This is an interesting obscure little film originally made for the Theater 625 program for the BBC in 1968, it had achieved some cult status for being ahead of its time narrative and predicting the rise of reality TV some forty years before it became dominant.
It was written by veteran British Sci-Fi genius Nigel Kneale known for bringing the first sci-fi drama to television in The Quatermass Experiment, then for his TV adaptation of Orwell’s 1984 (starring a young Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasance). He continued on with other projects most notably, Quatermass 2, Quatermass and the Pit, The Abominable Snowman, The Quatermass Conclusion, and The Stone Tape (which I will be covering in a future article).
Originally filmed in glorious color, unfortunately that version is lost and, except for a few stills, all we have is the black and white copy. Still that is good enough. The drama takes place in a time "sooner than you think..." when all the basic needs of the world have been met and successfully automated, mankind has nothing to do with itself, leading to an overpopulation problem.
World peace had been achieved through the use of television and “apathy control”. Society has been divided into two types of people, low and high drives.
|Future versions of you.|
The low drives sit around watching it all day and the leaders (high drives) realized that they can control their behaviors by what they present on the tube. All of the redundant tendencies of mankind (referred to as “tensions”)- love, war, hate, religion, loyalty, family- are shown on the TV as a substitute for the real thing. Thus they have the “Hungry Angry Show” to reduce those attributes and “The Sex Olympics”, “Sportsex” and “Artsex” shows to allow people to leisurely masturbate over the beautiful people and avoid the real thing, thus reducing the surplus population. As the show puts it “gotta make ‘em think, ‘I cannot do that. Sex is not to do. Sex is to watch.’”
Along with the limiting of thought on the small screen, the language has also been culled to exclude such old time concepts from being transmitted onto future generations. To aid this thus all children are raised separate from their parents and marriage has been abolished.
|Nat Mender, who has a bit of thyroid condition|
The story revolves around Nat Mender, a television producer, who is bored with his life and yearns for something that he cannot understand or even conceive of. To top it off, the rating are lower as the populace has become immured to the constant diet of sex and violence. Nat is contacted by his ex-girlfriend Deanie about their child who is not doing well. The pair go to visit the girl only to discover, to Nat’s horror, that she has been classified as low drive and will be sent out to dwell with the unwashed masses. To top this off Deanie’s new boyfriend, Lasar, is a moody artist type who wishes to express himself in images of horror, but that would cause “tension” so it is not allowed.
It is then determined that in order to get the audience back interested humor has to be reintroduced into their programming lineup, but all of their attempts to do so fail with a huge cringe factor. But then Lasar, attempts to break into the Sex Olympics to show his horrible images and falls off a rope killing himself. This unexpected accident sends the audience into peals of laughter. Giving the studio heads a new idea.
|Leonard Rossiter in Year of the Sex Olympics|
Nat fed up with his life comes up with the “Live Life Show” were he, Deanie, and their daughter are put on a deserted island to attempt to survive in a stone age existence, having only a medieval type cottage provided for them. He feels that this is something which could reconnect him to a spiritual life that has been lost of modern society. All of this is broadcast 24/7 back to the audience. But unknown to Nat, the producers also place a homicidal lunatic on the island with them, because as they say “it’s a show, somethings gotta happen.”
I won’t spoil the ending for you, but allow me to say that no one I have ever shown this to has ever been disappointed. It is a truly “holy shit” ending that will cause you to remember this fil for years to come.
Enjoy and Caveat Emptor!
Full Version is here.