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Keep Watching the Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties (2 Volumes in 1)

4.7 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0786404797
ISBN-10: 0786404795
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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6 Up—This long-overdue revision of the magisterial original (volume one, 1982; volume two, 1986) offers lengthy, richly informative, and extensively revised essays on hundreds of films, packing the entries into one hefty volume and rearranging them from chronological to a more accessible alphabetical order. Film scholar Warren opens with perceptive reflections on the history, common motifs, and enduring appeal of the era's science-fiction movies, then in an unfailingly lively style goes on to examine releases from the renowned The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Manchurian Candidate to the likes of Teenagers from Outer Space and Attack of the Crab Monsters. While limiting his purview to feature films (not serials) with at least perfunctory scientific content released theatrically in the U.S. from 1950 to 1962, Warren includes within extensive back matter a long list of excluded films from the period, with explanations as to why they were left out. Other extras include a release-date index, a list of announced-but-never-made titles, and a huge multimedia resource list. Enhanced by hundreds of black-and-white stills, plus two arresting sections of posters in color, this opinionated but clear-eyed and authoritative labor of love will not only draw scuttling hordes of researchers but also turn even casual browsers into rabid fans. It is a significant addition to any pop-culture collection, even those including such broader but far shallower guides as C. J. Henderson's Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Movies (Facts On File, 2001) or Phil Hardy's The Overlook Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction (Overlook, 1995).—John Peters, New York Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Warren's reference on 1950s science-fiction cinema receives a revised edition, following volumes published in 1982 and 1986. Covering nearly 300 films released between 1950 and 1962, this handsomely produced new volume is the premier reference for this subject. Although prominent films like Forbidden Planet, Them! The Time Machine, and The Fly receive more extensive coverage, all of the essays are newly revised and include production, cast, and distribution credits; a plot synopsis; production details and fun background facts; discussion of the direction, acting, effects, and other prominent elements of the film; and information about public and critical reaction. Attractive photos accompany most of the essays, and posters for the best-known films are reproduced in 35 color plates. Nine appendixes cover release dates; films considered but ultimately not listed (and why); films announced but never made; films that have been remade; and a list of science-fiction serials of the period. A large bibliography and careful indexing of titles and all credited individuals show the research effort made on the book. This revision puts films in alphabetical rather than chronological order, improving ease of use. Although the audience for 1950s science fiction may be dwindling, this is the kind of reference that not only informs but also creates new fans. Warren's essays show not only his knowledge but also his love of the subject matter. Even though, as the author openly admits, gems are rare among the dross in these cheaply made films, he is good at identifying details, moments, and subtexts that make watching them entertaining. Highly recommended, especially for libraries that don't own earlier editions. Put this in the circulating collection, where fans can fully enjoy its compulsively readable essays. --Neil Hollands --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 1344 pages
  • Publisher: McFarland & Company (November 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786404795
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786404797
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 2.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,306,258 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
If you're a fan, or even a casual watcher, of science fiction movies of the 1950s and early 1960s, this exhaustively researched, 2-1/4-inch-thick tome deserves a prominent place in your library. It is, quite simply, THE definitive reference book on the subject. Period. There is none better. The conscientious reviewer MIGHT point out only one minor "problem"--but more on that later.

Mr. Warren does an unbelievably thorough job of presenting the most minute details of virtually every American science fiction film produced from 1950 through 1962. The classics are all here, of course. "Destination Moon," "The Day the Earth Stood Still," "The Thing From Another World," "Forbidden Planet," "Creature from the Black Lagoon" and "War of the Worlds" each receive 10 or so pages of treatment (in very small, closely spaced print, mind you). Mr. Warren tells you everything you could ever want to know about the script, the director, the actors, the special effects (such as they were, in those days), the budget, the editing, the musical score and the reception that each movie got on its initial release. He includes meaningful, interesting details and fascinating anecdotes, many of which I can't imagine how he managed to dig up. Lesser films such as (to pick a couple at random) "Mesa of Lost Women" and "The Rocket Man" get only a page or so, but still with full discussions of each film's production and how it fits into the genre. Well-chosen still photos, typically printed in full-page size and in many cases not the same ones seen in other books, illustrate some of the movies.

I found that the best way to use Mr. Warren's monumental work is to refer to it just after watching one of the films that it covers (which means ANY science fiction movie of the era).
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Format: Paperback
Bill Warren's massive 1300+ page two volume set, "Keep Watching The Skies!: American Science Fiction Films of the Fifties", is by far the most comprehensive work of its kind, however, it is not completely exhaustive. Incredibly detailed - where else could one find a lengthy discussion of four different scripts by four different authors, each vying for the honors in "Conquest Of Space"? - the volumes include penetrating reviews of the "Big Five": "The Day The Earth Stood Still"; "The War of the Worlds"; "The Thing From Another Planet"; "Forbidden Planet" and "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", as well as a host of lesser heralded lights. Warren grew up during this era and his (self admitted) nostalgia creeps in periodically in an entertaining way, but not to the point of interfering with his objectivity. In fact, it's nostalgic passion that provided him the "rocket fuel" to tackle and complete such a formidable task. As well as the "Big Five", I derived considerable pleasure from reading Warren's favorable reviews of such spicy delectables as "The Man From Planet X"; "Kronos"; "The Creeping Unknown" and "The Incredible Shrinking Man" - films that made lasting graphic impressions upon me as a child in the 1950s. I have two quibbles - both relatively minor - with "Keep Watching The Skies!" - the first is Warren's inclusion of a small number of films such as "The Bowery Boys" and "Jungle Jim", where the sci-fi elements are so scant and peripheral as to hardly qualify them for the genre.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Keep Watching The Skies! is the most detailed and engrossing survey of golden-age science fiction films I have ever read. No other film/video guide on the topic compares with it. Warren usually provides a synopsis of the plot, a discussion of the cast and how they perform in the film, and especially useful stuff about the writers and directors. We learn how the film was received in its time, and how well it's held up over the years. Warren is not the source for 1-5 star "ratings" of these films, or for smug quips about how awful some old movies can be, but the reader always gets an idea of how good the films are, or how bad. Overall the book provides the best reading I've found on these films individually and on the 1950s science fiction boom. Believe all of the rave reviews and buy this book!
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Format: Paperback
When I first obtained the two thick yellow hardbound volumes of this book more than a decade ago, I could hardly express my delight at the serious and detailed attention given to those films I loved so much as a child and teenager in the golden 1950s. I still enjoy dipping into it. A relevant story... About a decade ago, my brother was visiting me for a week. My movie- and TV-related books were in what was then the guest bedroom. After his first night with me, I asked if he had had any trouble sleeping, since my neighborhood is sometimes noisy and he was in those days troubled with insomnia. He replied, "I never got to sleep." When I asked what the trouble was, he said, "No trouble, I just saw KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES on the shelf, got it down, and couldn't stop reading!" There is one problem with the first volume of the book, a problem the author himself points out--- it was written before the age of videotape, so that the author was unable to watch any of the films he discussed while writing the discussions, and was unable to see some of the films, such as DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS, at all. This is one reason the second volume is so much fatter than the first, because when it was written video tapes were becoming available for all the films being analyzed. One can only dream of what the first volume would have been like, had it been written in 1990, say. But we should be thankful for what we have. A detailed treatment of some of the best-loved films ever made, and a literate, thoughtful, informed and accurate treatment too. Highly recommended.
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