Coolest Monsters of Cold War Sc-Fi Flicks
Following World War II we entered into a new age as nuclear power and radiation had been introduced to the world. The United States and Russia were the two superpowers left on the planet and the threat of them blowing everything to radioactive cinders was a real fear. Those who made science fiction films during this era, did what sci-fi creators tend to do and used their art to talk about where the world was. The threat of nuclear extinction inspired many filmmakers to create some of the greatest monsters to ever grace the silver screen.
Godzilla (Gorjira/Godzilla): He did not get his moniker by being a passive aggressive monster, Godzilla earned his title as King of Monsters through hard work and destructive behaviors. This kaiju’s cinematic debut kicked off what has become the biggest franchises in history. Given that Japan was on the receiving end of the atomic weapon which kicked off the Atomic Age, it is fitting they created a monster which personified the fear associated with the weapon. Inspired by the giant monsters ever present in Western films, the producers at Toho decided that was the route to take. Godzilla was a dinosaur-esque behemoth who only made fleeting appearances until the climax when he appears in all his glory to smash Tokyo into rubble. The film eventually made it to predominately Japanese communities in the United States and from their dispersed into the greater pop culture. Today Godzilla is one of cinema’s biggest icons literally and figuratively.
Pod People (Invasion of the Body Snatchers): If you were a conservative during the Cold War your biggest fear was that the people you knew were secretly Communists. If you were a liberal during the Cold War one of your biggest fears was being the subject of a witch hunt, by those forcing you to conform. Playing on the fears of both sides of the political spectrum is the genius of Invasion of the Body Snatchers a sci-fi/horror classic which still resonates to this day. Narrated by Dr. Mile Bennell in flashback gives the Pod People an ominous reputation from the beginning, as we wonder what threat could be so dangerous it drove this man insane. We learn that he and his friends have stumbled onto an alien conspiracy where perfect duplicates of the people in their town are developed via plant-like pods. These extraterrestrial invaders believe that humanity can improved upon by stripping people of their emotions. One by one those around Dr. Bennell are replaced by the Pod People until he alone must escape and warn the human race about what is happening….but he may already be too late.
The Blob (The Blob): Playing on the fears that all of the recent scientific advances made during the era, there could be something from beyond the star that we would be no match for, the Blob has become a staple of science fiction. A meteor crashes in a small Pennsylvania town and is discovered by an old man (who pays for it) and two teenagers (one of whom played by a young Steve McQueen). This meteor brought with it a strange ooze which consumes anything or anyone in its path. The Blob grows takes over the town forcing an alliance of teenagers and police officers to try to find a weakness. Luckily they discover the Blob can not tolerate the cold, in the end they successfully freeze the alien entity and send it to the arctic. McQueen’s final line that it will stay neutralized as long as the Arctic stays cold, was played for cheap thrills upon its release. Today as we deal with a planet which is warming that message holds a certain ominous nature.
Alien Husband (I Married a Monster from Outer Space): Sadly this cult classic has never been given the credit it deserves due to its big sensational title. But those who actually take the time to watch I Married a Monster from Outer Space will find it to be a genuinely atmospheric flick full of suspense and terrific acting performances. It features Bill and Marge Farrell, your typical post-war clean cut couple who are undoubtedly looking forward to having their 2.5 children, until it is discovered Marge is unable to get pregnant. Marge begins to realize her husband acting strangely. Slowly but surely she notices many of the other men in town acting in a bizarre manner as well. She discovers that “Bill” and the others are actually a race of aliens from a world where women have gone extinct and now their race is dying out. In a plan dripping of creep-factor, they have taken over the bodies of the men on this planet in order to procreate with human women. There is clearly a thread in this film showing women, who just a few years prior were major contributors to the war effort, as being reduced to simply baby-making machine in this post-war society.
Them (THEM!): Following the war, many scientists puzzled over what the long term effects of radiation on an environment would be. But in Hollywood they just decided it would turn normal animals into giant monsters. No movie did this better than THEM! Which featured an army of irradiated giant ants terrorizing the American west. Given they only had three giant ant props, director Gordon Douglas, kept the creatures off camera for much of the movie allowing simply their eerie chirping alert audiences to their presence. The traditional heroes of sci-fi films in this era (soldiers and scientists) join forces to find this colony of giant ants which is hiding somewhere in the country. It takes a special talent to make a film about giant insects legitimately suspenseful and scary and the people behind THEM! pulls it off perfectly.
Monster from the Id (Forbidden Planet): In this visually stunning science fiction spin on the Tempest, Leslie Nielsen (back when he was still a serious actor) and his crew land on a planet inhabited only by a scientist, his daughter, and an awesome robot. But there is something else on this planet, a force which remains largely unseen. As the mystery unravels they discover that this creature is actually the mental Id of the scientist who has been living in isolation studying what was left behind by the aliens who once called this place home. Of course with the pioneering visual effects featured in this classic, when the Id finally appeared onscreen it had to be unlike anything audiences had ever seen before. Utilizing the talent of animator and special effects artist Joshua Meador, the monster was created via a simple animation technique of sketching out the outlines then tinting them red. The result is a sci-fi beast unlike any other which truly does not look like anything you would find on earth.
The Thing (The Thing from Another World): As the Second World War drew to a close the skies became filled with unidentified objects, almost as if the bomb grabbed the attention from something beyond our world. There was a concern that one of these crafts could crash to our planet, then what would happen (though Roswell answered that question). Based on an acclaimed short story, Howard Hawks put together a chilling science fiction film set in the far reaches of the North Pole. When a spaceship reportedly crashes, a team of scientists discover a humanoid being frozen in the ice, and as scientists apt to do they decided to figure out all they could about it. A large vegetable based creature, the being known as the Thing begins to kill off the huddled survivors at the Arctic compound and continually shows an ability to adapt. Though the creature is defeated in the end we are urged to keep watching the skies.