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Let's Watch 50s Sci-Fi Classics!
Why This Could Be the Greatest Scientific Discovery of All Time!
The era of the Beat Generation, the Cold War, and lingering existential angst over WWII spawned some awesome Sci Fi flicks.
During the 1950s, Sartre was still a contemporary writer; the race to space was just getting started; Spam and TV dinners were haute cuisine , and aluminum was a space age material. Black and white cinematography was the perfect medium for capturing the twin themes of alienation and xenophobia that hovered over the American populace like an out of frame mushroom cloud.
But the truth is that the post-war American dream of perfect safety in the suburbs was never really secure. A queasy, surreal quality permeated that lifestyle and those aspirations from the very start, and nothing reflected those murky cultural undercurrents and diffuse anxieties like the 1950s alien invasion movies.
The original 1956 black and white version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is for my money still the best of the lot, even without the annoying modern miracle of CGI effects.
I loved Keanu Reeves in black leather pants in The Matrix , but I can't say he added much to the remake of the original version of The Day the Earth Stood Still either.
That film was first released in 1951. Michael Rennie will always be Klaatu for me, even if he can't run up walls and fire a semi-automatic weapon with one hand while leaping through the air in a full-length leather trench.
The following 1950s sci fi flicks may or may not belong on a ‘best of’ list; but they are all movies I've personally watched more than once, and I think you should see them too. (I'll make the popcorn.)
* The War of the Worlds  This cinematic original starring Gene Barry and Les Tremayne, includes still-impressive imaginative special effects by pre-CGI genius George Pal. I still haven't seen a version that comes anywhere close to being as good as this one. Unlike many of the sci fi flicks of the 1950s, this one was made in Technicolor, and it's perfect.
* Them!  You know what happens when you test them thar nuke-kew-lar weapons out in the desert? Ya gits yer giant ants, that's what! James Whitmore, James Arness, and Edmund Gwenn battle giant mutated ants that are on a formic acid induced killing spree. Great stuff. (The flick, not the formic acid.)
* It Came From Outer Space  Yeah, and it said it just needed an oil change and some new tires, wink, wink... but then the humans who volunteer to make the mechanical repairs come back, um... different. Originally released in 3-D, this film features some of the first cinematic bug-eyed aliens, which begs the question, "Which came first, the bug-eyed movie aliens? Or the repressed memory alien abductions of 1950s screenwriters?"
* When Worlds Collide  Another amazing George Pal special effects masterpiece, this disaster flick won an academy award the year it was released. When the rogue star Bellarus passes within miles of Earth, resulting in widespread panic and destruction, two scientists find themselves in a race against time to save the human race. The scientists must convince a small contingent of Earthlings to build a spaceship and travel to the planet Zyra to start anew. No, Zyra is not a gated community, but it is really, really hard to get there.
* Earth vs. The Flying Saucers  Hugh Marlowe and Joan Taylor battle more bug-eyed aliens that buzz Washington and want our wimmin. Great visual effects by monstermaker and animatronic genius Ray Harryhausen make this sci fi classic a must see. The movie recalls an actual mass sighting of UFOs over DC that occurred a decade earlier and has never been explained.
* This Island Earth  The planet of Metaluna is beautiful this time of year...Doh! No it's not! More bug-eyed aliens who want-our-wimmin torment college sweethearts-turned-nuclear-physicists in this campy classic featuring Jeff Morrow, Rex Reason, and Faith Domergue. Check out how closely the alien at the end of the movie resembles the Communion critters.
* The Blob  Steve McQueen and Anita Corseaut battle a gelatinous creature that hitches a ride to Earth aboard a meteor and then develops a major attitude within minutes of arriving. Foreigners. Geesh! When they're not taking yer job, they're eating your face off.
* Invaders from Mars  Made the year I was born (so it has to be good!) this Cameron Menzie film tells the story of a boy who sees a flying saucer crash and can't get anyone to believe him until townsfolk start acting weird...A 1986 remake of this movie starring Karen Black and Timothy Bottoms isn't half bad either. Menzie’s bizarre camera angles and surreal sets with super-high ceilings and doors kick this B-movie cult classic up a few notches. Feel free to call it a film.
I know that this is a pathetically partial list, but I be back with more, I promise.
For now, fire-up that Jiffy Pop.
And keep your eyes on the skies.