Monday, July 15, 2019

Flying Saucers In The Air, On The Air

George Apple and his family get away from the rat race by moving to a small town in Iowa. Everything is normal until one day George sees a UFO and reports it to the local newspaper. Soon he and his family became the target of ridicule.

But George is determined to prove he's not another flying saucer nut. He digs deep and discovers the strange object is part of a secret government project.

He learns the time and location of the next test of the futuristic vehicle. George invites along a skeptic who soon learns what George saw was no hallucination. George turns to the skeptic and says: "You're a down-to-earth man..."

(Insert gagging sound.)

Thus wrapped up the episode "The Witness" from the "Apple's Way" TV series (1974-1975.) Another example of how a mainstream series would introduce the flying saucer topic but then cop out with an earthly explanation. Fiction: OK. Science fiction: Nyet!

(Note: George Apple (portrayed by Ronnie Cox) earned a living as an architect. No evidence exists if he ever shared his UFO encounter with David Vincent.)

Back in the 1940s-1950s when radio was the popular medium three series -- mainstream ones, not SF anthologies -- would each dip for one show into the flying saucer controversy. The topic was leading news in the press and so it provided a different story background.

When the topic is introduced during each story it's scoffed at, embarrassing even to mention. Two separate action/adventure series had a tough guy hero who scorned investigating such nonsense.

"Dangerous Assignment" (1949-1953) followed the adventures of Steve Mitchell (portrayed by Brian Donlevy), a US special agent who travels around the world under the direction of his boss, "The Commissioner."

In the episode "Investigate Flying Saucers" [1] Steve Mitchell has to cut short a drive in the country with a hot redhead when The Commissioner calls him in. Steve is annoyed to hear the assignment involves flying saucers.

Steve: "Now don't tell me you're going to give me a Buck Rogers ray gun to shoot them down."

But Steve goes to South America to find out why private cargo planes are missing, the last report from each pilot mentioning a flying saucer before radio silence.

He takes a night ride in one of the cargo planes when a flying saucer appears. Suddenly the pilot is knocked out but Steve is able to land the plane. He suspects the saucers are coming from the ground, not outer space.

Following clues Steve learns the saucers are actually rockets with fireworks attached to the bottom of the cargo planes. Sorry, no gray aliens. As for the passed out pilot he was in on the scheme, faking his unconsciousness.

Apparently a revolutionary group is trying to scare off planes flying over its secret airstrip. And what better way to avoid attracting any attention than phony flying saucers and missing cargo planes?

And then there's another two-fisted American agent, David Harding, Counterspy, whose radio adventures included a flying saucer caper.

Counterspy was sponsored by the "energy drink" Pepsi-Cola, the announcer spelling out the product's name P-E-P-S-I-C-O-L-A. Not to be confused with another popular soft drink with a dubious original formula.

The program mentions Counterspy special reports to the American people. The announcer details another special report to the American people by United States Testing Company Incorporated, a glowing tribute to the benefits of Pepsi-Cola. No mention of the crash after the sugar high or cavities.

In the "The Case of the Soaring Saucer" [2] David Harding is conducting an operation against narcotics smugglers based in Mexico. One action stops two million dollars worth of the original Coca-Cola -- oops, I mean plain old snow-- and results in the deaths of two smugglers.

But the head of the smuggling operation isn't too upset about his bust. He has found a modern/futuristic way of getting the drugs across the border. Do I need to mention the method of transport?

Harding is contacted by an Army Air Corps officer who shows him what a pilot shot down: a man-made radio-controlled saucer with a concealed narcotics compartment filled with white stuff. Harding observes that the smugglers were using psychology, using the most publicized thing to cover up their illegal operation. Of course flying saucers, even phony ones, wouldn't attract any attention, especially to the Army Air Corps, right?

Besides the aforementioned action/adventure series the flying disc topic dropped during an episode of the comedy series "Fibber McGee and Molly" about a working class couple. The series starred real life couple Jim and Marian Jordan who also created the sit com. It was annoyingly sponsored by Johnson's Wax Company and its astounding "Glo-Coat" product for floors.

"A Flying Saucer Lands In McGee's Yard" [3] opens with the narrator talking about the discussion over flying saucers, the pro people swear they have seen them, the con thinking it's some sort of mass hypnosis. Then he introduces one of the con men, Fiber McGee, and his wife Molly.

Fibber and Molly are debating whether or not saucers are real. Molly says the objects have been seen by pilots who are trained observers. Malapropistic Fibber scoffs, says all sighting are a mere "pygmy" of imagination.

When Fibber and Molly are leaving their house with a friend a strange whirring sound is heard with accompanying metallic crash noises. All three are astounded to see a flying saucer in the front yard.

A crowd gathers. One visitor turns out to be a Johnson Floor Wax salesman who says the saucer proves their is interplanetary life. He dreams about expanding his territory to other planets like Mars. He goes into a pitch about Glo-Gloat. How's that for annoying product placement? At this point I was hoping the saucer would open up and a Martian heat ray struck down the salesman. So how protective is your Glo-Coat now, Mr. Carbon Stain On The Sidewalk?

A little girl shows up and once again an earthly but abysmally dubious explanation even for a comedy show is given for the saucer. She and her friends made the saucer with skyrocket fireworks and her mother's old roasting pan.

After the incident the mother might have punished her troublesome daughter by washing out the little girl's mouth with Glo-Coat. (Then again among all the other amazing claims Glo-Coat might prevent cavities.)


Wednesday, June 26, 2019

White House Crisis

The President wants to run the country his way. He rages against anyone who challenges his plans while thinking a cabal is out to destroy him.

Meet US President Mark Hollenbach, the antagonist of Night of Camp David by Fletcher Knebel, a novel first published in 1965.

All the problems with the aberration now holding power in the White House has created renewed interest in this novel. Besides some parallels to real life it raises issues related to the current situation, i.e., how to handled the problems.

In the novel the secret committee behind Project CACTUS -- Command and Control, The Ultimate System -- is trying to reduce a nuclear launch by mistake or miscalculation "with particular attention to insulation of human aberrations."

The President has final authority to launch a nuke strike with the limitation of two National Command Authorities agreeing with his decision. But even that means nothing when he can overrule the other two men.

CACTUS is apparently a fictional device used to discuss this issue. The committee leader says that no one can prevent someone from flipping out but can isolate that individual from the big decision.

Even before the Aberration in Chief was sworn in some expressed great concern about whether he's stable enough to be in charge of the launch codes.

Night of Camp David also deals with the problem of putting succession in motion to remove a (mentally) disabled president. A group of governmental officials gather to discuss whether the President is indeed mentally unfit and whether succession should be initiated. The group argues in circles for hours with no definite consensus. Like I say a platypus is an eagle designed by a committee but these guys can't even produce a baby winged platypus.

Is President Hollenbach nuts? Let's see, he wants the FBI to monitor all phone conversations, storing the recordings in a computer system. Crazy, huh? (But since 9/11...)

Hollenbach comes up with grandiose plans like the US uniting with Scandinavia followed by other European countries joining in. If the other countries don't want to join then force -- maybe military force -- would persuade them. After the creation of a super-government Hollenbach would served as its prime minister. A bit delusional and narcissistic like some leader we all know. ( A proposal for a US-Russia union, anyone?)

While raising disturbing points Night of Camp David doesn't really follow through on them. The ending is too convenient, a cop out. If we see Checkov's gun then it should be fired. Dealing directly with President Hollanbach could have examined, how one choice turns out to be the right or wrong one. The novel just provides a red-white-and-blue happy ending.

Lame ending = cold gun.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Space Vampire Comedy Double Feature

Cosmic coitus is just cheeky.

The Turner Classic Movies cable TV channel sometimes shows classick movies.

The other night TCM presented Lifeforce and Queen of Blood.  Oh boy, space vampires handled in a hamfisted way.

Tobe Hooper's Lifeforce is just as amusing the second time around.  It's based upon Colin Wilson's book The Space Vampires. 

Astronauts encounter a strange mothership heading towards the earth and after making contact a beautiful female space vampire ends up on the loose on Earth.

Actress Mathilda May [1] portrays the lovely almost-always-nude vampire in question.  How nude is she?  Well it's obvious that Space Girl (as she's called in the credits) doesn't shave, a trend that came later after this 1985 disasterpiece.

Space Girl ends up unleashing a plague upon London, turning humans into zombie energy vampires.  The movie ties in these energy vampires with the legendary bloodsuckers: the aliens have visited before to harvest lifeforce.

At the end of the movie Lifeforce is being sucked up at a central location, a display of incredible energy.  Using iron as a weapon stops the menace.   Hey, this plot sounds familiar.  It should be since it rips off the general storyline of Five Million Years to Earth/Quatermass and the Pit.  But despite Lifeforce's bigger budget the story isn't as polished as Nigel Neale's script.

There's the feeling they were constantly rewriting the script as filming proceeded, ending up with a wacko mess that I couldn't follow.  In fact I won't bother to try to concisely summarize the plot because my life is too short.

I will say if you like to see Patrick Stewart (or a cheap dummy) have his blood drained out of his eyes, nose and mouth to form a floating gory image of Space Girl then this is your movie.

Many critics panned Lifeforce.  And the biggest critic was Colin Wilson who witnessed his SF novel being trashed on the big screen.  There's the story that author John Fowles stated the movie based on his novel The Magus was the worst film ever created.  Wilson told him via postcard that Lifeforce was one up over The Magus, thus being the worst movie. [2]

On the bottom of the double bill was Queen of Blood (1966), a movie with a cheaper budget but easier to follow and just as entertaining.  To save money footage from a Soviet film Mechte Navstrechu (A Dream Come True) was used, new scenes created around the imported excerpts.  In stark contrast to the cheap American segments the Soviet film has superior special effects with eerie color tones.

In the future -- the year 1990 to be exact -- Earth receives an interstellar radio message saying that visitors are on the way.  Later another message is received that the alien's ship has crashed and they need to be rescued.

So astronauts blast off and rescue a female lone survivor on the Martian moon Phobos.  Besides her green skin the survivor has silver plastic hair pushed back to a point, her hairdo evocative of an acorn or a condom tip. 

A scene with the almost snickering Dennis Hopper.

The astronauts head back to Earth, not suspecting their passenger has a particular taste.  After she kills one astronaut they try to keep her under control by feeding her plasma.  Guess how well that works out.

Dennis Hopper portrays one of the endangered astronauts.  At one point he's  suppressing a snicker while uttering his dialogue.  No surprise to learn he thought the script was stupid and he had to force himself to keep a straight face [3].  As a viewer I wasn't under such a restriction:  I could let out a good laugh. 

Queen of Blood wraps up with a classick ending by laying an egg -- actually, many eggs. 

I recommend this movie as a goodbad film.  And if you don't find a goodbad film to be worth a few laughs there are still the haunting scenes lifted from A Dream Come True.

[1]  Mathilda May also stars in the disturbing Spanish film The Tit and the Moon (La Teta y la luna) 1994 [ ]  The plot involves a preteen boy who wants to get suckled like his baby sibling.  Maybe I'm not sophisticated enough to be unbothered by a couple of scenes.  At one point the boy stands in front of bare chested May and she squirts her breast milk into his gaping mouth.  (May must be the titular character.)  Later there's a scene where he suckles May and then another woman on a outdoor balcony    Doesn't Spain have child protection laws?



Friday, March 29, 2019

The Wormhole Loophole

Lake Monster or floating log?

After a twenty minute walk from where I live I can stand on the shore of Lake Champlain and view the Vermont Green Mountains in the distance.  Despite the reports of Champy/Champ since Samuel de Champlain explored the lake back in 1609 I've never witnessed a large serpent rising to the surface.*

My argument against Champy has been the lack of any carcass or skeleton.  If plesiosaur fossils can be found then why not the legendary Lake Champlain critter?

So I'm surfing the cable TV channels, looking for something good to watch (my remote's channel button is wearing out) when I stumble upon an episode of Ancient Aliens Declassified on the alleged "History" Channel.

There's discussion of Champy and other such creatures from around the world.  So how can they be so elusive, leaving not a trace behind?  Simple.  Underwater  wormholes.  The serpents are extraterrestrial, popping in from temporary interdimensional portals.

Wouldn't such portals be detected on the surface by the water below being suddenly displaced, fountaining up?  Wouldn't their presence be detected by sonar devices, i.e. fish finders and depth finders?

Of course Ancient Aliens always includes such qualifiers such as "Could it be...?"  and "According to ancient alien theorists..." with no definite conclusions.

Could it be the "History" Channel has sold out to boost ratings?  Yes.

Could these interdimensional portals allow other beings to pass through such as the Easter Bunny and Lovecraftian terrors as ancient astronaut theorists proclaim?

Well, why not?  Maybe I'll spot Cthulhu exploding to the surface, towering above all.

 * Champlain saw a strange creature near the Saint Lawrence river, not Lake Champlain as been erroneously stated.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Bill Mahar: Anus Or Asshole?

Stan Lee on the left, sphincter opening on the right.

By Ray X

When Stan Lee died last year TV "personality" Bill Mahar looked down his nose and passed judgement on adult comic book and superhero movie patrons with a overly critically blog post.  He was unimpressed with Lee's accomplishments including co-creating many of Marvel Comics superheroes.

Recently Mahar was at it again on his program Real Time with a segment cleverly titled "Goodbye, Mr. Strips."  He claimed he never said anything bad about Stan Lee.  His sneering snobbery was directed at the followers of Lee's works.  He barnbrushed all such individuals as immature, that they should grow up and read real literature like Toni Morrison.

It's ironical that liberal Mahar speaks out against prejudice and discrimination but stereotypes all individuals who enjoy supehero fiction as immature losers.  Bill, do you mean not one comic book reader has read Toni Morrison?

Mahar sums up his disdain towards fans with this comment: "I’m not glad Stan Lee is dead, I’m sad you’re alive.”

Narrow-minded Mahar thinks the comic book medium is nothing but "silly" superheroes.  Is Art Spiegelman's "Maus" nothing but a childish diversion?  Is the TV medium nothing but sitcoms, reality shows etc.?  Does TV only provide an outlet for cranky old men like Mahar who should shut up and go to bed?

Check out the title of this essay.  Unfair?  Yes, just as unfair as what Mahar spews about all comic book readers.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Sci Fi Elements of Gunsmoke

Matt Dillon: man or mutant?

By Ray X

"What's wrong with these kids nowadays?  All they want to watch on TV are crazy superheroes and monsters.  When I was growing up we had good quality TV shows, westerns, that were based on reality."

Indeed, disgruntled baby boomer.  TV westerns were realistic.

Take the most popular western series, Gunsmoke.  Unrealistic?  Never.

On second thought...

Gunsmoke followed the adventures of our hero US Marshall Matt Dillon and his friends in Dodge City, Kansas.  Ever hear the phrase ""Get out of Dodge?"  Look no further than this show.

Standard scene: a bad guy has the drop on a good guy, his finger firmly placed on the trigger.  But a quick move by the good guy, striking the bad guy's wrist, and the gun flew away, no shot fired.

One would expect striking a gun holder's hand would result in a pulled trigger.  Ergo good guy drilled.  But in Gunsmoke World a shootist just automatically releases his gun, tossing it aside.   Maybe good guys have some sort of power like the Force, knowing where to hit that special nerve.

Speaking of guns they possess a special feature in Gunsmoke World.  Shoot someone, just one bullet, and he falls asleep, instant dirt nap zap.  No crying out in pain, no writhing in agony.  Compare that to the unrealistic Star Trek phaser set to stun.

Occasionally someone lives long enough to utter some last words before he's embraced by eternal oblivion.  But usually the bad guys just flop down, not even a groan.  And let's not forget getting stabbed, a knife in the back. Yup, a sharp blade provides swift lifelessness.

Matt Dillon was the exception to the instant death by bullet rule.  He was always getting winged in the arm or worse took one to the belly.  But no matter how bad the wound he survived the day.  Over the run of the series Matt endured multiple gunshots.  Swiss cheese Dillon would fully recover without previous wounds slowing him down.  Was he really a mutant with regenerative self-healing power like the Marvel superhero Wolverine?

A bad guy would hit Matt in the head, knocking him unconscious, and our hero would never suffer permanent damage.  Matt would shrug it off like a mild cold.  No subdural hematoma for him.

In one episode a head blow really rung his bell.  The ringing lasted for most of the episode, Matt seeing double vision, barely able to walk around without help.  At the episode's conclusion a bad guy shoved him to the ground, inducing another bean banger.  But this second blow restored Matt's vision back to normal so he could take out the bad guys.  Another mutant power?

Yes, TV westerns like Gunsmoke taught valuable lessons to young viewers like shooting someone results in a painless permanent sleep.  So keep the kids away from those crazy superhero and monster shows.  A twisted sense of reality will warp their young impressible minds.