Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
08/23/19 -- Vol. 38, No. 8, Whole Number 2081

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Worldcon News
        Comments on THE MAGNETIC MONSTER (1953) (film comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        GOLD (1934) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)
        Hugo Award Winners
        This Week's Reading (Retro Hugo Award winners) (book and film
                comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Worldcon News

Worldcon 2021 will be DisCon III in Washington DC August 25-29,
2021.  The website is

Hugo winners announced in Dublin at this year's Worldcon are listed
below.  [-ecl]


TOPIC: Comments on THE MAGNETIC MONSTER (1953) (film comments by
Mark R. Leeper)

In the film ED WOOD, the title character gets enthusiastic over
some stock footage, saying that with enough of that he could make a
movie.  In fact, lots of science fiction films have made use of
stock footage to save on budgets.  Sometimes it is a sequence of
lizards fighting with the claim they are dinosaurs.  Maybe it is
footage from a Russian science fiction film reused in several cheap
course, footage of V-2 launches was used extensively in Fifties
space exploration films.  Perhaps the most creative use of stock
footage was in THE MAGNETIC MONSTER.  I think the main purpose of
this film was, in fact, to use footage from the German film GOLD.
The result is actually surprisingly good for such an unambitious
film.  The integration of the German footage is really quite well
done.  And the story that was created is one of the most
interesting concepts of Fifties science fiction.

I have to admit that I particularly like the idea of a material
being a menace, as opposed to an animal, a plant, or a machine.  A
material that is dangerous by its very nature is an interesting
concept.  Other films that had such a threat were THE MONOLITH
dealing with a new element.  Most new elements are highly unstable
and can exist only for a small fraction of a second before
decaying.  Serranium is just the opposite.  It is not just stable,
it is super-stable, pulling in energy from its surroundings and
converting it to matter and growing.

This could have made for a very good science fiction film.
Unfortunately, what we have is a frustrating combination of good
and bad.  The dialogue is hokey and the scientific jargon just does
not sound believable.  Curt Siodmak or Ivan Tors juiced it up in an
attempt to sound super-scientific, but it just sounds ridiculous.
This was the first of three films about the fictitious OSI--the
Office of Scientific Investigation.  These are the people who get
invited in like the FBI might be.  Only they are called in when
mysterious scientific phenomena are discovered.  You know, like
when suddenly the air over Los Angeles becomes highly radioactive
or when aliens land, or that sort of thing.  Really what they would
probably do, if such a group could get funding, is sit around all
day like the Maytag repairman.  I think the producers got excited
about the Manhattan Project and decided there were all kinds of
nifty peacetime uses for on-call scientists.

A scientist fooling around on his own in a rented room over a
hardware store creates the new element that is hyper-magnetic and
radioactive, as well having the odd property of absorbing energy
and growing.  Clearly this is a case for the scientific guys at
OSI.  These investigators are patterned on G-men but are called A-
Men--A for Atomic.  Each is like a cross between Dragnet's Joe
Friday and Mr. Wizard, and they discover that "a dangerously
radioactive element [is] at large."  First they have to locate the
element and then they have to find a way to stop its deadly reign
of terror.  Finding the element was created by one scientist
experimenting on his own one sagely concludes "in nuclear research
there is no place for lone wolves."  How true.

There are many crime film cliches in the story before it comes to
its final conclusion at a Canadian nuclear research facility.  Why
Canadian?  Well, the film had the German stock footage which
featured people dressed in heavy coveralls and flat hats.  It
didn't look like in the United States, so the people were
Canadians.  Who knew what a Canadian was supposed to look like
anyway?  These Canadians dressed a little German, but what the

1953 was certainly Richard Carlson's year for science fiction
films.  In one year he made IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE, THE MAGNETIC
MONSTER, and THE MAZE.  That is not a really distinguished list,
but it firmly established him as a science fiction actor and the
following year he was the lead in THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK
LAGOON.  other familiar faces include King Donovan (INVASION OF THE
BODY SNATCHERS), Bryon Folger, Strother Martin (COOL HAND LUKE),
and Jeane Byron.  Each but the last is a familiar film actor.
Byron's claim to fame was to play a teacher on the TV series "The
Many Loves of Dobie Gillis".  And later she played the mother on
"The Patty Duke Show".

For a film that throws around silly terms like "a paramagnetic
force" and its "epicenter," it's interesting that when they show a
blackboard of mathematics it is real mathematics written by someone
who knows what math should look like.  On the other hand who knows
what a power plant to destroy an element looks like?  So in the
final scenes the viewer is not sure what is happening, but it is
impressive looking.  Supposedly the reactor (or whatever it is) is
built in a cavern under a lake.  An explosion blows so high that we
see it over the surface of the water.  (Actually the footage is of
a depth charge being detonated.)  There is no explanation what
saves the people around the reactor from drowning and having the
reactor area flooded.  I suspect we are not supposed to ask.

I would rate the film overall a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: Hugo Award Winners

Best Novel:
        THE CALCULATING STARS by Mary Robinette Kowal
Best Novella
        ARTIFICIAL CONDITION by Martha Wells
Best Novelette
        "If At First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again" by Zen Cho
Best Short Story
        "A Witch's Guide To Escape: A Practical Compendium Of Portal
                Fantasies" by Alix E. Harrow
Best Series
        "Wayfarers" by Becky Chambers
Best Related Work
        Archive Of Our Own, A Project Of The Organization For
                Transformative Works
Best Graphic Story
        Monstress, Volume 3: Haven, written by Marjorie Liu,
                art by Sana Takeda
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
        The Good Place: "Janet(S)"
Best Editor, Short Form
        Gardner Dozois
Best Editor, Long Form
        Navah Wolfe
Best Professional Artist
        Charles Vess
Best Semiprozine
        Uncanny Magazine,
Best Fanzine
        Lady Business
Best Fancast
        Our Opinions Are Correct
Best Fan Writer
        Foz Meadows
Best Fan Artist
        Likhain (Mia Sereno)
Best Art Book (A One-Off Category Created As Per WSFS Rules)
                illustrated by Charles Vess, written by Ursula
                K. Le Guin


TOPIC: GOLD (1934) (film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)

(Not to be confused with GOLD (1974), the Roger Moore film GOLD)

CAPSULE: The world is in a state of turmoil as what could be a new
Golden Age may be bringing prosperity to most of the world, or the
world may be falling into economic chaos.  A rogue scientist
Professor Achenbach claims to be about to perfect a process that
will turn lead into gold.  The first two acts of the story are
fairly dry.  All the imagination is visual and in the third act,
when it comes almost too late.  This film is best known for footage
used in another film, THE MAGNETIC MONSTER (1953).  Rating: low +1
(-4 to +4)

There is a type of science fiction film that flowered between the
two World Wars.  In WWI Weaponry advanced applying science and
physics and armies faced airplanes, Zeppelins, tanks, and chemical
weapons.  People for the first time could tell that the future
might be very different from the past.  Films that were inspired by
this sort of thinking included METROPOLIS, THINGS TO COME, THE
NICHT).  One of the least remembered is the German film GOLD.  GOLD
was directed by Karl Hartl, who also directed F.P.1 DOESN'T ANSWER.

Chemistry Professor Achenbach thinks he has a process to make
synthetic gold.  With his recipe the valuable element will be cheap
and easily available. Many countries are trying to get their hands
on the process.  The villainous British (remember this film comes
from pre-WWII Germany) are trying to steal the formula working
though Werner Holk (Hans Albers) Achenbach's assistant.

This pro-German film is full of science fiction and full of
spectacular special effects, features that make some films
blockbusters today.  Yet more likely than not, GOLD will offer very
little entertainment value to today's audiences.  The viewer has a
long wait to get to the good stuff in this film and it will
probably not maintain viewer interest along the way.

GOLD is based on Rolf E. Vanloo's novel GOLD, in which a renegade
scientist ready to solve the puzzle that medieval alchemists had
been desperate for.  He may have found a way to turn lead into
gold.  The same man was going to make synthetic gold available to
the world.  People would all be rich.  Now this concept needs to be
discussed.  Creating gold is not the same thing as creating wealth.
Releasing a lot of synthetic gold on the public will deflate he
value of the precious metal.  Its scarcity is what makes gold
valuable.  The market would just make an ounce of gold worth a lot

The super-science machinery toward the end of GOLD is on what is,
if anything, a larger scale than that of METROPOLIS. Though that is
perhaps an unfair comparison.  METROPOLIS stages its special
effects full-scale.  GOLD creates its effects in camera.  It uses
matte paintings effectively.  The text of GOLD is mostly just
businessmen talking and it really needs spectacular images as a
reward to the audience for sitting through the earlier parts of the
film.  That is seen only late in the film.  Almost all of its
futurism seems inspired by really fancy phosphorescent tubes.  This
is a film for sci-fi completists.

Regarding making gold, see also the TWILIGHT ZONE episode "The Rip
Van Winkle Caper".

Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10

Film Credits:

Further Information:


[And there was also a German film about the Titanic which Mark
describes in the 02/23/18 issue of the MT VOID as "a German
propaganda film blaming the British financial interests" for the
sinking.  -ecl]


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

Last week I included the list of Retro Hugo winners, but did not
have time to comment; now I do.  Thanks to Nicholas Whyte for
reporting on the full results in his column/blog; I have yet to see
them on the site.

In the novel category, the winner was my first choice, CONJURE WIFE
by Fritz Leiber, Jr., and my second choice, GATHER, DARKNESS! also
by Fritz Leiber, Jr., placed second, so no complaints here.

For novella, I can't say I was surprised that THE LITTLE PRINCE by
Antoine de Saint-Exupery won, but I was disappointed that my first-
place choice, "We Print the Truth" by Anthony Boucher, came in

For novelette, my first choice, "Mimsy Were the Borogoves" by Lewis
Padgett (C. L. Moore & Henry Kuttner) resoundingly won first place.

In the short story category, my last choice, "King of the Gray
Spaces" (a.k.a. "R is for Rocket") by Ray Bradbury, placed first.
I cannot say this really surprised me either.  My first choice,
"Death Sentence" by Isaac Asimov, did place second.

In Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, HEAVEN CAN WAIT won.  I cannot
help but wonder if people confused/conflated this with the 1978
Warren Beatty film of that name, which had the plot of the finalist
A GUY NAMED JOE.  My favorite, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, came in

For Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, first place went to
FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN, surely a sentimental favorite
which (in my opinion) doesn't hold a candle to either I WALKED WITH
A ZOMBIE or THE SEVENTH VICTIM, my first and second choices.
WITH A ZOMBIE did come in second.)  The argument that neither of my
top choices are science fiction or fantasy doesn't strictly apply,
since the category is for "dramatized science fiction, fantasy or
related subjects"; the first has voodoo, and the second a coven of
Satanists.  The complaint that the first has overtly colonial
attitudes is, I think, a serious misunderstanding of the subtext.

Well, of course John W. Campbell won for Best Editor, Short Form
(in the first round), and Donald A. Wollheim came in second (also
in the first round for that position).

For the other categories, I was not familiar enough with the works
to comment.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           I do not mind lying, but I hate inaccuracy.
                                           --Samuel Butler