THRILLVILLE: Will "the Thrill" Viharo's weird, wild world of Pulp Fiction, B Movies, & the Lounge Lizard Lifestyle.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Will the Thrill's Top 50 Sci-Fi Movies

Image by Aaron Farmer
Last month I posted my Top 50 Horror Films, so naturally this month I'm following up with my Top 50 Sci-Fi Movies. Though the genres often overlap (King Kong, Creature from the Black Lagoon, even Frankenstein), there is a clear distinction between the two. Sci-Fi is frequently more cerebral and fantastic and isn't typically as "alienating" (cough) as Horror, which has a more uncomfortably visceral impact, so its appeal is much wider, as evidenced by the contemporary box office, whereas Horror has all but vanished from movie theaters (except for all these Paranormal copycats), while Sci-Fi is experiencing yet another resurgence thanks to hits like Guardians of the Galaxy and the upcoming Star Wars reboots. Meantime, horror seems relegated to direct-to-video/cable releases and TV hits like The Walking Dead, which I watch religiously, and Sleepy Hollow, which frankly puts me to sleep. Could be Ebola and videotaped terrorist beheadings offer too much competition. I'm still generally more of a horror than sci-fi buff, though I dig Space Age iconography the most.

Anyway, my criteria for this highly subjective list is basically the same as last time: I go for style, sex and sleaze. Don't look for any high-falutin' "big idea" movies here (though a few are sprinkled in for good measure - I always appreciate quality writing, too). This is why I call myself a "Shathead" and not a "Trekkie" - I much prefer Star Trek TOS over any of the spin-offs or sequels, mainly because of the midcentury modernism, mascara, mini-skirts, and monsters (and of course the magical main trio of Kirk, Spock and McCoy). So keep that in mind.

I recommend all of these films, but this is by no means presented as a "definitive" guide to the genre. I'm no professional critic, just an enthusiast sharing my particular tastes on my own public platform. Hopefully you'll be introduced to a few flicks you're not familiar with, and you'll revel in the discovery. Bon voyage. Cheers.

1. Forbidden Planet (1956) - my all-time favorite, hands down. I really want someone to open a cocktail lounge that looks like the spectacular sets of this movie, with Robby the Robot as bartender and Anne Francis lookalikes as the waitresses.

Mock pulp cover...if only...
2. Blade Runner (1982) - the ultimate futuristic film noir. Love the Vangelis soundtrack.

3. Barbarella (1968) - damn, Jane Fonda is hot in this! That opening shot alone...and it just gets sexier and more psychedelic from there. Visually true to the Italian comic strip source. One of my biggest regular hits back in Thrillville. Wonder why.

4. Lifeforce (1985) - speaking of sexy sci-fi, Tobe Hooper's exploitative space vampire epic may be the all-time topper...and yes, Mathilda May, whenever the hell she wants

5. This Island Earth (1955) - the Metaluna Mutant is iconic, with spectacular sets in lurid color.

6. A Clockwork Orange (1971) - Stanley Kubrick's visionary adaptation of the Anthony Burgess novel remains as controversial and provocative as ever.

7. The Thing (1982) - I dig the 1951 original (as well as the 2011 "prequel") but IMHO John Carpenter made the greatest version of John W. Campbell's story "Who Goes There?", with a creepy Carpenter-esque score by Ennio Morricone really setting the ominous mood.

8. Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957) - the poster alone is iconic, and the movie is, well, fun. Bulb-headed aliens (created by the great Paul Blaisdell) with booze in their claws attack teenagers, including a young Frank Gorshin. What's not to love?

9. Dark City (1998) - more great sci-fi noir with a fascinating concept and gorgeous retro-futuristic art design, and then there's Melissa George...WARNING: WATCH "DIRECTOR'S CUT" ONLY!

10. Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (1965) - whenever someone asks me "what does 'psychotronic' mean?", which isn't often, frankly, I point them here...babes in bikinis, horny aliens, marauding android, hairy monster, Puerto Rico, impromptu garage "music videos" has it all.

11. Videodrome (1983) - David Cronenberg meets Deborah Harry. The social commentary still resonates, in fact more than ever. "LONG LIVE THE NEW FLESH!"

12. Destroy All Monsters (1968) - the Ocean's 11 of kaiju cinema.

13. Humanoids from the Deep (1980) - finally, Roger Corman actually shows the audience what happens when the horny aquatic mutated monster drags the nubile female swimmer to its underwater lair (as if we didn't know)...

14. The Angry Red Planet (1959) - surrealistic stuff, especially that rat-bat-crab-spider thinging...positively hallucinatory, long before mind-altering drugs became fashionable.

15. Mars Attacks! (1996) - near-perfect cinematic interpretation of an infamous pack of bubble gum cards. I only wish Tim Burton had included the giant mutated insects, but with Pam Grier, Jack Nicholson and Tom Jones in the same movie, no real complaints.

16. Brazil (1985) - yet more ingenious sci-fi noir. Terry Gilliam's moody masterpiece will never get old or die.

17. The Road Warrior (1981) - Mel Gibson backlash often obscures the greatness of this action masterpiece. Looking forward to Fury Road, especially since it stars Tom Hardy as Max.

18. Robocop (1987) - Paul Verhoeven's satirical horror sci-fi action classic will never be matched or duplicated, so stop trying.

19. It Conquered the World (1956) - early Roger Corman classic featuring one of Paul Blaisdell's most memorable monsters, plus Lee Van Cleef, Peter Graves and Beverly Garland.

20. Tarantula (1955) - with all due respect to Them!, this is my favorite of the Big Bug movies. I just find spiders scarier than ants, plus music by Mancini and Mara Corday...

21. Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956) - Ray Harryhausen's amazing saucers were stolen by Tim Burton for Mars Attacks! But that only proves he has good tastes. They're definitive. 

22. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) - easily my favorite of all four screen versions, though the 1978 remake is close.

23. It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958) - the original Alien, Paul Blaisdell style.

24. Day the World Ended (1955) - yet another Roger Corman classic with yet another Paul Blaisdell monsterpiece.

25. Invaders from Mars (1953) - a child's nightmare beautifully captured on three-strip Technicolor film.

26. Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973) - sleazy, steamy, small town/suburban space-alien sex, '70s grindhouse style. Dig.

27. Queen of Outer Space (1958) - all hail the planet of pinups! Allegedly based on a plot legendary screenwriter Ben Hecht drunkenly scribbled on a cocktail napkin, though the basic concept was previously exploited in the B classic Cat-Women of the Moon (1953). This one is in eye-popping color and it has Zsa Zsa and more high-heels so it gets the edge.

28. Wild, Wild Planet (1965) - this strange, swingin' Italian production totally lives up to that title.

29. The Time Travelers (1964) - I just really love the feel of this one.

30. 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957) - Harryhausen's Ymir rules.

31. Fiend Without a Face (1958) - stop motion animated brain-sucking brains from outer space. Yea, it rocks.

32. I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958) - Director Gene Fowler Jr. follows up my favorite horror movie I Was a Teenage Werewolf with this sordid saga of a strange, suburban, space alien sex cult. Well, sort of.

33. Colossus of New York (1958) - beautifully atmospheric sci-fi robot noir.

34. Escape from New York (1983) - one of my favorite John Carpenter movies/scores, with Kurt Russell in possibly his greatest role as Snake Plissken, though he made a great Elvis, too.

35. Starcrash (1979) - I much prefer this shameless rip-off of Star Wars to the original for two big reasons: Caroline Munro.

36. Death Race 2000 (1975) - brilliant satire, forget the soulless remake. Naturally I showed it in December 1999 in Thrillville at The Parkway.

37. Galaxy of Terror (1981) - another sleazy Stars Wars/Alien rip-off but with gratuitous nudity and monster sex, so it gets the nod.

38. The Amazing Colossal Man (1957) - giant bald man in diapers attacks Vegas. Love it.

39. Planet of the Apes (1968) - I dig all the sequels and even the recent reboots (everything but Tim Burton's version) but the original is still the best, IMHO. I tried showing it in Thrillville twice back in the day, but first it got help up at the depot and the second time they sent me Beneath the Planet of the Apes, with Nova's one word of dialogue, "Taylor!", inexplicably cut from the faded print.

40. The Blob (1958) - Steve McQueen was ultra-cool from the very beginning. Catchy theme song. Dig that diner, too.

41. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) - have to include this one, if only for Gort and Bernard Herrmann's chilling theremin score, but its message of universal peace (through intergalactic force if necessary) is forever timely.

42. Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959) - superb Southern-fried sleaze. Star Yvette Vickers was too sweet and beautiful to die so tragically, but she'll never be forgotten here in Thrillville.

43. Starship Troopers (1997) - big bugs, gore, and sexy, butt-kicking babes make Paul Verhoeven's adaptation of the Robert Heinlein classic a winner.

44. War of the Worlds (1953) - George Pal isn't as faithful to H.G. Wells' novel as the Steven Spielberg remake (which was pretty good) or even Orson Welles' infamous radio play, but it remains essential alien invasion cinema. (This one is interchangeable with Pal's equally excellent 1960 adaptation of The Time Machine).

45. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984) - New Wave rock 'n' roll comic book pulp serial classic. Now where's that promised sequel...

46. The Green Slime (1969) - c'mon, one of the greatest theme songs ever! The tentacled, cyclopic rubber monsters are cool, too. And of course there's Luciana Paluzzi.

47.  The Hideous Sun Demon (1959) - the sun has a similar effect on me. I met Robert Clarke once, too, helluva nice guy. We share similar tastes in babes, too.

48. The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) - Jack Arnold's thoughtful, sensitive but action-packed adaptation of Richard Matheson's classic novel.

49. The Creation of the Humanoids (1962) - Reportedly Andy Warhol's favorite movie, and it's easy to see why: it's a talky, stagey, narratively static morality play about bigotry and social progressiveness, with cheap but hypnotically stylized "Pop Art" visuals.

50. Under the Skin (2014) - my favorite sci-fi flick of this century, and my favorite movie of 2014. It's very slow, strange and surrealistic, but...look at that poster. 'Nuff said.

The ULTIMATE erotic exotic sci-fi novel IT CAME FROM HANGAR 18!
Filmmaker Jeff M. Giordano is presenting the "Director's Cut" of his documentary about my Bay Area career as a film programmer/impresario/pulp author
"THE THRILL IS GONE" in our mutual childhood state of New Jersey on December 29, 2014

Work-in-progress cut
Me in one of the South Jersey towns where I grew up in the 1970s, Glassboro, during a 1998 visit.

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My short story BEHIND THE BAR is included in this anthology

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VOLUME ONE: A Mermaid Drowns in the Midnight Lounge and
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VOLUME TWO: Lavender Blonde and Down a Dark Alley

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Order your official THRILLVILLE FEZ from Fez-O-Rama!

Jeff M. Giordano's documentary The Thrill Is Gone