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Dystopic pleasure dome

Interesting ideas given bland presentation

Born on this day (October 23) in 1942, Michael Crichton grew up in an age of technological wonders that included television and an Earth-orbiting satellite called Sputnik. As a kid, his imaginative world was shaped by ABC-TV’s Disneyland and the Soviet-American race for space that resulted in the 1969 manned moon landing. That was also the year that Crichton graduated from Harvard's Medical School, a doctor who would never actually go into practice. Three years earlier, he’d published his first novel, Odds On (1966), a techno-thriller. Although he did another year of post-doctoral work, he became famous as a best-selling author, screenwriter and movie director. It’s no stretch at all to say that Westworld, Crichton’s feature film directorial debut, was his own dystopic take on Disney’s Frontierland. “I’d visited Kennedy Space Center and seen how astronauts were being trained – and I realized that they were really machines,” he said in an American Cinematographer interview. “At the other extreme, one can go to Disneyland and see Abraham Lincoln standing up every 15 minutes to deliver the Gettysburg Address. That’s the case of a machine that has been made to look, talk and act like a person. I think it was that sort of a notion that got the picture started.” The inspiration for a current HBO-TV series, Crichton’s original Westworld was released to theatres in 1973.


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Just dial up 'suicide'

Earth’s population problem solved

VCON 41, opening today (September 30) in Surrey, B.C., has as its chairman R. Graeme Cameron, a life-long fan whose knowledge of really bad science fiction films is second to none. Among his favourites is director Ed Hunt’s 1977 Canadian cheesefest, Starship Invasions.

comics page

Animation legend lauded

Imagining how the future might look

VCON 41, opening today (September 30), has as its theme Muppets, Puppets and Marionettes. Sure to be recalled this weekend is George Pal, the film pioneer whose early career as a stop-motion animator is celebrated in 1987’s The Puppetoon Movie.


Sci-Fi Comes of Age

Weighing in on Wells versus Verne

In a feature previewing 1972’s second Vancouver S-F Convention, I examined the evidence that sci-fi was in transition from the margins to the cultural mainstream. The point would be driven home in an address by the con’s guest of honour, author Philip K. Dick.


Are we having fun yet?

My Blog; Your Guide to What's New

Launched in 2013 on the first day of VCON 38, Reeling Back celebrates its third anniversary Monday (October 3). VCON 41 opens today (September 30) and, in keeping with our birthday custom, there’s a new posting in every home page box, each keyed to the sci-fi event.



A DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES is the Internet address of Michael Walsh, a Canadian living in Vancouver, British Columbia.

I spent my working life as a newspaperman. While others covered the waterfront, I specialized in movies. As a film critic, I published my views in newspapers and magazines, on radio and television, at conferences, conventions and in the occasional courtroom. It was my good fortune to cover 30 of the most exciting, innovative years in screen history (1965-1995).
Retired, but not inactive, I've launched Reeling Back in in order to recall and, perhaps, make sense of it all. Eventually, it will grow into an archive of the nearly 6,000 films I've reviewed to date. Because everything old is news again, each posting will include a note connecting these particular movie memories to the here and now.

And, yes, I intend Reeling Back to offer new material, including web-log commentary, reviews of current pop culture and additions to my own "works in progress" — four book-length projects still in the notebook phase.

From Will Shakespeare to Marshall McLuhan to Joss Whedon, the great thinkers have all reminded us that we live in a world of wonders. In this small corner of cyberspace, I'd like to share some of the wonders that I have seen.