Saturday, May 31, 2008

Two Things I Didn't Buy When I Went Shopping This Week

Mmmmm! Molluscs in their own juice. How did I resist? And they're Musky too!

I nearly succumbed. I hate it when my dried mealworms get all clogged up as I pour them.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Groan - This Month's Movies

  1. A Cock and Bull Story - Not the 'greatest film ever' as one review on the front of the box would have me believe but still pretty funny. I've tried to read Tristram Shandy a couple of times and failed pretty early on, I was in a way hoping this film would give me an 'in' so the next time I tried I would get on with it a lot better. Not sure that that's going to happen.
  2. The Snow Devils - Last of the Gamma 1 Italian SF drek and probably the worst / best of the bunch.
  3. Attack of the Giant Leeches - again!
  4. It's Alive! - A deliriously bad fever dream of a movie which, if I've got this right, was a made-for-TV remake of a movie that never actually got made. Notable for containing the most pathetically unconvincing rubber monster suit ever shot by a professional crew. (This film should not be confused with any of the other five movies called It's Alive!. This one has the honour of being the first - and worst.)
  5. Fright Night - above average and, dare I admit it? mildly erotic mid 80s vampire flick.
  6. Cigarettes and Alcohol - not sure to make of this one at all.I have no idea why I find Jarmusch's films so funny but I do and this one was no exception. As an added bonus (if you can call it that) I got to see Steve Coogan playing a character, loosely based on himself, called 'Steve Coogan' for the second time this month.
  7. Secretary - Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Spader. The best rom-com I've seen for a long while but not as brilliantly wonderful as people had lead me to believe - I was slightly pissed off by the title sequence which seemed to imply that a typewriter fitted with a seriffed font was producing sans seriffed lettering and a whacking great boom shadow in an early scene meant it took some time for me to settle into it.
  8. Take the Money and Run - my loathing of Woody Allen's later films hasn't soured my view of his earlier, funnier films. I found this genuinely, laugh out loud funny.
  9. Titan AE - Full of sound and fury, kids' American Manga SF which signified nothing but (occasionally) looked great.
  10. The Swarm - There are good films, there are bad films, then there is Irwin Allen. The Swarm was supposed to be the disaster move to end all disaster movies (in one sequence a nuclear plant blows up killing Jose Ferrer, Richard Chamberlain, and 32 thousand off-screen extras - this comes immediately after one of my favourite lines from the movie: "In all your fail safe techniques, is there any provision for an attack by killer bees?" ). Except it wasn't a Disaster movie; it was just a career destroyingly bad disaster. Warner Brothers thew millions into advertising, and making a vast number of prints, of what turned out to be one of the most unintentionally hilarious movies ever made. The Swarm is masterpiece of wrongness. Made on a huge budget, with more star names than the average, and a polished crew - all standing on a script full of the most unspeakable, howling bad dialogue ever written...

    Crane Played by Michael Caine finds something at the ravaged picnic site where two picnickers have been stung to death by a brazillion Bees.]

    Brad Crane:
    Plastic. It's a piece of a plastic cup. There are pieces all around here.

    He starts pointing out the other fragments.

    Brad Crane:
    Look. Look, there. There. There.

    Cut to: General Slater, played by Richard Wydmark who is not even bothering to disguise his usual: "What the fuck am I doing in this piece of shit?" facial expression.

    General Slater:
    What's so significant about that?

    Brad Crane:
    I'm afraid to speculate. But,
    I think, the bees, did this.

    Major Baker:
    Are you saying these bees eat plastic?

    Brad Crane:
    No, no. But I'm wondering. Your
    American honeybee has a weak mouth,
    that couldn't even break the skin,
    of a grape. But it looks like this species,
    is tearing up, plastic cups, possibly to
    line their hives. Now, if this is true,
    they didn't, just get here. I mean,
    the invasion, didn't, just now begin.
    They have been here some time.
    Breeding. Increasing.

    General Slater:

    Brad Crane:
    Well, suppose these bees, are
    using plastic, to insulate their hives.

    General Slater:
    No bee is that smart.

    Brad Crane:
    Suppose these African bees are.

    Allen's other movies aren't good, but this one is brilliant. It's not often you get to watch a movie in which everything went wrong.
  11. La Dolce Vita - I love Fellini's movies. I haven't a scooby what they're about but I just love wallowing in the dreamlike decadence of them.
  12. Throne of Blood - Kurosawa and Fellini in one week? Have I finally run out of crap movies to watch? Probably not, but there were none I fancied watching within easy reach and I needed to reset my quality control standards. I was, sorry to say, a bit underwhelmed by Throne of Blood. For years I have avoided watching any of Mr K's movies because, many years ago, I was rendered catatonic in a cinema by my first encounter with his work - the three hour cut of Dersu Uzala - and until last year sometime I managed to avoid watching anything else he had done. When I finally got over my reluctance and watched Ran, his samurai reworking of King Lear, I was blown away - sheer, unmitigated, fucking genius. Maybe I was unfortunate in watching Ran first, but ToB came over as dry run for the good stuff that came later.
  13. Confidential Report - Just to complete some sort of black and white Arty Auteur Filmy hat trick, an Orson Welles. Back to the trash.
  14. This is Spinal Tap - I laughed.
  15. Robinson Crusoe on Mars - sliding myself back into the bad movie habit. Despite it's dreadful title this is pretty damn good for an SF movie of the period. The director, Byron Haskins actually understood Science Fiction and didn't treat everything as a dressed up cowboy movie. It doesn't, for a refreshing change, insult the intelligence of the audience by explaining the most basic of facts in mind-numbing, simplistic detail: "Yes Johnny, Mars - sometimes known as 'The Red Planet' - is a very long way away...". And it wasn't just plain wrong about everything. How space ships in movies make that whooshing noise on the soundtrack as they fly through airless space is a mystery, but at least this show built in a delay between light from a distant explosion in space and the mysteriously transmitted noise of the bang reaching the planet-bound observer. Whatever medium sound travels through (even mysterious movie space medium) it's always going to travel slower than light.
  16. Moon Zero Two - an unashamed dressed up cowboy movie. A Space Western complete with low gravity bar-room brawls, claim jumpers and loads of other Cowboy cliches in space suits. No cattle stampede though. It needed a cattle stampede. Three thousand cows in space suits running amok in slow motion? That I would have paid money to see. Not great but bits of it were interesting and all of it was a hell of a lot better than most other Space Westerns - especially Outland ('High Noon in space' my arse!).
  17. Equinox - Dreadful. An object lesson in how not to make movies in so many departments, lessons the makers obviously learned because, having spent six and a half thousand (1960's) dollars, and two years making this near unwatchable zero budget mess, they have gone on to become multi-Oscar winners. Everyone has got to start somewhere. (Thanks for the steer, Bill).
  18. Devil Girl From Mars - A set-bound adapted play, pitting the assembled residents of a lonely Scottish Inn against the evil Machinations of one - count them - one! Matriarchal Martian who needs Men! to replace the dwindling feeblenesses of the 'inferior sex' of her own planet. Apart from the dubious delights of the leather fetishist's wet-dream of the alien's costume, it had nothing going for it at all - she spoke terribly properly too. Very BBC, it was like watching Invasion of the Light Program Continuity Announcers.

    And now, The Archers. Phil tells Jill: "All your bases are belonging to one..."

  19. Cat Women of the Moon - from man starved Martians to man starved Selenites. And a double dose of Deja-Vu: the 'plot', and some of the props of this piece of crap were recycled in the atrocious Missile to the Moon (qv), of which I am quite fond, and the spaceship sets were reused from the junky Project Moon Base (also qv) watched a few weeks ago. The opening sequence is a hoot as our heroes grimace their way through the heavy acceleration of take-off looking like the 'before' characters in crude indigestion commercials. Incidentally the crushing forces of take-off have absolutely no effect on our heroine's twin, conically pointed chest. Lying flat on her back on her couch, pressed own by G forces equivalent to the weight of an elephant, her tits point skyward like twin spaceship nose-cones - by gum, they built bras well in the 50s!
  20. Target Earth - Better than average 1954 low budget B movie SF which started with a would be suicide waking up to find the city deserted (which also happens to be the way one of my favourite SF movies The Quite Earth starts) and intelligently built up a nice edgy paranoia feel which lasted up to the very second the clunky ("For Mash Get Smash!"like) robots that have invaded the city appear on the screen - and suddenly it's all evaporated. All that hard work gone - Pouf! - with a single shot of a crappy bow-legged, cardboard monster. Then we're in the land of The Military sitting in small rooms pointing at maps and telling each other how dreadful the situation is before launching the usual air strike by stock footage while Scientists feverishly peer at an oscilloscope, trying to find the alien invaders' Achilles' Heel before the final reel. The bits with the lost and confused survivors are great, the rest of it is period, by the numbers, low budget B movie.
  21. Batman - The Adam West Burt Ward 1966 version, which just gets funnier every time I watch it..
  22. The Werewolf of Washington - this is why I watch movies with crap titles. Every now and then, under the piles of Robot Monsters and Teenagers From Outer-Space, I stumble on a long forgotten gem. The Werewolf of Washington is such a gem; a bizarre, surreal satire of the downfall of Nixon - done as a werewolf movie. It's great. A badly cropped version of it is legally available here. Dean Stockwell camps it up outrageously as the Lycanthropic White House press secretary. Very 1973. Very funny.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

It's not often you get to buy the same thing from two different second hand sales on two different continents. I don't mean a identical objects; I mean the same object.

About thirteen years ago I was in America, getting over the break-up of long term relationship by running away to join the Hollywood circus twenty years too late. I was thirty-five and, as a friend so wonderfully put it at the time: "Having my mid-life crisis while I was still young enough to enjoy it."

So, there I was in California nearing the end of my six month's Tourist Visa and needing to buy presents for people back home. What do I get for the woman I had lived with for the last twelve years and who had precipitated my flight to America in the first place? Answer, a second-hand, hugely heavy grey metal 1940's Rolodex - and a signed copy of Joan Blondell's semi-autobiographical novel. I think we both had a big crush on Joan.

The Rolodex I bought at a huge 'swap meet' at the Pasadena Rose Bowl. That was a strange day. I have never seen so much second-hand military hardware for sale in one place before or since. Every stall seemed to have bits of obsolete weaponry. Sometimes it was hard to tell what the things were, various sized chunks of Army-green machinery with serial numbers and 'Property of the US Government' stamped all over it. None of it looked lethal in itself but I'm sure you could have built a couple of tanks out of the parts lying around.

(Johnny Cash's One Piece at a Time just popped into my head there.)

I can't remember what else I ended up buying that day but that's where I got the Rolodex. It still had a few of the previous owner's cards in it. Whoever he was was something in the writing game because they were all numbers of writers and literary agencies. One card had Ray Bradbury's number. I didn't phone him.

The book I bought in a bookstore on San Vicente Boulevard.

Fast forward to five or six years later. I'm now living with Merriol who, to be honest, is not as keen on Joan Blondell as I am, but is very fond of office equipment. I guess a fascination with the tools of your trade is an occupational hazard whatever your line of business. Personally I find the Viking Direct catalogue an odd choice of bedtime reading, but there you go. One day, in passing, I mention the rather substantial and stylish Rolodex I had lugged over from the US all those years before and was immediately subjected to one of those reverse-engineered fits of jealousy that women can knock up at the slightest provocation. 'How dare you buy something for someone else that I might have wanted at least a year before you knew I even existed?' One of those. Retro-fitted guilt tripping.

Fast forward to last Saturday. Holly's school is having a table top sale. Smaller than the swap meet in California, three or four tables instead of the several hundred at the Rose Bowl, and no sign of any tank parts. The first stall inside the door, was being run by Callan, my ex's ten year old daughter. In front of her, in the centre of the table, was The Rolodex. So I bought it - again; for Merriol. I bought it once once in the Twentieth Century, once in the Twenty-first.

I'm not doing it again.

Monday, May 19, 2008

People are weird.

The other day in Oban, I was escaping taking the kids to see The Singing Kettle by doing shopping, I saw this trolley outside Lidl. Nothing particularly unusual about it apart from it's not attached to all the other trolleys in the rack by one of those coin-operated dongles. I hate these things. I hate having to pay to borrow a shopping trolley. I know it probably cuts down the number that end up in canals or people garages but I personally feel insulted that I'm not trusted to take one back without having some of my money held hostage. So, after being shown this trick by shelf-stacker at Farmfoods*, I have a key from a corned beef tin on my keyring. The fat bit (of the right sort) of a corned beef** tin key is just about almost exactly (well near enough) to the diameter of a pound coin to enable to to push it into a shopping trolley dongle and, with a twist, when you've freed it from the other trolleys, you can take it out again. When I return a trolley I never chain it back up again so that the next person who comes along doesn't have the hassle of finding a coin etc. etc.

I guess I'm not the only person who knows this trick, because outside Lidl in Oban,there was this liberated trolley just sitting there waiting for someone to go shopping with it. As I stood there trying to decide whether or not to go to Homebase first, a bloke walked up to this particular trolley, stopped and looked at it. (I was standing far enough away for it to be obvious this was in no way MY trolley). He looked at it very closely. Bent over and peered at it. He worked out that it wasn't attached to the other trolleys. He hesitated - then he moved away, took a coin out of his pocket, and freed another trolley and trundled it into the shop.


No idea. I went to Homebase. When I came back to Lidl half an hour later the trolley was still there. I took the trolley. It was a fine trolley. Nothing wrong with it at all. Walking around the shop I estimated from the number of people in there just starting their shopping that at least half a dozen people must have bypassed it and dug money out of their pockets to get a chained up, unsuspicious trolley of their own.

People are weird.

* I shop in all the best places.
** Or 'Corn beefed' as I originally typed.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Well, I didn't get short listed as a best of the 'Daddy' blogs possibly because I'm not an American Christian, (which, from my casual reading of the other contenders, they all seemed to be to a man), possibly because I haven't written anything about ye kids for a while, which, when you think about it, is pretty much an essential qualification for a 'Daddy' blog (that, and a penis). As I said in another place earlier today:
'It's all my kids' fault. As soon as I put myself up for it they stopped doing anything weird, humorous, silly, or annoying - damn them! Now the short listing is over I fully expect them attempting to abseil from their bedroom window using dental floss, or do something science-shatteringly, physically impossible, like make a working room temperature cold fusion reactor with two potatoes and a paper clip.'
About half an hour after writing that I went to pick up Holly from Debs's house. Debs who was fulfilling the role of Village Taxi* for the afternoon, was ferrying at least four families' worth of sugar soaked children from a classmate's party in the next glen. She arrived a short while after I got there with a car-full of face-painted kids: the usual fairies, pirates, and butterflies - and Holly. Holly's face was painted a pale blue with short, darker blue, vertical streaks all over it. She looked like she had just been involved some bizarre, prolonged toothpaste accident.

"You look nice, sweetheart, what are you?"

"A waterfall."

Not cold fusion (or even room temperature superconductors) but it's nice to have my kids back on form.

*This is not a euphemism for anything.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

If The Sun Shone All Night Would The Potatoes Grow Any Faster?

Well the plumbers seem to have vanished again (it's Late Spring, I think they migrate) leaving is with a working toilet and sink. But without finishing off a couple of things. It's a very well ventilated working toilet and sink they've left us with, because they haven't filled the holes they bashed through the walls to feed the pipes out. Lots of daylight to be seen from inside - even if you don't stick your head down behind the toilet for a closer look. This hasn't been a real hardship as we are enjoying a spell of the hottest weather I can remember having around here for years: uninterrupted sunshine, picnic teas with the kids, the sides of the roads dusty and gritty - not covered in the usual sticky rain-sodden sludge, I have had a sudden urge to play boulle, drink Pshitt, and ride a moped. The weather feels very Southern and French. It's not like the normal, grey, sodden West Coast we all know, love, and endlessly moan about.

Just to add to the flavour, the other thing the plumbers haven't finished yet is the manhole where they joined the new drain onto the existing system.

All through this lovely, hot, sweltering, perfect summer weather - we have had an open sewer in the back garden.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Just poking around on my counter to see if the expected sudden rush of a visitor had pushed my readership up into double figures when I noticed this:
My counter can't count.

I also just noticed that the picture of the 'Free CD' that used to be over there ----> has gone and vanished. Which means...


...yep. The webspace attached to a long defunct email address has been reclaimed by the owners. Damn them! How dare they reclaim their own property? A whole load of pictures from the blog and forums I have posted to have evaporated. Bum! Luckily I seem to have made a backup and will now have to go find where all the empty spaces are and redirect the links to their new home.

Any and all help appreciated, just go here:
find a picture you like and see where you think it should fit in the World Wide Web. Should be easy, it's just like a jigsaw - except all of the bits are rectangular.

Here's one to start you off.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Further to sorting out Dan's computer problems yesterday; they're not all over. While I was fixing him up installing this that and the other, and getting him up and running again I kept having real trouble steering the cursor. The mouse just kept sliding all over the place, and the cursor would wang off uncontrollably into another corner of the screen. I was about to take the mouse to bits, preparing to de-gunge the rollers, when Dan stopped me.

Apparently, religiously, once a week, his Home Help lady polishes his mouse mat with furniture polish.
A couple of weeks ago Dan's computer died. The Big Blue Screen of Death.

Pretty scary at the best of times - but on a Mac????

Dan needs his computer. He's all but housebound after the stroke and the computer is a necessary life line. I dropped the machine off at the local computer repair shop who booked it in for a good looking at in their first available slot; which was ten days later (busy people). A couple of days ago they phoned me with the news that the hard drive was indeed totally snuffed. There were no recoverable data and what did I want to do with the large paperweight that had been Dan's laptop?

To cut a long and boring story (down to a short and boring story) it cost £70 to get a new hard drive installed. It would have cost that much again to install the OS. It seemed crazy to to pay for a highly trained professional Microsoft certified computer repair person to sit in front of the machine and watch status bars crawl across the screen and occasionally hit the enter key. So this afternoon I spent a merry couple of hours watching status bars crawl across the screen and occasionally hitting the enter key in as confidant a manner I could muster, stopping only to turn the machine upside down and round this way and that (while it was still running) to find the COA number I needed to stop XP imploding after 30 days. (Why don't they ever put those things where you can bloody see them easily? I nearly broke my neck trying to read the one off the back of my machine the other week.)

So Dan is back on line. My good deed for the day.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Short blog tonight. The galloping trots that have knocked over the kids in turn over the last week has just claimed its third victim. And when did it strike? Last thing at night. Brilliant timing. I need to sleep. I'm trying to work out if I could duct tape myself onto one of the toilets.

Until normal service is resumed: here is some crappy music:

Phoebe, here's the code to do that: just substitute the usual HTML Dalekspeak pointy brackets for the squiggly ones

{embed controls="smallconsole" autostart="true" src="" height="15" width="50"}{/embed}

EDIT: I turned off the autostart. It was driving me crazy. But it still works if you click the play button.
Oh, the joys of parenthood. No sooner have we got number one daughter back on her feet and well enough to go back to school when number two starts regularly vomiting on the hour, every hour.

There's nothing to be done (apart from cleaning her up and giving love and cuddles - oh, and getting the order right is good as well; clean THEN cuddle is much the best arrangement).

It's a bug that's galloping around the village at the moment; a couple of days of adding to the laundry pile from both ends and then they are pack to normal. Still, it gave us something to talk about at the school gates. I spent half an hour this morning swapping vomit stories with the rest of them. Sometimes I wonder what the mums talk about when I'm not there. They probably spend most of their time discussing topics like Wittgenstein's view of the transcendental nature of the ethical. I'm sure I lower the tone.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Today was supposed to be the day that was to have announced the short-lists for this year's Best Blogs That No One Reads awards and, in full confidence and expectation of being short-listed, I've been honing my electoral skills which, following recently successful and near successful election campaigns in London, Zimbabwe, and the US, have led me to come up with a platform of promising to Ban Bendy buses, nuke Iran (whether they ask me to or not), and sending gangs of machete wielding goons round to my opponents' houses* but, as the more astute of you will have gathered from the uncomfortable use of some sort of conditionalish tense at the start of this long and cumbersome sentence, they haven't announced them at all due to unexpected, and unspecified, delays - so I'm off to re-think my campaign strategy. And learn how to write short sentences.

I will do most of the re-thinking while sitting on our NEW TOILET! [Small fanfare!] Finally, tonight after four months of waiting, and three days of work (spread out over two weeks) the plumbers have finally connected all the pipes and we have a flushing toilet upstairs at last. Another step forward in the never ceasing, onward march of nineteenth century technology. Huzzah!

You have no idea what a great feeling this is. Why everyone in the house wants to pee at exactly the same time is a mystery to me but we all do and, with luck, this should cut my hopping up and down yelling: "Pee faster!" at the kids time down by half. This is a good thing.

Okay, the toilet has nothing between it and the rest of the world - at the moment you walk up stairs and there's a toilet and hand basin staring at you from the other end of the landing - hello! - but soon I'll've built the walls round it, and hung the door which has been part of the obstacle course in our hallway for six months, and the plumbers will have fitted the cover over the open newly formed junction in the garden (at the moment you can flush the toilet, stand on it, stick your head out of the window, and peer down into the trench to make sure it gets there. Sort of like Pooh Sticks but with real poo) and all will be well.

* - actually, as most of the other nominees appear to live in Minnesota, I may have to renage on that last one.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Daisy has been training herself to do this for weeks.


As hobbies go it's cheap.
Bank Holiday weekend. The roads suddenly fill up with cars with oddly coloured number plates, vast leather clad Germans on huge American motorbikes, and the camp sites are full of people living in small versions of their houses they have towed there from a long way away, or small plasticated bags with stick in the corners. I have ranted on before (endlessly) about how I hate camping - short Googling pause as I search the blog and find out that I haven't ranted on endlessly about my hatred for camping - okay...

Why I Hate Camping
by Liam Baldwin (aged 48).

Camping is evil.

The End

That's it. No ifs, buts, or ands; camping is dead pure evil. Why anyone would deliberately make themselves as uncomfortable as possible is beyond me. The outdoors is great. I love it. Wonderful stuff outdoors. Go out the front door turn left there it is - very lovely. Can I go back inside now where there is electricity, and indoor plumbing, and warmth, and fewer insects, internet access and all those other things the human race has spent the last few thousand years getting together because IT IS BETTER THAN SITTING IN A WET FIELD NEXT TO A BUCKET OF YOUR OWN BODILY WASTES.

"Ah!" says Merriol, "You don't crap in a bucket there's a toilet block at the camp site."
"And running water?"
"And running water."
So what's the point in going? You've got running water and flush toilets here?"
"But we'll be sleeping outside!"
"But you'll be unconscious! How will you know?"

I mean what makes the act of sleeping on a lumpy slope protected from the lashing rain by a flimsy bit of material three inches away from your nose in ANY WAY superior to sleeping on a mattress, under a nice thick downy with a bedside light and a good book if you have trouble nodding off. (The lashing rain a barely noticed, almost theoretical, noise the other side of heavy duty layers of plaster, timber, stone and glass?) None.

Even worse are the people who drive their entire fucking house sized Winnebago to a camp site and hook it up to all the services, burn food they've brought with them in their on-board fridge which they sit and eat while watching satellite TV. What is the fucking point?

Camping is what people do when there is no alternative. Refugees camp. Nomads who need to follow their herds camp. People odd enough to think that climbing mountains is fun, camp. I like civilisation. Civilised people do not camp.

That was a shortened version of my standard anti-camping rant. On a good day, when I really get going, I can bring Roman plumbing, Ghengis Khan, and the International Space station into the argument.


The point of this is: Friday. Merriol takes the girls camping. She meets up with some friends and they have a jolly time being uncomfortable in a field for a night, leaving me alone to get on with some necessary woodwork before the plumbers come the next day to work on the upstairs bathroom.

I seize this opportunity to work unhindered on improving the sanitary arrangements in my house by lying on the sofa and watching badly dubbed Italian SF movies till two in the morning, while consuming twice my own body weigh in tortilla chips. (I did the woodwork on Saturday morning as Merriol glowered at me with one of those little black clouds over her head like you see in cartoons.)

Today (Sunday) it feels like I have spent most of the day washing bedding and endless piles of clothing as Holly has been copiously, and violently, ill from both ends, all over the place. One night's camping and my number one daughter is a gastro-intestinal disaster zone. A day in bed and plenty of water to drink and she's looking and sounding a lot better but if I ever needed any empirical evidence that was it.

Camping makes you ill. Full stop.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Groan! My film diary is getting longer. Not because I'm watching any more movies than normal but because I'm feeling the need to witter on about them in print for longer. I normally punt up a copy of my Everything I've Seen list up here once a quarter, but until my prolixity wanes (now there's a name for a vaudeville act!) I'll do it once a month to save Blogger's servers from crashing.

  1. Starship Invasions - every now and then, people in various governments of the world get it into their heads that they should support their local movie industry by throwing minor shitloads of money at it. I guess they do it in order to assert some kind of cultural identity in the face of the perceived evil and pernicious overwhelming of everything by the Hollywood machine. In France they end up with long, beautifully shot swashbuckling adventures, in Britain we end up with long, beautifully shot movies about the upper-classes being terribly vague in excruciating detail. In Canada they get shit like Starship Invasions, a film so bewilderingly bad that greatness ensues.

    Canadian Astro-Crumpet

    Christopher Lee has done some crap in his time but this must count as the bottom of the barrel as far as he's concerned. It's even worse than End of The World which he made in the same year - in which he played the leader of a bunch of aliens set to destroy the world by disguising themselves as nuns - at least he was allowed to try and act in that one. The director of this pile of poo hit upon the genius idea of having all his aliens (and there are at least three types) communicate by telepathy, which means that all the actors get to do is look meaningfully at one another, or occasionally flare their nostrils menacingly, while voice-overs, recorded in a dustbin behind a steelworks somewhere, tell us what they are thinking. It's brilliant! The whole movie was probably shot in a week and they just whacked the sound in afterwards. It's one of those bewilderingly incoherent movies that looks like it was edited together from a bad TV series, but wasn't. I loved it.
  2. Project Moon Base - A very long 63 minutes; which it turns out (thanks IMDb) WAS edited together from a bad TV series. Most of my time watching it was spent admiring the cunning way 2000' 35mm film reels from the editing department had been used as computer spools...

    A trick also later used in Zontar:The Thing From Venus
    - oh god, I am watching too
    much of this shit!

    ...and waiting for the heroine's rather peachy, hot-pant clad bum to appear again.

    The guy on the right is saying: "Hi, how's it hanging?"

    It's the sort of movie where our crew on the first trip to photograph the far side of the moon wear t-shirts and shorts, dinky little caps (to solve the "If she's weightless why is her hair hanging straight down?" quibbles from nitpickers like me), and had bloody great hand guns strapped to their hips. The film would have been a lot more interesting if anyone had actually fired one of those guns while weightless.

    The most pointlessly uncalibrated dial in the history
    of bad SF movies - and that include this one.

  3. Voyage To The End of The Universe - another American International (bastards!), re-editing of an Eastern European movie I now need to see in the original cut.


    It looked beautiful - what I could see of it between the atrocious Pan and Scan and the moronically written translation.
  4. Serenity - A film which would have been an okay bit of SF nonsense if I hadn't recently watched the entire series of Firefly (to which is this sequel / conclusion) but, because I had, it became a thoroughly entertaining bit of SF nonsense.
  5. Ladyhawke - an almost great film rendered nearly unwatchable by a dreadful, dreadful score which lurches from one bit of mid-eighties synthesised, pseudo rock-operatic, guitar-wank to another. It must have sounded so cool and hip at the time - and for about 25 minutes afterwards - but it doesn't really sit very easily in the timeless late-medieval tragic fantasy world the film was trying to create. (I know, "timeless late-medieval" is oxymoronic. How about 'mythic'? It's hard to get a mythic quality from a film when there's a bunch of session musicians with mullets doing their best to nail it wall screaming in your ear:"This isn't timeless - it's 1985! - and always will be! Rock and Rollllll!" The only film I can think of that got away with this sort of thing was A Knight's Tale, but that used rock music that had already sunk deep into the audience's collective unconsciousness. It was already dated - and let's face it, for the MTV generation Queen's We Will Rock You and Bowie's Golden Years ARE mediaeval). Matthew Brodrick's accent lurched backwards and forwards across the Atlantic a few times during the show too.
  6. Conan the Barbarian - what a beautiful film! Testosterone driven bollocks - but lovely to look at. Funny too.

    Breugel the Barbarian

  7. Beyond The Time Barrier - reputedly shot back-to-back with The Amazing Transparent Man with a shooting schedule of only two weeks. That's not two weeks per movie - that's for the both of them! two feature films knocked off in 14 days - and they look like it. Beyond the Time Barrier does have one redeeming feature however; a terrific set. For a cheapo sf film made in Texas it has the look of a much more expensive film (that is until anyone actually starts talking - or, for the second time on my TV this month, wiggling their nostrils at each other while they communicate telepathically). After some interminable setting up, our hero lands in the usual doomed underground civilisation of the future with its giant pyramidal modular set which, with very little redressing, serves for offices, bedroom, corridors, laboratories - everything. It's a nifty bit of design. All walls, doors and windows are equilateral triangles. I spent most of the running time looking at the walls. It's all pretty groovy until the director or editor had the spiffy idea of using an equilateral triangle as a wipe between scenes - and suddenly the whole thing looked like a crappy Buster Crabbe serial from the 30s. The leading lady was dead good at pointing as well, and she pointed a lot. Usually with her whole arm, and usually at the doorway she wanted the hero to leave by - which was pretty often, what with him being an all-American red-blooded male, and her being a telepathic deaf mute with pointy tits.
  8. I Diafanoidi Vengono da Marte - (AKA Diaphanoids, Bringers of Death; Gamma I Quadrilogy Vol. 2 ; The Deadly Diaphonoids; The War of the Planets etc. etc.) Laugh out loud 1966 Italian Space opera which made no sense whatsoever. Something to do with some sort of hive mind from Andromeda (represented on screen by a vague green light and an off-screen grip with a smoke machine) invading people's minds and making them outrageously over-act. There are four movies in the Gamma One series. I have the other three sitting downstairs and if they are all as mind-bendingly dreadful as this I will have to ration myself before I do myself an injury. As always with make up the story as you go along, cruddy Italian SF translated into English Lite by bilingual illiterates, the thing was chock full of unforgettably awful dialogue like this: (A whole space station has just vanished in front of everyone's eyes.)
    Military Commander: "What do you make of it?"

    Scientific Adviser: "It's Zero, to the tenth power*. - All I can offer you is a sum of questions: Did something happen? - if so what? Then we can ask Why? - - - and How?"
    *ie still Zero!

    Everyone turns and solemnly stares at the general's desk until the editor eventually notices the scene has ended and cuts away to some model spaceships.
  9. Кин-дза-дза (Kin-Dza-Dza) - Two hour long Russian absurdist SF movie which made me laugh more than anything I have seen for ages. (It was supposed to be funny.)


  10. The Wild, Wild Planet (I Criminali Della Galassia) - Not Fair! Episode one of the 'Gamma Quadrilogy' turns out to be not terrible! An Italian SF movie with a budget and some groovy groovy design - how can this be? This is what the future looked like when I was a kid. Cars with fins all over the place and perspex domes on the top! Oval skyscrapers! Girls with capes and kinky boots! It was nostalgic watching. Some weird special effects, dodgy model work and a plot that came out of the SF ark, but better than it had any right to be dammit. I hope the other two sequels I have, and yet to watch, are far far worse.
  11. War Between the Planets (Il Missione Pianeta Errante AKA Mission Wandering Planet, Also AKA Planet on the Prowl, War Between the Planets, & That Piece of Shit with the Stupid Helmets.) After last night's momentary lapse - in which I wondered, while watching the almost passable Volume 1 of this series, if my overexposure to this stuff had rendered me incapable of recognising crud when I saw it - tonight's Gamma I Quadrilogy Vol. 3 has restored my faith in the sublime crappyness of the 1960s Italian movie industry. I'm used to bad science fiction making no sense but it usually takes some thought to work out why it makes no sense - the longer you have to think about it before its internal logic starts to unravel is some sort of measure its worth (as SF). Really bad science fiction makes no sense without you having to think about it at all. Really really bad SF movies like this one just leave you incapable of thinking.
  12. Gojira - A 1954 Japanese black and white classic which deals with the trauma of the destruction of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and the responsibilities of the scientist to the greater good - which sounds a lot better than 'I just watched the original Godzilla thanks to The Guardian newspaper who gave it away free the other week'. It's a pity about all the sequels and remakes which turned Godzilla into a sparring partner for a wildly weird and wonderful range of Monsters of the Week, because the original Godzilla turns out to be a great little movie which, rubber-suited sumo guy representing a 350 foot tall reptilian metaphor for nuclear war stomping on models apart, had some terrifically understated and touching moments. Brilliant soundtrack too, the music is wonderful.
More next month

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