Archive for AWESOME-tober-fest 2015

AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: The Flash vs an invisible man (1991)

Posted in Halloween, holiday, monsters, movies, pop culture, TV shows with tags , , , , , , , on October 23, 2015 by Paxton

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The Flash TV series debuted in September 1990.

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In episode 10, which aired January 1991, The Flash would come up against a villain who had invented a personal cloaking device, essentially turning him into an invisible man. That episode was titled Sight Unseen.

It’s a pretty cool episode. The pre-credit opening shows us a burglary, but it’s being done by someone invisible. We see keyboard keys depress and doors opening without seeing anybody onscreen. Then, after the alarms go off, we see the door open on it’s own and then the thief appears as if out of thin air.

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He looks very Shadow-like in the below shot as he dictates to what looks like a mini-recorder device about his plans.  .

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Not sure why he does this right outside the crime scene.  Stay invisible, dude, get to your hideout THEN do your “notes to self”

We get the weekly appearance of officers Bellows and Murphy.

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Bellows is the believer (right) and Murphy is the skeptic (left). However, while Murphy doesn’t believe The Flash exists, he spends most of his time trying to monetize the fact that other people do think he exists.  Here he tries to convince Bellows to sell $6 shirts to people for $20 a pop.

This show is clearly set-designed by the same team that did Burton’s Batman in 1989. Check out Central City Police Headquarters.

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In the stairwell that leads up to the crime lab where Barry Allen works, there’s a weird “science-y” mural painted on the wall.

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In this episode we get the debut of federal agent Quinn. And he’s clearly an a-hole.  He’s very driven and is obsessed with capturing the cloaking device used by the invisible man. He reminds me a lot of agent Milton Dammers in The Frighteners (right) as played by Jeffrey Combs about five years later.

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Several times in the episode we get to see invisible-to-visible reveals of the villain. Here’s a cool one where The Flash confronts the guy’s lair.

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And here’s one where the villain is thrown on the hood of a car and it turns the cloaking device off.

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Finally Barry figures out that he can see the invisible man with specially developed contact lenses with thermal vision.

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Honestly, I thought any invisible man’s downfall would be thermal vision. You may be invisible to light, but you’ll always give off a heat signature.

It’s a pretty good episode. No overt Wells-ian easter eggs. The scientist who develops the cloaking device is called Gideon. Which sounds kind of like Griffen, the protagonist from Wells’ novel. Also like Griffen, he’s British. He’s played by Christopher Neame who has been in a ton of stuff from this to Ghostbusters II, License to Kill and The Prestige. Coincidentally enough, he also would appear in one episode of Sci-Fi Channel’s 2000 TV series, The Invisible Man.


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AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: Smoke (1995) – Donald Westlake

Posted in books, Halloween, holiday, monsters, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , on October 22, 2015 by Paxton

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Donald Westlake is a famous crime novelist probably most known for his series of novels about relentless professional thief, Parker, written under the pseudonym Richard Stark.  Westlake is also well known for his comic heist novels about charming master thief John Dortmunder.  Parker debuted in The Hunter in 1962 and Dortmunder debuted in The Hot Rock in 1970.

In 1995, Westlake took a break from straight up crime novels and wrote a comedic crime novel with sci-fi elements called Smoke.

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I was aware of Westlake before I discovered Smoke when researching “invisible man novels” for this Halloween. I’d seen the movies based on Westlake’s “Parker” character (Payback in 1999 and Parker in 2013) and I’ve had my eye on the first Dortmunder novel, The Hot Rock, for a few years now.  So, I thought Smoke would be a great opportunity to read Westlake to see if I like his style before committing to either the Parker or Dortmunder novels.

The gist of the story is that Freddie Noon, a small time thief burgles a research lab late one night and is caught by the two research scientists that live there. They are testing two melanoma formulas and they blackmail him into testing one of them. Freddie mistakenly takes both formulas and then escapes the research lab and makes off with a bunch of the doctors’ equipment. Later, Freddie discovers that the formula has turned him completely invisible. Freddie, along with his girlfriend Peg, has to get used to him being invisible, attempt to continue stealing and fencing goods in his new condition and stay one step ahead of the shady organization that had employed the research lab in the first place who want nothing but to exploit Freddie for their own gain.

This book is sort of a spiritual cousin to HF Saint’s Memoirs of an Invisible Man which was published about 7 years prior to this.  Similar plot lines, only a few details are different, but the tone of the books are completely different.  Saint’s book is a taut suspense thriller from beginning to end.  Westlake’s book is a comic caper with a very light, humorous tone.  The characters are funny and interesting for the most part, but I prefer Saint’s edge of your seat thrill ride to Westlake’s easy going pace.

I’d mostly recommend this book, but if I’m picking my favorite, HF Saint’s Memoirs is a much more satisfying read.


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AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)

Posted in Halloween, holiday, monsters, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , on October 21, 2015 by Paxton

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The comedy team of Abbott and Costello starred in a series of films in which they meet up with characters from Universal Studios. The first was Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein in 1948. I reviewed it for AWESOME-tober-fest back in 2009.  That movie was a giant hit for Universal.

At the time, Universal was planning another straight forward sequel in the Invisible Man series (the last being The Invisible Man’s Revenge in 1948).  However, due to the success of the comedy movie, they had their script rewritten to be another But and Lou comedy.  This movie was Abbott and Costello Meet The Invisible Man and it was released in 1951.

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Unlike Meets Frankenstein, none of the original Invisible Man actors returned for this movie. Several different actors portrayed the Invisible Man in the Universal movies, but they didn’t get any of them to return. Especially not Claude Rains, the originator of the role as he’d become a huge Hollywood star by this point having starred in Casablanca, Mr Smith Goes to Washington and Notorious.

This time the titular invisible man is a new character that benefits from the serum created in the original 1933 classic.  And yes, there are some dropped lines here and there to connect this directly to that original movie.  The invisibility serum is said to have been invented by Dr John Griffin.  We even see a picture on the wall of Claude Rains, who portrayed Griffin in the original movie.  So they at least tried to keep some continuity.

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So, what did I think? It’s not bad. I had lowered expectations after my viewings of Meets Frankenstein, so that probably helped.  Surprisingly the invisible effects aren’t bad, but they are much more gimmicky than the 1933 original.  They work, but you can pretty much tell how they work.  Part of this may be because many of the effects are recycled from previous invisible man movies.  Even going as far as re-using footage and reversing it.

It’s a shame, because I’m a fan of Bud and Lou in their skits and TV shows. I still regularly rewatch skits like Who’s on First? on YouTube because they are GREAT. As a matter of fact, I just stopped writing this article to go watch it again. SO. GOOD.  But I’m just not digging the movies I’ve seen of theirs.  It’s sort of the same issue I have with The Three Stooges.  I love the shorts, but I just can’t get into their movies.


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Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: Fade (1988) – Robert Cormier

Posted in books, pop culture with tags , , , , , on October 20, 2015 by Paxton

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In 1988 Robert Cormier published the novel Fade. It is about a boy named Paul who discovers that he has the ability to turn himself invisible, or fade.

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Since this book’s publication it has consistently been on the American Library Association’s list of Most Challenged Books for it’s depiction of violence, murder and incest.

The book begins in a small town outside Boston called Monument during the late Depression era.  As a teen, Paul is fascinated by tales of his uncle and this mysterious photograph from which everyone says the uncle was there but he isn’t in the photograph.  When that uncle visits, Paul learns his secret.  Certain male members of his family gain the ability to fade. It is typically passed down from uncles to nephews.  His uncle has it, and so does Paul.  This ability has been kept a strict secret.  Only the individuals with the power actually know about it and never reveal it to the rest of the family.  Or anyone else.  The uncle warns that it is not the gift it appears to be.

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That’s the basic setup in the beginning, but the book is structured very different and goes several different places than you would expect from the first 100 pages or so.  It took me by surprise.  There are essentially 5 parts of the book, each focusing on a different character and each part jumps around in time forward many years into the future and then back again.  And honestly, for the first 2/3 of the book, the ability to fade is almost incidental to the story.  The story is really about Paul and his relationships with his family and especially his Aunt and how these relationships affect him later in life.

While using his ability, Paul finds out the fade can actually be a curse when he witnesses things he shouldn’t.  And it becomes apparent to him that the fade may be creating in him thoughts and urges he wouldn’t have otherwise.  This sets up what happens later in the book as we fast forward into the future.  There are other aspects to the fade that are interesting.  Paul can somewhat control the ability at first, but it sort of takes on a life of its own later.  Also, unlike other invisible men, Paul’s clothes become invisible when he fades.  Which is doubly interesting because other physical objects he’s touching, like a knife, won’t turn invisible.

Did I like the book?  Yes.  It was definitely not what I was expecting, but the characters were interesting as was the aspect of fading.

 


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AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: The Invisible Mouse (1947)

Posted in books, cartoons, Halloween, holiday, pop culture, TV shows with tags , , , , , , on October 19, 2015 by Paxton

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The Invisible Mouse was an episode of Tom and Jerry directed by Hanna and Barbera and was released in 1947.

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It was a parody of the Invisible Man concept from both the HG Wells novel and the Universal Studios movie (which was released 14 years prior to the cartoon).

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As usual the cartoon starts with the rampant chasing and violence between Tom and Jerry. They chase each other up a flight of stairs, jump on the banister and start sliding down. Then Jerry shifts to a second banister to avoid….wait, WHAT?! I don’t think banisters work that way. What the hell is going on there?

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Jerry jumps on the counter, finds a “chemo set” and jumps in a random bottle to evade Tom. However, it seems that Jerry accidentally jumped into a bottle of “invisible ink”. And it’s turning him invisible.

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Interesting.  Jerry’s invisibility is not hampered by seeing your food through your stomach. Whatever he eats seems to immediately turn invisible.

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But he still apparently casts a shadow.  Wait, what?!  What is the light reflecting around to cause that shadow?!

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Jerry has lots of fun with his new invisibility. He gives Tom the classic “hot foot” and tees off on Tom’s backside with what looks like a 3 Wood.

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The short ends with Jerry banishing Tom from the house by getting Spike the dog to chase after him and then laying on Tom’s pillow drinking his chocolate milk. Which seems to restore Jerry back to visible?!  Okay.

Well, this particular version of invisible has some goofy rules but what can you expect from a Tom and Jerry cartoon?  It’s still a fairly enjoyable watch for fans of the show.


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