Forbidden Planet: 50th Anniversary Two-Disc Special Edition DVD Review
Written by Peter West
Released by Warner Bros. Home Video
Directed by Fred M. Wilcox
Written by Irving Block, Allen Adler (story) & William Shakespeare (play: "The Tempest")
1956, Region 1 (NTSC), 98 minutes, Rated G
DVD released on November 14th, 2006
From the Warner Bros. website: A dutiful robot named Robby speaks 188 languages. An underground lair offers evidence of an advanced civilization. But among Altair-4's many wonders, none is greater or more deadly than the human mind. Forbidden Planet is the granddaddy of tomorrow, a pioneering work whose ideas and style would be reverse-engineered into many cinematic space voyages to come. Leslie Nielsen plays the commander who brings his spacecruiser crew to the green-skied world that's home to Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), his daughter (Anne Francis)...and to a mysterious terror. Featuring sets of extraordinary scale and the first all-electronic musical soundscape in film history, Forbidden Planet is in a movie orbit all its own.
A sci-fi version of Shakespeare's "The Tempest", Forbidden Planet takes us to Altair-4, where a rescue ship has been sent to find out what happened to a colony of settlers which landed twenty years before and had not been heard from since. Upon arriving they find only Dr. Morbius and his daughter Altaira (who was born on the planet) alive. The rest of the colony has been murdered by an invisible force that for some reason has left them unharmed.
Soon nature comes into play as Altaira falls for the handsome commander and suddenly the mysterious force that killed the original settlers now starts killing the rescuers.. Introduced in this film is a sci-fi icon, Robby the Robot, who in his own way steals any scene he's in.
As you can tell already, I'm a big fan of the film... I had only seen pan and scan versions of the movie (I was actually too young when it was showing the the theaters) until I bought the Laserdisc in 1995. The picture quality was only fair and the colors were pretty faded. This edition gives this pioneer film of the space era it's best presentation since 1956.
Forbidden Planet was a special effects visual marvel for it's time. There are scenes where they walk through the old Krell city below the planet that are an incredible combination integrating art with human actors. Robby the Robot (who was the inspiration for "The Robot" from Lost in Space) while primitive compared to today's standards became an endearing icon of science fiction and is still big in Japan.
While the story itself is not that complicated, the movie itself is bigger than the script. This is a film that you can watch with the entire family and enjoy what was a simpler time, where fantasy could take us to another world. There's a lot of films from the past that are better off left as memories, Forbidden Planet is not one of them...
Video and Audio:
Presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, this edition is the definitive version of the film! I only suspect that the HD-DVD can only be slightly better picture quality wise. While I am able to normally pick out degradation in image quality uploading to 1080i resolution, this transfer looked spectacular! While the colors are not especially strong, I feel that Warner has restored this 50 year old film to a brilliance not seen since 1956. Even the special features (with the exception of some deleted scenes) look exceptional.
Forbidden Planet was the first film to have an entirely digitally created soundtrack. This track in the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround presentation on this DVD is incredible. While you don't have sounds bouncing all over the place (which is done now intentionally), the music just envelopes you while you watch the movie. Unfortunately for the French, they only have a mono track on the DVD...As with the picture, on the sound Warner has done an exceptional job!
There's very few times where I give a perfect score for extras and this is one of them.
Disc# 1 – 1956 Forbidden Planet feature plus bonuses – Deleted, Scenes; Lost Footage; MGM Parade excerpts [1955 TV, series]; 1958 "The Thin Man": Robot Client TV Episode; Theatrical Trailers.
Disc# 2 – 1957 MGM feature film – The Invisible Boy, plus other, bonuses – Watch the Skies!: Science Fiction, the 1950's, and Us [2005 TCM documentary]; Amazing!: Exploring the Far, Reaches of Forbidden Planet; Robby the Robot: Engineering a Sci-Fi Icon.
Considering the list price of this DVD set is only $19.95, this is a incredible set of special features. To include Robby's "sequel" The Invisible Boy is such an added bonus, I was very surprised to see that in the set. The episode of "The Thin Man" with Robby is a great example of late 50s TV. I had never even heard of this show, nevermind seeing the episode before. Every fan of the film and Robby the Robot should be thrilled by this collection's special features!
Films that Peter West reviews are played on a Pioneer Elite DV-59AVi DVD player, viewed on a Mitsubishi WS-55413 HDTV and listened to on a THX Ultra 2 Pioneer Elite VSX-59TXi A/V Receiver through a 7.1 setup of JBL Northridge E series Speakers.