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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 08/30/96 -- Vol. 15, No. 9
Table of Contents
Unless otherwise stated, all meetings are in the Middletown cafeteria Wednesdays at noon.
DATE TOPIC (no meetings scheduled) Outside events: The Science Fiction Association of Bergen County meets on the second Saturday of every month in Upper Saddle River; call 201-933-2724 for details. The New Jersey Science Fiction Society meets on the third Saturday of every month in Belleville; call 201-432-5965 for details.
MT Chair/Librarian: Mark Leeper MT 3E-433 908-957-5619 email@example.com HO Chair: John Jetzt MT 2E-530 908-957-5087 firstname.lastname@example.org HO Librarian: Nick Sauer HO 4F-427 908-949-7076 email@example.com Distinguished Heinlein Apologist: Rob Mitchell MT 2D-536 908-957-6330 firstname.lastname@example.org Factotum: Evelyn Leeper MT 3E-433 908-957-2070 email@example.com Backissues available at http://www.mt.lucent.com/~ecl/MTVOID/backissues.html or http://sf.www.lysator.liu.se/sf_archive/sf-texts/MT_Void/. All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.
URL of the week:
URL of the week: http://garnet.acns.fsu.edu/~lflynn/edwood.html. The home page for everything about Ed Wood, Jr., creator of the *original* PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. [-ecl]
Are other people like me in that they are not a whole lot like anyone else? I don't mean just little things. I have always felt through my life that I was a great deal different from just about everybody else I know and that I have to work like the devil to cover that fact up. I read somewhere that there was a woman who was a fairly good mathematician. When she died in the autopsy they discovered that she had some sort of serious brain condition that usually leaves people mentally retarded. I think she was hydrocephalous--she had water on the brain. The doctors were at a loss to know how her brain could function at normal levels at all. So she was not functioning with the same brain capacity other people had. Now when this happens the brain can to some degree compensate. In this case it compensated so well that surpassed normal brain functioning, or at least average brain functioning. She did not even know her brain was not functioning in the normal manner. I mean what did she have to compare it with? Her brain functioned the way it always worked for her so she didn't even know her brain was missing a chunk of its capacity.
But might that not be true of more of us? I have often thought that I might possibly be like that woman since I have never felt a lot like other people. Not that it bothered me a whole lot. Not when you consider that the alternatives are either that there would be a lot of people like me or I would have to be like a lot of other people. No offense, World, but neither of those alternatives sounded very good to me. But my view of the world, after all, is just a collection of senses and brain functions and many of those sensory inputs and functions are not what I would like. People who know me well know that I really have to compensate for a really bad memory--or at any rate a quirky one. You know the sort of thing "My phone number. Oh, yes, it's... No wait, what is it?" It will have completely dropped from my memory or gone under cover someplace. People look at me like I am crazy to not know my own phone number. Then five minutes later I will suddenly realize what my phone number is and it will be back like second nature. And I won't know how it ever went away. It is embarrassing. Who knows? Maybe I have water on the brain and I tipped my head the wrong way and flooded those memory circuits. Then I tipped my head the other way and that section drained and started functioning again.
Other people say they go through the same thing, but I am not sure I believe them. Or at least I am not sure it happens to them with the same frequency as it happens to me. I can compensate. I can create software tools to do my remembering for me. Or I can create mnemonic techniques that help me remember. I have a phonetic technique to turn numbers into simple phrases. My passport number is F218452. The numeric part translates into the phrase "not for loan." And it is really easy to remember that my passport really is not for loan. So I know my passport number. That is unless it is 218452F. The other problem with mnemonic techniques is that if you really have such a bad memory, how do you know you will remember the mnemonic? You don't. I think that at one time I had a whole lot more mnemonic techniques, none of which come readily to mind. It turns into a real etiquette problem. Supposedly it is rude to forget somebody's name. I mean only for so long can you go "Oh hi,... there." I have a reasonable memory for faces but I cannot associate a name or where I saw this person. But it is terrible to go through life as a closet amnesiac There is someone at work who I thought looked familiar the first time I saw her.
Well, that happens with a lot of people and most just look something like someone else I have seen in real life or in a film. So I often meet someone without being sure if I know them or not. This one woman I worked with very occasionally and somewhere in the back of my mind I was sure she looked like someone I had seen at some point. Years later we discovered that when I was in 7th grade in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, she was in the same building in 8th grade. I still don't know if this was a valid memory. (Shoot, now where was I going with this idea? Oh, yes.) Well, if my memory is that much faultier than someone else's which of my other faculties are faulty and have to be compensated for? Maybe my problems are not unique. That brings me to the question I had before. Do others of you out there feel you are constantly compensating for and covering up something that really makes your brain and thought processes different from other people's. Is my psychology actually different from everybody else's or am I just being paranoid? And if everybody else is abnormal, how come they are so much better at covering it up? [-mrl]
THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU
(a film review by Mark R. Leeper):
Capsule: This adaptation form a novel by H. G. Wells--at once a science fiction action adventure and a religious allegory--is one of the strangest and most creative films you will see in the 1990s. Philosophy mixes with horror in ways rarely seen on the screen. Visually the film has the fascination of a painting by Heironymous Bosch. Though THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU will fascinate some, it will repel most others and will be enjoyed fully by only a very small faction of viewers. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4). Spoiler warning: I discuss the premise of the film which may not be obvious to a viewer until well into the film.
H. G. Wells himself was not very happy with Earl C. Kenton's 1933 film ISLAND OF LOST SOULS, based on Wells' novel THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU. Wells complained that the film left the religious allegory out of the story. He could not have made the same complaint about John Frankenheimer's 1996 film THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU. While ISLAND OF LOST SOULS may be a little closer to the word of the novel, ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU does more with the themes that Wells considered the core of the novel. If anything, Frankenheimer's film lays on the religion overtones too obviously and too thickly. In fact, this is the third adaptation of that particular novel and if Wells were around to day, he probably would vote the new version the best. And I suspect that would put him in a very select set. Indeed, this new adaptation intentionally makes itself a hard film to watch. Frankenheimer has managed to out-do Kenton in showing a very strange island outside the usual laws of nature and populated by monsters, monstrosities, and madmen.
Edward Douglas (played by David Thewlis) is the sole remaining survivor of a plane crash in the Java Sea when he is picked up by Montgomery (Val Kilmer) a veterinarian on a mysterious boat. (Nobody seems to get the main character's name right in any of the versions. It must be hard for a filmmaker to like the name Prendick, I suppose. In this version his name is Douglas.) The boat is taking cargo to an even more mysterious jungle island. Montgomery invites Douglas ashore and then makes him a virtual prisoner, locking Douglas into his room. The island, it seems is populated by weird and mysterious creatures that seem to be too human to be animals, yet not really in the shapes of humans either. It seems as if evolution has created a collection of intermediate forms between human and animal. In fact it is not nature, but the hand of man. A brilliant, but very eccentric scientist (Marlon Brando as Moreau) is using strange genetic techniques to alter animals into the humans. He is God and Pope to the animal-people. A Sayer of the Law (Ron Perlman, no stranger to playing people with animal characteristics) carries Moreau's word to his people like a Biblical prophet. The island has come into a sort of order, but a new order outside of nature and with its own synthetic religion. Into this baroque Eden comes a simple act, Montgomery killing a rabbit. This starts a chain of event that lead to a situation incorporating aspects Adam's Fall and the Apocalypse.
Frankenheimer keeps Marlon Brando on the screen as little as possible. Apparently the actor no longer has the mental agility to memorize his dialogue, and his lines reportedly had to be fed to him by radio directly into his ear. His appearance on the screen is like some incredible androgynous cross between Truman Capote and Jabba the Hut. Whether what we see is his performance or whether he was just being operated by a technician, he gives one of the most bizarre performances of his career. Complaining about the heat and the humidity, almost unable to stand, his Moreau is as out of place in the heat of the jungle as he is playing God. The character of Montgomery, in the novel just the shell of a man, is transformed into sort of aging hippie, high on drugs and rock music, but still with enough command to keep the island under control. David Thewlis is quickly becoming a familiar face on the screen after his performance as the supreme vulgarian and manipulator in NAKED. Since then we have seen him in BLACK BEAUTY and RESTORATION and this year as the villainous king in DRAGONHEART. He is not really given a part that allows him to do much. We never actually see him reacting to what in ISLAND OF LOST SOULS is the big dramatic revelation or reacting very much to anything else.
Though Wells first published his story 100 years ago this year, THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU is a film that needed the technology of the 1990s to be done reasonably in the story and in the production. While the novel is set in its own time, it seems unlikely that vivisection alone could turn animals into humans so it is somewhat more acceptable to set the story in the present. Visually there clearly needed to be some computer techniques used to make the animal people move in ways suggestive of both animals and humans. But the sight of an animal that stands like a man, but leaps like a cat, would no doubt have been an inspiration even to Wells. The one serious flaw in the representation of the animal people is that in some scenes they look just a little waxy. But even though ISLAND OF LOST SOULS was lauded for its visual imagination, this film seems to have far more creative animal forms. That film could show only intermediate forms that were very close to human already. They might have furry ears, but they clearly had human posture and walked like people. THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU shows many more intermediate forms and even some much closer to the animal origins than to humans. Even the opening credits are strange and seem to be jittery, trying to say something they cannot quite express.
Director John Frankenheimer in the 1950s was one of the great TV directors and in the 1960s directed perhaps our country's two best political thrillers, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE and SEVEN DAYS IN MAY. He also directed SECONDS. Since then he has directed notable films but certainly not very memorable ones. Making a science fiction horror film like THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU will probably not do much to win him back the reputation he had in the 1960s since it will please very few people. But it is good that a version of the novel has finally been made that raises the issues that Wells intended. I cannot recommend a film whose appeal I suspect is this narrow, but on my first viewing I was quite impressed. I give it a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]
Mark Leeper MT 3E-433 908-957-5619 firstname.lastname@example.org
Quote of the Week:
If you leave the smallest corner of your head vacant for a moment, other people's opinions will rush in from all quarters. --George Bernard Shaw