Edit Content

Main Menu

Fonts of Knowledge


Recommended Sites


Hypnotic illusions don’t tear people apart.


Forbidden Planet


Seminal sci-fi is how this is always announced: proto-Star Trek by way of the Bard. There’s certainly much to appreciate here, not least the inimitable Robby the Robot and the animated visualisation of the monster of the Id, when it eventually appears. But Forbidden Planet is also frequently languid and just that bit too relaxed, its “grownup” SF of people talking rather than scrapping to be balanced against the romance between Anne Francis and everyone’s favourite Police Squad representative, Leslie Nielsen.

Given Nielsen’s rep for emphasising plankishness to humorous effect, its notable how well he does at the essential Shat-ness of Commander JJ Adams. He is, naturally, supported by a ship’s (flying saucer’s) doctor (Ostrow, Warren Stevens) and first officer (well, executive one, Jerry Farman, Jack Kelly). In contrast to Spock, though, Farman is a “space wolf”, one trying to have his way with bright young virgin Alta (Francis), the kind of saucy minx who swims around in flesh-coloured bathing costumes and pretends she’s au naturel. 

Jerry, despite applying vigorous “healthy stimulation from hugging and kissing” for all he’s worth, elicits nothing, nada, in response. But when Lt Frank Drebin crosses her path, Alta’s all of a flutter. This is, essentially, rather tiresome. Francis bears a passing resemblance to Doogie Howser’s older brother and can’t even boast the personality to match, which means what performative friction there is comes from Dr Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon).

And Pidgeon’s Prospero (later revisited in the form of Maximillian Schell’s Dr Hans Reinhardt in The Black Hole) is a little too damn reasonable to be really sustainable. It’s a fine, engaging performance, but since Morbius’ mad scientist “of the tape thrillers” aspect must be entirely – and entirely unconsciously – given form through his id, he never gets to be more than a bit crabby and then mortified to realise he didn’t realise what was going on all this time (when Adams, who has been dismissed as lowly of IQ, pieces it all together, he summarises “Twenty years ago, when your comrades voted to return to Earth, you sent your secret Id out to murder them! Not quite realising it, of course, except maybe in your dreams”).

Which is a shame, as Morbius has a point when it comes to the “asinine”, meddling United Planets, seeking to dictate terms on Morbius’ solitary rock. It’s very fortunate that Morbius triggered a self-destruct, because you can better the United Planets would – like the UN – institute some decidedly unwholesome exploitation of the scientific advances wrought by the Krell. Unfortunately, Morbius’ assurance that he would exercise his “own conscience and judgement” with regard the distribution of their secrets is the case in ways he doesn’t comprehend. 

If the monsters of the id aspect is overtly Freudian in concept, then the characterisation of man (and Krell) kind as subject to our hideous unconscious is writ large here. They forgot the deadly danger of the subconscious’ “hate and lust for destruction. The beast. The mindless primitive. Even the Krell must have evolved from that beginning. And so those mindless beasts of the subconscious had access to a machine that could never be shut down. The secret devil of every soul on the planet all set free at once to loot and maim and take revenge and kill!

I mean, eesh! We’re all a rum bunch, per Drebin. And because we are all partly such monsters, “So we have laws and religion”. Morbius describes their ultimate experiment, one that “they actually seemed to hope might somehow free them once and for all from any dependence on physical instrumentalities”. Or as JJ describes it, “Creation by mere thought”. 

It’s notable that the Krell, ancient astronauts (they visited Earth and brought back specimens) “conquered even their baser selves, and… abolished sickness and insanity and crime and all injustice”. Because this is rather redolent of the Seth Material and Seth’s discussion of the Lumanians, whom Seth claims existed on Earth long before Atlantis. They rejected war and violence, invented artificial foods that meant they wouldn’t have to kill animals to eat, and possessed advanced scientific and psychic/telepathic abilities. 

Unfortunately, the artificial foods left them weak due to lack of proper nutrition and exercise. More acutely, they attempted a short cut that did for them, artificially altering their free will so they were repelled by violence; this is suggestive of the kind of thing we saw in The Terminal Man (although, I assume their “prohibiting nerve control reactions” were genetic rather than implanted, but who knows). The sense in both cases is of a society that achieved much but missed something fundamental, that one has to develop in a natural way (albeit, as noted, Forbidden Planet’s rather dour position is that the “Id” is always there, no matter how advanced we become).

Forbidden Planet has been considered for a remake a number of times, and it would probably lend itself to a full-on horror version, what with Morbius’ description of how his fellows were “torn literally limb from limb” and JJ being informed “Skipper, his body is plastered all over the communications room”. 

The contrasting take is that it could be done as a full-on lark, with a significant amount of time devoted to Earl Holliman’s Cook getting soused on all the bourbon Robby has spirited into existence for him (Robby even burps when analysing the initial bottle). That bubble-headed booby in Lost in Space and every cute or personable robot since can be traced back here. Robby’s lines – “I rarely use it myself, sir. It promotes rust”; “Can I be of service, sir?”; “Pardon me, sir. Stuff?”; “Would 60 gallons be sufficient?”; “Thick and heavy?” – would find themselves recycled in Gremlins, but the most alarming is “Sorry, miss. I was giving myself an oil job”. 

As far as future science is concerned, these Earth voyagers landed on the Moon by the final decade of the 21st century (doing it in a TV studio 13 years after the movie’s release is cheating, and SF can at least be excused for failing to recognise that big slab of cheese is, in fact, plasma). By 2200, we had reached other planets in our solar system. They can achieve the speed of light via hyperdrive (the “science” of using this is rather laborious). The Krell, it seems, are hidebound by Earth tech in spite of their advances, Earth tech as dubious in feasibility as landing on the Moon; their underground machine is powered by 9,200 thermonuclear reactors operating in tandem. I wonder where all the waste goes? Perhaps into the machine’s id.

Director Fred M Wilcox doesn’t do anything especially wondrous visually, although George J Fosley’s widescreen cinematography deserves due credit. Morbius’s repeated chant of “10 times 10” would be sampled by 808 State for the track 10 x 10 on album Gorgeous. The Krell would be the name of Starhawk’s Sontaran-like foes in the DC Thomson comic strip. Not to be confused with Kroll (a Doctor Who squid and a risk & financial advisory solutions group) or Krull (a shitty but expensive early-80s fantasy movie) or Krall (Star Trek Beyond mutant humans) or Krill (crustaceans). Forbidden Planet probably doesn’t need a remake, since everything that makes it distinctive would doubtless be diluted, and you’d probably end up with something regrettably similar to Event Horizon.

Our Score

Click to Confirm Your Score
[Total: 0 Average: 0]

Most Popular

What is currently passing for knowledge around here.

  • You’ve got a lot to learn, jungle man.
    You’ve got a lot to learn, jungle man.
  • My life has been one glorious hunt.
    My life has been one glorious hunt.
  • Send in the Clones: Donald Marshall and the Underworld
    Esoterica Now
    Send in the Clones: Donald Marshall and the Underworld
  • I thought this was the cousins’ dinner.
    I thought this was the cousins’ dinner.
  • The Vaccine
    The Q & A
    The Vaccine
  • Beyond the Ice Wall: The Races
    The Q & A
    Beyond the Ice Wall: The Races