The Hideous Sun Demon
As with so many of the best sci-fi films, "The Hideous Sun Demon" (1959) begins with a lab experiment gone awry. After exposure to wayward isotopes, Dr. Gilbert McKenna seems fine—until he catches the sun's rays. Then he turns into a creepy lizard-faced monster with a penchant for…running! (And some killing. But mostly…running!)
When the detonation of the atomic bomb arguably ended World War II in 1945, the "Atomic Age" was launched. As if the collective human psyche were struggling to come to grips with the devastation technology had made possible, there was a frenzy of imagination around its potential consequences. For more than a decade after, atomic-related hocus pocus was a dominant motif in sci-fi, with many storylines exploiting questions regarding the ethical use of technology. (Several of these have been featured on UEN SciFi Friday, including "The Beast of Yucca Flats" and "The Atomic Blonde".)
While many of these stories featured power-mad scientists and bureaucrats who cross the ethical line to serve ambition and greed, others indict scientific zeal itself as it can open doors to forces beyond human control. In "The Hideous Sun Demon," it's implied that Dr. McKenna may have caused the accident that changed his life—and endangered those around him—by coming to work with a hangover. Is this a trivial sidenote or a profound observation on the relationship between a momentary lapse in caution and the potential for hideous consequences?
Note: Like "The Atomic Blonde" (1953), this film has inspired a pop-rock band namesake.
Dr. Thunder JaliliDr. Thunder Jalili, Associate Professor in the Division of Nutrition in the College of Health at the University of Utah, discusses health benefits of sun exposure and the film "The Hideous Sun Demon."
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