During the 1950's the United Kingdom made 14 science fiction motion pictures totally within their own film industry. One such feature is the classic Alec Guinness 1951 comedy "The Man in the White Suit".
Additionally, the United Kingdom made 5 science fiction features with the United States such as 1956's "X-the Unknown".
Have a conversation about the science fiction motion pictures from the United Kingdom during that decade of the 1950's and it would be no surprise that 1955's "The Quatermass X-periment aka The Creeping Unknown" based upon the BBC's 1953 serial and 1957's "Quatermass 2 aka The Enemy from Space" based upon the BBC's 1955 serial would be mentioned.
Depending upon the make-up of the group having that conversation you might hear two other motion picture titles, 1954's "Devil Girl from Mars", and 1958's "The Trollenberg Terror aka The Crawling Eye".
The following four science fiction features use different approaches to the genre. The first and fourth have interesting back stories leading to the filming and I have gone into detail about them. The second might be said to move Mary Shelley into the 20th Century. While the third is a detective story with a different twist in its setting.
THE HOUSE IN THE SQUARE released in the United Kingdom in October 1951 and as
I'LL NEVER FORGET YOU released in the United States December 7, 1951
Before I describe what is the first 1950's science fiction motion picture from the United Kingdom. There is an interesting journey to this particular feature and it starts with an uncompleted novel published after the authors death.
The author was American Henry James who became a British citizen in 1915 the year before he died. His other works include the ghost story "The Turn of the Screw", the novella "Daisy Miller", and the novel "The Bostonians", which are also three examples of his 12 works that were turned into a motion picture.
In 1917 James' unfinished work about time travel, "The Sense of the Past", was published.
In 1926, American playwright and screenplay writer John L. Balderston, both 1931's "Dracula" and "Frankenstein", 1932's "The Mummy", and 1935's "Bride of Frankenstein", had written and co-produced the play "Berkley Square" based upon the unfished Henry James novel.
In 1933 American film company "Fox Film Corporation" turned Balderston's play into a motion picture starring British actor Leslie Howard, "Ashley Wilkes" in 1939's "Gone with the Wind", as "Peter Standish", and British actress Heather Angel, director John Ford's 1935 "The Informer", as "Helen Pettigrew", "Standish's" love from 1784 that he travels back in time to find.
1st Side note:
This story sounds very much like the 1980 motion picture, "Somewhere in Time", starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. Which was from a screenplay by Richard Matheson, the novels "I Am Legend" and "The Incredible Shrinking Man", and based upon his own 1975 novel, "Bid Time Return".
Directing "The House in the Square aka I'll Never Forget You" was British director Roy Ward Baker. Among his other films are the 1953 3-D, "Inferno", starring Robert Ryan, Rhonda Fleming, and William Lundigan. The outstanding true story of the sinking of H.M.S. Titanic, 1958's "A Night to Remember" starring Kenneth More, 1967's "Quatermass and the Pit aka Five Million Years to Earth", and in 1970 both "The Vampire Lovers" and "Scars of Dracula".
The screenplay based upon John L. Balterston's play updated to 1951 by New York born, Ranald MacDougall. Who wrote the screenplays for the Joan Crawford, Jack Carson, and Zachery Scott 1945 "Mildred Pierce", and the 1959 science fiction "The World, the Flesh and the Devil" starring Harry Belafonte, Inger Stevens, and Mel Ferrer.
Additional material was provided by "20th Century Fox" writer and director, Joseph L. Mankiewicz.
2nd Side Note:
Prior to the start of the Second World War several of the major American movie studios had money in British banks to use for possible co-productions. When the war began that money stayed untouched gathering interest and with the war's end the American studios now faced tax problems from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Should they bring those funds back to the United States they would be double taxed, first by the United Kingdom and second by the United States. So, the money stayed in the banks and was used to bring over and pay American actors, or make motion pictures such as Walt Disney's 1950 "Treasure Island" starring Robert Newton, and the co-production, 1953's "Knights of the Round Table", starring Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor, Mel Ferrer, and Stanley Baker. This is one such motion picture!
The film was to have gone into production as a total American release in January 1945 starring Gregory Peck and Maureen O'Hara, but was shelved by "20th Century Fox's" Darryl F. Zanuck. On July 13, 1950 a United Kingdom production started using funds that "20 Century Fox" had in British banks in exchange for the American studio obtaining the foreign distribution rights.
Tyrone Power portrayed "Peter Standish". American Power had just been seen in the 1951 western, "Rawhide", co-starring Susan Hayward and Hugh Marlowe. He would follow this feature with 1952's "Diplomatic Courier" co-starring Patricia Neal, and Stephen McNally.
Ann Blyth portrayed the dual roles of "Helen Pettigrew" and "Martha Forsyth". American Blyth had just been in 1951's "The Golden Horde" co-starring David Farrar and George Macready. She would follow this picture with 1952's "The World in His Arms" co-starring with Gregory Peck and Anthony Quinn.
Michael Rennie portrayed "Roger Forsyth". British actor Rennie had just been in director Robert Wise's classic 1951 science fiction "The Day the Earth Stood Still" co-starring Patricia Neal and Hugh Marlowe. The actor followed this feature with 1952's "Phone Call from a Stranger" co-starring with Bette Davis, Shelley Winters, and Gary Merrill.
The motion picture starts and ends in black and white, but the past is in Technicolor.
American atomic scientist "Peter Standish" is working at a laboratory in London, England.
"Peter's" co-worker "Rodger Forsyth" is worried that he is to tied too his work and invites him to the house he has inherited in "Berkley Square". At the house, "Peter" announces his dream of living in the 18th Century, a period of time he has been studying, because he is a cousin to the old "Pettigrew" family.
Suddenly, there is a freak lightning strike and when it stops "Peter Standish" finds himself in 1784 London.
He meets the "Pettigrew" family and is thought to be their cousin the first "Peter Standish". Who according to the histories he has been reading will marry "Kate Pettigrew", played by Beatrice Campbell, however, "Peter" is more interested in "Kate's" sister, "Helen", whom he couldn't find any records of her ever existing.
Above, left to right, Tyrone Power, Ann Blythe, and Beatrice Campbell.
"Peter" is making mistakes by mentioning things from the future to his 18th Century cousins and their acquaintances. However, it is the unknown "Helen" who becomes interested in him as the others are frightened of what he is saying and question his sanity. This will lead to this "Peter Standish" and "Helen Pettigrew" starting to fall in love, but "Peter" is worried because according to history he has to marry "Kate". Strangely in opposition to what the history books state, "Kate Pettigrew" breaks off their engagement freeing him up to be with "Helen" Whom he next takes to his basement laboratory in which "Peter" has recreated modern inventions to continue his work. "Helen" is very interested in what he can tell her about the future and their love becomes stronger.
Another problem for "Peter" is that the reality of the 18th Century is not the "Romanized England" he dreamt about living in. The people are narrow-minded, the poverty of the lower classes upsets his modern views, and the dirt and built-up garbage in the streets depress this visitor from London's future.
Things really turn bad for this "Peter Standish" when his basement laboratory is discovered by other family members, is given a sanity hearing, and will be committed to the "Bethlem Royal Hospital Asylum", but before he is taken away. "Peter" rushes to "Helen's" room and places a crux ansata, an Egyptian ankh or key of life, where she will find it as a symbol to remind her of his love.
Suddenly, there is another lightning strike and "Peter" finds himself back in 1951 at the house in Berkley Square. There a concerned "Roger Forsyth" tells him he had been acting like a madman for the last seven weeks. "Peter" is shocked when "Roger's" sister "Martha" the image of "Helen" enters his room. This surprise appearance causes "Peter" to run outside to the house's front yard cemetery where he discovers the grave of "Helen Pettigrew" and reads that she died from grief after he had been taken away to the asylum, but in this reality there is "Martha Forsyth" and the changed history of "Peter Standish".
Next is the first science fiction motion picture from England's "House of Hammer".
THE FOUR SIDED TRIANGLE released in the United Kingdom on May 25, 1953
The above poster's tag line:
HE OUTDID FRANKENSTEIN
Foreshadowed Fisher's classic 1957 "The Curse of Frankenstein" as part of a group of three remakes of 1930's "Universal Picture's" classic horror films, mentioned above, with screenplays from John L. Balderston.
This screenplay was also written by Terence Fisher, but the story outline was by Paul Tabori, a writer for British television. Who had adapted the short story by British science fiction writer William F. Temple, first published in a 1939 issue of the pulp magazine "Amazing Stories", of the same title.
Speaking to foreshadowing, most "Hammer Films" historians believe this screenplay was partly the basis for Terence Fisher's 1967 "Frankenstein Created Woman".
A look at Terence Fisher's career is one of four parts with the fictional "Bernard Quatermass", character actor Michael Ripper, and make-up artist Philip Leakey, in my article, "HAMMER FILMS: A Look at the 'House of Hammer' By An American Fan" available for your reading at:
Barbara Payton portrayed the dual role of "Lena Maitland" and "Helen". American "B" actress Payton had just appeared in "Hammer's" film-noir boxing movie, 1953's "The Flanagan Boy aka Bad Blonde", and followed this film with the 1953 comedy "Run for the Hills". On May 8, 1967, Barbara Payton, age 39, was found dead from a combination of her drug addiction and alcoholism.
Meanwhile, "Bill" has fallen in love with "Lena", but learns that she is in love with and plans to marry "Robin". It is at this point that he talks "Lena" into letting him use "The Reproducer" to create a duplicate of her for himself and thereby, as he sees it, solving the problem facing both men being in love with the same woman. "Dr. Harvey" had taken over for "Robin" in "Bill's" experimentation.
The fire has trapped both women and "Bill", but "Robin" and "Dr. Harvey" arrive in time to pull one the women out of the fire. When they turn to reenter the laboratory, they are unable to reach the other woman and "Bill" who both die in the fire.
Now the question facing both men is which woman did they save, because she has amnesia. "Dr. Harvey" remembers that at one point after "Lena's" return as she was working with "Robin" and "Bill". Her heart had stopped and "Robin" attached a device to the back of "Lena's" neck to restart her heart and it left two marks. On the back of this woman's neck are those two marks. The woman they saved must be "Lena".
As I previously mentioned the picture was directed by Terence Fisher and immediately followed his "Four Sided Triangle". Fisher's next motion picture woulld be 1953's "Blood Orange aka Three Stops to Murder" starring Tom Conway, producer Val Lewton's 1942 "Cat People" and 1943's "I Walked with a Zombie".
Paul Tabori adapted a radio play by Charles Eric Maine screenplay writer for 1955's "Timeslip aka The Atomic Man" and 1958's "Escapement aka The Electronic Monster".
Richard H. Landau wrote the actual screenplay and his work included, 1945's "Back to Bataan", 1951's "The Lost Continent", 1955's "The Quatermass X-perimenct", 1958's "Frankenstein 1970" starring Boris Karloff, and in 1979 Walt Disney Production's "The Black Hole".
Howard Duff portrayed "Dr. Stephen Mitchell". American Duff had just starred in the 1953 car racing feature "Roar of the Crowd", and followed this picture co-starring with his then wife, Ida Lupino, in 1953's "Jennifer".
Alan Wheatley portrayed "Dr. Smith, the Head of Security". He had just been seen in a 1952 motion picture version of Charles Dickens "The Pickwick Papers" and followed this feature with 1953's "The Limping Man" co-starring Lloyd Bridges. In 1951 Wheatley portrayed the first television series "Sherlock Holmes", and in 1955 he was the "Sheriff of Nottingham" on Richard Greene's "The Adventures of Robin Hood".
Next day, it is discovered that both "Vanessa Mitchell" and "Dr. Crenshaw" are missing and their whereabouts are unknown. Although "Crenshaw" is connected to the satellite project, his disappearance does not postpone the launch of the unmanned rocket carrying the first satellite. However, the spacecraft does not reach its maximum altitude to deploy the satellite. So, it goes into an orbit of the Earth until it will eventually fall out of that orbit and burn on reentry into the Earth's atmosphere.
"Dr. Mitchell" cannot believe the accusation and to prove his innocence wants to use the larger two pilot spacecraft built for later manned missions and recover the first spacecraft to prove how ridiculous "Smith's" theory of the case is. The security head does reveal to the scientist that his wife is mixed up with a spy with a degree from a German university. "Dr. Crenshaw" plans to make copies of the blueprints for the satellites and the space craft, if he hasn't already, and take them to an unnamed Eastern-Bloc country.
"Dr. Mitchell" discovers that a security guard for the base was killed a week prior to the launch in a strange accident and that a new team member was added the same week and they were unknown to even the project head before their arrival. Could this all me connected to "Dr. Crenshaw" and the real reason for the first spacecraft's failure?
If the launching and flight of the spaceship looks familiar to some of my readers, that is because you're looking at stock footage from co-producer Robert L. Lippert's 1950 "Rocketship X-M".
Now we get to an ending reminiscent of 1950's "Rocketship X-M" with one change.
For their return to Earth the second stage of the spacecraft needs to be jettisoned, but it explodes causing the main spacecraft to go out of control and plunging back to Earth. Will Howard Duff and Eva Bartok end up like Lloyd Bridges and Osa Massen in the 1950 motion picture?
The next film is described, depending upon the critic or reviewer, as science fiction, horror, or science fiction horror. Not to overlook the politics of the story!
In June 1951, Austria-Hungry born producer Irving Allen, both Alan Ladd's 1954 "Hell Below Zero" and "The Black Knight", Jose Ferrer and Trevor Howard's 1955 "The Cockleshell Heroes", 1964's "The Long Ships" starring Richard Widmark and Sidney Poitier, and the entire Dean Martin "Matt Helm" series, announced he was going to make "The Gamma People", starring Brian Donlevy and Virginia Grey. The film would be based upon a story by Louis Pollack and the screenplay was scheduled to be written by Oliver Crawford. Pollack's story was a docudrama about Nazi Germany's experiments with cell mutation. The initial film which would be shot in Austria, but it fell through because of lack of financial support.
In December 1951, the project was restarted when Allen and Albert Broccoli, "The James Bond" series, formed "Warwick Productions". American director Robert Aldrich was to direct and he revised the story by adding elements of science fiction. American actor Dick Powell was to star, but the project again was put on hold.
The motion picture would finally go into production in December 1954, but not until the "House Committee on Un-American Activities" became involved and made the mistake of confusing writer Louis Pollack with a clothier of the same name and refused to admit their mistake. It would take another five years before the mistake was corrected and this Louis Pollack's name was cleared.
The motion picture would now be directed by John Gilling. The British comedy featuring Bela Lugosi, 1952's "Mother Riley Meets the Vampire". Among Gilling's "Hammer Films" are 1961's "Shadow of the Cat" starring Andre Morell and Barbara Shelley, 1962's "The Pirates of Blood River" starring Kerwin Matthews and Christopher Lee, 1963's "The Scarlet Blade" starring Oliver Reed and Lionel Jeffries, and 1966's "The Reptile" starring Noel William and Jennifer Daniel.
The screenplay was written by Gilling and John W. Gossage, whose only other screenplay was 1958's, "Prescription Murder" using the name of John Twist. Robert Aldrich received no credit, but it was his story outline that was used for the screenplay.
Paul Douglas portrayed "Mike Wilson". Douglas had co-starred with Richard Widmark in 1950's "Panic in the Streets", he co-starred with Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Ryan, and Marilyn Monroe in 1952's "Clash by Night" and co-starred with William Holden, June Allyson, Barbara Stanwyck, Fredrick March, Walter Pidgeon and Shelley Winters in director Robert Wise's 1954 "Executive Suite".
Leslie Phillips portrayed "Howard Meade". Character actor Phillips's voice, not his face, is familiar to anyone who had seen the first two "Harry Potter" films, he's the voice of the "Sorting Hat". The actor had just been seen in the John Gregson and Diana Dora comedy, 1955's "Value of Money", he followed this picture with five appearances on British television.
Above, Paul Douglas on the left with Leslie Phillips next to him.
Eva Bartok portrayed "Paula Wendt". Bartok had just starred in the Austrian 1955 motion picture "Dunja" and followed this feature with the West German "Ohne dich wird es Nacht (Without You It will be Night)" co-starring with the film's director, Curd Jurgens.
Walter Rilla portrayed "Boronski". The German character actor had just been in the American "B" crime drama, 1955's "Track the Man Down" starring Kent Taylor and 22-years old, non-hit singer yet, Petula Clark. Rilla followed this picture with an episode of the British television series "The Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel".
Journalist's "Mike Wilson" and photographer "Howard Meade" are on a train for Salzburg, Austria, to cover a musical festival. When their train car accidently uncouples and rolls down an abandoned branch line and they find themselves in the tiny country of "Gudavia".
Later that night, "Howard" is surrounded by what could only be described as a Nazi "goon squad", but they act and look like mindless emotionless zombies that react in unison against unwanted people, or troublesome citizens including killing them.
"Mike" and 'Howard" question "Anna" and she lets slip that the man who gave her the note is dead and again slips referring to "Lochner" as ""Macklin". A name "Mike Wilson" seems to remember and will eventually figure it out as well as who "Dr. Boronski" really is.
What is happening in "Gudavia" is "Boronski" and "Macklin" are using gamma rays to genetically change the cell structure of the country's children to create either geniuses or imbeciles at their will. World conquest is the familiar ultimate plan of the two with their new "Master Race".