Forbidden Planet: 50th Anniversary Special Edition (US - DVD R1)
Dustin pays a visit to the Forbidden Planet to borrow a cup of Anne Francis
Commander John Adams (Leslie Nielsen, yes, that Leslie Nielsen) and his crew land on a mysterious planet (some even consider it... forbidden!) to investigate the disappearance of a colony that settled there. Upon landing, they're greeted by Robby the Robot, a faithful servant of the planet's only two homosapien inhabitants, Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) and his daughter, Altaira (Anne Francis). Adams and his crew soon learn the fate of the other colonists, death by a ghastly monster invisible to the naked eye. Morbius has no explanation why it has spared his daughter and himself or why its chosen to attack their guests, the crew. As the super-soildiers prepare to defend themselves against this unseen beast, Morbius shares with Commander Adams the dark secrets of the Forbidden Planet.
I'm probably preaching to the converted with this review, but I'll write it anyway with the hope that someone who hasn't seen Forbidden Planet will give it a try. I realize, however, that I may be one of the last people on the earth not to have stood in awe of this masterpiece of science fiction. It's influence has been strong over the last half-century ranging from Star Wars and Star Trek to The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Serenity.
Most science fiction films of the 1950's lacked credibility with their cardboard sets and home-sewn alien costumes. A major credit to the filmmakers of Forbidden Planet is how legitimate their creation feels. Sure, it still has a few moments of cheese... but it's really well-made cheese. It's these unusually high production values that separate Forbidden Planet from say, Plan 9 From Outer Space or even This Island Earth.
Nothing about Planet comes off as being small. Director David Wilcox paints his film with a wide palette of colors on a vast and epic canvas. Altair IV, rather than simply being an alien planet that coincidentally happens to resemble earth, is an entirely different world. The changes in landscape are peculiar, the sky is green and it has multiple moons visible during daylight hours. Another component that adds heavily to the alien feel of the planet is the electronica-sounding score by Louis and Bebe Barron. It eerily fits the style of the production, setting the mood before the opening titles have even appeared on screen. It's a great example of the right elements coming together at the right time.
I'd call Forbidden Planet classic, but it's a compliment that carries too little weight these days. In the box office line last weekend, I actually heard someone hail Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj as a classic to someone with a straight face. Instead, I'll finish out my review of the film by calling it a highly-influential masterpiece, easily arguable as the greatest science-fiction exploit of the decade, possibly even the century. Now if that isn't a pull-quote fit for the 60th Anniversary Double-Dip Deluxe Edition, I don't know what is. If the fantastic acting, superb matte paintings, imaginative effects sequences and original score aren't enough to draw you in, take a glance at smokin' hot Anne Francis as Altaira Morbius and get back to me.
The Forbidden Planet is viewable in 2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen and looks dazzlingly good for a feature fifty years young. Warner Brothers, unsurprisingly, has done a sensational job of restoring this film to a new prime. The black levels are spot-on and the color palette is deliciously rich. Being hard pressed to fine any grain or dirt, I was satisfied with the image quality. My only complaint is a minor one for a film so old; the video (as evidenced slightly by the screen captures) can become a little soft at times. Aside from that minor quibble, this is a fine video presentation.
Should you pay a visit to the Forbidden Planet, you'll be given the option of listening in with a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Like the video, the 5.1 mix is very clean, which is good considering the film's unusual industrial score needs a decent stage to shine. The constant atmospheric sounds and soundtrack radiate around the viewer throughout the picture. This track is hardly a workout for a surround sound setup, but it gets the job done. Color me very satisfied.
Kicking off disc one, we have excerpts from the series 'MGM Parade' hosted by star Walter Pidgeon. He spends a few minutes promoting the film and familiarizing the audience with Robby the Robot. A unique if not ultimately under-whelming inclusion. Also included is an episode of 'The Thin Man' television series which features an appearance by Robby The Robot. Next up are a series of science fiction film trailers, including that of Forbidden Planet. Finishing out the first disc are a series of deleted scenes and effects tests. The quality is overall piss-poor and much of this material is very mundane. Still, worth a look to see how far the effects actually came.
The leading supplement on disc two is the feature film The Invisible Boy, a follow-up vehicle to Forbidden Planet starring Robby The Robot. It's certainly not on the same level of quality as Planet, but as far as science fiction cheese goes, it's quite enjoyable. The technical presentation is satisfactory, especially considering this is only included as a supplement.
Hands down, my favorite supplement was Watch The Skies!: Science Fiction, The 1950's and Us, a way cool fifty-five minute documentary made for television. Narrated by Mark Hammill, it boasts insightful interviews with the likes of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Ridley Scott and James Cameron. Mix that stellar line-up of directors with a plethora of archival film clips and you've got my attention for fifty-five minutes, easy.
'Amazing!: Exploring The Far Reaches of Forbidden Planet' is a twenty-six plus minute featurette on the legacy of the film. It offers up tragically short interviews with Anne Francis and Leslie Nielson, among others who receive more screen time. If the lack of a commentary on the film disappointed you as it did me, you should find satisfaction here. Rounding out this two-disc set is a fourteen minute look at Robby The Robot, how he was created and what he's been up to for the past fifty years.
I heartily recommend this set to anyone interested in science fiction or superb filmmaking in general. I'm beginning to sound like a broken record with this bit, but Warner Brothers once again has given film fans a first rate set, one that celebrates a legendary motion picture. Well done, sports.
Review by Dustin McNeill
All ages admitted
Release Date: 14th November 2006
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 1.0 Spanish, Dolby Digital 1.0 French
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Extras: Deleted Scenes & Lost Footage, 'The Thin Man' episode, 'The Invisible Boy' feature film, Excerpts from 'MGM Parade', Watch The Skies!: Science Fiction, The 1950's and Us, 'Amazing!: Exploring The Far Reaches of Forbidden Planet'', 'Robby The Robot: Engineering a Sci-Fi Icon', Theatrical Trailer Gallery
Easter Egg: No
Director: Fred Wilcox
Cast: Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Leslie Nielson, Robby The Robot
Genre: Action, Adventure and Sci-Fi
Length: 98 minutes
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