Τρίτη, 9 Οκτωβρίου 2012

The 50s Horror Movies

Fifties the Decade of Horror and Science Fiction crossover

During 40s horror films were characterised by the high - contrast of black and white, with shadows like pools of ink and protagonists slipping into near insanity. In the 50s horror films changed the semi - documentary grey with everyday heroes and finally conquered the silver screens.

The period of 50s was the decade of McCarthysm, the fear of atomic warfare, juvenile delinquency, the Suez crisis and the mass expansion of Rock n Roll music. After World War II and especially after the Nazis, the Holocaust and the Red Soviet threat the lone Count from Transylvania and Dr. Frankestein’s monster were not able to create fear to audience. However, monsters could soon be back, dressed in new suit and transformed into modern creatures.

The most significant Horror movies of the Fifties

The Thing from Another World (Christian Nyby, 1951) is one of the most significant and one of the most influential horror films of this decade.  
Actually, “The thing from another world” is a crossover between horror and science fiction, the plot structure of the film is about alien invasion. The Alien in the film “The Thing from another world” is evil, aggressive and deadly. The victims of the Alien deadly attack are members of a scientific research team and military (air force) personnel in an Artic base. The Thing film follows the typical horror film plot structure a team of people trapped somewhere and being under attack of an unstoppable, unexplained and deadly force.

The Thing from Another World” shares elements of classic Universal Monsters films. The alien monster is a vegetable bitped, looks like a bald Frankestein monster in boiler suit and has the Dracula habit of drinking human blood, but more of the above the filmmakers innovated more cliche’s. 

The shadows of the menace Artic base may be deep but the main characters of the film show only sensible fear and treat the monster like a problem to be solved. Among the human characters is developed a conflict about the alien monster. The military crew wants to destroy the alien creature, scientists want to communicate with it and learn from it. This conflict between military duty to protect the country and humanity and the scientific point of view appears almost in every alien, dinosaur or radioactive mutant in fifties horror movies. Also, Thing established the matter - of - fact semi - documentary tone of the film which finally was copied by a large number of 50s horror film.

The Science Fiction - Horror crossover of 50’s

In 50’s spaceships, rockets and space suits were not enough to create science fiction film style and atmosphere. Almost all science fiction movies of the period take care to include a monster to qualify at least as a semi - horror movies. I can mention the enormously powerful robot Gont in the the film “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (Robert Wise, 1951), the giant squid in the film “"2000 Leagues under the sea" (Richard Fleitcher, 1954), the Metaluna Mutant (bug eyed, inject - limbed and exposed brain) in the film “"This Island Earth" (Joseph Newman, 1955). But the monster did not appear only in horror films, but also in other films. 

Mutants were presented to 50’s horror films, among them we can distinguish “The Werewolf” (Fred F. Sears, 1956), “The Vampire” (Paul Landres, 1957) and “Frankenstein 1970" (Howard Koch, 1958).

On the following video you can see the theatrical trailer of the film “Thing from Another World”  

I need also to highlight the fact that Radioactive mutants beasts (monsters) appear in Cinema as result of the nuclear competition between superpowers during the 50s decade. “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms” (Eugene Lourie, 1953) is  a classic horror film of that decade and presents a radioactive dinosaur which was created after a bomb test at the North Pole, also the film “Them!” (GordonDouglas, 1954) presents transformed Insects after the first atomic in 1945. At the other side of the Pacific Ocean Ishiro Honda filmed the legendary Gojira “Godjila” (1954) then Terry O. Morse will produce the US Edition of Gojira with the title “Godzilla, Kings of Metal”.

The atomic power as result of mutation and the transformation of innocent humans into monsters was a common concept in 50s. Among the films with relative theme are “The Neanderthal Man” (Ewald Ante Dupont, 1953), “The Fly” (Kurt Newmann, 1958), “Monster on the Campus” (Jack Arnold, 1958), “The Hideous Sun Demon” (Robert Clark, Tom Boutross, 1959).

On the following video you can see the original Japanese theatrical trailer of the film “Gojira” (Known as Godzilla in Western Countries)

Horror from Space the Fifties masterpieces

The classic novel of the H.G. Wells “The War of the Worlds” was adapted for cinema theaters and aliens arrived in sleek, aerodynamic murder machines with tri - lobed, snake - necked probes to conquer earth, the film was directed by Byron Haskin in 1953. The concept of mass alien invasion was popular during fifties but because of financial reasons (limited resources) the plot structure of fifties horror films was transformed from mass aliens to alone alien troublemakers as in films like “ Phantom from Space” (W. Lee Wildw 1953) and “Devil Girl from Mars” (David McDonald, 1955)            

During 50s the Universal Studios were against heading the monster films genre. The majority of Universal Horror films were produced by William Alland and they were directed by Jack Arnold. Among the most significant films of that period are “It came from outer space”  (1953, Jack Arnold), the plot structure is about an alien visitor, “Tarantula” (1955, Jack Arnold) a film about a monster bug, also significant film is the “Monolith Monsters” (1957,John Sherwood) also the “Magnetic Monsters” (1953, Kurt Siodmak).  

In my opinion the most significant of all monster films is “Creature from the Black Lagoon” (1954, Jack Arnold) a film about a humanoid monster who lives underwater in a black lagoon somewhere in the tropics. The Monster from the Black Lagoon is a great movie and the storyline of the movie is similar to the “monster and the beauty” legend.
Also interesting films of the fifties are “Revenge of the Creature” (1955, Jack Arnold) and “The Creature Walks Among Us” (1956, John Sherwood).

The Grind - house outfits in the mid fifties

In the fifties parallel with the major studios works were also significant movies produced by independent filmmakers like James H. Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff’s all of them work with AIP (American International Pictures) Studios.  Limited financial resources was a huge factor for rediscovering horror and science fiction genre and changing the point of view by focusing directly on a mostly teenage, drive - in audience. To the kids, heroes in uniforms like Kenneth Tobey seemed square. Significant works of AIP are “"Invasion of the Saucer Men” (1958, Edward Cahn) “The Blob” (1958, Irvin Yeaworth).

The plot structure of the Blob is about the inability of adults to combat the menace archetypal big - eyes monsters, only teenagers can fight and destroy the monsters. During that period AIP unleashed movies created by young producer - director Roger Corman - the most significant of them are:  “It Conquered the World” (1956, Roger Corman), “Not of this earth” (1957, Roger Corman), and the “Attack of the Crab Monsters” (1957, Roger Corman). Actually  AIP films have terrific pace and they can be watched pleasantly. Also, significant movies of this period are also - “The Amazing Colossal Man” (1959, Bert I.Gordon) and”The Wasp Woman” (1959, Roger Corman)                           

The Scientific Developments and the Conspiracy Theories affected the horror genre during fifties. As a result there was the production of films such as “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (Don Siegel, 1956) the plot structure of the film is about a small town where people came down with an epidemic of an unusual delusion - that their friends and relatives have changed. There were people who believed that film “Invasion of Body Snatchers” is a film about the vision of Senator McCarthy about communist hunting in United States of America. This theory can be accepted but there are also psychological readings about this film. The Body Snatchers ground from seed, owe a little of stories about doppenlgangers (inspired by works of Poe “William Wilson” and Tthe Student of Prague”), vampirism or demon  possession, but Finney set out a modem with which has proved useful ever since.

On the following video you can see the trailer of the film “Invansion of the Body Snatchers”

The Gothic horror during fifties

The Gothic horror is represented in fifties by films as “The Son of Dr. Jekyll” (1951, Seymour Friedman), “The Strange Door” (1951, Joseph Pavney), “The Black Castle” (1951, Nathan Juran) which is actually a remake of the film “The most dangerous game”. Also, during the fifties we have the film “House of Wax” (1953, ….) which is actually a remake of the film “Mystery of the Wax Museum” (1933, …). Finally the Gothic style horror films were based of plot ideas about the 19th century mad science, voodoo and mummies with stars as Lugosi, Chaney Jr, Karloff and finally they were produced by Howard W. Koch - films like “The Black Sleep” (1950, …), “Voodoo Island” (1957, …), “Frankestain 1970” (1958, …), “Pharaoh’s Curse” (1958,...).

to be continued

Elias Stoikos

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