Leni & L.Ron?

What a weird story, yet somehow unsurprising. L. Ron Hubbard and Leni Riefenstahl worked together on a movie script. It never got made, but just imagine Battlefield Earth shot by a master cinematographer — somehow, I think it would make the story even worse.

They weren’t working on a cheesy skiffy, though: the story was one that Riefenstahl had previously made a movie of in the 1930s, The Blue Light (you can watch the whole thing), and it reads as though most, if not all, of it was from Riefenstahl. She might have been good with a camera, but she seems to have been suckered into one cult, Naziism, and hopped over to another, scientology. Although her dalliance with a notorious scientologist didn’t last long.


  1. PaulBC says

    Neither acting nor cinematography could have saved Battlefield Earth, since the plot was so ludicrous (assuming the movie follows the book, which I never had the slightest interest in reading). It’s the old “aliens smart enough for interstellar travel but too stupid to transmute elements or even find them somewhere other than an inhabited planet”. Gold? Seriously? Fort Knox? Like you can’t just pull it right out of the earth with advanced alien technology? 19th century Californians extracted a lot with the equivalent of giant firehoses (hydraulic mining) before it was outlawed. I’m sure there is plenty of gold if you don’t care about the damage. And if you’re very advanced aliens, maybe you could extract it from seawater.

    I actually enjoyed it just a little as schlock. The acting wasn’t merely bad but had the feel of a Sid and Marty Krofft live action kids show (you know, H.R. Pufnstuf etc.) with very villainy villains hatching a plan and cackling to each other about it. You could make a drinking game out of how many times Travolta says “leverage.”

    There were some worries ahead of time that Co$ could afford amazing special effects and turn it into a big propaganda ploy. Hahahahahaha… could have I guess but they weren’t even trying or didn’t know how. Leni Riefenstahl could have made some interesting art movies for Hubbard, but I doubt it would help the Co$ cause all that much.

  2. says

    The only good thing about Battlefield Earth is that it gave Saskatoon born actor Kim Coates another paycheque. Coates seems like the kind of guy who probably had to bite his tongue more than once to keep from laughing out loud while filming.

  3. Dan Phelps says

    L. Ron and Leno’s final product could be called “Triumph of the Swill.”

  4. Rich Woods says

    @PaulBC #1:

    And if you’re very advanced aliens, maybe you could extract it from seawater.

    We’ve known how to extract gold from seawater for more than a century; it’s just not economically viable to do so. If aliens needed gold so desperately that they were willing to expend the resources necessary for interstellar travel in order to acquire it, their economic assessment of the extraction process would be different to ours.

  5. PaulBC says

    Rich Woods@6

    We’ve known how to extract gold from seawater for more than a century; it’s just not economically viable to do so.

    I agree it’s not very practical, but traveling to another star system to enslave a planet and raid an abandoned national vault seems even less practical. Presumably they would be able to reach the gold on the sea floor as well.

    With gold at that dilution, I wonder if seawater could work as a homeopathic cure for poverty. Probably not, because many beachgoers have swallowed a gulp by accident without getting rich. Maybe it just needs to be diluted further.

  6. PaulBC says

    I just read the Wikipedia page on the novel and the gold angle makes a little more sense. Maybe it was clear in the movie and I missed it, but getting the gold is just Terl’s individual get-rich-quick scheme, not the entire purpose of the invasion. And the Psychlos come from “a planet with an atmosphere radically different from Earth, located in a different universe with a different set of elements.” Uh OK. And they can teleport back and forth but for some reason they can’t mine asteroids. Well, nobody said they were smart. They could be the degenerate descendants of a much more advanced species. Not worth thinking about too hard.

  7. zetopan says

    “They could be the degenerate descendants …”
    They are “the degenerate descendants” of L. Ron Hubbard’s profound level of scientific illiteracy. In the book[1] the Psychlos [2] are 100% composed of viruses [3].

    1. I read his book decades ago and it was very difficult to wade through since it contained so much face palming nonsense. The book I read actually came from L Ron’s daughter, who had married my coworker’s son and was a wedding present for their marriage. L. Ron had a Trump level ego about his fantastic importance to the human race.
    2. Psychlo is of course L. Ron’s idiotic opinion of psychology, which he imagined is actually a scam run by psychos (obvious projection).
    3. L. Ron’s “knowledge” of biology equaled his “knowledge” of nuclear physics, or any other branch of science for that matter.
    e.g. The Psychlos came from a planet that had a deadly flammable atmosphere (they apparently had no lightning or even fire).

  8. dstatton says

    Harlan Ellison told the story about a meeting of SiFi writers in the early 1950s. Hubbard was the most successful of the lot, but he wanted to get very rich. One of them said, “Start a religion.”

  9. call me mark says

    When I was in college I joined a Science Fiction fan group which had an extensive library. The scientology- and dianetics-related books were kept in the L Ron Cupboard.

  10. Numenaster, whose eyes are up here says

    @dstatton #10, the one who said that is supposed to have been Robert A. Heinlein. What little of Hubbard I’ve been able to read seems like even-more-juvenile Heinlein in many ways, so the influence is clear.