Ten, well okay Eleven 1950’s sci-fi films that you should see

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I tried to make this be ten, but had to expand it slightly. If there are other films from the decade that you like a lot feel free to add them on in the comments section. Here you go.

The Creature from the black lagoon-Maybe falls into the horror genre as much as sci-fi. Due to the fact that there are scientists present I count it  as a sci-fi film. Definitely a great and original beast plus I like that he comes from our world like he is rather than being from beyond or created by accident.

Forbidden Planet-Oh, yes. This film is remembered for Robbie the robot and other technology, but the story goes beyond just monsters. We see that sci-fi on film can have a story about human reactions but tie in fantastic elements as well.

The day the earth stood still-Funny that maybe the best 50’s “invasion” film was about beings from beyond that were not hostile yet we humans still couldn’t quite grasp that concept.

Earth vs. the flying saucers-Invaders from space, black and white and Ray Harrhausen effects. What else could you ask for?

Them!-Giant creatures of all kinds showed up in the 50’s. Tarantula and the Deadly Mantis are also fine examples, but I’m going with Them! because the acting was so strong and those ants were creeeeeeepy.

Invasion of the body snatchers-This is 50’s paranoia at it’s finest. Don’t go to sleep, don’t trust anyone, don’t stay in the same place-keep moving!

The Incredible shrinking man-Just as the title says, but the script, acting and effects help it to be so much more than just another sci-fi movie.

Godzilla-Well of course. Not just a monster flick even though pretty much all of Big G’s films after this were. A statement on the bomb plus tons of destruction.

It! the terror from beyond space-A crew on a space ship is being stalked by an alien beast from another world while returning from a mission. Hey, that sounds like Alien! Yep, only the spaces are more confined in this one and John Hurt isn’t in it wearing a big diaper.

20 million miles to earth-Not all giant creatures start out giant. This Ray Harryhausen creation grew and then caused great panic among the masses.

I married a monster from outer space-Don’t be scared off by the title. This is kind of like Invasion of the body snatchers only with more of a physical threat and the aliens are cocky too. This one will get a review here at some point.

Upcoming stuff and junk

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I owe a review of Slipstream which I hope to do either late Friday or Saturday. After that there should be another Starlost Sunday on Sunday. For next week I hope to go to the east and finally finsh that Godzilla vs. Biollante review. Also I hope to head more south of the border with the next film after that and review Fury of the wolfman. Beyond that maybe there will be another list (in addition to the one I’ll post today) plus perhaps something short about horror movies in the 1930’s.

Sci-fi in the 1950’s

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Well, not everyone in the 1950’s was paranoid, but the media and some events did have people on edge. I think that movie companies took advantage of that paranoia by making movies about invaders from other planets as well as nature and science experiments going wild while creating giant and/or radioactive beasts to terrorize Washington DC, London, Tokyo or wherever. The 50’s saw an explosion of sci-fi films varying from space exploration to giant monsters and everything in between.  Like with anything once filmmakers and anyone with a few bucks and a camera thought they should get their piece of the pie so you get a huge variation in quality of films when you look at the product of the decade as a whole. The far out and negative type films far outweighed the thoughtful ones. There were plenty of thrills in sci-fi of this decade, but for real sci-fi concepts in the 50’s there was much more of that going in books than there was at your local drive-in. However that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great decade for the movie genre. Just the opposite, it was very good. It also showed that there was interest in space and monsters created by science which was promising in the long run. Even though you may think of the 50’s when you hear “B movie” there was still plenty of creativity going into a number of these films. Quantity didn’t always mean quality, but there sure were a ton of sci-fi flicks. So many that I am still  trying to see them all.

*What do you think of 50’s sci-fi films?

**What are some of your favorite sci-fi films of that decade?

The Black Torment

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1964

Who’s in this? Well, my first two thoughts are that most of the principle cast are not people that were in a lot of British horror films although almost anyone who acted in British film between 1957 and 1973 ended up in a horror film or two. The other thing is there are a lot of people in this film who were early on in their careers but went on to act in three or four decades.

Heather Sears as the newly married Lady Elizabeth Fordyke who is soon going to realize that she married a suspected murderer and that ghosts ride through her new estate nightly. Horror fans will likely recognize her from Hammer’s Phantom of the opera. Despite not being the main character in this movie she still received top billing.

John Turner as Sir Richard Fordyke. Recently married to the woman above and he returns home to his family’s manor after being away for a while. His first wife Anne committed suicide. John Turner was in a lot of things for decades  but mainly British TV.

Ann Lynn as Diane the always frowning sister in law of the deceased first wife Anne. She helps take care of Sir Giles. Ann Lynn had a four decade long acting career mainly in British TV.

Peter Arne plays Seymour, Richard’s friend and he handles the financial affairs for the family. You will likely recognize him from numerous TV appearances and movies including Straw Dogs, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and several Pink Panther films. Arne was unfortunately killed in 1983 at the age of 62.

Raymond Huntley plays magistrate Colonel John Wentworth who gets called in to investigate the strange goings ons that will soon take place. Here’s a guy whose career spanned 50 years including lots of TV appearances like Upstairs, Downstairs. Horror fans may rcognize him from Hammer’s The Mummy.

Francis DeWolff as the bitter blacksmith Black John. Not a big role, but he deserves a mention. You’ll no doubt recognize him from numerous roles from Hammer’s The hound of the Baskervilles, The two face of Dr. Jekyll and others.

Joseph Tomelty as Sir Giles Fordyke. Father of Richard, Lord of the manor. He had a stroke a few years ago and is in a wheelchair. He uses signs to communicate and Diane translates for him. He was in Moby Dick as well as some genre films including the Atomic Monster and Devil girl from Mars (I need to review this). The Black Torment was his last film.

Patrick Troughton as Regis. Another small part. but an actor you know from tons of stuff. He was Dr. Who, he was in TV versions of several Shakespeare adaptions plus  he was also  in everything from Jason and The Argonauts to The Omen. A great character actor.

Lots of characters in this film and I am chopping out quite a few, but here’s one more.

Edina Ronay as Lucy Judd. She has no lines, but she is the first person we see in the film and her image is on a lot of the publicity for the movie. Genre fans will likely recognize her from her starring role in Hammer’s Prehistoric Women (I need to review this at some point).

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What’s this about? We hear breathing and eventually a woman is running through the woods with eyes full of fear. She is soon strangled by a hand belonging to someone unknown. Sir Richard, his funky looking facial hair and his new wife are returning to the family manor. Sir Richard has been away for some time and the family has yet to meet his new wife. Hold the hurrahs though as there is unrest in the countryside. Local girl Lucy Judd was murdered and gasp- she spoke Richard’s name as she died. Plus several people in the town have seen Sir Richard riding across the countryside on his horse being pursued by a woman in white on horseback calling “murderer”. Not exactly the welcome Ricahrd expected, but it will get worse. Around this time we learn that Richard’s first wife Anne killed herself because she felt pressure to have a male child to be an heir to the estate. She began to hate Richard and her father in law because of this pressure she felt. She ended up throwing herself out of a window. Yes, that will solve everything, but wait I guess we needed this grim back story to set up the spooky things yet to come-awhooooooo! One night Richard wakes up because a window is a banging in the wind-boom-boom-boom. He goes to check it out and swears that for a second he saw a woman in white standing outside on the grounds below-ewww. Oh, oh,oh I forgot that this window that was banging was the one that Anne threw herself out of -oh my skin it is a crawling. Then one of Elizabeth’s servants is fooling around in the barn with the blacksmith’s apprentice. They hope to marry but need Richard’s permission. The servant girl mentions about thinking Richard is handsome or some such rot and her boyfriend blows a gasket so he leaves. Someone enters and low and behold another friggin’ cold blooded murder takes place. So if you are an attractive and young woman living in this area it might time to get out of dodge now. The local magistrate arrives and tells Richard about people witnessing him riding with the woman in white behind him. Richard denies it, but then the blacksmith’s apprentice arrives yelling and accusing Richard of murder, Richard yells back as he does a lot in this film. Look at me I’m rich and can yell real loud. The next night Richard sees the woman in white again, this time he takes action. He gets his horse and heads out, but she ends up behind him yelling murderer. Poor Richard runs into the magistrate and despite his yelling a bunch of people now begin to think that Richard is a nutcase. Soon Richard is looking for the family bible to add Elizabeth’s name, but the bible is nowhere to be found. Someone must have it out and will soon have some overdue fines. Anyways her comes an odd scene. Richard blasts bast Elizabeth and Diane and leaps into a carriage and takes off-go Speed Racer go. The women go inside and Giles wheelchair rolls down the steps with no Giles in it. Then Seymour steps put and talks to them from a room, but we hear Richard screaming (what else) from that room. The woman are dumbfounded, oh how could this be because he just left? Is this a demon, a dopple ganger or does Richard own a transporter? The door to the room closes behind Seymour and he’s locked out. Richard (the one from the carriage) comes back and yells some more. He tries to help Seymour open the door and when it finally opens there is Giles hanging by the neck until he was dead, dead, dead (it’s a Star Trek-Squire of Gothos-reference). Okay so now our characters are way confused and so was I. Giles also had ink on his face and at dinner Richard believes the ink has something to do with the elusive family bible, but then he gets woozy and has to go sleepy time. While upstairs he sees the woman in white and stumbles after her. Then he sees Giles wheelchair coming at him with a person in it-if Richard didn’t crap his drawers at this then he never will. Richard confronts the figure in the wheelchair and it looks just like him-well, holy heck! Hold on, kiddies it’s a wild ride from here on out. Elizabeth hears screams and goes up the steps running right into a snarling Richard. The lady in white tells this Richard to kill Elizabeth, he tries but she has a gun and eventually ka-blam this Richard gets it and falls over. Then another more sane Richard appears-this movie is beginning to make less sense than a Pirate of the Caribbean sequel. Okay this is the real Richard and he reveals the lady in white to be Diane. She blamed Richard for the death of her sister. The dead Richard was really an invalid brother who Giles had put away years ago, but Diane got him to help her in this twisted plan. This is why the bible was hidden because it would have told that there was a brother. Dianne tries to flee and Seymour appears, but then he stabs her-oh do you think he’s in on this too? Yep, he wanted money. So a big old sword fight breaks out between Richard and Seymour and you can guess who wins. Richard and Elizabeth get all lovey-dovey now that this ghost-spirit-murder-revenge-drive everyone insane with evil twin business is over. Roll the credits.

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Stats-

Number of times Diane smiles-0, if Elizabeth had died I think she would have smiled.

Number of times that Richard gets all huffy and shouts-about 15

Number of day for night scenes-three I believe, but it wouldn’t a British horror films without a few of these.

The Negatives-The movie has a major plot hole. When Richaard’s brother appears he is a drooling beast. Could he have killed those woman at the orders of Diane? Yes. Could he have spoken from the room that Seymour exited and held other conversations described in earlier parts of the movie? No, but they skip past this as the movie is concluded.

The positives-This is a decent enough chiller. The costumes and sets make it look more expensive then it is probably was which is a credit to the people in charge of those departments. The pacing is a strong point as well.

Dr. Who???

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Wait a minute, why has this jackass put questions marks behind the name of such a beloved, long running character? Is he questions the merits of this character? No is he unclear as to who this character is? No, I have been aware of the Doctor since I was around 12. That may only leave that he has never seen an epsiode of Dr. Who? Bing, bing, bing we have a winner. So many Doctors on the show over the years yet I have not seen one second of any of them. However, I did a see a Doctor Who. This one….

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Yes, I saw the two Doctor Who movies with Peter Cushing. The ones most Doctor Who fans hate. I saw them on VHS maybe 12 years ago and my only reason for wanting to see them was because of Peter Cushing. Now if you are a fan don’t get in a huff and think I am stomping on the Doctor without giving him a chance. Doctor Who was never on any channel I got as a kid, but I knew who he was from brief mentions in Starlog and other sci-fi magazines back in the 80’s. On occasion I’d see some of Dr. Who novels at my local used book store. I’d consider buying one but was hoping to see the show first yet that never happened. Time went by, Doctors changed and now it was the late 90’s. I saw some VHS tapes of Dr. Who for decent prices in catalogs. I considered it, but it was like two hours for $15 and I knew if I liked it I’d want to see more and that was too steep to see a lot so I skipped on it. Now we are to recent years. My library has recent Dr. Who DVDs in. I pick them up and consider checking them out. Hey, they’re free, but again I hesitate because-

A-What if it sucks? Then I may judge the whole franchise on these because I don’t have easy access to other Doctor Who episodes.

B-I’ve gone 42 years without see this show so am I really missing out?

Those thoughts bring us to today. So here I sit feeling kind of indifferent towards this show but also a bit curious about if I am misisng out.

Feel free to add thoughts, suggestions, ideas or throw insults, rocks or whatever you got should you feel the need.

Starlost Sundays-Circuit of death

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The regulars-

Keir Dullea as Devon, Gay Rowan as Rachel, Robin Ward as Garth

The guests-

Percy Rodriques as engineer as disgruntled grump Sakharov Richards. You will recognize from tons of television shows as his career spanned over 40 years from the mid-50’s to the late 1980’s. He was Portmaster Stone in the Court Martial episode of Star Trek. He normally plays a snob or an ass or both. He has the kind of voice that he could say ” I see” and make it sound like the worst put-down you’ve ever heard.

Nerene Virgin as Valerie Richards daughter of the above grump.

Calvin Butler as security guard and wearer of a flashy outfit Cort.

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What’s this about? Doors open to an area and out comes… two complete strangers. We soon find out that they are father and daughter and the father seems to know a lot about the computer systems. Alarms start going off saying they don’t have clearance, but they ignore them and keep on tinkering. Then we see the trio we know, but for some unknown and unexplained reason they are now wearing silver and red shiny outfits. Oh, well maybe they were Christmas presents. Our trio come upon the father and daughter and we learn that they are Dr. Richards and his daughter Valerie. They are from Alpha 5 and Dr. Richards is trying to conduct some work on the bridge computers. However his voice suggests this isn’t true. Our trio offer help and Richards has them load boxes into a pod, but meanwhile Richards expresses to Valerie that he doesn’t trust the others and thinks they may be spies. What a great guy. Well, Devon noticed the boxes they were loading were rations and water so he speaks up and suggest that Richards was lying and is planning on leaving. Richards spews out some excuse and says they can all work together, but really it’s a ploy to get the trio out of the room. Unfortunately the trio exits and Richards slam bang click he locks them out. He has set the Ark to self destruct but being the nice dude he is has the escape pod set for he and Valerie to get out. What a dick. Around this time a security guy named Cort shows up wanting to arrest Richards, but like our trio he is on the wrong side of the door and can’t get Richards. Valerie begs her daddy to stop the self-destruct of the Ark. The launch of the pod misfires, our trio and Cort come in and Richards decides to try and stop the Ark from going boom. Unfortunately stopping the explosion is a bigger task than starting it was. So Richards has an idea- he and Devon slap mesh and duct tape dog collars around their necks and take naps while their minds reappear as tiny versions of their bodies inside the circuits of the computer where they can affect the changes that way. Make sense? Goodness, why don’t they just grow shiny wings and sprinkle fairy dust on the problem? That seems about as feasible in a scientific way as what Richards proposes. Anyways I guess this is the fiction part of their science fiction. Okay so let’s humor them-Devon and Richards appear inside the computer which is like a big game board with bunches of holes. They have to grab these wires that look like foam pool noodles and complete circuits by putting them in holes. Meanwhile on the outside Rachel and Garth ask Valerie why her dad wanted to blow up the Ark. She said that back on Alpha 5 that people began to take freedom for granted and that their leaders began taking more power. Rachel points out that there dozens of other societies besides theirs on the Ark and all of them would have gone blooey from this self-destruct- good point. Due to the above reasons Valerie’s dad thought that the end was near for their society. Unfortunately Mr. expert Richards shocks himself and falls over-slam. They are now set for an overload and the only guy who has some idea of what to do lays there like a fish tossed onto the land. So Garth reasons that one more chowder head going into the computer won’t hurt so he goes in. He and Devon get Richards up. Richards says that he needs to do the last steps by himself so the others leave. Sourpuss Richards now not as sour finishes putting foam tubes into the hole connectors and the self-destruct is stopped. Hurray! Hold on, in saving everyone Richards died connecting the circuits. Everyone is glad for what he did but not overly sad because after all he did start the whole problem in the first place. Devon then points out that it’s a shame Richards died because he may have had the skills to change the course of the Ark to avert the collision course they are on oh, well such is life.

The negatives? Every dome on this Ark seems to have a trouble maker or two and our trio always run into them. The beginning with Richards setting the self-destruct had promise, but the end with the miniature circuit scene doesn’t work. It’s like they wanted to do Fantastic Voyage only with  no budget so they ended up trying to show life threatening drama with the cheapest props around.

The positives? Percy Rodriques gave as good of an effort as he could in his part. With a lesser actor I would have given up on this episode earlier. I kind of liked the trio wearing their new duds (which inexplicably they won’t have in the next episode). It makes me think they have accepted their roles as travelers on a mission through the Ark rather than being residents of Cypress Corners.

How could it have been better? Mostly this show does alright on a limited budget, but in this episode the lack of budget hurt them. Suggesting they have a higher budget isn’t a real solution so I guess finding a different way for Richards to attempt to fix the circuits may have helped this episode. Working with regular circuits and him working with our trio while they talked about the problems of their societies may have worked better here.

Upcoming themes and possible features

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Just thinking ahead and wanted to throw some ideas out there. I was thinking of making one week per month theme week where I might do three reviews under a certain topic and maybe have a list or a short write up that week that went along with the topic. So far I was considering these…

Hammer Time in the 60’s-1960’s Hammer Films

The Price is right-Vincent Price week

Back for more-80’s horror sequels week

Big, bad and in black and white-1950’s giant monster week

70’s made for TV movie week

It’s also possible that I’ll do Superman and Star Trek weeks when their new movies come out.

***Feel free to suggest a topic.

Also I am almost half way through the series the Starlost in  my weekly Starlost Sundays column. So I still have more than two months worth to do, but was thinking ahead as to what I want to tackle next. I likely want to do a show that didn’t go more than a season so I have to do it for a few months and then move to a different show. I was thinking of doing one of these next next.

Flash Fridays-I’d take on the one season show from 90-91 that followed the fastest man in the world.

Voyagers-No flashy name for this yet, but I loved this one season show.

UFO-No fancy name yet either. Bizarre and sometimes great show.

Sanctuary Sundays with Logan’s Run-I’d take on the short lived 1977 show that just got a DVD release last year.

Simian Sunday with Planet of the apes the TV series-One of my favorite half season shows ever.

I’m am also considering some one season 70’s Saturday morning kid’s shows including Ark 2, Space Academy and the Monster Squad.

***Let me any of these sound interesting.

Upcoming stuff and junk

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I still owe a review of Godzilla vs. Biollante which I have seen once so far. I hope to have that review out on Friday or Saturday. Then another Starlost Sunday will hopefully pop up on Sunday. Beyond that I am hoping to review the 60’s Brisith horror/costume drama The Black Torment. I’ve seen this film several times, but probably have not watched it in at least four years. Another film I hope to get to is an 80’s sci-fi film that features in the supporting cast two actors who won Oscars in the 1980’s plus it also includes people who were in or would be in Star Wars, Aliens, Jurassic Park and the Harry Potter films. Whoa, what is this movie? It’s Slipsteam. I don’t blame you for shrugging your shoulders because I never heard of it until recently. Not to be confused with the film of the same that Anthony Hopkins directed a few years back, this Slipstream was a UK production that was made in 1989. The cast includes Bill Paxton, Mark Hamill, Bob Peck, Robbie Coltrane, F. Murray Abraham and Ben Kingsley. So is it a loss classic or a waste of talent? I’ll figure that out in my write-up. In addition to those maybe I’ll do a write-up about sci-fi in the 1950’s and then maybe tackle another top ten or top five list of some sort.

Top ten giant movie monsters #5 to #1

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5-Tyrannosaurus Rex-

It’s all fun and games until the power goes out and the T-Rex starts chasing people at Jurassic Park.

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4-Cyclops-

This fuzzy legged, one eyed menace chased Sinbad and his crew around in the 7th voyage of Sinbad.

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3-King Ghidorah

I remember seeing this beastie for the first time as a kid and being in awe. What a powerful creature.

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2-King Kong

One of the first monster movies I ever saw and still one of my favorites. If you ask which Kong then you need to turn in your monster lover’s license right now.

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1-Godzilla

This long running beast has changed appearances and moods over the many years he has been around plus he has fought tons of other monsters. He still remains the best of all the giant monsters.

Top ten giant movie monsters- #10 – #6

A list so big it will take up two posts. I’ll do numbers 10 down to 6 today and then the top five on Wednesday. I couldn’t quite narrow it down to just ten so I had to add an honorable mention.

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Honorable mention- Mechagodzilla

Come on it’s a robot version of Godzilla that can fly and has missile claws, flamethrower and tons of other weapons over the years. Awesome.

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10-Stay Puft marshmallow man

A small part in Ghostbusters, but not a small monster. A memorable role and he gave the Ghostbusters and most of New York a real scare.

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9-Rodan

I first saw Rodan when I was a kid on a weekly Saturday show Monster Theater that showed movies that introduced me to Rodan, Godzilla, Mothra and others. Rodan has been a favorite of mine since then.

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8-Gamera

Unlike Godzilla and Mothra and others I never saw Gamera until recent years, but he certainly has an appeal. Unlike some of his rivals he got better over the years. Fear the turtle.

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7-Talos

The giant statue that came to life (thanks to Ray Harryhausen) and terrified Jason and his crew in Jason and the Argonauts.

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6-Mothra

Not quite as scary as other Kaiju, but still very powerful and was in a number of memorable fights.