Quit Jiving Me, Turkey

It’s Thanksgiving, and we were originally planning to visit Beth’s mom and uncle today, but then we both tested positive for COVID. So we’re staying at home, and I’m not even sure what we’re going to have for dinner. At least I don’t have to drive, I guess. Anyway, here are the rest of the Thanksgiving-related media we watched recently:

Care Bears Family: Grams Bear’s Thanksgiving Surprise – Share Bear goes to an American town to help out a kid who’s giving a speech on the meaning of Thanksgiving. In the same town, a baker called Sour Sam is giving away crabby apple pies that make anyone who eats them mean and nasty.

How does he keep that hat on his head?
Meanwhile, Grams Bear is coming to visit Care-a-Lot (so she doesn’t live there?), and Tenderheart is shocked to find out that she’s taken up dancing and playing electric guitar. The secondary lesson for this episode is apparently not to get worried when old people get new hobbies. Share Bear has to call for reinforcements, and it turns out that Grams’s happy apple pies are an antidote to the crabby ones. When Sam learns this, he kidnaps her and puts her in a pie, but the Care Bears and their cousins are able to destroy his factory with the formidable Care Bear Stare. The kid then cures everyone who’s still enchanted with his impassioned speech on the meaning of Thanksgiving.

The Berenstain Bears Meet Bigpaw – Yeah, they apparently couldn’t get enough of bears celebrating Thanksgiving back in the eighties. I hadn’t seen a Berenstain Bears cartoon in a long time, but this one didn’t totally fit with how I remembered their world. It has talking animals, but they’re basically just stand-ins for people in a generally realistic setting, despite the surreal appearance of their home.

How do those top windows work?
But here we have plants weeding themselves and mixed nuts growing on a single tree. The Bigpaw of the title is first introduced as a sort of boogeyman, with Mama telling the kids that he’ll destroy their entire civilization if the bears aren’t nice to each other. It turns out that Bigpaw is real, and really big, but he’s also friendly.

Brother and Sister find this out and manage to stop the angry mob of townsfolk who want to kill him, after which he shares Thanksgiving dinner with the Bear family. The story is told in verse with several songs, one of which has Papa claiming that Bigpaw “makes King Kong look like Singer’s midgets,” a bizarre line for multiple reasons. It also really plays up Papa’s buffoonery. Hey, were they called Papa and Mama before having cubs? Brother Bear was Small Bear before Sister was born, so is it just common in this world to change your name based on your role in the family? I guess you could ask the same about Grams Bear, who I don’t think is even explicitly stated to be Hugs and Tugs’s biological grandmother, just their caretaker. And yes, it’s definitely Berenstain, not Berenstein, although I can see why people would misremember it as the latter, as not too many names end in -stain. Ockham’s Razor and all that, you know.

Addams Family Values – While this movie doesn’t take place during Thanksgiving, it does address the holiday. Gomez and Morticia have a new baby, Pubert, apparently the name Charles Addams originally suggested for Pugsley. Wednesday and Pugsley are jealous, homicidally so, and Morticia wants time to herself, so they hire a nanny, the very perky Debbie. She’s actually a black widow who had murdered three husbands previously, and wants to do the same to Fester. When Wednesday starts to catch on to her plan, Debbie talks the parents into sending the kids to a summer camp run by a disturbingly cheerful couple. They put on a play about the first Thanksgiving, during which Wednesday points out the hypocrisy of the story’s attitude toward Native Americans, and leads the outcast children in launching a revolution at the camp.

She also has a budding romance with a nerdy kid. Debbie succeeds in seducing and marrying Fester, but finds him incredibly difficult to kill, although she does break his spirit.

Thing helps Fester to escape, but Pubert has to save the family when Debbie tries to electrocute all of them. I appreciated that the Addamses don’t mind that Debbie is psychotic, and even respect it to an extent, but they hate that she has terrible taste and is keeping Fester away from his loved ones. I haven’t seen that many episodes of the sixties sitcom, so I was a little surprised when I recently saw a mention online of how Wednesday’s cynicism was new for the nineties movies. It’s a little out of place for the family, as despite their morbid aesthetic and sometimes casual attitude toward death and destruction, they tend to like everyone they meet and see the best in everyone, often naively so. That’s still true of the adults in this film, I guess Wednesday has become a grunge-era teenager. And the revenge against the camp directors works because they’re essentially anti-Addams, very bright and cheerful in appearance but not so subtly hiding incredible intolerance, as opposed to the creepy but good-hearted and accepting protagonists. Another change from the show is that Fester is Gomez’s brother instead of Morticia’s uncle, and I’m not sure why they did that, but it’s apparently not the only incarnation of the family where this is the case.

Underdog: Simon Says “No Thanksgiving” – Beth has a thing for the late Wally Cox, who did the voice of Underdog, so we pretty much had to watch this one. Simon Bar Sinister has an evil plot to take over the city that constantly becomes more ridiculous. He has a small army that would be pretty easy to defeat on their own, but he’s also using two buttons, one of which creates an air raid siren, while the other locks everyone inside. But Simon didn’t consider that the day he wanted to implement the plan was Thanksgiving, and he’s unable to get across the street to the buttons because of the parade. So his solution to this is to go back in time to 1621 and stop the first Thanksgiving. Underdog and Polly Purebred follow him back, though, and are able to prevent his attempt to sow discord between the Pilgrims and Indians.

B.C.: The First Thanksgiving – Johnny Hart’s comic strip is about cavemen living in a barren wasteland alongside talking animals, and contains a lot of anachronisms. The gags are often simple puns or sarcasm, but other times they seem to be total non-sequiturs. And once Hart became a born-again Christian, it was also a way for him to proselytize, but I believe that came after this 1973 holiday special. You might think it would be difficult to turn such a weird comic into a half-hour cartoon, and you’d be right. It does sort of have a plot, with B.C. discovering fire (after burning his hand with it), then a woman using it to cook soup, sending the men out to find a turkey to flavor it. The only turkey in the area can talk, and constantly eludes the cavemen, as they aren’t too bright. The whole thing moves very slowly, with a bunch of bits that are sort of structured like jokes. By the way, the woman cooking the soup was apparently officially named Fat Broad, although that’s not mentioned in the special.

Posted in Animals, Cartoons, Colonization of America, Comics, Food, History, Holidays, Humor, Names, Relationships, Television, Thanksgiving | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Offbeat Officials of Oz

The Oz books have a lot of small royal courts with unusually-titled officials. This is something we see much more often in Ruth Plumly Thompson, but L. Frank Baum did have a few examples. In John Dough and the Cherub, Chick becomes John Dough’s Head Booleywag, which he considers “the one who rules the ruler.” The ruler of Thi refers to himself as the High Coco-Lorum, and King Rinkitink plans to make the writer of How to Be Good a Hippolorum. Also, the Pink Country of Sky Island has a Royal Scribbler instead of a scribe.

Here are the ones I could think of who show up in the Thompson books, most of them being Prime or Chief somethings:

  • The Grand Chew Chew and Chief Chow Chow of the Silver Island
  • The Chief Poker of Pokes
  • The Prime Pumper and Chief Dipper of Pumperdink
  • The Prime Preserve of the Preservatory, who is green in color, due to being pickled and living in a jar
  • The Lord High Humpus of Perhaps City presides over weddings. Supposyville also has an official with that rather unfortunate title, who’s in charge of sports, as per “Supposyville Goes Toboganning.”
  • Kimbaloo has both a Town Laugher and Crier. The former, whose name is Hah Hoh, helps out at court because there’s so much laughing to do, and the latter cries in place of the other court members.
  • The Prime Piecer and Chief Scrapper of Patch are in charge of affairs at the castle, and boss around the ruler, or at least they did before Ozma modified the laws. They’re also in charge of cleaning up a ruler who goes to pieces and capturing a new one.
  • Toddledy is described in The Giant Horse of Oz as “scribe and Prime Moneyster” of King Cheeriobed’s court in the Sapphire City. I would suppose that jokey title is a combination of Prime Minister and Treasurer. But then, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is also First Lord of the Treasury, so maybe the title is just for fun. It does, however, further complicate the issue of whether Oz even uses money.
  • Tighty, the Out Keeper Of Shutter Town, a play on “innkeeper” as the Scarecrow acknowledges, is an official who tries to keep strangers out of the place, and gives warnings to the residents.

    The title is used again for Snorpus, the dimwitted giant guard of the hidden door into the Silver Mountain.
  • The Chief Scarer of Scare City, a man with eyes, noses, and mouths all around his head, serves as the gatekeeper of the place.
  • Baron Mogodore of Baffleburg employs a Chief Scorner named Smerker, who has a handle on his nose that he can turn upwards. He was also the keeper of a sauce box that would shout insults and threats, but he presumably no longer possesses this item, as Peter Brown took it from the castle and then lost it in Swing City.

  • Chinda, the Chief Prophet and Seer of Samandra, is promoted to Magician Extraordinary and Grand Bozzywoz of the Realm during the course of Yellow Knight. The job of a Bozzywoz apparently includes leading processions. The Sultan’s court also has a Grand Counter of the Imperial Spoons, whose name is Blufferroo.
  • Sevevanone is identified in Pirates as the Lord High This and That of the Octagon Isle. Considering how often Thompson referenced Gilbert and Sullivan (there’s a country called Menankypoo in the same book), this is likely based on Poo-Bah being the Lord High Everything Else of Titipu in The Mikado. The character briefly appears again in Captain Salt, but his title isn’t mentioned.
  • The Red Jinn is assisted by Alibabble, the Grand Advizier. The title is a combination of “advisor” and “vizier,” the latter a government official in the Islamic world that dates back to the Abbasid Caliphate. I first came across the word in C.S. Lewis’ The Horse and His Boy, although I wasn’t sure how to pronounce it; I learned that from Disney’s Aladdin. The trope of the treacherous vizier has become common, but Alibabble is quite loyal, and valuable enough to Jinnicky that he’s allowed to criticize the Jinn in ways his other servants wouldn’t. A bit of a running gag with him is that he’s also advising Jinnicky to get a haircut.
  • The Prime Patter of Unicorners is a blue-bearded dwarf named Pat, who keeps a brush to, in his own words, “lay it on soft or hard, just as her Highness commands.” Corporal punishment by brushing sounds likes some sort of kink thing, but I guess it’s none of my business what unicorns are into.
  • One of the main officials to King Sizzeroo of Umbrella Island is Bamboula, the Royal Su-jester, an advice giver and entertainer. It took me a little while to figure out that it’s a play on “suggester,” even though it’s more or less spelled out in the text. Some of Thompson’s spelling choices were a bit odd; I probably would have gone with “Sug-jester.”
  • King Kerr of Keretaria was attended by the High Qui-questioner, Imperial Persuader, and Lord High Upper Dupper. As silly as the first and third titles are, the middle one is genuinely creepy. The Qui-questioner carries a question mark staff and interrogates strangers. Nox the Ox calls him Questo at one point, but it’s not clear whether that’s his name or a shortened version of his title. My guess would be both, since this is a land of strange coincidences. The Upper Dupper is likely the same as a jailor. It’s unknown whether these three remained in the castle after King Kerry took back the throne, but in my “The Goat Girls of Oz,” they followed Kerr to another kingdom.
Posted in Authors, C.S. Lewis, Characters, Chronicles of Narnia, Humor, L. Frank Baum, Magic Items, Names, Oz, Oz Authors, Places, Ruth Plumly Thompson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do the Mashed Potato, Do the Candied Yam

Yesterday was my birthday. I’m now forty-three years old. Too bad that, between the cold, the pandemic, and Beth having a cold (I’m also showing some symptoms of one), we couldn’t really do anything. What we have done in the past few days was to watch a few Thanksgiving cartoons. I find Thanksgiving kind of a boring holiday, at least in terms of mythology. Everything centers on either turkey or a whitewashed version of the Pilgrims’ story, if not both.

Garfield’s Thanksgiving – Here’s a character who would love a holiday devoted to eating. The plot here has Jon, during Garfield’s vet appointment, inviting Liz to his house for Thanksgiving dinner. He’s utterly incompetent at cooking, though, so at Garfield’s suggestion (which takes some time to sink in), he calls his sassy grandmother to help out. Returning from A Garfield Christmas, she’s a fun character, and has unorthodox ways of cooking like using a chainsaw on a frozen turkey and making sweet potatoes with butter, brown sugar, and marshmallows.

Dinosaur Dracula actually copied her recipe as closely as possible. There’s also business with Jon enforcing Garfield’s diet by having Odie blow a whistle whenever the cat tries to sneak food, and a talking scale fat-shaming Garfield by repeatedly calling him Orson Welles. Is it okay to make fun of Garfield for being fat as he is, after all, not human? I’ve known some pet owners who didn’t want to bring their pets to the vet as they were often shamed for letting them get overweight. For that matter, isn’t Jon constantly asking out Liz when she repeatedly says no kind of problematic? I guess everything worked out all right this time, though.

The Mouse on the Mayflower – I recently came across a post on Tumblr about how weird and disturbing it is when media have a society of mice directly paralleling that of the humans around them. And it shows up quite a lot. This 1968 Rankin/Bass television special is a take on the usual feel-good but not quite accurate story of the Pilgrims coming to America, but starring a mouse with Pringles man hair and the voice of Tennessee Ernie Ford. (A real mouse is made out of muscle and blood, I suppose.) There’s an attempt at adding some intrigue by having two sailors on the Mayflower try to steal the Pilgrims’ money, and eventually teaming up with a Native American and his pet bear. This guy is the only Indian who doesn’t immediately want to make peace with the people who came to their land without permission, and he and his compatriots are eventually run out of town by Miles Standish. The portrayal of Native Americans is what I assume was typical for the time, kind of racist, but I’ve seen way worse. I’d say the main problem with this one is that the pace is very slow. There are several low-key songs, and a psychedelic sequence with Priscilla Mullins akin to Jessica’s in Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town, which was released two years later. It involves a Cinderella-style fairy godmother working magic, which I guess is different from a witch, as English settlers in Massachusetts weren’t too fond of them.

Posted in Animals, Cartoons, Colonization of America, Food, History, Holidays, Humor, Magic, Music, Prejudice, Television, Thanksgiving | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Screw Your Eye

Darkman – Back in the nineties, there was a program they showed around Halloween for a few years called Horror Hall of Fame, hosted by Robert Englund and the Crypt-Keeper, that discussed recent horror movies. Sometimes they had to stretch a bit as to the genre; I know they included The Addams Family in there. But anyway, one of the films they mentioned was Darkman, which had the tagline “Who is Darkman?”, and that’s really all we knew about it. The movie was directed and co-written by Sam Raimi, with music by Danny Elfman. The plot involves a lawyer discovering a memo that said one of her clients, a real estate developer, had paid bribes to the government. When the client finds out, he uses his mob connections to have the lawyer’s boyfriend, played by Liam Neeson, murdered, so they can get the documents back. Someone should have told this guy that murder is prosecuted more heavily than bribery, even for rich people. Neeson is a scientist who’s working to find a way to regenerate skin cells, and he’s pretty close, but it only lasts for ninety-nine minutes except in total darkness. Medical technology is already quite impressive in this movie’s world, as after the scientist nearly dies in an explosion, the doctors manage to make him strong and largely impervious to pain, with the downside that he becomes irrationally angry from time to time. He then uses the skin-regrowth technology he invented to duplicate the faces of the people who almost killed him, so he can get revenge. So, despite the tagline, we know who Darkman is and what he wants to do quite early on, although he doesn’t CALL himself Darkman until the very end, when he’s disguised as Bruce Campbell. He also tries to rekindle his relationship with his girlfriend, only to decide that he’s way too volatile for that, as he learns when he gets violent during an argument at a carnival. I didn’t have really strong feelings toward the movie, but I liked it all right. I did think the crooked real estate guy was kind of inconsistent in character and WAY too eager to blab all his plans, and to what end? To…build some buildings? But I guess I can’t complain about the lack of realism, because our President for the next two months apparently sold out the entire country to Russia for the same reason. The sadistic crime boss is really more the main villain anyway, even if the scheme isn’t his idea.

We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story – Well, the TITLE of this one was famous back when the movie was made, but I don’t know that too many people saw the film itself. Based on a picture book I don’t know anything about, and one of only three movies made by Steven Spielberg’s Amblimation, it’s about four dinosaurs who are brought to modern-day New York by a scientist called Professor Neweyes, who is voiced by Walter Cronkite. There are a lot of famous people providing voices here, some of whom aren’t normally seen as actors, including Cronkite and Julia Child. The Professor has learned from his wish radio that a lot of kids have been wishing to see real dinosaurs, so he goes back in time and, with help from a little green alien voiced by Jay Leno, gives four of them some of his Brain Grain cereal, which gives them human intelligence and mannerisms. The main character is Rex, voiced by John Goodman, and his three companions the flirtatious pterodactyl (not technically a dinosaur) Elsa, the hungry triceratops Woog, and the clumsy parasaurolophus Dweeb. I’m not sure why two of them have what could plausibly be names, while another gets a noise and the last an insult. Apparently Brain Grain can also change dietary habits, as the herbivorous dinosaurs develop a taste for hot dogs. Neweyes drops the dinosaurs off in the Hudson River, telling them to go to the Museum of Natural History and avoid his brother Professor Screweyes, who went insane when he lost one of his eyes (it was pecked out by a crow, according to a deleted scene). The four prehistoric pals meet Louie, a street-smart but lonely kid who’s run off to join the circus; and a poor little rich girl named Cecilia, who feels neglected by her parents. The group makes their way uptown by blending in with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (which actually goes downtown, but whatever), which is why Beth had us watch this around Thanksgiving. There really was a balloon of Rex in the parade in 1993, but it somehow hit a traffic light which deflated his head, along with hope of this movie getting a good showing at the box office.

Louie finds the circus in Central Park, which turns out to be run by Screweyes, who has a screw in place of his missing eye and can use it to hypnotize people. I assume he wasn’t called that back when he had two natural eyes, so his real name also Neweyes? Or is “Eyes” the brothers’ last name? He’s devoted himself to bringing fear, and to that end has a fear radio as a counterpart to his brother’s wish radio. He employs a single clown, voiced by Martin Short, a rather sad character who just wants to make his boss laugh. Screweyes uses his Brain Drain on the dinosaurs to make them wild again. When this causes Rex to try to eat Screweyes, who isn’t a particularly great planner for a supervillain, the kids tame him and the other dinosaurs with impassioned speeches and hugs. I guess that Brain Drain wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Neweyes saves everyone thanks to Cecilia’s wish, and Screweyes is torn apart by crows.

It’s a weird scene, with the crows totally surrounding him, then flying away leaving nothing except his screw. Really, these two characters are weirdly metaphysical for a kids’ movie about funny dinosaurs. There’s sort of a God and Satan feel to them, Neweyes being able to do pretty much anything but only when someone actively wishes for it, and Screweyes using a crooked (and almost certainly not legally binding) contract that he makes the kids sign with blood. Anyway, the dinosaurs go on to stay in the museum, only showing kids that they’re alive. I’m sure this was supposed to just be a “grown-ups won’t understand” kind of thing, but it’s kind of unsettling in retrospect for a strange adult to get a bunch of children alone and ask them not to tell their parents what happened. There’s also a budding romance between Louie and Cecilia, even though I think they’re rather too young. This is a strange film, high-budget but strange in its animation, perhaps showing signs of trying too hard and wanting to include a bit of everything.

Posted in Animals, Cartoons, Celebrities, Holidays, Humor, Names, Television, Thanksgiving | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Balancing the Flutterbudget

I received my copy of the 2020 Oziana, the annual collection of original fiction published by the International Wizard of Oz Club, but I waited until it was available for purchase before writing my review. It’s actually the fiftieth anniversary edition as the first was published in 1971. The first story, Suren Oganessian’s “Zinnia’s Wish,” is about a Flutterbudget girl (and perhaps the first Ozian goth) who was caught in an avalanche with her father. While she eventually manages to escape, he remains trapped. She wants to end his suffering by finding a way to restore death in Oz, to which end she goes to the Emerald City to do research, and runs into Ojo and Scraps. The three of them go to visit Wish Way, but Zinnia is cagey about what she really wants to wish for. She ends up becoming the psychopomp of Oz, able to bring death to those who want to escape from eternal life. There are also some developing feelings between Zinnia and Ojo. I’ve read a draft of a longer version of this story, which has Zinnia going on to assist various suffering Ozites. After a pumpkin pie recipe that I can’t say I’ve tried, Robert Baum’s “Dinner at the Del” is a sort of meta-fictional tale where, while dining at the Hotel del Coronado, L. Frank Baum meets a sailor who becomes the inspiration for both Captain Steele in the Boy Fortune Hunters books and Cap’n Bill. “The Wizards of Silver and Gold in Oz” is based on something I wrote years ago to try to bridge the Ruth Plumly Thompson and John R. Neill books, including introducing the Dragonette Evangeline who shows up in Neill’s books basically out of nowhere; and also reintroduce some of the characters from The Royal Book of Oz. Joe Bongiorno later expanded upon it, giving more information on the Grand Gheewizard and his companions, and providing a story of redemption for Quiberon from Giant Horse. The result ended up being pretty long, so it’ll be continued in the next volume. “Polychrome’s Sky School,” by Paul Dana, is based on how Polychrome states in Road that she’s unable to work magic, but does several spells in Tin Woodman. This brief story, which takes place in between the two, has Polychrome attending school with a few other sky fairies, whose descriptions and performances include a lot of puns. And, as usual, it’s pretty thoroughly illustrated. The front cover by Able Tong gives new takes on some familiar characters. Interior drawings are provided by Mitchell Mayle, Dennis Anfuso, and Sam Milazzo, plus some repurposed Neill art.

Posted in Characters, Humor, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Magic, Monsters, Oz, Oz Authors, Relationships, Ruth Plumly Thompson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Belong Dead

Today, I’m back from the dead (that might have worked better if I hadn’t just written yesterday) to talk about three Frankenstein movies. There are SPOILERS for all of them, as well as the original novel.

Frankenstein – The original 1931 film that made Boris Karloff famous, even though his name isn’t even in the opening credits. They also identify the author of the original novel as “Mrs. Percy B. Shelley,” which is pretty sexist. I read the book some years ago, and while there’s a lot I don’t remember so well, it’s obvious they made some significant changes. That’s par for the course, obviously, especially considering how short the film is. Still, it’s weird that they switched the first names of the titular character and his best friend, so he’s become Henry Frankenstein. Apparently Victor sounded too foreign for American audiences at the time, at least for the protagonist. I guess it didn’t matter for a supporting character. Speaking of names, this introduces the goofy hunchbacked lab assistant with no equivalent in the book who’s become a staple of the genre in general, but he’s called Fritz, not Igor. It gets right into things with Victor…sorry, HENRY, and Fritz digging up the corpse of a hanged man to use in their experiment. Then Fritz accidentally drops the brain he was trying to steal and takes a criminal’s brain instead, making me wonder if the moral is no longer that there are matters in which humanity should not meddle, and instead that they shouldn’t use inferior parts while meddling in such matters. We get the cool effects with the Monster being brought to life, and learn that he’s afraid of fire. I don’t think there’s any precedent for that in the book, but if someone were waving a lit torch in my face, I’d be pretty terrified too. Maybe it also has something to do with the Prometheus connection. There’s a line in the creation scene, “Now I know what it feels like to be God!”, that was edited out back in the 1930s but restored for the DVD release I watched. The same goes for the Monster throwing a little girl in a lake. Anyway, Frankenstein goes back to his family estate, leaving his old teacher Dr. Waldman to kill the Monster, but the creature strangles Waldman, escapes, and wanders around, killing people often without meaning to. The movie wraps up with the angry townspeople setting fire to a windmill with the Monster inside, with Frankenstein’s life being saved when his creation throws him to the ground. A brief, abrupt scene at the end shows Henry recovering, which I guess is supposed to be a happy ending even though the whole thing was largely his fault. But then, he’s from a rich family, so he doesn’t necessarily have to face consequences. The Monster’s appearance is iconic, with the greenish-gray makeup used on his face leading to the idea of his being green in color, even though promotional material from the time made his skin yellow as per Shelley’s description.

Bride of Frankenstein – The movie begins with a rather hammy scene of Shelley, her husband Percy, and Lord Byron discussing the novel, except the recap includes stuff from the first movie that wasn’t in the book. The actress playing Mary Shelley is Elsa Lanchester, who is also the Bride, but we don’t see her until very late in the game. I had forgotten that the Monster does try to force his creator to make him a wife in the novel, although he never finishes doing this, so the scenario here is kind of a what-if. The Monster befriending a blind man and learning to speak were also from the book, although Karloff’s Monster never becomes as much of a chatterbox as Shelley made the characters. While I guess the intent of the original film’s ending was that the Monster died in the fire, here he turns out to be alive, and continues with his rampage, but also saves someone. Dr. Septimus Pretorius, a teacher of Henry Frankenstein’s who had been kicked out of the university, recruits his old student to make a mate for the Monster. He points out that the murders were really Henry’s fault, but that’s apparently to blackmail him rather than because he’s actually concerned about the scientist’s culpability. It turns out that Pretorius has created a bunch of tiny people with chipmunk voices whom he keeps in jars, which seems way wackier to me than anything else in the story, but they end up not playing a significant role. When the Bride is finally created, her reaction to the Monster makes him think she hates him. A little premature, perhaps, but who said one reanimated corpse creature would automatically have feelings for another? The Monster then destroys the laboratory with him and the Bride in it, letting the humans escape. One thing I found particularly notable in this one was the prominence of old ladies who complain about everything. It’s been said many times by pedantic people that Frankenstein is the name of the doctor, not the Monster, which is true in the book, the first movie, and most of this one. But towards the end, Pretorius says the film’s title, and the Bride is clearly intended for the Monster and not the scientist. But I understand that the title of the next sequel, Son of Frankenstein, refers to the son of the scientist. Can’t they make up their minds? Really, it would make sense for the Monster to share the surname of his creator, who’s basically his father, but of course this is complicated by Victor/Henry’s rejection of him. And I’m not sure Frankenstein ever earned his doctorate anyway; he’s a medical student when he performs his experiment in the book, and I don’t know that the films specify.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – As the title suggests, this 1994 film makes more of an attempt to faithfully adapt the novel, which isn’t to say that it’s entirely faithful. The name was probably inspired by Bram Stoker’s Dracula, released a few years earlier (although it wasn’t the first film of that title). It includes many of the elements that the Universal films omitted in order to streamline things, including the frame story with Frankenstein meeting an explorer trying to find the North Pole, and a look into Victor’s childhood and study in medicine. And while his fiancee Elizabeth was a character in those other two movies, they were ambiguous about her origins, probably because she was raised as his sister in the novel (although they aren’t related by blood; she was adopted from an Italian family). In this one, however, they make a point of how they’ve changed from siblings to lovers. But then, how often does Helena Bonham Carter play a character who isn’t disturbing? I think the filmmakers purposely tried to distance the creation of the Monster from the iconic Universal approach (the book glosses over this part), but the process involves so much running around that I suspect Kenneth Branagh’s Frankenstein WISHED he had a hunchbacked lab assistant to help him. The boarding house where Victor sets all this up is incredibly large, but hey, rich and indulgent parents. The Monster escapes and Victor assumes he’s dead, so he returns home to take over his father’s practice, which I guess means this is one case where he really can accurately be called Dr. Frankenstein, although admittedly this is AFTER his most famous work. Another bit that isn’t in the book is his bringing Elizabeth back to life after she’s killed by the Monster, which is combined with his aborted attempt to make a wife for the Creature. And it’s pretty timely now that the movie involves a pandemic (cholera in this case) breaking out in the area where Frankenstein is studying, a quarantine, and a guy so against being vaccinated that he murders Dr. Waldman for trying to do so. I liked the movie pretty well, but I don’t think it made much of an impact on the story in popular culture. Robert De Niro as the Monster lacked Karloff’s distinctive look, but I do think he was a more accurate portrayal of a guy made from parts of corpses. I know Beth, who had seen the movie before, really liked Tom Hulce’s portrayal of Henry Clerval.

I looked up the name “Frankenstein,” and it is a real name that apparently means “Frankish stone,” being a place name before people started using it as a surname. “Franks” was a name that was used for people from many different Germanic tribes, and of course the country of France took its name from them. Although it’s debatable, the name might come from a word meaning “free,” so “Frankenstein” would be “stone of the free.” There were nobles of this name in and around Germany. In some adaptations, including the Universal movies, the famous Frankenstein’s father is a baron. This wasn’t the case in the original novel, which had the family living in Geneva in a time when the nobility were losing influence. I don’t think the Universal films specify the Swiss setting, at least not in the first two.

Posted in Etymology, Magic, Medicine, Monsters, Names, VoVat Goes to the Movies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Divide and Concur

It looks like Joe Biden has won, but we still don’t know whether Donald Trump will go peacefully. Of course, he didn’t win by that much. I remember saying back in 2016 that it was really embarrassing that Trump got even ONE vote (aside from his own, I guess), and considering how he’s run the country, it’s even more so now. I swear pretty much everybody hated him back in the eighties. Bigots and fascists have way too much power, and the way things turned out, I wouldn’t be too surprised to find that we’re going to go through this exact same thing again in a few years. And it’s not just the United States; bigoted authoritarian candidates win or nearly win elections in a lot of countries. Not every time, but how are they even viable in this day and age? Is much really going to change under Biden? Probably not, especially if there aren’t any Democratic gains in Congress, but just not having to hear from Trump anymore is a huge relief. His supporters like to claim the election was rigged, because apparently the Democrats rigged it in a way where their candidate would win in a narrow margin and they wouldn’t take control of the Senate. Actually, that’s probably EXACTLY how the Democratic establishment would rig an election, because they don’t want to make their Republican allies too angry. I get that politics is about compromise, but when your whole party has supported a mentally unstable racist bully for all this time, I’m not sure there’s any hope for you.

It’s bothered me for a long time when the media talked about the country being divided, not because it isn’t true but because it strikes me as ignoring the actual issues. Biden said that Republicans aren’t our enemies, but when they actively want to harm others, they kind of are. They CHOSE to be, in fact. It’s not simply that people disagree on issues, but that there’s a major faction saying that it doesn’t matter what happens to people who aren’t part of their group (and sometimes not even those who ARE part of the group). It does seem like Republicans are more likely to be in lockstep, which goes along with the authoritarian thing. Under both George W. Bush and Trump, there was a lot of talk from Republicans about not questioning the President, which somehow went out the window during the Obama administration. But that’s something you hardly ever hear from Democrats, even when their guy is in charge. I don’t think this is necessarily because Republicans always agree on things, just that the traditional viewpoint is generally that rich people should be in charge, leaders should be all-powerful, and outsiders aren’t to be trusted, exactly what progressives are trying to change. Of course, the political spectrum has way more than just two sides. It seems to be a fairly common opinion among people I follow online that the Democratic establishment is too far to the right. They’re pretty much inevitably the better of the two parties, but too close to Republicans in many ways. I get the impression that this is a minority position, as Biden was able to outperform all of the more progressive candidates in the primaries. But then, I don’t think elections are always about the policies anyway. I’m also not sure that the country has been more divided in the past twenty years than at any other point in history. And even if there were more things Republicans and Democrats agreed on in the past, were those always good things? And did it take into account all the people who weren’t allowed to vote? It’s always nice for people to get along, but there’s also a danger in being too insular.

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Pulp Life

When looking for information on fiction involving underground worlds, I came across references to Richard Sharpe Shaver (hopefully nobody called him “Dick”), author and likely paranoid schizophrenic who wrote science fiction adjacent stories about ancient superhumans who lived underground. Ray Palmer edited these and printed them in Amazing Stories, as part of an elaborate yarn about how Shaver had actually come across evidence of this ancient civilization and translated their language. He told several stories of how this came to be the case, but his favorite was that, while working as a welder, he started to hear the thoughts of his co-workers and the underground people who tormented them. I found the first two online, I Remember Lemuria and The Return of Sathanas, and I have to say that for stuff that he obtained through secret knowledge, they’re awfully derivative. I guess the conspiratorial answer to this would be that earlier writers had also somehow found out elements of this hidden history. But I kind of appreciated that they throw in pretty much everything: underground civilizations, lost continents, ancient astronauts, really advanced technology existing in the distant past, strange languages, thought control, hidden meanings to English words, gods from classical mythology being really advanced people. While the narrator and his compatriots eventually left Earth due to being harmed by radiation from the Sun, some of their descendants remain underground, and have become Deros, or “detrimental robots,” even though they aren’t technically robots. Their projection of evil thoughts is responsible for pretty much all the bad stuff that happens. And in the second story, not only do the Norse gods show up as spacefaring warriors, but Satan is reinterpreted as an ancient space warlord.

The Conference of the Birds, by Ransom Riggs – It felt like not much happened in the fifth book in the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series. There are a lot of new characters again based on old photographs, but most of them just show up and don’t do much of anything. There is some development of the prophecy, of the magic that Caul needs to escape from his trapped loop, and of the search for Noor Pradesh’s mother and her relationship with Jacob. I’m not entirely sure why Jacob had to get another love interest so soon, after his relationship with his grandfather’s ex predictably didn’t work out, but there you go. It was well-written and effectively atmospheric, but it seemed a bit rote.

Jirel of Joiry, by C.L. Moore – Written in the 1930s, the stories collected here are written by a woman and have a woman protagonist, a rarity for pulp fiction of the time. Jirel, a badass warrior in medieval France, was obviously influential on many future heroes, but doesn’t undergo all that much character development herself. The tales are more notable for their descriptions of the eerie alien worlds where Jirel inevitably finds herself in her struggles against evil sorcerers and the like. A story that wasn’t in earlier versions of the collection, “Quest of the Starstone,” is a crossover with another of Moore’s creations, the space traveler Northwest Smith, and a collaboration with her future husband Henry Kuttner.

Posted in Book Reviews, Conspiracy Theories, Language, Magic, Monsters, Mythology, Norse | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Toys That Kill

Halloween is over now, but there are still a few horror movies I wanted to talk about.

Witchboard – A movie based on summoning spirits with a Ouija board, although there were some legal issues with using the brand name in the title, even though they did many times in the film itself. There are two different Ouija boards in the movie, but no witches. The back story is that a guy is dating his best friend’s ex, causing the two of them to become estranged. The girlfriend invites the ex-friend to a party, and he brings out a Ouija board and shows how he uses it to contact a little boy who died. This guy is incredibly pretentious, right down to his voice. But anyway, the girlfriend borrows the board and tries to contact the child’s spirit, only to accidentally make contact with a serial killer instead. People surrounding James start dying in mysterious ways, and the police suspect him. He has to team up with the pretentious guy and find out what’s going on, making peace with him in the process. And for some reason, it takes the guy’s death for him to be able to express love. Rose Marie has a brief appearance as the landlady. If you want to see people fall out of windows and get hit with hatchets, this is the movie for you!

Child’s Play 3 – In a weird time skip, this movie released a year after Child’s Play 2 takes place eight years later. I’m sure we’re not supposed to think about it too much. The toy company wants to bring back Good Guys dolls, but they somehow mix Chucky’s blood into a new doll, once again restoring him to life. Andy has, after being kicked out of multiple foster homes, been sent to a military academy, and Chucky has himself mailed there. He realizes that he could try for a new host since he has a new body, and instead focuses on a kid living at the academy, who’s thrilled about the doll and rather nonplussed by his violent tendencies. Like most movies about military school, this one makes it look brutal, unfair, and terrifying. The colonel bullying cadets might be scarier than the killer doll. During the war games, Chucky puts live ammunition into some of the rifles being used, and also gets his hands on a grenade, trying to cause chaos so he can do his voodoo bit with the kid. Andy’s dorky roommate (who really never seems as pathetic as the dialogue makes him out to be, but hey, informed attributes combined with military abuse), Harold Whitehurst, sacrifices himself to save everyone else from the grenade. Andy chases Chucky to a nearby carnival, which is shown earlier in the film so it doesn’t TOTALLY come out of nowhere but still kind of breaks the theme, where the doll ends up being shredded by a giant fan. There’s also some romantic chemistry between Andy and a female cadet, even though it felt like they were shipping her with Whitehurst earlier on. The film ends with Andy being taken by the police for questioning, and I don’t think we see him again for twenty-two years. It’s some time before there’s another movie in the series at all, and I understand that one, like many later horror sequels, focuses on the killer.

Leprechaun – This one is a horror comedy that isn’t particularly scary or funny, but I think it deserves a watch for the weird novelty value. I’m not sure anyone knew what kind of movie this was supposed to be, or how it would work. The titular leprechaun, played by Warwick Davis, is trapped in a box by an Irish guy living in North Dakota who stole his gold, but not until after the fairy kills his wife. Ten years later, a guy rents the house, and his daughter, a pre-Friends Jennifer Aniston initially hates the idea but starts to warm to it because she thinks a local painter (named Nathan, giving my name a better showing than Sophie’s Choice did) is hot. He works with his little brother Alex and a mentally challenged guy named Ozzie, with the kid acting like the adult of the two. When Ozzie inadvertently frees the leprechaun, the little person is still obsessed with finding his gold, which turns up in an old truck. The leprechaun goes off to murder a bunch of people who have no idea what he’s talking about, or at best know about the gold but don’t know it’s his. I’m not sure why he doesn’t ask people nicely first, but I guess that’s just not his personality. It was generally unclear what the extent of the Leprechaun’s powers were. Why is he sometimes able to teleport, and other times has to ride a tricycle or a toy car? Does he just go for whatever looks the most ridiculous? He does mention that he doesn’t have the full extent of his power without the gold, but it’s still not defined what he can and can’t do in either situation. One thing they did take from actual Irish folklore is that leprechauns are shoemakers, although I don’t know that there’s any precedent for their having to stop and polish every shoe they come across. I guess it’s because of this that you see people’s feet a lot, even in scenes where the Leprechaun isn’t around. It’s worth noting that there was a bit where the Leprechaun tries Lucky Charms and doesn’t like them, but it’s actually the generic brand “Lucky Clovers,” I guess because General Mills wouldn’t play ball. LA Gear, on the other hand, was apparently perfectly willing to be involved with this.

Posted in Celtic, Food, Games, Humor, Magic, Mythology, Toys, VoVat Goes to the Movies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You Want Some Mo?

I’ve already written about elections and politics in Oz, so even though it’s Election Day here in the States, I’m going to write about a firmly entrenched royal family who never have to run for reelection, that of the Land of Mo. It’s ruled by an unnamed king who has existed as long as the country, and is fated to live as long as it continues to exist. He’s called the Magical Monarch, even though he doesn’t work magic. The Monarch has a queen and many children, with L. Frank Baum telling us that “it is not much use being a prince in Mo, because the King cannot die.” I’m sure there are advantages to it, though, like living in the castle. Several of these children are mentioned by name, and are even the protagonists of some of the adventures. Others are distinguished in some way without being named.

The eldest son, Prince Zingle, is tricked by the Purple Dragon into pushing his father into a hole so he can become king, which he wants to do simply so he can milk the royal cow who produces ice cream. He has a fondness for flying kites, and continually made larger ones until one carried him off to the Island of Civilized Monkeys, where he was kept as a prisoner until he lost enough weight to slip through the bars.
After that, he didn’t fly kites for a while, but later stuck to small ones. There’s apparently an entire book about him, Smith’s History of Prince Zingle.

Prince Jollikin is the one who fights and eventually kills the Gigaboo, although he gets his body cut up in the process and has to manually reassemble it, leaving his joints stiff for a while.

He’s said to be quite fond of a laugh.

Prince Thinkabit is the one who usually comes up with ideas, and has a habit of rubbing his head to get his brain into working order. He figures out how to defeat the Cast-Iron Man, and how to pick an apple from a floating branch. He’s also said to be a bit more courageous than his siblings, although Jollikin sounds pretty courageous himself.

Prince Fiddlecumdoo is the King’s youngest son, is spoiled by his parents (which must be something to see, as it sounds like everyone in Mo is kind of spoiled), and is an excellent violinist. When bored, he rides a bicycle to the next valley to visit the giant Hartilaf and his wife.

They’re quite friendly, but he ends up being crushed in their enormous clothes wringer and has to be inflated.

Of the girls, Princess Pattycake is said to be the most beautiful, described as having deep blue eyes, rosy cheeks, and long silken hair.

She also has a terrible temper, which a boy named Timtom manages to cure with help from the Sorceress Maetta, after which Pattycake and Timtom get married. A later story explicitly says that this made Timtom a Prince. There are three unnamed princesses in “The Strange Adventures of the King’s Head,” who marry the three men who make replacement heads for the Monarch. The man who makes a candy head chooses the biggest, the dough head maker the second biggest, and the woodchopper “one of the prettiest of the young princesses.” There’s no indication as to whether or not these three also became princes.

The only princess specifically mentioned who doesn’t end up married (unless she’s one of the three unnamed ones, which is possible but not too likely) is Truella. The Wicked Wizard of Mo steals her toe for a magic spell, and she seeks help from Maetta, who gives her a bunch of objects that help her reach and defeat the Wizard in unusual ways.

She’s also known for riding a stork, and having a weakness for kisses.

She reappears in Marcus Mebes’ The Royal Explorers of Oz, and Prince Bobo falls for her, but she seems to only see him as a friend.

For what it’s worth, none of the King’s sons are said to get married.

A dog named Prince, a stranger in Mo who becomes friends with the King, becomes part of the royal household. Another relative is Duchess Bredenbutta, said to be “forty-seventh cousin to the Monarch of Mo and great-grandniece to the Queen.”

Doesn’t “forty-seventh cousin” mean they’re separated by forty-seven generations? If people are immortal in Mo and the King has been around since it existed, is this even possible? I think someone suggested before that it could be less technical, simply saying that she was the forty-seventh of his cousins to be born (or however children come into being in that valley).

Posted in Animals, Characters, Families, Jared Davis, Jeff Rester, L. Frank Baum, Marcus Mebes, Monsters, Names, Oz, Oz Authors, Places, Relationships | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment