Manic Music Monday Continues – With A Black Sabbath Pastiche
“Why can’t I be different and unusual… like everyone else?” – Vivian Stanshall.
In compiling this week’s thrilling instalment of Manic Music Monday, only one influential individual came to mind.
Vivian Stanshall (1943-1995), highly eccentric, “as-English-as-tuppence” singer-songwriter, musician, author, poet and side-splitting wit, most famous for writing and performing with The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.
Wnen he wasn’t hanging out with John and Paul of The Beatles, getting up to wacky japes with Keith Moon of The Who, and recording his debut solo album with Traffic’s Steve Winwood, he toiled away – over several years – on an ingenious, seminal work: Sir Henry at Rawlinson End, an episodic surrealist radio serial especially recorded for BBC Radio 1’s John Peel show, chronicling the bizarre – but unfailingly hilarious, and highly recommended – (mis)adventures of inebriated and irascible old codger: Sir Henry Rawlinson.
This Christmas, it has been great getting reacquainted with this blinking-bonkers masterpiece.
Did some rummaging around online, and eventually discovered this obscure gem.
biG GRunt was “one of a number of short-lived groups” Viv formed following the demise of TheBonzos, but considering these groups featured the same core personnel, it could be argued that they’re essentially the same band masquerading under a variety of names.
This rare performance (recorded in 1970) appeared on a BBC4 documentary aboutthis exceptionally gifted inductee of the Bradscribe Hall of Fame:
“We first met in a big Irish pub in South London, the New Cross Arms … Vivian was quite plump in those days, wearing Billy Bunter check trousers, a Victorian frock coat, horrible little oval, violet-tinted pince-nez glasses; he had a euphonium under his arm, and large, rubber false ears. And I thought, well, this is an interesting character…
“He was – is – in terms of what he’s left behind, a national treasure…” – Neil Innes.
“The fundamental premise remains the same: What lies in wait in the darkness of space?” – Space.com
Often, the realm of science fiction delves into wondrous and inventive imagery, but when you consider the darkness and dread that lurks “in the coldest regions of space,” the potential to unleash the most unutterable terrors becomes boundless (budget-permitting of course).
With Halloween fast approaching like a relentless Imperial Star Destroyer, andelements of horror spliced into SF aslong as motion pictures have existed, the results can turn out to be truly horrendous.
Instead of making contact, alien monsters would much rather feast on astronaut flesh; drain the lifeforce from living humans; or reanimate dead humans. Nudity is just as bountiful as gore; distress signals and fog machines are commonplace; and if you should ever stumble upon the work of Roger Corman, for pity’s sake, DO NOT HESITATEto make the jump to light-speed…
“I stole the giant skeleton from Planet of the Vampires… It struck me as evocative. It had this curious mixture that you can get in these Italian films of spectacularly good production design…” – Dan O’Bannon.
In Mario Bava’s Planet of the Vampires (1965) original Italian title: Terrore Nello Spazio, two spaceships: the Argos and Galliot respond to a distress signal from a previously unchartered planet. On landing, for no apparent reason, the crew of the Argosattack each other. After overcoming this malevolent psychosis, they quickly find out that – oh no! – the same madness gripped the Galliot’s crew but nobody survived.
It’s not long before their buried bodies rise up and stalk the Argos crew. There then follows a tense and unsettling fight for survival. What Planetof the Vampires lacks in production values, it piles on skilfullyeerie atmospherics, evoking a dark and lonely feel to its overall look.
The title is quite erroneous. The alien entities that rise from the newly-prepared graves are not vampires; they’re not bloodsuckers; and they certainly do nottalk with Eastern European accents. “Planet of the Strange Entities That Exist On A Different Vibratory Frequency And Possess Dead Bodies” would have made a more accurate title. On this godforsaken world, the fog-machine is working on spooky overdrive.
At first glance, it looks so different from its ’60s contemporaries, but then you realise what an obvious influence on numerous subsequent sci-fi/horrors it is. Possibly the most (in)famous of all such outings: Ridley Scott’s second-best film: Alien shares so many similarities in both tone and imagery. The “space jockey” – one of this1979 classic’s most iconic images – was lifted from what Bava portrayed originally.
“Forget the story, ’cause there isn’t one, but see it for the gory bits and marvelous gutsy make-up. Yech!” – Time Out.
Galaxy of Terror (1981) aka Mindwarp also appears to be a rehash of Planet of the Vampires with its premise of the crew of one spacecraft haunted – oh no! – by projections of their own deepest fears materialized by an ancient alien pyramid. This, by the way, is the one featuring a young, pre-Freddy Krueger Robert Englund, and Erin Moran (Joanie from Happy Days).
Honestly, it is difficult to tell the difference between this and the following year’s Forbidden World. James Cameron is credited as a production assistant; the less said about its notorious worm-rape scene the better…
Nothing could prepare you for Mutant aka Forbidden World (1982) – another bargain basement bomber from Roger Corman. In a research lab on the remote planet of Xarbia, a genetic experiment is developed which – oh no! – goes berserk and hunts the scientists down one by one.
Within a few minutes, you realise that the same set from Galaxy of Terror is being (re)used, and – presumably to immediately catch the viewer’s attention – an unnecessarylaser battle is inserted… using effects footage directlypilfered from Corman’s cult space opera: Battle Beyond the Stars.
Incredibly, this lab boasts not one, but two, “ridiculously hot” scientists who spend much of their screentime scantily clad or completely starkers. As this is 1982, the soundtrack consists of shrill synths; and the sheer tackiness of the mutant itself is offset by filming it mostly in semi-darkness.
Still, on the plus-side, it does feature SAM-104, the android pilot who is one of the more distinctive characters of ’80s cult SF.
“Lifeforce is a pretty curious specimen in its own right. Its sci-fi/horror concept is epic in scale and metaphysical reach, but the casting is catchpenny…” – Parallax View.
Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce (1985) – based on the novel: The Space Vampires by Colin Wilson – turned out to be a really infuriating watch. The opening is actually quite impressive: a rousing score by Henry Mancini sets the scene for some rather spectacular imagery: the HMS Churchill shuttle, on a mission to study Halley’s Comet – traditionally considered to be a harbinger of doom – detects, in the coma of the comet, a derelict, artificial structure: 150 miles long. Inside, a search party discover dozens of desiccated giant bats and three naked humanoids: two male and one female.
But – oh no! – they have to take the bodies back to Earth. As this is a British sci-fi/horror movie, the terrible trio “awake” in the European Space Research Centre inLondon. The males are obliterated, but the female wanders off into the night. The capital is quickly reduced into one bat-shit bonkers zombiefest. Preposterous!
Talk about amateurish effects: those lifeforceless“corpses” could have done with a tad more convincing animation. And the “actors” appear to have graduated from the Mindwarp School of Acting…
“Approach with caution.”
So, best not to splice these two genres together – results can invariably turn out to be… disastrous.
And, if that wasn’t scary enough, try this on Saturday night… if you dare!
NIGHT OF THE DAMON!
CHILLS! He can’t remember who he is!
SPILLS! He beats up anybody and everybody who gets in his way!
THRILLS! He absolutely will not stop until he’s got whatever he wants… whatever that is…
For Halloween this year, my favourite horror movie will be dusted down, replayed and reviewed on Saturday.
Can you guess what it is?
Here’s a couple of clues: it was not made in the last thirty years (obviously!)
“Log Entry: Sol 6. I’m pretty much fucked – that’s my considered opinion. Fucked” – Mark Watney.
There are three important facts you need to know about Ridley Scott’s latest sci-fi opus, based on the best-selling novel by Andy Weir.
The Martian offers a rollickingly good yarn on how tosurvive on our nearest neighbour in the solar system; also, the curse of woefully-underwhelming movies set on Mars as featured in a previous Post has – for the time being at any rate – been expunged; and thirdly – and perhaps most vital of all – this blogger would NOT be watching the movie alone! In a last-minute dramatic twist, Mrs. B noticed the seat next to me on the big-city-bound-buswas vacant. She bungled in and paid the extra fare. We were off to Marstogether after all, and this blogger was already over the moon.
Mrs. B loves Matt Damon; Mrs. B loves Matt Damon topless; Mrs. B loves botany. Yes, folks,my belovedhas found THE PERFECT MOVIE. Watching Matt Damon – sorry, Mark Watney – fiddle with his seeds, Mrs. B pursed her lips in admiration. She leaned over, nudged me in the ribs and whispered: “I wanna go help him!”
Should haveknown she was going to say that. Don’t mind Brad: he’ll be Terra-bound,blogging away, looking after the cat…
“TheMartianatmosphere is only 1% as thick as Earth’s, so a Mars wind of 100mph… would only have the dynamic force as a 10mph wind on Earth. You could fly a kite in it, but it wouldn’t knock you down” – Dr. Robert Zubrin.
So, when Watney determines to “science the shit out of this,“ how accurate is The Martian’s science?
Or is it just shit?
The most glaring gaffe is the “fierce storm” – the integral plot device that causes Watney to be stranded on Mars in the first place. As the atmosphere of Mars is less dense than Earth’s, such a storm would be extremely unlikely – even Weir was quick – albeit reluctantly – to admit that.
One glowing review commended The Martian for being “one of the best thrillers of the year.”
What makes this movie so enjoyable to watch is the natural charm and effervescence of its leading man. After the hilarious moment when he admits to being a botanist, and (too)confidently vlogs about how he will grow his own food, there is no reason for us to get anxious. No suspense, no dramatic tension, certainly no “edge-of-the-seat” stuff here – in fact, his fight for survival becomes quite entertaining viewing. Amusingly, Watney’s concern seems mostly preoccupied with trying to cope with Commander Lewis’ deplorable taste in disco music!
“No, I absolutely will not turn the beat around!”
The biggest laugh of the movie comes when he experiments with making water by extracting hydrazine from the rocket fuel and burning hydrogen. He is – to use the hip parlance of our time – “pretty smokin'”; literally, the smoke is rising off poor Watney as he vlogs: “So… I blew myself up…”
No prizes for guessing that my little lady gave out the biggest laugh when that accident blasted him across the auditorium in full glorious Dolby Stereo.
“Just so we’re clear, Mark Watney is who I want to be. He has all the qualities I like about myself… Mark Watney isn’t afraid to fly” – Andy Weir.
Having enjoyed the audiobook, certain classic lines have been omitted, but Drew Goddard has managed to take one engrossing book and write a rather special screenplay.
It should be mentioned that the second-best feature of this movie is the stunning location photography. Wadi Rum in Jordan makes for a superb Martian landscape. We watched in 3D format, which helped enhance our viewing pleasure immensely.
Personally, we could easily have done withoutany of the scenes back on Earth; none of the (underwritten as usual) NASA personnel had a fraction of Watney’s charisma anyway. At least one of us would have been satisfied with just Damon monologuing nonchalantly into his videocam for the entire 141 minutes.
Apart from the incredible storm, please spare me the youngsocially awkward mathematician who has (successfully!) plotted the best gravity-assisttrajectory to bring back Watney et alwithin agreeable parameters.
The only other major gripe about this movie concerns the climax. Besides the uncertainties of getting Watney into orbit (in a coneless module?!), there is the highly improbable task of Ares III selecting the right course and velocity to catch him. The movie’s running time is fast running out, so the script simply cannot afford any more screw-ups, miraculously. A typically treacly Hollywood ending spoils it a tad, but nevertheless, its place on the Top 10 of 2015 list is assured.
Naturally, there are numerous nods to other movies: being stranded (Cast Away), trying to deal with the return to Earth (Apollo 13), struggling to grow food millions of miles from Earth (Silent Running) and even being separated millions of miles from Jessica Chastain (Interstellar).
Fortunatelyfor Damon, it is a more wholesome slice of sci-fi than the bleak and foul-mouthed Elysium (not even Mrs. B fancied the idea of watching her fave star as a bald-headed cyborg);and for Scott, it is a (much) welcome return-to-form after the flawed Prometheus and misjudged Exodus.
To sum up then, The Martian is one helluva one-guy-against-the-odds movie – an exhilarating cinematic experience which can – and certainly will in this household – be watched time and time again.
And yes, it was fantastic to have nachos with the Special Cheezy Dip again.
Your Mission, Should You Choose To Accept It, Is To Find A Screening of The Martian.
In English. In Bangkok.
“The usual hero adventure begins with someone who feels there is something lacking in the normal experience available or permitted to the members of society. The person then takes off on a series of adventures beyond the ordinary…” – Joseph Campbell.
The objective seemed simple enough; last week anyway. Wait until my beloved Mrs. B had returned from her revitalising week-long meditation retreat; then take her to watch her fave movie star: Matt Damon. The Martian had been released – quite fortuitously – on her birthday! Seriously, how difficult could it possibly be?
Quite difficult as it turned out…
There is a tendency – especially in regional cinemas – to dub some of the biggest blockbusters intoThai, and our local multiplex is no exception. We didn’t have this problem with Guardians Of The Galaxy, or only last month with The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Although The Martian arrived here only last Thursday with FOUR showings in its original English soundtrack, it has been reduced – just days later – to ONE showing in Thai only.
So be. Looks like a day trip to the Big Mango is in order. Travelling so far just to catch one movie – no matter how brilliant andunmissableThe Martian may be – does seem a tad too extreme; still, this writer requiresother things up north simply not available in our hometown. Brad will proceed. And with Mrs. B?
“What’s the matter, lov?”
“Sorry, hon. I’m not going…”
“Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else” – Marco Polo.
The Mother Of All Malls in the Thai capital is the Siam Paragon; it’s hard to miss, nestling right next to the interchange MRT station slap bang in the city centre. Its plush, state-of-the-art multiplex theatre has provided us with some of cinema’s finest most recent gems ALWAYS inEnglish. Even if a movie turns out to be utter crud, at least you can marvel at the exquisite finery of the drapes…
And the- hang on, just remembered! At the Major Cineplex, Central World, they have Special Cheezy Dip with theirnachos.Yeah, will go there instead – just the next stop on the MRT. However, recent events – especially a tragic bomb attack in August at one of our favourite shrines – have made some tourists (Mrs. B included) extremely wary of Bangkok’s level of security.
“But this is what you wanted, lov. Your birthday treat! Hey, it’s about Matt Damon stranded on Mars. Just him, vlogging for two hours. Come on, hon! He’ll be staring right at you as you watch him! Couldn’t be better!”
The thought of going back to the intolerable noise, stress and pollution of the capital city – even for just one day – fills my lady with dread. Plus, a long and reckless mini-bus ride (which she simply cannot stand) must be endured before you can seize the chance to inhale that city air…
Then there are other reservations to consider:“What if this movie turns out to be just as terrible as that other space movie, hon?”
“Oh,you meanJupiter Ascending?Good Lord,nothing else could be as dire as that, lov! The Martian has had some really encouraging reviews. Look…”
At this point, frantic scrolling at rottentomatoes.com on my smartphone ensued, but she didn’t look.
“No, someone’s got to stay and look after Sooty [our cat].”
“You know what the cinema’s like: by this Friday they will have reverted back to showing the usual rubbish.”
“I can wait until this comes out on disc. Besides, I can have my Bourne trilogy any time I want.”
“So, there’s… no way I can persuade you to come with me?”
“‘Fraid not, Ford. Anyway, I don’t have a movie-blog to maintain…”
“It is far. But there is no journey that a man may not make if he sets his heart to it. There is nothing that he cannot do…” – H. Rider Haggard.
The mini-bus fromHua Hin to Bangkoktakes three hours (or two and a half if the driver thinks he’s Jason Bourne). Early morning, my bag packed with papers and two bottles of chilled water, we walked up to the main road together so she could wave me off.
“What are you doing, farang?” Mrs. B joked.
“Going to the big city to find Matt Damon, lov,”
As the bus came into view, on time, she chortled: “Send him my love!”
“Ha, will do! I’ll even Bring Him Home if I can find a pirate copy, heh heh!”
The bus screeched to a halt. My wifepinched my arm.
“Don’t go meeting any girls up there!” she whispered sternly.
“Perish the thought, lov.”
Time to hold her tight and reassure her.
“I’ll be back by nightfall. Don’t want to leave you for too long, hon; can’t. You’re the light of my life – the fuel on which I run. If I could reach up and hold a star for every time you’ve made me happy, my darling, the evening sky would be in the palm of my hand.”
“Ooh, get you,” she purred. “Did Matt teach you to talk like that?”
“Uff, gizzus a hug, me sugar…”
We shared a quick embrace. The driver started up the engine; I began to clamber in.
“Hey, what are you going to do about lunch?!”
“No worries, lov,” he was heard to exclaim, looking back over his shoulder. “There’s plenty of cake in the big city; I can pick some up there on my way back.”
“Oh for goodness sake, ya daft ham noi! I mean real food!”
“The cinema will have nachos – Brad will survive…”
The driver came round to slide the mini-bus door shut.