the 1950’s: many monuments to tedium

Rosy myths and unrosy realities. Why must we feel nostalgic for the 1950’s even if we never lived them? …

…let it be unequivocally stated that television of the 1950’s with a few exceptions was absolutely awful, as most of it still is today, of course. In the early fifties, however, television was a relatively new medium, and the rigid forms into which commercial TV became set and has remained set evolved as a result of attitudes of the fifties-political conservatism, a fear of non-conformity, anti-intellectualism, and a rampant materialism that manifested itself in an obsession with ratings. Thus, the debasing mindlessness of much of commercial television in our current age is yet another long-term legacy to us from the 1950’s.

Quo Vadis. Robert Taylor with Deborah Kerr. click for image source...

Quo Vadis. Robert Taylor with Deborah Kerr. click for image source…

In the early fifties, when television began to lure millions of filmgoers away from the movie theatres, Hollywood took desperately to turning out wide-screen Technicolor epics that were intended to be so spectacular that everyone would rush away from their tiny TV set back downtown to the movie house. The result, however, was such monuments to tedium as Quo Vadis, The Robe, The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur, and Alexander the Great. Meanwhile, too, Hollywood also attempted to get TV viewers back into the theatres by experimenting with all sorts of gimmicks, like movies made in Cinerama, Smell-O-Vision, Emerge-O, and 3-D. The craze for 3-D was responsible, if for nothing else, for the filming of what was certainly the worst movie of the decade: Bwana Devil.

---Another of Cardiff's movies was 1951's African Queen starring Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. Bogart won an Academy Award for his role.---Read More:

—Another of Cardiff’s movies was 1951’s African Queen starring Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. Bogart won an Academy Award for his role.—Read More:

Of course, even the harshest of our film critics concede that a few good movies made by Hollywood in the fifties, among them On the Waterfront, From Here to Eternity, A Place in the Sun, African Queen and Strangers On A Train, and a few others, but its nonetheless generally agreed that the overall quality of the majority of Hollywood movies was far below that of earlier decades. Just as youthful fans of popular music turned away from the Perry Como sound to rock-‘n’-roll, moviegoers in the fifties turned to foreign films. ( to be continued)…


(see link at end)…So what do you feel personally are the most “must-see” bad movies of the 1950s era? It was an era filled with goofy monsters, cheap costumes, cheap FX work but it also produced some marvellously fun drive-in fare. Sure there were so damned good films too, the likes of The Day the Earth Stood Still, Forbidden Planet and The Thing From Another World – films as great as they are often still get paired up in people’s memories with all the cheesy stuff from the era too because a lot of these films tried to copy these and the elements are often the same or similar – monsters, robots, ray guns, spaceships, meteor showers, gals in short skirts on a planet seemingly devoid of men aside from perhaps a father figure of some sort. So which are the most existential, hopes I meant essential (or did I?) for the bad movie fan? Here I’m thinking more in terms of bad movies that are actually fun and enjoyable to watch instead of stuff that’s rather tough slugging but feel free to discuss that as well if you’d like. Anyways I consider the following to be must – see myself. I’ll limit it to just five to give others a chance to add more.

The Angry Red Planet (1959): this is cheesy as heck and actually drags a bit for quite a bit of its running time but the outrageous monsters eventually put on display here truly take the cake – from the bat-rat-spider-lobster critter to its giant amoeba – this is your space opera exploration film turned on its head with truly the craziest, most whacked out Mars, palm trees and all, imaginable. You just have to love how they turn everything red on Mars to hide the cheapness of the FX work.

The Amazing Colossal Man (1957): the giant radioactive genre has to have an entry here and this one is more entertaining that most as it features a man becoming gigantic and pretty much wandering around most of the film in what for the world looks like a giant diaper. That said, the film actually has some depth as we see a man struggling with something he personally cannot control, a change in one own body reminiscent on some levels to a degenerative disease I suppose. But keep a look out for that hypodermic needle – it’s a killer.

The Brain From Planet Arous (1958): It would be most remiss to leave off the evil brain subgenre that spawned so many terrific B-movies. This, one of the very best, features an evil, twisted and perhaps somewhat perverted, certainly for the 1950s era, alien brain named Gor that takes possession of John Agar’s mind and set outs on a mission to take over the world. However a rival good brain also from the planet Arous arrives and takes over a dog’s brain hoping to stop Gor’s demented plans. Actually this is surprisingly involving and just so much fun to watch, cheap FX (so what if you can sometimes see the strings o

e brain?) and all. Gor is about as opposite of benevolent visiting alien as one can get.

Fire Maidens From Outer Space (1956): If you had zero budget and wanted to make something of a remake of Forbidden Planet crossed with Cat Women of the Moon, this is probably what’s you’d get. Here we have all the elements of space opera – meteor showers, lonely men arriving on mysterious moon only to encounter various beautiful maidens who inhabit said world and the only male around is a fatherly figure. All would be well except for an evil presence that lurks on the outskirts just waiting to strike – said monster here is played by a very tall guy in an unconvincing mask, slightly reminiscence of the aliens from the Outer Limits episode “Nightmare” but nowhere near as well achieved as that, who just basically shouts and snarls a lot….Read More:

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