Tag Archives: Science fiction

SIX-HUNDRED & SIXTY SIX (1972) MOVIE REVIEW

666 2SIX-HUNDRED & SIXTY SIX (1972) – Directed by Tom Doades and written by Marshall Riggan, this film is a very unusual blend of science fiction, horror, post-apocalypse drama and religious message. Cult actor Joe Turkel, perhaps best known as the ghostly Lloyd the Bartender in The Shining, stars as Colonel John Ferguson. 

Before I go further I want to point out once again how films can serve as indicators of what was or was not prominent in the public consciousness during the time of their release. This particular movie came out in 1972, meaning that the use of gematria to arrive at 666 as the Number of the Beast was not yet as firmly lodged in the minds of movie-goers as it would be after The Omen became a sensation a few years later.

666 3Obviously, a post-Omen film would not blow their story’s final reveal in the title, like we get with Six-Hundred & Sixty Six.

As our story begins, Colonel John Ferguson is reporting to a man called Tallman (Byron Clark) for his new position as Head of Operations at an underground installation in the American west. Conversation between the Colonel and Tallman, the highest civilian authority at the base, provides plenty of exposition.

It is an undisclosed time in the near future. The United States of America and “the United States of Europe” have been joined into one big political entity known as the New Roman Empire. In fact, Colonel Ferguson and his men refer to “Rome” as the nation they serve. Continue reading

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REVIEW OF GULLIVAR JONES ON MARS (1905): PART TWO

GULLIVAR JONES ON MARS (1905) – Written by Edwin L Arnold. In Part One of this review I explored this novel’s alternate titles and its cult reputation, plus the controversy which used to rage over whether or not Edgar Rice Burroughs may have read this work and gained inspiration for certain elements of his John Carter of Mars series. I also dealt with the end of that controversy when it became better known that BOTH Arnold and Burroughs may have been inspired by Gustavus Pope’s 1894 novel Journey to Mars.

Here in Part Two is the review proper, including revisions I would have made to Edwin Arnold’s incredibly flawed story. 

Gullivar and woman he with back to usGullivar Jones on Mars starts out in the late 1860s or early 1870s with U.S. Navy Lieutenant Gullivar Jones, a veteran of the Union forces in the Civil War, in New York City on shore leave. He comes into possession of a Turkish rug with unexplained mystical powers. While standing on the unrolled rug he wishes he was on Mars and the flying carpet transports him there. (?)

REVISION: I would keep all of Gullivar Jones’ background info the same, but instead of the Turkish rug I would have him be one of many New Yorkers drawn to a strange spacecraft which lands near the docks. The daring Jones would climb into the remote-controlled vessel, which would trap him inside, sedate him with gas and then fly off back to Mars. Continue reading

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GULLIVAR JONES ON MARS (1905) – ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

Gulliver Jones on MarsGULLIVAR JONES ON MARS (1905) – Written by Edwin L Arnold, this novel was originally published under the title Lieut. Gullivar Jones: His Vacation. Years later, with the spelling of the lead character’s first name altered, it was published as Gulliver of Mars. Over the years it was revived under a variety of titles. I’m using the title that I prefer – Gullivar Jones On Mars.   

This will be a simultaneous review and a running tally of the revisions I would have made to the story. This very oddly written novel BEGS to be rewritten because of the long line of self-defeating creative choices that Edwin L Arnold made throughout the tale.

Gullivar Jones black and whiteIf Arnold had written this story decades later it could have been said that he was intentionally subverting the tropes of heroic sword & science epics. Unfortunately, this novel instead seems to be the victim of ineptitude on the author’s part.

Like when you’re watching a bad movie, a reader’s jaw drops at the way Arnold never failed to let a brilliant concept die on the vine, or the way he repeatedly sets up potentially action-packed or highly dramatic story developments only to let them culminate in unsatisfying cul de sacs or peter out into lame anticlimax. There’s almost a perverse genius to the way that the narrative constantly works against itself. Continue reading

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THE FIRST TWENTY X-MEN STORIES FROM THE 1960s

Here’s another blog post for this superhero-hungry world:

Xmen 1THE X-MEN Vol 1 #1 (September 1963)

Title: X-Men

Villain: Magneto 

Synopsis: In Upstate New York, at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, a covert institution for mutants, Professor X (Charles Xavier, PhD) gives his five students a classical education in addition to secretly training them on the use of their mutant powers.

Magneto, a powerful mutant villain, uses his massive magnetic powers to seize Cape Citadel military base in the U.S. He issues public threats to Homo Sapiens about the growing numbers of mutants, or Homo Superior, being born each year.

Assuming normal humans will hound them to extinction out of fear, he is pre-emptively declaring war on humanity in the name of mutant kind, with the seizure of Cape Citadel the opening action of that war.

NOTE: Despite later retcons to Magneto’s personality, in these early appearances his thoughts make it clear he is just using his claims of “protecting” mutants as the excuse to realize his ambition to take over the world.

Professor X, saddened that humanity’s First Contact with the mutants among them is a hostile encounter, sends his X-Men to drive Magneto out of Cape Citadel. Continue reading

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NINE PLANETS WHICH MIGHT SUPPORT HUMAN LIFE

DuneAs regular readers of Balladeer’s Blog know, I’ve always been a Dune guy and prefer the universe of that book series to either Star Trek or Star Wars, both of which franchises owe a lot to Dune (1965). 

With the latest (likely) screwup of Frank Herbert’s possibly unfilmable novel coming up soon here’s another Dune-related topic. Herbert’s original tale is set around 20,000 years in the future (10,191 years after the establishment of the Guild System). By that time period humans have colonized plenty of Earth-like planets, so the recent discovery of exo-planets which MIGHT be habitable for humans can’t help but intrigue the Dune Fan in all of us.

To subscribe to this YT channel click HERE but for their look at Nine Earth-like Planets see below: 

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PULP HERO G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES: STORIES THIRTY-ONE THROUGH THIRTY-THREE

Wings of SatanBalladeer’s Blog resumes its examination of the neglected Pulp Hero G-8.

This continues a story-by- story look at the adventures of this World War One American fighter pilot who – along with his two wingmen the Battle Aces – took on various supernatural and super- scientific menaces thrown at the Allied Powers by the Central Powers of Germany, Austria- Hungary and the Ottoman Muslim Turks.

Scourge of t he Sky Beast31. SCOURGE OF THE SKY BEAST (April 1936) – Doktor Krueger returns yet again! This time the little fiend is reworking a super-scientific menace that he used against the Allied Powers in the very first G-8 adventure, The Bat Staffel. The plane-sized giant bats are back in action but this time are improved to the point where they may be impossible for Allied pilots to overcome. Continue reading

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NOVELTY PRESS SUPERHERO PANTHEON

You demanded more superheroes, you got ’em! Here is Balladeer’s Blog’s look at the neglected figures from Novelty Press.

TWISTER

Secret Identity: Bob Sanders

First Appearance: Blue Bolt Comics Vol 2 #1 (June 1941)

Origin: After getting carried up into the funnel of a tornado which killed his parents, teenager Bob Sanders learned he had somehow (you know comic books) acquired tornado powers. He donned a costume and fought crime as the superhero called Twister.

Twister 2Powers: Twister could spin around so quickly that he could generate, control and become part of a tornado strong enough to send cars and trucks flying. By punching villains while spinning around he could k-o them through walls. In addition, by breathing in a lungful of air, this hero could exhale it as gale force winds.

Somehow, Twister’s powers enabled him to construct and use a Cyclone Gun which shot intensely powerful bursts of air.   

Comment: At one point a Twister story tried justifying this hero’s powers by saying he was a direct descendant of Odysseus. But all Odysseus did was temporarily control the winds in a bag as a gift from the god Aeolus. Why didn’t they say Twister was descended from Aeolus instead?

White StreakWHITE STREAK

Secret Identity: Manowar/ Dan Sanders

First Appearance: Target Comics #1 (February 1940)

Origin: Manowar, called White Streak by the media, was an android left behind by the lost civilization of Utopia thousands of years ago. The Utopians destroyed themselves with war so they left their super-powered android in suspended animation to come to the aid of the next civilization if war caused by greed again threatened destruction.

White Streak picWhen the South American dictator Don Ruizen of Bolita went to war with his neighboring countries over oil, the Utopian robot Manowar activated itself in the volcano where it was hidden. After defeating the armies of the warmongering Don Ruizen, the android moved to America, from then on battling the forces of evil as White Streak.

Powers: White Streak had superhuman strength, invulnerability, the power of flight and could shoot rays of white energy from his eyes. That last ability prompted the press to give him his nom de guerre.

Comment: This android superhero was programmed to blend in with human beings and adopt the language and customs around him. He accomplished this so well he often used the secret identity Dan Sanders, FBI Agent.      Continue reading

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NAVIS AERIA (1768): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

Navis AeriaNAVIS AERIA (1768) – By Bernardo Zamagna. Written in 1768 Navis Aeria (“Ship of the Air”) was the Italian Zamagna’s attempt to take concepts we of today would associate with science fiction and present them in the old, quaint format of Epic Poetry.  

The verse story detailed a flight around the world in a flying machine which was basically a sailing ship with four huge balloons around the sails and connected to a main mast. Zamagna presciently observed that one day aircraft would constitute “other Argos to carry chosen heroes” on their adventures.

The entire First Canto (Or “Canto the First” as some of the more pompous translations put it) is a poetic glorification of science, mathematics and what we now call aeronautics. As poetry it’s as lame as poetry by the Wright Brothers might have been but as a very early work of science fiction that opening Canto is very moving and ground-breaking, especially the end which excitedly predicts vessels that will one day take human beings to the moon.
Continue reading

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THE INCUBATED GIRL (1896): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

Incubated GirlTHE INCUBATED GIRL (1896) – Written by F.T. Jane, as in THE Jane who originated the Jane’s Guides. 

It would be overly glib to describe this novel as just a sci-fi version of Alraune because it definitely goes in some unexpected directions. Plus Alraune itself borrowed heavily from Homunculus, Mandrake and Mandragore folklore. There’s a touch of The Great God Pan as well. 

The Incubated Girl begins with British Egyptologist Blackburn Zadara discovering an ancient coffin of a Priest of Isis. There is no corpse inside but rather a manuscript and assorted chemical concoctions. Zadara returns to England with the discovery and translates the manuscript – it is a guide to creating human life by using the chemical substances that were buried with the manuscript.

Blackburn closely follows the instructions and months later he invites his friend Meredyth Wilson Sr over to witness the initial results of the experiment. Wilson watches as Zadara opens a large egg-shaped pod from which he removes a little baby girl.  

Blackburn Zadara names the child Stella and tells Meredyth that according to the Egyptian manuscript Stella will be supernaturally healthy and will never experience death as long as she never drinks human milk nor eats any meat.

Over the years as Stella grows, Zadara tries to create additional humanoids but those efforts always fail. The Egyptologist has been using specifically deaf-mute servants to attend to Stella to limit involved interaction with other humans.

By her 18th year Stella is beautiful and highly intelligent but is as selfish as a newborn and enjoys enacting revenge against anyone who gets on her bad side. Blackburn takes the incubated girl to London with him, but she abandons him there, since she finds him ugly and unpleasant. Continue reading

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THE FIRST TWENTY HULK STORIES FROM THE 1960s

I could never do enough superhero posts to keep up with the demand! Here is another one combining my Top Twenty for 2020 theme – the first 20 Incredible Hulk stories from the 1960s.

Hulk 1THE INCREDIBLE HULK Vol 1 #1 (May 1962)

Title: The Hulk

Villain: The Gargoyle (Yuri Topolov)

Synopsis: In the desert far outside Desert Base in the American Southwest, Dr Bruce Banner’s creation – the first Gamma Radiation Bomb – is being tested. General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross keeps leaning on Bruce to hurry with his preparations while his daughter, Bruce’s girlfriend Betty Ross, tries to calm him down. 

mascot sword and gun picShortly before the bomb can be set off, Banner sees through his binoculars that a teenager (Rick Jones) has driven into the dangerous area on a dare. He tells his assistant Igor Drenkov to halt the countdown but Drenkov, a Soviet Agent, spitefully decides not to. Bruce gets Rick Jones to a bunker just in time but is caught in the Gamma Bomb’s explosion himself.

Rick gets Banner back to Desert Base where they pretend Bruce also got to the bunker in time since Bruce doesn’t trust others to study the Gamma Radiation’s effect on him. That night Dr Banner transforms into a huge, hate-filled gray (yes, gray) monster. Continue reading

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