If all that seemed like too much trouble, you could sit in front of your trusty black and white, 16-inch television and watch something a lot less current. Hopefully there would be no competition from loved ones since in the 1950’s there was usually only one TV per household. Since we can now see any movie at the push of a button, those might seem like medieval times.
I remember a particular TV show, which came on only in the evening, in New York on Channel 9. It was called The Million Dollar Movie. It would run only movies, some pretty old, others pretty bad. There was one in particular that made me have nightmares and the fear stayed with me for years. By today’s standards, the flick might be considered pretty lame but it had enough of a strong theme to scare the crap out of a particular ten year old. By the time the movie got to the small screen, in 1963, I was ten. The movie I’m talking about was called Invaders from Mars and it was made back in 1953.
I’ve read countless reviews about Invaders from Mars and the common thread was always the same. The fact that scary movies easily instilled fear in those of us who were of an impressionable age goes without saying. But the fear that a more ominous threat was on the way helped the more adult audience to identify on a level that they all knew too well.
These screen threats were seen through the eyes of a ten-year old actor who first discovered the Martians. At first, he got the crap scared out of him by the Martians (and even by his own parents who were taken over by their influence) but in the end, the youngster helped the military to win the battle to defeat the alien intruders.
All reviewers mentioned the creeping fear depicted in the movie but none ever mentioned the look of the actor that played the Head Martian (pardon my play on words but this person was basically a head in a glass bubble that the larger Martians carried around). It’s easy to see that this person was of African-American descent. After WWII, the Civil Rights movement was just getting started.
As seen today as a horror flick, it’s hard to understand what all the fuss was about. The visible zippers down the backs of the Martians made me laugh and the long lectures by the scientist about space travel were drawn out and boring. But regardless of how rationally we can look at things today, the ten year old in all of us will always have a reason to fear the unknown. I guess it’s just a matter of perspective.