Monday, January 31, 2011

Obit: John Barry, R.I.P.

John Barry, the acclaimed film composer who was probably best known for his scores to Born Free, The Ipcress Files, Body Heat, Midnight Cowboy, and the majority of James Bond films between 1963's From Russia With Love and 1987's The Living Daylights, passed away Sunday at age 77.

Among his many memorable musical scores were the themes to Space: 1970 favorites Starcrash (1978):

And The Black Hole (1979):

Barry was a versatile and influential composer, and will be greatly missed.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

SPACE: 1999 Charlton Comics Cover Gallery

Joe Staton
Joe Staton
John Byrne
John Byrne
John Byrne
John Byrne
Pat Boyette
Presenting another illustration-heavy post to keep things going while I try to make time to wrap up some more substantial articles - in this case, a gallery of the covers to Charlton Comics' 7-issue, color Space: 1999 comic book series.

The company also published a B&W magazine-format Space: 1999 title, and I'll showcase those covers here one of these days, as well. The first two issues were drawn by my pal Joe Staton, and the next four by on-the-verge-of-superstardom Marvel artist John Byrne. The seventh issue sported a cover and interior art by the idiosyncratic Charlton workhorse Pat Boyette.

(Scans courtesy of the Grand Comics Database.)

Coming Attractions: ALIEN (1979) Theatrical Trailer

In space, no one can hear you's the trailer to Ridley Scott's Alien, from 1979. I doubt that anyone suspected then that the movie would spawn three direct theatrical sequels and a couple of crossover films (with those nasty Predators), not to mention countless comic books, toys and other merchandise. In fact, of all 70s genre films, only Star Wars really surpasses its pop culture longevity.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Not the 70s: HUNTER PREY (2010)

I generally don't write about modern sci-fi films here unless they are sequels/remakes/re-imaginings of genuine Space: 1970-era stuff, but after reading about Sandy Collora's Hunter Prey over on Retrospace, where blogger Gilligan praised it for its 70s sci-fi "feel," I decided to rent it from Netflix.


A prisoner transport ship crashes on an uncharted desert planet, and the prisoner - the last of its species and possessor of a secret that could destroy a world - escapes.The three survivors of the ship's crew set out to recapture the alien as they await rescue. But their fugitive is cunning, resilient and ruthless, and before long, there are only two players left in the deadly game of extraterrestrial cat-and-mouse - one hunter and one prey... but which is which?

For a reported budget of less than a half-mil, shot on high-def RED digital cameras, Hunter Prey is a remarkable achievement, especially for its microscopic (in Hollywood terms) budget, 17-day shoot and less than 20-man crew. The basic premise is familiar, borrowing from John Boorman's Hell In The Pacific (or, in sci-fi terms, Enemy Mine), but the execution is exemplary. Director Sandy Collora, whose Batman fan-film, Dead End, was a Comic-Con and Internet sensation a few years back, has crafted a thoughtful, intelligent, character-driven science fiction adventure that harkens back to the SF flicks of the 1970s and early 80s.

With virtually no money, Collora and his collaborators make great use of some extraordinarily well-designed costumes & props, cool alien prosthetic make-ups, old-school miniature spaceship effects, deftly-executed & restrained CGI, remarkably otherworldly & masterfully-shot Mexican locations, and a handful of talented actors to assemble a visually striking and expensive-looking feature that deserves to be a lot better known.

The screenplay, by Collora and Nick Damon, is well structured, with a series of perfectly-placed revelations and twists that put a decidedly different spin on the otherwise familiar premise. The dialogue is smart and witty, and the script is peppered with clever in-jokes and references for fans of vintage sci-fi and comic books. The performances by Damion Poiter (an actor/stuntman) and Clark Bartram (another actor/stuntman, who portrayed the Caped Crusader himself in Dead End) are surprisingly good, making their characters sympathetic and engaging. Erin Gray (of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century) also provides a great voiceover job as a computer with a personality and pivotal role in the plot. The music by Christopher Hoag evokes the best of Jerry Goldsmith, and perfectly underscores the action and drama.

It's not perfect - how could it be? The story is a bit thin for a feature, and some of the dialogue (especially in the beginning) is a little repetitive, but Collora demonstrates a distinctive visual flair and a real love/appreciation for the genre, and that makes Hunter Prey especially worthwhile in this era of microbudget "sci-fi" that seems exclusively the domain of megafish and supersnakes.

The DVD from Maya Entertainment sports a crystal-clear and razor-sharp 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and 5.1 Dolby sound. Bonus features include an informative and enthusiastic audio commentary by the director, and an entertaining, comprehensive behind-the-scenes documentary.

For fans of 70s-styled science fiction -and if you're reading this site, that's probably you - Hunter Prey is highly recommended.

BUYHunter Prey

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Happy Birthday Buck!

Here's wishing Gil Gerard, Captain William "Buck" Rogers himself, a very happy 67th birthday!

Friday, January 21, 2011

STAR TREK 4 Art by Lou Feck

As a sci-fi fan in the 1970s, the Bantam Books Star Trek paperbacks by James Blish were a steady part of my reading diet. These volumes each contained a half-dozen or so short story adaptations of the original television episodes, and, as the series was inconsistently aired in my central Maine TV market, my first exposure to many of the classic Original Series stories was through Blish's adaptations.

For some reason, almost all of the Bantam editions featured paintings of the Enterprise rather than the characters. I don't know if, this early in the Trek merchandising phenomenon, likeness rights were still a tricky issue, or if someone just thought that the iconic starship was a stronger way to attract the eyes of both Trekkies and science fiction readers in general. Either way, there was quite a variety in styles and artists, and that was cool.

A number of striking starship images graced those covers, but even as a kid, something about Lou Feck's rendition on Star Trek 4 (first published in 1971, and endlessly reprinted throughout the decade) really struck a chord with me. Perhaps it was the cool, blue palette, or the simple, effective composition, with the graceful Enterprise orbiting between a dying planet and its jagged-surfaced moon... I dunno. But I love it.

Someone else liked this painting too  - Bantam re-used it a few years later, sans obscuring cover type, on a collection of puzzles for kids, the Star Trek Puzzle Manual.

Artist Lou Feck is something of a fascinating mystery to me. He was one of the first paperback cover illustrators whose style and signature I recognized as a voracious, adolescent reader, and was one of my favorites.

His work seemed to mostly appear on books from Bantam in the 70s, including many of the early Clive Cussler adventure novels. I even actually own one of his originals (not this Star Trek one, though). Unfortunately, there's virtually no info about this talented artist on the Internet, except that he died in '81.

Anyway, when I stumbled upon this beautiful scan of Feck's painting, it sparked a powerful wave of nostalgia, and I wanted to share it here. The Bantam Star Trek paperbacks were a huge part of my childhood sci-fi fandom and this particular cover holds a prominent place in those memories. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Captain's bLog 0118.11

•  Still haven't had time to finish up those "End of the World" posts. This winter so far has just been far busier than expected on the "real work" front. So much for a theme "week." >Sigh.< I'll get them completed and posted just as soon as I can. Thanks for your patience.

•   Time-Life is currently offering the pilot films & first season of The Six Million Dollar Man as a standalone DVD release. I don't know how long it will be available, or if they'll be making the other seasons available individually, but if, like me, you can't afford the complete series set with its fancy packaging, you can click over to their site and check it out.

Thanks to donations from some generous Space: 1970 readers around New Year's, I was able to order this first season release - and I can't wait to pop the discs into my player. I never saw the original pilot films, and I'm looking forward to finally getting to watch them. Hopefully, it will arrive this week, although each day when I check the tracking number, the estimated delivery date is moved an additional 24 hours later. Right now, it's supposed to get here on Friday. (And yet, it's supposedly at a FedEx depot less than three hours' drive from here.)

•  Sunday night, I picked up the Blu-Ray edition of Stanley Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey at my local WalMart for $10.

While it's not my favorite science fiction film of the era, I'm thrilled to have it in HD. The special effects and production design were groundbreaking and hugely influential on the SF of the subsequent decade (especially in the case of Space: 1999), and seeing them in high def is eye-opening. The enhanced audio is nice, too.

I haven't had time to sit down and watch it through, nor delve into the fairly extensive supplemental features, but I'm eager to do so.

•  "Gilligan" over at Retrospace just posted a really cool round-up - complete with audio files embedded - of his top 17 sci-fi TV themes and intros. My list would have been slightly different, but he's got all the classics there, and it's a fun collection. Check it out HERE.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

News: LOGAN'S RUN TV series on DVD in 2011

TV Shows on DVD is reporting that Warners Archive is in the process of putting together a Logan's Run - The Complete Series manufacture-on-demand DVD-R set for release sometime this year. It will contain all 13 episodes. You can find their article HERE.

I'm a fan of the show, which starred Gregory Harrison, Heather Menzies, Donald Moffat, and the ugliest solar-powered "hovercraft" ever imagined. The show wasn't great, but it was a lot of fun, and had several really good episodes.

Star Trek veteran D.C. Fontana wrote for and was story editor on the show, which was produced by William Cairncross and Leonard Katzman, who had been responsible for Fantastic Journey the previous year.

Guest stars included Mary Woronov (Death Race 2000), Kim Cattrall (Star Trek VI), Soon-Tek Oh, Jared Martin (The Fantastic Journey), Melody Anderson (Flash Gordon), Angela Cartwright (Lost In Space), Barbara Babcock, Nehemiah Persoff, and Gerald McRaney.

Hopefully, by the time they get this set put together, I'll be able to figure out a way to order discs from Warner Archive. (Last I tried, they did not accept debit cards, and I don't currently use a credit card.)

Friday, January 7, 2011

News: STAR WARS on Blu-Ray in September

It was announced yesterday by 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm that the original three Star Wars films (and the three fake Star Wars films) will be released in high-definition on the Blu-Ray format in the U.S. in September.
George Lucas's sci-fi adventures will be released in three different box sets and are available to pre-order now. The 9-disc Star Wars: The Complete Saga includes all six films, Star Wars: Prequel Blu-ray Trilogy contains Episodes I-III on 3 discs and Star Wars: Original Blu-ray Trilogy has Episodes IV-VI across 3 discs.

The Complete Saga features 30 hours of extensive extras, including deleted and alternate scenes and a look into the Star Wars archive.

Fox Home Entertainment president Mike Dunn said: "The Star Wars saga is the most anticipated Blu-ray collection since the launch of the high-def format.

"The epic franchise pioneered sound and visual presentation in theatres and is perfectly suited to do it again in the home, with a viewing experience only possible with Blu-ray."

Lucasfilm vice president of marketing, online, distribution Doug Yates added: "With all six episodes available for the first time in one collection, this is a great way for families and home audiences to experience the complete saga from start to finish."
 Presumably, these are the re-worked "Special Editions" of the original trilogy, and not the theatrical editions, which means that Greedo will shoot first in HD...

Pre-Order: Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Episodes I-VI) [Blu-ray]

•  Been busy with some deadline-tight comics work this week; sorry for the lack of posts. Have a number of articles in draft form (including a couple more End of the World posts), and will polish them up and get them online as soon as I can squeeze in the time. Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

January's Space Babe: Nichelle Nichols

The first Space Babe of 2011 is none other than Nichelle Nichols as Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, the curvaceous, competent communications officer of the original starship Enterprise on Star Trek. Beautiful, sexy and charismatic, Nichols portrayed one of science fiction's first female interstellar professionals.

She was a full-fledged, commissioned officer on a starship, and not just a pretty face to scream in the face of danger, make coffee for the men, and be rescued from bug-eyed monsters. The character was pretty much always portrayed as an expert in her field and an exemplary officer - and could even hold her own in a fight. She stood up for herself, and while she wasn't afraid to admit when she was scared, she also showed uncommon courage and pride in herself and her abilities. It is to both to the writers' and the actress's credit that Uhura also exhibited a sense of humor, unabashed sexuality and an artistic, musical soul.

Nichols, whose 78th birthday was just a few days ago (December 28), is an accomplished singer and actress, who has worked for NASA helping to recruit women and minorities into the space program, and has written music, poetry and fiction. She reprised the role of Uhura on the Star Trek animated series and six feature films, as well a few video games.

Here's a link to her official website. (Though it hasn't been updated in years, apparently.)