1966 Film Explores the Making of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (and Our High-Tech Future)

“The fol­low­ing film describes an unusu­al motion pic­ture now being pro­duced in Lon­don for release all over the world start­ing in 1967.” We hear and see this announce­ment, which pre­cedes A Look Behind the Futurethe pro­mo­tion­al doc­u­men­tary above, deliv­ered by a pomade-haired, horn-rimmed mid­dle-aged fel­low. He has much else to say about our need to pre­pare our­selves through edi­fy­ing enter­tain­ment for the “rad­i­cal revi­sions in our total soci­ety” fast ush­ered in by the Space Age. Anoth­er, even more offi­cial-sound­ing announc­er intro­duces this man as “the pub­lish­er of Look mag­a­zine, Mr. Ver­non Myers.” This could hap­pen at no time but the mid-1960s, and Myers could refer to no oth­er “unusu­al motion pic­ture” than Stan­ley Kubrick­’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Mod­ern-day exam­i­na­tions of 2001 usu­al­ly cel­e­brate the film’s still-strik­ing artis­tic vision and its influ­ence on so much of the sci­ence fic­tion that fol­lowed. But when this short appeared, not only did the year 2001 lay far in the future, so did the movie itself. Con­tem­po­rary with Kubrick­’s pro­duc­tion, it touts how thor­ough­ly researchers have root­ed the spec­u­la­tive devices of the sto­ry in the thrilling tech­nolo­gies then in real-life devel­op­ment (whether ulti­mate­ly fruit­ful or oth­er­wise), and how the pic­ture thus offers the most accu­rate pre­dic­tion of mankind’s high-tech future yet. It even brings in co-author Arthur C. Clarke him­self to com­ment upon the NASA lunar explo­ration gear under con­struc­tion. The Apol­lo 11 moon land­ing would, of course, come just three years lat­er. A Look Behind the Future reflects the enter­pris­ing if square tech­no­log­i­cal opti­mism of that era, a tone that per­haps has­n’t aged quite as well as the haunt­ing, bot­tom­less­ly ambigu­ous film it pitch­es.

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Related Con­tent:

Stan­ley Kubrick’s List of Top 10 Films (The First and Only List He Ever Cre­at­ed)

Stan­ley Kubrick’s Very First Films: Three Short Doc­u­men­taries

Rare 1960s Audio: Stan­ley Kubrick’s Big Inter­view with The New York­er

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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Comments (5)
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  • Hardus Ludick says:

    Thank you for bring­ing this to our atten­tion!

  • SMKosofsky says:

    Those of you inter­est­ed in 2001 will be glad to know about a book I pro­duced for The MIT Press, to be released in the next ten days. It’s called:

    Mar­ket­ing the Moon: The Sell­ing of the Apol­lo Lunar Pro­gram
by David Meer­man Scott and Richard Jurek, fore­word by Capt. Eugene A. Cer­nan (the last man to walk on the Moon)

    It con­tains some three hun­dred peri­od images, includ­ing all kinds of adver­tis­ing and PR mate­r­i­al, as well as some key doc­u­ments that have nev­er been seen before. One item of direct rel­e­vance to this thread is a hand­writ­ten note by Tom Turn­er to Stan­ley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke (with Kubrick­’s hand­writ­ten reply), show­ing the rela­tion­ship of Kubrick and Clarke to Julian Scheer, the head of the NASA Pub­lic Affairs Office at the time 2001 was in the works, as well as the rela­tion­ship of some oth­ers, includ­ing Fred­er­ick Ord­way, involved with both NASA oper­a­tions and the film.

    You won’t be dis­ap­point­ed!

  • Does any­one know what hap­pened to the cen­trifuge? Where is it today?

  • Steve says:

    I don’t know that they meant this movie to last so long in the pub­lic imag­i­na­tion. I am sure they would be shocked if they knew we would, 14 years, after the date, still be look­ing at the flick in a future sense, wait­ing for much of it to hap­pen.

    I think much of the awe is the Odyssey aspect that the actor that plays Dave explains near the end. Those ancient Greek myths, like Icarus, nev­er age, and have all of mankinds’ dreams con­tained inside them.

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