Throwback Thursday: Journey to the Unknown with Sci-Fi Cinema

For this week’s Throwback Thursday post, we present this archival article from guest blogger Constance Metzinger, who looks back at a several sci-fi favorites from the past century:
TIME MACHINE 1960This planet and all its wonders are not enough to satisfy man’s unending quest to discover the unknown. To go where man has never gone before; to reach the unfathomable; to see the unseen; these desires have been etched in his soul from the beginning of Creation.

“Why does man freeze to death to try and reach the North Pole? Why does man drive himself to suffer the steam and heat to discover the Amazon? Why does he stagger his mind with the math of the sky? Once a question arises in the human brain the answer must be found, whether it takes a hundred years or a thousand years.”

These were the words of young Alec McEwen in 1959’s Journey to the Center of the Earth.

The ultimate aim of all Science is to penetrate the unknown. And that’s what the following films featured – daring men willing to stake their lives and undertake a perilous journey to reach this pinnacle of achievement for the future of Science and Mankind. And these “unknowns” are still a mystery to us today:

 

JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF EARTH 1959Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)

Scientists spent years exploring the many features of the Earth’s surface, but who has penetrated its depths? Arne Soknesson has! ….or so this Irwin Allen-produced movie claims. A 16th-century explorer was ridiculed for his preposterous attempt to reach the Earth’s core, but 300 years later, Professor Oliver Lindenbrook (James Mason) stumbles upon evidence that proves he did just that, and ventures forth to go there himself. Of course, by the time he leaves, the party has grown to five members: a student of his at the University of Edinburgh (Pat Boone), the widow of a fellow explorer (Arlene Dahl), a burly Norwegian (Peter Ronson), and his pet duck Gertrude (herself). Spending a year beneath the surface, they encounter a cavern of luminescent crystals, large deposits of salt, an ocean, the lost city of Atlantis, and even another explorer (Thayer David)…bent on making sure his own name goes down in history as the first man to reach the center of the Earth!

FIRST MEN IN THE MOONFirst Men in the Moon (1964)

The year is 1899 and Professor Cavor (Lionel Jeffries) is busy working in his country home, perfecting Cavorite, a paste that, when applied to any object, renders it ineffectual to the force of gravity. Whoosh! upwards it will travel unless something blocks its path or a shield is placed over the Cavorite. What possible commercial value could Cavorite have? It could send a ship to the Moon of course, where unheard of deposits of rare minerals, gems, and gold could be just sitting on the surface! And that could make them rich, rich, rich! At least that’s what Cavor and Arnold Bedford (Edward Judd) think. Arnold’s fiancée Kate (Martha Hyer) accidentally comes along for the ride, but venturing inside the moon was not apart of their plan. Neither was an encounter with the Selenites – the insect-like creatures of the Moon.

TIME MACHINE 1960 2The Time Machine (1960)

Time – the cause of eternal bewilderment to man. It travels always onward, oblivious of events occurring within its domain, continually venturing forward into unexplored territory, ever unchanging and unstoppable. But scientists continue to explore this intangible mystery of our existence. Could altering the Past affect the Future? (there is a good Outer Limits episode about that topic); Could a journey into the Future help us make better decisions for Today? Well, these questions bothered George Wells (Rod Taylor  too. And besides, he felt like he never belonged in the era he was living (that’s nothing new ). So he constructs a time machine and after fiddling with the dials a bit, propels himself to the year 802,701 A.D. A blond-haired, blue-eyed race of humans called Eloi populate the Earth eating giant veggies and fruits, lounging around with no work to be done, and dashing off at sundown when the terrible mutants known as the Morlocks come out of their caverns to ….eek!…eat them.

Our intrepid explorers have traveled to the center of the Earth, the inside of the Moon, and through the Ages of Time, and so what unknown territory is left?….. The Fourth Dimension.

4-D MANThe 4-D Man (1959)

Tony Nelson (James Congdon), a research scientist, is experimenting with a means to separate particles of matter from each other with an amplifier and, in doing so, discovers a way that one can “pass through” any object. His brother Scott (Robert Lansing)  becomes jealous of his newfound knowledge – he’s also sore because Tony stole his fiancee Linda (Lee Merriwether in her first film) – and steals this amplifier unit from him. But what he doesn’t know is that every time he passes through an object, he ages! And even worse than that (yes… there is something worse than aging) touching another human causes instant death to them, but gives him renewed youth….. I’ll let the movie explain the details of that phenomenon.

Well, there you have it. As happy viewers munching on our popcorn, we can sit back and enjoy these explorations to the unknown, heartily cheering on our daring heroes while they endanger their lives for the benefit of our entertainment. And who knows? Maybe someday Man will take a hurdling leap into the Future and find our descendants, 350 years from now, enjoying these very same films.

Constance Metzinger is a blogger who runs the website Silver Scenes, “a blog for classic film lovers.”

  • Butch Knouse

    Here’s another. World Without End.

    • Butch Knouse

      And Panic in Year Zero.