Rob Halliday

Question: Was Robinson Crusoe On Mars scientifically plausible when it was made in 1964? Aged eight, I watched this movie on release. Even then I knew it was a movie, not a scientific documentary. Nevertheless, I understand that it was once seriously believed there were canals on the surface of Mars. (I even had a children's pictorial encyclopaedia which showed Mars criss-crossed by canals.) After crash-landing on Mars astronaut Kit Draper (Paul Mantee) discovers that the Martian canals were made by intelligent, technologically advanced beings millennia ago. Could anybody in the scientific community have believed this in 1964? Kit Draper discovers ways of creating oxygen, so he does not suffocate; he then finds water sources, vegetation he can eat and a coal like rock that burns to make fires. He witnesses extra-terrestrial aliens visiting Mars in space ships. Was this, by any stretch of the imagination, regarded as even remotely credible in 1964? Or was it pure Hollywood hokum?

Rob Halliday

Answer: This is pure Hollywood fiction, never meant to be science-based fact, and was typical of sci-fi films of that era such as: War of the Worlds, Invaders From Mars, The Martian Chronicles, and others. Many were based on early-to-mid-20th century science-fiction novels when little was scientifically known about any of the planets. Authors imagined what Mars was like to entertain readers. After the 1960s, as more was scientifically known about Mars, films became more realistic, although the 2012 Disney film, "John Carter," was a deliberate throwback to that earlier genre. Also, it was never believed that there were canals on Mars. In the 1870s, Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli was mapping Mars through a telescope. He described the long, trench-like geographical features as "canali," (Italian for channels). American Astronomer Percival Lowell misinterpreted this as "canals" and believed they were of intelligent origin, though other scientists debunked that. Sci-fi writers of the time (H.G. Wells, Edgar Rice Boroughs, et al) incorporated Lowell's published theories into their stories.

raywest Premium member

It should be noted "John Carter" is based on the 1912 novel "A Princess of Mars."

Bishop73

Question: Why do the humans in "Planet Of The Apes" all wear clothes? I am fully aware that the film was made in 1968, for a general release, permitting it to be shown in cinemas or on television, and 20th Century Fox would never have been allowed to make a movie in which humans all ran around naked. But, since the film is supposed to be set in a post-apocalyptic world, where humans have regressed back to being wild creatures, without language, lacking the skills to make or create anything, where do they get their clothes from? (And their clothes fit, too.) Did anybody ever come up with an answer to this, apart from the obvious reply that they wanted to get the film past the censor?

Rob Halliday

Answer: Unlike other primates, humans walk upright which exposes their genitals. They would instinctively cover them for protection. Humans also have very little body hair, so would cover themselves against the elements. Finally (spoiler alert) as these humans devolved from actual humans, it's likely something they did because their ancestors did it and it's been continued through the generations.

Jason Hoffman

Answer: The humans have become mute, but not regressed to being "wild animals." The apes are the superior species but humans still have a high-level of intelligence, live in a complex, interactive social group, communicate non-verbally, and would have the ability to make simple tools and protective clothing. At the very least they would be equal to Neanderthals, but seem more advanced. The real answer is, of course, it's a 1968 movie when there were more stringent rules regarding nudity in films. If there was any, it likely would have been "X" rated, therefore limiting its audience and in which theaters it could have been shown in.

raywest Premium member

Factual error: The movie's title "The Inn Of The Sixth Happiness" is the name of the mission station that Gladys Aylward/Ingrid Bergman sets up. In reality this was called "The Inn Of The Eighth Happiness." Numerology is popular in China, where eight is regarded as a particularly auspicious number. Apparently the film company thought "sixth" had a better ring to it than "eighth." In the movie it is explained that there are six levels of happiness. This is not a Chinese belief and seems to have been invented for the movie.

Rob Halliday

Trivia: The Inn Of The Sixth Happiness tells the story of Gladys Aylward, an English missionary in China. The casting of Ingrid Bergman in the role was quite amazing, especially considering that Gladys Aylward was still alive at the time. Ingrid Bergman, who exuded glamour throughout the movie, was 5' 9" tall, had blonde hair and retained her native Swedish accent. Gladys Aylward was of rather plain appearance, stood a mere 4' 10" tall, had black hair and spoke with a cockney accent.

Rob Halliday

Show generally

Question: Why exactly was Dick Dastardly so anxious to capture Yankee Doodle Pigeon?

Rob Halliday

Answer: During the First World War, pigeons were used to carry messages across the battle lines. Yankee Doodle is carrying some sort of American orders or intelligence.

Brian Katcher

15th Jul 2020

Psycho II (1983)

Question: Spoiler alert: this question gives away much of the first "Psycho" movie. In the original Alfred Hitchcock "Psycho" we witness Norman Bates murdering Janet Leigh/Marion Crane and Martin Balsam/Milton Arbogast, and very narrowly missing killing Vera Miles/Lila Crane. At the end of the movie we discover that Norman Bates had murdered his mother and her lover ten years previously. We are also told that he had killed two female guests at Bates Motel. Norman Bates is therefore guilty of six murders and one attempted murder. In Psycho II we find out that, after his crimes were discovered, Norman Bates was placed in a secure psychiatric institution for the criminally insane. This does seem plausible. But with such a criminal record, would he ever be released from incarceration?

Rob Halliday

Answer: Norman was found "not guilty" by reason of insanity. Therefore, once he is deemed to be no longer a danger to himself, or to others, and is released from the mental institution, there is no crime he can be sent to jail for (i.e. he has no criminal record for the murders). I haven't done enough research to tell you if a serial killer in recent times has ever been found not guilty by reason of insanity and subsequently been released, but there are numerous accounts of people being released from mental institutions after committing murder that are then considered free.

Bishop73

Trivia: The movie tells the story of James Allen/Paul Muni, an unjustly imprisoned convict, who escapes from a brutal chain gang and ends up a frightened, hunted, homeless vagrant. This was based on the life of Robert Elliott Burns, who was unjustly convicted and placed on a chain gang, from which he escaped. Burns wrote a best-selling book about his experiences and advised on the making of the movie. After the movie's release Burns was granted parole and became a free man. "I Am A Fugitive From A Chain gang" may be unique among Hollywood movies, in that, while the movie had a sad ending, the real-life story that inspired it had a happy ending.

Rob Halliday

Angus Tuck: Don't be afraid of death Winnie, be afraid of the unlived life.

Rob Halliday

Factual error: Two scenes show aerial views of the cast in a church: this is in fact St Bartholemew The Great in the Smithfield area of London. These show everybody walking on the floor of the church, which is made of Victorian tiles, laid down in the nineteenth century, about 300 years after the age of Queen Elizabeth I (played by Judi Dench) and William Shakespeare.

Rob Halliday
Upvote valid corrections to help move entries into the corrections section.

Suggested correction: It was filmed in St Batholomews but was set in a fictional church somewhere in London. The floor tiles are just part of the fictional setting and are not anachronistic.

8th Jul 2020

Sahara (1943)

Question: Serious spoiler alert: these questions summarise the entire film. During the Second World War Sgt Joe Gunn (Humphrey Bogart) and nine allied soldiers (plus one German and one Italian captive) are crossing the North African Desert. They discover a well, but this has nearly dried up and only provides a small trickle of water, barely enough to keep them alive. They are besieged by over 100 Germans. Since the Germans have no water at all they surrender to Joe Gunn. At this point a stray shell lands in the well. The resulting explosion brings hundreds of gallons of water bubbling up, more than enough for Joe Gunn's company and all the Germans. Two questions. 1. Could a well in the Sahara dry up until it only gave a small trickle of water? 2. Could an explosion really open a water supply like this?

Rob Halliday

Answer: Thank you for that! I always thought the idea of the shell exploding in the well and re-opening the water supply was just Hollywood hokum, but sometimes it is amusing to be proved wrong. You put a smile on my face when you informed me, and quite convincingly too, that the well really could have dried up but then opened up again.

Rob Halliday

Answer: 1. Yes it could, as water flows into the well, it could easily bring sediment and other bits of small debris and eventually block the flow of water resulting in only a trickle. 2. Again, yes. If the explosion weakens the surrounding walls holding the water back, the pressure of the water could easily rupture through the walls and result in the flooding mentioned.

Ssiscool Premium member

4th Jul 2020

The Long Ships (1964)

Factual error: At the end, Rolfe suggests to King Harald that they seek "the three crowns of the Saxon kings." But this lost treasure legend is a modern invention. In 1925 M R James wrote "A Warning To The Curious", which says that the Anglo-Saxon kings of East Anglia buried three crowns near the English coast. Somebody who finds one of these meets a mysterious, sinister death. The legend of the three crowns of the Saxon kings has since appeared in many books about English folklore. But there is no record of this story before 1925 and it is now believed that M R James invented it. Thus the story of the three crowns would not have been known to the Vikings.

Rob Halliday
Upvote valid corrections to help move entries into the corrections section.

Suggested correction: First of all, you state "it is now believed that M R James invented it." So it is not known for certain if he did or not? And if it is doubted now, what about 1964? Something doesn't become a mistake if future discoveries contradict what was known at the time. And finally, whether it was a real legend or not is irrelevant. It is a legend in the world of the movie, just like the legend of the golden bell. If anything this should be listed as trivia.

Well observed, Sir! I concede that you make very valid points. In hindsight, I should not have submitted this as a factual error. I should have worded it as a question. I should have asked if Rolfe's closing lines about "the three crowns of the Saxon kings" alluded, directly or indirectly, to the M R James ghost story "A Warning To The Curious." Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. But I will have to agree that, if the golden bell is a real object in the cinematic world of "The Long Ships", then the legend of the three crowns of the Saxon kings can be an equally real legend in the cinematic world of this film. I am fully aware that films are not real life and that the internal logic of a film need not follow the logic of real life.

Rob Halliday

3rd Jul 2020

The Producers (1967)

Trivia: When scripting "The Producers", Mel Brooks deliberately chose the name Leopold Bloom (aka "Leo Bloom") for the accountant character, the role played by Gene Wilder, because it was the name of the Irish Jew who is the central character of James Joyce's novel "Ulysses."

Rob Halliday

29th Jun 2020

The Prisoner (1967)

Arrival - S1-E1

Question: In the opening credits of Arrival and most subsequent episodes of The Prisoner, Patrick McGoohan/The Prisoner/Number Six walks into a government office and resigns his post. He returns to his house. A man, dressed like an undertaker, pumps gas through the keyhole. He falls unconscious and revives in "The Village." My questions? Is there a "knockout gas" that would render somebody unconscious like this? If so, after inhaling the gas, for how long would they remain unconscious? We never know where "The Village" is, so we cannot know how long it took to move Patrick McGoohan there, but how would they keep him unconscious until they got him to "The Village"? As soon as he comes to in "The Village" he seems 100% fit and alert and immediately begins to explore his new "home." Wouldn't he have a splitting headache, and be dazed, confused and disorientated after being unconscious for so long and then waking up in such a strange place?

Rob Halliday

Factual error: In Danny Kaye's song about "The Emperor's New Clothes" he persistently and repeatedly uses the words "the king is in the altogether." Hans Christian Andersen lived from 1805 to 1875, but the expression "in the altogether", meaning naked, was invented and popularised by George Du Maurier in his novel "Trilby" which was not published until 1894.

Rob Halliday

22nd Jun 2020

Rain Man (1988)

Trivia: When Charlie (Tom Cruise) decides to take Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) across the USA he wants to travel by plane. Raymond refuses, citing the fact that at least one plane from all the airlines on offer have, at some time, crashed. The only airline that Raymond would be willing to travel on is Qantas (the Australian airline) as this has a 100% crash-free record. Since Qantas offers no cross USA flights they have to travel by road. After the release of Rain Man many airlines included the film as part of their in-flight entertainment option, but nearly all of them deleted this scene, since it was hardly good publicity for their flights. The one exception was Qantas, who were proud to include the film in its entirety, thinking this particular scene gave Qantas excellent publicity.

Rob Halliday

21st Jun 2020

Blazing Saddles (1974)

Question: Mel Brooks consciously and deliberately filled Blazing Saddles with anachronisms, this was part of the film's humour. But one thing has always niggled at my mind. Blazing Saddles is set in 1874. Quite early on in the film the whites ask Cleavon Little/Bart why African Americans are not singing work songs. The African Americans then begin acapella harmonised version of Cole Porters "I Get A Kick Out Of You" (written for the 1934 musical "Anything Goes"). But in October 1974, shortly after Blazing Saddles had its UK release, an otherwise unknown Australian singer called Gary Shearston had a top ten UK hit with a cover of "I Get A Kick Out Of You." Was there any connection? Did Blazing Saddles revive interest in the song?

Rob Halliday

Answer: Thank you for that. So there was no direct connection. Maybe the song was going around in "the collective consciousness" (whatever that might be) in late 1974. A small bit of extra trivia: Cleavon Little/Bart sings the line that mentions cocaine. When Cole Porter wrote "I get a kick out of you" for the 1934 stage musical "Anything Goes" he wrote the line "some get a kick from cocaine." When the musical was adapted for the 1936 movie the Production Code Administration objected to references to drug use in popular songs, so Cole Porter re-wrote the line as "some like the perfume in Spain." Cleavon Little/Bart has redressed the balance in "Blazing Saddles."

Rob Halliday

Answer: By the time "Blazing Saddles" used the song, Cole Porter's "I Get a Kick Out of You" had been covered literally dozens of times over the decades, so much so that it was a well-worn standard. In other words, it didn't really need reviving. There is no indication that Australian folk singer Gary Shearston was directly inspired by the song's use in "Blazing Saddles," or he probably would have admitted it for the sake of promotion. When asked about his eccentric cover of the Cole Porter song on the 1974 album "Dingo," Shearston simply replied that he "did it for fun," without elaborating. The acoustic guitar of Shearston's cover seemed more inspired by George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord," and Shearston's vocals were described as "laid-back," while his stage performance of the song (which was a huge hit in the UK) was notable for Shearston's "deadpan" delivery. Shearston also either bungled or deliberately altered the lyrics in places, and he ended the song muttering about his girlfriend, by name. So, Shearston very much made the song his own, and the timing of his cover following on the heels of "Blazing Saddles" would seem to be pure coincidence.

Charles Austin Miller

Question: Winnie (Alexis Bledel) runs away from her family and stays with Mae Tuck (Sissy Spacek) and the Tuck family. Winnie's family organise a search party to look for Winnie. Ben Kingsley (The Stranger/Man In Yellow Suit) also seeks Winnie and the Tucks, as they have secret information he wishes to acquire. Ben Kingsley finds Winnie and the Tucks. He threatens and intimidates them with a loaded revolver, even manhandling Winnie and holding the revolver barrel at Winnie's head. Sissy Spacek is standing behind Ben Kingsley. She hits him on the head with a rifle butt, killing him. At this point the search party converge on the Tucks' home. They see Sissy Spacek kill Ben Kingsley, so she is arrested for murder and sentenced to be hanged. Would any court find Sissy Spacek guilty of murder? She was obviously acting to defend her family and Winnie from an evil man with a loaded gun.

Rob Halliday

Answer: It depends on the court. If the court believed killing the man was not necessary to save Winnie (ie. if a judge thought he was outnumbered and the men could and should have wrestled the gun away from him); then yes. A court could still find Mae Tuck guilty if they believe death was an excessive use of force in defending Winnie.

Trivia: Wilfrid Brambell portrayed Albert Steptoe as an untidy, badly groomed, slovenly old man. In real life Wilfrid Brambell was a smart dresser who was very particular about his appearance. When episodes of Steptoe and Son were being filmed, either in a television studio, or on location, autograph hunters might congregate hoping to collect the autograph of, or make social contact with the actors. Popular folklore about the programme holds that, after a day's filming, Wilfred Brambell would change from Albert's scruffy clothes into a tailored suit, shave and brush himself, and then blithely walk offset past the sightseers and autograph hunters, who would not recognise the dapper, well-dressed gentleman as the dishevelled Albert Steptoe.

Rob Halliday

4th Jun 2020

Ben-Hur (1959)

Factual error: Before the spectacular chariot race, we have the "Parade of the Charioteers." Around the arena you see classical statues. They are just props, they do not influence the storyline at all, they are just dotted around the set to remind us that we are in the Roman Empire. All the statues are just plain white stone. Archaeological research shows that the great Greek and Roman sculptors always painted their sculptures. Skin, clothes, eyes, hair, were all carefully painted to make the statues look 100% lifelike. In the next thousand years the paint wore away, and now, when you go to a museum and look at Greek and Roman sculptures you only see plain stone figures. Yet in ancient Greece and Rome all those statues were elaborately painted. This error applies not just to Ben Hur but probably every classical epic film ever made.

Rob Halliday

25th Oct 2019

Cromwell (1970)

Factual error: The Battle Of Edgehill (on 23 October 1642) was the first full-scale, pitched battle of the Civil War. Although not named as such, this is shown as a total rout for the Parliamentarians/Roundheads, no match for the dashing Royalists/Cavaliers. Cromwell tries to rally his men, but, realising the situation is hopeless, he, too, leaves the field. In historical fact, the Royalist army, advancing on London, met the Parliamentary army at Edgehill. The battle was an inconclusive draw. Both armies suffered equal casualties. Neither side gained or was driven from the field. After Edgehill the Parliamentary army retreated to London. That may have appeared defeatist, but was actually a wise thing to do. The Royalists could have occupied an undefended London, but lacked supplies and material to besiege London if it was defended. Thus, the Royalist army advanced to the outskirts of London but had to withdraw after a few days, after which the Parliamentarians held London for the rest of the war. Cromwell did not fight at Edgehill. On 23 October he was leading a troop to join the main Parliamentary army and did not link up until several days later.

Rob Halliday

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