The elements of this year’s three “SYFY Movie Nights” films include giant ants, mutants and the consequences of communicating with Mars—each film is from the 1950s, and in addition to the classic sci-fi plotlines, the movies are tied together through a theme of nuclear war.
The series is hosted by Richard Codd and Nora Shepard, who first got the idea in 2020. The couple is passionate about science-fiction movies—particularly classics—and thought it’d be fun to have free town movie nights devoted to the genre. They partnered with the Moab Arts and Recreation Center and the Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission to put on the series.
Codd and Shepard decided the theme should be nuclear war and its unavoidable, disastrous consequences, which drew them to films from the 50s.
“Back in the 1950s, during the Cold War, there was so much emphasis in thinking about nuclear weapons and nuclear war,” Codd said. “I remember as a kid, practicing drills for if we were under nuclear attack, we would run down into the basement of the school.”
Codd and Shepard picked out three movies to screen.
The series will kick off with the giant ant saga “Them!” (1954) on Friday, February 4. The movie follows investigator Ben Peterson, FBI agent Robert Graham, and scientist Dr. Harold Medford as they look into a series of mysterious deaths—and find that the incidents are all due to giant ants that have been mutated by atomic radiation. The film is considered both science-fiction and horror, and is well received: on Rotten Tomatoes, it scores a 93% on the “tomatometer,” a measurement of positive recommendations.
The following Friday movie lovers can watch the 1956 film “World Without End,” in which a group of astronauts returning to Earth are caught in a time warp and propelled into a post-apocalyptic earth in the year 2508. But the planet isn’t how they left it: it’s populated by atomic radiation mutants, both monsters and humans. The film is science-fiction but also has moments of romance, as some of the humans aren’t mutated.
To round out the series, “Red Planet Mars” (1952) will screen on Friday, February 18. The film follows the story of an American scientist who makes contact with Mars after suspecting the planet is home to intelligent life. He makes contact and learns that the intelligent life forces on Mars claim that the planet is a utopia, as they are technologically advanced and have eliminated scarcity. The life forces of Mars inform earth that the people of earth can become a utopia if they “return to the worship of God.” This has devastating effects on Earth, causing political and religious schisms.
“We’re hoping COVID is under enough control that we can get local folks out again for a fun evening,” Codd said. “In February in Moab, it’s a quiet time, people are looking for something to do. And we just thought this would be a fun event.”
The movies will be screened at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center (111 E. 100 North). Doors open at 6 p.m., movies begin at 6:30. Costumes are encouraged, and there will be door prizes, along with a few “other surprises,” Codd said.
“Last time we did SYFY Movie Nights we had an alien show up,” said Bega Metzner, film commissioner at the Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission. “Who or what will make an appearance this year?”
Metzner said she’s excited to partner with Codd again to bring “another round of three classic, awesome and hilarious sci-fi films to the community.”
“Here on our very own Red Planet Mars on a World Without End, you might just be lucky enough to encounter Them!” she said.
There are a few health and safety protocols: masks are required, and capacity is capped at 40 people. To reserve tickets, go to www.moabarts.org. Tickets are free.
What: SYFY Movie Nights
When: Friday, February 4, 11 and 18 at 6 p.m.
Where: Moab Arts and Recreation Center (111 E. 100 North)
Free tickets are available at www.moabarts.org