Thursday, April 26, 2007
The Tangled Web of Horror Flicks and Academic Research 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
If you have access to a JSTOR subscription (if not, you might be able to "borrow" one at your local college or university library), check out this prescient early 1979 scholarly article by John Woodcock of Indiana University - Disaster Thrillers: A Literary Mode of Technology Assessment, John Woodcock, Science, Technology, & Human Values, Vol. 4, No. 26. (Winter, 1979), pp. 37-45. Woodcock here analyzes some of the notable technological disaster films and novels of the 70's, like The Andromeda Strain and Airport. [You can also try this link at Sage Publications] Interestingly, Woodcock devotes a large section to Thomas Scortia and Frank M. Robinson's pre-Three Mile Island (and very pre-Chernobyl) nuclear disaster novel, The Prometheus Crisis - this article was published less than three months before the Three Mile Island accident.

That's neither here nor there, but I've always been intrigued by Carpenter's use of a few lines of familiar-sounding text in 1986's Prince of Darkness (a you'll-either-love-it-or-hate-it cult classic), which pop up on a monochrome greenscreen monitor while a zombified research assistant rattles away at the keyboard:
You will not be saved by the Holy Ghost.
You will not be saved by the God Plutonium.
Which sound oddly similar to this excerpt from Stephen Vincent Benét's "Nightmare, With Angels," which appears in the frontispiece of The Prometheus Crisis:
"You will not be saved by General Motors
or the pre-fabricated house.
You will not be saved by dialectic materialism
or the Lambeth Conference
You will not be saved by Vitamin D
or the expanding universe.
In fact, you will not be saved."
Turns out that The Prometheus Crisis was reportedly turned into a screenplay by John Carpenter, but the project (working title, "Meltdown") was scrapped and Carpenter went on to helm The Fog, starring his soon-to-be-then-wife, Adrienne Barbeau. Looking back, filming a believable Prometheus Crisis, complete with colossal meltdown and the destruction of Los Angeles County would have been horrendously expensive, even back then without CGI. We'll have to be satisfied with the book: the real thing's already happened.

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