Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) at Wonders in the Dark

The Rhedosaurus attacks a lighthouse in
The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953).

This is about the day Jean Renoir watched The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. I’m not making this part up. He went to a matinee.

To repeat: Jean Renoir—a giant among film artists, director of The Rules of the Game (cited by some sophisticated and astute people as the greatest film ever made) and other masterpieces, ranked as the fourth greatest director of all time in the 2002 BFI Sight and Sound poll, son of the famed impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir—had a grand time at a matinee in summer 1953 watching The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms accompanied by Eugene Lourié, the movie’s director.

Years later, writing his 1985 memoir My Work in Films, Lourié remembered: “Renoir reacted just like the youngsters surrounding us. ‘Eh bien, mon vieux,’ he said. ‘You surely had a wonderful time making this film.’”

I’d give anything for a photo of Jean Renoir and Eugene Lourié in that movie theater, surrounded by a happy sea of monster-loving children and thrill-seeking adults, enjoying the first of the 1950s cycle of giant-monster-attacking-a-city movies. According to Lourié, it made Renoir feel like a kid again.

Monster movies have a way of doing that. Apparently, even the most sensitive and compassionate of directors can enjoy an afternoon of popcorn, rampaging dinosaurs, and urban mayhem. It’s good for the soul.
The essay continues at Wonders in the Dark

This is my second contribution to the Top 100 Science Fiction Countdown at Wonders in the Dark. There’s a little hint at the end regarding what my third contribution will be. Enjoy!

© 2016 Lee Price

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Invaders from Mars (1953) at Wonders in the Dark

Helena Carter in Invaders from Mars (1953)

Count me in as an Invaders from Mars boy. (Are there Invaders from Mars girls? All the Invaders from Mars obsessives whom I know are baby boomer male nerds. The movie feels completely locked into an adolescent boy perspective.)

While Invaders from Mars enjoyed some popularity upon release in 1953, its real impact came when the movie was released to television in the late 1950s. Although it inevitably lost the power of its weird Cinecolor process and its depth of field, it strangely gained in resonance as well. In their comfortable suburban homes, boys could watch the story of a boy who looked out the window of his suburban home. And there was a curious leveling of the image in those old TVs—low budget science fiction came out looking eerily similar to the 6:00 news.

I think I must have seen Invaders from Mars for the first time between 1965 and 1970 (when I was five to ten), probably on a Saturday afternoon. Although I watched it approximately 15 years after the movie was made, the movie’s main protagonist—a preadolescent boy—could have easily been a neighbor on my block. His bed looked like mine, his telescope looked like mine, and his window looked like mine. I could easily imagine rising from bed at 4 a.m. and looking out my window to see a UFO descending. This key scene was grounded in my reality. For a suburban 60s kid, it felt archetypal.
Excerpted from my Invaders from Mars essay:
read it all at Wonders in the Dark

I contributed this piece to the Top 100 Science Fiction Countdown at Wonders in the Dark. For the next three months, Wonders blogmaster Sam Juliano will be sharing 100 essays on these great films, written by dozens of his knowledgeable film-buff friends. It’s an honor to be counted among them!

© 2016 Lee Price