Archive for the Adventure Category

Voodoo Effigy, iPhone 6S+

Posted in Adventure, Weird Science with tags , , , on February 21, 2017 by MONSTERMINIONS

The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

Posted in Adventure, Cult Movies with tags , on December 9, 2014 by MONSTERMINIONS


This past week’s Simpson’s Christmas episode featured a short bit with Comic Book Guy watching and enjoying every minute of the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, which aired on CBS November 17, 1978.  I watched it back then and through the miracle of videotape preservationists and the inspiration from comic book guy I can watch it now.  I dug out a pristine DVD-R of dubious origin, with provenance from a VHF terrestrial broadcast from the Baltimore, Maryland region, and popped it in.  Low and behold it still sucks and managed to put me asleep not once, but on three separate occasions.


The story has Chewie (Peter Mayhew), in co-pilot with Han (Harrison Ford) attempting to get back to his home planet to spend time with his Wookie family during Life Day.  His family consists of his wife Malla, dad Itchy (above) and son Lumpy (below) who worry that Chewie has not yet arrived for the holiday.  They live in an astro-turfed tree house clad with interesting gaming tables, media playback devices (that suspiciously look like a cassette tape recorder), lots of stairs, and Archie Bunker chairs. They are befriended by fellow rebel Art Carney (yes, Ed Norton).


Art Carney plays a junk dealer/trader (years before Watto) who runs a shop a lot like a Spencers Gift or a Walgreens. Here Wookies can purchase tacky crap like minature fish tanks and Chia-Wookies. Later as the story progresses Carney even goes into his Ed Norton routine in front of an Imperial officer, snatching an imaginary fly from the air, with the officer responded in Ralph Kramden prose “Will you get on with it!”.

SWHS_Carney Bug Shtick

Mark Hamill appears tinkering in a garage, presumably on Tattooine, with R2, touching base with the Wookies by way of a video-phone (years before Face Time). What is up with Hamill’s makeup?


Along the way we also see Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and C3PO who reassure the Wookies that Han will deliver Chewie safe and sound. Meanwhile Han and Chewie fly around in the Falcon, yelling in a cockpit which looks like a set from Plan 9 from Outer Space. Harvey Korman plays multiple roles, including a bizarre segment as a Shields and Yarnell like android that teaches young Itchy how to build an Illudium Q-36 explosvie space modulator. Diahann Carroll and the Jefferson Starship also perform two dreadful musical numbers; thankfully at separate intervals in the special.

Of interest to Star Wars fans are the later appearances and closeup views of Rick Baker’s original Cantina monsters, which appear in a bar run by Bea Arthur! I could not dream this stuff up in a nightmare.

The Star Wars Holiday Special is probably best know for a well-conceived animation segment which features the original appearance of bounty hunter Boba Fett (more closely resembling Jango Fett). There’s also an alien co-pilot that reminds me a bit of a Mon Calamari (Admiral Ackbar).

SWHS_Mon Calamari Prototype

The animation closely resembles portions of Heavy Metal (1981), especially the Taarakian Warrior sequence, down to the bird-like beasts that Boba and Taarna ride.  If I thought it worth my time I’d do some research and likely confirm some of the same animators worked on both segments. I might be wrong. The holiday special also gives us glimpses of Fett’s nefarious and double-crossing ways and effective gadgetry, including a projectile lasso.

SWHS_Fett_Lasso Launcher

SWHS_Fett with Lasso

The Star Wars Holiday Special is quite a curiosity and there are entire web pages dedicated to the feature. Upon one single viewing it is clear that the older executives at CBS had no clue what Star Wars was about and how it connected with the younger generation. Star Wars was exciting and heroic with a terrific sense of humor.  In this TV mess we see Art Carney delivering awkward and dated shtick from the 50’s. Still, this surreal  time capsule is an essential addition to any child of the 70’s video arsenal and worth a look for historians, morons and revisionist filmmakers. Ben Affleck allegedly studied the special as a template for the look of Argo (now I am just lying).

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Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975)

Posted in Adventure with tags , on August 4, 2014 by MONSTERMINIONS

Doc Savage_1st IssueSomehow I missed this odd film adaptation of the 1st of Lester Dent’s 181 Doc Savage books.  I only stumbled upon the film after finding a faded copy of the movie tie-in comic published by Magazine Management Co., and presented by Stan Lee in August 1975. Doc Savage was originally published in American pulp magazines in the 1930’s and 40’s. Several of the stories were later re-issued as pulps in the 1960’s, with notable cover artwork by commercial artist James Bama, who also created the box cover art for several Aurora Model Kits. Bama is often credited with updating Doc Savage’s image with a prominent widow’s peak and distinct Teutonic look.

Fellow blogger Nic Sauer was quick to point out that Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975) plays a lot like the 1960’s Batman series. I agree. It also reminds me a bit of the James Coburn Flint movies. Doc Savage is punctuated with colorful villains (one sucks his thumb and sleeps in a giant rocking infant’s bed), flamboyant sets, a molten pool of gold, customized vehicles, a prologue (by Paul Frees!), and adventure-packed cliff-hanging scenarios.

Doc Savage_Title

The film is fairly unwatchable due to studio money people insisting that the film be played as camp —the inclusion of a squealing piglet and other casting ineptitudes does not help. You haven’t lived until you see Paul Gleason play an electrical wizard wearing a Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) scarf. Producer/Writer George Pal allegedly lost funding midway through production and opted to use a horrid score purloined from John Philip Sousa. A John William score would have helped. 

Actor Ron Ely (Tarzan Series, 1966) is fine in the lead role. I would have liked to have seen him in more films in the 70’s.  Later he popped up in lot’s of TV, included stints on Fantasy Island (1979-1984), The Love Boat (1980-1983) and Wonder Woman (1978). Physically he reminds me a bit of Dolph Lundgren. Convention favorite Michael (Pluto) Berryman has a small (possibly dubbed) part as a coroner. Also look for heavy Robert Tessier (Robert Shaw’s henchman in The Deep, 1997) as one of the bad guys.

1936 Cord_Doc Savage

On the plus side, the film has some eye candy including plenty of cleavage and a 1936 Cord 810 Convertible Coupe, apparently modified with running boards to accommodate a script calling for Doc Savage riding along side the car.  Doc Savage also features some excellent matte paintings created by visual effects artist Matthew Yuricich, who worked on several notables, including Logan’s Run (1976), Damnation Alley (1977), CE3K (1977), Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), 1941 (1979), Blade Runner (1982), 2010 (1984), and Die Hard (1988).  The matte painting of Doc’s art deco lair/heliport is really cool.

Matte Painting_Doc Savage_Yuricich

Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze is available as a Warner Brother’s Archive Collection DVD.

Yeah eye candy!

Eye Candy_Doc Savage


Piranha (1972)

Posted in Adventure with tags , on July 3, 2014 by MONSTERMINIONS

Two Wildlife Photographers. A Homicidal Hunter. A Head Start.


Tough guy William Smith (b. 1933) has played Dracula, Conan the Barbarian’s dad, cowboys, cops, bikers, a soviet officer,  the Frankenstein monster, a space alien, Batman’s last nemesis Adonis (1968) and Clint Eastwood’s advisary Jack Wilson (the same name as Jack Palance’s gunslinger in Shane, 1953) in Any Which Way You Can (1980).  The guy has had a prolific career and at his best he is a terrific villain.  At his worst, like in low-budget exploitation flicks like Piranha (1972), he’s still a terrific villain.

I first learned about this low-budget “The Most Dangerous Game” while watching a beat up 16mm print at the underrated Cinema Wasteland show in Strongsville, Ohio.  Aguire the Wrath of God this film is not, but Smith will hold your attention as the unpredictable Caribe.

Piranha_On the road

Piranha_Ahria Capri_Peter Brown. Tom Simcox

The story is simple.  A wildlife photographer Terry Browne (Ahna “Ahria” Capri) and her brother (Tom Simcox) are accompanied by guide Jim Pendrake (Peter Brown) in the Amazon jungle.  Along the way, at the dubious establishment el milagro the trio encounter the hunter Caribe. He buys them a few drinks. Caribe takes a liking to Terry.  The usual cock fighting cliches ensue.  Caribe and Pendrake race dirt bikes.  Caribe wins. Caribe doesn’t like losing.  Caribe celebrates and takes his new friends to a diamond mine.

El Milagro


Piranha was filmed on location (Venezuela?) and some of the hand-held jungle photography by Luis Jacko is pretty good.  The bike race is exciting, with Gauchos overlooking, and has some fairly interesting perspective camera angles.  I also like some of the photography of native people along the Amazon tributaries. With the exception of Smith, who clenches his teeth a lot (he reminds me of Jack Palance), the acting is horrid.

Later, Caribe kills a King Vulture for fun.  We learn about his dark side. Caribe hunts people.

Piranha_Kill the vulture

Leave the Girl

Except for a very short but key sequence, no Piranha actually appear in the film.  Perhaps Piranha is a reference to the predatory nature of Caribe? By the end Terry is pushed too far.

Terry's Revenge


Caribe bites it

Will Caribe return?


Piranha is fairly difficult to find. I had my DVD from Miracle Pictures (PMC Corp) on back order from Amazon, about $11, for about 6 months.  I don’t know if it was worth the wait. If you’re looking for something different this is it.

Journey to the West (2014)

Posted in Adventure with tags on March 19, 2014 by MONSTERMINIONS


This Chinese import from 2013 is now available for direct streaming on-line.  It’s one of the most original and entertaining films I have seen in the last 10 years.  I tend to be hard on CGI films, but this one just blew me away with fantastic designs of Chinese mythological creatures and a light comical approach. Looking for a film with original monsters? Look no further.  The opening sequence with a giant “catfish” demon will get your attention.  The film is a mosaic of kung fu, slap stick comedy, adventure and fantasy.  Portions of the film vaguely reminded me of George Pal’s 7 Face’s of Dr. Lao (1964), but Journey is fairly unique.

The story has rival demon hunters in feudal China searching out for fame in ridding a peasant village of  evil Yaoguai.  These take the form of a monstrous catfish with a chameleon’s tongue, a pig demon, and a powerful Monkey King.  The demon hunters have a few tricks up their sleeves too.  Demon hunter Almighty Foot (Chaol Zhang) is one amazing spectacle to behold.    Kudos to directors Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle, 2004) and Derek Kwok for this delightful wacky piece of art. I loved it.

Almighty Foot

IMDb Journey to the West

The Jungle

Posted in Adventure, Miscellania on February 24, 2014 by MONSTERMINIONS

The Jungle

While in south Florida, I shot this image using a digital Olympus camera converted to infra-red.  It looks like a landscape, but it is actually a shot looking straight up a massive fig tree. The ferns are growing out of the side of the trunk and that’s a vine from lower left to center.  The blue is actually the canopy looking out into the sky.  I was going for Skull Island and Doré look.  I can almost imagine Kong laying waste to an ornery allosaurus.  Here’s the same shot desaturated.

Jungle by barry

Serpent Island (1954)

Posted in Adventure, Bad Films I Love with tags , , on April 9, 2013 by MONSTERMINIONS

Serpent Island

Sonny Tufts (b. Boston 1911, d. Santa Monica 1970) was 43 years of age when he made Serpent Island.  It’s fairly obvious from this film that years of hard-drinking, smoking and stress took a toll on the guy’s body and face.  By today’s health conscious standards the man in Serpent Island looks like he was at least 60. I always equate the actor with the notoriously awful Cat-Women of the Moon (1953)(don’t go there), but he’s made some decent films including The Seven Year Itch (1955), Here Comes the Waves (1944) opposite Bing Crosby and Betty Hutton, and The Virginian (1946), with Joel McCrea.

Serpent Island (1954) features none of those desirable actors.  Nor is it a good film —even for bad film connoisseurs.   The movie is really bad and ranks up there with plenty of stinkers.  I’d lump it somewhere between The Incredible Petrified World (1957) (YAWN ALERT) and Bert I. Gordon’s King Dinosaur (1955), which for some insane reason I like.  I’m a glutton for punishment: BAD FILMS I LOVE.

Sonny Tufts-Smoking Pipe

Serpent Island was edited and photographed by Bert I. Gordon, who shot the movie on 16mm Kodachrome film stock with an Eastman Kodak Cine-Special 16mm camera (Gordon, 2009). Screenshots of the film here indicate a 1.37:1 aspect ratio consistent with standard 16mm film. Several shots were hand-held (or on unstable ground) as evidenced by shaky frames and jittery pans.  I don’t think directed lighting was used anywhere. Several scenes are under-exposed (I can barely see the serpent of Serpent Island).

I do like the color of the film.  Reds really pop. Generally, the print is vibrant and looks decent enough.  Kodachrome is an incredibly recalcitrant film stock and this is a good example of vintage film used by low-budget film makers.

Gordon has noted that the budget for Serpent Island was $18,000 (about $160,000 adjusted for today’s inflation) and funded by Consolidated Film Lab.  In his autobiography he notes that he produced, developed the story and shot the film, while Tom Gries directed and wrote the screenplay.  You wouldn’t know it based on Serpent Island, but Emmy winning Tom Gries went on to write and direct several noteworthy films including Will Penny (1968), considered a classic by many; 100 Rifles (1969), The Greatest (1977), Helter Skelter (1976), Breakout (1975), and various Batman episodes (1966-1968).  Based on his resume he was adept at working with pain in the ass actors.

Here Sonny Tufts shows off his physique.

The Amazing Sonny Tufts

Here we have Sonny Tufts smoking a pipe.

Sonny Tufts Smoking Pipe Another Time

The story of Serpent Island is captured by Bert I. Gordon:

An office secretary from Scranton, Pennsylvania, Ricki Andre (Mary Munday) sets out to find her great-grandfather’s hidden treasure. She enlists the aid of a former marine engineer-turned-harbor-bum Pete Mason (Sonny Tufts), and the greedy captain of the boat [Tom Monroe] they commission to take them on their mission. They find the gold hidden on an island near Haiti, but it’s guarded by a voodoo cult and a deadly boa constrictor.

Mary Munday (yes, that is her name) also went on to better things including quite a bit of TV: Quincy, The Rockford Files, McCloud, Police Story, and others.  She appeared in Norma Ray (1979) and as a bar maid in Pressure Point (1962).  She’s likeable enough and seems to be remembering her lines in Serpent Island, but I wouldn’t have bet she would go on to playing Anthony Hopkin’s mom in Magic (1978).

Mary Munday Takes it OFF

Here one of the Voodoo guys (named “Big Boy”) is checking her out.  Films have changed in the last 60 years!

Native Checks out Mary

Serpent Island sounds like it should be a lot of fun, with treasure hunters, stock footage of sharks, fist-fighting, a voodoo ceremony and a large snake guarding a golden statue,  but it just doesn’t gel. However, in the right frame of mind you might enjoy it or fall asleep.  A fun drinking game might be to do a shot of West Indies rum everytime you see Sonny Tufts chew on a pipe!  I lost count very early on.

Sonny Tufts and the Pipe

The best scenes are on the island.  The stock footage of the voodoo ceremony is fairly interesting, with preparation of potions and dancing in the Oúfo with hougan preciding. I can’t help but wonder where the resourceful Mr. BIG acquired the footage.  It seems to be something more than just footage of folks dancing.

Voodoo_Serpent Island

And then there’s the climatic ending with Mary vs. the Boa constrictor

Mary Munday vs. The Boa

The Boa constrictor was handled by Ralph Helfer who worked with the armadillos in King Dinosaur (1955) and the big cats in Black Zoo (1963).  Boas are new world species and do occur on various islands in the West Indies.  This wasn’t a bad action scene.

Serpent Island is available with Roger Corman’s first monster film Monster from the Ocean Floor (1954)(for fans only) on a Creepy Creature Double Feature Vol 1 DVD.  The disc also has a Corman interview by Tom Weaver, cut scenes, trailers and triva by Tom.  What the hell, for $10 pick it up!

And here’s the treasure!

Serpent Island Treasure

B.I. Gordon, 2009. The Amazing Colossal Worlds of Mr. B.I.G., An Autobiographical Journey by Bert I. Gordon.

Secret of the Incas (1954)

Posted in Adventure on March 4, 2013 by MONSTERMINIONS

A globe-trotting archaeologist wearing an aviator jacket and fedora searches for an ancient pre-Columbian gold relic hidden away in the ruins of a Peruvian temple. Sound familiar? Another Indiana Jones adventure? Nope, this one also comes from Paramount Studios, but it starred Charlton Heston as mercenary adventurer Harry Steele. It’s the nearly forgotten adventure film Secret of the Incas (1954), which no doubt influenced George Lucas’ Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).

Secret of the Incas_Titles

Secret of the Incas features beautiful on-location shooting in the Peruvian Andes, and has a strong cast with Heston, Thomas Mitchell (as shyster Ed Morgan), and Robert Young (as archaeologist Stanley Moorehead). Young was good in films of this nature, but I always associate him with the TV shows Father Knows Best (1954-1960) and later as Marcus Welby, M.D.
Bob Young as Stanley Moorehead
The lead girl is French actress Nicole Maurey (as Elena Antonescu). You may recognize Maurey also in The Day of the Triffids (1962). She looks good opposite Heston’s ruggedness. Here he’s playing a character similar to the circus manager Brad Braden in De Mille’s The Greatest Show on Earth (1952). I like Charlton Heston. Like Robert Mitchum, you know what you’re getting in their films.
Incas_Elena Antonescu and Harry SteeleHarry spies on Elena
The film also features Yma Sumac, a Peruvian artist known for her incredible 4 1/2 octave vocal range (she contributed to The Big Lebowski, 1998 soundtrack). Her voice got on my nerves, but there is no denying the uniqueness of her talents.
Yma Sumac_Incas
The coolest set piece of this film is the final sequence within the Incan Temple of the Sun. This will no doubt draw comparisons to the opening teaser and the map room scenes in Raiders.
The Secret of the Incas
Some of the similarities between Secret of the Incas and Raiders of the Lost Ark include:

– Harry and Indy both sport fedoras and aviator-style leather jackets,
– Harry and Indy both enter a temple carrying a canvas bag,
– Both men are resourceful tough guys,
– Both men are well-versed in the study of antiquities,
– Both films feature a search for a gold artifact,
– The artifacts are secretly hidden, and
– Require puzzle pieces to solve the mystery of their locations,
– Both films jump around with double-crosses and nefarious characters,
– Both films feature hard-boiled female leads,
– Both films have an exciting airplane escape sequence, and
– The guy ends of with the girl.

Secret of the Incas is relatively difficult to find*. My copy is a bootleg DVD-R derived from a 16mm print. This would make a terrific double bill with Raiders or Heston’s The Naked Jungle (1954)!

And yes, that’s Marion Ross (Mrs. Cunningham) as a tourist who gets conned by Harry in the beginning of the film!

*I guess this is offered by Netflix Streaming and is on YouTube.