Wednesday, November 11, 2020

oh no, it's moby derek

A couple of further items related to Moby-Dick - firstly the 1956 Gregory Peck film, while the most famous adaptation of the book, certainly isn't the last word on the subject, far from it. There were film adaptations as early as 1926's silent The Sea Beast (featuring the immortal dialogue intertitles pictured here), later talkified as 1930's Moby Dick. Both films starred John Barrymore, but of course as admirable as Barrymore is, all anyone wants to know about these (and indeed any) adaptations is: how rubbish where the whale effects? From the brief clip I've seen I would say: not great, but not as rubbish as you might think. As with any effects achieved using a combination of scale models, carefully-shot articulated body parts and stock footage of real creatures there are some jarring scale transitions, from mildly irascible trout to something the size of a house, but this is hardly a problem exclusive to 1930s films; Jaws suffered from it too.

Subsequent to the 1956 adaptation there were several more, including a TV movie in 1998 (starring Patrick Stewart as Ahab and featuring a cameo from Peck), a film adaptation in 2010 starring, bizarrely, Barry Bostwick aka Brad from The Rocky Horror Picture Show as Ahab, and a TV series in 2011 starring William Hurt as Ahab. Anyway, here's the lowdown on the various whales in each of those adaptations:

  • 1930 - not bad, considering, though not particularly white
  • 1956 - appropriately gnarled and wrinkly and scarred and harpoon-laden and overall pretty good, considering, though a bit rubbery
  • 1998 - surprisingly rubbish - presumably some early CGI but far too clean and smooth and just generally fake-looking
  • 2010 - utterly ludicrous, no doubt intentionally since this was a film by The Asylum, the company that brought you the Sharknado series, not to mention Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus
  • 2011 - again, a bit CGI, but much better

That's restricting ourselves to films specifically named Moby Dick, but there are other works which owe it a debt, notably the 2015 film In The Heart Of The Sea, which is actually a rendering of the true story of the demise of the whaling ship Essex in 1820. So not a direct adaptation of Moby-Dick, but since the novel borrowed heavily from the Essex's story, and the film seems to focus on the battle with the whale rather than the subsequent murder and cannibalism activities, it's an adaptation in all but name.

Other non-filmic works have taken inspiration, or maybe just a name, from Moby-Dick, notably Led Zeppelin's instrumental song of the same name, which was mainly a vehicle for John Bonham to indulge in that most reviled of rock traditions, the drum solo. A just-about-tolerable four-and-a-half minutes in its original studio incarnation (about three minutes of which is drum solo), it was expanded to interminable length in concert, presumably to allow Plant and Jones to wander off and have a cup of tea and Page to bang a couple of under-age groupies. The version on the definitive Zeppelin live album How The West Was Won is 19 minutes long, which is a larger amount of time than I'm prepared to sacrifice to listening to a drum solo, as thunderously legendary a rock drummer as Bonham was. The other obvious song to mention here is Mountain's Nantucket Sleighride, inspired by the story of the Essex and which I see I've already mentioned here, as well as cashing in a couple of cheap gags, which I now feel that I can't do again here. Oh well, no use "blubbering" about it, hahaha.

Lastly, Moby-Dick is another in the intermittent sequence of books featured here which contain a map, a list which includes The End Of Vandalism back in mid-2019 and this list of books from around five years earlier which includes a few books I own which haven't appeared on this blog as well as A Small Death In Lisbon, The Name Of The Rose, Faceless Killers and Sunset Song of those that do. The map just shows the Pequod's voyage from Nantucket to the site of its eventual demise in the mid-Pacific. Here it is:

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