Between Time and Timbuktu (1972 TV Movie)
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I still can't think about "ex-astronaut Bud Williams, Jr." telling his story about Tang without smiling. Wish they would release this on DVD (and another early NET special - America, Inc. with Jean Shepherd).
It was like a selection of episodes from the various novels and short stories of Vonnegut, hosted (as news reporters) by Bob Elliot and Ray Goulding. Goulding is reprising the role of "Walter Gesundheit" he played in a movie a few years earlier. Eliott is playing an astronaut (like Wally Schirra, who frequently appeared with Walter Cronkite at space shots). They get bogged down trying to recall Neil Armstrong's first words upon the Moon surface. William Hickey played Stony Stevenson, the best friend of the hero in THE SIRENS OF TITAN. He is chosen to be the world's first time traveler, and we see him going from one place to another.
Hickey meets Dr. Hoenikker/Hurd Hatfield (creator of "Ice 9" - and an example of the short sightedness of government sponsored science), and Bokonon/Kevin McCarthy (the ultimately powerless religious leader) from CAT'S CRADLE. He meets Wanda June from Vonnegut's play. He sees the threat of puritanical-ism mixed with inane political correctness in the future when he crosses the path of one woman vigilante Diane Moon Gompers.
The show as an introduction to Vonnegut was very good. Parts of it were shot in Flushing Meadow Park, not far from my home. So I thoroughly enjoyed the program.
I don't know where the teacher obtained the print, and if I could get a copy these days, I would without hesitation, even if I had to pay a lot. Quick, someone tell Mr. Vonnegut so it will be released.
Stony's sudden arrival back on Earth in the middle of some unknown city and asking for a dime to make a phone call to report back in to NASA is one of the great comic bits I've ever seen. Is it satire of NASA or just a satirical joke by Kurt Vonnegut that man's exploration of space will take him to places he never expected? This made for TV production is certainly not really a 10 but it's not a 1 either and it should be made available at least for online downloading. In reality, it's probably a good 10 for Vonnegut fans and a 1 for everyone else.
If anyone knows where to get it, I surely would appreciate hearing about it.
Transported in time by the Chronosynclastic Infundibulum, he travels "one hundred and twenty million miles in three months, four days, thirteen hours, three minutes and seven seconds." The Island of San Lorenzo: (Cat's Cradle) He meets the leader "Bokonon (Kevin Mc Carthy)" who wrote "The books of Bokonon" and his "children" (followers) are referred to as Bokononoists. An island girl (Edie Lynch) and all are being chased by soldier (Jerry Gershman). The religion was outlawed by the President (to give more zest, more tang) and it did in the beginning Then people practicing the religion started being executed. "I suppose that it goes to show that you have to be very careful who you pretend to be, because one day you may wake up to find that's what you are". The next stop in the Chronosynclastic Infundibulum is (Player Piano) where we meet Dr. Paul Proteus (James Sloyan) who is on trial for armed insurrection and treason. The prosecutor (George Serries) has a classic line: "In this unbiased essay we will see the fruits of our great society. This is the same society that the defendant wishes to destroy. This is the same society that is paying you for jury duty today. It is indeed "A Land of Plenty" (animated movie is shown). The next stop in the Chronosynclastic Infundibulum is a telephone booth in Schenectady (also from Player Piano), asking for change from a drunk (John Peters) who gives him coins saying "That is the saddest story I ever heard". Then next stop in the Chronosynclastic Infundibulum onto (Cat's Cradle) into the lobby of the "Hoenikker Laboratory of Immortality" (Hurd Hatfield) and assistant Miss Martin (Helen Stenborg) laying on a table, being thawed out. Disclosed is his research on "Ice Nine", a seed with a melting point of a hundred and forty degrees Fahrenheit, to freeze mud for military applications. The next stop in the Chronosynclastic Infundibulum falls onto (Welcome to the Monkey House) with a Handicapper General, a woman named Diana Moon Glampers (Benay Venuta). This is a society where true equality is based on "handicapping everyone". In a TV studio, a ballet is being performed by two dancers, shackled and masked. Harrison Bergeron (Avind Haerum) suddenly breaks out of his handicaps, and removes the Ballerina (Alexis Hoff) handicaps. The strains of "Romeo and Juliet" fill the air. They dance. Meanwhile, a double-barrel shotgun is being loaded, and fired at the two dancers. Our next stop in the Chronosynclastic Infundibulum falls into "The Ethical Suicide Parlor, the population explosion has people massed and pressed against one another outside. Stony is escorted by Nancy (Susan Sullivan) delivers a tray of food to Lionel J. Howard (Charles White) while a TV commercial announcer (Phillip Bruns) plays in the room. Lionel J. Howard has chosen cyanide. His wife wanted him to take the carbon monoxide, but he told her "cyanide's more masculine". After taking the needle, his last request is "What are people for?" Next is a long line of candles quietly flickering and Stony with a kitten on a flat dry ground in wide empty arena at night (Happy Birthday Wanda June). Noise of a fire truck approaching: "Hi, I am Wanda June" (Ariane Munker). Stony asks "Am I dead?" Wanda replies "Nothing to be ashamed about, today was going to be my birthday, but I was hit by an ice cream truck before I could have my party. I am dead now, I am in heaven. Everybody up here is happy." The celebration comes to a discordant end as Hitler (Page Johnson) appears, goose-stepping and snarling from a balcony. "What a poor specimen of a man you are!" Stony replies "That's been said before". Hitler "Do you know who I am?" and Stony says "Yes. And you scare the hell out of me. More than anything I've seen in my life." Hitler: "I am death, and I am final. (Aside, awed by himself) God, am I ever final!" speaking to Wanda June "Go to the worms, my blond Teutonic child" Stony commands people to randomly appear and disappear. Next we see Stony working his way out of a grave in Brooklyn cemetery, reading epitaph on tombstone "Stony Stevenson. Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt." Stony walks away from the grave and approaches a man with a lawn mower (McIntyre Dixon) There's a tombstone back there "Tombstone? An understatement is what that is." It says "Stony Stevenson, astronaut". He's not actually buried there, that's just a memorial his mother put up. He is out there in space or time, who knows where he is? His space capsule splashed down in the Pacific with a note and a half-empty bottle of Tang. The note said what's written on the tombstone.
In short, all of the elements of a great Vonnegut novel are there. It has some great ideas and incredible insights.
There are some elaborate visual effects which must have been state-of-the-art in 1972, but seem to be a bit dated. The effects seem to be a bit overdone by today's standards, but serve the important purpose of showing the viewer where Stony becomes "unstuck in time" to use a Slaughterhouse-5 expression.
Above all it was great to see Bob and Ray doing what they do best: Witty, yet understated humor.
My biggest fear was of being disappointed in the production. I was afraid that I had built my hopes up too much. But in the end, I must quote the film itself:
Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.
Rick Doughty did have a copy on 1/2 inch, reel-to-reel video tape while at Pratt Institute in 1973 but it is unlikely to have survived.
The scenes described in the other review are powerful. When a ballerina has drooping sand bags to handicap her, so as to be no better than the worse dancer, the result is awkwardness.
The final scene of a gathering, or parade, appearing and disappearing, with music, needs some refreshing after 40 years. This is unlikely to occur and since the production was a combination of 5 (?) stories, there is no hard copy basis to draw from.
I am equally forgiving about "Slaughterhouse-Five", which did a good job in telling the jumbled story of Billy Pilgrim.
I also enjoyed Bob and Ray's deadpan repetition of the phrase "Chrono-synclastic Infundibulum." It was another phrase which I happily memorized for the sheer joy of knowing it -- similar to "Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!"
Yes, it wasn't the most faithful nor expert adaptation of Vonnegut's, or anybody's, work that the world has ever seen.
But God, when Diana Moon Glampers came on the air, I knew I was in for some amazing entertainment.
I saw it chiefly as a college video offering at my school, over closed circuit. It, like many of the entertainments we rented and "broadcast", garnered only small interest. Some of those entertainments included "The Prisoner" and "The Producers", which tells you something of the tastes of middle-Georgia student audiences in the late 1970s.
There was one "chapter" where the protagonist finds himself in a society where everyone is handicapped to the lowest level of ability, so no one will feel bad about not being good enough. Dancers wore big bags of sand, so they couldn't be more coordinated than their audience. The hero gets in trouble for insisting on letting people be who they really are. Maybe that's what I liked most about the movie, Vonnegut's insistence on the individual right to creatively express whatever they did best, at their best level of performance. It's not about perfectionism, but about expressing the gifts we are given.
I agree with many of the other writers that Mr. Vonnegut should remove his objections to the redistribution of this highly enjoyable film.
I have a very small DVD collection, mainly because there are so few movies I care to see more than once, but I'd buy this one.
Decades later, I went to the Museum of Television and watched it again. I kept my expectations down - what I liked at 13 is not the same as what I like as an adult - but you know what, I still thought it was brilliant.
I just watched it again. I was a little more aware of how dated it's early-seventies vibe is, partly because I was watching it with my girlfriend, who was pointing it out, and I noticed that it flags in parts, but overall I still enjoyed it, as did my girlfriend.
This is based in large part on Kurt Vonnegut's Welcome to the Monkeyhouse, which I didn't read until after the second time I'd seen the TV movie. I think it's great how the creators of this took the best of Vonnegut's random ideas and distilled them into something remarkable.
I don't know if I would "buy" the premise of the story today, but the time travel venues were thought provoking. Food for thought for a (then)-seeking youth.
Reading these comments gave me a strong desire to see it again -- hey, while I'm writing this, I just remembered, in the phone booth scene referenced in an earlier post, didn't Stony explain to someone that he was in Schenectady? Would sure like to see this one again, or even read it but it can't be read, can it, since it's a compilation of many different Vonnegut stories. I do remember the Chrono Synclastic Infidibulum from The Sirens of Titan. Did Billy Pilgrim go through that as well?