Friday, June 8, 2012

MOVIE NOTE: Prometheus, Himmelskibet, Max Headroom, and LBJ ordering slacks

I waited thirty-six years for the Avengers movie – but a mere thirty-three for another Ridley Scott Alien movie.  Of course, we had various sequels in that time, as well as this harrowing sequence from the very disturbing reality show Scare Tactics (clearly, a good time for all participants – amazing the show wasn’t sued out of existence on day one).  And some scientists think there might be life on Titan.  Respond with caution. 

As with so many other things in our culture, though, I sometimes feel we’ve made great strides and other times feel that virtually nothing has changed.  Nearly a century ago – 1918 – we already had a sci-fi movie about space-suited explorers visiting another planet (Mars) and finding it a bit more dangerous than at first expected.  The strikingly modern-feeling Danish film Himmelskibet (Skyship) is arguably the first “space opera” (that is, a big space epic like the then-popular tales of John Carter or today’s Star Wars movies – not sci-fi with singing). 

Himmelskibet was also the last Danish sci-fi film until the 60s monster movie Reptilicus (which filled the Godzilla-shaped hole in my soul when I was child and it was occasionally rerun on Channel 56’s Creature Double Feature out of Boston). 

We have Mary Shelley to blame for all of this stuff, and fittingly, it occurs to me as a sophisticated grown-up that The Modern Prometheus is a far cooler subtitle for Frankenstein than it seemed when I was a kid and it seemed old-fashioned and stuffy.  It strikes the right note of religious hubris (something else we can discuss with Dawn Eden at 8pm on June 21 at the Dionysium, if the conversation gets really off-track).

Of course, biology and blasphemy may seem like small potatoes when our whole galaxy collides with the Andromeda in 4 billion years (h/t Alan Charles Kors), but that may well prove a painless and slow process.  Let us hope it doesn’t work out like the inter-galaxy collision and conflict that kicks off the early space-operatic Lensmen novels.  Because Lensmen is absolutely terrible. 

Here’s a real-life monster, though: a real recording of LBJ ordering pants, shirts, and a jacket all in the same color, this time requesting more space near his “nuts” and “bunghole” (h/t Jacob Breeggemann).  It’s like listening to a chest-burster pop out of a crew member.

Monsters aren’t everything in sci-fi, though.  Prometheus production designer Arthur Max says in some ways the project stretches back for him to...Max Headroom (on whose teachings I have based my entire life).  Ridley Scott, having then recently done Alien – and, more relevantly, Blade Runnerfirst worked with Max on these commercials, reports

Senor Headroom existed as a comedic talkshow host before he did Coke ads, though.  He once interviewed Rutger Hauter (or “Rootbeer,” as Headroom nicknamed him) about Blade Runner, expressing alarm that Rootbeer would not admit that The Max Headroom Show looked a lot like Blade Runner.  Nowadays, the lawyers would probably tell Headroom not to pursue that line of questioning lest it open him up to a copyright infringement lawsuit.  But Max has gotta do what Max has gotta do.

The only real difference between 1982, when Blade Runner came out, and 2012 is, of course, that now we live in the movie instead of watching it.  It’s Scott and Headroom's world. 

AND SPEAKING OF MOVIES: Coming up next week (as our Catholic countdown to Dawn Eden's June 21 appearance at the Dionysium continues): a look at Walker Percy’s novel The Moviegoer (and an official grand opening party at Muchmore’s Bar, the home of the Dionysium, on the 14th, if you care to join me for that as well).

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