The World O' Crap Archive

Welcome to the Collected World O' Crap, a comprehensive library of posts from the original Salon Blog, and our successor site, (2006 to 2010).

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Word is the Law is the Word

Over at Blondesense, Jersey Cynic provides a link to Stephen Vincent Benet’s 1937 short story, By the Waters of Babylon.  Apart from its relative novelty as a pre-Atomic Age post-Apocalyptic tale, it’s a compelling story and well worth a read.  But since we’re in the midst of a Mystery Science Theater 3000 orgy in the comments below, I’m going to abandon any pretense of literary appreciation, and confess what really struck me about this story: from the first paragraph, with it’s litany of taboos rendered in a prolix dialect, to the last paragraph’s hint of civilization reborn, it’s clear that this story was brazenly filched by Roger Corman and rendered like suet into Teenage Cave Man.

The similaries are so abundant between story and film that they might just as well have opened the Norton Anthology to the appropriate page and started rolling.  It’s forbidden to go beyond the river.  It’s forbidden to look upon the Place of the Gods.  The heirs of modern man are neolithic hunter-gatherers.  Admittedly, scripter Robert Wright Campbell does bestir himself sufficiently to change Benet’s priest and son of the priest to “the symbolmaker” and “the symbolmaker’s son,” (although I’ve always believed that if he’d changed it to “the Pheasant-plucker” and “the Pheasant-plucker’s son,” there would have been a much greater potential for action sequences).

Of course, there’s nothing really startling about any of this; I just personally find it irritating when filmmakers steal something good and turn it into something horrible, rather than, as with Parts: The Clonus Horror and The Island, they steal something cheap and horrible and spend millions to turn it into something boring and loud.  In each case, the results are the same — cinematic suet — but I really think they ought to put their money where their crap is.  I mean, a Happy Meal is probably even worse for your health than the average Corman flick, but at least the guy who’s selling it paid a franchising fee for the privilege of spray-painting your arteries with atherosclerotic plaque.

Anyway, I guess the moral of the story is that as long as Roger Corman is cranking out movies, Ben Domenech still has a chance to land on his feet.

3 Responses to “The Word is the Law is the Word”

And I sometimes feel like I’m sitting by the window, waiting for Ben.
You are not the Symbolmaker
You are the Symbolmaker’s son
But you can daub my sacred glyphs
‘Til Symbolmaker comes!
Hmmm, changing “Priest” into “Symbolmaker” sounds like they were trying to remove the religious element in a bizzare way. Is this pro or anti religion? Am I being too serious about this? Yes.

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