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Forbidden Planet

Forbidden Planet
Film poster
Directed by Fred M. Wilcox
Produced by Nicholas Nayfack
Screenplay by Cyril Hume
Story by Irving Block
Allen Adler
Starring Walter Pidgeon
Anne Francis
Leslie Nielsen
Warren Stevens
Jack Kelly
Robby the Robot
Narrated by Les Tremayne
Music by Louis and Bebe Barron
Cinematography George J. Folsey
Edited by Ferris Webster
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • March 15, 1956 (1956-03-15)
Running time 98 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1,968,000[2]
Box office $2,765,000[2]

Forbidden Planet is a 1956 American science fiction film[3][4] from MGM, produced by Nicholas Nayfack, directed by Fred M. Wilcox and starring Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen, Warren Stevens, Jack Kelly, and Robby the Robot. Forbidden Planet is the first science fiction film in which humans are depicted traveling in a starship of their own creation[5] and was also the very first science fiction film set entirely on another world in interstellar space, far away from the planet Earth.[6] Forbidden Planet is considered one of the great science fiction films of the 1950s,[7] a precursor of what was to come for the science fiction film genre in the decades that followed. The characters and isolated setting have been compared to those in William Shakespeare's The Tempest,[8] and its plot does contain certain story analogues and a reference to one section of Jung's theory on the collective unconscious.[9]

Forbidden Planet was filmed in Eastmancolor and CinemaScope, and features special effect which were nominated for an Academy Award; it was not the only major award nomination the film received. Also nominated was the first groundbreaking use of an entirely electronic musical score by Louis and Bebe Barron. Forbidden Planet also features Robby the Robot, the first film robot that was more than just a mechanical "tin can" on legs; Robby displays a distinct personality and is a complete supporting character in the film.[10]

The film was entered into the Library of Congress' National Film Registry in 2013, being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."[11]


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
  • Release 4
    • Home media 4.1
  • Novelization 5
  • Soundtrack 6
    • Track list 6.1
  • Influences 7
  • Reception 8
  • Possible remake 9
  • Notes 10
  • External links 11


Leslie Nielsen with co-star Anne Francis in Forbidden Planet.

In the 23rd century, the starship C-57D travels to the distant planet Altair IV to discover the fate of an expedition sent 20 years earlier. After entering orbit, the ship receives a transmission from Dr. Edward Morbius, one of the expedition's scientists. He states no assistance is necessary and warns the ship to stay away, saying he cannot guarantee their safety, but Commander John Adams insists on landing.

They are met on arrival by Robby the Robot, who takes Adams, Lieutenant Jerry Farman, and Lieutenant "Doc" Ostrow to Morbius's home. There, Morbius recounts that an unknown "planetary force" killed nearly everyone and then vaporized their starship, Bellerophon, as the survivors tried to lift off the planet. Only Morbius, his wife (who later died of natural causes), and their daughter Altaira were somehow immune. Morbius fears that the C-57D crew will meet the same fate. Altaira, having only known her father, becomes attracted to several of the Earth men, and a love triangle forms between her, Adams and Farman.

The next night, equipment aboard the C-57D is sabotaged by an invisible intruder. Adams and Ostrow confront Morbius the following morning. They learn he has been studying the Krell, a highly advanced native race that mysteriously died out suddenly 200,000 years before. In a Krell laboratory, Morbius shows Adams and Ostrow a device he calls a "plastic educator", capable of measuring and enhancing intellectual capacity. When Morbius first used this machine, he barely survived but discovered his intellect had been permanently doubled. This enabled him, along with information from a stored Krell library, to build Robby and the other "technological marvels" in his home. Morbius then takes them on a tour of a vast cube-shaped underground Krell machine complex, each side 20 miles (30 km) long, still functioning and powered by 9,200 thermonuclear reactors. Afterwards, Adams demands that the Krell's knowledge be turned over to Earth supervision but Morbius refuses, citing the potential danger that Krell technology would pose to mankind if it were to fall into the wrong hands.

In response to the sabotage, Adams orders a force field fence deployed around the starship. This proves useless when the intruder returns undetected and murders Chief Engineer Quinn. The crew study a casting made from one of the large footprints the intruder made. When the intruder returns, the C-57D's crew discover that the creature is invisible but becomes semi-visible as it stands within the fence's force field. However, the crew's energy weapons have no effect and it kills Farman and two other crew members. Back in the Krell lab, Morbius is startled awake by Altaira's screaming; at that same instant, the large creature suddenly vanishes.

Later, while Adams confronts Morbius at his home, Ostrow sneaks away to use the Krell educator; as Morbius had warned, however, he is fatally injured. Ostrow explains to Adams that the Great Machine was built to materialize anything the Krell could imagine, projecting matter anywhere on the planet. However, with his dying breath, he also says the Krell forgot one thing: "Monsters from the Id!" Adams asserts that Morbius' subconscious mind, enhanced by the "plastic educator", can utilize the Great Machine, recreating the Id monster that killed the original expedition and attacked the C-57D crew. Morbius refuses to accept this conclusion.

After Altaira declares her love for Adams in defiance of her father's wishes, Robby detects the creature approaching the house. Morbius commands the robot to kill it, but Robby knows it is a manifestation of Morbius and his programming to never harm humans conflicts with Morbius' command and shuts Robby down. They retreat to the Krell lab for protection but powered by the Great Machine, the creature melts the indestructible metal doors of the Krell laboratory where Adams, Altaira, and Morbius have taken refuge. Morbius finally accepts the truth: the creature is an extension of his own mind, "his evil self". He then confronts the creature but this act fatally injures him. Before he dies, he warns Adams that he and Altaira must leave the planet immediately and he then initiates a chain reaction within the machine which will completely destroy the planet.

From deep space, Adams, Altaira, Robby, and the rest of the crew witness the destruction of Altair IV on the ship's main viewer. Adams comforts Altaira in the loss of her Father and home planet by telling her his sacrifice will teach mankind a great lesson.


The crew sets up Quinn's jury-rigged communications circuits (Ostrow in the middle, Adams and Quinn on the right).


The screen story by Irving Block and Allen Adler, written in 1952, was originally titled Fatal Planet. The later screenplay draft by Cyril Hume renamed the film Forbidden Planet, because this was believed to have greater box-office appeal.[12] Block and Adler's drama took place in the year 1976 on the planet Mercury. An Earth expedition headed by John Grant was sent to the planet to retrieve Dr. Adams and his daughter Dorianne, who had been stranded there for twenty years. From then on, its plot is roughly the same as that of the completed film, though Grant is able to rescue both Adams and his daughter and escape the invisible monster stalking them.

The film sets were constructed on a Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) sound stage at its Culver City film lot and were designed by Cedric Gibbons and Arthur Longeran. The film was shot entirely indoors, with all the Altair IV exterior scenes simulated using sets, visual effects, and matte paintings.

A full-size mock-up of roughly three fourths of the C-57D starship was built to suggest its full width of 170 ft (51 m). The ship was surrounded by a huge, painted cyclorama featuring the desert landscape of Altair IV; this one set took up all of the available space in one of the Culver City sound stages.

The Krell's Great Machine, dwarfing the three men walking on the platform.

Later, C-57D models, special effects shots, and the full-size set details were reused in several different episodes of the television series The Twilight Zone, which were filmed by CBS at the same MGM studio location in Culver City.

At a cost of roughly $125,000, Robby the Robot was very expensive for a single film prop at this time.[13] Both the electrically controlled passenger vehicle driven by Robby and the truck/tractor-crane off-loaded from the C-57D starship were also constructed specially for this film. Robby the Robot later starred in the science fiction film The Invisible Boy and appeared in many TV series and films that followed; like the C-57D, Robby (and his passenger vehicle) appeared in various episodes of CBS' The Twilight Zone, usually slightly modified for each appearance.

The animated sequences of Forbidden Planet, especially the attack of the "Id Monster", were created by the veteran animator Joshua Meador,[14] who was lent out to MGM by Walt Disney Pictures. According to a "Behind the Scenes" featurette on the film's DVD, a close look at the creature shows it to have a small goatee beard, suggesting its connection to Dr. Morbius, the only character with this physical feature; the bellowing, now visible Id monster, caught in the crewman's high-energy beams during the attack, is a direct reference to and visual pun on MGM's familiar roaring mascot, Leo the Lion, seen at the very beginning of Forbidden Planet and the studio's other films of the era.


Forbidden Planet was first released across the U. S. on April 1, 1956 in CinemaScope, Metrocolor, and in some theaters, stereophonic sound, either by the magnetic or Perspecta processes. The Hollywood premiere was held at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, and Robby the Robot was on display in the lobby. Forbidden Planet ran every day at Grauman's Theater through the following September.

According to MGM records the film initially earned $1,530,000 in the US and Canada[15] and $1,235,000 elsewhere resulting in a loss of $210,000.[2]

Forbidden Planet was re-released to movie theaters during 1972 as one of MGM's "Kiddie Matinee" features; it was missing about six minutes of film footage cut to ensure it received a "G" rating from the Motion Picture Association of America.[5] Later video releases carry a "G" rating, though they are all the original theatrical version.

Home media

Forbidden Planet was first released in the pan and scan format in 1982 on MGM VHS and Betamax videotape and on MGM laser disc and CED Videodisc; years later, in 1996, it was again re-issued by MGM/UA, but this time in widescreen VHS and laser disc, both for the film's 40th anniversary. But it was The Criterion Collection that later re-issued Forbidden Planet in CinemaScope's original wider screen 2:55-to-1 aspect ratio, on a deluxe laser disc set, with various extra features on a second disc. Warner Bros. next released the film on DVD in 1999 (MGM's catalog of films had been sold in 1988 to AOL-Time Warner by Turner Entertainment and MGM/UA). Warner's release offered both cropped and widescreen picture formats on the same disc.

Warren Stevens, Richard Anderson, and Earl Holliman at San Diego's Comic-Con International, July 2006. – Photograph: Patty Mooney
For the film's 50th anniversary, the Ultimate Collector's Edition was released on November 28, 2006 in an over-sized red metal box, using the original movie poster for its wraparound cover. Both DVD and high definition HD DVD formats were available in this deluxe package. Inside both premium packages were the films Forbidden Planet and The Invisible Boy, The Thin Man episode "Robot Client" and a documentary Watch the Skies!: Science Fiction, The 1950s and Us. Also included were miniature lobby cards and an 8 cm (3-inch) toy replica of Robby the Robot.[16] This was quickly followed by the release of the Forbidden Planet 50th Anniversary edition in both standard DVD and HD DVD packaging.[5] Both 50th anniversary formats were mastered by Warner Bros.-MGM techs from a fully restored, digital transfer of the film.[17] A Blu-ray Disc edition of Forbidden Planet was released on September 7, 2010.


Shortly before the film was released, a novelization appeared in hardcover and then later in mass-market paperback; it was written by W. J. Stuart (the mystery novelist Philip MacDonald writing under the pseudonym),[18] which chapters the novel into separate first person narrations by Dr. Ostrow, Commander Adams, and Dr. Morbius. The novel delves further into the mysteries of the vanished Krell and Morbius' relationship to them. In the novel he repeatedly exposes himself to the Krell's manifestation machine, which (as suggested in the film) boosts his brain power far beyond normal human intelligence. Unfortunately, Morbius retains enough of his imperfect human nature to be afflicted with hubris and a contempt for humanity. Not recognizing his own base primitive drives and limitations proves to be Morbius' downfall, as it had for the extinct Krell. While not stated explicitly in the film (although the basis for a deleted scene first included as an extra with the Criterion Collection's laser disc set and included with both the later 50th anniversary DVD and current Blu-ray releases), the novelization compared Altaira's ability to tame the tiger (until her sexual awakening with Commander Adams) to the medieval myth of a unicorn being tamable only by a virgin.

The novel also raises an issue never included in the film: when Dr. Ostrow dissects one of the dead Earth-type animals, he discovers that its internal structure procludes it from ever having been alive in the normal biological sense. The tiger, deer, and monkey are all conscious creations by Dr. Morbius as companions ("pets") for his daughter and only outwardly resemble their Earth counterparts. Since the Krell's great machine can project matter "in any form" it has the power to create life. Thus, the Krell's self-destruction can be interpreted by the reader as a cosmic punishment for misappropriating the life-creating power of the universe. This is why Commander Adams says in his speech to Altaira "...we are, after all, not God."

Upon its publication in 1956, Anthony Boucher dismissed the novelization as "an abysmally banal job of hackwork."[19]


Forbidden Planet '​s innovative electronic music score, credited as "electronic tonalities," partly to avoid having to pay any of the film industry music guild fees, was composed by Louis and Bebe Barron. MGM producer Dore Schary discovered the couple quite by chance at a beatnik nightclub in Greenwich Village while on a family Christmas visit to New York City; Schary hired them on the spot to compose his film's musical score. While the theremin (which was not used in Forbidden Planet) had been used on the soundtrack of Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound (1945), the Barrons' electronic composition is credited with being the first completely electronic film score; their soundtrack preceded the invention of the Moog synthesizer by eight years (1964).

Using ideas and procedures from the book, Cybernetics: Or, Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine (1948) by the mathematician and electrical engineer Norbert Wiener, Louis Barron constructed his own electronic circuits that he used to generate the score's "bleeps, blurps, whirs, whines, throbs, hums, and screeches".[13] Most of these sounds were generated using an electronic circuit called a "ring modulator". After recording the basic sounds, the Barrons further manipulated the sounds by adding other effects, such as reverberation and delay, and reversing or changing the speeds of certain sounds.[20]

Since Louis and Bebe Barron did not belong to the Musicians Union, their work could not be considered for an Academy Award, in either the "soundtrack" or the "sound effects" categories. MGM declined to publish a soundtrack album at the same time that Forbidden Planet was released. However, film composer and conductor David Rose later published a 7" (18 cm) single of his original main title theme that he had recorded at the MGM Studios in Culver City during March 1956. His main title theme had been discarded when Rose, who had originally been hired to compose the musical score in 1955, was discharged from the project by Dore Schary sometime between Christmas 1955 and New Year’s Day. The film's original theatrical trailer contains snippets of Rose's score, the tapes of which Rose reportedly later destroyed.

The Barrons finally released their soundtrack in 1976 as an LP album for the film's 20th anniversary; it was on their very own Planet Records label (later changed to Small Planet Records and distributed by GNP Crescendo Records). The LP was premiered at MidAmeriCon, the 34th World Science Fiction Convention, held in Kansas City, MO over the 1976 Labor Day weekend, as part of a 20th Anniversary celebration of Forbidden Planet held at that Worldcon; the Barrons were there promoting their album's first release, signing all the copies sold at the convention. They also introduced the first of three packed-house screenings that showed an MGM 35mm fine grain vault print in original CinemaScope and stereophonic sound. A decade later, in 1986, their soundtrack was released on a music CD for the film's 30th Anniversary, with a six-page color booklet containing images from Forbidden Planet, plus liner notes from the composers, Louis and Bebe Barron, and Bill Malone.[20]

A tribute to the film's soundtrack was performed live in concert by Jack Dangers, available on disc one of the album Forbidden Planet Explored.

Track list

The following is a list of compositions on the CD:[20]

  1. Main Titles (Overture)
  2. Deceleration
  3. Once Around Altair
  4. The Landing
  5. Flurry Of Dust – A Robot Approaches
  6. A Shangri-La In The Desert / Garden With Cuddly Tiger
  7. Graveyard – A Night With Two Moons
  8. "Robby, Make Me A Gown"
  9. An Invisible Monster Approaches
  10. Robby Arranges Flowers, Zaps Monkey
  11. Love At The Swimming Hole
  12. Morbius' Study
  13. Ancient Krell Music
  14. The Mind Booster – Creation Of Matter
  15. Krell Shuttle Ride And Power Station
  16. Giant Footprints In The Sand
  17. "Nothing Like This Claw Found In Nature!"
  18. Robby, The Cook, And 60 Gallons Of Booze
  19. Battle With The Invisible Monster
  20. "Come Back To Earth With Me"
  21. The Monster Pursues – Morbius Is Overcome
  22. The Homecoming
  23. Overture (Reprise) [this track recorded at Royce Hall, UCLA, 1964]


In the authorized biography of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, Roddenberry notes that Forbidden Planet "was one of [his] inspirations for Star Trek."[21]

The robot B9 and set of the spaceship Jupiter 2 in the TV series Lost in Space were inspired by Forbidden Planet and designed by Robert Kinoshita, creator of Robby the Robot.

The underground complex of Project Tic-Toc in the TV series "The Time Tunnel" is very similar to the underground Krell laboratory.

Elements of the Doctor Who serial Planet of Evil were consciously based on the 1956 film.[22]

Forbidden Planet is named alongside several other classic science fiction films in the opening song "Science Fiction Double Feature" from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The U. K. musical Return to the Forbidden Planet was inspired by and loosely based on the MGM film [23] and won the Olivier Award for best musical of 1989/90.[24]

A scene from the science fiction TV series Babylon 5, set on the Epsilon III Great Machine bridge, strongly resembles the Krell's great machine. While this was not the intent of the show's producer, the special effects crew, tasked with creating the imagery, stated that the Krell's machine was a definite influence on their Epsilon III designs.[25]

In Strata, an early Terry Pratchett novel, Silver – a bear-like alien – mentions portraying the Id Monster in a remake of Forbidden Planet.

In a scene in the 1999 animated movie, The Iron Giant, while Hogarth salutes himself in the mirror before going off at night to look for the giant, a poster for Forbidden Planet can be seen in the reflection of said mirror.


The film appeared on two American Film Institute Lists.

Possible remake

New Line Cinema had developed a remake with James Cameron, Nelson Gidding and Stirling Silliphant involved at different points. In 2007 DreamWorks set up the project with David Twohy set to direct. Warner Bros. re-acquired the rights the following year and on October 31, 2008, J. Michael Straczynski was announced as writing a remake, Joel Silver was to produce.[28] Straczynski explained that the original had been his favorite science fiction film, and it gave Silver an idea for the new film that makes it "not a remake", "not a reimagining", and "not exactly a prequel". His vision for the film would not be retro, because when the original was made it was meant to be futuristic. Straczynski met with people working in astrophysics, planetary geology and artificial intelligence to reinterpret the Krell back-story as a film trilogy.[29] As of November 2013, no more information had been released about this Forbidden Planet remake; the project appears to have disappeared into development limbo or gone directly into industry turnaround.


  1. ^ (1956)"Forbidden Planet". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2006-08-14. 
  2. ^ a b c "The Eddie Mannix Ledger". Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study .
  3. ^ Variety film review; March 14, 1956, page 6.
  4. ^ Harrison's Reports film review; March 17, 1956, page 44.
  5. ^ a b c "Forbidden Planet: Ultimate Collector's Edition from Warner Home Video on DVD – Special Edition". Retrieved 2010-08-15. 
  6. ^ Robert C. Ring, Sci-Fi Movie Freak, page 22 (Krause Publications, a division of F+W Media, 2011). ISBN 978-1-4402-2862-9
  7. ^ M. Keith Booker, Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction Cinema, page 126 (Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2010). ISBN 978-0-8108-5570-0
  8. ^ Wilson, Robert Frank (2000). Shakespeare in Hollywood, 1929–1956. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. p. 10.  
  9. ^ Miller, Scott (2008). "Inside Return to the Forbidden Planet".  Excerpt from Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll, and Musical Theatre. Northeastern University. 2011.  
  10. ^ "The Robot Hall of Fame : Robby, the Robot". The  
  11. ^ "Library of Congress announces 2013 National Film Registry selections" (Press release). Washington Post. December 18, 2013. Retrieved December 18, 2013. 
  12. ^ "tkm fav the forbidden planet". Retrieved 2006-08-16. 
  13. ^ a b "Forbidden Planet". MovieDiva. Retrieved 2006-08-16. He cost $125,000; a lot of money for a single prop, and was inhabited by a couple of different actors and voiced by Marvin Miller, whose other brief moment of fame was the title role in The Millionaire, a 1950s TV show. 
  14. ^ Lev, Peter (2006). Transforming the screen, 1950–1959. History of the American cinema 7. University of California Press. p. 176.  
  15. ^ 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1956', Variety Weekly, January 2, 1957
  16. ^ "Forbidden Planet" (Ultimate Collector's ed.). Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2010-08-15. 
  17. ^ "HD DVD review of Forbidden Planet (Warner Brothers, 50th Anniversary Edition)". 2006-11-28. Retrieved 2010-08-15. 
  18. ^ W. J. Stuart, Forbidden Planet (A Novel), New York: Farrar, Strauss and Cudahy, 1956.
  19. ^ "Recommended Reading," F&SF, June 1956, p.102.
  20. ^ a b c Notes about film soundtrack and CD, MovieGrooves-FP
  21. ^ Alexander, David (1996-08-26). "Star Trek" Creator: Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry. Boxtree.  
  22. ^ "A Darker Side", documentary on Planet of Evil DVD (BBC DVD1814).
  23. ^ Return to the Forbidden Planet, The Henley College
  24. ^ "Oliviers:Olivier Winners 1989/90".  
  25. ^ Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5, "A Voice in the Wilderness (Pt 1)" episode guide, 'JMS Speaks' section
  26. ^ AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees
  27. ^ AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot
  28. ^ Borys Kit and Jay A. Fernandez (2008-10-31). "Forbidden Planet scribe on Changeling".  
  29. ^ Casey Seijas (2008-12-01). "J. Michael Straczynski Promises His Take On ‘Forbidden Planet’ Will Be Something ‘No One Has Thought Of’".  

External links

  • Forbidden Planet at the American Film Institute Catalog
  • Forbidden Planet at the Internet Movie Database
  • Forbidden Planet at the TCM Movie Database
  • Forbidden Planet at AllMovie
  • Forbidden Planet at Rotten Tomatoes
  • DVD Journal review
  • NPR: Barron Score
  • "s Soundscape of Tomorrow"Forbidden Planet'Strange Voices: Subjectivity and Gender in in Journal of the Society for American Music
  • Forbidden PlanetCinematographic analysis of
  • "Geological Time Termination in a SciFi Biosphere: An Alternative View of THE FORBIDDEN PLANET"
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