Today on The History of Science Fiction in Film, I’ve decided to rip into the dark and dreary decade of the 1970’s, at least for this part of my examination. I’ll begin today by discussing Omega Man from 1970. This also starred Charlton Heston and pitted him against ugly mutant zombies in a post apocalyptic world where man no longer existed. This is essentially based upon the book I Am Legend by Richard Matheson.
The music was composed by Ron Grainer. The 1970’s had some very key moments going on. There were still alot of fall out problems from the 1960’s and it leaked into the 70’s by people drowning their fears in drugs, sex and dystopian future movies that made a person angry at the world and all the problems that existed. Was this good science fiction? You better believe it, what it lacked in effects, it made up through dialogue, narration, and characterization that brought the true gritiness of the world into the minds of the audience. It hit hard on subjects of taking a life, keeping sanity in amongst the craziness that existed, and dealing with depression and loneliness all while fueling the imagination. This view of the future brought alot of the audience down with it. Don’t worry it does get better. Let’s talk about more of these crazy dystopian future films.
Let’s move on to another dystopian futuristic movie that gained more cult status as time went by. Westworld, no this isn’t the HBO series that exist. This is the original movie from 1974, written and directed by Michael Crichton. The film was about a society of people that found it engaging and entertaining to create worlds where the audience could interact with robots of a classical era such as the wild west, the roman empire period and many other locations and time periods where the audience were fully engaged with the events of those more brutal times.
Yule Brenner brought the Gunslinger to life with a gruesome sense of justice and brutality that no one had ever seen before, he played a lead robot. A villian in his own right, but programmed to kill, adapt and evolve against the slavers that were his masters. This was yet another science fiction film where man pushes the limits of technology and ask the question should we really be making robots? Can they go too far? Should they be as real as possible? These are some of the classical questioning that audiences were able to ask, and this was a few years away from when Crichton would write Jurassic Park which examined those deeper questions with stronger and harder outcomes on the people existing in that world.
Let’s move on to another classic example from the 1970’s that pushed boundaries and exerted the imagination forward. In 1975 Hollywood became obsessed with motor sports, or even the brutal side of these things by releasing two films of a similar nature. Deathrace 2000 and Rollerball. We’ll examine Deathrace 2000 for the sheer delight that many of it’s characters were so fantastical and comical that the movie gained cult status just from the various names in the film.
Deathrace was a precursor to such brutal movies such as The Road Warrior, The Running Man, Rollerball and many more. This rock score was composed by Artemus Gordon and the film starred an early role for Sylvester Stallone. This was the epitomy of brutal sports in the 1970’s portraying roles in the future where sports were life and death issues. If you saw these dystopian racing movies, don’t let it depress you. This was a year where many thought that man was not going to last much longer, hopes and dreams were low. Science Fiction with the sub-genre of dystopia was created and now it’s fully been realized as a full outcropping of Science Fiction in it’s organic form. Can we break away from these type of movies? Let’s find out.
In 1976 toward the end of the year was one of the last true dystopian films that actually created more cult status for it and gained speed for what science fiction could answer, what roles does man play in a society? Logan’s Run was a brilliant film with true questions being asked. Why are we here? What role do man and woman play with each other? Is this life all there is? How can a society dictate roles for humanity? Do they get to decide who lives and who should die? This film brought those questions out in people’s minds. It brings it up, probably in your own mind as well.
Science Fiction for it’s true form, still held roots in asking speculative questions about humanity, life, death, reality and what was essential to making a person happy or content. Jerry Goldsmith composed the electronic score to Logan’s Run and still holds a great status in people’s mind. Here is the plot, some may not even know what it’s all about…In the year 2274, young residents enjoy an idyllic, hedonistic lifestyle within the protective confines of a domed city. The general belief is that when each person turns 30, they are reincarnated for another blissful life cycle. Those who know the much darker truth become “runners” and flee to a hidden sanctuary. When law enforcement officer Logan (Michael York) goes undercover to locate the refuge, he winds up instead trying to initiate a revolution with runner Jessica (Jenny Agutter). These two are the basis for asking the right questions to bring down a totalitarian government controlling people’s lives. This film achieved a special Saturn Award for Best Art Direction and Best Set Direction. I really like this film and it created more imaginative ideas for further stories. If you haven’t seen this film, you really should, it will help you to even question things you never thought possible.
The last film we will discuss on this part is Close Encounters of the Third Kind. This film was made in 1977 and it pushed more boundaries for science fiction lovers and science lovers alike.
Steven Spielberg, who directed Jaws, built this brilliant alien encounter movie to it’s full extent. What is the plot of this truly wonderous film? A science fiction adventure about a group of people who attempt to contact alien intelligence. Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) witnesses an unidentified flying object, and even has a “sunburn” from its bright lights to prove it. Roy refuses to accept an explanation for what he saw and is prepared to give up his life to pursue the truth about UFOs. His encounter spawns government coverups, corruption, and essentially awe and wonder about these aliens from afar who communicate with sound and light. It has it’s terror moments and is highlighted even further with the score by John Williams who collaborated with Steven Spielberg prior to this film. This is another must see film, you may think it slow at times, but it builds and creates questions deeply in your mind. Questions that are further carried out in the tv series The X-Files. This is a little more kind hearted, but still amazing.
This is the end of part III of The History of Science Fiction in Film.
Enjoy reading and listening to this part. Next Comes Part IV. Happy Listening!