A perusal of popular horror films of the 1950s will turn up a interesting commonality amongst many of the titles of the day. Keen eyes will notices that the words, “Attack of,” and “Invasion of,” are repeated in many of the titles. What is the significance of these titles from that era, and what do they tell us about the fears of Americans from that time?
A further investigation into the horror films that have the words, “Attack of,” or “Invasion of,” will show that most of these movies came out in the years between 1956 and 1959. What are the fears that these movies were playing off from the time?
In 1951, Anthony Rizzo directed what would become one of the most viewed short films in all of history. Duck and Cover would be shown in schools and movie theaters across the country to let people know what to do in case of a nuclear attack on the United States.
By the middle of the decade, everyone knew what to do incase of an attack. Most people also figured that an attack of this type would most likely come from the enemy that we had gained after World War II. Most Americans were waiting for an attack by either Communist Russia, or one of the other Communist Nations.
Americans were warned daily that there could be an attack by a Communist nation. Americans were warned that the pending invasion by Communists could wipe out the American dream, and the American way of life.
Hollywood realized that it now had two keywords to work with. Hollywood realized that the words, “Attack,” and “Invasion,” had become words in everyday discussion, and haunted the nightmares of many Americans. Never before had nightmares been plagued by simple words.
Moviemakers began pitching movies that could play off of these fears. Not only was there the fear of an attack or invasion by Communist nations, there was also the fear of the nuclear attack that was believed to be the precursor to the next World War.
The movie market became inundated with titles like Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Invasion of the Flying Saucers (1956), Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957), and Invasion of the Animal People (1959). Likewise, titles like, Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), Attack of the Puppet People (1958), and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958) could also be seen. These titles alone brought people into the theaters to see how the United States would be able to fend off these attacks.
These titles could have easily been changed to Attack of the Communists or Invasion of the Communists. These movies were simple symbols for what the underlying fears were of the time.
This era in American history gave us words that movie theaters were able to feed off of. There had never been an era before, and there has not been one since that has given us keywords that could cause as much fear as, “Attack and Invasion.” An entire horror movie genre was able to be created around these two words.