His readings of standards like Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and Robert Wise's The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) bring out these films' ambiguities. Siegel's film famously can be interpreted either as a vision of communist takeover or as a warning about mindless conservative conformity. What is less frequently acknowledged is the central confusion in Wise's movie, which is generally viewed as a pacifist work. But Savant dissects in detail all the problematic aspects of the plot and theme, what amounts to a call for fascism dressed up as a religious parable. Yet he still has no reservations about it's status as a classic within the genre, and it's emotional force as a narrative.
Not surprisingly, just over half of the movies dealt with come from the '50s; also not surprisingly, that 52% represents most clearly the collective view of what defines the genre – space exploration, fear of technology, giant insects, giant monsters and atomic destruction. In Roger Corman's Teenage Caveman (1958) and Edward Bernds' World Without End (1956), a few survivors face the aftermath of nuclear war; in Herbert L. Strock's Gog (1954, shot in 3D), enemy agents control a top secret super computer in an attempt to sabotage the development of new U.S weapons which would give the States military dominance over the world. Fear of threats both internal and external predominate.
In fact, it's a rare SF movie that offers a positive view of science and technology. There's William Cameron Menzies' Things to Come (1936) with its final ode to the human urge to explore and grow beyond the petty limitations of superstition and politics; there's the fairy tale finale of Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) with its reduction of human beings to awestruck children happily giving up responsibility to benevolent cosmic parents. But the poetic conclusion to Jack Arnold's The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) with its vision of human significance in an infinite cosmos stands virtually alone, unless you interpret the ending of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) as a visual corollary.
Savant is astute on potentially “difficult” work such as Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers (1997), which indeed does appear to wallow in fascist iconography, trusting the viewer to pick up on the satirical purpose. I well remember my own first viewing, at a packed preview screening. I left the theatre stunned, even appalled. I recall trying to describe it to someone the next day and saying something like “It's the kind of movie Hollywood would be making if the Nazis had won World War Two.” Wait a beat; a light goes on. This is the kind of movie Hollywood makes (just think of the fascist rally celebration at the end of Star Wars; Rambo flexing his muscles and slaughtering half the population of Southeast Asia in his second outing ...). It was literally like a switch being flicked in my head, the realization that what Verhoeven and writer Ed Neumier had done was simply to strip away the disguise and show the face of popular mainstream entertainment for what it really is.