Lately, I’ve begun an exhaustive aesthetic exploration of the B science fiction films of the nineteen fifties, consisting of watching the ones I can find free online while I play computer games.
It’s interesting to watch the cheap art of another era like our own, when people were terrified of one another and expected the future to be an unqualified disaster.
It helps keep my mind off things.
I am currently watching a film called Terror from the Year 5000, in which a brass statue of a headless nude woman is transported to the 1950s through a time machine, and a museum curator uses carbon-fourteen dating to establish that the statue was/will be made three thousand years in the future. But he doesn’t realize the statue is highly radioactive until a metallurgist accidentally leaves a turned-on geiger counter next to it. So the metallurgist uses a pair of tongs to throw the statue in a shallow bucket of water upside-down with its base still sticking out, splashing himself in the process, and stands there in front of it talking some more about how they need to get lead shielding. Also his lab coat is three sizes too big.
I count six grievous scientific errors in that particular ten-minute stretch of the film: the fact that a museum curator attempts to use carbon fourteen dating on a piece of metal; the fact that carbon fourteen dating somehow worked backwards into the future; the fact that an object sent through a time machine wouldn’t date to the present day; the fact that carbon fourteen dating didn’t reveal that the statue was radioactive; the fact that the metallurgists didn’t flee the room when they realized the statue was, to quote the film, “hotter than a firecracker;” and the lab coat as voluminous as a Victorian hoop skirt. I want to add that I’m pretty sure that water is not a suitable protection against radiation contamination, but I could be wrong about that. When they drop the bomb, I’ll try going for a swim.
Lest we forget that this film is from the nineteen fifties: prior to finding out the statue is radioactive, the curator and scientists keep touching and molesting the statue and patting its bottom with their bare hands, referring to it as a “she-devil,” “gorgeous” and “my deadly little girlfriend.” They keep talking to it and calling it patronizing names even after it’s encased in lead. And the way they treat the human women in the film is even worse. Yet I’m told it was the feminism of the sixties and seventies that made men forget how to treat a woman with reverence and chastity. I’m beginning to get suspicious.
It could be that there is no ideal time to be alive. It could be that people are the same throughout history– whether it’s the allegedly wholesome, scientifically oafish, butt-grabbing fifties; the egalitarian and trashy seventies; the anxious pink-hatted activism of the present day or the radioactive nightmare of the distant future.
You can watch Mystery Science Theater’s presentation of the film here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Ohd–psEy4&t=2530s
It might just take your mind off things.