STAR MAIDENS (1975-1976) – This obscure (only 3 reviews to date on IMDb) British-German television series from the 1970s has the same kind of campy visual appeal as U.F.O., Space: 1999 and every other Gerry & Sylvia Anderson series in history.
A few years back, Balladeer’s Blog reviewed All That Glitters, the 1977 Norman Lear follow-up to Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. All That Glitters was a five night per week soap opera parody set on a parallel Earth where women were in charge of everything and men were second-class citizens. Star Maidens was an earlier, 13-episode Euroseries that had cranked such a premise up to eleven AND treated it as serious science fiction.
The futuristic planet called Medusa was ruled by women with an iron fist, with men relegated to the roles of domestic servants or laborers in mines and factories, etc. Men were outrightly owned by women and the “Men’s Liberation Movement” was outlawed and hounded. Gareth Thomas of all people starred as one of two rebellious men who escape Medusa in a stolen spaceship and head for 1970s Earth. Continue reading
THE SOLARNAUTS (1967) – It’s kind of a shame that this pilot for a science fiction series didn’t get picked up. The Solarnauts combined some of the best (and worst) elements of Star Trek and Doctor Who plus Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s countless “Supermarionation” programs like Thunderbirds, Supercar, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, etc.
This program featured a Star Fleet type organization of the future and its light, fluffy adventures – adventures that wouldn’t have been out of place on 1950s television so the show has a nice “retro” feel. Continue reading
SCIENCE FICTION THEATRE (1955-1957) – In Balladeer’s Blog’s Forgotten Television category here’s a look at Science Fiction Theatre, which was a syndicated series that lasted from 1955-1957. The program did 39 episodes in each of its two seasons, however, so there are 78 episodes in its history. Season One was in color, Season Two was in black & white.
Truman Bradley hosted Science Fiction Theatre and would open each program with a scientific presentation that often cited incorrect science or was outrightly faked to get the results the showrunners desired.
Unlike The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits, this half-hour show didn’t produce as many classic episodes which became cultural reference points to this very day. That can be a positive factor if you’re in the mood for sci fi tales that don’t require as much concentration as those other two programs. Continue reading
GHOSTWATCH (1992) – This was a British made for t.v. movie that aired on Halloween Night in 1992. Ghostwatch is a nice – albeit boring – little novelty item for the way it anticipated the paranormal “reality” (LMAO) shows of today.
The telefilm also can’t help but put viewers in mind of the Paranormal Activity series and countless other Found Footage horror movies. Ghostwatch involves much older technology of course but for once, since the make-believe t.v. crew is filming their investigation of a haunted house, it MAKES SENSE for people to be filming everything.
The casting for this production was well-done in that it contains virtually NO recognizable faces. Usually when watching BBC items from back then viewers can’t help but play Spot the Doctor Who/ Sherlock Holmes/ British Murder Mysteries Actor. Continue reading
BRUM (1991-2002) – This live-action British children’s series is one of those kiddie programs that is fairly enjoyable for adults, too. Brum, the title character, is a living, sentient 1920s Austin 7 vintage automobile with a childlike mind.
Brum is forever curious and adventurous, sneaking out of the garage housing his owner’s vintage auto collection at the start of each episode. The plucky little car explores Big Town (really Birmingham) and has family-friendly escapades, often involving slapstick “baddies” whose evil activities are thwarted by Brum and his latest acquaintances. Continue reading
Before MST3K there was … The Texas 27 Film Vault! In the middle 1980s, way down on Level 31 Randy Clower and Richard Malmos, machine-gun toting Film Vault Technicians First Class hosted this neglected cult show. Balladeer’s Blog continues its celebration of this overlooked Movie Host program.
ORIGINAL BROADCAST DATE: Unknown but definitely before May of 1986. One of the old newspaper articles from early May of that year refers to Glen or Glenda as one of the movies having already been shown on The Texas 27 Film Vault. Anyone with more specific info feel free to contact me.
SERIAL: Unknown. Again, if you have info contact me.
COMEDY SKETCHES: Unknown. We’ve exhausted the episodes where I DO know the date, serial and sketches.
THE MOVIE: Continue reading
THE NIGHT AMERICA TREMBLED (1957) – This is a reasonably enjoyable television movie sponsored by Westinghouse. The Night America Trembled presents what may be the very first dramatic production of the supposed panic caused by the 1938 Mercury Theater radio production of War of the Worlds. I’m always fascinated with accounts of this possibly overblown event, but the actual event – not so much.
Yes, it all comes down to my love of mythology and the manner in which occurrences get embellished until even the wildest embellishments become accepted into a culture’s shared experience and shared assumptions. But I’m an incredibly boring guy.
Newsman Edward R Murrow hosts the dramatization and as usual looks like he’d love to climb out of the screen and kick the asses of news pussies like Chris Matthews and Chris Hayes. The most entertaining aspect of this production is catching the future stars in supporting roles. Ed Asner, Warren Beatty AND Warren Oates, plus James Coburn, Vincent Gardenia, John Astin and more. Continue reading
THE CANNED FILM FESTIVAL STARRING LARAINE NEWMAN (1986) – Halloween Month continues at Balladeer’s Blog with this look at a neglected Movie Host show, since Movie Hosts/ Horror Hosts are as associated with Halloween as are monsters and cosplay.
In this post I won’t be covering the entire history of movie hosting and the “So Bad They’re Good” film subculture. For that, there are my many other blog posts covering movie hosting from Vampira and her contemporaries, through Moona Lisa, then Son of Svengoolie, Elvira, and programs like Saturday Night Dead, The Texas 27 Film Vault and MST3K.
THE SHOW: The Canned Film Festival Starring Laraine Newman. From June 21st to September 13th of 1986 this 90 minute syndicated program sponsored largely by Dr Pepper aired on Saturday nights in various time slots around the United States. Elvira’s show Movie Macabre had run from 1981 to 1986 and was winding down. The Texas 27 Film Vault, which had debuted on February 9th, 1985 was still on the air and would run for roughly two and a half years in Texas and Oklahoma.
Along came The Canned Film Festival, which, with a nationally known name like Laraine Newman attached to it, may well have been the reason that one of the attempted syndication deals for T27FV fell through. Be that as it may, Laraine Newman’s show would – like The Texas 27 Film Vault – show more than just lame horror and sci-fi films and would cover the whole spectrum of bad and/ or campy cinema of the past.
THE HOSTESS: Laraine Newman may be best known for Saturday Night Live and for her character actress work, but she had been a member of The Groundlings improvisational comedy troupe … As had Cassandra Peterson aka Elvira. Newman was also known as an aficionado of horror and fringe cinema. Continue reading
DUSTY’S TRAIL (1973-1974) – Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip … But not THAT one. Dusty’s Trail was an uninspired, unfunny attempt by Sherwood Schwartz to recapture the success of his famed sitcom Gilligan’s Island.
Demonstrating “Minimum Effort Puppy” levels of laziness, Schwartz shamelessly copied every single aspect of Gilligan’s Island and its memorable – if moronic – characters over to the Old West. With Dusty’s Trail, Schwartz managed to cadge everything but the laughs from his 1960s hit.
Gilligan’s Island featured seven castaways trapped on a desert island because of the mind-numbing stupidity of their charter ship’s First Mate – Gilligan. Dusty’s Trail featured seven members of a wagon train hopelessly lost on their way to California because of the mind-numbing stupidity of their expedition’s Scout – Dusty.
On both shows the imbecile whose repeated blunders doomed his party’s efforts to save themselves over and over again was played by Bob Denver. In real life the other stranded people would have killed Gilligan or Dusty very early on, but these were just sitcoms, so both mentally impaired losers were permitted to live. Continue reading
BLACK SASH (2003) – This program was basically a vehicle for Baguazhang-style martial artist Russell Wong and only produced 8 episodes, 2 of which were never aired. Wong starred as Tom Chang, an undercover narcotics agent who was framed and spent 5 years in a Hong Kong prison.
Black Sash was widely bashed in its day but here in 2021 it seems a little bit like an unappreciated program with unfulfilled potential. Part of the problem with the show was its neither fish nor foul nature. Despite the above premise it was NOT an action drama about Chang kicking butts and busting heads to clear his name and return to the force.
Instead it dealt with the main character moving to San Francisco and running a martial arts school while trying to reestablish a relationship with his 12 year old daughter and his remarried ex-wife. He also became a mentor and surrogate parent to his students. At least one fight scene against genuinely dangerous assailants featured in each episode, too, often having to do with Chang’s sideline as a bounty hunter.
But talk about hard to categorize! Think of Black Sash as Cobra Kai crossed with Dawson’s Creek. Or maybe an Asian-led variation of The Master, the old Lee Van Cleef series, with less action but with likable characters and more interesting dialogue. Or how about Michael Nouri’s show Downtown with troubled teens replacing the parolees who helped him fight crime? Continue reading