Hideyuki Kikuchi "Talk Live" Event in Tokyo, October 2003 

The theme of "journeys" continued from the September talk live event, but 
this time the journeys were all among the stars. The first film we watched 
was 1950's "Rocketship X-M," where a trip on a bulbous-tipped rocket to the 
moon takes a disastrous turn. Cosmic events throw the rocket off course, 
forcing it to land on Mars instead. The martian landscape, which looks 
suspiciously like the Mojave Desert, is littered with the rubble of a 
self-destructive race, the remainders of which are belligerent rock-hurling 
caveman-types. Regardless of how ridiculous four men and a woman looking 
wandering around the surface of Mars in army fatigues and gas-masks, at 
least the film had an interesting tinting effect that had scenes on the red 
planet tinted an amber hue instead of the regular black and white (which I 
believe was something included in the special edition of the film released 
on laser disk). Given that this film was made in about 10 days to beat a 
George Pal production with a similar theme to the box office, it's quite 
well-made, and the ending was an interesting departure from most films. 

"This Island Earth" was Universal Studio's entry into the space race in 
1955. My most recent viewing of this film was when it was lampooned in the 
Mystery Science Theater 3000 movie, but it holds up well even without the 
hecklers. The effects were rather good, which is important since the story 
doesn't really make a lot of sense. One thing that occurred to me for the 
first time, though, was the similarity between the planet of Metaluna in 
this film and Gamilon in the Starblazers/Space Cruiser Yamato anime series. 
And of course, no description of this film would be complete without a nod 
to the Metaluna mutants, huge bum-headed creatures with veins on the outside 
and crab claws that are known and loved by sci-fi fans around the world. 

The funky tinting effects were once again called into play in 1960's "Angry 
Red Planet", this time giving us a pink world with a hint of 
reverse-chromatography that helped to hide how bad the sets were. Probably 
the most famous thing about this film is the giant "rat bat spider" creature 
that menaces the explorers, though there's also a great scene of a giant 
amoeba ingesting one of the crew. 

After that, anything would've been a pleasant change of pace, but what we 
got was a genuine classic of the genre--"Forbidden Planet." If you've never 
seen the intelligent 1956 feature that introduces Robby the Robot and boasts 
some pretty impressive effects, you really owe it to yourself to check it 
out. They don't come much better than this. The laser disk version that 
Kikuchi-sensei drew this material from featured a behind-the-scenes look at 
the ground-breaking special effects of this film, which apparently can't be 
found on the DVD version. Also, it's a chance to see Leslie Nielsen when he 
was a hot young buck instead of the bumbling police detective we've come to 

Next on the program was "Journey to the Seventh Planet," which, in my 
humble opinion, could have more aptly been dubbed "Planet of the Hot 
Chicks." After a long journey through space, the crew of this ship had only 
one thing on their minds--dames, and lots of them! As in the beginning of 
Ray Bradbury's "Martian Chronicles," the spot where the earthmen land goes 
from barren rock to a lush forest in a matter of seconds. Houses and trees 
from their hometowns appear as they think of them, and when leggy babes 
start popping up in bunny girl outfits and negligees, no one's about to 
start asking tough questions. While I salute this film for tackling the 
hard-hitting problems of horny astronauts, I was less than impressed by the 
special effects--which consisted mainly of film scratched with a pin to 
produce awful laser beams. 

Raising the horny astronaut quotient to the Nth degree was the infamous 
"Flesh Gordon," a softcore porn send-up of serial hero Flash Gordon. While 
the live action scenes were ludicrous, the special effects were surprisingly 
good. There were a number of creatures animated in the style of Ray 
Harryhausen, but I can't even give the name of most of them because I try to 
run a family-friendly act here. One of the big hits of the evening were the 
beams Dr. Zarkov-inspired Flexi Jerkoff fired from his nipples, and 
discussion of the film continued at the coffee shop after the event. One 
interesting note that Kikuchi-sensei was able to provide about the Japanese 
release of this film--it wasn't promoted as porn, but as just a regular 
film. When he went to see it in the theater the guy next to him had brought 
his kids, but a few minutes into the film the family beat a hasty retreat. 
This is required viewing if you like your genre films to have decent 
stop-motion animation and indecent exposure. 

So what more could you possibly want after campy pornographic space opera? 
A cigarette and some moist towelettes? Sorry, there weren't any of those, 
but there was the fairly recent "Starship Troopers." Love it or hate it, 
the big screen version of Heinlein's novel did feature some pretty intense 
special effects of waves of insect attackers and fleets of starships. While 
everyone was reveling in bug-splattering fight scenes, the question of 
whether director Paul Verhoeven is German or Dutch came up (the answer, for 
those of you playing along at home, is Dutch). Compared to the wizardry of 
the folks at ILM, the effects in the films of the 50's and 60's looked a lot 
less "special," so I suppose it's a good thing this film was featured toward 
the end of the program. 

A Japanese offering to the space travel genre entitled "Uchu 
Daisenso/Battle in Outer Space" rounded out the program. Imagine 
"Independence Day" without the huge plug for Apple Computers. There were 
lots of people running around blasting alien bases with all kinds of rays, 
none of which seemed to be terribly effective, and in the end the huge 
mothership exploded. Wait, that sounds even better than ID4! And while the 
effects weren't quite up modern standards in this 1959 film, it was 
blissfully free of Jeff Goldblum--which is more than you can say about most 
of the science fiction blockbusters of the last decade. 

With all these films to watch, there wasn't a lot of time for chitchat, 
which is why my summary of the events this time might seem a little dry. 
However, I am rather pleased with myself for actually taking notes during 
the program so I could bring you this report in record time. There weren't 
as many questions from the audience as usual, but someone did ask if the 
books that had been announced for the next few months were still on track. 
The good news is, the latest VHD novel should be out in or around December, 
as promised--making it the third adventure of our favorite dhampir to be 
released this year. And speaking of the VHD books, Dark Horse comics seems 
to be quite serious about releasing the novels in English. Don't be 
surprised if we have an agreement in the very near future. And on that 
super-high note I will leave you to go catch up on my sleep. 

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