In a follow-up to an earlier Jot on the inspiration behind the film ‘Quest for Fire’ we found a clipping from The Observerof 9thNovember 1980 reporting on how novelist Anthony Burgess and zoologist Desmond ‘ Naked Ape’ Morris were called in by the producers of the film to advise on how Stone Age man might have communicated.
Morris was consulted on the non-verbal aspects of communication, while the ‘dialogue’, which consisted totally of grunts and shrieks, was the work of Burgess, who was probably chosen because of the fake language he had devised for the protagonists in A Clockwork Orange, which had been filmed using his screenplay. He seems to have found the task of creating grunts irksome: ‘Hell of a lot of work creating a language on basic principles’, he told the Observerreporter. He added that the original choice of Iceland for a location might have been better than Aviemore in Scotland, which was chosen in its place when the expense and logistic complications of shipping fourteen elephants to the island became an obstacle, along with the fact that an erupting volcano had destroyed the chosen location there. So Aviemore was felt to be a safer and cheaper alternative. However, Burgess still maintained that ‘The light’s good in ‘Iceland’.
On the Wednesday following the Observer report the whole 80 strong team, minus the elephants, who had been disguised as woolly mammoths, flew off to Kenya, where the remainder of the film was shot. The movie was eventually released to general acclaim. Excerpts can be seen online, so that viewers may judge the authenticity of Burgess’s grunts. [R.M.H. ]