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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 03/08/19 -- Vol. 37, No. 36, Whole Number 2057
Table of Contents
More Comments on THE BLACK SCORPION (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I recently wrote a piece for the MT VOID about the once grand old stop-motion monster movie THE BLACK SCORPION. People seem to still remember the giant slobbering scorpion with the sharp serrated teeth. I have a few more things to say about the technical aspects of this creature.
The so-called "supervisor of visual effects"--whatever that title entails--was Willis O'Brien, who did the animation on KING KONG (1933). I think there was an idea, possibly forced on O'Brien by the producers to save on the budget. I believe the process of putting animation on film requires multiple steps to avoid the background showing through. First, the figure to be animated is filmed. Then the background is shot. The animator uses a traveling matte for the background. That means that the background has a black silhouette of the animated figure. So they have the background shot with the animated figure, a moving silhouette. Superimpose the two layers of film. The upper layer of film has the animated figure. The lower layer of film has the background. It has all of the background except what is covered by the silhouette of the animated figure. Put them together and you have the animated figure in front of the background. I think that to save money several places just the background layer of film was used. You can stare at the background layer all you want; you will see only the black silhouette. They can claim that is why it is a *black* scorpion. It is black because all you are seeing is the black silhouette. It is my suspicion that there was a budget cut someplace and instead of going through the whole process the background shot was used.
The science behind the story is not very convincing. The idea of a creature brought to life after it has been sealed in stone for who knows how long has been used before in films like GIANT FROM THE UNKNOWN. The sealing material is ice in THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS. There would be deterioration in the biological material and the beast would just die. Also, the scorpion head looks like a fierce Jack-o-Lantern. That face is used in the film and the advertising. Scorpions do not have much of a face, but what they have has little that approaches this would-be nightmarish Jack-o- Lantern of a face.
In the cave scene there are several breeds of creepy crawlies. One of the invented species was a creature made for KING KONG (1933), but not actually used in that film. There is a sequence in KING KONG in which crewmembers fall from a log into a nest of some unknown sort of giant arthropods. The sequence, for some reason never recorded, had the unfortunate crewmembers killed by the creatures. They die off-screen, and they are never convincing. Nobody today is sure what the insects or whatever were. They were probably no real breed. It is thought that those models were used in the cave sequence of THE BLACK SCORPION, but it has never been established for certain.
One more writer's glitch: While our heroes are searching for volcano survivors they hear a sound that resembles the rattlesnake. On investigation it turns out to be a baby with a baby rattle. Any baby with the strength to rattle a rattle that fast should be a ballplayer, even if he is still a baby.
The screenplay of THE BLACK SCORPION is credited to David Duncan, a genuine science fiction author of minor science fiction books and films. Duncan did write the screenplays for several low-budget science fiction films but also the screenplay for the film THE TIME MACHINE (1959). [-mrl]
Space Opera and Pop Bands (letters of comment by Kevin R, Dorothy J. Heydt, and John Kerr-Mudd):
In response to Joe Karpierz's review of SPACE OPERA in the 03/01/19 issue of the MT VOID, Kevin R writes:
[Joe Karpierz writes,] "Eventually, a British pop band named Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeros, is chosen to represent humanity.
That name is no "Hotblack Desiato and Disater Area." Someone should have slipped Valente a Dave Barry Band Name Generator.
In Real Life, there have been several acts known as the Decibels, Decibelles, and, of course, the wonderful dBs.
Also, there's "Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes"
Terra's champion in the "Grand Prix" needed a more badass name. Were "Doctor Teeth and The Electric Mayhem" not available? [-kr]
Dorothy Heydt replies:
Retired, maybe? There are still Muppets working in various venues, but I haven't seen the Mayhem at all recently. [-djh]
John Kerr-Mudd answers:
They're on tour with Mr Warburton:
and then adds:
Barclaycard have them on contract:
but I note that Janice (the dreamy girl) has refused to sell out.
The Muppets are into Mr Warburton's bread products:
Awwww. Being a Yank, I'd never heard of Warburton's, but they clearly had a genius advertising manager.
But when was the ad made? It's got the old set and everything. [-djh]
John Kerr-Mudd answers:
Not sure; within the last 5 years I think. Let's see what MrGoogle says: 2015
There are also follow-on vids on that site (well, links to Ubend). [-jkm]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
HISTORIANS' FALLACIES: TOWARD A LOGIC OF HISTORICAL THOUGHT by David Hackett Fischer (ISBN 978-0-06-131545-9) cover snot only the familiar fallacies, such as those of causation (e.g., post hoc ergo propter hoc) and substantive distraction (e.g., ad hominem), but some more specific to historiography, such as those of narration (e.g., false periodization). Unfortunately, at times Fischer seems to fall into his own traps, such as describing W. J. Cash's MIND OF THE SOUTH as taking the plantation legend and turning it upside down: "He stood Scarlett O'Hara on her head. When the crinolines billowed out and down, there wasn't much to be seen of Scarlett's upper parts, but there was a considerable display of her lower ones, which some innocents in our own century naively persist in mistaking for reality. Scarlett's lower parts make a splendid spectacle. But it is a little disconcerting to find, in a book called THE MIND OF THE SOUTH, so little brain and so much bottom." Fischer may be criticizing the fallacy of composition, but he is surely guilty of at least the fallacy of insidious analogy. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper email@example.com Quote of the Week: The man who does not read books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them. --Mark TwainTweet
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