Category Archives: Sci-fi

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.

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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.


Avatar

Directed by James Cameron
Produced by James Cameron & Jon Landau
Written by James Cameron
Starring
Sam Worthington
Zoe Saldana
Stephen Lang
Michelle Rodriguez
Sigourney Weaver
Giovanni Ribisi
Joel David Moore
C. C. H. Pounder
Wes Studi
Laz Alonso
Music by James Horner
Cinematography by Mauro Fiore
Editing by James Cameron, John Refoua & Stephen E. Rivkin
Studio Lightstorm Entertainment, Dune Entertainment & Ingenious Film Partners
Distributed by  20th Century Fox
Release date(s) December 10, 2009 (2009-12-10) (London premiere)
December 18, 2009 (United States)
Running time 162 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English

Today I finally went to see Avatar. I think that I may have been the last person in the universe to see Avatar, but today I finally took the plunge and headed to the Village Cinemas at Crown Casino to watch the film. I did so under a lot of trepidation and even a little bit of dread, mainly because of my aversion to motion capture special effects and how every film that I have seen that uses this technology has looked really fake. It is to James Cameron’s credit that the film did not seem to descend down into Uncanny Valley territory.

I was a bit taken aback by the price to watch the film. It cost me $20 to see the movie and because it is a 3D film there was no concession or price reduction for tight Tuesday. If I had of see a non-3D film it would have only cost me $10.50 today, so this may have ruined my enjoyment of the film. Also I think that the whole 3D thing is just a gimmick and hopefully won’t last much longer. Avatar did

not have to be 3D and would have been equally as enjoyable as a 2D film. In fact I don’t think that the 3D aspect of the film added anything to the enjoyment of the film and may have even made the film less enjoyable due to the fact that the 3D glasses were so darn uncomfortable to wear. Perhaps 3D may be more practical when they can develop the technology to be able to screen it without having to wear the stupid Roy Orbison glasses. Who knows, this may happen in another 50 years!

I was surprised that I enjoyed the film so much. I needn’t have worried about the motion capture ANIMATION (yes that’s right James Cameron, motion capture is in my mind a form of ANIMATION!) as there were very few times where I thought that the Na’vi looked fake. There were only a couple of times where Neytiri and the other Na’vi gave that blank soulless stare associated with mo’ cap’, but the action was moving too fast for it to be too distracting. I will just say that this is so much more realistic and believable than any of the crap that Robert Zemeckis has made lately.

I could detail the plot of the film or give a detailed analysis of it, yet as I am the last person on Earth to have seen it I don’t think that is necessary. It is an incredible film and I will grudgingly say that it is the best thing to come out in 2009. It probably deserves to win the best picture Oscar at the Academy Awards, although I have a feeling it won’t. I think that this is the best film of the last decade and much better than the totally over-rated Lord Of The Rings trilogy.


Back to the Future

Back to the FutureDirected by Robert Zemeckis
Produced by Neil Canton & Bob Gale
Executive producers: Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy & Frank Marshall
Written by Bob Gale & Robert Zemeckis
Starring Michael J. Fox
Christopher Lloyd
Lea Thompson
Crispin Glover
Thomas F. Wilson
Music by Alan Silvestri
Cinematography Dean Cundey
Editing by Harry Keramidas & Arthur Schmidt
Studio Universal Pictures/Amblin Entertainment/U-Drive Productions
Distributed by United States: Universal Pictures
Foreign: United International Pictures
Release date July 3, 1985
Running time 116 minutes
Country United States
Language English

I remember when Robert Zemeckis used to make good movies featuring real people, not the CGI, motion capture rubbish he now does with films like Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol. (What’s the use of having an animated character voiced by Tom Hanks/Jim Carrey/Bob Hoskins that looks exactly like Tom Hanks/Jim Carrey/Bob Hoskins? Why not just make a live action film?)  Before he ever dreamed of taking a trip into that uncanny valley he made Back To the Future, a film that I remember watching in the cinema with my friends back in the mid-80s. Perhaps Zemeckis should have another look at this film before he directs his next movie just so he can see that a film needs more than technology and special effects to be entertaining. An engaging star and funny storyline that keeps a viewers interest are much more important than any amount of computer trickery. While Back To The Future does have some great effects for 1985 the reason why the film was so successful was due more to the likeable Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly, and Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown.

This film did bring back some happy childhood memories of hanging out with the gang at Chadstone, eating popcorn and drinking Coke and just having fun. Huey Lewis’ great soundtrack just helped make those memories even brighter. This is a great film to watch and remember all that stuff. I enjoyed Back To The Future a lot when I revisted it, so it is such a shame that Zemeckis has deteriorated so much with his artistic vision.

* I don’t want to make this post a tirade against Robert Zemeckis but he is really annoying me at the moment. Watching something like Back To The Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Cast Away and even Forrest Gump make me remember that he was once a very good director, but you would not know that if you watched his latest projects. I make no bones about my dislike of motion capture technology. Zemeckis’ last three films have all been made utilising this technology and in my opinion they have all stunk. Worse still is that he is currently remaking Yellow Submarine using motion capture which I think will be as horrible as it sounds. The problem I find with this technology is that the director wants to create a faux world containing animated characters that look almost as real as possible, but if you look deeply enough at these characters you can see that they have no soul. It is also for this uncanny reason why I have not descended into the valley to watched James Cameron’s Avatar. Then again when Zemeckis has overused special effects and technology in films the results has mostly been horrible. Death Becomes Her was a terrible film and while I enjoyed Forrest Gump it by no means really deserved the accolades or awards that it received.


20 Million Miles To Earth

Directed by Nathan H. Juran
Produced by Charles H. Schneer
Written by Bob Williams & Christopher Knopf
Starring William Hopper
Joan Taylor
Frank Puglia
Cinematography Irving Lippman & Carlo Ventimiglia
Editing by Edwin Bryant
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date June 1957
Running time 82 minutes
Country United States

I must make a point of the fact that of all the movies that I have watched so far this month, 20 Million Miles To Earth is the first one that I have watched with a pen and notebook in hand to jot down anything of importance that I may want to add to this blog. For all the films that I have watched so far, I have written my thoughts after the movie has finished. Sometimes I have waited around 12 hours before putting my thoughts down.

20 Million Miles To Earth is another 1950s Sci-fi film. It features one of Ray Harryhausen’s most memorable monsters, the Ymir, although he is only referred to as the creature throughout the film. I believe that the armature (skeleton) of the Ymir was later used for another Harryhausen monster, the Cyclops from The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad.

The plot begins when a secret US rocket ship crash lands in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Sicily. They were on a return flight after a secret mission to Venus, yes, the planet Venus, when the space craft is hit by a meteorite that causes it to crash-land. The crash landing looks quite dodgy and extremely primitive from a special effects point of view. There are only two survivors of the flight as we soon find that most of the crew have succumbed to a strange disease caused by poisons in the Venusian atmosphere. Soon after the crash, one of the survivors also dies of the fatal disease.

After the ship crash a canister that the astronauts collected from Venus ends up washed onto the shore, where it is found by the young and annoying Pepe. Inside the canister Pepe discovers some ectoplasm containing something or other. Naturally he sells it to Zoologist Dr. Leonardo. The thing inside the ectoplasm soon hatches and it is the lizard-like Ymir. At first he is quite small but ugly, but he grows rapidly and before long is wrecking havoc throughout the Sicilian countryside. He is eventually captured and taken to Rome where he escapes, attacks an elephant, runs amok and then finally climbs the Coliseum in what was homage to the original monster movie, King Kong. He is finally brought down by modern weapons of war.

This is a fun little movie and quite enjoyable. Most of the stop-motion animation is first-rate although it is not as polished as some of Harryhausen’s later work. Some scenes such as the rocket ship crash look very awkward, while the scene of the battle royal between Ymir and Jumbo the elephant also seems a bit primitive and fake. Perhaps it is because there a too many switches of shots between the live-action and animated elephant and it is very easy to identify which is which. Still, if you can overlook this you will find 20 Million Miles To Earth a very enjoyable film to watch.

20 Million Miles To Earth is a part of the Ray Harryhausen Gift Set with It Came From Beneath The Sea and Earth Vs The Flying Saucers. The special gift set featuring a Ymir figure is available from Amazon for $69.49. You can purchase it by clicking here…

If you just want the Gift Set with 20 Million Miles To Earth, It Came From Beneath The Sea and Earth Vs The Flying Saucers and a book but without the Ymir figure, it can be purchased from Amazon for $44.99. You can purchase it by clicking here…

20 Million Miles To Earth is also a part of the Fantastic Films of Ray Harryhausen – Legendary Science Fiction Series DVD box set with It Came From Beneath The Sea, Earth Vs The Flying Saucers Mysterious Island and H.G. Wells’ First Men In The Moon. It can be purchased from Amazon for $43.49 by clicking here…

Buy the 50th Anniversary edition of 20 Million Miles To Earth on DVD or Blu Ray from Amazon by clicking here…

Please note that this is a region 1 release that requires a region free DVD or Blu Ray player to be viewed outside North America.


The Day The Earth Stood Still

Directed by Robert Wise
Produced by Julian Blaustein
Written by Edmund H. North
Harry Bates (story)
Starring Michael Rennie
Patricia Neal
Billy Gray
Hugh Marlowe
Sam Jaffe
Frances Bavier
Music by Bernard Herrmann
Cinematography Leo Tover
Editing by William H. Reynolds
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date September 28, 1951
Running time 92 min.

Phew! It’s only the second day into this project and I only just made my self-imposed deadline. It would have been quite an inauspicious way to start this thing by not be able to keep up with the premise of watching and writing about a movie a day.

The truth is that I was up at 1am this morning watching The Day The Earth Stood Still before I turned into bed. After waking up this morning I went about doing my usual Saturday things and it wasn’t until about half an hour ago that I decided to finally do this write-up. Talk about cutting things short.

I bought the definitive 2 disc version of The Day The Earth Stood Still a couple of weeks ago from JB Hifi for $13 but I saw it there today for just $10. I really recommend this DVD not just to Sci-fi lovers but to everyone who loves good films, and $10 is a real bargain for such a brilliant and entertaining film. I don’t know if I should have already of pointed this out or not but the film that I watched is the 1951 original version and not the crappy remake from 2008 that features Keanu Reeves.

The basic premise of The Day The Earth Stood Still is that a space ship lands in Washington DC and its pilot, Klaatu emerges declaring that he is visiting Earth on a mission of goodwill. He presents a small device that is meant for the President, but is shot by one of the onlooking soldiers. This action causes Gort, an 8 foot tall robot to emerge from the spaceship and disintegrate all of the weapons that the surrounding soldiers are armed with. Klaatu orders Gort to stop, before he is taken away to have his wounds tended to in the military hospital.

Klaatu then meets the President’s secretary Harley, and explains that he has a message that he wants all the people of Earth to hear. He would like to address all the leaders of the world in one place, which Harley explains to him would be impossible. Klaatu tells Harley that he would be able to better understand humans if he was to live among them incognito, but Harley says that this would be impossible and places Klaatu under protective custody.

When Klaatu escapes custody and lives at a boarding house there is a lesson that we can learn from in today’s society. It is here that he meets ordinary people and sees first hand how the mass media can demonize things that are different to the norm with their propaganda. When the occupants at the boarding are listening to the radio we hear the shock jock brand Klaatu a monster, even though nobody knows anything about the alien. It just shows that some things don’t change at all.

Klaatu befriends a widow, Helen, and her son Bobby. He agrees to babysit Bobby, who takes Klaatu, who has assumed the alias Mr. Carpenter, around Washington. They visit Arlington National Cemetery and the Lincoln Memorial, where Klaatu asks Bobby who the greatest living person is. Bobby suggests the scientist Professor Barnhardt, who resides in Washington. Bobby takes Klaatu to Prof. Barnhardt’s house but the professor is away. Klaatu decides to leave a message for the professor by completing a complex mathematical problem that is left on a blackboard. Klaatu then leaves his address with Barnhardt’s housekeeper.

Eventually Klaatu meets Professor Barnhardt, after being escorted to the professor by a government agent. Klaatu reveals himself to the professor and warns him that the Earth has been under surveillance from other planets, who are dismayed that the humans have developed atomic power. They have noted the disregard humans have for their fellow human beings and fear that it will only be a matter of time before the people of Earth turn their attention to the rest of space. Klaatu tells Professor Barnhardt that he wishes to address the people of Earth with a message of utmost importance and if his message is rejected it would spell the ultimate destruction of Earth. Klaatu then promises to show the professor a demonstration of his power to serve as a warning. Later that night when he returns to his spaceship to implement this plan he is unaware that he has been followed by Bobby, who later tells Helen and her fiancé Tom about what he has seen.

After being told about who Mr. Carpenter really is, the scheming Tom goes into Klaatu’s room and discovers a unique diamond. Meanwhile Klaatu has gone to Helen’s workplace to speak to her. They step into an elevator which suddenly stops. Klaatu tells Helen that he is the cause of this, and we soon learn that all the power on the earth has stopped, except for that used on aeroplanes in mid-flight or in operating theatres. This action brings the entire world to a standstill.

After the blackout finishes a manhunt begins, as the army decides that Klaatu has evaded them long enough and that they will get him one way or another, either dead or alive. Tom spills the beans to the authorities and they soon spot the alien and the woman in a taxi on their way to meet the professor who has gathered outside the spaceship with a group of eminent scientists. Klaatu tells Helen that if anything should happen to him it could spell the end of the world, as Gort would try to avenge his death. The only way to stop the robot is to say the words, “Klaatu barada nikto.” As he flees the taxi Klaatu is shot in the back by one of the soldiers and dies.

Helen runs to the spaceship to see Gort has awakened and killed two soldiers who were guarding the spaceship. Helen passes Klaatu’s message to Gort who then carries her into the spaceship. He then retrieves Klaatu’s corpse and revives the spaceman.

Klaatu then steps out of the ship to address the awaiting scientists. He tells them of the rest of the universe’s concerns about Earth’s disregard of life and how destructive the people of Earth can be. He warns them that if they continue with their destructive ways then robots like Gort, who have been created to protect the universe, will come and destroy the entire Earth. His final words before stepping into the spaceship and leaving are, “The decision rests with you.”

I found The Day The Earth Stood Still to be quite a fascinating film. Bernard Herrman’s score gave the movie, especially the opening sequences when the flying saucer first arrives on Earth, quite an eerie feeling. The acting is all first rate and the special effects are very good for a movie released in 1951. The most interesting aspect of the film is how some of the messages still resonate today, almost sixty years after the film’s release. As I mentioned earlier, we can see how the media can manipulate the feelings of their listeners/viewers even when they have no idea what they are talking about. The truth of a story is not as important as getting people worked up about it. Does this not sound like the way News Limited journalists go about their business.

The other message is to show that humans are very reactionary and that if they do not understand something then they must destroy it. We see this when the soldier shoots at Klaatu at the beginning of the film, and again when the general declares that he doesn’t care if Klaatu is taken dead or alive, just as long as he’s taken. It shows just how intolerant and selfish we can be. I enjoyed watching this film very much.