The Secret Cinema continues their collaboration with Maryland's Towson University as it curates Technorama, an event featuring a collection of vintage tech-centric films. Previously, the Secret Cinema, a presenter and preserver of lost and obscure film materials, were challenged by Towson to create a companion short-film showcase on the theme of 'fashion and beauty' to complement a gallery exhibition. The resulting program was then shared with Philly audiences at the Rotunda in University City. This year, Towson invited the Secret Cinema once again to reflect its current exhibition, inspired by technology through cinema.
From promotional and sponsored pieces and a documentary to animations and vintage theatrical shorts, Technorama spans 80 years and creates a kaleidoscopic look at the presence of technology in our lives on both the public and personal scale, our rapid 20th-century evolution, and the myriad ways we have documented our inseparable entanglement with technologies as disparate as the automobile, the television, automated manufacturing, and the electric grid.
Here are some highlights from this special program:
Melody for Machines
Originally made as an advertising film for Volkswagen in 1963 and directed by Kenneth Baldwin, this colorful, fast-moving short was deemed good enough for theatrical release by Paramount—re-edited, with narration replaced by an upbeat jazz score. It shows machines (computers) controlling machines (robots) to make more machines (automobiles). It's almost disappointing when a few human workers appear.
The Story of Television
This fascinating sponsored film, made by leading equipment manufacturer RCA in 1956, detailing the already complicated history of a once amazing invention that would soon be labeled "the idiot box." It chronicles early experiments, live coverage of the 1940 presidential convention, and the then-new broadcasting of color programs.
What on Earth!
Directed by Les Drew and Kaj Pindal, this 1966 film takes on an amusing animated view of man's seemingly most precious machine: the automobile—as viewed by Martians.
The Law and the Lab
This 1956 topical theatrical film demonstrates the increasing importance of science and technology in modern police work. While essentially nonfiction and one short reel in length, it displays the film noir style so prevalent in fiction features of its era.
Technorama is free of admission and begins at 8pm on Thursday, May 9, 2019, at the Rotunda, 4014 Walnut Street.