Saturday, September 27, 2008

Soldier - The Outer Limits

While clearing out some of my old VHS tapes, I ran across my favorite episode from the original Outer Limits TV series: Soldier. I watched this outstanding hour-long show when it was originally broadcast on September 19, 1964. It is unforgettable. Written by Harlan Ellison, the tale begins in the far future when the Earth is a desolate, war-torn planet. A soldier in battle helmet, armed with a distintegrator rifle, pauses for a smoke break. But not for long. His helmet starts issuing audio commands: "Find the Enemy! Attack! Kill!" Not far away is another soldier-of-the-future in similar armor, and in minutes the two adversaries are charging toward each other. But as they collide, two artillery-like energy beams cross at their exact location, throwing both troopers into a time warp that transports them back to 1964. The first soldier reappears in a back alley of some large American metropolitan area, and he soon draws attention from startled passersby. Then the police arrive and start to advance towards him. He raises his blaster rifle and vaporizes their police car with a single shot.

Finally taken prisoner and sequestered in a government holding facility, the rest of the tale shows how the puzzled officials interrogate and, finally, correctly identify just what the dangerous visitor is: the ultimate infantry soldier.

The second soldier remains trapped in the time-warp flux, unable to free himself until much later in the story. But when he does, the mission imperative remains: "Find the Enemy! Attack! Kill!"

Michael Ansara played the role of the first soldier from the future, Qarlo Cobregnny, and was well known to TV audiences in 1964 from the western TV series Broken Arrow, in which he starred as the stoic Apache Indian chief Cochise.

Soldier is filled with wonderful science-fiction details like self-igniting cigarettes, reports that Qarlo's disintegrator rifle continues to function even when parts are removed from it (advanced quantum physics?), and Qarlo attempting to verbally report to a pet cat because felines are used as recon scouts on the battlefields of the future. It is a one of the earliest and finest examples of military science fiction to appear on TV, in glorious black-and-white.

A bit of trivia: Qarlo's battle helmet would reappear 14 years later, worn by Robin Williams in the goofy 1978 TV comedy series Mork & Mindy! Fact is, in 1964 I had a toy helmet similar to Qarlo's: the now-rare Monkey Division visored helmet!

D'os Vadanya,


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Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Dark Carnival Film Festival

It’s Coming! Get Your Tickets! Don’t Miss It!
It's Ghastly! Horrors and Thrills Beyond Belief!

Bloomington’s own second annual Dark Carnival Film Festival begins next week! If you love vampires, werewolves, zombies, ghouls, ghosts, monsters, and horror films of all types, I hope you may get a chance to attend one of the greatest exhibitions of scary movies ever held in the USA.

I attended all five days of the festival last year, and enjoyed films like the superbly animated, eerie Blood Tea and Red String; the Chinese undead-vs.-chop-socky God of Vampires; cannibalistic white trash in The Blood Shed, plus much, much more. It was wonderfully horrible, and a fantastic show night after night. Emceed by Bloomington’s own Atomic Age horror-show hosts, Doctor Calamari and Baron Mardi, this event is absolutely mind-boggling. During the peak of last year’s festival my own daughter was confronted in front of the Buskirk-Chumley Theater by none other than a chainsaw-wielding Michael Myers from John Carpenter’s Halloween. But this year may be even more special because scheduled to make a guest of honor appearance is none other than Indiana’s most famous horror movie host: Sammy Terry!

I can thank my dear late father for introducing me to the horror movie genre. When Sammy Terry presented the classic Universal monster movies, Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman, Dad and I stayed up late to watch, and what fun it was. I think one of the first that we saw together was actually the finale of the Frankenstein series, Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein, which despite its lighter, comedy moments had some very frightening Wolfman scenes, including when Lon Chaney Jr. savagely shreds a living room chair in a lycanthropic frenzy as he futilely tries to attack Lou Costello!

And so my personal love of horror continues as I wait with eager anticipation for The Dark Carnival to begin. Blood will flow, women (and men!) will scream, and dark things will walk the streets of Bloomington again, and I will be one very happy guy!

D'os Vadanya ... Viktor Kuprin

The Dark Carnival Film Festival

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