Future war & weapons

Fly by Night

Robert Siodmak shows his skill as a director in this early 1942 screwball comedy starring later SF star Richard Carlson and Oscar nominee Nancy Kelly, as they chase a Nazi superweapon, trying to prove Carlson’s innocense in a murder case. 7/10

The Intrigue

A well-produced spy-fi melodrama of the serial mold, this 1916 silent scripted by pioneer Julia Crawford Ivers may be the earliest preserved American science fiction feature film. Frank Lloyd’s nifty directorial touches add to its appeal. 6/10

Carolina Cannonball

An atom powered rocket and a train car are at the centre of proceedings in this 1955 hee haw musical comedy from Republic. Singing low-brow comedienne Judy Canova and an able cast do what they can to overcome the insipid script. 2/10

Target Earth

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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