Childhood memories…

13 03 2010

As a child growing up in the pre-cable era of rabbit ears and roof-mounted antennae, I watched a healthy amount of American and overseas-based programming. Needless to say, I wasn’t particularly partial to anything other than whatever my own eclectic tastes gravitated towards on any given day. That said, I especially loved anime–then known as Japanimation. From Astro Boy, Gigantor (originally called Tetsujin 28), and Speed Racer, to Star Blazers (Space Battleship Yamato), I loved them all. American cartoon programs were generally far more conventional. On the live action side, however, I loved most–if not all–of Sid and Marty Krofft’s lineup. That and, of course, endless reruns of kaiju movies and TV shows.

Of my parents, Mom loved classic movies, but even here, she loved the underrated or offbeat ones. Italian horror seemed to be a main dish served in the family living room, and Danny Kaye, Bette Davis (well, the 1960s version of her), Vincent Price, and Orson Welles were regular visitors.

Dad’s TV/movie love was purely American. But he tended to admire schlock and gore than anything remotely passing as quality.

And there you have it!



27 02 2010

And now, a few titles from my arsenal of Japanese favorites. And, oh yeah, a couple Godzilla (or “Gojira”) titles as well!

Let the names begin (as a pre/post-script, you will find some of these in a MST3000 rerun near you!)…

Godzilla vs. Monster Zero (1965)

Godzilla! Rodan! King Ghidorah! And how could we forget those unforgettable aliens from Planet X?

Gamera vs. Guiron (1969)

The Flying Turtle from Earth meets the Ax Monster from outer space!

King Kong Escapes (1967)

What could be better than King Kong fighting a Mecha-King Kong? Thought so.

Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot (1967-1968)

This was not only a childhood favorite of mine, but a wish: A boy, with the help of a 100 foot tall Sphinx-looking robot, fight alien baddy Emperor Guillotine and his assortment of monsters and alien henchmen.

ligon_tyrox.jpg Cyborg vs. Robot image by flightsuit

Godzilla vs Hedorah (1971)

A belated Earth Day gift to the masses, this film pits the King of the Monsters against the toxic gas spewing  Hedorah. Don’t miss Godzilla flying in this one!

More terrifying titles coming soon!

Where are all the monsters?

13 02 2010

As indicated by my last post, not all of my sci-fi faves feature monsters. As a science fiction enthusiast, I don’t always pick movies for their monster content. But to lend credence to the title of this blog, I guess I should throw in a few more creature features for good measure.

Here are a few titles, to keep me in check…

Forbidden Planet (1956)

The technicolor classic, with an “id” monster to boot!

The Colossus of New York (1958)

Another variation on the Frankenstein theme, this beastie has the brain of a genius. Wait till his son finds out!

The Blob (1958)

Accept no substitutes (or remakes!)… This is the reel deal!

Fiend Without a Face (1958)

What’s scarier than a brain wrapping itself around unwilling victims with its spinal-cord-tentacle-thing? I don’t know, but this movie has it!

The Green Slime (1968)

Cool costumes! Slime that turns to one-eyed monsters! High body count!

A few of my Sci-Fi faves.

30 01 2010

It goes without saying that Planet of the Apes is one of my all-time favorite science fiction films of all time. It also goes without saying that a great many kaiju films (with Godzilla at the forefront) take up a great deal of space on my “list.” Here are a few others that are definite guilty pleasures, with a couple oddballs thrown in for good measure:

Logan’s Run (1976)

A movie that came out a year before Star Wars (Episode IV), Logan’s Run, by today’s standards, looks dated. But its story set in a post-apocalyptic domed city, where no one lives past the age of thirty, seemed a sure draw for me. Starring Michael York and Jenny Agutter (with Peter Ustinov as the only “over 30” survivor), it is an excellent, fast-paced film.

05loganrun12.jpg image by therawdeal

Last Man on Earth (1964)

What do you get when you put Vincent Price, a world-ending plague, and vampires together? You get this beauty! Based on Richard Matheson’s (of Twilight Zone fame) novel, I Am Legend, this was the first big screen adaptation. Check it out, and you may indeed prefer it to the Will Smith version… but maybe not the Charleton Heston one (Omega Man).

Brazil (1985)

Directed by Monty Python’s lone American, Terry Gilliam, this well-regarded film stars Jonathan Pryce as lowly clerk Sam Lowry, who dreams of being a hero literally soaring above his dystopian, Big Brother-like world. This is serious sci-fi eye candy of the retro-future variety.

Seconds (1966)

What?! A sci-fi movie with Rock Hudson?  If looking younger through surgical means interests you, this is a must-see movie! Of course, like any good sci-fi yarn, there’s more to it than this…

Angry Red Planet (1960)

A little known gem from veteran sci-fi writer Ib Melchior, this largely forgotten flick starts out as a mystery, when two survivors from a Mars mission return to Earth. The movie is mostly presented in flashback, when the astronauts visit the Angry Red Planet, only to encounter monstrous flora and fauna… and a malevolent alien intelligence. Speaking of fauna, check out the giant rat-bat-spider, featured in the film, below…

The Flesh Eaters (1964)

This low budget b-movie never failed to creep me out when I was a kid. Simply the best flesh-eating-monster-in-the-ocean-killing-people-on-a-desert-island movie.

Five Million Years to Earth (1967; original title: Quatermass and the Pit)

Truly  something that frightened me as a young lad, this UK import had a lot going for it. Workers excavating a subway tunnel unearth an ancient spacecraft containing insect creatures. When scientists learn that these demonic creatures manipulated the brains of their primitive ancestors, hell – figuratively and literally – breaks loose.

quatermass.jpg image by rustomire

More faves and “creature” comforts later…

Creature Features…

16 01 2010

Last week, I expounded on the birth of the movie sequel. What I failed to mention was the almost limitless films that are remakes and “reimagined” versions of the original. Case in point: the werewolf. Based on mythology and literature, the idea of a part man, part beast creature has stirred up the imagination of Tinseltown since 1913. By the time Universal unleashed The Wolfman to an unsuspecting audience in 1941, a total of seven films about wolfman-like creatures hit the silver screen. Since then, we’ve been treated to everything from a teenage version of the wolfman (starring Papa Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie!) to An American Werewolf in London (and later, Paris).

There are countless other examples, I suppose, but not many that continue to rake in major box office.

ginateenwerewolf-still8.jpg image by SparkleFarkle54

Sequels, Schmequels…

2 01 2010

Now, let’s look at the evolution of the movie sequel. Most of us, let alone our parents, don’t recall the audience attractor known as the movie serial. Back in the day (the 1930s and 40s to be precise), before patrons were shown the feature presentation, they were shown cartoons and episodic shows called serials. Flash Gordon and King of the Rocket Men were two popular shows of the time. Audiences were captivated by the heroes, villains, damsels-in-distress, as well as the special effects of the era.

Of course, by today’s standards, these serials would serve little more than background material for an art student’s kinetic sculpture, let alone as entertainment material in and of itself. But back then, when going to the movies was truly an affordable pastime, these serials were great escapist fare.

Even during these lean times, the idea of the movie sequel appealed to Hollywood. Take the Universal Pictures franchise known as Frankenstein. When it first came out in 1931, it was a horrific hit. The 1935 sequel, The Bride of Frankenstein, has been considered by many critics as the better film. Then again, critics tend to be a dime a dozen as we all are, nes pa? Needless to say, the original Boris Karloff film spawned sequels on top of sequels, including (not necessarily in order): Son of Frankenstein, Ghost of Frankenstein, House of Frankenstein, and who could forget Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein?

Dracula had his sequels, the Creature had his (its?). So did the Wolfman and the Mummy. But that was Universal. Other studios weren’t immune to the allure of the sequel. Across the Pacific, who could forget that a certain radioactive “King” of the monsters would give birth to many, many sequels (Or, as I would like to call them, “rematches”).

More about this subject at a later time…

Cloverfield and the end of the Old School…

19 12 2009

Not to wax nostalgic, but I miss the old sci-fi. I remember as a kid, I’d see something like the original Planet of the Apes, Logan’s Run, or The Time Machine and ask myself, “What if?” What if we travelled through space and time, only to end up on a upside-down, topsy-turvy Earth? What if we killed everyone after a certain age, and love was nonexistent? What if we ended up in the far-flung future, only to find humans have split into two completely different races?

The trouble with most current science fiction films is that they tend to be focused on a main character’s personal issues rather than on the ‘big picture.’ For example, in the original, 1968 Planet of the Apes, we find astronaut Taylor and crew crash landing on an ape-ruled planet two thousand years into the future. Although Taylor seemed a bit more jaded and self-interested than the rest of the crew, we cared about his fate, simply because we knew that if humans were slaves on this world, it would be only a matter of time before Taylor became one as well. On the other hand, in the Tim Burton, “re-imagined” version, the astronaut landed on this future dystopia, but cared little for the imprisoned humans. All he cared about was getting home.

Maybe I’m a little jaded myself, but can you name one current sci-fi movie that asks the ‘big’ questions? A remake?