Collectibles

Props from sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet up for auction

Props from sci-fi classic Forb...
The Bonhams sale includes props, costumes and models from the film Forbidden Planet
The Bonhams sale includes props, costumes and models from the film Forbidden Planet
View 39 Images
A blaster pistol
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A blaster pistol
Production still of the blaster pistol in action
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Production still of the blaster pistol in action
Blaster pistol showing the "power pack"
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Blaster pistol showing the "power pack"
The blaster pistol was designed to light up
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The blaster pistol was designed to light up
The blaster pistol from the left side
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The blaster pistol from the left side
Cruiser C-57D with its electrics flex
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Cruiser C-57D with its electrics flex
The Cruiser C-57D with its Plexiglas base
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The Cruiser C-57D with its Plexiglas base
The Bonhams sale includes props, costumes and models from the film Forbidden Planet
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The Bonhams sale includes props, costumes and models from the film Forbidden Planet
The Bonhams sale of props, costumes and models from the film Forbidden Planet, includes a film still of the C-57D
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The Bonhams sale of props, costumes and models from the film Forbidden Planet, includes a film still of the C-57D
United Planets uniform cap
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United Planets uniform cap
Production still of the uniform cap
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Production still of the uniform cap
United Planets uniform belt
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United Planets uniform belt
The Bonhams sale includes props, costumes and models from the film Forbidden Planet
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The Bonhams sale includes props, costumes and models from the film Forbidden Planet
Animation drawing of the id monster
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Animation drawing of the id monster
Closeup of the id monster animation
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Closeup of the id monster animation
The uniform jacket was later dyed chocolate brown from its original gray
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The uniform jacket was later dyed chocolate brown from its original gray
Production still showing the uniform jacket
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Production still showing the uniform jacket
The Krell lock
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The Krell lock
Production still of the Krell lock on the set
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Production still of the Krell lock on the set
Silk costume worn by Dr Morbius
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Silk costume worn by Dr Morbius
Dr Morbius in costume
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Dr Morbius in costume
A Krell power panel
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A Krell power panel
Production still showing the Krell power panel
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Production still showing the Krell power panel
Plan of the spaceship astrogator
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Plan of the spaceship astrogator
Plan of Robby the Robot
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Plan of Robby the Robot
C-57D set plans
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C-57D set plans
Morbius house set plans
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Morbius house set plans
Force field post
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Force field post
Production still showing force field posts
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Production still showing force field posts
Production still showing the blaster rifle in action
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Production still showing the blaster rifle in action
Rear angle of blaster rifle
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Rear angle of blaster rifle
Forward angle of blaster rifle
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Forward angle of blaster rifle
Continuity script for Forbidden Planet
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Continuity script for Forbidden Planet
Continuity script showing credit sequence
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Continuity script showing credit sequence
Continuity script showing action sequence
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Continuity script showing action sequence
Uniform shirt and trousers with include mannequin
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Uniform shirt and trousers with include mannequin
Production still showing uniform shirts
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Production still showing uniform shirts
Right view of blaster rifle
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Right view of blaster rifle
Left view of blaster rifle
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Left view of blaster rifle

A rare collection of props, costumes, and other materials from the science fiction classic Forbidden Planet will go on auction at Bonhams in Los Angeles this week. Following on the heels of the auction house's sale of the original Robby the Robot in 2017, it's part of a larger collection of fantasy of general memorabilia from the estate of collector Wes Shank, who passed away in 2018.

As artifacts of popular culture, cinema memorabilia is always interesting, but there's something special about items from science fiction and fantasy films because in addition to giving us insights into well-known stories, they also reveal the art and ingenuity that went into their creation. What at first seems like just an eye-catching bit of set dressing or costumery is often the tip of a much larger and more interesting story.

One example of this is Forbidden Planet, which was released in 1956. It was MGM's first venture into science fiction and it was given the full A- list film treatment when it came to production. With similarities to Shakespeare's The Tempest, the story takes place on the fictional planet Altair 4 sometime in the 23rd century and revolves around the arrival of Commander JJ Adams (Leslie Nielsen) and his crew in the space cruiser C-57D. There they meet mad scientist Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) and his daughter Altaira (Anne Francis), who are guarding a terrible secret from a long-dead race, and must battle a murderous, invisible "id" monster of growing power and malevolence.

The blaster pistol was designed to light up
The blaster pistol was designed to light up

The sale includes an impressive array of items that reveal a lot about the work that had to be put into a sci-fi epic in the days before CGI and other high-tech aids. These include six detailed blueprints for the elaborate sets and the "co-star" Robby the Robot made by unit art director Arthur Lonergan. There's also an animation drawing from the sequence where the id monster attacks the space travelers that discarded traditional cartoon cels in favor of photographing drawings directly onto film to create a suitably sketchy monster that wasn't all there.

Other items up for sale are an elaborate lock mechanism used by the alien Krell to control their doors; the silk costume worn by Morbius; a "force field" post used to protect the space cruiser; and a cap, shirt, trousers, belt, and jacket from the military uniforms worn by the crew. The jacket is fascinating because it's now chocolate brown rather than the original gray after being dyed for a later movie, highlighting one reason why science fiction costumes and props are often hard to find – studios tended to reuse them for years or even decades after they were made.

The Krell lock
The Krell lock

Another interesting pair is a blaster pistol and rifle used by the crew. Made of metal and plastic, they are two of, if not the earliest examples of prop ray guns that light up. The purpose of this isn't just aesthetic. It also has a very practical function of telling the effects team when the actor is pulling the trigger, so they know when to add in the rays.

But the centerpiece of the sale must be the prop United Planets Cruiser C-57D. The smallest of three models of the film's spaceship, it was one of the main inspirations for Star Trek's USS Enterprise starship and includes a Plexiglas base and the electrics that were used to run the cruiser's lights and the hyper-drive engine cupola on the underside of the saucer.

The Forbidden Planet memorabilia is part of the TCM Presents – Wonders of the Galaxy sale that starts on May 14 at 1:00 pm PDT.

Source: Bonhams

4 comments
EarlJr
I want Earl Holliman's bones.
Kpar
" ...studios tended to reuse them for years or even decades after they were made." Quite so. Last week I noticed that the old "B" movie "Queen of Outer Space", starring Zsa Zsa Gabor was showing on an old movie channel. Having heard of the movie, but never seen it, I sat down with my popcorn to enjoy the intense silliness. I have always been a fan of "Forbidden Planet", having seen it dozens of times. I was a bit surprised when I saw the Earthmen were wearing the same uniforms (even the same color!) as the United Planets crewmen. They also appeared to have re-used the one of the same dresses worn by Anne Francis. Great camp, great fun.
TomLeeM
I think that is really neat. It was a really good movie.
Achristocat
The picture used in the header is fascinating as well. Robby the Robot was NEVER designed to sit down. The director specifically wanted the robot to sit down at the navigation console to show that he was accepted and had a role with his new human companions. If you look carefully in the photo, it a cardboard cut out of Robby's legs propped up to hide the actor's legs. I wonder if the cardboard cutout is in the auction...? :)