Tag Archives: tron

The Repo Man has entered The Grid!

Lots of little personal projects going on this month behind the scenes at Branded, but of all the stuff I’m working on the thing I’m probably the most excited for is the launch of Season Two of the Cult Film Club!  It’s been just over a year since I helped launch the CFC Podcast with my bitchin’ co-hosts Paxton Holly (of the aptly named Cavalcade of Awesome & the Nerd Lunch Podcast) and Jaime Hood (who runs my favorite blog on the interwebs Shezcrafti.com.)

CFC Cover Photo

We do our best to get together about once a month to talk about all the cult movies that we love to death.  Outside of 80s era kids junk (and the branding that goes with it) my other main passion/hobby is watching movies and deconstructing them with friends.  So the Cult Film Club has been a great outlet for me to help start the conversation on some of my favorite flicks.  Now we’re not limiting ourselves to just the 80s, but readers of this site will surely be interested in a good chunk of the movies we’ve tackled so far as a lot of them have fallen square in the domain of what I’d normally cover here at Branded like Miami Connection, Better Off Dead, Karate Kid III, Zapped, Beastmaster, Troll 2 and The Wraith.  We just kicked off our new season with an episode dedicated to the late Mr. Harold Ramis (where we cover a trio of his films, Stripes, Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day.)  So for anyone who might enjoy hearing me blather on about 80s stuff in a podcasting format and who hasn’t checked out the show, you might enjoy it.

In honor of the CFC gearing back up, I wanted to take a moment and talk about a segment of an film I just caught last night that is the sort of stuff the Cult Film Club was built to discuss, which also just happens to fall directly into the middle section of the CFC/Branded Venn diagram.  There’s a horror flick from the early 80s that I’ve been meaning to watch forever called Nightmares (released in 1983.)  I first stumbled upon this flick years ago when I was hunting for some of those elusive foil prism horror vending stickers that I had when I was a kid.  I ended up winning a lot on eBay and included in with the Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th Part 6, and Vamp stickers was one with a couple of hands, a pair of eyes and the text Nightmares.  I thought it was just some sort of generic horror sticker the seller threw in, but it turns out that it was for this obscure anthology movie starring Richard Mauser (the dad from License to Drive), Lance Henriksen (Aliens and Near Dark), Billy Jacoby (Just One of the Guys), and an early performance by Emilio Estevez.

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It’s been on my radar to watch for years as I love horror anthology flicks (all those wonderful Amicus films from the 70s and stuff like Creepshow, Tales From the Darkside or The Monster Club.)  Well I saw that the full film was on youtube last night so I threw some pizza rolls in the oven, popped the top of a Red Rock grape soda, and finally caught up with this movie.

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For the most part the flick is a snooze fest, but the second chapter titled The Bishop of Battle was amazing!  Where do I begin?  First off, this segment stars Jacoby and Estevez as a couple of arcade junkies.  Estevez plays J.J. Cooney, a cross between Newman’s The Hustler and Doug Masters from Iron Eagle.  The segment opens with Jacoby and Estevez hopping a bus from their suburban neighborhood in the Valley to Venice Beach so that they can hustle the local gangs that hang out in the arcades.  Estevez’s Cooney is an game wiz, the best in California, and he needs some quick cash that he owes to the mysterious Bishop.

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Cooney finds his mark playing a Pleiades machine and he goes in for the kill setting him up with a spiel from Jacoby’s character about how Cooney is always blowing his money on arcade challenges.  Before you know it Conney is down $6 and decides to go for broke and up the ante with one final game for a whopping $25.  The gang member has to go check with his boss, but gets cleared for the dough and the two battle it out in one final game which of course Cooney wins.

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So aside from the fact that it’s kind of ridiculous how “serious” it becomes when $25 is at stake, I love this sequence because Estevez’s Cooney gets into “game mode” by slipping on his Walkman headphones and blasts some rad early 80s punk.  This is way before similar sequences in Iron Eagle that I also love, and a full year before Estevez would play punk Otto in Repo Man.  In fact this whole segment is set to the music of Black Flag, X, and Fear which is amazing.

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The gang is onto Cooney unfortunately and they end up chasing the two out of the arcade into the streets where Estevez and Jacoby narrowly jump another bus to the safety of the Valley.  The two make their way to the local mall and after an argument about going to see the Bishop, Cooney leaves Jacoby behind and continues on into the local arcade.  Can I just say how sad it is that there aren’t arcades in malls anymore?  You’d think with the amount of teens that still hang out in local malls these wonderlands of video games would still manage to be profitable.  I mean I know that gaming has evolved past what a lot of these machines were capable of and most kids get their fix with apps on their phones, but still there’s something magical about the noise and lights and standing at a cabinet that I miss so much.

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Anyway, we quickly learn that the “Bishop” isn’t a person, but rather a game called The Bishop of Battle, a game that Cooney has yet to beat and is his sole focus.  In fact at one point he tells his parents that after he beats the Bishop he’s going to retire from gaming and concentrate on school again.  No more late nights and missed classes.  No more stealing quarters and hustling Latino street gangs for bread to feed the Bishop.  Cooney decides that today is the day he will finally get to the 13th level and take down his rival.

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The game is very much like Beserk or Nightstalker with a maze-like grid and wandering aliens you have to blast with a laser gun.  As the game opens you hear: “Greetings Earthling.  I am the Bishop of Battle, master of all I survey.  I have 13 progressively harder levels. Try me… if you dare!”  Cooney pumps up the volume on some punk and then proceeds to the 12th level where he’s promptly taken down by the Bishop.  The crowd that gathered dissipates as the arcade closes and the owner literally has to pry Cooney off the machine.

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This is where the film takes a turn for the speculative and horrific.  Later that night after having a huge blowout with his parents, Cooney sneaks back to the mall and breaks into the arcade so that he can have his final showdown with the Bishop.  He’s hot and ends up finally beating the 12th level at which point the arcade cabinet freaks out, overloads, and literally crumbles to pieces…

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Cooney thinks he’s finally beaten the Bishop, but it turns out that the 13th level was way more than he bargained for as he has inadvertently freed the Bishop who sends his pixelated minions to do battle with Cooney in the real world.

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Looking down, Cooney sees he still has the laser gun from the cabinet in his fist so he instinctively starts zapping the flying enemies in the middle of the arcade, destroying arcade games left and right.  It’s sort of like the opposite of Tron and is kind of freaking awesome!

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I can’t believe I went 36 years without catching up with this 25 minutes of pure awesome cinema.  Estevez is at his best, cockily grinning up a storm and is really into the role no matter how cheesy some of the dialogue is.  The effects in the live action arcade sequences are pretty top notch as well and totally hold up 31 years later.  Between the Tron homages, Estevez and the rad punk soundtrack, Nightmares: The Bishop of Battle is well worth seeking out.  Just be careful you don’t buy it on the 13th level because the consequences are much worse than the game being over!

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Santa has entered the Grid!

Just wanted to take a quick break from my annual holiday hiatus to share this awesome magazine cover that I’ve been sitting on for far too long.  This was pointed to and provided by the awesome allhallowSteve over at Halloween Addict.  What more needs to be said other than Santa on a lightcycle!?!

This is just carrying on the new tradition here at Branded of showcasing Santa riding some kickass vehicles, like last year’s BMX ad…

It has been a crazy and fun year here at Branded (my sixth), and I hope that everyone out there in internetland is having a wonderful holiday season.  Merry Christmas or whatever you celebrate and see you guys in 2012!

Smuckers missed the boat by not having a tie-in neon blueberry flavored Tron jam…

Though I feel completely like a child of the 80s, I have to say that being born in 1977 there were a handful of 80s pop culture events in which I completely missed the boat.  Tron and the boom of arcade gaming are a couple  phenomena that I didn’t get to really immerse myself in as a kid.  Sure, I had an Atari 2600 (bought at a garage sale) after the big home console crash, and I was a full-blown Nintendo kid, but I didn’t catch a screening of Tron until only a few years ago.  In fact, aside from a vague idea of the iconography of the arcade console (in particular the awesomely large joystick) and what the characters in the flick more or less looked like, I was largely unaware of the film.

My childhood video game movie experience surrounded flicks like the Wizard, Wargames, and the Last Starfighter.  I’ve met so many people at work over the last 10 years that attribute Tron as the incipience of their awakening to the potential of computer technology and quite possibly the reason that they entered the IT field as a career.   Having never experienced a film like Tron and being exposed to the idea of anthropomorphizing the inner workings of a computer, I never saw the excitement inherent in programming and computing.  Like most people, it took the wide acceptance of the internet to open my eyes.  Because of that I’ll always probably feel a little left behind.

On the bright side, getting a chance to catch up with the film as an adult I can both appreciate some of the more technical aspects to the conceptual nature of the flick, and it gives me the unique opportunity to discover something new and nostalgic.  It’s rare that I get a chance to stumble upon something from the 80s that I’m either not familiar with or have been inundated with during the last 10 years of the 80s nostalgic resurgence.  For that I’m thankful.  Because of this and because of the news of the new sequel over the last couple of years I’ve been keeping and eye out for any bits of scan-able Tron ephemera, in particular vintage advertisements.  Here are a few I’ve found while flipping through old issues of Woman’s Day and Muppet magazines…

First up is this 1982 ad for Dial and Tone bar soap with a mail-away coupon for a discounted Tron beach towel.  Featuring the static hero pose of the titular character, this towel is one of the few times when I think that image is successfully striking.  I’m always curious how many of these mail-away items make it into the public (and it’s not like old beach towels get proffered up on ebay all that often), so it’s cool when you can find some photographic evidence of these items.  Thanks to Hillary over at I’m Remembering for coaxing her readers into submitting old photos for her site…

Next up is this 1982 Smuckers ad for strawberry jam and the in-store special offer for a free Tron Futuristic Adventure Book with the purchase of a bottle of preserves.   Maybe not as cool as a collectable jelly glass with Tron characters and scenes, but the book did come with a fold-out 17″x22″ poster, and featured games, puzzles and stickers!  I’ve seen a couple of Tron sticker sheets over the years, but I don’t think I’ve ever laid eyes on the stickers from this free book.

Last, but not least, is this 1984 holiday ad from Disney Home Video featuring a VHS copy of Tron.  Back in ’84 this cassette copy of Tron was a steal at $39.95 (msrp at the time was a whopping $84.95.)  This was back before most people had started purchasing movies for their home libraries, and videos were largely still priced for the rental market.   Also, at first I was pretty excited when I flipped to this ad in the back of an issue of Muppet magazine because I though the video came with a free Tron ornament.  How cool would that have been?  Well, even though there is that die-cut gold Tron disc on the packaging, the ornament is actually the image on the top left featuring Mickey as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  Still a cool ornament, but not nearly as cool as one featuring Tron.

There is another thing that stuck out to me in this ad.  I thought it was weird that the graphic designers of this advertisement chose to feature a rare red variation of the Tron character artwork.  Though my memory might be a little shady, I thought that red was reserved for the “evil” programs in the Tron world like Sark and his minions?  I guess this is sort of the equivalent of catching a glimpse of Luke Skywalker with a red lightsaber…

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