Blade Runner 2049: The Bradscribe Review

Future Perfect? More Sequel Than Sequel…?

“This is not some clunky franchise-farmed cash-in… With all the art and craft of the original, Denis Villeneuve has… gotten down and dirty in the gene pool, marinated in its enzymes, slept in its bed and dreamt its dreams. And then he’s gone to work” – The Sunday Times.  

“I want more life!” demanded Roy Batty, the peculiar, but poetic, doomed replicant from the classic original Blade Runner. 

Well – after all this time – should that masterpiece, one of the greatest – and self-contained – SF classics reviewed here: have been granted an extension of its existence?

Remarkably, these past few weeks, some critics have argued that Blade Runner 2049 has surpassed the original, taking the issues of humanity, genetics and identity to whole new astounding levels. 

Now, considering how this blogger included himself as one of those teeming masses baulking at a “new” Blade Runner movie, it is a revelation – not to mention a relief – to report that Blade Runner 2(049) has turned out to be a surprisingly engrossing visual and emotional experience.

“Despite all the overlaps, this is not a simulacrum of a Ridley Scott film. It is unmistakably a Denis Villeneuve film, inviting us to tumble, tense with anticipation, into his doomy clutches” – The New Yorker.

The plot of Blade Runner 2049 begins with Ryan Gosling, turning in an appropriately vacant and artificial presence as a new Runner: K (as in Philip K. Dick?), paying a visit to the isolated warehouse/abode of Dave Bautista’s Sapper Morton – retired from the rumble-tumble world of WWF to a barren sector of the Californian wasteland to Grow Green Stuff, Man. What the officer’s surveillance equipment discovers onsite leads to the main plot development: K questioning the nature of his own existence – “basically Pinocchio with more eco-pollution” as one reviewer rather facetiously described it.

When we eventually get to see the Main Man/Replicant/? Himself, it’s nice to see Villeneuve honour that traditional sci-fi dystopian trope of the protagonist wandering into somebody else’s gaff without even a knock or a “Yoohoo!”

As tired and drawn as the world he now (barely) inhabits, Deckard cuts a haggard, whiskey-slugging figure, with only a dog and a holographic Elvis to keep him company. Perhaps Ford’s finest performance in years. 

That wasn’t a real dog… was it? 

Shame it wasn’t a sheep – that would’ve been neat. No, seriously, in the novel, Rick Deckard keeps an artificial sheep on his roof, and only takes the job to retire those wayward  Nexus-6 replicants so that he can afford to buy a real domesticated ruminant mammal with a thick woolly coat…  

“The question at Blade Runner 2049’s pulsating heart has no glib answer… With dazzling adroitness, [Villeneuve] has built on Scott’s legacy to create something grander in scope and emotional range” – London Evening Standard. 

What about the Soundtrack? 

There are no exceptional tracks here – nothing to compare to Vangelis’ sumptuous Blade Runner Blues, the sensuality of the Love Theme, the achingly beautiful Memories Of Green, or the sweeping grandeur of Harps Of The Ancient Temples – regrettably, the score is just as equally soulless as its artificial antagonists…

There is another unsettling observation concerning Blade Runner 2049 that has largely gone unmentioned in other reviews. In this post post-feminist “society” women can look forward – ha! – to not much in the way of beneficial or progressive roles. There are some strong female characters – who can forget Sylvia Hoeks’ “Luv”? Robin Wright is enjoying a promising upturn in her career – here she plays K’s superior: Lieutenant Joshi, in an interesting, but underused, performance.

Apparently, Blade Runner 2049 fails the Bechdel Test i.e. can two female characters share the screen and NOT have a conversation about a man? Morover, this movie just falls short of the Bradscribe Test, specifically: are there 3-4 lines cool or snazzy enough to be quoted herein? When you consider how the original movie positively brims with terrific lines and conversations, sill fondly remembered and quoted 35 years later…

The virtual love interest is brought to you by Joi (Ana de Armas), a hypnotic beauty, but then, she would need to be a top-of-the-range model distracting enough to make any man (or woman?) forget that they exist in a murky dystopia beset with biospheric collapse, child labour camps, distracting neon billboards and Jared Leto – blind, bearded and as bonkers as a bat – ruling the roost from his ambient asylum, inflicting poor, unsuspecting souls with his unintelligible pseudobabble. His (mis)casting as Niander Wallace is perhaps my biggest grumble with this otherwise captivating movie.

Tell you what: going for a spin in his spinner, tha last thing Brad (hopefully not looking as old and thoroughly dischuffed as Harrison Ford does here) will want is to be distracted by a 50 foot holographic ballerina pirouetting past the bally windscreen, thank you very much…

“Blade Runner 2049 has been made with impeccable craftsmanship and taste, yet the film is so terrified of disreputability that it renders itself dead from the waist down, unable to derive pleasure even from a theoretically kinky robot three-way” – Slant Magazine.

Will 2049 end up matching – or even surpassing – its predecessor’s revered status in the pantheon of SF greats? 

Well, no. 

Look at its core components: more bleak, more brutal, less memorable and less inspiring – can these really be considered to be superior traits…?

Certainly not. 

Those folks who reckon this movie supersedes the original are merely revelling (somewhat prematurely) in hype. Nevertheless, during all the time we were suppressing the prospect of a sequel, little did we know that such a wondrous filmmaker as Denis Villeneuve could even exist…

“You’ve never seen a miracle,” Sapper Morton mumbles before being wiped off the cast list. Considering how much the audience were fidgeting, yawning and groaning throughout 2049’s 2hrs, 44 mins (unlike the spinners, time doesn’t fly in this hazy, amber-tinted future), it looked like they were being hard-pushed to find anything exceptional in this languid concoction. 

Always keen to watch more sophisticated, less action-stuffed film fare, my patience, however, was awarded with incredible visuals, an extraordinary narrative atmosphere, and the golden opp of seeing – no matter how grumpy he looks these days – the Ford Legend grace the big screen once more…

In answer to the question: “would you recommend it?” it strikes me as being one of those movies absolutely magnificent to watch once, but fails to incite the urge to pay it numerous viewings. Guess one misses that rain-soaked Chinatown and those fire-spewing ziggurats of good ol’ 2019 a tad too much… 

Brad doesn’t know how long it will take to get round to watching Blade Runner 2049 a second time.

Who does…?

 

BRADSCRIBE VERDICT: 

4 out of 5 glittering C-beams, but ooooh, only just…

 

“I was quit when I come in here, Bryant, I’m twice as quit now” – Rick Deckard.

 

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Voight-Kampff Test Retaken: Blade Runner: The Bradscribe Rereview

Is This To Be An Empathy Test?

“Memories. You’re talking about memories…” – Rick Deckard.  

“Blade Runner is such an amazing movie. A mesmerising mix of sci-fi, action and film noir, it is quite unlike anything you have seen before…” were my words used to describe this seminal SF masterpiece, back in 1986. That school project required us to produce our own magazine. At last! Something to really engage my interests and talents.

The result: Film File – twenty pages, crammed with reviews and profiles written in different coloured ink – was awarded A+ by my gobsmacked English teacher. Blade Runner had had its TV premiere that year, and my VHS copy was swiftly getting worn out at an exponential rate. Naturally, consumed by Ridley Scott’s scintillating verve and vision – over and over again – when it came to compile this rag, Blade Runner took centre stage.

“Harrison Ford makes a fascinating lead character here,” my write-up continued. “The performances are particularly memorable, but it is the spectacular “visual futurism” created by Syd Mead that is sure to become the template in which all subsequent dystopian thrillers will thrive…”

“I’m impressed. How many questions does it usually take to spot them?” – Dr. Eldon Tyrell. 

Even now – with just two years to go before we reach the timeframe created therein – what can Brad write about a movie that holds a reserved place in his All-Time Top 5: honestly, one does not just watch this movie – you experience it…

But then, remember that yours truly is a Professional Wordsmith – it’s my job to find the right words, ma’am. 

What better way to begin than from the beginning: the opening shot of the imposing Tyrell Corp pyramid dominating the cityscape is sumptuous enough, but a seemingly mundane scene involving Holden testing a subject called Leon ends in such an unexpected, dramatic way, my attention was drawn in from that moment – still get goosebumps marvelling at its intricate editing – and the exceptional sights and sounds that unfolded  kept me hooked right up to its melancholy conclusion.

One of the quintessential elements to enhance the classic status of this sophisticated replicant-busting package is the synthtastic score by Vangelis. As the movie has fuelled its fanatical fan-base to ask numerous questions over the years, there is one particular poser that always fascinates my speculative faculties:  

Who – or what – else could have evoked better mood and enhanced the drama? 

Choosing just ONE track from the classic Soundtrack is challenging enough, but this one gets me every time:

 

My very own unique arbiter of good taste: my father, loved the movie as well – ’twas he who had to stay up (extra late) that weekday night in ’86 and record it, editing out the commercials (bless ‘im!)

The “Boy, have you got a treat in store!” look on his face the next morning is one of those priceless moments @ Brad Manor… 

Leon Kowalski (played viciously-cool by Brion James) had more of a profound effect on The Original Brad than on me. He really enjoyed quoting Leon’s lines non-stop:

“Wake up, time to die!” 

“Okay, OKAY, I WILL tidy my room already…” 

“What do you mean, I’m not helping?” – Leon Kowalski. 

And then of course, the main female character became equally iconic.

The fashion sense and hairstyle of eternally-lovely Rachel (Sean Young) added a distinctive 1940s vibe to these “futuristic” proceedings -enhancing that elaborate noir touch in amidst all that neon…

“Have you ever retired a human by mistake?” – Rachel. 

“It’s too bad she won’t live! But then again, who does?” – Gaff.  

“Personally, the added unicorn dream sequence looks more incongruous than the original drive-away ending that consisted of outtakes from The Shining! If anything, this unwelcome addition looks like a shoddy outtake from Scott’s 1985 movie: Legend – an even more absurd anomaly…” so argued my write-up prepared for a local newspaper to coincide with the cinematic release of Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut in 1992. The then-Editor didn’t seem all that impressed as my Reviewlike most of my best material – never saw publication.

Thankfully, my opinion towards this sequence has mellowed over time.

“To me, it’s entirely logical,” Ridley Scott explained in a 1982 interview. “Particularly when you are doing a film noir, you might as well go through with that theme, and the central character could in fact be what he is chasing. You could say it is corny or not corny. Something is usually only corny according to execution. It was cut into the picture, and I think it worked wonderfully.”

Although filmed for the original theatrical cut, there again, meddling studio execs advised him to extricate the scene because it complicated the narrative even furtherWithout it, of course, the later appearance of the origami unicorn makes no sense. 

Part of the initial appeal was Ford’s droll narration. Never had a problem with it myself – was unaware that it was an explanatory device reluctantly added later. As a writer, it is understandable now: how the endless revisions and rewrites it had to go through became a source of irritation for the makers.  

Actually, what about that other question: was Ford miscast? 

Many of his fans thought so, and the negative word-of-mouth contributed to Blade Runner‘s surprisingly dismal run during its initial release.

On the other hand, his presence primarily influenced my decision to sit down, watch and have my life changed forever…

“Are you for real?” – Zhora.

 Gaff: “Monsieur, azonnal kövessen engem, bitte! 

Sushi Master: “He say you under arrest, Mister Deckard.” 

Deckard: “Got the wrong guy, pal.” 

Gaff:Lófaszt! Nehogy már! Te vagy a Blade, Blade Runner!” 

Sushi Master: “He say you Blade Runner.”

Deckard:Tell him I’m eating.”

To celebrate its 25th Anniversary, in 2007, Blade Runner: The Final Cut was released. Working abroad where it received no theatrical release, it was just a matter of time before finally seeing what Ridley Scott had originally intended.

Strangely enough, it has taken another ten years before getting round to renting a copy of Blade Runner: The Final Cut! Just last month, in fact, intricate rituals had to be undertaken to prepare me for this superior sensory sensation. Yes, that same tingling feeling throughout is still there…

Future perfect? Perhaps… 

The most perplexing question: “Is Deckard a replicant?” has been argued to almost monotonous degrees among critics and fans alike.

For aeons…

Scott insists that he is; Ford has always denied this aspect of his character. Actually, look at it this way: it’s an aspect best left open and UNanswered; let viewers decide for themselves – very few movies possess the capacity to allow audiences to react in such a way. The point that people are still arguing over this issue 35 years later is a testament to the power and intrigue that Blade Runner has – and continues – to generate.

“We need you, Sebastian. You’re our best and only friend” – Pris.

“Quite an experience to live in fear, isn’t it? That’s what it is to be a slave” – Roy Batty.

That other oherwhelming question: “Should this classic have a sequel?” has always been answered from this quarter with a stern:

NO, A Thousand Times No. 

When news finally broke confirming the go-ahead of the dreaded Blade Runner 2, it seemed like such an abysmal admit-defeat scenario had unfolded.

However…

In the promising hands of Denis Villeneuve, who lavished the extraordinarily impressive Arrival upon us all last year, prospects suddenly don’t look so dire. Plus, unexpectedly glowing initial Reviews have trickled in. Some critics have even had the nerve to comment how Blade Runner 2049 not only complements the original, but supersedes it in terms of depth and quality. 

Uff, we’ll have to see about THAT…

So, always up for a challenge, your correspondent will give 2049 a go, and report back to you later in the week… 

Let it be said: Villeneuve  will have to go SOME WAY to try and produce anything to equal the original’s Final Act: still cited by many as the Greatest Scene in SF Cinema History – it is certainly one of the leading contenders. 

Honestly, how could we finish This Post without it? 

Tears in rain? Tears on my keyboard, more like.

Every time…

 

BRADSCRIBE VERDICT: 

“Reaction time is a factor in this so please pay attention. Answer as quickly as you can.”

 

The Merchant Of Menace: Rebel Without A Code Clearance

Twin Suns, Ray Guns And Puerile Puns About Brad’s Buns…

 

This is Episode II in the Firm And Shapely Trilogy you can find Episode I ‘ere:

“What chance do we have? The question is “what choice.” Run, hide, plead for mercy, scatter your forces. You give way to an enemy this evil with this much power and you condemn the galaxy to an eternity of submission. The time to fight is now!” – Jyn Erso.  

 

Well, that escalated quickly!

Despite fighting off Tenko Tash’vaa’s monologues as well as his goons,

Brad and Lexi remain holed up inside the villain’s headquarters on Wotsit IV in the Midlanoware System. 

Time is running out, and there is little hope of ever finding that reckless young spy: Bagel Looney…

But now, across the street, out of the clouds with a deafening drone

descends the most feared and infamous cruiser in the entire Imperial fleet: 

the Zoulzukker!

Kriegzlide Killzquad have arrived… 

 

“Getcha lousy biochemech mitts offa me!” Lexi protested as two giant Killzquad gooms seized her and began dragging her out.

Another two grappled with her companion.

“NAH!! Leave ‘er alone!” yelled the Battleforce Commander-turned-blogger. “She’s gonna beat the stuffin’ outta yas!” 

“Hush urp, Urfmairn!” grumbled Zoltan Zovran – the Kriegzlide psychonaut too deranged even for a regular Shokk Trooper division to manage. The ruffian suddenly raised his Particle Accelerator Lance and jabbed it into the back of the Battleforce Commander’s head.

The squad, and their hostages, emerged onto the hot, crowded street. As half of those milling about – or just hanging around, wasting their Imperial time – consisted of the occupying Zandokan garrison, so Zubizmaar’s lunatics could avoid the hassle of gawping bystanders for a change.

As delirium seeped over him, Brad’s groggy eyes could just about discern a lone, armed Shokk Trooper emerge from the bustling throng and approach the group. With some urgency.

“A chenge uv ordairs, yo lot!” it barked. “Ze Emprah hez infairmed ze Wotzeet Proveencial Offizer zat zeez preeznair be brurt to ze Zentient Towair, een ze Men Zquare, fer ferzair eentairrogation!” 

And with that, he forcefully snatched the Earthling. The Killzquad stared uneasily among themselves.

Commander Zmutti Zubizmaar looked the most disbelieving. 

“Hmm… Zoundz laike a lurda covfefe to me, Troopair…” he snarked. “Ve vere zent ‘ere pairzonally by ze Emprah! OUR uddairz come STRET frurm ZAN DOKA IZZELF! Shur me YER uddairz, Troopair!”

“Directeev: Zero-seex-zero-ett – yo ken doneludd eet frum ze men Empeerial Moaneetor…” 

As they started to depart, Zubizmaar signalled them to halt: “Troopair! Vot eez yer urpairateenk numbair?”

“ZX2187…” 

He raised his blaster at them as they trudged away, crying out: “Two-wun-ett-zeven! Ze Urfzcurm ztayz weev uz! BREENK HEEM BECK ur-” 

“Ur whut?!” ZX2187 barked, not stopping, not looking back… “Yo vood shoot en Empeerial Troopair een ze beck…?!”

“‘Twood NUT be ze firzt tem, fool… Geev our preeznair beck, KNOW!” 

“C-come urn, Earthman, murve!” the Trooper muttered nervously as he nudged your hero in the back.

As this unlikely pair wandered off down the street, the Killzquad watched in bewilderment. 

“Vell, ZEEZ wuz NUT een ze zcripp…” Commander Zmutti Zubizmaar stood akimbo, shaking his repulsive head: “Yo ‘ombrez! Tek ze gell ta ze sheep – Zoreen! Follair zem! Ve durn’t dare lewz NEIZAIR uv zeez deepweetz!”  

Zoreen Zeegazeeg – a ruthless spy/assassin in his own right – stepped forth.

“‘Tweel be may genueen pleazure, zah!” 

And before anyone could cue some suitably dramatic music, he had vanished into the crowd…

Strangely, Trooper ZX2187 looked anxious, glancing every which way before nudging Brad into a narrow alley.

Your hero frowned in confusion: “…’Ere, ‘ang abaht… yer goin’ the wrong way…” 

“No, we’re not! In ‘ere, quick!”

At that moment, they barged into an empty hovel halfway down one side. Brad spun round to watch the Trooper remove his helmet and reveal not a green-skinned Imperial grunt, but:  

“Bless me blueberry muffins! BAGEL!”

“Shoosh, Commander! Ya wanna let everybody know where we are…?!”

“The longer we’re here, the less luck we’re gonna have…” – Han Solo.

“Too short for a Shokk Trooper?” Brad Fartlighter muttered cynically, massaging his sore bonce.

“Huh? Shucks, man, done pret’y well up until now…”

“‘Ave ya really, kid? Jeez, wanna know the reason why I didn’ pounce on ya jus’ now? Ya said: “Earthman,” instead o’ “Urfmairn”…!”

“Did I…?! Fudge… ‘Sfunny, there may ‘ave been some slip-ups earlier; it’s gettin’ well dodgy – I reckon some o’ the Shokk Troopers’ve kinda sussed me aht… Ya gotta ship? I’m itchin’ ta get offa this rock!” 

“Not so fast, Lil Itch – we ain’t goin’ nowhere jus’ yet! Those Kriegzlide goons ‘ave snatched me Second Officer – ya’d bet’er polish yer accent ‘cos we’re gonna break inta the Zoulzukker an’ get ‘er th blazes aht before they can get ta the muvvaship!”

“‘Er?! Yer Second Officer’s a woman?!”

“Whoa, a gold star fer keepin’ oop, Bright Eyes! She came all this way ta getcha back – an’ now both of us ‘ave ta get ‘er back!”

“You came ‘ere ta get me an’ all?”

“Nah, I came ta keep me eye on ‘er-“

“Well, you’re doin’ a fine an’ dandy job o’ THAT!” 

“An’ whose fault wuz that then, fella?! Cos o’ you, dipwit, I’m further from Lexi than I’d like! I’m gonna need me own Shokk Trooper’s togs ta pull this ruse orf – we’ll ‘ave ta coax one of ’em in ‘ere…!”

“Easy peasy, Commander be back in a jiffy…”

“BAGEL…?!”

And with that, the reckless Rebel wandered off up to the main street; just two minutes later, in burst a suitably perplexed Shokk Trooper. 

Brad waved and chirped: “‘Iya, amigo! ‘Ow ya doin’? Got any Doritos on ya…?”

The next minute, Bagel wandered in to see Brad standing over the fallen felon, extracting its armour. 

“I shudder ta think, kid: what did ya say ta this nerk?”

“Simple: ‘If ya wanna catch the Wanted cake-lovin’ Brad Fartlightercome wi’ me’…!”

“You…!” Brad gasped, then chortled: “You’re a crafty lil nerk, Bagel, I’ll givya tha’… sheesh!” 

Suddenly, he grabbed said crafty lil nerk by the collar, and retorted: “JEEZ, kid! Ya’ve REALLY dropped me buns in the fire NOW! Outta ORL’A goons ya coulda brought in ‘ere, ya HADTA pick aht ol’ Zeeg? One of the most demented bunnies I’ve EVAH run inta! DAHN’T need this – ya KNOW I’ve ALREADY got an ‘eadache…”

“SOZ, Commander, but- but ‘ow wuz I supposed ta know…?!”

The Commander loosened his grip, and replied gently: “Yeah… ‘ow… were ya supposed ta know… Too late, we’re in deep, now – ‘elp me wiv these boots, will ya? (This is the part abaht bein’ an ‘ero I detest the most: takin’ other fellas’ clobber orf). C’mon, kid, we’ve got an appointment wiv da Killzquad ta keep!”

While Brad nonchalantly scanned up and down the street, counting Imperial sentries, working out their next plan of action, Bagel stared in such a befuddled state at the Battleforce Commander-turned-blogger.

“Are we really doing this?!” whispered Bagel.

“We’re gonna do this!” whispered Brad. 

“Congratulations. You are being rescued. Please do not resist” – K-2SO. 

“How’d ya end up ‘ere, Bagel?!”

“Bah! Got shot dahn by a Zkorpion – thought it best ta infiltrate the Shokk ranks – tha’s ‘ow I’ve managed ta stay undetected fer so long-“

“Too darn roight ya were undetected, ya dozy donut! We all thought we’d lost ya altagevvah…!”

“Soz, Commanderme transmit-piece got busted when I bailed outta me crate. An’ I aven’t ‘ad the opp ta fangle a way ta send any signal back ta the Resistance. Reckoned I oughtta… take on the Empire all by meself-“

“An’ worsen the situation fer th rest ovuz?! If – IF – I can getcha back ta base in one piece, the General’s probly gonna rip ya ta shreds ‘imself anyway!” 

“What, Rajendra…?! ‘E wouldn’t! Get ‘is first name: “Ajaan”: tha’s the Yanduri word for ‘teacher.’ From what I’ve ‘eard, ‘e’s a mild-mannered… placid fella… … in’e…?”

Brad clasped the lad’s shoulder and jigged it a lil.

“Lissen oop: so ya got away wivvit… but sheesh, man! That wuz more reckless than anythin’ I got upta when I wuz yer age! An’ tha’s sayin’ some’t…! Be cool, Bagel – when we get back… when I meet Raj, I’ll tell ‘im tha’-“

“You DAHN’T know ‘im eivver?! What chance do I ‘ave?!”

“Shoosh, Bagel. COOLIO. Nah mat’er ‘ow it turns aht, I’ll  stick up fer ya. Trust me…”

“Cheers, Commander… but ‘ow the blazes are we gonna bust inta the Kriegzlide crate an’ get yer Officer back, Mr. ‘Ligh’er, if ya please? An’… an’ what if they take off before we can reach ’em?!” 

“Na worries, kid! That Zkorpion I nabbed in order ta get ‘ere – wipe me cake crumbs offa the passenger seat an’ we’ll be jus’ fine an’ dandy.” 

“Yeah, but…! But wha’ abaht the Clearance Code?! ‘Ow can we gain our own access to the muvvaship wivaht one?! ‘Ow – where – are we gonna get THAT?!”

“Uff, cobblers ta the Code, kid! Seems like the only reason why these Imperial dipwits ‘ave rules is so that Brad can break ’em… We’ll find a way – I always do… …”

“Well, somebody has to save our skins. Into the garbage, fly-boy!” – Princess Leia Organa.

“…Ya ougtta know the most important thing I’ve picked up while ‘angin’ aht dahn ‘ere – but I dunno ‘ow ta break it to ya,” Bagel huffed indignantly as they marched back into the main street, their Imperial togs gleaming in the intense rays of the twin suns. “…The Empire ‘ave upgraded their biochemech armour, so ‘elp us. Notice ‘ow these new bods wear slightly darker suits… ligh’er, but thicker… Pret’y soon, blasters are gonna ‘ave little to NAH effect on ’em…”

“Blazes…” the Battleforce Commander-turned-blogger muttered, dreading how all this cosmic gubbins was escalating. “…An’ it’s only Imperial blasters that we can find ta arm the Resistance. Tha’s some’t else we’ll ‘ave ta deal wiv- Gah, dash it all!”

The vicinity of the Zoulzukker positively crawled with Shokk Troopers as they peered round the cornerBagel threw his hands in the air with despair:

“Whoa! We’re in a tight spot-“

“Oh really? You’re tight?! Shame ol’ Zeegazeeg wuz a wimpy sprat ‘is armour ain’ ‘arf pressin’ me buns! An’- OOF! Me pecs are posi’ively ‘EAVIN’ in this blasted breastplate!”

“Aow, quit whinin’, Commander. It- say! Guess that physique’s why the girls back at base keep talkin’ abou’cha…”

“Do they? Groovy…”

“Everybod’ don’ call ya a groovy galactic ‘ero fer nuthin’, eh…? D’ya work aht?”

“Nah. No need, kid. Got bit’en by a radioactive chipmunk…”

“Did ya…?!”

“Course, bleedin’ o’ course I work aht! Whatcha think?! Fer goodness sake, flamin’ Nora… Don’t wanna be mistaken fer a donut like Zeeg in these dark times-“

“Yeah yeah…” the younger fella drawled sarcastically.

Brad leaned across and rapped his knuckles against Bagel’s helmet: “No, seriously: be STRONG: that means MENTAL, as well as physical, fella! So, if ya got some’t inside there, WORK IT! Blimey, if ya’d used yer wits before an’ ‘ADN’T carried aht that dumbass raid on the Ztodgeztonker, we WOULDN’T be in this mess NOW…!” 

Suddenly, a typically rasping Zandokan voice from across the street blared out:

“ZHERE ZEY AIR! Shoot ze zhirt wun, but ze ‘unky wun eez NUT to be ‘armed!”

Shokk Troopers dashed in from all sides, blasters blazing.

“‘Ere, tha’s bang OUT’A order! Frickin’ charmin’, THAT is!” the short one protested, blasting back, but the hunky one grabbed his reckless companion and dragged him away from the action. 

“Quit whinin’, Bagel! Ya see… ya SEE?! These tosspots are seriously dischuffed at what YOU did…”

After a few frantic yards of scarpering as fast as their biochemech-clad legs could carry them, the spy scowled at your hero: “‘Ere… ‘old on! I wuz only copyin’ what YOU did… Commander‘Ow is it tha’ YOU get ac’olades, an’ I just get grief?!” 

“‘Cos I’m a PERFESSIONAL idiot! Cut the chat’er, kid – we got’a split!” 

And these blast points, too accurate for Sand People. Only Imperial Stormtroopers are so precise…” – Ben Kenobi.

“AHA! Ze Burrito end Bagel!” Zoltan Zovran cried as he crept up behind the two leads, wielding THAT particularly nasty Particle Accelerator Lance. “Ze two murzt repreehenzible Oomanz in ze galaxy een may clutchez!” 

“Now now, nerk!” Brad waved a steady hand at the Kriegzlide madman, and protested: “Ya already bopped me over th ‘ead wiv that bloomin’ thing – ta do it twice would be careless…”

“Votzamattair, Urfmairn, expect mercy…? Kriegzlide Killzquad durn’t knur ze meaning uv ze verd…  heh heh heh!” he snarled, aiming his weapon right at Brad.

“‘Old on jus’ a finger-lickin’ minute, ‘ere! I’m the ‘ero – ya can’t bamp me orf, not like that!” 

“Uv courze…! Egen, Bred, yo air ebzolutely raight. Ze Emprah weejez to zee yo…”

Zoltan gradually swung the weapon at Bagel

“‘EE eez ze eccurzed ZPY! ‘Ee’ll do!”

Out of a piercingly-loud, deadly flash, Bagel yelped and fell limp into the Battleforce Commander-turned-blogger’s arms.

“Ah, Jeez…! Stay wiv me, kid… …”

As your forlorn hero collapsed to the ground, clutching the lad in his trembling arms, a brood of Zandokan guards ran over to encircle him. Without warning, they proceeded to pummel the poor dude viciously with their lances and rifles.

“WETT! DOLTZ! Zat eez ze gret Zan Doka’z prize! ‘E muzt NUT – Ay reppit: NUT – be ‘armed! BECK URF!”  

Commander Zmutti Zubizmaar strode nonchalantly in, and – seeing Zoltan posing triumphantly, and the prize captive hunched dejectedly on the ground – couldn’t resist wandering over to have a quick gloat. He squatted, and squeezed the crestfallen Earthman’s throat.

“Heh heh,  wunce murr, yo aire BEATEN, “galacteec heeeruh”! Aah… Bred, Bred, Bred….”

Having stared too long at the still-crackling blast point on the young Rebel’s right pec, the Cakecharmer looked up with teary eyes, shaking the Kriegzlide Commander’s hand away, and defiantly muttered:

“I’m the one in da middle, ya drunken ‘obo!” 

“HA…! Zteel curzed wiv zat eenfairnal “Oomarn zpeeret.” Zad…” 

“Whut aboat zeez wun…?” Zoltan chirped, prodding Bagel’s still body with his boot.

“Nur, leaf eet – zeez planet payz foolz ta remurve feelth frurm ze ztreetz… Ve hef ze wun ve need – yez… Bred, ve hef yo exactly vhere yo jhood be: URN YER KNEEEZ! Broken, helplezz, hopelezz…  UZELEZZ…! Bred ta ze burne – NUR MURR! Vot duzzeet feeeel laike to be a LEWZAH, tweetfez…?”

“They say it’s difficult at first, but I’m sure a big, Imperial jackass like you will soon get the ‘ang of it-“

“Uff…” the Commander grumbled, and shot back onto his feet. “Yo ‘ombrez! Poot zeez comedien aburd ze Zoulzukker… 

“Ve VEEL tek heem ZTRET TA ZE EMPRAH KNOW!!… …” 

 

Luke Skywalker: “I’m endangering the mission, I shouldn’t have come…”

 

“Ymir’s Frosty Beard!”: The Weird And Wonderful Realms Of Bronze Age Comics

Because You Demanded It! Brad Gets Lost! But In Which Realm…?

Man-Wolf: “Good Lord! We were on a flying mountain!”

Garth Of Mournhelm: “Calling on yourself already, Stargod? Our world functions on a higher spatio-temporal plane than your own. More things are possible here than you have ever dreamed!” 

Welcome back, True Believers!

Oh, don’t mind the mess.

On this stormy night, your tour guide here is busy supervising his rabble of minions to sort out the multifarious All-Colour delights that have accumulated over this past year. So, what theme for this particular Bronze Age Bonanza? 

During these (dark) times, when most of us would just like to escape, plunging into pulsating pages of fantasy seem the most reassuring answer – why not escape with Brad? Another scintillating variety show has been assembled; mocha and cake await.

Fasten your seatbelts – the awesomeness has been set in an upright position.  

Now, let’s head along the Rainbow Bridge to my all-time fave Otherworldly destination: 

 

Asgard! And – hey! – Olympia too?!

“Thou wouldst hurl skyfire at him who did direct the forging of his son’s own storming-bringing hammer?! Verily, such effrontery doth cry out unto the heavens for punishment!” – Odin All-Father.  

Yes, yes, YES! 

After several months of tracking other cosmic goodies elsewhere, my attention inevitably falls back to the God Of Thunder –

with that legendary run by Big John Buscema especially topping mt shopping list. 

The Mighty Thor is one of my most beloved series; thus, now, more than ever, my scanners have been reprogrammed to seek out anything and everything Asgardian, especially as Thor: Ragnarok-fever gathers apace.

In The Mighty Thor #289 (November 1979) “Look Homeward, Asgardian!” – brought to us by the ever-reliable pen of Roy Thomas, and the ever-exquisite pencils of Keith Pollard – Thor, after seeing his father kneeling before the Celestials, angrily hurls himself at the One Above All. Instead of striking him, he is instantly transported into Olympia. Zuras tells Thor that he has 24 hours to find another solution to the Celestials predicament, before the Uni-Mind will attack. Meanwhile, back in Asgard, Karnilla weeps over the body of Balder, then speaks to Frigga about her not being Thor’s real mother.

Jeez! This is a cosmic soap opera! 

Unlike the sentimental tosh we are bombarded with on the telly, this is all engrossing reading. Its one of those ishs where you are spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting an awesome page to accompany my rambunctious ruminations, but little can compare to the sheer majesty of Odin riding on his eight-hooved steed: Sleipnir to the realm of Olympus: 

And then we move onto:

 

Lemuria.

“I’ve had enough! There is still time before the wizard Athmar Phong returns at dawn… I will not be in his power!” – Thongor.

From Thor to Thongor! 

Sadly, this is the only clever line you will find in this section.

It has been an absolute joy catching up with Man-Wolf – one of the more intriguing characters to initially spark this craving for classic Bronze Age comics. Unfortunatey, the series carrying his adventures: Creatures On The Loose was cancelled, with two episodes of the Star-God epic failing to see the light of day.

Having searched for earlier ishs: #s 11-17 – containing stories featuring Gullivar Jones (a precursor of John Carter Of Mars), we had to make do with a dose of sword-and-sorcery – #23 (May 1973) in the series: Thongor: Warrior of Lost Lemuria is based on “Thieves Of Zangabal” by Lin Carter. Th cover of “Where Broods The Demon!” features the promising blurb: sword-and-sorcery as only magnificent Marvel can present  it!”

At one point during my teens, sword-and-sopcery was all one craved, but even back then – “By Gorm’s Beard!” – trying to get into this particular ish would still have posed such an unwanted challenge. No point in adding the names of the writer and artist – you will not have heard of them. The art is below-average even by Marvel’s lofty standards, and trying to find suitable speech bubbles to quote proved to be an unnecessary chore. At one point, that green monstrosity (depicted on the cover) blurts:

“I weary of this, fleshthing! I have grown bored!”

Jeez, took the words right outta my mouth, Crocface…

Brad would much rather get stuck in: 

The Shadow Realm!

…than have to sit through another ish in this series.

Wonder Man: “I’m sorry, Mr Bertolini. It’s just that being Wonder Man, it’s hard for me to pretend those cannonballs are hurting me when I can hardly feel them.”

Mr Bertolini: “True, Signore Wonder Man, but I hired you because I thought you could a-act. And-a these cannonballs don’t grow on grapevines, neither! That was the seventh take! I‘m-a disgusted. Let’s-a break for lunch…” 

“At dawn today, our surveillamce planes detected what was apparently a… city materializing in the middle of the Mediterranean. We were sent to investigate when…

“…a tidal wave of hugh proportions swelled up and carried us several miles to this island.”

– so explains the confused captain of a US aircrafl carrier who encounters an otherworldly city: the Shadow Realm, reappearing in the ocean two millennia after it mysteriously vanished. 

In 1981, this series consisted of critically-panned fillers, However, during this period, Genial Gene “The Dean” Colan contributed his legendary art. Glad to say that the monumental ish: #211 – in which “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” were trimmed from eight members down to a combo of six – happened to be my very first Avengers mag!

Twenty years later, it is equally thrilling to have tracked down #207 (May 1981); “Beyond A Shadow…” is an astounding tale of science-fantasy. 

Fortunately, already in Italy is my comedic-double-act-of-the-moment: Wonder-Man (making a spaghetti western) and The Beast (working on his tan and letting the local signorinas stroke his blue fur and what-not). Pretty soon, all the Avengers are on the scene. In a touching interlude (spread out across four wonderful pages) Shadow-Lord tells Wonder-Man’s girlfriend that he is a member of an ancient tribe who “gradually learned to control certain forces of nature.” Feared and shunned by others, they – and their powers – withdrew into the obscurity of history.

But!

Sheesh, there’s always one, isn’t there?!

“Over the aeons, we became aware of a seemingly immortal force of awesome destruction – one who could potentially plunge mankind into an irreversible slide to its doom.”  

Such a tragic end: the Avengers are too late to realise that Shadow-Lord was just a Guardian; the real threat (the one he gave up mortalityand his love – to thwart) comes in the form of The Berserker: that immortal force who – having already conquered the world once in the guise of an ancient Roman emperor – no doubt proves his formidable villainry in the much-sought-after #208! 

All this, AND the Beast bedecked in Hawaiian shirt and shades:

“Oh my stars and garters!”

 

And then it goes all mystic as we are swept into:

The Unreal Realm Inside The Orb Of Agamotto(!)

“The slightest touch of my realm dispels life within you! The sizeable rock which smote the other spirit dispatched it almost instantly, as you saw! Even now, the submicroscopic particles always present in space cut through you…” – Death. 

“Inside was a world of unreality, where a prattling caterpillar told me I had ventured too near illusion in my escape from death, dooming me to this shadowy realm!” 

One of the undeniable pleasures to be gained from this hunt for yesteryears’ awesomeness is catching up with Doctor Strange.

Last year – to prepare myself for Bennybatch’s dip into the MCU – getting acquainted with the Master Of Th Mystic Arts seemed like the obvious – and somewhat tantalising – treat.

But!

By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth!

Talk about getting MORE than you bargained for! Steve Englehart’s scripts are a revelation, and – yes! – the realism evoked by Gene “The Dean” Colan’s pencils is just as magical as anything The Master Of Mystic Arts can conjure.

In this study of the transdimensional realms, Ish #4: “Where Bound’ries… Decay” (October 1974) is brought to us by the equally brilliant artwork of Frank Brunner. Here, by using the necromancy of the Orb of Agamotto to help heal wounds inflicted by Silver Dagger, “suddenly, grotesque tentacles shot forth from the Orb, entangling me, drawing me… inside!”  

Blimey! Never a dull moment with Stephen!

In my restless pursuit of Bronze Age comics, who knew that a descent into the horrific Realm Of Death could make for such an engrossing read?

It is amazing how swiftly Doctor Strange has become one of my fave characters in all o’ Marveldom, and – Oshtur be praised! – this ish is a veritable classic, and would grace anybody’s collection (if you can lay your hands on it). 

Galador! And Wraithworld (in the Dark Nebula)

“…For Galactus has said before, and shall say again, that Galactus is supreme unto himself! Galactus is Galactus! That is all any lesser being ever need know!” – (guess who? 😉 ) Galactus

Regular Followers will know the squidgy and sentimental soft spot that Brad holds for ROM: Th Greatest of the Spaceknights, celebrated in this Post. 

The Marvel Milestone recognised as #25 witnessed ROM’s dramatic return to his beloved homeworld. AND is one of the single most amazing ishs to ever pass through these grubby mitts.

But nothing prepared this blogger for what would transpire in #26 – GALACTUS – YES! GALACTUS, the gargantuan World-Devourer – through his despicable herald: Terrax The Tamer, announces that Galador itself has whetted his dreaded appetite! Thus, the Spaceknights assemble to enact one of the Bronze Age’s most epic battles.

Yet it is the extraordinarily impressive #27 (February 1982) that tickles MY taste buds here. Delivered by the consistently-impressive dynamic duo of Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema: “Turnabout is Fair Play!” witnesses th deal that ROM has made: taking the Devourer of Worlds to the Dark Nebula, and thus rid the Spaceknights of the homeworld of their sworn enemy: the Dire Wraiths. 

But!

Wraithworld is unlike any planet Galactus has ever had to deal with before! 

“Rivers of molten metal scar the surface… Ash as black as night sweeps like a pestilence through the darkling sky!” he complains bitterly.

Moreover, vicious acid rain not only eats away at Galador-forged plandanium armour, but the relentless torrents corrode the mighty Galactus himself and melts his Energy Convertor into elemental slag! Having turned his impatient attention to the Black Sun, Galactus is then set upon by a flock of giant Deathwings: “sorcerous conjurations of a galaxy where all physical laws are ruled by magic most black!”

Not surprisingly, this ish holds a reserved place in my collection.

As one elated Spaceknight herein cries out: “Gods of Golden Galador, yes! YES!”  

Starshine: “Will he consume the Black Sun… or be consumed by it?”

Javelin: “Or will both perish in the attempt?”

ROM: “We dare not remain on Wraithworld to find out, Javelin! Not even our cyborg armour would survive the ensuing cataclysm!”

 

Last BUT BY NO MEANS LEAST(!) comes one of those pinnacles of Bronze Age excellence: 

The Other Realm (And Earth’s Moon)

“Yes! Leap at me, carrion! Come be kissed by my shining hand!” – Duna. 

Aha! THIS is more like it!

Marvel Premiere Featuring Man-Wolf #45 offers a more satisfying dash of sword-and-sorcery than that Thongor could ever dare to dream… 

In fact, this is the first-part-of-two that should have appeared in Creatures On The Loose. It is really gratifying to see David Kraft and George Perez re-unite to conclude this classic cosmic ceper from beyond the stars – previous episodes were reviewed here:

The concluding instalment (in Marvel Premiere Featuring Man-Wolf #46) is equally awesome. 

Just seeing Wolfie and his otherdimensional buddies on (flying) horseback jousting in mid-air with the cadaverous horde of Arisen Tyrk is perfect to while away any rainy day. This sums up – in the most groovy manner possible – what Bronze Age comics could deliver at the height of their creative powers.

Mesmerizingly illustrated, this ish not only provides a swell escape from my daily toils and troubles, but inspires me to conjure up my own weird and wonderful worlds. 

On that positive note, here ends this Bronze Age Bonanza!

Keep it cosmic!

“You crummy skeletons think you can pick us off that easily? Eat my fire, bonebags!” – Gorjoon. 

 

“The Female Man”: Issues Of Gender And Feminism In SF

Hey Man, The Future Is Female…

“After reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s work, I began to think about how women could explore alternate biologies and societies for their benefit. That’s the sign of good science fiction” – Marge Piercy.  

“The enormous appeal of science fiction is the ability to change just one or two small variables and see what could happen,” says writer Marge Piercy, whose 1976 novel: Woman On The Edge Of Time has become a feminist SF classic. “Up until [The Left Hand Of Darkness (1969)] most science fiction had assumed binary gender throughout the universe. She writes of a world where gender is irrelevant and sexuality completely fluid…” 

Aeons ago, when Brad was… oh, about that high, there was an easy peasy way to tell the difference between boys and girls: 

boys loved sci-fi –girls did not = it was that simple.

Nowadays, of course, such a statement sounds so trite and patronising… not to mention simple-minded. Encouragingly, more than ever before, there is active female participation in science fiction, whether it be reading novels or comics, or – better still – producing a new wave of critically-and-commercially-acclaimed material. 

As this Post will show, not only has the number of female SF writers grown, but the genre has always had a healthy history of influential female involvement.

Recalling those longlost schooldays, it would now appear that those attempts by girls to run off with our Star Wars figures signified concerted efforts to break barriers and expectations and try to infiltrate this exotic-looking Boy’s Club. Back then, of course, the very notion of ACTUALLY TALKING TO GIRLS about comics, spaceships, transdimensional engineering and the inner workings of

Mennotor 430 Neural Inhibitors seemed so… far out – as unlikely as…

as BBC’s Doctor Who ever changing into a woman…

“I wish my successor, whoever he or she might be, the best of luck… I think it might be quite nice to have a woman…” – Tom Baker.

Having established that the Doctors could transmogrify into another aspect of this particular character, then there was no real limit to the number of Doctors or the sex of the Doctors,” remarked Patrick Troughton, the second actor to play this particular character (between 1966-69).

In July, the biggest SF news happened to be the announcement of the next regen(d)eration of Gallifrey’s most famous Time Lord; this year’s Christmas special will mark the debut of Jodie Whittaker – the first woman to portray the Doctor since the series began in 1963. There came a point during the most recent season in which the current Doctor (played by lifelong-Whovian Peter Capaldi) explains – to his gobsmacked companion – how his race long ago transcended the whole gender-thing, and you think – aha! – better prepare for something pretty unprecedented here… 

When avidly watching the series back in the early ’80s, this boy – who constructed his own sonic screwdriver, used his own wardrobe as his TARDIS, and brought Teddy Edwards along as his own companion (aah bless!) – would have baulked at the prospect of having an actress in the titular role; now, of course, that prospect is in keeping with the fresh and innovative nature of the show and should be warmly welcomed.     

But Jodie will need a truly exceptional writer to make her tenure work…

On the threshold of making SF TV history, Whittaker said she felt “beyond excited to begin” reinvigorating the BBC’s longest-running SF series. Certainly, Verity Lambert – the producer responsible for bringing Doctor Who to television screens in 1963, would have been absolutely delighted with this news…

“[The Female Man is] a wonderfully inventive novel – this interplanetary exploration of feminist inner space, this sophisticated, playful fantasy book is, of course, all about reality” – Phyllis Chester.   

“You simply can’t underplay how ground-breaking it was,” remarked Yasmin Khan – advisor to the “Into the Unknown: A Journey Thro Science Fiction,” a major exhibition held in London this past summer – referring to Sultana’s Dream, written as early as 1905, in Bengal, by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain (then aged just 25). “Raised in an upper-class Muslim family, she was denied a social education, like many women at that time.” 

Appalled by the social injustice inflicted on women, she created “Ladyland”: a technologically advanced matriarchy where women monopolize all freedoms, while men are secluded in the “madana,” a play on the Urdu word zenana (women’s quarters).

Imagined futures, and speculative concepts – the very styff on which science fiction has always thrived – should be enhanced and enriched by adding female perspectives.

The Female Man by Joanna Russ is a principal go-to game-changer in feminist SF, conducting a powerful and uncompromising critique, both of society and the patriarchal framework of sci-fi itself. Her writing offers “strong, witty female protagonists whose understanding supersedes the status games and repressive obsessions that occupy the other characters, often representatives of far-future societies that parody our own.”

Apart from confronting issues of genger and sexuality, as far as publishers were concerned, the matter of the author’s sex – and her sexual orientation – were considered a hindrance at that time. Nevertheless, the novel helped to begin tear down boundaries not just in SF, but in women’s literature in general. 

Its status as an all-time masterpiece has been recognised by Gollancz who fortunately included in their SF Masterworks series. Thus, unlike the other titles mentioned here, The Female Man CAN be found in my local library… 

“Traditionally, people turn to science fiction in times of political crisis.”

Cue The Handmaid’s Tale (1986) by Margaret Atwood, a dystopian noveland now Emmy-award-winning TV serialso timely and monumental, it deserves its own blog post…

“I’m a pessimist if I’m not careful, a feminist, a Black… an oil-and-water combination of ambition, laziness, insecurity, certainty, and drive” – Octavia Butler.

“Considered one of the most creative, unique, and innovative science fiction writers of her generation,” is how feminist scholar Professor Rebecca Hankins describes Octavia Butler (1947-2006) – one of a scant number of African-American writers working in this genre. “Never one to sugar coat our existence, Butler’s writing always centres on women as independent, fierce, and unapologetic heroines.”

Her work also helped eradicate the genre’s entrenched science fiction image as “male, pale and stale.” She created a shape-shifting, gender-fluid creature in Wild Seed; a post-apocalyptic mute in Dawn; and the determined daughter in the Patternist series.

Therefore (one abhors having to admit this), because she does not fit the white male norm expected in the genre, this explains precisely why this SF “aficionado” has been deprived of all knowledge pertaining to this marvellous talent for so long. Moreover, it is a crying shame that her gender and ethnicity have proved a hindrance to her seemingly-deserved exalted status among the SF hierarchy. 

As for actually getting round to reading her masterworks? 

Well, not yet… 

It comes as no shock to learn that her books are unavailable in the half-dozen public libraries near me…

You want Arthur C. Clarke? 

He’s right here. 

Itching for Philip K. Dick? 

He’s over there. 

Do they have Isaac Asimov?

Are you kidding me? A whole shelf is devoted to his sizeable back catalogue…

Dread to ask the librarians if they stock ANY Octavia Butler:

“Oh, I’m sorry, we don’t have him…”

“Her works are an ongoing inspiration,” Professor Hankins continued: “…not only to black women writers, but to all of us to push the boundaries and imagine new fairer worlds.”

“Science fiction has monsters and spaceships; speculative fiction could really happen” – Margaret Atwood.

And while we’re on the subject of gender, you may be delighted to learn that – in the spirit of these enlightened fluid and flexible times – Brad will be changing gender as well. Henceforth, address all e-mails/Comments to Angelina.

Seriously though, an increasing number of media work is geared towards women writing exclusively for an all-female readership. Look at the subjects requested: history, psychology, sociologynothing gender normative about them. Nonetheless, in order to get more work in the online 21st century environment, this is the measure one must take to ensure a steady supply of cake in one’s larder…

*

Finally, let’s finish on an amusing – and thoroughly English – note.

That legend of prime-time evening entertainment: Kenny Everett provided the very first time this bunny saw any man in drag. They must have had a marvellous time making these shows – the production crew couldn’t help but laugh.

There are no SF-related vids here, but there may never come a more appropriate opportunity to show this classic sketch.

While compiling this Post, it was heartening to learn that Billy Connolly is due to receive a knighthood. 

Well, huzzah! Arise, Sir Billy!

Or should that be Dame…?

 

“Life? It’s One Big Phantasmagoria”: Harry Dean Stanton: A Tribute

The Great Harry Dean Stanton Has Passed Away, Aged 91

“There’s nobody like Harry Dean. Everyone loved him. And with good reason. He was a great actor (actually beyond great) – and a great human being – so great to be around him!” – David Lynch. 

After the overwhelming number of losses we suffered from the movie and music worlds last year, there would be no more heartrending Obituaries on this site. But after learning of the passing of great supporting actor Harry Dean Stanton yesterday, the opportunity to relate what his phenomenal body of work means to me should not go unmentioned.

Born in 1926 in rural Kentucky, after serving as in the Navy during the Second World War, he dropped out of studying Journalism at college – don’t blame you, Harry (that route didn’t become one of my best life-choices) – to attend acting classes at the Pasadena Playhouse in 1949.

After gaining small parts in Western TV shows, he was able to make a poignant mark in a classic Paul Newman movie. Cool Hand Luke (1967) is one of the most powerful dramas ever produced. One of its numerous highlights is Harry’s moving rendition of that ol’ gospel song: Just a Closer Walk with Thee:

With his “weatherbeaten visage and anti-heroic mien” he lent considerable gravitas to a wide range of cool movies. Harry Dean Stanton was one of Kelly’s Heroes (1970); he played a gay hitchhiker in Two Lane Blacktop, Monte Hellman’s existential road movie from 1971; and – goddamnit!things ain’t workin’ out” for outlaw Homer Van Meter, fleeing Ben Johnson’s G-Men in the brilliant Dillinger (1973):

“Here kitty kitty! Ah… kitty crap…” – Brett. 

Besides a brief appearance in The Godfather Part II, he got involved in another five-star masterpiece during th ’70s. Ridley Scott cast him as a crew member aboard the ill-fated Nostromo in Alien (1979)

At first, he felt reluctant to commit to a “monster movie,” but still managed to create an iconic hangdog cosmic labourer with – let’s face it – the coolest shirt beyond the stars… right?: 

In 1981, Harry played Brain in John Carpenter’s cult classic: Escape From New York.

Let’s not forget – how can we?! – his speed-sniffing car repossessor in Repo Man (1984) and Molly Ringwald’s hopeless dad in Pretty In Pink (1985).

He played St Paul in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (1987); Toot Toot in the Stephen King adaptation The Green Mile (1999); and, appeared in several projects by David Lynch, including Wild at Heart, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and, latterly, The Straight Story and Inland Empire.

“…You did scare the hell out of some pigeons though. Big and green, and buck-assed nude… You an alien…? From outer space, an alien?” – Harry The Security Guard. 

“I needed to get Banner from the horror of what he had done… He needs somebody who will just accept him,” said Joss Whedon in an interview to promote his blockbuster The Avengers (2012).

Having come face-to-face with the classic xenomorph, Harry would easily accept a green goliath in downtown Manhattan quite well. It was a pleasant surprise to see Harry Dean Stanton in a sweet – albeit brief – cameo in The Avengers (2012).

Harry Dean Stanton in the MCU? Well why on Earth not?! 

His participation came through The Avengers’ Director of Photography, who had just been making a documentary about this cult supporting actor. Overwhelmed at having the great man on board, Whedon ended up writing 13 pages devoted to this small and surreal scene, knowing that much of the filmed material would end up on the cutting room floor anyway. 

“I was like, oh, this is great, Banner falls into a Coen Brothers movie!” Whedon continued. “The fact that they [the producers] even let me keep that concept and that we actually landed Harry Dean to play it was very exciting.”

“And besides, to work with Harry Dean and to quiz him about Alien and The Missouri Breaks? What a privilege.”

“He ran through the flames toward the only two people he loved… but they were gone. His arms were burning, and he threw himself outside and rolled on the wet ground. Then he ran. He never looked back at the fire. He just ran. He ran until the sun came up and he couldn’t run any further. And when the sun went down, he ran again. For five days he ran like this until every sign of man had disappeared…” – Travis Henderson.

There was indeed a “peculiar kind of sadness,” about Harry Dean Stanton – mix of vulnerability, honesty and laconic perseverance. 

This would appear most evident in Paris Texas (1984) – his only lead role – perhaps the movie he will be best remembered for, and certainly the one with which he was most fond. Having got drunk with writer Sam Shepard, Stanton found himself offered the lead in Wim Wenders’ Palme d’Or winning gem.

When it came to choosing a suitable clip to honour his Lifetime Achievements, this one – obviouslyhad to be selected.

Brad and his father instantly fell for this mesmerising road movie. Dad enjoyed Ry Cooder’s music even more. Within this enigmatic movie lay some astonishing similarities: both he and Travis found themselves as father to a charming blond moppet relatively late in life.

After The Original Brad became One With The Force, this song remained on my mind – and in my heart – for many months after…

Very few supporting actors could elicit laughter, gasps, screams and tears from me, but with this fella from Kentucky, you could be certain you were going to see something really special. Every time.

Thanks for everything, Harry…

“After all these years, I finally got the part I wanted to play. If I never did another film after Paris, Texas I’d be happy” – Harry Dean Stanton.

 

Handle With Flair: Play it Again, Lexi!

Girl Power! With A Flash Of Fartlighter…

“Out here, everything hurts. You wanna get through this? Do as I say” – Imperator Furiosa.

Buff Encounter!

Before the dreaded Zandokan Empire can release an Official Gloat to announce the Upgrade of the formidable flagship: The Imperial Ztodgeztonker, Bagel Looney – that reckless spy of The Resistancehas managed to infiltrate and sabotage its primary weapon systems. During his escape, he has gone “missing” on Wotsit IV, in the Midlanoware System. 

Emperor Zan Doka himself has dispatched his deadly Kriegzlide Killzquad to Wotsit to terminate the infiltrator. 

In a daring counter-move – not content to hang around and play pinball machines with the rest of Brad Company – Second Officer: Lexi Waldorf has snuck away in her own dubiously-acquired Zandokan scout-ship (Codename: The Femme Fatale). 

Before anyone can say: “It was just a question of which one of them would reach him first,” she has been cornered and disarmed in one warehouse on Wotsit, by the shifty Randy Flapjack and his gang – Blimey Charley! This looks like the end, already!

May Dyzan have mercy upon those poor miscreants… 

 

“You won’t be the first lunk’ead I’ve KO’ed, Randy, an’ th way your cohorts are eyin’ me up, you sure won’t be the last!” Lexi yelled, her patience well and truly spent.

“Hey, Lex, take five, doll! Why don’t we-“

“No, we DON’T, Flapjack… Huh, you really expect to walk outta here after callin’ me “doll,” fella?” she scowled bitterly, running a nervous hand through her smokey hair. 

“You’d better watch it, darlin’! It’s about ta get a whole lotta ugly-“

“Uff… “darling”… … Who ya tryin’ ta kid?! It’s already too darned unsightly! Never been confronted by such a sorry bunch of lameass dipwits this side o’ Beta Lugosi before… sheesh!” Lexi replied sternly, despite the hoodlums creeping ominously closer.

“Before we get started, fellas, lemme play this – you remember Brad? That Hero of the Battleforce? As groovy as fudge, but as thick as a plank; he gave me this killa tune – it’s better to break bozos like you by…”

“Doin’ the “tough chick” act, eh? Huh, that’ll be the day!” 

“Well, boychick, that day has come, so whatever you got, now’s the time to…

BRING IT ON!” 

“Look, man. I only need to know one thing: where they are” – Private Vasquez. 

Nursing a slight cut on her forearm, Lexi doubled back into the bathroom. As she entered an incongruously spick-and-span wash area, a certain Battleforce Commander-turned-blogger nonchalantly strolled out from one of the shower cubicles, frantically drying his blond tresses. With a hand towel.

“Commander…?! What the blazes are YOU doing here?!” she cried incredulously.  

“Hey! ‘Iya, Lex, ‘ow ya doin’?” he chirped, standing at a sink. “I saw ya shoot off – craved some adventure, so thought I’d tagalong after ya, like-”  

“No, what are you doing HERE? This is the Ladies’ Room, fer cryin’ out loud!” she protested, trying not to be distracted by the Battleforce Commander’s buff profile. 

“Aha…! That explains why it’s so… CLEAN in ‘ere. And the taps work. Jeez, it’s jus’ the same ‘ere as back on Revlon – the Mens’ room is locked there an’ all! This is bang out’a order – ya dahn’ wan’ me smellin’ like a moofmilkah ‘board the Calista now, do ya?!”  

“You can say THAT again, Brad. So… you’re more of a traditional galactic hero: you much prefer to drip-dry?” 

“Eh…?”

“Look here: Xtra Large Bath Towels are in the cabinet under the sink-“

“Blimey! They’ve got towels… provided?! Tha’s swell… Ya got soap an’ all! I really DIG it ‘ere; this place is a revelation! Ah yeah, I’m usin’ the Ladies facili’ies from now on-“

“Whoa, NOT in the buff you’re not!” 

“Hey, if ya were in any other Company, as token female YOU would ‘ave ta do the nude scene, so I-“

“Nah-AH! DON’T. TURN Around, Mister! Keep yer nuggets where I CAN’T see ’em, fella!” 

“Ha ha! As ya wish-” 

“Grudammit, Commander! This was supposed to be MY mission; will people be talking about my ingenuity, tenacity, badassery? My vivacity even?! NO, they’ll only be concentrating on YOUR firm and shapely buns – bah!!”

“Firm and shapely, eh…? Groovy. Note ta self: switch ta smug-mode,” Brad’s big dopey grin faded instantly. “Soz, Lex… seriously though, I wuz worried about Bagel; he may be completely orf ‘is nut, but ‘e’s a special lil bunny – would ‘ate ta lose ‘im…”

“Yeah, this IS the Sector where our sensors lost trace of him… Hey, look, I’m sorry too – you actually pulled yourself away from your blasted pinball machines to watch over me… okay, you ponsed off to take a shower, but I really appreciate that you’re helpin’ me here, now…”

“No probs – ‘ey, I’ve checked aht the guard ‘ouse, mess quarters, and the… (ahem) bar, but there’s nah sign o’ oor kid anywheres… I’m gonna ‘ave a butcher’s in the… erm, canteen. We’ll meet back ‘ere within the ‘our…! Besta’ luck, Lex. You be extra careful out there, ya dig? Oh, an’ if ya run inta that lil nerk: Frothy Fassblender, giv’im me best regards,” he winked.

“Gotcha – you be careful too, Brad; this place is crawling with that Zandokan garrison. I’ll check out the Admin. Office – see if they’ve arrested him, and – and fer goodness SAKE, Commander! Put some pants ON! That’s an ORDER! Away with your “weapon,” I mean you no harm…”

“I see you’ve managed to get your shirt off…” – Sir Alexander Dane. 

No sooner had Brad‘s Second Officer broken into the Admin. Office, a couple of cronies crept in behind her.

“Well well well, if it isn’t Waffle Falafel and Frothy Fassblender: the original tosspots! How ya doin’, fellas?” 

“Now lissen ‘ere, girly, it’s lucky that jackass Commander o’ yers ain’t here, otherwise I’d… Just what are you looking for, exactly?” Frothy snapped brusquely.

“Don’t try to act “tough” with me, Frothy – it just doesn’t suit you… No, seriously, I’ve got urgent business with Tenko Tash’vaa-

“Oh yeah?! Ha ha! Ya really think Tash’vaa himself is gonna see YOU-?!” Frothy ‘fessed in disbelief.

“Ya gotta be-!”

“Kidding…? An’ I’ll tell you another thing: the Cakecharmer himself IS here on Wotsit, so you’d better-“

“WHA-?!” Waffle wailed in disbelief. “Fart’s here?! You’ve seen ‘im?!”

“Oof, just about ALL of him, in fact. He-“

“Where?!” yelled Frothy. “Bring ‘im ‘ere! Then we can deal wiv the pair of ya together!”

“Nah-ah! First things first, fella – Brad wanted me to pass on a message…” Lexi stuck her index finger in the air. “Are you listening carefully? Only gonna pass this once.”

“Yeah, you bet! Give it to me, sugar!” 

“As you wish, dickwad…” she snarled, and promptly rammed that finger straight into his bronchus.

As his torso creased down, his nose “collided” with her rapidly ascending knee. The woeful henchman instantly flung back, slamming onto the desk spine-first.

Waffle waited and worried, but Fassblender didn’t flinch or fumble. 

“Hey, Waffle, don’t just gawp there – come here and I’ll make sure you two can spend the night in the hospital together-“

“Ah, jeez, NO! Please, no! Why don’t I just tell you what you want to know?!”

“Ha! NOW yer talkin’…”

“Why don’t you put her in charge?!” – Private Hudson.

“AND just WHERE do you think you’re going?!” the mighty Tenko Tash’vaa – the Vichyguerran extremist-turned-Imperial-stooge, a seven-foot beast, dressed in full battle-armour – hollered as he reared his ugly green head into the fray, regarding Lexi’s presence with dismay. 

“So, just where IS that Battleforce jackass? I show up to talk down to him but what does he do instead? He sends… uff, a woman…”   

“Weh-heh-hell…! We’ve only just met and already this rotten chauv’s given me a grudge ta bear…” Lexi growled uptightly. “Huh, what’s your PROBLEM, eh, Toadface?”

The alien chauvinist just yawned.

“Normally, I’d just be hangin’ out at some mall, upgrading my wardrobe, but since your nasty Zandokan chums came on the scene, I’ve had to resort to this… rough business-“

“Enough chat! I will get my underlings to sort you out…”

“No need – Flapjack an’ his bum-chums are all inhalin’ dust on your warehouse floor… Huh, what IS it with you super-villains? How do you expect to rule the galaxy if you can’t get any half-decent henchmen?! You want a fight, I’ll grudgingly oblige…”

“Charming to the last, but you won’t last long – I’m too big-“

“No worries, Lofty, you just provide more places to hit, that’s all…” 

As she wisecracked, out of the corner of her eye she became aware of yet another henchman trudging into the room.

“Actually, girly,” Tenko snarled, “I am getting tired of you and your… attitude-!”

“‘Ey, man,” this latest arrival drawled. “Tha’s nah way ta talk ta a lady…”

“At last!” Lexi cried with relief. “One of your nerks shows some RESPECT… Where you come from, fella? Who- WHOA! BRAD! Didn’t recognise you with yer kit ON…” 

Barely Lukewarm – Tenko’s dodgy right-hand “man” – gasped, rapidly wagging his finger between the two heroes: “Are you… two…?!?!” 

“I dunno…” Lexi glanced casually at the Battleforce Commander-turned-blogger. “Are we… …?”

“I don’t know who you are or where you came from, but from now on you’ll do as I tell you, okay?” – Princess Leia Organa.

“SIR!” cried Waldo Phlegmthrower, one of the other loons, lurking at the back of the room. “Incoming Message on the Imperial channel!”

“Stand aside, you nauseating lovebirds! Waldo: ensure that I can send a clear message to the Empire!” Tash’vaa stormed impatiently, as he strode maniacally over to a control console.

Thus – on the main portal – opened the holographic image of a bloated, scarred and pockmarked mess of a face leering at everybody present. The hoodlums shuddered; Lexi grimaced; but Brad carried on gobbling a hefty wodge of ginger cake, totally nonplussed. 

And so appeared the grotesque visage of none other than Zmutti Zubizmaar – thoroughly repugnant Commander of the Kriegzlide Killzquad.

“Greeteenkz, Comrade Tenko! Vot nooz- Vell, vell, VELL! Vot on Votzeet doh ve hef ‘ERE?!” he hollered hysterically. “Ve come fer ze accurzed zpy, but faind – eenztead – ze leg end ‘eemzelf: ze Kekchairmair!! Veh-heh-hell… vot a turnip fer ze bookz! ‘Ow ya doin’, Bred? Remembair may nem…?” 

“Umm… gimme a min- AH! Dick Move, I presume?”

“Grrr… NURRR! Durn’t yo remembair our ultaircation on Alpha Indi II?!” 

“Yeah yeah, do I ‘ell! Jeez… Ya ambush me Company, ya cripple me ship, AN’ ya ‘ave the NERVE ta confiscate me cake, fer goodness sake, flamin’ Nora…! Even if ya exile me to the ends o’ the cosmos, ya really think I can forget an ubernerk loike YOU, eh, Zubi? NOT gonna say it’s groovy ta see ya ‘gain… ‘cos it ain’t… What’s yer game this time, tosspot…?” 

“(Heh heh, we cool – Ay’ll let zat wun pazz…) Hef yo found ze eenfeeltraitair yet, Urfleenk?”

“Nah… we ‘aven’t; would ya Adam-an’-Eve it – we ‘aven’t…”

“Ya knur… I belieeeve yo, Bred. Nur worries, fool; ez zoon ez may Killzquad tek command uv dat Zector, ve VEEL find heem. Y’knur, our gret flagjheep got vukkt wunce beefur-“

“I should know – I wuz there!”

“Hmmmm…” The Killzquad Commander stared, long, hard and contemptuously at the Battleforce Commander before spitting:

“Tash’vaa! Yo veel huld ze Urfleenkz urnteel Ay erriv – eez dat urndairztood? Hef nur feeeear! May Killzquad veel deeeeal wiv ze zaboteur-zcurm… ull een good tem!

“ETA: fifteen Eempeerial meenuts!

“OVAIR END OAT!!” 

Carter Burke: “Ripley, I… You know, I expected more from you. I thought you’d be smarter than this!”

Ellen Ripley: “I’m happy to disappoint you…” 

“So… Brad: great “hero,” hmm…? I think not – you still haven’t found your very own spy…” Tenko Tash’vaa continued. “Take away your pecs and wisecracks and what are you…? NOTHING! Your “reputation”… heh, is vastly overrated. I will-” 

“Hey, man,” Lexi interjected. “That’s no way to talk to a groovy galactic hero…!”

“Aww, bless yer heart, Lex,” Brad whispered. “This plank really appreciates it-”

Lexi spun round: “Aow, scheisse… You HEARD that?! Soz, Commander…”  

“No worries, lov… Ya really think me buns are THAT shapely…?” 

“Basta cosi!!” yelled Tenko, waving an impatient hand. “GAH! You’re BOTH insufferable! Alright, you men – dispose of the Terrans!” 

More henchmen lunged towards the two heroes. Brad, gnashing his rotten teeth, lunged forward to shield Lexi.

“‘Ere, get back, lov! This time, lemme deal wiv these nerks for ya…”

“Aww, lookin’ after yer Second Officer? That’s sweet, but I started this mess, fella – besides, ah hell… I’ve seen the way you brawl, Brad – best fer both of us if YOU get back…” 

“Okey-dokey then, suit yerself, Officer, ha ha!” he chortled. “Aww, y’know, this reminds me o’ the time we ‘ad ta foight our way orf Esthymon IV – evadin’ the pirates at that spaceport; pickin’ oop some snazzy supplies from the Imperial ware’ouse; ‘avin’ a scrumptious fudge sundae… each! AND ya STILL seized the chance to beat up some guards before we skedaddled! Ah, ‘appy times… Ya sure know ‘ow ta show a plank a good time…” 

Lexi rolled her eyes to the ceiling: “Okay, OKAY! I said I’m sorry ’bout that! Jeez, Commander, you’re not gonna let this lie, are ya?”

“No worries, Lex! “As groovy as fudge”: hey hey hey! Tha’s jus’ fine an’ dandy, that! ‘Ang abaht… Yer not thinkin’ o’ chargin’ in WIVAHT playin’ some’t… are ya?! Not like you at all…”  

She scanned the mob, fiddled with her ‘Player, did a quick count and sighed: “Aow, jeez…! Don’t these lunk’eads ever learn…?!”

“Course not – ya know ‘enchmen ain’t paid ta use their noddle. Anyway, ya’d better get badassin’ – we got fifteenBlimey Charley!TWELVE minutes now, until Zubi an’ ‘is goons get ‘ere! Look lively, lov-“

“Shoosh, Commander! Ah…! Can’t get ta work without playin’ this one,” Lexi beamed heartily.

Brad’s cute blue eyes lit up at her choice: “Ha! I jus’ KNEW ya were gonna plump fer yer signature track…”

“Of course!she insisted. “After all, every gal’s gotta have a theme tune… right?”

 

 “Whoever wrote this episode should die!” – Gwen DeMarco.