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FORBIDDEN PLANET ($25) truly is one of the great science fiction classics of the cinema and ranks among my favorite films. To today’s audiences, who were weaned on ALIEN, STAR WARS and even the STAR TREK films, FORBIDDEN PLANET may appear a little corny and behind the times. In all honesty, FORBIDDEN PLANET is a film that was way ahead of its time. For the 1950’s, FORBIDDEN PLANET featured state of the art special effects and an intelligent and thought provoking story. FORBIDDEN PLANET has been compared to Shakespeare’s TEMPEST, with its story that centers around an old scholar living alone with his daughter and robot servant on a distant planet named Altair IV.

Their isolation is brought to an end when a relief ship appears on the scene, to check on the group of colonists who settled on that world twenty years earlier. A great mystery surrounds the death of the majority of the colonists, and why the old man and his daughter were immune to the planetary force that killed the others. Walter Pigeon is excellent as Morbius, the scholar who has discovered remnants of a once great alien civilization, which vanished without a trace from the planet he now calls home. Anne Francis is Morbius’ beautiful daughter Altaira. Leslie Nielsen is at the height of his "matinee idol" form as the captain of the relief ship, who is drawn into the mystery of the FORBIDDEN PLANET when his crew also begins to succumb to the unseen planetary force. Warren Stevens, Richard Anderson, Earl Holliman, Jack Kelly, George Wallace, Bob Dix and Jimmy Thompson comprise the rest of the primary cast.

MGM Home Entertainment has issued FORBIDDEN PLANET in both Letterboxed and pan and scan editions on opposing sides of the DVD. Since FORBIDDEN PLANET was produced in the big wide early CinemaScope format, which took advantage of the complete frame, the Letterboxed edition will be the version that most viewers will prefer, especially since this DVD features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. The pan and scan version, which crops off more than half the CinemaScope framing is very unsatisfying, since it makes the action of the film difficult to follow. Colors are relatively good on the pan and scan transfer, however the image is soft and grainy since the film has to be blown up to fill the dimensions of a television monitor. Blowing up the image also magnifies all the imperfections in the film element. The Letterboxed transfer restores most of the film’s full CinemaScope 2.55:1 aspect ratio. There are a couple of brief instances where something is partially cropped at the extreme edge of the frame, but most of the time the framing is quite pleasing. The Letterboxed transfer does have a respectable level of detail and the colors are about as good as one is likely to get from the Eastmancolor elements of this era. FORBIDDEN PLANET is one of those films that I hope receives a theatrical restoration ala VERTIGO. I’m sure that an older Eastmancolor film, such as FORBIDDEN PLANET, could be vastly improved by modern film processing.

The film’s classic all electronic score would also benefit from a restoration. By going back to the original music tracks, a new remix into Dolby Digital 5.1 could bring back all the clarity and the punch of the score. As it stands now, FORBIDDEN PLANET is presented in two channel Dolby Digital stereo, with some pleasing separations. Other audio options include French and Spanish language tracks. There were minimal digital compression artifacts on the Letterboxed version of FORBIDDEN PLANET, although a few more were noticeable on the pan and scan version.

The interactive menus allow chapter access and language selection. There is also an original theatrical trailer available though the menu.

All in all, FORBIDDEN PLANET is a good DVD release that is certain to please fans. It is my own particular love for this science fiction classic that makes me wish for an expensive theatrical restoration, which may never happen.




DVD reviews are Copyright 1997 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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