Movie product placements new? Not hardly.

I streamed the first 50 minutes of Gog* today via Netflix, during my workout. This movie debuted in 1954 to widespread yawns, for many good reasons, but it does provide some unintentionally campy moments.

The plot of the movie surrounds some apparent acts of sabotage taking place at a top secret government research facility (I know; how redundant is that?). Most of the top scientists in the US are assembled at the facility to pursue their pet projects, which range from harnessing the power of the sun via mirrors to inducing suspended animation by turning people into blocks of ice. Heady stuff. Oh, and someone has built a super computer, dubbed NOVAC ("Nuclear Operative Variable Automatic Computer," which clearly demonstrates the primitive state of acronymization in the Fifties). NOVAC is also referred to as a "giant brain machine," and it's controlled by commands embedded in hole-punched paper tape ("Every punched hole represents a thought."). I didn't get all the way through the movie, but I suspect NOVAC is behind all the criminal hijinks, laying the groundwork for later similar hijinks by HAL.

Anyway, that's not important. What's important are the various product placements that are peppered through the movie. For example:

Screenshot from 'Gog'

There it is, a genuine Coca Cola vending machine with no discernible purpose other than to be an advertisement. Brilliant!

Then there's this:

Screenshot from 'Gog'

Notice how NOVAC is cleverly accompanied by a device provided by Bendix Computing? This is actually pretty interesting, because, according to our own Giant Brain Machine (aka "Wikipedia"), Bendix made a lot of electronic equipment but didn't actually introduce a computer until 1956. Conspiracy theorists could have a field day with this. Did Bendix actually leak an impending product via a "B" movie? The company did get some sweet credits from the film:

Screenshot from 'Gog'

But the most fascinating product placement was this one:

Screenshot from 'Gog'

This IBM electric typewriter (note the "Return" key) was apparently the first computer peripheral, merrily typing away on its own while NOVAC pondered the imponderable. Its function was inscrutable, but apparently important as it garnered several close-ups during the movie.

But, do you catch the irony? In the movie, IBM played second fiddle to Bendix's computing superiority, but we all know that IBM became the king of Big Iron.

Incidentally, the producer of Gog was Ivan Tors. If that name sounds familiar, then you're getting close to being "of a certain age," as he created such memorable TV series as Sea Hunt, Flipper, and Daktari. It wouldn't surprise me a bit if Mr. Tors was the driving force behind the product placements, given his later gift for ginning out commercial hits.

*Two of the "characters" in the movie are Gog and Magog, robots controlled by NOVAC. If those names sound familiar, then you know your Bible (see prophecies in Ezekiel and Revelation).

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This page contains a single entry by Eric published on July 19, 2011 6:37 AM.

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