Friday, January 23, 2015

Collectible Time #17: Neca Burt Ward Robin, Kurt Russell/Snake Plissken Figures and Dracula, the Un-dead

For my birthday, my parents gave me the companion piece to the grand Neca Adam West 1/4 scale Batman (see Collectible Time - Jan '14)...Burt Ward's Robin, the Boy Wonder!!!  

The above photo says it all, even featuring Robin's accessories. This, like the West Batman, is truly a wonder to behold, both in size and detail: a magnificent representation of one of my childhood heroes (and a gusty, by-golly interpretation I still enjoy to the max; job well done, Mr. Ward)!!!

Additionally, my parents gave me two Funko 3/4" scale Kurt Russell/Snake Plissken "Escape from NY" action figures. They're done in the style of '80s figures: perhaps not ultra detailed, but darn quaint, all the same. In this instance, our alternate-reality anti-hero is represented both in primary and jacketed attire. I really like Snake and quite enjoy these little homages to him!!!

And from my in-laws, Ned and Faith, something literary..."Dracula, the Un-dead": not just a sequel to the Bram Stoker classic, but one co-penned by Ian Holt and the literary genius' great-grand nephew, Dacre Stoker, no less. I've heard of the controversial novel, but due to one thing or another, it eluded me over time. Now, at long last, I have it in my possession, and bond in glorious hardback. What classy, significant surprise!!! Can't wait to sink my fangs into it!!!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Flask of Eyes Characterization #1: Franklin Beacon and Edward Hyde

Hi, folks--Felt compelled to offer another "Flask of Eyes" reflection, if only based on a few, recent passing inquiries. It seems appropriate, in this regard, to address such in a post, as opposed to an attached reply to a previous one (such as "Flask of Eyes Fun"--Dec '14, in which a loyal reader made an astute connection between one of my characters and an iconic, literary/film fiend).

In any event, the matter in question is: which classic monster truly inspired Franklin Beacon, the character around whom "Flask" revolves?

I'm flattered by the interest, but must express some concern over what I feel is an overlooking-the-obvious. Still, what's clear to me (and die-hard monster fans) may not be those with a casual interest in the macabre. So, therefore, allow me to indulge...

In truth, an insinuation of Beacon's origin can be found in "Monster on the Campus", the poster of which is displayed in his apartment. "Monster" is, after all, a man-into-ape-man movie, like "Neanderthal Man", which came shortly before it, and like "Altered States" which came a couple decades after it (and in its own right had a significant impact on "Flask'"s psychedelia). Also, the seeds of this character type can be found in "The Ape Man", the beloved 1943 B-movie, starring Bela Lugosi: a film I watched often as a child.

Beacon's anthropoid link, however, hinges mostly on a pop-cultural, Robert Louis Stevenson character: Mr. Edward Hyde, particularly the MGM Rouben Mamoulian 1931 adaptation. In that rendition, Hyde, as portrayed by Frederic March, becomes more ape-like with each transformation, so that by the film's end, he is essentially a simian in a suit. (A similar technique was employed in John Carl Buechler's modernized remake, starring Tony Todd, and a trace of the concept permeates "Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", starring Boris Karloff.)

The duality idea in classic Jekyll/Hyde pits one side against the other. My take differs, in that the hindered Beacon and his transformed self are never at odds. If anything, the personalities are in tune, melding into what might be a sustained, harmonious union, if not for the harried circumstances that surface.

Any questions/thoughts? Feel free to share; I'll be happy to reply/discuss.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Collectible Time #16: Dark Knight/Joker, Iron Man/Submariner Plaques

Hey, there, folks! Thanks to my wife, Donna, I obtained two more wooden-backed, comic-book plaques for Christmas. 

First up is "Legends of the Dark Knight 'Images' #50", featuring a matching Joker and cat (reminiscent of my little Cody and me on our more gleeful days, I dare say). This is a yellow-lettered version of the cover, which I do prefer over the red. The expressions, of course, are priceless (and enhanced by Batman looming outside the window)!!!

Next up is "Invisible Iron Man #25", which not only features Tony Stark, but Namor, the Sub-mariner in confrontational mode. Having these two titans in the same image makes it significant for any superhero fan (and worthy of any wall)!!!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Time Travel Time # 10: 12 Monkeys (1995)

Terry Gilliam's "12 Monkeys" (adapted from Chris Marker's short film, "La jetee", by David and Janet Peoples) is perhaps more popular now than during its 1995 release, and that's not to say it failed to win favor at its advent. Both fans and critics granted it praise; co-star Brad Pitt was nominated for a best-supporting actor Oscar. It also furthered Bruce Willis as a steadfast box-office draw and proved that offbeat time-travel tales could rake in the big bucks.

Additionally, "12 Monkeys" has been discovered and revisited by viewers over time (enough so now to have spawned a Syi Fyi Channel series). It's not an upbeat film, but because of its interesting complexities, it joins the ranks of "Planet of the Apes ('68)" and "Beneath the Planet of the Apes" as thought-provoking, cataclysmic entertainment. 

The time traveler, in this case, is James Cole (Willis), a temperamental convict, who is transported from 2035 (a desolate time where humans are few and only animals roam without protective gear), back to the '90s, to see if he can detect the early phase of a disease that caused a five-billion-death plague. The problem is, the time-propulsion methods are quirky, and Cole's jaunts rarely precise. 

For example, he's to travel to Philadelphia '96, but lands instead in '90. During another jaunt, he's dropped into the French trenches of World War I, only to be extracted and finally delivered to his intended '96 post, but once there, what's he to do? Finding the cause of tragedy isn't an easy task, and so he flounders about, connecting the disease's release to a perceived terrorist group, the Army of the Twelve Monkeys, which spreads its insignia throughout the city.

The group is led by Jeffrey Goines (Pitt): a fidgety guy who Cole initially meets at an asylum, where the two are kept for observation. Unlike Cole, however, who's labeled insane due to his time-travel claims, Goines' real affliction is his excitable, philosophical bents and persistent rebelliousness: reactions to the moral stance of his father (Christopher Plummer), a renowned virology expert. 

Cole is befriended by Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe), part of a psychology team at the asylum (which includes Frank Gorshin as one of its prominent staff). Railly feels an ineffable connection to Cole, finding his claims strange but compelling. (Spotting his likeness in a WWI photo reinforces her faith in his claims). She adds the love interest to the story, but the couple's bond never distracts from the turmoil.

Cole's mission is further complicated by his memories and dreams, particularly one of an airport scene, where he envisions a harrowing shootout (an element that will figure strongly into events). This reverie, along with unraveling the Twelve Monkeys' actual intent (and yes, there is a twist to it) motives his pursuit (as well as Railly's).

Another character, Dr. Peters (David Morse), an assistant to the elder Goines, also impacts the plot, though his actual purpose isn't exposed until the end. 

With some time-travel tales, the implementations lead to changes in once established events (and not always with positive results), such as in Ray Bradbury's "Sound of Thunder"; at other times, such act as a predestined ingredients, as inferred by "Star Trek: Tomorrow is Yesterday". "12 Monkeys" plays upon the latter, but sprinkles it with struggle and despair. In this regard, Gilliam's film isn't so much an essay on time travel (the consequences of trying to alter that which may not be altered), but is rather a study of how many of us try to impact (too often in vain) humankind's progression. 

Willis, under Gilliam's somber execution, does an excellent job of invoking empathy and whether our hero succeeds or fails doesn't really matter. That he simply tries to survive his mission makes "12 Monkeys" memorable. It twists the tale with tension, intrigue and above all, forces one to consider one's place in the perplexing configuration of life: a component that many films aspire to attain, but few actually achieve. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Agent Carter and Ant-Man Arrive!!!

By gosh, by golly, ABC's "Marvel's Agent Carter" has premiered! As such, the intrepid Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) engages in high intrigue on behalf of the crafty Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper). I'll reserve judgment on the fledgling series at this point, but it'll undoubtedly be significant, likely connecting to "Agents of SHIELD", "Avengers 2", "Cap 3" and beyond. 

To sweeten the Marvel movie mix, the "Ant-Man" teaser trailer has also surfaced. Looks impressive, with affable Paul Rudd in the lead, and with a July '15 release date, it's only a hop and a skip away!!!

Yep--hot diggity dog!!!--lots to anticipate on Marvel's live-action scene!!!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Time Travel Time #9: The Time Machine (1978)

"The Time Machine (1978)" is a television retelling of H.G. Wells' classic: a remake, if one will, of the 1960 George Pal production, playing upon its modified elements and supporting characters. It's part of the Sunn Classics "Classics Illustrated" movie series, which included "Fall of the House of Usher", "Last of the Mohicans" and "The Donner Pass".

The television version, directed by Henning Schellerup and adapted by Wallace C. Bennett, stars John ("Rollerball") Beck as Dr. Neil Perry, whose secret Mega Corp project is jeopardized in favor of new weaponry. Perry receives support from a colleague, played by Whit Bissell (of Pal's movie and Irwin Allen's "Time Tunnel") and fashions a full-scale time machine reminiscent of the '60 version, though without the Victorian attributes. (In truth, this design looks a trifle Egyptian, but with NASA streamlining and the capability to move beyond its fixed station to random locations.)

Initially, our hero ventures back to points in American history, including the Salem witch hunts and the Old West (covering both the Gold Rush and the Younger Gang), before jaunting into the future to meet the Eloi and Morlocks. 

The Eloi, in this instance, resemble Pal's: fair-haired and gentle, with Weena again the focus. As portrayed by Priscilla Barnes, however, this Weena is more sophisticated than Yvette Mimieux's, but then so are the rest of her kind, who come across more bohemian than child-like. 

The Morlocks, as in Pal's version, are brutal and hideous. These particular mutants are hairless, pale and glowing eyed, sporting uniforms instead of loincloths. (In some respects, they look like modified versions of James Arness' "Thing from Another World".)

Much as Rod Taylor's George champions the Eloi against the Morlocks, so does Beck's Perry, who does his utmost to keep the Eloi from being devoured. Nonetheless, due to the Eloi's higher intellectual capacity, one must wonder why they never rebelled prior to Perry's arrival. 

Like Pal's version, Schellerup's touches upon the long-term effects of war. For example, Perry's futuristic sojourn is really a means to find "proof" that Mega Corp's activities will lead to cataclysmic consequences. A derelict museum supplies such proof, and Perry travels back to confront his employers with what he's learned, only to be told they wish to use his time-travel accomplishments for questionable purposes.

This prompts Perry to zoom back to Weena and the Eloi, but of course, the insinuation of additional time-tripping stories prevails; implying that this "Time Machine" may have launched a series beyond the "Classics Illustrated" franchise. (Further evidence of such can be found in the earlier time-travel segments, where the potential for ongoing adventures is dealt.)

Unfortunately, this adaptation fared poorly in the ratings and gained few accolades among critics and fans, who were more inclined to embrace the Pal Oscar winner.

Still, the '78 remake is superior to the televised competition of its time, and with the passing of years has earned its supporters. Though it may not be the most acclaimed film version of Well's tale, it still captures its spirit, and if only for that, is worthy of reverence.