In the days before computer graphics, set production for science fiction films relied heavily on aluminium foil and styrofoam. In Woody Allen’s 1973 comedy however, about a health shop owner’s awakening after being unknowingly chryofrozen 200 years earlier, the future was largely simulated using a very real house by architect Charles Deaton.
This experimental house (he called the ‘Sculptured’ house) projects the kind of purist simplicity that is associated with buildings of the future. The white moulded forms suggest a level of streamlined structure, integrated services and advanced materials that hadn’t yet been achieved by the industry (or still). Rationalising structure to this degree using 1960’s technology is no mean feat. It took Deaton 3 years and nearly bankrupted him but the result speaks for itself. Deatons house is to conventional 1960s construction as an iPad is to a desktop PC. Sleek, intuitive and required a truckload of research and development to bring to fruition.
The production team for the film made good use of this commitment – Deaton had already worked out how to make concrete defy gravity and the solidity of this permanent structure gave a credibility to the set design that could not have been achieved using temporary mock ups.
While Sleeper is one of Woody Allens most commercially successful productions, it hasn’t been an enduring one. The film is very much of it’s time with many of the jokes based on 1970’s current affairs and popular culture so are largely lost on a modern audience but the concept remains an interesting one and Allens signature hapless slapstick is still a good watch.
The Sculptured house is a private Residence on Genesee Mountain, Jefferson County Colarado.