Thursday, 30 June 2011

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Electric Snapshot: UFO.


And they're on your roof with a ladder.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Retro Videogaming: The Great Space Race.


This takes me way back to my earliest days of computer gaming on the ZX Spectrum. One of the first and most influential games I bought for the system was Valhalla. An adventure game all about Thunder Gods, evil Tricksters and really skinny women. But what made Valhalla special was that it was visual unlike most adventurers back then which were text based with the odd graphic thrown in to fire your teenage imagination. In this game, you saw the results of your input as characters moved into frame and interacted with each other. I loved it. This thing was at the cutting edge of bleeding cool. I couldn't wait for their next game. A game they called the Great Space Race.

I remember walking into my local game shop one Saturday morning, well, it wasn't exactly a game shop as there were none back then, it was more a newsagents with a black and white telly in the back which was hooked up to a speccy and tape machine and a selection of the latest games to hit the market were displayed on a rickety shelf above said telly. The owner was a bit of a tech head and his shop used to be packed with kids who were the pioneers of the computer gaming age. There on the shelf was a huge black box with the above logo on. Holy smokes, it was OUT. It was also £12 which was a fortune back then for a game. "TWELVE ENGLISH POUNDS, ARE THEY KIDDING?!" Heck, I'd have to save up for that. But I didn't have to because the owner had installed the game and was playing it as I came into his shop. Hmmmm, what was this? Static screens with a ton of text? Where's the movie? The owner glanced over at me and shook his head. "Not as good as Valhalla. It's a bit crap."

Oh noes!! It's crap?! You mean it's rubbish?!! And it was. I watched this thing beep, burp and generally do nothing with an deep dark sense of doom. All those hopes and anticipation. Gone. Blown away by dodgy pixels which looked nothing like a spaceship. I left the shop wanting to kick a cat. The Great Space Race - I call thee disappointment by any other name.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Lenscap: The Old Grand Hotel 1920.

The Haunted House at the Top of my Street.

Back in 1970, I was a ball of snot dressed in a Flintstones t-shirt and a pair of two sizes too big saggy baggy jeans and who was always on the look out for adventure and some red indians to shoot with my pop gun. Those adventures usually involved this place, the old Grand Hotel and to the rear, its courtyard and Victorian stables. We dreamed up those adventures to while aways those long summer holidays. Those were great days and those adventures grew taller with each telling to the little kids who weren't old enough to get in our gang.

I remember having to go get our ball which had been booted over the stable roof and into the centre of the cobbled courtyard. UH OH. The game was chicken. The one who kicked it had to go get it. So I did. I climbed over the surrounding 6ft high sandstone wall and sneaked over to where the ball was. It was then I heard the monster. It had been hiding down the steps to the beer cellar. Waiting. "It's the dog!!!" shouted my chums who were sat laughing themselves silly on the sandstone wall as I grabbed the ball and ran towards the double gates and freedom as if my arse was on fire with a growling and very pissed off bulldog hot on my heels. Thank God it was on a long chain. There was a sudden welcome yelp as it was stopped in its tracks and stood yapping in frustration. My chums all applauded my escape act as I turned and did a Superman pose realising I was safe. I had escaped. I think that dog became a wolf, who became a lion, and who ended up being owned by the Devil himself.

The Old Grand Hotel is long gone now and all that's left are the memories it holds for those of us who grew up in its imposing shadow.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Retro Videogaming: Lunar Jetman and the Phantom Trailer.


His name was Simon B. It was all his fault. "Did you know that there's a trailer in Lunar Jetman?" Long pause. "No there isn't." I replied. I should know. I'd been playing L.J. for a month solid. I sure as hell hadn't seen any God dammed trailer. "There's a photo in Crash." Another long pause. "You're kidding?!!!" He shook his head. "Nope. Somebody sent in a photo of it." Holy shit, why hadn't I seen it? Hell, the game was hard enough without having to lug a trailer around AND avoid the baddest aliens EVER. So he went and got the magazine. "See?" he said, pointing to the photo. "Trailer. Lunar Jetman."

I can't remember how many hours I spent since that conversation trying to find that fucking trailer but it felt a lifetime. Well, at least until the next issue of Crash where the whole thing was debunked after the game code was analysed and the photo was nothing more than a smart arsed fake. If I ever met the bastard who did that I'm not sure whether I'd kick his ass or shake his hand for his bravado. The latter probably these days.

For Spectrum gamers back in the day that became the stuff of legend. Speaking of gaming legend, ever hear the one about Nightshade?

Electric Cinematic: "Man Made Monster" 1941.

Lon Chaney jr as the Electric Man.

A classic horror movie that, even though it only lasted an hour, scared the heebiejeebies out of me when I was 10. A love of mad scientists and their laboratories crackling with all kinds of pre-steampunk gizmos arcing electricity and magic was born.

Cult Icons: James Tiberius Kirk.

When being best wasn't good enough. He had to do it in style no matter what planet he was on.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Retro Comics: John Carter Warlord of Mars #1 - June 1977

Marvel's JCW of Mars 1977 - 1979.

Had every issue - then I discovered girls and got rid of my childish things.  Fool that I was...

Electric Movie Preview: John Carter of Mars. (2012)

Barsoom Pre-Production Art.

Oh wow, just came across this. An atmospheric first preview of my most anticipation movie for a long time. Years ago, I used to buy the Edgar Rice Burroughs inspired Marvel comic "John Carter: Warlord of Mars." in the American A5 format. Loved the design and the sense of a stranger in a strange land theme. Fingers crossed that the final movie is as good as that pre-pro image. 2012 is such a long way away dammit....

Lenscap. Hitching a Ride on Route 66.

"Going my way?"

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Retro Toys: Frustration.

Pop-o-matic fun with the original Frustration.

Many an hour was spent playing this during the 70's.

Retro Icons: The Crew of the Icarus.

Dodge, Taylor, Stewart and Landon.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Electric Pix in Space: The Last Flight of the Endeavour.

"SHE WAS A GOOD SHIP..." Explorers 1985.

Explanation: This luminous night view of the space shuttle orbiter Endeavour, docked with the International Space Station for a final time, was captured on May 28. Orbiting 350 kilometers above planet Earth, Endeavour's payload bay is lit up as it hurtles through Earth's shadow at 17,000 miles per hour. At the top of the frame, the jointed appendages of the station's robotic manipulator arm Dextre appear in silhouette. Motion during the long exposure produced streaks in the starry background and the city lights on the darkened planet below. Completing a 16 day mission, Endeavour made a final landing at Kennedy Space Center in the dark, early morning hours of June 1.

Cult Icons: Trumpton Fire Brigade.

"Pugh, Pugh, Barney Magrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grub."

Keeping the citizens of Camberwick Green and Trumpton safe in their beds.

Cult Icons: Play School.

"Here's a house, here's a door. Windows: 1 2 3 4, ready to knock? Turn the lock - It's Play School."

21st April 1964 - 11th March 1988

Retro Babes: Deanna Lund.


Sexy Deanna Lund as Valerie Scott in the excellent LAND OF THE GIANTS.

Retro Videogaming: UnderWurlde.


"Underwurlde" by ULTIMATE PLAY THE GAME.

People say that the Super Mario series from Nintendo are the greatest videogaming platformers of all time. Nope, not for me they're not. I go way back to 1984 and this game for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum which came out at the same time as another seminal classic from ULTIMATE - Knight Lore. 

Underwurlde was amazing for its time. To get anywhere you had to pixel perfect jump from ledge to ledge whilst avoiding the meanies. But these meanies were different: all they did was nudge or bump you. Simple when you're on the ground but a pain in the ass if you were perched on a tiny platform half way up the inside of a tower and a fall would mean the loss of a life. Perfect gameplay. Equal parts addictive. Equal parts ARGGHHHH!!

A fantastic game with one of the greatest "cheats" ever seen in the history of videogaming. But that's a tale for another post...

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Cult Icons: Laurel and Hardy.

Can you hear the Dance of the Cuckoo's?

Retro Future: Taking in the View.


It's the weekend. Work is done and you need to relax so you find yourself in some 50th floor cafe just enjoying watching the world and the 10.30 Trans-express go by. A great way to spend a spring day in the 24th century...

Retro History: Return of the Moon Men.


Life is marked by moments in history. I was seven when Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins went for a trip to the moon. I remember sitting around our old black and white tv with family and my dad telling me that what was about to happen was the most important thing that had ever happened and that I would rremember it to my dying day. Being seven that was a pretty big deal. It was a then and now moment. Yesterday was different to tomorrow. The world turned but all eyes were to the heavens. No doubt I'll post more from our adventures in the cosmos but I wanted to post this particular one first because when I first saw it after returning to school after the summer holidays I asked my teacher why they were locked in a tin can. "Do they have moon flu or something?"

To be there at the dawn of a new age is a blessing as it makes one appreciated the achievements of the future even more. Thanks Neil, Buzz and Michael for showing me the amazing beauty beyond my own personal horizon.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Retro Videogaming: Jet Set Willy and the Banyan Tree.



"There are moments when you reach the impossible. No matter how hard you try, no matter how many goes you attempt, and no matter how long you try to figure out a pattern or check the mags for a cheat, you always end up going "Fuck this shit, that's impossible!!" Welcome to the world of Jet Set Willy and the Banyan tree. A hundred Miner Willy's wouldn't be enough. Hell, I still break out in a cold sweat thinking about it 26 years later."

Retro Videogaming: Zzap! 64.

Zzap! 64 - issue #1 May 1985

When gaming mags took a whole week to read.

Retro X: Metal Man pulls Hot Chicks.

Some Robots have all the fun.

Classic Movie Posters: Star Wars.

"Star Wars? What the hell is that?" - Going back to early 1977 before the madness.

Always preffered this poster to the Hilderbrandt Star Killer one.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Retro Videogaming: ELITE - Spectrum 48k


 "Watch out for space pirates if you know what's good for you."

Retro Sci-Fi Television: UFO.

Thought I'd launch this section of the blog with something very close to my heart. This is a post about a 1970's sci-fi show that holds special memories for me personally.

I was ten when it was first shown and it made such an impression that I have zero g hesitation in saying that UFO is absolutely unquestionably the greatest science fiction anything that I've ever seen.

While Gerry Anderson may be more famous for his supermarionation epics such as Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet, it is with his first true live action opus UFO that he stands tall above all others in my book.

Everything about the program is spot on. From the brilliant concept, the exceptional cast,  the outstanding design and the bravura way those behind the production refuse to bow to the standard convention by shrouding the show with a dark and malevolent tone that leaves the viewer with a sense of unease that this world is not the centre of the universe. The purple wigs and silver mini skirts helped a bit as well..

I remember watching the series as a kid thinking it was dammed scary and totally different to anything I'd ever seen. The episode where Foster is captured and taken aboard a UFO is one which is forever burned on my psyche. The scene where the SHADO medics try to remove the alien helmet, which is filled with a thick green liquid to enable him to survive the trip to the alien homeworld, is as deeply unsettling today as it was back then.

I had all the toys. Spent many a happy hour destroying alien bases made out of lego with my gold Interceptor and the Mobile with it's flip missile launcher roof. All the other hardware was lovingly moulded plastercine. Skydiver looked particularly cool I recall..

As with most things in life, quality survives the passing of time. I remember and love many of the old sci-fi tv shows of my youth, but UFO is special. UFO is the one which will always endure. A true classic.

End transmission.

Lenscap: Their Concrete Jungle.

There walk the masters of the Universe.

Retro Sci-Fi Magazines: Fantastic Films.

The excellent Fantastic Films - 46 issues from 1978 to 1985.

Retro Music Live: Small Faces 1966.


Remembering the great Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane.

Lenscap: 70's USA.

Walking the streets in a world of his own.

Retro Music: David Bowie.

The Man from Mars.

Retro Sci-Fi Hardware: Fireball XL5.

Crew: Colonel Steve Zodiac, Doctor Venus, Professor Matthew Matic and Robert the Robot.

Retro Porn: Ram alama ding Dong.

When a girl would be impressed when you showed her your floppy 5 1/4 inch disk.

Lenscap: Hamburgh 1863

The river Elbe when sail was king and trade was at the mercy of wind and tide.

Animals: Splinter of the Minds Eye.

Elephantine Fact: The life cycle of an elephant is fairly similar to that of a human. They begin mating around the age of 20 and have a life expectancy of around 70. The oldest elephant in captivity lived to the ripe old age of 86.

Lenscap: The Nerd shall Rule the Earth.

No female shall come between a nerd and his level 7 Dragonslayer.

Retro Comics: UK Avengers #1 1974

When comics were good.

Retro Babes: Lt. Gay Ellis.


Gabriella Drake from the Gerry Anderson series UFO

Friday, 10 June 2011

Retro Tech: the Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48k.

When the world was only in 48k

Rubber keys, 5 minute loads, cassettes, pokes and Elite.

I should start this post along the lines of "Sir Clive ruined my life!!" because his addictive little invention cost me a bloody fortune back in the early 1980's. But I'm not going to. Instead, I'm going to say it was the beginning of something wonderful. For many of my ilk, it was the dawn of videogaming.

A couple of years earlier, I had been bought a Grandstand Ping Pong console which came with a basic light gun and this had kindled my new found interest in anything to do with videogaming. This was the next step. The Spectrum was at the cutting edge. I was 19. It was 1982. Late November. I had just been bought a ZX Spectrum computer as an early Christmas present. It was THE must have gizmo back then. Not that there was much competition for Sir Clive's new baby; I recall there only being a BBC B computer in WH Smiths computer case. But I didn't want a computer to learn how to "compute" No, I wanted it to play the new vice, games!! Real games that you could play on your colour telly. Games that came on tape. Right at the forefront of this new entertainment was the ZX Spectrum.

I bought my first two games in a small back street game shop. There were no posters in the window or in store and the games were on tape with the cassettes packed in what looked like old crisp boxes. At that time, only a handful of games had been released but one was to become an instant classic.

It was called Manic Miner. At heart, it was a simple platform game done with verve, outlandish and cunning design, and absolute replayability. There were only 20 screens. Twenty screens of torment. I never did get past "the Vat" The game was written in his bedroom by a sadist called Matthew Smith who went on to write a more devious and larger sequel called Jet Set Willy. Being colour blind, getting that game to work was a right laugh I can tell you. The other game I bought was called "3d Sedab Attack." by Hewson, a meat and potatoes pov shoot the baddies space ships or else game. Basic, but wonderful back then when both games had only 48k to play with.

The thing I recall the most is the shop being packed with kids and teenagers. Against the far wall the owner had set up a couple of tables with a Spectrum, BBC B and a Dragon each connected to a portable television. People crowded around about 5 deep to see the games being played. It was fantastic. I still remember that day with a smile. I was there. At the start...


As Electric Pix grows, I want to talk about some of the great retro computers and games I bought and loved all those years ago. Machines like the Commodore 64, the Atari St and games like Atic Atac, Dungeon Master and the brilliant - and never bettered - space trading sim, Elite.

End Transmission.

Cult Icons: James Bond 007

"Today is not a good day to die."

Defining badass sophistication.

Welcome to Electric Pix: To infinity and beyond.

"If there's a bright spot to the galaxy then we are at the place farthest from.."