Book Review: It Came From 1957

It came from 1957

It Came from 1957
By Rob Craig
Published by McFarland, 2013. 256 pages.

I’m a huge fan of the sci-fi/horror films of the ’50s. In fact, I love them. In 1957, there were  a ton of releases during that period, many of them classics. All fifty-seven titles of them are covered within the pages of the book, some in a little more detail and discussion than others, but they are all there. After an extensive introduction discussing the time period and what was going on in the world, we get to read about such films as The Brain from Planet Arous (which is featured on the book’s cover) to Attack of the Crab Monsters, The Unearthly, Invasion of the Saucer Men, to The Thing from Another World and plenty more. Craig really knows his stuff here and is very informative when it comes to discussing these pictures. But therein lies the problem.

I think Craig spent more time thinking and theorizing about each of these titles than any of the filmmakers ever did making them. Now I’m not ‘authority’ and am just making a guess here, but I would make a safe bet that the guys hired to write a script for a film such as The Disembodied or The Giant Claw, were more concerned about getting the script done quickly than trying to fill it full of political and philosophical meanings. As I’ve mentioned before with these Psycho-Babble readings, if you look long and hard enough at anything, you’ll start to see whatever you want. Here’s some examples of Craig’s thoughts on some of the movies covered here.

When discussing the title creatures in Roger Corman’s Attack of the Crab Monsters, Craig states “the silhouette of the crab monster, with its raised limbs and cavernous open mouth, suggests the image of a woman preparing for intercourse (missionary position), her legs spread high in the air, her vagina invitingly open.” He also goes on to say that “the crab serves as a vivid metaphor for the West’s perception of the Soviet Communist experiment as an attempt to squash all individualism.” Now I’ve interviewed screenwriter Griffith and we talked about this film and he never once mentioned any of this hidden subtext that he was trying to put in there. Does that mean it isn’t there? Certainly not. Just a difference of opinion.

attack of the crab monsters

One of my favorites from this year is the ultimate Turkey Day movie, The Giant Claw, which is described in ways I never would have considered in a million years. Again, does this mean that Craig is wrong when he says “the beast can clearly be seen as a curious manifestation of the antiquarian archetype – the malevolent elder woman, commonly known as ‘the Crone’, part of the Triple Goddess of antiquity.” Not really. He just got a little bit more detailed in his description of it than I would have.

giant claw

And what would some Psycho-Babble be without some phallic references, right? Well, here you go. While still discussing Claw, he says “Later on, the beast carries off a smoking freight train, which hangs from its beak like a string of sausage links, and later pecks away at the iconic Empire State Building as if it were a cob of corn. Both of these violated phallic targets serve well as techno-fetishist castration symbols par excellence.” Yeah….right. For a film that probably spent $20 for the title creature to be made, I just find it hard to believe that the writers were putting that much thought and research into this picture.

Since we all are fans of cinema, we all know that we’re all not going to agree on every single picture. That’s one of the beauties about this since it gives us plenty of things to discuss, argue, and hear other fans thoughts, feelings, and ideas about certain titles. You can’t have a wrong opinion. Well….maybe. When Craig covers Hammer’s Curse of Frankenstein, it is obvious right from the start that he not only has a severe disdain for the British studio, but thinks most of what they put out was utter garbage. Again, to each their own, but I found it pretty shocking to read his comments on Hammer’s first entry in their Frankenstein series, calling it a “noxious” and a “foul behemoth” and that Lee’s creature is “laughable”. He goes on to say that the success of the film gave us “a series of equally-lamented ‘Hammer Horrors’ which audiences were stuck with for decades to come, fatally poisoning the horror genre beyond repair.”

curse of frankenstein - monster

The look on my face after reading Craig’s thoughts on Hammer Films

 

Uh….What? If you don’t like the Gothic style pictures Hammer was doing, that’s one thing. But to state that it damaged the genre “beyond repair” is just damn silly. But again, just an opinion.

Of course, with all this hatred for Hammer, he actually really liked their blob-like movie X-The Unknown, calling it a “gripping, intelligent science-fiction tale”. Maybe because he could read more deeply into the film, coming up with thoughts like “The oozing lava or mud which bubbles forth from a hideous gash in the earth is nothing more than the toxic (to man, that is) menstrual blood of a wounded Mother Earth, pouring through a remarkable vagina-like orifice.” And, let’s not forget that the “military, terrified en masse of the female genitals, tries desperately to blow up the monster hole, but, of course, fails miserably with their impotent phallo-centric weaponry.” More phallic-babble. Gotta love it.

I could go on with more examples, like how the creature’s face from I Was A Teenage Frankenstein “acts as metaphor for the teenage audiences’ self-consciousness concerning the scourge of acne and other assorted pubescent horrors.” Or even better when he was talking about the Hawk’s film The Thing from Another World, (yes, this film came out in 1951, but was re-issued in 1957, which is why the author is including it….I’m guessing) referencing the 1982 version, says “..when compared to the laughably inferior 1987 remake by the talent-free John Carpenter.”

The 1987 is not a typo on my part but what was in the book. And Carpenter is “talent-free”? Wow. Again…difference of opinion and that’s fine. But honesty, there is a difference of an opinion and sheer blind hatred. Or at least, that’s my opinion.

If you are a fan of films that came out in 1957, I would still recommend this book because it will be a lot of fun to read. If you’re like me, you won’t agree with most of what is in the book, but a lot of it will give you a good laugh, scratching your head trying to figure out just where the hell he came up with some of this stuff, but you definitely won’t be bored with it.

You can order it directly from McFarland’s website at www.mcfarlandpub.com or order it over the phone by calling 800-253-2187. For only $25, it really isn’t a bad deal for a lot of laughs.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: It Came From 1957

  1. It’s fascinating to me that people find such deep psychological meanings in these movies. If the authors claim that the filmmakers INTENDED them, I agree the notion is ridiculous. (These interpretations say more about the psychology of the authors than of the movies.) However, if, looking back, a group of movies somehow represent an underlying psychology of a time that we now know more about, I find some validity. Then again, it’s sometimes just fun to read what people “get” from a movie, no matter how silly their statements sound.

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    • I agree that there are some of these films with some valid backstory, such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers. But some of the stuff Craig came up with is pretty reaching.

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