Post Apocalypse I

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I loved Mad Max II. It is the film I have watched the most. I first caught a glimpse of its power when Barry Norman reviewed the film on his end of year ‘Film 82’ programme. It showed a fantastic action sequence of Lord Humungus and his marauders attacking the commune / oil refinery. This will not mean much to you if you haven’t seen it, but trust me, this film is a classic action movie and I cannot recommend it highly enough. There is a fine article on Mad Max 2 here;

I got to watch it one bright summers afternoon the following year. Part western, part exploitation film, part science fiction epic, Mad Max 2 captured many imaginations, including mine, and the summer of 1983 was spent creating my own version of the story in comic strip form. I called the main hero Uruz, and he had a mohican and wandered around a post apocalypse desert. It was probably shit, but I wish I knew where all the reams of A4, blue and black biro were now so I could have a look through to be sure. I remember lots of deaths, explosions and customised cars. Funnily enough, there were a few italian film directors who used the same formula as me to put out a few films that borrowed (heavily) from Mad Max II. They appeared in the local video shops around the same time as the film they drew inspiraiton from, with fantastic cover art promising lots of post apocalyptic action – this is ‘The New Barbarians’;

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aka ‘Warriors Of The Wasteland’

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and it blatantly steals from Mad Max II. Check it out;

made in 1982 and directed by Enzo G. Castellari, it’s central plot is that, in 2019, after a nuclear war, humanity is reduced to a starving remnant. A ruthless gang called “The Templars” ravages settlers in an attempt to exterminate what is left of the human race in order to purge the Earth. A former Templar, Scorpion, along with his allies, attempts to prevent the death of a small band of religious colonists at the hands of the Templars.

It’s a poor version of the Mad Max tale to be honest, but fun in a way beacuase it’s quite camp and trashy, and the low budget shows.

There’s a review here;

Who Dares Wins II

Thinking about my recent post concerning the SAS & Lewis Collins, and googling for a nice picture of that actor in ‘Who Dares Wins’, led me to a game I had forgotten about, but was one of my favourites in the days of owning an Amstrad CPC464.

‘Who Dares Wins 2’ by Alligata, was one of several homages to the seminal ‘Commando’ arcade game (from 1985). It was released in 1986, and was faithful to the gameplay of ‘Commando’, as in its a vertical scrolling shoot-em-up. The CPC64 was the poor relation to the Spectrum and C64 in terms of quality games, and this was one of the better arcade-style games in my opinion. You could probably get it on emulation, but it probably wouldnt be worth the bother, especially when you can get the Commando arcade original on several platforms, including emulation. Alligata, as I recall, released a Defender ‘homage’ for the CPC464, called ‘Defend Or Die’, which really cant be any more explicit about what the game has been ‘influenced’ by.

By the way, if you are interested, there is some more stuff about ‘Who Dares Wins 2’, and lots of other Amstrad games, here;

CPC Zone – Amstrad fan site

Here is a newsflash

One of the most frightening experiences of my life occured on the 5th of January, 1981. A cold Sunday evening (around 6pm). I could feel the cold air coming in from under the doors. I was in the house on my own, because we lived next door to my gran, and the rest of the family were there. I was listening to the Top 40 on the radio, but had the telly on as well (they call it multi tasking nowadays). Suddenly, on the telly came the stark blue background and gold letters stating in no uncertain terms this was an ITN News Flash.

I dont know about you, but I still had a problem with the dark when I was 10. Going upstairs with just the landing light on, on my own, facing the ‘unknown’ terrors that lurked in your own house. It was a trial every time I needed to go up there. Winter was worse, of course, as the dark settled in so much earlier. I had an overactive imagination. I used to make my younger brother go with me if I needed to make that trip upstairs. I didn’t always reciprocate, forcing him upstairs then doing something evil like turning off the landing light, or making ‘ghost’ noises from the comfort of the bottom of the stairs. Even being downstairs, if the landing light wasnt on, and the door leading to the stairs was ajar, and dark, then this was enough to send me into a bit of a state. What terrors lurked beyond that thin piece of wood???

Back to the Sunday evening. I was in the front room when the newsflash came on. This was enough to concern me. The fact I was in the house on my own ratcheted up the anxiety. Factor in it was January, early evening, so it was DARK. This was getting worse by the second. Add into the mix the fact that the DOOR leading to the tiny hallway that took you UP THE STAIRS was AJAR. Also, THE LANDING LIGHT WAS NOT ON. I was staring, through that crack that seperated me from the terrors beyond the hall, into the cold dark heart of my fears.

Then it got worse, and this is why it still makes me go cold thinking about it to this day.

The stark newsflash ident* disappeared to be replaced by a screen showing photos of the victims of the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe. This montage of victims photos was seen quite frequently on the news, and the immediate reaction was that something ‘bad’ had happened.

However, nothing ‘bad’ had happened. The newsflash was reporting that Peter Sutcliffe had been charged with the murders. What had happened that was ‘bad’ was my mind had been overloaded with dark thoughts. I was in the house on my own, it was dark UPSTAIRS, there had been a NEWSFLASH and then ITN made me look at faces of people who had been murdered. I was rigid with fear, staring at the black strip beyond the door that led to the hall, imagining Peter Sutcliffe or some other killer/ghoul/bogeyman advancing down the stairs.

I made a 2 second dash to the front door and through to my grans house. I never beat that time. It felt like my body had been charged with electricity.

Nowadays if my children say they are scared of going upstairs, I listen and I understand. I don’t turn off the landing light.

* ident being the way the television station identifies itself or the programming schedule – see;

He Who Dares, Rodney

Another May Day Bank Holiday has come and gone. Didn’t do a lot, to be honest, but it got me thinking again about May 5th, 1980. That was a Bank Holiday Monday. It was also the day the Iranian Embassy siege came to its bloody end, and the Special Air Service (SAS) became etched into the British Public consciousness. The fantastic BBC website covers the story with its usual style and grace;

BBC websites account of the siege

My memories of the end of the siege are still quite vivid. This was pre-24 hour rolling news coverage, so an ITN newsflash (which always interrupted the usual/mundane programming with its harsh blue background announcing ‘News Flash’) was an event, and enough to fill young boys with excitement and dread. The footage of the SAS going in to the embassy accompanied by bangs, flashes, smoke and gunfire was watched by my family accompanied by ice creams all round, as the ice cream van man was a nightly occurence, and an event in itself. Obviously I dont want to trivialise the bravery of the SAS or the seriousness of the siege (the hostage takers killing a hostage had initiated the SAS response), but the rum and raisin cornetto I was eating that night added to the cinematic atmosphere. It was very exciting.

After that night of heroics, the SAS were (reluctantly) all over the media. Not much was known about them, and the surface was only really scratched on who they were, what they did etc. Inevitably, a film was made about the SAS, loosely based on the Iranian Embassy Siege. Released in 1982, ‘Who Dares Wins’ told the story of a commando with the SAS who infiltrates a radical political group who are planning a terrorist operation against American dignitaries. Lewis Collins plays the lead role, and equips himself well enough (he’ll always have a store of goodwill for his part in ‘The Professionals’. The movie climaxes with the SAS taking out the hostages and rescuing the hostages, with the action based on the events of May 1980.

Lewis Collins. I found out that he was also in a 60’s group with Klaus Voorman, who was one of the Beatles mates and designed the cover of ‘Revolver’ for them;

Lewis Collins at IMDB

I think he should be geting the same amount of respect (and work) as his buddy in The Professionals, Martin Shaw, but he doesn’t. Maybe it was the wrong career moves (he ended up in Italy in the mid eighties making classic video trash like Commanddo Leopard & Operation Wild Geese).

The theme tune was composed by Roy Budd, a Brtish composer probably most famous for the soundtrack to ‘Get Carter’. The theme to It is a fast, furious, funky number, and a credit to the composer, and, in my opinion, a lot better than the film. See what you think.

Roy Budd – Who Dares Wins Theme

Every Day Of The Week

We should be getting the final few episodes of The Sopranos sometime over the next few months. As it is something I have been watching avidly since the turn of the century, I have mixed emotions about the fact. Its a bit like when you get a huge book on holiday that is really good and you really don’t want it to end, and when it does you wish there were a couple of hundred more pages that could appear NOW so you can continue….

The end of The Sopranos. How exactly will it end? I don’t even want to think about it. There are going to be some deaths for sure. Now, one of the (many) wonderful things about the show is how they use music. I remember the opening shots of the second season, where we catch up with the activities of Tony Soprano and his ‘families’ – all set to the music of Frank Sinatra singing “It Was A Very Good Year”. I thought that was fabulous and went out the next day to purchase my one and only Frank Sinatra album, “The September Of My Years”.

At the end of an episode from the first half of this last season (episode no.70 overall) “Mr. & Mrs. John Sacrimoni Request”, there is a vibrant doo-wop number running over the closing credits. Its all the more startling as the episode has just ended with Tony Soprano beating one of his gang members, and then going to the toilet to vomit from the exertion of it. The song is called ‘Every Day Of The Week’ by The Students. I love the song. It’s also good to know that Julian Cope loves the song too;

So there you have it. I think Julian Cope writes like a poet, and I applaud his taste in doo-wop, which tends to be marginalised nowadays, yet has some of the most life affirming elements of r&b and rock & roll, and has produced some outstanding, timeless tracks (‘Why Do Fools Fall In Love’, ‘In The Still Of The Night’). I hope you will agree that this piece of music is amongst the best doo-wop. It reminds me of being young and happy.

The Students – Every Day Of The Week (you need real player to play it)

Action – The Seven Penny Nightmare

A few posts back, I mentioned Action comic, and a fantastic site dedicated to keeping its memory alive;

I have had another look around the site and I have got to tell you that it is a work of dedication and well worth your time in looking at it if you have any interest in comics, or censorship. The Action story, as opposed to the comic strips themselves, is a fascinating and disturbing tale, redolent of the EC comics witch hunt of the 1950’s (and for more on that);

Basically (and this is a very short summary of a tale better told on the sevenpenny nightmare site) Action comic challenged the establishment in a way that no other mainstream British comic has ever done. It was full of bloody, brutal stories, based on popular themes of the time (Great White Sharks, futuristic death sports, tough crime stories). The level of graphic detail that these stories carried proved to be its undoing, and pressure mounted on those responsible for the comic to cut down on what was making it so popular.

As a child of the 70’s, I collected Action from its first issue, and for quite a few months after that. My favourite story was ‘Hook Jaw’ as I was fascinated and scared by ‘Jaws’ which was on at the cinemas at the time, even though I had never actually seen the movie. I would look at the cinema listings in our local paper to see the poster of Jaws shrunk to the size of a large postage stamp, that swimmer still unknowing of her fate – and it scared me stupid. It was given an ‘A’ rating (which is the equivalent of todays PG rating) but I couldnt get my head round how something so obviously terrifying would be okay for a kid of my age to see. When I did finally watch it, in 1982 when ITV premiered it on UK television, I was palpitating and shaking and sweating all the way through. I don’t think any other film has gripped me like that.

The poster for Jaws still manages to break me out in a shiver. I had that up on my bedroom wall in 1976, even had a t-shirt of the image. I would stare at it, looking at the sharks rows of teeth, never quite working out if they were all teeth, or if there were a few fish stuck in there as well. It’s the helplessness of the situation that makes you ill at ease – what you are seeing is a depiction of the impending death of a human by a shark attack. A big shark at that. I don’t know if there are many other movie posters that are so explicitly tell you that something very bad is about to happen. Fantastic poster and a classic film.

Back to the comic – the most vivid memory I have of Action is the partworks poster they gave of hook jaw, over several issues. I remember assembling it in my back garden, weighing the corners down with stones, and getting the full glory of the artwork;

it nearly blew my primary school mind. What the Jaws movie poster hinted at, the hook jaw poster gave unedited – a bloody, vicious shark attack.

That was what Action was all about, it was violent, gory, brutal and frightening. It was also the forerunner of 2000AD, which was the success story IPC magazines could have had with Action, if they had had the cojones to field the flak….

Anyway, check out the sevenpennynightmare site – it does a much better job at celebrating the anarchy and creativity of Action.

Massimo Bellardinelli 1938 – 2007

Just found out that Massimo Bellardinelli, possibly the greatest 2000AD artist (Ace Trucking Co, Meltdown Man, Mean Team, Slaine etc) died a couple of months ago. He had not worked on the comic for nearly twenty years, so the fact he is still so fondly remembered is testament to his unique, beautiful style.

There’s a tribute from Pat Mills;

Tribute to Bellardinelli