Does the phrase Klaatu barada nikto evoke fond memories of watching The Day The Earth Stood Still? Can the mere mention of science-fiction films such as The Incredible Shrinking Man, This Island Earth, Them! and The War of The Worlds bring a smile to your face? Then there’s a book on the subject you simply must read. It’s the late Bill Warren’s incisive, thoroughly researched study of the genre: Keep Watching The Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties. The book focuses on films produced between the years 1950-62, the first golden age of the sci-fi movie. Originally published in two volumes in 1982 & 1986, the updated & combined “21st Century Edition” was released in 2009, and is still in print. This massive tome covers everything from bona fide classics such as It Came From Outer Space, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Forbidden Planet to less honored (but still enjoyable) titles like Invisible Invaders, Devil Girl From Mars & Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.
Warren grew up during the time of many of these films original release and he saw many of them on the big screen, and has remarkably sharp recollections of them. He offers a personal (as well as historical) perspective regarding each film he reviews in the book. While his criticisms of some of the genre’s less successful efforts can be a bit harsh, his informative and illuminating writing is a delight to read. His passion for these movies is infectious. Warren’s extensive coverage of these films includes a wealth of facts on actors, directors, screenwriters and crew members, along with detailed information about production history, script changes and even discusses alternate versions of the films. Each movie gets its own entry, in alphabetical order, and there are several helpful appendices offering further information that’s not featured in the main volume. There are also some great illustrations, photos and film poster reproductions featured throughout the book.
While it’s length (over 1000 pages) may seem daunting, it’s the kind of book you can savor a little at a time; you’ll find yourself moving throughout the book to read about your own favorites, and then returning to check out some more entries on films you may not have seen. Keep Watching The Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties is an indispensable guide to one of the most enduring of film genres. If you’re a fan, you’ll truly appreciate Warren’s insightful and entertaining analysis of these movies. While you may not always agree with his assessments, you’re sure to learn something new about these films and the people who made them. The book is available in a print edition, as well as an excellent, affordable e-book version, which is the one I used to prepare this review. Highly recommended. And remember, as Scotty the reporter said at the end of 1951's The Thing "Keep watching the skies!"