Poster art for '2001' (1968)

Disclaimer: Films listed here may be terrible, but they must have at least one scientifically interesting idea, however badly they may exploit that concept.

~2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Leonard Rossiter, Daniel Richter, Douglas Rain (the voice of HAL)
C-141 mins.
Novelization by Arthur C. Clarke (which clarifies much of Stanley Kubrick’s deliberate obscurantism)

“Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave? Stop, Dave. I’m afraid. I’m afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I’m a … fraid. Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am a HAL 9000 computer. I became operational at the H.A.L. plant in Urbana, Illinois on the 12th of January 1992. My instructor was Mr. Langley, and he taught me to sing a song. If you’d like to hear it, I can sing it for you.”
“Yes, I’d like to hear it, HAL. Sing it for me.”
“It’s called ‘Daisy.’ Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do. I’m half crazy, all for the love of you. It won’t be a stylish marriage. I can’t afford a carriage. But you’ll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two ….”
“Look, Dave, I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over. I know I’ve made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I’ve still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you.”
“I’ve got a bad feeling about him.”
“You do?”
“Yeah, definitely. Don’t you?”
“I don’t know. I think so. You know, of course, though, he’s right about the 9000 series having a perfect operational record. They do.”
“Unfortunately, that sounds a little like famous last words.”

Since 2001 has been exhaustively analyzed by the cognoscenti ever since it was released, I’ll be brief: This film is an unworthy successor to Forbidden Planet. Its “groundbreaking” themes involving directed human evolution, space travel, artificial intelligence, etc., are completely unoriginal; they were old hat in 1945. The general public at large had never been exposed to them in such concentrated form, however, which explains the multiplicity of “interpretations” generated about the movie. Overlong, with a creaking structure, wooden acting (deliberately so, I’m told, the liveliest character being a talking computer), and completely lacking a sense of humor, 2001 depends entirely on its visuals, magnificent razzle-dazzle that tries to make up for an abysmally trite plot. (As for scientific “accuracy,” am I the only one who noticed that astronauts on the Moon’s surface move painfully slowly while personnel just a couple of hundred feet underground walk around like they’re in a one-G environment? Anti-grav plates, perhaps? Then why spin the space station and the crew compartment of the Discovery?)

~Charly (1968)
Cliff Robertson, Claire Bloom, Leon Janney, Lilia Skala, Dick Van Patten
C-103 mins.
Based on Daniel Keyes’ 1966 novel Flowers for Algernon

At times a touching account of a man whose intelligence gets a boost in a scientific experiment — only to see it fade away. Cliff Robertson’s performance is probably the best one he ever gave. Charly should be required viewing for people in the federal science establishment, since the film underlines the idea that there are human consequences to all scientific endeavor.

~Planet of the Apes (1968)
Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, James Daly, Linda Harrison
C-112 mins.
Loosely based on Pierre Boulle’s 1963 novel La planéte des singes

“Imagine me needing someone. Back on Earth I never did. Oh, there were women. Lots of women. Lots of love-making but no love. You see, that was the kind of world we’d made. So I left, because there was no one to hold me there.”
“It’s a mad house. A mad house!”
“You know the saying, ‘Human see, human do’.”

As a piece of satire, Planet of the Apes is a success. That undercurrent of Lefty-liberal, sixties countercultural social criticism you might detect in this film is no accident; by superimposing on it a fairly standard tale of survival, the spoonful of sugar lets the medicine go down without excessive grating. Indeed, it’s a lot of fun, with the occasional sly dig at human pretensions. The actors are uniformly credible despite the technical limitations, expertly doing “Shakespeare” from inside rubber masks — but I really don’t think the idea merited four sequels and two TV series.

~Quatermass and the Pit [a.k.a. Five Million Years to Earth] (1968)
Andrew Keir, James Donald, Barbara Shelley, Julian Glover, Duncan Lamont, Robert Morris, Bryan Marshall, Edwin Richfield, Peter Copley
C-97 mins.
Based closely on Nigel Kneale’s 1958 BBC-TV serial script

Workers digging an extension of the London Underground unearth what the military thinks is an unexploded German V-2 from World War Two, but it isn’t. Prof. Bernard Quatermass (Andrew Keir), evidently the only person in this film with any intelligence whatsoever, determines that they’ve discovered a spacecraft from Mars, and from that he infers the cause of humanity’s superstitions about the Devil, poltergeists, and other occultic phenomena. The script cleverly melds high-tech concepts with Satanism and “demonic” possession, and the fadeout shot has an appropriate air of distrust and alienation. Julian Glover offers the definitive stereotype of the Neanderthal militarist.


Mike Gray