Friday, April 30, 2010

FAB Fanderson

It's FAB FRIDAY! And what better way to celebrate all things fabulous in the world of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson than to plug for FANDERSON!

Fanderson offers the FABulous world of all things Anderson as the official Gerry and Sylvia Anderson fan club. The club's magazine, FAB, offers in-depth analysis and interviews on the creators, directors, writers, producers and stars behind the works from the wonderful minds of Gerry and Sylvia like Thunderbirds, Space:1999, The Protectors and UFO to name a few of my personal favorites.

I have to confess I am now officially a member of the Fanderson fan club. The last time I actually signed up for a fan club was quite some time ago, and I thought it might have ended with the birth of children, but here I am still doing it. It's funny I tell you. It's all a rather strange enterprise to belong to an official fan club of anything.

My sexy Space:1999 girl Maya played by the lovely Catherine Schell for Year Two also notable for her role in Year One, Episode 8, Guardian Of Piri interviewed in FAB #42.
If you want to get something special regarding a movie star, music artist, television show, you'll have to join the fan clubs too. I had been eyeing the Fanderson club for quite some time unwilling to pull the trigger. I believe the American fan club counterpart is Andersonic. I'm uncertain if Andersonic is still active stateside. Anyway, there were a good number of items from Fanderson I was desperate to get my hot, little hands on, but really cringed at the thought of paying for another fan club's access. I mean, I am so over fan clubs [or so I thought]. My biggest fan club is my kids and I really don't have the time for other clubs. Unfortunately access to the good stuff is often held within the loving arms of these sincere and labor of love-filled clubs.

Despite my resistance, and it was futile, I relented and succumbed to official status. The holy grail of the Fanderson club, the official Gerry Anderson fan club, was a DVD produced by the group for UFO and the queen mother of science fiction, Space:1999. The DVD is called, drum roll please, Space:1999 UFO The Documentaries. Okay, not complicated and kind of makes sense. Leave it to the fan clubs to get right to the heart of the matter. Even FAB is filled with insightful, well-researched, fantastic information you simply wouldn't find in any off-the-rack UK publications that might dedicate even a mere paragraph to Gerry Anderson's productions, and this is one of their own. No stone is left unturned in recording the world of Gerry Anderson and the historical aspect of all those involved. Of course, I really wanted to see the DVD documentary on Space:1999 given it is graced with interviews from across the creative spectrum of that series in two parts. There's input from Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Barry Morse, Catherine Schell, Fred Freiberger, Derek Wadsworth and Zienia Merton in the flesh, not to mention scriptwriters Johnny Byrne and Christopher Penfold as well as Production Designer Keith Wilson and Visual Effects Supervisor Brian Johnson [the man behind the Eagle]. You'll also find the man himself, Gerry Anderson. This is about as close to a living document as you get with Barry Morse, Fred Freiberger, Derek Wadsworth and Johnny Byrne no longer with us and the rest of the cast not get any younger much like the rest of us. I was dying to see these aged creators to one of my all-time, favorite science fiction series present some of the behind-the-scenes stories and historical perspectives themselves up close and personal. If you can't make the convention circuit, this is as good as it gets.
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As a bonus, my recent discovery of Ed Bishop and UFO has piqued my interest with each passing episode. Contributors to that documentary include Gerry Anderson, the late Ed Bishop, George Sewell, Dolores Mantez and Vladek Sheybal in person. Addition input comes by way of Production Designer Bob Ball and Visual Effects Supervisor Derek Meddings himself. What a real treat. I hope to learn more about these two amazing, live-action, science fiction classics that I simply may have overlooked along the way. Not to mention, the shows were released to the pop culture consciousness when fandom was but a mere cottage industry and the internet was a twinkle in Bill Gates' eye. Perhaps I will bring a few of the most interesting moments from those documentaries to you right here.
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Additional DVD goodies include 45 minutes of extras including Derek Meddings: The Anderson Years, Space:1899 [a Victorian take on Space:1999], Message From Moonbase Alpha written by Johnny Byrne and starring Zienia Merton, Deleted Scenes and an interview with Prentis Hancock to name some of the highlights.
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Ah, the world's greatest ship design graces the cover of FAB #48, the Eagle, in all her glory.
So, along with my membership, I also picked up a few of Fanderson's FAB magazine back issues. I can't say that I was overly excited about the fanzines. I had very low expectations. Well, can you say blown away? WOW! FABulous! Was I ever wrong!? Was I ever impressed! Yes, the creators behind FAB magazine, led by Editor/ Writer Chris Bentley, really assemble a high grade production. The splendid little book-sized magazine is fully loaded with black and white and full color series and behind-the-scenes images, lengthy interviews, thorough analysis, news, reviews, comics and much more. It is a highly entertaining read, especially while kicking back between cat fights on BRAVO's The Real Housewives. I must admit I am reinvigorated to order more of those back issues that I didn't purchase initially. They are that good! I picked up a few zines to try that included interviews with Catherine Schell [Space:1999], Martin Landau [Space:1999], Christopher Penfold [writer for Space:1999], Michael Billington [UFO] and more. The Fanderson publication is truly something special. The creators of the magazine really pay attention to the details and the writing and is easily a labor of genuine effort for all things Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. As far as fan clubs go, this is one of the finest I've ever seen.
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FAB #46 features an outstanding interview with Martin Landau.
As I mentioned, I was not overly optimistic about joining a fan club. After all, once you join, you have to periodically rejoin and that is a right pain in the ass. Fanderson will give you everything you need to know on the classics. The work of Fanderson in many ways provides a dynamic, thoughtful historical outlet for all of the Gerry Anderson productions and is very much under the steady guidance of Chris Bentley and others. It's no wonder its officially sanctioned by the creators of these works.
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As a teenager, I recall joining a few fan clubs along the way. Let me see if I can recall some of them. First, there was the EIS [Erasure Information Service] fan club for all things Erasure. I loved the crisp electronic creations of Andy Bell and Vince Clark and still enjoy them to this day [inspired to make a CD as we speak]. It's easy to see their influence on the likes of someone like Lady Gaga. Yes, I'm currently addicted to that irresistible female nutter. I did get a few nifty items along the way exclusive to the Erasure fan club. Admittedly, the EIS fanzine was NOT impressive early on, but the quality improved as it went forward.
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I also joined the Pet Shop Boys [PSB] fan club for a time to receive the periodic Literally fanzine. Writer Chris Heath handled the writing chores for that quality fanzine. I also managed to get a few nifty PSB CD rarities for a time, but then some of it became available after the fact. Despite some of the music becoming available, I do think Literally, a fanzine book of superb quality, was worthy of admission.
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There are so many others out there and I wish the rarer music was more easily available whether it be The Waterboys or someone else. I simply don't have the time or patience for joining fan clubs. I have patience mind you, but not for the process of joining fan clubs. Having said all that, fan clubs have their place in the fan community and I think they are exceptionally good fun when you love something as much as Space:1999 or Firefly or Erasure or what have you. Fanderson is very much a community and it made me rediscover the fun of fandom. I think Fanderson is one of the best examples of such a concept and it offers a superior product for fans.
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So the Fanderson membership will hopefully bring some additional insights into the world of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson that I can share with you right here.

Since reading the FAB magazines I have recently updated the tail ends of a few Space:1999 entries and the background information on a number of cast members for those interested. Matter Of Life And Death and Guardian Of Piri have both received some additional information regarding the stars of Space:1999. I have also updated UFO, Computer Affair. Again, the magazine is a treasure trove of information on everything from the world of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, but you have to love their work if you really want to take time to appreciate these efforts. Had I the chance to conduct a few of these interviews myself I might attempt to plug a few missed opportunities. Nevertheless, there are few quibbles. These FAB fanzines are exhaustive, enlightening and comprehensive historical documents capturing all of the color and fun of the Anderson universe.
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One year later...

Now, Sci-Fi Fanatic how about a renewal of your Fanderson membership? Tell me, I can't be the only big kid on this great, blue-green Earth. Sign me up.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lost In Space S1 Ep4: There Were Giants In The Earth

Moments like this populate Lost In Space bringing viewers back to Earth and making it special on an emotional level outside of the science fiction adventure trappings.

There is something beautiful and obviously nostalgic about watching Lost In Space Season One in black and white. Obviously it takes you back in time to those innocent, seemingly easy wonder years. Granted, it was comfort food upon arriving home following the dangerous traversing home from school. Nevertheless, there is something warm even antique about seeing this classic show in black and white. It's a special experience.

Lost In Space, Season One, Episode 4, There Were Giants In The Earth picks up right where we left off. Robot, in attack mode, makes way for Will Robinson at the Chariot. Will stalls the Robot by using his lame Dr. Zachary Smith vocal impersonation. It halts the Robot long enough for Will to utilize a series of chess commands to check the Robot's circuits. It is a clever move and further proof Will Robinson may have been the smartest one of the bunch. Major Don West threatens bodily harm to Smith if he doesn't get out to help Will. Smith arrives on the scene to deactivate Robot.

Poor Robot. I always hated seeing him used as a pawn in the manipulative hands of Dr. Smith. I truly did. It bothered me. I suppose on the one hand Robot was never played as a straight ahead "good guy" and it did play into the reality that inevitably he was a machine susceptible to sabotage or command. In my tiny mind, Robot was a force of good and I didn't care to see Robot toyed with. Jonathan Harris is brilliant as the conniving stowaway. The man is pure villiany who simply cannot be trusted. It will be interesting to see where his performance morphs along the way into the territory of comic villainy. As of this writing he is note perfect with the cowardly lion part of his personality mostly in check. There are everso brief glimpses. Jonathan Harris created the Dr. Zachary Smith as the man you love to hate that we know today. It's easy to see why people clamored for more of the scrumptiously evil Dr. Smith, while still others felt his performance eroded the show's credibility.

Dr. John Robinson establishes a plan to set up a self-sufficient community. A garden is built including peas, squash and other vegetables. His daughter Judy Robinson is just a babe doll. I couldn't help but notice those Colorado-like backdrops for the planet they are stranded. However unnatural the location shooting was for the program, I absolutely love those set designs and backdrops. There is a cleverly conceived look to the show.
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Once again, that score by Composer John Williams expands their world even more. The photography combined with great performances makes for a beautiful show despite all that CHEEEESE to come! Yummy Cheese. I love it. Actually, the other thing I love about Lost In Space is the complete absence of CGI. Special visual effects are limited. Thankfully, I love styrofoam rocks and battery-powered models and all the other good stuff that went into the classics of the '60s and '70s. It's pure creative ingenuity.

Dr. Smith reports to Maureen Robinson that he has come up with some kind of hydroponic solution for the garden. Elsewhere, John Robinson is setting up equipment to create a high energy defense shield around the Jupiter II encampment.
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Mrs. Robinson looks an awful lot like The One To Be Pitied with that laundry basket. A woman's work is never done. She declared sarcastically one evening, "I love doing the laundry. There's plenty of it and I love doing it!" Without missing a beat, the Boy Wonder quipped, while eating his bag of chips, "Now that's the spirit mom." Dangerous. Danger Boy Wonder! Indeed.
Morning comes and John and Don head off to repair the Chariot. Will attempts to get the okay to repair the Robot, but gets his wings clipped with the old "William" in that voice. You know the voice your parents used. You always knew you were in trouble when your folks called you by your full proper name in a stern tone. End of story. I love the juxtaposition of Maureen Robinson with the laundry basket against the Jupiter II spaceship. Funny enough, no matter how modern things get you still have to take care of the chores and do the laundry. It won't wash and fold itself. The show, which is often referred to as a kind of Swiss Family Robinson in space is grounded in domesticated life against the backdrop of monsters and adventure. Instead of a Swiss family shipwrecked in the East Indies based on the novel The Swiss Family Robinson [1812], we have the space family Robinson shipwrecked in space. The combination of family life and interstellar action is most alluring. The ladies are gardening and making dinner while the boys are out shooting ray guns. Sweet! You'll note the family has corralled some kind of alien ostrich-like lifeforms in the background to the right in the photo. In fact, they are definitely ostriches.
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Whoa! Those pea pods could give new meaning to the fears of "EAT YOUR VEGETABLES!"
Everyone rushes out to the Garden where Dr. Smith's vegetables have mutated into massive veggies. He opens a giant pea pod and it explodes to life. Will is there to shoot a laser into the pea pod killing the ferocious, voracious pea plant. Yes, it's suppose to be a monster pod, but springs out like a pea pod in the box. Ah, the crazy space existence of the Robinsons.
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With the Chariot repaired John and Don head back to camp. Unbeknownst to them, the men drive right over gigantic footprints. Back at the camp John and Don study the biological makeup of the vegetation's growth. Neither animal or vegetable. Whatever incubated in that six foot long garden pea is a lifeform from the planet's soil, a single celled organism that grows at a miraculous rate of speed.

Against his father's wishes and direct orders the curious Will reactivates the Robot. A huge growl rumbles from the dark of night. Robot investigates, but finds the force shield is operative. Robot decides to deactivate. A very bad idea. Will, you are in such hot water. Will's father comes running out and he is none too happy. I love these father-son moments. I love how Dr. Robinson is so stern with Will. It's called parenting. Remember when parents parented with real parenting? There still out there just not as many. Friendship comes before parenting for many. I'm certainly not an expert, but the hammer has to fall sometimes.

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Yes. Tough love. Those were the days. Anyway, while on patrol Robot discovers a humanoid sixteen meters tall and repeats "does not compute." It just doesn't jive with his data banks so Will pulls the plug on him. Again, poor Robot, they love pulling his power pack. They pull that poor bugger's power pack like I put on underwear. I think it happens at least once a day. Dr. Robinson writes in his journal.

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The garden vegetables are growing quickly thanks to that terrific mutant soil. Unfortunately the plants are also dying. The family suspects cold temperatures, but would never know while inside the Jupiter II, which is equipped with automatic heat. Mrs. Robinson indicates the weather could drop below zero and they simply wouldn't know it. John and Don go on a little scientific expedition to determine the weather patterns. Atop a precipice Dr. Robinson's equipment indicates the temps will dip 150 degrees below zero in just over a day. The Jupiter II could never isolate them from that kind of cold. They need to get out of dodge and fast.

America's version of Japan's kaiju eiga.
Don and John stumble upon some huge footprints and inevitably run into the very beast that has been leaving those tracks. It is officially monster #2 in the series, a giant cyclops and definitely more impressive than the papier-mache beast found in Episode 2, The Derelict. Granted, the Boy Wonder is not fooled and refers to the monster as 'a man in a suit with one eye'. Still, cool enough he says. I agree. The footage looks great and I was reminded of the story of The Galileo Seven from Star Trek. There Were Giants In The Earth pre-dates that episode of course, but the concept is similar. The production is a marvel to behold.

Will spots the giant and runs off to help his Dad despite his mother's pleas to return. Child-driven episode or not, it is truly astonishing to me how exciting and how well this entry holds up visually after over 40 years. I am humbled by the vision of this installment. Will shows up to blast the gargantua with his laser pistol just in time to get verbally whacked by his father for disobeying his direct order once again. Get used to it Will.
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John, Don and Will return to the Jupiter II to inform the family they must leave this place before the estimated deep freeze strikes. Smith refuses. He will go it alone. Will says goodbye and it is a less than sentimental exchange. The Robot is deactivated again! It would be interesting to get a count on deactivations.

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The family is unable to find daughter Penny Robinson. John orders Don to leave within the half hour as the temps are going to drop quickly. Off John goes with the parajet. There are some ultra-cool bits presented within the show like the parajet. I can understand why kids were glued to the set in the '60s absolutely riveted by the stroies, action and characters. Speaking of cool, Penny is off with her spiky turtle pet [I love turtles!] and pointy-eared Debbie bloop. She makes friends with some pretty nifty alien animals. A turtle with spikes and a monkey with pointy ears make for great domesticated pets. Still, those animals look awfully familiar. I could swear I've seen animals just like them here on Earth. John finds Penny and takes off with Debbie in tow. I guess the turtle is on her own. She is either doomed for turtle soup or accustomed to the temperature shifts, because the others parajet off like 'smell ya later'. I imagine the turtle has done just fine on the planet all these years and really doesn't need the help of the Robinsons. There are times when I think Debbie would prefer to go it alone too. John and Penny make it back to camp just in time to exit in the Chariot and leave the coming cold behind.

As the Robinson family heads toward the inland sea the collosal creature is there to greet them with giant styrofoam boulders. Not good. Don gives it a couple of whack-a-zaps with his super-duper laser rifle and down the monstrosity goes like a sack of potatoes. Debbie gives a couple of claps to cheer on her newfound family. I would imagine that Debbie could be the source of much amusement on any journey in the Chariot. No wonder they want to keep her. I wonder what it was like filming with that little monkey on set. Anyway, Debbie is cute and funny and looks like a chimpanzee version of Spock. That critter's a keeper.

The Chariot is damaged and the power unit is in need of repair so the family camps out for the night. There's no bean-eating, Blazing Saddles-styled farting around this campfire friends. I love this bit. Billy Mumy as Will on guitar with a delightful little number while Penny dresses Debbie like a doll. Hysterical.

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Billy Mumy actually does play the guitar. Penny sees Don kiss her sister Judy's hand. The sequence reminds me of some of the old films like It's A Wonderful Life. Composer John Williams really lends the sequence a touch of class and substance. Next day, the Chariot is on a tear burning tracks as the lightning is flashing everywhere. The family takes cover from the storm and finds an ancient city of ruins. Ancient cities of ruin always leads to fun, adventure and excitement for kids of all ages.
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Welcome to the fantastic NO-CGI world of Lost In Space.
This family finds action and adventure at every turn. It's great being a Robinson and it's great being a kid watching the Robinsons. I've often been accused of being a third child by The One To Be Pitied I'll have you know. If it means a steady diet of science fiction fun like this, call me 'kid' anytime you'd like. My Boy Wonder likes Lost In Space. Well sort of, he finds it a bit scary and creepy. I think he buys into this series more than others because the black and white stock delivers the chills compensating for the classic special effects often derided by my son. This is a good, old-fashioned science fiction thrill quest.

Penny loses Debbie and she and Will run off to find her only to happen upon skeletons inside the temple. It's like a maze of hidden rooms. There's all sorts of alien life on this planet. Debbie the Bloop, spiky tortoise, the Giant and now these skeleton folk. Could they be related to the giant? Could the soil grow beings like they grow that peapod? Granted, the folks in the lost city appear to have two eye sockets. The rocks begin to shift and crumble and the family is cut off from one another. John and Maureen begin using the laser pistol to cut through to the other side of a wall to get to Don, Judy, Penny and Will. It's a cliffhanger folks and there's more action here than a bowl full of Mexican jumping beans.

Make fun of a show like this all you want as camp, but it's often considered one of the best in science fiction for a reason. There is just so much damn fun to be had. Season One is certainly the best of the three seasons when it comes to delivering the sci-fi action minus the camp. Each episode is chock full of wonder. There is a true cinematic appeal and scope to many of these early, black and white entries too, which may explain why they worked so well with audiences. Is the Chariot still out there in somebody's junkyard? I'd really like to have it. Is it fit for roadway transportation?

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TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK [or not]!.... SAME TIME. SAME CHANNEL. SAME BLOG!

There Were Giants In The Earth: B+

Director: Leo Penn
Writer: Carey Wilber/ Shimon Wincelberg

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Godzilla, King Of The Monsters

"Godzilla was born in Japan but his ascent to international stardom began in America, thanks to his discovery by a handful of savvy Hollywood types who knew a moneymaker when they saw one, and how to exploit it." -Steve Ryfle, Japan's Favorite Mon-Star [p.51.]-

T
aking on the BIG G, Godzilla, is a bit of a monster undertaking. It's HUGE. MASSIVE. GIANT really. Seriously, it's turning out to be a more thorough and enjoyable task than I imagined. It's also far more in depth than one might expect from our dear Japanese creature friend.

As a follow-up to my review of Gojira [1954], there is the edited, abomination of a version of that classic film in the US-released Godzilla, King Of The Monsters [1956].

My two disc Gojira DVD features the second, heavily-edited version of Gojira dubbed Godzilla, King Of The Monsters released in the USA in 1956 and stars Raymond Burr. The release of the latter illustrates to a great degree how radically different the two films are. These two fundamentally different films offer dissimilar tones and endings. The unique perspectives speaks volumes about the year this film was released and where the two nations, Japan and the USA, were in coming to terms with World War II. These are films by individuals influenced and affected significantly by global events of the day.

The original is the only way to go. The US version with Raymond Burr popping up throughout the film like "Where's Waldo?" is interesting from an historical perspective and good for an entertaining bout with kids under twelve years of age. The new footage shot for the American cut while decent is notably out of place in its effort to match up with the original film's cinematic excellence as composed by Director Ishiro Honda and his team. The stock footage just doesn't hold a candle to the quality placed on film in the more constant and singular work that is Gojira. Godzilla, King Of The Monsters looks a like an odd cut and paste patchwork of a film. It's easy to see the color differentiation and whenever Burr enters the frame it's written all over his face as a result of the inferior stock used. Burr is merely there to deliver narration and tell a story to Americans and what a story it is. What a shame. It's wholly unnecessary. However this version alters the original story significantly by design. The point cannot be oversimplified.

The tale of nuclear terror is downplayed substantially in favor of something far more innocuous. Wounds were understandably still fresh in the hearts and minds of Japan, and they were equally troubling stateside. America simply couldn't release Gojira in its original form. America suffered heavy, heavy losses during World War II on a number of fronts. Perhaps distributors were concerned validating Japan's pain by releasing the original would America's own moral imperative during the war. The distributors knew they would need to soften the severe Japanese images and tone of the film's dialogue for the American market. This is partly the reason for the re-cut Gojira as Godzilla, King Of The Monsters. The changes are so great it really harms the intended visual experience assembled by Ishiro Honda.

If you've seen the original film, Gojira, and turn your attention to Godzilla, King Of The Monsters you will find the American cut distracting. Burr takes you right out of the well-executed, original experience. The cultural tone of Japan's filmmakers, the horrors of a nuclear nightmare, the national consciousness are all essentially quashed under the weight of Burr's presence. Burr and the American editors step on the classic original like people under Godzilla's crushing foot. The American version is a near straight-up monster movie defeating the purpose of the film. Further, the mood of the film is much stronger in its original form. The American take is a nice piece of cinematic memorabilia and it's amazing to think this much time was placed into re-editing the film for an entirely new presentation. Films don't often get this much attention. Godzilla, King Of The Monsters [great title, but not much more] takes the viewer out of the "postwar tragedy" and the postwar anxiety captured by Honda. The mindset of the original is stripped. Gojira is an extension of war history and a by-product of World War II. This is conveyed vividly through its dark, stark, haunting images.

Author David Kalat delivers an entire chapter, Chapter 4: Godzilla Conquers America (And America Conquers Godzilla), in his terrific book A Critical History And Filmography Of Toho's Godzilla Series. Kalat points to a host of examples whereby the original film was completely butchered by American editors in the "Americanization" process. He delivers in detail those involved and how the structure of the film, its dubbing and new footage with Actor Raymond Burr, radically changed the final product. Case in point, Godzilla, King Of The Monsters, is told in flashback. The original Honda tale is never structured this way. The World War II connections and allusions to the atomic bombings of Japan are also downplayed considerably. Some scenes are removed. Some terrific insight is offered by Kalat regarding a removed sequence pointing to Japanese intentions, patriotism and the political climate of the day. To illustrate his point he makes an interesting comparison to Atragon [1963], a film featuring nearly the entire creative team behind Gojira.

Kalat continues to cover the subject of America and its version of the Ishiro Honda/ Toho classic, Gojira, in Chapter 5: Godzilla, King Of The Monsters. Kalat really takes to task the implications of the war in this chapter as well as America's own handling of Gojira. Some of his comments reinforce some of the remarks I made in the Gojira posting. Sometimes it can feel as though Kalat sides more or is more sympathetic to Japan's perceptions of the war than those of America. But, he never goes completely overboard and some of his commentary is fair. There is a terrific segment by Kalat on King Kong and America's perception of Hollywood monsters movies as superior to those made by Toho. He points out America's Hollywood missed the point of Gojira's monstrous force. "The senselessness of Godzilla's attack is central to the effectiveness of the movie. It adds to the feeling of doom in the air, and it enhances the awesomeness of Godzilla." America looked at its creature films as more intelligent, but the reverse actually may be true. There is much to consider in Gojira that is not spelled out for the viewer especially when held up to King Kong's simple beauty and the beast tale. Could America grasp the motivations of Godzilla as directed by Honda? Gojira was something of a psychological nightmare deeply personal to the Japanese and articulated beautifully by Honda. "Godzilla is beyond human understanding and that makes him all the more frightening." At least he was, and arguably still is, beyond American understanding and I think that is safe and fair to say. Americans simply don't get Godzilla entirely and the mythology that would endure. Perhaps, it dates back to the original film, Gojira, and the American inability to grasp the concept of Godzilla as a "God" by the islanders of Odo. King Kong was a worshiped God, as Kalat put it, but there was a sense of fantasy and playfulness about King Kong's fiction whereby there is a grim and dark reality that feeds the beast of Gojira's awakened God.

Kalat also goes into detail about the war and the responsibilities of the nations involved. He points to the Japanese unwillingness to accept responsibility in World War II. While I felt Kalat was playing devil's advocate over what may or may not have been an objective analysis, I do believe Kalat was fair in his criticism or presentation of the facts. He offers much consideration on the subject. When he began discussing Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atom bomb, and creation of the bomb, I couldn't help but make the parallel to Dr. Serizawa in Gojira as being a post-atomic scientist with yet another potentially mad device. Perhaps Serizawa was Japan's reference to Oppenheimer in this science fiction classic. Kalat talks of the incident involving the Lucky Dragon No.5 tuna vessel and the testing on the Marshall Islands. The bomb tested there was "a thousand times more powerful" that the one dropped on Hiroshima. Kalat does a good job of enlightening the reader on geo-political events surrounding the birth of Gojira and eventually Godzilla, King Of The Monsters concluding "Godzilla-fandom has helped with... keeping memories alive that have otherwise fallen through the cracks of American education." It's fair to say some of these finer points surrounding World War II have certainly not been discussed along with a host of other American and Japanese World War II history. There's certainly only so much history covered unless one reaches into higher education with a more specialized and scrutinizing curriculum. Kalat would be fair to point out other countries have their own educational biases and shortcomings when it comes to indoctrinating its own citizenry.

Godzilla, King Of The Monsters is an understandably edited version of the original given the political climate of the day. Still, the American version is far inferior to the superior original. Gojira is the film to see and in hindsight, resonates as the classic it definitely is. I couldn't help but wonder. I don't say this in callousness or with disrespect to a nation plagued by the pains of an atomic world, but it's strange to think Godzilla and its many incarnations [Godzilla vs The Thing, Godzilla vs. Megalon, Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla, etc.] would never have come to pass had World War II not ended with the unfortunate fates of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as we know them. It's a sad, sobering reality.

Godzilla, King Of The Monsters: C+.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Rescued!

Commander Ed Straker has found my UFO abductors and saved my sorry rear end. I was found intoxicated in a vat of colorful candy pebbles. I was on a strange diet of wafer thin UFO replicas that melted upon contact with the saliva of my mouth. This dissolve quickly gave way to an explosion of flavor that left me inebriated in child-like wonder. The aliens were sapping my will to live through administration of these fine drugs and were interrogating me. I nearly coughed up vital information on Moonbase until Straker came along with his team and pulled me out of my candy stupor. I am now back on Earth. Oh how I do love saucer candies.

Folks, sorry I missed FAB FRIDAY! I was away with the kids for a few days and just never got to Computer like I had hoped. After nearly four full months of FAB FRIDAY I finally missed one. I've failed you. I'm very disappointed in myself. But, c'est la vie as they say. I just couldn't pull it off. I will reload, recharge and be back again next Friday for another run.

Admittedly, life is getting busier at the moment with baseball season and other outdoor activities, but I will make every effort to continue bringing quality Gerry Anderson analysis right here beginning again next FAB FRIDAY. Cheers and have a great weekend.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Space:1999 Y1 Ep9: Force Of Life

The face of Force Of Life. Ian McShane is a force of his own and is the face of drama in this classic installment of Space:1999. His acting force begins here. His wonderful presence would be felt to come in Lovejoy, Deadwood and Kings to name just a few television classics.

FAB FRIDAY begins now! This is an in-depth look into all things wonderful inside the world of Gerry & Sylvia Anderson.

My first recollection of Force Of Life from my childhood is the vivid performance of Ian McShane. This is the first episode of Space:1999 to date that I recall with great clarity. His central role inside of a well-penned Johnny Byrne story was powerful and distinctive enough that images [compliments of the late Director David Tomblin] from this tale have forever remain part of who I am. Certainly, as a child, no one knew Ian McShane would become the brilliant actor he is today. McShane of course is the actor best known for his role as Al Swearengen in Deadwood [2004-2006], for which he won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor. Across the pond, he is well-remembered in the UK for six seasons of Lovejoy [1986-1994; a five year gap between Series 1 and Series 2] as the lead character. He followed Deadwood with a series called Kings [2009] as Silas Benjamin. The show was axed almost immediately and, like Deadwood, is a dramatic stunner. I suppose I have spoken extensively enough about the man. Be sure to check out my entry on Babylon 5: The River Of Souls for more on McShane. Click here.

'Yeah, that's right, I'm gonna be a star.'
Having built Ian McShane up in my mind after all of these years I expect such great things from the man even from his earlier performances like the one found here on Space:1999. Since this was filmed in 1975 I suspect it is entirely unfair to have such bold expectations. Will he be every bit as good as I remember? Let us bear witness to those glimmers of brilliance that caught the attention of others over three and half decades ago. Space:1999 would be his first major TV guest appearance. My adoration and general worship of Ian McShane as a living god [with a small g] knows no bounds. One might half expect me to change the name of this blog to Musings Of An Ian McShane Fanatic if I didn't love science fiction that much more.

A shot exemplifying the highly cinematic look of the classic Space:1999.
I anticipate great things out of seeing this entry again, not only because it is Space:1999 with its typically terrific cast of Alphan actors, but bloody hell we have Actor Ian McShane coupled with Writer Johnny Byrne and Director David Tomblin. It's a slice of science fiction heaven people. The late, Irish writer Byrne serves up his second full story following Another Time, Another Place. The aforementioned entry arrived off the heels of co-scripted Matter Of Life And Death. It's important to note, this would be the second of three collaborations between Byrne and Tomblin. I suppose like anyone with high expectations, the question remains will I be disappointed after all these years? Without further ado we venture boldly into the great unknown that is Space:1999, Year One, Episode 9, Force Of Life. Alphan survival continues.

One of the many extraordinary and painstakingly beautiful space shots delivered for Space:1999.
Speaking of survival, some of the most interesting comments about Space:1999's premise came from the very mouth of Johnny Byrne in a tribute paid to the man by John Kenneth Muir. Space:1999 was essentially the anti-Star Trek. This is reflected and considered with terrific insight in an article written by John Kenneth Muir that can be found here. My favorite Space:1999 analysis from Byrne to Muir comes in these words:

"Critics don't understand the paradigm. They never did. It [Space:1999] isn't Star Trek. It is a modern day or near future origin story of a people. The Celts, the Aztecs and the Hebrews all have origin stories. But Space:1999 took place in a real time, not in pre-history. It was a futuristic rendering of that old story: of people cast out from their home with no plan, no direction and no control. There are elements of faith, magic and religion in the show, and nobody seems to understand or accept that. In Space:1999, we are witnessing the foundation of a culture. It didn't fall into the classic mold of science fiction, no question about it. I'm the first to know that. The very premise was dodgy, but you had to suspend disbelief in order to see the possibilities of it. All the professional science fiction writers - unfortunately - did not judge it for what it was. They judged it for what it wasn't. This was a cardinal error and for that reason, I didn't take the criticisms to heart. They were not judging what I had done; they were judging what they had hoped to see...and it wasn't there."

The Solarium. You'll find me there.
The quote offers some of the most succinct and articulate insight into Space:1999 ever spoken. Byrne accurately captures the mood and expectation of critics who unfairly faulted Space:1999 for something it was not. The full tribute to Byrne and his reflections to Muir can be found here.

The force of life is Moonbase Alpha and its inhabitants must find a way to hold onto one another despite themselves and the rearing of the ugly head that is sometimes very dark human nature. This combined with sometimes dark forces beyond their understanding often working against their survival. This is not a series for the close-minded. susceptible to misunderstanding or pre-conceived notions.

A blue orb of light hurtles toward the Moon. The effects shots of the Moon are impressive. Commander John Koenig and Professor Victor Bergman witness its arrival. Once again, Bergman comes up empty with answers, "It's a new one on me." Ah, Victor. You are a bright, all too human representative of us. In space, everything is a question for Bergman. God bless him. He is a real human being. He is one of the major factors I loved Space:1999, Year One. He attempts understanding, but is also open to accepting that which he cannot understand. His human reaction to the questions of the universe is why his character is so beloved by me. He is an intelligent man, but like any man of science and knowledge he has as many questions as he does answers. When he says he doesn't know he's never fearful of admitting so. He's not bashful in admitting ignorance. Who has all the answers? He doesn't know right along with us. Our Alphan conundrums are his Alphan conundrums. His responses are real and human. He has an appetite for understanding, but a spiritual embrace of a universe that remains a mystery to him and all of us.

One of a number of terrific set pieces for Space:1999. The Nuclear Generating Area.
Somewhere on Moonbase Alpha, we meet two new Alphan characters in Anton and Eva Zoref. Great names. I love the sense of isolation for the Alphans. The music, provided by Composer Barry Gray, always heightens the sense of dread or the eerie, isolating quiet of outer space. Gray is exclusive to Space:1999 Year One. Year Two would find music provided by Derek Wadsworth.

David Kano reports to Koenig that Computer has nothing to offer regarding the blue light. Once again, technology is not automatic for the human population of Moonbase Alpha. Koenig requests all section heads assemble. This may be the first time we've heard him make reference to the various section chiefs of Moonbase Alpha. Click here for details found at the bottom of the entry. Anton's work zone, the Nuclear Generating Area, is stunningly detailed. What a set! As the section heads assemble for Koenig including Bergman, Alan Carter, Dr. Helena Russell, the Alphans slow in motion to a full stop.

Everyone on Alpha has ceased moving except our dear Alphan Anton. Anton senses something, but disregards his instincts. The alien blue light has chosen its host. Technician Anton Zoref calls for help from within the Nuclear Generating Area notifying Main Mission of an emergency. His plea for help is met with ghostly silence. Awash in blue light Anton falls to the floor. The blue light disappears and motion and order is restored to Alpha. As a result, Koenig cannot recall what he and Russell were discussing just moments prior to the freeze. Interestingly, John Kenneth Muir cleverly points to the name Zoref as an anagram for froze. Zoref is a rearrangement of that word, a concept that permeates the Force Of Life installment. Paul Morrow receives a distress call from the Nuclear Generating Area and reaches out belatedly to Zoref. The camera twirls heightening the effect that Anton Zoref is out of sorts and no longer quite himself. Once again the world of Moonbase Alpha is under attack by forces beyond human comprehension. Zoref is undergoing a transformation, adapting to physical changes as a result of his newly acquired parasitic relationship with a faceless alien force, whereby this organism benefits at the unfortunate expense of its host Anton.

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The images in those opening credits have burned inside my crystallized intelligence. There was something so inherently frightening about Space:1999. I sensed the creators intentions regarding the series even as a child. How come the critics could not? My mind, as Byrne suggested, was open to the possibilities before me. Who knew a young child would understand the limitless possibilities of space and its potentially dark forces better than a bell-bottomed pant-wearing critic? I knew what was out there was beyond my understanding and yet I was beguiled. Why weren't others with a fully developed mind? The series was far more sophisticated than my young mind could comprehend yet I embraced the essence of the series whenever it reached my television screen. Not all, but many critics simply applied a near Pavlovian critical response to Space:1999 reflective of the influence of Star Trek: The Original Series. Though I didn't fully recognize it, I viscerally understood the intrinsic differences between the two programs on an instinctive level and there was something incredibly spooky about Space:1999 that captured me forever.

Koenig and company respond to the Nuclear Generating Area as Anton regains consciousness. He is clearly ready to get back to work, but Russell will have none of it. Keonig wants the area fully reviewed by Bergman. Alpha depends on it. In the Medical Section, Anton is hooked up to a monitor and with a single power blink the monitor dies. Russell doesn't make the connection to Zoref and the malfunction is believed to be a mere technical aberration. Russell orders Anton to rest. Russell requests Mathias fix the blown monitor. Later Mathias would inform her the monitor is just fine, but that the energy cells were found to be drained.
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Bergman reports instruments in the Generating Area record a "massive discharge of energy." Bergman insists there is no sign of any radiation leak. "Then what caused it?" asks Koenig. Bergman responds as only Bergman can, "Uhh, that's a good question." Koenig is like a Pit Bull. He knows something is not right in Alpha land. Russell insists Anton appears fine other than a mild case of shock. Koenig is less certain.
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Gay is hot, but if I wasn't heterosexual Ian might rank too.
Back in Anton's quarters, he greets his adorably cute wife Eva as she exits the shower. She is delightfully portrayed by Gay Hamilton. Gay is hot like fictional UFO character Lt. Gay Ellis minus the purple-pink wig. Even Eva knows all is not well with her husband Anton.

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Lighting is key to the atmosphere found in this David Tomblin directed entry.
Anton appears to be absorbing all signs of electrical life. He cannot help himself. Bergman presents his chart findings to Koenig. It's the standard Space:1999 heat signature graph or body scan, but it gets the message across. Bergman points to the energy mass at the exact moment Anton passed out in the Nuclear Generating Section. "Unless, it's something entirely new to Alpha," wonders Bergman. It doesn't make sense to Koenig since there are no energy sources of any kind close to Alpha. Bergman points to the logical, "there obviously is."
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The shot juxtaposition of Anton Zoref in the foreground of the DANGER signs is sheer genius.
Anton, despite doctor's orders, swings by Nuclear Generating Area 3, his office, and chats with his colleague Mark Dominix. Alone again, a strange sound effect accompanies a close-up of Anton's face highlighting the terror that has overcome Zoref. He begins feeling strange again. He calls to Mark. Mark comes to his aid. Anton is freezing. Mark kindly gets him a cup of coffee. Anton quickly turns the cup of coffee into a frozen mass of joe and Mark's next. The cup shatters as it drops to the floor. "What's wrong with me?," a frightened Anton pleads. Mark finds out as he grabs the faint Anton only to find his own very life force extracted and absorbed by Anton. Mark is transformed into a frozen human popsicle and falls to the floor, but doesn't shatter like the normal cliched result. Anton runs from the Generating room. Mark's wristband alert activates.
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It was at this point in the action I was 'forced to life' myself. I had to pack and exit to attend a gymnastics meet for my Girl Wonder. If you have kids you'll understand the difficulty of getting through a serial episode, nevermind an actual film, all in one sitting. While I adored every minute of her meet and watching her compete, in my moments of solitude and peace between events I wondered of the fate of Anton Zoref and was eager to return home in due course to find out.
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In the Medical Section, Mathias and Russell are alerted by Computer that "Technician Mark Dominix Life Functions Terminated." Koenig learns of the death of Mark Dominix. "I don't understand." We never ufully nderstand the complexities of outer space and what new realities it will bring. Koenig suspects the answers lie within the Nuclear Generating Area.
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Anton returns to the safety of his quarters. Eva queries what's troubling him.

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Eva's deeply felt concern for her husband Anton pulls us further into Anton's world. These intimate moments create deep empathy for the character's plight and we connect to their pain and anxiety. Anton adapts and evolves in accord to the assimilating lifeform. As the changes occur and affect his behavior we become more deeply sympathetic to both Eva and Anton and their collapsing world. In the cold remoteness of space and the separation from humanity, having one another is their greatest strength. To witness the two lovers torn apart is truly painful and the acting, script and direction create an ultimately agonizing scenario. I hung on every moment and every word.

Not exactly complex data readouts.
Bergman reports to Koenig a comparison of graph charts. One chart highlights an electrical discharge when Zoref collapsed. The other chart is a discharge when Dominix life ceased. "This alien force is here right now somewhere on Alpha." You see, Victor knows how to assemble information to deduct the possibilities.
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The personal touch of Director David Tomblin.
Outside the Medical Centre, Zoref begins to lose it again. His blank appearance suggesting a loss of humanity. A sexy Alphan happens upon him, but continues on looking back at Zoref with freakish concern. Poor Anton Zoref is clearly not himself. Zoref pursues the woman like the man possessed that he is. The camera work and direction by David Tomblin is the absolute best I've seen in the series to date. It is a superior piece of film work. He gives Byrne's haunting tale everything the frightening story needs. This is body horror of a supernatural kind. Something is clearly not right with Zoref and Tomblin allows viewers to experience what Zoref is experiencing. If anyone creates a genuine sense of alienation and a visual sense of alien infection, it's David Tomblin. The odd angles, the sweaty close-ups, red [warm] and blue [cold] lighting effects, the slow motion and blurred focus suggest many things. Fear is made real here. Viewers feel a sense of alien usurpation through the camera and McShane's performance. Ian McShane has always been a huge presence on camera and even when he doesn't say anything, his actions and appearance is menacing. The creators really take advantage of his talent here and couldn't have cast a more convincing actor for the character than McShane. He is at once sympathetic and conversely terrifying. While Force Of Life is clearly essential science fiction viewing, this is a MUST VIEW sequence. It is positively brilliant in its execution [no pun intended].

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The David Tomblin effect. A classic.
When that elevator closes to the Travel Unit, Preston's last hope for survival closes with it. When her distress and peril is unnoticed by her fellow Alphans it is clear her life is lost. Perhaps it's true "in space no one can hear you scream" [the tagline to Alien in 1979]. As Zoref's hands reach into the camera you cannot help but feel the terror of the sequence as if he is pulling the very life out of the viewer. It is intimate. The life of Medical Orderly Hilary Preston is forced from her being. Mathias and Russell discover Preston's frozen corpse. The body count is growing and we have a severe pattern developing. Russell believes the alien force is "absorbing heat." The Alphan command team is beginning to catch on.
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Eva Zoref passes two orderlies carting away a deceased Preston as concern overcomes her. She runs to Medical. She asks Russell for Anton and tells her he was suppose to be seeing Dr. Russell. Eva informs Russell something happened while he was with Dominix. Anton is sick. She too is worried sick about Anton.

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Russell reports to Koenig. Something tells me CommLinks will be swapped for Stun Guns soon. Koenig requests information from Kano on Zoref's last entry into the Nuclear Generating Area. His last appearance there was when Dominix died. Koenig wants Zoref found.
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A stunning shot for obvious reasons, but one you would rarely see on television. Sexy thigh action! Thank you again David Tomblin. You were a great man with a keen eye. GULP!
Anton Zoref enters the Solarium. The area is a room of sunning rest and relaxation. Women and men bask themselves in artificial sunlight. Not to mention, these are extraordinarily good-looking Alphan women. It's interesting to note we are seeing a variety of set pieces not seen before in Space:1999 in Force Of Life. There is much eye candy here in more ways than one my friends. Anton cam is particularly cool. If my fcollege ilm professor asked us to choose something for dissection and analysis this would be an episode I would proudly display for all.

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Anton has had better days and we, like Eva, worry for him as he slips further into the alien abyss.
Clearly Anton has come to the right place. The artificial sunlight serves Anton's alien parasite well as the host body of Anton absorbs the heat lamps with pleasure. Main Mission is alerted to the power fluctuations in the Solarium. Koenig, Carter, Bergman and others rush to the scene. Tanya Alexander is there and summons command for help. Alexander looks awesome half-naked. Koenig arrives as Zoref moves toward a bikini-clad Alexander and shoots out the power. Koenig and company don't fully understand what's in play or how Anton is ticking at this time, but the move causes him to fall to the floor. The musical composition that accompanies the entry is also particularly peculiar and is notable for adding to a deliciously enticing science fiction atmosphere.
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Zoref is alive, but even Russell knows moving him is "too dangerous." Koenig makes a command decision himself and with some trepidation touches Zoref's face with his bare hand. It's clear the team realizes Zoref may suck the life right out of them with simple human contact. When Koenig makes contact Zoref is unconscious and temporarily neutralized. Russell makes the point it may be safe, but it's temporary.
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Yes David Tomblin, we really love this shot too. GULP!
Zoref is relocated to the Medical Section. Zoref is strapped down and relocated to an observation room. Koenig doesn't want Helena going into that room should he regain consciousness. She doesn't see him coming out and she promises to stay out. Koenig points out to a security guard outside for Russell. Could Koenig have pointed him out to inform us he would be the next victim?
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Bergman and Koenig confer over one of Bergman's classic multi-colored, heat signature charts. Bergman indicates the alien force is inside Zoref. Computer is of little use in identifying it. That's the great thing about Computer on Space:1999- nothing. It's only as good as the data loaded into its data banks. How can you explain away the inexplicable and the unknown? Space:1999 doesn't try to get cute or fancy in serving up a bunch of phony computer data as frequently constructed by the writers on any number of Star Trek incarnations. This is Human Intervention 101. The Computer is okay, but it's never a crutch. It's up to us to figure it all out or get lucky. Bergman indicates the power source is "growing like mad." Koenig and Bergman cannot understand the purpose of this alien entity. "We can speculate forever, that's not our problem." That's it! They may not fully understand their new surroundings, but they must find a way. Koenig knows the force must be dealt with while it is still "relatively weak."
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The heart breaks for Anton Zoref.

In the Medical Centre, Zoref returns. There are no straps strong enough to hold him down. Zoref breaks down the door as Russell jumps in fear. Zoref moves towards her. Russell attempts to escape using her CommLink, but the door will not open. All power is gone to the facility. Main Mission is alerted. The Security Guard is notified [that it is his time to die]. Yes, the man is transformed into the human popsicle. Zoref exits behaving more alien force than man. His physical transformation is nearly complete.
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The lives of Eva and Anton hang in the balance.
Koenig puts an order out through Alpha. Zoref is highly dangerous and not to be approached. All Stun Guns are to be carried. "If attacked, shoot to kill." Eva Zoref hears the directive. Understandably, she freaks out. Can you blame her? Someone needed to pull her aside and speak with her first. I understand time is of the essence, but that was cold in its own right. She is desperate to save her husband before two lives are lost, his and hers. Koenig asks Paul how quickly base power could be deactivated. Morrow indicates "seconds." Koenig wonders how long Alpha would survive without it. 20? 30? 40 minutes? An hour? Main Mission receives a visual and power is being affected wherever he Anton walks. He has become a force indeed. Bergman deduces Zoref's path of direction. He is headed to Nuclear Generating Area 3. Koenig and company must get to him first. Eva, too, is en route there in an effort to salvage what happiness she has on Moonbase Alpha, her husband Anton Zoref.
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Anton Zoref is dying and it's in Ian McShane's eyes. The David Tomblin effect continues.
Anton is on the move. Koenig orders all power be cut. The entire base submits to black out. Medical patients are the most susceptible to the power loss. This is a nice touch of reality injected into the story and the consequences of command decisions and actions on Alpha. Anton physically trembles as a result of the power loss. Eva runs to Anton. He is clearly agonizing. After viewing this episode several times, in particular this sequence, I realized the creators were working Space:1999 on another level. Whether a conscious decision by Byrne or not, Force Of Life is very much a love story and I don't say that lightly. Anton and Eva are very much the central figures in this particular story. I couldn't help but feel Johnny Byrne was working into the tale an almost Beauty And The Beast aesthetic. The lighting on Anton's eyes highlight the beast. The light on the near angelic Eva is juxtaposed against Anton's guttural, grunting words and primeval, feverish brow. The scene makes for terrific, emotional cinema. With his transformation complete Anton desperately reaches in for what humanity remains wishing no harm come to Eva. Conversely, Eva loves Anton so much she is willing to sacrfice her life to touch him, hold him, heal him and love him. Her heart breaks for him and it's really captured beautifully on film. This is pretty moving as Anton warns his wife. He struggles with the alien occupier within.

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This is certainly not body horror in the traditional sense of physical transformation, but Force Of Life tackles the concept of physical possession by a foreign entity and the impact it has in chaning Anton Zoref. Sadly, the adaptation is thorough Zoref loses his identity and is fully assimilated by the creature. It is a powerful episode successful on every level. Carter rescues Eva who is gravely concerned for Anton's well-being. Mathias is losing patients and patience. This was clearly a command decision by Koenig or people would continue to die at the hands of this alien invader. Morrow contacts Koenig for power restoration. Koenig will not give the okay "and that's final." Morrow clearly struggles with the order. It is a truly ethical dilemma that is presented to our "good man" Paul. Nevertheless, Paul Morrow remains the faithful soldier placing his trust in Koenig's edict.
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As the command group pursues Zoref, Bergman begins clenching his chest as a result of the mechanical heart's own required power. Zoref is at the threshold of Nuclear Generating Area 3. Zoref charges the men. A single blast from Carter's Stun Gun severely burns Zoref who falls. His skin is charred and clothes are burned, but his eyes remain aglow. Zoref is essentially "regenerated." His physical transformation also emphasizes that Zoref is clearly no longer human, but the monster he had become. This is simply an indelible image from my childhood. Zoref's transformation to something beyond human is complete. His fate is sealed. Why the creators came up with this physical concept is a mystery, but a brilliant creation. He opens the doors to the Nuclear Generating Area. Koenig orders all power restored. The men vacate the area as the doors close behind Zoref. Fully exposed, Zoref enters the power grid and explosions ensue completely destroying the radiation-saturated Nuclear Generating Area of the base and fully absorbing the creature that once was Anton Zoref. All personnel are rocked across the base. Koenig orders radiation shields in place. I suspect this answers any questions concerning radiation containment. The blue light exits the base back into the space from whence it came. With it lifts some part of the spirit of Zoref like stardust. I enjoyed these final moments between Bergman and Koenig attempting an explanation for the strange events that had transpired.

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The blue light ushered in the Force Of Life and exits in the final moments.
Your heart bleeds for Eva Zoref who is left in the greatest pain in some ways as a result of her loss. Despite Russell's empathetic tenderness toward her, Eva is left peering out the window more lonely than ever before. Her isolation on Moonbase Alpha feels that much colder. It is a downbeat ending that I truly enjoyed. Inexplicably she stands before the great void of space with no understanding of how Anton is gone. It is moving.
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If Force Of Life presented me with any problems it would be that I only wished Ian McShane was a regular cast member throughout the series. I would have enjoyed getting to know the Zorefs. This episode is a rousing success due to a number of contributing factors: strong writing, terrific science fiction, solid pacing, and a splendid guest cast. The viewer is invested from the moment Anton turned over in his bed to face his wife Eva. From the moment Anton wakes into the warmth and comfort of Eva's arms we cared about the fate of this man and his wife. Space:1999 is unabashed in staring down life with death and leaving us with sobering conclusions.
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In the end, Anton Zoref is gone and once again the Alphans are no wiser in comprehending his loss. This is a reality of survival and Anton Zoref was one of the unlucky ones. Eva is also a casualty in this loss. This is easily my favorite episode to date and will remain one of my favorites of the series. It is a brilliant, delicious fusion of science fiction and calssic horror. My bias for McShane is not an influencing factor as I was not as generous to the McShane-infused Babylon 5: The River Of Souls. So did Force Of Life let me down? Call it science fiction nirvana if you will. It's no surprise Ian McShane would become the actor he is today based on this shining entry of Space:1999. Force Of Life is a force of science fiction in every aspect of the creative process. If you see a handful of Space:1999 episodes let this be on your list. Why did it have such an impact on me as a child? Perhaps it defied the expression from my mother "there's no such thing as monsters." Here we had a monster among us and it looked like you and me. They were always the scariest.
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Force Of Life: A
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Writer: Johnny Byrne
Director: David Tomblin.

Special Guest: Ian McShane [1942-present]. English born. Anton Zoref. McShane delivers a performance that might have been lost on a lesser talent. His guest spot remains one of the strongest in the Space:1999 pantheon on Gerry Anderson guest stars. His television roles include: Roots [1977], Jesus Of Nazareth [1977] as Judas Iscariot, Lovejoy [1986-1994], Babylon 5: The River Of Souls [1999], Deadwood [2004-2006] as Al Swearengen and Kings [2009] as Silas Benjamin. He also appeared in Magnum P.I. [1982], Miami Vice [1987] and Dallas [1989] among others. His film roles are vast as well including Sexy Beast [2001], Scoop [2006], We Are Marshall [2006], The Golden Compass [2007], Kung Fu Panda [2008], Death Race [2008], Case 39 [a film by Pandorum's Christian Alvart], 44 Inch Chest [2009] by the team behind Sexy Beast, and Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides [2011].

Special Guest: Gay Hamilton [1943-present] Scottish born. She appeared in Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon [1975] and Ridley Scott's The Duellists [1977]. She has also appeared in a number of British soap operas and series.
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The set splendor of Nuclear Generating Area 3.
Director Footnote: David Tomblin [1930-2005]. English born. The late Director's work is clearly underrated and he is little known outside of a massive resume as an Assistant Director. However, his work as director can be seen in two episodes of The Prisoner [1968], two episodes as writer-director on Gerry Anderson's UFO [1970-1971] [The Cat With Ten Lives & Reflections In The Water; Anderson clearly exhibiting his eye for talent], one episode of The Protectors [1972-1974] and four installments of Space:1999 [1975-1978]. His assistant directorial mark can be found in Braveheart [1995], Empire Of The Sun [1987], the Indiana Jones trilogy, Star Wars Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi [1983], Gandhi [1982], Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back [1980], Superman II [1980], Superman [1978] and many more. His career spanned 1948 through 1998.
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The David Tomblin effect.
Oddly, SciFi Now refers to the final moments of Zoref entering the nuclear reactor as one of the "Worst Scenes" of Space:1999 Year One. How on Earth do they come up with that kind of conclusion? I was going to write an entry on SciFi Now, but I've decided to include a few thoughts here now. How that magazine was Voted Best Magazine 2010 defies logic and I may need to investigate further. Who voted for them? It's a terrific looking magazine, but it is your typical cut and paste, ultra-commercial glossy with absolutely no substance between the covers. There are instances you wonder whether the writers actually know what they're talking about. SciFi Now #10 is a case in point. They do a retrospective on Space:1999, but Year One only. In SciFi Now #10 the magazine cites Zoref's ability to open the reactor door as a question. Did the writers watch the episode? Why is this even a question? I'm puzzled. They also refer to the lack of clarity given to these moments in the final minutes of the episode. Does it require explanation? I'm beginning to think the writers honestly do not understand the series as covered extensively here earlier or they are too young to care about taking the time. It's exactly this kind of writing in these hyper-commercial science fiction magazine offerings that make you realize all too easily why these magazines simply are not very good. There's just no meat on the bone. This is why it takes time to give readers here a decent entry. One must absorb their science fiction like the blue light absorbed Anton Zoref. SciFi Now just doesn't rank as a serious source of science fiction information.
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For serious insights, who better to offer additional thoughts on Force Of Life than the late Johnny Byrne himself. These comments are lifted from The Catacombs. I enjoyed these remarks concerning the indefinable entity from the installment. "I decided it was much better that this creature had no sort of actual human malevolence, that its actions should be what it was; without good, without evil, simply doing its thing. It had an imperative, a kind of instinctive thing driving it. Of course, these things have to be visualized in terms of science fiction for the screen so the way I found it was to turn him into a heat-junkie, he was just like an addict. The thing inside him would need a fix every so often and we had him going through these spasms where he'd draw heat out of any object. As for that star reference at the end of the entry, Someone, I think, forced me to put in the notion that it was a star in the making. I think that this was a foolish notion, because it was better to say that we simply didn't know what it was. If you want to draw a comparison, it's the caterpillar and the butterfly, but in some impossibly difficult and imponderable circumstances. It was one of those situations where not knowing the answer was where the drama lay. Knowing would have killed the drama. I felt that the performances and the direction were superb. David Tomblin got a tremendous sense of pace with Ian McShane striding through those corridors, which are usually the most boring of shots but somehow David could invest them with tremendous energy and drama. David could communicate that sense of urgency... you would actually get off from watching somebody walking down the corridor."

Further thoughtful commentary comes by way of Author John Kenneth Muir. For more substantive analysis we turn to Muir's Exploring Space:1999. It's clear after reading the entry through once, both Muir and myself note the visual style and flair for storytelling through the camera is of significant note in Force Of Life and essential to its success. He points out the many camera techniques employed and how they affect Byrne's terrific story. I experienced many of the same things watching the episode. It's clear what Tomblin was hoping to achieve on film is conveyed for the intelligent science fiction fan. That's not to say all critics enjoyed this particular episode, because they did not - more on that in a moment. For serialized television what Tomblin achieved for the small screen can only be referred to as near cinematic in scope and quality. It is a sight to behold and Muir recognizes this in detail.
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I'm sensing marker effects here. Nice.
"The extended use of slow-motion photography prolongs the terror of Zoref's intended victims." These camera shots really create a general impression of a "brutal Zoref" as an unstoppable "invincible" force of lethality. "The color and focus on Zoref's face further reflect that this human is in the grip of an alien force by shifting dramatically from blue to red (symbolically cold to hot) when Zoref is draining his victims. All these fantastic touches make "Force Of Life" look more like a full-fledged feature film than a television program shot in just a few days." Amen.
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Muir points to the often unfair critical lambasting of Space:1999 utilizing Force Of Life as no exception. Let's be clear here, Force Of Life is one of the best of Space:1999 and it is a brilliant moment in science fiction. Muir points to a number of critical examples that are unkind to Force Of Life. Most notable he points to an interview given once by Martin Landau himself, whereby the late Buster Crabbe [1908-1983] complained he "couldn't understand" Force Of Life. Muir points to the fact Landau simply shrugs not knowing himself what it was all about. This is frustrating, but informative. Space:1999 was never given a fair shake to begin with and incident after incident compounded the perception problem that developed unfairly against this series. Quite frankly, it's bull---. I mean no disrespect to Martin Landau and his talent, but from what I've read and what I've seen from various resources, Landau was never the series' strongest advocate. Am I being kind? This non-committal, disloyal response by one of its own is the kind of attitude that has truly harmed Space:1999's legacy. In fairness, and I know I'm coming across fairly heated here, Landau, probably responding out of deference to Crabbe, should have defended Byrne and Tomblin's story, not to mention his own association within it. Apparently Crabbe, basking in the glow of his own sci-fi ego, and a number of critics alike, essentially folded under the weight of a growing blue orb of light called envy and fell in line with the uninformed to criticize a series that deserved better. Landau, too, never appeared to be its greatest proponent and its a shame the criticism came from within as much as it did from the outside. Though, I may not have the complete picture. I've recently obtained a copy of a documentary that I hope will shed some light on the matter. Indubitably, people genuinely missed the boat on Force Of Life. It ranks among the best in serial science fiction and the lack of understanding out there regarding this installment alone by alleged science fiction critics leaves me profoundly puzzled.

The Force Of Lighting.
"It is the images of the Force Of Life that tell the story." Muir points to some ignorance from the critical field, especially those without a background in film. That's fair. This is a highly stylized, visual exercise as much as it is a beautifully expressed story and without an "appreciation" for technique, some critics seemingly didn't get it. It doesn't take a rocket scientist, as they say, to get it, but I suppose it could happen. Why anyone didn't get this episode is simply astounding to me. The effort put on screen is "quite unusual for television." Perhaps, it was too smart for its own good.
*
Muir calls part of the success behind the story, "mystery!" This is true. It's a trademark of Space:1999. Mystery is always an element in play with our resident Alphans. Force Of Life really delivers on this concept. Muir points out that many critics didn't learn enough about the alien force. The spoon fed mentality was certainly not satiated by Bergman's explanation at the conclusion of the episode. Muir makes a great point about why Force Of Life doesn't need one. "Even if Bergman had said nothing, even if he had shed no light whatsoever on the events of the episode, Force Of Life still would have worked beautifully." Perfect. Force Of Life is a wonderful piece of self-contained science fiction [period]. Please see the definition of science fiction at the top of my blog. It is "fiction of a highly imaginative or fantastic kind," where in the end you are left to plumb the recesses of your mind for what transpired or what could be. In fact, while Bergman's own hypothesis is a good one and offers the viewer a starting point or springboard for thought, it is not the ultimate conclusion or definitive of the what transpired. As mentioned earlier, Bergman, like us, is searching for answers, analyzing the data and drawing conclusions and this is what Force Of Life allows us to do. Bergman's theories are good ones and sound, but they are not absolute. This is a vast unknown where the normal rules of physics don't apply and variables do not always lead to a logical conclusion.

Muir writes, "The essence and driving concept behind Space:1999 is that space is a mystery. Sometimes it is frightening and sometimes it is wondrous. Is it really necessary to explain where the alien originated, how it thinks, why it chose Zoref, where it is going, and so forth? If all those questions were answered, the mystery would be gone, slaughtered in the rush to find a convincing scientific explanation or psychological motivation. There would be no time for horror, no room for awe, and no sense that the Alphans are strangers in a strange land." What a terrific rendering of the inane critical response delivered upon Force Of Life. Muir asks if Alec Guinness understood the force in Star Wars? The answer is no. Did we understand it? No. Let us further illustrate the disaster that is the point of the reveal. When Liam Neeson attempted an explanation for the force in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace [1999; released after the writing of Muir's book], the explanation sounded silly, ludicrous and sucked the mystery out of something enjoyed by Star Wars fans for decades. How many of you rolled your eyes? This can't possibly be what the citics wanted? But the omission of a spelled out explanation was decried by critics of Force Of Life. Folks, this is Space:1999 for cryin' out loud! Critics never recognized the mysteries inherent to the series build. Besides maybe the alien picked Zoref for his cool name.
*
The final moments of Anton Zoref.
Muir's final thoughts had inspired some of my own similar thoughts expressed earlier. "It is unfortunate that critics have never understood the mystery and awe that permeates Space:1999 Year One because this shortcoming has caused them to misunderstand and misrepresent the nature of Force Of Life and other stories for 20 years. Force Of Life deserves to be remembered as one of Space:1999's, and science-fiction television's, most memorable and horrific hours." This is precisely the point. Critics have maligned the legacy of Space:1999. These perceptions have jaded viewers and stained some of television's finest science fiction moments. Once again, Muir, clearly the uncontested anlayst in horror and science fiction, points out why Force Of Life works on both levels. It's a classic and worthy of your attention. The greatest compliment I can give is that Space:1999 looks and feels uniquely Space:1999 and that is a rare achievement in science fiction.