Monday, 22 May 2017

MOONLIGHTING PILOT EPISODE VHS RELEASE

From the VHS era: The feature-length pilot episode of MOONLIGHTING, as released by The Video Collection.

This was one of the first sell-through TV tapes that I was aware of back in the 1980s and it may have been something of a trendsetter in the market, cashing in on the appeal of the show (airing, from memory, at 9pm on Tuesdays on BBC TWO).

The market obviously wasn't ready for episodic releases as we had to wait until the 1990s for what had become the industry standard release pattern: two episodes on a single tape, priced-to-go somewhere north of the £10.99 price point.


THE AVENGERS LUMIERE VHS VOLUME 1

From the VHS era: the first of what turned out to be a long run (including a few rather stylish boxsets and store exclusives) of THE AVENGERS tapes.  Lumiere went the extra mile with these releases by pairing strong episodes (initially from the Rigg era... one b&w and one colour), adding sleave notes and making the prints look as good as possible.

I'd seen - and enjoyed - the show back in the 1980s when CHANNEL FOUR had rerun it on a Sunday night but these tapes were the first chance I'd have to see it as an 'adult'.  And I really enjoyed it.  It soon became part of my (super expensive) tape-buying routine along with the other current or 'classic' releases of the era.  The economics of it all seem madness now... I wish i had found a cheaper hobby.    


1996: BABYLON FIVE'S THE FIVE TIMES FANZINE ISSUE 8

From the spring of 1996: the 8th issue of the UK BABYLON FIVE FAN CLUB magazine THE FIVE TIMES, with a really nice CGI render of the station as the cover.  

I think that shows the level of co-operation (albeing falling short of an official endorsement) the club enjoyed with the production.  Partly because the cast and crew always seemed to be here in the UK for conventions and signings.


1994: THERMAL LANCE ISSUE 20

From August 1994: the 20th issue of British DOCTOR WHO & TELEFANTASY fanzine THERMAL LANCE.


Friday, 19 May 2017

STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION VIDEO COVER

From VHSville: CBS released the first trailer for the new STAR TREK DISCOVERY TV show yesterday... and fandom of course went into meltdown.  Rather than just be chuffed that what was essentially a dead TV franchise (and not doing that well at the movies either) is being revived with what looks like a whopping budget, they decided to fixate on having to pay a few dollars-per-month to watch the show on the CBS streaming video platform in the States (it will be on Netflix in other markets) and debating why the show - set before the Kirk/ Spock era doesn't look more like 'The Cage'.

The first gripe seems to be that they have never had to pay for Trek before (except for the tapes, discs, books, comics, action figures, magazines, movie tickets and a million other bits of merchandise) so why should they start paying now?  They don't seem to understand that the TV marketplace has changed and that Trek, frankly, exhausted, the old routes to air by being squeezed out of first-run syndication (partly because previously independent stations were turning over their airtime to new webs like UPN and CW and partly because Paramount had flooded the market with reruns of the other series in the franchise) and then network TV (UPN, despite all the problems at the ownership level and the frequently changing programming priorities, did stand behind Trek for over a decade) when UPN and WB finally merged after a decade of slugging it out in an ever-shrinking fish pond.

CBS is using Trek to drive recognition and uptake to their new subscription service.  Broadcasters know that linear broadcasting is going to be a game of diminishing returns from now on and they need to stake a claim in the new world order or risk a few big players controling the content and the business deals.  Filling 24-hours of broadcast content is looking increasingly like hard work when you can concentrate cash and resources into fewer titles, that punch harder, which viewers can dip into whenever they want.

Fans should be celebrating that Trek is coming back to TV... and that CBS is willing to bet the farm by using it as a cornerstone for their new venture.  Trek has a bold tradition in leading broadcasting innovation.  Paramount pondered launching their own TV network in the late Seventies (that ultimately went nowhere when the advertising sums didn't add up) prior to STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE; again when they used TNG to open up the syndication market to first-run quality drama and yet again when Trek anchored their UPN venture with Chris-Craft in an attempt to get into the network business to avoiud being squeezed out by legislation that allowed - for the first time in decades - the network's to own the shows they aired.

So... here is a fairly random STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION VHS cover from back in the day when British fans had to pay over a fiver per episode to get the latest episodes or wait months (or years) for them to appear on Sky One (subscription alert!) or BBC TWO.

As for the second... Yup, it would make perfect sense to make the cutting edge remake look like a 50+ year old show.


1981: MARVEL UK'S STAR WARS THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK ISSUE 146

From June 1981: STAR WARS THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK MONTHLY issue 146 wraps up 'The last Jedi' (from US 49) with what i assume is a brand new, exclusive to the UK cover.  It's almost neon...

The story may have been split over two issues as a buffer because the the British Bullpen were diverting the extended length 'The Crimson Forever' into the second ESB annual, leaving them short of material for the monthly.  They didn't get around to running that strip, from US issue 50, in a regular comic until the ROTJ era.  



TISWAS: MORE OF THE BEST BITS ITC VIDEO

From ATVland: the second, and - I think - final, VHS release of TISWAS material left in the ITC vaults circa the mid 1990s.

Someone obviously pointed out to the designer that yellow was the colour palette most associated with the show... honestly you'd think they'd have used it for the first volume.


Thursday, 18 May 2017

TISWAS VHS: THE BEST OF THE BEST BITS

From the VHS era: More cult tv... this time an all-too-brief (under an hour!) compilation of TISWAS highlights (aka the best of whatever material was left in the ATV archives when it was all transfered to ITC in the early Eighties) released on the briefly highly productive ITC label.

A second volume followed.



Tuesday, 16 May 2017

SPACE: 1999 ALIEN ATTACK VHS COVER

From the VHS era: SPACE:1999: ALIEN ATTACK, a cut-and-shunt combination of several episodes of the TV series to make a movie presentation.  Before ITC VIDEO started to release the individual episodes (and licensing problems meant some had to held back until late in the release run), these compilations were the only way of getting hold of the show on home video.


THE TRANSFORMERS: ARRIVAL FROM CYBERTRON VHS

From the VHS era: the first TRANSFORMERS tape release in the UK, featuring the opening multi-part story ARRIVAL FROM CYBERTRON.  AKA The Origin Story.

The series made its TV debut sliced into brief four-to-five minute segments and aired daily, in the school holidays, as part of TV-am's weekday morning Roland Rat-fronted childrens strand.  This strictly rationed approach ensured we tuned in every day of the holiday... and also allowed TV-am to make one 25-minute episode last a week.  Which no doubt appealed to their frugal mindset.  It also - of course - made a mess of the structure of the episode, not helped by some occasionally random fading in and out if the vision mixer wasn't paying attention.  

The breakfast broadcaster did - later - air complete episodes at the weekends.  They also - briefly - pressed the show into service to fill their weekday schedules during the technicians strike which - initially - made it all-but-impossible for the management-operated station to mount anything other than the most simple (rip-and-read news headlines and the weather) live output.  

Numerous more TRANSFORMERS VHS tapes followed.  When they proved a cashcow and a useful cross-promotion for the toys, Hasbro added tapes of pretty much every other animated show they were pumping out in the States.  At least Transformers, unlike ACTION FORCE, didn't require a new soundtrack.  


LOST IN SPACE VOLUME 1 VHS

From the VHS era: LOST IN SPACE is on its way back to TV... so here is the first UK sell-through VHS cover.  The first (of - I think - only three tapes) included the first two (black & white) episodes from the show's first season.

Fox released two more tapes with the following four episodes but - had they planned to continue releases ala STAR TREK - soon abandoned the project.

The show was familiar to UK audiences of the era thanks to a regular booking on Channel Four's Sunday morning schedules.


Monday, 15 May 2017

1988: MARVEL UK'S THUNDERCATS AND THE ADVENTURES OF THE GALAXY RANGERS MERGE

From September 1988: Merger alert!  The short-lived THE ADVENTURES OF THE GALAXY RANGERS (nine issues over eighteen weeks) folds into the pages of MARVEL UK's THUNDERCATS.

I assume Marvel had already commissioned some more GR strips and didn't want to write-off the investment (especially if there was a chance that the TV show would still be floating around the ITV schedules).  Once the original strips were exhausted, Thundercats went on to reprint the British-created strips originally seen in the one-and-only GALAXY RANGERS ANNUAL.


1991: STAR TREK PERSONALITY COMICS: DEFOREST KELLY

From October 1991: DeForest Kelly gets the unauthorised STAR TREK PERSONALITY COMICS once over.  Bet he was chuffed.


1981: FORBIDDEN PLANET OPENS IN NEW YORK

From September 1981: STARLOG MAGAZINE reports on the opening of New York's FORBIDDEN PLANET store, imported from jolly ol' England.


Friday, 12 May 2017

1986: ALIENS MAGAZINES STARLOG HOUSE AD

The new ALIEN movie is out in the UK today.... so here is a STARLOG MAGAZINE House Ad for their two official tie-in publications to the first sequel, ALIENS.

I'm not sure whether the ad's copywriter (IE someone in the office) knew anything about the plot of the film (possibly not) or just decided to make up a top line that worked because there were two magazines regardless of the countless number of aliens that turn up in the movie itself.


1984: BIG K MAGAZINE IPC LAUNCH AD

From 1984: Anyone remember IPC's first-generation computer magazine BIG K?

It got a fair amount of plugs in the Youth Group weeklies, presumably because it was being pitched at a similar crowd (and had Richard Burton as Assistant Editor).  Things didn't go quite as planned, despite aiming at as many platforms as possible (Spectrum, BBC, CBM 64, Vic, Electron and - err - Oric) and a Strontium Dog cover on issue 8, and the 12th issue turned out to be the last.

This March '84 IPC House Ad is for the first issue... with a winning retro freebie that actually would have been a pretty big deal back in the day.


1984: THE WHOOPEE NAUGHTY BOOKLET HOUSE AD

From March 1984: Yet another cut-and-keep (buying) booklet promo from IPC.  This time it's the parent-baiting 'Naughty Booklet' published in WHOOPEE.

This one was intended to encourage readers to stick around for four weeks.  By which time the Circulation Department must have assumed there was a good chance they would become regular readers without even noticing...


Thursday, 11 May 2017

1984: EAGLE HOLIDAY SPECIAL HOUSE AD

From April 1984: an IPC House Ad for the second EAGLE HOLIDAY SPECIAL.

On sale now... way back when...

One of the joys with getting every new copy of a regular comic was flicking through the pages to see what other stuff you could go out and get.  Holiday Specials (restricted to one a year at King's Reach Tower but published 2-4 a year over at the British Bullpen) were always a good excuse to hunt the shelves of various local newsagents until a copy could be tracked down.  Or sometimes they'd hit BEFORE the first sightings of the adverts. Always a pleasent surprise... unless you had to dash home to get (beg!) more pocket money and then dash back to the shop... all the time hoping no-one else had spotted and snagged it.

How many of you used to tuck must-have purchases behind something less enticing until you could broker a deal to secure the cash?


1995: CLASSIC STAR WARS VOLUME 2: REBEL STORM UK TRADE PAPERBACK EDITION

From 1995: The second trade paperback collection of STAR WARS NEWSPAPER STRIPS, reworked to work as comicbooks by Dark Horse.

This is a UK volume put together by the masters of the quickie media tie-in BOXTREE BOOKS.

A hefty (including the price) hardback of the original strips has just been issued by IDW.  As far as I know, it represents the first time the strips have been widely distributed in their original format since they were first published.

The reworked Dark Horse versions were recently reissued (along with some previously unpublished strips in a weird hybrid combo) by Marvel.  I'm not sure how much overlap there is between the two in terms of the strips reprinted.



1986: THE DC STAR TREK COMIC CELEBRATES 20 YEARS OF TREKKIN' IN STARLOG MAGAZINE

From 1986: More STARLOG MAGAZINE salutes to the STAR TREK spin-offs during the 20th anniversary year.  This time: the first run of the DC Comics series....



Wednesday, 10 May 2017

VHS: THE 'BANNED' EPISODE OF THE PROFESSIONALS

From the VHS age: An unusual retail release of LWT's THE PROFESSIONALS because it included an episode that was never shown on British 'terrestrial' telly.

London Weekend became very nervous about the strong violent racist content in the episode and, after the edit was completed, decided not to screen it on ITV.  Which is rather surprising as their drama department was bankrolling the show and must have had sign-off at every stage of the process... one wonders at which point someone piped up and said 'maybe not chaps'.

That didn't stop them recouping some of their investment by including the episode when the show was sold overseas.  It was also omitted from the run of episodes (which were often cut to make them suitable for pre-watershed slots) on GRANADA PLUS.  Needless to say, it has also turned-up on the DVD and BR releases.

Repeats of the whole series have been few-and-far between on terrestrial TV (I recall seeing one episode as part of a season of reruns celebrating the 21st birthdays of Thames and LWT... although I think the celebrations were limited to the London region and the rest of the network carried an alternative schedule) allegedly because of a contractual wrangle between Martin Shaw and LWT.




1992: NOW COMICS ADAPTATION OF FREEJACK

From 1992: the three-issue NOW COMICS adaptation of the not-fondly-remembered futuristic Jagger-fest flick FREEJACK.  




1978: STARLOG MAGAZINE TV PREVIEW

From 1978: More small-screen previews from STARLOG MAGAZINE: BRAVE NEW WORLD; MORK AND MINDY (the show that killed BATTLESTAR... despite being on the same team); teleflick MANDRAKE; PROJECT UFO and the FANTASTIC FOUR cartoon responsible for one of the biggest urban legends of the Star Age...






Tuesday, 9 May 2017

1978: STARLOG PREVIEWS BATTLESTAR GALACTICA

From 1978: Another STARLOG MAGAZINE preview for BATTLESTAR GALACTICA.

Which somehow manages to make the opening night look a lot less exciting than it actually was.  What's with all the old folk when you have handsome heroes and hefty hardware?

It feels like a piece put together for a magazine with a much older readership.  Who might just be tempted to tune in to seee the stars they remembered from their youth in this new-fangled space romp...



1981: MARVEL UK PUBLISHES 'STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI'

From 1981:  STAR WARS THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK MONTHLY, from MARVEL UK, issue 145.

I'm sure I wasn't the only old-skool STARLOGGER to experience a tinge of recognition as soon as the title of the next instalment of the STAR WARS screen saga was announced.  We've been there before.  Around this time back in 1981 to be more accurate.  If you lived on both sides of the Atlantic.

Marvel's seat-of-the-pants transatlantic publishing schedule meant US issue 49 (cover-dated July 1981 but on-sale in late April) and UK issue 145 (cover-dated May but on sale sometime in the previous month) both hit at about the same time.  Long gone was the luxury of having months as a buffer between the two editions.

The UK edition wisely dispenses with the pink colour scheme of the original cover for a can't-go-wrong green design.  The interiors were - of course - all in black & white.

I think we can be pretty confident that the new movie will be similar in-name-alone to this issue.  But it is still a good bit of fun to know that Marvel got there first.


1986: THE STAR TREK NOVELS REVIEWED

From 1986: Remember when you could fit all the STAR TREK paperbacks on one bookcase?  Remember when you actually had time to read - and remember - them?  Remember when they were still an event rather than fodder to feed the cash cow (no disrespect intended to any author who was part of the Trek book machine)?

I get the impression that sanity (dictated as much by the decline of the franchise as the introduction of Trek book rationing) has returned to the publishing line in recent years (although since the closure of TV ZONE and the like I feel less informed on the matter) but the 1990s were certainly a crazy time with every version of the screen Treks (and a few that were non-screen bolt-ons to he bolt-ons) flooding the market with paperbacks and hardbacks.  Often in multi-book arcs just to keep the punters coming back.

But back when STAR TREK was celebrating twenty years on the screen things were a lot more simple.  There were no multiple shows.  Pocket Books hadn't figured out how to floof the market.  Here is a STARLOG MAGAZINE look back at the novels published up until that point...






1983: THE EAGLE RELAUNCH

From 1983: EAGLE's big news revealed!

After a week of waiting to find out what the latest exciteing development from the South Bank would be... it just amped up again!

Four extra pages!  Nine 'great stories'!  A spud gun! File that one under: freebies you are unlikely to see today.

What's not to love?

I know I couldn't wait for the next issue.  But... all was not as it seems...

I assumed that the illustrations were just for consistency.  It never crossed my mind that Eagle was about to abandon the photo-strips for good.  Four extra pages also sounded a pretty good deal.  But the IPC ad men had neglected to mention that the trade-off was that the weekly, previously one of the best looking on the shelves, was about to switch over to the newsprint formula already adopted (one suspects with no great enthusiasm by their editorial teams) by most of the rest of the Youth Group.  The con was - very much - on.

And I had a week to find out...


Monday, 8 May 2017

1978: STARLOG'S BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY PREVIEW

From 1978: another early STARLOG MAGAZINE preview for BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY, including some seldom-seen pre-production art.

The piece gives a very different look to the nightime in Old Chicago scenes, the strongest and most memorable sequence in the debut movie.  It's interesting to see the very different visual look for Buck and Twiki as well as - to my eyes - some inspiration from the cantina sequence in STAR WARS (which, lets be honest, seemed to 'inspire' a lot of other SF producers for at least the next decade).

Interesting to note that this was published when the plan was still to deliver a three-flick deal to NBC (a similar deal to the one that Universal initially cut with ABC for BATTLESTAR GALACTICA) with the option of more movies, or a series, later.  The plan was scrapped when Universal clawed back the first TV movie and released it as a movie.  Before going back to the broadcaster and signing a deal for the weekly series... which just happened to include that recent blockbuster 'movie'.

Funny also to see that the lack of really alien aliens is signposted from the get-go and also funny to see that Tigerman gets a mention as - on screen - he's essentially just a fat body builder in a cheap costume.



1994: THERMAL LANCE FANZINE ISSUE 19 AND THE 1990'S DOCTOR WHO DRAMA BOOM

From July 1994: British DOCTOR WHO fanzine THERMAL LANCE looks at the ongoing series of straight-to-tape fan-made (although using professional at-a-loose-end actors) dramas.

THE STRANGER series, starring Colin Baker and Bryant (initially all but reprising their roles from a certain well-known BBC TV drama series), started off as a straight DOCTOR WHO clone... complete with choppy direction, gravel pit locations and special effects that would have passed muster in a TV Centre edit suite a decade earlier but were starting to look a little weather-worn by the start of the 1990s.

The fan dramas found their profile unexpectedly raised when they were re-released and sold in high street outlets.  I was certainly surprised to find them whilst browsing my local Woolworths entertainment section on new release Monday.

After the third adventure (a railway station in the SAPPHIRE AND STEEL tradition), the Stranger tapes swung off in a different direction.  Possibly because the producers started to suspect the lawyers were bound to complain sooner or later.  Or possibly because they fancied bolstering their showreels with a bit of sub-par crime drama.

The 1990s were a brilliant time for rough-around-the-edges fan-made drama once the producers spotted there was a market AND they could circumvent the BBC's official copyright by simply paying off the original writer to let them revive classic monsters.  Chucking in a few jobbing actors from the show certainly helped as well.

Other entries in the sub-genre included the X-FILES-baiting P.R.O.B.E (which probably came the closest to something that could have been shown on proper telly), Dreamwatch spin-off (they gave it the hard sell in the first few issues of the magazine); SHAKEDOWN (the behind-the-scenes documentary is a great watch... the cast and crew did NOT appear to be having a great time below decks on HMS Belfast); DOWNTIME (skanky Yeti alert); THE AIRZONE SOLUTION (A Doctors reunion pulled together for the 30th anniversary); the AUTON stories (no guesses); sundry other dramas and a host of not-always-very-good documentaries (LUST IN SPACE anyone?).

The screen dramas, as well as the early and unofficial audio adventures which also appeared during the 'wilderness years', have recently been the long-overdue subject of the book DOWNTOWN: THE LOST YEARS OF DOCTOR WHO by Dylan Rees.  It's an excellent read.


1978: THE DOCTOR STRANGE TV MOVIE IN STARLOG MAGAZINE

From 1978: More late Seventies small-screen superhero shenanigans: the done-in-one DOCTOR STRANGE TV MOVIE.

The teleflick - which could never hope to compete with the recent big-screen blockbuster so don't even bother mocking its 'limited' ambitions - is a few notches above the two CAPTAIN AMERICA movies but not quite in the league of THE INCREDIBLE HULK.  US TV certainly liked to indulge in supernatural scarefare during this golden age of small-screen movies and critics would be better off looking at it in that context than comparing it with the mega-budget SFX-fests of today.

The release of the new movie reminded Universal that they still had this in their vaults and they released it on DVD just before the film opened, giving fans of the era and teleflick collectors a chance to upgrade their bootlegs.



Friday, 5 May 2017

BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY UK VHS VOLUME 2

From the VHS: More BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY tape-based goodness: the second sell-through release with another two-parter (THE PLOT TO KILL A CITY) and a prime example of one of the show's one hour outings: the glitzy very Seventies studio-bound VEGAS IN SPACE.

It was the latter that opened the BBC TWO repeat run back in the Eighties because they didn't (yet) have the rights to Buck's opening night.

The episodes weren't being released in any particular order (except for the pilot appearing first on the first tape) so it's surprising Universal passed on the chance to include UNCHAINED WOMEN (featuring an after-she-was-famous guest turn - to get her out of her Universal contract - by Jamie Lee Curtis) or the near legendary SPACE VAMPIRE.

Maybe both were earmarked for future tapes.  But, as far as I know, the line was abandoned after the original two tapes and the only subsequent release was part of the SCI-FI CHANNEL tie-in.  The two volumes were released together and - if you purchased both - you got a bonus tape (in a card slipcase) of the movie version of the pilot.


1986: TRANSFORMERS SPECIAL TEAMS MARVEL UK HOUSE AD

From May 1986: A MARVEL UK House Ad for one of the earliest targeted marketing tie-ins between THE TRANSFORMERS comic and the Hasbro toys.

Of course, the whole comic (and all the other gubbins) were always there to flog the toys but Special Teams marked an opportunity to co-ordinate what was happening in stores with Hasbro's marketing machine... and the weekly's storyline.

Only one snag... the Special Team characters weren't due to debut in the US strips for a while, and Redan Place couldn't pull them forward without creating a continuity train wreck.  So Simon Furman's solution was to create a storyline which introduced the new characters and foreshadowed their official premiere without screwing continuity.  Job done.  Hasbro happy.  Sales bolstered.  Probably.

This add is also a classic example of Marvel UK design during this period... lots of text boxes with cut corners.  The house style appeared a lot on covers and in interiors.


1978: THE SMALL-SCREEN SUPERHERO BOOM

From 1978: Back to the first superhero screen boom: the explosion of superpowered TV shows that filled the airwaves - with various degrees of commercial and creative success - back in the late 1970s.

This STARLOG MAGAZINE article is a fun upsum of what was shooting at the time... And also demonstrates the lack of attention to detail by studio publicity people who sem to be quite happy for pictures of the Green Goliath to circulate... in slippers!  It is possible to see them by attentive viewing of the DVD's (and probably more so on the HD releases) but they have a picture quality above-and-beyond how anyone watched the show when it first aired.  But a still in a national (international!) magazine is something else.  But it is fun.  The picture is - incidentally - from the TERROR IN TIME SQUARE location shoot.





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