Saturday, February 24, 2007

Weekend Viewing

A subgroup of films that has always interested me is 1960's-70's sci-fi/future shock/dystopia. If you can get past the almost invariably garish, dated visuals (it seems a popular meme in the early 70's was that only cockroaches and bright red polyester would survive an apocalypse), the themes are as relevant as ever. The faves on my admittedly pretty standard list: Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green (definitely underrated), The Omega Man, Rollerball (if you've never seen it or haven't seen it in a long time, watch it -- remember, the original with James Caan, not the remake), Logan's Run, and A Clockwork Orange.

What are some of your favorites or rental suggestions from this genre?

23 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about the original "The Thing" from the late 50's I believe. Not the remake but the original black and white.

2/24/2007 6:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

seen THX 1138?

2/24/2007 12:25 PM  
Blogger Spider said...

My favorite prescient sci-fi movie is actually older than the 60's and 70's. The Day The Earth Stood Still, from 1951. My girlfriend and I watched it last weekend. It was her first viewing and probably my 20th. The plotline as written at IMDB is, An alien lands and tells the people of Earth that they must live peacefully or be destroyed as a danger to other planets.

As we watched it, yes there was cheesy-ness typical of movies of the 50's. However, the warning that Klaatu, the visitor, gives at the end of the movie is just as relevent today as it was 56 years ago. The thought that we haven't progressed that far in 50 years is depressing.

2/24/2007 1:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The first of the three "Alien" films. The only one directed by Ridley Scott. Great cast and several tremendous surprises. Don't waste any time with the two sequels.

2/24/2007 2:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also Fahrenheit 451, Zardoz, and a little later, but in the same dystopian vein, Escape from New York.

Great blog btw.

manowar
boston

2/24/2007 2:51 PM  
Blogger Ahistoricality said...

It's a bit later, but Johnny Mnemonic and Robocop are excellent dystopias, particularly since the path from here to there is so easily imaginable.

2/24/2007 3:05 PM  
Blogger blogarillo said...

Death Race 2000 is terrible, but not too far off the mark given today's entertainment.

Silent Running wasn't bad, and has a rather in-your-face environmental message.

2/24/2007 7:07 PM  
Anonymous RW said...

Well, it's a couple years past the 70's but "Blade Runner" (1982) remains a classic in the dystopian (or at least very gritty) sci-fi genre.

Have to mildly disagree w/ the knock above on the Alien sequels: There were three and the first sequel, "Aliens," was an absolute hoot ("bug hunt!") but still didn't fail to accentuate the grittiness of space as well as the cold, murderous cynicism of "The Company" -- and, oh momma, that incredible alpha b*tch queen; the last two sequels were rather similar to many 50-70's dystopian flics in so far as they worked a bit too hard on message but not hard enough on good story telling.

I agree that "Solent Green" remains very underrated. If one of its contemporaries, "No Blade of Grass," had been made half as well I could recommend it too but, alas, it was a handled very poorly as a film; a terrifying (and realistic) concept, possibly worth seeing once but unlikely to land on your 'A' list.

2/24/2007 8:03 PM  
Anonymous RW said...

Wanted to add that another genre, akin to film noir in its psychological darkness if not in its filming technique which was sometimes superficially rather bright, is 60's suburban angst (or disintegration), the tragic aftermath of "Man in the Gray Flannel Suit" if you will: Anyone remember "Seconds" with Rock Hudson or "The Swimmer" with Burt Lancaster?

2/24/2007 8:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know if it quite fits, but it is quite dystopian: "Brazil".

2/24/2007 11:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peter Watkins made some very pertinent films in the 50's and 60's

http://www.mnsi.net/~pwatkins/privilege.htm

'Privilege' describes a democracy morphing into fascim

'Gladiators' foreshadows reality tv games

Probably the most well known is 'The War Game'

Privilege is not generally available, but my memory is that it was a stunning description of the current USA and UK

2/24/2007 11:55 PM  
Blogger Rueful said...

it seems a popular meme in the early 70's was that only cockroaches and bright red polyester would survive an apocalypse

Which explains most of Nancy Reagan's wardrobe choices.

My pre-60s choices: "The Crawling Eye" and "X the Unknown."

2/25/2007 12:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1984 (with John Hurt and Richard Burton) is a truly awesome rendition of the book.

This movie doesn't have the schlock factor of most of the movies above, but it makes up for it with emotional power.

2/25/2007 1:23 AM  
Anonymous Mr. Hedley Bowes said...

Perhaps slightly OT: I've been recalling a film from the 70s titled "Little Big Horn" and the dystopian vision of a George W. Custer.

2/25/2007 4:41 AM  
Anonymous Andrew J. Lazarus said...

I was watching "Seconds" on TV in 1972(?) when the call came that my aunt had died of cancer. Won't be forgetting that.

2/25/2007 12:56 PM  
Anonymous Steve said...

When you think about it, it's really interesting that Charlton Heston was in a triad of groundbreaking sci-fi movies: Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green, and the Omega Man. Take a look at Planet of the Apes; the movie has actually aged quite well. In fact, there's even a scene in the wide-screen version where the ape judges mimic the 3 See-No-Evil in a parody of the Scopes Monkey Trial.

If you do get a chance, do check out "The Lathe of Heaven". It was done in 1980 w/a budget of 700K for PBS. The remake is horrible, but the original is quite good.

2/25/2007 1:00 PM  
Blogger vincent said...

Not a movie, but there were a couple of comic book in the mid-seventies by the late great Jack Kirby which fit this genre. "OMAC" was the story of a future without nations, only mega-corporations, robber-barons, and balkanized nation states. Standing in opposition was the "one man army corp" of the title, the single offensive weapon of the Global Peace Agency. "Kamandi" was the story of the last boy on earth, survivor of the Great Disaster which left mankind decimated and animals in the acendancy (like Planet of the Apes, only with an entire zoo of sentient beasts.)

2/26/2007 10:48 AM  
Blogger NAL said...

Forbidden Planet. Pre 70s, but holds up well.

2/26/2007 11:22 AM  
Anonymous Thomas Daulton said...

How could we get this far into this thread without mentioning Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove"? Not a dystopia per se, but a quasi-plausible chain of events leading to the nuclear apocalypse. And with each leak in the Libby trial, with each resignation letter from the State Department, our current Administration comes to resemble the whack-jobs in charge during that movie more and more.

However, I think that CR has mentioned the movie once or twice on his blog, so I assume he's seen it. Everyone else, rent it right away.

Now as for true dystopias from the '50s-60s... well, I have a kooky, cheesy one, but it's one of my guilty favorites. A 1964 movie called "The Time Travellers" shows University projectors inventing a Time Door, they step through 100 years into the future and find that a nuclear war has been fought in the intervening time. The few un-mutated survivors are huddled in a complex, trying to build an interstellar colony ship, but the cold and cruel way they fight with the mutants outside their gates basically dooms humanity. Horribly tacky cinematographic execution, but the underlying message sticks with you for awhile.

I also had a soft spot for a '70s TV dystopia called The Starlost, but probably only because I was too young and dumb to recognize good writing when I saw it [or its lack thereof]. Country-bumpkin farmers suddenly find out that they are actually living on a 2000-mile long space ship, which is carrying all that is left of Humanity after the Earth has been somehow destroyed. Unfortunately the bridge and key personnel of the ship have also been destroyed in some later accident, so this ship has been floating aimlessly for countless centuries. If they can't learn and control the ship and unite the hostile cultures in different compartments of the space ark, Humanity itself will just gutter out like a failing candle, in-between the stars. Again, cheesy production, interesting concept.

Be sure not to forget the old '60s versions of H.G. Wells "The Time Machine" and "War of the Worlds", a half-dozen more recent remakes still can't even come close.

Yes to two posters -- "Forbidden Planet" still holds up well, but it's hard to watch Leslie Nielsen playing a serious role. I keep expecting him to break out a whoopie cushion or fake vomit or something, and he never does!

2/26/2007 1:10 PM  
Anonymous Thomas Daulton said...

Ooops, in the above post, please strike "University projectors" and replace it with "University Professors". Damn spell check.

The 1955 classic "This Island Earth" also has the same sort of feel to it as "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and "The Time Travellers". In that, it's clear that modern technological warfare poses a real existential horror, the possibility of actually eliminating all life. And fighting war under those conditions forces people to do things which seem utterly cruel and inhuman.

Perhaps these movies reflect the collective shock and horror that Humanity experienced as we learned that atomic war had the potential to actually wipe out every living person. Yet, it's worth noting, not much has changed today, except the weapons have gotten better; we have simply become blasé and inured to the horror.

Although we run fewer B-52 missions, a "Strangelove"-type scenario could still happen today (particularly, in other countries such as the USSR, where the people with their fingers on the nuclear triggers are assessed for calmness based on their biorhythms). When exactly did we become bored with the existential horror?

2/26/2007 1:25 PM  
Anonymous Thomas Daulton said...

Ooops, in the above post, please strike "University projectors" and replace it with "University Professors". Damn spell check.

The 1955 classic "This Island Earth" also has the same sort of feel to it as "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and "The Time Travellers". In that, it's clear that modern technological warfare poses a real existential horror, the possibility of actually eliminating all life. And fighting war under those conditions forces people to do things which seem utterly cruel and inhuman.

Perhaps these movies reflect the collective shock and horror that Humanity experienced as we learned that atomic war had the potential to actually wipe out every living person. Yet, it's worth noting, not much has changed today, except the weapons have gotten better; we have simply become blasé and inured to the horror.

Although we run fewer B-52 missions, a "Strangelove"-type scenario could still happen today (particularly, in other countries such as the USSR, where the people with their fingers on the nuclear triggers are assessed for calmness based on their biorhythms). When exactly did we become bored with the existential horror?

2/26/2007 1:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All your picks are great...

I would add " A boy and his Dog" to the list..

Ed

2/27/2007 3:02 AM  
Anonymous Steve said...

I have to second the earlier poster's recommendation of HG Wells' Time Machine. The 1960's movie was somewhat faithful to the book (I had to stop reading it to my son when it the whole Morlock-eating-Eloi go to be too much).

I'm not sure if HG Wells was making a commentary on the gap between the haves and have-nots (that's the story I told my son), but if you think about the movie in terms of the rise of gated communities (nice to see that we're taking our land development cues from Brazil), it really comes into focus. HG Wells was at least a century before his time.

2/27/2007 12:00 PM  

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