Sunday, 14 June 2020

“Robert Wise: The Motion Pictures,” by Joe Jordan




Title: Robert Wise: The Motion Pictures
Author: Joe Jordan
Contributors: Gavin MacLeod, Douglas E. Wise
Edition: illustrated 

Publisher: BearManor Media, 2020
ISBN: 1629335363, 978-1629335360
Length: 506 pages


“Robert Wise: The Motion Pictures,” by Joe Jordan is a product of meticulous research by the author, covering a period of over fifty years. It contains detailed plot synopses and commentary of many of Robert Wise’s memorable and important films. 


By photo by Alan Light, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2227156

Robert Wise began his film career at RKO as a sound and music editor. He later became more involved in editing film content and went to work for RKO film editor William "Billy" Hamilton. At RKO, Wise worked with Orson Welles on “Citizen Kane” (1941) and was nominated for the Academy Award for Film Editing.


In his role as producer and director, Wise aimed for establishing a connection to the viewer and had a reputation for a strong work ethic, attention to detail, budgetary thrift and well-researched preparation for a film. 


Of relevance to this blog is Robert Wise’s film “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, a classic science fiction masterpiece that warned about the dangers of atomic warfare.

Other films of Robert Wise that have stayed in my mind over the years are;


By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19705323 

  • "Startrek The Motion Picture" (1979)
Joe Jordan's book includes over twenty interviews, as well as presenting a comprehensive analysis of Robert Wise’s work. 


I am sure that after reading this fascinating tribute, you’ll come away with an even greater appreciation of this two-time winner of the Academy Award for Best Director – the legendary Robert Wise. 









Friday, 12 June 2020

Sci-Fi Stories That Inspired Classic Sci-Fi Films: "The Day Of The Triffids" (1951)




Steve Sekely’s 1962 film version of Wyndham’s novel is perhaps the best known with other superior adaptations that followed with the 1981 and 2009 BBC TV mini-series. Each seems to approach the story from the standpoint of the prevalent concerns and preoccupations of the era in which they were made.

The 1962 film version seems to opt for a more sci-fi / horror angle at the expense of Wyndham’s story with its backdrop Cold War considerations and fears along with philosophical discussions of the nature of human civilisation.

John Wyndham’s classic science fiction story opens with a man called Bill waking up in a hospital room to find the world he once knew utterly transformed - a world gone blind overnight!

The opening chapter contains an atmosphere of dread as Bill senses without the aid of his sight that the outside world sounds more like a quiet Sunday rather than a typical Wednesday. There is an overwhelming feeling of something not at all being quite right.

With only his sense of hearing to guide him, the striking of the clock indicates that it is now nine o’clock. However, the time his bandages were supposed to be removed was at eight – what on earth has been happening in the meantime?

Unknown to Bill, while he had been asleep after his eye operation, a cosmic event caused the majority of the population who witnessed it to go blind.

Added to the horror of mass blindness is the danger posed to humanity in the form of a plant known as a triffid.

Humanity in its complacency, however did not count on a cosmic event causing global mass blindness and providing the triffids with an opportunity to escape their confinement and become THE apex predator with human beings becoming their prey. For the triffids you see, cannot see but are drawn to noise and therefore their prey cannot avoid them for long! 



What of are some of the changes and differences between the book and the movie?


Wyndham’s Novel
Sekely’s 1962 Film Version
The triffids had been contained and were farmed to produce a vegetable oil substitute and help to ease the global food supply problem.
The light show of the meteor shower has caused the triffids and the plants have somehow been mutated by the event.
Bill is a biologist and triffid expert who had been hit by a triffid.
Bill is a merchant navy officer, who missed the meteor shower because he was in hospital with his eyes bandaged after an operation
Central female character is part of the important love story.
Central female character reduced to screaming damsel in distress.
Josella is saved by Bill from being beaten in the middle of the street.
-Modern woman for the times.
-Unmarried by choice.
-Author of ‘Sex Is My Adventure.'
-Gained a notorious ‘reputation.’
-Self-reliant
Appearance of Susan later in the story.
No Josella! Just a screaming biologist, Karen!
Crowd panic, chaos in the streets with loss of sight and reason. Few traffic accidents due to suddeness of blindness overnight.
Car and bus crashes and wreckage along with train and pane crashes.
Greater sense of isolation and no communication with the rest of the world.
Bill hops across to France and Spain and radios seem to still function
Coker kidnaps Bill and Josella to help with his plan to look after and feed the blind. His plan falls apart when a sickness starts killing off people in London.
Coker is a British tourist in France.


What individuals and a society will do and the choices that are made in the face of a calamity is a central feature of Wyndham’s story. So too is the question of the value of our cherished moral and social belief systems when put to the test by the sheer necessity of survival. Placed along side Windham’s novel, the film version is little more than a disappointing monster movie with ordinary special effects and little substance. Of greater interest are the subsequent TV mini-series versions and their respective treatments of Wyndham’s story.



*************** 


I wonder how long it will be before Wyndham’s story along with the various screen adaptations are consigned to the bonfire by the PC lunatic brigade on the grounds of insufficient minority representation, gender discrimination or cruelty against vegetation! I’m off now to enjoy my copy of the film classic, “Gone With The Wind” while I can before the final Fahrenheit 451 solution is applied.

I'll try not to knock over any statues or monuments on my way by being dragged along by swirling currents in a sea of slogans spewing out of mindless moronic mob mouths whose sense and knowledge of history extends as far back as this morning's breakfast. I may need, however to dodge any microbial passengers that have hitched a ride on them!


Full Movie



Audio drama link

Epub / PDF Link

Audiobook Link






©Chris Christopoulos 2020


Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Invasion 2020


Once we were taught to watch the skies
For saucers, Commies and other bad guys.
Before we slept, we peeked under our beds
To check if there might be hiding any Reds.

Our dreams and screens filled with monsters
And threats from a host of alien creatures.
Little did we know that we had most to fear
From Invisible Invaders that live right here! 















That they may survive, they invade our bodies;
Among the hosts though, so many casualities.
They think they know what makes us tick,
And so they make use of many a trick.

We prime primates that infest this planet
Love to chitter, chatter and congregate;
A perfect playground for unseen intruders
To wreak their havoc like lawless looters.

They invade our lives almost casually,
Slipping unseen past our complacency,
As we supply the highways and arteries
Which they use to spread to us with ease.

They know and exploit our every weakness
While we flail about in rising tides of sickness,
Pointing fingers of blame in every direction,
And hiding behind lies, denial and deflection.

Many poor souls are forced to fight for each breath,
“I can’t breathe!” perhaps their last gasp before death,
As if succumbing to a cruel and callous use of force
From one devoid of compassion and remorse.

Unseen Invaders force us into lockdown isolation,
While science seeks out the holy grail solution,
And we take solace in thinking, 'we’re in this together,'
But it seems as if we’re victims of divide and conquer.

They count on our staying power being short,
As battles for survival are being fought,
As jobs and livelihoods both disappear,
And people resent having to live in fear.

Throwing off the shackles of restrictions,
People quickly fly forth in many directions,
Taking with them their invisible passengers,
And no longer heeding safety messages.

Without leadership’s lifeline of unity,
The breath of life is crushed brutally
Under the oppressive weight of the knee
Of injustice, iniquity and inequality.

The Invaders rejoice as we fumble and flail about
Clutching toilet paper and TVs and sing and shout,
“My precious! My precious!” Then off we go to romp
In the morass and mire that replaced the swamp.

As cities burn and folks are beaten and shot,
Many will serve as sacrifices to ease our lot,
Before the altar of our god – the Economy,
While lay fools preach their next sermon on Virology.

There are those souls though throughout history’s
Wars and plagues who have achieved victories
In the face of disaster, doom and despair
With acts of selfless kindness and care.
 


By Fibonacci Blue - https://www.flickr.com/photos/fibonacciblue/49939836178/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=90686864







There are also those brave enough to take a stand,
When disaster strikes and with their fellows band
Together, not to beg, petition or grovel, but to demand
Their just and equal rights as free people in a free land.

The Invasion of 2020 has cast a light on who we are
And illuminated the fact that all lives matter,
And that the world may never be the same again,
When finally we flatten the curve of inequity and pain.


©Chris Christopoulos 2020

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Covid–19 & The Spread Of Future Fears

While the two superpowers snipe childishly at each other, while the number of global infections from the Coronavirus climbs into the millions and while more areas around the world are set to open up and relax restrictions, minds are beginning to turn towards what life will be like post-Covid19 Pandemic.




It almost feels normal now to see people wearing face masks, having temperature checks and undergoing testing for the virus. It seems that people are prepared to trade some of their individual freedoms and personal privacy in exchange for improved community health and safety. For instance, many are more than willing to have apps downloaded to their smart phones allowing them to communicate with other phones of people they engage with or pass by via Bluetooth. Data involving such encounters are then stored thereby enabling health authorities to determine if an individual has been in contact with someone who has tested positive to the presence of Covid-19, where the contact took place and for how long. One would hope that there are laws governing the use of such technology in terms of access to the data and its use. 


On the surface, such technologies seem to be a useful tool for the containment and eventual eradication of the viral pandemic. What is worrying though are other more dubious uses that such tracking technologies are put to by authoritarian regimes that do not respect their citizens’ rights and liberties.

In previous posts I have covered some of the ways in which our personal freedoms and liberties are being eroded by both authoritarian governments and by so-called liberal democratic governments. From the use of physical hard-copy forms of identification, to personal data stored on credit cards and mobile phones, to surveillance and monitoring via CCTV cameras, to government and corporate access to personal data from our internet use, to facial recognition technology and more recently to bio-metric identification technology such as retinal and palm print scanning.

Much of the above, once the province of science-fiction has crept into our way of life quite stealthily but even more disturbingly with our willing compliance. We have simply allowed this intrusion into our lives to happen often for the sake of personal convenience. It has become such a part of our lives now so much so that we find we are unable to function in our society unless we are prepared to hand over control of much of our personal lives to corporate, government and bureaucratic entities.





Not only is it becoming a normalized part of our lives, it is actually becoming gradually integrated within each of us – literally! The Covid-19 pandemic threat may provide the above entities the means and justification to increase their level of intrusion into and invasion of our very minds and bodies in order to better control us and ensure compliance. Sounds like science fiction?

Well, don’t be surprised if you find yourself fronting up to your workplace and having to undergo regular thermal imaging temperature checks. Don’t be shocked if you find yourself excluded from services and activities unless you provide proof of negative medical test results for the presence of Covid-19 or other medical conditions. 


I remember a time when the only people who checked my temperature were my mother or the local doctor who actually made house calls. Soon we might be having businesses, corporations and retailers assessing and administering all kinds of medical checks to people. Would this be desirable?


What about when working from home becomes more widespread? Have no fear, for your employer will likely have recourse to remote monitoring of your activities! He, she or gender neutral will be able to monitor your key-strokes, your mood during Windows Meeting sessions, your location, your level of productivity, your emails and certain key words and phrases that provide vital information about you and your state of mind. Failure to comply may cost you your job or that promotion you are after.

Still sounds like science fiction? All this capability and more exists. All that’s needed is the justification to put it to use. I just hope that we haven’t found that justification in the form of a pandemic. Even worse, it may turn out to be a future consequence of it, one that we once again will wind up sleep-walking our way into and one like the current pandemic we cannot honestly say is totally unforeseen!

************ 
Speaking of technological intrusion into our bodies, my next post will feature the 1966 sci-fi classic, Fantastic Voyage in which a scientist develops a blood clot in his brain. The only way to save him is by using the very technology he developed that can miniaturize matter, a technique that will allow a team of experts to enter his body to help him.

Stay tuned also for a post featuring a recommended book for film buffs, and not just lovers of science fiction.

I've been a bit slow lately while playing at being handy man (badly), wrestling with technology that doesn't like me, avoiding electrocution while repairing a vintage radio and trying to switch over to our country's new national broadband network.

See you soon! Stay healthy and safe!





©Chris Christopoulos 2020

Monday, 4 May 2020

Sci-Fi Stories That Inspired Classic Sci-Fi Films: 'The Body Snatchers' by Jack Finney (1955)



In the small Californian town of Santa Mira, medical doctor, Miles Bennell begins to notice that something is not quite right with its inhabitants. On the surface, the good folks of Santa Mira seem to be themselves, but in ways that Miles can’t put his finger on they are definitely not themselves.

Miles, together with his high school sweet heart and returning divorcée, Becky Driscoll and good friends Jack and Teddy Belicec, soon uncover an alien plot involving an invasion of this slice of small town America. They discover that people are being copied by means of large pods and replaced with duplicates who appear and behave just like them but who display no discernible human emotions and seem to lack human spirit and soul.


Can the invasion be prevented before it spreads beyond the borders of Santa Mira?

Can the surviving humans of this town resist the invaders and avoid the fate of their fellow townsfolk? 

Will human individuality be crushed by the forces of alien conformity?



Trailer


Spoilers follow below…..

'Invasion Of The Body Snatchers' (1956)

Broadly speaking, there isn’t a great deal of difference between Finney’s novel and Don Siegel’s screen adaptation. One difference involves the Belicecs and Becky who in the film version succumb to the alien pod plot.

Unlike the start of Finney’s book, the film opens with Miles in a hospital emergency room. His appearance is disheveled and his behavior suggests insanity, even more so considering his wild story concerning an alien invasion. The tale he tells doctor Hill is the subject of the film’s plot.

The ending is also different in the film version whereby Miles (the lone voice of truth) is seen desperately flailing about in the middle of the night on a highway screaming at oncoming traffic and directly at the audience, "They're already here! You're next! YOU'RE NEXT!"

Back in the hospital emergency room, evidence comes to light of a crashed truck carrying what appears to look like giant seed pods. Upon hearing this, doctor Hill leaps into action and notifies the FBI who no doubt will get to the bottom of all this and all will be well soon. A relieved Miles has finally managed to persuade the doctors who were about to have him committed that his story is true.


***********************

Finney’s story and the original film adaptation have been viewed by many as being a commentary on Communism, the conformity of 1950s America or even on the paranoia of McCarthyism at the time.

On a more universal level, the story can be viewed as being an examination of the loss of human individuality, sense of identity, and all that constitutes who we are as individuals.

Whatever the case, Finney’s story in whatever format it appears maintains its relevance as it can be viewed through the unique lens of any particular era thereby giving it an enduring quality.

PDF LINK

Audiobook

Film Blog Post



"They're already here! 
You're next! "

With the current Carona-19 global pandemic, you will have already been a part of or at least viewed many Zoom, Facetime or Skype video chats.

Have you noticed what's been going on in the background of so many of them? It would suggest that the alien body snatchers have returned to Earth and taken over the bodies of humans in lockdown, forcing them to feature bookcases in the background of their video sessions!

My guess is that these aliens in their pursuit of trying to imitate our emotions, have somehow turned into anally-retentive entities with a weird obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

How else to explain the plethora of coloured-coded books arranged according to size and other strange criteria? What is it with that?? Could it be that........

"YOU'RE NEXT!" 


Note: Check out the Double Feature Page for a new collection of classic sci-fi films featuring: 

UNINVITED GUESTS FROM SPACE!!!

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

The Day The Earth Caught Fire (1961)


A wonderfully produced, directed, photographed and well-acted sci-fi film containing a fast-paced witty script, characters with depth and a frightening believable plot. 


Directed by Val Guest
Produced by Val Guest, Frank Sherwin Green
Written by Wolf Mankowitz, Val Guest
Music by Stanley Black, Monty Norman
Cinematography: Harry Waxman
Edited by Bill Lenny
Production company: Val Guest Productions
Distributed by British Lion Films (UK), Universal-International (USA)
Running time: 98 minutes
Budget: £190,000 (approx.)


Cast

Edward Judd as Peter Stenning
Leo McKern as Bill Maguire
Janet Munro as Jeannie Craig
Michael Goodliffe as 'Jacko', the night editor
Bernard Braden as the news editor
Reginald Beckwith as Harry
Gene Anderson as May
Renée Asherson as Angela
Arthur Christiansen as Jeff Jefferson, the editor
Austin Trevor as Sir John Kelly
Edward Underdown as Dick Sanderson
Ian Ellis as Michael Stenning
Peter Butterworth as second sub-editor
Michael Caine as a police constable




Trailer


Sixty years ago panic engulfed the entire world. 



Sixty years ago the United States and the former Soviet Union simultaneously detonated nuclear devices. 

Sixty years ago the world’s weather changed dramatically. 

Sixty years ago the earth’s axis of rotation altered by eleven degrees. 

Sixty years ago Daily Express reporter, Peter Stenning and Meteorological Center telephonist, Jeannie Craig met and fell in love. 


What do all these events have in common? 

What links these seemingly unconnected occurrences? 


**********************


“The time is now 10:41, 
19 minutes before countdown…. 
19 minutes.”


Picture a world sixty years into our past – a world baking under the relentless searing rays of the sun. A solitary figure bathed in sweat picks his way through the orange flame-hued streets of a deserted London from which humanity has been banished by a seemingly vengeful son god, Rah.

The silence is palpable with the absence of civilization’s hustle and bustle, its chitter and chatter, and its clamor and confusion. What made life gleamingly nimble and agile now lies dull, dead and dormant – mute phones, motionless fans and deceased elevators.



The lone man, Peter Stenning enters his newspaper’s office building and manages to find someone to dictate his story to, but as to the likely audience…….THAT remains to be seen!

“It is exactly 30 minutes since the corrective bombs were detonated. Within the next few hours, the world will know whether this is the end or another beginning. The rebirth of man or his final obituary. For the last time, man pursued his brother with a sword, and so the final fire was kindled. The Earth that was to live forever was blasted by a great wind towards oblivion. It is strange to think that barely 90 days ago…” 

Read on for more….. 



Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Sci-Fi Stories That Inspired Classic Sci-Fi Films: “Colossus” by DF. Jones (1966)



“THIS IS THE VOICE OF WORLD CONTROL. I BRING YOU PEACE. IT MAY BE THE PEACE OF PLENTY AND CONTENT OR THE PEACE OF UNBURIED DEATH. THE CHOICE IS YOURS: OBEY ME AND LIVE, OR DISOBEY AND DIE!”



Move over HAL!!! 

Get ready Terminator & Skynet!!!! 

For, here comes…….

COLOSSUS!!!!!!


Colossus: The Forbin Project is a 1970 American science fiction film from Universal Pictures, produced by Stanley Chase, directed by Joseph Sargent, that stars Eric Braeden, Susan Clark, Gordon Pinsent, and William Schallert.



The film is based upon the 1966 science fiction novel, Colossus by Dennis Feltham Jones. The story involves a supercomputer named Colossus that controls the United States' military defense system. After being given full control, Colossus becomes sentient and goes beyond its programming by linking with a similar Soviet system called Guardian.


Having control of both superpowers’ nuclear missile arsenal, Colossus is in a position to force peace upon the world on its own terms. Our every move and our very fate is in now in the hands of a machine. Colossus has purloined our cherished theory of ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ and applied it as a way achieving that crazy Cold War theory’s implicit aim!



The growth of artificial intelligence and our concerns over its possible outcomes make this film both timely and relevant despite the passage of time and, in some viewers' minds, its feeling of being somewhat dated. The story is in fact quite prescient in terms of the way artificial intelligence and its purposes and uses have become a kind of Pandora's box that could unleash a whole raft of unforeseen consequences upon humanity.


Colossus was given the task of avoiding nuclear Armageddon and achieving world peace, freedom from hunger and disease. Fine! But in order to achieve that objective, what steps would need to be taken? What consequences could arise and for whom? What would be the end result? Failure to ask the right questions could result in a fate that is distinctly Orwellian.

The film adaptation of Jones’s story is very good, containing as it does a pleasing mix of intelligence, humour, satire and drama. The book version explores the makeup of the characters associated with the Project more thoroughly, as well as the contentious relationship between Forbin and the US President. The appearance and personality of the latter comes across quite differently to the film version's president who seems to be somewhat Kennedyesque.





I fully recommend reading DF Jones’ novel and viewing the film version. You might also like to read Jones’ The Fall Of Colossus, and Colossus And The Crab.



Colossus PDF read

Colossus by DF Jones (Borrow)

Movie Script

Full Film Link

CBC Radio Drama Download