The Fashion of Sci-Fi Part 3 – 1950s

Posted: July 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

1950s: Atomic-powered saucermen and Googie

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The 1950s were the time of hair gel, rebellion and the dawn of the atomic age. The design of the future (or indeed Back To The Future) was influenced by rock and roll, new energy sources and, of course, the phantom menace of the Russians and communism.

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Who was a communist? Were your friends and neighbours being taken and replaced by pod-people from another planet? Were you or any of your family being visited by aliens hidden in sink holes under your garden, or whisked away with Arian-looking spacemen to battle giant, bulbous-headed monsters from space, or to stop the earth standing still, or even preventing Martian war machines using snotty tissues?

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The greatest sci-fi movies of the 1950s

In the 1950s public interest in space travel and new technologies was great. While many 1950s science fiction films were low-budget, there were several successful films with larger budgets and impressive special effects.

Forbidden Planet

Forbidden Planet is arguably the best science fiction movie of the 1950′s. In an era where Cold War fears materialized in mutated, giant insects, or alien invaders subverting all that was American, Forbidden Planet worked as all good science fiction does: it examines ourselves. Quite literally, it looked into the materialization of our own inner demons.

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In the 1950s public interest in space travel and new technologies was great. While many 1950s science fiction films were low-budget B movies, there were several successful films with larger budgets and impressive special effects.

These include The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

The Thing from Another World (1951)

When Worlds Collide (1951)

This Island Earth (1955)

Forbidden Planet (1956)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Godzilla

It wasn’t just the west that was scared of atomic power as the 1954 film Godzilla shows.

The original in Godzilla or Godzilla, King of the Monsters! was about a prehistoric monster 50 meters tall and weighing 20,000 metric tons, which terrorized the people of Japan. It was awakened by an American Hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific Ocean. After attacking Tokyo, destroying much of the city and killing tens of thousands, Godzilla was defeated when scientist Dr. Daisuke Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata) used the Oxygen Destroyer, which completely dissolved Godzilla. Godzilla is one of the most recognizable aspects of Japanese popular culture worldwide. To this day, Godzilla remains an important facet of Japanese films, embodying the kaiju subset of the tokusatsu genre. Godzilla has been considered a filmographic metaphor for the United States. The earliest Godzilla films, especially the original Gojira, attempted to portray Godzilla as a frightening, nuclear monster. Godzilla represented the fears of many Japanese of a repetition of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

This was the 1950s, meaning sci-fi turned colour and was full of mod-cons. If we were living the 1950s future, the assumption was that we would be living in houses akin to those in the Jetsons, with robot housemaids and food in pill form.

Actual space Cities

During the 1950s designers such as Darrell C. Romick and Wernher von Braun produced several visionary papers which outlined a future world of ion propulsion, re-usable launch vehicles, manned lunar missions and permanently occupied orbital colonies. The designs for these large, inhabited satellite terminals were to be produced by continual rocket missions by the reusable space-craft called ‘meteor’ a rocket that would over many years take the required material into the atmosphere and allow engineers to slowly put together these fantastical space-stations.

Seen as the first step to explore the galaxy these were the innovators and springboard for Gerard K. O’Neill proposed L5 space colony plans of the 1970s and were seen at the time as the‘stepping-stone to the moon, to the planets, and beyond.”

There would be no need for pavements as we would have conveyor belts everywhere (actually if you go to Vegas, it’s a bit like this). Of course, it wouldn’t all be happy, as even with our future atomic, neon lifestyle full of ray-guns and jet-packs we would still be in trouble, as we would have to deal with the persistent problem of alien invasion from small Martians, who had a penchant for dressing up like Roman Soldiers and always looking for their ‘Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator’.

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Recommendations

Books:
Foundation Trilogy (Isaac Asimov)
The Martian Chronicles (Ray Bradbury)
Starship Troopers (Robert E Heinlein)
Final Blackout (L. Ron Hubbard)

Films:
This Island Earth (Joseph M. Newman)
Invaders From Mars (William Menzies)
The Day The Earth Stood Still (Robert Wise)
Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (Fred Sears / Ray Harryhausen)
Plan 9 From Outer Space (Ed Wood Jr.)

TV:
The Outer Limits
The Twilight Zone
Haredevil Hare/Hare-Way To The Stars (Looney Tunes shorts)
The Quatermass Experiment (BBC)

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