One of the horror genre's "most widely read critics" (Rue Morgue # 68), "an accomplished film journalist" (Comic Buyer's Guide #1535), and the award-winning author of Horror Films of the 1980s (2007), The Rock and Roll Film Encyclopedia (2007) and Horror Films of the 1970s (2002), John Kenneth Muir, presents his blog on film, television and nostalgia, named one of the Top 100 Film Studies Blog on the Net.
Cult-TV Blogging: Star Maidens (1976): "Nightmare Cannon"
story-telling style continues with episode three, “Nightmare Cannon,” written
by Eric Paice and directed by Wolfgang Storch.
"Nightmare Cannon" commences as Medusan refugees Shem (Gareth
Thomas) and Adam (Pierre Brice) -- free in England -- commandeer medieval
Wessex Castle and hide there (after freezing a kindly security guard they mistake
for a Baron. They still hope to escape
the clutches of their would-be captors and female overlords from Medusa, Fulvia
(Judy Geeson) and Octavia (Christiane Kruger).
Meanwhile, Earth scientist Liz Becker (Liza Harrow) and her German
(and highly-excitable) assistant Rudi (Christian Quadflieg) take advantage of
the fact that the Medusan women left the door to their advanced spaceship,
The Earthers sneak aboard, and Rudi is promptly blinded by a
high-tech control panel while snapping photos of the advanced technology.
His impaired physical
condition requires the aid of an absolutely terrifying robot physician. This
female doctor boasts long wiry needles on the end of her fingers, has dead
white eyes, wears horrific blue lipstick and speaks with a metallic inhuman
voice. Apparently, the people of Medusa have never heard of a good bedside manner.
Using her "man finder" device (which -- remember -- hunts
down men by scent...), Octavia tracks Adam and Shem to the castle and decides
to re-capture them by firing a Medusan device called a "nightmare cannon.”
It is explained that this device "projects" a series of
sonic sounds at the target to "disturb the hypothalamus" and cause visual hallucinations and nightmares.
In the castle, Shem and Adam rapidly experience hallucinations,
seeing weird phantasms of Octavia and Fulvia. This sequence includes the worst
special effects yet seen on the series, as the faces of the Medusan ladies are
superimposed awkwardly over live footage in the castle (and at one point, even inside
the clanking armor of medieval knights).
While all this is going on, the English government finally sends a
representative to the scene (the Minister for Interior Security). About time.
One might think that advanced aliens armed with immobilizing stun
guns, nightmare-cannons, Nemesis spaceships, and "man finders" might
be a matter of interest and some import to the national government. So
far, no high official on Earth, from any nation, seems interested in opening
diplomatic relations with Medusa.
Finally, the episode ends with the Nemesis taking to space, with
Liz and Rudy aboard, which, we shall see next week, culminates with a welcome
visit to Medusa.
Medusan Factoids revealed in "Nightmare Cannon":
*Taking life is against the Medusa’s religion. (But scaring people with the nightmare
cannon is apparently perfectly fine)
.*According to Octavia, the English language can be learned
by an "educated" Medusan in five minutes. This explains why
universal translators are apparently not necessary, and there is no language
barrier between Terrans and Medusans.
proverb/quote: The male's fear of the female on Medusa is "the key to good government." This makes
perfect sense in a repressive, tyrannical society. Those in power don’t want
respect or input, they desire the fear of their citizenry, so that they may
remain in power.
Overall, I have to note that, at this point, Star Maidens is not
nearly as intriguing as my memories from childhood suggest. “Nemesis” and “Nightmare
Cannon” are largely earthbound, with very little in terms of Keith Wilson’s
production design to recommend it.Also,
there is very little here in terms of miniature/live-action special effects of
quality. The alien robot, however, did appear in many periodicals and stills of
the mid-1970’s, and is appropriately terrifying.
Next week, back to Medusa (yay!) in “The Proton Storm.”