Invasion of the Killer B-movie Robot Monster from Mars

It CameB-movies meet P.G. Wodehouse in the 2014 graphic novel It Came!, ‘directed’ by Dan Boultwood. Boultwood previously illustrated a series of graphic novels about The Baker Street Irregulars which were written by Tony Lee, who has also written for IDW’s Doctor Who Comics.

Before the main ‘feature’ there are a number of 1950’s style advertisements. For example, the top of one page sports an illustration of an attractive, stylish woman declaring, “I like my men like I like my bacon: Smokey.” At the bottom of the page: “Smoke & Choke’um Cigarettes: For that discerning odour.”

Just before the ‘feature attraction’ begins there is a ‘trailer’ for another ‘feature’ (and possible future comic, according to interviews with the author): The Lost Valley of the LostLost Valley features the two stars of It Came!, Dick Claymore and Fanny Flaunders, as well as Cecil Herringbone and Sir Rutherford P. Basingstoke as Caveman. The trailer features views of canyons with our heroine, played by the lovely Fanny Flaunders, in perilous situations: being attacked by a snake, a plant and a spanner. The trailer’s climax sees the heroes being confronted by a rather cuddly dinosaur.

On to our ‘feature’, It Came!, presented in Eyeball-O-Rama-Vision! A colorful poster-style page depicting a giant robot clutching a beautiful woman proclaims, “Something is coming round for afternoon tea…and it isn’t the vicar!” Then our story begins. In 1950’s England an old farmer drives his tractor under the stars. Suddenly, a robot monster attacks!

Two days pass and Dr. Boy Brett, dashing pipe-smoking British scientist, and his lovely assistant Doris Night are motoring down a country road in what appears to be a Morris Minor. Brett is very English, with rather Wodehousian speech patterns. For example, complimenting Doris, Brett says, “You know, Doris? For a girl, you’re a good egg!”

Doris and Dr. Brett stop at a pub in a quaint country village. The village is deserted. Our heroes are chased by an alien robot. They escape to the next quaint village, which is inhabited by people who appear to be living in the 1940’s. Dr. Brett makes a very British phone call to Colonel Willie Warwick Wilberton of the British army, who sends out some troops in exchange for two pints and a pork pie.

And that’s just the first quarter of the book!

Earth vs Flying Boultwood is inspired by American B-movies of the 1950’s, the type one might see on Mystery Science Theater 3000, such as Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers and Attack of the Crab Monsters. However, It Came! is more of an homage than a send-up. Boultwood has lots of fun with the genre (for example, when the flying saucer is revealed there is a string attached!), but the fun is never cruel.

It Came! has everything: beautiful women, flying saucers, soldiers, politicians with really big pipes, explosions, tea and crumpets, and, of course, science! It’s enjoyable, funny reading and I highly recommend it.

Adventures in Time and Space – Part 2

In Part 1 of Adventures in Time and Space we looked at the history of that epic TV show, Doctor Who. In part 2 we will examine some of the books written about this pop culture juggernaut.

Hundreds of official and unofficial books exploring the show’s history and mythology are available. Here are a few of my favorites that are available at Everett Public Library.

Visual dictionaryDoctor Who: The Visual Dictionary is a large, glossy, colorful, official guide to the first four seasons of the revived series. The book is published by Dorling Kindersley (DK), who is known for their oversize illustrated books on hundreds of topics such as Ancient Egypt, Forensic Science, Marvel Super Heroes and Star Wars. The books often have top-to-bottom and head-to-toe illustrations of their subjects, with detailed descriptions of the function of the various parts. So as one might expect, the Doctor, as well as foes such as the Cybermen, the Daleks, and the Sontarans are pictured from top-to-bottom with descriptions of the functions of uniforms, casings, and weaponry. There are also cross-sections of a few items from the Doctor Who universe such as the inner workings of the Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver, the Dalek Mothership, and a look inside a Dalek.

Lives and timesAnother slightly smaller but thicker official volume is Doctor Who: The Doctor’s Lives and Times. Each chapter in the book tells the story of one of the 11 incarnations of the Doctor, first from a fictional point-of-view using diaries, memoirs, letters, and newspaper clippings written in the world of Doctor Who, and second from a real-life, behind-the-scenes point of view with quotes from each actor who plays the Doctor, co-stars, production team members and others connected to the program. For example, Harry Melling, who played Harry Potter’s spoiled cousin Dudley, is quoted about his grandfather Patrick Troughton, the Second Doctor, and the ‘wackiness’ and ‘boldness’ of Troughton’s acting. Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins is also quoted in the chapter on the fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, in reference to Douglas Adams and the humor he injected into Doctor Who. Adams was the script editor on Doctor Who during the show’s 17th Season in 1979, just as his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was growing in popularity. Dawkins met ex-Doctor Who actress Lalla Ward (who was briefly married to Tom Baker in the early 1980s) at a party given by Douglas Adams: they were married in 1992. Dawkins also made a very brief appearance, being interviewed as himself on a news program, in the 2008 Doctor Who episode The Stolen Earth.

The VaultThe book that has captured my attention recently is the brilliant Doctor Who: The Vault by Marcus Hearn. It’s a year by year celebration of the 50 years of Doctor Who and one of the most enjoyable Doctor Who books I’ve read. Right away the reader sees something that, as far as I know, has never been published before: a ¼ scale floor plan of studio D of the BBC’s Lime Grove studios, from the archive of Doctor Who’s first director, Waris Hussein. The floor plan shows the studio as it was laid out for the very first Doctor Who episode, An Unearthly Child. Doctor Who was taped in the cramped Lime Grove facility for most of its first season between 1963 and 1964 and most of seasons five and six between 1967 and 1969. Each chapter starts with a summary of a year in the history of Doctor Who, followed by a topic relevant to that year such as the creation of Doctor Who, the role of the assistant, the concept of regeneration, violence in Doctor Who, Doctor Who fandom, the marketing of Doctor Who in the USA and so on. The book is illustrated with photos, artwork, production drawings, office memos, merchandise, costumes and props from the show and more. Doctor Who: The Vault is an impressive, beautiful, colorful book. It is a fitting celebration of 50 years of Doctor Who.

And still, this barely scratches the surface of what’s available. If you’re interested, take a look in the EPL catalog to find more material on Doctor Who. The catalog might appear small, but it’s bigger on the inside than you might think.

Adventures in Time and Space – Part 1

I’ve been a Doctor Who fan since 1985, back when budgets were low and one had to stay up until 1am (or later) on Saturday night to get a weekly Doctor Who fix. The character of the Doctor appealed to me, generally using his wits rather than weapons to defeat his foes.

general Dr Who picWhat or who is Doctor Who? It’s a British science fiction TV serial that first aired on November 23, 1963. The ‘Who’ in the title refers to the mystery surrounding the main character, known only as The Doctor, his real name never being revealed.

The Doctor is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. His people mastered the mystery of time travel but chose to observe rather than interfere in the lives of other people and planets. The Doctor, however, as he put it in the 1969 story The War Games, ‘got bored’. So he left his planet in a stolen time machine called a TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space), became a self-imposed exile, and travelled time and space fighting injustice in the Universe.

The Doctor has the ability to regenerate, to die and be reborn, and with each regeneration his appearance changes. This allows different actors to play the role. So, every three years or so, one actor leaves the show and another takes over, which accounts for the program’s longevity. Thus far 11 actors have starred as The Doctor in the British Broadcasting Corporation’s long-running show, and a 12th recently made his first appearance in the 2013 Christmas episode.

Doctor_Who_1996_posterThe ‘classic’ show ran continuously from 1963 to 1989, a Saturday tea time staple until the early 1980s when the BBC began experimenting with time slots. Seven actors played the role during this period. Later, a US/UK coproduced Doctor Who, featuring an eighth actor in the role, was attempted in 1996. It was a big hit in the UK but not in the USA and so remained a standalone film rather than a series.

In 2005, the program was revived by the BBC, with Russell T. Davies acting as executive producer and head writer. Davies created the TV series Queer as Folk  for Britain’s Channel 4 network, which was later reworked for the American cable network Showtime. Steven Moffat, who co-created the hit series Sherlock, a contemporary reimagining of the Sherlock Holmes story, is the current executive producer/head writer for Doctor Who. The revived Doctor Who has currently run for 7 seasons and is one of the top rated dramas on British television, as well as the highest rated show on the US cable channel BBC America. Amazingly, November 23, 2013 was the 50th anniversary of the first broadcast of Doctor Who!

EPL holdings include:

Individual story arcs from the ‘classic’ series

Classic
 Specials

Specials

Seasons of the revived series

Revived

Audiobooks

Audio1

Fiction

Fiction

Graphic Novels

Graphic

So whether you’re new to Doctor Who or a seasoned veteran, a veritable gold mine of treasures awaits you. And stay tuned for the next installment of Adventures in Time and Space, which focuses on books about The Doctor.

Nilbog is Goblin Spelled Backwards!

Some movies are so bad that they‘re good.

Troll_2_posterOne such movie is Troll 2. The movie’s original title was Goblins, but the studio thought it could cash in on the success of the movie Troll, despite the fact there are no trolls in the movie. Troll 2 has absolutely nothing to do with Troll.

In this 1989 movie, the Waits family swaps homes with another family for the summer, moving from the big city to the small farming town of Nilbog. The citizens of Nilbog, vegetarian Goblins disguised as humans, feed the people food tainted with a green potion that changes them into plants, plants which the Goblins then eat.

The movie was directed by Italian director Claudio Fragasso (under the pseudonym Drake Floyd) and written by Fragasso and his wife Rosella Drudi.  Drudi was inspired to write the movie because of her frustration with a number of friends who had recently converted to vegetarianism. It was filmed in Utah with a cast of unknown actors and an Italian film crew, most of whom didn’t speak English. At the time, neither Fragasso nor Drudi spoke fluent English and as a result the script was difficult for the cast to understand in certain places.  However, the director insisted that the cast follow the script verbatim rather than correct grammar and syntax. This led to some very awkward dialogue.

Troll 2 by-passed theatrical release and was quietly released to home video in 1989.

On Christmas Day 1989, Michael Stephenson, the child star of Troll 2, unwrapped a present: a VHS copy of the movie. He hadn’t yet seen the completed version. Stephenson played Joshua Waits, the hero of the movie. The young, aspiring actor popped the video into the family VCR and watched dreams of stardom fade away.

Troll 2 does not grace the shelves of the Everett Public Library.

Best Worst MovieMore than 20 years have passed since the release of Troll 2 and it has developed a sizeable cult following. Fans hold viewing parties and dress up like characters from the movie. Art House theaters screen the movie and invite cast members to discuss the movie and sign autographs.

The documentary film Best Worst Movie is available at Everett Public Library. The film is directed by Michael Stephenson and explores the making of Troll 2 and its cult following.

This documentary, produced over a four year period, follows Utah dentist George Hardy who played the part of Michael Waits, father of Joshua, as he travels to various Troll 2 events and autograph shows. Hardy showed up at the Troll 2 casting call for fun, hoping to be cast as a non-speaking extra. He ended up with one of the largest speaking parts in the movie.

In one memorable segment, Stephenson and Hardy visit the home of actress Margo Prey who played Diana Waits, wife of Michael and mother of Joshua. In Prey’s living room, the trio reenacts a scene from Troll 2 which took place in the family station wagon, while Prey’s elderly mother looks on bemusedly in the background. Prey is interviewed in the documentary, and, with complete seriousness, puts Troll 2 in the same class as Casablanca. She also appears to have become a bit of a recluse, refusing to  leave her home when Stephenson and Hardy invited her to accompany them to the ‘Nilbog Invasion – A Troll 2 celebration’ in Utah.

Another cast member, Don Packard, who played a rather creepy store owner in the town, spoke during the panel discussion at ‘Nilbog Invasion’. He recalled being cast one weekend and filmed during the next while on day-passes from a nearby mental hospital.   He’d also smoked an enormous amount of marijuana prior to filming and didn’t really know what was going on around him. So, according to Packard, the store owner’s disturbing, creepy behavior was not acting.

Director Claudio Fragasso also appeared at the event, having been tracked down in Italy by Stephenson. During the panel discussion, members of the cast recalled that the script to Troll 2 was incomplete when filming began, and that script pages were handed out as scenes were being shot. Fragasso declared that the actors were lying and referred to them as ‘dogs’.

Despite the fact the cast and crew of Troll 2 made one of the worst movies ever, most of them seem to look back at it with fondness.

Best Worst Movie is very enjoyable viewing on its own and as a companion piece to Troll 2.

David

Please Talk During the Movie

inthepeanutgallerySometime in the early 1990’s I found Mystery Science Theater 3000. Friends told me tales of a show with movie theater seat silhouettes on the screen, a human shadow bookended by 2 robot shadows, and wise cracking directed at very bad movies. I tuned in and was hooked. They said things I was thinking, as well as things I wish I’d thought of.

In the Peanut Gallery with Mystery Science Theater 3000, edited by two librarians at Texas Tech University (Robert G. Weiner and Shelley E. Barba), is a book containing scholarly essays about the show. It covers such topics as fandom, satire, and the culture and history of ‘riffing’, which is defined in the book as “…the process of creating a running satirical commentary concurrent with the presentation of a film.”

First, a brief explanation of what Mystery Science Theater 3000 (often referred to as ‘MST3K’) is, from the out-of-print guide to MST3K, The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide:

…mad scientists Dr. Forester and his assistant, Dr. Erhardt … work away in Deep 13, which is in the subbasement of Gizmonics Institute.  They have shot a man into space … aboard the Satellite of Love (SOL) and, as one of their evil experiments, they force him to watch bad movies while they monitor his mind.  Together with his robot pals Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo, they watch the movie and make with the quips while another robot, Gypsy, maintains the higher functions on the ship.

The show ran for one year on the Minneapolis UHF channel KTMA, 7 years on Comedy Central, and 3 years on the Sci-Fi Channel (Now SyFy.)

Some directors and actors have reportedly been less than happy after their movies were riffed by MST3K. It’s rumored that the actor Joe Don Baker threatened bodily harm to the  crew after they skewered his film Mitchell.

Hobgoblins1One director, however, has confirmed his happiness with the exposure his film received from the show in an essay called “There’s Been an Accident at the Studio: How We Made Hobgoblins” by Rick Sloane, the producer/director of the movie Hobgoblins.

Hobgoblins was made for a mere $15,000 in 1988. Sloane was inspired by the 1980’s puppet creature films such as Gremlins and Ghoulies. For $1,500, Kenneth J. Hall, who made the puppets for Ghoulies, made four Hobgoblin puppets for the film. On that budget, Hall was only able to make one puppet with a mouth that moved.

Hobgoblins has acquired the status of one of the worst movies of all time, thanks, in part, to MST3K. As of this writing, the movie was number 25 on the worst movies list on the Internet Movie Database. It is one of nine films listed on Wikipedia’s ‘List of Films considered the Worst of the 1980s‘. The movie’s newly found ‘fame’ inspired Sloane to make Hobgoblins 2 in 2009.

Another essay that caught my eye was titled “Cinemasochism: Bad Movies and the People Who Love Them” by David Ray Carter who writes for Film Fanaddict Magazine. Carter defines cinemasochism as “…finding pleasure in cinema that others have deemed too painful to endure.”

Many viewers have been exposed to painful movies like Monster A-Go-Go or The Amazing Colossal Man thanks to locally hosted shows popular in the 1960’s and 70’s such as Seattle’s Chiller Theater, Chicago’s Shock Theatre, Nashville’s Creature Feature or the syndicated Elvira’s Movie Macabre, which featured the ‘Mistress of the Dark’ presenting low-budget horror films and occasionally appearing in a box in the corner of the screen to make a witty comment about that evening’s film. MST3K widened the audience for cheesy horror and science fiction movies, as well as movies that defy categorization.

MST3K was cancelled in 1999, but the riffing continues with live shows, on-demand or downloads via internet, and direct-to-DVD releases from Cinematic Titanic, a troupe led by MST3K original host/creator Joel Hodgson (which is sadly ending this year), and Rifftrax, a trio led by MST3K’s second host/head writer Michael J. Nelson.

The MST3K scholarly essay parade continues with another book of essays, Reading Mystery Science Theater 3000published in May 2013 and edited by Shelley S. Rees, an associate professor of English at The University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma. We can only hope that this book will turn up on Everett Public Library’s shelves in the not too distant future.

David

Slow Cooking With Your Kindle

I’ve been exploring Everett Public’s Kindle holdings on Overdrive, which one can link to from our homepage. E-Readers have their detractors, but I enjoy the convenience of selecting a book at any hour of the day and being able to read it instantly. Also, it’s ideal for travel as it takes up almost no space in your carry on and you don’t run the risk of leaving your library book on the plane.

I recently purchased a slow cooker. It’s great because it doesn’t heat up the house or me on those hot summer days.

I wanted to expand my horizons beyond the cookbook that came with it, so I searched ‘slow cooker’ on Overdrive.  I found two titles: The Art of the Slow Cooker and The Everything Healthy Slow Cooker Cookbook.

The Art of the Slow Cooker by Andrew Schloss has, as the title page says, ’80 Exciting New recipes’. Some of Schloss’ recipes will probably be a bit overwhelming for novice slow cooks. However, his creations are quite impressive. He takes slow cooking to a gourmet level, beyond tossing a bunch of ingredients into a pot and letting them cook all day. Most of the recipes are packed with ingredients and seem to be geared toward people who actually know how to cook, unlike myself. The recipes have prep times of between 5 and 45 minutes.

There are times when Schloss gets a bit pretentious. For example, his description of the ‘glory of curry’ in the recipe for Curried Vegetables and Dal: “The blend of aromas aerating your head and the cacophony of sensations titillating your throat are as complex as any food in existence.” I feel a bit light-headed after that description.

One dish I hope to try soon is a Corn Chowder with Jalapeno.  It is one of the easier dishes to prepare, with easily found ingredients. Apparently, the jalapeno is included to titillate rather than burn.  “Every bite should provide a tingle; every bowl should leave your lips with a characteristic jalapeno glow”, Schloss says.

The Art of the Slow Cooker is illustrated with photos of many of the dishes.  However, unless you have the Kindle Fire, which has a color display, you will see, for example, a rather unappetizing black and white photo of a bowl of corn chowder.

The Everything Healthy Slow Cooker Cookbook by Rachel Rappaport is geared to a more general audience. It has 300 recipes for various occasions. The emphasis here seems to be on healthy meals with just a few minutes of prep time. Each recipe has nutritional information for a serving of that dish, something that The Art of the Slow Cooker lacked.

The book has 17 chapters including chapters with pork, beef, vegetarian, and vegan dishes. Chapter 6 covers one of my favorites, Chili.  There are 16 Chili recipes!

‘Secret Ingredient Beef Chili’ looks to be particularly delicious.  The ‘secret’ ingredient in the recipe is mango.  Rappaport says, “The mango melts into the chili and adds a fruity depth of flavor.”  The recipe serves 8 and it looks like a fairly nutritious dish with 200 calories per serving, just 3.5 grams of fat, sodium is 450 mg, carbs at 25 grams, 9 grams of fiber, and 19 grams of protein.

This book also has a chapter of breakfast recipes. With the slow cooker, one need never miss breakfast again. A number of the breakfast recipes in the book are started just before bed and are ready when you get up in the morning.

One of the best, in my opinion, is the ‘Ham and Egg Casserole’. It only has seven ingredients and can be ready for the slow cooker in about 5 minutes. One just pours a mixture of eggs, spices, cheddar cheese, chiles and ham into the cooker over two slices of sandwich bread. Set the cooker to low and cook for seven hours. When you wake up, breakfast is ready!  Just lift the casserole out of the cooker and slice it up on your cutting board. It serves six, and each serving has 140 calories and 11 grams of protein.

The Kindle won’t replace paper, but for convenience it can’t be beat. A search for cooking and food on Overdrive will bring up over twenty cookbooks. That’s a lot of books to carry out of the library, but with a Kindle or whatever eReader you might have, you can leave your book bag at home and carry those books with ease.

David

All The World’s A Stooge

The Three Stooges have entertained us for over 75 years. Their career on stage, film and television spanned more than 40 years. From 1930 to 1970, they appeared in over 200 film shorts and features.

The Stooges also have a very healthy fan base. The Three Stooges Fan Club, based in Pennsylvania, has over 2000 members and runs ‘The Stoogeum’, a museum packed with Three Stooges memorabilia. Three Stooges film festivals and conventions are held worldwide.

If you want to find out what all the fuss is about, you are in luck since The Three Stooges are well represented in the holdings at the Everett Public Library. Here are some examples:

The Three Stooges: Amalgamated Morons to American Icons: An Illustrated History by Michael Fleming is a good, short history of the Three Stooges. The book traces the childhoods of the Howard brothers (Moe, Curly, and Shemp), their early days on stage, their short comedies with Columbia Pictures, the decline of Curly’s health and Shemp’s return to the act, and their features with ‘Curly Joe’ DeRita.

One Fine Stooge by Steve Cox and Jim Terry is the authorized biography of the frizzy haired stooge, Larry Fine. Fine gave Terry a collection of clippings and photos and his blessing to write a biography worthy of the Stooges. With the help of Stooges fan Steve Cox, Terry’s work was finally published in 2006. The book includes a number of unpublished photos, including some of Curly Howard, taken after his forced retirement from the Stooges due to a stroke. Of the dozens of books written about The Stooges, One Fine Stooge is one of the finest. (Pun intended)

In 2010, Sony Pictures Entertainment completed an eight volume release of the 190 Columbia shorts. Everett Public has volume three of The Three Stooges Collection which has 23 shorts, produced between 1940 and 1942.

The Stooges’ films were often a reflection of the world at the time they were made. In You Nazty Spy, Moe is Moe Hailstone, who has a striking resemblance to Adolf Hitler. The Stooges were the first to satirize Hitler on film, 9 months before Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator. As You Nazty Spy begins, the Stooges are wallpaper hangers, an occupation reportedly once held by Adolf Hitler. They are recruited by businessmen Iznay, Onay, and Amscray to overthrow King Herman the sixth and seven eighths of Moronica because ‘There’s no money in peace’. The ‘Nazty Spy’ is the boys’ secretary ‘Mata Herring’ who, with the help of her ‘magic 8 ball’, predicts a grim future for them. The masses rise up and revolt, the trio end up on the run, and eventually become lunch for a den of lions.

The Stooges are employed as census takers in the 1940 short No Census, No Feeling, making four cents for each person interviewed. As the short opens, the boys, like over eight million others in 1940, are unemployed. Some were fortunate enough to draw a paycheck, temporarily, working for the 1940 census. The census takers had to work hard for their money, asking individuals questions about age, employment, income, marital status and so on. In one memorable scene, Moe stands at a man’s front door and asks “Are you married or happy”. Immediately following the question, the man ducks and Moe is hit in the face by a piece of flying dinnerware.

The Three Stooges are being reinvented for a 21st century audience. The Farrelly Brothers, who made the film There’s Something About Mary have filmed a Three Stooges feature for release in April, 2012. The movie promises to retain the traditional slapstick style of the classic shorts, with a modern-day storyline. Stooges purists may not approve of this ‘update’ which includes scantily clad ladies, Lobsters stuffed down trousers, and members of the cast of ‘Jersey Shore’. However, the impersonations of the Stooges are spot-on.

Over forty years since their last filmed performance, The Three Stooges remain popular. Books continue to be written about the boys and the majority of their film and TV work is available on DVD. The Three Stooges should eye poke and bonk heads for another 75 years, to the dismay of mothers everywhere.

David