Dissecting Trailers: Old B Sci-Fi
by Kyle Anderson on September 1, 2011
I’m the kind of nerd who enjoys all kinds of science fiction and lately, on top of my heaping helping of the British variety, I’ve been enjoying weird old B pictures from the 50s, 60s, and 70s (and, truth be told, some 80s ones too). Since I’ve run out of current trailers that I feel the need to lambaste beat by beat, I’m instead going to show you all the trailers to some of the crazier, sillier, and surprisingly awesomer flicks that have been entertaining me these last few weeks.
The Atomic Submarine
This is a sort of good movie that has an absolute shit trailer. It doesn’t show you anything! This 1960 film was made quickly to capitalize on a real-life mystery involving missing submarines in the arctic. In the movie, though, there’s a giant interstellar cyclops that’s behind the disappearance and in real life it was… something else. The acting is boring, but the underwater model shots are surprisingly good, plus you have to love a feature film that’s only 72 minutes long.
This is a super fantastic trailer to a movie that, despite its insanity, is actually kinda boring. The narrator of the trailer says it “defies logic, confounds belief,” which is a nice of way of saying it don’t make no sense. The movie was made as a short film in the mid-60s but not released until 1970 when someone decided it should be a feature. Special effects guru Dennis Muren, who later went on to work on Star Wars among others, co-directed and was the poor-man’s Harryhausen here. The shock cuts and close-ups alone are worth the watch, but the big clay monster is the icing on the cake.
Invaders From Mars
In 1953, the Cold War was in high swing and a slew of thinly-veiled allegories to communism masquerading as science fiction movies popped up. This is one of the better ones. While not as well-known (or as good) as Invasion of the Body Snatchers made three years later, Invaders From Mars does create some very real terror out of guys in green suits. Plus, any movie with a little kid saying “Gee whiz!” all the time deserves a look.
In the late 70s, Star Wars was big shit, so anybody thought they could make money with a space movie. In 1979, Italian director Luigi Cozzi (operating under the handle “Lewis Coates”) made this movie, more of an homage to old sci-fi serials than to Lucas’ film, though the people funding the film demanded some ripoff space battles, which they get. The model shots are pretty poor, but any time you see brightly colored ships zipping around an outer space right out of Space Mountain, it’s fun in my book. You may also notice the guy with the green head in a jar which directly references the film above. I just watched this movie, and the trailer does a good job of showing you most of the action set pieces without telling you what’s happening. The Jason and the Argonauts-inspired robots are hilarious, but not as hilarious as when a eyeliner-wearing David Hasselhoff shows up towards the end of the movie. The film was released through Roger Corman’s New World Pictures and the trailer was cut by none other than Joe Dante.
Battle Beyond the Stars
In the same vein as Star Crash, Battle Beyond the Stars was Roger Corman’s Star Wars, except it’s really his Seven Samurai but in space. In fact, it’s exactly the story of the Seven Samurai, with a boy leaving home to recruit mercenaries to help defend his small community (in this case, planet) from an evil guy. This is a really fun movie with some genuinely talented people working on it. Known for culling young, unknown talent, for this picture Corman had an embarrassment of riches with a script by John Sayles, a score by James Horner, and production design and special effects by James Cameron. It’s a tongue-in-cheek adventure with some hilarious dialogue, both intentional and unintentional. A definite for fans of space opera.
Galaxy of Terror
Finally, another film from the Corman camp. I don’t know if you can tell from the trailer, but this is a knockoff of Ridley Scott’s Alien only instead of just an alien, the crew of the ship run across a being that makes your worst fears manifest. Later, this concept was ripped off by Paul W.S. Anderson for the movie Event Horizon. Among the cast are Sid Haig from The Devil’s Rejects, Robert Englund from A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Erin “Joanie” Moran from Happy Days. One of these things is not like the others. This movie is not great, but it’s a fun slice of exploitation to watch with a group of friends. Also, for no reason at all, the beginning of the trailer shows clips from Battle Beyond the Stars, even though the two films have absolutely nothing to do with each other. James Cameron was the second unit director on Galaxy of Terror and is the mastermind behind a scene where the buxom nymphomaniac member of the crew (there always seems to be one) is raped and killed by a giant insect creature. And then they let him direct Aliens. Go figure.
So that was fun, wasn’t it? I love weird old movies; you should too.
-Kanderson does not condone anything depicted here except eating hot dogs. He does condone following him on TEH TWITTERS