Reader poll write-up: Transylvania Twist

Thank you to everyone who voted in the recent reader poll, scary movie edition to choose the next film for me to analyze! And here you have it, an analysis post about your chosen winner, the horror comedy spoof, Transylvania Twist (1989).

Reel Librarians | VHS cover of 'Transylvania Twist' (1989)

I had never seen this movie before, and I knew little beyond the fact that legendary Hollywood producer Roger Corman (The Little Shop of Horrors) was involved (he served as executive producer). What I knew about the film involving a reel librarian came from the Librarians in the Movies: An Annotated Filmography site, which stated that Angus Scrimm plays Stefen, a librarian from Transylvania who tries to collect the fines on a book that’s 200 years overdue.

When looking up the film on its page, however, I encountered some conflicting info:

  • From the film’s summary:  “The nephew of a librarian must go collect a 200 year old book, ‘The Book of Ulthar,’ that should have never been checked out by the Evil Count Orlock.”
  • From the film’s synopsis page:  “Marissa Orlock [Teri Copley] and librarian Dexter Ward [Steve Altman] go to Transylvania, she to attend the funeral and will-reading of her dead father Count Orlock and he to retrieve a 200-year overdue book titled ‘The Book of All Evil.'”

So who’s the librarian? The nephew or the uncle? Both? Another character named Stefen? Obviously, I needed to pay careful attention watching this film.


The movie doesn’t take long to jump right into the action… and into a coffin!

Reel Librarians | Reel librarian in a coffin in 'Transylvania Twist' (1989)

Dexter Ward, played by Steve Altman, shows up at the funeral for his uncle, played by Jay Robinson. But when Dexter comes up to the casket to pay his respects, his uncle pops up, very much alive — and angry!

Reel Librarians | Funeral scene in 'Transylvania Twist' (1989)

Uncle Ephram:  The book. The Book of Ulthar. You must find it. You know, it has the power to summon forth the evil one. What am I doing here?

Dexter:  You’re dead, Uncle Ephram.

Uncle Ephram:  Like hell I am! Get me out of this goddamn thing! What stupid son-of-a-bitch pronounced me dead? … You can all go home. I’m not dead. Get out of here, you miserable toadies.

Turns out, Uncle Ephram is a librarian. And next we see an exterior of the library to set up the next scene inside the library.

Reel Librarians | Library exterior from 'Transylvania Twist' (1989)

Dexter:  You’re looking much better since the funeral, Uncle Ephram. You know, I think death agrees with you.

Uncle Ephram:  Dexter, you’re the only person who seems genuinely happy that I’m still alive.

Dexter:  Remember what they said about that condition of yours. You sure it’s such a good idea to return to work this soon?

Uncle Ephram:  This library is my life. For 40 years, I’ve been responsible for the world’s largest collection of books on witchcraft and the black arts.

Dexter:  That’s what I call job security.

Reel Librarians | Library scene in 'Transylvania Twist' (1989)

Uncle Ephram delves into exposition, explaining about the Book of Ulthar and its history and importance. Ulthar was a sorcerer and cast a spell that trapped an evil spirit, and the book contains a counter-spell that would free the forces of evil. And OF COURSE this book would wind up being guarded by a librarian — who, we learn next, wasn’t really up to the task.

Uncle Ephram:  He [Ulthar] placed all his mystic incantations in one volume, which has been carefully guarded throughout the ages. Then, 20 years ago, I made a tragic error. I lent the book out.

Dexter:  Isn’t that what libraries are supposed to do?

Uncle Ephram:  Not with such a priceless volume. The culprit’s name was Meredith Orlock. His academic credentials were impeccable. A few days later, he simply vanished, with my book. For two decades, I vainly attempted to find some trace of him. Finally just recently, I unearthed a clue, a daughter, living in Los Angeles. 

Dexter alludes again to his uncle’s health condition — which led him to having an attack and being pronounced dead. That is then why his uncle gives his nephew the task to contact Orlock’s daughter, Marissa, and hunt down the book for him.

Throughout this conversation — which sets up the entire plot of the movie, such as it is — Uncle Ephram and his nephew have a “walk-and-talk” through the library. We therefore get treated to an extended tour of the library stacks, along with a peek of the back area and front counter.

Reel Librarians | Library scene in 'Transylvania Twist' (1989)

When Dexter tracks down Marissa — who happens to be filming a cheesy music video, as one does in the ’80s — he tells her that in the ’60s, her father borrowed a book from the “Arkham Public Library.” Dexter also describes his uncle as the “head librarian at Arkham.”

Wink, wink, “Arkham” is an integral setting of H.P. Lovecraft’s works, and “Arkham Asylum” features in the Batman stories.

Marissa then learns via telegram that her father has died, and she has been summoned to his castle in Transylvania. Dexter and Marissa travel together to Transylvania and are greeted at the castle doors by the butler… named Stefen (played by Angus Scrimm). So Stefen turns out to be a butler who materializes when called, but he certainly is no librarian.

Marissa and Byron then view the last will and testament, via a game-show-themed video, of Meredith Orlock, who reveals that the Book of Ulthar is hidden somewhere in the castle. Marissa inherits the castle, but her Uncle Byron vows to track down the book. The race is on — as is the remainder of the film’s plot.

Reel Librarians | Quest to find the missing Book of Ulthar in 'Transylvania Twist' (1989)

As a horror spoof, Transylvania Twist helped pave the way for later movies like the Scary Movie franchise. I’m not sure that’s a compliment. The film pokes fun at both classic and ’80s horror movies, including Young Frankenstein, The Horror of Dracula, Hellraiser, Poltergeist, The Exorcist, A Nightmare on Elm Street, among others. The film has several positive user reviews on, and I can understand why fans of cheesy horror spoofs might enjoy Transylvania Twist. I have to admit, I am not a personal fan of horror spoofs, so I did not particularly enjoy the film. I found it pretty tedious overall, the jokes and asides and acting included.

Reel Librarians | The missing Book of Ulthar in 'Transylvania Twist' (1989)

Dexter eventually finds the Book of Ulthar hidden in Orlock’s casket. It is kind of clever, structurally, how the book is introduced by a(n undead) character in a coffin, and the book itself winds up hidden in another coffin (one whose body is missing).

After having watched the entire film, here’s what we find out in the end:

  • The book is NOT 200 years overdue; it is merely 20 years overdue
  • The sole reel librarian in the film turns out to be Uncle Ephram, not the nephew nor the butler Stefen, as erroneously listed in other write-ups
  • Uncle Ephram fulfills the role of Comic Relief (by popping up undead out of a coffin, hilarious!), as well as the role of Information Provider
  • The reel librarian provides the reason — and blame? — for the entire plot of the movie
  • Uncle Ephram is not a very good librarian, as he lent out the “priceless volume” of the Book of Ulthar — causing this whole mess in the first place — and he didn’t even do a thorough background check of the person he lent it out to. Tsk, tsk.
  • The film winds up in the Class III category, with a memorable supporting reel librarian character

Transylvania Twist ends with a bang. (Literally.) And a dancing librarian. As you do.

Reel Librarians | Dancing librarian in 'Transylvania Twist' (1989)

Again, thanks to all who voted in the reader poll. I’ll be back next week with another Halloween-themed post — next time, reviewing an actual ’80s horror classic. Stay tuned!

A magical librarian

A couple of years ago, when I started this blog, I received a reader comment adding the TV movie The Color of Magic (2008) to my Master List. The TV movie is adapted from two of Terry Pratchett’s books, the 1983 work of the same name (although it is spelled in the English way, The Colour of Magic, the first in his famous Discworld series) and the second book in the series, The Light Fantastic. About a year ago, a work colleague recommended Terry Pratchett’s book Men at Arms to me, as it is another book in the series that features the librarian character. I haven’t read The Colour of Magic yet, but I did enjoy Men at Arms, especially Pratchett’s sense of humor. So when on a recent trip to the public library I spied a DVD of The Color of Magic, I checked it out.

Reel Librarians  |  DVD case of 'The Color of Magic'

I had been warned that this TV movie was bad — even my work colleague, who loves the Discworld series, said it wasn’t very good. It is overlong, as it was conceived and developed as a two-parter. It’s also very cheesy in execution and special effects. Where the tone of the books is funny and whimsical, the movie feels silly and belabored; the filmsuffers from a lack of charm that is evident in Terry Pratchett’s writing. So, yes, this was another instance in which I watched this film so YOU DON’T HAVE TO. ;)

I also did not understand the general plot — this TV movie suffers from too.much.plot. — until I read this very detailed synopsis entry of the film in the Discworld Wiki site. This entry is SO detailed, but if you are unfamiliar with the Discworld books, suffice to say that (SPOILER ALERTS):

  • The Octavo is the greatest of all spell books and very dangerous, and it lives in the cellars of Unseen University.
  • Wizards keep killing — or attempting to kill — each other, because that’s what wizards do.
  • Tim Curry plays an evil-minded wizard named Trymon (no big casting stretch there) and wants to rule with help from the Octavo’s spells.
  • One wizard, Rincewind (played by David Jason), is the worst of the wizards because he can’t remember any basic spells or even to show up on time to wizard meetings.
  • Rincewind is therefore expelled at the beginning of the movie, which wreaks havoc because his mind inadvertently contains a spell from the Octavo. (This is also why he’s the worst wizard and can’t remember any other spells.)
  • Sean Astin ambles cluelessly through the movie as Twoflower, a rich tourist who hires Rincewind as his guide. They go on adventures outside the city but eventually come back for the final showdown against Trymon.
  • The Head Librarian starts out in human form… and then gets turned into an orangutan. Yes, an orangutan. Even in primate form, he continues to be Head Librarian of Unseen University.

The Librarian is played in human form by Nicholas Tennant, and in “Orang Utan” form by actor Richard da Costa, who also plays the Luggage. (That is a very strange sentence to write.)

Books also lead other, secret lives in the L-Space in the Discworld series — and as a member of the Librarians of Time and Space, the Librarian of Unseen University has an understanding of L-Space and its powers. It is no wonder that this TV movie highlights the Octavo, as Brian Cox (!) narrates that the “greatest of all spell books, locked and chained deep in the cellars of the Unseen University, the spells imprisoned in its pages lead a secret life of their own. And Rincewind’s departure … has left them deeply troubled…”

Reel Librarians  | Screenshot from 'The Color of Magic'

The next scene involves the Head Librarian, deep in conversation with the Arch Chancellor. The Head Librarian reveals a lot of plot in this scene — and indeed, provides plot details throughout to several characters — so his primary role in this TV movie is that of an Information Provider.

Reel Librarians  | Screenshot from 'The Color of Magic'

The Librarian also reflects the fear others have of Trymon, who is power-hungry and trying to bump off any wizard in his way to the “room at the top.”

Librarian:  … I’m just glad he doesn’t want to be Head Librarian.

Trymon [who’s been eavesdropping and bursts into the room]:  Perish the thought, Horace. And I am looking for a book.

The next shot reveals the Unseen University Library in all its dusty, disorganized glory. The Librarian retrieves the book Room at the Top:  How to Succeed at Wizardry! (first chapter:  “Knife in the Back”) for Trymon and continues the theme of the previous conversation.

Librarian:  The position of Head Librarian isn’t one that really appeals to you, sir?

Trymon:  No. [smirks]

Librarian:  Oh, good.

Trymon:  It is quite possible that the next Arch Chancellor may well smile upon those who understand the importance of things being well organized.

Reel Librarians  | Screenshot from 'The Color of Magic'

A rumbling, creaking sound from the cellars — the groans of the Octavo — interrupt this conversation.

Trymon:  Is everything in order down there?

Librarian:  Oh, yes, absolutely. Everything is in alphabetical order, in fact.


The Librarian, at least while in human form, comes off as quite cowardly and sniveling. He reacts in fear, and I don’t think it’s an accident that camera angles play up his diminutive form. (For more on the Librarian character in the books, click here.)

Reel Librarians  | Screenshots from 'The Color of Magic'

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'The Color of Magic'

In fact, I grew so tired of the Librarian cowering in and around Trymon — all the while supplying him with the information he needed to move forward with his evil plan — that almost halfway through the TV movie, I shouted out, “I am SO READY for the Librarian to turn into an orangutan!” And, yes, that is another strange sentence to say out loud and write.

The movie complied, as at the end of the first half, the Librarian gets accidentally gets turned into a primate by a spell released by the Octavo. The Arch Chancellor and the other wizard rush to the library, to be greeted with the Librarian sitting on his desk. Not at his desk, but ON his desk.

Reel Librarians  | Screenshot from 'The Color of Magic'

Even if I hadn’t know the Librarian got turned into an orangutan — he’s already in his primate form in Men at Arms — I could have guessed where the plot was going, based on the number of bad puns he slips in before the accident:

  • Better not monkey around with it [the Octavo], or who knows what will happen.
  • It’s the Octavo. It’s going really ape.

I was relieved that after he got turned into an orangutan, his vocabulary became limited to variations of “Ooook!”

The Librarian does not have as many scenes in the second half of the TV movie, but he does help Trymon find another book in the library. Trymon threatens him and also gives him a banana for his troubles (“it’s not as if bananas grow on trees”) — which proves to be his own downfall. Literally.

Reel Librarians  | Screenshot from 'The Color of Magic'

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'The Color of Magic'

At the end of the film, Trymon holds all the spells but the final spell in the Octavo and is engaged in a battle with Rincewind and the bumbling tourist, Twoflower, at the top of the tower. The camera then cuts to a close-up of the Librarian with a banana in his mouth (oook?), and then we get a lovely wide shot of the tower in silhouette. And who in the world would be able to scale a tower like this… but an orangutan librarian?!

Reel Librarians  | Screenshot from 'The Color of Magic'

And that banana? Well, a banana peel just HAPPENS to find its way underneath Trymon’s foot as he prepares to send one final spell toward Rincewind. Trymon is then blasted by his own ricocheted spell!

Reel Librarians  | Screenshot from 'The Color of Magic'

Although Rincewind gets all the glory, it’s the Librarian who actually ended up saving the day! (Typical.) At the end, as Rincewind and Twoflower make their way out of the tower, the Librarian drops over the side of the wall and toward Rincewind. (Apparently, Richard da Costa studied real orangutans in a zoo to learn how they moved — not that it helped.) Rincewind hands the Librarian a banana and tells him to “Go on, you sort this all out.”

I think HE ALREADY DID. Ungrateful wizard. Ooook, indeed.

Reel Librarians  | Screenshot from 'The Color of Magic'

The Head Librarian is a minor character who appears in short scenes throughout The Color of Magic (2008), and therefore winds up in the Class III category of reel librarians. I’ve already mentioned how he fulfilled the role of Information Provider, and considering the bad puns and overly crude portrayals — both in human and ape form — he also serves as Comic Relief. We are definitely laughing AT him, even if that laughter could be characterized as nervous laughter. Plus, his last trick with the banana peel is the oldest, broadest slapstick humor there is, right?

Until next week … and make sure you look where you step! And be nice to librarians while you’re at it. Bananas optional. ;)

Pride and Prejudice and librarians

This week’s post is about a film version of one of the classic romantic novels, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, featuring the central love story between Elizabeth Bennet, a gentleman’s daughter, and Fitzwilliam Darcy, a gentleman of the gentry.

But wait! There’s no librarian in Pride and Prejudice.

If you’ve read the classic novel, or seen one of a handful of more modern adaptations, such as the seminal 1995 miniseries starring Jennifer Ehle as Lizzy and Colin Firth as Darcy or the Oscar-nominated 2005 version with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, then you are correct. There is no librarian in Pride and Prejudice.

From the church to the library

However, in the very first film adaptation of any Jane Austen work, the 1940 MGM adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, the vocation of Mr. Collins is changed from clergyman to … you guessed it, a librarian. (Sigh.) Pride and prejudice indeed.

As portrayed by well-known comedic character actor Melville Cooper, all the hallmarks of the bumbling, fussy, socially awkward Mr. Collins are still present. One of the Bennet sisters describes him early on as “a pudding face,” and our first visual introduction is one of him bouncing down the stairs and nearly overturning a vase. Cooper plays Mr. Collins as a perfectly ridiculous man, a fop who bounces on his toes and manages to offend everyone he intends to flatter.

Reel Librarians  |  Screenshots of Mr. Collins in the 1940 'Pride and Prejudice'

image sources:  top / bottom left  /  bottom right

When we first meet Mr. Collins in this 1940 screen adaptation, he rushes to explain his lowly, humble position:

Although I act as her ladyship’s librarian, she has always spoken to me as she would to any other gentleman.

By his own admission, a librarian is not on par with a gentleman; instead, the implication is that a librarian is beneath a gentleman’s (or gentlewoman’s) notice or concern. Forehead, hand, slap, repeat.

Mr. Collins is a clergyman in the book, earning some of Jane Austen’s sharpest wit and scathing commentary. As a clergyman’s daughter herself, it is perhaps surprising how little difference religion makes in Jane Austen’s novels. Pastors and reverends in Austen’s novels are either well-meaning (and a little boring), like Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility and Edmund Bertram in Mansfield Park , or on the other spectrum, they are socially tone-deaf, like Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice and Mr. Elton in Emma.

As stated in The Bedside, Bathtub & Armchair Companion to Jane Austen:

[T]here are two types of pastors — those who make things worse and those who, in their own bumbling way, make things better. (35)

So why DID they change Mr. Collins’s profession for the movie?

There are a couple of theories that I have gathered through a little research.

Screwball comedy influence

Reel Librarians  |  Posters for 'Pride and Prejudice'

Posters for 1940’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’

First, as mentioned in Sue Parill’s work, Jane Austen on Film and Television: A Critical Study of the Adaptations, the feel and pace of the 1940 adaptation is influenced by the screwball comedy genre, which was popular at the time. Events were changed or added to highlight comedic elements, and storylines — such as the Lydia and Wickham elopement — were rushed over.

True to the screwball comedy genre, the minor roles are played for broad humor. Since MGM has a large stable of well-known contract players, these roles were played by actors who were familiar to audiences from other screwball and romantic comedies. (50)

This roster of contract players included Cooper, who had played buffoonish characters in such films as 1934’s The Scarlet Pimpernel and in 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood, as a decidedly clownish Sheriff of Nottingham.

As Parill further elaborates:

It uses them [characters] solely for comedy. Mr. Collins (Melville Cooper) has been changed from clergyman to Lady Catherine’s librarian, but he is still the same ingratiating and officious today that he is in the novel. (52)

The Hays Code

Another highly likely theory is that the role was changed to a librarian due to the overly comedic, and disparaging, portrayal of a clergyman. This was during a high point in the Motion Picture Production Code, commonly known as the Hays Code, which demanded censorship and sanitization of so-called “risqué” or “immoral” elements. On the Don’ts list of the Hays Code, “ridicule of the clergy” is ranked as #10!

In her book Jane Austen’s Cults and Cultures, author Claudia L. Johnson counts Mr. Collins’s character change as one of the “ludicrous” changes in the 1940 film:

…a good deal of ludicrousness — antebellum costumes, Mr. Collins’s metamorphosis into a librarian (the Hollywood production forbidding irreverent representations of the clergy)… (p. 88)

It is quite telling that while clergyman were a protected class in early Hollywood, the same could NOT be said for librarians. (Double sigh.)

So the 1940 version of Pride and Prejudice changes the already humorous character of Mr. Collins from a clergyman to a personal librarian. The occupational change seems to serve the absurd and ridiculous qualities of Mr. Collins — we do not pause and wonder at a bumbling librarian, whereas we might be offended at a bumbling clergyman.

It is also interesting to note that we, the audience, never actually get to see the inside of the library that Collins curates for Lady Catherine; his profession is mentioned once at the beginning and never referred to again. And it is quite revealing on retrospect that Mr. Bennet, who has his own personal library which serves as an important personal retreat, does not mention libraries or books at all with Mr. Collins. Mr. Bennet does not take the opportunity of using an apparently mutual love of libraries to bond with his cousin and heir. Curious, no?

Writing credits

In addition to the source novel by Jane Austen — who probably would opt not to take credit for this film adaptation — the film’s writing credits are lengthy:  Aldous Huxley (!) and Jane Murfin are credited as co-authors of the screenplay, which also borrowed heavily from Helen Jerome’s 1934 dramatization of the play entitled Pride and Prejudice: A Sentimental Comedy in Three Acts. I haven’t obtained a copy of the play — and only bits of it are available to read for free online — to check if the character of Mr. Collins was turned into a librarian in Jerome’s version. I doubt it, but it would be nice to close that loop.

However, critic Andrew Wright does state that “Mr. Collins, Mrs. Bennett, and Lady Catherine were always played farcically in the Jerome play” (as quoted in Parrill, p. 50). When the play was first performed in New York in 1936, the stage actor Harold Scott (1891-1964) played the role of Mr. Collins.

Reel Librarians  |  Excerpts from the 'Pride and Prejudice' stage play

Cover and insert of the play when it opened in New York, 1936.

There are quite a few other major shifts in the 1940 adaptation, including a time period pushed forward to allow for puffy sleeves and ridiculous hoop skirts (again, to heighten broad comedic moments), a total reversal of Lady Catherine’s character at the end of the film, and completely made-up bits shoehorned in, like an archery scene. (Elizabeth Bennet gets to take aim in more ways than one!) The pacing is also different from the book. Lizzy’s refusal of Darcy’s initial marriage proposal comes in the middle of the novel, a stroke of genius on Austen’s part. We then get to witness Lizzy’s change of heart and deepening maturity throughout the book’s second half. However, in the play, as well as in the 1940 film, the proposal comes at the end of the second of three acts. This rapid-paced ending is also indicative of screwball comedies.

The ads for the film also highlighted the screwball elements, with taglines such as:

Five love hungry beauties in search of husbands!!

The Gayest Comedy Hit of the Screen! Five Gorgeous Beauties on a Mad-Cap Manhunt!

When pretty girls t-e-a-s-e-d men into marriage…

Film’s reception

How was the film received when it was released in July, 1940? It was a crowd-pleaser and broke attendance records at Radio City Music Hall. The film was a hit with audiences and earned the Oscar for Best Black-and-White Art Direction.

And I have to admit, this film was my own personal introduction to Jane Austen, as well! I have quite fond memories of this film; I loooooooooved watching, and rewatching, this movie as a child. I didn’t read the novel until junior high, when I was shocked (shocked, I tell you!) to learn that Lady Catherine de Burgh did not, in the end, approve of Darcy’s choice to marry Lizzy.

The film also earned mostly positive reviews from critics. For example, Bosley Crowther’s film review in The New York Times praised the film’s “cast of such uniform perfection,” with notable exceptions:

Only Melville Cooper as Mr. Collins and Marsha Hunt as Mary Bennet permit their characterizations to degenerate into burlesque.

Ouch. A reel librarian portrayal that also manages to draw comparison to burlesque? (Triple sigh.)

All in all, odious Mr. Collins’s role as a reel librarian in the 1940 version of Pride and Prejudice does not help the reel librarian’s cause in any way. It’s also notable that this film is not even included in the round-up of librarian films in The Image of Librarians in Cinema, 1917-1999. As a minor character, our Mr. Collins winds up a Class III reel librarian, fulfilling the character role of Comic Relief.

No surprise there, right? ;)

Works Cited (and Consulted):

In addition to the 1940 film itself, I consulted the following works:

Adams, Carol, Douglas Buchanan, and Kelly Gesch. The Bedside, Bathtub & Armchair Companion to Jane Austen. New York:  Continuum, 2008. Print.

Crowther, Bosley. “Pride and Prejudice (1940).” The New York Times Review. 9 August 1940. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.

Johnson, Claudia L. Jane Austen’s Cults and Cultures. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2012. Google Book Search. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.

Parrill, Sue. Jane Austen on Film and Television: A Critical Study of the AdaptationsJefferson, NC:  McFarland & Co., 2002. Print.

Ray, Joan Klingel. Jane Austen For Dummies. Hoboken, NJ:  Wiley, 2006. Print.

Travelin’ librarians

Good morning! Y’all know how I love a themed list (see here, here, and here), and this post’s theme, travel, correlates with my personal life. We will be on vacation for a couple of weeks, and I have some fantastic guest posts scheduled, from fellow librarians and library enthusiasts around the world. Stay tuned…

But first, onto travel movies featuring librarians. I’ve arranged them by initial release year (for a bit of time travel?). ;)

Forbidden (1932)

Lulu Smith (Barbara Stanwyck), a lonely young librarian taunted by children calling her “old lady four eyes,” quits her library job and sets sail for Havana. Romantic melodrama ensues, including an illegitimate child, a lifelong adulterous affair, murder, and a deathbed pardon — a Liberated Librarian indeed!

Bon Voyage! (1962)

A Disney comedy about a typical, all-American family (Fred MacMurray and Jane Wyman as the parents) on a “dream” vacation to Europe. A couple of memorable scenes take place in the ship’s library, including one in which the father becomes a bit annoyed with the ship’s librarian over-solicitous manner — and clueless social skills.

You can also read my extended write-up of the film by clicking here.

Rome Adventure (1962)

A quintessential Liberated Librarian role, school librarian Prudence Bell (Suzanne Pleshette) quits her job at a stuffy women’s’ college after being reprimanding for recommending a “too adult” book to a student. Prudence goes to Italy in search of adventure and love. Does she find it? With Troy Donahue and Rossano Brazzi in the cast, you bet!

You can view the film’s original theatrical trailer and read my extended write-up of the film by clicking here.

Joe Vs. the Volcano (1990)

In a quintessential male Liberated Librarian role, title character Joe (Tom Hanks) is stuck in a thankless job as an advertising librarian for a medical supply company. After learning he has only weeks to live, he embarks on an adventure to sacrifice himself in an island volcano. As you do.

Meg Ryan — in 3 different roles — also comes along for the ride.

Flight of the Intruder (1991)

Another ship’s librarian, but this one isn’t about recreational travel. Set during the Vietnam War, a young pilot questions bombing missions after his partner is killed. In one short scene, a young officer in the ship’s library allows the pilot to check out a non-circulating issue of National Geographic (rule-breaker!) that contains maps of North Vietnam.

Scent of a Woman (1992)

More of a coming-of-age story, this movie focuses on a young prep school boy (Chris O’Donnell), a student library assistant at a New England private school. To pay for a flight home for Christmas, he agrees to be temporary caretaker for an alcoholic blind man (Al Pacino), who takes him on an adventure-filled Thanksgiving weekend in New York City.

The Mummy trilogy (1999, 2001, 2008)

Another major Liberated Librarian role, this time involving Egyptologist and librarian Evelyn Carnahan (played by Rachel Weisz in the first two films, and by Maria Bello in the dreadful third fim). In the first — and best — adventure tale, Egyptian priest Imhotep is accidentally brought back to life, and wreaks some pretty major havoc in the desert. As you do. Evie, her scheming yet lovable brother, and an American soldier (Brendan Fraser) join forces to stop him — and get to race some camels along the way. Of course the librarian wins! ;)

Dungeons & Dragons (2000)

In this (terrible) fantasy film, a young queen (Thora Birch) is threatened by the villainous Profion (Jeremy Irons), who plots to turn the dragons into his personal weapons. A young mage, Marina (Zoe McLellan), who works in the library of the Magic School, goes on the run with two thieves after the old mage librarian is murdered. The pen is mightier than the sword, but that doesn’t stop Marina from learning some fight skills along the way. Another typical Liberated Librarian role for this reel librarian.

The Time Machine (2002)

In this remake, a disillusioned inventor (Guy Pearce) builds a time machine and travels 800,000 years into the future. He encounters Vox (Orlando Jones), a holographic librarian who supplies him with information about time travel and the history and evolution of the planet and its population.

Even though this film is all about time travel, Vox never actually goes anywhere; instead, he is the sole witness to the continuous collapse and rebuilding of civilizations throughout centuries. A quintessential Information Provider, and I would argue, the holographic heart of this film.

The Librarian TV trilogy (2004, 2006, 2009)

Ah, another trilogy, this time with a male Liberated Librarian at its center. In the first, the Librarian for the Metropolitan Public Library’s archives (Noah Wyle as Flynn Carson) sets off in an adventure to return a stolen artifact. In the second of the TV movies, Flynn searches for King Solomon’s mines, and also finds time for romance with an archaeologist (Gabrielle Anwar). The third (and final?) installment involves a philosopher’s stone, the Judas Chalice, and vampires.

Just a typical day’s work for a travelin’ librarian. ;)

First impressions: The Amazing Spider-Man

In an earlier post, I had highlighted a clip of Stan Lee revealing his cameo as a librarian in The Amazing Spider-Man (2012). Earlier this week, the hubby and I got to see the film at a local drive-in movie theater, along with The Dark Knight Rises. A loooong night (and early morning), but worth it!

If you haven’t seen the film yet, then there are minor SPOILERS ahead.

To be honest, I really wasn’t expecting much from this latest Spider-Man film, so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Andrew Garfield (as Peter Parker) and the ever-adorable Emma Stone (as Parker’s first love, Gwen Stacy) have chemistry to spare, and the supporting cast members, including Denis Leary, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Irrfan Khan, and Campbell Scott, were all quite solid. (Martin Sheen, I ♥ you.) And yes, I teared up when the construction crews lined up the cranes to clear a path for Spider-Man. Ah, teamwork and selfless acts, they get me every time.

Stan Lee cameo in The Amazing Spider-Man. Click image for source info.

Stan Lee has a cameo in just about every film adaptation of his stories and characters (see here for a detailed list of his cameos), and this one is quite memorable. I carried a tape recorder with me to the film, as I didn’t want to put on a light and distract from the other drive-in moviegoers. Here’s a transcript of what I noted while watching the scene:

Stan Lee plays a school librarian who’s listening to classical music, and it’s like an hour and forty minutes into the film. He’s wearing a black sweater vest and chinos and — [Sam interjects, “bow tie”] — bow tie, white button-down. Oblivious. Kind of like the [librarian in] Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Comic relief. That was like, what, 2-3 seconds? Ok, and they’re in the high school. So, that’s that.

What is Stan Lee’s librarian oblivious about? The fact that Spider-Man and the Lizard are fighting right behind him — and tearing the school library apart! The contrast of the classical music choice is very funny, and Stan Lee as the oblivious School Librarian definitely joins the Comic Relief librarians.

And if you’re wondering about the librarian in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) and other Comic Relief librarians, read more by clicking here.

And for as long as this clip stays online, here’s a look at the scene and Stan Lee’s librarian cameo: