Star Trek 1.7 – What are Little Girls Made Of?

Surprise!

Some of my friends who follow this blog probably just did a double-take, because my dislike of and/or ambivalence to Star Trek in all its myriad forms is pretty well documented. But Marie’s father and brother both enjoy the series – her dad is quick to emphasize that he is only interested in the original run – and at Christmas, Daniel spotted his uncle’s latest addition to the line of Star Trek spaceship ornaments. It captured his imagination and curiosity, so I said we’d watch a little of it at some point. After all, the kid should make up his own mind.

So I picked a run of seven eight episodes, which are available to stream at CBS All Access. I picked the only one I’ve ever seen that I like, one that Marie remembers enjoying, the one that everybody in the world seems to like and which I’ve never seen, and four which seemed to have interesting guest stars. Hence Robert Bloch’s “What are Little Girls Made Of?”, which has Ted Cassidy as an android wearing one of my late Aunt Lera’s old blouses. Also, Kirk tries clobbering the android with a great big penis. If you haven’t seen the image, you can certainly Google it. I think the costume and prop guys at Paramount were seeing what they could get away with. On the strength of this episode, murder.

So I didn’t pick a very good introduction. Of the famous regulars, only Kirk, Spock, and Uhura are in this episode. Majel Barrett’s recurring character of Nurse Chapel is a principal character, because her genius scientist fiancĂ©, who has been missing for years, has resurfaced with a remarkable discovery. Much of the story is set in an underground complex that he has found, and where he has learned to build lifelike androids. The story hits on several familiar themes from the sci-fi of the age – can machines be programmed to love, do emotions make us inferior or superior, that sort of thing – and it’s a little interesting as a historical curiosity about how TV treated these themes in the 1960s. Sherry Jackson plays one of the androids. Is Captain Kirk so incredibly manly that he can smooch a robot into becoming irrational, emotional, and jealous? Of course he is.

The kid wasn’t completely taken. He thought it was pretty good, but he got a little restless and naturally he got tired of the smooching. After all, he’s seen these themes in more modern television already and you can’t expect eight year-olds to be really interested about how people fifty-five years ago saw them. He did get worried when the Ted Cassidy android started hunting Kirk, and he really does love the design of the Enterprise. Marie actually bought him a very small plastic model of the ship which snapped almost instantly despite his care. I went to eBay and got him a sturdier die-cast version from one of the eighties movies which can stand up to a little battering, but seeing the quasi-original version onscreen – these are the remastered episodes, with wholly unnecessary CGI replacements of the perfectly fine visual effects from the time it was made – made him want a great big Enterprise. He can save up his allowance for such a thing.

The House That Dripped Blood (1971)

I read about this film and decided that I’d give it a spin by myself before showing the last segment to our son. I understood that the movie, written by Robert Bloch, was comprised of four segments: three traditional horror episodes before ending with one a little more lighthearted. This is true, and I enjoyed the heck out of it, but those first three are way too frightening for our gentle son. The last one, though, was just right.

The sadly defunct Amicus studio was Hammer’s biggest rival in making horror films between 1965 and 1974. Amicus’s big specialty was the “portmanteau,” an anthology film with four segments and a framing story. In The House That Dripped Blood, a police inspector from Scotland Yard comes to investigate the disappearance of a movie star. A local sergeant and the home’s estate agent tell him three terrifying tales that took place in the same house, setting up stories that star Denholm Elliot and Joanna Dunham, Peter Cushing and Joss Ackland, and Christopher Lee and Nyree Dawn Porter. Amicus could get these big name actors in because each segment took maybe a week or ten days to film. And they’re hugely entertaining, although far too frightening for our kid at this age!

The fourth story is just right, and it has a completely terrific cast full of faces he’s seen recently. The movie star is Jon Pertwee and he buys his cursed cloak from Geoffrey Bayldon! Plus, there’s Ingrid Pitt, who he’s seen in “The Time Monster,” and Roy Evans, from “The Green Death” and “The Monster of Peladon.” The police inspector is John Bennett, from “Invasion of the Dinosaurs.” This segment was made in between Pertwee and Bayldon’s first seasons of Doctor Who and Catweazle, and of course the actors would be reunited about eight years later in Worzel Gummidge, playing the scarecrow and his creator.

…not, of course, that our kid actually recognized anybody other than Pertwee, even with a heads-up at dinner about who to look out for!

The whole movie is really entertaining, and it builds really well, with each episode more fun than the previous one. Pertwee is having a hoot as a temperamental, egotistical movie star who has nothing kind to say about the low-budget movie that’s hired him, with a former – gasp – television director in charge. The sets are too flimsy, the costumes are too new, and horror films are no good anymore anyway. This “new fellow” they’ve got playing Dracula these days isn’t a patch on Bela Lugosi.

The movie star buys his own cloak for thirteen shillings from a strange costumier to bring a little authenticity to this silly movie – it’s called Curse of the Bloodsuckers – and then things start getting a little weird. The story builds to an amusing twist, and the police inspector goes to this blasted cottage to see what he can find there.

That’s where I left it. I did want our son to get a good night’s sleep! But should you, dear reader, investigate this house for yourself, do continue on and see what comes next. Pleasant dreams!