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Visions Of Science Fiction Continues At Digital Gym Cinema

Film Geeks present ‘Fiend Without A Face’ on Feb. 4

Photo credit: MGM

Poster for "Fiend Without a Face" (1958) reveals advertising typical of 1950s science fiction films. The film screens as part of Film Geeks SD's Visions of Science Fiction at Digital Gym Cinema.

GUESTS:

Miguel Rodriguez, Film Geeks SD programmer

Beth Accomando, KPBS film critic

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Visions of Science Fiction

All films screen Mondays at 7:30 p.m. at Digital Gym Cinema

Jan. 7: “The Incredible Shrinking Man” (1957)

Feb. 4: “Fiend Without A Face” (1958)

March 4: “Quatermass and the Pit” (1967)

April 7: “Planet of the Apes” (1968)

May 6: “Latitude Zero” (1969)

June 3: “THX 1138” (1971)

July 8: “Silent Running” (1972)

Aug. 12: “A Boy and His Dog” (1975)

Sept. 9: “Logan's Run” (1976)

Oct. 7: “Hardware” (1990)

Nov. 4: “12 Monkeys” (1995)

Dec. 9: “Dark City” (1998)

As part of Film Geeks San Diego, a group of volunteer programmers at the Digital Gym Cinema, I will be co-presenting a film series called Visions of Science Fiction one Monday night a month. My co-programmer is Miguel Rodriguez of Horrible Imaginings Film Festival.

For the fifth year, Miguel Rodriguez of Horrible Imaginings Film Festival and I are volunteer programmers with Film Geeks SD. Our goal is to bring diverse film programming to San Diego and provide a context for the films we screen. We polled people on Facebook to get input on the theme of this year's film series and science fiction and pre-code Hollywood tied. The interest in sci-fi was diverse with people wanting everything from cheesy 1950s sci-fi to dystopian visions of the future.

The series continues on Feb. 4 with the 1958 cult classic "Fiend Without A Face."

Because we had requests for all different kinds of sci-fi we decided to present a year-long series that highlighted landmark films, under-appreciated gems, cult favorites and more. We will screen the films in chronological order so you can get a sense of how sci-fi evolved as a genre.

The film series opened with "The Incredible Shrinking Man" (1957), which showcases a smart script from author Richard Matheson based on his own book as well as wonderful special effects to show a world growing larger as the protagonist shrinks.

Rodriguez explained why he picked the film for the series: "If you get past the obvious, which are the great special effects to show how this person has been shrinking and all the mundane objects at huge size, honestly you have an amazing script based on Richard Matheson's story and a legendary person who wrote the story to start with, and you have this highly strange and a typical ending that has really thrown people off since it got made in 1957 and it's not your typical Hollywood ending. It is something far more existential. And this is what I love about it."

Two of the other films Rodriguez pushed for in the series reflect a crazier side of science fiction, a side that is less about science and more about cult appeal. "Fiend Without A Face" (1958 with some of the most endearingly low budget and clever special effects) and "Latitude Zero" (1969) offer some of the most insane imagery the genre has to offer.

"'Latitude Zero' is one of the films I have been pushing for so hard for so long because it is one of my favorite bizarre films. It is directed by Ishiro Honda who directed most of the earlier Godzilla films and giant kaiju films from Japan and Toho Studios, and this is also from Toho but it is a science fiction film based on a book and in it you've got two larger than life classic Hollywood stars, Joseph Cotton [of "Citizen Kane" and "Shadow of a Doubt"] versus Cesar Romero [the Joker of the Batman TV series]. Giant monsters, wild undersea battles, if you can name it, it is in this movie."

The films I pushed for came from the 1970s and help define my love for sci-fi: "THX 1138" (1971 and George Lucas feature directing debut) and "Silent Running" (1972 and the directing debut of special effects master Douglas Trumball). Both depict a dystopian future of very different kinds. Lucas served up a mix of Orwell, Huxley and the French New Wave whereas Trumball takes us to outer space where an astronaut defies orders to destroy the last of Earth's plant life kept in a greenhouse dome aboard a spacecraft.

I have a penchant for dystopian sci-fi and am thrilled that the series also includes "Planet of the Apes" (1968), "A Boy and His Dog" (1975 and starring Don Johnson), "12 Monkeys" (1995) and one of my all-time favorites, the gorgeous noir-infused "Dark City" (1999).

For the series, Rodriguez and I tried to avoid the more obvious picks of films such as "2001," "The Day the Earth Stood Still," "Alien" or "Blade Runner" because those films tend to be shown a lot and even on the big screen. With only 12 slots to fill we had an incredibly hard time choosing titles but were happy to include some rare gems like the British "Quartermass and the Pit" (1967 and also known as "5 Million Years to Earth").

Films screen at 7:30 p.m., Mondays at Digital Gym Cinema.

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