For All Nails #211: Fantascience Friction
by David Mix Barrington
- From the Statist
- 18 June 1976
Not With Our Queen, You Don't
A ruling by the Arts Importation Board of the Cape Kingdom means that Lucas Jorge's controversial new Mexican fantascience film Attack of the Koans will not be seen in the African nation where much of it is set.
"Mr. Jorge had every right to produce this travesty, but we as a sovereign nation have equal right to decide which foreign cultural imports we admit," said board chairman Geert Masekela. "The portrayal of our Queen as a character borders on libelous, and the romance involving a minor child is beyond the bounds of decency."
Koans continues the action of Jorge's The Hidden Menace, where two Mexican agents save Queen Alexandra and her Kingdom from conquest by Kramer Associates, improbably aided by a charger-piloting twelve-year-old.
In the sequel, Kramer's tactics have changed from naval assault to stealth, through a legion of "koan warriors". These black-pyjama-clad assassins spout meaningless riddles in oddly-accented English before engaging in well-choreographed though unrealistic combat with both expendable Cape Kingdom guards and our heroes FN1. The boy, now sixteen, has Queen Alexandra's security double as his primary romantic interest. But mistaken identity leads to a brief relationship with the "real" Queen, which the film strongly implies is consummated.
Spokesmen for the Queen plausibly claim that she was not directly involved in the decision to bar the film. Looming unspoken, of course, is the unmarried status of the 39-year-old elected monarch and the ongoing public and nonpublic debate over the exact nature of her close working relationship with Prime Minister Nkate of neighboring Botswana.
The Bali explosion is never alluded to in the film. In his more successful initial trilogy (1964-69), Jorge invented an elaborate history in which Kramer conquers the world under a masked, robed President who is actually the grown-up version of the boy hero of Koans. "I considered writing Bali into this saga," Jorge says, "but it's a fantasy, dammit. We'll always have menaces like Kramer, whatever form they take. But in real life we can't rely on superpowered secret agent men to stop them. We have to rely on the United States Marine Corps and our willingness to do whatever is necessary."
Most critical opinion has judged Koans to be an even bigger disappointment than The Hidden Menace, but the innovative special effects technology in the new work has raised eyebrows. The climactic battle among dozens of chargers and autogyros is remarkably lifelike although it was filmed using miniature models. These models and the various cameras were moved precisely under the guidance of a single Pomona-Leebild "PL-2" calculator.
"We're really hoping to break into the film and vita industry in a big way," says Bobby Contreras, CEO of California-based Pomona Calculators. "Any time you have many machines working together there's the chance of a big win with synchronized control. The PL-2 is designed to link to as many as 32 external devices at one time." A big business opportunity, yes, but has Contreras seen the new film? "They gave us a special showing of the air battle, but I haven't sat down for the whole show yet. Maybe when it gets to vita." Special effects, it seems, can't always generate cinematic excitement without strong writing and acting.
Forward to FAN #212 (Statist): A Monarchy, If You Can Keep It.
Forward to 3 July 1976 (Contreras family): The Power of Pointlists.
Forward to Calculating machines: We're a Happy Family.
Forward to Cape Kingdom: Notwani Road.
Return to For All Nails.