Tales of Tomorrow

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(6/10) In a nutshell: Tales of Tomorrow aired on ABC in the US from 1951 to 1953 and was the first exclusive science fiction anthology series. Adult, intelligent and genuinly unsettling scripts are intermingled with more staple mystery and sci-fi fare. The live broadcast sets limits for direction, but genius camera work and editing sometimes surpass these limits. Leslie Nielsen dominates the cast, and watch out for the masterclass in method acting between Rod Steiger and James Dean.

Tales of Tomorrow (1951-1953). Created by Mort Abrahams and Theodore Sturgeon. Directed by Don Medford, Charles Rubin, et. al. Written by Man Rubin, Mel Goldberg, Frank de Felitta, Alvin Sapinsley, David E. Durston, Max Ehrlich, Gail Ingram, Theodore Sturgeon, Fredric Brown, Henry Kuttner, et. al. Starring: Leslie Nielsen, Cameron Prud’Homme, Walter Abel, Edgar Stehli, Theo Goetz, Olive Deering, Edith Fellows, Bruce Cabot, Rod Steiger, Gene Lockhart, Una O’Connor, Boris Karloff, Eva Gabor, Veronica Lake, Joanne Woodward, James Dean, Lon Chaney Jr, James Doohan, Paul Newman, et. al.  Produced by George F. Foley Jr, Mort Abrahams, Richard Gordon for George F. Foley, distributed by ABC. IMDb score: 7.4

Opening credits for Tales of Tomorrow.

Opening credits for Tales of Tomorrow.

I’ve been reviewing a lot of television lately: there was the first televised sci-fi series, Captain Video and His Video Rangers (1949, review), the first anthology series featuring science fiction, Lights Out (1949, review), but now we get to the third one, and the last one I’ll be reviewing in a while: Tales of Tomorrow, which ran on ABC from 1951 to 1953. This has the distinction of being the first television anthology series to feature exclusively science fiction, foreshadowing legendary TV shows like The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) and The Outer Limits (1963-1964). Continue reading

Time Flies

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(4/10) In a nutshell: In this breezy 1944 musical comedy from Britain, four friends accidentally travel to 16th century London where they meet William Shakespeare and try to sell America to Queen Elizabeth. Petite American jazz singer Evelyn Dall is the real star of this B movie, since radio comedian Tommy Handley’s horrific puns get old even before they get going. Good production values, the lighthearted tone and nice musical numbers make it worth a watch. Not, however, as often claimed, the first film featuring a time machine. 

Time Flies (1944). Directed by Walter Forde. Written by Ted Kavanagh, J.O.C. Horton, Howard Irving Young. Starring: Tommy Handley, Evelyn Dall, George Moon, Felix Aylmer. Produced by Edward Black for Gainsborough Pictures. IMDb score: 5.4

Tommy and Bill fleeing the police into the time machine in the musical comedy Time Flies fron 1944.

Tommy and Bill fleeing the police into the time machine in the musical comedy Time Flies from 1944.

Filmmakers in the United Kingdom were certainly not too hot about science fiction in the thirties and the forties. Most British sci-fi in the thirties was co-produced with either Germany or France, other films just slightly dipped their toes in sci-fi matter. Science fiction guru H.G. Wells momentarily awakened the British film industry’s interest in the genre with his extremely expensive Things to Come in 1936 (review), directed by William Carlos Menzies. Although it was the most lavish sci-fi production in the world since Fritz Lang’s 1927 masterpiece Metropolis (review), audiences and critics panned the sluggish and moralistic script and the partly wooden acting brought on by the bombastic, long-winded dialogue. The film nearly bankrupted the studio and made the British industry shun sci-fi for one and a half decade. Continue reading

Sziriusz

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(6/10) In a nutshell: This Hungarian sci-fi turned romantic costume and swashbuckler drama is a forgotten little gem. It is based on a time machine short story predating H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine by one year, and is the first feature film in movie history to feature an actual time machine. It is also Hungary’s first all-out science fiction film, and stars one of the country’s most talked-about movie stars of the era.

Sziriusz. 1942, Hungary. Directed by Deszö Ákos Hamza. Written by Péter Rákószi. Based on the play Sziriusz by Imre Földes, in turn based on the novel Sziriusz by Ferenc Herczeg. Starring: Katalin Karády, Lásló Szilassy, Elemér Baló, Lajos Rajczy. Produced for Magyar Irok Filmje. IMDb score: 5.7

Hungarian superstar Katalin Karády in a modestly risqué scene in the world's first time machine film, Sziriusz.

Hungarian superstar Katalin Karády in a modestly risqué scene in the world’s first time machine film, Sziriusz.

When looking at the Hungarian invasion of Hollywood during the first 60 years of cinema, one might think that all of Hungary’s filmmakers had emigrated to the United States. Among the notables we find people like the founder of Fox Studios, William Fox, as well as the founder of Paramount, Adolf Zukor. Others worthy of mention are directors Michael Curtiz (The Adventures of Robin Hood, Casablanca), George Cukor (My Fair Lady), George Pal (The Time Machine) and the three Korda brothers (The Jungle Book, The Four Feathers, The Thief of Baghdad), although they were primarily based in Britain. Of the movie stars everyone of course knows Bela Lugosi, but there were also Peter Lorre, Tony Curtis, Johnny Weissmuller, Ilona Massey, Harry Houdini, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Eva Gabor, Leslie Howard and Paul Lukas. And one shouldn’t forget composer Miklos Roza, and there were many, many others. But Hungary also had a thriving film scene at home, as evidenced by the country’s third ever science fiction feature film, Sziriusz, that was nominated for the main prize at the Venice film festival in 1942, and featured the country’s biggest film star, the beautiful Katalin Karády. Continue reading

The Ghost of Slumber Mountain

No rating due to partially lost film

In a nutshell: This 1918 short by stop-motion wizard Willis O’Brien is probably the first film to describe time travel, and is a showcase for O’Brien’s marvellous stop-motion dinosaurs. 

The Ghost of Slumber Mountain. 1918, USA. Written & directed by Willis O’Brien (uncredited). Starring Herbert M. Dawley and Willis O’Brien (uncredited). Stop-motion animation my Willis O’Brien (uncredited). Produced by Herbert M. Dawley (falsely credited as writer, director and animator as well). IMDb score: 5.9

Promo still from the film.

Promo still from the film.

I usually don’t review short films when we start getting into the realm close to 1920, but I allow myself a few exceptions when pioneering concepts, themes or techniques are involved. Such a film is 1918/1919 short The Ghost of Slumber Mountain. It is considered by many to be the first film to deal with time travel, and one of the first where special effects pioneer Willis O’Brien (The Lost World, King Kong) combined live action with stop-motion photography. The first one was The Puzzling Billboard (1917), where a goat eats a billboard at the end of the film. It is also essentially the first film to depict a time machine (although that is debatable). O’Brien also wrote and directed the The Ghost of Slumber Mountain, and it was produced by Herbert M. Dawley, who also played the lead as Uncle Jack Holmes. Willis O’Brien plays the ghost of Mad Dick. Continue reading