One of the most famous films of all time, the original King Kong is famed for its storyline (a sympathetic monster?), Fay Wray’s luminous beauty and Ray Harryhausen’s superb stop-motion special effects. It was not the first giant monster film, nor the first jungle film – there were dinosaur and Tarzan films before it – but it was the first giant ape film.
Kong himself has gone on the be one of the most famous movie monsters of all time, with multiple remakes, sequels and appearances in other films to his credit – his only serious rival for the crown of King of Monsters is Godzilla (who is equally iconic and even more prolific).
The film is one of the most loved films of all time, being a massive commercial success (except in Nazi Germany, where it was banned), a critical favourite (admittedly, of the guilty pleasure variety), and a cult classic. Not bad for an adventure yarn.
Originating from a 1934 comic strip appearing in publications of the King Features Syndicate, Flash Gordon was one of Buck Rogers’ earliest competitors, and far and away his most successful. Flash Gordon was a blonde American hero who, with his love interest Dale Arden and scientist companion Dr Hans Zarkov, is transported to the planet Mongo. Here, Gordon comes into conflict with the dictator, Ming the Merciless, and encounters Ming’s many client states, slowly uniting them into a force that can overthrow the despot.
In 1936, Flash Gordon first his the silver screen. Episode one of a thirteen part serial premiered on April 6, starring Buster Crabbe as the title character. Since that time, there have been numerous sequels and revivals of the character, most notably the 1980 feature film of the same title that attempted to cash in on the popularity of Star Wars.
“The Day The Earth Stood Still” was a milestone in the history of the cinema. It was perhaps the first truly serious science fiction movie, and certainly the first such film to achieve mainstream success. Before it, and for the most part, after it, science fiction films were b-movies. “The Day The Earth Stood Still” changed that.
Its combination of serious social critique with the tropes of science fiction cinema was a shocking break from the previously accepted notions of filmic science fiction cinema. It remains one of the most influential films ever made, and not merely within its own genre or medium – when Ronald Reagan was President, he made references to the warring nations of Earth uniting against an extra-terrestrial threat, apparently inspired by his viewings of “The Day The Earth Stood Still“. More recently, 2009’s “District 9” has shown that the science fiction film as social commentary is alive and well.
George Pal was the producer of some of the most famous science fiction movies of the Fifties – Destination Moon, War of the Worlds, The Time Machine and, of course, When Worlds Collide.
Based on a Philip Wylie novel from 1933, When Worlds Collide has a ludicrous plot involving the evacuation of the planet Earth when another planet is on a collision course with it. The ludicrous part is that the citizenry is evacuated to the world on the collision course, which always seemed to me to be kinda frying pan to the other side of the frying pan.
Still, the film won an Oscar for its special effects, and remains a classic of Fifties sci fi, and considering that genre, the silliness of the plot is probably a good part of the reason why.
Based on an original novel written by John Wyndham and published in 1951, “The Day of the Triffids” starred Howard Keel and Janette Scott. It wasn’t, however, a very faithful adaptation. It’s not a bad film – with the possible exception of its deus ex machina ending – but it doesn’t have much relation to the novel.
It is one of the greatest and most influential science fiction and horror movies of all time – its opening sequence inspired ’28 Days Later’; the alien plants helped inspire ‘E.T.’, and the list goes on.