Terror in the Theater: Fifties Fears

Forbidden Planet poster

Forbidden Planet poster

The great number and popularity of science fiction movies in the 1950s has led some to call the decade the “Golden Age of Science Fiction Films.”  The fantasy and adventure embodied in the science fiction movies of the time often masked real fears and anxieties of the Cold War era.  It seemed the advent of atomic weapons, the rise of Communism, and the confrontation with the Soviet Union threatened the future of the United States.  These factors, along with increasing numbers of flying saucer sightings, led to a climate of paranoia.

Science fiction films of that decade commonly expressed several themes:  fear of technology leading to unintended consequences; invasion of the planet by aliens; and the effects of atomic radiation.  Because science fiction movies were not constrained by reality, more imaginative outcomes and plot lines could be addressed in creative ways.  Often included were monsters ranging from aliens from the furthest reaches of space to prehistoric monsters from the depths of the ocean.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers poster

Invasion of the Body Snatchers poster

Terror in the Theater, an exhibit mounted jointly by the American Heritage Center and the University of Wyoming Art Museum, showcases the fears faced by the world in the 1950s, whether real or imagined.  Included in it are posters, photos, letters, film, and props from 50’s movies contrasted with earlier and later science fiction classics such as King Kong and Star Trek.  Featured are many images from the Forrest Ackerman Papers.

Terror in the Theater opens today, September 9th, at the University Art Museum, with a reception to be held 6-8 PM.

–Keith Reynolds, Curator, Terror in the Theater

This entry was posted in events, exhibits, motion picture history, popular culture, resources, television history. Bookmark the permalink.

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