Archive for the Sci-Fi Category
And a few screen captures from the latest Red Band trailer for Alien Covenant (May 2017).
Cool old lobby card from one of the lower budgeted “giant bug” films.
It Came from Outer Space (1953) was a landmark film for Universal in being the studio’s first attempt at depicting an alien visitor, a first for use of stereophonic sound and photography in the Mojave/Joshua Tree landscapes, first presentation of a 3-D monster film (anticipating Universal’s Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)), and the first film to show perspectives from the monster’s point of view.
I rate it as one of the all-time great sci-fi films and top-tier 50’s sci-fi, along side with The Thing, DTESS, IVOTBS, Them!, TWOTW, Shrinking Man, and Black Lagoon. Oddly, I’m not as high about Forbidden Planet (1956) and This Island Earth (1955), which look terrific and are brilliantly designed films, but seem unusually stiff during resent screenings. The Eisenhower-era depiction of military types in FP really seems dated to me now (see Danny Peary’s review in the original Cult Movies (1981)).
It Came from Outer Space was just released on Blu-ray disc and it looks and sounds terrific. I particularly noticed the vibrato nuances of the theremin in the DTS MA 3.0 LCR audio. Some historians (Bob Burns) consider this one of the greatest of the original 3-D movies, and the BR release includes both 2-D and 3-D versions. Unfortunately, I’m a simpleton and refuse to upscale to 3-D or any of the multi-channeled opulence (why would I listen to Bela Lugosi in 7.1 channel anyway?). A few years back I did purchase an OPPO BDP 103D disc player with a Darby processor and I can attest that a xenomorph has never looked finer processed through that bit of electronics.
The bonus material has been around: The Universe According to Universal documentary is superb and Tom Weaver’s feature commentary is informative. I prefer reading Weaver over hearing him. (Tom you talk too fast—please pack less in your commentaries).
Movie: Five Stars. Near Perfect Sci-Fi.
BR: Nice Print. Sounds Terrific. Four Stars. New supplements lacking.
In a sneak peak at the Venice film festival, film critic Peter Bradshaw from The Guardian described director Denis Villeneuve’s new alien encounter film Arrival (2016) as being “dreamy, freaky, audacious” and a “big, risky, showy movie” which provides the viewer with spectacle and fervent romance. Early reviews from the Telluride film festival describe the film to be provocative in establishing an intelligent model for communicating with an extraterrestrial species.
Steven Spielberg employed the use of musical tones and color in CE3K (1977), and in Arrival linguist Dr. Louis Banks (Amy Adams) refers to an actual concept known as the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis (in-depth description) aka the Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis which states that there are certain thoughts of an individual in one language that cannot be understood by those who live in another language (Banks refers to conveying the differences between a tool and a weapon to the alien species).The hypothesis further states that the way people think is strongly affected by their native languages.
We see attempts at communication outreach in alien arrival films (AAF)(this is my term, btw, and I realize most of these films are more eloquently classified in other sci-fi sub-genre) as early as Howard Hawks’ production of The Thing from Another World (1951), with Dr. Carrington (Robert Cornthwaite) pleading inferiorority to a “thinking carrot” (James Arness), except there is no alien reciprocation other than a swift Thing-Chop to Carrington’s clavicle. In the same year, film-goers watched an evil astronomer Dr. Mears (William Schallert) forcefully squeeze secrets of the universe from a benevolent visitor in Edgar Ulmer’s low budget gem The Man from Planet X (1951). During the 1950’s, alien arrival films almost invariably resulted in poor communication, misunderstanding, conflict, and elimination.
We see several manifestations of alien conflict in the 50’s:
- Transmogrification and absorption in It Came from Outer Space (1953), Invaders from Mars (1953), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), The Blob (1958), and I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958).
- Blood-letting in The Thing (1951), It the Terror from Beyond Space (1958) and Night of the Blood Beast (1958).
- Good old-fashioned disintigration in The War of the Worlds (1953), Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956), and I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958).
- Mind-control by weird telepathic bat-like entities in It Conquered the World (1956) and Not of this Earth (1957).
- Crushing by way of a pulsating thumping accumulator thing in Kronos (1957)
- Forced inebriation in Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957).
- A nice right hook in Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959).
From the 1950’s through present day, it is rare to see a peaceful encounter —The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and two Spielberg vehicles come to mind. After all, why would an advanced alien race even bother communicating with primitive underlings when the earth is chock full of water, nitrogen, silica, rare-earth elements and bio-mass? The place is the pickings. Plus, vile aliens hell-bent on conquering the planet are a lot more interesting than E.T.
For me, I definitely lean toward the low-budget AAF (Saucer Men and IT Conquered are guilty pleasures), but I enjoy the intelligent films as well. The crème de la crème and Big 3 AAF of the 50’s being:
- The Thing (1951)
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
- The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
I’d love to see this big starfish sucker thing appendage grab Forest Whitaker’s torso and squeeze out his eyeballs, but I know that aint happening. Still, I’m still looking forward to Arrival opening in the U.S. in a few weeks.