Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society

11/13/20 -- Vol. 39, No. 20, Whole Number 2145

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Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper, * *

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ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN (1958) (film retrospective

by Mark R. Leeper)

Fictional Starship Size Comparisons (letter of comment

by Guy Ferraiolo)

THE ORDER OF TIME by Carlo Rovelli (book review

by Gregory Frederick)

THE ARABIAN NIGHTS (letters of comment by Peter Trei,

Scott Dorsey, Dorothy J. Heydt, Keith F. Lynch,

and Radovan Garabik)

Escaped Cloned Female Mutant Crayfish (letters of comment

by Kevin R and Dorothy J. Heydt)

Snuff Mull (letter of comment by John Kerr-Mudd)

Una O'Connor (letter of comment by Daniel M. Kimmel)

This Week's Reading (THE LONG GOODBYE) (book and film

comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN (1958) (film retrospective by

Mark R. Leeper)

This is one of those films that has become a low-grade camp

classic.  While it is not as incompetent as some of the films of

this period, the campy title certainly drew attention to the film

and the abysmal special effects which ironically have an attraction

all their own.  If this film had a reasonable filmmaker behind it,

it would probably be nearly forgotten by now.

ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN opens with reports of a strange flying

object seen several places over the globe.  It comes to rest at the

edge of the California desert.  Nancy Archer (played by Allison

Hayes) is driving through the desert and sees the object, looking

like a thirty-foot jawbreaker.  As she stares at it, we see a huge

(and somewhat rubbery) hand reach down to her car.  She returns to

the local town in hysterics.  Her philandering husband Harry

(William Hudson) hears that she is in town in a hysterical state.

She claims that a thirty-foot giant was trying to get her diamond

necklace. It has the "world's most famous diamond," the 563-carat

Star of India.  How she got the huge diamond is never explained.

The local police humor her since she is the wealthiest person in

the community, but no evidence is found.  The film devolves quickly

into a fairly mundane melodrama of a no-good philandering husband

who cheats on his rich wife with the local good-time girl Honey

Parker (Yvette Vickers).  Harry wants to have her institutionalized

as insane so that he can inherit her fifty million dollars.  At

first Harry really believes Nancy is insane until he goes with her

into the desert and actually sees the alien "satellite."  Harry

abandons her to the alien and drives to town, but later she is

found still alive, though comatose.  Honey talks Harry into killing

his wife, but when he goes to do it he finds she has grown to fifty

feet in size as an effect of contact with the alien.  The sheriff

and Nancy's butler find giant footprints and track them to the

spacecraft, which is full of steam.  Inside it seems to have a

collection of diamonds in glass globes.  The alien chases them out

of the spacecraft and destroys their car, then they look somewhat

bewildered by the experience.  He returns to his craft and flies

off.  Nancy returns to consciousness and goes to town to find

Harry.  She tears apart the town, killing Honey and dragging away

Harry.  As she walks close to a power pole with an electrical

transformer, the sheriff shoots it and it explodes killing Nancy.

As the sheriff points out, she finally has Harry to herself.  The

script is by Mark Hanna who the previous year wrote The Amazing

Colossal Man and managed to outdo the lameness of that script

writing a sort of companion film.  It even has a major actor in

common, William Hudson who played the scientist Dr. Linstrom in that


ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN was directed by Nathan Hertz, a

pseudonym for Nathan Juran who the previous year directed THE 7TH

VOYAGE OF SINBAD.  He clearly did not want to use his full name,

and who can blame him.  In spite of the bad material, Juran manages

to get at least acceptable performance from all concerned, with the

possible exception of the alien.  If there is one place to look for

quality in ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN, it is in the acting.  In

the title role is Allison Hayes, who had made four fantasy film the


ZOMBIES OF MORA TAU.  This is the role for which she is best known,

though it probably was not much of a stretch for her.  William

Hudson had made previously films like DESTINATION TOKYO, STRATEGIC


The first bad visual in the film is a route sign looks like it came

from an art department, not a highway department.  Things will get

much, much worse.  The script calls the spherical object a

"satellite" again and again.  Of course it is not a satellite, it

is more similar to the bubble that Glinda the Good Witch of the

North uses to zip around Oz.  What little we see of the alien is on

a film stock that is either better lit than most of the other

footage or is on a different film stock since it looks like it is

bleached white.  The alien we see is rather impoverished-looking--

simply a bald man in funny clothing.  When Nancy grows to fifty

feet in her own bedroom, we see no signs that she is crowded by the

walls of her normal-sized bedroom.  When we see the inside of the

space craft, it is decorated beaverboard and seems too small to

allow the alien to move around.  When we see the alien he is

outside the ship and when you see him full size, he appears to be

translucent (except when you see just his hand).  We get a better

look at his uniform and see it to be a strange jacket with a

picture of a bull on the back.  Just why an alien would have a

picture of a bull on his jacket is not explained.  Nancy's hand is

properly large but it looks like a large plush cushion.  Showing

Nancy walking to town, they use the same bad image-mixing effects.

This is a great example of place where they only had to film her

from a low angle to create the effect they needed.  Instead they

superimpose her image and get the same translucent effect that

destroys all the bad effects in the film.  Nancy's attack on the

town is a classic of bad effects.  The same translucent effect is

prominent.  When Nancy picks up Harry, it clearly looks like just a

silly-looking doll.  But there was something that attracted

audiences and keeps attracting them to this film.  Something about

the giant Nancy tearing the town apart and calling "Harry!" keeps

audiences coming back, but not for the most charitable of motives.

BEST TOUCH: Nathan Juran does a professional job, not common in

films of this quality.  There is not one mis-delivered line in the


WORST TOUCH: Ah, so much to choose from.  Probably what bothered me

most is the translucent alien with the bull on his jacket.  What

were they thinking of?

There is not much film here to warrant a second viewing here.

Certainly it seems an unworthy choice for HBO to remake as they did

in 1993.  This film rates a low -2 on the -4 to +4 scale.

Turner Classic Movies is running this on December 3, 1:00 PM.



TOPIC: Fictional Starship Size Comparisons (letter of comment by

Guy Ferraiolo)

Very cool.  Includes real ships with sizes and common objects such

as people and autos for comparison.  Some of the very large ones

seem gratuitous.  Covers a wide range of books, movies, and games,

worth investigating.

Clearly an immense amount of work went into this.




TOPIC: THE ORDER OF TIME by Carlo Rovelli (book review by Gregory


A very intriguing and complex subject is covered in this science

book titled THE ORDER OF TIME.  The author is an Italian

theoretical physicist whose specialty is quantum gravity.  The book

does a deep dive into what time really is.  Newton thought that two

forms of time existed.  Newton assumed there is a form of time

called true time which is a constant quantity anywhere in the

universe that is independent of things and their changes.  This is

the time Newton uses in his equations for example.  It is like

there is a universal clock which follows this equal and uniform

flowing of true time.  And this would seem normal to most people

because it is what we have learned in school.  But soon the author

informs us that according to Einstein's theories of relativity time

is not independent and can slow down for you if you are nearer to a

large mass like the Earth or if you are traveling at a higher

speed.  If you are on top a large mountain your time will be move

faster than a person on the ground.

Things get even more complex when you understand that we do not

live in a smooth continuous universe as Einstein states in his

theories.  We live in a discontinuous quantum universe.  In this

view time is not a real entity only processes that transform

physical quantities from one to another exist.  But later in the

book the author leads us to a better understanding of time.  He

indicates that our interaction with the world is blurred and also

has quantum indeterminacy involved too.  This ignorance leads to a

variable he calls thermal time which is related to entropy.

This book really challenges you and makes you think more deeply

about time but is written in an approachable manner for the lay

person.  [-gf]


TOPIC: THE ARABIAN NIGHTS (letters of comment by Peter Trei, Scott

Dorsey, Dorothy J. Heydt, Keith F. Lynch, and Radovan Garabik)

In response to Evelyn's comments on the Richard Francis Burton

translation of THE ARABIAN NIGHTS in the 11/06/20 issue of the MT

VOID, Peter Trei writes:

You might want to look into the different translations available.

I've heard that Burton was short on cash, and made his translation

as salacious as possible in pursuit of sales.  [-pt]

Scott Dorsey responds:

Yes, but, by modern standards, it isn't really that salacious.  The

commentary is actually much more amusing in that regard than the


The Madrus and Mather's translation is in a much more modern style

and may be considered more readable, but the Burton translation is

what most of the West thinks of when they think of the NIGHTS.


Dorothy J. Heydt writes:

ISTR that his wife burned the MS. because it was so salacious.


Keith F. Lynch asks:

Then how was his translation published?  [-kfl]

Scott answers:

That was his revised translation of THE PERFUMED GARDEN OF THE

SHEIKH NEFZAWI which was made from an original Arabic text.  He had

before published a version which had been made by retranslating a

French translation due to his earlier inability to get access to an

original text.

The earlier published translation was plenty salacious but it omits

a chapter on homosexuality which the French translator had decided

not to include.  Reportedly the major difference between the lost

version and the earlier published version was that chapter.  [-sd]

Keith replies:

I thought Muslims never did that, or at least never admitted doing

it since it carried the death penalty.

Radovan Garabik responds:

Muslim attitude towards LGBT were perhaps somewhat more lenient

than traditional Christian ones, though quite comparable (after

all, the first sacred books are shared among the religions).  But

while Christianity slowly lost its grip on the western society,

Islam is still strong in some countries and homosexuality became a

signaling issue.

OTOH, unlike Christianity, Islam explicitly recognize[sd] and

tolerate[ds] transsexual (and even transvestite) persons.  See

[Arabic word for "hermaphrodite"].

ObSF: Islam in Accelerando by Charles Stross  [-rg]

Scott replies:

That sort of thing does not happen in the Royal Navy!  And when I

mean it does not happen, I mean it hardly ever happens.  And when I

say it hardly ever happens I mean it happens a whole lot.  [-sd]

Evelyn notes:

I haven't gotten very far yet, but my understanding is that 1) not

everyone in the store in THE ARABIAN NIGHTS is Muslim, and 2) not

everyone is good.  For example, the very first section explaining

the back story has all sorts of adultery in it.  [-ecl]

Peter adds:

Also, remember that for THE ARABIAN NIGHTS, there is no canonical

Arab text; It's a large collection of sometimes linked, sometimes

independent stories, and there are several manuscripts, each with

somewhat different tales.  [-pt]

Scott responds:

Yes, and Burton comments on how different manuscripts have

different versions of the same story.  In the "Supplementary

Nights" he translates a few of the alternate versions as well.  I

think he made an attempt to get as many different manuscripts as

possible to compile as many stories as he could, in spite of the

Bodleian not wanting to loan to him.  [-sd]


TOPIC: Escaped Cloned Female Mutant Crayfish (letters of comment by

Kevin R and Dorothy J. Heydt)

In response to Evelyn's comments on escaped cloned female mutant

crayfish in the 11/06/20 issue of the MT VOID, Kevin R writes: The

Telegraph story quoted refers to...


....popularity as a cheap source of protein.


Obviously, as an act of international amity, we here in the USA

should send a contingent of the Cajun Navy and however-many cooks

whose crawdad-boiling operations have been shut down by social

distancing to give those mudbugs the fate they deserve--guest of

honor for dinner!  [-kr]

Dorothy J. Heydt responds:

Sounds great!  Except I don't know what the COVID situation is like

in Belgium at present; they may be social-distancing too.

But once the pandemic is over, yes, send mail to President Biden's

staff and suggest it.  [-djh]


TOPIC: Snuff Mull (letter of comment by John Kerr-Mudd)

In response to Mark's comments on entropy in the 11/06/20 issue of

the MT VOID, John Kerr-Mudd writes:

[Mark wrote,] "If you put red marbles and green marbles in a large

Tupperware snuff mull and shake them up and look inside, it is

unlikely that all the green marbles are together and all the red

marbles are together.  The highest probability is that they will be

mixed together and no amount of shaking the mull will separate

them."  [-mrl]

A Mull?  Is that the nightmare full version of a Mullet hairdo?

Even ** doesn't know about it;

unless it's a specialised bit of plastic for the chicken dish


Your search for "mull" did not yield any results.

** shows a

Scottish horn used as a snuff container; rather a specialist item

IMHO.  Esp at #200 a go.  [-jkm]

Evelyn writes:

But indeed, the Scottish horn was that to which Mark was referring.

We had seen one in a Scottish castle not long before he wrote the

original entropy article.  Undoubtedly Mark chose it to represent

the wide range of Tupperware available.  [-ecl]


TOPIC: Una O'Connor (letter of comment by Daniel M. Kimmel)

In response to Mark's comments on Una O'Connor in the 11/06/20

issue of the MT VOID, Daniel M. Kimmel writes:

No, Mark, Una O'Connor was NOT the "Jar Jar Binks of her age."  She

was a character actress who often played frantic/frightened roles,

but she was never one of the main characters who was so annoying

that it almost destroyed a franchise.  [-dmk]


TOPIC: This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

I recently watched the Robert Altman adaptation of THE LONG GOODBYE

by Raymond Chandler (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard ISBN 978-0-394-

75768-1).  This is one of my favorite Chandler novels, because I

find the character of Terry Lennox fascinating.  However, the film

leaves a lot to be desired.

First of all, though the book is set in the late 1940s, the film

appears to be set in a later period (based on clothing, hair

styles, etc.)  However, the cars and the rates Marlowe quotes are

still of the 1940s.

In the books, Marlowe did not have a cat.  In the film, he has a

cat.  This seems a very un-Marlowe touch, especially since his work

often requires him to be away from home for long stretches.  The

Marlowe of the film also has a cheese planer?  Why on earth would

Marlowe own a cheese planer?  And by this point in the novels,

Marlowe is living in a house, not an apartment.

The movie drops the whole first part of the book, where Marlowe

meets Terry Lennox, which leaves one wondering just how long

they've known each other, etc.  Instead, it starts with Lennox

going to Mexico.

It also changes names, with Lenny Potts instead of Paul Marsden,

and Marty Augustine instead of Manny Menendez.  The whole

relationship between Wade and the clinic is different.  Oh, and

there was no naked scene in the book.

**SPOILER** But the biggest change is that the film changes the

ending, in particular, it changes who is guilty of what.

Unconscionable!  [-ecl]


                     Mark Leeper

* *

          Not one man in a beer commercial has a beer belly.

                                          --Rita Rudner