This came out in 1956 (nineteen years before I was born). I'm writing this review in 2016, sixty years after the movie came out. (In fact, just two days after its sixtieth anniversary, though that's a total coincidence. I didn't realize that until after I watched it, when I started writing my review.) I just watched it on DVD, and I'm fairly sure it's the first time I've ever seen it, though I've been aware of it for as long as I can remember. (I had a vague notion that I might have seen it once in like the early 90s, but nothing in it was really familiar to me, so I doubt it.) It's a classic of the sci-fi genre, and has undoubtedly influenced countless other things that came after it. However, the plot of this movie was itself to some extent based on Shakespeare's play "The Tempest" (though I'm not very familiar with that one, so I can't comment on any similarities). So it's kind of weird to think about how much of an influence Shakespeare has unwittingly had on science fiction. Anyway... the special effects were decent, for the era. And I want to say this... the DVD I watched included several trailers for what I think it would be safe to call B-movies (none of which I've seen, as of yet). And this movie kind of has a similar sensibility, but I can't really call it a B-movie, itself. It's hard for me to really explain... I don't think the movie is great, but it's certainly not bad. It's got some decent ideas (if it didn't, they wouldn't have been recycled so much). But it's dated in so many ways. And... eh, I'll just get on with the plot.
In the 23rd century, a spaceship that looks like a flying saucer goes to a planet called Altair IV, to search for survivors of an expedition that had landed there 20 years earlier. It turns out the only survivor is a man named Dr. Edward Morbius. The rest of the crew of his ship, including his wife, had died 19 years ago. But he's not alone; he also has a daughter named Altaira, aka "Alta." The Earth ship that has just arrived is commanded by a guy named John Adams (Leslie Nielsen), and I realize as I write this that I don't remember ever hearing his name in the movie (I just read it on Wikipedia). I suppose I heard the name "Adams," but I feel like if I'd heard "John Adams," I would have remembered that. Because, you know... we had two presidents with that name. But I digress. Anyway, before the ship even landed, Morbius contacted them by radio and warned them to stay away, because it wasn't safe there. And yet when Commander Adams asked for landing coordinates, Morbius provided them. Which seemed really weird to me. If I didn't want someone landing on my planet, and they needed coordinates, I probably wouldn't provide them. But whatevs.
So... the ship lands. And the crew is greeted by Robby the Robot, who drives a transport that takes Adams and a couple other guys to the home of Morbius and Alta. (One of the dated things about this movie is the fact that the crew is all male, and of course everyone's pretty interested in Alta, after a year away from Earth. But of course she ends up being most interested in Adams.) Adams's mission was to take any survivors back to Earth, but Morbius and Alta didn't want to leave. However, they did want Adams and his people to leave. And before long, some invisible creature starts making trouble, and killing people. Meanwhile, Morbius tells Adams and one other guy about an ancient race that used to live on that planet. And... I'm not sure how much more I want to say about the plot.
Anyway, there were definitely some amusing things in the movie. And as I said, some interesting ideas (which I'm sorry I haven't really specified, here). Also some things that were perhaps a bit cringe-worthy, for various reasons. But on the whole, I liked it. However, it's hard for me to be sure how much my enjoyment was based on the movie itself, and how much of it was derived from thinking that so many elements of the film reminded me of other shows or movies that came later. Seriously, I can't even imagine what the genre I love so much would have been like, without this movie....
See also The Invisible Boy