At family camp each year this guy brings up reel films from his old horror film classics. We set up in the lodge with all the kids bringing their sleeping bags and pillows – the event being of hippie nature we pass around bowls of popcorn flavored with brewer’s yeast (known to hippies as “nutritional yeast”). We usually get a double feature. This year we started out with the very first Woody Woodpecker cartoon (which was rather bizarre actually) and an episode of Captain Marvel. The first feature was The Mummy’s Curse and the second was The Thing from Another World.
My 5-year-old son didn’t make it through the first. I didn’t remember the mummy scaring me when I was a kid. Lon Chaney basically limps around choking people with one working arm. Any of the victims should have been able to outrun it, and well, it’s obviously not hard to poke holes in those movies. But it didn’t dawn on me that the younger kids might actually be able to suspend disbelief long enough to get scared. They did.
I asked my son why he was scared of the mummy, but not Godzilla. “Godzilla’s just a lizard,” he responded through his tears. I suspect a few factors were involved. The film was black and white, which probably gives an other worldly feel to kids not familiar with with the B&W medium, although he has seen B&W movies. The mummy is more human, and perhaps more real. You actually see the death, unlike giant monster movies where you just speculate on the number of people inside a building squashed by a giant lobster.
In any case, the guy who brings the movies is going to try to limit the first features to the giant monster movies in future years.
The second movie was one in a long string of cold war metaphors, this one being an alien melted out of an iceberg in the arctic by a scientific team. The foolhardy scientist wants to communicate with it, while the rest of the team has the street smarts to want to kill it. The scientist learns the hard way that you shouldn’t trust what you don’t understand, and after trying to shoot it, burn it, suffocate it, the finally manage to kill it by electrocuting it. Good thing too, because it was about to take over the world armed with a four-by-four chunk of wood! At the end the heroes broadcast a message to the world to “keep watching the skies.” 1951 – three years after the Soviet nuclear bomb, but well before Sputnik.
The movie does have one odd moment. It’s more flirtatious than explicitly sexual, but it’s probably the first “femdom” bondage scene in a mainstream Hollywood movie unless you count Lauren Bacall with Bogart in the last scenes of The Big Sleep (but that wasn’t consensual and Bogart was essentially in control throughout the scene – though curiously enough it took him about 5 minutes to ask her to untie him).
So, anyway, for those of you old enough to have watched some version of Creature Features as a kid in the 70s, or anyone else, what was your favorite 1950s science fiction movie and why? Oh, and we’re excluding The Forbidden Planet (the first Shakespeare/sci fi combo) and The Day the Earth Stood Still which were legitimately good movies. Has to be cheesy.
Mine is Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, made by the same guy who did the original King Kong. It had all the requisite 50s camp with some surprising elements of sophistication – from the not-totally-evil motivations of the invading aliens to the sexual innuendos that somehow slipped by the censors of the time. Fascinating special effects. The plot is simple. Aliens need elbow room and migrate west, but the natives come up with a special gun that drops the saucers on top of the Washington landmarks in an apocalyptic battle for which the strategies of both sides eluded me.
And boy! Despite the gray areas in the alien intentions, the spiteful shooting up of the Lincoln memorial should have made any patriot’s blood boil! Root causes patooie!
The poster art comes from a site called “blackhorrormovies.com” focusing on the roles of black characters in these films.
Well, I guess blackhorrormovies doesn’t want us using their images. The above scene comes from theseventhvoyage.com.
Addendum: Well, I couldn’t find a single flying saucer photo that didn’t have the deselect gracefully function in the address. Conspiracies?