I’m a big fan of the old works of Fritz Lang. If you’ve never heard of Fritz Lang hopefully you’ve heard of Metropolis. If you haven’t check the link, if you have I’m focusing in on the set style and architecture of that movie and several like it. When you look at more of the exterior shots or the design of the buildings like the Tower of Babel in the film you can see a good example of what’s called streamline modern architecture which is itself a late branch of art deco. There are lots of elegant and modern elements along with the long curving forms that are good examples of SM. There are also elements that have a distinct futurist feel that are best identified as googie architecture. All three of these styles merit some of your attention on their own but there is so much overlap between the three that most use the catch-all phrase coined by William Gibson Raygun Gothic.
The great thing about the term Raygun Gothic is that it really is both synonymous with the futurist googie style but also can be used to describe the styles that lead up to googie. This means that you can avoid bumbling descriptions of various elements and instead can just say “that set had that Raygun Gothic” feel and people can get a rough idea of what you’re trying to describe.
The term is actually so widespread that now people use it to describe the cliche mad scientists laboratory. Usually you see a set of distillers connected to hoses dripping into flasks and Jacob’s Ladders everywhere. Think Bride of Frankenstein. Raygun gothic influenced labs are in movies like Mars Attacks! and series like Futurama. Professor Farnsworth is a great example of a mad scientist who follows the raygun gothic style because his labs are filled with visually stimulating odds and ends and all his inventions have the art deco feel of being influenced by 1950’s appliance design.
I’m sure you can find loads of examples in current media too. Do what I’m doing now and spread the word and the term. I don’t think enough people know about it. Truthfully this post topic actually came up when I was trying to explain set design differences in sci-fi movies from the 30’s to the 70’s. It’s a great term that doesn’t get enough exposure. If you’ve got a favorite scene or set comment about it.