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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
05/30/14 -- Vol. 32, No. 48, Whole Number 1808
Table of Contents
Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films, Lectures, etc. (NJ):
June 5: THE DAY OF THE JACKAL (film), Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 6:30PM June 12: BLINDNESS (film) and BLINDNESS by Jose Saramago (book), Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM June 26: [cancelled], Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM July 3: [no film], Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library July 24: THE DEMOLISHED MAN by Alfred Bester, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM August 28: TBD, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM September 25: IN THE OCEAN OF NIGHT by Gregory Benford, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM October 23: TBD, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM November 18: ROADSIDE PICNIC by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM December 18: TBD, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM Speculative Fiction Lectures: June 7: Laura Anne Gilman, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 12N
Northern New Jersey events are listed at:
My Picks for Turner Classic Movies for June (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Well, time for choosing my picks for what is worth seeing on TCM in June. Usually I try to pick out films that I think are really good films in the science fiction or horror or fantasy category. This week I am picking a bunch of films some of which are just okay and are not fantastic films. I am picking them because they are of interest and are relatively rate. If you are reading this you probably have some interest in Hammer Productions films but might not recognize a lot of films I am mentioning.
Several years ago I saw a film called THE UNHOLY FOUR, starring William Sylvester of GORGO and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY fame. Looking up the credits I saw a lot of names familiar to me as a Hammer Film fan. I don't know if I concluded it was a Hammer Film, but it clearly was closely associated with Hammer. And it did not have any monsters or vampires. It was just interesting because I was a can of Hammer. I do not remember that happening again since. So I am pleased with next month on TCM.
You gotta love Turner Classic Movies. They have slipped into their June schedule a whole bunch of little-known and rare movies made by Hammer Productions of Britain. As you probably know Hammer was the British Studio that specialized in Frankenstein and Dracula gothic horror movies in the late 1950s to the 1970s. Many of their best films were directed by Terence Fisher. But there are lots of Hammer film fans out there who have not had a chance to see some of Hammer's more obscure films, films like the ones in this chunk to be run on Monday, June 16, into Tuesday, June 17.
8:00 PM -- BLACKOUT (a.k.a. MURDER BY PROXY, 1954)
An American in London finds himself caught up in a murder plot.
Dir: Terence Fisher Cast: Dane Clark, Belinda Lee, Betty Ann Davies. BW-87 mins
9:45 PM -- MAN BAIT (a.k.a. THE LAST PAGE, 1952)
The married owner of a bookstore enters a world of trouble after making advances at his clerk.
Dir: Terence Fisher Cast: George Brent, Marguerite Chapman, Raymond Huntley. BW-84 mins
11:15 PM -- STOLEN FACE (1952)
A doctor repairs a female inmate's disfigured face to match the lovely woman who left him.
Dir: Terence Fisher Cast: Paul Henreid, Lizabeth Scott, Andre Morell. BW-72 mins
12:45 AM -- UNHOLY FOUR, THE (a.k.a. THE STRANGER CAME HOME, 1954)
An amnesiac returns home from a fishing trip he began several years before.
Dir: Terence Fisher Cast: Paulette Goddard, William Sylvester, Patrick Holt. BW-80 mins
2:15 AM -- NEVER TAKE CANDY FROM A STRANGER (a.k.a. NEVER TAKE
SWEETS FROM A STRANGER, 1960)
A man meets official resistance when he finds his daughter has been the victim of the pedophile patriarch of a powerful family.
Dir: Cyril Frankel Cast: Gwen Watford, Patrick Allen, Felix Aylmer. BW-81 mins
3:45 AM -- HANDS OF THE RIPPER (1971)
The daughter of Jack the Ripper continues his grisly legacy.
Dir: Peter Sasdy Cast: Eric Porter, Angharad Rees, Jane Merrow. BW-85 mins
And if you are disappointed there are no Cushing and Lee films, they also have some of Hammer's best-known films scattered in during the rest of the month.
SHE (1965) -- Wed, June 4, 8:00 PM
Explorers uncover a lost kingdom ruled by an immortal queen.
Dir: Robert Day Cast: Ursula Andress, John Richardson, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee. C-106 mins, CC, Letterbox Format
PIRATES OF BLOOD RIVER (1961) -- Sat, June 14 3:15 AM
Pirates force a young prisoner to join their bloodthirsty crew.
Dir: John Gilling Cast: Kerwin Mathews, Glenn Corbett, Christopher Lee. BW-87 mins, Letterbox Format
DEVIL'S BRIDE (a.k.a. THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, 1968) -- Mon, June 23
[TCM's description is inaccurate, see below]
Dir: Terence Fisher Cast: Christopher Lee, Charles Gray, Nike Arrighi. C-96 mins, CC, Letterbox Format
FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH (aka QUATERMASS AND THE PIT, 1968) --
Sat, June 28, 4:15 PM
[TCM's description is inaccurate, see below]
Dir: Roy Ward Baker Cast: James Donald, Andrew Keir, Barbara Shelley. C-98 mins, CC, Letterbox Format
SHE was really my first brush with the adventure stories of H. Rider Haggard. With a few exceptions the plot is fairly close to that of the original book.
The last two I consider classic films and the best that Hammer ever made.
THE DEVIL'S BRIDE is Richard Matheson's adaptation of thriller writer Dennis Wheatley's first book in his Black Magic series. And the film was directed by Terence Fisher. A non-practicing expert on Black Magic battles to save a close friend who has joined a coven of Satanists.
FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH is the third Quatermass film. A capsule found while digging a London tube station may change our whole perception of the evolution of humanity. This is about as intelligent as science fiction films get.
Film descriptions were taken from TCM's web site. [-mrl]
KIDS' RIGHTS (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: When Michael Dudko and Olga Rudnieva, two prospective parents, wish to adopt a child, the law and the adoption agencies place certain restrictions and requirements on the arrangement. Filmmakers Dudko and Rudnieva, themselves entering the adoption process, were filming when a Ukrainian agency denied Sir Elton John and his male partner's application to adopt a child. The filmmakers use this incident as a springboard to look at many of the issues raised internationally by the adoption process. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
When a parentless child is too young to take care of himself and there are people who want to take care of him, it seems only reasonable that they should. However, the issue is much more complex than that. There are people with all sorts of reasons to stand in the way of the adoption. The issue becomes even more complex if the adoptive parents are from one country and the child is from another. What seems like an unreasonable criterion to one government to reject an application may seem a reasonable restriction to another government or adoption agency. This adds up to more than a monumental headache.
Michael Dudko and Olga Rudnieva were planning to adopt a child and apparently were filming the process. At the same time Sir Elton John and his life partner David Furnish were trying to adopt an HIV positive boy from the Ukraine. But they ran into a problem. Ukrainian law does not recognize gay marriage and unmarried people are not allowed to adopt a child. Permission to adopt was denied. Intuitively it seems the Ukrainian government was harming the boy by trying to save him from what would seem to be a much better situation. The filmmakers decide to look at the issue of the problems standing in the way of many adoptions.
The filmmakers start by examining what is the "right to have children." For most couples the only real requirement is that they have to have sex. However, from the very first of the documentary the text blurs the lines of the issue. The Ukrainian government never actually denied Elton John's right to have children. Instead they are not allowed by law to accept a gay relationship as "a marriage," so are not allowed by Ukrainian law to participate in the adoption. That is a subtle distinction. But to the best of my knowledge there is nobody who has formally given anybody a "right to have children." (Though restrictions on having children has been applied as in China's one-child rule.) Generally people just have children if they want to and can do so without ever looking at the question of rights. And an adoption agency does have some responsibility to evaluate the prospective parents and environment. The issue in Ukraine is not really the right to have children but the lack of recognition of gay marriage. This distinction that the film misses hangs over much of what follows in the film. The real contention is with the legislators who created this arguably unjust law.
The filmmakers look at many different issues. They examine international adoptions. One couple wanting to adopt a child from China were led on by promises from the adoption agency and after spending three years and $25,000 they gave up on the possibility. There are no international acceptance criteria for adoptive parents so people wanting to be parents have to face a patchwork of international laws. Frequently, adopting parents have to meet seemingly capricious criteria. We hear that one couple was rejected for being overweight.
There are special racial restrictions on adoption. In some places you cannot adopt children across racial lines. Other places you are encouraged to adopt across racial lines. There, adopting white children is more expensive than adopting children of other races. As we are told there are approximately 132,200,000 orphans worldwide and only 250,000 will find a home this year. KIDS' RIGHTS is a comprehensive look at the unexpectedly complex requirements and issues surrounding adoption. It gives more an understanding of the obviously frustrating situation than it does any sort of solution. One would think that adoption is a charitable act that should be encouraged. Instead it is a nightmare of aggravation. I rate KIDS' RIGHTS a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. The title does not seem to quite fit the film. It is not about kids' rights, but adoptive parents lack of rights.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2387501/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/kids_r/
Science Fiction Versus Science Fact (letters of comment by Peter Trei and Alan Woodford):
In response to the link on the science fiction versus science fact timeline in the 05/23/14 issue of the MT VOID, Peter Trei writes:
It's trash. To just give one example, it claims 'electric submarines' weren't invented until 1960. That would come as a surprise to the submariners of WWI, as well the folk that were building them in the 1880s. [-pt]
And Alan Woodford writes:
And I'm fairly sure 2001 wasn't written in the early 1950s, and the Clarke orbit was first suggested by the man himself in 1945, in Wireless World magazine - a publication not known as a hotbed of science fiction.... :-)
Oh, and electric eye doors were first tested in the early 1930s, and make an appearance, as a swivelling eye, in "Duck Dodgers in the 24-1/2 Century", from 1953, so presumably they were well-known, if not very common, by then
Eeek--that means DD can join his local Over 60s club :-O
A fun list, but not a very accurate one. [-aw]
The Effect of STAR WARS (letter of comment by John Purcell):
In response to the link on the effect of STAR WARS in the 05/23/14 issue of the MT VOID, John Purcell writes:
I agree with both viewpoints regarding STAR WARS' effect on science fiction. In one sense it was pure rock 'em, sock 'em Space Opera where the good guys save the galaxy, and all that rot. It entertained on the grandest scale, and like Mark said, STAR WARS was a step up from the brass bra-clad damsels on pulp covers. On the other hand, "A New Hope" gave birth to the "Star Wars" franchise, and other SF/F adventure franchises followed. It set a standard for special effects, yes, but very quickly that's all audiences expected: SFX entertainment and little else. There were some SF movies of substance--like ALIEN and BLADERUNNER--but the whole concept the franchise movie series goes back to STAR WARS, merchandise and all. [-jp]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
Since I am not a member of Loncon 3, I am not eligible to vote on either the Hugo Awards or the Retro Hugo Awards this year. And I cannot say I am sorry, with several nominees on the ballot due to bloc voting, and one of the nominees in the Novel category being the entire fourteen-volume "Wheel of Time" series.
But the Retro Hugo ballot does look promising--and manageable--so I figured I would tackle it just for the heck of it.
One problem with the Retro Hugos, at least those given out 75 years after the eligibility year, is that the chances of anyone nominated still being alive are slim. Of the fiction nominees, Ray Bradbury (died 2012) had been the "last man standing," with Sir Arthur C. Clarke (died 2008) and Jack Williamson (died 2006) the runners-up.
For the short fiction I have given the source that I read it from.
Best Novel (208 nominating ballots)
For people who complain that everything is trilogies now, I will observe that everything in this category except THE LEGION OF TIME is part of a series. However, it is true that novels were shorter then. I've given the page-counts for the five novels; the page-counts for the current year's nominated novels are 336, 416, 512, 624, and 11,916 (no, that is not a typo!).
CARSON OF VENUS by Edgar Rice Burroughs (ISBN 978-0-441-09200-0) (192 pages): This is the third in Burroughs's "Venus" series. I have not read the first two, but apparently they are more about adventure, while this is more about politics, warfare, and espionage. This, more than any of the other novels, has to be read in a 1938 frame of mind or much of Burroughs's intent will be lost. It is, in fact, a thinly disguised story about the Nazis (called the Zanis in the book). Their evil leader is Mephis; I thought this was to evoke the idea of Mephistopheles, but one critic claims that one should reverse the syllables ("Hismep") and then shift the 's' down one letter to 't', the 'm' up one to 'l', and the 'p' down one (not counting 'q') to 'r' to get Hitler. Take your pick.
Everyone uses the greeting "Matlu Mephis!" ("Hail Mephis!") constantly. One character is named "Muso" (Mussolini), another is Sephon (Himmler, though no conversion formula is given). The Korvans (the Zanis are the political party, the Korvans the race, and doesn't "Korvan" sound like ... well, you get the idea) hate and kill their enemy, the Atorians, because the Atorians have big ears and the Korvans want to keep Korvan blood pure.
There is also a very odd gender-reversal society early in the book, where the women are the hunters and warriors, and the men do all the making of "sandals, loincloths, ornaments, and pottery," giggling and gossiping the whole time. Burroughs explains this by having Carson say, "They had been kicked around so much all their lives and had developed such colossal inferiority complexes that they were afraid of everybody; and if they weren't given too much time to think, would obey anyone's commands; so they came with me."
On the one hand, this could be seen as an attempt to explain away the obvious subservience (and ditziness) of the men without allowing that they might be inherently inferior. On the other, it also could be taken as an explanation of why women in 1938 America seemed subservient and ditzy, an attitude encouraged by the then-popular "screwball comedy" genre. Since a common feeling (among men, anyway) at the time was that women were by nature inferior, not as intelligent as men, etc., this could be taken as fairly enlightened. (It was less than two decades earlier that women finally got the vote on a United States-wide basis--and in Britain, it still had not happened.)
The political parallels are a bit heavy-handed, and things are often contrived, but it is certainly an enjoyable enough book. (I would suggest starting with the first novel in the series--PIRATES OF VENUS--rather than here in the middle, though, as each depends on what has come before.)
GALACTIC PATROL by E. E. Smith (ISBN 978-1-8829-6811-4) (237 pages): This is the longest of the Retro Hugo novel nominees, and still only about two-thirds the length of the *shortest* of the regular Hugo nominees. Now described as the third book of the "Lensman" series, it was the first published.
For starters, it has more techno-babble than even "Star Trek". This is often done as footnotes, I can only presume to look more impressive and authentic (much as Smith's author credit always listed his degree). I think what really convinced me that this was written with different literary assumptions, though, was after a chase at many times the speed of light with super-advanced weapons, the actual battle at the beginning seems to be decided by someone wielding a "space-axe", which is about as low-tech as you can get (short of a rock).
Here's a sample:
"A crushing weight descended upon his back, and the Patrolmen found themselves fighting for their lives. From the bare, supposedly evidently safe rack face of the cliff there had emerged rope-tentacled monstrosities in a ravenously attacking swarm. In the savage blasts of DeLameters hundreds of the gargoyle horde vanished in vivid flares of radiance, but on they came; by thousands and, it seemed, by millions. Eventually the batteries energizing the projectors became exhausted. Then flailing coil met shearing steel, fierce-driven parrot beaks clanged against space-tempered armor, bulbous heads pulped under hard-swung axes; but not for the fractional second necessary for inertialess flight could the two win clear."
As for gender roles, why is it that a man leaving a room in anger storms out, but a woman flounces? (A woman does not even show up until page 167, and then we get a full page of her physical description. Of Kimball Kinnison, we are not given a clue as to whether he looks more like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Cruise, or Peter Dinklage. All this may have been characteristic of the period, but I don't have to like it.)
It may be a classic, but as with FIRST LENSMAN (nominated for a Retro Hugo in 2001), I found GALACTIC PATROL unreadable and gave up after 89 pages.
Next week, the remaining three novels. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: The goose is a silly bird; too much for one, and not enough for two. --Samuel JohnsonTweet
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