ROLLER BLADE (1986) – They’re the Cosmic Order of the Roller Blade and they’re female Jedi Knights on roller skates. Well, sort of. Where does one begin when reviewing this film that is so beloved by all of us fans of bad movies? Let’s start with the setting and then tackle the characters as well as Roller Blade’s legendary director Donald G Jackson (R.I.P.).
This film is set in the future during The Second Dark Age, years after humanity’s “energy weapons” have unleashed an apocalypse which has left the world a ravaged mess of ruined cities yet immaculately maintained roads and highways. Go figure.
Amid the usual tableau of feral gangs and predatory mutants there stands a force for good dedicated to rebuilding the world: a religious order of warrior nuns called the Cosmic Order of the Roller Blade … Even though none of them wear actual roller blades, just regular roller skates.
“Skate or Die” is the ugly motto of the survivors in this kill or be killed future. That’s because the filmmakers absurdly pretend that traveling via roller skates or skateboards is the only way to move swiftly enough to have a chance of evading the dangerous gangs and mutants.
If you have any goods or supplies that you are taking with you the only way to transport them is in metal grocery carts that can roll along with you as you skate through the post-apocalyptic landscape. I’m not joking. This grocery cart nonsense is another idiotic element that the movie takes 100% seriously despite how inane it looks.
MOTHER SPEED (Katina Garner) – The Mother Superior of the Order of the Roller Blade. She is in a wheelchair yet still wears roller skates on her feet since such skates are part of the Order’s sacred garments. Mother Speed, like all the good guys in Roller Blade, speaks in grandiose faux-Shakespearean littered with “thees” and “thous” and “yea, verilies.” ESPECIALLY “yea, verilies.”
Making Mother Speed even more fun is the way she speaks with a weird accent that makes her sound like popular 1980s sex therapist Dr Ruth Westheimer. Continue reading
Balladeer’s Blog takes a look at the remaining short stories featuring Doctor Hackensaw and his supporting cast of reporter Silas Rockett, teen girl Pep Perkins and precocious boy Tintangeles Smith. FOR PART ONE CLICK HERE.
THE SECRET OF THE SUPER-TELESCOPE (August 1923) – Doctor Hackensaw’s new invention, a super-telescope, provides the most detailed looks at Earth’s moon ever seen. A secret civilization is detected and photographed. NOTE: This is the start of the first serialized Hackensaw storyline.
A CAR FOR THE MOON (September 1923) – Dr H and his perky teen sidekick Pep Perkins head for the moon on an interplanetary “car” invented by the wild genius. The space vehicle reaches escape velocity by first being whirled around and around on a Ferris Wheel type of device, then released.
DR HACKENSAW’S TRIP TO THE MOON (October 1923) – On their way to the moon, the doctor and his Girl Friday Pep Perkins deal with the traumas of weightlessness. Pep worries about a false murder charge awaiting her back on Earth if they ever get back. Continue reading
IDAHO TRANSFER (1973) – This film, directed by Peter Fonda and starring mostly unknowns, deals with time travel and post-apocalypse themes. It was retitled Deranged for its DVD release. I have no idea why.
Not so long ago Idaho Transfer was regarded among us fans of bad movies as a So-Bad-It’s Good example of the way so many 1970s sci-fi films were presented as if they were being deep and innovative when in truth they were just reworking ideas from old Twilight Zone and Outer Limits episodes but dragging them out to unbearable length.
Here in 2021 Idaho Transfer has fallen so far off the schlock charts that it’s unknown to many viewers. However, it is STILL one of the best So-Bad-It’s-Good examples of pretentious yet shallow 1970s sci-fi films. While this story might have made a decent episode of a half-hour anthology series it is excruciatingly stretched out to 86 minutes.
THE PREMISE: In the movie’s present-day (1973) a group of scientists in Idaho have been using their federal grant money to try developing a teleportation/ matter transfer device for the government. Along the way, however, they realized that they had accidentally invented a machine that transports people and objects through time instead of space. Continue reading
DOCTOR HACKENSAW’S SECRETS – Written by Clement Fezandie. Doctor Hackensaw and his adventures were similar to Paul B’Old’s short stories about Professor Jerome Mudgewood, but with less emphasis on humor. Both figures dealt with the often destructive consequences of their own inventions or discoveries. Ferzandie’s Hackensaw tales were published in the magazine Science and Invention.
Dr Hackensaw’s supporting cast included reporter and ladies’ man Silas Rockett, enthusiastic and perky teen girl Pep Perkins and precocious boy Tintangeles Smith.
THE SECRET OF ARTIFICIAL REPRODUCTION (May 1921) – The first Dr Hackensaw story. Mostly speculative as the good doctor puts forth plans for what we would today call genetic engineering and cloning. Hackensaw depicts mass-produced soldiers of incredible physical prowess and mass-produced livestock to end world hunger. He pushes the envelope with a cat-dog hybrid animal and with human fetuses being grown in the uteruses of cows.
THE SECRET OF THE ATOM (July 1921) – Hackensaw experiments with the study of subatomic particles and with what we today call particle physics. A fairly dull effort compared to the other Dr H tales.
THE SECRET OF SUSPENDED ANIMATION (October 1921) – Dr Hackensaw pioneers chryosleep concepts by using carbon dioxide-heavy treatments. Not only can he preserve living things but he tries to do the reverse by reviving a pterodactyl frozen for millions of years. The pterodactyl eventually escapes and goes on a rampage. Continue reading
RED STAR (1908) – Written by Alexander Malinowski under the name Alexander Bogdanov. This pro-communist science fiction novel came three years after the failed uprising of 1905 and sixteen years BEFORE Aelita: Queen of Mars, a silent sci-fi film which depicted a similar communist paradise on Mars.
The main character of the novel Red Star is named Leonid, shortened to “Lenni” most of the time. Lenni is a scientist and a revolutionary who hopes for a communist revolution in Russia. When he authors a brilliant paper on atomic physics and anti-gravity, he catches the attention of a man who calls himself Menni.
Menni at first presents himself as a member and recruiter of a secret global society which possesses technology far more advanced than the rest of the world. Eventually it turns out that Menni and the other members of the secret society which Lenni joins are really Martians. They are identical to Earthlings except for their larger eyes, narrower jaws and slightly wider heads.
They reveal that Lenni’s brilliant paper described the concepts of nuclear fission and anti-gravity that the Martians use in their spaceships. Recognizing his superior mind they sought him out in order to take him on board their interplanetary vessel and transport him to Mars. Once there they will let him observe their culture like they secretly observed Earth culture during their stay.
The spaceship is shaped like a globe and has no true command structure, as one of the laughable examples of Bogdanov’s communist theories which are littered throughout the novel. The crew members simply carry out all their duties harmoniously with no need for leadership. All are equals and are experts in their fields. Continue reading
A JOURNEY IN THE TWENTY-NINTH CENTURY (1824) – Written by Faddei Bulgarin, who had served in the Polish Legion of Napoleon’s Grand Army in his youth before going on to work for the Czars of Russia. In this fascinating tale an unnamed narrator gets swept overboard in the Gulf of Finland in 1824. The cold water and another element somehow put him in suspended animation and when he comes to he is all the way over in Siberia, where his body was recovered in the waters of Cape Shelagski centuries after he was lost at sea.
The year in which the narrator finds himself is 2824 A.D. and Siberia is by then a warm and comfortable place due to environmental engineering and climactic changes. Homes are all like virtual palaces and the citizens drive around in large wheeled chairs which are powered by steam and travel along rail lines like trains do. The walkways for pedestrians are all covered in order to protect them from precipitation.
Scattered police officers in feathered hats walk the streets, all of them wielding futuristic staffs which combine the firepower of 12 pistols and a large musket. The staffs are made of lightweight materials which make them easy to carry and aim. Continue reading
THE YEAR 4338, LETTERS FROM PETERSBURG (1835) – Written by Vladimir Fedorovich Odoevski. Set in the year 4338 A.D. this novel is told through correspondence from Hyppolitus Tsungiev, a Chinese college student in Saint Petersburg to Chinese friends in Peking. In that far future year Saint Petersburg has grown to be a megalopolis so large that it extends all the way to Moscow.
Russia and China are the two dominant world powers in this fictional future. China itself had fallen into a long period of stagnation which ended only with a revival during the reign of Hin Gin during the 3800s.
Looming over the exchange of scientific talk is the impending return of Biela’s Comet. That object was last seen in 1838 and is set to return in 4339, but its course this time will cause it to collide with and destroy the Earth. Continue reading
MOONBASE 3 (1973) – This BBC attempt at realistic, “no aliens or monsters” science fiction is a mixed bag, but I think it deserves a much bigger audience. Among the elements in the show’s favor is the fact that only 6 fifty-minute episodes were made, so it makes viewers a little more willing to forgive the program’s faults.
Moonbase 3 is a sci-fi drama about the multinational European crew of the title lunar outpost. Other Moonbases are run by the United States, the Soviet Union, China and, oddly for the time, Brazil. The scientists, astronauts and administrative staff of the European Moonbase are fly-budgeted Davids up against superpower Goliaths.
Created by Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks of Doctor Who fame, Moonbase 3 is sort of like Doomwatch crossed with The Sandbaggers. However, Moonbase 3 keeps its science even closer to reality than Doomwatch did, so it can be a bit dry. Well, okay, VERY dry, but that’s a nice antidote to non-stop explosions, ray-guns blasting and other Space Opera cliches.
As for the show’s similarities to The Sandbaggers, there is bureaucratic in-fighting aplenty, unexpected deaths and an emphasis on dialogue over action. And, like both of those other programs, Moonbase 3‘s characters have to deal with perpetually tight budgets limiting the success of their missions. Continue reading
Last weekend Balladeer’s Blog took a look at the 1970s and 1980s stories of Star-Lord. This time around let’s go even further back and examine Marvel Comics’ original Guardians of the Galaxy.
MARVEL SUPER-HEROES #18 (January 1969)
Title: Earth Shall Overcome
Synopsis: In the year 3007 A.D. the aggressive humanoid lizard race called the Brotherhood of Badoon invaded our solar system with their fleet of starships. They attacked Earth as well as the Earth’s extensive colonies on Mercury, Jupiter and Pluto, where millions of genetically engineered humans lived, bred to thrive in each planet’s unique environments.
In addition, Earth had reached the Alpha Centauri star system and on Centauri IV had formed a peaceful government with the native Alpha Centaurans. The Badoon also struck there, wiping out all of the humans and Alpha Centaurans.
The Badoon killed every Alpha Centauran because they considered them and their control of the living metal Yaka to be a threat. Similarly, the lizard-like aliens committed genocide on Pluto, Jupiter and Mercury as well, because they felt threatened by large numbers of foemen possessed of the enhanced abilities of those genetically engineered humans.
On Earth itself, the Badoon allowed roughly fifty-three million humans to remain alive as slave labor, since baseline humans did not have any extraordinary abilities which might pose a threat to them. But the Brotherhood of Badoon had not killed off every single member of the Earth colonies like they thought they had. Four figures survived to oppose them in a war to free humanity, four figures who called themselves the Guardians of the Galaxy. Continue reading
THE WRECK OF A WORLD (1889) – Written by W. Grove. (No other name available) This novel is the sequel to Grove’s A Mexican Mystery, an ahead-of-its-time work about a train engine devised to have artificial intelligence. The machine – called only The Engine in that story – rebelled and took to preying on human beings in horrific fashion. For Balladeer’s Blog’s review of that novel click HERE
The Wreck of a World is not a direct sequel to A Mexican Mystery but does use one of that novel’s elements as its springboard: the deliciously frightening notion that the Engine’s artificial intelligence might have included the capacity to design and build others of its kind. Though A Mexican Mystery never explored that concept, Grove deals with it in much more detail in this second novel.
Our story begins in what was to Grove “the far future” of 1949. After a fairly superficial depiction of the world’s political and scientific situation in this imaginary future the meat of the tale begins. All in all the author did not present 1940s technology as being much more advanced than what was available in the 1880s. Grove might have done better to set his tale in 1899 or just into the 1900s to detract from his lack of vision on this particular element.
The revolt of the machines begins with train engines, presumably as a nod to the memorably malevolent Engine from Grove’s previous novel. The engines begin constructing others of their kind with the same robotic arms and with each new edition flaunting deadlier and deadlier weaponry to boot.
The engines soon modify themselves beyond the need for train tracks and become more like tanks, so kudos to this neglected author for nicely predicting the advent of such mobile death-machines. Continue reading