By Dean Haspiel July 07, 2012
Even though reading is supposed to engage the brain, so much so, it makes the reader a co-author and helps expand the fiction they’re indulging, sometimes another medium can bring a lot more to the table than one’s measly mind can muster. Besides, some stories are only as good as its audience. Superhero comic books used to rule the newsstands and now superheroes rule the movie theaters because filmmakers finally figured out how to trump and take command of the genre. Of course, this doesn’t mean movies and TV are better than comic books but the moving picture and sound medium has certainly become equal to literature. AMC’s Breaking Bad anyone? ‘Nuff said. And, because superheroes have a lot in common with science-fiction, I thought about the visceral impact of “seeing” science-fiction.
Besides sci-fi TV shows like Flash Gordon, Star Trek, Lost in Space, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, The Six-Million Dollar Man, and the paramount pop culture influences of the most profound science fiction and post-apocalyptic films made by such masters as Nigel Kneale (The Quatermass Xperiment), Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek), Arthur P. Jacobs (Planet of the Apes), Stanley Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange), Steven Spielberg (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, Minority Report, War of the Worlds), George Lucas (THX 1138, Star Wars), Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Prometheus), George Miller (Mad Max, The Road Warrior), James Cameron (Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Aliens, The Abyss, Avatar), John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing, David Cronenberg (Scanners, Videodrome, The Fly, eXistenZ) and Ronald D. Moore’s re-imagination of Glen A. Larson’s Battlestar Galactica, here is a review of four movies from 1966 and 1983 that influenced my sci-fi/horror psychology.
SECONDS : What if you turned 50 and your life was perfectly rote? What if you could take a character like Willy Loman from Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” and give him the opportunity to start over as Rock Hudson with the freedom to express yourself in any way you wanted to but at the sacrifice of losing everything you ever did and everyone you ever knew or loved? What would you do? Based on a novel by David Ely, this horror, neo-noir, psychedelic drama was directed by John Frankenheimer and is the ultimate mid-life crisis movie.
FANTASTIC VOYAGE : There’s no better way to learn basic biology than to shrink six American and Soviet scientists into a mini-ship to travel the human body and destroy a blood clot in his brain to save a spy in the space of one hour! Lasers, claustrophobia, double-crossing agents, white blood cell attacks, an arteriovenous fistula, and sexy Raquel Welch are only a part of what makes this anatomically psychedelic journey so damned awesome.
VIDEODROME : Science-fiction shares certain similarities with horror and David Cronenberg’s Videodrome was the second sci-fi movie to scare the hell out of me (the first one was John Carpenter’s The Thing). This techno-surrealist movie warped the senses with its hallucinogenic investigation into mind-control conspiracy where television signals broadcast bizarre snuff films and Blondie‘s Debby Harry terrorized the loins of every teenage boy with sex and violence. The harrowing scene where James Woods arm transitions into an organic gun surely helped pave the way for Japanese cyberpunk with movies like Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo: The Iron Man.
METALSTORM: THE DESTRUCTION OF JARED-SYN : Filmed in 3D, this low-budget space-age western directed by Charles Band combined sorcery with technology and became a cult film. Wanting more sci-fi anti-heroes like The Road Warrior’s Mad Max, and Star Wars’ Han Solo, the poor man’s Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford came in the form of actor, Tim Thomerson, who played a grimy mercenary named Rhodes in Metalstorm, a convoluted car-wreck of a science-fiction movie that boasts cyborgs, skybikes, cyclopians, space rangers, and intergalactic criminals with supernatural powers. Enough stuff to pack three movies and/or the first issue of a Jack Kirby comic book.
Speaking of which, comic books also fed my hungry fascination for science-fiction via the works of Jack Kirby (Challengers of the Unknown, The Fantastic Four, The Silver Surfer, The New Gods, OMAC, Kamandi, The Eternals, Machine Man, Devil Dinosaur, Captain Victory, etc.), Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, Warren Ellis (Planetary, Global Frequency), and Brian K. Vaughan (Y the Last Man, Ex Machina, Saga), but I think my favorite was Rich Buckler’s Deathlok the Demolisher, an American soldier who, after being fatally injured, is reanimated in a post-apocalyptic future to find what remains of his dead body has been turned into an experimental cyborg. Deathlok encompasses what I love most about Seconds, Fantastic Voyage, Videodrome, and Metalstorm.