Ever Notice In The Movies ...


In the movie "Contact," Jodie Foster says, "There are 400 billion stars out there, just in our galaxy alone. If just one out of a million of those had planets, and just one in a million of those had life, and just one out of a million of those had intelligent life, there would be literally millions of civilizations out there."

Afraid not, Jodie. If there are 400 billion stars out there, and one out of a million of those has planets, and one out of a million of those has life, and one out of a million of those has intelligent life, then the chances of there being intelligent life here on Earth are actually a million to one. We'd better start looking!

Check out our Numeracy Page for the Mathemagician's explanation.

Shameless Copying

Here's a letter I received from Petra in Germany. I enjoyed it so much I thought you might all like to read it.

"You know the TV-series "Manimal"? (Started in 1982). About this professor Jonathan Chase (Simon McCorkindale) who can change into nearly every animal he wants to? (Well, I love this kind of story..)

"In one episode, the story is about a young girl found and caught by wolf hunters. She had lived with a wolf pack since she was about 4 years old. The prof and his friends try to communicate with her and soon she shows them - with action figures and a small toy boat - how her family was killed in an explosion on a river and how she joined the wolf pack afterwards. As the story continues they meet some people trying to kill the girl for no obvious reason. Their leader soon turns out to be a relative of her who wants to inherit her parents' money. Of course the prof stops him and saves the girl.

"Nice story, nice performance. No bloopers I found.

"Some time after this series was canceled in Germany, a new one started: "Thunder in Paradise" (with Hulk Hogan). I watched a few episodes and one day there was this one:

"A young boy was found and caught by wolf hunters. He had lived...

"I think you can imagine what I want to say. It was the same story, ABSOLUTELY the same story, including the part with the toy boat and the action figures and nearly every other scene, too. Even the kids' behaviour during both episodes was the same, "what" they were saying and "how" they were saying it! There were only minor differences (the girl was a boy and he was saved in a different way - it might have been too obvious to let Hulk Hogan change into some kind of animal to save the boy (grin), but the kid was also i.e. meant to die in a wooden case thrown in the sea...

"It was an exact copy of the "Manimal" episode. Unfortunately both series aren't running here any more, so I don't know the episodes' names.

"Since "Manimal" had started about 10 years before "Thunder in Paradise", the writers of "Thunder" must have copied the story. I don't think it's such a big crime to do that (heck, EVERYONE does it), but it IS a crime to do it so OBVIOUSLY!

"Don't you agree? :)"

Yes, Petra, I agree. Although this is a really blatant example, I've also noticed lots of copying across TV shows. Often the plot of an episode of "Babylon 5" would show up on "Deep Space Nine" a few weeks later. And have you noticed how often all sitcoms will have the same topic in the same week? Coincidence? No, lack of creativity.

I got a later update on this story from Jackie Stewart, who writes:

"Years ago I was actually a fan of Manimal... so I watched that wolf girl episode. I was surprised to see it again about three years later.... this time on "The Wizard" an equally short-lived show starring the late great little person David Rappaport. Now I have learned from you that there is yet another recurrence of this same script as an episode of the "Thunder in Paradise" Hulk Hogan show. Whoever that writer is, that story is a curse upon ratings."

General Rules about Computers in the Movies

(This is a list we found tacked on a tree, and since it had apparently been there over the winter, we had some difficulty reading it.)

Vanishing Point

The case of the vanishing cops! In the 1971 movie "Vanishing Point," with Barry Newman, he is an ex-racer driving cars from state to state. He is driving a six pack Baracuda and every cop is chasing him,yet in one scene he is on the road all alone and puts on his turn signal to change lanes!

Blank Check

In the movie "Blank Check", Brian Bonsall asks his computer how long it will take $11 to become $1,000,000 at 3.45% interest. The computer works for a few seconds, and spins up the number 342,506 years.

This is a good example of innumeracy in the movies. The actual time it would take is 337 years, which is still much longer than the kid could possibly wait. So the movie is not even close. Doesn't anyone ever check these things?

To see how you could have quickly estimated that 337 years (you would have gotten 500 years, still a lot closer than the movie), check out our tNumeracy Page.

The Running Man

At the beginning of the movie, the Arnie character gets himself in trouble by refusing to kill civilians, saying, "I will not kill innocent people." At the end of the movie, a TAPE of this event is shown. On the tape, Arnie says, "I will not kill innocent human beings."

What, they had to shoot it again live for the TAPE version?!!

Jurassic Park

Did you notice the kid glancing at the computer screen, which was showing a GUI that looked a lot like an X-Window system, and saying, "Hey, I know this, it's a Unix system!" Of course, X-Window runs on many different systems, and is designed to make them all look the same.

As if that wasn't bad enough, she then starts opening windows, clicking on maps, and all sorts of other GUI things. We all know that Unix is a command line system with arcane commands like grep. Heck, if I had suddenly been confronted with a Unix system, I would just click into a Bourne shell, su to the root, do a ps -ef, then probably kill -9 on the bad processes.


Proving again that there are no actual computer people involved in Hollywood movies, one of the engineers in this movie holds a computer chip up to a magnifying glass and says to his boss, Michael Douglas, "Look, there's a bug."

By the way, the 1983 movie, "This Girl For Hire", did it first. The heroine holds microchips up to the light to find out which ones are blank and which one contains the video game code.

But if there are no computer people, where do all those great special effects, like the silly VR scene at the end of Disclosure, come from?

Godfather III

A newspaper article is shown on the screen. The title is "Immobiliare Takeover Appears Likely, Stock Soars" by "Barbara Law, Staff Reporter."

The first and second sentences of the article are:
"Enter the Procedure commands exactly as they are shown below. Spelling errors, leading, trailing, or unnecessary blanks are guaranteed to cause problems."

Really! Check out the movie if you don't believe us! Doesn't Hollywood know we all have VCRs these days?

Earth: The Final Conflict

Just how dumb are these aliens, anyway? They are paranoid and careful enough to make everyone who deals with them have implants, which ensure cooperation. But the doctor who works for them and puts the implants into other people's heads doesn't have an implant of her own! Duh...

In the same series, we have the case of the multi-billionaire who decides to go undercover and become a spy. What are his qualifications? Well, he's very old (too old to climb buildings, etc), very rich, and extremely identifiable... Didn't he ever think of hiring someone more qualified for the role?

Time Cop

We loved the movie. Part of the premise was, if a time-traveller changed the past, that change affected the present and everyone, except the traveller himself, would forget the old past. On the TV series, however, if someone changes the past, guess what happens!? Well, nothing much actually. Books and newspaper articles change, but people's memories don't. This destroys the whole science-fiction premise, and turns it into just another action show.

From the same episode, they have a history 'expert' who has studied Jack the Ripper in enough detail to have figured out who he probably was. When asked if anything significant happened on a certain date in Victorian England, he remembers several things, but forgets about Jack the Ripper until he looks up the date on his computer.

Another thing we noticed in "Victorian England," was that they apparently didn't have the budget to hire any English actors! Various people tried to fake English accents, without much success.

If you have any movie bloopers or TV oddities, write to Stewart.

Some quick trivia

The plot-twist-filled movie "Blackmail" is based on the short story "Passing for Love".

The (unlikely) name of the book on which the two movies "Pretty Poison" are based is "She Let Him Continue".

The original title of the song "Duelling Banjos" was "Feudin' Banjos". So, why did they bother to change it?

The essence of science: Ask an impertinent question, and you are on the way to a pertinent answer.
Jacob Bronowski, 1973

- Check out some silly ads and slogans.
- Ever wonder what happens when movies are pre-empted?
- Visit a page of other questions.
- Visit a useless page.
- Return to Grannus' circle.
- Go back to the front gate.

Page maintained by Stewart of Esmerel.