Forbidden Planet (1956)

(On DVD, December 2017) How could I call myself a science-fiction expert, reviewer or even fan given that I hadn’t even seen Forbidden Planet? Isn’t it in the running for the title of the fiftiesiest of the 1950s science-fiction movies? Featuring an almost-unrecognizable Leslie Nielsen (with not-white hair!) as the captain of a mission investigating the disappearance of a colony, Forbidden Planet begins with a saucer with theremin (ish) music and clearly shows itself to be a predecessor of the Star Trek template. Much of the film is hopelessly dated by today’s standards, but consider that to be a compliment, as it can be enjoyed as a retro-futurist period piece, not wrong as much as existing in its own reality. Even the mumbo-jumbo of the third act can be excused by the rest of the film, a big-budget science-fiction spectacular with effects that are still mildly impressive today. The pacing is off, the SF devices are clumsy (Robbie the Robot, ugh!) and the acting clearly comes from a pre-realism era, but Forbidden Planet has, in sixty years, acquired a patina of charm that shields it from more conventional criticism. I enjoyed seeing it quite a bit more than I expected, and it’s not just about filling in a gap in my knowledge of the genre—there is enough good stuff here and there to make the film enjoyable on its own terms.

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