Thursday, October 10, 2013

Animals on Screen and Radio

In an age when many believe that all human knowledge is becoming available online there remain two problems.  What about the information that gets overlooked?  And within this glut of information, how does one get to the heart of the information that one seeks?

Reference books are the answer.  A well-indexed reference book can bring together information on a topic in helpful and sometimes unexpected ways.

Animals on Screen and Radio is just such a reference book.  It is an annotated listing of  1373 theatrical and television films, 114 television series, 26 radio series.  While not all of these films have animals as their principal theme, the annotations look into the role of an animal or animals within the film.

The most useful feature of this reference are the two indexes - a subject index and name index.  The name index is a listing of an animal character's or an animal actor's name.  Who knew that the name Freddie could refer to a lion (in the Daktari TV series), a seal (in the Galloping Fish), or an animated frog (in Freddie as F.R.O. 7)?

It is the subject index that is most helpful.  It is both an index by animal species and by theme or subject.  In addition to the standard menagerie of the domestic and wild kingdoms, there are unexpected categories like Bacteria and Viruses, broader categories (Talking Animals, Show Animals), and supernatural categories (Aliens, Ghosts).

The themes and subjects included in the index provide a unique approach to this topic.  A very wide range of subjects are covered.  Just touching the surface there are listings for Adoptions, Advertising, Aging, Animal Rights, Children, Courtships, Cruelty, Devotion, Friendship, Gangs, etc...

Under the heading of "Reincarnation" we find Tale of Ligeia - a Roger Corman directed film of an Edgar Allan Poe short story, starring Vincent Price.  In this film a cat is possessed by a dead woman's vengeful spirit.

tomb of ligeia black cat poster spotlight
image source: Arizona Public Media website

In the category of "Tramps" we find the movie Down and Out In Beverly Hills where Nick Nolte's character befriends a dog.

DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS, Nick Nolte, Mike the dog, 1986, on all fours
image source:

Animals and Screen and Radio promotes a broad understanding of the depiction of animals in films from the early silent days up through the 1980s.  This book is useful both for the film buff and for the animal lover, introducing them to new themes and situations highlighting our animal companions and the natural world.  Nowadays through recordings, television, and the internet, a vast range of film is available to us all.  A serendipitous browse through the index and listings of this work could introduce the reader to entertaining and maybe previously unknown or forgotten films.

Animals on Screen and Radio: An Annotated Sourcebook by Ann C. Paietta and Jean L. Kauppila (Scarecrow Press, 1994).

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