Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Terror from the Year 5000 (1958)

Poster for Terror from the Year 5000 (1958)Terror from the Year 5000 (1958) by #RobertJGurneyJr
#WardCostello #JoyceHolden

A female from the future arrives seeking males to rejuvenate her doomed race.

“From Time Unborn … A Hideous She-Thing!”

”Hey, this thing’s radioactive. It’s hotter than a firecracker.”

#Horror #SciFi

Terror from the Year 5000 (1958) is one of the movies I referred to last week, when I noted that it was sometimes paired with The Brain Eaters (1958) as a double bill. I mentioned that I had never seen Terror from the Year 5000, and vowed that I would have to to track it down and watch it. Well… that’s exactly what happened. I should probably also note that I predicted that Terror from the Year 5000 would not be as good as The Brain Eaters. Was I right? Sort of… but it’s a little more complicated than that… 

Oddly enough, Terror from the Year 5000 (1958) and The Brain Eaters (1958) have more in common than a partnership in distribution. Last week I talked about the fact that The Brain Eaters was an unauthorized ripoff of The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein. Terror from the Year 5000, it seems, was also an unauthorized ripoff. According to Wikipedia:

“The screenplay is based (uncredited) on the short story “Bottle Baby” by print/TV/film writer Henry Slesar that was published in the science fiction magazine Fantastic (April 1957).”

What are the odds of that? Did film producers in the 1950s have no understanding of copyright? Or maybe it was the screenplay writers? Or maybe they just figured no one would ever see their movies, so they would never get caught.

Perhaps I am being unfair. There were plenty of science fiction films produced in the 1950s that were not ripoffs of published stories. Some producers even paid for the rights to adapt books and stories. But if we accept that it’s relatively uncommon for a science fiction movie made in, say, 1958, to be a blatant ripoff of someone else’s work, how the hell did two such ripoffs wind up travelling around together as a double feature? Did the distributors think “Hey, these two movies are a perfect set because they’re both unauthorized adaptations?”

I suppose it’s likely just another inexplicable coincidence (or something like that).

So, is Terror from the Year 5000 better or worse than The Brain Eaters? I think it is overall a worse movie that The Brain Eaters. However, it’s pretty wonderfully campy at times. Inadvertently hilarious, you might say. So bad it’s good, in fact. The Brain Eaters does share some of that magic as well. But I think Terror from the Year 5000 may just lower the bar far enough to be funnier than its travelling companion. So does that actually somehow make it a better movie? No… I don’t think so… but it might be more fun.

I would try to explain the plot of Terror from the Year 5000, but that would only give me headache. Trust me when I say that watching it unfold is part of the fun. At 71 minutes, it’s a bit longer than The Brain Eaters, but it doesn’t really feel like it. Both are pretty easy to sit through, if you’re in the right frame of mind. 

Terror from the Year 5000 (1958) is most definitely #NotQuiteClassicCinema. I had never heard of it before last week (or if I did, I’d forgotten). For those who appreciate campy, so-bad-it’s-good moviemaking, it is well worth checking out. Perhaps you could screen it alongside The Brain Eaters (1958) and recreate a 1950s double bill that terrified audiences – or at least made them run screaming from the theatre (I assume) on your next #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.