Forbidden Planet (review by Doug Smith)

At last! Robby the Robot’s big-screen debut! Sadly, after the release of this film in 1956, the success went straight to Robby’s bubble memory. He started to demand high prices for his appearances, to feed his terrible coke addiction (it eased the pain from his bowel problem, which is why he walks so funny), and had several successful cameo appearances, but soon enough he priced himself right out of the industry. The parts just stopped coming and eventually he was forced to beg on street corners to pay for his lube. The major downfall of his career came when he played a toy in “Invasion of the Neptune Men.” Appearing with a bunch of guys in tight little spandex just doesn’t do wonders for careers, unless you’re in a show on Halstead St. in Chicago. However, now that he’s been in and out of rehab, there just may be a shimmer of hope on the horizon, with his most recent appearance in “Looney Tunes: Back in Action” as Robert the Robot. Catchy character name for him, eh?
Other people in this fifties classic include Walter “Stool” Pidgeon as Dr. Edward Morbius, along with Anne Francis who plays his slutty daughter, Altaira Morbius. Leslie “Shirley” Nielsen, who really truly is a much better comedic actor than dramatic, plays Commander John J. Adams. Earl Holliman is the comic relief/alcoholic cook of Commander John’s crew. Also, look for good ol’ Roscoe P. Coltrane, James Best, as an uncredited crewman.
The movie begins with its syntho-soundtrack playing while the credits go by. And the syntho-soundtrack keeps playing … and playing … and playing and pretty soon you just want to kick the television set in. Okay, maybe it’s not THAT bad … it does add a certain dramatic effect during some scenes, but there are other scenes where it’s entirely unnecessary. And it’s just that at times it sounds like a Starbucks cappuccino machine gone horribly wrong and at other times it sounds like a fifty foot droid-mosquito. Incidentally, this was one of the first movies to have its soundtrack entirely composed with electronic instruments.
After the credits, a narrator explains what’s going on; man landed on the moon in the late 21st century (apparently the screenwriter didn’t give humans much credit) and that by the late 2200s, humans had begun to conquest other planets. Typical. I’m betting George W. Bush the 43rd is president. “Okay, so we didn’t find weapons of mass destruction on Omicron Seti 3 … at least we have a good parking lot!”
After the narrator gets done (that’s the last we hear from him, by the way), we’re introduced to the crew of United Planet Cruiser C-57-D, which looks pretty much like the spacecraft in “Earth vs. the Flying Saucers.” They’re on their way to a planet called Altair IV. For you Trekkies out there, you’ll probably recognize the name from “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” as a Federation planet. The crew uses some techno-talk to try to impress the audience, but what they’re trying to say is simply, “hey, the ship’s about to slow down, let’s go stand in something that looks like ‘Star Trek’s’ teleportation device so we don’t get plastered on the opposite side of the bridge.” At this point, the soundtrack sounds like a robot has a bad case of gas.
After a few techno-farts, the crew comes out of their little slowing-down-protection-thingies and at this point I noticed that they all have costumes that look like they were left over from “Rocky Jones, Space Ranger.” The skipper gets scared because it’s warm inside their spacecraft. I don’t know why. He flips on a monitor and jumps back really quick, like they’re all going to die. But nothing really happens and then somebody announces that they’ve reached their destination point. I guess I’ll just sum it up to one of those pointless movie moments, like in “The Matrix” when Keanu Reeves inexplicably says, “I know kung-fu!”
As they approach the planet for a landing, they get a radio message from Dr. Morbius warning them to stay away. Like any good beefy captain, John ignores the warning and lands anyway. Within about five seconds of going out on the planet’s surface, they spot something in the distance that kind of looks like the Tasmanian Devil when he’s doing his tornado thing. Well, maybe if you squint. As it turns out, it’s Robby the Robot driving a very high-tech golf cart. He announces that if they don’t understand English, he can speak a lot of other languages and has “sub-tongues.” I know a few people who would like that. The cook wants to know if it’s male or female. For what purpose, I know not, and I wish to never know.
Robby takes Captain Adams and Lieutenants Farman and Ostrow to the Morbius residence. Apparently, Robby had some golf cart trouble along the way, because you can see a huge towrope towards the bottom of the screen. Dr. Morbius invites them all to stay for lunch, which they do, and then afterwards, he demonstrates Robby’s prowess. He also has a disintegrator built in to his house, which beats the hell out of an In-Sink-Erator any day. Over the course of the demonstration, it is learned that Robby cannot kill a human being. It’s also learned that Morbius’ bong doubles as a coffee pot. You’d have to see for yourself…
After the demonstration, a conversation ensues, in which the members of the cast use words to form sentences, eventually forming complete thoughts and ideas. Within this so-called “conversation,” the topic of the rest of the party that Morbius landed with comes up. Apparently, some “dark, terrible, incomprehensible force” killed them all. And THAT’S why Hoobastank should be outlawed! In fact, from now on in this review, when you see the word “Hoobastank,” just read it as “dark, terrible, incomprehensible force.”
In the midst of the conversation, the doctor’s daughter, Alta, shows up. Let the sexual innuendos begin! This film’s loaded with it! “I’ve always so terribly wanted to meet a young man, and now three of them at once!” says Alta. “…I’d like to be like Robby, but only in … certain ways…” says one of the lieutenants. There’s more sexual tension in this movie than in all of the “Police Academy” films combined! Wait, what am I saying?
The scene goes on for a while as basically one big show and tell session with Alta demonstrating for the space crew her power over animals and a lot of smug being tossed around the screen. Eventually, the chauvinistic pigs in space go back to their little saucer because it’s broken and it won’t go. Morbius expresses his concern that the crew will have to stay for ten days, because he doesn’t want to have to bury anyone else. He’s not thinking right. One of the animals in his daughter’s little menagerie is a tiger, so just chop up the parts and feed it to him! No muss, no fuss, except for maybe the tiger getting the runs because this was the fifties and I’m sure most Caucasian males had a very high grease content.
But enough about that. Back at the saucer, Robby helps out and Alta comes for a visit. There are a few pointless little comic relief scenes involving the cook, which were only put in the film because MGM insisted having a little comedy. There’s a kissing lesson involving Alta and a lieutenant, Robby the Robot blasts a monkey off of the kitchen table and also gives himself an oil job, and soon enough Hoobastank sneaks on the ship and kills someone. The crew is automatically suspicious of Dr. Morbius, but he swears up and down he didn’t do it and says that Hoobastank has returned.
All right, I’m going to sound like an obnoxious, sci-fi obsessed little fan-boy here, but this movie totally reeks of awesomeness. Sure, the soundtrack can get absolutely freaking obnoxious at some points, but during the scenes when the Hoobastank monster attacks, it’s actually quite chilling. In fact, even the Hoobastank monster itself is pretty terrifying, if you can remove yourself from today’s world of CGI dinosaurs and $50 billion explosions. I give this one 4.5 yaks.