Throwback Thursday: “Wizards and Warriors” (1983)!

I suppose that “Wizards and Warriors” was what passed for “Game of Thrones” in 1983.  Except it was cheesy as hell (which of course meant that I loved it as a fourth grader), and it didn’t last longer than eight episodes.

It was CBS’ mid-season replacement for my beloved “Bring ‘Em Back Alive” (the Bruce Boxleitner retro adventure series that I’ve written about here previously), which was cancelled due to low ratings.  “Wizards and Warriors” ran in its 8 PM time slot, and then itself was cancelled due to low ratings, so it never saw a second season.  (I believe both shows were competing with NBC’s ratings juggernaut, “The A-Team,” which every kid in the world loved except me.  I was weird.)

“Wizards and Warriors” was really just an obvious effort to capitalize on the popularity of the “Dungeons & Dragons” role-playing game.  The show was campy stuff.  The pilot episode, which you can watch in its entirety over at dailymotion, was entitled “The Unicorn of Death.”  It dealt with a time-bomb hidden inside a princess’ birthday present, which strikes me as a pretty surprising plot for a sword-and-sorcery program.

It had a cast that went on to better things, though.  One was Julia Duffy, of “Newheart” (1982-1990) fame.  Another was “Grease” (1978) veteran Jeff Conaway, who most 80’s kids will remember from “Taxi” (1978-1983).  The dastardly villain of “Wizards and Warriors” was played by the terrific character actor Duncan Regehr, a “that guy” actor who popped up in a lot of genre roles in the 80’s and 90’s.  Here’s the thing about Regehr — I want him to be a real-life bad guy.  He’s got an absolutely sly, suave, villainous face and manner — and his name just sounds like a villain’s name.  If he’d left acting to commit a series of high-profile crimes in the real world, that would be wickedly, awesomely meta.

 

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A short and spoiler-free review of “Avengers: Endgame” (2019)

Mind. Blown.

If I could tell my 19-year-old self discovering superhero comics in college exactly how good their big screen adaptations would become, I wouldn’t believe me.

I saw “Avengers: Endgame” (2019) tonight with expectations that were very high. It was still better than I thought it would be. It was easily better than last year’s “Avengers: Infinity War” (although I think of them as two halves of the same epic movie).  I don’t pretend to be a film expert, so take this as speculation — I personally think the pair of “Infinity” films have made comic-book movie history in the same manner as the original “Superman” (1978), Tim Burton’s “Batman” (1989) and Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy (2005-2012).

I don’t really want to make any more observations, because I’m too afraid of inadvertently posting spoilers.  But I will say that there is a massive tonal change between “Infinity War” and “Endgame.”  The banter and humor of the former is largely left aside, and this concluding story is darker and far more emotionally sophisticated.  It’s moving.  It feels strange to write here, but I kept thinking during the movie that this was a more “grown up” Marvel film.

And it is EPIC.  I honestly can’t imagine how Marvel can top it with future films.  There is an action set piece that made my jaw drop.  I can’t say more.

This is an obvious 10 out of 10 from me.

 

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Throwback Thursday: the “Galaxy 1” children’s science fiction books

Harriette Sheffer Abels’ “Galaxy 1” books appear to be fully consigned to obscurity — I don’t have a single friend who remembers them.  They were published by Crestwood House in 1979; I certainly loved the ones I found in my elementary school library in the 1980’s.  And that says a lot, because I was a kid who loved the fantasy genre far more than science fiction.  (I had an older brother who played “Dungeons & Dragons,” and Ralph Bakshi’s animated take on “The Lord of the Rings” had captured a lot of kids’ imaginations since 1978.)  I remember how pleased I was to discover anthology-style books that featured the same cast of characters on different space-based adventures.

I’m pretty sure that “Mystery on Mars,” “Medical Emergency,” and “Silent Invaders” were among those that I read.  My favorite, however, was “Green Invasion,” which featured alien vines that grew uncontrollably and crushed anything they could ensnare and tangle.  Lord knows that was a scenario I re-created with my G.I. Joes at home.

 

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Throwback Thursday: “Movie Monsters From Outer Space,” 1983

This was another book during my grade-school days that really fed my excitement about monsters — Jerry A. Young’s 1983 children’s book, “Movie Monsters From Outer Space.”  (Why does the author’s name sound so much like a pseudonym to me?)

I’m sure it’s obscure by now.  If memory serves, this was another title I ordered from those classroom bulletins put out by Scholastic Book Clubs.  (I was in the third grade, I think.)  It gave kids a brief, fun run-down of a bunch of space-based baddies — those are the Cylons from the original “Battlestar Galactica” (1978) on the cover.

It featured a bunch of older B-movies too.  I remember really wanting to see “Forbidden Planet” (1956) after seeing a picture of its monster there.

I also seem to remember reading about Ridley Scott’s original “Alien” (1979), although I suppose that I could be recalling another book.  (It would be odd if Scott’s masterpiece were described here, because it was … kinda not for kids.)

 

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A few thoughts on “The Wolf Man” (1941)

So I finally watched “The Wolf Man” (1941) for the first time a few nights ago, and I indeed had a lot of fun with it.  Sure, it’s tame by today’s standards, and bit corny too, but it was interesting watching Lon Chaney, Jr. for the first time and seeing the granddaddy of all werewolf films.

Here are a few things that jumped out at me while watching the film and reading a bit about it afterward (and, yes, I do realize that most people already knew these things):

  1.  I knew I recognized the senior Talbot — it’s actor Claude Rains, who was none other than Louis in the following year’s “Casablanca.”
  2. Chaney was a big man.  He is almost always both the tallest and broadest character on screen, and for some reason that surprised me.  Maybe it’s because that in the posters and other media I’ve seen, the Wolf Man always seems smaller in comparison to Dracula, Frankenstein or the Phantom of the Opera.  I half expected the diminutive Rains to become the Wolf Man, while Chaney’s character would become the hero who has to protect the girl, etc.
  3. This is weird … but Chaney bears has a strong resemblance to my best friend from early childhood, Shawn — who also grew up to be a big guy like the actor.  It’s uncanny.  It’d be nuts if Shawn were his great grandson, and we just never knew it.
  4. It was a little odd seeing Rains cast as Chaney’s character’s father, as he didn’t seem much older.  Rains was only 17 years older than Chaney.
  5. The old gypsy man is played by Bela Lugosi.
  6. Rains is easily the best actor here, followed by Maria Ouspenskaya as the old gypsy woman.
  7. This seminal film was not the first Universal Pictures werewolf movie.  That would be “Werewolf of London,” which preceded it by six years.  That movie is the one that inspired the 1978 “Werewolves of London” song by Warren Zevon, as well as John Landis’ 1981 masterpiece, “An American Werewolf in London.”
  8. The Wolf Man monster was made famous for a certain onscreen transformation that represented groundbreaking special effects for its time — the gradual transformation of the monster’s face on camera.  But that key effects sequence didn’t appear here in the 1941 original — only in its several sequels.
  9. The movie was released on December 9, 1941, just two days after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

 

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Two videos about the “Adventurer’s Inn” amusement park in Flushing, Queens

This is a place in Queens that my siblings remember, even if I don’t — the “Adventurer’s Inn” amusement park off the Whitestone Expressway on Linden Place (the College Point area).  The park had a bit of a turbulent history, and actually went by a number of names between its opening in the 1950’s and when it closed in 1978.  (Somewhat confusingly, it was once called “The Great Adventure Amusement Park,” but it had no connection with the Six Flags Great Adventure megapark that opened in 1974 in New Jersey.)

There are still plenty of people out there who remember “Adventurer’s Inn,” as evidenced by the websites you can find about it.  One that I really like is Todd Berkun’s “LI & NY Places that are no more.”

I myself had no clue.  I certainly passed the site occasionally when I lived in New York, but I had no idea it was a place my parents took us when we were kids.  Any remnants of the park have long since been razed; the College Point Multiplex now occupies the site (not far from The New York Times distribution center).