EW Staff
April 03, 1998 AT 05:00 AM EST

With robots of silver-painted cardboard and flashlight ray guns, science-fiction films were, for decades, mostly comic books brought to cheesy life. But when Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey opened in New York City on April 3, 1968, the $10 million, 156-minute (later cut to 139) galactic epic rocketed screen sci-fi into the adult universe.

Adapted by Kubrick and author Arthur C. Clarke from Clarke’s short story ”The Sentinel,” 2001 was so obtuse in content and experimental in technique that one critic dubbed it ”the world’s most expensive underground movie.” Both critics and audiences were largely underwhelmed, though no one could question Kubrick’s technical innovations: 2001 won an Oscar for Special Visual Effects (and was nominated for three others). Within a few years, however, critical opinion reversed itself; eventually, 2001 would gross an estimated $56 million domestically.

Last year, Clarke, 80, hit the bestseller list again with his fourth Odyssey novel, 3001. And Kubrick, 69, just finished filming the Tom Cruise-Nicole Kidman thriller Eyes Wide Shut, his 13th film. Rumors that the two might reteam on a 3001 film is still a fantasy.

Time Capsule

On the tube, celeb variety hours rule, with The Red Skelton Show, The Dean Martin Show, and The Jackie Gleason Show all in a row in the top 10. The next season, only Dino would stay in the upper ranks.

On the album charts, Paul Mauriat’s No. 1 LP Blooming Hits yields at least one hit — ”Love Is Blue” — but is about to be usurped by a more memorable bloomer: Simon & Garfunkel’s soundtrack to The Graduate, which includes the Grammy-winning ”Mrs. Robinson.”

Readers are captivated by William Styron’s The Confessions of Nat Turner, about the leader of a 19th-century slave revolt; the best-selling novel would win the 1968 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

And in the news, the U.S. House of Representatives adopts its first official code of ethics — motivated by the embarrassing disclosure of a flourishing Capitol Hill gambling ring.

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