I have seen things you people wouldn’t believe (but only if you haven’t been to the cinema in the last thirty years)

hoffman

Review of the latest installment of Dominic’s “history” of SF, “Robots”,  (it really not just a collection of clips from films and interviews with some interesting, and some not so interesting, people involved) will be posted here on Tuesday (OK, Wednesday).  You may hold any breath you have.

[Image from the Boston Lyric Opera production of Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffman (1881) featuring Olympia, a “mechanical doll”.  This was in turn based on Hoffman’s story, “The Sandman” (1816).]

[This will be up on Saturday morning now, got a bit interested and decided I needed to read Rossum’s Universal Robots and watch the restored version of Metropolis.  This is rather ironic since I don’t believe that Dominic bothered to do either before standing up on TV and opining to millions, whereas my audience is in the hundreds (or thousands at best), but it is the principle of the thing.]

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One Response to I have seen things you people wouldn’t believe (but only if you haven’t been to the cinema in the last thirty years)

  1. wrinkled weasel says:

    Starting with a rider, that I did not watch the first two and only flipped through episode three.

    The show is an individual’s opinion, necessarily picking out clips and fitting them to a thesis, which in this case appears to be about connecting “Frankenstein” with the past few decades of movies. Yes, “Metropolis” gets a mention, but only in the context of Maria, which is a bit like picking out Judas Iscariot to illustrate a show about the history of the supergrass. It just doesn’t do any of the films justice.

    Sure, I was waiting for Metropolis to come up, and 2001, but even that got short shrift. What seems to be forgotten is the dramatic function of the robot, which is to make all the actors jump about and do things. The anthropomorphic devices are fairly secondary and are there to either create light relief or instil a bit of credible horror, from something that, let’s face it, is pretty buggered if you turn off the electricity. “The Day the Earth Stood Still” did not get a mention (correct me if I am wrong.) That is as near as it gets to a machine that can “destroy the earth” Gort’s powers are immeasurable and final. He is also (apparently) absolved from following the three rules, although this is by the consent of his makers. This is interesting in itself, but did not get a mention when Asimov’s laws were aired. It is not Gort who saves the world, it is Klaatu, who undergoes a death and resurrection, something fairly big in the canon of plot devices.

    2001 is based upon a short story called “The Sentinel” by Arthur C Clarke. HAL 9000 owes his paranoia, allegedly, to a contradiction in his programming, whereby he cannot cope with concealing the existence of the monolith, which is the very very simple and very very beguiling idea behind both the books and the film. HAL is important, yes, but he does not stand up to the kind of philosophical scrutiny one can give to the monolith. Dramatically, he’s a gnat’s whisker away from Marvin, who owes as much to Shakespeare’s fools as the history of science fiction.

    I just don’t agree that robots are the central characters in Sci Fic. The concepts are too unwieldy for them to carry, dramatically at least. That must be left to the humans and the way we react to them.

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