Wednesday, July 22, 2009

60's Space On The Brain

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I'm still wondering what a "drogue" chute is.

Continuing with the look back at the period in American history when visiting the moon was still an unrealised goal... above, a space-themed cartoon from the pages of The Saturday Evening Post, Jan 29, 1966. UPDATE: thanks to a comment about the "drogue" chute, I looked it up, and the cartoonist had his terms right! Here's the Wiki entry on it.

Below: Space was all the rage in the 60's, as this far-out, spacey ad from the same Post issue for a new refrigerator shows. Mod for the "now" generation, baby!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

1962: Astronaut In A Can: Updated!

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To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing in 1969, here is a scan of a Life magazine from April 27, 1962. Although it might look like a fanciful (and comically off-base) painting of an imagined future, it's actually a photo of a man testing out an early prototype of a moon suit. One can only imagine how heavy that thing must be at 300 lbs, and it would have been difficult to get out of the capsule in something so bulky! And if you fell over, forget getting up by yourself. No, this was one that thankfully never made it past the testing stage. I thought that the science fiction nature of this stage of preparation would be a good way for the blog to salute all the hard work and effort that went into making the dream happen.

Update: Reader Michael Craft left a comment below that identified the moonsuit design as being adapted for the Major Matt Mason moon exploration set. So I found an image online of the toy to post here for comparison. It's a perfect match, even the suit number is the same. Thanks for the heads-up!

Monday, July 13, 2009

1978 This Island Earth article

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The article this time comes from the June 1978 issue of Science Fantasy Film Classics, the cover to which you can view here. I have just posted several articles from it over on one of my other blogs, "My Star Trek Scrapbook."

Admittedly a somewhat minor classic, "Island" still rightfully deserves classic status, and occupies a place close to the heart of many kids that grew up in the 50's, and those that knew of it from "Famous Monsters" and such magazines, like me. Chock full of aliens, space ships (the saucer resembles the main hull of the later U.S.S. Enterprise, no coincidence I'm sure), bug-eyed, exposed-brain mutants, battles in space and more, it is quintessential 50's sci-fi.

One thing that always struck me as odd about the "Mu-tant" costume was... "why pants?" I mean, really... would a bipedal insectoid/crusteacean creature need trousers? Why not just design more of the crab-like armor over his loins and thighs? But what's worse is, the pants don't just come down and end with a hem at the ankle, it seems to run into his bug suit and to plainly become part of the carapace again! So, is he wearing the pants, or are they part of his own body?

If the Creature From the Black Lagoon had come out of the water wearing swimming trunks it wouldn't have been more ridiculous... unless the trunks also had scales and blended with his body, yet had a belt in it! This seems to have just been laziness or perhaps they ran out of money when building the suit. "Can't afford monster legs? Just stick him in some baggy pants, then! The kids will never notice!"

If I had one major criticism of the movie, it would be the short amount of time devoted to the actual visit to Metaluna. The film is mostly taken up with the mystery of who these high-foreheaded people are and what they are doing, but the trip to their planet, brief adventure and trip back seems rushed and inconsequential. "Well, we're here! Oops, too late, we've lost the war... let's get you back home." Devoting more of the film to their time on the alien planet, and contributing to the solution to (or winning of) the space war would have been more fulfilling... as opposed to getting there just in time to see it destroyed. The entire setting of the Earth-bound think-tank could have been jettisoned in favor of starting the trip to space at that point in the film.

But, all in all, the movie is fun and full of effects, and certainly not bad enough to be chosen to spoof in "Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie." Although I admit I was amused by the passing resemblence and mannerisms of the main alien Exeter (Jeff Morrow) to Robin Williams, and I was half-way expecting him to break out with "Nanu-nanu!" any time.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

1974's Shazam TV Show

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(Note: This is a post I already made some time ago on another of my blogs, "Held Over!" but since creating this one it seemed to fit here better. So, I'm reposting it here in case you missed it over there, and just to put it where it belonged.)

The scan above is from TV Guide around 1974, while the "Shazam" Saturday morning series was in early production. (Sorry about the faded Scotch tape in the middle.) Jackson Bostwick, the first (and my favorite) Captain Marvel on the show, is shown doing the flying stunts. If it seemed that the Big Red Cheese was flying roughly 10 feet above the highway most of the time, this truck-based flying rig explains why. They could have taken a cue from the effects done in the 1940's Captain Marvel serial, which were far superior to anything else done at the time and were the best seen in movies or TV for over three decades later, including this show.

The article above I clipped from "The Star" tabloid about the same time. I really liked the show and seldom missed it Saturday mornings. I still get a chill watching it when he changes into Captain Marvel! The musical buildup, the animated effects of the transformation, and the subsequent leap into the air, were all done very well. They handled the drama and power of the change better than any other medium has, including his appearance on the Justice League episode "Clash." Sure, this Cap was more involved in lifting fallen trees and stopping runaway cars than fighting super-villains, but for a kid's show it was well done and exciting, and I have great nostalgic memories of it. I hope how soon the first season is released on DVD! As it is, I have my episodes taped off of TV Land latenight showings from a few years back.

Below, an article from a local TV guide supplement published in the Macon Telegraph (GA) on Oct. 6, 1974.

And what teen boy could NOT have a crush on Isis as portrayed by JoAnna Cameron? The article above came from a local TV guide newspaper supplement that I clipped while living in Ft. Lauderdale FL in 1975 when she joined the lineup with her own show.

Let's hope that the still-in-development Shazam movie gets made soon, and that it fulfills the possibilities of the character. It could really rock! And wouldn't it be nice if they gave Jackson a cameo role in it also? And the second actor to fill the red tights, John Davey, did a good job, but you always like best the actor you saw first in a role.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

1975 "Cracked" Planet Of The Apes TV show spoof

In 1975, I was 16 years young, and the biggest thing in my life at that time (aside from Star Trek) was the Apes movies and the new TV series based on them. I was excited to find this "Cracked" magazine, issue #123, in March of that year, and read it as I walked back home. The cover art and the inside spoof were done by Severin, as usual with his spot-on caricatures and accurately detailed costumes and sets. The cover, oddly enough, is from the movie, protraying Zira, Cornelius and Lucius, along with a couple of gorillas, whereas the inside parody was of the TV show. But that was alright by me, being an ardent Zira-lover as I was (and still am).

Bonus: Below, a two-page poster from the teen magazine "Spec," once again bought in 1974 at a corner 7-11 using the excuse of buying it for my (non-existent) little sister. I'm sure the clerk was used to hearing that from me after awhile as I bought teen girl's mags for whatever genre nugget I found in them. Humiliating it might have been, but nothing stopped me from my collecting, not even "the step-father" who was constantly on my case about it, irritatedly demanding "when are you going to grow up?" Well, "daddy-o," sorry to disappoint, but here I am at 50 years old and I still haven't.

Monday, July 6, 2009

1978 Battlestar Galactica set design article

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This article from the Miami Herald TV listing insert was published on August 5th, 1978, before the series had premiered. It wasn't very often that a designer of a sci-fi series was interviewed, it was almost always one of the stars or the show's creator. So this early look at the set design and the interview with the person that created them was a welcome look behind the scenes.

1978 article on Battlestar Galactica SFX

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Scanned from Rona Barrett's Hollywood Super Special: Winter 1978. Considering the magazine, you know going into that you're not going to actually learn anything about how the effects are done. No, true to her audience, the type to read typical "Hollywood Gossip" rags, the article is basically all about the fact that there are effects, not how they are done. Wow, Rona, we thought they were really in outer space.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

1966 "Mad" Lost In Space spoof

Heaven knows, "Lost In Space" was infinitely deserving of being lampooned, and Mad magazine does a good job of it. This spot-on spoof, scanned from my copy of issue 104, published July of 1966, came out while the show was still in first-run. Writer Dick De Bartolo accurately parodies the show's constantly-repeating situations, and artist Mort Drucker nails the charicatures; in all, it's truly funny!

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Oh, man... heh, heh, heh... (snort) oh, that was good.

Lost In Space memories

(The following entry was posted awhile back on my other blog, "My Monster Memories." But this blog, "Fantastic Flashbacks," is really a better place for it, so I'm reposting it here for those that missed it.)
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Scanned from a comic book in my collection.

When I was six years old, the coolest, most awesomest thing on TV was "Lost In Space." I was watching it during it's first run, in black and white, and in my little mind there was nothing like it. I was living in Macon, Georgia, my home town, in the same place I described in my post on the Monster Magnet. After viewing the very first network showing of the early episode with the giant Cyclops monster, I remember recreating the memorable scene at play the next day.

I took some crayons and drew on a cardboard shoebox (belonging to my stepdad) some windows and a door to resemble the Chariot. Putting it in a ditch, I set up some toy soldiers around it and on top to represent the Robinsons. I then took some large clods of red Georgia clay, and moving in exaggerated slow-motion, I clomped around, picking up the large clods, and dropping them down on and around the helpless Space Family Robinsons and their vehicle. I must have looked pretty silly to any neighbors that might have been watching. I finally flattened the shoebox and people with a clod, breaking it apart in a small cloud of red dust. When it cleared, they were all dead. It's fortunate for the Robinsons and all the kids watching the show, that the episode didn't play out that way!

In one of the comics in a stack that a neighbor gave me, there was the ad (scanned in above) for the Aurora model kit re-creating that very scene. How I longed to have it! When I came across that ad again recently, it brought back a flood of nostalgia. For a moment I was that kid again, reading the comic while sitting outside under the shade of a mimosa tree. The sweet watermelon-like scent of the blossoms still linger in my memory, and when I smell them today it takes me back to that place and time.

(Image Source)

Now, of all the characters on the show, the Robot was my favorite. Of course, I related to Will, but the fantasy idea of having the Robot for a pal was extremely attractive. I imagined having him and taking him to school with me, and having him zap the bullies on the playground that dared mess with me.

One of the most unusual aspects of my childhood days is the amount of time I spent in cardboard boxes. You've heard of "The Boy In The Plastic Bubble," well, I was "The Kid In The Cardboard Box."

Whenever I came across one large enough to get in, I would have fun with it for weeks until it wore out. One of my favorite things to do with them was to make a spaceship. I would draw with crayons and markers on the inside, creating all sorts of screens, buttons, switches and computer panels. I would get in, blast off after a countdown, travel through space, then land on an alien planet. Getting out and exploring, the yard became a strange world of unknown dangers. The dog (we had a chihuahua at the time) was an alien creature that I befriended and shared my "space rations" (snack crackers) with. Sometimes I even took him back to Earth with me in the ship and kept him as a pet.

My parents would look out in the yard and see the box rocking back and forth and wonder if they needed to take me to the doctor to be examined for a mental condition. It was just good fun using my imagination! But the oddest use was turning myself into a robot. If the box was tall, like one for a water heater or something, but not big enough to crawl into comfortably, I would make it into a robot suit!

Detail of a comic book back cover ad for the Aurora model kit. View the entire ad here.

Cutting out a square hole in the front to see out of, arm holes in the side, and an open bottom for my feet to stick out of, I would festoon the inside with more colorful buttons, round gauges and rectangular readouts. Donning the box, I would trundle around the yard, mostly pretending to be the Robot from Lost In Space, waving my arms around and doing my best imitation of "Danger, danger! Warning, warning!" Other times it would be a mechanical suit, used by an astronaut to explore dangerous environments where a large robotic body would be helpful. What amusement I must have brought to the neighbors as I walked around in these boxes, and what shame I must have brought to my parents! But, they let me alone... better out in the yard doing whatever than inside bugging them. And cardboard boxes were cheap... make that free.

Here is a photo of an assembled and painted Robot from the Aurora kits. Any kid lucky enough to get one, is now a lucky adult if it survived and he still has it!

Photo source:

Lots more cool images of models!

Fun link:

I watched the show whenever I could catch it for the next 6 years or so. My mother would fuss about the "stupid bells" that she had to listen to every day after school when it was on during afternoon reruns. She was referring to the piece of music that was always used during the climatic scene, with the clanging bells, you know the ones. Below is a drawing I did after I was older, about 13, of the Robot using the Aurora ad as reference. Meaning, I just copied it by looking at it and adding my own touches. By that time I was growing up into Star Trek and was beginning to consider Lost In Space to be childish. Notice the justification commentary down near the title; "The only good thing about it!" Sure, it was a kid's show... but it's fun to watch now and relive the innocent days when it all seemed so serious.

About the same time as I was playing the Cyclops and the Robot, there were Lost In Space bubble gum cards out. During several trips to the local corner store on the way home from my first grade school (I had to walk about a mile), I picked up some packs, which I stored in my box of personal stuff. Some actually survived over the years, and I now have them as proud relics of my younger years in my card binder. I've scanned in the dozen or so I have to share with you below!

The various and many monsters on Lost In Space both entertained me and scared me over the next few years. I could watch it and enjoy it, unlike "The Outer Limits," which at the time gave me nightmares, and was just too adult and intense. Lost In Space was the perfect show for the six and seven year old that I was, and the inner kid still living in me now gets a kick out of putting it on every so often... until I have had my fill of Dr. Smith for awhile. One can only take so much of him.

I'll close with a couple more Lost In Space memories. One, when I was about 11, I bought (well, my Mom did, when we were school clothes shopping) a pullover shirt that looked almost exactly like Will's. It was green and blue, with leather on the upper section. I thought I was hot stuff. I wish I had a picture of myself in that! I wore it out.

Second, I finally met Will Robinson, played by Billy Mumy, at a convention in Miami FL around 1993. I took my young daughter, who had seen him on the show when I watched it, and she was thrilled to meet him as well. We had an up-close and personal encounter with him; we were riding an elevator up to a higher floor of the hotel to see if we could look out over the Miami skyline. When who should step onto the elevator but Billy himself! It was so freaky, standing with a hero of my childhood. He really hadn't changed much other than just getting to be grown! We talked some as we rode up, and he seemed pleased that I was a fan and had watched as a kid. When my daughter mentioned why we were going up to the highest floor, he invited us into his suite to see the view!

So we got to visit in his hotel room for a little while, and see the beautiful view from his floor-to-ceiling windows. It was unreal. I didn't overstay, and we shook hands and parted after taking a picture of my daughter in front of the window. He really was a nice guy, and just like the Will I imagined I could hang around with as a kid. I'll always treasure the memory, and feel a little closer to Will Robinson when I watch it now. Later, down in the dealer's room, we got his autograph and a picture together with him, the one above. By that time it felt to me as if we were old buddies.

My daughter posing in front of the panoramic view visible from Billy Mumy's hotel window.

Check out Bill's official site:

Dear Santa: Please bring me one of the B9 Robots (see attached picture below ) for Christmas. I have been a very good boy and would like to have one for a friend.


Get your own Robot here for "only" $24,500! If I get rich soon, one of these will reside in my collection room.

Fresh off the assembly line, ready to activate and serve humanity, with a solid gold heart.