December 14, 2010

Everything I Know I Learned From B Movies

Sometimes, watching a B movie is like striking up a polite conversation with a slightly seedy old man in worn-out, ill-fitting clothes, and finding out that he has a Ph.D. in Anthropology and has lived the kind of rich, event-filled life that puts your humdrum existence to shame. Tucked among the modest production values, mannered acting, and formulaic plots are pearls of timeless wisdom and spot-on prognosticating that are all the more impressive coming from an unpretentious genre flick.

I recently had one of those moments watching an exchange between two characters in one of my all-time favorite science fiction films, Five Million Years to Earth (aka Quatermass and the Pit; 1967). The two lines of dialog, near “throw away” lines penned over 40 years ago, were so prescient, so relevant to one of the greatest issues facing humanity in 2010, that I hit Pause and backed up the recording to make sure I had heard it right. I wrote them down, thinking I’d update the IMDb quotes database with a real gem, but of course, someone had beaten me to it.

The categorized list of quotes below, culled from IMDb and my own notes, demonstrates the wit and wisdom of B movies—and dare I say—their relevance to our complicated 21st century lives.

(A particularly personal note: I’ve stored most of these in my work e-mail signature database. I’ve set them up to generate randomly, but sometimes I will select one that seems particularly appropriate to the e-mail discussion at hand. Of course, I am near retirement age and no longer care so much what my co-workers think.)

Astronomy and Cosmology

Watch the skies, everywhere! Keep looking. Keep watching the skies!
   -- Ned “Scotty” Scott, The Thing From Another World (1951)

It wasn't the right time for us to meet. But there'll be other nights, other stars for us to watch. They'll be back.
   -- John Putnam, It Came From Outer Space (1953)


Glenn: Mutual trust is a beautiful thing
K. Fuji: That won't buy groceries.
   -- Monster Zero (1965)


People, especially children, aren't measured by their IQ. What's important about them is whether they're good or bad, and these children are bad.
   -- Alan Bernard, Village of the Damned (1960)

I'm considered a scholar, but unfortunately that hasn't made me rich.
   -- Prof. Jackson, Flight to Mars (1951)

It's hard to come up with answers when you don't even know what the question is.
   -- Lt. General Edward Considine, The Giant Claw (1957)

Ahhh, these monsters are as stupid as human beings!
   -- Detective Shindo, Ghidora the Three-Headed Monster (1964)

The Environment and Climate Change

Prof. Bernard Quatermass:  The will to survive is an odd phenomenon. Roney, if we found out our own world was doomed, say by climatic changes, what would we do about it?
Dr. Mathew Roney:  Nothing, just go on squabbling as usual.
   -- Five Million Years to Earth (1967)

Commander John J. Adams:  Nice climate you have here. High oxygen content.
Robby the Robot:  I seldom use it myself, sir. It promotes rust.
   -- Forbidden Planet (1956)

Food and Drug Safety

Nestor 1: [eating a hot dog for the first time] There's no dog in this.
Cowboy: Uh-uh.
Nestor 1: Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, soybean meal, niacin, dextrose, and sodium nitrate flavoring.
Cowboy: Yup, that's what we call "meat" back home.
   -- Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)

Foreign Policy and Defense

We didn't come here to fight monsters, we're not equipped for it.
   -- David Reed, Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

Alien Spaceman: At last Commander, we meet as your people say... face to face!
Cmdr. Richard 'Reef' Holloway: That's a face?
   -- The Atomic Submarine (1960)

When an armed and threatening power lands uninvited in our capitol, we don't meet him with tea and cookies!
   -- General Edmunds, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)

Perhaps, on your way home, someone will pass you in the dark, and you will never know it... for they will be from outer space.
   -- Criswell, Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)


Mars is almost as big as Texas, maybe it has monsters.
  -- Lt. James Calder, It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958)

The desert, it gives people wonderful ideas!
   -- Dr. Matt Hastings, Tarantula (1955)

Health Care

Are you insured? I'm insured. It's good to be insured. At least it cheers you up.
   -- Sladden, Five Million Years to Earth (1967)

Law and Politics

We're all part monsters in our subconscious, so we have laws and religion!
   -- Commander John J. Adams, Forbidden Planet (1956)

I’m here, and I want action!
   -- Senator Walter K. Powers, The Brain Eaters (1958)

You know, someone once told me when a bureaucrat wants to keep his job, he stamps everything 'Top Secret.'
   -- Freya Neilson, These Are the Damned (1963)


It isn't what's out there that's dangerous, as much as what's in us.
   -- Dr. John Rollason, The Abominable Snowman (1957)

I think it's a matter of chemistry how the brain thinks. The problem is to find out what chemical combinations are responsible for success... failure... happiness... misery.
   -- Dr. Patrick Cory, Donovan’s Brain (1953)

One is always considered MAD, if one discovers something that others cannot grasp!
   -- Dr. Eric Vornoff, Bride of the Monster (1955)

Yet all the suns that light the corridors of the universe shine dim before the blazing of a single thought...
   -- Dr. Peter Duval, Fantastic Voyage (1966)

I believe a man lost in the mazes of his own mind may imagine that he's anything.
   -- Doctor Lloyd, The Wolf Man (1941)

The mind of man had thought of everything -- except that which was beyond his comprehension!
   -- Narrator, It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955)

Do old ideas rest comfortably in an open mind...?
   -- Prof. Van Helsing, Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)

It's easy to see a demon in every dark corner.
   -- Dr. John Holden, Night of the Demon (1957)

Science and Technology

It would answer the riddle, wouldn't it? Remote-controlled creatures, their brains powered by atomic energy, roaming the streets, directed from a central point.
   -- Dr. Chet Walker, Creature With the Atom Brain (1955)

In our very hands, we have the cosmic force of creation itself. In our very hands, we can shape life, take it apart, put it together again, mould it like putty.
   -- Dr. Alexander Thorkel, Dr. Cyclops (1940)

You know this Royston chap. Brilliant, of course, I'm sure. But the trouble with these scientific types is they can't see the easy way out of anything. It's got to be complicated if it's going to work.
  -- Major Cartwright, X: The Unknown (1956)

You boys like to call this the pushbutton age. It isn't, not yet. Not until we can team up atomic energy with electronics. Then we'll have the horses as well as the cart.
   -- Dr. Cal Meacham, This Island Earth (1955)

I cannot - yet I must. How do you calculate that? At what point on the graph do "must" and "cannot" meet? Yet I must - but I cannot!
   -- Ro-Man, Robot Monster (1953)

The paths of experimentation twist and turn through mountains of miscalculations and often lose themselves in error and darkness!
   -- Kurt, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962)

Why is it always, always so costly for Man to move from the present to the future?
   -- Dr. Judson Uhl, 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)

The hell with radiation. Let's go.
   -- Gen. George Treegar, Angry Red Planet (1960)

Social Conflict

Dr. Roger Bentley (archaeologist): This one died from a blow from a heavy blunt instrument.
Dr. Jud Bellamin: Well, that’s a sign of a higher civilization.
   -- The Mole People (1956)

Work and Personnel Management

What we need is young blood... and brains...
   -- Dracula, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

Many people on Earth are beginning to face the same problem: too much free time, too little work.
  -- Capt. Frank Chapman, The Phantom Planet (1961)

Well haven't you heard? I'm a mental case! Can't even be trusted with my own work!
   -- Dr. Douglas Martin, Killers From Space (1954)

The Future of Humanity and the Meaning of It All

We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives.
   -- Criswell, Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)

Maybe there's an ordinary explanation for what happened, but I wouldn't take any bets.
   -- Col. Joe Parkman, The Deadly Mantis (1957)

We all stand between the jungle and the stars, at a crossroads. I think we better decide what brings out the best in humankind, and what brings out the worst, because it's the stars or the jungle.
    -- Dr. Thomas Morgan, The Creature Walks Among Us (1956)

Unless we learn to control the instincts we’ve inherited from our ape-like ancestors, the race is doomed.
   -- Prof. Donald Blake, Monster on the Campus (1958)

The world's been here for millions of years. Man's been walking upright for a comparatively short time. Mentally we're still crawling.
   -- Prof. Tom Nesbitt, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953)

The unbelievably small and the unbelievably vast eventually meet - like the closing of a gigantic circle.
   -- Scott Carey, The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

We haven't seen the end of them. We've only had a close view of the beginning of what may be the end of us.
   -- Dr. Harold Medford, Them! (1954)

Be afraid. Be very afraid.
   -- Ronnie, The Fly (1986)

Naga! Oomay mah luke!
   -- Deena, World Without End (1956)

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