Yesterday I was watching TCM and they had movies on that dealt with the mutation of creatures and elements by radiation and the testing of nuclear weapons. I hope I am not alone, and I am sure I am not but I am a fan of Godzilla and all those other films that show these fantastic creatures and their metamorphosis from something simple to an almost unstoppable force. I wanted to take a moment and talk about some of the great films that came from birth of the atom. Directors and writers went crazy with what they thought radiation could do to things and it led to so many great ideas.
Notice Raymond Burr in the 1956 Godzilla King of the Monsters.
I know these films might be considered “corny” by some I love them for that very reason. You can see the wires for the flying aircraft and the obvious model sets that Godzilla demolishes. I think the creators were so creative and did a fantastic job with what they had. If you haven’t given these films a chance then give it a try because they dealt with the new idea of the atom and thier imaginations ran wild with its possibilities. Godzilla was released in 1954 and was directed by Ishirō Honda. With the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Daigo Fukuryū Maru incident still fresh in the Japanese consciousness, Godzilla was conceived as a monster created by nuclear detonations and a metaphor for nuclear weapons in general. As the film series expanded, some stories took on less serious undertones portraying Godzilla as a hero while other plots still portrayed him as a destructive monster. Since then, Godzilla has gone on to become a worldwide pop culture icon starring in 28 films produced by Toho Co., Ltd. The monster has appeared in numerous other media incarnations including video games, novels, comic books, television series, a 1998 American remake and a second American version is in development. (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godzilla)
The next creature that I want to talk about that had a run in with radiation and mutated was the “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms”. This film is about a ferocious dinosaur awakened by an Arctic atomic test and terrorizes the North Atlantic and ultimately New York City. This film is underrated when sci-fi movies are considered. This movie will give you all the vintage flare of a mutated large lizard destroying buildings and terrorizing the citizens. This is one to put on your list of must see for the sci-fi lover.
The next film deals with a creature most of us don’t even notice until they are into the syrup……Ants! I am referring to the great sci-fi movie “Them!” This is a 1954 American black and white science fiction film about man’s encounter with a nest of gigantic irradiated ants. It is based on an original story treatment by George Worthing Yates. It was developed into a screenplay by Ted Sherdeman and Russell Hughes for Warner Bros. Pictures Inc., and was produced by David Weisbart and directed by Gordon Douglas. It starred James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon and James Arness.
One of the first of the “nuclear monster” movies, and the first “big bug” film, Them! was nominated for an Oscar for Special Effects and won a Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing. The film starts off as a simple suspense story, with police investigating mysterious disappearances and unexplainable deaths. The giant ants are not even seen until almost a third of the way into the film. (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Them!)
The next film is “It Came From Beneath The Sea”. This film was released in 1955. This is an American science fiction film produced by Sam Katzman and Charles Schneer for Columbia Pictures, from a script by George Worthing Yates designed to showcase the special model-animated effects of Ray Harryhausen. It was directed by Robert Gordon and stars Kenneth Tobey, Faith Domergue, and Donald Curtis. Much of the filming was done at the San Francisco Naval Shipyard, including scenes aboard a submarine, and several naval personnel were given supporting roles.
The plot: H Bomb testing in the S.Pacific drives a gigantic octopus from the depths of the ocean abyss and it begins to prey on shipping, finally arriving with ocean currents at San Francisco Bay. This was Hollywood’s answer to Gojira, and in an ironic (and maybe just a bit self-acquitting) departure from most of the films in the era it is not merely atomic science, but atomic weaponry, that saves the day.