Skip to content

The Stiff-Legged Film Festival presents: YESTERDAY’S TERRIBLE TOMORROWS

September 4, 2016

Quick schedule (scroll down for pics and descriptions):

[Last Man on Earth Scenarios]

7:00 p.m. – Where Have All the People Gone? (1974)
8:15 – The Omega Man (1971)
9:55 – A Boy & His Dog (1975)
11:25 – Glen & Randa (1971)
1:00 a.m. – The Noah (1975)
[done by 2:45 a.m.]


10:00 a.m. – Quintet (1979)
12:00 p.m. – Americathon (1979)
1:30 – Sleeper (1973)
3:00 – Black Moon (1975)
4:40 – A Clockwork Orange (1971)
7:00 – The Bed-Sitting Room (1970)
8:30 – THX1138 (+ Electronic Labyrinth THX1138 4EB [short]) (1971)
10:15 – Zardoz (1974)
12:00 a.m. – Zoo Zero (1979)
[done by 1:45 a.m.]

[Brains, computers]

10:00 a.m. – The Happiness Cage (1972)
11:30 – World on A Wire (1973)
3:00 p.m. – The Mind of Mr. Soames (1970)
4:30 – Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)
6:10 – The Terminal Man (1974)
[done by 8:00 p.m.]


7:00 – No Blade of Grass (1970)
8:40 – Idaho Transfer (1973)
10:10 – Phase IV (1974)
11:45 – Deadly Harvest (1977)
[done by 1:00 a.m.]

[Near-Future/Time Travel]

10:00 a.m. – Genesis II (1973)
11:15 – The Questor Tapes (1974)
1:00 p.m. – Planet Earth (1974)
2:15 – Strange New World (1975)
3:55 – Operation Ganymed (1977)
5:25 – The Big Mess (1971)
6:50 – I Killed Einstein, Gentlemen… (1970)
8:25 – Alternative 3 (1977)
9:25 – Silent Running (1972)
11:00 – The Shape of Things To Come (1979)
[done by 12:40]


11:00 a.m. – The Last Child (1971)
12:15 p.m. – Gas-s-s-s-s… (1970)
1:35 – Z.P.G. (1972)
3:10 – Soylent Green (1973)
4:50 – Logan’s Run (1976)
[done by 6:50]

[Gangs, Biker, Desert]

7:00 – Ravagers (1979)
8:30 – Mad Max (1979)
10:05 – The Ultimate Warrior (1975)
11:40 – Damnation Alley (1977)
[done by 1:10 a.m.]

[Gladiator, Amusement Park]

11:00 a.m. – Rollerball (1975)
1:05 p.m – Westworld (1973)
2:35 – Futureworld (1976)
4:20 – Death Race 2000 (1975)
5:40 – Deathsport (1978)
7:00 – Punishment Park (1971)
8:30 – Jubilee (1978)
10:15 – The Warriors (1979)
[done by 11:45]


THE BIGGEST FESTIVAL YET, FULL-STOP. Watch the world get torn asunder 50 different ways over eight infrastructure-compromised days.

But first, a bit of history…

The Early Years

In 2001, the Stiff-Legged Film Festival was created and debuted with a relatively modest event — a one-day screening of all seven “Nightmare on Elm Street” films. I had been inspired by a friend who had friends over to watch the “Ilsa” movies (Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS; Ilsa, Keeper of the Oil Sheiks’ Harem; Ilsa, Tigress of Siberia; Ilsa, the Wicked Warden), and wanted to do something similar. The things that appealed to me about the Ilsa fest were:

1. the communal aspect of it (at least 10 people came and went throughout the day)
2. the opportunity to create a “complete” watching experience (i.e. watch all of the Ilsas in one go), and
3. the thrill of screening something fairly exclusive — three of the films had been recently re-released on VHS, but the fourth, Ilsa, Tigress of Siberia, was technically out of print, but available from a nearby old-school video store, Hyde Park Video.

In 2002, following the “Elm Street” festival, I was watching a cheaply-produced, no-budget Robert Altman documentary I’d gotten from Netflix. I had been planning another fest, but something similar to the first, like all of the “Friday the 13th” or “Halloween” franchise movies. (One early idea was a festival of the *first* installments of all the horror franchises, since the first film in the series is usually pretty good before the quality tumbles downhill with parts II, III, IV…). I was goggling at the sheer number of Robert Altman films I hadn’t seen, most of which looked pretty good!

It was then that the proverbial thunderbolt you hear before contemplating a seemingly impossible project. Oh my God, am I really going to do this? Can I even do this? Robert Altman’s filmography? ALL of it?

“The Complete Films of Robert Altman” was the most challenging and most exciting festival I’ve ever done, still to this day. In the relative dark ages of the internet, a lot of the things I take for granted now (downloadable full movies on youtube; companies whose sole purpose is to reissue classic ’70s films; fast and easy file trading; the all-pervading notion that information wants to be free, and we as film fanatics deserve to own every film that’s ever been made) were simply not there. DVDs were still kind of a luxury, and VHS was the coin of the kingdom. I had two VCRs and dubbed movies madly from multiple video stores. I traded with tape traders. I trawled the back catalog at Facets. I bought one-sheets, press books, lobby cards to decorate the screening room. I hosted nightly drawings for swag and free movies. I spent $60 on a swindler called The The Movie Hunter (I refuse to link to his dipshit site, which is still there, btw) who promised me a copy of the ultra-rare film A Perfect Couple, sent it five weeks late (it arrived a week after the final screening and two weeks after its intended screening night), and neglected to tell me that he basically charged me this exorbitant sum to wait until it played the Fox Family Channel and then record a copy of it. Wild West times, I tell you. (A Perfect Couple was later released with several other rare late ’70s Altman films in a boxset for about half what I paid for that single film.)

It was eight nights, and 47 individual screenings. And because I was a masochist, I decided to screen all the “Halloween” films on the ninth day. To an audience of one. (Briefly, two — my friend Matt took pity and sat through Halloween IV and V with me.)

In the past fourteen years, we’ve added ten more festivals under the SLFF name, most of them one or two weekends long, some just a single day. But, try as I might, I just could never quite find another director or topic who had the bulk of back-catalog to challenge Altman’s pendulous legacy, not without subjecting your poor bastards to the complete films of Ingmar Bergman. [It’s still going to happen. Someday. – ed.] Since that very first event, I’ve wanted to show you all just how fun and exhausting film can be when it’s done on such a massive scale.

To topple the Altman-fest legacy, we needed to marshal of the best things about Stiff-Leg: comprehensiveness, shockingly rare films, and daily schedules that are Jerry Lewis Telethon-grade exhausting. Plus, why not a nice, round number. Why not FIFTY films?

There won’t be any flowers growing/On the judgement day…

Once you start looking for sci-fi films with apocalyptic themes, there’s pretty much no end to them, which is why you need winnowing principles. 1970s was a given — you get the widest range between stark & challenging art films vs. bald-faced commercial cash grabs. In order not to turn this into a six-weekend event, I used a ideological decision factor: in each film, something about our downfall needs to have been our fault. We didn’t take care of our ecosystem; we didn’t prevent madmen from taking over the reigns of government; we didn’t practice sensible procreation numbers; we wasted water. At the start of each of these films is the end point of one of mankind’s bad decisions.

And of course, we start to see these very same fears rearing up again, as dystopic fiction (genre and YA alike) made a meteoric rise in sales around 2011-2012, and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road managed to make it onto Oprah’s Book Club.

From Station Eleven to yet another Mad Max sequel, we’re clearly not yet done worrying about the times to come. Come with us now and visit our visions of future dark, seen from the semi-comforting distance of 40+ years.

Where are the Disasters?

Most of you know that I’ve been talking about this fest for a while. It was originally going to be called “Disasters and Dystopias.” We were going to intersperse one ’70s Disaster film with one ’70s sci-fi dystopia, back and forth, for as long as we could stand. Once I started drilling into the research, though, it became clear that:

1. There are far more interesting and varied flavors of apocalypse, dystopia, and future-shock offerings than there are Disaster films, and
2. Disaster films, though an entertaining way to spend a hungover Sunday, are all pretty much the same theme: 1. who’s going up the ladder first, and 2. when’s George Kennedy going to save us?

We’ll have The Weekend of Disaster in the near future, but for now, soak yourself in eight days of societal collapse, with each day centered around its own theme. Whether you hanker for biker gangs in the desert or that oh-so-fresh feeling of being the last person on earth, step right up and claim your future!



Unless we’re running late (unlikely!), the start time listed is the exact time we start. No whining, no “wait wait, I’m just circling the block looking for a parking space,” no excuses. 2-3 minutes is all you’re given on average between films; just enough time to queue up for the bathroom.

Some food and drink and beer will be served (probably even themed food for certain features), but bringing some to share is never a bad idea. If you want to run out and grab dinner somewhere nearby, I have a handful of suggestions of places that are a five minute walk away. And of course, carryout is plentiful and accommodating.

FOLLOW US ON PINTEREST! Loads of film stills, posters, promo pics, and more will be posted and added in the weeks to come.

The Schedule

“Baby, If You Ever Wondered/Wondered, Whatever Became Of Me…”:
Last man on earth/earth re-population scenarios

We lead with five versions of the great winnowing, in which a few disaster-hardened souls awake to find themselves at the cusp of a new, more barren land to be explored. (hard-to-find films will be marked as such — look for the “HELLA RARE!!” graphic on every box!)

7:00 p.m.

Because dystopic and apocalyptic-themed storylines came from all places and budgets in the ’70s, we’ll be watching a surprising number of movies-of-the-week, including this rather dodgy looking one starring Peter Graves and a team of fresh-faced kids. This might already be breaking our self-imposed ideological sorting system, as the virus that wipes us all out is caused by SOLAR FLARES, which, last I checked, are Not Our Fault. I lead with this one because nobody ever shows up right at 7, and I’m usually still putting out chairs at this point. You’re not missing anything, don’t worry.


8:15 p.m.


Definitely don’t miss this one, though! Not like I need to tell you. Whether you know it from pop culture in general, the Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror” special that spoofed it (“Dad, you killed Zombie Flanders!” “He was a zombie?”), or you saw it in the theater (or drive-in) back in the day, you know that this is pretty much the archetypal “Last Man On Earth [But only for the first half hour of the movie]” scenario. Poor Charleton Heston doesn’t get much time to wander the deserted streets before he’s set upon by zombie-like mutant luddites who blame Heston and his kind for the Late Unpleasantness. This is also pretty much an archetypal “yesterday’s terrible tomorrow” in that it offers not only thrills and violence and action, but plenty of hectoring and preaching about the path we find ourselves on. But don’t worry — it’s still a good time.


9:55 p.m.
A BOY & HIS DOG (1975)


Okay, wow. Stay with me on this one. Don Johnson (yep, Crockett) plays Vic, a desert-bound scavenger accompanied only by his pet dog, Blood (played by the dog from The Brady Bunch!) who he communicates with telepathically. The dog, who is voiced by a very straight-laced voice actor, engages in witty repartee with our hero, but also alerts him about where to find nearby women to rape. They wander the landscape looking for food for both of them, and women for Johnson. Then, while chasing some strange-looking people, they find an underground tunnel and find out that they aren’t as alone as they think.

I’m deliberately holding back the big twist in the middle, because man, this is a weird film. Just when you think you have it pegged, it goes in a WAY different direction. Based loosely (looooooosely) on a novella by Harlan Ellison (who, in his usual Harlan Ellison way, denounced it via a series of expletive-laden statements/lawsuits) and featuring Jason Robards and Charles McGraw, among many other “Hey, It’s That Guy!” guys. Bleak, dark, funny, more than a bit misogynistic,  and wholly unexpected.


11:25 p.m.
GLEN & RANDA (1971)

This is right at the front end of the 1970s, and as you can see from the poster (and its reference to the Beatles) and the still below, this is apocalypse, Hippie-style. The titular Glen & Randa depart from their small tribe, a rural commune hanging together in the aftermath of nuclear devastation, in search of the outside world. Glen has read about a big, shiny city from old comic books, and he takes Randa (played by Shelley Plimpton, mother of Martha) on a quest for a new life in this possible utopia. Controversial at its time because our leads spend the first 30+ minutes of the movie fully nude. They meet people along the way, learn things, get bummed out. Praised by no less than Time magazine as a visionary movie. At its best, I could see this being an effective sister-movie to the great Idaho Transfer (showing one week from tonight). At worst, a hippie exploitation outfitted in a “War Is Harmful To Humans and Other Living Things” t-shirt. (And no pants.)


1:00 a.m.
THE NOAH (1975)

One of the good things about this fest is that it’s wall-to-wall movies, often going late into the night. One of the bad things is that some of these films look not-great. Therefore, things that look iffy can get buried in unpopular time slots, like this pacy, low-pitched Robert Strauss-led black & white art film that truly looks at the isolation and loneliness of the Last Man on Earth fantasy.

Noah, the sole remaining survivor on our planet after a nuclear holocaust, finds himself unable to to accept his unique predicament. To cope with his loneliness, he creates an imaginary companion, then a companion for his companion and finally an entire civilization – a world of illusion in which there is no reality but Noah, no rules but those of the extinct world of his memory – our world.
– imdb user “Daniel Bourla”

The Noah


“Any World That I’m Welcome To”:
Dystopias, totalitarianism, & earth-like allegories

Honestly, day one is kind of a warm-up round. You can really only get so far into a subject with four or five films. Today is the first of three all-day blowouts. This promises to be the most colorful, one might even say gaudy, day out of the eight. We’ll see futures (and near-presents) under all manner of repressive governments and morally bent systems, systems in which law and order has run for the hills and left society to stylish gangs, and a hilarious world in which all the world will be fed with giant fruits and vegetables. Watch out for that big-ass banana peel!

10:00 a.m.
QUINTET (1979)


Quintet brings us back to our starting point, the Robert Altman festival. It originally screened late Sunday night of the first weekend, and was attended by exactly one person — me. I fell asleep less than 30 minutes in, having already sat through 35 hours of films immediately before. Will we do better this time? Crystal ball says, “doubtful.” No matter how beautiful the stills look, no matter how compelling the description sounds, this is a slow go.

In an eternally cold future, people play a game called Quintet, a sort of deadly game of backgammon in which the loser is killed, for…some reason. The world is blanketed with thick, Dr. Zhivago-like snow, and everyone dresses in stylish hooded robes. Paul Newman is the lead. The camera lens is smeared with vaseline. Wild dogs can be seen in the corner of many frames, gnawing at human corpses. Sounds great, right? Well, maybe, but I doubt it. The script is murky at best, and to call this a bleak future would be an insult to Earths II, III, IV, and V combined. This is just plain hopeless. That it was filmed and released on the heels of one of Altman’s most joyous films, A Wedding, as well as the dark but brilliant 3 Women, is a further testament to Altman’s ability to ruin even the small advantages he’d built up for himself. Altman’s reputation with Fox was so spoiled by this film and his romantic comedy (?), A Perfect Couple, that he pretty much had to steal his last film owed to Fox (H.E.A.L.T.H.) and take it on the film festival circuit on the sly.

In its previous time-slot, Quintet showed Altman at the headwaters of his slow descent into the muddled madness that typified his 1980s work. Here, it illustrates just how dark things can get when you write a script near the end of the Decade of Malaise while your father is dying of cancer (as Altman’s father was at the time). The medicine cabinet is strictly off-limits (either for razor blades or caffeine pills to stay awake) during this feature.


12:00 p.m.

A couple lighter films to balance things out after Quintet‘s death shroud. Originally written as a play by Philip Proctor and Peter Bergman of the immortal Firesign Theatre, Americathon was adapted for the screen and stars John Ritter as President Chet Roosevelt, who presides over the final bankrupting of the United States. Also features Harvey Korman, Fred Willard, Elvis Costello, Jay Leno, and, perhaps most interestingly, Chief Dan George as the head of a tribe that now owns most of the US’s debt. The ol’ red, white, and blue, in a last-ditch effort to pay its bills, hosts a world-wide telethon to raise funds. Popular consensus is that this was a stinker, but if you look through the imdb reviews, a whole bunch of them start with titles like “jeez, you guys, it’s not THAT bad.” See for yourself.

AmericathonTopical Humor

1:30 p.m.
SLEEPER (1973)

“What kind of government you guys got here? This is worse than California!”

I guess we’ll find out soon enough whether it’s possible to watch a ’70s Woody Allen film without constantly thinking about what we know now (and kind of suspected then) about Woody Allen’s awful sexual proclivities. In its weird way, Sleeper is one of the most representative dystopic films of the ’70s, poking precise fun at the peccadilloes and phobias of the ’70s and extending them into the future. Plenty of great quips, but the thing one mostly remembers is how much damn good slapstick and physical humor these early Woody films had — slipping on the giant banana peel, the jetpack, misadventures with the orgasmatron, etc. Great set design, too.


3:00 p.m.

Black Moon‘s bona fides as true dystopia film, rather than some sort of weird, art-film hallucination might be debatable, but it’s a beautiful film (presented in a beautiful Criterion edition), and I’m committed to showing visions of a broken future (in this case a literal “battle of the sexes”) at all ends of the film spectrum, from Louis Malle to Samuel L. Bronkowitz. Back to the war between men and women: characters named only Brother and Sister escape, Alice In Wonderland-style, to a dreamy alternate reality with, among other things, a talking unicorn. (see fig. 1 below) A woozy, non-representational version of the future, directed by a certified auteur, and a nice transition to…

BlackMoonFig 1.

4:40 p.m.


…another strange, hyper-colorful world of radical decay and degradation. What do I need to tell you about A Clockwork Orange? I hold no illusions that I’ll actually be able to introduce any of you to this incredible film for the first time. I’m only including it because it would be friggin’ ridiculous not to include it! It’s rare to see a “disturbing” film that’s still disturbing 40 years after its release date, its themes and images and motives as raw and unnerving as they were on the day of their premiere. Wendy Carlos’ soundtrack is top-notch, too, one of my favorite film soundtracks of all time. Malcolm McDowell is incomparably sinister as Alex, and the set decoration and design has set the standard for over-the-top depictions of the near future, on one side candy-colored and fizzy, on the other crumbling and graffiti’d with dongs. Upgraded my DVD to Blu-Ray, and it really does look noticeably better.


7:00 p.m.


Richard Lester is best known for directing the Beatles’ first two films — A Hard Days’ Night and Help! He’s directed a few other films, some well-regarded (The Knack (And How To Get It); The Three Muskateers; A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To the Forum), some less so (Superman III; Butch & Sundance: The Early Years). The Bed-Sitting Room was shockingly hard to find for years (it was a regular on all the rare-movie trader pages in the ’90s and early ’00s), but has been brought back into print within the last five years, and thank your lucky stars for that. Along with Sleeper, this is one of the funniest future-shock films around. As the poster notes, “The Great Nuclear Misunderstanding Lasted 2 minutes 28 Seconds (including the Peace Treaty!).” All that remains is mountains of rubbish, a fair amount of radiation, and a few stragglers moving from garbage pile to garbage pile in search of food, supplies, and comforting routines to remind them of the good times. Full of cheeky, absurdist British humo(u)r and starring a rouge’s gallery of UK’s top funny-makers (Peter Cook & Dudley Moore, Marty Feldman, Spike Milligan & Harry Seacombe of The Goon Show), it’s rib-tickling and surprisingly sweet in its resigned glumness. For all of the mass extinction and radioactive fallout we’ll experience over these three weekends, sometimes it takes seeing a cheery, proper British family clambering over piles of rubbish, trying to hold their stiff upper lip to give us the full realization of What We’ve Lost. TOP RECOMMENDATION.


8:30 p.m.
THX1138 (+ Electronic Labyrinth THX1138 4EB) (1971/1968)


We’re watching the VHS copy, by the way. Or maybe DVD in one room VHS in the other. I don’t know. All I know is that I stand by The Guy In The Furry Costume Syndrome. Your eye can feel the physical presence of real, physical special effects (Chewbacca in a furry suit; rumpled, muppeted Yoda) in ways that CGI doesn’t have (an army of 1,000 Chewbaccas digitized and running down the mountain; ping-pong computer Yoda bouncing off walls like a ‘badass’). Not only are plot points and reactions subtly changed, you lose one the best things about this movie — its atmosphere. This feels like a movie that was shot on a fairly minimal budget, and that’s a good thing — Lucas did A LOT with a little. That he wants to go in retroactively and Photoshop his wedding cake so that it has an extra layer on top is his business. That he chooses to do it with a dystopic masterpiece in which the images that society are allowed to see or not see are strictly controlled, deliberately tossing an “offending” original version down the Memory Hole, never to be seen again, is uncut irony at its finest.

On a cheerier note, this is one of Lucas’ finest hours, a stark, visually and topically audacious film in which citizens are controlled with mood-numbing drugs, dull jobs, and endless consumption. Sex is forbidden, and everyone has a shaved head and wears white. Police have shiny, faceless masks that are creepy as hell. The title is the “name” of the main character (Robert Duvall), who is roused from his government-mandated slumber by LUH 3417 (Maggie McOmie). The sets, mood, and atmosphere are just top-notch, with Duvall sentenced to a seemingly endless white room, without walls or doors, in which he has to walk (like crossing a desert) for miles without seeing anyone. Effective.

As a bonus, we’ll watch Lucas’ 15 minute short film, Electronic Labyrinth THX1138 4EB, as well. Pretty sure it’s un-fucked-with.



10:15 p.m.
ZARDOZ (1974)


One of the weirdest, most head-scratching mainstream films of the 1970s gets the “Midnight Movies For Old People” time slot. John Boorman’s pet project (filmed on the heels of his wildly successful Deliverance) must be seen to believed. Anyone who read Danny Peary’s Cult Movies books saw stills from this movie and immediately resolved to move away from their rinky-dink hometowns to a place where insanity like THIS was happening. (Or maybe just me. I did that.) It’s odd, it’s indulgent, it’s maybe even a bit ham-handed, but what it is not is boring, conventional, or easily digestible. It’s about still-relevant things like people who avoid the privation and horror outside their front door by living in an alternate reality called the Vortex, which doesn’t sound at all like the way I’ve lived the first 42 years of my life. Connery is dressed to thrill, Charlotte Rampling likewise, and that friggin’ floating head is still weird and terrifying. NOT TO BE MISSED!


12:00 midnight
ZOO ZERO (1979)


A pretentious piece of shit starring Klaus Kinski (speaking through a vocoder!) which I’m showing only because I was able to find a copy. No one need stick around for this.

Eva is a singer in a Noah’s Ark themed nightclub, where the guests wear animal masks. She sings about a doomed love affair between a lion tamer and a lion. She is approached by a stranger who claims to know her and to remember her singing Mozart which she denies. Driven around in her midget manager’s limousine she encounters bizarre characters who turn out to belong to her incestuous family of ogres. All culminates in a bizarre finale in a zoo featuring Klaus Kinski and arias from “The Magic Flute”. – Written by imdb user Ulf Kjell Gur.



“Insane in the (Mem)Brain”:
Mind experiments, psychics, & supercomputers

“They can imprison our bodies, but they can never imprison our minds!” But what if they can? Today’s films look at the harnessing of minds (repression of violent impulses, or intensification of them), as well as mechanical super-brains tasked with controlling our nuclear arsenal. We might even find out that our whole life is a computer simulacrum! We’ll see Christopher Walken’s debut film. And it wouldn’t be the 1970s without George Segal, so consider yourself warned.

10:00 a.m.
THE HAPPINESS CAGE (aka The Mind Snatchers) (1972)


During our David Cronenberg fest last year, we watched “Secret Weapons,” a short film about a medical process that increased the brain’s propensity for violence, essentially weaponizing its recipient into a mindless barbarian. Here, we see the opposite, perhaps influenced by the protests over Vietnam. This danger is a medical process that removes a brain’s violent impulses, essentially neutralizing “problem cases.” As you can see below, this is Christopher Walken’s first film, which is the main reason why I’m showing it and not the German film I Love You, I Kill You. Not a lot to recommend it otherwise. If you want to come over early enough to see if Christopher Walken is already Christopher Walkening it up in 1972, then I will look forward to seeing you. 


11:30 a.m.


Bring an extra seat cushion, because this is a three and a half hour (!) made-for-TV movie directed by the legendary Rainer Werner Fassbinder (In a Year of Thirteen Moons, Satan’s Brew, Ali: Fear Eats The Soul). Legs will be stiff, and asses will be numb. I still intend to do a Fassbinder fest one of these years — Fassbinder’s nothing if not consistently excellent — but that’ll require some truly endurance-challenging events, like the 12-hour miniseries Berlin Alexanderplatz. This is shorter in comparison, and thanks to some really strange visuals (what’s that guy below wearing on his head??!?), I’m hoping this will be a sleeper hit of the fest. 

Wire’s” first half plays with now familiar questions of phenomenology (what constitutes experience, perception and consciousness?), epistemology (what is knowledge and how is it acquired?) and ontology (what constitutes the self, existence and reality?). Here Stiller realises that he is in fact a computer simulation of the Real Fred Stiller. This baffles poor Fred, as he has also recently created a computer simulation of “himself”. The film thus offers a series of nested realities, simulations boxed within simulations boxed within simulations. When the “identity units” recognise that they are “not authentic”, they begin to view others as phony automatons, have little existential crises and slip into depression. Some exhibit the existence denial of Cotard’s Syndrome (“I think that I don’t exist!”). Others resort to suicide. – from a very lengthy, theory-heavy review by imdb user “tieman64”


3:00 p.m.


Terence Stamp (Superman II‘s General Zod, 10 years before his iconic role) plays John Soames, a 30-year-old man who has been in a coma since infancy, and is finally brought to “life” with no past, no life, no experiences. The scientists quarrel — is it more important that this man-baby be given an accelerated lifetime of childhood affection, or that he should be put on an accelerated schedule of education and learning? Like Herzog’s tale of Kaspar Hauser, the concept of the human tabula rasa is explored again, only this time, the subject is given a lifetime of physical AND mental darkness, not just physical privation in a cave. Needless to say, the tagline for this film (“Why Does This Baby Want To KILL?!”) suggests that the right combo of nurture/education was not reached.  


4:30 p.m.


Whenever a film title has a colon in it, you can just smell the deadlock at the shareholders meeting. One faction wanted probably wanted to call it Colossus, and the other liked The Forbin Project. One had the money, the other had the ear of the CEO of the company, something like that. Anyway, despite its ungainly title, this is a pretty sharp techno-thriller that hasn’t aged too badly. The US places its nuclear arsenal under the control of a foolproof super-computer called Colossus, designed by Charles Forbin. Colossus discovers that the Soviets have developed a similar nuclear-controlling supercomputer, called Guardian, and demands that the two computers be connected. The supercomputers, now linked, control the world’s nuclear arsenal, and use their filibuster-proof negotiating place to remake the world in their own image.  A weird cast in which many of the B-players went on to have big TV careers, including Marion Ross (Happy Days), Dolph Sweet (Gimmie A Break!), and Susan Clark (Webster). If the so-called “supercomputers” look a little dated today, the writing and pacing of the film are still rock-solid. An investment of time well spent.


6:10 p.m.


Michael Crichton is no stranger to the ’70s. Thought not as ubiquitous as I thought, he nonetheless pops up frequently around this time, and would only get bigger in the ’80s and ’90s. The film of his book The Andromeda Strain almost made it to the fest until I remembered that an asteroid that hits earth is Not Our Fault, therefore we didn’t “earn” the virus that kills everyone but a wino and a baby. But then there’s this, adapted from his 1972 novel and starring ’70s acting stalwart (or nuisance, depending on how you roll) George Segal. Like our first film of the day, The Happiness Cage, a brain implant is used to curb violent impulses, though this time, the impulses come after a brain-damaging car accident that also causes seizures. When the electrical shocks meant to calm the seizures start to have the opposite effect, Segal’s zapped-up brain starts craving the shocks, and begins to commit more acts of violence to get them. A slow-paced and patiently unfolding film from an author who once was the top of the pile of science-based thrillers, before he decided that the top problems of our generation were fake sexual harassment suits and people’s limp-wristed concern for the environment.



“(Nothing But) No Flowers”:

The environment. Where would we be without it, am I right, folks? As we continue to see ocean levels rising, global temperature averages rise a terrifying one to two degrees per year, and several top scientists declare that it’s already too late, this evening’s entertainments might hit a little too close to home. Then again, maybe we can all glean some survival tips. Whether we’re already stuck in this future, as in No Blade of Grass, we time-travel to it, like Idaho Transfer, or we see it unfold in real-time, like Deadly Harvest, these films show that all hope is both lost and not lost, that the impulse to survive, even in the wake of the radioactive ants of Phase IV, is always built into the human condition.

7:00 p.m.


Cornell Wilde is best known as a character actor, with roles in Leave Her To Heaven, The Naked Prey, DeMille’s The Greatest Show on Earth, and the Oscar-nominated A Song To Remember, in which Wilde played legendary composer Frederic Chopin. His directing credits, by comparison, can be counted on your toes, and one of those piggies is this harsh 1970 eco-disaster film in which a virus wipes out the rice and wheat crops, leading to widespread famine and riots. Architect John Custance (Nigel Davenport) takes his family out of London in hopes that his brother’s farm in Scotland will be more sustainable. The foot-traveling party encounters dangerous (and hungry) gangs along the way, and even the smallest of provisions can be bartered for human life. Reviews on this one suggest that it’s deeply flawed but still chilling and prescient. Starts early so the night doesn’t go late. NoBladeOfGrass

8:40 p.m.

I scheduled this one during movie prime time because I love it. You may not, and that’s all right. This is another film directed by an actor not otherwise known for his director’s credits — Peter Fonda. The Easy Rider star and hippie-about-town put his eye to the camera for the second time for this philosophically bleak look at the near future.

(Weirdly, Fonda’s first film, The Hired Hand, will be showing on October 11, the following Wednesday, at the Northwest Film Society on the NEIU campus.)

A project has been initiated that can bring a few humans at a time into the near future (about 40 years), and is being used to find information about a virus that appears to be killing off life on the planet. The future location is shot in the barren, inhospitable Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho. A cast of young kids battle radiation, sterilization, and the possibility that the time-travel project will lose funding, stranding them in the future. It’s hard to know where to begin in listing the postives about this film: glacially paced. Untrained actors, often in their first (and last) role. Ham-handed message. Muddy vocal track. Incomprehensible plot. Women characters walking around in their underwear for the most spurious reasons (the time machine won’t allow anything metal to come through, so no buttons, no clasps, NO PANTS!). Yet despite all this, I love the film beyond measure. It’s earnest, passionate, dejected, friendless, and utterly unlike anything I’ve seen before, which is always the highest compliment to me — I’d rather see a genuinely new (but flawed) thing than another above-average, well-built genre picture. I wish I had the VHS copy of THIS, because it starts with an intro from modern-day Peter Fonda, who gives a PO Box number and says he wants fans of this film to write to him and talk about their thoughts on it. Clearly, the responses he got in 1988 caused him not to include this plea in the 2006 DVD.


“Whatever you do, remember….NO PANTS!”

10:10 p.m.
PHASE IV (1974)


  Unintentionally, this night turned into “films directed by people known for things other than directing.” In this case, we have Saul Bass, who you almost certainly know as a graphic artist — his influence on the film posters and title sequences from the ’50s onward is indisputable. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, just gander through those galleries — you absolutely know his style. Like Peter Fonda, Bass chose his sole directorial opportunity to be a slow but beautiful art film, this time about an aggressive strain of radioactive ants. Like that other great ant invasion movie, Them!, Phase IV does a lot with close-up shots of ants juxtaposed against other backgrounds, but its aims are more philosophic than action-packed. The ants haven’t grown to enormous proportions; rather, the radiation heightened their awareness and caused them to collectively turn against humans on a mass scale. You think you’re not shaking now, but think of those summer days when your fucking kitchen is overrun by black ants and you’re like “ewwwwwwww….” but then all of a sudden, all those ants turned in your direction and squeaked “come at me, bro!” Then multiply that by a couple thousand. Now you’re not chortling, eh? Or maybe you are. Either way, this is another unique movie experience, and one that, until a DVD reissue just a few years ago, was quite hard to come by. Until we get Saul Bass’s supposedly long-lost extended ending (chopped and ruined by the studio), this theatrical print will do nicely. Art-film people: THIS IS YOUR SHIT.


11:45 p.m.


A vintage Canadian Tax Shelter exploitation movie, this time about Global Cooling (ahhh, how refreshing!), which sadly isn’t much safer than what we’re stuck with now. Yep, it’s another food shortage/roving gang movie, this time set in Toronto (give me that grain, hoser) and featuring a young Kim Cattrall (it’s only her second movie role and her fifth role overall on imdb). Included for the sake of completeness but starting late because I assume no one gives a shit about Canadian food shortages.



“In the Year 2525”:
Near-future shenanigans, time travel, outer space, etc.

Today’s theme is a bit more spongy — basically, anything in which the theme of planetary disaster has driven us away from our present circumstances, whether back (or forward) in time, or out into deep space. We start with a deep-dive into Gene Roddenberry’s first attempts at a new series post-Star Trek; we visit Germany, Czechoslovakia, and then Germany again for three very different takes on space, time travel, and the barrenness of the galaxy; then we wrap up a very long day of viewing with a convincing faux-documentary about missing scientists, a classic Bruce Dern role set in a deep-space terrarium, and a much-reviled big-budget take on H.G. Wells.

10:00 a.m.

The premise of Gene Roddenberry’s first post-Star Trek made-for-TV movie/pilot is like a dramatic version of the show Futurama. A scientist is meant to be put into suspended animation for just a few days, but due to a collapse in the tunnel holding his cryogenic chamber, he’s stranded for 154 years. We see the world as it will become through the eyes of a man who knows what it used to be. The world of the future is divided between the scientist-led, peace-loving Pax colony and the totalitarian, military-loving Tyranians. Yep, sounds a little on-the-nose, but it does have Mariette Hartley in a space-age Bikinitron and reliable TV actor Alex Cord. And hey, it’s Roddenberry. That dude’s bona-fides as regards social critique via sci-fi tropes are beyond reproach, right? 


11:15 a.m.


Here’s one for ’90s Roddenberry fans — according to the trivia section of imdb, the lead character, a fully-created humanoid robot named Questor (Robert Foxworthy) was an early prototype for one of Roddenberry’s most beloved characters, Mr. Data of Star Trek: The Next Generation! Questor is a robotic creation with human attributes, but a mechanical error has erased half of his knowledge tapes. His robotic imperative is to find his creator, Dr. Vaslovik (Lew Ayers), but with his partial intelligence, he’ll need human help to complete his task, namely, junior scientist Jerry Robinson (M*A*S*H‘s Mike Farrell). Of these four Roddenberry-directed movie/pilots of the ’70s, this seems to be the most well-regarded.


1:00 p.m.


 John Saxon is a platinum member of the “Hey, It’s That Guy!” hall of fame. Appearing in over 200 roles since 1954 and still going strong to this very minute, Saxon has a broad-shouldered, strong-jawed screen presence that looks equally right in a police uniform, judge’s robe, or space admiral’s polyester onesie. His career spans from A Star Is Born to A Nightmare on Elm Street to From Dusk Til Dawn.

The plot of this one is similar to Genesis II, but with a small twist: Saxon’s Dylan Hunt awakes from suspended animation in the 22nd century to find a planet run by women. Men are slaves and referred to as Dinks. (Serves ’em right, I say.) Tapping into the power of  the Women’s Liberation movement (and some men’s fear of it), Roddenberry’s attempt at a matriarchy storyline looks pretty interesting. Like the other movie/pilots, it was not picked up for series. Bonus cameo: Ted Cassidy, aka Cousin Lurch from The Addams Family.

From an imdb review (thanks, “Stephen Robb”) titled “Fun Planet Earth Facts”:

Apparently, networks at the time were only comfortable with one sci-fi series at a time.

CBS picked “Planet of the Apes” over Genesis II, and ABC picked “Six Million Dollar Man” over Planet Earth.

The main character in each was Dylan Hunt, though they were played by different actors. This is interesting because when Roddenberry made the second Star Trek pilot, he gave the new lead actor a new name. (Capt. Pike became Capt. Kirk)

The name Dylan Hunt would be used in Andromeda, which was an outer space version of Planet Earth, which in turn was a land-based version of Star Trek.

The script for Star Trek: The Motion Picture was based on an unused Planet Earth script. In fact, several of the first season episodes of ST: TNG were written for either the unrealized new Star Trek series in the 70s, or Planet Earth.

Roddenberry believed in recycling.

“Recycle this, you sniggering bastards!”

2:15 p.m.

 One more attempt at the “wake up from suspended animation, find the world at war” concept, this time without Roddenberry’s input. Saxon’s back in the saddle, and there’s a small role from Catherine “There Are No Small Roles, Only Small Cutoffs” Bach. In an attempt to give the network execs a two-for-the-price-of-one experience, the returning scientists embark on two adventures: one in which they find a tribe that may have discovered the secret of immortality, the other a warlike group of forest dwellers. I’m including this fourth unsuccessful pilot attempt into the fest for the sake of completeness, and because I bought it before I realized Roddenberry wasn’t involved.

But, of course, we can take comfort in the fact that it’s….

Damn right.

3:55 p.m.


In Mr. Plinkett’s review of the Star Trek reboot, he asserts something that I’ve not heard said quite in that way before. He says, “I like my sci-fi slow and boring and my action fast and cool.” He cites Star Trek: The Motion Picture as one of the best films in the Star Trek franchise, despite its almost total lack of action, because at its core, sci-fi is at its best when it’s slowly and carefully probing themes of human frailty, the limits of our powers against and unloving galaxy, and our biological struggle between a future of cooperation and mutual understanding vs. a tribal existence of near-constant warfare and division. If that’s the case, Operation Ganymed may be the perfect sci-fi film.

Or it could just be slow and ponderous as fuck.

A German film (with sub-par English dubbing) about a group of astronauts who return to earth after years of space exploration, only to find it almost completely barren and deserted. They land in what they believe to be Mexico and travel north toward the US. It’s not high on plot, but the creepy, desolate atmospherics might be enough to justify the film’s slow pace and wooden dubbing. Might. (Taped off Youtube for maximum video-rental quality.)


5:30 p.m.
The Big Mess

 Hella, hella, HELLA rare until just a few months ago, this one here. When I first started researching the fest, Der Grosse Verhau (The Big Mess) came up regularly on lists of great ’70s dystopia films, but as far as I could tell, it was never released in any format, not even VHS. At the time I was originally programming this thing (aiming for early April), it was still the rarest of the films I was seeking. Mere weeks after I decided to reschedule for October due to work conflicts, Facets Video announced that a DVD copy was immanent, as if to reassure me that the delay was worth it.

Almost certainly the strangest (and lowest-budgeted) film on the roster, Alexander Kluge’s film is like, to quote several film critics, 2001: A Space Odyssey if it were directed by Georges Melies. The special effects are deliberately crude (cityscapes are quite clearly fashioned out of nuts and bolts and small wooden dowels) and the atmosphere stylistically antiquated, with title cards explaining the action. But the satire is up-to-the-minute sharp, with corporate-owned space exploration being subverted by small bands of garbage scavengers, living on the fringes of society. Much of the storyline is told with title cards, in the style of silent pictures, but the movie is anything but quiet — at one point, we get a musical appearance by Krautrock legends Amon Duul II! If you enjoyed Dark Star, but found it a bit too slick and refined (ho ho!), well step right up and board the junkiest ol’ ship this side of Lower Munich. (I’ve skipped around the chapters of this film a bit, and it looks completely baffling.)


6:50 p.m.


“You’ve just watched four Roddenberry movie/pilots in a row, followed by a ponderous German production where five dudes walk around in the wilderness for 90 minutes. What are you going to do now?”

“I’m going to kill Albert Einstein!”

(Anyone get that reference anymore?)

This thoroughly absurd-looking Czech sex comedy starts with a pretty loopy premise: an atom bomb has gone off, leaving behind two terrible side effects. One, everybody’s sterile, so no more babies. Two, all the women have facial hair! (And not just facial hair, but hilariously sculpted facial hair, of course.) The scientists blame not the bomb, or the people that set it off, but its long-gone inventor, Albert Einstein, for getting us into this fool mess in the first place. Their plan: go back in time and assassinate Einstein. No Einstein, no bomb, no mass outbreak of bearded ladies! Obviously, this isn’t a film that’s carefully balancing every moral and temporal implication of time travel so much as it is an Eastern European episode of Carry On Time-Travel with period decor. It’s relatively tame for the time, but looks like it probably has some good laughs, which will be much needed after the ponderous day so far. Czech with English subtitles.


8:25 p.m.

Broadcast on the UK TV program “Science Report,” this was a bit of instant mythmaking in the Orson Welles “War of the Worlds” vein. Played completely without a wink or a nod, The hour-long “documentary” told its viewers that ecological collapse was immanent, and though scientists knew what to do about it, they were suddenly disappearing from their labs. A bunch of imdb reviewers spoke up to say that this film scared the HELL out of them as kids, and that their respective fathers/uncles/friends’ relatives in the aerospace and financial industries said it was astonishingly close to several conspiracies going around at the time. The feeling was “is this REALLY happening?” The fact that the special only ran once and wasn’t repeated further fueled claims of conspiracy. Again, I grabbed a copy from youtube for that maximum “underground tape trading” vibe. (One imdb reviewer spotted that this film is referenced in the movie Slacker by the conspiracy theorist in the underground bookstore! He watched it the night before. Naturally, he believes every word of it.)


9:25 p.m.

Along with Logan’s Run, Soylent Green, and The Omega Man, Silent Running is easily the best-known of the ’70s dystopia/future-shock films. It stars a young Bruce Dern as the peaceful, slightly spacey commander of a ship carrying the last remaining flora from a defoliated earth. With only his three robotic companions (named “Huey, Dewey, and Louie” — anyone still catch that reference?), Dern’s Freeman Lowell orbits endlessly, waiting for the day when he gets the order to return and life can start over again. When he instead gets the order to terminate the mission and destroy his cargo, Lowell goes rogue and sets the controls for the far reaches of space. Directed by Douglas Trumbull, whose special effects credits include 2001 and Blade Runner, this is pretty much universally loved — Roger Ebert himself gave it four stars upon its release, calling it a film “about a basically uncomplicated man faced with an awesome, but uncomplicated, situation.” Try not to miss this one.


11:00 p.m.

After several excellent, fascinating, even beautiful films in a row, it is time once again to bury one in a late slot. Based (loosely, very loosely) on a short story by H.G. Wells, we see planet earth ruined by human negligence, leading to colonies on the moon, which are under attack by an interplanetary bad guy named Omus, played by an all-around bad guy named Jack Palance. Horrible effects. Scene-chewing overacting from all involved. Even a robot dog. I looked very hard to find a positive review of this film, and the best I could find was a guy who said it was fun to make fun of. Fair warning.



“Make Room! Make Room!”:
Overpopulation/mass sterilization

They didn’t call it the Baby Boom for nothing. For most of recorded history, humans have been worrying that we either have too many or too few people to keep the race going. Today’s films address both ends of the spectrum: on one side, an overpopulated world struggles for resources, space, and sanity. On the other, mass sterilization has rendered the few remaining births a faint flicker of hope for a species that may have just snuffed itself out of existence.

11: 00 a.m.

Another made-for-TV movie starring Michael Cole (who looks from the photos like the poor man’s Joe Don Baker, which raises the question: how rich a man do you have to be to afford full-strength Joe Don Baker?) and workhorse character actor Van Heflin. Janet Margolin plays the mother of her second child in a world so overpopulated, it’s one child per couple, please. Since their first child died at birth, they decide to keep this one, and must rely on the help of an aged senator (Heflin) to sneak them across the border to Canada and safety.

Sounds riveting, eh?


12:15 p.m.
GAS-S-S-S-S-S-S… (or: It Became Necessary To Destroy the World In Order to Save It) (1970)

Like The Bed-Sitting Room, this barely qualifies as ’70s, having been wide released in the first months of 1970. Like Glen & Randa, this is dystopia with a strong scent of patchouli on it, a Roger Corman-produced hippie allegory about a gas that descends on earth and kills everyone over the age of 25. Featuring beloved character actor Bud Cort (M*A*S*H, Brewster McCloud, Harold & Maude) and musical act Country Joe & The Fish, this is as of-its-time as it gets, including such jokes as:

Dr. Murder: Are you now or have you ever been a member of any organization which advocates the violent overthrow of the government of the United States of America?

Marissa: Yes.

Dr. Murder: Which one?

Marissa: The Paul Revere and the Raiders fan club

Have at it.


1:35 p.m.

 Up until just a few years ago, this was a really, really hard film to find. I’d see it on those great underground-film-trading sites (Subterranean Cinema, Super Happy Fun, Revenge Is My Destiny, Video Search of Miami) that don’t really exist in such large numbers in the age of universal file sharing and youtube. Kind of like a prequel to Logan’s Run, here we see an overpopulated society in which reproduction is strictly prohibited. A segment of the population seals itself off from pollution and the dying hordes outside while trying to actively squelch the motherhood instinct. Children born before the enforcement of Zero Population Growth are stamped with a “B.E.” on their forehead (for “Before Edict”). Geraldine Page (Nashville, A Wedding) and Oliver Reed (Oliver!, Tommy, The Three Muskateers) decide to have a baby against government edict. Contains creepy surrogate babies like the one seen below. The imdb reviews, not surprisingly, are filled with dipshits drawing parallels between this film and the “enforced choice” of Roe v. Wade. Might not have been worth the wait. We’ll see.


3:10 p.m.

I have a theory. Wanna hear it? Here it goes:

Soylent Green is the most spoiled movie of all time.

Point me to another movie in which the twist ending is more universally known than this one. As such, I don’t feel compelled to tell you what this movie is about. Why don’t you tell me. What is Soylent Green made of again? I seem to have forgotten.


4:50 p.m.
LOGAN’S RUN (1976)

We’ll end the day with the mother of all forced-depopulation films. Again, hard to find too many people that don’t know at least the basic premise of this film already. In an overpopulated world, a group of people living in a domed city-within-a-city enjoy a life of leisure — automation has removed the need for work, and all the pleasures of the flesh are available for the newly unoccupied. The catch: to keep the population low, residents are killed when they reach their 30th birthday. Michael York and Jenny Agutter are young and beautiful in their future-togs, and the set decoration is still the DNA of retro-kitsch furniture designers the world over. A classic for good reason.

“Logan’s Run” is a vast, silly extravaganza that delivers a certain amount of fun, once it stops taking itself seriously.” – Roger Ebert

“The Future Is All About Hexagons.” – Some shirt Wendy saw for sale on CafePress years ago



“Transmaniacon MC”:
Biker gangs, scavengers, & loners on a desert landscape

After six days of relatively nuanced, message-driven science fiction and future prophecy, we’re going to end the fest with two days of whomping on each other with flaming clubs with nails sticking out of them. Friday night’s heroes ride bikes, drive armored tanks, or just go on foot in search of peace, gasoline, or a place to plant some radiation-proof seeds. Some prevent disorder, others preserve disorder. No matter what, though, disorder reigns this final Friday night of the fest.

7:00 p.m.


I love the title. RAVAGERS. Sounds gnarly. But there’s something kind of out of time about the whole thing. It’s from 1979, near the end of this era, but the plot (two kids try to navigate past warring biker tribes called Flockers and Ravagers in hopes of reaching the rumored Land of Genesis) seems straight out of the hippie utopia-from-chaos tropes of Gas-s-s-s… and Glen & Randa. Furthermore, giving top billing to Richard Harris, Ernest Borgnine, and Art Carney gives us a sense that this might be more about the stunt casting of your average ’70s disaster film. Still, give them respect for speculating on such desolation a mere 12 years in the future (poster sez it’s 1991 when this all goes down!).


8:30 p.m.
MAD MAX (1979)


Sometimes, I feel the need to over-explain a rare film because I want to make sure that you know how great it’s going to be, even if the name doesn’t ring a bell. Here, I don’t need to sell you at all. You know if whether you want to see Mad Max again. (Hint: you do.)

10:00 p.m.


I’ve never seen this, but I have to imagine it’s good. It’s got Yul Brynner. He’s always good! And it’s got Max Von Sydow. He doesn’t always make great script choices, but he’s good in whatever he puts his mind to! So, to pair them up and make Brynner into the shirtless, bruising tough-guy whose task is to escape a gang-crazed NYC with Sydow’s daughter and some radiation-proof seeds in tow to fertilize a new world sounds pretty good to me. Plus, if you’re going to show lots and lots of shots of New York in the ’70s, set-decorated for extra decay and crumble, I’ve got nothing but time for that.


11:40 p.m.

Based on the Roger Zelazny novel, this stars Jan-Michael Vincent and George Peppard, two thoroughly midgrade action jacksons, and a huge and comically overblown battle-tank that bumps and shudders all around the desert. (it’s also got a stretchy middle part, like those bendy buses.) Ostensibly one of the influences on the role-playing game Car Wars, Damnation Alley will likely win no awards for thoughtful, well-crafted dialogue. But if you wanna watched a big ol’ battle-fortress armed to the teeth and ready to pound sand up some asses, then stick around. Or just go home and rest up, because tomorrow is going to push you to your very limit.

Damnation Alley


“Panem et Circenses”:
Feats of strength, races, contests, neo-gladiator combat, & amusement parks gone mad

So goes a nation, so goes the intensity of its bloodsports. Our final day is a bit of a mixed bag. There’s violent entertainment on skates, in weaponized cars, on bikes. There’s televised manhunts of convicted criminals. And, of course, we see what happens when amusement parks with human-like robots override the prime directive. In the future, we won’t amuse ourselves to death — we’ll have someone else do it for us.

11:00 p.m.


To quote the poster, “In the not too distant future, war will not exist. But we will have Rollerball.” Something like a cross between roller derby and jai-alai, the bloodthirsty game is an elaborate subterfuge by our future government, overseen as it is by corporations, to keep the populace both bloodthirsty and placated. James Caan plays a populist hero on the field, a Rollerball superstar who reminds his audience of their intrinsic humanity. Director Norman Jewison (In the Heat of the Night, Fiddler on the Roof, Jesus Christ Superstar), someone not normally associated with sci-fi, chose the script because of what it had to say about humanity’s inability to shake off its most violent urges and what this does to us as a civilization. It’s also super brutal and lurid in its own right. Remade in the 2000s to no great improvement, Rollerball, for all its underlying cheesiness, is an embodiment of ’70s dystopic cinema.

RollerballGotta Catch ’em All

1:05 p.m.

Written and directed by Michael Crichton, and another ’70s classic. Great premise — an amusement park of the future has realistic robots which we can interact with as though they were human. There are several worlds in this theme park, but the one where all the trouble starts is Westworld. (There’s also a Roman one, I think.) The robot cowboys are realistic — you can talk to them, buy them a drink, even insult them — but they’ll never actually shoot anyone. Or will they? Yul Brynner is great as the robot-gone-mad, and the visual effect of the faceplate-less robot heads remains disturbing. Again, both cheesy and super-rad.


2:35 p.m.


Unable to leave well enough alone, Samuel Z. Arkoff decided to go to the well one more time, this time without a Crichton screenplay. Yul Brynner is back as the gunslinger, as well as Peter Fonda (he still wants to know what you thought about Idaho Transfer — please call, he misses you very much) and Blythe Danner and Stuart Margolin. Not as great or famous as the original, but few sequels are. If you’re already here, might as well stay and see what happens next.


4:20 p.m.
DEATH RACE 2000 (1975)

Another double-dip film. We first watched this during the “Films of Paul Bartel (and Mary Woronov)” festival a few years back. I’ve seen this a half-dozen times or more, and it’s always a blast. The future again calls for ultra-violent entertainment, this time in the form of a cross-country car race in which cars are equipped with sharp objects built for impaling humans, which creates a point system for the competitors. Seniors, children, and the infirm are extra points if you impale or run them down; anyone that can run away easily is worth less points. Roger Ebert, improbably, was appalled at this film and gave it zero stars, calling it morally bankrupt. That he could work with Russ Meyer and yet somehow not spot the broad social satire in this film (for god’s sake, the leader of the resistance is named Thomassina Paine!) is a bit surprising, but it shouldn’t deter you from enjoying this thoroughly excellent, dark-humored little gem. Stars David Carradine, Mary Woronov, Sylvester Stallone (long before he was the enormous star he became) and dozen more people who are either splattered on the street or gratuitously naked on the massage table. One of Corman and co.’s very best, both exploitative and thought-provoking, the latter almost accidentally. Not to be missed, especially if, heaven forbid, you’ve never seen this.



5:40 p.m.

Man, I’m giddy with both an excitement and trepidation about this one. This is also Corman, also starring Carradine, but not nearly as righteous or convincing as its predecessor. Shot near the end of the ’70s, this was an unapologetic attempt to cash in on nearly every genre trend at the time — bikers, sword-and-sorcery, and space-laser-battles and mod-podged together without rhyme or reason. Production values are near zero — it’s rumored that Corman’s sound team went to a screening of Star Wars with hidden tape recorders and taped both laser and space sounds so that they could be inserted into the audio track of Deathsport! There’s a lot of stories about this film, in fact — the imdb “trivia” section is a gift that just gives and gives and gives, like some sort of tree that gives. Behold:

According to co-director Allan Arkush, David Carradine smoked a lot of marijuana while acting in this movie.

Tragic fates have befallen several people involved with the production of ‘Deathsport’. Lead actress Claudia Jennings was killed in a car accident shortly after the release of the film, lead actor David Carradine died of accidental asphyxiation in 2008, and director Allan Arkush went on to make ‘Caddyshack 2’. This has led many to talk of “the curse of Deathsport”.

The cave scenes with the mutants were shot at Bronson Caves in Bronson Canyon. When a stuntman playing a mutant was set on fire, another actor portraying a mutant was also accidentally set on fire.

In addition to providing the narration, Ron Gans provided voices for just about every character in the film wearing a helmet.

David Carradine hurt his knee after he leaped against his steel jail cell door.

The second nude dance sequence in the film was filmed in a jam & jelly factory where various lights would get strung up.

The film takes place in 3000.

If, like me, you’re wondering just how many “nude dance sequences” there are, you’re already clearing your calendar.


7:00 p.m.

You wanna talk grim? You ain’t seen grim. Not like this. This will bum you the hell out for days and days. You must not miss this film. It’s so outstanding. So stylistically ahead of its time, so raw in its hopelessness and contempt for the human race, seamlessly combining documentary footage, improvised acting, and bleak futuristic vision, it’s hard to believe that this film is 45 years old. It precedes the rise of the fake-documentary form by a span of several decades. Everyone in this film seems to be speaking from the heart, which is chilling. 

In the future, dissidents and “difficult” people in society (here represented by student radicals, folk singers, Black Panthers, etc.) are tried in a kangaroo court and given two options — 20 years in prison, or three days in Punishment Park, a stretch of desert as inhospitable as it is featureless. Contestants (for this is all televised) who can cross the landscape and reach the American flag at the other end will have their sentences commuted. It should also be noted that, after a 3 hour head start, they are set upon by policemen with high-powered rifles. Heat, exhaustion, dehydration, and muscle cramps are a constant companion, to say nothing of the gunfire. The action shifts between two teams of detainees — one group being tried in a Quonsett hut, essentially grilled by people yelling “why do you hate America? And after all its done for you?” while the plaintiffs shout back their rebuttals. They are restrained, gagged, tied to their chairs, and, finally, given the choice: prison, or Punishment Park. A bloodless narrator ticks off the days in Punishment Park, the struggle toward a near-futile goal.

Peter Watkins’ filmed output is hard to find, but everything I’ve seen by him (including Culloden and The War Game) is difficult, stylistically brilliant, and truly provocative. He might get his own fest one of these years. Absolutely not to be missed.



8:30 p.m.
JUBILEE (1978)

From that grim little piece, we travel into the future for something completely different. Derek Jarman, later to be known as a pioneer of queer cinema with films like Sebastiane, The Last of England, and Caravaggio, here uses his access to the cream of the class of ’77 punk scenesters, everyone from Toyah Wilcox to Adam Ant, Wayne County to Ari Up to Siouxsie Sioux, to show us ourselves through the eyes of an outsider. Queen Elizabeth I (the one from the 1500s) consults a fortune teller to see what’s in store for England’s future, and, well, it looks like Punks win the day after all! Compared with Jarman’s later films, many of which are more mannered, minimal and steady-handed, Jubilee is messy and exuberant, more in the spirit of Jack Smith or Kenneth Anger than the man who would go on to film Blue and In the Shadow of the Sun. With its colorful cast and pitched tone, it sets the stage nicely for…


10:15 p.m.

CAN YOU COUNT, SUCKERS? Because if you can, you’ll notice that this is MOVIE NUMBER FIFTY, and we’re at the end of the line. The Warriors as a dystopia is tenuous at best, but I’m crowbarring it in because it’s just as awesome as can be, a perpetual favorite among those with the most discerning of film tastes. It’s hard not to love this film — it’s got everything going for it. (Like THX1138, director Walter Hill got a hold of this film and re-released a “director’s cut” with absurd animated comic book panels and other dipshittery in it; fortunately a conventional DVD was released in the late ’90s, and we’ll damn sure be watching that one.) Our heroes, the titular gang, convene with all the other gangs of New York (many of them absurdly and improbably outfitted) for a summit aimed at unifying the disparate territories and taking over the city. When Cyrus, the leader of the movement, is shot dead mid-sentence, nobody knows what happened. But for some reason, The Warriors are blamed. (The senselessness of the whole thing really is shocking — as my friend Brian Collins said, the bad guy in this film “is the embodiment of the Nietzschean uber-mench.”

This is a cornerstone film of my favorite film sub-sub-genre, films in which people must get from one part of town to the other in the middle of the night. I don’t know what you call it — “Lost After Dark in the City?” There’s this, After Hours, Judgement Night, Midnight Madness, and plenty of others. What’s your favorite? Let’s talk about it at the fest.

Which is now over! 


Say it with me…




No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: