Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Blasts From the Past

Kicked off the morning with breakfast and An American In Paris, the Oscar-winning Gene Kelly musical from 1951. I go into further detail on this romantic French tale at my Musical Dreams Movie Reviews blog.

An American In Paris

The movie was almost done when Charlie called and said there were packages for me downstairs. That was a surprise. I hadn't ordered anything. Turned out they were from my mom. She sent me all my remaining childhood and school paraphernalia that she had at her house, including photos, my college degree (I have my high school degree - don't know how she ended up with the college one), and various awards and notices from high school. She even dug up the first poems I ever wrote, one entitled "Blue" that I believe I wrote around fourth or fifth grade, and one called "Snow" that I wrote in the Cape May County Middle School in 1991. The latter was even published in the school's newsletter. (And they were surprisingly mature for short poems I wrote when I was between 10 and 12.)

Mom sent all my childhood photos in a pretty black-and-cream box with fuzzy flower details. Not only were there pictures of me going back to when I was born, but she tossed in a couple of photos of Keefe, my sisters, her and Dad-Bill, and even one of a too-cute toddler Jessa. I was inspired by this to finally put all my photos together into boxes and get them out of aging, falling-apart photo books.

I called her to thank her for the boxes. She said she's been going through her house, trying to clear out things that she thought we'd want while she was still around. She spoke highly of all the awards Keefe, Rose, and I won for sports, music, and academics in high school (Anny...did her own thing) and praised the wonderful children she raised...and the wonderful adults we've become.

Went back to Buck Rogers while I worked on the photos. "The Satyr" reminds me a bit of another pioneers-in-unusual-places TV episode from the early 80's, "The Lady and the Tiger" from Tales of the Gold Monkey. Rather than being menaced by a tiger, the pioneer woman and her son whom Buck discovers on a mostly-uninhabited planet are under attack by a strange group of satyrs, men with horns and legs like goats. One seems especially interested in the mother and her child. Buck doesn't understand why, until he's bitten by a Satyr and starts turning into one himself.

Finally got hungry enough for lunch and put the photos aside around 1:30. Had a slice of cheese pizza, a slice of mushroom, and a can of Pepsi Cherry Vanilla at Phillies Phatties down the street. There were a couple of guys eating at tables and watching the NFL Live on ESPN, but it was mostly pretty quiet.

Next stop was the Haddon Township Library. They were saving all the DVDs but the regular titles to be returned later in the week, which didn't leave me with much to do. I put away the regular titles, then picked up a couple of movies and two more novels. I'm not up to anything really heavy this week. With all the trouble I've had lately, the British sci-fi movie Attack the Block is about as dark as I'm in the mood to get. I also decided for another blast from my past with Top Gun, and found more Daniel Tiger and the World War 1-set Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero in the children's section. Continued with the next Bryant and May title (after White Corridor, which I've already read), The Victoria Vanishes. Having had luck with one pair of quirky British detectives, I thought I'd go even stranger with one of the two Thursday Next novels the library has, One of Our Thursdays Is Missing.

Made two quick stops on the way home. AC Moore did have boxes for photos (and shoes), but they were all up high. I was glad I found a step ladder sitting around so I could reach one. They didn't have any boxes or anything for photos at Target. (And I forgot the other reason I was there, which was for shampoo.)

Returned to the photos after I got in. I decided I really wanted to get at least the regular photos finished. (The Christmas pictures will require at least one box to themselves and will be done tomorrow after work.) There were so many wonderful memories in those pictures! My favorite of the many with Keefe was an adorable shot of him beaming while looking over a coffee table with his stuffed Pikachu. (I'm pretty sure I'm the one who bought that Pikachu for him from the KayBee toy store in the Hamilton Mall.) Found photos of the last wedding I attended before Dana and Jesse's last year, the union of two of our neighbors (whose daughters I frequently babysat and were friends of Keefe's) at the fire hall in North Cape May in I believe the late 90's.

It was especially nice to see the childhood pictures again. There were a lot of Mom and a heavily bearded Bruce and tiny little me in their original home in Roseman's Boatyard in Cape May in the early 80's. Mom, Rose, and I spent my toddler years at her mother's home on the northern end of Cape Island. There's a couple of pictures of the great Alice In Wonderland costume Mom made for me when I was about 4.

She even sent my old school pictures and elementary class photos. I can't believe how early 90's I dressed in the Special Services Middle School and my freshman year of high school, in chunky floral pantsuits and tunics and long, dangling earrings that had to hurt my ears. (Not because they were heavy, but because my ears are sensitive and don't like cheap metal backs.)

The elementary class photos are also pretty interesting. Having started kindergarten in 1984, the outfits on the kids ran the gamut from little girls in frilly pink and flowered dresses with drop waists and boys in ties and tight slacks, to girls in skinny ties, vests, frizzy hair, and suspenders and boys in thick primary-colored sweaters, heavy jeans, and high tops by the time of fifth grade in 1989. (And some of the boys made some pretty goofy faces in the late 80's, too.)

Finished out Buck Rogers while I worked on the photos, and later as I ate leftovers for dinner. It's Snow Wilma and the Seven Generals when the Searcher come across seven little men on a bomb-running mission in "Shgoratchx!" The little fellows prove to be more of a harm than a help, using their telekinetic powers to get into everything on the ship and constantly annoying Wilma, who looks like no other woman they've ever seen. They accidentally damage the brain of obnoxious main brain robot Crichton...which may prove more damaging than any of their pranks when the ship heads straight for a star, and only Crichton's abilities can steer them clear of it.

"The Hand of Goral" gets even stranger. Buck, Hawk, and Wilma pick up a distressed pilot, but they return to a Searcher that's much-changed from the one they knew. The layout is different, and almost everyone is acting the opposite of their usual selves. Crichton is even friendly towards them! They have to figure out what's going on...and keep that seemingly innocent pilot from doing any real damage.

Buck himself is under fire in "Testimony of a Traitor" when an Earth general accuses him of working with the people who brought about the nuclear holocaust that destroyed the planet. Buck has no memories of any of this. Dr. Goodfellow uses a machine to uncover his repressed memories...and then, Wilma and Hawk race him to Mount Rushmore to see if they can prompt anything else.

It's the Searcher that's in trouble in the final episode, "The Dorian Secret." A race of masked beings known as the Dorians demand that Buck hand over a young woman of their own race hiding among a group of passengers who has been accused of murder. While Buck tries to convince both the crew and the Dorians that the woman is innocent, the Dorians' altering of the temperature in the ship cause the passengers to riot and decide to turn the woman in themselves.

(Disc 4 ends with the original two-part TV versions of the pilot episode. I already did that one once and wasn't really eager to do it again.)

And...that's it. The show was evidently canned mid-season. To be honest, I sort of agree with Buck himself, Gil Geraud, about the series' all-over-the-place tone. The second season in particular could veer from deadly serious ("Mark of the Saurian," "Testimony of a Traitor") to ridiculously over-the-top ("Shgoratchx!", "The Golden Man") in the space of an episode or two. I also suspect that neither season used much of Buck's original comics adventures besides Wilma, Kane, and Ardala (and the latter two vanished after the retool). Both seasons felt more late 70's/early 80's disco than 30's sci-fi, with everyone running around in short skirts and tight pants and tons of cleavage seen on both genders.

That said, I really enjoyed the series as a whole. It may be goofy, but there's a lot that does work, from some nice performances to some of the more interesting stories, like the first season's "A Dream of Jennifer" and "Mark of the Saurian" from the second season. Mel Blanc was a hilarious Twiki (glad they brought him back for the latter half of season 2), and Gray and Geraud made a fetching pair. I also enjoyed some of the more fun characters in the second season; genial Dr. Goodfellow and stuffy Crichton have a lot more personality than Dr. Huer and Dr. Theopolis.

I'm actually a bit surprised no one has tried to reboot this for a modern audience. It might actually be pretty cool to see what they could do with this story now, especially with the current drive to adapt anything that comes from a comic book. At any rate, if you have fond memories of this show like I do or are a fan of the campier sci-fi shows of the late 70's and early 80's, you'll have as much fun visiting this literal blast from the past as I have.

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