History of Sci-Fi Cinema 5: “Things to Come”

05-ThingstoCome-titleThings to Come (1936)
Written by H G Wells
Directed by William Cameron Menzies
Starring Raymond Massey, Ralph Richardson, Cedric Hardwicke
United Artists
1:32:51


Things to Come is based on H G Wells’ novel The Shape of Things to Come from three years earlier. It is more or less an anti-war parable told in three chapters, depicting different times in the future of the fictional British “Everytown.” It’s always said that “good” science fiction carries a message, reflects on society, extrapolates a perspective to its extreme to illustrate a point. Things to Come certainly does that.  Continue reading

History of Sci-Fi Cinema 4: “Just Imagine”

04-JustImagine-TitleJust Imagine (1930)
Written (story, dialogue and songs) by DeSylva, Brown & Henderson
Directed by David Butler
Starring John Garrick, Frank Albertson, Maureen O’Sullivan, Marjorie White
Fox Film Corporation
1:48:22


In undertaking this blog project, I expected to hit all the “biggies,” all the accepted (and expected) classics. But I also wanted to discover some of the rarer gems, some of the peculiarities, in the history of sci-fi. And boy, did I find one: a science fiction romantic comedy musical. In fact, its a movie I’d never heard of until putting together this list of films to review.

Made in 1930, this film begins with a request: Just look at how much progress 50 years can bring. Why, in 1880 we had nothing but horse-drawn carriages and good manners. Today, it’s all hustle and bustle. “Just Imagine” what another 50 years will bring: What will life be like in the far-flung future of 1980…? Continue reading

History of Sci-Fi Cinema 3: “Metropolis”

03-Metropolis-TitleMetropolis (1927)
Written by Thea von Harbou
Directed by Fritz Lang
Starring Gustav Fröhlich, Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel
UFA
2:27:13


The Mediator Between the Head and the Hands Must Be the Heart!

The granddaddy of all science fiction films. It may not be the first, but there’s probably no more influential film on the genre than this. It’s a massive tale about class struggle and revolt, about machine vs humanity, about love, and about two and a half hours long. It’s a modern retelling of the parable of the Tower of Babylon and features some of the most recognizable imagery in all of sci-fi history: the workers at the machines, the robot, the robot’s transformation into the image of Maria, etc. It’s a mammoth undertaking to watch, and with patience, is an extremely rewarding work of art.

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History of Sci-Fi Cinema 2: “The Lost World”

02-lostworld-TitleThe Lost World (1925)
Written by Marion Fairfax (based on The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
Directed by Harry Holt
Starring Lewis Stone, Edward Malone, Bessie Love
First National Pictures
1:32:08


The only silent SF films I’ve ever seen are Le Voyage Dans la Lune and Metropolis. My plan for this series was to review those two and then jump into the 1950s. But Le Voyage inspired me to add a few more early films to my list. The next in line is The Lost World, which notably begins with an on-screen appearance by the great author himself, Sir Conan Doyle, who says:

“I have wrought my simple plan,
If I give one hour of joy
To the boy who’s half a man
or the man who’s half a boy.”

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History of Sci-Fi Cinema 1: “Le Voyage Dans La Lune”

01-TripMoon-TitleLe Voyage Dans La Lune (1902)
Directed by Georges Méliès
Starring Georges Méliès, Bleuette Bernon
Star Film Company
0:15:36


As I begin my journey through the history of science fiction films, I wanted to start as close to the beginning as possible. There are other films earlier than this that nominally qualify as science fiction (some sources consider La Charcuterie mécanique from 1895 to be the first sci-fi film, but I really think that’s stretching it), but this is the first of major importance, the first to depict purely science fictional themes, and the first to reach beyond the confines of our planet. In fact, it’s one of the most influential films ever made from a technical standpoint.

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