Favorite Science Fiction Films: 4: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

Based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from 1886 , which gave the world the epitome of the double, one of the central characteristics of the Gothic genre, this 1932 film is one of the best horror and science fiction films of that decade or any other time. Robert Mamoulian directed and Adolph Zukor produced the film for Paramount.  Fredric March played Jekyll and Hyde and won the 1932 Oscar® for Best Actor. The film was expensive, coming in at approximately one half million dollars to make, and it was also a financial as well as critical success, making about one and one quarter million dollars–a huge amount of money in those days.

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

The film is an excellent adaptation of the novella, something I rarely say about any film.  I love films almost as much as I do books, but almost any adaptation of a film is inferior to the book. The novel has the ability to speak directly to the reader, and the reader’s mind creates images that go much further and deeper than the particular aspect of a director’s vision, at least usually.  Stevenson’s novella is oddly short and would have benefited from begin developed in much more depth.  I can speak to that in another post in the future.  This film develops much of what is only hinted at in the Victorian era novella and is one of the few examples of when a film is superior to the book on which it is based.

The book hints at being a metaphor for drug addiction and the concurrent behavior of addicts, when their worst selves emerge. This film, in a manner that is overt for the early 1930s, visually makes these suggestions.  When Jekyll transforms for the first time, Mamoulian uses Jekyll’s POV (point of view) and shows us the images whirling through his mind.  Rather than eliminating his negative and evil impulses, he manages to bring them out to the front, and Mr. Hyde indulges his desires.

The book and the film also speak to the issue of the misuse of science and the unguarded pursuit of knowledge. This hubris, always punished by the gods in Greek Drama, was seen earlier in Frankenstein, and it is an issue that will continue to haunt us not only in contemporary films such as Jurassic Park but also in the very real world of scientific research.  Atomic weapons immediately come to mind as an example of how science can produce terrible as well as wonderful ends.  This film, in Gothic fashion, speaks to the problems of scientific hubris, uncontrolled by ethics.

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Fredric March was one of the great leading men of the time. He had a long and extraordinary career, including winning the Best Actor Oscar® two times.  Arguably, his performance in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was his best work of his career.

If you have never had the opportunity to watch this film, I recommend it highly.

An English Historian – A Walk to Chapel Stile

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Please enjoy this wonderful post from John Bainbridge!

Country Ways

One of the loveliest and easiest routes in the Lakes is along the old corpse route from Chapel Stile to Grasmere. Some beautiful scenery and a wonderful paved path some of the way. Until the church at Chapel Stile was built, the dead of the Langdale Valley would have been carried to Grasmere for burial.

A Glimpse of Grasmere

It’s a short route, so with a minor variation, we walked it in both directions, from Grasmere to Chapel Stile and then back again.

We walked up the lane from Grasmere to Huntingstile, where almost immediately you arrive at the paved section of the path. It seems almost miraculous to me that such old paths have survived as much as they have. It’s why we really must fight to preserve the original lines of our ancient rights of way. Take them away and you take away a hugely important part of…

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If I lived in a world where books were banned…

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Here is an excellent post, an addition to the U.L.S. The Underground Library Society, by one of my students!

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I would memorize the book For Brown Girls With Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts by Prisca Dorcas Monica Rodriguez. Rodriguez covers a diverse amount of topics such as voluntourism, colorism, and toxic masculinity. An important discussion she highlights is the struggles of Impostor Syndrome in a new system. The system for her happens to be a predominantly white space in education. From Florida International University (a predominantly Hispanic institution) to Vanderbilt University (a predominantly white institution), Prisca soon experienced the infamous Impostor Syndrome. One of the challenges she experienced with getting into an elite institution was the historical demographic the institution was catered for: white males. As a woman of color, she questioned whether she was worthy of attending an institution where the majority of the people do not look like her. She grew up in an immigrant household and was surrounded by a large Hispanic population in Florida and…

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Gloria Goes To Washington – Part 1

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Here is another wonderful post from the excellent teacher, Jennie!

A Teacher's Reflections

Gloria has been in Washington D.C. with a classmate (I’ll call him Tim.)  His father sent an email and photos to the class each day about Gloria’s adventures in Washington.

Hey Aqua Room,

Tim wanted to send a note to give you an update on Gloria’s trip!  Today Gloria got to see the Lincoln Memorial.  President Lincoln believed in equality for all, which is a lesson we thought Gloria would like as well.

Tim also wanted to let everyone know he misses them!

Oh my goodness!  How wonderful is this on so many levels:

  • Gloria actually traveled to National places in Washington.
  • A child wanted Gloria to see Washington.
  • A parent “got it”, understood the big picture, and sent emails and photos to the class.

Understanding that Gloria is a person, accepting Gloria for who she is, and including her as a member of the family, is a life lesson…

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Favorite Science-Fiction Films: 3: Frankenstein

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The movie that I will discuss in this installment is Frankenstein.  This 1931 film was directed by James Whale and produced by Carl Laemelle, Jr. Universal Studios was following up its huge success with Dracula earlier in the year, so this film seemed like a natural choice to make. I have posted on Frankenstein before in my series on horror films, but like its namesake novel, it can also been seen as early science-fiction.

While the title and characters come from the 1818 Mary Shelley novel, it is a loose adaptation of the text.  Interestingly, the sequel, The Bride of Frankenstein, is a much more faithful treatment of the novel than this first film. This movie, one of the most important in horror film history, introduces Boris Karloff as the Creature. Karloff gives an impressive performance as the lost and lonely being who is unsure of who he is and his place in the world.  This sounds like so many teenagers and young people, and while frightening, Karloff also gathered empathy from viewers in his nuanced performance.

Bela Lugosi had been offered the part of the creature but apparently turned it down because of its lack of speaking lines.  Lugosi made a terrible career choice, because Karloff would supplant him after this film’s success as the top box office star and would continue to dominate Lugosi’s subsequent film career.

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The movie is powerful and atmospheric and is highly influenced by the artistic movement German Expressionism that had a stylistic impact on cinema especially in the 1920s and 1930s. Whale used large Gothic structures in the set and deep slashing shadows in creating the atmosphere of the film.

Jack Pierce designed the Creature’s distinctive makeup, which was an ordeal to apply and remove from Boris Karloff each day before and after filming. It is a work of design masterpiece, but it is completely different from the Creature’s appearance in the novel.

For those familiar with the novel, it is significant that not only the Creature’s appearance but also his personality and level of intelligence are vastly different from that of the character from the book. In Mary Shelley’s work, the creature is one of the narrators and is both intelligent and self-educated.  Both of those characteristics are missing from the inarticulate and not very bright film Creature. This kind of vastly different portrayal of characters and themes is something that is, unfortunately, typical of many horror films, or should I say, many film adaptations of books. That, however, should be the topic of another post.

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(https://pixabay.com/)

This movie incorporates the stuff of science-fiction, and we see Dr. Frankenstein and his then advanced technological equipment as he attempts to capture the essence of life. In fact, there is more such machinery in the film than exists in the book. So, is Frankenstein horror or science-fiction? I argue it is both.

The film was very successful financially for Universal Studios.  It is also considered by many cinema historians and critics to be one of the most important films made. It spawned numerous sequels and parodies, not limited to movies.  From Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein to the character of Herman Munster in The Munsters to Young Frankenstein, the story of Victor Frankenstein and his creation have been fertile ground for satire and spoofing.

The Golden Boys~

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Please enjoy these beautiful photographs from Cindy Knoke!

are back,

at The Holler!

The golden girls are too.

This guy is a Bullocks Oriole.

All the rest are Hooded Orioles.

They are amazingly fun birds to have around,

because they have such comical personalities.

They head-bob, bicker, play and people watch.

Cheers to you from the handsome Holler orioles~

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In the Steps of the Smugglers

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Please enjoy this wonderful post from John Bainbridge!

Country Ways

Walk the old paths near the coast and you are almost certainly walking in the footsteps of smugglers. I’ve walked a great deal in Devon and Dorset, using paths, tracks and hollow ways which would certainly have known the passage of smugglers – for smuggling was a boom industry until recent times. As late as the 1960s, a smuggling gang was busted in the town of Teignmouth in Devon.

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Smugglers Coast – near Salcombe Regis (c) John Bainbridge 2019

I was there at the time. I remember the arrests. Several old Teignmouth families were involved, and I was at school with some of their children. Whatever the law thought, many of the folk of Teignmouth shrugged and smiled, for the smugglers were following a long local tradition. A cheeky smuggler appeared on the “Welcome to Teignmouth” signs, and some childhood friends of mine won first prize in the local fete’s…

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Favorite Science-Fiction Films: 2: Metropolis

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

Metropolis is a brilliant science-fiction film (1927) directed by Fritz Lang. This movie, recently restored to its entirety, is a disturbing look at the world of the future through  the eyes of visionaries in the 1920s. It is based on the novel of the same name by Thea von Harbou (1925). The book deals with a city created on the backs of exploited workers and run by the capitalist upper-class. It is also a love story, and it is set in the year 2026.

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

Metropolis offers a powerful and damning social commentary on the effects of the ruling class, the capitalist industrialists who rule the world by using and crushing the ordinary people who build and fuel their wonderland. While the workers live underground in squalor and destitution, the upper-class live literally in palaces high above the ground. There they explore and indulge in numerous amusements including those sexual and athletic. This film is not a simple polemic but drives its message through a compelling story that shows the love between the Master of Metropolis’ son Freder and Maria, who lives in the underworld and serves as a kind of saint to the oppressed.

Frankenstein, 1931, owes a cinematic debt to the mad scientist in Metropolis, Rotwang, and his equipment. There he creates a robot woman, using the life force of Maria. Clearly the novelist, Mary Shelley and her book, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, first influenced this movie.

Lang’s cinematic vision is exquisite and deeply influential to filmmakers who followed him in exploring the idea of future cites. His soaring towers and buildings, high bridges with fast cars, and aircraft flying near the buildings are based on the designs of the modernists and futurists, and this concept is a clear model for Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Certainly an argument can be made that Metropolis is a foundation for many other science-fiction movies.

This film is extraordinary, and the full version is now available on DVD/BlueRay. It is an important piece of cinematic history, and I give it my highest recommendation.

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(https://commons.wikimedia.org)

Dante’s Divine Comedy–A Post For The U.L.S., The Underground Library Society, by Robbie Cheadle

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Thank you to Robbie Cheadle, a long time member of the U. L. S. The Underground Library Society!

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Dante’s Divine Comedy

Background

Divine Comedy is a narrative poem, written in Italian and translated to English. Dante Alighieri spent twelve years writing this poem which was completed in 1320. The poem is divided into three parts: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso.

The poem starts with Dante, the protagonist of the poem, finding himself in a dark and wild forest at night. The road towards the sunshine on the other side of a hill is guarded by three beasts which Dante cannot pass. He is in despair when Virgil, a pagan soul from the first circle of Hell, appears and tells him that the beautiful and good Beatrice, a woman who died young and was an object of admiration and desire by Dante, had arrange for him to journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven in an attempt to redeem his soul and return him to the path of virtue.

The first part of the poem, comprising of 33 cantos, depicts Dante’s journey through the nine circles of Hell which is structured like an upside-down cone. Each circle is smaller and contains more depraved souls and more suffering.  Each circle is devoted to a different kind of sin and the sins are in order of their seriousness according to Dante’s hierarchy. The first circle holds the unbaptised and the pagans who were born before the coming of Christ. The order of the other circles and sins is as follows: lust (circle 2), gluttony (circle 3), greed (circle 4), wrath and depression (circle 5), heresy (circle 6), violence (circle 7), deception (circle 8), and betrayal (circle 9). A three-faced Satan, trapped in the middle of a frozen lake, pays for his sins in the deepest region of circle 9 and chews on the worst betrayers in history, Judas, who betrayed Christ, and Brutus and Cassius, who betrayed Julius Caesar.

The second part of Divine Comedy, Purgatorio, tells the tale of Dante and Virgil’s journey through Purgatory. This is the place where penitent souls endure punishments to cleanse themselves of their former sins before entering Heaven. It is also a place where souls reflect on their sins.

Purgatory is described as a mountain with seven layers aligning with the seven deadly sins of pride, envy, wrath, slovenliness, covetousness, gluttony, and lust. The souls in Purgatory embrace their punishments, unlike the souls in Hell who continuously fight against theirs, as the purging fire is making them holy and readying them to ascend to Heaven.

When Dante and Virgil reach the top of the mountain, Virgil disappears and is replaced as Dante’s guide by Beatrice.

Paradiso is the third and final part of Divine Comedy. The first level of Heaven is the sphere of the Moon and houses souls who broke their vows. Beatrice explains vows in terms of absolute and contingent human will. The second phase is Mercury which contains souls who were just but motivated by fame. Venus (3rd phase) teaches Dante how and why sons end up different to their fathers. Sun (4th phase) explains to Dante the source of the blessed souls’ light. Jupiter (6th phase) explains to Dante the concept of Divine Justice and God’s Mind. In Saturn (7th sphere) Dante sees the golden ladder and meets St. Benedict. The fixed stars (8th phase) is where Dante is examined on faith, hope and charity and Dante goes blind. In the Emphyrean (10th phase), Dante sees the illusion and the real Celestial Rose. Beatrice disappears and is replaced by St. Bernard.

Finally, Dante investigates the Eternal Light and sees the image of the Holy Trinity. God bestows the answer to the mystery of the Incarnation on Dante and his soul is finally at one with God’s.

How did Dante influence the modern world?

Dante played a significant role in developing humanism, the use of language as spoken by ordinary in people in literature, and challenged the dominant role played by the church in society and politics. His ideas helped to generate the cultural and intellectual changes known as the Renaissance, which changed the world.

Dante’s poem also remains an important piece of literature in exploring the implications of human life choices regarding good and evil and makes it clear there are consequences for these choices.

Finally, the Divine Comedy has influenced writing, music, and art for 700 years.

Here is a YouTube video about why people should read Dante’s Divine Comedy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbCEWSip9pQ

Quotes from Divine Comedy

“All hope abandon, ye who enter here.”

“O human race, born to fly upward, wherefore at a little wind dost thou so fall?”

“If the present world go astray, the cause is in you, in you it is to be sought.”

“What is it then? Why do you hesitate?

Why do you relish living like a coward?

Why cannot you be bold and keen to start?”

“They had their faces twisted toward their haunches and found it necessary to walk backward, because they could not see ahead of them. …And since he wanted so to see ahead, he looks behind and walks a backward path.”

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Thank you to Robbie Cheadle!

Please be sure to visit Robbie Cheadle’s wonderful sites:

Robbie Cheadle Books/Poems/Reviews

Robbie’s inspiration

Presenting the Art Show

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Please enjoy this wonderful post from the excellent teacher, Jennie!

A Teacher's Reflections

“Art should make you feel, like music.”
~ Vasilly Kandinski ~

When children’s masterpieces were complete, framed and titled, I showed every work of art- slowly, with Vivaldi playing in the background.  I said nothing except the title of each piece.  Listen in the background to children’s excitement:

The next day we hung the Art Show, and it looks stunning.  The center is a finger paint mural of Starry Night.  Many little hands worked on it, and we added different layers each day, finishing with the round yellow stars.

“Every child is an artist.
It took me a lifetime to draw like a child”
~ Pablo Picasso ~

Children who chose to replicate a famous painting or specific items had a ‘real’ photo alongside.

Each particular style of art was titled, from Impressionism to Pointillism, to Cubism, to Abstract Art.  Here is Cubism:

Here is Abstract Painting:

Children wrote…

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