The other night I was re-watching John Carpenter’s prescient 1988 film They Live, it was as good as I remembered it was. But this time around something struck me besides the eery resonance with last year’s occupy movement, namely the TV hacking. A number of my favorite films from the 80s prominently feature TV hacking, which means that TV hacking films were far, far better than the computer hacking films from the 80s because computer hacking in the 80s was still way too nerdy. So, in an attempt to prove my point take a look at this illustrious list of TV hacking films from the 80s:
1. Simon (1980)
An Alan Arkin tour-de-force, this one is well worth watching. Here is the plot summary:
The Institute for Advanced Concepts, a group of scientists with an unlimited budget and a propensity for elaborate pranks, brainwash a psychology professor named Simon Mendelssohn who was abandoned at birth and manage to convince him, and the rest of the world, that he is of extraterrestrial origin. Simon escapes and attempts to reform American culture by overriding TV signals with a high power TV transmitter, becoming a national celebrity in the process.
At 4:17 is one of many Simon rants throughout the film, all done through broadcast TV hacking.
2. Used Cars (1980)
Brilliant scene from Used Cars where feuding used car lot owners create outlandish commercials to discredit the competition. This one uses broadcast signal intrusion during President Jimmy Carter’s State of the Union address—brilliant touch! Insane language alert on this one.
3. Videodrome (1983)
In a scene from Videodrome a technician discovers a pirated TV signal that is broadcasting snuff films. Go to 12:26 for the TV hacking scene. Also, the embedded video above is the full film on Youtube, and it ‘s good quality too! Another kind of hacking 🙂 NB: Videodrome remains one of my favorite films of all time.
4. Running Man (1987)
A group of revolutionaries fighting the doctored footage of both TV news and the life or death gameshow Running Man hijack the broadcast to show the truth! Go to 1 hour 22 minutes and 42 seconds for the moment the tech is laid out for us. Also, embedded video above is the full film on YouTube.
5) They Live (1988)
Once again, revolutionaries trying to educate the sleeping masses to the fact that a hostile alien race has taken over Earth and are doubling as the power elite, i.e. they are the 1% 🙂 To break the spell, the news broadcast-infused opium must be stopped! Go to 11:47 in the YouTube video above (which once again is the entire film!).
Man, that was a fun post!
What about the late 80s series Max Headroom, which was one (i think) of a number of series where reporters had to hijack signals to fight the man.
Cheesy (oh SO cheesy) but it reminds me that reporters were once considered some of the most upstanding members of society in the mythology of the machine. (Teachers too….).
Here’s a link to a full episode if you need a refresher. My wife is a little younger than me and LOVED this show in 9th grade.
The entire 21st century can be understood as a single attempt to understand, grapple with, and realize the implications of Videodrome.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen Simon. Weird.
The most beautiful thing in the world: disco.
Sorry I’m late to the party, but great post! Great movies! Great subject! The best kind of sci-fi is the kind where the ideas and extrapolations chill future users with their prescience.
Too few people think about consequences, repercussions, and big picture, and far too films grapple with them either.