Jim Lowe – Times Argus Staff
Science fiction has long attracted hordes of movie-goers, perhaps because it predicts the future.
“People are interested in the future and what it holds,” explained Eric Reynolds, creator of the Savoy Theater’s Sci-Fi July film festival, now in its third year. “I’m fascinated by the future. I would love to see what the earth looks like in 500 years – if human beings are still around – and I enjoy a good action-adventure story, which a lot of science fiction has.”
This year, Sci-Fi July will present nine science fiction films at the Montpelier art film theater, from the classic 1956 “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” to the 1986 thriller “Aliens.”
“There are different kinds of science fiction,” Reynolds said. “There are very positive and negative science fiction stories. This summer, for instance, there are two vastly different science fiction films that have already come out, ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Terminator Salvation’ – they’re very different futures.”
One of the attractions is certainly the technology.
“Everything we do is centered around technology – the computers and the Internet,” Reynolds said. “I think we’re making our way to what science fiction has shown us already.”
Science fiction has also helped mold the technology, particularly the original 1966 “Star Trek.”
“Even scientists use that as a guide for technologies that they’d like to see,” Reynolds said. “I think we have those – the cell phone looks very much like the communicator from the original ‘Star Trek.’”
Sci-fi also predicted the personal computer, among other things.
“All sorts of things have grown out of what people imagine,” Reynolds said. “Science fiction more and more is becoming science reality.”
Several of this year’s films were on Reynolds’ list from the beginning, but there wasn’t space to schedule them.
“Films like ‘Close Encounters’ and ‘Brazil’ were on the list the very first year, but I just didn’t have room to show them,” he said. “They’re great films – ‘Close Encounters’ is a favorite of mine.”
In Steven Spielberg’s 1977 Oscar-winner, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” follows a line worker who, after a encounter with UFOs, is drawn to an isolated area in the wilderness where something spectacular is about to happen. In a very different vein, Terry Gilliam’s 1985 cult classic, “Brazil” pillories government bureaucracy with a tale of an unimportant civil servant drawn into the world of terrorists over a young woman he dreams of.
Last year, “Barbarella,” Roger Vadim’s 1985 erotic sci-fi spoof starring Jane Fonda, was the most attended film the festival. Hence, “Logan’s Run” and “Flash Gordon,” in the same vein. An Academy Award winner for visual effects, Michael Anderson’s 1976 “Logan’s Run” chronicles a future society which maintains its equilibrium by killing anyone who reaches the age of 30. Mike Hodges’ campy 1980 “Flash Gordon” is based on the macho comic book super-hero of the same name.
“I would love to have some classic films in there, so ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ and “Dr. Strangelove’ certainly fit that bill,” Reynolds said. “They both happen to be about the Cold War. They’re sort of from the same era, showing different aspects of that.”
In Don Siegel’s 1956 “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” which was subjected to several remakes, a community finds that its citizens are being replaced by emotionless alien duplicates. “Dr. Stranglelove,” Stanley Kubrick’s black comedy starring Peter Sellars and George C. Scott, satirizes the nuclear scare.
Another that Reynolds has wanted to present from the beginning is “Planet of the Apes,” Franklin Schaffner’s 1968 film based on the novel by Pierre Boulle in which apes rule and humans are subservient.
“I actually read the book a couple of years ago,” Reynolds said. “I thought it was a great book. It’s very different from both movie versions.”
Charlton Heston. starred, as he did in a number of sci-fi films, including “The Omega Man” (1971) and “Soylent Green” (1973).
Sci-Fi July has been attracting a small but dedicated audience since its inception, one that is growing.
“The same people who come again and again – but that group is slowly getting larger and larger,” Reynolds said. “It seems to be mainly younger people, people in their 20s and early 30s.”
But, that is changing. After complaints about the original 11 p.m. screenings being too late for some “older” people, Reynolds added matinees.
“And we got a much wider range of people,” he said. “I think it’s people who like seeing classic or even campy films, and films that they have heard of but not on a large screen. They love the fact that we’re still doing it.”