Sunday, 22 January 2017

Sci-Fi On Film and the Year 1958

The year 1958 was part of a pivotal decade without which we would not have the kind of modern world in which we live today. In all facets of our lives including music; science and technology; mass communication; international and global politics and civil and social movements & change, we owe a significant debt to the 1950s.

Far from being a quaint far off era that has little bearing on our supposedly more “sophisticated” way of life, the shadow of the 1950s still looms large.

Let’s take a look at the year 1958 and see what it had to offer…..

Read on for more…..

Sci-Fi Films of 1958

1958 was certainly a standout year for sci-fi movies. That year saw the screening of two sci-fi classics that have had an enduring cultural presence: The Fly and The Blob. As we saw with the last of our sci-fi films for 1957, The Unearthly, 1958 saw an increasing number of films combining elements of sci-fi / horror genres.

Among the selection of films that will feature in this blog, include;

Terror From the Year 5000: A scientist, Prof. Erling and his backer, Victor have created a time machine that allows them to snatch objects from other time periods. One such object dates to 5200 AD! Victor, however, is intent on obtaining a living and breathing specimen, not realising that he could be placing the present in great danger.

Giant From the Unknown: A mutinous group from the Spanish Ptolemy Firello expedition in 16th century California is led by a very large Conquistador, Vargas. They head off into the mountains to search for gold and are never heard from again. Fast forward to modern times when a lightning bolt frees Vargas from a subterranean state of suspended animation. He is now free to terrorize the local area

Attack of the Puppet People: A lonely inventor creates a ray that he uses to miniaturise people to doll size so he'll never be lonely again.

The Flame Barrier: A space probe returns to earth and winds up in the jungles of Central America. Carol Dahlmann tries to locate her missing husband who was tracking the space probe through the jungle. It turns out that the probe has brought back with it a life form which is killing the animals and natives and is expanding.

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman: An abused and unhappy wife grows to giant size after an alien encounter. She then goes after her cheating husband to exact vengeance on him.

War of the Satellites: Aliens interfere with Earth's space program. Some scientists try to prevent the alien sabotage efforts from succeeding.

War of the Colossal Beast: (sequel to Amazing Colossal Man). After a series of inexplicable food truck robberies, the giant Glen Manning is discovered in a desolate mountain range in Mexico. He is now insane and horribly disfigured. After he is drugged by the military, Manning is brought to Los Angeles where he goes on a rampage.

Colossus of New York: A neurosurgeon encases his dead son's brain in a large 9' tall robot body, with terrible unintended results.

The Space Children: An alien brain lands near a missile research base. Its consciousness sets about controlling children to help sabotage the project.

The Fly: Scientist Andre Delambre invents a matter transporter in which his atoms become accidentally merged with those of a fly, leading to his wife having to make one of the worst possible moral and ethical decisions.

Space Master X-7: Yet another satellite returning to earth film, this time with an alien cargo of the flesh-eating kind called "the blood rust." A scientist's wife is unaware that she is a carrier as she travels the country.

Long before Alien, there was, It! Terror From Beyond Space: In a then future 1973 on a return journey from a Mars mission, a monstrous alien stowaway sets about killing off the crew, one by one. 

Night of the Blood Beast: An astronaut returns from space supposedly dead but manages to revive at a base. Inside him, however, are alien larvae. The base is then cut off from the outside world by an alien and it seems humanity itself may be in peril.

The Queen of Outer Space: Three American astronauts on the first manned mission to Venus land to find a civilisation of beautiful women ruled by a queen. However, they are quickly imprisoned, as the ruling queen hates men and suspects the astronauts of being spies. As a consequence, she now plans to destroy the Earth. The recently deceased Zsa Zsa Gabor plays the part of the rebel leader who enlists the men's help to overthrow the queen and save the Earth. Sank you darlink!

Earth vs. the Spider: A giant spider is discovered living in a cave. After apparently having been killed by DDT spray, it is stored in the high school gymnasium. However, it awakens with the sound of a teenage band’s music and runs amok through the town.

The Brain Eaters: In Riverdale, Illinois a mysterious metal structure appears outside of town. People begin acting mysteriously as creatures from the centre of the earth take over their minds, infiltrate and cut off the town from the outside world.

The Blob: A meteorite lands, releasing a blob-like alien life-form that consumes everything in its path as it continues to grow and grow.

I Married a Monster from Outer Space: (A feeling many of us have had from time to time!) As a prelude to an invasion, aliens switch places with humans. One victim is a young groom about to get married. His new wife begins to realise that something is wrong, while other townspeople are being similarly affected.

The Lost Missile: A mysterious alien missile enters low earth orbit and proceeds to burn a wide section of the earth with each orbit. A young scientist works against the clock to stop the missile before the Earth is destroyed.

Cosmic Monsters: In a small English village, Dr. Laird and his assistants conduct experiments with magnetic fields. His equipment can rearrange molecules to make metal brittle and pliable. His experiments also affect the Earth's protective radiation belts causing harmful rays to mutate insects into deadly giants.

The Trollenberg Terror (The Crawling Eye): At a remote mountain resort in Switzerland, huge aliens telepathically take over the minds of the locals to cover up their planned invasion. These beings inhabit a mysterious, radioactive cloud at the base of the Trollenberg mountain.

Monster from Green Hell: Yes, you guessed it! Déjà vu! A rocket with wasps aboard lands in central Africa. The problem is that the wasps have mutated into giant deadly critters.

Fiend Without A Face: As a result of radiation, a scientist’s thoughts cause an army of invisible brain creatures to materialise and terrorise an American atomic-powered radar military base.

From the Earth to the Moon: Based on Jules Verne's classic story of a trip to the moon. Just after the American civil war, businessman and inventor Victor Barbicane invents a new source of power called (what else?) Power X which he plans to use to power rockets. With this in mind, he plans to send a projectile to the moon. but is met with resistance and an act of sabotage.

Monster on Campus: A college professor examines a newly discovered specimen: a prehistoric fish. When he is accidentally exposed to its blood, he turns into a murderous Neanderthal-like creature. You’ll find many such creatures wandering campuses!
But wait!….There’s more!…..Sorry, but you’ll just have to wait…….


Economy & Society

In 1958 if you lived in the US, you could expect on average to;
  • Cross the Atlantic by air instead of by sea. 
  • Face an inflation rate of 2.73% 
  • Buy a new house for $12,750.00 
  • Rent a place for $92.00 per month 
  • Fill your car up for 25 cents a gallon of gas 
However, there are a few clouds looming on the horizon that could affect your standard of living……

The Recession (Eisenhower Recession) of 1958 in the United States:

  • At a time of declining demand for commodities and other raw materials, the recession of ‘58 forced over five million people or nearly 7% of the labour force out of work. 
  • The sharp worldwide economic downturn was the most significant recession during the post-World War II boom between 1945 and 1970 and lasted for about eight months.

Global Events


  • European Economic Community (EEC) is founded. 
  • The world's fair in Brussels (Expo 58) is officially opened. 
  • Pope Pius XII dies & Pope John XXIII succeeds Pope Pius XII as the 261st pope.

Middle East

The United Arab Republic

  • Gamal Abdel Nasser is nominated as the first president of the United Arab Republic
  • In Lebanon, 5,000 United States Marines land in the capital Beirut to protect the pro-Western government there.

Cold War Foes: US & Soviet Union

Operation Argus
The United States begins nuclear tests over the South Atlantic.

  • Nikita Khrushchev becomes Premier of the Soviet Union.
  • The U.S.S.R. performs a nuclear test at Novaya Zemlya.

“Red” China

  • China’s People's Liberation Army bombard Quemoy (a group of islands, governed by the Republic of China (ROC) or Taiwan, located just off the south-eastern coast of mainland China) triggering The Second Taiwan Strait Crisis.
  • The Great Chinese Famine begins.

Human Endeavour & Achievement

Australian athlete Herb Elliott records a time of 3 minutes 54.5 seconds for the mile run, shaving almost three seconds off the world record.

  • Edmund Hillary's Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition completes the third overland journey to the South Pole, and was the first to use powered vehicles.

  • A British Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition team led by Sir Vivian Fuchs completes the first overland crossing of the Antarctic in 99 days using snowcat caterpillar tractors and dogsled teams, via the South Pole.

  • Bobby Fischer wins the United States Chess Championship at only 14 years of age.

Science, Technology & Innovation

  • Sputnik 1 & 2 fall to Earth from orbit and disintegrate during re-entry.
  • The Soviet Union launches Sputnik 3.
  • The first successful American satellite, Explorer 1, is launched into orbit.

Explorer 1 was launched on a Jupiter C rocket and was used to measure the radiation in Earth's orbit. The satellite successfully orbited Earth over 58,000 times before it re-entered the atmosphere in 1970.

  • The United States launches the Vanguard 1 satellite and Explorer 3.
  • The U.S. Congress formally creates the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
  • The United States launches SCORE, the world's first communications satellite.
  • The principles of the optical laser are set out in a paper by Arthur L. Schawlow and Charles H. Townes of Bell Laboratories published in Physical Review Letters.
  • The Bell XV-3 Tiltrotor makes the first true mid-air transition from vertical helicopter-type flight to fully level fixed-wing flight.
  • Jack Kilby an engineer at Texas Instruments invents the first integrated circuit.

The creation of the integrated circuit has led to much of the computer and electronics technology we see around us today. Jack Kilby came up with an idea to miniaturize all the parts of an entire transistor circuit and connect them all together, creating a smaller and easy to produce unit called an integrated circuit. He was the first to create a working model and file a patent for the technology.

World Firsts

An F-104 Starfighter sets a world speed record of 1,404.19 mph (2,259.82 km/h).

  • Godtfred Kirk Christiansen files a patent for the plastic Lego brick.
  • Ruth Carol Taylor is the first African American woman hired as a flight attendant.
  • Pizza Hut is founded.
  • The plastic hula hoop is first marketed in the United States. Over 100 million are sold.
  • The nuclear-powered submarine USS Nautilus becomes the first vessel to cross the North Pole under water.
  • BOAC using the new De Havilland Comet jets, becomes the first airline to fly jet passenger services across the Atlantic.

Civil & Social Protest & Unrest

  • A peace symbol, commissioned by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is designed and completed by Gerald Holtom.
  • Demonstrators in the first protest march for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament from Hyde Park, London to Aldermaston, Berkshire, demand the banning of nuclear weapons.

Mishaps & Disasters

  • The Tybee Bomb, a 7,600 pound (3,500 kg) Mark 15 hydrogen bomb, is lost in the waters off Savannah, Georgia!!! Oops!

  • A U.S. B-47 bomber accidentally drops an atom bomb (minus a fissile warhead) on Mars Bluff, South Carolina. destroying a house and injuring several people. 
  • Eight Manchester United footballers are among the 21 (23?) people killed in the Munich air disaster in West Germany, on the return flight from a European Cup game in Yugoslavia.

The flight was carrying 44 people when it crashed soon after take-off. It was determined that a build-up of slush on the runway was the major contributing factor in the crash as it stopped the plane from gaining enough speed for a proper take-off. It took Manchester United nearly 10 years to rebuild the team when in 1968 they won the European Cup.

An earthquake in Southeast Alaska causes a landslide that produces a mega tsunami with waves reaching 525 metres (1,722 ft) on the rim of Lituya Bay.

Entertainment & Popular Culture

  • The Quarrymen, later to become The Beatles, have their first recording session where they record Buddy Holly's "That'll Be the Day" and "In Spite of All the Danger", written by Paul McCartney and George Harrison.
  • The Broadway musical "My Fair Lady" opens in London, with Rex Harrison as Professor Higgins, and Julie Andrews playing Eliza Doolittle.

Popular Films

  • At the 30th Academy Awards, The Bridge on the River Kwai wins seven awards, including Academy Award for Best Picture.
  • South Pacific
  • MGM's Gigi, the last of the great MGM musicals, opens in New York City and will win nine Academy Awards including Best Picture.
  • King Creole
  • Vertigo

Popular Singers

Elvis Presley: The U.S. Army inducts Elvis Presley, now known as U.S. Private #53310761.

Eddie Cochran

Popular TV Programs

Candid Camera, the more entertaining granddaddy of "reality" TV!

  • The Ed Sullivan Show 
  • Come Dancing 
  • The Jack Benny Show 
  • Panorama 
  • Alfred Hitchcock Presents


Fashions come and go. What remains constant is the human being who wears them.

©Chris Christopoulos 2017