SPECIAL PODCAST! “Heavy Is The Helmet” (SPECIAL EDITION)

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[audio http://www.blissville.net/Podcasts/Episode_72.mp3]

In the conclusion to our two-part discussion of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, Mark Jeacoma and I discuss permutations and ruminations of the Star Wars franchise, as well as list our best-to-worst movies.  As of this writing, Regan has finished watching the first movie and “Attack of the Clones”, and is preparing for “Revenge of the Sith”.  Remember, these are just our opinions.  They’re neither right nor wrong, but I’m right.  I’m always right!

“Heavy Is The Helmet”
With David Lawler and Mark Jeacoma
Introduction Music: Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk, Meco (1977)
Audio Clips: CBS/FOX Home Video Theme, 1995, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015), Star Wars: The Special Edition On VHS Commercial, 1997

© BlissVille, David Lawler copyright 2015 for all original vocal and audio content featuring David Lawler and selected guests each episode. This podcast, “BlissVille: Ears Of A Gundark” is not affiliated with Lucasfilm, Disney, 20th Century Fox, CBS/FOX Home Video, Fox Video, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Bad Robot, or any subsidiaries and assigns. Any and all images, audio clips, and dialogue extracts are the property of their respective copyright owners. This blog and podcast was created for criticism, research, and is completely nonprofit, and should be considered Fair Use as stated in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. section 107. It is not an official product, and it should not be sold nor bought; this is intended for private use, and any public broadcast is not recommended. All music clips appear under Fair Use as well.

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SPECIAL PODCAST! “Ears Of A Gundark” (THX Remastered)

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Tonight, a special two-part presentation: Mark Jeacoma and I discuss “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”.  Also, special thanks to Andrew La Ganke for our brand-spanking-new server (even though it’s been around for the better part of a year, but it’s new to me)!  Episode 72: “Heavy Is The Helmet” will premiere tomorrow.  As of this writing, Regan is watching Episode 1: “The Phantom Menace” for the first time.

“Ears Of A Gundark”
With David Lawler and Mark Jeacoma
Introduction Music: Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk, Meco (1977)
Audio Clips: CBS/FOX Home Video Theme, 1983, 20th Century Fox Fanfare, 1977, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015), “The Phantom Menace” (1998), “Revenge of the Sith” (2005), “Star Wars” (1977), “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980), “Return of the Jedi” (1983)

© BlissVille, David Lawler copyright 2015 for all original vocal and audio content featuring David Lawler and selected guests each episode. This podcast, “BlissVille: Ears Of A Gundark” is not affiliated with Lucasfilm, Disney, 20th Century Fox, CBS/FOX Home Video, Fox Video, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Bad Robot, or any subsidiaries and assigns. Any and all images, audio clips, and dialogue extracts are the property of their respective copyright owners. This blog and podcast was created for criticism, research, and is completely nonprofit, and should be considered Fair Use as stated in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. section 107. It is not an official product, and it should not be sold nor bought; this is intended for private use, and any public broadcast is not recommended. All music clips appear under Fair Use as well.

 

 

 

Vintage Cable Box: “Twice Upon A Time, 1983”

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“Do I get the job, or should we move right onto the shark infested waters test?”

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Twice Upon A Time, 1983 (Lorenzo Music), Warner Bros.

There are strange creatures that appear at night when you sleep. The strange creature bring you sweet dreams. Sometimes those strange creatures, the Figmen of Imagination, are thwarted or subverted by evil creatures from the Murkworks (usually dark-winged birds) that bring you nightmares. Of course because this is a “war” story, the Murkworks are locked in a never-ending battle with the Figmen for domination of the night-time world. The leader of Murkworks, Synonamess Botch (a bizarre hedonistic variation on Salvador Dali), abducts Greensleeves of the Figmen. He sends a message back to Din, the sub-dimensional city that exists between the worlds of reality and fiction.

While on garbage detail after being punished by the Rushers of Din, All-Purpose-Animal Ralph (the voice of Lorenzo Music) and his Harpo-esque sidekick, Mumford, come across Greensleeves’ message. His niece, aspiring actress Flora Fauna plays the part of damsel-in-distress for Bosch’s nightmares. Bosch convinces Ralph and Mum to steal the mainspring from something called a Cosmic Clock. Ralph and Mum do not know that the Cosmic Clock controls all of time … everywhere, thus any alterations will affect the Universe. After liberating the spring from the Cosmic Clock, time freezes. A free-land Fairy Godmother commissions superhero Rod Rescueman, an egotistical muscle-head who spends more time washing his cape than rescuing people, but he is interested in the pretty Flora.

Watching this movie as a kid, I was mesmerized by the animation, which was a mixture of Yellow Submarine (the poster art of Klaus Voorman) and Terry Gilliam’s work for Monty Python’s Flying Circus, as well as black & white live-action sequences. I couldn’t follow the convoluted plot, but I enjoyed the (largely) improvised performances of the actors, and remember this was before the advent of “retro-scripting” in later animated works like Dr. Katz, Home Movies, Archer, and Bob’s Burgers. David Fincher and Henry Sellick were among the crew of talented animators who made this movie.

TWICE UPON A TIME, 1983, (c)Warner Bros.
TWICE UPON A TIME, 1983, (c)Warner Bros.

Two versions of this film exist: one with unaltered “adult” language, and the other a “sanitized” version – safe for kids personally approved by the director, John Korty. Korty preferred the “kid” version because it would, presumably, have a wider release at the time. He would be wrong on both counts, as Alan Ladd’s company (which released Twice Upon A Time) was nearing bankruptcy. The Ladd Company was (right up there with Cannon) a defining force in early eighties cinema, producing the titles Outland, Night Shift, Chariots of Fire, Blade Runner, and Once Upon a Time in America.

John Korty animated short films for Sesame Street, and worked for Lucasfilm. George Lucas co-produced Twice Upon A Time and used his influence to get a release for the movie. I saw the original cut of the film and snickered at the off-color dialogue. While younger children would not understand most of the adult humor, the movie was most definitely made for kids, but adults could enjoy it too. When Korty learned HBO had aired the “adult” version of the movie, he threatened lawsuits. Later, the cleaned-up version of the movie was substituted, but fans of the movie noticed the changes, and complained. This was an unusual case of mandated censorship, very much in the way George Lucas tends to alter his work (incidentally some of Lucas’ work appears in the movie via Ibor, the robot-gorilla with a television screen for a head – he shows scenes from Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark).

Some thirty years later, the film holds up. In fact, in my advanced years I can actually follow the plot. The film tends to only be available in truncated form, clocking in at a slender one hour and fifteen minute running time. I have a VHS version of the film that runs five minutes longer. I don’t understand the discrepancy, because this release appears to be Korty’s approved version of the film. In addition my version of the movie contains a song by Michael McDonald, which I have been unable to verify with other releases of the film, which contain only his sister, Maureen’s songs. Perhaps there is a third version of the film.

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month.  Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties. 

“Movies At The Colonial”

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It was in a rotten part of town; the high-crime, low-rent section of South Philadelphia now known as Lower Moyamensing. The place has cleaned up considerably since (had to be about thirty years) but the old Colonial is no more; demolished in 1989. It looked like a palace in 1910 when it first opened. All glitter, all neon, art-deco lighting piping, beveled curves and thick red carpets, I could imagine the ticket-takers in red uniforms and little pill-box caps opening the double-doors for the next show. You’d probably get a newsreel, cartoon, two short-subjects, and a feature for a nickel. Even had a pipe organ in residence, just off to the side of the screen.

The pictures were the only place you could escape to in those days. No television, no internet, no cable. Even radio would be interrupted with little snippets of reality from time to time. News of the wars, tragedies, epidemics hung on the limited airwaves. So they went to the movies – en masse, flocks of the curious watching projected stories and eating popcorn and Black Cow chocolate caramels. People still dressed up for the movies. Men in suits with ties, and ladies wearing laced walking gloves and snoods.

All that changed by the time I walked through the double doors under the marquee. In big, red blinking lights, the word “COLONIAL” lit up dark Philly skies. South Philadelphia was very dark and flat at night and you could hear crickets. Strange that you could hear crickets in an area almost completely made up of row houses with very few trees.

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It was creepy but well worth the rather long walk from my house. It was cheap. Anybody could afford it. I’m dating myself a bit, but I remember the shows were a buck a ticket, and it could be any kind of show – double features, triple features. I saw “Ghostbusters”, “Fright Night” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge” on a triple bill for one dollar. I saw “Jaws” and “Jaws 2” for one dollar. So it goes.

This was not a multiplex with stadium seating. The seats sloped up to a point and then there was an enormous (off-limits around the time I was a customer) balcony that stretched to both sides. This could just be nostalgia since I was a young man, but everything looked big to me. I was amazed every single time I went through the double doors.

Time was not kind to the Colonial. It had fallen into disrepair starting in the late sixties. The thick, red carpet had worn down. There were gashes in the walls. The incredible chandelier hanging from the ceiling teetered threateningly, and even in packed houses, people moved away from it when the Dolby soundtrack of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (due to the Lucasfilm theater alignment program) thundered and vibrated all across the room. The chandelier would shake and we would gulp and say silent prayers that the crystalline beast would not collapse and devour us all.

The homeless would sneak in after hours and help themselves to the Colonial’s comforts. There was the unmistakable odor of urine in the aisles. There was no maintenance or janitorial upkeep, so popcorn, candy, and sticky soda would litter the floors. In those later years, the Colonial had a roach and rat problem, but people still came to see the very cheap shows. A triple feature I was not permitted to see consisted of “Porky’s”, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, and “The Last American Virgin”. You might get the occasional trailer for a movie the Colonial was scheduled to show, but there were no commercials, no pleas from Roy Rogers for donations, and nobody telling you to turn off your cell phone and shut up.

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In recent years, movies have been turned out to be more of an event. The rising ticket prices and 3D glasses, and the cattle-herding of audiences into and out of the theaters has transformed us into what we suspected we were all along – mindless consumers looking to kill two-plus hours in the dark. As early as the late 70s, Hollywood put all it’s money into the first weekend, and as the quality dropped, the prices for tickets went up dramatically, $15 to $20 (or more) a pop.

Repertory houses were the last thing we had that was close to the roadshow/Roger Corman rollout from many years ago. Movies would roll out in selected territories, do their business and move on, and not all the advertising money was spent in the first week. Very few prints were made (none of this 4,000 screen business), and very rarely did any of those movies lose money.

Sometimes I could hear the ghosts of old, shuffling in and out of the theater. You’d suspect there were well-dressed patrons, the sound of a big band down the street, sailors home on leave making their way into the Colonial to catch the latest James Cagney or Humphrey Bogart. With that news that more than 100 theaters will close by the end of the year because they refuse to make expensive digital improvements to their screens, the Colonial’s demise seemed to be the first warning sign that simply taking in a movie was going to be a thing of the not-so-distant past.

Originally published December 2, 2014.