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Gone But Not Forgotten: The Invisible Man 1975

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Gone But Not Forgotten

The Invisible Man TV Series: 1975

By Jessica Dwyer

I’ve been thinking a lot about David McCallum lately.  The reason is due to a couple of things.  1. The new Man From UNCLE movie that is coming out later this year and 2.  The rumored reboot of Sapphire and Steel (which I’ll be doing a write up on soon.)

All this McCallum thinking reminded me of the great, very short lived, series he did back in the 70’s called The Invisible Man.  It seems Invisible Man TV series tend to sadly only be short lived (never forget Fawkes and Hobbes) but this one only got 12 episodes.

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IMAN 1975 was a fun show and smart.  It was also one of those series showing the lone scientist trying to keep his creation out of the hands of the military, knowing it will be used for ultimately destructive purposes.

The series focuses on Dr. Daniel Westin (McCallum) and his wife who is his partner on the project, Kate (Melinda Fee).  One of the great things about the series is the relationship and chemistry between these two.  They are a likable couple and there’s a genuine love and respect shown between them.

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Dr. Westin though is, like most scientists, slightly obsessed with his project, which deals with changing matter into other forms.  He accidentally stumbles on a side effect of his process, making things invisible.  After showing his boss’s this new and surprising side effect, he realizes where the funding has been coming from for the spendy research…the Pentagon.  The Klae Corporation has kept this from him the entire time…and that doesn’t go over well with the doctor.

Westin sneaks back into his lab after hours with the goal of destroying the project instead of having it become a weapon…but in the process he has to become invisible to escape.  It is then Westin realizes he’s stuck and cannot reverse the process.  Westin has a friend who is a great plastic surgeon and the man creates for him a series of masks and gloves that replicate human skin so he’s able to at least look like himself again and have a face.

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The series follows the Westin’s as they continue to work for the Klae Corporation.  Daniel keeps trying to perfect his project and find a cure and the “Klae Resource” as he is called is sent out on assignments where his invisibility is useful.  The military has no interest any longer in the project since it is obviously unstable and the subject can’t change back.

The series had a number of familiar genre guest stars in its short run, many of them recognizable to fans of Dark Shadows such as Thayer David, James Karen.  Other TV regulars also popped up like Loni Anderson (WKRP), Conrad Janis (Mork and Mindy), and the late John Vernon.

The pedigree of the show was high.  It was created by Harve Bennett who later turned around the Star Trek film franchise into the epic we now know.  Steven Bochco was one of the producers and Henry Mancini wrote the catchy theme music for the series.

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While the show was released the year I was born (ouch…my age) in 1975 I discovered it thanks to the early days of the Sci-Fi channel when it was part of their rotation of old school series.  I instantly loved it.  McCallum was and still is a charming rogue of an actor and it was just flat out fun and enjoyable.

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The entire series was released on DVD here in the states in 2012 and is still available if you search around. You can also find episodes (including the pilot) on YouTube! (see below.)  If you enjoy fun science fiction series and are in a nostalgic mood you should check it out.

Cosplayers Charge for Photos on the SDCC Floor

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Cosplayers Charge for Photos on the SDCC Floor

By Jessica Dwyer

Idle Hands has been running a report that’s going to make some serious discussion happen in the world of fandom I have a feeling.  The report deals with cosplayers on the floor and around SDCC charging for photos with fans.  There are a number of things that this makes problematic which the article goes into depth on (as well as the crew at Idle Hands checking in with the people in charge at SDCC to find out what their take on it is) but I’ll just call out a couple here.

Cosplaying is a MAJOR part of fandom.  This is a given.  What I’ve always taken from Cosplay is a celebration of something that you love along with the other fans of that fandom.  Yes I know people funnel hours and hours and lots of their money into the costumes. But when you start charging while walking around the floor for photos you’re entering into a battlefield of legality…especially if your costume is something that is owned by another entity that isn’t you.

When you start doing things like this you’re going to rile the Balrog of corporate lawyers that are going to see this as an opportunity.  Trust me.  This can and will happen if things keep going in the direction it seems to be.  We’re talking about companies that put the nix on comic book creators making some money selling sketches of the very characters they  helped create.  Do you think they’ll blink at making fans stop dressing up or suing them when they try to earn a little extra doing it?

There are of course professional Cosplayers who make a living by buying tables at shows and selling photos, 8×10’s, etc.  In the realm of the convention itself they’ve got their bases covered.   Some of them have actually been given a blessing by the studios and groups that they are doing characters from.  But this is a LOT of work and in terms of cash spent to get those bases covered you’re looking at a big investment.

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This Nurse Joker is not involved in this story.  He’s just awesome.

The article points this out but I think it is worth repeating.  Conventions are out to make money.  When they find out someone is charging for something like this without purchasing table space they’ll put a stop to it.  What this means is, very simply, they’ll put an end to costumes all together if they see it as a big enough problem.  You’ll only be allowed to do Cosplay if you are entered into a costume contest and that’s it.

I’m not joking…this is something that is totally viable for them.  With the issues that have happened in the past that have been tied to costumes such as harassment and problems with actual weapons and swords that have to be dealt with this next layer of problem just gives them more fuel for the “no cosplay” fire.

The final piece of this of course are the kids.  Kids will run up to cosplayers in awe of what they are seeing.  It’s magic for them.  And that magic being shattered by mommy and daddy getting into an argument with Ariel over a two dollar tip for a picture can ruin an entire weekend.

Now cosplayers like “The Hulk” who are asking for donations for charity are special cases.  That’s something that’s a good idea but you should let fans know in advance if you are doing that.  Make it clear because the majority of cosplayers ARE NOT charging for pics.  Or, like in the report, the other fan was in costume and had nowhere to carry money to pay for pictures.

What it comes down to is cosplay is something awesome that has grown to epic proportions.  But like most things it’s also grown into a grey area where the rules are starting to blur.  It’s common sense and common courtesy that should be at play here along with the costumes.

The Dark Lord is a Gentleman: Sir Christopher Lee

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The Dark Lord is a Gentleman

 Sir Christopher Lee

 By Jessica Dwyer

It’s taken me a full day to get to the point I could write about Sir Christopher Lee and his life and loss to us, his fans.  Every time I tried to do it throughout the morning and afternoon I’d just start crying and be at a loss of words to really put it down.

Sir Christopher was immortal in my mind and in the minds of many of his fans.   He just couldn’t die. You can’t do that when you’re Dracula or a creature of myth and legend. That just doesn’t happen. And for so long he proved us right with that belief. 93 years and he never stopped working. He was always a major presence on screen or off, his voice and gaze as powerful as ever it was. He was even signed to work on a new film prior to his death.

But he was, as was his good friend Peter Cushing, a man and not a myth. And so Sir Christopher Lee passed away on Sunday, June 7th of this year. His wife of 54 years Birgit chose to not announce his passing until his family had all been made aware before the media. After her wishes were met we heard the news today throughout the world that we had lost the last of the greats of horror.

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Much like Van Helsing and Dracula, I always think of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee together in my head. Along with these two were Vincent Price and John Carradine as well as Robert Quarry. They were between them all a bridge of horror coming into a new age, a golden age of color and adulthood. Price and Carradine led the way, while the world was still in black and white, followed by Cushing and Lee and then Quarry as the 70’s took on a more jaded edge to its horror films. With the loss of Christopher Lee, the last of the pantheon of horrors gods has faded to black.

It is though unjust to Sir Christopher to only focus on his work in horror and in films in general. He was a hero, with a life led fully. During WW2 he actually hunted down Nazi’s, working in a Special Forces units as well as part of the air force. He never talked about his time in what was a form of the secret service, but it was obvious he’d done some daring and dangerous work. As Lee himself had said, he could keep a secret.

He had a voice that was resonate and made for opera. And he used it in films and on records…once again right up until his death. Not many 80 to 90 year olds were recording heavy metal albums but Sir Christopher did. His last record was released in 2014, a Christmas record. Probably his most notable use of that legendary voice for singing was in The Wickerman.

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Sir Christopher was fearless when it came to his acting roles and he never wanted to be boring (nor was he.)   And he, contrary to popular belief, wasn’t just a villain.   Sir Christopher was one of the few actors to not only play Sherlock Holmes but also his brother Mycroft. He also portrayed Sir Henry Baskerville in The Hound of The Baskervilles.

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He took the heroic roles in films like The Devil Rides out where he fought against Satan himself. In the creepy classic Horror Express he again fought the forces of evil (alongside his usual nemesis Peter Cushing.) I could go on, but his film history is truly epic in scope.

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But Sir Christopher would be best known for portraying what in the minds of many horror fans is the equally iconic as Lugosi’s version of Count Dracula. His performance managed to combine style, class, royal bearing, and the savagery of a hungry wolf within the folds of that glorious cape. He brought to the role as well a charged sexuality that hadn’t really been seen in The Count (something that would be recreated in numerous other versions of the part, but would never seem quite as well done.) This is ironic as Lee had been told he was too foreign looking to be a leading man. He’d play the part more times than any actor in history (including roles in films like Dracula & Son where he poked fun at his own creation.)

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While he will forever be tied to Dracula, Sir Christopher portrayed almost all of the classic monsters of horror. His first horror role for Hammer was that of the Frankenstein creature in Curse of Frankenstein. He would follow this with Dracula and then The Mummy. He’d also portray a new take on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with the film I, Monster.   In The Howling 2 he fought werewolves (and would actually apologize for the film later to the original Howling’s director for being in the movie…)

Even if a film was a bad movie Sir Christopher brought class and style to it.   In fact, he brought an inherent sense of royalty and class to every role he played, including those monsters. His Dracula belonged on a throne. His Kharis (the Mummy) had nobility even wrapped in rotting bandages. It was a part of the gentleman he was that couldn’t be hidden behind the make-up. And we can’t forget Lord Summerisle or the classic Arabian Adventure.

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That came across in the other genres Lee was a part of. There were the swashbuckling films like the Musketeer films where he would play Rochefort. His turn as the mad monk Rasputin was another prime example of it. And then there were the action films such as of course, his turn as Scaramanga in Man With the Golden Gun where he took on James Bond, the possibly forgotten film Jaguar Lives!, and his turn against Captain America in Captain America II: Death Too Soon. Lee did his share of science fiction films too. One that many of my age remembers was 1978’s Return to Witch Mountain where he starred alongside icon Bette Davis.

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In the 80’s Sir Christopher would begin doing more and more voice work and would even return to the swashbuckling world of the Musketeers in 1989 (at nearly 70 Lee could still pick up a sword.) That decade would see him reunited on screen with those legends of horror Carradine, Price, and Cushing in House of Long Shadows.

The 90’s found him taking on Gremlins in Gremlins 2: The New Batch and becoming part of the Discworld. It would also be his first collaboration with Tim Burton in the Hammer Horror homage Sleepy Hollow.

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In the 2000’s Sir Christopher had a renaissance of sorts starring in two of the biggest franchises of all time (and becoming well known to yet another young generation of film goers) in both Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. He continued working with Tim Burton on films like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland, and his last with Burton, Dark Shadows (where for once Dracula was hypnotized by a different vampire.) He even returned to the world of Hammer films officially in the movie The Resident.

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And that’s just scratching the surface.

I can’t possibly recount everything Sir Christopher Lee did that throughout a career as epic as his was, nor a life that was even more epic in scope. He was a real life hero, he was the cousin of Ian Fleming (who I like to think may have based a little bit of Bond on him.) He knew JRR Tolkien, had met the man and wouldn’t hesitate to correct you if you mispronounced a name from Tolkien’s stories.

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No, I never met Sir Christopher Lee personally. I never had that privilege. But his presence was a large one in my life and his loss, even after such a long and storied life, will still leave a hole in the world for me and many others. It’s the end of an era, an era filled with gods and monsters that we’ll never see the like of again, much like Sir Christopher himself.

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Sir Christopher Lee once said of his friend Peter Cushing that he was too good for this world and I think that it is no stretch to say the same of Christopher Lee. He was perhaps, too epic for this world and we could only be lucky enough to have one of him. And in that time he gave us so very much of himself and his art that he truly made himself as immortal as those characters he played.

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And for that I must thank him, for that and for being that bridge for me and for so many others to enter the gates of Hammer and those beautiful dark fairy tales he made come to life in flesh and blood and fury. Thank you for showing both sides of the coin, the light and the dark, with such a perfect blend of elegance and intellect. Thank you for being as much a legend as ever Dracula or Holmes ever was.

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Rest easy Prince and may you meet your Van Helsing on the other side with a welcoming smile and a cup of tea.

 

Bigger Trouble in Little China

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OpEd By Jessica Dwyer

If you haven’t heard the news by now, the remake train is about to hitch another car to the seemingly endless string of them that have been coming out of Hollywood.  This time though one of the most loved action stars around has been tagged to take on the lead role.  The problem is the film that’s up for being remade really has no need for it at all, and still stands as one of the greatest cult action films of all time.

The film in question is Big Trouble in Little China.  The action star in question is Dwayne The Rock Johnson, riding a wave (that’s a San Andreas joke) of big box office and being a flat out awesome dude.

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I love The Rock.  He’s great.  He can deliver awesome one liners and gives great brow porn.  The problem is he’s not actually Jack Burton.  Jack Burton had the distinction of being a bit of a sleaze bag.  He came from that place within Kurt Russell that gave us Used Cars.  He became a reluctant hero, a regular working class guy who happened to feel a little invincible and wound up saving the world.  Part of the problem is The Rock looks like a super hero.  He’s built like a truck and I just don’t see him able to bring that level of smarm that Russell did to the role.

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Jack Burton is only part of the issue.  The film itself is a classic.  There’s not really another film out there like Big Trouble in Little China.  It’s unique in its wackiness.  It’s got an amazing soundtrack.  It’s got great action sequences.  And it’s got a giant fan base of kids who grew up watching it not at the movies, but on cable and VHS.  Big Trouble in Little China is just such an odd flick that it should remain the unique and perfect diamond in the rough that it was and still is.

But instead of being content to let the film remain such, Hollywood sees an opportunity for a new franchise…because you know that’s exactly what they are thinking when you get a guy like The Rock and a film that has to deal ancient Chinese mythology and sorcery…and The Rock.  Hollywood is desperate to get him into something like that because Hercules did so well (it didn’t) and The Scorpion King was a one shot (unless you count the slew of direct to DVD flicks starring other, less expensive actors as The Scorpion King.)  They want him to have a franchise of his own that doesn’t have him playing second fiddle to Vin Diesel.

This isn’t The Rock’s fault.  I want him to do well.  Dwayne Johnson is a charismatic dude and awesome to watch.  He does what he does well.  He deserves a franchise.  But maybe we should look into remaking something like I dunno…Kull The Conqueror which starred another Hercules, Kevin Sorbo.  Put him in that and let it fly.  That movie died fast and that story is worth another try.  There are 12 Kull stories just waiting for someone to do them.

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But there’s only one Big Trouble in Little China.  And it should stay that way.  That movie is oddly perfect and just plain odd. It shouldn’t have worked  but it does so well.  Coming out of a time when Hollywood took a chance on weird with films like it and Buckaroo Banzai and Brainstorm.  Only later do we realize how awesome these films are.  Why take away from them now?

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Nerdbastards printed some quotes from Johnson talking about the process of putting together the project.  He’s taking the fan reactions well.  But the truth is I haven’t seen a single POSITIVE reaction to this idea. None of my friends are on board with it, and I know a lot of Big Trouble in Little China fans.  I honestly don’t see how bringing Carpenter on would do anything even if he’d be game to do it (which would surprise me.)  The Thing was actually a prequel.  And although it had a lot going for it, the confusion of WHAT it was the fans response in thinking it was a remake should be telling to the studios.

The one light in this is this quote from Johnson:

“Let’s see what feels good, what we can come up with and then go from there and as we write it, if the whole thing starts to stink up, then we thank everybody for their efforts and accept this just couldn’t make it.”

At least he’s willing to say no if it gets to that point.  But I hope it doesn’t.  Find something either unique for Dwayne Johnson to do, or something that needs another shot at greatness.  Personally with the stir over the soon to happen Conan film and how well Game of Thrones is doing I think my Kull idea isn’t half bad.

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One Genre To Rule Them All: Sword & Sorcery Cinema

By John Fountain

Tales of magic, mystery and heroes have always been with us: from Greek mythology to Tolkien, Robert E Howard and George RR Martin, we seem to be drawn to high adventure. This may be due to the pure escapism offered, or there may be deeper reasons for the enduring popularity of the genre.

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My fascination with the genre began as a child, when my parents would take me to the cinema to see the latest Sinbad movie, and I would sit enthralled at the stop-motion genius of Ray Harryhausen on the big screen. Tales of Greek myth, such as Jason and The Argonauts (1963) and Clash of the Titans (1981) would see heroes battling skeletal warriors, giant scorpions, and of course… the Kraken.

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Those were the 70s, but sword and sorcery cinema had existed prior to this initial golden age. Early cinema had precedents even as far back as the silent era with the popular Maciste series of more than twenty films. However, these swords and sandals, or “peplum” genre pictures would really see their heyday in the 1950s and 60s, following Hercules (1957) with Steve Reeves as the titular character.

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These ran alongside big budget, American-made Biblical epics such as The Robe (1953), and Ben-Hur (1959), and rather than dealing with Judeo-Christian mythology, they drank from the rich well-spring of Grecian myths and legends. When the American studios turned their eyes to that same source, the golden age of sword and sorcery began, albeit with a certain Olympian flavour. However, Greek Myth was not the only source that could be tapped for tales of adventure and magic: also during this period were the Sinbad stories, which harked back to Middle-Eastern folk-tales found in the Arabian Nights. The first of the classic Sinbad stories, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), would see the introduction of sorcery (as opposed to Divine Power) into the mix, with the heroic Captain fighting an evil wizard, as well as stop-motion monsters. There were two later Sinbad films, each showcasing Ray Harryhausen’s special effects genius, which would influence creature fans and special effects technicians for decades to come.

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However, these movies had yet to be given a name, other than “fantasy adventure”, and it would be 1961 before the phrase “sword and sorcery” entered the lexicon, courtesy of fantasy author Fritz Leiber. Still, the vast amount of high fantasy stories that existed in literature had yet to be tapped, with film-makers still relying on Greek, Biblical and Arabian myths for their material. That was soon to change, however, in 1982 when a certain muscle-bound barbarian, given life in the late 1920s and early 30s by tragic author Robert E Howard, stomped onto the big screen. His name, as if it wasn’t obvious, was Conan, and was portrayed by a then 35 year old former body-builder called Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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Conan The Barbarian(1982) was so popular it kick-started a wave of “barbarian” movies from the low-budget Italian exploitation circuit such as The Barbarians (1987), as well as more accomplished copies such as The Beastmaster (1982).

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The 1980s became the decade of sword and sorcery as we would think of it: films set in second-worlds, with magic and monsters as well depicted as budget would allow. We saw American fantasy such as The Sword And The Sorcerer (1982) alongside American-Argentine co-production Deathstalker (1983) and British effort Hawk The Slayer (1980) which pre-dated Conan by two years, yet failed to set the world alight.

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In the wake of this resurgence of fantasy, it was inevitable that the glut would produce some absolute stinkers, most of which came from Italian stables, and others that simply used the fantasy genre as an excuse for soft-core titillation such as Barbarian Queen (1985), and hard-core porn such as the New Barbarians (1990). Septic with such indignities, the sword and sorcery genre seemed to melt away. That was, until a Hobbit poked his head out of a hole…

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J R.R Tolkien published The Hobbit in 1937; a children’s fantasy story drawing on epic poetry and Norse sagas. It was hugely popular, and so spawned an epic sequel in three parts, which would collectively be known as The Lord of The Rings. There was a resurgence in its popularity in the 1970s, when an ecological message was drawn from the books which may have been the reason that legendary animator Ralph Bakshi made the first part of a proposed series in 1978. Although successful, the tale remained unfinished. However, this was not Bakshi’s first foray into sword & sorcery: this came a year earlier with the imaginative cult classic Wizards (1977). Wizards did something unusual as it crossed swords and sorcery with a post-apocalyptic setting, something still very rare to this day.

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It would be another two decades until Lord of the Rings would see cinematic light again. During this interim Bakshi continued his sword & sorcery theme in Fire and Ice (1983), which saw him collaborating with famed fantasy artist Frank Frazetta. Alongside this we would have to endure more low-budget fare based (loosely) on literature in the shape of the two Gor movies, drawing their inspiration from the erotic novels of John Norman. Fans of the books were not pleased. Neither, it seemed were audiences of the movies. 1988 also gave us a superior fantasy product in the diminutive shape of Willow (1988), which introduced the world to one of the hardest working genre stars of the last 30 years, Warwick Davis. Willow was George Lucas’ attempt to recreate the fan-passion he found in Star Wars, yet the reactions to the film were mixed.

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The 1990s proved to be a barren decade for fans of the genre. Exploitation hype had evaporated, as there were no stand-out successes to be cloned. Instead, there were the odd genre piece such as Dragonheart (1996) which despite winning awards for its visual effects was criticised for being cliché. Nevertheless, it was successful enough to warrant a sequel which went direct-to-video in 2000. That year was an interesting one for role-players of sword and sorcery games, as a film version of one of the quintessential RPGs was released. Dungeons & Dragons (2000) had a lot going for it: a rich background to be mined, and a loyal, even fanatical, ready-made audience in the shape of tabletop gamers. Unfortunately, the film turned out to be terrible, with uniformly derided performances and effects. So, sword and sorcery was finally dead in the water. Except that it was around about that time when a certain hobbit arrived on the scene…

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It was in 2001 that the first of the Lord of The Rings films hit the cinemas. And film was never the same again. It was the culmination of years of work by a director almost unknown except to fans of low-budget horror, who had only recently branched out into more mainstream movies. Peter Jackson had cut his teeth in his native New Zealand with the gross-out splatter comedy Bad Taste (1987), sick and wonderfully twisted Muppet parody Meet The Feebles (1989) and “bloodiest film ever”, the even splatterier (it’s a word now) Braindead (1992). Given the helm of lyrical drama Heavenly Creatures (1994) Jackson proved that he could direct in genres other than horror. Still, directing three movies being filmed concurrently over 8 years was a mammoth task, and there were rumblings that he would fail to bring Tolkien’s epic to the screen. Those rumblings were proven false with the release of the first movie The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), with the second film, The Two Towers (2002) coming in a year later, and the final movie, The Return of the King another year later in 2003. The final movie, regarded as being the weakest of the three, nevertheless won every Academy Award nomination, and culminated in the series being the most successful and highest grossing of all time. Surely, following this, there would be another massive influx of cheap knock-offs?

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We didn’t have long to wait for the sword and sorcery genre to flex its absurdly large muscles, but after the Lord of the Rings, everything would be a pale imitation. The Chronicles of Narnia, based on the work of Tolkien’s friend C.S Lewis would emerge as a trilogy in 2005, 2008 and 2010. These were successful in their own right, but lacked Jackson’s sense of humour. Other sources were being mined to adapt, such as Frank Millar’s graphic novel 300 (2006), which presented a highly stylised and brutal account of the battle of Thermopylae, and which warranted a sequel 300: Rise of an Empire (2014) eight years later. Of course, the genre was not without its cinematic turds: serial shite-peddler Uwe Boll turned out his own lacklustre effort called Dungeon Siege: In The Name of the King (2007) which has somehow managed to squeeze out another two sequels despite being universally panned.

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In 2003 we saw the rise of another film series with sword and sorcery roots, albeit this time with a distinctly fishy, nautical flavour: The Pirates of The Caribbean (2003). Taking inspiration from, of all things, a theme-park ride, the success of the films is almost entirely down to a crazy yet charismatic central performance from Johnny Depp as Cap’n Jack Sparrow. There are sword-fights and derring-do aplenty, with magic and mystery woven into the plots of four (to date) movies.

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As a new decade dawned, and with it advances in cheap-to-produce special effects, still more fantasy films were made. In 2010 the classic Clash of The Titans was remade, although this time with up to date CGI. Somehow, it lost its heart to flashy spectacle and forgot something called “a decent plot”. This decade would be one for remakes, with a box-office bomb in the form of Conan (2011). Finally, Jackson would return to Middle-Earth to make three more movies, stretching out the tale of The Hobbit to buttock-numbing lengths. Lacking the heart of the first trilogy, and relying too much on overblown action sequences, The Hobbit films (2012, 2013, 2014) were visually sumptuous but emotionally empty. Interestingly, colossal crap-factory The Asylum tried to cash-in on Jackson’s films in their typically tedious fashion by producing the bowel-rupturingly poor The Age of Hobbits, which caused a legal battle with the makers of The Hobbit.

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Yet there are some low-budget sword and sorcery films being made that actually have some sense of fun and a modicum of skill. Orcs (2011) is very silly, yet amusing, and the similarly themed Orc Wars (2013) is likewise a great little movie. Also based on Dungeons & Dragons, The Gamers (2002) is a nerd-in-joke heavy comedy, which follows the imaginary adventures of the characters created by a group of RPG gamers. It was so successful amongst the gaming fraternity, that a sequel, Dorkness Rising (2008) was produced. Following a Kickstarter campaign a third movie, this time related to collectible card-games, called Hands Of Fate (2013) also found an audience. The production company, Dead Gentlemen Productions, are also behind the innovative and equally amusing JourneyQuest web-series, which again sees a group of adventurers who roughly equate to D&D character-classes as they participate on a quest… which is a journey.

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The small screen has also been home to a number of successful sword and sorcery series. Most famous of these are the two series produced by Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert: Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1995-99), and Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001).

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Both saw broadly comic adventures in a realm based once again in Greek mythology. These were not the only small screen fantasies, however, as companies tried to produce successful shows modelled on these templates. The Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog (1998-99) which was based on ancient Irish legends was not a hit, nor was the comedy Krod Mandoon and The Flaming Sword of Fire (2009), which only lasted six episodes. More traditional, being based on a work of literature, was Legend of The Seeker (2008-10), based on Terry Goodkind’s The Sword of Truth series. Cancelled after only 2 seasons, it seemed as if small screen sword & sorcery just couldn’t survive. However, only a year after the demise of Legend of The Seeker new blood would be splashed over the small screen, alongside a great deal of naked flesh, and some rather fetching CGI dragons…

 

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Fantasy writer George R R Martin began an epic series of novels in 1996 with A Song of Fire and Ice, and has reached five books so far, with two still more to come. In 2011, the incredible world created by Martin reached the television. Now called Game of Thrones it follows the tribulations of a second-world family called The Starks, and how they are brought low by the machinations of other noble Houses. Game of Thrones is an astoundingly ambitious piece of work, outstripping The Lord of The Rings in complexity and length, and designed for a far more adult audience. Shown on US cable channel HBO, there is nudity, sex, violence, more nudity, dragons, homosexual relationships, nudity, violence and incest. Yet it is made with such care and reverence for the source material that it never feels like exploitation television.

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Winning a vast array of awards, Game of Thrones is reputed to be the most illegally downloaded show in history, proving that sword and sorcery is not a dead genre, that it is not even a genre for the young or overly nerdy, that it can encompass great tales of adventure and drama while firing the imagination at the same time. Currently in its fifth year, Game of Thrones will no doubt cause another massive influx of cheaply made inferior copies, but the show is so well made, so sumptuous to look at, that even half-professional movies will appear lacking.

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From Greek myths to Tolkien, from Sinbad to Conan, and from Xena to Game of Thrones, sword and sorcery has been with us since ancient times, and seems as if it will continue as long as there are people willing to devour such tales of high adventure. While The Lord of The Rings may dominate the big-screen, Game of Thrones dominates the small; between them, a new resurgence in the popularity of a subgenre that seemed played out in the 1990s has given fans hope for the future. Indeed, recently the director of Hawk The Slayer (1980), Terry Marcel, announced a sequel, Hawk The Hunter would hopefully be made in the next year. Not only does the future look as bright as a blade, but it seems that the old magic is rising once more. These may yet be looked back upon in years to come as the real glory-days of sword and sorcery cinema.

 

 

©John Fountain 2015

 

TV Bloodbath Pt 3: The CW and CBS

Perhaps one of the most genre friendly networks around turned out to be The CW.  And this year they really are the geek friendliest place on television.

The CW

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The CW kept nearly its entire lineup intact, nixing only two series, Hart of Dixie (which I didn’t even know existed) and The Messengers which only just started last month and tanked in the ratings dept.  If you didn’t get a chance to watch the whole 4 episodes or so that aired, the series was about regular people who realize they are fallen angels assigned to stop the apocalypse.

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The shows they are keeping though include Arrow, The Flash (considered one of the best comic book series on TV or around really,) The Vampire Diaries (which is losing lead actress Nina Dobrev), that shows spin off The Originals, newcomer (and one of my faves) iZombie, and the juggernaut that is Supernatural which is entering its 11th season (making it one of the longest running horror series EVER.)

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CBS

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CBS has a lot of series still left undecided on the renewal front yet.  One of those is Elementary, the US version of Sherlock from the UK (a modernized version of the Sherlock Holmes story.)  The series has lost a lot of ratings points over the last season so it’s still bubbled.   Another bubble show is The Good Wife which has a rabid fanbase (and bonus Alan Cumming.)

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Two series that are for sure getting renewed are the Robert Patrick headed Scorpion (geeks vs crime) and the on going nerd face that is Big Bang Theory (no matter how much we wish it would go away.)

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Cancel wise CBS ended Two and a Half Men after a long and eventful run and it also said goodbye to the Mentalist.

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It’s also important to point out that CBS has no less than three NCIS series now going and two CSI’s.  CBS needs to think about changing its name to CNCISI.

And now lets play do you remember:  Do you remember when Corey Feldman starred in Big Bang Theory back when it was on the first time and called something else, the oh so loving Dweebs.  Please, explain to me how this isn’t the same show.  Here’s a site with a nice write up about the series as well as the pilot episode.  It was also aired on CBS.  It only lasted a season though.

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The TV Bloodbath Part 2: NBC & FOX

After the news from ABC on who lived and who didn’t for next season we’re getting the announcements from FOX and NBC on who didn’t make it.

As I’m writing this I’m sort of amazed by how many of these shows that weren’t renewed I’d never even heard of.  And there are a lot of them.  You have to wonder why they even bothered with them if they weren’t going to try and advertise them as part of their line up.  Most of these are comedy 1/2 sitcoms which seems to be the equivalent of popcorn now for network television.  Quick to make, quick to eat, and you don’t really remember how many kernels you chewed up afterward.  And there’s a lot of  hot air involved.

NBC

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NBC not surprisingly has sent Constantine to the hell of cancellation.  The show, while loved by fans, was given the death spot of late Friday night (the same spot that killed Dracula.)  Twitter has taken up the call to try and save the series and has been trying for a few weeks now as they waited for word on the series fate.  #SaveConstantine is now the call to arms.

Personally I think Constantine would be well served on Hulu or Netflix.  With the success of Daredevil it’s evident that a show like Constantine would thrive if given the opportunity.  There’s hope his can happen, so let’s keep the faith.

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Political thrillers on NBC didn’t do very well (unless you lump The Blacklist into this category which will be returning.)  Allegiance (the NBC equivalent of The Americans) is gone.  So is the Katherine Heigl series State of Affairs (which I couldn’t even tell you which night it was on.)  Neither of these had more than a handful of episodes aired.

Hannibal is returning in June for a third season, so we won’t know if a 4th is in the offering until later.

FOX

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FOX has said no more to The Following.  The series that started out strong started losing ratings, and this last season saw the lead cult leader Joe Carroll played by James Purefoy (who is heading to a new series based on the works of Joe R Lansdale) executed.  The series will rap up this month but has some rumors swirling about looking for a new home on Netflix or Hulu.

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Backstrom is also canceled.  Rainn Wilson’s new series that I always saw as an attempt to remake House as a detective but no where near as likable couldn’t find an audience.  After not being able to make it through the pilot all the way this was not surprising to me.

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Oh, and don’t forget one of the biggest failures in network TV history happened for Fox earlier this year with Utopia.  The reality series died fast after costing the network a LOT of money.

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The renewals though for Fox are surprising.  Sleepy Hollow made it for a 3rd season.  So did Gotham (which was one of the first renewal announcements.)  The Last Man On Earth is also coming back as is fan favorite Bob’s Burgers.

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In the Jesus will it ever end category we have The Simpsons and amazingly enough Bones for an 11th season.  Family Guy is actually not confirmed yet nor is American Idol.

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We’ll be back with more of the winners and losers of the TV war!

 

 

 

Rule 1: The Moffat Lies – Osgood Lives!!

Yep, you knew it was probably true.  At the end of Peter Capaldi’s final season a fan favorite met their end…and no I’m not talking about Soldier Boy.  I’m talking about Osgood who, after a possible invite to see all of “time and space” our favorite fangirl was puffed into nothing by a mad Missy.

After much speculation and theories about Zygon doubles and who the real Osgood was we’ve got a the reveal that Osgood is back and she’s bringing the Zygon’s with her.  See below for the press release and commence fangirling for the fangirl!!!

BBC AMERICA’S DOCTOR WHO ANNOUNCES DOUBLE TROUBLE AS OSGOOD TAKES ON THE TERRIFYING ZYGONS

 

UNIT scientist Osgood, played by Ingrid Oliver, returns to Doctor Who for season nine. Having been killed by Missy (Michelle Gomez) in the show’s season eight finale ‘Death in Heaven’, Steven Moffat decides to bring back the Doctor’s biggest fan.

Steven Moffat, lead writer and Executive Producer, said: “Osgood is back, fresh from her recent murder at the end of last series. We recently confirmed that Osgood was definitely dead and not returning – but in a show about time travel, anything can happen. The brilliant Ingrid Oliver is back in action. This time though, can the Doctor trust his number one fan?”

The last time we saw Osgood as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart’s assistant was with the Twelfth Doctor during an invasion of Earth by an army of Cybermen led by a new, female incarnation of the Master. This time she’s back in action and comes face-to-face with the shape-shifting extra-terrestrial Zygons, as they also return for the new season. They last appeared in ‘The Day of the Doctor’ for the show’s 50th anniversary episode.

Speaking on set, Ingrid Oliver commented on her reappearance: “As every actor who’s worked on Doctor Who will tell you, there’s always the secret hope you’ll get the call asking you to come back. To actually receive that call is both unexpected and brilliant. The word ‘honour’ gets banded about a lot, but it really is, it’s an honour. Especially because I was so sure Osgood was a gonner after the last series!”

The two-part episode is currently being filmed in Cardiff, Wales, and is written by Peter Harness (Doctor Who – ‘Kill the Moon’, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Wallander), produced by Peter Bennett and directed by Daniel Nettheim (Line of Duty, Glue).

Also joining Peter Capaldi (The Doctor) and Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald) and confirmed for guest roles in the double episode is Jemma Redgrave, Jaye Griffiths, Cleopatra Dickens, Sasha Dickens, Abhishek Singh, Todd Kramer, Jill Winternitz, Nicholas Asbury, Jack Parker and Aidan Cook.

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