in the not-too-far future, television has taken over pretty much
everything, it's used as a means to keep the masses controlled, content,
and numbed. It's even used as a means to kill of the audience's sex-drive
- by making sex into a sporting event to be broadcast live on television,
and due to an over-exposure to strictly mechanical sex, the viewer simply
loses interest in doing it him- or herself.
The populace is
divided into high-drives - those working on television programs - and
low-drives - the undereducated masses having nothing better to do than to
watch the tube all day. Every now and again, there are idealists, like Kin
Hodder (Martin Potter), an artist who wants to shock the audience with his
paintings - non-moving pictures are extinct in the not-too-far future -,
but he gets the biggest audience reaction when he falls to his death off a
scaffolding running from the authorities ... because of course,
confronting the audience with paintings is regarded as subversive.
Hodder has left a big impression on Nat (Tony Vogel), who's in charge of
the popular show Sportsex, but who knows there must be more than
making TV-programs ... so he persuades his boss, the Coordinator (Leonard
Rossiter) to make him, his ex Deanie (Suzanne Neve), who has never quite
forgotten him and who was incidently Kin Hodder's girlfriend at the time
of his death, and their daughter Keten (Lesley Roach) the stars of a new
reality TV program, in which they will leave the safety of their urban
lives and start a simple life on a deserted island where they are left to
fend for themselves - even though they have not got the first idea about
this strange thing called nature (they have to be told what grass
is, what sheep and rabbits are, what to eat, how to grow things and how to
make fire using matches).
Seeing Nat and family fend for themselves gets
solid ratings on TV, but the show really turns into a smash hit when
unexpectedly, two other islanders, Grels (George Murcell) and Betty (Hira
Talfrey) show up and Grels later kills Betty. It becomes apparent that
Grels is actually a psychopath conveniently placed on the island by the
show's producer Opie (Brian Cox) to heat things up a bit. Plus Opie has
also poisoned little Ketten so she soon dies before her parents very eyes.
But things really get going when Grels sneaks up on Deanie in her own
shack, bolts the door and strangles her before Nat can tear the door down
with an axe and literally beat Grels to a pulp.
Ratings and audience
reaction to these developents are phenomenal, and Opie is celebrated as
the next star producer, but even the Coordinator is shocked by the way
things have turned ...
Clever media satire that probably rings
much truer today - with reality TV-shows a dime a dozen - than it did back
in 1968. Unfortunately though, the film is less than perfect - and I'm not
talking about the cheap pseudo-futuristic sets here, they work well in
their context of cheesy television shows. No, the problem is foremost with
pacing, once Nat and family are outside, the whole thing at least
temporarily turns into back-to-nature kitsch, and the point that
they have no idea about nature as such is made a few times too often while
the film loses most of its satirical drive. The other letdown of the film
is of course leading man Tony Vogel, who shamelessly overacts in most of
his scenes, especially those that would have needed understatement. And
doing what he does, he more often than not proves to be a nuisance - which
is bad since he's supposed to carry the film.
Still, quite interesting
and totally watchable ... if you can find it.