Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Chameleon: The Wrath of Garde

The Chameleon: The Wrath of Garde
Jerry LaPlante
1979 Zebra Books



"Like you, he's mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore!
"He's the Vigilante of Toady!  The Bond of the 80s!  And the Hulk of Tomorrow"
He's Vance Garde, the mild-mannered, scientific engineering genius, who as a child hero-worshiping the infamous 007 and Incredible Hulk. Now, over twenty years later, aroused to a fury by the slightest injustice, he changes into the ruthless, deadly vindicators know as the Chameleon.
A rude remark, an annoying glare, it does not take much to set him off. To suddenly transform him from his usual non-committed self into a one man army hell-bent on revenge! His schemes are outrageous. His equipment is unique. To his colleagues he is a dedicated innovator. To the ladies he is the original Macho Man. And to his enemies he is an attack force to be eliminated, or avoided at all costs!
If you're ready for change!"
I don't know where they get the Hulk business from, aside from getting mad a couple of times.  Tony Stark is closer to the mark, as Garde is a womanizing industrialist.  At no point does he act or is called the Chameleon.

In college, his father was murdered, the suspects never caught.  That's a thread presumably left to be picked up in later volumes.

His young half-sister OD's on drugs and Garde uses his fortune and company of gadget making scientists to track down the South American drug lord that supplied her.

Wrath sits uncomfortably between men's adventure and the Ted Mark style James Bond sex farce that it never quite becomes, despite having characters named Handjob, Peter Bent, and Ball You Anus.

He's joined by a feminist scientist, the aforementioned Ballou Annis.  As this is a 1979 men's adventure novel, feminist means loud-mouthed and sexually nondiscriminating, and in Anus' case, borderline sociopathic.  While written as a free spirit, it comes across as juvenile lashing out against the minor inconveniences of life, like a snooty restaurant that dares to act snooty, or a rude customer service rep.  Garde employs her juvenile revenge tactics in his campaign, though mainly he just does it with her.  Because nothing says Women's Lib like banging your boss.

There's a lot of sex in Chameleon, but even as a male fantasy it falls a bit flat, in that the "original Macho Man" only manages to bed women who are paid for it: two of his employees and a prostitute.

More sex than action, and in the action Garde emulates a Bond villain, creating sadistic death traps.  It drags desperately during the climax.  You know you're in trouble when the raid on the underground base is the most boring part of the novel.  Did I mention there was rock climbing?  Rock climbing.



The book is annoyingly in first person, which showed its limitations every time I started to get used to it.  Case in point: after a martial arts fight is described, Garde has to explain how it was told to him later, and by a third party translating at that.  Even the denouement was glossed over because Garde wasn't there to see it.

I appreciate that it's something different in the genre, but it was neither conventionally good, nor unconventionally weird enough.

Thrones of the Magic Kingdom

There's a lot of debate about the best restroom at Walt Disney World.  Everybody is wrong.  The only bathroom I will ever use is at the Imagination Pavillion.  It's clean, it's secluded, it's almost as empty as its host ride.  It has its own music loop (or to be accurate, hasn't changed loops in a few decades).  And to my knowledge is the only restroom to boast a hostage situation ending in shotgun suicide.

Night Mask

Night Mask
William W Johnstone
1994 Zebra




A California radio station is sending out subliminal messages while the DJs complain about their annoying boss. Meanwhile, the admittedly unimaginatively named serial killer The Ripper is killing women, removing their faces, and storing them in jars.

Two local sheriff detectives, funded by the wealthy father of one of the victims, go cross country researching the killings, using methods of questionable legality.

They don't find much, except that there are a pair of evil twins that everybody hates.  They come back home to another killing, a high priced call girl that counted the station owner as a client.

The owner is arrested based on planted evidence and is gang raped by black prisoners his first day in lockup.  One would think to blame the sheriff for failing to have a secure jail, or for failing to prosecute the offenders.

But, no, it's the fault of the FCC and the liberal media because you can't say the N word on the radio.  At this point the douchebag station owner is written as a sympathetic character and Johnstone's mouthpiece for all kinds of irrelevant right-wing babbling about the IRS and such.

Not sure the reasoning behind this train of thought.  Maybe that liberals are too PC to arrest black people, which runs counter to reality, as well as beg the question as to how the rapists were in jail in the first place.  I'll be charitable and say Johnstone wasn't so much being racist as complaining about political correctness, which was still a new thing at the time.  You know, that horrible liberal agenda, that if you act like a bigot people will treat you like a jerk.

One would think the incident would teach the value of due process to the detectives.  That the police can make mistakes, and those mistakes can have life altering consequences.  Taking that lesson to heart, the detectives decide to just forget about evidence and just murder whatever Ripper suspect looks good.  Because the Bill of Rights is for pansies.

Johnstone awkwardly gets back on track by having a civil rights protester get raped by the Ripper, instant karma I suppose.

Meanwhile, the detectives hit the gay bars.  While some of the cops are intolerant, our leads are relatively accepting, just as long as they are properly shameful and don't expect to be treated like normal people.

The gang rape has sent the station manager around the bend, and he goes postal in a gay bar while our heroes don't particularly try to stop him.  The scene is played for laughs, because some of them dress like ladies and they touch each others butts, so their mass slaughter is hilarious.

The next development has the station manager's promiscuous daughter and gay son be the masterminds behind recruiting pretty much the whole town's teenage population into a murderous satanic cult.  The police bust them up, but liberalism rears it ugly head again and prevents the police from summarily executing everyone under the age of 18, while Johnstone jumps back on his soapbox complaining how parents don't know how evil their spawn are.

There are some threads that go nowhere regarding subliminal messages being broadcast, but our detectives main strategy is to make up random stuff which sometimes ends up being true.  Those twins that they suspect?  Maybe they were triplets, or had half-siblings, or one got a sex change.  That one DJ is a lesbian, maybe she's related to them for some reason.

While Johnstone fills pages, he presents a parable against liberalism in the form of an obnoxious reporter who shows up every few pages screaming "fascist" at everybody.  She becomes the target of our station manager, now a teen murdering vigilante, and learns the error of her ways when she needs to use a gun to protect herself.

I don't like to criticize the politics of a book, but Johnstone pretty much breaks the fourth wall in places to jump on his soapbox, so he's asking for it.  As far as I can manage to figure out, rich people deserve better access to public services than poor people, and people that complain about this natural order deserve bad things to happen to them.  One should never complain about the police, you should be able to drop N bombs on a pop radio station without social consequences, and everyone should have a gun.  Except for poor people, they're just dumb hillbillies.  And all children should be preemptively smothered in their crib.  If you think your children haven't murdered dozens of people you're living in a fools paradise.

Monday, November 25, 2013

TV Horror Anthology - Evil Touch

Evil Touch
Nine Network 1973-4
25 episodes


An Australian production with American leads and Aussie supporting actors.  This is perhaps the most amateurish of all the horror anthologies, with many episodes resembling regional horror movies of the same era.

This could be a good thing, but the unimaginative scripts make most of the episodes worthless.  Several have tame twist endings consisting of "you murdered me and I now I'm a ghost and am going to haunt you.  Boo."  There are rare moments that show bizarre creativity, if only because they were aiming for a cliche and missed so badly they ended up somewhere interesting.

I had high hopes for the series after my first episode, but alas it appears I got lucky and got the best, and weirdest, first:


Operator #5 08 - The Green Death Mists

The Green Death Mists
Operator #5 08
November 1934
Curtis Steele (Frederick C Davis)




"Tonight these Orientals are just so much yellow dynamite - ready to explode"
Oh boy, it's one of those.  The foreign menace of the month for this issue of Operator 5 is basically everyone even remotely Asian, even down to Mexicans due to ancestors coming across the Bering Strait.

The uprising is led by an descendant of Gengis Kahn, Jenghis Dhak.  The sci-fi weapon of the month is a ray that turns oxygen into ozone, suffocating US troops and causing their weapons to malfunction.

Alaska is invaded, and Operator 5 must develop a strategy that will drive them out without delivering America's arms to the enemy.

This one had a bit too much large scale military action, as opposed to the dramatic one-on-one action Operator 5 excels at.  There's at least a little biplane to zeppelin action - air combat was so much better before jet engines.

Interestingly, we have the cliche "Resistance is futile" decades before it appears in sci-fi.  Also ahead of the curve, the Red Finger backup story has Nazis as a villain years before World War II.  Arthur Leo Zagat was an author that knew he got paid by the word, and was obviously typing with his thesaurus open.

Angels From Hell

Angels From Hell
Angel Chronicles 1
by Mick Norman (aka Laurence James)
1973 New English Library




It's future year 197-.  Biker violence has resulting in the erosion of civil liberties and the rise of vigilante gangs.  While set in the future, it's really more of an alternate present - think Clockwork Orange.

Only a handful of bike gangs remain, including the Last Heroes chapter of the Hell's Angels.
An art student turned soldier decides that society needs shaking up, so he decides to join up with his girlfriend.  We're treated to the cliched initiation before fast forwarding several months.

The upstart is challenging the leadership of the group, wanting to bring discipline to make the Last Heroes a money making criminal enterprise, while others in the gang prefer the chaos.

The short novel is basically three set pieces.  A banker has his daughter kidnapped and ransomed off.  It doesn't end well for either of them.

Next, an exploitation film director wants to use the Last Heroes as extras in his upcoming film.  The cast and crew are pretty much all gay because, you know, Hollywood.  The gay male lead makes some passes, while the gay female lead plays the tease.  You can guess how that ends up.

The police are closing in on the Last Heroes, but they strike back in a bloodbath that kills fifty cops.  This makes them folk heroes, and they ride out to join a mythical lost Welsh bike gang.

James Laurence was the editor for New English Library, which produced tons of excellent exploitation.  There's some sex, which is not as graphic as the violence, with heads being tossed around aplenty.

While not incredibly explicit, the novel is definitely nasty in tone.  There are little touches, like mentioning that a cop's wife is having an affair and won't miss him as he's being murdered

You can tell Laurence is having fun with it, and plays around with the form as he goes.  He breaks the fourth wall, stops to go inside the heads of the characters, and uses transcript and screenplay format in places.

The good news is that the Angels series is available on the cheap through Amazon.  The bad news is that, like other fellow NEL products such as Richard Allen's Skinhead series, the OCR and formatting is criminally poor.  Random characters, about a third of the punctuation is missing, and about half the novel is underlined.

EPCOT VIP Lounges - The Living Seas Salon

Living Seas Salon
Pavillion: The Seas With Nemo & Friends
Sponsor: Currently none, United Technologies 1986-1998
Features: Full size window to aquarium, clear grand piano
Entrance: Via an elevator in the Coral Reef Restaurant, to the right of the ride entrance
As seen from outside: n/a, except maybe through the other side of the water


Tour of the Living Seas Salon at Epcot from Carly Morgan on Vimeo.

Currently sponsorless, available for rental.

Much more at allears.net.

Friday, November 22, 2013

TV Horror Anthology - Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense

Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense
aka Fox Mystery Theater
ITV 1984


One half hour seems to be the preferred length for these types of programs, and even the Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents sometimes struggled when attempting to stretch out to a full hour.  Hammer doubled down and dragged them out to almost seventy minutes, at least three times too long.

Most of the stories had a supernatural theme and an American lead.  Some of the episodes were presented as features in Commander USA's Groovy Movies.

There were no standout episodes, unless you wanted to know who would win in a fight to the death between A-Team's Face and Pink Panther's Cato.

Pulp Hero - Dusty Ayres


Pulp Hero: Dusty Ayres
Dusty Ayres and His Battle Birds 1934-5
by Robert Sidney Bowen
12 issues


pulpcovers.com

While superficially a cash in of the success of G-8 and his Battle Aces, Dusty Ayres, the structure more closely resemble Operator 5.  The series is set in the unspecified future, but could just as easily have been set in the present.  The Black Invaders have taken over Europe and Asia, and at the begin of the series invade Canada with an eye of invading our border. 

They are led by Fire-Eyes, who I picture from his description as basically Bison from Street Fighter.  His top pilot is the Black Hawk, which are actually a cadre of similar looking pilots, with a new one filling the top rank as the old are defeated, something Bowen should have probably kept up his sleeve for a later reveal.

The series follows pilot Dusty Ayres and his state of the art plane the Silver Flash.  Ayres is refreshing as a pulp hero.  Next to the practically-perfect-in-every-way Doc Savage or Operator 5, Ayres is just a pretty good pilot with a lot of spirit.  He's also plagued by insecurities of failing missions and letting America down - not quite at Peter Parker levels, but a nice change from the smug confidence of most other pulp heroes.

And whereas Operator 5 has a letter from the president and everyone in the country will do exactly what he wants, Ayres spends as much time fighting military bureaucracy as much as the Black Invaders.

The plots are formulaic to the extreme, at least in the first three issues I've read.  Ayres follows orders to fly somewhere.  Something goes wrong.  Ayres gains information about the Black Invaders new strategy or weapon.  Ayres is captured, questioned, and escapes with the help of deep cover Agent 10.  Ayres fights to get some general to believe him, and his intel is valuable in repelling an invasion attempt.

The villains and their sci-fi weapons such as mini-tanks and giant poison gas curtains aren't all that particularly out there, but the action is serviceable, and doesn't get as monotonous as I would expect aerial dogfights to be.

The Camp

The Camp
by Guy N Smith
1989 Sphere/Time Warner Paperback



The Camp refers to an all inclusive vacation resort on the coast of England, which is upsetting enough.  For some reason both the resort's management and the British government think that's the best place to test dangerous psychedelics on random vacationers.

The petty, dull holiday makers have complex delusions, such as a new ice age or illegal pregnancies.  There are some complications, so to keep things quiet a government assassin very nosily starts murdering the subjects and everyone around them.

Pretty tame stuff next to giant crabs and onanistic mystics, but that's what happens the further into the 80s we go.

Not much going on, and what there is doesn't make a ton of sense.  Smith wraps up loose ends

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Erebus

Erebus
by Shaun Hutson
Leisure Books 1984




This is more like it.

Experimental animal feed mutates animals in a small English town, turning them into killers.  Likewise to the townspeople that eat the meat.  A farmer and American reporter try to dig up the truth, while the evil chemical plant owner, who for some reason commands the British military, try to contain and cover up the incident.

The book is strongest at the beginning, with regular animal attacks leading up to human atrocities.  It suffers when it tries to have a plot, provide scientific explanations, and draws way too much from I Am Legend and its derivatives.

It's Shaun Hutson.  A quick, fun gorefest.

Chill

Chill aka The Sepulchre
Chill 02
by Jory Sherman
1978 Pinnacle


"A psychic investigator discovers a sleeping beauty in a coma...an incredible tale of cold terror"
"There was the green slime...
There were the creeping vines...
There was a Louisiana mansion, haunted by a malevolent and vibrating force, more powerful than the inhabitants, whose terrifying history remained buried in eighteenth-century France.
There was a young girl, or virginal beauty, who slept...some called it a coma...in that mansion, and in her dreams she was possessed by the demonic ancestors who plagued the house, the land, and the sepulchre.
There was Chill, who had come for a birthday party and stayed to perform an exorcism.
Dr. Russell V. Chilldres (Chill) is a psychic investigator whose special lady, Laura Littlefawn, is a "sensitive."  Their beat is the supernatural.  This is the second of their spell-binding explorations into the realm of psychic phenomena."
The daughter of a TV producer falls into a coma in their Louisiana mansion.  As luck would have it, psychic investigator extraordinaire Russell "Chill" Chilldres just happened to be a guest for their birthday party.  And as thrilling as comas are, it pales in comparison to reading about people speculating about comas.

It might have something to do with her being either possessed by and/or reincarnated as either Oliver Reed or Vanessa Redgrave from the Devils.  Or something to do with a will, or the oil that's running under the property.

But our hero never gets around to figuring it out.  Instead, he spends most of his time describing his vegetarian snacks.  We get a several lines on the this new thing called herbal tea from Celestial Seasonings, and a whole paragraph on cilantro.

Aside from some crawling vines and creeping algae, the only thing that happens in the book is courtesy of Moses, the African-American servant.  Who's written in dialect.  And is ascared of just about everything.  And is greedy, cowardly, and treacherous for good measure.
 "Mistah, you steppin' into somethin' mighty bad here."
Even the characters lose interest in the whole daughter in a coma thing.  The father talks about his career in the television industry, Chill flirts with his secretary.  There was a chance things would get seedy with an incestuous love triangle between a stuffy old man, his drunken wife, and his amorous daughter, but it gets tamely resolved into a cry for attention.  (Sherman wrote two non-fiction books on the subject of incest).

There was so much talking over drinks in the drawing room I was surprised to learn Sherman wasn't British.  He appears to be a beat poet that turned to westerns, with the Chill series in the middle.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Obelisk

Obelisk
by Ehren M Ehly
1988 Leisure Books




An American steals a bracelet from an Egyptian tomb and is possessed by the spirit of an Egyptian priest.  The first half reads like a werewolf story - the thief blacks out and is only vaguely aware of the horrors that his body has committed.

The second half gets bogged down in elaborate back stories of minor characters.  The home lives of both the mayor of New York and an Egyptian ambassador are explored with no particular reason.  A call girl is killed (off page, mind you), and we're treated to the back story of her madam and her madam's assistant.

A little of this is good writing, but most of the book goes on like this, with most of the killings occurring completely off page.  And it's not as if the book was going for a G rating.  When there is an on page killing, it's all head crushing, genital ripping, and marrow slurping.

There's a bare skeleton of plot to support the murders and tepid backdrop: a Scotland Yard detective is tracking down the killer via his pregnant girlfriend, who had been brutally attacked and raped.  Off page?  You bet.

We get the eating habits and home life of half the police force of New York, but the limey gets in an ounce of action when he helps the girlfriend ditch her police protection to confront her possessed boyfriend.

Why does a detective make a pregnant women run through the streets of New York to face a violent serial killer, who has attacked her once already?  So she can get over him and the detective can make his move.  Yes, the detective (who's near retirement age) wants to hit it with a rape victim in a case he's working on and endangers her life.  Classy.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

EPCOT VIP Lounges - Spaceship Earth

Simens VIP Center (formerly Base21)

Pavillion: Spaceship Earth

Sponsor: Siemens (2005-), AT&T (1984-2003),Bell System (1982-4)

Features: Magic Mirror, a zillion flatscreens



Entrance: Outside by the west exit, door marked Siemens. 

As seen from outside: Windows from the end opposite the entrance, opposite Pin Central and the Fountain of Nations

Much much more from: allears and Disney Everyday.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Water Rites




Water Rites
by Guy N. Smith
1997 Zebra Books



A cult worships a mermaid that will usher in a new, underwater world.  But don't worry if that sounds too exciting - mostly it's about a reservoir inspector not fixing a light bulb. 
"Kate shuddered, the woman was raving mad.  But, when half of your body was like a fish, there was no way you could be normal."