Sci-Fi '56: The Year of Style, Substance, and Silliness

Forbidden Planet marks a highpoint in science-fiction cinema, and while the filmmakers’ clever riff on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” balances classic elements of escapism with striking special effects, writers and directors with lesser budgets sometimes used the genre to debate social issues.

The makers of Satellite in the Sky wanted to use sci-fi to inform people that War Is Bad, although it's a bit muddy as to whether we should use the same options as the characters - build the ultimate doomsday bomb and inform the world it must mend its ways or else- or find non-violent, less extreme measures within the framework of international political organizations and treaties (non of which come into play in this intriguing but rather precious film).

That film is notable for co-starring a young, pre-Bond Lois Maxwell, a wooden Kieron Moore (The Day of the Triffids), and a wiry Bryan Forbes, and features some great footage of vintage Cold Way aircrafts.

The characters in World Without End are sent way forward in time to a post-apocalyptic world where the sole humans on the surface and one-eyed blinkies, and those underground and smart yet paranoid nerds. The finale is about rekindling the gene pool, although one can also touch and feel the filmmakers’ overt message about cooperation and tolerance.

World co-stars Rod Taylor and his chest, and features the best quasi-Method performance ever, if not the most misplaced quasi-Method performance in a movie written and directed by the astute maker of Queen of Outer Space (1958).

All three titles were made in 1956 in a pre-Sputnik era, but certainly in the case of Satellites, the filmmakers sensed things were brewing around Europe, making that film a fascinating snapshot of nuclear paranoia, circa 1956.

Satellites and World are available from WHV as part of a double-bill, and TCM's Greatest Classic Films: Sci-Fi Adventures 4-pack, which also includes Forbidden.

I’ve reviewed all three films, as well as WHV’s new Blu-ray of Forbidden Planet, which brings back into circulation a sparkling high-def version of the film, with all of the extras in the 2006 50th anniversary release, including the 1957 Robby the Robot (mis)adventure The Invisible Boy.

Mark R. Hasan, Editor


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