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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

End of an Era?

With Atomic Submarine, the decade of 1950s sci-fi came to an end. With it, comes the close of this first phase of my "research," begun almost two years ago. 50s sci-fi was clearly not all the same. It has been interesting to see how sci-fi movies had changed (for better or worse) over the decade. The early almost-innocent space opera genre, such as Captain Video and Radar Men from the Moon, faded away. A later fascination with ugly monsters, death and destruction increased.

Every era has its worries. The 1930s had The Depression. The 40s had Hitler. The 50s had several new cultural fixations. They found expression in film. The first fixation was anxiety over atomic Armageddon. A second was fear of Communist invasion. A third was fascination with the dawn of the space age. These three themes drove the majority (though not all) of 50s sci-fi movie plots.

Rocketship XM was a dramatic first example of atomic angst expressed in a sci-fi movie. The invasion theme got a later start but more than made up for lost time. Destination Moon was the first installment of serious imagining of what manned space travel might be like. With the launch of Sputnik in 1957 and America's Explorer 1 in 1958, the Space Age became a reality. Perhaps it is no coincidence that those two years saw the most sci-fi films released.

The 60s would be a different era with different concerns. Yet, change didn't come overnight. Early 60s sci-fi showed a strong affinity for the style and mood of the 50s. After all, there was still the threat of communist invasion to fret over. The threat of nuclear destruction would grow even more more frightening in the early 60s. But, on a brighter note, the 60s was the decade of the Space Race, not just dreams of space. Sci-fi would push the dream far beyond earth orbit.

Now begins phase 2 of my studies: sci-fi movies of the early 60s.


Mike Scott said...

It was a great decade for sci-fi movies and I've enjoyed reading your reviews of all the movies! Looking forward to 1960-1964 (which is where I also end the "golden age").

Unknown said...

I have spent the past few days reading and researching all the movies you have watched and written about, and I must say I'm thoroughly looking forward to tracing as many of them as possible.

I run a DVD rental store, and I'm creating a fab sci-fi section, and can't wait to get some classic 50s sci-fi in stock to show to my customers.

Thanks for making all of your reviews so informative and enlightening, and I can't wait to read your opinions of 60s sci-fi over the course of the near future.

Nightowl said...

I think it would be a great feature for a DVD rental place to have a classic sci-fi section. There are so much really fun films from the 50s. The big-name famous ones are great, of course, but some of the obscure stuff can be simply fascinating.

Thanks for reading.

Mike Scott said...

More 1959 movies.

The Giant Behemoth
Journey to the Center of the Earth
The Monster of Piedras Blancas
On the Beach
The World the Flesh and the Devil
Battle in Outer Space (US 1960)