Atomic Age

[8.0] Philip Kaufman enhances the creepiness and desperation in this superior retelling of the classic tale of alien menace and paranoia. The terrific cast includes Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright, Brooke Adams, and Leonard Nimoy. Ben Burtt provides the spooky sound effects, including that hideous, otherworldly sound the pod people make when they spot a human in their midst. This particular film version (there …

[4.0] Aliens in flying saucers contact a scientist about their plan to enslave all the humans of Earth! This atomic age flick is slow going until the last ten minutes, when effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen gets to destroy Washington D.C. Aside from the big finish, this movie suffers from the usual pitfalls of the era, including bad acting, over reliance on stock footage, and silly …

[7.0] The residents of a small California town are slowly being replaced by otherworldly “pod people” and it’s up to Kevin McCarthy and Carolyn Jones to warn the rest of the world about the invasion. This original film version is a modestly-budgeted but effective sci-fi/horror flick. It’s emblematic of the ’50s for its allegorical use of the Red Scare, but it also suffers from some …

[5.0] This monster romp was the first solo effort by effects wizard Ray Harryhausen. All the stop-motion animation has the usual Harryhausen charm, including a famous scene where the dinosaur rages down Wall Street and chomps on a policeman. Unfortunately, there’s not much else going for this creature feature until that point. The story is one of the earliest to feature atomic mutation, but the …

[6.5] Often regarded the best of the atomic age ‘giant critter’ flicks, Them! is best in the beginning, during two police officers’ discovery of a little girl roaming the desert in a catatonic state. Looking for her family, they come across a demolished trailer and a destroyed store, a few dead bodies — and what’s that eerie sound? It’s genuinely spooky for a while. Production …

[6.5] John Goodman stars as a schlock filmmaker previewing his latest atomic horror flick during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The script by Charlie Haas draws clunky parallels between the real life threat of nuclear destruction and the crass aims of exploitation filmmakers. I love exploitation horror, but trying to make out like it’s doing humanity a favor is a bit of a …

[4.5] This atomic-age monster movie features a giant octopus that attacks San Francisco. With the help of special effects maestro Ray Harryhausen, the creature topples some skyscrapers and whacks a piece out of the Golden Gate bridge. Unfortunately, the visual effects are the only reason to recommend this flick, which suffers from many of the same ailments you find in other atomic-age fare, including pointless …

[5.5] A meteorite crashes to Earth, carrying a blob of jelly that grows exponentially by devouring everyone in its path. The original Blob movie is charming in a retro-gitchy way, even if you never buy then 28-year old Steve McQueen as a high schooler. I like the first half of the movie, while the Blob is still mysterious and no one believes what our teen-aged …

[3.5] The Gill Man’s second sequel starts off okay and gets progressively worse. It’s cool enough while a team of scientists are hunting the Creature, especially when they catch him on fire (the highlight scene of the movie), but once they capture him and begin experimenting on him, the movie takes a nosedive. You’ll have to forget that genetic mutation doesn’t happen overnight. And then …

[4.0] This sequel to The Creature from the Black Lagoon finds the Gill Man captured and put on display in a Florida theme park. Before long, he escapes, takes a woman hostage, and terrorizes the local community. Away from the darkness and depths of the Black Lagoon, the Creature is far less intimidating. I mean, how hard is it to spot an amphibious mutant on …

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