By J. P. Telotte
Technology fiction motion pictures have a good time and critique the influence of a burgeoning expertise at the world's cultural, political, and social milieu.
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Additional info for A Distant Technology: Science Fiction Film and the Machine Age
However, when the Dean returns from vacation to inspect his "electric house," he finds it not only wired and equipped with multiple mechanical conveniences, but also a place of constant surprise. The escalator, for example, never seems to run at the same speed twice, and when he first tries it out, the mechanism vaults the Dean through a second-story window into the pool below. 7 The lights flicker off and on, and the train Keaton has rigged to serve meals jumps its track, dumping the main course in the lap of the Dean's wife.
It is a vehicle with which, we learn, he has already "left the ground several times" in accidents. More to the point, it is a kind of dream machine, a device that makes him dream of being up in the clouds, far away from his small-town home and its suggestion of a rural, agrarian America of earlier times. This dream leaves him so detached from this world that he hardly notices Mary, who has a crush on him, as he races off to show Sylvia his car. And this mad rushing about "Life marched at the double quick," a title offers prepares us for the speed with which, as war is announced, both he and David jump at the chance to sign up for the Army Air Corps and go to France.
So while a film like the Will Rogers Connecticut Yankee offers us images of airborn destruction, of tanks, machine guns, and mechanized soldiers all nightmarish leftovers of World War I and hints of wars yet to come it marshals those images in defense of Western culture, as signs of how Yankee mechanical ingenuity can triumph over a barbaric spirit, here embodied in the treacherous figure of Morgan Le Fay. 15 Yet even as such films offer comforting strategies, they seem almost inevitably haunted by that sense of distance, as if it were built into the technology itself hard-wired, to use a contemporary image.