Flashback 1978: “Star Wars” Invades TV

Just because Wookiee Life Day has come and gone, doesn’t mean there isn’t more to learn about its beginnings in the Star Wars Holiday Special. ~ Darran

“Star Wars” Invades TV (Originally printed in StarLog Magazine No. 19: Feb 1979)

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   A behind-the-scenes look at the CBS Star Wars TV special, a star-studded affair that broke all the rules regarding the dos and don’ts of television.

Continue reading “Flashback 1978: “Star Wars” Invades TV”

Star Wars: Celebrate Wookiee Life Day: 17, November

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Back in 2007 I added Ben to the cast photo… just because 😉 The Holiday Special: Special Edition, if you will.

cantina_denizens_6-1088x816-436321435263   A long time ago, on TVs far, far away, a great adventure took place. It was November 17th in 1978, well over a year after Star Wars was released as a rave success. I was eight years old and, like the rest of the nation (perhaps the world), was STARVING for more Star Wars. The Force was strong with me and it awakened something new in my life. It was the true blossoming of my Geekness.

Continue reading “Star Wars: Celebrate Wookiee Life Day: 17, November”

How Did You Spend Life Day?

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   While most of the world, and even geekdom, just spends November 17th like it would any other day, I enjoy the gift of Star Wars. The magic and wonder that was instilled in me back in May of 1977 hasn’t faded. There are many dates that we can celebrate the galaxy, far, far away, and I do celebrate the 4th of May along with the anniversaries. It is silly? Sure. Is made up foolishness? Yep, but so is EVERYTHING else that doesn’t involve natural means (sleep, eat, etc…). I don’t apologize for enjoying what I enjoy and how I choose to enjoy it. Star Wars is something I celebrate every day, but it gets special focus on certain days of the year. November 17th is one of those days.

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   Did I watch the Holiday Special? No, I just didn’t have enough time. My day included listening to some awesome podcasts, a great Taco Tuesday at work, spending time with my family (my lovely wife, little dog, bird & rabbit) and sharing my love of Star Wars. How did you spend Life Day?

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   We are less than one month out of the continuation of the saga. Are you ready for The Force Awakens? Yet another cause to celebrate 😉

This Week’s Geek Movie at the Quantum Cave, “Captain America” (1979)

Cap on the Small Screen   I don’t have much to say about this one. Nostalgia is a hell of a thing. This isn’t influenced by heady memories from a halcyon age, but I like it. It’s not a great movie. It’s not even a good movie. What it is is a snapshot of a bygone age and it takes me back, way back. Reb Brown did a good job, as good as he could, and all in all it’s entertaining.

   Here is the plot from Wikipedia. I would re-write one but this is all you need to know:

c4cdf6d753ac1a1037dbb0d5adbc9bcf   Steve Rogers is a character in contemporary times whose father was a 1940s government agent. The very patriotic attitude of Steve’s father earned him the nickname Captain America, and his father is spoken of as having been murdered. Rogers, a former Marine now making what little living he makes as an artist, is inspired by this story to sketch a super-hero. After receiving potentially fatal injuries in an accident, he is administered an experimental chemical called the FLAGFull Latent Ability Gain — formula (at one point referred to as a “super-steroid”) which not only saves his life but also enhances his body with heightened strength and reflexes. These new abilities lead Dr. Simon Mills (Len Birman), the research biochemist and intelligence official who had told Rogers about his father, to recruit him and give Steve a costume based on his drawing. As Captain America, he also makes significant use of a specialized reconstruction of the van he has been driving, out the rear of which can be launched a modified motorcycle. Its functions include a rocket thrust for a fast start out of the van, a jet boost for increased speed, a setting to allow the bike to be ridden with less noise for stealthier movement and a hang glider structure which can allow the bike to glide to the ground with some forward momentum, although it must be jettisoned upon landing.

Cult Movie Essentials: The Kung Fu Classic, Invincible Shaolin (1978)

61vsgjqompL._SY606_   This one has to be in my top 5 of all time Kung Fu Flicks! It is also known as “Unbeatable Dragon”. The word Dragon had to be in just about every American release of a Martial Arts movie to have any traction or gravitas. When I moved to Reno, NV, in 1987 I found a teacher that was teaching Wing Chun Kuen (Ip Man > Leung Sheung > Kenneth Chung system) Kung Fu. After my first lesson I thought that it seemed very familiar as I sat in my car. I raced home and popped this movie into my VCR and I was right! The son of the Southern Shaolin school’s teacher (Sifu) was taught the exact style that I was learning. By this time I was already familiar with the movie for about 6 years. It gave my real life a connection with a fun, stylised, fantasy. It has been almost 30 years since that first lesson, not my first or last art to be learned, I now teach and I still watch this cult classic!

CULT FACTION

Invincible Shaolin is the second proper Venoms movie, following on from Five Venoms.  Legendary director Chang Cheh returns to explore how the Ching Governments attempts to stamp out the influence of the Shaolin – a theme he also explored in Heroes Two.

The plot involves an evil Qing general (Wong Lung Wei) who comes up with a brilliant plan to rid the Qing Empire once and for all of the Shaolin masters. He invites three Northern Shaolin experts to his mansion and has them fight the in a contest against three novice Southern Shaolin men already present at his mansion. By royal decree, Shaolin was required to supply experts to teach the Qing troops martial arts.

The Northern Shaolin experts easily and decisively win against the South Shaolin men. After the contest, the general visits the South Shaolin men in their quarters later that night and secretly kills…

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Honorable Mention: KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park

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   So a little over a week or so ago, Warner Bros. released “Scooby-Doo! and Kiss: Rock and Roll Mystery“. It has an EPIC opening credit scene that transported me back to 1978. KISS was something that I had never heard of before, then I saw the make-up, the costumes and the superpowers, they had me! I was eight and this was the most awesome shit I had ever seen on TV at this point. For some reason NBC decided that they should jump on the Superhero band wagon. I am glad that they did.

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   I “found” a copy of “KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park” and rewatched it. It still holds up. Now, I am not some die hard KISS fan. I had a poster and an album because they looked bad ass and I really did dig the movie that NBC put out. Sure it’s late 70’s style cheesy but it is a good kind of cheesy, a nostalgic kind of cheesy.

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   The story is simplistic, and the VFX are horrible, but that was the style for a movie of the week back then and that is where it retains all of its charm. Only KISS could pull this off.

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   The story is, roughly… Stuffy old scientist dude get’s the boot from him job at an amusement park for being stuffy. Dude vows to remain stuffy and bring stuffiness back to the park. He creates KISS robots, among other robots,captures the band, to cause a riot at the concert. KISS escapes and kicks all the robot ass that they can find. KISS, and their fans, WIN

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   Oh and the bad guy dies. Did I mention he was stuffy? Anyhow the final words of the movie were, “He created KISS to destroy KISS and he lost.“. Well said, guy who started this shit over the bottom line and the dollar sign, well said.

The End.

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   Screw it… Join the KISS Army? Where to I sign up? I am all in now. If I didn’t have other shit to do, I would Rock & Roll all night, and Party EVERY Day!

By the Eye of Agamotto! Strange Days, Indeed

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Obviously designed by a fan of the old Flash Gordon serials of the 1930's.
Obviously designed by a fan of the old Flash Gordon serials of the 1930’s.

   Dr. Strange was a 1978 TV film pilot based on the Marvel’s Dr. Stephen Strange, created by Steve Ditko. Directed by Philip DeGuere, authored by him as well, it was specifically written for television. It seems that the production suffered from being over conservative and under funded.  Stan Lee served as a consultant on the film, but that couldn’t save this proposed pilot for a series. In a day and age where VFX were not up to snuff (until one George Lucas pushed them beyond their limits), and removing the more “comic booky” elements from the property.  The show aired on 6 Sept, 1978 on CBS. That network also aired The Amazing Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk. Out of the three, only the Hulk proved to have any staying power.

   I remember staying up to watch Dr. Strange but it failed to hold my interest. I tried watching it again, and it failed to hold my interest. Some may still like it and there is nothing wrong with that. To each their own. It didn’t/doesn’t work for me. Having said this, I dig the character’s concept and a few executions of this concept really worked for me in the books. I think Ditko’s version was the best but I am biased 😉

   So now the new movie is going to be made with Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange. I cannot wait to see what crazy shit Marvel Studios has in store for us!

This Day in #StarWars History: 28 June 1978, Boba Fett

   This is a pretty cool video. It’s nothing new. It’s been around forever but it is always fun to revisit. Like millions of other kids from the 70’s, my first introduction to Boba Fett was the best part of the overly maligned ‘Holiday Special’. It was the most memorable part of the show. I had a Anniversary Edition McQuarrie prototype but I had to sell it on Ebay. Recently I was able to pick up a Walgreen’s Exclusive Prototype Black Series without getting over charged.

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From StarWars.Com’s Official YouTube Channel:

   Many have seen the early Ralph McQuarrie sketches of Boba Fett sporting the all-white helmet and armor. What you haven’t seen is the original white Fett costume in action. A videotape was rolling to capture “proto Fett’s” reveal to Lucas and company at the filmmaker’s home on June 28, 1978. In the video, sound designer Ben Burtt “hosts” Fett’s reveal, describing the different weapons, functions, and characteristics of the costume (worn by Empire’s assistant film editor Duwayne Dunham for the test).

This is a Thing! Star Wars Transforming X-Wing Fighter by Takara

Click the photo for more at The Vintage Toy Advertiser!
Click the photo for more at The Vintage Toy Advertiser!