Eerie, Indiana – tape 1548

I don’t think I’ve watched Eerie, Indiana before, but it’s executive producer is Joe Dante, so I’m hoping it’ll be fun.

In the first episode, our young heroes find an old letter in an old book, open it, and awakens Tobey Maguire from the past.

Marshall’s family love Maguire when he turns up, and they’re upset when Marshall banishes him from the house.

There’s a trippy dream sequence.

Maguire asks Marshall to deliver the letter, one he failed to deliver years before, to the love of his life, and there’s a happy ending when they manage to find her.

In the next episode, Marshall meets a girl called Sara Bob, who has a lot of very unruly brothers.

She’s an artist, and things she draws become real. He’s just had his bike stolen, so she draws it, and it’s back outside the store they’re in.

I’m enjoying the little touches, like the police patrol car with far too many aerials on the roof.

This one almost has a quite melancholy ending. And the credits play on the family all being called Something-Bob.

Next episode has Marshall annoyed that Indiana doesn’t have daylight saving time, so he sets his watch back, stranding him an hour before the rest of the town.

He’s rescued from the evil garbagemen who are cleaning up the town, by an old milkman, and he ends up on a milk carton in the regular time.

In the next episode, there’s a new museum in town, dedicated to Eerie’s weirdness, but the mayor, Gregory Itzin, doesn’t like it.

Next we meet Matt Frewer as a Tornado chaser who believes Tornados are alive.

We also learn that Eerie’s sister town is Normal, Illinois.

In the next episode, the owner of the World of Stuff (Archie Hahn) is revealed as an imposter, and the real owner is restored, played by John Astin. I wonder if they just felt like recasting a recurring character, and came up with an Eerie, Indiana way to do it.

In the last episode, every year the town picks a Harvest King, and the honour includes being fed to a werewolf.

What a great little show this is.

After this, recording stops, and underneath there’s a short segment of a German gameshow called Riskier Was which looks like it was a version of the US show Wipeout. Recording stops after a minute or so of this.

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Star Trek – tape 1546

Some classic Star Trek now, and the first episode here is Catspaw. Scotty, Sulu and an anonymous crewman have beamed down to a planet, but failed to check in. Then, one of them (the anonymous one of course) beams back on board, dead. A voice emerges, telling Kirk there’s a curse on his ship and he must leave.

Wow, Chekov’s hair is a bit unruly.

Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam down, and they meet three witches. Oh good, it’s magical aliens projecting antiquated visions.

There’s even a bald magician with a magic wand and a black cat called Korob.

And a woman with big hair called Sylvia.

She does some voodoo with a minature Enterprise.

Kirk seems to be trying to resolve the situation by snogging Sylvia.

And when he finally destroys the source of their power, their true form is revealed.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 5th May 1993 – 18:00

Before the next episode, there’s the end of Rugby Special. a trail for Cricket, and one for The Real McCoy.

Next it’s I, Mudd. A new crewmember messes with the engine to bring the Enterprise to a planet, where Kirk meets an old adversary, Harry Mudd.

It’s a planet populated by human looking androids, all logical, so naturally, they are defeated by humans acting illogically. This is how I believed computers worked for the first 12 years of my life. But I’m glad this doesn’t happen to my computer when I enter illogical data.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 12th May 1993 – 18:00

Before the next episode there’s the end of Horizon. There’s a trailer for Shoestring (a repeat series or a one-off for the Crime and Punishment series) and one for Gunsmoke.

Then, another episode of Star TrekMetamorphosis. On a shuttle to deliver a critically ill federation commissioner to the Enterprise, they are pulled off course by an energy field and marooned on a planet.

They’re greeted by another human, who has been stranded there for years. He’s Zefrem Cochrane, the pioneer of warp drive, and he’s been rejuvenated by an energy being on the planet he calls The Companion.

The Companion is what’s keeping the shuttle there, so Kirk has to try and stop it affecting the ship.

In the end, the Companion merges with the terminally ill commissioner, saving her life, and giving the Companion a way to live on the planet.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 26th May 1993 – 18:00

After this, recording continues with a trailer for The Comic Strip Presents: Jealousy featuring a cross-dressing Peter Capaldi.

There’s also a trailer for The O Zone.

The tape then continues with a bit of Gunsmoke until the tape ends.

D W Griffith: Father Of Film – tape 1540

Over to Channel 4 now for a documentary series, DW Griffith: Father of Film. A look at the racist innovator of cinema.

Among those interviewed is Lillian Gish.

His first film as director recounts the adventures of a little girl kidnapped by gypsies. So I guess he started as he meant to go on.

Lyndsey Anderson’s narration, at one point, says “A favourite theme for his ‘Racist and Rescue’ was a besieged group facing overwhelming odds.” At least i think that’s what he’s saying. Maybe it’s “Racist to the Rescue” or “Racing to the Rescue”.

Griffith’s seminal work is, of course, Birth of a Nation, originally released under the title The Clansman.

The documentary isn’t remotely trying to downplay the racism – it includes a test scene with an actor in blackface.

Although Griffith’s collaborators, interviewed for the documentary, try to defend him. “He has been accused of being a racist, and I don’t think that he was, consciously. And I think anyone raised in an atmosphere where there were slaves would be unconsciously racist to a certain extent.”

Lillian Gish’s defence is even clumsier. “Mr Griffith loved the black people, we never thought there was anything against the blacks. As you noticed, the blacks are led by a white man who was patterned after Thaddeus Stevens, a Senator, who said to the black people ‘We will crush the white south under the heel of the black south'”

So not racist at all, obviously.

To one Griffith defender, the fact that there were riots and ‘blood on the streets’ was proof it was a great picture.

His later films don’t fill me with confidence of his non-racist nature. Here’s a page from a novel he adapted, about a ‘romance’ between a Chinese man and a 15 year old English girl.

After these three episodes, the recording continues for a bit with the start of a TV Movie called Babies starring Lindsay Wagner. The tape ends after a bit of this.

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The Simpsons – tape 1544

Here’s a nice surprise. At the start of this tape, which is mostly Simpsons episodes, there’s a short clip from a programme whose name I can’t remember, with an interviewer whose name I can’t remember (but who’s not very good) interviewing Clive Barker about an art exhibition.

Then we’re into The Simpsons, and firt it’s Lisa’s Pony. Homer lets Lisa down at the school talent show, so he inadvisedly buys her a pony.

Sad note: During the school talent show, a little boy sings Chuck Berry’s ‘My Ding a Ling’. Within an hour, I’m reading about Chuck Berry’s death in Twitter. This one is totally on me. Rest in Peace, Chuck, and I’m so very sorry.

Next, it’s Saturdays of Thunder in which Homer tries to be a better dad by helping Bart with his soapbox derby car.

In I Married Marge Homer talks about when he and Marge got married.

Then a classic episode, Radio Bart, in which Bart drops his walkie talkie down a well and pretends he’s a little boy trapped. Naturally, circumstances conspire to get him down the well himself. Guest starring Sting with his shirt off.

Next, it’s So It’s Come to This: A Simpsons Clip Show. Homer is in a coma after an April Fool stunt by Bart.

In The Front, Bart and Lisa write scripts for Itchy and Scratchy, and submit them under Grandpa’s name. Plus this.

And in Whacking Day, the town has its annual festival where they whack snakes. Guest starring Barry White.

After this, recording stops, but underneath there’s an older recording, of 21 Jump Street. The recording stops after a bit of this.

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Star Trek – The Next Generation – tape 1542

Here’s a tightly packed tape of Star Trek The Next Generation from Sky One, where I was clearly watching them live, and removing ads. Nothing here but episodes.

First it’s The Loss. Starting with a crewmember talking to Deanna about how she’s handling the loss of her husband some time ago. It’s the kind of scene that would have bored me in 1993, but it’s making me cry now.

But after this scene, it falls down a bit, as a sensor glitch coincides with Deanna having some kind of mental attack. They do like assaulting Deanna, don’t they?

Deanna loses her empathic powers, and doesn’t handle the loss well. At least Riker is there to help with a hug.

She thinks about resigning as ship’s counsellor, against Picard’s recommendation.

In the B-story, a cosmic string fragment is attracting a swarm of creatures, and the Enterprise is caught between them, being drawn towards the fragment. They have to find a way to communicate with the swarm, and do so including help from Deanna, demonstrating that despite her loss of empathic power, her insights and knowledge are still just as valuable as any crew members.

Next, in Data’s Day, Data is narrating in the form of a message to Commander Maddox, the man who wanted to disassemble Data to find out how he works in The Measure of a Man. He’s describing what his day is like. So we get loads of Data not understanding human emotion. I’ve never really taken to this aspect of Data’s character. It would be different if the misunderstandings were funnier, but I just get bored with Data drily enumerating his logical reasoning of other peoples’ mental states. It’s very 1950s sci fi.

Among the things happening are the arrival of a shifty-seeming vulcan dignitary on a mission to the Neutral Zone.

Chief O’Brien and Keiko are about to be married and Keiko is getting cold feet (for no very apparent reason). Data doesn’t help by misreading the situation at each turn.

There’s a birth.

And Dr Crusher (Gates McFadden) gets to demonstrate her considerable dancing abilities by tap dancing with Data. As we saw quite a while ago in this blog, Gates McFadden has another career as a choreographer, and worked on Labyrinth.

The Vulcan ambassador is seemingly killed in a transporter accident, but Data does some sleuthing and surmises she was actually taken by the Romulan ship. When they confront the Romulans, the truth comes out – the Vulcan was a Romulan spy, and has returned to her people.

And, of course, the wedding goes ahead as planned, and Data gets to give away the bride.

Next it’s The Wounded. The Enterprise is facing off against a Cardassian ship, despite a peace treaty. They are retaliating for the destruction of their outpost by an apparently rogue starfleet captain.

The Cardassians wear the stupidest headgear. I think these were dropped for all subsequent appearances of the characters.

The Rogue captain, Ben Maxwell, has a grudge against the Cardassians. O’Brien served under him, and tells Picard that there must be a good reason for Maxwell’s behaviour, destroying multiple Cardassian ships.

He tells Picard that the Cardassians are arming for war, the truce is a subterfuge, and the survey ships he destroyed were carrying arms. But Picard refuses to board and search one of the ships, and tells Maxwell that he’ll fire on him if he tries to fire on the Cardassians. O’Brien transports over to Maxwell’s ship, and persuades him to stand down. “I’m not going to win this one, am I?” he asks. It’s a good performance by Bob Gunton, one of those great character actors you can rely on.

It’s a nice resolution to the story, solving the problem by talking. And Picard doesn’t let the Cardassians off either. He knows they were lying, and arming, but his job was to preserve the piece, that day. I love the diplomacy aspect of The Next Generation.

The last episode here is Devil’s Due. It starts with Data cosplaying Ebeneezer Scrooge.

A planet’s population believe that they’ve sold their souls to the devil. And when she turns up, called Ardra, Picard has to negotiate.

She also has other guises, like a Klingon devil.

Ardra has a contract with the people of the planet, saying that she owns the whole planet after so Data has to speed read it. Meanwhile, Picard is deeply skeptical of Ardra’s claims to be the actual devil, so he goes full on Mythbusters.

There’s an amusing scene where Ardra tries to seduce Picard while he’s in his jim-jams.

Geordi tracks the source of her powers to a cloaked ship, allowing Picard to turn he magic powers to his own benefit, and prove she’s not the Ardra of myth.

A fun episode, albeit with some very dodgy ideas of jurisprudence.

After this, the recording stops. I was brutal with ad breaks sometimes.

 

Reservoir Dogs – tape 1551

Here’s a sneaky bit of video piracy.

Remember when Reservoir Dogs was the most violent film ever made, and it would spark a wave of copycat violence if people were to watch it outside of the safe confines of a cinema? No, really, that’s what you might have thought, when the BBFC refused for a long time to grant it a certificate on video.

But I got this recording early through a sneaky (and rather sad) manoeuvre.

At the time, I worked for a software house called Computer Concepts, and we regularly attended computer exhibitions. There was a regular Acorn-based show up in Harrogate, which was a long way from our base in Hemel Hempstead, so we all went up by coach, and stayed in a hotel.

Obviously, being away from home for two or three days was stressful on my recording schedule. So I decided to take a VCR with me to keep in the hotel.

And when I got there I found that Reservoir Dogs was one of the movies playing on the hotel’s channel, quite a while before its video release.

Check out the graphics.

From the look of it ‘Spectravision’ might well have done their graphics on a ZX Spectrum.

Nice to see that they couldn’t even be bothered to set the date format to UK DMY. But at least this accurately dates this tape to the 14th April 1993.

Look at the quality, though. Here’s the BBFC certificate – it’s the one used in cinemas, not a specific one for hotel video or anything.

It’s still an impressive film, although I remain disturbed by the hideous racism of the characters. I know they’re supposed to be ‘bad’ people, but they’re also the stars of the movie. I’m so middle-aged.

When the film was released, there was such a reaction to the violence, and yet the amount of violence you actually see is fairly limited. The worst scene, when Michael Madsen’s Mr Blonde tortures the policeman and cuts off his ear, is implied but not shown. The camera actually pans away from the scene, making it clear we’re not seeing it, and yet people were convinced that you see the ear being sliced off. Long before this, Texas Chainsaw Massacre had a similar effect, with people convinced they’d seen more than was actually in the film.

I’m definitely more disturbed by the relentless racism of the characters. Plus that behaviour is a million time easier for viewer to copy than the violence, which is so much outside most of our experiences that it almost might as well be slapstick. But I know I’m a wet, woolly liberal.

There’s nothing else on this tape except the movie.

Manhunter – tape 1518

Here’s a film that sort of came and went at the movies. I think I caught it on video first, after a friend recommended it. This was a few years before Silence of the Lambs came out, and because of this, I read both Red Dragon, the book on which this is based, and Silence of the Lambs, the far more famous follow up.

This is, of course, the introduction of Hannibal Lecktor (as it’s spelled here for no good reason). He’s played with restraint by Brian Cox here, a long way from the much more theatrical Anthony Hopkins portrayal.

Not that this film is an artistic triumph. For a film this classy and well designed, this is the ugliest main title i could imagine.

William Peterson plays Will Graham, a retired FBI investigator, called back by his boss Jack Crawford to track down a particularly vicious serial killer. Graham’s ‘thing’ is that he can ‘get into the mind of the killer’ – something virtually everybody does now, but it seemed new in 1986.

He finds a lead when he surmises that the killer took off his rubber gloves to touch the bodies, and the get a print. But Graham needs to connect more so he goes to visit Hannibal Lecktor, a psychiatrist and serial killer that Graham caught.

Also interested in the case is Freddie Lounds, a reporter for the National Tattler (a National Enquirer analogue). He’s played by Stephen Lang, and is unrecognisable from the man who played the evil colonel in Avatar.

There’s a lovely little scene with Lecktor using some phone hacking skills and social engineering to get Graham’s home address.

Lecktor’s doctor, Doctor Chilton (not as much of a sleazebag as in Silence of the Lambs) discovers a note from the killer to Lecktor, so the FBI bring all of their document analysis skill on the note. I love this part of the movie. It could all be made up gobbledy gook for all I know, but it plays convincingly. Nothing strikes me as stupid or unlikely, and the details, like the use of the book cypher to communicate between the two killers, is interesting.

They can’t work out which book is used to encode the message, so they plant a story in the Tattler through Lounds to try to flush out the killer. It’s all very tense as Graham is walking and a jogger approaches, only to be an innocent bystander. Then Freddie Lounds is taken by the killer, and we get our first glimpse of him.

The ‘Tooth Fairy’ is possibly the most interesting part of the movie. As played by Tom Noonan, he’s a softly spoken but deeply scary person, obsessed with ‘becoming’. He forces Lounds to read a statement that he was lying in his report, then (implied but not shown or described by the movie – it’s in the book though – he bites off Lounds’ lips, then ties him to a wheelchair, sets him on fire and sends him freewheeling into an underground car park.

Then Crawford learns what Lecktor’s message to the killer is – Graham’s home address and an exhortation to ‘Save yourself. Kill them all.’

I like the score in this movie. It’s very synthy, very 80s. Sounds a bit like Tangerine Dream.

We meet the Tooth Fairy in his native habitat. His name is Francis Dolarhyde, and he works at a photo processing lab. Tom Noonan plays his beautifully. He’s very tall and obviously uncomfortable with the way he looks. When he meets Reba, a blind woman who works in the lab, and she turns on the darkroom light for him, he flinches at her expected reaction to him, then relaxes a bit when he realises she’s blind.

There’s a strange, lyrical scene next, when he takes Reba to the local zoo, where they’re putting a tiger under sedation for tooth surgery, and they let Reba touch it.

I don’t think this is a perfect film, though. The narrative structure seems very odd, as if the story is unbalanced. Perhaps we don’t see enough of Dolarhyde. And the ending is fairly prosaic. The book’s ending, ironically, is a much more ‘movie’ type ending, with a massive jump scare right at the end, but this version forgoes that for a rather dull shootout.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 7th August 1993 – 23:15

After this, there’s a caption trailer for Moviedrome in which the announcer calls Alex Cox ‘Alex Fox’.

There’s a trailer for Kisses at Fifty.

Then, an episode of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s On The Air. It looks like it’s supposed to be a comedy, possibly a retro Larry Sanders show. But it just comes off as odd. Here’s Ian Buchanan and the much missed Miguel Ferrer.

Good grief this is terrible. It’s like a comedy put on by somebody who had a comedy described to him over a bad telephone line, didn’t take any notes, and was told to put one on. It uses the always suspect ‘bad onscreen production’ trope to try to forgive its own gross deficiencies. Lots of unfunny fart gags, too. How can you have an unfunny fart gag? This one has loads.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 8th August 1993 – 01:10

There’s a trailer for Summer Dance. And a look ahead to Sunday Night’s programmes.

Then, Michela Saunders (sp?) wishes us a good night, and BBC 2 goes off the air.

This recording from the tape also includes about half an hour of white noise after the station shuts down. Every minute of this is better than On The Air.