Well… maybe not a million years.
#37 - Forbidden Planet
The Plot in Brief: Commander John Adams (Leslie Nielsen) and the crew of the C-57D spaceship arrive on planet Altair IV on a mission to determine the fate of the spaceship Bellerophon. Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) and his daughter Altaira (Anne Francis) are the only survivors of the previous mission; with no one else on the planet, Morbius has fashioned a mechanical helper, Robby the Robot, to do the heavy lifting. Morbius explains that a mysterious planetary force killed everyone else. He senses that Adams and his crew are in great danger and warns them to leave.
Many critics—including Bill Warren in his indispensable book Keep Watching the Skies—accuse Walter Pidgeon of just “phoning it in,” as if he was so mortified to be playing in a “kiddie picture” that he sleepwalks through it. I disagree. Pidgeon was an intelligent, intuitive, nuanced actor. Could his mannered, low-key performance be meant to suggest that Morbius is super-smart, has an inkling about what is causing all the commotion, and is trying to sublimate his own rage?
It’s no secret that Forbidden Planet is based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest with Morbius filling in for Prospero, Altaira for Miranda, Robby the Robot for Ariel, and the amazing Id Monster taking the part of Caliban. As it stands, the movie is one of the most thoughtful and thought-provoking Shakespeare adaptations ever attempted. Forbidden Planet explores many of the same themes (the duty of a father to his daughter, the exploitive nature of exploration, and the limits of magic, to name just three) but adds a few of its own. It is both based on a previous thing and its own thing. Some films have a problem being anything at all.
Forbidden Planet’s Three Miracles: a thought-provoking script based loosely on the Bard; the best robot in the history of movies; and the Monster from the Id, a rare and singular creation from the Disney Studios in a non-Disney film.
“In nomine Patrice, et Pidgeon, qui mecum est Robby, Amen.”