Lone Wolf Sullivan is a writer, songwriter, and studio musician.

Friday, August 29, 2008

BLADE RUNNER (1982) * * *

In 2019 Los Angeles, retired cop Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is recruited as a "Blade Runner" to track down and eliminate four android replicants that have mutinied in space and returned to Earth. The replicants are sophisticated synthetic slaves with only hours to live, and they frantically search for a way to prolong their lives.

Rick Deckard's boss Bryant (M. Emmet Walsh) says, "I need ya, Deck. This is a bad one, the worst yet. I need the old Blade Runner. I need your magic." Deckard's atttitude is, "They don't advertise for killers in the newspaper. That was my profession. Ex-cop. Ex-Blade Runner. Ex-killer."

Bryant lists the offenders: Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) is a commando, Leon Kowalski (Brion James) is a soldier, Zhora (Joanna Cassidy) is an assassin, and Pris (Daryl Hannah) is a "basic pleasure model". All are Nexus-6 model replicants, with a four-year lifespan. Deckard teams up with Gaff (Edward James Olmos) and they visit the Tyrel Corporation Headquarters. Secretary Rachael (Sean Young) complicates and confuses the movie because she is an experimental replicant that believes she is human. At this point we start to wonder who is really human.

(Roy Batty wants Eldon Tyrell to extend his lifespan)
Tyrell: "Would you... like to be upgraded?"
Batty: "I had in mind something a little more radical."
Tyrell: " What... what seems to be the problem?"
Batty: "Death."
Tyrell: "Death, ah, well that's a little out of my jurisdiction. You..."
Batty: "I WANT MORE LIFE, f**ker!"

Deckard searches Leon's apartment, "retires" Zhora, then falls in love with Rachael, even though he is ordered to "retire" her. Roy locates Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel), creator of replicants, and kills him and geneticist J. F. Sebastian (William Sanderson). Deckard is sent to Sebastian's apartment and "retires" Pris, just as Roy returns and chases him through a dilapidated building. Roy saves Deckard's life just before he "dies". Deckard and Rachael flee.

Deckard in a voice-over says, "I don't know why he saved my life. Maybe in those last moments he loved life more than he ever had before. Not just his life, anybody's life, my life. All he'd wanted were the same answers the rest of us want. Where did I come from? Where am I going? How long have I got? All I could do was sit there and watch him die."

BLADE RUNNER is a futuristic sci-fi thriller loosely based on Philip K. Dick's 1968 novel "Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?" The production design is visually impressive, but it is dark, gloomy, and moody. Even with the very good special effects, the movie is like watching a pyrotechnical display through dense fog. The cityscape is sleazy, cluttered, stylishly colourful, with a bewildering mixture of architecture that resembles Tokyo more than L.A.

Initially it was poorly received, but has since become a cult classic. It is extremely influential, often imitated, but never duplicated. An intelligent, thought-provoking film, BLADE RUNNER suffers from mostly unappealing characters, a muddled and ambiguous plot, and a lack of dramatic momentum. Worst of all, it depicts a future dystopia for us. It is depressing. Even the original happy ending was eventually removed by the director to make the film a complete nightmare.

The cast also includes: James Hong (Hannibal Chew), Morgan Paull (Holden), Kevin Thompson (Bear), John Eward Allen (Kaiser), Hy Pyke (Taffey Lewis), Kimiko Hiroshige (Cambodian lady), Bob Okazaki (Hoie Lee), Judith Burnett (Ming Fa), Leo Gorcey Jr. (Louie), and many others. Hampton Fancher and David Peoples wrote the script. Vangelis composed the music. Ridley Scott directed.

Seven versions of the film exist, but only the Director's Cut and International Cut are widely available. The original 1982 Criterion Edition includes more graphic violence than the US theatrical release. The US Original Version is also called the Domestic Cut. Two workprint versions are rarely shown, though one was distributed in 1991 without the director's approval. The Ridley Scott-approved 1992 Director's Cut is the only version on DVD. The Broadcast Version is edited for brief nudity and profanity.

DUNE (1984) * * *

Frank Herbert's novel "Dune" was published in 1965, and in 1966 it won the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award. It is considered to be one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time, and is the best-selling sci-fi novel in history.

DUNE was directed by David Lynch at a cost of over $47 million, but was a critical and box office failure in the USA. However, it was a success in Europe and Japan, and Frank Herbert was pleased with it.

In the year 10,191 A.G. (after guild) armies from several planets go to Arrakis, a desert planet, which has a drug spice "Melange" guarded by monster sandworms. The spice is used for space travel. Two rival families, The Atreides and The Harkonnens fight for control of the spice mining operations on Arrakis.

Princess Irulan (Virginia Madsen) explains: "A beginning is a very delicate time. Know then, that this is the year 10191. The known universe is ruled by the Padishah Emperor Shaddam the Fourth, my father. In this time, the most precious substance in the universe is the spice Melange. The spice extends life. The spice expands consciousness. The spice is vital to space travel. The Spacing Guild and its navigators, who the spice has mutated over 4000 years, use the orange spice gas, which gives them the ability to fold space. That is, travel to any part of the universe without moving. Oh, yes. I forgot to tell you. The spice exists on only one planet in the entire universe. A desolate, dry planet with vast deserts. Hidden away within the rocks of these deserts are a people known as the Fremen, who have long held a prophecy that a man would come, a messiah, who would lead them to true freedom. The planet is Arrakis, also known as Dune."

Three other planets are concerns of the Spacing Guild: Caladan, home of House of Atreides; Giedi Prime, home of House of Harkonnen; and Kaitan, home of the Emperor Shaddam IV. The very complicated narrative is difficult to follow, so let's just skip it and focus on Arrakis.

Paul: "What do you call the mouse shadow on the second moon?"
Stilgar: "We call that one Muad'hib."
Paul: "Could I be known as Paul Muad'hib?"
Stilgar: "You are now Paul Muad'hib."

When Paul Atreides (Kyle MacLachlan) emerges as Muad'hib, he leads the Fremen in a revolt against the evil Baron Harkonnen and the corrupt Emperor Padishah Shaddam Corrino IV. He says, "Some thoughts have a certain sound, that being the equivalent to a form. Through sound and motion, you will be able to paralyze nerves, shatter bones, set fires, suffocate an enemy or burst his organs. We will kill until no Harkonnen breathes Arakeen air." Paul has special powers and can see into the future because of the effect of the spice. He becomes the savior, the "Kwisatz Haderich" of Arrakis.

DUNE is visually magnificent, with wonderful ornate set designs. Yet the screenplay is incomprehensible, unstructured and confusing. Voice-over narration is required to help fill in the plot gaps. However, I welcome the muddled plot, because it makes repeated viewings possible and indeed necessary.

The film has a good cast: Francesca Annis (Lady Jessica), Leonardo Cimino (the Baron's doctor), Brad Dourif (Piter De Vries), Jose Ferrer (Padishah Shaddam IV), Linda Hunt (Shadout Mapes), Freddie Jones (Shadout Mapes), Richard Jordan (Duncan Idaho), Silvan Mangano (Reverend Mother Ramallo), Everett McGill (Stilgar), Kenneth McMillan (Baron Vladimir Harkonnen), Jack Nance (Captain Iakin Nefud), Sian Phillips (Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam), Angelica Aragon (Bene Gesserit Sister), Jurgen Prochnow (Duke Leto Atreides), Paul L. Smith (The Beast Rabban), Patrick Stewart (Gurney Hallek), Sting (Feyd-Rautha), Dean Stockwell (Dr. Wellington Yueh), Max von Sydow (Dr. Kynes), Alicia Witt (Alia), and Sean Young (Chani). The soundtrack is by the band Toto. DUNE was filmed at the Churubusco Studios in Mexico City.

DUNE was released with a runnning time of 140 minutes. In 1988 a 190 minute edition was prepared for TV broadcast. David Lynch did not authorize nor participate, and the director is credited to "Allan Smithee"--the name used by directors when they wish to show their disapproval of the production. Five versions of DUNE are known: The Theatrical cut (1984, 137 minutes); The Allan Smithee Version (1988, 189 minutes); The Channel 2 Version (1992, 180 minutes); The Extended Edition (2006, 177 minutes); and The Workprint version (about 4 hours).

In 2000 a three part miniseries of DUNE was made for TV. The runtime is 265 minutes in the USA, but can be 292 minutes elsewhere. This version is more coherent with more narration, but the production values are not as good.

WESTWORLD (1973) * * *

WESTWORLD is about a 21st-century amusement park called Delos on a remote island that offers expensive vacations in various fantasy worlds. The site is divided into three zones: Westworld, Medievalworld, and Romanworld. Guests live out their fantasies with realistic robots controlled by a nerve centre of sophisticated computers. Visitors to Delos pay $1,000 per day for the entertaining experience.

Interviewer: Hi. Ed Ramsey from Delos. If there's anyone who doesn't know what Delos is, well, as we've always said: Delos is the vacation of the future, today. At Delos, you get your choice of the vacation you want. There's Medieval World, Roman World and, of course, Westworld. Let's talk to some of the people who've been there.

Peter Martin (Richard Benjamin) and John Blane (James Brolin) are businessmen who opt for "Westworld", an Old West town. However, an electrical malfunction causes the robots to run amok. Their vacation resort turns into a nightmare and death trap.

Peter Martin: You talk too much.
Robot Gunslinger: You say something boy?
Peter Martin: I said you talk too much.
Robot Gunslinger: Try to make me shut up.

Yul Brynner plays The Gunslinger, a cowboy robot programmed to start duels, a spoof of his character "Chris" from THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960). He wears the same costume. The Gunslinger shoots and kills Blane, and Martin runs for his life.

Martin flees to other areas of Delos, but finds only broken robots and dead bodies. When he enters the control area, he discovers dead technicians. The Gunslinger catches up with him and Martin throws corrosive acid in its face, then sets it on fire. However, it does not stop functioning until it falls off a high set of steps. Martin lies exhausted on dungeon stairs with a Delos advertisement echoing in his head: "Why don't you make arrangements to take our hovercraft to Medieval World, Roman World and Westworld. Contact us today, or see your travel agent. Boy, have we got a vacation for you, vacation for you, vacation for you, vacation for you, vacation for you..."

Also in the cast are: Linda Gaye Scott (Arlette), Majel Barrett (Miss Carrie), Anne Randall (Daphne), Robert Hogan (Interviewer), Norman Bartold (Medieval Knight), Alan Oppenheimer (Chief Supervisor), Victoria Shaw (Medieval Queen), Dick Van Patten (Banker), Steve Franken (technician), Michael T. Mikler (Black Knight), Terry Wilson (Sheriff), Julie Marcus (Girl in dungeon), Sharyn Wynters (Apache girl), Anne Bellamy (middle aged woman), Chris Holter (sterwardess), Charles Seel (bellhop), Wade Crosby (bartender), Nora Marlowe (hostess), Lin Henson (ticket girl), Orville Sherman (Supervisor), Lauren Gilbert (Supervisor), and many others. The atmospheric music score is by Fred Karlin. Michael Crichton wrote the script and directed.

This sci-fi western melodrama is very good, with excellent but dated special effects. Director Crichton made the film in 30 days. It's a cult classic with intense action, suspense, minimal dialogue, and an abrupt ending. Martin starts as an inexperienced nerd but learns to be tough. The presence of creepy Yul Brynner dominates the movie. WESTWORLD is in some ways a satirical comparison of Delos with Disney World, except that the modern consumer utopia becomes a dystopia.

WESTWORLD was followed by the sequel FUTUREWORLD (1976), also very good but with less action and more mystery, plus political intrigue. In 1980 there was a short-lived TV series, BEYOND WESTWORLD.

TOTAL RECALL (1990) * * *

In 2084 Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwartzenegger) is a construction worker plagued by dreams of being on Mars with a sexy brunette. He decides to take an imaginary adventure "vacation" to Mars with artificial memories implanted in his brain by the Rekall company.

Doctors at Rekall discover Quaid's mind has already been altered. He returns home with no memory of his Rekall visit, and his wife Lori (Sharon Stone) informs him that everything he now remembers is false, only implanted memories. Quaid learns he was a secret agent on Mars and a threat to the government. Then he is pursued by Richter (Michael Ironside), a man working for Mars' administrator Vilos Cohaagen (Ronny Cox), a power-hungry madman. Quaid sees his real personality on a viewing screen: "Now get your ass to Mars."

Quaid travels to Mars to uncover the truth. Vilos Cohaagen rules a domed city mining colony with a monopoly on oxygen. Melina (Rachel Ticotin), the girl from his dreams, tells Quaid his real name is Hauser and he quit working for Cohaagen and joined the underground resistance. With the help of Melina, and mutants Benny (Mel Johnson, Jr.) and Kuato (Marshall Bell), the leader of the resistance, Quaid learns that Cohaagen has an ancient alien terraforming device that could make Mars' atmosphere breathable, and thus ruin his monopoly and power.

Kuato: "What do you want, Mr. Quaid?"
Quaid: "The same as you, to remember."
Kuato: "But why?"
Quaid: "To be myself again."
Kuato: "You are what you do. A man is defined by his actions, not his memory."

Quaid, Melina and Benny set out to find and activate the device. Lori and Kuato are killed and Quaid and Melina are captured, because Benny is a traitor. Cohaagen informs Quaid that as Hauser he willingly had his mind erased to capture Kuato.

Cohaagen: "Don't touch that, get away, get back!"
Quaid: "What are you afraid of? Turn it on."
Cohaagen: "Impossible, once the reaction starts, it'll spread to all the turbinium in the planet. Mars will go into global meltdown. That's why the aliens never turned it on."
Quaid: "And you expect me to believe you?"
Cohaagen: "Who gives a s**t what you believe? In thirty seconds you'll be dead, and I'll blow this place up and be home in time for corn flakes. I didn't want it to end this way, I wanted Hauser back, but nooo, you had to be Quaid."
Quaid: "I am Quaid."
Cohaagen: "You're nothing, you're nobody, you're a stupid dream. Well, all dreams come to an end."

Quaid refuses to become Hauser again and escapes with Melina. They activate the alien device and the villains are killed. The Martian atmosphere becomes breathable with blue skies. The last lines are Quaid saying, "I just had a terrible thought. What if this is a dream?" Melina replies, "Well then kiss me quick before you wake up." In the end, Quaid doesn't know if the adventure was real or an implanted fantasy. The viewing audience is left wondering the same thing.

TOTAL RECALL is based on Philip K. Dick's 1966 novelette, "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale". It is a science fiction action movie with dazzling Oscar-winning special effects and impressive stunts. A mind-bending thrill-a-minute futuristic adventure, it has intriguing ideas and endless twists. There is much gratuitous and graphic violence as well as profanity, so the film is rated R. At the time of its production TOTAL RECALL had the largest budget of any Hollywood movie: $65 million. The film grossed well over $260,000,000 at the box office.

Others in the cast include: Michael Champion (Helm), Roy Brocksmith (Dr. Edgemar), Ray Baker (Bob McClane), Rosemary Dunsmore (Dr. Lull), David Knell (Ernie), Alexia Robinson (Tiffany), Dean Norris (Tony), Mark Carlton (Bartender), Debbie Lee Carrington (Thumbelina), Lycia Naff (Mary), Robert Costanzo (Harry), Michael LaGuardia (Stevens), Marc Alaimo (Everett), Erika Carlson (Miss Lonelyhearts), and many others. The screen play was written by Ronald Shussett, Dan O'Bannon, Jon Povill, and Gary Goldman. Music was composed by Jerry Goldsmith. Paul Verhoeven directed.

TOTAL RECALL 2070: MACHINE DREAMS (1999) is the pilot TV movie for the brief TV series with only a tentative connection to the 1990 movie. David Hume (Michael Easton) is a 21st century cop who is supposed to keep an eye on the Consortium, the group of private companies that unofficially runs the world. Consortium creates mayhem and Hume tries to clean it up. He must fight androids and solve murders that happen at the virtual reality vacation agency. This film is OK, but not in the same league with Schwartzenegger's version.

TOTAL RECALL 2070 is a short-lived sci-fi TV series first broadcast in Canada in 1999 and later the same year on "Showtime". It was later syndicated after scenes of nudity and violence were edited out. A Canadian/German co-production, it was filmed in my hometown of Toronto. Only 22 episodes were produced. The first airdate was January 5, 1999 and the last was June 8, 1999. Viewers' comments are unanimous: this is a great TV show and it resembles BLADE RUNNER (1982) more than TOTAL RECALL. The cast includes: Michael Easton, Karl Pruner, Michael Rawlins, Cynthis Preston, Judith Krant, Damon D'Oliveira, and others. There were 5 writers, including Philip K. Dick, who wrote the original book. Mario Azzopardi and 5 others directed.

RED DWARF (1988-1999) * * *

The mining spaceship Red Dwarf belongs to the Jupiter Mining Corporation. In the first episode a radiation leak kills everybody on board except for technician Dave Lister (Craig Charles) who is in suspended animation at the time. His preganant cat Frankenstein in the cargo hold also survives. Three million years later Holly (Norman Lovett) the ship's computer, is able to take Lister out of stasis. He is the last human being in the Universe.

Holly also creates a "hardlight hologram" of Lister's former bunkmate Arnold Rimmer (Chris Barrie) to keep him company. The Cat (Danny John-Jules) is also on board, the last known "Felis Sapiens", a humanoid that evolved from Frankenstein. During the second series the "Dwarfers" rescue mechanoid Kryten (Robert Llewellyn) from a crashed spaceship and he joins them.

Lister: "Drop dead!"
Rimmer: "Already have."
Lister: "Encore!"

At the end of Series V, Lister loses Red Dwarf and the crew travel in the smaller Starbug craft for two series. In Series VII Rimmer leaves (but apears as "Ace" Rimmer) and is replaced by Kristine Kochanski (Chloe Annett), Lister's ex-girlfriend. In the final Series VIII, Rimmer returns and Red Dwarf is reconstructed by Kryten's nanobots, but the series ends in an ambiguous cliff-hanger with Red Dwarf being eaten by a virus and the crew depart.

Dave Lister is an appealing slob who is a terrible guitar player and his favorite word is "smeg". Arnold Judas Rimmer is an obnoxious, neurotic, repressed, self-important hologram. He has a permanent sneer on his mouth and an "H" symbol on his forehead. The Cat is completely selfish, a vain braggart whose fangs make him look like a vampire despite his cat-like personality. Kryten 2X4B-523P is a Series 4000 mechanoid or "slave 'noid" and develops some human-like characteristics such as neurosis. Holly is the ship's computer user interface, a disembodied head on a viewing screen. Norman Lovett was eventually replaced by Hattie Hayridge in the role. Kristine Kochanski is the Navigation Officer, an object of lust for Lister.

When Ace Rimmer's ship jumps into Red Dwarf's dimension, Lister and Kryten emerge from the Artificial Reality suite. Lister says, "The red, green and blue alert signs are all flashing. What the smeg does that mean?" Kryten replies, "Well either we're under attack, sir, or we're having a disco."

Lister: "Sometimes, I think it's cruel giving machines a personality. My mate Petersen once bought a pair of shoes with Artificial Intelligence. 'Smart Shoes' they were called. It was a neat idea. No matter how blind drunk you were, they could always get you home. But he got rattled one night in Oslo and woke up the next morning in Burma. You see, his shoes got bored going from his local to his flat. They wanted to see the world, you know. He had a hell of a job getting rid of them. No matter who he sold them to, they'd show up again the next day. He tried to shut them out, but they just kicked the door down."
Rimmer: "Is this true?"
Lister: "Yeah. The last thing I heard, they sort of... robbed a car and drove it into a canal. They couldn't steer, you see."
Rimmer: "Really?"
Lister: "Yeah. Petersen was really, really blown away about it. He went to see a priest. The priest told him... he said it was alright and all that, when shoes are happy that they'd get into heaven. You see, it turns out shoes have 'soles'."
Rimmer: "Ah, what a sad story. Wait a minute."
(thinks for a minute)
Rimmer: "How did they open the car door?"

RED DWARF is a British sci-fi comedy that ran on BBC2 from 1988 until 1999 and has a global cult following. Starting in 1993 (Series VI) there was a 3 1/2 year gap with no new episodes produced. The show is quite original, but some episodes spoof 2001, ALIEN, STAR TREK, NEIGHBOURS, CASABLANCA, TOP GUN, and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Continuity problems are common, such as Lister having his appendix removed twice. However, it is a funny, entertaining and intelligent series with a loud laugh track. 52 half-hour episodes were produced. The first was broadcast February 15, 1988 and the last telecast was April 5, 1999.

Four "Red Dwarf" novels have been published, all in audiobook format. There are also about a dozen genuine books, such as "The Official Red Dwarf Companion". A pilot episode for an American version of the series, known as "Red Dwarf USA" was produced for NBC in 1992, but never broadcast. Co-creator Doug Taylor has a script for a "Red Dwarf" feature length movie, but it has not yet been produced. Hopefully it will resolve the cliff-hanger last episode.

Others who have appeared on RED DWARF include: Mac McDonald (Captain Frank Hollister), Mark Williams (Olaf Petersen), David Gillespie (Selby), Paul Bradley (Chen), Jake Wood (Kill Crazy), Ricky Grover (Baxter), Graham McTavish (Warden Ackerman), as well as Tony Hawks, Rupert Bates, Tony Slattery, Brian Cox, Craig Ferguson, Nicholas Ball, Sarah Alexander, Arthur Smith, Gordon Kennedy, Jack Docherty, Lee Cornes, Morwenna Banks, Don Henderson, Don Warrington, Angela Bruce, Koo Stark, Jenny Agutter, Maggie Steed, Jane Horrocks, Geraldine McEwan, Frances Barber, Ainsley Harriot, Ruby Wax, and Timoth Spall.

RED DWARF was created and originally written by "Grant Naylor", a pseudonym for Rob Grant and Doug Naylor. The last two series were written by Doug Naylor with others, most notably Paul Alexander and Robert Llewellyn. Ed Bye produced and directed most shows. The theme and incidental music were written by Howard Goodall. Jenna Russel sings the dreadful theme song. The melody of the song is half-decent but it is complete garbage lyrically--surely the very worst and most inappropriate theme song in television history. It's sickening, absolutely smeggy.

OUTER LIMITS (1963-1965) * * 2/3

"There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. For the next hour we will control all that you see and hear. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to the outer limits." Thus begins one of the best openings in TV history. THE OUTER LIMITS is an anthology science fiction TV series similar to THE TWILIGHT ZONE, but generally regarded as slightly inferior.

As an anthology there is no continuity whatsoever, except for the grim moralistic narration of the disembodied "Control Voice" (Vic Perrin). Each episode survives on the strength of its story. The series is imaginative with good writing, acting, and special effects. There is often much action, as well as philosophical musing on the human spirit, or a confrontation with some unusual force. Some episodes are frightening because of the show's reputation for the over-use of ugly monsters.

The opening episode, "The Galaxy Being" is typical. Alan Maxwell (Lee Philips) is an electonics engineer at radio station KXKVI and secretary Carol (Jacqueline Scott) notices the fortune he is spending on electonic and computer equipment for his own purposes. He makes contact with an electrical alien lifeform (William O. Douglas) in a star system with 31 planets in the north west quadrant of the great spiral Andromeda. The two exchange information about their differences in an intelligent and friendly manner. Both are violating rules for contacting each other. Using microwave transmission, the galaxy being visits our dimension on Earth and therefore must disintegrate, although it will not actually die. It tells a small crowd of people, "I will leave you, in peace. End of transmission."

For the episode "Don't Open Till Doomsday", The Control Voice's opening narration: "The greatness of evil lies in its awful accuracy. Without that deadly talent for being in the right place at the right time evil must suffer defeat. For unlike its opposite good, evil is allowed no human failings, no miscalculations. Evil must be perfect or depend upon the imperfections of others." The closing narration: "Without that deadly talent for being in the right place at the right time evil must suffer defeat, and with each defeat doomsday is postponed for at least one more day."

The Control Voice: "It is said that if you move a single pebble on the beach, you set up a different pattern, and everything in the world is changed. It can also be said that love can change the future, if it is deep enough, true enough, and selfless enough. It can prevent a war, prohibit a plague, keep the whole world... whole."

THE OUTER LIMITS debuted on ABC September 16, 1963 and the last broadcast was January 16, 1965. There are 49 hour-long episodes in black and white. The first 32 episodes are the best, produced by the show's creator, Leslie Stevens and his successor Joseph Stefano. In the second season 17 episodes were produced by Ben Brady with lighter scripts, more monsters, and the "Control Voice" has mostly bland messages. The hour format allows for extensive background information, subplots, and complicated endings.

Some of the show's monsters reappear in STAR TREK. A prop head from "Fun and Games" was used to make a Talosian change into a vicious beast in the original STAR TREK pilot "The Cage". The creature in "The Probe" became the Horta in "The Devil in the Dark". And the pointed ears process for David McCallum in "The Sixth Finger" was used for Spock.

There were 10 directors, especially Gerd Oswald, and 16 writers, most notably Joseph Stefano. Music was composed by Dominic Frontiere (first season), Harry Lubin (second season) and Robert Van Eps. Lubin simply recycled his score from the TV series ONE STEP BEYOND (1959).

OUTER LIMITS (1995-2002) is a fairly good revival of the series. After a failed attempt in the early 1980's, the show ran on pay-tv channel "Showtime" from 1995 until 2001 when "Sci-Fi Channel" took over until it was cancelled in 2002. The first broadcast was March 26, 1995 and the last was January 18, 2002. There are 154 colour episodes. The "Control Voice" (Kevin Conway) remains and there are fewer monsters. Filmed in Vancouver, Canada, the series remade some of the episodes from the original, and contains more violence and sexual content. Some storylines are open-ended and in every season there is a clip show that connects plots of several episodes. There were 23 directors, especially Mario Azzopardi, and actress Catherine O'Hara directed 2 episodes. There were 32 writers, especially Sam Egan. His award-winning 100th episode, "Tribunal" is based on his father's experiences in Auschwitz where his wife and daughter were murdered by the Nazis.

TWILIGHT ZONE (1959-1964) * * *

"There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone." (opening narration for season 1)

"You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone." (opening narration for season 1, alternate)

"You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's the signpost up ahead - your next stop, the Twilight Zone." (opening narration for season 2)

"You are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone." (opening narration for season 3)

"You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension. A dimension of sound...a dimension of sight...a dimension of mind. You are moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into...THE TWILIGHT ZONE." (opening narration for seasons 4 and 5)

TWILIGHT ZONE is TV at its best. Rod Serling created the series and was the host for 156 episodes, all in black and white. He wrote or adapted 99 of the episodes and won two Emmy's for outstanding writing (1960, 1961) and a Golden Globe award for best TV director/producer (1962). The famous hypnotic four-note theme music is by Marcus Constant, who also composed the end titles. Bernard Herrman, Jerry Goldsmith, Nathan Van Cleave, and others also provided music.

Rod Serling is like an eloquent Martian in his prologues. The episodes are science fiction, fantasy, horror, and suspense with a blurry line between reality and illusion. Situations are innovative and range from drama to comedy to tragedy. There are unexpected twists and endings, and usually a moment of revelation. Stories are simplistic and special effects are minimal. The science fiction is rarely explained scientifically. Instead there is a moral, or at least a subtle morality lesson.

Often there are horrible twists of fate that destroy characters. A good example is "Time Enough At Last" written by Serling from a story by Lyn Venable. Burgess Meredith stars as Henry Bemis. He is a bookworm who survives a nuclear holocaust. Now he can read all the books he wants. He says, "And the best thing, the very best thing of all, is there's time now... there's all the time I need and all the time I want. Time, time, time. There's time enough at last." But he breaks his eyeglasses and cannot read, then says, "That's not fair. That's not fair at all. There was time now. There was, was all the time I needed..." (episode 8, season 1, original air date: November 20, 1959)

Talky Tina doll: "My name is Talky Tina, and I'm going to kill you."

My favorite episode is "To Serve Man" written by Serling from Damon Knight's 1953 story. Mr. Chambers (Lloyd Bochner), a government decoding agent cannot decode a book, "To Serve Man", brought by superior aliens (Kanamits) to Earth. As he boards a spaceship to their home planet, his colleague Pat (Susan Cummings) yells to him: "Don't get on that ship! The rest of the book, 'To Serve Man', it's...it's a cookbook!" But it's too late and Mr. Chambers is now on the menu. The main Kanamit is played by Richard Kiel who later played "Jaws" in the 007 movies. Also the spaceship is from FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956). They should make this gem into a movie. (episode 89, season 3, original air date: March 2, 1962)

Rod Serling: "You are looking at Mr. Fred Renard, who carries on his shoulder a chip the size of the national debt. This is a sour man. A friendless man. A lonely man. A grasping, compulsive, nervous man. This is a man who lived thirty-six undistinguished, meaningless, pointless, failure-laden years. And who, at this moment, looks for an escape, any escape, any way, anything, anybody to get out of the rut."

In "Night of the Meek" Art Carney stars as an alcoholic Santa Claus:
Rod Serling: "This is Mr. Henry Corwin, normally unemployed, who once a year takes the lead role in a uniquely popular American institution, that of a department store Santa Claus, in a road-company version of The Night Before Christmas. But in just a moment, Mr. Henry Corwin, ersatz Santa Claus, will enter a strange kind of North Pole, which is one part the wonderous spirit of Christmas and one part the magic that can only be found in the Twilight Zone." The closing narration: "A word to the wise - to all the children of the 20th century: whether their concern be pediatrics or geriatrics, whether they crawl on hands and knees and wear diapers, or walk with a cane and comb their beards. There's a wonderous magic to Christmas and there's a special power reserved for little people. In short, there's nothing mightier than the meek." (episode 11, season 2, original air date: December 23, 1960)

NIGHT GALLERY (1970-1973) is similar, with 100 episodes, all in colour. Rod Serling hosts the series from an art gallery. He had less input in this collection of spooky, intriguing, and sometimes humourous stories. There was a communication problem with production, and Serling often didn't know what was going on.

Rod Serling: "Good evening, and welcome to a private showing of three paintings, displayed here for the first time. Each is a collectors' item in its own way - not because of any special artistic quality, but because each captures on a canvas, and suspends in time and space, a frozen moment of a nightmare."

TWILIGHT ZONE--THE MOVIE (1983) was produced by Steven Spielberg and was a box-office failure. There are four stories, three from the original TV series. "Nightmare At 20,000 Feet" is considered to be the best. But the brief first segment is one of the scariest I've ever seen in a movie.

THE NEW TWILIGHT ZONE (1985-1987) (1988-1989) produced 94 colour episodes. Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks provide the prologue narration. A second revival of the series, narrated by Forest Whitaker, lasted only one season (2002-2003).

PLANET OF THE APES (1968) * * *

PLANET OF THE APES is a sci-fi thriller about astronaut Col. George Taylor (Charlton Heston) a misanthrope on a mission to the constellation Orion. His spaceship is caught in a time warp and lands on Earth two thousand years in the future. The film is based on the 1963 novel by Pierre Boulle, "La Planete des Singes" ("Monkey Planet").

(first lines)
George Taylor: "And that completes my final report until we reach touchdown. We're now on full automatic, in the hands of the computers. I have tucked my crew in for the long sleep and I'll be joining them soon. In less than an hour, we'll finish our sixth month out of Cape Kennedy. Six months in deep space - by our time, that is. According to Dr. Haslein's theory of time, in a vehicle travelling nearly the speed of light, the Earth has aged nearly 700 years since we left it, while we've aged hardly at all. Maybe so. This much is probably true - the men who sent us on this journey are long since dead and gone. You who are reading me now are a different breed - I hope a better one. I leave the 20th century with no regrets. But one more thing - if anybody's listening, that is. Nothing scientific. It's purely personal. But seen from out here everything seems different. Time bends. Space is boundless. It squashes a man's ego. I feel lonely. That's about it. Tell me, though. Does man, that marvel of the universe, that glorious paradox who sent me to the stars, still make war against his brother? Keep his neighbor's children starving?"

Spaceship Icarus crash lands in a lake on an unknown planet on November 25 in 3978. Taylor, Landon (Robert Gunner), and Dodge (Jeff Burton) are in deep hibernation and awaken to find that Stewart (Dianne Stanley) has died. The ship starts to sink and the crew use an inflatable raft to reach shore. Dodge tests the soil and says it is incapable of supporting life. The three travel through the desert, find vegetation, then an oasis where they have a swim. Their clothes are stolen, and the thieves turn out to be a group of mute and primitive humans. Then everybody is chased and captured by Gorillas on horseback. Dodge is shot and killed, and Taylor and Landon are taken to Ape City. Taylor is shot in the throat, but two chimpanzee scientists Zira (Kim Hunter) and Dr. Galen (Wright King), save him. Taylor is caged with beautiful Nova (Linda Harrison), but temporarily cannot speak because of his throat injury.

Taylor discovers the talking apes are divided into three classes: Gorillas (police, military, laborers), Orangutangs (administrators and politicians), and Chimpanzees (intellectuals and workers). Humans cannot speak and are considered inferior beasts of burden to be hunted and used in scientific experiments. Landon is lobotomized and Dodge is stuffed and exhibited in a museum.

Cornelius the chimp reads from the sacred scrolls of the apes: "Beware the beast man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone among God's primates, he kills for sport or lust or greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him; drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of death."

Zira and her fiance Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) take an interest in Taylor, especially when he begins to speak to them. He says, "Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!" Zira calls Taylor "Bright Eyes". Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans) is the boss and puts Taylor on trial for attempting to escape. He says, "You are a menace. A walking pestilence." Zaius threatens to emasculate and lobotomize him if he does not reveal where he came from. He continues, "I have always known about man. From the evidence, I believe his wisdom must walk hand and hand with his idiocy. His emotions must rule his brain. He must be a warlike creature who gives battle to everything around him, even himself."

Dr. Zaius explains, "The Forbidden Zone was once a paradise. Your breed made a desert of it, ages ago." Cornelius and Zira free Taylor and Nova, travel to the Forbidden Zone and visit a cave with remains of human technology. Dr. Zaius and a band of Gorillas find them and there is a brief battle. Taylor and Nova are allowed to escape on horseback because Zaius thinks it's best if they just disappear.

The unforgettable ending is a plot twist that shows Taylor discovering the Statue of Liberty half buried in a sandy beach. He realizes that he is back on Earth in the future, mankind has destroyed its civilization, the Apes have taken over, and his misanthropy has ended.

Also in the cast are: James Whitmore (President of the Assembly), James Daly (Dr. Honorious), Lou Wagner (Lucius), Woodrow Parfrey (Dr. Maximus), Buck Kartalian (Julius), Norman Burton (Hunt leader), Paul Lambert (Minister), Frank Delfino, Jerry Maren, Harry Monty, Gene O'Donnell, Jane Ross, James Bacon, Priscilla Boyd, Eldon Burke, Dvid Chow, Billy Curtis, Irvin Koszewski, Robert Lombardo, Steve Merjanian, and Felix Silla. The script was written by Rod Serling then re-written by Michael Wilson from Pierre Boulle's novel. Jerry Goldsmith composed the strange and exotic music. Franklin J. Schaffner directed.

PLANET OF THE APES is a sci-fi classic, the first and best of a series of five "Ape" films. It is a stylish, thought-provoking, engrossing, innovative, and entertaining fantasy. Lots of action and adventure. Acting performances are excellent. The film is obviously allegorical with little subtlety and much of the social commentary is forced. Racism, class divisions, narrow-mindedness, and anti-nuclear sentiments are tackled. The self-conscious humour is unnecessary and perhaps out of place. It has a familiar plot, with a great start and finish--but it sags in the middle. The beginning and end of the film are different from Boulle's novel, probably due to Rod Serling.

As well as the five-part movie series there was a short-lived TV series and a TV cartoon series. Tim Burton's big budget PLANET OF THE APES (2001) starring Mark Wahlberg as Captain Leo Davidson is quite good with much more realistic apes. It's a remake, but as usual Burton says it is his version of the book, not a remake of the original movie. Of the six "Ape" movies it is the third or fourth best.

THE BIRDS (1963) * * *

Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) is a bored socialite and practical joker shopping in a San Francisco pet shop in Union Square. She meets lawyer Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) who is buying lovebirds for his sister. They flirt and she decides to surprise him with lovebirds. Melanie drives her Aston Martin DB2 up to his family home in the coastal town of Bodega Bay.

At the home of schoolteacher Annie Hayworth (Suzanne Pleshette) she learns the name of Mitch's sister Cathy (Veronica Cartwright). Melanie crosses the bay to Brenner's place and puts the lovebirds in the front room. Mitch sees her and drives his truck to the dock. A seagull suddenly swoops down and gashes Melanie's forehead. They go to the Tides Cafe and she meets Mitch's mother Lydia Brenner (Jessica Tandy) who is not friendly and Mitch teases her about her lifestyle.

Mitch: "You're just a poor, innocent victim of circumstances, huh?"
Melanie: "Well I'm neither poor nor innocent, but the truth of that particular..."
Mitch: "Truth is you were running around with a pretty wild crowd, isn't it?"
Melanie: "Well yes, that's the truth, but I was pushed into that fountain, and that's the truth, too."
Mitch: "Uh huh. Do you really know Annie Hayworth?"
Melanie: "No. At least I didn't till I came up here."
Mitch: "So you didn't go to school together?"
Melanie: "No."
Mitch: "And you didn't come up here to see her."
Melanie: "No."
Mitch: "You were lying."
Melanie: "Yes, I was lying."

Melanie leaves in a huff and rents a room in Annie's house. The next day she attends Cathy's birthday party and learns Annie and Mitch were involved. Cathy says, "He has a client who shot his wife in the head six times. Six times! Can you imagine it? I mean, even twice would be overdoing it, don't you think?" They find a dead seagull on the porch. Mitch and Melanie climb a hill to view the bay and when they return a gull gashes Cathy on the ear. Melanie spends the night.

Around the film's halfway point Melanie is attacked by flocks of deadly birds, which begin attacking others in the town. Lydia visits her neighbour Dan, but the house has been destroyed and he is dead on the floor with his eyes pecked out. Mitch and Melanie are forced into an uneasy relationship because of the killer birds. Strangely, they are ordinary birds, not birds of prey. There are 370 effects shots. The special effects are excellent and won THE BIRDS an Academy Award. Mrs. Bundy (Ethel Griffies) the ornithologist says, "I have never known birds of different species to flock together. The very concept is unimaginable. Why, if that happened, we wouldn't stand a chance! How could we possibly hope to fight them?"

Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense, directed this gripping drama/horror/thriller, loosely based on Daphne du Maurier's short story. It begins as an offbeat comedy and ends as an apocalyptic allegory. Actually, there is no "The End", because Hitchock wanted to give the impression of unending horror. Federico Fellini called it, "An apocalytical poem", and a film critic described the ending as "self-consciously European in its lack of resolution". Some reviewers analyze the symbolic, Freudian and allegorial meanings, but their speculation seems nonsensical.

THE BIRDS is ambiguous and probably more brutal than PSYCHO (1960). There is no point to the movie, except to entertain, tease, shock, and horrify. No reason is given for the birds' horrible behavior. A long discussion in Tides Restaurant concludes there is no rational reason. A mother in the diner (Doreen Lang) asks, "Why are they doing this? They said when you got here, the whole thing started. Who are You? What are you? Where did you come from? I think you're the cause of all this. I think you're evil. EVIL!"

Others in the cast include: Charles McGraw (Sebastian Sholes), Ruth McDevitt (Mrs. MacGruder), Lonny Chapman (Deke Carter), Joe Mantell (salesman), Doodles Weaver (fisherman), Malcolm Atterbury (Al Malone), John McGovern (postal clerk), Elizabeth Wilson (Helen Carter), Karl Swenson, Richard Deacon, Bill Quinn, Morgan Brittany, Darlene Conley, and Mike Moneleone. The non-existent music score is replaced with an electronic and sound effects soundtrack by Oskar Sala with Bernard Hermann as sound consultant. The script is by novelist Evan Hunter (better known as Ed McBain) based on the 1952 collection of short stories by Daphhne du Maurier. Her story takes place in Britain. This is the third Hitchcock film based on the author's works.

Hitchcock makes his customary cameo appearance two minutes into the film outside the pet shop, walking his own two Sealyham terrier dogs, Geoffrey and Stanley. He spotted Tippi Hedren in a diet drink ad. Joseph Stefano, who scripted PSYCHO, turned down THE BIRDS. The seagulls were fed wheat soaked in whisky to make them sit still. Hundreds of birds (gulls, ravens, crows, swifts) were trained for specific scenes, and mechanical birds and animations were also used.

There is too much green in the movie, and Melanie wears the same green suit throughout the film. Tippie Hedren was actually cut in the face by a bird. Some birds were attached to her clothes by nylon threads so they could not escape. The scene where Melanie is trapped in a room with the birds took a week to film, and sent Hedren to the hospital with exhaustion.

In 1994 a sequel to the BIRDS was produced for cable TV with the title THE BIRDS II: LANDS END, starring Brad Johnson and Chelsea Field. Tippi Hedren appears in a supporting role. The plot is similar to the original with a biology teacher and his wife and kids moving to an island home. Flocks of birds start attacking people for no apparent reason. This film is generally regarded as a travesty.

MEN IN BLACK (1997) * * *

The MIB is a top secret unofficial government agency that regulates and watches the thousands of aliens on Earth. Basically they protect Earth from the scum of the universe. MIB agents have no identity and do not officially exist. James Darrel Edwards or "J" (Will Smith) is recruited from the NYPD and is guided by senior MIB agent "K" (Tommy Lee Jones). They wear dark suits and sunglasses to protect themselves from neuralizers, devices that erase memories.

Chief Zed (Rip Torn) says: "You'll dress only in attire specially sanctioned by MIB special services. You'll conform to the identity we give you, eat where we tell you, live where we tell you. From now on you'll have no identifying marks of any kind. You'll not stand out in any way. Your entire image is crafted to leave no lasting memory with anyone you encounter. You're a rumor, recognizable only as deja vu and dismissed just as quickly. You don't exist; you were never even born. Anonymity is your name. Silence your native tongue. You're no longer part of the System. You're above the System. Over it. Beyond it. We're 'them'. We're 'they'. We are the Men in Black."

A Bug species steals a tiny galaxy hidden in an ornament on the neck of Orion, a cat from planet Arquil. The intergalactic terrorist and thief is Edgar (Vincent D'Onofrio). The government of Arquil is willing to have Earth destroyed rather than let the Bugs capture their galaxy. J and K meet Dr. Laurel Weaver (Linda Fiorentino) who becomes agent "L". K's memory is erased, he retires, and J and L become partners.

Kay: "So what do you think?"
Jay: "Whew! Very interesting. She got a whole 'queen of the undead' thing going on."
Kay: "What about the body?"
Jay: "Great body."
Kay: "The dead body."
(after delivering a squid-like alien baby)
Jay: "You know it's actually kinda..."
(baby throws up on him)
Jay: "cute."
Kay: "Set for pulsar level five, subsonic implosion factor two."
Jay: "What?"
Kay: "Just shoot the damn thing on the count of three."
Jay: "Why the big secret? People are smart, they can handle it."
Kay: "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it."

MEN IN BLACK is a sci-fi comedy, one of the most entertaining films of the 1990's. It is witty, charming, very funny, and fast paced. It never lets up. Edgar the Bug is gross, Agent L is very cool, and the actors' deadpan performances are great. This hip stylish film is a wild ride with a good mysterious plot, sight gags, and a few gruesome death scenes. It is also dark, satirical, weird, quirky, playful, silly, compelling, and memorable. Special effects by Rick Baker and Industrial Light and Magic are amazing. The movie was a popular smash hit, grossing over $590,000,000.

Also in the cast are: Tony Shalhoub (Jack Jeebs), Siobhan Fallon (Beatrice), Mike Nussbaum (Rosenburg), Jon Gries (Nick), Sergio Calderon (Jose), Carel Struycken (Arquillian), Fredreic Lehne (Janus), Richard Hamilton (D), Kent Faulcon (Jake Jensen), John Alexander (Mikey), Keith Campbell (Perp), Ken Thorley (exterminator), Patrick Breen (Reggie Redgick), Becky Ann Baker (Mrs. Redgick), Sean Whalen (Passport officer), Harsh Nayyar (Manny) Michael Willis (cop), David Cross (Newton), Charles C. Stevenson Jr. (B), Frank the pug, and many others. Tim Blaney is the voice of Frank the pug. The script is by Ed Solomon, adapted from Lowell Cunningham's Malibu/Marvel comic. Danny Elfman composed the atmospheric music. Barry Sonnenfeld directed.

MEN IN BLACK II (2002) is a somewhat inferior sequel. Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) has retired, and J (Will Smith) discovers a plot by Serleena (Lara Flynn Boyle), an evil Kylothian monster. J must convince K to save the galaxy. Frank the pug is back with a bigger role. J has a relationship with Laura (Rosario Dawson), who turns out to be the semi-divine "Light of Zartha". Serleena is killed just as Laura is transported back to Zartha. In the end Agent K kicks open a door to reveal aliens living in a world similar to ours. The film grossed $442,000,000 at the box office.

SUPERMAN (1978) * * *

Superman is a comic book superhero created in 1932 by writer Jerry Siegal and artist Joe Shuster. The Man of Steel first appeared in "Action Comics #1" June 1, 1938. He was featured in a number of other comics (DC Comics, etc.) and there were changes to the artistic team. Superman also was popular in serials on radio, television, and film. The 1948 movie serial starring Kirk Alyn is one of the highest grossing chapterplays ever made. A TV series (1952-1958) starring George Reeves produced 104 episodes and the pilot episode was released theatrically as SUPERMAN AND THE MOLE MEN (1951).

SUPERMAN (1978) consists of three segments, each with its own style and mood. The first part deals with the destruction of planet Krypton and baby Kal-El's trip to Earth where he is adopted by the Kents. Secondly, Clark Kent's life in Smallville is shown. The third part is about adult Clark Kent as newspaper reporter and Superman in Metropolis. On Krypton, scientist Jor-El (Marlon Brando) and his wife Lara (Susannah York) send their infant son Kal-El (Aaron Smolinski) to Earth just as their planet explodes.

Lara: "Have you finished?"
Jor-El: "Nearly. It's the only answer Lara. You realize that if he remains here with us, he will die as surely as we will."
Lara: "But why Earth Jor-El? They're primitives, thousands of years behind us."
Jor-El: "He will need that advantage to survive. Their atmosphere will sustain him."
Lara: "He will defy their gravity."
Jor-El: "He will look like one of them."
Lara: "He won't BE one of them."
Jor-El: "His dense molecular structure will make him strong."
Lara: "He'll be odd. Different."
Jor-El: "He'll be fast, virtually invulnurable."
Lara: "Isolated. Alone."
Jor-El: "He will not be alone. He will never be alone."

Kal-El's spaceship crash lands in Smallville, Kansas three years later. The boy is adopted by Jonathan (Glenn Ford) and Martha Kent (Phyllis Thaxter). who name him Clark after Martha's maiden name. Clark (Jeff East) has super powers but hides them and tries to fade into the background socially. Jonathan dies of a heart attack and Clark is sad that even with his powers, "I couldn't even save him".

A few months later Clark (Christopher Reeve) goes to the Arctic and uses a green crystal to build his Fortress of Solitude, a crystal palace in the architectural style of Krypton. From holographic recordings of his father he learns his purpose and role on Earth. After 12 years of education in his Fortress, he flies off in a red cape and blue costume with the El family symbol on his chest.

In the city of Metropolis he is hired as a reporter for the Daily Planet. Perry White (Jackie Cooper) is editor-in-chief, teenager Jimmy Olsen (Marc McClure) the photographer, and Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) is the star journalist. Perry White says, "Lois, Clark Kent may seem like just a mild-mannered reporter, but listen, not only does he know how to treat his edidtor-in-chief with the proper respect, not only does he have a snappy, punchy prose style, but he is, in my forty years in this business, the fastest typist I've ever seen."

Clark secretly loves Lois and soon rescues her from a helicopter accident as Superman. Later the Man of Steel has a date with Lois and takes her for a romantic flight over Metropolis, after which she says, "What a super man", pauses and says "Superman!", giving our superhero his name.

Super criminal Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) plans "the greatest real-estate swindle of all time" with the help of a test launching of two missiles. Luthor hopes to create a major earthquake in California with the missiles that will cause most of the state to slide into the Pacific Ocean. Then the desert land he owns will become the new West Coast of the US and he will be extremely rich. Luthor says, "We all have our little faults. Mine's in California."

Luthor realizes Superman is a threat to his plan, so he traps him with a piece of kryptonite, the only thing that can incapacitate Superman. Fortunately, Luthor's assistant Eve Teschmacher (Valerie Perrine) helps Superman escape. The missile hits the California San Andreas Fault, triggering an earthquake, but Superman saves the state by reinforcing the fault line and building a dam caused by the breaching of Hoover Dam. Then he realizes Lois Lane was crushed to death inside her car.

Angry and depressed, Superman flies above Earth and hears Jor-El's voice forbidding him to interfere with history. Undeterred, he flies around Earth faster than the speed of light and reverses time. This stops the earthquake, prevents the Hoover Dam burst, fixes the fault line, and saves Lois. He flies to Lois, departs, and Jimmy Olsen mentions that Clark has never seen Superman. Lois suddenly suspects they may be the same person, then dismisses it as "the silliest idea".

Superman: "Is that how a warped brain like yours gets its kicks? By planning the death of innocent people?"
Lex Luthor: "No, by causing the death of innocent people." and "You were great in your day, Superman. But it just stands to reason, when it came time to cash in your chips, this old... diseased... maniac would be your banker."

Superman captures Lex Luthor and Otis (Ned Beaty) and takes them to prison. The warden (Roy Stevens) thanks Superman for his work: "This country is safe again, Superman, thanks to you." Superman modestly replies, "No, sir. Don't thank me, Warden. We're all part of the same team. Good night", then flies away.

Also in the cast are: Trevor Howard (1st Elder), Jack O'Halloran (Non), Maria Schell (Vond-Ah), Terence Stamp (General Zod), Sarah Douglas (Ursa), Harry Andrews (2nd Elder), Vass Anderson (3rd Elder), Diana Sherry (Lana Lang), Paul Tuerpe (Sgt. Hayley), and many others. Writing credits are Jerry Siegal, Joe Shuster, Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman, Robert Benton, and Tom Mankiewicz. The musical score was composed by John Williams. Richard Donner directed.

SUPERMAN is an excellent movie that has withstood the test of time. It's dynamic, very entertaining, with great special effects and fine tongue-in-cheek humour. Superman does not use his heat vision in this movie, one of his most famous powers. Young actor Reeve asked veteran Gene Hackman about his motivation in playing his role. Hackman responded, "You mean, besides the million dollars?"

SUPERMAN was originally released in December 1978 with a run time of 143 minutes, edited from the three hour director's cut. In 1981 the film was re-edited for international TV distribution with 45 minutes of deleted footage added. This "Salkind International Edit" version runs 188 minutes. Only the theatrical version was available on home video until 2001, when the special edition DVD was released at 151 minutes. SUPERMAN was followed by three sequels: SUPERMAN II (1980), SUPERMAN III (1983), and SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE (1987). There is an ongoing debate regarding whether the first or second movie is the best, so let's just say they're equally good.

LOST IN SPACE (1965-1968) * * 1/2

In 1997 astrophysicist Dr. John Robinson (Guy Williams), his wife Maureen (June Lockhart) and their children, Judy (Marta Kristen), Will (Bill Mumy), and Penny (Angela Cartwritght) blast into space on the Jupiter 2. Major Don West (Mark Goddard) is the pilot and a nameless model B-9 robot (Bob May) is also on board. The family is on a mission to colonize a planet in the Alpha Centauri star system, four light years from earth. An enemy agent, Dr. Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris) sneaks aboard to sabotage the misssion, but his chronic ineptitude only damages the ship, which lands on another unchartered planet.

LOST IN SPACE is a simplistic space saga aimed at kids and is essentially a futuristic version of Johann David Wyss' 1812 novel, "Swiss Family Robinson". There is a severe limitation with a desert island scenario, so other characters turn up primarily as a plot device. The straightforward stories almost always start or end with a cliff-hanger.

The most entertaining character is Dr. Zachary Smith, the slimiest villain imaginable. He is greedy, vain, pompous, incompetent, deceitful, obnoxious--and those are his good qualities! His interaction with the robot is more interesting than the dialogue with the rest of the crew. The robot is cute and charming, a clone of Robby the Robot from FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956), which actually is a guest star in two episodes. Most fans remember the robot's often repeated lines: "Warning! Warning!", "That does not compute", and "Danger, Will Robinson!"

(Dr. Smith's repeated lines)
"Silence, you ninny."
"Silence, you mental midget."
"Never fear, Smith is here."

(Dr. Smith to robot)
"You bubble-headed booby! You realize what you've done?"
"Yours not to question why; yours to do as I say or die."
"Now come along with me, you ludicrous lump, there's much to be done."

"I cannot accept that course of action."
"I compute it to be an ionic directional probe searching for receiving outlets."
"My micromechanism thanks you, my computer tapes thank you, and I thank you."
"I am sorry, Will Robinson, I am afraid I goofed."
"Warning! Warning! Alien approaching!"

CBS chose this series instead of STAR TREK. It was broadcast opposite BATMAN, and the producers felt a light and whimsical approach was needed to compete. There are 83 episodes. The first season has 29 black and white episodes. The second and third seasons produced 54 episodes in colour.

The series is supposed to be fun, as opposed to educational, although the first season is relatively serious. Many episodes revolve around the theme of love as a source of strength. The production is high quality, with good special effects, costumes, props, and sets.

Others who appear include: Dawson Palmer (Monster), Sheila Allen (Aunt Gamma), Dee Hartford (Verda), Frtz Feld (Zumdish), Byron Morrow (General), Don Matheson (Idak), Vintina Marcus (Athena), Albert Salmi (Alonzo P. Tucker), Ronald Weber (Gromack), Robert Foulk (Cragmire), Leonard Stone (Farnum), Larry Dean (Mummy), and many others. There were 17 writers, especially Irwin Allen, and 15 directors, notably Don Richardson. Music is mostly by John Williams, with 4 others contributing occasionally.

LOST IN SPACE (1998) is a feature-length movie adaptation of the TV series. In 2058, hoping to colonize planet Alpha Prime for an overcrowded Earth, the Robinson family, a pilot, and Dr. Smith blast off in the Jupiter 2, which features hyperdrive. Hypergates are critical to their trip. The film retains the plot and premise of the original, but the story is crudely episodic with a grim tone and shallow characters. Professor John Robinson (William Hurt) has poor parenting skills, which his kids resent. Dr. Smith (Gary Oldman) is a strangely underplayed villain. There are brief appearances by the TV cast and some witty inside jokes about the show. A time travel portal sub-plot is peculiar and unconvincing, but the special effects are impressive. Reviewers are mostly disappointed. Some of their comments are: "confusing, awful, hollow and pointless, forgettable, too slow, a waste, dull, boring, lacks tension and fun, a truck load of turkeys". However, I enjoy watching it. Stephen Hopkins directed.


The Robinson family flees Switzerland for New Guinea to escape Napoleon's army in Europe. Father (John Mills) and Mother (Dorothy McGuire) are never referred to by name. Their children are Fritz (James MacArthur), Ernst (Tommy Kirk), and Francis (Kevin Corcoran). Robinson is not a Swiss name, and was used to allude to "Robinson Crusoe".

Their ship is wrecked in a storm, and the family is stranded on a lush idyllic island in the East Indies. They salvage some equipment and livestock, including a cow and her calf, a donkey (Lightning), chickens, geese, pigs, as well as their two dogs (Duke and Turk). Francis captures an elephant calf (Rocky), a monkey, and an ostrich (Clementine). He also has a close encounter with a tiger, but is saved by the dogs. Pirates are seen, but are scared away with a "black death" quarantine flag.

The Robinsons build an elaborate and luxurious treehouse with a retractable staircase, windows with curtains, running water, and a musical organ. Fritz and Ernst sail around the island searching for people and run into the pirates. They save a young girl Roberta (Janet Munro) and return home with her and a zebra (Duchess). Fritz and Ernst compete for the affections of Roberta.

Father: "What did I tell you? Anything we need, the island will produce it for us, even a girl."
Mother: "A girl. But we have three sons."

Then the pirates attack, led by Kuala (Sessue Hayakawa). The Robinsons are able to defend themselves at first, but soon are outnumbered. Fortunately, Roberta's grandfather Captain Moreland (Cecil Parker) arrives and destroys the pirate ship. In the end, Ernst leaves for university, and the rest of the family choose to remain on the island.

Father: "Don't you sometimes feel that this is the kind of life we were meant to live on this earth? Everything we need, everything, right here, right at our fingertips. You know, if only people could have all this and be satisfied, I don't think there'd be any real problems in the world."

SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON is derived from Johann David Wyss' 1812 novel "Der Schweizerische Robinson", which he wrote for his four sons. His goal was to teach them about self-reliance as well as Christian and family values. In his book the Robinsons are en route to Port Jackson, Australia, there are no pirates, and the family eventually lives in a cave.

This Walt Disney production was filmed on location in Tobago. It is old fashioned in its outlook, dialogue, and manner. Wild animals are either threats to be killed or cute pets that are easily tamed. Viewers must suspend disbelief at how a zoo of animals from around the world came to co-exist on a tiny Pacific island.

With drama, comedy, excitement and adventure, SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON is great family entertainment. It is larger than life escapism, very much like taking a virtual tropical adventure vacation. Lowell S. Hawley wrote the screenplay. William Alwyn composed the music and Ken Annakin directed.

SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON (1940) stars Thomas Mitchell as William Robinson, Edna Best as Elizabeth Robinson and Freddie Bartholomew as Jack. Father decides to move to Australia for a better life. He and his family become stranded on a remote island where his three spoiled sons learn honest values. Special effects are very good, performances are strong, and of course it is less schmaltzy than the Disney version. Interestingly, Disney Studios bought the rights to this film and confiscated all known prints so there would be no comparisons made. OK Walt, let me just say that this version is just as good as yours.

Many versions of this classic story have been produced: SWISS CHEESE FAMILY ROBINSON (1947), SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON (1976), MOUNTAIN FAMILY ROBINSON (1980), NEW SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON (1998), and THE ADVENTURES OF SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON (1998). Plus there are eight TV movie versions, four TV series versions, and LOST IN SPACE is also known as "Space Family Robinson".


In 1858 Glasgow, Teenager Mary Grant (Hayley Mills) and her younger brother Robert Grant (Keith Hamshere) are determined to find their long-missing father Captain Grant (Jack Gwillim), especially when they discover a message in a bottle with a map. Unfortunately it is a fragment with only the latitude (37th parallel) but no longitude. Mary Grant sings, "Cast away, cast away: trust in your star. You know I will find you wherever you are. Though all your dreams may be tossed by the tide, cling to your hopes: never cast them aside. Cast away, cast away, though you may be lost in the wilderness, over the sea: I will discover your cast away shore, and you'll be cast away no more."

With the help of Parisian geography professor Jacques Paganel (Maurice Chevalier) they persuade Lord Glenarvan (Wilfrid Hyde-Whyte) to take a sea voyage expedition around the world. Lord Grenarvan owns the ship The Britannia that was lost along with its Captain Grant. When Lord Glenarvan asks why a shark would swallow a bottle, Paganel replies, "What was in his mind, I don't know. I only know what was in his stomach." They set off for South America aboard Perseverance II, where Paganel has deduced Grant must be. In the Andes mountains they experience an earthquake ("dragopeeri") and a wondrous sleigh ride through caverns of ice. They are helped by Thalcave (Antonio Cifariello), an Araucan Indian chief who speaks English. He saves Robert who is carried off by a giant condor. Then they discover that Captain Grant is actually elsewhere, not Patagonia (Argentina).

The party sail on to Melbourne where they are aided by Thomas Ayrton (George Sanders), an untrustworthy member of the Britannia's crew who set Captain Grant adrift. They are helped by loony Bill Gaye (Wilfrid Brambell), who sent the bottled message. In New Zealand they cope with Ayrton's treachery, Maori tribes, and exploding volcanoes. When the volcano erupts, Chevalier shouts, "Have no fear, mademoiselle, the Maoris can run faster than the lava. Enjoy!"

In the end they fight cynical gunrunner Thomas Ayerton. The Grants are reuntited with their father and Mary finds a boy friend, John Glenarvan (Michael Anderson Jr.) This movie is a roller-coaster ride adventure involving fire, flood, earthquakes, avalanches, a huge waterspout, cannibals, wild animals, mutiny, and other disasters. You never know what is coming next. They live in a huge ombu tree for weeks with a dangerous cat. Chevalier is charming and eternally optimistic in the worst circumstances, usually singing a cheerful song during a catastrophe. Lord Glenarvan is a stuffy upper-class twit. Hayley Mills is very good as usual.

The film is based on "Les Enfants du Captaine Grant" (The Children of Captain Grant), Jules Verne's fifth novel published in 1867. Verne took his stories seriously, but most movie adaptations do not--they add songs, dances, comedy, and change the plots. This mind-boggling adventure film is a Disney production with beautiful scenery and a strong cast. As a Victorian fantasy it starts off realistically, but soon becomes wonderfully imaginative and ends in a "Treasure Island" way. It is exciting with humour and amazing fantasy images, but lacks credibility and coherence. The premise is preposterous, but suspend your disbelief and enjoy the ride. Superb visual effects are primarily matte work from Peter Ellenshaw and also models, impressive in their day, but some viewers think the entire film is outdated. The soundtrack is mono.

Also in the cast are: Inia Te Wiata (Inia Wiata), Ronald Fraser, Norman Bird, George Murcell, Mark Digham, Michael Wynne, David Spenser, Milo Sperber, Roger Delgado, Barry Keegan, Maxwell Shaw, Andreas Malandrinos, and Joss Ackland. William Alwyn wrote the music, Lowell S. Hawley wrote the screenplay, and Robert Stevenson directed.

Songs by the Sherman Brothers are: "Castaway Theme", "Grimpons", "Enjoy it!", "Let's Climb", and "Merci Beaucoups".

"The Children of Captain Grant" was filmed in 1913 (France), 1936 (Russia), and a 7 1/2 hour 7 episode mini-series was produced in Russia in 1985. "V poiskah kapitan Granta" was directed by Stanislav Govorukhin. It has been dubbed into other languages, but not English.

LABYRINTH (1986) * * *

Teenager Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) is babysitting her brother Toby (Toby Froud) and while telling him a story from her "Labyrinth" book she conjures up the fantasy world of evil Jareth the Goblin King (David Bowie). In a moment of resentment she says, "I wish the goblins would come and take you away...right now." Jareth kidnaps him to his castle in the middle of an enormous ornate labyrinth. An owl flies in the window, transforms into Jareth, and tells Sarah, "You have thirteen hours in which to solve the labyrinth, before your baby brother becomes one of us...forever."

Sarah goes through the complex labyrinth and she encounters many adventures similar to "Alice in Wonderland" and "The Wizard of Oz". There is the Bog of Eternal Stench and other dangers, as well as an assortment of outrageous Muppet characters created by Jim Henson. Hoggle (Shari Weiser), an interesting, unappealing character spends a lot of time with Sarah and he turns out to be a spy. Jareth tells Hoggle, "If she ever kisses you, I'll turn you into a prince...Prince of the Land of Stench!"

Sir Didymus (David Alan Barclay) is a chivalrous fox knight who rides sheepdog Ambrosius. Ludo (Ron Mueck) is a gentle beast Sarah rescues from the King's men. There are also snails with Cockney accents, talking door knockers, living cannonballs, and amazing goblins. In one magic fantasy, Sarah attends a ball with goblins in a bubble. She looks for Jareth, who tries to seduce her in a slow-motion dance, but fails.

Sarah: "Ow! It bit me!"
Hoggle: "What'd you expect fairies to do?"
Sarah: "I thought they did nice things, like granting wishes."
Hoggle: "Shows what you know, don't it?"

Sarah: "What exactly have you sworn?"
Didymus: "I have taken an oath that no one may cross this bridge without my permission."
Sarah: "Well... May we have your permission?"
Didymus: "Well I, uh... I... that is, uh... hm... Yes?"

Eventually she reaches the gravity-defying castle. Jareth tells her, "Everything that you wanted I have done. You asked that the child be taken. I took him. You cowered before me and I was frightening. I have reorded time. I have turned the world upside down. And I have done it all for you! I am exhausted from living up to your expectations. Isn't that generous?" Sarah saves Toby by telling him, " Give me the child. Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child that you have stolen, for my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom is as great. You have no power over me".

The room dissolves and Sarah and Toby are instantly back home. Hoggle, Ludo, and Sir Didymus appear as images in the mirror and tell her they will be available "should you need us". The Labyrinth creatures celebrate Sarah's refusal to give up her imagination and outside Jareth the owl watches the party then flies away.

The cast also includes: Shelley Thompson (stepmother), Christopher Malcolm (father), Natalie Finland (fairy), Rob Mills (Firey 3), Dave Goelz (Guard), David Shaughnessy (The Hat), Karen Prell (The Worm), Frank Oz (Wiseman), Steve Whitmire (Firey 4), Kevin Clash (Firey 1), Ian Thom (Fiery 2), Anthony Asbury (Firey 5), and many others. The writing credits are Dennis Lee, Jim Henson, Terry Jones, and Elaine May. George Lucas was an executive producer and Trevor Jones wrote the music. The film was shot on location in New York and at Elstree Studios in Britain. With a budget of $25 million, it grossed only $12 million. This was the last feature film directed by Jim Henson.

LABYRINTH is a charming, imaginative and dazzling adventure, an underrated classic that is perhaps better than NEVERENDING STORY (1984). The set design is outstanding and it's refreshing to watch an impressive fantasy that was not computer generated. Bowie and Connelly are both very good in their roles and the puppets come to life. It is suitable for children of all ages and adults who enjoy fantasy and sci-fi. But it is bizarre, colourful and dark at the same time, and occasionally tediously slow. Some people dislike the music. The special effects are very good, and there are lessons conveyed, such as "be careful what you wish for".


"Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" is a children's novel published in 1865 by English mathematician Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson using the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. He wrote the book for young Alice Liddell, who asked him to write it after he told her the story. The original title was "Alice's Adventures Under Ground". In 1871 he wrote the sequel "Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There". Both books are classics and considered the best examples of the genre "literary nonsense".

Over a dozen cinematic adaptations of the book have been produced since 1903, usually with the abbreviated title "Alice in Wonderland". There have also been plays, operas, ballets, and songs based on Alice. Because there is so much Alice to choose from, this review is of the two-part 1985 adaptation of both books. It is a made for TV special with an all-star cast that was broadcast December 9, 1985 (part 1) and December 10, 1985 (part 2) at 8 p.m. on CBS. The movie was released on VHS January 31, 1995 and on DVD August 1, 2006.

Seven year-old Alice (Natalie Gregory) helps her Mother (Sheila Allen) set the table for tea, then goes outside to see her sister (Sharee Gregory). While playing with her cat Dinah, The White Rabbit (Red Buttons) runs by and says he is late. Alice follows and falls down a dark and frightening rabbit hole into Wonderland. She finds herself in a hall with many locked doors. There is a key for one small door and a bottle labeled "Drink Me". She drinks and shrinks, but now cannot reach the door. A box of candy appears labeled "Eat Me". She eats, grows over nine feet tall, then cries. The White Rabbit runs by and drops a fan which shrinks Alice again and she swims in her pool of tears.

While swimming she meets The Mouse (Sherman Hemsley). Later she catches up with The White Rabbit and in his house becomes normal size. She meets The Caterpillar (Sammy Davis Jr.) and goes to the house of The Duchess (Martha Raye). Alice takes the Duchess' baby away, but it turns into Pat the pig (Scott Baio). Then she meets The Cheshire Cat (Telly Savalas) who sings, "Somehow you strayed and lost your way, and now there's be no time to play, no time for joy, no time for friends--not even time to make amends. You are too naive if you do believe life is innocent laughter and fun."

The Cheshire Cat directs her to the March Hare (Roddy McDowall) and the Mad Hatter (Anthony Newley). In the garden of The Queen of Hearts (Jayne Meadows) she plays croquet. Next Alice visits The Gryphon (Sid Caesar) and the Mock Turtle (Ringo Starr), but is called to attend a trial.

Queen: "In that case, would you be good enough to grovel?"
Duchess: "Grovel?"
Queen: "Yes. Right here on the gravel."
Duchess: "Do you think I'm ready for gravel groveling?"

At the trial The Knave of Hearts (James Joseph Galante) is accused of stealing The Queen's tarts. There is no evidence, and when Alice defends him she grows larger again. The Queen angrily yells "Off with her head!" and has her pack of cards guards chase her. Alice runs, trips, falls, and finds herself back home. Nobody is there, but she notices her cat Dinah on the other side of a mirror with her parents. She starts reading a poem "Jabberwocky" about a scary monster that suddenly materializes. End of Part 1.

Part 2 opens with The Jabberwocky (Tom McLoughlin) scaring Alice, but she wishes it away. The Owl (Jack Warden) in a painting tells her it was a creation of her own fears. After a conversation with talking flowers, Alice meets The Red Queen (Ann Jillian), who is taking the place of The White Queen (Carol Channing) on a chess board. Alice is a pawn and The Red Queen tells her she can only return home if she becomes Queen.

Alice: "It's the Cheshire Cat! Oh, hello, Cheshire Cat."
Cat: "Hello. How do you like the Queen?"
Alice: "Not at all. I don't like that of losing my head. Would you?"
Cat: "I could hardly afford that."

On her way to the eighth square, she meets The Goat (Patrick Duffy), The Horse (Pat Morita), The Gentleman in a Paper Suit (Steve Allen), The Gnat King (George Gobel), Tweedle Dee (Eydie Gorme) and Tweedle Dum (Steve Lawrence). Alice bumps into The White Queen who turns into a sheep. Then she is chased by a giant bird and meets Humpty Dumpty (Jonathan Winters), but runs away when The Jabberwocky comes after her. Next she meets The White King (Harvey Korman) and his Messenger (John Stamos) who take Alice to The Lion (Ernest Borgnine) and The Unicorn (Beau Bridges). The White Knight (Lloyd Bridges) sings and dances with her. Finally she reaches the eighth square, goes into a castle where a feast is held in her honour.

Alice tells everybody she wants to go home and then The Jabberwocky appears and terrorizes everyone. The White Knight tries but fails to rescue Alice. She finds her way back to the mirror and into her house, only to be confronted by The Jabberwocky. Alice tells him he is just her imagination and he disappears. Mother walks in and tells her that she is old enough to join the grown-ups for tea.

Also in the cast are: Donald O'Connor (Lory Bird), Charles Dougherty (The Duck), Shelley Winters (The Dodo Bird), Billy Braver (The Eaglet), Ernie F. Orsatti (The Lizard), Scotch Byerly (Fish Footman), Robert Axelrod (Frog Footman), Imogene Coca (The Cook), Arte Johnson (The Doormouse), Michael Chieffo (Two of Spades), Jeffrey Winner (Five of Spades), John Walter Davis (Seven of Spades), Selma Archerd (Queen of Diamonds), George Savalas (Courtier), Candace Savalas (The Lady in Waiting), Troy Jordan (The Black Cat), Barbi Alison (Oyster), Dee Brantlinger (Lady of the Court), Laura Carlson (Daisy), Patrick Culliton (Red King), Dana Daniels (Court Jester), Merv Griffin (Conductor), Kristi Lynes (Oyster), Douglas Maida (Courtier), Karl Malden (Walrus), Don Matheson (Horseman), Donna Mills (The Rose), Pat Morita (The Horse), Louis Nye (Carpenter), John Stamos (Messenger), Sally Struthers (Tiger Lily), Desiree Szabo (Oyster), and Janie Walton (Oyster).

The teleplay was written by Paul Zindel from Lewis Carroll's two novels. Music was composed by Stephen Deutsch and Morton Stevens. Steve Allen wrote the original songs. Irwin Allen produced. Cinematography is by Fred J. Koenekamp. Special effects are by Stanley Amborn and Joseph A. Unsinn. Harry Harris directed.

This wonderful and enchanting ALICE IN WONDERLAND is one of the best and perhaps the definitive movie version. It's a lavish production with beautiful sets and an amazing all-star cast who give great performances. Some people love the songs, but some viewers hate them. Be aware that it has a dark, sinister undertone running through it because Alice is confused, scared, and homesick. But the timid, frightened little girl matures into a strong and confident young lady. Highly recommended.

Adventures of BARON MUNCHAUSEN (1989) * * *

In an unnamed European city in the late 18th century, a stage play about pathological liar Baron Munchausen is being performed. An old man (John Neville) interrupts the show, claims he is the real Baron and protests the inaccuracies in the play. He proves his identity with an unbelievable account of one of his adventures.

There is warfare outside the theatre, which disrupts the Baron's tall tale. He escapes the city in a hot air balloon, accompanied by stowaway Sally Salt (Sarah Polley). They travel to the Moon and find Berthold (Eric Idle), but anger the King of the Moon (Robin Williams) who resents the Baron for his past romance with Queen Ariadne (Valentina Cortese). The trio next go beneath Earth, find Bill Albrecht (Winston Dennis) and the god Vulcan (Oliver Reed), who is their courteous host until the Baron romances Vulcan's wife Venus (Uma Thurman). Vulcan expels the four into the South Seas.

Baron: "What's this?"
Vulcan: "Oh, this is our prototype. RX Intercontinental, radar-sneaky, multi-warheaded nuclear missile."
Baron: "Ah! What does it do?"
Vulcan: "Do? Kills the enemy."
Baron: "All the enemy?
Vulcan: "Aye, all of them. All their wives, and all their children, and all their sheep, and all their cattle, and all their cats and dogs. All of them: all of them gone for good."
Sally: "That's horrible."
Vulcan: "Ahh. Well, you see, the advantage is you don't have to see one single one of them die. You just sit comfortably thousands of miles away from the battlefield and simply press the button."
Berthold: "Well, where's the fun in that?"

They are swallowed by a huge sea creature, where the Baron finds his horse Bucephalus. An escape is made with the use of snuff, causing the creature to sneeze everybody out its blowhole. The Baron says, "I have learned from experience that a modicum of snuff can be most efficacious." When they go ashore there is a battle scene with the Turkish army. The city is victorious, but during a celebration the Baron is shot dead by Jackson (Jonathan Pryce). There is a funeral, but then it turns out everything is only a fantasy and the Baron tells the audience it was "only one of the many occasions on which I met my death, an experience which I don't hesitate strongly to recommend". However, the city has been saved and the Baron orders, "Open the gates!" and rides off on Bucephalus.

THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN is derived from Rudolf Erich Raspe's 1785 book based on the real German adventurer Karl Friedrich Hieronymous von Munchhausen (1720-1797). He spent his life in the army and enjoyed telling fanciful stories about his adventures. Karl disapproved of Raspe's "Baron Munchhausen's Narrative of His Marvelous Travels and Campaigns in Russia". The book was very popular and other authors jumped on the band wagon, most notably Gottfried Burger.

The movie is ambitious, imaginative and chaotic with a dream-like design. It is opulent, grandiose, out of control, and often buried in special effects. Sometimes it is dark, pessimistic, and somewhat macabre. Furthermore, the plot is not clear because of a circular narrative with flashbacks that are easily confused with the present. Baron Munchausen's age keeps changing drastically.

Terry Gilliam directed and co-wrote this movie to complete his trilogy of fantasies, which also includes TIME BANDITS (1981) and BRAZIL (1985). With a budget of over $45 million, it was not very popular in its theatrical run, and it didn't help that Columbia only made 115 prints. Fortunately, it was and is a lucrative property on home video.

Others in the cast include: Peter Jeffrey (Sultan), Alison Steadman (Daisy), Jose Lifante (Dr. Death), Sting (Officer), Kiran Shah (Assistant), Don Henderson (Commander), Franco Adducci (Treasurer), Tony Smart (Gunner), and many others. Charles McKeown and Terry Gilliam wrote the screenplay. Eric Idle and Michael Kamen composed the original music.

MUNCHHAUSEN (1943) was produced by the German Nazis to compete with THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939) and similar movies made by the Allies. It's a lavish adult fairy tale with the same basic story of a braggart and liar. It was scripted by Jewish author Erich Kaestner using the pseudonym "Bertold Buerger". The music by Georg Haentzschel is good. Hans Albers stars as Munchhausen, and Josef von Baky directed. The Nazis considered the film artistically but not politically important. This version has many similarities to the 1989 version, and therfore Terry Gilliam was legally obligated to add a disclaimer to his film. A disclaimer regarding a Nazi film? That's like a Monty Python sketch.

BARON PRASIL (1961) aka THE FABULOUS BARON MUNCHAUSEN is a Czech version with a mixture of live action and animation. The story is basically the same, with the Baron visiting the strange and beautiful land of Trukesban. There are good special effects, with a boring and uneven storyline. Milos Kopecky plays Baron Munchausen. Jiri Brdecka wrote the script and Karel Zemen directed. It's available in Czech, Finnish, etc., but in North America is usually shown in German with English subtitles.

TOT SAMYI MUNCHHAUSEN (1979), "One And Only Munchhausen" is a Russian TV movie written by Grigori Gorin and directed by Mark Zakharov. Oleg Yankovsky plays Myunkhgauzen, a symbol of honesty who chooses death on a cannonball to the Moon. Unanimous rave reviews on the internet, and my Russian neighbour says, "It's not too bad. It's a legend, not true, interesting, mostly for children and adults who like fantastical fairy stories."

In 1911 the silent "Les Hallucinations du baron de Munchhausen" by cinema pioneer Georges Melies was produced. There was a British version in 1927. A German TV production starring Richard Munch was made in 1966.

WILLY WONKA and the Chocolate Facory (1971) * * *

WILLY WONKA and the Chocolate Factory is a musical fable, a cult classic for both children and adults. Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum) is a poor boy who can barely support his family. He finds the last of the five "golden tickets" in a Wonka Bar, which allows him to tour the strangest candy factory in the world. Charlie and his Grandpa Joe (Jack Albertson) visit the thrilling and dangerous factory with four insufferable brats who are also lucky winners. All have been approached by Ansel Slugworth (Gunter Meisner), who wants an Everlasting Gobstopper, a candy that can be licked forever without losing its flavour.

Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder), reclusive and enigmatic owner of the mysterious candy factory, is the tour guide. The psychedelic trip through the factory is partly a children's paradise, but also a creepy funhouse. Wonka's workers are small orange men known as Oompa Loompas. The fantastic set includes rivers of flowing chocolate, giant edible mushrooms, lickable wallpaper, coat hooks shaped like hands that move, and candy bars that can be taken out of TV screens. When the kids take Everlasting Gobstoppers and start to run amuck, violating Wonka's ethics, one by one they disappear. Violet Beauregarde (Denise Nickerson) bloats with blueberry juice, Augustus Gloop (Michael Bollner) falls into a chocolate river, Veruca Salt (Julie Dawn Cole) is a bad egg and goes down the garbage chute, and Mike Teevee (Paris Themmen) is sent by Wonkavision.

(Charlie and Grandpa are floating in the Fizzy Lifting room and Grandpa does a somersault)
Charlie: "Hey, you did it, Grandpa."
Grandpa: "Ohhhh... ohhhh, I think I hit an air pocket."
Charlie: "You can fly to the moon this way."
Grandpa: "Let's just fly south for the winter."
Charlie: "Why not? I'm a bird!"
Grandpa: "I'm a plane!"
Charlie: "I'm... going too high!"

Only Charlie and Grandpa Joe remain. Willy Wonka explains that they survived because they drank the forbidden Fizzy Lifting Drink without permission. Charlie gives his Everlasting Gobstopper back, proving his honesty, and wins not only a lifetime supply of chocolate, but the entire Wonka factory as well. It turns out Ansel Slugworth is actually an employee of the factory.

The movie is an adapatation of Roald Dahl's 1964 novel,"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". Dahl also wrote the movie script, although it was rewritten by David Seltzer (uncredited). This semi-satirical musical fantasy is tremendously imaginative, entertaining, charming, and fun for all age groups. However, some reviewers think the film has a cruel edge and is somewhat subversive. Others complain there is too much moralizing.

Eccentric purple-clad Willy Wonka often speaks in epigrams and says very witty things, such as: "Invention, my dear friends, is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation, and 2% butterscotch ripple"; "If the good Lord had intended us to walk he wouldn't have invented roller-skates"; "A little nonsense now and then is cherished by the wisest men."; "The suspense is terrible, I hope it will last."; and "Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker." My favorite is, "There's so much time, but so little to do." Willy Wonka uses many literary quotations, added by David Seltzer when he re-wrote Roald Dahl's script.

Music is by British songwriters Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley. Musical direction was by Walter Scharf. The songs are: "The Candy Man" (performed by Aubrey Woods), "Charlie's Paper Run", "Cheer Up, Charlie" (performed by Diana Sowle), "(I've Got A) Golden Ticket" (performed by Jack Albertson and Peter Ostrum), "Pure Imagination" (Performed by Gene Wilder), "Oompa Loompa Doompa-De-Do" (Performed by the Oompa Loompas), "The Wondrous Boat Ride" (performed by Gene Wilder), "Everlasting Gobstoppers", "The Bubble Machine", "Wonkamobile", "Wonkavision", "Wonkavator", "The Rowing Song" (performed by Gene Wilder), "Ach So Fromm" (performed by Gene Wilder) and "I Want It Now" (performed by Julie Dawn Cole).

Lines in the song "Sweet Lovers Love the Spring Time" are from Shakespeare's AS YOU LIKE IT, taken from the Celtic ballad "It Was a Lover and His Lass". The quote "We are the music-makers..." is from Arthur O'Shaughnessy's ODE. When Willy Wonka plays the piano, Mrs. Teevee says it is Rachmaninoff, although it is actually Mozart (it's a joke). The final Oompa Loompa song took over 5 takes to get it right, although one Oompa Loompa in the foreground obviously doesn't know the words to the song.

The cast also includes: Roy Kinnear (Mr. Henry Salt), Leonard Stone (Mr. Sam Beauregarde), Dora Denney (Mrs. Teevee), Ursula Reit (Mrs. Gloop), Diana Sowle (Mrs. Bucket), Aubrey Woods (Bill), David Battley (Mr. Turkentine), Peter Capell (The Tinker), Werner Heyking (Mr. Jopeck), Peter Stuart (Winkelmann), Dora Altmann (Grandma Georgina), Rudy Borgstaller (Oompa Loompa), Pat Coombs (Henrietta Salt), Gloria Manon (Mrs. Curtis), Ernst Zielgler (Grandpa George), and many others. Mel Stuart directed.

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (2005) is the second film adaptation of the book. It stars Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka and Freddie Highmore as Charlie Bucket. Tim Burton directed and intended his film to be a slightly modernized and closely adapted version of Roald Dahl's book, not a remake of the first film. Some critics complain that Depp's interpretation is an imitation of Michael Jackson or Jim Carrey. It's a great film, except Depp is mis-cast and ruins everything. He plays a repellent neo-hippie crackpot with zero charisma. Depp's Willy Wonka is an eccentric, perverse rich gay hippie with no appeal. At one point Depp says, "Let's boogie" and it is embarassingly bad because he is too stiff and prissy to ever do such a thing. Mike Myers or Jim Carrey would have made this a wonderful movie, but Depp is a complete disaster, absolutely dreadful. Interestingly, most of the Oompa Loompas are played by Rusty Goffe using digital technology to create replicas. There is an ongoing debate about which film is more faithful to the book, as both make changes to the source. Burton's version was initially better received than Stuart's, grossing over $400 million with a budget of $150 million, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Costume Design.

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