Futurism

Dick Barton at Bay

The second of the proto-James Bond films featuring Dick Barton, special agent pitches Dick and sidekick Snowy against a megalomaniac villain with a death ray machine. While the script and direction are weak, the movie has some rather enjoyable spots. Watch out for The Avengers star Patrick MacNee. 3/10

Destination Moon

In 1950 Hollywood finally produced its first first serious, big-budget space film. With the help of luminaries like Robert Heinlein, Hermann Oberth and Chesley Bonestell, future SF icon George Pal produced a visually stunning but dramatically stale epic, heavily influenced by the red scare. 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

The Flying Saucer

Despite the viral marketing, the first American UFO warning turns out to be a false alarm. Alien visitors are notably absent from The Flying Saucer (1950), which plays like low-budget cold war spy serial interlaced with a promotional film for the Alaskan outback. 1/10

Strange Holiday

Originally produced as a propaganda short for General Motors, and then stretched to feature length, this 1940/1945 low-budget affair by radio legend Arch Oboler is as curious as it is flawed. Claude Rains stars as a man returning to the city from a fishing trip only to find that the US has been taken over by fascists. 2/10

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

It Happens Every Spring

A university professor invents a wood-repelling baseball and decides to become a star pitcher in order to get enough money to marry one of his students. Ray Milland stars in this predictable 1949 major studio comedy which offers more feelgood than belly laughs. 4/10

The Perfect Woman

A screwball comedy highlighting the confused gender politics of 1949, this very British doorswinger farce sees Bertie and Jeeves taking out a female robot for a night on the town. If you can get over the dated premise and tone, it’s quite an enjoyable and well-made comedy. 5/10

Dick Barton Strikes Back

Did you ever wonder what it would have looked like if Hammer made a James Bond film? Well, look no further than to this 1949 spy-fi quota quickie. Here Barton, Dick Barton, chases a villain wielding a secret super-weapon which turns people’s brains into jelly. Plot holes abound, but it’s a surprisingly solid juvenile action movie. 6/10

The Genius

“Mexico’s Charlie Chaplin” Cantinflas shines as a research assistant in this SF romcom from 1948. Big Oil and authorities chase poor Cantinflas across the movie, believing he has his dead professor’s formula for turning water into oil. A talky and unnecessarily long, but sympathetic effort. 5/10

Krakatit

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.

The Jade Mask

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.

Time Flies

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

Tainstvennyy ostrov

The most accurate adaptation of Jules Verne’s novel Mysterious Island that has ever been put on screen was made in Soviet Ukraine in 1941. This doesn’t necessarily work in the film’s favour, as it is rather talky and static. Look out for Robert Ross, long-time leader of the African American community in Moscow. 5/10