Posted by Pablo Kjolseth on October 6, 2013
Harry Harrison wrote Make Room! Make Room! in 1965. It was published a year later and in 1973 was turned into the feature film Soylent Green by Richard Fleischer, starring Charlton Heston. Harrison was clearly influenced by Malthusian theory, a stance that might be summed up by the 18th-century British cleric and scholar in one concise sentence: “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.” Over the years, critics of Thomas Robert Malthus have found plenty of fodder with which to reject his dire premise, mainly because the models used by Malthus didn’t account for the many ways in which human ingenuity would make many resources more readily available, and at lower prices, to the growing number of people inhabiting the planet. Malthusian critics might also point to the divide between Harrison’s scenario, which envisioned life in the Big Apple circa 1999 as being multiplied by a factor of five, going from seven million people in the sixties to 35 million by 1999. That didn’t happen, not in NYC at least (Tokyo, on the other hand, has now surpassed that number). Today, the population of of NYC hovers under the nine million mark, perhaps held in check by the exorbitant price of a martini, not to mention the going rate for monthly rent. Fleischer, working in the 70s, decided to hedge his bets by extending the date for Soylent Green out to the year 2022. He also contributed powerful imagery not found in the book of people being scooped up by garbage trucks, which also made for a very compelling poster. [...MORE]
Posted by David Kalat on July 13, 2013
As our weeklong tribute to Richard Matheson nears its conclusion, I thought it was high time that someone got around to commenting on Matheson’s comedy work. The only problem is, Matheson wasn’t really a comedy writer and didn’t have much in the way of comedy work. I could have gone with The Raven, or the Buster Keaton episode of The Twilight Zone–these would all have been solid choices. But man do I have a soft spot for the 1981 Lily Tomlin vehicle The Incredible Shrinking Woman.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on July 9, 2013
Richard Matheson was already an established writer in 1959, the year he started contributing to The Twilight Zone. But it took him a while. Over the course of the 1950s he rose from pitching sci-fi magazines on his off hours as a mailman, to adapting his own material to screens large and small. He sold his first story, “Born of Man and Woman”, to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1950. After a couple of suspense novels fizzled, he garnered notice with his post-apocalyptic survival staple, I Am Legend (1954). It was his follow-up, The Shrinking Man (1956), that cemented his place in popular consciousness. He ingeniously sold himself as screenwriter as part of the film rights deal to Universal, and he would be a prolific writer for film and TV for decades to come (alongside his novels and short stories). As part of our week-long tribute to Matheson, following his death last month at the age of 87, I’ll be looking at the Twilight Zone episodes he declared to be his favorite, Steel and Night Call, both from Season 5. They present fantastical premises with procedural detail, as he also did with I Am Legend and The Shrinking Man, bringing the spectacular down to earth.
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on June 27, 2013
The acclaimed horror and science fiction author, Richard Matheson passed away earlier this week at age 87 and in appreciation of his work I decided to devote my latest installment of Telefilm Time Machine to THE STRANGER WITHIN (1974). This noteworthy ABC Movie of the Week was based on one of Matheson’s original short stories (Mother by Protest aka Trespass), which was first published in 1954. Matheson was also responsible for the script of THE STRANGER WITHIN and even though it might not have the strong cult following of some of his other popular telefilms such as THE NIGHT STALKER (1972) and TRILOGY OF TERROR (1975), it does have its own kind of eerie charm.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on June 18, 2013
The summer of 1985 was a chilly one for Hollywood executives, with box office grosses declining 160 million dollars from 1984′s take. In his Los Angeles Times moratorium, Jack Mathews blamed the lack of an all-ages “sequel to a blockbuster” for the downturn, with the adult arterial sprays of Rambo: First Blood Part II sitting atop the charts. Franchise hopefuls Explorers and Return to Oz tanked, while even the successes (The Goonies, Cocoon) didn’t crack $100 million. The family dollar was being kept in-pocket. It was inauspicious timing for exploitation operation Cannon Films to release one of their few big-budget items, the eroto-horror whatzit Lifeforce. They signed Tobe Hooper, fresh off of Poltergeist, to direct, Henry Mancini to write the score, and John Dykstra (Star Wars) to head the effects team. Instead of a Spielberg theme park ride, they delivered an obsessive head trip in 70mm, one which details the ways in which quivering men fail to satisfy a voracious (alien) woman’s sexual desire. Ravaged by critics, Janet Maslin memorably described it as “hysterical vampire porn”, and it made only $11.5 million on a $25 million budget. It comes out in a loaded Blu-Ray today from Scream Factory.
Posted by Pablo Kjolseth on March 31, 2013
I know Harry Harrison for his collaborative work with Wally Wood on EC Comics (circa 1948), his work on the revived Flash Gordon scripts (’58 – ’68), the first of 12 Stainless Steel Rat novels (published 1961), his contributions to The Saint TV series (Harrison did ghost-work for Leslie Charteris on the 1964 novel Vendetta for the Saint, later adapted as episodes in ’69), and – of course – I’ve seen Soylent Green (1973), based on his ’66 novel Make Room! Make Room! All of which is tip of the iceberg stuff for a very prolific career which includes Bill, the Galactic Hero, a science-fiction satire novel he published in 1965 and which was later followed up with six sequels. I only recently became familiar with Bill thanks to the efforts by director Alex Cox to adapt this work for the big screen. Last week, Alex launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the film – and, yes, I can say “film” because Alex plans on shooting part of the action on B&W 35mm. Below are some questions Alex was kind enough to answer regarding his planned film adaption for Bill, the Galactic Hero: [...MORE]
Posted by Susan Doll on February 25, 2013
Last week, one of my favorite actors, Sam Rockwell, appeared on campus at Ringling College of Art and Design as part the Studio Lab Series. The Lab Series, in association with the digital filmmaking program, brings guests from the entertainment industry to campus so that students can interact directly with working actors, directors, and cinematographers, among others. Rockwell’s visit kicked off the fourth year of the Ringling Lab Series, which included a screening of one of the actor’s best films, Moon, and a Q&A afterward.
I became a Sam Rockwell fan after I saw him in several films in a short period of time. I first noticed him in the underrated comedy Galaxy Quest. Shortly after, I caught him in a movie on cable titled Box of Moonlight, followed by The Green Mile. I was impressed with the diversity of his characters in three different genres and the fact that he was at home in quirky indie movies as well as polished studio features. I can honestly say that I have enjoyed Rockwell’s performance in every film I have seen him in, even when I did not think much of the film itself. Last week, I didn’t know what to expect from Rockwell as he greeted the audience after Moon. Given his penchant for offbeat psycho characters, such as his recent turn in Seven Psychopaths, it briefly crossed my mind that he might be a flake. Instead, he came across as an actor who is passionate about his work and who approaches every role like an artist.
Posted by David Kalat on February 16, 2013
Set your timers for this coming Tuesday (or set your time machine in case you’re reading this after Tuesday), because TCM will be showing the movie that gave this blog its name: George Pal’s production of The Time Machine, in which Rod Taylor falls in love with Yvette Mimieux in the distant future while savage Morlocks hunt the passive Eloi.
Unlike the obscure movies I try to focus my attention on here, this one’s a familiar staple, a warm comforting blanket of a movie. But for various reasons I’ve had The Time Machine on my mind lately, so I’m indulging in the happy coincidence.
Posted by David Kalat on January 5, 2013
The late 1970s and early 1980s were lousy with disaster flicks, a sub-genre to which Virus unquestionably belongs. Apocalypse thrillers have always been in vogue, but they do tend to shift in tone with the cultural zeitgeist. But there was something about the Cold War era that gave rise to some wonderful end-of-the-world movies the likes of which we don’t really encounter anymore. The bizarre illogic of the Cold War was somehow more conducive to nightmare poetry: two superpowers armed with enough firepower to destroy life on Earth countless times over, where in order to preserve the peace they each must threaten total war. The only thing keeping those nukes in their holsters was the promise of Mutually Assured Destruction (quite appropriately, MAD). Edward Albee couldn’t have thunk up any better.
And Virus, mind you, is the gift that keeps on giving. It’s a rip-snorting good movie that packs in not just one apocalypse, but two.
Posted by David Kalat on December 22, 2012
If you are reading this, then the world didn’t end. I never put any stock in that whole Mayan calendar silliness–if I had, I wouldn’t have spent any time writing this. And so it is with absolute confidence in the continuation of the world that I am writing this, marking the non-pocalypse by paying tribute to some of my favorite end-of-the-world movies.
Let’s start by noting that in most cases, what we really mean by end of the world movies are not movies about the literal destruction of the planet. Every once in a while you get a Beneath the Planet of the Apes, where the world is actually blown to smithereens, but those are the exceptions. The real point is to explore the end of the world as we know it, that is, the end of civilization.
In my mind, you can divide these movies into three sub-categories, and I’ll offer an example of each.
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