Invasion ’51: The Birth of Alien Cinema

BearManor. Jul. 2022. 223p. ISBN 9781629339931. $25. FILM
Aliens threatened the earth three times in 1951, and humans loved it. With a backdrop of Cold War paranoia and publicized sightings of UFOs, this book by documentary filmmaker Kotz (director of the 2011 doc Hi There Horror Movie Fans about Virginia’s legendary horror movie broadcaster Bill “The Bowman Body” Bowman) shows not only how American audiences were primed for a new type of monster movie but also how a beleaguered film industry was ready to deliver. Kotz takes a deep dive into three alien-invasion flicks that premiered in 1951: The Thing from Another World, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and The Man from Planet X. Each film gets its due, with an exploration of its production, reception, and legacy. The author combines extensive research with scholarly insight (he teaches film at Radford Univ.), resulting in a thoughtful yet engaging read. Movie buffs will enjoy Kotz’s discussions of Planet X’s marketing and of the debate over who actually directed The Thing, and his analysis of journalism’s role in the films and the Department of Defense’s response to alien-invasion flicks broadens the book’s scope.
VERDICT Useful for film scholars or sociologists, yet still accessible for general sci-fi fans, Kotz’s book is a fascinating look at the debut of an extraterrestrial movie menace that’s still popular today.
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