Road to the
in 2011 for Sci-Fi Fridays we showed Disneyland’s ‘Man and the Moon’
from 1955, one of several episodes of the Disney TV series to
educate and excite people about getting into space. 'Road to the
Stars' from 1957 could be considered the Soviet Union’s version,
focusing on the life of rocketry pioneer Konstantin Tsiolkovsky,
recreations of early rocketry work, and predictions about future
near Earth space travel.
from the 1985 book by Carl Sagan, which was itself adapted from the
earlier screenplay by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan, Contact begins with
the SETI program receiving a signal from Vega.
The world started listening for signals within the solar system soon
after radio was invented, started looking outside the solar system
in the 1950s, and the search was dramatically expanded in the 1990s.
So far it doesn’t seem like anyone nearby is transmitting, although
the ‘Wow’ signal generated some excitement back in 1977, and books
such as Stanislaw’s Lem’s ‘His Master Voice’ (Glos Pana) dealt with
the difficulties in recognizing and interpreting a possible message
like this. If you want some other things to check on Wikipedia, the
Drake equation suggests how many extra-terrestrial civilizations we
should be able to contact, and the Fermi Paradox tries to reconcile
those numbers with the fact that we haven’t found evidence for any
Closer to home, people are still excited about these things, as the
speculation around ‘Oumuamua a year ago showed. Unfortunately, while
‘Oumuamua was the first interstellar object detected passing through
our solar system, it was not anywhere near as big as Arthur C.
Clarke’s Rama (from Rendezvous with Rama) or as talkative as his
Starglider (from the Fountains of Paradise)
It was not until 1995 that we had evidence of planets around
‘typical’ stars. As they mention in the film, Vega might have a
planetary system forming but there is no solid evidence for planets
at this point.
much of science fiction in the 1960s was focused on outer space,
Fantastic Voyage would take people in a different direction, into
the human body.
It was an exciting time in medicine. The first commercial ultrasound
was in 1965 and MRI and CT scans would appear 5 years later.
Vaccines were just arriving for measles and mumps. The first
transplants were starting to be performed.
Disney artist Frank Armitage and his medical illustrations were
responsible for much of the look of the interior of the human body
in the film and a large portion of this work was donated to UICs
Biomedical Visualization program.
War Games (1983)
Games from 1983 featured one of the most realistic depictions of
1980s era hacking and phreaking in film, although the term ’hacker’
itself wouldn’t really enter the public consciousness until the next
year with Steven Levys ‘Hackers’ book. This was a time when personal
computers were still a novelty and you could communicate with other
personal computers or larger mainframe computers over telephone
lines at the new rate of 1200 bits per second (150 characters per
second). As major corporations, schools, banks, etc. started going
‘on line’ they became targets for exploration, and in some cases
fraud, while the FBI struggled to catch up.
At the same time the cold war continued - that year the Soviet Union
shot down Korean Airlines Flight 007, the US deployed short range
nuclear missiles and held massive maneuvers in western Europe, and,
as the world later found out, the Soviet Union almost launched a
‘retaliatory’ nuclear strike due to a software error.
War Games played on both sets of fears, and it did have an actual
affect on governmental policy as President Reagan saw the film and
asked officials whether the US was vulnerable to this new kind of
threat. He was not happy with the answer. Parts of the film were
later shown during congressional hearings.
On a less serious note, knowledge of the film, and Matthew
Broderick’s dialogue in particular, would be critical in the novel
version of Ready Player One
Planet of the
original 1968 Planet of the Apes film, based on Pierre Boulle’s
novel, did what many good genre films do, it held up a mirror to
society. It would also give Charlton Heston another string of
The film was a critical and
commercial success, and created its own industry with 4 movie
sequels over the next 5 years, a short lived TV show, a Saturday
morning cartoon, action figures, model kits, jigsaw puzzles,
playsets, comics, trading cards, a board game, a lunchbox, etc,
which shows how the film series, and this one in particular, worked
on multiple levels, as you could come for the social commentary, the
action, or the ‘monkeys’. Even after the 1970s the films stayed in
the public consciousness, leading to the 2001 Tim Burton film, and
the current series of films.
The Thing (1982)
years later, John Carpenter, a fan of the original film and the
original story, would go on to create a more faithful adaption
of Campbell’s story in 1982 with ‘the Thing’, when technology was at
the point that the true nature of the Thing could be shown through
practical special effects, and featuring a memorable score by Ennio
Morricone. A failure at the time of its release, It would come be
regarded as one of the best science fiction films of the 1980s.
Almost 30 years after that a third film, also called ‘the Thing’ was
made as a prequel to the 1982 film, though the 2002 video game, also
called ‘the Thing’ perhaps better captured the mood.
reality, the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station has 6 months of
daylight followed by 6 months of night, and the population varies
from around 2000 during the summer to 50 in the winter. After the
last flight leaves before the start of winter those that will remain
have a tradition of running all versions of the Thing.
note, the first woman on Antarctica was in 1935, but women would
start going in larger numbers in the 1970s, so while the all male
crew of the original short story was realistic for its time, it is
harder to defend that aspect of the 1980s film
The Thing from
Another World (1951)
winter has finally closed in on Chicago, these sub-zero days seem a
good time to visit the Earth's poles and see how things could be
Campbell Jr.’s ‘Who Goes There’ from 1938 was a classic science
fiction short story about a remote research group in Antarctica that
discovers an alien spaceship buried in the ice along with one of its
occupants, and the paranoia it unleashes.
In 1951 Howard Hawks adapted it into ‘The Thing From Another World’,
moving the setting to the Arctic, making ‘the Thing’ more filmable,
giving the characters more depth, changing the nature of the
paranoia, and featuring a memorable score by Dmitri Tiomkin. The
film was one of the early classics of the 1950s sci-fi boom drawing
on the current interest in flying saucers, the fear of what science
had unleashed with the atomic bomb, and good reputation the US
military had after the second world war.
or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
different novels set in the present day (back then) about US bombers
crossing into Soviet airspace and potentially triggering a global
nuclear war (Red Alert in 1958, and Fail Safe in 1962) would both
become films in 1964 - one being the very serious 'Fail Safe'
directed by Sidney Lumet, the other being the much less serious 'Dr.
Strangelove' directed by Stanley Kubrick. Is it science fiction?
maybe, kind of, in a way … but it does seem like a very good
way to end a term about socially conscious films.
the 85 shorts, TV episodes, and films that we have shown on Sci-Fi
Friday, precisely zero have been directed by women. Fortunately
Hollwood has been changing recently, and one of the women helping
change things since the 1980s is Kathryn Bigelow.
This film, another film noir cross sci-fi in the near future at the
very end of 1999, deals with issues of issues of police brutality in
the aftermath of the LA riots after the beating of Rodney King by
the LAPD. It also deals with issues of living your own life vs
watching others experience life. 1995 was the really early days of
the WWW, so here the addictive technology of choice allows people to
record their experiences straight from their brain and share them
Note that this is a Kathryn Bigelow film, and if you have seen her
other films, such as Near Dark or the Hurt Locker, you know that she
can show some pretty violent and disturbing things.
if Jean-Luc Godard of the 1960's French New Wave made a science
Alphaville is a mix of 1940s film noir with science fiction 20 years
before Blade Runner, but while Ridley Scott would try and create a
memorable cyberpunk future in Blade Runner, Alphaville has … Paris,
and a director who isn’t very interested in sci fi set dressing, so
there is a different kind of suspension of disbelief required here,
though perhaps the 1960s are enough of an alien environment these
most socially relevant Pixar film to date deals with the long term
affects of consumerism on the planet and on the human beings that
have abandoned it.
Dawn of the Dead
it sci-fi? not really … unless you accept the possible explanation
in ‘night of the living dead’ that the returning venus space probe
caused the outbreak … but its close to Halloween and ‘dawn’ does
have a lot to say about consumerism.
While George Romero created the modern ‘zombie’ film with his low
budget independent Pittsburgh film ‘Night of the Living Dead’ in
1968, its 1978 sequel ‘Dawn of the Dead’ was the one that really
jump started the cycle of imitations. While ‘night’ was set in an
isolated farm house, ‘dawn’ was mostly set in an actual shopping
mall. Shopping malls and retail stores in general have had issues
since convenient internet shopping appeared, but from the early
1970s through the late 1990s they were a very important part of
American culture, and George Romero saw that and used that to make a
This film was unrated upon its release as there is a fair amount of
violence here, as you might expect, though the practical effects of
the time are perhaps less realistic looking today than the current
CG enhanced mayhem of the walking dead and others of this films
Nausicaa of the
Valley of the Wind (1984)
Hayao Miyazaki had worked in many previous productions, and had
directed multiple TV episodes and the Lupin the Third movie ‘Castle
of Cagliostro’, ‘Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind’ was the first
Miyazaki film adapted from his own comic series, and the first that
would fully embody the various themes he would pursue for the next
30 years (e.g. in Kiki’s Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro,
Princess Mononoke, Spirit Away, Ponyo, etc.) with a coming of age
story in a post-apocalyptic world of environmental devastation
science fictions portray desolate post-apocalyptic futures, while
others, like ‘Rollerball’, suggest a more familiar dystopic future,
in this case a world ruled by corporations where the world’s most
popular sport to watch is ‘Rollerball’, an increasingly violent
version of roller derby. But what happens when the game’s star
player becomes too popular and won’t do what he’s told? Taking place
in the futuristic year of 2018 the film deals with issues of
violence in sports and the viewer’s part in it, as well as the role
of the individual in society.
If you are curious about the details of the game, this site is a good
starting point http://speedrally.net/?p=1204
The Silent Star
we are focusing on social relevance this term, most of the films are
taking place on Earth, but this science fiction film from East
Germany’s DEFA studio, based on Polish author Stanislaw Lem’s first
novel ‘the Astronauts’ from 1951, had the first multi national crew
heading off into space to investigate a mysterious message from
Venus. As his first novel, it has hints of where his writing would
go in the future, both in his more action adventure stories, and
those dealing with the difficulties in communicating with others. As
a film, ‘Silent Star’ is an interesting counterpoint to the science
fiction films made in the west at the same time, and contains very
clear warnings about the dangers of atomic weapons to both the
people wielding them and their enemies.
Invasion of the
Body Snatchers (1956)
Seigel’s film was released during the height of the ‘red scare’ in
the US, and could be claimed to be about either the dangers of a
communist takeover, or the hysteria of McCarthyism in over reacting
to that threat. Either way it works as an allegory for the
dangers of conformity, which is why it has been regularly remade in
different settings in ’78, ’93, and ’07, with another in
pre-production. This version takes place in a small California town
where the local doctor’s patients start reporting that their family
members have been replaced by identical imposters. The film would
introduce ‘pods’ into fairly common usage, long before that term
would become synonymous with moving or (non) ingestible detergent.
Earlier this week I read a sports report that referenced the film
when talking about a poorly performing American football team that
seemingly had been replaced by an identical group of players that
actually knew how to play.
assistants are becoming ubiquitous and Spike Jonze’s ‘Her’ takes us
into the near future as they become more capable and intelligent,
and capable of real relationships with humans. Humans having
relationships with artificial intelligence isn’t new - similar
stories were told in the mid 1960s with a mainframe computer in the
Twilight Zone episode ‘From Agnes - With Love’, in a much less
consensual scenario in 1977’s ‘Demon Seed’, and with a personal
computer in the 1984 film ‘Electric Dreams’, but now the possibility
seems much more realistic.
They Live (1988)
John Carpenter film was released right before the election in 1988
to try and help elect more progressive candidates after eight years
of Ronald Reagan. The central premise is straight forward - what if
an alien invasion has already taken over the United States and the
policies of the Reagan presidency were crafted to benefit those
aliens and their allies at the expense of everyday people.
if you haven’t seen ‘They Live’ you’ve probably seen its meme-worthy
sunglasses reveal, used with great effect last year against Pepsi’s
Kendall Jenner ad. Along with the red pill in ‘the Matrix’, the
sunglasses in ‘They Live’ have been some of the most prominent
symbols of getting woke.
of Jordan Peele’s favorite films is the original ‘Stepford Wives’,
and he used it as inspiration for his 2017 hit ‘Get Out’. When a
family moves into the small town of Stepford Connecticut there is
clearly something odd going on … and like ‘Get Out’ its best not to
know to much more … seriously … just googling ‘stepford’ gives it
Long before the internet and internet memes, ’stepford’ and
‘stepford wife’ became shorthand for a certain kind of person, and
the term has stuck around … Mitt Romney was tagged with the
'stepford' term during his presidential run.
Forbin Project (1970)
United Stated government decides to put the US nuclear arsenal under
computer control - what could go wrong? While this same basic idea
was later used in the 1980s as part of ‘The Terminator’ and
‘Wargames’, here the computer has some different priorities than
‘kill all humans’.
Earlier fears of automation with robots taking jobs and taking
control had given way in the 60s to a similar fears of computers,
leading to several famous cinematic ones such as Alpha 60 from
Alphaville (which we may show later this term) and Hal 9000 from
2001: A Space Odyssey
we bring Sci-Fi fridays back to life after almost 5 years on hiatus
it seems appropriate to start out with a film that brought a
franchise back to life after a hiatus of 12 years. In 2016 Shin
Gojira was the 29th Japanese Godzilla film since 1954. It did very
well in Japan by going back to the roots of the series and being
relevant. Hideaki Anno, mostly known for Neon Genesis Evangelion,
Nadia, and other anime, used Godzilla to dramatize the recent
Fukushima disaster and the government's response to it, but it could
just as easily be hurricane Katrina, or any other large disaster
where bureaucracy can be as much of a threat as the disaster itself.
title is intentionally ambiguous. ‘shin’ usually means ‘new’ but
could also mean ‘true’ or ‘god’ or ‘evolution’, all of which apply.
One thing you may notice is that
aside from the subtitled dialogue, there is also a lot of text
identifying the many people, locations, and equipment on screen.
This was a staple of Japanese disaster films of the 70s, though here
it is taken, perhaps, to the extreme.
the Black Lagoon (1954)
You may have seen this famous photo
of a movie theatre full of (well dressed, older, white) people wearing
3D glasses in the 50s.
This passively polarized 3D is basically the same technology that
was used all the way through the recent boom in 3D movies. It
required two synchronized projectors, which meant it was really
only available in the big cities in the 50s, and even in the 80s
during the 3D revival. In response a single projector system was
developed where the images for the two eyes were combined onto one
piece of film using colored filters, which meant these versions of
the films could also be run on television, with the viewers
wearing colored lenses - typically the classic red / cyan glasses.
are going to give red / cyan 3D a try with one of the more famous
3D films of the 1950s - Creature from the Black Lagoon - which
would inspire Guillermo del Toro several decades later to try and
remake the film from the monsters point of view, eventually
leading to ‘The Shape of Water’ in 2017.
today when most films shown in the theatre have been converted
to 3D, this was fully shot in 3D, including all the underwater
scenes. I should note that aside from a
different 3D technology this is not exactly the way the 3D looked
in 1954 as documented in: http://www.3dfilmarchive.com/an-in-depth-look-at-creature-from-the-black-lagoon-1
In some ways the 3D is better, as there is no film jitter and
vertical disparity has been reduced. In some ways its worse as the
new version pushes more of the 3D effects out of the screen where
director Jack Arnold was more cautious.
written in 1961 by Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem.
His books were widely available and read in the 1970s but he is
less well known now. While in most science fiction its fairly easy
for humans to communicate with aliens, Lem's books often deal with
how hard this very likely will be. Solaris has been made into two
major movies, first in the former Soviet Union in 1972 and more
recently in Hollywood in 2002. Both are fairly good
representations of the book. The 1972 film was adapted by and
directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, focusing more on the metaphysical
side of the story, and is considered to be one of the best science
fiction films ever made.
Note that you may want to pack a lunch on this one - Solaris is
two hours and 45 minutes long.
If you like Solaris, you may also want to try Tarkovsky's
Jason and the
Argonauts (1963) - Ray Harryhausen Tribute
We are going to push Solaris back
a week and do a special sci-fi Friday tribute to Ray Harryhausen.
There are few names in the movies that tell you that you are going
to see something really special - Georges Melies, Willis O'Brien,
Douglas Trumbull, the Brothers Quay. The one person that
personified the creation of fantastic worlds and creatures in the
1950s and 1960s was Ray Harryhausen.
We are going to take a look at one of his best films - Jason and
the Argonauts - which gave Harryhausen many opportunities to show
off his craft, for example the seven skeletons sword fighting with
three guys in this youtube excerpt:
Twilight Zone anthology series ran on TV from 1959 to 1964, and
while not a huge rating success at the time, left an indelible
mark. In its five seasons 156 episodes were made, almost all
written by either Rod Serling, Richard Matheson, or Charles
Beaumont, sometimes based off of the short stories of others. Rod
Serling used a variety of times and places in his stories allowing
him to deal with controversial issues, creating modern parables.
Richard Matheson wrote the scary stories. Charles Beaumont wrote a
little of everything.
The episodes often came
with twist endings, which were common in EC comics of the time,
and the audience was never sure if the main characters were going
to live happily every after.
Rod Serling himself
introduces the episodes, very often with cigarette in hand, with a
style that itself has become synonymous with the series,
We are going to take a look at one of the best episodes of the
series, 'The Invaders' from 1961, written by Richard Matheson.
There are so many great episodes that even a top ten list hardly
scratches the surface, but here is a pretty good set if you want
to look further:
- Nightmare at 20,000 Feet
- To Serve Man
- Little Girl Lost
- Its a Good Life
- Time Enough at Last
- A Stop at Willoughby
- The Monsters are Due on
- The Eye of the Beholder
- The Hitch-Hiker
- Kick the Can
nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust
the picture. We are controlling transmission. For the next hour,
sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. You
are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from
the inner mind to ï¿½ The Outer Limits."
Given that the Twilight Zone was popular, other science fiction
/ fantasy anthology series appeared on US TV. The Outer Limits
started in 1963 and lasted only two seasons. Compared to The
Twilight Zone it tended more towards science fiction, often took
on a German Expressionism / film noir visual style, and was
famous for its monsters.
We are going to take a look at what is regarded as the best
episode of the series: 'Demon with a Glass Hand' from 1964,
written by Harlan Ellison.
With Earth Day
nearly upon us it seems appropriate to show 'Soylent Green', a
cautionary tale from 1973.
The Year: 2022
The Place: New York City
The Population: 40,000,000
The greenhouse effect and an ever-expanding population have produced
a very unpleasant future. Several films dealt with similar issues in
the early seventies including Logan's Run and THX-1138. This would
be Charlton Heston's second of three films set in a dystopic future,
the first was Planet of the Apes in 1968, and the last was The Omega
Man in 1975. Soylent Green would give Heston his second Top 100
and Soylent = Soy + Lentils
Starfighter. You have been recruited by the Star League to
defend the frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan armada."
This film presents a very 1980s boy's fantasy - that all that time
you spend playing an arcade video game will allow you to save the
galaxy ï¿½ and get the girl.
Unlike Tron, where the CG effects were limited to the world inside
the computer, here the CG from Digital Productions represented
vehicles and objects in the real world. The 27 minutes of CG effects
were created on a Cray X-MP which provided 2 CPUs and 16 Megabytes
of memory for $15 million. All of the space ships and alien worlds
were created through computer graphics - the same idea Babylon 5
would use a decade later for the same reason - its less expensive
and less constrained than traditional model work. On average each
frame of computer graphics used 250,000 polygons at a resolution of
5000 x 3000 pixels.
The next big step for CG in the movies would be 5 years later in The
Abyss where the computer generated water tentacle was integrated
with the actors and the sets.
50 years after
Walt Disney Studios began, they found themselves in a bit of a rut,
and facing declining attendance with their children's films such as
"The Cat from Outer Space" and "The Shaggy D.A.", so they released
their first PG film in 1979 - 'The Black Hole'. It would be the
first in a series of darker films released over the next several
years including 'The Watcher in the Woods' in 1980, the film
we will watch - 'Tron' from 1982, and 'Something Wicked This Way
Comes' from 1983.
"The Black Hole" used computer graphics for its opening credits.
Tron would have 15 minutes of computer graphics integrated into the
story, though not integrated with the live-action footage. The CG
footage was groundbreaking, but it was not eligible for the special
effects oscar because effects were done using computers.
"Tron" was one of the first films to deal with the new Video Arcade
fad and Hacking, but was not the first film to deal with people
'inside the computer'. "World on a Wire" from 1973 dealt with people
in a computer simulation and "Welcome to Blood City" from 1977 dealt
with people in an artificial reality. More films would deal with
Video Games and Hackers in the next few years with "War Games",
"Nightmares" and "The Last Starfighter".
'Tron' did pretty well at the box office. The arcade video game
based on the movie did better, earning more money than the film, and
kept the film in the public consciousness.
UFO Target Earth
Wars' is the golden child and gets talked about all the time when
visitors come by evl, there is another, one that is only spoken of
in whispers, and that is 'UFO: Target Earth' from 1974 - evl's first
collaboration with the movie business.
A few weeks ago we watched 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind',
which is one of the best UFO movies, but there were many more UFO
movies made in the 1970s, and 'UFO Target Earth' is typical of many
of them. With a 2.1 rating on IMDB even Mystery Science Theater 3000
didn't touch this one, but it did get an article in American
Cinematographer in July 1974.
To get into the spirit of the thing, here is a screen grab from the
film showing the special effects credits - given your experience and
available computer technology, can you enhance this frame to see
what Tom and Dan were credited with?
There have been
several waves of Japanese animation hitting US Televisions - the 60s
with Gigantor, Kimba, and Speed Racer, the 70s with Star Blazers and
Battle of the Planets, the 80s with Robotech. The availability of
home video in the mid 1980s encouraged a major growth in anime clubs
that formed to import and watch original movies and series from
Japan (which fortunately had the same broadcast TV format), often
through bad multi-generation copies without subtitles. Large scale
popularity of anime remained elusive in the US until the 1990s with
the release of Akira and Ghost in the Shell, although it took Akira
a few years to officially make it to the US.
Katsuhiro Otomo directed Akira based on a very condensed version of
his own manga. It was one of the first Japanese animated films to
have the dialogue recorded first, as in US productions, to get the
lip sync correct, and was the most expensive animated film produced
in Japan at the time.
It had been a
decade since Yul Brenner's nigh-indestructible robotic gunslinger
made an impression in 'Westworld', and 20 years since Harlan
Ellison's 'Soldier' with two warriors from the future continuing
their battle in the present was shown as part of the Outer Limits on
TV, so it was time for an update.
James Cameron had worked as a production designer for Roger Corman,
and had written and directed his first feature in 1981 - "Piranha II
- the Spawning" which Cameron referred to as "the finest flying
piranha movie ever made". The Terminator would be his second film.
It would star former Mr. Universe Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was
coming off his first film success with Conan the Barbarian.
The first Terminator film had a budget of $6 million for the time,
which was only 1/4 of the budget of the big sci-fi films that year.
It was not a major release and did not have a major advertising
campaign. It did alright at the box office and did well on home
video. At the time maybe one major film was released per week on
home video, and that was double the year before. Films also took
over a year to reach home video, rather than a few months like
today. It cost $100 if you wanted to buy a film on VHS or Betamax,
and renting a movie cost $10, so 'The Terminator' really didn't
begin to develop a strong following until a year or two after its
and if you are curious about the assembly language in the
'terminator vision', it is apple ][ code (www.pagetable.com/?p=64)
1979 film 'Alien' updated Mario Bava's mid 1960s 'Planet of the
Vampires' where space travelers investigate a crashed space ship on
an alien planet, and the 1950's 'It! the Terror from Beyond Space'
where a space crew has to fight off an alien on their ship, from low
budget 'B' movies to a big budget film where H.R. Giger's memorable
alien designs along with Moebius's space suits and Ron Cobb's ship
designs gave the film a unique look
Perhaps still feeling the sting of not having their Star Wars
figures out in time for Christmas, Kenner produced one of the
greatest toys of the 1970s - an 18" tall 'action figure' of the
alien with movable arms, legs, and inner jaw that totally dominated
any other toys in the same room. The fact that the film was rated R
didn't seem to bother Kenner, but it sure bothered a whole lot of
parents, and the toy was quickly removed from shelves. There was
also an alien model kit, board game, trading cards, puzzle, and
bloody comic adaption from Heavy Metal - all this in the days before
films were released onto home video, so the only way for kids to see
the film was to have their parents take them, or to sneak in.
Fortunately my parents took me to see the film in theaters when I
was 14 AND bought me the giant action figure for Christmas. The
figure still stands watch over my other toys at home. Check out the
commercial on youtube - www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKSv85mJEmY
'Alien' would help spawn
over a decade of lower budget 'Alien'-ispired films which only began
to ebb when lower budget 'Aliens'-inspired films began to
of the Third Kind
This week we
are going to start at 12:15 and take a look at Steven Spielberg's
second blockbuster hit - 1977's "Close Encounters of the Third
While the flying saucer craze of the 50s died out pretty quickly,
sightings of UFOs continued through the 60s, and the 70s saw a
rebirth of interest in UFOs and ancient astronauts with books and
films like Erich von Daniken's "Chariots of the Gods?".
After Watergate people were more receptive to stories of the
government covering up an alien crash in Roswell, and were
suspicious of the US Air Force's lack of findings in their Project
Blue Book investigation into UFO sightings. Of course the public was
also interested in Atlantis, the Bermuda Triangle, pyramids,
crystals, and Bigfoot in the 1970s.
At the time of the film's release stereotypical aliens were still
the belligerent 'little green men' popularized by Marvin the
Martian, the martians from the 'Mars Attacks' trading cards, and the
saucer men from 'Invasion of the Saucer Men.' Close Encounters would
help popularize the 'greys' as the stereotypical alien.
The term 'close encounters of the third kind' comes from J. Allen
Hynek's 1972 book the UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry. Hynek
had been part of Project Blue Book and other investigations into
UFOs and served as a consultant to the film.
We are going to take a look at the original 1977 version. There was
also the 1980 Special Edition which should probably be avoided, and
the 1998 Collector's Edition which is Spielberg's preferred version.
This week we
look at that other famous giant monster from 1954 - Gojira
While 'Gojira' was
inspired by and follows a similar plot as 'the Beast from 20,000
Fathoms", 'Gojira' had a particular resonance in Japan. The opening
of the film where the crew of a fishing boat suffers radiation
poisoning came less than a year after sailors from a real Japanese
fishing boat were exposed to fallout from the US atomic testing on
Bikini. Gojira's attack on Tokyo comes less than a decade after
Tokyo, Kobe, and other Japanese cities were firebombed, and atomic
weapons were used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was also only 30
years since the Great Kanto Earthquake, typhoon, and ensuing fire
destroyed a large part of Tokyo.
The US version of
'Gojira' had the Japanese dialogue dubbed into English and also
featured new scenes shot with Raymond Burr as a reporter in Japan at
the time who would be present at the various important events in the
film through the use of body doubles and creative editing. 'Godzilla
King of the Monsters' would be a major release in the US in 1956. It
was a success in US theaters and would go on to be regularly shown
on TV, opening the door for many Japanese science fiction films in
the US. We will watch the original Japanese version, but the US
version is pretty good to.
During the 1970s it was
rather common for late afternoon TV in the US to show soap operas or
old movies every day, and regularly twice a year one entire week of
the afternoon movie would be taken over by 'monster week' showing
the Godzilla films or the Gamera films or other similar fare, so the
audience for these films was constantly expanding. Several of the
Godzilla films were dubbed and received a theatrical release in the
US - I remember seeing two or three in the theatre in the 1970s, as
well as Godzilla's return to theatres in the mid 80s after a decade
absence. In the 1990s the original versions of the films were
finally released onto video in the US. For the last several years
one of the main Godzilla conventions has been held near Chicago each
summer, and they regularly take over the Pickwick theatre in Park
Ridge to show the original films during the convention.
The Godzilla film series
is one of the longest running film series, currently at 27 films (28
if you count the US film from 1998) with another US film to come
next year. There have been three sets of Godzilla films - 15 films
from 1954-1975 when declining box office caused the series to stop,
7 films from 1984-1995 when the series stopped to allow the US film
to proceed, and then 5 films from 1999-2004 when declining box
office again stopped the series.
Other good Godzilla films
King Kong vs Godzilla
(1962), Destroy All Monsters (1968), Return of Godzilla (1985),
Godzilla, Mothra & King Ghidrah - Giant Monster All out Attack
(2001), and for its sheer exuberance the final film, Godzilla: Final
Wars (2004), is worth checking out. Unfortunately the Godzilla film
that I was in does not make the top list.
While earlier giant
monsters like King Kong and the Rhedosuarus from 'the Beast from
20,000 Fathoms' were created through stop motion animation, Godzilla
would begin the 'man in suit' style of creating giant monsters. The
scale of that suit and the model cities it tramples on have changed
over the years. Godzilla was 50m tall (roughly the height of SEO on
campus) in the 50s through the 1970s. When Godzilla returned in the
1980s he was 80m tall since buildings had grown much taller. In the
1990s he briefly became 100m tall (the height of University Hall on
campus) before returning to 80m tall in the 2000s. For
comparison a Tyrannosaurus Rex is only 6m tall.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
The success of
'Star Wars' caused Paramount to rethink their in-production Star
Trek Phase II TV series and turn it into 'Star Trek The Motion
Picture.' That picture went over budget, becoming the most expensive
film made at that time, but it did not do as well as expected
critically or commercially. It did well enough to warrant a sequel,
but that sequel would be made on a much smaller budget reusing sets,
models, props, and footage from the first film to dramatically
reduce costs, and it would be the last 'Star Trek' film made unless
it did very well. It did very very well, was a critical and
commercial success, and is still generally considered to be the best
of the 'Star Trek' films.
It also showcases one of the major steps in the evolution of computer
graphics in feature films:
Bride of Frankenstein
This week we are going to take a
look at one of the most famous scientists in films and literature:
Victor (Henry) Frankenstein.
Frankenstein film was Thomas Edison's short 1910 film. The most
famous and influential set of films began with 1931's Frankenstein
and its first (and slightly better) sequel from 1935: 'Bride of
Frankenstein'. Since that time there have been roughly 50 films
made, and lots of other variations on the theme, but many of the
most iconic moments come from this film.
Other good Frankenstein
films include the original 1931 'Frankenstein', Mel Brooks' 1974
parody 'Young Frankenstein', 1948's 'Bud Abbot and Lou Costello Meet
Frankenstein', and 1957's 'The Curse of Frankenstein' where Peter
Cushing took over the role of the Baron. Mel Brooks' 'Young
Frankenstein' would re-use many of the same props to create
Frankenstein's laboratory in their film..
sub-genre that we have not looked into yet is the 'Giant Monster'
The 'Giant Monster' film genre had its origins in 'the Lost World'
of 1925 and 'King Kong' of 1933. The genre really took off in 1953
with 'The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms', where a radioactive dinosaur
awoken by atomic testing causes chaos in Manhattan. That film was
based on a story by Ray Bradbury and featured special effects by Ray
Harryhausen. The following year saw the release of two of the best
giant monster films: 'Them!' in the US and 'Godzilla' in Japan.
'Them!' would become the highest grossing film for Warner Bros.
studio that year. The following six years saw various studios around
the world producing films with giant sea creatures (It Came from
Beneath the Sea, Giant Behemoth), arachnids (Tarantula, Earth vs the
Spider, Black Scorpion), crustaceans (Attack of the Crab Monsters),
reptiles (Giant Gila Monster), worms (Attack of the Giant Leeches),
birds (The Giant Claw), insects (The Beginning of the End, Deadly
Mantis, Monster from Green Hell), people (The Amazing Colossal Man,
Attack of the 50 ft Woman), rocks (The Monolith Monsters), machines
(Kronos), elements (The Magnetic Monster), and aliens (The Blob, The
Crawling Eye, Caltiki the Undying Monster). Beginning in the 1960s,
aside from the continuing Godzilla and Gamera series in Japan, very
few giant monster films were released until computer graphics in the
late 90s made them practical again.
'Them!' starts out as a police procedural with the suspense building
until the reveal of the giant monsters 30 minutes into film, though
the surprise of what 'them' are was somewhat reduced by prominently
featuring giant ants on the various movie posters.
Star Wars (original 1977
its 1977 and
20th Century Fox is preparing to release their big budget sci-fi
film of the year, the post apocalyptic action adventure 'Damnation
Alley.' It did not meet expectations. Fortunately for 20th Century
Fox that year they also released a smaller film. Get out your 'Darth
Vader Lives' T-shirts, we are going to watch 'Star Wars'.
'Star Wars' was released
slowly across the US in '77, starting in less than 40 theaters since
it was not expected to do well in a jaded and cynical post-Vietnam
post-Watergate US. Within three months it had expanded to 1000
theaters across the US. The hype built person to person and spread
organically since the studio didn't know what they had, so people
across the country 'discovered' 'Star Wars' in the way you discover
a smaller independent film because you heard about it from a friend
and not from an advertising campaign. I was 10 when I saw 'Star
Wars' in St Louis when my family visited my brother there, and then
we came back to Detroit and there was no evidence of its existence.
Star Wars was only playing in one theatre on the other side of town.
It was an odd experience having seen something special and then
having to wait for the wave of its existence to make it to my
People also started
seeing the film multiple times in the theatre on the first run. This
was before home video so the only way to see a film again was to go
to a smaller revival theatre for a second run, and people did that
for older films. Here people were going back again and again to a
first run film. I saw 'star wars' at least four times that summer as
more and more people I knew 'discovered' the film and wanted to go
Since the film was not
expected to do well there was no Star Wars merchandise available
aside from the novelization and the very quick production of
T-shirts and buttons. Six months later at Christmas you could buy a
base for the unreleased action figures along with a card saying you
will get your figures in a few months.
'Star Wars' was the
second time that evl (then the circle graphics habitat) worked on a
film. The first was 1974's 'UFO: Target Earth', which would be in
the IMDB bottom 100 if more people had actually seen it. There were
no hints that 'Star Wars' would be any different.
What we are going to
watch is, more or less, the way 'Star Wars' was seen in theaters in
1977, not 'Star Wars Episode IV' from 1981, or 'Greedo shoots first
Star Wars' from 1997, or 'Greedo and Han shoot at the same time Star
Wars' from 2007. Depending on where and when you saw 'Star Wars' in
'77 there were two slightly different prints, two print sizes - 35
mm and 70 mm, and three different audio mixes (mono, stereo, 6
channel) with different content, so like 'the Hobbit' you had a
different experience depending on the theatre you saw it in.
Theatres were also a whole lot bigger then, before the dark times,
before the multiplexes, with a single auditorium seating 500 to 1000
people with really really big screens, so its almost impossible
today to recreate the huge impact of seeing and hearing and feeling
the opening shot of 'Star Wars'.
The Andromeda Strain (1971)
week - The original 1971 version of The Andromeda Strain. Our third
Michael Crichton film was based on the 1969 novel of the same name
and features one of the most realistic depictions of scientists in a
dramatic film, also some pretty cool set design, a nice electronic
music score, and a good example of late 60's early 70s split screen
An alien life form hitches a ride back to earth on a satellite, but
unlike many sci-fi films it does not rapidly grow into a man in a
suit terrorizing small town villagers, or grow into a very large man
in a suit trampling model cities. It confines its terrorizing to the
Plan 9 from Outer Space
celebrate evl's new popcorn machine and large amount of organic
popcorn from Alan and I, sci-fi Fridays will start up again this
Friday at 12:30 in the cyber-commons with Ed Wood's 1956 film: 'Plan
9 from Outer Space'
While not the worst movie ever made, it is certainly a very badly
made movie, but also a very very enjoyable one. Wondrously inept in
almost every conceivable way, Ed Wood's anti-war alien invasion film
would eventually inspire Tim Burton's 1994 Film 'Ed Wood' which
covers many of the 'high points' of the production of this film.
Other entertaining bad movies in the same genre and time period
- Bride of the Monster (1955)
- Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)
- Monster a Go-Go (1965)
- The Creeping Terror (1964)
- Robot Monster (1953)
evl is planning an outing to Comic Con next Friday it seems
appropriate to give a bit of a primer on that experience, and
simultaneously show a very funny and very affectionate parody of
science fiction (and its fans) in general, and Star Trek in
particular. Galaxy Quest did OK at the box office upon release, but
the studios clearly had no idea how to market it. It was very well
received by sci-fi fans and even won the World Science Fiction
Society Hugo that year for Best Dramatic Presentation.
The Year of the Sex Olympics
have taken a look at adaptions of stories by several major science
fiction writers, but one we have not encountered so far is Nigel
Kneale. He is most famously known as the creator of the Quatermass
series on TV and in the movies. In 1954 he adapted 1984 for
television and in 1968 created his own dystopian future where an
overpopulated planet is divided into the few 'high drives' who run
the government and the media, and the many passive 'low drives' who
are encouraged to watch but not do. Taking this to the extreme is
the The Live Life Show where the television audience can
watch a small group of people 24 hours a day on an island - yes, its
the birth of reality television as part of a dystopic parable.
The original broadcast was in color, and apparently in a lot of
color, but no color videotape survives, only a black and white
version, which was only found in the 1980s after the program was
The Fifth Element
Besson's 1997 film is one of those movies that a director 'has
always wanted to make since his/her childhood.' These kinds of
vanity projects tend to go to extremes and this film embraces that.
With Moebius (Jean Giraud) on the production design team the film
has a very different style from the typical Hollywood future.
Flash Gordon (1980)
Raymond's comic strip inspired the first 'Flash Gordon' movie serial
which we watched, plus two more in 1938 and 1940. There would be
occasional comics over the next several decades. In 1967 there
was an inexplicably odd Turkish Flash Gordon film, and in 1974 the
reasonably amusing X-rated 'Flesh Gordon'. Then came 'Star Wars' and
suddenly there was a Saturday morning cartoon in 1979 and the big
budget 'Flash Gordon' movie in 1980. The film didn't do very well,
either critically, popularly, or monetarily, but its earnestness,
plus one of the most memorable opening credits sequences in movie
history, has earned it cult status.
early cyberpunk TV series, Max Headroom started as a made for TV
movie created by Channel 4 in the UK in 1985. Two years later it was
remade, almost shot for shot, with the same lead actors as the first
episode of the ABC Max Headroom TV series, which lasted 14 episodes.
We are going to watch the US version; the original UK version is not
commercially available but can be found in the dark corners of the
Microsoft Office Labs Videos
These videos were made in 2008 and
2011 by Microsoft
Office Labs to show how people might interact with
computers / displays / each other in 2019.
The Day the Earth Stood Still
this 1951 film contains all the standard elements of a 50s B-movie
alien invasion film: flying saucer, robot, energy weapons, battle
with the US military, ultimatums, theremin music, etc, they are
combined here to create one of the best science fiction films ever
Future Shock and Dark Star
Shock was a book written but Alvin Toffler in 1970 with the core
idea that society and technology were changing too fast for people
to be able to adapt, causing a high degree of stress. He popularized
the term 'information overload.' This film version was made in 1972.
Dark Star was John Carpenter's first feature in 1974, starting out
as a student film and going through several iterations of added,
removed, and edited footage; we are going to see the shorter
Director's Cut. The film was budgeted at $60,000 (or about $250,000
today) so it will be one of the least expensive views of the future
we have seen so far. Appearing after Silent Running but before Star
Wars it would be the first film to show space travel as just a job,
and not very glamorous - a theme that would be revisited by
screenplay writer Dan O'Bannon in Alien.
A small crew is on a long term mission to destroy unstable planets
to make way for human colonization. Unfortunately the ship and the
crew members are starting to break down.
in the 1950s and early 60s two
great Japanese directors, Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu, made very
different 'Japanese' films, Kurosawa more action/adventure, Ozu more
personal. Almost all Japanese futuristic films have followed the
Kurosawa model; Summer Wars (2009) by Mamoru Hosoda, is more of an
Ozu film, dealing with family issues and personal relationships at
the same time as the world's massive online world OZ is coming under
Global Frequency and Denno Coil
Frequency started as a 12 issue comic series in 2002 (now available
on comixology) and then became a TV pilot in 2005 but it didn't go
on to become a TV series.
Global frequency was a
cross between the X-files and the 1960's Mission Impossible TV
series. In the 1960s Jim Phelps would be given his mission and then
choose the most appropriate agents from a binder of photographs at
the beginning of each episode (though his team pretty much always
included exactly the same people). Now with cellphones and immediate
access to information about almost anyone on the planet a much more
dynamic solution to problems becomes available.
Denno Coil was a 26
episode TV series in 2007. The series is set in a future city
where augmented reality eyeglasses are commonplace allowing an
almost complete merging of real and virtual worlds.
Last week we saw a future with
almost no robots ... this week we have lots and lots of robots as 2004
looks ahead to Chicago in the year 2035 inspired by several Isaac
Asimov stories with 'I, Robot'
week ... Minority Report's view of 2054 from 2002. This will be our
third film inspired by a Philip K Dick story. Unlike most other
films set in the future this one is based on ideas by several
experts gathered together by Steven Spielberg including:
- Harald Belker, car designer
- Stewart Brand, author,
scientist and co-creator of The Well on-line community
- Peter Calthorpe, the New
- Douglas Coupland, author and
- Neil Gershenfeld, professor at
the Media Lab at MIT
- Shaun Jones, director of
biomedical research at DARPA
- Kevin Kelly, founder of Wired
- Jaron Lanier, one of the
inventors of virtual reality technology
- William Mitchell, dean of the
school of architecture at MIT
Ten years later some of
the predictions have come to be, others are close, and others seem a
Avalon and the 2000s
was Mamoru Oshii's first film after 'Ghost in the Shell', teaming up
with the same writer and composer, but filmed in Poland with an
entirely Polish cast and help from the Polish military. If you
recall our discussion about the computer graphics going from green
to amber in 'Ghost in Shell' between its original release and
re-release, here is where Oshii first went amber. I think 'Avalon'
was the first, and perhaps only film to get the concept role playing
While the 2000s weren't
that long ago and people may actually remember these things, I
figure I would complete my set of notes on the new tech of the
various decades, so here we go:
in the 2000s
GPS goes mainstream with
small receivers for cars and hikers
wireless networking goes
mainstream in the early part of the decade and cellular by the end
of the decade
becomes more common in the early part of the decade as webcams or
built-in cameras become more common
In the second half of the
decade social media would take off in dramatic fashion with
Facebook, twitter, etc.
text messaging surges in
popularity as smart phones are used less and less as actual phones
in the second half of the
decade flat panel displays quickly replace tube-based displays
RFID tags gain popularity
for tracking merchandise, people. etc.
surgery becomes much more common
digital high definition
(and widescreen) television replaces analog NTSC TV in the US
and in particular years:
2000 PlayStation 2
released with a DVD drive, 300 MHz processor, and 36 MB of RAM,
eventually selling over 150 million consoles with over 1.5 billion
2000 first Prius hybrid
2001 iPod (max 10 gig of
music) became as ubiquitous as the Sony Walkman of the 1980s or the
transistor radio of the 1950s. The music industry is slow to react.
2001 windows xp released
with minimum system requirements of (300 MHz CPU, 128 MB RAM,
800x600 monitor, 1.5 GB free hard drive space)
2002 cell phones with
cameras begin appearing
2002 Roomba is
introduced. Eventually 6 million of them will be robotically
cleaning floors in homes (and biding their time)
2003 DVRs appear,
allowing you to record TV digitally onto a hard drive
2004 Spirit and
Opportunity Rovers land on mars and drive around for many years
2005 YouTube begins
2005/6 Xbox 360 and PS3
released. PS3 incorporated a Blu-ray drive, 3.2 GHz processor, 512
MB RAM, 80 GB hard drive, Wi-Fi.
2006 Nintendo wii appears
and introduces gestural interaction to the masses
2006 Pluto demoted to
dwarf planet (as measurement tools have increased in accuracy,
Pluto's estimated size and mass has continued to shrink since its
discovery from roughly the size of the Earth to 1/500th that of the
2007 smart phones,
including the iPhone, change everything again. Touch screens
dramatically gain in popularity.
2008 Amazon Kindle
appears. The publishing industry is slow to react.
2009 avatar brings 3D
movies back (again) after the short 3D booms in the 1950s and the
1980s - the basic passive stereo projection technology however
remains largely unchanged over those 60 years.
100 years in 100 Minutes
to the Moon - French filmmaker Georges Mï¿½liï¿½s short 14 minute
film from 1902 is considered the first science fiction film. We will
take a look at the newly restored color version which was colored by
hand 110 years ago.
Flash Gordon episode 13 Rocketing to Earth - Back in the fall we
watched the first four episodes of the Flash Gordon serial. Now we
will watch the final episode from 1936
Marvin the Martian appeared in several Warner Brothers cartoons. We
will take a look at a double-feature directed by the great Chuck
Duck Dodgers in the 24ï¿½th Century (1953)
Hare-way to the Stars (1958)
Red Dwarf - Back to Reality
This British TV series began in 1988 and this
episode from season 5 aired in 1992. The series follows the
adventures of Dave Lister, the last living human, his hologramatic
former room-mate, a humanoid who evolved from the descendants of
Dave's cat, and a mechanoid, three million years in the future
Futurama - Space Pilot 3000
Matt Groening's TV series began in 1999 with this
episode where delivery boy Phillip Fry gets cryogenically frozen in
the year 1999 and wakes up in New New York in the year 2999
Ghost in the Shellv(1995)
in the Shell was directed by Mamoru Oshii (who directed lots of
great animated and live action TV shows and films like Urusei
Yatsura, Angel's Egg, Patlabor, Avalon) and based on on comics by
Masamune Shirow (who's stories revolve around the integration of
humans and technology in the near future) with music by Kanji Kawai
and a screenplay by Kazunori Ito (both of which also do lot of great
films and TV series)
The year is 2029. Cyborgs
are common and people have varying levels of prosthetic implants
allowing limb or organ replacement, and the transfer of human
consciousness into a fully mechanical body. Implants give the
benefit of constant connectivity to the net without external
interfaces, but also allow hacking into someone's body. A recurring
theme is whether machines in this inter-connected world can develop
a soul or 'ghost' in this environment.
We are going to look at
the original version of the film from 1995. There is also version
2.0 (not to be confused with Ghost in the Shell 2, the sequel, or
Ghost in the Shell - Standalone Complex, the TV series that
followed). Ghost in the Shell 2.0 was released in 2008 and added
more computer graphics, changed the film's color pallet, and
featured a new impressive sound mix. All of the various incarnations
of Ghost in the Shell are worth reading / watching.
1993's 'Demolition Man' looks ahead to a dystopic Los Angeles
in 1996 and then to the Joy Joy future of 2032.
Total Recall (1990)
We are up to 1990s and a few years away from the internet changing
in the 80s:
atm machines become commonplace - no more talking to a human at a
bank when you need to get cash
1990 hubble space telescope launched to take pictures from above the
atmosphere, and we see a lot more colour in the sky than ever before
1990 human genome project begins and is completed 13 years later
1993 - multi-platform mosaic web browser is released replacing
gopher, ftp, and beginning the move from a small text based internet
community to a page layout graphical one for the world. Within a
couple years Netscape and Internet Explorer would appear based on
ideas and/or code from mosaic. By the end of the 90s isolated online
communities like America On-Line (AOL) and Compuserve are left
similarly email becomes widespread two decades after the first email
was sent with services like Hotmail providing email access through
the web. By the end of the 1990s there were over 550 million email
addresses worldwide (330 million in the US) and in the US 2/3rds of
workplaces and 1/4 of homes had email
1993 doom released and the pattern of the first person shooter are
1993 apple newton released as the first serious PDA. It fails but in
1996 the palm pilot appears and succeeds
1994 and 1995 - visible human datasets released
1994 amazon starts selling books on the web (and eventually a whole
lot more) - no more need to talk to a human to buy a book
1995 toy story premiers and theatrical animation is dragged in to
the computer graphics age
1997 dvds begin to replace VHS and laserdiscs for home video
1997 sojourner rover starts driving around mars
1997 netflix founded - no more need to talk to a human to rent a
1998 construction of International Space Station begins
digital still cameras start becoming popular. By the late 1990s
these cameras would have 1-megapixel resolution (no more talking to
a person to get your pictures developed a few days later)
cell phone (just phones, not smart phones) usage would go from 5
million in 1990 to 100 million by 2000 (and 300 million in 2010)
fueled by the internet boom pc ownership jumps from 55 million PCs
in the US in 1990 to 140 million by 1999
In the 1990s we carried around lots of devices, none of which
connected to the internet - digital cameras, PDAs for our
appointments and quick notes, portable game players. and cell phones
to talk to people
in the mid 1990s PCs had:
- single CPU at 50-100mhz
- 8 MB ram
- 512 MB hard drives
- 800 x 600 pixel monitors
and with that context - Total Recall - 1990
Ten years after Blade Runner we get a second big budget film based
on a Philip K Dick story. This time Arnold Schwarzenegger stars and
Paul Verhoeven directs (right after his success with another
Viewtron, Knowledge Navigator,
'You Will', and Star Trek the Next Generation
- AT&T's Viewtron
What would the internet have been like in 1983 using analogue phone
lines to transmit data and your TV as the display? While almost
everything we have shown has been a guess about the future, this was
real, although almost no-one had access to it and it was not able to
expand beyond a couple markets. It would take the internet, personal
computers, and web browsers to provide a platform for these same
ideas to flourish.
- apple's Knowledge Navigator
We come to 1988 and another look 25 years into the future with
apple's knowledge navigator concept video. Steve jobs was
kicked out of apple in 1985 and would not be back for another 12
years but in the interim apple would still be innovating. This is a
concept video of how a professor in the far off year of 2011 would
be interacting with information and other people.
- AT&T's "You Will" series of commercials
In 1993-1994 at&T created the series of 'You will'
commercials directed by David Fincher (who would go on to direct
Fight Club, Zodiac, etc) with narration by Tom Selleck (ask your
parents). Most of the 'marvels of the future' depicted in these
commercials are now commonplace, though not quite the way imagined.
Trek the Next Generation
In the mid 1970s Star Trek was set to return to TV screens as 'Star
Trek Phase 2'. The success of Star Wars quickly converted a second
TV series into a theatrical film series. With the success of the
films there was interest in another TV series with a new cast. Gene
Roddenberry would set the Next Generation 100 years later than his
original series with updated production design and technology.
The new Enterprise would be equipped with ubiquitous large touch
screen displays and tablet computers, and the Holodeck from the 70s
animated series bringing Ivan Sutherland's Ultimate Display into
regular fictional use.
Back to the Future Part II
first third of the second 'Back to the Future' movie looks at 2015
from 1989 (again, 25 years ahead), including 2015 looking backwards
in the 'cafe 80s'. Writers Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale, and Production
Designer Rick Carter created a future where things have gotten
bigger, smaller, more colorful, more convenient, and are hovering a
whole lot more, but rather than being utopic or dystopic, this
future looks more like an amusingly realistic progression from the
present (err ... the past ... when it was the present)
Mobile Suit Gundam - Char's
Suit Gundam first appeared on Japanese TV in 1979. Throughout its 13
sequels, reboots, and re-imaginings, the 'giant robots' are not one
of a kind things built by a mad scientist and piloted by whatever
young people happen to be around when they get turned on, but are
more like mass produced tanks/airplanes that are piloted by
professionals. Instead of alien invasions, the stories focus on
future wars fought in inner near solar system between groups of
humans with different goals and political ideologies where there are
'good guys' and 'bad guys' on both sides of the conflict. Pretty
much anyone could die at any time, and the last few episodes of each
series tend to get very very bloody.
The central conflicts in the Gundam universe tend to be between
those who grew up on Earth and those who grew up in the many O'Neill
space colonies, or Sides, near the Earth who want more independence.
A secondary conflict exists between the Newtypes and Oldtypes.
Newtypes are slightly evolved humans who are somewhat psychic and
are much better at controlling mobile suits than 'normal' humans.
While we usually start near the beginning of a TV series, here we
are going to show the first original Gundam theatrical film from
1988, the one that ended the first set of TV series, as the hero and
(very cool) villain from the first Gundam TV series finally settle
things. All but a handful of the characters of this movie are new
(see note above above the how the TV series tend to end) and it was
designed to be somewhat accessible to general audiences.
The 43 episodes of the original Gundam TV series were condensed into
three theatrical films which are worth seeing. If you are looking
more a more modern show, Gundam Seed from the early 2000s was also
quite well done. The various series also live on through the
multitudes of model kits of every Gundam variant. Look in any
Japanese toy shop and you will still find Ultraman figures, Totoro,
and Gundam model kits.
Scott + Syd Mead + Philip K. Dick + Vangelis = one of the most
memorable futures of the past. A commercial failure at the time, its
appearance alongside the birth of cyberpunk in written form would
have a much stronger influence in later years.
While I would normally
prefer to show the version of the film that was shown in theaters in
1982, the 2007 'Final Cut' fixes a few errors in the original and is
closer to the original intent for the film without introducing any
'Greedo shoots first' annoyances.
and now we get to the 1980s and
back to another film written and directed by Michael Crichton
was the first film to use shaded computer graphics for a very short
sequence, and also the first film to deal seriously with the concept
of computer generated virtual humans, scanning human beings to
create those characters, and combining virtual and computer
generated elements in real time - things that are common today,
though the details are a little different when seen from 1981.
tech in the 80s:
There were several
wonderful new things that could be done with your phone in the 1980s
that still exist today:
- fax machines
- answering machines
The phone system also
enabled bulletin board systems (BBSs), a DIY internet at 300 or 1200
bits per second run from individual PCs scattered around the
country/world. They supported text only conversations, and often
only one person could log in at a time, but you could set one up in
your basement with an extra phone line and a dedicated computer, and
they would lead to more general services like compuserve and America
online, and eventually to all of the online conversations today.
While phones were still
hard-wired you could carry around a small battery powered
pager/beeper to get notified that you should find a phone and call
someone - kind of like an 1980s version of twitter
Television changed from
over the air to cable, taking people from 10 local channels to 100
national channels, 24 hour channels, and the first channels
dedicated to particular topics.
The mid 80s would see the
first major resurgence of 3D cinema, using the same passive
polarization technology of the first 3D boom in the 1950, which is
the same passive polarization technology of recent years. Red/Blue
glasses were used to try and bring the 3D experience to TV screens
but without a big hit like Avatar or computer generated animated
films to keep the trend going, the resurgence was very short lived.
In the early 1980s you
could carry around the music you wanted to hear on a Sony walkman
with cassette tapes.You could also watch music videos all day on MTV
as rock stars were suddenly expected to have hit videos as well as
hit songs. By the end of the 80s you could carry a GameBoy around
with you as the first popular portable video game system.
Personal computers were
becoming more common and display resolution was up to 640 x 480.
Computers would gain mice and graphical user interfaces. Storage
would move from 5&1/4" floppy discs to 3&1/2" discs (looking
a lot like what they used in star trek in the 60s) with 800kB of
storage per side. Laser printers would replace dot matrix printers
allowing people to make professional looking printed documents.
CDs would replace LPs for
music distribution and would dominate for a quarter of a century.
CDROMs would begin to replace floppy discs for software distribution
by the end of the decade and would have more storage than a typical
hard disc drive until the mid 1990s.
Laser discs would appear
for home video distribution with double the resolution of VHS tapes,
and while they never replaced VHS, they would innovate by giving
viewers films in their original aspect ratio, audio commentaries,
and special features that have become standard on DVDs.
1981 saw the first space
shuttle flight. The two Voyagers would continue to give us images of
the outer planets throughout the decade - 1979 Jupiter, 1980 Saturn,
1986 Uranus, 1989 Neptune, US and Soviet missions would give us
views of Venus, while a European mission would get close to Halley's
Space 1999 and The Six Million
Back to American and British TV
this week ...
The Six Million Dollar Man (1974)
Steve Austin, the last man to walk on the moon, is seriously injured
during a NASA test flight. As the opening credits briefly explain,
he is rebuilt as a cyborg, or 'bionic' man, at a cost of six million
dollars (25 million in inflation adjusted dollars today). While
initially working as a secret agent and traveling around the world,
the series producers quickly determined that they needed things that
were difficult for Steve to fight, so four episodes into the series
we get the first robot adversary, which would lead to several more
encounters with robotic impostors, aliens, and Bigfoot, as the
science-fiction elements would start to dominate the five years the
series was on TV. This particular episode would start an incredible
number of slow motion fights on the playground.
Space 1999 (1975)
We last left Gerry and Silvia Anderson when they were producing
Thunderbirds. Three supermarionation TV series, and two live TV
action series later brings us to the most expensive TV series made
to that time - Space 1999. Set on the moon 25 years in the future,
the look of the series was obviously influenced by 2001, though the
production designers would create several memorable designs of their
own. While the computer interfaces are pretty primitive with lots of
buttons and few displays, the characters routinely carry a 1970s
vision of a PDA/cellphone.
1999 A.D. and Westworld (1973)
This week we are going to show a
short and then a feature.
up is a view of the year 1999 from 1967 made by Philco-Ford. Philco
was known for making radios starting in the 1920s and became one of
the major radio manufacturers before moving into TVs and computers.
They were acquired by Ford Motor Company in the early 1960s. This
short 20 minute documentary describes home life in the far off year
Next up is Michael Crichton's Westworld.
Crichton has written various books and scripts about near-future
technology, and has visited the theme of an amusement park run amuck
as its underlying technology fails a couple times. This was the
first. The pace of technological change, glacial by today's
standards, was concerning people, and the widespread introduction of
computers would really begin to speed up that pace of change.
Westworld has the first digitally processed imagery in a motion
picture, as we enter the time of computer graphics in film. It would
take 5 days of computer time to produce 2 and a half minutes of
With regards to the space
program, after the near cancellation of apollo 16 and 17 and the
real cancellations of apollo 18-20, the US stopped going to the moon
in 1972, but we did have Skylab in orbit from 1973 until its flaming
wreckage crashed into australia in 1979 and the Soviet Union had
their series of Salyut Space Stations. Robotic space exploration
really began to flourish as the Soviet Venera 9 probe sent back
photos from Venus in 1975, the two Viking landers successfully
arrived on Mars in 1976, and the two Voyager probes were launched on
their grand tour of the gas giants in 1977.
With regards to electronics:
- 1971 first mass produced pocket calculator (no more slide rules)
- 1972 pong released as arcade game
- 1974 home version of pong
- 1975 mass produced LED digital watches (I had one - you had to push
a button for it to show you the time)
1977 first mass produced Video Cassette Recorders (VCRs). Note that
at this point Hollywood was against putting movies on tape so you
still could only catch old movies on TV (edited and in the wrong
aspect ratio) or in 2nd run theaters (with so-so projectors, and
breaks in the films), or you had the read the novelization of the
movie, or read the comic book version.You could record TV on a VCR
but it cost $15 to by a blank tape to record 2 hours.
- 1977 apple ][ and the
TRS-80 were introduced as the first successful personal computers.
Their programs were initially loaded from cassette tape, or typed in
by hand each time you wanted to run them. A year later disk drives
with 5&1/4 discs would appear with 120kB storage per side.
Running was released in march 1972. In the four years since 2001 was
released we had landed on the moon four times, with two more
missions to come in 1972. The shiny 2001 future is starting the turn
to a darker vision as people are asking what we are giving up in
exchange for that bright technological world. Social and
environmental issues that had been simmering for a long time were
now more in the public consciousness. New directors were being given
a chance to try to appeal to that social consciousness in youth that
wanted heroes that would fight, or ignore the system. Silent Running
would become 2001's hippie counter-cultural sibling.
Other good dystopian
films of the time include: Soylent Green, Rollerball, Logan's Run,
THX-1138, Sleeper, Death Race 2000, A Boy and his Dog.
Most robots in science
fiction films to this time looked like people, with some exceptions
like the very mechanical robots in Gog or the robot from Silent
Star. Silent Running would show a different kind of robot - looking
mechanical, but with the personality of a humanoid robot.
Hey look! this film has a
rating. Its rated G for General Audiences. The Motion Picture Code
that ensured all films shown in the US were 'suitable' was gone in
late 1968, and in its place was the MPAA rating system. At the time
the ratings were G(general), M(mature), R(restricted). The M rating
would soon be renamed GP and then renamed again as PG, and those
ratings would stand until the Temple of Doom ripped the heart out of
the rating system in 1984.
2001: a space odyssey
was released in April 1968. At a time when traveling to the moon (we
hadn't landed on it yet) was exciting and dangerous, Stanley Kubrick
would look 30 years into the future and show space travel as
routine, yet still giving us a view of the near future that Walt
Disney or Wernher Von Braun would have approved of. 2001 would
probably be the high point of the bright beautiful future, aside
from one or two orbiting weapons platforms, some mutual US / Soviet
distrust, and a couple bugs in the computer programming.
Most computers in movies
and TV were good at crunching numbers and giving answers with their
inputs moving from cards and dials and buttons to voice. We began
seeing more display screens at the end of the 60s, but in the
context of the stories they were almost always used to show images
from cameras rather than computer generated information. In the late
60s some sci-fi computers moved beyond being a useful tool and
started thinking and reasoning and making decisions on their own,
and not always in the best interest of the humans around them.
Captain Kirk would talk at least three computers to death in Star
Trek, but couldn't run his ship without them - a topic Kirk and
Spock would regularly revisit.
In real life there was
concern about computers replacing people in jobs as computation and
automation do what mechanization had done before, and with the
increasing 'intelligence' of computers, people were forced to think
about what makes us 'human.'
Ultraman and Giant Robo and
Given the success of the Godzilla
films, lots of very big monsters would start attacking Japan in the
60s and early 70s. This led to multiple ways to fight them, some of
which we will explore this week.
Ultraman - Shoot the Invader (66)
Tsubaraya had been in charge of the special effects for all the Toho
Studios science fiction films including the Godzila series. In 1966
he created a black and white TV series called Ultra Q with a small
group investigating strange phenomena. The sequel to that series
would be in color and was called 'Ultraman'. 45 years and 18 TV
series later the concept is still going strong. This series takes
place 25 years in the future in the 1990s. Ultraman is a 40 meter
tall alien from 'nebula m78' who accidentally kills Hayata, a member
of the Science Special Search Party, who are tasked with
investigating strange phenomena like in Ultra Q, except with the
advantage of an international organization, a spiffy headquarters,
jet aircraft, and energy weapons. Ultraman brings Hayata back to
life and gives him the power to call / transform into Ultraman when
needed, which is about once per episode. This episode is the second
of the series and introduces what will become Ultraman's main
recurring enemy - the Baltans.
Robot - Dracolon - The Great Sea Monster (67)
The first giant robot
that started it all was Tetsujin 28 (Gigantor in the US) created by
Mitsuteru Yokoyama in comic form in 1956 and then in TV form in
1963. Tokoyama would then create Giant Robo (Johnny Sokko and His
Flying Robot in the US). His giant robots were controlled by a
person on the ground, typically a young boy, and featured pretty
outrageous villains and a high amount of violence. This is the first
episode of Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot.
Ninja Team Gatchaman - Gatchaman VS Turtle King (72)
Gatchaman would be the
first team focused sci-fi series in Japan, drawing on the success of
the modern ninja team TV series Ninja Butai Gekko and spawning many
more multi-coloured animated and live action teams. The bad guys,
Galactor, are trying to invade earth using giant mechanical monsters
operated by their soldiers. The good guys, the International Science
Organization, do not have their own giant robot, or help from
friendly giant aliens, so they must typically infiltrate the alien
monster or base and destroy the machinery, usually while killing
large numbers of the bad guys. This is the first episode of
The Giant Robot genre
would continue to evolve for several more years. In 1972 Go Nagai,
creator of Devilman, Cutey Honey, and the list goes on and on, would
create his own giant robot - Mazinger Z - which was the first giant
robot piloted from the inside by a pilot in the head of the robot,
and in 1974 he created Getter Robo - the first giant robot that
would be formed from several components in different combinations.
The Giant Robot genre would fade by the end of the 1970s when it was
replaced by a more realistic depiction of robots and their pilots in
Mobile Suit Gundam, which we will get to in a few weeks.
The Prisoner and Star Trek
Prisoner - Patrick McGoohan had a successful three season
run in the mid 60s on TV in Britain (Danger Man) and the US (renamed
as Secret Agent) as a secret agent that used his brain more than his
gun. When the studio asked for a follow on series he pitched a
series that asked what would happen to a secret agent if he quit.
Instead of a straight action/adventure series he gave them a very
personal 17 episode series that dealt with issues of the place of
the individual in society.
Trek - Its the 22nd or 23rd century (the mythology was
still evolving at this point), human beings can move between star
systems in days, there are lots of alien races out there (who mostly
look like humans), and there is a lot of casual use of advanced
technology, especially communications technology, computers, and
sensors. 'Obsession' is not one of the best episodes, but it is a
pretty representative one, and features a good variety of the
technology used in the series. Star Trek lasted 3 seasons (79
episodes) and then went onto a successful run in syndication which
spawned a Saturday morning animated series and then production on a
second TV series which, thanks to Star Wars, would lead to its
rebirth in movie theaters in the late 70s.
Both series would often deal with social issues in a science-fiction
setting, where the technology acted a backdrop, allowing the writers
to deal with topical issues in a novel setting, while still allowing
the characters to have fist-fights.
Other sci-fi TV from the 60s that are worth checking out include
anthology series such as 'the Outer Limits' (in particular the
episode 'demon with a glass hand') and 'the Twilight Zone', the
first season of 'Lost in Space', and pretty much anything Nigel
Kneale wrote in the UK.
the 1960s the number of sci-fi TV shows multiplied dramatically; we
will spend a couple weeks looking at a few of them.
This time will be the peak of the positive future, before the social
and ecological movements of the late 60s turned people's attentions
back to real problems in the present, and started to color much
darker views of the future.
There were a handful of producers in the US and Britain that would
shape TV science fiction in the US in the 60s and 70s - Irwin Allen,
Gerry Anderson, Gene Roddenberry, and Glen Larson. We will start
with Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds.
Gerry Anderson would create several sci-fi tv series from the 60s to
the 00s - some in live-action and others with marionettes.
Thunderbirds is his most famous series, and ran for 32 episodes. The
series takes place in the middle of the 21st century and follows the
adventures of the Tracy family who form International Rescue and use
a variety of futuristic vehicles and technology to accomplish their
Our second feature is the Disneyland episode 'EPCOT' in which Walt
Disney gives his final filmed appearance in a pitch to create the
city of tomorrow. Walt Disney's vision for EPCOT (Experimental
Prototype Community of Tomorrow) was that this community would be a
living, evolving, testbed to prototype communities of the future.
A few notes on the 60s in terms of personal technology:
- telephones were cabled to
the wall, but now you could push buttons 0-9 to 'dial' the
number rather than using a dial to dial each number
- transistor radios allowed
people to listen to radio broadcasts (including music) wherever
they wanted (though usually places like the beach or the park.)
- colour photography was now
available to everyone with portable cameras. Once you took a
roll of pictures you had to take the film roll to a drugstore or
photo shop to get the pictures developed, and they would be
ready for you in a few days or a week. These photos were often
developed into slides - which were put into slide projector
carousels (see the 'Mad Men' episode for more on this) and then
shown at home on a projection screen.
- home (silent) movie cameras
now popular. You could carry a camera with you and shoot 3
minutes at a time and then change the cartridge. These cameras
needed a lot of light, so they worked well outside. Inside you
needed a massive light rig, brighter than anything Lance has
used. Again you took the film into a drugstore or a photo shop
and saw the results a week later, projected at home from a movie
projector onto that same screen you used for slides.
- cassette tape
players/recorders appeared - You could conveniently record audio
through a small hand-held microphone and playback that audio.
The tapes could hold 30 to 45 minutes per side. Music was still
sold as vinyl records (45s or LPs), but you could hold the mike
up to the speaker of your home stereo system to record it if you
wanted something portable.
and in terms of the space race, it would still be two more years
(1968) before anyone orbited the moon, but every month or two
astronauts and cosmonauts were sent up to orbit the earth, and
unmanned probes had orbited and landed on the moon.
This week we are back in 1956. While many 50s science fiction films
were low budget 'monster of the loose' fare with various creatures
being mutated by atomic radiation, Forbidden Planet (1956) stands
among a handful of 50s sci-fi films that succeeded in being
Other very good and highly recommended 50s sci-fi films include:
It Came from Outer Space
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
The Day the Earth Stood Still
The Thing From Another World
The Incredible Shrinking Man
'Forbidden Planet' was one of the first films that took place
completely on and around another planet in another solar system (in
this case Altair - 17 light years from Earth). It was one of the
first science fiction films filmed in Cinemascope with stereo sound,
and had the first all electronic music score. It also introduced
Robby the Robot.
The film was a clear and acknowledged influence on Gene
Roddenberry's 'Star Trek' a decade later and would supply props to a
dozen 'Twilight Zone' episodes.
Man and the Moon and The
At this point we've progressed
from silent films in the 20s to talkies and serials in the 30s to
colour films in the early 50s, and now ï¿½ television!
In 1946 there were only 6000 TVs in the US compared to almost 40
million radios. By 1955 half of US homes had a TV and by 1960 there
were 50 million TV sits in the US. Most programming was broadcast by
the three national networks: CBS, NBC, ABC (which began as radio
networks) on their affiliated local stations. Few programs were
broadcast in color until the mid 60s, though several were filmed in
color. In 1964 only 3% of TVs were color TVs. Half of US homes would
not have a color TV until 1972.
We will start with an episode of 'Disneyland' (later to become The
Wonderful World of Disney), a one hour weekly tv anthology series
with a mixture of live action, animation, documentaries, and dramas.
This episode is 'Man and the Moon' which was aired December 28, 1955
and looks back at the history of mans relationship with the moon and
forward to man building a space station and journeying to the moon
The second is an episode from the 1962 cartoon series 'The Jetsons'
which takes place in the year 2062. This episode is 'Jet Screamer'.
'The Flintstones' was a very successful TV series which ran from
1960 to 1966. If a series set in the stone age worked, why not a
series set in the future? It was the first program broadcast in
color on ABC. Unfortunately the Jetsons only lasted one season but
used animation to create a memorable futuristic earth.
In the previous weeks we have
looked at films that took place a hundred years in the future. This
week we are going to take a look at a film from 1950 that attempts
to portray how man will get to the moon using the prevailing
engineering concepts of the time, 7 years before sputnik, 11 years
before Gagarin orbited, and 20 years before the moon landing
'Destination Moon' features artwork by Chesley Bonestell who was THE
artist illustrating the near future of spaceflight in the 50s. It
also features a screenplay co-written by Robert Heinlein.
Destination Moon won the academy award for special effects and a
Hugo (top yearly science fiction awards) for best dramatic
Things to Come
'Things to Come' features a
screenplay by H. G. Wells based on his 1933 book 'The Shape of
Things to Come' and looks at what will happen in the next 100 years
It had a budget of 300,000 pounds (1 million dollars) in 1936 or 17
million pounds (26 million dollars) today
The screenplay by h. g. wells was based on his book 'the shape of
things to come'. Wells wanted his film to be more realistic than
metropolis. This is the 92 minute version (10-15 minutes shorter
than original version)
Flash Gordon (1930s)
Some information on movie
Each week a theatre would show one chapter - typically ending in a
cliffhanger (sometimes literally the hero or heroine hanging off the
edge of a cliff) to bring people back next week to see how the
cliffhanger was resolved
The serial was shown along with newsreel, cartoon, A movie, and B
Serials started in the silent era around 1910, ended by 1950
There were three flash gordon serials. This is the first with 13
episodes. It was the first science fiction serial. It was based on
the Sunday flash gordon comic strip by Alex Raymond which ran from
1934 to 1943 and is still being reprinted (I have a full set)
The Hays motion picture code began in 1934 but not fully enforced
yet so the first Flash Gordon serial is truer to the comics than the
Adjusting for inflation Flash Gordon would cost about 8 million
today for its 13 half hour episodes so its similar to what an
original series on the sci-fi channel costs to make. It was the most
expensive serial made. Most were westerns, though several featured
super heroes (Batman, Captain America, Zorro, Captain Marvel, The
Green Hornet) ï¿½ some things don't change
There is a lot of talk of 'rays' in Flash Gordon, especially by Dr
Zarkov - they were the techno-babble buzzword of choice at the time
- silent films had a score that
was performed live in the theater, commonly by a small symphony in a
large theatre or an organist in a smaller theater, which was
synchronized to the action on screen - in the case of Metropolis
this is the original Gottfried Huppertz score from 1926 performed in
2010 by the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra.
- silent films often had tinted scenes e.g. for scenes taking place
at night that section of the film would be entirely blue tinted,
scenes in a forest would be green, scenes inside would be yellow,
scenes with a fire would be red. Fritz Lang did not like tinting and
didn't use it.
- Lang also used many fewer textual intertitles than was common at
- Metropolis' budget was equivalent to 200 million dollars today.
- at the time Metropolis was made, in 1926, sound films were
starting to appear, similar to the current 3D boom in many ways. Don
Juan, the year before, had music and sound effects recorded live on
set and synced to the movie. The Jazz Singer, which premiered less
than a year after Metropolis, was the first feature length film with
(a bit of) spoken dialogue recorded along with the film. The Jazz
Singer made a lot of money and the days of the silent movie were
about to end.
- in the US the Hays Motion Picture Production Code wouldn't be
imposed for 8 more years, so in 1927 you could pretty much do
whatever you wanted on screen
- when I first saw Metropolis in the theater in the late 1970s it
was only about 90 minutes long, with the film having been edited
rather brutally after its premiere. Bit by bit the other missing 90
minutes of the film have mostly been recovered and re-integrated,
though there are still a few scenes (about 8 minutes) missing. The
quality of this print varies depending on what source it was taken
at the time in the 20s:
- skyscrapers being rapidly
built, and growing taller and taller
- current design styles were
modern / art deco / bauhaus
- in the Weimar Republic in
Germany a stable situation after years of inflation and
reparations from 'the war to end all wars'
- Hollywood pushing US culture
(including jazz) abroad
- women had gained the right
to vote throughout the US only 7 years earlier
in the US (with a population of 115 million people) technology
becoming a commodity ï¿½
- radio stations just starting
to appear - radios in the home became very popular very quickly
- number of movie theaters
- cars selling well with 23
million by 1927 and a new focus on creating better roads for
them to drive on
- 15 million telephones in
homes and businesses
- cities had electricity and
indoor plumbing - rural areas did not
popular science fiction authors of the time ...
- Edgar Rice Burroughs
- H. G. Wells
- Jules Verne (from 1870s and
- magazines like amazing
stories start in 20s
If you were intrigued by
today's feature and like to try some other silent films then I
- Robert Wiene - Cabinet of Dr
- Buster Keaton - The General,
Steamboat Bill Jr
- F. W. Murnau - Nosferatu,
- Charlie Chaplin - Gold Rush,
- Sergei Eisenstein -
More to Explore
Here are some alternatives for
further exploration. If we have more time, or if we decide to
start over and do this again, these would be in the next set. Note
that this is not mean to be a list of 'the best' (though some are)
but more about different views of the future, the future of
technology, interfaces, relationships, science and scientists.
- Just Imagine
- Modern Times
- Krakatit (Czechoslovakia)
- Radar Men from the Moon
- Rocky Jones Space Ranger
- It the Terror from Beyond
- Men into Space TV Series
- War of the Worlds
- Battle in Outer Space
- Planet of Vampires (Italy)
- Ikari XB 1 (Czechoslovakia)
- Johnny Quest TV Series
- Lost in Space TV Series
- Green Slime (Italy /
- Ship of Monsters
- UFO TV Series (UK)
- Adventures of Pirx TV
- World on a Wire TV Series
- Logan's Run
- Doomwatch TV series
- Death Race 2000
- Stalker (Russia)
- Space Battleship Yamato TV
- The Adventures of Buckaroo
- Star Wars V: The Empire
- Road Warrior
- The Abyss
- Alien Nation
- Patlabor (TV series and/or
- My Youth in Arcadia
- Jurassic Park
- Dark City
- The Matrix
- The Iron Giant
- Neon Genesis Evangelion
- Terminator 2
- Babylon 5 TV Series
- Sleep Dealer
- Enthiran (India)
- Tron Legacy
- Pacific Rim
- Steins;Gate TV
- The Martian
- Black Mirror TV
- Ex Machina
- The Expanse TV
Note that this
is not the first time that we have showed and discussed movies in
evl. Back from 1995 through 1997 in the early evenings, usually
starting at 7pm, we had 'Movie Tuesday' which showed a wide variety
of films using evl's projection based technology, and occasionally
we went on the road to some of the local film group showings. 'Movie
Tuesday' briefly morphed into 'movie Tuesday Wednesday' when we
needed to change the day. Some of the things we showed back then
- "the Vanishing" (original
- "a Chinese Ghost Story"
- "Plan 9 from Outer Space"
- "Wings of Desire"
- "la Double Vie De Veronique"
- a night of 'short'
stop-motion animated films
- "Bringing Up Baby"
- "the Cook, the Thief, His
Wife & Her Lover"
- "that Obscure Object of
- "the Princess Bride"
- "Bitter Moon"
- "Belle Epoque"
- "the Trial"
- ROADTRIP to see "Flirt"
- "Rosencrantz and
Guilderstern are Dead"
- 2 of Mike Jittlov's short
films and "Tong Fong Sam Hop (the Heroic Trio)"
- "Muriel's Wedding"
- "Short Cuts"
- "the mascot" from 1933 and
the episode "Free for All" from 'The Prisoner'