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One From the Heart. 50's Science Fiction.

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1950’s science fiction has an wonderful intangible effect on me. At the mere though of giant ants or mysterious long lost galactic civilizations, my inner blue-eyed child manifests itself, as sure as the end of the world is neigh.

Now we’re talking old school science fiction. Before the psychadelic Barbarella’s and Zardoz’s of the mid-60’s to mid-70’s, the Star Wars’ and Alien’s of the mid to late 70’s and the adventurous E.T’s and Back to the Future’s of the 80’s.

Back in the 50’s, it was clear cut lines. Monsters were big, scary and evil. Scientists were often mad and at the end of the day, Joe everyman would save the day with the backing of the US military. Cut and print.

Some of those films, Forbidden Planet and The Day the Earth Stood Still hold up surprisingly well. But most of them didn’t have particularly impressive longevities, being remembered mostly for their wire suspended saucers and theremin scores.

Yet, I can’t help being in love with it all. Giant ants, the poorly articulated rubbersuits, menacing saucers and fainting, often scantily clad women. I genuinely love it. I am the 1950’s teenage audience for whom these films were made. Even if most of them are poorly paced, cut and acted and often considerably more enjoyable when overlaid some Mystery Science Theater 3000.

But because of the time and the earnestness with which they were made, most of those early films have a purity to them that’s hard to find in today’s films science fiction fare, where even my own blue-eyed inner self will gladly wallow in skepticism and mockery. And it’s strange, really. Consider for instance The Core. It’s a piece of shit, from start to finish, with no redeeming features (apart from the emergency landing of a space shuttle in the flood canals of Los Angeles. And that’s the opening; it’s all downhill from there).

Had the same film been made in the 50’s, I could have forgiven it for most of its transgressions. After all, it practically is the modern day equivalent to the kinds of 50’s films that today still hold some charm.

Perhaps the problem is simply that I easily decipher the cheap-shots of modern days films, where as the 50’s films, are portholes to an alternative universe of sorts. A time which is both eerily similar and altogether dissimilar at the same time.

Regardless, all of this leads to one thing, and one thing only.

I received my copy of Forbidden Planet today, a rather cheap DVD to be quite fair, though it does have an extra DVD which contains some great extras. One of these extras, Watch the Skies – Science Fiction, the 1950s and Us, with insightful interviews from Spielberg, Cameron, Scott and Lucas is a really worthwhile watch. And if you’re still reading this, you didn’t click the link… So, go click the link. Now.

JournalMichael Heilemann