The 1950s Sci-Fi Boom
The universe grows smaller every day
- From the 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still


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


In this anti-nuclear warning, a peace-loving alien (Michael Rennie) 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'. In 1995, the film was deservedly selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.





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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, nature lovers will find the resolution ironically delectable. In 2011, the film was selected for preservation in the United States' National Film Registry.





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Them!
D: Gordon Douglas (195) 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. The first 'big bug' film and an early nuclear monster flick.





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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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1984
D: Michael Anderson (1956) 120m


In the mid-1950s, a nuclear war and devastation of Earth gave rise to three police superstates. By 1984, London's bomb-proof ministry was designated as the capital of a province of Oceania. Winston Smith (Edmond O'Brien), whose daily work is re-writing history, tries to rebel by falling in love. Unauthorised version of the George Orwell novel that was secretly funded by the CIA.





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Forbidden Planet
D: Fred M. Wilcox (1956) 98m


For a long time considered the greatest sci-fi film of all time, Forbidden Planet is a tour-de-force of intelligent ideas. Based on Shakespeare's The Tempest, a space crew visits a planet where Walter Pidgeon has set up a one-man empire. Leslie Nielsen plays it straight and Anne Francis has fantastic legs, but Robby the Robot is the real star. Superb SFX for its time and historically important.





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Invasion of the Body Snatchers
D: Don Siegel (1956) 80m


This McCarthyism-inspired tale has Red Menace written all over it. Small-town residents begin to lose their effervescent personalities about the same time alien "pods" start hatching all over the place. Paranoia prevails, no-one believes the hero except those who already know he's right, and America is invaded. Another one included on the United States National Film Registry.





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The Incredible Shrinking Man
D: Jack Arnold (1957) 81m


Working from his own novel, scriptwriter Richard Matheson made sure there would be no Hollywood-style upbeat ending. Radioactive fog causes fully-grown Scott Carey to start shrinking, whereupon he loses everything he holds important in life. He has memorable run-ins with the house cat and a normally innocuous spider. The large sets and special effects wowed audiences in their day.


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