It’s plain and simple. If you’re a geek, dweeb, spaz, or nerd, you were probably weaned on Saturday afternoon re-runs of the 1950s Sci-Fi movies. If you’re just Joe Blow Average citizen without any particular tendencies, you probably still enjoy a lazy afternoon with back-to-back showings of the classic Drive-In style black-and-white movies that the rest of us worship.
I have to admit that with the advent of Mystery Science Theater 3000, I didn’t realize others had fun making witty comments about the “technology” in the old Sci-Fi movies like we did. We always enjoy noticing the flying granola in the asteroid belts and the control panels in these movies. What’s nearly as fun is watching them 50+ years later when in the movie they said it was “1979” and they were flying to Venus! Campiness aside, these movies are addictive. The acting is always by stage actors who aren’t sure what to do in front of a camera. Sets are small. Men speak so quickly and witty you barely pick up what they said until you have time to sift through it in your head. There’s always a brunette woman pseudo-scientist who has a daddy who runs the lab and allows her to work with the big men. She will almost always be abducted by the aliens and have the hero jet-flying scientist or military man falling in love with her.
There are some favorites that nearly everyone can name like “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” “The Thing From Another World!” “Invaders From Mars,” “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” This Island Earth,” “The Day of the Triffids,” “The Village of the Damned,” “Godzilla,” “Failsafe,” “The Fly,” “War of the Worlds,” and “It Came From Outer Space.” When you start reading this list, you realize what a hugely popular genre this was, and still is.
I enjoy some of the more obscure and overlooked ones that had interesting plots like “Five Million Years to Earth” (aka “Quartermass and the Pit). Although this was done in 1968, the feel of it is very much like the 1950s films, so I consider this a “classic.” This British film had a mood that was spine-tingling and a plot that was interesting enough that you want to go back to it again and again just for the feel. They’re building a subway tunnel in England and come across an alien spacecraft deep in the earth. Upon finding strange skulls, chaos ensues. Was this an invading alien space crew? Or were they the seeds of life on Earth?
Looking for more obscure 50’s Sci-Fi you might have missed the first go-round on TV?
I’d suggest “When Worlds Collide” (1951). This one was actually an interesting social commentary. The Earth is about to collide with another planet and the only hope for civilization is a spacecraft carrying young healthy adults to another planet that is passing close to Earth. Deciding who goes and who stays, how the public handles their impending deaths, and how one goes about starting life on a new planet, were all realistically handled for the time.
My all-time favorite is “Creature From The Black Lagoon” (1954). A scientific expedition on the Amazon finds traces of some kind of gilled swimming man-creature. What they don’t realize is that—he’s still swimming around the pond their boat is anchored in. This is such a classic, and I’d consider it one of the big and not obscure ones, but because it’s my favorite with the beauty-and-the-beast classic theme, I wanted to set this one apart from the others.
Once again, that crazy atomic testing in the arctic manages to flash thaw a dinosaur that invades the East Coast of the US. “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms” (1953). This is just one of those classic plot lines that makes for an American version of Godzilla.
“Them!” (1954). It seems that pesky atomic testing in New Mexico caused a big problem—giant ants! This movie is really dramatic, over the top, and awesomely embodies all the elements of a great 50’s Sci-Fi movie. The sound effects alone will keep you shivering throughout.
It doesn’t matter what kind of genre you usually choose at the video store, I can pretty much guarantee you’ve seen at least a half dozen of the ones listed above, that makes you and honorary 1950s Sci-Fi geek! If you can't take them seriously, then don't take them seriously, watch them on MST 3000 episodes where they say the things you're thinking and make you laugh so hard you shouldn't eat or drink while watching them.
Let me know if you have some other favorite obscure ones. I've probably seen them all, but sometimes I come across one that I missed or one that I had forgotten.