Monday, 29 June 2009


It seems that this old copy of "The Hundred and One Dalmatians" has a couple of pages missing. That's a bit annoying. Maybe I should try and find another one.

In the meantime, here are some thoughts regarding Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, specifically the infamous banquet scene.

In the extra features on the DVD, we hear Lucas and Spielberg saying how they wanted the scene to be full of old-fashioned slapstick comedy. Meanwhile, the scriptwriters Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz express their interest in Indian culture and Hindu religion. No-one suggests there's any sort of clash here, but I think there might be. Huyck and Katz wanted to make a film which takes place in 1930s India, while Lucas and Spielberg wanted to make a film which takes place in a fictional India which might be found in a 1930s film.

You ever seen this early draft of the script? It's discussed in this great article "Raiders of the Lost Drafts", but there's a few things the article doesn't mention but which I think are worth calling attention to. The banquet is there in all its glory, but it's followed by a scene with Indy and the English colonial officer. Indy reads the "bizarre choice of menu" as a clue that Pankot Palace is not what it seems, as "a devout Hindu would never touch meat". That may be a generalisation but if so it's a lot closer to the truth than the implication made in the film - that live eels served in the body of a snake, soup full of eyes and chilled monkey brains are representative of Indian cuisine.

Of course, this short scene doesn't appear in the film. My idea is that Lucas and Spielberg devised the banquet scene without really thinking about whether it was "accurate" or not, because they weren't really thinking of it as taking place in a real version of India. Huyck and Katz, with their genuine interest in India, tried to explain the strange food by calling attention to it as being a sign that Pankot Palace did not follow usual Hindu beliefs. But Lucas and Spielberg didn't feel that the banquet needed any explanation and so, with their powers as executive producer and director, they cut it.

(You'll note I refer to "Lucas and Spielberg" throughout this post, as I'm not sure which person was responsible for each decision)

So, who was "right" then? The writers or the producer/directors? Well, I've read posts on forums by a few people identifying themselves as Indian, some who like the finished film and some who feel offended by it. So I guess there's no one answer. But I think the portrayal of the Indian characters in any version of Temple of Doom is better than the portrayal of the African characters in the proposed "Monkey King" film, which contains an "ADORABLE" pygmy named Tiki, who is studied by a zoologist and lives in a zoo cage.

(Note: Although the online version of the script indicates it was written in 1995 as a potential fourth film, it was later found out that it was actually written some time earlier as a potential *third* film -- you can see some elements in the script which wound up in Last Crusade)

And if you'd prefer that I defended my own culture instead, well, I can do that too. I'm not from the Highlands myself but even I can tell that the supposedly Scottish characters in the opening scenes of Monkey King are not at all like anyone you might find in this country, bearing names such as "Seamus Seagrove" and "Bottomley", using expressions like "truer than an angel's kiss" and "like you've seen a screamin' banshee" and dropping their 'H's all over the place. The only positive thing I can say about these ridiculous Irish stereotypes is that they aren't supposed to be Irish characters...

Saturday, 27 June 2009

One Hundred and One Alterations!

I was looking in the cupboard for something else entirely, and I found a copy of Dodie Smith’s “The Hundred and One Dalmatians”, which was adapted into the animated film “One Hundred and One Dalmatians” … sometimes referred to as “101 Dalmations” … or sometimes misspelled “… Dalmations” … which was read to me as a kid *before* I saw the film!

For a while I’ve been wanting to write close comparisons of animated films and the books they were adapted from, so where better to start than one of the best? According to the extra features on the new DVD, Dodie Smith herself contacted Bill Peet to tell him that the film was even better than her book! (And I bet Bill was doubly thrilled, seeing as he and not Walt was being praised for the adaptation) So in the near future I’ll be comparing the Dalmatians book and film, and hopefully it will be the first in a series.

By the way, a while ago Mark Mayerson posted more of a brief overview of the differences between the two versions of the story, and Hans Perk posted an early script draft of the film which in some ways is closer to the events in the book.

Friday, 19 June 2009

He-animals and she-animals

I was just thinking of the word "gander" and how there doesn't seem to be a female equivalent, other than "goose" which can be used for either sex. I realised the same was true of ducks -- a male duck is a drake but a female duck is just a duck, which could be either -- and the opposite was true of a bunch of mammals: a "fox" can be male or female, but a female fox is a vixen, a "dog" can be male or female, but a female dog is called something which might mean I need to put an "adult content" warning on this blog.

Looking at those examples, it seems as if birds are female "by default" and that mammals are male "by default" ... but of course, there's more to it than that.

In an episode of The Simpsons, one of the characters (one of Marge's sisters, Patty or Selma) remarks that "There are no lady goats. A lady goat is a sheep." Obviously the writers intended that as a joke, but it's interesting how the *character*, if not the writer, thought of "sheep" as the name for a female creature.

I guess it's a general rule for farm animals: the farmers breed them to produce more of their kind, as well as by-products of reproduction (milk, eggs) and so they find it more profitable to have more females around. Therefore female farm animals have more of a public presence, and so they colour perceptions of the whole species. Specieses. You know.

Take cows. A female cow is a cow, a male cow is a bull. The situations different from the ducks and geese mentioned above, as nobody uses "cows" as a general name for both sexes. But people, if they don't think about it *too* hard, tend to attribute the female name (cow) and characteristics (milk) to the whole species -- remember a character in an advert for some milk drink, called something like "Hugh Heifer", who was very definitely male but looked like a (female) cow, complete with udder? -- and, according to language enthusiast Bill Bryson, prudish Victorians would sometimes call bulls "male cows" or even "gentlemen cows".

And chickens. Well, seems like we've got some equality here. A female is a hen, a male is a cockerel or rooster. And yet... "hen" and "chicken" are sort of treated as synonyms, and once again, the undeniably female charateristic of laying eggs is generally thought of as an activity of "chickens" as a species. Even though Foghorn Leghorn has often identified himself as a chicken -- rooster, that is!

And how about pigs? Seems about the same -- a female is a sow, a male is a boar. But when do we really hear the word "boar" except when referring to a wild one? And, even more so, a wild pig is always a "wild boar". There must be wild sows out there, wherever there are wild boars... else where would all the wild piglets come from (or "wild boar piglets" as they seem to be generally called... is that why there aren't more of them?)?

But I guess wild animals *are* male by default. Both sexes of lion are lions, and a female is also a "lioness". Hmmm... there aren't too many other examples of that. There used to be of course: it used to be more common for a female tiger to be called a "tigress" or the female of other species to be referred to as a "she-" followed by the species name (e.g. she-wolf). I don't think anyone ever spoke of a he-anything, unless it was a "he-cow".

OK, what about domesticated animals then? Not the ones who are bred out of their natural life-cycle or gender ratio, but the pets, the companions? We've already covered dogs at the beginning, but it goes much further than that, as there are people who call all dogs "he" whether they are actually male or female. Curiously, for such people all cats are "she."

So does that mean that cats, as a species, are identified by the same name which distinguishes female cats from the guys? Well... sort of. A male cat has a special name for him, a "tom cat". But a female cat? Some people say "tabby cat" but of course that's ridiculous -- "tabby" refers to the cat's markings, and there are plenty of "tom" cats who are also "tabby". Heck, where I live, we have one, and Tom is actually his *name*, so you really can't argue with that.

So, what's my point in this digression? Nothing really... but I guess it's part of the human trend to put everything into pairs (I remember from English lectures that there's a word for that -- unfortunately I don't remember what the word is. Once I find out I'll edit this post, so it will look like I remembered all along). A dog is male, so a cat must be female.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Raiding memories

Watched Raiders of the Lost Ark again this evening, and, as I always am when I see it, I was reminded of the massive gap between the first and second time I saw it.

About five years ago I saw all the Indiana Jones films (well, all the Indiana Jones films so far) for the first time in ages. A lot of the details I saw just as I remembered them - for example, I remembered Indy climbing under the van and back in, then throwing the Nazi soldier out of the front, and the soldier trying to copy what Indy did, but failing.

However, a lot of things were different from the way I remembered them... and what's more, they're different from the way I *still* remember seeing them when I first saw the film. When I watched Raiders again in '04, I didn't just say "Oh, yes, of course, that's how it really went", I still remember the other version of the film. The one with different camera angles, some scenes in a different order... and the grand finale, where the villains open the ark and it causes them to melt (you know the scene if you know Indiana Jones) taking place inside a building, overgrown with weeds and creepers, with Indy and Marion nowhere near them.

About five years ago I saw Raiders for the first time in ages. It was great to see it again. But somehow I wish I could see that "other" Raiders again, the one that must only have existed inside my head, for some mysterious and unknown reason.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

"Who's got a kiss for the pickety witch, the pickety witch, the pickety witch?"

On Monday, 21st April 2008 I finished my work for University. Later that same day I took part in a fellow student's film project.

It had been his plan to make a "Sweded" version of Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow to enter into a competition -- he missed the competition but he decided to make the film anyway. And I was cast as the "Town Elder"... so my role was to say there's no such thing as a headless horseman and then be proved 1) wrong and 2) dead when the Horseman removes my own head.

There were a few setbacks during filming -- for example, a *real* horse showed up (although its rider was a woman, and she had a head) who was a bit scared by us all -- and it wasn't even like we had a headless *horse* prop!

But the biggest setback was the fact that it turned out afterwards that the camera we were using no longer worked. So we had to film again a couple of days later. This time the guy who was going to play the Mayor-type person (Katrina's father) dropped out so I became the Mayor instead and someone else became the Town Elder.

However, it turned out that this time the *tape* was faulty, so it had to be filmed all over again... on the following Monday. This time I didn't have enough time to be the Mayor (for some reason I'm not really sure about) so I was back to being the Town Elder again.

Oh well. It's not as if I'm all that familiar with the Sleepy Hollow story, and what I do know about it involves a character named "Brom Bones" who doesn't appear to be in Burton's version.

Oh, note the extra "E" in Sleeepy Hollow, presumably to distinguish it from the original film. I guess it's like the clones in Timothy Zahn's "Heir to the Empire" books.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Cartoon Idiocy!

In the not-too-distant past, the Golden Age Cartoons (GAC) forums had an annual contest to design an "ugly public domain video cover." If you've ever been to a second-hand place and have at least a passing interest in cartoons you'll have an idea of the sort of thing I'm talking about.

They contain a bunch of cartoons from the 30s and 40s (usually) which have, for some reason or other, fallen into public domain, usually with very bad image and sound quality. The covers invariably have poor attempts at pictures of some of the characters featured in the cartoons, as well as written info which betrays a lack of knowledge about the cartoons and, when the titles are even included, they are often misspelled.

Cartoons which are unfunny, not even intended to be funny, perhaps a little too racist for the more impressionable kids, and not even intended to be watched by kids (such as the WW2-era "Private Snafu" series, originally shown only to the U.S. army) are all thrown together in the name of wholesome children's entertainment.

So, the GAC competition is designed to encourage its members to parody these little quirks by drawing covers of their own, for fictional public domain videos. The results of the contests can be found here: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007. For the record, I'm The Spectre. Unfortunately, when I submitted my entry to the 2007 contest, I accidentally sent an earlier version of it, which I had since updated.

That was for those of you (yes, I'm assuming some people are actually reading this blog, how egotistical can you get?) who aren't familiar with the Golden Age Cartoons forums.

Now, here is the web debut of the final version of my 2007 Ugly PD Cover, the one I thought I had submitted until the entries were posted online and I discovered, to my shame, that I had actually submitted the earlier, inferior version.