Things in Science Fiction Movies

Things from The Thing, and other things.

The Twilight Zone: Time Enough at Last

The Twilight Zone: Time Enough at Last (1959)

When bank teller Henry Bemis goes down to the bank vault for some peaceful reading in this Twilight Zone classic episode ‘Time Enough at Last’, he takes with him a newspaper that gives us a good quick explanation of what’s about to go seriously wrong with the world. The headline reads H-Bomb Capable of Total Destruction.

Not much might survive the subsequent apocalypse, but the newspaper itself shows up again, four episodes later, in ‘What You Need’. In this case, it’s the violent loser Renard who has the paper brought to him, hoping to use a mysterious fountain pen to divine the winners of the listed races.

The recurrence of the newspaper might be an in-joke by the programme’s makers, or just a handy reuse of a prop. As the latter episode continues into the evening, however, there’s no chance that the two episodes take place on the same day. (Unless Bemis is still carrying yesterday’s paper…)

The newspaper in The Twilight Zone: What You Need
The Twilight Zone: Judgment Night

The Twilight Zone: Judgment Night (1959)

In Judgment Night, an episode from the first series of The Twilight Zone, the British Ship SS Queen of Glasgow makes an ill-fated voyage through the dangerous waters of the Atlantic Ocean in 1942.

One odd omission from a British vessel is any mention of tea, and this isn’t entirely by chance. The original screenplay did call feature references to the British sailor’s favoured refreshment, but they were cut.

One of the sponsors at the time was General Foods, who were selling an instant coffee called Sanka, and they objected to this reference to a rival beverage. Eventually, one line was changed to a reference only to a ‘tray for the bridge’, and elsewhere, the characters are seen drinking only coffee.

2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

About twenty-five minutes into Kubrick’s 2001, during the gravity-free shuttle ride, there’s a great special effect: a loose pen, floating through the air.

Apparently it took them a long time to get this shot right: any kind of messing about with bits of wire just wouldn’t have looked realistic. The effect was finally achieved by sticking the pen to a large sheet of glass, and slowly rotating the glass in front of the camera.

When you’re watching the movie, if you look carefully, you can see the very slight resistance when the airline hostess picks the pen ‘out of the air’, and it detaches from the glass.

Airline hostess picks a pen out of the air in 2001.
The Last Man on Earth

The Last Man on Earth (1964)

The Last Man on Earth features a lengthy flashback sequence, during which we find out a little more about the origins of the disease that has all but wiped out the human race. An immensely unconvincing newspaper is produced, on which the headline reads: PLAGUE CLAIMS HUNDREDS: is Europes’ disease carried on the wind?

Maybe the typesetters were already starting to feel the effects of the disease. Then again, it may be the end of the world, but that’s no excuse for sloppy punctuation.

Come to think of it, I’m not too sure about the capitalisation here either. But I’d best stop now, before people start muttering about stones and glass houses…


Tarantula (1955)

In the mid 1950s, the young Clint Eastwood arrived in Hollywood, where he signed a contract with Universal (then known as Universal-International). What followed was a series of bit parts: he played a scientist in Revenge of the Creature (the sequel to The Creature from the Black Lagoon), and again in Never Say Goodbye; and had the promising-sounding role of “First Saxon” in Lady Godiva of Coventry.

Also in 1955, he took to the skies in a brief appearance as a fighter pilot leading a squadron into battle with a giant spider in Tarantula, a take on the giant-creature-on-the-rampage genre that maybe suffers in comparison to the previous year’s Them!, but does have its fans, and some nice FX.

still from Tarantula (the movie)