This photo is from the recent “Super Blood Moon” lunar eclipse. I was watching it with my wife and it suddenly occurred to me that I now had not only a fairly good (entry-level, really) DSLR, but also an entry-level 75-300mm zoom lens for it. So I rushed inside, attached the lens, and took a few pictures. Due to the lack of forethought and tripod, they all came out blurry, but this one was good enough to post on Facebook. Did you see the eclipse? Are you interested in real science or just SF/F? It would interest me to know. Drop me a line or post a note on FB when you read this. Thanks.
Graeme Cameron (The Clubhouse) likes to review old movies (he calls ‘em “forgotten classics” or something like that). I, too, like a good “classic” or “schlocky” old-timey SF/F movie. Heck, I’d even go so far as to use the despised (by me) term “sci-fi” to describe some of them. So I thought that just for the heck of it, I’d do a quick run-down on genre movies by year for a while, with—at some point, not right now—one review per year (unless I find two movies I think really deserve a review in the same year). I arbitrarily decided to start with 1957.
1957 saw a big leap in the number of not only genre movies, but good genre movies. In fact, a couple of my all-time favourite SF movies came out in ’57. From the list below, however, it’s obvious that schlock still prevailed—schlock makes for good box-office—but that good writing, directing, acting, and/or SFX were making their way into the cinematic genre. I’m not going to attempt a rating of these movies at this point, except to point out a couple that are actually SF/F classics (Figures 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7).
Here are all the genre movies I could find from 1957, roughly in order of release. Descriptions from IMDB are listed as such; some info came from classicscifi.blogspot.com; and some came from memory supplemented by Wikipedia. Only notable or well-known names are included for writer, director, actor.
Because “genre” is about as loosely defined as “sci-fi” is, I’ve included a number of films you might not really be inclined to watch, like “voodoo” films.
Attack of the Crab Monsters (Feb.)— A scientist is trapped on a shrinking island with giant crabs that eat the intelligence of those they devour. Director: Roger Corman.
Not Of This Earth (Feb.)— An alien is matter-transferred to Earth to find blood for his dying race. Director: Roger Corman; Star: Beverly Garland.
Voodoo Island (Feb.)—Philip Knight, hoaxbuster, is hired to prove the island isn’t haunted, but he finds out that voodoo is real. Stars: Boris Karloff, Beverly Tyler.
The Undead (March)— A beautiful woman is sent back in time via hypnosis to the Middle Ages where she finds she is suspected of being a witch, and subject to being executed (IMDB). Director: Roger Corman. Stars: Pamela Duncan, Richard Garland.
Kronos (April)—Aliens send a giant robot to Earth to steal energy.
*The Incredible Shrinking Man (May)—Director: Jack Arnold; Writer: Richard Matheson. A top ’50s SF classic. A mysterious cloud of radiation makes a man continue to shrink ever smaller. He battles cats and spiders as he grows smaller. Star: Grant Williams. (Figure 2)
The Deadly Mantis (May)—A giant prehistoric mantis is freed from arctic ice; it attacks DEW line soldiers on its way south. Stars: Craig Stevens, William Hopper.
X, The Unknown (May)—British—A movie about a glob of radioactive mud-stuff that attacks a Scottish village. Star: Dean Jagger.
*20 Million Miles To Earth (June)—A Ray Harryhausen (Animator) classic; the first spaceship to Venus crashes in the waters off Italy, releasing an egg which grows into a giant monster called the Ymir. Star: William Hopper. (Figure 3)
Beginning of the End (June)—Experiments at an Illinois University farm create a swarm of giant grasshoppers that attack Chicago—or a photograph of it. Stars: Peter Graves, Peggy Castle.
*Curse of Frankenstein (June)—British, Hammer films—Victor Frankenstein builds a creature and brings it to life, but it behaves not as he intended (IMDB). Star: Peter Cushing. (Figure 4)
Invasion of the Saucer Men (June)—A teenager hits a big-headed alien with his car. Star: Frank Gorshin.
I Was a Teenage Werewolf (June)— A hypnotherapist uses a temperamental teenager as guinea pig for a serum which transforms him into a vicious werewolf. (IMDB) Star: Michael Landon.
The Giant Claw (June)—A giant vulture-like bird that flies at supersonic speed comes from space to lay its egg on Earth. Star: Jeff Morrow.
The Monster That Challenged the World (June)—Radiation causes mollusks to grow into carnivorous caterpillars that threaten California. Writer: David Duncan; Stars: Tim Holt, Hans Conreid.
The Night the World Exploded (June)—A geologist finds new minerals from deep in the Earth while trying to predict Earthquakes. When they contact water, they expand and explode, causing Earthquakes and volcanoes, and threatening the whole Earth’s existence. Star: Kathryn Grant.
The UnEarthly (June)—A mad doctor implants artificial glands in patients at his remote sanitarium, trying to find anti-aging formula, but creating monsters. Star: John Carradine.
The 27th Day (July)—Aliens kidnap five people from around the world and give them capsules that can kill the Earth’s population, leaving it clear for colonization. They have 27 days to use them or not. Writer: John Mantley; Star: Gene Barry.
The Cyclops (July)—A sort of prequel to Amazing Colossal Man. Radiation makes a lost pilot grow into a 25-foot one-eyed giant. Written & Directed by Bert I. Gordon; Star: Gloria Talbott, Lon Chaney, Jr..
From Hell It Came (Aug.)— A wrongfully accused South Seas prince is executed, and returns as a walking tree stump. (IMDB).
The Unknown Terror (Aug.)—A mad scientist in a remote Mexican jungle experiments with rapid-growing fungus and local villagers. Star: Mala Powers.
*Enemy from Space (aka Quatermass 2) (Sept.)—British—Prof. Quatermass is investigating meteors that landed in a small village, and the inhabitants are acting strangely. Director: Val Guest; Writer: Nigel Neale; Star: Brian Donlevy. (Figure 5)
The Brain From Planet Arous (Oct.)—A scientist is possessed by an alien brain in order to make Earthlings create a fleet of ships. Star: John Agar.
The Invisible Boy (Oct.)—A precocious boy teams up with Robby the Robot to defend against a sinister supercomputer which is trying to rule the world. Writers: Cyril Hume, Edmund Cooper.
*The Black Scorpion (Oct)—Giant prehistoric drooling scorpions are released by a Mexican volcano and attack Mexico City. Writer: David Duncan; Stars: Richard Denning, Mara Corday; Animator: Willis O’Brien.(Figure 6).
The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas (Oct)—British—A kindly English botanist and a gruff American scientist lead an expedition to the Himalayas in search of the legendary Yeti. Director: Val Guest; Writer: Nigel Neale; Stars: Forrest Tucker, Peter Cushing.
The Land Unknown (Oct.)—Three men and a woman crash-land in a deep crater in Antarctica, where they find a prehistoric world.
Monolith Monsters (Dec.)—Strange meteor fragments grow to enormous size when wet. Growing and breaking as they fall, they create new monoliths. Stars: Grant Williams, Lola Albright.
Some movies without release months, or which were made in 1957 but released later in the U.S.:
Lust of the Vampire (i Vampiri)—Italian— A mad scientist captures young women and drains their blood, in order to keep alive an ancient, evil duchess. (Released in U.S. in 1963)
The Astounding She-Monster—A band of kidnappers meet an alien woman whose touch kills instantly. (1957; Unable to find month of release)
The Amazing Colossal Man—Exposure to a nuclear test makes Colonel Manning grow uncontrollably and become mentally unstable. He becomes a rampaging monster in and around Las Vegas. Director: Bert I. Gordon; Writers: Mark Hanna, Bert I. Gordon. (1957; Unable to find month of release)
*The Mysterians—Japanese—(Not released in U.S. till 1959). Aliens arrive on Earth are discovered to be invaders, responsible for a giant robot that is destroying cities. Director: Ishiro Hondo. (Figure 7).
Also found in 1957, but not researched or commented on, are the following:
Lust of the Vampire
I Was a Teenage Frankenstein
The Vampire (El Vampiro)
Monster from Green Hell
The Land Unknown
Blood of Dracula
Daughter of Dr. Jekyll
The Aztec Mummy
The Man Who Turned to Stone
Zombies of Mora Tau
The Man Without a Body
The Body Snatcher (El Ladron de Cadavares)
The Curse of the Aztec Mummy (Available on YouTube)
Back From the Dead
Swamp of the Lost Monster (El Pantano de Las Animas)
Significance of the various highlighted movies, if it’s not already obvious, is:
Figure 2 – With an intelligent script by Matheson, this was one of the movies that raised the public’s opinions and expectations of filmic SF.
Figure 3 – A significant Harryhausen-animated film; it has been colourized within the last decade or so with excellent results.
Figure 4 – The first Hammer colour Frankenstein movie, which set the stage for many Hammer horror films.
Figure 5 – Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass movies spawned a TV series and are fondly remembered today.
Figure 6 – The last animated movie, by the man who brought us The Lost World, Son of Kong, Mighty Joe Young, and others. Without O’Brien, we wouldn’t have had Harryhausen and, possibly, Bradbury!
Figure 7 – One of the earliest Japanese space alien movies. I spent a good portion of the early 1960s watching these!
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