Last year, I wrote about the role of tires in the movies—and apologies to all you Smokey and the Bandit and Dukes of Hazzard fans out there for not mentioning those tire-punishing entertainments. But, even without them, I had plenty of examples to cite.
But some of you asked—what about rubber itself? And rubber science?
Here, unfortunately, the Hevea crop is sparser. Rubber plays an invaluable role in movie and TV special effects; my colleague Chris Sweeney demonstrated as much in his article about the silicone rubber masks devised for the Army of the Dead in Game of Thrones.
But rubber as the theme of a movie is rare. There was Malaya, a 1949 World War II-themed thriller in which Spencer Tracy and James Stewart tried to smuggle rubber out of the eponymous country during the Japanese occupation. Nine years earlier, there was William Wyler's The Letter, based on a story by W. Somerset Maugham, in which a rubber plantation served as backdrop for Bette Davis ridding herself of an inconvenient lover.
As for rubber science? So far as I know, it has shown up in only three films, one of them exactly two minutes long, and they were all made by people who didn't know a thermoplastic from a thermal blanket.
Oddly enough, one of the first (though very short) fiction films ever made was L'Homme a' la Tete en Caoutchouc (The Man with the Rubber Head), directed in 1901 by Georges Melies.
Melies, a magician before he became a director, was the first special-effects master in cinematic history, and L'Homme a' la Tete en Caoutchouc is a prime example of his work.
The action is simple: a mad scientist pulls out a table, then a box, out of which he pulls a man's head. He sets the head on the table, pulls out a bellows, inflates the head to five or six times its usual size, then deflates it. The head looks around and chatters frenetically (if silently) throughout. The scientist brings in a visitor and invites him to inflate the head; the visitor does so, and the head explodes. The scientist kicks the visitor out the door and sobs inconsolably into his apron.Not exactly an Oscar winner.
Or a Goodyear Medal winner, either.