Today is the start of a look at Science Fiction through film music. The film academy has somewhat looked down on the world of Science Fiction through film for a very long time. Why you may ask? It’s because it’s risky, it’s bold, and it upsets people’s view of their world as is presented to them.
What starts as a good representation of Science Fiction in film? One of the best examples is the work by Mary Shelly, which is of course Frankenstein.
This early work with Boris Karloff, Colin Clive and many others in the film was initially first considered Gothic Horror, but when looking at it as a closer examination, Frankenstein has everything to do with Science Fiction and the lines that were drawn or our drawn and what the consequences were or are when crossing the line. Frankenstein broke the mold of typical science fiction, blending horror with science fiction and creating questions in a person’s mind of what is too far? What are the negative consequences of such acts. Is it right to play god, creating something that shouldn’t be? You see? The list of questions could become far bigger than most science fiction creations.
This is just one example. Another example is that of Metropolis, one of the earliest works of Science Fiction in film…Godfried Huppertz composed an amazing score for the film.
This is one of those early works that defied the media, creating something that no one ever saw on screen before. This film showed some of the greatest imagery on screen for it’s time. Even with the film having a grim futuristic look to our own future society, industrialist and the poor people of the world inhabited this vision. Forbidden love, and tragic romance brought two things together through the world of science fiction and changed many ideas for what Science Fiction could be. The original film ran 147 minutes of pure movie magic, and currently it’s difficult to find the long lost original film. There is a version that floats around with about 84 minutes of material, but it feels choppy and incomplete especially with the horrid rock score by Goirgio Moroder. The original holds a essential place in the history of film music and science fiction to the world.
Let’s discuss another film from the same era, King Kong from 1933. It’s film music was composed by Max Steiner who just six years later composed the music to the classic Gone With the Wind. This film also broke barriers by means of stop motion technology brought to the screen with Ray Harryhousen.
King Kong represented science fiction in a different light also, a giant beast that succomed to the attraction of a beautiful woman, giving him heart and soul instead of a horrid beast that just wanted to destroy everything in his path. This film was very creative, and brought Dinosaurs, man and Ape to the forefront, challenging Science and Fiction to it’s very core. I really appreciate this film and it’s dramatic score that Max Steiner composed and made the film shine.
Moving on through the early history of Science Fiction in film brings us Destination Moon from the early 1950’s. This was before the attempts at manned missions to the moon. It featured four men who went on a nuclear space ship to the moon, racing against time against the Soviets. It was inovative for it’s time, since no one had the idea to go to the moon as of yet. Nasa probably had, but it was still in it’s early works. The score was composed by Heinz Sandauer and is brilliant for it’s time.
This really pushed the boundries of Science Fiction in film. Showing the moon for what the imagination could see with telescopes and other technologies of the time. Destination Moon represented even more than the early silent film From Earth to the Moon. This also illustrated the intense efforts of private enterprises to get a space ship from the Earth to the Moon. Essentially this was early ideals of what NASA could have been, but as NASA is a military funded company we have to still hope for more. Also it illustrated that there could be so much more done with space and the efforts of man to reach the stars.
Another film, and this will conclude this part of our journey of Science Fiction in Film, stands out in everyone’s mind is The Day the Earth Stood Still from 1951. The score was composed by Bernard Herrmann.
So this film also pushed boundries for ideals of science fiction. The film revolves around an alien named Klaatu and his eight foot tall robot to deliver a message to the people of Earth. Klaatu is very concerned with the technology that humans have developed and if not kept in check the Earth could be eliminated. The film really opens up a wide amount of questions regarding humanity’s efforts to create destructive technology or to live in peace with other races. This is also very allegorical for the frustration that is built up along with the predujice that exists between the races of mankind. A truly stunning film that builds clear to the end of the motion picture, leaving more questions raised by the end than at the beginning.
So truly in this part 1 of my examination of science fiction in film, limits were pushed and technologies were expanded to create better science fiction. Creating speculative science fiction for people to read about and absorb.
Stay Tuned for Part II of The History of Science Fiction in Film. Happy Listening!