Adding new footage to “Americanize” a foreign film rarely works well. One of the exceptions is the 1956 version of Godzilla, which handles the re-edit tactfully and packs a punch that is almost equal to that of the 1954 original. 7/10
Much of the heritage in SF movies comes from non-English language films from the first half of the 20th century, many of which are largely unknown to an English-speaking audience today. Here we list the 25 greatest non-English language science fiction movies made prior to 1950. How many have you seen?
The first US time machine film from 1956 is a fun but clunky Technicolor adventure. Astronauts accidentally travel 500 years into the future, where the meek, pacifist human survivors hide from barbaric mutants in an underground civilisation. 5/10
Friendly star-shaped aliens try to warn Tokyo’s inhabitants of a planetary collision. Humans flee in fear at the sight of the alien starfish, so one of them shape-shifts and infiltrates. This 1956 colour spectacle is entertaining but contrived. 5/10
A small group of survivors hole up in a bungalow after a nuclear war, hoping to outlast the fallout and the mutants raging beyond the picket fence. Roger Corman directs the 1955 cheapo efficiently, but it spends too long treading water. 3/10
One of the first “empty city” movies, this 1954 low-budget clunker starring SF legend Richard Denning has all the trappings of a taut, character-driven SF classic. Unfortunately the hackneyed script does away with much of its potential. 4/10
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Famed for its special effects shots of a floodwave destroying New York City, this 1933 RKO production built up hype as it was thought lost for many decades. When it finally resurfaced, it was met with a collective “meh”, as all the action was packed in the first 15 minutes of the film, and then settled into a wobbly post-apocalyptic romance helmed by a first-time director. 5/10