Deliberately Buried

Guest Shadowplayer Bruce Bennett contributes a piece which ties in neatly with my ongoing exploration of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. Many thanks to Mike Clelland for connecting us up, and to Bruce for letting me run this. Any questions can be raised in the comments section. Over to you, Bruce ~

During a visit with Film Comment magazine’s editor Nic Rapold last spring I proposed an article that would document what was, in my opinion, a largely overlooked shadow of influence that a handful of prior films cast on Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. I offered to put together a proposal outlining some of the films and ideas and connections I wanted to get into and a month or two later I finally got around to whipping up a pdf on the topic(s) and sent it along. We talked about it a bit but I got busy with other stuff, Nic had a dozen other writers to shepherd, and ultimately 2001’s Golden Anniversary year ended with neither me writing nor Film Comment publishing the piece I had in mind. Here, then, is the thing I sent Nic – not an outline nor an article nor, god help us, a listicle – just some frame grabs (and one downloaded image from the WWW) and notes intended to give the reader an idea of what I was onto and cue me in further discussions and woolgathering. If nothing else, I guess, it’s a proven example of how not to pitch Film Comment…? Enjoy.

2001: A Magpie Odyssey

In the not too distant future, a spacecraft shuttles a space agency PHD bearing details of a secret mission to an orbital space station.

  “Conquest of Space” Byron Haskin – 1955

Talking points: The strange case of George Pal’s espoused distaste for 2001 (per Frayling) having nothing to do with his own film having been apparently co-opted in 2001’s creation. A short history of Conquest’s star-crossed production, resulting not-for-the-faint-of-sensibility grotesquerie & a love sonnet to Hal Pereria’s Paramount art dept.


Objects liberated from gravity float, fly and couple across a spinning 2.35 frame in a weightless ballet set to Strauss’ Blue Danube Waltz.

    “Trapeze” Carol Reed – 1956

Talking points: The long arm of aesthetic influence that Krasker & Reed’s collaboration extended to filmmakers of SK’s generation. Ditto Krasker and Anthony Mann’s films…?


Onboard an orbiting space station, space travelers exchange somewhat tangled sentiments with loved ones home on Earth via videophone.

“Conquest Of Space”


Upon arrival, an unctuously bland bureaucratic space agency PHD shocks subordinates with secret mission orders.

  “Conquest Of Space”

Talking points: Compare, contrast the exquisite blandness of William Sylvester’s Dr. Floyd (perhaps, and this is a difficult to value to assign, the single most remarkable performance from 2001’s North American ex-pat cast) vs. William Hopper’s Dr. Fenton. Some further discussion of Conquest’s uniquely off-putting qualities being as challenging, in their way, as 2001’s were…


Zero gravity enables a spacecraft crewmember’s wall walk.

  “The Quatermass Xxperiment” Feature version – Val Guest – 1955

Talking points: Why, in all the untold hours of interviews and DVD commentaries he’s done, including a 200+ page published memoir, did Val Guest himself never make this connection?


Puzzled scientists and officials descend a ramp into an ongoing excavation of an extra-terrestrial artifact that’s been buried for eons.

  “Quatermass and the Pit” BBC TV version – Rudolph Cartier – 1958

“Quatermass and the Pit” Feature version – Roy Ward Baker – 1967

Talking points: The curious case of production of the ’67 Pit taking place more or less at the same time and in the same studio as 2001, with some crew crossover.


The exposed, now energized extraterrestrial artifact ominously and noisily awakens.

  “Quatermass and the Pit” (1967 feature version)

Talking points: Nigel Kneale’s close proximity to Arthur Clarke original short story, The Sentinel.


Tasked with repairing his space craft’s antenna mid-flight, an unsuspecting astronaut dies, his lifeless body cast into the void of space.

      “Conquest Of Space”


The most committed member of an interplanetary space expedition goes insane and threatens the lives of his comrades.

“Conquest of Space”


A seeker’s journey crosses a threshold into an alien yet abjectly familiar white environment that’s outside time, space and logic.


  “The Ladies Man” – Jerry Lewis – 1961

Talking points: Hal Pereira Superstar redux. Jerry’s anecdote about turd polishing…?

Bruce Bennett


15 Responses to “Deliberately Buried”

  1. I really want to find out about Jerry’s turd polishing comment but I hesitate to google it after the ads that landed on my Facebook page following my attempt to track down a vinyl copy of Sun Ra’s “Discipline.”

  2. bennettbruceandrew Says:


    JERRY LEWIS (actor-director-writer; edited a film at same studio Kubrick was editing ”2001”): He’s in the cutting room and I’m watching this man investigate his work, and it was fascinating. He was intrigued with the fact that I did more than one thing. He was a very big fan of ”hyphenates.” I think he would have loved to have written ”2001” without Arthur Clarke. But he did have a high regard for people who directed their own material.

    I was in my cutting room around 1 in the morning, and he strolls in smoking a cigarette and says, ”Can I watch?” I said: ”Yeah, you can watch. You wanna see a Jew go down? Stand there.” That was the night I coined the expression, ”You cannot polish a turd.” And then Kubrick looked at me and said, ”You can if you freeze it.”

  3. +

  4. David Melville Wingrove Says:

    So 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY is basically a remake of CONQUEST OF SPACE? I just hope CONQUEST OF SPACE has more interesting characters and better acting.

  5. I think there’s a desperate need for a mash-up of (bed-ridden) Keir Dullea watching Jerry & Miss Cartilage in awe.

  6. Tang!

    David W: sorry, it doesn’t. The boringness of the stock characters they try and interest you in fully justifies Kubrick’s decision not to try and interest you at all in his characters.

    Jeff, I would love to see that. Maybe have the big band revealed by the sliding wall in Ladies’ Man play Also Sprach Zarathustra?

  7. bennettbruceandrew Says:

    “So 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY is basically a remake of CONQUEST OF SPACE? I just hope CONQUEST OF SPACE has more interesting characters and better acting.”

    I adore every second of both 2001 and Conquest but neither is for the faint of sensibility, that’s for sure… George Pal cultists and mainstream science fiction aficionados tend to dismiss Conquest as a hugely disappointing missed opportunity and film maudit, largely, I suspect, due to the script contributions of James O’Hanlon. His Jimmy Durante/Donald O’Connor schmaltzterpiece The Milkman itself seems to have inspired beloved Canadian underground comic Reid Fleming World’s Toughest Milkman.

  8. I love Reid Fleming! It somehow captures a lot of the spirit of Laurel & Hardy, who have been much on my mind of late.

  9. bennettbruceandrew Says:

    “I love Reid Fleming!”

    You’d definitely enjoy The Milkman, then! Per IMDB:

    “Roger Bradley, son of a milk magnate, isn’t allowed to work for his dad’s company because of a lingering war trauma: in moments of stress he quacks like a duck. Desperate to escape from idleness, he gets a job with his father’s arch-rival, sponsored by eccentric milkman Breezy Albright, and promptly falls in love with the boss’s daughter. But his career as a milkman soon degenerates into slapstick.”

    All that and an 18-year-old Piper Laurie, too! Maddeningly hard film to see, alas. AMC stateside ran it in the 90’s back when showing old movies a la TCM was their stock in trade. Doesn’t seem to exist on home vid but hopefully I’m wrong on that score.

    “It somehow captures a lot of the spirit of Laurel & Hardy, who have been much on my mind of late.”

    Didn’t one issue digress into a comic panel remake of W.C. Fields’ The Golf Enthusiast ? That era of comedy used to carry such weight in what I guess no one now calls “the counterculture”… Sad…

  10. Found a copy!

    Times change, I guess. EVERYBODY used to know the big forties stars, for instance, and now practically nobody does.

  11. […] DELIBERATELY BURIED by Bruce Bennett […]

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