20 Minutes Into The Future

Posted by Cameron Vanderzanden on in articles. Announcement. Source file.
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Max Headroom: 20 Minutes Into The Future, 1985, dir. Annabel Jankel & Rocky Morton. VHS, NTSC standard, ~60 minutes long. x264 NTSC SD video + flac 16bit/44.1khz audio, ~1.2G, archived on DVD+R media. Purchased over 20 years ago at my local "Video USA" video rental store when they were closing that location.

The Max Headroom TV movie made for Channel 4. Strangely unavailable on DVD (or any other modern format). A pretty clean copy can be found on youtube thanks to user Kevin Galvayne (tipsy1973).

TV reporter Edison Carter (Matt Frewer) is prevented from reporting on a suspicious story (spontaneous human combustion in an apartment block) by his employer, Network 23. With the help of his "controller" Theora Jones (Amanda Pays) he pursues this story and uncovers a tale of subliminal advertising and corporate greed. Along the way he's attacked, captured, digitized, and his body is sold for parts.

Rewatched this a few times recently & felt like talking about it. There's so much to love here. The production design & set dressing is wonderful, very used-future, cluttered. All the various computer generated on-screen displays look great and there's a lot of them, a lot of the film is shots of CRT monitors. The location shooting at Beckton Gas Works is brilliant also, perfectly dystopian.

And the memorable side characters. Iconic punk Blank Reg & his business partner Dominique. Breugal & Mahler, the nicest goons, out there living their best lives, quoting Hamlet & eating alphabetti spaghetti. Bryce, teenage genius so enamoured with his invention that he believes no one will notice a person has been replaced with a computer generated replica. Grossman, greedy & sneering, just on the right side of cartoonish.

Max Headroom himself... I like thinking about him more than I like watching him. Bryce hints that he can remove undesirable information during the transfer process, possibly making Max a kind of 'designed' or 'edited' person. The perfect advertiser, marketer, promoter. It's fortunate that he malfunctions and ends up in the hands of Reg & Dom; unfortunate that he goes on to promote, in our reality, New Coke.

There's something a little delirious about Twenty Minutes Into The Future, disconnected and strange. The industrial wasteland outside, some of the odd spaces inside. Feels like the movie at times mirrors Edison (and maybe even Max's) state of mind. I may be thinking that because I watched it while sick, though.

As mentioned above this doesn't have a release on any modern format (aside from, apparently, a DVD in Japan). There is at least one copy on youtube, I imagine that's how most people see it these days. It's good fun & I recommend it. (And check out The Verge's excellent 2015 definitive history of Max Headroom afterwards.)


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