Transitioning to Filmmaking: Forbidden Planet Edit Analysis
In my Art and Craft of Film Editing class at UCLA Extension, I had to watch a Hollywood movie employing classical continuity editing from the 1930s to 1960s and then do an edit analysis on it, which involved finding specific cuts and transition types.
I chose Forbidden Planet
If you have the chance, watch it. It's an amazing film and the special effects, considering this was created in 1956, still hold up today.
The film is considered to be the “granddaddy” of the sci-fi genre. It influenced many future works, including the iconic (and one of my all time favorite TV series), ‘Star Trek’ by Gene Roddenberry.
It was also the first to feature a soundtrack created entirely with electronic instruments instead of traditional musical instruments. Because of that, the composers were not recognized for an Academy Award as they did not use “traditional musical instruments”. Also, due to union rules, they could not get a credit for music in the film, so the producers invented a new title, that of “Electronic Tonalities”.
The only thing that took some getting used to was Leslie Nielsen's dramatic performance, as I'm accustomed to his comedic genius in the 'Naked Gun' films, 'Airplane!', and the 'Police Squad' TV series, where he was outstanding.
About the Movie:
Movie: Forbidden Planet
Director: Fred M. Wilcox
Writer(s): Cyril Hume, Irving Block, Allen Adler
Editor: Ferris Webster
Year it was made: 1956
Influences of the time: Forbidden Planet's narrative was loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Its production design drew significant inspiration from the cultural obsession of the 50s with ‘the future’. This was a period with rapid technological progress, spurred by the Cold War.
Setting: A distant planet called Altair IV. It’s the 23rd century.
Summary: When commander John J. Adams lands on Altair IV to investigate a missing expedition, he discovers Dr. Morbius, one of the missing expedition’s scientists, and his advanced technologies, but the commander must confront a hidden deadly force on the planet threatening all of them.
Straight Cut - The editing style of the movie predominantly uses straight cuts, which are used as the primary transition method from one shot to another. For example, the scene introducing the C-57D spaceship utilizes a straight cut to transition from a wide shot to a medium shot, offering different perspectives of the spacecraft. Also, most of the dialogue scenes among the crew members are edited using straight cuts.
Split Edit - At 00:04:27, you can hear the planet’s eerie sounds, as Commander Adams speaks to his crew, just before it cuts to a medium shot of the planet, continuing that eerie sound.
Match Cut - At 00:42:35, John Adams gets into a truck to explore the planet. It cuts between a closeup of John Adams to a medium shot of him (matching his motion) as he enters the truck.
Cross Cutting - The scene where the crew is fighting the ID, is cross cut with the scene of Dr. Morbius, unconscious and struggling with his own thoughts. This cross cutting is introducing the possible explanation of what the ID is and who controls it.
Parallel Action - As the “ID” approaches the house of Morbius (01:29:15) from outside the planet, we cut to Morbius, John Adams, Robby the Robot and Altaira inside the house waiting for the ID. The scene keeps cutting back and forth as the ID approaches and enters the home.
Fade - There are three fades in the movie. At the beginning, where we fade from black into outer space and at 01:08:50 where Dr. Morbius states that the killing 'started again', we fade to black and then fade from black to inside the spacecraft.
Dissolve - Dissolves are the second most used transition technique right after straight cuts. Dissolves help shift scenes from interior to exterior settings. There are many examples where we dissolve from outer space to the interior of the spaceship, or from the exterior of Altair IV to inside Morbius’ home. Dissolves are also used to link different locations, such as the shift from the spaceship’s landing site to Dr. Morbius’ home. They also serve to illustrate the passage of time, such as transitioning from a morning scene to one later in the evening.
Wipe - There is only one wipe, that of the title of the movie, which wipes in at 00:00:15. Funny enough, it does not wipe out, but dissolves into the next credit.
Bridge Cut - At 00:03:05, the crew enters the “transporter room” as the ship decelerates from light speed to sub-light speed, connecting the previous scene to the next. Honestly, I'm not 100% sure this is a bridge cut, but it sure felt like one.
Continuity of Motion - At 00:47:36 the scene starts with a close-up of a tiger. As it leaps towards Altaira, we cut to a wider angle where the action continues without interruption as John Adams fires at the tiger. In another scene, when John Adams and the ‘Doc’ find Morbius’ office, we cut from a cowboy shot showing them entering the room to a full shot that captures them walking in, maintaining continuity.
Graphic Match Cut - At 00:02:01 there is a dissolve that transitions from an exterior full shot of the spaceship to its interior, aligning perfectly with the navigation tool’s miniature model of the spaceship. But because this is done with a dissolve, not a cut, I’m not sure if it can be considered a graphic match cut.
Want to learn more about Forbidden Planet? Check out these great YouTube videos about it.
Until the next entry!