Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Regarding acid...

Comments were posted under the Black Pit of Dr. M review (below), as to the general availability and use of acid. This reminded me of my friend Andrew Muchoney's learned remarks on The House on Haunted Hill, as part of one of his scholarly B-Fest recaps:

"The next film on the agenda was House on Haunted Hill, starring Vincent Price. In this film, Mr. Price invites a group of people to stay overnight at a mansion-house legendary for its tragic history of bloodshed, promising a large sum of cash for anyone who stays -- and survives -- the night. Perhaps the most remarkable feature of this moving-picture drama is the presence of an acid bath in the basement of the mansion, covered with a crude wooden trap-door. Although many persons observing the film likely noted some irregularity in accoutering a mid-Twentieth Century home with a large acid bath, few are probably educated enough to realize that such baths were commonplace comforts to North American homes of the late Nineteenth Century. Indeed, the most remarkable status-symbol of Colonial-era homes of the well-to-do North American bourgeoisie were their beautifully ornate basement acid baths, often incorporating such whimsical motifs as fish or sea-nymphs spouting gentle geysers of acid. The most famous of such acid baths, of course, is that found in the wine cellars of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, noted for its austere melding of classical architectural forms, its clean lines, and its lethal acid fumes.

Indeed, archaeologists have recently speculated that the fabulous Roman baths constructed by the Roman Emperor Caracalla in the early Third Century, A.D., were not filled with water at all but rather with thousands of gallons of acid; according to such experts, this would help explain the severe erosion sustained by the structure over the last two-thousand years or so, as well as the increasing depopulation which caused Rome to rely ever more heavily on foreign mercenaries to defend its extensive borders. In any event, acid baths became less and less prominent over time, probably due to a few careless persons ruining a generally beneficial resource. At last, rising acid bath-related insurance costs, and a corollary impetus toward consumer safety, caused the very few acid baths remaining in the 1960s to be drained and filled with murky piranha-infested water.

I believe that I have elaborated enough on House on Haunted Hill; therefore, I shall now turn to the next feature of the evening...."

These, and other erudite observations on a variety of topics may be found here. I strongly recommend this article.


At 8:04 AM, Anonymous the rev. d.d. said...

Bizarrely enough, I just read that article for the first time earlier this week! *insert spooky organ cue*
Definitely a fun read, especially if you ever took philosopy classes in college. I loved the part about the Saucer Men, and their film being the first documented proof of the enmity between aliens from outer space and cattle.

At 8:56 AM, Blogger Henry Brennan said...

That's interesting, Ken - I'm now thinking about installing an acid bath in my own home. I think this would seriously cut down on my grocery bill. By the way, in "House on Haunted Hill" it was a good thing those guys were wearing acid-proof pants and shoes when Watson Pritchard dumped that dead rat into the vat (nice splash, there).

At 10:21 AM, Blogger Ken Begg said...

Or that the emerging skeleton doesn't drip acid all over everybody, or that the strings (oops, sorry) manipulating the skeleton are acid-proof, or...

Andrew's piece is full of hilarious stuff (the last line of his House on Haunted Hill review being one of them), the alien / cattle thing being one of them. I'm also partial to the Freudian analysis of Dracula 1972's clumsy vampires.


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