Friday, February 27, 2015

Obit: Leonard Nimoy R.I.P.

"Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most human."

Actor Leonard Nimoy, who originated the role of half human-half Vulcan Science Officer Spock on the original Star Trek television series, has passed away at age 83, due to end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Nimoy reprised the role of Spock in the 1973 animated Trek series, eight feature films, beginning with 1979's Star Ttrek - The Motion Picture, and a couple of episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1991. (Not to mention countless cameos, videos and even some games.)  In 1973, he starred in the TV movie/pilot Baffled as a race car driver with ESP powers, and in '78 as Dr. David Kibner in Phillip Kaufman's remake of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. From 1977 to 1982, he was the host of the syndicated documentary series, In Search Of....

Obviously, I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Leonard Nimoy. Star Trek is not only my favorite television series of all time, but it has had a huge impact in how I think and perceive the world around me. The character of Spock, as delineated by the talented Mr. Nimoy, represented rationality and scientific curiosity. Logic - tempered with the best qualities of humanity. Loyalty... and sly, sharp wit. Qualities that I aspire to (and, admittedly, rarely achieve).

In the 1990s, I worked tangentially with Mr. Nimoy as the scripter of the comic book series Leonard Nimoy's Primortals. My direct interactions with the man were few - we spoke on the phone a couple of times and only met face-to-face on one occasion - but I have in my files a memo from him praising my writing on the series. Rarely have I been so honored by a compliment.

A fine actor, writer and artist, his legacy will live long... and prosper.

Monday, February 23, 2015

PLANET OF THE APES (1968) Door Posters

Among the plethora of promotional material created by 20th Century Fox for the original 1968 Planet Of The Apes were these two-color "door panel" posters for theaters, introducing various characters from the film. This kind of giant poster was fairly prevalent in the 60s (I've seen similar ones for the Bond films and other flicks), but became less common in the 70s as studios continued to cut costs on this kind of promotion. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Behind-The-Scenes Pix #51: STARCRASH

Star Caroline Munro and director Luigi Cozzi pose with the miniature of Count Zarth Arn's unique and menacing claw-shaped flagship during the shooting of the enjoyably goofy Starcrash in 1977-78.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

News: SILENT RUNNING (1972) Coming to Blu-ray

Universal's on a roll. Along with Gerry Anderson's Journey To The Far Side Of the Sun, the studio is releasing Douglas Trumbull's 1972 sci-fi parable, Silent Running, for the first time in HD in the United States on April 7th. It's about time!

From the Press Release:
Academy Award nominee* Bruce Dern stars in Silent Running, a sci-fi classic that journeys beyond the imagination. Botanist Freeman Lowell (Dern) has spent eight years aboard the space freighter Valley Forge preserving the only botanical specimens left from Earth under huge geodesic domes. When he receives orders to destroy the project and return home, Lowell rebels and hijacks the freighter, while plunging the craft into the gaseous rings of Saturn. From that moment on, he has only the trees, the gardens and two “Drone” robots, Huey and Dewey, to keep him company on his greatest adventure of all.
Extras appear to be the same as on the previously-released DVD:

The Making of Silent Running
Silent Running by Douglas Trumbull
A Conversation with Bruce Dern
Douglas Trumbull: Then and Now
Theatrical Trailer
Optional Feature Commentary with Director Douglas Trumbull and Star Bruce Dern


I'm pretty excited about this - Trumbull's effects deserve to be viewed in hi-def - but I still hate that cover art, recycled from the DVD release. The original poster artwork is so much better. Anyway, the Silent Running Blu-ray is available now for pre-order from Amazon ('natch).

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

News: Gerry Anderson's JOURNEY TO THE FAR SIDE OF THE SUN (1969) Coming To Blu-Ray

Space: 1999 creators Gerry & Sylvia Anderson's 1968 feature film, Journey To The Far Side Of the Sun (a/k/a Doppleganger), starring Roy Thinnes (The Invaders), is coming to Blu-ray disc in the U.S. on April 7th from Universal.

From the Press Release:
Classic sci-fi adventure and suspense has never been more exciting as when you Journey to the Far Side of the Sun! One hundred years in the future, two astronauts are sent to uncover the secrets of a “duplicate” Earth on the other side of the sun. When they crash land three weeks earlier than they had planned, they must embark on a life-or-death mission to determine whether they have arrived back home or on the strange mirror world. This imaginative space adventure offers a journey few will ever forget! 
It's an interesting movie, with a dark tone and overall aesthetic that is very similar to Anderson's subsequent TV series, UFO. In fact, a number of the props, costumes and musical cues from the film (most notably the "futuristic" automobiles) showed up on UFO a year or two later, along with a few cast members.

So far, no word on any extras, but I wouldn't really expect any from a Universal catalog title. The Journey To The Far Side Of the Sun Blu-ray is already available for pre-order at Amazon.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Not The 70s: STAR TREK CONTINUES (2014-15)

There are numerous fan-made Star Trek series online. Some of these ambitious non-profit productions chronicle new adventures of the original U.S.S. Enterprise, others create their own starships and crews. The quality ranges from the embarrassingly amateur to remarkably slick and professional.  James Cawley's Star Trek: New Voyages/Phase II is probably the best known of these, and over the years, his team have produced a number of reasonably enjoyable - if frustratingly uneven - Trek adventures . But, in my opinion, the very best at capturing the feel of the classic Gene Roddenberry series is Vic Mignogna's Star Trek Continues.

The talented cast includes James Doohan's son Chris Doohan as Scotty and Mythbuster's Grant Imahara as Sulu. The sets, costumes, photography, music and overall production values are uncannily accurate, and the visual effects are terrific! Vic Mignogna, an experienced actor with lots of voice work to his credit, personally plays James Kirk, and he does a remarkable job of channeling the great Bill Shatner, capturing the man's distinct delivery while somehow never lapsing into parody (something even Bill finds hard to do these days). It's uncanny how well he captures Shatner's swagger.

The first episode, "Pilgrim of Eternity," is a sequel to TOS' "Who Mourns For Adonais," with original guest actor Michael Forest reprising his role as Greek god Apollo (this one also includes a bit part by Battlestar Galactica Redux's Jamie "Apollo" Bamber.) The second episode, "Lolani," revolves around a fugitive Orion slave girl and her owner - played by Incredible Hulk Lou Ferrigno (in green body paint, of course)!

The third episode, "The Fairest Of Them All," is a very well written direct sequel to the classic TOS episode "Mirror, Mirror," and it's another winner. A fourth episode has just recently completed filming, and although the title hasn't been released yet, it has been revealed that it guest stars the Sixth Doctor Who, Colin Baker.

If, like me, you find the new Star Trek films by J.J. Abrams and company lacking the spirit and style of Gene Roddenberry's original show, I highly recommend that you check it out. In fact, the Star Trek Continues crew is midway through a "Kirkstarter" campaign to raise funding for additional episodes. They've already hit their initial production goal, but are now in the process of trying to raise enough money to build an authentic Engine Room set to complement their already astounding Enterprise sets.

Episodes can be found on the Star Trek Continues YouTube Channel, and you can check out their Kirkstarter funding campaign here.

Monday, January 19, 2015

SPACE: 1999 Raw Effects Footage


This is pretty cool: raw effects footage from Brian Johnson's Space: 1999 SFX team, of various Eagle transporter landings, on Moonbase Alpha pads and alien landscapes. I think it really demonstrates the care and precision that went into shooting the miniature effects in those pre-CGI days.

Friday, January 2, 2015

January's Space Babe: Tamara Dobson

The first Space Babe of 2015 is the sleek and striking Tamara Dobson, as the mysterious and amnesiac alien, Samantha, on Jason Of Star Command. Discovered in suspended animation within a derelict spaceship by the titular Jason (Craig Littler) at the beginning of Season Two, the stunning Samantha quickly became a valued partner-in-adventure for brash rogue Jason and his Star Command allies. With a variety of vaguely-defined powers, including superhuman strength and assorted psi abilities, Samantha may have been unable to remember where she came from - all she recalled was that her people were conquered by the armies of arch-fiend, Dragos (Sid Haig) - but she soon made a home for herself aboard the Space Academy, and figured prominently in Dragos' final defeat.

The 6' 2" Dobson was a popular magazine model - appearing in publications like Vogue and Ebony in the early 1970s - and actress, who is probably best known for her two turns as blaxploitation tigress "Cleopatra Jones," a kung fu kickin' government agent in two Warner Brothers action films: Cleopatra Jones (1973) and Cleopatra Jones And The Casino of Gold (1975). She also appeared in the Buck Rogers In The 25th Century episode, "Happy Birthday, Buck."

Ms. Dobson passed away in October, 2006.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Coolest Toy Ever - Mattel SPACE: 1999 Eagle 1 (Holiday Re-Post)

This is the fifth in a series of special re-posts for the holidays, remembering the coolest sci-fi toys of the Space: 1970 era. Hope you enjoy these "reruns" and have a great holiday season. Merry Christmas!


On Christmas morning 1976, I received one of the greatest gifts of my entire childhood. Better even than my Star Trek and Planet of The Apes Mego figures. It was Mattel's two-foot long Eagle Transporter playset from Space: 1999.

This thing was a monster and came with small action figures of Moonbase Alpha's John Koenig, Helena Russell and Victor Bergman in their bright orange space suits. There were also tiny accessories like little laser guns, helmets and other bits of exploratory equipment. The cockpit opened and could hold two figures, and the passenger compartment was large enough to reach in and move them around. There was even a hatch in the bottom with a working winch!

The nose section and red engine section were detachable and could even be joined together to make a small reconnaissance craft. It was, without a doubt, the coolest spaceship toy ever.

Sadly, this is not a photo of my Eagle (I wish!) - all that remains of the one I received all those decades ago is the main chassis and nothing else; all the other parts having been lost or destroyed through years of dangerous space missions to the alien planets of my backyard. Oh, the perils I used to subject that tiny crew of Alphans to!

Obviously, I got an awful lot of fun out of that thing, and if my fortunes ever turn around, I'd love to hunt down an intact one one day.

Of course, I later had the Eagle (and Hawk fighter) model kits, and they were cool, too, but once built, there really wasn't much you could do with the ships other than display them. That didn't actually stop me from playing with mine, though... which is why they no longer survive!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Second-Coolest Toy Ever: Kenner's 18" ALIEN Action Figure (Holiday Re-post)

This is the fourth in a series of special re-posts for the holidays, remembering the coolest sci-fi toys of the Space: 1970 era. Hope you enjoy these "reruns" and have a great holiday season.

In my opinion, the legendary 18" Alien action figure from Kenner is a close second for the coolest toy of the Space: 1970 era - though I'm sure that many other Star Kids would rank it at #1.

And I might too, if I'd actually owned one. I do remember seeing one in the store in '79 and being both fascinated and frightened by it. I hadn't seen the movie - only coverage of it in Starlog and Fantastic Films - but I did ask my folks to buy it for me. Unfortunately once my mom glimmed the price tag and got a good look at the sheer grotesqueness of the figure, there was no way she was going to pick it up for me. Instead, I'm pretty sure I got a Moonraker space shuttle model kit... and, you know, I was pretty happy with that.

Still, over the years, I've kept my eye out for one of these treasures, but alas, I've never found one I could afford. I have, on occasion, had an opportunity to inspect other people's Aliens, though, and I'm rather astounded by the level of detail that Kenner managed; I'm sure that's part of the reason for the larger-than-usual scale. I'm also amazed that Kenner got away with marketing a toy like this to kids, not only because it's so scary, but because it was derived from an R-rated horror film.

Ahhh... the Seventies.

Third Coolest Toy Ever: Kenner's BIONIC BIGFOOT Action Figure (Holiday Re-post)

This is the third in a series of special re-posts for the holidays, remembering the coolest sci-fi toys of the Space: 1970 era. Hope you enjoy these "reruns" and have a great holiday season.

The third coolest toy of the Seventies was, without a doubt, Kenner's Bionic Bigfoot from the Six Million Dollar Man.

Unlike the terrifying-but-desperately-coveted Kenner Alien, I did own one of these beauties for a while, although, oddly, I never had a Steve Austin action figure. This meant that Bigfoot usually battled my Mego Superman or teamed up with the Planet Of The Apes Gorilla Soldier against Captain Kirk. Man, those were epic backyard confrontations! Bigfoot wasn't particularly well-articulated, but at a towering 15" he was damned imposing - especially when pitted against the smaller-scale Megos.

On a related note - which Bionic Bigfoot did you prefer - Ted Cassidy or André the Giant?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Fourth Coolest Toy Ever: Mego STAR TREK Communicators (Re-post)

This is the second in a series of special re-posts for the holidays, remembering the coolest sci-fi toys of the Space: 1970 era. Hope you enjoy these "reruns" and have a great holiday season. 

When I was in fifth or sixth grade (circa 1975-76), my pal Mark Usher and I formed a short-lived Star Trek "club." There were four of us in all, as I remember, and once a week, we'd all go over to Mark's house after school and basically play Star Trek all afternoon. He lived on an old farm, and his parents cleaned out an old outbuilding for us to use as a clubhouse - or, in our case, "starship." His father even made a sign that said "U.S.S. Enterprise" and placed it over the door. (I vaguely recall that he misspelled it somehow, but I could be misremembering.)

His mother was an artsy-craftsy sort, and she wanted to make sure that we weren't getting into trouble, so she actually created Trek-themed projects for us to do. We made plywood "control panels" for our "ship" - including a "transporter console" with sliding levers (wide beads on strings) - which Mark's father mounted on the walls of the shack. We made uniforms out of appropriately colored tee-shirts, which his mother helped us draw insignias on with fabric paints, and we made papier-mâché planets, which we suspended from the ceiling of our clubhouse/starship with fishing line.

But mostly, we role-played being crew members of the Enterprise, and explored the alien cornfields and woods on the Usher property. We kept in touch with the Mego Star Trek Communicators, which were - as the advertising proudly exclaimed, "real, working walkie-talkies!" But unlike the other walkie-talkies we had as kids, these had flip-up lids, just like the ones on TV. Of course, they were considerably larger than their television counterparts, colored blue, and had telescoping antennae - but they worked.

If you didn't wander too far apart, anyway.

Mark also had the "Command Communications Console," which was a nicely Trek-styled base set tuned to the same CB frequency, and the only actually working piece of equipment in our ramshackle starship. It didn't get used much, as I recall, because no one wanted to be the Communications Officer and stay behind "on the ship" while the rest went exploring.