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Movie Comparison - Contact vs Red Planet Mars

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Movie plot and theme comparison between Red Planet Mars (1952) and Contact (1997).

 Red Planet Mard (1952)

 Contact (1997)

Plot: A driven scientist with the help of his wife, invents a device that detects a possible intelligent signal from Mars; messages follow and the effects on the world and an attempt to discredit or destroy the project.
Plot: A driven scientist pursues a project to detect intelligent signals from space (SETI); The discovery of a signal/message then develops into the effects on the public/world and an attempt to destroy the project and discredit the event.


  • San Diego CA (~31? N)*

*Common Location along thus Lat. is not surprising

Radio Telescope:

  • VLA New Mexico (~31? N)*

Classify Top Secret:

  • Mars Photos (canals), Signal

Classify Secret:

  • “Vega” Signal/Message

Conflict - Religion/Science:

  • “has science solved anything?” – scientist’s spouse: Mrs. Cronyn

Conflict - Religion/Science:

  • “has science made us better off?” – scientist’s romantic interest: Palmer Joss
The Signal:
  • Count pulses: 3,1,4,1,5  = π (pi) 3.1415
  • π (pi)
  • Signals mirrored back
  • Signal (briefly) stops
  • Decision to not release further messages (President)
  • Signal is eavesdropped (Russians) and later leaked out
The Signal:
  • Count pulses (prime #’s); 1161 =primes 2-101 totaled ~= 1116 [=miles to Pensacola FL]
  • Freq.=4.4623GHz, Hydrogen (1.42GHz)*π (pi=3.14159); also note the 1.42GHz signal and the young Ellie & HAM radio “W9GFO operating at 14.2MHz”.
  • 1936 transmission sent back
  • Signal briefly stops
  • Any further Messages/data – decision to be from the President
  • Message content is leaked by media
  • Note: original “false alert” signal from pulsar J1741+2748 (this puts it near μ Hercules, not far from Vega, and not far from direction of motion the solar system is heading; the real pulsar is J1741+2758). 1741+2748=4489=67^2. Maybe pulsar is actual ETI location?

The Project:
  • 4 years
  • Military crew comes into lab / routes messages/signals to Gov’t
  • Decoding Team
  • Messages to be kept restricted
The Project:
  • 6 year funded, signal discovered after 4 years (under Hadden Industries)
  • 61 = Years (1997 assumed time of signal -1936 German broadcast)
  • 61 = Months; 13 from Puerto Rico to VLA + 48 (4 years under Hadden until signal)
  • Ellie (Eleanor Ann "Ellie" Arroway) would be 33 at time (1997–1964); Graduated from H.S. early 1979? Father dies "by myocardial infarction" 11/10/74 (close to Taurids meteor shower peak).
  • Military crew comes into VLA, attempts by NSC to take over project/control message
  • Decryption Team
  • Message decryption -“Militarize this project…”
X factor:
  • American Scientist makes contact using Nazi scientist invention
  • Cooled Hydrogen Circuit enhanced signal
 X factor:
  • American Scientist makes contact
  • Signal is Nazi TV broadcast
  • “…Ruby Maser increased sensitivity…”
  • Circus atmosphere – at home/lab
  • Scientist (Cronyn) makes procession past crowds
  • Panic at first
  • “Church attendance up”
  • crowds at churches etc.
  • “Faith found”
  • Message of “Brought Hope” at end

  • Circus atmosphere – at the VLA site
  • Scientist (Arroway) makes procession past crowds
  • Overreactions/chaos at first
  • “Church attendance up”
  • crowds unified at end (in Blue)
  • theme of faith
  • Message of Hope at end
The Message:
  • 18 messages: 4(original) + 13(messages) + 1(final message)
  • Messages are from “Mars Supreme Being”
  • Broadcast world wide
  • Messages faked? (ex-nazi scientist claims such as to destroy hope/discredit scientists)
  • Last Question=’”how they kept from destroying themselves”
The Message:
  • “over 63,000 pages…” =(22^3 cubes)*(6 sides per cube)=63,888
  • 18 hours (“trip” to meet them)
  • References of talking to Vegans as “talking to your God” (26 light-years: YHVH=26; primes 2 through 101 = 26 numbers)
  • World media/news coverage
  • Messages faked? (Committee claims hoax by Hadden, & to discredit scientist, implications)
  • Allowed One Question=”how they kept from destroying themselves”
The Nines:
  • 18 = Total # of messages
  • 45 = 1997[C]-1952[RPM]
The Nines:
  • 9 = years old when Ellie’s dad (Theodore Arroway) dies (although dates given make it 10yr & 3mo.: 11/10/1974-8/25/1964)
  • 9 = 1161 [primes 2-101 totaled]
  • 9 = 1116 [miles to Pensacola FL]
  • 9 = 10 [IMC candidates] – 1 [drop out]
  • 9 = gap in 1997 to 1988. (1936 German broadcast +26*2(roundtrip signal)=1988
  • 18 = hours (the “Trip”)
  • 18 = “months later” (the last scene)
  • 27 = VLA dishes
  • 45 = additional VLA dishes built
  • 45 = 1997[C]-1952[RPM]
  • 45 = 1161 [primes 2-101 totaled] – 1116[miles to Pensacola FL]
  • 45 = 676 (26*26 primes/pulses/lightyears) – 631 (6:31am CST signal arrives)
  • 72 = New VLA, total dishes (27+45=72)
  • 99 = 101-2 (total #'s in the prime sequence)

Dogmatic overtones/destruction:

  • Doomsday/Satanic talk by ex-Nazi scientist; scientists destroy lab/radio

Dogmatic overtones/destruction:

  • Apocalyptic ‘cult’ – bomb destroys (first) ‘machine’
Concerns about message:
  • West=Capitalism (industry leaders) /East=Communism/anti-religion
  • (Martians=300 year life span), have solved many problems; worry news will disrupt way of life on earth
Concerns about message:
  • Military (NSC) / Religious (“Conservative Coalition”)
  • Aliens allude to slow progress (“slow moves…”), not to give all the answers to a lesser developed planet (as to not destroy civilization re:”…how technology affects 3rd world countries" i.e. planets)
  • Congressional address
  • General w/children in the Whitehouse (window frame)=Symbol of the Cross
  • Children=future (orphans of scientists)
  • Congressional panel at Capitol Hill
  • Obelisk (Wash.Monument), VLA Dishes=(Circle/Sun)
  • Children=future (students)


  • Eleanor (Light) Arroway (Arrow + Way); Initials E.A. = Sumerian lord EA (Akkadian) "the house of water"
  • Palmer (Palm) Joss (~Joshua); Palm trees (Pensacola), also in the novel version, Ellie takes a palm leaf as done in a Holy Land travel custom.

** Credit goes elsewhere for name symbolism



Also see references to Halloween and End of the World in Sci-Fi movies



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