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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 05/12/17 -- Vol. 35, No. 46, Whole Number 1962
Table of Contents
One-Hour History of Hammer Films (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
On July 8, 1997 BBC Radio 2 did an hour-long history of Hammer Films and their Gothic horror. While not nearly long enough to cover the subject, it still has a lot of interesting information I have not found elsewhere. It is on YouTube at:
Brothers Win XPrize for "Star Trek"-Inspired Tricorder:
"The winner of the long-awaited Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE is Pennsylvania-based Final Frontier Medical Devices. Final Frontier developed a mobile device able to diagnose 13 health conditions while continuously monitoring five vital signs."
From IEEE's "Spectrum":
Retrospective: FANTASTIC VOYAGE (Part 1) (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Last year marked the nearly unnoticed fiftieth anniversary of one of the iconic science fiction films, FANTASTIC VOYAGE. This is the film in which a team five of people are miniaturized and injected into the bloodstream of a human body. This was expected to present script opportunities for some science and some action. The science is rather shaky at its best, but audiences hardly noticed. The film has become a classic, though rarely seen these days.
FANTASTIC VOYAGE was made by 20th Century Fox. It is really a legacy of 1958's THE FLY, a film released with low studio box- office expectations but which demonstrated a youth market for science fiction. In the interim Fox had made JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH and THE LOST WORLD. Each intended for a summer audience vacation. Their big late summer science fiction release of 1966 was FANTASTIC VOYAGE.
The year the film was released, 1966, was a big time for the spy story craze, since James Bond thrillers were very popular with the viewing audiences. THUNDERBALL had been released the previous year. FANTASTIC VOYAGE was told against a mostly gratuitous spy story background. Most of the film has aged very nicely. We see a slide rule used in one scene. In another, instrument readout is typed with a Teletype print cylinder, one letter at a time. But for those, most of the rest of the film looks comfortably set yesterday or ten years from now and works well in past or future.
The story is this. During the height of the Cold War, Benes, a scientist behind the Iron Curtain, has developed a means to shrink anything as small as he wants without killing living matter (e.g. people) that has been miniaturized. The shrinking lasts for just one hour. Then shrunken things return to their original size. Actually shrinking has one limitation. It works for exactly one hour only. It is odd that it works for such a round length of time. Something like 1.37893 hours might have been less convenient but more credible, particularly since the length of miniaturization feels like more than an hour. This could be a very useful weapon and the Soviet version even more so since Benes's version does not require return to original size after so short a time. The United States government wants to exploit the new invention and has organized the Combined Miniature Defense Force (CMDF), a military unit to wield the new weapon.
As the film begins an intelligence troubleshooter, Grant (played by Stephen Boyd) had been sent to retrieve Benes from captivity by the bad guys. As the film opens Grant and Benes are arriving by plane back in the United States. Benes gives Grant a grateful thanks. Within minutes snipers attack Benes. As a result Benes has a stroke and is rendered unconscious by a blood clot in his brain.
The CMDF, who luckily have a base very nearby, quickly puts together a mission (within an hour or so it appears--really?) of five people to take a research submarine and all will be miniaturized and injected into Benes. Also in the same short time they have an entire support staff. They will then cruise up to the brain where they will use a laser to break up the blood clot. The team consists of Grant, the submarine pilot (William Redfield), two bickering physicians Michaels (Donald Pleasance) and Duval (Arthur Kennedy), and technician Cora Peterson (Raquel Welch). For extra tension is discovered that there is a saboteur on-board the submarine.
The film is in part a mystery as Grant tries to figure out who the saboteur is. At least it should be a mystery. The script has people saying all kinds of nice things about Dr. Michaels, which would be suspicious enough. But the actor who plays Michaels is Donald Pleasance, an actor with all kinds of sinister associations left over from some of his previous films. The audience expects him to be a villain even before they know there is any villainy. Then again that would make him a good red herring. Just the same Donald Pleasance does not look like someone whose name would be Michaels. . The science seems totally screwball, but I will not list errors. Isaac Asimov cleaned up most of the problems in his novelization of the film. I will not try to compete with the Master by listing science errors in the film. . Director Richard Fleischer, who twelve years earlier directed another sci-fi submarine film, Disney's 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, uses silent film technique to grab and hold the viewers' attention. Fleischer slowly adds elements to the soundtrack. The first sequence has plenty of action but no dialog and no music. Then the title music comes and it is entirely inorganic electronic tonalities or computer machinery sounds. Then the story begins but without organic music. There will be organic music by Leonard Rosenman, but it is not on the soundtrack until the Proteus is injected. Even then the music is texture music rather than melody. The shrinking process is also presented no words but jargon like "elevate the zero module." . So far I have not given away any spoilers. Now we would be getting into the meat of the story, but in order to not give too much away I will include spoilers and some problems in the second part of this column next week. [-mrl]
CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and HORROR OF DRACULA (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
I recently watched the Hammer films CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and HORROR OF DRACULA, and had some observations to make/relay:
CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN
Mark points out that the framing sequence makes no sense. Victor Frankenstein claims he will tell the priest the true story, which will show him not guilty of the crimes of which he is accused, but then he admits to multiple murders--hardly a story that will save him from the guillotine. (And, yes, the guillotine was used in Germany.)
If Victor first says his father died ten years ago, and then that he has been the Baron since he was five, why does Paul Krempe ask if the fifteen-year-old Victor wants a tutor for his son?! [Mark suggests he was just playing with Victor at this point, because that is how Victor had phrased the letter.]
As is common in films, relative ages of actors bear no connection to relative ages of characters. Still, given that Paul ages not at all, it is disconcerting that Victor goes from fifteen years old to apparently someone in his thirties or forties, while Paul ages not at all. (The actor playing Paul was 36, the actor playing the young Victor was 22, and the actor playing Victor was 44.)
Why would Justine think a knock on the door would be Victor? Wouldn't he just walk in?
When the creature reaches up to rip the bandage off his head, it should not come off the way it does, since it is wrapped around the head (like a mummy's).
Where does the Creature get his clothes when he escapes? And why?
Cushing objected to having Frankenstein rape a servant in a later movie, saying it was out of character for Frankenstein, yet in this movie Frankenstein shows no compunction for seducing a servant by (falsely) promising to marry her, and then laughing at her and insulting her when she tells him she is going to have his child. [Mark says that Cushing seemed to be making a distinction between seduction and forcible rape.]
HORROR OF DRACULA
Why does Jonathan Harker go to Dracula's castle? Is he some sort of vampire hunter? [Mark says, yes--he was working with Van Helsing. If so, he seems particularly inept/clueless.]
Why does the first vampire woman pretend to be a prisoner instead of just attacking Harker? [Mark thinks she needed to get closer.]
Why doesn't Harker stake Dracula first? And why does Dracula leave and then immediately return?
STEFAN ZWEIG: FAREWELL TO EUROPE (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: This film tells the story of writer/journalist/ playwright Stefan Zweig who was a German writer second only to Hermann Hesse in the 1920s and 1930s. The film is a very personal and introspective look at the man that may require a second or third viewing to completely understand. The viewer's task is made more complicated by subtitles camouflaged by the background. What is most lamentably missing is a feel for the great writer's writing style. Maria Schrader directs as well as co-writing the screenplay. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
At the end of GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL the writer/director Wes Anderson placed a credit that the story was "Inspired by the Writings of Stefan Zweig." Who is Stefan Zweig?
Zweig was a novelist, a playwright, a political writer, a journalist, and a biographer. He was one of the world's best selling and most known writers in the 1920s and 1930s. Zweig was a Jew born in Vienna in 1881. His personal philosophy included that Europe could be united into a single country with no borders. His love for Europe proved not to be returned during the days of Fascism coming to power in Germany, Austria, and Italy. With his beloved Europe becoming more and more dangerous for intellectuals and Jews, Zweig left Austria for England, then crossed the Atlantic spent time in New York literary circles, and eventually resettled in Brazil. With the coming of World War II he despaired of his bright future for Europe ever working out. In 1942, with his beloved Europe warring on itself and descending into barbarism, he ended his life in suicide.
This new biography and exploration of Zweig opens in Rio de Janeiro in 1936 with Zweig getting a grand royal reception. An admiring literary community is giving the reception for Zweig (Josef Hader). Most of the first half hour of the film we simply hear discussion by local intellectuals of Zweig's ideas and Zweig presents his own points.
The film is in six chapters with not much connective tissue to explain how each set of circumstances came about. Zweig travels with his wife, but in the New York chapter he is with another woman and it is several minutes before the script makes clear what is going on. Some time shifts are also difficult to follow.
This is a quality production and well acted, but it is dry and suffers from impediments that the screenplay put in the viewers' way. Zweig was a great man, and his fears for Europe were well- founded. But the film does not give a coherent picture of who the man was and what was he trying to do.
Hader plays Stefan Zweig, but not in any way to engender empathy. His reactions seem to be wooden with only his eyes shifting. Viewing the film one is often let watching a piece of scenery for several minutes and the viewer not shown or told why.
Zweig's primary question is how can people of so many different colors, religions, and cultures all get along with each other. Today that question seems even a flat cliche, but in truth we are no closer to a solution. The film rates a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10. The film was released in New York City on May 12.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3397160/combined
What others are saying: https://tinyurl.com/void-rt-stefan-zweig
ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY (letter of comment by Philip Chee):
In response to Joe Karpierz's review of ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY in the 05/05/17 issue of the MT VOID, Philip Chee writes: [Joe wrote,] "Laurence discovers that he has a knack for gadgets; he invents a device that looks like a wrist watch but is actually a time machine that moves the wearer two seconds into the future at the push of a button. He travels to MIT on his own to witness the launch of a rocket and meets a bunch of college-age students who have all invented that same time machine. His life is never the same after that.
A nitpick here: neither Laurence nor the MIT students *invented* the 2-second time machine. It's clearly stated that the plans for it are readily available online. [-pc]
LATIN@ RISING, Paper, and Fonts (letter of comment by Philip Chee):
In response to Evelyn's review of LATIN@ RISING in the 05/05/17 issue of the MT VOID, Philip Chee writes:
[Evelyn complained of both the paper and the font: The publisher is apparently very proud of both of these aspects, announcing on the last page that the book was printed on "60 pound Anthem Plus Matte paper, and that the tiles are set in "Aquiline Two, Bickham Script, and Adobe Caselon type.")]
"Anthem Plus(r) has the flexibility to perform in virtually every sheetfed printing application, including direct mail, brochures, catalogs, posters, newsletters, calendars, bill stuffers, flyers and manuals. It is available with post-consumer recycled fiber, complies with Lacey Act requirements and is chain-of-custody tri- certified to the Forest Stewardship Council(r) (FSC(r)), BV-COC- 953662; Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification(tm) (PEFC(tm)), BV-PEFCCOC-US09000012; and Sustainable Forestry Initiative(r) (SFI(r)), BV-SFICOC-US09000011."
So yeah this type of shiny coated paper is really meant for product brochures and catalogues. Definitely not for novels.
"License for 'Aquiline Two': Manfred Klein License
Manfred's fonts are free for private and charity use. They are even free for commercial use--but if there's any profit, pls make a donation to organizations like Doctors Without Borders.
Richard Lipton's Bickham Script is a flowing, formal script typeface based on the lettering of 18th century writing masters, as rendered in the unparalleled engravings of George Bickham. This ornate script lends a signature flourish to invitations, menus, annual reports, restaurant logos, and packaging. With dozens of alternate letterforms in addition to its range of weights, Bickham Script's personality can range from poised to extravagant."
Anybody know if they really did donate to M&aeacute;decins Sans Frontiàres?
Bickham Script is intended primarily for display settings.
Obviously not for book titles.
[Evelyn wrote,] "Adobe Caselon"
Typo? Google says Adobe Caslon. [-pc]
Probably a typo--the book has gone back to the library already. [-ecl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
REEL TERROR by David Konow (ISBN 978-0-312-66883-9) is a history of horror films, but an episodic one. Konow covers the many trends in horror films (German Expressionism, Universal horror, Hammer films, religious horror, the mad slasher film, and so on) by concentrating primarily on the first film of each cycle, with a lot of detail as to its origin, productions, and reception, and then will have a few paragraphs about what followed the trail-blazer. This makes it easy to skip the films you are less interested in since each is a self-contained section. (For me, these were films such as THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE or THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT.)
In many ways, this approach is more satisfying than a quick skim over the hundreds of horror films that could be covered, as a lot of books do, or picking only a dozen or so films, and covering only those. Konow seems to have found a lot of background on the films, *BUT* according to multiple reviews this is because he copied a lot of material from other sources without ever checking it, so errors that other authors made get repeated here.
And the proofreading is bad (e.g., "wfie" instead of "wife" at one point, and "Edgar Allen Poe" at least once, though the name is usually spelled correctly as "Allan"). There are also repetitions, awkward phrasings, and grammatical errors throughout. Konow gives the title of THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD as THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD.
More annoying, Konow makes substantive errors that appear to reflect his misunderstanding (or lack of knowledge). He insists several times that CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON is focused on pollution and atomic radiation. It's not. And he credits the special effects person for John Carpenter's THE THING with coming up with the idea of having the creature be completely protean. No, that was in John W. Campbell's "Who Goes There?", on which both the Hawks and Carpenter versions were based. He says that stop-motion photography goes back to the 1933 KING KONG. Well, yes, but it goes back even further, to THE LOST WORLD (1925) and even before *that* to "The Dinosaur and the Missing Link" (1915).
REEL TERROR is from St. Martin's, an established, respected publisher. But the copy-editing and proofreading are more on the level one would expect from a self-published work, and a sad commentary on the state of publishing today.
The irony is that Konow talks about how such zines as CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN and FANGORIA raised the level of writing in the field to something that was higher than a ten-year-old's (as he described FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND), yet the sloppiness here keeps it at a fanboy level. There's nothing wrong with fanboy writing, and I enjoyed the book, but I was disappointed to discover that I needed to take everything in it with a grain of salt. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends. --Oscar WildeTweet
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