Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Shock the Monkey

Yes, I'm still here. Have several posts I'm pecking on.

In the meantime I wanted to alert you to some trivia I picked up recently, and it's about something I wondered about for a long time.

One of my favorite movies from childhood - I still love it and watch it about every 2 years - is the original version of The Andromeda Strain. It's such a wonderful geeky sci-fi flick that's held up over time. Douglas Trumbull did the special effects, and his SFX almost universally have proven to be timeless.

Recently it dawned on me that the library is getting the latest versions of a lot of older movies that I have and have new "Special Features", including "the making of" documentaries. The one for The Andromeda Strain was full of great stuff.

One of the things they cover is how they make the animals look like they're dying.

Here's the scene I refer to. Go to the 1:27 mark for the rat, and 2:35 for the monkey (the monkey is especially dramatic):

Direct Link

What they did was burn candles in the room, which was airtight, until the candles went out, assuring that all the oxygen was gone. Then they'd bring them into the room as you observe on the video and lift the hatch, releasing the little bit of air from their container.

What you are watching is animals suffocate. When they'd succumb, they'd stop the cameras and a vet would run out and give the animal oxygen. All the animals were fine - other than now knowing what it's like to suffocate, of course.

The ASPCA approved this, on the basis the animals weren't hurt. Of course, they wouldn't today.

So there you have it: they made the animals look like they were dying of an airborne bug by allowing them to suffocate.

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