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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: confrontation between art and technology

Rogers, Ivor A.
Notes and discussion: [extrapolative cinema],   pp. [286]-291 PDF (6.1 MB)

Page 288

in a non-hysterical fashion. Star Trek has
on occasiop even managed to
produce a plausible love story
-a feat hitherto only achieved by a few
SF fiction writers and French
SF film makers.
To completely appreciate the
extrapolative/SF film, it is necessary
to define the genre carefully so that we do
not lump the latest crawler from
the radioactive lagoon with such classics as
Destination Moon, Metropolis, 2001:
A Space Odyssey, and Dr. Strangelove.
Even after eliminating the horror, vampire,
and werewolf films as being totally
alien to SF there is still a large
corpus of SF works, which might be
described as monster or "thing"
films. Although there is often a scientist
(mad) or two associated with these
efforts, the net result is usually
anti-scientific in tone if not invariably in
content. SF writer Charles Beaumont once
said of this type of film that it
is easier to believe in a monster ape
with a human brain than a monster
producer with a human brain. There are a
288     few films that attempt to work
within the SF framework, but are so
carelessly researched and shoddily produced
that they can scarcely be called
SCIENCE fiction. (It must be pointed out
that even the best SF films often
run into technical problems, not only
because the proper speculation
of today may be the scientific
implausibility of tomorrow, but because most
interplanetary epics are not yet able to
shoot on location.) Eliminating the
grosser examples of non-SF, there still
remains a respectable core that may be
considered SF/extrapolative films.
These may not all be outstanding works of
art, but, freed from the onus
of being associated with the mass of
junk that has masqueraded under the SF
label, they may be able to stand
on their own as a genre worthy
of critical notice.
Perhaps the most neglected
sub-gene of the SF film is the film
of political extrapolation.
Ranging from such borderline examples as
The Manchurian Candidate, Advise
and Consent, and Seven Days in May
to obvious examples such as
Red Alert, Dr. Strangelove, and On the Beach,
these films attempt to explore the
impacts of an hypothesized political
event (a political assassination, the sudden
death of the President during
crucial international negotiations,
a military coup, and the consequences of
our military control over atomic
weapons). While a few critics have asserted
the political importance of some of these
films, there has been no adequate
study of them, to compare, for example,
with Susan Sontag's examination of
the psychology of the "destruction" SF film.
Closely allied to the political
extrapolation sub-genre is the film of
social extrapolation. This has been even
less considered than the political
films. One explanation is obvious: there
are relatively few good films made in
this genre - the best examples being the
British film The Man in the White Suit,
and the recently released Charly.
This state of affairs is surprising since the
SF story investigating the social
consequences of a new invention or
discovery is staple fare in fiction writing.
We are living in an age where scientific and
technological developments have
literally transformed both man and his
environment, and one would expect some
indication of this upheaval
echoed in the mass media. Instead we get
Prudence and the Pill, which does no socio-
logical investigating at all. The Man in the
White Suit demonstrated that social
exploration could be funny:
Seconds indicated that Rock Hudson could
even act a bit; and Joseph Losey's
These Are the Damned proved that there was
drama in the genre. It would appear
that there is a vital need for cinematic
exploration of many themes concerning
the relationship of man to the scientific and
technological changes in his
environment. I can think of no film
that adequately explores the impact of
automation and computerization
upon the individual, much less upon
society as a whole. I strongly suspect that
we have not yet seen the ultimate
in the creation of the Cardpunchman,
and it would certainly seem to be
a most fertile subject for a film maker.
Perhaps social extrapolation might be best
approached by a fusion of the
techniques of the documentary and the
fictive film; but such a development awaits

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