September, 29

Who Could Forget Alpha 60?

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alphavilleIn his round up of The 11 Greatest Computer Supervillains in Film, Gizmodo’s Attila Nagy somehow overlooked the diabolic Alpha 60 of Jean-Luc Godard’s seminal 1965 sci-fi-noir-qua-art-flick Alphaville. How is Alpha 60 more evil than HAL, the “naughty schoolboy” of Nagy’s list?

Alpha 60 has outlawed free thought and individualist concepts like love, poetry, and emotion in the city, replacing them with contradictory concepts or eliminating them altogether. One of Alpha 60’s dictates is that “people should not ask ‘why’, but only say ‘because’.” People who show signs of emotion (weeping at the death of a wife, or smiling) are presumed to be acting illogically, and are gathered up, interrogated, and executed. – Wikipedia (so you know it’s true).

Not only does Alpha 60 predate HAL by four years, he’s also French, meaning he’s got supervillan provenance. Need we be reminded that France has been minting supervillans for centuries (do the names Robespierre, Cardinal “So-called” Richelieu and Dominique Strauss-Kahn ring a Daisy Bell?).

Though HAL is little more than a cycloptic red eye and a stellar voice over by Douglas Rain, Alpha 60 arguably achieved more even with less. A lot less. Like, only a  close up of an electric furnace heating element and a dude with an Electrolarynx where his voice box should be. And he didn’t even get a screen credit.

Together, Alpaha 60’s mechanical croak and the sputtering fan make for a potent and enduring image of computer evil. So, how could it be forgotten. Perhaps, Alpha 60 is taking its cues from another Frenchmen, Charles Baudelaire who wrote: “The finest trick of the devil is to persuade you that he does not exist.”

Alpha 60 exists here, however:

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