Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
06/01/18 -- Vol. 36, No. 48, Whole Number 2017

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Television Memories (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        Turning On the Lights (letter of comment by Kip Williams)
        Issue Numbers, GET OUT, THE SHAPE OF WATER, and Turner
                Classic Movies (letter of comment by John Purcell)
        This Week's Reading (Retro Hugo Award Best Dramatic
                Presentation--Short Form finalists: BAMBI, CAT PEOPLE,
                (film comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Television Memories (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

I have been thinking about how much TV watching has changed over my
lifetime.  For me there has always been television and I only found
out years later that there might have been radio drama I was
missing, but I did not get interested in listening to radio for
several years.  I was of the then-modern generation who had TV.

Our TV was part of what we might have later called an entertainment
center.  The TV was part of a cabinet, a large piece of furniture
with two doors on the front.  Open the right door and there was a
TV with a screen about 12 inches in diagonal.  Open the other door
and there was a phonograph over an open area to store phonograph
records.  That big screen was a real luxury.  When we visited my
aunt Rose her TV had a four-inch screen.  But we had a much bigger
12-inch.  Eventually we replaced that TV with television with a
Stromberg Carlson with a screen about 14 inches.  This TV did not
speak well for Stromberg Carlson and the repairman visited us
often.  I remember the TV had in front a plastic piece that was the
signature "Stromberg Carlson" written in script and them rendered
in gold plastic.  It was the first thing to break off the TV.

Television was full of half-hour programs and a few that were an
hour long, all to be shown only on TV.  I can remember that the
"Jackie Gleason Show" was a popular favorite with my family.  It
always ended with a sketch called "The Honeymooners."  That one was
so popular they took all the Honeymooner sketches and extracted
them from the show that surrounded them and just the Honeymooner
sketches became a syndicated situation comedy.  Situation comedies
(or "sitcoms") were a very popular formula for the networks).

For a more serious entertainment there were fairly good plays that
would run for 90 minutes minus commercial time.  But if you wanted
to discuss a TV show with a friend you had to hope your friend had
been watching at the same time.  If your friend missed it your best
chance was to hope they would have a repeat performance in a few
months.  Sometimes one of these plays would be adapted into a
movie.  You could see essentially the same story.  There were films
adaptations of television plays.

Eventually some minor B-movies like Roy Rogers and Gene Autry
matinee films started to be shown on TV.  Also, for Saturday
morning television they borrowed from the theatrical Republic
serials to make into a half-hour show "Commando Cody, Sky Marshall
of the Universe."  I don't know how one becomes a Sky Marshall of
the Universe, but his beat was always very earthbound.  But taking
it from the serial, it could follow the network rule of getting
cheap programming from big-screen films.  One exception to the "get
it cheap" rule was THE WIZARD OF OZ, which would be shown once a
year.  And those repeated showings took WIZARD OF OZ from a film
that did weak business initially at the box office to a children's
(and adult's) classic.

In 1961 NBC sensed a market for more recent theatrical films and
they brought them to TV in "Saturday Night at the Movies," a weekly
(of course) program.  For NBC to broadcast a film on national
television was taken to be a mark of respect.  For me the real
thrill was when they showed THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL in 1961.
It was the first time one of my beloved science fiction films would
be broadcast on national television.  I had not yet seen the film,
but I just knew I would love it from the still I had seen in Forry
Ackerman's SPACEMEN magazine.  It did not disappoint.  About this
time we were allowed to watch no more than two hours a day of
television, but the rule was not strictly enforced.  We frequently
squeezed in another half-hour or so.

CBS and ABC saw the success NBC had with their prime-time movie.
They introduced their own weekly movies.  CBS started another
weekly feature film series.  Before long you could see a feature
film on one channel or another any night of the week.  And
occasionally they would run science fiction.  If you liked a movie
you saw on television there was a good chance your friend has
watched it also and we could talk about it over lunch.

I remember watching the ABC movie one Sunday night.  The film they
were showing was JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (1959).  It was
their second and therefore last showing of the movie.  Suddenly it
struck me that I better watch the film closely.  I might never
again get a chance to see the film.  They were not going to run it
in theaters again--at least it was not very likely.  (In fact it
did appear on the theater's matinee on a double bill with THE TIME
MACHINE (1960), but I could not know that at the time.)  But for
the overwhelming majority of movies, once they had played they flew
off into limbo and might never be seen again.

Video has changed a great deal since that time.  We no longer have
so limited a choice of what to watch.  But nearly everybody is
watching a different program so it is hard to discuss over lunch
unless you want to chew over "Game of Thrones."  And there are
people who watch six and seven hours a day.  And they watch it on a
flat, color TV screen just a little smaller than a handball court.


TOPIC: Turning On the Lights (letter of comment by Kip Williams)

In response to Evelyn's comments on ANNIHILATION in the 05/25/18
issue of the MT VOID, Kip Williams writes:

[Evelyn writes,] "I also commented at the time on how the turning
on of the lights in ANNIHILATION was really stupid."

"And then some idiot turned on the lights," as Bradbury wrote in a
story.  Mentioning the title would be a spoiler, as the quote is
rather a punch line.  EC Comics liked the line.  I don't recall
offhand if they adapted the original story, but in one about a
blind man getting revenge on a callous sighted person, the line is
used in reverse ('on' becoming 'off').  Even though the 'idiot'
part had no real bearing on anything, somebody (Al, I guess) just
liked the sound of it.  [-kw]


TOPIC: Issue Numbers, GET OUT, THE SHAPE OF WATER, and Turner
Classic Movies (letter of comment by John Purcell)

John Purcell writes:

Hey, this is going to be interesting: in two weeks I will be
writing a letter of comment on MT VOID issue #2018 in the year
2018. That's kind of nifty, eh?  [-jp]

In response to the list of Nebula winners in the 05/25/18 issue of
the MT VOID, John writes:

A couple things of note this time around, and they are both about
movies.  I have yet to see GET OUT, which won the Nebula Award and
is nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation,
Long Form, but it definitely sounds interesting.  We normally don't
go out to see movies--unless we know for a fact that little kids
will NOT be in the audience--so recent movie releases remain unseen
until they are on our Dish service or we buy/rent the DVD version.
Heck, Valerie and I really wanted to go out to watch THE SHAPE OF
WATER because it looked so interesting and well done, but simply
never got around to it.  So it goes.  [-jp]

In response to Mark's comments on Turner Classic Movies in the same
issue, John writes:

Yeehaw!  You have to love it when Turner Classic Movies sets up
their genre nights.  Even though I have seen every single movie
listed on those Monday night skiffy and horror lineups, I will
still watch.  However, the movie I really want to watch is that
Peter Lorre movie you fawned over, MAD LOVE (1935), and THE BEAST
WITH FIVE FINGERS (1946) is also going to be recorded.  I have long
felt that Peter Lorre was vastly underrated as an actor, so I am
looking forward to seeing these.Many thanks for the heads-up.


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

Movies being much shorter in 1942, Worldcon 76 decided not to try
to force both a Short Form and a Long Form of Dramatic Presentation
by re-locating works, but just put all the finalists in the
category in which they would initially be placed: Short Form.  This
meant that feature-length movies dominated, with no shorts, radio
shows, or other forms or media making the final ballot.

BAMBI: In answer to the first question people seem to ask, BAMBI is
not science fiction but it is considered fantasy because of the
anthropomorphized talking animals.  Strangely, no one seems to ask
this question about RUDYARD KIPLING'S JUNGLE BOOK, which also has
talking animals (though less anthropomorphized).

I was not that keen on the "sliding around on the ice" scene in
Peter Jackson's KING KONG, and it does not do much for me here
either.  I suppose as a children's film BAMBI is okay, although
Disney's (and fantasy's) fixation on royalty seems a bit
troublesome now, and the whole thing where the females are always
the sexual aggressors and the males are told to beware is

But the bottom line is, is this really that good as a fantasy film
.... as Hugo material?  I realize 1942 was a weak year, but still
....  A better choice for this spot on the ballot would have been
Angelo Cavalcanti's WENT THE DAY WELL?  (That is not a question;
the question mark is part of the title.)

CAT PEOPLE: I have seen CAT PEOPLE a dozen times since 2000 (when I
started logging my movie watching), but I actually watched it again
for this set of comments on the Retro Hugo Award finalists.  It
certainly has its flaws (e.g., since when could a fashion sketch
artist live in such a magnificent apartment?).  The real "problem"
(or is it a problem?) is that Irena is the only sympathetic
character.  Oliver mostly pooh-poohs Irena's problems (e.g., joking
and calling her "you crazy kid" when she is frightened by the woman
in the restaurant) and a bit too open (especially given the times)
about his marital problems;  his quickness in falling in love with
Irena, and equal quickness in falling out of love with her and
realizing he loves Alice may fit movie psychology, but it makes him
seem fickle and not serious about "for better or for worse."  Alice
is a bit too tactless.  Dr. Judd, in addition to being a prime
exhibit for the #MeToo movement, seems quite willing to discuss his
patients' conditions and treatments with people who have no right
to that information.

Then again, most of Val Lewton's films are filled with imperfect
characters; maybe that is how he saw the world.  Certainly all his
films have a complexity missing from many of the other films of the
time.  During the war, studios tended toward straightforward
patriotic films, light comedies, and musicals.  (The big films that

So much has been said and written about CAT PEOPLE that it is hard
to know what to say here.  Clearly carefully crafted, with
attention to all aspects of the film--script, lighting, sound, set
deign--this is head and shoulders above the other finalists.

THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN: The fourth in the Universal
"Frankenstein" series, it is the first without Boris Karloff as the
Creature, and Lon Chaney is no substitute.  Bela Lugosi as Ygor is
actually pretty good, but the rest of the cast is just adequate (or
less).  The script is sloppy (Bela refers to "the state and even
the whole country" as if they are in the United States rather than
Central Europe).  (It is not clear exactly where in Central Europe,
or even when.  The clothing styles indicate a 1930s setting--given
there is no war, it cannot be the 1940s.)  They show the
spirit/ghost of Henry Frankenstein played by Cedric Hardwicke while
also showing archive footage of Henry Frankenstein played by Colin
Clive, and the two look nothing alike.  Why would the Creature
agree to have his brain replaced by Ygor's?  (And why doesn't the
Ygor personality not continue into the next film?)  It's redolent
with Universal atmosphere and charm, but really, it is not Hugo

(It also ends with a very Byzantine rant, with Ygor crying out,
"What good is a brain without eyes to see?  What good is a brain
without eyes?"  That was the belief in Byzantium, where when they
deposed an emperor, they did not necessarily kill him, but instead
would blind him, which apparently precluded his ever taking the
throne again.  This no doubt dates back in turn to the notion of
the emperor as a warrior-king.)

I MARRIED A WITCH: One reason this section was delayed as much as
it was that we did not have a copy of this film (boo!), and had to
wait until Turner Classic Movies re-ran it the beginning of May

This is based on THE PASSIONATE WITCH by Thorne Smith (and Norman
H. Matson), and is one of that subgenre of films that was popular
back in the 1940s--the supernatural comedy.  You know it is in that
sort of film when it starts with someone as the "master of
ceremonies" at a Puritan witch-burning announcing an intermission,
at which point a vendor starts hawking Indian popcorn.  Television
shows such as BEWITCHED and I DREAM OF JEANNIE may be considered
their direct descendents.  Actually, many of this subgenre were
based on Thorne Smith, and actors such as Robert Benchley and Cecil
Kellaway are also representative of these films.

This film is amusing enough, but really pretty silly.  Still, it is
more original than such sequels and derivative films as THE GHOST

INVISIBLE AGENT:  The grandson of Jack Griffin (the original
"Invisible Man") has moved to the United States and is living
incognito.  (That Jack Griffin was killed before he could marry and
have children does not seem to have occurred to the writer.)  Nazi
agents try to steal the formula, but Griffin foils them, nor will
he give it to the U.S. government, but after Pearl Harbor, he
changes his mind, on the condition that only he uses it.  (Why did
he keep the formula if he was so opposed to its use for so many

The writers must have thought their audience was relatively young,
because the Germans are mostly buffoons (though there are a few
genuinely menacing characters).  The special effects are uneven--
sometimes they are very inventive, but other times they are sloppy
(visible mattes, Griffin's teeth visible after he puts cold cream
all over his face to become visible, etc.).  It's fairly standard
example of a wartime propaganda film laced with elements of science

RUDYARD KIPLING'S JUNGLE BOOK: Just to clarify, this is *not* the
Disney animated musical version, which appeared twenty-five years
later.  The copy I have of the 1942 version is in a DVD pack,
"Great Cinema", with 15 films on two two-sided discs.  Needless to
say, the magnificent Technicolor is not very magnificent.  (The
film is in public domain, but there is an "official" video release
from Criterion, which may be in better condition.)

The Korda brothers disagreed on the level of realism versus fantasy
in the film.  Alexander, the realist, won out so there are only a
few scenes of animals speaking human language or of Mowgli speaking
various animal languages.  As noted above, this minimal level of
the fantastic does not seem to bother people as much in this Hugo
finalist as it does in BAMBI, which arguably has considerably more.

In addition to cross-species talking, this film shares with BAMBI
having several scenes with fawns, and having a big forest (jungle)

This film may not be a close adaptation of Kipling's book, and
judged by today's standards, it has its problems, among them
exoticizing and making child-like the Indians, not helped by the
period's tendency to insist on some humorous character in every
film.  (This humorous character was almost always an ethnic
stereotype, Stepin Fetchit being the best-known example, but
extending to the drunken Irishman, the excitable Italian, the
violent and greedy Mexican, and so on.  Ironically, during World
War II, our "Good Neighbor Policy" cultivated Latin American
countries as allies, and the Mexican stereotype was changed to one
of historical freedom fighters and the musically talented.  But I
digress.)  In any case, this avoids the depiction of Europeans as
superior to Indians, by not having any Europeans except the woman
in the framing sequence.

For what it's worth, many of the exterior temple shots seem to be
more Cambodian than Indian, though the eastern part of India may
have similar temples.

My bottom line is that it is a fantasy film, but it is not what I
want to give a Hugo Award to.

Trivia fact: Sabu was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for
his missions as a tail gunner and ball turret gunner in the Pacific
theater in 1944 and 1945.




                                           Mark Leeper

           The first mark of intelligence, to be sure, is not to
           start things; the second mark of intelligence is to
           pursue to the end what you have started.
                                           --Panchatantra, c. 5th c.