TWiV 216

Tom writes:

Hello again, TWIVome,

I was delighted to hear Rich’s Pick of the 1956 Bell Labs film “Our Mister Sun” in TWIV #213.

I first saw it in the early 60’s in Jr. High school and, being on the AV team, I got to see it and “Hemo the Magnificent” from 1957 more than once.

These films (two if nine produced) employed a very distinctive presentation style, with the host interacting with a “Fiction Writer” asking questions, and with animated characters that represented and explained the subject(s) at hand.

Two memorable moments from “Hemo the Magnificent” still stick in my mind.

In the first, Hemo (a tall Greek-statue-like animated character representing blood), surrounded by a collection of animal supporters, challenges the host, Dr. Research, to define Hemo in just two words before allowing him to continue.  Dr. Research’s answer, “Sea water.” causes the animals to laugh derisively, but Hemo shushes them, bows to the host respectfully and urges him to proceed.  I still remember this moment for my delight in discovering the power of scientific insight.

The second moment appealed to my preteen perspective, when Dr. Research interrupts and hushes an over-enthusiastic kidney who wants to explain exactly how he disposes of what’s left after cleaning the blood.

All of this came back to me later in what I offer as Listener Pick of the Week: the 1967 James Coburn film, “The President’s Analyst”.  It’s a light-hearted espionage story embedded in a perfect “Hippie Summer of Love” time-capsule.

In the final scenes, the evil organization that trumps the movie’s versions of FBI, CIA, KGB and a host of other foreign forces is revealed as “TPC” … The Phone Company!  Coburn’s character confronts the head of TPC, who then, in classic super-villain form, explains his nefarious plans.  He does this in the same narrative style as the Bell Labs films, complete with a cheerful little animated character representing the chip that TPC wants implanted in everyone’s brain.

A hilarious tribute to Bell Labs and Frank Capra.

— Tom in Austin


Optional film trivia pulled from Wikipedia and IMDB.

All but one of the nine Bell Labs specials starred Frank C. Baxter; the last one starred Walt Disney.

The voice of both “Mr. Sun” and “Hemo” was that of Marvin Miller, who is best remembered for two of his roles: as Michael Anthony, the man who passed out a weekly check on the TV series The Millionaire, and as the voice of Robby the Robot in the film Forbidden Planet.  He was also the (uncredited) narrator of Disney’s Sleep Beauty.

In “Our Mr. Sun”:

Eddie Albert played the role of Fiction Writer.

Lionel Barymore did the voice-over for Father Time.

Sterling Holloway did the voice-over for Chloro Phyll

In “Hemo the Magnificent”:

Richard Carlson played the role of Fiction Writer.  (He’s best known for his roles in such ’50s sci-fi/horror movies as “It Came From Outer Space” and “Creature from the Black Lagoon, and in the mid-50’s TV series I Led Three Lives.).

Mel Blanc and June Foray voice-over various animals.

Sterling Holloway played the Lab Assistant.

Danielle writes:

Hello TWIV,

I doubt I’m the first person to direct you to this, but there was a Twitter trend this past week called “#OverlyHonestMethods.” Apologies if you’ve already seen it, but if I’m being overly honest, it’s funny enough to share twice.

Additionally, I would like to thank the entire team for the advice they gave to the grad student in TWiV #211. You gave this grad student a much-needed perspective. I’m still trying to figure out whether that perspective will lead to relief or panic – but in any case, it was extremely helpful.

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