Monthly Archives: September 2018

Young Indiana Jones 2.11 – Austria, 1917

When ABC first showed the Austria episode, written by Frank Darabont, in September of 1992, I was most impressed by the casting of Christopher Lee as a conniving diplomat in the Viennese court. Today, I remain incredibly happy to watch Lee be magisterial and perfect, but the real star here is Joss Ackland as “The Prussian,” an evil, silent official in the secret police. He’s almost like a proto-Toht, if you remember Ronald Lacey’s character in Raiders. The Prussian is menacing and Ackland commands every shot he’s in without a line of dialogue. It’s a shame Indy’s spying activities didn’t take him back to Austria for a rematch. Amusingly, we saw both Lee and Ackland in different episodes of The Avengers earlier this month.

Our son got a little lost with the court intrigue this time. The story involves getting a letter from Emperor Karl I of Austria out of the country, but the letter that the emperor’s foreign minister (Lee) prepares doesn’t quite offer the concessions necessary for a separate peace with that nation. So after some mostly lighthearted chase scenes, the talk of diplomacy went straight over our seven year-old’s head.

Things picked up in the final act, when the chase scenes take on a much more serious edge. I think the cinematographer had a ball creating all the shots with looming shadows and long dark alleyways. It ends with a terrific scramble across the border into Switzerland, a good episode that probably could have been written a little more evenly and with at least one more big set piece in the first half, but entertaining all the same.

Other actors of note this time include a couple of faces that I recognize from ’80s Doctor Who: Elizabeth Spriggs as the mysterious Frau Schultz, and Patrick Ryecart as Karl I. Ryecart’s probably very familiar to fans of contemporary TV. He has recurring roles in both Poldark and The Crown.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under young indiana jones

Buck Rogers 1.1 and 1.2 – Awakening

At the end of 1978, Universal began production on a Buck Rogers TV movie for NBC. Based on a popular old comic strip where everybody wore outrageously stupid clothes, it had once inspired one of the most successful and best-remembered of the old movie serials, as well as the, errr, somewhat less successful An Interplanetary Battle With the Tigermen of Mars, which used to give me and my mates fits of laughter, and made sure we referred to every bad special effect in every dumb old movie we used to watch a “flash ray, which works at the speed of lightning.”

That old Tigermen movie is maybe five minutes long. After sitting through ninety minutes of the first installment of this series, its brevity suddenly holds so much more appeal.

Universal decided to release Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, latterly known as “Awakening,” in theaters in the spring of 1979. It did such good business that NBC decided they wanted a weekly series instead. The version on the Rogers DVD that I bought is the theatrical cut. Apparently one way to tell is that the original version has a cameo appearance by Joseph Wiseman toward the end as Princess Ardala’s father Draco, and it was cut when it was shown on TV.

Anyway, when I was seven or eight years old, this series was the greatest thing ever, so I chose to hold off watching this when we looked at all the other Star Wars cash-ins of the late 1970s last summer. I wanted my son to be right around the same age I was, and he absolutely had a blast. He loved it and can’t wait for more. This series remains the greatest thing ever…

…provided you are seven or eight years old.

Although, I’m kind of amused by the astonishingly clumsy way that producer Glen A. Larson and his crew decided to try to make this appealing to more than just the kids in the audience. Twiki, voiced by Mel Blanc, gets to make some stupid double entendres for the older and naughtier kids, but the only apparent concession to any grown-ups watching comes in the form of the downright painfully clunky attempts at romance. Gil Gerard and his very, very hairy chest was just peak masculinity for 1979, and he’s caught in a love triangle with the all-business-before-she-met-him Colonel Wilma Deering, played by Erin Gray, and the evil princess from space, Ardala, played by Pamela Hensley.

And you don’t know pain until you see the scene where Buck teaches these 25th Century squares how to get down and boogie and show off his barbaric, “disgusting” disco dance moves. It’s already the most hilariously stupid thing ever, and then Twiki starts dancing and shouting “Groovy!”

Before we get there, Buck Rogers was frozen by cosmic rays or gasses or something in 1987 and revived when discovered by some aliens called Draconians who are on their way to Earth for trade negotiations. A traitorous human named Kane, played by Henry Silva, sees a way to get vital information about Earth’s defense screen from Rogers’ ship, and the people of Earth see him as a possible spy. Other than Col. Deering, we don’t meet many humans, principally just Tim O’Connor’s Dr. Huer. There’s a run-in with some mutants in the ruins of Old Chicago, and lots of space battles, and Buck Rogers slips some roofies in Ardala’s drink to knock her out and go stop the invasion. Ardala has spent the movie taking baths in front of half-dressed ladies, and getting massages from half-dressed ladies, and one kiss and a knockout pill later, she ends the film in an escape pod asking Kane why he can’t be a real man like the guy who drugged her. So no, for a five hundred year-old man, Buck Rogers hasn’t aged well at all.

This was so much dopier than I remembered it, and I remembered it as being a cheesy relic of the disco era. But maybe I’ll enjoy suffering through it as our son has a blast. It has fun guest stars, and pretty girls, and even though the sexual politics of the program are very much of its time, I also know that Julie Newmar’s going to show up at some point, and I’m only human.

4 Comments

Filed under buck rogers in the 25th century

Godzilla (1954) at the Silver Scream Spook Show

Listen. If you’ve got any boils and ghouls in your house under the age of ten, or if you were ever under the age of ten yourself, and you live within a hundred miles of Atlanta, I know exactly what you need to do. Continue reading

5 Comments

Filed under movies

Doctor Who: Warriors’ Gate (parts three and four)

The other thing I really don’t like about “Warriors’ Gate” is Romana’s departure. It’s not as bad as Leela’s was, but it’s far too sudden and it isn’t given any sense of occasion.

Imagine this story with the roles reversed. If Romana had spent part three behind the mirror, then we’d see a reason for her empathy with the Tharils and her decision wouldn’t seem like it came from nowhere. I think that could have made a good serial much stronger.

But this is otherwise a solid story, and I like the way it assumes that the viewers are intelligent enough to figure out that time can flow in different directions on the other side of the gateway’s mirror. I don’t really have a lot of time to talk about it tonight, but our son also enjoyed it, and thought it was compelling and weird. It probably needed more of those Gundan robots, though. He really liked those things.

He’s also got his fingers crossed that there will be a K9 Mark Three. He’ll find out pretty soon.

2 Comments

Filed under doctor who

Doctor Who: Warriors’ Gate (parts one and two)

It’s kind of the nature of characters in adventure shows to do dumb things. Admittedly, the audience is given a lot more clues than Romana could know that the dudes who show up outside the TARDIS – one of them played by the great Kenneth Cope – are some of the cruelest, most desperate, and most hateful villains the show’s given us for some time: slave traders. But Romana was given enough of a warning when a strange lion-man, wearing shackles!, actually enters the TARDIS and warns them about the people who are chasing him. I guess she figures that she can be smug and superior and push these guys around, and she’s completely out of her depth, kidnapped, and nearly killed by them.

This has always weighed heavily on this story for me. “Warriors’ Gate” is the first Doctor Who serial written by Stephen Gallagher, who would later write some successful science fiction and fantasy novels and short stories. It’s an extremely interesting and complex story with some really interesting visuals – particularly in the next two parts – but Romana’s idiotic decision to put herself in danger has always aggravated me. There should have been another way to get her involved in the narrative than that.

I thought that our son would be a little more baffled than he was, but really, the first two parts are actually pretty straightforward. It’s when we get to the other side of the Gateway that the narrative gets a little less direct. He really enjoyed the Gundan robots, creaky, decaying skeletal things in armor with axes that have been left to be covered by cobwebs and dust. Like I say, it certainly is a story with great visuals, and part two ends with a very effective hand-held camera shot from the POV of one of the lion-man slaves, stalking his way through the cargo ship toward the helpless Romana, which he said was incredibly scary.

Leave a comment

Filed under doctor who

Young Indiana Jones 2.10 – France and Germany, 1917

The first half of the Attack of the Hawkmen story was pretty entertaining, but the second half is great fun! It starts a little slow, and I was a little worried about our son’s attention span, but he was extremely pleased.

Indy’s second mission as “Captain Defense” for French intelligence is to get an offer in the hands of the Dutch aircraft designer Anthony Fokker, who is working for the Germans, and await a reply. But he misses Fokker in Hanover and must follow him to an aircraft manufacturing plant outside Ahlhorn. Fokker is accompanied by General Von Kramer – Jon Pertwee! – and so Indy has to sneak around and pose as Fokker’s valet to get the letter to him. But Indy can’t leave just yet. The Swiss designer Villehad Forssman is also at Ahlhorn with his prototype of a gigantic airplane, which Indy feels he needs to photograph. Then a familiar face turns up, somebody who could recognize him: Manfred von Richtofen!

How could you not love this? It’s terrific fun, watching Indy think on his feet, improvise, and take on new identities. He’s forthright and bumbling at the same time, and as events spiral out of control – you don’t introduce a huge room where hydrogen is being extracted from water and where cigars are banned without planning to blow it up real good – our son was in heaven. This ends with a terrific fight, lots of fire, and, of course, some wonderful explosions. Fortunately, when Indy secreted away his means of escape, we saw him check to make sure he picked one with a full tank of gas.

This was Jon Pertwee’s last television performance, incidentally. I think it was made in the summer of 1995, and first shown on American TV in October. He passed away in May of 1996. Pertwee was actually the second Doctor to appear in Young Indy. Colin Baker appears in one of the earlier-produced episodes (1992-93, I think) that was never shown in the US. It’s set seven months after the events of this hour, and we’ll get to it in about three weeks.

Leave a comment

Filed under young indiana jones

The Goodies 6.5 – It Might as Well Be String

With the release of the complete BBC run of The Goodies just a week away – eight series across 12 disks! – we’ve started to see the think pieces in the papers and the web about how, despite a couple of dozen great and silly and timeless gags in every episode, there are also a few problems with stereotypes, sexism, and the occasional presence of pop musicians who later got in trouble with the law.

To celebrate this tomfoolery, my son and I enjoyed an episode from 1976. It starts with a parody of an ad for laundry detergent in which Bill’s character beats up his “wife,” and later on, there’s a girl in a wet T-shirt, a jingoistic attack on the “dirty Arabs” who are cornering the world market on string, and then Valerie Leon (her again!) chases Tim around a bedroom.

Mercifully, our son didn’t seem to notice any of the… shall we say problematic elements. There’s still an absurd amount to laugh about as our heroes’ advertising agency manages to create an economic crisis over the scarcity of string, and he giggled over all the silly sights, but the big takeaway came when another commercial parody for a different brand of laundry detergent causes the entire studio to be engulfed in soap. “Bubbles are taking over the world!” he shouted.

Leave a comment

Filed under goodies

Doctor Who: State of Decay (parts three and four)

It’s a “be quiet and don’t wake up the monsters” cliffhanger at the end of part three, meaning, of course, that Romana isn’t quiet enough and she wakes up the monsters. And it gave our son one of the biggest frights he’s ever had. He was under his blanket like a shot and when the end credits started, he bolted off the sofa and ran for the front door. He’s never hid all that way before. He didn’t come back to the den until he could hear that the third vampire had come into the “inner sanctum” and told the other two to knock it off, because he has important plans for them.

This is a terrific story. There’s a great bit where K9 warns the Doctor that using the “indigenous dissident population” to start his riot doesn’t have a high probability of success, which means that K9 hasn’t been watching the same show the rest of us have. Another great bit has Emrys James, who, to be fair, is indulging in a little overacting, as people playing vampires often do, telling one of his guards that dying is what guards are for.

For his final verdict, our son gave it a thumbs-sideways. He explained that it was totally awesome, but it was also “totally too scary!” This may be the last time he says that for a while. I honestly don’t think Doctor Who was this deliberately scary again for a long time. I’m sure something will give him an unexpected shock or two, but eighties Who rarely went in for real horror. I think he’ll be eight when we get to “The Curse of Fenric,” which is the story I’m thinking of, but if anything else sends him behind the sofa – or to the front door – I’ll be sure to write about it!

2 Comments

Filed under doctor who