Delta-vee presents classic Old Time Radio productions and modern audio dramas, today’s episode: “August Heat”. William Fryer Harvey wrote mysteries and horror stories in turn of the century England. He came from a strongly religious Quaker background and received a formal secondary education that earned him a medical degree. Harvey’s family wealth and personal ill health caused him concentrate on his writing instead of pursuing a medical career. “August Heat” treats themes of personal choice and predestination, as well as lightly touching on the subject of human nature. Harvey’s religious background would have placed an emphasis on these aspects of his education. Protestant doctrine treats the predestination of humanity as a cornerstone tenet of salvation, while also emphasizing the element of personal choice as integral to the fulfillment of that destiny. This seeming contradiction has been the subject of centuries of theological dissertation and debate, and promises to fuel generations more. A second theme at the heart of this story is the nature of humanity, and the potential within each of us for great, unwitting, spontaneous evil. Harvey treats his themes with a deft hand, raising each question in turn, and involving the reader inevitably in the answer. “August Heat” first appeared in Harvey’s short story collection “Midnight House” in 1910. This episode of Suspense first aired on May 31, 1945. And now, our feature presentation ….
Delta-vee presents classic Old Time Radio productions and modern audio drama, today’s episode: “The Dunwich Horror”. The works of H.P. Lovecraft have had a pervasive and lasting influence on modern horror writers, from his themes of forbidden knowledge and nihilism to his habit of founding mythology upon a secret history fabricated from whole cloth. Of his many works, the most well know are unarguably the Cthulhu Mythos, a loosely defined collection of secret history lore upon which Lovecraft built many of his stories, and which he encouraged his contemporaries to reference in their own works. “The Dunwich Horror” stands as perhaps the quintessential representative of the Cthulhu Mythos as a whole, containing as it does nearly every staple element of Lovecraft’s other fiction. His horror fiction is replete with monsters beyond the ken of man, secret cults devoted to the outer gods, and heroes whose credentials are more scholarly than physical. In one aspect only does “The Dunwich Horror” depart from traditional Lovecraftian storytelling: the heroes not only survive their adventure with body and minds whole, but emerge triumphant … after a fashion. Despite the not-completely-nihilistic ending, Lovecraft considered this story “so fiendish that [Weird Tales editor] Farnsworth Wright may not dare to print it.” Wright did not agree with this sentiment, and snapped up the story for $240 (about $2800 today), making this the single largest payment Lovecraft had yet received for his work (Lovecraft, Selected Letters Vol. II, p. 240; cited in Joshi, p. 101). “The Dunwich Horror” was first published in the April, 1929 issue of Weird Tales; this episode of Suspense first aired on November 1, 1945. And now, our feature presentation ….
Delta-vee presents classic Old Time Radio productions and modern audio dramas, today’s episode: “The Defenders”. The works of Philip K. Dick repeatedly treat themes revolving around our perception of reality and personal identity. Protagonists in Dick’s work were often regular people rather than action heroes and did not need to be human at all; the qualities that defined humanity for Dick included traditional virtues such as honesty, kindness, and the ability to act rationally. Dick’s heroes often engaged in extensive rational analysis of their world, often concluding that the world around them could not be objectively real but a product of their own perception and interaction choices. Dick displayed an overarching fear and hatred of war, both as a political and social instrument, believing it to be an expression of the immaturity of human culture. Jungian psychology played a large part in Dick’s thinking, shaping his stories around themes of the collective unconscious of humanity, the behavior of individuals in groups, and the intrinsic nature of personhood. Film adaptations of Dick’s work include “Minority Report”, “Total Recall”, and Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner”; Dick’s work has been pervasively influential in the science fiction genre as a whole. “The Defenders” presents a world where a war started by humanity is prosecuted by machines, precursing both Keith Laumer’s “Bolo” stories and James Cameron’s “Terminator” franchise, and treats Dick’s three themes in a very succinct and expressive way. “The Defenders” was first published in the January, 1953 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction. This episode of X Minus One first aired on May 22, 1956. And now, our feature presentation….
Delta-vee presents classic Old Time Radio productions and modern audio dramas, today’s episode: “Sam, This Is You”. Murray Leinster wrote more than 1500 short stories and novels during an extremely prolific writing career under a variety of pseudonyms, the “Leinster” persona being the most famous of them. His writing career began well before World War I when he wrote for a wide variety of genre fiction magazines, including westerns, mysteries, and romance, but it wasn’t until pulp science fiction started to become widely accepted in the 50s and 60s that he published routinely under his real name, William Fitzgerald Jenkins. Leinster accumulated many “sci-fi firsts” to his credit, including genre conventions such as parallel universe stories and the universal translator. Leinster’s most famous story is unquestionably “A Logic Named Joe”, where he predicts not only personal computers associated with everyday tasks, but the existence of a pervasive network of interconnected information systems. The “Sideways Award for Alternate History” was created in 1995 to recognize outstanding parallel universe stories, and takes its name from Leinster’s story “Sideways In Time”. Leinster’s story “Sam, This Is You” dabbles in time travel without dipping into the complex arguments of causality and predetermination that accompany this kind of exercise in the modern and post-modern storytelling era. Instead, Leinster lets events play out in a continually unfolding drama that assumes history will play out more or less the same way regardless of outside meddling; that era’s optimistic outlook stands in sharp contrast to contemporary attitudes of mistrust and fear that now form the prevalent reaction to personal insecurity. “Sam, This Is You” first saw print in the May 1955 issue of Galaxy magazine; this episode of X Minus One first aired on October 31, 1956. And now, our feature presentation ….
Delta-vee presents classic Old-Time Radio productions and modern audio dramas, today’s episode: “Time and Time Again”. Henry Beam Piper never lived to see the great impression his contributions to science fiction would make on future generations of writers. Like Robert Jordan before him, Piper took his own life after a lengthy depression. Piper’s works tended to revolve around themes of social conflict and cultural misunderstanding, usually underscored with the trappings of space opera. He wrote many of his stories in an interconnected universal timeline, in the same way as his better known contemporaries Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein. Although the Terro-Human and Paratime sereis feature prominently in Piper’s outstanding bibliography, his Terro-Human novel “Little Fuzzy” is inarguably his most well known and influential work, detailing the conflict between human industrialists and the aboriginal inhabitants of a planet with singular natural resources. “Time and Time Again” is notable for being Piper’s first published work, appearing in 1947 in the pages of Astounding Science Fiction. Piper was a self-educated man who believed in the stark competence and self-reliance of the individual, a theme that repeats itself in the heroic characterization of his protagonists. This episode of X Minus 1 first aired on January 11, 1956. And now, our feature presentation….
“Three Skeleton Key” by Frenchman George Toudouze brings together three men in a lighthouse besieged inexplicably and unrelentingly by a horde of voracious rats. The story is the earliest example of the “nature gone mad” genre that I’ve been able to find, and was adapted three times for radio by the CBS anthology series “Escape”, and twice for the CBS anthology series “Suspense”. This version starring Vincent Price first aired on March 17, 1950, and is the better known of the adaptations. The original story first appeared in English in the January 1937 edition of “Esquire”. And now, without further ado, Delta-vee and the Critical Mass Podcast present….
Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” debuted in US theaters this week, to much hype and the attendance of many teenagers. For both of you who may be unfamiliar with this violent work of chick-lit, in a dystopian future, The Capitol forces each of the 12 Districts in the nation to send a pair of teenagers to fight to the death in the annual Hunger Games. Think “A Clockwork Orange” meets “The Running Man” and you get the basic look and feel of the movie. The book series was aggressively advertised as a sci-fi action novel – which it most definitely is not. The movie suffers from the same poor marketing, as it is being portrayed as an action film when it is in fact a drama of the much more ordinary sort. Which isn’t to say it’s not a decent enough movie.
A little while back I reviewed the book trilogy, both on my podcast and in a guest post over at the Two-Fisted Blogger. I’m afraid neither review was very favorable. Looking at it from the perspective of time, I see that both reviews were colored by a desire for the novels to be something that they expressly were not. I wanted an action novel, and I got chick-lit teen drama. Perversely, I was aching to see The Hunger Games made into a movie. Unfortunately I wanted an action movie, and I got a chick-flick teen drama. I suppose it serves me right.
Story (Pass/Fail): Pass
For what it is, the story holds together well enough. It is a straightforward tale of one girl’s life experience within an oppressive dystopian future. This kind of thing eschews conventional plot device in favor of using the narrative as a sort-of biopic about the main character. Genre fans will find every expected beat hit right on cue – no surprises there, Collins is an experienced screeenwriter. Viewers looking for conventional storytelling devices such as metaphor, foreshadowing, plot threading or anything more complex than simple narrative will be disappointed. Still, it executes by the numbers without any glaring faults.
Characters (Pass/Fail): Fail
It’s a good thing that Jennifer Lawrence has such a likable appearance, because she is on camera and in close-up quite a lot. Hutcherson delivers a sympathetic and strong Peeta with his customary charm and charisma. Bizarrely for all the time the camera spends focused on them, neither of the principle characters are given enough screen time to flex their emotions and reel in the audience in any meaningful way. The performances are almost uniformly of the strong, silent type. It works exceptionally well in the novel, but leaves the viewing audience unimpressed and unsympathetic.
Production Value (Pass/Fail): Fail
For the amount of money spent on this thing, you’d think it would feature some visual spectacle worth watching – sweeping FX shots of the area, the Districts, and the Capitol; devastatingly brutal fight scenes; bizarre and disturbing mutant creatures. Heck, I’d have been happy if they just held the camera still once in a while. It seems like the entire movie is filmed in close-up on the shaky-cam; this device seems to be in vogue right now, and I’m heartily tired of it. For a haunting tune that led every trailer, the movie makes no use of musical score in any memorable way, and closes with a strange song that seems unrelated to the rest of the film. It’s like the director went out of his way to miss every opportunity to impress the viewer with visual or audio spectacle.
Content (Pass/Fail): Pass
This is heavy stuff, watching teenagers fight to the death. Collins meant her story to comment on media obsession with violence, and the point comes across very effectively. Much of the novel’s subtext is lost, as is an attempt within the movie to inject some of that subtext, but what remains is worth noting.
Shelf Life (Pass/Fail): Fail
Saw it once. I’m done. The visuals aren’t strong enough to bring me back. The music is entirely forgettable. The story is captivating, once I adjusted my expectations away from the action genre. Honestly though, at two and a half hours to sit through a poorly filmed movie that eschews much of the value of the novel, I’d rather spend the six hours on the audiobook and get the full experience.
I suppose the key to enjoying this movie or the novel trilogy is to manage expectations. Understand that this is teen chick drama and not sci-fi action, and …. well, the book is quite good but I’m afraid there’s little to be done for the movie.