Posts Tagged ‘Flash Gordon’

Couple of Videos on the Model Work on the BBC SF Comedy, Red Dwarf

February 24, 2021

These are another couple of videos I found on YouTube. In the first, model makers and special effects technicians Bill Pearson and Steve Howarth talk about their work on series 10 of the show. It’s a deleted scene from the film Sense of Scale, which appears to be a movie about the work of model makers like the two. It’s one of a number of videos about the creation of model effects for films and TV series like Red Dwarf, Space: 1999, Alien, Aliens, Outland, Flash Gordon, the 1990’s version of Total Recall, Coneheads, The Fifth Element and The Empire Strikes Back by piercefilm productions.

RED DWARF X miniature effects – YouTube

The second video comes from the channel of someone styling themselves Duane Dibley (the Duke of Dork). As fans of the series will know, this is the stylistically challenged alter ego of the Cat. In it, Bill Pearson talks about his work on series 4 of the show when production was moved to Shepperton. He talks about how some of the props and effects ended up in skips, including one that was damaged by Craig Charles. Money was tight, and so instead of building the scutters from scratch, as they had in the first series, they used parts from radio controlled cars and electric screwdrivers instead. They also recycled props and bits of set from other shows, including a Science Fiction film Ridley Scott had completed filming there. It was only after the series ended that Patterson realised he had never made one of the major vehicles in the show. But his chance finally came when he asked to make one to be given as a prize in a quiz show.

Super Models (Featurette With Red Dwarf Model Maker Bill Pearson) – YouTube

Red Dwarf is one of my favourite SF shows, and one which, in my view, deserves its longevity and cult status. It’s really fascinating to hear from one of the team of talented artists, model makers and technicians which gave this show its great SFX. These still stand up today when miniature work has largely been superseded by CGI. Pearson mentions this in the first video, saying that he’s proud of their work on Red Dwarf, but thinks that he’ll now spend the rest of his life working in low budget projects, because the major films and TV series have gone over to CGI instead. This is a pit, as I’ve a great deal of nostalgia and respect for the practical special effects used in the Science Fiction and Horror movies I grew up with. As spectacular as the CGI graphics can be, there’s still a popular demand for old style practical effects. Harbinger Down, a horror film that came out a couple of years ago, was made using these traditional special effects techniques to cater to audience keen to relive the pleasure of the type of effects they’d enjoyed in Alien and John Carpenter’s The Thing.

Pearson, Howarth and the others, who worked on shows like Red Dwarf are immensely talented artists, and I hope their skills will continue to be in demand by producers and directors, who appreciate the value of good, practical special effects.

Brian Blessed Talks about his Role as Boss Nass in Star Wars Prequels

December 24, 2017

In this clip I found on YouTube, the mighty Brian Blessed is interviewed by host Jaime Stangroom about his role as the amphibian alien king, Boss Nass of the Naboo, in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Stangroom opens the interview by declaring that Blessed is a British institution. Or belongs in one, referring to the great man’s over the top personality. He notes that among his other achievement, he’s the oldest man to go to the South Pole and has climbed Mt. Everest.

It seems George Lucas was quite a fan of his. Before they started filming, Lucas asked to be alone with Brian for about half an hour. He said he wanted to cast him as Jedi, but that he would be too powerful for such a role. What other role could he cast which would be more suitable for his energies? Quick as a flash, Blessed’s agent, who surely deserves their fee, suggested Boss Nass.

The scene where Nass finally offers peace between the Naboo and humans was unscripted. The crowd surrounding Nass were to kneel or stand respectfully towards him, waiting for him to make a pronouncement. But Nass’ lines hadn’t been written and it was left to the Dynamite Kid to make them up. Which he did. He made the characteristic noises, before making his pronouncement of peace between human and amphibian. Lucas was delighted, and said that was exactly what was in his mind.

Stangroom asked the inevitable question about what he thought of Jar Jar Binks. Blessed, like the professional actor he really is, is very careful in his reply. He states that it’s always dangerous to criticise another actor’s interpretation. He just says that you have to make sure that the noises the Naboo characters make do not overshadow the spoken lines, as you can lose a lot of plot that way. He then gives a demonstration from his own performance as Boss Nass to show how he avoided that problem.

Rather more entertaining is his tale of talking to the actor, who was unveiled as the true face of Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker in last of the original trilogy, The Return of the Jedi. The actor, who played him had been a big star in the 1940s, but was now quite elderly, or at least when Blessed talked to him. He remembered that he’d been in a film, where they took a mask off him. He had a bit of a struggle remembering who he’d played, until it came to him: Darth Vader. Blessed was astonished. ‘You played Darth Vader! You don’t know how big that character is!’ before going on to explain how massively popular Vader was and how everyone wanted to play him. The actor replied by saying, ‘Well, they only gave me a little wage.’

Blessed’s got a reputation as something of a bit of a ham, thanks to his powerful personality. Well, as Fritz Leiber, who was the son of Shakespearian actors wrote in A Spectre is Haunting Texas, ‘All actors are hams and secretly love it’. But the interview reveals that behind the shouting there’s a very thoughtful mind that carefully considers what to say and what to put into the performance.

He’s also very left-wing. Blessed himself is working class, the son of a northern miner. When he did a one-man show back in the 1990s, He described going to the peace conferences in the 1950s. At one of these he found himself sitting next to a foreign gentleman. He asked who he was. ‘Picasso’, the stranger replied. ‘Oh yes, what do you do?’ ‘I’m an artist’. So Blessed asked him if he could draw something for him. So Picasso drew a picture of a dove on a bit of paper hankie Blessed had at the time. Of course, Picasso drew it in his extremely simplified, modernist style. When Blessed got home and looked at it, he declared it was ‘rubbish’, and that Picasso wasn’t an artist at all, and threw it in the bin. Thus throwing away potentially thousands of pounds.

Blessed for a long time said that he wanted to play Dr. Who. I think that time is long past, as he’s rather too old now. And the job of the new Doctor is already taken, and he’s the wrong gender. But he has appeared in the show. He was in the Colin Baker ‘Trial of a Timelord’ serial ‘Mindwarp’, in which he played an alien samurai warrior battling the evil Mentors, and the alien supercapitalist Sil.

Oh yes, and while Han was killed in the last Star Wars sequel, we can always take comfort in that Gordon’s Alive !

Thatcher in Cartoons: Maggie as The Mekon

April 26, 2015

Private Eye included a selection of their covers and cartoons of the former Leaderene in their edition marking the Finchley Fascist’s death two years ago in 2013. One of them was a panel from the ‘Dan Dire’ strip parodying Dan Dare and other SF serials, which ran in the magazine from 1987 onwards. The panel came from the issue marking her tenth anniversary in power in May 1989. It portrays her as the Mekon, or in this instance, the Maggon, declaring ‘We are a megalomaniac!’, whilst around her the weird creatures of the Tory legions complain about having had to put up with her over several billion years.

I’ve posted a number of pieces recently about comics and social satire, including Strontium Dog, Judge Dredd and the ABC Warriors from 2000 AD. 2000 AD also tried for a time to revive Dan Dare for the Punk and Glam Rock generation, but it didn’t work out. Nevertheless, Frank Hampson and the Rev. Marcus Morris’ creation remains one of the great, classic British SF heroes. And this is a suitable, if backhanded compliment to the character’s enduring legacy, as well as the pernicious evil of the former Prime Minister.

Maggie Mekon

A few years before, I recall 2000 AD had also run a spoof strip parodying the early, Golden Age SF serial heroes, Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers in the form of Dash Descent, drawn by the great Kevin O’Neill. This paid a kind of homage to these square-jawed space heroes from the 1930s, while joking about their shoddy special effects and contrived cliff-hangers. Unlike ‘Dan Dire’, this SF parody was purely for fun, and didn’t have the barbed political and social undercurrents that informed some of the other strips.

Gordon’s Alive! Vultan to Fly Aboard the International Space Station?

June 29, 2013

The stentorian voiced cult actor, mountaineer and one-man dynamo of fun Brian Blessed was on Russel Howard’s Good News on Thursday. The Dynamite Kid had been in the news that week for punching out a polar bear when it invaded his expeditions tent up in the arctic. In the chaos of the bear’s attack, Blessed retaliated by punching the bear on the nose. To his immense surprise, it ran off. Blessed is a veteran actor, who had been in a number of classic TV roles such as I, Claudius and Z Cars and as the king in the very first Blackadder series waaaay back in in 1983. He was also Vultan in Dino de Laurentiis remake of Flash Gordon, a film which the Fortean Times described as ‘camper than your gay uncle’s dressing up box’. His best known line from that movie is his cry of ‘Gordon’s Alive!’. He now repeats this whenever he appears as a guest on TV, to the huge delight of the audience.

There are deeper aspects to him beyond the exuberance and the over-acting. He supports an animal charity and said that he has about 3,000 animals. He’s also a Christian, who gave a brilliant defence of his faith on Radio 4 one morning. The son of a Durham miner, he is also quite left-wing politically. Talking to Howard, he mentioned that he’d just completed astronaut training at the Russian Zvesdny Gorodok, or Star City and was now the stand-in for the voyage to the International Space Station sometime next year. He was immensely proud of this, as he was 74. ‘Follow your dreams!’ bellowed the great man. It wouldn’t be the first time Blessed has ventured into space, if only in the confines of the TV studio. Apart from Vultan, he has always wanted to play Dr. Who. He had the role of an alien warrior king – also with a loud voice and lots of shouting – in the Colin Baker Dr. Who serial, ‘Mindwarp’. If all goes well, he’ll be travelling into space for real. Will the ISS’ intrepid crew be able to take it! Remember, in space, the whole cosmos can hear you scream ‘GORDON’S ALIVE!!!!!!’