Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: confrontation between art and technology
Rogers, Ivor A.
Notes and discussion: [extrapolative cinema], pp. -291 PDF (6.1 MB)
III I a I The science fiction film has been the "closet case" of the serious film critic. If the film is any good, it is seldom labeled SF, but every film that violates science, art, truth, and beauty is invariably mislabeled SCIENCE FICTION. This situation probably originated with a producer who, knowing nothing of science except that he "didn't understand it," constructed a pot-bellied syllogism (undistributed middle) of, "Everything I don't understand is Science." This mutated to the point that every film which violated the canons of belief was labeled science fiction. The situation has not been helped by those film critics who seem to understand Krafft-Ebing better than the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Indeed, there even seems to be a vogue in film criticism, which for want of a better term might be labeled the Buck Rogers Syndrome, that considers any film containing a space vehicle as fit fare for ". . . children of all ages." It is far past time to claim respectability for the science fiction or extrapolative film. As Susan Sontag pointed out in her rather uninformed but stimulating article, "The Imagination of Disaster," it is relatively easy to represent visual catastrophe but quite difficult to provide an intellectual workout, which is the real mission and challenge of SF. Miss Sontag has clearly seen the failings and inadequacies of the films detailing the radioactive and hyperthyroid monsters that have been spawned in countless special effects laboratories. There is some question as to whether or not these films should even be considered as true SF, but Miss Sontag has failed to consider the best of the extrapolative films in her article. As Carlos Clarens, a far more perceptive critic of the SF film, has observed, many recent films have turned away from the glorification of disaster and the placid recounting of technological marvels to a more mature introspection of man and his deeds. This is partly due to the fact that important directors have begun to work in the genre. (A Western directed by John Ford, while still in the Western genre, has more depth and psychological significance than the average "B" Western produced by Monogram or Republic.) With the advent of directors like Kubrick, Truffaut, Hitchcock, and Godard into the field we are assured, if not better SF films, at least a higher level of craftsmanship. This influence has even been felt in television, where we are finally permitted to see "aliens from outer space" who are not foam rubber abominations (The Invaders) and a TV series (Star Trek) that is willing to discuss serious themes 287 H