Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Thing from Another World, X The Unknown, The Day The Earth Stood Still

Three black and white sci fi films with lots of military men from the fifties. X from 1956, and the others both 1951. I mixed them up. Every time an alien creature would appear, I would stop the movie and switch to another.

However, after watching all three opening credits, I would have preferred to play them all at once on three separate screens. They are all 80-90 minutes long. Lacking this ability, I continued with shuffling them on my one screen.

Right away I noticed that in The Thing, actors are stepping on each other’s lines, or, speaking over each other. The attitude is very casual, loose, and a little lazy perhaps, as if a lot of filming was done in one take. The dialogue in The Day, by contrast, is sharp, precise and clear.

X reminded me of an idea I had a while ago, to make a sci fi movie with no special effects. Have all of the actors reacting to things offscreen. X did have some special effects here and there, but they are very quick. Mostly you have people examining something and then screaming.

In The Day, lots of stock footage is used, or, a lot of things happened that could be from stock footage. Operators working switchboards, newspaper presses rolling, people in foreign lands listening to radio broadcasts. I would really like to see a sci fi movie with no special effects, any suggestions are welcome.

Sometimes there are long periods before a creature will make another appearance. So I changed the rules so that I would switch movies every time a military guy read some official correspondence about the situation. In all three films, it is refreshing to see the military forces stocked with youthful, handsome men.

Unfortunately that leaves the women with the “Hey, What’s Going On Here?” roles.

It is very interesting to observe the decreased level of security depicted in the films, from the view of our current time. The potentially dangerous site of the appearance of the alien is surrounded with a flimsy structure, in one case, a rope on sticks, and only one or two low ranking soldiers are sent to guard it. They hang out, thinking that nothing will happen but eventually something does happen and the men are easily knocked out. Whoever is the first to report something as suspicious, he is dismissed right away and told that he just imagined it.

Radioactivity was popular at the time. Geiger counters were hot. People were just learning about what all that meant. One scientist describes uranium as ‘mud’. How do you kill mud? What do you do if this radioactive mud becomes ‘smart’ and takes on a lifeforce of its own? Among the scientists, it was nice to have at least one guy say that the idea was ‘rubbish’. Aren’t those higher elements metals anyways, not just dirt.

Radioactivity was created at the same time as Theremin music. In a strange way, they were meant to go together. By far the best thing in any of the films is the fantastic music of Bernard Herrmann. I would think it a great movie night to have a trio of movies all with Bernard Hermann scores, and play them all at the same time.

1 comment:

Jeffrey Hill said...

The overlapping dialogue in The Thing is a Howard Hawks trademark. Interesting way to watch movies, Farm Boy (switching them out). I thought of several films I'd like to watch this way. I'd imagine that if you were waiting to see the creature in X, the Unknown in order to switch to the next movie - well, you'd pretty much watch the whole picture.

Radioactivity was created at the same time as Theremin music. In a strange way, they were meant to go together.

Was this planned? Did God know that we would need the one to deal with the other?