Saturday, April 7, 2012

Cosmos: War of the Planets

From the makers of Star Odyssey comes Cosmos: War of the Planets. Actually it should be said from the makers of Cosmos comes Star Odyssey, because this is actually the first of the Italian space trilogy that all shared sets, costumes, and props. This movie is of course a rip off of a big Hollywood movie, and that movie isn't Star Wars, but 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Synopsis: When a exploration craft is attacked by Alien space craft while investigating a strange planet, they have to crash land. On the surface of the planet they find a group of Aliens that have been enslaved by a evil super computer, and now they are trapped on the planet by it as well.

The plot of this movie isn't actually that bad. The special effects are pretty good as well. This movie does lack the silly charm of Star Odyssey, and tries to tell a more serious and less swashbuckling tale then that movie does. I actually think that makes this movie not as good. It will never be able to compete with those big name movies, so all it has is it's silly charm and with a lot less of that in this film it suffers a little.

The Day the Sky Exploded

It's always kinda funny to look at pre-moon landing space race movies. Knowing what has happened, it's so odd to see what people thought might happen in the future. The Day The Sky Exploded is kinda like that, with a single man in an atomic powered rocket making the journey to the moon, instead of the three men in a chemical powered rocket that we know made the journey.

Synopsis: When an manned atomic rocket to the moon malfunctions, the pilot ejects in the capsule sending the atomic motor off into space where it explodes in the asteroid belt sending a life ending meteor hurtling towards earth.

There is some debate on which country lays claim to this movie. The Italians claim it as their first Sci-Fi movie. The Germans, on the other hand, also claim this movie as their own. The truth is probably some where in between, as the film has a lot of both German and Italian actors in it. I'd lean more toward the Italians having the claim though since the original language it was filmed in was Italian.

If this is an Italian film then it's a lot better then their later attempts at Sci-Fi in the 70's and 80's. It's really pretty decent and if it had been made in America it might have been up there with the other great Sci-Fi films of that era. Sadly it wasn't and thus was pushed to the back burner of films. Thing is this movie is actually too good. It is missing the cheesiness and goofiness needed to make a really great B-Movie. After all that's the fun of these kinds of film. That hurts it as a movie to laugh at it's absurdities, but that's also a good thing as it can be looked at as a far more serious film.

War of the Robots

Ah at last we come to the last of what I've come to call the Italian Sci-Fi Trilogy. The other two movies in this trilogy are of course Cosmos: War of the Planets, and Star Odyssey. Now when I say that they are trilogy, I don't mean the stories have anything to do with each other. They don't. But the movies use a lot of the same effects, and costumes so they all look the same. War of the Robots is the middle movie of the trilogy coming out in 1978.

Synopsis: When a Professor and his assistant, who are working on special reactor on earth, are kidnapped by Aliens, a ship is sent out to rescue them and return to earth before the reactor they built explodes.

God bless this movie. It is the typical middle child. It's not nearly as aged and wise as Cosmos: War of the Planets, and not nearly as out there, and wacky as Star Odyssey, but it does try to hold it's own. It's really not clear what movie this film is trying to rip off. Sometimes it seems that is ripping off 2001, at other times it seems to trying to rip off Star Wars. It goes from watching a guy repair a circuit in space for fifteen minutes, to super fast paced gun battles at almost exactly the half way point. I have my own theory about this. I think that while they were shooting this movie Star Wars came out and hit big, and thus they adjusted this movie to this new style of action adventure Sci-Fi about half way through. Lightsabers even show up near the end of this movie.

This movie actually holds together the best of the three movies that make up this trilogy of sorts. The story doesn't get off track too much, characters actually take actions that make sense and there is a reason our heroes go on a daring rescue in deep space other then "just cause." It's sad this movie gets lost among the other two. I mean this is the only one of the three movies that doesn't have a page on Wikipedia. You put in War of Robots there and you get a Doctor Who novel. From a story stand point this is the probably the strongest of the three, even though I still have a soft spot for the super silliness that is Stay Odyssey.

The Sadist

I picked this movie to watch based solely on one man...and that man is Arch Hall Jr. If you don't know who he is, then I'll tell you. Hall was the "Hero" (if you can call him that.) of the cult movie Eegah! Now Mr. Hall didn't make many movies and so when I saw his name on this one I just had to check it out, and it didn't let me down.

Synopsis: When three school teacher's car breaks down while traveling through rural California, on their way to a Dodgers game, they find themselves at the mercy of a spree killer who torments them while forcing them to repair their car.

Arch Hall Jr. is suppose to be the star of this movie, but when it comes to making this a cheesy movie he really shines in this movie. His performance as Charlie, the crazed killer, is so over the top that it makes it almost laughable. I mean it's something that has to be seen to believed, but I found it hard not to laugh at some of the lines he spouts out in the course of this movie. It's just great. How I had never heard of this movie before is beyond me.

Apparently this is one of those based on actual events movies. Turns out this movie is based on the spree killings of Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend Carol Ann Fugate. Other movies of note based on the same events are Badlands, Natural Born Killers, True Romance, and oddly The Frighteners.

The Sadist is a little too serious to be a really good B-Movie. If it wasn't for the performance of Arch Hall Jr, this movie wouldn't be any fun at all. As it stands it is still worth a look see.

Invasion of the Bee Girls

You know I didn't live through the 70's. I'm still trying to figure out if that's a bad thing or a blessing in disguise. If today's movie Invasion of the Bee Girls is any indication, it was the latter.

Synopsis: A Mad Scientist is transforming beautiful women into killers who seduce men and then make love to them till they die.

A little known fact about this movie is that it was written by Nicholas Myers, the same man that directed what is considered by many to be the best of the Star Trek movies: Wrath of Khan.

The quality of Khan, however, doesn't shine through on this thing. It's more one of those movies that have a weak plot to support seeing boobs constantly. I half expected the pizza boy to show up and some house wife not have the money to pay for it. I'm exaggerating there, but it's not far off.

The why of the killings here is a little fuzzy. It's more of a just cause type thing I think. The message I take away from this movie is that sex is bad. It sends the message that desire to have sex makes men rape random women, and that if you have sex you'll die. I'm sure this movie was written because of the scary nature of sex and STD's that was just coming to the front of the American consciousness in the 70's. We had just come off the free wheeling 60's and entered a time when sex really could kill you, and the shadow of AIDs was just around the corner.

I think this movie was trying to have a serious message, but it's silly nature makes taking anything away from this movie almost impossible. In the end it doesn't really succeed as a message movie, or a Sci-Fi film. It's only real purpose seems to be to get a cheap thrill out of seeing boobies, which was much harder to do in 1973 then it is now.

Prince of Space (1959) (1959)

The B-Movie Blitzkrieg is back from a little extended break. It was an unintentional one as I came down sick, and then the events in Japan kept me glued to the TV, not watching bad movies, but looking for any news on the disaster there. And it was that time watching the suffering in Japan that made me decide to do a whole week of Japanese movies.

And all this week as I review these movies I'm going to be putting up links to charities that can where you the reader can help out the victims in Japan.

So if you enjoy today's review, and want to help be sure to text REDCROSS to 90999 to give a ten dollar donation.

Now on to today's movie: Prince of Space.

Synopsis: When the evil Phantom of Krankor decides to invade Earth it's up to the alien super hero Prince of Space to stop him and raise two adopted kids as his mild mannered alter ego shoe shine boy.

If I could sum up this movie with one single sentence it would be "Your weapons have no effect one me." Because that's what our hero says constantly all through this movie. Thing is he still ducks and dodges when people shoot at him. Apparently these lines about the weapons having no effect were not in the Japanese version of the film. Why they were added to the English dub is anyone's guess.

This movie great. I really love this kind of Japanese cinema. Be they giant monster movies, or the super hero fair like today, they are almost always more fun then their American counterparts. The Japanese have turned these style of a movies into a science, a formulaic science, but a science none-the-less.

Blitzkrieg Intermission: Drawing The Addams Family House Part 1: The Research

There was a point in my life when I wanted to be an Architect. Even went so far as taking a year worth of classes in college chasing after that career. Well things went in a different, and poorer, direction for me, but I still like to draw houses as a hobby.

But drawing a 3 bedroom/ 2 bath ranch is pretty boring. No one wants to see that. Instead we need to find something different and strange to draw. And what is more strange and different then the Addams Family's Mansion.

Now this floor plan has been done before...kinda.

The plan of the Addams Family Home by Mark Bennett appeared in the LA Times in 1995, and later in his book TV Sets: Fantasy Blueprints of Classic TV Homes, A book that I myself own. The plan is pretty good, but it does have it's problems. This blueprint is based almost solely on the interior sets. Problem was, the sets didn't match up with the exterior shots used for the show.

The shot above is a composite shot an an actual house in LA used for the exterior shot, and matte painting used to add the "spooky" elements to the shot, like the dead trees and bent antenna. This same shot was then painted over again to make and even spookier looking version later on in the series, but it still pretty much looked like the above house. Sadly the actual house that was used for these shots has been torn down and no longer exists for us to go to and see.

One of the major problems with Mr. Bennett's plan is that the bay that makes up the base of the tower on the first floor is missing in his plan, even though it can clearly be seen on the exterior shots. Funny enough the bay is present on his second floor plan. There is of course a simple reason for this mistake, and that is that Mr. Beenett was sticking to sets more then the exterior shots and so he drew the foyer as it appeared in the show, which conflicted with how the house looked on the outside.

Above you can see the foyer and front door. Note the flat wall and window on the wall behind Gomez. This feature contradicts the exterior shots as this is where the bay should be. So Mr. Bennett had to combine the elements and used the set as the rule, instead of the location shots.

Another problem comes in the fact that left side of the house is far to long. If you look at the plan and match the fireplace and bay window on this side of the house you'll find the wall past these two parts is far too long compared to the exterior shot. At least 2-3 times too long in fact. As I don't have the show on DVD, (Passed on them when they were 10 bucks a season at Wal-Mart and have been kicking myself since.) I don't know if this part of his plan was based on something from the show or not. I do know the playroom showed up, but that also has it's share of problems.

This was the kids "playroom" that Mr. Bennett put on the first floor. I actually have see this room in a couple of episodes of this show I caught on TV Land a few years back. It is my belief that this room is actually in the basement of the home. I base this one the brick walls, and how high the base of the window is from the floor. This just looks like a basement room, and I actually think that's is were it belongs on the plan. That would cut a lot of length off the left side, but still not enough I think.

Another source could be the model kit made at the height of the shows popularity in the 60's. Although a quick look over the kit shows that is all squashed and pushed together to make it smaller (and thus cheaper) to produce. So using the model for use in figure out dimensions of the actual house is a pretty bad idea. Although the box does give us a good look at the colors of the house (or at least the color the house was in the minds eye). Which is useful given that the show was in black and white. Doesn't help me draw the plan, but still neat never the less.

So at the end of the day all I have is the black and white screen grabs of the exterior of the house from the show. I'm still trying to figure out the scale of those photos, but since there isn't any object of known dimensions in the shots it is making it difficult. (Man I wish they hadn't tore that house down). The rear of the house is a complete mystery. Although a member over at Paper made a drawing of what he thought the back of the house would look like, and while it is not set accurate, I do really like and will be trying to use it for my own plan once I get it started.

At the end of the day I will probably be trying to draw both versions of the house. One plan based on the sets very similar to Mr. Bennett's and another based on the exterior of the house using the drawing above as the back. Keep checking here to see the progress.

Horror Harvest

The B-Movie Blitzkrieg in association with Mystic Fetus Comic presents a brand new comic that deals with all those classic and not so classic Horror movies of the past and the present: Horror Harvest! Be sure to swing on by and check it out starting on Halloween!

The Courageous Captain America

I always loved Little Golden Books when I was little so I was surprised and pleased to see that, for the first time in probably 35 years, I got a Little Golden Book for Christmas. My buddy Neato Coolville got me this cool Little Golden version of the origin of everybody's favorite Star Spangled Avenger. The art by Val Semeiks, Scott McLeod, The Storybook Art Group, and Hi-Fi Colour Design isn't bad. It's great to see Cap get the Little Golden Book treatment. Thanks again NC!

Holy Infantino, It's The Weather Wizard!

I love the "go-go checks" era at DC. It was filled with a lot of silly stuff that was unmistakably groovy. Arguably the leading artist for DC in this period was the great Carmine Infantino. Carmine took over Detective Comics in 1964 with editor Julius Schwartz in order to make the Caped Crusader a little more serious. For the most part it worked. The art was always great and the stories were pretty good too. Around the time Detective #353 came out in 1966, the Batman TV show was starting to hit big and the comics were trying to capitalize on its success. While the comics weren't nearly as campy as the show, they were still a lot of fun. I've always enjoyed Carmine's unique style and his ability to draw fight scenes was very good, as this page indicates.
Infantino's splash pages were always unique whether it was for Batman or his backup feature at the time, The Elongated Man. He had a fantastic sense of composition and style that was strictly Carmine. You could never mistake him for anyone else.
While the 70's brought a much darker and realistic Batman, I'll always enjoy these mid 60's stories which helped mark the transformation of the Darknight Detective to what we all know today.

Late Night With The Avengers

When I was in junior high in 1983-84, two of my favorite things were Marvel Comics and Late Night With David Letterman so I was very excited when The Avengers showed up on Dave's show in issue #239, part of Marvel's infamous Assistant Editors' Month, where all the titles featured wacky and crazy stories cooked by the assistant editors in charge of each book. It was great seeing the so called B team at the time show up to banter with Dave.
Of course hijinks ensued but our favorite late night show had the last word.
All art by Al Milgrom and Joe Sinnott. I need to try and fish out all the other Assistant Editors' month books. I'm pretty sure I have them all but this one was by far my favorite. The new Avengers movie should have a scene where Earth's Mightiest Heroes show up on Dave's show. I would definitely pay to see that!

Our Army At War With Joe Kubert

I've always loved DC's war comics and much of that love is due to the great Joe Kubert. Here are some of my favorite Kubert covers featuring DC's leader of the Combat Happy Joes of Easy Co., Sgt. Rock.

Super Santa

From the 1976 DC Calendar. Art by Neal Adams.

Hulk Smash Scrooges!

From the 1975 Mighty Marvel Calendar. Art by Sal Buscema.

Happy 1975 Everybody!

Ooops...I mean 2012 everybody!! From the Mighty Marvel 1975 Calendar with art by the always awesome John Romita Sr.

Star Trek The Enterprise Logs

I had a good time last weekend at Planet Comicon, Kansas City's premier comic and pop culture convention. While I didn't buy a lot of comics, I did pick up these neat 1970's Golden Press reprints of the Gold Key Star Trek comic from the late 60's. Volume 1 features issues #'s 1-8 plus a neat pinup of the Enterprise.
Volume 2 reprints issues #'s 9-17. I always enjoy reading about Star Trek in the period before the first movie and the Next Generation. It was a simpler time for fandom and the show was still kind of a cult show. The early issues of Starlog provide great examples of this unique fan movement.
Sometimes I wish I was 10-20 years older so I could have experienced this era of fandom more. The comics got better in the 80's and 90's but there was an innocence to the Gold Key books that I'll always love.

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