01 / HAL SHUTS DOWN
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)
There have been many other scary movie supercomputers: in 1965, just three years before Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A
Space Odyssey, Jean-luc Godard’s Alphaville saw the titular city ruled by a data-bastard called Alpha 60. But none have ever been able to upgrade to the heights of the psychotic HAL 9000. There’s his eerie lone red peeper, staring out like a robotic version of the Eye of Sauron. There’s his mellow but menacing voice, provided by Canadian actor Douglas Rain. And then there’s his unforgettable demise, as astronaut David Bowman (Keir Dullea) races to shut him down after he’s pressed ‘Power Off’ on his human shipmate. It could have played out as an action scene, with HAL issuing dark threats and hurling obstacles. Instead, there’s a strange poignancy as he suffers the computer equivalent of a mental breakdown. “I’m afraid, Dave... Dave, my mind is going... I can feel it... I can feel it... My mind is going,” he monotones, pitifully, voice slowing like a pitched-down 12-inch. Then he sings a song:
Daisy Bell, the 19th-century children’s rhyme IBM selected for one of its computers to croon as a demonstration in 1961. Set to a background of hissing oxygen, it’s a raw, intimate and surprisingly emotional moment. Not bad for a scene involving a box talking to a man in a helmet. It’s easy to imagine that when the machines finally take over Earth for real, this will be their go-to weepie.