Friday, May 04, 2007

The House Between Episode # 7 Preview ("Departed?") - and discussion board

One short week until the startling season finale of The House Between. (And only a few more weeks until the gang reunites to begin shooting Season Two...). The sneak preview this week is a brief one, since to give too much away would be to spoil the fun. Suffice it to say, there are surprises and shocks aplenty in "Departed?"

Meanwhile, if you can't get enough of The House Between, please check out the brand new series discussion board located here.This is a place for fans to get together and talk about various episodes, ask questions and so forth. I'm registered there too and will be joining the discussion as often as possible, and posting updates on the shooting. It's gonna be great, and I'm sure some of the cast and crew will be joining in as well.

Won't you join us?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

COLLECTIBLE OF THE WEEK: Mego Star Trek Communicator

Here's one of the true treasures of my office collection, a Star Trek "walkie-talkie" communicator, copyright 1974 (with belt clip!) Direct from Mego, this toy features two "real" Star Trek communicators "with authentic sound."

These walkie talkies send and receive "voice communication" or a "2-phase warp sound," according to the packaging. The walkie talkie also features a "telescopic Rod antenna," a "push-to-talk switch," a "speaker-microphone" and a "green/red alert signal button," among other features. This is so you can instruct Spock just to beam up the landing party, and not the Klingons, vis-a-vis "Day of the Dove," I guess...

In terms of fidelity to the original prop seen on the show, this toy communicator doesn't rate particularly high. This communicator is blue, larger than the device seen on Star Trek, and the flip-up grille is emblazoned with an Enterprise logo that wasn't on the communicator on TV. Still, who's to complain? This toy rocks. I can remember spending literally DAYS playing with these walkie-talkies communicating back and forth on a "landing party" on the wooded trails near my house in New Jersey. What fun!

Anyway, to punctuate this blast from the past, here's a YouTube clip, a commercial for this very toy. God bless the person who posted this. Note how serious the kids are in this commercial! That was me as a youngster too! My oh my...

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

RETRO TOY FLASHBACK # 60: Space Academy Action Figures

With the recent official release of the Space Academy DVD, it's a perfect time to remember a rare and special collectible from 1977...the action figures from the same disco decade TV series. If you recall, I've blogged the series as part of my Saturday Morning Blogging (which I'll soon be resuming...), but here's a refresher: it's the story of futuristic young cadets at a university in space; flying on missions in Seeker space craft and learning lessons about the galaxy at large. The late Jonathan Harris played the wise instructor, Isaac Gampu.

These four action figures were released in 1977 and distributed by Woolworth Co., (New York, NY, 10007). They were produced by Hasbro/Aviva, and their price tag shows they cost $3.99 at the time (though Loki, being shorter than the rest, was $3.33). I'm old enough to remember seeing these toys on the shelves and wanting desperately to own them. And what I would have given for a Seeker space craft toy or model! Anyway, at the time, as a youngster (in second grade...) I just assumed the series would continue and become popular like Star Trek. Didn't quite happen that way, however since 1977 also saw the release of a little production called Star Wars...

Leaving that aside for a moment, there are four figures in this set. The packaging, as you can see, is quite exciting and colorful; each figure is adorned with eight photographs from the series, showcasing the fabulous set interiors as well as the impressive miniatures. Each figure boasts the Space Academy logo and the line "A Flying University, Almost a City in Size."

The Gampu figure features an illustration of the character (dressed in blue...) amidst several computer read outs. Unfortunately, his name has been misspelled as Issac instead of as Isaac. Oopsy. On the back of Gampu's box is this description: "Instructor in Space Academy and Favorite of the students, Professor Gampu, "Issac" to his classes."

Chris Gentry, who is here described as a "Member of Space Academy" is shown in his illustration showing off his muscles. Although they didn't make a figure of his sister, Laura, they should have...because these two shared a psychic link in the series. On the back of his box: "Chris is an athlete, a linguist and has earned a reputation as being the Academy's most proficient cadet pilot."

The third action figure is "Tee Gar Soom," and his card reads "almost Super-Human Strength." His illustration reveals him hurling what appear to be giant purple and blue gum balls or something. The back side of the Soom card reads: "One of the Orient's contributions to the Space Academy, Tee Gar, or "Tiger" as he is better known, is a medical student, enrolled in the academy's school of space medicine." We don't use the term Orient in 2007, so I doubt we would in the thirtieth century either...

Last but not least is "Loki," "Everybody's mascot." He is described as "a young boy, perhaps thirteen, possessing certain supernatural power that enables him to become invisible." The whole Loki character and background, by the way, got assimilated for Odo on Deep Space Nine. (An orphan; in search of his home; with unique abilities that separate him from the humans he works with...).

Anyway, I love these figures, although they are now showing their age (three decades this year!). All the figures' hands have fallen off'; their glue long-since having lost their adhesion. Still, I also have a loose Loki (that sounds dirty...), and remarkably, his hands haven't fallen off yet. My cat did try to eat one, however. This was the same cat, by the way, who urinated on all my Star Trek: Voyager action figures, which I always took as a telling comment on the quality of that series.

Monday, April 30, 2007

GameCulture Journal Issue # 3

Hey everybody, the third issue of this new academic journal covering the history and milieu of the video game has just been published. GameCulture Journal # 3 is now available for download at this link, and it's terrific.

Included in Issue # 3, which deals explicitly with the science of the video game, are a number of fascinating pieces. Co-editor Kevin Flanagan has written "Scared of Science: Mad Rationality in the Video Game," and co-editor Bobby Schweizer gives us "Better Games Through Science? How a Fluff Piece in Nintendo Power Magazine is Detrimental to the Game Culture and Nintendo's Wii Ad Campaign."

Finally, two chaps named "Muir" have pieces included here. Christopher Muir (no relation...) offers "Representations of Soft Science in SimCity and SimAnt," and hey, I've got an article here too! Mine concerns the social response to the Atari VCS in the early 1980s, and is called "Culture Wars Episode One: The Atari Menace."

Check it out!

Reader Pop Art # 4

Now here's something truly special! It's either pop art or commercial camp, but either way, it arrives here courtesy of my favorite tin-can collector (!), The House Between's Arlo, Jim Blanton. Jim - a movie buff and scholar (he gave me a copy of Michael Mann's The Keep while I was writing Horror FIlms of the 1980s...not to mention Street Trash and Hell of the Living Dead) - has penned for us today a wonderful treatise about the glories of the movie poster for...Megaforce (1982). Deeds, not words...

Jim writes:

Perhaps a controversial choice, but Megaforce remains one of the most prominently remembered posters of my misspent movie going youth in the 80’s. For anyone who didn’t come of age in that decade Megaforce is probably a tad puzzling, but if you were an adolescent boy in 1982 you were bombarded with this image on the back of every comic book/genre magazine you read that glorious summer. Yes, the good folks at 20th Century Fox wanted to be sure that all of us pre-teen boys would sign on for the first of Ace Hunter’s sure-to-be-many adventures. Consequently, no expense was spared in convincing us we had never come across a hero like this fellow . . . boy were they right!

Whoever had the bright idea to cast Barry Bostwick as the tough-as-nails leader of a clandestine military strike force must have been seriously impaired during the audition process. One look at Bostwick in his far-too-tight spandex uniform, not to mention his ever-present baby blue headband, and it was game, set, and match for Monsieur Hunter. He may have been a suitable Brad in Rocky Horror, but he certainly didn’t fit the bill of a Rambo-esque superhero.

And then there’s the sultry image of Persis Khambatta. There’s no mystery as to why she appears this way on the poster, but not in the film. Someone at marketing got a look at Bostwick and knew right away they had to assure moviegoers that Ace Hunter was 100% a ladies’ man. No better way than to have the lovely Khambatta on his arm in saucy evening wear.

Okay, we’re clear on who the leads are in the picture (for better or worse), but what else is going on? Well, you have random explosions and a host of interesting vehicles leaping off the page, with an arching banner that proclaims “deeds not words!” If this doesn’t scream pure cheese, I don’t know what does. Deeds not words? Deeds not words?!? Pretty bold talk for a movie that features defiantly wooden performances from practically everyone involved.

And speaking of those involved, moving on down the poster we find quite a roster of ne’er do wells. It’s a veritable who’s who of Z-grade 80’s action stars. Beyond the aforementioned Bostwick you have Michael Beck (putting the final nails in the coffin lid following Xanadu), Edward Mulhare (aka Devin from Knight Rider), and the coup de grace . . . “Henry Silva as Guerera.” And as an added bonus (not listed on the poster) you even get Evan Kim from The Kentucky Fried Movie to drive home the point that Megaforce accepts members from all nations (although the ranks look to be mostly from the Midwestern United States).

As we near the bottom, we get a few final pieces of crucial, technical information. Firstly, the film was helmed by Hal Needham. Unfortunately this was Stroker Ace era Needham, rather than Smokey and the Bandit era Needham. Secondly, we learn that Needham utilized a process called Introvision to produce certain sequences in the film. From what I can deduce, Introvision is code for really crappy blue screen effects. Truly, you should seek this one out just to witness perhaps the most uncalled for blue screen sequences in motion picture history! The grand finale is the stuff of legend.

So with all this having been said, why does the Megaforce poster rate as one of the greatest pieces of film advertising/pop art ever conceived? Because my friends it is honest . . . with a vengeance. The information is all there in the poster for you to see – nothing is hidden. Indeed, the filmmakers are telling you in no uncertain terms that this is Megaforce – deal with it! If you were foolish enough to pay good money to waltz into a theater to see an action film starring Barry Bostwick, directed by Hal Needham, featuring Introvision (particularly in the same summer that you could pop into the auditorium next door and see Blade Runner, The Thing, Star Trek 2, Conan, Poltergeist, Tron, etc.) then you were getting exactly what you deserved!

(Note: In the interest of full disclosure the author feels it necessary to confess to not only seeing Megaforce in the theater that summer, but to owning a complete set of the Matchbox vehicles and the Atari video game . . . deeds not words baby!)