So, I've found myself watching a few bits of borderline dodgy sci-fi recently, well, I say "watch", but they're more like "have on for background noise while I play World of Tanks", although being as I have the ability to multitask, I have watched them with the same level of interest as I usually would.
The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)
One of the things that permeated post WW2 Britain was a tremendous amount of worry about the ongoing nuclear arms race. Once the horrible after effects of radiation became known, the general public started to object to the building and use of nuclear arms. This film capitalises on this concern by presenting a "what if..?" scenario.
The film begins with a lone reporter, Peter Stenning, wandering through the deserted streets of London in the middle of a massive heatwave. Peter explains through flashback how 90 days previously, both the United States and the Soviet Union test detonated a series of incredibly powerful hydrogen bombs as part of their weapons development programs.
A few days after the explosions, people mistake a rise in global temperature as merely being a particularly hot summer, however, it soon becomes apparent that something is amiss as flash floods hit Australia, London becomes engulfed in a cloud of steam and flash fires begin breaking out.
Although the governments of the world try to keep the populations calm, Peter learns through his contact (and subsequent love interest) at the met office, Jeanne, that the nuclear blasts have in fact altered the Earths axial tilt by 11 degrees, which has the knock on effect of severely altering the global climate, and eventually its orbit around the sun.
The only people I've ever heard of who star in this film are Leo McKern, and a very young and unknown at the time Michael Caine, who stars in a bit part as a policeman directing traffic in the films closing sequence.
This is quite a good film for what it is, as it tells a decent and intelligent story with very little by way of flights of fantasy, and the acting on the part of the cast is superb.
The Angry Red Planet (1959)
During the 1950s it was generally believed that space exploration would become a routine part of life, and that by the end of the 20th century, man would have set foot on other planets.Plenty of sci-fi literature and films speculated on this subject, and this film is one of them.
Mars Rocket 1 returns to Earth after being out of contact for several months, having successfully completed the first manned landing on the planet Mars. The rocket is landed by remote control and it is found that two of the crafts crew, Dr. Iris Ryan and Colonel Thomas O'Bannon, have survived, however Colonel O'Bannon is severely ill with a strange growth on his arm, and Dr. Ryan is almost catatonic with shock, furthermore, all of the ships data recorders, save a single tape recorder, have been smashed.
Using a combination of drugs and hypnosis, the authorities manage to get Dr. Ryan to tell them what happened.
The ship made a successful landing on the planet, and found that it was teeming with strange plant and animal based life, however pretty quickly, the crew of MR-1 find that the life on the planet becomes hostile, killing their engineer and eventually fatally wounding their scientist. As it turns out, the martian natives have been watching them, and are non too impressed with the human visitors' predilection towards violence.
At just over an hour long, this film is a proper B-movie, having a very obvious shoestring budget, and extremely poor special effects. For example, the surface of mars is represented on screen by applying a strange orange filter to the film, meaning all the sequences on mars are shown in an eye wrenching combination of orange and black. Alien creatures are shown by having hand drawn animations superimposed over the film, to produce some seriously laughable effects.
As a film, this one is just bad, and not even so bad that its good.
The Stone Tape (1972)
Ok, so this one isn't a B-movie, but is in fact a BBC TV play written by veteran sci-fi/horror writer Nigel Kneale.
A research team working for "Ryan Electronics" takes up residence at "Taskerlands", a recently renovated Victorian era mansion which has a reputation for being haunted. The purpose of the teams research is to find a new recording medium with which to replace magnetic tape, of which one of the team members has already made tentative steps towards developing a crystal based medium.
Quickly, the team finds that the room which had been set aside for use as a server room has not been completed, which angers the research manager, Peter, however the site manager points out that the work crews refused to work in the room as many unexplained paranormal events occurred in there, and they were scared off. The teams computer programmer, the highly emotionally unstable Jill (Jane Asher) has a terrifying experience when she enters the room, seeing a woman dressed in Victorian clothing running up a disused flight of stairs before screaming and falling to her doom, however no one else present notices it. As it turns out,t he room is much older than the building itself, possibly dating back over 1000 years, and indeed at least one death had happened there, namely a Victorian maid who died under mysterious circumstances in 1880.
Deciding to investigate this phenomenon, in part spurred by others in the team reporting hearing screams and footsteps while in the room, Peter hopes that their investigation will yield something along the lines that they are looking for, a high capacity mineral based data recording medium.
At first, their results seem encouraging, but then things take a bit of a sinister turn for the worse.
Earth Vs The Flying Saucers (1956)
Another one of the quintessential "B-Movie" archetypes, this bit of melodrama sees the Earth coming under attack by a fleet of nomadic aliens and their deadly flying saucers!
Theres not much else to say about this film really, it has fairly good acting, very good special effects for the time, and a nice simple "us v them" storyline which sees flying saucers zooming around randomly destroying buildings and historical landmarks in Washington D.C.
It might be a throwaway bit of 1950s sci-fi cheese, but its a bloody good one.
The Uninvited (1997)
This is a 1997 ITV miniseries (4x 50 min episodes), written by and starring actor Leslie Grantham.
The show is essentially a combination of a mystery thriller, sci-fi and a commentary on environmental issues.
Photo journalist Steve Blake witnesses a high ranking government minister die in a car accident one night while driving along a deserted road, thinking he has a story, he visits the ministers home, only to find the man alive and well. When the police give the "official" explanation that what Blake witnessed was in fact a car thief dying in a stolen car, he becomes suspicious and begins an investigation. Pretty soon, Blake seems to uncover a conspiracy involving the residents of a seaside village called "Sweethope", which was destroyed in a flood some 5 years previously, however miraculously, no one was killed, and, since then, all the survivors have gone on to become very influential in both industry and government.
While continuing his investigation, Blake uncovers a sinister secret involving extra terrestrials and the destruction of all life on Earth.
This show starts off fairly good, with the first episode setting up some pretty tantalising plot points, however it becomes somewhat cliched from the second episode onwards, with various plot holes appearing and requiring an excessive amount of suspension of disbelief. That said, if you can ignore this, the story is a pretty good one, not outstanding, but not too bad.