Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection: Vol. 1 & 2
For those of us out there that were born and grew up in the early fifties movies were an important part of our lives. We were raised on the old ‘B’ flicks on television and shown in the local movie house for Saturday afternoon matinees. Most of these flicks were science fiction. This was a time when new advances in science were changing our lives. Nations were beginning to look to the exploration of outer space and the Communist threat, in the background of us kids, was a real concern. Like most boys of my age I would rush home after school, do my homework, and run to the TV set in the living room. As mom made dinner I would tune into the afternoon Sci-Fi movies most of the local stations would run. It was there that we developed our love for movies and the genre of science fiction. Now these were rarely if ever top notch films. Mostly we got flicks that were made fast and on a cheap budget. We didn’t care about the technical aspects of the film or ever show too much concern for a cohesive story. We were mesmerized by the hokey special effects and really awful creatures. Sure you could see the zippers on the monster’s costumes or a guy’s hand pushing the creature on a stick but all that mattered was the flicks were fun. Watching these movies predated any cares about style or technique. The conversations afterwards were always about the space ship or the monster. Now, Universal has brought out a six disc set with ten of these little classics: The Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection: Volumes 1 & 2.
Many film collections on DVD use the word ‘Ultimate’ and usually fall short. This set lives up to the title. Hopefully, other volumes will follow shortly since this set has only scratched the surface. Most of the younger people around who happen to watch any of the films here will laugh at how badly done they were. They need to get a grip and learn too appreciate a portion of film history. Please remember that among the kids who group on these flicks were the men who brought science fiction into the new millennium like George Lucas and Steve Spielberg. These films sparked our imaginations and thankful a few of us had the talent and drive to run with it. It is not that these films were bad. Some were among the most innovative Sci-Fi flicks of their day. Concepts first brought out in them would carry on to modern classic. They all have a certain charm to them; harkening back to a simpler time in our lives. The screenplays for a few were done by notable masters of Sci-Fi short stories and novels. A few are such classics that there are under consideration for modern re-imaginings.
This film has the distinction of being one of the flicks mentioned in the opening number of ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’. It was directed by Jack Arnold, one of the most famous directors in this genre. He would go one to making a name for himself with several television westerns. He is just part of the long standing tradition of cross-overs between westerns and Sci-Fi. Some of his films not included in this set are ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’, ‘This Island Earth’ and ‘It Came from Outer Space’. The story is pretty typical of flicks of the day. In a laboratory near a remote desert community experimentation on creating giant plants and animals is going on. This would hold promise in helping to feed the world. Of course, something goes wrong and a spider is grown to a size larger than most buildings. The film stars Leo G. Carroll, an actor of considerable note and John Agar, who made quite a career in Sci-Fi and westerns.
The Mole People 1956
Here is another flick featuring John Agar along with the Dad from ‘Leave it to Beaver’, Hugh Beaumont. They are on an exposition to the core of the earth when the come across a hidden civilization. Some looked human, including the required beautiful women, but there were also horrible beast like Mole men that did their bidding. The film was directed by Virgil W. Vogel as his first opus. He would also go on to a lot of television work.
The Incredible Shrinking Man 1957
This is one of the best films in this collection. It was written by Sci-Fi great Richard Matheson who also wrote ‘I am Legend’, numerous ‘Twilight Zone’ episodes and Spielberg’s first film, ‘Duel’. While on a boat with his wife Scott Carey (Grant Williams) is exposed to a strange, radioactive mist. Radiation was very popular back then. He begins to shrink, slowly at first but soon he has to live in a specially outfitted doll house and worry about the family cat. There is a touch of philosophy here especially towards the end. This film was also directed by Jack Arnold.
The Monolith Monsters 1957
Like so many of these flicks the action takes place in a small south western desert town. Unusual rocks from a meteorite begin to grow when they come in contact with water. Soon they are threatening the town and after that the world will in deadly danger. The hero here is a fifties Sci-Fi regular, Grant Williams. It was directed by John Sherwood who only had a few director’s credits but work for many years as an assistant director. It was written by Jack Arnold.
Monster On The Campus 1957
Here is another one directed by Jack Arnold. This one was written by David Duncan who would go one to script the adaptation of H.G. Well’s ‘The Time Machine’ in 1960 as well as the truly classic film, "Fantastic Voyage’ in 1966. Featured in this flick was fifties teen heart throb Troy Donahue. The story was a beautiful co-ed is held captive by a male scientist after he is exposed to gamma radiation.
Dr. Cyclops 1940
This is another that is the cream of the crop for this collection. It was directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack who would later helm ‘Mighty Joe Young’ the first special effects film for groundbreaker Ray Harryhausen. Here a group of scientist is going deep into the jungle to find a missing researcher. When they discover his location they find out that he has a ray that can shrink anything to a fraction of its normal size. The researcher, Dr. Alexander Thorkel (Albert Dekker) becomes Dr. Cyclops when one lens of his overly thick glasses is broken. This is one of the greats of the era.
Cult Of The Cobra 1955
This is one of the strangest in the collection. Fans of the genre will immediately recognize Faith Domergue from ‘This Island Earth’ and Marshall Thompson from the mid sixties TV adventure series, ‘Daktari’. In this story a group of American soldiers manage to witness a strange and secret cult ritual where young women can transform into serpents.
The Land Unknown 1957
This is another film directed by Virgil W. Vogel. This one uses another favorite theme is used. A group of researchers crash into a crater in the Antarctica. There they discover that dinosaurs are still alive and very hungry. This seemed too happen a lot, people finding undiscovered lands that time forgot.
The Deadly Mantis 1957
This is a great representative of the most popular type of Sci-Fi flick of the time. You take a giant insect and set it upon an American town or better yet a big city. These films usually used stop action photography but often they just had some bugs on a photograph. Featured in this flick is William Hopper, co-star of TV’s ‘Perry Mason’ and star of a good number of films like this. This is just the kind of cheap film that made us love Sci-Fi.
The Leech Woman 1960
Here is another cult classic. Once again Grant Williams is in the lead and it is fun as always. A mysterious woman has found the secret to eternal life, such the life force from beautiful women. As she travels from country to country she leaves a trail of horror behind her.
For baby boomers all over the country this is a piece of our childhood. It is a must have. Younger viewers can get into the historical natural of these films. These are the little cult classics that our modern films were built upon.