Thursday, 25 May 2017

1995: BOXTREE'S CLASSIC STAR WARS VOLUME 3

From 1995: The third and - I think - final Boxtree books collection of the CLASSIC STAR WARS newspaper strips, reworked by Dark Horse Comics in the States into a more floppy-friendly format.



ROGER MOORE STARLOG MAGAZINE COVERS

More BONDage: There's no shortage of Roger Moore as JAMES BOND magazine covers out there but here are a couple of STARLOG MAGAZINE covers that I had to hand.

The former, a piece of MOONRAKER, marketing key art also turned up as a cover of 2000AD, demonstrating that The Mighty One wasn't adverse to a bit of piggybacking on a franchise when he wanted to.



1991: PERSONALITY PRESENTS: THE ORIGINAL CREW - JAMES DOOHAN

From December 1991: STAR TREK's James Doohan gets the PERSONALITY COMICS bio treatment in this issue of THE ORIGINAL CREW comic book profiles...


Wednesday, 24 May 2017

MORE MOORE: THE PERSUADERS! ON VHS

From VHSville: More Moore... this time the first in the series of Carlton era THE PERSUADERS! tapes, showcasing the show's (fairly) unprecedented production values with extensive glossy location shoots in the south of France.  Compare that with Moore's previous playboy lifestyle in THE SAINT where - despite visiting the casinos and hotels of the world - he seldom actually left the confines of the Elstree lot.  Stock establishing shots covered a multitude of sins.

This came fairly late in the cycle of ITC glossy adventure shows (THE PROTECTORS, SPACE:1999 and RETURN OF THE SAINT were still to come) but this is a highpoint.  Lew Grade's ITC finally invested the money to create a weekly series that looked better than anything else UK or US programme makers could hope to muster.  And it boasted two leading men that not only made for a great double act but also added a further sense of glamour to the whole shebang.  Which is something Lord Grade knew all about.

Pick any episode of the show (and they looked amazing in HD) and it's clear that everyone is having a lot of fun... except maybe Joan Collins who had a major bust-up with Curtis on location and threatened to walk from the shoot.  It's interesting that Moore's career still had the best years - as Bond - still to come whilst Curtis is more obviously slumming on the small screen.  But, if you are going to slum, you might as well do it in one of the most expensive shows of its time.


ROGER MOORE AS THE SAINT IN THE FICTION MAKERS

From the dog days of the VHS era: the Carlton (remember those guys?) release of the SAINT 'movie' THE FICTION MAKERS, starring - of course - Roger Moore.

It's a long time since I've seen this faux feature film (shot with an inflated budget and designed to air as two episodes of the TV show OR as a theatrical presentation in some overseas markets) but - from memory - it contains a fair few nods to the BOND franchise.  But, of course, pretty much everything featured a Bond or spy riff in the sixties.  But it still makes for fun viewing.  

I was lucky enough to see Moore in person a couple of times... once at the Barbican for a special screening of his film THE MAN WHO HAUNTED HIMSELF (a fun thriller which I think he was the film he was proudest of) and again on the South Bank for a talk to launch one of his books.  Both times - years apart - I found him to be an absolute gentleman with an amazing humour and an amazing ability to spin a good yarn without really being mean to anyone.  If you were casting the ultimate dinner party, you would want Roger at that table.  And probably Joan Collins as well.  

Last night I took the time to watch THE PERSUADERS! episode 'A Death in the Family' by way of a farewell... a good choice because it was the last episode of the glossy early 1970s ITC series to go before the camera... and because Moore has some fun playing other members of the Sinclair family.  

That got me thinking about which Moore film to watch at the weekend.  And it made me realise that I'm spoilt for choice.  Even if you discount the BOND franchise, he made so many other films that fall perfectly into the 'good fun watch' file... CROSSPLOT, SHERLOCK HOLMES IN NEW YORK, THE MAN WHO HAUNTED HIMSELF, NORTH SEA HIJACK, THE WILD GEESE, THE CANNONBALL RUN, GOLD.  The list just goes on and on...

CARLTON, who joined the ITV system in the 1990s when they replaced Thames Television, were quick to realise that programme rights, format rights and intellectual property was a vital way of supplementing the more flakey income from selling airtime on commercial TV.  So they went around buying up various old film and programme libraries including Rank and ITC.  The material proved useful slot fillers for their digital spin-off channels as well as their VHS and DVD operations.  Carlton eventually merged with hitherto arch-rival Granada (the two had, between them, carved up the regional ITV network but - despite the battle to become the main player - still had to pull together to keep the network, and hair-brained spin-offs like On Digital/ ITV Digital, ticking over) to form ITV PLC.  The Granada name hung on for a while whilst Carlton's non-core assets (book publishing, cinema advertising, broadcast technology) were sold off and the name seems to have all but retired today.  



Tuesday, 23 May 2017

CHARLIE'S ANGELS VHS VOLUME 1: ANGELS IN CHAINS

From VHSville: CHARLIE'S ANGELS VOLUME 1.

Whoever was picking the episodes certainly knew what they were doing.  Two Season One (Farrah!) crackers with log lines tailormade for the back cover of a tape (or TV GUIDE magazine).  Of course it helps that one of them is the legendary ANGELS IN CHAINS, the episode that catapulted the show into a surefire hit with their toned-down-for-TV take on a Seventies 'women in prison' exploitation flick.  Of course it helps that Mary Woronov and a young Kim Basinger are serving time on this episode as well.

Interestingly, the Spelling Telly Machine recycled the plot (but not the entire script) for the third season MATT HOUSTON outing 'Caged', a great showcase show for Pamala Hensley who - sure enough - finds herself banged up in a dodgy women's prison after suffering amnesia in a car crash.

BLUE ANGELS, the last episode of the first year to air (and, therefore, Farrah's last regular booking on the show that made her a global star), boasts a pre-BATTLESTAR guest turn from Dirk Benedict.  TV heaven x 2.

From memory, I think this came from a three-tape boxset (part of the boom in old non-SF shows that came at the end of the VHS era) which was released to cash-in on the first feature film.  Now I have all five seasons sitting on my shelf but - at the time - the chance to own any episodes was a treat.  


1991: CHIMERA COVER ON SAMHAIN MAGAZINE

From 1991: More CHIMERA coverage courtesy of British horror fanzine/ magazine SAMHAIN.

The publicity still used on the cover rather gives the game away that the 'monkey boy' wasn't the most horrific of scary creatures.  But it passed muster back in the day.

Despite the cover feature, coverage inside the magazine was limited to a fairly brief review of the first episode... which wasn't atypical of the following three outing anyway.  Buyer beware.

The magazine itself, part of a flock of horror floppies that appeared that decade (including SHIVERS, THE DARKSIDE, FEAR and the FANGORIA spin-offs and wannabes), started out as a fanzine and then shifted over to a more professional (although one suspects still a 'labour of love') footing before eventually fading.


1991: CHIMERA BY STEPHEN GALLAGHER

From 1991: Anyone remember CHIMERA, the Anglia TV drama/ horror based on the Stephen Gallagher novel?  The TV tie-in edition of the original 1981 novel is pictured here.

The four-parter was - apparently - a last-minute commission when a drama gap suddenly opened up in ITV's summer schedules... and Anglia (one of the mid-level companies in the system) were able to step in at short notice.

The first episode is a Hitchcock style bluff that sets things up for the meat of the three parts that follow.  Anglia also produced a shorter done-in-one TV Movie version (which gives you a hint at the amount of padding in the full-length version) which was subsequently 'repeated' on ITV and released on VHS.  It was probably also offered to overseas buyers as an alternative to the full multi-parter.  The edited version sometmes goes under the how-many-meetings-did-it-take title MONKEY BOY.  The original version has been released on DVD and is worth picking up for some undemanding chills... albeit with some dodgy performances and bad dubbing.



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...






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