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UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Could 1950s marine biologists speak underwater?

By Jack Ashby, on 25 January 2012

Under the Caribbean (1954) on the Big ScreenLast week we kicked off the Grant Museum’s Humnanimals Season with one of our ever-popular film nights – Under the Caribbean (1954). Humanimals Season is all about the interactions between the lives of animals and humans, investigating human concepts in the animal world, and animals venturing into the human world. Dr Joe Cain, the stalwart presenter of GMZ film nights (and Head of UCL Science and Technology) had been insisting that we showed this 1950s underwater documentary for years.

I must admit, I hadn’t watched it, but my gut reaction was that our audience relies on us to show classic films, with a link to natural history that they will enjoy watching – many people enjoy the camp, slightly ridiculous productions like Tarzan and The Blob. “An out-dated documentary is surely a bit dry?”, I would say to Joe. He would tell me that it was ground-breaking for the genre and had heaps of never-before seen footage. “Hmmm”, I would say, “it’s just doesn’t sound silly enough”.

Boy, was I wrong. I had a long train ride to Glasgow last term so I finally got round to sitting and watching it. Oscar-winning documentary it may be, but Joe never mentioned just how ridiculous it is. I described it as a cross-between Monty Python and Eurotrash – particularly the biologists’ pretense that they can speak underwater. It’s very convincing.

The wonderful UCL Events Blog reviewed the event – I can’t say it better than them. The post begins…

‘Under the Caribbean’ On The Big Screen, Film Night at The Grant Museum

By James Heather, on 25 January 2012

It’s only January, and I think I’ve met my Speedo quota for the year already. I’ve not been hanging out at the Lido, but watching the latest movie aired on the Big Screen at UCL, with Dr Joe Cain and the Grant Museum of Zoology.

Cramming into a lecture theatre after hours doesn’t feel so surreal this time around, but this month’s film certainly does. Under the Caribbean (or Unternehmen Xarifa in its original German) made a splash when it aired in 1954, hooking an Oscar among other accolades, for bringing dramatic underwater footage to the silver screen for perhaps the first time.

This film follows the exploits of the handsome couple of Hans and Lotte Hass. Along with a plucky crew aboard the sturdy yacht ‘Xarifa’, the Hasses sail their way from the Caribbean to the Galapagos Islands in search of sperm whales.

All sounds well and good, except that it’s completely barmy.

You can read the whole thing here.

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