APF Chapter 3: Discworld Annotations [Prev Page] [Index] [Next Page]

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Moving Pictures

Annotations | Information | Quotes

This one has uncountable references to classic Hollywood movies and anecdotes.

- Terry actually meant for Gaspode to die at the end of the book, but his editors/beta-readers made him reconsider.

- People have noticed that the two femmes fatale of this novel are called Ginger and Ruby, both names signifying a red colour. Terry Pratchett says that he did not intend this as a reference to Gone with the Wind's Scarlett.

- Instead, Ruby got her name because like all trolls she needed a mineral name. Ginger got her name because Terry wanted to use the Fred Astaire quote (see a few annotations further down) about her partner, and so Ginger was an obvious choice for the leading lady's name.

- [p. 9/7] "This is space. It's sometimes called the final frontier."

See the annotation for p. 221/191 of The Colour of Magic .

- [p. 15/12] "'Looking,' it said [...] 'f'r a word. Tip of my tongue.'"

The word is 'Eureka'. See the annotation for p. 139/101 of Small Gods.

- [p. 18/14] "'I thought they were trying to cure the philosopher's stones, or somethin',' said the Archchancellor."

That should be: trying to find the Philosopher's Stone: the quest of all alchemists is to discover a substance that will turn all base metals into gold.

- [p. 19/15] Archchancellor Ridcully's wizard name is 'Ridcully the Brown'.

In Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings there's a (relatively) minor wizard called 'Radagast the Brown', who was also very well in tune with nature, and definitely of the "roams-the-high-forest-with-every-beast-his-brother" type. Talked to the birds, too.

- [p. 22/18] "And then a voice said: 'That's all, folks.'"

Anybody out there who has never seen Porky Pig use this phrase to end one of those classic Looney Tunes animated cartoons?

- [p. 23/19] "They often didn't notice them, or thought they were walruses."

Sometimes people send me annotations that are so beautifully outrageous that I simply have to include them. For instance, the walruses may be connected to the boiling mercury mentioned earlier in the text, via the chain: boiling mercury -> mad hatters -> Lewis Carroll -> walrus.

Isn't it a beauty?

- [p. 34/28] "'[...] what is the name of the outer-dimensional monster whose distinctive cry is "Yerwhatyerwhatyerwhat"'?"

I had been getting some conflicting stories concerning this annotation, so I hope that this time I have managed to get it right.

Apparently "Yer what?" is a common London phrase, used when you didn't catch what someone said, or you want them to repeat it because you can't believe it.

The longer form is more typically associated with soccer fans, as part of a chant, usually made in response to an opposing supporter army's war cries in an attempt to imply a certain lack of volume (and hence numbers) to the other side's support:

Yerwhat (pause)
Yerwhat (pause)
Yerwhatyerwhatyerwhat.

- [p. 34/28] "'Yob Soddoth,' said Ponder promptly."

Yob Soddoth should be pronounced: "Yob sod off". 'Sod off' is a British form of 'bugger off', and 'yob' is an old term now almost entirely synonymous to the phrase "English football supporter" (apparently Mark Twain once said: "they are not fit to be called boys, they should be called yobs"). The word probably derives from 'back-chat' -- a 19th century London thieves' argot in which words were turned round in order to confuse police eavesdroppers. Not so far removed from Polari, in fact (see the Words From The Master section in Chapter 5).

At the same time it is also a pun on H. P. Lovecraft's 'Yog-Sothoth', one of the chief supernatural nasties in the Cthulhu mythos (see especially the novelette The Dunwich Horror and the novel The Lurker at the Threshold).

Finally, Ponder and Victor are studying the Necrotelicomnicom in this scene. See the annotation for p. 111/109 of Equal Rites for more information on the Lovecraft connection there.

- [p. 34/28] "Tshup Aklathep, Infernal Star Toad with A Million Young"

Another one of Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos nasties is 'Shub-Niggurath', The Goat with a Thousand Young. ('The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young' is the full, but less common, title).

- [p. 35/29] Victor Tugelbend's university career, with his uncle's will and all that, shows parallels to similar situations described in Roger Zelazny's (highly recommended) science fiction novel Doorways in the Sand, and in Richard Gordon's 'Doctor' series of medical comedy books/movies (Doctor in the House, Doctor in Love, Doctor at Sea, etc.)

I had noticed the Zelazny parallel when I first read Moving Pictures, but thought the reference was too unlikely and too obscure to warrant inclusion. Since then two other people have pointed it out to me...

Terry later remarked, in response to someone mentioning the Doctor in the House movie on the net: "I remember that film -- the student in question was played by Kenneth More. All he had to do, though, was fail -- the people who drew up the will involving Victor thought they were cleverer than that. Maybe they'd seen the film..."

- [p. 41/34] Movie producer Thomas Silverfish is directly modelled on movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn, whose real name was Samuel Gelbfisch, and who spent a short time as Samuel Goldfish before changing his name a second time to Goldwyn.

Goldwyn was responsible for a whole sequence of malapropisms known collectively as Goldwynisms, some of which are so well known now as to have passed into the common parlance. A number of Goldwyn quips are repeated (in one form or another) by Silverfish throughout the book ("you'll never work in this town again", "include me out", "a verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's printed on", etc.).

- [p. 50/41] "No-one would have believed, in the final years of the Century of the Fruitbat, that Discworld affairs were being watched keenly and impatiently by intelligences greater than Man's, or at least much nastier; that their affairs were being scrutinised and studied as a man with a three-day appetite might study the All-You-Can-Gobble-For-A-Dollar menu outside Harga's House of Ribs..."

This paragraph is a word-by-word parody of H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds, which begins with:

"No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water."

- [p. 56/47] "'Can't sing. Can't dance. Can handle a sword a little.'"

Refers to the quip: "Can't act. Can't sing. Can dance a little.", made about Fred Astaire, reputedly by a studio-executive at RKO after Astaire's first screen test.

When somebody once asked Astaire's producer about the story, however, he was told that it was complete and obvious nonsense, since Fred Astaire already was a established major Broadway star at the time.

- [p. 58/48] "'This is Gaffer Bird,' beamed Silverfish."

'Gaffer' not only means 'old man', but a gaffer is also the head electrician in a film production unit, charged principally with taking care of the lighting. Gaffer's tape is a less sticky form of duct tape, used universally in the theatre, concert and movie worlds to keep people from stumbling over cables.

If you enjoy annoying people, go over to the Kate Bush newsgroup rec.music.gaffa, and ask there if her song 'Suspended in Gaffa' refers to Gaffer's tape or not.

- [p. 73/61] "'Or Rock. Rock's a nice name.'"

Presumably in reference to late actor Rock Hudson, with 'Flint' punning on Errol Flynn.

- [p. 75/62] "[...] Victor fights the dreaded Balgrog".

In Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings you can find a very nasty monster called a Balrog.

- [p. 81/67] Ginger's real name is Theda Withel, which might be a very oblique reference to Theda Bara, famous movie star of the 1910s, a kind of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, avant la lettre ('Theda Bara' is an anagram of 'Arab Death'!). Her portrayal of evil women in movies like When a Woman Sins and The She Devil caused the current meaning of the word 'vamp' to be added to the English language.

Just as Dibbler later describes Ginger to Bezam Planter as "the daughter of a Klatchian pirate and his wild, headstrong captive", so does a studio biography describe Theda Bara as born in the Sahara to a French artiste and his Egyptian concubine. But in fact, Theda's father was a Cincinnati tailor.

- [p. 82/69] The resograph built by Riktor the Tinkerer.

Terry says: "The reality meter in Moving Pictures is loosely based on a Han dynasty (2nd Century AD) seismograph; a pendulum inside the vase moves and causes one of eight dragons to spit a ball in the direction of the tremor."

Also, the name 'Riktor' refers to our 'Richter', of the earthquake scale fame.

- [p. 86/71] "And perhaps even a few elves, the most elusive of Discworld races."

Some people were wondering if this doesn't contradict the information we get about Elves later, in Lords and Ladies, such as that they can only enter our World during Circle Time -- besides, Elves would hardly be the type of beings to become actors, one should think.

The answer can be found in Lords and Ladies as well, however, on p. 229/165:

Ridcully: "Elves? Everyone knows elves don't exist any more. Not proper elves. I mean, there's a few folk who say they're elves --"

Granny Weatherwax: "Oh, yeah. Elvish ancestry. Elves and humans breed all right, as if that's anything to be proud of. But you just get a race o' skinny types with pointy ears and a tendency to giggle and burn easily in sunshine. I ain't talking about them. There's no harm in them. I'm talking about real wild elves, what we ain't seen here for --"

- [p. 88/73] "'We just call it the 'Hiho' song. That's all it was. Hihohiho. Hihohiho.'"

The best-known song in Walt Disney's 1937 full length animation movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is sung by the seven dwarfs and starts:

Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho
It's off to work we go

+ [p. 76] "They were the only witnesses to the manic figure which splashed down the dripping street, pirouetted through the puddles, [...]"

As Nobby's subsequent comment ("Singing in the rain like that.") already indicates, Holy Wood magic is making Dibbler reenact one of the ost famous movie scenes of all time: Gene Kelly dancing and singing through the deserted city streets in Singin' in the Rain. The 'DUMdi-dum-dum, dumdi-dumdi-DUM-DUM' rhythm also fits the song exactly.

- [p. 97/80] The Boke Of The Film

Traditional (if somewhat archaic by now) subtitle for movie novelisations. The related phrase "The Book of the Series" is still alive and well, mostly in the context of documentaries.

- [p. 97/80] "This is the Chroncal of the Keeprs of the ParaMountain [...]"

Another fleeting reference to the movie company Paramount.

- [p. 101/84] "'And my daughter Calliope plays the organ really nice, [...]'"

Calliope is not only the name of the Muse of Epic Poetry, but a calliope is also a large, organ-like musical instrument consisting of whistles operated by steam. There exists a very funny Donald Duck story, called 'Land of the Totem Poles' (written by the one and only Carl Barks), in which Donald somehow manages to become a travelling calliope salesman. Highly recommended.

- [p. 103/86] "The sharp runes spelled out The Blue Lias. It was a troll bar."

'Lias' is a blue limestone rock found in the south-west of England.

- [p. 105/87] "'Cos he was her troll and he done her wrong.'"

Ruby's song 'Amber and Jasper' is the Discworld version of the folk song 'Frankie and Johnny':

Frankie and Johnny were lovers,
Oh, Lordie how they could love!
They swore to be true to each other,
Just as true as the stars above,
He was her man, but he done her wrong.

- [p. 111/93] Ruby's song: "Vunce again I am fallink in luf / Vy iss it I now am a blue colour? / Vot is the action I should take this time / I can't help it. Hiya, big boy."

In the 1930 movie Blue Angel Marlene Dietrich plays Lola-Lola, the cabaret entertainer who ruins the life of the stuffy professor who falls in love with her. In the movie, Marlene performs a song called 'Falling in Love':

Falling in love again
Why am I so blue?
What am I to do?
I can't help it.

Marlene Dietrich sang this with her characteristic German accent, hence the "fallink" and "vy" in the parody.

The line "Hiya, big boy" is typically associated with Mae West, though I have not been able to find out if it was ever used in any specific movie.

- [p. 115/95] "[...] Victor couldn't understand a word."

The duck's incomprehensibility brings to mind the animated incarnation of Donald Duck. In fact, all of the Holy Wood animals have begun to act a bit like famous cartoon animals; for instance the cat and the mouse acting out a Tom & Jerry scene (although the speech impediment of the cat is more reminiscent of Sylvester).

- [p. 115/95] "'What's up, Duck?' said the rabbit."

One of Bugs Bunny's catch phrases: "What's up, doc?". (There is in fact a cartoon where Bugs actually says "What's up, duck?" to Daffy Duck...)

- [p. 147/123] "'Rev Counter for Use in Ecclesiastical Areas'"

'Rev' is short for both 'Reverend' and for 'revolutions'. On the one hand it stands to reason that in Ecclesiastical areas you'll find lots of clergymen, which you may want to count. On the other hand the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes contains the words used by the Byrds in their song 'Turn! Turn! Turn!', so perhaps Riktor's counter was indeed intended to count actual revolutions after all.

- [p. 149/124] "'Go, Sow, Thank You Doe.'"

The usual slang for a one-night stand or a quickie at the local brothel is "Wham, Bam, thank you, Ma'am."

- [p. 151/126] "'A rock on the head may be quite sentimental, [...], but diamonds are a girl's best friend.'"

In the 1949 movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Marilyn Monroe sings:

A kiss on the hand may be quite continental
But diamonds are a girl's best friend

- [p. 154/129] "'What's it called?' 'Laddie,' said the handler."

Laddie is the Discworld counterpart to our world's famous movie collie, Lassie.

In the movie Son of Lassie the protagonist was in fact called Laddie, but was played by Pal, the dog who had previously played Lassie in the original movie Lassie Come Home. Interestingly enough, Pal had a real-life son who was called Laddie, but this Laddie was only used for stunt and distance shots since he wasn't as pretty as his brother, who eventually got to play Lassie in the CBS TV show, and who was the only dog ever in the role to actually be called Lassie, or rather, Lassie Jr.

Lassie was always played by a male dog, mainly because a bitch tends to go into heat, during which time she becomes unphotogenic because of severe shedding. It also gets bothersome to have to deal with the constant disruptions on the set caused by various male dogs in the area wanting to, um, propose to her.

Finally, two odd little coincidences. First, the Lassie dogs often had small dogs as companions. Second, Pal/Lassie's trainer was a man by the name of Rudd Weatherwax...

- [p. 158/132] Film studio names.

Untied Alchemists is United Artists. Fir Wood Studios is Pinewood Studios. Microlithic Pictures is Paramount (tiny rock vs. big mountain), and Century Of The Fruitbat is Twentieth Century Fox. Terry says: "I've already gone electronically hoarse explaining that Floating Bladder Productions was just picked out of the air [...]"

- [p. 159/132] "'[...] we're doing one about going to see a wizard. Something about following a yellow sick toad,' [...]"

That's a yellow brick road, and the reference is of course to The Wizard of Oz.

Terry's pun also reminded a correspondent of an old joke about an Oz frog with a bright yellow penis who hops up to a man and says: "I'm looking for the wizard to help me with my 'problem'." The man answers: "No problem, just follow this road until you get to the emerald city." The frog thanks him and hops off along the road. Shortly afterwards, Dorothy and Toto come along and she also asks the man where she can find the wizard, and then he says: "Just follow the yellow dick toad".

Well, I thought it was funny.

- [p. 165/137] "It was about a young ape who is abandoned in the big city and grows up being able to speak the language of humans."

The Librarian's script is of course a reversal of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan story. Since Tarzan is supposed to be one of those five or so cultural icons that are so truly universal that everybody in the world is familiar with them, I expect this may well turn out to be the APF's Most Unnecessary Annotation of all...

- [p. 172/143] "'It sounded like 'I want to be a lawn', I thought?'"

Ginger echoes movie star Greta Garbo's famous quote: "I want to be alone".

Garbo later claimed, by the way, that what she had actually said at the time was "I want to be let alone", which is of course not quite the same thing at all...

- [p. 174/145] The Necrotelicomnicom.

On the Discworld the Necrotelicomnicom (see also the entry for p. 111/109 of Equal Rites ) was written by the Klatchian necromancer Achmed the Mad (although he preferred to be called Achmed the I Just Get These Headaches). In real life, horror author H. P. Lovecraft assures us that the Necronomicon was written by the mad Arab Abdul al-Hazred.

- [p. 178/148] "'It's fifteen hundred miles to Ankh-Morpork,' he said. 'We've got three hundred and sixty elephants, fifty carts of forage, the monsoon's about to break and we're wearing... we're wearing... sort of things, like glass, only dark... dark glass things on our eyes...'"

Paraphrases a well-known quote from the Blues Brothers movie, fifteen minutes before the end, just as the famous chase scene is about to begin and Jake and Elwood are sitting in their car:

Elwood: "It's a hundred and six miles to Chicago, we've got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses"
Jake: "Hit it."

- [p. 197/164] "'In a word -- im-possible!' 'That's two words,' said Dibbler."

Another Goldwynism: "I can tell you in two words: im-possible."

- [p. 206/171] "'If you cut me, do I not bleed?'" said Rock.

Paraphrased from Shylock's famous monologue in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, act 3, scene 1: "If you prick us, do we not bleed?"

- [p. 221/184] "'Just one picture had all that effect?'"

Dibbler and Gaffer don't put a name to it, but they are discussing the theory of subliminal messages here. It's one of those theories that somehow manages to sound so 'right' you just want it to be true. Studies have been done, however, but none has ever shown tricks like subliminal advertising to actually have any measurable effect on an audience.

- [p. 223/186] "'It always starts off with this mountain --'"

Ginger's dream describes the characteristic 'logo' scenes of all the major movie companies. The mountain is from Paramount ("there are stars around it"), and after that we get Columbia ("a woman holding a torch over her head"), 20th Century Fox ("a lot of lights"), and MGM ("this roar, like a lion or tiger").

- [p. 229/191] "'And Howondaland Smith, Balgrog Hunter, practic'ly eats the dark for his tea,' said Gaspode."

Smith's name is derived from Indiana Jones, and for the explanation about 'Balgrog' see the annotation for p. 75/62.

'Howondaland' also brings to mind Gondwanaland, a name for the southern continents mashed together by continental drift.

- [p. 245/204] "'You find nice place to indulge in bit of 'What is the health of your parent?' [...]'"

"How's your father" is a British euphemism for "sexual intercourse", made popular by the Carry On series of films.

- [p. 282/235] "Twopence more and up goes the donkey!"

Terry explains: "[...] In Moving Pictures and Reaper Man a lot of use is indeed made of, god help me, Victorian street sayings that were the equivalent of 'sez you'. "Tuppence more and up goes the donkey", a favourite saying of Windle Poons, comes from the parties of strolling acrobats who'd carry their props on a donkey. They'd make a human pyramid and collectors would go around with the hat declaring that "tuppence more and up goes the donkey" as well. But the donkey never got elevated because, of course, the collectors always needed "tuppence more"."

"It belongs in the same general category of promise as 'Free Beer Tomorrow'."

- [p. 297/249] The climactic scene of the novel is not only a King Kong reversal spoof. Terry says the 50 ft. woman also refers to the protagonist from the 1958 movie Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman (recently and redundantly remade with Daryl Hannah in the title role -- if there's one movie that did not need to be remade it was this one, trust me).

- [p. 304/254] "'If it bleeds, we can kill it!'"

This line is from the 1987 movie Predator, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. 'It' in this case was a green-blooded, invisible alien hunter.

- [p. 305/255] "YOU BELONG DEAD, he said."

This is based on Boris Karloff's final words in the 1935 movie Bride of Frankenstein: "We belong dead".

- [p. 305/255] "'Careful,' said the Dean. 'That is not dead which can eternal lie.'"

This is from a famous H. P. Lovecraft quote (which was also used by metal groups Iron Maiden (on the Live After Death album cover) and Metallica (in the song 'The Thing That Should Not Be')):

That is not dead which can eternal lie
And with strange aeons even death may die

It is supposed to be a quote from Abdul al-Hazred's Necronomicon (see annotation for p. 174/145), and Lovecraft uses the verse in several stories, particularly in The Call of Cthulhu and The Nameless City.

In reality, I'm told the quote originated with the Victorian decadent poet Algernon Charles Swinburne, but I have no definite reference on this.

- [p. 306/256] "''Twas beauty killed the beast,' said the Dean, who liked to say things like that."

Last line of King Kong, said under similar circumstances.

- [p. 310/259] "[...] everyone has this way of remembering even things that happened to their ancestors, I mean, it's like there's this great big pool of memory and we're linked up to it [...]"

This is Carl Jung's theory of the collective unconscious.

- [p. 312/261] "'A fine mess you got me into.'"

See the annotation for p. 73/65 of The Colour of Magic .

- [p. 319/266] Detritus hitting the gong in the underground theatre refers to the Rank Organisation's man-with-the-gong trademark, which Rank used at the start of each film just as Columbia used the Statue of Liberty and MGM the roaring lion.

- [p. 323/270] "'Play it again, Sham,' said Holy Wood."

The most famous line never uttered in Casablanca: "Play it again, Sam." It should perhaps be pointed out that Sham Harga is a character we already met in Mort. Terry did not just create him in order to be able to make this pun.

- [p. 324/271] "'And that includes you, Dozy!'"

One of the dwarfs in Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was called Sleepy, another was called Dopey.

- [p. 327/274] "'Cheer up,' she said. 'Tomorrow is another day.'"

The final line of Gone with the Wind.

- [p. 329/276] "'Uselessium, more like,' murmured Silverfish."

The paragraph where this quote occurs of course describes how Silverfish discovers the Discworld equivalent of Uranium. In this light, it may be interesting to recall that before he became a full-time writer Terry Pratchett worked as press officer for nuclear power stations.

- As far as the giant statue is concerned (and the running gag about it reminding everyone of their uncle Oswald or Osric etc.): the nickname 'Oscar' for the Academy Awards statuette apparently originated with the Academy Librarian (oook!), who remarked that the statue looked like her uncle Oscar. The nickname first appeared in print in a 1934 column by Hollywood columnist Sidney Skolsky, and quickly became a household word.


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