Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A-Z Movies, F: "Forbidden Planet"

Recommended by:
Rotten Tomatoes Top 100 List
Note: When I first picked this movie for the project, it was #92 on the list. I looked back at the list a couple of months later and found that it had dropped to #99. I haven’t checked in a few weeks, but chances are it will soon drop out of the Top 100.

Movie Stats:
Released 1956 (USA)
American, in English
Director - Fred M. Wilcox
Stars - Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen, Warren Stevens

Plot Summary:
Twenty years after a group of scientists landed on a far-flung planet for research, Commander Adams (Nielsen) and his crew are sent to discover why no one has heard from them again. On the planet, they find only two survivors, Dr. Morbius (Pidgeon) and his beautiful, naive daughter, Altaira (Francis). Soon, all are embroiled in a deadly mystery. Stevens co-stars as Lt. “Doc” Ostrow.

Some very non-graphic violence.

Bad Stuff:
The soundtrack/sound effects can be described as nothing short of ear torture.

The misogyny and it’s accompanying misandry were seriously cringe-inducing. Watching guys attempt to seduce a young woman who has never been in contact with a human being other than her father was uncomfortable at best. Listening to Adams admonish Altaira that she shouldn’t wear a short skirt because men can’t control themselves made me want to throw something at the TV. Infuriating. (I find the implication that men are mindless sex beasts just as offensive as the implication that a woman who isn’t dressed like a nun is “asking for it.”)

The dialogue is bad in that it relies heavily on 1950s colloquialisms. In the 23rd century, will people really still be saying things like “roll out the red carpet”? It seems unlikely. As a writer of both science and fantasy fiction, I understand how hard it is not to fall into modern colloquial speak, but I still found it very jarring.

It was boring.

Good Stuff:
Hey, a science fiction film that actually has science in it. Imagine that!

While the special effects are terrible by today’s standards, I thought they were really good/impressive for the time.

The mystery of it was great. I never guessed what was happening. I had an idea that came close. It wasn’t right, but it was along the right track. When the truth came out, it made sense. It fit. I didn’t think, “Oh, come on!” I thought, “You know what, that’s really cool.” It also made sense for the decade this movie came out in, when the United States had an uneasy relationship with all the new technology it was producing, and when the idea that we would be made to pay for our hubris was prevalent.

The Verdict:
It’s definitely a very 50s movie in both the best sense and the worst sense. I probably would have enjoyed it more if not for the soundtrack. I wasn’t kidding when I implied that I found it physically painful. I also would have been totally fine without the lone female in the movie, who existed only to be leered at and drooled over.  However, you know how much I admire the rare movie that keeps me guessing, and I love a good “man is his own worst enemy” story. I guess I’ll go for the “C” average on this one. 

I give the movie 3.25 stars.


Patricia said...

Man, I had no idea Rotten Tomatoes had a top 100 list. I've read it and now I feel like I will never catch up with movies I haven't seen. And they have lists for different genres too!

Your review has intrigued me. Perhaps someday I will watch this picture show.

balyien said...

Haha, I know how you feel! My reading list is definitely like that, and my movie list is getting there.

I do hope you have the chance to watch this someday. I'd love to hear your opinion. It doesn't pass the Bechdel test for sure. :P