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Sex Kittens Go to College

by Critical Commons Manager

Albert Zugsmith's B-movie exploitation comedy Sex Kittens Go to College (1960) reveals surprising insights into higher education and the cultural imaginary surrounding computer science research in the early 1960s. Lab-coated operators of the world's greatest "electronic brain" named "Thinko" receive funding from the military and are surprised when the newest member of their faculty is a platinum blonde (Mamie Van Doren) with multiple advanced degrees.

Thinko, who is "never wrong," is revealed to have a set of human vices including an affinity for horse racing that incurs the wrath of mafia bookmakers (he also wins the Mexican national lottery, among others). Since van Doren's arrival, the computer, who appears as a larger-than-life, stationary robot, has been plagued by explicit fantasies about her that ultimately require him to undergo hypnotherapy, occasioning a protracted striptease sequence presented as Thinko's dream. Part robot, part mainframe computer, part artificial intelligence, Thinko represents a transitional figure in Hollywood's depiction of computing.

Thinko was, in fact, a modified version of a robot built by the Westinghouse Electric Corporation for the 1939 World's Fair. Unlike his stationary appearance in the film, the Elektro of 1939 was able to walk, smoke cigarettes and speak selected phrases by means of an internal, 78 RPM record including "I am Elektro" and "My brain is bigger than yours."

Although marred by the painfully bad production values (fumbled lines, repeated shots, sped-up action sequences, out-of-synch dialogue scenes) of a low-budget exploitation movie, Sex Kittens Go To College also presents an unusually blunt vision of military oversight in a university research lab. Van Doren's arrival at "college" immediately precedes an inspection by Admiral "Wildcat" MacPherson, who is responsible for funding the lab. Ultimately, Thinko's conspicuous gambling winnings and frustrated sexual desires leads to a chaotic showdown in which he experiences a "nervous breakdown" signified by smoke rising from the robot and causing the fire department to arrive on the scene.

Sex Kittens Go to College title sequence

The title sequence of Sex Kittens Go to College frames a narrative about advanced technology in higher education

from Sex Kittens Go to College (1960)
Creator: Albert Zugsmith
Posted by Critical Commons Manager
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