Infectious Fiction #9
This is Post Nine of our list of fivefold 19 works — mostly science fiction, fantasy and horror — dealing with viruses, epidemics and pandemics.
The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat is a 1974 animated comedy directed by Robert Taylor. It is a purported sequel to the 1972 Fritz the Cat directed by Ralph Bakshi. While the original was based on Robert Crumb’s character and comics, the “sequel” basically just uses the character without any of Crumb’s stories. Nine Lives has a rating of 38% on Rotten Tomatoes, the original, 60%. You do the math.
In 2017, Crumb’s original cover art for the 1969 Fritz the Cat collection sold at auction for $717,000, the then highest sale price for any piece of American comics art.
Crumb was a pioneer in underground comix and the creator of Angelfood McSpade, Mr. Natural and the Snoid, among others. He was the driving force behind Zap Comix. In 2009, Crumb adapted in its entirety the biblical Book of Genesis, “a text so great and so strange that it lends itself readily to graphic depictions.”
The comics are where all the crazy subconscious stuff comes out. R. Crumb
Ralph Bakshi is the director of animated and live-action films. His first film was Fritz the Cat, which had the distinction of being the first animation to receive an X rating from the MPAA. He also directed the films Heavy Traffic, Wizards, American Pop, Fire and Ice, Cool World and The Lord of the Rings (LOTR). On television, he was the director and producer of the 1987 Mighty Mouse and the 1994 Cool and the Crazy.
Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings included cel animation, live-action footage and rotoscoping, a technique in which animators trace over live-action footage, frame by frame. It covered only half of the Tolkien trilogy, as the studio refused to fund the second half. Although the 1978 film was a financial success, it got mixed reviews from the critics. The film went on to become a cult classic.
What’s most important in animation is the emotions and the ideas being portrayed.
I’m a great believer of energy and emotion. R. Bakshi
It’s been reported that Peter Jackson was inspired by Bakshi’s version in making his Lord of The Rings trilogy. Undoubtedly, there are certain camera angles and shots that appear in both versions.
Regardless of the version, LOTR is full of ‘nines’. There are the nine rings given to mortal men doomed to die — who later become the nine Nazgul or Black Riders — and there are the nine walkers, the members of the Fellowship. And let’s not forget Frodo of the Nine Fingers or Bilbo’s age of 99 when he adopted Frodo.
The prime motive was the desire of a tale-teller to try his hand at a really long story that would hold the attention of readers, amuse them, delight them, and at times maybe excite them or deeply move them. J.R.R. Tolkien
Jackson also created a trilogy from Tolkien’s The Hobbit. The less said about that, the better. Jackson’s version has none of the charm of the controversial 1977 Rankin-Bass television movie or even the 1985 intellectual property infringing Russian version.
Not interested in underground comix or Middle-earth? Then try one of these novels — quite a few of them, classics — published between the years 1947 and 1981, with links mostly to Watchung Booksellers. (The first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth posts were to works published between 1982 and 2020.)
The Eyes of Darkness by Dean Koontz. 1981. A mother sets out on a quest to find out if her son died or if he is still alive. The baddie is a brain-eating virus named Wuhan-400.
Cities of the Red Night by William S Burroughs. 1981. The population of a modern inferno is afflicted with the epidemic of a radioactive virus. An opium-infused apocalyptic vision. Norman Mailer had this to say about Burroughs, “The only American novelist living today who may conceivably be possessed by genius.”
The Stand by Stephen King. 1978. A pandemic of a weaponized strain of influenza that kills almost the entire world population. The few survivors, united in groups, establish a new social system and engage in confrontation with each other. It’s hard to escape mention of this book in the press these days.
Empty World by John Christopher. 1977. When a deadly virus kills off most of the world’s population, a teenage boy tries to survive in a seemingly empty England.
Slapstick, or Lonesome No More by Kurt Vonnegut. 1976. Following the scourging of the US by two lethal diseases, the President of the US and his sister scheme to end loneliness. From the creator of The Sirens of Titan, Cat’s Cradle and Slaughter-House Five.
The Siege of Krishnapur by JG Farrell. 1973. In1857, with India on the brink of a violent and bloody mutiny, life is orderly and genteel for the British. Then the sepoys at the nearest military cantonment rise in revolt, and the British community retreats with shock into the Residency. Winner of the Booker Prize.
The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton. 1969. A team of scientists investigates the outbreak of a deadly extraterrestrial microorganism in New Mexico. One of the most popular writers in the world, Crichton’s books have been made into 13 films.
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. 1954. Robert Neville appears to be the sole survivor of a pandemic that has killed most of the human population and turned the remainder into vampires. Winner of the Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award for best vampire novel of the century. The Beamers’ meeting notes.
The Plague by Albert Camus. 1947. The story of a plague sweeping the French Algerian city of Oran. Literature!!! Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker: “The plague … exposes existing fractures in societies, in class structure and individual character; under stress, we see who we really are.”
Sources: Bookshop Blog, Electric Literature, Entertainment, Esquire, Haaretz, Headstuff, iNews, New York Times, Penguin Random House, The Star, Vanity Fair, The Virology Bookshop, Vulture, What Should I Read Next?