Aliens

Tales of Tomorrow

The first SF anthology TV show aired live in the US from 1951 to 1953. With material by some of the greatest SF authors of all time, its adult-oriented, intelligent scripts are often unsettling to watch even today. The cast boasts Leslie Nielsen, Rod Steiger, Paul Newman, Eva Gabor, James Dean, Joanne Woodward and many more. 6/10

The Thing from Another World

Often overshadowed by it’s remake, Howard Hawks’ 1951 adaptation of John W. Campbell’s novella is still a stellar picture. This ensemble piece was the movie that finally blew the door open for science fiction in Hollywood, and has inspired a generation of filmmakers. 9/10

The Man from Planet X

Director Edgar G. Ulmer turns this 1951 low-budget movie about an alien visitor to a small village into a visually atmospheric, intelligent Expressionist moral tale, as Hollywood brings the first alien invasion film to the big screen.  Unfortunately the low budget, pacing problems and a mediocre script hamper this minor classic. 6/10

Rocketship X-M

Poverty Row studio Lippert Pictures rushed Rockethip X-M into theatres in 1950, ahead of the much-hyped big-budget production Destination Moon, claiming the title of the first American space exploration movie. Despite its cash-grab nature, in some ways it actually surpasses its heavy-going “original”. 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

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

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

Flash Gordon

The 1936 film serial Flash Gordon was the first American space opera brought to the screen. It’s high camp, silly and loads of fun, and boasts high production values for a serial, as well as an unusually imaginative and original script, straight from the pages of the comic strip. That the spaceships are held by visible strings and the dragons look like men in cardboard suits just adds to the fun. 7/10

Just Imagine

A very early sound film, this 1930 US sci-fi musical comedy tries to combine Metropolis, A Princess from Mars, The Ziegfield Follies and stand-up comedy. With predictable results. Despite being the brainchild of Hollywood’s hottest musical writers, the music is dull, the SF worse and the comedy painfully unfunny. The film looks good, though. 3/10

Our Heavenly Bodies

A forgotten German educational film with strong SF elements, Wunder der Schöpfung takes us on a ride in a spaceship to visit the planets and the stars. Director Hanns Walter Kornblum worked with nine animators and six cinematographers to create astounding special effects that hold up to any other masterpiece made in the twenties. (8/10)

Aelita, Queen of Mars

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗ (8/10) Ostensibly Russia’s/USSR’s first sci-fi film, this political 1924 space fantasy lays down a surprisingly intelligent criticism of the communist revolution, once you look past the clunky, propagandistic symbolism […]

Algol

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗ (6/10) Sci-fi inspired melodrama with political undertones, this 1920 film is an early, but slightly clumsy, example of German expressionism. Occasionally stunning visuals and camera work are hampered by […]

A Trip to Mars

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗ (7/10) Himmelskibet, released in 1918, is he first serious movie to deal with a trip to a distant planet. Poetically filmed and featuring lavish Martian designs, this Danish space […]

A Message from Mars

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗ (6/10) Britain’s first sci-fi feature film from 1913 is a variation on Dicken’s Christmas Carol, with a Martian instead of spirits. Visually dull and unambitious, but a rather entertaining […]