Friday, September 30, 2011

Classic Serials: Undersea Kingdom (Faster-Paced Version), Chapter Nine

(originally posted December 27, 2008)

You know, I'm running out of ways to say, here's Undersea Kingdom, the chapters are edited to ten minutes, etc., etc. But maybe that's all I need to.

I know I've asked this question about other equipment of the Black Robes, but why haven't they tried ramming the gates of the Holy Sacred* City with a Juggernaut and mowed everyone down with an atom gun until now? Do the Black Robes and White Robes usually have a SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty) in effect that restricts the Black Robes to swords and arrows?

*- On re-watching an earlier chapter today, I realized I'd been using the wrong descriptor all along... this despite the fact that I must watch each of the damn things five times as I'm editing them. There's a simple explanation for this, however: I suck. You'll may find it useful to explain other things around here. Anyway, it's Holy Sharad, Sacred City (which sounds like a novelization of Undersea Kingdom by Jay McInerney).

Man, a tough one this week. Practically every scene had a plot beat of some kind, so if you're musical enough to notice the soundtrack jumping around a lot, that's why. I had to do most of the trimming within scenes, dropping out extraneous shots, shortening others, and so on. I talk a lot about this version having a brisk pace, but by golly, it could hardly get much more brisk this week, given the source material.

Fortunately, Undersea Kingdom doesn't go in for elaborate sound design. For instance, the scene in which Billy sneaks out of and around the Ho Sacred City (damn!), comes back in the gates, goes into the Juggernaut, and frees Crash was backed only with music, which made it a snap to edit. I simply removed the music from before Crash's leap, edited at will, dragged the music in point to the new beginning of the sequence, and put in a sound fade to cover the join with what came before. I did similar things in a couple other places.

A semi-cheat removed this week. The shot of the plane being hit showed it tumbling out of control. So I replaced it with the shot from next week, where it doesn't. I also added a shot of Crash et al unique to next week's recap, and generally moved around in and out points, to fit the timing of the soundtrack, especially the explosion. (Another thing that had me monkeying with timing was that, where possible, I replaced shots in the cliffhanger, which had very noticeable film damage, with their counterparts from next week's recap. But they tended to be a few frames shorter in the recap, for some reason, so...)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Tale of Four('s) Scarves

Right, now you have your Fourth Doctor hat, it's time for the most famous part of the ensemble: the scarf.

But it's not quite as simple as that.  Did you know there were four different scarves used during Tom Baker's seven-year tenure as the Doctor?  And that one of them was chopped down three successive times, combined with another, and finally rearranged and given patches and new tassels?

(That would be the original scarf, by the way, cut down following the taping of "The Sontaran Experiment" (1975), again following "Revenge of the Cybermen" (1975), and yet again after "The Seeds of Doom" (1976).  A duplicate was made for "The Android Invasion" (1976) for a fight scene between the Doctor and his evil doppelgänger.  That scarf and the original were then combined at the start of Season 16 (1978) to form one enormous scarf.  This was finally rearranged and repaired for the unfinished story "Shada" (1979), made its televised premier in repurposed footage from that story in "The Five Doctors" (1983), and last appeared on the show worn by Ace in "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy" (1988).  I told you it wasn't simple.)

Where can you go to find out exactly which scarf, in exactly what configuration, was used in your favorite Fourth Doctor story?  (And if you say it's "The Talons of Weng-Chiang," where he doesn't wear his scarf, I'm going to slap you.)

You can go to the Doctor Who: The Scarf website, at the conveniently intuitive URL

The site contains diagrams of the various scarves, in their various guises.  To the left is the original version, seen only in "Robot" and "The Sontaran Experiment."  The numbers represent the number of rows.  (The story in between, "The Ark in Space," was actually taped after "Sontaran," meaning that, as seen on television, the Doctor's scarf lost the grey section marked "44" at left, grew it back, then lost it again.  Maybe the Doctor's wardrobe regenerates, too.  We know his buccaneer boots turned into shoes between "Logopolis" and "Castrovalva."  But I digress.)

For those wanting to create their own scarves, there are also best and alternate choices for wool to match the color and texture of the real thing(s), some knitting instructions regarding stitch, how to change colors, and how to make the tassels.

To see that his instructions are accurate, check out his section of photos of his own work, including one of his Season 16 scarf next to the genuine article (as it were).  And when you're done, your photo can join the gallery of user-created scarves.

If you're like me (and, as always, if you are, I'm so, so sorry), you can wear the scarf your grandmother knitted you in 1983 from the "official" BBC pattern (based on the Season 13 duplicate... although now that I compare my scarf against the chart, either the pattern left out two grey sections, or my grandmother did), or the Season 18 scarf you bought on eBay in 2008, and just revel in all the nerdy informational goodness.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Watching YouTube: Original Star Trek Bloopers, Season 2

As I probably should also have said last week, sorry about the low video quality.  I would have thought there were more posts of the Star Trek bloopers out there to choose from.  But this is as good as I've been able to find.

Second Season "Wrap Party" Reel:

0:00 I've never seen this joke station I.D. before.  It wasn't on either of the tapes I once had.  Makes me laugh, though.

1:41 I'd just like to tell all you young whippersnappers that, until I was a teenager, this is what this shot looked like most of the time on television: the 16mm prints were so bad, you couldn't see the planet at all.  Plus, we had to beam uphill to school.  Both ways.

2:07 They're missing a shot here.  As I recall, it was an outtake from "Bread and Circuses."  Leonard Nimoy turns to the handheld camera and breaks out in a huge, un-Spock-like grin, and the camera suddenly tilts.  The operator was probably breaking up.

2:28 Actor Ed Reimers was also the TV pitchman for Allstate insurance, delivering the slogan, "You're in good hands with Allstate."  I think my favorite bit of this, though, is Reimers' moment of tongue-protruding concentration as he reaches to catch the Tribble.

2:31 I think this may be my favorite outtake, just for the randomness of it.  Some people on YouTube were confused about what Shatner says here, so here it is: "Listen, that bacon is really bad.  No, no kidding, it just stays with you the whole night."  (I may have it wrong at the very end.  It's tough to make out there.)  He has more to say about the bacon a little later.

3:11 This is frequent extra Billy Blackburn removing his "android body" makeup on the set of "Return to Tomorrow."  By the way, if I remember correctly you get paid time and a half for aftertime, and twice time for yet-later "golden time."

3:54 Shatner is addressing associate producer Robert H. Justman.  One of Justman's jobs was to shut filming down promptly every night, so the production wouldn't have to pay out a bunch of that aforementioned aftertime and golden time pay.  However, due to that frugality, it seems Shatner couldn't get all his old-age makeup scenes done in one day.  And he wants Justman to know in the rushes tomorrow.  (See below about "the rushes.")

4:07 This is Gene Roddenberry on the set of "Operation-- Annihilate!" backed with audio from "Patterns of Force."

5:01 I wish I could tell you who these people are.  It would probably make it funnier.

5:50 I don't know who the guy here is, either.  But the real mystery to me is who authorized spending the production's film to document women working out.  And what they were planning to use it for afterwards.  Okay, maybe that last part isn't such a mystery.

6:15 "The rushes" are the quickly-produced print of the negative shot the previous day... and also (as Shatner is using it here) the term for the screening of that print.  In other words, he's talking to the production staff.

6:35 Carrying Shatner away is Ted Cassidy, who played the android Ruk (and the voices of the Puppet Balok and the Gorn) the previous season.  Before that, he was Lurch on The Addams Family.  Here, he's visiting from the set of The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, where he played Injun Joe.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Trilby of a Time Lord

photo from
Have you ever wanted a hat like the one Tom Baker wore during his first six years on Doctor Who?  Sure, we all have.  I, personally, have been jonesing for one for 31 years.

But how to get one?  Surely you can't just go grab one off the shelf at the local K-Mart.  (The "K," unfortunately, does not stand for "Kasterborous.")  And making one to order would be prohibitively expensive, yes?

No.  "Penwiper," on Pyrdon Academy's Doctor Who costuming forum, shows you how you can make one yourself for less than $20.

And what do you need to get started, making the headgear of that quintessentially British hero with the unshakably Edwardian dress sense?

Why, naturally, a cowboy hat.

Windshield roadkill pigeon optional.
I can't describe the process in full.  (That would be stealing, and Lord knows that's not what the Internet is for, right?  Right?)  And why bother when you can follow the link above, and see it for yourself, along with copious numbers of helpful photos.  But suffice it to say that with some clipping, soaking, brushing, bashing, ironing, and sewing, you too can have a hat you'll be proud to travel time and space in.  Just watch out for that automatic security system when you visit Nerva Beacon.

Change, my dear.  And it seems not a moment too soon.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Games: Age of War 2

Since my cheap-ass Western Digital hard drive won't currently let me bring you Part Eleven of my honest-to-God-it's-ending-before-too-long playthrough of Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, here's one of my favorite current Flash games.

In this game, as in the first Age of War, you and your AI opponent field armies and equip your respective headquarters with defenses as you both advance through the ages from caveman times to the far future (and, no, not back to caveman times).

This version features improved animation, all-new warriors, additional ages, and upgrades for your different warrior types, as well as defense.

One thing I like about Flash games is that most programmers seem to realize that you're not going to spend endless hours working your way through the thing, and so, by and large, they tend to be easier to complete than console games.  I've done all the levels on Age of War 2, and I hardly have the maddest skillz on the block.

Actually, I wish console games were like that.  I got through, I dunno, maybe half of God of War for the PS2 about three years ago, but there was one part I just could not beat.  After dying underwater a couple dozen times, I just gave the thing up, and never touched it again.

That's one of the reasons Star Wars: Rogue Squadron for the Nintendo 64 is one of my all-time favorites: you don't have to master a level in order to go on to the next one.  In fact, with many levels, you have to have upgrades and unlocked ships to master the earlier levels, and that requires that you gain those upgrades and awards by doing reasonably well on multiple levels.  You could see that as grunt work, but I see it as a game that rewards replay.

Uh, now where was I...?  Oh, yeah, Age of War 2.  I've found that the Easy level is, in fact, easy enough that you can get away without building any soldiers until you reach the Modern Age.  I'll tell you how after the jump.

(click here to go to the game)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Drive Me Crazy

The drive where I keep most of my Thrilling Wonder-related stuff is giving me a gentle reminder of the need to make proper, frequent backups.  So while I'm dealing with that, updates will probably be thinner upon the ground than usual.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Watching YouTube: Original Star Trek Bloopers, Season 1

I first saw these bloopers when my father bought it on a grey market tape from "Video Yesteryear."  They filled the tape out with Laugh-In bloopers, which just kind of confused me, because I was three years old when it went off the air, so what did I know from Laugh-In?  Er, as opposed to Star Trek, which went off the air before I was born.  But you know what I mean.

The tape self-destructed in my family's Betamax, so that was the end of that.  In the early '90s, I was able to get another grey-market tape (this time on VHS) at a convention.  Eventually, that went missing somehow. Now there's YouTube, and until and unless what Craig Ferguson calls the Mighty CBS Corporation decides to suppress them, I need never be without the Star Trek blooper reels again.

Mid-season blooper reel:

2:31 Why the Mission Impossible clip?  Besides that it was also produced by Desilu, I dunno.

2:55 Why Lucy?  She still owned Desilu at the time (and starred in the company's The Lucy Show).  She sold out to Gulf+Western late in Star Trek's second season, and Desilu was merged with Paramount (the studio next door, also acquired by Gulf+Western).

End-of-the-season "wrap party" reel.  Some from the previous one recur here:

3:33 This one confuses some people.  I've even heard people claim this was Nichelle Nichols' first day on the set.  (It's not; it's from "A Taste of Armageddon," late in the season.)  The thing is, when actors aren't in a shot, sometimes they don't stick around to feed lines to the actor on screen.  Someone in the crew stands in to give the actor someone to react to.  Here, Nichols is unsure who is standing in for Shatner.  (As I recall from actors' memoirs, Shatner's frequent refusal to feed lines got on the other regulars' nerves.  Most of them usually stayed out of courtesy to the onscreen actor.)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Classic Serials: Undersea Kingdom, Chapter Eight

This chapter has my favorite cliffhanger of the serial.  Jim Harmon and Donald F. Glut liked it, too... enough that they took more than a page in their The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury to describe it (although they mistakenly assigned it to Chapter Six).  The actual conclusion, you will not be surprised to hear, is a cheat, and will not have happened next week.  But the exchange between Crash and Hakur is great:

Hakur: All right, Corrigan, this is your last chance!  Tell your friends to hand over that priming powder, or I'm going to ram through those gates!
Crash: (Steely resolve) Go ahead and ram!

I think the best part is Hakur's reaction.  He's taken aback, as though startled to have his bluff called, as though even he wasn't relishing the notion of having to splatter Corrigan all over the city gates.  But that's just how tough our boy Crash is.

I look forward to using it if I'm ever in a similar situation.  Then, of course, as soon as the vehicle starts, I'll screech like an infant and wet myself.  But at least for a moment, I'll have been as cool as Crash Corrigan.

(I didn't say I look forward to being in the situation, any more than I would actually welcome having the opportunity of singing a bar of "Alice's Restaurant" and walking out of my local draft board.  But it's something to keep in mind, just in case.) 

Incidentally, what do you think it would take to start an internet meme of "cool as Crash Corrigan"?


1:25 Wow.  In addition to being a really, really bad music edit, it's also pretty surprising, what with getting to hear a different piece of music under these cards for a change.

4:04 It occurs to me that Khan has the lousy luck never to be watching his magic closed-circuit television when something really useful is happening, like Crash uncovering the control box.

4:39 I really have to wonder what kind of vehicle the Volplane is.  Is it a dirigible of some sort?  Are those warp nacelles?  Seriously, though, this serial has to be one of the great pieces of art deco science fiction, along with Things to Come.  I especially like the random bits of art deco detailing on the chariots, the Juggernaut, the Volkites... anything that'll hold it, really.

6:56 You know, say what you will about Crash's outfit, but considering how hot Sharad's underarms showed it to be on location, Crash had to be one of the most comfortable people out there.  Well, when he had the helmet off, anyway.  Certainly beat being dressed in black.

8:00 This is where Mike and the 'Bots would be saying, "Nuh-uh.  I call 'no way.'"

8:57 I am just obsessed with that Reflectoplate this week.  Does Khan spend his spare time eavesdropping on the Rockettes' dressing room?

11:22 So why keep the helmet?  It's not as though it makes him less conspicuous.

13:56 "I got an idea!  You see this pitchfork handle?  I tell you what you do."  Whoa, call the cops!  Undersea Kingdom's goin' late-night on us!  It...  Oh, that's not where they were headed with this, is it?  Never mind.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Classic Serials: Undersea Kingdom (Faster-Paced Version), Chapter Eight

(originally posted December 20, 2008)

Nine installments down, four to go in our bracingly brisk edit of Undersea Kingdom, Republic's answer to Universal's smash hit chapterplay Flash Gordon.

In the original version, Unga Khan sends his forces to catch Billy before he can make it to the Holy City, with his usual zero in the way of results. Still, it was almost a shame to lose this sequence, since it features Volkites flying that weird bomber thing from Chapter One.

I say "almost" because, having reached the Holy City, it promptly disappears from the plot, raising a bunch of questions. Most notably, why the heck doesn't it attack? I know, I know... according to a scene (which I also cut) in an earlier chapter, bombing would threaten the integrity of the dome that keeps Atlantis (very, very) dry. So why did Unga Khan bomb the city back in Chapter One? You really don't want to ask these questions; it's not exactly rewarding.

You get the feeling the writers didn't put a whole lot of effort into the plot logic of this puppy. But if it moves fast enough, and it doesn't self-defeatingly beg questions so much, you notice less. I mean, until I tell you all about it below the YouTube viewer every week.

Another "funny" incident involving Salty and Briny's captivity bites the dust, as does perhaps the serial's most notorious "cheat" cliffhanger. The original goes on from where I end it to show the Juggernaut crashing through the gates. Next week, it, well, doesn't.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Radio: Kaleidoscope (Dimension X)

As I observed in our last Bradbury episode, "Marionettes, Inc.," Bradbury is a master of the short-story form.  He can pack an awful lot into a small number of words.  That one, I estimated at about 2,500 words.  "Kaleidoscope," I'd guess, is about 3,000.  Blaise Pascal once wrote, "I have written you a long letter; I didn't have time to write a short one."  Well, when it comes to his fiction, Bradbury finds the time.  Often, the shorter his stories, the more there seems to be in them.  So you'd think these two short stories might be similar tasks as far as radio adaptation goes.  But not so much.

"Marionettes, Inc." has so much idea and implied backstory in it, despite its brevity, that it unwinds itself in our imaginations like a released high-tension spring.  One could argue that part of the greatness of Bradbury as a short story writer is not just that he can write a story that almost elaborates on itself, but that, having done it, he knows when to stop, and doesn't elaborate on it himself.  It shows his dedication as a writer that he was willing to do this in a field where way too much fiction, even by good writers, looked like it was spun out with intense consciousness of the fact that each extra word was an extra penny or two in their pocket.  Fortunately for Bradbury, that kind of dedication to his craft eventually saw his words earning him considerably larger sums in the slicks.

When you're a radio scriptwriter, however, and you need to tell stories in complete scenes with dialogue-- moreover, enough to fill half an hour --it's time to elaborate.  And as I noted before, George Lefferts did a great job of it with "Marionettes, Inc."

But "Kaleidoscope," despite its similarity of scale, is a different sort of beast.  It's not compressed so much as it's polished, every unnecessary detail ground away to reveal a gleaming gem.

You see, "Kaleidoscope" is one of the best and earliest existential science fiction stories.  Yes, I know I'm sounding again like I'm applying for a professorship.  But think about it.  People are propelled to their inevitable doom, their destination beyond their control.  All they have left, essentially, is how they choose, or are able, to react to the consciousness of their own mortality.  They can dwell on the past.  They can get what bitter satisfaction they can by making others miserable.  They can treat it as an adventure.  Bradbury took what could just have been a story about astronauts flung from an exploded spaceship, and gave it universality, made it into a metaphor for the human condition.

That great philosopher, James Tiberius Kirk, once said that "How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life."  An existentialist would tell him that the two are synonymous.  Consciousness of "life" as a condition requires consciousness of our own mortality.  Really dealing with life is what you do with it, despite the sure knowledge that, as far as you're concerned, it's all going to come to nothing.

Me, I run like hell in the other direction and try to distract myself, so I probably wouldn't make a good existentialist.

The problem with adapting something like "Kaleidoscope" is that adding detail is a bit like gluing the marble chips back onto a Michaelangelo statue.  It's bigger, from a certain point of view it's more complete, but the message gets lost in the medium.

The story opens with the ship exploding.  By the second paragraph, the characters are floating to their doom.  Here, we get several minutes of the why and how, background about their mission, backstory about the characters.  We learn about the need to get to Venus ahead of the "Asiatics."  Later on, the episode pretty much becomes about the specific regrets of Captain Hollis, about his worldview, about how he's been a bad husband and father.

Considering the lack of conventional action in the original story, though, it's interesting that Lefferts chooses to exclude the most obvious: Hollis getting his extremities shorn away by small, fast meteoroids, "death in space... cut[ting him] away, piece by piece, like a black and invisible butcher."  Perhaps it seemed a bit grotesque for network radio.  Maybe, considering Hollis's detachment, a dramatization threatened to become unintentionally comic-- "Whoops, there goes my foot."

Maybe the biggest misstep is mentioning, several times, the possibility of rescue.  The story works as a metaphor because the characters are completely helpless in the face of inevitable demise.  Remove that helplessness, and it's lost the universality of Bradbury's story, and the starkness of its metaphor.  It's a story about guys in space, and whether or not they'll survive.  Half an hour of radio drama.

It's not bad as that, though.  It may be a little on the nose, but I liked this exchange between Hollis and his wife, regarding their son:

"I don't want him to be soft."
"What is it, Louis? What is there about being soft that you despise?"
"Sissies are soft."
"Christ was soft."

And arguably, Lefferts makes one improvement.  In the story, it's an unspecified woman and child who witness the meteor-like streak of what only we know is Hollis burning up in the atmosphere.  Lefferts makes it Hollis's own wife and son.  You could argue that it loses the point of Bradbury's ending, which is that for all our own individual condition of life, death, and oblivion, we do have an effect on others, even if they don't know us.  But I don't know if it quite works in the story, and although Lefferts' ending doesn't have metaphorical weight, at least it's emotionally affecting.  Interestingly, Bradbury himself did something similar in an earlier story for Thrilling Wonder, "Promotion to Satellite," with an astronaut's family seeing the celestial phenomenon he's become in death.

A few miscellaneous notes:

* I got goosebumps when Hollis was entering the atmosphere.  A highly effective and spooky use of music and sound effects.

* "Since there's no friction, we'll all pick up speed."  Sir Isaac Newton is spinning in his grave.

* "[A] meteor swarm-- some little asteroids." At first, I thought this was incorrect usage of the word "asteroid," but Wikipedia notes that although today, the word refers almost exclusively to the minor planets of the inner solar system, it has "historically been applied to any astronomical object orbiting the Sun that did not show the disk of a planet and was not observed to have the characteristics of an active comet." The word "meteor," however, is incorrect. What he's looking at are meteoroids. "A meteor is the visible path of a meteoroid that has entered the Earth's atmosphere." Huh. You learn something new every day.

* I know I'm being over-literal, considering this is metaphor, but in both story and episode, I find it a little tough to accept that men starting from the same place, and propelled by an explosion small enough not to kill them, could possibly be headed for such diverse locations as the Earth, the Sun, a group of meteoroids, etc.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

If Your Cats Are Science Fiction Nerds, Too...'s how to thrill them beyond measure.  If they're not, however, they will disdain you and puke in your shoes.  But you're probably safe.  It's a well-known fact that cats made up 28% of the audience of Enterprise by the fourth season.

Still, considering how obsessed most cats are with appearing dignified (in between bouts of cleaning their butts with their tongues), they will probably just claim to like these "ironically."  They will also insist you use the term "speculative fiction" in referring to their interest.

Get back, Trekkie cat
(Imgur via Blastr via Nerd Approved)

Now, this wouldn't interest my cats.  Not even the Reliant one that I'm tempted to buy and lie on myself.  You see, Charlotte and Emily are Doctor Who fans.  They watch K-9 blowing up at the beginning of "The Leisure Hive," and they just laugh and laugh.

Kaylee the cat showed a decided interest in the 1/6 scale TARDIS her owner domestic help was building.

The original version of "The Mind Robber, Episode 1" was much more horrifying.

Accordingly, he next made a step up to 1/2 scale to give her the cat fort of her dreams.

She's not blurry here, she's in a state of quantum indeterminacy.

Not actually bigger on the inside.  But it is more furnished than most versions of the TARDIS.

Charlotte and Emily want me to build them one, but not one like this.  They're original series fans.  Right now, they're rolling on the floor, biting each other's neck over the issue of whether I ought to build them a Brachacki box, or a Tom Yardley Jones.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Free Fiction: Dr. Hackensaw's Secrets #9: The Secret of Television

[Here's another one, brought back at long last to the land of the downloadable. Originally posted January 25, 2009, under the category of "Sunday Scientifiction."]

I missed last week's Sunday Scientifiction because I was busy finishing up Thrilling Wonder Stories, Volume 2. So this week, enjoy a two-fer!

Here we have one of a long series that ran in Hugo Gernsback's Science and Invention magazine from 1921 to 1925. I thought it would make amusing reading, less than three weeks before the United States makes an epochal change in television, putting an end to full-power analog broadcasting. DTV and HDTV have nothing on what Clement Fezandié imagines.

[UPDATE 2011: As it turned out, the U.S. had one more delay before the big switchover finally occurred on June 12, 2009.]

It also provides a window into scientific fiction as Gernsback pictured it in the early days. As Mike Ashley says in his indispensable volume The Gernsback Days:

[T]he episodes hardly qualify as stories, but rather a series of discourses, just as you might imagine Fezandié lecturing....
Writing in 1961, Gernsback called Fezandié a "titan of science fiction." This is hard to grasp by today's definition of science fiction, but we have to remember that Gernsback was talking about his own definition. These stories more than any others in Science and Invention epitomized Gernsback's model for scientific fiction. They extrapolated from existing known science to suggest future inventions and what they might achieve; and all for the sole purpose of stimulating the everyday man, who had a penchant for experimenting and tinkering with gadgets, into creating that future.

I'm guessing Fezandié was aware that much of what he was writing was, to use the expression of a much later age, technobabble. But in making Hackensaw's television impossibly grandiose, he might "stimulat[e] the everyday man" to a greater degree than he could with a more modest extrapolation.

It's worth pointing out, though, that John Logie Baird first demonstrated monochrome television transmission a bit over three years after the issue containing this story left the newsstands, so any kind of television was still science fiction. What's more, magnetic video recording didn't happen until 1951. (It was on magnetic tape and not wire, of course, but you can hardly blame Fezandié for not forseeing that.)

Click image to download story (489KB pdf file)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Games: Oiligarchy

(originally posted December 15, 2008)

It may be a good sign that your simulation has verisimilitude when you get people arguing over what, exactly, constitutes "victory."

In this game, you are the head of an oil conglomerate. You can exploit resources and use campaign contributions to get a friendly and cooperative U.S. government. The game ends when the shareholders fire you (for not making them enough money), you're forced into retirement (by the end of dependence on oil), or everything goes up in a mushroom cloud (if the economy crashes from too little supply for the demand for too long).

So far, so good. But how do you win? Is it by lasting as long as possible before any of the three happen? Is it by lasting as long as possible while yet managing to keep the shareholders happy and bring the economy to a soft post-oil landing (i.e., retirement)? Or, as one person argues on the "Tips and Walkthroughs" section at, is it to reach retirement and a non-oil addicted world as quickly as possible?

Myself, I've tried for the "soft landing" victory, but generally, I end up with the mushroom clouds somewhere in the latter half of the 22nd century. (My longevity record is 2213, but that ended with a bang, too.)

Is the point to save the world, save your job, or a combination of the two? The very ambiguity may be the game's biggest contribution to making you think about the goals and future of the oil economy.

2011 Update: Since then, I've read the creators' "postmortem," and yes, the ambiguity is part of the point.  As they say, "we think that this kind of disorientation that indicates many open moral interrogatives is the biggest accomplishment of Oiligarchy."

(click here to proceed to game)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"A Can of Paint" Trailer

While I was uploading new and better versions of the Forrest J Ackerman interview clips and the early chapters of the Faster-Paced Undersea Kingdom, I figured I it was time to do this one as well.  Now it appears in widescreen without letterboxing, so you can have a better look at it.  It's a trailer for A Can of Paint, the short film based on A.E. van Vogt's classic short story.

Space junkman Kilgour (Aaron Robson) discovers an ancient alien spaceship.  In the process of opening an alien container, he accidentally gets paint on himself.  The paint begins to grow.  Nothing on his ship will remove it.  He seeks help from his computer (voice of Jean Franzblau), but it is less than sympathetic.  Facing an agonizing death alone in space, Kilgour struggles to gather clues to the nature of the paint, and find a way to stop it.

This is my second attempt at writing this post, because the first one was turning into The Complete and Utter History of A Can of Paint.  So here's the short version: I wrote the screenplay and was executive producer.  Director Robi Michael took a screenplay in which a man and a computer exchange a metric ton of dialogue while paint grows, and made it visually compelling.  It played at over 25 film festivals, and garnered awards in several categories.  It's generated some very nice quotes.  No doubt I'll expand on this on future occasions when I'm feeling particularly shameless.

Now here's the important part: it's available only via, at a low, low price!  Get it now while supplies last!  Oh, who am I kidding?  The minimum order when I had the DVDs pressed was 1,000, and seven years later, I still have upwards of 250 of them.  Look over to the right, find the widget with the photo of the cover, click the button beneath, and initiate the process of transferring a lovely, genuine pressed DVD (not a burned DVD-R) in an attractive shrinkwrapped case from my closet to yours (or wherever you keep your DVDs).

Plus, you have our iron-clad guarantee: if you don't love it more than life itself... if you don't get the crispest, tastiest julienne fries you've ever had... it makes a lovely, conversation-starting coaster.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Watching YouTube: 4 with Forrest J Ackerman

Update and a new video at the end.

(originally posted November 11, 2008)

Sometimes we're forcefully reminded of what a short and tenuous thing living memory is. There's no one alive who heard Charles Dickens read from his works, or who saw Edwin Booth act. Not one witness to twenty-three presidential administrations.

I met Jack Speer at my first meeting of the Albuquerque Science Fiction Society, in June. He toted an oxygen bottle and had to be lifted into a chair, but he was sharp and happy and in his element. The thought crossed my mind of what we'd lose when these last bastions of First Fandom had left us. I tamped the thought down as morbid. Less than three weeks later, I learned he had died.

So excuse me if the thought comes up again as Forrest J Ackerman, the "Super-Fan," "Mr. Science Fiction," coiner of the word "sci-fi," rests at the Acker-Mini-Mansion, having declined treatment for congestive heart failure and pneumonia. Here is a man who has made science fiction his life longer than it's even had the name. It was called "scientifiction" when an early issue of Amazing Stories assured nine-year old Forry from the newsstand ("Back then, magazines spoke," he would always say later), "Take me home, little boy—you will love me."

I interviewed Forry for the first volume of the new Thrilling Wonder Stories, and I've signed contracts with him, in his capacity as one of the foremost agents of early science fiction authors, for works that have appeared or are forthcoming. I've enjoyed talking with him in the front room of his home, surrounded by his collection—a Metalunan mutant head here, Bela Lugosi's Dracula cape there, originals and reproductions of Frank R. Paul artwork everywhere—and he, too, was sharp and happy and in his element.

Please, Forry, flummox and flabbergast the physicians and stay with us. Tell us about Hugo Gernsback and David H. Keller and Aladra Septama. Become the George Burns of science fiction, as you've promised. There's a lot more future yet to see.

* * *

Here's a 1986 tour of the famous Ackermansion. One of my regrets is that although I moved to Los Angeles while he still lived there and gave tours, I never managed to get out there.

A shorter view of the Ackermansion from the same year:

And finally, a trailer for a documentary project, The AckerMonster Chronicles.

UPDATE 2011: Forry died a little over three weeks after I originally posted this.  Originally, this post featured a fourth video which has since gone dark.  But as a replacement, here's a video posted in his memory, three days after his death, with Forry talking about a couple of his prize possessions: the Dracula cape, mentioned above, and the Dracula ring.  It amazes me the ring stood up to use the way it did.  I guess they really knew how to make props way back when.  They knew how to make science fiction fans way back when, too.

Incidentally, as for the comment above about flummoxing and flabbergasting the physicians... I sent him an appropriately punny card for his birthday a few days after originally writing this post, and added this medical-care reminder for him (based on one of his pseudonyms):

I should have drawn Dracula holding up the other hand, with the ring.  It strikes me now that if Dracula had gotten him, Forry would still be around... albeit just in the same way the rest of the undead get to "still be around."  I can't help but think Forry would have found being a vampire a kick.  You can bet he would have used the cape.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Classic Serials: Undersea Kingdom, Chapter Seven

Another week, another title of questionable relevance.  "The Submarine Trap"?  Okay, the submarine appears in it, and the Black Robes catch up with Crash, but...

I bought another book to quote from, but unfortunately, it turns out not to be useful.  It's "The Republic Chapterplays," by R.M. Hayes.  Oddly, none of the six Amazon reviews really describe the book: it's a 14-page introduction, followed by credits of the various Republic serials.  No descriptions, no reviews, only occasionally a shred of extra information, such as the titles of sequels.  It was originally published in 1991, but it's now superfluous in a world that has IMDb.

In the entry for Undersea Kingdom, we find this in the cast list (with their brackets): "Hakur Creighton [Lon] Chaney [Jr.]," meaning "the actor better known as Lon Chaney, Jr., was credited as Creighton Chaney here."  Only he wasn't; as you can see below, he was credited as Lon Chaney, Jr.  I don't know much about other Republic serials, but if I can catch an error that easily in the one I know about, I have to wonder about the general accuracy of the information.


1:15 Last week, the character cards seemed pretty specific.  This week, they're just vague ones, and repeated from earlier chapters, at that.  Was the title card sequence to this episode lost at some point, and filled in with title cards from a previous episode?  Or did they just get lazy this week back in 1936?

5:02 Considering how upset the people of the Sacred City were about Crash accidentally breaking the little statue on the balcony, they sure let their big Poseidon go easily.

6:19 Acting!

12:12 This isn't footage of the submarine sinking, played backwards.  Honest.  Just ignore the bubbles going down and back in through the exhaust.

17:03 Since their whole mission was to bring the priming powder back, this doesn't seem like an especially well thought-out plan.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Radio: First Contact (Dimension X)

This story marked something of a milestone in the treatment of aliens, and human interaction therewith. Typically in science fiction, intelligent alien races tended to fall into a few categories: older but decadent races (most typical of stories about Mars); younger and savage races (frequently seen on Venus); and slavering, rapacious monsters, come to conquer us (from just about everywhere else). In "First Contact," however, Leinster shows us an alien race just as sophisticated and reasonable as we are, with similar goals. Humans and aliens meet while both are engaged in peaceful exploration. They can't be sure of each other, but they can understand each other. They're even similar enough that, in the story, the aliens laugh at our dirty jokes. Moral: people are the same all over, even if they're aliens.

I can't help thinking that this has something to do with the specific period it comes from. "First Contact" originally appeared in the May 1945 issue of Astounding Science-Fiction. World War II was about to end in Europe. Although the Soviet Union had been thought by many through the 1920's and 30's to be utterly inimical to the West, they had been the unlikely allies of the United States for several years. If there was any period that was right for the feeling that two peoples, no matter how alien to each other, could reach an understanding, this might have been it: when the Axis was all but beaten, and the Cold War had yet to begin. It was the same window of hope that gave birth to the United Nations.

Where I'm going with this is that if this is the point of the story, it helps to excuse the major failing of the story, which is that the aliens just aren't very... alien. In 1934, Stanley G. Weinbaum's "A Martian Odyssey" appeared in Wonder Stories. It featured the memorably alien Tweel. He and a human learned to communicate, after a fashion, and work together. However, the human never did figure out some quirks of alien thinking, such as how the same object, including Tweel himself, could have a bewildering variety of different names at unpredictable times. By comparison, Leinster's aliens in this story might as well be from around the block... or, you know, from around the world.

Sorry about the occasional annoying popping. I tried out an anti-popping filter on it, but it didn't work.

Here's where I get to the spoileriffic stuff. "First Contact" is a classic story, and I enjoy it a lot, but frankly, I've never quite understood the logic of the ending. The story has the same standoff as the radio script, and for the same reason, but has a very different resolution: the two crews agree to destroy all records and disable all sensors that will allow either ship to follow the other, or find its home base. Then, to make sure neither crew cheats, they exchange ships. The two crews split up and go home.

Now, that makes some sense, in isolation. The problem is that, earlier in the story, Leinster emphasized how unlikely it would be for two spacefaring races to be contemporaries, technologically speaking. One would almost inevitably be far in advance of the other. So how is exchanging ships an answer? Isn't one race giving the other a golden opportunity to catch up? Granted, they don't seem to know yet, when they switch ships, which race is the more advanced, but should either be willing to take the chance?

Script writer Howard Rodman could have avoided this problem by changing either the situation or the solution. As it happened, he did both: the crews keep their own ships, and he never gives us a reason to think them anything but technological equals. Interestingly, he also makes the ending rather inconclusive, with the humans worried they've been had, and uncertain if it's safe to go home. This is quite a change from Leinster's ending, which cleanly cuts the story's Gordian knot. It's surprising to find a Dimension X adaptation with a more complex ending than the published story. Perhaps again, it was the zeitgeist of the real world creeping in: in 1951, reaching understanding with an "alien race" didn't seem quite so simple, trust quite so easy, the future quite so bright, as it had six years earlier.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Classic Serials: Undersea Kingdom (Faster-Paced Version), Chapter Seven

(originally posted December 13, 2008)

It's Chapter Seven of our presentation of Undersea Kingdom, where we take advantage of YouTube's ten-minute video limit to give you only the meat of the 1936 Republic chapterplay, without all the serial fillers (*groan*).

I've got to admit... at least once a week, during the editing process, I have to repeat to myself a gag from Mystery Science Theater 3000:

Unga Khan, lemme rock you Unga Khan,
Lemme rock you, that's all I wanna do...

Maybe I'm dating myself.

Editing was a pretty quick process this week. The bulk of the excised footage was a sequence in which the Black Robes fruitlessly and tediously pursue Crash, Billy, and Moloch on their way back to the Holy City.

Speaking of tedious sequences, I cut out a lot of Crash running back and forth between the submarine and the chariot, and a couple of shots inside the sub, using the wipes they're so fond of in this serial.

And speaking of wipes, I finally figured out how to make the edges soft, like the ones the original editors used.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Free Fiction: The Worlds of If

It occurred to me... I've already presented the sequel to this story, which was going to appear in Thrilling Wonder Stories, Volume 3, as a Free Fiction item.  Why not give away the story itself, which appears in Thrilling Wonder Stories, Volume 1 (aka Summer 2007), as an inducement to check out the rest of this fine, fine volume?

In addition to "The Worlds of If," Volume 1 features these stories from the original run of Wonder Stories and Thrilling Wonder Stories:

"The Moon Era" by Jack Williamson
"The Alien Machine" by Raymond F. Jones (the first of the "This Island Earth" stories)
"Salvage" by Cleve Cartmill
"The Portable Star" by Isaac Asimov (making its first-ever book appearance)
"The Irritated People" by Ray Bradbury (doing likewise)

"Farthest Horizons," a story by Geoffrey A. Landis, previously available only in Science Fiction Age

And these all-new stories:

"Jovian Dreams" by Ben Bova
"Three's a Crowd" by Eric Brown
"Love Seat" by R. Neube
"Enlightenment" by Michael Kandel
"Tomb of the Tyrant Emperor" by Constance Cooper
"Dark Side" by Kevin King

Plus articles, comics, reviews of classic movies on DVD, new and classic artwork, and much, much more!  Check out the Amazon widget to the right and press the button to buy a new or used copy.  Or check out the Amazon product page here.

Click image to download story (1.85MB pdf file)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Television: Jack Benny and Ernie Kovacs--Prisoners of the Future!

Okay, remember when I promised you "science fiction-related items from sources you might not expect"?  Well, here you go.  Were you expecting science fiction from The Jack Benny Program?

There are certain stories that open so many eyes so forcefully to a new kind of science fiction storytelling that they give their names to the subgenre.  After Stanley G. Weinbaum's "The Worlds of If" appeared in Wonder Stories in 1935, tales of alternative timelines were known as "Worlds of If stories."  Similarly, although extrapolating into the future a condition from the present was hardly a new idea when Robert A. Heinlein wrote his first novel in 1940, he did it memorably enough, with a title apposite enough, that such stories quickly became known as "If This Goes On stories."

Well, here's an "If This Goes On story" from The Jack Benny Program.  Extrapolating ideas to absurdity is, of course, one of the great tools of comedy, especially satire, so it's no surprise that satire and science fiction should come together as often as they do.  Or, more specifically, that Jack Benny's writers should look at the movement toward more humane treatment of prisoners, and think, "Where will this all end?  Why, if this goes on..."

So join Jack Benny and his guest star Ernie Kovacs in a satirical future of the past in an extract from the January 25, 1959 episode, as Benny the Louse and Killer Kovacs enjoy life behind bars in the prison of 1970.


0:21 "Oh, but yeah..."  This is coming right off a beatnik sketch, so Kovacs is still hip to the lingo.

1:21 You have to wonder what that long pause after "Ladies and gentlemen..." (and before, for that matter) was about.  Maybe behind the scenes, it was taking a little longer than they expected to get everything into position.

1:28 "Claremont Prison, typical of many institutions throughout the country, is located in Nob Hill in San Francisco, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge."  Obviously, they mean that it's typical for them to be in scenic places, but I enjoy the logical paradox that prisons can be located throughout the country, and yet all in the same city.

1:39 Prisons in the real 1970 weren't as cushy as this one, but they had done away with the black and white stripes.

2:50 "...or Blockhouse 90."  A joke on CBS' series of plays for television, Playhouse 90 (1957-60).  Although it wasn't a science fiction series, among the writers for the show were Leslie Stevens (creator of The Outer Limits) and Rod Serling.

4:45 "Clean the clubs or I'll call the governor."  Somehow, I don't think that would have done much good in the real 1970.  Ronald Reagan probably wasn't too concerned about convicts' sports equipment.

5:58 What they really needed, evidently, was a switch to wake up the lighting director.

7:24 Note Benny's choice of brand.  Lucky Strike was the program's sponsor.

9:17 Charlie Chaplin's Tramp character was reluctant to leave the comforts of prison in his 1931 film City Lights.  And that was a contemporaneous prison.

10:40 "I think the comic books beat us to it."  This was five years after Fredric Wertham's book Seduction of the Innocent led to widespread concern that comic books promoted crime and other antisocial behavior.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Forrest J Ackerman: A Life as a Fan

It's struck me that I have more material from the interview that I was planning to make into featurettes, but when Forry died on December 4, 2008, the thought kind of went out of my mind, and I never made the others.  Well, it's something to look forward to here on the blog.

I met Forry through his capacity as agent for the estate of many science fiction writers.  It was thanks to him, for example, that I was able to reprint Raymond F. Jones' "The Alien Machine" in Thrilling Wonder Stories, Volume 1 (aka Summer 2007).  It was a great thrill to be able to visit the Ackerminimansion, and see some of his incredible collection.  (Imagine having original Frank J. Paul paintings on the wall!)  And I was delighted to be invited to his big 90th birthday party in the fall of 2006, not long after the interview.  I still have the impressive souvenir book, celebrating him, in a play on the title of the magazine he created, as the "Famous Monster of Filmland."

I didn't get to know him well, but it was a blast to know him at all.  As I wrote here when I reported his death, "Like, I suspect, many people my age who knew him, I kind of thought of him as the science-fiction-nerd grandfather I never had."  I don't want to get all maudlin, but I did become a tad... emotional when I looked over the online catalog from his estate sale, a few months after his death.  What really did it was seeing the armchair where he always sat when I visited, and the space-themed rug that sat at his feet.  Kind of forcefully brings home that their owner will never again have need for them.

But that's not why I called you all here today.  I've re-uploaded to YouTube the memorial video I originally posted on December 6, 2008, so now you can enjoy in 480p this reflection on the life of an early and prominent fan of science fiction.

* * *

"Well, I can tell the entire story of my life in five minutes." —Forry Ackerman

This footage from our interview with Forry for Thrilling Wonder Stories, Volume 1, has all appeared in our previous featurettes (apart from the comment quoted above), but in his memory, I put together this video, in which he does tell the story of his life in five minutes.


Well, I can tell the entire story of my life in five minutes.

Well, in October 1926, little nine year old me was standing in front of a magazine rack, and the October 1926 issue of a magazine called Amazing Stories jumped off the newsstand, grabbed hold of me, and in those days magazines spoke. And that one said, "Take me home little boy, you will love me."

Several years later, my mother came to me quite concerned, she said, “Son, do you realize how many of these magazines you have”—'cause I never threw them away—said, "I just counted them. You have twenty-seven! Can you imagine? By the time you’re a grown man, why, you might have a hundred." Well, mother lived with me till she was 92, in my 18-room home with 50,000 science fiction books and complete runs of Amazing Stories and Science Wonder Stories and Astounding Stories and Unknown and Strange and 200 different science fiction magazines from all around the world.

Well, as fast as I read an issue, I was impelled to write a letter and give my opinion of the stories.
And before I knew it, I was kind of considered, along with another chap named Jack Darrow, to be one of the leading science fiction fans of the era.

Originally, a fan named Rick Sneary said it is a sad and lonely thing to be a fan, because... well, for instance, at high school, I was regarded as the resident crazy. Everybody was ridiculing Forry Ackerman, he thought we're going to the Moon, we're gonna have atomic power, all these things they knew were never gonna happen. And I remember on that fateful evening when I saw a human being set foot on the Moon, I said, "Vindication!"

Hugo Gernsback, who was regarded as the father of science fiction, called me "the son of science fiction," and he inscribed his novel Ralph 124C 41+, "to Forrest Ackerman, the premier science fiction authority in America." And in 1949, Willy Ley, the great exponent of space travel, in a public newspaper named me "Mr. Science Fiction."

I don’t believe in life after death, or reincarnation. I feel I'm only here once, and I've been fortunate to have been born with what is called a sense of wonder. I've wondered about prehistoric times, and dinosaurs, and the sunken city of Atlantis, and I've, via the imaginations of H.G. Wells, and Olaf Stapledon, and Ray Bradbury, and Robert Heinlein, I've been catapulted from my armchair into distant times of the future. So I’ve been able to live a very exciting, fulfilling life via the imagination of the authors of science fiction.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Games: Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (N64) Part 10

Blah blah 1995 blah blah Nintendo 64 blah blah.  Now Part 10: Imperial Freighter Suprosa.

This isn't one of my favorite levels. It seems like every time I turn a corner, something is already shooting at me. And since usually, they don't come around the corner after me, I'm constantly taking damage. That's annoying even when there are adequate remedies around.

As with Part 9, I received a notice from YouTube after uploading it that it "may have content that is owned or licensed by Warner Chappell." Which is to say, the music. Which makes me wonder how so many of these installments haven't gotten me notes like this.

Not that I'm complaining about the ones I have gotten. I think many copyright holders are being quite rational about this sort of use of their material. I get to post my walkthrough even though it features their music, and they get to place ads on it. Seems like a win-win situation. (The exception is that Part 2 is, for some reason, simply banned outright in Germany. Go figure that.)


0:19 Is it my imagination, or is Luke, let's say, more generously proportioned in the lower face here than he is in the movies?

1:50 Fortunately, this Stormtrooper will come after you if you wait long enough.

4:30 If it seems I'm being over-cautious here, remember the first paragraph.

6:23 I think there's probably more complex jumping in this level than in any other. Do this one wrong, for instance, and you end up on the other side, and have to go through the Dash-mashers again.

6:29 Here you see me not doing too well, grabbing the free life. Now, I suppose I could have done the level a few more times until I had one where I did everything right the first time, but I think this way is probably more educational for the viewer.

7:15 As I say, more complex jumping. Here, twisting in the air after coming off the turntable.

9:49 I've mentioned it before, but I enjoy it when Dash stops bulkheads from descending with his head.

10:17 To avoid wasting a lot of time here, you have to memorize where the important stuff is. Or write it down in a chart, which is what I did. But take it from me, the bays I don't check here, aren't worth checking. Same with the boxes I don't blow up.

14:48 Well, that was easy. If I remember correctly, in the more difficult levels, you don't have disruptors at this point to help you.

16:16 "Xizor is unaware that both Darth Vader and the rebels have learned of his treachery and race to confront him." For some reason, reading it this time, I almost want to check out the novel, because that sounds exciting: Vader and the Rebellion after the same guy. That "almost" isn't to diss the novels, by the way (especially one written by an author from one of my Thrilling Wonder Stories volumes); they're just one of the many things I never started on, and which seemed later like it was too late to start. But I suppose this one would be fairly standalone.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Watching You Tube: Space Adventure, Episodes 10-12

I don't know why these have so few views (204, 175, and 240, respectively).  This is one of my favorite web series.  Although, considering the inverted relationship I seem to have with popular things (and, incidentally, that popularity seems to have with the things I do), maybe it's not so puzzling.

At any rate, when last we left Mik, 19 friggin' months ago, he had found a means to bring the ship's computer back to life, as it were.

Episode 10: At It Again!

As a commenter wrote, "oohoo! a new prop and a new angle, all in one episode!!"

Episode 11: As Easy as A/B See What I Mean

Episode 12: Virtual Shape Eating

These episodes were posted about four years ago.  Here's a bit of what creator/star Mik Garrison has been doing more recently:

At the rate I've been going, expect more Space Adventure here around October 2013.  I am hoping to do better than that, though.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Classic Serials: Undersea Kingdom, Chapter Six

One of the benefits of a serial under the old studio system was that they provided a place where cast and crew on contract to the studios could hone their skills.  And not just in the farm-league sense of working their way up: some of them worked both in features and in serials, but they could occupy higher positions in serials than they could on big A-pictures.

Director B. Reeves "Breezy" Eason, for example, was second-unit director on such major features as Ben Hur (1926, directing the chariot race), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936-- the same year as Undersea Kingdom --directing the titular charge), and Gone with the Wind (1939, directing the burning of Atlanta).

I imagine "Breezy's" nickname was a play on "B. Reeves," but it almost had to have described his directorial style as well... or else he wouldn't have gotten to direct some 155 serials, features, and shorts, and briefly move into directing television at the tail end of his career.  In fact, considering that serials were hardly the most lavish sort of filmmaking, in budget or schedule, and that Republic was a poverty-row studio, I have to wonder how many times the words "Take Two" were ever spoken on the set of Undersea Kingdom.


2:02 "Crash Corrigan-- turns the tables on Khan and saves Diana from the transforming machine."  Wait, was the title-card writer watching the same cliffhanger as we did last week?

4:24 See?  Next week, they should have a card saying, "Billy Norton-- turns the tables on Khan and saves Diana from the transforming machine."  That'll come somewhere before "Crash Corrigan-- spent most of the last episode unconscious after whizzing his attempted rescue of Diana down his leg."

8:21 Oh, God, grit your teeth: it's the comic relief.  I noticed while editing the short version that you could snip Briny and Salty out of the movie completely, and not affect the plot at all.  I wonder if there's a reason behind that.  Were these scenes written and/or shot after the rest to add a few laughs?  (In which case, boy did they miscalculate.)  Or were the producers looking toward deleting these scenes in a feature version?  (Although, as it happened, there was no feature version of this serial for 30 years.)  Still, it's almost a relief to hear some different music for a couple of minutes.

15:15 So tell me, what is the cable there for?  I mean, besides as a convenience for Crash?