LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Kim Newman looks to the future and reports on Horror's up and coming Classic Sci-Fi Weekend
By Kim Newman, Monday 6th April 2020
The 1950s are remembered as the rock 'n' roll years - Bill Haley and Elvis, Little Richard and Chuck Berry - but also as the dawn of the atomic era, the height of the cold war, and the decade when science fiction movies reigned. A fad for futuristic design meant cars sported sharkfins like Flash Gordon's spaceship, and refrigerators were streamlined behemoths like the lumbering robots of pulp magazines. It was an uneasy, nervous decade - caught between optimism and terror, envisioning future homes full of gleaming labour-saving devices but also beasts from outer space or the dawn of time rampaging across the land, leaving radioactive debris in their wake. At the end of the classic The Thing From Another World (1951), humanity was told to 'watch the skies'... and so, dutifully, we did, though threats were as likely to come from beneath the sea, the bowels of the Earth, the house next door, or our own basement.
Every studio made science fiction films but seemed a bit embarrassed by such kid stuff. Mostly, it was down to B units at Universal-International or Columbia, or the enterprising likes of Roger Corman and Britain's Hammer Films. A few colour spectacles - Forbidden Planet, This Island Earth, The War of the Worlds - came along, but sci-fi was mostly in greyscale black and white, with lesser-known actors upstaged by monsters made by mad geniuses like Ray Harryhausen, and brisk, clipped (sometimes unintentionally hilarious) dialogue between staunch military men, glamour girls in lab coats and hard-pressed researchers who have crazy monster-fighting ideas that 'just might work'.
These films that filled the imaginations of kids who grew up to be Stephen King, Stephen Spielberg, Tim Burton, Joe Dante and George Lucas - who have channelled their themes and images into their own work, and ensured the style of 1950s sci-fi cinema is now that of the summer tentpole blockbuster. The resources a studio would once have given to Cecil B. DeMille to part the Red Sea or Mike Todd to go round the world in 80 days are now available to grown-up boys who were rapt by Earth vs the Flying Saucers, The Incredible Shrinking Man or - even - The Giant Claw. These apocalyptic visions are remounted in an orgy of CGI pixels as tentacled creatures menace the biggest stars on the planet. Yet the originals have something that can't be reproduced, reimagined or bettered. These are films held in enormous affection but offer much more than nostalgia for vanished drive-in double bills or teatime-after-school telly. There's still the chill.
So, keep watching the skies... indeed, keep watching TV as Horror Channel presents its Classic Sci-Fi Weekend on Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th April.
It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955) H-Bomb tests raise a giant octopus from the depths. It attacks ships... then heads for San Francisco to sweep Fisherman's Wharf with mighty tentacles and constrict the Golden Gate Bridge to pieces. This has gained a certain notoriety thanks to special effects genius Ray Harryhausen's admission that Columbia's tight budgeting meant that he had to cut back on tentacles - and so the monster is actually a six-limbed 'sexapus', though Harryhausen shoots its scenes so cannily that no one would ever have noticed if he didn't own up. The human plot is stiff and strange, with chauvinist submarine skipper Kenneth Tobey leching after pin-up marine biologist Faith Domergue and proving something of a wimp - he spends the finale unconscious on the seabed while someone else faces the beast. Its scenes of devastation-by-cephalopod are still impressive.
Earth vs the Flying Saucers (1956) Flying saucers, brilliantly animated by Ray Harryhausen, attack the Earth. Stubby, helmeted aliens sometimes emerge from their humming ships and zap people with death-rays, but the sleek, soulless saucers are the main attraction - crashing into Washington landmarks in the impressive, influential finale. Notionally based on a non-fiction bestseller, the film was among the first to dramatise key elements of UFO lore - 'foo lights', saucer flybys startling airline pilots, alien abduction and experiments on humans, 'missing time'. But the film is essentially glorious pulp, with eerie aliens, stalwart scientists, exciting battles and enjoyable blustering from a B stalwarts tossing off tongue-in-cheek dialogue ('when an armed and threatening power lands uninvited in our capital, we don't greet it with tea and cookies!').
The Giant Claw (1957) Famously skinflint producer Sam Katzman finally got fed up with the painstaking, slow and (most of all) expensive artistry of Ray Harryhausen and looked around for a more affordable effects option - with results that were disastrous in the short term, but now make for a film more fondly regarded than many a slicker, duller effort. Directed by Fred F. Sears, of Earth vs the Flying Saucers, and pretty much following the template of earlier monster movies, this has a giant bird from outer space ravage the Earth. The shoestring effects monster looks like a demented muppet, with its beaky snarl and google eyes, and is all the more hilarious for being intercut with actors who presumably thought they were playing against a Harryhausen-quality beastie and do their best to express utter terror.
The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) Based on a novel by Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, The Twilight Zone), directed by Jack Arnold (It Came from Outer Space, Creature from the Black Lagoon) and benefiting from a healthy effects budget, this is among the simplest, most memorable science fiction films. Regular Joe, Grant Williams is exposed to mysterious dust which makes him shrink - at first, this just complicates his domestic situation (significantly, his wedding ring falls off) as he becomes a child-sized man trapped in his own house, but as he gets smaller the challenges get bigger and he finds himself battling his own pet cat and a basement spider, which both view him as a tasty morsel. It's an appealing, absurd premise - strikingly visualised - but one of the first sci-fi films to get poetic and psychedelic in its mind-warp of an ending.
20 Million Miles to Earth (1957) Finally, it had dawned on Columbia that the star of their science fiction films was animator Ray Harryhausen - who was given a healthier budget, story input, an Italian location trip and more prominent billing for this creature feature. A spaceship crash-lands after a round trip to Venus, and an annoying Sicilian brat steals a gelatinous monster egg which he sells to a local zoologist so he can buy a cowboy hat. The egg hatches into one of Harryhausen's most inspired creations - a man-lizard who grows from tabletop size to colossus, and only causes devastation when attacked. Compared with the relatively brief appearances of the sexapus, the Venusian is onscreen a lot and is by far the film's most compelling character. The fact that, unlike King Kong, no human expresses admiration or sympathy for it makes this one of the chilliest, saddest monster rampages - we hope that kid enjoyed his cowboy hat after he was responsible for half Rome being flattened - but it's also undeniably spectacular, with the alien battling a pitchfork-wielding farmer, platoons of soldiers, and a brilliantly-animated elephant.
Related show tags: EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS, THE GIANT CLAW, THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, THIS ISLAND EARTH MORE FEATURES Horror Channel launches assault of premieres for June plus further seasons of Farscape
Posted on Thursday 12th May 2022
Ryan Simon's British supernatural chiller Demon Eye, starring Darren Day, and Liam Fox, and Brad Baruh's Coen-sequel mystery thriller Night Drive, starring AJ Bowen and Sophie Dalah, both receive Friday night UK TV premieres on Horror Channel.
There are also channel premieres for John Carpenter's cult classic Assault On Precinct 13 and Finnish-German sci-fi Nazi horror spoof Iron Sky: The Coming Race, directed by Timo Vuorensola (Iron Sky) and starring Udo Kier, reprising his role as Adolf Hitler.
Plus, cult classic Farscape returns with the channel premieres of Season 3 and 4. This Australian-American Sci-Fi TV series, created by Rockne S. O'Bannon, has proved a big hit with Horror...SHARE: READ MORE Horror Channel celebrates history of genre cinema with The Vintage Vault
Posted on Thursday 21st April 2022
Starting in May, Horror Channel journeys into the history of genre cinema with The Vintage Vault, which will present double-bills of classic sci-fi and horror films every Sunday night.
The season premieres on Sunday May 1st with The Invisible Man, in which Claude Rains delivers a remarkable performance in his screen debut. This is paired with Bride Of Frankenstein, the celebrated sequel to the 1931 classic with Boris Karloff reprising his role as the monster. Then on Sunday May 8th, we have Christy Cabanne's frightening chiller masterpiece The Mummy's Hand, followed by Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman, featuring the original Wolf...SHARE: READ MORE Kim Newman dares to check out this weekend's Classic Sci-Fi event
Posted on Thursday 14th April 2022
Respected journalist, film critic, and fiction writer Kim Newman takes us through the celebrated B-movies joining Horror for our Classic Sci-Fi Weekend event running from 16th-17th of April.
The Horror Channel returns to a decade riven with fears of devastating climate change, imminent global war, mutating diseases and general paranoia... albeit in black and white, with miniature effects and make-up masks rather than CGI and the kind of urgency that means world-menacing phenomena can be invoked, allowed to run rampage and then dispelled in well under ninety minutes of crisp, sometimes poetic, sometimes bombastic melodrama.
The times weren't really simpler, and neither were the movies i...SHARE: READ MORE Horror Channel reveals raft of UK TV premieres for May plus channel premieres for Dalek movies
Posted on Thursday 7th April 2022
Stewart Sparke's award-winning dark comedic monster movie Book of Monsters and Audrey Cummings's grisly chuckler She Never Died, starring Olunike Adeliyi, are amongst the raft of Saturday night UK TV premieres on Horror Channel during May.
Also in prime-time slots are the UK TV premieres of gruesome action thriller Becky and Henry Jacobson's stylish crime chiller Bloodline, starring Seann William Scott. There is also a Channel premiere for Peter Medak's classic supernatural horror The Changeling, starring George C. Scott.
Plus, there are channel premieres for Dr Who and The Daleks and Daleks Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. The films star Peter Cushing as Dr Who and al...SHARE: READ MORE Horror Channel adds Channel premiere of Farscape to Sci-Fi Zone from Monday 4 April
Posted on Wednesday 30th March 2022
Horror Channel is dedicated to bringing great cult sci-fi programmes to its audience and this trend continues with the channel premiere of Season 1 of the 1999 Australian-American Sci-Fi TV series Farscape, created by Rockne S, O'Bannon and produced over four seasons.
Astronaut John Crichton (ben Browder), on an experimental space mission, is accidentally hurled across the universe to the midst of an intergalactic conflict. Taken on board Moya, a huge bio-mechanoid "living ship" desperately trying to escape captivity, Crichton is trapped among alien creatures wielding deadly technology and hunted by a merciless military race. H...SHARE: READ MORE Horror Channel celebrates Sci-Fi B-Movies with a second Classic Sci-Fi Weekend in April
Posted on Tuesday 22nd March 2022
It's back to terrify once more! Horror Channel once again celebrates the Sci-fi B-movie world of strange creatures, alien invaders and weird science with Classic Sci-Fi Weekend 2, a follow-up TV special to the popular Classic Sci-fi weekend broadcast in April 2020. The fifties are acknowledged as the Golden Age for Sci-fi movies and Horror Channel has picked ten of the most iconic, which will be broadcast on Saturday 16th April and Sunday 17th April.
The season includes five channel premieres: the heart-pounding Alien invasion classic It Came From Outer Space, pulp-horror favourite Tarantula, featuring an uncredited Clint Eastw...SHARE: READ MORE Horror Channel reveals raft of UK TV premieres for April
Posted on Tuesday 15th March 2022
Rob W King's gripping dystopian thriller The Humanity Bureau, starring Nicolas Cage, and Rob Grant's twisted survival drama, Alive, starring Angus MacFadyen, are amongst the raft of Saturday night UK TV premieres on Horror Channel during April.
Also in prime-time 9pm slots are the UK TV premieres of Owen Egerton's supernatural horror Mercy Black and Jonathan Zarantonello's sinister, psychological thriller The Butterfly Room, starring Barbara Steele and Ray Wise.
Plus, Padraig Reynolds's suspense-filled neo slasher Open 24 Hours, starring Vanessa Grasse, gets its channel premiere.
Here's all you need to know:
Our first UK TV premiere of the month arrives on the 2n...SHARE: READ MORE I am not a number. I am a free man! The Prisoner tries to escape this March on Horror
Posted on Tuesday 1st March 2022
Horror Channel is dedicated to bringing great cult thrillers to its audience and this trend continues with The Prisoner, a taut psycho-thriller about a secret agent who retires and finds himself thrown into a Kafka-esque world of mindplay and enigma - a man known only as No. 6.
A major cult following has built up around one of the most inventive and ground-breaking TV series ever produced. Multi-talented and twice winner of an Emmy, Patrick McGoohan who stars, also created and produced the series and wrote and directed many of the episodes.
Produced by Everyman Films for distribution by Lew Grade's ITC Entertainment, a single series of seventeen episodes wa...SHARE: READ MORE A tasty release from Burning Witches Records, A Banquet
Posted on Saturday 19th February 2022
On March 11th, London based composer, sound designer and recording artist CJ Mirra releases the OST to IFC Midnight and Hanway Film's A Banquet, which premieres at Cinemas on the same date. A limited run of Pea Green vinyl will be available via Burning Witches Records .
A Banquet is a visually arresting, slow-burning psychological horror that uses subtle supernatural elements to create tension within a family in the midst of a breakdown, exploiting the complicated bond between three generations of mothers and daughters. Variety likens it to Lars Von Tries' Melancholia and Jeff Nichol's Take Shelter. A Banquet sees composer CJ Mirra reunite with...SHARE: READ MORE Horror Channel announces Killer Thriller week for March
Posted on Tuesday 15th February 2022
Horror Channel turns up the tension in March with Killer Thriller Week, featuring the UK premiere of mystery thriller Paradise Cove, staring Mena Suvari and the channel premiere of cat-and-mouse road thriller Cop Car, starring Kevin Bacon. The ultimate 7-day suspense ride also includes Gus Van Sant's revival of the Hitchcock classic Psycho (1988), the 2014 version of erotic thriller The Loft starring Karl Urban, Colin Minihan's deliciously warped What Keeps You Alive, Rod Lurie's 2011 pulsating remake of Straw Dogs and Bad Samaritan, starring a cunningly murderous David Tennant.
Plus, there are four additional UK TV premieres, highlighted by the late Johnny Kevorkian's last fi...SHARE: READ MORE Horror Channel announces raft of premieres for February
Posted on Thursday 13th January 2022
February on Horror Channel keeps genre fans alive with the UK TV premiere of What Keeps You Alive - another suspenseful knife to the throat of 21st Century genre cinema from the deliciously warped mind of Colin Minihan, director of It Stains The Sand Red.
And expect more total shock and abject terror in the UK TV premiere of Paul Hyett's sinister sci-fi horror fantasy Peripheral. This twisted cross between Ex Machina and Videodrome boasts an astonishing performance from Hannah Arterton.
Plus, there are channel premieres for the gore-filled, stomach-churning zombie chiller Death Trench, Producer M. Night Shyamalan's claustrophobic supernatural thriller Devil, the...SHARE: READ MORE Horror Channel ushers in 2022 with zombie invasions
Posted on Tuesday 21st December 2021
January weekends on Horror Channel are invaded by the undead with the UK TV premiere of Lin Oeding's newly-flavoured zombie horror-comedy Office Uprising, and the two highly acclaimed Zombie apocalypse road movies - Stake Land, receiving its Channel premiere, and the sequel The Stakelander, enjoying a UK TV premiere.
Plus, there are channel premieres for the bone-chilling The Wretched, directed by The Pierce Brothers, Sam Raimi's classic Evil Dead 2, once again starring the demon battling Brue Campbell and the original Dolph Lundgrem/Jean-Claude Van Damme futuristic thriller Universal Soldier.
Here's everything you need to know:
A VHS classic on the 8th as Je...SHARE: READ MORE Features Archive: 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 PICK OF THE WEEK
Friday 27th May
Saturday 28th May
Wednesday 25th May