Friday, 17 October 2008

DEATH RAY WEEK day 1: interesting properties of punched light

(originally posted on myspace here)


Here's a little shot from the far-more-impressive-than-any-evidence-I-could-bring-back set of the "Giant Death Ray" sketch I visited last Wednesday, a military hanger filled with all manner of eccentric machinery from the 1930's... back when machines were REAL machines, and had levers and hand-painted gauges and head-rests. Under that sheet is... well, a spoiler, but certainly something I had never really expected to see undertaken when I first wrote the sketch. In fact the producer asked me to write it out of the last draft entirely (I suppose just in case) and it was only when I bumped into David M beaming at a barbecue that I got the good news: "No - No. NO! The sketch has GOT to have a gxxnt rxbxt scxxxxxn, and it HAS GOT to be HUGE". I can probably show you this though, a detail from the proposed design the director made on the back of a story-board. Yes, story-board. Mwa-ha-ha:


And did I say how impressed I was by the Doom Melon? I've just tried to relight a cigarette butt and set fire to the hairs on the end of my nose. Right, Mad Scientists... "You'd think you'd know his name," begins one documentary about the early twentieth century inventor Nikola Tesla. Even now, very little is allowed to be known about his work, and a little knowledge being if not a dangerous thing then at least a very creepy thing the usual speculation has accrued... (I'm back from looking up "accrued". Yes, it has accrued). Writes one nut: "The godfather of all modern electrical conviniences. crushed by the zionist devil elite. we could of been like the jettsons or a nice version of 5th element. instead we have been held back probably 500 years by the evil new world order. damn them in hell."


No actually sorry, to call the speculation surrounding Tesla's work "usual" does it an immense disservice. "Researching" him on youtube for what became the Giant Death Ray sketch I found myself flung slack-jawed into a giddy, batty forum of holistic conspiracy theories concerning perpetual motion, time travel, the Philadelphia Experiment and something called a Montauk Chair, which if sat upon will instantly transport you to the surface of Mars. I suppose it's in the provision of access to exactly this kind of "wrong book" lore that the internet comes into its own. And why it takes me so long to write sketches.


But for this week let's not judge a man by his nuts, and focus instead on this genius' influence upon TRASHY OLD SCIENCE FICTION... beginning with the classiest of said trash: the Fleischer Brothers' Superman. He may have a coil named after him, but the teaming of mad scientist and giant laser is, after all, the larger of Tesla's legacies to the public imagination. Unfortunately. For him. And probably us.

Punching! That's Superman's answer to everything, isn't it. Beautiful cartoon though. Okay, I'm going to get into that bath I ran an hour ago and see if any of those centimetre-long baby slugs have reappeared around the taps. TOMORROW: SAM BAKER AS HUGO

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