Back then, space was the place where you took on the Man


Were American science-fiction movies ever as fertile and frantic as they were in the 1970s? The one-two punch of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” and Franklin J. Schaffner’s “Planet of the Apes” in 1968 kicked off more than a decade’s worth of sci-fi flicks that were tough, smart, and full of ferocious social commentary. Goodbye to ’60s trash such as “Robinson Crusoe on Mars” and hello to ’70s social satire such as “A Clockwork Orange,” “The Stepford Wives,” and Woody Allen’s “Sleeper.” It was an era when producing a big-budget version of Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five” seemed like a good idea, but it also sowed the seeds of its own destruction, birthing four film franchises — “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” “Mad Max,” and “Alien” — that would deliver diminishing returns throughout the ’80s and usher in the era of immense merchandising that saw smart sci-fi movies mutate into idea-deficient blockbusters.

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