20 April 2009 00:00 [Source: ICB]
A new film returns us to when the scientists were the heroes in lab coats and always saved the day
A NEW documentary coming out soon addresses the glum topic of the declining interest in science education, but in an upbeat and engaging manner.
Titled Monsters From the Id (MFTI), this film intersperses clips from literally dozens of 1950s science fiction films with interviews with a handful of scientists, engineers, physicists and scholars.
The film recounts how, flush with post-Second World War optimism and confidence - and inspired by US President Dwight Eisenhower's Atoms for Peace program - US schoolkids started admiring scientists. Hollywood got on board, and while the scenarios were somewhat cheesy (giant ants, grasshoppers and octopi were just some of the mutants that challenged the nation), the hero of these movies was always an everyman in a lab coat: The Scientist.
And when the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik satellite in 1957, it was a shock that galvanized the nation, creating what one interview subject calls a "perfect storm" for scientific interest.
At this point, Hollywood, always on the lookout for trends to mine (and at the time, as patriotic as any other US industry), traded in the lab coats for space suits and began creating a variety of space movies.
Some of these films were straightforward extrapolations of space exploration, like producer George Pal's Destination Moon and The Conquest of Space or Walt Disney's Man in Space. Others featured stalwart astronauts fighting with bug-eyed monsters over hot Venusian gals.
But no matter what, the scientist/engineer/technician saved the day.
Despite the low budgets of some of the films, MFTI never takes the attitude that it is better or smarter than the film clips it uses, and steadfastly refuses to become annoying. Director David Gargani has fashioned his footage wisely, and instead focuses on the dreams and sense of wonder these flicks inspired - and could inspire again.
My wife, a college professor, confirmed my feelings: She thinks this movie would be "great" to show to students.
And if you're not moved by it, at least you'll have a blast identifying the various film clips.
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