Men of the Apocalypse: Sci-Fi Edition
Who You Gonna Call...?
We're already on record stating that if all hell breaks loose we'd feel safer if our Top Ten Women of the Apocalypse were guarding the ramparts. But that doesn't mean that guys should be left totally out of the equation.
We've already identified the secret agents we would choose to be on the front lines in an end-of-days struggle and in this post we look at the heroes of sci-fi movies who in our opinion would be our go-to-guys in the Mother-of-All-Battles against unspeakable evil and devastation.
The Night of the Living Dead: Duane Jones as "Ben" 1968
A NASA space probe explodes generating radiation which not only re-animates the dead but turns the slow-walking corpses into fleash-eating ghouls. Ben is the unlikely saviour for a group of strangers barricaded in an isolated farmhouse.
"They're coming to get you, Barbra!"
There were certainly zombie movies before this one, but George Romero's 1968 The Night of the Living Dead (NLD) is arguably film-zero for modern zombie-apocalypse cinema and the template that shaped the genre for the next four decades.
Mister Romero's Neighborhood
Greorge Romero -- who before this film had worked as a director for Mister Roger's Neighborhood -- admits that he ripped off Richard Matheson's I Am Legend to turn what, in early drafts, started out as a horror-comedy flick into a film that stunned audiences with its skin-chewing savagery.
Ben Takes Charge
At the center of the mayhem is the character Ben, played by the La Sorbonne trained stage-actor Duane Jones. Ben's courage and intelligence are all that stands between a ravenous brigade of zombies and a motley crew of strangers trying to escape.
Why does Duane (Ben) Jones qualify to be one of the Sci-Fi Men of the Apocalypse?
Ben is the epitome of the apocalyptic leader. He is cool under fire yet forceful when required. He's the kind of character in a movie who when faced with the riskiest of propositions for rescue usually gets that great cliche line: It's the chance we'll have to take!
Duane Jones was even cool about playing the hero of a movie that spawned the entire sub-genre of zombie apocalypse movies. He went on to head the Theatre Department at the State University of New York at Old Westbury. The Duane L. Jones Recital Hall there is named for him.
His role in NLD broke Hollywood stereotyping, representing the first time a black actor was cast as a non-ethnic lead in a major US motion picture and the first time a black actor had the leading role in a horror film.
Mr. Jones is quoted as saying, "It never occurred to me that I was hired because I was black. But it did occur to me that because I was black it would give a different historic element to the film."
The Blob: Steven McQueen as "Steve" 1958
Gelatinous meteor goop consumes an entire town one resident at a time until Steve, a 28 year old teenager, convinces the authorities to act.
Steve single-handedly saves his hometown and the world from the most dangerous mass of strawberry Jell-O ever. It was curious casting to have McQueen play a teenager in this movie but it wasn't the last time this kind of thing happened. Eight years later, at the age of 36, he played a young teenager in the opening scenes of Nevada Smith.
No matter. This was his movie debut and the start of one of the biggest film careers of the last half of the 20th century.
Not exactly a film to brag about
The Blob was a surprise-hit horror movie though a number of people who were involved with it chose to leave it off their resume. Steve McQueen didn't seem to say much about the movie and it was also the only time that Terrence Steven McQueen went by the stage-name Steven. (His Vampire Diaries grandson goes by Steven R. McQueen.)
Even Aneta Corsaut who played Steve's girlfriend, and went on to play Andy of Mayberry's girlfriend Helen Crump, didn't exactly brag about her participation in the film.
Rain-blobs keep falling on my head...
But the most deafening silence comes from the two young men who wrote the 50's rock-and-roll inspired theme song for the movie. When audiences heard it in 1958, it would have been hard for them to believe that these two guys would go on to write some of the most beautiful and enduring music of our time.
A long way from The Look of Love, Burt Bacharach and Hal David made their film-score debut with the title track, Beware of the Blob. Take a listen...
Why does Steve (Steve) McQueen qualify to be one of the Sci-Fi Men of the Apocalypse?
Number one, he's Steve Freakin' McQueen, for goodness sake. He's the guy who wrote the book on Cool.
And number two, this is one of those movies that's so bad, it's good. It is both an awful 1950s B-movie and the perfect parody of an awful 1950s B-movie, all at the same time.
The Incredible Shrinking Man: Grant Williams as "Scott Carey" 1957
Scott, a normal-sized guy, is briefly engulfed by a radioactive cloud that causes him to shrink so much that he has to do battle with his house cat and, before it's all over, a basement spider.
The Incredible Shrinking Man was a different kind of horror movie. There was no monster terrorizing the town. The real problem was the lead character himself. This story is more closely aligned with true science-fiction in how it explores what happens when the very foundation of a person's self-identity is stripped away from him.
And let's face it, getting smaller is no guy's idea of a good time.
Why does Grant (Scott Carey) Williams qualify to be one of the Sci-Fi Men of the Apocalypse?
Setting this movie apart from others of the genre is a transcendent final voiceover scene in which rapidly-shrinking Scott Carey articulates the majestic unity he discovers between the microscopic and the macroscopic, the earthly and the ethereal, the logical and the spiritual:
"The unbelievably small and the unbelievably vast eventually meet, like the closing of a gigantic circle. And I felt my body dwindling, melting, becoming nothing. My fears locked away and in their place came acceptance. All this vast majesty of creation, it had to mean something. And then I meant something, too. Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something, too. To God there is no zero. I still exist."
Apocalypzia's Men/Women of the Apocalypse Series:
Top Ten Women of the Apocalypse
Mara Jade: Star Wars Expanded Universe
Men of the Apocalypse: Secret Agents
Derek Flint: Our Man Flint
Hedy Lamarr: Woman of the Apocalypse