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Two years after Warner Bros. let loose an army of enormous radioactive ants in the deserts of Arizona (1954’s Them!), and just as Allied Artists was taking over the town of Santa Mira, Calif., with alien pods and emotionless body doubles (1956’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers), MGM was blasting off for the wonderful, wondrous Forbidden Planet. Directed by Fred McLeod Wilcox, Planet is, essentially, Shakespeare’s The Tempest set in the year 2257, during Earth’s “conquest and colonization of deep space.” Subbing for Prospero’s island is the planet Altair-4, where Commander Adams (Leslie Nielsen) and his crew arrive to investigate the disappearance of the ship Belerephon during an earlier expedition. The exiled magician here is the scientist Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), the lone survivor of that ill-fated mission, who lives with his teenage daughter, Altaira (Anne Francis), in futuristic, utopian bliss. At first, the newly arrived visitors’ adventures on Altair-4 are played for comedy, with Planet’s Ariel substitute, Robby the Robot, the drollest droid ever, yukking it up alongside Adams’ men. The film’s mood soon darkens, however, when whatever killed the Belerephon missionaries—”a planetary force…some dark, terrible, incomprehensible force,” explains Morbius—starts attacking Adams’ crew. A class act from source material to closing credits, Forbidden Planet ends with one of the quintessential images of science fiction, an exploding planet viewed across the enormous vacuum of space, that has never—ever—been more moving. So hit the Mall with a hanky in hand at sunset (8:12 p.m.) Monday, Aug. 7, at the National Mall, 17th and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. (877) 262-5866. (Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa)