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Amphibians in Movies
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.
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The Golden Salamander The Golden Salamander
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The salamander statue in this English movie is really a lizard. I'm including it here because the book called it a salamander and on the movie poster it looks like a salamander. (The book covers I've seen show either a salamander or a lizard.) Unfortunately, the people who designed the statue for the movie made it an obvious lizard with claws and giant scales. Maybe they were too lazy to research what a real salamander looks like. Maybe they figured the audience wouldn't know the difference. 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, that it was meant to look like a scaley lizard. (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. The expert says that it's actually a salamander - a kind of lizard. (Nonsense! That's like saying a bat is a kind of fish.) Then he says: "The ancients believed that it could go through fire unscathed because it had no fear of the flames." This is the absurd salamander/fire myth that pops up all the time, said to have been invented because sometimes salamanders that had bee hiding inside a piece of firewood were seen apparently walking out of the fire after their log was put on it. I'm amazed that this incredible blunder didn't cause an enormous herpetological scandal in 1950.

Fortunately, 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 inscription eventually convinces an English Archeologist to take action instead of continuing to ignore the sinister gang of smugglers that he accidentaly discovered. He came to Tunisia to collect a bunch of ancient Greek artifacts including the salamander statue that fell out of a boat 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. If you watch this, just try to ignore the lizard statue and enjoy the great Tunisian scenery, the good cast including Trevor Howard and a wonderful 17 year old Anouk Aimee. It all adds up to a good noirish thriller from the era when everything had a happy ending.