Monday, April 03, 2017

SciFi Weekender 8

I've not been posting quite as much here of late ... mainly because I've been busy on several projects, and with several other real-world things also taking up my time!  But with the SciFi Weekender 8 event now past, I can finally find some time to blog!

So what is SciFi Weekender?  I have been asked that on several occasions ... is it like a ComicCon people ask ... or is it like a Festival?  A little of both, but not quite like either is the correct answer. The best way to describe it is as a weekend-long party at which everyone can geek out over whatever their Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror passion is ... there's lots of partying ... live music and cabaret acts and dancing in the evenings (and sometimes during the day too) ... lots of genre guests from film and television ... artists guests from the comics ... author guests who pen the literature that people like to read ... and cosplay ... lots of cosplay ... It really is a weekend experience like no other!

Linzi Gold and Jericho Rose on the Thursday night
For me, the journey to SFW has been fascinating indeed. Sam and I started to get involved several years back now, when we were guests of the event, and since then we have helped with the author track, helped with the other guests ... and then from last year, Telos Publishing became a co-sponsor of the event, along with Chic Festivals, Area 51 and Sci-Fi London ... so we were even more involved in the organisation.

For this year, I ended up scheduling the whole event and creating the programme which was given out to everyone. This was a year's worth of effort and planning ... helping to get the guests on board, the authors, liasing with Matt from Area 51 and Jonni from Chic to pin everything down ... Matt also did the final, spectacular design of the programme booklet and the end result, after months of work, was hopefully a guide to the whole event, allowing attendees to plan their own Weekender experience.  It seems to have gone down well too, which is very gratifying.

Sam Stone interviewing Nicholas Brendon
We also arranged the author track, with top names Darren Shan, Simon Morden, Justina Robson, Freda Warrington, Steve Lockley, Paul Lewis and of course Sam Stone all appearing to talk and sign books.  We were based at 'Author Central' in the Spaceport arena, and hosted signings there. Greatest thanks to Mick, Tracey and Caitlin Herod for helping out on the stall ... Sam and I were so busy over the weekend that we were only able to make fleeting appearances there ourselves!

The only downside to the weekend was the weather! We arrived on Wednesday in torrential rain which didn't let up until Friday morning ... the place was flooded! Wet and muddy, great pools of water everywhere, and you got soaked every time you went out!  But there's not much we can do about that unfortunately!

Peter Purves and Frazer Hines
Daphne Ashbrook and Yee Jee Tso
The weekend kicked off on Thursday with a couple of introductory panels, which seemed to go well, and then in the evening, we were treated to the band Jericho Rose who performed a brilliant 45 minute set. They are Manchester based, and their lead singer is Linzi Gold, Sam's daughter, who also sung at last year's Weekender ... They also nailed two covers: 'She Sells Sanctuary' and 'I Believe In A Thing Called Love' ...

This was followed by SFW Allstars ... a different vibe before the DJ, in which Daphne Ashbrook, Sam Stone, Linzi Gold and Yee Jee Tso sung, and Frazer Hines compered (and I did a little comic shtick with Frazer). Again this seemed to be well received ... and so we collapsed off to bed (well, to the cabin and wine and brandy before bed).

Peter Purves, Linzi Gold and Frazer Hines brave
The Tombs
Friday and the first full day ... I moderated a panel in the morning with the Who Companions ... and then spent a lot of time dashing between the Spaceport and Timeport arenas for various reasons ... We did a little 'Opening the Tomb' sketch as I had arranged for the set from the Doctor who 'The Tomb of the Cybermen' to be there thanks to it's builder Sam Rendell, who had also arranged for a Cyberlegion to be present ... so I penned a couple of little sketches for Frazer, Wendy, Peter, and then Frazer, Daphne and Yee Jee to perform ...  Unfortunately Wendy Padbury was unable to attend due to sickness, so Linzi Gold stood in!

These went well I felt, with smoke and music and Cybermen emerging from the Tombs ... One attendee told me that this brought goosebumps up and threw him back to hiding behind the sofa watching it on television ...

We had a launch party for Telos' new books on the Friday with free wine ... it all went down well but I was a little disappointed at the turn out. We were launching titles by Freda Warrington, Paul Lewis, Sam Stone, and a special 'Tales from the Weekend' book of stories from all the attending authors.  Luckily sales at the table were good over the weekend, making up for the slightly small launch!  But this did mean that we had lots of wine left over to drink ourselves!
A Cyberman emerges ...

Saturday night we didn't get to see anything!  We were so tired after the day that after we had eaten we just crashed back at the cabin ...  At least this meant we got a little sleep!

And Saturday dawned bright and early ... with some much needed sunshine ... and the Cosplayers were out in force having been denied the opportunity due to the awful weather beforehand.

I managed to be late for my own panel in Starbucks!  Which amused me ... but my excuse is that I was over in the Owners Lounge for the Trooper Meet n Greet and got back late!  We had another Tomb Opening, and then there was the Just a Minute gameshow on Main Void!  Linzi Gold again stood in for Wendy Padbury, and we had a lively time with dance-offs, Joker interruptions, misunderstandings and laughter ... I hope everyone enjoyed it!

Then it was dinner and finally over to the Main Void to socialise, listening to 'The Dark Room' presentation, before Pat Sharp took to the decks to take us into the night ...
The CyberController

So exhausted and happy, I managed to not see much of anything that I wasn't directly on stage for ... I did manage to see Sam interviewing Nicholas Brendon, and the 'surprise' Buffy singalong afterwards ... It was great to very briefly catch up with Gareth Lloyd Jones, Professor Elemental, Chris Cross and Jimmy Vee, and to chat with the awesome Darren Shan and our other authors.

Unfortunately Justina Robson had a family emergency in the middle of the event and so had to excuse herself from Saturday's activities ... and we lost Phil Ford and Wendy Padbury to illness before the event started ...  But none the less we all had a great time.

I collected a lot of feedback from attendees over the course of the weekend, and this will all be fed into the mill for next time ... when, if at all possible, we want to make the Weekender even bigger and better!


LINZI GOLD/JERICHO ROSE PICTURE (C) DAVID J HOWE. OTHER PICTURES (C) AIDAN MORAN

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Review: Doctor Omega's Parallel Adventures: The Silent Planet

Doctor Omega is a strange beast indeed. We've all heard of Doctor Who of course, and probably most people know that it started in 1963, having been created by a committee at the BBC ...

But in 2003, American-based French writer and researcher Jean-Marc L'Officier, 'discovered' a French science fiction novel from 1906 by Arnould Galopin called Docteur Omega. A 1940s reprint of the French book contained illustrations which showed the eponymous Doctor as bearing great resemblance to William Hartnell's portrayal of Doctor Who, and so L'Officier decided to translate the French Docteur Omega to create a novel which contained a great many references and allusions to Doctor Who (I've not read it, but reportedly it includes sonic screwdriver, time travel and a grand daughter). Really playing up the possibility that the one could have inspired the other (it didn't, it's all just coincidence).

A very 'Hartnell' look for Doctor Omega ...
This Doctor Who-ised translation was published in 2003 (available here): http://www.blackcoatpress.com/fiction-doctor-omega.html) and given a very Target book-esque cover, and heavily promoted off the back of the imaginary Doctor Who connection.

The book was followed by a newly written sequel consisting of many short stories: Doctor Omega and the Shadowmen (Available here: http://www.blackcoatpress.com/fiction-doctor-omega-and-the-shadowmen.html)

The original novel was then translated again in 2013, without adding in all the gratuitous Doctor Who references, and this is available here: http://www.lulu.com/gb/en/shop/arnould-galopin/doctor-omega/paperback/product-21150648.html

The original novel
There's also an audio of this later translation, read by John Guilor. Copies are available here (at time of writing): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Doctor-Omega-Fantastic-Adventure-Mars/dp/B00M5AJBP8/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1484126882&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=doctor%20omega%20advernture%20mars

To confuse things further, John Guilor was hired by the BBC to impersonate William Hartnell's voice for 2013's 'The Day of the Doctor' Doctor Who story on television, but for the reading of the original novel, he chose not to do it in Hartnell-ese.  As he explained: 'I felt that he should only sound vaguely familiar and I also thought that people would listen to how well I was impersonating Hartnell (or not) rather than the story - and the story's great!'

Now we come to 2016, and Doctor Omega gets another life in the 'Parallel Adventures'.  I'm not quite sure what they are meant to be parallel to ... maybe Doctor Who? Or maybe it's that the 'Tuner' (which I keep disconcertingly hearing as 'Tuna') that the Doctor travels in, moves across dimensions and space in a parallel fashion ...

The first CD, The Silent Planet (perhaps after C S Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet (1938)) has been written by John Peel, a prolific and successful writer and novelist, and he has based this very much on the original text by Galopin, so there are no blatant Doctor Who-isms on show. To completely befuddle everyone though, John Guilor is back narrating it, but this time he is performing Doctor Omega as though he were played by William Hartnell playing Doctor Who.

Thus we have a curious CD, which runs for a little over 21 minutes, which sounds like a Doctor Who missing adventure if the TARDIS was called a Tuner ... And it's not at all bad. The plot is slight, but then there's only 21 minutes to play with, and it has elements of War of the Worlds about it, as well as some gadgetry and other things pertinent to the contemporary writings of Wells and Verne and so on ...

The packaging is really nice. A gatefold card cover containing the CD and a little black and white mini-comic called Galapagos Planet by Steve Andrew. Indeed the CD is raising money to help save and preserve the Galapagos Tortoise population ...

So on the surface this has nothing whatsoever to do with actual Doctor Who, and yet can be listened to as a First Doctor adventure, or as something completely different ...

Copies of the new CD will be available in the UK from Who Dares Ltd at some point soon (http://www.who-dares.co.uk/)

Here's a trailer!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Review: Howling II: Your Sister Is A Werewolf (1985)

The Howling (1981) is one of those seminal horror films. Something so unique and so good that it’s hard to see how it could be bettered. Gary Brandner’s superb novel about a colony of werewolves was translated brilliantly to the screen by Joe Dante, and with make-up effects courtesy of Rob Bottin, the final film is just sublime. With this effort, however, you distinctly get the feeling that it was a different film entirely, and they just slapped the Howling moniker on it to cash in on the original … but then you realise that Brandner has a co-credit on the screenplay, and start to wonder what on earth happened!

Howling II seems to have a few subtitles. Your Sister is a Werewolf is the one on this Arrow release, but IMDB favours Stirba – Werewolf Bitch which is possibly more accurate. Whatever you call it, the film is a mess from start to end. Nominally it’s following the story of Ben White (Reb Brown), brother of Karen White from the first film. But the shots we see of Karen are a different actress to Dee Wallace in the original, and even the clips we see of Karen transforming in a TV studio look totally different and are not as good as the original. Anyway, Ben is investigating his sister’s death, and in the melee of ideas there’s more werewolves, a Queen Werewolf called Stirba (Sybil Danning) who wolfs-up and spends much of her screen time in bed with two other werewolves having wolfy sex, there’s black magic, forbidden books, all sorts of lore about killing werewolves by stabbing them in the heart with silver (mixing up vampire lore there too), there’s dungeons and orgies, and kidnappings, and one of the worst performances of all time from Annie McEnroe as a reporter called Jenny, who drifts through the film being weak and hopeless as all the carnage erupts around her.

It’s hard to know where to start pointing out the faults – the whole film is a fault! Lots of it seems jumbled in together with midgets being possessed and having their eyes popped out, old women transforming into Sybil Danning, and Danning strutting around wearing a black leather and copper swimsuit, along with overlarge chaps and shoulder pads … It’s a camp nightmare! Even the scene where she rips open her cloak to reveal her breasts is reportedly repeated seventeen times during the closing credits!

And striding through all this, there’s Christopher Lee! Wandering through the madness and looking as though he’s wishing he’d taken another film – any other film – than this one.

Basically it’s about as bad and as crazy and as inept as any low budget eighties horrors. There are films out there far more worthy of your time and money.

ARROW FILMS: Release Date: 14th November 2016

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
 
  • Brand new digital transfer
  • 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
  • Audio commentary with director Philippe Mora
  • Audio commentary with composer Steve Parsons and editor Charles Bornstein
  • "Man, Monkey, Wolf"! - an interview with Philippe Mora
  • Leading Man – an interview with actor Reb Brown
  • Queen Of The Werewolves – an interview with actress Sybil Danning
  • A Monkey Phase – interviews with special make-up effects artists Steve Johnson and Scott Wheeler
  • Behind-the-Scenes Footage
  • Alternate Opening and Alternate Ending
  • Still Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
 
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Michael Blyth

Monday, December 26, 2016

Review: The Initiation (1984)

Not one of the best or most memorable of slasher films, The Initiation comes over today as something of a pale imitation of the best of the genre. It’s interesting that the same year it was released, Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street was also released, and Craven’s film is superior in just about every way.

In The Initiation, Kelly (Daphne Zuniger) is plagued by bad dreams, caused by some trauma she suffered as a child. Not to be put off, however, she wants to become a member of her school’s sorority, and the initiation involves breaking into her dad’s department store and stealing the clothes from the security guard.

Of course things aren’t as simple as that, and when you add in some escaped prisoners from a local sanatorium, then the deaths start to add up. The main issue, from a plot perspective, is that the killings are random. No-one who dies deserved to die – this is one of the common tropes in this genre of film: usually if you are young, if you have sex, you die … but here there’s not even that tenuous morality to save you. People are bumped off left and right and the viewer is left to try and guess who the killer is …

Of course it’s a curveball at the end which answers the question of why Kelly is having the nightmares … but ultimately it’s not very satisfying.

ARROW VIDEO: Release Date: 7th November 2016

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
  • Brand new restoration from original film elements
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original Uncompressed Mono PCM audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Brand new audio commentary by The Hysteria Continues
  • Brand new interview with actor Christopher Bradley
  • Brand new interview with actress Joy Jones
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourn

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic James Oliver


Friday, December 23, 2016

Review: Vamp (1986)

Another eighties horror film, and this time something which has something of a poor rep, but it’s hard to see quite why. There’s a lot to like in Vamp.

It’s ostensibly the tale of a couple of young men about town, Keith (Chris Makepeace) and AJ (Robert Rusler) who, in order to pass a College initiation ceremony, have to procure a stripper … so they head for the most jumping joint in town after procuring a ride from Duncan (Gedde Watanabe), a rich, but lonely, loser. They end up at the place where Queen Katrina (Grace Jones) performs, except that she’s a vampire queen and just about all the other performers at the club are also vampires. All except, strangely, for Amaretto (Dedee Pfeiffer), a familiar young girl who, it turns out, once kissed Keith. AJ is killed by Katrina and becomes a vampire himself, and Keith and Amaretto have to escape from the vampires, corrupt police and a psycho-albino vampire … Duncan is also vampirised, and it all comes to a head as they flee through the sewers and stumble across the vampire’s lair …

The film is great fun, and in common with gems such as Fright Night (1985) and Return of the Living Dead (1985), it doesn’t take itself too seriously. There’s some smashing make-up effects, Grace Jones is as weird and kooky as you would expect her to be – one distinctly gets the impression that for her stage routine, they just pointed the camera and let her get on with it – and Dedee Pfeiffer is cute and perky and ‘girl next door’ as anyone from Night of the Comet (1984) or pretty much any other eighties horror flick. There are also elements which seem to have been borrowed by From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) … and lots more besides.

It’s a film to enjoy with a few beers, and to snuggle up with the girlfriend (or boyfriend) … as such were these films designed to be.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
  • High Definition digital transfer
  • Original mono audio
  • Subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • One of those Nights: The Making of Vamp - a brand new documentary featuring interviews with director Richard Wenk, stars Robert Rusler, Dedee Pfeiffer, Gedde Watanabe
  • Behind-the-scenes rehearsals
  • Blooper Reel
  • Image gallery
  • Dracula Bites the Big Apple (1979) – Richard Wenk’s celebrated short film
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil
First pressing only: Booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Cullen Gallagher

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Review: The Guyver (1991)

The Guyver is a film which somehow passed me by! It's also quite hard to categorise, being a sort of superhero movie, where the hero is as mutated and twisted as the bad guys ... oh, and they all look like monsters ...

Based on original Manga and Anime, the film has an immediate feel-good credential as the amazing FX artist Screaming Mad George is involved as both FX and co-director ... and it's a good call as the film relies on various mind-blowing transformations and monsters for its impact.

The idea is simple: as an opening sequence of text tells us: there are alien monsters among us, who can disguise themselves as humans ... and the only thing that can defeat them is a human using a transformation device called a Guyver. So enter Sean (Jack Armstrong), who stumbles upon the Guyver device after it is smuggled out of the Chronos Corporation HQ. It changes him into this amazing super weapon ... and from that point it's fights and chases and action as the alien monsters all want to get their hands on it!

To be honest, it's pretty much exactly the same as watching Power Rangers only slightly more for adults. The monsters all look like creations from that show, or perhaps early Lost in Space and have the same habit of throwing dialogue and quips in all the time as they fight. It's certainly not to be taken seriously!

When Mark Hamill (yes, him off of Star Wars) turns up and ends up being transformed into some giant beetle thing, you know it's not going to end well!  And the final battles against a giant monster (which is what the CEO of Chronos turns into) is likewise great fun.

And that really sums up the film ... it is great fun! Linnea Quigley (off of Return of the Living Dead) appears as a 'scream queen' when one of the monsters invades a film set on which she is working, and Michael Berryman (off of The Hills Have Eyes) plays Lisker, the lead monster creature ... Even Jeffrey Combs (off of Reanimator) makes an appearance as 'Dr East', playing off his popular role as Dr West in the Lovecraft films ...

There are fights galore, transformations aplenty, gloopy monsters in vats, enough bodily fluid to keep David Cronenberg happy for months, and a crazy plot which just about holds everything together. It's a great film in its own way, and a good way to spend an evening with friends and beer ...

ARROW FILMS: Release Date: 19th December 2016

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
    
  • Brand new digital transfer of the Director’s Cut
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
  • Original uncompressed audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Brand new interview with producer Brian Yuzna
  • Trailer
  • Image Gallery
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Nick Percival
 

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Fully-illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film

Review: Slugs (1988)

Slugs is a gloriously rubbish slice of eighties hokum. If you like your horror films silly and illogical with lots of blood and gore, then this is for you! Nominally based on the novel of the same name by Shaun Hutson, the film actually seems to have nothing in common with it except the title … oh, and the slugs of course.

We open with a couple on a rowing boat, and there’s a disturbance in the water. The chap fishing has one foot dangling overboard, and the girl is about to take her top off … you know what’s going to happen! Somehow the slugs grab the chap’s foot and drag him under where there’s an explosion of blood! Then we’re in America where slugs have gone carnivorous and are attacking people – speeded up! A man in a greenhouse puts on a glove into which a slug has gone, and then screams and cannot get the glove off! Mighty strong these things. The solution: to thrash around screaming before grabbing an axe and cutting his own hand off! Then another woman prepares dinner, not noticing the large black slug in her lettuce as she chops it up. It’s then eaten with neither of the diners noticing the slug – or tasting it … Then the man collapses in a restaurant later on and his face explodes as slug larvae burst out of him! It’s all crazy daft stuff, with the police not noticing the slugs or their trails, and these creatures popping up all over the place and eating people!

It all ends in the sewers as Our Heroes don yellow outfits and descend to try and find the source. What’s interesting is that an earlier scene suggested there were giant slugs but we never see any sign of them … But the solution seems to be to spray them with a mixture of lithium and arsenic which a local school science master has in industrial quantities! Madness. Of course all the sewers explode, as do several houses for no reason … but a slug survives …

It’s a crazy mad bad film, but it’s actually well made, and for the most part well acted (there’s a couple of phone-them-in performances). The Arrow disk contains some nice extras including an interview with the effects guy and some photos of the impressible model shots that were undertaken. Even the supremely silly shot of a slug rearing up and biting someone’s finger was fascinating – done with enlarged models: a giant slug and a giant finger! Although silly, it does work well!

If you’ve a passion for the best of the worst of eighties horror, then this is certainly one to add to your shopping list!

ARROW FILMS: Release Date: 26th September 2016


SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  • Brand new restoration from original film elements
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original Uncompressed PCM Stereo audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Audio commentary with Slugs author Shaun Hutson
  • Audio commentary by writer and filmmaker Chris Alexander
  • Here’s Slugs In Your Eye – an interview with actor Emilio Linder
  • They Slime, They Ooze, They Kill: The Effects of Slugs – an interview with special effects artist Carlo De Marchis
  • Invasion USA – an interview with art director Gonzalo Gonzalo
  • The Lyons Den – an interview and locations tour with production manager Larry Ann Evans
  • 1988 Goya Awards promo reel
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Wes Benscoter
  • Fully-illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by writer Michael Gingold

Monday, November 07, 2016

The DOCTOR WHO Merchandise Museum

I've loved Doctor Who and its associated merchandise for many, many years. In the 80s my dream was to get a guide published to all the amazing things which had been released ... that failed, and so in the 90s I did it myself along with a brilliant pal and designer called Arnold T Blumberg ... And for as long as I can remember I've loved displaying my collection, in my bedroom, or in the spare room, and latterly in the 'collection room' at home!  But as the collection grew and grew I needed more and more space ...

So two years ago, we moved house, mainly to try and acheive the space we needed, and now own a lovely home, and also a business unit in which I can finally host the Doctor Who collection ... so that it's all available to see and appreciate, and we can also allow others to come and see it too and not have people stomping through our house to do so!

But there's an issue ... as explained in more detail in the fundraiser, in part because of a heart attack I suffered in 2016, we don't now have the money to complete the works, and so are running a fundraiser to try and get this, to make this museum a reality!!


There are some smashing perks for those who donate, and more perks are due to come online soon ... So please have a look and see what we're trying to do :)

Standing in the Unit with all the boxed up merchandise waiting
for the Unit works to be completed.
Any and all help is appreciated ... so please share the fundraiser, tell your friends, try and get word out to as many people as you can ... It's all really appreciated.

The fundraiser page is here:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-doctor-who-merchandise-museum

And there's some lovely pieces about it all here:

http://www.markwho42.net/2016/11/06/lets-indiegogo-to-the-doctor-who-merchandise-museum/

http://www.doctorwhonews.net/2016/11/the-doctor-who-merchandise-museum.html

http://thedoctorwhocompanion.com/2016/11/03/doctor-who-in-an-exciting-adventure-with-merchandise-new-doctor-who-museum-needs-your-help/

http://www.starburstmagazine.com/tv-news/16709-dr-who-merch-museum-news

https://scifibulletin.com/2016/11/02/help-support-a-doctor-who-memorabilia-museum/

http://merchandise.thedoctorwhosite.co.uk/david-j-howe-merchandise-museum-project/

http://news.drwho-online.co.uk/Help-Fund-The-Doctor-Who-Merchandise-Museum!.aspx