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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

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Ratings are based on a four star system.
One star means that the commercials are more entertaining than the program.
Two stars watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars is good solid entertainment.
Four stars means you never dreamed television could be this good.

This Island Earth In my mid-July column, I offered a list of the ten best sf movies before Stanley Kubrick's monumental sf trilogy, and wondered what modern moviegoers made of such ancient fare. These films still have some popularity, since all are available on DVD and can be ordered from Netflix.

Several people noticed that I got the date of Dr. Strangelove wrong, but only one person sent in a modern review, and he was not of the demographic I hoped for, being an old movie buff rather than a teen with a fresh outlook on old sf. Which leads me to wonder about the demographics of SF Site, and of science fiction generally.

The new Locus poll is out. (Do I need to mention that Locus is the primary news magazine of science fiction, at least as far as print magazines go.) They list the top on-line magazines as voted by their readers, and SF Site is number three, after Tor.com and Strange Horizons. But two things have happened to Locus, which I suspect are reflected in print science fiction generally. First, readership is down, to just 3600. Second, the readership is older; the average age is 45.

Do young science fiction fans know that print science fiction exists? Have they ever heard of Heinlein, Asimov, and Clarke, or even of Neal Stephenson and Vernor Vinge? Do they only know Neil Gaiman for his comic book work? Do they make a distinction between science fiction, fantasy, and superhero genres -- or is it all sci fi? Or Syfy?

Anyway, here is Dan Tannenbaum's review of This Island Earth.

  In the 1950s, Hollywood was cranking out science fiction movies as fast as the film would roll. Many of them were trash, taking advantage of the fear of radiation exposure or the allure of space travel, but some were absolute gems.

This Island Earth, released in 1955, was praised by critics for both its special effects and script, and the science wasn't half bad either!

Flying saucers, aliens at war, mutant monsters and a damsel in distress. When I first saw this movie on television in the early 60s, it blew me away. The mutant gave me nightmares for years! And as I grew older and watched the movie every time it came on tv, I noticed it was one of the first movies where some of the aliens had a conscience. Pretty foreword thinking for 1955!

This is also, I think, the first time the word "neutrino" was used in a science fiction film. Today, most science fiction movies rely on special effects and explosions and not so much on actual science. Even shows that impress us, such as Star Trek and Star Wars, take too many liberties with science -- all sound and fury, no substance. In the good old days, at least they tried to dazzle you with the writing!

I own the movie, so I can watch it any time I want, and I watch it several times a year. I never tire of it!

 

Copyright © 2010 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.


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