Sunday, 27 February 2011

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Spaceways (1953)

Spaceways was made in 1953 by Hammer Film Productions Ltd as a British/American co-production.  It was based on a radio play by Charles Eric Maine and directed by the prolific Terence Fisher.
It looks a lot like sci-fi but it is as much a tale of infidelity and murder as rocketships going into space.  I’ve read some reviews for this film which seem to criticise it for not being sci-fi to its very core but if you’ve read any of Charles Eric Mains novels you’ll know that he tends to use a sci-fi premise to spin a good thriller.  Consequently, as a fan of the Maine man, I’m looking forward to tracking this down and giving it a butchers – as we say round our way.
And I like the space suits because they don’t look like everything else around at the time.
And I like the film posters too.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Saturn 3 (1980)

There’s little love out there for Saturn 3.  In fact the whole thing is one big lacklustre misfire after another.
With a script by Martin Amis, a seasoned director in the shape of Stanley Donan and a strong cast of talent in Kirk Douglas, Harvey Keital and Farrah Fawcett it really should have been a lot better than it was.  The trouble is that not one of those names seems appropriately placed in connection with this sci-fi mish-mash of Frankenstein meets Beauty and the Beast on the moon of Titan. And then every production decision made thereafter seems to have been head-shakingly bad.
The space suits are equally curious affairs too.  While the suits seem to be standard and obvious run-ups by a perfectly proficient but unimaginative costume department, the helmets are almost Heavy Metal inspired creations.  But while you have to acknowledge the fact that they have a look all of their own they seem fantastically inappropriate and impractical both in the context of the story and for the actor to perform in.
So there you go, that’s Saturn 3; a B-Movie with pretensions to something greater but not even managing to be half the sum of its parts.  It’s a bit sad really but the saddest tale of all is that Hector the mad killer robot and quite possible best thing in the film spent his retirement stuck at the end of a roller coaster ride on a seaside pleasure beach.  From Titan all the way down to Blackpool; Now that is a long way to fall.


Friday, 18 February 2011

Late for Lift-off

This is the Windak high altitude pressure suit being put through its paces.  The issue here being that once the suit had been pressurised, movability was compromised somewhat.  So the logic went that if you could still ride a bike then you could probably manage plane controls or a rocket!

They had bikes back then and they had planes too, shame they never managed the final one.

Still, at least they left us this amusing picture if nothing else


Thursday, 17 February 2011

Lestoil ad (1968)

Women of the future will make the moon a cleaner place to live” says this ad from 1968.
As far as I can make out this stuff goes in with the washing and is good for getting rid of greasy stains.   Not so sure that grease is that big of a problem on the moon but there you go.  It’s probably terribly sexist now as well but, for all its faults, at least they were dreaming of the future.


Road to the Stars (1958)

Road to the Stars or Doroga K Zvezdam as it was known in its native Russia is a documentary of sorts
It visualises the Soviets exploration of space, projecting forward from existing 1950’s technology to predict first the building of and then everyday life aboard a space station and culminates with a landing on the moon.
It’s propaganda for sure but the effects and model work are an absolute marvel for their time and not bettered by anyone for a good decade after.  It is also most probably one of Kubrick’s visual inspirations for 2001.
Its director was one Pavel Klushantsev who would go on to make the equally stunning Planeta Bur a few years later.  The man had an eye for film design and it’s a real shame he never did more or indeed received the recognition he so richly deserved.


Saturday, 12 February 2011

Inseminoid (1981)

Inseminoid is a terrible film with almost zero production values and lacklustre everything else.  It has no artistic merit and exists entirely to cash in on the popularity of Ridley Scott’s Alien.
However, I read the book first and I loved it.
You see at the age of 12 this was forbidden fruit indeed, full of violence and sex; traditional human-on-human sex and strange crazy alien-on-human sex.  And from that you can probably figure out the plot of the film.
I could be reasonable and say that this budget deficient movie was never going to be as good as the multimillion pound version in my head but it is generally held to be a load of old tosh by just about everyone thats ever seen it.  And for what its worth, I’m probably on my own for liking the paperback tie-in.
The space suits seemed to be cobbled together from safety visors with added lights and vacuum cleaner hose, which would be perfectly acceptable 10 years earlier but looked cheap even in 1981
Is there much more to add?
Judy Geeson is as lovely as ever but that’s probably a given.
Oh yes; if you would like to avoid this film it's worth knowing that in the USA it’s called; Horror Planet, so you should probably give that a miss too.


The Reluctant Astronaut (1967)

In The Reluctant Astronaut comedian Don Knotts plays Roy Fleming, the fairground operator of a children’s spaceship ride, who gets a job working for NASA but only as a janitor.
To impress his visiting father he dons a space suit and pretends to be an astronaut.  It all goes horribly wrong and he’s found out and fired.  But following the Russians plans to send a dentist into space, NASA need an everyman of their own and so.....well you can work the rest of it out on your own or go rent the movie.
It’s a good natured comedy suitable for the whole family that became a firm favourite with the kids a couple of years later when the obsession with the very real moon landing meant that it became a regular fixture on the Saturday morning TV.


Monday, 7 February 2011

Blake's 7: Headhunter (1981)

From the final series of Blake’s 7; Headhunter is the 6th episode of the fourth series.
Now travelling aboard the Scorpio, the remnants of Blake’s original 7 are stuck in an airless ship , while a headless killer android tracks them down...and not to congratulate them on their stunning fashion sense.
These suits are just horrible, cheap bike helmets with additional techno-fins to give it that unnecessarily futuristic comicbook look.  It's an odd design choice given that A; it really is just horrible, and B; it doesn’t even tie in with the fact that everything on the Scorpio was meant to have an industrial, functional and less fantastical look than what had previously been seen when they were all flying about on The Liberator.
Did I mention that I think these suits are horrible?

Blake's 7: Dawn of the Gods (1980)

From the third series of Blake’s 7, episode 4; Dawn of the Gods sees the use of these rather spiffing Spacesuits, worn by a number of the Liberator crew whilst popping out side to explore the artificial planet of Crandor.
I kind of like them.  The gold colour is unusual, they look much better than you would expect a BBC budget to run to and there’s a touch of the retro and the futuristic all mixed in together.
 A good effort.

Blake's 7: Voices from the Past (1979)

Blake's 7 was the story of a group of rebels fighting against the tyrannical Federation that rules over the Earth.  A sort of space age Robin Hood.  The show was created by Doctor Who writer and Dalek creator Terry Nation.  It ran for four seasons on BBC 1 and was aimed very squarely at an adult audience.  Some of the effects work was a little poor to the eye but at its heart the show was never about the flash and bang of space Oprah it was a tale of freedom fighters, cold criminal minds and political prisoners trying to overthrow an oppressive regime.

Unless I've missed something out, there isn't a space suit in sight until episode 10 of the second series in a story called Voices from the Past. This one saw Blake donning something a little spacey to go visit mining asteroid PK118, where he hopes to find some support in his efforts to raise a rebellion against the Federation.
Nothing too exotic here.  I would like to get a closer look at the helmet but my guess is that it's been seen in some other show prior to this.  The suit looks like it was run up for this episode by the shows costume designer.


Project Sword Annual (1968)

Century 21, the production company behind the Gerry Anderson puppet shows, were also behind the Project Sword brand. There was a very popular toy line.  I think there was a comic for a while and then there was this one annual and a couple of activity books.
The inside is a thing of beauty and, as a painting, the cover is quite striking in and off its self.  What I find odd though is that given the fantastic futuristic design work of your average Project Sword vehicle, why is it that the big old silver spaceman on the front looks just like something NASA was using at the time.  Bit of a shame that!


Saturday, 5 February 2011

The Outer Limits - The Invisible Enemy (1964)

The Invisible Enemy is the 7th episode of the 2nd series of  the US cult sci-fi anthology show; The Outer Limits.  And this is probably one of my favourite episodes of the whole series.
Astronauts land on the seemingly lifeless Mars and are attacked by something unseen.  A rescue mission is sent to find out what occurred and it all starts happening again.  There’s something under the ground; A sort of Martian sand shark.  Brilliant stuff.  This has to be the inspiration for the Tremors film and it’s such a cool idea I’m surprised nobody referenced it before that.
And the space suits are kind of cool too.  By the looks of it, it’s the same helmet as seen in Cold hands, Warm Heart and The Invisible Enemy, possibly the same suits too.
They’ve jazzed them up a bit with corrugated tubing around the arms and legs, though oddly, not over the joints which is where they used to put them on real pressure suits so that the high altitude pilots could actually bend their arms and legs.  So it’s just a design affectation but it still works for me
It all adds up to give them the look of the Major Matt Mason action figures but a couple of years ahead of the toys release


The Outer Limits - Cold Hands, Warm Heart (1964)

The 2nd episode of the 2nd season of The Outer Limits is called Cold Hands, Warm Heart.
Yeah! It’s William Shatner in a pre-Star Trek appearance as Jefferson Barton, first man to orbit Venus and return to earth unharmed and well....Who’re we kidding, this is The Outer Limits, there would be no story if it was all that simple.  Barton starts to change, to recall a previously forgotten encounter in the planet’s atmosphere and thus does it all begin to unravel for him.

That space helmet looks a bit familiar.


The Outer Limits - The Man who was Never Born (1963)

The Man who was Never Born was the 6th episode of the first season of The Outer Limits.

An astronaut returning to Earth finds himself flung into the distant future of 2148, where he meets the last mutated remnants of humanity living alone on a ruined Earth.
In an attempt to prevent this future from happening, spaceman Reardon takes Andro the mutant with him, returning through the time rift intent on altering history.  From there on it all goes a bit pear-shaped before coming good at the very end but with a cost that’s somewhat spelled out in the story's title. 
Note the design of the helmet and suit then keep watching


Friday, 4 February 2011

Invasion: UFO (1980)

I believe this to be the cover artwork for Invasion: UFO a feature film made from editing several episodes of the UFO TV series into one story.  It was originally done for the American market but it found its way back home eventually if only to irritate fans of the original TV series.  By all accounts, and the logic of how it was put together, its not meant to be very good.  However the artwork is absolutely lovely and almost justifies the cynical marketing that brought it into being.


Confessions of an Astronaut (1978)

First published in March 1978 to cash in on the whole Star Wars sci-fi revival thing one presumes, although they were working their way slowly through the various professions so they might have got there on their own eventually.
Confessions of an Astronaut is just one of several Confession books which were published throughout 70’s Britain and written by various authors.  They are basically slightly smutty, slightly sexy, slightly funny bits of nothingness really.   And I must confess myself that I was only going to post this because its tackiness made me laugh.  However, I’ve just noticed after months of looking at it, that the lucky old space stud on the cover seems to be wearing, if not the whole suit, then at least the collar from a Doppelganger spacesuit which then went on to appear in UFO and a few other bits and pieces.
Which all goes to show that we could end up almost anywhere trying to track these things down....  and that one shouldn’t get too distracted by the callipygous


Moon Zero Two - Pan Paperback (1969)

That's a bit more like it.

The cover of the Pan paperback edition of the movie tie-in published in 1969 and written by John Burke.  In the days before Video and DVD this was how you relived your favorite films again and again.  Some times they left in scripted scenes that never even got filmed and sometimes they just took liberties and added whole chunks of stuff to beef-up the word count and make it that bit more book'ish.  Can't tell you which one this is because I haven't read it yet but one day I will and then we'll all know


Moon Zero Two - ABC Film Review (1969)

Not much to add here that isn't covered in the title.  Except to critisise the cover still for being a bit of a domestic scene;  Spacewoman chats to Spaceman about how nice it is to be in space!

Yes I know the suits are a thing of beauty in themselves but I can't help feeling they could have found something a little more action packed to help sell the film.

Of course looking at it now through modern eyes it seems quite a calculated image relient on the fact that at any minute she might suddenly mount one of those poles or just go straight to the lapdance.... or is that just me?


Look-In # 19 (1971)

Look-In was a weekly children's magazine centered around ITV’s television output from January 1971 to March 1994.
There were posters and competitions, articles and interviews and even a TV listings page covering all of the UK’s regional channels.  The most stunning feature though was its regular comic strips based on whatever was popular at the time.  They did UK shows like Follyfoot and The Tomorrow People, US import shows like The A-Team and The Six-Million Dollar Man, and even comics strips based on then popular Music bands like Madness and Bucks Fizz.  At some point somebody is going to collect these strips up into a graphic novel or two and make a few quid selling them to the 40-somethings but until then various scans exist on various sites around the net if you want to go check them out.
I mention all of this just so we can take a look at this cover scan of issue 19 which features one of the aliens from UFO.  A simple yet stunning cover that must have got a few kids sat down in front of the television back in the spring of 71