Saturday, August 30, 2014

TV Horror Anthology - Lights Out

Lights Out
160 Episodes
NBC 1946,1949-52

Based on the far superior radio series, Lights Out suffered from the limitations of the medium.  Much like Suspense, it didn't make a good transition to television.  I do like Mr. Floating Head as the host.

Below is an interesting one.  Story by Henry Kuttner, starring Burgess Meredith, and with a story that predates the similar They Live, which evidently had its origins in an unused Invaders script by Philip K. Dick.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

When Wasted Opportunities Face Off

Chin Ka-Lok!

Yu Rong Guang!

Green Hornet!

It stinks!

Could have been a good fight, but this was a criminally cheap production shot almost entirely in a field.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Hollywood Rat Race by Ed Wood

Hollywood Rat Race
by Ed Wood
written 196?, first published by Four Walls Eight Windows, 1998

I was a titch disappointed to find that this was mostly a straightforward advice piece rather than an exploitation novel, but I got over it and enjoyed the rest of the read.  I was rewarded at the end with a heartwarming vignette about Bela Lugosi's personal appearance tour.

There's a small, tame bit warning about casting couch producers, but for the most part it's pretty sensible advice - print your agent's phone number on the back of your headshots, develop your craft in regional theater rather than heading straight to Hollywood, etc.  The main point, driven home over and over, is that nobody cares how great you thought you were in your school plays.

There are a handful of anecdotes of the actors Wood has worked with, and some of the saddest name-dropping ever.  The best he manages is to say he met the Three Stooges.  Mid 60s Three Stooges.

Wood's patented delusions of adequacy are in full force here as he presents himself as a full and successful member of the Hollywood elite.  This was after Orgy of the Dead (which is NOT exploitation, Wood assures us) when Wood was being paid in whiskey for porn scripts.

Good for Wood completists or those that are more interested in the man than his works.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Queue Review - Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Hong Kong Disneyland - The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Poor Hong Kong.  For years this was their only dark ride in Fantasyland.

Disneyland - The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

I like how there's a long walk-up rather than switchbacks, and the outdoor load that Disneyland is famous for.  Almost a tie with -

Walt Disney World - Magic Kingdom - The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

This is an interactive queue done right.  Almost all the others have a mild, 30 second diversion in the middle of an hour wait.  Here, children play while the parents keep the place in line.  I also like the honey walls, which sounds dirty now that I've typed it.

Tokyo Disneyland - Pooh's Honey Hunt

A different ride, sure, but whatever.  I like the country garden feel for some of the outside sections, the detail in Rabbit's house, and the ginormous book pages.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Same Old Song - The Strokes

I can't speak for their later work, but their first album was basically the same song over and over, and that song was Tom Petty's American Girl -

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Wasted Opportunity - Yu Rong-Guang

Yu Rong-Guang started out strong co-starring in Iron Monkey, possibly the best wire-fu movie ever.  The same year he was the villain against Michelle Yeoh in Project S, but aside from his excellent role as the baddie in Jet Li's My Father is a Hero, he was criminally underused.  Pretty soon he was playing dads in period pieces, but at least he seems to be finding steady work in non-fighting roles.  I seem to remember from reports at the time that audiences didn't care for his red Chinese origins or Mandarin accent.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Those words don't mean what you think they mean

Randomly click on any trending topic on twitter that isn't a sport.  Right, now you're looking at underage boys talking about One Direction, using words that have some origin in the English language but don't make sense in their particular order.  That's the internet.  The weird baby talk that annoying couples invent between themselves, only in public and within large groups.

Annoying, but to be fair that's how language works.  Now mix in Madison Avenue, or PR firm interns in the case of PSAs.  Things get brainstormed, workshopped, and focus grouped to the point that utter nonsense sounds normal.

Take this old standby "Back to Cool!" for a late August children's clothing and school supply sale.  Horrible, but at least it's a working pun.  "Back to Fashion!" or "Back to Style!", not so much, and by "Back to Fun!" or "Back to Savings!" they've completely lost it.

My library, and I imagine others, have had an "I Geek [blank]" poster campaign.  The geek is supposed to be like a heart shape on a bumper sticker, and should really be a different design or at least font to emulate that.  Also, geek is not a verb.  "To geek out over" would be.

I'm sure they don't mean mentally ill alcoholics that bite the heads off chickens in a sideshow.

The modern meaning of geek is one who has an obsessive interest in something, typically entertainment based, and usually to the detriment of their social skills.  That last bit has been softened or sometimes embraced.  This gives us film geeks, comic geeks, maybe music geeks if their tastes are esoteric enough.

It does not work as a verb, and does not work when applied to an activity rather than a passive interest.  "I geek acting" doesn't work, and "I geek alternative commuting" makes baby Jesus cry.

I saw a food drive with the motto "Pimp Your Joy".  This was a directive, as in "Pimp your joy and give us that ten year old jar of olives from the back of your pantry."  I think it has an origin in some daytime talk show or motivational speaker or something, I don't hate myself enough to look it up.

Presumably they don't mean coerce your joy into prostitution, even figuratively.  The other meaning of pimp is to adorn, ornament, or fancify, as in "Pimp my ride" or "Pimp my crib" or other things white people think black people say.  Neither definition work with joy.

Then there is the question of taste.  It's questionable for some horrible reality TV show or the like, but a titch inappropriate when serving the most disenfranchised level of society, the ones that are the most likely to have actually been sexually exploited.  "Much like your were forced to have sex with strangers to feed your boyfriend's meth addiction, our employees pimped their joy to give your baby this jar of capers."

Monday, August 18, 2014

Queue Review - Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Hong Kong Disneyland - Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars

Not exactly the same ride, granted, but the spiritual equivalent.  This one looks like the Expedition Everest queue, only with all of the theming stripped out.

You can't tell from this video, but this is the first example we've scene of the dreaded cheater queue.  The line approaches the load area, only to turn back into another room.

Tokyo Disneyland - Big Thunder Mountain

Starts off strong, or at least different, with a walk through fake rocks, but soon we're in an endless maze of cattle chutes.

Disneyland Paris - Big Thunder Mountain

Had a hard time finding good footage of this one.

From the looks of it, there's a lot of wooden walkways before hitting any railed switchbacks.

Disneyland - Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

The original Disneyland version has the advantage of the surrounding area, which gives more of a sense of the old west than some of the others.  A good portion of this queue is a long walk alongside the track, which is infinitely preferable to the unending spiral of rails we used to see at...

Walt Disney World - Magic Kingdom - Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Magic Kingdom wins this round if only because it's the most improved of possibly any queue ever.  What was once the worst example of corralling tourists is now at least tolerable.

I'm indifferent to the interactive elements, and I haven't been here to know how well they work, but at least the switchbacks have been broken up with walls so there is something, anything, to look at rather than the same tired faces passing you by again and again.  One game I liked to play is trying to high-five the same angry Dad over and over again until he either relents or tells me to piss off.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Same Old Song - The Adverts

I like the Adverts, but yeah, all pretty much the same song.  Maybe it's just weird having harmony in a punk band.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Wasted Opportunity - Chin Ka-Lok

Leading up to the Chinese handover of Hong Kong in 1997 there was a huge drain of star power from the Hong Kong film industry.  Asian stars were becoming popular in the west, and seeking bigger opportunities (and fleeing an uncertain political future) most of the big names moved to America or Canada.

During this time I looked forward to several lower tiered actors getting their opportunity to shine.  It didn't happen.  The middle dropped out of the film industry, and we were left with Andy Lau blockbusters and Z level gambling or triad dramas.

Chin Ka-Lok could have, and should have, been the Bruce Li to Jackie Chan's Bruce Lee.  He didn't have the same level of charisma, but he could move and had a face for comedy.  Instead, he languished in Young and Dangerous knock-offs and ghost comedies.  Even when he was in Kung Fu movies, he rarely had a fighting role.

He got one starring role in a big budget Kung Fu action film, 1991's Bury Me High.  Here's a look at what we should have seen more of, presented in copyright filter baffling Vietnamese

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Things I Didn't Finish - Slave Girl of Gor - Gor 11 - John Norman

Slave Girl of Gor
Gor 11
by John Norman
DAW 1977

First a bit of background on the Gor series.  Written by a college professor, this is a series of fantasy novels in which a college professor is transported to a barbarian world and is awesome there.  Basically John Carter + bondage.  Later novels, evidently beginning with this one, downplay the fantasy adventure elements and focus on bondage and misogyny.

This one unceremoniously begins with Earth college girl Judy Thornton waking up on Gor and having various barbarians fight over.  Then we have this exchange:

Judy: I get to choose who I have sex with because I'm pretty and feminism.
Barbarian: This is Barbarian World and I'm going to rape you.  Eventually.

This conversation goes on for at least 6% of the book before I tapped out.  One can debate the acceptability of BDSM in erotica, but here Norman is more interested in the philosophical side than the sexy one.

Also, I have a hard time framing these books in any other context outside of a college professor publicly fantasizing about raping one of his students.  When I read it my interior voice was that of a review board reading it back to him during an investigative hearing.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tibetan Terror by Peter Sherwood

Tibetan Terror
by Peter Sherwood
Carlyle Books 1979

Englishman Robert Calder travels to Afghanistan to look for his missing sister Julia, who has fallen in with a dangerous cult.  Since he's English, he spends most of his time drinking until he is able to find a guide, who pretty much just says "that way", and after a quick trip into the mountains Robert is captured by robed cultists.

Robert is drugged into amnesia and spends what seems like months with the cult.  He pairs up with another drugged victim named Josie, and in what is the only interesting scene he gets buggered by Kashun, who is the incarnation of Krad, which is some kind of evil god or force or something, nobody elaborates except that it's presented as real.

The cult seems to operate solely on drugs and human sacrifice, and there's no word on what their ideology is at all.  They are led by a man named Markash, but I'm not sure he makes any direct appearances in the entire book - I'm not going back to check, he might have been standing around in a couple of scenes.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Queue Review - Peter Pan's Flight

Probably my second least favorite queue after Astro Orbiters, if only because it's inexplicably long.  Despite having an omnimoverish load at Magic Kingdom, it seems to have one of the longest wait times.

Tokyo Disneyland

Here's a video I can't embed from 1998, but other pictures I've found show there's been no changes.  A boxy switchback to a narrow ramp to the ride.  One themed side, and the rest looks to be bare and smooth drywall.  There's a little moving Tinkerbell at the load area, which may be unique.

Walt Disney World - Magic Kingdom

One loooong line that goes down the building and back.  Like Tokyo there's an omnimover, and here there's slightly better themeing in the area.  Both Magic Kingdom and Tokyo have a jungle theme in the load and slaps you straight into Wenby's bedroom.  They're in the process of putting in an interactive queue, but construction shots so far just show more rails.


No omnimover, but the facade is a little nicer, and there's a better transition as the ship flies through a window to get to Wendy's bedroom as opposed to just jumping sets.

Disneyland Paris

Pretty much the same as Disneyland, but slightly nicer.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

I Escaped the Robots of Inner Earth

From the pages of Victim City Stories, Ernest Castle brings us his cautionary tale - I Escaped the Robots of Inner Earth!  A Warning to America and Other Democracies.

Accused of causing an accident that killed dozens of construction workers, for the first time in print Ernest Castle gives his side of the story of what really happened below the surface of Victors Crossing.  This is the story of the lone survivor of that fatal day, and his claims will challenge your understanding of reality.

Another world darkly mirrors our own in the miles of tunnels that honeycomb the Earth's mantel.  Slaves bow at the whip of cruel masters, their bodies twisted and perverted by abandoned alien technology.  Uncover what ungodly threat festers below our very feet.  Recoil as you witness human flesh sculpted by mad desire.  Shiver as you learn what threatens the innocence of our youth.  Weep for the future of Man if this menace cannot be thwarted.

Science fiction?  Or horrifying fact?  Can you prove it didn't happen?

Over 6,600 words of desperate peril, bold heroism, and a depraved villainy.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Shadow 043 - The Crime Clinic

The Crime Clinic
The Shadow 043
Shadow Magazine December 1933
by Maxwell Grant (Walter Gibson)

One of the unusual things about the pulp magazine version of the Shadow is that he acts through various surrogates.  Sometimes this is an interesting literary technique.  Other times, the story is an out-of-the-box mystery with the Shadow shoehorned in as an afterthought.  This is one of those times.

Two old chestnuts are dusted off for this one - a locked room mystery and a talking bird who holds a clue, neither of which are handled very deftly.

Most of the action is carried out by police inspector Joe Cardona and other surrogates, but the Shadow is present in every scene, as the story will constantly remind you.

The original cartoon version of the Hobbit had the annoying habit of having Bilbo take his ring off every time he spoke and then put it back on, in order to remind the audience that he's still in the scene but invisible.  The Shadow does this here, ad nausuem, and for no narrative purpose.  The story already tells us that he's sneaking around, but he actually steps out of the shadows to say "Here I am" before ducking back in, or lifts his disguise only to immediately put it back on.

This gets really bad at our denouement (spoilers)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Spider 007 - The Serpent of Destruction

The Serpent of Destruction
Grant Stockbridge (Norvell Page)
Spider 007
April 1934

The Spider faces his most daring scourge yet, the soul killer of...COCAINE!  Liquor bootleggers have turned to dope and nobody is safe.  White collar workers, financiers, even politicians have been trapped by its spell.

So basically, the 1980s.  Tame stuff after the usual nation-threatening plots of other Spider entries.  In addition to be tamer, it's also more convoluted and out of character, to the point where I had to check if Page was still writing.  My least favorite of the series so far.

Some random notes (and spoilers) -

Monday, August 4, 2014

Queue Review - Toy Story Midway Mania

Disney California Adventures - Toy Story Midway Mania

The theme of the queue matches perfectly with the area, Paradise Pier, and with the ride itself.  It's a carnival game at a boardwalk.  This is also a horrible line.  It's like they're trying to upset me.  Outdoor snaking switchbacks with chains, ugh.  And Mr. Potato head is amusing once, for about thirty seconds.

Disney's Hollywood Studios - Toy Story Midway Mania

Much more like it.  So well designed you ignore that it doesn't make any sense.  We start out with the facade, which is designed like the Pixar campus.  As soon as you enter the building there's an over-sized wall of a kid's room, but then you're shuffled through normal doors through a cramped hallway into a room filled with oversized toys and games.  This room leads to a transition to another area with a half-carnival, half-kid's bedroom theme and a walkway that goes up and down.

It looks like a couple of converted soundstages, which is exactly what it is.

Tokyo DisneySea - Toy Story Mania

Tokyo DisneySea commits more fully to the child's bedroom theme.  The first queue area improves on some of Hollywood Studio's bare walls and has a higher ceiling, but I think I prefer the actual "stuff" of the the Hollywood version.  There is more of a sense that you're in a child's bedroom rather than just in a pile of oversized toy props.

The real advantage comes in the loading area, which I couldn't find great footage of:

Hollywood Studios had a mish-mash of concepts and some clunky architecture.  At DisneySea we have a giant door that leads us into a full-blown set of a child's bedroom.  At Hollywood we have the sense that we're walking around giant toys, but at DisneySea there's more of a feeling that we've become toy-sized.