Author Archives

Janne Wass

Janne is a journalist and magazine editor from Finland, who in his spare time runs the science fiction blog Scifist.

Strange Holiday

Originally produced as a propaganda short for General Motors, and then stretched to feature length, this 1940/1945 low-budget affair by radio legend Arch Oboler is as curious as it is flawed. Claude Rains stars as a man returning to the city from a fishing trip only to find that the US has been taken over by fascists. 2/10

The Man in Half Moon Street

In 1945 the world still had time for one decent old-school mad scientist film before the genre imploded on itself. Swedish heart-throb Nils Asther shines in a Dorian Gray-inspired major studio production by Paramount about a 120 year old genius searching for the secret of everlasting life, while telling everyone around him that he is only 35. 6/10

Lights Out

The first anthology TV show to feature science fiction, Lights Out was adapted from a popular horror radio show in the US in 1949. Lights Out sports an impressive roster of actors and writers, but it struggles somewhat to transfer what was so great about the radio program to the screen. 5/10

Tômei ningen arawaru

A rare gem, Japan’s earliest preserved science fiction film The Invisible Man Appears is more inspired by Universal’s Invisible Man films than H.G. Wells’ novel. This 1949 crime mystery drama meets tokusatsu film boasts the special effects of the great Eiji Tsuburaya and some good performances. 5/10

Captain Video and His Video Rangers

The first science fiction TV show aired as a live broadcast in the US every weekday for almost six years beginning in 1949, totalling in over 1,500 episodes. Aimed at a kiddie audience, the show was cheap and shoddy, even compared to its film serial inspirations, but involved writing talent such as Isaac Asimov, Jack Vance, Arthur C. Clarke and James Blish.  3/10

It Happens Every Spring

A university professor invents a wood-repelling baseball and decides to become a star pitcher in order to get enough money to marry one of his students. Ray Milland stars in this predictable 1949 major studio comedy which offers more feelgood than belly laughs. 4/10

The Perfect Woman

A screwball comedy highlighting the confused gender politics of 1949, this very British doorswinger farce sees Bertie and Jeeves taking out a female robot for a night on the town. If you can get over the dated premise and tone, it’s quite an enjoyable and well-made comedy. 5/10

Dick Barton Strikes Back

Did you ever wonder what it would have looked like if Hammer made a James Bond film? Well, look no further than to this 1949 spy-fi quota quickie. Here Barton, Dick Barton, chases a villain wielding a secret super-weapon which turns people’s brains into jelly. Plot holes abound, but it’s a surprisingly solid juvenile action movie. 6/10

Unknown Island

Often cited as the worst dinosaur movie ever made, Unknown Island from 1948 is the first Lost World film in colour. A good cast spearheaded by SF star Richard Denning, nice atmosphere and a decent script balance out the wobbly dino costumes and elevate this one above its shoddy reputation. 5/10

The Genius

“Mexico’s Charlie Chaplin” Cantinflas shines as a research assistant in this SF romcom from 1948. Big Oil and authorities chase poor Cantinflas across the movie, believing he has his dead professor’s formula for turning water into oil. A talky and unnecessarily long, but sympathetic effort. 5/10

Hormoonit valloillaan

Finland’s first science fiction film “Hormones on the Loose” from 1948 doesn’t boast a mad scientist as much as a mad patient. In this screwball comedy a stuck-up businessman realises his life is much better when an injection he receives reduces his mental state to that of a child’s. While it fails as a crazy-comedy, it has certain naive charm. 4/10

Superman

History was made in 1948 when the first live-action Superman graced the screen. The 15-part serial from Columbia is obviously made on a tight budget, somewhat hurting credibility, but it’s respectful to the source material and Kirk Alyn is a believable man of steel. The real star of the serial is Noel Neill as Lois Lane, though. 5/10.

Der Herr vom andern Stern

Comedy star Heinz Rühmann shines as an alien who falls in love with an Earth woman while marvelling at the cruelty of the Earthlings. Made by artists who worked in Germany during the Nazi rule, this 1948 “mea culpa” is a stylishly filmed, but slow-moving, preachy and incoherent effort. 5/10

The Superhero Serials

Batman, Superman and Captain America were among the superheroes that made their screen debuts in film serials. The superhero serials borrowed heavily from pulp stories, radio shows and comic magazines, and in turn helped lay many of the foundations for future SF movies. Here we take a look at the origins and history of the most influential superhero serials of the thirties and forties.