On Byron Haskin
The rubber alien suit common in early American B-Films are the emotive Greek masks of ancient theater in our industrialized world. The raw, animal emotions, our shared fears and desires, once donned the appearance of grotesque smiling masks. Now we have radioactive Giant Leeches and highly technological, fear mongering extraterrestrials. Our darkest jungles are the homes of man made mutants. The same story endlessly retold with only the title and monster changing. With our changing landscape, greens for grays, we adopt new myths and new fears.
Byron Haskin was a rare artist in the atomic café, gifted in atmosphere and story. He directed over 20 films, spanning through genres, and six highly skilled episodes of The Outer Limits. The film he is best remembered for, as of 2008, is The War of the Worlds (1953).
At the dawn of a new period in American history, Byron effectively captured the dormant bestial nature of man: helpless as animals of ritual. In the 1949 noir Too Late for Tears, the two main characters fall upon a bag of money filled with over tens of thousands of dollars. The husband feels morally inclined to return the money while the wife holds her ground on keeping the bag. His reasoning was simple, “It’s wrong”. The wife adamant on keeping the cash, claiming she never wanted to suffer again, kills her husband.
Was she driven to murder because of greed… because she was a criminal? Or was it the husbands adherence to obsolete “old American” beliefs that interfered with her “new American” quest for life time financial security? As our collective minds grow, our rationale broadens; our needs take the mold of modern thought. We once had small stores ran by generations of the same family. Anything you needed, you made or asked your neighbor for.
But while Byron Haskin made films, he lived in a time of emerging mega corporations and industries. For the first time in history, brand names began to rule. Now if you needed something, you buy it from a faceless store with constantly shifting workers, while old employees unsuccessfully seek better jobs. We can record and see life from any part of the world. Everyone is offered so much, from the government and from businesses, in product and opportunity and glamour. When most people figure out they can’t have it all, a different kind of poverty arises. Before when families were poor, they were simply living a “simple life”. Now they can stare into a store and watch men and women, wearing clothes that state, “We can buy it all”, shop for new and extravagant things. Our culture grew a tumor, a yearning need and poverty in desire. The only answer for everyone’s 20th century woes was money.
Too Late for Tears explores that inner lust we all share. How normal Americans are docile in their day-to-day lower middle class excursions. Until that bag of money falls on their laps… Then we become the beast, our new beast in the modern world. And if anybody gets in my way, I’ll kill you.