Vintage Cable Box: “Swamp Thing”, 1982

 

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“Everything’s a dream when you’re alone.”

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month.

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“Swamp Thing”, 1982 (Adrienne Barbeau), Embassy Pictures

When I started writing reviews for the films which became the basis of this series, the original plan was to start with Rodney Dangerfield’s 1983 comedy, “Easy Money”, but after Wes Craven died, I thought it would only be fitting to pay tribute to one of my favorite horror film directors by looking back and trying to remember if there were any films he made that were shown on cable television during the time period Vintage Cable Box covers, and yes, there was “Swamp Thing” – a movie I truly adore.

Sultry government agent Adrienne Barbeau arrives in the Louisiana bayou to investigate Dr. Alec Holland’s (Ray Wise) experiments in bio-engineering with his sister, Linda. Holland has just made a major breakthrough. Louis Jourdan plays Arcane, a rival scientist who orders his men to attack Holland’s compound and steal his new formula. In the resulting firefight, Holland is contaminated with his formula and disappears in the swamp, presumed dead. Later, when Jourdan’s men try to kill Barbeau, Swamp Thing emerges to dispatch them.

Released a good three months before “Creepshow”, “Swamp Thing” adopts the same comic-book-with-a-movie visual sense, even down to the turning of pages and artwork panels for scene transitions. Craven’s screenplay is intelligent with a sense of humor and the performances (particular those of Wise, Barbeau, Jourdan, and Dick Durock as the titular hero) are wonderful. Based on Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson’s DC Comics series, the movie was made on an astonishingly low $3 million budget.

Henry Manfredini’s score recalls his work on the Friday the 13th franchise, with stings and twists, and Bernard Hermann-like trills. The editing is breakneck in the action sequences and appropriately slow in the more romantic and menacing scenes. The creature itself is a marvel, created by Bill Munns, who would also contribute ghastly creatures for “The Return of the Living Dead”. “Swamp Thing” is schlocky and pulpy, and pure fun to watch.

The early eighties was a time when filmmakers, presumably working on the edge of the mainstream, and outside of the borders of studio control, started getting bigger budgets. Wes Craven was primarily known for “Last House on the Left” and “The Hills Have Eyes”. “Swamp Thing” was his formal introduction to studio work. This was the same year Tobe Hooper made “Poltergeist” and George Romero made “Creepshow”, so a definitive New Horror renaissance had taken place.

SWAMP THING, Adrienne Barbeau, Dick Durock, 1982, (c) Embassy Pictures
SWAMP THING, Adrienne Barbeau, Dick Durock, 1982, (c) Embassy Pictures

Scream Queen Adrienne Barbeau appeared in John Carpenter’s “The Fog” and “Escape From New York”, and would later appear in “Creepshow”. Ray Wise would later star in “Robocop” and Twin Peaks (the television series and the movie). Stuntman Dick Durock appeared in the sequel, “The Return of Swamp Thing” and the spin-off television series, which ran for 72 episodes.

It’s impossible to estimate Wes Craven’s impact and influence on the modern horror movie. A creative thinker and intuitive director, Craven created intelligent horror movies that did not skimp on scares. After “Swamp Thing”, he would create one of the most popular franchises that rivaled only Jason in “A Nightmare On Elm Street”. “The People Under The Stairs” is my wife’s favorite movie of Craven’s. In 1996, he directed Kevin Williamson’s popular post-modern slasher movie, “Scream”, which yielded three sequels.

Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties. You can hear my podcast at Misadventures In BlissVille and you can visit my Facebook group page.

“Vintage Cable Box” artwork by Bronwyn Knox.

The Lost Boys (1987)

Season 3 – Episode 7
The Lost Boys (1987)

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Few things are more “1980s” than 1987’s vampire flick THE LOST BOYS. Everything about THE LOST BOYS is so firmly entrenched in this decade, from the cast of then-young actors (the two Coreys (Haim & Feldman), Kiefer Sutherland, Jamie Gertz, Jason Patric (who?)); the fashions; the soundtrack; the make-up effects.

So how does THE LOST BOYS hold up? Is it as timeless as, well, a vampire?

Who are hotter: the vampires of THE LOST BOYS or the vampires from the TWILIGHT series?

Is Jamie Gertz’s (non)acting proof that she is, in fact, one of the undead?

Join VHS Rewind as our hosts, Chris and Mark, revisit THE LOST BOYS and once again get lost in the shadows to find definitive answers to those questions and also find themselves incapable of stopping themselves from bursting into several songs from THE LOST BOYS soundtrack (although neither host takes his shirt off and starts playing the saxophone).

Do you believe?

 

 – Christopher Hasler

 

Isis (TV Series) – 1975

Season 3 – Episode 6
Isis (TV Series) – 1975

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She is still hot.

Unbelievable.

Forty-plus years later, she is still smoking hot. She still does it to the hosts of VHS Rewind, just one look and VHS Rewind’s middle-aged-viagra-starved libido is suddenly ten years old again, awake, eager.

We speak, of course, of that goddess (literally and figuratively), Isis. Joanna Cameron. Before Farrah Fawcett was on Charlie’s Angels, Joanna Cameron had the most amazingly gorgeous tan on television. To think that this was Saturday morning (childrens) television: surely, the hosts of VHS Rewind were not the only ones who broke his cherry with this show.

We at VHS Rewind simply can not, will not speak ill of ISIS (the show). It is just too important a part of out childhood. Every minute, every second, is our youth, re-lived. The magic spell that Joanna Cameron intones to become The Might Isis, the narration over the opening credits…we really do gain back some years just by watching this show.

John VHS Rewind as our hosts relive their innocence lost when they revisit the Saturday morning classes ISIS.

– Christopher Hasler

I Think We’re Alone Now – Tiffany Stalker Doc

Season 3 – Episode 5
I Think We’re Alone Now – Tiffany Stalker Documentary

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On this week’s episode, VHS Rewind visits with the dark (and darkly humorous) side of humanity when we review the documentary I THINK WE’RE ALONE NOW. Join us as we meet Jeff Turner and Kelly McCormick, the subjects of this documentary: two super obsessive (like, really, really super obsessive) fans of pop singer Tiffany.

Right there, that should tell you these guys are not OK in the head: does Tiffany really merit any obsessive fans? I was never a fan of her music (even her titular hit song) but, more, she hasn’t aged well and based on some brief concert footage we see of Tiffany, she doesn’t come across as an electrifying performer. (Mark: I feel her performance was fine for a onehit wonder level star and she looks great for a 50 year old woman, I think Chris has an issue with her.)

It is more understandable when one of these guys switches allegiance to Alyssa Milano. (Mark: I don’t see the mass appeal of Milano but this falls into the category of individual preference)

This documentary is an extraordinary look into the personal life (such as it is) of each of Jeff Turner and Kelly McCormick that is by turns sad, funny, creepy and always, always riveting.

We hope you take some time to be alone with this episode of VHS Rewind and discover this fascinating film.

– Christopher Hasler

Marie (1979) ABC Pilot

Season 3 – Episode 4
Marie

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This should have worked: placing Marie Osmond into a sitcom. Even if the obvious progression did not come to pass (why not take Donny AND Marie out of the musical variety format and put them both into a sitcom?), this sitcom idea still should have worked with just Marie. Marie, while no great comedienne, had at least proven she could handle banter and comic patter. She had a pretty good grasp of comic timing in terms of delivering a punch line, even if the material wasn’t always that strong. Certainly, she always maintained an engaging, charming personality.

As it turned out, it didn’t work. That may be why you never heard of this show before.

The fault isn’t Marie’s exactly, not completely anyway: given this attempt at a sitcom is an Osmond Production, one must assume she had some say in the material, she must have had some input into the basic premise of the show.

But, wow, choices were made and not one of them was a good one. It’s all sitcom cliches: Marie is a 20-year old aspiring dancer(?) (why not have her simply be an aspiring singer?) who comes to New York City to make it big.

Wait till you meet Marie’s roommates. Wait till you meet Marie’s tough-but-with-a-heart-of-gold (and a nice rack) dance instructor. Wait till you meet Marie’s racist landlord (this kind of humor was un-PC even in 979). Wait till you meet how the writer of this show writes for a 7 year Puerto Rican boy who is Marie’s neighbor.

Join More Bad Apples for this special episode as we examine this rare Osmond relic and dissect what went wrong with what should have been a sure thing.

– Christopher Hasler

Exclusive! An Interview with Marty Langford

Season 2 – Episode 11
An Interview with Marty Langford – Director of Doomed! The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four

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VHS Rewind is preparing to tackle the legendary THE FANTASTIC FOUR movie from 1994 (you know, the one without Jessica Alba; the one produced by Roger Corman; the one that hasn’t been officially released).

THE FANTASTIC FOUR was subject to much behind the scenes shenanigans and has an extremely interesting production story (perhaps more interesting than the film itself).

This is all examined in the upcoming documentary DOOMED! THE UNTOLD STORY OF ROGER CORMAN’S THE FANTASTIC FOUR.

VHS Rewind sat down with the documentary’s director Marty Langford to discuss THE FANTASTIC FOUR and this passion project documentary.

We hope our discussion sparks your interest in this upcoming documentary as well as in our upcoming review of Corman’s THE FANTASTIC FOUR.

Frankly, some of us here at VHS Rewind enjoy Corman’s film much more than the one with Jessica Alba in it.

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CNN Ted Turner Doomsday Video

Season 2 – Episode 10
CNN Ted Turner Doomsday Video

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Mark and Chris discuss the recent release of the CNN Ted Turner Doomsday Video.  This video was to be played as the world was ending.  It was originally posted here

http://jalopnik.com/this-is-the-video-cnn-will-play-when-the-world-ends-1677511538

1976 Donnie & Marie New Years Eve Special

Season 2 – Episode 9
The 1976 Donnie and Marie Osmond New Years’ Eve Special

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Mark and Chris discuss the incredible 1976 Donnie and Marie Osmond New Years’ Eve ABC Special!