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Sky Monster, The

Entry updated 20 November 2023. Tagged: Film.

German silent film (1913). Eiko Film GmbH. Directed by Alfred Lind. Written by Erik Kay. Cast includes Hans Hubert Dietzsch, Gussy Holl, Max Laurence and Hermann Seldeneck. 42 minutes (some sources say 32). Black and white.

This appears to be a lost film. The original title was Amerika – Europa im Luftschiff ["America – Europe in an Airship"], subtitled Ein Zukunftsbild aus dem Jahre 2000 ["A Vision of the Future from the Year 2000"], though apparently one contemporary review gives it as Ein Zukunftsbild aus dem Jahre 1920. It was released in the USA as The Sky Monster (1914), subtitled Kidnapped in Mid-Air; the May 30, 1914 issue of The Moving Picture World [see under links below] has a summary of the plot. On a historical note, the first Airship to cross the Atlantic was the R34 in July 1919 (Scotland to Long Island, in 4½ days); the first crossing from the European mainland was in October 1924 (Germany to New Jersey, in 81 hours), using a Zeppelin.

The plot as outlined in the The Moving Picture World (30 May 1914) can be summarized as follows: New York millionaire Walter Johnson's (Laurence) friend Mr Parker is in love with music hall star Gerdie Belle (Holl), who is touring Europe and is currently in Germany. Walter agrees a wager of $100,000 with Parker that he can bring Gerdie back to America within three days, believing his airship, the "gigantic" Victoria Luise, aka The Sky Monster, can make the two-way journey within that time limit, being capable of at least "280 miles an hour". The journey to Germany takes 17 hours. However, Gerdie now departs for Russia, so Walter follows her there: as she does not want to go back to America with him, he sedates her with chloral hydrate (see Drugs). On waking she finds herself crossing the Atlantic in the Sky Monster; apparently any anger at being abducted quickly dissipates, to be replaced with romantic attachment (see Women in SF). The pair arrive at the millionaire's club just in time and Parker loses both his wager and the girl, as Gerdie and Walter are shortly to be married. Excitement is provided by being pursued by cossacks in Russia and Walter forgetting to refuel before departing for the USA, leaving the airship stranded in mid-Atlantic until a ship hears their distress call and provides gasoline. [The quotes are from the article, not the film.] It is not clear to what extent the plot of the original version differed: German Wikipedia's one-sentence summary suggests it is similar, but another, non-German source suggests it also incorporated elements on the use of Zeppelins in War.

An advertisement for the film says the Victoria Luise is 900 feet long; historically the longest ever rigid airship was the LZ 129 Hindenburg, which was 778 feet long and first flew in 1936. Aside from the speed of the Zeppelin and its size, the plot description does not suggest a future much different from when the film was produced; it is not clear whether the US version mentions when it is set, but the ad says the dirigible was built by Count Zeppelin, implying the Near Future. The wager aspect of the plot seems to owe a little to Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days (1873). [SP]


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