Conquest of Man

Superman and the Mole-Men

The first Superman feature film debuted in 1951 with legendary George Reeves in shoulder pads and a winning grin. Despite a decent budget, it’s shoddy and thinly scripted, although its sincere call for solidarity and inclusiveness carries on the original vision of the comic, and might just win you over. 4/10.

The Son of Dr. Jekyll

Edward Jekyll tries to clear his family name by recreating his father’s experiments, but a scandal-hungry society, his friends and even his own sanity seems to conspire against him. A laudable, but meandering 1951 low-budget effort from the pen of Jack Pollexfen. 4/10

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 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

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

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.

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. 

House of Dracula

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 Jungle Captive

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

House of Frankenstein

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

Return of the Ape Man

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