July Highlights on TCM
In partnership with The Film Foundation, Turner Classic Movies is proud to bring you this exclusive monthly column by iconic film director and classic movie lover Martin Scorsese.
Out of This World (Tuesdays in July)--This month, TCM has put together an excellent program of 34 science-fiction films that spans almost nine decades, beginning chronologically in the first days of cinema with Georges Méliès' A Trip to the Moon (1902) and ending with For All Mankind (1989), Al Reinert's very special documentary comprised of footage shot by the Apollo crews. On the one hand, it's a nice pocket history of the genre; on the other hand, it's a unique lens that allows you to see multiple types and levels of change. Many of the films are cautionary tales. Many are visions of a dystopian future, or utopian futures that go wrong. Many others are set in the present, which is altered by the arrival of emissaries from other planets or galaxies, some of whom are benign and others not. In the films set in the future, the emphasis is on the design, the moviemakers' vision of how life will look and function. In the pictures set in the present, the emphasis is on everyday reality thrown into a strange new light. Some of the pictures in the program, like It Came from Outer Space or Them! or The Blob, are monster movies, a kind of subgenre that reached a peak in the late '50s. Some, like the first War of the Worlds or Earth vs. Flying Saucers, are war films. There are also many pictures that deal with the experience and the mechanics of space travel, beginning with Méliès' (very loose) adaptation of Jules Verne's 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, rendered more faithfully in the 1958 of that name, the last picture made at the old RKO before it went bankrupt. Fritz Lang's Woman in the Moon, the director's last silent picture, goes into elaborate speculative detail and includes a launch countdown that allegedly became the basis for the countdowns that would precede the real rocket launches a few decades later. It's interesting to consider the shifting moods of different periods as it's felt in these films. The sense of wonder that is present from the silent pictures and through the '40s serial Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe and up to the early '50s, shades into unease and paranoia and outright panic in the '50s and settles into a kind of disenchantment for a brief period in the '60s and '70s. There are so many remarkable pictures included in this program, most of which we've dealt with at length in this column, from the Méliès film through Woman in the Moon and Metropolis; Things to Come in the 30s; The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Thing from Another World and Invasion of the Body Snatchers in the '50s; The Time Machine and Village of the Damned in the '60s; and Tarkovsky's Solaris, Close Encounters and the first Star Wars in the '70s. And then there's Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, which encompasses absolutely everything we've discussed here, both defines and transcends the science-fiction genre and is simply one of the greatest films ever made.
by Martin Scorsese