Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, September 13, 2019


FP 1 Does Not Reply (originally FP 1 antwortet nicht, 1931) by Kurt Siodmak, translated by H. W. Farrell (1933)

Curt Siodmak (1902-2000), who sometimes used his Christain name spelled with a K, claimed that heowed all to Adolph Hitler because if it wasn't for that son of a bitch he would never had come to America.  Born in Dresden of Jewish parents, he began writing novels after earning a degree in mathematics.  He invested his royalties in a film, Menshen am Sonntag, which was co-directed by his older brother Robert Siodmak and Edger G. Ulmer, with a script by Billy Wilder.  It was actually a anti-Semetic tirade by Joseph Goebbles that convinced Siodmak to emigrate, not Adolph Hitler.  He first went to England, then America and Hollywood in 1937, where he wrote many classic B-movie horror films for Universal studios.

Much of what many today consider to be traditional werewolf lore was invented by Siomak when he wrote Universal's The Wolfman  -- including the notion that a werewolf can only be killed by silver.  (Siodmak recalled "After The Wolfman made its first million, [producer/director] George Waggner got a diamond ring for his wife and [executive producer] Jack Gross got a $10,000 bonus.  I wanted $25 more a week and they [Universal] wouldn't give it to me.")  Siodmak also wrote such films as The Invisible Man Returns, Balck Friday, Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, and I Walked with a Zombie.  IMDb gives Siomak 79 writing credits, nine directing credits, and one acting credit (as one of the workmen in Fritz Lang's Metropolis).  Siodmak's 1942 novel Donovan's Brain, a classic science fiction/horror tale in the brain-in-a-bottle genre, was perhaps his most famous novel and was filmed four times.  FP 1 antwortet nicht was itself filmed three times, with the original German film starring Hans Albers and Peter Lorre.

FP 1 Does Not Reply is a tale about attempts to place a floating airport in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  In the days when large airplanes did not carry enough full to make a cross-Atlantic trip, both passengers and cargo relied on ocean-going ships to make the journey.  Young engineer Bernard Droste realized that a mid-Atlantic airport where planes could refuel would dramatically reduce travel time, adding convenience to money saved.  Working feverously, Droste design FP 1 (Floating Platform 1), a large luxury-laden structure providing not only aircraft facilities but a posh hotel with five star service, amenities, and cuisine.  Droste, an orphan, who raised by shipbuider Lennartz borrowed heavily to build Droste's dream at his shipyard.

The German government promised additional funding, only if the platform was in place and operational on a certain date.  The bank also indicated that it would call in its loan if the governemt did not provide the promised funding, Lennartz's entire fortune and his business are on the line -- if the conditions are not met he would be bankrupt and his shipyard would be put up for sale.  Lurking in the wings is another shipbuilder, Hansley, who stands to lose much of his shipping business if the platform succeeds.  No one realizes that Hansley controls the bank.  Hansley also has lured Lennartz' general manager Pechtold to his side -- Pechtold has been doing his best to ensure the platform's failure through bribes, sabotage, and not supplying needed equipment.

Schmiedecke is the captain hired to sail the platform to its permanent place in the ocean and to secure it to the ocen bed.  Too many accidents and too much miscommunication have happened to delay the platform's arrival.  Schmiedecke suspects sabotage and wires Droste about his suspicions.  Droste flies to the platform and discovers that Schmiedecke was correct.  Needed supplies were missing, machinery has been sabotaged, as has been the platform's food supplies.  Things go worse.  The platform's radio is sabotaged, the crew is gassed, and the platform is taking on water at a rate that will sink it within days; parts needed to save the ship have been stolen  The crew is rebellious and almost mutinies.  The floating platform has become a "coffin ship."

Let's add a little romance to the mix.  Droste is in love with Lennartz' daughter Gisela but has been a dim bulb, ignoring her while creating the platform.  Gisela is in love with Drost, but does not know whether her loves her because he is a dim bulb at romance.  Airman and adventurer Ellissen has fallen in love with Gisela but does not realize she loves Droste because Ellissen is a dim bulb.  Dim bulb Gisela does not realize Ellissen's feelings because she is fixated on Droste but she's thinking about settling for Ellissen for no particular reason.  (Ellissen, BTW, is an unscrupulous cad who was the only survivor of an arctic expedition and is suspected of murdering the other expedition members.)   Lennartz is also a dim bulb who ignores the obvious in order to further the plot.

 FP 1 Does Not Reply is pure melodrama, adding constantly rising dangers to cardboard characterizations and a coincidence-laden conclusion.  But sometimes melodrama is what I need in a story and this is one of the times.  Despite its many faults I enjoyed the book.


  1. Cool...Siodmak has to be our most forgotten/non-forgotten early 20th C sf writer. Even Wylie doesn't seem to be as widely read at one time and as tucked away now.

    On a related matter from last week, I queried Robert Silverberg finally, and his response:

    I wrote one Carter Brown novel, circa 1960. Was paid for it. Never published, far as I know.