How '60s and '70s TV & Movies Fueled Our Fears Of Quicksand

By Jesse Taylor | May 23, 2024

Blame Hollywood

There's something oddly nostalgic about the way '60s and '70s TV and movies turned quicksand into the ultimate peril. With every adventure series and Saturday matinee, we were conditioned to fear that one misstep could lead to a slow, sandy demise. From the jungles of far-off lands to the hidden traps of sci-fi worlds, quicksand was everywhere, ready to swallow heroes whole. This era of entertainment, with its larger-than-life scenarios and dramatic flair, gave us some of the most memorable and kitschy moments in pop culture history. Join us as we delve into the classic scenes that had us gripping our seats, holding our breath, and forever wary of the ground beneath our feet. It's a tribute to the wonderfully wild imaginations of mid-20th century storytellers who made us all a little more cautious about where we tread.

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By the time of 'Blazing Saddles' (1974), quicksand scenes were a cliche to be ridiculed. Source: YouTube

Why were we afraid of quicksand? On TV shows and in movies of the '60s and '70s, quicksand was a go-to plot twist that could be inserted virtually anywhere for a jolt of suspense. Quicksand scenes were common, far more common than actual life-threatening quicksand is in the world. The insidious and nearly inescapable wells of malevolent sand struck a disproportionate amount of fear into the hearts of those of us who are over 30.

Yet, thanks to Hollywood, young people spent an inordinate amount of time planning precisely how they would escape one of these death pits, should we ever happen upon one while out walking the dog. According to one quicksand enthusiast, quicksand appeared in nearly 3% of all movies made in the '60s. So what's the deal with quicksand?

A Quicksand Explosion On The Silver Screen

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Where do you Stand on the Rise and Fall of Quicksand?(Slate)

In 1960, the quicksand trend was clearly gaining momentum. Quicksand played a role in Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson and the hokey sci-fi film 12 to the Moon -- yes, we went to the moon and found quicksand there. Few directors could resist quicksand's persuasive tug, as the stuff appeared in 1 out of every 35 movies in the ‘60s. The ubiquity of gloppy, suffocating danger would eventually make its way into our everyday lives.