Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Yesterday's tomorrow: Just imagine...1980!

Just Imagine (1930), directed by David Butler, was a humorous science-fiction movie musical presented by Fox Film Corporation to cheer up audiences distressed by the Great Depression.

Set in the year 1980, it depicted the conventional expectations of technological progress associated with that 'distant future' date. A large dirigible hangar was used to house a huge, detailed, large-scale model of a modern city, complete with suspension bridges between towering skyscrapers, multi-lane elevated roadways, and a flock of flying machines flitting above the city as another level of traffic. To modern viewers, the city resembles an implausibly exaggerated version of 1930s New York City.

The plot involves a man from 1930 who is experimentally revived from the dead (hmmm, interestingly transhumanistic) by a team of physicians who have no interest whatsoever in him after he awakens (an obvious precursor to Woody Allen's Sleeper (1973)). Two young men who have observed the process as guests of one of the nurses kindly take him in hand and show him (and the audience) the wonders of 1980. He also gets to travel to Mars, which turns out to be inhabited by friendly humans, each of whom has an evil, otherwise-identical twin.

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