I’ve done a lot of posts here at Erotic Mad Science about what I call the “tube girl meme,” the visual depiction of a pretty woman, often nude or scantily clad, sealed in some sort of transparent tube (often suspended in fluid) for the purpose of preservation, experiment, or some perverted purpose — let your imagination run free there. It’s clearly a pretty prominent visual motif in the mad science genre and really takes off with pulp covers after the Second World War. But where did it come from?
I’ll offer a conjecture, and kindly keep in mind that it’s only a conjecture so if any of you who read this blog know of an earlier or better one by all means please comment. It goes back to a locus classicus of cinematic mad science, The Bride of Frankenstein (1935).
In this film, Dr. Septimus Pretorius, one of Frankenstein’s former teachers, demonstrates to Frankenstein a set of experiments in creating life, in this case Pretorius’s creation of a set of homunculi that live in cylindrical glass jars. It’s a pretty good effect, given that it’s 1935.
Among these are a dancer, (who, Pretorius laments, will only dance to Mendelssohn’s “Spring Song”)…
..and, perhaps more on visual point, a mermaid.
Origin of the concept? Maybe. I’m willing to bet that all those pulp artists and the public that patronized their work both watched Bride of Frankenstein a lot.
Bonus erotic trivia: The mermaid in the jar is played by Josephine McKim, a swimmer who won a gold medal in 1932 Olympics and who was the body double for Maureen O’Sullivan during her famous pre-code “nude swim” sequence in Tarzan and His Mate (1934).
Is there video? You betcha!
Of course we have also visited the contributions of Olympic swimmers to erotica on this blog before.