Tag Archives: movies

[January 20, 1963] The Big Freeze (news from a UK fan)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


By Ashley R. Pollard

The new year has brought snow. Lots of snow. So much snow that parts of Britain have been brought to a standstill. I thought last year was bad, but this year puts last years snow into perspective, in much the same way as downing a yard of ale as compared to a good old British pint of beer does.

And just to make things clear, when I say snow, I don’t mean a few fluffy flakes falling on London.

Parts of the country have been cut-off by the amount of snow that has fallen here. A blizzard left up to 20 feet of snow in some places. The BBC news shows images of the sort of thing one might see in some Hollywood extravaganza set in the Antarctic wastes.

One almost expects to see penguins or Polar bears. I could easily imagine Polar bears swimming here to enjoy our climate. It’s a snowpocalypse I tell you. Send food parcels now! 

OK, I jest, but not by much.

Really, it started snowing on Boxing Day and has continued to snow pretty much until now. A waterfall has frozen in Wales, I know Niagara Falls freezes, but this is Britain, we haven’t experienced these conditions for a very long time. How long ago you might ask? The Met Office says this has been the coldest January since 1814.

That’s a long time ago.

Also, the sea in Whitstable Bay froze. The sea water froze out to four miles at Dunkirk. I knew theoretically it can happen, but…

As I’m writing this, the forecast for tonight is for temperatures to drop to minus eight degrees Fahrenheit. Fortunately, I work and live in London. So I may moan and grumble, but I don’t have to face the hardships of those people living in the countryside cut-off by snow drifts.

But, there is a promise of a thaw in a few days time. I can only hope that the Met Office is correct in their prediction.

I’m sure they’re right, after all, Cliff Richard’s new musical film, Summer Holiday, premiered the other week in London. Surely this presages warmer weather to come? Cliff Richard and The Shadows are a popular young persons band, for those who have not heard of him or them.

This is, as always, only the backdrop to the wonderful world of the science fiction, like myself and my friends in The London Circle.

Oh, what jolly japes and fun were had as we sat drinking, discussing the mood of the general population. We fans talked about stories set in snowy wastelands. Frankenstein was mentioned as the prime setting. Lovecraft’s, At the Mountains of Madness, was also deemed germane.

And, of course, the horror of starvation as food ran out with the railways and roads snowbound. SF fans have a great imaginations, and the amazing ability to create stories from whole cloth. It was almost like we were re-enacting the Shelley, Byron, and Polidori’s competition to write a scary story. 

Then somebody mentioned we’d all have to live by eating pork pies supplied by Brian Burgess. That leavened the tone of the conversation, making everyone present burst out in laughter. A laughter with a slight hollow ring to it, as anyone who has survived the experience one of eating one of Brian’s famous pork pies can attest.

Brian, a rather large man, who can appear intimidating when you first meet him, can best be described as one of fandoms great eccentrics. Which is saying something when it comes to fandom. Though, after thinking about it for a moment, British people in general can be rather eccentric. Or so my American friends tell me.

I blame the war, but war stories will have to wait for another time.

Last month I mention That Was The Week That Was. This month, in a more serious vein, befitting the serious weather we’re facing, another news show I recommend people to try and catch, if they can. The commercial broadcaster, Grenada Television, launched The World in Action. An unorthodox current affairs programme that investigates more thoroughly what That Was The Week That Was mocks.

Already there are rumblings in the House as the news team’s probing into underhand dealing and corruption threaten to expose the great and the good. I shall be making time to watch The World in Action and report back.

And on another serious note, the leader of the Labour Party, Hugh Gaitskell, died suddenly at the age of 56 from heart failure. His sudden passing has shocked the establishment, being labelled a national tragedy.

He was certainly a more moderate politician than some of his more left wing party colleagues, and I admired his appeals to reason. Though my psychological background always makes me doubt that such appeals will be effective. In the words taken from the short story collection, Assignment in Eternity, Robert Heinlein said, “Man is not a rational animal; he is a rationalizing animal.”

I couldn’t agree more.

So that’s it for another month. I promise to wrap up warm and stay safe. You do the same, please.

[P.S. If you registered for WorldCon this year, please consider nominating Galactic Journey for the “Best Fanzine” Hugo.  Check your mail for instructions…]




[January 5, 1963] The Trial on Trial


by Victoria Lucas

Have you been following the talk about Orson Welles’s latest movie, one he personally wrote and edited?  While not precisely science fiction, it does overlap thematically, enough so that I’m certain you’ll enjoy a summary.

I was fortunate enough to catch the interview with him by Huw Wheldon on the BBC, or “The Beeb” as people across the Pond say.  First off, Welles talks about changes he made from the novel by Franz Kafka.  He says the main character (Josef K.) “doesn’t really deteriorate, certainly doesn’t surrender at the end” like the character in the novel.  That’s true, more or less, but listen carefully to Anthony Perkins playing K. at the very end and ask yourself why he doesn’t throw what he is reaching for.

I know, I know, what am I doing writing a review for a movie that hasn’t been released in the States yet.  Well, it was released in Paris, and quite a lot of people had something to do with the production and showing.  I hate to tell you this, but a copy somehow found its way into the hands of a friend of mine.  I can’t tell you any names, and I know no more than the name of my friend.  The copy is a bit, all right, under par, not like seeing it in a movie house, but it’s exciting to see the film many months before I possibly could have otherwise.  The earliest premiere in the US is in NYC, and I stand a snowball’s chance in hell of making that or any showing not in Tucson or Phoenix.  I would prefer to watch a non-bootleg copy and probably will sooner or later, but beggars can’t be choosers.

When the beginning title hits the screen, the recently discovered (1958) and orchestrated “Adagio in G Minor” by Tomas Albinoni begins a beat of what I can’t help but think of as a dirge before we see the opening parable, done in something called “pinscreen” graphics.  The title, by the way, is most remarkable for the fact that there is no trial in “The Trial.”

Of course we must keep in mind that a German word for “trial,” the title of the film and the Franz Kafka book that “inspired” it (according to Welles), is Der Prozess.  Also spelled “Process,” this word in German means “process, trial, litigation, lawsuit, court case.”  There are other words for “judgment, tribunal, trial”: “das Gericht,” which at least has the word “right” in it; and “die Verhandlung,” meaning “negotiation, hearing, trial.” 

It turns out there are numerous words that might apply to what we in the US would call a “trial” by judge and/or jury or any litigation: there are also “die Gerichtsverhandlung,” “die Instanz” (which also means “authority, court.”  Why did Kafka choose “der Prozess,” and why are some of the words feminine rather than masculine (like Prozess) or even neutral?  These are fine points of German as a language that I cannot reach from my one college semester of German.  It just appears to me that German has as many words for legal proceedings as the Eskimos are said to have for snow.  However, in this case the word “process” in English is fitting, because we never see a trial, only one hearing, during which the protagonist, Josef K. (with only an initial and not a full name, as if the author was protecting a real person) speaks and brands himself as a troublemaker.  (All legal proceedings in this alternate system of law are supposed to be secret.)

What we see in this film is a process indeed, a destructive process during which an innocent is exposed to corruption and chaos he never dreamed existed.  The book makes it much clearer that the system that crushes Josef K. is not related to the uniformed police and visible court system.  In fact, near the end, as K. is being frog-marched to a place of execution, he aids his captors in avoiding a policeman to whom he might have complained to prevent what was, after all, an abduction.  This network is underground, with courtrooms and file rooms in attics throughout the unnamed city.  Those enmeshed in it are “The Accused” as well as (illegal) Advocates and various officers and employees of the “court,” not to mention families who move their furniture and abandon their flats so that hearings can occur.  One character remarks (in both the book and film), “There are court offices in almost every attic” and “Everything belongs to the court.”

Welles changes this secrecy and underground nature to connect “the law” to the visible law courts by having K. exit a massive public building (actually in Rome or Zagreb), having entered it through a tenement at the back, in line with his view that “this is now 1962, and we’ve made the film in 1962.” During this century the classism and racism that were beneath public consciousness but engraved in the law, as well as officially tolerated or encouraged vigilantism, came into the open in a big way, like the difference between law practice in a makeshift courtroom and that in Grecian-style marble halls supported by uniformed officers of court and police. 

The author of the original book, Das Process was killed by an early 20th-century epidemic we now call tuberculosis, dying at age 40 in Austria.  (I am tempted to say, “died like a dog,” as K. characterizes his own murder or, in the logic of the book, execution.) Born Jewish in the kingdom of Bohemia, Kafka was a lawyer who worked for insurance companies.  This book would have been destroyed had his executor followed his instructions, but instead the order of the written chapters (mostly finished, apparently—I saw only one chapter labeled “unfinished”) were determined by his editor/executor and the book was originally published in 1925, a year after Kafka’s death.  Welles mentioned the Holocaust in the BBC interview as his reason for changing the ending, choosing “the only possible solution” (rather than the “Final” one) to negate the choices made “by a Jewish intellectual before the advent of Hitler.” So I feel justified in seeing much that relates to racism, not to mention sexism and classism.  Kafka was reportedly a socialist with some tendencies toward anarchism. 

According to Welles, the movie was filmed partly in Zabreb, Yugoslavia (exteriors), with most interiors in Paris (the Gare d’Orsay and a Paris studio), and some exteriors in Rome.  Welles would have filmed in Czechoslovakia, but Kafka’s work is banned there.  The last scene was shot in Yugoslavia, and so were the scenes with 1,500 desks, typewriters, and workers in a huge room for which they could locate no place but the Zabreb “industrial fair grounds” (scenes at K’s workplace, which do not correspond with the descriptions in the book). 

The partly abandoned Gare d’Orsay, in contrast to the other locations, was a huge seminal find for Welles, one that appeared to him at the end of a long day in which he learned that sets in Zagreb could not be finished in time to make his schedule or possibly even the film, if he could not find another location quickly.  Originally the Palais d’Orsay, subsequently a railroad station with platforms that became too short for long-distance use, the station was mostly abandoned, but the building included a 370-room hotel.  Welles quickly changed his plans from sets that dissolved and disappeared to one that was “full of the hopelessness of the struggle against bureaucracy” because “waiting for a paper to be filled is like waiting for a train.”

The gossip is that producer Andrew Salkind agreed to underwrite Welles’s project only if he could find a book to base it on that was in the public domain.  They both thought this work by Kafka was such a book, but discovered that they were wrong and had to pay for the use of the story, reducing the budget for the film.  Several people are credited with the writing, with Welles himself reading the titles at the end, but he says he wrote as well as directed and acted in it.  Rumor also says he wanted Jackie Gleason (yes, “Honeymooners”) to play the role he played, that of a lawyer Kafka named Dr. Huld (German for “grace” or “favor”) but that Welles christened “Hastler” (hassler? what the lawyer should do to the courts but not to the clients?).

There are some problems with Welles’s editing, the main one in my view concerning a scene with a wall of computers at the bank where K. is a middle-rank executive.  As it is, the scene is quite pointless and appears to exist only to show how up-to-date the film is compared to the 1925 novel.  However, it was originally a 10-minute scene in which Katina Paxinou (a face on the cutting-room floor) uses the computers to foretell K’s future (wrongly…OK, mostly wrongly).  It was “cut on the eve of the Paris premiere,” according to my notes on the BBC interview—in other words done in haste and, as in the proverb, made waste, but Welles clearly felt there was something wrong with the scene and saved us from most of it. 

Nevertheless, on the whole Welles felt good about “The Trial.” In the BBC interview he summed it thusly, “So say what you like, but ‘The Trial’ is the best film I have ever made.” I’m not sure I agree, but it’s definitely worth watching, even taking the time to compare it with the book.  (But beware of any resulting depression.)

[P.S. If you registered for WorldCon this year, please consider nominating Galactic Journey for the “Best Fanzine” Hugo.  Check your mail for instructions…]




[January 3, 1963] The Enchanted Theater (Fantasy and Horror Films of 1962)


by Victoria Silverwolf

Our esteemed host has already provided many detailed analyses of 1962’s science fiction films, as well as others tangentially related to SF (including one which also features the pretty actress pictured above, Ms. Barbara Eden.) But missing from the Traveler’s roster of reviews has been a focus on the related genres, the fantastic and the horrorful.  With that in mind, I ‘d like to fill this gap with brief reviews of last year’s pictures with more supernatural themes, as well as a few others which may not technically be fantasy, but which have the same feeling.

(Perhaps I am in a retrospective and nostalgic mood because of the heavy storm that struck part of the United States on New Year’s Eve.  Even in my neck of the woods, in the southeastern corner of Tennessee, an appreciable amount of snow fell, swaddling us in a cozy quiet blanket.  Shown here are playful students at the University of the South, not far from where I live.)

So enjoy a mug of steaming hot chocolate and sit near the fire as we talk about the magical movies of last year. 

Fantasy Films of 1962

Though nothing released last year captured the sheer wonder of 1959’s The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, nevertheless, that excellent movie did inspire a handful of similar films, albeit without the special touch of Ray Harryhausen’s stunning visual effects.  Before I consider these pale imitations, allow me to dismiss a pair of silly comedies.

The title of Moon Pilot (based on Robert Buckner’s novel Starfire, discussed here a while ago) suggests a serious tale of the near future, but the plot of this lighthearted farce is pure space fantasy.  An astronaut (Tom Tryon, seen in the surprisingly good SF movie I Married a Monster from Outer Space) is scheduled to leave Earth on a secret flight to the Moon.  He meets a mysterious woman (French actress Dany Saval) who warns him not to go into space.  She’s actually an alien from the planet (sic!) Beta Lyrae.  Hijinks and romance ensue.  Although the leads are attractive, the comedy is very broad.  Kids may get a kick out of the antics of the movie’s chimpanzee co-star.  Two stars.


Our two star-crossed lovers bursting into song.

***

Equally goofy is Zotz!, based on a novel of the same name by Walter Karig.  Tom Poston stars as professor who obtains an ancient amulet with mystical powers, leading to slapstick complications.  Surprisingly, the screenplay is by Ray Russell, who wrote the brilliant Gothic chiller Sardonicus, published in Playboy in 1961 and quickly adapted into the pretty good horror movie Mr. Sardonicus, directed by William Castle, who also gave us the far inferior Zotz!.  We’ll meet again with Mister Russell a little later in this essay, with something more appropriate.  Two stars.


The enchanted amulet that leads to so much mischief.

***

Turning from wacky antics to swashbuckling adventures, we have a trio of movies, ranging from expensive spectacles to low budget quickies.  The degree of entertainment supplied is not necessarily proportional to the amount of money spent.

Filmed in Cinerama, The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm uses the talents of George Pal, which made The Time Machine such a delight, to bring three fairy tales collected by the pioneering folklorists to life. 

In The Dancing Princess, a humble woodsman (Russ Tamblyn) discovers that a beautiful princess (Yvette Mimieux, also of The Time Machine) secretly goes out at night to dance wildly with gypsies.


Looks more exciting than sitting around the palace.

The Cobbler and the Elves features puppets in the familiar story of the shoemaker’s helpers.


George Pal displaying his experience with Puppetoons.

The most elaborate special effects are reserved for The Singing Bone, which includes a battle with a dragon, as well as a rather grim (pun intended) tale of murder and a message from beyond the grave.


Impressive cave, goofy dragon.

Unfortunately, these enjoyable sequences alternate with dull sequences set in the real world.  Barbara Eden plays the love interest of one of the Grimms (hence her appearance at the start of this article.) Two stars.

***

More modestly funded was Jack the Giant Killer, clearly intended to remind audiences of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.  Both films star Kerwin Mathews as the hero and Torin Thatcher as the villain.  They even have the same director, Nathan Juran.  Too bad they couldn’t get Ray Harryhausen for the special effects.  His replacements do a decent job, but they can’t quite capture the same magic.  Still, the movie is reasonably entertaining. 


Pretty cool two-headed giant, not-so-cool sea monster.

No reason to go into details about the plot.  The Good Guy battles the Bad Guy’s monsters, winning the hand of the Princess.  Three stars.

***

An even lower budget brought moviegoers The Magic Sword.  Bert I. Gordon, who created abysmal science fiction movies of the Big Bug variety, including Beginning of the End and The Spider, adds a sense of humor to the story.  Our hero is George, the adopted son of an elderly sorceress.  With the help of the title weapon and six knights brought out of suspended animation, he rescues yet another beautiful princess from yet another evil wizard (the great Basil Rathbone.)


Don’t hurt yourself with that thing.

The special effects are shoddy, but the sorceress and her two-headed servant are amusing.  Three stars.


Too many heads spoil the broth.

Horror Films of 1962

Movies dealing with the darker side of the fantastic ranged from abysmal to excellent.  Let’s look at the ridiculous before we talk about the sublime.

You’re more likely to scream with laughter than fear while watching Eegah, an absurd tale of a giant caveman vaguely terrorizing some young folks.  Arch Hall (senior) directs Arch Hall (junior) as the hero, making this more of a home movie than a feature film.  One star.



The monster and hero; can you tell who is who?

***


Equally inept, but a lot less innocent, is the gruesome shocker The Brain That Wouldn’t Die.  A mad scientist keeps the head of his girlfriend alive after she is decapitated in a car accident.  He then hangs around figure models, searching for the perfect body to transplant onto what’s left of her.  There’s also a monster locked up in his laboratory, which is responsible for a particularly bloody scene near the end.  One star.


I hope her nose doesn’t itch.

***

On a more professional level, two studios released movies that were mediocre variations on what had come before.

In the United States, Roger Corman offered his third Poe adaptation, The Premature Burial.  Loosely adapted by Charles Beaumont and Ray Russell, the story features a man with a morbid fear of being buried alive.  He builds an elaborate system of devices in his mausoleum, in order to make his escape if this happens.  Things don’t go well.  Ray Milland replaces Vincent Price, so memorable in House of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum, in the lead role.  It’s a fairly dull affair, although nicely filmed and with an unexpected twist ending.  Two stars.


Part of Milland’s tool kit.


Meanwhile, the British studio Hammer, which had so much success bringing Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, Jekyll and Hyde, the Mummy, and a Werewolf back to the silver screen, revived another classic movie monster with The Phantom of the Opera.  This remake can’t compare to the 1925 original with the great Lon Chaney.  Two stars.


Any requests?

***

Slightly more original (although clearly influenced by the frequently filmed story The Hands of Orlac) was Hands of a Stranger.  A concert pianist’s hands are destroyed in an accident.  In desperation, a surgeon transplants the hands of a recent murdered criminal onto the musician’s wrists.  Surprisingly, the pianist does not become possessed by the dead man.  The horrible events that happen after the procedure result from the musician’s rage at his inability to play.  This was a modest but interesting movie, with some striking visuals and a great deal of unusual dialogue.  Three stars.


That little boy is going to be very sorry he made fun of the way that man plays.

***

A most unusual double feature appeared in movie houses in 1962. 

The unwieldy title The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus is the disguise worn by the French film Les yeux sans visage (The Eyes Without a Face), dubbed and edited for American audiences.  A physician kidnaps women in order to surgically remove their faces and transplant them onto his daughter, whose own face was ruined in an accident.  The replacements do not last long, so he must repeat his crimes many times.  Despite this disturbing plot, the film is surprisingly beautiful and darkly poetic.  Four stars, and I can only hope that a subtitled, unedited version will be available some day.

***


The daughter, hidden under the mask she wears between transplants.

The Manster is an American production filmed in Japan, with a mostly Japanese cast and crew.  An American reporter interviews a Japanese scientist, who secretly injects him with an experimental formula.  An extra eyeball appears on his shoulder, eventually growing into a second head.  This movie is even more bizarre than I’ve made it sound.  I can’t say it’s a good film, but the sheer weirdness of it holds the viewer’s attention.  Two stars.


Not what you want to see in the mirror.

***

Made on a tiny budget by a director of documentary short subjects, Carnival of Souls overcame its limitations to become a haunting tale of life after death.  A woman survives a car accident.  Later she is haunted by ghoulish figures.  The story is simple enough for an episode of Twilight Zone, but the film creates a genuinely eerie mood.  Four stars.


The haunting begins.

***

The best horror film of 1962 was probably the British production Night of the Eagle (released in the USA as Burn Witch Burn.) The script is skillfully adapted from Fritz Leiber’s classic 1943 novel Conjure Wife by talented fantasy writers Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson, as well as British screenwriter George Baxt, who wrote another excellent chiller a couple of years ago, The City of the Dead (known in American as Horror Hotel.) As in the novel, a skeptical college professor is married to a woman who secretly uses conjuring spells to protect her husband.  When he discovers her magical objects, he forces her to destroy them.  Things go rapidly downhill from there, as the professor discovers to his horror that witchcraft is very real, and that someone is using black magic to destroy his career, his marriage, and his life.  The movie is exquisitely filmed, with fine acting and a dramatic climax.  Five stars.


The professor at work.


Confronting his wife about her use of magic.


Up to no good.

***

Although it contains no supernatural elements, I would like to end this discussion with the psychological thriller Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?.  Like Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho of a few years ago, it explores the darkest places within the human mind.  Legendary actresses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford play sisters with a history of bad blood between them.  Crawford is confined to a wheelchair, and Davis is as mad as a hatter.  She was a child star many years ago, and she still dresses like a little girl, her aging face covered with grotesquely heavy layers of makeup.  As Baby Jane’s mind continues to deteriorate, the rivalry between the sisters (a reflection of the dislike the two stars had for each other, according to Hollywood gossip) leads to horrible consequences.  Davis gives a bravura performance.  Four stars.

***

And… there were other kinds of film released in 1962, I suppose.  But they are beyond the scope of this article.  Until the next sf, fantasy, or horror flick hits the cinema, see you at the movies!

[P.S. If you registered for WorldCon this year, please consider nominating Galactic Journey for the “Best Fanzine” Hugo.  Check your mail for instructions…]




[December 4, 1962] Like Five Weeks in a Theater (Five Weeks in Balloon)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Lorelei Marcus

“5 weeks in a balloon!” What an exciting phrase — so much potential for many interesting stories and ideas.  Thus, you can perhaps understand the excitement I felt in anticipation of the new Jules Verne spectacular based on the book of the same title. Going in without a hint of what the film might be about, I already had a bunch of wild adventures thought up. I was certain the movie would involve a group of explorers struggling to survive a month in the air. Maybe they would run low on food. Perhaps they’d get on each others’ nerves. A giant storm might throw them off course or prevent their landing. Seeing it on the big screen was going to be fantastic!

Or so I thought. To be frank, the movie that I actually got was disappointing, especially compared to the wondrous stories that I’d already imagined before the movie. Rather than a cool and creative survival movie of living in a balloon, we got a rather dull sight-seeing trip.


Get used to scenes like this.  There are a lot of them.

The movie stars a small cast of stereotypes: The witty professor, the kooky general, the teenage heartthrob (Fabian), the obnoxious American reporter (Red Buttons), the slave girl who knows just enough English to sound foreign (but is totally understandable), and the love interest.


I’m glad Fabian’s working again.  Dig that 19th Century hair!


“Which man do you want to end up with?”  “Anyone but Red Buttons, please.”

Oh, and I can’t forget their ape companion either, because every Jules Verne movie has to have an animal companion.


This seems thoroughly responsible.

Now if I told you that this movie was about this crew racing in a balloon across Africa to beat slave traders from staking a valuable claim, and getting caught in various misadventures along the way, you would probably say, “Well how could such an adventure be boring?” I’m not sure, especially considering the movie started off so well!

Everything before the balloon’s take off (the first 20 minutes or so) was funny, clever, and fast paced. The first scene, in which the professor and his inventor friend take reluctant investors on a demonstration flight, and then the next bit in which the professor prepares for the expedition and collects funds and crew, was quite fun to watch!


“Jane!  Stop this crazy thing!”


“This is Africa.”  “Oh!  Good to know!”

But once he’d picked up the American reporter, and the balloon took to the skies, the movie ground to a sudden halt. Unfortunately it never seemed to pick back up again either. The entire movie was: the balloon flies around, lands someplace; the crew gets out and gets into trouble, they run back to the balloon and fly away. There were no real conflicts, because they could always just retreat to the balloon and escape danger. Moreover, many of these scenes went on for ‘way too long. There was never any real tension through the whole movie, and without tight pacing of events, the movie felt like it was really dragging on for five weeks!

Now I will give the credit for its visual quality. It was in color like all the Jules Verne classics, and it had many exotic settings and beautiful sets. However, with the lack of a real plot, the movie really just felt like “Look at this pretty thing!” over and over again. I’m hoping this doesn’t become a common trend, the substitution of pretty special effects for a good story.

The acting was alright. In fact, the best part of the movie was the interaction between the singleminded professor and the prissy general sent by the Prime Minister to co-lead the expedition.  Their banter was genuinely funny.  But it was also very British, or I should say, what Americans think of as British.  That was a big problem with this movie: racial stereotyping. There were certainly quite a few racist portrayals of different cultures, to say the least. The journey took place over Africa, so there several scenes set in Muslim palaces. The problem was, rather than using this opportunity to show these cultures in an interesting and insightful way, we got very clearly not Muslim African actors in brown makeup spouting nonsense. And the Black Africans were hordes of dancing/yelling savages. It really just felt kind of insulting.


“I’m British, you know.”  “What a coincidence!  So am I!”





Sensitive portrayals of foreign cultures.

In the end though, the largest fault of this movie was not its own shortcomings, but the fact that we’ve already seen this plot done better. Master of the Air, another film inspired by a Jules Verne novel, lived up to the expectations set by its title. It has a tense and satisfying story, characters with lots of depth, an awesome set…and weeks spent in an airship! That movie is everything Five Weeks wants to be.


This explains a lot…

All in all, I would not say Five Weeks in a Balloon is a bad movie. I think the creators were trying to make an exciting adventure movie and mix it with comedy, and they ended up succeeding at neither. Still, the high budget did make it a fun tour through Africa. The movie wasn’t a waste of my time, but I was disappointed that it didn’t meet the standard previous Verne films (particularly Master), have set. Overall, I give this movie 2 stars. It was quite mediocre, and I would say if you’re looking to watch a great Verne spectacular, then you’re better off with one of his other films.

This is the Young Traveler, signing off.

[I watched this movie, too, and I really have very little to add to this excellent review.  I might charitably give the film 2.5 stars as it is less bad than not good.

One interesting observation — we saw this in a double-feature with This is not a Test, and both flicks featured chicken abuse.  Is this a new cinematic trend? [Ed]]




[Nov. 15, 1962] Panic in Year One (the movie, This is not a Test)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Gideon Marcus

With nuclear bombers parked just 90 miles off the coast of Florida, and last month having seen the United States go to its highest military alert level since we were fighting the Japanese, its no wonder that The Bomb remains a popular cinematic topic.  In the last decade, most of the films that featured Our Enemy, the Atom starred horribly mutated monsters.  More recently, there has been a slew of films portraying a post-apocalyptic world, starting with On the Beach, including the excellent The World, The Flesh, and the Devil, and also the less than excellent The Last Woman on Earth.


This is a test… of your patience.

The most recent entry in this radioactive field is the Z-Movie This is not a Test.  Its “star” is Seamon Glass as Deputy Sheriff Colton, a lawman dispatched to establish a roadblock on a rural road at 4AM.  As the cars and trucks are detained, we learn that Colton is after a young murderer.  The manhunt is interrupted by a bulletin: A Yellow Alert; the nation is under attack, and missile impact is imminent.


Todd Stiles and Buzz Murdock as truck drivers…

After the first few minutes, the flood of vehicles abruptly stops, and we are left with our cast of characters.  There’s the estranged middle aged couple with a dog (the Young Traveler quickly dubbed it “Gertrude“).  There’s grandpa and his pretty, pious daughter.  There’s the rakish truck driver, in whose rig the murderer had been hitchhiking.  There’s the hip couple, just back from Vegas after having made it big.  Wrapping up the ensemble is the late-arriving young scooter driver with an intellectual mien and an amazing capacity for remembering all of his lines (and little else).


“Drink this, honey — it’ll help the movie go down.”

And so begins a sort of atomic 12 Angry Men, a one-set piece in which the interactions of the characters, such as they are, takes center stage.  Civilization breaks down in the sixty minutes prior to the Bomb’s fall.  The rake seduces the wife.  The milquetoast husband shoots himself rather than interfere.  The hipsters drink themselves silly.  The fugitive, clearly mentally challenged, makes a few languid ominous moves at the daughter…but mostly just wants his suitcase back.  The grandfather suddenly remembers the existence of an abandoned mineshaft and dispatches his daughter and the intellectual to it.


Our Kooky Kast.

The most interesting character is Colton, who is a moron and yet, by virtue of his position, in charge.  He orders the roadblocked travelers to give him their car keys, he smashes the liquour in the back of the truck (so as to keep people from drinking), and then directs the stranded civilians to empty the vehicle so that it can be used as a bomb shelter — though what good thin, above-ground metal walls will do is an open question.  Later, while panting in the hot bed of the truck, the Deputy decides to kill the puppy to conserve oxygen (yes, Gertrude dies in this film, too!)


This is the enemy.

At the film’s conclusion, looters show up and abscond with the wife.  The rest of the travelers close up the truck just before the bomb hits, leaving the criminal and the deputy out in the open.  Cue a bright flash and… The End.


And thus the movie ends as it began… with a whimper.

By any measure, This is not a Test is terrible, made on a shoestring, indifferently written, counterproductively acted.  Still, as bad as this movie clearly is, it does work.  Sort of.  It’s obvious within the first ten minutes that the only drama is that provided by the characters under increasing stress.  It’s strangely compelling and somehow keeps your interest from beginning to end.

Two stars.

And now for a view from the perspective of a teen: Young Traveler, take it away!


by Lorelei Marcus

You know what there aren’t enough of right now? Movies with people talking about what to do when a nuclear bomb hits! At least, that’s what the writers of This is Not a Test thought before writing this sorry excuse of a movie. That’s right, we’re back with another movie review, and this time the movie is really bad. Let’s start from the beginning.

This is Not a Test is about a group of people who get stranded on a mountain close to ‘ground zero’ just before the missiles hit. The entire movie is their discussion of how they will survive the blast. That’s it. Now this movie was made on a shoestring, so I can let some cheapness slide but the storytelling was just lazy! There was practically no plot! Sure there were a few conflicts here and there, but nothing I really cared about. “Oh no, that one guy’s wife is cheating on him. Oh no, that other girl’s dog died.” You’d think a movie about a nuclear bomb would manage to be a little bit thrilling, or even interesting, but I guess not.


“You think we’ll see the bomb?  Hear it?”  “Not on this budget…”

I think this movie is also made so much worse because we have an example of a really fantastic movie on this topic, also made on a low budget. Panic in Year Zero was an excellent film, made with little more than This is not a Test. It had a fascinating story, compelling characters, and thrilling conflicts. In fact, its as if someone saw Panic and said, “I want to make that… but worse!” It’s a bit uncanny how the events in Panic line up with the topics of discussion in Test so flawlessly. Hmm..


“Calling all cars.  Watch out for traffic jams and people pushing cars off roads.  We won’t show you, but you’ll hear about it.”

The plot wasn’t the worst part of the movie though. The entire movie had one set: an empty road on the side of some barren mountain. I’ve seen some very bad movies, but at least they gave me something to look at! For example, the movie Konga was one of the worst films I’ve seen, but at least it was awesome seeing the city getting destroyed by a giant ape! Instead, Test gives us a couple shots of a dirt hillside and some cars to look at for an hour and ten minutes.


“Kids, I just remembered that there’s an old mine nearby.  You might have to fight Ray Milland for it, though.”


A band of looters!  This isn’t anything like Panic in Year Zero

The acting was extremely dry, the story was unoriginal and terrible, and it was boring to look at too! The title might as well be This is Not a Film! I was thoroughly bored from beginning to end, and it was frankly a waste of (more than) an hour of my life. I give this movie 1 and a half stars.

This is The Young Traveler, signing off.




[Oct. 20, 1962] Yes, please! (The first James Bond movie, Dr. No)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


By Ashley R. Pollard

With the days drawing in, marking the beginning of Autumn, and the evenings becoming longer, I know I look forward to going to the cinema more.  I was very fortunate to be able to get a ticket to the premier of the first James Bond film, Dr. No, which was shown at the London Pavilion, and therefore I saw it three days before its general release to the rest of the country.

There was quite a buzz surrounding this film, but before I go into my piece let me give you some context to the books behind the movie: Ian Fleming’s James Bond series.

It may be confusing to some Fleming fans to see Dr. No presented as the first James Bond film, because the title and plot are from the sixth book.  So six is number one, but chronologically the first James Bond novel was Casino Royale, which came out in 1953.  I understand that Casino Royale was adapted as an episode of an American television called Climax! (which sounds rather racy to my ears) and that the rights to the name of the first James Bond book are therefore tied up.

Anyway, in Britain, Ian Fleming’s books have always sold well, and Fleming may rightfully be described as the inventor of the Cold War spy thriller genre, which while set in the mundane world has themes that require elements of science and technology for the plots to work.

Up to now Fleming hasn’t taken American by storm, but I think that will change when Dr. No is released in America next year.  It will not probably hurt that President John F. Kennedy has been quoted as saying that Fleming’s fifth James Bond novel, From Russia, with Love, was one of his top ten all time favourite books.

Given that the title of the next James Bond movie is From Russia, with Love, I fully expect American audiences to take to reading James Bond as readers over here have.  Last year, the ninth book in the series, Thunderball, featuring the capture of a NATO fighter, sold out of its initial print run of 50,938 hardbacks and has had to be reprinted to meet demand.  Reviews have said it is the best since Diamonds Are Forever, the fourth book in the James Bond series.

To say Ian Fleming is prolific is I think over-egging it a bit, but he can certainly write, and his writing improves with each book.  I have watched Fleming adding depth and character, to what would otherwise be a cipher who only served the whims of the author.  Fleming has made James Bond more than that.  He’s the man every man aspires to be, and the bad boy that every woman wants to be chased by.

And here I am, and I haven’t even started to tell you all how wonderful Dr. No is.  A caveat though, it’s not a direct translation of the novel to film.  For a start it has a scene near the very beginning that introduces our titular hero with the quote, “My name is Bond, James Bond,” which I’m pretty sure is lifted wholesale from Casino Royale.  Other small changes have been made to the story too, but these do not detract form the central thrust of the plot, the machinations of Dr. No who wants to sabotage the American space race.

A very timely plot, apposite even, given the setbacks that NASA have suffered over recent years.

The film has a very stylish opening sequence that culminates in a stunning shot down the barrel of a gun that shows James Bond turning to fire at his assailant before they can fire.  This is followed by a quirky fade to the tune of Three Blind Mice that leads to the opening that sets up the action when three apparently blind men assassinate the British MI6 Station Chief in Jamaica.  Then we cut to Britain and the introduction of our hero, played by Sean Connery.  It’s all very suave and sophisticate, in keeping with Fleming himself, and the way he writes about things.

Bond is sent to Jamaica to investigate, and we are introduced to M, the head of MI6, and Miss Moneypenny, M’s secretary.  For fans of James Bond this just feels so right, and M ordering Bond to stop using his Beretta in favour of a Walther PPK (first issued to Bond in the book, Dr. No) sets the tone perfectly.  When Bond arrives in Jamaica, things go from bad to worse with the first of several attempts on his life that don’t end well for his would be assailants.  Warning, the spider scene is also not for the squeamish.  Fortunately, I find spiders to be nice creatures, but some of the audience gasped in shock when it crawled across the screen.

From there the mystery develops and ultimately leads to Dr. No’s secret lair, where the fellow is using a nuclear reactor to power a transmitter that can jam US missiles and cause them to crash.  All very exciting, and I’m avoiding giving away too many spoilers here, because I feel that people should be allowed to experience a story for themselves.

There’s enough differences between the novel and the film to make both distinct, with each enhancing the enjoyment of the other format.  So, the North American premiere is set for the 8th of May next year, and I can really recommend going to see this film.  I know I enjoyed it, and I imagine you all will too.

And while I am on the subject of cutting edge technology…

When you think of aircraft flying mostly straight up and down, helicopters (or if you’re old enough, autogyros) come to mind.  But the so-called whirlybirds now have stiff competition.

This year, the Farnborough Air Show showcased the amazing XP831 Royal Airforce prototype Vertical Take-Off and Landing jet (VTOL).  The Hawker P1127 is the result of nearly ten years of engineering development.

The idea of a winged aircraft that could take-off and land vertically goes back even further to the dark days of World War Two, but it wasn’t until 1955 that Rolls-Royce produced a test bed for vertical flight.  It became known as the Flying Bedstead.  It was difficult to fly, ungainly to look at, and had a propensity to crash, killing two test pilots in the process.

Not an auspicious start, but Dr. Alan A. Griffiths, a pioneer of British jet technology came up with the idea of a liftjet, which was small engine designed to specifically provide thrust to all the aircraft to take-off vertically.  This led to the Shorts SC-1, which first flew in 1957.  However, having five engine in an aeroplane where four of them only provided thrust during take-off meant that while useful data could be extracted from the flights, it wasn’t in and of itself a practical prototype aircraft.

Enter the Hawker P1127 using a Rolls Royce Pegasus jet engine, a marvel of British engineering that has nozzles that divert the thrust from the engine to allow vertical take-off using only one engine.  Furthermore, Hawker are also working on developing a larger P1154, which will be able to go supersonic.

I can only imagine how exciting it would be for one of these stunning aircraft to make a debut in a spy thriller.  Perhaps in a few years, when VTOL jets have become commonplace enough to pass into private ownership, we’ll see one featured in a James Bond movie… perhaps Thunderball?




[Sep. 28, 1962] Seduction of the Innocent (special sci-fi fanzine edition)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Gideon Marcus

My father used to say that the road to drug abuse didn’t start with pot, or smoking, or even alcohol.

“It all begins with milk,” he’d say.

The funnel that leads to a life of science fiction fanaticism is not quite so broad, but there sure are a lot of entry points.  For instance, one can’t read the newspaper without some update on the Space Race or a new drug.  Sci-fi movies, while often terrible, are ubiquitous.  Science fiction novels are starting to take off just as the monthly digests are at their nadir.  Marvel Comics has launched several new sf-related titles.  Conventions are increasing in number.  Yes, the tentacles of fandom are many, indeed.

My introduction was the October 1950 debut of Galaxy magazine.  Sure, I’d read and watched some science fiction before then, but it hadn’t grabbed me consistently.  Galaxy was pure quality in every issue, and I soon bought an addiction…er…subscription.  Well, there were so many other magazines on the shelf next to Galaxy, surely some of them must be good, too, I reasoned.  By 1954, I was regularly also reading Fantasy and Science Fiction, Astounding, Imagination, Fantastic Universe, Satellite, and Beyond.  Let me tell you — keeping up was a chore!  I was almost glad to have the field winnow a bit toward the end of the decade.

In 1958, I began writing this column, and my reading became more disciplined, more with an eye toward providing content to my readers (who numbered about three at the time; thank you, Stephanie, Janice, and Vic).  The trick then was to ensure I had enough material to fill 10-15 articles a month.  Three magazines and the odd space shot weren’t enough to do the trick.  So I started reading the science fiction novels as they hit the newsstands.  Not all of them, mind you, but the ones that looked interesting.  I began going to the cinema with the Young Traveler for all of the sf flicks, good, indifferent, and (too often) bad.  The Twilight Zone debuted in 1959, and that became a regular viewing experience.

There’s nothing a fan likes more than meeting other fans, so of course, attending conventions became a must.  And then I wasn’t just going to conventions; I became a panelist, a sought out guest.  There began to be rumblings that Galactic Journey might be on the ballot for a Best Fanzine Hugo sometime soon, so I broadened my reading material to include other fanzines.

This, then, is my current state…buried under a pile of reading material faced with a daunting publication schedule.  Thank goodness many of the Journey’s readers have become associates, bringing their unique (dare I say, superior) talents to this ever-burgeoning endeavor.

So this month, I’ve got a couple of special treats, which I shall provide largely without comment.  The first is a fanzine revival by Uberfan Al haLevy.  Rhodomagnetic Digest was a stand-out ‘zine for several issues in the early ’50s.  Al revived it this year, and I recently got my hands on the second issue.  Highlights include the converage of the Labor Day “Nonvention,” a sizeable California gathering for the folks who couldn’t make Chicon III; and a comprehensive encyclopedia of Tolkein’s hobbits.  The latter looks to be first in a series, and I’m certain Middle Earth fans will find it useful. 

Present #2 is a science fiction movie magazine, Spacemen .  I hadn’t even been aware of its existence, but a friend left his copy of Issue 5 here last weekend, and I found it interesting enough to share.  It’s a retrospective issue, full of lore going back several decades, the most compelling of which (to me) was the interview with Buster Crabbe about his work portraying Buck Rogers, which he did after his stint as Flash Gordon.  Lots of good pictures and some fascinating advertisements in the magazine’s aft section.

I hope you enjoy these off-the-beaten-path pieces of sf fandom goodness.  And if these be the items that tip you from FIJAGDH (Fandom is Just a G-D Hobby) to FIAWOL (Fandom is a Way of Life)…

…welcome aboard!




[Sep. 15, 1962] Communist Defector (Roger Corman’s Battle Beyond the Sun)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Gideon Marcus

Roger Corman, the Savant of Schlock is back with a most unusual motion picture.  With incredible puissance, Corman stretches a dime such that he makes “A” quality out of “B” films (q.v. House of Usher, Little Shop of Horrors, Panic in Year Zero, etc.) But Corman takes a different tack with his latest flick, Battle Beyond the Sun.  From what I’ve read, it was originally a Soviet film, which Corman then redubbed and edited for American consumption.  The result is…interesting, and not an unrewarding experience.

The film begins with a somewhat non sequitur narrated sequence displaying a host of spacecraft models.  These are of current and futuristic design.  While a pretty sequence, it is better suited to one of the NASA documentary films you see on TV.  The rather ponderous narration continues as the setting is introduced: in the near future, an atomic war devastates the planet and erases political boundaries.  Once the Earth recovers, it is divided into two rival states: North Hemis and South Hemis.  Interestingly, the former includes what was once the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union.  The latter comprises latin Europe, South America, Africa, and most of Asia.

Now it is 1997, and both nations are on the verge of sending a manned mission to Mars.  The South Hemis spaceship Mercury, docked at the orbiting station, Angkor, is undergoing final preparations when a distress call is received.  It is a North Hemis spacecraft, the Typhoon, in need of repair.  The Angkor personnel, apolitical in their devotion to science, open their airlocks to their distressed adversaries. 

But when the North Hemisians learn of the Mercury’s impending flight, they foolhardily depart with their half-fixed vessel in an attempt to reach the Red Planet first.  They run afoul of the sun’s magnetic field along the way, crippling the ship and leaving it in a helpless spiral toward extinction. 

Of course, the self-sacrificing and noble South Hemisians cannot let the Typhoon‘s crew die, no matter their treachery.  So begins an exciting adventure as the Mercury sails off to rescue the Typhoon, finds itself in need of saving, too, ultimate success resting in the hands of a third, prototype spaceship.  Will they make it to Mars?  Can they get back?  You’ll have to watch and find out.

The most striking aspects of this film stem from its Soviet provenance.  I recently reviewed the volume, More Soviet Science Fiction, and I note Battle shares the same grand stateliness with the first story of that collection.  Everything is larger than life.  The Director of Spaceflight sits virtually alone in an enormous control room, her voice echoing in the chamber.  Launchpads are giant, austere things.  The final scene is a sweeping pageant of clamoring humanity. 

There is, of course, the lackluster dubbing (par for the course if you’ve watched Japanese imports), and I imagine we lose a bit of the original plot.  But I was impressed with the lack of political bias.  Battle is a tale of the community of science winning out over personal or national ambition.  It was clearly a high budget film, with excellent use of matting, fine modelwork, and stunning costumes.

Technologically, it’s a big of a mixed bag.  I liked the fact that ships had to turn over to decelerate, and I was impressed with the way the astronauts’ couches reclined to always be perpendicular to the direction of thrust.  The filmmakers were obviously impressed with this effect, too — it gets shown a lot

In the demerits department, we have the fact that ships sail across the solar system in what appears to be a matter of hours.  With engines that powerful, one wonders how it’s taken so long to get a person to Mars.  Also, the superfluous mid-movie fight between purple space monsters, advertised heavily in the trailers, is both nonsensical and was clearly created in post-production as a way to jazz up the film.

But the movie doesn’t need it.  I fully expected Battle to be a ponderous mess, but it actually moves along quite nicely.  It was certainly much better than the Italian flick, Assignment: Outer Space

Three stars, and a keen desire to someday see the original.


by Lorelei Marcus

Strap in and recline your seats, because we’re going on a space adventure! This week me and my father watched, “Battle Beyond the Sun,” a Soviet science fiction film brought to the U.S. I didn’t have very high hopes going into this movie, but my dad promised purple space monsters, so, reluctantly, I agreed.

Surprisingly, the movie wasn’t bad! It was actually quite interesting to compare a Soviet film to the (mostly) American films we’ve watched so far. The cinematography was different, but still quite good, and the space suits looked cool and realistic. The voice actors who did the overdub for the movie were sub-par to say the least, but it didn’t take away from the movie too much. I noticed throughout the movie that all the actors had a certain ‘closeness:’ they were all simply closer together: Their faces were closer when talking, they had hands on each others’ shoulders, etc. That’s certainly different from the wide personal bubble we Americans prefer.

The story, on the other hand, wasn’t too far off from what I would expect in a science fiction film. The movie was about the two halves of the globe, North Hemis and South Hemis, and their race to Mars. The South Hemis ship gets stranded on an asteroid orbiting mars, after rescuing the North Hemis ship. Then there’s the odd and unnecessary scene of the purple space monsters fighting each other, which apparently wasn’t added in until it made it to the U.S. It was really unnecessary, but I suppose it did get me to the watch the movie!

For most of the movie me and my dad thought that the U.S. And Soviet Union were in different nations. It wasn’t until after the movie that we realized it was actually the opposite: Soviet Union and America in the North, and basically everyone else in the South. It struck me that they had purposefully done this to avoid labeling political sides, which was not something I would expect the Soviet Union would do!

Overall this was a pretty good movie. The effects were cool and the story was passable. The foreign influence also added a unique feel to the movie. I give this movie 3/5 stars and 1/5 purple space monsters (this movie either needed more or fewer purple space monsters.) I still recommend you watch this movie yourself, as it is an interesting contrast to the other science fiction movies I’ve seen so far.

Until next time…this is the Young Traveler, signing off.




[August 8, 1962] Abysmal (The Underwater City)

[if you’re new to the Journey, reference this summary article to see what we’re all about.]


by Gideon Marcus

The Sea.  An endless, mysterious expanse.  A potential source for bountiful harvests of food.  An untapped mine of vast mineral wealth.  A battleground to be populated with underwater naval bases. 

An inspiration for far too many lousy movies.

Frontiers are always ripe arenas for adventure stories.  From Outer Space to the frigid poles to the watery depths, they lure us with the promise of riches and resources; they reward us with hardship and death.  Man vs. Nature is one of the classic conflicts, and expertly handled, can be a thrill.

The makers of the latest summer sci-fi film, The Underwater City, were not experts.


(stills are in color, but the film was released in black and white for no explainable reason)

The plot in brief: Contractor is tasked with creating the first ocean-bottom settlement.  He settles on a cluster of independent metal cels, and then joins the first small group of colonists.  Some of the builders die during construction, victims of various undersea perils — from seaquakes to manta rays (?!) One of the settlers rummages around an old wreck to find bottles of scotch.  A giant octopus and a giant moray eel fight at one point for some reason.  And, at the very end, the crust gives way and the colony is lost.


The only reason to build models of an undersea city is…


…to give it the Atlantis treatment.

Our cast:


“Hmmm….says here we’re the main characters so we have to fall in love.”


“Pleased to meet you!  Since we’re men and you’re the woman, you’ll be doing our cooking.”


We’re newlyweds!  Now stay in this room until the end of the movie, please.  You’re pregnant.


You might need some scotch to get through the movie, too.

Certainly, a movie about the first settlement at the bottom of the sea, particularly one with the decent production values of City, could be very interesting, indeed.  This one was flubbed at every turn.  More of an advertisement for undersea living, the kind that might be shown at the World Expo going on right now in Seattle, City is a conglomeration of scenes that serve no narrative. 

I watched this on opening night with The Young Traveler, and I think she encapsulates what was wrong (and inadvertently right) with the film better than I ever could:


by Lorelei Marcus

I read recently that you can tell exactly what a movie is about, just by its opening shot. Unfortunately, the only thing the opening shot of The Underwater City told us was that it was going to be a bad movie. That said, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a quite enjoyable experience. Taking advantage of the empty theater, my father and I commentated throughout the entire film, making it a bearable watch. This form of viewing can make anything entertaining, but this movie was something special.

The first interesting trait of this movie is…it wasn’t one. Walking out of the theater, my father and I kept repeating how what we just watched wasn’t a movie! There were scenes, and things that happened, sort of. Still, there was no coherent plot to speak of! Not to mention there was no conflict either. Any potential conflict was quickly resolved a few seconds later by either a character dying or being saved. There was no time to feel anything at all! (And yet the underwater scenes still seemed to drag on forever.) Even the final conflict was resolved within 10 minutes!


“Just wanted to let you know, I found the plot.”  “It’s about time!”


“Oh no!  We’re trapped because of the quake!  We’ll never… oh look.  A rescue submarine.”

There isn’t much to say about the sets and acting. The acting was mediocre and really didn’t add anything to the story. The two main sets of the ‘movie’ were the underwater city rooms and the underwater set. The underwater city was honestly very bland, and surprisingly roomy. After recently touring an aircraft carrier myself, the underwater modules looked absurdly spacious, especially for so few people living in them.


“The bowling alley is down the hall, gentlemen…”

The underwater scenes were actually fairly convincing.  The rocks and coral were nice, and the filter on the camera added that extra level. My dad was actually fooled for most of the ‘movie,’ until he realized the ‘air bubbles’ coming out of their breathing modules were actually soap bubbles.


Never sneeze in SCUBA gear

I’d say my favorite part of the ‘movie’ was all the stock footage of adorable sea creatures! The appearances such as the deadly shark, giant eel, giant manta ray, and giant octopus, really brought an extra layer of entertainment to the movie. The science of how the city became self sustaining underwater would’ve been interesting to me too. Unfortunately, the ‘movie’ didn’t show any of that — we just heard the characters telling us that the city was self sustaining.


“Why are we fighting again?”  “Shut up!  This is for Hollywood!”

In fact, the entire movie reversed the old adage, deciding that the best stories come from telling, not showing! They stuck so hard to this rule that they had a narrator describe everything that was happening on screen for the first half of the entire movie. I actually wondered if my father had gotten a version for the visually impaired! Apparently not, however, as said narrator disappeared halfway through the film, never to return.


Best not to show…just tell.

I would recommend you only watch this movie for fun and not for any cinematographic value. The dry and clunky story telling, the absurd science, and the nonexistent plot really make this movie, well, not a movie. I give it 1 star as a serious watch, but an honorary score of -3 for its unintended goodness. This movie is best enjoyed with friends, being made fun of.

This is the Young Traveler, signing off.




[July 21, 1962] The Human Soul In A Robot’s Hand (Movie Review: The Creation of the Humanoids)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Rosemary Benton

The complex range of anger, fear, acceptance and love that characterize the relationship humans have with robotic life is hardly new ground for science fiction. You have stories that explore societies controlled by artificial intelligence like in Jack Williamson’s With Folded Hands, stories in which robotic life works in service to their human superiors in accordance with Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, and stories that span every possible combination.

The newest addition to the science fiction sub-genre dealing with the evolution of humanity and its integration with robots came out this month in the form of the movie The Creation of the Humanoids. Following its premier in Los Angeles on July 3rd, this intriguing film made its way into theaters across America, including the theater in my city. It suffers from several weaknesses, but more than makes up for them with solid dialogue, interesting characters and a plot that makes the audience think.

I first and foremost have to congratulate the screenplay writer, Jay Simms. The story he told was both philosophically intense and well paced with each scene effectively written to expand upon the post nuclear war world in which the film takes place. In the first series of short scenes the audience is made aware of the progression of robot technology, the concern some humans have with human-looking robots, as well as a robot led movement to advance artificial life to the point of near complete human replication. In short order we are told of a fellow by the name of Dr. Raven, a brilliant scientist who is responsible for the technology being used to replicate robotic versions of deceased humans and implanting them with the personality and memories of said humans. When his lab is discovered Dr. Raven orders the synthetic human he was working on to kill him, thus instigating the first instance of a robot murdering a human and showing that their prime directive can be overwritten.

From this point the story closely follows the work of Captain Kenneth Cragis, a high ranking member of the quasi-racist anti synthetic human organization: The Order of Flesh and Blood. We see him conversing with an assembly of the Order as they discuss the discovery of Dr. Raven’s highly advanced humanoid model, whereupon we learn that, when confronted with the fact that he is not physically human any longer, the model shut itself down. After the assembly Cragis pays a visit to his sister who serves as a representation of how accepting, or complacent in Cragis’ opinion, the human race has become living side by side or even in love with humanoids. He is then introduced to her friend Maxine who works at a news agency. Despite a rather awkward and fast romance the two of them fall in love that evening. They want to start a relationship, but Cragis expresses concern that he won’t be able to give Maxine any viable offspring due to the radiation left over from the war. Despite his concern Maxine persists, and we see that Cragis is beginning to consider it.

The final act of the film contains some of the best dialogue, but also suffers from the most issues. Two low level humanoids approach Maxine and Cragis as they are walking through the streets discussing their future together, and then suddenly the scene shifts to the city’s main recharge building for the humanoids, or “temple” as they call it. Maxine and Cragis are standing stock still in clear plastic tubes as they mechanically answer questions posed to them by the three humanoid we see at the beginning of the film. The change is so sudden and without explanation that it takes a while to understand what is happening. Maxine and Cragis, as it turns out, are relaying information that they have gathered in their other lives amongst the general population. Unbeknownst to them, they are deceased humans who have been brought back to life in advanced humanoid bodies curtesy of Dr. Raven.

Deciding that their usefulness as double agents has been used up, the humanoids tell Maxine and Cragis about their true origins – that Cragis died of a brain aneurism one night in his lab, and that Maxine was accidentally killed by a bomb which, ironically, Cragis and the Order planted at her work place to harm the humanoids working in the mail room. Dr. Raven, now inhabiting an advanced humanoid body himself, explains that their souls are as much a part of their new bodies as they were in their originals. Everything that made them themselves – their memories, experiences, motivations and emotions – are still present, but in a new vessel. With a few further modifications they will even be able to reproduce. Maxine and Cragis come to accept their situation and approve of the technology being spread to the rest of the dwindling human population. Annoyingly, the movie ends with Dr. Raven turning to the camera and breaking the fourth wall by saying, “Of course, the operation was a success…or you wouldn’t be here.”

The production of The Creation of the Humanoids is impressive given what most movies of this nature are given to work with. Beautiful matte paintings and well placed sleek yet simplistic furnishings really drove home the aesthetic of the world. The color of the film is bright and crisp and frankly a welcome change from the more common black and white color scheme. Seasoned makeup artist Jack Pierce, who perhaps most famously created Boris Karloff’s iconic monster design in the 1931 movie Frankenstein, did an incredible job on the application of the grease paint and bald masks worn by the actors playing low level humanoids. The metallic scleral contact lenses that he crafted for the humanoids are especially effective and creepy.

Another well known Hollywood name that I was surprised, yet delighted, to see on the credits was Academy Award winning cinematographer Hal Mohr. I wouldn’t go so far as to describe his work on The Creation of the Humanoids to be one of his more memorable projects, but you can pick out his characteristic style of framing especially in the first encounter the story has with Dr. Raven. I have no doubt that without Mohr’s contribution to the project The Creation of the Humanoids would have been a far more static movie, especially since so much of the script is dedicated to people sitting or standing around talking.

Aside from some issues with transitions between scenes, and a weak conclusion to what would otherwise have been a powerful message on the means to the end of human mortality, The Creation of the Humanoids was a very fun movie that managed to be engaging and enthralling. The characters are written to be multilayered and well informed on their individual philosophies, the world in which they walk was distinct and believable, and the moral conundrums that they faced were not handled in a ham fisted manner. I would highly recommend this movie, even if the execution was lacking at times. Happily I give it four stars for creativity. 

(P.S. Don’t miss the second Galactic Journey Tele-Conference, July 29th at 11 a.m.!  We’ll be talking Summer Blockbusters and you’ll have a chance to win a prize!)