I’m collecting resources for an ambitious project in a different genre — gaslight/steampunk. I’ve combed the Internet and Amazon for articles and books, focusing my research on technology, flight, and European events and people circa 1860-1870.
I wanted a visual resource so I ordered Irwin Allen’s “Five Weeks in a Balloon.” Based upon the Jules Verne novel of the same name, I hoped it would be as thrilling as “Around the World in 80 Days,” “In Search of the Castaways” or “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.”
What a disappointment. “Five Weeks” (1962) is sophomoric and insulting, exploiting curvaceous runaway slave girls and even a chimpanzee. Besides the kitsch, racism, sexism, and possible elements of animal cruelty (Chester the Chimp is dressed in female attire and called Duchess!), the movie was long and boring. Worse, it was filmed in California, not Africa.
The video footage of Africa that was included, was poorly focused helicopter shots of Victoria Falls and wildlife migrating through the Serengeti.
Boo! Hiss! Fraud! I want my $6 back.
If I had watched this film as a child would I have been impressed? I have fond memories of other movies based upon Jules Verne novels, but can’t recall any positive memories of Irwin Allen films. He is the director of disaster films such as “The Poseidon Adventure” and “The Towering Inferno.”
He also is the proud owner of a Golden Raspberry Award, given to him in 1985 for Worst Career Achievement.
What I really need are back issues of “Scientific American.” Founded in 1848, the publication showcased inventions from the U.S. Patent Office, as well as other countries. It often included engravings.
As a historian, I know better. I had hoped for realism but I counted on Hollywood and one of its least-revered directors to provide it.
Now it’s back to the grindstone, using only primary sources when possible.
And it’s into the community rummage sale for “Five Weeks in a Balloon.”