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by Dr. Helfenbein

Dr. Helfenbein on Movies: Science Fiction Movies of the 50s Part II

Dr. Helfenbein is an avid film watcher (or, as some would say, cinephile) and will be writing a semi-regular column for the BACC Rag in which he recommends older movies students might be interested in watching. 

In the previous column, I mentioned that the large number of science fiction movies produced in the 1950s may in part be due to the atomic zeitgeist: by 1949, both the United States and the Soviet Union had atomic weapons. Many science fiction movies of the era deal with radioactivity in one way or another. In this column, I have written about two of these movies, both of which deal with the (fictional) effects of radiation, but go in opposite directions: one to the little and one to the big.

incredible_shrinking_man_poster_05The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) directed by Jack Arnold from a screenplay by Richard Matheson (from his novel) is the story of Scott Carey. During a day outing on a boat, an unusual mist passes over the vessel . . . and Carey’s body. Apparently, it is of no concern, but as the weeks go by he notices that his clothes are too big for him. Initially he thinks he may have lost weight. Eventually he goes to the doctor and discovers that not only has he lost weight, but he has also grown shorter. A visit to a research lab determines that the mist that Carey encountered was radioactive. He also remembers that weeks before the boating trip he had been exposed to a chemical insecticide. This combination has caused a change in the molecular structure of his cells. As time goes by, Scott Carey can no longer work, his relationship with his wife deteriorates, as does his relationship with the family cat once he is mouse-sized (and then there is the spider in the basement he must confront when insect-sized). It would seem as

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by Dr. Helfenbein

Dr. Helfenbein On Movies: Science Fiction of the 1950s

http://sites.lib.byu.edu/sc/2009/09/03/the-thing-from-another-world/
http://sites.lib.byu.edu/sc/2009/09/03/the-thing-from-another-world/

Dr. Helfenbein is an avid film watcher (or, as some would say, cinephile) and will be writing a semi-regular column for the BACC Rag in which he recommends older movies students might be interested in watching. 

The first two decades of the sound era (the 30s and 40s) saw few science fiction movies (notable exceptions being the serials Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers). Whether it was due to the atomic era and Cold War or just to the fact the time was right, the 1950s saw an explosion of science fiction on the big screen: space monsters, alien invaders, colliding planets, giant invertebrates, and mad scientists all made it to the big time in the decade that gave us Fortran and rock ‘n’ roll. In this column I’ll deal with selections from the unfriendly-visitors-from-outer-space subgenre.

            The Thing From Another World (1951), directed by Christian Nyby, tells the tale of a group of scientists, military personnel and news reporters at a station in Antarctica. They find, buried beneath snow and ice, a space ship . . . and its lone occupant. The Thing is a classic of claustrophobic horror with most of the action between humans and bloodthirsty alien taking place in the confined quarters of the station, the exterior an inhospitable frozen zone. This movie served up the UFO-mania r