Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Follow the Leader : Sci Fi in Black and White!

 


Redartz:  Okay, it's about time once again to open up the agenda; to throw the gates wide open, to call upon BitBA assembled to provide the parameters for the next week's discussion! As you know, the first commenter to submit a topic wins the honor of guiding us forward into an invigorating investigation of some Bronze-y banter. So, have a go at it!

46 comments:

Colin Jones said...

Which are your favourite science-fiction films made in BLACK & WHITE?

So I'm mainly thinking of the period from the 1930s to the '50s obviously.

Selenarch said...

I can't say it's my favorite, but I recently saw Fritz Lang's Woman in the Moon, and it was very good. Solid plot with a surprisingly solid scientific basis. Plus, the bad guy is Fritz Rasp who, as usual, is awesome.

McSCOTTY said...


I’m not 100% sure if these are all b&w movies or I just saw them on an old b&w TV back in the day. But some of my favorites are:

King Kong (is that SF?)
The Fly
The Thing from Another World
The incredible Shrinking man
The Day the Earth Stood Still
The Invisible man (1933 version)

Unknown said...

Wow! There are so many great B&W Sci-Fi films.

1. Sci-Fi Films with a Message or “More Intelligent” Films

The Day the Earth Stood Still
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
The Incredible Shrinking Man
The Thing
Gojira (Godzilla if you’re nasty)

2. Fun Sci-Fi Films or Films that Stretch the Science Bits

King Kong
Son of Kong
Frankenstein
Bride of Frankenstein (even though it has the mini faerie people)
The Invisible Man
The Creature from the Black Lagoon

My personal favorite is King Kong. An incredibly fun story with effects that still wow me and are imbued with a humanity by Willis O’Brien. You care about the humans and the ape unlike most of the remakes.

The others are the best of the best with great stories, characters, cinematography, and special effects (for the time) rising above the the “kiddie” fare that most people thought as Sci-Fi was at the time.

Travis Morgan

Humanbelly said...

Boy, there weren't a ton of them before 1950, though, were there? Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS (1927) and RKO's KING KONG (1933-- hard to believe those two films are only six years apart!)-- and then we transfer to the Horror Movie train for a couple o' decades. Strictly speaking, FRANKENSTEIN and BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN sit in the SF realm as much as horror, but that's a topic for another time, eh?

And there were also some classics in the 50's that went ahead and budgeted for Color. One of my favorites in that category would be the original THE FLY. Geeze, what an utterly heartbreaking film. Again. . . Sci-fi, or horror? The B&W sequel? Mmmmm, not so strong (plus, stomping guinea pigs to death. . . JFC. . . )

IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE is probably my dark-horse favorite, because it plants its flag deep about a)not succumbing to blind xenophobia, and b) to not judge the actions of a group of people (well, or extremely terrifying-looking aliens) by the actions of one miscreant. STRONG cast, though it's a bit of a slow-mover at times. And it does give up a touch of credibility in its attempt to depict a creature so "revolting" that people lose their marbles just at the sight of it. It. . . just never works. And they didn't have the technical skills or artistic background to really pull this off. (Russ Johnson from GILLIGAN'S ISLAND has the rare non-heavy supporting cinematic role!)

INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN is a good, good film too. Very faithful to Matheson's original short novel-- it's a good lesson in telling an inevitable story cinematically.

I especially like both of the above films because they both manage to strike a note of hope at the end, which was not the norm for the genre in the 50's, I think.

THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD-- Just a great movie, this one! It benefited greatly from Howard Hawks' "unofficially" jumping in to take charge of directing a lot of the scenework. His dialog pacing is unparalleled. Every time I watch this old chestnut I fall in love with it again.

INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS-- is sooo well-done, and creepy, and effective without relying on heavy effects. I love it as a film, but really hate the underlying "commies aren't people" DEEP paranoia that it leans into and not-so-indirectly promotes. . .

Now, of course there are several others that I thoroughly enjoyed as a kid, making them favorites, but I couldn't exactly call them Great Films. I must have seen THE MONOLITH MONSTERS four or five times. In fact, it kinda triggered a bit of a phobia I have for Giant Things. But it's another masterpiece in the tension of fighting a relentless but slow-moving menace. I thiiiiiink THE 4D MAN was in B&W, yes? More like a really good Outer Limits episode. Also, Vincent Price starred in a Mexican-produced version of I Am Legend called THE LAST MAN ON EARTH, which is the most faithful-to-the-novel version of the zillion that have been done. It's an okay movie-- but Price's performance is surprisingly committed, he taps an emotionality that I would not have expected from him- (it's cool to see film actors take risks like that--).

Annnnnnd that's probably enough from me at the moment!

HB

Humanbelly said...

Oh.
Wow>
Look how many of the same films we're citing! Ha!

HB

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Mighty fine question Colin! You do come up with some good ones!

The AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN from 1957. Army colonel exposed to radiation (IIRC) just keeps growing and growing. It is a heart breaker in ways because the man is becoming insane through no fault of his own.

KRONOS from 1957. An alien robot starts destroying earth (Like a Red Skull sleeper! Kirby’s inspiration??? ) at first burning a path across South Korea and then heading towards Mexico. It was a real thriller as an 11 year old when I first saw it around 1972. Out brother Killdumpster sent me a DVD of it a year ago and I rewatched it! Ummm… didn’t have the same slap as it did 50 years ago, LOL.

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL 1951 (no commentary needed since so well known).

METROPOLIS 1927 (no commentary needed)

INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS 1956 (no comments needed)

THE TIME MACHINE 1960 ( IIRC it was B&W but not sure?)

Cheers my friends!

pfgavigan said...

Hiya,

Devil Girl From Mars 1954 for . . . . reasons.

You'll know what I mean if you Google it.

Seeya,

pfgavigan

Rick Dunn said...

The Earth Dies Screaming (1964) Small group of people awake in a small English village to find killer robots on the streets and reanimated loved ones...There's a great, crisp print - possibly restored - on the free streaming channel Tubi

The Thing from Another World
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
King Kong
Day the Earth Stood Still

Anonymous said...

Alphaville (1965)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzaATgGHmy0

The French, eh?

-sean

Anonymous said...

No love for Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) round these parts then?

-sean

Humanbelly said...

CH47-- THE TIME MACHINE was in color (still have a VHS tape of it we bought when a local video rental vendor went out of business---). . . but like so many of us, I betcha we watched it on a B&W television when we were kids. . . ha! It is not a bad movie at all-- Rod Taylor & Alan Young. The depiction of time travel doesn't exactly make sense, since it suggests that the machine sits physically in the same spot while time races on all around it. So. . . did the entire world just choose to ignore this contraption, sitting there for millennia-?? Heh--

And yep, thumbs up for AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN-- Another one where it's just, "This poor guy--".

INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN wasn't technically a good film, I suppose, but boy it gave 7-ish-year-old me nightmares, with that murderous detached hand with an eyeball--!

HB

Redartz said...

Great topic Colin!

Sean, you beat me to "Plan 9 From Outer Space". Alas. But to be fair, everyone has beaten me to the punch today! King Kong would be pick number one; "The Day the Earth Stood Still " next. A special personal award to "Creature From the Black Lagoon "- it was the first movie I saw in 3D. A local tv station broadcast it and partnered with a local grocery who gave away the glasses. It was cool, but it kind of lost some visual impact as I viewed it on my 12" b/w portable. But it was late on a weekend night, the room was dark, and the flickering luminescence from the screen was perfectly evocative.

Colin Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Humanbelly said...

Bless Wikipedia-- it has a List of Science Fiction Films From the 50's. . . !

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_science_fiction_films_of_the_1950s

HB

Humanbelly said...

Good Heavens-- Disney's THE ABSENT-MINDED PROFESSOR fits right into this category-!! Who knew?

HB

Charlie Horse 47 said...

HB - You wouldn't have any Flubber on you, would you?

Anonymous said...

If we’re rigidly sticking to black and white sci-fi films — no FORBIDDEN PLANET, WAR OF THE WORLDS, WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE, INVADERS FROM MARS — then DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL gets my vote. It’s smart, suspenseful,well made, wonderfully cast, and Bernard Herrmann’s score just SCREAMS “50s Sci-Fi”. So good.

Some oddball choices : John Frankenheimer’s two paranoid classics from the early 60s, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE and SECONDS. Also, DR. STRANGELOVE shows up in a lot of Sci-Fi Movie Reference books. I don’t really think of it as “sci-fi” myself, but holy cow, it’s a genuinely GREAT film.

METROPOPLIS is great to look at, but the story is famously naive and simplistic. I struggled to sit through it when it used to show up occasionally on PBS back in the late-70s. Watching the restored print that Giorgio Moroder put together in the mid-80s was a revelation, and I actually love the rock/disco song-score he wrote for it (with people like Freddie Mercury, Pat Benatar and Billy Squier).

b.t.

Anonymous said...

Oh! Just thought of another one...

Charlie’s mention of the “tragic” aspects of THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN reminds me of another Less Well-Known b/w sci-fi movie : THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT. Richard Wordsworth’s performance as the astronaut slowly being subsumed by an alien being is just heart-breakingly poignant.

b.t.

Anonymous said...

For the real oddball choice, I think its got to the French again, and La Jetee (1962).
Funny to think an obscure short like that could inspire a film starring Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt thirty years later...

www.youtube.com/watch?v=QeTdW6IrwIw

-sean

Anonymous said...

*its got to BE the French again
Apologies for the poor edit there. Duh.

-sean

pfgavigan said...

Hiya,

How about Village of the Damned 1960, adapted from the novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham?

pfg

McSCOTTY said...

Great shout B.T I forgot all about The Quatermass Experiment.

I would add the Czech film "Ikarie XB 1" (released and heavily edited in the US as "Voyage To The End of the Universe" in colour). Based on the SF novel "The Magellanic cloud" by Stanislaw Lem (who also wrote the excellent "Solaris") Although I think this may have been an early 1960s film (just outside Colins 1950s remit).

McSCOTTY said...

ooh "Village of the Damned " - scary English children - another good shout!

Humanbelly said...

I barely, barely remember VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED. . .
It was definitely broadcast on network television at some point in the late 60's/very early 70's-- as I remember watching it at home as a kid. But I was so young that it didn't hold my focus very well. I do remember George Sanders as the lead, which probably didn't help, as he's not the most kid-friendly charmer in British cinema. . . Even then he was recognizable as someone I'd seen playing snotty, arrogant semi-bad-guys more than a couple of times. . .

Good call, though--!

I was looking through the Wikipedia list of Sci-Fi films by the decade. . . and was surprised to see how many mainstream radio actors found themselves relegated to low-budget horror/sci-fi film work at this point. Just helplessly ensconced-- Richard Denning, Les Tremayne, Herbert Marshall-- several others-- big yikes!

It also looks like 4D MAN was indeed in color-- a film I only saw once (on Creature Feature, at like 1:00 a.m.), but Robert Lansing's performance has stuck with me ever since. Good actor, that guy---

HB

Anonymous said...

HB:
Yes, Sanders perfected that type of character, the Sneering Cad. It’s always a bit weird on those occasions where he actually plays a “Good Guy” — you keep expecting him to reveal his true colors in the final reel or something — “Mmm, yes, old chap, turns out I was the one committing all those murders, a shame you were too thick to figure it out, isn’t it?” There’s a mystery novel “Stranger At Home” with his name on it, which was actually ghost-written by Leigh Brackett. His cheeky dedication reads, “To Leigh Brackett, whom I have never met” (unless she wrote that too!)

VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED is worth a watch — those kids are super-creepy. And as for Radio actors appearing in sci-fi movies, the mighty Paul Frees has a rare on-screen appearance as one of the scientists in THE THING.

b.t.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Sean! Thank you for those "french connections!"

I did not realize Alphaville was sci-fi. Interestingly, for the 4 decades or so that video-stores existed, I saw the Alphaville VHS box cover each time I visited b/c the stores would have a foreign movie section, by alpha sort.

But the box cover never inspired the wife or me to pick it up! Yes, Charlie can be a shallow man judging a movie by its box cover, a comic by its artist, a car by its paint job... lol.

Darn Colin - this is a great subject you picked!

Anonymous said...

Not a movie, but there is a b/w sci-fi TV series made in West Germany in the 60s that I’ve been meaning to check out one of these days, called “Raumpatrouille Orion” (Space Patrol Orion). A buddy of mine stumbled upon it on YouTube, said it seems to be kinda like Star Trek but with better production values (though still pretty low-budget). So far, I’ve only checked out still images from it on Google, but it does look pretty cool....

b.t.

pfgavigan said...

Hiya,

This link isn't to a movie, but rather the first episode of Quatermass II by Nigel Kneale and the BBC. I'm not certain but I think it was originally presented as a combination of filmed and live broadcast scenes. The effects are, well, what you would expect for the era but good for the era. The cast is first rate including a future Academy award winner for best . . . no, I won't give that one away.

All six episodes are here.

If I can find a link to the televised version of Quatermass and the Pit, I'll post it as soon as possible. It's very good but I do think the later film is superior.

https://archive.org/details/Quatermass_II_Episode_1of6_1955

Give it a try and I hope you enjoy.

pfg

Anonymous said...

The original tv Quatermass And The Pit is on Youtube in its entirety.
It was indeed mostly broadcast live, something the BBC were still doing as late as the early 60s, with A For Andromeda (I will be the first to welcome our new alien overlords if they're all like Julie Christie).
Thats on Youtube too, but unfortunately just as sound and stills in places, as not all of it has survived.

Charlie, I don't know if it was an intentional deconstruction, or Godard just didn't have much of a budget, but I really like the way Alphaville looks like an old crime flick.
The French of course invented the sci-fi film, with Voyage Dans La Lune (1902)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNAHcMMOHE8

-sean

Steve Does Comics said...

I don't think I have anything much to add that's not already been mentioned but these are my monochrome faves:

20 Million Miles to Earth.

The Day the Earth Stood Still.

The Thing From Another World.

Earth vs the Flying Saucers.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

These are the Damned.

Killraven said...

Yeah, I think you guys got my favorites.

THE DAY the EARTH STOOD STILL-"Klaatu barada nikto"

INVASION of the BODY SNATCHERS- Great ending! Kevin McCarthy puts it all out there.

THE THING from ANOTHER WORLD- Nearly perfect film beginning to end. Great ensemble cast. One of my all time favorite opening title effects!

VILLAGE of the DAMNED-The nuances grew on me over time and is now a favorite. Those floating eyes! Creeeepy!

KING KONG- Ok this IS the perfect film. More emotion conveyed on that Kong than the effects used more than 40 years later on the next Kong movie. That Fay Wray scream!



Colin Jones said...

bt, I thought When Worlds Collide was in b&w - oops. I withdraw that one.

HB, another sci-fi film from the '30s is the British film 'Things To Come'.

pfgavigan said...

Hiya,

I'd like to add another Nigel Kneale work, The Abominable Snowman 1957, an adaptation of his earlier BBC live play, The Creature, both starring Peter Cushing.

If I may, I would also like to add movie serials to this topic. In particular the Flash Gordon productions, especially the first one. Yes, I realize that the special effects for these consisted primarily of sparklers, but there were several points of interest for me in these films. Said points of interest were Jean Rogers and Priscilla Lawson. Especially Miss Lawson. If anyone is now wondering about my . . . shall we say inclinations towards female type, I refer you to my earlier suggestion of Devil Girl from Mars.

Seeya,

pfg

humanbelly said...

Tangenting slightly to QUATERMASS AND THE PIT-- it was also shown on network television (HEAVILY promoted!) in the United states sometime around 1970 or '72, I think. As an adolescent viewer, it was a chore, to say the least-! Impossibly slow-moving in some stretches; incomprehensible plot elements in others; and geeze, it threw EVERYTHING into the mix: Aliens, Occult, GHOSTS of aliens (or so it seemed), Paranormal mental powers, and a giant demon shadow monster at the end. . . ! Good gravy-- And, I could swear. . . I could SWEAR. . . that Carrol O'Conner (Archie Bunker) had an uncredited one-scene role in it as well. A good scene-- where he turned out to be a pawn of the Martian occult ghosts or something-- yet I can't find verification anywhere. . .

PFG-- Tsk, Brother-- never fear, this group's gonna love ya no matter WHERE yer inclinations find themselves falling-- ! (As a theater professional for 40+ years now, I have come to the conclusion that you just assume Everyone can be Everything. . . even Everything-and-a-Half. . . and you'll never veer off track---!)

HB

Anonymous said...

Colin’s mention of THINGS TO COME reminds me of another sci-fi movie of a similar vintage: JUST IMAGINE, a futuristic musical comedy (!) from 1930. Right off the bat, let me just say, it’s TERRIBLE. The storyline is silly, the characters either vapid or aggressively annoying, the songs forgettable, the jokes not funny....

...BUT!! It takes place in the far, far future world of New York City circa 1980, represented by an incredibly massive, detailed, miniature Art Deco cityscape, with some great costumes, vehicles and props. Plus, there’s an awesome super-science laboratory built by the great Kenneth Strickfaden, and a trip to Mars in a rocketship that was later re-purposed in the Flash Gordon serials.

Is it worth watching? Kinda, sorta. I wish someone would buy the rights to it, get the picture restored, and then do a “WHAT’S UP TIGER LILY” on it, re-write and re-do all the voices to make it actually funny, maybe get someone like Rachel Bloom to re-do the songs, etc. But even completely “as is”, I think it’s cool to look at just for the futuristic visuals and special effects. Or you could just do a Google Image search and enjoy the stills.

b.t.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

COLIN!!! POINT OF ORDER???

Why is King Kong considered Sci-Fi? He's just an abnormally large gorilla, no? There was no science at play in his creation?

Which then had me thinking that certainly the Godzilla flicks had to be Sci-Fi if KK was! I mean those creatures are large too! Granted the inspiration was Japan's experience with A bombs, but Godzilla's origin was never stated as such; they were always here and big!

And if we are going to consider the Flash Gordon series as Sci Fi (works for me!) then could we not consider Twilight Zone and Night Gallery as Sci Fi even though they are series and not movies?

And if we are going to consider serials as Sci Fi do they require some human actors? Could we not consider B&W cartoon masterpieces such as Tobor the 8th Man, Gigantor, and Astro Boy as contenders for Colin's post?

And if one considers that KK had no science involved (he was simply big) and serials are allowed, then could we not consider serials like The Shadow from the 1940s who had his weird powers, also not derived from science?

COLIN!!! Get our your "Hoyles Book of Rules!!!" Time to earn your keep buddy!

Killraven said...

I almost left KONG off my list for that very reason till I went to IMDb.
Here's how they list the KONG movie genres;

KING KONG (1933)-Adventure, Horror, Sci-Fi

KING KONG (1976)-Adventure, Horror

KING KONG (2005)-Action, Adventure, Drama

KONG: SKULL ISLAND (2017)- Action, Adventure, Fantasy

Interesting the only movie with a Sci-Fi designation is the original. But why?




Humanbelly said...

Hmmm-- with the Is King Kong Sci-Fi? question. . . maybe if we look at it in terms of the sciences of Zoology (Gigantism in a known organism to an extreme that has never been observed before--- nor could it really occur & survive, tbh) and Paleontology (with the existence of an entire hidden Land of Dinosaurs which, again, really could not happen in the manner presented--). Still science, just not the usual numbers-crunchin' sciences we've come to expect in the genre. . .

Whatcha think? Could a case be made for that?

HB

Anonymous said...

Dunno HB... if its not possible then its not really science, number crunching or otherwise, is it?
Looking at it from the other direction, medicine is a science - does that make, say, ER sci-fi?

I think its actually quite hard to come up with a satisfactory definition of science-fiction (wheres the science in Planet of the Apes? Or Star Wars?)
So I take a pragmatic view, that a book or film are sci-fi if thats how a publisher or studio market them, and enough of the audience recognize them as such.

So yes, King Kong is sci-fi. Because a fair few people here listed it, and IMDb says so.

-sean

Colin Jones said...

Charlie, I'm totally relaxed about King Kong being called sci-fi because in my opinion there's a very blurry line between what is "sci-fi" and what is a certain kind of "horror" (obviously a horror film like 'Halloween' or those torture-porn films aren't sci-fi but a horror film involving outlandish creatures like vampires and werewolves does fall into the sci-fi category I'd say). When I was typing this week's topic suggestion I considered asking for everyone's favourite sci-fi AND HORROR films and I suppose I should have done so. I also forgot how many sci-fi films from the '50s were made in colour so perhaps I should have asked for favourite films made before 1960 rather than insisting on b/w films :)

But even in the sci-fi genre itself there is a question of "what is sci-fi?" - a few years ago the author Margaret Atwood controversially claimed that she writes "speculative fiction" not sci-fi. She described science fiction as "talking squids in outer space" which gave the impression that she was looking down her nose at sci-fi. So is Margaret Atwood's famous novel 'The Handmaid's Tale' sci-fi or not? I say it is but she says it isn't.

Anonymous said...

“The Handmaid’s Tale” is a dystopian Future History extrapolated from current trends. OF COURSE it’s Science Fiction!

Extreme Gigantism isn’t the only ‘SF’ element in KING KONG. There are also all those dinosaurs that have somehow survived to the present day, which puts it squarely in the ‘Lost World’ sub-category alongside Burroughs and Conan Doyle.

b.t.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Charlie has no particular dog in this fight, lol. He was simply applying a more literal, narrow interpretation of the word science.

But you chaps have a much deeper involvement in comics and sci fi than I do so I defer to your expertise!

Humanbelly said...

I had completely forgotten about the Speculative Fiction re-branding effort in the...70's, I think? Iirc it was closely tied to Heinlein's STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND. I like it. It's more inclusive of material that's not exactly Hard Science, but is still distinguishable fron Fantasy and supernatural themes. Good one!

FlameKeeper said...

No arguing all the great b&w movie choices, anything I add will just be more of the same picks.
An interesting b&w video to check out, it's on youtube, called "the ? motorist", not science fiction, but in addition to "Trip to the Moon" has some the earliest special effects (1906).

Anonymous said...

HB, I think "speculative fiction" was less about hard science, and more of a literary thing?
It was used to describe some works by writers like Atwood not generally associated with science-fiction, and by writers - Harlan Ellison seems like a more obvious example to me than Heinlein - who came out of the genre but found it limiting because they didn't really fit into its traditions (or, depending on your point of view, wanted to distance themselves from its pulp origins in a bid for mainstream recognition).

-sean

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