director Fred M. Wilcox
I guess that it’s time for me to add Forbidden Planet to my all-time favorite movies list. It has, after all, actually been a favorite of mine back to childhood. It had just been about 20 years or so since I had last seen the darn thing. Considered one of the best films of 1950’s science fiction, I’m hardly alone in recognizing it as such.
An interplanetary riff on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the film is also a pop psychology take on Freudian/Jungian concepts, most namely the Id. It’s got all that going for it plus an amazing soundtrack of entirely electronic creation, amazing sets and art direction, wonderfully animated special effects, Robby the Robot, Walter Pidgeon and Leslie Nielson! It’s a thing of pure beauty, in my opinion, perhaps due to or perhaps having instilled in me a love for the aesthetics of 1950’s visions of the future, color palettes and all.
As a kid, I loved Robby the Robot and the Id monster. The Id monster is mysteriously invisible through most of the film, only appearing as an electrified animated outline of some bizarre fantastic two-legged creature for a few moments onscreen. That the creature is the embodiment of the darker reaches of Dr. Morbius’ (Walter Pidgeon’s) mind, well, I’d gathered that, though I don’t know that I understood all the repressed sexuality burgeoning beneath the surface of the whole.
When I last saw the film, as a young adult, as part of a film class, the Freudian subtext seemed as loud as anything and outright hilarious. When the doctor’s teenage vixen of a daughter (Anne Francis) appears in her fetchingly futuristic mini-skirt outfits, she arouses the desires of Leslie Nielson’s spaceship crew, and Nielson himself, of course. But she also is highly aroused by the Earthmen that she has never before set eyes upon, as well. And when all of the creations from the mind of Morbius (who has used alien technology to project and create things in this world) recognize all this lust and sexuality, innocence is lost and men must die.
The film, this time, struck me in yet another way. The Earth crew of this spaceship, visiting this outlying planet for the first time in 20 years, really are quite like the eventual Gene Roddenberry Star Trek series, which apparently was an acknowledged influence.
It’s a remarkable film, and I can attest that it truly is still a personal favorite. I’ve come to appreciate the 1950’s science fiction film as something specific and enjoyable for me as a genre and period, but it still stands out, in the so many ways I enumerated above. It’s an aesthetic fantasia. And remarkably intelligent, discursive, and reflective of the mores of the time.
I watched it with Clara, who enjoyed it (she enjoys most things), though doubtlessly less that I, most doubtlessly less than I at her age.