TCM Presents: "Out of This World: A Celebration of Sci-Fi Movies" Every Tuesday in July
Highlights to the upcoming TCM special series includes a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing and the network premiere of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. Use the link below to watch the official promo.
This July, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) presents Out of This World: A Celebration of Sci-Fi Movies. These specially curated films are described as an odyssey through science fiction movies from a galaxy far, far away to the not-too-distant future. Airing every Tuesday during the primetime slot starting at 5:00P, each evening will explore the many realms of science fiction in cinema. Viewers will see creature features, early sci-fi, TCM’s network premiere of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, and a special night of moon movies in honor of this month’s 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s monumental moon landing (Michael Collins was there too, back in the Command Module).
July 2nd takes a look at early sci-fi movies, including what is considered to be the first science fiction film ever made, 1902’s A Trip to the Moon. This is an absolute essential, must see for any cinema history nut. In fact it's one of the films I show in my History of Cinema class every Spring. It showcases the use of editing to simulate "special effects" that were otherwise impossible to create at the time. Made by noted magician and cinematic pioneer, George Melies during his prolific period of fanciful dream-like scenarios that utilized mesmerizing production values to awe the audience. Also included in the evening is the influential Fritz Lang epic, Metropolis from 1927. In this truly monumental film in the timeline of cinema, a futuristic city is sharply divided between the working class and its totalitarian leaders. A "Romeo and Juliet" situation emerges as the son of the city's mastermind falls in love with a working class prophet who predicts the coming of a savior to mediate their differences. In my opinion it is the best adaptation of the Shakespearian plot (sorry Westside Story).
On July 9 the acclaimed director Frank Darabont (Shawshank Redemption) introduces films from the 1950s, which was one of the most influential decades for science fiction films. The era produced many a "B" movie thriller for the Drive In crowd, but it also brought us the seminal sci-fi The Day the Earth Stood Still in 1951, the pioneering The War of the Worlds in 1953, and the light-hearted, yet formative, Forbidden Planet in 1956 (with a young and hunky Leslie Nielsen). With their moral lessons and thinly veiled criticism of man's own fundamentally destructive nature, it's no wonder remakes and adaptations have been made of all three. No doubt there will be many more.
July 16 marks the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. In honor of this monumental achievement in space exploration, TCM will be airing seminal moon movies such as the pre-space race (and technically inaccurate narrative), Destination Moon from 1950. And on the flip side there is For All Mankind from 1989, a documentary that takes an in-depth look at various NASA moon landing missions starting with Apollo 8. The night then continues with iconic creature features including the 1954, Them!, which uses the concept of radiation fallout creating a fantastic monster. But instead of a giant lizard-like monstrosity being the result of the atomic bomb in the 1954, Japanese produced Gojira (Godzilla), it is the atomic tests in New Mexico that cause common ants to mutate into giant man-eating monsters. And then there's The Blob from 1958. Here it is an alien life form that consumes everything in its path as it grows and grows. Although it is a lot of fun, the best thing you can say about The Blob is that it stars a youngish Steve McQueen in only his second credited feature film (they all start somewhere).
On July 23 TCM travels into the 1960s with Rod Taylor in The Time Machine, and Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood in the Stanley Kubrick sci-fi epic, 2001: A Space Odyssey. The first adaptation of the H.G. Welles novel may lack the sophisticated visual effects of the Guy Pierce 2002 vehicle, but it does have a very sexy Taylor whose vision for a utopian society is disillusioned when his travels reveal a dark and dangerous society. The Pierce version does the same thing, but with an updated and flashy version of the iconic machine created for the 1960 film. And in Odyssey, the discovery of a mysterious artifact buried beneath the Lunar surface sets off a quest to find its origins with help from supercomputer, H.A.L. 9000. Fortunately, no one has yet tried to remake this Kubrick masterpiece. For all of today's fancy CGI, I just can't see anything luring young audiences in any better than the original. Kubrick was thinking way ahead of the game with the impressive accomplishments achieved with the film's production design.
Come July 30th, the final night of galactic travel, the classic film channel will feature the TCM premiere of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope from 1977. This is the one that regenerated the public's interest in sci-fi movies, and secured the genre as a legitimate "A" picture, not to be listed as a second feature. If you don't know the plot to this franchise cornerstone, then you've been living under a rock. But I encourage all to view it again in the comfort of your own home, as it maintains its relevance, and never gets old, regardless of its outdated use of miniature models for all of the flight scenes. Alongside this classic are two other sci-fi greats, Close Encounter of the Third Kind from 1977, and Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan from 1982. Khan is known to many as the best of the early Star Trek franchise (although I prefer Star Trek: The Voyage Home), and Close Encounters is unparalleled as a superior adventure film with an intellect that charms the audience into believing in the possibility of life beyond the realms of our own world.
Regardless of your feelings about Sci-Fi movies, even the most ardent anti-genre audience will enjoy viewing these well curated selections. They represent the best of what the science fiction genre has to offer. In fact, they're so good, they're actually liable to convert a detractor or two.