Space Age Radio/Analog Revolution Literature: Rip Foster Rides the Grey Planet

Analog Revolution
Analog Revolution
Space Age Radio/Analog Revolution Literature: Rip Foster Rides the Grey Planet
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Surprise Episode!

Chapter one of Rip Foster Rides the Grey Planet by Harold Godwin!

This is a fun Space Adventure in the style of Tom Corbett, Space Cadet or Space Patrol. The principal difference here s that Rip Foster isn’t a cadet, he has just graduated from the space academy. He’s a newly commissioned lieutenant, charged with a team of 9 men, and a vital mission. As a result, the danger is more real, and the stakes are higher.

Originally published in 1952, story carries with it a hint of Red Scare era rah-rah, and a thinly veiled cold war analog. In spite of that, it manages to be enjoyable, and entertaining. The story also manages to get both the science of space travel and the mechanics and politics of a large military organization more correct than most of the TV and Radio programs of the day.

There are twenty chapters total. We’ll release a chapter at irregular intervals every few days for the next 3 months. If you can’t wait, a version of the whole novel is available from Librivox, and a print edition is available from Space Age Ideas.

Credits:

Read by Mark Nelson, via Librivox

Background Ambiance from Tabletop Audio

Space Age Radio- Tom Corbett, Space Cadet: The Trial In Space (Part 1)

Space Age Radio
Space Age Radio
Space Age Radio- Tom Corbett, Space Cadet: The Trial In Space (Part 1)
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This is the first episode of Space Age Radio, your tour of the sci-fi radio serials of the golden age of radio. In this episode, we join Tom Corbett, Space Cadet as his friend suffers from a mysterious illness in space!

This week, we feature a February 1952 episode of Tom Corbett, Space Cadet. It’s a real nail-biter! The conclusion will be posted on Thursday March 1st, with an episode of another series between them.

This is a weekly series, with new episodes every thursday. Each week we feature a different interplanetary adventure, from a different vintage space series. We hope you enjoy!

Subscribe here.

Space Age TV – Tom Corbett, Space Cadet: Assignment Mercury

The first episode of our video podcast Space Age TV!! Join Tom Corbett, Space Cadet as he ventures to, and nearly dies on, Mercury.

Space Age TV is a work in progress from the team behind Analog Revolution. We’re shooting for one episode a week.

Subscribe now, and we’ll see how it goes.

Tom Corbett, Space Cadet aired from 1950 to 1955, and aired on all the Television Networks of the 1950s, including the DuMont network. It was, like most shows of the day, a live broadcast. The surviving episodes are preserved on Kinescope, making them of a lower visual quality than shows that were originally shot on film, such as Rocky Jones Space Ranger, or I Love Lucy.

This episode originally aired in February 1955, making it one of the last episodes of the series. It sticks to the Space Cadet tropes, with commanding officers who bully the cadets until their own hubris gets them in to trouble. It’s fun to watch, but it just serves to highlight to me that I’d rather be a cadet in the Space Patrol than in the Solar Guard!

I’m a big fan of the Tom Corbett series, and I’ve released a Space Cadet t-shirt, and the most recent issue of A Brief History of the Future is a reprint of the first Space Cadet novel. Both are available through the Space Age store. I’m also working on a full color reprint of the original run of Tom Corbett, Space Cadet and Space Patrol comics. If this is something you’re interested in seeing, let me know and I can move it up the project list.

This is the first episode of our new series. I truly hope you enjoy it! Subscribe, or check back next week, for more!

 

Horror Movie Review: Deep Red (Profondo Roso)

If you’re looking for a great way to kick off the Halloween season, check out Dario Argento’s cult classic Profondo Rosso (more popularly known as Deep Red). The supernatural murder mystery is filled with twists and turns, one of the best soundtracks available, and even a murderous puppet.

When it comes to Profondo Rosso, it isn’t about reinventing the wheel. Instead, it’s about examining the wheel from a different angle, picking out intricacies and adding an artistic flair that few auteurs are capable of properly conveying. Bright and brilliant color schemes occupy Profondo Rosso’s universe, as the bright whites and, yes — the deep reds — create a mood and atmosphere that few other films can. Argento’s use of tracking shots and POV-style camerawork adds an additional layer of depth and complexity to the story: We’re not just witnessing a death on screen; in essence we as an audience become accomplices, following the killer’s motions and crimes from its point of view. It’s a great technique that adds a lot to the film.

Profondo_Rosso_poster

In terms of plot, the Giallo classic centers on a telekinetic young woman and an aspiring musician who find themselves investigating a grisly string of murders, as the killer grows closer to discovering their location.

But the plot isn’t necessarily the important part of the film. After all, saying that Profondo Rosso is about a murder mystery is like saying that A Nightmare on Elm Street is about insomnia. Sure, it’s technically true, but it misses the entire point of the film.

Deep_Red_FCD457_Deep_Red_DVD_panel1

Largely, Argento’s films are more style than substance, placing primary focus on gorgeous lighting, wonderful suspense, and a signature style of cinematography instead of a conventional plot and a story that resolves in a way that makes a shred of sense.

To provide the film’s excellent score, Argento once again relied on his frequent collaborators, Italian prog-rock outfit Goblin. From the moment you hear the first bass thump of the titular song, you know something truly abhorrent is about to take place. Much like he did with Suspiria, Argento uses the score first introduced in the opening credits as a sonic motif – a tactic that later showed up in classic slasher films such as Halloween and Friday the 13th, and even television shows such as Twin Peaks. In fact, most of the plot elements traced out in Profondo Rosso can be seen in later films such as Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers.

Profondo Rosso is cheesy, it’s over the top, and above all it’s remarkably artistic.

Recommended for fans of classic Hitchcock and Mario Brava, Profondo Rosso is available for purchase through Analog Revolution and Modern Vintage Films.

Nerves Review by Chris Lyons

Nerves (1919)

Director and writer: Robert Reinert

Country: Germany

Language: Silent, German

reinert-nerves

One of the most unfortunate consequences for those who survey history is the inevitable amnesia. For any given subject, a historian will undoubtedly forget or overlook something or someone. In film history, this happens quite often. There are many, many great directors that are now nearly lost to history. German director and writer Robert Reinert is a prime example of this critical phenomenon.

In the first decade of the 20th century, Reinert lived in Munich and primarily focused on writing novels (many of which are obscure and practically unknown outside of German scholarship). In 1916, he wrote the script for the film Homunculus. This marked Reinert’s transition from novelist to screenwriter and, eventually, director. Between 1916 and 1919, he directed a total of eight films. In the following decade, he would direct three more films and co-write Looping the Loop with Robert Liebmann and director Arthur Robinson in 1928.

His obscurity, though, is not too surprising since nearly all of his films were lost, none of his films ever really achieved commercial success, and he died in 1928, near the end of the Expressionist movement in German cinema. Despite all of this, Reinert (and his 1919 masterpiece Nerves) was far ahead of the time. An experimental director at heart, Reinert’s works may not have been influential, but that was not because the films were not any good. As film critic and historian David Bordwell writes, “Nerven (Nerves) is a disorienting, highly experimental work. Released in 1919, before The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (early 1920), it might have become a prototype of German Expressionist cinema if it had been widely seen and preserved by archives.

The film, a masterpiece in its own right, exhibited many characteristics that would later come to define the early German Expressionist films of the 1920s, including those found in Robert Wiene’s Caligari (1920), Paul Wegener’s The Golem (1920), Hans Werckmeister’s Algol (1920), Karlheinz Martin’s From Morn to Midnight (1920), Fritz Lang’s Destiny (1921), and F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922).

Nerves-526813257-largeThe main goal of the German Expressionists was to use setting and all of the elements within the frame to convey the mental struggles, thoughts, and perceptions of the film’s characters (or at least the protagonist). Even though Wiene, Werckmeister, Lang, and Murnau would go to perfect this style and execute it both brilliantly and masterfully, Reinert did it before them, which makes his obscurity so criminal and so tragic. Nerves really was in a league of its own, in that it attempted to convey the mental breakdowns of its characters through images and dialogue (in fact, Nerves was arguably the first and, as some contend, the only film of its time to use intertitles the same way modern films use voice-over narrations; the intertitles literally told the audience what the characters were thinking instead of what they were saying).

Nerves is a series of fictional case studies. Reinert’s idea was to show various characters slowly slipping into madness in the aftermath of the First World War. In the film, a “nervous epidemic,” as Reinert once described it, emerges and infects numerous citizens of various classes and causes them to go insane.

The film opens with an intertitle that seems like an unknown character’s thoughts: “Nerves, you mysterious avenues of the soul, you messengers of highest desire and deepest suffering. If you fail, man is but animal. Nerves, are you not the soul itself?” Thus, we know from the very beginning that the following narrative is an introspective journey into a character’s (or characters’) mental state, which will subject us to paranoia, anxiety, and general apprehension. After this, we then see the film’s title, around which various nude bodies and smoke float and/or settle (another major achievement, for nudity was not common in mainstream, cinematic films).

The first scene of the film is still considered a landmark achievement in film history, as it is the epitome of perfect Expressionism. We see a mother who seems to hear her son, off fighting in the war, saying to her that he is dying. We then seen numerous dead bodies piled atop one another and strewn about, all around a sturdy tree, in an area near the mother’s current location. Smoke is everywhere. This transitions into an image of the woman’s son, wrapped in bandages, as other soldiers carry his limp body. We see his mother again, followed with an intertitle: “Mom! Mom! You feel it is a thousand miles away at the same time. What does this mean?” Reinert then goes back and forth, from the mother to the son to the mother again, then to the title sequence (this continues throughout the film, as Reinert inserts it after each episode).

Since the intertitle appears after the image of the mother but is supposedly her son’s words, we can safely assume that this is all mental. That is in itself startling and perplexing. Even in the first scene of the film, Reinert employs what would become a trademark of the German Expressionist films (the use of film techniques to portray a character’s mental state) and montage, which would not become widely used until the Soviets in the mid-1920s (even though D.W. Griffith used it before both Reinert and the Soviets; for more on montage theory, please see the previous article on Griffith’s 1914 masterpiece The Avenging Conscience). We don’t know much about the characters’ predicaments, but we can already surmise that there is a connection between the slaughters of war and the developing “nervous epidemic” back home. In the following scene, Reinert uses yet another experimental technique that would later become a convention of Expressionist cinema: shadows as signs of looming danger, as a man creeps into a woman’s bedroom and strangles her with his bare hands (see Murnau’s Nosferatu or Paul Leni’s The Cat and the Canary for examples).

Reinert, though, uses the film’s main sequence—the story of a factory owner named Roloff, who slowly loses his mind as the film progresses—to expose us to the truly horrific. Roloff, who is essentially a pro-fascist (he explicitly expresses his desire to use industrialization as a means to achieve world domination), finds himself infected with whatever it is that causes the “nervous epidemic” after a car explodes near the factory, where he is currently giving a rousing pro-nationalist speech. Meanwhile, Roloff’s sister falls far Master John, a political rival of Roloff’s. John gains a large following as an “apostle of the people” (his followers react to him as if he is literally an apostle delivering a sermon straight from God). We then see John stepping over the same dead bodies shown in the opening scene of the film. Considering montage theory, we can deduce that society crumbles as a result of people with different ideologies refusing to cooperate and come to agreements for the betterment of society as a whole. It will lead to madness, war, and death. Casualties will begin to add up, to the horror and at the risk of all parties involved.

The movie continues in a bizarre fashion, with scene after scene of hallucinations, panics, utter paranoia, and the madness that slowly eats away at society. Reinert’s sequence of events and filming techniques were so effective that, according to reports from the day, several moviegoers found themselves going mad themselves, jumping from the seats and shouting about how something has taken over their bodies—how they were now sufferers of the “nervous epidemic.” And truth be told, if that doesn’t prove Reinert’s thesis or at least justify his belief that suggestion and war could lead to the destruction of society and the deaths—even if metaphorical—of all those who consider themselves parts of said society (and considering that this film debuted two years after the end of WWI), then nothing ever will.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3I5X19r1xs

Personal Rating: 4/5

Next time: Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

The Avenging Conscience (1914)

Director and writer: D.W. Griffith

Country: United States

Language: Silent, English

The Avenging Conscience (1914)

A year before director D.W. Griffith gained infamy with his notorious epic The Birth of a Nation, he wrote and directed The Avenging Conscience. The film, based on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Tell-Tale Heart” and poem “Annabel Lee,” tells the story of a man who, as a child, was left to the care of his uncle after his mother’s untimely death. The young man (Henry B. Walthall) falls in love with a woman (Blanche Sweet) but, following his uncle’s objections, cannot pursue her. The nephew experiences a series of nightmarish visions of death and darkness, which leads him to murder his uncle (Spottiswoode Aitken) and build a wall to hide his uncle’s body. The nightmares and hallucinations, however, only increase as the guilt over his uncle’s murder begins to eat away at his conscience. The nephew begins to lose his grip on reality and slowly slips into utter madness and paranoia as he experiences what he believes are encounters with his uncle’s ghost.

 

The film, released in the U.K. with the alternative title Thou Shalt Not Kill and sometimes billed as “The First Great American Horror Film,” was Griffith’s first and only horror film, which was truly a shame given his immense and incredible detail to atmosphere and tone. Griffith juxtaposed images against each other to produce meaning, much in the same way that he did later in Intolerance (1916) and Sergei Eisenstein (of Battleship Potemkin and October fame) and other Soviet filmmakers, all of whom greatly admired Griffith’s works, did in the 1920s.

 

The Avenging Conscience opens with the death of the young man’s mother. As she lies lifeless on the bed, a doctor checks her pulse. Two men stand near the bed, both with their heads down, while a woman sits in a chair with her back to the audience. Next to her is a baby in its carriage. The doctor pulls the sheet over the woman’s head, and everyone turns their attention to the sleeping child. The camera angle shifts and all we see is the child as he opens his eyes. Thus, we know that with her death, comes his life. Griffith never tells you what happens or gives context for the film’s scenes, but clever juxtapositions help guide us to Griffith’s intended conclusions.

 

Later, in the segment titled “The Birth of the Evil Thought” (which Griffith gives the epigraph: “Nature one long system of murder—the spider, the fly, and the ants”), Griffith gives us a series of juxtaposed images upon which he begins to create the impression of looming danger and atmospheric disturbance. The young man eyes a spider’s web as a small fly attempts to break loose from its grip, but the fly’s fight for life is a futile effort as the spider rushes for the fly and begins to drain the life from it. The camera goes back to the young man’s face as he sighs. Then Griffith shows us the image of an untold number of ants devouring an arachnid as it, much like the fly, futilely fights to preserve its own life. The man simply laughs at the sight. The next image is that of the woman with whom the nephew fell in love (conveniently referred to as “Annabel” in the film, though the credits refer to the character as “The sweetheart”) as she peers out the window and stares at the night sky (we are also given a seemingly random intertitle that includes four lines from “Annabel Lee”). Before Griffith takes us back to the young man, he gives us this intertitle: “Realization that his uncle, on whom he is dependent, stands between him and happiness.” Moments later, the young man spots a spider in his home as it devours a fly on its web.

 

This is the genius of D.W. Griffith. He builds upon the atmosphere of the film with clever juxtapositions of murderous insects, a few choice words, and an occasional reference to “The Tell-Tale Heart” or “Annabel Lee” (early in the film, we see the nephew as he reads the former), all with the intent to heighten the panicked feeling that something awful is about to happen, something that our protagonist will live to regret.

 

The next time he employs the montage technique, it serves as a panic-inducing mechanism. As a detective questions the nephew about his uncle’s disappearance and demise, Griffith goes back and forth from the interrogation to that of a ticking clock. With every switch of the images, the nephew becomes more and more anxious. The switch then picks up pace, as Griffith begins to go back and forth between the two images faster and faster, creating a growing sense of paranoia and panic in the viewer.

 

Another example of Griffith’s genius is his ability to establish mood and tone with the camera in a static position. Like many early films (*), The Avenging Conscience features no recognizable or identifiable close-up or movement. Most directors failed to use these methods and techniques due to ignorance (the pioneering French director Georges Méliès, for example). Griffith, however, not only knew about them (as evident in his short 1911 film The Lonedale Operator), but he purposely chose to use stationary, static shots to set the mood and tone. As one user on IMDb brilliantly pointed out:

 

Some might pick at the fact that the camera is always static, and there is little editing within the scene, but in fact this just goes to demonstrate just how much a director can do with movement within the frame. To take one example from this picture – in the earlier scenes at the uncle’s house, there is a birdcage with a few canaries hopping around inside it. In later scenes it is covered up, twisting forlornly on its hook. It’s a great touch to establish mood, but Griffith doesn’t draw our attention to it with a clumsy close-up or lumbering pan; our eyes will be drawn to it because it is moving while other things in the frame are still. Audience members will notice it without feeling like they have been forced to notice it.

 

As wonderful as all of this is, Griffith’s real genius doesn’t become apparent until the latter half of the film, as the protagonist begins to experience a series of hallucinations and slowly drifts into utter madness. In one particular scene (about 50 minutes into the film), the protagonist embraces his love with a hug and, as she speaks to him, a figure, which is nearly transparent, appears in the corner (on the left side of the screen). On the opposite side of the scene, the door slowly closes. The figure creeps closer to the couple. That’s when the nephew sees the figure and recognizes it as the ghost of his murdered uncle. The editing trick Griffith employs to make the uncle look transparent (as we all imagine ghosts to look) was repeated five years later in Abel Gance’s anti-war masterpiece J’accuse and in F.W. Murnau’s immortal 1922 vampire film Nosferatu. The ghostly figure appears numerous times after its introduction, serving to taunt and torture the nephew and his sanity. As the title hints, this apparition is a figment of his imagination—his own assault upon himself—a battle with an avenging conscience.

 

The hallucinations, though, are not solely that of his uncle’s ghost. During the climax of the film, the nephew runs into his home, slams the door shut, and falls to his knees. In the corner of the room, the image of Jesus Christ (on the Cross, no less) appears, along with stone tablets that read Thou Shalt Not Kill. During the interrogation scene, the detective’s pencil taps and the ticks of a clock begin to sound like a “dead man’s heart beat” (as the intertitle explains). The nephew then sees a group of demons clouded in darkness, with fog, fire, sparks, and smoke floating about. Some of the figures have animal heads, while one looks strikingly similar to the image of Satan himself. The figures disappear and that of a skeleton appears. The nephew imagines himself strapped into a chair as the skeleton begins to torture him. When the image goes back to the interrogation, the nephew sees his uncle’s ghost as it strangles a ghostly image of himself.

 

The techniques that Griffith employ to successfully pull this scene off would not feature in many films until around 1919. Abel Gance (J’accuse in 1919), F.W. Murnau (Nosferatu in 1922, Faust in 1926, and Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans in 1927), Germaine Dulac (The Seashell and the Clergyman in 1928), Luis Buñuel (Un chien andalou in 1928), and Fritz Lang (Metropolis in 1927) would later adopt the same techniques to establish mood and tone in various films.

 

[SPOILER ALERT]

 

As revolutionary as Griffith’s various editing tricks and filming techniques were, The Avenging Conscience does feature at least one major landmark with respect to the story itself. At the end of the film, the nephew confesses to the crime, proceeds to flee law enforcement, and eventually chooses to hang himself (though we don’t see the actual death, Griffith does allow us to see the moment when he places the noose around his neck and the second after he hangs himself). His lover, who becomes an anxious basket case in her own right due to the ordeal, learns of his suicide and proceeds to throw herself from the side of a cliff. It is at this moment the scene fades to black. As the light slowly returns, we see the nephew sleeping in a chair. He wakes from the nightmare, and his uncle enters the scene to comfort him and his sudden panic. The entire second half of the film was a dream. He, his uncle, and his lover are all alive. This was one of the first true narrative twists in film history. Nothing like it would appear again until Robert Wiene’s 1920 German Expressionist masterpiece The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

 

The final scene of the film begins with an intertitle: “In your voice I hear Pan playing in the woods and all the world gives heed.” Griffith follows this with a scene depicting Pan playing his instrument and several children, presumably personifications of nature, emerge from trees and gardens (as well as various wild felines), find Pan, and begin to dance around him. We see one more image of the nephew and his lover on a lakeside before the final image of the dancing children and Pan fades to black.

 

What does it mean?  That reality is a dream, and our dreams can occasionally lapse into nightmares?  That all’s well that ends well?  Who knows?  That’s the beauty and the genius of D.W. Griffith’s The Avenging Conscience.  We never know exactly, but we all seem to have an answer.

 

(*) This is not to say that all directors failed to employ close-ups or camera movements. Even Griffith used the technique as early as 1911. However, it was not common practice by any means. Directors like Méliès, Auguste and Louis Lumière, and Edwin S. Porter rarely moved their cameras (if it all) or filmed close-up scenes. See our article on Stellan Rye’s 1913 film The Student of Prague for more on the cinema of attraction method.

 

Personal Rating: 5/5

Next time: Robert Reinert’s Nerves (1919)