Sunday, December 7, 2008

In an effort to help all humanoids living on Planet Earth celebrate the holidays this year, 20th Century Fox will soon be releasing its much ballyhooed remake of the classic 1951 sci-fi film, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL starring Keanu Reeves in the role of "Klaatu," first played by Michael Rennie 57 years ago. Bryce Zabel's Movie Smackdown Website has announced that it will place these two films in the ring against each other in an epic smackdown to be written by yours truly. Many are looking forward to this comparison as one of truly historical significance. After all, can this remake possibly do justice to the acknowledged classic that was initially released before the words "under God" were added to the Pledge of Allegiance? There's a lot riding on the answer to this question, especially financially, for the Fox executives who gave the green light to this immensely costly endeavor. (It's been reported that the budget for this production approximates what Ford spent introducing the Pinto.) Although the remake doesn't come out until December 12th, here's what the Staff at Needtovent thinks...

The Glorious 1950s. The decade that gave us McCarthyism, duck-and-cover drills, rock-and-roll and the hula hoop, also gave us the Golden Age of Hollywood Science Fiction. At least two dozen terrific motion pictures came from this era, each worthy of being declared the best sci-fi flick ever, and most of them dealt with aliens coming to Earth with predominately nefarious intent. This was also, you'll recall, the decade when flying saucers really caught on in the public imagination. (Note to UFO people: Yes, I know... Kenneth Arnold, Roswell, etc. 1947... but the 50s was when Hollywood lent its media muscle and our government's honesty and the U.S. Air Force's credibility have never been the same.)

These films were full of intergalactic travel, alien life forms, invisible shields, ray guns, Robbie the Robot (who could easily kick the ass of R2-D2 and 3-CPO simultaneously), and that's only the beginning...

Before there was such a thing as CG and HD and 24p, there were authentic 35mm science fiction-themed motion pictures with intelligent scripts, memorable character arcs and an exploration of meaningful issues like the Red Scare or the dangers of nuclear technology.

Among all these glorious Technicolor gems was a unique sub-genre -- the "Alien Invasion Film" -- which, one could argue, comprises the best of the best.

And so here, in chronological order, are ten candidates for the best Alien Invasion Film of the 1950s:

1. THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951) -- There's plenty of reasons this production is on our list, but it is probably the memorable dialogue that stands out the most. Lines like: "An intellectual carrot. The mind boggles!" are never forgotten. Nor is the warning at the very end: "Watch the skies, everywhere! Keep looking. Keep watching the skies!" This youngster certainly did, and still does...

2. THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951) -- A true classic, selected by the Library of Congress for inclusion in the National Film Registry. What else do we need to say other than "Klaatu barada nikto" mofo...

3. IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE (1953) -- Based on a short story by one of the masters of science fiction, Ray Bradbury. Thanks to his character Sheriff Matt Warren we learn that "More people are murdered at ninety-two degrees Fahrenheit than any other temperature...lower temperatures people are lazy-going, over ninety-two its too hot to move, but just ninety-two people get irritable. " That's something worth knowing. (I assume it's always 92 degrees in Rush Limbaugh's studio...)

4. INVADERS FROM MARS (1953) -- Aliens take over the bodies of humans turning friends, neighbors and loved ones into cold-hearted, ruthless, sullen people. If Ann Coulter would have been alive in 1953 she would have been cast for sure.

5. THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953) -- Sheriff Bogany: "What is that gizmo?" Forrester: "I'd say that gizmo is a machine from another planet." And what gizmos they were. Too bad they will never be seen again. Unfortunately, these marvelous Martian war machines were made out of copper and after production ended some studio bozo donated them to be melted down for a Boy Scout copper drive. Just think what they would fetch today on e-bay...

6. THIS ISLAND EARTH (1955) -- Any film featuring Faith Domergue in costumes so tight that she couldn't wear underwear is a classic. No wonder the official Tagline declared: "The Supreme Excitement Of Our Time!"

7. EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS (1956) -- General Edwards: "When an armed and threatening power lands uninvited in our capitol, we don't meet him with tea or cookies." Now you know why Santa skips Washington, D.C. each year.

8. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956) -- Ambulance Driver: "Well, I don't know what they are; I never saw them before. They looked like great big seed pods." Sort of like the Burpee Company on steroids, but don't be mislead, this is definitely a sci-fi classic that will still scare the heebie jeebies out of you despite a special effects budget totaling a mere $15,000.

9. INVASION OF THE SAUCER-MEN (1957) -- According to American International's Tagline: "They Threatened The World Until Some Hep Youngsters Took Over!" Hep? Yep.

10. THE BLOB (1958) -- The working title was THE BLOB THAT GIRDLED THE WORLD. I guess Playtex objected. Still, any feature film that stars Steve McQueen, has a title song co-written by Burt Bacharach and possesses more silicone gel than two Carol Dodas is a must see.

Alas, there are a few misguided souls who think that sci-fi films released in the 1970s, 80s, 90s and beyond are as good, even superior. The Krell know better. True science fiction aficionados know better. But the myth, as idiotic as it is, still prevails in certain quarters. And so Movie Smackdown has established a brand-new fresh-off-the-bus SmackPoll where you can express your own opinion(s). The goal is to find an "Alien Invasion Film" winner from the "Classic Era", i.e. the 1950s, and put it up against a similar winner from what is being labeled the "Modern Era." This is, admittedly, a pretty ambitious goal for a website, even one established by a distant relative of Dr. Edward Morbius, but, given the subject matter, maybe the fate of the Earth rests on it.

Needtovent solidly believes that the ten films listed above all stand tall on their own merit and any one of these will be a worthy and winning finalist that will surely kick some latter-day sci-fi butt -- after all, Robbie wouldn't have it any other way. Accordingly, we adamantly profess that all of the post-1950s newbies are nothing more than "pretenders" to the throne -- even Chrissi Hynde agrees with us. But do you?

Here's several things you need to know about this poll. First, you get to vote for your top three films. Second, if you change your mind because you actually rent and watch some of them, you can come back and re-vote. Also, your vote must be placed on the Official Ballot appearing at This way there won't be any hanging chads or electronic voting machine irregularites since all of the tabulations will take place outside the states of Ohio and Florida.

This is your link to the Official Ballot (it is at the bottom of the posting):

(We apologize for the inconvenience, but it appears that Ming the Merciless has successfully infiltrated our computer terminals making it necessary for you to cut and paste this link.)