H.G. Wells

Top 10 Sci-Fi Films of the 1940s

The forties was not a good time for SF movies. But the genre sputtered along with mad scientist B-movies turned out by Hollywood. The decade produced none of the immortal classics of the twenties and thirties, but hidden among the low-budget dregg, one can find a few genuine gems worthy of more recognition.

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

Min aina laka haza?

A scientist’s assistant turns himself invisible as to win the hand of his beloved. Egypt’s first SF movie from 1952 is a light-hearted musical comedy inspired by Universal’s Invisible Man films. Not very original, but aptly made and quite enjoyable. 5/10

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

Tômei ningen arawaru

A rare gem, Japan’s earliest preserved science fiction film The Invisible Man Appears is more inspired by Universal’s Invisible Man films than H.G. Wells’ novel. This 1949 crime mystery drama meets tokusatsu film boasts the special effects of the great Eiji Tsuburaya and some good performances. 5/10

Invisible Agent

In 1942 Universal reinvented the invisible man as a Nazi foil in the fourth movie of the franchise. Invisible Agent gets the A movie treatment, as is evident from an A list cast including Cedric Hardwicke, J. Edgar Bromberg and Peter Lorre. As a comedy the film falls flat, but it works better as a spy thriller. 5/10

The Invisible Woman

The third ”invisible man” instalment from 1940 is a solid screwball comedy with a great female heroine, but hardly brings anything new to the table. Universal brings in an impressive roster of character actors, but the special effects are somewhat shoddy. 6/10

The Invisible Man Returns

Horror icon Vincent Price takes over the empty shirt and trousers of Claude Rains in The Invisible Man Returns (1940). Universal was still making good sequels to their horror films, although this one does clearly fall into B-movie category. But this is a good B-movie, well acted, well filmed and well received, but a harmless Hollywood sequel nonetheless. 7/10

Things to Come

H.G. Wells and  William Cameron Menzies take us on an epic journey through the future in this pompous 1936 social prophesy, the last big SF film before the 1950s. The most expensive film made in Britain at the time, Things to Come boasts incredible sets and effects, but the script is stiff, the acting wooden and the viewer bludgeoned to boredom with the message. 6/10

The Invisible Man

The most distinctly science fictional of Universal’s classic horror franchise, this 1933 movie directed by James Whale took the world by storm thanks to the terrific acting of Claude Rains, astounding special effects and a witty script laced with dark comedy. By many considered the best H.G. Wells adaptation ever made. 8/10.

Island of Lost Souls

Paramount’s 1932 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novella The Island of Dr. Moreau is the best of all the legendary 1930s sci-fi/horror movies. The daring script touches upon highly controversial subjects, Karl Struss’ fantastic cinematography and lighting create a feverish tropical nightmare, Charles Laughton and Bela Lugosi are mesmerising in their roles and Charles Gemora’s makeup is some of the best ever created. 10/10

A Trip to Mars

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗ (5/10) A scientist floats to Mars and is captured by Martians in this early American short film. Not a masterpiece, but a well made and intriguing little film. A […]