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Forbidden Planet is a 1956 science fiction film in CinemaScope and Metrocolor directed by Fred M. Wilcox and starring Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis and Leslie Nielsen. The characters and setting were inspired by Shakespeare's The Tempest, and the plots are very similar.

The film features a number of Oscar-nominated special effects, groundbreaking use of an all-electronic music score, and the first screen appearance of both Robby the Robot and the C-57D flying saucer starship.


In the early 23rd century, the United Planets Cruiser C-57D is sent to the planet Altair IV, 16 light-years from Earth, to investigate the disappearance of a colony expedition sent 20 years earlier. Before landing, the ship is contacted by Dr. Edward Morbius (Pidgeon), who warns them to stay away.

Upon landing, the ship is met by Robby the Robot, who takes Commander John J. Adams (Nielsen), Lieutenant Jerry Farman (Jack Kelly), and Lieutenant "Doc" Ostrow (Warren Stevens) to Morbius' home. Morbius explains to them that an unknown force killed all of the other members of his crew and destroyed their starship, the Bellerophon. Only Morbius, his wife (who died later of natural causes), and his daughter Altaira (Francis), now 19 years old, survived. He fears that the crew of the C-57D will suffer the same fate. Altaira has never met a man besides her father, and is interested in getting to know the new arrivals and learn about human relations.

Near the ship, First Officer Lt.
Jerry Farman converses with Dr Morbius' daughter, Altaira.

Morbius explains that he has been studying the Krell, the natives of Altair IV who, despite being far more advanced than humanity, had all mysteriously died in a single night 200,000 years before, just as they had achieved their greatest triumph. He shows them a device that he calls a "plastic educator". Morbius notes that the captain of the Bellerophon tried it, and was killed instantly. When Morbius used it though, he barely survived, and doubled his intellect in the process. He claims that that enabled him to build Robby and the other technological marvels in his home. Morbius then takes them on a tour of a vast cube-shaped underground Krell installation, 20 miles on a side and powered by 9,200 thermonuclear reactors, which has been operating and self-repairing itself since the extinction of the Krell. When asked its purpose, Morbius admits he does not know.

The Great Machine, dwarfing the three men walking on the platform.

One night, a valuable piece of equipment in the ship is damaged, though the sentries report they saw no intruders. In response, a force-field fence is set up to protect the ship. The protection proves to be useless; the unseen thing returns, shorts out the fence, and kills Chief Engineer Quinn (Richard Anderson). Dr Ostrow examines footprints left after the attack and is confused, saying that the creature appears to violate all known evolutionary laws.

The intruder returns the following night, and is discovered to be invisible - its appearance only revealed in outline by the beams of the force field and the crew's weapons. Several men are killed by the monster. Asleep in a Krell laboratory, Morbius is awoken by Altaira's scream. At that moment, the creature vanishes.

Later while Adams confronts Morbius at the house, Ostrow sneaks away to use the educator, with fatal results. Just before he dies though, he manages to tell Adams that the underground installation was built to materialize anything the Krell thought of, but they had forgotten "Monsters from the id!" Morbius objects, pointing out that there are no Krell left. Adams replies that Morbius' mind - expanded by the plastic educator and thus able to interface with the great Krell machine - subconsciously created the monster that killed his shipmates 20 years earlier, after they had voted to return to Earth. Morbius scoffs at Adams' theory.

When Altaira declares her love for Adams in defiance of her father, the monster comes for them. Morbius commands Robby to kill it, but the robot freezes, recognizing that the monster is an extension of Morbius. The creature breaks into the house and melts through the nearly-indestructible door of the Krell vault where Adams, Altaira and Morbius have taken refuge. Morbius finally accepts the awful truth and tries to renounce his creation. When he is mortally injured, the monster disappears. As Morbius lies dying, he directs Adams to press a lever which sets the Krell machine to self-destruct. Adams, Altaira, Robby, and the surviving crew take off and witness the destruction of the planet from a safe distance in space.



Id Monster - plaster cast of footprint, and outlined in electric field and blaster rays

The original 1952 screen treatment by Irving Block and Allen Adler was titled Fatal Planet; the screenplay by Cyril Hume was renamed Forbidden Planet because it was thought to have more box-office appeal. Block and Adler's treatment took place in the year 1976 on the planet Mercury. An expedition headed by John Grant is sent to the planet to retrieve Dr. Adams and his daughter Dorianne, who have been stranded there for twenty years. The plot is roughly the same as the final film, though Grant is able to rescue both Adams and his daughter and escape the invisible monster stalking them.

The film sets were constructed at an MGM sound stage on the Culver Citymarker lot and were designed by Cedric Gibbons and Arthur Longeran. The entire film was interior studio-bound, without any outdoor photography. All outdoor scenes were simulated with sets and visual effects.

A full-size mock up of three quarters of the C-57D was built to suggest its full width of 170 ft (51 m). This was surrounded by a huge painted diorama of the desert landscape of Altair IV. This set took up all the space in a Culver City sound stage. This was the first film in which humans are depicted traveling in flying saucers of their own construction. The ship was reused in several episodes of the original Twilight Zone, which was also filmed at the MGM studios.

At about $125,000, Robby the Robot was a very expensive film prop for the time. The electrically-controlled landcar or "dune buggy" driven by Robby and the tractor-crane truck offloaded from the spaceship were also built for the film. Robby was later featured in the film The Invisible Boy and appeared in numerous television series and movies. Like the C-57D, Robby (and his vehicle) appeared in episodes of The Twilight Zone.

The animated sequences, especially the attack of the id monster, were created by veteran animator Joshua Meador, who was lent to MGM by Walt Disney Pictures. Curiously, shots showing the shape of the invisible monster outlined in the blaster beams were evidently removed from some prints shown on television — presumably because its appearance was considered too terrifying for younger viewers — and it was many years before these shots were restored. According to a "Behind the Scenes" feature on the DVD release, a close look at the creature shows it to have a small goatee beard, suggesting that it is connected to Dr. Morbius, the only character with this feature. (See frame-capture of the id monster, at the top of this section.)



Forbidden Planet was first released on April 1, 1956 across America in CinemaScope and Metrocolor, and stereophonic sound in some venues (either magnetic or Perspecta). Its Hollywood premiere was at Grauman's Chinese Theatremarker and featured Robby the Robot on display in the lobby. It ran continuously at Grauman's until the following September. The film was subsequently re-released in movie theaters in 1972 as one of MGM's "Kiddie Matinee" features, with six minutes of film footage cut to ensure a G-Rating from the Motion Picture Association of America.


The film was first released on MGM VHS and Beta Video in 1982. It was reissued by MGM/UA in widescreen VHS for its 40th anniversary in 1996. The movie was also released on laserdisc by the The Criterion Collection. Warner Bros. then released it on DVD in 1999 after MGM's back catalog was sold to AOL-TW by Turner Entertainment and MGM/UA in 1998. The 1999 release came with both standard and widescreen formats.

The Ultimate Collector's Edition is packaged in a metal box with the original poster as a cover. Inside on two DVDs are the films Forbidden Planet and The Invisible Boy, The Thin Man episode "Robot Client" and a documentary "Watch the Skies!: Science Fiction, The 1950s and Us". Also included were miniature lobby cards and a 3-inch toy replica of Robby the Robot.


The DVD edition was followed by a release of the 50th Anniversary HD DVD and the Ultimate Collector's Edition DVD on November 28, 2006. The 50th anniversary version was restored by the Warner Bros.-MGM reconstruction crew.


After the movie was released, there followed a novelization by W.J. Stuart, which chapters the story into separate POV narrations by Dr. Ostrow, Cmdr Adams and Dr. Morbius. The book delves further into the mystery of the vanished Krell and Morbius's relationship to them. In the novel, Morbius repeatedly exposes himself to the Krell manifestation machine, which (as suggested in the film) increases his brain power far beyond human intelligence. Unfortunately, Morbius retains enough of his imperfect human nature to be afflicted with hubris and contempt for humanity. Not recognizing his own limitations is Morbius' downfall, as it had been for the Krell. While not stated explicitly in the film (although the basis of a deleted scene found on the film's fiftieth-anniversary DVD), the novelization compared Altaira's ability to tame the tiger (until her sexual awakening) to the medieval myth of a unicorn being tamable only by a virgin woman.


The movie's innovative electronic music score (credited as "electronic tonalities", partly to avoid having to pay movie industry music guild fees) was composed by Louis and Bebe Barron. MGM producer Dore Schary discovered the couple quite by chance at a beatnik nightclub in Greenwich Villagemarker while on a family Christmas visit to New York City. Schary hired them on the spot to compose the film music score. The theremin (which was not used in Forbidden Planet) had been used as early as 1945, in Spellbound, but their score is widely credited with being the first completely electronic film score. The soundtrack preceded the Moog synthesizer of 1964 by almost a decade.

Using equations from the 1948 book, Cybernetics: Or, Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine by mathematician Norbert Wiener, Louis Barron constructed the electronic circuits which he used to generate the "bleeps, blurps, whirs, whines, throbs, hums and screeches". Most of the tonalities were generated using a circuit called a ring modulator. After recording the base sounds, the Barrons further manipulated the material by adding effects, such as reverberation and delay, and reversing or changing the speed of certain sounds.

As Louis and Bebe Barron did not belong to the Musicians' Union, their work was not considered for an Academy Award, in either the soundtrack or special effects category. Curiously, MGM avoided producing a soundtrack album when the film was first released. However, film composer-conductor David Rose released a 45-rpm single of his original main title theme, which he had recorded at MGM Studios in Culver City, California in March 1956. This theme had been discarded when Rose, who had originally been contracted to compose the film’s music score in 1955, was discharged between Christmas 1955 and New Year’s by Dore Schary.

The innovative soundtrack was finally released on a vinyl LP album by the Barrons for the film's 20th anniversary in 1976, on their own PLANET Records label (later changed to SMALL PLANET Records and distributed by GNP Crescendo Records) and, later, on a music CD in 1986 for its 30th Anniversary: with a six-page colour booklet containing images from Forbidden Planet plus liner notes from the composers, Louis and Bebe Barron, and Bill Malone. The soundtrack is also available on disc one of the album Forbidden Planet Explored.

Track list

The following is a list of compositions on the CD:

  1. Main Titles (Overture)
  2. Deceleration
  3. Once Around Altair
  4. The Landing
  5. Flurry Of Dust - A Robot Approaches
  6. A Shangri-La In The Desert / Garden With Cuddly Tiger
  7. Graveyard - A Night With Two Moons
  8. "Robby, Make Me A Gown"
  9. An Invisible Monster Approaches
  10. Robby Arranges Flowers, Zaps Monkey
  11. Love At The Swimming Hole
  12. Morbius' Study
  13. Ancient Krell Music
  14. The Mind Booster - Creation Of Matter
  15. Krell Shuttle Ride And Power Station
  16. Giant Footprints In The Sand
  17. "Nothing Like This Claw Found In Nature!"
  18. Robby, The Cook, And 60 Gallons Of Booze
  19. Battle With The Invisible Monster
  20. "Come Back To Earth With Me"
  21. The Monster Pursues - Morbius Is Overcome
  22. The Homecoming
  23. Overture (Reprise) [this track recorded at Royce Hall, UCLA, 1964]


  • The author Colin Wilson has likened Forbidden Planet's "monsters from the id" to claimed occult phenomena involving monsters from the subconscious, and in his novel The Philosopher's Stone, the destruction of Mu is caused similarly by subconscious monsters from the sleeping minds of the Old Ones.

References in other media

  • In Babylon 5, one particular shot of the Great Machine of Epsilon 3 (as seen in the episode "A Voice in the Wilderness") bears a strong resemblance to the bridge through the Great Machine of the Krell in Forbidden Planet. (Babylon 5's producer has stated that this similarity was clear at the time of production but the form the shot took was due to production requirements, and was not a deliberate reference to the film.)
  • In The Blob, a poster of Forbidden Planet can be seen during the movie theater scene.
  • The title of the Melvins song "The Fool, the Meddling Idiot" comes from a line of dialogue in the film.
  • In the film Halloween, Lindsey and Tommy can be seen watching Forbidden Planet while Laurie is babysitting them.
  • In Jim Jarmusch's 1984 film Stranger Than Paradise the characters Willie and Éva are watching Forbidden Planet on television.
  • In the stage musical The Rocky Horror Show (1973), and later the film The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), the opening song entitled Science Fiction/Double Feature contains a reference to Forbidden Planet: "Anne Francis stars in Forbidden Planet".
  • In the film Serenity, the crew of Serenity explore the wreckage of a ship identified as the C-57D (same ship designation) on the planet Miranda (a reference to The Tempest).
  • In the book The Tommyknockers, Bobbi Anderson refers to "Altair-4" when asked about the missing boy.


New Line Cinema had developed a remake with James Cameron, Nelson Gidding and Stirling Silliphant involved at different points. In 2007, DreamWorksmarker set up the project with David Twohy set to direct. Warner Bros. reacquired the rights the following year and on October 31, 2008, J. Michael Straczynski was announced as writing a remake. Joel Silver will produce. Straczynski explained the original was his favorite science fiction film, and gave Silver an idea for the new film which makes it "not a remake", "not a reimagining", and "not exactly a prequel". His vision for the film will not be retro, because when the original was made it was meant to be futuristic. Straczynski met with people working in astrophysics, planetary geology and artificial intelligence to reinterpret the Krell back-story.

See also


  1. Forbidden Planet: Ultimate Collector's Edition from Warner Home Video on DVD - Special Edition
  2. Ultimate Collector's Edition at Turner Classic Movies
  3. HD DVD review of Forbidden Planet (Warner Brothers,50th Anniversary Edition) -
  4. Notes about film soundtrack and CD, MovieGrooves-FP
  5. A Darker Side, documentary on Planet of Evil DVD (BBC DVD1814)
  6. The Occult: A History, Colin Wilson, Random House, 1971, ISBN 0394465555

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