John Jos. Miller’s CREATURE FEATURE

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THIS’N’THAT

Plans.  We all have them.  God knows I do. However, mine seem to work out about as frequently as  Soviet Union Five Year Industrial Plans. IE, never. Fortunately, I have defeated the flu that kept me under its hideous thumb for most of last week, so now I’ve just got to catch up on all the stuff I’ve gotten behind on, some of which is Posts I Planned To Do For Cheese Magnet. To wipe the slate clean on that score, I’m going to do a quick romp through some recent books/movies [Which has now taken me three days. Plans!], starting with the red-headed stepchild of Japan’s kaiju industry, Gamera. Yes, the giant turtle.

Notoriously difficult to find in their original Japanese versions, most of these I’ve seen over the years were the quite inferior various American versions, most of which were television rather than theatrical releases. For example, in GAMMERA THE INVINCIBLE (GAMERA THE GIANT MONSTER) not only did our heroic turtle suffer the indignity of having his name spelled wrong in the title of his own movie, but he had to make do with Brian Donlevy in the Raymond Burr role. Further movies in the series had their own difficulties.

Well, no more of that, thanks to Shout Factory, who has released all eight of the Showa Era (1965-1970) Gamera flics, the first two as solo DVDs and the next six paired chronologically on three DVDs. I haven’t gotten the last DVD yet, but recently we watched GAMERA VS BARUGON, the second entry in the series, in the original Japanese version, and were suitably impressed.

A better name for the movie may have been Various Crackpot Japanese Scientists vs. Barugon because Gamera actually spends most of the film frozen stiff as the scientists try increasingly bizarre and desperate measures to defeat Barugon. They finally come to their senses and say, screw it, unfreeze the turtle, and let him take over. A good kaiju flick. Rates an 8

One of my favorite historical time periods is the British Isles’ Romano-British age of about the first three centuries AD. Not a period commonly covered in pop culture, so imagine my surprise when two movies came out last year about the exact same historical incident, the Roman legion that wandered north of Hadrian’s Wall and was never heard of again. The one I managed to see in the theatre, THE EAGLE, was very good. THE CENTURION, which I just saw via Netflix, is even better. It’s a pretty grim but even-handed look at what life must have been like in those not so good old days. I had a couple of minor quibbles (one, the Picts, who are either a) the wronged indigenous people or, b) the horrific savages who need to be taught a lesson in civilization by the Romans, look a tad too much like Klingons; and various small bands of people wandering around the vastness of the Scottish wilderness kept bumping into each other; yes, I know, some were trying to find each other, but it was too easy at times). Still, an excellent historical adventure. Rating: 9

Finally, a book, the best sf novel I’ve read in quite awhile: THE STRANGE AFFAIR OF SPRING-HEELED JACK by Mark Hodder. Just a quick summary: King’s Agent Sir Richard Francis Burton ably assisted by his friend, the diminutive poet Algernon Charles Swinburne go up against an unholy alliance of the Rakes, led by the Mad Marquess Henry de La Poer (who, due to an unfortunate riding accident had to have his brain transplanted into the body of an orangutan by the brilliant experimental surgeon Florence Nightingale), the Eugenicists, and the Technologists, led by a cabal of scientists including the brain-enhanced Charles Darwin, Francis Galton, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and the afore-mentioned Miss Nightingale, to discover the secret of the legendary creature known as Spring-Heeled Jack, before the social network of 19th Century British society becomes utterly unraveled. Yes. The King’s agent. That’s a clue. Highest recommendation.

Finally: Bill — you are the winner of THE MYSTERIANS giveaway!!!! If you already have it, or would perfer another movie, I can send you a list of other available titles. Let me know if you have VHS capability, because I have a fair number of tapes also available to enhance your choice.

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