Based on Karel Capek’s novel, this Czech 1948 film is the first to depict a nuclear holocaust. Otakar Vávra’s feverishly Expressionist direction follows the inventor of a new explosive having waking nightmares about the horror he has unleashed upon the world. While simplified and somewhat dumbed down, the story still follows the novel fairly closely. Scifist Rating: 7/10.
Janne is a journalist and magazine editor from Finland, who in his spare time runs the science fiction blog Scifist.
My very first zero-star review goes to a 1946 Mexican ”sci-fi comedy” starring a down and out Buster Keaton doing his best not to fall asleep on set. The script has three idiots landing a rocket in the middle of a Mexican city, thinking they are on the moon. That is the full plot. The best moments have Buster Keaton lifelessly repeating old gags from his silent era. The rest is a mess. Scifist rating: 0/10.
Universal’s third monster mash film from 1945 is a decent, if not necessarily worthy, farewell to the studio’s legendary ghouls. Despite flashes of originality, it feels as if we are re-heating the same TV dinner for the umpteenth time before the SF movies of the US caught up with the new post-war reality. Scifist Rating: 4/10
The third and final instalment of Universal’s Ape Woman series was released in 1945 to an indifferent audience. The film piles one mad scientist trope on another as a nutty egghead conspires to raise the ape woman from the dead, using the leading lady’s vital fluids to do so. Nevertheless, it’s high camp and fairly entertaining if you’re in the right mood. 3/10
Charlie Chan solves yet another murder mystery in this reasonably well made Monogram cheapo, aided by his #4 son and legendary black comedian Mantan Moreland. A whodunnit with a sci-fi MacGuffin in an old dark house with a fairly interesting cast led by Sidney Toler. Light fun, an incredibly convoluted plot, with some casual racism thrown in. 4/10.
Universal’s House of Frankenstein sees Boris Karloff as a mad scientist hiring Dracula as a hit man, attempting to cure the Wolf Man and restart the Frankenstein monster. All while J. Carrol Naish’s hunchback is trying to bonk a gypsy girl who’s in love with the werewolf. While the nutty story can be entertaining, this 1944 film’s downfall is its contrived plot and structure. 4/10
This 1944 faux-sequel to Monogram’s The Ape Man marked the end of Bela Lugosi’s stint at the Poverty Row studio. Here he is joined by a good cast and a seasoned director who nonetheless fail to bring life to this illogical “thawed-out-cave-man” yarn. It is better than its predecessor, though. 3/10
It was a trip to the moon in 1902 that gave birth to the narrative film, and propelled cinema forward. The theatrical fairy-tale A Trip to the Moon turned French director Georges Méliès into the uncrowned king of international cinema. The silent era provided some of the timeless classics of space films, whose influence is not only seen on screen even today, but that even had an impact on space travel itself. Hereby we present the 10 greatest space films of the silent era.
The fifth and final instalment in Universal’s Invisible Man Franchise was released in 1944 and treads familiar ground as an escapee turns invisible in order to exact revenge on his wrong-doers. John Carradine is delicious as the nutty scientist, scream queen Evelyn Ankers is underused and Jon Hall returns as the invisible menace for a second time. A messy script is saved by quality filmmaking. 5/10
The Roaring Twenties are back, albeit with perhaps less optimism about the future than a hundred years ago. At Scifist we’re taking some time to look back at the last year of the ‘teens, and we’re listing the 10 most popular reviews on the site in 2019.
Arguably Argentina’s first horror movie proper, A Light in the Window from 1942 feels like an amalgamation of every old dark house film made in Hollywood in the twenties. Horror icon Narciso Ibáñez Menta stars as the acromegalic mad doctor kidnapping trespassers in order to perfect a cure for his condition. Cheap and derivative, but not terrible. 4/10
A magnificent train wreck. That’s perhaps the most fitting description of Argentina’s first horror, SF and monster film, The Beast Man from 1934. This no-budget monstrosity throws every conceivable Hollywood genre cliché in the mix, following the exploits of a beast man created by a mad scienist, who’s kidnapping women in a small town. 2/10
Acquanetta the Ape Woman returns in a 1944 sequel to Universal’s Captive Wild Woman. The first 20 minutes go by in flashbacks from the original picture, before the wild woman is resurrected and goes ape, off-screen, in a mental asylum. An ill-conceived and clumsy effort, this is a monster movie without a monster, trying feebly to emulate Val Lewton’s Cat People. 3/10
British radio star Tommy Handley trades puns with William Shakespeare in this 1944 jazz comedy, as three music hall performers accidentally hitch a ride in a nutty professor’s time machine back to 16th century London. Despite Handley’s dated jokes, good production values, nice musical numbers and petite US jazz singer Evelyn Dall make it worth a watch. 4/10
Braaaaaiiiins! The first adaptation of Curt Siodmak’s cult novel Donovan’s Brain turns up the mad scientist factor to eleven. The 1944 film sees Erich von Stroheim as the resident Frankenstein, as a disembodied brain takes control over his assistant’s mind. Atmospheric cinematography and an overall strong cast compensates for ice skater Vera Hruba Ralston’s lack of acting experience in the female lead. 5/10