are very impressive. And the scenes are
>all the more impressive in widescreen format. And this in spite of
>the fact that what was released was only a rough-cut of the film
>with what we shall see are plenty of errors. Not that it is so
>much a tribute to this film, but when Gene Roddenberry was planning
>the original "Star Trek" series, he pitched it as being "'Wagon
>Train' to the stars," but what he was really planning was
>"FORBIDDEN PLANET: The TV Series." The film is almost a template
>for the original "Star Trek." Bits of the ideas show up throughout
>science fiction to come like bits of the props showed up in
>"Twilight Zone" episodes.
>
>The characters are a little stereotypical and 1950s-ish in their
>sensibilities and their morality. Much has been made of the idea
>that the story was built around the plot of Shakespeare's TEMPEST.
>That may be true, but little more than the basic situation and some
>of the characters are taken from the Shakespeare. The murder
>mystery, which is the main thrust of the plot, and the character's
>motivations, are entirely different from the Shakespeare. For
>those who have not seen it, the story, in short, deals with a
>rescue mission to the planet Altair IV. An expedition to the
>planet two decades before had disappeared without a sign. From
>Earth United Planets Cruiser C-57D captained by Commander Adams
>(played by Leslie Nielsen) comes to investigate and discovers the
>sole survivor living on the planet with his daughter. Nearly
>everyone else from the expedition had been killed under very
>mysterious circumstances, ripped apart by an unseen force. Only
>Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) and his wife survived, and the wife
>died of what we are told were natural causes a year or so later.
>(In the light of the denouement one wonders if that is actually
>true.) Morbius's only company is his daughter Altaira (Anne
>Francis) who was born on this planet and Robbie, a fascinating
>robot who talks but prefixes every speech with the sound of an old-
>fashioned mechanical adding machine.

He also uses "monitored" a lot.

But that, apparently, is what a robot was supposed to be like ... in
the early 50s.

Robbie returned in (and was used to attract customers to) /The
Invisible Boy/, which, when I saw it, turned out to have rather too
much boy, who was visible rather too much of the time.

So, yes, I suggest that Robbie /is/ a character in his own right.
After all, Gort certainly is, and /he/ never appeared in any other
movie (except the remake).

>Connected with the mystery of what happened to the original
>expedition is the fact that the planet was at one time millions of
>years earlier inhabited by a super-scientific civilization that
>were called the Krell. One of the points of the story was to show
>the immense power that the Krell had, and for once, what we see
>really seems to confirm the fact. The great set piece of the film
>is a visit to one of four hundred Krell power shafts. We see four
>or five levels of what we are told are 7800 levels. So what we are
>seeing is a tiny fraction of what the film claims the Krell had,
>but what we do see is dumbfoundingly immense. This is a film that
>really dwarfs the human and overwhelms the viewer with the
>magnitude of what is possible.
>
>This is a film with beautiful effects that rely in large part on
>matte paintings and not models. That approach gave the effects
>department much more artistic freedom in the images it could
>create. Mostly the effect was used for planet-scapes and space-
>scapes, but they are impressive. Then there is Robby, the most
>famous film robot outside of the "Star Wars" universe. Over the
>years the suit became almost a star in itself. The design is
>incredibly creative, a flurry of moving parts and flashing neon to
>make it look more a mechanical device than man in a robot suit.
>Each time the robot speaks it is prefaced by the noise of a cash
>register as if it is computing mechanically. The voice is Marvin
>Miller, a familiar voice often used for narration and dubbing at
>the time. And those who remember 1950s television may remember him
>as Michael Anthony in the television series "The Millionaire."
>
>Special mention should be made of the electronic music by Louis and
>Beebe Barron. It was the first totally electronic score in a
>feature film and the MGM music department would not even allow it
>to be called a score. They were somewhat disappointed that there
>was not more interest in their new musical form, "electronic
>tonalities." In 1976 Louis Barron decided that there might be a
>market for the soundtrack on record. He still had LPs so packed
>some cases at his own expense. He brought a case to MidAmeriCon,
>the World Science Fiction Convention, in the hopes that there might
>be some interest in the record. He told himself that some people
>might still be interested in the unusual score after twenty-one
>years. After selling in the huckster room for an hour he put in an
>emergency call home to Beebe saying to ship him the all rest of the
>cases as quickly as possible. He had no idea the demand that there
>would be either for the record or for himself. He suddenly found
>himself to be a celebrity. For years I remember seeing copies of
>the record for sale. I believe it is even on CD. I hope the
>latter-day popularity of the score helped the Barrons in their
>later years.
>
>Leslie Nielsen plays his role straight, as he would his roles for
>many years to come. But it is hard to see him in this film without
>being reminded of his later slapstick comedy roles. Walter Pidgeon
>is clearly a bit uncomfortable in a role very unlike what he is
>used to playing. Of course that quality may be just what Morbius
>needs. Anne Francis in an ingenue role is somewhat better than
>many young starlets have been in similar roles. Les Tremayne who
>played a general in WAR OF THE WORLDS narrates three or four
>sentences at the beginning.
>
>But even so great a film as FORBIDDEN PLANET has a few flaws, and
>I will talk about them this week.
>
>Apparently MGM wanted to get the film out with as little expense as
>possible. It already has cost $1.9 million, then the most ever
>spent to make a science fiction film, and they did not want to sink
>much more in. The executives decided on releasing the rough-cut of
>the film that it did not want to pay for a final editing. As a
>result we see many editing problems that really should have been
>corrected. There are little pieces of conversations that seem
>either incomplete or totally incoherent. When the cruiser comes out
>of hyperspace, Cmdr. Adams (Leslie Nielsen) is momentarily angry at
>Jerry, perhaps for navigating the cruiser so close to a star. But
>Adams never finishes his sentence and the matter is totally
>dropped, so we have no confirmation what it was all about.
>
>In another scene we can suppose that Dr. Ostrow (Warren Stevens)
>has started to say something to Adams and stopped himself. But it
>would seem the scene was cut. All we have left is him telling
>Adams "nothing important, skipper." In another scene Altaira has
>decided she loves Adams, but there is nothing that makes it obvious
>when seeing her. Still Adams tells Ostrow, "Something new has been
>added." Ostrow looks at Altaira and somehow knows what Adams
>means. He comments, "That will complicate things." He can see
>love in Altaira somehow, but what he is seeing is invisible to the
>viewer. It can also be seen by the tiger apparently and he turns
>on her, though why a tiger should behave differently to her because
>she was in love is never explained. Adams seems surprised that
>Alta does not understand, but I have to admit I don't either. Much
>of the dialogue is scientifically absurd, like the implication that
>lead isotope 217 is lighter than ordinary lead. Some of the
>science jargon is complete nonsense, with phrases like "short-
>circuit the continuum on a 5 or 6 parsec level."
>
>I might be overruled on this but that sounds like a load of jargon
>duck tires.


Click here to read the complete article
Re: FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)

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Subject: Re: FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)
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 by: Jack Bohn - Sun, 31 Oct 2021 23:36 UTC

Among the things Mark Leeper wrote:

> when seen in its widescreen format, much of it still looks very
> good sixty-five years later. The beautiful planet-scapes and
> space-scapes would not be surpassed until STAR WARS. For the pre-
> digital age, the effects are very impressive. And the scenes are
> all the more impressive in widescreen format.

2001 says, "Am I a joke to you?"

Just a side-mention of the TV cropped version. Back when I was looking for the special effects tricks, this showed the tiger on a rise of ground, then Adams having to shoot it as it leapt for Altaira, but the tiger only entered the frame when it had already been replaced by animated dissipating clouds, making it look like they had cheated more than they actually did.

> MGM was not able to do themselves all the effects for FORBIDDEN
> PLANET and got some technical aid from Disney Studios. The result
> is that several of the scenes have the unmistakable feel of Disney
> animation. When we see sparks in Robby's dome, or long arcs of
> electricity, they look like Disney animation. When walking to the
> reactor, we see a scene in the power shaft that looks very much
> like Disney animation. I assume they also did the rays coming out
> of the blasters, but not very well. The line of the blast remains
> steady even though the gun is shaking around.

Not the first time MGM favored Disney over their own animators!
"Anchors Aweigh" (1945) featured a fantasy segment of Gene Kelly dancing with a cartoon. He originally wanted Mickey Mouse. It was when Disney turned down the request that they went with Jerry Mouse. This was while Tom & Jerry were in the midst of a four-year run of Academy Award wins, in a nine-year run of nominations! (I think I read that at the time nominations were not competitive, a few titles were submitted by each studio, in most cases by the executive in charge of keeping the animators from running amuck around the real studio.)
I tell myself it was justified by getting an "effects animator": Disney could specialize, having someone special to do all the water and wave effects for The Sorcerer's Apprentice in "Fantasia," while the others basically had everyone as basically character animation, and made do with their water seeming to have intelligence and purpose.

--
-Jack

Re: FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)

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Subject: Re: FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)
From: jack.boh...@gmail.com (Jack Bohn)
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 by: Jack Bohn - Sun, 31 Oct 2021 23:53 UTC

Paul S Person wrote:

> Robbie returned in (and was used to attract customers to) /The
> Invisible Boy/, which, when I saw it, turned out to have rather too
> much boy, who was visible rather too much of the time.

A model kit was made of Robbie. They produced a second version to replicate the movie poster, with Robbie's legs dramatically spread in a way the actor would have probably found hazardous, and a few alterations as the physical model could not hold a three-dimensional Altera in the way the 2-D artist had painted. I've wondered about building a representation of the "Invisible Boy" poster, with its even more dramatic stance.

--
-Jack

Re: FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)

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Subject: Re: FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)
From: qwrtz...@gmail.com (T987654321)
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 by: T987654321 - Fri, 5 Nov 2021 17:17 UTC

In my top 50 all time favorites.


arts / rec.arts.sf.movies / Re: FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)

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