Since time began, or so it seems, Country Party, oops National Park politicians have been on high horses about the virtues of country life and country folk. While today they do not readily air those views on national news, they certainly do so when back in their constituencies. Chief among the country virtues touted is always family, family, and family. Cannot have too much family.

The implication is always that city folk are less wholesome, less virtuous, less trustworthy, less family. Ah, for the country life and family!

The reality is that farms are dangerous places for adults and children. All those chemicals that are handled, mixed, stored, and applied, and sometimes (sssh) applied in excess, often by people who disregard and deny unseen threats. Then there are the animals and diseases that attack them and that they carry. Finally, there is all that powerful equipment, occasionally operated by poorly prepared individuals since licensing is not required or enforced.

Some years ago a National Party leader proclaimed the evils of a Labor opponent with explicit reference to country life and family and invoked marital fidelity as an electoral standard. It was only later that all those chemicals got to this proclaimer of the virtues of the country life. As yet no ABC journalist has thought to re-air the archival video of this proclamation in the current context. Wonder why?

Self-appointed representatives of the Fourth Estate in Australia have also declaimed, more to convince themselves than any auditor, that the local media is too mature and elevated to invade the privacy of politicians, in so far as private life does not effect the performance of public duties. Yes, that has been said with a straight face, and I have heard it said by pundits more than once.

The reality behind this forbearance, which no one in the Canberra Press Gallery will admit, is that the many of the extramural activities of members of the political class are with members of the Canberra Press Gallery: member to member. The Gallery has its own version of omertà.

Despite my efforts to ignore reality, occasionally some of it seeps in.

IMDB meta data: run time 1 and 45 minutes; scored at 7.3/10 by a paltry 124 voters.

‘Coming sooner than you think,’ is the opening title card.  About time, cried the fraternity brothers!

Made fifty years ago, this film is an anticipation of reality television, even before ‘Death Watch’ (1980).

Sex O card.jpg

The set up? The televised trials for a place at the next world Sex Olympiad are underway in a television studio. Watched from a control room by the bored producers, clad in paisley pajamas, who are dedicated to keeping the viewers apathetic in a society where

‘it is better to watch than to do.’  

They watch and so do we.  The vicarious sex on the telly is to sate the libidos of the audience so that there is less reproduction.  (Pornography has never done that for the fraternity brothers.)  There are other sex program catering to the artistic. Another program is aimed at reducing the appetite for food through custard pie throwing. Very Three Stooges. There is a joke about this in the credits with a long list of consultants on pie throwing, including Bernard from ‘Yes, Minister.’

Paisley PJs.jpg Those jammies.

In general the purpose of television is to quell the emotions, drives, and impulses of people because they cause conflict.  The goal is a quiescent society. like Canberra on Saturday night.  

This situation has gone on so long that the current generation we see no longer seems to know the larger context or purpose or the historical evolution of the industry and the society it serves. It just is this way.

Everyone speaks a clipped functional language.  The television producers are High-Drive people.  The audience they cater to consists of Low-Drive people, the vast majority.  That translates readily to the world of Channel 7Mate where the producers cater to an audience they despise and make millions doing it. No one goes broke underestimating the tastes of that demographic where urine drinking is a competitive sport.

Finding the balance in this television game is tricky.  Nat with eyebrows that often speak for themselves is pressured from above by the Controller, a standard BBC term, to improve his programs and threatened from below by a underling who wants his job. Situation normal in an organisation but mercifully this depiction is pre-KPI so there is no cloudy and vague McKinsey-speak further to confuse matters in the name of clarity.

Two disruptions occur.  First an artist arrives in the studio and he wants to upset people with horrifying pictures.  Think of Evard Munck’s ‘The Scream’ or the Twit in Chief smiling.  Ugh! These people are indeed horrified by the art.  The studio High-Drives are so cocooned they have never seen an unpleasant sight. The artist tries to disrupt a broadcast to show one of his pictures and becomes one himself when he falls to his death! 

Eyebrows, however, finds the pictures fascinating, albeit unsuitable for broadcast. He is, perhaps, not quite as superficial as he seems, then into his life comes a personal crisis when a child by his first wife is tested as Low-Drive, which will reflect badly on him.  He has no interest in Ex or Child except as they show in his file. He is a very model of a modern McKinsey manager avant le mot and only thinks of his KPIs. 

The idea emerges of isolating a couple on a deserted island amid cameras so that viewers can watch them cope. Eyebrows and Ex volunteer with Child. These three missed Scouting and know nothing. They do not know what fire is let alone how to start and maintain one or to pull a vegetable out of the ground on the windswept rain-soaked island in Holland Park to which they are consigned.

They have copious instructions from Wikipedia on an iPhone which are frequently consulted. Eyebrows had an iWatch in the studio bit he did not take it to The Island where he went low tech.

The program is called ‘Living Life.’  The audience finds it amusing and it is a hit. The audience by the way is represented by a focus group of twelve garbed in pink sweatshirts and pants. These are the Low-Drives of Channel 7Mate.

Without the professor from Gilligan’s Island, Eyebrows and Ex are hopeless.  They have been spoon fed so long that they only know the shape of the spoon. Child falls, breaks an arm, and slowly dies of an untreated infection.

Focus group.jpg

The sweatpantsers find that hilarious. Ratings soar. (See, like ‘Death Watch.’)

The inevitable comparisons are the E.M. Forester story ‘When the Machine Stops’ and George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four.’  Though as to the latter, there is no hint here that there is a regime oppressing people per Orwell but rather a commercial enterprise giving the Pink Sweatpants Nation what it wants, when it wants it, and how it wants it. Is not that broadcast populism, or democracy? Responding to what the people want is one definition of democracy. 

This is another gem from the fecund typewriter of Nigel Kneale. The players include Reginald Perrin and the estimable, but here very young, Brian Cox. I found it on the Internet Archive. 

It was filmed in colour but only a black and white archival print remains. The expensive colour film was reused though why the BBC did it in costly colour at a time when there very few colour televisions to see it on is anyone’s guess.

Inspired by this viewing, I will look for ‘Death Watch.’

IMDb meta-data, 1 hour and 27 minutes, rated 5.1/10 from 60 voters.

A road movie in space as the lonely space trucker Bruce with 20,000 tons of Iowa hog fat picks up an escape pod passenger.  Not quite a hitchhiker but close to it.

Trucker card.jpg

They get to know each other and then they encounter The Dark Object and they struggle to survive.  They bond. Bruce is in the Channel 7Mate demographic.

Moral, space travel is boring.  Subtext, watching boring space travel is boring.  

Trucker action.jpg


This is a no budget exercise written, produced, directed by one of the actors. See. It was posted to You Tube by the maker by way of a release.

I managed to watch it to the end but then, strangely, forgot about it until now quite a time later. 

Not to be confused with ‘Space Truckers’ (1996), which on the IMDb ranks at 5.2 or a mere 0.1 higher despite its much bigger budget and some fine actors, e.g., Dennis Hopper, Charles Dance, and more.

IMDB metadata: 1 hour and 37 minutes @ 3.9 from 479 friends of the producer.

Half Sy Fy and half an ersatz James Bond thriller from Italy.

Stardust card.jpg 'Staggering?' No more like numbing.

The first Earth flight lands on the Moon, and its four-man crew sets out to do some science, collect samples, survey, map, and gawk at Terra. (They do not light up.) But they are not alone!

There is another ship, a round June bug with external retracting landing gear. The fraternity brothers thought it was cute, more so later when it gave birth.

stardust_ship.png The June bug on the Moon.

After a standoff, two of the Terrans meet the aliens who are as insecure as Ivy League graduates who have to tell everyone immediately and repeatedly that they are Ivy League graduates, and boast again and again about their superiority to the Earthlings. Superior, maybe, but tactful not. The chief proclaimer is a chump-cha Twiggy in a platinum wig. In addition there is a wise old owl, and robot who seems nicer than Twiggy and smarter looking than the wise owl. Pretty sure that wig was used again later in ‘Sette uomini d'oro nello spazio’ or ‘Star Odyssey’ (1979) without Twiggy underneath.

'Superior,' did she say, time after time, and yet they can’t change a tire on the spaceship, which is why it is stuck on the Moon waiting for some road service retards from Earth to wander by. How superior is that! The Terrans volunteer to change the tire, while Twiggy repeats the scriptwriters mantra. Owl gets all faintly and the Terra doctor notices he has leukaemia. Tire changing will do that.

Twiggy and the Earthmen join....forces to treat the disease in the owl. Because they are so superior the aliens have neither a doctor nor medicine. Did she say superior? Well maybe it is a superior form of leuekmia, which the fraternity brothers thought mainly afflicted the young. Mr Owl is no spring owl.

Best treatment for leukaemia on Earth is to be had in Mombassa. Mom bosa? In Kenya. Sure.

The big June bug ejects a mini June bug and an away mission to land in east Africa. Twiggy brings along one of the really big-button remoters for geriatrics just in case. Superior technology, not! It gets put to good use.

The wise old owl goes on about the union of the two peoples of Earth and owls. The fraternity brother responded to that idea with enthusiasm.

There we switch to James Bond, complete with a villain sporting mirror-shined loafers and stroking a hairy pet. Blofeld slumming. Another wanna-be villain.

It’s like this. The Superior Beings with a flat spaceship tire and leukimea have a stash of diamonds. Blofeld knows this because one of the four Earthmen contacted him to rat it out. (Disclosure statement, I fast-forwarded past this revelation, so that is my interpretation based on what happens next.) Blofeld also knows that they are going to the clinic so he plants his killer nurses there with Uzis up their... It’s a trap!

Earlier the army had wasted screen time trying to blow up the ship, the robot, and the director’s chair. Something. Anything.

Later there is confrontation and shoot out on the Moon. The traitor gets it. Blofield gets it. Twiggy gets it.

To union or not.jpg Union at last. The end.

Never seen anything quite like it. It is a genre mongrel, part drive-in Sy FY and part low-budget James Bond. There are other mongrels in the Sy FY kennel, usually noir thrillers like ‘The Atomic Man’ or ‘The Amazing Transparent Man’ and others that blend with musicals, krimis, ghost stories, and .....

The levitation effects were fun. The robot unmasking was neat. The June bugs large and small were cute. It must have used everyone in Kenya as an extra.

But, really, 3.9 seems high.

A bildungsroman of sorts as Gully Foyle grows and changes with his experiences, and the greatest changes occur at the instruction of women. The first is the one-way telepathic black woman whom he rapes and, in a way, sets free. Later they form a team of convenience.  The second is Jiz whose influence on him is considerable, making him grow and change.  Finally is the White Icicle who attracts and repels him in equal measure. Least influential but last is Moira, the stay at home.

Foyle cover.jpg

Gully begins the story as an uneducated barely verbal spaceship hand on the Nomad. Think of the channel 7Mate demographic without the drooling and scratching and you have him.  By the end he is richer than all the cynics who own Channel 7Mate put together.

The Nomad is a wreck floating in space and Gully alone has survived the attack by dumb luck and a resourcefulness he did not know he had.   A friendly spaceship hoves into view and he signals it, quickly and repeatedly.  Yet it passes him by, contrary to all the laws, rules, norms, and ethics of spaceflight.

Thereafter he swears revenge on that ship.  Driven by that desire he survives, and later prospers, and learns, and seeks the guilty ship.  The adventures are many, the plot twists are deft, the characters differentiated, the settings detailed and followed through, and the science fiction is etched into the story and the characters.  

The first, and as it turns out, the last key, to the narrative is that in this world of 2550 teleportation is as common as walking is today.  To move from one place to another one teleports oneself, clothes included and anything one is carrying or holding.  Distance varies with ability and practice.  It is safer than walking since there are no crazed drivers on King Street to dodge.  The method is a mental discipline developed by a Mr. Jaunte, and so it is ‘to jaunte.’ The telekinesis involved is crucial to the narrative and the denouement.  

There are three treasures in this quest.  First is a vast fortune of Credits 20 billion, where a hundred credits is a great deal of money.  Second is a rare mineral that releases vast quantities of energy, far exceeding uranium and its mutant cousins.  Third is Foyle himself, much to his own surprise, and to the reader, too.  

There is much satire of the super rich, so much it grew tedious to read, but it is fitted to the overall plot like a jewel in a ring.  In a world where movement is by thought conspicuous consumption to signal one’s riches becomes conspicuous transportation.  

Nicely embedded in that satire is Foyle’s hiding in plain sight for a part of the time, as the most ostentatious and conspicuous transportee, while he seeks leads to the hated ship.  Although his choice of an alias was a quick and certain give away it took the villains a long time to figure it out.  

There are also a couple of surprising passages for a 1956 publication about the role of women in this wealthy society, sequestered, hidden, and rather like pets in a zoo.  None of that applies to the first three women whom he encounters, though the last one is of that sort of society.  Finally he returns to Moria as we all do. One is an illegal immigrant and the second a convict.

Without any explicit comment, Bester also shows a society with deep, very deep class divisions so that members of the working class where Foyle started, are barely educated, civilised just enough to do a job like living machines. Indeed he is so dense that at first the target for his vengeance is the spaceship itself.  Only later does understand that the crew made the decision and then he targets them, but in time the realises that the captain gave the order. 

Stars blurb.jpg

There is no preaching by the author but the reader gets that point.  So much Sy Fy is spoiled by childish preaching by the author using the keyboard as if it were a sledgehammer to drive points home to the dense reader all too much like the morons on Fox News yelling at the camera.

bester.jpg Alfred Bester

Another flaw that has stopped me reading a few Sy Fy titles is the ostentatious erudition that some author parade to show how clever they are, like the pointless CGI of so many movies, but which advances neither plot nor character.  This title is free of that egomania.

That it opens with an excerpt from William Blake’s most famous poem which is integrated into both plot and character.  

I read it in an adolescent Sy Fy phase but had forgotten all the details.

By the by, holding physical objects accountable for the consequences arising from them may seem absurd to us — we know the spaceship itself did nothing — but Athenians did not. A building block that fell and killed some would be tried, sentenced, and smashed.

IMDb Metadata 1 hour and 20 minutes of Dali Time, rated 3.0/10 by 670 time wasters.

‘It Conquered the World’ (1956) was Zontar’s first effort at Terra domination. But Zontar had a sibling and here it is. Sexing Venusians is beyond even the fraternity brothers, so we will leave it at ‘It.’

The Dallas production company copied ‘It Conquered the World’ nearly line by line and scene by scene, except at the coda. It is not a continuation of the previous story but a tired and trite repetition of it. The plagiarism is so literal that it even includes the same 1950s ethnic accents for some of the most minor characters. However, the decor, fashions, hair are all of the 1960s.

Zontar Venus.jpg

John Agar, about whom more below, saves the world once again, single-handedly as he prefers. This is done after his wife and his friend try to kill him. Macho Man that he is, he kills his wife, but bonds with his friend. Is this man-love?

The acting is uniformly wooden. Agar is the exception; he is robotic: stiff and mechanical.

Copied yes, but the homily at the end differs. Most Sy Fy films have some kind of coda. At the end of ‘It Conquered the World’ Peter Graves told audiences that humanity would prevail because humans have feelings, emotions, compassion,…. [ad nauseam]. In this outing, Agar’s text does not celebrate all that girly New Testament stuff, but declares humanity will endure because we think, reason, do science, and such. Hooray! Banned in anti-Vaxxer states across the nation.

That pulled me up short. While ‘It Conquered the World’ is a better movie, this is a better message.

‘It Conquered the World’ is a better movie at 4.9 on the IMDB opinionmeter, though in the basement, because it has much more energy, vitality, momentum, and tension than this leaden exercise.

Once again John Agar’s (1921–2002) feet do not touch career bottom. He kept it up for nearly another forty years! For a man who was second to John Wayne in ‘Fort Apache’ (1948), ’She Wore a Yellow Ribbon’ (1949), and ‘Sands of Iwo Jima’ (1949) this is a long way down. After marrying America’s sweetheart, Shirley Temple, he found a greater love in the bottom of innumerable bottles of alcohol, so the story goes, and that love ended his marriage and put dent in his career.

The titles indicate the substance of this selection of his oeuvre.
‘Revenge of the Creature’ (1955)
‘Tarantula’ (1956)
‘The Mole People’ (1956)
‘Daughter of Dr Jekyll’ (1957)
‘The Brain from Planet Arous’ (1957)
‘Attack fo the Puppet People’ (1958)
‘Journey to the Seventh Planet’ (1962)
‘Women of the Prehistoric Planet’ (1966)
‘Curse of the Swamp Creature’ (1966)

In most of them he played an authority figure, a scientist or an army officer, something he never was.

That career came as a result of his marriage. After he married Temple, her studio hired him, put him through acting school, and cast him in his first film, ‘Fort Apache.’ When she divorced him friends like John Wayne tried to help him with work but the shambles continued. Despite it all he kept acting, in his way, when not in jail for drunk driving, assault, harassment, stalking, petty theft, and such, yet he has a long list of roles on the IMDb, the last released in 2005 after his death. He is another Hollywood high diver. Started out on top and plunged to the bottom in no time at all.

According to the cinema oracle, IMDb, there is a Zontar Television series. Tempting….

IMDB metadata 1 hour and 7 minutes @ 5.0/10 from 1246 time wasters.

‘The aliens are coming! The alien Russians are coming!’

II poster.jpg The lobby card misleads. As usual. There are no zapping flying saucers.

The Cold War is very cold and John Carradine, with his cadaverous appearance and other worldly voice, leads the spooks once again.

He was a nuclear scientist who adds sugar to his radium and blows himself up. Sad. His dear friend and colleague ruminates on the morality of atomic weapons in the aftermath with his comely daughter and Igor. B o r i n g.

To liven things up comes the Zombie Carradine, looking even more cadaverous and spooky than ever with the pancake makeup. No, he does want a cup of coffee. He is there to lay down the law. His dead body has been put to work.

This Lazarus is speaking for the otherwise Invisible Invaders (the I-Squares) who live on the Moon, and have done so for squillions of years (without paying a cent of rent). Not even the really big telescope at Mount Palomar that Bruce Bennett used when Carradine was the 'Cosmic Man' (reviewed elsewhere on this blog) could see them or their works. They are INVISIBLE. (That is music to the film’s producer because it means no special effects budget is required.)

Indeed the main effect is shuffling foot prints so we know the Zombie alien is coming. It seems the Zombies are invisible, too, well, some of the time but not always. Consistency is not a Zombie virtue.

The budget cutters have been at work on the Moon, and to economise the I-Squares are using the Earth's dead as Zombies. We are told often in a radio voiceover that there are hordes of them rampaging around killing the living to convert them into Zombies to meet their KPIs, Killing Performance Indicators. Yet we only see six of them, all men in suits with neckties and all of them 1950s whitebread. We see them about six times. It looks like two takes, repeated and repeated, one coming down a slope and one on the flat, all in Bronson Canyon. The property values never recovered from this exercise.

Why do the I-Squares want to depopulate the Earth? Are they anticipating the Solar contamination of Paris Hilton? The fraternity brothers have no idea. Situation normal.

Carradine is not there to negotiate, just to threaten. He tells his ruminating old buddy to call on world leaders to surrender and be quick about it, which his buddy does by going to D.C. to pass the word where he is laughed out of court. The carrion the press join the fun with spinning newspaper headlines. Situation normal.

Though the threat is global we only see the Yankee response. Not just whitebread, but only Yankee whitebread.

‘No more Mr Nice Guy,’ declares an disembodied Carradine (whose body has now gone onto to another gig), and the I-Squares begin inflicting disasters on the world. First, they take ‘I Love Lucy’ off the air and riots follow. Then they cause the New York Yankees to lose the pennant. Can it get any worse?

Yes, Richard Nixon gives speeches. Aaargh! Enough. There is stock footage of fires, floods, and famines that result from Nixonionisms.

Now D.C. responds by throwing all the resources of the mighty Federal government into the problem. These resources are: one ruminating, aged scientist, his assistant Igor, his daughter who bites her knuckles, and John Agar, proving there is no bottom to touch in his career descent. There is also one jeep and a panel van, and one, only one, radiation suit. That’s it. The Boy Scouts were always better prepared for Armageddon than that.

Fiir agains II.jpg Life on Earth depends on these people!

This is the Arsenal of Humanity? Blame the budget cutters! Fortunately, they have an in with the script writer. Plus now that Carradine has gone, the Zombies are not only stiff-legged, they are stiff-brained. There is no ethereal voice to scare everyone.

Despite the absence of Whit Bissell from the lab, the aged scientist hits on the killer weapons for the undead dead Zombies whose bodies are inhabited by the spectral I-Squares.

Taking a page from Bissell’s lab manual in ‘Target Earth’ (1954) (reviewed elsewhere on this blog), the aged ruminator prepares a sound ray. (Hey, that is what it is.) It focuses Beach Boys songs onto the Zombies and the ‘Good Vibrations’ are too much for them. They are driven from the cadavers and die. Die, alien, die! The fraternity brothers liked that.

Igor chickens out but recovers. From this episode we know he has no chance with the knuckle-biter. Agar sleepwalks through most of it, and his stunt double in the radiation suit does the heavy lifting. But there is no doubt he got the girl.

While the I-Squares are Reds in invisible disguise, they are so geriatric with all the foot dragging that, well, they would fall over their own feet. If left to roam around they would eventually do themselves in.

The sets are empty. The film editing leaves in much that should have omitted, like the firing range targets in some of the explosion footage. Most of the, er ahem, story is told through radio voiceovers. Always a sign there is no sound technician getting paid. The direction is static, usually a sign of one-take. No one moves once the focus is set, so that it does not need to be pulled again. The screenplay is…. (what is the right word…) absent.

John Carradine must have been working off some gigantic karmic debt in doing all these one and two day gigs in Z grade films. This would have been half a day for an old trouper like him.

John Agar, well, what more can be said. He is another Hollywood high diver. Once a second lead to John Wayne, he fell to these catatonic depths. He is leaden here, no doubt responding to the director’s orders. I have described his descent in another post.

The director is that speed merchant Edward L. Cahn who could turn these things out in five days or less, much loved by producers for getting it in the can. He could do fifteen of these a year, but no one can watch that many in a year, and retain sanity. I could not find a picture of him on the inter-web.

That the IMDbasers give it a 5.0 average irritates, since the better ‘The Cosmic Man’ (1959) is 4.7 where Carradine brings an interplanetary Marshall Plan.

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Thoughts on the canon of poltical theory and life.

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