Saturday, October 31, 2009

Curse of the Demon (1957)

easily one of the best of the 50s genre movies, "Curse of the Demon" almost always get viewed here at Xeno-Central on Hallowe'en. the story of witchcraft vs science here is just so well done and scary and suspenseful one can't help but watch the whole thing through.

01 Rock!

not many superheroic postings here yet, so here's a few from on of my favorite shows- Kikaida 01, the sequel to Kikaida (natcherly). here are our heroic brothers, lamenting the fact a villain got away.

Friday, October 30, 2009

memories of Godzilla vs the Thing (1964

after posting two articles about Gamera (sorta, I know) I realized I had not written a thing (pun intended) about Godzilla at all. so I am rectifying that right now, with the best Godzilla movie ever made. not my favorite, but it's the best one- acting, effects, music, even the dubbing is all top notch here.

however, let me tell you a little story. I believe the first time I saw this was in about 1978. odd to some as it may seem, back when I was a kid there was no video on demand. it was up the gods as to what movies you would see. I was in WV when this showed up in the tv guide. the capsule review promised "four super monsters battling for world domination". I knew from pictures Mothra would be in the movie, but two more monsters? how great would that be?
in 1976 I saw Godzilla vs Megalon, which also had four titanic beings battling. it's funny now, but that's the kind of Godzilla movie I thought they ALL were. I was ready for a monster bash that Saturday afternoon! I also knew Godzilla would probably be the villain, but wasn't sure just yet. at age 11, I definitely preferred my Godzilla as hero.

For reasons that escape me now, I came in about a half an hour late. regrettable, but still it was better than nothing. who knew when I would get to see this movie again?

so I watched, enjoyed Godzilla and the effects. and I waited for two other monsters to show up. and waited. then... with Mothra dead, the Shobijin hatched the egg and two grubs appeared. grubs? GRUBS? these are the last two titanic super monsters?

now I know it's the tv guide that lied to me, but then I was extremely disappointed. how could anyone think grubs (larvae) were any kind of monster, Mothra's offspring or not? and how could they be a match for this rather evil incarnation of Godzilla?

OK, so they worked it out pretty well. but by the end of the movie I was far from satisfied. I don't think I saw the movie again for about ten years or so, on cable. I liked it more then, since I got to watch all of it, and was a bit older. it came out on VHS not long after that.

now, with the perspective of knowing more about the movie than I ever thought I would, I can recognize it for the work of art it actually is. it's still not my favorite Godzilla OR Mothra movie, but I do enjoy it a lot.

and it will always be Godzilla vs the Thing to me, no matter what Toho or anyone else says (is it redundant to say 87% of user comments on IMdB are ridiculous?).

"Astro Boy" (2009)

oddly enough, I don't have much emotional connection with Astro Boy, despite writing about him a bit these days. never saw the cartoon growing up at all.

so with this remake/version, I'm didn't have too many preconceptions. it's pretty good, and at 94 minutes (at least 5 minutes of closing and BORING credits) it's just about the right length of time.

it is another retelling of Astro's origin, but done in about the same time as the original cartoon did it. it's set in the further future than "the year 2000", which is also fine. the rest of the story revolves around Astro finding his purpose in life. it gets a little cutesy with the introduction of the orphans, but right when you think it's gonna be sidetracked it brings it altogether for a pretty satisfying finish.

the CG characters look pretty good, but as none of Tezuka's original work was designed to be 3-D, they still look a little weird, especially Dr. Elefun. it's OK, but I kept thinking how much better a real cartoon would have looked. it was nice to see a few of Tezuka's characters there, including Hamegg. Mr. Moustache was in the credits, but I didn't remember seeing him in the movie at all.

so it's worth a look. it's apparently not making ANY money, but I think it will find a life on DVD, since it's pretty good. alas, they didn't use the original Astro Boy theme song, not even over those long extensive credits.

oh yeah, and Astro himself barely spent any time looking like his comic book counterpart- he was always in blue jeans and a shirt. weak.

brought to you by Dolly Madison

remember when CBS would have a notice about special programming during the start of any holiday season? "the regularly scheduled program will not be seen tonight" or something to that effect. do they even do that now, in the age of everything being available on DVD?

this is one of my favorites. I've watched it every year that I can remember.
not quite as meaningful as the first Charlie Brown special, the Christmas one (we'll see that in a couple months) but probably funnier. what really gets me is the facial expressions of the characters. the animators really outdid themselves on this part.
Lucy seems to have issues with dogs. there's a new set available and it has the first 6 specials they did. looks great. and I miss the Dolly Madison ads. Zingers haven't tasted the same since Hostess bought them.

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies

just started watching this direct to DVD movie, based on the comics of the same name, and it's pretty darn good. of course, hearing the proper voices for our heroes (and our villain) is just great. add to that seeing several other heroes and villains in action is a lot of fun as well, though I didn't recognize that many of them in the big battle scene. well, the villains, I mean. the heroes are pretty easy to make out. President Luthor frames Superman and Batman, which results in lots of fights. add to it impending doom from a huge green kryptonite meteor bearing down on Earth.

I dislike Metallo as a transformer/borg/T-1000 clone, but I sure love the composite Superman at the end. there's also a great camaraderie between Batman and Superman that has been sorely missing from comics for about... 20 years or so?

I really like this one, it's far better than Doomsday, Wonder Woman and especially the Dark Knight anime thing. more info here.

check it out!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

as promised... Guiron!

here's the titular monster, as promised from the last post. Guiron. now, according to the late Noriaki Yuasa (best director of Gamera movies) his name is supposed to be "Guillon" as in "guillotine". due to an understandable translation error, we got Guiron. which sounds more monsterish to me.
here he is in action, slicing off one of Space Gyaos' wings. I forget if this part was in the US version, since they trimmed him carving Gyaos up like a salami. us kids back then weren't as tough, I guess.
he looks pretty pleased with himself, doesn't he?

thanks to my pal Ted Johnson for making the great looking DVDr of my VHS copy, where these frame grabs came from!

Attack of the Monsters (AIP-TV, 1969)

or as it's known by a few other names, "Gamera vs Guiron" and "Gamera vs Guillon". I have a confession to make, this was my first ever Gamera movie, and I also wrote the liner notes for Neptune Media's VHS tape for the English dubbed "Gamera vs. Guillon". so take that into consideration.
Gamera flies after two boys who are kidnapped by a flying saucer from the planet Terra. It's located on the far side of the sun, so we on Earth never see it or know it exists.
here is a one of the monsters on the planet, Space Gyaos. he's not really from space, but he's white, as opposed to "our" Gyaos who is not. say what you will about the Gamera monsters being rather unrealistic, but they look otherworldly and cool, far more than the 90s updates do. even if Gyaos is the overused monster that he is.

one of these days I will figure out how to position the pictures correctly. and it appears I don't even have a picture of Guiron, the titular foe of the movie. I think I'll just post another one with him in it, as this is getting picture heavy as it is. here we see the alien villainesses, before preparing to eat the boys' brains to learn everything about Earth.

and next to it is the Neptune Media title. it was bad timing for them to release the VHS versions of the three Gamera movies they had, since DVD had just started to hit it big, making the VHS versions more expensive and less desirable- you had to spend almost $45 to get the dubbed and subbed version of each movie. I'd like to post my liner notes here sometime. I wonder if I have that Gamera article they came from.

this is the AIP title. somehow, the movie is believed to be PD (public domain) with this title, and there are a ton of cheapo versions of it around. in fact, the first four or five Gamera movies are easily found online.

I'm not sure what happened with Neptune Media. the rumors are the owner is in Iraq, serving in the military. he has the rights to the first four Gamera movies, but only was able to release three (the first movie, this one and "Gamera vs Zigra" almost the worst of the lot). here's hoping he gets done with his tour and can look into giving us some nice DVDs of these movies, as they look pretty great letterboxed.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


OK, so two are pterosaurs, and not dinosaurs. this is from Carel Zeman's "Journey to the Beginning of Time" an excellent movie.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Johnny Sokko on Hulu... free!

thanks to the the good people at Monster Island News! enjoy the show, and keep hoping for it to show up on legit DVD some day.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Astro 11, 12 and 13

11. Strange Voyage: the Taurus, the first ship to take commercial passengers to the moon is boarded by Lucky Louie, a criminal. Astro follows him and he and four other people, plus a little girl named Marble, end up on an asteroid.

the names abound here- Mona D' Jour, Stark Raven (a newscaster), Margo Poco. it's amazing how many different and funny names the writers came up with over and over. the ships are really cool looking.

12. The Artificial Sun: Helio Delio, and former science fiction movie producers, uses and artificial sun to blackmail states and nations. Shylock Holmes is called in to crack the case. he and Astro end up on Firepot Island.

the Chief of Police is Irish, and Shylock is ever so English. the sun is a cool looking invention. "HD" has two henchmen, Jekyll and Hyde, who talk in rhyme (they remind me of Tom and Tab, the jackals from Kimba). some very non-PC natives are featured here, as well as a deer getting covered by lava!

13. The Deep Freeze: Mr. Pompous and Astro head to the North Pole. they visit Dr. Tic Tac Toe (I think there was a similar named Dr in Gigantor). a gang that hates robots attacks the center and Astro sends them packing. they have to stop Sharkey and retrieve the stolen loot.

lots of Dr. Moustache- I mean, Mr. Pompous here. the old "I hate robots because they killed my (mom)" is used here, though I bet in 1963 or 1964 it was pretty surprising.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Tetsujin 28-go (2004)

This is a great series. well, so far, 3 episodes in it is, anyway. it's a remake of the original series, known as Gigantor in this part of the world.

I love Gigantor, and am leery of remakes and the overused and ridiculously termed "re-imaginings". However, this one is brings a whole slew of things to the table the original would not have been able to at the time. it's more mature, and has a lot of talk about Japan's role after the war, and Gig- er, Tetsujin's part in the war is also discussed at length in the first episode. as we all know, the first chunk of episodes of Gigantor were not ever adapted in this country.

the animation is quite fabulous for a tv show, and the characters look good. I like that they don't look like most current Japanese animation people, more of the nifty "retro" look which suits the feel of the show well.

we even get to see a "Frankenstein" creature as well *(he was also in the original toon).

at some point I'll talk about Gigantor, but I still want to watch the rest of that original series as well. it really does boast on of the best themes ever!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


since this DVD came out in May of 2002 I won't be talking too much about the actual movie, aside to say it's easily one of the best that Universal made in the 50s. the print looks great and the sound is good. buy it here.

mostly I want to talk about the extras, starting with movie historian Tom Weaver's excellent commentary. I rarely listen to commentary tracks, since most of them are not that informative (maybe I've listened to the wrong ones, hello GIANT BEHEMOTH) but Tom does an exemplary job at talking about every part of the movie, from Ray Bradbury's two treatments for the scripts to the actors, directors, effects and locations used for filming. he also had a good sense of humor about some things but never treated any of the subject matter as a joke.

the other great extra is (I believe) a TCM produced documentary called "The Universe According to Universal" and it talks about many of the classic 50s sci-fi movies and aliens. not too long and not too short.

of course, the DVD itself has one glaring problem- that cover! while it's a cool looking alien, nothing like that appears in the movie at all. ever. did the moron who designed THE VALLEY OF GWANGI make this cover as well?

and for the record, I am glad they showed the xenomorphs in all their one eyed glory.

Astro Boy 9 & 10

watched two today!

9. Hullabaloo Land- Princess Lollipop escapes from "the happiest place on Earth" and ends up at Astro's place. Baron Hoodwink shows up and takes her back. Astro and Elefun visit Hullabaloo Land and Astro ends up freeing all the robots.

Firesnout the robot dragon was cool. Astro really doesn't do too much, the imp-robot is the real star of this episode. as always, there are some fun sight gags, and lots of references to various folk tales from all over the world (Snow White, Peter Pan, etc).

10. The Spirit Machine: Rudolph Hazard kidnaps Dr. Elefun to help make his "Spirit Machine" which will give him eternal life. naturally Astro flies after him to the rescue. he also topples Hazard's dictatorship while he is at it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Astro 8 "Silver Comet"

Tom Speed is the driver of the Silver Comet. his sister is Twin Tails (huge pony tails). badguys want to destroy the Comet so he can't win the World Wide Race. they call Dr. Elefun to help out. Astro allows them to put his brain into the Comet.

"Yodelbug" lots of nifty sight gags here, and the English writers came up with some clever names for the cars.

I should just write down the names of the villains, like Tex Tamale. he drives the "Black Vulcan".

of course there's a secret about the car, but if you are paying attention you can figure it out pretty easily. the animation is improving already. these last two episodes have had the most damage that I have seen so far. it's almost like watching it on tv with some splices here and there.

this is a fun adventure episode.

Astro Boy episode 7 "Zero, the Invisible Robot"

Dr. Isaac Nuttin invents Zero, an invisible robot. Fearless Freddie Fink bankrolled him, and is now using Zero to commit crimes. Zero doesn't know right from wrong, and Astro Boy has to intervene.

Lots of visual gags here, mostly to do with the invisible robot. Freddie is a no good crook, who apparently bought off the judge. I would be surprised if many kids got all that was going on in this episode, including the rather downbeat ending.

no spoilers, but it involves Zero and a time bomb set to go off right at 10 PM.

there are a few name gags, with Dr. Nuttin and Sing Sung Prison as well.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Kamen Rider Hibiki

been watching this cool show, am up to episode #15 or so. it's not really a "Kamen Rider" show, it's like they used the name at the last moment for commercial value (imagine that).

it's about a battle of Oni (the good guys) vs the Makamo (the bad guys). both are demons of a kind, but the Makamo tend to make meals out of humans.

the gimmick here is that the Makamo can only be defeated by the use of "pure sound" so our heroes use drums, horns and guitars to defeat both the human sized monsters and the giant ones that show up.

I really enjoy the musical aspect of the show. it's novel and very cool. the human aspect is also interesting, to a degree. it'll be fun seeing how it evolves. there's lots of good action in this show, without relying on effects too much. there's also some controversy about the series, as shown on Wiki here.

Hibiki returned in Kamen Rider Decade, mostly recast, but not bad.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

an episode of the Green Hornet

called "The Preying Mantis". There's been tons of talk about this new GH movie (starring *ugh* Seth Rogen, though the pics don't look bad, actually) and it made me want to watch some of the tv series.

this happens to be one of the better known episodes, since GH and Kato take on a tong in a protection racket scheme. so there's a Chinese Connection (sorry, couldn't resist) here as well, which had to be something pretty rare on US tv back in the mid 60s, don'tcha think?

anyway, the new evil leader of the Tong is none other than Mako, who would later become a sidekick for Conan. he actually gets the drop on Kato and dumps our hero into a trashcan. now that's going all out for the story!

his style is the Mantis Fist, which is an actual kung fu style. I wonder if Bruce coached him, as he gets the hand position to looded like it should. there are a few more martial arts battles in this episode, including some with the traditional weapons. which is ironic, since Bruce's style (at the time), wing chun, only has the staff as it's main weapon.

here's almost the end result of the last battle, though you know our hero is the victor. it's a pretty brief skirmish, though I once saw a stripped version of the episode which left out the entire battle leading up to this. sometimes editors baffle me. still, it's a fun episode to watch, as are all of them, since they only had 26 in the series.

here's hoping that what almost promises to be a fia
sco of a new movie coming out that someone gets the rights to this cleared up and out on legit DVD.

Friday, October 2, 2009

THE SHADOW BOXER (aka Tai Chi Chuan) 1974

this is an interesting early 70s Shaw Brothers movie. I had never heard of it until seeing it here. the kung fu used here is actually tai chi, which predates the more traditional kung fu styles.
however, not much of the fighting actually looks like tai chi. Tai chi can be a devastating martial art, but here, without the expert guidance of master choreographer Lau Kar Leung, all of our participants and just throwing punches, blocks and kicks without any regard to the style.

good thing in this movie one really doesn't need much more than that, as it's a story of an evil boss exploiting his workers and then our heroes go out for revenge when they've had all they can take and can't takes no more!

I did not recognize any of the actors, other than the lovely Shih Szu. but they all do a fine enough job here, including the hero Ku Ting, played by Wo-fu Chen. while they may not have had any particular training, they all throw themselves into the fight scenes with gusto, and I am sure more than one of them had injuries. some of the actors did have better style than the others, but at this time it was just not that important to look good, just be tough. for my money, no one looks very good doing the "basher" style of kung fu except Jimmy Wang Yu.

too bad it doesn't have an English dubbed track, but the picture looks great. definitely worth a look to see an internal martial arts style at work. sort of.


finally finished the entire series of Juken Sentai Gekiranger, and it was lots of fun. the villains were defeated, Mele and Rio turned out not so bad after all, which probably annoys the "villains are always cooler than the heroes" fans and there were lots of fights that were not always aided by CGI or flashy effects.

and I know it'll never happen, but I so wish the toys, er, "mecha" didn't have to be so prominent in almost every freakin' episode. and so frickin' many of them, I couldn't keep track of all the thousands of forms and names. one or two giant robots are cool, and if used sparingly would be a special thing instead being turned into the cliche.

this is also the first super sentai I have ever followed start to finish (thank the gods for fansubs) so I am sure there are many similarities between this and in the series from the last 21 years. wouldn't surprise me a bit. now let's have someone fansub GoRanger. JAQK is supposed to be done, but so far it has not gotten past the first episode.