Friday, July 08, 2016

The Reprint Conundrum: Target Doctor Who Novelisations

I was tagged in a Facebook post today (On the Doctor Who Collectors Group) about reprints of the Target Doctor Who novelisations as some collectors were getting very confused about the reprints, how you could identify them and so on. And as it's a far more complex subject than you might imagine, and as Facebook is very transient, I thought it was worth putting some thoughts and explanations on the Blog so that they can be referred to going forward, maintained and updated with new information, and generally remain accessible to anyone who wants to know.

Throughout this piece I will refer to the Toybox site.  This is an online resource for Doctor Who collectors which attempts to catalogue every item of Doctor Who merchandise ever released ... and of course this includes the Target Books. But also, for the Targets, we also tried to document every reprint we knew about or could find. It's not complete, but it's a pretty good starter for ten and also has cover images showing variances and so on ... so it's a good place to go. www.doctorwhotoybox.co.uk

Okay. First things first. These are books, and books have an identifying number called an ISBN. This stands for International Standard Book Number, and is (or should be) a way to uniquely identify a given book. The rules say that every book should have a unique ISBN. If you change the book's format (ie it's physical size) or it's Cover Image, or it's content (significantly rather than minor corrections), or it's language, or it's publisher, or it's title then you should give it a new ISBN. The 'rules' can be found here if you're interested ... https://www.isbn-international.org/content/isbn-assignment.

In practice, however, this doesn't happen, and you get all manner of things going on. But as a general rule of thumb, the ISBN for the Target books follows this pattern.  So the first editions will each have their own ISBN. and that ISBN remains constant until they change the cover art ... most of the time.

If we look at the Book Covers now, and obviously each book has it's own cover. The first 12 books have the 'Block' Doctor Who logo. Which looks like this:

They they changed it to the 'curved' logo like this ('The Giant Robot' was the first title to use this logo but that has Tom Baker's face over the 'O' so is not really representative):
:
Before moving on to the 'neon' logo:

Then the McCoy Logo:

And finally, to a totally different cover design for the last couple of books:

First editions (and we're talking first edition paperbacks here. Most of the Target books had hardback editions as well, some of which were published prior to the paperback editions, some of which were published at the same time as the paperback editions, but NONE of the hardbacks were badged as 'Target') will have specific colours for the logos and text, and these changed for reprint editions. So on the Toybox site, you will see that we try to highlight what is different or specific about which edition of the book.  Some reprints changed the logo style as well, and also the artwork changed for a reprint ... but not always.

But be careful when checking cover colours and spine/back cover colours as they can fade and change to different colours with extended exposure to sunlight.

So usually you can initially spot what might be a first edition from the cover, the logo, and the colourings ... but there can be some other changes too ... You see that first edition cover of 'The Daleks' above? Well the tagline under the Author Name 'Based on the popular BBC television series' ... that line is missing off some of the reprints.


There's also part of the ISBN number printed on the first edition spine of the first three titles only, and this is missing off some of the reprints ... so you have to be observant and diligent to be able to spot a first edition.

The other good identifier on the books is the cover price.  The books started at 25p each, but then rose in price, pretty much each year. So the price will give an indication as to which year the book originated from. And bearing in mind the confusion over the insides (see later) this is very helpful indeed.

Moving to the insides of the book, and the first thing to note is that these books were all produced back in the days when the covers and the insides were printed separately, and then brought together when the books were bound. What this means is that sometimes the publisher found themselves with stacks of covers, and no books to put in them ... or sometimes it was the other way round, they had lots of what are called 'book blocks' and no covers to wrap around them.

So what they would do, was to reprint either the covers or the insides so they could bind the books and get them out to shops.  BUT when they did this, they sometimes made changes to the insides or the covers ... so you can have a first edition cover, with a second edition book block inside it ... or a first edition book block with a reprint edition cover around it.

Another aspect of this is rejacketing, where older copies of the book would have their jackets removed ('stripped off') and a new jacket put in their place. This happened when there were large numbers of stocks of a book in the publishers warehouse, and the publisher wanted to perhaps increase the jacket price on them, or to change the jacket for a new illustration or branding, thus refreshing the stock and allowing it to be sold ...

This makes it VERY hard to try and definitively pin down what edition is what ... there are so many changes!

Another point to note is that when covers were reprinted, they sometimes didn't go back to the original plates and artwork, and instead used a previous cover to reprint from. This means that some subsequent reprint covers are 'zoomed in' and lack detail. Also the colours can be harsher ... all these things are because they just took an earlier cover and used that as the basis for the new reprint.

Look at page 4 of a given book, and you will find the publishing information. This is supposed to tell you which edition it is, and sometimes publishers will print in it 'Second Edition' or 'Reprinted 1996, 1997 (twice), 1999' or whatever to show which this copy is.  Another way this is done is by printing a sequence of numbers like this '2 4 6 8 9 7 5 3'. That sequence would indicate a second edition as the '2' is the lowest number there ... Others might have '3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12' which would indicate a third edition as '3' is the lowest number there.

Here's an example of a First Edition Target:

You can see that it DOESN'T SAY it's a first edition.  Some books will however note this.

Here's the same page from a reprint edition:


You can see the FIRST PUBLISHED information, and that it also says SECOND IMPRESSION and REPRINTED IN ...  So this is possibly a second edition, or possibly a third edition (the information can be interpreted to mean that the Second Impression was then reprinted again ... making this a third impression).

However, sometimes they didn't update the information on this page when they reprinted, meaning that while the cover might have been different, with a different price, the insides remained the same.

Here's another example of a reprint interior:
Here you can see the four reprints are noted.

If you look on the Toybox site, you'll see that some of the books have loads and loads of reprints, while others have very few indeed, and some have none!  This is simply because as the range continued, the publishers learned how many to print, and if they got their sums right, then no reprint was ever needed. Especially too as they got to the end of the range, when they knew that they couldn't afford to end up with loads in stock ...  Again, the print runs, where known, are noted in the Toybox listings.

I think those are the main points ... to summarise:

Check the cover:

  • Is the logo correct
  • Is the colour correct
  • Is the cover image correct
  • Is the cover price correct
  • Is the ISBN correct


Check inside:

  • Does it indicate any reprint editions?
  • Is the ISBN the same as the cover?


If all these are confirmed, then congratulations, you probably have a first edition!

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Review: The Trollenberg Terror (aka The Crawling Eye) 1958

We watch a lot of films here ... some of them come in for review, others are just for pleasure ... and with this one, I found it lurking on a new-ish TV Channel called Talking Pictures ... and I had to see it.

The last time I saw it was a long time ago - so long in fact that I couldn't really remember any of the details ... but gosh it's a good film. It's actually quite a surprise that this has never been remade ... one wonders what modern effects could manage which might surpass what is presented here.

Made in black and white in 1958, it stars Forrest Tucker as a UN Troubleshooter-type who is heading to Trollenberg to check up on a scientific viewing station there, led by Warren Mitchell with a great Germanic accent!  On the train are a couple of sisters, one of whom is psychic and who collapses, insisting that they get off at the stop.

They're all soon embroiled in a mystery on the mountain, where a strange mist or fog seems to move about of its own volition. It's radioactive too, and people who find themselves caught in the mists are then found with their heads torn off.

The film, from a screenplay by Jimmy Sangster (who has more superb credits to his name than I have had hot dinners: just check out his credits on Wiki here), mixes together a lot of things which seem familiar. It's a little like a classic Doctor Who adventure in a way, and even has a gruesome prologue where a hapless climber is killed. The moving fog, and whole 'something in the fog' trope has been used of course in films like The Fog, The Mist and Silent Hill ... and the idea of radioactive aliens being behind it all is just classic 50's sci fi.

But boy are these aliens good. The film was called The Crawling Eye in America and for good reason, as that's just what these creatures look like. They are amazing. Their bodies are lit from within, and they have waving, seeking tentacles. A single eye is mounted on the front, and it moves about, seeking the victims out. It looks like a real human eye, and I suspect that the creatures were built around a human head, incorporating the eye into their design. They are amazing, original and very creepy.  They also make a sort of screeching and wailing sound as they approach which is also quite terrifying.  I wonder if anyone has any behind the scenes pictures of them?

The first time we see one of them is when a small child is cornered by one in the hotel. This is a very daft scene in many ways as previously no children were seen or even mentioned ... and suddenly there is one in danger! But the whole thing is so well done, that you can forgive a lapse like this and just go with the flow!

Overall it's quite a superb piece of filmmaking, with some brilliant effects to cap it all. Well worth a watch.

There's a trailer for the film here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Un84y-zrGNs

And the full film seems to be here:
http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1980q5_trollenberg-terror-the-crawling-eye-1958_shortfilms

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Review: Satan's Blade (1984)

Yet another Arrow release from the 80's slasher camp, and another that I'd never heard of before. I wonder where they keep finding them! Unfortunately it might have been better if this one had stayed lost!

It's a puzzling story which suggests that a knife is cursed, and that anyone who comes into contact with it turns into a bloodthirsty maniac. We open with two girls robbing a bank, killing people there, heading for their hideaway, stashing the loot, before one kills the other, and then she herself is slaughtered by an unseen assailant. We then leap five years later to when two couples, and a group of five girls, are checking into a holiday lodge which is where the earlier murders were committed. Of course the murders start up again, with people being stalked and killed ... but is it the old fisherman by the lake? Or someone else committing the murders? And what about that stash of money which stays hidden throughout the film ... ultimately it's pointless as it has no bearing on anything ...

Of course who the killer is, is the big payoff, but it's not that much of a surprise.  Elsewhere the film has a lot of nudity, so much so, that it veers into soft porn territory at times ...

Unfortunately the cast are uniformly terrible, with bad delivery and poor acting at every turn. The blood looks like tomato sauce (it probably was) and overall it's a mess of a film. In fact it's the sort of film you get if you have the same person writing, directing and producing it, and the culprit here is one L Scott Castillo Jr. But not him alone as Thomas Cue wrote the screenplay and also acts in the film.

There's an extra in which Castillo Jr, interviewed by a mystery woman called Pam, shows us some of the 'artifacts' from the film, which include reels of the actual film, and old video covers, and a knife which looks nothing like the one in the film ... It's all rather painful.

As you can tell, I really wasn't enamoured with this one, and it's a struggle to come up with anything to praise it for. Even the music score is a synthesised mess ...

It's independent filmmaking at its most raw and unfocussed.




SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

•Brand new 2K restoration of the film presented in both 4:3 (1.37:1) and 1.85:1 versions
•High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
•Original Mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
•Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
•Brand new audio commentary by podcast The Hysteria Continues
•Interview with writer-director L. Scott Castillo, Jr.
•Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Ryan Tobin
•Fully-illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Brian Albright, author of Regional Horror Films, 1958-1990

Monday, June 27, 2016

Review: Return of the Killer Tomatoes (1988)

This is a great little film! And one which I'd not seen before. I've not even seen the original Killer Tomatoes film, so had no preconceptions as to what this might all be about. But as sequels go, this is pretty enjoyable and well done fare. It's streets above other 'so bad they're good' type films, and I'd almost go so far to say that this is 'so good it's good'!

The basic plot is that there's a mad scientist, Professor Gangreen superbly played by John Astin (the original Gomez Addams), who has discovered a way to turn tomatoes into people. So he has created Rambo-esque guards for his house, and also a hot female assistant (Karen Mistal). In fact she is so hot she's steaming! Except that said assistant falls for one of the lads from the local high school, and he and his mate (played by a young George Clooney) decide to try and liberate her ...

It's generally a nonsensical romp of a film, with some brilliant '80s moments. I love how it starts as a beach movie, with a whole bevvy of unfeasibly hot babes in bikinis, and then moves into sideswipes at consumerism as they try product placement of all types to try and get enough money to finish the film ...  Tomatoes are bad as well and are smuggled in, while people run around screaming if there is even a hint of tomato! Chad (Anthony Starke) and Matt (George Clooney) work in a pizza place and pizzas are made with every ingredient but tomato as well - strawberry jam being one such replacement, and the whole film is silly and yet compelling.

As mentioned, I was somewhat entranced by Karen Mistal who plays Tara Boumdeay (Professor Gangreen's assistant). She is stunning and with a body ... what a body ... The '80s fashions really work to her advantage in this regard. We even get a return of the bikini girls at the end as Matt uses the Professor's machine to create some hot girlfriends for himself.

I loved the film. I liked the sense of self-awareness that it has, the breaking of the fourth wall, the insanity of the plot, and the gorgeous girls of course. For the ladies, there is of course George Clooney, and another assistant of the Professor called Igor, who is a handsome blond chap with a very educated speaking voice (Steve Lundquist).

It reminded me a lot of the more recent Sharkanado movies, with the same sense of the absurd and rollicking fun which they embody.

My one disappointment here is in the extras on this new Blu-Ray release from Arrow. Usually Arrow stuff their disks with tons of material, but here there's only a recent interview with Anthony Starke to round it off (there's a trailer and a couple of other minor elements, but no documentary or behind the scenes information. Ah well.

Worth getting to watch with your mates on a beer and pizza night. Just watch out for the tomatoes!



SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
  • Original Stereo audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Brand new audio commentary with writer-director John De Bello
  • Brand new interview with star Anthony Starke
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin
  • Fully-illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by critic James Oliver


Friday, June 24, 2016

Short Stories on TV

I love short stories ... they're great in collections, and anthologies, and the very best make you think and feel emotions ... they can also be experimental in a way that might be tricky at a longer length, but they can also be varied and range from funny to horrific to gut-wrenching, to sad ... there really is no limit!

No surprise then that some of my favourite television is in the 'Short Story' field. Anthology series which take a the form of stand-alone tales of terror (or science fiction). Among such series in the past have been Out of the Unknown, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, The Hunger, Tales of the Unexpected and Urban Gothic. All of them presented some great material during their runs, and all managed to make the most of what modest budgets they had available.

Unfortunately, in more recent years, this sort of Anthology series has all but vanished. All people seem to want are character-driven series with season arcs and cliffhanger endings to each season ... the idea of telling discrete stories each week doesn't exist. There was Black Mirror of course which took a more political slant on the genre, but it's hard to think of any others.

Which is why I was excited to see, first, a little series of films based on the work of H G Wells - The Nightmare Worlds of H G Wells, and, more recently, four of Neil Gaiman's short stories presented in similar fashion. I suppose one could also include here Mark Gatiss' brilliant M R James adaptation of The Tractate Middoth from a couple of Christmasses ago ...

The H G Wells stories were an interesting bunch, and I have to admit to not being very familiar with his short works. From what was presented, I got the feeling that they struggled to find ones which were actually adaptable to television. The themes seemed a little muddled in each, and the outcomes very obvious. I liked a lot the one about the old man who 'jumps' into the body of a younger man as he seeks immortality, and I also liked the one about the poisonous mushrooms, in which Shaun Parkes shines.

The direction of these was also well thought through, with largely black drapes taking the place of backgrounds, and the action taking place in a sort of theatre set, slightly removed from reality.  This was, presumably, a cost-saving measure, but it worked in the telling of the stories, making them slightly spiky and unreal. I'm not sure though that I could believe Ray Winstone as H G Wells. His accent being somewhat offputting, and not how I had ever imagined Mr Wells to sound (I have to admit, I have no idea what Wells' accent would have been, however!)

The four stories chosen were: The Late Mr Elvesham, The Devotee of Art, The Moth and The Purple Pileus.

Overall, however, I enjoyed Sky's presentation of these tales, and it was very refreshing to see proper short stories dramatised on television.

The Neil Gaiman stories were given the overall title of Likely Stories, and there were again four chosen: Foreign Parts, Feeders and Eaters, Closing Time and Looking for the Girl.

Unfortunately I was less taken with these adaptations, though for the most part they were well made and cast. I liked seeing Montserrat Lombard in every one - she's a superb actress and brings a full range of emotion (and accents) to each role. I was less enamoured with comedian Johnny Vegas telling stories in a gentleman's club though.

Probably the best of them was Feeders and Eaters where Lombard plays a girl waitressing in a cafe who hears stories from her clientele. One such comes from a young man who has met and is looking after an old, old woman (excellently played by Rita Tushingham) ... but she needs fresh meat to survive, and the implication, very subtly done, is that she is literally eating him alive. It's so subtle though that you could miss it - I only knew because I published Gaiman's story in one of Telos' anthologies a few years back!

This is basically the problem with them though, there's not much story there. Gaiman is a brilliant writer and novelist, but the short stories they chose are perhaps not his best. But then I'm not the director/producer and don't know what criteria they were looking for. It's certainly true that all four are seedy and dark and dwell on the human condition ... so perhaps this was what they were aiming for. And if so, they succeeded!

Foreign Parts in particular made me feel quite grubby - it's about a venereal disease which takes over its host and makes them a better person somehow ... very strange.

I really hope that these two series have been successful for Sky and that they are moved to widen their net and seek out more authors and more works to bring to the small screen. There is such a wealth of potential out there that it seems a shame to limit it to just two authors ...

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Review: Blood Bath (1966)

The new Arrow release of Blood Bath is not so much a release of a film, as an entire set devoted to how Roger Corman, Frances Ford Coppola, Jack Hill, Stephanie Rothman et al managed to take an obscure, unreleased Yugoslavian film and create another three films from it.  It's quite an undertaking, and included on this blu-ray set is a truly excellent feature wherein Tim Lucas takes us through all the different versions, explaining what happened, when and how and why.

I have to admit that Blood Bath is not a film I had previously seen, nor was particularly aware of, and as a black and white 1966 horror, which is fairly incomprehensible in places (and which has nothing whatsoever to do with some of the illustrative poster and ad art), it's a hard watch. William Campbell plays an artist, who is also a vampire, who is famed for his images of dead girls. In fact he paints them and then kills them, or vice versa, dipping them in wax in his studio. He is tormented by the ghost of a dead woman, and his undoing comes when this spirit summons his dead and waxed women to come alive at the end and kill him!

What is fascinating about all this, is how footage from a film called Operation: Titian, made around 1963, was cannibalised into three other films called: Blood Bath, Portrait in Terror and Track of the Vampire. I won't go into the detail here, but there's a general overview of what happened on the Wiki page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_Bath.

It's interesting to see Sid Haig, years away from starring as Captain Spaulding in Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses, and Patrick Magee, better known from films like Tales from the Crypt and Asylum, not to mention The Monster Club, making appearances here, and both do well with the material. William Campbell also does a good job, as do the various directors, matching shots and details from the earlier versions into something which sort-of hangs together.

As always, the presentation by Arrow is excellent. All four films are included in the package, so I suppose you could try and make your own versions if you so wished, as well as various documentaries and commentaries.

It's certainly a release for film historians and those interested in the career of Roger Corman, and also as an object lesson perhaps in how film-making used to be done.

LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
• Limited Edition collection of the complete Blood Bath
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of four versions of the film: Operation Titian, Portrait in Terror, Blood Bath and Track of the Vampire
• Brand new 2K restorations of Portrait in Terror, Blood Bath and Track of the Vampire from original film materials
• Brand new reconstruction of Operation Titian using original film materials and standard definition inserts • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing on all four versions
The Trouble with Titian Revisited – a brand new visual essay in which Tim Lucas returns to (and updates) his three-part Video Watchdog feature to examine the convoluted production history of Blood Bath and its multiple versions
Bathing in Blood with Sid Haig – a new interview with the actor, recorded exclusively for this release
• Archive interview with producer-director Jack Hill
• Stills gallery
• Double-sided fold-out poster featuring original and newly commissioned artworks
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Dan Mumford
• Limited edition booklet containing new writing on the film and its cast by Anthony Nield, Vic Pratt, Cullen Gallagher and Peter Beckman
Poster for Blood Bath. The film does not include blondes being
chained up, nor dipping girls in boiling blood. There are no skeletons, and no torture
chamber, and no rack on which a girl is strapped. There is no shrieking of mutilated victims,
and no-one is caged in a black pit of horror. There is however
a net which is used to dip a dead brunette in wax ...

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Time and Spaces

Received through the post a lovely little book from the nice people at Miwk Publishing ... this is Time and Spaces: A Photo Journal of Doctor Who Filming by Yee Jee Tso.

The informed among you will realise that Yee Jee played the 'Asian Child' Chang Lee in the 1996 Doctor Who TV Movie which starred Paul McGann as the Doctor ... and thus this book is a record of the recording and locations of that TV Movie.

What Yee Jee has done is to revisit the locations 'today' and photograph them, putting them into the context of the TV Movie. There are a few excerpts from recording schedules, quotes and reminiscences from Sylvester McCoy and Daphne Ashbrook, and some lovely photos from the studio recording.

It's a shame that there aren't more photos from the actual recording on location, but instead we get a selection of lovely images of these places as they are 'today', with descriptions of how they were used for the making of the TV Movie.

It's a fascinating little memoir, and a trip down memory lane to the locations and places where history was made back in 1996, when the Doctor was back ... and it was about time!

Time and Spaces by Yee Jee Tso
Available from Miwk Publishing: www.miwkpublishing.com