I know from my many years as a Rocky Horror Picture Show fan that “Anne Francis stars in… Forbidden Planet, wo-ho-ho-ho-hoooooa.”
But I must admit, I’d never actually seen the film that the song refers to, so I decided to finally give it a watch after DVR-ing it from TCM.
Anne Francis does, in fact, star in this film as Alta Morbius, one of the two survivors of a monster that has attacked and annihilated a futuristic colony on another planet. Starring alongside Francis are Walter Pidgeon as her father and fellow survivor Dr. Morbius, and Leslie Nelsen as the commander who has been sent to investigate the colony.
Before the colony was wiped out, it was inhabited by a hyper-intelligent group of beings known as the Krell, who possessed superior technology and a very advanced society. Dr. Morbius and his daughter have been studying the now-extinct Krell and trying to decipher as much information as possible about their lives.
Mid to late-’50s sci-fi is such a fantastic and fun genre. Visually, Forbidden Planet is the quintessential example of this.
The special effects are over-the-top but perfect for the film’s mood. Vibrant green laser transportation beams, metal gadgets, space vehicles, wobbling robots and winding, otherworldly plants pepper the film. The color scheme is a mixture of pastel and neon, giving the sets a very cartoon-ish and distinctly mid-20th century feel.
All of these bells and whistles are striking, but not so much as to distract from the real driving force here: the plot. The smart, well-written script is what sets Forbidden Planet apart from the b-movie quality that most folks expect from the sci-fi genre in this period.
The mysterious nature of the attacking creature mingles with questions about human intelligence and power, with a bit of comedy, fright, wit and romance thrown in for good measure. What results is an engrossing and surprisingly thought-provoking film, which remains exciting throughout. The score: 5/5!