Futurism

Tobor the Great

A boy befriends a giant robot in this independent film from 1954. Despite the clunky red scare spy subplot attached, this is pure cotton candy kiddie fare, remembered today only for its impressive robot design. 4/10

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

a star cast, this 1954 Disney blockbuster is regularly seen as the best Jules Verne adaptation of all time. Shot in majestic Technicolor, it is a magnificent adventure film with groundbreaking special effects, despite a so-so script. 8/10

Them!

James Arness and Edmund Gwenn chase giant ants in this atmospheric 1954 SF horror thriller. The original giant bug film, considered by many to be the best. Good direction, solid acting and a smart script that taps into the era’s atomic fears. 8/10

Gog

Strange deaths occur at an underground US research facility controlled by a computer. Suspicion falls on two helper robots, Gog and Magog. This 1954 Ivan Tors thriller in colour has a great setup, but feels more like a science lesson than an SF film. 5/10

El enmascarado de plata

Masked vigilante El Medico Asesino beats up bad guys with his wonderboy sidekick. The first wrestler superhero movie of Mexico, this 1954 release was intended as a serial. Despite its qualities, it’s too long and incoherent as a movie. 4/10

Serebristaya Pyl

In Abram Room’s 1953 Soviet propaganda film an evil scientist creates a deadly nuclear dust against the backdrop of racial oppression in the US. As SF it is derivative and clunky, but as a description of Jim Crow America it is eerily accurate. 5/10

Project Moonbase

It’s a battle of the sexes when an incompetent female pilot is chosen for political reasons to lead the first mission around the moon. The sexist script by Robert Heinlein for this 1953 film is not bettered by a limp cold war espionage angle. 1/10

The Quatermass Experiment

Hugely influential, BBC’s 1953 mini-series about an alien virus mutating their hosts was a massive British TV event. Aired live, its sets were clunky and the acting stiff, but the great script and innovative direction overcome the flaws even today. 6/10

Spaceways

Britain’s first post-war space movie is decidedly Earth-bound, as it follows the personal intrigues of scientists preparing the first orbital space flight. Hammer director Terence Fisher is far from inept, but is thwarted by a meandering script. 3/10

The Twonky

A mind-controlling machine from an authoritarian future disguises itself as a TV set in the home of a professor and starts messing with his life. Badly adapted from a story by “Lewis Padgett”, this 1953 attempt at satire is a dull turkey. 1/10

Robot Monster

Shot on 16,000 USD in 1953, this cult classic is as inept as it is unique. Told as a boy’s surreal nightmare, it features an alien robot gorilla in a diving helmet experiencing an existential crisis as he is about to wipe out the last six people on Earth. And soap bubbles. 7/10

Four Sided Triangle

When two scientists fall in love with the same girl, they clone her. Despite strong direction from Terence Fisher, this British 1953 SF melodrama rejects all the premise’s interesting possibilities and settles for a dull relationship drama. 4/10

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