Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Movie Turn-Ons, Part 4.2 (Cheesy Sci-Fi: Introducing The Worthy)

As promised a few weeks back, here's a look at the ones that were; those that gave shape and form to the ones that are, and serve as beacons to them that will be. They represent sci-fi as it was, as it always should have been - in its naivete, in its righteousness, in its sense of wonder, in its paranoia, in its creativity, in its religiosity. They didn't deserve to be besmirched; not in the way That Movie did it. Let us try and roll back the years.

I spent countless hours of research, of toil in public libraries, of patiently going through link upon link of Google search results, of watching hundreds of movies online, sometimes in freeze frame, until my eyes grew bleary and red. Oh, for a soft pair of hands to massage them; oh, for a sweet pair of lips to whisper sweet nothings in my ear... which reminds me... time to put in a pitch for our sponsors.

You might happen to be invited to a friend's wife's birthday party, and, if you didn't know her tastes too well, you might well be the type to ask him what to get her as a gift. And he might reply, "A historical romance. She reads them all day." And you might go, "A what?" To which he'd reply, "They're the ones in which English chaps gallop in on white horses and get the girls. Don't worry, all the bookstore clerks know them. The stuff sells like hot cakes." Half an hour later, you'd be standing in front of a blank-faced clerk with, "Umm… so… there's this guy on this horse…"

Not anymore! You go instead to Historical Romance Writers: The Leader in Historical Romance. Unlike what idiot friends might tell you, historical romances are not just about Britons and horses. They include a wide range of subgenres, such as Viking, Medieval, Tudor, Elizabethan, Georgian, Regency, Victorian, Pirate, Colonial United States, Civil War, Western, Native American, and Americana. This is where the site above comes to your rescue, much like a gallant knight on a horse, with precise cataloguing. There is, for instance, a blurb on the front page that tells me that Madame Bliss, of the Georgian period (1714 - 1810, it helpfully adds), by Charlotte Lovejoy, is a "story designed to titillate (pardon the pun) the reader", is rated nine out of ten, and has a nice pic on the cover, of (whom I presume is) Madame Bliss from the rear.

Right, back to our regularly scheduled programming. Today, we talk of the 9 movies I shortlisted - one for each of the seven seas, plus the two poles. They are The Worthy. Mind you, there could've been 14 of them - one for each day of the fortnight - had this colleague of mine brought back that collection of Ray Harryhausen films that I'd gotten delivered to her during her US visit. I hadn't wanted to spring for international shipping, and now regret the cheapness on my part. A lesson in there somewhere, no doubt. But hush, let's not speak ill of colleagues; she might be a reader, and peer reviews go a long way in determining salary hikes.

Oh, and as chance would have it, 7 of the short-listed movies are available in one set named Classic Sci-Fi. The other 2 also, miraculously, I happen to have DVDs of. Thanks to this spot of luck, I could watch them all just once more on the big(ish) screen, before writing these reviews. Just goes to show that if you're willing to put in the work, you often make your own luck.

Here's the plan. Each of these movies will have its own post, at 2 of them a week - Sundays and Wednesdays. At the stroke of midnight; when the children of the night make their music; when the creepy crawlies are out; when the undead make their rounds; when software engineers*, who have yet to learn to estimate correctly, swipe out; when Count Drakul, he of the vast real-estate investments in Transylvania, throws off the lid, scratches his balls, and asks for his cup of coffee; at this hour shall these posts make their way from the "drafts" section of my Blogger account to your screens.

I will describe their art, I will discuss their message, I will delve on their relevance to our day-to-day lives. At the end of it all, I hope to leave you with a love and a longing for the glory years of science fiction. Who knows, perhaps I may even inspire some of you to pick up the camera and pay your own homages to these monuments of our age? To quote Godard, "The best way to critique a film is to make another film." But then again, to quote someone else, "Watching a Godard film is as pleasant as being poked in the ribs with a sharp stick every 10 minutes." So, maybe you shouldn't, then. Pick up that camera, that is.

Disclaimer: These are all American movies of the 1950s. Films, like all art, are a product of their times. They're impossible to analyse without first knowing something of their creators, and also a deep understanding of the time and the place, of the social context, that spawned them. However, since I've never been in America at any time, much less the 1950s, and since, frankly, I'd never even heard of the makers of these films (except Howard Hawks and a little of Robert Wise), and since I can't be arsed with doing a lot of reading on another country just for a stupid blog, I'll simply rely on whatever little I already know, and make up the rest as I go along - as long as they sound plausible, of course, and are convenient (for me). I don't think I have any American readers; but this is the web - you never know. In case there are any of you lurking out there, I hope you'll understand and won't hold any grudges. I mean well.

Spoiler Alert: All posts will discuss complete plot points, with endings, in anal-retentive fashion. If your immediate plans include watching 1950s sci-fi flicks, with as virginal an experience as possible, I'd suggest you read just this disclaimer post (the irony, huh?), and call it quits on my blog until I wind up with these posts (in about 6 weeks' time, if all goes well). In fact, you would also do well not to read the blurbs at the back of the DVD cases, for these films. Some of them give out everything except the last 25 seconds.

As I'm still engaged in getting my notes in order, cross-checking my references, filing responses I got from surviving cast and crew, and a lot of other journalistic stuff, the kick-off will very likely be sometime next week, with "This Island Earth".

*While similar in several respects, software engineers are not to be confused with the undead of the previous phrase - the undead have more life and more taste, generally speaking.

EDIT: One of the tragedies of having my blog linked to my Facebook profile is that people tend to comment there, instead of here. Which is fine with me, mostly: the comments I get tend to fall far short of the "You blog, therefore I am" ones that I crave. Still, on the occasions that I get comments like these - "the undead also have a night life" - I wish there were some sort of auto-import feature for comments from Facebook notes. By the way, you can very easily make out that the commenter, Prashant, himself is a software engineer, from the fact that he has a list of 45 types of birds he's seen from some tower. 


missjane said...

I don't have Facebook, so I'll comment here. I'm looking forward to discussions of those movies, as it will save me from having to actually watch them, and I can just pretend I have, if I am ever in need of some SF street cred. Or lack of street cred, as the case may be.

Great sponsors! The first time I had a look it recommended a book about Gold! Sex! Adventure! which I really should've bought, because now I can't find it and I'm stuck with Texas Rangers and being abducted by a Duke. Those are different stories, although I am sure we could come up with one involving both. A runaway Duke who has become a Texas Ranger, perhaps, or an American cousin of the bastard son of the previous Duke who doesn't realise that he's just become the heir, and runs off with our feisty heroine in order to save her from the evil oil baron who is also attempting to wrest the ancient manor in England from the sweet old aunty.

Not that I've ever read any of those, because if I had, I would've mostly read, I dunno, Regency types or something, and the only good ones were written by Georgette Heyer, and had similar plots but great dialogue. Apparently.

So I've heard.

*ahem* Yes, looking forward to some SF. Nice use of the disclaimer, btw: did you steal that from me or did I steal it from you?

missjane said...

PS I realise it should be obvious to anyone with discernment, but what are the other two?

Rohan said...

Lack of street cred, it will probably be, if you're going to rely on me. Interesting info on historical romances. I find myself learning a little bit more on the subject with every passing day. And thanks to your... uh... second-hand info, I now have a name - apart from Charlotte Lovejoy - to drop casually into conversations.

I have no scruples with regard to copying others, but, in this case, I don't recall you putting out a disclaimer that you're essentially going to talk through your hat for the next 6 weeks? But perhaps I'm missing a subtle point. I often do.

Still, the sheer genius behind my move, eh? By putting that disclaimer at the very end of this post here, and most likely "forgetting" to link to this post in the posts to come, I will come across as erudite to the vast majority, while also having an escape route if an American does call bullshit somewhere. :smug smile:

The other two are The Day the Earth Stood Still (I absolutely hated this one when I saw it, and have been waiting for years for a chance to tear into it), and Forbidden Planet - an absolutely lovely film. Its script is supposedly a translation of Shakespeare's The Tempest into English; I may even buy myself a copy of the play (annotated, of course) to do a proper job of it.

missjane said...


- what I was trying to get at is that with SF geeks sometimes lack of street cred is more useful :)

- I heard about Georgette Heyer from my, umm, friend. Friend of a friend, in fact, yes, that's it...

- wrt disclaimers, I was refeerring to disclaimers in general in writing; I think I've used them a few times.

- yes, yes, you're a genius

- *of course* you should buy Shakespeare!! If you're really serious you should have at least two different collected works already - a paperback for reading and making notes in and a glossy hardcover to impress people on your bookshelf. That's my theory, anyway.

Rohan said...

Regarding the disclaimers, I just did a check, and I've been using them to cover my ass since my third-ever post here. That's way too long ago to remember whom I stole from, sadly...

Your theory makes a lot of sense, Jane. Unfortunately, my circumstances are a little specific, in this regard. I was force-fed Shakespeare in school, resulting in me relentlessly bagging him out for years. I wouldn't be able to prominently display him on my bookshelf, without eating a lot of crow. The best I can do is buy those tiny paperbacks that are easy to hide.