Sunday, 4 December 2011

Cult Icons: Play School Windows.


From one of the most loved childrens tv programmes ever made and one of the most iconic moments for kids growing up during the sixties and seventies. And, yes, I always did pick the wrong one.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Cult Icons: Deja Thoris.


"And the sight which met my eyes was that of a slender, girlish figure, similar in every detail to the earthly women of my past life... Her face was oval and beautiful in the extreme, her every feature was finely chiseled and exquisite, her eyes large and lustrous and her head surmounted by a mass of coal black, waving hair, caught loosely into a strange yet becoming coiffure. Her skin was of a light reddish copper color, against which the crimson glow of her cheeks and the ruby of her beautifully molded lips shone with a strangely enhancing effect.
She was as destitute of clothes as the green Martians who accompanied her; indeed, save for her highly wrought ornaments she was entirely naked, nor could any apparel have enhanced the beauty of her perfect and symmetrical figure."
From "A Princess of Mars" by E.R Burroughs (1917)

Electric Snapshot: Back to the Future 3 (1990)


If ever there was an iconic image that encapsulates the sheer mind bending fun of time travel, then this is it. I had a big grin when I first saw this and it was one of those rare moments in fantasy cinema where everything comes together perfectly. For Marty and Doc to be standing beside the clock which will in the far future become the inspiration for their salvation is nothing short of fantastic. Not only "save the clock tower" but help build the damned thing in the first place. Fun movie, outstanding trilogy and a great snapshot.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Cult Icons: Morecambe and Wise - Christmas Show.


As traditional as burnt turkey and mushy brussel sprouts, the one thing that personified Christmas Day more than anything for those of us in the UK was the Morecambe and Wise Show. Once you'd ate your fill of the feast, worn out the batteries with whatever gizmo your Auntie Nellie had told Santa to bring you on the big day, and got fed up with the endless holiday adverts telling you all about the wonders of Skegness even when there was a blizzard blowing outside, everyone - and I mean, everyone, gathered around their tellys on Christmas Day evening to watch Eric and Ernie's Xmas special. And it was special. It was an event. A "did you see so and so last night?" communial moment of mutual worship. Even as a kid, I realised it was something that you shouldn't miss even if you wanted to be outside riding around on your new Raleigh Chopper bike.  

Twenty million plus viewing figures were the norm for the Eric and Ernie Xmas show back in the day. And they were funny. Funny as in funny funny. Eric Morecambe had a face born to be in comedy. Nothing smutty just old school funny. Funny enough to be remembered no matter how many years pass. 

- photo: Ernie (left) and Eric -

Friday, 18 November 2011

Electric Music: Top of the Pops LP's (1968-1984)


Before music got rubbish and long before the Top 40 turned into one long promotion to X-Factor, the number one program for music fans in the UK was Top of the Pops. Every Thursday at 7pm, you'd find me sat in front of our wooden Rediffusion telly watching Jimmy Savile, Dave Lee Travis, John Peel and Kid Jenson introducing all the latest pop hits from people and groups like the Beatles, Elvis, Slade, David Bowie, Showaddywaddy, Bay City Rollers, ABBA and many more classic artists. The sixties and seventies were fantastic decades to grow up in if you had any interest in music. 

One of the by products of the show was there was always a special No1's compilation vinyl album put out just in time for Christmas by Pickwick Records under their Hallmark label. I had a few and I remember them because they always had a hot looking babe on their covers. Something to look at while you listened to Lieutenant Pigeon belting out "Mouldy Old Dough." through your single mono speaker. Geez, those really were the days and you really only truly discover what you're missing when it's long gone..

Retro Toys: Escape from Colditz.


Now this is a classic board game from way back. And like most board games, the thing was too damned complicated to play no matter how many times you read the rules.

I remember being so bored with it I got a crayon and drew a sort of racetrack around the castle and used the little coloured wooden pieces that were supposed to be your escaped prisoners and made them into F1 cars instead. A pencil and a piece of paper to keep a tally of who was who, a roll of the dice to see how many hexagonal squares to move and it was the German Grand Prix. Much more fun. So like I said, a classic game  - but for all the wrong reasons.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Electric Snapshot: Star Trek - the Motion Picture (1979)


Absolutely the best moment in the movie. Everything about it is perfect. Epic in scale, the visuals give that vital impression of hardware weight in the vast slowness of space. Stir in the superb Goldsmith music with the brilliant design and you've got a classic sequence in a movie that is awe inspiring and disappointing in equal measure. It also proves that a bit of super glue, reams of fibre optics and sticky back plastic has more gravitas than any amount of CGI super doodling will ever have. A truly great special effect experience.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Retro Sci-Fi Hardware: NSTV EAGLE Transporter.


National Space Transport Vehicle codenamed EAGLE. A robust multi-operations modular workhorse powered by four nuclear fusion engines with fuel capacity for 48 hours flight at 1/8th light speed. Flight crew consists of two qualified astronauts in the main pod. The EAGLE was designed as a long term supplies and personnel shuttle for Earth/Moon low orbit operations to and from Moonbase Alpha. Fleet consisted of 20 ships until the Moonbase disaster of  13th September 1999.

Electric Cinemas: the ABC Haymarket - Newcastle upon Tyne


The ABC Haymarket cinema is a special place for me. It was here back in 1976 that I saw the first ever summer blockbuster. That blockbuster was JAWS. I remember having to stand in a huge line for over an hour and wondering if there was going to be enough seats for all of the family or if we'd have to wait till the next showing three hours later. Fortunately we all got in and even had seats together. Phew. The cinema was packed and there was a sort of nervous expectation because we'd all read the stories in the newspapers of people having heart attacks, puking in the aisles, or running screaming from the building because the movie was so scary. JAWS came with a reputation as the ultimate shocker. And it was. Even 35 years later I still can't watch the first five minutes where the girl is attacked by the unseen shark. That freaked me out something serious that did. It's true that the scariest horror is best left to the imagination. Then there was the scene with the "head". When that popped out our whole row gave a sudden "holy shit" jolt and there was women shrieking, men swearing, kids clapping and popcorn everywhere.


Saw many a blockbuster there. Everything from FLASH GORDON to STAR TREK: the slowmotionless picture. But by far the biggest was ET. That was one crazy day. ET was huge. The movie was smashing box-office records all over the world and was the must see movie of the summer. Huge crowds that zig zagged like a long snake all around the back of the building and then some. We got in but this time we had to sit apart and I was stuck right at the back in the upper section - see the above photo. That's just about the view I had. A great movie and a great experience even though I ended up stuck next to a girl who blubbed her eyes out. She was quite hot though. Maybe I should have asked her for a date...


Like the nearby classic ODEON on Pilgrim Street, the Haymarket is long gone now. Knocked down when multiplexes were becoming the fashion and another nail in the coffin for those of us who loved  the real cinematic experience. The cinema closed in 1984 and the last movie shown was "Purple Rain" with Prince -  which kind of makes it even more depressing come to think of it. All that's left are the memories and they're all bloody fantastic.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Electric Snapshot: Conquest of Space (1955)


A classic scene from George Pal's technically accomplished "Conquest of Space" A personal favourite.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Cult Icons: The Jetsons (1962 - 1963 and 1985 - 1987)


Tough call this one. The Flintstones, Wacky Races or the Jetsons as a personal favourite. All are classics in their own right and much loved by this author, but in the end I've gone for the Jetsons mainly because of its retro-futuristic vibe. Amazing to think this was originally aired back in the early sixties and as a kid it painted a picture of how we all thought the future might turn out where we'd all be living in automated apartments on singular columns way up in the clouds, where you went anywhere and everywhere in flying bubble cars, and you had your own personal robot called Rosie who always tidied your room up after you. Retro futures are just so much more fun and 2062 isn't that far off really. Basically just a space aged take on 1950's Americana and family life, the original only lasted for 24 episodes but they were fantastic episodes and when or if the much talked about and optioned movie eventually gets made I'll be first in line. Great cartoon and if I ever get a dog I'm definitely gonna call him Astro..

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Electric Snapshot: The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)


"So close -- the infinitesimal and the infinite. But suddenly, I knew they were really the two ends of the same concept. The unbelievably small and the unbelievably vast eventually meet, like the closing of a gigantic circle.

"I looked up, as if somehow I would grasp the heavens ... the universe ... worlds beyond number ... God's silver tapestry spread across the night. And in that moment, I knew the answer to the riddle of the infinite. I had thought in terms of Man's own limited dimension. I had presumed upon Nature. That existence begins and ends is Man's conception, not Nature's.

"And I felt my body dwindling, melting, becoming nothing. My fears melted away, and in their place came -- acceptance. All this vast majesty of creation -- it had to mean something. And then I meant something too. Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something too. To God, there is no zero. I STILL EXIST!"


A classic moment in a classic movie.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Lenscap: Neon Tokyo at Night 2011


There is something about Japan and its culture that just fascinates me. A traditional society living in a neon bubble at the forefront of the technical age. Especially in Tokyo - a megacity humming to the sound of phosphor creating backstreet rainbow valleys. A proper 21st century city and how I'd always imagined the future to be.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Retro Future: Return to the Moon - July 10th 2045


Astronauts Jackson, Fisher and Hellerman exit the Lunar lander module Selene which sits in the rift Valley of Capella just north of Mare Nectaris, a region marked by small impact craters. The mission marks the return of America to human planetary exploration in preparation for a planned permanent base on the moon.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Retro Videogames: Animal Crossing (2005)

a personal selection of retro favourites

To the point: Animal Crossing on the Nintendo DS is a superb game. Superb because its brilliance is in the simplicity of its design and theme. Insert the cartridge, switch on the DS, and what happens next is up to you. You're dropped off at the train station and you begin your digital life to the rhythmn of real time. Simple. Simple done with style.

Animal Crossing is a game of interaction with the characters within that digital world. Animal characters that range from a demented gorilla to a neurotic duck.Through this interaction you begin to see the true depth of the game. You have a basic unfurnished house. With a mortgage. A mortgage that you need to pay off by getting a job. And the only job in town is working for Tom Nook at his Convenience Store. Here you earn money to pay off that debt but also to buy the essentials to get further into the game. A fishing rod to catch fish to sell. A net to catch bugs and butterflies to either sell or donate to the local museum. A shovel to plant things and to dig up dinosaur fossils. Money also buys you stuff to furnish your house. Is that a totem pole for 500 bells? A pink sofa? A spaceship? There are tons of things to buy and how you use them is up to you. The game is about collecting and the continuing urge to complete a collection on a specific theme.


The game runs on a real time calendar and day/night cycle. The landscape changes with the seasons. Leaves fall from the tree's in Autumn. It snows in Winter - the first time this happens in the game is absolutely fantastic and you run around making snowballs and just having fun like a big kid. Following the calendar gives the impression that you're actually in a living breathing world. You tell it your birthday and on the big day you'll get cards and presents from your friends. Same goes for Christmas Day. At midnight on New Years Eve everyone gathers in the Town square to watch a fireworks display. Events happen during the year when you have to be playing the game at a specific time to witness them. The game rewards the players participation and is brilliantly done. If you are away from the game for any period of time, the next time you return you'll discover weeds growing everywhere and your animal characters asking where the hell you've been. Brilliant. AC is also as funny as hell. The animal conversations are laugh out loud funny most of the time. The characters each have their own personality with some of them becoming your own firm favourites and you don't want them to leave town as the game "refreshes" as time passes and characters leave so as to bring in new faces. For me, it was Victoria the mule. She was like a hyper version of Liberace on speed and had an obsession for pink furniture. Major bummer when she left.

Animal Crossing's greatest achievement is that allusive "just one more go before bed" magic which it has in abundance. So very few games have it these days and it was no surprise that it sold millions around the world. Visually its wonderful to watch with its distinctly Japanese cutesy tone. The sound is also fantastic and I spent many an hour just sitting on the riverbank fishing listening to the chirps of crickets in the background. The game is meant to be played in short bursts which is another reason for its enduring longevity and is just one of the many reasons why this is easily one of the greatest games I've played and certainly the most fun. Come to think of it, I never did find that T-Rex skull..

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Retro Comics: Roy of the Rovers issue #1 (1976 - 1993)


Now this was a great comic featuring the adventures of Roy Race and his team, Melchester Rovers. Other notable series in the comic included: Tommys Troubles, Billy's Boots, The Safest Hands in Soccer, Hot Shot Hamish, Mighty Mouse, and my own personal favourite - Mike's Mini Men, all about a kid and his Subbuteo team. It was brilliant and great fun to read. This first issue came with one of those cardboard fold out thingys that had all the English and Scottish League Division's printed as a template on one side. Each team had it's own little cardboard tab that you slotted into the correct postion in the table after watching the results on Grandstand or World of Sport at Saturday tea-time. Then you'd stand it up on the table beside your bed and realise that your team was never ever going to win anything ever.

Each issue ended on a cliffhanger and I guess once Roy had his foot amputated - what a shocker that issue was - there wasn't really anywhere else for the comic to go. Smashing comic. Nothing like it around today sadly. Kids don't know what they're missing - again.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Electric Snapshot: Explorers (1985)


The ultimate space geek adventure and one of the best sci-fantasy movies ever made. Joe Dante's wonderful  tribute to star dreamers everywhere. EXPLORERS is the stuff that dreams are made of.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Electric Star Wars: Dominion Theatre - Tottenham Court Road - London 1977


Love this photo showing the Dominion Theatre marquee for the original release of STAR WARS. You can almost feel the sense of place, the defining decade, and creation of cinematic history oozing from the photo. From memory, I think it only had a very limited release which made the madness surrounding it and the anticipation to see it all the more fun. It seems like only yesterday I was 14 and stood in a huge line outside my local cinema for that first showing - 34 years ago. Everything was so different back then. When blockbusters were new and to see them was an experience never forgotten. These were the STAR WARS days and they were the bestest days ever. 

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Electric Movie Preview: the AVENGERS (2012)




Marvel/Disney have released some rather cool promotional preview pix to give us a taste of what next years megablockbuster "The AVENGERS" will look like. Though not officially confirmed, the main baddies seem to be a motley collection of "aliens" who are part of an invasion force summoned by LOKI so that he can rule the Earth and make all those hot Scandinavian women slaves or something. Rumours of the Skrulls and THANOS are plenty which would be seriously epic and expand the Marvel Universe beyond the mythic. The look of the movie so far is pretty much spot on, though I did have reservations about CAP'S new 21st century outfit. A little too sleek maybe. Dunno. We'll see. Basically impressed with everything else and as he did in THOR, I expect Tom Hiddleston as LOKI to dominate the flick and be nothing short of fucking amazing. May 2012 needs to hurry up.

- all images copyright of marvel/disney -

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Cult Icons: Carl Edward Sagan (1934 - 1996)


In 1980 I first discovered Carl Sagan through his ground breaking 13 part documentary series "Cosmos - a personal voyage" and who instantly became a personal hero to this then seventeen year old who spent far too much of his time with his head in the clouds. That Cosmos is still remembered to this day as one of the great television series is in no small part a tribute to its presenter. Here was a man whose passion for his subject and life long work was so palpable and heartfelt you could almost feel it physically.

A few years back, I was wandering around the big city near here, just mooching and browsing around in a backstreet second hand bookstore when, to my delight, I came across the book of the series printed around the same time as the program was first aired. It has pride of place in my bookcase and of all the books I own, I've spent more time reading it than anything else. A wonderful book written by a true visionary who left us far too early.