The 1950s were very kind to science-fiction movies. While that may seem like a strange statement to some when looking at the amount of laughably bad science-fiction films that came out of that decade, the point is that so many science-fiction films did come out of that time, arguably more than any other decade before or since, in that way popularizing a genre that had not been fully exploited before. The climate and thinking at the time had a lot to do with this. With the explosion of the atom bomb just a few years earlier and the Cold War paranoia that followed, not knowing where it could lead, along with the beginnings of the space race, all kinds of possibilities loomed, or so it seemed, for undiscovered creatures to come from the earth itself or the skies above, even from inside man himself.
With that being the case, the time was ripe for the movies to explore all these possibilities and that they did, leading to a parade of aliens, monsters, and outer space sagas on every scale. While it must be admitted that quite a few of these movies have entered the pantheon of not just bad, but ‘so bad it’s good’ category, with cheesy special effects, obviously fake monsters that wouldn’t even scare a small child much less anyone else, cardboard sets, and even stiffer acting, the fact remains that there were a number of great science-fiction films of that period which have stood the test of time and have proved to be, not just fondly remembered, but influential even down to this day.
Movies such as “It Came From Outer Space” (Barbara Rush and Richard Carlson pictured above), “It Came From Beneath the Sea”, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, “Rocketship X-M” (pictured above), “Destination Moon”, “War of the Worlds”, “The Thing From Another World”, “Earth vs. the Flying Saucers”, “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms”, “Creature From the Black Lagoon”, “Forbidden Planet” (Jack Kelly, Warren Stevens and Leslie Nielsen pictured above), “Invaders From Mars”, “When Worlds Collide” (pictured above), “This Island Earth”, “Them!”, “The Incredible Shrinking Man” (pictured above), “20 Million Miles to Earth”, “The Blob”, “The Fly”, “Tarantula”, “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, “Godzilla”, along with 2 gems from Hammer Studios, “The Quartermass Experiment” and “Enemy From Space”, all offer either above-average special effects for the time, compelling storylines, or both, making them classics of the genre.
Well, there are a few others, while not as well-known, that are of similar quality and very worthy of discovery. For fans of science-fiction of that period or ’50’s movies in general, if you’ve missed these, then finding and seeing them should prove to be rewarding. They are as follows:
(1) I Married a Monster From Outer Space (1958) Don’t let the cheesy title fool you. One of the better sci-fi films of the ’50’s, with a theme similar to “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, it’s the story of a young man about to get married who is taken over by alien invaders and his new wife’s gradual realization that something is terribly wrong, not just with him, but the entire town. An effectively creepy vibe is developed throughout, making for compelling viewing. A cult classic, if you haven’t seen it, it’s definitely worth seeking out.
(2) 4D Man (1959) Even less known, it’s about a scientist who develops a machine allowing him to pass through any object or barrier, but each time he does he ages rapidly, so he begins draining the ‘energy’ or life from others in order to survive. A very well-done sci-fi/horror hybrid, with an interesting jazz score, realistic special effects, and an intense lead performance by one of the more intense television actors of the 1960’s, Robert Lansing. Criminally under-seen and well worth a look.
(3) World Without End (1956) A spaceship breaks the time barrier and returns to earth in the year 2508, only to find that intelligent humans have been driven underground by mutants. Kind of a version of H.G. Well’s “The Time Machine” set in a spaceship, this co-stars Rod Taylor, who interestingly went on to star in “The Time Machine” in 1960. A bit on the campy side, it nevertheless holds interest throughout, with a lively pace and surprisingly engaging performances, all making for worthwhile entertainment worthy of discovery.
Along with the others mentioned above, these three should certainly give anyone looking for above-average to great sci-fi from its most productive decade more than enough to find. Once you do, it can become clear that when it comes to science-fiction movies of the 1950’s, quality was not so alien after all.