Saturday, March 28, 2020

Planet Earth (1974)

Gene Roddenberry tried three times to launch a concept of John Saxon, usually named Dylan Hunt, awakening after a period of suspended animation to a post apocalyptic world, where he tries to restore civilization with an organization called PAX.  Some characters and concepts finally made it to series decades later in Andromeda, with Kevin Sorbo in the role.

After a lightning fast introduction, we start right in.  Looking for a missing doctor, Saxon allows himself to be captured by an amazonian tribe, where women rule and men, called "dinks" live in chattel slavery.

I know Star Trek is supposed to be all big idea hard scifi, but this is part William Moulton Marston femdom kink and part Saxon trying to stud his way through things while women catfight for the honor of breeding with him.  We get profound lines like "Women's lib? Or women's lib gone mad?" without a trace of irony.

I like Saxon, but there's nothing here worth the constant recycling.  I remember watching this as a young child and being strangely affected by it, mostly the slave pen scenes.  Fun to see Ted "Lurch" Cassidy play an often shirtless mystic savage.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Lee Majors Presents Funshine Saturday Sneak Peek (ABC, 1974)

Narrated by Don Adams, the Six Million Dollar Man himself is here to let you know what new cartoons are in store for 1974.

That is, if he's not foiled by PSSST, Public School on Saturday and Sunday Too, played by improv sketch group The Ace Trucking Company, featuring Fred Willard doing an Oliver Hardy bit.

PSSST steals the cartoon tapes from Funshine Saturday, who was on his way to show them to Lee Majors and his kids.  Who is Funshine Saturday, you ask?

You asked for it.  Proof that there can be no just and loving God.

We get some Bionic Man schtick and a visit to the Let's Make a Deal set, but no cartoons until halfway through.  Even then, they're uniquely stingy with the clips.  We get Schoolhouse Rock, Devlin, Korg 70,000 BC, These Are the Days, New Adventures of Gilligan, and Hong Kong Phooey.  The main theme is that these are educational shows, though they make an especially weak argument for it.  Over the ending credits Don Adams blurts out "Yeah, there's also Bugs Bunny and Super Friends."

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The Omen by David Seltzer

The Omen
by David Seltzer
1976 Signet


A conspiracy within the Catholic church attempts to create an antichrist every 1000 years through the unholy union of Satan and a jackal.  The conspiracy murders the child of Jeremy and Katherine Thorn and talks Jeremy into adopting Damien, unbeknownst to Katherine.

Jeremy Thorn does ambassador stuff in a giant mansion while Katherine gets more depressed and neurotic.  Damien's nanny kills herself in the best part of the franchise (played in the movie by Jack Palance's daughter and Ripley's co-host Holly Palance), to be replaced by a mysterious new nanny and evil dog.  Threats to Damien are dispatched supernaturally in a method later perfected in the Final Destination films.

Tons of little extra details and back story pad this one out.  More about Katherine's mental health, how the nanny doesn't use toilet paper and craps in the woods every night.  The priest that gets speared molested a boy in Africa who was then forced to eat his own testicles.  The reporter gets laid in Israel and washes his penis off with his own urine to fight VD.

The book is nastier, but missing the atmosphere of dread from the film, which probably came from the Jerry Goldsmith score more than anything else.

Kindle ebook from Amazon

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Series Showdown Round One

I'm hoping the next book in the Amityville Horror series would be about the Lutzes' tanked credit score, them being sued by creditors, and how they got cheated out of any royalties from the film series.  The second Amityville film is by far the best (at least the first half), but the book isn't based on the movie, but rather the continuing non-fiction adventures of the Lutz family.

Horn was brutally bleak, had a sociopath hero, and a five digit body count.  No contest: Horn moves on to round 2.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Horn 1: Hot Zone By Ben Sloane

Horn 1: Hot Zone
By Ben Sloane
1990 Gold Eagle

Max Horn is a detective in the New York City of 2025. He and his partner foil a robbery of some documents sought by evil corporate CEO of Titus Steel, Oasis Fine. Fine’s henchman Stellar kills Horn’s wife and daughter, leaving Horn conveniently left for dead. Horn gets an arm and knee blown off, but he replaces them with black market cybernetics called E-mods.

Seeking revenge, Horn applies for a transfer to the asteroid mining colony of New Pittsburgh, which for some reason is under the jurisdiction of NYPD. Between attempts on his life, Horn uncovers a plot to destroy the asteroid to drive up the price of titanium, killing the 15,000 residents in the process.

While there are occasionally surprisingly mature characters, the villains are especially absurd, and we get a lot of them. Every other chapter is Fine and Stellar sitting around an office yelling variations of “I want Horn taken care of…permanently!” For some reason Fine thinks it’s a good idea to spend weeks flying out to the asteroid and plan to fly back minutes before the whole place explodes.

In an odd scene Horn bangs Fine’s mother, who was set up as the real power of Titus Steel, but she gets written out pretty quick. Maybe Sloane’s saving her for later in the series, but we don’t even get any “yo mama” quips out of it.

The future world of 2025 is very Robocop. The rich are richer, the poor are poorer, cops are ineffective, criminality is rampant, and the corporations are a force unto themselves. Aside from E-mods and space ships, about the only other technological advancement is caseless ammunition in the conventional firearms everyone still uses.

Where the novel really shines is in its stark brutality. New York City is basically Robocop’s Detroit, but New Pittsburgh is where it really gets bleak. The prostitutes and drunken miners are the classy citizens. Suicidal drug addicts called Terminals work in the reactor, baking in radiation, only coming out periodically to buy drugs and gang rape women, who are driven mad from radiation sickness.

Horn fits right in, blowing off heads with his 9mm, slicing off noses with broken beer mugs, snapping necks with his robot arm, etc. While he shows some tenderness towards a witness he protects, meaning he bangs her, Horn is peculiarly insensitive to human suffering. When he discovers Fine’s plot to murder 15,000 people, his reaction is good, I’ll add that to his charges.

Horn focuses more on escaping with his gal pal and her kid than on saving the rest of the colony. At one point he murders several innocent workers while destroying an airlock to prevent Fine’s escape. To add insult, after he makes a romantic overture to the woman he saves, she tells him she doesn’t date cops, making the multi-week trip back to Earth especially awkward.

I don’t think I’ve ever come across a book that held such little regard for the dignity of human life. I’m definitely in for the next one.

Paperback from AbeBooks

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Series Overview: V

The hard-to-google series V is about alien visitors who come to Earth promising advanced technology in exchange for rare chemicals. They quickly form a fascist dictatorship which targets scientists as dangerous rebels. A resistance movement forms, which uncovers their true goals of stealing our water and using humanity as a food source.

The series has more emotional impact than one would expect for the material, largely because it was written as an “It Can’t Happen Here” style drama about the rise of fascism, with the alien aspect being an afterthought. As a political allegory it’s a bit of a mixed bag, like Planet of the Apes. On the one hand it’s about the dangers of the seductive appeal of totalitarianism, on the other hand the resistance to the Visitors is based on the fact that they look different and eat strange foods.

The Visitors are reptilians in disguise and eat live rats. You know the whole thing about shapeshifting reptilians secretly controlling the world? Yeah, it’s this. A little bit of They Live folded in later, but otherwise straight up V.

There was a miniseries in 1983, another in 1984, one season in 1984, and a reboot series in 2009. The novelizations are a bit odd. The first V book includes both miniseries, while the second is set in New York during the same time period, repeating probably a good 100 pages of material. Reportedly the rest of the 16 book series was supposed to be straight novelizations, but they didn’t have access to the scripts and instead dealt with original material.

In 2008, the original creator Kenneth Johnson wrote The Second Generation, which is set after the first miniseries and doesn’t include the rest of the franchise. The original novelization was re-released with material linking the two books.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

TNT 3: Spiral of Death by Doug Masters

TNT 3: Spiral of Death
by Doug Masters
1985 Charter Books

Twin goes to South America to infiltrate a private army and find the golden city of Eldorado.  Once recruited, his training consists of recruits being killed off.  The Spiral of Death is a giant, snail shaped building consisting of 63 individual death trap rooms: razor-lined slides, poisonous gas, circular saws, etc., pretty much straight out of my 12 year old imagination.

After surviving the spiral, Twin finds that the army has been decimated by internal strife.  He ends up in Eldorado, a hidden underground valley populated by descendants of conquistadors, all naked innocents who have sex all day.  Twin has sex with two sisters who have chains, each link representing a sex partner, hooked to vulva piercings.

Eldorado is raided by the remnants of the Army, and Twin runs around naked in the dark dodging bullets, chopping throats, and ripping off faces.  Despite the back cover, October is never threatened, so we don't find out what kind of torture animals dream of.

Paperback from AbeBooks