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 fate of the world hangs in the balance as the mysterious alien Klaatu arrives on a diplomatic mission to Earth with his deadly robot. Oscar winner Robert Wise’s “subversive” 1951 classic was a radical call for world peace in the midst of McCarthyist blacklistings. Possibly the best of the fifties SF films, this one holds up surprisingly well today. 10/10.
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
A ragtag team led by Cesar Romero searches for a lost missile and finds a radioactive island filled with dinosaurs in what may be Sam Newfield’s finest film. Despite its MST3K-tarnished reputation and a whole lot of padding, it’s well worth a look. 5/10.
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.
Arch Oboler’s indie film from 1951 was the first to portray the aftermath of nuclear war. Heavy on biblical reference and weighed down with pompous monologues and slow pacing, the film nonetheless boasts striking cinematography and a gritty, bleak vision of the future. 6/10
Often overshadowed by it’s remake, Howard Hawks’ 1951 adaptation of John W. Campbell’s novella is still a stellar picture. This ensemble piece was the movie that finally blew the door open for science fiction in Hollywood, and has inspired a generation of filmmakers. 9/10
Director Edgar G. Ulmer turns this 1951 low-budget movie about an alien visitor to a small village into a visually atmospheric, intelligent Expressionist moral tale, as Hollywood brings the first alien invasion film to the big screen. Unfortunately the low budget, pacing problems and a mediocre script hamper this minor classic. 6/10
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and future Doctor Who Jon Pertwee star in a British atomic age screwball comedy set on a farm. Mr. and Mrs. Drake see their lives upended as the military invades their farm chasing a duck that lays uranium eggs. Future Quatermass director Val Guest makes a light-hearted comedy that leaves more to be desired. 4/10
Dr. Jekyll gets a family in this Argentine rarity from 1951, which is probably the earliest preserved non-US adaptation of R.L. Stevenson’s famous novella. Actor/director Mario Soffici impresses both in the dual title role and with his moody, impressionist lighting schemes and editing.
An Oscar nominee for best picture, MGM:s 1950 adaptation of H. Rider Haggard’s adventure novel dazzled audiences with its Technicolor images of African wildlife and exotic natives. However, the film more closely resembles a nature documentary than a work of narrative cinema. 3/10
In 1950 former ballet master and style adviser to Mae West, Boris Petroff, produced a bewildering mishmash of pirates, Australian farm romance, western action and slurpasaurs starring later TV star James Arness. Two Lost Worlds is a low-budget patch job with new dialogue scenes edited to fit action sequences from at least three other movies. 1/10
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
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