Saturday, March 23, 2024

Year 1999 A.D. (1967)

by G. Jack Urso

Life will be richer, easier, healthier, as space-age dreams come true.

     Quote from Year 1999 A.D.

From the Aeolus 13 Umbra YouTube channel.
Produced by The Tom Thomas Organization for the Philco-Ford Corporation for Philco’s 75th anniversary in 1967, Year 1999 A.D. takes a look forward into what life will be like 32 years in the future. Both technological and social changes are explored and the predictions hit pretty close to the mark with home computers, email, the internet, large flat-screen TVs, and more. The video is available above from the Aeolus 13 Umbra YouTube channel.

Philco had something of a history looking forward, as with its ground-breaking Predicta television sets produced from 1958 to 1960 (see image on right). The design, however, proved to be a little too advanced for its time and reliability issues were raised. Philco went bankrupt in 1961, shortly after which it was acquired by Ford.

Aeolus 13 Umbra often takes a look at the commercial and industrial films of the past for insights on how society viewed itself. By looking at the future, we also reveal more about who we are right now.


The family car, the Seattle-ite XXI, is a 3/8th-scale model Ford concept car
displayed at the Century 21 Exposition in Seattle in 1962.
The story revolves around the Shaws, a family of three. The father, Mike, is played by veteran game show host Wink Martindale, looking not unlike a young Robert Culp. It’s a bit odd to see Wink in a straight roll, and not the center of action, but he surprisingly does a good job and makes one wonder why we didn’t see him in more of these kind of roles.

Mike is married to Karen, portrayed by Marj Dusay (billed as Marge Dusay). Dusay had a long career in Hollywood with nearly 100 credits, including the infamous Star Trek episode “Spock’s Brain.” 

Kerry MacLane is the young son, Jamie. MacLane had a 10-year acting career, from 1966-1976, and appeared on many of the top-rated shows of the era, including Adam-12, Family Affair, Bonanza, The Brady Bunch, The Waltons, and Kung Fu.

The narrator is Alexander Scourby. Scourby’s distinctive, deep voice is immediately recognizable to Baby Boomers having narrated numerous National Geographic Specials as well as dozens of other productions in addition to his acting career.

The director, Lee Madden, is perhaps best known for the biker film, Hell's Angels '69. Much of his career was spent producing and directing commercials and industrial films, like Year 1999. A.D., through his company, Lee Madden Associates.

Sharp-eyed sci-fi fans will notice something familiar about the beach at the beginning of the film — it is the same location as the last scene in Planet of the Apes where Charlton Heston’s character, Taylor, discovers the ruins of the Statue of Liberty. It is the far eastern end of Westward Beach, between Zuma Beach and Point Dume, in Malibu, California.

The far eastern end of Westward Beach in Year 1999 A.D.
The same beach in a shot from Planet of the Apes.

The family created for this peak into the future is comprised of the father Mike, an astrophysicist who only works several days a week and has an interest in botany. In his study, he has a workbench with a wide screen which stores images for analysis. Rather than individual computers built into various devices, one central computer is envisioned, like a mainframe computer of the time. The powerful portable and desktop versions we’re familiar with today were seldom envisioned in the sci-fi of time.

The Year 1999 A.D. home computer is one large appliance that serves the entire home.
Karen is at first described as a “part-time housewife.” Later on, we learn she was a Fine Arts teacher but now occupies her spare time creating artistic works in pottery. While not stated directly, the inference here is that Karen left her career to be a housewife, despite, as the documentary claims, the home not needing the same amount of work as in the past due to automation. Rather than liberating the wife to work outside the home, her work remains in the homereflecting the gender expectations at the time. 

Their son, Jamie, only goes to school two days a week and is homeschooled via computer the rest of the time. Not much is learned about Jamie, and he seems to spend most of his time alone interacting with the technology in the home — an ironic coincidence that also reflects the modern-day experience.

Their home is a Mid-Century Modern design, definitely built for the upper middle-class, and powered by a “self-contained fuel cell” (like the ones used by the space program). The home is described as hexagonal in shape, with modules that can be added as the family's needs grow. 

Jamie’s at-home schoolroom has a large, wall-sized flat-screen TV, quite similar to what we have today, as well as several other separate learning machines, rather than one integrated desktop unit we might use today. What struck me about this segment is how alone Jamie was in all of it. He wasn’t interacting with another teacher or other students via a video connection. The human component was completely removed. It was reminiscent of many students’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Large, wall-sized, flat screen TVs are common in the future predicted in 1967.

Karen uses the home computer to create meals and calculate calories, calls up the food from storage, and heats it in the microwave oven, all on Philco-branded appliances, of course. Karen can also do her shopping using the computer connected to various stores who advertise their wares via video link. Mike pays the bills online via a direct connection with a bank computer and uses “an electronic correspondence machine, or home post office, which allows for instant communication.” Today, we call that email. Of course, there are also video calls, which have since become quite common.

Gender rolls haven’t changed much in the future predicted in 1967.
The wife plans the meals, and the husband pays the bills.

The fuel cell generates power, controls the home environment, produces pure water as a by-product, and burns waste, providing off-grid self-sufficiency. 

A home health center has not just the latest exercise equipment, but also a diagnostic bed which records your weight and vital statistics. Music synthesizers and computer games provide entertainment and there is the classic Swinging Sixties cocktail party (fully integrated in the future with Asian, Black, and White party goers) watching a performance by a Latin singer on a wall-sized TV with 3D projection. Conversation centers around the latest technological gadgets and casually discussing jetting off to some holiday resort as though it is simply a matter of course in the future.


The future portrayed in Year 1999 A.D. is decidedly an affluent one in which leisure time is central to the lifestyle. For a company that sold appliances and automobiles, their predictions are almost predictable with a predilection for the positive. They are foretelling a future that their products make easier. Nevertheless, despite the self-serving nature of the program, the predictions are pretty spot-on with many of the anticipated technologies in the film available by 1999 or shortly afterwards.

1967's look at 1999 is probably no less fantastic than what 1935's predictions about life in 1967 might be like — 32 years in its future (see Scoops clipping below). So, what will life be like in 2056, 32 years from now? Given the state of the world, I'm not so sure I want to find out, but the world of 1967 also had its share of woes including racial and political strife, social upheaval, war, and the threat of nuclear annihilation, yet Year 1999 A.D. manages to look forward, not just technologically, but socially as well.

Scoops magazine UK (1934/1935).
Remember that integrated cocktail party at the end of the film? Interracial marriage was still illegal in 17 American states until the Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia in 1967, the year of this film. Legal segregation ended only a few years previously in 1964 when the Civil Rights Act became law. So, that simple integrated cocktail party at the end of the film is not just window dressing, it represents a hope for, and a vision of, the future . . . and does so with a knowing “Wink” at the audience. 

What’s next? You never know. You never really know.

     Wink Martindale in Year 1999 A.D. 

Aeolus 13 Umbra has previously turned its attention to retro films that predict the future, including:

1999 swings like crazy, man, in 1967.
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1 comment:

  1. Have to get one of them Philco Predicta tv's. I'll have to scour the internet. Interesting piece. Good job.