Glenn Howard, while driving to a Pollution Summit meeting, falls unconscious and finds himself somehow in the future year 2017 where remaining society lives underground due to contaminated air. Can he somehow return to 1971?
While dictating a letter to the President on an upcoming Pollution Summit meeting, Magazine editor Glenn Howard falls unconscious from backed up car exhaust. He wakes in the year 2017 after an environmental catastrophe, where the surviving humans live underground in a police state.Written by
Spielberg in the far future thirty years before A.I.
Contrary to what some may be led to believe, the masterful A.I.: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE isn't exactly the first time Spielberg has gone into the far future. In fact, his actual first trip that way began while he was still a TV director. L.A. 2017, an episode he shot for the NBC-TV show "The Name Of The Game", was that trip.
Though "Name Of The Game" was usually standard TV melodrama, Spielberg's episode took on a distinct science fiction theme. Gene Barry, as series regular Glenn Howard, is driving to a conference on ecology and tape-recording an essay for his magazine "People" (not the one we all know), when he falls asleep at the wheel and crashes. When he wakes up, it is to a nightmarishly yellow-orange skyline; and he is found by men in gas masks. He is taken to an underground complex, where he is met by the new "mayor" of Los Angeles (Barry Sullivan). Sullivan's explanation for the state of L.A.'s problems is that a toxic algae spread across the world and mixed with L.A.'s smog, creating a deadly mix that killed all life above ground. Barry learns that he has somehow travelled nearly half a century into an ecological nightmare of the future.
Anticipating certain aspects of Ridley Scott's 1982 epic BLADE RUNNER, L.A. 2017 posits a cynical assessment of Mankind's abuse of the environment. Spielberg interestingly shot the scenes of the underground complex at the Hyperion treatment plant in El Segundo; and the scenes of a pollution-ridden world were shot, and enhanced with orange-yellow camera filters, in the fall of 1970 in areas of the western San Fernando Valley that had recently been devastated by a violent wind-driven firestorm. Spielberg also manages to get solid performances from his cast all around, which is astounding, given the fact that he had only twelve days and $375,000 to use.
Topped off by an eerie futuristic score by Robert Prince and Billy Goldenberg, L.A. 2017 is an excellent and very early glimpse into Spielberg's professional movie-making talents. Universal, I believe, owns the rights to this superb TV flick, which aired on NBC on January 15, 1971; it should do the right thing and release this piece on video.
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