Friday, 3 July 2020

Daleks - vs Mechonoids

Daleks - vs Mekons 
The Movie That never was.

In an alternate universe,  the third Dalek film (based on The Chase) was actually made
– this is that story...  

1960s Dalek Mania was in full throttle Hope was on the horizon that the Mechanoid props might actually return and on the big screen, no less in colour! However, box office receipts for the second Dalek movie proved inconsequential and plans for the third movie were scrapped, sealing the fate of the Mechanoid props forever. But what if this hadn't occurred? 
The Chase |

It is somewhat of a small tragedy that the third Dalek movie was never made. In it, Dr Who would have been pitted against not only the Daleks but also one of Terry Nations other monsters: The Mechanoids. Brilliantly realised by Dalek designer Ray Cusick, the Mechanoids were featured in the climax of the third Dalek story The Chase. Apparently writer Terry Nation was very pleased with Cusicks design and saw great potential in the Mechanoids as successors to the Daleks. Production crews however couldn’t stand them. BBC attitudes towards science fiction in the 1960’s was luke-warm at best.  It was bad enough that they had to contend with pepper pots, let alone The Mechanoids. Due to their bulky size also, the three Mechanoid props (painted a light blue) only featured in the final episode of The Chase in a spectacular battle with the Daleks before being ultimately chucked on the scrap heap, much to Terry Nations dismay. So what happened? 

Time Space Visualiser: The Planet of Decision (The Chase Episode 6)
The story of their demise went something like this: that the Mechanoid props were far too cumbersome to be used in the small confines of the BBC studios, hence the battle scenes being shot at Elstree, however, despite their popularity, BBC staff had quite enough of them jamming up lifts and corridors and were glad to see the back of them, binning all three props on a skip as quickly as possible and used for landfill, (much to Ray Cusick and Shawcrafts dismay I imagine). A rather typical BBC decision, that tended to thrawt Dr Who on many occasion.

But wait just a darn minute, is that an alternate Universe I see? Where Milton Subotsky takes up his option to make a third Dalek movie? It was quite possible, that he would have steered it towards a lavish production of the Chase, perhaps even cutting down a lot of the waffle that pads out the story and getting right down to the meat of Daleks vs Mechanoids  or (assuming they stuck with the original script) Daleks vs Mechons! Which might have well been shortened to Mekons during the rush to get the script churned out.  

After only one episode of fighting the Daleks,  Writer Terry nation had high hopes for further stories featuring the Mechanoids, who seemed a natural successor to the Daleks in every way except storage. It is quite possible that he hoped to feature them further in his stand alone Dalek Tv series that might have mirrored his other Tv series the Avengers in its production values. Director Gordon Flemyng  was also set to be director of this new Tv series but alas things were not coming together.  
MOONBASE CENTRAL: The Rise of The Mechanoids by Andy B

     Never the less,  by 1966, the Mechanoids were already being featured as heavyweight opponents in the Dalek comic strips sanctioned by Nation, so much so, that it looked like the Daleks had met their match.  So there is a strong indication that kids wanted to see more Mechanoid action.

By this time, Cherilea toys were also making Mechanoid merchandise, things were seemingly building up to a big movie confrontation. Or not as the case maybe. So lets look at the playing field of 1966. 

Dr. Who and the Daleks - Wikipedia

Ok so you maybe familiar with the two Dalek movies made in 1965 and 1966, made by Amicus, Hammers contemporary of the time and produced by a couple of Americans named Milton Subotsky and Max J Rosenburge. These films were based on the first two Dalek adventures (The Mutants, and the Dalek invasion of Earth) with proposals for the third Dr Who film in the pipeline being based on the Chase. 

Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (1966) — Contains Moderate Peril

However, when the box office receipts waned on the second film, the plug was pulled and the concept of Dalek movies as a series was scrapped. So what went wrong ? Was Daleks Invasion Earth really that bad ? As far as the critics were concerned, Daleks in movies was going to be anything but Shakespeare and the films were panned for sloppy direction and visible strings on the flying saucers etc. Admittedly the scene with Bernard Cribbins in disguise with the robomen is a little cringe worthy, but after all, this is a children’s film. For fans of  these movies, let us imagine what if Amicus had turned left instead of right. What would that third Dalek movie have turned out like?

It is perhaps a learning curve that many film makers have learned from since, that multiple sequels should always be made back to back: That way subsequent movies can insure that actors and film crews are all involved and contracted to finish the project. A practice utilised by the first two Superman movies and the Back to the Future sequels. Sadly this was not the case for the proposed Daleks Vs Mechanoids movie. Which probably wouldn't have featured either metallic monsters anyway...

At any rate, there was some talk that the third movie may simply not have included any Daleks at all, and Dr Who would simply have fought a bunch of dinosaurs etc.  Ultimately this is what eventually happened anyway. Amicus did actually make the 3rd Dr Who movie, except they called it "At the Earths Core" (1976) instead, featuring Peter Cushing as a Dr Who like character but not actually Dr Who. Doug McClure was a natural Ian Chesterton substitute and had a love interest with Carolyn Munro (ironically mirroring the Leela type character to Tom Bakers Doctor in 1977). Oh and the Tardis is replaced by a giant drill called the Mole. But I guess this is all worthy of another essay, I should write another time. Anyway, I digress. 

At the Earth's Core: Book vs Movie | Mana Pop

However, since it was clear that the success of the first movie was due solely to the Daleks and since they had made a Dalek sequel, it follows that another Dalek film made more financial sense to produce. And since the first two movies had been based on the first two Dr Who Dalek tv stories it also followed that, (for the sake of continuity), the third Dalek movie would have been based on the Tv story “The Chase”. 

Peter Capaldi steps into the Tardis as the new Doctor | Doctor who ...

If your hoping to see a tons of Mechanoid action in this story forget it. In this six part storey, we see the first doctor, Ian Chesterton, Barbera and newcomer Dodo land in a desert on the planet Aridious and soon catch wind that the Daleks are none too happy with them foiling the Dalek Invasion of Earth. It is not long before a Dalek execution is dispatched to Aridious and so begins the chase across time and space, as our time travellers attempt to evade certain extermination. 
Doctor Who: 34 Dalek pictures from the archives (With images ...
             Soon they are hopping across the cosmos, landing on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, the Marie Celeste and even a West World Style Dracula's castle, complete with android Frankenstein monster. However, wherever they land, the Daleks time capsule is not too far behind and so our intrepid travellers must make a stand on the jungle planet of Mechanus. 
The Death of Doctor Who (The Chase Part 5) – The Edwardian Adventurer
The awsum Mechanoid city on stilts 

Six episodes later,  they finally find themselves prisoners of the large spherical robots that live in a city on stilts. Enter the Mechanoids. Colony robots designed to terraform planets but somehow down the line were forgotten about and evolved into killing machines. Soon these robots would be pitted with the Daleks in the grande finale. All of which lasts less than two minutes ! 

And so, in a nut shell, that is the Tv story. The plot does tend to be all over the place. The Chase at best was considered more an attempt at injecting more comedy into the series but with so much going on, the story tended to suffer for it. There are also too many subplots, such as a robot duplicate Doctor (!) sent out by the Daleks to infiltrate the companions and kill the original Doctor,  but this whole idea, only detracts from what (I suspect) kids really wanted to see, and that was Daleks fighting Mechanoids. 

After all, they were immediately popular with the kids and heralded as the new Daleks.    Perhaps the story is only really worth watching for this short lived and yet glorious moment of Daleks and Mechanoids in battle. However, the battle is far too brief and the Mechanoids much ill used. So lets look at what might have happened. 

So what would that third instalment have looked like? Speculations, still abound to this day but most likely David Whitaker would have taken on the reigns again as the movies script writer and Gordon Flemyng would have directed, coupled with the nine fingered talents of Bill McGuffies crazy piano ensembles and jazzy music score.
Beyond this, very little information about the proposed film is known other than the script would have been based on The Chase. To save money, it would have been a logical step to recycle as  many of the sets from the first and second film as possible, such as the Dalek saucer (and its corridors) and possibly even the Robomen costumes. Shawcraft would have most likely been roped in to build more Daleks and Mechonoid props and generally the movie would have had the look and feel of the first two movies.

It would also be likely that Peter Cushing and Roberta Tovey would have reprised their roles as Dr Who and Grand daughter Susan respectively. 

Carry on Screaming! Photos - Carry on Screaming! Images: Ravepad ...Edward Judd - IMDb
Keeping in line with a starring male lead (or comedy actor), it might well have included new companions (such as Edward Judd) or introduced other contemporaries such as Jim Dale, either might have been good as Ian Chesterton and Steven Taylor. Although I suspect Edward Judd would have been more suited to the male lead, (originally filled by Roy Castle and Bernard Cribbins). In this respect, it would have also been entirely possible for Jill Curzon to reprise her role as Louis (as a love interest) to Edward Judds character. Jim Dale may have been shunted to the back of the story as marooned astronaut Steven Taylor, prisoner of the Mechanoids. 

The title would probably have been called Daleks Vs Mechons. Because "Mechons" was what the Mechanoids were originally called in the early drafts of the Tv script. The name would later evolve into Mechanoids because the obvious similarities with the Mekon character from the Dan Dare comic book series.  Never the less, the term "Mekon" is used at least once in the Chase Tv story, probably due to a typo error that had been duplicated down to the final draft. If the film had gone ahead, Americans would probably used "Mekons" anyway because it has the same amount of letters as Daleks and would be easier for kids to read on posters.  

Doctor Who Sunday: The Chase – The Independent Arts Journal
The Mechanoids themselves might most likely have had a more prominent pivotal role in this movie too, as the majority of the Tv version featured them only in the final episode. As a result, the movie version may well have reduced or cut out other aspects of the Tv version to give more Mechanoid screen time, such as binning the robot Dr Who altogether, whilst shortening the plot around Dracula's Castle and the Mary Celeste and cutting down the embarrassing dialogue with the fishy Aridians and just moving the chase along at a much quicker pace. 

Screen time is a commodity like anything else. Whitaker would have taken the incentive on this and reviewed the original script, cutting back the padding that made up the laborious six Tv episodes and cut it right down to a tight 82 minute narrative. 

Anyway, in the alternate universe, the 3rd Dalek Movie goes ahead. And so, ignoring the two critics that panned the second movie, producer Milton Subotsky takes a risk and goes hell for leather with the third Dalek movie, throwing everything at it,  so he can to re-coop losses on the second film. And so production begins in 1967, bringing back nearly all the original production team of the first two films.

File:Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. spaceship.jpg - EOFFTV - The ...
Dalek Saucer prop - recycled for the third movie? 
In the third movie, only four to six Dalek props are ever used. Not because of modesty, but because of budget constraints and the fact that only four to six props ever survived the pounding that the Daleks  endured in the last sequel. Because its Technicolor, they are possibly re-painted metallic blue with gold collars, slats and red domes and assisted by a squad of Robotised green Fish Men from Aridious, using re-cycled Robomen uniforms and biker helmets from the second movie also . 

The three Mechanoid props are rescued from the scrap heap and given a new paint job. Their round bases are raised to six inches, in order to look more cinematic on the big screen. Several extra Mechanoid crowd fillers are built by Shawcraft. Who also recycle the Mechanoid City on stilts.

The Dalek time machine might have looked like the central spinner from the War of the Daleks board game and the Dalek Saucer from the second movie might have been brought out of moth balls for the grand finale.

 Little Gems - Board-Games
That spinner thing from the Dalek board game, as the Daleks Time machine?


In the Tv version, only the last episode is dedicated to the very brief appearance of the Mechanoids but in this film, they might be introduced a hell of lot sooner, maybe as soon as the half way point of the movie. Which would have meant a good forty minutes of Mechanoid action, where the execution squad might even summon up the entire Dalek Empire to do battle with the Mechanoids on their own turf. Hence a more satisfying ending than the Tv version.
Daleks 2007We may have even seen the Dalek Emperor himself, with his immense gold spheroid head, barking out orders for the Doctors extermination, in his throne room back on Dalek planet Scaro. 

For the grand final, a spectacular air battle might occur above the Mechanoid city, between the Dalek saucer and a Mechanoid battle cruiser. All this is of course, on a par with the model work used in Thunderbirds and reminiscent of the Saucer hovering over the mine workings in the second movie. 

While in the jungle below, Mechanoids fight Daleks one on one before they eventually overrun the Mechanoid city for a final confrontation, similar to the Thals battle at the climax of the first movie. 

Dr Who behind the scenes photos from William Hartnell | Daily Mail ...

But these are all just theory’s. In any event, a movie version of The Chase, with a larger portion dedicated to the Mechanoids would have most likely secured the franchise for at least a few more sequels. Who knows. 

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Friday The 13th Part IV: Jason Lives

Friday The 13th Part IV: Jason Lives

I wasn’t really into slasher movies but my brother was. He would watch everything from Last house on the left to James Whales Frankenstein. So at the tender age of 16, I was initiated into the slasher realm, when my brother hired out the VHS tape of Friday The 13th Part IV: Jason Lives. I had never seen a Friday the 13th movie before and it didn’t disappoint. I was hooked from the get go. I thought (and still do) that Jason Lives is the most awesome movie ever made.

            It was only inevitable that I watched its precursors. All five of em: I looked forward to seeing them, figuring that they would be as good as Jason Lives. Boy was I wrong! It took some adjustment to realise that Jason Lives was simply a flook in the larger scheme of things. After all, Jason wasn’t even in the first movie and in the second he was a mongal with a sugar sack on his head. I found it hard to get into these first two pictures. They were of a different time. I also started to realise how generic the formula was, despite we already know what Jason looks like now, each sequel would reset itself and start all over again with the non reveal of Jason, typified by feet shots, POV shots etc. My interest began to peak with part three, when we finally get to see the iconic hockey mask and part 4 (The Final Chapter) was actually pretty good. I attribute this to the work by Tom Savini, who had worked on George Romero's Zombie movies. 
Friday the 13th Part 4:  The Final Chapter - almost as good as Jason Lives. 

But all in all the process by which Jason Lives came about was via five sequels, which paled in comparison. Part Five was the most painful of all. Again Jason wasn’t even in it. Technically Jason lives is actually part Four. And you could even lump it as a Hockey Mask trilogy, if you put parts three, four and six together in a DVD box set.

            Disappointed by its previous counterparts, I was hoping the next Jason instalment would be even better. Enter The New Blood. And…oh… hmmm. It was hard to put my finger on why it wasn’t as good as Jason Lives. Jason looked pretty kool (and his make up was even better than in Jason Lives) but for some reason the whole film seemed flat, like it was missing some vital ingredient. It had everything going for it, yet the film was just …flat somehow. I heard the board of censors cut it to shreds but even so, it lacked the humour of Jason Lives.
Subsequent sequels, Jason Takes Manhattan, Jason X etc just became silly and my interest in Jason movies waned but for my fondness of Friday The 13th Part IV: Jason Lives.

Looking back, it occurred to me that Jason Lives was in fact the best movie in the Friday the 13th franchise. And its obvious why, because it was directed with humour and didn’t take itself too seriously, where as every other sequel maintained a rather serious, flat one trick pony approach: consisting of generic couples having sex, hearing a strange noise, being separated and knocked off inventively. The inventive deaths were the pulling power of the series but for my money, Jason Lives topped the lot for inventive deaths gags. Its slapstick horror still holds up, even today. Where as its contemporary’s failed miserably. That’s not to say they are bad films but they certainly lack all the ingredients that made Jason Lives a classic. No sequel since has equalled it and a lot of that goes down to the directive prowess of Tom McLoughlin. Famous of all things for playing the black sentry robot STAR in Disney’s The Black Hole!
But I digress.

This humour is prevalent throughout the movie, none of which is actually directed at the main character (Jason) but mainly at the victims he slays. The paint ball scene is a good example of this, where several meek office workers play soldiers in the forests near Chrystal Lake, only to be slain by Jason in various humorous ways. Or the camper van scene where Jason rams the teenagers face into the aluminium wall, making a perfect indent of her face, like a cartoon. 

It reminds us that this is almost a parody of itself. That this new instalment does not take itself seriously at all and is all the better for it. This can be clearly recognised by the James Bond style gun barrel intro, where Jason on walks on and slashes the screen!

As a stand alone film, without any knowledge of the previous sequels, Jason Lives holds itself together pretty well. It is also the first time we see the main character develop, as Jason returns for the first time as an unstoppable zombie. Another thumbs up for McLoughlin, who had learned the lessons of the previous instalment (A New Beginning) which attempted to have a serial killer merely imitating Jason, who had died in the previous movie (The final Chapter). A bad idea in anyone’s book. Not taking heed from the mistakes made in Halloween III (where Michael Myers is totally absent) the producers of part five didn’t seem to think the plot twist of no Jason would be a problem. But having a Jason movie without Jason is like having a Freddy Kruger Movie without Freddy or a Herby movie without Herby. It becomes an anthology series riding on the success of the goose laying golden eggs, it has just killed.
So obviously if the next instalment was to work at all, it would have to (somehow) bring Jason back from the dead and thus McLoughlin made his genius gamble with the Jason Zombie idea, which ultimately paid off, making his Friday instalment the best of the series so far and raising the credibility of the franchise. Since then, Jason has been regarded as the terminator of all zombies. A sort of Frankenstein Monster in a hockey mask. But never again would the series touch upon the humour enthused gags that McLoughlin made this instalment a slasher film classic.

It is this balance between comedy and tragedy, which sets it apart from nearly all over slasher films of the time. Breaking it away from the Halloween imitation it had become synonymous with. Here was a fresh approach which was fun and injected new life into an otherwise failing franchise.  If only the network had signed Tom McLoughlin up to do a few more Jason sequels. Why he was not, is in my opinion a major problem with the subsequent sequels, who’s various directors all tried to put their own stamp on the franchise, only muddying the waters further. Leaving us, the audience rather dismayed at the rather messy movies that followed Jason Lives, all reverting to a more serious tone which ultimately fell flat on its ass.

Imagine part Seven: The New Blood directed by Tom McLoughlin. – it would have been a hoot. Or part Eight: Jason Takes Manhattan (it would even featured Jason in Manhattan!). And part nine and ten would have been amazing. Alas it was never to be.
However, there are rumours in the pipeline that McLoughlin will be returning to the franchise to make one more Jason movie! So lets just hope that happens and the humour that made Jason Lives a success returns to the series also, as it way …WAY over due.

An American Werewolf in London

In Defence of
An American Werewolf in London

“Well I just watched An American Werewolf in London, 1981. I'd heard of it of course but hadn't ever actually watched it, so I recorded it. I must say a 37 year delay in seeing wasn't worth the wait. Films from the 80's are generally really shite.”
A Lecturer from Portsmouth University.

That was a post on facebook from a retired art lecturer I know. Well I disagree. So much so, that I felt compelled to write this essay and point out why ‘An American Werewolf in London’ was the most awsum movie ever made: a ground breaking film that took almost a decade to realise. Its trademark effects and ingenuity re- invigorated the horror film genre with a new perspective and inspired a whole generation of young film makers, including Michael Jacksons ‘Thriller’ Video. Without its influence you wouldn’t have had ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ or the ‘Underworld’ franchise.

The most iconic and memorable scene was of course the wolf transformation: (which won an academy award) but its easy to forget that there was no CGI way back in 1981 and this effect had to be handled painstakingly by FX artist Rick Baker.  

‘American Werewolf’ is also chock full of interesting and humorous characters, too many to mention here but included the delights of Jenny Agutter, Yorkshire man Brian Glover (playing chess with Rik Mayall of The Young Ones) stand up comedian Griffin Dunne, the Shakespearian John Woodvine, Frank Oz (voice of ‘Yoda’) and even a cameo with ‘The Muppets’. Even Alan Ford (of ‘Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels’ fame) appears as a typical cockney taxi driver.

The awsum climax of the film crowns the film perfectly as the werewolf goes on the killer rampage across Piccadilly Circus, achieved by actually closing off the area to traffic. Not an easy task to pull off but a little known fact was that John Landis bribed the London Met to get access to Piccadilly by giving 300 police officers free tickets to see his ‘Blue Brothers’ movie.

But its easy for us decadent internet savvy post-everthing’ist’s to dismiss such a gem as this John Landis cult classic. It was only in the last ten years or so that a box ticking culture emerged that found it difficult to situate this film. Was it a horror film or a comedy? Was it a black comedy? ‘Rolling Stone Magazine’ called it a Jewish ‘Bi-polar Horror Comedy’. Understandable I guess, since director John Landis was Jewish and cut his teeth on making comedies.

But if anything, ‘American Werewolf’ was a tragedy with sprinkles of humour. ‘a naked American man stole my balloons!’ says a school kid, as our hero scrabbles across London back to Jenny Agutter, after a howling night on the town but hardly is this a  black comedy. ‘Shaun of the Dead’ was a black comedy. Whatever. Tomata, Tomato.

In my humble opinion ‘American Werewolf’ just happened to be as equally funny as it was tragic. Much like life itself, it was simply a fun film with tragic consequences, taking a few light hearted digs at the horror genre and the fact that ‘80’s Britain, only had three Tv channels and the cinemas had really crap porno's.