Sunday, 31 July 2011

Electric Cinemas: the ODEON - Newcastle Upon Tyne.


There are places which during the course of one's life come to mean more than any other. These are places which hold special memories that will always be remembered at the end of days. Growing up during the sixties and seventies, the places I loved the most were cinemas. The excitement, anticipation and awe of going to see a movie on the "big screen" will never be matched in my book. Though I lived in a north eastern town that had two picture houses - the Wallaw and Regal, both much loved in their own way, there was nothing like travelling the 20 miles or so to the big city to see a movie at the biggest cinema in the region. 

This cinema was called the ODEON. It was on its 70mm screen that I first saw STAR WARS at its first showing in late 1977 with a packed cinema. An unforgettable experience somehow enhanced by the fact we had to stand in line for a couple of hours just to be able to get in.  I think I earned my Geek First Class badge that day and, as the saying goes, the rest is history.
the ODEON circa 1960ish.

The ODEON was a lovely building with the decor done in art deco, with crystal lighting, and hued in deep rich comforting reds. To enter the auditorium you had to climb two flights of stairs which gave the impression that you were going to see something amazing once you'd reached the top. And you did as you can see in the top image. Sadly, the ODEON is no more. As with most things worthwhile it was closed down when a new multiplex was opened on the other side of town - which, as expected, is nothing more than a souless shell of rampant commercialism and spotlight blandness. The old building is now deserted, a mere derelict with the threat of demolition hanging over it. All very sad but I shall cherish the fantastic times and the pleasures it gave me and countless generations who sat spellbound at the moving images projected within its walls.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Retro Toys: Chad Valley Football (1968)


Other than a spinning top and a plastic duck shooting game, CHAD VALLEY FOOTBALL is the earliest toy I can remember owning. Made out of depressed tin plate, the game was superbly simple in its design. Played with a steel "penka" ballbearing, the players were controlled by triggers on either side of the pitch when the penka was in their slot. The great thing about the game was that the pitch was enclosed so it had a sort of "5-a-side" feel to it - plus you didn't have to run around fetching the ball after your crap centre forward decided to stick it in row zed.  Wonderful memories of doing kitchen table cup draws with teams written on a folded piece of paper and drawn from a crisp packet with the obvious dramatic commentary by yours truly. A fantastic and favourite football game which was way better than Subbuteo or Striker which followed afterwards.

Cult Icons: the Railway Arms Pub.

Even heaven can wait until you've finished your pint.. 

life on mars + ashes to ashes

Friday, 29 July 2011

Electric Movie Preview: the AVENGERS (2012)

A very cool first high rez shot from Marvel's the AVENGERS due May 2012. Nice detailed close up of Chris Evans as Cap in his new costume. They got his WWII outfit right with the Paratrooper retro vibe and I'm liking this version a lot. After seeing the trailer I'm pretty happy with the overall look and hope Whedon can pull this thing off. I loved the Avengers comic as a kid so this is the major release as far as I'm concerned for next year. AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!!!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Retro Future: New York Interstate - August 2095.

 Check out the 1950's retro automotive vibe that was the big deal between the years 2093 to 2099

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Retro Babes: Liz White.


The etheral and eternal Annie. No wonder Sam decided to take that leap of faith to go back to her.

Cult Icons: Gene Hunt's Ford Cortina Mk 111

 Gene Hunt, Sam Tyler and Annie Cartwright - wandering spirits.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Retro Toys: JOE 90 Flying Car.


One of the most distinguishing characteristics of the early 1970's Gerry Anderson marionette sci-fi action tv shows was the quality of the craft/ship/automotive design. Though I love the hardware in series like Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and Stingray, for me, the best is Mac's flying car from JOE90. Everything about it is aerodynamically wrong but looks so dammed right and cool. 

As a kid, I had the original Dinky boxed version which was labelled as "Joe's Car." and was just a superb replica with retractable wheels and wings. I wish I'd kept the bloody thing and not swapped it for something I can't remember. I sense a theme running here. It's called  "DOH !!!" syndrome...

Retro Babes: Karen Gillan.


Hang on, so what regeneration is this?

Isn't he a little short for a Space and Time Traveller?

 Anyway, behold she of the "legs and fiery mane."

Friday, 22 July 2011

Electric Movie Preview: Prometheus (2012)

First image..


Not a huge fan of mainstream Ridley Scott, but when he dabbles in electric sci-fi and plays with retro future gizmos and hardware I'll be there first night, front row, and with anticipation set at 11. So this is the first image release from Prometheus, the film set in an ALIEN unverse that's not really about those ALIENS at all. Electric Pix shall be keeping a beady monopitcal on this one..

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Electric Snapshot: FRASIER.


This is the greatest tv comedy show ever. I can't put into words how much I loved this show during its eleven season run. This final episode had me near tears for every end to a journey is sad no matter how fantastic the ride. And this was the bestest ride ever. Everything about it was perfect; characters, cast, and the brilliant writing. Can't believe it's been nearly seven years since it finished. It's funny how you sometimes measure the passing of years by comparing it to events during it. I think I'll call my time "since the Frasier days." So many memories of a wonderful series, but my favourite line and moment was the "this dress is so tight I had to take my knickers off to get into it" from Daphne with a pop eyed Niles standing behind her having a silent cardiac arrest at the thought. Good night, Seattle and thanks for the memories..

Monday, 18 July 2011

Lenscap: New York City 1931


Helluva way to spend your working day. Amazing photo from 1931.

Retro Comics: Classics Illustrated #133


Am a complete sucker for anything to do with time travel and this is a pulp favourite.

version shown: UK reprint 2010

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Classic Movie Posters: Dr Who and the Daleks/Dalek Invasion Earth 2150AD..


Two classic retro posters from the movie versions of Dr Who with the dependable Peter Cushing as the Time Traveller from Galifrey. Amazing to think that I actually saw these on the big screen as a Saturday matinee double bill. I loved them as a kid and I always remember thinking that sfx shot of the Dalek ship flying over the English countryside as it came in to land was the most impressive thing ever. It looked so real. Hope you enjoy these fab posters as much as I do..

Dr Who and the Daleks - 1965.

Dalek Invasion Earth 2150AD - 1966.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Retro Videogaming: Crash #1 1984.

CRASH #1 February 1984.

The Bible for rubber key addicts everywhere.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Retro Videogaming: ULTIMATE PLAY THE GAME.


The heroes of videogamers today are the likes of Rockstar, Bungie, Bethesda or Epic, but for the original old school gamers who were around to witness the birth of the industry back in the early 80's, the pioneers during those days are remembered with awe and affection. This includes me. 

As far as I'm concerned, the greatest ever videogame company were ULTIMATE PLAY THE GAME. The company was founded by two brothers, Tim and Chris Stamper, in 1982. Both were ex-arcade developers/coders who saw the potential in home gaming with the launch of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K computer here in the UK. Their first release was a simple and addictive shooter called Jetpac which was a huge success due mainly to its arcade quality graphics which were amazing for the time. From there many of their releases became huge hits and all time classics: games like Cookie, Tranz Am, Atic Atac, Lunar Jetman, Sabre Wulf, Underwurlde, Knight Lore, Alien 8 and many more.

 The awesome Atic Attack

What made ULTIMATE special was not the quality of their product but more due to the deliberate air of mystery which surrounded the company. They never courted the media, never attended computer shows and never issued a release schedule. The first thing you saw when a release was upcoming was a single page advert in the videogame magazines and that was it. It all added to the legend that was ULTIMATE. Looking back, I have so many great memories of their games - buying their first, Jetpac, was one. But the one I remember the most is the dual release of Underwurlde and the epic Knight Lore in 3D. Two ULTIMATE games out at the same time was just mindblowing to us Spectrum owners back in '84. Both games, of course, were absolutely brilliant and revolutionary.

As time passed and the Spectrum, Commodore 64, Atari St and Amiga era's faded away, ULTIMATE became RARE who began to work with and produce games for the new kids on the block - consoles. The Stampers eventually sold up and left the videogaming scene a few years later. RARE were bought by Microsoft and the heart of the company was lost. 

Those early Spectrum days were fantastic and unforgettable. All thanks to a small group of people that anyone hardly knew anything about...

Electric Movie Preview: John Carter of Mars (2012)

From the preview trailer...


Looking good. Impressed with the pulp hardware design and the tone of the trailer. Thark a little cartoony maybe? We'll see. Overall impression is positive and John Carter is still a must see for me in 2012.

Electric Pix in Space: Sunrise on Mars.


Some day there will be a human being in that photo. I really was born a couple of millenia to early.

Retro Toys: Clackers.


Of bruised wrists and cracked knuckles, here was a 70's toy that left more kids in pain than any I can remember. Think of a clock face: hold the gizmo by the plastic tab with the two glass balls hanging at the six. Flick the wrist up and down to swing the balls in opposite directions up to 12 and back again to the 6 - and again - only this time faster and keep that rhythmn up for as long as you can. Impossible to describe, but it had that "this is going to hurt like hell but I'm going to beat my time if it's the last thing I do." something which kept you coming back for one more try. I think my record was about 35 seconds before the devil decided I'd had enough and had me running around my backyard, rubbing my knuckles and yelping in pain. A simple idea and a black and blue classic retro toy.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Cult Icons: the Pearl and Dean Intro.


Everyone hates adverts at the movies. They're usually the signal to go stock up on mars bars, a can of tizer and a packet of crisps before the main movie. What's worse is they seem to go on forever and forever. There's only so many times you can sit through that Cinzano advert no matter how hot the babes are. But, as with all things timeless, nostaglic and retro, you remember things and realise you miss them like hell. One of those things was the intro to those adverts by a company called Pearl and Dean. 

My cinematic age was the late 60's, through the 70's to the early 80's, and one of the things I recall the most was this intro and especially the music to it. This always makes me smile whenever I hear it and takes me back to my outback home town and the Wallaw Cinema with its rusty red velvet chairs and sticky linoleum whilst watching Jason and the Argonauts on the big screen...

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Electric Cinematic: "Abbot and Costello go to Mars" 1953.


I remember when Mars looked like Venus and space women were hotter and more exotic than anything I'd seen in my local neighbourhood. Maybe it was the lack of clothes and visible belly button that did it. Bud and Lou defined Saturday mornings during my childhood. Regular as clockwork, there they were in all their black and white glory having cool adventures. Keeping me in fits and giggles until fish and chips for dinner. I loved when they met Frankenstein, got chased by a mummy and discussed bad hair days with a werewolf. But I loved them most when they went to Mars and got the girl. Every loser has their day...

Monday, 11 July 2011

Retro Toys: Chad Valley Bat-Projector.


I'm four and three quarters. I'm in my parents bedroom. Curtains closed and lying on their bed looking up at the lightshow playing on the whitewashed ceiling. Batman and Robin are kicking the crap out of Penguin and the Joker. POW KAPOW ZAP!!! Gotham City is safe once more. All is right with the world. I miss being four...

Lenscap: In the Shadows of the City.

SILENT ART - technicolour in the dark.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Retro Future: The Long Journey Home 2897.


United Space Freighter "Telos 14g" - a heavy load sub speed class cargo ship, sits patiently in a holding pattern waiting for permission to approach and unload its shipment at Spaceport 48 West Side dry dock after a two year deep space round trip to the outer rim planets of galaxy M23.

copyright/art by the superb chriss foss

Cult Icons: The Child Catcher.


The stuff of many a childhood nightmare.  Including mine, the bastard.

Robert Helpmann in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)

Retro Comics: Dracula Lives #1 1974


I was always a huge fan of horror comics growing up and this one is probably my favourite of the many I collected during the 1970's. Marvel UK A4 comics back then used to feature two or three different characters in the same comic which made them much more interesting to read than their USA A5 counterparts. Werewolf by Night, Ghost Rider and Man-Thing were also serialised during its print run which lasted 87 issues where it merged with another Marvel publication (POTApes). 

An interesting point about Dracula Lives #1 is that it came out on the same day as the totally excellent Planet of the Apes #1 comic as a Marvel double premiere.

Cult Icons: Monty Python.


"Alright, who forgot to bring the donkey?"

Retro Comics: Close Encounters of the Third Kind Collectors Edition 1978


In a previous post I said that Close Encounters was my favourite all time movie and was one of the reasons I became such a sci-fi geek. After seeing it for the first time in 1978, I remember going to the most popular bookshop in the big city and purchasing Spielberg's novel of the movie. This Marvel special came free with it. From what I gather it was quite rare and hard to find here in the UK. A real collectors edition. Wish I still had it.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Electric Pix in Space: Saluting the Flying Brick.


Remembering the achievements, the imagination, the tragedies, the heartbreak and the desire to explore.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Retro Comics: COR!! 1970.

CRIKEY - it's COR!!!

British comics were a strange lot when I was growing up. On the one hand, you had UK Marvel publishing various superhero comics and on the other, the traditional "funnies" comics from publishers like IPC, Fleetway and DC Thomson & Co. Stuff like the Beano, Dandy, Whizzer and Chips, Monster Fun and so on. I used to buy them all. My pocket money went on everything I could get my hands on.

On reflection, I think my absolute favourite was COR!! The first issue is shown above and it came with a free sachet of goo to make a fizzy drink. Tasted crap from memory. But being a kid you didn't care. COR!! ran for 210 issues before it merged with Buster in the shrinking UK market for kids comics. I loved it. Saturday mornings meant nipping down to Wilsons the newsagents at the bottom of my street and getting all the latest issues. Great memories of really fun times sitting reading them in the back yard whilst eating a curlywurly.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Lenscap: The Ultimate Space Babe.


Some images just take your breath away. And this is one of them. No idea of who she is, where this is from, what she is doing and why she is wearing an astronaut suit. But there is just so much awe in this photo. I just had to post it because it's fantastic.

Retro Videogaming: Binatone TV Master Mk6.

THIS VIDEOGAMING LIFE: The day after the day before.

Life is about event moments. Moments that change your life from what it was before to what it will be after. Christmas 1977 was a pretty big one for me. The event happened about 7am on Christmas morning. A wrapped present unwrapped and after the revelation that it let you play games on your television (!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and the world pretty much turned on its head. My life in videogames had begun, and it was all due to the Binatone TV Master Mk6 and a game called Pong.

I remember it came with a light gun where in one game you had to shoot white blocks criss crossing the screen in various devious paths - up, down, left and right. This was amazing. I think me and my mates wore this thing out. I still have it up in the loft. It probably still works I guess. Will never get rid of it. It's funny how a lot of my life revolved around the geek stuff I was bought or bought myself. But this was the defining moment. The before and after. It wasn't until 1982, when I bought the ZX Spectrum, did things get really insane...

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Cult Icons: Hook Jaw.


Probably the most popular story in the great ACTION comic from 1976 was the tale of a killer shark who had a fisherman's spear protruding from its lower jaw and who was hell bent on revenge. It was also one of the most controversial and gory serials ever and was partly responsible for the comic being withdrawn from sale for a number of weeks. I loved it. Think a psychotic version of Spielbergs shark and you're about half way there. This thing was mean. For those of us who collected comics during the 70's, Hook Jaw definitely was a cult icon.

As an aside, the above image is of a free transfer that came with an early issue of the comic and I remember I had it steamed onto a t-shirt which was really cool back then when Jaws was absolutely huge and everyone was obsessed with sharks.

Electric Cinematic: "Planet of Storms" 1962.


Now this is old school retro sci-fi and brings back memories of watching this on BBC2 on a wet sunday night when they used to have movie seasons based on various themes. Even though it was dubbed, I can still remember it because of its cool designs and hardware. Think the Russian version of Gerry Anderson and you get the idea.

The movie begins with a shot of three immaculate Soviet spacecraft nearing Venus – one of which is immediately atomised by a just happened to be passing meteor.The surviving cosmonauts decide to press on to Venus at great risk. We then embark on a surprisingly madcap story of interplanetary exploration. There are giant carnivorous plants, man-size dinosaurs and octopus things. The cute robot fells trees and plays big band music. And in its final minutes, Planet of Storms takes an amazing turn. It turns out there is intelligent life on Venus after all, which is revealed in a clever and surprising way. I shall not spoil the secret, but it's worth the wait.

Planet of Storms had an unfortunate subsequent history. It was bought for US distribution by Roger Corman, who proceeded to cut it up and use the pieces for two other films, an act of cinematic cannibalism that gave us Curtis Harrington's Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet and Peter Bogdanovich's equally classic Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women.Planet of the Storms is one of those bonkers movies you see as a kid and never forget.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Retro Future: Sunset 2349.

Watching rush hour whilst waiting for your retro wheels to be serviced.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Electric Cinematic: "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." 1977


Close Encounters is my all time favourite movie. I saw it one dank November day in late '77 and the sheer magnificence of it has stayed with me till this very day. Other than what I read in the old UK sci-fi magazine Starburst, I had no idea what to expect. Back in those days there was none of the media blitz that most movies receive today upon release so I came to this one unspoiled - other than knowing it was about flying saucers. It was a Saturday, and to see it meant a trip to the big city to an old art deco cinema called the Empire. We arrived early, did the burger thing, and planned our attack because also showing was Star Wars which had been released to huge success a couple of months earlier and was still showing at the nearby Odeon picture house. The plan was to see CE3K first, then run for the late showing of Star Wars. No problemo.

So we arrived at the Empire and stood in a huge line to see what the guy who frightened the crap out of us in Jaws had come up with next. A couple of hours later I came out of the cinema in a daze. I was an emotional wreck inside. My mind was a whirlpool of moments, recollections and impressions which I was trying to get my 16 year old head around all at once. Sometimes in life something comes along which knocks you sideways and leaves you there with a sense that something wonderful had happened and the world is a better place for having experienced that something. Close Encounters of the Third Kind was that something for me. I wanted to be Roy Neary. 

Whilst the whole movie up to the last 20 minutes or so is a wonderful collection of inspired moments, it's those last 20 minutes which lift this from a great movie to an unmatched classic. Watching those last 20 minutes I remember feeling a deep sense of peace inside and awe at what I was living through onscreen. Even 34 years later I can still feel that sense of peace when I watch this movie. The moment Neary takes that first step into the Mothership is the moment I truly began to look up and beyond my own small world.

As planned we saw the late showing of Star Wars. I'd already seen it a couple of times and loved it, but this time was different. All I could think of as the Millenium Falcon blasted out of Mos Eisley spaceport was to wonder what Roy Neary would be doing right now..