By Bob McCary

In This Year of Grace Our Lord, Anno Domini 1951, Hollywood discovered science fiction. This was not an unmixed blessing.

Of course, there had been Destination Moon and Rocketship X-M in 1950, but they were only a start. After them, the deluge.

In April, Howard Hawks unveiled his Top Secret film, The Thing, purportedly taken from John W. Campbell's Who Goes There?. By the time Hawks got through boiling it in the pot, any resemblance to Who Goes There? was purely coincidental. For all its publicity, we could have lived without it.

Things were quiet throughout the summer: then in September, Twentieth-Century Fox came out with The Day The Earth Stood Still. This was certainly an improvement over The Thing, although still not good science fiction. It was designed primarily for entertainment, and was aimed at the lay public, rather than the veteran science fiction fan. For what little it was meant to be, it was effective, and at least it was harmless. Science fiction fans didn't think too much of it.

Then in October Arch Oboler released, unheralded, Five. This was one of the best damn' motion pictures this writer has ever seen, and it shows what you can do with a limited budget and unlimited talent. It was a simple story, with no Technicolor and no illustrious cast of thousands. It should happen more often. (By the way, Oboler has in the works The Twonky, Padgett's effective story about the super radio.)

After Five, things fell off. Universal-International came out with You Never Can Tell, supposedly a whimsical fantasy. The whimsy did not come off, somehow, and it passed quietly into well-deserved oblivion.

The situation picked up somewhat with When Worlds Collide. There are people who do not concur in this opinion. However, these people went to see it with the hope of seeing good theater. This, of course, was silly. You had to approach this one in the same manner as Quo Vadis - go to see the colossals and pay no attention to the plot. If you did this, the backgrounds by Chesley Bonestell and the excellent photography were very effective.

The last item of the year was Flight to Mars, and 1951 could have closed more strongly. The plot, if that's the word I'm groping for, concerned the first flight to Mars and the beautiful lady scientist they found there. You know the rest of the plot. Factual errors alone would have cut it down. (Once in space the ship turns to avoid the Moon, and the sound department obligingly furnished a terrible roar from the rockets. In outer space, yet! )

Coming up in 1952 are several other offerings. We have high hopes for Oboler's The Twonky. But this department recently received a spread of pictures for something called Radar Men from the Moon. We would not like to talk about it very much, but it seems to concern an immortal race of invaders who don't like us. Immortal? They should live so long!

Robert McCary works for the San Francisco Chronicle, where he is the bane of the night desk, writing headlines that only a mother - and never a managing editor - could love. He also writes movie reviews for the Chronicle, some of them, we understand, so unprintable that somebody has to fill the space - quick! Affectionately confused with Stanton Delaplane by his more whimsical friends, McCary has appeared in the Digest frequently of late, whenever Hollywood rears its ugly head.

Data entry by Judy Bemis

Data entry and page scans provided by Judy Bemis

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