On November 19th, From Stone to Screen shared with the world (okay, Vancouver…okay, fine, UBC…okay…fine…the CNERS department and a couple of innocent bystanders) a film, NAY, an EXPERIENCE which can be described only as the finest 1955 Roman-themed movie/musical/synchronized swimming extravaganza humanity has ever known. There was romance, there was violence, there was LUNGING—and no shortage of it!
As you can see, this is obviously one of the greatest (and worst, but mostly greatest) films of all time. If you’re unfamiliar with Jupiter’s Darling, here’s the synopsis from IMDB:
Rome is on the verge of being conquered by Hannibal (Howard Keel). While Rome’s ruler, Fabius Maximus (George Sanders), plots a defense against Hannibal’s armies, Fabius’ fiancée, Amytis (Esther Williams), is curious about the fearless conqueror. Amytis travels to Hannibal’s camp just to get a look at him, but she ends up being captured. However, she is instantly smitten by the Carthaginian commander, so she tries to shift his attentions away from Rome — and to her instead.
I think you can tell where it goes from there…
The event wasn’t just about the movie, though. Attendees also joined us for a pre-movie happy hour, filled with drinks, games, and fabulous photo opportunities! First, after buying drink and raffle tickets, our guests got to pick their own Roman names at random, a huge step up from plain, boring, modern nametags with just your real name on them! I, for example, was Spuria Mollia Mus (which translates roughly to: lying, soft mouse). The best part of the nametag station was definitely seeing which cognomina people picked out, especially since the list of possible names was compiled by a certain very mischievous PhD student who, when I asked him to “You know, just pick some kind of silly ones. Maybe some beans, like Cicero,” took my suggestion very much to heart. Some highlights were Arvina (lard), Turda (it does not mean what you think it means), Lactuca (lettuce), and Naso (big-nosed—poor Ovid!).
Then, after picking up some drinks and popcorn, our guests came together to help out our little friend Hannibal, Jr. (right) by playing Pin the Tail on the Elephant. We are very pleased to report that, after a successful tail-pinning procedure (with a few mishaps…), our wee Hannibal now has a tail and is happily adjusting to an exciting new life in the CNERS reading room!
Once everyone had made an attempt to help out our elephant friend, we all had a blast taking pictures in our Roman-themed photo corner. We also learned that Prof. Susanna Braund can put on a toga faster than I can put on a t-shirt, and what’s more, she makes a fabulous Imperatrix! Before the event, I also took a stab (maybe that’s not the best word for it…) at donning the toga, but I needed a lot of help from Maude putting it on, and I don’t think we have any evidence for orators using the “ta da!” pose up on the Rostra. But hey, pulling off a bed sheet is harder than it looks!
The real star of our photo booth, though, was our canine audience member: Seamus! He decided to forego the toga in favor of a more military-style “tough guy” look. Check him out rocking that breast plate. He’s too cool to even look at the camera. He is the FSTS fashion icon we never even knew we needed.
After an hour of popcorn, drinks, tail-pinning, and costumed photo-ops, we sat down to enjoy the film. The audience had lots to say about historical accuracy (or lack thereof), our swarthy conqueror’s swimming skills (…or lack thereof), and the subtle nuance of the 1950s movie musical genre (or, you guessed it, lack thereof!).
All in all, while it is in no way difficult to lambast this movie for its extreme silliness, you have to admit that some of what they did was pretty impressive. Can you imagine trying to shoot an underwater scene with living, swimming statues and not using any CGI? Look at that setup!
Or how about being the guy who had to spray paint all those elephants! I can’t help but wonder how someone lands such a job. And how on earth do you list it on a CV? And could a MA in Ancient Culture, Religion, and Ethnicity help someone in applying for a job like this in the future? I’m asking for a friend…
The movie is so full of silly situations and wacky hijinks (dances with elephants, swimming lessons for a very nervous Hannibal, a rubber chicken, the list goes on…) and our commentators (official and unofficial!) made such excellent remarks and jokes that the audience kept laughing for almost the entire film. It was a perfect way to spend an evening during the last few weeks of term, just before we started the final push of papers and exams. Next term’s TAs, Flor and Katie, are already considering doing another Mystery History Theatre in the spring, so if you have any suggestions for movies, pre-show activities, potential sponsors, or anything else, we’d be happy to hear them! I, for one, cannot wait to see what they come up with!