Theme of the Week: 1950s Sci-fi

I made a spreadsheet to randomly choose different themes for me to work on and I’ll be running the randomizer once a week and trying to watch some movies that fall into the categories selected. I have set it up so that I can either combine two different themes, or just work on one.

This week’s randomly selected theme was the 1950s, and since the monthly challenge on the forum is sci-fi/fantasy, I decided to combine the two.

I’m not a big fan of 50s science fiction. Science fiction films are generally outdated before the script is even finished and watching them 60 years later with no real-world context (that is, having lived in the 50s), means they’re usually quite difficult to get into. Besides that they often have poor production values and are very exploitative and cheap. I find them very wooden, with over-used exposition and are generally quite superficial in exploration of their themes. Obviously the major one is nuclear war, with space travel being a close second. These themes still haven’t gotten old for audiences today, so they don’t feel completely foreign, but still feel very dated. Nevertheless, I managed to get through a few films relatively pain-free.

So, here’s what I’ve explored this week:

The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959)


Silly and often questionable (why have all the bodies disappeared without a trace, why is there no real destruction etc), but it never feels as trashy as it sounds. I guess it’s a concept so overused these days – hell, even then – that you automatically assume cheese. But it’s a surprisingly solid flick; it looks nice and it does a lot with only three actors. Belafonte was the most interesting of the lot though and I think it started to falter after Sarah was introduced. It seems to attempt to focus more on the psychology of the issue – the lack of destructive imagery means we’re forced to focus purely on Belafonte – but doesn’t do much with this concept and feels quite simple and plain.

It Conquered the World (1956)


I watched the MST3K version of this, but as I’m a Mike-person it only made it slightly better. The film itself was a typical sci-fi B-movie from the 50s. Poor special effects, silly plot and weak performances. It could’ve been a pretty fun B-movie if it had been faster paced and it could’ve been a more interesting sci-fi if it had been made by someone more competent. It’s just dull.

Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)


So um, although I like some of his songs, I had no idea what Pat Boone looked like so I was surprised that he was so attractive. Highlight of the film. His apparent attempt at a Scottish accent was a lowlight. He sounded American the entire film. I was expecting more dinosaurs and was disappointed that there wasn’t much of that. It had some really nice sets and effects for its time and it was entertaining fluff, but obviously the ridiculous plot and science got a little bit eye-rolling at times as it felt like it took itself too seriously. The token female characters were quite horrible as well and the female sexism seemed very odd next to the male objectification (Pat Boone and that other dude were shirtless for about 75% of the film).

Destination Moon (1950)


Some people seem to refer to it as the ‘Interstellar of its day’ due to its attempt at being scientifically accurate. The film is very simplistic, it keeps the science to a minimum but it is clearly focused on trying to be as accurate as possible whilst also being easily understood by audiences of the time. Now though, it seems kind of silly. I mean, just the fact that clearly none of the guys have had any training, they let on some guy last minute, they quickly take off while a guy comes running down with a court order to not take off. Etc. But I think it’s easy to pick on those things because the basics of space travel are quite drilled into people and when modern science fiction films take slightly less well-known concepts, they can get away with inaccuracies because either people don’t know enough about it to spot them, or the film explains it enough that we accept it as truth. The film is cheesy, but the effects are pretty good and it’s not too bad. I can imagine it being pretty awesome for kids of the 50s.

Vynález zkázy (1958)

It looks super cool and it’s not just because of the great-looking animation. The black and white cinematography is beautiful. The animation never feels hokey nor childish, and I think allows it to have a kind of mature sense of wonderment. But aside from that I didn’t find the plot particularly interesting and it was a bit dull.

Best Film of the Week:

A difficult choice, surprisingly, as most of these were pretty decent. I probably got the most enjoyment out of Journey to the Center of the Earth but I think that was largely due to Pat Boone being pretty. I think the best overall would be The World, the Flesh and the Devil.

Worst Film of the Week:

It Conquered The World. It was just so silly and had terrible effects and acting.

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