What would happen if a machine could predict the time of death of every living person? This forgotten French SF melodrama from 1939 has a remarkably well-crafted script and a superb cast led by Claude Dauphin and Erich von Stroheim. 7/10
Janne is a journalist and magazine editor from Finland, who in his spare time runs the science fiction blog Scifist.
The gravity from a passing “dead star” pulls a small British village into space in this 1934 comedy. Class tensions and romantic rivalry come to the fore as the villagers try to adapt to their new roles as inhabitants of Earth’s newest moon. 4/10
German action star Harry Piel accidentally invents x-ray TV in this 1934 comedy. Devoid of Piel’s trademark hair-raising stunts, the film is somewhat plodding, but co-star Kurt Vespermann picks up the slack with his comedic abilities. 5/10
Jules Verne meets James Bond in this 1957 Soviet spy-fi film. The two-part colour movie concerns the hunt for spy aboard a Russian super-submarine. It’s not bad, but at 145 minutes it’s simply too long and sluggish for its own good. 5/10
While Basil Rathbone, Herbert Rudley & Akim Tamiroff pull their weight in this talky 1956 monster mash, it’s incomprehensible that Lon Chaney, John Carradine, Bela Lugosi & Tor Johnson have all been consigned to shuffling mutely in the corners. 5/10
The earliest preserved “adaptation” of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau from 1921 disappoints Wells fans. While sporting impressive actors, the German comedy is marred by a haphazard script and lazy direction. 3/10
Adding new footage to “Americanize” a foreign film rarely works well. One of the exceptions is the 1956 version of Godzilla, which handles the re-edit tactfully and packs a punch that is almost equal to that of the 1954 original. 7/10
Despite starting off in the far-flung future of 1975, Brazil’s first SF movie is primarily a domestic melodrama set in the year it was made, 1947. This poor man’s Citizen Kane is a stated amateur production, but not without merits. 5/10
The third and final Gill-man film from 1956 toys with interesting fish-out-of-water themes. Despite competent direction and good acting, the low budget and aimless script fail to give this movie buoyance. 5/10
Much of the heritage in SF movies comes from non-English language films from the first half of the 20th century, many of which are largely unknown to an English-speaking audience today. Here we list the 25 greatest non-English language science fiction movies made prior to 1950. How many have you seen?
The first US time machine film from 1956 is a fun but clunky Technicolor adventure. Astronauts accidentally travel 500 years into the future, where the meek, pacifist human survivors hide from barbaric mutants in an underground civilisation. 5/10
All but forgotten, but immensely important for the birth of the luchador superhero genre, this 1954 romp following the exploits of “The Avenging Shadow” is a surprisingly good action film in the Republic serial vein. 6/10
A 1956 cult classic, this gangster-monster mashup with Lon Chaney Jr. as a super-charged avenger suffers from the cutting of most of Chaney’s lines, and with them key scenes. Decent performances & good location shooting make it worth a watch. 3/10
Based on Shakespeare, MGM’s 1956 epic starring Anne Francis & Leslie Nielsen is a landmark SF movie. The pulpy premise of space explorers saving a virgin from an alien monster hides surprisingly serious and adult themes. 9/10
A plastic surgeon believes that by giving a scarred female criminal a pretty new face, he can reform her. The twist in this 1952 Hammer entry by Terence Fisher is that the surgeon gives the criminal the face of the woman he loves, and marries her. 5/10