Futurism

The Net

Britain’s first SF movie of the fifties, this well-filmed little 1953 thriller follows the secret testing of a supersonic aircraft. Good acting and tight direction helps to counterbalance a meandering melodrama that leaves the film unsure of itself. 5/10

The War of the Worlds

An everlasting classic and a pioneering work, George Pal’s 1953 alien invasion epic set the standard for visuals in SF movies. Unfortunately, in removing itself from H.G. Wells’ themes, the script loses both its poignancy and its dramatic functionality. 7/10

The Magnetic Monster

Science goes horribly wrong when an unstable element threatens to sling the Earth out of orbit. SF legend Richard Carlson stars in this 1953 Curt Siodmak effort. Hokey and low budget, but it charms its way into being one of the best SF movies of the fifties. 7/10

Invasion, U.S.A.

Five American bar patrons who oppose the universal draft experience what a nuclear-fuelled invasion by the Soviet Union would entail. If one film should exemplify the hysterical red scare of the fifties, it is this low-budget propaganda piece from 1952.

April 1, 2000

Set in the year 2000, this propaganda musical comedy from 1952 protests the Allied occupation of Austria. More a cavalcade of Austria’s “greatest hits” than a narrative film, the movie features the creme de la creme of the country’s stage talent. 2/10

Captive Women

Christian mutants and Satanist “norms” must unite against evil marauders in the nuclear-scarred ruins of New York in this 1952 curio set in 3000 A.D. A good cast and an interesting idea butt heads with a clunky script and an inexperienced director. 4/10

The Whip Hand

This tense little 1951 thriller by W.C. Menzies had Hitler hiding in a US fishing village. RKO owner Howard Hughes wanted the Commies to be the bad guys instead, so it was reshot with Red Scare hysterics. Still, the genius of the original shines through. 7/10.

Red Snow

This 1952 cold war spy thriller sees Inuit actor Ray Mala battling the Arctic cold of stock footage lifted from half a dozen other films, including his own. A tacked-on plot about a Soviet super-weapon pales next to the great nature (stock) footage. 3/10

Red Planet Mars

A scientist receives messages from Mars, and the sender appears to be Jesus Christ himself. However, it is all a commu-nazi trick to destroy Western capitalism. Or is it? Would this 1952 red scare film not have taken itself so utterly seriously, it might have been fun. 1/10

Flight to Mars

The first team of explorers to Mars are welcomed and double-crossed by a Martian civilisation attempting to hijack their rocket and invade Earth. A 1951 low-budget effort by Monogram, the movie’s striking for its visuals, but badly scripted and routinely directed. 5/10.

Unknown world

Preparing for a potential nuclear winter, a team of scientists test the theory that the Earth is hollow, in this 1951 cheapo from visual effects wizards Jack Rabin and Irving Block. Loosely based on Verne and Burroughs, Unknown World has the makings of a good film, but stumbles in all departments. 4/10.

When Worlds Collide

When a rogue planet threatens to collide with Earth, a small team of pioneers start building a space ark in order to begin life anew on a new world. George Pal produces and Rudolph Maté directs this classic from 1951 in nostalgic Technicolor. The script’s weak love triangle and biblical pathos suck some of the juice out of Philip Wylie’s crisp novel, but the visuals and effects are stunning, and the action exciting despite some slow spots. 6/10

The Man in the White Suit

Uproar in the British textile industry as scientist invents indestructible fabric! Hear all about in this uproarious, witty, and extremely well directed 1951 Ealing comedy, starring Sir Alec Guinness and Joan Greenwood. One of the best SF pictures of the fifties, despite a slow start and a certain lack of emotional investment. 8/10.

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

Five

Arch Oboler’s indie film from 1951 was the first to portray the aftermath of nuclear war. Heavy on biblical reference and weighed down with pompous monologues and slow pacing, the film nonetheless boasts striking cinematography and a gritty, bleak vision of the future. 6/10