‘Forbidden Planet’ touches down on UK Region free Blu-ray with a handsome looking 1080p VC-1 encoded transfer, framed in the widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The image quality looks as good as the previously released HD-DVD version and I’m willing to bet that this is the same transfer.
The outer space shots boast deep blacks, while the brightly coloured (and so very 50’s) titles are just so vibrant and clean. Skin tones are all very healthy looking with a slightly rosy look to them. When the Id monster tries to break through the security fence, he’s outlined in a fully saturated red that would have looked hideous not so long ago on VHS, but here it looks superb. The image can’t really be faulted for sharpness and there’s a fine veil of grain to remind us that it was all shot on film in the 1950’s – but for a movie made so long ago it looks great. The only part of the film to look rough was the MGM logo at the beginning where Leo the Lion looks as if he’s crawling with ants.
Certainly the HD transfer highlights the use of matte paintings, but they’re pretty good glass shots (paintings mounted on 6 foot square sheets of plate glass through which the camera shoots). There’s some colour discrepancy on dissolves used to transition from scene to scene, but this is only to be expected of a film of this vintage. All the same, I’ve seen much worse. Generally the image is clean with only the very odd speckle here and there – nothing to really offend the eye. The image has a great solidity to it, with no discernible print weave to spoil it – even during the title sequence. All in all, a nice transfer of a milestone in Sci-Fi movie history.
The audio on the UK Blu-ray release of ‘Forbidden Planet’ comes in a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround flavour. It’s not what you’d call an immersive mix a la modern day Sci-Fi blockbuster and I wouldn’t really have expected this from a movie from the 50’s. It would have sounded out of place and the audio would not have fitted in with the visuals. Instead, the dubbing mixer has concentrated on adding presence to many effects by the use of the LFE, so that when the blast shutters on Morbius house close they do so with an auditorium type deep thud. The Krell machinery has a ‘large sounding’ depth thanks to the added bass. Dialogue has been un-anchored from the centre channel and directionality added to use the full width of the front soundstage, widened all the more by the incorporation of the front left and right speakers. Occasionally, this can be distracting as you look away from the screen to locate the source of the sound. The burbling electronic music is spread around the listening room. The battle with the Id monster near the end is impressive.
Overall, a good respectful mix.
While not all exactly new, the extras on the ‘Forbidden Planet’ Blu-ray are certainly extensive.
- Deleted scenes (SD, 13 mins)
Despite the really rough quality of this footage, which was taken from a work print of the film (and presumably transferred to VHS via a milk bottle lens) we have some interesting material. Much of it was deleted from the final film. One scene has the most ropey back projection ever, while other scenes are shown minus special effects such as gravity beams. Robby has a temporary voice i.e. before the voice artist work was done in the dubbing theatre. Dissolves are indicated by Lap cards and also by diagonal lines marked on the film in chinagraph pencil. Other scenes have rather wordy dialogue and were considered unnecessary. Great for movie buffs.
- Lost Footage (SD, 9 mins)
This is some test footage that was locked away in an MGM vault for 50 years - which includes the deceleration beam (a forerunner of ‘Star Trek’s Transporter beam), effects shots of planets viewed from outer space, model shots of the Spacecruiser as well as matte paintings and Id monster effects shots. Interestingly all apparently shot full frame 35mm, not Cinemascope.
- MGM Parade – 2 excerpts (SD, 6 mins)
These are a couple of promo pieces in which Walter Pidgeon (Morbius) introduces some black and white clips from the film in a laid back kind of way. We see the first hint of the Id monster and get a first hand introduction to Robby the Robot.
- The Thin Man: Robot Client episode (SD, 25 mins)
An episode from the long running black & white American TV detective series where Robby the Robot appears to be behind something less than legal.
- The Invisible Boy (SD, 100 mins)
This was a follow up feature film vehicle for Robby the Robot, which was shot in black and white in 1957 with no big star names. Hey, what happened to the colour, or should I say color?
If anyone thinks the acting in ‘Forbidden Planet’ is bad, you should see this.
A top secret military operation with scientists, room filling computers – oh yes – and Robby, of course.
- Watch the Skies: Science Fiction, the 1950’s and Us (SD, 55mins)
This fairly chunky TCM doco is narrated by Mark Hamill and includes interviews with Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Ridley Scott and James Cameron. It focuses on how the political views of the 50’s were interpreted and displayed in the Sci-Fi movies of the era. This was the period of the Cold War and the Atomic Age, so it makes for a scary watch.
- Amazing: Exploring the Far Reaches of Forbidden Planet (SD, 26 mins)
This is a great look back type of doco featuring interviews with stars Leslie Nielson and Anne Francis, Earl Holliman and Richard Anderson. It also has input from fans such as John Carpenter and many Special Effects experts. Even Sound Guru Ben Burtt gets in here.
- Robby the Robot: Engineering a Sci-Fi Icon (SD, 14 mins)
A fun featurette about the real star of the movie and we get to hear from Robert Kinoshita who designed and built the metal chap. Interesting that nobody would believe there was a man inside the suit when the movie was released.
- Trailers (SD, total 7 mins)
Great trailers for ‘Forbidden Planet’ and ‘The Invisible Boy’.
I loved the ‘Forbidden Planet’ trailer as it basically tells the story in just over three and a half minutes – complete with superimposed titles and Voice Over.
That Sci-Fi movie classic ‘Forbidden Planet’ has at last come into range on UK Region free Blu-ray with a handsome looking 1080p VC-1 encoded transfer, framed in the widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The image is clean and sharp with deep blacks and healthy skin tones that do justice to this milestone movie.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track adds presence to the original mix though use of the LFE and our ears are treated to a wide front sound stage with some directionality to the dialogue and a burbling music score.
Three chunky featurettes and a full length Robby the Robot follow up feature are just a few highlights in the extensive bonus materials.
The movie itself is ‘where it all began’ for many a TV show or Space fiction feature film that followed in its wake. Leslie Nielsen, Walter Pidgeon and Anne Francis go down in cinema history in this one. It simply cries out to be on your shelf.
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