Category Archives: Buried in DVDs

I think I have a crush on Lynne Stone…

Even though I’ve seen a metric ton of flicks from the 80s, there are a lot that I’ve never seen.  One of the cool aspects of catching up with these movies is getting to see some established actors before they were huge, and in some cases seeing them in roles that give me a whole new appreciation for them.  A couple years ago I did just that when I saw Laura Dern as a young post-punk rock star in Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains.  It totally changed my outlook on Mrs. Dern and it’s sort of given me a taste for redefining my outlook on some stars that maybe I don’t give enough credit.  Well this past weekend I curled up next to my girlfriend Jaime while she introduced me to the campy 80s dance flick Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and at about four minutes in I found an entirely new appreciation for one Mrs. Helen Hunt!

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Literally, Jaime and I were about five minutes into the flick when I did a spit take (well, would have had I been drinking anything at the time) and freaked out after noticing Hunt wearing a very awesome piece of jewelery that I myself sported back in the 80s.  Her character, Lynne Stone, is sort of a Cyndi Lauper lite, free spirited, takes crap from no one, and has a wickedly fun fashion sense.  Though the film focuses mainly on Sarah Jessica Parker’s character Janey, I kind of immediately fell in love with Lynne and I’m basically already writing the fan-fiction sequel flick in tandem with this article.  Also, since I’ve sort of been locked in a mode of finding all sorts of fun junk in the background of movies I thought it would be fun to point out the six aspects that make Hunt’s Lynne Stone such a rad character…

#6: Her Crush on C. Thomas Howell

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But then again, didn’t we all have a crush on C. Thomas Howell?

#5: Her Transforming Catholic School Uniform

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The scene where Lynne rips off her school outfit and flips it to form an entirely new outfit is pretty cool, as is her line: “Velcro.  Next to the Walkman and Tab it’s the coolest invention of the 20th century!”

#4: Her Awesome Headgear

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Giant grasshoppers, 50′s coonskin caps, and Dinosaur barrettes are just a smattering of the awesome things you’ll see on Lynne’s head throughout the flick.

#3: Her Babysitting Technique

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Get to job, put on Dance TV, place baby in pizza box, take absolutely no messages for her employer.  That’s the way to do it.

#2: Her Taste in Lunchboxes

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I have to say that the 8 year-old me who was carrying a Masters of the Universe lunchbox to school, if he’d crossed paths with a teenaged Helen Hunt with the same lunchbox, well, he (I) would have fallen in love and then fainted.  Seriously, I love that she’s carrying that lunchbox!

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#1: Her Amazing Taste in Kronoform Watches!

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Not only did I have the same lunchbox as Lynne, I also had that same knockoff red Kronoform transforming robot watch!!!  (Also, note the rad dinosaur headgear…)

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Seriously, I might have to consider knocking one of my 80s crushes off my list because I think Lynne Stone/Helen Hunt deserves to be on it…

 

Taking a Closer Look at an Awesome Bedroom, part 2: The Monster Squad Edition!

I had a crap ton of fun examining Sara’s room from Adventures in Babysitting a couple weeks ago, so I figured I’d take a second to take a closer look at another pop culture bedroom.  This time I decided to scope out Eugene’s room in one of my favorite flicks, 1987′s The Monster Squad!

monster squad poster

There really only one scene with the bedroom in the flick, the iconic beat where Eugene, scared out of his wits, begs his dad to come and get the monster out of his closet.  But in that minute or two of footage there are a ton of cool things in the background.  But let’s start with Eugene himself as he’s wearing some pretty darn bitchin’ PJ’s…

Monster Squad 1

1). Robotech Odyssey Pajamas

That’s right, Eugene is a fan of the 80s Carl Macek re-edit of the Macross Space (Soap) Opera.  Front and center on that rad nightshirt is none other than Rick Hunter, Roy Folker, and Captain Gloval.  But that’s not all the giant mech goodness in this room as we’ll see in a later screenshot.  So let’s take a closer look at Eugene’s room shall we…

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2). The Punisher Poster

3). Garbage Pail Kids Stickers

4). Godzilla Toy

5). My Pet Monster

6). Wolverine Poster

So, I think it can be firmly established that the set designer decided that Eugene was into comics, in particular some of the more violent vigilantes in the Marvel Universe!  There are also some GPK  stickers on the wall, though it’s kind of hard to make out which ones.  There are more GPK stickers on his closet door that I’ll run down in a bit.  Like Sara in Adventures in Babysitting, Eugene was a proud owner of a My Pet Monster too.  Let’s take a clearer peep at those Marvel posters…

Posters

It kind of cool to realize that Eugene was into the same characters that I was growing up, and I’m totally jealous of that Rick Leonardi Wolverine poster!  Anyway, what else is in his room?

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7). Dreadstar Poster

8). Comico Comics posters (Jonny Quest on top and a jam poster featuring Mage, Grendel, Jonny Quest and Robotech among other characters…)

9). Mickey & Minnie Mouse lamp

Continuing the comic book theme we can get a glimpse of some Comico branded posters on Eugene’s wall.  Not only was he reading Wolverine and the Punisher, but also potentially Matt Wagner’s Mage and Grendel as well!  Seriously it’s like that set designer was pulling inspiration from my very mind!  There are a couple of other posters in the room that I couldn’t peg (one to the left of and one below the Wolverine poster in the second screenshot), as well as a toy helicopter on his bureau underneath the Punisher poster.  Anyone out there have any guesses?  Here’s a better look at that Comico mash-up poster…

Comico

Okay, last but certainly not least, a better look at some of the Garbage Pail Kids on Eugene’s closet door…

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10). More GPKs.  Specifically Roy Bot, Apple Corey, Stoned Sean, and Warmin Norman from the 3rd series, Basket Casey, Larry Lips and Dana Druff from the 4th series.  The rest I can’t get a good enough look at…

So, anything I missed?

Other Awesome Bedrooms I’ve covered…

Sara’s Room from Adventures in Babysitting

Mikey’s room from the Goonies

David’s room from Flight of the Navigator

Robbie’s room from Poltergeist

Ben’s room from The Explorers

Pee Wee’s room from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure

Elliot’s room from E.T.

Fred Savage’s room from The Princess Bride

Josh’s room from Big

No Seriously, I Guess I like Talking… ;)

All of a sudden one stops and takes stock of the past few weeks and it’s impossible to ignore the fact that you’ve been hosting or guest hosting on a ton of podcasts.  This happens to everyone right?  Seriously, I think I’ve been making up for my recent internet sabbatical in the form of podcasting.  It’s immediate, the editing is minimal (as if I edit my writing, pshaw), and the conversations tend to be a lot more fun than just banging away at my keyboard.  I’m not really comparing the two for any other reason than trying to rationalize how in the past two week’s I’ve had six podcast announcements!  Seriously, I guess I like talking…

Cult Film Club

So, what are the other three shows I’ve been involved with recently you might be asking yourself?  Well, first off, there’s a brand new episode of the Cult Film Club, the show I do with some criminally awesome co-hosts, Paxton Holley and Jaime Hood.  This should be of interest to folks who enjoy this site as the movie we chose for discussion is none other than the batshit insane Karate Kid III!

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For real, this flick is crazy, and as my co-hosts point out, Karate Kid III is basically a parody of the first KK film.  John Kreese, down on his luck after all of the Cobra Kai students have abandoned him in the wake of some crazy car-window punching and nose honking, seeks revenge against Daniel and Miyagi by hooking up with his secret CK grand master and old war buddy Terry Silver.  They lure Daniel to the dark side of the, um, karate, and well, you have to watch this film to believe that it was actually made.  We chat about the film, the actors, some dream re-writes, and how we all secretly wish we were Terry Silver.  You can listen to the episode and join the Cult Film Club here!

Next up is the long awaited release of the new episode of the Saturday Supercast!

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This time I check back in with hosts Jerzy Drozd and Dave Roman to discuss one of my all-time favorite flicks, 1986′s Transformers the Movie.  We’re joined by the super cool Matt Hawkins to discuss the film, the soundtrack, the casting, and we all provide some interesting arguments for how the Decepticons managed to hand the Autobots their buts so easily at the start of the flick!  We all had way too much for with the conversation and it ended up a long show.  So Jerzy and Dave broke it in half.  Check out Part 1 over at Sugary Serials!

Last but not least, I was kindly asked to be a guest on the latest Retro Retro Retro Podcast by the really awesome and swell guy Raven J!

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The discussion is all about magazine memories, NES and Gensis video game reviews, as well as some movie reviews.  I sat in on the discussion of magazines with Raven and his crew and had a blast.  Check out their site, and you can find the episode here!

Taking a Closer Look at an Awesome Bedroom!

I was recently inspired by Tim over at Flashlights Are Something to Eat and Johnny at Freddy in Space to finally get off my butt and write about a topic I’ve been meaning to get to for what seems like forever, namely, taking an awesome 80s film and finding cool stuff in the background that makes said film even more awesome.  Specifically I wanted to take a closer look at some of the kid’s bedrooms that I kind of obsess over.  Not sure if I’m going to make this a reoccurring column just yet, but either way I wanted to focus on just one room today.  Probably my favorite kid’s bedroom in an 80s flick, let’s take a closer look at Sara’s room  from 1987′s Adventures in Babysitting!

Adventures in Babysitting

So, Matt at Dinosaur Dracula recently wrote about this room, mainly to point out the inclusion of a certain plush toy that I’ll get to in a minute, and pretty much anyone who has seen this flick knows that Sara is mildly obsessed with a nordic Marvel character that goes by the name Thor (ever heard of him?), but there is a metric ton of other cool stuff in this room…

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So, let’s take a look at what I was able to spy in the room.  In the screen shot above we of course have a ton of Thor references (which I haven’t numbers because that was just going to get out of hand) including the large cut-out standee on the wall to the right, the wicked awesome Thor bedspread, the Thor Halloween mask hanging from the right bedpost, and the super cool drawing of Thor on the rainbow bridge to the upper left of the bed.  So, what else is hiding in this image…

1). A Wrinkles Puppy puppet plush made by Ganz in the early 80s.

2). A Geoffrey the Giraffe Toys ‘R Us plush

3). A Cabbage Patch Kids plush.

4). Transformers Walkie Talkie (the 2nd handset in in another shot)

5). Giant Donald Duck coloring book.

Here’s a closer look at that Transformers Walkie Talkie and the Wrinkles plush…

Wrinkles Transformers

There’s some sort of big action figure behind the walkie talkie that I can’t place (purple, yellow and red with a silver head), any guesses?

*UPDATE #1* You guys are quick!  Huge thanks go out to Jaime of Shezcrafti.com and Matt of Geektarded for solving a couple of the toy mysteries!  As Ms. Hood points out in the comments, the large plush on the bed is none other than one of the Pillow People, in particular Punky Pillow!

pillow people

Dr. Geektarded identified the toy behind the Transformers Walkie Talkie as an Inter-Changeables Cosmobot, a re-colored Micronauts Biotron figure.

Inter-Changeables Cosmobot

Photo from Microforever.com

This sequence moves pretty fast as the camera pans across the room, so most of these shots are kind of blurry, but let’s take a look at another shot a few frames past the first…

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The Thor reference count now jumps from 4 to 7 as there are two more drawings on the art desk and a third on the floor next to the dresser.  But what else is there to spy in the room?

6). AMToy Super Pickle Hot Dog Plush hanging from the ceiling…

7). A Rainbow Brite plush, the Sprite known as Sparks (and this is the second series Hatful Sparks – ’cause he has an Indian headdress…)

8). A super rad poster of Jelly Beans that I felt I had to point to…

*UPDATE #2* I don’t know where that Hot Dog is from (Thanks to Jack Frost for solving the Hot Dog mystery!), but I managed to find a clearer picture, as well as a better one of Sparks…

Spark Hot Dog

Moving right along, here’s out next screen shot…

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Okay, I’m officially going to give up counting Thor references because there are like a billion on the floor by Sara.  I will say that it’s rad how often she can be seen sporting the Thor helmet.  More importantly, this shot has two more awesome background elements…

9). A Lots-a-Lots-a-Legggggs plush toy.

10). Probably my favorite background spotting, a 1985 Transformers Soundwave Cassette Player by Durham Industries that actually plays full size tapes (many thanks go to Steve at the Roboplastic Apocalypse for helping me identify this rad piece)!  I had never heard of this tape player existing before I spotted the over-sized Soundwave in the background.  So cool!

Soundwave Leggggs

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There was one straggler that I couldn’t get into the same screen shot with the last two, another favorite spotting in this room…

11). A Darth Vader “The Force” Light Saber from 1983!  I had Luke’s green one form Return of the Jedi.  For those that don’t remember, these had hollow plastic blades that were designed to catch the air to make some pretty wicker saber noises.  Reis at the Dork Horde has a great write up about his Vader Saber

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Next up we have three more Thor sitings with another large standee, the light switch cover above it (not on the actual light switch as it’s one of those weird paddle switches) an another drawing above that.  And on the shelf to the right…

12). Transformers Dinobots Snarl wall clock from Concept Clocks (which happens to have a reversible image plate with the Insecticon Bombshell on the other side!)  It’s so damn rad that Sara is also a major Transformers fan…

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In the above shot you can get a better look at that Thor drawing on the wall (and there’s another off to the right.)  But let’s take a look at the bookshelves shall we…

13). A Disney Fluppy Puppy plush.

14). A 2nd set of Transformers Walkie Talkies, this one shaped like Optimus Prime

*UPDATE #3* I have no idea what that red plush is next to the Transformers clock.  It looks like it has a ton of sharp teeth though. *Thanks to Newton G. of Infinite Hollywood for identifying the red toothy plush as LB the Bounder from Teddy Ruxpin!

Optimus Fluppy

LB the Bounder Teddy Ruxpin

And for the last screenshot, a much more recognizable background item…

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15). A My Pet Monster plush.  Always wanted one.  Never got one.

So there you have it.  Sara from Adventures in Babysitting has a pretty darn awesome bedroom filled with all kinds of rad toys,  a lot of which I wished I had as a kid.  Did you spot anything that I missed?

*UPDATE #4Can anyone identify the grey and red robot by Sara’s feet?  Thanks to Tintod at the wicked awesome Junk Fed for identifying the robot at Sara’s feet as none other than a Jim the Politician remote control robot!

Jim the Politician

Other Awesome Bedrooms I’ve covered…

Eugene’s Room from The Monster Squad

Mikey’s room from the Goonies

David’s room from Flight of the Navigator

Robbie’s room from Poltergeist

Ben’s room from The Explorers

Pee Wee’s room from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure

Elliot’s room from E.T.

Fred Savage’s room from The Princess Bride

Josh’s room from Big

Thinking About Becoming a Professional Podcast Guest…

So, diving back into the online world after the last couple of months not only means more articles in the works at Branded, but I’ve also switched back on my microphone and honored to be asked to guest host (or take part on a panel) on a number of podcasts.

First up, I was part of an 11-blogger panel on the first episode of the Rediscover the 80s Podcast (and I’ve been remiss in getting the word out as this show went live at the end of May!)

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The brainchild of Jason Gross, this is one mammoth show done in the style of VH1′s Do You Remember series where the panel discusses all sorts of 80s pop culture facets and we provide a running commentary.  From Ghostbusters to Turbo Teen there’s a lot of ground covered and pretty darn fascinating getting so many of us pop culture histories talking about these movies, cartoons, commercials and musical acts!  Gross is currently hip deep in putting together the 2nd and 3rd installments and I can’t wait to hear them!  So head on over and give it a listen, well worth your time if you’re a child of the 80s…

Next up (an a much more recent announcement ;) ), I was asked to come on to the Forgotten Filmcast to discuss one of my top ten favorite flicks from the 80s, Streets of Fire!  I chatted with host Todd all about Walter Hill, Michael Pare, Diane Lane, Rick Moranis, Willem DaFoe, the rad music (in particular the work of Face to Face as the real band behind Ellen Aim and the Attackers), and some spiritual film connections!

Forgotten Filmcast

Todd is a really knowledgeable and charismatic guy who knows his cult films!  I had a blast on the show and can’t wait to hear what he covers next.  Check out episode 8: Streets of Fire and tell him Branded sent ya!

Nerd Lunch

Last, but certainly not least, a new episode of the Nerd Lunch Podcast dropped today, episode 91, where I joined hosts CT, Pax, and 4th chair guest Howie Decker to discuss the 80s era G.I. Joe A Real American Hero toyline!

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We discuss what we had, what we coveted, what we lost, and what we’d like to acquire in our collecting over the past 30 years.  Head on over, give the episode a listen, and weigh in on whether or not Crystal Ball, Raptor, and Dr. Mindbender need to reunite for a soul singing trio called No Shirts Required!

You Can’t Do That on a Fan Documentary…

“[There are] …so many shows out there that are pushing or peddling products, you know, hocking something or other.  Pretty much to make a cartoon nowadays you have to have a video game and a plush toy to go with it.  That was the […] beauty of “You Can’t”, we’re not trying to sell anything…” -Adam Reid (You Can’t Do That on Television Cast Member 1984-87, Writer 1989-90)

Though the cast and crew of You Can’t do That on Television may not have been trying to hawk any useless plastic junk, I was buying; buying into the show, the comedy, and more importantly their ethos.  From 1979 to 1990, this little Canadian sketch comedy show helped warp the minds of a generation of children with clever, politically incorrect humor and absurd, trashy jokes.  The show, inspired by Monty Python, Second City and Saturday Night Live, brought an adult style of humor to the young Nickelodeon audience, while never conceding its core integrity or that of the viewers (never feeling “written down to” an adolescent level.)  YCDToTV was the flagship series on a network that evoked the feeling of “for kids, by kids”, featuring a rotating cast of mainly adolescents, one of which, Adam Reid, who would graduate from cast to co-head writer at the astounding age of 16.  There really was nothing else like this on television at the time, and with the exception of the similar Nick series All That!, there really hasn’t been anything as remotely ground-breaking for kids since.

As a fan of the show I feel pretty lucky that the tenure of You Can’t Do That on Television coincides perfectly with the golden years of my childhood; I literally grew up with the show from age three to thirteen.  This was also coincidentally the exact timeframe that my family spent in Florida, so on another level I can’t help but associate so many memories of my childhood wrapped around the series with a very specific sense of space and time.  Granted the show was produced and filmed in Canada, but I always felt a sense of hometown pride for shows on Nickelodeon because I lived just outside of Orlando, mere miles away from the Nick Studios.  Though it’s not logical on any level, growing up I felt like Kevin, “Moose”, Lisa, Adam, Alasdair, Vanessa, Doug, and Matthew were some of my friends.  Heck, in a way Les Lye’s “Dad” (Lance Prevert) and Abby Hagyard’s “Mom” felt like the parents I never had.  In my quest to acquire all of the television material that fuels my nostalgia for the 80s, the largest gaping hole in the collection are the 140 odd episodes of YCDToTV.  Sure, I have a handful of bootleg DVDs, and a nice selection of low-quality digital episodes backed up on a hard drive, but what I’d really love is a nice official DVD collection to sit on my shelf next to my Danger Mouse, Count Duckula, Hey Dude, and the Adventures of Pete & Pete sets.

 

That’s why I was so excited when I found out that Shout Factory just recently partnered with DND Films to release David Dillehunt’s 2004 fan documentary You Can’t Do That on Film in a nice 2-disc collector’s set!

 

Even though this film has been floating around the YCDToTV fan community for a few years, after getting the DVD this Christmas it was the first time I was able to view it.  So what’s on the discs?  In addition to the feature length documentary, there are also a bevy of special features including Dillehunt’s proof-of-concept pilot episode for a possible re-launch of the show, outtakes from the 2002 & 2004 fan conventions, and extended interviews with some of the cast and crew including the late Les Lye.

 

Watching the documentary was sort of bittersweet and a little frustrating in that so much of the footage is restricted to talking-head segments with the dozen or so former cast and crew members Dillehunt was able to interview (including stars Les Lye, Adam Reid, Lisa “Ruddy” Henderson, show creator and head-writer Roger Price, and writer/producer/director Geoffrey Darby.)  These are interspersed with personal on-set photos and VHS quality screen-grabs of the show, as well as some archival footage of an Alanis Morissette interview and some of the Q&A sessions with the cast and crew during the 2002 & 2004 fan conventions.  It’s understandable as to why, but unfortunately Dillehunt was unable to include actual segments or audio from You Can’t Do That on Television (licensing the material would have been beyond cost prohibitive for this fan-produced film.)  The documentary gets a lot of flack for this, which is reasonable, but you have to give Dillehunt credit for tracking down as many of the cast and crew members as he managed.

 

The truly frustrating aspect for me though was Dillehunt’s approach to the material and resources he did have.  First and foremost, this documentary is created by a fan for fans of the series, so it tends towards focusing on the anecdotes and nostalgia of the interviewees, and less on the overall story of the show.  Dillehunt does a really decent job of splicing together the interviews with Darby and cast members from the inaugural season to nail down the origin of the series, but the documentary really doesn’t delve into many of the aspects that made the show so memorable.  Little is mentioned of the format of the sketch comedy, the re-occurring characters, skits, or jokes; it assumes the viewer is so well-versed in the nuances of the show that it almost completely bypasses it.  This is an unfortunate trap of fandom, and how hard it can be to pull your perspective back far enough to see the material with fresh eyes.  Dillehunt himself was born five years after the show began its run in 1979, and thus was probably mainly exposed to the show in reruns in the late 80s and early 90s.  I’d venture to guess that it’s why it was easier to tell the story of the show’s origin, as he was learning about much of it himself during the process of interviewing the cast and crew.

 

Sure, I know that each episode was framed around a theme (for example personal hygiene, rumors, or nutrition), or that each episode would feature knock-knock style jokes with the cast asking questions of each other while in a set of multi-colored school lockers, but the fact these iconic aspects to the show aren’t even brought up is unfortunate.  No real mention of the Opposite sketches, the parody title cards at the start of each show, the fact that the show was itself a show within a show, or even talk about the various re-occurring characters played by Les Lye (bus driver Snake Eyes, Blip the arcade proprietor, the teacher Mr. Schidtler, the dungeon torturer Nasti, the camp counselor, the coach, or even the studio announcer get any mention.)  On top of this Abby Hagyard (who played the “Mom”, Mrs. Prevert, as well as the Librarian) isn’t even brought up at all.  There isn’t even a rundown of the more prominent child actors from the series.

 

Though there is a significant portion of the show ignored on the documentary, I don’t want it to come across as if I didn’t enjoy it.  In fact, it’s just the opposite, I really did love and appreciate all the passion that did find its way onto the screen.  For the record Dillehunt was only 20 when he put this together and I can honestly say that I don’t know of many people his age who would be willing to do the legwork it took get all of the interviews he managed to land.  There is a wealth of interesting anecdotes and observations (including the recipe for the original green slime) from the cast and crew that will add a little insight into the making of the show, which I’m sure fans of YCDToTV will appreciate.  This two disc set would make a great accompaniment to an eventual (fingers crossed) release of the show.  In the meantime I suggest heading on over to sites like YCDToTV.com or Barth’s Burgery to reacquaint yourself with the show, and then pick up You Can’t do That on Film on DVD.

Oh, I just wanted to say good-bye and remind you that the good guys always win, even in the eighties…

So, um, HOLY CRAP! While I’ve been working away on the upcoming Halloween fun for the site I totally missed the fact that the truly awesomely horrible movie, Megaforce, was finally released on DVD this past month. I missed this flick when it was originally released, which is a shame since for all intents and purposes Megaforce is the perfect 80s era live-action G.I. Joe movie, something I would have flipped my lid over if I’d managed to catch it on HBO or the Saturday afternoon movies on the UHF station…

I recently caught up with the movie via youtube, but ever since I’ve been doing double the amount of “it’s not on DVD” lamenting that a lot of 80s nerds have been doing for years. Well now the wait is over and we can finally catch what I assume is a better quality copy than the chopped up grainy version on youtube.

For those not familiar, Megaforce was originally released in 1982 and directed by the great Hal Needham (he of Rad, Smokey and the Bandit, and Cannonball Run fame.) The flick stars an impossibly confident and effeminate Barry Bostwick (with a penchant for wearing shiny skin-tight suits) as a character named Ace Hunter, the enigmatic leader of Megaforce an internal paramilitary unit consisting of the best of the best of the world’s military. Very G.I. Joe. They work in secret from a hidden fortress in the desert, developing state of the art weapons, vehicles and technology that enables them to combat ruthless terrorist organizations bent on ruling the world. Seriously, very, very G.I. Joe.

I need to do a proper review of this flick at some point, but lets just say that I had the same reaction after watching it as I did when I heard it was finally out on DVD. Both of which can be summed up by the below picture…

Did I mention that this flick has flying battle motorcycles?

If you grew up on G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero and you haven’t seen Megaforce, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. It’s not the best movie ever, it’s just the best G.I. Joe movie made to date. And it has flying motorcyles. And Barry Bostwick does a lot of over the top heroic posturing, both figuratively and literally…

I reject your reality, and substitute my own!

After stumbling upon The Quest recently I’ve been in the mood to try and seek out some other obscure (or at least slightly forgotten) films from the 80s that I’ve missed out on over the years.  Since I’m not into picking up bootlegs these days though, I’ve felt pretty limited as far as where to look.  There are a number of films on Youtube, but the quality is typically pretty rough, rough enough to make sitting through a couple hours of choppy, static-y video migraine-inducing.  After weighing the options I decided to pop for a Netflix streaming package, if only for a month so that I’d have enough time to take in the complete Spiderman and His Amazing Friends series.

I’ve heard that their streaming selection is pretty bad, especially for newer stuff, but since my interests tend towards stuff that’s at least 25 years old I thought there’d probably be enough to keep me occupied for awhile.  Boy, was I ever right on that mark.  Over the course of a week I’ve managed to dig up about 50 movies from their archives that look like the exact sort of flicks I want to dive into right now.  Not really knowing where to start, I decided to watch the first thing I stumbled across which was a weird sci-fi fantasy film from 1985 called The Dungeonmaster.  Much like The Quest, it’s know by different titles depending on where you hail from, the most common alternate title being Ragewar

Though I’d never seen this film before, there was something nagging at the back of my mind, a familiarity with the title and concept that I just couldn’t shake.  It wasn’t until afterwards while searching for some decent poster artwork that I stumbled upon the cover for the VHS home video release that it clicked.  I must have thumbed over this cover a million times while scoping out my local video stores as a kid.  The painting of W.A.S.P. frontman Blackie Lawless (who I always mistook for Ozzy Osbourne as a kid) with the wicked spiked headband and blood dripping down his chin and chest sent chills down my spine.  He looked like the seriously evil and really screwed up older brother of David Bowie’s Jareth from Labyrinth

Just to illustrate how awesome the cover artwork on VHS tapes were back in the day, this one was enticing but even so was still overshadowed by at least a thousand other choices.  These days, if I saw a film with poster artwork like this I’d call in sick from work to catch it in the theater.  Anyway, back to the flick.  The Dungeonmaster was following pretty closely on the heels of films like Tron and Mazes and Monsters, playing around with the concept of taking folks from the real world and thrusting them into the fantasy realm of video and role playing games.  The story centers on a computer geek named Paul who was part of a pilot program linking humans more directly to computers.  He has a very close relationship with his feminine PC at home which he’s nicknamed Cal (short for X-Calibr8), who acts as his personal assistant that he can interface with via a special pair of glasses.

Actually, although Paul is the hero if the story, his creepy relationship/link with Cal sort of puts his heroics in a slightly dubious category.  When we’re introduced to the character we discover that he works as an IT consultant who is letting Cal do all of the heavy lifting so to speak.  While at work Paul’s glasses act as both a webcam for Cal and as mini display screens showing her commands.  It’s a neat idea that the writers and directors make great pains to utilize repeatedly during the first 10 minutes of the film.  Paul uses his glasses to “hack” into practically every single computer system he comes by including one that controls the city’s traffic lights (so he always gets his way.)  This culminates in a sequence where he realizes he’s broke while trying to buy some flowers for his girlfriend.  Instead of passing them up, he hacks into the nearest ATM and steals twenty bucks from some stranger’s account…

  

Not the most noble start for our hero, but I never held it against a young John Connor in Terminator 2, so I suppose I shouldn’t split hairs here.  Back to the plot, Paul’s been having weird dreams about his girlfriend where she’s one part seductress and one part damsel in distress.  Though it’s not clear in the film, I think Cal has been hacking away at Paul’s brain while he sleeps in an effort to separate him from Gwen.  The flick opens with one of these dream sequences (which by the way, is the only portion of the film to feature R-rated material, in particular a full frontal nudity scene with Gwen), and in a second sequence it appears that Paul and Gwen are transported to a mythical wasteland…

  

This realm is ruled by the vile Mestema (played with fervor by Night Court’s Richard Moll), an immortal wizard who is looking for people to torture and to face his evil challenges…

Mestema outfits Paul with some more appropriate clothes, as well as providing him access to his “magic” computer via a wristband controller device.  In the same breath he’s chained Gwen up to a rock and issues Paul a challenge to face his seven tasks in exchange for liberation from this world.  If he fails, Mestema will keep Gwen and will kill Paul.

   

So much like Tron we have a nerdy character stuck inside a fantasy world where he must risk life and limb to escape, except in The Dungeonmaster that world is heavily influenced by table top role playing games.  Each of these seven challenges takes place in a different environment (and is written and directed by a slew of different people), from ancient temples with stop motion monkey god statues to ice caves populated by the souls of villains throughout time (including werewolves, Jack the Ripper, Genghis Kahn, and Albert Einstein?)…

  

There are also a couple of odd choices for environments, including a real-world scenario where Paul has to stop a serial killer in New York and a very stripped down Road Warrior-esque car chase sequence…

  

Though most of the film is pretty cheesy with horrible dialogue, acting and special effects, there are a few standout moments that make this flick worth watching.  If nothing else, the wide variety of effects work on display is kind of cool.  The film mixes stop motion and traditional back-lit 2D animation, as well as compositing and puppetry to bring the various villains and creatures to life.  There’s a pretty goofy battle sequence between Paul and Mestema in the wasteland involving both magical and computer generated (conceptually, not animation-wise) dragons.  In fact it’s so cheesy that it makes movies like John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China look like Citizen Kane in comparison…

There’s also a really creepy sequence where Paul is zapped to the land of the dead in which he has to battle two undead zombie warriors as well as a demon puppet…

  

By far though, my favorite sequence has Paul whisked away to a heavy metal concert featuring the band W.A.S.P.  Paul has to save Gwen from a homicidal Blackie Lawless in what has to be the epitome of an over the top 80s metal music video…

  

I’d be lying through my teeth if I said that this film has aged well, but I also can’t deny how much fun it was to watch.  If this is the sort of flicks that are populating the Netflix streaming archive than I might just have to keep the subscription going for awhile…

I went on The Quest, and found Go-Kids Dreaming about Frogs…

So last week I discovered an 80s kid’s flick that I’d never heard of before (The Quest), and I decided to try and document the process of finding some new nostalgia so to speak.  It’s rare that I stumble upon kids flicks that I haven’t seen from my youth as I was a voracious movie watcher with access to huge video stores and HBO.  I obviously haven’t seen every film from 1979-1989, but even the ones I’ve missed I’m typically aware of them (for example D.A.R.Y.L. or Mac and Me.)  The Quest was completely under my radar though, and as I loved Henry Thomas in both E.T. The Extra Terrestrial and Cloak & Dagger, I couldn’t wait to catch up with this obscure flick.

Unfortunately the film isn’t available on DVD, but there are a couple of copies floating around on Youtube, so this past weekend I sat down and took it in.  Before I dig into the flick, there are a couple things I’d like to mention.  First, for those interested in watching this movie who don’t want anything spoiled (I know I didn’t), then you might want to skip this review until you’ve gotten a chance to see the flick.  One of my goals with watching this flick was to come at it completely fresh with the exception of the image on the VHS cover (which led me to the film in the first place) so that I could do my best to recreate what it would have been like watching the flick for the first time as a kid.  But I do want to talk about the various plot points in the film, so you’ve been warned.

Second, I wanted to bring up the confusion over the title to this flick.  It was originally titled Frog Dreaming for its 1986 Australian theatrical release, but when it made it’s way to Britain and America it was re-titled The Go-Kids and The Quest respectively.  I haven’t done a ton of research on the reasoning behind the change, though I can infer it was because the original title is potentially a little too metaphorical for kids.  Similarly, the original one-sheet poster was a rather tame waist-up painting of Henry Thomas’ character Cody with little adornment.  This was also changed for the international releases.  I’ve already shared the American artwork, which features Cody, battle-ready complete with shotgun, underwater camera and a giant sea monster in the background.  Awesome right?  Well the British poster is similarly awesome, but it takes the imagery in an entirely different direction that I think also had a drastic effect on the re-titling of the film to The Go-Kids

This poster is a weird amalgamation of The Goonies, Conan, Star Wars, and National Lampoon’s Vacation (itself a parody of Boris Vallejo’s barbarian artwork done by Boris himself) theatrical posters complete with raised light saber, clingy girls, and skeletons.  Watching the film I did get a heavy Goonies vibe, so this is sort of a no-brainer, but I do have to say that adding the light saber was stretching it a bit (though it is a reference to a scene in the film.)  Anyway, here’s a couple of the other posters to illustrate my point…

    

As for the film itself, I will say that I loved it.  It’s right up there with other childhood adventure flicks like The Goonies, The Monster Squad, Flight of the Navigator and The Explorers, though it has very little of the pop and polish of any of those flicks.  The flick is sort of low key and a slow burn, but it has all the important ingredients that make it as cool as the other flicks mentioned.  So first things first, it didn’t disappoint.

The flick was written by Everett DeRoche and directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith, a name that might be familiar with 80s kids for his flick BMX Bandits, or to horror fans for his Ozsploitation flick Dead-End Drive-In.  I have seen BMX Bandits, though it’s been 25 years or so, so I need to reacquaint myself with it.

  

The first thing I noticed while watching the film was that Trenchard-Smith was layering in the foreshadowing from the opening frames.  The opening titles are flicking across the screen while the camera is underwater in a murky lake which sets an ominous and slightly creepy tone.  From here it pulls out of the water and centers on various frogs around this watering hole lake.  The frogs switch to large lizards, which eventually give way to our opening set piece with involves a slightly drunk man lazily fishing on the lake.  Something is going on, the wind is picking up, the fisherman gets a bite on his line and bubbles start rising out of the middle of the lake.  Something big is in that water…

By the end of the sequence we get a glimpse at something rising out of the water in a very Loch Ness sort of fashion, but then before it can lift up completely it’s back into the murky depths…

  

Next we’re introduced to Henry Thomas as Cody, who is for all intents and purposes the idealized version of who I wanted to be as a kid.  There will always be a part of me that wishes I was as clever as Data, as courageous as Mikey, or as flippant and “cool” as Mouth from The Goonies, but I was always a little more in the realm of Chunk (though not quite as much as a spaz.)  I always saw the better version of myself as being cool, quiet, in control and smart enough to build all sorts of gizmos and machines; a sort of young MacGuyver, but totally willing to carry weapons larger than penknives.  Cody is that kid.  Between his jean jacket, camo vest, fingerless gloves, and his penchant for welding and contraption building he has a lot of the “cool kid” bases covered.  Add to this the fact that he’s an orphan growing up in the Australian Outback with a disdain for authority and a flare for daredevil antics and you have one of the cooler 80s kid heroes ever on screen.  Sure, I might be playing him up a bit much, but again, I identified with the character heavily, so I can’t really help it.  Thomas’s Cody is the logical extension of his Elliott from E.T. and Davey from Cloak & Dagger, and The Quest is surely the third in his trilogy of kid’s adventure films.

As I mentioned, Cody is a tinkerer supreme, and the next sequence in the film involves him putting the finishing touches on a retractable attachment to his BMX bike that will allow him to ride smoothly on railroad tracks…

  

This is also a pretty cool scene as it sets up Cody’s role in the town as a bad boy daredevil.  He’s planning on riding the rails from the town to school in under three minutes, but considering it’s over three miles away, that’s kind of fast on a bike.  On his way to the tracks people from all over see him on his way and know exactly what he’s about to take on and a crowd starts to follow like a bunch of dogs following a fire engine.  This sequence also sets up his relationship with a local girl, Wendy, who obviously has a crush on him, which is one aspect of this flick that tends to differ from other similar 80s kid’s flicks.  Typically there is no romance for the main kid characters (with the exception of flicks like The Wizard or SpaceCamp), and even when there is it’s usually regulated to the more teenaged characters like The Karate Kid’s Daniel or Bran & Andi from The Goonies.

 

Anyway, after a near miss and last second bail-out, Cody proves himself by making it to the school in under three minutes.  Of course the local sheriff gets wind of the stunt and ends up giving our hero some grief.  To celebrate Cody and Wendy (with her little sister Jane in tow) decide to hike into the woods for a picnic.  Being a born adventurer Cody leads them a bit deeper into the bush than expected and they end up at Devil’s Knob and the lake known as Donkegin Hole (from the opening scene in the flick.)  Though he’s never been to this lake, Cody does know the guy from the opening of the film as a dentist from Sydney that camps out at the watering hole during the summer.  While searching for the dentist, they group split up and before they know it, the two girls find themselves stranded on a raft in the middle of the lake.  Of course the bubbles and wind start up again as well.  Cody comes to the rescue by jumping off of a five story cliff into the lake so that he can pull the girls to shore.  This is sort of a fun set piece in the flick that again displays the careless gusto of Cody…

  

Back on shore they finally discover the dentist, and well, lets just say that’s one dead dentist…

Cody soon discovers the legend of Donkegin Hole, which is thought to have a Bunyip (or large rat-like swamp creature) in it.  Starting to obsess over the whole thing, Cody takes a two-day trip alone out to the Aboriginal country to try and track down any information he can get on Donkegin and bunyips.  He’s pointed to a mystic named Charlie Pride, who he encounters one night on a foggy dock.  Pride gives Cody a test to stand up to a demon at the end of the dock, a test that will reveal whether he’s a boy or a man.  Of course he isn’t afraid, and he walks right up to the apparition and discovers that it’s nothing more than a scarecrow with a florescent light behind it.  Though it’s not really a pivotal scene, this is where the “light saber” on the poster artwork comes from.  In a fun 80s era reference Cody picks up the light and pretends it’s a light saber.  Looking back at the characters Henry Thomas portrayed in the 80s, this type of real-life kid play is a reoccurring motif.  Again, it’s also something you don’t always see in 80s kid’s flicks either.

  

This is also part of a weird thread in the film that involves a bit more mysticism.  One of the really cool aspects of this flick is how real to life it feels.  Because there isn’t a loud pop rock soundtrack and because everything plays out so slowly it feels very real.  So when Cody encounters Charlie Pride it goes into another place tonally.  Luckily though, Pride disappears and leaves Cody only with the experience of the scarecrow meet-up.  This only strengthens his resolve to solve the mystery of the Donkegin bunyip though, and when he gets back home from his research journey he devises a plan to try and snare the bunyip.  Of course this involves the construction of a homemade cannon, like any sane kid-plan would.  Cody baits a shark hook with a leg of lamb and then waits by the lake for the bunyip to surface, which it does, so he can shoot it with the cannon, which he also does.  Unfortunately it’s not enough and the bunyip re-submerges much like the previous times it’s shown up.  Plan A failed, but like any good mini-Macguyver Cody has a plan B in mind as well which involves a makeshift scuba helmet, a spear gun (mistakenly painted as a shotgun on the American poster), and a waterproof camera.  This time Cody is going to get a picture of this creature!

  

Again, it’s this devil-may-care sense of adventure that really draws me into the film, and the fact that the main character has to devise all sorts of ways to accomplish his insane feats just cements it as a cool flick.  Take the opening sequences of The Explorers movie where the boys are building the spacecraft, or when Rudy is pulling together all the needed weapons in The Monster Squad for examples of what I’m trying to get across.  It’s just pure wish-fulfillment.

Long story short, Cody, with the help of Wendy on the air pump contraption, dives into the lake hell bent on finding the Donkegin bunyip.  He never resurfaces though, which sends Wendy crying back into town alerting everyone that Cody is dead.  Or is he?

  

Later that night Cody’s guardian and the sheriff decide to try and drain the lake to find the body, while Wendy takes one last look around Cody’s workshop trying to come to terms with his passing.  What she finds though is that Cody had figured out what the bunyip actually is, and there’s a chance that he might still be alive.  She leads the town folk back up to the lake, which has been half drained by this point, and thus begins a mad rush to try and find out if Cody is still alive somewhere under the water.  It’s at this point that we get the full reveal of the bunyip creature and it’s not at all what the viewer expects!

In reality the creature is an old piece of mining equipment called a Donkey Engine.  It’s basically an huge excavation crane that has had air trapped under it causing it to life to release some of the pressure from time to time.  Cody managed to find his way into the air pocket underwater, and as the “creature” lift’s its head out of the water he finally manages to escape to freedom.

All in all this was a really interesting flick that manages to pull together so many of the things that I loved when I was a kid.  If I’d seen this back in the day I probably would have been head over heels for it.  The only thing that doesn’t sit well with me is the weird mystical subplot with Charlie Pride.  He reappears one more time at the end of the film.  Cody, after surviving the whole ordeal, makes his way alone back to Donkegin Hole to survey the area.  On a separate cliff, Pride appears, though this time he’s covered in tribal garb and made up to look like a Kurdaitcha (aboriginal boogeyman).  Pride proceeds to sweep his arms about making all sorts of junk (including the Donkey Engine) to magically crawl back into the leftover water.  The film ends with Cody realizing there is magic involved, which totally negates what the rest of the film was building up through the whole running time.  I can understand if Trenchard-Smith and DeRoche wanted to keep from stripping all of the magic from the film, but to blatantly throw this sort of mystical endcap onto the film really does it a disservice.

Here’s to hoping this flick eventually makes it onto DVD.  I’m also crossing my fingers that I can run across another hidden gem of a flick like this in the future…

I’m going on The Quest!

One of my favorite pastimes since creating this site is seeking out old magazines from the 80s looking for hidden gems from the decade that I think are worth talking about.  Be it old advertisements for forgotten food like the Frankenstein’s monster-influenced, chili-stuffed hot dogs (Frank’n Stuffs), or insane ads for Back to the Future-themed Power Wheel DeLoreans, there’s always something fun to uncover.  Recently while flipping through some old issues of Billboard magazine I stumbled upon an advertisement for a kid’s movie that I’d never heard of before.  Now I’m not the end-all be-all encyclopedia of everything 80s, but I did experience my fair share of what the decade had to offer kids, in particular film-wise.  With the exception of a handful of made-for-TV flicks here and there, I think I’ve seen most of the kid’s flicks from the decade.  Or I thought I had, until I saw this awesome advertisement for The Quest

Why did I never stumble across this VHS cover while combing though the various video rental joints of my youth and teenage years?  The flick star’s E.T. and Cloak & Dagger’s Henry Thomas as an orphan living in the Outback with relatives after his parents pass.  Emboldened by the local legends of a lake monster named Donkegin, Thomas gears up and goes on the hunt for the creature.  Right now that’s about all I know about this flick (well, that and that The Quest is the American title for this Aussie flick which was originally known as Frog Dreaming.)  I’ve found this flick in various forms on Youtube and I’m super excited to watch it asap.

I’ve never really done this on the site before, but I thought it would be fun to try and share the process I go through while looking for content to write about.  In this instance, I’ve found a badass advertisement for an unseen flick from the 80s, and I’ve tracked down a copy to watch.  I wanted to share this portion of the excitement, which is mostly the unknown and potential for finding another awesome kid’s flick from my youth.  Will the movie live up to the potential and hype of this ad, or will it be an utter let down?  Some of you have probably already seen this flick and know that answer.  But I’m about to find out, and hopefully I’ll be able to share my thoughts next week after watching The Quest.

I mean come on, it’s Elliott with a shotgun hunting the down-under equivalent of the Loch Ness Monster!  How can this not be awesome?