Archive for November, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving: I. Am. Lazy.

Posted in holiday, Thanksgiving with tags , on November 28, 2009 by Paxton

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Haha, not only am I not posting a proper Thanksgiving greeting to you guys, I’m linking to last year’s Thanksgiving message and I’m doing it 2 days late.

I am so f**king lazy. And awesome.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Boris Karloff Blogathon: Review of House of Frankenstein (1944)

Posted in Frankenstein, monsters, movies, pop culture, Universal Studios with tags , , , , , on November 25, 2009 by Paxton

Well, I mentioned on Monday that this week is the Boris Karloff Blogathon over at the awesome blog, Frankensteinia.  There are over 100 blogs participating in this event to celebrate Boris Karloff’s 122nd birthday.

Boris Karloff Blogathon

This past October, for my Halloween celebration called AWESOME-tober-fest, my theme was Frankenstein and I reviewed the three original Boris Karloff Universal Frankenstein movies; Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein. In each of these, Karloff played the role that he made famous, the Frankenstein monster.  All were fantastic movies and, to me, earned their status as classics.

However, after Son of Frankenstein, Karloff did not return to the role of the monster in any Universal motion picture.  The fourth Frankenstein movie, Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) featured The Wolf Man’s Lon Chaney Jr as the monster.  The fifth movie, Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man (1944) had Dracula’s Bela Lugosi in the monster role.  Interestingly, Lugosi was originally offered the Frankenstein monster role in Universal’s 1931 movie but turned it down thinking it was beneath him to play a mindless brute.  This rebuttal lead the way for Karloff to take over the role.  Glenn Strange would then assume the monster role in this movie,  House of Frankenstein (1944) as well as Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)  and House of Dracula (1945).

So, House would be the third Universal Frankenstein movie to not feature Karloff in the role of the monster, but Karloff did return to star in this movie.  And this is the movie I decided to review for the Boris Karloff Blogathon.

House of Frankenstein poster

So, yes, Universal was able to get Karloff to return to the Frankenstein franchise, but not as the monster.  Karloff instead plays the mad scientist, Dr Gustav Niemann.  It’s also interesting to note that Universal tried to get Bela Lugosi to reprise the role of Dracula for this movie, but the actor had a last minute scheduling conflict and John Carradine was hired as Dracula instead.

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Movie Flashback: Back to the Future Part II 20th Anniversary

Posted in 80s, advertising, Back to the Future, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , on November 24, 2009 by Paxton

Time Travel

Man, this year has been crazy with pop culture anniversaries. We had the 10th anniversary of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, the 31st anniversary of the Star Wars Holiday Special as well as Star Trek the Original Series’ 43rd anniversary. Now, it’s time to celebrate the first sequel to one of my favorite movies of all time, Back to the Future. Yes, Back to the Future Part II turned 20 years old on November 22, 2009.

BTTF_poster 1

The original Back to the Future is one of my favorite movies of all time. I saw it over 12 times in the theater the year it was released (1985). The theater by my house played $1.95 movies on Monday nights (as a promotion with the local radio station I-95) and my dad would take my brother and I almost every week. And every week I’d go see Back to the Future again and again.  Then when Back to the Future hit VHS, I had my dad go to Blockbuster the day it was released to rent it.  I watched it that night, and you can only imagine the moment the final screen on the VHS popped up:

To Be Continued...

I nearly crapped my pants in excitement after letting out a shamefully, girlish squeal of delight.  HOLY CRAP!  THERE’S GOING TO BE ANOTHER BACK TO THE FUTURE MOVIE!!  My 13-14 year old mind couldn’t comprehend something that awesome.  It nearly shut down.  What I didn’t know is that it would be another few years before the sequel would be released.

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Pop Culture Milestones this week

Posted in Back to the Future, movies, pop culture with tags , , , on November 23, 2009 by Paxton

Two very important dates happened this week in pop culture.

BTTF Part 2
First, Back to the Future Part II turned 20 years old.  Can you believe it?  Back to the Future was one of my favorite movies of all time (if not my favorite) and I loved both of the sequels.  Part II was released on November 22, 1989.  So happy birthday, Back to the Future Part II!  I’ll be sure to have a celebratory article up this week.


The other event is Boris Karloff’s birthday.  Today is Boris Karloff’s birthday (122 years old!).  Having just gone through AWESOME-tober-fest where the theme was Frankenstein, I was acutely aware that Boris’ birthday was fast approaching.  The Frankenstein blog, Frankensteinia, is hosting a Boris Karloff Blogathon this week. Click on over and check out all the cool articles about Frankenstein, Boris Karloff and everything having to do with Mr Karloff. It’s a ton of fun.  I’ll also have a review of House of Frankenstein, Boris Karloff’s final Universal Frankenstein movie this week.

Stay tuned!

Recent Star Wars toys based on The Star Wars Holiday Special

Posted in Boba Fett, holiday, pop culture, Star Wars, TV shows with tags , , , , on November 19, 2009 by Paxton

On Tuesday I discussed the 31st anniversary of the Star Wars Holiday Special. At the end of the article I promised to look at merchandise having to do with the Holiday Special. Well, that article is now going to be posted in a few weeks on Monkey Goggles instead of being posted here. However, I think I can give you a quick preview of that article right now.

In the upcoming Monkey Goggles article I’ll mostly talk about vintage Star Wars items that have a connection to the Holiday Special. In today’s article, I’ll take a look at a couple modern Star Wars items that have a definite, if not obvious, connection to the Holiday Special. Remember, Lucas hates it, and will not advertise the fact that certain toys have a connection to the special.

So let’s take a look at a few modern Star Wars toys that have their roots in the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special.

Animated Boba Fett figure Animated Boba Fett maquette Kubrick animated boba Fett
Lucasfilm may not want you to remember it, and many people don’t actually remember it, but Boba Fett, one of the most popular Star Wars characters, debuted in a cartoon segment featured in the Star Wars Holiday Special. That cartoon is considered the only good thing about the Holiday Special by the overwhelming majority of Star Wars fans.
Last year, during the Holiday Special’s 30th anniversary, several versions of an “animated” Boba Fett were released to celebrate Boba Fett’s 30 year anniversary (and also quietly celebrate the Holiday Special’s anniversary). Hasbro released an “Animated Debut: Boba Fett” figure (on the far left) which depicted the bounty hunter in the color scheme from the TV special. It even included the forked staff he uses in the cartoon.  No mention of the Holiday Special is on the front of the packaging, but there is a small mention on the cardback about Boba’s debut on the special.
Gentle Giant released a maquette statue (in the middle) also depicting Boba in the cartoon color scheme. The maquette is in a cool, “about to collect a bounty” pose including a dramatically flapping Wookie pelt as if Boba is standing in front of a giant fan.
Finally, Kubrick released a six pack of mini-Boba Fett figures, one of which was in the animated color scheme and they all came packaged in miniature versions of the vintage Star Wars figure cards (on the far right).  Those mini-figs are sooooo cute.

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The Star Wars Holiday Special: Boring fans for 31 years

Posted in holiday, movies, pop culture, Star Wars, TV shows with tags , , , , on November 17, 2009 by Paxton

Star Wars Holiday Special

The infamous Star Wars Holiday Special aired for the first time on CBS on November 17, 1978, 31 years ago today.  The Holiday Special was created as a bridge between the original Star Wars in 1977 and The Empire Strikes Back in 1980.  It was a way to keep Star Wars “on people’s radar”.

The Special was neither written nor directed by George Lucas.  Lucas only allowed the use of his Star Wars characters and environments.  The Special was produced by the same group that created the Brady Bunch Variety Hour (itself a famously bad variety program).  Lucasfilm does not regularly comment on it and has never officially released it on home video nor has it ever been broadcast since the initial airing in 1978.

Lucas famously said that if he had the time and a sledgehammer, he’d track down every bootleg copy and destroy it.  And trust me, there are TONS of bootleg copies of the special out there.  If you can’t find a bootleg copy for yourself, then you just aren’t looking hard enough, my friend.  You can probably watch the majority of the Special on YouTube.

Bea Arthur

Is the Special really that bad?  Yes it is.  The format is similar to variety specials that were popular in the ’70s.  The main story involves Chewie and Han as they are racing back to Chewie’s homeworld for Life Day, a generic Star Wars version of Thanksgiving.  The story goes back and forth following Chewie and Han and then following Chewie’s family (wife, son and father).   Little to no action happens when the camera is with Chewie’s family.  You may think I’m exaggerating but there is NO ACTION during Chewie’s family’s scenes.  Periodically little vignettes are inserted into the non-action like Jefferson Starship or Dianne Carroll singing a song or Bea Arthur running the cantina (image above) or Art Carney mugging for the camera.  You also get short visits with Leia and a Luke Skywalker with so much makeup on he looks like he’s about to perform Kabuki (see image below).  To be fair, Mark Hammill had just been in a car accident a few weeks prior so they were covering up massive amounts of reconstructive surgery.

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Star Trek Original Series Season 1 highlights Part II

Posted in movies, pop culture, Star Trek, TV shows, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on November 11, 2009 by Paxton

Star Trek castThis is the long awaited Part II of my look back at highlights of the Season 1 of Star Trek the Original Series.  I posted Part I back in September.  However, thanks to AWESOME-tober-fest, I couldn’t get this one posted until now.

To refresh everyone’s memory, after the awesome JJ Abrams reboot of Star Trek back in May, I wanted to watch the original TV show episodes again. I’d seen a few episodes in reruns, but never really sat down to watch the episodes back to back.  I wanted to see if they are as good as I remember.  And since the first two seasons were recently released on Blu-Ray, I thought it was no time like the present (Season 3 will be released on Blu-Ray December 15).

Last time I looked at three of the best episodes from the first half of Season 1 of the Original Series (Where No Man Has Gone Before, The Enemy Within and The Corbomite Maneuver).  Here are three more episodes from the middle of that season.

ST The Menagerie
The Menagerie (Part I and II) — The first and only 2 part episode in the original series’ 3 year run. This episode makes extensive use of the unaired pilot, The Cage, to tell its story. I imagine Roddenberry walked into the writer’s room and announced, “Dudes, I went on a bender of coke and whores this weekend and totally forgot to write this week’s episode.  Any ideas?”  So the writer’s cobbled together this episode using a minimum of new footage and letting the old pilot pad out the run time.  This episode is okay, but it reminds me of the ’80s sitcom device of the “flashback episode”.  The events of the pilot, within the context of this episode, are said to have happened 13 years prior when Christopher Pike was the Enterprise captain and Spock the science officer.  In the new footage, Spock hijacks Kirk’s Enterprise to bring Capt Pike (now blonde and a paraplegic due to an accident) back to Talos IV, the planet visited in the pilot. Spock gets court martialed while the Enterprise makes the journey and clips from almost the entire episode of The Cage are screened during the court proceedings.  In the older footage, Pike gets trapped on the planet Talos IV and the aliens residing there put him in a type of zoo for observation.  The aliens use holograms to make Pike feel more comfortable by making him believe he’s living a different life, even going so far as to give him a hot chick to mate with.  Pike, not being Kirk, is outraged that the aliens would try to make him comfortable with a cool, imaginary life and then also have the temerity to give him hot women in which to have copious amounts of sex so he sets out to destroy the entire observatory/zoo.  Many, many years later, in the new footage, after having become a quadriplegic, Pike is totally fine with living a fantasy life with lots of hot chicks so works with Spock to break every Federation rule and bring him there, even risking Spock’s career for his own comfort.  After seeing this episode I have no desire to watch the full pilot.  I’ve probably seen 90% of the footage anyway.  And the actor who played Pike in the pilot, Jeffery Hunter, didn’t return for The Menagerie, hence Pike being an invalid, blonde mute (it’s like they didn’t even try to make him look the same) in the new footage.

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