Moment of Wonder: The Great Barrier Reef from Space

 

The view of the Great Barrier Reef from the International Space Station.

NASA has posted this stunning shot of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef taken from the International Space Station.

The area covered in the photograph spans 10 miles of the 1,700-mile Great Barrier, the largest reef system on Earth. The system is composed of 3,000 separate reefs and coral cays and supports hundreds of types of corals and thousands of animal species. Only three reefs are visible in the picture above — and as you can probably guess, those cottony white things are clouds.

According to NASA, reef systems’ shallow lagoons show up as iridescent blues from space and contrast sharply with the dark blues of deep water. That makes them relatively easy to spot and photograph from Earth’s orbit.

For the gearheads among you, the astronaut snapped this image on October 12, 2015, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 millimeter lens.

Forgotten Films: Master of the World (1961)

This 1961 cheapie may have you wishing you'd watched 20,000 Leagues instead.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 165th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

What better way to celebrate Memorial Day than to watch Vincent Price try to stop war across the globe?

Back in 1961, I was still in the Fairbanks, Alaska, area on one of the military bases when I first heard about Master of the World, a film combining two Jules Verne novels into a cinematic masterpiece. I knew a little about Verne and some about Vincent Price and that was about it. The art and craft of moviemaking and cinematic quality were things beyond my comprehension at the time.

Fortunately, I never got to see the film in 1961 — or ever — until this morning. I had taped it a couple of weeks ago from Turner Classic. (How I miss that channel right now when I have no television in my Alpine apartment!)

This one is not one of the good Price movies, not one of the Poe films or the like. It has a Richard Matheson script (that’s the good part). It has Vincent Price, Charles Bronson and Henry (Werewolf of London) Hull! But, boy, does the story suffer!

What we have here is an American International attempt to cash in on 1954’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and 1956’s Around the World in Eighty Days. But, being American International, they wanted to do this big epic story on a shoestring budget. According to Wikipedia, this was AI’s largest budget film to date, but it still came out as a B-film on a double bill with Konga.

Part of the problem may stem from the source material. Matheson worked with two Verne novels Master of the World and Robur the Conqueror. In the annals of great Verne titles, these are not the books you pick. Essentially, you have the peace message of Captain Nemo from 20,000 Leagues and its sea setting moved into the air, where the marvels are sorely lacking. No lost cities or giant squids up in the clouds. Just another mad captain trying to bring nations to peace by using the force he abhors.

Our story deals with Mr. Prudent (Hull), a Pennsylvania arms manufacturer; his daughter Dorothy (Mary Webster); her fiancé Phillip Evans (David Frankham); and US government agent John Strock (Bronson). Together, they are investigating strange noises, explosions and Biblical pronouncements from a vast mountain known as the Great Eyrie. Since the mountain cannot be scaled, they investigate via balloon, which is mysteriously shot down.

The group awakens aboard the Albatross, a huge flying contraption with many overhead propellers that provide lift and a rear propeller used from propulsion. It is commanded by the impressive Robur (Price) who calls no country home. It is his intention to get every country to give up war or suffer consequences.

They fly through the air with great ease and never appear to land. When they take on water, it is via a giant siphon hose. Phillip attempts to interfere with Robur’s plan and finds himself (and later Bronson) dangling from the ship at the end of a fraying rope.

I really wanted to like this film, but I can’t do it. According to Wikipedia, Price was very proud of his role. But he plays it a little heavy handed for me. Bronson is used as a romantic love interest for the already engaged Dorothy, eliciting some jealous posturing from Phillip. There are also a couple of “humorous” scenes involving cook Topage (Vito Scotti, absolutely abused, wasted and not funny).

But where the film really suffers is in the special effects. Yes, it is 1961. But still, the matte work is quite rough. The miniatures are pretty cheesy and the film uses a fair bit of stock footage. Where Nemo had underwater scenes, all Robur gets are shots of clouds and blue skies in his cockpit view. Very dull stuff.

As I indicated above, it’s really a cheap second cousin to 20,000 Leagues, and you would be better served watching it instead. But, of course, you may have loved this film in 1961 and found it to be hugely influential on your world view and cinematic experience. In that case, I salute you. My mileage varied.

Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

 

Forgotten Book: Iroshi by Cary Osborne (1995)

Cary Osborne's Iroshi transports the ronin story to space.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 185th in my series of Forgotten Books.

This week’s selection is certainly a Forgotten Book. I have had a copy for about 20 years, except for a brief period after I sold my library, after which I acquired another copy. Cary Osborne has been a friend for more than 20 years and she is one of the nicest people I know. That said, I am ashamed to say I did not actually sit down and read Iroshi until last week. I had it and it was around, but I didn’t get the compulsion to read it versus some other books.

So, confessions aside, I read Iroshi the other day and really enjoyed it. It is not a perfect novel. It is a first novel, and it has some of the regular problems associated with those books. But, it was enjoyable.

Laicy Campbell is a young woman on Siebeling, one of the many inhabited mining planets around the galaxy. Her father took off one day and left Laicy’s mom and family flat. They took in wash and did other chores to get by. At 12, Laicy started in on martial arts. Her instructor, Robert Crowell, taught her for five years in the various fighting styles. Where she excelled was in kendo, working with swords. After the five years, Crowell sent her to Earth to train with his old master, Mushimo. The training was long and arduous and involved reading and understanding the zen of what she was doing, in addition to the forms. One of the things she was trying to master with Mr. Mushimo was achieving the void.

While at Mushimo’s there is an attack of ninja warriors. Ninjas were supposedly long gone from Earth. Laicy and Mushimo defeat them with the aid of another helper/student Akiro. Mushimo sends Laicy into a room filled with swords and tells her to pick one. She hears the voices of the swords, and one in particular calls to her, drowning out the others. It is Mushimo’s ancestral sword going back many generations. He gives it to her, saying he has no heirs to pass the tradition on. Soon he dismisses her and gives her a credit disk with more money than she can imagine. She decides to wander, using the name Iroshi. She hears that Mushimo has died and left his entire estate to Crowell, her former teacher.

She soon acquires a reputation as a badass who picks fight and rarely loses. She finds herself on the planet Rune, another arid mining world. She senses a call to the desert and finds an abandoned town with a hidden water source and other secrets. Those secrets include the bodiless souls of the former inhabitants who are able to guide her. Chief among these spirits is one called Ensi who is particularly bonded to her. Her old master Mushimo is also among these spirits. Together they want Iroshi to establish the Glaive, a kind of warrior guild that she will administer, and to see that others are trained in the proper ways of the masters. She is again attacked by nameless assassins who fail to stop her.

This ends Section 1 of the book. Section 2 takes place eight years later. The glaive is becoming a political force throughout the galaxy and Iroshi, as its leader, has become a powerful person. Her facility on Rune is attracting attention, which includes that of Mushimo’s two sons, whom he disowned earlier. They want to stop her and seize the property that their father has given to Iroshi and Crowell.

The fight for Earth and control of the fortune takes the second half of the book. I didn’t find it as compelling as the first half, but I did not dislike it either. The break seemed a little forced to me, but I wasn’t the one writing it.

Overall, the melding of a female Ronin warrior and a space traveling society and zen religion was a little odd, but I thought it worked. There are currently three books in the Iroshi cycle – Iroshi (1995), The Glaive (1996) and Persea (1996). They are all back in print right now as ebooks. Cary Osborne’s website indicates that she is working on a fourth Iroshi book to be titled Beyond the Void.

After reading Iroshi, I know I will pick up the other volumes in the series, although I will possibly wait until the fourth one appears, so I can get the sense of closure that reading an incomplete series does not give you. Hopefully, it will not be 20 years before that happens.

If this sounds like your cup of sake, give Iroshi and the other titles a try. I don’t think you will be disappointed. But, fair warning, your mileage may vary.

Series organizer Patti Abbott usually hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

 

Forgotten Films: Fathom (1967)

Raquel Welch provides the advertised feast in Fathom.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 164th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

We are now on a roll! Two Forgotten Film columns in a row! It’s good to be back on track. As I mentioned in last week’s article, I am in the process of moving. I am in one place while the wife, cats and stuff are in another. I am staying in a college dorm room where I have an internet connection but no television service. So I am somewhat restricted in what I can review.

I brought my Blu-Ray player with me, but without a working TV it does me no good. I brought a bunch of films too, but about half are Blu-Ray only so I won’t be watching them any time soon. Still, it’s good thing not everything in my collection is Blu-Ray.

The other day I was out at the grocery store and there was this big bin of previously viewed movies. This week’s title Fathom leapt up into my cart and I parted with $3.99 + tax to take it home. (You can tell I’ve been away from home for a while by my subject choice.) I had seen this movie many years ago but my memories are always a little hazy, so on a pleasant Saturday afternoon I settled in to a nice chair and fired up my computer for a refresher.

Fathom Harvill (Raquel Welch) is a dental hygienist turned skydiver who is training in Spain for a competition against the French. Following a nice jump, she is hijacked by Colonel Campbell and his aide Timothy (Ronald Fraser and Richard Briers, respectively), the men from HADES (Headquarters Allied Defenses, Espionage & Security). They want her to parachute down to a villa and activate a defective listening device they have there. It is a vital mission, as they are trying to locate the Fire Dragon, a remote detonator for nuclear weapons that was lost and may now have been located. Opposing her will be Peter Merriwether (Tony Franciosa, who got top billing over Raquel) and his Chinese girl friend Jo-May (Greta Chi).

When Fathom arrives, she discovers a man’s dead body and the blunt object used to kill him. She picks up said object and finds her picture being taken. Then begins a game of cat and mouse. Merriwether and Jo-May think she is working for Campbell, but she says “no.” They search her and find nothing that ties her to the others, so they take her into town. There she learns from the listening device that a man named Serapkin (Clive Revill) may have killed the dead man she found in the villa. Serapkin is a man of passionate tastes and Raquel is nothing if not passionate, so she finds herself in a tiny green bikini headed off to Serapkin’s yacht, armed with explosive earrings.

Up to this point, the film has been mostly straight forward, but this was the middle 1960’s and camp was somewhat in so Lorenzo Semple Jr.’s script becomes more farcical, not unlike some of the television scripts he had provided for ABC’s Batman show, which he had helped develop and for which he wrote many episodes.

The film develops into a campy Maltese Falcon with each side claiming the other is lying. Our heroine, naturally, cannot decide which group to believe. There are false leads and amazing lies and odd scenes, such as Merriwether and crew watching Fathom being chased around a bullring by a bull who is excited by her bright red dress.

At this point, I suppose I should mention the fashions in the film. It is the mid 1960s and it is Europe, and Raquel is an amazing canvas on which to display clothing or the lack thereof. The dresses are boldly colored and short, particularly the red dress and the bright yellow one. The bikinis are not micro but they are not what Annette Funnicello wore in her beach movies either. And the parachuting jumpsuits are amazingly tight in all the correct places.

No one will confuse Ms. Welch with Helen Mirren, Judi Dench or Meryl Streep, but she does play the naïve stranger role pretty well.

The character of Fathom was created by Larry Forrester in his 1967 novel A Girl Called Fathom. This film is based on his unpublished second novel, Fathom Heavensent. The first book appeared with Raquel on the cover, so I would assume people bought this book expecting to read the movie story. I’m sure they were greatly confused later.

Overall, I enjoyed the film. It went on perhaps 10 minutes too long (it runs 99 minutes) but that wasn’t a big deal. The early Raquel Welch was stunning, and she knows how to use her body to great effect throughout the film. This could have been a pretty good movie without the camp stuff, but as it is, it’s an okay way to spend a Saturday afternoon away from the wife and cats.

As always, your mileage may vary.

Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

 

Forgotten Book: Lone Star Planet (aka A Planet for Texans) by H. Beam Piper and John J. Maguire (1958)

This little sf novel captures Texas' larger-than-life eccentricities.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 184th in my series of Forgotten Books.

As Greg Lake (of King Crimson and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer) so nicely put it, “Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends!” April and half of May have come and gone and there has not been a Forgotten Book column on the screen here at Sanford Allen’s Candy Skulls blog. I have been very busy! (Scroll up and read Tuesday’s Forgotten Film column for the full scoop and to learn about which Tarzan film had its initial theatrical release in 1958 and which was not shown in the US until 1966. Go ahead! We’ll wait! La-de-dah! La-de-dah! Repeat as needed.)

So, once again I say, “Welcome back!” This week, we reach back into our Wayback Bag to find a writer who was once very popular, fell out of favor, killed himself because of it, came back into favor, and is now forgotten again for the most part. H. Beam Piper wrote a lot of stories for Astounding and Analog before the New Wave made the engineer-solving-things story a little passé. He is probably best known for his novel Little Fuzzy, which had sequels prepared by Ardath Mayhar (Golden Dreams), William Tuning (Fuzzy Bones), and, most recently, by John Scalzi (Fuzzy Nation). Wikipedia tells me someone named Wolfgang Diehr has also published two additional Fuzzy novels, Fuzzy Ergo Sum and Caveat Fuzzy. And, let us not forget that Michael Whelan applied his very considerable talents (along with those of David Wenzel) to a children’s book about the Fuzzies (The Adventures of Little Fuzzy) in 1983 that is pretty wonderful.

Anyway, Piper wrote a lot to try and make a living. Some of his stuff is very good (try the Paratime stories), but of all of it is at least of professional quality. One of the odder pieces was a novelette titled A Planet For Texans, which he wrote with John J. McGuie. This is an entertaining yarn with some politics thrown in for fun. Stephen Silk is a career diplomat who works behind the scenes. When bored, he writes articles as Machiavelli Junior. One such article lands him before a group of senior diplomats, where he’s forced to explain himself. Rather than be fired, he allows himself to become the new Solar League Ambassador to the independent planet New Texas. New Texas provides superbeef and is known as the Butcher to the Stars. The giant cows won’t grow anywhere else, and the New Texans are mighty proud of their independent, cantankerous nature. The previous ambassador was shot and killed.

Also looking at New Texas is a new race in the galaxy, the z’Srauff, an aggressive bunch that resembles intelligent dogs. While the Solar League is not at war with the z’Srauff, it seems inevitable, and the League wants New Texas to be on board.

So Mr. Silk finds himself shipped off to New Texas with roughly three hours’ notice to pack and go. On his flight out, he meets Gail, who is also headed there. When he arrives, he is separated from her and ends up meeting his new aide Hoddy Ringo, a man returning to New Texas after having had some past “issues” that could have made him the late Hoddy Ringo.

One of the previous Solar League ambassadors is still on planet, Silk discovers. After serving a short while as ambassador, the man went native, renounced his League citizenship and became a New Texan. He had a family, which of course included a daughter named Gail, mentioned earlier.

Politics on New Texas is a little different. Not unlike politics in current Texas. They take personal rights very seriously, and if a law was to infringe on those rights, the New Texans can legally kill the lawmaker who brought the law into effect. Somehow, being an ambassador is seen as being a lawmaker and there is no diplomatic immunity.

Silk has to find out who killed his predecessor, make the guilty party pay, not get killed himself, convince the freedom loving New Texans to become part of the Solar League, incite the z’Srauff into breaking the peace, win the girl he loves and still find time to visit the Alamo. The New Texans did not build a replica; they brought the original over stone by stone. Ostentatious is a Texan byword now and then.

This is “not a novel of big thinks” as Mr. Joe R. Lansdale has described some books. This is a novel of true Texans and fun. I really enjoyed it and found it much too short. Originally, it was released as half of an Ace Double. The version I read had it bound together with Four Day Planet, another fun Piper book. So, copies should not be that hard or difficult to find. The Ace Double has the better cover.

Scott says check out Lone Star Planet or A Planet for Texans and H. Beam Piper while you can. Then go have a barbecue. Your mileage and acid reflux may vary.

Series organizer Patti Abbott usually hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs. This week the lovely and talented Todd Mason is hosting it for her.

 

Forgotten Films: Tarzan and the Trappers (1958)

Who can resist the promise of "wild jungle action?"

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 163rd in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

Welcome back, my friends. It seems like forever since I got to tell you about films and shows you did not want to remember.

I have been incredibly busy. Since the last posting, I accepted a new job, visited Alpine, Texas, where the job is located, placed an offer on a house, gave my own house some serious cleaning so it could be shown to potential buyers, loaded up 250+ boxes of books, movies and the like and got them into the garage (with some much needed and appreciated help from close friends), had the rear window of my one year old car destroyed by hail because said boxes were in the garage, drove to Austin with a taped up window during a rain storm to prevent having to wait a month for replacement, attended a work conference in Corpus Christi and moved into a dorm apartment in Alpine while waiting for the house to sell so we can buy the other house.

Get your programs right here! You can’t tell the score without a program!

As a result of all the scrambling, watching films and reading books have not been high on my priority list! But now things are settling down. Still need to sell the house and buy the new one and move stuff out here, but all that is doable. Consequently I have told Sanford that I should be back on a more reliable schedule of providing these little columns. We shall see.

This week I decided to watch an old Tarzan movie starring Gordon Scott. I had never seen many of his outings as the jungle lord, but I thought he looked the part and acted semi-literate as opposed to the Johnny Weissmuller monosyllabic Tarzan, whom I watched and enjoyed as a kid.

This “film” was made in 1958 and released in Iran (if we can believe IMDB) but was not shown in the U.S. until 1966. I put the quotes around film because this is a conglomeration of three television pilots later re-edited into a very episodic release. The pilots were presented to the three networks at that time and no one chose to bite, so producer Sol Lesser tried to recoup some of the money.

The plot is pretty standard TV fare – white hunters invading tribal lands and killing or capturing animals for zoos and trophies. Tarzan stop bad men. Then, the brother of the bad man wants to hunt down Tarzan with the help of an evil guide looking for the treasures of a lost civilization. City found; no treasure. Bad guys stopped.

As a holdover from the Weissmuller days, we have a lovely Jane (Eve Brent), who does little, and a son, Boy (Rickie Sorensen), who provides some young interest and is always available as a potential captive/hostage. Cheetah the chimp (billed as Chetah) is possibly the best actor in the group, particularly in the final half of the film. Scatman Crothers makes an appearance under the name Sherman Crothers as Tyana, one of the tribal chiefs.

I watched this because I recently saw the preview for the new Tarzan film due this year. (Previews for that look good, so I will be watching.) And also because I have a signed Gordon Scott photo of him as Tarzan. (Thank you Barry and Terry for that wonderful gift so many years ago!) While Scott, who made six Tarzan movies between 1955 and 1960, is better than some of the many actors who played the role, he’s not particularly memorable in this outing.

So, be warned this isn’t a spectacular Tarzan film. Watch at your own risk. As always, your mileage may vary depending on your nerdiness. Ungawah!

Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

 

See you at World Horror Convention 2016

This weekend, I will be reading and appearing on panels at World Horror Convention 2016 in Provo, Utah.If you are too, I’d love to meet you. Your best chances of finding me:

Thursday, 8:15 pm in the Cedar Room – Panel: Historical Horror

Friday, 4:30 pm in the Juniper Room – Reading my short story “Come Down, Ma Evenin’ Star”

Saturday, 10:15 am in the Birch Room – Panel: My Favorite Horror Film

Saturday, 8:45 pm in the Cedar Room – Panel: Using Music in Your Stories

Sunday, 12:45 pm in the Cedar Room – Panel: Why We Love Lovecraft

And of course, there’s always the bar. They do have hotel bars in Utah, don’t they?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forgotten Films: Watership Down (1978)

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 162nd in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

This week’s film is forgotten by me and I think many others. Back in 1972 while I was in college it was hard to find someone who had not heard of Watership Down, the novel, which was a cause célèbre at the time.

A first novel, the story of a group of intrepid rabbits was welcome in the literary world and another fantasy reached the mainstream, though most would not acknowledge that it was “fantasy.” Surely it must be an allegory or fable or something more palatable.

I believe I read the book in 1973 or whenever the paperback came out. Hardbacks were too expensive for my college budget. But I read the paperback even though I had more than I could read with the English classes and the rest. I really enjoyed the tale and was excited when I heard about the film version to come.

It took a while for the animated version to appear (1978) and I saw it then and, again, enjoyed the story. The other day, Turner Classic Films offered it as part of the rotation and my fingers clicked the Record function on the DVR.

So today I decided to watch it. I had such fond impressions left from my last viewing in 1978 that I don’t know quite what I was expecting. I got an interesting Heroic Rabbit Exodus story.

The tale follows a group of rabbits led by Hazel (voiced by John Hurt) and his brother Fiver (voiced by Richard Briers). Fiver has had a vision of impending doom for the warren where the two reside. They bring their warning to the Chief Rabbit (Ralph Richardson) who is not impressed. Hazel convinces several rabbits, including Bigwig a former leader, to leave with them and they are soon challenged by the Owsla (the rabbit equivalent of an army or militia). A group of eight rabbits manage to escape. Fiver’s vision soon comes true and the warren is destroyed by men for a building project.

The group is soon cut down to seven as the only female doe Violet is killed by a hawk. Their trip to some place that only Fiver knows is peppered with dangerous situations including a loose dog, a cat and some rats. Eventually they meet the very odd rabbit Cowslip (Denholm Elliott) who offers the group a place in his warren. But something is not good about it and Fiver tries to leave. Bigwig challenges him and in following Fiver finds himself in a snare. This intense scene was the subject utilized in the movie poster, which I feel was a bad move.

Bigwig is saved, though not without incident and the group leaves the warren which was a man-made rabbit factory where rabbits lived an easy life with food and protection until they are plucked away and never seen again.

They eventually arrive at Watership Down, Fiver’s mystical place of “milk and honey” where they run into a totalitarian warren overseen by General Woundwort (Harry Andrews) who does not to let a group of females leave and join the new less restrictive warren.

At the time of release, most animated films were aimed totally at children. This film with its brutal looking poster and intense sequences must have been somewhat problematic. There was some comic relief supplied by the seagull Kehaar (Zero Mostel).

Also, the opening and closing sequences are very stylized and contain a sort of creation myth for the rabbits involving Frith, the sun god, and El-ahrairah, the prince of all rabbits. The rest of the film presents fairly realistic representations of the rabbits.

For myself, I was somewhat disappointed this time through. The film was very episodic and seemed a little jerky. And it was not an epic fantasy type film. In several areas I found it a little dull and wished for something to happen. Probably that’s just curmudgeonly me reacting to the animation changes of the last 30 years. I’m glad I saw it again, but I would not recommend it for younger viewers.

Of course, your mileage will certainly vary. Bear in mind that my taste is in my mouth and you may love this film. If so, spread the word.

My postings may be spotty over the next month or so. I am taking on a new day job and it will require relocation, so I may not have time to view and report. I will try, but I am being realistic. I am about to have an incredibly intense five weeks. The same will apply to my Forgotten Book posts on Thursday.

Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

 

Forgotten Book: Amazon Planet by Mack Reynolds (1966 – 1967 magazine, 1975 book form)

Mack Reynolds' Amazon Planet seems to have lost some of its political punch.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 183rd in my series of Forgotten Books.

Popular taste in science fiction is a pretty fluid thing. The field is so broad and encompasses lots of sub-genres. It’s pretty easy to be focused on a single area or author and not see whole fields that exist. As a teenager in the ’60s, I found it was still possible to read most of the important books in the field each year. Within a few years that was no longer possible.

I remember when fantasy titles were very, very scarce. This year represents the 50th anniversary of the first Lancer Conan title with a Frank Frazetta cover. At that time you had to look. Michael Moorcock was coming and Ballantine had published Tolkien and some E. R. Eddison but not much else. Ace was thinking of printing the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser books.

So all this is in prelude to talking about Mack Reynolds. A very prolific writer, Reynolds published something like 75 books between the 1950s and 1980s, of which I have read four. That’s not much based on his output and huge presence in the marketplace. I don’t know why I never read much. He was in a lot of ace Doubles, and I certainly read many of those by lesser writers. But I did read Amazon Planet back then, and now, some 48 years later, I decided to revisit him and one of his novels.

Amazon Planet was serialized in Analog in 1966 and 1967, which is where I originally read it. God only knows why, because I didn’t read many of the serialized novels at that time. The fact that I had all three parts at the time is pretty amazing, at least to me.

Guy Thomas is a United Planets Federation negotiator who has been sent to Amazonia on a freighter. The only other passenger is a young woman, Patricia “Pat” O’Gara, who is going from her home planet of Victoria to Amazonia.

The crew is fascinated that Guy plans to go to Amazonia. The planet is run by women, and men have little to no rights. Pat is trying to escape the repressive Victorian mores of her planet to the more enlightened government of Amazonia. There are several early political discussions about matriarchies and female warriors, a subject which Reynolds obviously knew much about.

But there are difficulties. Pat has no landing visa to go there. And Guy is a man. When the Amazonians show up, there is a problem with Guy’s visa also, since it shows his name as Gay. He tries to convince them that it is no big deal. The Amazonians warn him that since he is a man, any Amazonian warrior with fewer than three husbands can come up, clasp him on the shoulder and say, “I take thee.” At that point, he would become part of the warrior’s harem.

But things are never quite what they seem. Guy is not a sales negotiator. He is a spy hoping to help a male underground rise up from the female tyranny.

It becomes an action adventure story stuck in the idle of a political discussion (not quite a diatribe) and something approaching Women’s Rights. And even that does not begin to cover the whole of the book.

I mostly enjoyed the novel, but it does seem a bit dated. And according to Wikipedia, this was one of the books caught up in a period of declining sales on Reynolds’ part and a takeover of Ace Books that prevented several novels from being published between 1969 and 1975. By 1975 the ERA was old hat and much of the punch of this book seemed to have been lost.

I do have another Reynolds book that I intend to read sometime, Code Duello. I am not sure when I will get to it. My experience with Amazon Planet has not moved that one in up in my reading list, nor caused it to disappear.

The Ace Books thing is interesting as it notes that his sales had declined. Yet on the paperback copy I read, he is noted in a big label, “Voted the most popular science fiction author by the readers of Galaxy and If.” Go figure.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

 

Forgotten Films: The Giant Behemoth (1959)

The Giant Behemoth's animated monster feels flat in some instances, but it still delivers some fun for genre fans.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 161st in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

I am ashamed to say that I had never seen this film before pulling it up for this week’s Forgotten Film. I love stop motion animation and Willis O’Brien. King Kong is one of my favorite films off all time and anything with O’Brien’s animation in it is something I want to see. I’ve seen most of his science fiction related stuff but I had not seen this one.

According to Wikipedia, however, O’Brien did not do most of the animation. The director wanted him but the producers hired Jack Rabin, best known for his work on The Beast of Hollow Mountain and The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent. Rabin apparently sub-contracted the work to O’Brien for the flat fee of $5,000. O’Brien’s assistant, Pete Peterson, did most of the animation. This was the last film that O’Brien really worked on, other than a very short piece in It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

Giant Behemoth director Eugène Lourié previously did 1953’s The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, and this film has several similarities. Apparently the original premise for this film had an amorphous blob of radiation as the monster but the distributor wanted a pastiche of the former film, so the script was changed.

On to the film. The film begins with American scientist Steve Karnes (Gene Evans) speaking to a British nuclear commission about the possible effects of radiation on the ecology of the ocean. In an astounding coincidence, a small fishing village suffers the loss of an old fisherman who is found near death and says the word “Behemoth” before he dies. Suddenly, fish begin washing up on the beach. And thousands of dead fish mean something is wrong.

Karnes and his British counterpart Professor James Bickford (André Morell) decide to visit the village. They find the fishermen afraid to go out since something is causing the fish to die. Also, one fisherman has suffered unusual burns, similar to those caused by radiation exposure. Soon there are more deaths and a footprint is discovered. Karnes and Bickford take the footprint to a paleontologist who decides that the monster must be a type of Palaeosaurus, an aquatic dinosaur with electric qualities like an eel. The monster is also discovered to be highly radioactive.

Soon, the monster is traced to London where it destroys a ferry with lots of people on it. And begins a run through the city. The monster has the power to emit deadly radiation that kills quite effectively.

Karnes and Bickford have to work with other scientists and the military to destroy the monster without blowing it up and leaving thousands of little highly radioactive bits across town.

Overall, The Giant Behemoth is an enjoyable enough film. It is very obviously a low budget piece; one shot of the monster destroying a car is used three times in the film. The water scenes of the monster are not animated in much detail; the monster’s mouth barely moves. However, the land shots of the monster terrorizing the city are much better. While the movie is derivative of The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms and takes a while to get going, I still had fun.

The Giant Behemoth is a product of its time — nothing even remotely approaching computer assisted animation was used here — and being in black and white will probably discourage younger fans. If you have not seen it, give it a try. If you have seen it, you are better off going back to see King Kong, The Lost World or Mighty Joe Young to see O’Brien flex his animation powers.

Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.