After looking into Grown-up Sci-Fi we have seen that dark complex stories in Sci-Fi have been around for a while. Actually, the genre started with these kinds of stories, just think of stories like Frankenstein.
These classic adult sci-fi stories have a faithful fan following that is very critical of reboots and remakes since the original is so iconic. There is something about those films that captivate an audience from different generations.
In this special edition of Grown-up Sci-Fi, we will start to look into some classic Sci-Fi that you may have probably not heard about yet.
Metropolis is considered one of the great achievements of the silent era. What’s the film about? In the futuristic city of Metropolis, in which the city planners do not interact with the working class, Freder, the son of the city’s mastermind, discovers the grim truth of the working class and becomes determined to help the workers. He befriends and eventually falls in love with a working-class woman, Maria, but his relationship with her puts him in a difficult position with his father who is the city’s mastermind.
It is a social-conscious picture, very relevant today, which shows a not-so-nice side of modern technology. The film was directed by Fritz Lang and was released in Germany in 1927. Now, the history of what happened to Metropolis after its release is very interesting. Lang’s version was cut by Paramount Studios for the U.S. release (and basically the rest of the world) and by Ufa in Germany. The cut footage was believed lost. Another interesting fact is that the famous H.G. Wells didn’t like the film. Not only him but the majority of U.S. critics panned the film. I’m thinking probably because they failed to see the big picture probably? Strangely other critics praised the visual and the ambitious production values.
Lang himself a few years later expressed dissatisfaction with the film, most probably because of the Nazi Party’s fascination with the film. But what is most interesting is what happened after the release of the film. To start, the original premiere cut has been lost, and for many years the film could only be seen in restored versions. The film was first restored in 1984 by Moroder, whose version featured additional special effects, replaced intertitles of character dialogue with subtitles, and incorporated songs of popular recording artists instead of the original soundtrack. It was titled “Gurgio Moroder Presents Metropolis.”
In 1986 Enno Patalas restored the film (again). This version was based on the film’s script and musical score. After 1986, previously unknown sections of the film were discovered in film museums and archives around the world. In 2002 the F.W. Murnau Foundation in conjunction with Kino International, Metropolis’ current copyright holder digitally restored the film, titled “Metropolis Restored Authorized Edition.” This version included the film’s original music score and title cards that describe events featured in missing sequences. In 2008, a 16 mm reduction negative of the original cut had been discovered in the archives of Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The print had scenes that were missing from other copies of the film. The Argentine print was in poor condition and required considerable restoration. The print revealed new scenes which were the missing pieces that add a new understanding of the film. The film was released in 2010 titled “The Complete Metropolis.” This new version was shown at the Berlin Film Festival in February 2010.
As of date, this was all the restoration drama that we know of. If you thought this was all, you are so wrong. There was also some drama surrounding the copyrights of the film but in the end, it remains a sci-fi steampunk classic.
Based on the 1940 science fiction short story “Farewell to the Master” by Harry Bates, the film tells the story of a humanoid alien visitor named Klaatu who comes to earth with a powerful-eight-foot-tall robot, Gort, to deliver an important message. The message is that humans must live peacefully or be destroyed as a danger to other planets. They landed in the Cold War period just after the end of World War II. Klaatu wishes to deliver the message to the representatives of all nations. Some people think that the story of the film has similarities with the story of Christ. The film directed by Robert Wise was well received by critics and is many times referred to as classic sci-fi.
The phrase “Klaatu Barada Niko” from the film has appeared on many occasions in science fiction and pop culture. There was no translation given in the film what the phrase means. People speculated that it could be a safe word used during missions. In 2008, the film was remade. There is some debate among fans about the remake. It was not as well-received as the original. The film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant in 1995”. This social-conscious picture, still holds relevance today, even more so in this recent climate we are confronted with anti-tolerance, fear, and hate.
THE WAR OF WORLDS (1953)
The film is based on the 1879 H.G Wells novel of the same name and directed by Byron Haskin. It is a modern retelling changing the setting to 1953 Southern California while also commenting on the then-ongoing Cold War and the nuclear arms race starring Gene Barry and Ann Robinson. The film is basically about an alien invasion on earth and is considered a thrilling story. The film received critical acclaim and went on to influence other science fiction films.
Steven Spielberg made an adaptation of the original Wells novel in 2005 which features several references to the original film. The 1988 TV series is a sequel to the film where Ann Robinson reprises her role in a few episodes. She also reprises her role in 1988’s “Midnight Movie Massacre” and in 2005’s “The Naked Monster”. Another adaptation was made in 2005 directly to DVD titled “The Asylum’s H.G. Wells War of Worlds.”
This sci-fi steampunk film was selected in 2011 for preservation on the United States National Film Registry in the Library of Congress, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant,” mainly for the importance of the film’s release during the early years of the Cold War. Today the film is considered as one of the great influencer’s in the sci-fi action genre as the concept of an alien invasion is continuously used in sci-fi films.
THE INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956)
The story is about an extraterrestrial invasion that begins in the fictional California town of Santa Mira. A local doctor uncovers the invasion and tries to stop it. But how was earth invaded? Alien plan sores grown into large seed pods, able to reproduce a duplicate of each human nearby. As each pod reaches maturity, it assimilates the physical characteristics, personalities, and memories of each sleeping person placed near it. The main difference between the duplicated and the real humans is that these duplicates don’t show any human emotion. They were referred to later as pod people in American culture.
The film has a strong anti-communism theme and the story is a metaphor for the tyranny endured during the McCarthy era, specifically over the totalitarianism in the wake of Senator Joseph McCarty’s notorious communist witch hunt. The film deals with dehumanization and fear of loss of one’s individual identity. The political references of the film were caught by many people and it obtained a cult following making it a significant film in the sci-fi horror genre.
The creators, among them director Don Siegel, didn’t expect the film to make such an impact. They merely intended to make a thrilling story and entertain and scare people. During the release of the film, it was ignored by critics. However, as years go by critics eventually became more accepting in considering the film for review.
A remake was made in 1978 of the classic paranoid metaphor, this time it is yuppies who threaten to replace humankind with synthetic veggie-humans. The remake was a box office success and was very well received by critics. It is considered by many to be one of the best remakes of a classic.
The film was selected in 1994 for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Today many consider it an influential film in the sci-fi genre.
Partially based on Arthur C. Clarke’s short story “The Sentinel”, the film tells the story of how Humans find a mysterious object buried beneath the Lunar surface that appears to be a monolith. It appears that someone or something helped evolution on earth by placing a monolith, and there is probably another one somewhere else in the universe. Evolution then enabled humankind to reach the Lunar’s surface, where they find another monolith, one that signals the monolith placers. The humans set off on a quest with the “help” of intelligent computer H.A.L. 9000 to achieve the next step in evolution.
The film refers to themes of human evolution, artificial intelligence, and extraterrestrial life. The film has great special effects. The creators used sound and minimal dialogue in place of traditional narrative techniques. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards. The director Stanley Kubrick won for his direction of visual effects.
The film received mixed reviews and wasn’t very popular with the audience. But it quickly received a cult following afterward, more so when the novel was completed soon after the film was released, and slowly became financially successful.
Since its premiere, the film has been analyzed and the director encourages the audience to embrace their own ideas and theories like for example the meaning of the monolith. Clarke’s novel identified the monolith as a tool created by an alien race that has been through many stages of evolution. These aliens travel the cosmos assisting lesser evolved species to take evolutionary steps.
For humankind, the evolution process would be from ape to man, to spaceman, to a state of pure energy. In 1991, it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry and deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant by the United States Library of Congress. Today 2001: A Space Odyssey is recognized as one of the greatest and most influential sci-fi films in history.
Well, these are the first classics we brought forward. We will continue discussing classics in the next edition but in the meantime, I would love to hear from you. Have you seen them or hear about them? Would you consider watching them? Is there a classic you consider should be included in this series of Classic Grown-up Sci-Fi?
Sources: IMDb and Wikipedia