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SciFi1I’ve never kept it hidden that the Contrarian and myself are television watchers. But I have also pointed out, that a good deal of what we watch is “high brow.” I drop “Bill Moyer” and PBS around quite frequently just to make sure you are suitably impressed.

But I have a confession to make, actually two, . . . .well make that four. Only two for myself, but I’m confessing for the Contrarian as well. We are sorta, kinda, addicted to (oh the embarrassment!) old sci-fi movies.

The older the better too. The best are near 1950, that seminal year of my birth (key the trumpets please). The reason is quite simple: special effects were in their infancy and so the “special effects” are really special in that they look so darn funny.

scifi2With a few obvious exceptions such as “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” most were done on low budgets, perhaps out at the edge of Hollywood where the local dumps were located.

The directors, if you can call them that, were probably second year students at UCLA school of film, and were those least likely to succeed. The scripts were worse.

The acting was even worse, if that is possible, although there was a notable exception here and there, usually by someone getting their first break.

The subject matter of said genre can be just about anything. It can be mutant creatures that are generated here on good ole earth via “atomic” testing or through violent inner earth disturbances. Often, they result from alien invasion and can take the form of most any creature and often take human form.

Depending on just how short the budget was, (under $100?) you often didn’t get a very good look at the “creature” at all. Creatures have been known to be composed of parts of “suits” from King Kong and left over garage sale items.

scifi3My all time favorite in this genre is “The Killer Shrews.”  It was the lowest of the low budgets, and one never got much of a look at the killer creature. Most of the “attacks” were at night so that such things as “costuming” were kept to a minimum as a concern.

Generally speaking, there are a few requirements for all such movies. There must be at least one woman, fair and unsuitably dressed in high heels who of course then has to run like the dickens to escape the monster.

Next, a leading man, of no particular occupation who ends up being the savior of said girl.

Also the girl must have the ability to scream really long and loud. In fact that may be the only qualification for the job.

Occasionally there is a mad scientist who either “caused” the creature to arise out of it’s hidey hole, or knows how to kill it. He may or may not die before the end, but never before imparting the means of getting rid of the creature. All other “actors” (should you really wish to call them that) are fodder for the creature and are killed off along the way.

scifi4My other confessional is a deep addiction to “disaster movies.”

Here, you don’t go for the old stuff. Here good special effects matter, so look for the latest. Even the low budget stuff can afford to hire a “special effects” guru who can whip up some fine footage that is designed to please the palate of the most discerning of disaster movieophiles.

Here, plot is the key. They are all the same. First, you must have a scientist who is brilliant but for some reason has lost his/her job and is carrying on research as a loner. This person is often considered a misfit, not a team player, whistle blower type, or simply has off the wall claims.

This person “discovers” the impending disaster. At first nobody listens, and the first hour is spent trying to convince others (often with a “cried wolf” flavor).

There will always be one family. Part of the family could be the scientist, but doesn’t have to be. It can be a first responder, or other “good” person. There is a man and woman and one child. Never two. They will be separated during the disaster and will miraculously, in the midst of miles of rubble and chaos manage to find each other. All will be safe, the family often reunites after being separated by family disputes of the past.

There  must be a naysayer. This person is the “keep the beaches open” person from “Jaws” fame. He poo poos the warnings, for either personal gain or just because he’s trying to keep the “business” going whether as Mayor, or corporate bigwig, or governmental toady. He usually gets his in the end, for which you wait to cheer.

In the end, the scientist is believed, and the most catastrophic disaster averted, though there should be sufficient destruction of the mini disaster genre  to engender lots of wows and OOhs.

Disaster can be just about anything. Tornadoes, comets, meteors, atomic fallout, volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, avalanche, flood, etc. Anything will do, but it must have lots and lots of buildings falling down, and cars flying through the air. Bridges should collapse, houses be swept away, and so forth. One of the better volcanic eruptions broke off a part of California and had it an island.

scifi5Why does such a person as myself watch this stuff? For the sheer joy of watching really really bad acting, cheap sets, finding all the flaws in logic, and a myriad of other reasons. Just great great fun. A bowl of popcorn, suspension of belief, and you are there!

Take it from me, this stuff doesn’t scare the pants off you like the typical horror movie, and isn’t filled with blood and gore. It’s just good clean fun, and we love it. We are always on the lookout for “Planet X” and oh my favorite, the original “Flash Gordon.” Now that was some fun with Ming the Merciless!


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