When I watch Black Mirror, particularly the newest Netflix season, I don’t think it’s primarily classic science fiction or about our relationship to technology.1 What I’m reminded of most strongly is The Twilight Zone and Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected, both of which appear on the list of movies, books, and TV shows that influenced Charlie Brooker while making Black Mirror.
I read Tales of the Unexpected when I was a kid, having exhausted all of the other Roald Dahl books in our small town library and one day randomly discovering that he’d written this book of short stories for adults. His use of horror and black comedy are evident in the most celebrated story, Lamb to the Slaughter, in which a woman murders her husband by whacking him in the head with a frozen leg of lamb and then serves the lamb to the police detectives who come round to investigate the death.
Anyway, what I didn’t know was that Tales of the Unexpected was also adapted into a TV show hosted by Dahl himself. I’ve embedded the Lamb to the Slaughter episode above and there are many more of the full episodes available on YouTube.
If you’ve read a book like Danny the Champion of the World or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, you have seen the work of illustrator Quentin Blake.
Type foundry Monotype have created a typeface from Blake’s distinctive handwriting. Each letter has four variants so the text looks more random, like actual handwriting:
Here’s the teaser trailer for the Spielberg-directed adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG. Hmm. (via the slick new trailer town)
Update: The full trailer has dropped.
I was about to say something about how Spielberg rarely directs animated films but BFG isn’t actually animated. Or is it? CG has gotten so good and blockbusters so reliant on special effects that it’s hard to tell what’s real. I mean, superhero movies are so laden with special effects that they might as well be considered animated. They’re all basically Who Framed Roger Rabbit? but done so seamlessly that you can’t tell Toontown from the real world.
The Guardian has published a lost chapter of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was cut from the book early on.
“I wonder how Augustus Pottle and Miranda Grope are feeling now?” Charlie Bucket asked his mother.
“Not too cocky, I shouldn’t think” Mrs Bucket answered. “Here - hold on to my hand, will you, darling. That’s right. Hold on tight and try not to let go. And don’t you go doing anything silly in here, either, you understand, or you might get sucked up into one of those dreadful pipes yourself, or something even worse maybe. Who knows?”
There’s not much to the chapter…it seems as though for the finished product Dahl pared down the number of children from ten to four and fleshed out each of their stories more. Here’s more on the lost chapter and early drafts of the book. (via @DavidGrann)
I missed this news a couple of months ago: Steven Spielberg is going to direct a movie version of Roald Dahl’s The BFG.
Renowned film director Steven Spielberg will direct the new adaptation with Melissa Mathison, who last worked with Spielberg on ET, writing the script. Frank Marshall will produce the film and Michael Siegel and John Madden are on board as executive producers.
I can’t find any direct evidence, but the way the news is being reported, this seems like it’ll be a live-action film and not a Tintin 3-D motion capture affair.
Sometimes children’s author Roald Dahl was not a very nice man. This Recording explains.
His early writing in the short story form was impacted by the political situation on the world stage. He believed in a world government and he was extremely sympathetic to Hitler, Mussolini, and the entire Nazi cause. His stories were filled with caricatures of greedy Jews. One suggests “a little pawnbroker in Housditch called Meatbein who, when the wailing started, would rush downstairs to the large safe in which he kept his money, open it and wriggle inside on to the lowest shelf where he lay like a hibernating hedgehog until the all-clear had gone.” In 1951 he visited Germany with Charles Marsh and luxured in Hitler’s former retreat at Berchtesgaden. His dislike of Jews and especially of Zionists was egged on by Marsh’s Israel hatred, later encapsulated in a revolting letter to Marsh where he mocked the head of East London’s B’Nai B’rith Club.
Dahl’s dark side is on display in his short story collection, Tales of the Unexpected, which I read as a teen (twice!) and loved. A more charitable take on Dahl is available at Wikipedia.
From John Lanchester’s review of Nathan Myhrvold’s massive cookbook, Modernist Cuisine:
Another thing they love is magic — and recent culinary discoveries have opened up extraordinary possibilities for the chef to serve things that the customers had never thought were possible. Foods that change temperature when you eat them, a cup of tea that is cold on one side and hot on the other, an edible menu, a “Styrofoam” beaker that turns into a bowl of ramen when the server pours hot water over it, edible clay and rocks, a pocket watch that turns into mock-turtle soup, a bar of soap covered in foam that is actually a biscuit with honey bubbles, a milkshake volcano — these are the kinds of thing with which the modernist chefs amaze their audience.
From Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory:
“Marshmallow pillows are terrific,” shouted Mr. Wonka as he dashed by. “They’ll be all the rage when I get them into the shops! No time to go in, though! No time to go in!”
Lickable Wallpaper for Nurseries, it said on the next door.
“Lovely stuff, lickable wallpaper!” cried Mr. Wonka, rushing past. “It has pictures of fruits on it — bananas, apples, oranges, grapes, pineapples, strawberries, and snozzberries…”
“Snozzberries?” said Mike Teevee. “Don’t interrupt!” said Mr. Wonka. “The wallpaper has all these pictures of all these fruits printed on it, and when you lick the picture of the banana, it tastes of banana. When you lick a strawberry, it tastes of strawberry. And when you lick a snozzberry, it tastes just exactly like a snozzberry…”
“But what does a snozzberry taste like?”
“You’re mumbling again,” said Mr. Wonka. “Speak louder next time. On we go. Hurry up!”
Hot Ice Cream for Cold Days, it said on the next door.
“Extremely useful in the winter,” said Mr. Wonka, rushing on. “Hot ice cream warms you up no end in freezing weather. I also make hot ice cubes for putting in hot drinks. Hot ice cubes make hot drinks hotter.”
In stop motion animation, Wes Anderson has found the perfect medium for telling his special brand of precise yet fanciful tales. I won’t go so far as to say that it’s his best film — Rushmore will be difficult to dislodge from its perch — but there are some pretty special moments in Fantastic Mr. Fox.
While the film deviates from Roald Dahl’s book quite a bit — only the middle third is straight from the book — the story holds true to the sense of playful mischieviousness evident in Dahl’s books for children. (I especially liked the drugged blueberry bit that Anderson purloined from Danny, the Champion of the World, my favorite Dahl story.) I can’t say for sure whether or not the movie is good for kids, but the two nine-year-old boys sitting next to me in the theater loved it…although they also loved the Tooth Fairy and the Alvin and the Chimpmunks: the Squeakquel trailers, so YMMV.