On The Whiteness

“And now we rushed into the embraces of the cataract, where a chasm threw itself open to receive us. But there arose in our pathway a shrouded human figure, very far larger in its proportions than any dweller among men. And the hue of the skin of the figure was of the perfect whiteness of the snow.”

Words from The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym by Edgar Allan Poe.

Image from THE CONQUEST OF THE SOUTH POLE by Georges Melies. Given Le Grand Melies’ habit of adapting Verne, with a dash of uncredited HG Wells, it doesn’t seem impossible that Poe was on his mind while knocking up this caper. It may have been the first Melies I ever saw, extracted in a Killiam compilation screened on TV. I think I already knew about KING KONG and stop-motion animation, so it was fascinating to see a giant monster produced using the technique a child (or naive adult) might assume had been used on the big gorilla: a bunch of people piled together in a suit.

Well, Melies’ monster is more like a machine than a costume, the support structure and apparatus being more important than the human element.

Interestingly, despite what might seem my relative sophistication at the time, I don’t think I grasped the implications of the Ice Giant being mostly concealed below the horizon line: I assumed Melies had constructed the entire creature from head to toe. Also, I didn’t question the strange perspectival implications of his arising from beyond the vanishing point.

8 Responses to “On The Whiteness”

  1. Slightly off-topic: I”m hosting a Double Feature over at Dennis’ place:
    Vittotio Cottafavi, Marguerite Duras, and for a short subject Pier Paolo Pasolini

  2. That’s quite a picture show! And I don’t think the distance from Melies adventure to Cottafavi peplum is THAT great…

  3. Christopher Says:

    sure the North Poles got MONSTERS!…its just gotta!….the kind that eat people too..

  4. “Come on without, come on within. You’ve not seen nothin’ like The Mighty Quinn.”

  5. Tony Williams Says:

    An eclectic double bill! It took me over 40 years from seeing a clip from HERCULES CONQUERS ATLANTIC on BBC TV to finally seeing it on DVD last summer. The wait was worth it. David E. also kindly loaned me his copy of THE SAVAGE INNOCENTS on DVD some years back whose audio-commentary ends on a chorus of the above. Thank you again, David.

  6. Jenny Eardley Says:

    Here’s the 30 minute version, with German intertitles and English subs: http://www.europafilmtreasures.eu/PY/364/see-the-film-the_conquest_of_the_pole

  7. david wingrove Says:

    David E – How much would I love to be a fly on the wall at your double bill?

    May I suggest for an encore…Hercules and the Amazon Women paired with Nathalie Granger. And for a short Pasolini – ‘The Earth Seen from the Moon’ from The Witches.

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