For almost as long as there have been movies, there have been movies about the future. Fantastic flights of fancy to the depths of space or to the insides of the human body. There are bastions of light and examples of humanity at its peak with universal alliances and peace accords between worlds. But there are also those vistas that aren’t quite so friendly and hopeful. There are futures with the results of nuclear Armageddon, complete with mutated life forms, monsters and society run amok.
In 1970, futurist Alvin Toffler coined the term, ‘Future Shock‘ in his book of the same name. His simplest definition was “Too much change in too short a time.” This month on TCM, however, it means Science Fiction films every Friday night, with the theme of a shocking future setting. I’m surprised at the number of recent films – 2002’s MINORITY REPORT (directed by Steven Spielberg) is the most recent – present in the scheduled lineups alongside such classics as Fritz Lang’s immortal METROPOLIS (1927). But all seemingly have one thing in common – the depicted future worlds and societies seem to be Utopias, until their seedy underbelly is torn away revealing their more accurate, Dystopian natures.
There is an almost constant theme of class vs. class in most of these films, though exact types of class may vary. In Michael Anderson’s LOGAN’S RUN (1976), it’s young vs. old – when you turn 30, you’re obsolete and taking up valuable living space, so you’re relegated to a public execution disguised as a lottery for a chance at extended life.
In George Pal’s THE TIME MACHINE (1960), it’s the strong vs. the weak – the beautiful, frail Eloi, seemingly living in a blissful paradise are no more than cattle for the mutated, carnivorous Morlocks.
The most common struggle though, is the ever-present battle between the haves and have-nots. In Norman Jewison’s ROLLERBALL (1975), you have corporations controlling the masses, trying to slake the public’s lust for blood and violence by giving it to them in the form of gladiatorial games between sponsored teams. In Paul Verhoeven’s TOTAL RECALL (1990), Arnold Schwarzenegger gets his ass to Mars and finds a resistance of the lower class fighting against the wealthy elite, who even own the artificial atmosphere, and are hiding a secret that may make them all equals. In both METROPOLIS and Richard Fleischer’s SOYLENT GREEN (1973) the wealthy live off the backs of the workers – in SOYLENT GREEN, almost literally, as beautiful young ladies serve as ‘furniture’ in the apartments of wealthy men.
It’s quite a collection, filled with great performances, memorable characters (can you say, “Snake Plissken?”) and unforgettable quotes (“Soylent Green is PEOPLE!”). A large number of them are taken from classic works of Science-Fiction – William Cameron Menzies’ THINGS TO COME (1936) was not only based on H.G. Wells’ book The Shape of Things To Come (1933) its screenplay was written by Wells himself, adapted from his own work! Other source works are by such luminaries as Harlan Ellison (A Boy and His Dog), Richard Matheson (Boris Sagal’s THE OMEGA MAN (1971), adapted from I Am Legend) and Harry Harrison (SOYLENT GREEN, based on Make Room! Make Room!).
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we see a #TCMParty (or special #DriveInMob) or two during these Friday nights in September. Click their links at the top of the page, for their schedules!
Here’s the schedule. All times are Eastern Daylight Time.
Friday, September 06, 2013
8:00 PM Metropolis (1927)
10:45 PM Things To Come (1936)
12:30 AM Escape From New York (1981)
2:15 AM Brazil (1985)
Friday, September 13, 2013
8:00 PM Soylent Green (1973)
9:45 PM Minority Report (2002)
12:15 AM Logan’s Run (1976)
2:30 AM Mad Max (1979)
Friday, September 20, 2013
8:00 PM La Jetee (1962)
8:45 PM Rollerball (1975)
11:00 PM A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001)
1:45 AM Total Recall (1990)
Friday, September 27, 2013
8:00 PM The Time Machine (1960)
10:00 PM World Without End (1955)
11:30 PM The Omega Man (1971)
1:30 AM A Boy and His Dog (1974)