Category Archives: Might See
Meet Billy Pilgrim (Michael Sacks) – who may or may not have come unstuck in time. During the Second World War, the young soldier is captured and sent to a German POW camp. On route, he witnesses the bombing of Dresden, an event that unhinges his fixity in time and causes him to live his life simultaneously as a POW, an optician in 1970’s America, and as the elderly abducted resident of a zoo on the planet Tralfamadore, where his captors provide him with a mate in the form of a porn star.
This thought-provoking anti-war, sci-fi from directed George Roy Hill (best known for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting) is based on American author Kurt Vonnegut Jr’s most influential and popular work, the 1969 satirical semi-autobiographical novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, which drew on the author’s own experiences as a prisoner of war when he was captured at the Battle of the Bulge in 1944.
Thought to be impossible to film given its intertwining storylines and timelines, it went on to win the Prix du Jury at Cannes, as well as the praise of Vonnegut who remarked: ‘I drool and cackle every time I watch that film, because it is so harmonious with what I felt when I wrote the book’.
The Bach compositions used in the movie were supplied by celebrated classical pianist Glenn Gould, while the film’s star Michael Sacks later retired from the entertainment industry in the mid-1980s to become a technology industry executive for Morgan Stanley. Amongst the cast is Ron Leibman (TV’s Archer), Valerine Perrine (Lenny) and Perry King (Class of 1984).
Let’s face it! Unless you have an allergy or phobia, ants, bees, wasps and flies just don’t look that scary on the big screen. That’s why, ever since Them!’s paper mâché ants back in the 1950’s, film-makers have super-sized creepy crawlies in an attempt to frighten and entertain us filmgoers.
2012’s Dragon Wasps, is a schlocky Tomb Raider meets Predator adventure set in the jungles of Belize where an entomologist encounters armed soldiers, a drug cartel and a hive of monstrous flying bugs. And just like those other cheesy monster mash-ups Mega Piranha and Dinoshark, Dragon Wasps has a totally OTT idea about how to combat the fire-breathing CGI beasties – rubbing yourself with coca leaves and getting high in the process.
Available on DVD from Chelsea Films in the UK
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, comes this three-disc Blu-ray release featuring previously unseen footage from the show’s production and 12 classic episodes, which is due to land on Monday 5 December 2016.
During the shooting of Star Trek, reels and reels of episodic footage were left on the cutting room floor and later preserved in film canisters by the Roddenberry Estate. These alternate takes, deleted scenes, omitted dialogue, out-takes, and original visual FX elements have now been catalogued, transferred and pieced together to be inserted into the two featurettes and a three-part documentary that are at the core of this box-set from CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Media Distribution.
The 12 episodes (selected for their relevance to the vault materials) are from the 1080p High Definition film scans done in 2006 for the re-mastering project, and are presented here in both DTS 7.1 Master Audio and newly-restored original Mono. There are also isolated music tracks on 11 of the episodes, while three contain newly-recorded audio commentaries.
The three documentaries are:
• Inside The Roddenberry Vault: in which Rod Roddenberry introduces viewers to the discovery of his father’s long-lost Star Trek film reels.
• Star Trek: Revisiting A Classic: a look back at the origins of the iconic series, including glimpses of life on the set with new interviews featuring guest stars, directors and production personnel.
• Strange New Worlds: exploring the creation of the classic Star Trek visuals, featuring newly-found original visual effects elements photography.
WHAT’S IN THE BOX
• The Corbomite Maneuver
• Space Seed
• This Side of Paradise (plus audio commentary by Dorothy ‘DC’ Fontana and Gabrielle Stanton)
• Inside the Roddenberry Vault (Part 1)
• Star Trek: Revisiting a Classic
• The Devil in the Dark
• The City on the Edge of Forever (plus audio commentary by Roger Lay Jr, Scott Mantz and Mark A Altman)
• Operation – Annihilate!
• Inside the Roddenberry Vault (Part 2)
• Strange New Worlds: Visualising the Fantastic
• Who Mourns for Adonais?
• Mirror, Mirror
• The Trouble with Tribbles (plus audio commentary by David Gerrold and David A Goodman)
• Return to Tomorrow
• Inside the Roddenberry Vault (Part 3)
• Swept Up: Snippets from the Cutting Room Floor
The Roddenberry Vault on Blu-ray is now available for pre-order on Amazon.
Identicals (2015) | This British indie sci-fi wants to be Blade Runner meets The Man Who Haunted Himself
In a futuristic Britain, a mysterious organisation called Brand New-U offers customers the chance to upgrade themselves by becoming ‘Identicals’ – doppelgängers that may walk and talk like you, but are living much better lives than you. Good-looking lad about town Slater (Lachlan Nieboer) seems to have it all, including the love of his life, Nadia (Nora-Jane Noone).
When she suddenly disappears, Slater is led to Brand New-U, where he makes a deal to take on a new identity in a bid to find Nadia. But as his quest turns into obsession, his identities start to blur, and what he must find in the end is himself…
This Irish-made British sci-fi indie thriller from Bafta-winning short-film director Simon Pummell is a brave attempt at fusing the futuristic worlds of Blade Runner, William Gibson and a Total Recall-styled story with a heavy dose of existential dramatics – the kind that was tackled so brilliantly by Basil Dearden in The Man Who Haunted Himself (check out my review of the Blu-ray release here).
Newcomer Lachlan Neibor (whose appeared in Torchwood and Downton Abbey) is certainly the one to watch, as he dominates nearly every scene as the wideboy Slater and his various doppelgängers, who operates as a conduit for Pummell’s exploration about ‘the strangeness of our contemporary world’.
With his brooding good looks and action man heroics, Neibor could give Jack O’Connell a run for his money (and he could be his double). As for the film itself, well it certainly looks super stylish, but it seems that Pummel (making his feature debut here) and his team have spent so much time on the film’s production design that they’ve forgotten to give the film’s difficult to follow story some heart and soul in which audiences can empathise with. Still, it could be the making of Neibor.
Identicals is out on VOD now and DVD on 22 August 2016 from Arrow Films
Terrahawks | Watch out Earth scum! Gerry Anderson’s crazy children’s Supermacromation sci-fi invades in HD
Having turned to live action drama in the 1970s following his 1960s Supermarionation hits Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet, Gerry Anderson returned to puppeteering in the 1980s with the Supermacromation sci-fi, Terrahawks, which he co-created with Christopher Burr.
The show, set in 2020, introduced a new generation of kids to a brand new elite force, headed by Tiger Ninestein, whose loyal crew (both human and zeroid) matched wits and state-of-the-art weaponry with a hideous-looking android crone called Zelda, as she attempted to dominate all ‘Earth scum’ with her cyrogenically-suspended monster squad.
With its latex Muppet-style hand puppets and cheap special effects, some critics called it a cut-price Thunderbirds, but the show, which ran for 39 episodes between 1983 and 1986, has become quite the cult in its own right thanks to the quote-worthy tongue-in-cheek humour, the crazy creature designs, and scene-stealing vocal performances from Windsor Davies as bullish zeroid, Sergeant Major Zero, and Labyrinth‘s Denise Bryer as Zelda (who reminded me of a potty-mouthed Witchie-Poo from HR Pufnstuf).
From Network in the UK comes the first 13 episodes, presented for the first time in High Definition from the best available materials, in their original as-transmitted aspect ratio, and with the following special features:
• Geronimo! Terrahawks SFX with Steve Begg and Terry Adlam (HD) (30min)
• The Composer’s Perspective with Richard Harvey (HD) (20min)
• Zeroids vs Cubes: Zero’s 1980s Party cartoon (2:16) (HD)
• FX Reel (HD) (14min)
• The Price is Right audio episode (SD) (35min)
• Glass Onion music video (SD)
• Image gallery (HD)
• Expect the Unexpected: VHS Version (SD)
• Script and Annual PDFs
• Steve Begg Concept art and storyboards
The groundbreaking 1970s British TV children’s drama, Timeslip, gets a limited edition DVD set, featuring all 26 episodes of the four serials, a host of special features, and a ‘making of’ book from Network Releasing this week.
Devised by Ruth Boswell (The Tomorrow People and Shadows), Timeslip fused hard science and fantasy in its tale of two teenagers who discover the existence of a ‘time barrier’ that enables them to travel to different periods and locations – from World War Two to chilling visions of the future.
In The Wrong End of Time, teenagers Liz (Cheryl Burfield) and Simon (Spencer Banks), who are holidaying in St Oswald in the Midlands, are sent back in time to 1940 when the local naval base was taken over by German marines. In The Time of the Ice Box, they find themselves mistaken for scientific guinea pigs at an Arctic research station 20 years in the future.
The third serial, The Year of the Burn Up, sees our young heroes in an alternate 1990, where the misuse of science threatens the Earth. And, returning to the present day in The Day of the Clone, Simon goes in search of a missing Liz and has a fateful encounter with Charles Traynor (Dennis Quilley) – the man who put the duo on their time-travels in the first place.
Wasn’t the series made in colour?
With the exception of four episodes (parts 2 to 5 of Day of the Clone), the series was filmed in colour. However, the colour master tapes were found to be badly damaged in the 1980s – with only episode six of Time of the Ice Box remaining intact. This meant that only 16mm black and white film recordings, originally made for overseas sales, were all that remained. It was these that have been used for all subsequent video releases. However, the Time of the Ice Box colour episode is included in Network’s release.
• Behind the Barrier: 2009 feature-length documentary
• Beyond the Barrier: mini-episode
• ‘Making Of’ book by archive TV historian Andrew Pixley
• Back to the Barrier 2003: the cast return to the series location
• Day of the Clone 2007: Convention footage
• PDF archive featuring scripts and production paperwork
• Image gallery
• Disc text features – including an overview of Timeslip comic strip artist Mike Noble
Timeslip is released by Network as a limited edition DVD box-set (buy it here)
For more on the show check out the fan website: http://www.timeslip.org.uk/
Are You Tough Enough to Play?
When eight elite online gamers are invited to beta-test a fully immersive virtual reality game on the 25th-floor of a New York City office tower, it’s an offer too good to resist. Donning hi-tech armour and helmet, the group step into the game, which puts them in the middle of a war zone that’s frighteningly realistic. But events take a sinister turn when the group discover that their helmets emit a deadly sonic shock if they try to leave the game…
With heaps of imagination, a handful of up-and-coming talent, and a just few rooms in an office block (in London and Birmingham) to play with, first-time director Charles Barker and his tech savvy production team have cooked up a smart British indie sci-fi with a nightmare scenario that grips you until the final explosive level.
Having worked in the gaming industry, Barker’s concept is pure gaming nirvana. It also gives him the opportunity to explore what happens when you take a group of loners, socially inept nerds and online obsessives out of their comfort zone and put them into a real-life survival situation.
The motley group includes grieving Carl (Max Deacon), sharp-shooting ex-soldier Andre (Parker Sawyers), nerdy Adam (Douggie McMeekin), apologetic ‘T3rrorist#1’ Zahid (Boris Ler), City boy narcissist ‘DaChief’ Ed (Ali Cook), macho ‘I like to kill shit’ Marco (Tom Benedict Knight), tomboy goth Shelly (Morfydd Clark), and ‘Slayer Girl’ Taylor (Adriana Randall).
As expected, the body bags at the ready as, one-by-one, our gamers fall foul of the loaded game, which only serves to highlight a very important message that ‘war’ is not a game and should be treated with respect. The big pay off, meanwhile, is a sly dig at the big soulless corporations who are manipulating our morals while insidiously taking control of our lives and our leisure pursuits.
Looking way more expensive than it ought to, and boasting a cool Carpenter-esque score, this intelligent Brit sci-fi is a winner.
The Call Up is out on DVD and digital download in the UK from Altitude Film Distibution, and gets it’s US cinema release on 24 June
The Leech Woman (1960) | Staying young forever comes at a deadly price in the Universal B-movie classic
Old women always give me the creeps!
When US endocrinologist Dr Paul Talbot (Phillip Terry) encounters 152-year-old Malla (Estelle Hemsley), he discovers she may hold the key to eternal youth. Accompanied by his alcoholic wife June (Nightmare Alley‘s Coleen Gray), Talbot takes Malla back to her African tribe, the Nandos, where she transforms back into her youthful self (To Kill A Mockingbird‘s Kim Hamilton) with the help of a ring filled with a miraculous elixir. However, there’s a deadly price to be paid: as the ring’s secret ingredient is secretion of the male pineal gland that can only be obtained by killing its host.
On learning that she is to be the next test subject, June kills her husband, steals the ring and heads back to the US under the guise of her own niece Terry Hart. But settling into her double life, June/Terry discovers she must kill and kill again to retain her beauty. But one of her victims proves her undoing when tries to win the affections of her lawyer Neil (Grant Williams aka The Incredible Shrinking Man)…
‘She drained men of their loves and lives’
Produced as a second feature to the US release of Hammer’s The Brides of Dracula, 1960s The Leech Woman is curious entry in Universal’s classic horror cycle. Helmed by screenwriter Edward Dein (who worked on the 1940s Tom Conway Falcon movies) it’s a strange brew of jungle adventure (cue stock footage of African wildlife and tribal dances), marriage meltdown soap drama and sci-fi fantasy.
While not exactly a spoof, the film doesn’t play it entirely straight, and this is evident from the outset as Coleen Gray and Phillip Terry trade acidic insults as bitter couple June and Paul Talbot in the film’s first act, which contains all of the film’s best dialogue, including: ‘I can’t reach you without crawling into a bottle’ and ‘As I doctor I resent the word butchering as much as I resent looking at you!’ Of course, being the first husband of Joan Crawford, Terry probably had a lot of material to use for these hilarious scenes.
And as a pertinent reminder of Universal’s horror pedigree, there’s some in-joke references to 1941’s The Wolf Man and 1942’s The Mummy’s Tomb that will tickle the fancy of classic horror fans, while 1950s scream queen Gloria Talbott is super fiery as Gray’s love rival, Sally.
‘I’ll show you! I’ll becoming beautiful again!’
With vanity, Gerascophobia (the fear of growing old), and modern society’s obsession with halting the aging process at the heart of the thriller, the most revealing line of the film: ‘There’s only one trouble with running away – you always meet yourself when you get there’. Which is what eventually happens to June when, cornered by the police after killing Sally, decides to leap to her death rather than face the horror of seeing herself age and shrivel up (courtesy of make-up legend Bud Westmore’s box of tricks). However, she does get to take her swan dive in a chic silver lamé culottes-styled evening dress creation by Bill Thomas (the same costume designer who also did all the fab gowns in Douglas Sirk’s big-budget soapy 1950s melodramas).
This is campy B-movie fun with an acid tongue and one important lesson: never try to steal Nandos’ secret recipe for their delicious chicken marinade.
The Screenbound Pictures DVD release features a pristine print of the black and white horror, with Dolby Digital mono sound.
From the master of 1950s American sci-fi, Jack Arnold, comes the science gone awry black and white horror chiller, Monster on the Campus.
‘You will see evolution in reverse’
California college professor Donald Blake (Arthur Franz) acquires a prehistoric fish fossil from Madagascar called a coelacanth, whose irradiated blood causes a dog to sprout large canines, a dragonfly to grow two-foot long, and Blake to revert into a subhuman from 100 million years ago. But when it goes on a killing spree, how long will it take for Blake to work out that it’s the beast within him that’s causing all the mayhem on his doorstep?
Man-monster Campus Terror!
If the UK’s Hammer Films were known for their Home Counties gothic horrors set in the confines of Bray Studios, then director Jack Arnold (1916-1992) was best known for setting his many of his US sci-fi’s (It Came from Outer Space, Tarantula, The Monolith Monsters) in cosy California townships, where evil alien forces cause chaos in impossibly wholesome ‘mom and Apple Pie’ communities. And the evil in question in this college town is the oozing blood from a defrosted coelacanth (or ‘silly-canth’ as it’s pronounced here) that turns our good doctor into the hairy pawed Beast of Dunsfield, but only for brief periods, in which he drags young women by the hair to their fright-induced early deaths.
Franz’s professor Blake gets nil points for health and safety awareness. He smokes while examining specimens, never wears gloves, and doesn’t even have a first aid kit in his lab. He’s also terrible at problem solving, as it takes two murders before he realises the truth.
The other characters aren’t that clued-up either, including Donald’s forgiving fiancé Madeline (played by Joanna Moore, whose real-life story is truly tragic) or the dumb detective (Judson Pratt), who thinks either a deformed maniac is responsible or someone is out to frame the professor. Wrong! He never considers the fact that Blake is always found at the scene of each crime, having blacked out, and with yet another torn shirt (a la The Hulk) to show for it. Duh!
Teen idol Troy Donahue puts in a early screen appearance as college jock Jimmy, who, along with Nancy Walters (of Blue Hawaii fame) witness the fossil’s transformation abilities in the film’s best moments, a scene in which Blake traps and kills the mutated dragonfly.
The Beast’s first transformation happens 11-minutes into the story, but we only ever see a hairy hand until the big climax, when we get that really bad joke shop mask, behind which is the legendary Hollywood stuntman Eddie Parker.
This evolutionary variant on Jekyll & Hyde isn’t the greatest sci-fi for Jack Arnold to go out on, but it does have its moments, particularly the excellent use of library music which carries the action, and the hilariously corny dialogue that includes lines like:
‘That’s impossible. Nobody’s got a footprint like that’.
‘Unless it was someone who had strange hands too’.
After this film, director Jack Arnold dabbled in comedy (The Mouse That Roared with Peter Sellers), teen exploitation (High School Confidential), westerns and light sex comedies before heading to TV, where he helmed many a childhood favourite, including Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch (he did the episode The Tiki Caves, which introduced me to a certain Mr Vincent Price), Wonder Woman and, oh dear, The Love Boat.
Monster on the Campus is out on DVD in the UK from Screenbound Pictures from 15 February 2016