We All Grew Up to Be Space Cowboys
The recent wave of 1950s science fiction movie revivals (The Day the Earth Stood Still, Forbidden Planet, When Worlds Collide, etc.) shows that not a few Hollywood producers and directors grew up in one of three environments: Eisenhower-era nerd culture, Creature Feature TV re-runs of the '60s and '70; contemporary film-school/video-store junkiedom. The older you are, though, the more disillusioning it is to return to the black and white movies that once inspired fear and awe in us. The acting is shabby, the dialogue laughable and the special effects are mostly puppet-show quality.
(Image from Time Tunnel Clip Art)
Of course, they'll be saying these same things about our latest sci-fi blockbusters in the future we once longed to live in. Still, there is gold to be found in even the oldest space operas and chill-fests:
- The moment when the Arctic airmen and scientists in The Thing spread out to give shape to some mysterious space junk buried under the ice. "It's almost --" says one man. "It is!" says another. "It's completely round!"
- When Becky Driscoll's eyes slowly open in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. "I fell asleep Miles . . ." she says dully to Dr. Bennell (Kevin McCarthy), who now knows two things: His girlfriend has been faking it (what would Kinsey say?) and Becky (Dana Wynter) is now another California zombie.
Here's another classic, but you won't find it on DVD, because it's a radio drama from the great 1950s series, X Minus One, an NBC series produced with Galaxy Magazine. "Tunnel Under the World" was a Frederik Pohl short story in which an ad man awakes every morning to find it's June 15. As his day progresses he notices things about his town and job that are similar but somehow different from what he remembers. The climax is a terrifying explosion of paranoia confirmed, fear of technology and a viceral suspicion of capitalist morality. Listen here and enjoy -- and wonder how much dread could be produced on a shoestring budget.
(Galaxy Magazine cover from SciFipedia)