• MT VOID, 07/22/22 -- Vol. 41, No. 4, Whole Number 2233

    From evelynchimelisleeper@gmail.com@21:1/5 to All on Sun Jul 24 07:01:44 2022
    07/22/22 -- Vol. 41, No. 4, Whole Number 2233

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    Six Lost Worlds: The Dramatic Adaptations of Sir Arthur
    Conan Doyle's Novel (Part 2) (film comments
    by Mark R. Leeper)
    (book review by Greg Frederick)
    CONTACT and Pi (letter of comment by Keith F. Lynch)
    THE LOST WORLD (letter of comment by Gary McGath)
    COURT, and Paradoxes (letter of comment
    by John Hertz)
    This Week's Reading (Agatha Christie) (book comments
    by Evelyn C. Leeper)


    TOPIC: Six Lost Worlds: The Dramatic Adaptations of Sir Arthur
    Conan Doyle's Novel (Part 2) (film comments by Mark R. Leeper)

    [continued from last week]

    THE LOST WORLD (1960)

    The 1960 version of THE LOST WORLD was the first version I ever
    saw, not too surprising for anyone of the Baby Boomer generation.
    Most critics think that it is a totally ugly dog. I can sympathize
    with that point of view, but do not agree. It certainly is a giant
    step down from the 1925 version. But in the context of a 1960
    film, it comes off a bit better. The 1950s had several gaudy
    adventure films of much the same style, films like RUN FOR THE SUN.
    In years to come the same sort of film would be a special effects
    extravaganza, but in the 1950s filmmakers would use real settings.

    Infusing a little bit of science fiction into that formula is a
    welcome variation. One can almost reconcile oneself to the film in
    that context but then one remembers how badly the "dinosaur"
    effects are created. And there is Frosty the Poodle. The film
    just has its good and more than its share of bad moments.

    The 1960 version of THE LOST WORLD, directed by Irwin Allen (who
    also produced and co-wrote the screenplay with Charles Bennett),
    boasted the name of Willis O'Brien as "effects technician." Sadly
    the dinosaur effects were created by the later illegal practice of
    using live lizards, perhaps enhancing their looks by pasting horns
    or plates on them, and then having them fight other such lizards.
    It was cruel to the animals and only the least discerning audiences
    could suspend disbelief and think of these things as dinosaurs.
    Part of what makes dinosaurs dinosaurs is that they stand straight
    upon their legs the way an elephant does. Lizards have legs that
    go out to the side. Dinosaur bodies can support more weight
    because their legs are like columns under them for support. The
    previous year lizards were used to good effect in JOURNEY TO THE
    CENTER OF THE EARTH to simulate Dimetrodons. However, Dimetrodons
    were not lizards and not dinosaurs.

    This version is not a very good rendering of the story, in spite of
    introducing color to the adaptations. It nonetheless was my
    introduction to Doyle's story and as such it has fond memories for
    me. Rains is too thin to play the barrel-chested discoverer, but
    otherwise he is not too bad at playing Challenger. He has the
    personality approximately right. His acting is the best thing
    about this adaptation. On the other hand, choosing comic actor
    Richard Hayden as Summerlee was a fiasco. His performance grates
    on one's nerves whenever he is on the screen. He acts as if he is
    in some other movie. Michael Rennie makes a decent Roxton. He has
    the self-assured quality that Doyle would have appreciated. David
    Hedison is a little old to play Edward Malone and have the sort of
    boyish enthusiasm and insecurities that Doyle gave that character.

    Irwin Allen updates the story to roughly 1960. The film opens with
    Challenger returning from the Amazon to report his discoveries of
    live dinosaurs on a plateau of South America. With Challenger's
    traditional hatred of reporters he clouts Ed Malone trying to
    interview him. Malone is pulled from the ground by Jennifer Holmes
    (Jill St. John), the daughter of his publisher.

    At the geographic society Challenger reports having seen dinosaurs.
    The skeptical audience suggests a return visit to verify his
    findings. In return for funding, Challenger is saddled with a
    reporter on the expedition, Malone. He also gets Professor
    Summerlee and big game hunter Lord John Roxton. At a stop in South
    America the expedition picks up two local guides, pilot Manuel
    Gomez (Fernando Lamas) and lackey Costa (Jay Novello). (Manuel and
    Gomez are two different characters in the novel.) Also joining the
    expedition more or less by blackmail are Jennifer and her brother
    David (Ray Stricklyn) as well as a poodle named Frosty. The
    siblings are no invention of Doyle, but the choice of the name
    Holmes is likely an allusion to Doyle.

    The expedition takes helicopter to plateau, getting magnificent
    views from overhead. They land the plateau but see no sign of
    dinosaurs. That night they hear a large beast in their vicinity,
    terrorizing them. They soon find their helicopter was crushed and
    kicked over the side of the cliff. We get a glimpse of a large
    lizard with a neck frill. Challenger identifies it as a
    brontosaurus, but what we saw did not look anything like a
    brontosaurus. In any case the explorers find they are now stranded
    on the plateau. The next day they are menaced by man-eating plants
    and more dinosaurs. One of the latter splits up the group and
    Malone and Challenger as one subgroup finds a native girl. Malone
    follows her and finds her, even at the cost of running through the
    web of a four-foot-wide tarantula spider.

    Malone brings her to camp where only Roxton recognizes that
    capturing her could mean trouble from the rest of her tribe.
    Relations are about to degenerate into a fistfight when Roxton
    finds a strange diary. It was kept by Burton (not Maple) White who
    discovered the plateau in partnership with Roxton. White's diary
    says he is waiting for Roxton to rescue him and that he is looking
    for legendary diamonds. Roxton was part of that team, but let the
    others down. He never came to them. Now he has come again with
    Challenger, but with of motive of looking for the diamonds.
    Jennifer is deeply disappointed in the man she was hoping to catch.

    David tries to comfort the native girl and in the process discovers
    that she knows how to use a rifle. He is about to tell the others
    when the group is attacked. The native girl escapes and Malone
    follows. He loses her and Malone returning through the forest
    finds Jennifer. The two are returning to camp when they find
    themselves in the paths of two fighting dinosaurs. They must hide
    as the two titans fight. This is a rather sadistic piece of
    footage when one sees that these are live lizards pitted against
    each other. Eventually they fall over the side of the plateau.

    Jennifer and Mallone return to camp finding it empty. They realize
    that the others have been captured. In moments they find that they
    are also prisoners of the natives. Taken to the native city they
    find drum-beating ceremonies in progress. They are reunited with
    their fellow explorers.

    Just when they realize they are to be eaten the native girl comes
    along to rescue David. With a little effort she is convinced to
    help the whole group escape. He takes them to find a blind Burton
    White (Ian Wolfe). White tells them there is a path thought the
    plateau to the base. How it got there in a volcanic plateau is
    hard to understand. Why would lava take such a path? But the
    expedition takes this path past deadly people-grabbing tendrils and
    a graveyard of dead dinosaurs.

    The entire plateau is starting to erupt and explode. They
    expedition uses fire to keep back the pursuing natives. They find
    the diamonds, but also more trouble and another dinosaur. As they
    leave the plateau blows itself to pieces.

    This version invents its own subplots, but which version does not?
    The script is not great, but it would have made for at least a good
    adventure film had the dinosaurs looked like dinosaurs.

    For those in the audience who would recognize Willis O'Brien's
    name, in the credits as "effect technician." He was reportedly
    asked his opinion of the possibility of lizard special effects and
    told the producers how bad those effects were. They paid him for
    his opinion, ignored it, and put his name in the credits. That
    probably was the plan from the beginning. The film had moments,
    but overall was not very good. The plot is confused with a
    previous expedition that was bungled, a treasure hunt for diamonds,
    and a revenge plot. Perhaps the capper of mistakes was to have the
    woman expedition member bring a poodle. There is no adventure film
    so exciting that it cannot be ruined by the presence of a poodle.
    The Disney film THE ISLAND AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD made the same
    grievous error. Perhaps it was supposed to be a counterpoint of
    Gertrude the Duck of the previous year's far superior JOURNEY TO
    THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, also from Fox. However, while the duck
    worked well, Frosty the poodle served only to demonstrate how silly
    this expedition was. With the exception of the dog, the writing is
    not really bad--it just fails to be very interesting. It might be
    best appreciated if one just does not look at the screen once the
    expedition reaches the plateau.

    With all its faults, at least this film does not talk down to its
    audience and does not have the juvenile feel of the 1992 and 1999
    versions. It has a sort of empty, Technicolor, wide-screen, 1950s
    feel. The plateau never looked so good as seen from above at a

    This was a bad and disappointing version of the Doyle, but it would
    neither be the last such, nor would it be the worst. Irwin Allen
    was aiming for an adult audience while relying on a teenage crowd
    (not unlike the soon to begin Bond series). The next version would
    wait thirty-two years, just three years short of the interval
    between the silent and first sound version. And the new version
    was definitely made with a younger audience in mind.

    [continued in two weeks]



    TOPIC: SEVEN BRIEF LESSONS ON PHYSICS by Carlo Rovelli (book review
    by Greg Frederick)

    SEVEN BRIEF LESSONS ON PHYSICS is the third book I read by the
    physicist Carlo Rovelli. It is a very short book at less than 100
    pages but it packs a lot in it. The author describes the quanta,
    the Cosmos architecture, probability, time, sub-atomic particles,
    and black holes. Since this book is short, Rovelli introduces
    concepts without some detailed information. Rovelli is a big
    supporter and founder of the loop quantum gravity theory. This
    theory and String Theory are the two big competing theories to
    explain how to combine the four fundamental forces. As is typical
    of this author, the book does a good job explaining complex ideas
    for a casual reader. [-gf]


    TOPIC: CONTACT and Pi (letter of comment by Keith F. Lynch)

    In response to Mark's comments on CONTACT in the 07/08/22 issue of
    the MT VOID, Keith F. Lynch writes:

    [Mark writes,] "If you have read the book, you may be a bit
    disappointed, since there is far more science fiction content in
    the original story, but the film does not exactly remain earthbound

    The movie is a fairly generic first-contact story. But the book
    also contained the intriguing idea of hidden messages in the
    base-11 digits of pi, a subplot completely left out of the movie.

    Coincidentally, just last month, inspired by the recent calculation
    of pi to a record hundred trillion decimal places, someone on a
    math chat list joked that it was done years ago, but kept secret
    due to the hidden messages. I responded that the hidden messages
    were only in base eleven and that that's why pi is always
    calculated in base ten instead. But, I humorously conjectured,
    after the Nth digit pi is the same in bases ten and eleven.

    That was of course an absurd conjecture, but one impossible, at
    least with today's limited knowledge of pi, to disprove. (Knowing
    lots of digits really tells us very little about the nature of the
    number. It was proven irrational in the 18th century and
    transcendental in the 19th, but almost nothing about it has been
    learned since, except how to calculate lots of digits.) In
    specific, it isn't known whether pi is "normal" in all bases, or,
    indeed, in any base. If it's normal in base eleven, then there
    can't be any N after which it's always identical in bases ten and

    But one person went further, and insisted that there can't be *any*
    number that's the same after the first N digits in bases ten and

    Leaving aside the integers, which are obviously all .00000... in
    both bases, I soon found eleven rational numbers that have this
    unusual property. And that's just between 0 and 1. (They of
    course repeat between 1 and 2, and between 2 and 3, ad infinitum.)
    Then someone else found two more.

    I have not yet found any irrational number that has this property,
    but I'm all but certain that infinitely many exist. I did find a
    number, not just irrational, but also transcendental like pi, that
    has this property, not for bases 10 a [-kfl]


    TOPIC: THE LOST WORLD (letter of comment by Gary McGath)

    In response to Mark's comments on THE LOST WORLD in the 07/15/22
    issue of the MT VOID, Gary McGath writes:

    I saw THE LOST WORLD [1960] in a second-run theater and must have
    been a little older than nine when I saw it, but not much. I
    remember immediately being disappointed with the "dinosaurs," which
    were obviously lizards.

    It was much later that I first saw the 1925 film. I'm a fan of it.


    COURT, and Paradoxes (letter of comment by John Hertz)

    In response to the list of Hugo Award finalists in the 04/08/22
    issue of the MT VOID, John Hertz writes:

    Not much more joy for me in this year's Hugo Ballot than in last
    year's. Paul Di Filippo in LOCUS loved SHADOWS OF ETERNITY, as the
    electronic may see at <https://locusmag.com/2021/11/paul-di-filippo-reviews-shadows-of- eternity-by-gregory-benford>. It didn't reach the ballot. Nor did
    you, or I, or others it would have been an honor to be crowded out

    Maybe Tim Powers' new novel STOLEN SKIES will reach next year's
    ballot. It's splendid.

    In response to Kip Williams's comments on Mark Twain in the same
    issue, John writes:

    About Mark Twain's long stuff (MT VOID 2218, Vol. 40 No. 41, 8 Apr
    22), the LASFS website still isn't working as I write, but I trust
    you will eventually be able to see my 2,000-word note on A
    one of the Classics of SF we discussed at Loscon XLVII. In
    announcing it I said [<https://file770.com/classics-of-science-fiction-at-loscon-47/>]
    "Is this a 'keen and powerful satire on nobility and royalty'?
    What about the King at the hut?" Reporting the discussion I said
    (VANAMONDE 1478, not available electronically):

    Sunday afternoon at 2:30, I led Loscon XLVII's third Classics of SF
    Twain, 1889). From the audience: a classic must be seminal.
    Another: Or ovarian. Lively consideration of whether YANKEE is a
    classic *of SF*. How Hank Morgan the Yankee goes back in time is
    vague. I said the heart of the book is what we now call technology
    transfer; in Sturgeon's great pun, "Science fiction is knowledge
    fiction" ("science comes from the Latin for knowledge). See how
    Twain sets up Morgan's being able to build all kinds of things, and
    includes the machines to build the machines, e.g. making the wire
    Morgan needs so as to conduct electricity. Yet Morgan's apparent
    success proves a tragic failure. Where lies the tragedy? Compare
    Bartorstown in THE LONG TOMORROW (Leigh Brackett, 1955; discussed
    on Saturday) with Morgan's methods; as Twain has him say, "but no,
    I must pick out a picturesque one; it is the crying defect of my
    character" (ch. 37). Likewise his constantly blaming the people he
    can't reach is a bad sign; and with his wretched lambasting of the
    Church, it naturally is what undoes him. What of Merlin's being a
    fake (though he does know the territory, "Rick Island", Meredith
    Willson's MUSIC MAN, 1957) yet casting an effective 1,300-year
    sleep spell? Could Morgan's whole story be a dream--the round hole
    through the chain mail in the left breast (ch. 1) having in fact be
    made later? From the audience: Twain finished the book in a hurry,
    maybe he missed that.

    And in response to Evelyn's comments on PARADOXES in the same
    issue, John writes:

    About paradoxes, I'm still a fan of "'Yields a falsehood when
    appended to its own quotation' yields a falsehood when appended to
    its own quotation". [-jh]


    TOPIC: This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

    Lately, I've been bingeing Agatha Christie--mostly short stories
    with her lesser-known continuing characters: Mr. Satterthwaite and
    Harley Quin, Parker Pyne, and Ariadne Oliver. I'm also reading
    some of the Poirot and Miss Marple stories, but not the ones I am
    overly familiar with from BBC radio or the Poirot television
    adaptations. Even if I don't remember the plots, though, it is
    usually easy to spot the culprit. As I have noted many times,
    Christie re-uses plot devices, so it's often easy to spot who has
    disguised themselves as someone else, or who has a fake alibi.
    Also, Christie re-wrote some stories, expanding them into novels,
    adding or deleting Poirot as a character, and so on, so often after
    a few paragraphs, I can recognize a supposedly unfamiliar story.
    (Well, not totally--I have read all of them before.)

    But I am in one of those slumps where sometimes I want comfort
    reading. I am also reading CRIME AND PUNISHMENT by Fyodor
    Dostoevsky, perhaps an apt parallel, but certainly heavier going
    that Christie.

    One question I have: Why did they never make a movie of any of the
    Harley Quin and Mr. Satterthwaite stories? They would seem to be
    something they could do really well.

    Of course, if I don't get out of this slump soon, I won't have
    anything to write about. :-( [-ecl]


    Mark Leeper

    Too often we... enjoy the comfort of opinion without the
    discomfort of thought.
    --John F. Kennedy

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