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Danger at a Distance

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  1. Introduction
  2. Disaster movies during the 1950's and the 1960's
  3. What set these sci-fi disaster movies apart?
  4. Nuclear holocaust
  5. Character based melodramas involving minor disasters
  6. Conclusion
  7. Works cited

The nomenclature of ?disaster movie? is as difficult a classification to place upon a film as any; for its definition is extremely malleable. Many movies incorporate a disaster, or even numerous disasters, and are still not known as ?disaster movies?; the definition is not that simple. A disaster movie is usually declared as such when, and only when, the entire essence of the film revolves around disaster. Characters, and the realities which they inhabit, seem to exist only in order to be affected by the disaster(s). Disaster movies of all types (from alien invasions to in-peril travel movies), operate within the same formulaic realm; the death toll is large, the disasters horrific, and hero(s) nearly always saves the day. The allure of the disaster movie is that of ?danger at a distance?; the audience can live (and nearly die) vicariously through the characters facing the disaster, while remaining safe in the knowledge that it's only a movie. The thrill is the heart of the disaster movie. However, there is more to the average disaster film than meets the eye; these films have a way of acutely reflecting the times in which they are created. Disaster movies are often capable of analogizing the fears and concerns of contemporary society in particularly inspired and insightful ways.

[...] Each decade within the past century has contained its own set of collective anxieties, and each has produced disaster movies which reflect the unease of the times. As new fears and anxieties would arise, disaster movies would find new ways to mirror the public tensions. The sci-fi films of the 1950's and 1960's involved the misuse of technology, the fear of invasion, subversion, and ?otherness?. At a time when the world was at the height of the Cold War, these fears were extremely legitimate. [...]

[...] There was a wide-spread sense that no one could be trusted; a concept central to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and like films. Within all the sub-genres of sci-fi disaster movies (nuclear monsters, space invaders, etc.) at least one similarity universally existed. Throughout all the death and destruction, no matter the scale, there was almost always a hero; someone who made it out alive, and managed to save the rest of the world in the process. In the science fiction disaster movies of the 1950's and 1960's, the peoples of the world would unequivocally overcome their differences and, in the end, bond together to fight of the alien invaders. [...]

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