The use of sci-fi themes in filmmaking has been around since the dawn of cinema. During this early era (1890-1920s), these images focused primarily on a vision of the future by employing tricks, slight of hand camera illusions which served as the foundation for early special effects, to drew hoards of moviegoers, much as they do today, to theaters. While at the same time here in the States, filmmakers using a narrative approach began exploring the dangers of science as was evident in the first incarnation of "Frankenstein" (1910). The thirties saw the genre being overrun by mad scientists leading it to an all-time low in the forties, until a quirky little film called The Purple Monster Strikes (1945) would forever change sci-fi movie landscape. As the decade came to an end, reported cover-ups at Rosewell, the further growth of the atomic age, and the anxiety/paranoia of the RED SCARE would lead sci-fi towards an explosion in the next decade.
mid-century marked the beginning of a fast and furious space race between the
superpowers. Childhood dreams of space travel flourished wildly out
of control, but were
now clouded with questions of "life on other planets". This was further
fueled by newspapers who continued to carry numerous reports of UFO
sightings. Hollywood looking to cash in on the fear of nuclear
questions of alien existences, decided to take the genre in two
distinctive directions. The
first, which will be the focus of this portion of the Parlor, dealt with
terror from beyond the stars and spawned such early classics as: The
Thing from Another World, The Day the Earth Stood Still,
"War of the Worlds",
Blob, and even the cult hit Plan 9 from Outer Space.
The second, which will be the focus of another section of the Parlor,
dealt with the effects of radiation on the environment, producing the the
genre (ie. Them, The Beast from 20,000 Fathom, Gojiria (aka
Godzilla), etc). These stories intermixed with the horrific fears of what
tomorrow could bring made these movies highly successful, but as the
decade was coming to an end sci-fi again began to lose steam
with the reemerging classic monster genre ( i.e. Hammer).
In 1968, sci-fi began to receive the critical acclaim it so sorely deserved when Stanley Kubrick's film "2001: A Space Odyssey" received four Oscar nominations (Best Director (Stanley Kubrick), Best Writing directly for the Screen (Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick) Best Art Direction, and Best Visual Effects (Stanley Kubrick (won). "2001" went on to set the standards for such classics as: "Bladerunner", "Alien" and of course the granddaddy of all sci-fi films, "Star Wars". Finally technology had caught up with the imagination of the moviegoer and now Hollywood could not only take him to the final frontier, but they could bring to the life the terror that awaited.
During the eighties, we saw the genre totally infused with horror. Gone were the days of the defeatable thing from another. These alien invaders were no longer faceless creatures who hid in the shadow only to be revealed during the final reel, but rather menacing monsters bent on not only destroying mankind, but ripping him to shreds. Films such as "Aliens", "The Thing", and "Predator" were in direct contradiction to the loving misguided alien "E.T." The message was clear, "we are not alone and we better be prepared".
Today, the world of sci-fi is right around the corner. Filmmakers can barely keep up with the advancements of technology and the worlds of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Arthur Clarke, and others are the here and now. What does the future hold for the genre, who knows, but it should be fun to watch.
In this section of the Parlor, we explore the historical mergence of sci-fi and horror cinemas. We provide our picks of some the greatest film to come out of this sub-genre. Most of these film are driven by horrific themes, but we have taking some liberties in highlighting our personal favorites in the genre such as: "2001: A Space Odyssey", "Star Wars", "The Matrix", and "Omega Man". So enjoy!!!!
The story begins as an Air Force crew (with a lone newsman (Douglas Spencer) tagging along) is ordered to fly up to a remote base in the North Pole to investigate reports of a mysterious aircraft crash. Led by Captain Hendry (Kenneth Tobey), the crew is greeted by a chilling Artic air, which serves as an omen of "things" to come. The base also serves as an outpost for Polar Expedition #6 where a group of scientist have assemble for a convention. After examining the information available, head scientist Dr. Carrington (Robert Carthwaite) surmise that this craft it is not of this world and with the help of the good Captain decide to lead an expedition out to the crash site.
Upon arriving at the crash site, their assumptions prove to be correct. The saucer now lies under tons of ice. Captain Hendry orders his crew to plant thermite bombs around the circumference of the ship to help melt away the ice. After a series of explosions and a large fireball presumably from the engine of the craft, everyone fears that they have lost one of the greatest finds in the history of man, but when examining the wreckage, they notice what appears to be a person or in this case, the pilot buried in the ice below. With axes in hand, the crew carefully removes a block of ice that now serves as a tomb for the visitor and decide to take it back for further investigation.
Back at the base, Hendry decides to keep the creature frozen until he receives orders on what to do otherwise. He places it under guard in a storage room. This is met with furious distained from the scientist especially Dr. Carrington who demands his right to examining the creature. Hendrey calmly explains that this is no longer a civilian mission, but rather a military operation now. This causes the scientist to quickly scurry back to the confines of their lab so that they may plot a way to circumvent Hendrey's authority and make first contact. As the creature lies apparently dormant, a strange eeriness can be felt as the guard unknowingly puts a blanket on and places a space heater near the block of ice. Before you know it, we find the guard semiconscious and The Thing having escaped to being it's reign of terror.
Thus begins a classic clash between the military and the scientist. This has been a reoccurring theme in many films of this type. On one hand, you have the military wanting to destroy the beast to protect mankind and on the other hand, you have the scientist who want to capture and study the it. This is one of those rare occasions in sci-fi/horror film history, where the military is actually the level headed side of this equation. It isn't to later that we find out that this "highly intellectual carrot", as it is called, has a need for blood. Guess who's coming for dinner??? The battle continues until the end comes with Scotty declaring across the airwaves, "watch the skies".
It was the time of McCarthyism and the "red scare", but far worst paranoia ran deep with whispers of "we are not alone". Just a few years after Roswell, the time was ripe for a film adaptation of John Campbell's short story "Who Goes There?" and Howard Hawks was the man to bring it to the silver screen. For years, controversy has been bantering around about who actually directed "The Thing From Another World". Was it the credited Christina Nyby or Howard Hawks??? Many have stated and it appears rightly so, that Hawks in fact did direct this feature, but to me it really doesn't matter, because it's still a great film.
All over the world, an object
traveling at 4000 miles per hour has been sighted - and now it's heading for the eastern seaboard! The craft, a silvery flying saucer, touches down in
Washington DC. Immediately, troops, artillery and armored vehicles surround the saucer.
A hatch opens as the soldiers nervously point their weapons, and out steps a masked
humanoid. The humanoid announces that he has come in peace, and walks towards the men.
However, he is shot by a panicky officer when he pulls out a strange-looking object. A robot,
whom is addressed as Gort, immediately steps out of the ship and uses a disintegration beam
in his faceplate to blast the weapons right out of the soldiers' hands and the tanks right out
from under their crews. Scared, the men rush the wounded alien to a nearby hospital. The
object, incidentally, was a harmless gift intended for the President.
The quintessential 50's sci-fi movie, "The Day the Earth Stood Still" is ripe with symbolism to give it a more sophisticated edge. Although Director Robert Wise ("The Haunting", "West Side Story"), and writers Harry Bates and Edmund H. North were unaware of it, the story of Klaatu parallels the story of Christ in too many ways to catalog. Jesus was also a carpenter, by the way. But what "The Day the Earth Stood Still" does very well is make the world of 1951 look like a cross between a tragedy and a farce. It works just as well as a satire on our deep-seated paranoia and fears as a fantasy picture. No sci-fi/horror film of the 1950's approaches it on these levels. Only a few have since.Guest Contributor....Jeremy Lunt.
The story begins at the
excavation sight of a London subway. The excavation
Nigel Kneale's excellent story and screenplay make for one of the best films
from the Quatermass series. This film is atmospheric and thought provoking and a
much more pessimistic film than, "2001: A Space Odyssey", a film
released the same year as, "Quatermass and the Pit". The direction of Roy Ward
Baker keeps the film moving along at a wonderful pace and the overall atmosphere
and acting only make this a film a must-see by sci-fi fans.
Andrew Keir is perfectly cast in the role of Professor Quatermass, he combines
the passion of the scientist with just the perfect touch of a man learning
much more about his history than possibly wanted. Julian Glover as
Colonel Breen is a great antagonist to Quatermass, his unyielding views make his
character much more interesting. James Donald and Barbara Shelley round out this
top-notch cast with solid performances. "Quatermass and the Pit" or
"Five Million Years To Earth" as it is also known is
a fabulous combination of science fiction, horror and the occult. Hammer Studios
did several science fiction films, but "Quatermass and the Pit" is one of the best and one film that all science fiction as well as Hammer
fans should add to their list of "must-see" films. Guest
Creationism? Evolutionism? While the debate rages on, viewers of
"2001: A Space Odyssey" will
be introduced to Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke's own vision. We begin at the Dawn of
Man, many millenia ago. Prehistoric apes, our distant ancestors, wage a bitter and primitive
war for survival. However, that starts to change one day when a mysterious black monolith
appears overnight near their caves. From there, the learning begins. Tools, weapons, the
monolith communicates the secrets of development to the creatures; the spark
that will drive mankind has been created.
The late-great Stanley Kubrick, director of "2001: A Space Odyssey", made a career of making definitive examples of genre production. "Spartacus" was the ultimate historical epic. "Full Metal Jacket" was the definitive anti-war production. More recently, "Eyes Wide Shut" was the ultimate skin flick. With "The Shining" and this film, Kubrick made the ultimate examples of "fantastic film". The real triumph of "2001" is it's visual effects, the most haunting (and realistic) science fiction imagery ever recorded. Not to be discounted however, is HAL, one of the most chilling villains in screen history. Kubrick spent 10.5 million on the production, and it was well worth it. Just as good as the other elements, are the ideas introduced by writer Arthur C. Clarke, tackling the giant and controversial question of man's creation and evolution. The film packs so much thought and visual spectacle that no one viewing can reveal all of it. "2001: A Space Odyssey" demands repeat viewings, as one of the most spectacular genre works in all history. Guest Contributor....Jeremy Lunt.
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