Flipside Fifties
Classic and kitsch sci-fi films of the latter-1950s


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This Island Earth
D: Joseph Newman (1955) 86m


Aliens from a planet in dire straits come to Earth on a recruitment drive and shanghai a group of leading scientists for a top-secret project. Unlike most films on the page, science is portrayed as a positive force to be used for good. Relatively complex plot for its day and an alien psyche absolutely brimming with shades of gray.





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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. Remade in 1978.





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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.





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Plan 9 From Outer Space
D: Ed Wood (1956) 79m


Reputedly the worst movie ever made, this film had a cult revival with the release of Ed Wood (played by Johnny Depp) in 1994. Fashion-impaired aliens arrive in flying saucers on strings and try to conquer Earth by resurrecting corpses. Out-takes of Bela Lugosi share the spotlight with a pretender holding a cape over his face!





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Earth vs the Flying Saucers
D: Fred F Sears (1956) 83m


Outstanding Ray Harryhausen SFX has flying saucers crashing into Washington DC landmarks and creating all sorts of havoc. The standard plotline has aliens invading Earth and facing more resistance than expected from its pesky human inhabitants. Superior B-grade blast from the past and a genuine 50s sci-fi classic.





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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 Grant Williams 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.





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The Fly
D: Kurt Neumann (1958) 94m


A scientist invents a molecular disintegration machine sort of like the transporter on The Enterprise. Things get icky when a fly gets stuck in the gizmo with him and Vincent Price (playing a good guy for once) tries to sort things out. In a real surprise, novelist James Clavell is the man responsible for penning the screenplay.





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Journey to the Center of the Earth
D: Henry Levin (1959) 132m


Jules Verne makes it to the big screen yet again, this time with a couple of laughs thrown in for good measure. Scientist (James Mason) leads an expedition to the earth's core. Climatic perils, prehistoric creatures, geomorphological hazards and a psychedelic forest make the race to the 'underworld' a non-stop adventure.


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