Friday, August 12, 2016

Keep On Reading Bill Warren’s Fantastic “Keep Watching The Skies!”

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 EarthThem! 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 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 SpaceInvasion 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 these movies original release, and saw many of them on the big screen. He offers a personal (as well as historical) perspective regarding each film he covers. And while his criticisms of some of the genre’s less successful efforts can be a bit harsh, his informative & 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 & crewmembers, and detailed information about production history, script changes & alternate versions. 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. And there are some great illustrations, photos & 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 movie 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 & 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!"

Update 10/11/16: I just read on the DVD Savant site ( that Bill Warren, author of Keep Watching The Skies! passed away on October 7. My condolences to his family & friends. His legacy will live on in the hearts & minds of those who've read, enjoyed & experienced his fine work.

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