Category Archives: STUFF

STUFF: THE BEGINNING of the NeverEnding Story [UPDATED]

avatar-scottwoodard32 years ago today, American audiences were first introduced to the screen versions of Atreyu, Bastian, and Falkor the Luck Dragon, a few of the main characters from THE NEVERENDING STORY, directed by Wolfgang Petersen.

Based on the 1979 novel by German author Michael Andreas Helmuth Ende, this epic, big budget (at the time, the most expensive movie in German history) 1984 fantasy film took audiences to the incredible world of Fantasia, where the mysterious Nothing was threatening to consume the limitless realm of imagination itself!

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For many viewers (especially kids), the dramatic loss of Atreyu’s horse Artax in the Swamps of Sadness (spoiler alert!) left deep scars, but despite persistent rumors, no horses (or actors) perished during the filming of that sequence.

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THE NEVERENDING STORY starred a young Noah Hathaway (Boxey from the original BATTLESTAR GALACTICA) and Barret Oliver (D.A.R.Y.L.) as well as a number of other talented performers buried inside suits and under layers of elaborate makeup.

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To learn a lot more about this film, check out CINEMA AND SORCERY: THE COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO FANTASY FILM – written by G2V’s very own Scott Woodard (that’s me!) and Arnold T. Blumberg – in either print or e-book!

…And at this point, we’re just assuming the theme song performed by Limahl (lead singer of ’80s band Kajagoogoo) has now found its way back into your brain. “Turn around, look at what you seeeeeeee…”

UPDATE: You can see the film in a special Fathom Events screening on September 4 and 7, 2016, accompanied by an introduction from critic Ben Lyons and a “Reimagine the NeverEnding Story” featurette!

HELP US BY ORDERING THE MOVIE VIA THIS LINK!

Gene Roddenberry (1921-1991), Star Trek, and Outside In Boldly Goes [UPDATED]

avatar-scottwoodardmeavatarjessHe was often referred to as “The Great Bird of the Galaxy,” a towering icon in pop culture history whose role in creating one of the longest-running science fiction universes of all time permanently places him in the media hall of fame as well as in the hearts of millions of fans. His name was Gene Roddenberry, and today would have been his 95th birthday.

Plenty of words have been written and will continue to be written about his life, his work, and his legacy, but here at G2V we just had to chime in on his birthday in this, STAR TREK‘s 50th anniversary, to reaffirm our love for the universe he and the team he assembled helped to create over the course of a half century of thoughtful exploration and adventure to the final frontier and beyond.

OutsideIn3coverPREVIEWThis fall, Arnold’s own ATB Publishing will also release the third in the OUTSIDE IN series of avant-garde essay collections, featuring contributions from numerous writers working in a variety of styles, formats, and tones. The first two volumes covered all of the stories in classic and modern televised DOCTOR WHO, but for the third – OUTSIDE IN BOLDLY GOES – 117 writers were assembled by editor Robert Smith? to discuss all of the Kirk-era STAR TREK tales from the original series, animated series, feature films, and a few surprises too. More details will be forthcoming shortly, but in this anniversary year, it will be a one-of-a-kind journey back through all those Enterprise exploits we remember so fondly…and you may even look at them with fresh eyes. To the left is an exclusive first look at the cover, and at the ATB site you’ll find the table of contents and pre-ordering information!

We tip our G2V hats to Gene, and “May the Great Bird of the Galaxy bless your planet!”

STUFF: Why Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger is Actually a Doctor Who Story

meavatarjessIt was to be the final Sinbad adventure produced by Charles Schneer and Ray Harryhausen, an epic journey that would take the Arabian sailor to the farthest reaches of his world and to the threshold of a new era that seemed to be bidding farewell to magic in favor of technology. He would save a prince, find love, and battle all manner of fantastical beasts. This was a blockbuster film that would surely dominate its release year in 1977 on this very date… SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER!

OK, so there was that STAR WARS thing too, but never mind. Although some find this last Harryhausen Sinbad movie lacking, I still love it. True, I do feel Patrick Wayne is not nearly as good in the lead role as John Phillip Law was in the previous installment, 1974’s GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD – in fact, I’ve always said this movie would be as close to perfect as it could be if only Law had returned as originally planned.

Wayne’s somewhat flat delivery isn’t really much of a problem, however, and there are so many other reasons to enjoy this sterling example of sword and sorcery excitement. Harryhausen was soon to retire himself, and here he’s working at the peak of his powers just prior to his final film, 1981’s CLASH OF THE TITANS. He gives us such wonderful creations as the Trog (one of his personal favorites), the robotic Minoton, and in one of his most nuanced stop-motion performances, the baboon form of Prince Kassim.

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And then there’s Patrick Troughton as Melanthius, an aging magician-scientist with a young female companion, a knowledge beyond even his advanced years, and a boyish delight in the discovery of new and amazing things. Sound familiar? That’s because for many of us, Troughton will always be remembered best as the Second Doctor, the incarnation of the titular Time Lord that appeared on the long-running BBC sci-fi series DOCTOR WHO from 1966-1969 and in a few appearances afterward. And here he seems to be doing little more than playing a slightly older version of his Doctor.

This is why I’ve always loved the idea that at some point in his future, during a murky period of time that is well mined in DOCTOR WHO lore but would take some explaining here (just trust me on this one; for WHO fans, all I need to say is “Season 6B”), an older Second Doctor retired to ancient Earth to live out his final years as Melanthius. Considering his knowledge of lasers, “telepathia,” and more, it works well. And it’s fun!

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SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER is a rousing finale to the series that incorporates timely science-fiction elements into Sinbad’s otherwise pseudo-historical, magical world. It also showcases some of the most emotionally moving performances by stop-motion creatures in Harryhausen’s career, bidding farewell to the world of Sinbad in style.

To learn a lot more about this film, check out CINEMA AND SORCERY: THE COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO FANTASY FILM – written by G2V’s very own Scott Woodard and Arnold T. Blumberg (that’s me!) – in either print or e-book!

HELP US BY ORDERING THE MOVIE VIA THIS LINK!

STUFF: Riding in Cars with The Omega Man for 45 Years

meavatarjessIn the late ’60 and early ’70s, long after he had already conquered pop culture as Ben Hur, Moses, and God (that’s right, he’s the voice in the burning bush scene opposite himself in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, but not the voice in the tablet scene…so now you know), Charlton Heston cornered the market on post-apocalyptic heroism with a dash of masculine entitlement and a pinch of unbridled arrogance. PLANET OF THE APES, BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES, THE OMEGA MAN, and SOYLENT GREEN established Heston as our grinning, gun-toting hero with a heart of iron. And arguably the most balls-to-the-wall example of Heston at his most “Chuck” is in 1971’s THE OMEGA MAN, celebrating its 45th anniversary this very day!

The second of three (to date) adaptations of Richard Matheson’s highly influential 1954 vampire novel, I AM LEGEND – which was also more or less the direct inspiration for George Romero’s ghoulish NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEADTHE OMEGA MAN may not have traditional zombies by any stretch of the imagination, but I counted it for inclusion in ZOMBIEMANIA for two reasons. One, the mutated members of the Family exhibit behavior similar to that of Voodoo-era zombies, behaving as if psychically connected and under the sway of a “high priest,” the deranged demagogue Matthias. Two, I love the movie. So there.

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Why do I love THE OMEGA MAN? Well, there’s Heston’s swaggering performance, the now horribly dated but then-progressive attempt at race-mixing romance, the eerie makeup that doesn’t hold up under scrutiny but definitely weirded me out as a kid, the absolutely mesmerizing musical score by Ron Grainer (the perfect accompaniment to a long road trip, if only all the other cars would get off the highway to satisfy my desire to play Robert Neville), and even the insanely self-important behind-the-scenes contemporary promotional featurette in which Heston waxes philosophical with anthropologist Dr. Ashley Montague!

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And let’s not forget that Heston, having already played God, keeps getting mistaken for the deity in his ’70s roles. Here, a young girl asks him point blank if he is God…and he doesn’t say no! After all, why should he? He’s “genuine, 160-proof old Anglo-Saxon, baby!” And then there’s the final scene…but perhaps I’ll leave that for you to enjoy in all its sledgehammer subtlety yourself.

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Yes, this is an occasionally embarrassing slice of ’70s exploitation cinema, with some jarringly unsubtle observations on race relations and an almost laughable attempt at deeper social commentary on Man’s inhumanity to Man as well as the struggle between the forces of technological progress and primitive religious traditionalism. But the real value of THE OMEGA MAN is its kitschy sci-fi charm, Heston’s Hestonism, Anthony Zerbe’s hammy villainy as Matthias, and that Grainer score. The movie also set a benchmark for post-apocalyptic adventure that has influenced film makers for decades afterward, resulting in the likes of NIGHT OF THE COMET and 28 DAYS LATER…, and that’s no small achievement.

And remember…”THERE IS NO PHONE RINGING, DAMMIT!”

ZombiemaniaCoverSR(Parts of this article were quoted and/or rewritten from the book I co-authored with Andy Hershberger, the now sadly out-of-print ZOMBIEMANIA: 80 MOVIES TO DIE FOR, published in 2006. It was one of the earliest comprehensive guides to the zombie movie genre, and we’re now working on an updated, expanded edition titled ZOMBIEMANIA RISES: 100 MOVIES TO DIE FOR. So take heart…and brains…and intestines…)

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STUFF: The 30th Anniversary of Zombie Jason and Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives

meavatarjessWhile I can’t say I’ve ever considered myself a huge FRIDAY THE 13TH fan, it was inevitable that if you liked any horror movies at all and you grew up during the early days of cable, you were bound to see every single one of Jason’s exploits (and, yes, his mother’s) countless times in rotation. So I’ve seen them all, enjoyed some more than others, but there’s one that stands out. It’s an all-time favorite, the film where Jason finally becomes an actual zombie (thus qualifying it and all its chronological successors for inclusion in my book, ZOMBIEMANIA). And today is its 30th anniversary!

On this day in 1986, FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES took on the task of reinvigorating an aging franchise after a supposed FINAL CHAPTER that seemingly said goodbye to long-time slasher star Jason and A NEW BEGINNING that attempted to reinvent the series along more suspenseful lines. But fans weren’t having it; they not only wanted Jason back, they wanted him back more dangerous than ever. Jason couldn’t just return after years of near-death escapes. No, this time he had to quite literally rise from the grave and become a zombie killer that could not be stopped!

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And so, writer/director Tom McLoughlin accepted the challenge and crafted a more self-aware, at times overtly comedic installment with borrowed elements of classic Universal horror like FRANKENSTEIN, knowing nods to the cautionary aspects of the series (sex=death), tongue-in-cheek moments like one involving a hapless paintballer, and reliable turns by sci-fi and horror stalwarts Thom Matthews (RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 1 & 2) and Jennifer Cooke (V: THE SERIES). You can also see a young Tony Goldwyn in his very first film, four years before he appeared in GHOST.

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With a creepy trailer shot just for promoting the movie and featuring music that felt like it incorporated nods to the aforementioned RETURN as well as PHANTASM and, of course, the familiar FRIDAY whispery echoed refrain, the stage was set for Jason’s triumphant resurrection!

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I still enjoy JASON LIVES and consider it a highlight of the series. If you’re a FRIDAY fan, a slasher aficionado, a horror buff, or just someone that enjoys a bunch of people getting knocked off at a camp, I highly recommend the sixth FRIDAY THE 13TH. As for Zombie Jason with his Fulci-esque worm-infested face, he still looks just as creepy cool as he did way back then. Happy 30th, you living dead hockey-masked maniac, you!

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