Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fear, Creature Features & Valley of the Dragons

Still from Valley of the Dragons (1961)
I found myself watching (and tweeting) thoughts on the relatively unknown 1961 film Valley of the Dragons this past weekend.

It's a film based on Career of a Comet, a lesser known Jules Vernes story. But basicly (if I even understand the movie I watched), two men in the 1800s are having a duel in Algeria, and the wind of the comet transports them to the moon. On the moon there were others who had been swept up over time, largely cave people and pre-historic dragons and beast.

I watched this film and wondered...did people watching this 1961 really think there might be dragons and cave people on the moon?

I could criticize the special effects and inconsistent sizes of the beast on the projected screens, but that's not my point.

No, instead, I've been thinking since watching the film about how there was a season in American pop culture when the "Creature Feature" was a primary sci-fi genre. Whether it was King Kong, Godzilla, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, or Forbidden Planet there seemed to be an obsession with the collosal creature that isn't really part of our current film culture.

The alien genre still exist - but the flavor is different. It's not about massive size, it's about unstoppable power, often very smart creatures. Ginormous is not the thing.

I've heard a lot of talk about the social themes in the film Elysium that was just released, and it's clear that this sci-fi films plays off social fears (class issues, health care, immagration).

Where perhaps over a half century ago, the unknown of space could only contain the unimaginable beast who's only desire was to recklessly destroy.

I wish I had an amazing theory of why big aliens, animals, people and beast appear so often in cinema of the past, but not today. But perhaps it comes down to sci-fi technology and the possibility of early Honey, I Shrunk The Kids style film stunts?

I wish I knew, but in all honesty, I have a hard time getting into the giant creature from outer space genre, and any attempt to relaunch the genre seems like it would fall flat.