Sunday, September 10, 2017

Planet of Solitude

This is my third (and final) entry in the Movie Scientist Blogathon hosted by Christina Wehner and Silver Screenings

Sometimes the prognosticators of the 50's era science fiction books and movies were overly optimistic.  Sometimes they were astoundingly cautious.  In the case of this movie, it seems they didn't think too much of the possibilities that the scientists were discovering at the time, as they predicted it was only in the late 21st century that man finally reached the moon.  (For those of you not up on your chronology calculations, that means they thought man would not reach the moon until at least the 2080's).  But then they also thought that, having achieved such an astonishing  "difficult" feat, that hyperdrive and faster than light drive was only a mere hop, skip and a jump away.

By the time the mid-2100's rolled around, therefore, we as Earthlings, according to this movie,  would be on planets at the far-flung corners of the universe.  Thus setting up the premise of Forbidden Planet, which involved a spaceship manned by Earthmen, heading to Altair IV to investigate the progress of a ship of colonists that had been sent out 20 years before.

Forbidden Planet (1956)

You think you know lonely?  How's this for lonely?  Being on a planet where the rest of your colonization crew has been wiped out, including your wife.  The only other two companions you have on the planet are your daughter and a sentient robot named Robby.  That's the situation for Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), who has been isolated on Altair IV for 20 years.

Morbius w/ Robby

Interrupting this isolation, which Morbius is reluctant to give up, comes a manned crew of spacemen who have come to relieve the colonists.

The unwanted crew

Morbius tries to warn Capt Adams (Leslie Nielsen [yes Nielsen did play some dramatic roles early in his career]) to return to Earth and not attempt to land, but Adams, being the macho male and authoritative figure common in 50's movies, ignores Morbius and lands anyway.  Morbius sends his robot, Robby, to meet them.  Robby is a marvel to the men of the spaceship.  He is as strong as 20 men and can do things no one would have believed possible.


Morbius tries to shield Alta (Anne Francis), his daughter, from the men.  But she is an independent sort, and despite her naivete, comes to the fore to meet the men.  Over the course of the film, her naivete places the men in some seriously shocking situations, including one officer who tries to teach her to kiss.  (She's never seen another man besides her father).

 In another scene she is swimming in a pool and invites the commander to join her.  He tells her he doesn't have a bathing suit to which she replies "What's a bathing suit?".  (Note: By this she implies that she is swimming naked, but unless the atmosphere on Altair IV caused he skin to become diaphanous, she is wearing something... I know...  OK so this the 50's and nudity would have been strictly verboten, but I can dream can't I?)


There is some invisible creature roaming the planet which makes its presence known and causes damage to the spaceship and also kills a few crewmen.  However, when the crew sets up a perimeter barrier, the creature lights up like a Christmas tree, so we can vaguely see hat it looks like, and it is huge!

The creature from  Id

Morbius in the meantime reveals a discovery he has made.  The planet was once inhabited by a race known as the Krell which were thousands of times more intelligent than the human races best geniuses.  Morbius has used their equipment to magnify his intelligence, but due to its power, it is only an infinitesimal increase compared to even the children of the Krell.

The Krell lab

Morbius keeps on insisting that he must remain behind, and the more he insists the more adamant the commander becomes that Morbius must come back to Earth with them so that he, Morbius, can convey what he has learned.  And the more Morbius insists, the more violent the reactions become of the invisible monster that has been attacking the crew.  It doesn't take the genius level of the Krell to see that there seems to be a connection.

Morbius trying to deny the truth

The film is inspired in some parts by William Shakespeare's play The Tempest.  Morbius has many of the same characteristics as Prospero, particularly in the devotion he shows towards his daughter.  His sense of need for isolation is inspired by his love for the planet that he has come to call home.  

A few familiar faces come up if you are up on your actors from the 50's and 60's. Richard Anderson (who BTW passed away just last week), as Quinn, was better known as Oscar Goldman on the American TV shows The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman. Earl Holliman, who plays the ship's cook, was seen regularly on the TV show Police Woman.  James Drury, who was the title character in the TV show The Virginian, plays Strong.  And Jack Kelly who plays Jerry, will be instantly recognizable of the "Maverick" TV series as Bart Maverick.  And if you look quick, you might spot James Best, who was famous (or notorious) as Roscoe P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard. Apparently this was a good jumping off point for the nascent television fame...

Some future TV stars

Well, folks, time to blast off into the wild black yonder.  Be sure to watch out for any stray spaceships on the way home.



  1. Forbidden Planet is my turn the lights off, settle in with plenty of popcorn, take the phone off the hook (or turn off the cellphone) movie. Could use that right about now.

    1. Never a better time than tonight... Thanks for reading.

  2. I had the chance to see this on the big screen, and the audience was spellbound – even those who had seen it before. I was one who hadn't seen it before, and I gasped out loud when I realized the Krell and Dr Morbius were connected.

    I'm so glad you chose this film for the blogathon. We can't have a proper Scientists In Film discussion without Morbius, for pete sake!

    1. Anything with great special effects is a "need to see in the theater". Unfortunately I don't have the money to engineer a private screening so I'll have to wait until some theater deigns to show it. Alamo Drafthouse does that often with movies. Thanks for reading.

  3. That is funny how people assumed that once we got to the moon, colonizing planets would come next! And somehow it feels like hardly anything has happened since we landed on the moon.

    I finally got to see this last year! At first it seemed a little slow to me, but by the end I was totally sold on it. Such a great ending with a great reveal. Your post makes me want to watch this again soon.

    Thanks so much for a grand threesome of movie scientists!

    1. I think I saw it as a kid on one of the TV stations that broadcast movies in the afternoon If I did it was over my head. I watched it on VHS back in the 80's when they first released and by then I was old enough to get it. Thanks for reading.

  4. I've heard a lot about this movie...and yet, I've still never seen it. It's going on my watch list now. Thanks for the review.

  5. I really enjoyed this film, and also your review. I like many of Anne Francis's outfits and, of course, Robby the Robot - I want one just like him to do my chores!

    1. Personally I wanto go back in time and marry Anne Francis... hoochie mama... Thanks for reading.

  6. Love this movie and your article certainly evokes the magic! Richard Anderson! he was indeed great as Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers’ mentor...but don’t forget the ultra serious Leslie Nielsen, who is just as stone faced in the Poseidon Adventure and finally became a comedian spoofing his own image in Airplane and Naked Gun...
    Anne Francis was indeed a looker...Almost as beautiful as Raquel in Fantastic Voyage :-)
    - Chris

  7. I still haven't seen The Poseidon Adventure. Thanks for reading.

  8. Consider, if you will, the possibility that this movie is based on Shakespeare's The Tempest and that the original pilot episode of Star Trek is loosely based on this movie. That just occurred to me as I was reading your post. Excellent, by the way.


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