Tag Archives: VHS

Mourning the Loss of a DVD Player with the Illegitimate Child of Maria and C3P0…

So, as I mentioned earlier in the week my DVD player of the last decade decided to go and die on me, and it’s been more or less in the forefront of my mind.  See, I don’t subscribe to a cable service and my TV is sort of ancient, so I’m not readily streaming Netflix to it or anything.  I’m sort of at a crossroads since I have to make a decent-sized purchase.  Do I get an el cheapo DVD player or do I finally pop for a Blu-Ray player?  If I buy a Blu-Ray, shouldn’t I get an HD TV as well?  Stands to reason right?  While thinking about my options I was thumbing through some 32 year-old issues of People magazine that a very gracious co-worker recently gave me and I stumbled upon a pretty nifty Hitachi VCR advertisement.  What does all this have to do with this week’s League assignment?  Well, this week’s theme just happens to be robots, and the ad features a pretty awesome looking droid…

Hitachi Ad 1981 Small

This sad little guy was introduced in 1981 during the beginning of the Home Video boom.  Folks were starting to adopt the technology, and as with any expensive electronics purchase long-lasting equipment was top on many consumer’s lists of desirable qualities.  Trust me, I’m debating that same question right now.  I’m still of the ilk who looks for hardware that will make it in the long haul.  My TV is almost old enough to enlist, and I have a boombox that’s been able to vote for as many presidents as I have!  Sigh.  I’m slowly being pulled, kicking and screaming, into the new millennium.

Back to this Hitachi robot pitchman.  Not only was he featured in their print campaign, but he was also in their TV commercials, like this from the same year.  Also, It doesn’t escape me that the design of the Hitachibot looks a hell of a lot like C3P0 and Maria from Metropolis had an illegitimate kid who never quite reached the peaks of success that his parents did…

C3MetropolisP0

If I had to guess, I’d bet he was probably hanging out with other robotic flash-in-the-pans like Twiki from Buck Rogers and Vicki from Small Wonder, sucking down antifreeze and boosting car batteries for fun and profit…

Wondering what the other League members are talking about?  Well, transform and roll out to some of these sites…

Rich, The Nerd Nook, lists his top 10 favorite pop culture bots!

Goodwill Geek, Goodwill Hunting 4 Geeks, breaks out his impressive robotic toy collection!

Charles, Geek Show Ink, shares his thoughts on the Rascal Robot!

Victoria, Vikki Verka, talks a bit about the Chōjin Sentai Jetman!

Jamie, Whatever I think of!, talks a bit about Hymie from Get Smart!

 

TMNT memories, or tapping into my absurd inner Michelangelo…

Digging through a box of keepsakes this morning I stumbled upon a couple fun Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles items.  I’ve been thinking a lot about that cartoon and comic recently what with the new Nickelodeon series, Playmates toy line, and my near obsession with locating and snapping pictures of all the new Turtles merchandise in stores.  It certainly is a great time to love being a Turtle again.  Below is one of my favorite drawings as it was one of the first times I actually sat down and tried my damnedest to draw something that was truly fridge-worthy as a kid.  This is from 1988.  I was laying in bed sick and I had a stack of comic books and the first VHS release of the TMNT cartoon to keep me company.  I’m 99.9% sure I copied this Michelangelo drawing from the cover art on the VHS tape…

I was so happy with the outcome that I seriously considered sending it in to the local news station who would post art on the 5:30 news from local kids.  In the end I greedily hung onto it fearing that it wouldn’t be accepted and I wouldn’t have the magnificence of the drawing to bask in.  I was so proud of drawing all the links in the chain on his nunchucks.  Note, because the cover artwork from the VHS didn’t have the full body of the Turtles on it, I had to improvise and I totally put Mikey in the swamp.  Also, quarter sun in the top corner for the childhood drawing win!

The other treasure I uncovered was this home-made button I constructed out of a bored French Class doodle from 1993.  Our language teacher was a huge fan of drawings and art and would give tons of extra credit points for doing little art projects like making button and junk.  A friend and I managed to get a pretty decent grade in the first semester by wallpapering the room with out goofy drawings featuring our inane French witticisms.  This button roughly translates to “The Eggs are helping.”  How absurdly funny I thought I was being at the time…

Also, as a postscript to this, you know the new cartoon is a hit when you start seeing displays like this one popping up in stores…

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…