Its a curious thing that for five or six years following the end of the Second World War, both horror and science fiction genre films all but disappeared, except for some low-budget serials, campy science monster movies and weak variations on The Lost World - all escapist fodder. The Post War period seemed briefly to banish the Gothic horror from cinema in favor of the new cinema - film noir - a gritty, ultra-realistic dramatic style. Hard edged fantasy was not in vogue. However, the horrors of the Atomic Age would not be held in abeyance for long. The blast at Trinity test site in 1945, indeed the whole technological experience of the Second World War, in which every imagination of man was turned to unrestrained destruction, changed the world forever and ushered in a new consciousness of the real dangers of Science.
This uneasy relationship with science formed the subtext to countless Sci-Fi films of the late 1940s and 1950s. Science became both the author of monstrous power unleashed upon mankind and its salvation. In most of these films the scientist is the hero and atomic radiation is, often as not, the weapon that delivers us from the giant mutated horror created by that same atomic energy. The most prominent exception is Howard Hawk's The Thing from Another World, in which a reactionary military commander saves the day. A common theme of these films is that of the exterior threat. Although there is some introspection, a little wondering questioning of our endeavors, the films of this era are remarkably consistent in perceiving the threat as coming from without, rather than from within us. Generally, the threat is a some form of mutated or alien life, and its intentions toward humankind are unflinchingly hostile. These are the Creature Features, as much horror films for a scientific age as they are science fiction, yet those highlighted here rise above mere shock value to speak of less fantastic, but no less frightening, subjects.
In the age of the Cold War, Red scares and Sen. Joseph McCarthy, it should not be surprising that America (and Britain) adopted a similarly dogmatic and orthodox viewpoint with regard to science and its relation to society. Consequently, many of these films have been considered by some to be subconscious or metaphoric commentary on McCarthyism and the Cold War mentality. It would take a new generation for Sci-Fi to turn inward and find the monsters within society and within the mind of man, a generation turned on to psychedelic drugs and rock and roll and tuned out of mainstream America.