The Vast of Night, Retro Science Fiction DeLuxe

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A Brief History

On May 15, 2020, a “new” science fiction drama makes its debut, a film about the late 1950’s that is filmed to be in the retro style of that era.  It works, and audiences might not get to see it in the theaters but will instead have access to the film via Amazon Studios.  The movie, The Vast of Night, will be available on Prime Video on May 29, 2020.

Digging Deeper

The movie takes on the UFO craze of the 1950’s sci-fi era, and starts out with a Twilight Zone style opening, beginning in black and white before transitioning into color.  At times during the film, we are reverted to a late 1950’s style television screen format, probably just to remind us of the theme the movie makers are going for.  Oddly enough, it works!

Without providing spoilers, a rough outline of the film revolves around 2 New Mexico teens, one that works as a local radio DJ and the other as a telephone switchboard operator. Played by Jake Horowitz and Sierra McCormick respectively, the young actors do a fantastic job of both selling the characters and selling the era the movie it set in.  McCormick especially, is terrific! Her chatterbox vivacity is a truly wonderful performance and one we hope will get her plenty of future roles.  As we said above, the plot concerns UFO’s and aliens, with a setting in New Mexico, the American UFO capital.

Director Andrew Patterson uses some masterful long one-take scenes that may well be a trending technique in the film industry, especially after the success of the 2019 World War I epic, 1917.  We believe the quality of Patterson’s work on The Vast of Night will garner him future opportunities on bigger budget films.  Speaking of budgets, does not seem to blow vast sums of money on splashy effects and the film is not an eye candy visual extravaganza, but instead makes its mark through the tension developed as the 2 main teen characters try to unravel a mystery taking place in their rural Desert town, with strange radio transmissions and an unfolding history of alien encounters being uncovered by their frantic detective like efforts.  The audience is raptly drawn into the drama of rooting for the teens to find the truth (The truth is out there…) while wondering whether or not anything catastrophic is going to happen.  Supporting cast members also do a highly creditable job. The 89 minute running time goes by quickly.

The Vast of Night is too new for an audience appraisal, though the critics compilation site, Rotten Tomatoes gives it an 88% approval rating, and the movie won the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the 2019 Slamdance Festival among other awards at various movie festivals.

We enjoyed the film and believe most of our readers will, tooThe Vast of Night does not have any graphic gore, nudity or rough language, so younger folks should not be barred from watching the film, though some of the younger audience may fail to grasp the period reference and subtleties of the movie.  Fans of 1950’s era sci-fi will find this film a must-see.  We did!

Question for students (and subscribers): What is your favorite 1950’s sci-fi film? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Hershenson, Bruce. Who Goes There?: 1950’S Horror & Sci-Fi Movie Posters & Lobby Cards. Bruce Hershenson, 2001.

Rosales, Albert. Humanoid Encounters: 1950-1954: The Others amongst Us. Triangulum publishing, 2016.

The featured image in this article, a scaled-down, low-resolution image of a poster for the film The Vast of Night, is used in an article created with permission from a representative of The Owens Group per fair use under the copyright law of the United States.

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.