Category Archives: Dystopian cinema

The Projection Booth podcast does The Running Man

While I am not a huge podcast consumer, one podcast I am a regular listener of is The Projection Booth, helmed by a man who has forgotten more about film than many of us will ever know, Detroit-based Mike White.

So, it was a huge honour to be asked to be a guest, along with Aaron Peterson, on their latest episode, which looks at the 1987 dystopian science fiction film, The Running Man. Set in the distant year of 2017, The Running Man, takes place in an authoritarian future America where the highest rating television show pits criminals against muscle-bound, spandex-clad “stalkers”. The film is based very loosely on the novel of the same name by Richard Bachman aka Stephen King, the film has a great cast, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Richard Dawson, Yaphet Koto. Jim Brown, Jesse Ventura and Mara Conchita Alonso.

The Running Man is a film that aged surprisingly well. As part of the episode, Mike talks to the movie’s screen writer Steven E. de Souza and producer George Linder. We also jaw about the its odd production history, and other ‘people hunting people films’ including the 1970 German production, Das Millionenspiel, and Elio Petri’s wonderful 1965 effort, The 10th Victim.

You can listen to the entire episode at The Projection Booth site here.… Read more

Pulp Friday: A Clockwork Orange

It has been a while between posts, I know. This site, as well as a number of other things in my life, has taken a back seat in order for me to meet a few pressing deadlines, in particular, working on a monograph for a English publisher on Norman Jewison’s 1975 dystopian science fiction classic, Rollerball.

While Jewison was not a great fan of science fiction he was impressed by two science fiction films, both of them made by Stanley Kubrick: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and A Clockwork Orange, released in 1971 (although it was not released in Australian until 1988). It is this latter film that is the subject of today’s Pulp Friday post.

Published by Anthony Burgess in 1962, A Clockwork Orange is set in a near future dystopian England suffering from an epidemic of extreme youth violence and economic stagnation. The book’s teenage protagonist, Alex, narrates the story of his various criminal exploits and the subsequent efforts of the conservative state authorities to rehabilitate him, in a made up language Burgess called ‘Nadsat’.

Burgess’s own politics were conservative, with a streak of anarchism running through his thinking. He wrote A Clockwork Orange in three weeks, influenced by his views of the growing youth culture in early sixties England.… Read more

Return to The Last Wave

The Last Wave posterDuring the recent Melbourne International Film Festival, I had an interesting discussion about whether genre films can ever deal with important social issues in a way that is not titillating or exploitative. One example of a genre film that does, shown at this year’s MIFF, is Peter Weir’s 1977 film, The Last Wave.

The Internet Movie Database classifies The Last Wave as a ‘drama/mystery/thriller’ but it is also laced with supernatural/occult tropes popular in many horror films of the seventies. It’s a story about weather and the climate, in a way that can now be viewed as a remarkably prescient. But most importantly, given my introductory comments, it is also a relatively sophisticated attempt by a white director to engage with Indigenous Australian issues and mythology and the clash between Aboriginal law and Western law.

You can read my piece on Weir’s The Last Wave in full here on the Overland site.

Rollerball & decoding cinematic dystopias

tumblr_nblo2mWDl81sndzdgo1_500The Independent newspaper recently reported that the British Broadcasting Corporation is designing a television program in which unemployed and low paid workers will compete against each other, The Hunger Games-style, for cash prizes. The idea follows the success of Benefits Street, a UK reality TV show similar to the much-criticised SBS series, Struggle Street, about an area in Birmingham where ninety per cent of the residents are on social welfare benefits.

The newspaper report is one of several recent things that have got me thinking about how aspects of dystopian cinema are bleeding into real life. Another is the fortieth anniversary in late June of the science fiction film, Rollerball. Although derided by critics upon release for its violence, the film is now viewed as one of the high points of seventies dystopian cinema. It has also proven remarkably prescient regarding aspects of the future it depicted.

Rollerball is set in 2018. Nation-states no longer exist but are replaced by huge corporations, each focusing on an aspect of human need: transport, food, communication, housing, luxury, energy, etc. The most popular form of entertainment is a violent sport called Rollerball, and the most successful competitor is Jonathan E, who plays for Houston, the city controlled by the Energy Corporation.… Read more