At one point in this film, Joan is asked, "Who are you to even think you can know the difference between good and evil?" What, I wonder, is that supposed to mean, either from a secular or a religious viewpoint? If it isn't just bad writing (which I personally suspect), it can only be another indication of the filmmakers' determination to paint Joan as insane: only a person who is literally insane could be expected not to be able to tell the difference.
Lest we think what happened to Joan is a thing of the past, here's a story dated today about an accused "witch" being burned at the stake. Though the reasoning was different, it's also fascinating to note that, like what was done to Joan, the villagers repeatedly burned the woman's body.
It's hard to imagine a nun ever becoming a saint, or a monk. Sainthood relies (right?) on work in the outside world, among fellow human beings. One of the things I think so many stories like this one get wrong is the way they paint "saintly" characters as so absorbed by God that they become islands in the sea of humanity. In this movie, Joan delivers a soliloquy in which she speaks of all the things a life in prison would not offer her, and it's all wind and lambs and sunlight -- nothing really about other people. Comes off as self-absorbed at best, and more probably simply selfish.
The authors try hard in this book to paint a more modern portrait of women, but they betray themselves constantly. One early scene has Dr. Seward a helpless witness to the inhuman torture of an innocent girl. So what does Seward do? He bloodies his hand with his knife because, he thinks, if he can't save the girl, he can at least share her pain. More subtly, they describe Bathory's strength as ten times that of a man. Since we get no description of Dracula's strength, we must defer to Stoker, who more than once put his strength at twice that. All the women are inordinately beautiful and alluring, of course, and though Mina refers to Bathory's sexual preference as unnatural, she discovers in one scene that all cats are grey in the dark.
The story of the Titanic comes with its own X-File. In 1898 -- sixteen years before the Titanic disaster -- Morgan Robertson wrote a novel called Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan. Lord talks about it in the brief forward to his book. The novel was about an Atlantic liner called the Titan that collides with an iceberg on a cold April night. If that weren't enough, the Titan, like the Titanic, was described as "unsinkable." Also like the Titanic, the Titan carried lifeboats for fewer than half of its human cargo.
Having recently reviewed Dracula, it's interesting to note that Richard Chase, on whom this film is loosely based, and who was institutionalized for a time prior to committing the murders he was eventually tried for, took to drinking the blood of birds he caught outside the window of his hospital room, becoming very much like a real-life Renfield. Except that he wasn't worried about a vampire count living next door; he was concerned about Nazis and UFOs.
I had completely forgotten that A-ha, in what is still one of the cleverest music videos ever produced, that for "Take on Me," pays homage to this film at the very end. You can see the video here.
I vaguely remember reading somewhere that Sputnik's launch ushered in a new wave of UFO sightings. This movie certainly seems to imply that it did. What's interesting, though, is the fact that while the term "satellite" is used several times, "UFO" isn't mentioned once -- despite being a more appropriate term, given how the "high fliers" are characterized. Of course, this lends credence to the idea that the film was specifically geared to exploit Russia's accomplishment.
A little fashion trivia. The bikini was named after Bikini Atoll, the site of early atomic bomb testing (since it was thought that its effect on the male psyche would be similarly explosive); the stiletto heel was named after the dagger; and the babydoll nightgown was named after the costume worn by the child bride in this film.
Dumb as it is, authors do it all the time, and King proves that he isn't above doing it himself. I'm talking about that scene when a woman (often naked) is in peril or even dying and her lover pauses to ogle her. It happens here when Jake has to haul his librarian friend under a cold shower where, I suppose, having confirmed her desirability, he can then proceed to save her life.
It's interesting to note how this scene is handled in another book reviewed here, The Seventh Secret. This time, the woman is already in the shower when her would-be paramour shows up. Just in time, too, because he finds a man outside the shower door, a man clearly intending either to rape or kill the woman. The perp yanks the door open and the hero pounces. Then this: "About to spin and grab the man, Foster's eyes held momentarily on Emily in the shower. He saw her naked and dripping wet, falling against a side of the shower, eyes closed, choking with fear, trying to keep her balance." Now, this book was written by Irving Wallace, a man well known for his sex scenes, yet his take on this scene comes off as much less offensive than King's. Foster takes in Emily's nakedness, but he takes in a great deal more besides, almost making us believe that his purpose is what is implied by the next line, "Assured that she was unhurt..."