Future technology

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 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

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

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.

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

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

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

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