Weird Movie Origins
Bruce G. Marcot
updated 10 May 2016
In scouting out origins of science fiction and horror movies, I also came upon some interesting cases of how older movies presaged what would become urban legends or major issues of today.
Here are a few examples.
Urban legend: The 1911 explosion over Tunguska, Russia, in a remote corner of Siberian taiga forest, was actually the detonation of an alien spacecraft.
Weird movie origin: This very premise was stated in the 1960 sci-fi film First Spaceship on Venus. Whether that was the first time such a premise was posed, or whether the writers picked up on a prior idea, I do not know.
Urban legend: Throughout the American west are unexplainable incidents of cattle and livestock being discovered mutilated and surgically mangled, the cause of which has been attributed variously to nefarious secret government operations and to aliens.
Weird movie origin: In the 1958 movie Giant From the Unknown, what was to become known as "cattle mutilation" was foretold by a scene in which men are pondering the demise of "Bill Johnson's" cows, referring to "cattle all ripped apart." One of the movie characters states "No one's ever been able to explain how it got all mutilated."
Major modern issue: Climate change and global warming.
Weird movie origin: The 1961 movie The Day the Earth Caught Fire. Soviet and USA atom bombs knock the Earth out of its orbit, hurtling it toward the sun.
Also see the episode The Midnight Sun from the original TV series The Twilight Zone (Season 3, Episode 10, first aired 17 November 1961), in which the Earth becomes searingly hot because it has started spiraling toward the sun. Rod Serling's poignant closing narration to this 1961 episode may very well be speaking about our modern-day climate-change crisis: "The poles of fear, the extremes of how the Earth might conceivably be doomed. Minor exercise in the care and feeding of a nightmare, respectfully submitted by all the thermometer-watchers - in The Twilight Zone."
Urban legend: Humans are being abducted by aliens and subjected to probes and implants that monitor them or that alter their behavior.
Weird movie origin: The 1953 sci-fi classic Invaders From Mars had all of this! Townspeople were being snatched by unseen aliens, put on tables, their minds probed, and given implants that turned them into dutiful slaves. While this movie might not have been the first to present these themes, it was a widely popular production that likely helped to "implant" these ideas into the social consciousness...
Major modern issue: Social media is increasingly isolating us from each other.
Weird movie origin: The TV series remake of The Outer Limits, episode "Worlds Apart" (original air date March 22, 1996) in which the voice-over introduction eerily echoed today's mania with social media: "As technology evolves, the means to communicate with each other become increasingly sophisticated. But will these means ever be sufficient to bridge the gaps between us? Or will they only serve to pull us further apart?"
Major modern issue: We have become dependent on the Web for all information and knowledge.
Weird movie origin: The TV series remake of The Outer Limits, episode "Stream of Consciousness" (original air date February 7, 1997). The introduction voice-over in this episode tells us:
The data stream, now simply known as the "stream," was developed 50 years ago so that the Earth's population could have immediate access to the newly-built World Information Network. Data relays, known as "eddies," transmit information directly to individuals' cranial implants.
The cranial implants appear as wearable technology pods on the users' temples ... somewhat weirdly echoing the look of Google Glass.
As the hero in the episode shuts down the "stream" (the Web), the populace goes into a form of withdrawal and confusion ... just like our real life obsession with social media and technology.
A similar theme appeared in the TV series Stargate SG-1 in the 2003 episode "Revisions" (season 7, episode 5), where all members of a cloistered community wore a small device on their temples that linked their "internet" data directly to their brains, and they believed they could not survive without it.
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