6.2.16

Another Fun Thing About Chainsaw Killer

Chainsaw Killer is low budget in the best possible way - by which I mean it doesn't care for a second that its budget is showing, it's going to get its point across with whatever tools it has at its disposal. In this case, those tools are:

A - Footage of the Chainsaw Killer chasing people through the woods in the late autumn.
B - Footage of those victims being chased in the early spring.

Now, you might think that having only those two things would in some way baffle or foil Chainsaw Killer's editors, but no - it doesn't even slow them down. Allow me to present my proof!

4.2.16

Chainsaw Killer - Bad Filmcraft or Unintended Plot Revelation?

Allow me to reintroduce baffling film 'Chainsaw Killer'.

Seemingly an attempt to use existing footage from an abandoned project, Chainsaw Killer tells the story of a horror geek with a vodcast who is obsessed with tracking down a copy of the obscure horror film 'The Force Beneath'.
Also, there's a guy with a chainsaw, wearing a catcher's mask, who spends his time cutting people up with said chainsaw. Not in such a way that it would require any gore to be shown on film, however. This is not a film with an extravagant budget. The kills tend to be along the lines of-
Chainsaw goes offscreen.
Blood thrown on face.

Then cut away to the next scene. It's never super-clear what the Chainsaw Killer's connection to the obscure videotape is, almost as if they're appearing in two separate movies right up until he turns up and kills the main character.

So, keeping that extremely low budget in mind, allow me to show you pictures. First is the face of the chainsaw killer-

2.2.16

Things I Didn't Notice In The Simpsons Until Just Recently

Part of the wonder that is The Simpsons is its ability to keep surprising me year after year, as I notice new jokes in episodes I've watched literally hundreds of times. Here's an example that happ    ened to me last year, from 'Homer and Apu'.

Kent Brockman: Good Evening, here's an update from last week's nursing home expose: Geezers in Freezers. It turns out the rest home was adequately heated - the footage you saw was of a fur storage facility. We've also been told to apologize for using the term 'Geezers'.

"Now - coming up next: The case of the cantankerous old geezer!"

For years I thought the entirety of the joke was that Kent Brockman immediately went back to using the word 'Geezer' after apologizing for doing so, but during my six hundredth or so viewing, I finally realized that the joke was this - After finding out that they were going to have to apologize because an elderly viewer complained about his language, Kent Brockman (and the Bite Back team) decided that their next story should be an attack piece - on the complainer.

How did I not notice that for so long? Probably too busy laughing at Harry Shearer's reading of the word 'geezer', I'd expect.

Here's the new one!

30.1.16

Hey, It's That House Again!

Remember that house I was obsessed with from the movie Blood and Bone, and that one episode of Criminal Minds: Suspect Behaviour? No? Really? I wrote a whole post about it. Just follow this link!

Well, I guess it's kind of a deep cut...

Anyhoo! It showed up again, this time on an episode of Parks and Recreation, as a haunted house that Andy andApril buy from Werner Hertzog!

Yeah, I can see that.

Also, now we know that there's a parking area/dumpster storage area just to its left!

28.1.16

Criminal Minds 806: The Apprenticeship

It's Miami this week, a city of latin beats and fancy cars! At least according to the opening montage designed to convince viewers that the backlot locations they'll be using for the rest of the hour are actually located in Florida!

Anyhoo, we immediately take a trip away from recognizably Miami locations to an utterly generic 'bad part of town' where this guy gets off a bus, looking to kill a prostitute!

Obviously that's supposed to be a bit of a surprise, but come on, Criminal Minds, you've got a dorky-looking guy in a t-shirt and backpack riding a bus. heading to a bad part of town to look for a prostitute to help him lose his virginity. Never once in the nearly 200 episodes I've seen have you put this much effort into characterizing a pre-credits victim.

So Opie hires the prostitute, who pauses to ask him how old he is, because in the script he's supposed to look super-young despite claiming to be 18, but the actor doesn't look underage, so I guess we're supposed to give them a pass on that one, since it's not like Pavel Chekovs just grow on trees. When he reveals that he doesn't have a car she leads him to a vacant lot nearby, where he knocks her out and then suffocates her with a plastic bag.

Already this guy's plan has a bunch of holes in it. Yes, prostitutes are easy targets, but your plan was to go to a part of town where you'll stick out like a sore thumb - no, scratch that - you'll stick out like a dorky white guy with a backpack, which is way more visible and memorable than a sore thumb. Also you took a bus to get there, and don't most buses have security cameras these days? Maybe not in Miami, but it's a legitimate threat. The whole point of killing prostitutes is that they're easy to get to a second location with relative anonymity - but Opie has done it in such a way there a canvassing of the location will no doubt reveal a dozen witnesses who can offer a description. Unless he pulls down a zipper from the back of his neck and reveals himself to be a black rastafarian in an incredible disguise, this is one of the least stealthy murders the show has ever featured.

And sometimes villains just walk into banks and start shooting people.

Now time for some fun character-building as Derek tries to teach Reid to play softball. He does it using a pitching machine for some reason I can't fathom. I understand that if Derek wanted to do some batting practice, it would be better for Reid to feed balls into a machine than to try pitching them - he whines about never being good at sports in the scene, after all - but once it's Reid's turn to practice batting, wouldn't it be far more helpful for Derek to just throw the balls himself? That way he could guarantee soft lobs right into the strike zone, which is exactly what a first-time batter would need. It's just strange.

Then Reid, who turned up to learn softball wearing a tie and cardigan, because apparently hanging out with normal people 60 hours a week for a decade hasn't changed him in the least, is rescued from having to do any more physical activity by a phone call - they've got a case!

Which puzzles me almost as much - is this the weekend? If not, why aren't they in the office, doing the massive amount of paperwork that their job consists of? If so, what is it about this particular case that's worth dragging them in on one of their few days off? No matter how gruesome or repetitive this prostitute's murder was, aren't prostitute killings generally something that can wait until Monday?

Then it's over to home base, where we have no clue about whether it's the weekend or not, so thanks for that, guys. The team goes over the case - brutal beating death, suffocation, sexual assault, pretty much everything we saw in the opening sequence. The team wants to know what could possible create all of the rage that drove the killer to be so brutal. Hopefully some scenes of his home life will tip us off!

Then we discover that this was Opie's first murder, which raises the question of why the team is being called in at all. Does the team get called in every time a prostitute is murdered in America? Don't get me wrong, I'm not against that idea - taking the murders of prostitutes more seriously is absolutely a priority they should be pursuing, and not just because that would stop a lot of serial killers before their counts got into the double digits, but because it would create a cultural impression that the lives of sex workers are valuable, which has only upsides. I just feel that if this was something the team was prioritizing then they'd be a lot busier than they seem to be.

To be fair, the show does try to justify the team being called in by offering this nonsensical clue, which I'll just put here in video form because there's so much stupid to unpack.



Okay, let's break that down. So Opie killed six puppies in the past month, and his DNA was found at 'all' of the crime scenes. How? What was he doing to those puppies that left so much of his DNA lying around that they found a trace of it at every crime scene? Far more importantly, are you trying to tell me that the Miami police department was so worried about puppy murders that they spent the tens of thousands of dollars it takes to send out a CSI team, comb the scene for evidence, isolate and collect possible DNA samples, and then test all of them? Six times? For puppies?

Christ, show, you could have just said you found the same fingerprints at all six crime scenes. After all, here's a picture of Opie using his bare, sweat-and-oil covered fingers to grip the bag he's about to suffocate that prostitute with.

His fingerprints are definitely all over it. Why not just say the bag strangulation was the same at all crime scenes, and so were his fingerprints? Wouldn't that have made far more sense?

You know who I really feel sorry for in that scene, though? JJ. At some point one of the producers realized that she hadn't had a line in the scene yet, and so they had her say something completely meaningless. You might not get an ID? Well, no, but if the sample is in CODIS you probably will, since that's what it's for, and even if you don't, you would have found another crime your killer is responsible for, which is an incredibly valuable clue. But thanks for the nonsense, seriously.

Dear producers of Criminal Minds - if you find yourself just throwing nonsense into characters' mouths because you realize that you're underserving one of your 7 characters who all have interchangeable skillsets and opinions (okay, six of them are interchangeable, Reid does geographical profiling), perhaps it's time to consider pruning that tree back a bit? Do you really need six whole people to think and say the exact same things?

Remember when JJ went on maternity leave, and they did a whole episode about how difficult her job was, because she had to figure out whose prayers got answered so that the team would show up, definitely solving their case, versus whose prayers would come to nothing, damning their town to suffer under the heel of a nefarious killer forevermore? That episode made a decent case for why JJ mattered, and what her role was in the show. Now that she's just one of the profilers, I don't know what she's for anymore. When they briefly fired her, Garcia took over presenting the cases, but I don't think she's supposed to be the one picking them, so now it's not even clear how the cases are getting chosen.

I understand that the producers liked JJ, and wanted to give her her job back, but they absolutely need to figure out what she's there for, because right now she's just taking up space.

Okay, that was a lot of digression - back to the story!

Opie is in his house, wearing a blue vest that suggests he works at Wal-Mart, when his phone beeps - it's a message from someone who was watching him kill that prostitute! And they videoed the crime! That's right, when the show depicted part of the scene from a handheld camera, peeking around a piece of debris at their encounter, it wasn't just a stylistic flight of fancy, it was someone's POV! But whose?

Probably someone Opie knows, I'd guess, based on the fact that he has Opie's cell phone number to send that creepy message and video. Even if he followed Opie home and found out where he lived, Opie lives with his mother, so it's not a simple thing to track that back to Opie's cell phone information, especially since it's only been like twelve hours since the crime was committed!

Yes, I know what you're thinking - this couldn't possibly be just twelve hours later, what with the Miami police having gotten DNA samples and compared them to their open crime database to confirm that Opie was the dogslayer, but it's true. Garcia said that the victim was killed 'last night', and when Opie's mother drops by his room unannounced, it's to invite him to breakfast.

Hopefully this will be cleared up later. Because right now it makes no sense at all. But hey, a voyeur is stalking Opie! Things just got interesting! By which I mean we're about to watch an adaptation of hugely entertaining but also terrible film Mr. Brooks!

Credits!

27.1.16

The Weirdest Prop I've Seen In A While

I recently watched The Pact 2, and while I normally write articles like this to criticize half-assed props, this time I wanted to call out a strangely, almost unnaturally accurate prop. The main character is working on a graphic novel based on the psychic visions she's having of recent murders. Not that she knows that's what she's doing - the point it, she's got a comic book.

At the end of the movie, she pops some samples of that comic book into an envelope and mails it off to real comic book publisher Fantagraphics.



The super-readable address is rare enough to see in movies that I got curious and looked it up - and yes, that was Fantagraphics' current address at the time this article was published. I don't know why they went so all-in with accuracy in this scene - maybe Fantagraphics is publishing some kind of a movie tie-in, I didn't care enough to look it up. Still, it's nice to see this level of attention to detail.

25.1.16

Even in Great Movies, Weird Mistakes Were Made


So there's a scene in wonderful film Double Indemnity which doesn't make a lick of sense. Barbara Stanwyck is coming to meet Fred MacMurray to discuss the latest phase of their nefarious scheme, only to hear through the door that Fred MacMurray already has company - Edward G. Robinson, better known to some as the original Chief Wiggum! They're discussing the insurance settlement that Barbara has cheated the company out of!

So she's put in something of an awkward position. Edward could be leaving at any moment, so she really should run - but then again, it's vitally important that she hear what's going on inside the room! Finally she waits too long, and the door opens-

But she's able to hide behind it? Yes, unlike every other apartment building in the history of America, the door to the private apartment opens out into the communal hallway. In an amazing coincidence, this gives her an opportunity to hide while Fred is seeing Edward off.

So why this bizarre bit of staging? Couldn't they have just built the hallway with alcoves for her to duck into, and Fred to stand in front of? Probably just a function of limited time and budget, like most other errors of this type. Wilder wrote it into the script, then when he saw it in action, he was smart enough to realize how false it looked, but understood that it would cost more to fix than it was worth, since most people would never even notice what was off about the scene.

Well, I noticed, Billy Wilder. Me, a guy watching the movie 72 years after you made it and then spent decades being universally praised for its quality.

24.1.16

One Last Time - Screw You, MythBusters

So I've made no secret of my disdain for Mythbusters' refusal to confirm anything, ever. They operate claiming a passion for science, yet they create experiments designed to 'test' 'myths' without offering any concrete criteria for what success would look like, and then refusing to name it as such even when they prove it beyond any reasonable doubt.

This is mostly to their pro-busting agenda - the show isn't called 'myth-confirmers', after all. The whole idea is to pull back a veil of misinformation and reveal truth - there's nothing inherently wrong with that. At times, however, it becomes clear that the show is prioritizing an arrival at this end to the point that they're ignoring evidence placed right in their faces.

Now that Mythbusters is in its last season, we've almost run out of chances for them to finally, at long last, confirm something again, which is what makes it such a disappointment to see them botch an opportunity to do so in this latest episode.

The myth in question revolved around an intriguing idea - can you take a tomatoe, shrink-wrap it in a bag, drop it in some water, then set of a blasting cap next to it, liquifying the interior without breaking the skin? An internet video suggested that this was possible with the following images-

The explosion and tomatoe in question.

The innards of that tomatoe being sucked through a straw.

So the Mythbusters have a clear set of parameters to attempt to replicate - the size of the tank, the explosive used, and the distance the tomatoe should be from the blasting cap. Perfect replicable scientific experiment. So, what were the results?

23.1.16

Production Secrets Explained: Criminal Minds!

Here's a screenshot from episode 804 of Criminal Minds, in which Reed is holding a book-

Now obviously that book makes no sense - with paper that size 'The Sign of Four' would be something along the lines of sixty pages long, rather than the 300 pages that edition seems to feature. So how does a mistake like this happen? To understand that, we have to go through the production steps!

22.1.16

New Avod!

That's right, in addition to all of the other fresh content on Vardulon.com, I've decided to include a link to this week's TheAvod, lest you somehow miss it!

So here's that link!

20.1.16

Another Arrested Development Mystery!

Among Arrested Development's many virtues, their deeply layered callbacks and obscure jokes may be my favorite. The Colonel Mustard/Gene Parmesean thing, the fact that Tobias is a black albino, the fact that George Michael's entire storyline for Season 4 is an extended dig at Michael Cera's questionable career choices, the never-explained-in-show hilarity of the name 'George Maharis'. It's all amazing. Only my latest trip through the show, however, I noticed something I'd never seen before-

That is the boat where Fantastic 4: The Musical is being performed during the festivities on Cinqo de Quatro. Note the 'Rock Monster' costumed person portraying 'The Thing'. Here's the mystery - who is in that suit? Originally it was supposed to be Tobias, but then he decided to take over the roll of Sue Storm - and because he wound up on the exploding boat with Marky Bark, there is no Sue Storm onstage. There is, however, a Ben Grimm - but how is that possible? Tobias hands the costume over to Buster-

But Buster never puts it on. He knocks out Herbert Love, then races away in fear and stumbles onto Lucille 2's body. The show is even careful to pan down as Buster runs off, showing the costume-

Sitting on the ground, next to Gene Parmesean's Donkey Punch stand. This shot wasn't left in the show accidentally - the framing of the costume is 100% deliberate. Which brings me back to the question - who is that on the barge, dressed as The Thing?

All we can tell is that it's a white guy without glasses, wearing silver running shoes. Beyond that there are no visual clues in the show that I can spot. Is this a solvable mystery, or just another item beautifully layered in for them to pick up in season seven?

18.1.16

Crminal Minds 805: The Good Earth

Somewhere in the woods of Oregon, a woman is running from something or someone. Luckily, and in quite a departure for this show, she's actually dressed for it!

Then, in a completely expected twist, it turns out that the reason she was looking back, super-concerned as she ran was that she's personal training a guy, and she was worried about how far behind he'd fallen. So sweet of her. Her client drives off in a station wagon (they still have those? Neat!), but immediately runs off the road into a farmer's field.

Are there lots of forest running/hiking trails right next to farmland in Oregon? This seems weird to me, but then again, I only know the state from being confused and thinking that's where Twin Peaks was set.

Moments after stumbling out of his car, the client is accosted by a guy who loped his way over from a pickup truck with a camper shell - the second choice for serial killers right after windowless vans! For the full list of popular serial killer vehicles, check the end of this review!

So how did the killer arrange for him to have a fainting episode inside his car? Did the trainer or someone else drug his water? Was the exhaust rewired into the vents so he started blacking out as soon as he turned over the engine? Could it have been my personal favorite, quick-acting absorbed-through-the-skin toxin smeared all over the steering wheel?

Hopefully we'll find out soon!

Back at Quantico, JJ, Garcia and Joe are talking about how JJ's son is scared of Halloween because he thinks monsters are real. This is resonant because, as his mother well knows, there are monsters literally everywhere all the time. In the world of Criminal Minds, you are never more than 50 meters away from a serial killer.

Time to break down the case! Dudes are disappearing from a small Oregon town. In six weeks, four of them have driven off, never to be seen again! Here's a map listing each of the victims and the last place they were seen - although, weirdly, not what order they disappeared in, which it seems would be pretty useful information to put on there.

Here's a fun fact - we already know something the team doesn't! Terry, the latest victim, wasn't last seen at a supermarket, but rather out at the forest track by that farm where his personal trainer was leading him through a workout! What does it mean that this information isn't in their files?

Then things get a little weird, as the team starts talking like they're pretty sure all four guys are still alive, just because they haven't found any bodies. Which is a super-weird thing to do, considering you've had an absence of bodies plenty of times, but still didn't assume victims were still out there. Sure, you often suspect that a victim will still be alive hours and even days after the abduction, but it's quite a leap to immediately start trying to figure out how one killer is controlling four adult men. When Garrett Dillahunt and his evil brother Mongo were grabbing drug addicts from the mean streets of Detroit and spiriting them away to the arid desert wasteland of Windsor, Ontario, the lack of bodies didn't force the team to assume that they were keeping fifty victims alive.

This is one of my favorite types of bad writing - when it seems like the characters have read ahead in the script and know what kind of a story they're in before they have anywhere near enough information to make those kinds of judgments.

Of course, it turns out that they're right, and the four guys are being kept chained-up in a barn by some weird farmer lady. I mean, I don't know it's a woman, I'm just making a guess based on A:

The figure Terry looked up at seeming to have long hair, and 2:

Those looking a lot like tapered lady's legs in tight jeans going into the work boots the killer is wearing. There's a C as well, but the fact that the killer is wearing super-bulky gloves doesn't make for a visual worth screen-capping, and doesn't suggest much.

Then again, this could be me reading way too much into a blurry image and a reflection, as I am wont to do.

So all we know for sure is that the killer is holding a bunch of dudes hostage in a barn - but why, and for what reason?

Let's find out together, after the opening credits!

20.9.15

Programme 30 (17-September-77)

Cover:

I’m not sure what’s going on here, so I’m definitely going to be reading the story closely. I’m not sure whose art this is – it looks a little like a Bolland, but there’s no signature. When will the credits start?

Thrill 1 – Invasion!

With the Nazis hot on their trail after the liberation of Glasgow, Savage has taken refuge in the highlands. Sadly, the highlands just aren’t high enough to get away from the Volgan air force! Save comes up with a daring scheme – using himself as bait, he runs out into the open, sure that the Volg jet will follow him right into some power lines!

Then it’s just a matter of fleeing into the woods while a couple of random soldiers sacrifice their lives to delay the Volg troops.

That’s it. Yeah, not much happened this week.

Thrill 2 – Judge Dredd

In a hundred years, Kennedy airport will have kept its name, although now they call it a spaceport. Arriving at that spaceport is a mysterious man in a coat and hat neatly obscuring his face. We don’t need that to recognize him, though, since he’s happy to narrate all about himself for our benefit.

The mystery man (Rico) heads over to a vid-phone terminal and calls justice central. He’s got a message for Judge Dredd. From Judge Dredd! That's right, it’s Dredd’s long-lost brother, Rico Dredd! Dredd gets the news while he’s blasting apart a couple of hoods, and leaves the scene the second the survivors have surrendered. He rushes home, knowing that Rico will be looking to settle their old score.

He’s in for a surprise when he arrives, though. Rico has rigged the environmental controls so that it’s freezing cold inside, with almost no oxygen! With Dredd on the floor, gasping for air, Rico decides it’s time for a flashback!

Yup, Rico had the potential to be the greatest Judge of all time, but then he had to go and throw it away, taking bribes and running a protection racket! And even though is brother Joe owed him everything, Joe turned him in. Which led to Rico being sent to a mining colony on Titan for twenty years! In order to work there comfortably he turned into a monstrous cyborg!

Interestingly the predictions of 2000AD were a little off here. Not that it would be possible to physically alter someone so that they can work in a vacuum, but rather that Titan is a vacuum environment at all! In fact, Titan is one of the most earth-like objects in the solar system, with oceans, seasons, rain and the like. The atmosphere is mostly nitrogen, but hey, at least it’s there.

With his story told, Rico’s ready for the showdown. He gives Dredd his gun back and prepares for the draw. Rico had been the fastest gun in the justice department but, as Joe says, twenty years on Titan slowed him down just enough to give Dredd the edge. With his brother dead, Dredd picks up the body and carries him to the morgue – other Judges offer to help, but Dredd responds with a tasteless joke that kind of kills the tone of the story-

Then things wrap up with the chief judge opining about the peculiarity of it all. Joe and Rico weren’t normal twins, you see – they’re clones of the same person, genetically identical in every way. So how did one end up so bad, and the other so good?

But that’s a question for another time…

Judge Dredd Kill Count (37)+1=38


Thrill 3 - Shako

The Russians are here! They’ve used lassos to tame the mighty beast, succeeding where the Americans had failed. While the struggle dies down, the KGB boss walks over to Jake and begins to gloat. It seems that the Russians don’t know what’s in the bear – they just know the Americans want it very badly, so they came after it as well. Perhaps the Federal Government putting an open and public bounty out on a specific bear wasn’t the greatest plan.

Shako is hoisted onto the nearby Russian ship, and the KGB make their departure, leaving Jake, Buck, and redshirt alive. Things are looking grim for the old yogi – or they were, until one of the Russians, ‘Sergei’, proves almost unbelievably stupid. It seems that he’s frustrated that he was unable to kill an American on the trip, so he’s going to salve his bloodlust by killing an American bear with his bare hands!

It goes exactly as well as you’d think it would. Sergei and another soldier are torn apart, and now Shako is loose on the Russian ship – who knows what mischief he can get into now!

Which brings the total number Shako’s victims to have died ‘real slow’ to 2 out of 26, or roughly 8%

Thrill 4 – Dan Dare (?/Gibbons)

This week Dan finds himself up against the most preposterous threat yet – the planet of the killer sentient dust devils! Searching for a missing colony-ship, they find they earth-like planet that the settlers had planned to make their home. Once they hit ground they’re attacked by the preposterous foes I mentioned earlier.

After retreating back to their small landing craft Dan and company find themselves attacked by the ground itself – it seems the entire surface of the planet is a giant silicon-based life form. Which is a great twist for two reasons. 1: I haven’t seen it before. 2: It leads to this picture, of a Russian man fighting wind and sand with an axe.

They burst open the ship’s water tanks, turning the sand into muck for just long enough to call another ship down. Another mystery has been solved, and another death-planet identified. The Lost Worlds are getting found at a respectably speedy pace.

THARG’S NERVE CENTER

I don’t know what I was expecting from that Supercover, but a story about penal reform in the distant future wasn’t anywhere on my radar. Good work, Tharg.

Thrill 5 – MACH 1

Apparently someone at 2000AD didn’t think MACH 1 was sci-fi enough, because this week he’s chasing down a UFO! It’s shot down on the opening page, and then quickly found by a local kid named ‘Simon’. No one believes him about the spaceship, and he’s viciously abused by his father for ‘telling tales’.

Probe even doesn’t show up until the third page, which has to be some kind of a record for this strip. He goes undercover as a lumberjack, hoping to draw no suspicions to his investigation. I guess they want to keep the whole ‘UFO’ thing under wraps. When he brings up the subject at dinner Simon tries to mention his knowledge, but just winds up with another beating for his trouble.

He can’t stay quiet forever, though, and when Probe saves Simon’s life from a falling tree the next day, he feels sufficiently indebted to Probe to lead him to the UFO. Unfortunately Probe was followed from the camp by all of the lumberjacks, and while he tries to figure out how to open the featureless metal saucer, they manage to sneak up on him!

So, here’s the big question – will it actually be aliens, or some kind of a hoax? I’m going to be optimistic and bet on aliens.

Thrill 6 – Future Shock

It’s the distant future, and a group of spacemen are closing in on the home planet of a mysterious race who tried to take over the galaxy, and was destroyed in the attempt. Now all that’s left, many years later, are memories, and the death star guarding their solar system. Seriously, a Death Star.

Luckily the death star doesn’t work well any more, and the explorers are able to make it to the conqueror’s home world – the helmsman asks the captain why it wasn’t destroyed when the conquerors lost. One theory is that the galactic alliance had run out of resources, but there was another theory… one that is revealed in our twist ending-

As a new feature here in the reviews, I’m going to let you guess what the twist ending is, because between the synopsis I’ve offered and that illustration, you should have enough information to figure it out. So don’t scroll down to the next image until you’ve finalized your guess.

Ready?

As we learned from Futurama and Planet of the Apes, the twist is always ‘turns out it’s man’ or ‘turns out it’s earth’. Hell, this is two Future Shocks in a row where where it 'turns out it's earth'.

Final Thoughts

Best Story: Judge Dredd – No contest here. Dredd gets some backstory and character development, we find out he’s a clone, the world of Mega-City 1 grows. Other than that horrible joke, this story’s a classic.

Worst Story: Invasion – Nothing happened this week. Seriously nothing.

Programme 29 (10-September-77)

Cover:

You know, this cover is wonderful enough that it would lead me to once again wish that there were an actual story inside the issue where this happened. I would, had this basic thing not already happened in both Judge Dredd and Dan Dare.

Thrill 1 – Invasion!

With the first battle won, Savage and Silk lead their men out of Glasgow, hoping to make an escape before the Volgs can regroup. The volgs are moving faster than anyone expected, though, arming a group of mad criminals with flamethrowers and sending them to block the roads.

Savage has a daring, if somewhat confusing plan. He lines a row of firetrucks in the street and then extends their ladders, the idea being that as the flame troops approach the trucks the Mad Dogs will be able to jump down into the middle of their ranks, at hand-to-hand combat range. Of course, this plan requires not one of the flame troops to bother looking up during their approach. Incredibly, this happens, and the flame troops are quickly subdued.

The Mad Dogs quickly disguise themselves as the flame troops and head back to the Volg base – the disguise works just long enough for them to get into the Volgan motor pool. All the guards are burned alive, and the Mad Dogs make it out with a few armored cars, which will no doubt help them kill more Nazis!

Thrill 2 – Judge Dredd

It’s time for sci-fi to once again handle the thorny issue of prejudice! This week’s target? Robots! Those ‘neon knights’ are the KKK of hating robots, you see. Every night they drive around, killing any robots they happen across. What’s interesting about this story is that they set it up as being a follow-up to the robot rebellion storyline. The action of Call-Me-Kenneth have turned large sections against robots in general, and this has led to brutal violence against both robots and the humans who would protect them.

Now that’s what I call some social commentary.

Things get personal for Dredd when the next robot attacked is his butler, Walter! But it’s not a quick execution for the speech-impeded droid, no, when the Klan discovers that he’s a Free robot they realize that destroying him is tantamount to murder, so it’s something they’d better do more privately.

Of course, killing that guy in the last scene actually was murder, and they didn’t get squeamish about that, but whatever.

Dredd randomly happens across the Klan’s meeting place while he’s visiting a graveyard for Judges killed in the rebellion. He’s captured while investigating, but manages to convince the Klan that he’s on their side, what with him being the one who actually stopped the rebellion and all. Of course it’s just a ruse, designed to give Dredd enough space to get to his weapons.

Wow, that’s a nasty shot – am I crazy, or is that the back of that guy’s head being blown out through his hood there?

Even with Dredd’s accomplished murdering there’s just too many Klansmen to be killed. Dredd decides to fight smart and tackles their leader, quickly tearing off his face and revealing him to be a cyborg!

Dredd recognized the sound of a synthetic voicebox, and played his hunch. I’m glad the hunch was good, or that might have gotten very bloody indeed. Cowed by the fact that they were following a dirty cybo, the rest of the Klansmen surrender without incident.

Judge Dredd Kill Count (31)+6=37

Thrill 3 - Shako

It’s time to reinforce a few urban legends her at ‘Shako’, as the bear gorges at the edge of a cliff, standing with his mouth open as lemmings commit masss suicide over the edge. I don’t know why I was expecting realism from a comic strip glorifying the murderous exploits of a great white bear, but this is a little disappointing.

The feast doesn’t last long, though – Buck Dollar (Eskimo Naturalist), Jake (one-armed jerk), and Dobie (redshirt) are following his trail closely by dogsled. When they get close enough to see him Dobie cuts the dogs loose, which leads to a brutal battle between beast and beast.

Dobie wants to take a few rifle shots at the yogi during the fight, but Jake stops him – apparently the virus capsule is so virulent that if it’s hit by a bullet ‘Half of America’ will be killed! I’m not sure how that would work (just how airborne is this thing?), but it’s a decent threat to keep the story going.

The fight finally wears Shako to the point where he has to sit down to protect himself from the dogs, making him a still target. But before Jake can finish him off, the dogs are executed… by Russians! That’s right, the Russians know about the capsule too! Oh, this is going to be trouble next issue…

Shako killed no people this weed, which leaves the total number Shako’s victims to have died ‘real slow’ as 2 out of 24, or roughly 8%

Thrill 4 – Dan Dare (?/Gibbons)

Dan and company don’t have to wait long for the action to start in their intersteller mission to ‘the lost worlds’. Almost immediately they come across the ‘pioneer’, one of the missing ships, with its crew nowhere to be found! Audio logs (are you listening, System Shock 2?) tell the story of how the crew thought they spotted glinting treasure on the surface of an asteroid and went to investigate, then never returned!

The mystery of the disappearance is solved almost immediately, when Dan’s ship is swarmed by claw-handed winged insect-men who can breathe and fly in space!

Wait a minute… insect men who fly through the vacuum of space… I’m a little rusty on my Lovecraftianism, but aren’t those Bya’khee? Also, how do flapping wings work in space, where there’s nothing for them to push off of?

These primitive monsters are no match for Dan, though – while they were able to slaughter the crew of an exploration ship relatively easily, Dan’s got a combat cruiser on his side. They fire up the engines and make a speedy getaway, but that’s not enough of a resolution for Dan, so he spins around and fires a few nuclear torpedoes into the asteroid, blasting it to pieces, killing all the remaining Bya’khee.

Which seems like a bit of an extreme response. Wouldn’t a beacon with the message ‘monsters live here, stay away’ have been just as good, and not involved the extermination of an intelligent race?

I guess that’s just not how Dan Dare rolls.

THARG’S NERVE CENTRE!

Thrill 5 – MACH 1

When we left Probe he was in a bit of a pickle. He’s on a Russian space station, thousands of miles from the missiles that America is about to launch at strategic Russian sites!

There’s only one option – a kamikaze strike, ploughing the space shuttle smack into the missile launch site! Unfortunately Tex has something to say about that, since, even with a hole in his heart, he’s proved amazingly resistant to death. Just how is he so strong? Two hearts. Yup. He was in a plane crash, and when he was patched up they dropped a second heart in there. I’m not sure how that keeps all the blood from flooding out of the hole in one of the hearts, but it’s as good an explanation as any.

After a desperate fight Probe manages to stab Tex in the second heart as well, then he rushes back to the controls. The plan? Ram the missile as it approaches the edge of the atmosphere, causing it to fly directly back at its launch site.

No, really.

It works exactly as planned, even to the point that the warhead doesn’t detonate! Probe’s shuttle crashes into the ocean, giving him a chance to break free and swim to safety. With the military instillation destroyed Probe takes a moment to thank his lucky stars that the mad general only bothered to fire the one missile.

Thrill 6 – Future Shock

After four years in space, trying out a new ‘warp’ engine, two astronauts land on a planet that looks suspiciously like earth. Right down to the branded cattle and cowboys roasting food at a fire! But when the astronauts approach, they discover that the cowboys are terrifying lizard-men! Friendly lizard-men, though, albeit ones with odd feelings about the humans’ intellect.

They share a meal by the fire before parting ways, with the humans explaining that they’re eager to find their way back to Earth. The lizard-men don’t have the heart to tell the astronauts the twist. That their ‘warp’ drive didn’t take them through space… it took them through time!

Man, that is a creepy image. Maybe the creepiest we’ve seen so far in this comic. Ick.

Final Thoughts

Best Story: Judge Dredd – That was some fine social commentary there, Judge. Look for another appearance by Dredd in this spot next time, based on the ‘next time on’. Let’s just say the rest of the issue would have to be pretty fantastic to top that story…

Worst Story: Shako – Much as it pains me to finally put Shako in here, I just can’t abide that whole lemmings nonsense.

19.9.15

Programme 28 (3-September-77)

Cover:

Now, despite the Dive Mistress’ claims of safety, this picture is the exact reason why I won’t go scuba diving.

Thrill 1 – Invasion!

The battle of Glasgow has started, with wave after wave of Scots rushing the Volgs and engaging them in hand to hand combat. A local homeless man runs up to help-

Ah, it’s our local themed character. Anyone wants to lay bets that he’ll sacrifice himself heroically before the story’s done? No, I didn’t think so.

The story quickly moves that way as the mad dogs rush to cut off the Volgs at the old Football stadium. They spin the floodlights around and shine them on the approaching Volgans, blinding the troops as the mad dogs open fire.

It’s a decisive victory, except for a final attack by a Volgan mortar team. Savage is shocked to see a huge ‘globe grenade’ rocketing towards him and Silk. Just then Jock Steel runs in to kicks the mortar shell away.

I’m not sure that’s how mortar shells actually work, but at least he had the opportunity to put the old cleats back on. Inspited by Jock’s sacrifice, the Scots quickly rout the remaining Volgs, much to the chargrin of their commander. He’s so angered, in fact, that he decides to crack open the local maximum-security prison and send them in to kill their fellow Scots.

Thrill 2 – Judge Dredd

Picking up where last week’s (largely missed) story left off, this one also concerns Dredd’s final training of a Cadet. Here’s a shocker that I missed in the lost pages last week – the Cadet is named Giant. And he’s the son of Giant, the main character of Harlem Heroes! So this confirms that both those stories are taking place in a single, coherent universe. That’s a bit of a surprise.

When their latest call takes Dredd and Giant to the old Harlem Heroes stadium to break up a kidnapping, Dredd decides to let the kid go in and handle things on his own. Which he’s more than capable of doing, given that he’s the blaxploitation judge! Yeah, seriously, that’s why he exists.

There’s one perp left, hiding in the rafters with a kid and a bomb on a short fuse. Giant handles it according to family tradition, by strapping on a jetpack, grabbing the kid, and throwing the bomb into the goal-post. Dredd congratulates Giant on a job well done, and we move immediately to his graduation ceremony, where an important fact is revealed:

Yeah, the original giant really, really didn’t age well. I mean, I know he’s got to be around 80, but wow, father time really took a bat to that guy, didn’t he?

Judge Dredd Kill Count (31)

Thrill 3 - Shako

It looks like things are finally coming to a close for the old Yogi – the hospital massacre has drawn enough attention that the Americans have finally gotten their act together, and grabbed some spears to keep Shako cornered until they can find guns. Unk, Shako’s little buddy decides this would be a great time to ruin everything, though, and shatters the window behind Shako with a rock, giving him a chance to escape.

Miraculously Shako doesn’t immediately eat Unk, and instead wanders off into the night, looking for less sympathetic prey.

He finds it in two oilmen, Frenchy and Dan, who think being high atop a pipeline will save them from Shako. Haven’t they been reading this thing? Shako quickly piles up enough snow that he can clamber up to the top of the pipeline, and the men scatter in fear.

Shako captures and cripples Frenchy very fast, then tries to track Dan down. He finds the oilman cowering inside a pipe too narrow for Shako to enter. While this might have seemed like a good idea at the time, Shako doesn’t take being foiled well, and elects to fill the end of the pipe with snow, so Dan will run out of air. Then he turns back to Frenchy, and devours him alive.

The triumph of Shako’s victory is somewhat hampered by a cutaway to some of Unk’s deeper thoughts on the situation.

Two things – I find it a little odd that he doesn’t consider himself an American (he’s like 10, and Alaskan statehood was like 25 years earlier). More importantly, though, this is another issue with a damaged page, so I’m not exactly sure how Shako escaped the village and made it to the pipeline. So it’s possible that he killed Unk on his way out of town. We may never know. But we’re only going to be counting the deaths I’ve got evidence of.

With Dan being suffocated to death, one of the slowest arctic deaths there is, that brings the total number Shako’s victims to have died ‘real slow’ to 2 out of 24, or roughly 8%.

Thrill 4 – Dan Dare (?/Gibbons)

Dan Dare’s back! That wasn’t a very long absence, was it? It seems that the head of Dan’s Space agency needs him for a vital mission – he has to explore… the lost worlds! A mysterious section of space full of unimaginable horror. Ships have tried to map it, but none have ever returned!

You know, Dan would probably have an easier time with this mission if he had a better weapon than a hand-blaster. I don’t know, maybe some kind of a living axe?

Dan immediately agrees to the mission, but only on condition that he get to pick his own crew. He doesn’t want a bunch of military officers, he needs survivors who have seen the worst space has to offer and survived it. So where’s he going to find them? Certainly not Mos Eisley.

What’s Dan’s plan? He heads to the diviest bar and picks a fight with the nastiest son of a bitch there. The target is a giant Russian named Bear. Dan picks a fight with him, beats him up, and then tells everyone else in the bar that if the near wants to settle things, he should come to the spaceport. He pulls the same confrontation/recruitment thing with ‘Hitman’, a guy whose gun got fused to his hand when he was caught in a vacuum, and ‘Pilot’, the world’s greatest taxi driver (he also used to be a starship pilot).

The three of them show up at the spaceport at sunset, and find out that Dan had pissed off dozens of other men as well. A starship lands right in front of them, and Dan pops out and offers them all a place on the ship – for the best paying, most dangerous job they’ll ever have. Absolutely everyone joins up just as quickly as Dan did, which gets the setup out of the way in a single issue, meaning that it’s time to set a course for adventure!

Thrill 5 – MACH 1

The recap is nice enough to let me know about the story we missed last issue. Probe is co-piloting the new shuttlecraft into outer space, along with Tex, a spy! Of course, Probe doesn’t know that yet.

He is suspicious, though, even moreso when something goes wrong with the shuttle and Tex suggests that he go out and check. Probe gets confirmation of his fears when Tex fires up the shuttle engines with him still outside. Tex isn’t aware that his would-be citim is hyperpowered, though, and able to hold on with no trouble.

When the shuttle arrives at a Russian space station Tex unloads his troopers and attacks it, shutting down the Russians’ early warning system. Their plan? Fire a rocket into the heart of Russia, setting off World War 3!

Not if Probe has anything to say about it! He drifts out of his hiding place and starts slashing away at his opponents’ suits, condemning to the horrible death of having the air sucked from their lungs by vacuum.

Probe kills most of the terrorists, but Tex proves more tenacious than most – he even drops a hint that he’s more special than he may have appeared. He radios to his partners on earth that the warning system is down – so now they can launch ICBMs whenever they want, obliterating the Russian defenses! This puts Probe in one hell of a pickle – how can he stop a missile from being launched thousands of miles away?

Find out next time!

THARG’S NERVE CENTRE

Who’s up for another supercover?

Why do people insist on genetically engineering mosters with giant claws? Aren’t blobs of undifferentiated muscle mass good enough for science any more?

Thrill 6 – Future Shock

It’s the year 5000 and war has been going on for as long as anyone can remember – one side is robots, the other side… genetically engineered animals! Which is the twist. Also there’s a reference to the fact that humans may have gone extinct at some point, which makes this story the profoundly sad tale of robots and animals still fighting a war that they didn’t start and have no real reason for continuing.

Oh well, at least they’re adorable, right?

Final Thoughts

Best Story: Judge Dredd – What can I say? Blaxploitation + Judge Dredd = Quality entertainment. You heard it hear first.

Worst Story: Nothing. This was a completely competant week of 2000AD. Invasion moved, Harlem Heroes is over, Dan Dare is now being drawn by Dave Gibbons… all is right in the world, I guess is what I’m saying.