ARTICLES

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 ARTICLES
Enjoy retro-sci-fi-fun with They Came from Beyond Space
Posted in News, Tuesday 23rd February 2021
TheyCameFromBeyondSpace_BD_OR_3DPack

STUDIOCANAL presents a brand-new restoration of the Amicus Productions' cult 60s sci-fi horror They Came from Beyond Space from the legendary director of The Evil of Frankenstein and Dr Terror's House of Horrors, Freddie Francis. Available to buy on Blu-ray for the first time and on DVD and digital formats from 8th March.

Starring Robert Hutton, Jennifer Jayne, Zia Mohyeddin and Bernard Kay the movie was written by Milton Subotsky, the acclaimed screenwriter of Dr Who and the Daleks and Tales from the Crypt, adapted from the book 'The Gods Hate Kansas' by Joseph Millard. An enjoyably camp B-movie, the Amicus producers followed in the tradition o...

SHARE: READ MORE
Get ready to meet a Promising Young Woman in March
Posted in News, Tuesday 23rd February 2021
Promising Young Woman

Driven by a mysterious and tragic event in her past, a young woman seeks out vengeance in this thrilling and wildly entertaining story about a delicious new take on revenge in Promising Young Woman, available to own for the first time on Digital on March 2, 2021 and Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand on March 16 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

This edgy thriller is the directorial debut of groundbreaking filmmaker Emerald Fennell (Killing Eve, The Crown) who wrote the vibrant, twisted and suspenseful story. Showcasing an incredible ensemble cast lead by Academy Award nominee Carey Mulligan (An Education, Drive) and with an iconic soundtrack, fans can now go behind-the-sc...

SHARE: READ MORE
FrightFest favourite The Columnist is coming
Posted in News, Wednesday 17th February 2021
THECOLUMNIST_1-sheet

This year, keyboard warriors need to be careful who they offend online, as The Columnist is unleashed in cinemas and on digital platforms, courtesy of Vertigo Releasing, on 12th March in the UK and Ireland.

Starring Westworld's Katja Herbers, the movie was a stand-out at last year's FrightFest, is a savagely satirical, gory and wholly thrilling look at what happens when the victim of online abuse says "enough is enough". Smartly scripted and slicky directed, with some wonderfully pitch-black set pieces, it sits nicely alongside women-turn-the-tables hits Prevenge, Revenge, Promising Young Woman, and the recent Danish release The Exception.

Newspaper columnist and aut...

SHARE: READ MORE
Director of Reborn now delivers the intense thriller Skin Collector
Posted in News, Wednesday 17th February 2021
2D_SKIN_COLLECT 2

Danse Macabre has announced the UK and Irish release of Julian Richards' award winning crime thriller Skin Collector which will be available on DVD and VOD this week.

John Jarratt (Wolf Creek) stars as a serial killer who develops an unhealthy obsession with the only victim to survive his attack. Danielle Harris (Halloween) stars as the victim, a shy young secretary with an indomnitable will to survive. When the psychopath penetrates police lines to abduct his target, she must draw on all her resources to survive the ordeal. Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers) and Rae Dawn Chong (Commando) are detectives charged with bringing the killer to justice.

Written and Produced by R...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Chee Keong Cheung, director of Redcon-1
Posted in Interviews, Wednesday 17th February 2021
Director Chee Keong Cheung

Fast-paced British zombie thriller, Redcon-1 will be having its UK TV premiere on Horror on Saturday 20th February so we decided to chat with its writer and director Chee Keong Cheung about this acclaimed movie.

HC: Where did the idea for Redcon-1 come from and are you a fan of zombie movies?

CKC: I'm a huge fan of the zombie genre and in particular, Danny Boyle's '28 Days Later', Zak Snyder's 'Dawn of the Dead' and of course George Romero's original works which helped to pave the way for the genre and was a real inspiration for me growing up. I remember watching 'Saving Private Ryan' and 'Black Hawk Down' on TV and had always been drawn to the men on a m...

SHARE: READ MORE
Grimmfest Easter Edition: Full Feature Film Line-Up
Posted in News, Wednesday 17th February 2021
Grimmfest Easter Horror Nights

Grimmfest has announced the launch of their Grimmfest Easter Edition, a new annual event, taking place over the Easter Weekend, and complimenting the long-established festival in October.

Easter is traditionally a time for rebirth, renewal, resurrection. But as the Pandemic continues to rage, and the world remains on lockdown for the foreseeable future, it is also a time for rethinking.

Thus, while the Grimmfest team had hoped to be hosting a 'live' Easter event, instead, the Grimmfest Easter Edition will be taking place online, and will build on the success of Grimmfest 2020 online experience.

The festival will open on Thursday April...

SHARE: READ MORE
Horror Channel bares its teeth in March with Vampire Week
Posted in Features, Tuesday 16th February 2021

Time to get the garlic out as Horror Channel presents Vampire Week, a bitefest of vampire movies from 13 - 19 of March, led by the channel premiere of 30 Days Of Night, David Slade's savage riff on the vampire myth, starring Josh Hartnet and Melissa George.

There are also classics and cult favourites to sink your teeth in to, including Matt Reeves' critically-acclaimed vampire fantasy Let Me In, and Tom Holland's voracious teen vampire hit Fright Night, John Carpenter's Vampires, a horror Western starring James Woods, as a vengeful, stake-wielding bloodsucker hunter, and Francis Ford Cappolas powerful Bram Stoker's Dracula, starring Gary Oldman as the im...

SHARE: READ MORE
Dawn of the Dead has returned (again)
Posted in News, Monday 8th February 2021
DAWN_OF_THE_DEAD_STANDARD_ED_3D_BD_PACK_

After the huge success of its lavish Limited Edition box sets released in Autumn 2020, the dead are preparing to walk the earth once more as Second Sight announces the release of the definitive restored versions of George A Romero's zombie classic Dawn Of The Dead in standard editions on 22 March.

The standard editions of this beautifully restored, comprehensive edition of the seminal horror, feature three different versions of the film, along with a fourth disc of special features across two separate formats Dawn Of The Dead 4K UHD and Dawn Of The Dead Blu-ray.

Acclaimed by fans and critics alike, these presentations offer ...

SHARE: READ MORE
Finally uncut, Tammy and the T-Rex!
Posted in News, Monday 8th February 2021
Tammy and the TRex Exploded pack shot

Starring Denise Richards and Paul Walker in early roles, Tammy and the T-Rex was originally released in the USA with a PG-13 rating. This release features the recently restored 'Gore Cut', presented as originally conceived in all its gore-filled glory.

Tammy is a popular high school cheerleader whose new boyfriend, Michael, might be the love of her life. But Tammy's jealous ex, Billy, won't stand for anyone coming between him and 'his' girl, so he and his friends kidnap Michael, leaving him to be mauled by a lion in a local wildlife reserve. Comatose and at death's door, Michael's body is stolen from the hospital by mad scientist Dr. Wachenstein, w...

SHARE: READ MORE
New trailer for Willy's Wonderland starring Nic Cage
Posted in News, Monday 8th February 2021

Ever wanted to see Nic Cage battle violent animatronic amusement park mascots? If so then Signature Entertainment have the movie for you, Willy's Wonderland will be unleashed on Digital 12th February.

Stranded in a remote town with a car that won't work and no way to pay the local repair shop, The Janitor (Nic Cage) agrees to spend the night in an abandoned theme park full of animatronic characters that were once a joy to the kids of the town, but now hold a dark secret. As night falls, these once happy mascots come to life and they're out for blood. Survive at any cost, it's only one night! Willy's Wonderland stars Nic Cage (Mandy) alongside Emily Tosta ...

SHARE: READ MORE
They Came from Beyond Space to be released in remastered form in March
Posted in News, Monday 8th February 2021
TheyCameFromBeyondSpace_BD_OR_2DPack

STUDIOCANAL presents a brand-new restoration of the Amicus Productions' cult 60s sci-fi horror They Came from Beyond Space from the legendary director of The Evil Of Frankenstein and Dr Terror's House Of Horrors, Freddie Francis. Available to buy on Blu-ray for the first time and on DVD and digital formats from 8th March.

Starring Robert Hutton, Jennifer Jayne, Zia Mohyeddin and Bernard Kay THEY CAME FROM BEYOND SPACE was written by Milton Subotsky, the acclaimed screenwriter of Dr Who and the Daleks and Tales from the Crypt, adapted from the book 'The Gods Hate Kansas' by Joseph Millard. An enjoyably camp B-movie, the Amicus producers followed i...

SHARE: READ MORE
Get ready to learn about The Curse of Hobbes House in March
Posted in News, Monday 8th February 2021
Curse_of_Hobbes_House_Digital art-1

4Digital Media will be releasing Juliane Block's gripping undead horror thriller The Curse of Hobbes House on DVD and Digital download in the UK from March 8.

Directed by Juliane Block (8 Remains, 3 Lives), and written by Block and regular collaborator Wolf-Peter Arand, the movie was shot entirely on location at Kings Weston House, Bristol.

After the death of her Aunt, Jane Dormant travels to the family's remote, ancestral home hoping to receive a large inheritance. When Jane's estranged, half-sister Jennifer arrives at Hobbes House to claim her part of the estate, the sisters' simmering hate ignites. But then a violent, unexpected storm...

SHARE: READ MORE
Articles Archive: 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006
PICK OF THE WEEK
The Hallow
THE HALLOW
Thursday 4th March
9.00 PM
Krull
KRULL
Saturday 6th March
6.40 PM
Hollow Man
HOLLOW MAN
Tuesday 2nd March
10.40 PM