Science Fiction Gold: Film Classics Of The 1950s by Dennis Saleh (book review).

Looking at Dennis Saleh’s other books, record album covers and poetry, ‘Science Fiction Gold: Film Classics Of The 1950s’ certainly comes out of the left field. As he was also publisher of Comma Books, he could cover what he wanted. I can’t recall what made me buy it recently but I’m nothing but up-to-date and copies are still out there. An introduction by Ray Harryhausen probably didn’t register at the time. However, this book has turned out to be a gem of knowledge and full pages devoted to single photographs from the fourteen 1950s films covered and from his own collection.

Being in black and white, does give it an olde feel for a 1979 released book although probably more like budget and with so much in b&w, colour on anything but the cover with have added to the original price at the time. Seeing the space ark being built at scale on a table top by three men for ‘When Worlds Collide’ and a blueprint for the Martian war machine from ‘War Of The Worlds’ in the opening pages made the price worth it alone.

The text covers a synopsis and behind the scenes details for each film, clearly showing Saleh either did thorough research or was very much a fan, although probably both. There’s also information about the time period that he lived through giving historical context.

Rather interestingly, amongst the indicia is the list of reference books he looked up and Walt Lee’s three volume ‘Reference Guide To Fantastic Films: Science Fiction, Fantasy, And Horror’ made me think to look it up and only two volumes are still on the market from 1973. I never even saw them back then and undoubtedly other books since have covered the same subject but it does make it harder to check on.

Saleh points out that there were a lot of SF films in the 1950s but not a Corman or Disney (remember ‘20,000 Leagues Under The Sea’ came out in 1954) in sight. For the record, the films covered here are: ‘Destination Moon’, ‘The Thing (From Another World)’, ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’, ‘When Worlds Collide’, ‘It Came From Outer Space’, ‘Invaders From Space’, ‘War Of The Worlds’, ‘The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms’, ‘Them!’, ‘The Creature From The Black Lagoon’, ‘It Came From Beneath The Sea’, ‘This Island Earth’, ‘Forbidden Planet’ and ‘Invasion Of The Body Snatchers’.

I’ve added a few detail words and one exclamation mark to the above omitted in the titles. Oddly, there are no film posters from the films but the geek in you should know better but the other photos make up for that. The filmography is at the back of the book and from it, 6 of the films were in colour, the rest in black and white.

The more I read here, the elements of smooth writing from Saleh’s poetry background were felt and makes for an absorbing read.

GF Willmetts

May 2022

(pub: Comma Books/McGraw-Hill Paperbacks, 1979. 191 page large softcover. Price: I pulled my copy for about £ 9.00 (UK) last year. ISBN: 0-07-054467-0)


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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