Month: October 2016

Sneakers – Hellraiser III – Hell On Earth – tape 1778

It’s Halloween, and frustratingly, my blog schedule hasn’t alighted on John Carpenter’s classic horror.

That’s tomorrow.

I’m not picking and choosing the order of this blog, as regular readers will have been able to divine. The digitizing process was fairly random, pulling tapes out of the many boxes they’re stored in, and digitising them in whatever order they come out. Often, tapes are grouped together roughly from the same time period, but when I start a new box, we’ll be going backwards and forwards along the VHS timeline.

I’ve decided to write the blog entries in the same order that they came out of the boxes. There’s two reasons for this.

First, if I pick the ones I want to blog about, I’ll do all the good ones first, leaving me with hour after hour of NYPD Blue to slog through at the end, and nobody wants that, least of all me.

Second, I don’t want to waste time having to keep a separate tally of what I’ve watched and haven’t watched, and spend time for each tape deciding what to watch next. If I just go through the recordings in the same order they were digitised, I don’t have to think about it and I can just start on the next one that comes along. I don’t do well with the tyranny of choice.

This is all to explain why I almost broke my own rule, when I noticed that the tape after this one actually does have John Carpenter’s Halloween (with an Alex Cox introduction, what’s more) and it would have been perfect timing to just swap these two tapes, just this once.

But no, without arbitrary, meaningless and inviolable rules, we’re no better than animals.

That’s not to say this tape is entirely inappropriate for Halloween – later on the tape there’s an (admittedly weak) entry in Clive Barker’s horror series, Hellraiser III, but before that is something rather better, a favourite of mine.

Sneakers is Wargames for the nineties. Well, some might argue that Hackers is Wargames for the 90s, but I’m not quite as in love with that one as other people. It was way to trendy and hip for me, so I prefer the nerdiness of Sneakers.

I like the titles – with the first few names rendered as anagrams.

Sneakers opens with a black and white prologue. Two young men are doing something nefarious with their college computer. One of them bears a great resemblance to a young Robert Redford – this is excellent casting and hair styling, as he really sells it.

Young Robert Redford

They’re hacking the phone company, and when young Redford goes out to get pizza, he has a lucky escape as he sees the feds running into the building to arrest his friend.

Fast forward to present day, and the now older and wiser Redford is on some kind of mission with a team. They’re breaking into a bank. It’s a very hi-tech operation, intercepting the security guard’s, setting off a smoke bomb in a safety deposit box, cutting alarm wires.

Next day, he visits the bank and withdraws $100,000 in cash, then, rather than walking out, he takes it to the bank’s office, and delivers his report to the management as to their security vulnerabilities.

Later that day, he’s visited by two men from the NSA. One is Eddie Jones, who we saw being lovely in A League of Their Own,

Eddie Jones

He’s less lovely here.

The other is Timothy Busfield, Elliot from thirtysomething, and Danny Concannon from The West Wing, also, usually, lovely.

Timothy Busfield

They’re looking for his help, but he tells them he doesn’t work for the government. But when leaving, they show him a wanted poster for him, under his previous name, for the hack at the start.

So he reluctantly goes to see them to find out what they want his team to do.

They’re interested in a German mathematician, Gunter Janek, who’s a specialist in prime number theory and cryptography. He’s just got an enormous grant from an organisation that is a front for Russia, so the NSA guys want to know what he’s working on, He’s making a ‘little black box’ and the project is called Setec Astronomy.

He’s still not happy taking the job. They pressure him reminding him that his friend from the beginning of the film, Cosmo, got 12 years. “And we all know what happened to him inside.” Later we learn Cosmo died in prison.

So he reluctantly takes the job, and his team are unhappy that he’s been keeping secrets from them all this time.

His team is rather impressively cast. David Strathairn is Whistler, a blind man whose acute hearing helped him phreak phone companies for years.

David Strathairn

River Phoenix is a younger member of the team, who was caught (by Redford) when he hacked into his school computer to change his grades.

River Phoenix

Sidney Poitier is a former FBI man.

Sidney Poitier

Dan Aykroyd is Mother, a conspiracy nut.

Robert Redford and Dan Aykroyd

For this assignment, to see Janek lecture, he decides to ask Mary McDonnell, an old friend who doesn’t really want to return to the fold. “I have a new group of gifted children now, and I like the fact that they’re under 30.”

Mary McDonnell

Janek is lecturing about massive prime factors. McDonnell is the maths expert, and she wonders if Janek has found a shortcut to factorising large numbers used in cryptography.

They watch his office, and work out where he’s keeping his ‘little black box’ so then they have to steal it. One thing I love about this movie is how many little bits of hacking craft they get right. There’s little bits of social engineering all through the film, like when he gets a building security guard to buzz him through, even though it doesn’t have a card, just because he’s carrying cake and balloons, and Phoenix is distracting the guard with a fake delivery. It’s all quite convincing. Not that everything in the movie makes as much sense.

Like when they’re playing scrabble, and Mary McDonnell says that ‘scrunchy’ isn’t a word. But the scrabble leads to the deciphering of the true meaning of ‘Setec Astronomy’ into ‘Too Many Secrets’.

At the same time, Whistler and Mother are looking at the device inside the black box, and discover that somehow, when combined with a computer terminal, it can magically decrypt any connection. This is the bit that doesn’t particularly make a huge amount of sense, certainly not the way it’s presented, with the text on the screen warping and changing until the random characters become readable text.

But this isn’t ‘The Net’ levels of silly, and so much of the rest of the movie is smart and vaguely accurate that I’ll give it a pass.

The hacking scene is nice and tense, though. “Want to crash the federal reserve?” jokes Whistler. Then, looking at an Air Traffic Control screen, “Want to crash a couple of aircraft?” It’s a very economical way to demonstrate the immense implications of the device, and the stakes involved.

Things go awry when they hand over the device to Busfield and Jones. Poitier sees a news headline in the paper (these days he’d get a google news alert) saying Janek was dead in a suspected arson attack, and the two leave the rendezvous at haste. The office building where Redford met them had been demolished, and the NSA never had an office there. They’ve just handed over the device to an enemy power.

Redford confronts a former KGB spy he knows to see if it was him. “Your codes are entirely different from ours. We never had any luck in breaking them. Lord knows I wanted that box.” This is probably nonsense, since it doesn’t matter if both sides use precisely the same code methods, as long as the secret keys are long enough to be virtually unbreakable.

He helps Redford identify one of the fake NSA agents, but their car is stopped by the FBI, who then take Redford’s gun and use it to kill Redford’s spy friend and his driver. Then they kidnap Redford and take him for the man they work for. It’s Redford’s old friend, the formerly dead Cosmo, now all growed up and played by Ben Kingsley.

Ben Kingsley

Is that a Cray computer they’re sitting on?

Cray

I guess it’s sentimentality that makes Kingsley explain his whole plan, then let Redford go, albeit while also implicating him in the assassination of a Russian consular attache, and outing his former identity as a wanted hacker.

The team have to try to contact someone in the NSA to try to get a deal. There’s a neat (but slightly implausible) scene where they speak to someone in the NSA, and they’re running a lie detector and a reverse phone trace.

They try to work out where Redford was taken, to locate Kingsley’s headquarters. He has to remember what the journey sounded like, and with Strathairn’s help and some maps, they track him down.

So now, the mission is to get into Cosmo’s office. The security is, obviously, intense. The first task is to get into the office next to Cosmo’s. They locate the occupant, and have to get a security card and a particular pass phrase on tape. It’s up to Mary McDonnell to romance the man, the lovely Stephen Tobolowsky, and get him to say all the words in the passphrase.

Stephen Tobolowsky

There’s also the motion detectors and infra red detectors to get past which requires them to raise the office temperature to blood temperature, and move no faster than 2cm/s. It’s the slowest heist in cinema history.

They almost get away with it too. Tobolowsky twigs that somethings going on, and drags McDonnell to the office, but by this time Redford has got the box and is hiding in the roofspace, so there’s nothing incriminating.

Kingsley is about to let her go when Tobolowsky says “I won’t use computer dating again” leading Kingsley to say “A computer matched her with you? I don’t think so.”

It twists and turns, but the crew get the box back in the end, only to find the real NSA in the form of James Earl Jones, and the team get to negotiate what the NSA will give them to hand over the box.

James Earl Jones

I love this movie. It’s funny, smart (enough) and filled with great actors.

After this, something a little more suitable for Halloween, Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth. The Hellraiser movies were definitely a case of diminishing returns. The first was a lean, gory horror, helped by its low budget and prosaic Cricklewood locations. The second, written by Peter Atkins, not Clive Barker, was overblown and portentous.

This one is also written by Atkins, and the setting is now America. It opens with a smug looking man in a quiff visiting a gallery, and finding a sculpture of tortured figures. He buys it, which is a terrible idea in any Hellraiser film, as we all know that art usually ends up killing you.

Pinhead Sculpture

Terry Farrell is Joanne ‘Joey’ Summerskill, an up and coming reporter on local news, who has to do the dull stories nobody else wants. While doing a piece on an empty Emergency Room, she sees someone brought it, covered in blood, with chains trailing from him. He’s taken into surgery, but I don’t think the operation went as expected.

Unusual Procedures

Joey doesn’t have any pictures, so naturally it’s not a story, so she has to investigate it alone. Oh good, it takes her to a nightclub. I love nightclubs, they’re my favourite movie location ever.

I think that might be writer Peter Atkins as a barman. Looks a bit like him, anyway.

Peter Atkins

Joey asks him “I’m looking for a pretty girl” with no other information, and he points out where she should go. I’ve no idea what he’s saying, though. Sounds like “JP1 row, that way.” Maybe this is how people communicate in clubs? I wouldn’t know.

Further enquiries follow, Joey says “She might be JP’s girlfriend.” I don’t know if this is what the barman said, or information she had before.

This establishment also contains a fine dining restaurant, with a string quartet playing Bach. JP is the man who owns it, and he’s the smug man who bought the sculpture at the start.

He’s unhelpful to Joey, so she goes to leave.

All of a sudden we’re in a vietnam war film. A group of soldiers are shot to pieces by the enemy, a rescue helicopter flies off, and a woman (probably Joey, I find it hard to tell) dressed in a floaty white dress is shouting “Where are you going? My daddy’s still alive.”

The woman she was looking for, Paula Marshall as Terri, who accompanied the dying man into the hospital, gets in touch, and after a bit of chit chat during which the woman says she never has dreams – I wonder if that will become significant? – she shows her the thing the man stole from JP’s club. Look familiar?

The Box

Meanwhile, JP is in his Art Vault, another huge room, looking at his creepy sculpture. He notices the hole where the box was taken. He also hears movement from inside, so naturally, he sticks his hand in there. He’s bitten by a rat, spraying a bit of blood on the sculpture, another bad thing in the Hellraiser world.

Joey and Terri go hunting for clues at the place where JP bought the sculpture, and find a lot of information about the Channard Institute. This was Kenneth Cranham’s hospital in the second Hellraiser film. We see pictures of Ashley Laurence, original star of Hellraiser, as well as Doug Bradley, the man behind Pinhead, in his human days.

Doug Bradley

She also gets a tape from the Channard Archive, of Laurence explaining about the puzzle box.

JP does some sex in front of the sculpture, then is horrible to the girl, then the sculpture treats her even worse, firing chains out, ripping her entire skin off, then absorbing her. The Pinhead embedded in the sculpture is starting to get more chatty with JP, obviously recognising a kindred spirit.

JP calls Terri, and invites her back to his place, and she agrees. Joey has another dream, this one in World War One, and she keeps seeing Pinhead’s human form on her TV saying “You have to help me”.

God, JP is such an appalling lunkhead that I can barely stand it any time he’s on screen. I hope he’s less offputting once he’s been cenobitized.

Which happens quite soon, and now Pinhead’s out of the sculpture.

Pinhead

Joey’s dreaming again. This time she’s got an old Bakelite radio in her closet, and her apartment window has become a portal to somewhere else. She meets human Pinhead, named Captain Spencer.

Bradley as Spencer

He tells her she has to stop Pinhead (i.e. him). “There is a gateway to hell through which he can be taken back. He wants to close that door forever.” “Where is it?” “Your apartment.” Actually he’s talking about the box, asking Joey to use it to bring Pinhead into whatever ghost dimension Spencer lives in.

Meanwhile Pinhead is busy in JP’s nightclub, working his bloody, chainy magic on the clientele. I forsee a big drop in JP’s TripAdvisor ratings.

JP

Joey goes over there, as does her cameraman friend Doug. He doesn’t fare as well as she does.

Doug the Camerahead

Pinhead gets a bit messianic in a church.

Pinhead Jesus

Joey does, eventually, get Pinhead into Spencer’s world, and they fight in a satisfyingly icky way.

Icky

Joey succeeds in sending him back to hell, and disposes of the puzzle box in some wet concrete in a building site. The movie’s final shot is of the inside of the completed building. This doesn’t bode well.

Puzzle Building

Whilst the movie definitely does at least deliver the kind of excessive gore that the brand implies, courtesy of series regular effects artist Bob Keen, I think it suffers from a lack of interesting characters. It’s turned into a bit of a Cenobite of the week parade.

The tape ends just after the movie.

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Babylon 5 – tape 1780

Here’s a few more episodes of Babylon 5. All from the first season. In Deathwalker Ambassador Kosh engages Talia for a transaction, involving a cyborg who records feelings.

Na’Toth sees a face she knows arriving, and attacks her. She’s Deathwalker, a woman who performed hideous experiments on Na’Toth’s family. She’s a war criminal from 30 years ago, although she’s hardly aged.

Earth Central asks that she be sent to Earth immediately. And all the other alien delegations are suddenly really interested in her.

She has a serum, a ‘universal anti-agapic’ which retards aging. She’s played by Sarah Douglas, Ursa from Superman II.

Deathwalker

The command staff aren’t happy about a deal being made for this terrible war criminal.

When word gets out, all the races on the station demand a vote on whether she should be brought to trial.

Robin Curtis (Saavik from Star Trek) is an alien who wants a trial.

Robin Curtis

It’s decided to send her to Earth, and before she goes, she reveals that the secret of the serum is something which has to be extracted from a living being – for people to live forever, another person must die. Oh the irony.

But when she’s en route, the vorlons appear and destroy her ship. “You are not ready for immortality” says Kosh.

The next episode is Believers. a young alien is dying, but his parents refuse the surgical treatment that would save his life because of their religion.

It’s a morality tale that seems more typical of Star Trek than Babylon 5. Perhaps that’s because it’s written by David Gerrold, long-time Star Trek writer (and creator of Tribbles).

The last episode here is Survivors. A docking bay explodes, and a witness implicates Garibaldi in the accident. The head of the President’s security detail has an axe to grind with Garibaldi from his alcoholic past, Major Lianna Kemmer. She knew Garibaldi as a child, and has always blamed him for the death of her father, so she pounces on this accusation. So Garibaldi has to go under the radar to clear his name.

But weirdly, Garibaldi isn’t the one who discovers the clues that clear his name – that’s down to one of his assistants, Lou Welch. This seems like a poor dramatic choice.

And of course, one of Kemmer’s men is also in the conspiracy, which leads back to the Homeguard, the Earth First terror group we saw in previous episodes. At least Garibaldi gets to beat him up at the end.

I do like the President’s shuttle. In fact, I like a lot of the Babylon 5 spaceship design, it reminds me of those great Chris Foss paperback covers from the 70s.

Presidential Shuttle

After this episode, recording continues with Mighty Mouse in Krakatoa.

Then, most of an episode of Channel 4 news, leading with the crisis in Rwanda. It’s strange to hear Jon Snow talking about aid planes in Zaire, a country which is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and which is a perennial ‘gotcha’ on Pointless.

Also in the news, continuing peace talks in Northern Ireland, with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams still having his words spoken by an actor. This was a thing that our government thought was a good idea.

Peace is also in the news in the Middle East, with Israel and Jordan signing a peace agreement, brokered by President Clinton (that’s Hillary Clinton’s husband Bill, who was President in the last century).

There’s also a look at the plans to renovate the British Museum when the British Library moves to St Pancras.

British Library Plans

The recording stops after about 40 minutes of news, and underneath there’s something featuring a fleet of Coca Cola trucks being driven by Santa Claus. The Coca Cola Kid by any chance? Yep, there’s Eric Roberts.

Eric Roberts

Just before the tape ends, there’s a brief chunk of rather dull ceefax from Channel 4.

C4 Ceefax

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The Borrower – Defenseless – tape 1777

Here’s a couple of fairly obscure titles. The Borrower is directed by John McNaughton, whose first film was the infamous Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer, a very nasty but fairly intelligent film that upset the UK censors, and was banned for some time.

The Borrower was his follow-up, a science fiction story, not about tiny people, but about a vicious alien murderer who, as punishment, is ‘de-evolved’ into human form and banished to Earth. Gee, thanks, alien insect judicial system.

Borrower and guard

Nice to see that not only have they de-evolved his body into humanoid form, they’ve also popped ahead to Top Man for a nice shirt and trousers.

They land in a wood, watched by a couple of hunters in their car, and the prisoner immediately starts beating up his alien captor. Naturally the hunters come to the aid of the human and shoot at the alien, who escapes.

But the borrower (as we’ll call him) isn’t that pleased to see them, punches one of them ten feet along the ground, then starts to manifest some old-skool makeup effects.

Old Skool Effects

His head explodes, which seems a sub-optimal survival strategy. The older hunter sends the younger one off to fetch a truck, so they can take the remains to someone who might pay them money for it. But it’s not dead, and grabs the older one, doing something offscreen.

We then meet Rae Dawn Chong, as a police detective, facing down a hoodlum with a knife and a hostage.

Rae Dawn Chong

Cut to a woman driving alone, listening to the radio. “She leans back and laughs til you see just the whites of her eye” are the lyrics of the song, linking back to White of the Eye a few tapes ago.

The Borrower, as his title implies, has now borrowed the head of the hunter, and is stumbling along the road. Of course, the car hits him. She’s horrified, so she gives him a lift to the hospital. Cue some quizzical ‘alien not understanding ordinary things’ scenes. Sadly, the Borrower isn’t up to much more than grunts, so the dialogue is hardly sparkling.

He meets up with a homeless man, played by Antonio Fargas (Huggy Bear from Starsky and Hutch) who sort of takes him under his wing.

Antonio Fargas

Chong and her gruff partner are assigned the case of the hunter in the woods with the missing head. They don’t have much to go on at first, but the Borrower eventually has to borrow another head – every time he’s injured, I think – and this time it’s Fargas who’s the lucky recipient.

While all this is happening, Chong also has to deal with a thug she arrested (and shot in the leg) escaping from custody in a hospital, and we presume out for revenge against Chong. Chances of this guy’s head being used by the Borrower? Fairly high, I’d say.

But first, Vargas/Borrower collapses on the street and is taken to hosital, where he grabs the head of a doctor. This one has a bit more conversation, although not much.

Doctor Collector

But even he doesn’t last long. After an interminable sequences where he drives to ‘his’ house (brains must retain memories) and looks around his house, he meets ‘his’ dog.

Next door, a girl is filming a rock video for a band of guys. They hear the dog next door making a lot of noise, and when one of the band goes to investigate, the borrower, now with the dog’s head, attacks them. Luckily, the girl’s father has a bunch of guns on the wall, so she loads one and shoots the borrower/dog. Chong and partner confirm this is who they’ve been looking for, and that the borrower is ‘a monster’ and he’s taken to the morgue, presumed dead.

Later, Chong’s nemesis breaks into her house while she’s asleep, but she sleeps while armed, and she shoots him dead.

At the morgue, the mortician is looking at the borrower’s blood, watching its strangel behaviour. She’s wearing a turtleneck sweater. Somehow that tells me her head’s coming off too.

Mortician Turtleneck

Chong and partner arrive at the morgue to find the borrower/mortician chomping away on the dead body of Chong’s former assailant, and after a surprisingly brief tussle, her partner shoots it. “You know all that money we’re spending exploring outer space? We’ve gotta stop” he says, despite nobody, at any time, even suggesting there’s an alien explanation for this.

Then, the borrower smashes out of the morgue again, this time (at last) with the head of Chong’s nemesis, and attacks her partner. For some reason, this time he seems to be more impervious to bullets, and Chong empties her pistol, but he keeps coming, and it’s only when, out of nowhere, two FBI men are suddenly there, that they shoot him to a standstill.

The feds take the body away in an ambulance. “They don’t know what they’re doing.” says Chong. “Feds never do” says her captain as the ambulance drives away, and it intercuts Chong’s stoic scowl with shots of the ambulance driving along a freeway as the borrower reanimates, grabs the two men in the front of the ambulance, and the vehicle crashes (offscreen).

The End.

Good grief, I can see why I didn’t remember much about the film. There’s almost no plot, no real stakes, virtually no tension, and a handful of gore effects that weren’t that special to begin with. Rae Dawn Chong isn’t required to do a single bit of detective work. At all. She just has to turn up at a crime scene and take bodies away. Thank goodness she had that short chase and stand-off at the start otherwise she’d have had even less.

And what, really, was the point of the thug at the start and his vendetta against her, when it was all cleared up with barely a struggle, and even when he became the borrower, he might as well have been a random stiff in the morgue for all the difference it made to the story.

The one thing I liked about this film was Chong’s relationship with her partner, Don Gordon. Here was an older detective partnered with a younger woman, and at no point was he sexist or creepy with her (not that I noticed). Their only arguments came out of work, or stress at the shocks they’ve had. I wonder if her character was originally male, and they ‘did a Ripley’ and flipped the gender without rewriting much. The scene at the start with the thug she shoots in the leg has a bit of gendered language after she’s cuffed him, but apart from that it’s all fairly neutral.

Still doesn’t make it much of a film, though.

After this, recording switches to another movie, Defenseless. Or is it?

Ball Busters

Actually it’s a screening room, and Ball Busters looks like a tacky teen sex comedy, although I think it’s supposed to be porn. The man watching the film is attacked by another man who walks in, saying “That’s my daughter”.

Next we meet Barbara Hershey, a lawyer whose life is clearly busy, as evidenced by the amount of dirty washing up in her sink. She visits the studio to meet with a Jack Hammer, a witness in a case she’s working on.

Barbara Hershey

Her client is JT Walsh, who owns the building the studio is in, and he’s being sued because the porn film company were casting under 18s in their films, which is what motivated the attack at the start of the movie. He only rented the company the building, and isn’t involved in the movie company at all.

JT Walsh

She and Walsh are romantically involved, despite him being a client, and married. She’s deposing actors who worked on the films, asking if they recognised Walsh, and whether he had anything to do with the films. Bull Dozer, one of the actors, testifies he’s never seen him.

At lunch, she bumps into an old school friend, totally at random, who’s keen to catch up, and show her pictures of her child and her husband – her husband is Walsh.

She’s invited to dinner, and can’t duck out. Walsh is there, of course, as is their daughter. It’s all very domestic, until Walsh refers to his daughter as ‘pie-face’, a term of endearment we heard him use for Hershey earlier. Yikes.

Daddy and Daughter

It’s an awkward dinner, and Walsh’s wife seems unnaturally perky at all times, so I’m waiting for the mask to drop, and the betrayed wife to appear. But the evening ends with a hug. Walsh gives Hershey one of his wife’s cardigans as her battered Porsche has no soft top. When she arrives back at her apartment, someone is waiting, probably the assailant from the beginning of the film, angry that his daughter was abused by the film company (and therefore by Walsh, presumably). He gets into the parking garage, but does nothing but watch her leave her car.

Next day she has to visit Walsh at his office. It looks a bit deserted, but that’s an impressive glass water feature there. If it’s not destroyed by some sort of fight or other violence, I’m going to be disappointed.

Water Feature

Walsh isn’t there, but someone is definitely lurking in the background. looking for a piece of paper to write down a phone number, she spots something slightly incriminating.

Film Receipt

It’s an invoice for rolls of film, made out to Steven Seldes (Walsh) of Blue Screen Productions. That’s the company that made the porn films. Double Yikes.

She’s very angry at this discovery, so when Walsh appears at the door she gets a bit angry and lashes out, they struggle, and she manages to give him a headbutt when he won’t let her go, also stabbing him with a letter opener to get him to let her go.

She runs out of the office pronto, onto the street, leaving Walsh clutching his bloody nose. Will he come for her?

She’s still clutching his wife’s cardigan, and tosses it away into the trash at the side of the street, but has to return to the office because she’s left her keys and bag there.

Walsh isn’t around, but there’s blood on the kitchen counter, and more in the bathroom, leading to one of the stalls.

Dead JT Walsh

I think I see where this movie is going.

She calls the police, and she’s interviewed by detective Sam Shepard. She leaves out some of the incriminating parts of what happened, but I’m sure that won’t matter at all. More importantly, that water feature remained entirely intact.

The next day she gets a call from her friend, Walsh’s wife, Ellie Seldes (Mary Beth Hurt) which takes her to the police station where Detective Sheperd has arrested Hurt for the murder of her husband.

I was definitely not expecting that.

Even more interestingly, Hurt doesn’t have an alibi. But the main clue they have is her cardigan, the one that Hershey threw away in the street.

As if the case couldn’t get weirder, she gets a call from the porn actor she deposed, Bull Dozer, who’s in hospital. He was attacked by the man from the start of the movie – His assailant went full Lorena Bobbit on him.

Hershey visits the assailant’s house to find his wife in fear of her life, because she spoke to Hershey before to warn her off, and to find his daughter asking if she might get her job back at the porn film company. She knew Walsh, and said she’d never been treated so well before.

Sheperd’s boss, the District Attorney, is using the Seldes case to puff up his election chances, to Hershey’s irritation. Then Hurt tells her that she’s pleading guilty. She won’t tell her if she’s protecting someone.

Hershey takes their daugher Janna out to the beach – during the journey we see the murder weapon under the seat of the car. Janna doesn’t think much of Hershey’s bashed up car.

Murder Weapon

The main suspect, Bodeck, phones Hershey at her apartment and wants to talk, arranging a time and place, But he’s already in the building, and pursues her through her apartment. Luckily Sam Shepard has been listening in to her apartment, so he’s on hand, although, inconveniently, the lift in the building isn’t working so it takes him a while. It all goes a bit Die Hard when she calls the lift, the door opens and there’s no lift there, so she’s hanging on for dear life as Bodeck goes to shoot her, but he gets pushed down the shaft by Shepard.

But the case against Hurt is still soing ahead. The DA doesn’t think Bodeck killed Walsh, despite him having violently assaulted three other people in the case. Hershey learns that Bodeck had an airtight alibi for the night of the murder.

The trial continues, with Hershey cross-examining Shepard. Afterwards, Hershey and Shepard talk, and he sneakily gets one of her hairs, and has them compared with one on the cardigan. Will they match?

Then Hershey confronts Walsh’s daughter Janna, and finally gets her to open up and admit that her father had been abusing her.

Hershey gets Hurt a not guilty verdict, but soon afterwards, Shepard is at her door with Walsh’s keys to her apartment, and the knife from under her car seat, so she’s now banged up. It’s Hurt’s turn to do some prison visiting, and it’s sounding like it’s vaguely possible she was guilty all along. I like the uncertainty here, it could genuinely go in several directions.

It’s not looking good for Hershey, but Shepard is still looking for the right answer, and he visits her cell. “How about the truth this time?” I think we’re approaching some kind of reveal.

We cut to Hurt’s house, as she and daughter Janna arrive home, in the rain and dark, with shopping. You can tell something dramatic is going to happen as they spend valuable film time putting groceries away, so it’s not a huge shock when Hurt closes the fridge door to reveal Hershey standing there.

What follows is a frankly bonkers scene where Hershey confronts Hurt, to find out the truth. Hurt is clearly deeply disturbed, at one point starts stabbing herself in her arm, and then holds herself at knifepoint. But in the end she’s disarmed by Hershey, and is last seen in an ambulance with her daughter, who has promised to look after her.

Standoff

As for Hershey and Shepard, her car won’t start, so they leave together.

The only reason I recorded this film was because it was directed by Martin Campbell, who had directed the classic Edge of Darkness serial, and would go on to direct both Goldeneye and Casino Royale. But I’m glad I did, as it wasn’t at all bad. Night quite up there with Jagged Edge, but an enjoyable thriller with plenty of non-stupid twists.

After the film, recording continues, and there’s half an hour of Nowhere to Run, a Jean Claude Van Damme film, co-starring Rosanna Arquette, and with a story by Joe Esterhaz and Richard Marquand, which is more impressive when you realize the film was made in 1993 and Richard Marquand died in 1987. I presume has was developing it with Esterhaz with an eye to possibly directing it.

Recording stops after half an hour of Van Damage.

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The Simpsons – Star Trek – Deep Space Nine – tape 1774

Here’s a few episodes of The Simpsons, with a random Deep Space Nine in the middle.

First, Homer Loves Flanders. Homer wants tickets to a football game, so he sucks up to Flanders for his.

Two Tickets to Paradise

In Bart Gets an Elephant, Bart gets an elephant. Featuring a guest appearance from Bill Clinton.

Bill Clinton

After this, recording continues for a bit with the start of an episode of Beverly Hills 90210.

Then, recording switches to later, and there’s a brief Sky News Headlines, leading with the death of Ayrton Senna in San Marino.

Then, an episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine with Cardassians. This precedes the episodes I most recently looked at. Bashir is talking to Garak, baiting him as to whether he’s just a shopkeeper, or whether he’s actualy a spy. A young Cardassian boy sits nearby, and when Garak goes to talk to him, the boy bites him on the hand.

Gul Dukat is worried that the Bajorans, who are looking after Cardassian war orphans, have been indoctrinating them against their own species. In turn, the Bajoran parent of the boy says he thinks of the boy as Bajoran.

Bashir hears otherwise from an eyewitness who says the boy is mistreated. It’s becoming a bit of a diplomatic incident.

The boy, Rugel, is quartered with Chief O’Brien and Keiko. She kindly makes some Cardassian stew for him. O’Brien doesn’t think much of it.

Cardassian Stew

Rugel tells O’Brien that he wants to go home to Bajor. The Cardassians have traced his real father. At the same time Garak asks to go to Bajor to find out more about Rugel’s adoption. Something about the fact that Rugel’s father happens to be a political rival to Gul Dukat is worrying Garak.

Rugel’s father is keen to take Rugel home, but Rugel wants to return to Bajor. There’s a hearing, at which Gul Dukat sits in.

Bashir and Garak find out that Rugel was brought to the orphan centre by a Cardassian officer. They surmise that Gul Dukat faked the boy’s death and falsified his adoption, in order that he might have some leverage over his enemy at a later time, like now.

Not a bad episode, and Andrew Robinson as Garak is always fun to watch.

Andrew Robinson

Then, More Simpsons with Burns’ Heir, in which Mr Burns decides hs needs an heir to which to bequeath his empire when he dies.

Mr Burns

Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song was the programme’s hundredth episode, hence this chalkboard gag.

Meaningless Milestones

After this, recording stops. Underneath, there’s part of an episode of Highlander.  Then a whole episode of Melrose Place, before the tape ends.

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Twin Peaks – Fire Walk With Me – tape 1767

On this tape, David Lynch’s movie prequel to his achingly hip TV series, Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me. I did watch this when it came out, but my memory is very vague. I remember lots of flashing lights and incomprehensible scenes, but that’s par for the course for Twin Peaks.

It’s certainly got an interesting cast. Aside from the series regulars, here’s a pre-24 Kiefer Sutherland, with Lynch himself as FBI station chief Gordon Cole.

Kiefer Sutherland and David Lynch

Cole is the kind of one-joke character that’s not really very funny when you first see him, and gets less funny every time he appears. I doubt he would have been such a regular had it not been Lynch playing him.

They meet with another FBI agent, played by Chris Isaak. Then Cole briefs Isaak by introducing him to Lil, his Mother’s Sister’s girl, who dances in front of them in a strange way. Then Isaak spends five minutes of a car journey explaining how the way she was dressed, the way she was dancing, and the way she looked conveyed information about the case they’re going to work on.

Lil

Frankly, we’re barely five minutes into the movie and I’m ready to give it up as nonsense.

They’re investigating the death of Theresa Banks. The local police are comically unhelpful. I can’t help feeling that Lynch hates this whole genre, and is making something so dissonant that it drives people away from it.

Harry Dean Stanton pops up briefly as the manager of a trailer park.

Harry Dean Stanton

Isaak finds the ring missing from Theresa’s finger under one fo the trailers, then it appears we’re finished with his story for now, as we’re back in Gordon Cole’s office, and Kyle Maclachlan is there as Dale Cooper who’s worried about a dream he had. David Bowie walks in as “the long lost Phillip Jeffries”.

David Bowie

Then we’re straight into another of Lynch’s trademark dream sequences, with the backwards talking dwarf, Bob the killer, and a man in a white mask with a pointy nose, like a streamlined Mr Noseybonk.

Dream Sequence

Then Bowie is gone, as if he were never there, although he was captured on CCTV, and Chris Isaak’s Agent Chester Desmond has disappeared. Cooper goes to the trailer park, but the trailer under which Isaak found the ring has gone, and all the clues have led to dead ends.

One year later, and we’re in Twin Peaks itself, complete with the unmistakable theme tune. It’s still before the events of the TV series, so Laura Palmer is still alive.

Sheryl Lee

Moira Kelly (Mandy from Season One of the West Wing) is her friend Donna. I don’t think she was in the TV series.

Moira Kelly

Laura has found pages missing from her diary, and she tells Donna that Bob must have taken them. Donna thinks Bob is imaginary but Laura tells her he’s been ‘having me since I was twelve’.

She gives the diary to her friend Howard, who Bob doesn’t know about.

Agent Cooper thinks the killer will strike again, and enlists another agent, this one played by Miguel Ferrer, to assist him.

Miguel Ferrer

We never see him again. He’s only there because he was in the series. There is no narrative reason for this scene to exist.

Laura sees Bob lurking around her hiding place for the diary. He’s always scary.

Bob

And of course, Ray Wise as Leland Palmer is there, and because we know his ultimate destiny, the film can safely play him as just as, if not more, scary as Bob.

Ray Wise

I’m really getting bored with the interminable dream sequences. There’s nothing duller than someone else’s dreams, especially when there’s no consequence to anything. I’ll be honest, I’m flagging here.

Laura picks up two guys in the bar, and Donna tags along, and we another weird dream/not dream scene. This sums it up.

I'm Blank as a Fart

Another thing that makes it difficult for me to like this film is that I have little tolerance for watching people high on drugs and alcohol.

The last third of the film is mostly Laura wandering around in a stupor, being assaulted in various ways, then finally murdered (as we knew she would be). I don’t think ending the film with Laura in the red-curtained dream room with Agent Cooper, laughing happily as a shining angel floats in front of her really constitutes a happy ending. Or an ending, frankly.

Ugh. Vile and pointless.

The tape ends after the film.

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Babylon 5 – tape 1769

Babylon 5 is a series of wild variation. It had huge ambition, and in many ways it established a template for TV that’s still being used today. But like most TV shows, it had its ups and downs. Season One, from where these episodes hail, was a lot of filler and mediocre stories, peppered occasionally with something great. It was mostly scene-setting, and, crucially, had a central actor who didn’t really have the charisma to support the show. He was replaced for subsequent seasons, and it’s clear from later interviews with series creator J Michael Straczynski that he had severe personal issueswhile on the show that made it impossible to continue.

But there’s some good episodes on this tape, what we used to call ‘arc-heavy’ episodes.

First, there’s The Parliament of Dreams. The station is playing host to representatives of all the planets’ major religions. G’Kar gets a call from an ‘old associate’, saying “by the time you get this, I’d already be dead. But then, shortly, so will you.”

Someone has been sent to kill him. At the same time, and new attache has arrived, Na’Toth.

Also arrived on the station is Catherine Sakai (Julia Nickson), an old friend of Commander Sinclair.

Julia Nickson

And since it’s the episode for the introduction of new characters, Delenn meets her new aide, Lennier, played by Bill Mumy, who was young Will Robinson on Lost In Space.

Bill Mumy

Not much really happens, with the exception of introducing Sakai, who will reappear. G’Kar outwits his assassin with the aid of Na’Toth, and Sinclair puts on a demonstration of ‘Earth’s dominant religion’ by lining up about 200 people representing pretty much every faith and sect imaginable (starting with an atheist).

The next episode starts off with a stolen ship, pursued by starfuries, being told to stop, but then something wibbly happens with the special effects, then it’s on its own again, travelling away. I’m unclear what’s supposed to have happened here.

Catherine Sakai is back from her trip, and she and Sinclair seem to be settling down into a domestic routine.

And the ship we saw at the start is arriving at B5, its pilot looking forward to boarding.

William Allen Young

Talia Winters (Andrea Thompson), the ship’s licensed telepath, is talking to a client, and explaining (mostly for the viewers’ benefit, I feel) how telepathy works. Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle) is lurking behind her, obviously thinking inappropriate thoughts, and she elbows him in the stomach. Just like a man not to behave himself in an elevator. By the way, Jerry Doyle and Andrea Thompson were married for a couple of years while the show was in production.

Sakai is negotiating for a job surveying a planet, Sigma 957, for rare minerals, which is why Talia is there.

Also on board is Walter Koenig as Bester, a Psicop, looking for a rogue telepath. Things always perk up when Bester arrives, and this is his first appearance on the show.

Walter Koenig

I wonder if he’s looking for the man who arrived earlier? He’s settling in, but seems to be suffering from migraines that shake his whole quarters.

He’s Jason Ironheart, the kind of name that only exists in fiction. He was Talia’s instructor at the Psi Corps academy, and was working with Earthforce military on a covert project. Bester thinks he intends to sell secrets to an enemy.

They scan Talia to find out if she’s telling the truth – a rather more unpleasant version of Spock’s Mind Meld. Bester’s associate, Miss Kelsey (Felicity Waterman) is making the most of her evil Psi Corp persona.

Felicity Waterman and Andrea Thompson

G’Kar warns Sakai off visiting Sigma 957 as he says it’s a dangerous place.

Ironheart contacts Talia, and tells her he’s been taking part of experiments to boost telepathic ability, which have made him a stable telekinetic, something that is vanishingly rare normally.

Here’s a thing. Remember when Apple sued Samsung over (among other things) using swipe to unlock a phone. Here’s G’Kar doing it on his computer from a TV show in 1994. Prior art?

Ironheart’s powers are not under control, and he has another attack, causing a mindquake and sealing him behind a protective telekinetic wall. But Talia can get through and talk to him. He’s losing control of the new powers he’s got.

He needs time to finish becoming whatever it is he’s becoming, someone with total control over even subatomic particles. When he’s confronted by Bester and Kelsey, he starts losing control again, and when Kelsey draws her gun, he has to zap her.

Zapped Kelsey

Meanwhile at Sigma 957, Catherine Sakai comes across a massive, strange ship, whose passing zaps her own and leaves her floating helpless, heading to the surface of the planet.

Weird spaceship

But G’Kar has sent some ships to the planet to assist her. After all, as he said earlier when trying to warn her off, “Nobody here is who they seem.”

She asks him what was it she saw. “There are things in our universe billions of years older than either of our races. Vast. Timeless. And if they are aware of us at all, it is as little more than ants.”

Ironheart does ‘become’ in the end, turning into a generic 3D human model. 3D scanning of actual people was presumably beyond the budget of the show.

Jason Became

Next it’s The War Prayer. Delenn has an old friend round for tea. She’s a famous Minbari poet. Leaving Delenn’s quarters she’s injured in a racist attack by someone telling her to “stay away from Earth”. This is just one more in a series of similar racist attacks by the ‘homeguard’ – Earth-centric racists who want to “Take Back Control” and “Make Earth Great Again”. (I might be making that bit up, but they’re basically the same people.)

Two young centauri arrive, looking for ‘Ambassador Vir’. The girl is Danica McKellar, Winnie Cooper off of The Wonder Years. They’re rebelling against their respective arranged marriages, and want to marry each other, for love. “What does love have to do with marriage?” asks Londo.

Rodney Easton and Danica McKellar

An old boyfriend of Ivanova turns up, Malcolm Biggs.I wonder if he’ll tie into the racist attacks?

Sinclair goes to meet Ambassador Kosh to check he’s OK. Then he has an infodump conversation with Ivanova, basically reiterating the plot of the pilot episode. JMS is a bit obvious when he’s setting up long-term story elements.

Soon, aliens start attacking humans, and order is close to breaking down. The two Centauri kids are also attacked.

And to nobody’s surprise, Ivanova’s old flame Biggs turns out to be recruiting for the homeguard, so Sinclair pretends to be racist to inveigle himself into the organisation. The scene where he and Ivanova talk to Biggs to persuade him that they’re of like mind is a little stilted. At one point, after Sinclair has said a few things, and Biggs has done the usual racist spiel about protecting our own, putting Earth first, I was half expecting Ivanova to stiffly blurt out “Yes, I too am a racist.”

Biggs wants Sinclair to demonstrate he’s truly one of them with a loyalty test, asking him to kill an alien dignitary. But they’re distracted by Garibaldi approaching with a combat team, there’s a shootout, and Mr Biggs is arrested.

The next episode, as so many others do, starts with an arrival. Christopher Neame arrives on the station. Possibly famous for being the villain in the lost Doctor Who story Shada.

Christopher Neame

He meets Judson Scott, whom you’ll recognise as one of Khan’s people from Star Trek II. “I have identified the target” says Scott, showing Neame a picture of Commander Sinclair.

Judson Scott

This episode is And The Sky Full of Stars. One of the security guards has a gambling problem, and Neame and Judson co-opt him to get something they need to get Sinclair.

Sinclair is having dreams about the Battle of the Line, where he vanished for some time, and has no memory of what happened to him. He wakes up, to discover the whole station is deserted. The only other person left on board is Neame. “You’re mine” he says.

Meanwhile, back on the actual station, Garibaldi is reading a newspaper. How odd that, in this future, the newspaper is still available in that format. And doubly odd that there only appears to be one font allowed in the future – the same font they use for the titles.

Newspaper

There’s a subtle hint at future stories, with the headline about the Psi Corps endorsing the vice president.

Delenn tells Garibaldi Sinclair didn’t turn up for an appointment so he starts looking for him.

Neame tells Sinclair that he’s locked in a cybernetic virtual reality, their two minds together. I don’t think Oculus Rift would sell many of these contraptions.

State of the art VR

Neame is after his memories of what happened on the Line. He sounds like another racist Earth First person, assuming Sinclair is working for the Minbari. While he’s under, he remembers being in front of the grey council, but then he manages to get out of the VR equipment, but his mind is still back ten years.

He’s still having flashbacks, and Scott is coming after him, but Delenn talks Sinclair down, and Scott is dispatched.

The Minbari are rather worried in case Sinclair remembers, and tell Delenn he must die if he does. Which is unfortunate for future episodes, since he reveals at the end, to his private log, that he does remember.

After the last episode, recording stops, but underneath there’s a bit of Blockbusters. Roz has a pet rat called Ratatouille whom she takes for walks.

Roz

After Blockbusters, the start of an episode of E Street. This recording also stops, and underneath there’s a strange but of recording, from a german channel, it’s one of those infomercials for something called ‘Sudden Youth’, all in German but the tape sounds like it’s changing speed, with the background music sounding very strange. It’s very strange to see the Amazing Discoveries guy doing his think in German. And that’s the end of the tape.

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White Of The Eye – tape 1700

Here’s a fairly obscure film. It’s White of the Eye, from Donald Cammell, co-director of the psychedelic Mick Jagger vehicle Performance (with Nicolas Roeg) and the also obscure Demon Seed (which I would have reviewed quite a while ago, but the recording was one of the few in my collection that just wouldn’t transfer).

David Keith, who clearly goes to the same Male Grooming establishment as Road House era Patrick Swayze, plays a man who installs high-end audio equipment in Arizona.

David Keith

His ‘trick’ is that he can hum loudly in your living room and from that detect exactly where your speakers should go. Since he makes his living pimping ludicrously expensive Hi-Fi gea, and customising it with walnut finish,. I’m unsure if the film intends us to accept this gift is real, or whether it’s another facet of the audio snake-oil he’s selling.

Walnut veneer

The film opens with a woman being attacked in her house. Cammell goes for art and artifice over veins and viscera, presenting the brutal attack mostly as impressionistic shots of bottles falling, and bright red drinks splashing over the immaculate worktops.

Because he’s installing equipment to the neighbour of the woman who was attacked, detective Charles Mendoza (Art Evans from Die Hard 2) questions him. Not only that, but they found tyre tracks which matched a particular make of tyre, and he was one of the people in the state who owned them.

Art Evans

This is such a weird movie. It lurches from the present day, with Keith and his wife, Cathy Moriarty, and occasionally flashes back to the past when they first meet, when Moriarty was with Alan Rosenberg, travelling across America, and they meet up with Keith when Rosenberg needs to get his 8-Track player fixed. They have a past, but it’s hard to remember much about it because I can’t see anything past the Swayze hair.

The film’s mystery isn’t much of one either. It’s Keith who the film spends all of its time on, with rich lady clients calling him out to fix their sound systems, but really wanting to sleep with him (to Moriarty’s obvious disgust). Rosenberg turns up randomly when Moriarty hears someone singing Hot Chocolate’s ‘I Believe In Miracles’ over and over – a song he played on his 8-Track. He’s a bit of a drop-out, something caused partially by her leaving him for Keith, but also by some other past trauma, also Keith related.

So there’s really only two candidates for murderer, and only one that’s remotely likely.

It’s no surprise to us when Moriarty finds plastic bags full of bits of his victims hidden behind the sink. But instead of calling the police immediately, she fails to arrange a babysitter – she tries, but her friend can’t make it – then just waits for him to return to talk to him.

She also doesn’t seem as in fear for her life as I think someone in this situation probably would be. Here’s the body language as he’s telling her he did all those murders.

Confession

She’s not flinching away, he’s not grabbing at her, it’s as if they’re disagreeing over what colour curtains they should buy for the living room.

Frankly, by the time he makes himself a bomb vest out of Herta Frankfurters and duct tape, I’ve given up trying to discern motivation here.

Bomb Vest

Haha – their little daughter finds her mother, locked up in the attic, shortly after this, and says “Dad’s wearing a bunch of hot dogs.”

This is really where the film has its only genuinely tense moment as the little girl tries to get the key to the attic while the father is laying out his victims parts on the dining table, face painted half red half white like a cross between a Polish football supporter and a Kabuki cosplayer.

Red and White

The daughter runs off, then she brains him with a mirror and gets out herself, gets in the car and doesn’t then immediately drive to pick up her daughter.

Now, as the film plays out, we see that he does eventually pursue her through the open desert, but at the time she started driving he was still in the house, and I’m not sure my first instinct would be to drive to where there’s nobody. But that’s what the film wants them to do.

They end up in what looks like a deserted quarry. There’s some perfunctory stalking, then, all of a sudden, Rosenberg is there, with a big gun. He orders Keith out to the edge of the lake, determined to get some kind of closure for the traumatic events of the past, involving a dead deer and some blood.

Rosenberg and Keith end up locked in a struggle to the death while Moriarty jumps in the water, and the hot dogs finally go off, in an explosion they clearly spent money on, as it was covered by about six different cameras, including a helicopter shot.

Bonkers.

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