Sci Fi Trifles: 10 Useless but Essential Bits of Knowledge from the Worlds of Science Fiction and Fantasy

January 25, 2011

Here are ten pop-culture tidbits from our ongoing Sci Fi Trifles column that may never prove useful, but that you now wonder how you have lived so long without knowing them.

What you Didn’t Know about Fish Heads, Bill Mumy, and Bill Paxton: Back in the 70’s, the comedy singing duo of Barnes and Barnes gave us the little ditty known as “Fish Heads” that lamented the inability of the aquatic craniums’ to do such simple things as play baseball, wear sweaters, or drink cappuccino in Italian restaurants with Oriental women. But do you know what genre actors Bill Mumy and Bill Paxton had to do with this song?

Questor – The Fully-Functional Proto-Data: All Star Trek fans know Data, the android who desired to be human whom Brent Spinner brought to life through his memorable performance. But did you know that back in the 70’s Gene Rodenberry did a pilot for a TV series that delivered his first fully-functional android character?

A Dune Movie with Salvador Dali? Did you know that there were several early attempts to adapt Frank Herbert’s Dune to the big screen and that one version generated a script that would have produced a 14 hour movie and would have cast surrealist artist Salvador Dali as Emperor Shaddam IV?

Godzilla – the Original Shark-Octopus-Gorilla-Whale-Beasty: Many genre fans are grudgingly familiar with Syfy’s ridiculously titled, Saturday night critter-run-amok cheese-flicks like Sharktopus, Dinocroc vs. Supergator, and Mega Python vs. Gatoriod (all real titles). But did you know that Japanese monster-movie legend Godzilla was the first hybrid-named giant beastie?

Thomas Edison Meets Frankenstein: We all know the 1930’s film version of Frankenstein that made Boris Karloff a household name, but did you know that back in 1910 Thomas Edison Productions did the first film adaptation of the story, a twelve minute silent movie?

Clancy Brown is a Pretty Crabby Guy: Character actor Clancy Brown may best be known for his role as the tyrannical prison guard captain in The Shawshank Redemption, but he has been a familiar face in many genre productions from Buckaroo Banzai to Lost and has provided the voice from animated characters such as Lex Luthor and Mr. Freeze in Batman and other DC related cartoons. But you may not know that he has voiced a particularly crusty character in a popular Nickelodeon cartoon that has been around for over ten years.

Holy Guest Stars! Everybody Wants a Piece of Batman! The 1960’s Batman may have gained a infamy as a camp classic rendition of the character, but did you know that when the show first aired that actors were lining up to get a gig on the show?

A Ninja/Power Ranger/Shogun Warrior-style Spider-Man? Some Spider-Man fans may be familiar with the short-lived live action series that CBS did back in the late 70’s. But who knows about the Japanese live action version where the title character gets his powers from the planet Spider (where else?) and flies around on a Shogun Warrior style robot called “Marveller” and did battle with Professor Monster his Iron Cross Army?

Will the Real Major Kong Please Report to the Bomb Bay? Those who have seen Stanly Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove know that Peter Sellers played three memorable roles (Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, President Muffley, and Dr. Strangelove), but did you know that the original plans for the film called for him to play a fourth role, the B-52 captain Major Kong that Slim Pickens ultimately made famous?

Strange But True – Zombie Ants: George A. Romero may have helped turn Zombies into a pop-culture phenomena with his Dead movies, but did you know that scientists have discovered a fungus that zombifies ants?

And read even more Sci Fi Trifles at this link