The Golden Age of Science Fiction: 2001: A Space Odyssey

Friday, May 10th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

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The Balrog Award, often referred to as the coveted Balrog Award, was created by Jonathan Bacon and first conceived in issue 10/11 of his Fantasy Crossroads fanzine in 1977 and actually announced in the final issue, where he also proposed the Smitty Awards for fantasy poetry. The awards were presented for the first time at Fool-Con II at the Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas on April 1, 1979. The awards were never taken particularly seriously, even by those who won the award. The final awards were presented in 1985. The Film Hall of Fame Awards were not presented the first year the Balrogs were given out, being created in 1980. The SF Film Hall of Fame was given to two films each in its first and final years.

Filmed by Stanley Kubrick and based on several short stories by Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: a space odyssey was released to theatres in April of 1968, it was nothing like the B science fiction films which preceded it.  Kubrick, guided by Clarke, attempted to make a realistic portrayal of space flight, even if it did have an ending that would appeal to the drug culture of the period.

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The Storyteller’s Voice: Basil Rathbone Reads Edgar Allan Poe

Monday, May 6th, 2019 | Posted by Thomas Parker

(1) Basil Rathbone

Basil Rathbone

If I say the name Basil Rathbone, I have a very good chance of guessing exactly what you’ll think (if you’re old enough, that is — if you’re below a certain age, you may only think, “Who?”); ten will get you twenty you’ll think “Sherlock Holmes,” the character that Rathbone indelibly portrayed in fourteen films from 1939 to 1946, so successfully that for many people his name has become synonymous with the character.

And if by some chance you don’t think of Holmes, you’ll almost certainly think of the greatest swordsman in Hollywood, the piercing-eyed, hawk-visaged athlete who figured in some of the screen’s most thrilling duels, most famously against John Barrymore and Leslie Howard in Romeo and Juliet (1936), Errol Flynn in Captain Blood (1935) and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), and Tyrone Power in The Mark of Zorro (1940), the latter battle the most exciting swordfight in movie history, in my opinion.

In addition to these swashbuckling villains, in his almost fifty year film career Rathbone applied his singular talents to bringing many other characters to vivid life. Some of his most memorable non-action roles are his icily sadistic Mr. Murdstone in David Copperfield, his brutally indifferent Marquis St. Evrémonde in A Tale of Two Cities, his rigid, fatally conventional Alexi Karenin in Anna Karenina (all in 1935 — studio era Hollywood worked its players hard), and his witty, cynical Richard III in Tower of London (1939), with Vincent Price as his brother Clarence and Boris Karloff as his murderous, club-footed henchman, Mord; truly, they don’t make ’em like that anymore!

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Hither Came Conan: The Animated Red Nails That Never Was

Monday, May 6th, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

RedNails_ConanMovieRedNailsAnimated_ValeriaEDITEDIn Keith J. Taylor’s entry for “Red Nails,” I mentioned an animated movie project, based on that story, which never made it to fruition. Here’s some more information on that ill-fated project.

Comic book artist Kevin Eastman is the co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He also owned Heavy Metal magazine from 1992 to 2014, and I believe he is still the publisher.

Eastman, a long-time Conan fan, drew a variant cover for the new Savage Sword of Conan comic from Marvel.

Back in 2003, he was trying to set up a new studio and wanted to do a full length animated DVD of Red Nails with a limited theatrical release. A temporary deal was reached with Fredrik Malmberg’s company, but the business plan didn’t work out for Eastman.

Steve Gold, who had worked on the Conan and the Young Warriors animated television show, was also interested in a Red Nails project at the time. When the Eastman deal fell through, his company, Swordplay Entertainment, signed a contract with Malmberg to animate Red Nails. A screenplay was developed and Gold’s group looked for financing.

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Will the Real Captain Marvel Please Stand Up, or Why Can’t the World’s Mightiest Mortal Use His Own Name?

Sunday, April 28th, 2019 | Posted by Thomas Parker

(1) Is this Captain Marvel-small (2) Or is this Captain Marvel-small

A few weeks ago my wife and I saw the new Captain Marvel movie. I thought it was a smashingly successful film, above all in its demonstration of how shockingly superhero storytelling has degenerated over the past fifteen years. But whether I liked it or not is neither here nor there; after all, the movie made a billion dollars, and as Doctor Doom himself would be the first to acknowledge, that’s the important part.

On the way to the theater, my wife wanted to know just who this Captain Marvel was – Brie Larson sure didn’t look like the hero that she thought bore that name, the grinning hunk in the bright red suit with the yellow lightning bolt on his chest. Did Captain Marvel have some sort of life crisis that required an extreme change in direction – and wardrobe? (That happens these days, even in comic books.) She was especially confused because there’s another movie out right now that features the crimson-clad character that she’s familiar with, except in this other movie, he’s called Shazam, not Captain Marvel.

The explanation is simple… well, not really simple, but I’ll try to at least make it comprehensible. This Captain Marvel is not that Captain Marvel. The guy in the red suit is the first, the real Captain Marvel, with a pedigree going all the way back to the fabled Golden Age of the 1940’s, while this current version is, for all of her many virtues, a claim jumper. And yes, something indeed happened to the original hero. He was the victim of a plot more nefarious than anything the Joker or the Red Skull ever cooked up, and he suffered something more starkly evil, more life shattering, and more humiliatingly debilitating than any wound inflicted by magic talisman or sinister superweapon.

So what was it that laid Captain Marvel low?

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A Tale of Tropes

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019 | Posted by S.M. Carrière

Merlin poster

All the goofy best somehow heartfelt drama one could ever ask for

Good afternoon, Readers!

I’m ill today (currently accepting all the pity), and blogging from the couch, where I’m sitting with a hot cup of tea and binging Netflix. In fact, I’m binging an old show that is the equivalent of comfort food.

Look, this show is absolutely the goofiest thing you’ll ever watch. It’s also genuinely funny, dramatic, tear-jerking, and eye-rolling. In short, it’s that peculiar mix of drama and whimsy that the BBC excels at producing. It’s very much part of the British sensibility, I think, this mix of whimsy and drama… and terrible CGI. There’s just something about that mix, and the peculiarly Britishnes of the whole thing that is somehow a killing combination.

Since I’m watching it anyway, I figured I chat about the show, and how it both adheres to and breaks some of my favourite fantasy tropes.

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Level 16 Movie Review

Tuesday, April 9th, 2019 | Posted by S.M. Carrière

Good afternoon, Readers!

Level 16 Poster

Last week, I headed out to the Mayfair Theatre in Ottawa (Canada) for a screening of the film Level 16.  An aside, the Mayfair is a quaint little theater that has been in operation since 1932. The interior doesn’t seem to have been changed since it’s early days, and the in-house film graphics haven’t changed since the 70’s, I’m certain. Anyway, I figured I could turn the visit into a film review. For true transparency’s sake, I have to state that my flatmate and good friend worked on this film. I guarantee you, though, that I’m being as impartial as I can about it.

Level 16 is a sci-fi thriller (stronger on the thriller than science fiction, though there is enough of the latter to qualify, even if it’s mentioned only briefly) set in a “post-apocalyptic” world (there are reasons for those quotation marks, I promise you). From IMDB:

Sixteen-year-old Vivien is trapped in The Vestalis Academy, a prison-like boarding school, keeping to herself and sticking her neck out for no one. Until she is reunited with Sophia — the former friend who betrayed her. Together the girls embark on a dangerous search to uncover the horrifying truth behind their imprisonment. Soon running for their lives, the girls must save themselves or die trying.

This is a female-led production; a female writer and director (Danishka Esterhazy) with female leads, Vivien and Sophia, brilliantly portrayed by Katie Douglas and Celina Martin respectively.

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When Humphrey Met Thomas, or Life Imitates Art, Silver Screen Style

Sunday, April 7th, 2019 | Posted by Thomas Parker

(1) Xanadu-small

Charles Foster Kane’s Xanadu

We live in a movie-saturated society, so much so that a real film fanatic may occasionally experience a blurring of the line between everyday reality and cinematic fantasy. In the middle of spinning an anecdote to an acquaintance, such a person may have to stop himself and say, “Oh… wait a minute now. I wasn’t the one who made the Enquirer the biggest newspaper in the country and then went on to build Xanadu. That was Charles Foster Kane!”

Well, maybe things rarely get that extreme. But sometimes, one kind of reality actually does impinge upon the other kind, and you experience a moment in your waking life that has come straight out of a celluloid Hollywood dream. Let me tell you what I mean.

John Huston’s 1941 film The Maltese Falcon is one of my favorite movies. It may be blasphemous to say so, but in some ways I consider it superior to Dashiell Hammett’s brilliant novel, as Huston’s screenplay wisely omits the book’s only misstep, a bizarre dead-end subplot involving, of all things, the Fat Man’s daughter. Back in those long-gone days when the advent of the VCR suddenly freed us forever from the tyranny of station scheduling (days I look back on with nostalgia, now), The Maltese Falcon was the first videocassette I bought, the first movie I had to own. I can’t even begin to estimate how many times over the years I’ve seen it.

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The Aesthetic of 1970s TV Sci-Fi

Saturday, April 6th, 2019 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

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I sometimes get overwhelmed by all the things on Netflix that I don’t want to watch, and yet, when I’m alone, I like to watch a bit of TV while eating. So lately I’ve been pulling out some old 1970s sci-fi. I watched a few episodes of my Battlestar Galactica boxed set. And surprisingly, I’ve been enjoying Logan’s Run the TV series. And it’s made me think about the way the 1970s TV sci-fi aesthetic stuck together.

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It’s more than just the computers that all look the same. The brightly-lit panels on everything ring futuristic to me, perhaps because I lived through the tail end of the 70s with an impressionable aesthetic palate. I’m curious — do you guys think that there’s a 1970s sci-fi TV “look and feel”?

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Goth Chick News: New Horror Movies and the Oreos to Eat With Them…

Thursday, April 4th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Goth Chick 2019 movie mashup

With spring having recently sprung and a Chicagoland weather forecast with nary a single-digit temp in sight, we here at Goth Chick News are decidedly giddy. The Big Cheese John O has thrown open the windows of the Black Gate offices letting in a breeze that finally disperses the smell of skunked Molson and Cheetohs, and Howard A. Jones is once again starting to make noises about that damn zeppelin again…

So in celebration of nature’s renewal, here’s a double-dose of goth stuff.

The first item up gets credited to Fandango who did a fabulous job getting us ready for all the 2019 reasons to hold tight to your date in a darkened theater. Feast your eyes on an awesome mashup of upcoming horror movie trailers. Us is in theaters now, and Pet Sematary, which is already getting early raves, opens this weekend but everything else is down range. Previews includes sneak peeks at flicks such as Child’s Play, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, BrightBurn, Hellboy and The Curse of La Llorona to name a few.

Check it.

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Movie of the Week Madness: The Night Stalker

Sunday, March 24th, 2019 | Posted by Thomas Parker

(1) The Night Stalker-small

The ABC Movie of the Week (a beloved American institution on a par with Turtle Wax, disputed Florida elections, and SPAM, and whose history I detailed here) was, during its six season run from 1969 to 1975, a veritable goldmine of cheesy science fiction, mystery, and horror stories… only there were some MOW’s (for you members of the Netflix generation, that’s the acronym for movie of the week) that were a bit better than cheesy, and a rare handful were even better than that — that were, in fact, damned good. At the pinnacle of this admittedly rather small mountain stands The Night Stalker, which chomped its way into millions of unsuspecting living rooms on the evening of January 11th, 1972.

The Night Stalker was produced by Dan Dark Shadows Curtis and scripted by Richard Matheson from an unpublished novel by Jeff Rice. After the show became the highest rated made-for-television movie yet broadcast at that point, the novel found its way into print and it became apparent why it had been unpublished — it’s not very good. (It also bears an uncanny — shall we say, almost supernatural — resemblance to a much better book, Leslie Whitten’s little-known and underappreciated 1965 novel, Progeny of the Adder. Just a coincidence, I’m sure…)

The Night Stalker is the story of a serial killer on the rampage in Las Vegas, except that at the time, the term “serial killer” had yet to be coined by FBI agent and profiler Robert Ressler; he came up with it a full two years later. That’s how long ago 1972 was.

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