The West Virginia Division of Culture and History’s movie series continues on four consecutive Saturdays in June of 2005, beginning June 4, and continuing on June 11, June 18, and June 25, with two showings at 1 and 4 p.m., at the Cultural Center, State Capitol Complex, Charleston. June’s theme is science fiction. The film series is free and open to the public.
The original version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, 80 minutes) will be screened on June 4. Directed by Don Siegel, better known for his action movies with Clint Eastwood, this low-budget, black and white classic sci-fi/horror film remains a milestone movie in its genre. Something is wrong in the town of Santa Mira, Calif. Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) is at first unconcerned when townspeople accuse their loved ones of acting like emotionless imposters. But soon the evidence is overwhelming–Santa Mira has been invaded by alien pods that are capable of replicating humans and taking possession of their personalities. It’s up to Bennell to spread the word and battle the alien invasion while risking his life. This classic paranoid thriller was widely interpreted as a criticism of the McCarthy era, which was characterized by anticommunist witch-hunts and fear of the dreaded blacklist. The film also stars Dana Wynter, King Donovon and Carolyn Jones and has a cameo appearance by Sam Peckinpah as a meter reader.
On June 11, Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, 143 minutes) will be aired. It was released at the height of the space race between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S., and contains more spectacular imagery and special effects than verbal dialogue. The first spoken word is almost one half hour into the film and there’s less than 40 minutes of dialogue in the entire film. Accurately depicting the absence of sound in space, much of the movie is filmed in dead silence, or just the sound of breathing in a space suit. The critic Roger Ebert wrote in his review, “This is the work of an artist so sublimely confident that he doesn’t include a single shot simply to keep our attention. He reduces each scene to its essence, and leaves it on screen long enough for us to contemplate, to inhabit it in our imaginations.” The film stars Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood and features the voice of Douglas Rain as HAL 9000, the computer. The classical music chosen by Kubrick exists outside the action, and brings a seriousness and transcendence to the visuals.
On June 18, Fahrenheit 451 (1966, 112 minutes), director Francois Truffaut’s first and only film in English, can be seen. Based on the 1951 Ray Bradbury novel of the same name, the storyline involves a firefighter, Guy Montag, played by Oskar Werner, who lives in a lonely, isolated society where books have been outlawed by a government fearing an independent-thinking public. It is the duty of firefighters to burn any books on sight. Most of society, including his wife, is drugged into compliance and receive information from wall-length television screens. Montag falls in love with Clarisse, a woman who looks just like his wife (Julie Christie in a dual role), who hoards books. Soon he too is reading, and questioning the government’s motives behind book-burning. When his secret is discovered, Montag must decide whether to return to his job or run away, knowing full well the consequences he could face if captured.
The Neverending Story (1984, 92 minutes), directed by Wolfgang Peterson (Das Boot), will be shown on June 25. Barret Oliver plays a lonely, dreamy kid who misses his dead mother. While hiding out in a store to avoid some bullies from his school, he picks up a book and begins reading a tale about Fantasia, a land where a dreadful force called The Nothing is destroying the country. As he’s reading the story, the boy realizes he is the only one who can save Fantasia and magically, he enters the story. By becoming part of this adventure, the boy is given the self-confidence he needs when he returns to the real world. The film has an imaginative premise and features some interesting characters, including a “rockbiter” and a dragon.
The film series will continue weekly next month on Saturday, July 2, 9, 16 and 23, at 1 and 4 p.m., with movie classics from the 1930s through the 1960s. For more information about the free film series or other events at the Cultural Center, call (304) 558-0162 or visit our website at www.wvculture.org.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. The Cultural Center is West Virginia’s official showcase for the arts. Visit the Division’s website at www.wvculture.org for more information about programs of the Division. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.