Death Star Playset

On a recent Saturday afternoon, I spent some fantastic quality time with my nine year old daughter.  Together we enjoyed playing with Star Wars figures, in this case some of those from my vintage collection.

I also dug out my Death Star playset, and we set about playing scenes from the film.

Or at least I did, she was more interested in making her own stories up.  Why won’t anyone sensibly recreate the movie with me?  Ever?!  Ah well, at least she had fun.

Now, your Highness, we will discuss the location of hidden Rebel Base…

Perhaps she would respond to an alternative form of persuasion?

All of my Star Wars toy collection means a lot to me, but there are a few items I have that I’m really proud of – and stoked to own.  This Death Star Playset is one of the outstanding pieces in the collection.

It’s made from cardboard sections that slot together, creating a number of rooms in which to recreate scenes from the film.  Rescue Princess Leia and escape via the garbage chute?  No problem.  Have Han Solo chase a squad of stormtroopers into a dead end?  Easily accomplished.

It was bought second hand – along with a few other playsets – back in the early 80s, when I was about 10.  Someone advertised them for sale in the local paper, and my Dad bought them for me.  I was very happy as I’d wanted this playset (and the others) for a long time.  I think the lot cost about £20 at the time, which is a pretty good price.

The Death Star on it’s own is probably worth a lot more than that now.  Although it’s not in mint condition – the box is pretty beaten up (always was) and there are a few tears here and there, as you can see in the photos.  In the USA, they had a plastic Death Star, and this Palitoy UK cardboard version is quite sought after over there.

It was fantastic fun, bringing back a lot of great memories.  I enjoyed setting the figures up and recreating little scenes from the film. The cell block fight and the trash compactor were great, in particular.

Recreating mini versions of the film with my figures was always a major goal for me – still is!  With this playset that aim became much more attainable.  When I was a kid, I only had two stormtroopers and one Death Squad Commander, so my Death Star looked a little empty.  Over the years I’ve added a few troops to the collection (very cheaply) and now the whole set up looks much more impressive.

The main reason I’d dug the Death Star out was to place my new “retro style” Grand Moff Tarkin figure in there.  I got him for Christmas along with the Escape the Death Star board game.  Tarkin was never made for the action figure line originally, and he was a glaring absence when trying to recreate the movie.

However, I didn’t realise that my new Tarkin was sealed on a card inside the board game box.  I didn’t dare open him.  So the Death Star is still not quite finished.

Should I have just opened Tarkin anyway?!

The Legend of Halloween Horror Fest 2019

The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972)

Prepare yourself, loyal reader – for one of the scariest, most horrifying films ever made.  A movie that can incite such fear that you will never stay in a log cabin – or trailer home – ever again.  What is this master piece of horror, you ask?  Why, it’s the classic known as The Legend of Boggy Creek!

Filmed in a semi-documentary style, The Legend of Boggy Creek investigates the strange case of a sasquatch type creature in Fouke, Arkansas.  Some local residents actually appear, recounting some of the creepy first hand experiences that they’ve had or heard about the Fouke Monster.

Contrasting visuals of the idyllic southern swampland with the threat of the unknown, waiting in the secluded creek – creates an unusual and gripping story.  Watching it, I felt the small town atmosphere and could imagine the loneliness of the locals – threatened by this mysterious creature.

I first saw The Legend of Boggy Creek when I was around nine years old, during a season of BBC2 “monster movies” that also featured King Kong and Mighty Joe Young.  Such was my fear that I had to change channel and watch something else.  I never saw the film all the way through till I tracked down a DVD copy some twenty years ago.

This movie still frightens the life out of me, even now.  There’s something about the isolated homes and strange, dark woods that still chills me to this day.

The final sequence of the creature menacing a local family in their remote house at night, is one of the most frightening things I’ve ever seen.

Of course, other viewers haven’t been so impressed.  Mrs Platinum Al considers this movie a load of old nonsense and not scary in the slightest.  Maybe I’m just reminded of being a terrified child when I watch The Legend of Boggy Creek now.

Whatever the cause, I know that this mysterious monster tale still has the power to absolutely chill me to the bone.  I wouldn’t watch it on my own at night, ever.  Not for any money.  Check out The Legend of Boggy Creek for yourself.  You’ll probably think it’s a hilariously cheap B-movie with no scares, too.

Or you might witness one of the most awesomely eerie, cult cinematic terrors ever.

10/10 for me

1/10 for Mrs Platinum Al

Ewok Village Playset

I have a lot of Star Wars toys.  Not everything, but a lot of stuff.  Most of it was collected when the toys were originally released, back when I was a kid.  Luckily, I’ve kept them all, and since the late nineties I’ve sporadically added to the collection.

The Ewok Village Playset was a toy I never owned as a kid.  Released as part of the Return of the Jedi toy line, it’s a large and feature packed set that provides a perfect home for your cuddly-yet-vicious little Empire destroyers.

There’s a fire for roasting Han Solo; a net for capturing rebels; a throne for C-3PO; an elevator for lifting figures up – and a secret escape chute for them to escape down.  All of these neat play features and more; plus it makes a cool diorama for displaying your ROTJ action figures.

When I got into collecting Star Wars toys again in the late 90s, the Ewok Village was on my list of “wants”.  I tracked this example down to a toy shop in Manchester and picked it up for £60, if I remember correctly.

I don’t think that shop is still there now.  Or at least, I’ve not found it on subsequent visits.  It seems to have vanished mysteriously into thin air…

Although opened, this Ewok Village was complete in box, with all the bits packed inside in little baggies.  It’s easy to assemble – before long you can start to recreate some moments from the film.

And that’s exactly what I wanted to do here, with this series of photos: showcase some of my figures from the original line, as they appear in the film.  I decided against doing a further photo session with more modern figures due to time!

There are two scenes recreated here.  Firstly, the Rebels held captive by the Ewoks, whilst 3PO sits on his wooden throne.  Han is held above the fire, about to make a tasty celebratory meal.  The others are gathered (not tethered to wooden poles as in the film, as nothing like that exists for these toys) as they attempt to persuade their way out of the situation.

Unfortunately, a figure of Leia in her Ewok robes was never made for the original line, so she’s not present.  Maybe I will have to create this again with the later figures after all, as that the Princess in that outfit was made later on.  But hey, I’m not aiming for 100% screen accuracy here, just the best I can with what I have available.

I love ensemble scenes using action figures, so another I wanted to recreate was the end of the film.  The Empire has been destroyed, the Galaxy is free: the Rebels celebrate their victory with their short, furry allies and all looks good for the future.

The ghosts of Obi-Wan, Yoda and Anakin are represented by their vintage figures, plus the main heroes are joined in their rejoicing with numerous members of the Rebel Alliance on Endor.

Ensemble scenes like this are my favourites in the movie, because it’s fun to spot random characters and details that were dropped into the film.  This is the sort of thing that creates the rich diversity of Star Wars, and what constantly intrigues me.  So, it’s nice to try to create something with toys that aims for as wide a scope.

So here are the two scenes: reasonably screen accurate, but not shackled to that original image.  I did the best I could, and it was great fun.

One big mistake?  Yes, I forgot to take a photo of the box the Ewok Village came in.  Never mind, you can Google that, should you need to.

May the Force be with you!

Liverpool Comic Con – Part 2

Liverpool Comic Con

Friday 8th March – Sunday 10th March 2019

Exhibition Centre Liverpool

 

Welcome back to my over view of Liverpool Comic Con.  Last time, I shared photos of some of the amazing Cosplay outfits to be seen at the event.  This time, I thought I’d share some pics of the eye-popping props on display.

The selection of display items at this convention was another selling point, with plenty to view.

Star of the show was a full scale X-Wing Fighter, which dominated the exhibition hall on entry.  It was spectacular: the size and detail both being extremely impressive.  Even though, as I stated previously, it was a Disney Star Wars ship and not the version from the classic trilogy, it was pretty cool.

Just imagine how ace it would’ve been if it was a full scale Incom T-65  X-Wing Fighter, as flown by Luke in Episode IV?!  If only.

There were several vehicles from film and TV also, including BA’s van from The A-Team and KITT from Knight Rider.  Both awesome.

I’ve seen a Back to the Future DeLorean before, but it’s always a treat.  This one was, of course, tricked out with other props from the film too – like Marty’s hover board.

In addition to vehicles, I also saw costumes from Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century – two Glen A Larson classics from my childhood.  I was pretty stoked to witness these first hand, being a huge fan of both television programmes.

Not to mention there was a ton of Star Wars costumes, helmets and gadgets that I didn’t get round to photographing.  I did take a pic of my all time hero R2 D2 though (and one of Johnny 5 from Short Circuit, another star of the day).

I assume all the props I saw were reproductions rather than actual items used in filming (I could be wrong).  However it was still a thrill to see them.  If only I could’ve actually sat in the vehicles…

Visit the Liverpool Comic Con Website here.

Sci Fi Weekender 2018 – Part 1

Sci Fi Weekender 23th – 24th March 2018

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

2017 saw my intrepid crew and I sucked into a black hole, from which we were very lucky to escape.  Following numerous trials and tribulations within the void, we emerged eventually into a bizarre parallel dimension.  This strange new plane was warped beyond any fathomable reason; the UK was no longer in Europe and Donald Trump was President.

I know – unbelievable, right?  I was expecting apes to be in charge maybe, but not Trump.

Utilising all the skill and resource we could muster, we managed to reverse thrusters and reset our course for Pwllheli, North Wales, for Sci Fi Weekender.  The crew had missed one event, but in 2018 we would return.

The engines groaned and strained, but we were back on track.  We arrived at our destination and set up camp in our static exploration cabin.

Scouts across the galaxy had informed us that this was the ninth cycle of Sci Fi Weekender.  SFW9 would be full of the usual entertainments: VIP signings; Q&A panels; cosplay; films; games; live music and other acts.

Throw in a few decidedly lethal Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters and there would, indeed, be exceptional joviality.

Alas, many VIP guests had apparently missed their trasport shuttles to reach us.  Caught in the same black hole as we had been, perhaps?  This was a bit of a blow, as I was particularly looking forward to hearing from Hugh Quarshie of Highlander (and others) fame.

Never mind, “There can be only one” – and that guest was the deviilishly delectable Emily Booth, actress and Horror Channel star.  Ms Booth’s Q&A was the first event I witnessed of the weekend and she was great.  Although the interview amounted to just a run through of her IMDB credits, Emily came across very well as both a cult star and confirmed fan.  I even asked a question myself, which is a SFW first for me!

The interview did get a bit saucy at times, but the audience was well warned in advance what to expect.  To be honest, I’d love to see much more of Emily Booth’s talents.  By which I mean, of course, more of the various movies she has starred in.  Of course.

It was then time to lurk about and peruse the merchandise stalls.  There were many more this year than I’ve seen previously.  Excellent news for me, bad news for my galactic credit balance.  I did get some rad stuff though.

This was also a great time to start taking some photos.  Armed with three cameras this year (!), I took quite a few pictures but as always missed so many great cosplayers.  There were dozens that I glimpsed briefly but lost in the crowd, never to be seen again.

It was like when I watched the Cantina scene in Star Wars when I was a kid, before we had a VHS player (yes, I’m THAT old).  An amazing creation was spotted only briefly, to be replaced by yet another, and I had no rewind function.

As you can probably imagine, Friday evening was somewhat of a blur.  I do remember a couple of things that must be mentioned though.

Professor Elemental was an absolute joy to behold, as always.  The Prof dropped tongue twisting chap-hop rhymes over DJ Nick Maxwell’s funky beats.  He expertly rallied the troops and took us on a tea stained tour of the British Empire.  It was brilliantly engaging stuff, with the Professor uniting all the tribes of geekdom in a pulsating party of steampunk excitement.

Darth Elvis & the Imperials performed what I consider the best set I’ve seen them deliver, despite it being cut short.  There were favourites old and new, including “Burning Sith” and a raging cover of the Beastie Boys classic, “Sabotage” – reworked in honour of Kylo Ren.  I was down the front for a fair part of the set and I loved every second.

This band never get old.  May they live as long as Master Yoda and forever be as musically talented at Max Rebo.  Sheer fun from beginning to end!

The evening ended with some spectacular Cosplay Karaoke, which I would’ve loved to have a go of!  No idea who the winner was, all the entrants were winners in my eyes!

Day one at SFW9 was truly stellar.  My only complaint was too much Welsh bashing from several presenters over the course of events.  In this day and age that’s a bit poor.

However Sci Fi Weekender is a success because of the people.  The camaraderie amongst attendees is the true strength, regardless of what VIP interview guests are there or not.  It’s a real pleasure to catch up with old faces – and meet some new ones – in a friendly, welcoming environment like this.

That’ll do for Part One.  Beam me up!

In Part 2: we lose a red shirt, and more pics.  Stay tuned!

Halloween Horror Fest Has Risen from the Grave (again)

Beetlejuice (1988)

Time for a change of pace for this year’s Halloween Horror Fest.  Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice is a spooky comedy horror, showcasing more of the Director’s trademark bizarre imagination. 

Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davis) are a happily married couple, living in their dream house.  They wind up dead, due to an unfortunate accident, and haunting their old home.

When a new family move in, who turn out to be less than ideal inhabitants, Adam and Barbara attempt to scare the new householders away.  After all their attempts fail, they’re left with no other choice than to recruit Beetlegeuse (Michael Keaton) to do the job for them.

Keaton is manically brilliant as sleazoid Beetlegeuse; a deranged, disreputable “bio-exorcist” with a seedy demeanour.

Burton manages to keep the film entertaining and lighthearted in his own goofy way.  Beetlejuice never becomes morbid or grim, instead it’s a fun (though dark) fantasy that oozes creativity.

8/10

Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968)

In which good old Christopher Lee returns as Dracula, in his third outing as the Count for Hammer. 

This time around, Drac is out for revenge when is castle is exorcised by the Monsignor (Rupert Davies).  Not having anywhere to hang out, the Count is somewhat peeved and decides to enact his vengeance on the Monsignor’s virginal niece, played by lovely Veronica Carlson.

Hammer courageously attempt to avoid re-treading the same old formula in this film, though in reality the blueprint is never cast too far away.  The actors all do a fine job, including Davies, Carlson and Barry Andrews as Paul, the token heroic figure.

Lee is fantastic of course, with commanding presence and evil red eyes creating a powerful Lord of Vampires.  And the sets look great, like Kiss of the Vampire, bigger and more realistic than earlier efforts.

Dracula Has Risen from the Grave isn’t a completely successful entry in the series, but it’s a professionally produced and entertaining film in the Gothic Hammer horror tradition.  Well worth a look.

7/10

Halloween Horror Fest House of Horrors

Ring (1998)

OK: so here, we’re talking about the Japanese original movie, Ring (or Ringu) – not the Hollywood remake.  I’m not making any kind of elitist statement, I’ve just never seen the American version. 

Mrs Platinum Al introduced me to this creep-fest some years ago; I’m only surprised it’s not been viewed as part of our Halloween Horror Fest sooner.

A cursed video tape is being passed around; whoever views it dies a week later.  A reporter is investigating the story, and finds that the video isn’t just an urban myth when it strikes close to home.  With time running out, she must determine the origin of the tape and find a way to stop it.

Ingeniously creepy, Ring takes a novel idea – that sounds like exactly the type of urban legend that could be out there – and capitalises on it.  Watching the English subtitled version ads to the sense of mystery, as the viewer slowly pieces the facts together along with the protagonist.

Recommended for its imaginative premise and macabre scenes, you won’t want to watch Ring alone!

8/10

The Exorcist (1973)

I first saw The Exorcist as a student, when I was about 19.  This was in the days when the film wasn’t on video or allowed on TV, and thus it held a reputation beyond all others as the scariest film anyone would see, ever. 

A late night showing after a week of anticipation left me, at the time, convinced that this notoriety was justified.  I slept with the light on for several nights after.

But then a year later, I persuaded some other friends to go and see the movie too.  They found The Exorcist amusing more than anything, and I too was wondering what had frightened me so much.

I’ve not seen the film since then, other than catching parts of it whilst showing on TV (times have changed).  I was unsure what I would make of it.  Surely, its ability to horrify would have decreased still further after all these years?

Whilst I wasn’t terrified watching the movie again, I was greatly impressed by the whole spectacle.  The Exorcist is scary, but it’s also a very engaging and brilliantly told tale.  The acting is top quality and believable, and most of those infamous scenes still have the ability to shock.

Film critic Mark Kermode reckons this is the best film ever made.  I wouldn’t agree with that rating, but The Exorcist is a terrifically thrilling film.

William Friedkin, the Director, succeeds in making a movie which seems horribly realistic – and thus very believable.  Still powerful after all these years.  Essential viewing!

9.5/10