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A professor of archeology comes into possession of a
dangerous ancient amulet.
A rather quirky movie from my youth is the William Castle “B” movie
from 1962, Zotz!,
which involved possession of a powerful ancient amulet that accidentally falls
into the hands of an average guy.This
is powerful stuff and once word gets out, rival governments also want the
amulet, of course.Both a comedy and
cautionary tale, the movie was made during the Cold War when fears of atomic
war were grist for Hollywood’s movie mill.
Stop me if your have heard this one:A professor of archeology and ancient languages
comes into possession of an amulet found at an archeological dig and sent to
him by mail.The professor can read the
language and finds that the amulet is magical.By intoning the magic word (Zotz of course) or by pointing at the
target, the user can stun, inflict pain or kill.In the book, the powers are a bit more dire, as just pointing at
an human or even animal while holding the amulet will cause them to faint.If you also utter the magic world while
pointing the person will die.In the
film the professor used the amulet to slow his fall.While not flying, this power comes in handy.
The original release of the film for theaters was in October of
1962 saw a promotional item in the form of plastic replicas of the amulet from
the film.A number of these turn up
from time to time with varying degrees of accuracy to the film used prop.A screen capture shows the original prop and
a couple of snapshots show a plastic version and a metal version.The plastic original one has the most
detail.Note the dimples on the face,
which is probably from the mold ejector during the casting process.The pot metal version lacks most all detail
and there are other plastic copies that really look soft.Clearly there are a number of copies around
with varying accuracy to the one in the film or those given out at the original
release of the film.
This film was based on a book by Walter Karig published in
1947 with clear indications of being a reference to the misuse of modern
technology.Karig knew all about it as
he was a US Navy captain who also wrote on the side.Interestingly Karig wrote scripts for the TV series, Victory at Sea,
which was rerun on TV and another old favorite of mine when I was a kid.Amusingly enough, he also ghostwrote three
Nancy Drew books under the name Caroline Keene.*He also wrote Perry Pierce
stories around the same time.
I remember this film as a kid, but wasn’t too taken with it
at the time.Over the years, with some
readings in Weird Fiction and H. P. Lovecraft and the like, my interest
returned.Especially with my interest
in movie props and prop blogs, such as Propnomicon as well as costuming
and role playing
games such as Call
of Cthulhu and the like.So the
story line works for an RPG and the ZotZ! amulet would make a great prop as
I haven’t read a copy of the original 1947 book by Walter
Karig that inspired it all, but it’s on my “to do” list.I’d like to recommend another quirky book
another book about an eccentric professor of Eastern cultures called When
the Assyrians Came Down From the Trees (1969) by Gwendolyn Reed and Angela
Conner about a professor of archeology who goes mad and begins to believe that
squirrels are the descendants of the ancient Assyrians.The illustrations become progressively more
stylized in the manner of ancient art as the story unfolds and the professor’s madness takes him to the trees.A really great children’s book.
I learned a bit myself researching about Zotz! and
Walter Karig.I hope this post will get
you out thinking and reading a bit yourself.The idea of the Zotz amulet is not a new one by any means but it lends
itself quite well for a prop in an RPG.Also at the end of the film, the amulet disappears down a storm drain,
to be found by the next person.
were: Nancy’s Mysterious Letter (1932), The Sign of the Twisted
Candles, and Password to Larkspur Lane (both 1933)
Update:I just found
ZotZ! on YouTube, so interested parties can see the film: