Vintage Cable Box: “Krull, 1983”

“Power is fleeting.  Love is eternal.”

Krull, 1983 (Ken Marshall), Columbia Pictures

American novelist Stephen King once described Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of his book, The Shining, as a “… great big beautiful Cadillac with no engine under the hood.  You could sit in it, enjoy the smell of the leather upholstery … the only thing you couldn’t do was drive it anywhere.”  Krull from 1983 is the Cadillac of science fiction/fantasy motion pictures.  Derek Meddings’ production design is an incredible feast for the eyes.  James Horner’s Star Trek-like musical compositions are appropriately epic in scope.  The visual effects and photography are awe-inspiring.  Lysette Anthony is unbelievably beautiful  as the damsel-in-distress Princess Lyssa.  Unfortunately, the movie takes us nowhere but the back-alleys of Star Wars retreads.

When the Princess is abducted by the evil “Slayers” interrupting her wedding to Prince Colwyn (Ken Marshall, resembling a young Richard Chamberlain), he summons the power of the “Glaive”, the five-bladed handheld pinwheel that looks like an over-sized throwing star seen in the film’s promotional advertisements (and which I’ve always wanted to own), from the top of a mountain and bands together with a motley crew of criminals (among them Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane in early roles) in a bid to rescue her.  While we have our requisite laser light show, Krull is a movie that favors swordplay, Errol Flynn-style leaps from balconies, and swinging from chandelier ropes.  The strange, slimy, tentacled “Beast” informs the Princess that she is to marry it, perhaps to destroy the prophecy of the “girl that shall become queen.”

Colwyn is tutored by the wizardly Ynr (Freddie Jones as “The Old One”), collects his “merry” men, and heads for the Black Fortress, the stunning starship/castle that appears to be built out of a mountain.  In a narrative reminiscent of Bert I. Gordon’s The Magic Sword, Colwyn and his band of mercenaries must overcome disparate “challenges”, such as a misanthropic (and rather unpleasant) cyclops, various illusions conjured by the Beast, and assorted Slayers sent to assassinate Colwyn.  Meanwhile, Ynr must monitor his sands of time (given to him by ex-girlfriend, The Widow of the Web); for when the last of the sand diminishes, he will die.  It’s nice to know when you’re gonna go, is all I’m saying!  I remember being frightened by the giant spider in the movie when Ynr traverses an enormous web to to see his old squeeze.  Giant spiders freak me out!

It can even core an apple!

An enormously expensive movie (for the time) when produced, Krull would’ve benefited from substantial rewrites.  As it stands, the performers merely serve as window-dressing for truly beautiful art direction, cinematography, and stunning action set pieces.  Krull is everything I love in science fiction and fantasy, except that it lacks substance.  The story is a lazy mix of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Clash of the Titans (another early cable favorite of mine), with a little bit of Robin Hood and Jason and the Argonauts thrown in for good measure.  Recently, I watched an excellent high definition transfer of the film, and as much as the technical aspects of the film are heightened by it, the deficiencies of the editing and screenplay are displayed as well.

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.

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“Her Worshipfulness”

My friend and colleague, Mark Jeacoma, put up what is probably the most comprehensive yet concise list of notable deaths (I’m not talking about all the old soccer players who seem to drop dead of heart attacks every five hours) for the year 2016. In the last week alone, we’ve lost Zsa Zsa Gabor, George Michael, and the subject of this podcast, Carrie Fisher. It’s gotten so bad of late, we put together dead-pool lists. Who will kick the bucket next? We got our answer the very next day.

Carrie Frances Fisher (October 21, 1956 [fellow Libra] – December 27, 2016) was (oh wow, she was) an American actress, screenwriter, author, producer, and a public speaker. She was known for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars films. Fisher was also known for her semi-autobiographical novels, including Postcards from the Edge and the screenplay for the film of the same name, as well as her autobiographical one-woman play and its nonfiction book, Wishful Drinking, based on the show.

Her other film roles included Shampoo (1975) [I remember her immortal, infamous line, “Wanna fuck?”], The Blues Brothers (1980), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) [She played the treacherous April who steals Dianne Wiest’s boyfriend played by Sam Waterston], The ‘Burbs (1989) [great movie, one of my favorites – “This is Walter!”], and When Harry Met Sally… (1989) [I only vaguely remember that movie, even though it was a big hit – I always thought of it as a rip-off of Annie Hall].

I was thinking about the role George Lucas wrote: Princess Leia. Stronger actresses like Sissy Spacek and Amy Irving read for the part – he wanted Carrie for her baby-face and Hollywood royalty currency, but it’s hard for me to say, she was a stronger actress in her youth, aside from a couple of good performances later on. Sissy Spacek and Amy Irving would’ve killed the part; they would’ve been too confident, I think. She brought a lot of strength and vulnerability to the part in the first two movies, Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back.

Mary Frances “Debbie” Reynolds (April 1, 1932 – December 28, 2016) was an American actress, singer, businesswoman, film historian, and humanitarian. Her breakout role was the portrayal of Helen Kane in the 1950 film Three Little Words, for which she was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer. However, it was her first leading role in 1952 at age 19, as Kathy Selden in Singin’ in the Rain, that set her on the path to fame. By the mid-1950s, she was a major star. Other notable successes include The Affairs of Dobie Gillis (1953), Susan Slept Here (1954), Bundle of Joy (1956 Golden Globe nomination), The Catered Affair (1956 National Board of Review Best Supporting Actress Winner), and Tammy and the Bachelor (1957), in which her rendering of the song “Tammy” reached number one on the music charts. In 1959, she released her first pop music album, entitled Debbie.

Carrie Fisher (1956-2016)
Debbie Reynolds (1932-2016)

New Episode! “The White Album, Disc Two”

Disc-Two

Blind Dog, Blind Cat : Tribulus terrestris : And The Oscar Goes Too… :
Driving in the Snow : My Mama Said
Birthdays and Star Wars : Healthcare and Taxes
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump : English Berry Trifle

“Martha My Dear” Perfect Piano Intro Tutorial by Christopher Stovakovic from YouTube (Lennon/McCartney), Sally Field winning an Oscar® for “Places in the Heart”, “Sexy Sadie” by pianojohn113 from YouTube (Lennon/McCartney), “Good Night” (Lennon/McCartney) by Linda Ronstadt

Vintage Cable Box: “The Ice Pirates”

New VCB Logo

“Whatever happened to ‘we rape, we pillage’?”

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“The Ice Pirates”, 1984 (Robert Urich). MGM/UA

“Long after the great interplanetary wars, the Galaxy has gone dry. Water has become the only thing left of value.” So sayeth the introduction accompanied by Bruce Broughton’s uplifting adventure score for a movie I loved when I was a kid. I think I loved “The Ice Pirates” because it had all the tropes of other science fiction movies without directly identifying itself as a spoof. It has a little “Star Wars” in it (a lot actually – the writers really like robots and robot-related humor) and a little “Alien” action (in the form of giant space herpes that infest a ship), and a little environmentally-conscious “Soylent Green” preachiness.

Robert Urich, in a role turned down by Kevin Costner (who would go on to make the similarly-themed “Waterworld”), leads a rag-tag group of pirates whose main booty appears to be – you guessed it, ice. Surprise! That’s where the title of the movie came from. His crew consists of Anjelica Huston (bad-ass swordmaster), Ron Perlman (a rather “flamboyant” Perlman), and Michael D. Roberts (programming genius). During a routine sweep-and-clear, they are captured by a beautiful Princess, who spares the men a painful castration, and forces them to take her on a mission to find her father, who disappeared searching for a fabled water-covered planet.

Urich’s old buddy, Lanky Nibs (aged prematurely due to a time-warp distortion) tells the Princess her father was searching for the fabled “seventh planet” that spun out of it’s regular orbit and into a new galaxy, but to reach that galaxy, the ship must evade further time distortions. One of my favorite scenes has Urich and Crosby getting friendly in a simulated holographic thunderstorm. As they travel through pockets of accelerated time, Crosby becomes pregnant and gives birth to their child. The child grows into manhood and saves the rapidly-aging crew from certain destruction at the hands of the Supreme Commander (played by John Carradine) all in the space of five minutes.

“The Ice Pirates” is a lot of fun, even watching it now. I’ve complained before about movies I loved as a kid that didn’t hold up well, and while I recognize the stupidity of this movie, at least I felt the filmmakers were having fun making it. The movie is a mosaic of unusual set design borrowing elements of space opera, bargain-basement Shakespeare, and of course, pirate movies. The pre-CGI visual effects and matte-work are still impressive. Most of the one-liners are cringeworthy, and while Urich and Crosby make an interesting Leia-and-Han-type couple, their chemistry is hindered by Crosby. While undeniably beautiful, her performance lacks energy.

Utilizing the old axiom about “stealing from the best”, the movie takes certain visual cues from other science fiction movies. It’s good cheesy fun. Some jokes seem way too racy (and racist) to have made it into a PG-rated action yarn. There’s a great bit where Urich is introduced to his child, who proceeds to piss right in his face. Spoiler for those who haven’t seen the movie: it was Earth all along!

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.

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

Star-Wars-Podcast-2

[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.

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

Star-Wars-Podcast-1

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”

Vintage-Cable-Box-Cover-Image

“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.