1) Monolith Monsters (1957)
This one took me by surprise. The stills I had seen from the film kept me from watching it, as it made me think, “Big, scary crystals? Really?” Instead, this movie turned out not to be goofy, but a fairly adult, literate and effective thriller with not only giant, threatening crystals but petrified people as well. It’s well worth catching.
2) The 27th Day (1957)
This blatantly anti-communist film is bizarre. Another one that slipped by me somehow, it stars Gene (War of the Worlds) Barry in a story about individuals from around the world (chosen by aliens) who are given the means to destroy all human life on earth. A fascinating study of human morality and ethics.
3) I Married a Monster From Outer Space (1958)
Despite the lurid title, this is a smart little gem with a cool monster design. Future bestseller author (and Texas John Slaughter TV star) Thomas (Tom) Tryon stars in this thoughtful tale about aliens switching places with humans.
4) The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)
How I missed this one, I’ll never know. My son James was considering taking a class on Sci-Fi films at Stanford. I asked him to read me the course list of movies. This one was on it; I was shocked I had never even heard of it. I immediately bought the DVD. What a classic! Very sexy, literate and adult, this Val (Quatermass I and II) Guest-directed end-of-the-world suspense thriller stars Edward Judd and features a surprisingly sensuous performance by former Walt Disney ingenue Janet Munro. Don’t miss it (and watch for a very young Michael Caine as a policeman directing traffic).
5) Seconds (1966)
Rock Hudson’s best performance (and Rock’s own favorite movie from his filmography) is in this incredible John (The Manchurian Candidate) Frankenheimer thriller about second chances in life. It starts slow and then builds and builds to its shocking climax.
6) The Stranger Within (1974)
This ingenious little TV movie written by the great Richard Matheson (if you don’t know who he is, then shame on you — and look him up on IMDB) stars Barbara (I Dream of Jeannie) Eden as a pregnant housewife who begins to do some very, very strange things. Does her behavior have anything to do with the forthcoming baby?
7) Endangered Species (1982)
The plot of this movie revolves around the mysterious cattle mutilations that were taking place in the late 1970s/early 1980s. The great cast includes Robert Urich, JoBeth Williams, Paul Dooley, Hoyt Axton and Peter Coyote. Bob (Myron Moose) Foster turned me on to this one.
8) Impulse (1984)
Tim Matheson and a very sexy Meg Tilly star in this adult sci-fi thriller about a rural town whose inhabitants lose all impulse control.
9) The Stuff (1985)
I love Larry Cohen movies, especially when they star Michael Moriarty. Their collaborations include Q, A Return to Salem’s Lot, It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive and The Stuff. Cohen usually writes his own films. He’s very inventive and always entertaining, as is Moriarty. The Stuff is a kind of Invasion of the Body Snatchers type of thriller revolving around this Dream Whip-style goo that everyone seems to be hooked on. Big time fun!
10) The Hidden (1987)
This little sleeper doesn’t reveal itself to be a sci-fi film until well into the movie. It stars two people with whom I’ve made movies: the talented Kyle (Dune) MacLachlan and my Return of the Living Dead pal Clu Gulagher. They pursue a violent, speed-driving, rock music-loving criminal alien that can pass its sentience from human to human.
11) Body Snatchers (1994)
This oft-overlooked second sequel to Invasion of the Body Snatchers was directed by Abel (King of New York) Ferrara. It (brilliantly) takes place on an Army base where everyone already looks and acts alike (because of the uniforms and military rules and restrictions), making it extremely difficult to tell normals from pod people. Meg Tilly is amazingly scary… “Where you gonna run? Where you gonna hide? NOWHERE!”
12) Infested (2002)
This little gem of an Invasion of the Body Snatchers/mutant insects mash-up was written and directed by Academy Award-nominated writer (A History of Violence) and my former Masters of the Universe art department production assistant, Josh Olson.
13) Attack the Block (2011)
Aliens invade but pick the wrong neighborhood in this wild little film that pits very scary aliens against South London teen gangbangers. Woo hoo!
I should also mention a little favorite of mine (and Mike Kaluta’s), The Magnetic Monster (1953). We mostly like it for the incredibly spectacular footage appropriated from the 1930s German film GOLD.
What do you think? Got more to add? Agree? Disagree? Lemme know!