Hey folks – I’ve been away from the blog for a bit, but I have not been idle. I’ve decided to give making videos a try, specifically talking about vintage/retro pop culture – toys, television, movies, books, etc. I’m currently posting on YouTube, Rumble and Odysee, if you happen to prefer one over the others. My YouTube videos are embedded below if you’d like to check them out. I haven’t done any regarding role playing games yet … but I certainly will.
My goal for this first year is to post one video a week, with maybe short videos on the weekend when a topic strikes me. My inspiration, aside from watching lots of video creators and thinking it looked like fun, was to share some of the “treasure” I’ve accumulated over the last 50 years in my den.
Oh, and for all those folks who once pondered whether I was a real person, and not a group, because of how many games and magazines I published – here I am, revealed in all my “glory”. Just a guy.
Well, that’s my lineup so far. I’m pretty new at it, and have lots to learn – hopefully I’ll improve as I go. If you give them a try, I hope you enjoy them and tell your friends.
And I’m not done with the blog – I still want to finish my little series about Space Angel, and I’ll post from time to time when the notion hits me.
I have a ton of old movies queued up on Youtube, and I finally decided to start watching a few of them, bit by bit, before nodding off at night. This week, I chewed through a 1925 Italian picture called Maciste in Hell. It’s not just a clever title, as it really does concern Maciste, a long-standing character in Italian movies, a sort of Herules-type, going to Hell and giving the infernal hosts a bit of trouble.
If you have an hour to spare, and especially if you dig weird fantasy and/or Dungeons & Dragons, I suggest you check this baby out. The story is simple and the acting is fine. It’s the sequences in Hell that make this movie worth a watch. Awesome design of sets and costumes, with intrigue, betrayal and a battle between armies of devils – just really good stuff. You even get a shot of Dante’s concept of Satan at the lowest level of Hell committed to film. So groovy.
The movie also offers a neat concept that DM’s might want to steal for their own depictions of Hell – the effects of kissing a daughter of Hell. I won’t say more, as it might be considered a spoiler – just watch the darn movie already.
Hey true believers (he says in honor of Stan) – I caught a couple superhero flicks recently that I thought were worth a review and some Mystery Men! stats. The hook – neither of these epics came from the good old USA!
So I recently installed the Roku TV channel on my Roku, and going through the channels on their live TV I came across Gundala. I think I’d read about the character some time in the past, but I didn’t know much about him and figured this was a great opportunity to learn more. Besides, I don’t think I’d ever watched an Indonesian-made film before.
First and foremost, the Gundala character was created in 1969 by Harya Suraminata. The movie features an updated version of the character – which, funny enough, means that if I’d grown up with the character I’d probably be annoyed at the movie. Fortunately, I didn’t, so it’s all new to me. The film is the first in a planned Bumilangit Cinematic Universe, and based on this movie, I hope they can follow through.
The film has a subdued, bleak aspect to it that didn’t bug me. It involves a hero coming to grips with his powers and responsibilities, as well as the corruption infecting Indonesian government, and, I suppose, society. I thought the acting was excellent, the special effects were fine for me – I’m not much into computer effects, and since they weren’t overused in this movie, I give them high marks. The main villain is a powerful gangster called Pengkor and his legion of orphan assassins. There’s plenty of martial arts action in the film, and I liked it. The movie ends with a more powerful villain coming to the fore, and the teaser after the credits introduces the next hero to be filmed – Sri Asih.
I really enjoyed this movie – honestly, I enjoyed more than many of the MCU films. It was fun seeing what Joko Anwar could do with the subject, which he clearly loves – and folks – he did it on a budget of just $2.1 million!
Here’s my MM! take on the film Gundala (with the triumphant return of my old stat format that I never should have abandoned) …
I remember seeing the trailer for this a few years ago, but never had the chance until recently to see the film. It showed up on Tubi (another streaming service) in the English-dubbed version, so I gave it a shot. Apparently, this film was panned by critics … and while I’ll admit it wasn’t a great film, it really wasn’t terrible. At worst, I’d say it didn’t meet its potential, and I’m sorry that it doesn’t sound as though they’ll get another shot at the movie.
The Guardians are a group of genetically-modified heroes from the old Soviet Union days, reassembled by a SHIELD-like organization called Patriot to meet a new threat – August Kuratov, an angry, traitorous scientist who is mutated when his laboratory is attacked. This gives him super strength to go with his genius. He’s back, he wants revenge on Russia, and the Guardians have to come together after years alone to fight them.
Let’s start with the bad – the plot isn’t ground breaking folks, though frankly, most superhero plots are not. I didn’t love the design on the villain. In fact, I hated it. Could have been much better. The ending was a bit forced, and the acting in the dubbed version was not always great.
The good – while the first half of the movie is a bit grey and bleak (very Russian, one might say), it brightens considerably in the second half and I liked the characters much more after this shift. The shift actually makes sense in the film, as the heroes go from hunted, hated misfits on their own to a family of sorts. I’ll also say that I enjoyed a bunch of Soviet-era superheroes that were not dressed in red with hammers and sickles all over them (which is coming from a guy who created a bunch exactly like that in a much older post …). I mean, yeah, they have a guy who turns into a bear … but he’s really pretty cool and he has a big machine gun and stuff … I won’t count that against them.
All in all, I’d give the movie a C, maybe C minus. I think it had potential, and I mostly enjoyed the second half of the film.
Wow, have I been busy the last couple weeks, at work and home – so I apologize for a lack of posting. Before I get to the meat of the post, a couple quick notes:
1. I jumped on MeWe about a month ago, and it hasn’t pissed me off yet, so you can find me over there if you look.
2. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the last week cleaning up and organizing this blog. I’ve worked on the categories and tags to make finding things easier, cleaned up some blog post titles, etc.
It’s a wonderful thing exploring the cinematic past. I think it is safe to say that, for most of us, there are far more movies that have been made that we haven’t heard of than we have heard of. More importantly, some of your favorite movies are ones you have never heard of. Not everything in the past was a gem, of course, but there are some goodies hiding out there.
Two movies I’ve seen in the past couple months qualify for me as “recent unknowns” that I ultimately enjoyed. Both of them are stunt heavy, and call to mind the days when non-CGI stunts dominated action movies. The crazy stunts started early in Hollywood, though they were far more often the purview of comedies than action films. One can draw a straight line from Buster Keaton’s astounding stunt-filled comedies of the 20’s and 30’s to Jackie Chan’s astounding stunt-filled comedies of the 80’s and 90’s (and beyond).
The Stunt Man is the story of a fugitive (Steve Railsback) who becomes a stunt man to escape the authorities. He becomes involved in a love triangle – well, sorta – involving the director he works with (Peter O’Toole) and his protege actress (Barbara Hershey, pre-lip expansion). The stunts are amazing, but the movie is really about the domineering director and the mystery of the man’s fugitive past. They do a good job of making you nervous about who this stunt man really is … aided considerably by the fact that Railsback had previously played Charlie Manson. His face is enough to make you think something terrible is lurking beneath the surface. No spoilers here – you’ll have to watch it to find out how it comes out.
This is a weird little movie that is extremely stunt heavy. It took H. B. Halicki two years to get it made, but boy did he get it made. There is a mega-car chase with explosions that is worth the ticket of admission. The Junkman is part of a trilogy with Gone in 60 Seconds and Deadline Auto Theft, two other b-movies worth watching if you dig car movies. The Junkman is not as complex as character study as The Stunt Man, and does not have the heavy hitter status of a Peter O’Toole, but it’s still a fun flick for a lazy Saturday or Sunday afternoon.
Well, 2021 has begun and I’m out of gas, so here are a couple things I watched this week that I found notable for weird reasons.
Up first is an episode of Lights Out entitled “Beware This Woman”.
Frankly, the show didn’t do much for me. The story was okay, but then you have Veronica Lake without her classic 40’s hairdo – very upsetting! What amazed me was the fact that Phil Hartman apparently traveled back in time to appear in the episode. When I looked up the actual actor, I discovered that he was Glenn Denning, and that was about it. To my mind, the lack of biography and credits for Mr. Denning proves that my Phil Hartman theory is correct.
In all seriousness, given what happened to Hartman, I’d love to believe he escaped his fate and was still entertaining people somewhere out there.
Lights Out originated on radio, and the episodes are worth finding – moody and creepy and very well done.
I also watched Murder Is News this week, a 1937 mystery.
Again, not a tremendous storyline, but I love b-movie mysteries from the 40’s, and I dug that the lead character, reporter Jerry Tracy, worked for the Daily Planet. Tracy was flying high in 1937, but a year later that new guy Clark Kent and ace reporter Lois Lane would be getting all the attention and poor Jerry was out of luck!
Tracy was played by John Gallaudet, who was in a favorite old TV show of mine, Burke’s Law – it was like the Love Boat of detective shows (which makes sense, since it was produced by Aaron Spelling). Also appearing in the cast was John Hamilton, who would later play Perry White in The Adventures of Superman.
OK – a lazy post today I know, but maybe the rest of you are feeling lazy as well and could use a couple hours of mediocre black and white entertainment to round out the day. Be well, everyone – and I hoped you remembered to eat some black-eyed peas on January 1st – we’ll need all the help we can get to deal with 2020 II: Electric Boogaloo!
After drawing those Jason of Star Command uniforms (in Excel, of course) for the post last weekend, I decided to try my hand at drawing some more sci-fi uniforms.
Below is the result of my mania. I chose a bunch of science-fiction TV and movie uniforms – not just costumes, you understand, but uniforms – and with MS Excel in hand cobbled them together as best I could. They are presented in the chronological order in which they appeared in reality – I thought about doing it in order of when the show/movie was set, and may do that one later.
It was a fun exercise, and although it took longer to do than I had planned, it sure helped me mellow out while I worked on it.
What’s your favorite old sci-fi uniform? What’s your favorite that didn’t make it onto my little poster? Let me know in the comments!
Hey all you cats and kittens … just writing a grab bag today because hey, sometimes you can’t focus … especially not on the last nice week of weather Vegas will see until October!
I’ll be covering things today like they did on the McLaughlin Group, hence the stupid post title.
ISSUE ONE – Slipgate Chokepoint
Andrew Walter has a Kickstarter running for a pen & pencil re-creation of a 90’s era first-person shooter video game. If those games make you all goose-pimply, then check it out. The product is a supplement to the Stay Frosty RPG, and aims to turn the action in that game up a notch – faster and more deadly. Give it a look see, ladies and gentlement. There are still 22 days left on the campaign, so plenty of time to get in on the ground floor.
ISSUE TWO – MEMORIAL DAY
Another Memorial Day rolls around, and unfortunately we have even more American warriors to remember in 2020. My grandfather served in World War II as a doctor in a field hospital set up to take care of the survivors of the Hiroshima bombing. He didn’t tell stories about it, because I imagine the things he saw he didn’t want the rest of us to struggle with. A great-uncle of mine was a Seabee. I remember him talking about how eerie it was to be on an island, thick with jungle, and know that there were Japanese soldiers out there, just beyond the lights, watching.
I also have a couple uncles who served in the Korean War, one in the US Army, the other the Marine Corps. My father served in the US Air Force during the Vietnam War. What I’m saying is that I’ve been lucky enough to know many people who served their country, and I’m sure many of you readers have as well. If you don’t know anyone who served, I’d say get out there and get to know one – it enriches your perspectives about a great many things. There aren’t many World War II veterans left, nor veterans of the Korean War. It’s hard to believe that the Vietnam Veterans are now as old as the WW2 vets were when I was a little kid. I’m not saying you should try to drag war stories out of people – those tales can be very painful. I’m just saying it’s very worthwhile to get to know people who have survived the experience of war. And honor them, because they need the love.
ISSUE THREE – THINK SMALL
I suppose there are some readers out there who aren’t mired in Great Depression-era unemployment as a result of lockdowns from COVID-19 – count yourselves lucky. My own state of Nevada has hit 28% unemployment, the highest in the country and double what we had during the Great Recession. Folks, it’s tough out there, and especially for small businesses. If you have the ability to do so, throw as much of your business as possible their way. The giant megacorps will suffer, but not nearly as much, and frankly, if half the McDonalds or Starbucks had to close, there would still be lots of McDonalds and Starbucks … though I’d hate to see their employees lose their jobs.
Still, when little independently run businesses give up the ghost, they’re gone forever. In the last couple weeks we’ve gotten back out to Cash 4 Chaos, the punk/rock shop we dig – got a VHS copy of Ladyhawke we watched last night and a some bitchin’ shirts for my daughter and me. We hit our favorite antique mall on Saturday, all masked up, and then ordered dinner from our favorite mexican restaurant, Casa Don Juan, which re-opened this weekend. We’ve been hitting as many of our favorite spots as we can, including the awesome Omelet House 50’s Diner we’ve patronized for the last 25 years – it’s run by some really beautiful folks. It sounds like Zia Records is open again, so I’m itching to visit them, and to get back out to Boulder City and all their great restaurants and shosp. Remember, these folks are really hurting, and they need your help to stay open, so please consider throwing your coin their way.
ISSUE FOUR – LADYHAWKE ON VHS
Since I brought it up – how great is Ladyhawke? It’s such a cozy movie in many ways – up close and personal, not grand and overbearing like so many modern flicks. It’s not a perfect film by any means, but Broderick is great (and I wonder if this movie had any effect on him getting Ferris Bueller), Michelle Pfeiffer is wonderful and so lovely and Rutger Hauer just loosk perfect on that black charger, hawk on his arm, zweihander by his side. The curse of the lovers is tragic, keeping them apart, and I dig the ending, whereby it becomes more a “man vs. self” story than “man vs. man”. If you haven’t watched the film, give it a shot. The uber 80’s soundtrack lends the movie an air of weirdness, but if you grew up on that sound, it’s just nostalgic gravy.
Like I mentioned above, since I got a couple working VCR’s last year we’ve been enjoying grabbing some favorite movies on VHS. In the last month, we’ve done some old school viewings of Ladyhawke, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Legend (which I’d never seen straight through) and the three Star Wars films (there are only three of them, you know … Return of the Jedi was the last one they made … just leave me to my illusions) before that Lucas guy messed with them.
Watching the movies on VHS is partly nostagia, since I grew up not only watching those things, but working in the World’s Largest Video Store (and meeting my future wife there). The picture below is of the music video section at my store, the Video Park – it was a rereation of the Beetle’s Yellow Submarine. We had a real haunted house for the horror movies, a circus tent for the kid’s movies, and a brothel for the adult films. We also had some really awesome bosses in Dale & Lisa Clark and Harold Vosko. I notice that in the left-hand corner of the picture below you can just see a bit of the sports section, which looked like the Thomas & Mack center. God, I miss that job!
I also like VHS tapes because DVDs sort of piss me off. Too much nonsense before you get to the film, and too little control over what button you can press and when. A VHS tape is simple and friendly – put it in, hit play, maybe fast forward through some previews if you’re not in the mood – and you watch your movie.
Just remember – be kind, rewind!
ISSUE FIVE – DANCING TURKEYS
To end on a happy note, here is a video of Jimmy the Turkey dancing from the Kyle The Rooster channel. Stay strong folks, and try to keep that glint in your eye and grin on your kisser.
Today I start a new series of reminisces about the times I grew up in. Because folks … they’re getting to be the “olden days”. There’s about as much time between now and those golden 1980’s in which I grew up as there was between the 1980’s and World War II when the ’80s were new. It’s a funny thing, the way things change slowly, gradually, so that you don’t even realize it until those changes pile up and you find yourself in a whole new world.
Our entry today is HBO – The Wonder of its Age (for boys who weren’t supposed to be watching it at our age!)
Before we get to HBO, though, I’d like to let folks know that Pen & Paper Baseball is now up for download on DriveThruRPG.com… and free to make up for the lack of Opening Day this year. It will stay free until the baseball season starts – so Play Ball!
Home Box Office! Movies at home … but newer than the movies of the week you got on normal TV … AND NO COMMERCIALS! You see, the awesome thing about cable TV was that since you had to pay for it, there were never going to be commercials! Can you believe it? Probably not, given how many damn commercials there are on cable TV now. That promise sure didn’t last very long.
Now, my family were never early adopters of new technologies. Be patient, let them produce better products at lower prices, and then jump in. I didn’t have HBO in my house as a kid, but my friend next door did. In fact, he was the only one of my circle who had it, so many an afternoon were spent at his house. He also had an Atari, so we’d waste some hours playing Pitfall and Pac-Man, and then catch a movie or two. Pretty sweet deal.
There are three movies in particular that I remember from those days, which I share with you now in no particular order …
1. Ice Pirates (1984)
This was one of those films we probably shouldn’t have been watching back then. I was 12 when it came out, so maybe 13 when it was on HBO. It stars Robert Urich, and the movie is about … well, ice pirates. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve seen it since I was a kid, so all I remember is that water is super valuable in the future, and there’s all this fighting over a big hunk of ice floating in space. Oh, and there was a joke about them being turned into eunuchs. Heck, it was mildly dirty and involved space ships, so it was a hit with my crowd. Honestly, I’m going to guess the movie is a LOT funnier when you’re 13 years old.
2. The Big Red One (1980)
Holy crap did we watch this movie a bunch. I was the World War II freak in my circle, and dragged the rest along with me into playing army. We all had plastic M-16s and grenades and would play war in the neighborhood like crazy. We even fought some kids who lived on the other side of the street once (and won!). They were led by another kid named Matt, and since he was big and we were as sensitive as you would expect as elementary school kids, he was known as Fat Matt. I was just Matt.
Anyhow, the movie follows the 1st Infantry Division in World War II, from North Africa, through Italy and into Germany. It stars Lee Marvin, who is just plain cool, and you even have some early post-Star Wars work by Mark Hammill. I don’t remember now, but I’m sure it freaked us out to see him be something other than Luke Skywalker.
Now, we dug the movie because it was a war movie, but also because it provided something that young fellas in those days were often in search of … bare boobs. Pre-internet, finding bare breasts was no easy task for a curious kid. In this movie, there is a split second – and I mean split second – of bare boobs that we could not believe we had seen when we first watched it. Super forbidden … and guaranteed to make the movie an instant classic for a bunch of 10 to 12 year old boys.
3. The Cannonball Run (1981)
Man, do I love this movie. Loved it when I was a kid, and I love it still. My daughter is a big fan as well. What more can you ask for in a film? Fast cars, beautiful women, Burt Reynolds, Dom Delouise, James Bond, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr and Jackie Chan! This was another movie that we knew we probably shouldn’t have been watching at our age, but there it was. I can still remember sitting in my friend’s living room, watching the movie while prepared to get scarce if his parents came home. I also remember us turning aerosol cans and lighters into makeshift flame throwers … God knows how we survived childhood. In our defense, we pretty quickly realized that playing was fire was a bad idea and cut it out. Even we weren’t that stupid. We did discover, though, that if you sprayed a fly with Lysol its wings would crystallize in mid-flight and it would fall from the sky.
So there’s a walk down memory lane from a kid who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, and then grew up some more in the 90’s, and then had a kid and grew up a lot more in the 2000’s.
I’m getting back to watching Charlie’s Angels and making hopping John … and Emergency is on at 3! … but if you have some favorite HBO memories from back in the day, go ahead and share them in the comments, and stay safe out there Nodians!
Hey folks – it’s a three day weekend in these parts, so I’m still on schedule with a post every weekend.
I was going to do a Dragon-by-Dragon today, but instead decided to write about a little B-movie I finished watching last night, the 1945 “classic” The Vampire’s Ghost. While the movie does not involve a vampire’s ghost, it is a better movie than it has a right to be, possibly because it was written by Leigh Brackett. If you don’t know who Leigh Brackett is, well go find out. She was a classic sci-fi author, and did some fine screenwriting on The Big Sleep, Rio Bravo and The Long Goodbye. The film we’re talking about today was her first such effort, and in it she brings more talent to the picture than one would expect of a low-budget Republic film.
She’s joined in this by the the villain in the piece, John Abbott. Just to maintain the Star Trek theme I’ve been on for a while, he played the lead Organian in the episode “Errand of Mercy”. In this picture, he plays the vampire, and I think he’s one of my favorites. In classic Hollywood, the Vampire didn’t usually have much depth, and was often played for shock value. Bela Lugosi’s turn as Dracula is an exception, of course.
It also helps that the movie is based loosely on “The Vampyre” written by John William Polidori in 1816. Between Polidori, Brackett and Abbott, you get a hidden nugget from the studio days of Hollywood.
In The Vampire’s Ghost, Abbott plays Webb Fallon, an English vampire who has “lived” at least since the days of the Spanish Armada. He brings a really rate matter-of-factness to his vampire portrayal – he’s not happy about his condition, but he shows no remorse for his victims, and he mostly uses his ability to hypnotize and control people to get away with it. In the film, he is now running a drinking establishment in the African town of Bakunda. As in Dracula, the movie wastes little time in revealing that the mysterious killer around Bakunda is a vampire, and that Fallon is that vampire. The natives discover it first, and the “hero” of the picture, Roy Hendrick (Charles Gordon) is soon clued in, but is hypnotized by Fallon before he can do anything about it. Strange for many such movies, the supposed hero spends most of the movie unable to do anything against the villain. The vampire really is the protagonist in the film, making all the moves and committing his villainy unrestrained until … well, I won’t give everything away.
The main point here is that, in this largely forgotten B-movie, there’s a really cool vampire depiction thanks largely to two talented people, Leigh Brackett and John Abbott, and despite the low budget and relative apathy of Republic Pictures. To tie this in to roleplaying games, the Webb Fallon vampire should give a good game master some ideas about playing a vampire in a game in a way that might surprise the players.
I love lo-tech aliens. I don’t mean aliens who wield sticks and stones, but rather aliens from old TV shows and movies who look goofy (or often look goofy). I love the creative work done by make-up artists and folks working with rubber and shiny polyester on these creatures. I’ve always appreciated old time special effects with technological limitations – nothing has taken the magic out of sci-fi and fantasy for me more than computer graphics. I used to wonder how they did it … now I know, and I wonder why with the ability to do virtually anything, they did what they did.
But let’s get back to those old sci-fi aliens – here’s a little chart of aliens I have known (or “watched” would be more appropriate). I’ll include a link to download it below. This could be used for rolling random alien encounters in a gonzo fantasy game, or just for inspiration when doing your own thing.
Oh – and those aliens from a galaxy far, far away who are too stuck up to come visit the Milky Way Galaxy – I left them out. Enjoy!