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And nothing says that better than science. Science has given us better medicines, modern conveniences, and ways to amuse ourselves. We can microwave food, talk on a cell phone, and find information within seconds. But the pursuit of science hasn't always been beneficial or safe. Take poor Horace Welles. The dentist noticed that people under the influence of nitrous oxide felt no pain. He tried the stuff on himself as he had a tooth pulled, and miraculously felt nothing. However, when he gave a demonstration before his fellow doctors, he didn't administer enough of the gas, and the patient cried out in pain. Welles became a laughing stock, and later another doctor gave a successful demonstration of anesthesia.
Welles, trying to save his reputation, experimented with other compounds. He tried ether, using himself as a subject. Unfortunately, he was unaware of the side effects, and during a hallucination brought on either, he attacked a woman. He was arrested and imprisoned. Science isn't always pretty or successful, and that brings us to this year's theme: Science gone wrong.
The first film is the mother of all science gone wrong. The Fly needs no introduction, and features one of the best shock scenes in all of sci fi. The fly mask isn't bad either; Certainly better than the large head in Return of the Fly.
The second film also has a teleportation story. The Projected Man tells the tale of an ambitious scientist and his teleportation machine. When his machine is sabotaged, causing his demonstration to fail, he tries the ultimate demonstration to prove it works. However, it goes horribly wrong, making the man a scarred monster with a killer touch. While not as good as The Fly, this film is an interesting take on teleportation.
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Week 2 brings in the oldest science gone wrong trope: Frankenstein. The name conjures up images of man meddling in things he shouldn't, or recklessly creating something that turns on him and the world. Frankenstein can take many forms. It can be the monster made by some mad doctor. It can be an artificial intelligence that takes over the world. It could also be a microbe that causes a pandemic, wiping out most of mankind.
The first film takes the more direct Frankenstein approach. In The Indestructible Man, Lon Chaney Jr plays Benton " Butcher", a criminal executed for his crimes. A doctor uses his body for a medical experiment and accidentally brings the man to life. It also renders the man bullet proof, a power Benton uses to take revenge on those who ratted him out. Chaney has few spoken lines in this one, but his expressions speak for him. This film is a nice mix of sci fi and noir.
The second film involves how animal testing can go wrong. The Killer Shrews has scientist using shrews for experiments to solve overpopulation. Their work accidentally breeds giant shrews with an appetite to match, trapping our characters in a house surrounded by a pack of hungry monsters. The special effects are obviously cheap here, but Ray Kellog, the director, creates an entertaining story with tension and suspense.
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Medicine has greatly improved thanks to science, but if only todays medicines didn't have all those side effects. It use to be dizziness and fatigue was all, but now you have stuff that can kill you as an effect. In sci fi the effects are usually worse. Much worse.
The first example of this explores the quest for eternal youth. It's one of man's oldest desires, but literature and sci fi teach us it may not be worth the try. It often comes at a high cost. As Doyle says in The Adventure of the Creeping Man, " When one tries to rise above nature, one often falls below it." That's very true of The Wasp Woman. This Corman film has a scientist discover that the royal jelly of wasps contains an enzyme capable of reversing the aging process. He takes his find to Janice Starling, the aging head of a cosmetic firm. She agree to fund his work on the condition she be the first human trial. The serum makes her years younger, but also causes her to occasionally turn into an half insect monster.
The next case takes the legend of the vampire and puts it into a scientific light. The appropriately titled, The Vampire, has a kind small town doctor accidentally take an experimental pill. It turns him into blood thirsty killer that threatens all around him. This film may not be largely known, but it is effective. The main character displays a convincing image of a frightened man who realizes he's become a horror. The make up Is also quite good; It's simple, but conveys an savage appearance. If you do see this one, make sure you see the stalking scene.
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Next is a topic that can cause some controversy; Evolution. Darwin meant his theory for animals and nature, but it has also found a question in where humans came from, or where we might be going. That is the next theme of films.
First, we ask what will man become in the future. To answer that, the film, The Manster, has an American reporter turned into a test subject. A Japanese scientist injects the man with a formula to spur on human development. It make him surly, but then transforms him into a two headed killer. This film is a B-movie and the make up isn't that good, but it has entertainment value.
The following film takes the reverse course. What if something could reverse it? Monster on the Campus has a paleontologist with a Ceolocanth to answer this question. In a ludicrous plot, this fish turns everything it comes into contact with into a primitive, including our paleontologist. He slowly realizes the apeman committing murders may be him. Jack Arnold, Universal's go to sci fi director did this film, but only as a favor for a friend. It has a ridiculous premise, but has the standard shocks and effects you expect from a 5os sci fi flick. It can be fun if you ignore the fish story.
Happy Halloween all. For the culmination of this film fest is a more traditional sci fi flick, but has bits of science to justify it being here. Werewolf of London was Universal's first werewolf movie. It involves a botanist who seeks a rare flower in the Himalayas. He's attack by a werewolf there, and returns to London with his prize flower. At a garden party, a Dr. Yogami warns him there are two werewolves in London, and this flower is their only hope. The botanist doesn't believe it until he finds himself growing fur and fangs.
This move is a treat, and deserves better recognition. It forgoes all the silver bullet and pentagram myth that The Wolf Man has, but creates a sympathetic and frightening character in the botanist. It is well performed as well.
Megalon went into a bar and saw Gigan. Megalon said, " Again? I thought ypu gave this up."
" What can I say," Gigan asked. " I'm hooked."
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