I heard that H.G. Wells had given Eisenstein the rights to his book, War of the Worlds, and then Paramount got them, and to this day, George Pal’s version is still the best in my opinion. Sir Cedric Hardwicke’s narration of the famous first few sentences from the book is chilling.
H.G. Wells wrote the script for “Things to Come” loosely based on his 1933 book, and it was directed by William Cameron Menzies with Hardwicke, Ralph Richardson and Raymond Massey. Menzies’ production set design for the silent “Thief of Baghdad” was incredible.
But what about the cheesier movies? There are zillions of them. Ed Wood’s “Plan 9 from Outer Space,” or “Zontar, the Thing from Venus,” the Commander Cody movie “Zombies of the Stratosphere” (Republic, 1952) with an unknown star named Leonard Nimoy, and numerous others. If you get a copy of The Psychotronic Dictionary you’ll get an insulin rush of descriptions of incredibly bizarre or bad movies. In the movie “Zontar” (d. Larry Buchanan), the control room system for the launching of the large rocket almost appears to be behind the lounge bar in the den of someone’s house. Zontar, the monster appears to be a cross between a Wookie and a Hi/Lo Shag Carpet. In “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” (1978) there is an actual helicopter used in the film that crashes and was left in as part of the movie. A friend of mine was an extra in the final scene in a football stadium in San Diego when a huge crowd runs across the field all the while stomping on an extraordinary amount of tomatoes. In “The Giant Spider Invasion” it appears a Volkswagen Beetle is dressed up as a huge fuzzy spider. It stars Alan Hale, Jr. (“Gilligan’s Island”) and Barbara Hale (“Perry Mason”), whose dad Alan Hale, Sr. was Porthos in the silent “Three Musketeers.
To read about Edward D. Wood you can read “Nightmare of Ecstasy” by Rudolph Grey. His life has been documented more than most legit filmmakers, egregiously so. When he and his wife were evicted for the last time in a slum apartment in North Hollywood, the landlords threw all his scripts, book mss and mementos in the dumpster. He died a bit later in late 1978.
I don’t know when I realized the soothing quality of watching cheesy movies. There is something fun about watching old SF movies where the ships are shaped like pointed, sleek cylinders with no regard for trying to explain the semblance of gravity within the ship. It is pure bliss. Especially if you put the TV on as background ‘noise’ while you are trying to write your latest manuscript.