What would happen if a machine could predict the time of death of every living person? This forgotten French SF melodrama from 1939 has a remarkably well-crafted script and a superb cast led by Claude Dauphin and Erich von Stroheim. 7/10
While Basil Rathbone, Herbert Rudley & Akim Tamiroff pull their weight in this talky 1956 monster mash, it’s incomprehensible that Lon Chaney, John Carradine, Bela Lugosi & Tor Johnson have all been consigned to shuffling mutely in the corners. 5/10
The earliest preserved “adaptation” of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau from 1921 disappoints Wells fans. While sporting impressive actors, the German comedy is marred by a haphazard script and lazy direction. 3/10
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?
A 1956 cult classic, this gangster-monster mashup with Lon Chaney Jr. as a super-charged avenger suffers from the cutting of most of Chaney’s lines, and with them key scenes. Decent performances & good location shooting make it worth a watch. 3/10
Based on Shakespeare, MGM’s 1956 epic starring Anne Francis & Leslie Nielsen is a landmark SF movie. The pulpy premise of space explorers saving a virgin from an alien monster hides surprisingly serious and adult themes. 9/10
Two bumbling journalists accidentally save a European backwater country from a mad scientists creating zombies and a master race with the help of gamma rays in this British B production from later Bond producer Albert Broccoli. 4/10
A scientist trying to end hunger creates a giant spider that runs amok in a small desert community. This 1955 classic is not director Jack Arnold’s best work, but even so, it’s one of the best giant critter movies of the 50’s. 6/10
Cult director Edward L. Cahn directs SF staple Richard Denning with a Curt Siodmak script in this 1955 consumable about gangster zombies with radioactive brains. An entertaining but forgettable atom age potboiler from Columbia. 4/10
As enthusiastic as it is bewildering, this operatic Mexican 1953 medical horror film is a clunky passion project. Throwing in everything but the kitchen sink, it’s a mix between The Phantom of the Opera, Frankenstein and Mystery of the Wax Museum. 6/10
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
The disembodied brain of ruthless millionaire Donovan takes telepathic control over the scientist keeping it alive in a fish tank. Based on Curt Siodmak’s novel, this 1953 effort is at its best a taut SF chiller, at its worst a confusing tax fraud potboiler. 5/10
A contender for the worst movie ever, this 1953 patch-job is a mind-boggling series of failures. Built upon existing footage from an unreleased picture, this one includes spider women, mad scientists and evil dwarfs, and still manages to be deadly dull. 0/10
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
This tense little 1951 thriller by W.C. Menzies had Hitler hiding in a US fishing village. RKO owner Howard Hughes wanted the Commies to be the bad guys instead, so it was reshot with Red Scare hysterics. Still, the genius of the original shines through. 7/10.