Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Forbidden Planet

Still, almost 50 years after I first saw the 1956 film, Forbidden Planet still has the power to excite my fervid adolescent imagination. I drag out my Video and my wife rolls her eyes, but I always seem to be able to convince some unwitting house guest that they "Just have to see this film!"
And I'd like to pay a small tribute to Anne Francis, who died on Monday, one of the greatest sci-fi hotties of the 20th century. Anne Francis starred with Leslie Nielsen, who also died last year, in Forbidden Planet, the vastly influential 1956 flick. Her skinny dip scene probably made your dad or grandpa (and maybe mom or grandma) a little tingly .It triggered Neilsens Character, Captain Adams, memorable line, "Hey, don't you believe in swim suits on this planet?"  Francis' turn as Alta Morbius, the hot yet innocent daughter of Dr. Morbius, was followed up by many other memorable roles, including the mod classic Honey West and two memorable Twilight Zone eps, "Jess-Belle" and "The After Hours." All are worth checking out.
Forbidden Planet was a ground breaking film. A complex dark plot that could have been a sci fi version of The Tempest that revolved around a vanished race of super intelligent beings who destroyed themselves unwittingly by harnessing powers of the id.
It also included the first robot, Robbie, who had a personality and incorporated Isaac Azimov's classic  3 Rules of Robotics.
For me, one of the most lasting influences of the film, was the soundtrack. It was the first film that was totally electronically scored. The composers, Louis and Bebe Barron were pioneers in the use of pure electronically generated sound to create music. They weren't even sure what to call what they did and it was John Cage, who they collaborated with in the 1950's, who insisted that it was music.
The Barrons created their music by building circuits that generated sounds. Much of the sound was of a electronic circuit self destructing. They recorded the sounds on tape and filed them. The taped sound loops were then recorded to create compositions and the soundtrack of this film is like nothing ever heard before. 
I think I will convince my wife that we absolutely have to see this film, one more time, tonight and I will spend an evening back on Altair IV with Dr. Morbius and the Krells...and of course, Alta....
"Hey! Don't you believe in swim suits on this planet?"


squatlo said...

I can barely remember this one. My sci-fi classic was (and still is) the Robert Wise directed "The Day the Earth Stood Still". The special effects were cheesy, and the music (while new and exciting then, has aged poorly) BUT the concept of a benevolent race sending an emissary to warn us of our impending doom if we didn't knock off the wars and conflicts, was great. Even Gort, the robot, was cool when I was a kid. There's a scene where Gort has to pick up and carry a passed out Patricia Neal, and the giant in the robot suit suffered from an extreme weakness brought on by his giantism (sp?) so they had to rig up very obvious wires and cables to help support her ass... But other than the special effects, cheesy music, and an annoying appearance by Aunt Bee, it's still a great film.
Same guy directed The Sound of Music, West Side Story, The Sand Pebbles, and a couple other classics.

Laci the Chinese Crested said...

I'm too young for RTFP on the first go round, but I remember Ann Francis from Honey West. She was a hottie!

Oh well.

microdot said...

I love original The Day The Earth Stood Still and hated the recent remake. Of the remake was one of those movies I would have only seen on an trans atlantic flight...just like the remake of War of The Worlds...
Bur Forbidden Planet was such an original piece, it would have been impossible to top it.
If you have never seen it, you are in for a treat.
I read an extensive interview with the Barrons, the couple who composed the soundtrack back in the 80's and I was so impressed with the innovative technical concepts...I had to go out and find more of their music.
Long before I saw the movie, I saw toy versions of the robot, Robbie who ended up in the TV Series, Lost In Space, years later.
Walter Pidgeon as Dr. Morbius!

squatlo said...

I'm gonna have to track down a copy of this one and give it another look... I'm intrigued!

The remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still had none of the charm, none of the intelligence, no Michael Rennie character (Keanu? Gimme a break... Gort has more personality)
The original had one of the best lines in Hollywood history: "Gort, Klattu barada nikto" or words to that effect... Bark that out at a bar and see who turns around with a grin on their face, you will have found a worthy conversation.

microdot said...

Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!
Thank You, you stopped me in the nick of time. I was just about to turn my destructo ray vision on the marauding band of cows lurking in the field....
That would have been unfortunate.