Ten B-Lister Sci-Fi Flicks I Can't Help But Enjoy
Man From Planet X (1951)
Made on borrowed sets in just six days this modest film is basically a melodrama where a few people save humanity from a little alien guy you can't help but feel sorry for. The fog machine is turned on full to hide the wire and cardboard as heroes and villains wander around castle walls and out on the moors. It's like watching an epic as done by an amateur theatre company.
Earth VS The Flying Saucers (1956)
Few sci-fi inclined haven't seen this, but I'll remind you anyway. Ray Harryhausen put a lot of life into his saucers and into this film. The film itself is very pedestrian and predictable, but when saucers or aliens appear it just has that childhood thrill or fear you want to recall. And the faux epic climax over models of Washington buildings is always fun.
The Abominable Snowman (1957)
From the writer of the Quatermass stories comes an intelligent and philosophical adventure film. And yes, about the hunting of the Yeti. But despite the glorious visuals (impressive for the budget) this is mainly a psychological story and where much of its strength is from the characters and general atmosphere. There are striking moments to this small grand film and Peter Cushing shows why he's...well...Peter Cushing.
Fiend Without A Face (1957)
Feral brains with whiplash spinal cords! And these squirmy, leaping neck stranglers create a fairly effective climax to this modest British flick that is respectable to all concerned, even with the silly science and melodramatic plot twists. Without doubt the stars of this movie are the little brain bastards and they don't truly appear till near the end but it's a worthy payoff.
Atomic Submarine (1960)
The cheap look adds to the charm of submariners versus a flying saucer. The actors try to be likeable, the director tries to be entertaining, and the narrator keeps a stiff upper-lip. Stock footage abounds! When our heroes eventually get into the saucer the real fun begins. The big bad alien is one of my cheesiest favourites and I love his alien arrogance. Take that, you!
The Day The Earth Caught Fire (1961)
The world is about to end and no special effects to stop it! That's because this is an actor's piece and more involving for it. Through a top notch cast we see people deal with the crisis in
themselves. This is drama about our own lives as much as a scientific thriller. I think it's one of the best British SF films made.
The Last Man On Earth (1964)
When don't you enjoy Vincent Price? Never does he fail to live up to a film and this Italian mega-el-cheapo mutant zombie movie tries hard to live up to him. Admittedly, this version of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend (there have been three) virtually begins and ends with Vincent's performance, but the film still holds up enough on its own. It shows that even if the execution isn't the greatest, a good idea not betrayed goes a long way towards a good SF movie.
Death Race 2000 (1975)
I've always liked David Carradine even when he's in one of those ultra-cheapie rip-off flicks. And this is one of them, made quickly to cash in on Rollerball (1975). But it moves fast, keeps the right humour and beats Paul Verhoven to that satirical style uber-violence. It's Wacky Races for psychos. And who doesn't do pedestrian point scoring when that little old lady is taking too long to cross the road? And it has the only bad visual pun I'll let be paid.
The Hidden (1988)
Effectively a chase movie, it barrels along so fast you don't have time to realise there isn't much story. Eventually it turns into an alien and human buddy story, with all that character building stuff wanna-be writers would want to do with such a premise. But the direction and Kyle MacLaughlin's charms keep you happy to see how it all turns out. And the body-stealing alien is a nice piece of work.
Fatally flawed, but there's enough cool stuff in this Rutger Hauer low-budgeter to make you wonder why it goes so wrong. Indeed, this is a smart, sassy, stylish future cop film with quirky heroes chasing a nashy-teeth monster through a flooded London. It's going great guns till the studio, so impressed by the rough cut, thought this could go mainstream and thus rejected the original cerebral ending, forced the director to quit (he went back to commercials) and commissioned a rewrite to deliberately dumb down the last ten minutes (you can see the moment it happens). It could have been a cult classic, but instead it's another Highlander 2, except it still makes more sense than that.