Blu-ray
Recommended
4 stars
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$11.16
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Overall Grade
4 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4 Stars
HD Video Quality
3.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4 Stars
Supplements
4.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Recommended

Forbidden Planet

Street Date:
September 7th, 2010
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
October 5th, 2010
Movie Release Year:
1956
Studio:
Warner Home Entertainment
Length:
98 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated G
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Released in 1956, 'Forbidden Planet' opens with the narrator informing the viewer that in the last decade of the twenty-first century man had landed on the moon, reached other planets by 2200, and then light-speed was discovered, which enabled intergalactic travel. Although the writers missed their first prediction by a 100 years or so with the Apollo 11 moon landing taking place July 20, 1969, the creative team's forward thinking about the future created an intriguing, influential science fiction film that saw former B-movie material given first-class treatment.

Led by Commander John J. Adams (Leslie Nielsen), the United Planet's C-57D Spacecruiser is on a reconnaissance mission to Altair IV, 16 light years away, to follow up on the Bellerophon, a ship whose crew was sent on an expedition to colonize the planet, though no one reported back. Once in orbit, they make radio contact with Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), who warns them to stay away from the planet. However, the commander has his orders.

The effects work is well done as the ship moves believably through space and down to the planet's surface. The commander and a couple of his men meet with the doctor and his 19-year-old daughter Altaira (Anne Francis, as the song "Science Fiction Double Feature" from 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' states). Her introduction generates a storyline that is a tad silly and dated by today's standards. The writers exhibit a '50s mentality towards the sexes as Lt. Jerry Farman (Jack Kelly) becomes overwhelmingly infatuated with her, and naturally not being around other men before, she is eager to learn what kissing is and swims without a suit.

The doctor reveals an extinct race known as the Krells lived on the planet and they were one million years further evolved than humankind. Although we don't see them, the large triangle-shaped doorframes they devised provide opportunities for the viewer's imagination. The Krells had amazing technologies and once the Commander learns of them like a typical military man he wants to confiscate them on behalf of the United Planets, but Morbius refuses.

This battle of wills places Altira in the middle. Torn between her father and a man she met a couple of days ago who has some mysterious effect on her. Making matters more difficult for all involved is an invisible monster on the loose, only seen when it tries to breach an electric fence, which causes portions of it to appear thanks to the animation wizards on loan from Walt Disney.

'Forbidden Planet' is a good film, though it does get slow and talky in portions. There's quite a bit revealed through dialogue and the action is limited. Some scenes border on being boring and the comic relief involved with the cook (Earl Holliman) and Robby is flat. Shakespeare's "The Tempest" influenced the film's story, which deals with the theme of man and his nature. Likewise, the film and its crew went on to have an influence on science fiction, particularly television series like 'Star Trek,' 'Lost in Space,' and 'The Twilight Zone.' And of course, it introduced Robby the Robot to the world.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

Warner Brothers brings 'Forbidden Planet' to high-definition on a BD-50 Blu-ray disc housed inside a standard blue keepcase. The disc skips menus and goes right to the movie. It is reported to be Region A. All the extras are the same as the 50th Anniversary DVD that came out in 2006.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

The video is presented with 1080p/VC-1 encoded transfer at an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The production design displays a wide palette of solid and consistent colors. The matte paintings look great and remain seamless in high definition, a statement some 50-year-old film effects can't make. The deep blacks and the frequent grays from all the metal help contribute to a sharp contrast and there's good shadow delineation. A natural film grain is evident, as are minor marks and dirt.

There are some issues, though. The worst is the number of times the source reveals its age. Fades just do not work in high definition, highlighting the processes used for optical effects at the time. During the blending of the two scenes, the image loses its sharpness, so just before and right after the transition, it looks like a filter is removed and replaced, respectively. Scenes with animation also suffer the same loss of quality, as when Robby shoots a monkey off the table.

There's limited depth in the shots, possibly to hide the back wall of the studio. This causes flatness. Edges can run soft. There's mild banding as light comes off Altair. There's also some type of error at 29:52 as the image expands horizontally when Robby drives off with the crewmembers.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track sounds surprisingly defect free in contrast to the image. Louis and Bebe Barron's electronic tonalities are outstanding. They're the most prevalent element within the surrounds, sounding eerie and otherworldly, seemingly throughout the film. Otherwise, there's mild to faint ambiance, particularly creating echo in some of the Krells' cavernous rooms.

The dynamics are not consistent, as Pidgeon's voice frequently sounds flat due to ADR. Most of the dialogue is clear as it plays out the front center channel, except one scene when Morbius is playing Krell music, which momentarily plays louder than his dialogue, though I wasn't clear if it was intentional. Sounds are positioned across the fronts and there's good imaging when the Starcruiser moves across the frame as the steel shutters of Morbius' home pop up across the building.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

  • Come Watch the Skies!: Science Fiction, the 1950s and Us (SD 56 min) – Mark Hamill narrates this 2005 TCM documentary/film fan's dream. Produced, written, and directed by Richard Schickel, directors Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Ridley Scott, and James Cameron individually interviewed talk about classic science fiction movies, including 'Forbidden Planet.'
  • Robby the Robot: Engineering a Sci-Fi Icon – (SD 14 min) Made in conjunction with "Amazing!" this is a look at the iconic robot.
  • Deleted Scenes – (SD, 13 min) This footage is taken from a workprint and isn't actually entirely deleted scenes. Some don't have the post-production work done, but title cards identify them.
  • Lost Footage – (SD, 9 min) This rare test footage had been sitting in vaults for decades before being rediscovered. FX geeks will be in heaven seeing this archival footage.
  • 'The Invisible Boy' – (SD, 89 min) This 1957 "sequel" is really just a spinoff by the studio to reuse Robby and offset the cost of his creation. This is a kid's film where a young boy named Timmie is hypnotized by a super computer and made super smart. He puts together a robot that scientists were unable to, which turns out to be Robby from 'Forbidden Planet,' who somehow traveled back in time 300 years and landed in Chicago. The film is silly, as Robbie makes a minor aircraft to fly the kid around in and turns him invisible as the title indicates. It starts out playful as he plays odd pranks, like almost catching his parents have sex, then gets dangerous as the supercomputer holds Timmie for ransom. It's MST3K bad, so invite friends over for it.
  • Excerpt from MGM Parade Eps. 27 & 28 – (SD, 2 & 4 min) Walter Pidgeon hosts these previews of 'Forbidden Planet'. Fun for fans of classic Hollywood. Too bad they didn’t include entire pieces.
  • The Thin Man: Robot Client TV episode – (SD, 26 min) From 1958, Peter Lawford (Nick) and Phyllis Kirk (Nora) star in this mystery television series featuring Robby the Robot . The acting and writing combine for a rather forgettable piece as the detectives work to prove Robby innocent of committing murder
  • Theatrical Trailers for "Forbidden Planet' and 'The Invisible Boy'

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are no HD exclusives.

Final Thoughts

'Forbidden Planet' is a classic science fiction film that comes across pretty well for its age. Sure, it has its quirks, but it has understandably endured for decades because it plays things seriously. While the source limited what could be done in the high definition format, the Blu-ray shouldn't have major detractors. Warner Brothers did a very good job honoring the film's legacy with the special features. While I recommend it for everyone, I would highly recommend it to fans of science fiction and movie special effects.

Technical Specs

  • 50GB Blu-ray Disc

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/VC-1

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.4:1

Audio Formats

  • English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • French: Dolby Digital Mono
  • German: Dolby Digital Mono
  • Castellano: Dolby Digital Mono
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono
  • Portugese: Dolby Digital Mono

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH
  • French
  • German
  • Castellano
  • Spanish
  • Portugese
  • Norwegian

Supplements

  • Theatrical Trailers
  • Watch the Skies!: Science Fiction, the 1950s and Us
  • Amazing!: Exploring the Far Reaches of Forbidden Planet
  • Robby the Robot: Engineering a Sci-Fi Icon
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Lost Footage
  • The Invisible Boy (1957)
  • Excerpts from MGM Parade
  • The Thin Man: "Robot Client" TV episode

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List Price
$11.16
Amazon
$9.19 (18%)
3rd Party
$9.19
Usually ships in 24 hours Buy Now»