Fabulous Fifties
Classic and kitsch sci-fi films of the early-1950s


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The Thing
D: Howard Hawks & Christian Nyby (1951) 87m


Ostensibly based on John W Campbell's short story 'Who Goes There?', scientists at an isolated Arctic outpost dig up frozen alien James Arness. There is hell to pay when he is accidentally thawed and everybody spends the rest of the film trying to stay alive. Undisputed number one alien monster film until Alien came along. Comes in a 3-pack with Them and Forbidden Planet.





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The Day the Earth Stood Still
D: Robert Wise (1951) 92m


Michael Rennie oozes pure class as the peace-loving alien who cops a nasty reception from trigger-happy humans when his flying saucer lands on Earth. Fortunately, his sidekick robot is a little harder to knock down and the day is saved with a timely 'Klaatu barada nikto'. Memorable anti-nuclear warning, still relevant today.





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When Worlds Collide
D: Rudolph Mate (1951) 83m


Seats on a spaceship are prized items after it is discovered that a star is on a collision course with Earth. Some top-flight SFX help save humankind when the ship manages to make it to a planet that happens to be passing by. Despite landing in an arctic landscape, it looks likes Eden when the survivors step outside. Scientifically implausible, but enjoyable.





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The War of the Worlds
D: Byron Haskin (1953) 85m


Famous H G Wells story about a Martian invasion gets top-class treatment from producer and FX-specialist George Pal. Typical of 1950s America, much of the social commentary of Wells' original story is nowhere to be seen. Nevertheless, environmentalists and nature lovers will find the resolution ironically delectable in a somewhat twisted sort of way.





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Them!
D: Gordon Douglas (1954) 94m


No aliens this time - just giant irradiated ants causing havoc in a New Mexico desert. Tense direction, fabulous scenery and a breakneck pace have firmly established this film as a classic of the genre. Top performance by Edmund Gwenn as the cautionary scientist and Leonard Nimoy puts in a few seconds at the teletype machine.





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Creature from the Black Lagoon
D: Jack Arnold (1954) 79m


B-grade monster mash which overcomes pedestrian script and occasional lifeless acting with some fine underwater photography. Scientific expedition to the Amazon finds a prehistoric man-amphibian in a really bad rubber costume who sets his sights on sexy Julia Adams. Very much in the King Kong mould, the film was originally shot in 3D.





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Godzilla
D: Ishiro Honda (1954) 96m


The original Japanese release of Godzilla (aka Gojira) movies has the monster revived by nuclear testing and then cutting loose on Tokyo. Fifteen sequels later the same thing was still happening. Out-of-sync dubbing became a trademark of these movies - which only served to add to the fun. A re-edited "King of the Monsters!" version was released in 1956 for English-speaking audiences.





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20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
D: R Fleischer (1954) 127m


Audiences got a sobering break from all the kitsch in this wonderful Disney version of the Jules Verne novel. James Mason, Kirk Douglas and Peter Lorre star - as Capt Nemo tries to bring peace to the world by sinking military shipping with his high-tech submarine Nautilus. The giant squid scene is worth the price of admission alone.


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