Monday, October 20, 2014

Terminator Week: Late Night Blogging (Terminator Advertisements)

The Terminator Movie Matrix

Rise of
The Machines
(v.o. only)
Friendly Terminator
Judgment Day
(Earl Boen)
“Fuck you,
“Hasta la
Vista, baby!”
“Talk to
The hand.”

Terminator Week: Cult-TV Theme Watch: Cyborgs

A cyborg or cybernetic organism is a being that is composed of both organic and mechanical parts.  

The term cyborg was coined in 1960, and has become permanent part of the pop culture. Cyborgs of all allegiances have appeared, for decades, in cult television programming.

For instance, the two most famous and beloved “aliens” of Doctor Who (1961 – 1989) are both cyborgs. 

The Daleks are small squid-like organic beings encased in a metallic travel suit. Similarly, the Cybermen are humanoid beings up-fitted into metallic suits. Sometimes, all that remains of the human biology in the Cybermen is the human brain.

Two of the greatest 1970s superheroes -- The Six Million Dollar Man (or Colonel Steve Austin) and The Bionic Woman (or Jaime Sommers) -- are both actually cyborgs. That is, their damaged limbs and organs have been replaced with bionic or mechanical implants. Steve has a bionic eye as well as a bionic arm and bionic legs. Jaime has a bionic ear, in addition to her arm and both legs. In the course of their series, these heroes sometimes combat cyborg villains, like Sasquatch, the cybernetic being created by an alien race.

In Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987 – 1994), the Borg (a shortening of the word cyborg) are cybernetic organisms that assimilate biological races and mate them with mechanical parts or implants. In the riveting two-part episode "The Best of Both Worlds," Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) is abducted by the Borg and converted into the cyborg mouthpiece, Locutus.

In Star Trek: Voyager (1995 – 2001), Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and her crew rescue a human woman from the Borg Collective, 7 of 9 (Jeri Ryan), and she joins the starship crew.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997 – 2003) features a cyborg as its "big bad" during the fourth season, the Iniative’s Frankenstein Monster: Adam. And on The X-Files (1993 – 2002), the alien super soldiers are seen to possess metallic, regenerating spines in "Existence," a fact which renders these “human replacements,” technically, cyborgs.

Other cult-TV cyborgs include the villainous Lord Dread from Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, Murphy from RoboCop: The Series (1994) and Cameron (Summer Glau) from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. 

Smallville (2001 – 2011) also features good and bad cyborgs, Cyborg and Metallo, respectively.

The Cult-TV Faces of: Cyborgs

Identified by SGB: The Outer Limits: "Demon with a Glass Hand."

Identified by SGB: Doctor Who: "Tomb of the Cybermen."

Identified by SGB: Doctor Who


Identified by SGB: The Six Million Dollar Man

Identified by SGB: The Bionic Woman

Identified by SGB: Dynomutt.

Identified by SGB: Inspector Gadget

Identified by Hugh: Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future

Identified by SGB: Star Trek: The Next Generation: "The Best of Both Worlds Part 2"
Identified by SGB: Star Trek:Voyager

IDentified by SGB: Farscape

Identified by SGB: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Identified by SGB: Robocop: Prime Directives

Identified by SGB: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Identified by SGB: Smallville

Terminator Week: An Introduction

“Listen and understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”

-Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), The Terminator (1984).

All this week, the blog will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of James Cameron’s The Terminator, which was released theatrically in America on October 26, 1984. 

The low-budget film -- about a cyborg from the future hunting quarry in the past -- has become a pop culture touchstone, inspiring sequels, a cult-TV series, and toys galore.

Furthermore, the franchise’s primary heroine, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton and Lena Headey) is widely considered one of the greatest female action icons of the silver screen. And the emotionless, homicidal cyborg, the titular character, has become Arnold Schwarzenegger’s most famous and beloved movie role, outpacing even his turns as Conan. 

Similarly, lines from The Terminator such as “I’ll be back” have become cultural catch-phrases, endlessly repeated in other Schwarzenegger films, such as The Running Man (1987), to name just one.

The Terminator has seen lots of knock-offs too, both good (Highlander [1986]) and bad (Future War [1992]), and it won’t be long before the fifth installment of the popular film series is playing on our movie screens, continuing the official saga.

Throughout the week, I’ll be posting reviews of the films, remembering some of the memorabilia, and otherwise celebrating the 30th birthday of the cinema’s most famous cyborg.

Television and Cinema Verities: Terminator 2 (1991)

“I wasn’t prepared for the buzz about my body – how hard I’d pumped up and worked out.  All that seems to have overshadowed my acting to some degree. Sure it was tough to do, but not once did I think, Oh this is going to get me noticed. I did it because it was so much a part of Sarah’s evolved character and my work process. There’s a lot more to her than the “Woman with a Gun” subtext going on that’s been overlooked. Journalists seem eager to talk about the scene in which I condemn men. Sarah does that because she’s bitterly screwed up and meant to be unsympathetic. It’s not my personal polemic.”

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Advert Artwork: The Warlord (Remco) Edition

Rod Serling's Night Gallery: "Fright Night"

“Fright Night” is a really fun, often chilling Halloween-styled episode from the third and final season of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery (1969 – 1973). 

In this story directed by Jeff Corey, a writer named Rick (Stuart Whitman) and his wife, Leona (Barbara Anderson) move into the home of Rick’s deceased cousin, Zachariah Ogilvy (Alan Napier).

The house is completely furnished, but the former housekeeper, Mrs. Patience, won’t stay on the premises after dark. She also informs the couple that Ogilvy only left one instruction about their ownership of the home.  Rick and his wife are not -- for any reason -- to move the crate in the attic. 

That trunk is not to be moved, and under no circumstances is it to be opened.  Someone will come for it,” she insists.

Rick and Leona settle in at “this very strange house,” but notice something odd.  One night, all the crickets stop making noises simultaneously, as if silenced by an unnatural force.

And on another night, Leona is certain she feels the presence of somebody in bed beside her, despite the fact that Rick is typing away in the attic.  An indentation on his pillow suggests that Leona is not wrong.

Then, one morning, Rick finds that a Satanic prayer has been typed (all-caps…) onto his manuscript. As Rick and Leona grow more accusatory about who may have typed that particular incantation, Halloween arrives -- the one night of the year the dead can walk the Earth -- and Zachariah returns for his crate.

A few simple genre ingredients and a strong 1970s vibe transmit a sense of menace in “Fright Night.”  The narrative makes extensive use of the haunted house trope, which is often a cover, at least subconsciously, for stories of marriages in trouble. 

Consider the paradigm: happy couples move into a new house together, but the honeymoon is over, literally and metaphorically. Despite their new locale, their relationship disintegrates.  Is it their fault, or the house’s?

“Fright Night” follows that established pattern, but not too aggressively, and focuses on some good, if somewhat familiar horror touches. For instance, the audience is treated to fearsome shots of a portrait -- Zachariah’s -- that seems to stare right through you, and whose eyes glow bright red at one juncture. 

Meanwhile, the crate in the attic seems to move frequently of its own volition. At one point, the trunk is opened, and psychedelic lights and shadows dance across the attic wall, playing out some ancient passion play about demonic possession. 

You’ve probably seen horror stories of this type many times before, but the direction is good enough that a tense atmosphere is maintained nonetheless. For instance, the first time we see the dusty attic, Corey’s camera tracks across the room at floor level, going slowly past empty chairs and wooden floor boards. The shot creates a sense of menace about what will be found there, in a place that has gone untouched for some time. And the shots of the crate veritably bouncing on the floor -- demanding attention -- similarly, increases one’s sense of terror about the narrative’s set-up.

Alas, much of the carefully-constructed horror is diffused when old Ogilvy shows up at the door on Halloween night to pick up his luggage. The visual presentation of this old crone is pure pulp comic-book, and in some sense ruins the atmosphere of dread that the episode seems to have been working towards.

 Beyond the grave there is no innocence,” one disembodied voice reports in the episode, and that seems abundantly true about “Fright Night.”  The episode generates suspense well, but seems frightfully outdated with the final appearance by its un-scary ghoul, who indeed resembles a trick-and-treater more than specter from beyond the grave.

The episode’s final bite -- that Rick and Leona have put the house on the market because Cousin Zachary promises to re-appear next Halloween for another crate -- is also anemic.  So “Fright Night” starts strong, due in part to its 1970s cinematography, but gradually loses its impact.  

It's funny to report, but the scenes that are so scary here involve those with no make-up or visual effects whatsoever, of that damn crate appearing where it has no right to be (and even after it has been locked away in the shed...). 

Outré Intro: Rod Serling's Night Gallery (1969 - 1973)

For three seasons in the early seventies, Rod Serling's Night Gallery brought horror stories of all varieties into American living rooms.  

The series was hosted by its creator, who was seeking to repeat the success of his previous anthology, The Twilight Zone (1959 - 1964).  But unlike its celebrated predecessor, Night Gallery was filmed in color, and that technological advance opened up a whole new world of horror, a world splendidly taken advantage of in stories such as "Camera Obscura," which featured a sickly-green tint in some footage.

The premise of Night Gallery is that Rod Serling is our "curator" in a dreadful art museum or gallery, one where the paintings lead viewers into gruesome, twisted, and macabre stories. 

As the series introductory montage for the first two seasons opens, these illustrations literally come towards the camera to the strains of Gil Melle's creepy theme song. The underlying feeling here is of a barrage of sorts, of unending waves hitting the shore, coming at us. And since the images are explicitly of terror or evil, we are overcome by that barrage.  They just keep coming, each image more hideous or weird than the last.

In the first shot below, an image within an image grows large, and comes at us.

As the images fill the frame, we see different examples of art (meaning different styles of paintings) and different people too, but all of a monstrous variety.

In terms of the art-work, we first see an M.D. Escher-like work which seems to bend or alter our sense of reality.

In the constantly moving box-within-a-box frame or format, we also detect a human face, particularly its dark eyes. And inside the interior box is yet another painting, one of an abstract or modern type.

The images keep hitting us like a tidal-wave in the shots below, suggesting a sense of enveloping horror that we cannot escape. The idea of bringing up each image in its own box is an original one, and means that we don't get a traditionally edited montage, one in which we follow a chronological sequence, or move from location to location.  Instead, it feels like this montage is happening to us.

Notice that many of the faces we detect in this montage -- above and below -- are lit so as to be immensely creepy (from below), distorted through a mirror or other device.  This imagery also features people who are aged, old men, old crones and the like. 

In the next shot, the object in front of the camera seems to be observing us, even as we look at him (and the other) images.  This visual seems to suggest that the terror is going to actually touch us, or affect us.

Next, our title cards, over more memorable and creepy art.

We finally resolve to a painting of a human eyeball, and in that lens meet our guest cast.

Here is the intro in live-action: