Tag Archives: Christopher Reeve

Scarred For Life Vol 1 – the 1970s

Life means life, so when you read Scarred for Life volume one: the 1970s – Growing up in the dark side of the decade, a celebration of everything that scared you rigid in the 70s, from public information films (PFI) to TV programmes, that’s exactly what you get…scarred.

Over the years those scars may have become feint distant memories but they come screaming back to haunt you as you eagerly explore its 740 pages.

Like secondary schools at the time it’s comprehensive, not in the Grange Hill way you understand – which is also featured in the book along with its still nightmare inducing swimming pool incident – no wonder its authors, Stephen Brotherstone and Dave Lawrence admit ‘it is fairly huge.’

final cover front and back1

Exhaustive is putting it mildly as chapters wise it covers everything from the afore-mentioned TV to PIF to board games and ice-lollies to comics, all in glorious detail with numerous images to help return the things that you spent the last 30-40 years trying to forget.

It really is a delicious dystopian sweetshop of the 1970s, with it hard to know what section to consume next. Answer, all of them.

Engrossing, informative and entertaining beyond belief it successfully wrestles the 70s away from those programmes that just take the piss with inserts of ‘comedians’ doing vox pops and showing how the 70s was oh so un pc.

Just scrolling through the content is enough to whet your appetite and demonstrates their true love for the cultural touch points this decade produced, whether it be TV show, advert or toy. It really is all here. Even down to the Fleetway Annual homage on the front cover, what’s not to love.

I’ve not felt this excitement and giddiness about devouring the contents page(s) – all five, count ‘em – since reading Kim Newman’s Nightmare Movies when it was first released in 1987. The book sets the scene perfectly, it may as well be me laid on the carpet, head propped in my hands. The Amityville Horror, Bigfoot, The Bermuda Triangle, Watership Down, The Pan Book of Horror and the Usborne Book of the Unexplained – that IS my childhood and it is all gloriously revisited.

You are hooked from the off. Obviously if you were born in that decade, felt its cultural ripples or grew up in the 70s you’ll get the most out of with instant recollections of I remember that, I had that and remembering moments from childhood that were long forgotten but smash back into your conscience as if they never left.

That intro is so evocative at transporting you back to that time in your house, it’s almost like time travel itself, regressing like Christopher Reeve in Somewhere in Time as the words wash over you or seeing the decades and décor roll back like Rod Taylor in The Time Machine watch the constantly changing shop window.

Each entry even provides suggested viewing and suggested further reading; this is very clearly written by fans for fans. I’ve had to keep a note book alongside me as a read it so that I can just keep track of my future viewings and reads.  My Amazon account is going to take something of a bashing.

We also get regular appearances by ‘the art of the title sequence’ breaking down some of TVs greatest every opening credits. These are the shows we want on our Netflix, Amazon Prime, ITV Player and BBC iPlayer, or even BFI player.

Essential, it’s damn near perfection. The ‘I did not know that’ facts come thick and fast as well, such as the creator of Shadows, a supernatural anthology series for children was from the same person that created Rainbow.

The chapters are like longer versions of features from TV Zone, SFX or the – all too short lived – Cult TV magazines, a spin off from SFX. It’s refreshing long form writing that never out stays it’s welcome.

It’s absorbing and makes you want to consume it in one, or certainly as few sittings as possible, but is also designed as such that you can easily dip in out of chapters or subjects that interest you. I guess the only shame is a lack of an index, but minor quibbles aside the contents pages are in plenty of detail in that regard.

Brimming with programmes I’d seen (Grange Hill, Blake’s 7, Worzel Gummidge), those I knew of and had read about (The Tomorrow People, Doomwatch, The Stone Tapes) and those I’d not (Beasts and 1990) it’s an interesting and a great package bursting with familiar, heard of and new delights aplenty. You can’t help but read it (crossed legged on the floor of course) and smile.

As well as all the television moments, the highlights for me were evoking vivid memories of The Doctor Who Exhibition in Blackpool; I never even met anyone else who went! The still-scare-the- bejusus-out-of-you public information films, particularly the Lonely Water, which, complete with full horror tropes, plays out like a 70s version of It Follows, and the escalators one with the red wellies ripped to shreds. Shudder!

It gives you one of those joyous crick necks where you’ve just been staring down for such a long period of time, like when you just read through The Guinness Book of Records. You could easily lose yourself in it pages for days on end.

A celebration of the odd, strange and macabre that hit our screens, shops, book shelves and magazine racks.  And even if you didn’t it effortlessly captures that period’s output and shows us that it wasn’t just as is oft portrayed, as just about wearing flares and disco dancing.

Today is often referred to as a golden period of television and writing for television, something which is said to only recently herald from the States, but this volume clearly shows that writing and content was king not just in dramatic output but children’s dramatic output. Windy Miller, we aren’t in Camberwick Green anymore. And everything else, from 2000AD to Roy of the Rovers tackling hooligans, is just as rich.

Doctor Who and hiding behind the sofa is just the tip of the ice-berg. An assault on the senses, it doesn’t just capture my childhood, it is it. Observations are just so spot-on, it’s a landmark dissection of this period and all the great and frankly demented things it had to offer.

If volume two, which focuses on the 80s – my mouth is watering already – is of the same standard, length an fun to read – and with the likes of Blake’s 7’s ending, Adric dying in Doctor Who, The Adventure Game and Mr Noseybonk to name but four things I’m expecting to make an appearance – these two encyclopaedic volumes could well be The Godfather Parts 1 and 2 of books about popular culture. If you were a child of the seventies or grew up in that decade it is an offer you can’t refuse. A definite a must buy.

Available soon from Lulu.com for £16.99, that’s great value at just over £1.69 a year!

Super Outfits

It’s London Fashion Week so (rather tenuously) Dean Newman lifts the cloak and spandex on what makes a super and not such a super superhero costume or superhero disguise as he counts down the five best and worst that superherodom has to offer as he strives for truth, justice and the American way, and has a good old rummage in some superfolks wardrobes.

The Best

I never was a massive fan of grown men wearing their pants outside of their trousers, but Spidey, to me, was the real deal. Sure, like Clark Kent, Peter Parker was a mild-mannered reporter but it was the Spidey outfit, again red and blue (not counting the super cool 80s black get up) that really got me hooked. Darn it, its coolness couldn’t even be diminished in the poor 70s hash of a TV series. It reached levels of uber-coolness though under the artwork of Todd MacFarlane in the early 90s in the comics. Old web head’s outfit certainly sticks in the mind, if you’ll pardon the pun.

The Rocketeer
“An airborne Indiana Jones” so enthused good old Barry Norman back on Film 90 when this film came out, has it really been that long? Love the costume, which perfectly captures the 1930s feel of its setting, with a great helmet that looks like something off the hood of a car and a jetpack, with leather jacket. Did I mention that jet pack? Gleefully channelling both art deco and distant memories of the King of the Rocketmen serials.

The Punisher
Frank Castle and his family saw a mob hit. His family were taken out; Frank swears vigilante revenge and delivers in spades, quite literally as death himself, with an iconic death’s-head emblem on his costume. Subtle but stunning and even three trite film versions can’t lessen the impact.

Ghost Rider
Talking of skulls and vigilantes…Originally Johnny Blaze’s alter-ego in the 70s the dude with the flaming skull was resurrected in 1990 as teenager Dan Ketch who witnessed his sister slain thus becoming the new Ghost Rider, to great fiery effect, who had a spirit of Vengeance out to punish those who spilt ‘innocent blood’. The teenage Ketch is at odds with the violence by old fiery features so attempts to keep him at bay, unsuccessfully, rather like another green-skinned Marvel character.

Clark Kent
Is it a bird? A plane? No its Clark Kent. Okay, so for many this should probably by on the worst list but it takes the top slot for its sheer brilliance and the fact that pretty much every other hero has copied it. Sure it’s ridiculous that no one hasn’t thought that Clark, minus kiss curl but with added glasses looks at least a little bit like Supes, but it works. Comics aside, in the movies it works for one reason and one reason alone, Christopher Reeve.

For me it was never really about ‘you’ll believe a man can fly’, for me it was always about I believe a man can convincingly pull off two alter egos. Supes is pretty darn easy, it’s Kent that is the tough cookie and the makers of the latest reboot have a large pair of polished shoes and glasses to fill, the red boots and cape is the easy bit. Genius comic timing.

You only have to look at the performance of Christopher Reeve to see how convincing the act can be, the accident prone, dithering Kent is a masterstroke and as good as his Man of Steel is, it’s the portrayal of Clark that really seals the deal.

The Worst

Batman in Batman and Robin    
Holy chaffing Bat nipples! Nuff said.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
Such colours. Who knew that motorcycle crash helmets came in so many wonderfully bright colours. Sabretooth tiger indeed! Or perhaps they’ve all just got cold sores?

The Shadow
He’s the inspiration for Batman and he has a huge nose and hat and is hidden by a scarf. A big hit on radio in the 30s, the Alec Baldwin film of the same name didn’t exactly set the world alight, but then with such a nose and a scarf it may as well have been Nigel Havers going round with a bit of a cold. Hardly fills the criminal underworld with fear and dread.

Ben Grimm AKA The Thing and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
No, it’s not a money spinning team up, it’s the fact that both these sets of characters go for the rain mac and brimmed hat as the outfit of choice to act as a ‘disguise’ to keep them incognito. Really? Unless it’s worn by Columbo a rain mac looks pretty dodgy and makes them look even more suspicious if you ask me. For superhero mac wearing in style they should have taken a leaf out of Gambit’s book rather than looking like a dodgy gumshoe detective.

The Phantom
He’s always on about being the ghost that walks but he’s hardly ghost like in all that purple spandex. Was that really the greatest colour for the jungle? Not unless he’s endorsing Ribena its not!