Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want To Get Off! (Joe Stalin Edition)
Here's the ultimate tie-in to King Kong:
The Scotsman–a paper named after a peoples whose national sports include tossing telephone poles, lifting hernia-inducing blocks of stone, and going into beserker-rages at international sporting events–reports that Stalin had big big plans to create an army of ape-men whou would be "invincible…insensitive to pain, resistant and indifferent about the quality of food they eat." To this end, he enlisted Ilya Ivanov, Russia's top animal breeder in the 1920s.
As with most Soviet science experiments, this one ended badly:
Mr Ivanov's experiments, unsurprisingly from what we now know, were a total failure. He returned to the Soviet Union, only to see experiments in Georgia to use monkey sperm in human volunteers similarly fail.
A final attempt to persuade a Cuban heiress to lend some of her monkeys for further experiments reached American ears, with the New York Times reporting on the story, and she dropped the idea amid the uproar.
Mr Ivanov was now in disgrace. His were not the only experiments going wrong: [Stalin's] plan to collectivise farms ended in the 1932 famine in which at least four million died.
For his expensive failure, he was sentenced to five years' jail, which was later commuted to five years' exile in the Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan in 1931. A year later he died, reportedly after falling sick while standing on a freezing railway platform.
Whole thing here.
Who mourns for Gorilla Grodd, the Flash's mortal enemy?
And for Stalin's human victims? In Reason, Charles Paul Freund reviewed Martin Amis's searing indictment of the left's dismissal of Soviet butchery, Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million. As we ponder the insanity of Stalin, Freund manages to eke out bitter, existentialist laugh:
Some of the things Stalin did can indeed force you to laugh. For example, he'd frequently screen a Hollywood film for himself, commanding the presence of a translator. For years, Stalin watched his favorite movies—especially Tarzan epics—as the translator babbled away. Yet in all that time, the translator was so afraid of saying anything that might displease Stalin that he avoided translating anything. Instead, he limited himself to describing the visual action that Stalin could see for himself.
How long do you suppose it was before Stalin caught on? Yet he let it continue. Perhaps even he was laughing.
The whole review, which evokes "'the whispering of the stars,' a last breath frozen in midair, the icy cloud breaking audibly on the frozen ground" of a Siberian gulag, is here.