Sunday, 25 October 2015

Sci Fi On Film & The Year 1957

In 1957 an average car in the US would set you back by about $2,749 out of your average yearly wages of $4.550.00, but at least it had big fins and a more powerful engine giving it the feel and appearance of a rocket ship! You probably would have purchased your car using credit seeing that 2/3 of all new cars were bought on credit. Speaking of rocket ships, you might’ve heard the news on your car radio that the Soviet Union had launched the world’s first space satellite called Sputnik. If that was too much of a scary prospect, you might’ve turned the dial to listen to some Rock and Roll music from say, an artist like "Little Richard" followed by an ad for a popular toy like a Slinky or a Hula Hoop. Ah! You finally arrive home as you pull in to the driveway of your $12,220.00 new house…..

Sci Fi Films

Four sci-fi films from 1957 in particular stand out for me and have remained etched in my memory for almost 50 years. They are, 20 Million Miles to Earth, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Kronos and The Monolith Monsters. I first saw them in the early 60’s and they scared the heck out of me.

Back in 1957, there was probably enough going on in the world to scare the heck out of people despite a lot of optimism. Many of the sci- fi films at the time played upon the concerns and perceptions that people had. One major concern would’ve been about the possible use of atomic and hydrogen bombs and their likely consequences in terms of the dangers of radioactivity and the possible destruction of humanity.

Science fiction films for the year 1957:

20 Million Miles to Earth           
The 27th Day        
She Devil              
The Amazing Colossal Man                 
The Astounding She-Monster   
Attack of the Crab Monsters               
Beginning of the End                
The Cyclops         
The Deadly Mantis          
From Hell It Came 
The Giant Claw               
Half Human           
The Invisible Boy  
The Land Unknown         
Monster from Green       
The Mysterians
The Secret of Two Oceans
The Strange World of Planet X
The Unearthly       
The Unknown Terror

Most of the films from 1957 listed above will be featured in this blog. But first, let’s take a look at the events, forces and personalities from that year that shook the world back then and served to shape life in our own time in the second decade of the 21st Century….

1957: Major Events & People

Popular Culture:

Films & TV
  • The Ten Commandments
  • Around the World in Eighty Days

“Jailhouse Rock” by Elvis Presley

  • “The Bridge on the River Kwai”.A World War II drama starring Alex Guinness, William Holden and Jack Hawkins. Winner of multiple Oscars.
  • The Three Faces of Eve
  • "Around the World in 80 Days" receives Academy Award for best picture 
  • "12 Angry Men," starring Henry Fonda
  • Last broadcast of "I Love Lucy" on CBS-TV
  • "American Bandstand," a teenage dance show hosted by Dick Clark makes its network debut on ABC-TV. 
  • "Wagon Train" premiers
  • "Perry Mason," starring Raymond Burr, premiers on CBS-TV
  • The television series "Leave It to Beaver" premiers on CBS and continues for 6 seasons
  • The movie "Peyton Place," starring Lana Turner had its world premiere in Camden, Maine
  • TV series “Sea Hunt” with Lloyd Bridges begins. (I watched this in the Melbourne suburb of Altona in 1962 or 1963 while living in a half-finished building with my parents. I found it fascinating.)
  • “Gunsmoke” is the top ranking network show on television for four seasons

Live Theatre & Musicals

  • The musical "West Side Story," by Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins opens on Broadway 

Popular books, plays & publications

  • “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss
  • “From Russia with Love” by Ian Fleming
  • “The Guns of Navarone” by Alistair MacLean
  • "Long Day's Journey into Night" by Eugene O'Neill wins the Pulitzer Prize for drama

Viking Press publishes "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac who typed out the manuscript in 20 days on a single roll of teletype paper

Popular music

The Banana Boat Song  - Harry Belafonte
Elvis Presley - All Shook Up
That'll Be the Day  - Buddy Holly and the Crickets
Elvis Presley - Loving You
Pat Boone - Love Letters In The Sand
Diamonds - Little Darlin'
Tab Hunter - Young Love
Jimmy Dorsey - So Rare
Pat Boone - Don't Forbid Me
Guy Mitchell  - Singing The Blues
Sonny James - Young Love
Elvis Presley - Too Much
Perry Como - Round And Round
Everly Brothers - Bye Bye Love
Debbie Reynolds    Tammy
Buddy Knox - Party Doll
Elvis Presley - Teddy Bear
Elvis Presley - Jailhouse Rock
Marty Robbins - A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation)
Everly Brothers - Wake Up Little Susie
Sam Cooke - You Send Me
Chuck Berry - School Day
Paul Anka - Diana
Jimmie Rodgers - Honeycomb
Jerry Lee Lewis - Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On
Fats Domino - I'm Walkin'
Ricky Nelson - Be-bop Baby
Larry Williams - Short Fat Fanny
Jim Lowe - The Green Door
Billy Williams - I'm Gonna Sit Rlght Down And Write Myself A Letter
Fats Domino - Blueberry Hill
Fats Domino - Blue Monday
Elvis Presley - Love Me Tender
Steve Lawrence - Party Doll
Chuck Berry Rock and Roll Music
Little Richard - Jenny Jenny
Pat Boone - Bernardine
Little Richard - Keep a Knockin'
Chuck Willis - C.C. Rider
Gene Vincent - Lotta Lovin'
Fats Domino - Valley of Tears
Pat Boone - Remember You're Mine
Guy Mitchell - Rock-a-Billy
Larry Williams - Bony Maronie
Rusty Draper - Freight Train

Science & Technology

  • Ultrasound scanning pioneered in Scotland 
  • The first nuclear reactor plant opens for production of electricity in Pennsylvania US

The Soviet Union tests the H Bomb. 

Great Britain tests its first hydrogen bomb on the Christmas Island.

A 37-kiloton nuclear fission bomb, code-named Priscilla, is exploded in the Nevada desert at Frenchman Flat. The US has been manufacturing 10 nuclear bombs a day.

  • South Africa born gastroenterologist, Basil Hirschowitz, introduces the first prototype “fiberscope.” In 1954 he had already begun work using glass fibers to transmit light. Fiber has since been widely used in telecommunications and surgery. 
  • Borazan, a substance harder than diamonds is developed

One of the dreams of science fiction writers and film makers is realized with the start of “The Space Age” when the Soviet Union launches Sputnik (traveler), the first man-made space satellite. The satellite orbits the earth every 96 minutes at a maximum height of 584 miles. The event is timed to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution.

  • The Soviet Union launches Sputnik Two into orbit, with a dog on board named Laika, the first animal in space 
  • A process for concentrating visible light as opposed to microwaves of a maser is developed by Columbia University doctoral student, Gordon Gould. He is the first to coin the term, “ laser.” 
  • America's first attempt at putting a satellite into orbit fails as Vanguard TV3 only rises a few feet before crashing back down on to the launch pad and exploding. 
  • The US begins its “Corona” project, a secret attempt to put a reconnaissance satellite into orbit 
  • Fritz Wankel brings out his rotary engine 
  • AT&T introduces itsTouchtone phones. 
  • Seymour Cray co-founds Control Data Corp. where he builds the first computer to use radio transistors instead of vacuum tubes 
  • Oral polio vaccine is developed and tested in Congo, Africa 
  • Thalidomide is officially introduced to the market. It is later linked to severe birth defects 

International Affairs

  • Eisenhower Doctrine: Proposal by US President Eisenhower to offer military assistance to Middle Eastern countries to resist Communist aggression 
  • Suez Canal reopens
  • France sends troops to Algeria to crush the rebel movement 
  • Treaty of Rome is signed establishing the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community. The goal is to have people, goods, services and money moving unchecked throughout the Union and to create a common market for all products, especially coal and steel 
  • NATO warns the Soviet Union that any attack will be met with all available means, including nuclear weapons
  • The Distant Early Warning Line, a system of radar stations designed to detect Soviet bombers approaching North America, goes into operation.
  • The United States and Canada agree to create the North American Air Defense Command 
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency is established
  • B-52 bombers begin full-time flying alert in case of attack by USSR
  • Communist leaders meet in Moscow. Mao Zedong predicts that between a third and a half of the world’s population might be killed in a nuclear war and that most of the survivors would be living in the socialist block while “imperialism would be razed to the ground” 
  • Policy of "Pre-delegation authority" is established when Pres. Eisenhower gives authority to senior military commanders to retaliate with nuclear weapons if the president cannot be reached or is unable to respond to a nuclear attack against the US 

Social & Political Events, Movements & Reforms

  • Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. organizes the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to fight racial segregation by means of nonviolent protests 
  • The Georgia Senate approves Sen Leon Butts' bill barring blacks from playing baseball with whites
  • The US Supreme Court, in Butler v. Michigan, overturns a Michigan statute making it a misdemeanor to sell books containing obscene language that would tend to corrupt "the morals of youth"
  • Mao’s policy of “Let a hundred flowers bloom, and a hundred schools of thought contend is reversed due to criticism and some 300,000 intellectuals are jailed or sent to the countryside to perform manual labor
  • South African government approves race separation in universities
  • Pope Pius XII published his encyclical ” Invicti Athletae” 
  • The Tuskegee boycott begins as blacks boycott city stores

National Guard called out to prevent nine black students from entering Central High School in Little Rock. Pres. Eisenhower responds with Federal troops to enforce federal law for integration.

  • President Eisenhower signs into law the first civil rights bill to pass Congress since Reconstruction
  • NYC is the 1st city to legislate against racial or religious discrimination in the housing market with its Fair Housing Practices Law

The social and literary Beat Movement is born: 

The Beat Generation sport beards, bongo drums and sandals. They have their own style of attire, use “hip” vocabulary and experiment with Zen and pot. Major figures of the movement are novelist Jack Kerouac and poet Allen Ginsberg. Jack Kerouac’s "On the Road" is the beatnik’s bible

  • A group of scientists and supporters from around the world gathered in Pugwash, Nova Scotia, to call attention to the risks of nuclear war

World Firsts

  • Walter "Fred" Morrison applies for a patent for a "flying toy" which we now know as the “Frisbee.” It is first produced by The Wham-O Company and is called the “Pluto Platter”
  • Three B-52's take off from Castle Air Force Base in California on the first nonstop, round-the-world flight by jet planes, which lasts 45 hours and 19 minutes
  • The Hamilton Watch Company is the first to introduce an electric watch 
  • The Ryan X-13 Vertijet becomes the first jet to take-off and land vertically. Take that Harrier!
  • The first experimental sodium nuclear reactor operates 
  • The first British hydrogen bomb was detonated on Christmas Island in South Pacific
  • “The Seawolf,” the first submarine powered by liquid metal cooled reactor, is completed 
  • “Grayback,” the first submarine designed to fire guided missiles, is launched.
  • Marine Maj. John Glenn sets a transcontinental speed record when he flies a jet from California to New York in 3 hours, 23 minutes and 8 seconds
  • Althea Gibson becomes the first black tennis player to win a Wimbledon singles title 
  • The U.S. surgeon general, Leroy E. Burney reports that there is a direct link between smoking and lung cancer. Whodda thunked it! 
  • Santa Susana in Los Angeles County begins receiving the nation’s first commercial electricity from a small, civilian-owned, nuclear reactor. After It is shut down in 1964, scientists will later report that the plant might be responsible hundreds of cancer cases 
  • The United States conducts its first underground nuclear test, code-named "Rainier," in the Nevada desert 
  • USSR launches the first intercontinental multistage ballistic missile 
  • The first balloon flight to exceed 100,000 feet takes off from Crosby, Minnesota
  • Market researcher, James Vicary claims that he has invented a new way to get people to buy things, whether they want them or not via a process called “subliminal advertising.” He will later admit that his results were fabricated. In 1898 a book The New Psychology by E.W. Scripture was published which laid out most of the principles of subliminal response

USSR launches the first intercontinental multistage ballistic missile while later the United States successfully test-fires the Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time


  • Humphrey Bogart dies in Los Angeles of cancer of the esophagus 
  • Arturo Toscanini, Italian-US conductor dies in NYC
  • Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy drinks himself to death
  • John Simon Ritchie, later known as Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols, is born in England
  • French author Albert Camus is awarded the Nobel Prize in literature

Jimmy Hoffa is elected president of the Teamsters Union 

  • Elvis Presley is given a draft notice to join US Army for National Service. He also purchases a mansion in Memphis, Tennessee and calls it Graceland and he makes another appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show


  • President Eisenhower and Vice President Nixon are sworn in for their second terms of office
  • British PM Anthony Eden resigns in the wake of the Suez Crisis
  • Harold Macmillan becomes prime minister of Britain, following the resignation of Anthony Eden 
  • The Russian government announces that military hero Marshal Georgi Zhukov, has been relieved of his duties as Minister of Defense. Khrushchev accuses Zhukov of promoting his own "cult of personality" and sees him as a threat to his own popularity


Boxer Middleweight Sugar Ray Robinson loses, then wins and once again loses his title

Crime, Corruption & The Law

  • The FBI arrests Jimmy Hoffa on bribery charge
  • US Police and customs agents seize copies of “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg 
  • Mob underboss Frank Scalice is shot to death at a produce market in the Bronx, New York
  • Mob boss Albert Anastasia, the "Lord High Executioner" of "Murder Inc.," is shot to death in a barber shop inside the Park Sheraton Hotel in New York

Strange Stuff

Two US fighter planes are scrambled and ordered to shoot down an unidentified flying object over the English countryside.

Death & Disaster

  • More than 500 people are killed after Hurricane Audrey rampages through coastal Louisiana and Texas 
  • Windscale plutonium production reactor (Sellafield) fire north of Liverpool, England, spreads radioactive iodine and polonium through the countryside and into the Irish Sea. Livestock in the immediate area are destroyed, along with 500,000 gallons of milk. As many as 1,000, cancer deaths will be linked to the accident. PM Harold Macmillan orders the disaster to be hushed up 
  • Colorado Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant fire releases some plutonium in the smoke. The fire was kept secret until 1969 when another fire released more plutonium 
  • A flu pandemic begins in China and kills 1-4 million people. It causes some 70,000 deaths in the United States 
  • A nuclear waste container explodes at the Mayak plant in the southern Urals of the USSR releasing 20 million curies of deadly strontium and cesium and contaminating some 9,200 square miles 

Other Interesting People & Events

  • The Cavern Club ( the venue where the Beetles started) opens in Liverpool . Coincidentally, it is this very year that John Lennon meets Paul McCartney and invites him to join his Quarrymen. McCartney will soon introduce Lennon to George Harrison

And somewhat ambiguously….

In 1957, Vice-president Richard Nixon was stoned in Caracas 

(Take that any way you wish to!) 

Ah, 1957…What A Year!

©Chris Christopoulos 2015