ADDENDA - THE PLAGUES
I'm lucky in a lot of respects; in this
case, I have to say that most of the mail I get is very
thoughtful, reasoned stuff. Sometimes I get letters
that cause me to write more on subjects I would otherwise
consider closed. Witness this note from good bad movie
bud El Santo:
just finished reading your review, and I have a question
for you. When you watched it for review, did you happen
to go and re-read Exodus? I ask because I did (in three
different translations-- just to be sure), and I found
the experience highly amusing. If you yourself trusted
Fuest to do your remembering for you, go have a look
and see if you notice the discrepancies I did. If you've
already done the research, and noticed no discrepancies,
I'd be really interested to know which version of the
Bible you were using. I consulted the King James, the
New English Bible, and the favorite of semi-literates
everywhere, the Good News.
- El Santo
Well, as far as discrepancies go, even
a confirmed heathen like myself knows that the final
curse laid on Pharoah by Moses was not Darkness, as
Phibes would have us believe, but the Death of
the First-Born. After all, I've seen not only The
Ten Commandments but Prince of Egypt (and
I recommend both). Going to my copy of The Oxford
Companion to The Bible and The Jewish Publication
Society's 1985 edition of The Tanakh (known as
The Old Testament to the goyim), we find the
following (Exodus 7:14-12:36, for all of you
reading along at home):
The Nile water turns to Blood,
a phenomenon that seems to happen every hundred
years or so during the Nile's seasonal floods. Decaying
algae turns the water red, foul and undrinkable.
The Nile subsides, leaving piles of dead Frogs
everywhere. The stench must have been incredible.
Depending on the translation, there is either a
plague of gnats, or lice, but everyone agrees on
"vermin", doubtless generated by the piles
of decaying frogs. By a stretch of the imagination,
the writers of Phibes decide a rhyme is just
as good, and gnats becomes Rats.
Rats are vermin, after all.
So then there's "insects", or in some
translations, "flies". Bats
fly, right? Right?
Livestock are smitten by diseases - anthrax, hoof-and-mouth,
whatever. For brevity's sake, it's the curse of
Egyptians are plagued by boils,
apparently caused by ashes from kilns which Moses
and crew strew to the winds. Those who think the
Tanakh/Bible is lacking in such things as dramatic
irony should consider that these are the same kilns
the Israelites use to bake the bricks with which
they are being forced to build the pyramids. Zing!
Hail (just as rare
as you would expect in Egypt) destroys an entire
Locusts consume what's
left, although no mention is made of the flesh-eating
variety Phibes employs.
Darkness blots out
the sun "for three days". Definitely not
a mere eclipse; possibly a dust cloud, but the Hebrews
enjoy normal sunlight.
Death of the
So here's the score-card:
Death of First-Born
Death of First-Born
At least they got the placement of the locusts right.
Well, since when, one asks, has film ever
really gotten history right? And theology is even
more tricky, being open to a wider variety of interpretations.
Some of the suggestions I've made about the Phibes
team's choices in re-working the Plagues is, of course,
mere supposition - but compared to the liberties they've
taken with a text that resides in most households in
America (and certainly every hotel room), my version
could be... well, written in stone. Heh.
And then, of course, El Santo weighs in with:
regard to your newly posted addendum to the review of
The Abominable Dr. Phibes: Whatever the Jews were building
with the bricks they baked in those kilns, it certainly
wasn't the pyramids. Those were made out of limestone
blocks-- not a single brick in them.
while we're on the subject of pyramid-building, here's
an interesting and little-known tidbit regarding the
people who did the actual work. Contrary to popular
belief, the pyramids were not built by slaves. Recent
archaeological work in the ruins surrounding the pyramids
has turned up payroll records listing everybody from
engineers, artisans, and foremen down to the lowliest
stone-sloggers. In fact, it turns out that pyramid-building
was one of the better gigs available in Egypt, even
for unskilled laborers, and that the engineers and master
craftsmen doing the delicate work were making mad cash
(at least by the standards of their day). I bring this
up because of the Hebrews-slavery connection (I'll save
my screed on the important but oft-overlooked distinction
between slaves and subject peoples for another time...).
Well, I can only quote The Man Who Shot Liberty
Valence: "When the legend becomes fact, print
the legend." Besides, everyone knows flying
saucers built the pyramids.