Forbidden Planet (Two-Disc 50th Anniversary Special Edition) (1956)

Actors: Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen, Warren Stevens, Jack Kelly
Fred M. Wilcox
AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
Number of discs:

DVD Features:

  • Available Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Additional Scenes
  • Lost Footage
  • Excerpts from THe MGM Parade TV Series
  • Two follow-up vehicles starring Robby the Robot: 1958 MGM feature film The Invisible Boy and The Thin Man TV Series Episode Robot Client
  • TCM original documentary "Watch the Skies!: Science Fiction, the 1950s and Us"
  • "All-new Amazing! Exploring the Far Reaches of Forbidden Planet" featurette
  • "Robby the Robot: Engineering a Sci-Fi Icon" featurette
  • Science-Fiction Movie Trailer Gallery


This special two-disc DVD re-release of Forbidden Planet might as well be called the Robbie the Robot Omnibus as it also includes two follow-up vehicles featuring the iconic robot character (see cover) introduced by the classic 1956 sci-fi movie. They are the feature-length film The Invisible Boy and an episode titled Robot Client from the Thin Man TV series.

The Thin Man episode is entertaining in a way only such naive entertainments from the era can be (the plot also make no sense when one thinks about it). In it a detective investigates a murder at a mansion in which Robbie the Robot is the prime suspect. But how can it be if the robot has no intelligence (at least in this TV episode) and is remote controlled?

Unlike Forbidden Planet which was, like Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, a big-budgeted Technicolor MGM production, The Invisible Boy was a cheap Black & White knock-off, no doubt designed to cash in on Robbie the Robot's unexpected popularity amongst small boys. A pastiche of 1950s science fiction movie clichés it features a rampant giant computer (as in Gog), government big-wigs and military types being mind-controlled by a mechanic device (Zontar the Thing from Venus) and so forth. The Invisible Boy however tests the viewer's patience as one if often tempted to fast forward through dull scenes. Hardly essential viewing, unlike Forbidden Planet itself.

Then again, not many pre-Star Wars sci-fi flicks got the big budget cinemascope treatment that Forbidden Planet got.

Hugely influential (it practically provided the template for Star Trek, which came a decade later) Forbidden Planet may have dated in the half century since its original release, but at times its special effects are so unexpectedly well done that one feels like hitting the Pause button on the DVD remote to savior them. Scenes set in outer space and the giant monster at the end would remain cutting edge, even right into the late-1980s despite advances in effects technology.

The story - about a spaceship crew sent to investigate what happened to an earlier colony ship and only finding two survivors, an enigmatic scientist and his daughter (see where Trek got its ideas from?) - is also an intelligent updating of Shakespeare's The Tempest, mixed with Freudian psychology.

And when all else fails to impress the viewer there is always Anne Francis providing prime 1950s cheesecake, prancing about in skimpy outfits. The soundtrack "music" consisting of electronic noises though may have come across as suitably futuristic in its time is merely annoying today.

THE DISCS: Those special special effects I mentioned are restored in a pristine near perfect image quality. The sound (remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1) is serviceable. Sci-fi geeks will of course go gaga over the TCM documentary Watch the Skies!: Science Fiction, the 1950s and Us which features luminaries such as Steven Spielberg, James Cameron and Ridley Scott as talking heads.

WORTH IT? Forbidden Planet is one of the few "historically important" movies which are not deathly dull for modern audiences today and rather enjoyable on its own terms and not as a film school lecture. Younger audiences will also be surprised to see Leslie Nielsen of Naked Gun fame in a serious leading role. Yes, Leslie too was young once and played in straight non-comedic roles too . . . 

RECOMMENDATION: An improvement over the earlier DVD release of this film. Fans of 1950s science fiction should well to seriously consider purchasing it even if they do already own the previous version.



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