The Science of Psychosis.
Virgil W. Vogel
Ah, how I long for the days when movies didn’t have to make sense. Well, that’s not entirely true. The movies made sense, in that cause and effect relationships were maintained, sound matched the picture, and, with the exception of some of the more drug-addled Jack Nicholson movies, the narrative followed a logical sequence. No, what didn’t make sense back then was the world, and this was reflected in the films made prior to the 1970s. Though science was invented in the mid-19th century, it didn’t really catch on with the American public until the Carter administration. It took over a hundred years for science to become the dominant paradigm for explaining natural phenomenon, replacing ‘crazy’ as the primary form of reasoning. As I understand it, up until then, people were still huddled around the bonfire clad in wolfskins, telling stories about how thunder is God passing gas and predicting the future with chicken intestines. How else can one explain the hysterical fear of science and progress evident in the reactionary science fiction films of the 50s and 60s? Only the superstition and devoutly religious can have such a profound misunderstanding of scientific principals, to the point that they must have been driven to the movie theatres in caravans of short buses to watch the latest fear-mongering film created to instill a fear of learning, of which The Mole People is a prime example.
Interestingly enough, the best part of The Mole People is its introduction, in which a scientist explains various Hollow Earth theories to the audience, with a very strange expression on his face, indicating that while he finds these ideas ridiculous, he’s not sure about the hayseeds in the audience, and he’s not willing to risk getting his books banned from public libraries and burned in the streets. After that, we’re plunged into a forgettable but entertaining film about a group of archaeologists who find the remnants of Noah’s Ark atop a mountain in the Himalayas. Following the trail of discovery, they find that the earth is hollow, and inhabited by the descendants of Noah’s Sumerian counterpart, Gilgamesh, who built a civilization of inner earth dwellers apparently based upon an inversion of H.G. Welles’ The Time Machine, as they are albinos living alongside enslaved subterranean mutants. Star John Agar seems perpetually unfazed by his predicament, possibly because he’s been in so many B-movies he’s probably surprised when someone’s not trying to feed him to an a stuntman in a bad monster suit. He’s probably learned many of the lessons about 50s movie science that I have.
1) Radiation makes things either big, and possible breath fire. This can be terrifying, in the case of lizards and other scary-looking animals, but though it still works with bunnies, the effect is less striking.
2) Computers can be helpful tools, unless they are struck by lightening, in which case they will try to kill you, and probably talk.
3) Aliens generally look a lot like us, except for their heads and hands, which look like bad latex.
4) Every kind of scientist works with beakers. Even mathematicians. These beakers will smoke, because every scientist is trying to duplicate that vinegar and baking soda volcano from grade school.
5) Do not touch green slime.
Thankfully, things have progresses a great deal since then, and unless you live in a backwards hell-hole like the Amazon rainforest or Kansas, these types of films have gone the way of the dinosaur, in that they no longer exist, and in fact never did, because God put their bones there to test our faith.