When I was a kid, I saw my first horror movie: The Giant Claw, 1957. Last night I watched it for only the second time in my existence (you can find it on YouTube). I laughed so hard. The giant, supersonic bird with an antimatter shield was the geekiest thing I’ve ever seen. I think Big Bird was modeled after the “Claw”. I’m ashamed to say it gave me nightmares. During those years, the distinction between science fiction and horror was a matter of perspective. The classic, Forbidden Planet, 1956, behaves like a horror film, with an unseen terror throughout the film that gave me nightmares for many years. There were a few horror films in which the main human character grew to gigantic size caused by radiation. In The Amazing Colossal Man, 1957 radiation caused him to grow to 50 ft (15 m) . Attack of the 50 ft Woman, 1958, depicted a similar situation. In 1993 there was a remake of the “50 ft woman”, with Daryl Hannah in the lead. Both the 1957 and 1958 movies are predictable. The “50 ft woman” is preferable to the “colossal man” because “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”.
There were a lot of giant monster movies. Their plights were usually due to “atomic” radiation (and our preoccupation with it). A few were prehistoric behemoths. The classics include the Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, 1953; Them! 1954; Godzilla, 1954 and It Came from Beneath the Sea, 1955. In 1957 there were The Cyclops, 20 Million Miles to Earth, Kronos, The Blob. The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad was in 1958 as well as The Giant Gila Monster. Of the horrible horror movies of the 1950’s, all the movies mentioned here are at least entertaining. These are movies by a country that dropped the bomb and the country that was bombed (the Japanese produced quite a few radiation-monster movies during this period). Scientists were still trying to understand all the effects of radiation. Radium dials still existed on clocks and watches because no one thought twice about it. The public knew only that radiation from the atomic bomb was bad, but it
wasn’t clearly understood even by civil emergency and health services. We had atomic bomb drills in school (air raid drills in anticipation of the USSR trying to kill us) in which we crawled under our desks for protection. People built their own bomb shelters, not realizing that even if they survived the blast, they wouldn’t survive for long. The horror movies are an accurate reflection of the ignorance and naïveté of the 1950’s. Try watching one of the movies I mentioned. Many of them are on YouTube. Embrace the horror of a generation.