Thursday, 15 December 2016
Oliver: Smashing Orange - Not Very Much To See (1 March 1992)
It's our "ear-heart" specialists, back again. With it's wah-wah washes, battering drums and sudden, swooping lurches of tempo, especially around the 30 second mark, Not Very Much To See put me in mind of one of 1992's great cultural white elephants: Brett Leonard's film, The Lawnmower Man.
I haven't seen it in over 20 years. Based, microscopically, on a short story by Stephen King (it bore so little resemblance to his work, that King won 3 court actions designed to get his name taken off promotional material for the film and its video), the film is about how computer technology and advancements in Virtual Reality software, when plugged into the mind of a gardener with learning difficulties can turn him into a God-like being. Inevitably, this increase in power turns him rogue and the battle is on to prevent him from taking over the world. This film was big news in 1992, where huge attention was lavished on the VR effects, which were seen by their creation of new worlds and environments, to have pushed special effects to hitherto unseen heights. A year later though, when Jurassic Park had T-Rexes walking around and sniffing petrified children without you being able to see the join, the blocky, primary colours of those VR effects effectively dated The Lawnmower Man to an early 90s period piece.
I wanted to re-watch it before writing this to check whether my associations were sound, but iTunes doesn't have it, and although a smoky looking copy, designed to put copyright holders off on the grounds that it isn't a mint version, has turned up on YouTube; I felt it would be defeating the point somewhat to watch a debased copy of a film whose visual splendour was one of its great selling points. Therefore, I have to return to my memories of the film and most of those are based around Jeff Fahey getting bounced around in an Aerotrim as his mind expanded and he breathlessly blurted out lines like, "I saw God!" This sense of a mind being moulded and turned inside-out runs right through the opening minute of Not Very Much To See. The impression of intelligence gone awry is maintained as Rob Montejo sings about there being nothing behind his eyes. And yet seconds later, the "I'm on top of the world" refrain suggests that somehow that intellect is growing. A power is being nourished. But with power comes responsibility. Not only that but an awareness that the window to use that power is a short one - "You've got to get it together/Stop misunderstanding/The chance has just gone." (Lyrics by Rob Montejo/Stephen Wagner). It's an anti-ennui song, calling for action and self-determination. Did it resonate with an audience ready to enjoy the end of history at the time it was released? Unlikely, especially with distractions like Virtual Reality to temporarily occupy them.
Video courtesy of strangelove1976.