Forbidden Planet

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This article is about the 1956 film. For the bookstore chains, see Forbidden Planet (bookstore).
Not to be confused with Forbidden World.
Forbidden Planet
Directed by Fred M. Wilcox
Produced by Nicholas Nayfack
Screenplay by Cyril Hume
Story by
Narrated by Les Tremayne
Music by Bebe and Louis Barron
Cinematography George J. Folsey
Edited by Ferris Webster
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • March 15, 1956 (1956-03-15)
Running time
98 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1,968,000[2]
Box office $2,765,000[2]

Forbidden Planet (aka Fatal Planet)[3] is a 1956 American science fiction film from MGM, produced by Nicholas Nayfack, directed by Fred M. Wilcox and starring Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen, Warren Stevens, Jack Kelly, and Robby the Robot. Forbidden Planet is the first science fiction film in which humans are depicted traveling in a faster-than-light starship of their own creation.[4] It was also the first science fiction film set entirely on another world in interstellar space, far away from planet Earth.[5] Forbidden Planet is considered one of the great science fiction films of the 1950s,[6] a precursor of what was to come for the science fiction film genre in the decades that followed. The characters and isolated setting have been compared to those in William Shakespeare's The Tempest.[7] Its plot contains certain story analogues to the play. There is also a reference to one section of Jung's theory on the collective unconscious.[8]

Forbidden Planet was filmed in Eastmancolor and CinemaScope, and features special effects which were nominated for an Academy Award. Also nominated was the first groundbreaking use of an entirely electronic musical score by Bebe and Louis Barron. Forbidden Planet also features Robby the Robot, one of the first film robots that was more than just a mechanical "tin can" on legs; Robby displays a distinct personality and is a complete supporting character in the film.[9]

The film was entered into the Library of Congress' National Film Registry in 2013, being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."[10]


Leslie Nielsen with co-star Anne Francis in Forbidden Planet.

In the 23rd century, to discover the fate of an expedition sent 20 years earlier, starship C-57D reaches the distant planet Altair IV. Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), one of the expedition's scientists, contacts the starship. He states no assistance is required, warning the Earth ship away, saying he cannot guarantee their safety. Commander John Adams (Leslie Nielsen) insists on landing.

On arrival, Adams, Lieutenant Jerry Farman (Jack Kelly), and Lieutenant "Doc" Ostrow (Warren Stevens) are met by Robby the Robot, who transports them to Morbius's home. There, Morbius says that an unknown "planetary force" killed nearly everyone and finally vaporized their starship, Bellerophon, as the survivors tried to lift it off. Only Morbius, his wife (who later died of natural causes), and their daughter Altaira (Anne Francis) were somehow immune. Morbius now fears the Earth men are in danger. Altaira, having only known her father, becomes attracted to several of the officers, and a love triangle forms between Adams, her, and Farman.

The next night, equipment aboard the starship is sabotaged by an invisible intruder. Adams and Ostrow confront Morbius the following morning. They learn he has been studying the Krell, a highly advanced native race that mysteriously died out suddenly 200,000 years before. In a Krell laboratory Morbius shows Adams and Ostrow a device he calls a "plastic educator", capable of measuring and enhancing intellectual capacity. When Morbius first used this machine, he barely survived but discovered his intellect had been permanently doubled, enabling him, along with information from a stored Krell library, to build Robby and the other "technological marvels" in his home. Morbius then takes them on a tour of a vast cube-shaped underground Krell machine complex, 20 miles (30 km) on a side, still functioning and powered by 9,200 thermonuclear reactors. Afterwards, Adams demands that the Krell's knowledge be turned over for Earth supervision. Morbius refuses, citing the potential danger that Krell technology poses if it were to fall into human hands prematurely.

In response to the sabotage, Adams orders a force field fence deployed around the starship. This proves useless when the intruder returns undetected, murdering Chief Engineer Quinn (Richard Anderson). The starship's crew later discover it is invisible, only becoming semi-visible as a large creature outlined within the fence's energized force field. Their energy weapons have no effect, and it kills Farman and two other crewmen. Morbius, who has fallen asleep in the Krell lab, is startled awake by screams from Altaira; at exactly the same instant, the roaring creature suddenly vanishes.

Later, while Adams confronts Morbius at his home, Ostrow sneaks away to use the Krell educator; as Morbius had warned, he is fatally injured. Ostrow explains to Adams that the Great Machine was built to materialize anything the Krell could imagine, projecting matter anywhere on the planet. With his dying breath, he also says the Krell forgot one thing: "Monsters from the Id". Adams asserts that Morbius' subconscious mind, enhanced by the "plastic educator", can utilize the Great Machine, recreating the Id monster that killed the original expedition and attacked the starship's crew. Morbius refuses to accept this conclusion.

After Altaira declares her love for Adams in defiance of her father's wishes, Robby detects the creature approaching. Morbius commands the robot to kill it, but Robby knows it is a manifestation of Morbius; his programming to never harm humans conflicts with Morbius' command, shutting Robby down. The creature melts through the indestructible Krell metal doors of the laboratory where Adams, Altaira, and Morbius have now taken refuge. Morbius finally accepts the truth: the creature is an extension of his own mind, "his evil self". He then confronts and disowns the creature as it enters but is fatally injured by the encounter. As Morbius dies, he has Adams initiate an irreversible chain reaction within the Great Machine. He then warns that Adams and Altaira must be 100 million miles away within 24 hours.

At a safe distance in deep space, Adams, Altaira, Robby, and the surviving crew witness the destruction of Altair IV on the starship's main viewplate. Adams comforts Altaira on the loss of her Father as a course for Earth is set.


Near the ship, First Officer Lt. Jerry Farman converses with Dr Morbius' daughter, Altaira.
The crew sets up Quinn's jury-rigged communications circuits (Ostrow in the middle, Adams and Quinn on the right).


United Planets Cruiser C-57-D lands on Altair's 4th planet.
Id Monster – a plaster cast of its footprint; the invisible creature outlined by force field and blaster rays.

The screenplay by Irving Block and Allen Adler, written in 1952, was originally titled Fatal Planet. The later screenplay draft by Cyril Hume renamed the film Forbidden Planet, because this was believed to have greater box-office appeal.[11] Block and Adler's drama took place in the year 1976 on the planet Mercury. An Earth expedition headed by John Grant is sent to the planet to retrieve Dr. Adams and his daughter Dorianne, who have been stranded there for twenty years. From then on, its plot is roughly the same as that of the completed film, though Grant is able to rescue both Adams and his daughter and escape the invisible monster stalking them.[11]

The film sets for Forbidden Planet were constructed on a Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) sound stage at its Culver City film lot and were designed by Cedric Gibbons and Arthur Longeran. The film was shot entirely indoors, with all the Altair IV exterior scenes simulated using sets, visual effects, and matte paintings.

A full-size mock-up of roughly three/fourths of the starship was built to suggest its full width of 170 ft (51 m). The ship was surrounded by a huge, painted cyclorama featuring the desert landscape of Altair IV; this one set took up all of the available space in one of the Culver City sound stages. Principal photography took place from April 18 to late May 1955.[12]

The Krell's Great Machine, dwarfing the three men walking on the platform.

Later, C-57-D models, special effects shots, and the full-size set details were reused in several different episodes of the television series The Twilight Zone, which were filmed by CBS at the same MGM studio location in Culver City.

At a cost of roughly $125,000, Robby the Robot was very expensive for a single film prop at this time.[13] [Note 1] Both the electrically controlled passenger vehicle driven by Robby and the truck/tractor-crane off-loaded from the starship were also constructed specially for this film. Robby the Robot later starred in the science fiction film The Invisible Boy and appeared in many TV series and films that followed; like the C-57-D, Robby (and his passenger vehicle) appeared in various episodes of CBS' The Twilight Zone, usually slightly modified for each appearance.

The animated sequences of Forbidden Planet, especially the attack of the "Id Monster", were created by the veteran animator Joshua Meador,[14] who was lent out to MGM by Walt Disney Pictures. According to a "Behind the Scenes" featurette on the film's DVD, a close look at the creature shows it to have a small goatee beard, suggesting its connection to Dr. Morbius, the only character with this physical feature; the bellowing, now visible Id monster, caught in the crewman's high-energy blaster beams during the attack, is a direct reference to and visual pun on MGM's familiar roaring mascot, Leo the Lion, seen at the very beginning of Forbidden Planet and the studio's other films of the era.


Forbidden Planet was first released across the U.S. on April 1, 1956 in CinemaScope, Metrocolor, and in some theaters, stereophonic sound, either by the magnetic or Perspecta processes.[15] The Hollywood premiere was held at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, and Robby the Robot was on display in the lobby. Forbidden Planet ran every day at Grauman's Theater through the following September.[16]

According to MGM records the film initially earned $1,530,000 in the U.S. and Canada[17] and $1,235,000 elsewhere resulting in a profit of $210,000.[2]

Forbidden Planet was re-released to film theaters during 1972 as one of MGM's "Kiddie Matinee" features; it was missing about six minutes of film footage cut to ensure it received a "G" rating from the Motion Picture Association of America.[4] Later video releases carry a "G" rating, though they are all the original theatrical version.

Home media[edit]

Forbidden Planet was first released in the pan and scan format in 1982 on MGM VHS and Betamax videotape and on MGM laser disc and CED Videodisc; years later, in 1996, it was again re-issued by MGM/UA, but this time in widescreen VHS and laser disc, both for the film's 40th anniversary. But it was The Criterion Collection that later re-issued Forbidden Planet in CinemaScope's original wider screen 2.55-to-1 aspect ratio, on a deluxe laser disc set, with various extra features on a second disc. Warner Bros. next released the film on DVD in 1999 (MGM's catalog of films had been sold in 1988 to AOL-Time Warner by Turner Entertainment and MGM/UA). Warner's release offered both cropped and widescreen picture formats on the same disc.

Warren Stevens, Richard Anderson, and Earl Holliman at San Diego's Comic-Con International, July 2006. – Photograph: Patty Mooney

For the film's 50th anniversary, the Ultimate Collector's Edition was released on November 28, 2006 in an over-sized red metal box, using the original film poster for its wraparound cover. Both DVD and high definition HD DVD formats were available in this deluxe package. Inside both premium packages were the films Forbidden Planet and The Invisible Boy, The Thin Man episode "Robot Client" ("Robby The Robot", one of the film's co-stars, was also a guest star in both The Thin Man episode and The Invisible Boy) and a documentary Watch the Skies!: Science Fiction, The 1950s and Us. Also included were miniature lobby cards and an 8 cm (3-inch) toy replica of Robby the Robot.[18] This was quickly followed by the release of the Forbidden Planet 50th Anniversary edition in both standard DVD and HD DVD packaging.[4] Both 50th anniversary formats were mastered by Warner Bros.-MGM techs from a fully restored, digital transfer of the film.[19] A Blu-ray Disc edition of Forbidden Planet was released on September 7, 2010.


Shortly before the film was released, a novelization appeared in hardcover and then later in mass-market paperback; it was written by W. J. Stuart (the mystery novelist Philip MacDonald writing under the pseudonym), which chapters the novel into separate first person narrations by Dr. Ostrow, Commander Adams, and Dr. Morbius.[20] The novel delves further into the mysteries of the vanished Krell and Morbius' relationship to them. In the novel he repeatedly exposes himself to the Krell's manifestation machine, which (as suggested in the film) boosts his brain power far beyond normal human intelligence. Unfortunately, Morbius retains enough of his imperfect human nature to be afflicted with hubris and a contempt for humanity. Not recognizing his own base primitive drives and limitations proves to be Morbius' downfall, as it had for the extinct Krell. While not stated explicitly in the film (although the basis for a deleted scene first included as an extra with the Criterion Collection's LaserDisc set and included with both the later 50th anniversary DVD and current Blu-ray releases), the novelization compared Altaira's ability to tame the tiger (until her sexual awakening with Commander Adams) to the medieval myth of a unicorn being tamable only by a virgin.

The novel also raises an issue never included in the film: when Dr. Ostrow dissects one of the dead Earth-type animals, he discovers that its internal structure precludes it from ever having been alive in the normal biological sense. The tiger, deer, and monkey are all conscious creations by Dr. Morbius as companions ("pets") for his daughter and only outwardly resemble their Earth counterparts. Since the Krell's Great Machine can project matter "in any form" it has the power to create life. Thus, the Krell's self-destruction can be interpreted by the reader as a cosmic punishment for misappropriating the life-creating power of the universe. This is why Commander Adams says in his speech to Altaira "... we are, after all, not God."

The machine creations of the novel, however, can be said to break some canons established in the film. The Great Machine operated in real time and could not create lifeforms that were independent of its operator's immediate will. Thus, Morbius would be tasked with re-imaging those animals any time they were needed, and there is no suggestion anywhere in the novel of this happening. Hence, the more plausible statement offered within the film: the tiger, the deer, and the monkey were the descendants of specimens brought to Altair IV from Earth.

Upon its publication in 1956, Anthony Boucher dismissed the novelization as "an abysmally banal job of hackwork."[21]


Forbidden Planet‍ '​s innovative electronic music score, credited as "electronic tonalities," partly to avoid having to pay any of the film industry music guild fees,[citation needed] was composed by Bebe and Louis Barron. MGM producer Dore Schary discovered the couple quite by chance at a beatnik nightclub in Greenwich Village while on a family Christmas visit to New York City; Schary hired them on the spot to compose his film's musical score. While the theremin (which was not used in Forbidden Planet) had been used on the soundtrack of Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound (1945), the Barrons' electronic composition is credited with being the first completely electronic film score; their soundtrack preceded the invention of the Moog synthesizer by eight years (1964).

Using ideas and procedures from the book, Cybernetics: Or, Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine (1948) by the mathematician and electrical engineer Norbert Wiener, Louis Barron constructed his own electronic circuits that he used to generate the score's "bleeps, blurps, whirs, whines, throbs, hums, and screeches".[13] Most of these sounds were generated using an electronic circuit called a "ring modulator". After recording the basic sounds, the Barrons further manipulated the sounds by adding other effects, such as reverberation and delay, and reversing or changing the speeds of certain sounds.[22]

Since Bebe and Louis Barron did not belong to the Musicians Union, their work could not be considered for an Academy Award, in either the "soundtrack" or the "sound effects" categories. MGM declined to publish a soundtrack album at the same time that Forbidden Planet was released. However, film composer and conductor David Rose later published a 7" (18 cm) single of his original main title theme that he had recorded at the MGM Studios in Culver City during March 1956. His main title theme had been discarded when Rose, who had originally been hired to compose the musical score in 1955, was discharged from the project by Dore Schary sometime between Christmas 1955 and New Year’s Day. The film's original theatrical trailer contains snippets of Rose's score, the tapes of which Rose reportedly later destroyed.[23]

The Barrons finally released their soundtrack in 1976 as an LP album for the film's 20th anniversary; it was on their very own Planet Records label (later changed to Small Planet Records and distributed by GNP Crescendo Records). The LP was premiered at MidAmeriCon, the 34th World Science Fiction Convention, held in Kansas City, MO over the 1976 Labor Day weekend, as part of a 20th Anniversary celebration of Forbidden Planet held at that Worldcon; the Barrons were there promoting their album's first release, signing all the copies sold at the convention. They also introduced the first of three packed-house screenings that showed an MGM 35mm fine grain vault print in original CinemaScope and stereophonic sound. A decade later, in 1986, their soundtrack was released on a music CD for the film's 30th Anniversary, with a six-page color booklet containing images from Forbidden Planet, plus liner notes from the composers, Bebe and Louis Barron, and Bill Malone.[22]

A tribute to the film's soundtrack was performed live in concert by Jack Dangers, available on disc one of the album Forbidden Planet Explored.

Track list[edit]

The following is a list of compositions on the CD:[22]

  1. Main Titles (Overture)
  2. Deceleration
  3. Once Around Altair
  4. The Landing
  5. Flurry Of Dust – A Robot Approaches
  6. A Shangri-La In The Desert / Garden With Cuddly Tiger
  7. Graveyard – A Night With Two Moons
  8. "Robby, Make Me A Gown"
  9. An Invisible Monster Approaches
  10. Robby Arranges Flowers, Zaps Monkey
  11. Love At The Swimming Hole
  12. Morbius' Study
  13. Ancient Krell Music
  14. The Mind Booster – Creation Of Matter
  15. Krell Shuttle Ride And Power Station
  16. Giant Footprints In The Sand
  17. "Nothing Like This Claw Found In Nature!"
  18. Robby, The Cook, And 60 Gallons Of Booze
  19. Battle With The Invisible Monster
  20. "Come Back To Earth With Me"
  21. The Monster Pursues – Morbius Is Overcome
  22. The Homecoming
  23. Overture (Reprise) [this track recorded at Royce Hall, UCLA, 1964]

Costumes and props[edit]

In late September 2015 several screen-used items from Forbidden Planet were offered in Profiles in History's Hollywood Auction 74, including Walter Pidgeon’s "Morbius" costume, an illuminating blaster rifle, blaster pistol, a force field generator post, and an original Sascha Brastoff steel prehistoric fish sculpture seen outside Morbius' home; also offered were several lobby cards and publicity photos.[24]

In popular culture[edit]

In the authorized biography of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, Roddenberry notes that Forbidden Planet "was one of [his] inspirations for Star Trek."[25]

Elements of the Doctor Who serial Planet of Evil were consciously based on the 1956 film.[26]

Forbidden Planet is named alongside ten other classic science fiction films in the opening song "Science Fiction Double Feature" from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The U. K. musical Return to the Forbidden Planet was inspired by and loosely based on the MGM film [27] and won the Olivier Award for best musical of 1989/90.[28]

A scene from the science fiction TV series Babylon 5, set on the Epsilon III Great Machine bridge, strongly resembles the Krell's great machine. While this was not the intent of the show's producer, the special effects crew, tasked with creating the imagery, stated that the Krell's machine was a definite influence on their Epsilon III designs.[29]


The film appeared on two American Film Institute Lists.

Possible remake[edit]

New Line Cinema had developed a remake with James Cameron, Nelson Gidding and Stirling Silliphant involved at different points. In 2007 DreamWorks set up the project with David Twohy set to direct. Warner Bros. re-acquired the rights the following year and on October 31, 2008, J. Michael Straczynski was announced as writing a remake, Joel Silver was to produce.[32] Straczynski explained that the original had been his favorite science fiction film, and it gave Silver an idea for the new film that makes it "not a remake", "not a reimagining", and "not exactly a prequel". His vision for the film would not be retro, because when the original was made it was meant to be futuristic. Straczynski met with people working in astrophysics, planetary geology, and artificial intelligence to reinterpret the Krell back-story as a film trilogy.[33] As of November 2014, no more information had been released about this Forbidden Planet remake; the project appears to have disappeared into development limbo or gone directly into industry turnaround.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ The robot was inhabited by a couple of different actors and voiced by Marvin Miller, who also played the title role in The Millionaire, a 1950s TV show.[13]


  1. ^ "'Forbidden Planet' (1956)." Internet Movie Database. Retrieved: January 16, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c "The Eddie Mannix Ledger." Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study, Los Angeles. Retrieved: January 16, 2015.
  3. ^ Wierzbicki 2005, p. 5.
  4. ^ a b c "Forbidden Planet: Ultimate Collector's Edition from Warner Home Video on DVD, Special Edition." Retrieved: January 16, 2015.
  5. ^ Ring 2011, p. 22.
  6. ^ Booker 2010, p. 126.
  7. ^ Wilson 2010, p. 10.
  8. ^ Miller 2011[page needed]
  9. ^ "Robby, the Robot." The Robot Hall of Fame (Carnegie Mellon University). Retrieved: January 16, 2015.
  10. ^ "Library of Congress announces 2013 National Film Registry selections." Washington Post, December 18, 2013. Retrieved: January 16, 2015.
  11. ^ a b Thompson, Lang. "Articles: Forbidden Planet." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: January 16, 2015.
  12. ^ "Original print information: Forbidden Planet." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: January 16, 2015.
  13. ^ a b c "Forbidden Planet." MovieDiva. Retrieved: January 16, 2015.
  14. ^ Lev 2006, p. 176.
  15. ^ Film review: 'Forbidden Planet'." Variety, March 14, 1956, p. 6.
  16. ^ Film review: 'Forbidden Planet'." Harrison's Reports, March 17, 1956, p. 44.
  17. ^ 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1956', Variety Weekly, January 2, 1957.
  18. ^ Erickson, Glenn. "Forbidden Planet, Ultimate Collector's edition." DVD Svant, November 6, 2006. Retrieved: January 16, 2015.
  19. ^ "HD DVD review of Forbidden Planet (Warner Brothers, 50th Anniversary Edition).", November 28, 2006. Retrieved: January 16, 2015.
  20. ^ Stuart 1956[page needed]
  21. ^ "Recommended Reading." F&SF, June 1956, p. 102.
  22. ^ a b c "Notes about film soundtrack and CD." MovieGrooves'. Retrieved: January 16, 2015.
  23. ^ Wierzbicki 2015, p. 167.
  24. ^ Hollywood Auction 74. California: Profiles in History. 2015. pp. 325 – 328. Lot 885: Forbidden Planet hero illuminating laser rifle. (MGM, 1956) Est. US$30,000 - $50,000. Lot 886: Forbidden Planet hero illuminating laser pistol. (MGM, 1956). Est.US$20,000 - $30,000. Lot 889: Force Field generator post from Forbidden Planet. Est. US$8,000 - $12,000. Lot 890: Walter Pidgeon "Dr. Morbius" costume from Forbidden Planet. (MGM, 1956). Est. US$20,000 - $30,000. Lot 891: Original Sascha Brastoff Prehistoric Fish steel sculpture used in the home of Dr. Morbius in Forbidden Planet. (MGM, 1956). Est. US$8,000 - $12,000.  (Auction took place September 29, 30, October 1, 2015. Catalog 83MB PDF and Prices Realized List PDF available at
  25. ^ Alexander 1996[page needed]
  26. ^ "A Darker Side" documentary. Planet of Evil DVD (BBC DVD1814).
  27. ^ "Return to the Forbidden Planet." The Henley College. Retrieved: January 16, 2015.
  28. ^ "Oliviers: Olivier Winners 1989/90." Society of London Theatre. Retrieved: January 16, 2015.
  29. ^ "A Voice in the Wilderness (Pt 1)." Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5 (episode guide), JMS Speaks section. Retrieved: March 26, 2015.
  30. ^ "AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees." AFI. Retrieved: January 16, 2015.
  31. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot." AFI. Retrieved: January 16, 2015.
  32. ^ Kit, Borys and Jay A. Fernandez. "'Changeling' scribe on 'Forbidden Planet'." The Hollywood Reporter, October 31, 2008. Retrieved: January 16, 2015.
  33. ^ Seijas, Casey. "J. Michael Straczynski promises his take on ‘Forbidden Planet’ will be something ‘No one has thought of’." MTV Movies Blog, December 1, 2008. Retrieved: January 16, 2015.


External links[edit]