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  Just Imagine Remember The Future?
Year: 1930
Director: David Butler
Stars: El Brendel, Maureen O'Sullivan, John Garrick, Marjorie White, Frank Albertson, Hobart Bosworth, Kenneth Thomson, Mischa Auer, Ivan Linow, Joyzelle Joyner, Wilfred Lucas
Genre: Musical, Comedy, Science Fiction, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: In the 1880s the world thought it was pretty advanced, but to the time of 1930 it seems way out of date now everything goes much faster, and there's electricity, radio, automobiles, and many other accoutrements of modern life. But what of fifty years from then, in 1980, what kind of difference will the denizens of 1930 see in their grandchildren's age? Well, people don't have names anymore, they have numbers, they don't drive cars anymore, they fly planes over the streets, and people don't choose who they marry, as the government take care of that for them. This doesn't suit LN-18 (Maureen O'Sullivan) at all...

Just Imagine is notable for a couple of reasons, it was the first Hollywood science fiction movie to be made as a talkie, and it was the first science fiction musical. Now, one of those facts is more significant than the other, as while we still have science fiction with sound, sci-fi musicals are thinner on the ground and didn't take off in the same way. Nothing dates faster than the future, and there's very little that anyone who lived through 1980 will recognise as being accurately portrayed here apart from a hand dryer perhaps. Indeed, everything about this film screams 1930 with no effort to have anyone behave any differently from their contemporaries.

The plot may have flying cars and a trip into space, but the main concern is whether O'Sullivan's character and the man she loves, J-21 (John Garrick) will get together before the end, and the resolution of that dilemma is not one which will shock many viewers. But to provide the comedy, there's a man from actual 1930 who was struck by lightning back then and is revived fifty years down the line; he is now known as Single-O and played by comedian El Brendel, which highlights another thing they got right about 1980. That's correct, the popularity of vaudeville! Remember how you couldn't move for speciality acts and novelty songs at the time? No? No, of course not, it's another example of how stuck in its era Just Imagine was.

So all the elements of what the producers thought would be attractive to audiences were there, except the film turned out to be a big disaster and effectively ensured that science fiction was relegated to the horror flicks and serials that were rarely held in the same esteem as more prestigious pictures. For a while, anyway, until it became well-received in the fifties, but those efforts in that vein were nothing like this absurd trinket, in spite of its expensive-looking sets which included a cityscape oddly underused for the amount of money it must have cost. Mostly the entertainment seems to have relied upon Brendel's comedy "Swedish" accent, which means this film should really have been named Yust Imagine instead.

Here Single-O can get drunk on a selection of pills, as in 1980 everyone gave up eating and drinking to replace comestibles with capsules, and much would-be humorous mileage is mined from his newfound attachment to getting inebriated on them. There's not actually much that's still funny about this, not that there was much hilarious when it was first released, which leaves us with the historical interest gambit to play, and that rests on spotting how much they got hopelessly wrong. Not the hardest game in the world, as while they didn't have mankind enslaved by apes or Skynet destroying civilisation, their powers of perception were not the best: look at the trip to Mars which sees out heroes meet a race of good and evil twins who put on a production number for their benefit, not something current explorations of the Red Planet have subsequently encountered. The best you could say is that it was quaint, but a little quaintness goes a long way.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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