Monday, July 23, 2007

Dystopia City: the movies

Despite what you may think when you read some of my posts, I am a pretty positive guy. I'm an optimist and I think things will work out and the bad guys (the Reich wing and their minions) will get punished and the good guys (sane liberals and our allies)will prevail .

But for the life of me, even though I have this world view, I totally love dystopian entertainment. I suppose it's because when I was young the cold war was in full swing, the Vietnam war was going on, and then Watergate rolled in and during all that time movies, books, comics, and some TV were filled with stories about how the world was going to end or how civilization was on the brink of collapse. I never bought into it literally but I loved thinking about it and watching the movies, reading the books, the magazines, and the comics about the impending apocalypse.

Some of the dystopian movies I loved from that time were the holy trio of dystopian films starring future NRA president Charlton Heston.
Who didn't love the first film in the Planet of the Apes series? They went down hill with each successive one but the first one is an all time classic.

Another Charlton versus everybody else movie. This one also co-stars Anthony Zerbe who is one of the all time great villans of film and television. Also some great looking black chick is Charlton's love interest in this flick and she sports one of the finest Afro's in cinema history.
This movie played on every early 1970's fear in the world, over population, diminishing natural resources, dwindling food supplies, over crowding, and a huge government conspiracy. It's wildly dated now, especially in it's shockingly sexist depiction of women, but it's still a classic. And who among us has not at one time or another uttered the immortal line, "Soylent Green is people!"

I also loved these movies:
I only saw this one once but it's stayed with me ever since. I remember Bruce Dern silently floating away in his ship with the last trees and plants from earth and I remember thinking, "How cool is that?"

Technically not a dystopian film but it offered a scary vision of science run amok. I remember watching it from start to finish every time it came on TV in the early 70's.

This one scared me a little. It hit a little close to home for me. Watching George Segal nut up and commit all kinds of heinous violence when his brain goes haywire was something I could relate to. My mentally ill Dad was prone to nutting up and after I saw this movie I was afraid he might go off like ol' George did in this movie. Thank goodness it never happened but I was slightly leery of my Dad after I saw this one. This was quite possibly the high point in George Segal's career, and it definitely was the high point in Joan Hackett's.
I loved this film. I loved Yul Brynner in it, I loved the story, the effects, everything. Except for one thing. Richard Benjamin. I totally did not buy him as the hero but beyond that I dug the hell out of this picture. The sequel starring Peter Fonda, not so much, in fact I've never been able to finish it. But this one, man I'd sit through it again even now. I remember arguing with my brothers about which "world" we would go to, West World, Roman World, or Medieval World, and I chose West World every time.
This was the last dystopian movie that I loved from my youth. It had everything an adolescent boy could want, it had laser gun battles, a nude Jenny Agutter, Farrah Fawcett, Jenny Agutter's boobs, exciting chases, Jenny Agutter topless, fights, and did I mention that Jenny Agutter's boobs were exposed for a prolonged period of time? I picked this up on DVD at Best Buy last winter for $5.99 and I watched it again with my girlfriend. She could not make it through the first 40 minutes because she thought it was so bad. If forced, I would have to agree that it is pretty bad. The costumes were crazy fruity looking, the acting was wooden, with the exception of Jenny Agutter and her boobs, and the plot when you think about it makes just the barest bit of sense. But if you asked me about it when it first came out, man I'd have praised it from the high heavens, mainly because of Jenny Agutter and her you know whats.


greensunflower said...

I cannot count how many times I have read adromeda. I was a huge fan of micheal crichton's early work.

I never saw the original movie though.

Bubs said...

Great movies!

I remember loving Logan's Run for the same reason you did, plus one extra:

The robot with Roscoe Lee Browne's voice who tries to freeze them and store them:

"Fish, and plankton. And sea greens, and protein from the sea...Fish and sea greens, plankton and protein from the sea...It's my job. To freeze you."

That cracked me up.

Johnny Yen said...

Great post! I'm a fan of the genre as well. It's an important one-- I think that the idea that technology can be used to further oppress us, rather than help us is important.

Andromeda Strain is one of my favorites. I got it on DVD immediately when it came out. I loved the book as a kid. Remember back when Michael Crichton was a good writer and not a modern-day Arthur Hailey, writing cranky right-wing novels disguised as disaster stories?

Some more recent examples of the genre that I really liked:

Escape From New York
Blade Runner

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Green-I've neverread any of his early work but as you can see I dug two of the movies they made from it.

Bubs-Yeah, Roscoe Lee was great in it. Did you ever see the Marvel comics adaption?

Johnny-I loved Escape from NY and Escape from LA too! Children of Men is another new dystopian film I really liked.

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

Great movies, though I haven't seen Silent Running yet. I think that I have it queued up, but if I don't, I will.

Another movei in this vein is Damnation Alley. I remember seeing this on TV when I was a kid and thinking that the cockroach scene was freaky cool. It was a bit of a copout at the end though when the remaining chracters hit a giant flood and then make it to safety where all the other survivors were.

Splotchy said...

Wow, I haven't seen a handful of those movies.

Haven't seen Omega Man, Terminal Man, Silent Running or Soylent Green. Thanks for the spoiler regarding Soylent Green, by the way! I think a movie has to be at least 100 years old before any plot points are given away in any written material. I kid, I kid.

I have only seen parts of Logan Run, but do fondly remember some parts with/of Jenny Agutter.

Many years ago, I remember someone did an experimental film which basically consisted of taking The Andromeda Strain and reversing its scenes - The Strain Andromeda. Sounded kind of interesting, but haven't seen it.

Splotchy said...

And I already knew Soylent Green was made from people.


Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Jon-I think you'll ike Silent Running.

Splotchy-Here's another spoiler, Rosbud is a fucking sled.

Johnny Yen said...

Stop it, STOP IT Monkerstein! I know where you're going with this, and godammit, I haven't seen Titanic yet!

Boxer rebel said...

I have not seen most of these movies although many of them are in my blockbuster. my love is actually with dystopian novels, of which I have probably not even read the tip of the iceberg, but now i am inspired to post about them, thanks monkey.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Johnny-One word,ice berg.

Boxer-Please do that post my man, I'd love to read it.

Splotchy said...

A fucking sled?

Is that some kind of special sled?

I am a Midwestern boy. We don't talk about sexy things in public.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

You and your gentle humor kill me Splotchy.

Dr. Zaius said...

I liked all of these films. A film set in a dystopia society from the same era as these films that was also quite good was THX-1138.

Duros62 said...

THX-1138. I was gonna say that! George Lucas' student film redux. I saw Silent Running when I was 14 or something. Made me cry.

Road Warrior, Mad Max (no, that's it. No Thunderdome, thank you.)
You wanna see something weird, check out A Boy and His Dog with (!)Don Johnson and Jason Robards.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Dr. Z-I bought THX 1138 on dvd not too long ago but I have yet to actually watch it.

Duros-I agree on the Mad Max series and I've seen A Boy and His Dog. It was indded bizarre.

Dr. Zaius said...

THX-1138 is not a very pleasant movie. It's actually kind of hard to watch at times. It is worth it, though. Although it is a George Lucas film, it is nothing like "Star Wars".

The "Lexx" series is also quite good. Here is a clip from YouTube. It is about as dystopian as you can get. I think this film was Dick Cheney's frst starring role.