Trying to guess what the future will be like is almost always a losing proposition. Every correct prediction will be inevitably accompanied by many more wrong ones. Still, it’s fascinating to revisit a bit of cultural ephemera like Year 1999 A.D., a 21-minute educational film from 1967. Produced by the Tom Thomas Organization and commissioned by the Philco-Ford Corporation in honor of its 75th anniversary, this marvelously dated industrial film presents a vision of what life will supposedly be like at the end of the 20th century. And—surprise, surprise—the movie actually makes a few correct guesses. Giant flat screen TVs, home shopping, and microwaved dinners are all on display here, and the film even hints at something like the internet, complete with primitive versions of YouTube and Skype. The Kubrickian decor is cool, too, even if it didn’t become standard.
But not everything about the film has held up so well. The movie’s plot focuses on a suburban nuclear family, so the gender politics are straight out of the Mad Men era. Dad (played by game show great Wink Martindale) is an astrophysicist, while Mom (soap opera mainstay Marj Dusay) stays home, nukes the food, and makes lots of hideous pottery in her copious free time. Junior, meanwhile, stares dumbly at a computer screen, supposedly “learning,” but can’t tell the difference between Galileo and Da Vinci. Stupid kid.
Some of the movie’s goofs are charming. Year 1999 A.D. correctly predicts that synthesizers are going to play a major role in the music of the future, but the space-age tune played by the mother and son is more Esquivel than EDM. The colonization of Mars doesn’t seem to have become a reality either. The movie’s most delirious sequence involves a futuristic cocktail party where adults get dressed up in their snazziest outfits and dig some imported bongo music from a living room that looks like the Enterprise.
It’s a far cry from the shit we were actually listening to in 1999, that’s for sure.
[via Atlas Obscura]