Hostile Aliens, Hollywood and Today's News: 1950s Science Fiction Films and 9/11

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9780875864976: Hostile Aliens, Hollywood and Today's News: 1950s Science Fiction Films and 9/11

1950s Cold War-era monsters meet 21st-century terrorists: Matthews provides a thoughtful interpretation of sci-fi movies that examines the similarities and differences between the political environment and popular culture of two eras. This well-researched examination and appreciation of science fiction films includes behind-the-scenes tales about their production and many quotes from those who produced and starred in the films. The book will tantalize not only fans of the science fiction genre but also sociologists, film historians, and politicians. The author draws parallels between the Cold War fears of the 1950s and 60s and the constant "terrorism alerts" of the September 11th era, exploring how the politics and the psychological climate of the times influences and is reflected in this vehicle of popular culture. This book is the first of its kind, studying the pop culture genre in the wake of the September 11th tragedy. The alien invaders of the 1950s signified a Russian invasion of America, while other films of the genre such as "Invaders from Mars" depicted aliens utilizing mind control to manipulate humans to commit acts of sabotage, signifying Communist enslavement. If such a film were made now, such invaders could be seen as terrorist masterminds using human slaves to commit terrorist acts. "Them!" the 1954 atomic mutation classic, is the spiritual ancestor of the 2002 film "Eight Legged Freaks." Finally, several 1950s films depicted the end of the world at a time when Americans expected a nuclear war with Russia. Godzilla, the only 1950s-era monster to remain a "movie star" beyond that era, can be fashioned to reflect whatever issues dominate the times: nuclear war in the 1950s, environmental pollution in the 1970s. Conceivably a Godzilla for the age of terrorism is soon to be released. The immediate pre-September 11th era witnessed films presenting galactic threats to mankind's existence ("Independence Day," "Armageddon," "Deep Impact"), while the early 2000s witnessed the popularity of the "Left Behind" Christian films dramatizing the Tribulation period in the Book of Revelation. It seems that whatever the era and whatever the challenges and crises confronting America, many entertainment themes remain the same, reflecting their respective times and the relevant issues.

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About the Author:

Melvin E. Matthews, Jr. is a freelance writer and a horror movie aficionado who has been studying the genre for thirty years. In this work he shares his personal correspondence with film and television star Beverly Garland, and brings together a wealth of detail about the fun and the challenges of the costumes, stunts and special effects, as well as the actors' and producers' thoughts on the meaning behind the stories.

Review:

Kudos to the enigmatic Melvin Matthews, Jr., a lifetime Roanoke resident who recently published his book Hostile Aliens, Hollywood and Today s News with Algora Publishing. Matthews nonfiction tome is 1950s Cold War-era monsters meet 21st-century terrorists : the author draws parallels between the Cold War fears of the 1950s and 60s and the constant terrorism alerts of the September 11th era, exploring how the psychological climate of both times influence and are reflected in the sci-fi/horror genre.
Analyzing films such as The Thing, The War of the Worlds, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Them, and Godzilla, Matthews shows how themes of these films mirror important social concerns both past and present. What parallels does Matthews see? In The Thing (1951), Matthews says, the scientist the film, Dr. Carrington, refuses to recognize that the alien invader is hostile to mankind. He wants to communicate with it and is putting scientific concerns above national security concerns. He d be [seen as] an appeaser today.
In Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), the film presented aliens that used mind control to take over a small town and today you can say the Islamic terrorist extremists brainwash [others]... to use terrorism against us, he says, adding, the aliens, within the context of today, would be seen as terrorists themselves they re out to replace our system with theirs.
What lessons can be drawn from the movies, and from Matthews book? No matter what the era may be, Matthews says, many things in popular culture remain the same. Some of these films are so abstract that they can be remade at another time and can apply to a different era like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Godzilla. At 52, Matthews has been writing and researching this book for two years, all the while holding down his full-time Civic Center job. An intriguing read indeed, the book will tantalize not only fans of the science fiction genre but also sociologists, film historians, politicians, and pop culture buffs. --CITY Magazine, July 2007

Author Examines Pop Culture Themes -- "It was to relive a dream that I've wanted to do for a long time," Matthews said about writing his book, which was published by Algora Publishing this year. "To do something out of the ordinary. " He wanted to write about civil rights issues in the United States during the 1950s and draw parallels to the dilemmas of today. Matthews changed the idea to a comparison of civil rights issues to symbols in science-fiction movies.

His book became a look into art imitating life and, in it, he argues that themes in movies are recycled over decades to a point where a 1950s movie can still apply to events in 2007. "It tries to relate how films of that period were relevant to, and had elements of, the Cold War and some of them have elements of Sept. 11 and relate to the war on terror half a century later, " he said. "The movies reflect the times and are telling an old story in a different way." Godzilla, he said, is an example of a recycled abstract theme from 1950s movies and was an artistic Japanese response to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; "[it] can relate to a current invasion." " The Invasion, " starring Nicole Kidman, is another recycled movie, Matthews said. He said it's a criticism of the war on terrorism and a remake of the movie "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers" -- a criticism of McCarthyism.

Comparing the effect of historic events on the entertainment industry in movies such as "The Invasion" is what makes the book profound, said Eleanor Levine, the editor of Matthew's book. This book will be an enjoyable read, she said, especially for movie, history and science-fiction lovers. "It was a joy to work on this because Melvin is so brilliant," she said. "Just the connection between communism then and terrorism now, he's just a terrific writer. " --The Roanoke Times

Long-time horror movie aficionado Matthews explores links between the science fiction films of the 1950s and the concurrent Cold War, and how the relation between public hysteria and cinematic mayhem is still being played out half a century later. The mind controllers, the end of the world, animal and human mutants, and the road to September 11 are among the features. --Book News

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