, July 2007
Gian Carlo Menotti wrote Help, Help, the Globolinks! as an opera for children and all who are young at heart. This release presents a film version in German, made immediately following the opera’s 1968 premiere in Hamburg, featuring the original cast and production team.
While Help, Help, the Globolinks! is not among Menotti’s most inspired efforts, it is genuinely tuneful and entertaining. Set in contemporary times, the scenario posits an invasion of our planet by extraterrestrials called Globolinks. These creatures transform all humans with whom they have physical contact into new Globolinks. The only effective defense against them is music, which drives the aliens away and, as demonstrated with a tuba, can even destroy them.
The film nicely captures the energy and enthusiasm of the cast, all of them well-suited to their roles. The young Edith Mathis makes the most of her brief appearances as Emily, an adolescent violinist sent into the wilderness to seek help for her stranded, instrument-deprived classmates. The real show-stealer is Arlene Saunders, as Madame Euterpova, an eccentric, domineering music teacher who leads the counterattack. Hers is a great comic performance, never overstated yet always bordering on the madcap. She is deftly supported by the ensemble cast, particularly by Raymond Wolansky’s Dr. Stone, the school headmaster who is her unwitting (and unwilling) fiancé.
For this listener, the delight of the film lies in the work of production collaborators Alwin Nikolais, Nikolas Schöffer and Eckhard Maronn. The contributions of these three artists are very much of their time and in fact make Menotti’s music seem outdated. Schöffer’s Mondrianesque sculptures are covered with reflecting plates, upon which colored light is projected. These rotating towers create a modernistic almost psychedelic effect and clearly were watershed pieces for his celebrated later works. Maronn’s extraterrestrial music, billed as electronic effects, is a fine example of the electronic music techniques of the 1960s. Predominated as it is by tape manipulations and analog synthesizer effects, this music brings back fond memories of the period. And Nikolais’s tube-like costumes for the male Globolinks prove both versatile and a lot of fun to watch.
The opera has clear (though possibly unintended) overtones of the Cold War political climate. There are very obvious plot parallels to such films as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and the sight of uninformed children marching off to continue the struggle against alien invaders must have resonated with audiences on the 1960s, particularly in postwar Germany.