The Future is Calling: Stunning Science Shorts from Bell Labs - Thur. Nov. 13 - 8PM

Oddball Films and curator Kat Shuchter present The Future is Calling: Stunning Science Shorts from Bell Labs. Bell Laboratories— beyond inventing the transistor, the laser, the electron tube, the first communications satellite and so much more— also created some of the most visually stunning and campy industrial “What’s New” and “How-To” films as well as produced television programs that sought to bring science education to an entertaining and absorbable level by adding excellent animation, humor and story lines. These eye-popping films bring art and science together in beautiful harmony.  Films include: Century 21 Calling (1964), a campy romp through the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair and the Bell System Pavilion; Krystallos (1962), a gorgeous color film detailing the Bell Labs research into synthetic quartz used extensively in microwave technology; Laser (1979), another stunner all about harnessing the power of light for medical and scientific purposes; The Thinking Machines (1968) a camptastic animated explanation of various forms of computer intelligence, from the mathematic to the artistic; and excerpts from all four Frank Capra-produced Bell Science Series episodes: Our Mr. Sun (1956), Hemo the Magnificent (1957), The Strange Case of the Cosmic Rays (1957) and The Unchained Goddess (1958).  Plus, excerpts from Bottle of Magic (1948) about the electron tube, Telstar Communications Satellite (1962), and Speech Chain (1963). It's the most beautiful, entertaining and creative night of science films you'll ever see.

Date: Thursday, November 13th, 2014 at 8:00pm
Venue: Oddball Films, 275 Capp Street San Francisco
Admission: $10.00 Limited Seating RSVP to or (415) 558-8117


Century 21 Calling (Color, 1964) 
Take an amazing romp through the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair as two happy-go-lucky kids make their way to the Bell Telephone Pavilion and try out al the latest gadgets from Ma Bell. As close as you’ll get to actually being there!

Laser (Color, 1979 Robert Deubel)
A lush and mesmerizing visual depiction of lasers and their various uses from medical to industrial.  From gorgeous vintage laboratory interiors to an optical kaleidoscope of the many uses of this magical harnessed light beam, with a great moogy soundtrack.

The Thinking Machines (Color, 1968, Henry Feinberg)
A camptastic overview of early computers; describing what it means for a computer to "think" using animation and live-action.  Reveals how computers are almost taught how to think so that they can perform tasks ranging from playing games to performing medical diagnosis. Can a computer think?  Various definitions of the word, “think” are analyzed in terms of computer capabilities in an effort to answer the question. 

Krystallos (Color, 1962, Paul Cohen) 
Explains the origin and properties of crystalline quartz (krystallos in Greek for quartz), and details the process of manufacturing synthetic quartz, and the use of synthetic quartz in electronic components- especially the modern telephone. Quite possibly one of the most beautiful industrial films ever produced.

Excerpts from all 4 Frank Capra Bell Science Programs!
Between 1956 and 1964, AT&T broadcast nine hour-long television specials that sought to make science entertaining and palatable for children with engaging characters, humor and breathtaking animation. Legendary film director Frank Capra produced the first four films of the series, and directed the first three. They all have interesting religious undercurrents, an insistence from Capra.  The live-action stars were Frank Baxter as Dr. Research and Eddie Albert as Mr. Fiction Writer.  The two have a magic screen that allow them to explore the scientific mysteries of the universe.

Our Mr. Sun (Color, 1956)
Ancient man looked upon the sun as a god;  modern man seeks to harness its energy.  Between lies much exciting discovery, presented in this film.  Highlights include some of the most dramatic pictures ever taken of eclipses, sun spots, and the beautiful phenomenon of coronal rain. Written & Directed by Frank Capra, Starring Eddie Albert and Frank Baxter with animation from UPA.

Hemo the Magnificent (Color, 1957)
Presents the story of the blood and circulatory system, using animation to show the functions of the heart, lungs and kidneys, to explain the nerve mechanism affecting heart action, arteries and veins, composition of blood, and causes of knockout and shock. Photographs show the beating of the human heart in slow motion, and the flow of blood through capillaries, arteries and veins. 

The Strange Case of the Cosmic Rays (Color, 1957)
Dr. Research and Mr. Fiction Writer try to enter a mystery-writing contest judged by an esteemed panel of marionettes (Edgar Allan Poe, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Charles Dickens) with the mysterious scientific phenomenon of Cosmic Rays.

The Unchained Goddess (Color, 1958)
Dr. Research and Mr. Fiction Writer take on the mythological Gods of weather (with beautiful mid-century cell-animation), proving they are much less divine than they previously thought.  This fascinating mixed-meda discussion includes one of the first predictions for global warming, melting ice caps and more revolutionary thoughts, almost 60 years ago. Produced by Capra, this was his last film for Bell Science and he left the directing to Richard Carlson

For the Early Birds:

Microworld (Color, 1976):  
Host William Shatner explores the oddly psychedelic world of silica and microprocessors. This AT&T-produced film is chock full of outdated notions of the future and obsolete technology.

Curator’s Biography
Kat Shuchter is a graduate of UC Berkeley in Film Studies. She is a filmmaker, artist and esoteric film hoarder.  She has helped program shows at the PFA, The Nuart and Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theater and was crowned “Found Footage Queen” of Los Angeles, 2009. She has programmed over 100 shows at Oddball on everything from puberty primers to experimental animation.

About Oddball Films
Oddball films is the film component of Oddball Film+Video, a stock footage company providing offbeat and unusual film footage for feature films like Milk, documentaries like The Summer of Love, television programs like Mythbusters, clips for Boing Boing and web projects around the world.
Our films are almost exclusively drawn from our collection of over 50,000 16mm prints of animation, commercials, educational films, feature films, movie trailers, medical, industrial military, news out-takes and every genre in between. We’re actively working to present rarely screened genres of cinema as well as avant-garde and ethno-cultural documentaries, which expand the boundaries of cinema. Oddball Films is the largest film archive in Northern California and one of the most unusual private collections in the US. We invite you to join us in our weekly offerings of offbeat cinema.