Tuesday, November 3, 2020

And now for something completely different . . .

At a time when the election in the US is almost upon us and as the news headlines predict street violence, here is something completely different . . .  spiders. More specifically, some remembrances of films with spiders. 

My memories were stirred by an email I received from Enid and Philip C in response to the Halloween pics posted: 

Hi Otto, 

No doubt you will be inundated with Halloween photos, so here is one more. Our daughter-in-law and son did not want to scare their neighbours with an extravagant outside display but the grandchildren’s psyche was expendable 😊. 

All the best 

Enid & Philip 

Thanks Enid, Philip.

This is the pic which accompanied the email: 


A truly magnificent and terrifying display. 

For some reason it brought a film spider to mind , , , not Shelob, the giant spider in Lord of the Rings, or Aragog, the giant spider in the Harry Potter books and films. Instead, the above photograph reminded me of a 1957 film that was made long before computer generated imagery and special effects but which scared the pants off me when I was a youngster. Seeing the images below recreate my youthful angst. It is illustrative of the fact that blockbusters, masses of CGI and lots of zeros in the budget aren’t always needed. 

The film is called The Incredible Shrinking Man

The main character, Scott, is on vacation on a boat with his wife when it passes through a strange mist. His wife is below deck and not touched by the mist. Six months later he begins to shrink, tests revealing that exposure to the mist, combined with his later exposure to a pesticide, rearranged his molecular structure, causing him to shrink. Eventually he becomes so small that he lives in a doll’s house and is almost eaten by the family cat, having to escape to the basement.. His wife, finding his bloodstained clothes, believes that he is dead and leaves the home. 

In the basement Scott tries to survive, using whatever means at his disposal, especially to find food. He knows that to survive he must kill the tarantula that also inhabits the basement, resulting in a battle to the death. 

Some stills: 

The aftermath of exposure to the mist 

Shrinking 

Shrinking further 

Battling the cat 

Finding food in the basement 

Battle with the tarantula 

After the battle with the spider, Scott passes out from exhaustion and awakens to find himself shrunken to miniscule size. Standing in front of a wire screen he accepts his fate and is no longer afraid, concluding that no matter how small he becomes, he will still matter in the universe because God will know he exists. 


This is the voice over from Scott: 

I was continuing to shrink, to become... what? The infinitesimal? What was I? Still a human being? Or was I the man of the future? If there were other bursts of radiation, other clouds drifting across seas and continents, would other beings follow me into this vast new world? So close - the infinitesimal and the infinite. But suddenly, I knew they were really the two ends of the same concept. The unbelievably small and the unbelievably vast eventually meet - like the closing of a gigantic circle. I looked up, as if somehow I would grasp the heavens. The universe, worlds beyond number, God's silver tapestry spread across the night. And in that moment, I knew the answer to the riddle of the infinite. I had thought in terms of man's own limited dimension. I had presumed upon nature. That existence begins and ends is man's conception, not nature's. And I felt my body dwindling, melting, becoming nothing. My fears melted away. And in their place came acceptance. All this vast majesty of creation, it had to mean something. And then I meant something, too. Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something, too. To God, there is no zero. I still exist! 

Thinking about that film and the spider battle brought to mind another flick that had affected me as a child (my parents weren’t too strong on enforcing viewing classifications for children, leaving it to my brothers and I to self regulate, which we did by watching everything). The second film was made a year later in 1958 (better than the 1986 remake, in my opinion) – The Fly. 


The film tells the story of a scientist, Andre, who is transformed into a grotesque human-fly hybrid after a common house fly enters unseen into a molecular transporter he is experimenting with, resulting in his atoms being combined with those of the insect. He ends up with the head and left arm of a fly. Unable to find the white headed fly to reverse the process, Andre’s wife Helene ends up crushing his head and arm as he asked her to do. A detective believes it to be murder and refuses to believe the explanation offered. 

In the garden Andre’s brother and the detective discover the white headed spider caught in a spider’s web: 


A closer look shows the fly to have André's head and arm. As a huge brown spider advances towards him, Andre screams in a miniature voice "Help me! Help me!" 




Just as the spider is about to devour the fly/Andre, the detective crushes them both with a rock. 


André's death is attributed to a suicide so that Hélène is not convicted of murder. 

If anyone has seen the films, how did they affect you and what did you think?

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