Logan’s Run 1.10 – Futurepast

As clip shows go, this is a really good one. There aren’t very many clips, for starters, mainly from episodes one and two (including the repurposed footage of Carousel from the movie, without the explosions on the people flying to their deaths), and they’ve been reassembled and remixed to form new scenes along with other psychedelic imagery as Logan and Jessica have nightmares in a dream research lab. The lab is run by an android played by Mariette Hartley, and she and Rem are delightfully cute together in some of those common-to-the-genre scenes in which androids or robots ask “could these be the emotions that humans call… love?”

Central to Logan and Jessica’s shared nightmare is a skull-masked figure that urges Jessica to join him in Carousel, with his red chest unit blinking. There’s one repeated scene in which he walks down a stairway, vanishes, and reappears closer to the camera, while Jessica turns and flees. This really got under our son’s skin and he retreated behind the sofa because it was “super creepy.”

“Futurepast” is the only episode of the series written by Katharyn Powers, who’d been writing for television for about four years, starting with some work on ABC’s 1974 flop frontier drama The New Land. The season before this, she had worked with this show’s script editor, D.C. Fontana, on the Bermuda Triangle series The Fantastic Journey, where she wrote a third of the episodes. In all, she seems to have contributed to about two dozen series and seems to have retired after writing thirteen episodes of Stargate SG-1 in the late 1990s.

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Pippi Goes on Board (1969 / 1975)

We enjoyed the pleasant surprise of finding Pippi Goes on Board, the second of two movies made from footage in the 1969 Pippi Longstocking TV series, at our library. It honestly didn’t occur to me to look for these when we moved up here. Turns out they also have the two proper theatrical movies as well; we’ll watch those in the not-too-distant future.

I learned that one notion I had about these films was totally wrong. I’d assumed that the first movie covered the events of the first half of the TV series – and we watched that first half about eighteen months ago – and the second movie covered the second half. Seems logical, right? But not even remotely. The thirteen TV episodes tell one narrative, and the movies pick and choose material from the shows, rearranging them into a different order entirely.

It opens with Pippi telling her father farewell, deciding instead to stay in Sweden with Tommy and Annika. But from there, it’s a mix of material from the second half of the TV series that was new to us and chunks from the first half that we’d seen. There’s about two minutes from episode two, and maybe five minutes from episode four, along with a sizable portion of the funfair material from episode six. It’s a really odd experience, especially since it appears that the return of Pippi’s father originally took place in episodes 12 and 13, and the beginning of this movie seems to start with the end of the TV series.

But while the experience was a bit weird for a production-oriented guy like me, it was a treat for our son, who guffawed all the way through it. He especially loved seeing Pippi feed a weed to the town’s mayor, who was napping in a field, and all of Pippi’s crazy feats of strength. She brings chaos to a classroom and some police officers get hit in the face with pies. It’s a great movie for six year-olds, since it’s much more fast-paced than the languid, slow, and occasionally reflective TV episodes.

Better still, the DVD from Hen’s Tooth Video, apart from featuring a really excellent restored print, features the original dub job, which Fred Ladd’s company oversaw in the mid-70s. The dub on the TV episodes is woefully poor, and while this isn’t perfect, it’s quite a watchable experience. Ladd had overseen translations and dubbing of several TV series from Japan in the 1960s, including Astro Boy, Gigantor, and Kimba the White Lion, so he knew what he was doing.

This compilation was apparently released in America in August 1975, but I can’t determine whether it had an actual theatrical release or if it went straight to the summer kiddie film festivals that were common in the seventies and eighties. Our kid really liked it – not as much as he liked the latest release of something modern like Lego Nexo Knights, mind – and I might just think about getting our own copies of this and the features for the shelves before long.

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The Shape of Things to Come (1979)

The rush to capitalize on those sweet, sweet Star Wars profits led to this terminally dull Canadian entry, which is more formally called H. G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come despite not having much of anything to do with any book that Wells ever wrote. It was filmed in the fall of 1978 for as little money as possible, leading to some charming moments like a bit where Carol Lynley, who plays the deposed governor of the planet Delta Three, tells all her subordinates on the studio set to wait there while she goes through a door on location to a power plant, where they couldn’t afford to take all those extras.

It ticks the requisite boxes. Barry Morse is in the Obi-Wan Kenobi role, with Jack Palance as the Vader Villain. There is a cute robot called Sparks and several similar dangerous ones that are painted black and kill people. In one surprisingly grisly moment, a robot batters a man to death with a great big rock. Big spaceships are filmed from underneath, so there was plenty here to cut into a thirty-second spot for afternoon teevee. Surprisingly, however, I don’t remember this movie at all. Sure, it’s been nearly four decades, but this was, of course, exactly the sort of film I’d see advertised on TV commercials and run screaming to my parents to take me to see.

Our son mostly enjoyed it, but the brief upper hand that the baddies enjoy really bothered him a lot more than in similar stories. I think that’s in part because the circumstances are really grim – Barry Morse’s death scene is, while still PG-rated, a lot more graphic than Obi-Wan vanishing into the folds of his cloaks – but also because the good guys seem hopeless. Nobody has laser guns or light sabers, and the heroic leads, played by Nicholas Campbell and the downright gorgeous Eddie Benton, don’t seem to have any special powers or abilities at all, just luck.

Another factor that might have bothered our son: the grim tone is really set by an honestly effective sequence set on Earth, which is by far the very best part of the movie. So the plot is that the Vader Villain has taken over Delta Three and now controls the radiation drugs needed on the moon colony. Our heroes leave the moon to confront him, but immediately have a fault and have to land on the polluted planet Earth, which had been ravaged by a robot war several years previously.

They land in a remote mining camp where everything is still and quiet among the orange leaves of the trees, except for some strange, small shapes that the camera keeps finding, hunched over among the weeds. Campbell and Benton explore the isolated place looking for the operator, and it’s all shot like a truly excellent horror film from the period, not a bombastic outer space movie. Experience with this sort of story suggests that the shapes will turn out to be mutant raiders or something, but that gets subverted, too.

It’s a real shame the whole movie couldn’t be as effective as this sequence. The director, George McCowan, mainly worked in television in the 1970s and regularly directed cop and detective shows like Cannon and The Streets of San Francisco. His work here suggests he was a bit lost trying to make killer robots and spaceships seem believable or threatening to grown-ups, but give him an old radio transmission tower and a couple of attractive leads somewhere in a quarry in Canada, and he could make something a little magical.

Eventually, of course, everything has to blow up, because that’s what kind of movie this is. That thrilled our son much more than anything in the woods.

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Sid and Marty Krofft Update from Comic-Con 2017

Some very neat news was quietly announced earlier today at San Diego’s Comic-Con, where Sid and Marty Krofft held their annual panel, this time with actor David Arquette and producer Bradley Zweig in tow. They showed a sizzle reel, but they don’t seem to have uploaded it to YouTube yet, so apologies for the poor quality of the photo below.

* 2015’s Electra Woman & Dyna Girl film with Grace Helbig and Hannah Hart got a bit that says “New series and film coming soon,” but they didn’t elaborate on it. The movie actually debuted as a web series, so I’m not sure whether this was an old visual just reminding the audience they’re still active and busy, or if more material with Helbig and Hart is in the works.

* The Sigmund & the Sea Monsters series for Amazon was featured with clips from last summer’s pilot. The series, as reported by Taylor Blackwell last month, will begin streaming in November. I can’t wait!

* The Kroffts have shot a pilot for a reboot of The Bugaloos. This is for Nickelodeon, as announced here. The clips from the pilot featured new versions of the classic characters Courage, Joy, IQ, Harmony, Benita Bizarre, Funky Rat, Woofer, Tweeter, and Sparky. Courage appears to be a girl in this version. Benita Bizarre is played by actress Lise Simms.

* Mutt & Stuff has wrapped production after 73 episodes.

* Further in the future: they’re working on a revamp of D.C. Follies with the title Fake News at the Trump Motel.

* And, inevitably, there’s supposed to be another attempt at Land of the Lost, this time as a one-hour show written and/or produced by Akiva Goldsman. Memo to Sid and Marty: phone David Gerrold. Now.

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The Bionic Woman 1.5 – Claws

A couple of years ago, the strange film Roar was reissued, and with it came the even stranger tale of how the actress Tippi Hedren and her teen daughter Melanie Griffith, who starred in the movie, spent the seventies sharing a house with a 400-pound lion named Neil. Roar went into production in October 1976, eight months after Hedren and Neil appeared in this episode of The Bionic Woman, along with William Schallert, Jack Kelly, and the omnipresent child star Robbie Rist.

All that guest star power didn’t overwhelm Jaime, who is caught in a local feud without any OSI support. A neighbor is raising a menagerie of hopefully tame animals, while a rancher believes the lion is killing his cattle. He doesn’t believe it could be a massive cougar.

Our son was transfixed by this story. He thought all the animals were completely charming and he was incredibly worried about the lion, the cougar, and Jaime. Full credit to the director: the scene where Jaime tries to calm an injured and frightened Neil, only to get injured herself on her non-bionic arm, really is a tense one.

I must add, though, that I was honestly most amused by a hint that Neil may be behind the attacks after all. There’s no reason for Neil to hunt cattle since he’s fed well, but money is tight and his owner has recently been feeding him half beef and half soy. If somebody was forcing me to eat slugburgers instead of sirloin, I might go hunt cattle myself!

(You can read more about Roar, in which none of the animals were injured but between 70 and 72 members of the cast and crew were, here. See more photos of Neil hanging out at home with Hedren and Griffith here.)

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Doctor Who: The Claws of Axos (part four)

I’m not sorry to see this one end. There’s only one Pertwee serial I enjoy less than this turkey, and that’s months away, thank goodness. I do enjoy the original story, and there are several amusing moments and lines of dialogue in this installment, it just looks and sounds so awful. However, in director Michael Ferguson’s defense, whoever designed that set for the light accelerator room didn’t give any thought to how they were meant to stage an attack by monsters. Ferguson didn’t stand a chance making it look good; the constant cuts to shots of Katy Manning with her eyes wide and hands on her head as the battle commences suggest what the director himself was probably doing.

But it certainly succeeded in doing its job to frighten kids. Our son tells us that the Axon monsters are the scariest in all of Doctor Who, even eclipsing the Ice Warriors, the previous holders of that award. To be fair, one of the costumes – I think there are four – really does look terrific, even from the jaded eyes of adulthood. The other costumes are just blobby red bags with some noodles and string glued to them, but the one principal Axon really is a triumph, and the best thing, other than Roger Delgado, about the whole production. I guess I was twelve or thirteen when I first saw a photo of this beast, and I was impressed then and I remain impressed now.

One of the blobby red bag Axon costumes was painted green and pressed into service as a different monster five years later, but the Axons themselves never returned to the series, although there were several rumors that Peter Capaldi wanted the Twelfth Doctor to have a rematch with them. Fernanda Marlowe’s character, Corporal Bell, never returned, either. I hadn’t really realized that she was only in part one of this story. That was a missed opportunity; particularly with Benton and Yates due for some needed character development in the next two UNIT stories, it might have been nice to see a woman in a recurring role during this very, very male-dominated period of the program. In fact, the show was so overwhelmingly male-focused in 1971 that we missed out on what might have been a very memorable female villain in the very next story…

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Doctor Who: The Claws of Axos (part three)

Since the Doctor spends this entire episode captured and imprisoned by Axos, it’s left to Roger Delgado to steal the show. The Master calmly has his run of both the Nuton Power Complex and the Doctor’s beat-up TARDIS, and Delgado is incredibly fun and watchable. He’d be even more fun had more microphones been handy to pick up all his bad-natured grumbling about the sorry state of the TARDIS console’s disrepair, because a lot of this episode is really quiet, but he gets all the best lines.

I mentioned with part one that this whole story seems incredibly sloppy and amateurish and the sound and vision issues are bad in all the studio sessions. I don’t know that it’s exclusively the actors failing to project, but it’s really hard to hear Pertwee in places in part one, which is really strange since the actor is usually bellowing. There are several shots where it seems the cameras weren’t in the right place to catch the action, like when the UNIT men spot the Master leaving the TARDIS this time, along with quite a few insanely quick reaction shots. It all feels like they just edited this story together from a dress rehearsal, not the final performance. The director definitely should have stopped recording this episode long enough to tell Delgado to speak up.

But while I was loving the Master’s dialogue in spite of the poor sound, our son was hating the Axon tentacled monsters. The director did a pretty good job filming the tentacled monster storming around the complex electrocuting soldiers, which had our boy hiding behind the sofa, but a far less good job actually staging where the Brigadier is in relation to the action. This was Michael Ferguson’s last Doctor Who serial and by far the least of them, but he would direct several much, much better TV episodes after this, including eight episodes of The Sandbaggers.

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RIP Deborah Watling, 1948-2017

We’re very sad to read that Deborah Watling, who played the Doctor’s companion Victoria Waterfield in Doctor Who‘s fourth and fifth seasons, has passed away from lung cancer. She’ll be missed by so many fans. Our condolences to her family and friends.

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