|The atomic cloud over Nagasaki, Japan, August 9, 1945.|
Granted, it was decades ago, and radiation never caused giant rabbits to overrun Washington D.C., or attacks from giant lobsters to destroy a high school dance, and massive tarantulas never carried off the women folk; but the most influential directors in Hollywood today grew up with those films where those things did happen, and they still reference them in their work. Further, the visual language with which we are familiar today really started becoming mainstream then, and it's in these "campy" sci-fi films that some of the most basic moral dogmas are encoded at a time when everything seemed uncertain. The following clip is a Turner Classic Movies channel documentary called Watch the Skies, about the influence of sci-fi films on Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, George Lucas, James Cameron and all of American society (the rest of the hour long documentary may be viewed at Youtube here).
So if TCM has all ready solved the importance of sci-fi films, why am I covering?
I think they are all wrong.
Films such as Them! and The Thing From Another World, and Creature From the Black Lagoon, The Blob and The Monolith Monsters, wasn't about them, the Communists, they were about us, the ones who dropped the bomb, the world we created and what we became when we dropped the bomb: those giant ants, rabbits, spiders, tomatoes, whatever you want to cite, wasn't about everything else growing so big, it was about how small we became when we indiscriminately unleashed the effects of technology against a city of humans utterly unprepared for what we were going to do. It wasn't that aliens were attacking us, but that we had become alien to ourselves and couldn't recognize ourselves anymore. The "alien within us" effected us from the country's status as a superpower to our sexual relationships and the relationship between parents and their children.
|The climax of giant creature-features.|
But the point is, as men were getting smaller women were becoming larger. This is the basic point of my contention with Spielberg, Lucas, Scott and Cameron: their interpretations of the 1950 sci-fi thrillers as vehicles of paranoia about Communism doesn't apply to other genres of film at the time, the film noir or Westerns, or dramas. Rebel Without a Cause has moments and hints of the Cold War (Plato being cold all the time, for example) but there isn't anything about Communism or suspected Communism in there, but the film is full of how small and insignificant Jim (James Dean) feels and how "the kids" at school treat others (please see James Dean vs Charles Darwin: Rebel Without A Cause).For an historical analysis of film to work, we have to be able to trace aspects of it to other genres and the Communist threat isn't there. However, the sexual role reversal as a result of radiation contact is evident in the 1958 film, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman:
What is the conflict between the man who is shrinking into nothing and the woman growing into a colossal? As I mentioned, both of the mutant sizes are the result of radiationthey didn't win the war, the bomb won the war, and that feeling of shame, and the responsibility of killing women and children because of the bomb dropping on them, was what caused men to lose their self-respect, and that is the radiation cloud which causes men to grow small and simultaneously caused women to become empowered, because the men lost the war on the front line, but the women won the war on the home front; it wasn't just the Rosie Riveters from war production faculties that "rose up" (grew) to the challenge of supplying the Allied Powers with war equipment, but that men shrunk from their duty to solidly defeat the enemy.
|Robert Mitchum, Out of the Past, 1947.|
|Clint Eastwood's first, uncredited role.|