THE ARCTIC DEATH (1927) – Written by Wilford Allen, On A Far World, covered below, was a prequel to this same tale. The Arctic Death is set in the 1930s, which was “the near future” when the story was first published.
A mysterious epidemic called the Arctic Death is spreading southward from the North Pole, leaving countless frozen bodies in its wake. Professor Charles Breinbar, the greatest scientific mind of the decade, uses high-tech “Q-Rays” to determine that the victims did not just die of cold but were snuffed out by malign disembodied entities of some sort.
Breinbar devises special insulation which allows him and his assistant to enter the region currently being affected by the spreading wave of fatalities. Investigating the area our heroes witness people dropping dead in the streets after being affected by energy emanating from floating balls of light. Continue reading
THE THAMES VALLEY CATASTROPHE (1884) – Written by Grant Allen. The story is presented in the form of a memoir about the destruction of London as seen from “the futuristic” 20th Century.
“Back” in 1884 a Londoner familiar with lava eruptions and flows that happened in the American West in the past tries – in what would become a trope of later disaster movies – to warn the authorities that danger lurks. Needless to say his warnings go unheeded and lava erupts in the Thames Valley. Continue reading
MY COUSIN’S AIRSHIP, A TALE OF 1950 (1902) – Written by W.F. Alexander. Though written in 1902 this story is set in a fictional 1950 which has seen incredible scientific advances.
The action begins in England, where our narrator lives with his true love Margaret. His cousin Stephen Rankin – a former rival for Margaret’s affections – is a nasty mean-spirited mad scientist figure.
Stephen has invented a new type of aerocar which can travel 45 miles per hour, which we readers are told makes it the fastest aircraft of 1950. (!) As a peace-making gesture the inventor invites our narrator along for a joyride in the airship. Continue reading
PRIMER (2004) – HAPPY NEW YEAR and yes, I’m just childish enough to pat myself on the back for that play on words in the title of this blog post. With that out of the way I know I’m late to the game when it comes to Primer but my own skepticism about it made me keep it on the back burner in terms of priority movies to watch.
Since New Year’s Eve into the New Year is the closest any of us ever get to time travel I figured today was the perfect time to review this controversial film. Primer was made for just $7,000 (really) by Shane Carruth, who starred, wrote, directed, edited, arranged the music and pretty much did everything but wash the cars of his collaborators.
The film’s 2:1 film ratio has become legendary and decisively proved the benefits of having your cast repeatedly rehearse scenes before letting the cameras roll. Film stock ain’t cheap and anything an independent producer can do to save on it is pure gold.
Shane Carruth stars as Aaron and David Sullivan portrays Abe. The pair are engineers who – on the side – run a tech business out of Aaron’s garage. As a side effect of a project they are working on the two discover a means of time travel.
Don’t roll your eyes and assume that Primer is just another use of this well-worn concept. I made that mistake and put off watching this excellent and thought-provoking movie for far too long.
You can ignore reviews which claim the opening half of this 77 minute film is boring. Literally even the most casual exchanges of dialogue have bearing on the overall story. It’s not really a spoiler at this late date to point out that the very beginning of the film is NOT the “first run” of the events in the storyline, as a viewer discovers later. Continue reading
THE LAND OF THE CENTRAL SUN (1903) – Written by Park Winthrop. The Wintons – Jack and Louise – plus the Livingstons – Bert and Lily – are among the passengers on the ship Golden City when it gets blown off course. The ship winds up near Antarctica and gets trapped in ice.
Damages cause the vessel to start sinking, but some passengers are rescued by the arrival of a (literal) CIGAR-SHAPED aircraft made of metal. The crew members of this mysterious ship are all dwarves and they are captained by Baron Montavo.
The Baron explains to his guests that the ship is called the Meteor and is run by anti-gravity devices in the center and by magnetic devices at the front and back. Montavo pilots the Meteor under the sea and into a subaquatic tunnel which goes on for miles. Continue reading
THE TERRIBLE SUBMARINE (1901) – Written by THE Archibald Williams. The Teredo, a souped-up, futuristic submarine is roaming the high seas preying on the world’s shipping at will. The speed and weaponry of the vessel and its anonymous Captain outclass anything that anyone else has in use.
Marcus Hammersley, a young British inventor, designs and oversees the construction of the Otter, a super-submarine of his own. The Otter is outfitted with the inventor’s innovative sensor equipment – including what we would today call sonar. Hammersley believes his vessel’s engines can propel the Otter faster than the mysterious Teredo once his sensors help him locate the pirate sub. Continue reading
A VOYAGE TO THE WORLD IN THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH (1755) – This intriguing work was published in London anonymously and no author has yet been decisively identified. The novel’s narrator – who remains as anonymous as the book’s author – parties away his inheritance and then ships out for Italy.
Exploring on Mount Vesuvius our hero accidentally falls into what we readers are eventually told is just one of many holes that lead to the interior of the Earth, where another world awaits. A miraculous landing on a haystack saves the narrator’s life but he finds himself unable to move because of the greater gravity of this interior world.
A friendly inhabitant of the inner Earth applies a chemical salve to our protagonist’s body, a salve which allows him to stand up and move about in the higher gravity. A second salve massaged into the narrator’s body renders him capable of understanding and conversing in the language of Inner Earth.
The inhabitants of this interior world dress in silk robes and live to be 200 years old or older. They possess limited telepathy. Precious gems litter the ground but those jewels are meaningless to the Inner Earthers. Their society is partially socialist but with families held sacrosanct and with paternal authority sovereign in each household until the children reach adulthood.
Periodically a King is elected for a lifetime term. Common-sense morality prevails, and ingratitude is especially frowned upon. All of the inhabitants are strict vegetarians, as are the animals so the humans and the beasts interact peacefully.
In addition to the usual above-ground animals, Inner Earth also boasts gigantic birds who are trained to provide air travel throughout the subterranean land. Our hero gets to meet the reigning King in the world capital called Oudentominos.
The King makes him welcome but stresses that visitors are usually encouraged to leave after a year. That custom was set in place when a still-extant colony of British men and women discovered Inner Earth nearly a hundred years earlier and have been causing frequent problems.
During our protagonist’s stay the cantankerous Brits once again come close to mutinying so the Inner Earthers attack them and subdue them. The men are castrated and both sexes of the Anglos are scattered around Inner Earth to prevent any more rebellions from fermenting.
As for life on other planets in our solar system: Continue reading