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21-87 (1964)

Not Rated | | Documentary, Short
Snippets from discarded footage, and with footage shot on the streets of Montreal and New York City, combined to a collage with the underlying argument as to whether man is a complex machine or a creature with a soul.


Arthur Lipsett


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Snippets from discarded footage, and with footage shot on the streets of Montreal and New York City, combined to a collage with the underlying argument as to whether man is a complex machine or a creature with a soul.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Documentary | Short


Not Rated | See all certifications »






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Did You Know?


It is the film that made the most profound impact on young Lucas during the 60's. In Star Wars saga, 2187 is the cell number of Princess Leia and the ID of the traitor Storm Trooper, Finn. See more »


Referenced in THX 1138 (1971) See more »

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User Reviews

This movie made my brain want to wash its hands.

I was not surprised to learn that Arthur Lipsett, who created this film, later committed suicide. '21-87' reveals an extremely bleak and pessimistic view of humanity.

To say that Lipsett 'created' this film might be overstatement. It consists of a few soundbites dubbed onto scraps of documentary film footage, scavenged by Lipsett from uncredited sources. Lipsett was Canadian, but most or all of this footage was shot in New York City: I recognise many New York City locations, and (in two separate shots) men are holding New York City newspapers.

Although Lipsett did not shoot any of this footage, he should still take responsibility for his choices of what to include here. Except for a few brief clips of glamorous female circus performers, he seems to have gone out of his way to choose clips which make humanity seem coarse, dirty, effete, superficial. We see an unattractive woman chewing something. We see an overweight slovenly woman primping: indulging her vanity even though her looks are nothing to boast of. A heavy-set man takes his cigar out of his mouth long enough to spit, then shoves his stogie back into his gob. A racetrack railbird has a prominent facial mole. We see a row of pier glasses in a funfair arcade, their warped surfaces distorting the reflexions of the crowd, making them resemble hunchbacked dwarfs. A few young attractive people of both sexes manage to make themselves look ridiculous, frugging wildly at a discotheque.

We briefly see a 'diving horse' at a pier: one of those weird novelty acts that were popular in Atlantic City (New Jersey) in the 1940s. A rider goads his horse up a steep incline to a high platform above water; the platform suddenly collapses, forcing the horse to do a high dive. Lipsett's stock footage of this bizarre performance prominently includes a United States flag, so that his Canadian audience can assure themselves that this particular insanity takes place south of their border.

We also see a fashion show, with anorexic models on a catwalk, flaunting fur coats which Lipsett apparently wants us to interpret as symbolising greed or animal cruelty or something unpleasant. The models are young females but they all wear grotesque maquillage, making them seem more like drag queens. Speaking of drag queens: the film also includes a brief shot of a couple who resemble the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

The film's irrelevant title comes from a remark made in passing on the soundtrack: the audio has no relationship to the images. Allegedly, '21-87' inspired George Lucas to create 'THX 1138'. Apart from both films having numeric titles and being made on micro-budgets, I see almost no similarity. From what I've seen of Lipsett's work, he wasn't remotely as talented as Lucas.

When I finished watching '21-87', my brain wanted to wash its hands. Ick! My rating: zero points for this movie.

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