Category Archives: Sci-fi

Planet Of The Apes

Planet Of The Apes is one of those sci-fi films that everyone has seen or at least knows about. It is perhaps one of my favourite sci-fi films and I think that Charlton Heston is great in it. I especially like the ending where Chuck discovers… well that would be spoiling the film. This is so much better that the Tim Burton remake from a few years ago.

Yeah, I know that I haven’t really said much here, suffice to say that it is a very good film.


Abbott & Costello Meet The Invisible Man

Directed by Charles Lamont
Produced by Howard Christie
Written by Frederic I. Rinaldo
John Grant
Robert Lees
Hugh Wedlock Jr
Howard Snyder
Starring Bud Abbott
Lou Costello
Nancy Guild
Arthur Franz
Music by Erich Zeisl
Cinematography George Robinson
Editing by Virgil Vogel
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date March 19, 1951
Running time 82 min.
Country United States
Language English

Abbott & Costello Meet The Invisible Man is a hard film to categorize. You’d think that with Abbott & Costello in the film it would be a comedy but it isn’t particularly funny. It is amusing in parts but in others the jokes seem very tired. Perhaps this is because I have watched a few A&C films these past few months and can see how they reused gags over and over and over again.Thankfully Lou is so likable and amusing, and he even gets the upper hand on Abbott in a few scenes.

The movie does work sort of as a mystery/suspense type of film or as sci-fi and to be truthful it’s entertaining enough. It’s still a lot better than the later film where the boys met The Mummy, but it is a huge fall from their classic films of the mid-1940s. The film does also contain lots of references to the earlier Invisible Man films.


Westworld

Directed by Michael Crichton
Produced by Paul Lazarus III
Written by Michael Crichton
Starring Yul Brynner
Richard Benjamin
James Brolin
Music by Fred Karlin
Cinematography Gene Polito
Editing by David Bretherton
Distributed by MGM
Release date November 21, 1973
Running time 88 min. (theatrical)
Country US
Language English

Westworld was a film that scared the hell out of me when I was a kid. I had nightmares of an out of control robot Yul Brynner chasing me and he couldn’t be killed, which is basically the plot of this movie.The Simpsons parodied the film in the Itchy & Scratchy Land episode.

It’s an enjoyable film to watch but not as scary as I thought it was when I was a kid. It’s an interesting concept of having a theme park full of robots that run amok due to a computer virus. Of course the film (and book it was based on) was made before everyone had a home computer so the idea of computer viruses was virtually unknown. I like some of the little things that Yul does that remind us that he is not human but a robot, such as the way in which he walks while stalking the hero Richard Benjamin.

I notice that Westworld is set to be remade with Russell Crowe in the lead role. I don’t see the point of a remake of what is a great film but if that is the case hopefully it is better than the remake of Robin Hood. It seems that Hollywood has run out of original ideas as now there are so many mediocre remakes or sequals to earlier films. This may be a topic for another time but how many crappy remakes have their been in the last decade?


First Men In The Moon

Directed by Nathan H. Juran
Produced by Charles H. Schneer
Written by Nigel Kneale (screenplay)
H.G. Wells (story)
Starring Lionel Jeffries
Edward Judd
Martha Hyer
Music by Laurie Johnson
Cinematography Wilkie Cooper
Editing by Maurice Rootes
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date November 20, 1964
Running time 103 mins
Country United Kingdom
Language English

First Men In The Moon is a 1864 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel featuring the great stop motion animation of Ray Harryhausen. It is an exciting film, even though at times Lionel Jeffries overacts.

This is typical 1950s/60s sci-fi stuff, with the ending sort of pinched from War Of The Worlds. Harryhausen’s monsters are perhaps not as threatening as in the Sinbad movies or Jason and the Argonauts, with the only real threat being the brief scene with a giant caterpillar-like moon cow. The other creatures created by Harryhausen are the insect like moon people called the Selenites.

The film is interesting and entertaining and a faithful adaptation of H.G. Wells’ work, but it is a change of pace from Ray Harryhausen’s usual film making magic.


Forbidden Planet

Directed by Fred M. Wilcox
Produced by Nicholas Nayfack
Written by Screenplay: Cyril Hume
Story: Irving Block & Allen Adler
Starring Walter Pidgeon
Leslie Nielsen
Anne Francis
Music by Louis and Bebe Barron
Cinematography George J. Folsey
Editing by Ferris Webster
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Release date April 1, 1956
Running time 98 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Forbidden Planet is another 1950s classic science fiction film. It stars a very young Leslie Nielsen, Walter Pidgeon and marks the debut of Robby the Robot. It is quite interesting but very talky in comparison to some of its contemporaries. The film is perhaps more intellectual than the other sci-fi films of the era.

It’s very interesting to see Leslie Nielsen in a serious role, 20 years before he appeared in Airplane!/Flying High! It is also interesting to see Robby the Robot before he was in Lost In Space. His voice is different here and he’s a bit annoying, but I still expected him to say, “Danger Wil Robinson!” but he didn’t.

The alien enemy Krell is interesting too and I like the way in which it was animated. It was animated by Disney veteran Joshua Meador.

Overall Forbidden Planet is intereting (that word again) but very talky and not as exciting in my opinion that some of the other films of the era.


Metropolis

Directed by Fritz Lang
Produced by Erich Pommer
Written by Thea von Harbou
Fritz Lang (uncredited)
Starring Alfred Abel
Brigitte Helm
Gustav Fröhlich
Rudolf Klein-Rogge
Music by Gottfried Huppertz (original version)
Cinematography Karl Freund, Günther Rittau &Walter Ruttmann
Distributed by UFA (Germany)
Paramount Pictures (US)
Release date 10 January 1927 (Germany) [1]
6 March 1927 (US)
Running time 153 minutes/24 frame/s
(German premiere cut)
114 minutes/25 frame/s
(1927 US cut version)
Country Germany
Language Silent film
German intertitles

Metropolis is a film that features some incredible visuals. The art-deco inspired backgrounds look very stunning as well. As for the content of the film itself, well I am not so sure. A lot of the time I wasn’t exactly sure of what was going on, and a lot of the characters seemed to be really quite stupid, especially Joh Frederson the industrialist/dictator. I did enjoy some of the facia; expressions shown by the actress Brigitte Helm when she was the Machine Man, intent on causing chaos and destrucion and the scenes of her dancing as well. One thing that helps make these sort of scenes look amusing is the fact that silent films run at a different speed to talkies, so the action goes a little faster


The Thing From Another World

Directed by Howard Hawks (uncredited)
Christian Nyby
Written by Novella:
John W. Campbell, Jr.
Screenplay:
Charles Lederer
Uncredited:
Howard Hawks
Ben Hecht
Starring Margaret Sheridan
Kenneth Tobey
Douglas Spencer
Robert O. Cornthwaite
James R. Young
Dewey Martin
Robert Nichols
William Self
Eduard Franz
Sally Creighton
James Arness
John Dierkes
George Fenneman
Paul Frees
Everett Glass
David McMahon
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
Cinematography Russell Harlan, ASC
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date April 29, 1951
Running time 87 min.
Edited version:
81 min.

Watch the skies

The Thing From Another World is often hailed as the first great sci-fi/horror film but I’m not so sure. I guess that it is the film that kicked off the 1950s sci-fi cycle of films and admit that the sci-fi elements of the film have the potential to be great, but I was very disappointed at the horror element of the film.

For those who don’t know the story, a UFO crashes to Earth near the North Pole and is found by scientists and airforce officials. Whilst the spaceship is destroyed thanks to the ineptitude of the airforce personnel, they do find an alien encased in the ice. They take the alien back to their base still in the ice, but his icy tomb is melted and he is alive. Soon it is discovered that he is plant-based and bullets don’t harm him, and that he needs blood to survive and to reproduce.

The reason why I find the horror elements of the film to be disappointing is that despite the potential for tension, no one in the film seems to be scared of the alien. Sure they say that they are frightened, yet the audience cannot see that. Despite knowing that they cannot kill the monster with bullets and that it eats humans, the airforce people decide to confront it armed only with guns, while in another scene with the alien on the loose one of the airforce people jokes with his girlfriend, who also just happened to be posted to the area. Why should I be afraid of their fate if they aren’t?

I suppose that I feel frustrated that the film has so much potential but didn’t capitalise on it in its entirety. Despite this lack of tension the film is still entertaining if talky and I enjoyed watching it a lot.


The Time Machine

Directed by George Pál
Produced by George Pál
Written by David Duncan
H. G. Wells (novel)
Starring
Rod Taylor
Alan Young
Yvette Mimieux
Sebastian Cabot
Whit Bissell
Music by Russell Garcia
Editing by George Tomasini
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date 17 August 1960
Running time 103 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The Time Machine is a sci-fi film made in 1960 by George Pal and stars Robert Taylor. It roughly follows the plot of H.G. Wells’ novel from the late 19th century in which an inventor creates a time machine and goes into the future to discover that mankind has torn itself apart through war. It does of course deviate away from the novel as it features scenes of World War I, World War II and the possibility of nuclear annihilation, things that Wells could not have possibly predicted.

When Taylor’s character H. George Wells goes into the future (1966 to be exact) and discovers that the world has been destroyed in a nuclear holocaust, he then decides to go thousands of years into the future to see i anything could have survived this destruction. He discovers that the human race has split into two species, the surface dwelling Eloi who are beautiful and seemingly carefree and ignorant, and the underground Morlocks, who are ugly and beastly and cruel. The Eloi have everything that they need provided to them by the Morlocks, who breed them like cattle only to cannibalise on them once they reach an age of maturity.

George ends up saving the Eloi and destroying the Morlocks and in doing so falls in love with the beautiful Eloi girl Weena. He then goes back to his own time where he relates his tale but is not believed by his friends. Because of this he returns to the future at the conclusion of the film.

The film is a typical 1960s type sci-fi film, of which their were hundreds. It is a very good fantsy film but the special effects are not all that special by 21st century standards. The use of stop motion animation and time-lapse photography is very quant when compared to today’s CGI but it was state of the art for its time. All in all the film is quite enjoyable as there has been a lot of thought put into the plot and the feelings of Taylor’s character. While the acting is a bit over the top, which was standard for 1950s and 60s sci-fi I still liked the movie.

By the way you may recognise Alan Young who plays Wells’ friend Filby. You may even recognise the Scottish accent he uses throughout the film. At around the same time that the Time Machine was released he was appearing in the first season of TV’s Mr. Ed as Wilbur Post. Since the 1980s he has lent his voice and Scottish accent to Uncle Scrooge McDuck for Disney.


One Million Years B.C.

Directed by Don Chaffey
Produced by Michael Carreras
Written by Brian Clemens
Starring Raquel Welch
John Richardson
Percy Herbert
Robert Brown
Martine Beswick
Music by Mario Nascimbene
Cinematography Wilkie Cooper
Editing by Tom Simpson
Distributed by Hammer Film Productions
Release date(s) 30 December 1966 (UK)
February 21, 1967 (USA)
Running time 100 min. (U.K) 91 min. (U.S.)
Country United Kingdom
Language none

Travel back through time and space to the edge of man’s beginnings…discover a savage world whose only law was lust!


This film is a bit of a guilty pleasure. How can any guy not like a movie that has Raquel Welch in a fur bikini being chased by Ray Harryhausen’s dinosaurs? I know that it can be quite tacky, especially the scene early on where the giant turtle attacks, but that is half the fun.  It’s not a great film or even a really good film, but it is fun in a really trashy type of way. Many of the special effects aren’t all that convincing or good but the movie is enjoyable enough if you aren’t expecting anything too cerebral.


The Incredible Shrinking Man

Directed by Jack Arnold
Produced by Albert Zugsmith
Written by Novel: Richard Matheson
Screenplay: Richard Matheson & Richard Alan Simmons (uncredited)
Starring
Grant Williams
Randy Stuart
April Kent
Paul Langton
Billy Curtis
Music by Uncredited: Irving Getz, Hans J. Salter &Herman Stein
Cinematography Ellis W. Carter
Editing by Albrecht Joseph
Distributed by Universal Studios
Release date(s) April 1, 1957
Running time 81 min.
Language English

This is another of those fifties sci-fi films that I have been watching lately. This movie is about Scott Carey who after being exposed to a radioactive fog whilst vacationing on his brother’s boat, begins to shrink. The first half of the film deals with Scott trying to come to terms on his condition and the effect that it has with his marriage. The smaller he gets the angrier he gets and the more tyrannically he becomes towards his loving wife Louise.

The 2nd half of the film is where the action begins. By this time Scott is small enough to live in a doll house. After Louise leaves the house for the shops, after being directed to by her increasingly angry husband, the families’ cat is accidentally let into the house, where Scott must try to escape it. The cat knocks him into the basement where he then has to battle a massive tarantula. In the film’s climax, after he gets his freedom Scott realises and accepts that he is not going to ever stop shrinking.

“And I felt my body dwindling, melting, becoming nothing. My fears locked away and in their place came acceptance. All this vast majesty of creation, it had to mean something. And then I meant something, too. Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something, too. To God there is no zero. I still exist.”

The film is incredibly enjoyable although the special effects are quite corny looking by today’s standards, but very effective. The scenes with the spider are scary enough for this arachnophobe to have to cover his eyes whenever it was on the screen. I only hope that the update that is due out later this year and starring Eddie Murphy (whose career of late has been built solely on playing Donkey in the Shrek films and remaking movies from the 1950s) is half as enjoyable.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.