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A Guide to the Amphibians
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Amphibians In Movies





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Golden Salamander  (1950)
 
Spoiler Alert !

Some of these pictures and descriptions may give away plot details that you might not want to know before watching the film.
 
The Golden Salamander The Golden Salamander The Golden Salamander
The Golden Salamander The Golden Salamander
The Golden Salamander The Golden Salamander  
The salamander statue in this English movie is really a lizard. I'm including it here because the book called it a salamander and the book's cover illustration looks like a salamander, even though the people who designed the statue for the move made it an obvious lizard with claws and giant scales, probably because they were too lazy to research what a salamander looks like. I'm guessing that when the director found out the mistake it was too late to change it or too expensive, so they added some dialog to explain that it's not a mistake, it was meant to look like that. (That's my crackpot theory, anyway.) When the statue is first brought out of its box, one of the workers remarks that they used an awful lot of gold just to make a lizard, and the expert says that it's actually a salamander - a kind of lizard. (Yes, and a bat is a kind of fish.) "The ancients believed that it could go through fire unscathed because it had no fear of the flames."
I'm amazed that this incredible blunder didn't cause an enormous herpetological scandal in 1950. The statue was supposedly made in Greece, where they have the Fire Salamander that created the whole surviving fire myth, so they might have looked up what they look like, but they didn't. There are even a few species of newts in England they could have copied, but didn't.

However, unlike The Maltese Falcon, the statue here has little to do with the plot. It's here because the Greek inscription written on it fosters some character development: "Not by ignoring evil does one overcome it, but by going to meet it." That idea eventually convinces an English Archeologist to take action instead of continuing to ignore the sinister gang of smugglers that he stumbled upon accidentally. He came to Tunisia to collect a bunch of ancient Greek artifacts that fell out of a boat, including the salamander statue, and were rescued and kept in a small seaside town near Tunis. But what that inscription has to do with the myth of the fireproof salamander, still eludes me. Are they saying that a salamander goes to the fire instead of ignoring it? That makes no sense. If you watch this, just try to ignore the statue and enjoy the great Tunisian scenery, the good cast including Trevor Howard and a wonderful 17 year old Anouk Aimee, and a watchable noirish thriller from the era when everything had a happy ending.
 

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