Worse than I'd Imagined

23 October 2008


For many years, I've been curious about Just Imagine, a 1930 science-fiction film ostensibly depicting the world of 1980, when airplanes have replaced cars, pills have replaced food and drink, and designators such as LN-18 have replaced names as we know them.

I finally got a copy a few days ago, and this morning I finished watching it. It's a remarkably bad film — bad science, bad plot, bad acting (even Maureen O'Sullivan is hard to take), bad jokes, bad songs, bad choreography. And bad mathematics, as someone who was a little boy in 1930 has become someone in his seventies or older.

The state has intruded into people's lives in various ways, but these ways are more inane than ominous, without having much satiric value. For example, the elimination of old-fashioned names isn't accompanied by any discernible attempt to rob people of individual identity. LN-18 is called LN (pronounced /ɛlˈɛn/), which might as well be Ellén, and J-21 is called J (/djeː/), which might as well be Jay. The romantic conflict exists because the state must decide which of two men shall marry LN-18, but only because she approved an application from each. And, rather than making a better case that she should have been able to withdraw such permission, the movie concludes with the state ultimately choosing the man for her whom she loves.

(For an evaluation very different from mine, see the review from the New York Times, 22 November 1930.)

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.