Interface 2037 Ready For Inquiry: What’s The Story Mother?

Loving The Alien? This Time, No Means NO!

“…A story that is basically just a mixture of The Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Thing from Outer Space… [Ridley Scott’s] combination of space fiction and horror story is no great shakes as a work of art. Artifice, however, it has in profusion.” – Derek Malcolm.

“A transmission? Out here? …Human?” 

“Unknown…”

Apologies if you swung by expecting a Review of Alien Covenant.

But really – it’s a swizz of the first water; a pointless celebration of the Alien franchise’s Greatest Hits. Wasting my time in a cinema for something like this can usually incite me to rant no end, but after a particularly trying fortnight – both physically and mentally – yours truly has been unable to write anything remotely readable.

Here, on a good day, you would be able to learn how completely unnecessary this rehash really is. How it adds nothing new; judging by the lacklustre trailer, the script sounds unremarkable, and – like Prometheus, which frustrated more than frightened audiences – attempts at character development are nil, considering how expendable WE KNOW this crew are…

And to think that after enjoying the first two Alien movies, this adventurer genuinely craved more sequelsha!

How times – and attitudes – have changed. After two more dodgy sequels, the divisive Prometheus and now Alien Covenant, one of the most interesting movie franchises has become one of the most tedious…

“I did have one odd nightmare once. I dreamt I was visiting some friends in a Vermont farmhouse and the alien came out of the chimney. Suddenly I was dreaming about my own life. You would think it would only happen in space… but if you start to dream like this, it puts a whole different reality to it” –  Sigourney Weaver.

There is another anguished reason why Alien Covenant proves to be so bothersome.

Where, oh where, is Sigourney Weaver?!

Just two years ago, it all seemed fine an’ dandy. The actress most synonymous with this franchise was itching to return and wrap up Ellen Ripley’s story one last time. It would have been the Alien 3 we deserved; Michael Biehn was also lined up to reprise the role of Corporal Hicks from Aliens. The director of Chappie and District 9 was set to helm (incidentally a move not welcomed in this camp).

But by the time the Covenant trailer appeared earlier this year, the head-scratching began. We saw what looked like an inferior rehash of the 1979 masterpiece, and Katherine Waterston “playing” the female protagonist.

Okay, Waterston, but no Weaver?!

Such an intriguing movie project – allowed to languish in development-hell – is officially cancelled in favour of… this?!

In online forums, no one can hear Brad scream…

Don’t care that Covenant garnered more at the box office in its first week than Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, and retains a respectable score on Rotten Tomatoes, this is NOT the package that any of us expected.

Great Scott! What is Ridley doing?! 

Cannot believe that he is responsible for such a run-o’-the-Hollywood-mill exercise…

“We had gone through various sketches… they seemed to be of scaly bodies… or huge blobs… There was no elegance to them, no lethalness. What emerged – Giger’s designs… definitely not of this world…” – Ridley Scott.

Alien Covenant is the first Alien film since the passing of H. R. Giger.

With each new underwhelming entry to this franchise, the extraordinary terror instilled by Giger’s original chilling, biomechanoid design is gradually diminished. Moreover, in attempting – and failing! – to adequately explain the backstory surrounding such notable features as the derelict spaceship and the Space Jockey of LV426, their mystique is irreparably eroded.

Just contemplating the faults and inanities of Alien Covenant and what could have been – makes me feel more ill.

You wonder: why couldn’t they change the alien design, themes, names, et al – produce something completely different for a change?

Surely, such a fresh premise would be preferable than having yet another reboot/prequel foisted upon us? Ah! Sllly Brad; business is business, of course  jeez, how could we forget that?

Unfortunately – like other unwanted cultural dross floating around us @ the mo – we cannot exactly blow this thing out the goddamn air-lock.

So, Mother, what can we do?

INTERFACE 2037 READY FOR INQUIRY

REQUEST EVALUATION OF CURRENT PROCEDURES TO TERMINATE ALIEN COVENANT

UNABLE TO COMPUTE

AVAILABLE DATA INSUFFICIENT

Nuts…

 

Does Alien Covenant at least offer anything as sublime as this on its Soundtrack?

Thought not… 

“Final Report of the commercial starship Nostromo, Third Officer reporting.

“The other members of the crew – Kane, Lambert, Parker, Brett, Ash, and Captain Dallas – are dead.

“Cargo and ship destroyed.

“I should reach the frontier in about six weeks. With a little luck, the network will pick me up.

“This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off…”

 

Galaxies Of Terror: Where SF Collides With Horror

It’s Always Midnight In Space…  

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“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, and elements of horror spliced into SF as long 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 HESITATE to make the jump to light-speed…  

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“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 Argos attack 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 Planet of the Vampires lacks in production values, it piles on skilfully eerie 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 not talk 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 this 1979 classic’s most iconic images – was lifted from what Bava portrayed originally.

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“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.

Talk about cheap…

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 unnecessary laser battle is inserted… using effects footage directly pilfered 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.

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“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 in London. 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!

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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…

*

Only joking. 

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!)

And it doesn’t feature any fog machines… 

comments

Sweet dreams!

H. P. Lovecraft And The Cthulhu Influences On Modern SF And Horror

Where Space Ends, Hell Begins… 

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“Lovecraft creates dark and sometimes horrific scenarios which, in their tense and gothic style, can seem like the visions of a madman. The formless entity dominates his work, an impalpable threat which lies beneath everything he wrote…” –  The SF Source Book. 

With Halloween just about a fortnight away, the focus shifts inevitably from SF to horror. One fine way to execute a clean transition between the two is to select one of the main masters of the macabre: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937) who – through his twisted scribblings – managed to encompass both genres. Surely, you may think, his distorted visions were too dark and twisted to nestle satisfactorily within the boundaries of SF?

Nevertheless, there are good reasons for Lovecraft’s work to be included unquestionably into the realm of science fiction. Primarily, a considerable proportion of those “unspeakable entities” that languished amidst “his cluttered prose” were not so much demons but aliens. Moreover, he was one of the first authors to write and describe alien beings. Outside of the Cthulhu Mythos, he certainly wrote more genuine science fiction. 

The most striking examples include: In the Walls Of Eryx, set on Venus, reimagined as a jungle planet; and tales of unorthodox scientific experiments: From Beyond (made into a movie in 1986) and Cool Air (which deserves big screen treatment). A significant proportion of his short stories were published in Weird Tales, a predominantly SF magazine of the 1920s and 30s; The Shadow Out Of Time was first published in the June 1936 issue of Astounding Stories, then the most prestigious science fiction magazine available. 

Despite undesirable accusations of muddled prose and complicated storytelling, Lovecraft remains one of my favourite 20th century authors. Ironically, his complicated style is distinctive and had such a profound effect on me, helping to conjure some of my own fictional nightmares.

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“[Universal] were blown away by the visual presentation, they openly admitted to loving the screenplay, saying it was dead on… I do not want ‘Mountains’  to be bloody, I do not want it to be crass, but I do want it to be as intense as possible” – Guillermo del Toro. 

Guillermo del Toro is one of the most talented film-makers working today. It is no secret that, just a few years ago, the Spanish director should have made his own grandiose cinematic version of Lovecraft’s At The Mountains Of Madness.

In this novella (first published in 1931 and serialized in Astounding Stories in 1936), the geologist William Dyer – a professor from Miskatonic University – “writes to disclose hitherto unknown and closely kept secrets in the hope that he can deter a planned and much publicized scientific expedition to Antarctica.” Allegedly, his previous expedition unearthed “fantastic and horrific ruins (including strange fossils of unheard-of creatures and carved stones tens of millions of years old)” and “a dangerous secret of the City of the Old Ones that lay beyond a range of mountains taller than the Himalayas.” 

Problem is, this encouraging project has been festering in development-hell for far too long. No matter how awesome his pre-production designs were – they invariably are – the prospect of a Producer tag for James Cameron and top-billing for Tom Cruise (?!) were too off-putting. Apparently he was just one week away from commencing production of At The Mountains in 2011 when Universal pulled the plug “due to budget issues.”  

However, del Toro would not be perturbed for long; he resurrected his dormant plans for his Lovecraft project in 2013.

“I’m going to try it one more time,” he said in one recent interview. “Once more into the dark abyss. We’re going to do a big presentation of the project again… and see if any [studio’s] interested.”

(Unfortunately)… “Tom [Cruise] is still attachedHe’s been such a great ally of the project.” 

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“In the coldest regions of space, the monstrous entities Ogdru Jahad – the Seven Gods of Chaos – slumber in their crystal prison, waiting to reclaim Earth… and burn the heavens” – De Vermis Mysteriis, Page 87. 

A quick glance at modern strands of science fiction and horror – be it literature, movies or comics – it doesn’t take long to find the influence of the Cthulhu Mythos. 

The most notable is the Hellboy comic, created by Mike Mignola in 1993. Developed into one of the stranger – and better – of the recent crop of comic book movies, directed by (what a surprise) Guillermo del Toro in 2004, the titular hell-spawned hero (played by the ever-reliable Ron Perlman) has to battle with not only Rasputin the “Mad Monk,” but the Ogdru Jahad, the most blatant nod to Lovecraft you’ll get in a mainstream comic book movie.

Lovecraft’s work may not seem best suited to the medium of comics, but in the ever-capable talented hands of the artistic genius: Berni(e) Wrightson, it works wonders. A number of Lovecraft’s stories were adapted brilliantly by Wrightson and published in Creepy Magazine during the ’70s.

In 1971, he did a splendid job on the aforementioned Cool Air, which came into my collection a decade later when Eclipse Comics compiled Wrightson’s best horror strips (in added colour!) in Berni Wrightson: Master Of The Macabre.

This – the third page – is a fine example of Wrightson’s style:  

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The seventh and final page is a creepy classic single splash and will be saved for a forthcoming Post!

Have just discovered this (below) online; how long will it take to track this particular issue down? 

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A portrait of H. P. Lovecraft by Mike Mignola, the creator of Hellboy.
A portrait of H. P. Lovecraft by Mike Mignola, the creator of Hellboy.

And, come on, if we’re going to end this Post with Hellboy gifs, might as well have the one with that dastardly mute puppet, the “freak in the gas mask”: Karl Ruprecht Kroenen (“Hitler’s top assassin and Head of the Nazi Cthulhu Society”) performing his ubercool blade-twirling trick inside Manhattan’s Metropolitan Art Museum.  

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“What horrible will could keep such a creature as this alive?” – Professor Trevor Broom. 

The MediEvil: [Part ii] Est A Diabolica!

My Testimony To Those Wondrous And Terrible Events of 1115 AD Continues.  Chapelle-de-BethlC3A9em-Alien

“We must make an idol of our fear, and call it God” – Antonius Block. 

ACT II: DAEMON FUGIT!

“By thy troth, Will, we must find it! Pack the most basic of provisions; we travel light-“

“But Brother Brad, how can we expect to find this… this thing?” 

“Simple, boy. We follow the trail of petrified peasants that thing leaves in its wake. We must hurry. Thou art familiar with the apotheca: the storehouse of medicines?”

“Y-yea, Master.”

“I bid you go fetch that small vial with the green liquid from the top shelf.”

“Wherefore needest it thou, Master?”

“This is most important, for it be the only concoction that can destroy our otherworldly foe. I shall ready the horses and meet thee at the main gate.”

“The only…?” William gingerly took a pace forward. “Then… ye hath dealt with these skyfallen ones before?!”

Methinks perchance this boy was too bright…

“Yea, William… and will again and again, I’m afraid. Now, festinate! I shall see you anon.”

In very little time at all, William came running out of the North Transept, a bulging bag slung across his back; the vial clasped to his chest with both hands – good lad.

He noticed the pointed bundle I cradled: “What be that?”

I unfurled the top end of the cloth, revealing a hilt and hilt-guard. “A sword! I dare not ask what thou wert in thy past life, Master!”

“Fear not, my young friend. I was merely a traveller. In distant lands, one must be… cautious.”  

“O splendid scholar, with all these skills… why stay at this monastery?”

“Where else could I write my books…? Come, we cannot allow further delay.”

We mounted our steeds and set out into the far-from-idyllic terrain beyond. The trail was easy – yet so disturbing – to follow.

Regrettably, we discovered the eviscerated maiden whose face had twisted in sheer terror – may she rest in peace; and then we encountered the gibbering shepherd, blabbing something about a “malum diabolicum” – who still managed to give us reliable directions!

Undoubtedly, we were getting closer… 

“Ayah, Angelo Maligno!”

I could scarcely believe the frightened croak of the old beggar sitting beside the country lane as we approached him. I hurried over and knelt at his side.

“Be still, my old friend. Tell us, you saw the-“

Confound it! You bonehead, Brad! Only then did I notice that the vagrant was as blind as a trowel. 

“Why so flustered, old man?”

“The vile lacerta homos ye seek hath passed by not long past!”

“Nay! How could thou know-?!” 

A knowing smile erupted through his unkempt whiskers as he muttered: “I am gifted with powers of a higher order, young Quester. I-I sensed it. What passed this way ’twas certainly not mortal – it felt more sinister than Lucifer ‘isself…! But forgive my fevered ramblings… good den, good sir. My name is Nathaniel…”

“Hardly expected to find such a gifted soul in this lowly spot! Your aid is indeed very much appreciated, Nathaniel. William! Bring forth some bread!”

I passed some of our provisions to Nathaniel, who gorged on them eagerly, as if he’d not partaken of any nourishment for days. 

“Oh thank thee, young saints! Thank thee, kindly! I bid you good fortune in your tiresome quest. Fare thee well; may the Lord bless thee!”

“Nay… ’tis too late for Him to bother with me now…if at all. Doth ye know where yon thing dwelt?”  

Tired old Nathaniel spoke naught, but waved a trembling bony finger off to his left. My gaze wandered several yards yonder to – Saints preserve us! – the tranquil setting of the Church of St. Mary.

Of all the-?!

The beast had fled into a church…?! Lord, what madness was this?! devil's-reaper

“If I kill you, I am bound for Hell. It is a price I shall gladly pay” – Solomon Kane. 

ACT III: ANGELO MALIGNO

Without hesitation, we burst into St. Mary’s church.

‘Twas stood, hunched in the centre of the aisle – the belief that daemons could not frequent “holy” sites be damned.

It flicked its cowl back to reveal that Malachi’s facial features had completely disintegrated. The wraith’s true grotesque green head turned menacingly towards us; it barred dripping fangs at us; its low-pitched snarl echoed off the church walls.

“You… it could only be you. Thou art Brad: the one they call the Scribe.” 

“Verily, that I be; how do you know who I art, beast? What say you!”

“The hunted must know who his hunter is! Thou art cleverer than those other robed imbeciles: a formidable nemesis to be sure. So, call upon your God to save thee afore ye dare try and smite me, worm!” the wraith chortled.

“Nay: through His “Word, all things are created just as He willed”… where – on Earth – deceitful snake, do ye fit in?!”

“Hmm, my “Word calls forth flesh in the shape which was drawn from Adam.” Mayhap this disenchanted mortal ought to forsake thy misspent quest? …And start worshipping me, ha!”

I bellowed over its gurgling guffaws: “Silentium, dire one! I am too strong-willed to rise to your bait; too stubborn to let you skyfallen scum succeed!”   

“Very well, stubborn worm; I shall consign thee to thine own end! Maledixerit tibi voltus, mortalis!” 

With that, it unleashed a dagger, hurled it at me, but the deterioration of its human form had diminished its aim, as well as its stamina. The wraith collapsed in a final exhausted heap; the weapon just swished past me.

“Curse me? Ha, yea my misfortune was foretold long before you crash-landed…”

I took forth the vial, and sprayed its noisome contents on my adversary. They fizzled and burned on impact; the beast screamed, clutching a steaming arm.

“You accursed dregs! Backward sapiens…!” the beast spat as the delirium of searing torment set in. “How did you infernal lot ever get to this pitiful stage of evolution?”

“We mortals strive to learn, to build, to prosper-”

“Rot! We are all-too-familiar with the petty troubles of your kind: you crave war and spread famine… and pestilence. I harbour no shame when I aim to… exterminare celerrime praeiudicio!”

“Exterminate? With extreme prejudice? Regrettably for thee, Malachi was a feeble old man; that lifeforce is ebbing quickly from you now. You are in no position to do as thou wilt-” 

“Monetae…! …Ultionem!” it rasped, grabbing my arm in one last futile gesture.

I almost felt sorry for this damned shrivelled satyr; ’twas in no fit state to declare or exact such vengeance upon me right now.

While that vile shape writhed on the aisle floor, poor William lay slumped in the rear pews, sobbing uncontrollably.  Damn my eyes: yea, I had condemned the archfiend to burn in hell, but in doing so, had consigned my accomplice to endure a living hell… 

I leant my angry face closer and gleered at the ailing creature, and whispered with venom: “Know ye this, foul incubus: as long as my cursed life prevails, I shall warn others of thy diabolical presence on this fair and simple Earth; as long as I wield the written word, thy devious intent shall forever be set forth!”

The creature’s hold on my arm gradually loosened, but it managed to waste its dying breath by emitting another condescending splutter: “And there…! Thou art hopelessly mistaken… Brother… Brad.

“Write this tale, and be damned! In a thousand years from now, nobody will care enough to read… or believe it…!” a3-15

FINEM NOTE:

Brother Brad dedicated the rest of his life to rid our green and pleasant land of the inhuman skyfallen ones.  An inestimable number of esoteric tomes describing these Angelos Malos were produced. For many years, Brother Brad’s complete account resided at the Priory of Sele in Upper Beeding, in the southern counties, but during the Dissolution of the Monasteries (1536-40) alas, it was lost. 

This presentation is merely a palimpsest of what once was…  The-Seventh-Seal-1957-stars-from-the-past-32472124-500-362

21st Century Brad is on holiday.

The MediEvil: [Part i] An Unearthly Daemon In Our Midst!

My Testimony To Those Wondrous And Terrible Events of 1115 AD Begins.  alien-3-arceon1

O vis aeternitatis (Power of Eternity) – you who ordered all things in your heart, through your Word all things are created just as you willed, and your very Word calls forth flesh in the shape which was drawn from Adam” – Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179).

PROLOGO:

The storm was one of the worst of that wretched winter. The ferocious elements summoned by the Almighty must have cleft the wraith’s craft from the sky, for several folk from the village reported a great fiery star descending rapidly above the countryside.

I do not blame them for believing this malevolent portent – roaring through the night sky with an unspeakable cacophony – to have been naught but a dragon.  On several occasions during some of those coldest, loneliest winters, I had heard stories about the “ships of the sky” – magnificent shimmering vessels that traversed the clouds, supposedly transporting travellers from beyond the heavens.

Yet never – ever – in my lifetime did I expect to have to deal with any of their devilish occupants myself. 

‘Twas Brother Malachi – poor, unsuspecting Brother Malachi – who rushed to the aid of the injured being, which limped pathetically to our main gates on that tempestuous night. Although taking the precaution of locking it in a cell, by some devious sorcery – I dare not contemplate – the thing absorbed Malachi’s form, and now dictates its despicable demands to us in the monk’s crazed mish-mash of Latin and Olde English.  31-01-01/22

“Have you ever known a place where God would have felt at home?” – William of Baskerville.

ACT I: INTER MUNDOS

“Idiota, Brother Brad! 

“Dost thou know what has become of Brother Malachi?”

Father Severinus and his entourage had rode all night – let it be known, at some haste – to protest at my alleged gross mishandling of this whole monstrous incident. Brother William – my assistanthad just returned from tidying the storehouse of medicines, and couldn’t resist listening to our ensuing argument.

“There is no cause for alarm, Father Severinus, I assure thee. The brethren cleared the wreckage to the best of their abilities. I supervised the recovery of fragments from the “ship” myself; its main core was of stupendous proportions. Brother Malachi is locked in a cell, guarded by Brother Berengar. We are quite safe… Isn’t it ironic, though, how something so heaven-sent could be more malevolent than anything Hades could spawn?”

“Blasphemy! I will have nothing to do with this- this black magik, Brother Brad!” Father Severinus blared.

“…Oh, Father?” I instantly realised how inappropriate his title was. “Forgive me, but I was under the impression that “pater” denoted compassion and understanding-“

“Gah!” he grunted, and stormed out of the chamber.

“So be it… dotard,” I seethed under my breath. “Make thy leave…”

I watched hopelessly as the rotund ignoramus Severinus and his entourage rode out of our grounds. We were left to deal with this… dilemma on our own. Again, I would have to finish it myself.

As silence returned to our monastery once more, William wondered: “Brother Brad, why did yon peril have to fall out of the sky?” 

“Well, it-” 

At that moment! An abrupt and terrible ear-piercing shriek! The clatter of bowls and other implements crashing to the floor down the hallway! Frantic running up to our door! 

William and I watched in horror as Brother Berengar stumbled in, babbling hysterically and tearing at his hair as the most abominable seizure took hold.

“‘Tis Brother Malachi! Oh, heavens, Brother Malachi-!” 

I surged forward, my astonishment compelling me to try and shake him back to his senses. “What ails thee, Berengar?!”

“‘Tis Brother Malachi! Oh, blessed saints preserve us! He overpowered me and fled into the forest!”

Christ’s blood – ’twas the last thing we needed!

“Thank the Lord that fool Severinus did not get to see this…” I muttered gratefully.

“Forgive!” Berengar wailed, his grubby mitts locked in shaking prayer. “Paenitet! Sorry! Prithee forgive this dullard, Brother Brad!”

I placed a reassuring hand upon his shoulder. “Peace, Berengar. There be naught ye could hath done…”

In a flash, I pounded up the North Tower; William called frantically after me. In the blustery turret, I squinted at the dank and murky countryside yonder. Just as the boy emerged beside me, I caught sight of Malachi’s dark robe moments before he disappeared into the forest.

So be it. Our former “guest” had headed northeast – predictably back to the site of his downed vessel. “That way, William,” I cried. “We go northeast!” 

“Master, what does this all mean?” 

“Danger, boy… we must give chase – the daemon is loose!” seventh-seal-111

Brother Brad at work in his chamber... until the skyfallen ones set his life on a new perilous course...
Brother Brad at work in his chamber… until the skyfallen ones set his life on a new perilous course…

Prepare for the intrepid quest! To continue to the next instalment, click here:

The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe

Sci-Fi nom noms to tickle the taste buds, bust the gut and confound the lower intestine

sleeper-instant-mix

“My God! I beat a man insensible with a strawberry” – Miles Monroe. 

Whilst researching and blogging about food and nutrition matters, and wondering how and when this next Post can ever emerge, by following that age-old tradition of doin’-everythin’-at-once, it was thought best to combine the two objectives and explore the culinary delights that can be savoured in the realms of sci-fi. So, let’s get stuck in, shall we?

Everyone has to eat – even the aliens. Not that we should eat the aliens, but watch out, to them we might be the tastiest looking delicacy on this side of the Outer Rim territories. What tasty morsels can we look forward to? Well, by some odd happenstance, foodstuffs – even the necessary act of eating – are hard to come by in this particular genre. Why should this be?

As an essential part of life, food should be a defining element of science fiction, but after close inspection, there are a relatively few instances to select from. Come! On! Where is deep fat when you need it?

“No steak or cream pies or… hot fudge?” 

“Those were thought to be unhealthy… precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.”

“Incredible.”  

alien-mealtime

“Hot dog? There’s no dog in this… Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, soybean meal, niacin, dextrose, and sodium nitrate flavouring” – Nestor 1.  

Gotta get me some galactic goodies before navigating the Nebula. Yet it seems that for all the wild and wonderful exploits in outer space, from defying the evil empire, guarding the galaxy, getting lost in the Mutara Nebula, even making the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs, calls for some top nosh, but where is it?! Maybe that’s why there is so much aggro in outer space, because protagonists can only dream of partaking a hearty meal, and it’s doing their head in. As well as their stomachs…  

When the crew of the Nostromo celebrated Kane’s recovery with a slap-up meal – culminating in one of SF’s most memorable moments – we still didn’t get to see what their spread consisted of. Even in the sequel when the marines emerge from cryo-sleep, all they seemed to dine on was cornbread. Not even Ripley liked that; no wonder they got wiped out – insufficient protein is no excuse for anyone. Well, if you thought the cornbread was bad…

In keeping with their war-like tendencies, what do Klingons eat? Their signature dish has the mouthwatering name of “Gagh,” which just happens to be a plate of worms of course. A dish that is best served cold, presumably? 

Today’s Menu:

Blade-Runner-noodles

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shawarma-avengers

Waiter: “Would you like to see the menu? Or would you like to meet the Dish of the Day?”

Zaphod Beeblebrox: “That’s cool. We’ll meet the meat.”   

The astronauts of the Discovery: Bowman and Poole are sampling a tray of colourful but bland gunk; in rainswept Los Angeles, Rick Deckard (ex-Blade Runner/ex-cop) only wanted to have noodles; in The Road Warrior, Max Rockatansky shovells out a can of Dinki-Di dog food. Grief, best not to dwell on those post-apocalyptic days… Yes, but amidst the battles to control water, or petrol, how and from where are all those shoulder-padded loons of the near-future going to get their munchies? And let’s not mention what’s being consumed in Soylent Green.

At least after all he went through, Tony Stark of the Avengers knows a shawarma joint “about two blocks from here.” Not sure what was more spectacular: the team taking out that huge Chitauri millipede thing… or the fact that Stark didn’t even know what shawarma is and wanted to try it?!

Is that it? Let me know if there have been any delectable delicacies excluded from this Post.

Right, that’s it, then: the next sci-fi project to be developed by this writer –  whatever part of the galaxy they end up in, whatever tight spots they get stuck in – most of my characters will (have to) be crazy about Mexican, Thai or Japanese food. And they will stop at nothing to acquire it in it’s natural form, as delicious as poss. Why should that have to sound like such a groundbreaking plot device? 

And then they can wash everything down with a mind-pummeling pint of the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, which as The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (whose second course is entitled: The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe) quaintly puts it: “…the effect of which is like having your brain smashed out with a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick.” 

2001-mealtime

recipes

Enjoy your meal!

Is Neill Blomkamp The Right Choice To Make Alien 5?

Stop Worrying About These Pet Projects!

alien 5

“I can’t think of a better director. He’s a real fan. I think he’ll… take it in unexpected directions… It will certainly stand up to the others and probably break a lot of new ground as well” – Sigourney Weaver. 

It has been common knowledge for some time that Sigourney Weaver wants to reprise her most famous role: Ellen Ripley. This week, it was confirmed that Neill Blomkamp (whose latest movie: Chappie has just opened) will direct Alien 5, after some of his impressive concept art for such a movie project recently emerged. Following some encouraging buzz online, Fox execs were quick to give Blomkamp the green light… but really, is this wise? 

Let’s sift through the evidence: Blomkamp’s debut feature: District 9 (2009), was an intriguing anti-apartheid parable set in South Africa, and showed much promise. Yet when the less impressive Elysium received unfavourable reviews in 2013, it looked like the talent had collapsed. Now, instead of reversing the downward trend, Chappie – apparently an expanded remake of Blomkamp’s own 2003 short: Tetra Vaal – has garnered some very discouraging reviews.

On the strength of District 9, Blomkamp would have been good to go, but now, it looks like an ominous – almost regrettable decision. The latest edition of Time Magazine summed it up aptly: “The world needs good sci-fi movies. Unfortunately, Chappie isn’t one of them.” 

alien_5_hicks_by_djahal-d8cg797Aliens-1986-Sigourney-Weaver-Michael-Biehn-pic-101

“…We’re gonna need immediate evac. I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure” – Cpl. Dwayne Hicks.  

The last time we saw Corporal Dwayne Hicks he’d had his face sprayed with a xenomorph’s acid. This past week, it was confirmed that the actor who played him back in 1986: Michael Biehn, had been approached to possibly reprise that role. Nearly thirty years on, is Biehn ready for active duty once more? “Yes…” he nonchalantly replied. “Looks like it.” 

With this stunning news, we now have to erase Alien 3 (1992) and Alien Resurrection (1997) from memory; fine, some fans believe that both these underwhelming sequels deserve to be expunged from existence anyway. Which brings us back to Crappy. Sorry! Chappie…

It was a tough weekend, ruminating on whether to watch this new release. Just consider the paltry goods on offer: it splices elements of Short Circuit, Robocop and other goodness-knows how many ’80s robo-pics together into a disjointed mess; a supposedly endearing” robot which soon resorts to violence – any chance of a meaningful exposition on artificial intelligence and its ramifications literally blown away; narrative shortcomings aplenty; there appear to be no likeable characters anywhere because it is “too tonally conflicted to engage our sympathies.” 

Die Antwoord are probably the most disconcerting aspect of the whole package. Had never heard of them before; now wishing they had stayed beyond my sensors… And Hugh Jackman sports a mullet… 

Really!

Science fiction should not have to be as painful as this…. surely? Can count avoiding Jupiter Ascending as one of my finest accomplishments during February, but there was no warning about this other misfire lying in wait…

Is Chappie as bad as it looks? Please feel free to Comment. 

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“You’ve been in my life so long, I can’t remember anything else” – Ellen Ripley.  

From Alien to Avatar, Sigourney Weaver has shown how to create bold and no-nonsense roles for women in SF. Can’t help thinking that she would have presented an infinitely more suitable casting choice than Jodie Foster in Elysium…

Last week, while publicising Chappie – in which she plays the CEO of a weapons corporation – this charming and versatile actress – recalled how her next project came about: “…You know it’s a pity we didn’t really finish the story. I said: ‘I should probably talk to Jim Cameron about that.’ And he [Blomkamp] said: ‘Don’t talk to Jim about that, talk to me about that.’ So we kept talking about it.”  

From the first day on the set of Chappie, Blomkamp enthused about his admiration for the first two Alien movies to Weaver; and then he “started sending these incredible paintings of this world and some very detailed story ideas…” 

Yes, but as we have seen, unfortunately, time and time again, how so many projects began with the most impressive pre-production designs only for the finished film to flounder so disappointingly. Weaver should tread cautiously; we don’t dispute that Blomkamp is a swell guy – it’s just that his grasp of SF seems to have diminished somewhat of late… 

On the possibility of working on an Alien 5 with Neill Blomkamp, Weaver remarked: “It would be cool… because I’d love to work with him again.” Very diplomatically, she continued: “…If it’s happening, I’d be curious to know how I would not be in it, but I imagine the alien is in it, and they’ll probably make his deal first, and give him more money.” 

Alen 5: Do you think Sigourney's in safe hands?
Alen 5: Do you think Sigourney’s in safe hands?

Xenomorph! It’s Got A Great Defense Mechanism – You Don’t Dare Kill It…

In space no one can hear you scream.

alien 1979

“The biggest problem, of course, was: What’s the alien going to look like? I mean, you could screw around… trying to come up with something that wasn’t all nobs and bobs… When I went into Fox for the first meeting, they had a book there by H.R. Giger: The Necronomicon. I took one look at it, and I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life” – Sir Ridley Scott.  

With Halloween just weeks away, it would be cool at this point to just break away from the usual SF themes explored in this Blog, and delve into something darker and more sinister. The cold and cruel depths of outer space seems like an all-too-obvious choice in which to set horror movies. A quick glance over the last 35 years since Ridley Scott’s seminal sci-fi shocker: Alien reveals that the challenge was met with some gruesome, sleazy and downright odd specimens!

It doesn’t matter that E.T. (1982) – with its endearing portrayal of a harmless but lost, dopey-looking alien – overtook Star Wars to become the Highest Grossing Movie Of All Time. No, audiences clamoured for beasties with a bit more bite, preferably with acid for blood…

A whole spate of low-budget video nasties offered a range of horrendous xenos (of the cheap and nasty kind!) and delivered a standard mix of gore, dimly-lit scenes and a copious supply of invariably loud and incredibly dumb humans whose chances of survival were just as miniscule as their “acting” abilities.

Let’s rummage through the bargain bin of bug-eyed beasties and see what this SF/Horror hybrid really looks like! So, anyone fancy a bug hunt?

xenomorphit

“Giger seems to be painting aliens, but the closer you look, the more you realise he’s painting twisted versions of us” – Clive Barker.

The term: “xenomorph” was first used in connection with the weird cyclopean entities of It Came From Outer Space (1953). With their spacecraft having crashlanded in the Arizona desert, these aliens could take on human form, but in the rare glimpses of their natural forms, they were truly terrifying.

Possibly the grandaddy of sci fi-horror beasties would have to be It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958). Having gone to the trouble of creating a genuinely scary-looking “Terror,” the creature still hid in the shadows for maximum shock effect (not to mention to make the most of a miniscule budget!) It! holds a special place in this Post, being widely regarded as the primary influence behind Ridley Scott’s vision.

Alien (1979) is justifiably considered to be the pinnacle of SF/Horror; not only does it capture the claustrophobia and debilitating loneliness on a space freighter in an unknown sector of the galaxy, but it also can be treated best as a traditional haunted house story set in deep space. The biomechanoid design of the xenomorph by the late great H.R. Giger has stood the test of time as one of cinema’s greatest creations. The Swiss surrealist artist derived his unique style from his own nightmares; how fitting then that he has gone on to disrupt the sleep of many others!

And ya know what? Harrison “I’m Han Solo/Indiana Jones, get over it” Ford turned down the opp to play Captain Dallas(!), while Peter “walking carpet” Mayhew lost the chance to don that infamous xenomorph suit.

“I find that hard to believe,” said Ripley incredulously.

mutantcreaturetrash

“You still don’t understand what you’re dealing with, do you? Perfect organism. It’s structural perfection is matched only by its hostility” – Ash.

During the mid-80s, there were hordes of downright despicable carnivorous aliens on bloodthirsty rampages in SF movies, at a time when slasher flicks were dominating the shelves labelled: “Horror” in every video rental shop. Despite this serious lack of variety, this blogger nevertheless confesses to have rented out (almost thirty years ago, of course) some of these cheap and (below) average Alien clones on too many weekends to mention. Among them, the likes of Star Crystal and Titan Find would get screwed up played in my long-suffering VCR.

Actually, these rip-offs were just as ridiculous as they were unlimited. To illustrate this extreme situation, take for example: Galaxy of Terror (1981) (aka Planet of Horrors) produced by Roger Corman, and then Forbidden World (1982) (aka Mutant) produced by (yes!) Roger Corman – very confusing, especially considering how their equally shoddy production values made them virtually undistinguishable!  

Interestingly enough, considering the tacky nature of the special effects, more or less the same team responsible for Titan Find (1985) would reunite shortly after for another marauding monster vs. hapless humans thrill-fest. Only this time the effects were supervised by an FX Master: Stan Winston, and a certain James Cameron was onboard to direct the Mother of all Bug Hunts: Aliens (1986).  

It’s ironic to think that the only true rival to Alien came in the form of its own sequel! (There is too much to say about this veritable Classic, so will deliver a Post devoted to this some day soon).

Has it really come to this conclusion? That in order to make a really enjoyable SF/Horror monster movie you had to have either Scott or Cameron’s direction?! Or Giger’s superior design?! Admittedly, back in the day, there was a certain charm… then, but now that brand of garish and outrageous action/horror cannot exist outside the 80s, and the enthusiasm once readily mustered for them can never be replicated…

Well, it’s getting late, and it’s a heckuva long way back to Earth, so…

Back to the old freezerinos.

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Sweet dreams!

The Expandables: The Age Of The Franchise

Intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action and some mild language

attack of th sequels

“Sequels are like safety nets for studios and investors; they consistently deliver the most potent box-office punch” – Jeff Bock.

In a galaxy too close for comfort, it seems like too many people are getting overexcited about the looming threat of Star Wars Episode VII. Apart from subjecting impressionable younglings to the bamboozlement of Roman numerals, how will popular culture cope? Moreover, what good will it do for the already franchise-infested movie industry?

Yes, place the emphasis on industry – it really has got to the stage where movie-making has become a bustling business where umpteen gazillions of dollars are pumped into the objective of making bigger and better sequels – using the same characters (and actors), fights/car chases/Stan Lee cameos (tick appropriate box), effects, gimmicks and humour to avoid taking any creative risks. As evidenced by this year’s crop of X-Men, Twansfoamers (no, altering the spelling doesn’t ease the pain) and Planet of the Apps (ha!) sequels of sequels assuredly retain the financial stability of the modern movie-making madhouse.

Traditionally, cinema-goers have been perturbed by what came to be labelled: “sequelitis,” and movie critics habitually scoffed at them, decrying them as mere substitutes for creativity and originality. Look out: the new brand of sequels are the harbingers of that commodity of ingenuity; instead of railing against them, we should embrace them.

Here’s how – and why…

winter soldier

“We are not really talking about sequels any more. We are talking about films that are conceived of as longer plays than one film” – David Hancock, Screen Digest.  

Essentially, movies are now concocted within a certain franchise template, specifically designed to outperform its predecessors. Plus, a particular narrative is dispersed throughout numerous instalments, and having familiar faces and safe-bet material saves a fortune in carving out new publicity strategies. Accept it: gone are the days when sequels seemed tagged on primarily to snap up some more dosh, and lacked the surprise and originality of their predecessor. Now continuity is the key – production of the official follow-up can start even before the original has been released!

Just take Captain America as a prime example. Captain America: The First Avenger was a really good film; yet earlier this year: Captain America: The Winter Soldier accumulated a mighty $715 million dollars because it set out (rather skilfully, thankfully) to expand and vastly improve its material. Naturally enough, no prizes for guessing that Cap 3 is sure to be with us shortly…

Just as Guardians of the Galaxy can be rightly celebrated as the crowning triumph of the summer, offering a simple fun formula of material not used heretofore, but then, before you can nab an Infinity Stone, the rush of fizzy refreshing originality is swiped aside momentarily by the slightly unnerving inevitability of the sequel. You saw the message at the end: they will return. This came as no surprise to me. It was preordained, betcha.

Yet there was also the probability of the movie turning out to be the next (ahem) Howard The Duck… and that’s the point.

Nobody (generally) likes to take risks in Hollywood.

Business is business…

The original can be really cool!
The original can be really cool!

eddie joneseddie joneseddie jones

^ but make it again… and again… without changing key elements, it becomes boring and nobody will want to watch any more…

 

“Sigourney and I have a long creative history, dating back to 1985 when we made Aliens. We’re good friends who’ve always worked well together, so it just feels right that she’s coming back for the Avatar sequels” – James Cameron.  

No one ever dies in science fiction – this should not take anyone aback. Despite the departure of Grace Augustine from that $2.7 billion behemoth of 2009, fan-fave Sigourney Weaver confirms that she will feature in ALL THREE sequels(!) Her other great character: Ripley, was cloned.

Even Spock – who sacrificed himself at the end of the best Star Trek movie – was, by some absolutely ludicrous plot-device, brought back to ruin the next “grand” episode of the saga. And… hey! As a perennial favourite, it was only a matter of time before the reboot came along… swiftly  followed by the (some may say) superior sequel…

This system is not unique to the science fiction/fantasy genre but can be applied just as easily to action thrillers and feature-length animated movies too. It would be a futile gesture to call for a boycott against such trash as Transformers, for it has already been decreed that this wretched franchise will lumber on, regardless of what serious cinema-goers want to see.

Bradscribe understands the art of writing a good follow-up, and like all the best-loved franchises, this Post will have…

to be continued...

Who knows, it’ll probably be bigger and better than this one!

Cheers!

 

Venus Ascending: Which SF Heroines Should Return?

Posted: 17 August 2014

ripley

“I’m no Ripley. I had doubts that I could play her as strongly as she had to be played, but I must say that it was fun exploring that side of myself. Women don’t get to do that very often” – Sigourney Weaver.  

In th the far reaches of the universe, “where no one in their right mind would go,” undeniably the strongest female character in SF – Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley – will return for one last time, insists Sigourney Weaver, the actress who portrayed her so memorably across four different movies. She believes that one last story about this bold and daring character deserves to be told, reiterating that by no means should it be set on Earth.  

Considering how Ripley was killed off at the end of dreary Alien 3, and its lacklustre follow-up: Alien Resurrection did not add anything consequential to this waning franchise, the prospect of having the legacy of this great Power Loader-operating and flame-throwing heroine tarnished further does not sound so appealling.

And yet there are numerous strong and feisty females in SF, who – despite the genre for decades being predominantly the reserve of young white males – have thrived regardless and won their own fanbases. Even my own sciency-fickety scribblings are brimming with stern and headstrong women because – let’s face it – they were the ones always rejecting me in real life.  

This Post will explore – in this bland and bloated age of sequels, prequels and reboots – which SF heroines of yesteryear should be brought back to the big screen… plus those who shouldn’t.

Leialeia bespinleia wicket

“Fifty-seven years ago I did his little Star Wars film… George is a sadist, but… wearing a metal bikini chained to a giant slug… I keep coming back for more” – Carrie Fisher.  

In December 2015, Princess Leia will return – whether we like it or not. Sure, the original trilogy will always be fondly remembered, but those prequels were an abomination which can never be expunged, let alone forgiven.

Of course there is some curiosity as to what it would be like to have her back, alongside Han and Luke, but really…. it should all have ended back in 1983. So it is with a very heavy heart that this forthcoming trilogy will be regarded with an inevitable and uneasy sense of dread.   

patricia neal

“Gort… Klaatu Barada Nikto” – Helen Benson.

Patricia Neal, as Helen Benson in Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) provided a strong and striking performance at a time when actresses in B-movies of that era were usually “required” to do no more than scream at any frightful thing that lumbered into view (usually from behind.) She was charged with saving the Earth from Gort, should anything happen to Klaatu (Michael Reeve).

Okay, so she did yell and carry out the ubiquitous horror cliche of stumbling over a deceptively flat piece of terra firma at a crucial stage during the suspense, but otherwise she was a remarkably confident woman – thank goodness – at the right time. She is certainly the sort of determined individual to have in the next Earth-threatening drama.

Hang on! Only just remembered!

A monumentally useless remake popped up in 2008 featuring Jennifer Connelly as Helen Benson. This affront to cultural sensibilities just serves to remind us that that heresy can be avoided if you have a decent script – not to mention a talented leading lady…

flash n daledale arden

“I’m a New York City girl. Things are a little too quiet around here for me!” – Dale Arden.

Flash Gordon was one of the great influences of my early years, with the amazing Alex Raymond strip and the Universal serials from the 1930s, not to mention the immensely enjoyable (and endlessly quotable) 1980 feature film, but throughout his manic meddling on Mongo,  he wouldn’t have got far without the doughty Dale Arden.

Is it time for a Flash reboot? Hell yeah!

But this time, there would be a tremendous opportunity to enhance the strong elements of Dale’s character and give her a hard-edged and courageous 21st century makeover.

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

Whatever happened to Sean Young?

As Rachael the replicant in Blade Runner (1982), her soft demeanour provided a tender contrast to the other two violent artificial femmes.   Somehow, in this perpetually dark and soggy dystopia of 2019, she brought an incongruous, yet oddly affecting, 1940s look to the film.

It’s too bad she won’t live, said Gaff, the origami guy in the fedora, yet it would have been so intriguing to see more of her. As rumours of a sequel gather pace, it is alarming to learn that Rachael somehow won’t have a part in it…

The number of times (mis)spent sitting through dull and uninspired SF movies and you wish someone as stylish as her could just glide in and brighten up proceedings…

…but then again, who does?