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
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
Dr. Jekyll gets a family in this Argentine rarity from 1951, which is probably the earliest preserved non-US adaptation of R.L. Stevenson’s famous novella. Actor/director Mario Soffici impresses both in the dual title role and with his moody, impressionist lighting schemes and editing.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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