The Eighties in Retrospect: A Documentary

"The 80s in Retrospect" is a mockumentary produced in 1979. The documentary "begins" in the middle of the footage (10:06), and features a series of mock commercials, scenes from a New Year party, a scene within a restaurant, and a soliloquy in a train station. The tone of the "documentary" shifts between comedic irreverence and earnest social criticism. The beginning of the footage (before 10:06) establishes the basic premise that polluted radio and television waves sent from Earth are being re-broadcast to Earth from a "space" Haight-Ashbury. The "documentary" footage, then, shows the "polluted" nature of television and radio media. Produced by The Anybody You Choose Video Group at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

0:18Copy video clip URL Open to a pan shot of a house and farmland. Mooing is heard in the background. Pan stops to show a man sitting in a tree.

0:39Copy video clip URL Cut to a series of old, black and white cartoons. Images are revealed to be projected on a green screen. Several people are sitting on a couch, staring absent-mindedly at the cartoons.  Images of the people on the couch and the old cartoons intermix. Narrator : “This could very well be the voice of Dr. Timothy Leary. Hello, down there! Don’t be alarmed, Earthlings. I am merely jamming your signals. As a futurist and evolutionary agent, I feel it my duty to the universe to finally turn back all those radio and television waves that have been coming back from Earth to these altitudes from the beginnings of radio. I’m wired, fired, sired, inspired, wound up like a robot and pushed into the year 2079 up here in space-high Haight-Ashbury to keep it clean and keep you down there serenely and productively STUPID. As long as you stay down there in a puddle of amoeboid bliss. I’m here to strobe and scope and send electronically magnified signals to all of you and hopefully activate movement and change in your brain, keeping it clean and pure up here for you when you finally get here–pollution free from all that 20th century American broadcasting. Bon voyage, space travelers!”

2:05Copy video clip URL To this effect, photos of galaxies  are interspersed with computer animated “waves.” The idea is that radio waves are being transmitted back from the year 2079 so as to keep “space” Haight-Ashbury free from pollution. Audio of historic speeches are played over these images. Including snippets from: FDR’s Pearl Harbor speech, the announcement of the bombing of Hiroshima, reports from the Cold War space race, JFK’s inaugural address, the announcement of his assassination, and Richard Nixon’s resignation speech.

5:20Copy video clip URL A Walter Cronkite impersonator reads out news headlines. These begin with an announcement from 1984, when Ivy Lincoln wins the presidency. On April 10, 1992, Cronkite remarks that the producers of Anybody You Choose Video have “once again rejected” three Academy Awards for their documentary “The 80’s in Retrospect.” April 24, 1999: futurists take a spacecraft to an undisclosed location. Cronkite reports an apocalyptic flood from the year 2000. The rest of the headlines relate Cronkite’s loneliness, water supply, and his discovery of a woman hiding in a Perrier bottle. This continues until the year 2079. Cronkite and the woman are the last people on Earth. The woman wishes for death.

9:42Copy video clip URL Man on a stage: “I think they’re lost, give them some light…. this all may be confusing to you, but don’t worry about it.”

10:06Copy video clip URL Title card: “The Eighties in Retrospect: A Documentary.”

10:30Copy video clip URL Cut to what becomes a New Years dance party–“Disco Ooh” by The Go People.

13:24Copy video clip URL Once finished, a man at a podium, Dick Clark, asks party goers to rate the song. He speaks with two people, the dumbfounded daughter of a senator, Susie Dunhill, and an incorrigible British man, Eat-Some-Glass. Susie: “I just couldn’t dance to it, I just didn’t understand the beat!” Eat: “Bloody degrading, decadent…well, to tell you the truth, sorry, I’ve got to say it, I bloody puked! I had to give it a 99…” Eat says that he’s reserving the perfect score, 100, for his band, The Cheeks.

16:34Copy video clip URL Parody of a famous Life Cereal commercial. Three brothers sit at a table. Two debate taking the drugs sent to them by their mother. They convince the third brother, Mikey, to try the drug. After ingesting the drug Mikey becomes excited and euphoric. The two remaining brothers fight to try the drug: “Hey, Mikey! He Likes it! Gimme that!”

17:32Copy video clip URL Dick Clark introduces “Mr. Robert Marley and the Poms.” They sing “Coconut Ganje.”

21:00Copy video clip URL Two men discuss seeing “Superman: Part 9.” Humorous discussion of sequels and pop culture production.

22:14Copy video clip URL Man and woman, using British accents, talk about Americans. They go on a long pun riff on the word “super.”

23:05Copy video clip URL Announcer’s outro for New Years 1980. Conga line interrupts his outro.

23:56Copy video clip URL Politician, Senator William Dunhill: “Let’s talk business for a minute…if our government continues to meddle in American politics and American business…” He talks about going “back to basics” and keeping American businesses American. Parody of election commercials.

24:51Copy video clip URL End of a news program. A news anchor and weather woman talk about going to a party. The anchor expresses reservations about going to the party, because she has forgotten to take her contraceptive pill two days in a row. They discuss different kinds of birth control. The weather woman advocates her brand: “Besides hormones it’s got a 100 micrograms of mescaline!” The pills come in a variety of flavors. Weather woman begins to trip out.

25:57Copy video clip URL Open to a fancy restaurant. Waiter brings a young couple to a candle-lit table. Woman: “You make my…escargot.” Man: “She makes my mussels…”

26:57Copy video clip URL Waiter brings another couple. The pair continue the pattern of taking romantic sentences and inserting items from the menu: “He makes my spinach souffle.”

27:55Copy video clip URL Another couple is seated. They continue the same pattern: “Please touch my quiche lorraine.” “Please take my eggs Benedict.”

28:43Copy video clip URL A fourth couple is seated. “What a wonderful pheasant under glass.” “What a wonderful lobster tail.”

29:28Copy video clip URL Fifth couple. All tables filled, the group chime together with the pattern. In the order they’re brought in, the couples dive under the tables, apparently overcome with passion. The waiter returns, he is satisfied.

31:15Copy video clip URL Cut to a woman standing over a table. Overhead: “Moooom! Where’s dinner?” Mother: “As the kids get older sometimes we don’t have the time. That’s why I buy Valley Yum yum cakes…”  Young adults come in and raid the cookie sheet. Mother: “I deserve a break.” The cakes have knocked out all of the ‘children.’

32:19Copy video clip URL Political advertisement for Elizabeth Hampton, who succeeded JFK after the latter’s assassination.

32:57Copy video clip URL Announcer: “And now, back to This Day and More!” Cut to a a couple laying together on a couch, undressing. Narration from a soap opera (This Day and More) is mixed with the moaning of the couple. Legs are seen from behind the couch. Finally, a cigarette is lit.

34:19Copy video clip URL A panel of three are arguing with each other.  Man walks up to them: “Hey! What’s the big deal?” Woman: “What’s the big deal?! HE’S the big deal!” Pan to a well dressed man standing in front of a bookcase, holding a book. He says: “We’re the big deal.” It’s a political advertisement for Ivy Lincoln. The words “Lincoln ’84: The Big Deal” transposed on the screen.

35:09Copy video clip URL Cut to a man sitting on a long bench in front of a chalkboard. Another man approaches and sits down in front of a television.  A third enters, drunk: “I think I’m gonna sit here and relax for a moment. I think I’m gonna sit here forever.”  Sounds of a train locomotive are heard. Drunk man: “Wait a minute. I don’t belong here. I don’t belong here, cause I’m not going anywhere…” The drunk man tells a joke to the man watching television: “What’s the difference between someone who’s drunk and someone who’s not? Silence!” He laughs, the man watching television does not notice him.

37:16Copy video clip URL Drunk man: “I wonder if he’s really going someplace. Is anybody going anyplace?” He soliloquizes about whether arriving at a destination is satisfying or whether moving provides any real change.

38:52Copy video clip URL Man with the television to drunk man: “Hey, you got a light?” No response. Fade to black.

39:16Copy video clip URL Fade to the man in the tree from the first shot. Gibberish is overhead. He dangles between two branches.

39:53Copy video clip URL Cut to a woman vacuuming around a pile of passed-out people.She vacuums around them.

40:22Copy video clip URL End credits.

42:23Copy video clip URL End of tape.



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