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Showing posts from 2021

The Recycled Theme

What do Jawas and Lex Luthor have in common? John Williams is a great composer whose scores helped make a lot of great movies even greater. There's no denying that his music made Indiana Jones and E.T. even more thrilling than they were on their own. If there is one complaint that can be made, it's that his scores sometimes may sound a bit similar. Fans may bristle at this suggestion, but there is evidence of it's truth. When he was writing the music for Star Wars Williams wrote a theme for the Jawas, the junk trading aliens who scavenge C3PO and R2D2 in the desert of Tatooine. Lucas didn't care for the theme, so a different one was written and used in the movie. But the original one wasn't scrapped. It found new life as the theme for Lex Luthor in Superman The Movie.

The Avengers #1

Even those of us who love comics can admit that sometimes the stories are a bit nuts. Especially in older issues, plotlines can be corny and/or confusing. Even taking that into account, the first issue of The Avengers is pretty crazy. It begins with Loki trying to figure out how to lure Thor to the enchanted isle where he has been exiled. he decides to trick the hulk into wrecking a train. The Hulk saves the train instead, but the people on the train think the Hulk tried to kill them. Rick Jones and his cohorts try to get the Fantastic Four involved, but Loki redirects the signal so that it goes to Thor instead. Somehow it also gets to Iron Man and Ant Man and The Wasp. Ant Man comes across as a bit of a douche in this, maybe not as bad as he will be later but he is needlessly mean to Janet. Janet is portrayed as a vapid man hungry bimbo. Thor quickly realizes that Loki is behind the Hulk's supposed rampage and heads to Asgard. He doesn't bother mentioning to the other heroes t

Warlocks and Warriors

I really like fantasy novels. I can remember the first time I read The Lord of the Rings. I have very fond memories of reading the Dragonlance books and even Gary Gygax's Dungeons and Dragons novels. Not to be that hipster guy, but I read Game of Thrones years before they talked about making a tv show. I don't want to be that cranky old man who claims everything was better in his day, so I will say instead that it's getting harder to find new fantasy that appeals to me. It's all either in a modern urban setting, or it's so simplistically written that the target audience is obviously meant to be in middle school. Luckily there's a lot of great fantasy from days of yore out there that I either haven't read yet, or read so long ago that I can revisit it and experience as almost new. Warlocks and Warriors is an anthology from the 70's. Anthologies are dicey, because the quality is always going to be a bit uneven. This book was worth the read for me just for

Happy Days Season One Episode One All The Way

Happy Days is one of those shows that has just become ingrained in our popular culture in ways that many people may not even realize. When a show has turned a corner where it has been around too long and as a result the episodes become more and more ridiculous, we say it has jumped the shark. This is a direct reference to an infamous Happy Days episode. And the show did become a mill for catchphrases and ridiculous setups. Many people don't realize that Robin Williams' character Mork from Ork was introduced in Happy Days (in an episode that turned out to have been a dream, or was it?). Given how very schlocky the show became, one might be surprised by the early episodes. The show actually began as an unsold pilot, that was recycled as a standalone episode in the anthology show Love, American Style. This episode was seen by a little known indie director by the name of George Lucas (that's not sarcasm, this was way before Star Wars) who was casting his next movie American Gra

Star Trek #1

The first issue of DC Comics' Star Trek came out in 1984, a few months before Star Trek III came out. The decided to put the book in the continuity of the movies, but obviously had no idea what the movies were going to be doing. At the beginning of the book Kirk asks to be assigned to the Enterprise and his request is granted. The odd part is he is demoted to Captain from Admiral, and this is somehow presented as being a good thing for him. All the main players of course sign up to serve under him, including Lt. Saavik from Star Trek II. There are also a couple of ensigns, whose fathers were both on a ship that was destroyed by Klingons at the beginning of the book. This is the cause of a fight between them, which is broken up by Kirk. Kirk takes his crew to investigate how the Klingons are ambushing Federation ships without being detected. The Enterprise is attacked and Kirk figures out their very rudimentary strategy and uses it against them. The Klingons are somehow baffled that

The Night of the Ripper by Robert Bloch

Published in 1984, and written by the author of Psycho, The Night of the Ripper is a sort of Jack the Ripper fan fic. Most of the Ripper theories are given voice and considered, before settling on a conclusion that involves both one of the usual suspects but also an all new twist. It's not as lurid as From Hell, and sadly never got a movie adaptation. I think that may be in part due to the pacing. It is more methodical in pace and had it come out in the 70's I think it might have been made into a reasonably successful film. By the 80's though, movie plots were already becoming a never ending escalation of set pieces and action scenes with little time allowed for setting up plot devices before they were sprung on us.  The book tells the story from a few different points of view, but mostly sticks with Mark Robinson, an American doctor studying in London in hopes of becoming a psychiatrist. There is actually an interesting foreshadowing that is done regarding the pov of the f

The Rifleman Season One Episode One

The first episode of The Rifleman was not made as the first episode of The Rifleman. It was actually made as an episode of Zane Grey Theater titled The Sharpshooter. The episode was written by Sam Peckinpah, whose name will be well known to fans of westerns. Zane Grey Theater wasn't even the original show that the episode was written for. It was meant to be an episode of Gunsmoke. Luckily for Chuck Connors, they turned it down. It was directed by Arnold Laven, which is a name you probably don't know. He was a producer and director who would direct episodes of classic shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Wagon Train, Planet of the Apes, Shazam!, The Secrets of Isis, The Six Million Dollar Man, CHiPs, Hill Street Blues, The Greatest American Hero, and the A-Team among many, many more. He also directed a movie titled The Monster That Challenged The World that went on my to watch list based on the name alone. The story is about Lucas McCain and his son Mark coming into the town of

.38 Special Wild Eyed Southern Boys

Wild Eyed Southern Boys was released in January 1981. The band was fronted by the brother of Lynyrd Skynyrd singer Ronnie Van Zandt, and the southern rock roots show through a little on the album. Mostly though, it sounds like typical 80's radio rock. It's mostly unspectacular except for a few gems that continue to heard daily on classic rock radio. Hold On Loosely is the best song the band ever recorded. It kicks off with a great guitar riff, has the catchiest chorus, and has the biggest impact. There's a reason this is the one that ended up on all the compilation albums. First Time Around is dull by comparison and suffers by following directly after it on the record. The title track is okay, a little corny but not bad. It's catchy. Back Alley Sally is forgettable and doesn't impress much either way. Fantasy Girl is another classic rock radio staple. It's a good song, though not as good as a lot of songs that have been forgotten by radio programmers over the ye

Muppet Mondo

If you are a fan of the Muppets chances are good you are a fan of the song Mah Na Mah Na. If you didn't watch The Muppet Show and have never heard the song you should look it up on Youtube. It's a fun nonsense song that Henson had the character who he named after it sing in several appearances. The song did not originate with the Muppets though. It actually has a much seedier origin. Mondo movies were popular in the 60's and 70's. They were made mostly in Italy and were basically exploitation documentaries, covering topics meant to shock and titillate in order to compel people to see them. They would show graphic sex acts and murders and even surgical procedures.  Sweden: Heaven and Hell was released in 1968, and documented lesbian clubs, porno movies, and the swingers scene in that country. It also featured the debut of the future Muppet hit.

Dark Shadows #1

Dark Shadows was a popular tv show that ran in the late 60's and early 70's. It was a gothic soap opera that had lots of horror elements, including vampires, ghosts, and even some Lovecraftian themes. This post is not about the show, though. It is about the comic book series that spun off from the show. It was from Gold Key. The book assumes you are familiar with the setting and characters of the show. They don't do much to introduce characters or explain the different relationships. If you haven't seen the show you can probably pick up the gist of what's happening, but it will be a little more confusing than it would be for a fan of the show. The story of the first issue is two boys who come to Collinsport to research the fate of an ancestor of one of them. The man had disappeared while travelling in his capacity as a witch hunter. What they don't know is that Barnabas, a vampire who tends to be the main character of the show after his introduction in episode 2

Good Times Season One Episode Three

Good Times came from t.v. producer Norman Lear, who had already brought the public hits shows like All In The Family and Maude, and would later bring The Jeffersons. Good Times was nominally a spin-off from Maude, although the only thing that was kept was the name of Esther Rolle's character Florida. I am doing this episode out of order because while it was filmed first and so is technically the pilot, it was broadcast third and so is the third episode of the season. The production values seem cheap and cheesy by today's standards, but aren't bad compared to other t.v. shows of the period that didn't have big budgets. The jokes are good, the performances are really good (mostly) and it's easy to see why this show caught on. That being said, this is a show that would cause a big chunk of the country in this day and age to go into meltdowns. Michael, the youngest son, is a militant who makes derogatory comments about cops and opines about the disparities between white

Frankenstein (1931)

In 1931 two movies were made by Universal Pictures that created the genre of horror movie. The first was  Dracula . That one made a boat load of money, so of course the studio wanted to make more movies like it. As a result, they made Frankenstein. The original intent was to have the movie star Bela Lugosi, since he was now bankable as a movie monster. Lugosi didn't like the character, which in the original version of the script had been imagined as a savage killing machine and not the sympathetic creature that we ended up getting. He passed, and the original director was taken off because the studio had promised James Whale any property he wanted, and he wanted Frankenstein. Whale reworked the script, and also found Boris Karloff. Thus while Bela Lugosi lost his chance to be the king of the monster movies, the world was gifted with the talent of Mr. Karloff. He went above and beyond for Frankenstein, enduring physical torment to play the creature. Whale also insisted on Colin Cliv

Swamp Thing #1

If you are familiar with Swamp Thing you likely know this story. Dr Alec Holland and his wife Linda are taken to a secret lab in the woods by Matt Cable. Cable obviously works for the government in some capacity, though it's not made clear what that capacity is. He just as obviously gives not a single shit about either Dr. Holland. He is only interested in them finishing their formula that makes plants grow, and that formula not making it into anyone else's hands. This fact makes some of what happens next odd. Three thugs (led by a man who looks like a sinister Mario) find the doctors at their hidden swamp lab and try to make them an offer they can't refuse. They do refuse and the thugs leave with a warning. Cable is distraught that Dr. Holland didn't somehow alert him of their presence, telepathically I suppose. Now, one would think that since their security has obviously been compromised the smart thing to do would be to move them to a new hidden location. But no, Cab

The Ghost Busters Season 1 Episode 1

Ghostbusters is one of those franchises that inspires fan frenzy from 80's and 90's kids. Whether it's the live action antics of Bill Murray and Dan Akroyd and company, or the animated adventures of Slimer and the boys, every iteration of Ghostbusters has a devoted following. The Ghost Busters however is another story. The Ghost Busters was a Filmation show from 1975. It featured a trio of detectives named Spenser, Tracy and Kong. One of them is a gorilla, but not the one you'd think from the names.  The premier episode of the show opens on a couple of gangsters in their castle hideout discussing bringing back the ghost of a dead gangster to help them acquire an item. Johnny Brown plays the fat man, doing his best Sydney Greenstreet impression, and Billy Barty is hi sidekick doing something approximating a Peter Lorre impression. The gangster Big Al is played by Forrest Tucker, who is also the Ghost Buster Spenser. Forrest Tucker is all over the place, doing Brando, Cag

Salute to Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr has long been recognized as one of the most beautiful women of the classic Hollywood era. It hasn't been until more recently, however, that she was also recognized her her inventive mind that ended up helping shape the modern world. She was born in Austria in 1914, which had her coming of age in the 30's, which you may know was a dark time for that part of the world. She was starting to work in movies by the time she was 16, and gained some international notoriety for a movie she did titles Ecstasy. In this film she was not only nude, but had a simulated orgasm scene, possibly the first in movies. She made this movie under the name Hedy Kiesler, her real name. After she came to Hollywood she changed her name to Lamarr in part to distance herself from that scandalous movie. Before the lights and glamour of Tinseltown though, she married an arms dealer in Austria. Her husband of course was doing business with Mussolini and the Nazis. He didn't want her acting and

X-Men #1

It was 1991. The X-Men were a hot commodity, but as so often happens with comics there was so much continuity to deal with in the series that it was hard to pull in new readers. Marvel had two options, reboot the series or try to create a jumping on point for new readers. They went with the second option. It feels like they may have been trying to lure back old readers as well, since this book took old characters and put them back in familiar positions that they had strayed from. This series was running when the popular animated show started, and though the stories were taken from older books the team makeup and look was definitely influenced by this run. The story starts with some mutants who have hijacked a space shuttle being chased by agents in 3 other ships. The mutants are looking for Magneto, who has withdrawn from the world on his asteroid sanctuary. Even though he proclaims he wants nothing to do with world events, he is rather easily suckered into going down to earth to start