Sunday, 12 May 2013

Sci-Fi On Film And The World Of 1952

In our look at science fiction films of 1950 and 1951, we saw reflected in them the anxieties of the time fuelled by the US and Soviet development of nuclear weapons, the testing of incredibly destructive hydrogen weapons, and the developing Cold War. We also saw through these movies a fascination with rocketry and space exploration where we made tentative footprints on the moon and Mars and even burrowed into the Earth itself. And there were the visitors to our world who came here with various motives from wagging a warning finger at us for our destructive impulses through to wanting to harvest us for nutritional purposes and even possibly invading our planet.

By 1952, daily life was beginning to change for many people in the Western world. Television, once a staple of science fiction, was in millions of American homes. 

The skylines of cities were beginning to be punctuated with skyscrapers such as New York’s Lever House. 

The Comet, the world’s first passenger jet,  heralded the start of faster and cheaper air travel and brought far-flung places on the globe just that little bit closer. 

Prosperity for many had arrived with average worker earnings being $3,400 per year, 3 out of 5 families owning a car and 2 out of 3 families possessing a telephone. 

Women in America would on average be married by 20 years of age but would be unlikely to pursue a career after having children. 

By 1952, it seems that the future had begun to arrive. What was once science fiction was rapidly becoming science fact.

Major Events Of 1952

Major World Events & Personalities

  • Harry S. Truman was U.S. President throughout most of the year.
  • On Nov. 4, Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected 34th President of the U.S.
  • King George VI of England died and his daughter Elizabeth was proclaimed Queen of England. In 2013 she is still queen of England!
  • War-time leader, Winston Churchill was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
  • The dictator, Joseph Stalin ruled the Soviet Union, but not for much longer
  • In Egypt, a military coup overthrew King Farouk
  • Pius XII was Pope
  • Evita Peron, wife of Argentine President Juan Peron, died
  • The Korean War continues on.
  • The Mau Mau rebellion began in Kenya
  • Greece and Turkey joined NATO. 

In Washington, D.C., Senator Joseph McCarthy, continued his campaign to expose communists in government and throughout society. "McCarthyism,” in the form of a wave of anti-communist paranoia swept the country with devastating effects on many people’s lives, reputations and careers.

Science & Technology

  • The hydrogen bomb was detonated for the first time
  • The contraceptive pill was introduced
  • The polio vaccine was developed
  • The transistor radio was developed

Strange Phenomena

  • Reports were made of UFOs flying over Washington, D.C. for six hours
  • A small town in Green Bay Wisconsin was invaded by 175,000,000 Leopard Frogs over two days. (Hope our cane toads in Australia don’t get any ideas!)
  • A thick fog (smog) engulfed London for 5 days and killed approximately 12,000 people. The environmental movement had begun

Unearthing the Past

The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered with continuing religious and historical revelations and implications.

The Tomb of the Mayan King Pakal (683 A.D.) was opened in 1952. The tomb was designed as a Mayan clock to mark the return of the new King. It has been claimed that each glyph belongs to a three year period depicting the years from 1952 until 2012. (With so-called Mayan prophecies & calendars, 2012 was a nervous year for many, but a boon to end of the world book and film producers and distributors! 2013 and we’re still here!)

Sci-Fi Movies

What struck me about the year, 1952 is how few science fiction films were produced when compared with the other years of the 1950s. I’m not sure why that was the case. The genre certainly did not die off after that year. In fact, it took off with a vengeance! For the year of 1952, I’ll be presenting two films: Red Planet Mars and Invasion USA. What stands out about these two films is how the propaganda element is presented far more overtly than appears to have been the case prior to and after 1952. With these two films there is no subtlety involved in conveying their messages. In fact, we find ourselves submerged in an ocean of cold war sentiments, symbols and references.

Join me next time when we take a look at the first of the two films, Red Planet Mars

©Chris Christopoulos 2013

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