Hamlet, Mary Cassatt, and the Robot Monster

Mary CassattThe great French landscape painter Hubert Robert was born on this day 1733. Inventor of the electromagnet and electric motor William Sturgeon was born 1783. Composer Richard Wagner were born in 1813. Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle was born in 1859.

The great Laurence Olivier was born in 1907. Most Americans probably remember him as the evil Nazi dentist Christian Szell in Marathon Man. Or for older people (or just lovers of old films), Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. And I most remember him in Sleuth. (Never, never, never watch the remake of Sleuth.) But Olivier is probably most important for his work in first bringing Shakespeare to the screen in a compelling way. I’m not that fond of his films, actually. I think Welles (who was widely criticized relative to Olivier at the time) is better and more cinematic. But there is no doubt that the man can act. Here he is doing that scene from Hamlet:

Phil Tucker was born in 1927. He was the director of a delightfully silly, but ultimately terrible film, Robot Monster. That’s the film where the villain is a guy in a gorilla suit with a diving helmet. It’s easy to laugh at, but Tucker got it produced and the film made a lot of money. Here is the trailer:

And Harvey Milk was born in 1930. He was one of the most important gay rights advocates ever. In San Francisco he is a legend. And he would likely be alive today if it weren’t for the unstable Dan White.

Bernie Taupin is 63 today.

The day, however, belongs to the great American impressionist Mary Cassatt who was bore in 1844. I don’t have a lot to say about her. Look:

The Child's Bath

Happy birthday Mary Cassatt!

Update (23 May 2013 12:52 am)

I just watched Robot Monster again. I take back “terrible.” It is actually an amazing little film. It has pretty much all of the problems of low budget films of that time, but it has a few positives. The acting isn’t bad. And it is truly bizarre in a delightful way. It is also filled with lots of unintentional gems like the whole marriage ceremony. I always love how movies of that time were filled with scientists who were very serious about their Christianity. Anyway, check it out if you get a chance.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Hamlet, Mary Cassatt, and the Robot Monster

  1. This is why I love your birthday articles: discovering amazing people I’ve never heard of. Case in point: Mary Cassatt. [i]The Child’s Bath[/i] is just wonderful. I will definitely be looking into her work.

    Although I do enjoy the work of various Impressionist painters, I tend to be most fond of Realist painters like, for example, Gustave Courbet, who is one of my favorite artists, and Surrealism in general (I know, odd mix). In fact, I can credit Salvador Dali with being the painter who first sparked my interest in art. For many years I had a print of [i]The Temptation of Saint Anthony[/i] over my bed at the house I grew up in.

    Also, the movie [i]Robot Monster[/i] seems, at least based on the trailer, like it would make a great movie for MST3K. And speaking of MST3K, have you ever seen the one with the worm movie? I don’t remember the title, but it was about a big swarm of killer worms attacking some small town. Pretty funny.

  2. @Mack – Thanks. I often learn a lot during the birthday posts myself–often about people I don’t even write about. Last night was a rush; I totally forgot about it until 11:00 pm.

    I tend to think the impressionists are overrated. Plus my tastes have changed. Now I rather like Gauguin whereas I didn’t when I was younger. I also really like Cassatt and Morisot.

    There are a lot of similarities between Courbet and Dali actually. I’ve kind of cooled on Dali over the years, but probably just because I’m tired of him. I still admire him.

    MST3K [i]did[/i] do [i]Robot Monster[/i] during their first year. They had to pad it because the movie is barely an hour. As I recall, it was up to the quality of the shows at that time–a little more stilted than seasons 2-7, but not bad at all. Here it is:

    [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=au0OJoGPmUg[/youtube]

    I believe the episode you are referring to is [i]Squirm[/i]. It is a Mike episode. Here it is:

    [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3msPmLpLTUM[/youtube]

    One of the best things about MST3K is that they encouraged people to share tapes of the show. So a lot of it is online.

  3. Oh wow. Thank you for that. It’s been so long since I’ve seen MST3k. I’ve never seen the first season before. In fact, I never actually watched the show while it was still running. I would’ve been just over a year old when it premiered in 1988.

    I first started watching it at a friends house when I was a teenager early on in high school. His eccentric uncle, who was kind of a hoarder, had a big room lined with bookshelves full of taped TV shows and movies. Everything from stuff from the 40’s all the way up to, what was at the time, modern stuff. Most of the tapes were comprised of TV shows, but there were a lot of movies in his "library" too. We’d sit around smoking pot and making fun of whatever we were watching. Much of the tapes had no labels on them, so it was often fun to randomly pick one and be surprised.

    One day we pulled out one of the surprise tapes and it ended up being the [i]Squirm[/i] episode of MST3k. It was so amazing to us at the time that, while looking for a show to make fun of while watching it, we found a show that is actually about a guy making fun of movies while watching them.

    His uncle’s "library" of mostly unlabeled shows and movies had absolutely no sort of organization to it, so one day we spent a few hours sorting through it looking for more MST3k. We ended up finding quite a few episodes from various seasons, but unfortunately none of them were from the first season.

    Anyway, thanks again for posting those episodes. The [i]Squirm[/i] one brings back a lot of good memories.

    "Mr. Beardsley?!"

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