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Spectres of the Spectrum
Spectres of the Spectrum
Actors: Sean Kilkoyne, Caroline Koebel, Beth Lisick
Director: Craig Baldwin
Genres: Drama
NR     2005     1hr 34min

Agitprop genius Craig Baldwin, director of TRIBULATION 99 and SONIC OUTLAWS, returns with his grandest work to date! SPECTRES OF THE SPECTRUM plunders Baldwin's treasure trove of early television shows, industrial and edu...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Sean Kilkoyne, Caroline Koebel, Beth Lisick
Director: Craig Baldwin
Creators: Bill Daniel, Craig Baldwin
Genres: Drama
Sub-Genres: Drama
Studio: Other Cinema
Format: DVD - Full Screen
DVD Release Date: 03/29/2005
Original Release Date: 03/17/2000
Theatrical Release Date: 03/17/2000
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 1hr 34min
Screens: Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 3
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Astoundingly intricate editing tour-de-force!
J. W. Kennedy | Richmond, VA United States | 02/21/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This is a collage of archival media, mostly from 1950s TV shows and discarded clippings from Z-budget science fiction movies, interlaced with original film footage shot to match the grainy, desaturated color of the old media. An ongoing voice-over ties all the old clips together into a sort of trippy paranoid fable. This film is a true delight for the eyes. It reminded me a lot of "The Atomic Cafe," but where "Cafe" simply juxtaposed archival clips to create ironic humor out of historic fact, "Spectres" completely recontextualises its collage of images into a fictional story. The second half feels more like a documentary on the history of broadcast communications, and on first viewing I felt it slowed down a bit and lost track of the "plot" which had been set up in the first half. But with subsequent viewings everything becomes more clear. This is one of those movies you can watch over and over again and it just keeps getting better."
Nothing in this film is science fiction,
Michael L. White | Westland, MI United States | 06/02/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

""Nothing in this film is science fiction," is the tagline of mad scientist/media archeologist Craig Baldwin's SPECTRES OF THE SPECTRUM, a film that picks up where his previous works have left off. In SONIC OUTLAWS (a documentary about culture-jammers), Baldwin explored the ownership of the airwaves. In TRIBULATION 99 (which Baldwin considers a quasi-prequel to SPECTRES, starring the same actor, Sean Kilooyne), he explored conspiracy theories. SPECTRES further explores and updates similar themes, using Baldwin's signature manipulation of found footage mixed with newly shot live-action to tell a futuristic David & Goliath narrative.

Kilooyne stars as Yogi, a telepathic holdout from the age before the New Electromagnetic Order (NEO)--a vertically integrated company that sounds eerily familiar in the wake of the AOL/Time Warner merger. Yogi is one of the few free thinkers left and, holed up in his radioactive wasteland, he broadcasts his views and news to other members of "TV Tesla." With Yogi is his mutant daughter, Boo Boo (Caroline Koebel as voiced by Beth Lisick), an obstreperous telepath with little love of the world that NEO has helped create. When the NEO threatens to use the earth's magnetosphere to "bulk erase" the brains of every human on the planet, the only way to save humanity is for Boo Boo to travel out into space, following the history of television broadcasts back in time, to uncover a secret her grandmother lodged in an old episode of the 1950s series, "Science In Action."

Dealing this time with the topic of the transference of energy through broadcasting, Baldwin demonstrates that there have been countless fringe dwellers that history has cast aside or relegated to footnotes. Nikola Tesla, Philo T. Farnsworth, and Edwin Armstrong are a handful of inventors who have been forgotten or overshadowed by fabricated tales of greatness about innovators such as Thomas Edison, David Sarnoff or Alexander Graham Bell. In essence, SPECTRES can be viewed as a much-needed documentary about broadcast history. Along with presenting an alternate history about the pioneers of spectral exploration, Baldwin's film is an obsessive, densely layered, and intellectually challenging vision of technology gone awry. A wildly energetic blend of science fiction and science fact, rifling through the trash bins of our image-obsessed culture, piecing together a dossier on our love affair with technology and projecting it into a dystopic future."
Entertaining and outrageous overview of the rise of mass med
Rohan Parkes | St. Kilda, Vic Australia | 01/10/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This is a colourful and original attempt to present the history of the development of mass communication in the twentieth century as a series of competing narratives.

There are two basic threads. The first is a comically paranoid, alternative "history" of the development of mass media, weaved out of footage of real twentieth century events. It's very well done, mining imagery from hundreds of old movies, airforce footage, cheesy old 50's science programs, and is also amusingly outrageous. I have to credit Baldwin for working the relationship between rocket pioneer Jack Parsons and L. Ron Hubbard into the story, which, despite appearing in the fantasy part, is almost entirely true!

The second thread consists of interviews with serious commentators, or "activists", as they tend to describe themselves, who provide insights into the real development of the communications industry. This is also illlustrated by archival footage but in this case the clips often playfully or ironically underline the narratives of the commentators.

There are two criticisms I'd make, though.

The first part is somewhat let down by average script writing and very amateurish acting. I found the acting in particular quite grating at first, although I found that eventually I could accept it as part of the joke, in an Ed Woodish sort of way.

The second half is rather too bogged down with the commentators, who tend to overstate their own importance. Beyond some interesting facts about the relationship between early media experiments and mysticism, most of what they say tends to be fairly conventional, and was familiar territory, at least for me. And other than the observation that owners of communications companies have lots of power and money, and like having even more power and money, they don't have many insights of any real originality to contribute, and seem hamstrung by the lack of any coherent theoretical perspectives.

Perhaps one interesting point is that some of the schemes of pioneers like Tesla now strike us as just as bizarre as the fictional strand presented by the film. Indeed, in the case of Tesla, the fictional and real narratives come dangerously close to overlapping.

So overall, despite the film's eagerness to represent itself as an exercise in culture jamming, the final effect is ultimately rather benign.

All the same, it's well conceived and executed, is a lot of fun, and well worth watching."
If Ed Wood made a GOOD movie
Jason Mierek | Urbana, IL | 08/17/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Words fail me in describing why you should IMMEDIATELY buy this film, but I will try nonetheless. Think of it as the movie Ed Wood tried to make, resurrecting stock footage and fragments from the cutting room floor as a compelling, if low budget, SF headtrip adventure. The dark, grainy collage of surrealistic cinematic scraps is mated to a dense archeaological narrative told by two voices, a man's and a woman's. They relay a paranoid, if accurate, history of the mass media and of "electronic domination" and then go back in time to do something about it.

To be honest, the film's special effects are terrible, yet it doesn't matter, and not because of irony or kitsch either as in the case of Wood, but because their DIY aesthetic is integral to the film's critique of mass media and mass culture.

As a bonus, this is a perfect DVD for the Baked Potato in your life.