Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Kids Love & Family Expo is September 12 & 13, 2015 at Museum of Discovery and Science

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – September 3, 2015 – The Museum of Discovery and Science announced today that it will host the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Kids Love & Family Expo for the second year in a row on September 12 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and September 13, 2015 from noon to 5 p.m. It will be a fun-filled family-themed weekend event produced by Entercom South Florida 101.5 LITE-FM, Magic 102.7, 790 AM The Ticket and the new 104.3 FM The Shark.

The Kids Love & Family Expo is a celebrity-filled extravaganza with everything that KIDS LOVE! With over 75+ interactive activities and exhibits for kids, the Museum of Discovery and Science is already something that KIDS LOVE! And while the kids are having fun, parents will discover the latest and greatest in products and services to make their busy lives healthier, easier, and more enjoyable from more than 50 sponsors & exhibitors!!!

Visitors will get a chance to meet celebrities, such as TV’s Lea Black from the Real Housewives of Miami and Genevieve Goings from Choo-Choo Soul on Disney, Jr. Plus, a special appearance from Kid KJ “Lil’ Monster Truck Jam and Ride”. Take a ride in a real monster truck, watch Kid KJ demonstrate monster truck tricks, and get an up close look at the monster trucks in Kid KJ’s & The Mighty Monsters collection! Don’t forget to bring your camera as there will be appearances from favorite your storybook characters – Madeline, Curious George and Clifford the Big Red Dog – on the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Storytelling Stage throughout the Kids Love & Family Expo!
Museum President/CEO Kim Cavendish stated, “The Kids Love and Family Expo is truly a treat for the entire family. Costume characters, local exhibitors, dancing and prizes highlight this special two-day event. Plus, visitors will get to explore the hundreds of interactive exhibits that the Museum has to offer. Come one, come all.”

To learn more about the Kids Love and Family Expo, visit: http://tinyurl.com/kidsexpo15
Kids Love and Family Expo 2014 Photos: http://tinyurl.com/kidsandfam

 

ABOUT THE MUSEUM OF DISCOVERY AND SCIENCE

The mission of the Museum of Discovery and Science is to provide experiential pathways to lifelong learning in science for children and adults through exhibits, programs and films. Founded in 1976 as The Discovery Center, the nonprofit facility serves approximately 400,000 visitors annually. Major operational support for the Museum is provided through generous support by Leadership Guild members including: JM Family Enterprises, Inc., Broward Health, Sun Sentinel and Wells Fargo.

The Museum is open seven days a week, 365 days a year with extended IMAX® hours on most evenings. Exhibit only admission prices are $14 adults; $13 seniors; $12 children 2 to 12. Children under 2 are free. The Museum of Discovery and Science is at 401 SW Second Street, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33312. For more information call 954.467.MODS (6637) or www.mods.org

Blu-ray Review “Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie” (Collector’s Edition)

Actors: Michael J. Nelson, Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy
Directors: Jim Mallon
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Shout! Factory
Release Date: September 3, 2013
Run Time: 74 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I have been a way of Mystery Science Theater 3000 or MST3K (to hardcore fans) since it first started airing on TV. I have always admired classic 50/60’s cheesy sci-fi/horror films growing up and this was a great way to enjoy it on a new level through humor. MST3K was produced and set between seasons 6 and 7 of the show and felt like a regular episode of the show yet quite epic at the same time. Trace Beaulieu (Crow T. Robot), Kevin Murphy (Tom Servo) and Michael J. Nelson are just a riot together. If you are a fan of this type of humor also check out Michael J. Nelson and Kevin Murphy’s latest collaboration, RiffTrax, which are downloadable audio commentaries for many many great (I mean horrible films). “This Island Earth” is such a fun film, bad, but still fun. The jokes are never better and still funny after all these years. I highly recommended release for all fans of MST3K!

Official Premise: After six seasons of sublime, nerdy fun on television, the cult comedy series Mystery Science Theater 3000 took to the big screen in 1996 for its deliriously funny takedown of the 1955 alien invasion epic This Island Earth. Evil scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester explains the premise at the start: in his quest for world domination, he devises a scheme to subject the human race to the worst movies ever made. He tests his plan on Mike Nelson, the sole human aboard an Earth-orbiting space station known as the Satellite of Love. But our hero and his two robot sidekicks turn a lemon into a much funnier lemon by showering This Island Earth with wisecracks, ridicule and general silliness. The human race may never be rid of cheesy movies, but when the critics are this nutty, who cares?

Shout! Factory released this Collector’s Edition as a Blu-ray + DVD combo pack. I have to admit, I was actually rather impressed with the 1080p transfer. We have all see MST3K and we know that the films that they critique are not the highest quality of cinema. They are usually old 50/60’s public domain films but they did a good job of cleaning this up for its high-def debut. The DTS-HD Master Audio track also works well with the film’s very fast and snappy jokes.

What I am most excited about is the fact that there are some decent special features included for this release. There is “The Making of Mystery Science Theater 3000 The Movie”, which gives a lot of great insight about the MST3K crew and the production. There are deleted scenes including the removed sequences from the riffed motion picture and the alternate ending. So this is a must for all fans! “Mystery Science Theater 3000 The Movie: The Motion Picture Odyssey” includes new interviews with cast and crew and never-before-seen behind the scenes footage. This is again a must for any fan. “This Island Earth: 2 1/2 Years In the Making” shows how much preparation it was to put this today. Lastly there is the original trailer included.

Exhibit Review "Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination" Orlando Science Center

Orlando Science Center
777 E. Princeton Street
Orlando, Florida 32803
Saturday, October 13, 2012 – Sunday, April 7, 2013

I first received a flyer for this exhibit while attending 2012’s Star Wars Celebration VI at the Orlando Convention Center. Being a life-long “Star Wars” fan, I was immediately interested.  Science mixed with fantasy? Where do I sign up.  This exhibit was developed by the Museum of Science in Boston along with the collaboration of Lucasfilm Ltd, which makes me more excited. “Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination” is not just a couple of props, it is a 10,000 square-foot exhibit that transports you into the world of “Star Wars”.

This wonderful exhibit not display costumes and props from all six Star Wars films but it blends them with current technologies. Besides just viewing the exhibit you can also go one step further and get the inside world with many kiosks setup throughout with extensive video interviews with the filmmakers and even scientists and engineers. Even being such a big fan myself, I actually learned a lot of things that I never knew because of this.  To be honest it is a bit overwhelming when you realize that you are literally standing right next to these props that really have been used on screen for these films.  Of course, who doesn’t want to see the real Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder, Yoda puppet and Han Solo costume, just to name a few of the amazing sites included.

One aspect, I would like to focus on with this exhibit is the presentation from the Orlando Science Center.  They really gave this exhibit a lot of respect and care.  When you walk into the doors, you are put into a room with black sheets hanging from the ceiling.  Then like the black sea, the curtain part like a theater and you are revealed to see the original and breath-taking Millennium Falcon.  It was very well presented and a great way to start this tour.  I also loved the complete atmosphere in the exhibit.  The lights were dim but the props where perfectly lit.  You are not allowed to use flash photography in the exhibit but you honestly do not even need it in order to get that perfect shot.  It is setup so well that each item on display is surrounded by a wonderful halo of light.

As much as I love “Star Wars”, I love the science behind. I mean who doesn’t spaceships and mechanical robots, just to start with? But like I said the exhibit doesn’t stop at displaying some amazing props from the “Star Wars” saga, it delivers much more.  There are a lot of “real-life” aspects with that gives its visitors some real hands-on action. There are two Engineering Design Labs, where you can actually build and and play with your own speeders and robots.  Does it get cooler than that? This is also not just for kids, there plenty of fun to have for us big kids as well! There is also a simulated ride where you can see what it is like to actually drive your own speeder, this was very cool!

The price of admission to the Orlando Science Center will run you a little steep $27 dollars per person, but it will also include entry into “Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination”.  I have to say as much as I liked it, I feel like it is a little pricey especially for a large groups of families. If you are a hardcore fan though, you will leave this exhibit very satisfied and believing you still got your money’s worth for sure. So with all that being said…Orlando, you still have two months left to experience this great exhibit before it continues its museum tour.  It’s next stop will be at the Indiana State Museum, Indianapolis, IN from Saturday, May 25th – Monday, September 2nd.  I would highly recommend catching this.

For more information on the exhibit, please visit: www.mos.org/star-wars.

All photos are courtesy of the Orlando Science Center:

Book Review "The Science Fiction Universe and Beyond: Syfy Channel Book of Sci-Fi"

Author: Michael Mallory
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Universe
Release Date: September 25, 2012

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

When it comes to the genre of science fiction, it is my third love only behind my wife and daughter 😉  I am a huge sci-fi junkie whether it is kicking back watching Syfy Channel for the last 20 years or eating out at the Sci-Fi Diner at Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World.  It is a very big part of my life. When I found out that Syfy Channel was advertising this book during two-day “The Twilight Zone” New Years Marathon, I knew I just had to have it. The book is very snazzy looking, courtesy of Universe Publishing. It is a really sharp book and also a real good page-turner. There are a few things that I would have liked to see a little more and some things a little less.  As a fan, the sci-fi genre is way to large to encompass in just one 250+ page book.  This is perfect that what it is aiming to be and with Syfy behind it you know that means great content and quality. It gives a general overview spanning over everything that has inspired science-fiction fans to love this genre for many many years. You like “Star Trek”? “Star Wars”? “Doctor Who”? Then this book is for you!

Michael Mallory definitely has knowledge of this world having authored “Universal Studios Monsters: A Legacy of Horror”, as well as “Marvel: The Characters and Their Universe”.  I have a feeling that he made a book that he himself would be interested in reading. My only complaint is that I would like to have seen more on each film/TV show but like I said this book isn’t a focus on “Star Trek” or “Star Wars”, it is a overall look at the genre. The pictures used throughout are crystal clear and the paper stock is firm and durable. Universe definitely delivers quality here. “The Science Fiction Universe and Beyond” is arranged chronologically and shows the progression of the sci-fi genre over the decades. This isn’t just a book with premises, there is also interesting back stories and trivia included for each one. The book starts with a very nice introduction from Thomas P. Vitale, who is the Executive Vice President of Programming and Original Movies at Syfy. You can tell that he is really loves what he does as well and really sets this book up to shine.

The first chapter is called “Early Dreams and Nightmares” and starts right at the beginning with “A Trip to the Moon”, dating back to 1902 from Georges Méliès to Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis”. This chapter also has a spotlight section on serials like the old George Reeves “Superman” series. The second chapter takes look at the “Exploration of Space” with “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951) and it’s remake as well to John Carpenter’s “The Thing”. There is also a spotlight on “Planet of the Apes” as well as its sequels/prequels/remakes. The third chapter is titled “What Have We Wrought?” and kicks off with my main man Godzilla. Who doesn’t love the big lizard and his love for destroying everything in his path. It also takes us on board the Nautilus in “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”, one of best sea voyage films. The spotlight in this chapter focus on the legacy of “The Twilight Zone”. This show alone is so influential and plentiful that it could have filled a book in its own. Chapter four is called “Space and Relative Time” and you know what that means…creatures from outer space! and touches on films like “2001: A Space Odyssey”, which is one of the most influential entries in this genre. Chapter 5 is titled “Medium with a Message” and is a voyage in the futuristic world with classics like “Westworld” and “Logan’s Run”. The spotlight here is my favorite “Star Trek”. Where would the genre be without the presence of “Star Trek”, who knows?

Chapter six look into “A New Beginning” with “Battlestar Galactica”, “Blade Runner” and “Tron”. Three things I can watch anytime, anywhere! Of course the spotlight on this chapter is “Star Wars”, again is such a beast in terms of content but is represented nicely here. Chapter seven is called “Alternate Times, Alternate Realities” and focuses on genre favorites like “The Terminator” franchise and “Jurassic Park”. The spotlight here is “Doctor Who”, which is finally making a large splash in the US, thanks in part to Syfy. “Aliens Among Us” kicks off chapter eight with shows like “Farscape” and films like “Men in Black”. The spotlight for this is a little more broad focusing on all superheroes, especially “The Avengers”. The last chapter looks into the genre in whole in “The Science Fiction Culture”. It looks behind TV series like never-giving-up fan favorite series “Firefly”, the explosion of “Avatar” and its effects on the industry. It wraps up this great book and leaves you drooling for more. In the description for this book, it uses the phrase “in this volume”, so hopefully that that is the plans and we can hopefully see further installments in the near future.

 

Related Content

Level Up! Otronicon Returns to Orlando Science Center

It’s Year Eight for Orlando Science Center’s Otronicon

Friday, January 18 through Monday, January 21

 ORLANDO, Fla. (Jan. 7, 2013) – For the eighth consecutive year, multiple industry partners join Orlando Science Center to celebrate the role interactive technology plays in the way we live, learn, work and play during Otronicon January 18–21, 2013.

This year, partners including EA SPORTS, University of Central Florida and Florida Hospital for Children demonstrate Orlando’s impact on the world of entertainment, simulation, education, training, health care and more.

Otronicon is the Science Center’s largest annual event with an average of 2,500 visitors each day – more than 10,000 guests for all four days. The experience has the opportunity to inspire a child’s interest in science and tech careers through the appeal of video games, interactive technology and virtual reality.

There are classes in video game creation as well as exclusive peeks at simulators created by local experts. Simulation areas will examine how video game technology is being used in the military, medical, sports and entertainment industries as a training and design tool. Plus, connect with local simulation companies to learn about exciting careers in the field.

The event promotes the concept of “made in Orlando, played in Orlando” with many chances to interact with the creative professionals that make the games you enjoy and discover the growing career opportunities in your own backyard.

And special to this year’s event:  experience the blockbuster exhibit Star Wars®: Where Science Meets Imagination with admission to Otronicon!  Developed by the Museum of Science, Boston in collaboration with Lucasfilm Ltd. and presented by Bose Corporation®, the 10,000-square-foot exhibit explores the fantasy technologies depicted in the Star Wars films, as well as the real science behind them, and the current research that may someday lead to real-life versions of the technologies seen in the film series. The exhibit includes more than 80 screen-used props, costumes and models, in addition to extensive video interviews with filmmakers, scientists and engineers, and hands-on components, including two large Engineering Design Labs, where visitors can build and test their own speeders and robots.

EA SPORTS returns to Otronicon for the third straight year and will spotlight the many exciting aspects of game development. This year, EA SPORTS places fun sports games in the palm of your hand using augmented reality to create a mobile game environment, nearly anywhere you go. And once again, EA SPORTS will invite attendees to “get in the game” with sports cover photo-ops, a 3-D technology demonstration called “Be 3-D” (showing guests how they might look in a video game) and plenty of games available for open play.

Also returning to Otronicon is Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, which will be showcasing how they use simulation to design rides and attractions. Included is an Audio-Animatronic Droid from Disney’s Hollywood Studios attraction Star Tours: The Adventures Continue set in the Star Wars universe.

In addition, explore the virtual reality environment of the Virtusphere or play outdoor laser tag courtesy of Battlefield Live Orlando. There will also be open play for video games on multiple platforms and areas to explore video games as art.

And for the first time ever at Otronicon, guests will be able to see a Hollywood movie in the new Digital Adventure Theater, “TRON: Legacy 3D.”

Cost and Hours

Admission to Otroniconis $27 for adults and $20 for youth (ages 3-11). Tickets also include access to Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination, films and live presentations. Science Center members can experience Otronicon for free and see Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imaginationfor $12 for adults and $9 for youth (ages 3-11).

Otronicon is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18 and Saturday, Jan. 19; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20 and Monday, Jan. 21.

For more information, please call 407-514-2000 or visit www.osc.org and www.otronicon.org.

Star Wars®: Where Science Meets Imagination

Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination, presented by Bose Corporation®, was developed by the Museum of Science, Boston and Lucasfilm Ltd.

Lucasfilm, the Lucasfilm logo, STAR WARS® and related properties are trademarks and/or copyrights, in the United States and other countries, of Lucasfilm Ltd. and/or its affiliates. TM & © Lucasfilm Ltd. All rights reserved. All other trademarks and trade names are properties of their respective owners.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0307875. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendationsexpressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Otronicon v.8 Partners

University of Central Florida Research & Commercialization; University of Central Florida Institute for Simulation & Training; University of Central Florida College of Engineering and Computer Science; EA SPORTS; Bright House Networks; Florida Hospital for Children; Eyetech Digital System; Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy; Lockheed Martin; Florida High Tech Corridor; Engineering and Computer Simulations; Seay Business; National Center for Simulation; Walt Disney Park & Resorts; Advanced Materials Professional Services, LLC; Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission; Orange County Arts & Cultural Alliance; City of Orlando; United Arts of Central Florida; n-Space; Phyken, Inc.; GameSim Technologies; and DeVry University.

TCM’s 10 Favorite Low-Budget Science Fiction Films

Who Needs a Big-Budget Summer Blockbuster?
TCM Finds Just as Much Fun with 10 Favorite Low-Budget Science Fiction Films

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), The Blob (1958),
Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) and The Terminator (1984) Included on TCM’s List

As summer blockbusters invade theaters across the country and fans descend upon San Diego for Comic-Con 2011, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) has unveiled a list of movies that show how popular and critical success doesn’t require multi-million-dollar budgets. TCM’s 10 Favorite Low-Budget Science Fiction Films is a celebration of what can happen when minimal budgets spark maximum imagination.

TCM’s list spans from the 1953 monster-on-the-loose thriller The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, featuring Ray Harryhausen’s memorable stop-motion model animation effects, to 2001’s offbeat The American Astronaut, a black-and-white western/sci-fi hybrid. The list includes such acclaimed masterpieces as Invaders from Mars (1953) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), cult classics like The Blob (1958) and I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958) and independent hits like The Brother from Another Planet (1984) and The Terminator (1984), not to mention the film delightfully hailed as the worst ever made, Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959).

TCM’s Favorite Low-Budget Science Fiction Movies is the network’s latest list highlighting the history of the movie industry. TCM’s previous lists have included 10 Great Overlooked Performances, 10 Favorite Baseball Films, 10 Great Comedy Lines and 15 Influential Soundtracks. Here, in chronological order, are the 10 films chosen as TCM’s Favorite Low-Budget Science Fiction Movies:

The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) – Directed by Eugene Lourie
Warner Bros. brought the monster movie into the nuclear age when it bought this low-budget film and turned it into a box-office bonanza. It led the way for a parade of revived dinosaurs and mutated creatures despoiling cities of the world. The story of a prehistoric carnivore awakened from its frozen sleep by an A-bomb test at the North Pole was inspired by the successful reissue of King Kong (1933) in 1952. Producers Jack Dietz and Hal E. Chester thought that by combining nuclear paranoia and giant critters they could create a new kind of monster movie. They enlisted special effects genius Ray Harryhausen – who apprenticed with Kong’s creator, Willis O’Brien – to undertake his first solo job animating the creature. When he realized how low the budget was, Harryhausen dipped into his own pocket. The script set the basic plot structure for most future giant monster movies, moving from isolated incidents in remote locations to a full-scale attack on a major city. Warner Bros. bought the finished film for $450,000, about twice the original cost, and scored a $5 million gross. Monsters were now big business. Warner Bros. followed up with the giant ant movie Them! (1954), though without Harryhausen the effects were far from convincing. Before long, almost every studio was making its own creature features. The real impact was felt in Japan, where The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms inspired Godzilla (1954) and the whole daikaiju (giant monster) genre.

Invaders from Mars (1953) – Directed by William Cameron Menzies
Three years before Invasion of the Body Snatchers warned us about pod people from outer space, this 1953 feature poured on the paranoia with the tale of a child (Jimmy Hunt) who sees an alien ship land behind his house, then finds his parents turned into emotionless robots. Director-production designer William Cameron Menzies may not have had much money to work with (an estimated $290,000), but he put it to good use with surrealistic sets and a score dominated by pulsating choir music that upped the eeriness. The man who created the look of such classics as Gone With the Wind (1939) and The Pride of the Yankees (1942) was a master at visual storytelling. In this case, he used deep sets with unusually high walls to create a child’s perspective of a threatening world as Hunt discovers that the people he depends on are joining the enemy. Hunt, nearing the end of his days as a child star, gives the role the perfect sense of wounded innocence. Tobe Hooper remade Invaders from Mars (1986) to somewhat less effect, with Hunt coming out of retirement to play the local police chief and give the film its high point. When he arrives at the hill where the Martian ship has landed and says, “Gee, I haven’t been here since I was a kid,” the original’s many fans got an echo of the dreamlike paranoia that had delighted them for decades.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) – Directed by Don Siegel
When Kevin McCarthy shouted, “You’re next!” into the camera near the end of this classic sleeper, audiences around the world jumped, shaking at the prospect of being replaced by emotionless beings. Invasion of the Body Snatchers was shot for less than half a million dollars, and only $15,000 went to special effects, proving a small budget can be overcome by a big dose of imagination and a great story. Small-town doctor McCarthy returns from a medical convention to discover an epidemic of paranoia afflicting the town of Santa Mira. Suddenly, many feel their friends, neighbors and relations – the people they’ve known all their lives – are “not themselves.” As the sick miraculously cure themselves, he realizes everyone was right to be afraid; the town’s residents are being replaced by humanoid vegetables from outer space. Critics have argued over what the invaders symbolize. Is the film a metaphor for conformism, McCarthyism or communism? But the film’s makers didn’t have an agenda; they just wanted to scare the audience, and that’s exactly what they did. Invasion of the Body Snatchers earned five times its investment domestically and, even with a studio-imposed “frame” at the beginning and end that allows for a happy ending, it continues to shock audiences. It has inspired three official remakes, numerous parodies and rip-offs and even a Radiohead song, “Bodysnatchers.” It also helped resurrect producer Walter Wanger’s career after a prison sentence for a crime of passion and is often hailed as director Don Siegel’s best film. It added the phrase “pod people” to the vocabulary to describe those devoid of emotion and individuality.

The Blob (1958) – Directed by Irvin S. Yeaworth
Who could resist the idea of people and even entire buildings being consumed by a mass of red gelatin from outer space? Not thousands of audience members, mostly at drive-ins, who made this film a hit and helped turn first-time leading man Steve McQueen into a star. Made by a Pennsylvania-based company specializing in educational and religious films, The Blob was created by people who didn’t know what not to do. As a result, they produced a winning combination of science fiction and juvenile delinquent drama in which the troubled teens of a small town fight to convince the authorities they’re under siege by the title monster. The writers gave the characters believable motivations, and even on a miniscule budget, director Irvin S. Yeaworth shot in widescreen and color. The producers claimed to have made The Blob for $240,000 (Yeaworth later admitted the budget was half that) and turned a profit when Paramount picked up distribution rights for $300,000. The studio originally intended to release it as the bottom half of a double bill with I Married a Monster from Outer Space, but when previews indicated the independent film was generating more interest, they switched the pictures’ positions. Now a movie legend, The Blob has inspired a sequel, two remakes (the next due in 2012) and Blobfest, a three-day annual celebration at the shooting location in Phoenixville, Pa., featuring original props and a re-creation of the scene in which moviegoers flee from a movie theater after the title creature eats the projectionist.

I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958) – Directed by Gene Fowler Jr.
Though this sci-fi shocker’s plot matches the confessional tone of its title (inspired by the director’s 1957 I Was a Teenage Werewolf), the quality is far greater than that of a tawdry confessional. In fact, this story of a newlywed who realizes her husband and another man have been replaced by aliens hoping to breed with Earth women can withstand comparison to the more acclaimed Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). Writer Louis Vittes approached the project with a good deal of imagination, creating aliens who drop their disguises when startled (a creepy effect), can’t drink alcohol, die if given oxygen and repel dogs (an idea later writers would borrow). Gene Fowler Jr. shot it as though it were a film noir, with an impressive use of shadows and disturbing camera angles. Released on the bottom half of a double bill with The Blob, the $125,000 feature wasn’t taken very seriously by reviewers. But television screenings have brought it a devoted audience, while later critics have reappraised the film as an anti-Communist tract (the masquerading aliens lack emotion until they fall for their wives) or an early feminist dissection of marriage and gender roles.

Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) – Directed by Ed Wood Jr.
With cardboard tombstones, wooden performances and a character who changes size and shape from shot to shot, this would be a bad film in anybody’s hands. But only Ed Wood Jr. could have made it so bad that it turned out to be loads of fun. Although widely hailed as the worst director in movie history, Wood is too entertainingly awful to really deserve the title – and managed to sneak too many ideas into his films. This film, often described as the world’s worst, is actually more watchable than some big-budget Hollywood epics. When friend and frequent co-star Bela Lugosi died while shooting another project, Wood put the footage to use by concocting this tale of aliens using reanimated corpses to alert humanity to their disarmament message. He fleshed out the late star’s scenes by putting a cape on his wife’s chiropractor, even though the man was at least a foot taller, and told him to keep his face covered. The result was a movie too cheerfully inept for anyone to hate. Long before it was hailed as the worst movie ever made, or immortalized in Tim Burton’s 1994 biopic Ed Wood, Plan 9 from Outer Space had developed a devoted following through frequent television screenings. It also triggered the re-discovery of other Wood classics like Glen or Glenda (1953), his semi-autobiographical tale of a transvestite in love. With two remakes and four stage versions in various states of development, it continues to be one of the most popular sci-fi films ever made, all for a budget of just $60,000.

La Jetée (1962) – Directed by Chris Marker
When you have vision you can work with little money, or in the case of this 28-minute film, little movement. While making another picture (1966’s Le jolie mai) pioneering documentary filmmaker Chris Marker composed this black-and-white short almost entirely from still images played against voiceover narration. Rather than calling it a film, he called it a “photo-roman” (literally “picture-novel”), alluding to a popular European genre of comic book made from photos. La Jetée tells of a man from a post-apocalyptic world who uses a traumatic memory of seeing a man killed at Orly Airport to travel to the past in search of salvation for the future. He finds it, along with love and the key to his memory. Throughout, Marker plays with concepts of time, making the audience watch a movie that seems not to move (except for one shot of the leading lady waking up after a night of romance). He even plays with that convention when the leads visit a natural history museum, where the use of still photos makes the stuffed creatures seem as animated as the living people. La Jetée was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958), and Marker even copies a scene from that film by having the leading man point out his birth date in the cross section of an ancient tree trunk. It has, in turn, inspired other films, most notably Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys (1995).

The Brother from Another Planet (1984) – Directed by John Sayles
Writer-director John Sayles has always made the most of low-budget limitations, nowhere moreso than in this fascinating mash-up of blaxploitation, science fiction, western and social satire. Joe Morton plays a mute, runaway alien who can pass for human as long as nobody notices that his feet have three over-sized toes. Because of his skin color, he ends up in Harlem, where he builds a new life, using his telekinetic powers to repair video games and his silence to become a sounding board to the city’s many troubled souls. Although Morton does not understand prejudice based on skin color, the bounty hunters pursuing him refer to him as “three toes,” suggesting that bigotry is universal. Sayles drew part of his $350,000 budget from a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” and though the low budget sometimes shows in the special effects, the freedom Sayles enjoyed by refusing to sign with a major studio led to an innovative movie that overcomes all its limitations imaginatively. The result is a loosely plotted film that makes trenchant comments on race in America while also capturing the essence of immigrant spirit that built a nation. With its catchy title and low budget, The Brother from Another Planet had little trouble turning a modest profit. It also attracted champions like Roger Ebert, who compared Morton favorably to Buster Keaton, and a devoted fan following that has continued with Sayles through such films as Eight Men Out (1988) and Lone Star (1996).

The Terminator (1984) – Directed by James Cameron
When Arnold Schwarzenegger uttered one of his most famous lines, “I’ll be back,” in this action classic, nobody could have realized what a prophet he was. Not only would he return for two more sequels that transformed him from super-villain to superhero, but The Terminator made him a true superstar – with just 16 lines. Writer-director James Cameron and Schwarzenegger created the perfect combination of actor, role and story. Inspired by a nightmare in which a metal cyborg skeleton emerged from a fiery explosion, Cameron fashioned the story about a robot who travels from the future to destroy the mother of his greatest enemy. Originally Cameron interviewed Schwarzenegger to play the future rebel leader who follows the cyborg back in time to stop him. Intrigued by the former bodybuilder’s physical presence, Cameron reshaped his concept, eventually creating a dazzling, low-budget epic with Schwarzenegger as the cyborg. Distributor Orion Pictures didn’t seem to have high hopes for the picture; they didn’t even want to hold a press screening until the actors’ agents insisted. To their surprise, the picture won respectable reviews and went on to earn more than $38 million on a meager budget of just $6.5 million. Thanks to creative merchandizing tie-ins, Cameron’s persuasive direction and Schwarzenegger’s compelling presence, The Terminator became a cult favorite, inspiring three sequels (with a fourth scheduled for 2014), a TV series and numerous video games.

The American Astronaut (2001) – Directed by Cory McAbee
This cheerfully demented film doesn’t just mix genres; it explodes them. It’s sci-fi with still paintings as special effects, a Western with no shoot-outs and a musical in which the leading man dances his big number opposite another man. Inspired by Dennis Potter’s musicals (Pennies From Heaven, 1981), producer-director-writer-star Cory McAbee combined carefully integrated musical numbers (by his band, The Billy Nayer Show) with a decidedly iconoclastic plot. In McAbee’s Wild West vision of the universe, the sexes are segregated by planet, with the all-male workers on Jupiter worshiping The Boy Who Actually Saw a Woman’s Breast and the all-female colony on Venus in need of someone to replace their deceased consort. McAbee’s title character tries to get rich with a series of trades between worlds, all the while followed by a mad scientist out to kill him for no clear reason. But then, little in this film makes sense or even tries to. Shot in black and white for between $1 million and $2 million, the picture features Southern belle dresses made from shower curtains, a spaceship only shown in still shots and interiors built in an abandoned dance hall in Queens. It’s all compulsively watchable thanks to the off-the-cuff acting, surrealistic dialogue and ironic score. With a cast that includes former rockers Annie Golden of The Shirts and James Ransone of Early Man, The American Astronaut captures the spirit of gritty, inexpensive films punk rockers produced in the ‘80s, before Sundance made the indie scene respectable.

 

Related Content