Island of Lost Souls

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(9/10) In a nutshell: Island of Lost Souls (1932) is probably the most refined of the sci-fi horror films of the thirties, and probably the best acted. The H.G. Wells tale about a mad doctor trying to create humans out of animals by surgical means is still thoroughly creepy today.

Island of Lost Souls. 1932, USA. Directed by Erle C. Kenton. Written by Philip Wylie & Waldemar Young. Based on the novel The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells. Starring: Charles Laughton, Richard Arlen, Bela Lugosi, Kathleen Burke. Cinematography: Karl Struss. Make-up: Charles Gemora, Wally Westmore. Produced for Paramount. Tomatometer: 96 %. IMDb score: 7.6

Charles Laughton as Dr. Moreau being attacked by his creations.

Charles Laughton as Dr. Moreau being attacked by his creations.

”Not to walk on all fours! That is the law! Are we not men?” chants Bela Lugosi in heavy manimal make-up in as scene from the 1932 film Island of Lost Souls, that has since become a classic. Although it is often clumped together with the Universal horror pictures of the time, like Frankenstein (review) and Dracula (both 1931), it was in fact made by Paramount, who also made Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1931, review). In both these Paramount horrors, you can see a sort of refinement and style that was lacking from the Universal pictures, Bride of Frankenstein (1935, review) perhaps being the exception. Continue reading

Metropolis

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(10/10) In a nutshell: The plot may be slightly simplistic and the political message naive, but the thematic and visual influence of Austrian director Fritz Lang’s exciting 1927 masterpiece Metropolis is rivalled by few in science fiction and in film in general. A great, entertaining, sprawling epic in a future tower of Babylon.

Metropolis. 1927, Germany. Directed by Fritz Lang. Written by Thea von Harbou, Fritz Lang. Starring: Brigitte Helm, Gustav Fröhlig, Alfred Abel, Rudolf Klein-Rogge. Cinematography: Karl Freund. Produced by Erich Pommer for UFA. Tomatometer: 99 % IMDb score: 8.3 (#106) Metascore: 98/100.

The hugely influential Maschinenmensch robot and some early, beautifully rendered special effects.

The hugely influential Maschinenmensch robot and some early, beautifully rendered special effects.

Few films have been so much written about and analysed as Austrian director Fritz Lang’s stupendous epic Metropolis. Not only is this dystopian sci-fi classic with political and religious undertones one of the most influential sci-fi films of all time. It is also one of the films that has had the biggest influence, not only on the movies, but on art, literature and even architecture and design, in history. Despite all this, Fritz Lang himself disowned the film nearly from the day it was released. Continue reading

A Trip to Mars

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(5/10) In a nutshell: A scientist floats to Mars and is captured by Martians in this early American short film. Not a masterpiece, but a well made and intriguing little film.

A Trip to Mars. USA, 1910. Silent short. Directed by Ashley Miller. Loosely based on H.G. Wells’ novel The First Men in the Moon. Produced by the Edison Company. IMDb Score: 6.2 Tomatometer: N/A. Metascore: N/A. 

A famous shot from the film, of the Martian creating a snowball around the scientist.

A famous shot from the film, of the Martian creating a snowball around the scientist.

Along with the Edison’s 10 minute rendition of Frankenstein (review), A Trip to Mars was one of USA’s first science fiction films, and perhaps the first all-out sci-fi. It was also one of the very first films about a trip to Mars – in any country. Both these films were released in 1910, and both were produced by Thomas Edison’s powerful conglomerate. Before this film there had apparently been made a version of Jules Verne’s book 20,000 Leagues Beneath the Seas in 1905, but that appears to have been lost. Continue reading

A Trip to the Moon

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(10/10) In a nutshell: This 1902 film about a trip to the moon and an encounter with aliens is in many senses the first of its kind, notable for its large budget, entertaining and fantastical story, state of the art special effects and lavish, moving sets. A true benchmark not only for sci-fi films, but for the medium of film as a whole. 

A Trip to the Moon (1902) Director: Georges Méliès. Starring: Georges Méliès, Bleuette Bernon. Producer: Georges Méliès. France. Tomatometer: 100%. IMDb score: 8.2. 

The legendary image of the rocket hitting the face in the moon (actually Georges Méliès' face).

The legendary image of the rocket hitting the face in the moon (actually Georges Méliès’ face).

In many ways French stage magician-turned-film maker George Méliès’ 1902 film A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la Lune) marks the beginning of sci-fi as a film genre. It was the first film of a considerable length (14 minutes) dealing with sci-fi elements – it was in fact one of the longest fictional films to have been released at the time of its making in 1902. It was also a beautiful blend of all the special effects wizardry Méliès had developed during his 6 years of film making. It sports one of the most legendary images of science fiction film making to date – that of a moon rocket hitting the (human) face of the moon square in the eye. Continue reading