Tag Archives: 80s Films

Awesome 80s Bedrooms: Labyrinth Edition

So I recently had the chance to catch Jim Henson’s Labyrinth on the big screen and I made sure to use that opportunity to get a really good look at all the cool stuff in Sarah’s bedroom.  I’ve know for awhile that there are a lot of neat items hidden in the room, specifically there are versions of most of the main characters she meets while trapped in the labyrinth laying about her room in one form or another, but I was surprised at how many of them there are.  So for this new Awesome Bedrooms piece I wanted to focus not just on some of the cool real world toys, but these character specific pieces as well…

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I want to preface this by admitting that I know I’m gonna miss some stuff as there seems to be a lot of interesting things in Sarah’s room that I just couldn’t get a good enough look at (specifically some board games and books on her shelves), so if anyone has spotted anything else, please let me know in the comments.  Alright, let’s dive into the bedroom…

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1). Slashing Machine Record (reference to the Cleaners)

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2). Songbird Mini-Market Sweet Shop play set

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3). Ludo plush doll

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4). Montgomery Moose plush doll from the Get Along Gang

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5). M.C. Escher Relativity print (reference to the inside of Jareth’s castle)

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6). Porcelain Hand Sculpture (reference to the Helping Hands)

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7). Evita Poster

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8). King Kong Manhattan Bank toy

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So, I never noticed the Slashing Machine album on Sarah’s shelf (my friend Kevin pointed it out after we saw the flick in the theater.)  Though it’s not a real band (sadly!), I think the album cover is supposed to be in the vein of some of the early Journey or Boston album covers and it’s a reference to the scene with the Cleaners that chase Sarah and Hoggle through one of the labyrinth’s tunnels.  In the above screen capture you also get to see references to Ludo, the layout of the Goblin King’s castle (via the M.C. Escher print), and what I assume is a reference to the Helping Hands (considering the amount of items that reference stuff in the film, I have to assume that hand sculpture was intended.)  I also wanted to point to the Evita poster since Sarah is a theater buff (as her real mother is a theater actress as seen in clippings around her room.)

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9). Where the Wild Things Are book

10). Sir Didymus plush doll

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11). Labyrinth marble game (reference is hopefully pretty obvious ;) )

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In the end credits of the film Henson tips his hat to the works of Maurice Sendak and how much they inspired him, so it’s cool to see a copy of Where the Wild Things Are on Sarah’s desk (and there’s a much more specifically influential book seen later.)  WtWTA certainly points to the idea of a human child transported into a fantasy world, which is the main conceit of Labyrinth.  Speaking of books and fantasy inspiration featuring characters transported to another world…

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12). Classic fairy tale/fantasy story books

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13). Hoggle statue/bookend

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A way more influential Sendak book can be seen on Sarah’s desk than WtWTA which is Outside Over There, which tells the story of a girl who has to rescue her baby sister from Goblins.  This is placed next to other classic works which also feature characters who transverse into the realm of fantasy such as Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass and L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz books.  There is also some of the Grim’s & H.C. Andersen’s fairy tales there as well as a copy of Disney’s version of Snow White (which the amnesia peach is most likely a reference.)

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14). Jareth the Goblin King statue

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15). Firey plush doll

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16). CATS poster (more broadway ephemera)

17). Music box (reference to the amnesia ball sequence)

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18). Dungeons and Dragons Expert Level box set

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I was so happy to scope that D&D box on Sarah’s shelf during the sequence where the hoarding goblins were trying to trap her in a variation of her room after she ate from the poisoned peach.  For one it’s neat to spot some role paying stuff in a bedroom finally, and two it’s really cool to see it in a girl’s room.  Maybe when Toby gets a little older Sarah will introduce him to the world of RPGs…

The last thing I wanted to point out was that there are a lot of hidden images of David Bowie’s profile throughout the movie.  Finding these is a game in and of itself, but I’ll point to the most obvious one that is a series of rocks in a portion of the labyrinth that when viewed from the right angle form everyone’s favorite androgynous glam star…

David Bowie Rock

Speaking of Bowie, one of his unintentional contributions to the film is his, um, wealth of crotch real estate (yeah, that’s subtle enough right?)  Let me just say that seeing this on the big screen for the first time, well, Bowie’s well-endowed stature is very, very hard to avoid.  Do not make direct eye contact, it just angers his crotch…

Other Awesome 80s Bedrooms I’ve covered…

Sara’s Room from Adventures in Babysitting

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

Elliott’s room from E.T. Part 1 Elliott’s room Part 2

Fred Savage’s room from The Princess Bride

Josh’s room from Big

The Seedy Adult Underworld of 80s Family Entertainment

I know every generation says this about the decades when they came of age, but growing up in the 80s was seriously a whole different world; like living on another planet at times.  There was a lot more going on when it came to entertainment aimed at kids in terms of adult themes and material that surely went over the head of most of the viewing audience.  Looking back I love this and really appreciate that the creators and writers didn’t dumb down the content, even if some of it might stray a little further towards “adult” than many people might realize. You definitely saw this in a cartoon like Ren & Stimpy (which granted was the early 90s, but was the culmination of the freedom the previous decade expressed), which constantly toed the line of what was considered decent for a kid’s show.  Heck, I’ve mentioned before that I think John Kricfalusi is very probably the guy responsible for animating anthropomorphic penis aliens into the background sequences in the Saturday morning cartoon Galaxy High (particularly in the first and second episodes)…

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I was having a conversation with a co-worker the other day about catching up with some 80s flicks that they hadn’t seen in over 20 years, in particular Ghostbusters and the Goonies.  The topic turned to the awkward dream sequence featuring a sex scene between Dan Aykroyd’s Ray Stanz and spectral “presence”.  I guess you could call it oral innuendo, but the background behind that sequence is pretty plain.  Ray banged a ghost.  It’s one of the interesting aspects of reading the original Richard Mueller novelization

Ghostbusters Novelization

In the book (which is based on the Aykroyd/Ramis screenplay) we learn that, that dream sequence was actually from a real sequence planned for later in the film.  Right after Ray and Winston are driving through the city talking about the end of the world, when the two go to Fort Detmerring looking for a spook. They split up and Ray stumbles upon a room that is a replica of a revolutionary war officer’s barracks. He finds a uniform and puts it on, lays on a bed and promptly falls asleep. When he wakes, the ghost they were looking for is about to go to town on his junk. Apparently this sequence was largely cut, but I’m betting none of them wanted to ditch the blowjob joke, so they sandwiched it into the montage (and it also explains the old war uniform Ray is wearing beyond the fact that they morphed the scene into a dream.)  What’s even weirder is that this is actually the culmination of a plot thread in the book where Ray is both lonely and changing his feelings about catching the ghosts. Since Peter is courting Dana and (in the book) Egon and Janine are becoming an item, Ray is looking to blow off some steam, and the experience with the ghost is just what he was looking for. Also, there’s a bit with Ray thinking about how it might be wrong to catch these ghosts just to jail them in the containment unit, and when he awakes to his spectral date-night he wonders if maybe some ghosts are good.

The author, Mueller, actually expands the sexuality in the novel here and there. For instance, everyone thinks about sex to one degree or another, but if I’m used to dealing with a character where this is never brought up, say the Librarian in the opening sequence of Ghostbusters, then when she starts “thinking” about how she feels guilty for seeking out all kinds of ancient kinky woodcuts featuring taboo sexual practices in the library’s non-public collection, well, I get a little weirded out. As far as I can tell, the librarian character in the script is slightly different; she’s written to be rotund and in her mid to late twenties, but for all intents and purposes the scene in the script is almost shot for shot what we’ve come to know and love in the final film. Mueller, though, felt the need to paint her as a bit more sad and depraved, which for an incidental character is pretty weird. This sort of thing pops up here and there in the novel, including in the scene where we’re first introduced to Dana as she gets out of a cab and goes into her building. The narrative is fractured into a bunch of perspectives as a handful of people on the street take notice of her and give their two cents. One of these includes an elderly man walking his dog who glances at her and thinks, “…how long (has) it been since it’s been long…

This is actually a trend in 80s era novelizations, and for some movies that might be surprising, like say, the Goonies book

Goonies Novelization

Now you may be asking what could possibly be sexualized in the Goonies, I mean it’s not like there’s a secret love scene between Chunk and Sloth right?!?  Well, Sloth love Chunk, but that’s actually (and thankfully) not explored in the novel, but that didn’t stop author James Kahn from evoking electricity-induced orgasms.  Say what?!  Um yeah.  So in the wishing well sequence, at the end, after Andy has sent up the bucket empty, all the kids realize that they’re covered in leeches. Data has a bright idea and end up strapping two wires to a 20-volt battery. He sticks the wires in the water by his feet sending a light electrical charge through his body that’s lethal enough to kill the leeches. He does this for the rest of them, and afterwards, James Kahn tags on a small scene that is, well, almost obscene. After getting the shock, Andy and Stef are standing off to the side, and Kahn describes them as having “…limp smile(s) and small sigh(s)…” Then Stef says to Andy, “I got all tingly – just my luck, I’m in love with a pond!” After which the following passage appears: ‘It annoyed Andy, for some reason, I don’t know, like someone had made her feel good and she didn’t want to…’ Then Andy hauls off and slaps Data saying “Don’t-you-ever-try-that-again-with-me-Buster!” What the hell! Did Kahn actually suggest that Andy and Stef had orgasms from the electric shock!?!  Yeah, yeas he did.

What I’m really curious about is how much of this was in the original shooting script.  I know the leech sequence was in the script (as it made it’s way into both version of the book, including the leaner kid’s version) and was shot and deleted (and has sadly been lost to time), but how much of the subtly was in the actual film versus something that Kahn added for the book.  On the one hand, looking back this is so weird and out of place in the story, yet I have to remind myself that I was reading about pre-teen and teen orgasms in Judy Blume books when I was 7 years old!

There had to be flicks that were completely pure and free from blowjobs and sexual innuendo though right?  I mean you’d never see any of that in E.T. The Extra Terrestrial right?!  Wrong.  Again, taking a look at the novelization by William Kotzwinkle we get a much darker depiction of the story than what would eventually end up on film (well, I’m assuming the following sequences weren’t shot…)

ET Novelization

There’s a sequence in the novel where Elliot, Steve and Gertie’s mother Mary (played by an exasperated Dee Wallace in the film) is so lonely and lost in her own mind that she fantasizes about disappearing from life and, believe it or not, masturbation. (See page 17; the innuendo is there.) She’s also simultaneously dreading the world her children have to face, wondering if they’ll succumb to overdosing on drugs, all while listening in on them playing a campaign of Dungeons and Dragons in the kitchen.  There’s also portions of the book where E.T. becomes weirdly stalker-ish and longs to bond with Mary, starring at her from the closet, thinking about how he could fulfill her needs.  E.T. even gets pretty downright creepy in the sequel novel, E.T. The Book of the Green Planet, where he reaches out to his long lost friend from Earth, melding with the now older Elliot’s mind from across the cosmos.  It comes across very peeping Tom-like, and sort of disturbing.  Experiencing love and yearning “through” Elliot.

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All in all, though all of this adult stuff might seem really questionable on the surface of things, again, I’m really glad that these authors and creators took the chance to expose kids to the real world.  Some of it is for the sake of comedy, some of it is important info that awkward pre-teens probably need, and some of it is just exploring deeper adult themes.  Weird, interesting and kind of neat…

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…

 

Awesome 80s Bedrooms continues: Explorers edition!

I spent a few hours this weekend cracking open the cases on my 80s-centric DVDs and combing through the flicks looking for some more rad kid’s rooms to obsess over and I found some pretty neat stuff.  I really am having a blast doing this, finding things I never noticed.  Usually when I pop these movies into the DVD player I’m immediately engrossed and just watch the flicks with eyes wide and a smile on my face, but I forced myself to detach and just observe this time.  So today I’m gonna share a few things I saw in the 1985 Joe Dante movie, Explorers!

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Unfortunately, so many of the shots in Ben’s room are in the dark as most of these scenes are shot when he’s sleeping and dreaming of schematics for building the inner workings of Thunder Road.  So it was sort of hard to make out some of the stuff.  There’s some interesting toys on his desk and on the shelves by the windows that I just can’t make out.  But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some real treasures here as well…

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1). Issue #9 of the original run of the Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe, Q-S edition! (I’m hoping Dante or one of the set designers included it because of Rom!)

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2). Carl Bark’s Uncle Scrooge comic book, issue #37

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3). Robo Force mini comic (packed in with the Toys.)

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4). Space Camp Stickers

This next screen shot is a little frustrating.  There are a couple of things I spotted which I’ll detail in a minute, but there are a lot of other things that I just can’t nail down.  For instance, the white robot on the shelf by the window.  I’ve scoured some of the “Old Toy Robot” sites and I just can’t figure it out.  That style of toy is one of my big weaknesses when it comes to recognizing stuff from the 70s and 80s.  If it’s not Rickey’s Robot butler on Silver Spoons, the robot that Rocky buys his kid in Rocky 3, or Conky from Pee Wee’s Playhouse I’m usually stumped.  There’s also some sort of carrier toy to the right of the robot, and a weird purple and yellow bulbous robot-looking toy on the desk that I can’t figure out.  Ah well…

**UPDATE**  Thanks to the keen eye and detective skills of Las Vegas Yankee who identified the robot as a Tommy Atomic toy!

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5). Go Bots Super gobot Psycho

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6). Starlog Issue 84 (featuring a story on the Gremlins)

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I love how Dante peppers his movies with little things from his previous flicks.  There’s a Twilight Zone the movie poster in Gremlins for instance.  So this issue of Starlog was a fun little hidden gem, though there is something way cooler coming at the end of this post!

**Update** Esteban over at the Roboplastic Apocalypse nailed down one of the toys on Ben’s desk above as the Dred Crawler from Robo Force.  Good eye Steve!  You can clearly see the little clear bubble with the red antenna…

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Continuing on…

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Finally, a scene where the lights were on.  Though unfortunately you only get this vantage of his room for the most part.  But there are a couple of neat things, namely…

7). Transformers Lazerbeak (or Buzzsaw, it was hard to tell if the body was red or gold…)

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8). Huntsville, AL poster for the Space Academy complex.

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9). It Came From Outer Space poster

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10). Japanese robot Halloween masks.  I can’t figure these out for the life of me.  The one at the bottom sort of looks like a green Ultraman, and the other one (as well as a couple other in another section of his room) look like Shogun Warriors, but I don’t think they are.  Again, this is a lacking bit in my pop culture knowledge… :p  Anyway, for a second I’m going to exit Ben’s room and take a quick look at Wolfgang’s kitchen which features one of my favorite childhood toys!

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11). The blue Tonka Hand Commander Jet!

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This was one of my favorite toys.  I loved that you could hold it like a gun (there was a hand and trigger on the bottom that when squeezed would make the propellers turn.  I used to run all around my house with this jet, crashing it into the sofa, or dunking it in the bathtub for water landings.  Sigh.  This toy also pops up in an episode of Silver Spoons, the second episode I believe.

Alright, now we get to the seriously cool hidden gem in the movie Explorers.  I mentioned that Dante likes to put stuff from his previous flicks in the background of his newer movies right.  Well, how freaking cool is it that Ben Crandall has the following item on his dresser!

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12). Stripe’s Skull from Gremlins!

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Is Ben the luckiest kid in the world?  Yeah, I think so.

So, did I miss anything?  And can anyone identify the masks or that big white robot by his window?

Other Awesome Bedrooms I’ve covered…

Sara’s Room from Adventures in Babysitting

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

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

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…

Remembering my first experience with The Monster Squad…

Twenty five years ago today The Monster Squad was released in theaters.  August 14th, 1987.  I was ten years-old, and though I didn’t see it on the 14th, I was at the theater bright and early for the first showing on a Saturday the following week, the 22nd.  The main reason I remember this is because there were two flicks I was desperately looking forward to seeing that summer, Monster Squad and Garbage Pail Kids: The Movie.  I don’t remember the exact conversation I had with my parents that led to waiting the week until they were both out, but I remember them convincing me that I could see both on the same day and I’d have just enough allowance that second weekend if I waited.

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I was never good with money as a kid. In fact my allowance was usually spent well in advance of actually receiving it, either by asking the parents for an advance, or by borrowing it from my more conservative friends with promises to pay it back plus free baseball cards or action figures as interest.  So waiting a whole extra week with my parents holding onto my allowance was sort of a form of torture.  That Saturday, after being dropped off at the theater with my friend Bryan, the plan was to buy our tickets to see The Monster Squad and then kill some time in a nearby used book/comic store until the flick started.  We bought our tickets and proceeded on into the shop, my hands clamped around my remaining $4 (the GPK ticket money) in my pocket.  All seemed to be going well until I stumbled upon some unopened rack-packs of series 2 and 3 Garbage Pail Kids.  I had just enough money for 4 of these packs, and series 2 cards were getting pretty scarce by this time in ’87.  What a predicament!  I couldn’t help myself and I ended up buying the stickers figuring that I’d just have to sit and wait in the lobby while my friend caught the second half of our planned double feature.

As the credits started to roll on The Monster Squad, Bryan and I had a pow wow to try and figure out what I should do.  I can’t remember which one of us came up with the idea, but the new plan was for both of us to go back out into the lobby and pretend like our parents were supposed to be waiting to pick us up.  We’d walked around the lobby, looking appropriately concerned for our “missing” parents, for a bit before asking to see a manager.  We basically related our made up sob-story about how we we’d been waiting forever and that our parents were late in picking us up and that we didn’t know what to do.  The manager, obviously not wanting to deal with us, took down our names and told us to just go in and watch another movie.  Jackpot.  We’d managed to get into both flicks, and I was three rack packs of Garbage Pail Kids richer for my diabolical deception skills (the 4th pack went to Bryan for taking part in the ruse.)  I wasn’t generally a bad kid, but greed surely got the best of me that day.

The only other thing that I remember from that day was having an argument in the car ride home about the Sean and Horace werewolf confrontation scene.  Bryan insisted Sean kept saying “Kick him in the Balls!”, while I was firmly in the “Nards” camp…

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Visiting the Jim Henson Exhibit at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta…

It’s so easy to get lost in the sea of social media sometimes, pining after all the cool events and places other people are visiting and enjoying that are either too far away or too expensive to take advantage of.  At times like this that I have to remind myself that I take the area I live in for granted and forget that there’s a bunch of really cool stuff just under my nose.  This past weekend I decided to tune out the internet and take a stroll down to Atlanta’s Center for the Puppetry Arts to visit their semi-permanent Jim Henson Exhibit.  I’ve known about the center’s museum for awhile and I drive past it every time I find myself at the downtown Ikea, so it was way past time that I stopped and took a look…

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I’m a pretty big fan of Jim Henson, though I’d hardly call myself an expert.  While I may not know the proper names of all the c-list muppets, I can say that I can’t imagine what my childhood would have been like had I not been introduced to the Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, Labyrinth, the Dark Crystal and Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas.  I’d heard that the exhibit featured some fun props and artifacts from Henson’s career, but I wasn’t quite prepared for just how many of the Henson Company’s beloved creations I would have the opportunity to see up close and personal.

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All told, there were thirteen different projects represented, my six childhood favorites that I listed above as well as puppets and materials from Henson’s advertising work (the La Choy Dragon), The Jim Henson Hour, Dinosaurs, Farscape, and others.  Each section of the exhibit has plenty of anecdotes, behind the scenes information and pictures, as well as videos and a couple of hands-on activities.  It’s not a huge collection, but what’s included is certainly breathtaking.  For me, the magic of this museum is getting a chance to get so darn close to the actual puppets and props from the shows, specials and movies I love so much.  Whether it’s the majesty of seeing Big Bird…

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…or the chance to spend some time with the critter’s from Labyrinth (like Sir Didymus and the lying door guard pictured below.)

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Just getting a chance to see the detail and craftsmanship of these characters was an astounding experience!  My pictures do absolutely no justice to the actual props, but are merely presented to give you an idea of what’s included.  I know that there is a down side to seeing these puppets sitting so static behind glass.  All the energy and life is lost without the performer, and in some cases this can almost be criminal or traumatic (as in Sir Didymus’ case), but I’d still recommend anyone with the opportunity to visit the Center to try and put that at the back of you mind.

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By far, some my favorite pieces had to be in the Fraggle Rock section which features a couple different scales of Fraggles (Mokey and Red in the normal/large scale, as well as all five – including Gobo, Wembly, and Boober – in a smaller scale as shot during the scenes with the Gorgs) and some Doozers…

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…but I also loved seeing Emmet and Ma Otter from the Jugband Christmas special.  Honestly, I almost tear-ed up when I turned and saw the two in their little green rowboat.  All the songs came flooding back in, and I just stood and stared at them, trying to soak in all the little details…

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For you Muppets fans, there are plenty of Henson’s characters on display including Rolf, Dr. Teeth, and the Swedish Chef, as well as a couple others in a separate part of the museum (lets just say they were Out of This World…)

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Though the Henson section of the museum is pretty darn rad, there is also a more permanent puppetry exhibit that’s also very illuminating and features all sorts of puppets from across the globe (including Madame!)  But it was at the end of the second wing that I stumbled across my favorite piece in the entire museum, a full-size Skeksis (the General), including his gnarly sword, from the Dark Crystal.  There are no words for how amazing this piece of Henson history is.  Again, my iPhone camera did the Skeksis absolutely no justice…

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If you get a chance to stop in Atlanta, do yourself a favor and visit the Center for Puppetry Arts and peruse the Jim Henson Exhibit.  It’s well worth your time and money for sure.  If you want to see some more of my crappy photos, they’re on my facebook page

Oh my god! They Killed Kinney! You Bastards!

7546129954_84c5f2ed6d_oI’ve written a bit about how the extreme violence in Robocop affected me as a kid, and if I had to pinpoint the specific scene that did the most damage I would have to say that it’s the boardroom scene and the unfortunate end to one Mr. Kinney.  If it’s true that exposure to violence can desensitize a person to its impact, then I’m pretty sure this sequence is what did me in as it’s the first time I saw a death scene portrayed quite so violently.  Desensitization aside, I’d argue that this sequence is integral to establishing the world, humor and hyper-stylized tone of Robocop, and is a prime example of when less is more as the four seconds that was edited out of the sequence ends up making the scene much more disturbing than intended.

So before I go on, let’s take a look at this sequence.  The scene opens with Morton and Johnson taking an elevator in the OCP building to head up to a conference about the future of Delta City.  Kinney (played by Kevin Page), a young, wet-behind-the-ears, junior executive, jumps on with them and for all intents and purposes plays the role of the audience, asking all the obvious questions so that we can get the gist of what’s going on at Omni Consumer Products…

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As the meeting starts Kinney is seated at the very back of the room, furthest away from “the Old Man”, but as Dick Jones gets up to lead his presentation introducing his sector’s prototype for the ED-209 (Enforcement Droid), we can see that Kinney has the best/worst seat in the house.

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Jones needs an assistant to illustrate how the Ed-209 works in a disarmament procedure, and of course Kinney is a prime choice, and is more than eager to help (in fact, in the novelization of the film he’s described by Ed Naha as “…a kinetic portrait of unchecked enthusiasm…”)

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Dick Jones then pulls out a shiny silver Desert Eagle and hand the small canon to Kinney…

 Sigh.  Kinney, you poor, poor bastard.

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This is the point in the film when we as the audience get the first hint that we’re in for some intense shit.  It was scary enough when the ED-209 unit first came into the boardroom, thrusting its legs forward and heaving the weight of its torso too and fro.  But as I mentioned above, Kinney is the stand in for the audience.  We’re right there with him as he points that gun at the enforcement droid, and when that booming deep voice commands us to drop our weapon, we have 20 seconds to comply, we know this isn’t going to end well for our stand-in.  Now we’re effectively trapped inside Kinney, second-guessing and future role-playing invitations, and we’re just as concerned as he his as he turns to Mr. Jones for some sage advice about how in the hell he’s supposed to get out of this situation.

Sure, drop the gun.  Seems reasonable enough.  I know staring at that brute of a droid in the…uh, face?  Grill?  Whatever, staring at that thing would have me forgetting all my common sense too.  Again, this is the genius of the scene as we’re right there with Kinney.  Ker-clunk.  Gun dropped.  But what’s that?  The droid didn’t hear it fall?  WTF?

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What’s this happy horseshit about me having 10 seconds to comply!?!  That’s right Dr. MacNamera, you better rip open that command console and pull the plug on this hulking monster!

It’s at this point when both Kinney and the audience are afforded their last hope of sanity in the film.  One last split second where we hear a faint whisper in the back of our heads saying “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here…”  Though I may be a tad desensitized to onscreen violence in movies, I can honestly say that this serene split-second still gives me chills and equally fills me with dread for what I know is coming next.  Kinney, you have five seconds to comply.  Five seconds to live.

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So getting back to the violence and the potential this film had for an X-rating.  As originally filmed, the sequence where Kinney is torn apart in a hail of canon-fire from ED-209 is a sticky, burnt and bloody 9-12 seconds…

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The screen continuously cuts between Kinney getting pummeled from the front, from behind, and back to ED-209 blasting away.  Even after Kinney is knocked back onto the scale model of Delta City, the droid continues to fire on him, ripping up his legs and chest, more and more.  It actually lasts long enough that at a point, you can’t help but start to nervously laugh and ask can this possibly continue?  And that point IS the point of this scene.  It’s stepping over that line of decency into lunacy that lets the audience in on the joke of the whole film.  This isn’t reality anymore, it’s a cartoon.  The punch line of this cartoon joke is delivered by the dumbass that screams for a paramedic, as if there could possibly be any hope to salvage poor Kinney’s life.

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What makes this scene even funnier is that it’s a dry run for the sequence where Boddicker and his gang maim and kill Murphy.  It’s funny because they do salvage Murphy, and in a way they save his life.  But not Kinney.  Poor, poor Kinney.  “Don’t Touch Him!  DON’T TOUCH HIM!!!”

Anyway, back to that pesky X-rating.  In order to avoid this, Verhoeven and company ended up slicing up the sequence, cutting our a mere 4 seconds of footage and earning that coveted R.  But as I said above, less is more, and the shortened theatrical sequence is way more disturbing in its abrupt dispatching of Kinney.  It plays so much more callous and cold, and when Morton utters the famed final word on Kinney’s life, “Hey, that’s life in the big city…”, it’s all the more unnerving.

I find it interesting that Kinney’s death makes its way into two pieces of merchandising.  The first isn’t all that surprising, as it’s included in a full page sequence in the first Marvel adaptation of the film into a comic book…

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Though it’s not surprising, it is a little more violent than I’m used to Marvel adaptations being, though it was printed under the Epic comics imprint I believe.

The other instance is a two-card sequence in the Robocop 2 Topps trading card set…

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At the end of the day Kevin Page may have played a minor role in Robocop as Kinney, but his five or so minutes on film have haunted me for years.  I’m not sure if there’s much more that an actor can ask as a legacy than having that kind of impact.

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The only thing better than one glow in the dark Nightfighter Robocop, is two GITD Nightfighter Robocops!

7530728002_35445e5f7a_oFor today’s installment of Robo-madness I thought it would be fun to take a look at a couple of toys based on the Robocop film (and cartoon series.)  Back in 1988 we were treated to slew of RC merchandising and spinoffs including lunchboxes, school supplies, a Marvel Productions cartoon and a toyline, Robocop and the Ultra Police, from Kenner.  Though the cartoon and toyline were connected, for kids like me that never saw the cartoon when it originally aired, these figures and vehicles were just an extension of the film.  I only had a couple of the toys, the main Robocop figure and his Police Cruiser, but they stayed in my toybox for years afterwards.  At some point during a move, around the time when I was in high school, my parents got a bit sneaky and trashed all of my toys.  Because we ended up shifting from a two-story house to a cramped apartment, this unfortunate off-loading of my childhood went unnoticed until I ended up moving out on my own a couple years later.  Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I spotted a picture of a new NECA action figure release of a glow-in-the-dark Robocop.  Seeing that new figure brought back a lot of my old memories of having RC face off against my Transformers and G.I. Joe figures, and that’s when I did some research and realized that the 25th anniversary of the film was right around the corner.  That cinched it, and I knew I both had to spend some time on the site in honor of the film, and track down this new gitd Robocop figure!

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It didn’t take long to acquire the NECA Robocop, and after hitting the net in research mode again I realized that new toy was actually an homage to one of the original 1988 Ultra Police figures, Nightfighter Robocop.  So I made a quick detour to eBay and found an original Nightfighter that had been sitting in the collection of a former Kenner employee for 24 years.  I bought the figure and couldn’t wait to get him so that I could see the two glow-y figures side by side…

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Like most toylines in the 80s, The Ultra Police line was filled with all sorts of random variant versions of the main character, sort of like how Batman had six million different costumes in the Animated Series toyline, one for battling lava, one for flying, etc.  If there’s one gimmick that always wins me over, it’s a figure made out of glow-in-the-dark plastic.  It’s purely for aesthetic reasons, but I love both the way the figures look when glowing and the slightly pale green mixed with milky white of the plastic in normal light.  It surely doesn’t hurt that this Robocop variant also features a Gatling Gun arm and cap-firing abilities.

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The updated NECA version, released as a Toys R Us exclusive, excludes the chain-gun limb, but it does a masterful job of providing a more realistic take on the Robocop body armor sculpt.  The packaging designers also had their tongue planted firmly in their cheeks when transferring the bulk of the original figure’s descriptive copy which reads: “Robocop(‘s) special night gear makes him completely invisible to the evil Vandels gang.  Nightfighter armor can be seen only by the Ultra Police troops.”  Right, so the eerie illuminated and glowing green armor is actually invisible?  Sigh.  It made more sense in the 80s…

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Another action option that didn’t made the cut when updating the Nightfighter figure was the cap-firing action.  The original figures, all of the Robocop figures I believe, had the ability to load and fire strips of caps.  I can see this being troublesome in the modern market.  Actually, do any companies even make cap-firing toys anymore?  Regardless, though this option is sorely missed, this is another instance when the updated sculpt makes up for it in spades.  Like most 80s era toys, Robocop’s grip on his gun was somewhat fugly looking not to mention quite tenuous.  The new version not only has a nice grip on things, the gun is now almost perfectly screen accurate as well.  It might not handily clip to the figure’s hip like with the old toy, but I can let that slide…

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One last comparison I’d like to make in terms of sculpting can be seen in the Achilles tendon/pistons on Robocop’s feet.  The original toyline tried its best to recreate the idea of this design flourish, but in the updated toy they’re magnificent!  Not only are they accurate in terms of sculpting, but they’re articulated and actually work.  Granted, I have a fear that with too much moving and repositioning these will be the first parts to break on the figure, but they sure are pretty…

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Here’s a nice quality scan of the cardback from the original toy featuring the entire line of Ultra Police figures and vehicles.  Though it would be pretty cool to track down a nice version of the basic Robocop figure again, I’d really like to find an affordable version of the ED-260 (the cartoon update to the ED-209.)  Not only does it fire caps, but it looks really neat too!

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I promised my wife that we wouldn’t go in debt during this Robocop week, so I limited myself to these two figures pictured above.  So for these next four images, I had to resort to swiping pictures off of eBay.  I just wanted to post the original basic figure, as well as some of the zanier variants that would pop up by the time the live action Robocop series came along…

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I guess by the 90s a simple glow in the dark figure wasn’t enough, so they had to upgrade to a series of light-up figures like the one pictured below.

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Tying for the most ridiculous variants have to be Sky Patrol and Toxic Emergency Robocops.  Though he did attain flight capabilities by the third film, I’ve tried my best to erase the memory of that movie from my brain…

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Taking a closer look at Robocop, literally…

7539715584_cb52a4a1a0_oDay three of the Robomadness is here, and along with it are a series of blueprint/schematic illustrations for both Robocop and ED-209…

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Ever wonder where Murphy’s Digestion Organ Pot or Main Energy Battery are located?  Wonder no longer.  I used to love finding imagery like this when I was a kid.  Not that any of this is useful in a practical manner, but the idea that the creators of these kinds of characters were thinking about them this deeply.  My favorites used to be when there would be a weapon or gadget breakdown in the Marvel Universe Handbook issues.  You know, illustrating how Spider-Man’s web-shooters or Wolverine’s claws worked.

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If nothing else, I feel comfortable knowing that Robocop has a black box separate from his computer backup system.  Can’t be too careful when it comes to a healthy disaster recovery plan.

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Here are some fun illustrations of ED-209 as well…

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All of the above came from an out-of-print Japanese magazine I believe, as well as the two ED-209 illustrations below…

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Last up today is something a bit more modern in the form of a recent Robocop screening poster.  Artist Tim Doyle did this wonderful explosive schematic titled “Murphy, It’s You”…

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You can find Tim’s website here, as well as some fairly decently priced screen prints of the above poster at the Spoke Art store!