CONDITION RED: THE FOLLOWING TEXT CONTAINS SPOILERS STOP EXERCISE CAUTION BEFORE PROCEEDING FURTHER STOP
The evolutionary characteristics that would come to define the post-atomic bomb SF genre emerged, not coincidentally, with striking similarities to Hollywood’s failing classic horror film, which after the real-life atrocities visited upon the civilized world throughout World War II, seemed almost childish and certainly preternaturally dated; the menace of cloaked or stumbling representatives of the undead or resurrected dead being hardly comparable to wholesale destruction of cities and peoples, or the unspeakable atrocities commonplace in Nazi death camps, and during the period of postwar psychic healing it was evident that a newly honed sophistication was in order to usurp the cinematic diet of Gothic based terrors in favor of a new modernity in the nourishment of nightmare scenarios.
The baby steps taken by the post-War SF film engaged the genre in the briefest gestative flirtation with more realistically grounded procedural verisimilitude- leaning on aspects of mystery (“Spaceways”), adventure (“Rocketship X-M”) and docudrama (Destination: Moon”) -in which existent genre tropes are used to give narrative integrity to what are essentially how-to primers in escaping the gravitational pull of the Big Blue Planet. Grandiose scientific concepts, many condescendingly thought to be too complex for the audience to grasp, were cloaked in the comforting embrace of overly familiar (and therefore less challenging) cinematic surroundings that burdened a genre- which by its very nature should energize the speculative imagination -with a storytelling attitude bordering on the mundane. However, even this kitchen sink approach to the emerging vista of space exploration was short-lived. Disappointingly, rather than pursuing a continuance of speculative considerations of Man’s place in the universe, the SF film quickly plunged into a degenerative intellectual descent. Thus a brief flirtation invested with a loftier philosophical bent was waylaid in favor endless conflicts with xenomorphic species- either extraterrestrial or the product of an incautious evolution of atomic energy -that favored the seemingly invulnerable destructive menace inherent in a robotic Gort rather than the more pedantic course of Klaatu in Robert Wise’s seminal SF wake-up call “The Day the Earth Stood Still”; a dramatically shortsighted trend which downplays the importance of the human element, most prominently in the important development of full-bodied characters (ironically, Michael Rennie’s Klaatu is one of the most memorable and interesting characters in the genre, yet it is the stolid countenance of the robotic sentinel which has eclipsed the face of human reason in the cultural pantheon).
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