Monday, August 24, 2009

Dealing with MSN as an ISP and their Tech Support

And 10 Things I've Learned after 2+ Weeks of Updates gone Wrong and a day Wasted Waiting on hold between being shunted from one Call Center to the next.


Lamentations of a Man who Thought the Problem had been Fixed.

1. Tech support is a misnomer. Tech savvy they're not (9 times out of 10).

2. You can never get a straight answer but will learn to either endure their "agents" (when did "operators" go out of style?) trouble shooting "checklist" or defenestrate your phone.

3. MSN as an ISP when it comes to "update" time means one hour/day you can connect, the next you can't; just as one hour/day when you call tech support you're assured your OS is supported but the next day/hour you're told it isn't and you should upgrade to VISTA/ XP/ whatevah. (see #2)

4. It takes 1-5 minutes to actually get passed the stupid automated call center, whether you try to annunciate clearly or not doesn't matter. You can recite poetry, play heavy metal, put the phone down and watch paint dry, you just have to endure those 1-5 minutes until the automated call center forwards you to the live call center.

5. While waiting to be forwarded to the next live "agent" you'll be inundated with canned info blurbs (spoken by a woman that sounds suspiciously like Demi Moore) informing you that all your problems can be fixed online. 'Did you know. .' the voice will begin, and repeat over and over and over as MSN rapes your ear hole with nonsense you couldn't care less about.

6. It takes a minimum of 1-5 minutes to give the people in the live call center your information before they'll actually TALK to you about why you're calling.

7. It will take 5-10 minutes of explaining your problem to the "tech support" people before they forward you to a "specialist", who you'll have to explain everything to all over again.

8. If you call "after hours" (meaning anytime after 12 noon EST) your call has a 50/50 chance of going to a call center where everyone has Indian or Pakistani accents. (The chance goes up to 100% after 5-7 o'clock EST.)

9. People with strange accents that may or may not be in a call center in India or Pakistan do not comprehend "M-E" as a operating system, but if you tell them "millennium" (and give them a minute or three to put you on hold while they consult their call center manual) may recognize it as a OS that Miscosoft has tossed into the dung heap, along with anyone still unfortunate enough to have a machine running it. (Don't laugh. It was okay as an crappy iMachine for internet usage, until a couple weeks ago.)

9. When dealing with call center people with the hard to place accents no matter how many times you explain simple concepts, like explaining what your OS is or your current browser version, they'll stick to their "check list" and never quite grasp that "I'm on DIAL-UP" means you can't A) connect while you are talking to them, B) are calling them because you can't connect thus you can't DOWNLOAD updates, and; C) if you're lucky their trouble shooting "fixes" don't do anything to make your problem worse. If you're lucky.

10. When the tech support guy with the funny foreign accent says all you need is to upgrade to the most current version of the proprietary browser software and everything will be fixed; it'll only make the problem worse. (As in NOTHING WORKS after.)

11. Finally- yes, like Spinal Tap, I can't count too well- it took one heck of a talk, explaining re-explaining, questioning with confused frustration, for someone to finally hem and haw around the truth, which I suspected all along (despite being told otherwise in what amounts to bold faced lies): My OS is NOT supported. Microsoft has apparently (I'm guessing; see #2 above) instituted a new 'framework' update designed to cut off all OSes older than XP and Vista. Why I couldn't have been told this 2+ weeks ago is beyond me. My best guess is MSN wanted to get one more month of FEES out of me. I am not amused. I am not a happy camper. I will NOT be continuing with MSN. Where I'll end up, with whom, or if I'll be back any time soon only the Fates can augur.

# end

P.S. I knew I shouldn't have posted that message about eugenics and the apocalypse. ;-)

Expect me when you see me my friends!


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Eugenics, Movies, and the Apocalypse

Since I last posted here I've more or less stabilized my connection, found a ex-rental VHS of the post-apocalypse rarity, THE AFTERMATH, and watched in utter disbelief the cable news networks. But first THE AFTERMATH. I've never seen it and have been looking for a copy for sometime. I could string together a googolplex of adjectives to tell you how bad that flick is but, suffice to say, it's not worth the money I paid for it. So I wont be wasting space talking about it here.

Instead I'm going to talk about current events, in a science fiction context, since "real life" seems to have taken a turn down surreal street. (At least on certain cable news shows.) I have noticed, as undoubtedly have many others, that depending on which cable news network happens to be on, America seems to be falling apart at the seams-- Only the why's and what fore's seem to vary. According to certain of the talking heads people are taking to the streets in protest, even carrying guns, and the sky is about to come crashing down as the Obama regime is about to institute a form of eugenics that will kill grandma, blot the sun out of the sky, and make Satan seem like a jolly fat man in a red suit yadayadahohoho. All this while yet other talking heads say it's all fabricated Astroturf nonsense.

And then there's the talk/discussion/shouting matches about healthcare, death panels, progressives, Nazi's, and yet more talk about eugenics.

This talk of eugenics got me thinking. The concept has been around for a long time. It was practiced in ancient Sparta, where it really was state enforced. The basic idea is a simple one, if a bit convoluted, depending on who happens to be trying to explain it at the time. Being a fan of science fiction, wherein eugenics has been explored in both it's pros and cons for decades (it's even a central theme in the back story of Star Trek), I find some of the current discussions about eugenics by political pundits rather funny; and woefully uninformed. Thus I've decided to provide a public service announcement, of sorts, by going to one of the sources and quoting a/the turn of the century author that wrote about this 'science' and letting you, the reader, using the author's own words, see what the concepts behind eugenics are/is. So read, think, and judge for yourself. I'm just a guy that writes reviews.

We'll begin by quoting from APPLIED EUGENICS by Paul Popenoe, originally published circa 1918 (Full text here: ::

"Eugenics consists of a foundation of biology and a superstructure of sociology" designed to produce a "practical means by which society may encourage the reproduction of superior persons and discourage that of inferiors" therefore "it is desirable to discriminate as much as possible" in favor of those individuals bearing traits considered positive for the betterment of the state and society.

How is this to be accomplished?

Ideally the goal of "eugenics is to make such legal, social and economic adjustments that (1) a larger proportion of superior persons will have children than at present, (2) that the average number of offspring of each superior person will be greater than at present, (3) that the most inferior persons will have no children, and finally that (4) other inferior persons will have fewer children than now."

One may wonder how such ideas came into being. As the author states in his introduction:

"The Great War has caused a vast destruction of the sounder portion of the belligerent peoples and it is certain that in the next generation the progeny of their weaker members will constitute a much larger proportion of the whole than would have been the case if the War had not occurred. Owing to this immeasurable calamity that has befallen the white race, the question of eugenics has ceased to be merely academic."

In otherwords the author is worried about the potential decline of "the more valuable stocks" of humanity. One may ask what these "more valuable stocks" of humanity are, who decides, and to what ultimate purpose? Interestingly the author provides a answer to this quandry as well as the means whereby the above may be instituted:

"The fear of racial decline provides the eugenist with a far stronger leverage than did the hope of accelerating racial progress."

Racial decline of whom? Why the "white race" course! (see above) So this "racial progress" is designed to "inspire the superior to rise above certain worldly ideals of life and to aim at a family success rather than an individual success." Sounds fair enough. After all politicians are aways waxing poetic about family values. There's nothing sinister about family values, is there? Such a plan as this might provide "methods . . . by which . . . the people of America might be made, on the average, healthier, happier, and more efficient."

What could possibly be wrong with that?

Guess it depends on who you are and whether you belong to one of the ethnic groups deemed to belong to the "valuable stocks" of humanity.

Sounds like crazy science fiction, right? Maybe not. Some of these thematic elements have been touched upon in recent movies like GATTACA and IDIOCRACY (though as an unintentional satire of the concept) but they're far from crazy. The idea of eugenics, though the term itself has fallen into disuse due primarily to the excesses of the Nazi regime in it's applications of eugenics in practice, remains a very real social engineering construct. It's not merely some crackpot theory, nor is it limited to the Nazi's, who merely borrowed it as they did so much else. However, where science fiction is concerned, perhaps the best serious example of eugenics at work can be found in Frank Herbert's DUNE.

The Bene Gesserit sisterhood are essentially eugenicists caught up in a centuries long breeding program working for a singular goal; the creation of a Kwisatz Haderach, or superhuman. Of course Paul Atreides wasn't exactly part of the plan. His mother wasn't supposed to have sons. Which makes one wonder what the outcome of the Bene Gesserit program would have been. A Khan Noonian Singh perhaps?

(to be continued)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Word of Warning RE: the Microsoft Network

Goodbye Again Friends,

Something is fishy in Denmark.

I can but can not access the internet. My machine has been experiencing some very odd behavior that I feel anyone using a PC should be made aware of. Obviously right now I am online, as I have posted this, but to do so I am forced to reset my security settings so low that any of those invasive malware programs that do not exist in MSN's browser software et al have free access to whatever servers they do not connect to from my system. This is unacceptable. And I'm more than a bit miffed at the situation, which I shall outline in more detail below.

Long story short Microsoft (as I previously mentioned they are my Internet provider) somehow got through my firewall and installed something on my system that I never gave permission for them to do. Considering I do not use their MSN Browser, instead preferring the simplicity of logging in via IE or Firefox, my initial discovery of an inability to log in had me calling tech support. Despite assurances that all I needed was the newest version of the MSN Browser and everything would be fine once I downloaded it- which is a load of BS but then that's the problem with outsourcing to foreign countries, these people don't speak English as a first language and thus are incapable of comprehending simple facts spoken to them in simple terms like: I'VE TRIED TO UPDATE AND AM UNABLE BECAUSE I GET MESSAGES SAYING MY OS IS NO LONGER SUPPORTED. They keep insisting. So all you can do is let them feed you their line of BS and hope.

But that's not what really annoyed me. What annoyed me is discovering, after a bit of kludging around, that Microsoft managed to hack past my firewall and install something on my computer. Let me repeat that. . . My service provider, the people who take my money every month, appear to have hacked into my system to force an "update" on my machine that effectively CRIPPLES my ability to access the service they are taking my money for.

I could be paranoid but the facts seem to support the theory that a forced "update" was executed on my machine to disable it. My first clue, as I may have mentioned in my earlier post, was noticing something trying to load on my system. It was attempting to force, I thought, a shockwave update. Now I've never figured out how to block these. These updates circumvent my firewall, actually they don't even register they just seem to start and my only clue is everything suddenly slowing down to a crawl. I've observed this many times, usually only during those few times I am forced to lower my security settings. Thus my only, and best, defense against them has been to surf the net with my security settings set to high. Alas when you log in to check e-mail and such you have NO CHOICE but to compromise your system and lower your security settings. My best guess is Microsoft used one of these times to hack into my system.

Now "hack" may seem like a harsh word to use. But read on.

Long story short a program downloaded onto my system in the Shockwave directory a few weeks ago. I discovered it was there because it was loading during boot-up and instantly attempting to access the internet. The only reason I was aware of this is because I have dial-up and have my system set up to manually dial in, thus the dialogue box for dialing out kept popping up for no reason. Took me a while to figure out what the problem was. What I had to do was manually find and delete this mystery file, including it's registry key. I forget exactly what it was called but I think it was something like POSTUPDATE.EXE. Shortly thereafter my problems began. Obviously I did not find and remove this invasive program in time.

Currently there is a way for me to access the Internet, but it's round about. Considering this is a paid for service which is suddenly being denied with absolutely NO forewarning AND my IP installed something on my system without my consent I find this disturbing. I am NOT a happy customer.

For those thinking this is a overreaction consider this: There is a program that now wants to run on my system: LOADQM.EXE. This is an important fact because I stopped using MSN Browser because it had too many programs wanting open ports through my software firewall. (And I don't use IM.) Now the most invasive of these programs, one which I PHYSICALLY REMOVED FROM IT'S DIRECTORY AND PLACED IN A ZIP ARCHIVE was, you guessed it, LOADQM.EXE.

So since I removed this program it shouldn't be running on my system. So how did it get back ON my system? Remember my OS is no longer supported. That means no updates. If I can't update then how did this program get back on my system? I do not know.

Nor do I know what the purpose of this program is. I do know it kept crashing my system and giving me blue screens as it was constantly trying to worm it's way through my firewall, despite me denying it access, which was why I removed it. Yet now it's back on my system. It is, I think disabled again. And, surprise surprise, that seems to be what was slowing everything down. Was it because it was forcing ports open through my firewall and doing. . . Something?

Again I do not know. According to Google this is a program associated with IM. But that' a load of BS. IM is non-functional on my machine. I do not use IM. But even if I did IM appears to currently be disabled. Besides the information I can find claims it's some sort of auto-updater, again BS as my OS is no longer supported. A fact Microsoft seemed intent on driving home to me by crippling my system. Which makes me wonder what other invasive programs they might have placed on my machine, all while CONTINUING TO TAKE MY MONEY for a service they seem to not want to provide to those of us using older OS platforms.

What's up with that? I paid good money for this computer and the software that came with it, brand new I might add. The OS has never really worked. Has Microsoft ever apologized for releasing barely functional OSes that crash over 50% of the time? Issued a single rebate? Used any of the information that we are forced to provide them to contact us, the people they ghettoize as "end users" to help us in any way? No.

They take our money then, when you try to set up YOUR OWN PROPERTY to be as secure as possible they hack into it to install a backdoor to CRIPPLE it because they decided that it's time for you to upgrade to the newest flavor of barely functional OS? Am I the only one that has a problem with these heavy handed tactics?

Honestly if not for the fact I kind of sort of need my e-mail addy I'd have canceled this service in a heartbeat. Probably will. In the meantime look to your own systems. Be sure that your service providers haven't installed something nefarious on your machine.

Kind Regards,

Kester Pelagius

Friday, August 7, 2009

Forced Hiatus Looming

Greetings Loyal Readers,

Everything seemed to be working, if not perfectly fine, at least passably so earlier today. Then, wham, nothing wanted to work. Long story short after placing a call to tech support it appears that the Microsoft Network (my service provider) in their finite wisdom have decreed that all those whose computers aren't up to their specs and using the most up-to-date version of their malwa- koff- sorry, their web surfing software shall NOT be allowed to connect to the web. At least until they upgrade. Funny. They take my money for the service yet don't bother to give a guy a heads up, send me upgrade discs, or anything. I mean is it too much to ask for a heads up that your service provider is about to cut their entire network off from those using older versions of their software? What's up with that? Is it because I'm using older software and thus I don't matter to them?

Oh, sure, according to the tech support guy I apparently was informed, via e-mail. You know some of us don't check e-mail every day. And when we do it's usually so full of spam that gets past the filter we spend most of our time trying to weed through the chaff. But, hey, according to the tech support person, who sounded like he was from India or Pakistan (or wherever Miscrosoft outs ources to) I WAS informed. So far be it from me to dispute such lofty facts. Not that I tried. Before I could the tech guy informed me I probably deleted the e-mail by accident. Yeah, okay, whatever.

Long story short Internet Explorer (the browser I was using to log in with as I despise the invasiveness of the MSN browser) no longer logs me in. I'd been noticing something trying to eat up my bandwidth for the past couple of days. I thought it was Shockwave trying to force an update but, apparently, it was MSN updating something to force me to go out and buy a new PC. Bass turds!

*waves impotent fist at nobody in particular*

Not really sure what sort of PC to get. Don't really want to buy a new one but it'd probably be cheaper than updating the OS on this machine. I'm not saying that if I saw Bill Gates on fire in the middle of the street that I wouldn't urinate on him, but this entire concept of corporations not just foisting new software onto you whether you like it or not but forcing you to upgrade ad nauseum ad infinitum is exhausting.

But I suppose those poor execs at MSN need more money to feed their pet bald eagles, or whatever. So I guess you can expect to see new reviews when you see them. Sorry about that. Ain't much a guy can do when their service provider cold cocks them. Everything is slow as molasses, but I'm not going to tell you the odd manner in which I managed to connect lest someone at MSN be reading this and close that hole up too. But, suffice it so say, it makes surfing the web even slower than usual.

Sigh. Well it's be grand fun. Hope to have (and be able to post) new reviews for you soon.

Kind Regards,

Kester Pelagius

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Of Hercules, Giant Robots, and Reviews

Having recently purchased the double feature of Hercules/Adventure of Hercules for the princely sum of $3 at a Big Lots I was working on a review of both movies. But, try as I might, the second movie is a brain freeze. I find myself pausing the movie, noting the time on the counter, then ejecting the disc. Why? Because it's offal! That's not a typo, it's really awful beyond words. I've not been able to bring myself to watch it all the way through. Alas haste makes waste and the early bird gets the worm, or in the case writes the review.

A wise [expletive deleted] once said that "great minds think alike" and a recent discovery of a review at Black Gate for Lou Ferrigno's Hercules (posted yesterday no less) would seem to prove that axiom. I was working on a review to post here but after reading Mr. Ryan's review mine now seems superfluous. He not only quotes from the same Starlog article- possibly found online at the same site I found it?- but makes a lot of the same or similar points I was/might have so I'm tabling my review.

That said I'd like to now direct you to the fine article Hercules vs. the Giant Robots

Kudos to the reviewer. Very well written sir.

# End of Line

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Areola 51


Year: 2007

Director: Eddie Edwards

Format Viewed: Satellite Broadcast

Cast: Molinee Green, Nicole Oring, Valentine Snow, Deborah Wise, Jessica Sweet, et al.

Runtime: 74 min

Rating: TV-MA

Related URLs: Trailer (NSFW)

As astute readers will have already surmised Areola 51 is one of those low budget "late night" movies that cable channels like skinemax apparently have an endless supply of. Why review it? Partly because at the time I am writing this there is virtually no information to be found online and partly because, even though it is a late night T&A flick, it is technically SF and has some VFX that actually look better than the typical Sci-Fi; sorry, SyFylys Channel; original movie. I feel that makes it worth commenting on. The things I endure for the love of the genre and for this site.

* * * WARNING * * *

Don't continue reading BEYOND THIS POINT unless you're interested in hawt sci-fi babes. There may be NSFW content beyond this point. I do not guarantee there will be but there might and I don’t want you getting in trouble with your boss (or whoever).

* * * WARNING * * *

Premise: Alien space babes come to earth to research human sexuality, abduct a sexually frustrated secretary, and probe her for data.


The Reality: Threadbare plot is used as an excuse to film soft core vignettes.

The Story: Areola 51 is a UFO themed alien abduction spoof starring a bevy of bountiful buff babes. Some are porn starlets and actresses from late night erotic series like Co-ed Confidential. Thus some may be asking the question: Is a more explicit version of this movie available? The short answer is I do not know. So far as I can tell this has not been released to DVD. However given the fact Areola 51 is presented as a series of vignettes linked by a framing narrative device of a woman being interrogated by a shadowy man in black type. .


With the vignettes revealed as flashbacks. .

Sample of the VFX

And revealing quite a lot of naked skin (while adding nothing to the threadbare plot or narrative). .

Shower scene teaser pic

It's possible more was shot than made it into this cable version or that some scenes may have been recycled from previous adult features. (If you were involved with this production or know anything about this movie send me an e-mail or leave a comment and I'll update this review accordingly.) If how much naked skin is in a movie is what most interests you I suggest renting something else. Areola 51 attempts to do what so many similar softcore movies before it has, take the "adult" movie formula and meld it with drama; albeit with less than stellar results. But it's at least more interesting than the usual vacuous nonsense storylines found in these latenight skinemax flicks. An effort was made to make this SF. I wouldn't review it otherwise.

Assessment: This movie is deadly dull boring. The first time I tried to sit through it I was initially intrigued by the VFX. .

flying saucer

Which don't look all that impressive in a screen cap. .

VFX shot

For those asking: Is this really worth watching in the first place? I say. .

Verdict: There is a reason there's not many reviews to be found online for this. Aside from the mélange of soft core cut scenes Areola 51 is an epic snooze fest. Basically the producers took an idea better suited to a 30 minute Twilight Zone style episode and padded it out to near feature length. The easy out would be to say no one expects much of a late night skinemax movie. That's a steaming load. Upon a second viewing I found the movie to not only have moments of absurd hilarity but to have competent, if fleeting, VFX. Sadly Areola 51 never rises above being a limp DTV flick trapped within its formulaic late night T&A prison. If not for the fact I'd decided to record the movie and write a review of it before I'd ever seen it I may not have given Areola 51 a second look. Honesty compells me to note that, aside from an energetic piece of music used during the VFX laden title scroll and an abduction sequence with interesting visuals. .

Examining the abductee

The movie is deceptively blasé in it's approach to using it's SF thematic elements. Had their been any action to provide forward momentum it might have mitigated the tedium. Alas what Areola 51 attempts to do is take the Scherhazade approach to storytelling and turn it into a "let's tell repetitive stories to an captive audience" as the excuse to show simulated "sex scenes" in the usual clichéd softcore approach of opus filmmaking. The producers likely assumed all would be forgiven because of the gratuitous nudity. They were wrong.

However I am willing to take into account that this appears to be the production company's first feature, at least this is it's first listed credit at IMDB. To the producers I would say Areola 51 would be interesting as an uncensored Twilight Zone episode but, as a feature, sadly lacks scope. I hate to say that because the technical execution showed promise. If the production company produces more SF movies and infuses them with a little more action, retains the gratuitous nudity (perhaps with a little more narrative justification for it's presence), while incorporating more VFX and music (there's just the one song) I'd definitely tune in to watch them. Heck I might even buy a few of their titles on DVD, assuming they ever get DVD releases.

So if you like hawt sci-fi babes then set your TiVO to record this! Otherwise I'd recommend it only for hardcore bad movie masochists and people too embarrassed to buy real porn.

# End of Line

Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan

Monday, July 27, 2009

Have you heard the HK & Cult Film News?

Today Cosmic Cinema is continuing to look around the net and report on interesting review sites. Last week we showcased Weirded Beardo Reviews, or some such [wink], today it's HK & Cult Film News. If you're thinking that's a rather odd niche for a reviewer to choose and that such a site must be deathly dull boring to anyone not interested in Hong Kong movies you'd be. . . WRONG!

This site has actually reviewed quite a range of genre flicks. Apparently "cult" is broadly defined here. Which is good news for heroic fantasy fans as the DVD release of a relatively recent Sci-Fi channel original movie was recently reviewed. It was even praised as an "modest but well-crafted" movie that "manages to rise a bit above the mediocrity of the usual Sci-Fi Channel fare."

Which movie gets such praise? Why it's none other than MERLIN AND THE BOOK OF BEASTS. A movie that, sadly, I missed entirely. Wish I could say the same for KNIGHTS OF BLOODSTEEL, a similarly themed heroic fantasy syfylys flick which was so bad I actually steered clear of syfylys channel original movies for a while. The review is not exactly glowing but it's earnest and honest in it's critique.

Viz. "Production values remain modest but decent enough otherwise, although the most the filmmakers manage in the way of interiors are a few rooms in the Arkadian's palace and some tunnels. A small courtyard set with a couple dozen extras is all we see of Camelot's inhabitants. Overall, the production design and cinematography are good and the film, while sparsely populated, has an attractive look."

Sadly this title is currently on sale at Amazon dot com for about 18 bucks, marked down from 20, and I have to say that there isn't a syfylys movie made that's worth that kind of scratch. There's just so many ways to spend 20 bucks. Alas using it to buy a syfylys movie is a waste. I'd sooner take a 20, pour lighter fluid on it, and burn it. Maybe if syfylys weren't so greedy and priced these DVDs modestly, say around 15 dollars to begin with then moving them to the 5 dollar bargain bin, so unless it comes up in the syfylys schedule again I'm going to pass. But read the review and decide for yourself. Sounds like this one might not have been all that bad.

# End of Line

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Have you seen the Bearded Weirdo?

His reviews are actually pretty informative, for all that they give the entirety of the plot of most movies he's reviewing away. But then there's two kind of reviewers, those reviewing for people who have yet to see a movie (I count myself amongst this type) and those writing for people who've already seen the movie or who don't give a fig about spoilers. If this is you then you're going to love Bearded Weirdo Reviews. Just be advised this site is slightly NSFW. So if that discourages you from checking this site out read no further, because I'm about to talk about some grand fun reviews he's posted recently.

Still reading? Alrighty then get ready for the awesome!

In a recent review for The Warrior & The Sorceress the Bearded Weirdo had the following nuggets of wisdom to say about the sword-and-sorcery genre:

"Often, I find, uneducated video renters the world over use the terms 'sword-and-sorcery' and "fantasy" interchangeably. This is a tragic fallacy that must, must, must be corrected."

Mr. Weirdo goes on to explain, at length, the differences between high fantasy and heroic fantasy (the subset of fantasy to which sword-and-sorcery belongs). It's very interesting, even if the commentary gets a bit blue at times. My favorite nugget O'wisdom, at least what I can quote here, is the following:

"LORD OF THE RINGS is "high fantasy," not "sword-and-sorcery." Period. If a sword-and-sorcery hero ran into Frodo Baggins on some winding forest path in some faraway land of myth and mysticism... he'd beat the ever-loving sh!t out of that wimpy li'l hobbit bastard and steal his most cherished belongings. Then our unnamed savage ravager might go on an arson spree throughout all of The Shire, raping any hobbit ladyfolk he encountered along the way."

That does paint a picture. And what does that have to do with the movie mentioned above? Well you'll just have to read the review (The Warrior & The Sorceress) to find out! But the aforementioned review is a dull whitewashed piece of flotsam in comparison to the review for Demonwarp. You know you're in for something special when a reviewer's opening paragraph is:

"Why the f#@k would you ever go hiking in a place called Demonwood Forest? Seriously. What good could come of that? How could anything else but violent death await you? Have you people not seen any g-dd@mn horror movie, like, ever?"

Lots of expletives in this particular review. But if you can stick with it it's a real experience. Sort of like getting hit in the head with a volley ball at the beach. You're just sitting there minding your business then, out of nowhere, WHAM!

Alas Bearded Weirdo has not reviewed a lot of sci-fi features. This saddens me. Then again the few he has reviewed are full of his high octane critical wit. Behold what the Weirdo had to say about Barb Wire:

"BARB WIRE is the kind of movie that doesn't have a lot of fans who are willing to mention it without using that magic phrase "guilty pleasure" in the same breath. Like I said, I don't get the whole "guilty pleasure" thing, and I don't like it. To me, it's just a cop-out, and it smacks of "denying Jesus three times."

Well, Peter may have denied Jesus three times, but you won't soon catch me denying Pam Anderson even once. Not with this kind o' brilliant badness on her resume'."

I've read reviews that compare Barb Wire and Pamela Anderson to a lot of things but I don't think I've ever seen, heard, or imagined either would ever be compared to the life and times of Jesus. To be perfectly honest Barb Wire is a movie I've been meaning to write a review for, one day. I say "one day" because I've never really known where to start with it. Which is funny considering Mr. Weirdo got his review going with a lengthy rant about the absurdity of "guilty pleasures" which led to the following insightful overview of the movie:

"Inspired by the comic book of the same title, the film is a post-apocalyptic whirligig of bullets, bleached blond hair extensions, and black leather. It opens, like many a Bad-with-a-capital-B futuristic action flick, with a lengthy pre-credits scroll of white text in front of a harsh-looking "scorched earth" landscape that explains that the year is 2017 and America is involved in a second Civil War. Every city in the nation has fallen under an iron-fisted super-authoritarian government rule. Every city, that is, except for Wire's hometown of Steel Harbor <...>"

Nice synopsis. I particularly love the careful and well thought placement of an illustrative pic right next to this paragraph. (You'll just have to take my word for it if clicking the above link to visit a NSFW sight frightens you.) I should point out that Bearded Weirdo Reviews doesn't have a lot of movies currently under review. But the select few movies that have been reviewed are thoroughly critiqued. A very unusual and interesting review site. You should check it out soon.

# End of Line

Monday, July 6, 2009

Gor, Lost in Adaptation or merely Lost? (Fini)

The Movies

Adapting novels into screenplays to adapt into movies is a lot like translating an ancient text written in a long dead language. The journey from hieroglyphs to contemporary English, French, or German is arduous. Subtle contexts of meaning often get lost in translation. No matter how fluent the translator may be there is no avoiding this. Witness the atrocious, often unintentionally funny, English dubbing of sword-and-sandal imports or the differences in word choice found in different Bible editions. Of course how well a translation retains the spirit and concepts of the original depends on how faithful the translator stays to the source. Good translations take time, witness the years of work that often go into translating classical works. No two translators present quite the same text for the works of Homer, Plato, or even the Bible.

A prime example of how a movie differs from the novels on which it is based can be found in the artwork of Gor. It may not be an entirely fair critique to judge a book (series) by it's cover(s) yet we can learn much from them. .


1. Assassin of Gor, artist Boris Valejo; notice one woman is bound in chains and the other is knelling in supplication to the dominant male. 2. Kajira of Gor, artist unknown; the full scene depicts a male fighting some outlandish Gorean beast as a bound female slave looks on. 3. Outlaw of Gor, artist ?; a female is staked out and bound in chains while two men fight over (her) their prize. 4. Now compare to an actual screen cap from the movie GOR, in which a woman is not only lacking bonds she's wielding a sword in defense of her village.

Obviously, having not read the novels, it's hard to judge whether women wielding swords and being heroic goes totally against the grain of Gor as written. Yet here's another typical quote from a fan site:

"You!" said the trainer, gesturing to another girl with his Whip. "To his feet! Beg for love!" This girl hurried forward and knelt before Drusus Rencius. "I beg for love, Master," she whispered. "You!" said the trainer, indicating another girl. She, too, hurried forward. She knelt before Drusus Rencius, her palms on the floor, her head to the very tiles. "I beg for love," she whispered. "I beg for love, Master."

-Kajira of Gor, pg 139

Most quotes posted on fan sites seem to be snapshots of slave-master relationships; with females predominantly in the submissive role. Even taken out of context they speak volumes. In the novels women are portrayed as submissive chattels whose role in Gorean society is essentially that of eager sex slave. A golden premise for exploitation filmmakers. Alas the opportunity to create a cult classic on par with The Perils of Gwendoline, The Story of O, Emmanuelle, or the infamous nazisploitation Ilsa trilogy was squandered. Like them or loathe them the Gor novels, and Gorean Fantasy, like the works of the Marquis de Sade, have an audience. Even literary purists who would place Gor novels into the nearest garbage receptacle will admit the movies weren't Gorean Fantasy. They may herald this as a good thing, but that's only because John Norman's books have such a polarizing effect; for some.

But so what if the novels aren't well known or well liked? They have spawned a sub-genre all their own. This strange, and often controversial, sub-genre of fantasy exists in a black hole nexus of moral ambiguity. Given the nature of the novels, a faithful adaptation, even sans the Tarns, would likely of had limited appeal. Studios are concerned solely with making money, which too often means pandering to "mainstream" audiences, which begs the question: Why buy the movie rights to such a controversial novel series in the first place? But, having purchased the rights, why then proceed to murder the author's vision and film a counterfeit version of Gor?

Now there's a loaded question. After all there really is nothing new under the sun. Every writer borrows ideas and, like a kitchen alchemist, mixes them together in what they hope will be a winning formulae. Should filmmakers really be held up to a higher standard than the writers themselves?

Yes. Because the filmmaker is not creating they are interpreting, or rather breathing life into the text; or such is the task they should be doing. Alas filmmakers have become like the authors of distant antiquity who borrowed the names of famous biblical or mythological figures to lend authenticity to their own writings. Filmmakers have taken to borrowing the name and title of an established author to pass off their own work, which in any other industry would be considered criminal fraudulence. Sadly filmmakers get away with this time and time again. They've produced counterfeit Bible stories, forgeries of historical events, and, Hollywood's most recent favorite, the remake dubbed a "re-envisioning", which are almost always bogus and patently fraudulent fabrications totally unrelated to the source material. Sometimes they work yet, too often, they do not.

Ingres - Grand Odalisque

But would the Gor movies really have been any better if the books had been adapted more faithfully? Perhaps. Then again the filmmakers were obviously clueless. As I mentioned in part one of this article I've never read the novels, yet I recognize them for what they are: an derivative blending of Edgar Rice Burroughs style of heroic fantasy laced with undertones of Arabian Fantasy. The scenes of slave girls so many find offensive are no different than the romanticized odalisque of Orientalist painters.

Moor Bath

Indeed there exists an entire sub-genre of erotica, which does not have the same stigma attached to it as Gorean Fantasy, that's very similar to it in many ways. It's full of slave girls, masters, and harems. And it has gotten better treatment in it's movie adaptations, why? Is it because Gor was published as genre fantasy rather than literature?

Harem Interior, Bath

This is the crux of the question about movie adaptations of genre fiction be they pulp planet stories, Harlequin romances, comic book fantasy, hard science fiction, horror, or crime dramas; be they set on distant alien worlds with strange sounding names like Barsoom, Arrakis, Gor, Pern, Amtor, or Middle-Earth. If filmmakers are not going to respect the author's written word and faithfully represent the source material what's the point? Liberties may be taken with narrative accounts of certain figures such as Genghis Khan, Caligula, Nero, or Cleopatra, as indeed the bulk of literary works about such personages is built upon speculation. Yet, even here, there are certain known and established facts about these historical figures that must be abided by.

Novels, unlike distant historical events, are not open to speculation. The authors words are plainly recorded in black and white. Alas filmmakers continue to despoil literary works without repercussion. The Gor movies were low budget productions that wandered far from the source material, thus alienating the fan base. Nor did they provide much for mainstream audiences or genre fans to like. Their plots were a threadbare fabric of generic clichés woven around shallow and transparent characters. Had the eponymous Tarns not been written out and replaced with horses, had there been some attempt to include science fiction elements, had. . If only. . But there wasn't. The Gor movies will never be more than campy, cheesy, unintentionally funny nonsense; and remembered for being as far removed from their source material as an atheist is from an Orthodox patriarch. Perhaps they could have been more, alas we'll never know.

# End of Line

Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan

Friday, July 3, 2009

Gor, Lost in Adaptation or merely Lost?

This article is an extension of last week's series, Reflections on Barsoom, wherein it was noted numerous attempts to bring Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom novel series to the big screen have failed. Also outlined were certain concerns about the current Disney/Pixar movie project. If recent news articles are accurate the project has moved out of development limbo and is being rushed into production. That's almost never a good sign for a movie, especially one being adapted from a novel.

Fans of novels that get translated into big screen movies are all too often disappointed by how Hollywood treats their favorite stories. The most notorious example being David Lynch's Dune. Yet despite Dune's perceived flaws it was far superior to the odd Sci-Fi channel spawned mini series. Alas it too often takes a poorly executed remake for audiences to appreciate these earlier adaptations. Conan the Barbarian was sniped at by fans of Howard's stories yet, compared to the Conan television series, the Conan movies were faithful adaptations. Which brings us back to the subject of our article.

Odds are you've probably never read the Gor novels though you may have heard about them. Having just read reviews for the movies it may come as a surprise to learn the novels have been described as everything from Barsoom with bondage to Taliban erotica. In this article we shall continue to examine the treatment of novel-to-movie adaptations by examining Barsoom's cousin fantasy world. .

Book 1

Gor, aka Counter-Earth, is the fantasy world of author John Norman as first introduced in the novel "Tarnsman of Gor" (1966). An series of some 20+ odd novels followed. .

Book 19

The Gor novels are often described as indulgent misogynistic 'adult' fantasy patterned loosely after Edgar Rice Burroughs John Carter of Mars series. It is a world in which politically incorrect warriors ride around on gigantic birds; the eponymous Tarns of the first novel; while slave girls gyrate provocatively for their (male master's) pleasure. Dancing girls have been a staple of historical epics since the days of Cecil B. Demille. .

Cleopatra (1934)

Even when production budgets were sparse, such as in the old Italian sword-and-sandal epics, there were dancing girls. .

Hercules (1958)

However what made the Gor novels notorious were the themes espoused by the author, namely that it is woman's natural state to be subservient to men in all things. This led to the novels being criticized as gutter treatments of heroic fantasy using clichéd science fiction tropes as a crutch to prop up mediocre pseudo sword-and-sorcery. But are such criticisms valid? Here's a typical novel quote from a typical Gor fan site:

The dancing of the female before the male, that she be found pleasing and he be pleased, is one of the most profound lessons in all of human biology. Others are when she kneels before him, when she kisses his feet, when she performs obeisance, when she knows herself subject, truly, to his whip.

- Dancer of Gor, pg 193

But it's not merely the "philosophy" or politically incorrect views expressed by the author that has gotten this series into so much trouble. The terse writing style is off-putting:

He was a Gorean master. I was at his mercy. I wondered if I could have felt so much his, so completely surrendered, if he had not possessed this complete power over my life and body. I belonged to him. But I did not want him to whip me, or put me in the slave box. I wanted only, desperately, to please him. And I knew I must, for I was his slave.

-Captive of Gor, pg 343

Such is the tone of the Gor novels and the nature of the fantasy world. Yet, inexplicably, two movies were produced during the 1980s. It is these curious movies we shall return our attention to next.

Books 1 + 2

In the meantime the curious can use any search engine to discover myriad articles ranging from harsh criticisms like Planet of the Complete Bloody Psychopaths to the slightly less harsh Some thoughts on the Gorean Scandal, apologist tracts In Defense Of Gor, fan favorite Slave Quotes, and sites dedicated to living the idealized 'Gorean lifestyle'. The latter often include illustrated articles showcasing "positions" for slave girls. The Kama Sutra these are not yet the illustrations are often just as gratuitous. Warning many are NSFW!

# To be concluded in part 2

Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Outlaw of Gor

Year: 1989

Director: John 'Bud' Cardos

Cast: Urbano Barberini, Rebecca Ferratti, Jack Palance, et al.

Format Viewed: VHS

Run Time: 90 minutes

Recommended: Yes, but only if you haven't read the novels and are a fan of campy B-movies.

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For fantasy violence and gratuitous hats.)

Gorean Fantasy: Despite assumptions based on the name this form of fantasy has very little- in fact it has next to nothing at all- to do with blood and gore. Rather this fantasy genre is about self-indulgent male oriented slave girl fantasy.

Premise: Tarl Cabot, like John Carter- the character Cabot is all too obviously based upon- is transported to a distant world where he has many fantastical adventures.

Tarl Cabot & Nimrod

The Movie: As the movie begins sad sack Tarl Cabot is drowning his sorrows in a bar with an nimrod friend when his ring starts to glow. Before you can say Holy Batsh*t a flashback of scenes from the first movie plays. As Mr. Morose was not having much fun getting drunk Cabot decides it's time for he and his chum to depart. After hopping into his car and experiencing some cheesy fake lightning effects Cabot and nimrod sidekick wake up in a desert; again with no car in evidence. Cabot is way too excited about waking up in a desert. Conversely his friend whines on and on for what seems like twenty minutes then, for no apparent logical reason, a group of desert nomads- wielding obviously store bought bows no less- appear over a dune and attack! Of course Cabot's nimrod sidekick is totally useless. .

Useless idiot!

After this ludicrous staged "fight"- in which a day actor can actually be seen dropping his bow from horseback as he starts to fall before Cabot lays a single hand on him- the pair of bumbling buffoons manage to get away and find a city. Actually it's supposed to be some sort of merchant tent-city but the illusion of the would be heroes walking in off the desert is ruined as a farming kibbutz (complete with freshly plowed furrows) can actually be seen in the top of one frame. .

Tent City

Someone asks them who they are, Cabot gives his name, which leads to a bunch of people yelling "Cabot!" as if they're Lou Costello. (If by some miracle you got that reference that's a example of how dated the gags in this movie are.) Outlaw of Gor tries so hard to be humorous there are times it'll leave you thinking someone had to be two sheets away from brain dead drunk when they filmed this. That any could have actually thought this nonsense was funny is proof drugs impair judgment.

By the way at this point we're actually only 11 minutes into the movie, though it feels more like 111 minutes, and there is only more excruciating lameness ahead. But if you can withstand the juvenile dialogue Outlaw of Gor does have dancing girls. Watching their swanlike display of rhythmic dancing and bold strutting will leave you wondering why these movies have been neglected by the DVD market. Sure the story is about as contrived as a loincloth clad barbarian swinging a bastard sword at a necromancer in a tropical jungle but the dancers are a feast for the eyes and worth the price of admission.

Dancing Girls!

Otherwise Outlaw's laughs derive from the vagaries of low budget filmmaking, such as incongruous costuming and dialogue so bad that, despite giving their best over the top performances, the actors look painfully embarrassed. In short this is a gem of low budget pseudo sword-and-sorcery schlock that makes the Deathstalker movies look like meaningful social commentary scripted by Aristophanes.

Bargain basement sorcery.

Analysis: What does a PG-13 rated Gor sequel get you? An shockingly milksop movie that's so absurd it's unintentionally funny. Yet, sadly, is no closer to being proper Gorean Fantasy than Fantasia. Though it does have a slave market. .

Slave Girls!

Lots of funny hats and shiny bikini tops. .

Smile if you're a happy slave girl!

And ridiculous dialogue. .

Tarl Cabot: Those Priest-Kings are very dangerous. They have . . unknown powers.

Verdict: See review of GOR.

Availability: Sadly Outlaw of Gor is only available on VHS

#End of Line

Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan

Monday, June 29, 2009


Year: 1988

Director: Fritz Kiersch

Cast: Oliver Reed, Jack Palance, Urbano Barberini, Rebecca Ferratti, et al.

Format Viewed: VHS

Run Time: 95 minutes

Recommended: Yes, but only if you haven't read the novels and are a fan of campy B-movies.

MPAA Rating: PG (For fantasy violence and graphic depictions of crazy hats.)

Gorean Fantasy: Despite assumptions based on the name this form of fantasy has very little- in fact it has next to nothing at all- to do with blood and gore. Rather this fantasy genre is about self-indulgent male oriented slave girl fantasy.

Life on Gor.

Premise: Tarl Cabot, like John Carter- the character Cabot is all too obviously based upon- is transported to a distant world where he has many fantastical adventures.

The Movie: Professor Tarl Cabot is giving a lecture about a magic ring and the legend associated with it. In fact he drones on and on about this ring and what it's supposed magical powers are. Cut to the professor in his car. As he's driving away a storm kicks up, the professor loses control, and the next thing you know it's WHAM!

Tarl Cabot

The professor wakes up on what appears to be coarse gravel. As the professor gets up and looks around it's sudden shocked realization time. For as far as the eye can see all there is to see is desert. Did he die and go to hell? Is this a concussion induced hallucination? Where the heck is his car?

Before we can fully question what's going on Tarl wanders upon a village, or maybe it's a town, we see it from a distance so it's hard to tell. Again, before the audience can fully question what's going on, we see said town is under attack! Fires are set, men are killed, women run frantically to and fro, and amidst the chaos a single female warrior stands valiantly before a crimson colored stone battling all who dare approach her.

Talena, Warrior Princess

It's obvious that this female warrior is important because we keep seeing her between cut scenes. Alas not even her best Red Sonja impression can help her now. There's just too many enemy warriors. Ultimately they overwhelm her and the other defenders, and this is only the beginning of the movie!

Slave Market

Alas Gor doesn't keep this action packed pace throughout. It has it's moments, a Sapphic tavern brawl here, a bevy of scantily clad dancing girls there, a glimpse of a slave auction, alas the dull plodding drone of the cliché riddled plot gives us a movie that is easy on the eyes but hard on the ears. Nor do the problems end there. Here's a sample of dialogue:

Tarl Cabot: Hey, what is this place?

Talena: It's a tavern.

In case you're wondering if the character is really THAT stupid: Yes, yes he is.

The Tavern

That's Tarl in the "tavern" and the entire time he wears one expression on his face: befuddled buffoon. Granted part of that may be due to the cheapness of the sets and ridiculous scenario and costumes but. .

Assessment: Gor is supposed to be an adaptation of the semi-popular and controversial novel, Tarnsman of Gor, by John Norman; the nom deplume of one John Lange Jr. If you've ever heard anything about the Gor novels this movie will probably baffle you. If you haven't ever heard of the novels not to worry, this movie has not relation to them beyond the use of a few character names and the use of the title. While technically science fantasy; being about a college professor that gets "magically" whisked away to an distant alternate world; Gor plays more like a sword and sorcery feature complete with swords, sandals, and low budget sorcery. Yet, for an 80s era sword-and-sorcery, movie Gor is very tame. Almost disappointingly so.

The Villain

Verdict: For an adaptation of a sword-and-sorcery novel Gor does not have much of the magical in it. The movie lacks even the rudimentary sense of enchantment found in Conan the Barbarian or the truly fantastical found in Hercules in the Haunted World. The special effects are sporadic and less impressive than those found in similar movies like Steel Dawn or The Adventures of Hajji Baba thus rendering Gor barely half as good as either of those movies. Yet it spawned a sequel: OUTLAW OF GOR.

Sadly GOR is only available on: VHS

#End of Line

Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan

Friday, June 26, 2009

Reflections on Barsoom, Part 3

Book 2

3. The Naked Truth of Mars

If the past is prologue Disney, currently helming the John Carter of Mars project, is not likely to rush to take up the baton of aboriginal rights. This studio ran like a scared cat to the editing room to alter a brief segment from Fantasia that featured cartoon Centaurettes. The fact faux nudity and/or characterizations of fantasy creatures in a cartoon bothered anyone would be funny, if it weren't so ridiculous. But, to be fair, that anyone felt a cartoon required editing for content is a sign of shifting attitudes. What once didn't raise an eyebrow several decades ago becomes scandalous, or politically incorrect, today and so too might attitudes that obtain today seem archaic or puritanical decades from now.

How non-Aboriginal cultures treat depictions of aboriginal cultures often reveal far more about the non-Aboriginal culture than the true state of the aborigines themselves. One need look no further than documentaries aired on channels like PBS, Discovery, History, The Learning Channel, et al to see how such programs come saddled with warnings about "indigenous nudity" and, more often than not, blurring and digital fogging. Yet the MPAA rubberstamps movies depicting amoral violence in which it's okay (by their standards) to display eviscerated human bodies and internal organs yet, unbelievably, insanely, a woman's bared breast or buttocks must be blotted out as verboten to see. What this says about our culture, and it's self-anointed blowhard watchdogs, is too disturbing to contemplate here.

Nudity, in and of itself, is neither salacious nor provocative. Nor is it pornographic or erotic. It merely is. One does not become any less human, or worthy of dignity, because one has disrobed or lacks apparel. If this were the case no one would ever take off their clothes to bathe. We are born naked, not wearing burkas. Strip us of our trappings of culture and civilization and we become little more than naked apes, do we not?

Naked Ape

Such reflections are at the core of the Barsoom novel series. For while nude John Carter is never truly naked, for he retains his wit. Edgar Rice Burroughs novels remind us it is intellect, not clothing, or trappings of civilization, that separate mankind from primates. Yet another reason for the lack of clothing on Barsoom, besides lack of resources for extensive textile manufacture, may be environmental. Extremes of heat and humidity may make it impractical for a primitive culture- or a culture with limited agricultural resources teetering on the brink of collapse, as is the case on Barsoom- to have more than rudimentary and crude textiles. Yet this does not preclude the use of skins or furs. Such certainly seems to be the case on Barsoom, or so we can extrapolate based on the following passage from Warlord of Mars:

The moment we entered the city Talu threw off his outer garments of fur, as did we, and I saw that his apparel differed but little from that of the red races of Barsoom. Except for his leathern harness, covered thick with jewels and metal, he was naked, nor could one have comfortably worn apparel in that warm and humid atmosphere.

Remember the examples of Frazetta's artwork? They're relatively timid and decorous in comparison to the reality of Barsoom as writ. And this is what Disney is planning to adapt into a movie? It doesn't make sense. Already the speculation is circulating with articles like `John Carter of Mars': Will It Dethrone `Twilight' As The Best Romance Flick? Viz:

"While “Twilight” fends off “True Blood” for supremacy over the vampire romance market, the Stephenie Meyer-penned series might have an unlikely lovelorn competitor to contend with — the newly announced “John Carter of Mars” starring Taylor Kitsch could well be Hollywood’s next romantic hit."

As are concerns such as: Disney to Fast Track John Carter of Mars Film:

John Carter is about as Disneyfiable as Tarzan is: In other words, not very. Worse, John Carter was a filthy Confederate reb. That's part and parcel of the character, and while Carter never really shows any racist tendencies in the novel (he does, after all, get along exceedingly well with both the green and red men of Mars), it's an integral part of his character, part of what makes him unique. Disney would whitewash that. And it's hard to believe Pixar would do justice to the visceral bloodshed, violence and carnage of Burroughs' classic martian pulp novels.

The worry is Disney will treat this like the typical Hollywood "property" and hire a hack to make-up their own story, slap the Barsoom name on it, and thus exploit Edgar Rice Burroughs novels to make a quick buck. The marketing possibilities if Disney turns this into a costume epic ala Pirates of the Caribbean, as the director already has indicated is the plan, are extensive. The money Disney could potentially rake in on product tie-ins with clothing lines, T-shirts targeted at 'tweens, fast food chains, action figures and their accessories, Halloween costumes, and plush toys shamelessly targeted at children will likely be phenomenal.

Alas, with the director announcing, before shooting so much as a single frame of film, this will be rated PG-13, and a PG-13 'tween flick at that, John Carter of Mars isn't likely to qualify as a faithful representation of Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom. It may be a pallid Goldkey version but not likely the Barsoom of A Princess of Mars. This may have critics crying foul and asking if Disney hasn't purchased their MPAA rating and that's why the project, which has languished in limbo for decades, is suddenly getting "fast tracked". There's lots of money at stake, yet so too is the literary vision of Edgar Rice Burroughs.


If Disney follows the usual pattern licensed products will be pushed into retail stores all across the country as part of the marketing blitz leading up to the release of the feature film. If we're lucky this may include new deluxe editions of the novels. And, this being Disney, there may even be a John Carter of Mars ride at Disneyland. That could be fun. But Barsoom isn't a carnival funhouse, it's not a joyride, nor should it be portrayed as such.

Studios buy the rights to something and (too often) just ignore the source material and make up an entirely different story, slap on the title of the "property" and wait for the suckers to buy tickets. It's repulsive. But it's business as usual in Hollywood. Yet, if you were to pull this kind of shell game in the food industry by advertising, say, salmon on your menu but serving catfish instead you'd be put out of business and probably fined, if not thrown into jail. Is it that Hollywood doesn't care? They say they respect authors' and their work, yet the movies they produce say otherwise. It's mind-boggling.

So what if Disney isn't likely to have the moral courage to present a candid and true representation of the aboriginals of Barsoom. They're a corporation, not cultural anthropologists. Should we hate them for wanting to make money? It's not like Disney is in the business of shaking kids down for their lunch money. At least there is going to be some version of Barsoom on the big screen, that's a good thing, right?

Book 2

For those interested in the real Barsoom the full text of the novel "A Princess of Mars" can be downloaded from these sites: Project Gutenberg, Books Should be Free, and can be read online here: Those looking for more information on Barsoom or the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs should visit the following sites: Barsoom, Barsoomia, Official Edgar Rice Burroughs Tribute and Weekly Webzine Site, or The Robert E. Howard United Press Association. There's also some old concept art for Set Sketches for John Carter of Mars (1970's version), More John Carter, More JCOM, here's a page of Rare Unreleased John Carter of Mars Illustrations and, of course, there's always the artwork of Julie Bell and Boris Vellejo:


# End of Line

Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Reflections on Barsoom, Part 2

Book 4

2. The Artistic Vision of Mars

Art reflects not only the mores and attitudes of the culture in which it is produced but reflects the sensibilities of the times in which it was created. While most readers familiar with the Barsoom novels may envision Edgar Rice Burroughs' hero, John Carter, and his adventures on Mars as portrayed in the artwork of Frank Frazetta:

Classic Frazetta.

That work represents but one artistic vision of Barsoom. Yet a quick Google for "Princess of Mars" turns up an ad containing this iconic model kit representation of Dejah Thoris:

Iconic princess.

Look for fan art online and this is an example of what you'll find:

Inspired fan art.

Obviously that's inspired by master illustrator Frank Frazetta's work. Thus this artistic vision of Barsoom has obtained as the popular one. Granted times, and cultural mores, change. A Princess of Mars was first published circa 1912 as a multi-part serial in All-Story magazine. And it was portrayed quite differently way back when:

Book 1

Yet it is Frazetta's work which is remembered for it more faithfully captures Barsoom as written in the novels. Yet even Frazetta's art was somewhat inhibited. For comparison here's an example of fan art for the character Dejah Thoris:

Dejah Thoris

Actually, as you may have noticed, this particular character is far more prominent in the artwork than is the titular hero. Dejah Thoris has become an iconic figure, so no pressure on the director or actors, yet if fans don't get something like. .

Dejah in action.

Or perhaps. .

Dejah sketch.

Or maybe even something like. .


The 'fan boys' will probably really get nasty, though not without just cause. Disney is synonymous will family friendly entertainment. That begs the question: What are they doing buying the rights to a pulp adventure series in which the characters seem to be either naked or half naked most of the time? Viz.

I looked first at my lifeless clay there upon the floor of the cave and then down at myself in utter bewilderment; for there I lay clothed, and yet here I stood but naked as at the minute of my birth.

Naked and unarmed as I was, I had no desire to face the unseen thing which menaced me.

With the exception of their ornaments all were naked.

She was as destitute of clothes as the green Martians who accompanied her; indeed, save for her highly wrought ornaments she was entirely naked, nor could any apparel have enhanced the beauty of her perfect and symmetrical figure.

There are two ways to interpret this. The characters are either totally nude or they aren't. Naked can imply defenseless, unprotected, exposed, or without covering (as of hair or fur). The word's meaning depends on context. In the above the context is clear, it's used in reference to a character without apparel or clothing. Yet, as typical of many primitive cultures with limited textile resources, they are not entirely lacking ornamental adornments; thus in the context of their culture they are neither naked nor nude. It is only through the prism of our own culture that they appear so.

So why did the author portray the aboriginal inhabitants of Mars this way at all? Surely he must have been aware of this fact?

Indeed he was!

The characters are 'nude' in the novels not for salacious effect but because nudity was, once upon a time, viewed as being metaphoric for a return to an Eden-like state of primal grace. Yet the author also knew that their was a fine line between the "noble naked savage" and the merely "naked savage" and thus it is left to the reader to make their own mind up about the nature of the natives of Mars. Alas, in our contemporary society of the relative present, expressions of sexuality have fallen victim to politically correct fascism. In the lemming rush to judgment nudity has become viewed by purveyors of dogmatic Political Correctness as salacious and impure. This poses a dilemma since the main alien antagonists, a race of being called Tharks, and indeed most of the inhabitants of Barsoom, don't really wear clothes. Then again neither does every culture on our own planet. Witness the following images of Xingu natives of the Amazon river basin in Brazil:


Despite elements of modern influence in their dress their traditional ceremonial garb remains rather minimal, aside from body paint/tatoo art and beads. .


But are they nude or merely naked? Perhaps they are neither. There has always existed a double standard where depictions of aboriginal cultures in their so-called "native state" exist. Edgar Rice Burroughs pulled no punches with his writing about the aborigines of Barsoom, which is perhaps why his novels are so well received. They possess a reality as gritty and candid as any National Geographic article about native cultures. Alas few Hollywood studious have the moral, or intestinal, fortitude to stand up and treat aboriginals and their culture, even fictionalized representations, with the respect they deserve.

But what does this mean for the John Carter of Mars movie adaptation?

Dejah Thoris

# to be concluded in Part 3

Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan