Thursday, June 09, 2005

Movie: Wild, Wild Planet (1965)

TCM slipped this swinging ‘60s Italian SF epic on in the wee hours of the morning. That’s the ideal time to watch it, when you’re not sure if you’re dreaming the whole thing.

It’s set in a future when residents of Earth live in scale models of cities and travel in Matchbox cars. The planet is invaded by an army of inflatable women accompanied by four-armed clones of actor Michael Berryman, also inflatable. (The clones, not Michael Berryman. Well, maybe he is. I’ve never met him.) The invaders set about miniaturizing the world’s great thinkers. When one of the attacks is interrupted, a dwarf is brought in to take over the role of the victim.

Around this time, I began questioning whether I was truly awake.

It’s all part of a mad scientist’s plan to create a master race. Which also has something to do with melding two personalities into one body. I never figured out how the shrinking business fit in. Frankly, I don’t see how the scientist got grant money for any of it. The action ends with a tidal wave of cranberry juice and a credit for "wigs and hair-do."

With all the hours to be filled, you’d think more movies like this would turn up on cable. God knows they’re out there. And Antonio Margheriti, aka Anthony Dawson, is responsible for plenty of them. His son Edoardo set up a website in his honor that includes more information on this film.

Book: Everything Bad Is Good For You, by Steven Johnson (2005)

I haven’t read this book, but thanks to a mountain of publicity I got the gist of it. Johnson argues that popular culture, specifically television, is making us smarter in part because of the complexity of the storytelling.

I had written his argument off as a crock. Then I tried to watch an episode of STARSKY & HUTCH that I had fond memories of. After twenty minutes of tedium, I thought: maybe the man’s got a point.