Author Archives: Shawn Robare

How I discovered the Monster Squad…

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I’m sure most Monster Kids can recall that moment when they were exposed to and ultimately fell head over heels in love with classic horror. That first experience where they stumbled upon an issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland, when they caught a glimpse of a Basil Gogos painting, found their first Aurora monster model kit, or tuned into their first local horror host screening a beat up old print of one of the universal classics on a Saturday afternoon. For me, I can pinpoint that moment to an almost exact place, date and time. I had just recently turned ten years-old, it was in Orlando on August 22nd 1987, at the Altamonte Springs Cineplex Odeon theater at roughly 4:00pm. I know that because that was when I attended a screening of Fred Dekker’s The Monster Squad with my childhood friend Bryan and my mind was blown by what transpired on that huge movie screen over the course of the next hour and twenty minutes.

The excitement had been building for a couple weeks prior to that screening. I had about $10 worth of saved birthday money in my black Velcro Jimmy Z wallet that was earmarked for a matinee at my local theater and there were a handful of flicks that I really wanted to see that summer. I wasn’t sure if I should get a ticket to North Shore (I lived in FL and was in the middle of my surfing/BMX/Skateboarding phase), the new live action Masters of the Universe flick (I was in the waning days of my initial love of that cartoon and toy line), or Garbage Pail Kids: The Movie. Then one afternoon I was hanging out with my friend Bryan at another kid’s house that I didn’t know all that well. That kid’s parents were out shopping and we were sitting at the kitchen table flipping through the Orlando Sentinel looking for the comics and movie announcements. We were making a mess of the Arts and Entertainment section, spreading it all over the kitchen trying to find the fun stuff when out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed an ad for a film I hadn’t heard of and the tagline had me diving over Bryan to snatch up the page.

“You know who to call when you have Ghosts. But who do you call when you have Monsters?”

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I wish the above picture was ripped from the Orlando Sentinel, but unfortunately their archive is mainly text, but pretty much everything else besides the theater location is what I saw that afternoon.  I remember drooling over the artwork in the ad, the iconic painting by Craig Nelson featuring a group of kid monster hunters hanging out on the hood of a hearse underneath a sky literally filled with monsters. It was like the Mt. Rushmore of classic movie monsters, and at that moment I knew exactly where the remainder of my birthday money was going. All thoughts of surfing vacations in Hawaii, Dolph Lundgren as He-Man, or little people in GPK costumes evaporated from my consciousness. In my spastic excitement Bryan and his friend had stopped spreading and paper out and they hovered over my shoulders to get a look at what I was obsessing over. They were hooked too. The Monster Squad sounded amazing to our 10 year-old brains, it was like The Goonies versus Halloween and we all decided that come hell or high water we’d be catching that movie as soon as possible.

Spokane Chronicle Page Spread Aug 14 1987

That afternoon was capped off with some weird drama as Bryan and I got into an argument with his friend about the use of his home phone and our now immediate need to call a 1-900 number to “hear a special monster message”, part of the Monster Squad theatrical advertisement that ran in the August 14th papers across the country (as seen above.) By calling 1-900-660-6666 we could actually talk to a freaking monster! Bryan’s friend was having none of it as he wisely knew that he’d get into huge trouble when the phone bill came and there were a bunch of charges that he’s have a tough time explaining away. No matter how much we needled him, no matter how much we cajoled, or offered a month’s worth of sack lunch Twinkies, he would not budge.  Needless to say we were bummed and in a fit of childhood stupidity Bryan and I stormed out of his house and sped away on our bikes in a huff. That little row lasted the entire week and on that next Saturday it was just Bryan and I packed into the rear-facing, fold-up station wagon seat en route to catch a screening of a film that would forever change my life.

Twenty Seven years later and I can still feel the visceral pull of needed to call that 900 number.  When I sat down to write this my mind raced.  Dare I dial it?  Would that recording still be ready to play, sitting on an aging cassette tape in some call center switchboard, just waiting for me to finally be brave enough (and financially stable enough) to accept the charges and hear a real live (er…recorded) monster tell me some juicy tidbits about their life, or my Horror-scope, or whatever cheesy message was in store?  I had some Skype-Out credit sitting in my account so I decided what the hell, what’s the worst that can happen?  Well, it’s my sad duty to report that the number is no longer in service.  Sigh.  That doesn’t mean my research stopped there.  I dug into the internet archives hoping someone else had written about, or hopefully recorded that original message.  No dice.  Well, not exactly.  Thankfully someone on youtube managed to rip an old 1-900-660-6666 commercial from a VHS tape and upload it, though for the final nail of my despair coffin the commercial was Christmas themed.  Apparently whoever held that number changed it out seasonally.  Still, kinda neat that my detective skills were unable to unlock that tidbit I guess.

So in place of the actual Call a Monster message, here’s asimilar horror-themed 900 hotline from back in the day.  I’m particularly fond of it as it was pimped by Al Lewis, Grandpa Munster himself and called the Jr. Vampires of America Club!

Also, this first post is just the taste of a much longer article that I recently wrote for the premiere issue of Monster Shindig magazine which should be debuting later this month!

Lastly today’s first Monster Squad Trading Card!!!

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I made a mini set of 80s Topps-style digital trading cards for my favorite movie of all time, one that unfortunately never had an official set released (or any merchandise for that matter.) So come back each day for Trick or Treats and collect them all!

Today’s card is #10, The Mummy!

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Wait, there are four Ghostbusters?!?

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Poor Winston Zeddmore and Ernie Hudson, it seems like outside of the Real Ghostbusters cartoon and the various comic book series Winston/Hudson is always getting the shaft.  Whether it’s being dropped from 95% of the merchandising of the first film not appearing on the posters or on some of the home video releases over the years, the fact that Hudson is snubbed for most of the film’s original trailer (there’s even a montage of everyone who is starring in the film and when it gets to Hudson, the footage is there but only silence from the announcer), or the fact that Hudson was even passed over when he auditioned to reprise the character in the cartoon for crying out loud.  Both the character and the actor can not catch a break.  I’m surprised they didn’t put William Atherton on the poster just to rub it in a little more…

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Well, I’ve been aware of these slights for awhile, but I never realized just how deep this snubbing went.  Last week I found that copy of Starlog (issue 98 from September of 1985) and while flipping through it there was a spotlight on Ernie Hudson, specifically in reference to his recent stint as one of the Ghostbusters.  At first I was just skimming the article because I thought it was probably a fluff piece, but the more I read the more I realized that even though he was overjoyed to work on the film and is happy with the final result, the Ghostbusters he helped make was not the one he signed on to star in.  In fact, if the version of the script that swayed Hudson to sign on had been filmed things would be a lot different!

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Sigh, Hudson doesn’t even get a blurb on the cover…

First of all, the way Hudson frames it in this article the character of Winston was in the film longer, originally hired at the outset with Janene when the trio of Stanz, Spengler, and Venkman open the business.  But aside from that there was originally a much richer back story for the character including the fact that he was ex-military, and not just some random guy off the street looking for a job.  He always felt like the odd man out in the films since he wasn’t a scientist like the other three (well Venkman is debatable.)  On top of those slights, some of his bits from the original script were dished out to other characters during filming.  For instance Winston was originally the character that was to be cornered by Slimer in the hotel hallway, which of course went to Bill Murray.  Then later in the film it was Zeddmore that had the Stay Pufy brain fart that brings the Destroyer in the form of a giant marshmallow man!  Well, at least he still gets the “big Twinkie” line…

You can read the article for yourself below…

So, what do you think, has Winston been getting the shaft?

IT’S ALIVE! Branded gears back up for the 2014 Countdown to Halloween

It’s been pretty quiet around here during this past summer as I’ve been juggling a lot of projects, but things have calmed down a bit and I’m fully ready to tackle my 9th Halloween at Branded in the 80s.

Before I talk about this year’s theme, I wanted take a second and point again to the Countdown to Halloween site, a hub for sites who are participating in the month-long celebration of all things Halloweeny.  I recently re-skinned the website for this new year and added a brand new batch of participant badges, all with a monstrously aquatic theme in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the release of Universal’s Creature From the Black Lagoon!

Julie Adams and the Gill Man in CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, 1954.

I had a lot of fun fudging the 3-D effect for the new site banner as well as picking some creature-rific imagery for the 2014 badges.  This year there’s also a special project I’m working on specifically for the countdown site that I hope to announce in the next few days.  So head on over to the Countdown site. check out the list of participating websites, and join up if you’re planning on celebrating on your own site!

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As for Branded, this year I’m finally going to spend some quality time talking about one of my favorite films, probably my most favorite, Fred Dekker’s 1987 kid-adventure, horror masterpiece The Monster Squad!  I’ve written and talked a little bit about the flick over the years, though mostly it was either reviewing the bootleg DVD, lamenting the lack of an official DVD release, and then when the film was finally released on disc, it was to lament the horrible cover art that adorned it.  I fully intended to spend a week talking about the movie when the 25th anniversary came up a couple years ago, but I got sidetracked and just wrote one short piece about seeing the film for the first time.  I also did a breakdown of Eugene’s room when I first started my exploration of 80s era kid’s rooms on film.  I still feel though, that I haven’t sufficiently tackled a discussion of the flick, so for the next 31 days I’m going to do my best to dig into all aspects of my favorite movie of all time!

10655011_1449641078658365_981214608_nI have a pretty ambitious line up of articles and features planned to celebrate this cult classic, so I hope you’ll join me each day as I examine all aspects of the movie from the script, the marketing, the home video release, trivia, behind the scenes footage and so much more.  As an added bonus, each day this month I plan on posting a treat for your virtual McDonalds Halloween Boo-Pail.  I’ve always been bummed that the movie didn’t have a big merchandising push like other kid’s flicks from the decade, so there were never any read along adventure books, Burger King Collectors glasses (a crime since they were so prominently featured in the movie), or toys.  We didn’t even get a set of Topps trading cards!  We all know how much I love Topps, wax wrappers and junk, so I’ve taken it upon myself to create a mini set of collectible digital Monster Squad trading cards, and I’ll be “handing” them out in place of candy for all you trick or treators who stop by Branded this month.  To get you started I’ll post the first one below.

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Thanks again for reading Branded and I look forward to kicking some Wolfman nards over the next month…

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Awkward Toy Family Photos…

Though I’ve been more or less away from the site for the last few months, I’ve still been mucking about with some geeky nostalgic stuff.  In particular I’ve been having some fun on Instagram taking a series of photos of my current toy collection.  Since I’ve broken down and started picking up some more vintage toys lately (ones that I used to own not mint on card or in box), as well as picking up some modern nostalgic figures here and there, I thought it would be cool to jumble these up and create some goofy Awkward Toy Family photos to document the collection.  That’s one of the things that I enjoy about Instagram is that it only takes a few minutes to grab a few toys from the shelf and snap a picture before heading out to work.  It’s never going to replace Branded, but when I’ve got a crap ton of real life things eradicating my time to write, it’s a great way to still feel engaged. So, with that in mind, here are some of the photos I’ve shot over the summer…

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This is one of the first I shot, and it was just totally on a whim.  I love the idea of Faker giving piggyback rides.  My good buddy HooveR had sent me this Captain Power figure and that small act of kindness is pretty much what helped me break through my aversion to procuring loose, used, old toys.  I had forgotten how cool the Captain figure was and had a blast pairing him up with my Masters of the Universe figures, so I just said “screw it” and started hitting up eBay.  So thanks Hoov! ;)

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Speaking of the Captain, here’s a photo for a failed 80s band that could never reproduce the popularity of their first and only major label record.  Emmdubs, a swell dude I follow on the social media was kind enough to send me his old Miles Mayhem figure, and I had just recently picked up that sweet Tux Go Bot mint on card at a local antique shop for only $7.

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I envisioned this photo as three hard working dudes getting together after a tough day of doing whatever jobs requires wearing these cumbersome masks.  Emmdubs has also sent me this Matt Tracker figure, and I went ahead and pulled the trigger on two of my favorite childhood action figures from the Star Wars and G.I. Joe lines (the AT-AT Driver and Wet Suit.)

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Next up is my cadre of feathered heroes including Quicksilver from the Silverhawks (the only Silverhawks figure I owned as a kid), Jason from Battle of the Planets, and Gizmoduck from DuckTales.  I had this GD cereal premium as a teen and cherished it so much that I turned it into a lucky necklace and wore it to my high school graduation.  Some ridiculous teacher saw it and snatched it away from me and I never found her to get it back.  By the by, man is it ever hard to find a decent condition Silverhawks figure.  The chrome plating wears off so easily so 97% of the loose figures I’ve seen look terrible.  Took forever to find this one…

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Here’s a weird toy robot family photo including my all time favorite Transformer Sideswipe, Cliffjumper, a cool Decoy of Smokescreen, and my favorite Go Bots toy, the Super Go Bot Psycho!

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Switching gears a bit, here’s a picture of some of my favorite childhood motorcycles (Sly and Piranha & Brad Turner and Condor from M.A.S.K. along with Afterburner from the Transformers.)

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Here’s another early one that I’ve posted before featuring a D&D Wardule, Tonto from the Gabriel Lone Ranger line and a demon from Blackstar.

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For those of you who are longtime readers you’ll know that I love Robo Force and I REALLY love their sweet hugging action feature…

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Remember that time He-Man and Teela ended up in the spirit world and really needed some help getting the new tenants of Castle Greyskull to move out?  Beetlejuice was not the greatest option, but they had to try…

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Some of my favorite super hungry and ornery aliens and ghosts!

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Hands down, my favorite G.I. Joe figure had to be Dial Tone.  Such an under appreciated figure and character.  He’s posing with a sweet water color portrait by the kickass Christopher Tupa!

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I also ran across some of my Micro Machines star wars tiny mini figures, so I did a couple of shoots with them and their larger counterparts.  Admiral Ackbar can not repel cuteness of that magnitude!  As for the Gamorean Guard and Greedo, I think the guard got the better end of this trade by far…

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And speaking of Greedo, last but not least, Greedo playing Space Invaders (which was what I was fiddling with while recording a recent episode of the Nerd Lunch podcast with the Retroist as a guest…)

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So check me out over on instagram.  I try and post regularly and do my best to keep it fun!

 

I’m basically still Chunk at heart

For the majority of my life I was, well, let’s say pretty husky.  As a very young kid I was actually pretty skinny, say up until I was six or seven, but starting with my family’s first big move across state, and then all over the east coast things got a little difficult for me and well for a bunch of reasons food became my comfort.  But I’m not really sitting down to write about that as much as describing an aspect that contributed to my personality as a kid.  Moving around a lot, overweight, and to be quite honest I was one hell of a weird kid.  My mom has always kept an unusual schedule, sleeping during the day when my sister and I were at school and my dad at work, and then staying up till all hours of the morning watching late night cable.  When she would go grocery shopping it was usually at one of the stores in the area that was open 24 hours and she liked to hit them up between 10:00pm to 12:00am to avoid a bunch of other customers and to basically have a stress free experience.  When she went on the weekends I’d tag along and wander around the vast empty store, browsing the toy aisle for 45 minutes talking to myself out loud and making mental lists of all the stuff I would ask for on my upcoming birthdays and Christmas.  From the outside I’m sure I appeared pretty damn weird, but I was fully aware of it and for the most part didn’t care how I looked or seemed to others.  I was entertaining myself and that’s all that mattered.

So when relating to characters from pop culture, it should come as no surprise that I’ve always felt that Chunk (Jeff Cohen) from the Goonies is more or less my spirit animal…

Goonies

I was never great at making friends though I always managed to, and when I did I tended to over compensate, exaggerate and be kind of a handful just like the loveable Lawrence.  In my defense Michael Jackson, nor his sister, ever came to my house to use the bathroom…but I saw Stephen King in a Maine bookstore once on vacation (sure I did…)  I wouldn’t say I was using the character as a role model, but I sure did feel his pain whenever he’d spaz out or make a fool of himself…

Chunk a Mess in ActionTruffle Shuffle

I also had a weird habit of wearing Halloween costumes was past the point of being “acceptable” for normal attire.  I mean I’d be hanging out in the house dressed up in my sweet ninja gear during Christmas or I’d be tooling around the neighborhood in my “G.I. Joe fatigues” and beret for instance…

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…so later on in life when I found out about Jeff Cohen’s penchant for waring weird and wacky headgear both on and off the set of Goonies, I totally related.  Part of it was that need to perform, part just trying to over compensate.

Jeff Cohen Hat Obsession

Anyway, this is all a lot of lead up to the fact that I just found this old back issue of Starlog magazine in a used bookshop this past week and I was overjoyed to see that it included an interview with Jeff Cohen (and Corey Feldman, but Jeff steals the show)!  Usually these articles only focused on the adult actors or crew, so it’s pretty rad to find one that was concentrating on the kids, but wasn’t fluff from an 80s teeny-bop magazine.  Hope everyone enjoys reading this as much as I did…

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Again, from the article Cohen has a quote about his character Chunk that really echos my childhood experience as a pseudo-Chunk…

“Chunk is too much, but he doesn’t care.  He likes it.  He doesn’t like being fat, but he likes having his own personality.  He’s a little bit flashy, wears plaid pants and a big Hawaiian shirt and struts around…he’s a klutz and a liar.  He lies to his friends, but nothing to hurt ‘em.”

Anyway, the interview is all over the place as both Feldman and Cohen are hyped up and excited, but I still think it’s a fun read and a great snapshot of these two actors in the prime of their Goonies experience.  So glad I found this…

Fine art from the fine folks at Cricket Press

The land of Branded has basically been an empty field populated only by the sound of crickets chirping over the summer, but behind the scenes I’ve been gearing up for the coming Fall and my yearly Countdown to Halloween.  I have a fun month worth of posts planned for this season that I’ll be kicking off towards the end of September, but until then (and speaking of crickets) I thought I’d point to some work by a couple of my favorite artists, Sara & Brian Turner the supremely rad Cricket Press.  The duo have been producing some amazing illustrations and screen prints for over a decade and I’ve had the opportunity to meet, hang out and work with them during my tenure at Branded.  Could ask to meet nicer, more creative folks for sure.  Lately Cricket Press has been dipping into the 80s nostalgic well for inspiration in some of their prints that I thought readers here might really dig.  Specifically Sara has been illustration and designing a series of prints based on kid adventure flicks like The Goonies, Stand By Me, The Outsiders and E.T.

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I love her eye for composition and the perspective she uses with her subjects.  There’s a storybook quality to the illustrations that nail the tone of the inspiration while still filtering the pieces through her style that is just awesome.  I love way she frames the stand off between the Goonies and the Fratellis in the above print for instance, or the way she condenses the story of the gang from Stand By Me into the one image below.  I can feel the vibrations of the train I know is coming, and it illustrates the adventure that’s ahead of Vern, Teddy, Chris and Gordy…

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Cricket Press has also recently finished a series of 80s era iconic vehicle prints that are done in a very minimalist style that I absolutely love.  I have these hanging in Branded HQ right now…

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The image above doesn’t do justice to the prints as they used metallic inks on the Delorean, KITT, and BA’s Van from the A-Team that really make these pop.

You can find all of these and more over at their Etsy shop, so head on over and check out their work.  You won’t be sorry!

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Goodbye Mr. Williams…

So, it’s been a bit since I sat down to write anything for Branded. Life has been…hectic…as it tends to be for most of us, and this site has been comfortably warming on the back burner. That being said, I wanted to take a moment and mention the passing of Robin Williams. To be honest, I didn’t think I was going to write anything, I mean aside from adding my voice to the cacophony of those who are mourning him there’s not a whole lot I can really say beyond the simple fact that Mr. Williams had an impact on my life. He’s always been there for me, from his pop culture breakthrough in Mork & Mindy when I was just a child up to his short bit in an amazing season three episode of Louie. And you know what? I took that for granted and more often than I’d really like to admit I felt kind of weary of seeing him pop up in films. I hate saying that, but it’s true and it made the whole thing sting that much more. My friend Dave Roman mentioned something similar (something that I’m sure a lot of us have found ourselves thinking over the years), that he felt a bit guilty about being “tired” of Williams. Hearing him echo what I had been thinking pushed me to remember that when it comes to celebrity and the pop culture zeitgeist there is a distinct separation between a person and their persona.

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I was struggling with this and was curious. Over the course of the last 8 years while writing about my nostalgic recollections what did I write about Mr. Williams, and was I honest or filtering my thoughts through rose-tinted glasses? Back in 2007, in a piece on the 1978 Mork & Mindy Topps sticker cards I wrote:

“Williams has always been a really weird guy and I’m never quite sure how I feel about him. On the one hand there’s Mork & Mindy, The Fisher King, and some of his more subdued performances like in the World According to Garp, Awakenings and Good Will Hunting. Then there’s his annoying manic insanity in flicks like Mrs. Doubtfire and Jack, not to mention his Stand-Up, which is equal parts hilarious and repetitive. He seems to take delight in flipping from “can’t contain him” zany comedies to parts that are so somber that it seems like he’s sleeping with his eyes open on film. Watching his Inside the Actor’s studio episode gave me a headache even, yet I still love it when he’s on. What’s kind of funny to me is that he’s sort of blazed a trail for this style of personality in Hollywood, I mean between Jim Carey and Adam Sandler it’s hard to tell the three apart, performance-wise.”

Mork and Mindy

Again, that stings. And again, I wasn’t sure there was anything I could contribute to the discussion.

With that in mind and feeling a little guilty, I wanted to reconnect with some of Mr. Williams’ work that I hadn’t seen in years, stuff that had an impact on me at a point in my life. I decided to watch The Fisher King because I had only seen it a couple of times back in the 90s and because it’s been sitting on my DVD shelves for over a decade still wrapped in the original cellophane. There was a part of me that was afraid. Afraid that I wouldn’t react the way I did when I first saw it 20 odd years ago. So I stuck the disc in the player and hit play. 20 minutes in, after barely seeing Williams on screen for about a minute I had to turn off the film. It was too hard to watch. I felt raw and gut-punched by that mere 60 seconds, and that wasn’t even close to touching how amazing his performance becomes over the course of the story. Two days later I stuck the disc back in. I made it 10 minutes further before shutting it off. The last week I’ve been watching The Fisher King in these tiny snapshots, no more than 10 minutes at a time. I still haven’t brought myself to finish it.

Fisher King

So we feel guilty, we remember and we mourn. It doesn’t matter how he left this world, or whether or not we focused on the persona, only that for brief moments in darkened theaters and while sitting in our collective living rooms this talented, gentle performer made us laugh. He made us cry. He made us think deeper about the life we live. He made us smile. This one amazing individual interconnects millions of people on the planet with this shared experience of profound jubilance, art and melancholy. That loss, that feeling that was sadly too easy to take for granted, will be felt for generations to come.

Louie

Before I end this I’d like to point to the 2010 Williams interview that Marc Maron did on his podcast.  It’s an eye-opening, laugh out loud, and amazingly somber talk with a man who was known for his mania.  It’s also gut-wrenching…

Maron Interview

 

So, something pretty damn RAD happened…

I’ve been in full on Rad mode lately, I know, so bear with me for one more piece of excitement I’d like to share.  After recording the latest episode of the Cult Film Club about the flick, Pax, Jaime and I got a chance to interview the one and only Cru Jones himself, Mr. Bill Allen!  I mean, HOLY CRAP! This is the first time I reached out to one of my childhood heroes and for a month I was chewing off my nails.  I was pretty damn worried the interview was going to devolve into the Chris Farley show.  But I pulled myself together, put on an appropriate shirt and this past Tuesday night I sat down and talked with Mr. Allen for about an hour…

Co-Host Shawn Rad

If you want to listen to us talk about the movie Rad, Bill’s penchant for extreme hobbies, his music career, and what it’s like to be associated with a cult classic film and to have inspired countless athletes and filmmakers, then head on over to the Cult Film Club and download episode 17!  We also dig into his new memoir, My Rad Career, which highlights his 30 years spent in front of and behind the cameras. It was an honor and an amazing pleasure to chat with one of our film heroes and we hope you enjoy the conversation. So without further to do, queue up Send Me An Angel, put on your sequined shirts, and jump on your bike as we talk to a supremely Rad dude!  You can also listen to it by clicking, or right-clicking & downloading it here!

Lastly, I woke up this morning to find my review of Bill’s memoir featured on his website!  Too cool.  If you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go reenact the BMX dance sequence from Rad to celebrate…

Branded on Bill Allens Site

Alright Dudes! Let’s walk this sucker!

This month it was my turn to pick the movie that the Cult Film Club covered and I decided it was high time that Paxton, Jaime and I dug into one of my favorite 80s flicks the 1986 BMX classic RAD!

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Starring Bill Allen, Talia Shire, Lori Loughlin, Bart Connors, Jack Weston and Ray Walston, the film was directed by the legendary Hal Needham (Smokey & The Bandit, Cannonball Run, and Megaforce.) For those who haven’t seen it (correct this NOW) the movie centers on BMX junkie Cru Jones who only wants to get radical on his bike with friends Becky & Luke, challenge the local cop to races in a lumber yard, and get his morning paper route finished by 7:15am. All his mom wants is for him to go to take his SATs and get into college. But when Duke Best, head of the Mongoose bicycle company, partners with the local businesses to bring a professional BMX track called Helltrack to Cochrane, Cru sees and opportunity to do what he does best, which is riding his bike. But before he can race, Cru has to prove that he can qualify, which is easier said than done when Best, along with his stuck up hot shot riders Bart Taylor and Rod & Rex, the Reynolds Twins, keep putting up barriers he has to hurdle. Along the way he learns who his true friends are, as well as winning the heart of beautiful BMX champion Christian, but does he have enough thunder in his heart to beat Helltrack?

We talk about our favorite scenes, amazeballs dance sequences, the awesome soundtrack, and what makes this film still work after almost 30 years.  So if you’re curious to hear me and my friends talk about this awesome flick, break out a bowl of Kix and head on over to the Cult Film Club and listen to episode 16.  You can also listen to the discussion by clicking, or right clicking and saving here!

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Also, I just want to remind folks again that the star of Rad, Mr. Bill Allen, has just released his memoir detailing his 30 years in Hollywood in his book My RAD Career which you can purchase directly from him in both paperback and special signed editions.  If you pick up a copy it helps both Mr. Allen and will help keep the lights on here at Branded.  Also, tell him Shawn from Branded sent ya!

Bill Allen Memoir

This book is, well, RAD!

4461391534_02cce86892_oIn 1986 my family had yet to own a VCR and every weekend we’d trek out to the little mom & pop video rental store next to the Goodings on Red Bud road in Castleberry Florida and we’d rent a machine and each pick out a title to take home. Invariably I would always end up with the same two VHS tapes, one in either hand, trying to decide what flick I was going to re-watch for the hundredth time. In my left hand was Red Dawn, a film I could endlessly watch for C. Thomas Howell alone, and in my right was always Rad. 4 out of 5 times I would walk out of the store with the copy of Rad. I can’t explain exactly why I was drawn to the film so much, but at 10 years-old Rad spoke to me like no other film. I mean the box art alone was always enough to get me excited with the crazy paint-splash font on the logo, to the wild mix of purples, reds, and hot pink that was impossible for the eye to pass up when scanning the video shelves.

RAD VHSI’d usually wait until Saturday morning to watch the flick, right after the cartoon blocks and I’d consumed my weight in Capt’n Crunch. Then I slip it in the hulking rented VCR with the top-loading eject door and wait for those familiar opening keyboard notes and guitar strums from John Farnham’s “Break the Ice” to start up. Then it was and hour and a half of BMX bliss, after which I’d frantically run out of the house, grab my bike and attempt to recreate the freestyle bike tricks in the opening and closing credits (which was a lot harder than it looked not only because I was clumsy, but because I didn’t have a true BMX bike at the time so my handlebars and front wheel could only rotate so far without getting tangled in the handbrake cords.) I imagined I was Cru Jones as I tooled around the neighborhood on my red and white Huffy, racing imaginary cops on motorcycles and speeding down the huge hill in my subdivision as if it was my last shot to qualify for Helltrack.

Fast forward 28 years and I’m still enraptured with the movie Rad, still constantly stick it in the DVD player (I have a cherished bootleg copy that literally stopped playing a couple months back to my shock and horror), and I still want to be Cru Jones on some level. Is Rad the best movie of the 80s? No. Is it one of my personal favorites regardless of the visible goofs and some questionable acting (I’m looking at you Bart Connor – just kidding, well, kind of)? Yeah, yeah it is. One of the things I’ve tried to do since I got online in the late 90s/early 2000s was to check in on the cast members, in particular Bill Allen who played Christopher “Cru-sier” Jones in the flick. At some point about 6-7 years ago I stumbled upon his personal website, which at the time was the one place besides all the bootleggers on ebay that was keeping the flame of Rad lit. So imagine my surprise this past month when I saw that he was getting ready to release his memoir titled My Rad Career. Floored doesn’t begin to describe how excited that bit of news made me, and I was (or imagine I was) one of the first in line to order a copy in mid-May.

Bill Allen MemoirAs soon as I got it in the mail I began to devour it.  It’s a quick and dirty recounting of Mr. Allen’s 30 year career in and outside of Hollywood.  It touches on everything from his time spent guesting on TV from sitcoms like Family Ties to series like Amazing Stories, to the films he’s worked on or starred in like his first role in And They’re Off (where he met a young George Clooney also doing his first film.)  The book features some interesting and hilarious anecdotes about Hollywood’s behind the scenes, including Clooney’s penchant for practical jokes, what Brad Pitt was like when he was first starting out, and the grueling and life-threatening truth behind the whirlwind military training the actors received when preparing for the film Born on the Fourth of July.  The chapters about his friendship with Brandon Lee leading up to Lee’s accidental death on the set of The Crow are especially touching and had me in tears.

My favorite aspects of the memoir center on his time spent filming Rad.  I’ve read a lot about the flick over the years but there were aspects of the film that I never realized like the fact that Bart Connor was in pretty bad shape and in such pain after his gold medal winning Olympic outings that he could barely walk let alone dance very well.  It speaks to why he tended to be shot from the waist up in the film or sitting.  Little details like this really enhance the viewing experience for me as it puts the movie in a whole new context and almost lets me view it with fresh eyes.  So if you were ever curious what it was like to make out with Lori Loughlin, the down side of ass-sliding, or what it was like working with Hal Needham and a bunch of world class BMX riders (like Eddie Fiola, Jose Yanez. and Martin Aparijo), this book is a must read.

Allen’s writing style is very conversational which makes the book a very easy and satisfying experience, and makes it feel like he’s sitting in a recliner across from you sharing his time in the spotlight.  For a life-long fan of Rad like myself, I was very grateful to get a chance to read about Bill Allen and his adventures from the man himself.

You can order your copy of My Rad Career directly from Mr. Allen at his site.