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Thursday, September 12, 2019
4014 Walnut Street
On Thursday, September 12, The Secret Cinema will return to the Rotunda
with another chapter of our ongoing series, ARCHIVE DISCOVERIES: UNSEEN
CURIOSITIES FROM THE SECRET CINEMA COLLECTION. Once again we’ll feature
a mélange of fascinating short films from the past. As we go through our
collection, reel by reel, we continually find films that don’t
necessarily lend themselves to fitting into a themed group, yet are too
interesting, or fun, or funny to not share. None have been shown in
previous Secret Cinema programs. Indeed, few of these films are likely
to have been seen ANYWHERE in recent years.
While the program as a whole has no dedicated theme, there will be a
special look at the fascinating “Technocracy” movement of the twentieth
century, it being the subject of TWO longer (and very rare) shorts that
There will be one complete show at 8:00 pm. Admission is free.
As always — still — Secret Cinema programs are shown using 16mm (not
video, not digital) FILM projected on a giant screen.
A few highlights from this new edition of ARCHIVE DISCOVERIES… include:
BROOKLYN GOES TO HONG KONG (1958) – Those who have viewed another
favorite Secret Cinema film, BROOKLYN GOES TO PHILADELPHIA, will have an
idea of the tone of this series, in which a Brooklyn-accented wise guy
makes fun of various travel destinations. Meanwhile, we get a nice look
at the then-independent city of Hong Kong, and its neon-lit
nightlife…and a cameo appearance of Burgess Meredith?
MYSTERY OF THE RIVER BOAT, CHAPTER 4 (1944) – A typical episode of a
1940s cliffhanger serial, this one involving stolen maps, murder,
dynamite and hidden oil deposits in a Louisiana swamp.
THE STORY OF ENGLISH INNS (1932) – This vintage topical short from
Paramount takes an entertaining look at traditional lodging around the
British countryside, ranging from modern (as of 1932) to inns hundreds
of years old.
Operation Columbia (1947) – Technocracy was a word on everyone’s lips in
the 1930s. It described a philosophy that the world should be controlled
by technical experts rather than elected bureaucrats. That’s the short
version, and its espousers spun off a lot of complicated theories about
world economies, productivity versus consumption, and “an energy theory
of value,” which many found confusing. Nonetheless, their ideas gained
considerable traction during the great depression — especially after
Howard Scott founded a publicity-savvy organization called Technocracy
Incorporated. Their officials wore grey uniforms with “monad” logos on
the lapels, and members reportedly saluted Scott in public. While
membership declined after New Deal policies restored some faith in more
traditional methods of governance, interest in the movement continued,
as documented in this remarkable film. It offers no explanation of the
group’s beliefs, but instead chronicles a huge motorcade from Los
Angeles to Vancouver, a show of strength that also promoted a series of
lectures Scott delivered in cities along the way. The convoy included
hundreds of members’ automobiles — each one dutifully repainted in
official Technocracy grey with large, red Technocracy Inc. logo decals
applied to the sides. Surprisingly, Technocracy Inc. exists to the
present day, though in greatly diminished form.
Techno-Crazy (1933) – While technocracy got a lot of press coverage in
its early-1930s heyday, it also suffered a fair amount of lampooning in
the media, as seen in this delightful two-reel comedy starring slapstick
veterans Monty Collins and Billy Bevan. As was typical in criticism of
technocracy, much of the humor centered on followers not being able to
effectively explain what technocracy was. 1933 was the year of peak
parody for the movement; at least one other comedy short about the
movement was released then, YOUR TECHNOCRACY AND MINE, starring famous
humorist Robert Benchley. Animator Ub Iwerks made the 1933 cartoon
TECHNO-CRACKED, but limited any satire to its title.
Plus much, much more!