Weird Universe


2-Star Review

Truth in advertising. A poster for the new movie Legend, starring Tom Hardy, prominently displays the fact that the reviewer for the Guardian gave it only a two-star review.

The reviewer reacts on Twitter:

Posted By: Alex | Date: Wed Sep 09, 2015 | Comments (5)
Category: Movies, Advertising

Insect Art

If you've seen an insect in a movie, there's a good chance it was a prop made by insect artist Graham Owen. He specializes in the "design and fabrication of intricate life-size insect replicas" that are frequently used in movies and TV shows. His most famous insect might be the fly that tormented Walter White in an episode of Breaking Bad.

A recent article about him offers more details about his art and career. And the article included this piece of info, which was new to me:

While the nature of real insects makes them difficult to use, there is another reason Owen’s replicas are in high demand: American Humane Association guidelines prohibit dead insects from being filmed, he said.

Posted By: Alex | Date: Fri Sep 04, 2015 | Comments (6)
Category: Art, Insects, Movies


Auroratone was a "process for translating music into color" invented circa 1940 by Englishman Cecil Stokes. The music vibrated an emulsion of crystallizing chemicals, and this was then photographed by a color movie camera, producing a kind of psychedelic movie of shifting colors synchronized with music (but this was the 1940s, before the concept of psychedelics was known in popular culture).

The hope was that these auroratone films could be used to treat psychiatric patients, and they were experimentally shown to soldiers in an army hospital suffering from psychotic depressions. Conclusion: "Observation revealed that these patients were intensely absorbed in the films, that their span of attention to the films was appreciably lengthened after exposure to the films. Weeping and sobbing was observed in some patients. Many patients became more accessible to individual and group psychotherapy immediately folllowing exposure to these films."

Their effect was also tested on juvenile delinquents. One kid told the experimenter, "I think God must have painted those pictures."

A company was formed to commercialize Auroratones and guide their development. Investors in this company included the Crosby Brothers (Larry and his famous brother Bing). Bing sang the music for many of the auroratones.

Treating psychiatric patients wasn't very profitable, so there was hope to find more lucrative applications of the auroratone process. One idea was to transfer auroratone color patterns onto textiles and ceramics. Some silk scarfs printed with visualizations of Bing Crosby singing "Home on the Range" were apparently manufactured, but never sold.

Not many auroratones still survive, but an example of one can be viewed on YouTube:

The auroratone process reminds me of the Clavilux (or Color Organ) invented by Thomas Wilfred in 1919 (previously posted about here).

More info about auroratones: Wikipedia and Milwaukee Journal, Dec 6, 1948.

Also see: Rubin, HE & Katz, E. (Oct 1946). "Auroratone films for the treatment of psychotic depressions in an army general hospital," Journal of Clinical Psychology, 2(4): 333-340.
Posted By: Alex | Date: Thu Sep 03, 2015 | Comments (9)
Category: Movies, Photography and Photographers, Psychology, 1940's

The Astounding She-Monster


Doesn't the narrator at the start of the full film sound like Troy McClure from THE SIMPSONS?
Posted By: Paul | Date: Sat Jul 11, 2015 | Comments (3)
Category: Aliens, Movies, Sex Symbols, 1950's

Follies of the Madmen #253


If only Hollywood had made John Carter of Mars in 1979, with Cher as Dejah Thoris, they would have had a surefire hit!

Posted By: Paul | Date: Sun Jul 05, 2015 | Comments (2)
Category: Fashion, Hollywood, Movies, Music, Advertising, Science Fiction, 1970's

The Nude Vampire

As you might expect from the title, this trailer contains a small amount of mild chestal exposure, more-or-less consistent with the tamest of HBO programs.

Posted By: Paul | Date: Sun Jun 21, 2015 | Comments (3)
Category: Ineptness, Crudity, Talentlessness, Kitsch, and Bad Art, Movies, Paranormal, 1970's

Incubus, the Esperanto Movie

According to wikipedia, there are only four full-length films shot entirely in Esperanto. One of these four is the 1966 black-and-white horror film Incubus, starring William Shatner.

The film had an LA premiere, but then, partly because of the Esperanto dialogue, it never found a distributor except in France and fell into obscurity. For years it was believed that all copies of the film had disappeared, until the 1990s when a copy was found in France.

Here's the trailer:

And here's the full-length film:

Posted By: Alex | Date: Tue Jun 16, 2015 | Comments (7)
Category: Horror, Languages, Movies, 1960's

Film critic who got it wrong

In the Nov 7, 1977 issue of New York magazine, Bill Flanagan reviewed Close Encounters of the Third Kind. He hated it, and he was certain that everyone else was going to hate it too, predicting it would be "a colossal flop" and almost gleefully forecasting financial disaster for Columbia Pictures as a result, since they had bet heavily on the movie's success. He dismissed the fact that everyone else in the pre-screening he attended seemed to like it, noting, "When you give people free tickets to a movie, most of them are nice enough not to bitch."

Flanagan, of course, couldn't have been more wrong. As wikipedia notes:

"Upon its release, Close Encounters became a box office success, grossing $116.39 million in North America and $171.7 million in foreign countries, totaling $288 million. It became Columbia Pictures' most successful film at that time... Ray Bradbury declared it the greatest science fiction film ever made. Based on 46 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, 96% ("Certified Fresh") of the reviewers have enjoyed the film and the site's consensus states "Close Encounters' most iconic bits (the theme, the mashed-potato sculpture, etc.) have been so thoroughly absorbed into the culture that it's easy to forget that its treatment of aliens as peaceful beings rather than warmongering monsters was somewhat groundbreaking in 1977."
Posted By: Alex | Date: Wed Jun 10, 2015 | Comments (7)
Category: Movies, 1970's
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All original content in posts is Copyright © 2008 by the author of the post, either Alex Boese ("Alex"), Paul Di Filippo ("Paul"), or Chuck Shepherd ("Chuck"). All rights reserved. The banner illustration at the top of this page is Copyright © 2008 by Rick Altergott.