For many women it was a time of transition. On the one hand women were often viewed through a more limited and traditional lense where they were seen as being compliant stay-at-home moms who needn't worry their pretty heads with "men's business." On the other hand, it was becoming increasingly obvious that women needed to be taken more seriously and were more than fully capable of taking on any role in life they wanted.
The portrayal of women in sci-fi movies of the time often highlighted this growing tension and unease between society's traditional expectations concerning the role of women and the kinds of changes that were taking place or were looming on the horizon. Unfortunately, the end result on film was often a rather uncomfortable and ham-fisted approach to dealing with issues concerning gender relationships, interactions and the role of women in society.
Despite how far women could and did go, it was as if society at the time held up a restraining hand and said, "sorry, no further." And so with the other hand, women could be guided to the safe haven and refuge of marriage and domesticity as society, the media, education and the all the other institutions intended for them all along.
Click on the film titles for links to the relevant posts / films in this blog.
Part 1: 1950 - 1954
Virginia Hewitt played Nanette in the film
A race between the United States and Russia to capture a flying saucer hidden in the uncharted, avalanche-prone wastelands of Alaska.
Four men and a woman shoot for the moon but land on Mars instead only to find that Mars is inhabited and has some lessons for humanity.
An alien lands on Earth and informs humanity that they must live peacefully or be destroyed as a danger to other planets.
Survivors of a nuclear holocaust build their relationship. A commentary on the good and evil aspects of mankind.
A crew crash-lands on Mars, where they find an advanced civilization and a plot that could mean the annihilation of Earth.
Margaret Field (Mother of Sally Field)
A ship from the mysterious Planet X happens to land near the Scottish observatory set up to study the planet. Is the alien visitor a threat or does it have more to fear from us?
(Love her character in this film!)
The crew of a remote Arctic base battle with a murderous life form from outer space.
An intrepid expedition descends to the Earth's core in search of a safe haven for all humanity.
(Not a hair out of place!)
A dying star hurls through space on a collision course with Earth, with no way to stop it. The hope of the planet's citizens lies in the construction and flight of an interplanetary vessel that will carry a handful of humans to start anew on another planet.
An atomic rocket loses control and crash-lands on an uncharted island in the South Pacific. Maj. Joe Nolan heads a rescue mission to recover it. On their way to the site of the wreckage Nolan and his crew discover that they're traversing a lost world populated by dinosaurs.
Set during the Cold War, the film portrays the invasion of the United States by an unnamed (clearly Soviet Russia) Communist enemy.
(I found her to be somewhat scary in this film!)
After an atomic bomb test in the northern polar ice cap, a gigantic dinosaur-the fictional "Rhedosaurus"-is awakened. It then heads for the US Eastern seaboard, and proceeds to chew up and stomp all over New York City.
Marie Windsor Susan Morrow as Lambda
An expedition to the moon discovers a subterranean cavern inhabited solely by ruthless cat-women who have not seen men in centuries. As the air supply is escaping from the caves, the cat-women must capture the crew and escape to Earth.
Nancy Davis (Nancy Reagan)
When the plane of millionaire William Donovan crashes, Dr Patrick Cory removes Donovan’s brain and keeps it alive in a tank. However, Donovan asserts control over the mind of Cory, forcing him to continue Donovan’s corrupt financial schemes.
Barbara PaytonA pair of young scientists have perfected a "reproducer," a machine that can duplicate anything, including Barbara Payton (Yes please! I want one!) However, the Payton character has feelings of love for only one of the two physicists whom she will marry.
Helena CarterYoung David MacLean sees strange lights going down beyond the hill outside his parents' house. Over time, his father and mother, along with others in the town go over the hill and return changed. David notes that all of them return with marks at the back of their necks. Only a health inspector and an astronomer believe David’s story and they call in the army to take on the Martian invaders who have ensconced themselves beneath the hill.
(Once more)An alien spaceship crashes in the Arizona desert. An amateur astronomer and a schoolteacher suspect alien influence when the local townsfolk begin to act strangely.
Mad scientist, Dr. Aranya, in a secret lab atop "Zarpa Mesa" injects spiders with a Growth Serum. The female spiders turn onto beautiful curvaceous women while the male spiders transform into dwarves. Psychoanalysis anyone? If the story doesn’t appeal to you, well….there’s always Tandra!
Donna MartellSet in the then future of 1970, a group of pilots and scientists on a huge space station are determined to establish a U.S. military base on the moon. This project’s success is threatened by a foreign spy from we all know where….
Ann RobinsonAn 1950s updated version of H.G. Wells' classic sci-fi story in tune with the concerns of the Cold War era with special effects that have the power to stun even 21st. century audiences. Not to mention Anne Robinson's power to stun!
Sally MansfieldRocky Jones and his "buddy" Winky (yes, Winky) try to avert a crisis involving a pair of inhabited moons whose eccentric orbit is going to collapse, destroying them both. However, one moon is presided over by dictator Cleolanta who has other plans. Seriously.....Winky?
Creature from the Black Lagoon
A group of scientists try to capture a strange prehistoric beast in the depths of the Amazon jungle. They intend to bring it back to civilization for study.
(Coming soon to this blog)
Patricia LaffanMars has lots of women and they need human men to breed with. Nyah has come to Earth in order to collect our planet’s males as breeding stock. All she had to do was call for volunteers!
Momoko KouchiAmerican nuclear weapons testing results in the creation of a seemingly unstoppable, dinosaur-like beast.
Constance DowlingA secret underground laboratory suffers incidents of sabotage and murder resulting in the involvement of a security agent tasked with investigating these happenings.
Martha HyerAstronauts are sent into space in three separate rockets in an effort to capture a meteor and bring it back to Earth for examination.
Part 2 of "Classic Sci-Fi Ladies" will appear in a later post
©Chris Christopoulos 2014