A box of Cheeze Makes for a Fun Weekend

Last week, I placed a “hefty” order with Amazon.com.  I would venture to say that 90% of was pure “cheeze” entertainment.  Movies and TV shows on DVD, that while never going to win any awards (at least none to be proud of!), were staples of Staurday and Sunday afternoon fare back in the day.  Kids today are spoiled with the various movie channels, genre specific channels, and the advent of home videos that the joy that many of us felt, lounging in front of the TV (it was analog-RIP, and we only had the over the air channels), on a weekend afternoon, watching absolutely rotten movies and TV shows.  Heck, ABC even had Friday Night Movies as a regular feature.  But all that has been consigned to the dust bins of history, and the nostalgia of us that remember.

So, as I said, I placed an order with Amazon, dropping a small wad on some of those cheezey movies and shows of my youth.  OK, so not all of it was cheeze.  I did get the first season of NCIS, so I’ll exclude that from this commentary.  But the rest of it was pure Saturday morning and afternoon fare.  Some it was “retro,” dating to the early to mid 1970’s, a bit from the 80’s, and a bit that is “modern.”

For “conniseurs” of such fare, I highly reccomend looking for the “Midnight Movies Double Features.”  I picked up two of these, at a very reasonable price ($8-$9 each).  The first was one I had wanted for a long time.  I kept passing it over for quite a while, but since I could not find it locally anymore, I broke down and ordered it through Amazon.  This is the “Midnight Movies Double Feature” of “The Land that Time Forgot,” and “The People that Time Forgot.”

I first saw these on a Saturday afternoon, probably sometime around 1979 or 1980.  I think local channel WRGB 6 showed them.  “Land” is based on an Edgar Rice Burroughs story.  In short, it’s about the survivors of a torpedoed merchant ship who are picked up by a German U-Boat in 1916, and find themselves on an island where evolution works in a very different fashion.  The big star of the movie is Doug McClure.  Fans of the Simpsons may find the name tantalizingly familiar, and with good reason.  The Simpson’s character “Troy McClure” is a combination of Doug McClure and Troy Donoghue, two “heart throbs” of the late 1960’s early 1970’s. Fans of “classic” Dr.Who will notice one Anthony Ainley, aka The Master, in this movie as well.

This is far form Academy Award winning film making.  And that’s a good thing.  It’s a fun action adventure movie.  It doesn’t try to be anything other that faithful to the original source material.  The same can be said for the sequel, “The People That Time Forgot.”  The sequel does have a late in the film appearance of McClure, but the main star is Patrick Wayne (son of John Wayne) and Sarah Douglass (later to appear as the evil queen in Conan the Destroyer).  Both films can be considred “period pieces,” given that the original ERB stories were written at the end of WW1, and reflect that era wonderfully.

The other “Midnight Double Feature” I picked up has “War Gods of the Deep” and “At the Earth’s Core.”  “At the Earth’s Core” is another Doug McClure vehicle, this one also having Peter Cushing and Catherine Munro.  This is another movie based on an Edgar Rice Burrough’s story.  It’s a straight forward Victorian science fiction story, much like many of ERB’s contemporaries like Jules Verne.  Simple story line is a Victorian era scientist and his assistant build a giant drilling machine and travel to a strange land beneath the Earth’s crust.  Just like any of the various versions of “Jouney to the Center of the Earth,” it has the same basic premise, and a few anachronisms.  Even so, it’s another fun bit of esacpism, a good way to kill a couple of hours without feeling cheated.

“War Gods of the Deep” is a Vincent Price movie.  Unlike the previous three films, this one is loosely based on a poem by Edgar Allen Poe (City in the Sea).  It is also known as “The City Under the Sea” and “The City in the Sea.”  The film also features Tab Hunter, another one of those pretty boy actors of the “beach bingo” era.  The film has a slight Lovecraftian over tone, with an under water city, and merman type slaves.  Anyone who has played the video game “Bioshock” will see more than a passing resemblance to many of the settings and characters.  In many ways, this is a fairly typical Vincent Price piece.  Price plays a tyrannical, megalomaniacal ruler of the under water city, whose own ambitions eventually lead to his downfall.

What needs to be remembered in all four of these films is when they were made.  The most recent is from 1976, 33 years ago now (ouch!).  So one must keep that in mind when viewing, as the special effects and such are definitively dated.  However, once you get beyond that (which is a problem for many younger viewers), one will find some find performances, excellent cinematography, and quality writing.  If you are a fan of action adventure movies, and not just the shooting and explosion packed films made since the 80’s, then definitely drop the $15-$20 for these two double feature movie packs.

This brings me up to a staple of Saturday morning viewing in the mid-70’s, Land of the Lost.  Oh this is terrible TV is so many ways, yet is thoroughly enjoyable none the less.  Yes, I know, the effects are horrible, the green screen work is lousy, and all too apparent.  The stop motion animation is not even up to Ray Harryhousen standards.  The acting is B-List at best, and dinner theater at worst.  Yet the actual stories, the writing is rather good.  It’s a shame to a degree that such visions were never properly realized on screen.

Anyone who grew up in the 70’s will remember this series, as long as they had access to a TV on a Saturday morning.  Park Ranger Rick Marshall and his daughter Holly, and son Will are trapped in another dimension, brought there while rafting.  The show lasted three seasons, and a total of 43 episodes.  The show wandered from prehistoric creatures (all those dinosaurs), to dimensional time travelling (Enik, The Marshalls, and various “guests”), to high end Science Fiction (the pylons, weather control, etc).  This was another creation of Sid and Marty Krofft, also known for creating HR Puffnstuff.

OK, I fully and freely admit that I got this one purely for nostalgia’s sake.  So far I’ve watched the first disc of season 1.  It’s both as bad, and as wonderful as I remember it being.  Perhaps that’s just the rose colored glasses of youthful memories coloring my perceptions, but what the heck.  If anything, I appreciate the writing far more than I ever did as a child.  The effects are truly, painfully dated, and on the cheap.  Yet is has this wonderful Dr.Who quality to it, though I must say that Dr.Who and the BBC did it all better, and on a tighter budget.  Even so, I found it quite relaxing to lie on the couch  and watch this.

I did not however, get the lunch box set.  I just got the regular boxed set of all three seasons.  I just couldn’t justify the extra cash for the lunch box edition.  Not to mention I’d have no place to put it.  😉  I’m gathering that these sets have been released to coincide with the motion picture version about to come out.  Previously, the seasons had been available, but only as individual sets.  I do not plan on going to see the movie version.  Why?  One, it’s a Will Ferrell movie.  I don’t care for anything in which he stars.  They tend to be terribly unfunny.  Ferrell is best as a supporting actor, not a lead.  Second, I just can’t get past the idea of Holly getting the hots for Rick.  Eeeewwwww.  I don’t care if in the movie she’s not his daughter but an admirer.  I have been forever poisoned by the original series characters, so all I can see is an incestuous relationship, even if it isn’t.

I also found a great deal on all three seasons of Tripping the Rift.  This animated series had a good run on the SciFi channel on cable a few years back.  This humorous animated series follows the crew of the Jupiter 42 on its escapades across the universe.  They go from one one misadventure to another.  This is a fairly humorous send up of just about every SciFi show ever made.  Obviously swipes at Star Trek and Star Wars abound, along with far more subtle, and not so subtle references to many other SciFi classics and not so classics.

This is definitely an adult oriented series.  Between the language and overt sexual references and banter, and graphic, though cartoon violence, this cannot be reccomended for anyone under the age of 14.  Even so, I still find this to be a fun romp through space.  It is witty and incisive in its writing, and in the voice acting,  It’s pretty much all CGI, and that is very clear.  But it works extremely well for this series.  Dorph Bobo alone is worth the price of admission.

So, I should be more than set for entertainment for a while.

Dr. Who

*NERD ALERT*

I’m about to geek out all fan boy style here.  You have been warned.

 

Dr. Who, for those that don’t know, is perhaps THE greatest SciFi TV show ever made.  It originally began in 1963, ran to 1989 (or so), took a few years off (about 15), and now has been resurrected by Russel T. Davies in a new format.  The series, or season, four finale was broadcast here in the USA last night on the SciFi channel.  The past two seasons have simply been incredible.  And this from a 30+ year fan.

That said, the series 4 finale was good, but missed being truly great IMO.  The hour and half was promising, as the show usually runs for an hour here in the States.  The first hour was an intense roller coaster ride, carrying over from the excellent previous lead in episode.  But the last half hour, missed the boat. 

SPOILER WARNING

 

I didn’t like the whole Donna Noble saves the universe bit.  To my mind, it was too much of a justification for what was a generally weak companion for the Doctor.  Things jumped too quickly, too far, with out any previous set up in the series.  Even with the whole Donna’s alternate universe episode, it just didn’t work for me.  I liked the alternate Doctor idea, regenerated from his hand, and being part human, but the whole Donna thing just left me flat.  As I was not “invested” in the Donna character, the whole dragged out “loss” of Donna, through a mind wipe, was not emotional, was not a capstone to an otherwise excellent story arc.  The Rose bit, with the alternate semi-human Doctor was a good end to that arc though.

Another complaint.  This time a continuity and story one.  Captain Jack and Mickey.  Where did they meet before?  Mickey wasn’t involved in the WW2 and follow on Dalek story (where Rose goes cosmic).  Jack wasn’t involved in the Cyberman invasion/Dalek War (at least not on screen).  Nor was Mickey involved in the Master story line from series 3.  So where did these two meet, and develop a relationship?  My guess is that it will be from the Dalek-Cyberman war in series 2, as Mickey was able to infiltrate Torchwood London.  But that is not mentioned anywhere, and was a bit of major incongruity in the series 4 finale.

 

UPDATE and Correction:

OK, I erred.  Jack and Mickey did meet in a episode, “Boomtown.”  For some reason, I had completely blanked this from my memory.  Once it was pointed out to me, I suddenly remembered all of it.  The scene where they trap the Slitheen in the alley, with Mickey’s foot in a bucket came rushing back to me. 

The bringing back of past companions was a brilliant idea from Russ Davies and the creative team.  But they missed a golden opportunity to bring back some others for a cameo in the series 4 finale.  Like a UNIT reunion of sorts.  I could see the Brigadier, Sgt.Benton, Liz Shaw, Jo Grant, Mike Yates, and Lt. Harry Sullivan sitting in a pub, watching the Dalek plan unfold on TV.  They talk a bit about how it used to be them that would be out there, but they’re all too old for that “adventure nonsense anymore.”  Then someone tosses a tan beret with a blue UNIT badge on it on the table, and we cut away to another scene.  Or perhaps a real throw back, where Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright are sitting at home (or a retirement home), and reminiscing about their first encounter with the Daleks.  They didn’t need to be directly involved in the story, but such a cameo scenes could have been a nice bit of “fan porn” to long time fans.  The UNIT bit could also have been done with the “Last of the Time Lords” finale from season 3.

In addition, I’ve been on a spree of late, picking up classic stories on DVD.  I now have 14 of those released so far.  After watching “Journey’s End” last night, I watched the original three stories from the 1963 debut of Dr.Who.  “An Uneartly Child,” “The Daleks,” and “Edge of Destruction.”  I had previously been watching the Patrick Troughton serials “Tomb of the Cybermen,” “The Mind Robber,” and “The Seeds of Destruction.”  While the production values of these older episodes are not up to modern, or even period standards (the BBC was extremely cheap), they are remarkably well written, and the performances are above par. 

A fan boy fantasy of mine, is to remake some of those old stories with modern effects and production values.  The scripts wouldn;t need any changing, just updated and improved production.  I came to this realization while watching “Seeds of Death.”  I think it would be a wondeful way of introducing a new generation to these older stories.  The only real problem would be in casting, and trying to recreate the chemistry in the cast, and maintaining the characters.