Ah Youtube. That bastion for time wasting and fame seeking. While it’s true that there are millions of pointless videos on the site, Youtube is also a fantastic place to see a lot of great science fiction. There are many gems just waiting for you to watch.
One of my favourites is the original science fiction series from BBC, The Quatermass Experiment, first airing in 1953. Professor Bernard Quatermass, played by Reginald Tate, and his assistants wait in their laboratory for the return of the British Experimental Rocket Group’s latest manned rocket. The rocket crash lands in Wimbledon with the crew gravely ill and mutating. The rest of the series follows Quatermass as he attempts to save the world from alien spores.
Unfortunately only the first two episodes of this series remain as the experimental tele-recording of the time did not work very well and was abandoned after the second episode. Still, these two episodes are a wonderful example of early televised serial science fiction and well worth the time to watch. Fortunately the success of the series gave rise to a film adaptation the series called The Quatermass Xperiment, and subsequent series’, Quatermass II in 1955 and Quatermass and the Pit in 1958. Quatermass was also revived in 1979 for a fourth series, simply called Quatermass, with John Mills as the eponymous character.
In the summer of 1975 one of the greatest science fiction films ever to be filmed, at least to my young mind, was released, Death Race 2000. Death Race 2000 is a dystopian future film where the Transcontinental Road Race has become the national sport of the United States. In the race points are scored not only for speed, but for the number of innocent bystanders killed during the race. Starring David Carradine and an as yet unknown Sylvester Stallone, Death Race 2000 follows Frankenstein (Carradine) as he races across the United States killing his competitors, pedestrians or anyone else that gets in his way.
While there is a somewhat political story as the back drop I was too young to notice or even care. The thought of a race where drivers try to kill one another was too enticing for me not to see. And after much pleading my parents took me to see it. What they thought of it I never knew, but I was happy. Now thanks to Youtube you can watch this classic film and decide for yourself.
It was pretty good year for science fiction in 1975, because in September of that year the great Gerry Anderson gave us Space: 1999. The premise of Space: 1999 is that a nuclear explosion causes the moon to break its orbit from around the Earth. The inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha are carried away and unintentionally embark on an exploration of space, encountering alien civilisations, cultures and general adventure.
For many younger fans of science fiction this may sound somewhat improbable, but it was a fantastic series that deserved to be on for longer than it was. It was the more formulaic adventure plots of the second series, in an effort to appeal to American audiences, that ultimately did the series in. Space: 1999 can be seen on Youtube and should be seen by any fan of the genre.
Flash Gordon is a name every science fiction fan knows and thanks to Youtube we can watch some of his earliest adventures. These adventures thrilled our parents and grandparents, even though many of them would not call themselves science fiction fans. Searching Youtube for Flash Gordon will give you thousands of results which include several full length films, including Flash Gordon – The Deadly Ray from Mars. The Deadly Ray from Mars is an edited version of the 1938 serial Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars.
Compared to today’s films there is a shabbiness to the costumes and sets, but there is still something very exciting about this and other Flash Gordon films and serials. Perhaps it’s the general pulpiness of the stories, but Flash Gordon will remain a treat in all his forms.
One of the most important science fiction films ever produced was Fritz Lang’s 1927 film Metropolis. An astounding work of science fiction of the time Metropolis was not well received and was even harshly critiqued by H. G. Wells. However time has been kind to Metropolis and perhaps it was a film too far ahead of its time to be recognised for the genius it was, even by its own creator, Lang.
With Youtube hosting the film in its entirety, Metropolis can be seen by anyone interested in this ground breaking science fiction film. Despite any of its perceived flaws Metropolis is a Youtube must watch in my opinion.
The first science fiction film ever made was Georges Méliès Le Voyage dans la Lune in 1902. At a mere 18 minutes (at 12 frames per second) in length it is one of the single greatest achievements in film until that date. With newly created special effects and a budget that was considered lavish at the time, Le Voyage dans la Lune could possibly be considered one of the first ever blockbusters.
As I’m sure you’ve already surmised Youtube, with very little effort, can offer hour after hour of science fiction viewing and zero cost to you. I’ve taken advantage of Youtube’s many offerings and will be doing so for the foreseeable future.