Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
03/08/19 -- Vol. 37, No. 36, Whole Number 2057

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        More Comments on THE BLACK SCORPION (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        SPACE OPERA and Pop Bands (letters of comment by Kevin R,
                Dorothy J. Heydt, and John Kerr-Mudd)
        This Week's Reading (HISTORIANS' FALLACIES) (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: More Comments on THE BLACK SCORPION (comments by Mark
R. Leeper)

I recently wrote a piece for the MT VOID about the once grand old
stop-motion monster movie THE BLACK SCORPION.  People seem to still
remember the giant slobbering scorpion with the sharp serrated
teeth.  I have a few more things to say about the technical aspects
of this creature.

The so-called "supervisor of visual effects"--whatever that title
entails--was Willis O'Brien, who did the animation on KING KONG
(1933).  I think there was an idea, possibly forced on O'Brien by
the producers to save on the budget.  I believe the process of
putting animation on film requires multiple steps to avoid the
background showing through.  First, the figure to be animated is
filmed.  Then the background is shot.  The animator uses a
traveling matte for the background.  That means that the background
has a black silhouette of the animated figure.  So they have the
background shot with the animated figure, a moving silhouette.
Superimpose the two layers of film.  The upper layer of film has
the animated figure.  The lower layer of film has the background.
It has all of the background except what is covered by the
silhouette of the animated figure.  Put them together and you have
the animated figure in front of the background.  I think that to
save money several places just the background layer of film was
used.  You can stare at the background layer all you want; you will
see only the black silhouette.  They can claim that is why it is a
*black* scorpion.  It is black because all you are seeing is the
black silhouette. It is my suspicion that there was a budget cut
someplace and instead of going through the whole process the
background shot was used.

The science behind the story is not very convincing.  The idea of a
creature brought to life after it has been sealed in stone for who
knows how long has been used before in films like GIANT FROM THE
UNKNOWN.  The sealing material is ice in THE BEAST FROM 20,000
FATHOMS. There would be deterioration in the biological material
and the beast would just die.  Also, the scorpion head looks like a
fierce Jack-o-Lantern.  That face is used in the film and the
advertising.  Scorpions do not have much of a face, but what they
have has little that approaches this would-be nightmarish Jack-o-
Lantern of a face.

In the cave scene there are several breeds of creepy crawlies.  One
of the invented species was a creature made for KING KONG (1933),
but not actually used in that film.  There is a sequence in KING
KONG in which crewmembers fall from a log into a nest of some
unknown sort of giant arthropods.  The sequence, for some reason
never recorded, had the unfortunate crewmembers killed by the
creatures.  They die off-screen, and they are never convincing.
Nobody today is sure what the insects or whatever were.  They were
probably no real breed.  It is thought that those models were used
in the cave sequence of THE BLACK SCORPION, but it has never been
established for certain.

One more writer's glitch:  While our heroes are searching for
volcano survivors they hear a sound that resembles the rattlesnake.
On investigation it turns out to be a baby with a baby rattle.  Any
baby with the strength to rattle a rattle that fast should be a
ballplayer, even if he is still a baby.

The screenplay of THE BLACK SCORPION is credited to David Duncan, a
genuine science fiction author of minor science fiction books and
films.  Duncan did write the screenplays for several low-budget
science fiction films but also the screenplay for the film THE TIME
MACHINE (1959).  [-mrl]


TOPIC: SPACE OPERA and Pop Bands (letters of comment by Kevin R,
Dorothy J. Heydt, and John Kerr-Mudd)

In response to Joe Karpierz's review of SPACE OPERA in the 03/01/19
issue of the MT VOID, Kevin R writes:

[Joe Karpierz writes,] "Eventually, a British pop band named
Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeros, is chosen to represent

That name is no "Hotblack Desiato and Disater Area."  Someone
should have slipped Valente a Dave Barry Band Name Generator.

In Real Life, there have been several acts known as the Decibels,
Decibelles, and, of course, the wonderful dBs.

Also, there's "Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes"

Terra's champion in the "Grand Prix" needed a more badass name.
Were "Doctor Teeth and The Electric Mayhem" not available?  [-kr]

Dorothy Heydt replies:

Retired, maybe?  There are still Muppets working in various venues,
but I haven't seen the Mayhem at all recently.  [-djh]

John Kerr-Mudd answers:

They're on tour with Mr Warburton:

and then adds:

Barclaycard have them on contract:†itnSAb-RQ

but I note that Janice (the dreamy girl) has refused to sell out.

The Muppets are into Mr Warburton's bread products:


Dorothy responds:

Awwww.  Being a Yank, I'd never heard of Warburton's, but they
clearly had a genius advertising manager.

But when was the ad made?  It's got the old set and everything.  [-

John Kerr-Mudd answers:

Not sure; within the last 5 years I think. Let's see what MrGoogle
says: 2015

There are also follow-on vids on that site (well, links to Ubend).


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

David Hackett Fischer (ISBN 978-0-06-131545-9) cover snot only the
familiar fallacies, such as those of causation (e.g., post hoc ergo
propter hoc) and substantive distraction (e.g., ad hominem), but
some more specific to historiography, such as those of narration
(e.g., false periodization).  Unfortunately, at times Fischer seems
to fall into his own traps, such as describing W. J. Cash's MIND
OF THE SOUTH as taking the plantation legend and turning it upside
down: "He stood Scarlett O'Hara on her head.  When the crinolines
billowed out and down, there wasn't much to be seen of Scarlett's
upper parts, but there was a considerable display of her lower
ones, which some innocents in our own century naively persist in
mistaking for reality.  Scarlett's lower parts make a splendid
spectacle.  But it is a little disconcerting to find, in a book
called THE MIND OF THE SOUTH, so little brain and so much bottom."
Fischer may be criticizing the fallacy of composition, but he is
surely guilty of at least the fallacy of insidious analogy.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           The man who does not read books has no advantage over
           the man who cannot read them.
                                           --Mark Twain