Visual / feel references for 50s USA / Flying Saucers
September 19, 2018 1:37 AM   Subscribe

I'm working on a game about flying saucers set in (an expy of) 50s USA. I'm trying to find references - images, movies, TV, comics, etc. for the visual style and general feel of the game. This is not an era I'm actually very familiar with, so I'd love any pointers for things to look at, especially obvious ones.
posted by Zarkonnen to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Check out this trailer for the '50s sci-fi thriller Them.
posted by johngoren at 1:47 AM on September 19, 2018

You could try going for Googie which is the retro-futurist 1950's style. See also this article and The Jetsons.
posted by vacapinta at 1:57 AM on September 19, 2018

Here’s a good visual overview of common single-family house styles from that period, if you’re going for realistic-ish neighborhoods.

Galaxy Magazine covers and illustrations have plenty of sci-fi inspiration. Scour for more ephemera from the time period, especially the Prelinger Archives and any World’s Fair from the early 50s to early 60s.

“Populuxe” is another good search term. Retro home renovation blogs are a goldmine, especially for accurate color/decor info.

Definitely hit up Pinterest.
posted by Tiny Bungalow at 2:22 AM on September 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

1950s/60s Atomic Age textiles and patterns were common in mass-produced furniture, curtains, countertops, etc.

Googie Architecture is another example of this this permeated the culture of the time. There are tons of famous examples.

You could also watch the 1980s movie "Back to the Future" to see how a rural 1950/60ss family may have experienced what they thought was a space alien landing in their barn, viewing it through the eyes of comic books.

Comic books are another great example for you. Check out the titles, covers, artists, and stories of some 1950s "space alien" comics.
posted by erst at 2:27 AM on September 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

As you find good search terms I would definitely consider plugging them into tumblr. It’s always good for going a little deeper on aesthetic references.
posted by wowenthusiast at 5:21 AM on September 19, 2018

The film Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (trailer) from 1956 is pretty iconic. Try a Google image search if you don’t want to track down the entire movie. Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks movie and the original X-Com video game (1994) designs were also very much based on 1950s-vintage depictions of alien invasions, in case you want to see how others have famously interpreted the classics.
posted by Mothlight at 5:37 AM on September 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

There's a good scary movie from 1953 called Invaders from Mars. Director William Cameron Menzies was also a Hollywood art director so this film is pretty stylish.
posted by Morpeth at 5:48 AM on September 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

For great RPG Atomic reference, I have found GURPS Atomic Horror to be full of great information, tips, tricks and tropes.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 6:01 AM on September 19, 2018

Early episodes of The Twilight Zone tv series, and the 1958 The Blob movie, low budget and set in a small town, might give you some good visual references. Also, the 1951 version of The Day The Earth Stood Still would be good (here's a clip), and the 1953 The War of the Worlds movie is iconic.
posted by gudrun at 6:18 AM on September 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Planet 51 is a 2009 animated film that's basically the Roswell Incident in reverse: a planet of green-skinned four-fingered people has a U.S.-1950s-like culture. An American astronaut (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) lands on it and is feared as an alien invader. The residents of the planet have cars that look like flying saucers and their dogs look like cute versions of xenomorphs from Alien.
posted by XMLicious at 6:27 AM on September 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Not sure how to search this, but in the 50s, the film used was Kodachrome, which has a certain look & feel. Then they developed Ektachrome and the colors are more accurate but there's a distinct difference. When I think 50s photos, I think of the slightly faded pictures of my family, a bit candy-colored.
posted by theora55 at 9:27 AM on September 19, 2018

The 1959 television show Men into Space, though set in the 1970s or 80s, provides great 1950s visuals. Look up Wildwood, NJ to get some ideas about Googie (also called doo wop) architecture.
posted by Rob Rockets at 9:58 AM on September 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Check out this recently declassified secret government report on the development of a REAL 1950s flying saucer. It's got awesome cutaway diagrams and everything.
posted by Prunesquallor at 10:29 AM on September 19, 2018

The Destroy All Humans video game did a great job with this.
posted by exogenous at 11:24 AM on September 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Plan 9 from Outer Space is a 1959 film about an alien invasion. It is famously considered the worst movie ever made (much of the movie Ed Wood is about filming it), and is fun to watch for that - but you can see 50s ideas of flying saucers.
posted by FencingGal at 12:56 PM on September 19, 2018

The 1950's EC comic book Weird Science (not to be confused with the 80's film) has a lot of classic flying saucer imagery.
posted by zombiedance at 3:34 PM on September 19, 2018

For an audio reference, 'You'd Better Pray to the Lord when You See those Flying Saucers' by The Buchanan Brothers.
posted by ovvl at 5:33 PM on September 19, 2018

First thing that comes to mind for me is the original The Day the Earth Stood Still.
posted by ckape at 12:41 AM on September 20, 2018

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