Voyager: A Bradtastic Trip Into Space

Is There Enough Space To Have Time…?

“The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be… We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries…” – Carl Sagan.

For me, it all began with Cosmos.

That ultra-rare occasion when a TV programme fulfilled the aim of providing something both educational and entertaining, Carl Sagan helped make astrophysics accessible, and instilled in this gawping infant, the need to learn/discover so much more.

Off and on, through this boy’s life, the stars have continued to fascinate. Now, most nights, after finishing my writing – or those moments when the words don’t flow the way they should – it’s great to just step outside, after the street lights have switched off, and marvel at the inspirational – and staggering – wonders of the universe. 

After a very trying month, maybe its just as well that this Post blasts off to be among the stars (even if it may be with only one-quarter impulse power).

Away from it all… 

Rather than perplex you with something deep and philosophical (such theses will appear on this site at some point!) let’s gradually revitalise my creative powers with an easy vids n’ gifs compilation! 🙂

Looking for groovy tunes represented with a vid of suitably spacey visuals turned out to be quite a chore; annoyingly, a few of my initial choices have been removed from YouTube, or are simply unloadable, but when you consider how we all live “on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam – a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena” my problems – whether they be psychological or technical – are really so inconsequential! 

Dr. Hans Reinhardt: “Well, Mr. Booth, what’s new on Earth?” 

Harry Booth: “Well, I don’t think it’s changed very much since you left, Doctor.” 

Dr. Hans Reinhardt: “Nothing much ever changes. Same news, different names…” 

It’s Mingo Mean Time for some classic movie magic with that Quarterback New York Jets saviour of the universe himself. When the Flash Gordon movie was released (in 1980!), this iconic character rapidly became my new favourite. Gorged myself on Weetabix every breakfast in order to accumulate all 18 Official Movie Photo-cards; bought ANY sci-fi book that reprinted original pages (or merely one or two panels) of Alex Raymond’s original comic strips; even avidly watched episodes of those ancient serials starring Buster Crabbe as the titular hero; moreover, everyone in my year at Primary School was expected to know all the movie’s lines off by heart!

Absolutely nuts – it’s best to regard this as not so much a movie but a 100-minute Queen video! 

Nothing like a dramatic blast-off, and this following clip is one of the best blast-off sequences in scif-fi cinema. What better to hurl yourself into the Imperial Vortex with than the pulse-pounding percussion of Queen’s Roger Taylor? 

“Check the angular vector of the moon!” – Dr. Hans Zarkov. 

One of the unexpected hits of last year came in the form of Life.

Such a thrill, for a change, to watch a sci-fi movie that is NOT a sequel or a remake!

A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover an organic lifeform amidst soils samples collected from Mars, but following sci-fi/horror tradition, it grows into a life-threatening nightmare….

Despite having such heavy-hitters as Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal, its the extraterrestrial itself (named Calvin by NY schoolchildren in a national competition!) that steals the show. It may not look as menacing as HR Giger’s xenomorph, but this martian’s level of intelligence becomes particularly unsettling (the way in which Calvin breaks out of his incubator is ingenious!) 

Most importantly, Life fulfilled the essential quota of any space movie: the scenes above the Earth were excellently created, and the original soundtrack by Jon Ekstrand turned out to be quite memorable, evoking the magic and the peril – of space exploration, as this vid amply demonstrates.

Choose Life!

Minister of Defence: “My God, what’s Bond doing?”

Q: “I think he’s attempting re-entry, sir.”

As you will see, (before yours truly pops out for a spot of constellation-hunting) we’re saving the BEST till last.

From a movie featuring the ISS, we turn our attention to an astonishing NASA time-lapse video shot from the International Space Station itself, displaying some breathtaking views of what Carl Sagan himself called our “Pale” Blue Dot in all its glory.

The wonderful musical accompaniment is from that under-rated 007 In Space spy thriller: Moonraker (as the end credits amusingly revealed, it was filmed on location in Italy, Brazil, Guatemala, U.S.A. and Outer Space!)

John Barry was a tremendous composer of movie music. And, fittingly, Moonraker happened to be one of his most spectacular works. Make sure you can watch this on the biggest screen you can find:

“And that completes my final report until we reach touchdown. We’re now on full automatic, in the hands of the computers. I have tucked my crew in for the long sleep and I’ll be joining them soon…

“…The men who sent us on this journey are long since dead and gone. You who are reading me now are a different breed – I hope a better one. I leave the 20th century with no regrets.

“But one more thing – if anybody’s listening, that is. Nothing scientific. It’s purely personal. But seen from out here everything seems different. Time bends. Space is boundless. It squashes a man’s ego. I feel lonely.

“That’s about  it. Tell me, though. Does man, that marvel of the universe, that glorious paradox who sent me to the stars, still make war against his brother? Keep his neighbour’s children starving…?”

 

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The Man From S.C.R.I.B.E.

I Spy With My Little ’60s Eye.

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“This organisation does not tolerate failure” – Ernst Stavro Blofeld. 

It was only a matter of time before we got around to the ubiquitous spy thriller. Preferably, any such fare produced these days worth its bespoke tailoring has to be set in the 1960s: arguably the best period for Bond movies – the franchise to which any thriller teeming with dapper-suited agents, beautiful yet mysterious femme fatales, guns and gadgets, must inevitably be compared.

In my relentless quest for quality sci-fi, should spy thrillers be counted here? Of course, the gadgetry wielded by 007 during his Sixties heyday, heralded – some say directly inspired – this more technological era in which we live and work.

The covert world of the spy – the colder the war, the more dangerous the assignments – was given such a ridiculously glamorous edge, thanks in large part to the fiction concocted by Ian Fleming. Ultimately, the “spy” was elevated to the status of becoming “what every woman wanted and every man wanted to be.”

“Shocking… positively shocking…”

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“Not very good at this whole subtlety thing, are you?” – Napoleon Solo. 

Amidst the heavy revival of the spy thriller genre this year is a revitalised rejig of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. This slick and (lightly) enjoyable ride starring Henry Cavill, Alicia Vikander and Armie Hammer has thankfully stayed rooted in the ’60s, immersing itself in the fashions, music and politics of that so-called “swinging” era.

It’s directed by Guy Ritchie, which means that you can expect his unique quotient of style to shine through. Cavill cuts a suitably devilish dash as the debonair illicit-art-dealer-turned-CIA agent: Napoleon Solo, who goes up against high-strung Soviet powerhouse: Ilya Kuryakin (Hammer) before they are forced to collaborate in thwarting the usual nasty plot involving that old chestnut of – oh yes – “world domination.” Yet behind the predictable postcard locations, champagne and caviar-coated glamour and the – oh nosame old dodgy Russian “accents,” there is neither any drama, nor tension. 

The major flaw here lies with the script; it lacks that necessary edge of substance and sophistication. Sounds therefore like the perfect mission for the White Rabbit, aka Agent Brad.  

The earliest Bond pictures were especially blessed with sensational music by John Barry; in keeping with that essential element, this film does come with a cool soundtrack. At least Ritchie‘s U.N.C.L.E. certainly beats sitting through that present-day-set blockbuster featuring a diminutive Scientologist hanging from the side of a plane. 

“This never happened to the other fella.”

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“You come over for dinner… and I’ll cook you a wonderful angel cake” – Miss Moneypenny. 

Apart from the ludicrous-yet-painfully-predictable “model-like hotel clerk submit[ting] within minutes of casual proposition,” one of the highlights about the Man From U.N.C.L.E. is Alicia Vikander. She plays Gabby Teller, the daughter of “Hitler’s favourite rocket scientist” whom Solo and Kuryakin must find. Having already made waves in the impressive Ex Machina, this Swedish actress is particularly good in this feisty female lead, first seen working as a car mechanic in East Berlin, and later proceeding to try and melt Ilya’s big cold heart.

Just as well, for the majority of women to have crossed the path of this gentleman spy – emphasis on the gentleman, you understand – were cool and confident, quite the opposite of the archetypal “Bond girl,” who invariably played the feeble screamer and not much else. 

“I must be dreaming.”

Forever fit and well-attired, the Man From  S.C.R.I.B..E. can be found propping up the bar with a cool White Russian. And that’s just the drink…

What is my secret? Why, its top, and well-kept, obviously. And just what does the acronym: S.C.R.I.B..E. stand for exactly? That’s Classified, like most of my best missions, of course. 

“Do you expect me to talk?” 

Well, the ‘C’ has to stand for ‘Cake’ – the best bargaining chip an(y) agent could have in this business; the ‘I’ denotes ‘International,’ naturally – a perusal of any one of my passports would tell you that; while the ‘E’ would have to be ‘Enjoyment’ – otherwise, what’s the point, eh?

Hang on – sniff, sniff – what’s that burning? Will this blog self-destruct in five seconds? 

No, this spy has just accidentally sat on his own exploding pen…

“Oh, the things I do for England…”

VIKANDER2

Licenced to thrill. 

Towering Influence: A Tribute To A Larger Than Life Legend

 

Richard Kiel: 13 September 1939 – 10 September 2014

1977, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME

“Well, they don’t really need an actor, he’s more a monster part… I said if I were to play the part, I want to give the character some human characteristics, like perseverance, frustration” – Richard Kiel.

At 7 ft 2 in tall, Richard Kiel, who has died at the age of 74, will be forever remembered for playing the henchman Jaws in not one, but two Bond movies. The role has became so iconic that he’d virtually made a separate career from countless Bond convention and fanfest guest appearances. Despite being blind in one eye, and his distinctive height and physiognomy attributed to the hormonal condition: acromegaly, he carved a 50-year career spanning dozens of television and movie appearances.

Funnily enough, in the mid-70s, when auditions for a certain evil cloaked space villain began, both Kiel and one Dave Prowse were up for the role. Interestingly, Kiel “turned down the role of Darth Vader in order to play Jaws, which he felt offered greater acting potential since the character was not encased in a mask.” When the role of Jaws came along, he (reluctantly) went up for it against (who else?)  Dave Prowse…   

And what about Chewie? In an interview two years ago, Kiel claims he turned down the chance to play that walking carpet due to a fear of being typecast, and complaining that it’s: “always so hot inside those suits…”  

When The Incredible Hulk was developed for television in 1978, Kiel spent the first two days of filming as the green giant. However, the producers felt he “was not bulky enough,” so in stepped Lou Ferrigno, but later in the series Kiel would make an appearance, albeit uncredited.

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“He was a super guy. He was larger than life. He was very friendly; would always make time to talk with his fans” – Luis Fairman.

Richard Kiel – who would have turned 75 this past Saturday – began his acting career by appearing in various TV Westerns such as Laramie and The Rifleman. He starred in the poor little-known SF feature: The Phantom Planet before making a striking appearance on television.

One notable episode of seminal TV show: The Twilight Zone, “To Serve Man” (1962) told how a 9-foot tall alien race known as the Kanamits arrived on Earth to assist mankind. Besides being 2 feet too short(!), Richard Kiel portrayed the still-imposing Kanamit ambassador who visited the United Nations to reiterate the aliens’ peaceful intentions; his lips never moved – as Kanamits communicated telepathically, his “voice” was provided by another actor.

Later that year, Kiel would play the titular caveman of the atrocious Eegah, in which “teenagers stumble across a prehistoric caveman, who goes on a rampage.” 

Other roles in the genre included The Humanoid (1979). Richard Kiel had a substantial role in this ultra-cheap Italian Star Wars knockoff, but this is a shame, for it turned out to be yet another case of shoddy material which did not do its star any justice. As anyone can see from both Bond films, Richard Kiel could apply the subtlest nuances in his looks to alternately convey menace and mayhem and then heart and humour.

jaws bondjaws grip bondRichard-Kiel-Roger-Moore-star-unveiling

“They shot two endings [for Spy Who Loved Me]: one where the shark got him and one where he got the shark. And, in America, there was great whooping and hollering when his head came up out of the sea” – Sir Roger Moore.  

Sir Roger Moore was said to be “totally distraught” at learning of Richard Kiel’s passing. Despite being involved in some of the best fight scenes of the 007 franchise, off-screen Moore and Kiel were the best of friends. Moore praised his giant friend for helping him in fundraising campaigns for UNICEF. “He was a big, caring man.”

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) is often considered one of Moore’s best 007 adventures. Originally, Jaws was to be like every other henchman: do his bit and then come a cropper, but there was such a distinctive vibe about Kiel’s performance which makes Jaws one of the most memorable villains of any genre. Plus, preview audience reaction was so positive that the character was saved to bite another day.

Although Moonraker does not rate highly on some Bond lists, it still holds up pretty well. For the 1979 Bond movie, two elements were required: it had to have a sci-fi feel: to capitalise on Star Wars fever, then an unprecedented worldwide phenomenon; and secondly,  Richard Kiel just had to make a comeback as the baddie with the baddest teeth.

Critically, Jaws may be even better in his second outing. Consider the list of classic scenes: who can forget his comical arm-flapping before plummeting onto a circus big-top?; the boat chase and the priceless expression he pulls prior to toppling over a massive waterfall; and what about the cable-car sequence? But what really confirmed Jaws in the stratosphere of franchise fame was the introduction of a love-interest in the diminutive form of a bespectacled, pig-tailed girl known only as “Dolly” (played by Blanche Ravalec, trivia-buffs!), who incidentally, was cuter and more charming than that film’s official Bond-girl(!) This twist could so easily have turned out ludicrous, but was handled just right. Upon realising that he does not measure up to megalomaniac Drax’s “standards of physical perfection”  Jaws revolts, ending up aiding the same man he’d been hired to kill. Against expectations – certainly against typeKiel had succeeded in creating a more tender, endearing individual.  

There was no greater opponent for Jaws… other than his own metallic molars. “They were nauseating” Kiel said. “As soon as the director called Cut, out they came.” The formidable gnashers were tipped to be created by John (Planet of the Apes) Chambers, but that job went instead to dental mechanic: Luis Fairman. Whilst filming, those uncomfortable teeth were kept in a safe each night! So, have they been kept in a glass by the actor’s bedside ever since?

Not exactly. Kiel admitted not knowing what had happened to them, but thought they may have ended up “in a Bond museum somewhere.”  

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jaws dolly cheers

Well, here’s to you, Richard.

Cheers!