Friday, 26 December 2014

The Policeman's Special or Half'n'half: My Festive Drink

It's Boxing Day and there's a drink I have every year that is special, different and sums up the festive season for me. It is the old Half 'n' half, otherwise known as the Policeman's Special, the drink of champions. I was first introduced to the Police Man's special as a child, gained a taste for it and loved it ever since. It's origins for me are lost in the mists of time, but I can tell you where I came across it. In the east end of Rundle St, Adelaide, South Australia, there was an old grocers shop, Randall's Fruit and Veg (or Frut and Veg according to the dilapidated sign out the front). Run by Mr Randall, it sold all kinds of things from basic convenience items to sweets and a whole range of things in between. One of the most popular features of Mr Randall's shop was his ginger beer on tap that saw a range of city dwellers, from police officers to Hare Krishna's, frequenting the place for a draft of this wondrous drop. It was in the mid-seventies that my family moved church congregations from the Salvation Army Unley to the Salvation Army Adelaide Congress Hall which was located in the east end of the city square mile. Not far from the Adelaide Citadel was Mr Randall's shop and the informal initiation into the the Adelaide Congress Hall Salvation Army Band was to drink a pint of the mystical Half'n'half. A yard glass was even available for the more daring who thought they were man enough ( no women in the band then) to take on challenge. Although my father found the drink repulsive, it became a firm favourite of my brother and I.  Every Friday night, following the young people's band and choir practice at the Salvation Army citadel, our father would take us to Mr Randall's shop to get a pint of Half'n'half and a strap of the usually stale and tough licorice which was just gold. To us this was heaven and almost worth missing out on The Incredible Hulk TV show each week in the days before VCRs. We would climb upon the ancient counter stools fixed to the wooden floor and drink our pint of Half'n'half. We would then walk back to the car, eat our licorice strap and dream of the wondrous Saturday morning cartoons waiting for us on the other side of sleep.

By the mid 1980's Mr Randall's shop had gone. Mr Randall had retired and the shop that replaced it, which also sold Half'n'half, didn't stand the test of time. We too had moved on to comics and milkshakes, bought each Friday night from a deli/milk bar nearer to home, but the dream lived on. Each year at this time, when we don the gay apparel and troll the yuletide carol, I drink a glass of Half'n'half in memory of Mr Randall and the old days of the 'Frut and Veg shop'. Why this time of year you may ask? Because all the ingredients are here, bought for Christmas day lunch and ready for the mixing. And what is this mystical recipe you may ask? Well I've included it here for the curious and daring.

1/2 a pint of milk
1/2 a pint of ginger beer

1) Pour the milk into a glass. 
2)  Add the ginger beer.
3) Wait till a curdled head begins to form and drink.

And so there you have it. I hope you enjoy a pint or two of Half'n'half and that God brings you lots of hope, peace, joy, love and Santa this Christmas and New Year.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Jesus And The Rings Of The Phantom.

The Rings of the Phantom, the Skull Ring and the Good Mark Ring

One of the greatest masked superheroes of the modern age is the Phantom, the Ghost Who Walks, friend of the Pygmy Bandar and the Guardian of the Eastern Dark. Older than Batman and Superman, he has graced page and screen for nearly 80 years. One of the strengths of the character is the faux mythology that has been built around the character that links him into myth, legend and history of the real world. Whether it be Arthurian, Greek or Roman legends, this scourge of piracy has a connection to it all. 

While browsing through that font of all wisdom, Wikipedia, I discovered that when it comes to Christian history and theology, this is no less the case.  The most direct link in Phantom law to the the Christian faith are the two rings he uses in his battle against evil. The first ring we will focus on is the Good Mark Ring. Many do not realize the significance of the symbol on the ring and the depth of meaning behind it. It has been described as the crossing of two sabers however the design has an ancient origin, The symbol's origin is Greek and was traditionally known as the Chi-Rho. It was used by ancient Greek scholars to mark valuable or noteworthy passages in the margins of a text. It combined the two letters X (Chi) and P (Rho), the first two letters of the Greek word 'chreston' which meant 'good'. It was literally the 'good mark'. The Chi- Rho eventually went on to be used by the early Christians as a symbol of Christ. The original Greek form of Christ, 'Christos', also began with XP. This, coupled with the cross shape recalling the crucifixion, made it ideal for use by the early Christians.  This use as a symbol for Christ can still be seen in the word 'Xmas', the common abbreviation of Christmas. It was the Chi-Rho symbol that the Emperor Constantine reported seeing  in his vision that led him to accept the Christian faith as the official religion of the Roman Empire. Through the years, the Chi-Rho was adapted into many stylistic designs by the church and became one common version of the Christian Cross motif. It is of no coincidence then that when the Phantom was looking for a symbol to represent his protection, he literally chose to use the 'good mark'. Either that or Lee Falk and Co. did their research well.
Three variations of the Chi-Rho symbol. The Phantom's Good Mark fits well as another variation.
The origin of the Skull Ring has an even closer affiliation with the Christian faith, that of Christ himself. The mythology, as set up in the unfolding narrative of the comics, is that the Skull Ring was presented to the original Phantom by the great physician, scientist, and occultist, Paracelsus. It was fashioned from the nails that held Jesus on the cross and was originally owned by Emperor Nero, who had led one of the early Roman persecutions of Christians. This reappropriation of crucifixion nails for other purposes was not unheard of. The nails used in crucifixion were iron spikes between 5-7 inches long and were often collected and highly prized  as healing amulets. Like the legendary Holy Grail  that was pressed into the service of King Arthur, the Skull Ring is a relic of Christ that continues to be used in the cause justice and redemption of a fallen world, or so the ongoing chronicles of the 'Ghost Who Walks' tell us.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Advent Begins: May the Darkness Flee.

Today (sunday 30th November) was the start of Advent, a time of the year I always love. With the placing of wreaths, the lighting of candles and the decking of halls with Christmas decorations, it sounds cliche, but there is a magic in the air. As we turn on the festive lights and get to see the amazing creations our neighbours have put together, the suburbs begin to change. For me these days it begins around Halloween when, on the 29th of October, the neighbourhood is beginning to open up. Rightly or wrongly, this transplanted celebration is gaining popularity amongst the kid’s of Australia. Instead of the legion of the brave heading out to face off the forces of evil in fancy dress at the time when the nights are getting longer and colder, our kids hit the streets looking for lollies when the days are getting longer and warmer. Before the fairy lights lace the verandas, the pumpkins have appeared on the letter boxes, letting the trick or treaters know that it’s safe to knock on the corresponding door. It is now that I see children at my door, dressed in an array of amazing costumes, who are usually hidden with in their own homes, stuck behind computer screens and retreated from the streets around them. The darkness is beginning to subside, the light is coming. With in days Christmas pageants are taking place and Santa has come to town. Carols are beginning to be heard in the stores and the family tree trimming takes place. And then comes today when the first candle of Advent gets lit, the candle of Hope.

Jesus Looks Ahead
In worship today the set gospel reading was taken from Mark 13. On first glance it is an account of Jesus giving his disciples information about the future. It describes tribulations that are yet to come, the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, natural disasters and cosmic phenomena marking the end of history and a warning to be ready for Christ's  return. At first glance it is hard to see how this relates to Advent, the weekly count down to Christmas. But on reflection it's makes perfect sense. Many of the scenarios described were already happening at the time of Christ and even at the time of the writing of the Gospel of Mark several decades later. In fact some of Jesus' predictions didn't come to pass until 70 AD when the Romans finally destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem, the place where creation and creator were connected in ancient Jewish belief. The might of Rome crushed the intimate bond between God and his world, seemingly never to be rebuilt again. However God had a plan that would out run the banners of Rome. In the person  of Jesus, God established a new intimate connection with humanity. However when Rome tore him down, God raised him back to life. In Christ there is hope that calls all of us to put our trust in him and the way he calls us to follow. When the sky is falling, and the sun refuses to shine, because Christ lives with in us, there is hope

The Candle of Hope
The Candle of Hope reminds us that no matter how dark our world gets, there is hope. That when our relationships are messy and love has seemingly died, there is hope. That when our bodies give up and our mind fades, there is hope. When there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel, and the end is nigh, there is hope. May the light of hope burn brightly in your advent season this year.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Rejoice; My Favourite Worship Song

This is an article I wrote recently for our Salvation Army publication, On Fire. It appeared in this years July 12 issue.

It was when I was at university in the early 90’s that I first came across the song Rejoice, written in 1983 by British songwriter Graham Kendrick. I loved the combination of a driving melody coupled with words that were effectively a call to Christian action. As a Salvationist, the military imagery in the chorus and verse 1 was also a winner for me personally, as I related to the image of the church as an army taking up spiritual weapons. In the twenty years or so since first hearing it, I’ve had the opportunity to introduce the song to various groups of people through my ministry. I’ve even based a series of sermons on the various verses, high lighting the spiritual encouragement with in it.

My favourite parts of the song are the chorus and the second verse. The chorus call us to celebrate the fact that we have Christ living within us. 

Rejoice! Rejoice! Christ is in you
The hope of glory In our hearts
He lives! He lives! His breath is in you
Arise a mighty army We arise

It reflects on the miracle of God’s presence through his ‘breath’ or his ‘holy spirit’. As a consequence of this we have a bright future as part of God’s eternal kingdom and a part to play in the redemption of the world. This truth must be something that causes us to rejoice and something that mobilises us to carry out God’s purposes in the world around us.

Vs 2
God is at work in us His purpose to perform
Building a kingdom of power not of words
Where things impossible by faith shall be made possible
Let's give the glory To Him now.

The second verse drives home the point that God dwells in us in order for us to work with him. The work he has for us is something that is active, miraculous and not merely theoretical. It talks about ‘building a kingdom of power not of words’. As his ‘army’ we are seeking to bring others to Christ and to put his law of love and justice into action in our sphere of influence. Following Christ is not a passive past time but a dynamic lifestyle that calls us to impact the world around us. The song urges us to ‘rejoice’ at the knowledge that we are an empowered, transformed people, equipped by God to carry out his purposes.

Monday, 13 October 2014

The Ape General

Through the various versions of the Planet of the Apes (POTA), the figure of the Ape General is a reoccurring archetype. Although a central figure in many of the various version and sequels, the figure of the Ape General is no where to be found in the original novel, Planete De Singe (1963) by Pierre Boulle.  In the original novel, the main gorillas of note were Zoram and Zanam.  These two kindly lab assistance treat the books hero, Ulysse Merou, well while he is in captivity after landing on the distant planet Soror with his fellow space faring Frenchmen. In the film version of the novel, Planet of the Apes (1968), these two characters are replaced by a single gorilla called Julius, who takes great joy in tormenting the astronaut Taylor when Zira, the chimpanzee psychologist, is absent. Although there are various gorilla soldiers, a military leader is no where to be seen.

Ironically, although never appearing in the original novel, the figure of the Ape General was actually first created by Boulle in The Planet of the Men (1969), a proposed script he wrote for the second ape film. In his script he created the character Field Marshall Urus, a bumbling gorilla who fumbles an attack on Taylor and his humans which alters the fate of ape and human kind. Urus is a military incompetent who charges the human forces in broad daylight with no real strategy and finds his army out maneuvered and routed. It is this that leads to the final downfall of ape civilization.

When the final film version, Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) appeared several rewrites later, Field Marshall Urus emerged as the war monger General Ursus, the leader of the ape military who leads the gorilla army into the nuclear wasteland of the Forbidden Zone. Not as buffoonish as Field Marshall Urus, Ursus is a more serious character who believes that there is a threat dwelling in the Forbidden Zone that needs to be eradicated if Apedom is to reclaim the area for itself. Soon they stage an invasion of the Forbidden Zone and find themselves face to face with a race of mutant humans who still live in the ruins of New York. Unfortunately they possess a global killing nuclear missile that, during the slaughter of the pacifist mutants, is activated by the fugitive astronaut Colonel George Taylor. Suffice to say the earth doesn't survive. In many ways Ursus is the figure of the crazy general, the one who insanely only sees military solutions to problems and will happily start a war that will end with disastrous results.

The Battle for Earth's Future
The next appearance of the Ape General is in Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973). He appears here in the form of General Aldo (Claude Atkins), an ape still bitter about the treatment of his kind before the revolution and who longs to see all humans in servitude or dead. This is at odds with the vision of the revolutions leader, Caesar (Roddy McDowell), who sees a positive place for humanity in the new social order.  Not surprisingly, Aldo is the Brutus to Caesar’s Caesar, the traitor who desires to over throw the king to create a different path for ape society. This new path would be one human free and naturally guided by him and his gorilla army. Fortunately for ape society, this potential usurper is finally revealed and dispatched by Caesar during one final confrontation leaving the future in more benevolent hands.

The General Comes to TV
After the movie series finished, the POTA  franchise moved to the small screen. It was here that the figure of the Ape General took on its most well known form, that of General Urko. On the face of it, the name Urko seems to be an amalgamation of the names Ursus and Aldo. It is as though he was intended as a composite character that would be reminiscent of the two general figures from the cinematic cycle. It appears that in early draft versions of the series the character was called Ursus and eventually altered to Urso. When actor Mark Lenard tried to pronounce his characters name through his ape make up, he found that he had difficulty in pronouncing it, the resulting word sounding more like a term of abuse that the name of an ape general. And so the name became General Urko and would become a character that received more screen time than Ursus and Aldo combined.

Set in the year 3085, over 800 years before the original film, the TV show tells the story of two astronauts who have found themselves lost in the future and being hunted down by the orang-utan politician Councillor Zaius and his chief of security, General Urko. The role of Urko in this series is different from that of previous ape generals. If the astronauts, Burke and Virdon are the archetypal noble outlaws, then Urko is the hard nosed sheriff who doggedly hunts them down, while they travel about making the world a better place for human and ape alike.  He is a character who is able to have ongoing adventures and character development in the Planet of the Apes scenario, not one that must face death at the stories conclusion. We get to see Urko in a range of situations. We find out that his wife’s name is Elta (The Trap), we watch him have to work together with a fugitive astronaut (The Trap), and we see him try and fix a horse race (The Horse Race). Followers of the POTA series were able to form a stronger attachment to the character and because of this he has come to be the most well known of the Ape General figures. A good example of this is the fact that he often appears alongside exclusively POTA movie characters in POTA action figure sets.

The General Gets Animated
This popularity was also strengthened when another version of General Urko (Henri Corden) appeared in the animated series, Return to the Planet of the Apes (1975). What is interesting about this incarnation is that it incorporates many elements of previous Ape Generals in the one character. Set in an alternate version of the original POTA story, Urko works along side Doctor Zaius in the 38th century, as Ursus did in Beneath. Like Ursus, he stages various military incursions into the Forbidden Zone as he seeks to eradicate the human/mutant threat. Like the original Urko, this version is continually hunting for the fugitive astronauts and like Aldo, he longs to usurp the government and seize power for himself. This scheming eventually leads to him being suspended from duty for three months for fraudulent activity. During this time he is replaced by another gorilla, Colonel Rotok, who is actually secretly taking orders from Urko. It’s at this point in the franchise that the figure of the Ape General has fully crystallised. Now all the facets of previous versions find a place with in the one character. However this would be the last Gorilla incarnation of the Ape General on screen. In POTA comics, other incarnations would appear, such as General Ollo, General Ignatius, General Gorodon and Peace Officer Brutus. However on screen the future of the Ape General lay in the hands of another simian species.

Rise of the Chimps
In the years between POTA movies, the gorilla had lost its position as the killer ape to its African cousin, the chimpanzee. Genetically closer to humans, the chimpanzee is known to hunt small animals for food and murderously go to war against rival tribes over territory. In many ways they are the most like us of all the great apes and this realization has caused the role of the Ape General to be recast. In 2001 Tim Burton directed Planet of the Apes, a re-imaging of the original story that mixed elements from both the book and the original movie with new characters and scenarios. In this film gorilla soldiers, such as Colonel Attar (Michael Clarke Duncan), are subservient to the chimpanzee General Thade (Tim Roth). The story revolves around an astronaut, Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg), who leaves the space station Oberon in the year 2029 to search for a lost research chimp. The chimp, Pericles, was sent out in a space pod to investigate a nearby electro-magnetic space storm and never returned. While searching for the chimp, Leo enters the storm and finds himself sent forward in time to the year 5021 crashing on an alien planet. While on the planet he finds that it’s occupied by apes and humans, the later existing as a slave class and treated like animals. Soon Leo is introduced with General Thade, a murderous chimpanzee descended from the ape messiah Semos with a vicious hatred of humans. Thade knows from family tradition that once humans ruled over the apes and that as long as they existed they would be a threat. Little does he realise that he, and all others on the planet, were actually descendants of the apes and crew of the Oberon that had passed through the same space/time storm that Leo had passed through. Due to a strange time dilation effect, the space station had crashed many centuries before, it’s survivors populating the planet before Leo's arrival.

Despite being a chimp, Thade is in some ways similar to the General Urko character of the cartoon series. He chases political power and seeks to see the subjugation or destruction of all things human. He understands that humans pose a real threat to ape domination and he will go to lethal lengths, even against fellow apes, to make sure their legacy stays intact. Unlike previous Ape Generals, Thade also wants to assert his sexual dominance and claim Ari, the main female chimp, as his mate. Ari is a human sympathizer and seemingly infatuated with the very human Leo. This love of his most hated species seems to fire Thade's lust to posses Ari, who makes a very public display of rejecting his advances. When Ari escapes with Leo and a band of humans into the Forbidden Zone, Thade announces that she has been kidnapped and uses it as an excuse to declare marshal law. The final outcome of this movie sees Leo escaping in Pericles' space pod back to earth, only to find that Thade had preceded him, seemingly having escaped to Earth in Leo's original craft, passing through the same space/time storm. The final scene shows a newly landed Leo standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial, now wearing the face of General Thade and surrounded by ape police. 

The General Breaks the Glass Ceiling
One lone female version of the Ape General is found in the Dark Horses comics series, The Planet of the Apes: Human War (2001). Although not technically a general, this story features, Minister Shiva, a chimpanzee descendant of General Thade. The armour wearing Shiva carries the same narrative function as her anti-human military predecessors. In the years following the human revolution lead by Leo Davidson, Minister Shiva and her army continue the fight against the remnants of the up rising, seeking the near extinction of humanity and supreme political power. Despite the change of species and gender, the characteristics of the Ape General character type cease to change.

The New Series
To date, the new POTA movies haven't featured an Ape General. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) do feature Koba, a bonobo, who functions as Caesar's right hand ape. In many ways he is a Brutus, a re-imagining of the Aldo figure from the original series. Despite not having a rank, Koba has a similar function to Ape Generals in other movies. He is the human hating zealot who seeks to over throw the more moderate leadership of the status quo in order to institute a policy of human enslavement or extermination.

Through out much of the POTA saga, the figure of the Ape General has been present. They represents the desire for military might and xenophobia to over throw moderate government and institute marshal law. They are the symbol of armed opposition to human liberation and of ape supremacy. As with many character types in the POTA series, they are a reflection of some of the darker elements of human kind, showing us ourselves through a simian reflection.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Braving the Gravitron

The Horror Hotel at this years Royal Adelaide Show.
Today I found myself spinning at 170km, stuck to a wall in side a large saucer shaped object. No it's not an alien abduction but a trip to Adelaide's annual Royal Show. The Australian equivalent of a state fair, the Show has personally been  a great source of fun and excitement, forming some of my earliest and fondest childhood memories. The Adelaide Royal Show began in 1840 and today continues to be a great mix of sideshows, junk food, produce and animals. As a child I remember spending what seemed like hours walking through the stock pavilions with Mum and Dad, hoping that we'd soon leave to find the showbag hall. Often things would go from bad to worse when my parents would stop to talk to friends and acquaintances they'd stumble across, making the anticipation so much greater. When we eventually got to the showbag pavilion it was like heaven. 

Looking back there were several showbags that I remember fondly. I remember in about 1978 getting the Space War showbag full of faux Star Wars novelties. There was the inflatable 'laser sword', the jigsaw puzzle of Star Wars-esque space craft, a Space Wars badge, a Darth Vader-ish mask and black plastic cape. I remember many a fun time being the 'Dark Lord of the Sith' in the remaing days of the September holidays. Another winner was The Incredible Hulk showbag, which amongst other things, included a plastic mask, poster and parachute Hulk. I remember coming home that night and watching the Hulk on TV while playing with my Hulk toys. I could never work out why Ol' Jade Jaws needed a parachute but it was cool none the less. 

It was in 1982 that I remember another fond showbag memory. This particular year they brought out a Doctor Who showbag. It came with a jigsaw puzzle, a badge, invisible ink, a cardboard T.A.R.D.I.S. model and a board game. Coming in at a dollar it was a cheap bag for the time and a gold mine for a merchandise starved Doctor Who fan. What was confusing though was that all the artwork reflected Doctor Who as it was in 1975, made all the more anachronistic in that the Doctor was now played by someone else. I later discovered that the board game had been part of a Weetabix cereal promotion in the UK in 1977 and that the showbag had originally appeared in Australian shows in 1978. Maybe the showbag people were cracking open the old stock. I didn't care, I had a Doctor Who showbag filled with images of my earliest memories of the show.
A wonderful view from the Ferris Wheel.

As I spun around like fruit in a blender, I reflected back on the series of events that had lead me to this moment. I remember walking through the gates with my family and looking down sideshow alley. There spinning in the distance was the Gravitron, that crown prince of fun fair flying sauces. As I gazed at its hypnotic motion, my sons said, 'We want to go on that, but only if Dad does'. After some initial protestations, I knew I needed to man up and take these boys into that swirling world that gravity forgot. Before I could change my mind, I walked up the gang plank of this pseudo-UFO and took my position against the wall inside. Within minutes I was plastered flat to the bulkheads as the machine began to spin. Feeling game, I started defying gravity, climbing backward, Spiderman-like, up the wall. Soon I was half way up, stuck like a fly on a windscreen but loving every minute of it. There I was with my boys, feeling like I was sixteen again, surprised that my coffee was staying down and having the crazy kind of fun only a sideshow, or NASA , can provide. As the ride finished, I staggered out, feeling like I'd been through the spin cycle of a giant washing machine and having loved every minute of it.

As the day went on, I continued to enjoy the time with my wife and children. We watched sheep dog demonstrations, dressage, patted farm animals, played games for soft toys and laughed at each other while we rode a variety of crazy amusements. I continued my fascination with the aesthetics of Ghost Trains, taking copious photos of the facades, but not daring to enter (no one else will go with me). Although the new ones looked cool, I missed the mechanical gorilla holding a severed head that stood on top of the old one (you can never beat the classics). 
The gruesome master of ceremonies on the Hollywood Horror ride.

We ended the day with a ride on the ferris wheel which provided us with a great view of the whole showground.  As I looked at our pile of lolly and novelty filled showbags and the tired faces, I knew that the excitement and the fun of the day would only be over-shadowed by the sugar rush they'd feel when they started to eat the contents of their showbags. As I lent back and looked over the showgrounds, I felt happy and a little bit excited. Soon I would be home, sitting in front of the TV and exploring the contents of my Comic Collector's Showbag, filled to the brim with Phantom Comics and promising even more hours of excitement. The Royal Show may end but the fun lives on.
Watching the dressage while stopping for lunch.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Battle for the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: History Repeating Itself?

Recently the latest instalment of the Planet of the Apes film series was released. Riding high on the success of the previous movie, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes opened to box office success and critical acclaim. Although not an official remake, Dawn shares more than a passing resemblance to the 1973 Apes movie, Battle for the Planet of the Apes. One of the main differences between the two films is their positions within their respective series. Where as Battle was the final film in a successful series that was facing decreasing budgets, Dawn, is the second movie in a rebooted series that is just hitting its straps. The original Apes series grew out of a movie that never intended to have a sequel, let alone four. On the other hand, Dawn is part of a pre-planned narrative cycle that moves towards the original Planet of the Apes concept and story line.

The Story Thus Far
Many people would be unaware that the Planet of the Ape began originally as a French novel, Las Planète de Singes by the author Pierre Boulle. Famous in English speaking countries for his novel and the subsequent film, Bridge over the River Kwai (1954), Boulle wrote Las Planète de Signe, a science fiction satire in 1963. Translated in English a Monkey Planet in 1964, Boulle felt the novel to be one of his minor works and potentially unfilmable. However, Boulle was surprised when in 1968, Las Planète de Singes leaped onto the big screen internationally as the Hollywood block buster Planet of the Apes. Following it’s box office success, Planet of the Apes, spawned four cinematic sequels, two TV series (live action and animated), more books, comics and a whole range of Apes merchandise. However by 1977 the Planet of the Apes franchise had seemed to have run it’s course. With the animated series finished and the last British annual and Marvel Comic being produced, the Apes phenomena was soon lost beneath the Star Wars tsunami that would soon engulf the world. Besides a series of 5 telemovies, edited together from episodes of the live action television show and a Hungarian comic adaption of the original novel, both in 1981, all seemed quiet on the simian front.

However by the late 80’s rumours of a new Apes project began to surface. By 1990 original comics based in the world of the Apes movies began to appear. Eventually a another movie adaption of the original novel appeared in 2001 and the Apes merchandising machine began to roll again. Although successful, 20th Century Fox Studios decided not to follow this movie up with a sequel but to reboot the series altogether. In 2011 Rise of the Planet of the Apes appeared in cinemas. Rise retold the origin story of Planet of the Apes. Instead of having intelligent apes from the future come back to the past to set in motion the ape revolution, Rise presented the origin of Ape civilisation as being the by product of human experimentation on apes in the search of a cure for Alzheimer’s. Drawing some comparisons with Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, the fourth film in the original Apes series, Rise was even more successful than its 2001 predecessor. Very soon a sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, was in production.

Dawn continued the story set up in Rise. Eschewing some of the Frankenstein themes raised in the first film, this movie explored the ‘fear of the other’ and the selfishness of revenge in the face of acceptance and forgiveness. Taking place ten years after the previous film, we learn that the virus, originally designed to cure Alzheimer’s and had caused the intelligence to grow exponentially in the apes, had gone on to decimate the human population. Many of the humans that were left had then turned on themselves, decreasing the human population even further. Meanwhile the super intelligent apes had continued to breed and advance, unaware that some humans still existed. It is when a group of humans enter into the ape’s forest that things become complicated. Also oblivious to the apes existence, the humans had come hoping to reactive a hydro electric damn to give the ruined San Francisco power once again. Despite the trust that develops between Caesar and several of the humans, war eventually breaks out between apes and humans. The conflict is instigated by the revenge filled bonobo, Koba (Toby Kebell) and the fear driven human leader, Dreyfus (Gary Oldman).

A Comparison of Battle and Dawn
In many ways this film is has much in common with Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) the 5th instalment in the original series. Both films serve a similar function in the wider narrative of the Apes saga, both depicting the rise of ape society post apocalypse and the deterioration of human civilisation. In the forefront of both versions of ape society is an ape named Caesar. It is he who has lead the apes to emancipation from their human masters. However, these two versions of Caesar are radically different in origin. The Caesar in Battle is the child of Cornelius and Zira, the two chimpanzees from the original Planet of the Apes who have travelled back in time to escape earth’s destruction 2000 years in the future. The Caesar in Dawn is the child of a regular 21st century ape who has had her DNA genetically altered by being exposed to a virus that stimulates brain development. It is this virus that wipes out most of humanity and accelerates the intelligence of the apes that come in contact with it.

The two stories start with an ape society beginning to codify its morality, embodied in it’ most sacred law ‘Ape shall never kill ape’. It is in keeping this law that the apes believe sets them apart from humans, who have effectively wiped themselves out as a species through nuclear holocaust in Battle and un-elaborated global conflicts, post virus, in Dawn. One major difference between the two films is that Battle presents a fledgling ape society where humans are also present. It appears that various sympathetic humans have joined with the apes only to find themselves as a tolerated underclass struggling to find acceptance amongst the three other primate species. Caesar, although good friends with human adviser, Bruce McDonald (Austin Stoker), still wrestles with the role that humans should play with in his newly formed ape society. It is at this point that McDonald alludes to the fact that the future may rely on a change in ape/human relationships. Before long the two, in the company of an orang-utan scientist, Virgil (Paul Williams) head into the irradiated ruins of the nearby human city to gain access to recordings made by Caesar’s parents after their arrival from the future. McDonald hopes that the recording will alert Caesar to the dangers of ape/human hostilities and that unless otherwise mended, could end in the destruction of the earth in 2955. It is in the ruined city that the group comes into contact with the mutants who still live in the city. The mutants are lead by Kolp (Severn Darden), the former chief government interrogator from the previous film who still wants to see the apes subservient again.

In Dawn, the apes have created a human free community which is thrown into fear when a group of humans arrive looking for a dam control center. Caesar in both films has experienced the positive side of human ape relationship, and despite tensions between the groups, soon begins a friendship with Malcolm, the leader of the human party. Shocked by the arrival of humans after so many years, Caesar and hundreds of apes travel to the human city and declare that they only want peace and demand that they be left alone. Frightened by the ape’s show of force, Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), the human leader begins a stock take of the human armoury in preparation for an ape attack.

At this point in the plots of the both films we have a divergence. In Battle it is ape/human society seeking information about the future that stumbles into the home of the ‘other’. The other in this case is the mutant survivors of the nuclear holocaust that ended 12 years before. In Dawn it is humans in search of their society’s future, through the access to electricity, which brings them into the world of the ‘other’, the fledgling ape society. Both films present that moment well known from history, human history that is, when two vastly different cultures come face to face, each assuming superiority over the other. Despite those with in each culture who seek peace, both societies soon fall into conflict based on fear of the different. What hope does a future of peace between ape and human have when humanity couldn’t event live at peace with itself?

'Every Caesar has their Brutus.'
Both movies depict a Caesar who is wisely attempting to guide his new found society in a direction of pacifism. ‘Ape has never killed ape’ is the basic tenant of this ideology and it is this idea that apes believe separates them from humanity and it’s history of conflict with itself. However in both narratives Caesar faces opposition from a rival ape, a symbolic Brutus, who has a score to settle with humanity to the point where he is prepared to break the most sacred ape law. In Escape to the Planet of the Apes, Cornelius reveals that in ape legend it was an ape named Aldo who was the first to say ‘No’ to his human masters. In Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, we come across an ape named Aldo, a government messenger chimp beaten by police after getting spooked by an anti-ape labour demonstration. It is this incident that causes Caesar to yell out in defense of Aldo, thus arousing suspicion that he may be the child of the talking apes from the future. It is this moment that set in place the events that lead to the ape revolution. In Battle, Aldo, now portrayed as a gorilla general, is the leader of the gorilla army and bitterly resents Caesar’s inclusion of human’s in his new society. He plots to arm his troops, destroy all humans and to overthrow Caesar. Unfortunately Caesar’s son, Cornelius, over hears the plot and is pushed out of a tree and mortally wounded by Aldo. Aldo then raids the ape armoury; rounds up all the humans in the ape village into the coral, just as an army of human mutants begin to attack the ape city. Following the defeat of the mutants, and the slaughter of the survivors by Aldo’s gorillas, Caesar confronts Aldo in relation to the death of his son. This confrontation fittingly ends with Aldo falling to his death from a tree at Caesar’s hand. The question is then asked by Caesar if one murder should be repaid with another. Here Caesar realizes that violence and hatred of ones brother is not just the domain of humanity but of ape as well.

Aldo’s equivalent in Dawn is a badly scarred bonobo named Koba. In Rise, Koba is a lab ape who carries the marks of years of mistreatment across his face and body. Initially loyal to Caesar, he becomes incensed when Caesar befriends the humans who have come searching for the dam. Believing that Caesar loves humans more than apes, he follows the humans back to their city, finds their armoury and raids it. Driven by the need for revenge, Koba shoots Caesar, and convinces the apes that it was perpetrated by humans. Soon Koba is leading the apes, armed with stolen guns, in an attack against the human city. During the battle, Koba demonstrates his willingness to kill any ape who disagrees with him, throwing a chimp, Ash, to his death when he refuses to shoot an unarmed human. This and other actions soon begin to polarise the apes, especially those still loyal to the memory of Caesar, including Caesar’s son, Blue Eyes. Fortunately Caesar is not dead, and after being nursed back to health by Malcolm and his family, is able to regain the leadership of the apes through the help of Blue Eyes. Once again we are presented with a scene where Caesar confronts his rival in a battle to the death. This time, rather than a tree, it is the remains of a multistory building from which Caesar’s rival falls to his death. As Koba looks to Caesar to save him from falling, he appeals for mercy saying, ‘Ape shall never kill ape’, to which Caesar replies, ‘Koba is not Ape’.

The Simian Loss of Innocence
Here we have an interesting contrast in the narratives of the two films. Where as Caesar in Battle recognises that both apes and humans can be guilty of violence and hatred, Caesar in Dawn insinuates that any ape who deviates from the great law, ‘ape shall never kill ape’ is no longer ape and therefore has no place amongst their number.
These divergent outcomes reflect the place these films play in the narrative of the series. Battle is a film that is attempting to wrap the up the Ape series with some kind of conclusion. In the end Caesar chooses to include humanity in his new ape society having seen that evil is no respecter of great ape species. The narrative itself is presented as a flashback sequence, a tale told by the Ape Lawgiver, 600 years after the events of the main story, to an audience of humans and apes living in harmony. It is a film that has taken the story of The Planet of the Apes as its starting point and has attempted to move the narrative to a place which is more optimistic. Despite the final ambiguous, but ominous, image of a weeping statue of Caesar, the suggestion is that things have changed for the better on the planet of the apes and men, at least for the time being. Dawn, on the other hand, is a part of a narrative that is working toward the events of The Planet of the Apes. It ends with Caesar’s sad realisation that further war with the humans is now inevitable. Rather than finding a place for humans with in his ape society, he must continue to protect and strengthen his community so it truly will be a place where ‘ape shall never kill ape’, despite the forces that threaten it from with out.

'Who Knows the Future?'
It will be interesting to see where the creators of Rise and Dawn take the Apes narrative next. The follow up to Battle was a TV series that was set 415 years after the scenes with the Lawgiver, in an a future where once again apes were the dominant species and man was a slave class. It is, however, unclear whether it was set in the the same fictional Apes universe as Battle.  Pictures of a futuristic New York City depicted long after the destruction of civilization as portrayed in the movies makes continuity with the film series difficult. It may have been that the creators of the television series merely wanted to set there story in an Apes world where lost astronauts could face the latest ape villain of the week with out worrying about tangled time lines and changed destinies. For all intense and purposes the original Caesar narrative has come to it conclusion at the very same point that the new Caesar narrative is beginning to take off. Dawn may easily be construed as a remake of Battle but the next installment will be breaking new ground in the ongoing story of the Planet of the Apes, as it heads to the point where the original series began. This also something that effects the overall tone of the movies. If the future at the end of Battle is an open book, the future in Dawn is preordained and pessimistic. Dawn's narrative is working its way towards that moment when Colonel George Taylor collapses before the half buried Statue of Liberty on a beach two thousand years in the future. Both films tell the story of ape society’s loss of innocence and its first conflict with its former oppressors since the initial revolution. However with out the insight passed down by apes from the future in Battle, the Caesar in Dawn has to fight to create a future for his ape society rather than trying to avoid a particular version of it that may end in a global mushroom cloud. Either way, it will be a future where the evolved exploits of humanity's closest relatives will continue to thrill audiences, as they have done since Boulle first unleashed his dystopian tale upon the world in 1963.

Monday, 7 July 2014

King Jesus Meets the Taxman

Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much." Then Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost (Luke 19: 8-10)." 

I have always been captivated by the story of Jesus' meeting with a particularly infamous man. Jesus was visiting Jericho, one of the great taxation centers of Palestine and while he was there he came in contact with Zaccheaus, a tax collector. Tax collectors, not unlike today, were severely disliked and had the ability overcharge people, taking advantage of their position as Roman representatives. The amount of monies due was often unclear and the chief tax collector was paid by what he could collect on top of the required taxation. To add to the situation, the chief tax collector usually had minor tax collectors under him, who also relied on adding to the taxation required in order to receives payment for themselves. With such an open ended situation, corruption was inevitable and the reputation of the tax-collecting profession was abysmal. While Rome got its required amount to build the needed infrastructure, the subjects of the empire were taxed in a way that was unfair and exploitative. In Judea, the tax collector was also seen as a Roman collaborator, working with those who dared occupy a throne belonging to the line of King David. Tax collectors were hated plunderers of their nation, extortionists and traitors who were far from God. In the eyes of the general populace they were on par with thieves and murderers. If a person who pleased God was one who followed the laws given by Moses to the letter, then the tax collector was seen to be the antithesis. Most Jews knew that God despised tax collectors. If God was a King and good law-abiding people were citizen of his kingdom, then tax collectors were the kingdom's enemies.  One such chief tax collector was Zacchaeus of Jericho. It was while Jesus was visiting his town that Zaccheaus went to catch a glimpse of this travelling teacher who had a reputation of associating with 'tax collectors and sinners (Luke 5: 30).

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.  All the people saw this and began to mutter, "He has gone to be the guest of a 'sinner.'"(Luke 19: 1-7)

It was then the penny finally dropped for Zacchaeus. Whether it was a prior awareness of Jesus' message or a prompting from God, Zaccheaus showed himself to be a changed man. In a heartbeat of Jesus' loving acceptance of him, Zaccheaus set about showing that he was different. Where once he had behaved unjustly to others, he know showed that he had become a 'just' or righteous man, full of loving kindness to those around him. He had become 'born from above' or 'born again'.

Jesus said “I can guarantee this truth: No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above. (John 3:3). In Jesus Christ, or King Jesus, the Kingdom of God had arrived and those who heard his message and obeyed him had a place in that Kingdom. With this came a renewed, reborn understanding of self, God, and the world around, based on love for one another. In this kingdom it was love that ruled, summed up in Christ's commands,

"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 22: 37-40)."

Christ's disciple, John, son of Zebedee, wrote,

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4: 7-8). 

This was the day Zaccheaus became 'saved', the day he knew that he no longer belonged to the old world, bound by injustice against others and God. It was the day he became a citizen of the God's world of loving kindness that was just beginning to blossom. As an outcast Jew, he knew it was impossible to follow all the laws given by Moses to the letter but he saw that Jesus offered a way of love that would fulfill that law in spirit and make him 'righteous' or 'just' in God's eyes. In fact all who followed the way of God through Christ could be set free from the chains of the past. Zaccheaus now traveled the path of love that would lead its very pro-claimer, King Jesus, to die in the place of all who deserved death for their injustices against God and others. The greatest act of love in history set us free so we could walk this world in love, representatives of the God's kingdom, in a world struggling under the Kingdom of Darkness to emerge into the light of love.


Friday, 4 July 2014

The Love of my Life

Nat King Cole once sang ‘The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return’. I must say that as I grow older this continues to be the greatest truth I’m learning. When I think of fashion, money and fame, they all fall dim in comparison to love. My love journey began in the arms of my parents who taught me about family, loyalty, sacrifice and this adventure continued when I met the love of my life, Susanne. We met on Australia Day in 1995. It was a beautiful summer evening at a popular South Australian beach. I had gone there with a group of friends to visit someone we all knew who was pole sitting for charity. 

Now for those who don't know, the pole sitting discussed here involves a small cabin perched in top of a 10 foot pole. A series of these poles are lined up in a row and the participants are lifted up into the cabins via a cherry picker. With each of them being sponsored financially by family and friends, the pole sitters spend 24 hours in their cabins before changing over with someone else. While the pole sitters are up they are also able to collect money from passers by via collection buckets on the end of ropes. It was amongst these lofty towers that I met my beautiful wife. 

As I talked to my friends and pole sitters, I started chatting with a girl who seemed amazing. All I could see was a silhouette, ..…but oh what a silhouette. She had a voice that was golden and to top it off she knew who I was. She was a friend of the person we'd come down to see and she'd seen me before. All I knew was that I wanted to see her again…and in the light of day. To make sure of this, I left my phone number in her donation bucket. 

As we left to go home, I knew the long wait had begun. Would she find the number? Would she call and when? Would she be interested in me? And what did she look like in the light? She did call eventually, but only after making me sweat. And we've been together ever since.

My beautiful wife is a truly amazing woman. She is the mother of my four beautiful children, a hard working nurse and my best friend. She puts up with my grumpiness, passive aggressive mood swings, my aversion to organization, my vagueness, my weirdness and my ability to leave my shoes lying anywhere. This is by no means an exhaustive list but enough has been shared. On top of this there is the children. They've also inherited some of this unfortunate behavior. Now there are 5 pairs of shoes lying around.

Susanne is a woman with a deep commitment to God. This is highlighted by the ten years of service she gave as an officer in The Salvation Army, as well as her continued involvement in the life of the church and her work as a nurse. She has a beautiful way with people and I love to watch interact others. Basically I think my wife is amazing.

After 17 years of marriage I am forever grateful that my love journey is with Susanne. She is the most beautiful and graceful woman I know (my mother, mother-in-law and daughter definitely get an honourable mention though). She is fun, fabulous, smart and drop dead gorgeous. Everyday I am thankful she is in my life and everyday I try to make sure she knows, with out a doubt, how much I love and respect her. 

Through our relationship I've learnt that it's so important to find out those things that make your partner feel loved… and to actually do them. Don't assume those things are the same for them as they are for you. Be careful not to dismiss and ridicule them when they're not. We all give and feel love in different ways. You might think your showing love but they may not see it that way. 

‘The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return’. Be merciful to those you love. Relationships aren't about scoring points for yourself but about enriching the lives of those you care for. At the end of the day life's not an exercise in how much you've earned or achieved but about how well you've loved. As for me, I want Susanne, and the family we have together, to know that they are loved, not because of what they do but because of who they are. She is the love of my life and every day, through the fog of work and parenting, I try to make sure she knows it. Life's too short for anything less. Susanne Castle…I love you.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Where the fang is Visaria?

The Regional Anthem of Visaria
There is a land where winter skies,
Resound with wolf and vulture cries,
Thunder and lightening paint the clouds, 
those dark grey clouds.
Where misty swamps and mountain crags,
Are crowned with bats and alpine stags,
And here we sing before that ancient flag,
Visaria, Visaria, Visaria
(Translated from the High German).

The Forgotten Land of Visaria
As I was growing up there were many ancient lands spoken of by my family. My mother and father told me about our family origins in the UK. There were stories passed down about my Cornish, Irish, Scottish and English ancestors and the way they forged a new life in Australia. Then I married into a German family and began to learn about a whole lot of places on the other side of the English Channel, such as Switzerland, Austria, and Bavaria. Eventually I met someone from Transylvania and read up on the histories of that ancient land and the tales of the infamous Prince Dracula and Countess Bathory. However amongst all this discussion of European regions, there was one land that no one ever talked about. 

It was In the 1980's I first heard the name of the mystical land of Visaria. This forgotten region is little known by many and its mention is only found in important film texts from the 1940's. The occasion of my first hearing of Visaria was on Peter Goers' Late Night Horror Show on Channel 10, Adelaide, South Australia. That evening he was presenting a screening of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), the first meeting of two Universal monsters in one film. As a child, cartoons and other programs had convinced me that it was Transylvania that was the scene of the Universal Monster's horrible supernatural crimes but here I began to see otherwise. Visaria, this land of 'hills, mountains,..forests (Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)', and festive villagers, was also a mecca for mad scientists and monsters alike.

Document 1: Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)
The first document to reveal the existence of the region was The Ghost of Frankenstein. It begins with the villagers of Frankenstein deciding to blow up Frankenstein Castle, left deserted by the Frankenstein family for many years since the last appearance of the monster (The Son of Frankenstein (1939). The only occupant of the Castle is Ygor (Bela Lugosi), the hunchbacked friend of the monster. It is while the castle is being demolished that Ygor finds the still living creature (Lon Chaney Jr) encased in sulfur. The creature had been pushed into the castle's basement sulfur pit many years before by Henry Frankenstein's first son, Wolf (Basil Rathbone). As the castle explodes,Ygor and the Monster escape through the wilderness to find Henry Frankenstein's second son, Dr Ludwig Frankenstein (Cedric Hardwicke). Ludwig is a brain surgeon extraordinaire who has set up practice in Visaria, a peaceful town at the foot of the Alps, fond of singing, dancing and spontaneous village mobs. It is at this point that the location of the Frankenstein saga moves from the Village of Frankenstein to the Visarian region.

Document 2: Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
The could be one of the quaint rustic streets of Visaria,
the location of many a village festival. .
In Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man we discover that Ludwig's sanitarium is also known as Frankenstein's Castle and that there is a mountain stream that runs beneath the castle and drives the  turbines that power the laboratory. This stream is dammed, the wall of which can be seen adjacent to the castle. This dam is eventually blown up in an attempt to kill the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr)  and the Monster (Bela Lugosi), washing the remains of Ludwig's castle away. It's in this movie that we get exposed to Visaria's wonderful alpine culture with its depiction of a boisterous village festival. We also get to hear a rousing rendition of the the Visarian folk song 'Faro-la Faro-li'

Document 3: House of Frankenstein (1944)
This could be a surviving watchtower from
Dr Ludwig Frankenstein's Castle. 
In Document 3, the Monster (Glenn Strange) and the Wolf Man are found frozen in the bowels of the original Frankenstein Castle. The icy discovery is made by the insidious Visarian scientist , Dr Gustav Neimann (Boris Karloff) and his hunchbacked assistant Daniel (J. Carrol Naish). This is remarkable seeing as they were last seen battling in Ludwig's castle in Visaria, a town shown here as being some 152 km away by road. The ruins of the original Castle Frankenstein appear with a ruined dam wall reminiscent of Ludwig's Castle. At this point it could be suggested that the writers have actually fiddled with the details put forward in the previous installment to serve their new narrative direction.  Perish the thought. An analysis of the details in the text suggest that there may have been ancient tunnels and glacial caverns linking the two ancestral fortresses of the Frankenstein family. The villages of Frankenstein and Visaria were geographically close, separated by an alpine ridge that can be crossed on foot or by a 152 km journey by road through the nearest alpine pass. When the dam was destroyed in Visaria, the Monster and the Wolf Man were washed through the subterranean tunnels into the cavern below the ruins of the original Frankenstein Castle. This explosion also overwhelmed the second dam wall on the Frankenstein village side. This dam was once a prime example of the rare double wall dam design unique to Visarian/Frankensteinian alpine architecture. It also a prime example of the needs of alpine experimental brain surgeons driving hydroelectric technology.

Visaria, a land of hills, mountains and forests.
Document 4: House of Dracula (1945)
It's in Document 4 that we discover that Visaria is also located in a coastal region. Here we are introduced to Doctor Franz Edelmann (Onslow Stevens), another Visarian brain surgeon, whose house and practice are situated near the Visarian coast. The action starts when Count Dracula (John Carradine) arrives at Edelmann's house claiming to seek a cure for his vampirism. Not long after, Lawrence Talbot, the Wolf Man, also arrives looking for an answer to his supernatural curse. Before long Dr Edelmann is vampirised by Dracula and Lawrence Talbot tries to end his life by throwing himself into the ocean. While rescuing the Wolf Man from his failed watery suicide, the skeletal remains of  Doctor Niemann and a dormant Frankenstein Monster are found in a coastal cave. The Monster and  Dr Niemann had met their demise in the previous installment by sinking into a pool of quick sand, eventually emerging in the cave. Soon Dracula is dead, Dr Edelmann has turned into a homicidal mad scientist vampire and the Monster is laid out in the laboratory ready to be revived. When the curtain comes down on this installment the house is in flames as a hostile village mob storms the premises to send the Universal monsters to a fiery demise.

Where is Visaria?

My scribbled map of the mysterious regions of Visaria and Frankenstein.

The House of Dracula is the last we hear of Visaria. Soon the Universal Monsters had shifted to America and left their European homelands far behind (Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). But where is this region of Visaria to be found and how does one book a holiday there? When we look at an atlas some related landmarks jump out. First of all there is Castle Frankenstein located in the west of Germany in the State of Hesse and the Village of Frankenstein located to the east in the State of Saxony. In the South there are the Alps located in the State of Bavaria and the ocean in the far north. As exciting as it is to pinpoint these places, it becomes quickly apparent that the region Visaria is a geographical impossibility. Visaria is located in a fictional Germany of the imagination. It is found in a 1940's American dream of a Europe that is free of war and where the only evil to be found is of supernatural and fantastic origin. In Visaria there are no jackboots only the asphalt-spreader's boots of the Frankenstein monster. In this far off land the only bullets fired are those of silver and not of Nazi lead. In the wartime Europe of the imagination, mad scientists are obsessed with creating artificial life and not death on a massive scale. The only way to holiday in Visaria is to find a copy of these cinema classics, grab some popcorn and while away the hours in the company of The Monster, The Count, The Wolf Man and the feistiest village mob this side of Transylvania. Faro-La, Faro-Li!

The Universal Frankenstein Series

Frankenstein (1931)
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Son of Frankenstein (1939)
Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
House of Frankenstein (1944)
House of Dracula (1945)
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)