If the goings-on that take place under alien skies on the surface of Altair-4 in 1956's Forbidden Planet seem familiar, it's not just because the planet's name was recycled later for the Star Trek universe, but also because this film was the well-drunk-from by so much cinematic and televisual sci-fi of the following decades. The stalwart explorers, deserted planet, missing planetary explorers, a mysterious evil that may have a less than completely corporeal source; there's a reason that the film has been called the most influential sci-fi flick until Star Wars (actually more so, since nobody was ever really able to recapture Lucas' peculiar magic). It's unfortunate then, that as inspirational as it may have been, Forbidden Planet wasn't a better film.
Set further in the future than most sci-fi tales, the undistinguished script by Cyril Hume -- inspired by Shakespeare's The Tempest, especially the magician Prospero and his magical spirit agent Ariel -- takes place in the 23rd century, when the human race has finally burst the bonds of our solar system and is truly exploring space. A spaceship crew (in an actual flying saucer, a rare thing for humans in films of this sort) is on its way to Altair-4 to find out what happened to the crew of the Bellerophon, which touched down 20 years back and hasn't been heard from since. A strange voice informs the crew to land only at their own peril, which they do. Not long after landing, the crew -- led by a stalwart and spry pre-Airplane Leslie Nielsen -- is taken by a friendly and nearly all-powerful robot (as in Robby the Robot, soon to grace the small screen on Lost in Space) to meet that warning voice. Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), a mysterious fellow with little use for strangers but in possession of a nubile blonde daughter who takes a shine to the first male strangers she's ever seen, is the sole survivor of the Bellerophon's crew. The others? Killed in brutal fashion by some strange and disembodied alien presence, which may just still be around to threaten the newcomers.
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