From James Bond to Game of Thrones, successful book series are huge sources of ideas for moviemakers. You get a reasonably guaranteed audience for several films. Done right, they can be cash cows for a studio.
There’s one series that I think could make for decent movies: Harry Harrison’s “Stainless Steel Rat” science fiction novels.
If there’s one movie in their back catalog that Disney would really love to consign to oblivion, it’s Song of the South (1946). While a technical marvel with some wonderful songs and one outstanding performance, the racial stereotypes and revisionist history portrayed make it something that will never see another domestic release in any format.
It’s a teeny bit of a shame, in some small ways, because there are a few things in it that should be mentioned in its defense. Perhaps there’s even enough there to justify a proper reappraisal.
The Brain from Planet Arous (1957) is widely regarded as one of the worst movies of all time – with good reason. The acting is terrible, the special effects are about as un-special as can be, and there are so many idiotic things in the script that the viewer is frequently left gobsmacked at the stupidity on display. The crap is partially balanced out by good camera work and a proper use of decent stock footage. It’s mostly the glaring disconnect between the acceptable and outrageously bad that makes the movie a favorite among B-movie buffs.
The plot is decent enough. Two scientists, nuclear physicist Steve March (John Agar) and Dan Murphy (Robert Fuller) head off into the mountains near Steve’s home to investigate a meteor that crashed there the night before. Turns out it was an alien spacecraft, piloted by an energy being of some sort called Gor. Gor takes over Steve’s mind, and kills Dan. Luckily for Gor, Steve is part of a government weapons research program, so Gor figures he’ll take advantage of this knowledge and position to take over the world.
Steve’s fiancee, Sally Fallon (Joyce Meadows), notes that Steve has been acting strangely since he got back from the mountains – and whatever happened to Dan, anyway? She and her father (Thomas Browne Henry) hike off into the mountains to investigate. There, they find Dan’s body – and Vol, another alien who has been hot on the trail of Gor to bring him back to Arous to face the music for certain unspecified crimes. Will they be able to collar the criminal before he can make good on his nefarious plans?
So, is it possible to fix this?
As you can gather from my reviews here, I’ve watched a lot of movies. Not as many as some, though. I have different tastes than most. Very little of current cinema catches my interest. Nor do I consider myself a “scholar” of the art form. I’m just a person who has a bit more than a mere passing interest in movies.
And since I have this blog, I therefore have free rein to write about them.
Naturally, I imagine the sort of movie I would like to see. And that’s a topic for a post or three.
First, a reimagination.
The character of Fu Manchu was created by Sax Rohmer in 1913. An early archetype of the genius supervillain, he was everything the era was afraid of when it came to the Orient (“the Yellow Peril incarnate in one man.”). Yes, it was racist AF. But the novels – and the movies made from them – were incredibly popular in their day, and the character still haunts pop culture.
There’s actually been an origin story for him – The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu (1929). Let’s do it again, but tinker with the point of view.