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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