Saturday, June 19, 2021

JUST IMAGINE (David Butler, 1930)


Just imagine this simple equation: J-21+LN-18=LUV! A pilot must fly his way to Mars and back to earn the legal Right to marry the woman he truly loves. Here in the art-deco world of 1980 (which looks conspicuously like 1930), men must register to marry the woman of their choice: if there are conflicting applicants then a Judge decides who is more distinguished. This film makes some interesting technical deductions but it’s spot-on regarding the dearth of Women’s Rights and entrenched patriarchal dominance in the ‘80s...and beyond.

The film begins with a look back at the grand old days of 1880 and specifically a street corner in New York City. No stop signs, no street lights, women covered in head to toe frilly fashions, no hustle and bustle of modernity here: just a man trying to cross the street without getting trod upon by horsepower. Cut to 50 years later, same street corner. People crammed together on the sidewalk, traffic zipping by and a man pirouetting between speeding cars until he is literally rear-ended. Now we fast-forward another 50 years to the fantastical and mystical world of 1980! Streams of traffic jam the airways of the great metropolis of New York City, art-deco skyscrapers dominate the scenery as we focus upon two people in their propeller-driven hover cars who idle away at a 1,000 feet or so. I adore the drone-like design of the futuristic vehicles!

Soon comes a sub-plot about a 20th Century Man struck by lightening in 1930 while golfing in a tuxedo who is awakened from his coma then cast aside by the arrogant scientists. Our protagonists just happen to be watching and take the man under their propellered wings because he has no place to go. Since people are referred to as numbers in 1980 he takes the nomenclature Single-0 and becomes immediately annoying. Played by the actor El Brendel, he’s an early incarnation of Balki from the 80’s sitcom Perfect Strangers and just as fucking irritating. I suppose he’s the comedic relief but his wide-eyed innocence soon wears as thin as D-6’s skimpy wardrobe! He’s not entirely insufferable and has a great zinger but his vaudeville schtick goes on forever. Did I mention this is a musical? We get some forgettable tunes, unremembered melodies and trite lyrics that evaporate in your brain while simultaneously listening! Well, the song about flies having sex (which we get to see, mind you) is a tune that can be forgotten asap. Yet it’s kind of hilarious at the same time and like the entire film you just keep watching in awe, wondering what fucked-up embarrassment will happen next!

Interesting concepts such as: Babies from vending machines, Booze and food in pill-form (Prohibition is still in effect!), a scientific lab full of Dr. Frankenstein-like electronic doodads, picture phone wall-screens, the aforementioned hover cars, Zeppelins as a primary mode of transportation, and a dildo-esque rocket-ship to Mars. What is so sorely lacking is diversity in this future age, sadly. So coincidentally J-21 is going to jump off a bridge in despair but a stranger saves him by offering him a chance to pilot an experimental rocket to the Red Planet. Good thing J-21 is a Zeppelin pilot! If successful, his distinguishing accomplishment should earn him his beloved’s marriage certificate and that cad MT-3 (whom I kept referring to as MP3) will be spurned. So it takes them a month to travel to Mars in a rocket without seats or bathrooms but only two days to return? This film is as scientifically plausible as Ridley Scott’s awful PROMETHEUS but much more entertaining! Now here’s a cool factoid: the scientist describes the slingshot effect using earth’s gravity to help propel the rocket towards Mars: a theory that wouldn’t be realized until 1959 (in real-life)! I mean, check that shit out, in 1930 this wasn’t a widely known or popular theory so how it ended up in this crazy science-fiction musical is a mystery to me.

So anyway, they land on a Mars full of scantily clad women who wiggle and writhe in sheer orgasmic ecstasy seemingly on a daily basis. Soon the Queen and her frisky male minion (which gives Single-0 his best zinger: “She’s not the Queen of Mars. He is!”) put on a performance of Marsly Delights for their visitors that is soon crashed by evil doppelgangers. It seems everyone on Mars is a twin, one good and sensuous the other bad and, well, sensuous. The naughty ones put on their own vaudeville act of idol worship that would make Kink Kong blush! They escape just in time, rocket back to Earth using the scientific codex which was stolen earlier but somehow recovered by Single-0, and J-21 wins his court appeal. Thanks to a delaying tactic by D-6 (Marjorie White who steals the film. She’s extraordinary, dancing, singing, stripping and full of luscious energy and verve!) and the cad MT-3 is left empty and emotionally compressed at the alter.

Final Grade: C+