Movie nite at Chris P’s last night. The Arrival, which I dug muchly, though at the nerdiest part of the whole picture the characters were discussing the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and I realized to my silent dismay that not only was I familiar with the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis but I know who (as opposed to what) Sapir-Whorf were (the former was the only other person in the world who could converse with Ishi in his native tongue, the latter was in the insurance business, like a linguistic Wallace Stevens). Even worse on the nerd scale, the book I’m completely absorbed in currently also discusses the much maligned but recently revived in some circles Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, making Noam Chomsky so mad you wouldn’t believe it. Basically, do not get stuck sitting next to me at a dinner party. As the film went on it was obvious that neither the story’s author nor the screenwriters were Chomskyan, and Chomsky himself would have gone transformationally grammatically/ideologically apeshit at the vaguely hippieish blend of linguistic relativism and Sino-fascism. Not that he would ever bother to see the film. He’d send some grad students.
Personally, though, I dug it. The last time I saw linguistics in science fiction it was a cookbook.
“Thought has no language. We think in pictures and sensations. And then we translate these ideas into our own words and sentences.”
–Andy Thorne, played by Eddie Albert, in the “Cry of Silence”, Outer Limits (1964)
To be honest, I had never gotten past Eddie Albert and wife being attacked by sentient tumbleweeds. What might have been a workable idea in Louis Charbonneau‘s original story looks beyond ridiculous on TV. Tumbleweeds creep up, creep back, hurl themselves at Eddie. At one point he grabs one and smooshes it all over his face as if he’s being attacked. After a struggle, he wins. Did you see that honey? he asks. That thing attacked me! You actually feel bad for Eddie Albert, the actor, at this point. Eddie Albert, who wrote and starred in the first ever teleplay on television way back in 1936. Eddie Albert, hero of Tarawa. Eddie Albert, anti-hero of Attack. And here he is battling a crazed tumbleweed. There are hundreds of the things. Vast hordes of murderous tumbleweeds. We get back to town, Eddie tells his wife, and l’ll give up the idea of living on a farm. That usually did it for me right there.
This time I stuck it out but nearly gave up after they were attacked by hundreds of frogs. The scene lacked even the production values of the Ray Milland opus a decade later. Here, someone appeared to be hurling basketfuls of frogs at them. Worse yet, they were apparently living frogs, big bull frogs. You’ve never seen so many bullfrogs. The frogs squirmed, the wife screamed. They retreated back to the farmhouse. Their next foray out almost made it to the car but was driven back by deadly sentient rocks. It looked liked Buster Keaton in the avalanche scene in Seven Chances except Arthur Hunnicutt, playing a farmer named Lamont right out of Green Acres (and whose house they had sought refuge in) is struck and killed. That never happened in a Buster Keaton movie. Continue reading