Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More Random Musings

I haven't been online much for the last few days. In fact, I've been feeling pretty down, and haven't felt like doing much except sitting in my recliner and watching DVDs. Tonight's the first time I've been productive in several days.

The primary reason for this latest bout of depression is a betrayal by a former friend, someone who's wronged me – and continues to do so – but is getting away with it because I'm not in a position to put a stop to it. It's especially painful because I considered us to be very close for over fifteen years and always thought him to be a moral, ethical guy. (He certainly thought so!) But in the last couple of years that has changed, and several of his other friends (some of them are "former" now, too) and I are at a loss to explain what's happened to him.

Anyway. It's been a rough week or so. Stan Winston, the special effects wizard behind some of the most influential movies of my generation – The Terminator, Predator, Aliens, etc. – has passed away. Regular readers of this blog (and it still amazes me that there are any!) will know of my disdain for shoddy computer generated effects in fantasy films and my preference for well-executed, hand-crafted FX work – well, Winston was the master of practical (physical, on-set) effects. He and his studio always created the most believable creatures and effects, and his passing is a great loss for fantastic cinema.

Cyd Charrise has passed away as well. I'm not what you'd call a big fan of musicals, but my wife is. Therefore, I've watched a lot of them, and enjoy them well enough. But out of all of them, the female dancer I always liked best – for her beauty, charisma, grace and stunning, sexy long legs – was Cyd Charrise. Even before I knew who she was, I lusted after her as a nameless dancer in a green dress in Singin' In the Rain, and her co-starring role with Fred Astaire in Silk Stockings (a musical remake of Garbo's Ninotchka) is delightful. She was a unique beauty.

I traded in some old DVD's last week and picked up the first seasons of two 60's television classics – The Invaders, with Roy Thinnes, and I Spy, with Robert Culp and Bill Cosby. I've seen a fair number of I Spys before – they used to air it on Nick At Nite years ago, and I had a handful of episodes on VHS – but I'm still amazed at the quality of the scripts (especially those penned by Culp himself) and the authentic international locations. Producer Sheldon Leonard somehow worked out a way to shoot on locations from Hong Kong to Africa on a television budget, and that verisimilitude helped make I Spy the most realistic of the 60's spy shows. It's a fun show, too, thanks to the stars' easy camaraderie and witty banter. The whole series has just been re-released on DVD for only fifteen bucks a season!

It's great stuff.

As to The Invaders – I'd never actually seen an episode before. But when I was a kid, I had an Invaders Big Little Book and a TV tie-in Whitman hardcover novel written for kids (I also had the Voyage To The Bottom of the Sea and Star Trek ones; the Voyage one is awesome!), and both of those Invaders books scared the pee out of me. The idea that malevolent aliens were on Earth, virtually indistinguishable from you or me, and only one guy knew about them – well it was a bit much for my seven-year-old mind. And I really related with David Vincent – no one listened to me, either!

So now I finally get to watch the show... and it's really quite good. Smart scripts, fine acting by Thinnes and some of the era's best and most familiar character actors, and a palpable paranoia. You can see clearly where this series greatly influenced Chris Carter's X-Files, along with Kolchak the Night Stalker, so it's quite fitting that both Thinnes and Darren McGavin later had roles on the Files.

Finally, the first issue of Femme Noir: The Dark City Diaries was supposed to be in shops on the 25th, but it's been delayed at least a week due to an error at the printers. The mistake was caught before the book was actually printed, I believe, but correcting the problem caused a delay. Now I'm told that it should be on sale the first Wednesday in July. I'll let you know if that changes.

Keep your fingers crossed.


laughingwolf said...

sorry your work is delayed, chris, hope sales go well

as for the rest, i agree... and enjoyed all the tv shows you mention

vidsaw said...

I too was very saddened by the death of Stan Winston, apparently he had been ill for some years, don't think I had realized that.

He was a giant in the field of fantastic movie making, it's a huge loss, but of course his work will live on and who can count the number of people he inspired?

I love Cyd Charisse. Arguably the greatest female screen dancer and, not to be sexist, but yeah, those legs. Wowza.

By the way: I'm still reading your blog, you are in my Google reader in fact, it's entertaining and informative and we like a lot of the same stuff, so I'll keep reading!

Hope you are feeling better, enjoy the DVD's.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sorry about the situation with your friend. I've had that done to me, long ago. Man it hurt.

I really liked "The Invaders" TV show and wish it would be shown on SciFi or chiller or something. There was suspense, mystery, and some horror too. Great stuff. One of my favorite SF series.

Good luck with everything on Femme Noir.

Bill Spangler said...

The passing of Cyd Charisse reminds me...
I don't have a link for it at hand, but you and Brandi might want to go to youtube and search for "Fred Astaire Smooth Criminal". It's someone's mash-up of the Jackson song, with scenes from two or three Astaire movies (including an appearance by Charisse). It's a lot of fun and shows how much Jackson's dancing was influenced by Astaire.

Craig Zablo said...

Sorry to hear about the shoddy treatment by a former friend.

Stan Winston was a genius. He's missed already.

I, also had the big-little Invaders book. I'd love to see the series again... I'm old enough to have seen it during it's original run and did! LOL! I remember watching it with my mom and really loving it... especially the opening with David Vincent taking the wrong turn and ending up down a deserted road... only to see the Invaders ship! Glad to hear the show has held up well.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Chris.

Sorry to hear bout your difficulties.

My mother has been in and out of surgery and I am having to take care of the house, deal with my own health issues, AND perform the nursing tasks.

I know how you feel.

Stan Winston was one of my heroes of the cinema. I was very saddened to hear of his passing. I literally grew up watching his work.

I LOVE I Spy! I have the original boxed set releases (where the Culp-written/directed episodes are separate).

My favorites are "Mainly On The PLains" (Boris Karloff as a scientist who thinks he's Don Quixote) and "Happy Birthday Everybody" (Gene Hackman is out to kill retired agent Jim Backus).

Wanna good drinking game? While watching the episodes filmed in Hong Kong, take a drink every time you see James Hong. lol

Steven Atkins

ultravox said...

Yep, I'm a fan of the Invaders and Stan too. I wish the SF channel would run the Invader series again, but it doesn't have much to interest me these days (although they're going to air some more more Scare Tactics this July--well I enjoy Dr Who too). At any rate it's sad to see Winston's passing, I'd probably not been aware of him in the background as he operated if it were not for fandom and him being profiled on Sci-Fi Buzz (which also used to show on the SF Channel, and I wished brought back on air, and thru reading of him thru other fandom magazines.