Tag Archives: Weirdness at the End of the World

ROLLER BLADE (1986): POST-APOCALYPSE PAP

roller bladeROLLER 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“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. 

Our characters:

Mother SpeedMOTHER 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

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IDAHO TRANSFER (1973): MOVIE REVIEW

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

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THE SCARLET PLAGUE (1912): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

scarlet plagueTHE SCARLET PLAGUE (1912) – Written by THE Jack London. Years ago Balladeer’s Blog reviewed London’s mad scientist horror tale A Thousand Deaths, now I’ll examine The Scarlet Plague, London’s post-apocalypse plague story set in the year 2073.

              Jack London opens up this novella with a grim look at what life is like in the aftermath of the Scarlet Plague which swept the planet in the year 2013. Many recent reviews of this book focus purely on the disease angle because of the world’s ongoing Covid experience, but I think they overlook a lot of London’s political and class commentary. 

I’ll take a look at the way in which London presented the pre-plague America of 2013 as a dystopia even before the first victim of the Scarlet Plague passed away. The elderly survivor recounting the tale to his grandchildren in 2073 doesn’t describe it that way because he was in a privileged class as an “educator”.

scarlet plague 2James Howard Smith is that elderly survivor in a world returned largely to hunting and gathering. He is cared for by his three grandsons, Edwin and two others whose absurd names probably contribute to keeping The Scarlet Plague so underappreciated – Hoo-Hoo and Harelip. (?) They get by as well as they can in northern California, raising dogs to help them herd the goats that they raise for meat and milk, and relying on the ocean for much of the rest of their food supply. Primitive weapons like bows and arrows are all they have on hand to use against wild bears and other menaces. Continue reading

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EMPIRE OF ASH WEDNESDAY – MOVIE REVIEW

After a terrific Fat Tuesday it’s time for Ash Wednesday … as in Empire of Ash, the awful series of post-apocalypse movies. From Canada! Brave the Canuckalypse with me! 

Empire of AshEMPIRE OF ASH (1988) – Also released as Maniac Warriors, this post-apocalypse movie is, as you would expect, another of the 1980s’ countless imitators of The Road Warrior. In Empire of Ash our year is 2050 and our main location is an American settlement called New Idaho, with Canadian forests passing for the post-holocaust world. All cities have become uninhabitable so survivalists scrape by in woodland communities.

The plague that destroyed civilization is a blood disease and it continues to be one of the biggest threats, along with the usual mutants and rampaging, gun-wielding gangs. There are some scattered scientists trying to come up with a cure for the blood disease but there are also evil sufferers of the disease who prey upon the unafflicted by consuming their blood and bone marrow to survive a little bit longer.

The disease-ridden have been organized into a bizarre religion and they consider the plague to be God’s vengeance, just like AIDS was being called by assorted zealots at this point in the 80s. The religion and government are run by a preacher called the Great Shepherd (Frank Wilson). Before draining the blood and marrow of “pure-bloods” they baptize them as human sacrifices.  Continue reading

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KILLRAVEN: CHAPTER LINKS

Reader Daniel Kibblesmith reminded Balladeer’s Blog that I had not followed up my reviews and revisions of the original Killraven stories (1973-1976) at Marvel Comics with my usual collection of links in one handy blog post. Here we go:

Killraven 1WAR OF THE WORLDS – Jonathan Raven, rechristened Killraven in the gladiatorial circuit of Earth’s alien conquerors of the “future,” leads a group of Freemen in an attempt to retake the planet. CLICK HERE   

THE SIRENS OF SEVENTH AVENUE – After learning the truth about Earth’s alien conquerors AND about his possession of “The Power” (a pre-Star Wars variation of the Force), Killraven leads his Freemen against genetically modified women called Sirens as well as against assorted other post-apocalyptic threats. CLICK HERE

Killraven WarlordTHE WARLORD STRIKES – On the run after the destruction of their Staten Island rebel colony, Killraven and his Freemen run afoul of the Warlord, a human quisling who has wanted revenge against the rebel leader ever since he escaped from the gladiatorial pens. CLICK HERE 

THE MUTANT SLAYERS – The Freemen are joined by scientist Carmilla Frost and her monstrous creation Grok as they battle the Warlord and an assortment of mutated Earth creatures and deadly beasts from the aliens’ home planet. CLICK HERE  Continue reading

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KILLRAVEN TWENTY-NINE: THE END – K.R., SABRE AND AN EXPLOITATION OF EVERYTHING DEAR

FOR PART ONE OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF THIS OLD, OLD MARVEL COMICS STORYLINE CLICK HERE  The revisions I would make are scattered throughout the synopsis below. 

Killraven cornerKILLRAVEN: THE END

My final Killraven post will look at the last few story elements that writer Don McGregor transferred from KR’s canceled Marvel series over to his independent Sabre series at Eclipse Comics. For my detailed look at how McGregor used many Killraven elements in the 1978 Sabre graphic novel click HERE .

Regular readers know I give Don McGregor a lot of praise for his work on Panther’s Rage and on the Killraven stories at Marvel, at least until his half-assed, rushed and unsatisfying KR graphic novel in 1983 (see previous installment). Unfortunately the 1983-1985 Sabre series at Eclipse Comics represented McGregor’s writing at its worst.

With hindsight we readers can see that, back at Marvel, the editors clearly reined in Don’s tendency toward self-indulgent and pretentious rambling. Over at Eclipse there were no such constraints on him, making the 1983-1985 Sabre stories unbearable to read. The series went from bi-monthly to quarterly to “whenever” and was mercifully axed with its 14th issue.

Sabre 5This final Killraven installment will deal with just two issues of Sabre. One that reflects what KR and his band of Freemen would have faced had they reached their Yellowstone Park destination before their 1973-1976 series was canceled, and one that reflects another adventure that the rebellious Freemen might have faced on their long odyssey to Yellowstone.

A. AN EXPLOITATION OF EVERYTHING DEAR – Part Two (March 1983)

As the overall title for this Sabre story would indicate, any sense of subtlety was now beyond Don McGregor. If further proof is needed, the main villain in this tale is named Joyful Slaughter. Seriously.       Continue reading

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KILLRAVEN TWENTY-EIGHT: LET IT DIE LIKE IT’S THE FOURTH OF JULY

FOR PART ONE OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF THIS OLD, OLD MARVEL COMICS STORYLINE CLICK HERE  The revisions I would make are scattered throughout the synopsis below.

Killraven in his glory daysKILLRAVEN GRAPHIC NOVEL (1983)

Chapter Four: Let It Die Like It’s The Fourth Of July

SYNOPSIS: February, 2020, or 37 years in the future, like it would have been to readers in 1983. Killraven and his Freemen continue their guerilla war against Earth’s alien conquerors.

Their current target, as this four-chapter story comes to a close, is Cape Canaveral. The site has been upgraded with alien tech and serves as both a fortress for the aliens and as a hub of the High Overlord’s Project Regenesis. The High Overlord himself is currently inside the Cape personally overseeing the final stages of this project.

With him is Keeper Saunders, the human quisling who separated Killraven (Jonathan Raven) from his brother Joshua Raven when they were children.     Continue reading

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KILLRAVEN TWENTY-SEVEN: BLOOD AND PASSION

FOR PART ONE OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF THIS OLD, OLD MARVEL COMICS STORYLINE CLICK HERE  The revisions I would make are scattered throughout the synopsis below.

Killraven 2KILLRAVEN GRAPHIC NOVEL (1983) 

Chapter Three: BLOOD AND PASSION

SYNOPSIS: February, 37 years in the future. Killraven and his Freemen continue their guerilla uprising against Earth’s alien conquerors. We left off last time with Killraven, M’Shulla, Old Skull, Carmilla Frost and their new ally Jenette approaching the alien-upgraded Cape Canaveral. Their mission is to inflict enough damage to thwart the High Overlord’s Project Regenesis.

REVISION: My usual revisions would apply – Deathlok, my substitute for Grok, would still be one of the Freemen, as would Didymus, the two-headed, four-armed, androgynous being who was my substitute for Huey and Louie. Plus the pre-invasion astronaut Jenette Miller would instead be McGregor’s Melissa Siren, newly-returned to Earth after a decades-long chryo-sleep mission in space and horrified to find Earth in the clutches of alien dictators who feed on human flesh.

On their way to the Cape Canaveral fortress of the aliens, Don McGregor’s slapdash writing showed again since he had one foot out the door to move on to his new Sabre series over at Eclipse Comics. Carmilla Frost, the scientist of the group, chose that moment to tell M’Shulla she was pregnant with his child.

While the pair engaged in bland Soap Opera dialogue on the subject, Old Skull, Killraven and the enamored Jenette encountered a moustachioed man being attacked by a bland menace: a larger-than normal wolf. Yes, after all the inventive creatures and villains the Freemen had fought in the original series we’re stuck with a lame large wolf, since McGregor was clearly saving his best ideas for Sabre at this point.  Continue reading

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KILLRAVEN TWENTY-FIVE: THE 1983 GRAPHIC NOVEL

FOR PART ONE OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF THIS OLD, OLD MARVEL COMICS STORYLINE CLICK HERE  The revisions I would make are scattered throughout the synopsis below.

Killraven in his glory daysKILLRAVEN: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL (1983) – Killraven and his Freemen continued their guerilla war against Earth’s alien conquerors. In the 7th of its official line of graphic novels, Marvel Comics let writer Don McGregor and artist Craig Russell wrap up some of the storylines left dangling by the cancellation of the 1973-1976 series of Killraven stories. In the previous post I detailed how McGregor had, in the meantime, transferred many of the Killraven story elements and time period to his independent 1978 graphic novel Sabre.

In the meantime Eclipse Comics had signed McGregor to write a regularly published Sabre comic book series. In late 1982 the original black & white graphic novel was colorized and reprinted in serialized form in the first few issues of the new Sabre series. Unfortunately for Killraven fans that immediately made our red-headed rebel leader into the proverbial red-headed step-child among McGregor’s works.  

Understandably – and fairly obviously – Don McGregor was already saving up his best ideas for his own Sabre title, reducing this last chance for closure on the Killraven saga to a rushed, mundane, unsatisfying mess devoid of much of what had made the original series worthwhile. Even the dialogue, despite a few flashes of the old KR style here and there, was lackluster and pedestrian.    

Killraven and his Freemen seemed like pale imitations being handled by a fill-in writer as Don McGregor virtually Rian Johnson’ed his own characters. I’ll examine that in detail as we move along, but first let’s look at some of the changes necessitated by real-world events in the years between 1976 and 1983.

Killraven 2*** First, through no fault of Don McGregor or the original Killraven artists, Darth Vader became a huge pop culture figure in 1977. KR’s main alien villain, the High Overlord (introduced in 1974), had worn full-body armor and a Japanese feudal helmet like the kind Darth Vader went on to wear in Star Wars. Obviously, Star Wars was so much better known than the canceled Killraven series that this 1983 graphic novel dropped the helmet for the High Overlord to avoid looking like their villain was a ripoff of Vader, despite the fact that the High Overlord predated Star Wars

              That alteration to the look of the High Overlord was far from fatal, but became another of the distracting elements undermining this continuation of the KR story. Those other elements: Continue reading

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KILLRAVEN TWENTY-FOUR: KR, SABRE AND “SLOW FADE OF AN ENDANGERED SPECIES”

FOR PART ONE OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF THIS OLD, OLD MARVEL COMICS STORYLINE CLICK HERE  The revisions I would make are scattered throughout the synopsis below.

Killraven cornerIt’s no secret that when the original 1973-1976 run of the Killraven series was canceled, writer Don McGregor transferred many of the story elements he had set up for Killraven over to his independent post-apocalypse comic book Sabre

The original, self-contained Sabre volume came out in 1978, the same year as Will Eisner’s pioneering graphic novel A Contract With God. That format would find expanded life in recent years as independent comic book geniuses like Ethan Van Sciver, Richard C Meyer and Jon Malin would use it to pursue their creative vision outside the toxic corporate environment of the Big Two comic book publishers.

Sabre was hyped under the description “It’s the kind of comic novel you’d choose … If they GAVE you a choice.” That is definitely in the spirit of maverick publications like Jawbreakers, Cyber Frog and Graveyard Shift, the amazing creations of Van Sciver, Meyer and Malin. (NOT a law firm.)  

Sabre 1978 coverThe original Sabre graphic novel was in black & white to accommodate its graphic violence, sexual themes and its female toplessness. When McGregor brought back the character Sabre in a continuing, full-color comic book series at Eclipse Comics in late 1982 the original Sabre tale became more popularly known by its subtitle Slow Fade of an Endangered Species. Human beings were that endangered species, of course.

Before I review McGregor’s Killraven graphic novel from 1983 I must first examine the 1978 Sabre story since – in altered form – it continued and in some cases resolved assorted subplots set up in the 1973-1976 run of Killraven stories.

Let’s have fun with it:

Sabre pics*** Killraven wielded a sword, a photo-nuclear pistol and explosive throwing-stars along with his possession of The Power, a pre-Star Wars (as in 1973) version of The Force.

*** Sabre wielded a sword and a “flintlock laser” – a futuristic example of a trend toward exploiting nostalgia by packaging high-tech weaponry in old-fashioned, even historical, casings.  

*** Killraven’s 1973-1976 series saw him leading his Freemen in a guerilla war against Earth’s alien conquerors. That series ended with KR and company in Florida in the year 2020 (which was 44 years in the future at the time).

*** Sabre’s 1978 graphic novel began in Florida in the year 2020. He was rebelling against an authoritarian regime which had risen to power in the aftermath of a global apocalypse caused by poverty, famine, disease, nuclear accidents and periodic terrorist attacks.        Continue reading

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