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FORBIDDEN PLANET

Fort my money, FORBIDDEN PLANET ($25) is not only one of the greatest science fiction movies of the 1950s, it is one of the greatest science fiction movies all time and amongst my personal favorites. During my teen years, I would stay up all night long just to catch one of the rare 2am or 3am showings of the film. When I got older and was bitten by the Laserdisc bug, I purchased FORBIDDEN PLANET no less than four times; including a horrible cropped edition, an expensive Japanese import, the Criterion Collection edition and MGM’s own Letterboxed Laserdisc version. When I made the transition to DVD, so did FORBIDDEN PLANET. MGM Home Entertainment issued the film on DVD early in the game. Warner Home Video then issued a virtually identical release, when the rights to FORBIDDEN PLANET passed to them. Unfortunately, both Warner’s first release and MGM’s preceding DVD release of FORBIDDEN PLANET were less than stellar. Warner eventually upgraded the film’s presentation with a 50th Anniversary release of FORBIDDEN PLANET on DVD… and now, FORBIDDEN PLANET has been upgraded once again to Blu-ray.

For those unfamiliar with FORBIDDEN PLANET, this is indeed one of the greatest science fiction epics to be produced by a major studio during the 1950s. It took two years to make FORBIDDEN PLANET and MGM spared no expense by producing the film in CinemaScope and even borrowing personnel from the Walt Disney Studios to help create the film’s spectacular special effects. Sure, today’s audiences will find the special effects outdated by about five decades of movie making technology, plus some of the film’s dialogue is beyond hokey, but FORBIDDEN PLANET is such a solid piece of science fiction that it has influenced almost every genre film and television show that has traveled in its unforgettable wake.

The plot of FORBIDDEN PLANET is loosely adapted from Shakespeare’s The Tempest and tells the tale of a reclusive old scientist, his beautiful daughter and the robot servant who are living on a distant planet named Altair IV. As FORBIDDEN PLANET opens, a spacecraft from Earth journeys to Altair IV to survey the success of a team of scientists, who had set out to colonize the world twenty years earlier. Leslie Nielsen portrays Commander John J. Adams, the captain of the survey ship, which discovers that Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) and his daughter Altaira (Anne Francis) are the only survivors of the doomed expedition.

When pressed into telling what happened to the others, Morbius reveals that during their first year on Altair IV, the other colonists met gruesome deaths a the hands of some unseen planetary force. With himself and his daughter seemingly immune to whatever killed the others, Morbius has busied himself for the last nineteen years studying the scientific knowledge of the planet’s former inhabitants, a super intelligent race of beings that where somehow annihilated in a single night- 2000 centuries earlier.

Unprepared for what they have found on Altair IV, Commander Adams doesn’t heed Morbius’ warnings to leave the planet; instead he decides to contact Earth for new instructions. However, before Adams and his crew have the opportunity to set up their communications system, the monstrous planetary force comes out of hibernation and sets its sights on the crew of recently arrived spacecraft. The cast of FORBIDDEN PLANET also includes Warren Stevens, Jack Kelly, Richard Anderson, Earl Holliman, George Wallace and Robbie the Robot.

Warner Home Video has made FORBIDDEN PLANET available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.55:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. High definition definitely improves upon the presentation Warner created 50th Anniversary release of this science fiction classic. Taken from "restored" film elements, 1080p presentation of FORBIDDEN PLANET offers fans a worthwhile upgrade. Early Cinemascope lenses; vintage Eastmancolor film stock and numerous optical effects is a recipe for some softness, which is apparent in various places throughout the presentation. Fortunately, the High definition presentation pulls every last bit of detail out of the film elements, with the levels of sharpness, dimensionality and fine detail greatly improved over standard definition. Color reproduction is really quite good, with the largely pastel palette being rather intensely rendered. Flesh tones are closer to natural than they have ever appeared, but still retain the healthy pallor of the makeup man’s kit. Blacks are deep and the whites are crisp. Contrast is generally smooth. Shadow detail is more than adequate. The elements from which FORBIDDEN PLANET has been transferred are free from significant defects, with only the mildest of blemishes remaining. There is a modest grain structure that maintains the organic quality of the presentation.

FORBIDDEN PLANET is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The lossless encoding maximizes the fidelity of half-century-old recordings. Sonic fidelity is nowhere near the level of a modern production, but the "electronic tonalities" of Bebe and Louis Barron are very well represented here, sounding a somewhat better than the lossy DVD soundtrack. While there are clearly defined channel separations, the sound design doesn’t push the material beyond its own mid-1950s era limitations. For the most part, the majority of the sound is localized to the front channels, but the rear channels do engage for some mild fill and passive effects. Voices are cleanly and distinctly reproduced, plus the dialogue is easy to understand. French and Spanish Dolby Digital monaural tracks are also encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a couple of extras that have been ported from the DVD release. Starting thing off is the black and white 1957 MGM feature film THE INVISIBLE BOY with Robbie the Robot. Next, we have the fifty-five minute 2005 TCM documentary Watch The Skies!: Science Fiction, The 1950's And Us, which offers a retrospective of many of the greatest sci-fi films of the decade and features comments from modern directors like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Ridley Scott and James Cameron. Amazing!: Exploring The Far Reaches Of Forbidden Planet clocks in at twenty-six minutes and features a look at the film, as well as offering comments from cast members Leslie Nielsen, Anne Francis Richard Anderson, Earl Holliman, as well as additional comments from John Landis, Joe Dante, John Carpenter, Rudy Belmar and John Dykstra amongst others. Robby The Robot: Engineering A Sci-Fi Icon looks at the creation and re-creation of the film’s leading automaton.

Next up are Deleted Scenes and scene extensions featuring materials originated on the Criterion Laserdisc. Lost Footage consists of various tests and other special effects material that wasn’t utilized in the movie. Two FORBIDDEN PLANET themed MGM Parade Excerpts are also included, as is the Robot Client episode THE THIN MAN TV series featuring Robbie the Robot. Theatrical Trailers include FORBIDDEN PLANET and THE INVISIBLE BOY.

As I stated above, FORBIDDEN PLANET is one of the greatest science fiction movies of all time. The Blu-ray packs all the terrific supplements of Warner’s 50th Anniversary Special Edition in with a nicely upgraded high definition presentation. For fans, the Blu-ray is a must have upgrade. Absolutely recommended.

 
FORBIDDEN PLANET 


Forbidden Planet [Blu-ray] (1956)

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DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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