Saturday, January 31, 2015

Saturday Morning Cartoons: DRACULA: SOVEREIGN OF THE DAMNED



I absolutely love TOMB OF DRACULA, a comic series published by Marvel during the 1970s during a time when the company was interested in more than just superheroes. It's a terrific series that I discussed a little in 2013 HERE, and is well worth searching out.

I love TOMB OF DRACULA, but I don't so much love DRACULA: SOVEREIGN OF THE DAMNED, a Japanese cartoon produced in 1980 under the title "Yami no Teiō: Kyūketsuki Dorakyura," or "Emperor of Darkness: Vampire Dracula." The idea of an anime adaption of TOMB OF DRACULA sounds great on paper, but the reality is a disaster.

In fact, I'm starting to feel guilty about unleashing this 90-minute atrocity on you. So, let me salvage this experience with a little bit of trivia.

I know next to nothing about anime, so the scant bits of trivia on Wikipedia and IMDB didn't mean a lot to me. So, I asked my wife, Sara, who's a longtime fan of Japanese animation. She did a little more digging and found some interesting facts about the cast of DRACULA: SOVEREIGN OF THE DAMNED.

Kenji Utsumi provides the voice of Dracula in the film, and has appeared in everything from FIST OF THE NORTH STAR, which "was one of those things that was super popular because it was available in the U.S. when not much was," to "original recipe" DRAGONBALL. Those are her words, not mine.

"It looks like he was never a superstar, but played an ass ton of supporting and minor roles," she said. "And he was the Japanese voice of Steve McQueen and... Bob Hoskins?  And also John Rhys-Davies in the LORD OF THE RINGS movies."

Sara might not have used a term like "ass ton" is she knew she was going to be quoted (journalism!), but she also pointed out that it's traditional in Japan for one actor to dub all the voice work for particular celebrities.

Mami Koyama, who provided the voice of Rachel Van Helsing in DRACULA: SOVEREIGN OF THE DAMNED, was in AKIRA, DRAGONBALL, etc. Koyama is also the voice of Sharon Stone in Japan, and dubs "Elaine" on SEINFELD.

Sara: "Can you imagine Japanese Seinfeld? WTF do they think the show is about?"

If Dracula looks a little familiar in the animated film, it's not your imagination. When the original TOMB OF DRACULA comic series was launched by Marvel in 1972, artist Gene Colan based his interpretation on Jack Palance. The following year, the actor would actually play the vampire in Dan Curtis' adaption of Bram Stoker's novel.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Please vote for the CHS in the Shorty Awards!


Howdy!

With THE COLLINSPORT HISTORICAL SOCIETY celebrating its third birthday (and DARK SHADOWS rapidly approaching its epic 50th anniversary) it seems like a good time to rally the troops and get this site nominated for a Shorty Award in the #fansite category.

The Shorty Awards, also called the Shortys, is an annual awards event that recognizes creators of real-time short form content across Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, Instagram and other social media. If you're an avid fan of this site, you'll know we're everywhere. The CHS also creates content for these platforms as a way of making each social media experience unique.

If you're already sold on the idea, click here to vote with a Tweet. And don't forget to include WHY you think we're worth a Shorty nomination. If you don't provide a reason, they won't count the vote.

Nominating is exclusive to Twitter and is easy to complete. Here's an example:


If you don’t use Twitter, you can still help the CHS by promoting this link on the platforms you DO use, such as Facebook, Tumblr, etc. Nominations for the Shorty Awards are open until Feb. 19, 2015.

I launched THE COLLINSPORT HISTORICAL SOCIETY in 2012 as a way to explore the phenomenon of DARK SHADOWS fandom. Since then, the website has added contributing writers, as well as a podcast that has featured many of the show's original cast members and the creators working to keep DARK SHADOWS alive through audio dramas, novels and comics. We've also established a publishing line that collects our MONSTER SERIAL essays, and won the Rondo for best blog back in 2012.

Thanks for taking the time to read this!

Wallace McBride
The CHS

Own a piece of Tim Burton's Collinwood


Prop Store, which also bills itself as verb unfriendly "Ultimate Movie Collectibles," has a number of interesting props available for sale from Tim Burton's DARK SHADOWS catastrophe film. Say what you want about the movie, but production design was not among its many, many problems. DARK SHADOWS was a gorgeous piece of work.

Prop Store has a weird assortment of screen-used props from the film for sale, some more significant than others. I dig the Collins Catch seafood cans, myself, but they've also got Angelique's voodoo doll, the "FX" toothbrush used by Johnny Depp in the (sigh) mirror gag, pumpkins, a coffin door and tons of other stuff. You can explore the site for yourself HERE.


DARK SHADOWS: BLOODLUST available on Amazon


Both volumes of DARK SHADOWS: BLOODLUST are now available for pre-order on Amazon. Volume 1 is set for release tomorrow, Jan. 31, with Volume 2 scheduled for release on Feb. 28. If you haven't heard it yet (Big Finish has been releasing MP3 episodes online for the last few weeks) you're missing out. I'd caution against wandering into online discussions about the series until hearing it for yourself, because the cliffhangers and plot twists are part of the fun.

If you want to own the physical CD collections, Amazon appears to have the best prices. Even better, if you order both sets as a bundle, you can get all 7 discs for just $37.16.

AMAZON

Thursday, January 29, 2015

New DARK SHADOWS "greatest hits" collections coming in 2015


Two new DARK SHADOWS "greatest hits"packages are coming your way from MPI Home Video later this year.

While release dates have for the DVDs have yet to be determined, Dan Curtis Productions spokesman Jim Pierson said the discs will be "best of" collections showcasing the characters of Angelique and Quentin Collins.

The discs are a continuation of a marketing strategy that's been in place since DARK SHADOWS first arrived on home video in the late 1980s. DARK SHADOWS is possibly the most cumbersome television series that's ever been collected for syndication and home video. With more than 1,200 episodes (which need to be viewed in consecutive order) it's been a difficult series to introduce to new audiences.

The DARK SHADOWS sampler packages, from the "Best of Dark Shadows" VHS release in 1989 to the more recent "The Haunting of Collinwood" DVD, are designed as mass-market releases and sold at low price points to engage new viewers.

Actors Lara Parker and David Selby have had input into the episodes selected for upcoming Angelique and Quentin releases, Pierson said. The upcoming collections won't feature repeats of episodes collection on previous compilations, and will likely include new bonus material.

"Of course, everyone has their favorites," he said. "But hopefully these compilations hit a good number of consensus choices."

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

ABC releases teaser for AGENTS OF SHIELD 2015 debut


Marvel's AGENTS OF SHIELD is set to return March 3 on ABC. And, when it does, it will be bringing DARK SHADOWS alumnus Kathryn Leigh Scott with it. ABC has released the first trailer for the episode, titled "Aftershocks." The teaser will give you an idea of where the season is headed, but there's still no official word on the nature of Scott's appearance in the show.

You can read more about the episode HERE.

#Snowpocalypse comes to Collinwood


"My name is Victoria Winters. As snow falls on Collinwood,
I realize that it must cost a fortune to heat this place."

Photo courtesy of the good folks at Seaview Terrace.

Podcast: THE BLOODLUST HALFTIME STRETCH

The writers and producers of DARK SHADOWS: BLOODLUST have shared a podcast discussion about the series, which has reached its halfway point this week. The first six episodes of the series (as well as the free prelude, SNOWFLAKE) have been collected on a 3-disc CD collection, with the remaining episodes to follow on a 4-disc set.

Here's the official podcast description:

As Big Finish's Dark Shadows serial — the 13-part Bloodlust — reaches its halfway point this week, the producers and writers have taken some time to have a round-table discussion about where it came from, the origins and background of the show itself, the aspects of writing the whole adventure, and how it's been received and the issues it raises.

Join Joseph Lidster, David Darlington, Alan Flanagan and Will Howells for a fun and informative conversation, there's a tiny clip of Episode 7, plus nowhere else will you get a first-hand account of the great Pizza Express battle...

There will be another podcast after Episode 13 is released - email enquiries@bigfinish.com with any questions you'd like answered or discussed!


Get the podcast HERE!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Presenting the winners of THE MORGUE's coloring contest




A few weeks back, I offered up the Blu-ray edition of the original KING KONG as a way of promoting a new feature here at the CHS, "The Morgue." It was an easy task: All you had to do was complete a 1933 coloring contest from 1933 to enter. It seemed like a better use of my meager marketing budget than just dumping my hard-earned dollars on a Facebook promotion. Or, worse, spending no money and relying on a sleazy "Like and Share" campaign.

There weren't many entries. In fact, the three you see above represented the entire contest pool ... and they're from the same household. While I'm a little disappointed in the quantity of entries, this family more than made up for it in quality.

Monday, January 26, 2015

DARK SHADOWS over Fort Wayne, Ind., 1968


(Below is a newspaper interview with Jonathan Frid, taken shortly after his national publicity tour for DARK SHADOWS. While the story was published in The Washington Post, the photos are taken from other sources and show his visit that year to Fort Wayne, Indiana.)

He Shadows Women by Day
The Washington Post, May 27, 1968

By Meryle Secrest

In the weird world of daytime soap opera, housewives are gaga about ghouls.

Jonathan Frid doesn’t quite understand it, but he’s not knocking it either.

He seems to be thoroughly enjoying the sudden fame he has acquired as Barnabas Collins, vampire hero of “Dark Shadows,” on WMAL-TV.

The only time he gets slightly ruffled is when his viewers do not seem to be able to distinguish between Barnabas, the vampire, and Frid, the man.

“I get letters saying ‘Don’t you be so cruel to Willy. You don’t know it but I overheard him saying nice things about you.’ And they vote, these people.”

Frid, 43, a handsome six-footer, is on a promotional tour (nine cities in 10 days), traveling by a six-seater jet, renamed Vampire in his honor.

With him is Phil Kriegler of ABC-TV, a short amiable man: “I play the heavy on this trip. I’m the one who has to pull him away from all the women who want autographs. The last time I did it one woman gave me a punch in the back that nearly crippled me.”

Kriegler said that 12,000 women, children and teenagers were waiting for them at a shopping center in Fort Wayne, Ind.

“The screaming was unbelievable. Eleven women fainted, there were 58 lost children, one broken arm, a broken leg, and $1,500 damage to trees and shrubs.”

However, he defends the adulation of housewives, teenagers and children that has brought him sudden fame after 20 years of hard-working anonymity as a Shakespearean actor.

“I have acted in so many theaters where there were snob audiences. The kind who go into the lobby and say to each other, ‘What do you think of this play?’ before it’s even gotten off the ground. I hate that scene.”

He also said, “I take it very seriously, in spite of the kidding. An actor is not noted for his intelligence. He’s interested in creating around a situation. I’ve played in dozens of Shakespearean plays and some of the characters are utter bores when you take away the language.

“In Barnabas I get a whole range of characters to play. I play the man’s loneliness and yearnings and feelings of guilt. It’s really a Jekyll and Hyde role.”

Jonathan Frid receives the key to the city during his visit to Fort Wayne.




Enjoy MONSTER CEREAL whenever you damn well please


Boo Berry, Franken Berry and Count Chocula have been an essential part of monster kid breakfasts for more than 40 years. Sadly, General Mills keep these treats in the vault for much of the year, only releasing them to stores for a few months around Halloween.

Thanks to Amazon, though, you can have Monster Cereal any time you like. Amazon sells fresh boxes of Boo Berry, Franken Berry and Count Chocula, with several third party vendors selling some of the harder-to-find varieties. A three-pack of each cereal is selling for $24.99, with Prime shipping. Individual boxes of each cereal are also available.

If you're one of those types addicted to Frute Brute, though, I've got some bad news: It's going to cost you some serious scratch to hit that itch. A box of Frute Brute is selling for as much as $64.95 on Amazon.

LINK.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

DARK SHADOWS returning to the airwaves in 2015


The news broke last night that DARK SHADOWS reruns will begin airing on the new DECADES channel beginning in May. I was otherwise occupied last night and was among the last people to hear about this news.  Luckily, my friend Will McKinley has written an incredibly thorough piece at his website about when, where and how you can find the series, which is part of an array of nostalgia programming the comprises the DECADES line-up. You can read it HERE. In fact, I insist you read it.

It's probably for the best that the Collinsport Historical Society wasn't one of the sites to spearhead this news yesterday, because I've got mixed feelings about the announcement. I've got no love for nostalgia, and the roster of television shows set to air on DECADES looks ... boring. Many of the channels that champion nostalgia are just glorified flea markets of entertainment, buying up whatever programs they can get on the cheap. Turner Classic Movies skirts this problem by interpreting the word "classic" in their name as "good" instead of "old." I think The Sci-Fi Channel avoided this problem to a lesser degree in its early years by doing the same. While there are some legitimately great shows set to air on DECADES, I can't help but shrug at this announcement. I sincerely hope that the availability of DARK SHADOWS on television will ignite interest in the show, but broadcast television is a dying medium. And channels like DECADES ghettoize programming in a way that almost guarantees that they're only going to reach "pre-sold" audiences. I mean, LOVE AMERICAN STYLE? Who the hell wants to watch that? Comedy Central used to use that show as Sunday morning filler. It's one tiny rung higher than airing an infomercial.

What I'm trying to say is this: The people who are going to watch DARK SHADOWS on a channel like DECADES are going to be people who already have an emotional investment in the show. DECADES is probably counting on this, because younger viewers have hardly any interest in watching programmed television. I'm 43 years old and have watched exactly one television show during the last five years that aired during its regular time slot: The final episode of BREAKING BAD. And I was checked into a hotel room in Florida at the time, which left me with no other options.

If you were to talk to someone half my age, there's a better-than-good chance they'd tell you a similar story. More to the point, they've grown up in an age where they can watch television wherever and whenever they want, so the idea of having to schedule viewing is an alien concept to them. If you're among the people who are going to actually watch DARK SHADOWS on DECADES, more power to you. Having a daily reminder on television that DARK SHADOWS is something other than the name of a box office dud attached to Johnny Depp's name is a good thing. As long as the DVDs of the show remain available to audiences, though, it's hardly a game changer.

- Wallace McBride

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Saturday Morning Cartoons: GODZILLA


By JONATHAN M. CHAFFIN

If you were a kid in the 70’s and 80’s, you know the Hanna Barbera logo... it was the last sign-off for multiple television shows every Saturday morning when you snuck down-stairs, grabbed a bowl of Frankenberry cereal (or Nintendo cereal), and waited for the “grownup shows” to stop and Saturday Morning Cartoons to start.  The sound of the H-B logo takes me back to snuggling in the sleeping bag (blue, with flowers and a red interior) my granny made for me.   

Hanna Barbera is famous for coining the “Four meddling _______ & a _______” format of adventure show: Scooby Doo (4 kids & a dog), Captain Caveman (four musicians & a caveman), Jabberjaw (four  kids & a shark doing a Three Stooges impression), and countless others. I watched and loved all of those shows back in the day.  

Let’s talk about their 1978 effort, four irritating scientists & Godzilla plus a horrible “Scrappy Doo” version of Godzilla. Statement of bias; I don’t much like this show.  If you liked the show, I’m glad. I have some guilty cartoon and cinematic pleasures of my own.

Why am I writing about it?  I LOVE Godzilla.  And I love my 6 year old, and SHE loves this show.  So I’m going assume it’s doing its job by entertaining kids.  If you have kids and want to introduce them to Kaiju, this is a great way.

Like their other shows, GODZILLA is fairly described as “semi-animated,” a production technique that allows a show to be animated in about half the produced frames. Only the body parts that need to be moving are animated, and there is lot of reuse of animation. Most television cartoons of this era use the technique, but it is particularly noticeable (if not egregious) in this show. 

Gadzuki, everybody.
This series is pretty much summarized by the phrase “Godzilla Ex Machina.”  The plot of each episode is “Crew of the Calico gets in trouble, calls Godzilla like a giant doberman with firebreath, and the day is saved.”  Also, Gadzuki, the Scrappy Doo to Godzilla’s…Godzilla, bumbles around, gets stuck and causes problems and generally Jar-Jars up the place.  Fie upon thee, Gadzuki.  I hate you worse than Minya.

This Godzilla cartoon (there have been others) was an anchor show for a rotating host of other Hanna Barbara action cartoons aired from 1978-81 in various combinations.  There are 26 half hour episodes.  Well, really, there is about one proto-episode, and they switched the monster and the lesson learned 26 times. History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man.[1]

It IS fun to see the cartoon Kaiju battles, and that payoff is pretty clearly where the animation budget (such as it was) was spent.  (About $3 grand an episode, the internet tells me).   A super cut of the Kajui monster battles would be pretty great, although sometimes they change scale from scene to scene. And, sometimes, their powers are interestingly modified. 

Something you’ll read a lot about if you research this show is that Godzilla breathes fire instead of destructive atomic energy. I’m fascinated by this choice.  By changing Godzilla’s breath weapon from atomic furnace to fire, Big G is effectively turned into a wingless fire-breathing dragon.  The whole overtones of the original movie relating to  the terror of the destruction of the atomic bomb are changed if Godzilla isn’t an atomic monster.  Perhaps the decision was a graphic choice; red flames instead of blue glowing radiation, but it is one that is curiously prevalent in a lot of American depictions of Godzilla. 


Regardless, giving Godzilla fire breath and having him run to heel and assist like Puff the Magic Dragon is a fundamentally different message from “unstoppable atonic monster of our own creation protects his territory from the menace of mankind.”  I might be reading too much into a Saturday morning cartoon, but hey, that’s what I’m here for.  Also, Godzilla has laser beam eyes, or heat vision, or something.  For…reasons.

Worth watching a few episodes if you are a Godzilla completist, but really, there are a lot of shows that do the formula better.  

For the die hard lovers of the show, or the (probably more numerous) college kids who fell in love with Sea Lab 2021 and Venture Brothers style modern send ups of 1970’s adventure shows, Cartoon Network created a short called “Godzilla vs. the Y2K Bug" using footage from the show.  It’s a one trick pony, so I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s kinda fun. 


[1]  The first concert I ever attended on my own in a dive bar was a Blue Oyster Cult concert.  The song “Godzilla” blew my mind, and I really wanted to put it in this review. Check it out. It’s way better than this cartoon.  It should be the soundtrack for the super cut of kaiju battles I mentioned.  Internet, you should make that. 

JONATHAN M. CHAFFIN is an Atlanta-based graphic designer and art director and a lifetime fan of horror stories and film. His current project is www.HorrorInClay.com where he uses artifacts and ephemera to tell stories... he also produces horror-themed tiki mugs and barware like the Horror In Clay Cthulhu Tiki Mug. In addition, Jonathan occasionally does voice-over and podcasting work and appears on panels at sci-fi fantasy and pop culture conventions on a variety of topics. You can follow him @CthulhuMug on twitter or by friending HorrorInClay on Facebook and G+

Friday, January 23, 2015

Jim Henson's HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS


When I use Photoshop, it causes problems.

A while back, I combined an image of SESAME STREET'S Count Von Count and a still from HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS. Why? I was bored and had nothing better to do, honestly. The image was shared on Facebook and, for a while, I forgot about it.

Inspiration struck again many months later, around the time of Dick Smith's death. For a week, images of Smith's make-up effcts that "aged" Jonathan Frid in HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS were everywhere, and it occurred to me that he looked a bit like Statler and Woldorf from THE MUPPET SHOW. (In retrospect, it totally doesn't ... but those were my thoughts at the time.)

One thing led to another, and suddenly I had a mess on my hands. People seeing these images on Facebook didn't know where they were coming from and were turning to Google in search of answers. I know this because the tool I use to track my website traffic told me queries for "Jim Henson's House of Dark Shadows" were bringing people to this website.

If you're one of these people, the answer is "No, this is not real." Given the Muppet's affiliation with the Not Ready for Prime Time Players, Alice Cooper, that degenerate Sandy Duncan and whatever else in the 1970s, I can understand why you could believe this might have happened. But it did not.

Here it is, the whole bloody affair: Jim Henson's HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS.



 


MONSTER SERIAL: Godzilla, Faces of a Legend


By PETER H. GILMORE

Godzilla achieved his 60th anniversary this past November and his name is known around the globe. Over the course of 30 films he has gone from the dark, lumbering embodiment of the hydrogen bomb to being a child-friendly defender of the Earth, even if he can’t help leveling a city or two in the process. How you relate to him often depends upon which film initiated you into the fandom of the King of the Monsters.

In 1954, Toho was inspired by the recent re-release of the 1933 KING KONG as well as the previous year’s THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS by Ray Harryhausen to want to enter into the profitable world of oversized animals raising havoc. But the Japanese filmmakers had a more serious premise since their own nation had been shattered by two nuclear bombs dropped on them by the United States’ militia. The horror of those ultimate weapons could safely be expressed through the allegory of a vast, prehistoric creature roused to punish mankind, whose nuclear detonations had disturbed this great beast. He was called Gojira, supposedly a combination of the Japanese words for gorilla (gorira) and whale (kujira).
 
GOJIRA, 1954.
When this film was adapted for the US market with some of its message diluted and Raymond Burr added, his name was transliterated as Godzilla, bringing in almost a sense of blasphemy with the reference to the divine for such a hideous creature. And, to the best of their abilities, director Ishiro Honda and SPFX genius Eiji Tsuburaya conjured forth a dark terror who arose from Tokyo Bay to incinerate that city, irradiating the survivors who would later perish from this nuclear poisoning. Their use of a man in a suit as well as puppets worked well to embody a design meant to be a combination of T-Rex, Stegosaurus and Iguanodon.

The Gojira puppet.
The film was a box office success, leading to a sequel less than a year later wherein Godzilla fought with a giant form of ankylosaur named Anguirus. The rubber suits in this are cruder and made slimmer so that the actors could wrestle, unlike the original suit in which the actor could barely walk. This set the pattern of monster vs. monster that persisted for all but two subsequent films. Seven years later, stimulated by the success of the imported British giant monster film GORGO, a third film was produced and Toho licensed RKO’s King Kong to battle their nuclear flame-throwing reptile. The original Kong was only about 50 feet tall, though his height tends to vary between 18 and 60 feet as he’s depicted. Gojira was sized at 50 meters tall (164 feet) for most of his films, so Toho simply bumped-up Kong so he’d be a worthy competitor. This film also took a turn towards the comic away from the horror-orientation of the first two. From now through the 15th film, Godzilla would become ever more child friendly, in both behavior and looks, as he fought invading space monsters brought to Earth by kitschy aliens. He thus went from a visage of terror, to a large-eyed cutesy monster that was cheered-on by children around the world until the end of this first “Showa” series in 1975.

GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE, 1989.
In 1984, THE RETURN OF GODZILLA revived the character as a serious threat to our species in a film meant as a commentary on the US and Soviet obsession with expanding nuclear arsenals. This incarnation was again fierce and frightening and now 80 meters tall. In 1989, GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE critiqued genetic engineering and had Godzilla in combat with a peculiar creature that came from the fusion of Godzilla’s cells with the DNA of a rose along with the spirit of the deceased daughter of the scientist who made this horror. Godzilla’s look and size (100 meters) became stabilized for this second “Heisei” series in the following 6 films, with mostly minor tweaks. He fought revised versions of old adversaries: Mothra (with her evil cousin Battra), the golden dragon King Ghidorah, and a robotic replica Mechagodzilla There were two additional new foes: Space Godzilla—who had crystal protruding from his shoulders and as a dorsal array, and Destoroyah—a multi-formed aggregate conflation of a prehistoric crustacean with elements of the Oxygen Destroyer weapon that dissolved Godzilla in his very first film. In this 1995 film came the most dramatic change as Godzilla had suffered from a hyper-dose of radiation causing his internal nuclear organs to go haywire, threatening either a vast explosion or meltdown, both on a scale that would decimate the planet. Fiery red patches, lit from within, cover his body and he seems to be in constant agony. He does at last melt-down, poisoning Tokyo after the humans had assisted in vanquishing his enemy. A younger Godzilla co-starred, and after being slaughtered by Destoroyah, he is revived by the excess radiation, absorbed to bring forth a resurrected Godzilla.

GODZILLA, 1998.
The US took a crack at a Godzilla film in 1998 under Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin. Though Patrick Tatopoulos designed for them a detailed, slim, 60 meter tall saurian monster influenced by then current ideas about prehistoric animals, their script had it running away from the military and later laying eggs which hatched into raptor-like young in Madison Square Garden. This monster didn’t even have the usual nuclear fire breath. Both this beast, later called Zilla by Toho, and its young were dispatched by missiles fired by US jets. All other Godzillas found such weaponry to be but a minor inconvenience. Despite doing well financially, the only sequel was a cartoon series broadcast on Saturday mornings for American television. Many young people thus were first exposed to this creature as being Godzilla. Thankfully the creature in this—the sole-survivor of the egg clutch who imprinted on the biologist from the film as a daddy figure—mostly behaved far more like Godzilla, fighting an array of giant monsters both new and at times reminiscent of Toho favorites. And he did have his fire-breath back.


GODZILLA: FINAL WARS, 2004.
In 2000, Toho launched a new film to bring attention back to their creation and for the first time made Godzilla green—with huge, spikey magenta back plates. He was returned to his original height, which allowed for more detailed miniature structures to be his playthings. GODZILLA 2000 had this new, fiercer manifestation fight another alien intruder, Orga, who looked a bit like the Rancor from RETURN OF THE JEDI. This look lasted for two films, then when Shusuke Kaneko came on board in 2001 he gave Godzilla a supernatural twist—he was filled with the angry souls of those who died in WW2 in the Pacific theatre of combat. This  60 meter Godzilla had blank white eyes and his look went back to the original film, as did his charcoal gray body color. His rage helped him exterminate several of his old enemies (Baragon, Mothra, King Ghidorah) now cast as guardians of the land. The next two films centered around Godzilla battling another version of Mechagodzilla, called Kiryu, who was constructed around the bones of the original Godzilla. His look was a toned-down version of the 2000 design, though properly tinted in gray tones. The final film of this series (GODZILLA: FINAL WARS, from 2004) was a campy return to the 70s movies with references to The Matrix films, as tacky alien invaders control the many monsters of Earth to obliterate humanity. Here, a very athletic Godzilla is freed from a glacial prison to dispatch the other monsters and again save the planet.

GODZILLA, 2014.
Ten years later LEGENDARY PICTURES revived the dormant series under director Gareth Edwards with GODZILLA (2014), wherein a design wrought according to biological principles had the largest Godzilla of all at 106 meters. His body has a bear-like heft with a face that combines ursine and aquiline aspects. The state of the art CGI brought him to breathing, slavering, roaring life as he fought the MUTOs, a bonded pair of fellow prehistoric, radiation-hungry creatures with bizarre anatomy. These creatures have stapler-remover shaped jaws, clustered sense organs instead of eyes, and strangely configured multiple hooked limbs, the male having one pair of wings. Here Godzilla is defined as the last survivor of a prehistoric radiation devouring species who was the apex predator of his ancient ecosystem. When humans inadvertently cause the revival of a parasitic species from his time, Godzilla rises from his home in the abyssal trenches to right nature’s balance by eliminating the MUTOs. He is not yet mankind’s adversary, but woe unto us should he take notice of our upsetting the balance of his planet. This film made over a half-billion dollars in its theatrical run, pleasing both LEGENDARY and Toho as well as most fans of the entire series. With its sequel set to be released in 2018, Toho has decided to keep the interest going by promising us the beginning of their fourth series to be premiered in 2016 to the global market.

That stalwart Godzilla is alive and well at 60 with two series to be in progress simultaneously. He’s once again come ‘round to sounding the cautionary tone that made GOJIRA (1954) so effective. His new face looks upon us with a stern visage meant as a warning that we must be in harmony, rather than conflict, with nature. I suspect this always timely concept will keep Godzilla as a vital archetype for many decades to come.

Magus Gilmore has represented the Church of Satan since “The Satanic Panic” of the 1980s, being interviewed on numerous television and radio programs dealing with the topic of Satanism, including appearances on The History Channel, BBC, The Sci-Fi Channel, Point of Inquiry, and Bob Larson’s Christian radio show. His audio, video, and print interviews are numerous and continue to grow, making him the most interviewed Satanist in history. In 2001 he was appointed High Priest of the Church of Satan by Magistra Blanche Barton. Gilmore studied music composition at New York University where he earned B.S. and M.A. degrees. His solo album Threnody for Humanity presents orchestral-styled electronic music composed and performed by Gilmore. His book The Satanic Scriptures was published in 2007 and is currently available in a number of translations.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

DARK SHADOWS: BLOODLUST, Episode the Third


Spoiler warning.

Robert Graves’ “I, Claudius” begins with the novel’s hero venturing into a cave to seek the advice of a Sibyl. After making the proper sacrifices and introductions, he spends several tense minutes waiting for a response from the oracle,
only to discover she’s dead and partially mummified. Claudius doesn’t fare much better with the next Sibyl he meets, who not only delivers her prophecy in the expected cryptic verse, but mocks his stutter while doing so.

The moral of this story, and of so many others, is that oracular women are not to be trusted. From “MacBeth” to MINORITY REPORT, bitches be crazy.

This motif is explained by western culture’s gender bias, which is insidious. The message behind so many of these tales is that women are not to be trusted with power, because they’re likely to make decisions based on icky feelings rather than penis-powered logic. It’s not my intention to delve into this phenomenon too much, but I thought the parallel between the Sibyls of Greek myth and the identity of the ghost residing in the cave at the base of Widow’s Hill in this episode is interesting.

In fact, our first visit to the cave revealed quite a bit. Not only is the ghost of Angelique Bouchard among the spirits haunting the joint, but Collinsport’s newest reporter is an even bigger jackass than previously implied.

I might have turned a blind eye to Andrew Cunningham's jackassery in the previous episode because it made me uncomfortable. Played by Matthew Waterhouse, Andrew's a guy with a clear lack of consciousness, a slave to his Id who treats his wife and children with thinly veiled disdain. I shouldn't have been too surprised when he descended into the cave to force whatever spirits lurked within to shower him with riches. As it happens, he hasn't been telling the truth about much of anything.

The fact that Andrew thinks he can go toe-to-toe with Angelique also makes him a clod. While I'm not ready to write off the character as a casualty of "Bloodlust" this early in the game (Quentin Collins suffered a series of humiliating setbacks and still managed to keep his relevance), I suspect Andrew's time in Collinsport will be an unhappy one. In fact, having already listened to episode four of "Bloodlust," I can pretty much guarantee it.

Alec Newman as David Collins.
We spend a decent amount of time in the metaphorical underworld in this episode, and finally get to meet a Collins. David Collins, to be more specific, who has ditched the family's historic shipping/canning holdings in order to go spelunking beneath Collinsport in a mysterious mining venture. In the years since the end of the original series, David Collins has become a bit of a spin master, ably answering Andrew's questions about the mines without actually giving him any information.

This isn't the first time a Collins and a Cunningham have matched wits. "The Creeping Fog," set in London during World War II, featured David Selby as Quentin Collins, and Waterhouse playing a Cunningham named "John."  In true DARK SHADOWS fashion, it's likely there's no significant ties between the two Cunninghams. It's simply a matter of the same actor playing a similarly shady character, connected by name to provide a sense of continuity. And neither Cunninghams (both Andrew and John) are character types without precedent on DARK SHADOWS. Roguish, greedy liars have a way of finding their way to Collinsport.

But Andrew is not the only Cunningham to confront Angelique in this episode. His son, Harry, goes exploring, looking for information instead of wealth. And the conversation he has with Angelique is ... interesting. It's a little unclear if she's found a friend in Harry, or just another patsy.

One of the reasons this write-up is a little late (Episode 5 should drop any day now) is my decision to revisit "The Creeping Fog." While it didn't provide clues about the direction "Bloodlust" is heading (any clues I'm aware of, anyway) it underscored how far the DARK SHADOWS line of audiodramas has come during the last two years. Many early Big Finish episodes relied on a narrative crutch I call "Two People in a Locked Room." While the performances in the series have always been strong, there sometimes wasn't enough story to fill the entire hour. "The Creeping Fog" is, sadly, one of those tales. While it's not exactly bad, it could have been told in half the time without sacrificing anything.

Meanwhile, "Bloodlust" is so richly layered that I'm finding it difficult to discuss without resorting to writing  episode summaries. Big Finish is getting about a week's worth of DARK SHADOWS storytelling into each half-hour episode, making "Bloodlust" feels very much in the vein of a modern soap. The scripts are so dense that many of my compliments of the series are being left on the cutting room floor: Waterhouse is clearly having a blast playing a rascal cut from the "Roger Collins" cloth, and I've fallen in love with the Jacqueline, Harry and Cody, who have become a sort of "Collinsport Goonies." Jeff Harding has me completely buffaloed as to the nature of his character, Michael Devereax, while Asta Parry brings a vibrant sense of chaos to the series. Meanwhile, Jamison Selby has an interesting arc involving his wife, who was murdered several months before but is still hanging around the Blue Whale.

So far, "Bloodlust" has been a wonderful example of how you to build upon the success of what came before, rather than just relying upon it.

You can find Episode 3 HERE.

Massive DARK SHADOWS VHS collection hits eBay


A collection of 254 DARK SHADOWS VHS tapes is for sale on Ebay for 389.88, though you might have to add a wing to your home to store them. For comparison, DARK SHADOWS: THE COMPLETE ORIGINAL SERIES DVD set is selling for $349.96 on Amazon. I'm not sure that comparison is entirely fair, but you won't need to hire a private librarian to curate the DVD collection.

At about 7.5 ounces per tape, this VHS collection should weight about 120 lbs. Feel free to check my math, though.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Artron Reviews ♡ Big Finish's DARK SHADOWS stories


The folks over at Artron Reviews think DARK SHADOWS is the best range produced by Big Finish in 2014. I'm not familiar with Artron Reviews, but they've got good taste. LINK.
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