70s

WESTWORLD, WESTWORLD US 1973

When Westworld rolled onto UHF television movie channels sometime in the late seventies it completely captured my attention. Yul Brynner’s deadpan performance, the surprise exist of a main character and the prisoner who was not what she seemed. It may seem quaint compared to the special effects of today, but something about it resonated with my young mind.  It wasn’t really about the direct plot, but the implications for humanity. 

Seems like HBO is very willing to revisit that uncomfortable line sometime in 2016. Check out the trailer here.

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You will get some crusty ole’ individual who shakes their fist and insists that Huckleberry Hound was superior to the nonsense that is on TV days but this is colored by experience. I also legitimately feel the absence of the Saturday Morning Cartoon block. Aside from the warm comfort of nostalgia you can objectively see that the content, quality and morality of children focused animation has become progressively stronger. 

There is some argument that the decade old trend of non-sequitur in cartoons has weakened this trend, but even then I can argue that the intelligence of early Spongebob, Ren & Stimpy, and even Uncle Grandpa are still shoulders above the tepid toy driven programs of the eighties.

I love seventies and eighties cartoons and newer experiences will never take away from those experiences, try and watch some of these older programs though and they can become a bit tedious with adult eyes.  You will see repeated and reused animation sequences, plotlines that go nowhere or make no sense and dubious moral choices that would end in tragedy in real life.

Note that I am not talking about cartoons in the first half of the 20th century that were written and designed for adults before intrusive censorship and the idea that cartoons were only for children. In some ways modern animation reclaim this legacy, cartoons that have broad appeal but are clever enough to speak to both audiences without pandering to either.

Do shows like Adventure Time, Steven Universe, Gravity Falls, The Regular Show, Bee and Puppycat and so on spark your imagination or leave you wishing for days of yore? Please discuss in the comments or join us on Facebook

Source: Are today’s cartoons the best that kids’ television has ever been? | Polygon

This has been a Force Five heavy week here at the Robot and I don’t think a lot of people will mind.  CollectionDX keeps tabs on the best toys and they have images of the new UFO Spazer for the Ex Gokin Grendizer. The unit will not be available until November, but Grendizer who is sold separately is available now.  Click the below link for a full set of images.

Source: EX Gokin Spazer and TFO for Grendizer | CollectionDX

From the recently held Wonder Festival in Japan we have some amazing shots of prototype garage kits for Mazinger. (Tranzor Z for the American robot fans) I’ve lost track of all of the manga and anime variations of Mazinger, but the products linked below are gorgeous modern representations of the character regardless of how they fit into the continuity.  

Great Mazinger was also part of the North American Shogun Warriors line if that rings any bells.  I’m linking the English dubbed anime opening to spark your memories.

Source: Sen-Ti-Nel at Summer WonFes 2015 | CollectionDX

gaiking

In what is beyond good news for old school anime fans Discotek has announced that they will be producing a new unabridged version of the 1976 giant robot classic Gaiking for the first time in North America.  Gaiking had been previously available in a horribly cut up version when I originally watched it as part of the Force Five programming block and later as a set of abridged DVDs from Shout Factory.

This new version that arrives next year with Japanese audio and English subtitles is a gift for long suffering anime fans like myself.  It will contain all of the character development (and probably filler) that a four decade old baseball themed robot anime can provide. 

Come celebrate with me by soaking in the original Japanese intro and let the glee of colorful giant mecha and monsters wash over you.

Source: Discotek Adds 1976 Gaiking, Wicked City Anime – News – Anime News Network

werewolf_by_night

Without directly knowing, Mike Ploog has been with me my entire life. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized that Mike has intersected with the things I love from childhood to the present day.

There are a variety of images I could have chosen as the lead for this, but I think simple demonstrates his talent best. Mike Ploog seems to effortlessly display movement. When you look at a Ploog sketch you intuitively know what is going to happen after and what has happened before. You can feel Werewolf by Night’s mouth open in close in a menacing growl, his shoulders roll and his hands moving towards you. You instinctively feel that you are in danger. It takes a great talent to convey that.

man-thing

Mr. Ploog was in the marines for a decade before working for the mighty Filmation and Hanna-Barbera and then with the great Will Eisner on the Army’s Preventive Maintenance Monthly. During Marvel’s horror era Mike Ploog was the artist for the creation of Ghost Rider and Werewolf by Night. He drew some of the most dynamic versions of the Man-Thing and several other titles.  His career in the film industry is nothing short of astounding working on design, illustration and story boards for Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards and Lord of the Rings, Heavy Metal, The Thing, The Dark Crystal, Superman III, Supergirl, Return to Oz, Disney’s forgotten Black Cauldron, Young Sherlock Holmes, Little Shop of Horrors, The Witches, The Tick television series, The Prince of Egypt, Titan A.E. and 2000s X-Men.

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Ploog’s early comic work drew me to his style in the seventies, even when I didn’t quite understand who he was but then he followed me throughout my teenage years by working on and influencing some of the greatest fantasy ever put to film.  Almost without exception, if I was obsessed with a fantasy film Mike Ploog was behind the scenes laboring on it in some fashion.   Carpenter’s The Thing is my favorite horror film, Superman III inspired me to become a software engineer (weird, but true), I fought with my parents because they were going to see Lord of the Rings without me, I can sing most of the songs from Little Shop of Horrors and Young Sherlock Holmes is a bizarre masterpiece that also introduced the world to John Lasseter, now Disney and Pixar’s Chief Creative Officer.

I’ve passed these loves down to my children and I hope they do the same.  There is something special about each and every one of them and Ploog’s contributions large or small resonate still.

ghost_rider

After almost fifty years of working in creative industries Mike Ploog is releasing an art book filled with his life’s work.  This will be 320 pages of illustrations and examples from his career. The Kickstarter will run through July 16th of 2015 and I highly recommend you pick it up. In my mind, supporting a man who has given so much to what we love is an important thing to.  His work draws you in and seeing it together like this will pull you back into worlds of your childhood and inspire creatives of the future.

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robolad

Oh Robolad (or Robolar, I can never tell) you taught me so may things.  If I consume only candy bars I may wake up dressed in a glittery jump suit. You taught me that the Mars space program is so poorly funded that their spacecraft is constructed from cardboard boxes and poster paint.  I now know that the denizens of Mars have a Boston accent.  

Hundreds of times in the eighties I heard that earth fruit is “Yummy and not bad”, so much so that every word of your important message is burned in to my brain and I can repeat it today.

I will never forget you Robolad, or Robolar…whatever your name is.

tin_woodsman_psa

One of the great traditions of a seventies/eighties childhood was sitting in front of the cool blue glow of the television on Saturday morning in footie pajamas with a bowl of crunchy, colored sugar.  Alas, this great ritual is now lost as those darn fangled children can watch cartoons when ever they want on the Huluflix or the Nettubes.  

On any given Saturday you would also see the same PSAs over and over again for a period of years.  So much that we all know the songs and can likely sing along.  Here is my favorite.  Bonus points if you can sing the whole thing to the end.

We chatted the other day about some updates to this proposed Blomkamp film.  If I am honest with myself I posted some of the concept art because I thought it was nifty and thought this was one of those ‘too good to be true’ situations, fan casting for directors.  Never in a million years would I expect Fox to make a smart decision like this.

Either Blomkamp is the luckiest (and smartest) geek alive or this was all a clever ploy to drum up support.  It doesn’t matter, we are getting a new film in the Alien universe and the man in charge is competent.

Bonus:  That amazing retro figure above is part of the ReAction series by Funko.   You can check them out here.

via Variety

gaiking_flying

For a blog named Giant Japanese Robot, I certainly do not have enough posts about Giant Robots.   Part of this is that I am just a regular joe with a job and I post in the time I have and whatever is catching my fancy.  For a while in an earlier incarnation of this site I talked a good bit about advancements in modern robotics, but if I was honest with myself what I really enjoy are those clanky giant mecha that I grew up with in the seventies.  They were huge, colorful, humanoid and completely improbable.

There is a shared camaraderie among those that grew up in that period and watched those shows.   I’ve met folks from a bunch of different places around the world who watched them under different names and dubs and the feeling is still the same.  If the following gives you chills then you know you are in the club.

I spent a lot of time in the basement workshop as a wee boy trying to make giant robot costumes with zero success, so when Raymond Ramos mentions and posts pics that he is working on Gaiking cosplay I am interested, but a bit doubtful.

I was wrong, so wrong.

Raymond Ramos is a local guy who does cosplay, and he absolutely kills it.  From Raymond’s Facebook page you can see that his favored cosplay appears to be perfecting Blade, but he has also done Bane, G.I. Joe and an intimidating Blade Thundercats mashup.

Here is Raymond with the final Gaiking costume compared to an illustration of the robot.

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Another more detailed shot of him at Rhode Island Comic Con.

gaiking_solo

 

I’ve seen a lot of people attempt giant robots in cosplay, but never so successfully, at least with the Go Nagai style robots.  Check out his page and support him.  Local artists like Raymond put in a ton of work because they love the genre and they love seeing people react to their creations.  People like him make the world a bit better.

sesame_street_crack_master

 

In the seventies and early eighties Sesame Street didn’t talk down to children, it talked to them.  When you are authentic and honest with children sometimes you will frighten them.  Somehow in the last few decades we have begun shielding children from fear like this.  Now this blog is not the place for moralizing, it is more about joy, more about enjoying things that are and remembering the things that made us.  I am nostalgic though for the old Sesame, the one that talked directly to me and that was like a childhood friend.

There were about four Sesame Street shorts that really haunted my dreams and the following ‘Cracks’ is one of them.  Information about it is hard to track down.  As far as I understand it was only shown on the air about a dozen times before the word came through that it was too scary, too dark for regular consumption.

I had searched for the short over and over again and almost began to think I had imagined it.  Today I found it and it is as glorious as I had remembered.

capaldi_jo (Custom)

Doctor Who is all about nostalgia for me. When you watch a single television show for over thirty years you begin to feel a bit attached.  I’ve a lost all ability to critically judge the show by now and pretty much everything they do is magic.  I think it can be universally accepted that the twelfth Doctor’s (Peter Capaldi) meeting with actress Katy Manning is actual magic.  She was the third Doctor’s (Jon Pertwee) companion from 1971-1973 and one of the favorites.

It is not a secret that Peter Capaldi grew up watching Doctor Who and that his style draws significant inspiration from his predecessor.  It is completely fitting that Katy would visit the set and recreate the iconic photo below to the delight of Who fans everywhere.

pertwee_capaldi_jo (Custom)

 

convoy_poster

Man, I am dragging today.  I needed something to inspire me for a long day of work when I remembered Convoy.  The only Peckinpah directed, Kris Kristofferson and Ernest Borgnine starring movie about salt of the earth truckin’, CB using guys fighting the Man based on a country song that I can think of.

I ask you all to remember Rubber Duck and his quest to right wrongs and deliver his goods, I hope it gives you that wee bit of energy to get you through your day.

spidey_electric

I was going to write about the utilitarian aspects of buying glasses online, but this came up, which is significantly more awesome.  Spiderman always takes precedence.

I follow a bunch of geeky creators on Twitter, because people who make stuff generally have wonderful things to say.  Joe Caramagna, writer for Marvel Universe stories and generally nifty guy was talking about how his little one was digging CTW’s (now Sesame Workshop) The Electric Company Spiderman shorts.

I had the vague recollection that the Spidey Super Stories weren’t  included in the Electric Company’s DVD box set for licensing reasons (I’m not actually sure about this) so I asked him if they were collected somewhere.  Joe responded “YouTube! A bunch of them are up there.” after which I smacked myself in the forehead and said “Of course! Youtube, where youngin’s go to watch their video stories!” and lo, Youtube has a million of these things.  Paradise for a nostalgia craving superhero addict like myself.

Now, I haven’t seen these in at least thirty years and my brain is very forgiving when it comes to things I loved in my youth, so note that when you watch.  Of particular interest to me is the sly integration of reading prompts, an incredibly catchy theme song which rivals the sixties Spiderman cartoon, disco funk inspired music, the dulcimer tones of Morgan Freeman narrating this adventure, and the rapid escalation of The Spoiler’s criminal activity from petty vandalism to murder.  From what I understand this is the first one that aired, and to be honest rewatching this I think I prefer it to the current slate of Spiderman movies, that may just be me being crotchety though, so ignore that comment and enjoy the video on its merits.

starlord

I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about Marvel comics characters, although if I put some thought into it I haven’t voraciously read comics since high school.  I first encountered Star Lord in Marvel’s animated adaption of Planet Hulk where he makes a little cameo.

starlord_planethulk

Just like the first trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy I was all “Star Lord, who?”.  Star Lord had me a little confused.  Marvel already had a space team of adventurers that I had known since I was ten or so, they were the Starjammers.

starjammers

The Starjammers have pretty much the same elements of the Guardians, with maybe a bit more Errol Flynn thrown in.  They have a heavy, a witty irreverent leader, a femme fatale and a member who is borderline insane due to his desire for revenge.  Just like the Guardians the lineup has changed a lot over the years, but the parallels are clear, it seems like a duplication of efforts.  I can see that Guardians may be a bit more ‘new reader’ friendly which is not a bad thing, plus they have a talking raccoon.

I don’t really have any complaints about the Guardians.  Gunn is a terrific director (Slither is one of my very favorite horror movies), the cast is fantastic and the writing seems snappy and fun.  It also promises more Marvel cameos than any other Cinematic Universe film before it.  I am praying for a little ROM the Spaceknight or Micronaut cameos, but that may be stretching the bounds of what Marvel is capable of.

We won’t see Guardians until next Friday, but here is the newest clip to get you ready.

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Fabulous 1972

Godzilla vs. Gigan may be working out to be one of my favorites of the Godzilla canon.  It’s definitely one of the trippier movies right up there with All Monsters Attack, but a bit more coherent and not pandering to children as much.  Premiering in the early seventies it even has a lazy hippy stereotype as a minor character.

Japanese Zeitgeist

I’ve been attempting to work through some of the themes of these movies as I go through them for the umpteenth time and figure out the differences between the Japanese, International and American versions. Hulu was good enough to stream a Japanese language version of the film, but I think it is the American version as it features some weird editing and lacks a feature I will mention in a minute.

The seventies are clearly a theme here and a deliberate attempt to play to a young, hip audience. The protagonist is a manga artist (Japanese comic books) for no other obvious reason I would guess except to pull a manga obsessed fan in. Once again the aliens are using a children’s focused shell corporation under the guise of peace, “World Children’s Land”, to forward their ends.

One of the themes I see in movies in the late sixties and seventies is this deep mistrust of the concept of peace, that any organization or group that advocates for peace (especially when it involves youth) must has some insidious ulterior motive. It is amusing to see this sentiment that I thought was just an American response to the Summer of Love make it all the way over into a mainstream Japanese film. At the very least the hippy isn’t a villain even though he is always hungry and lazy like Shaggy was in Scooby Doo. I find it amusing that a lot of the girly mags and pulp novels consumed mainly by the ‘grown ups’ criticizing this culture focused heavily on these stereotypes. Essentially older adults hated and feared youth culture, but they also fetishized it secretly. To be honest things haven’t changed much.

Kaiju for Dollars

We are absolutely getting our bang for our buck with monsters here.  Godzilla, King Ghidorah, Anguirus and the brand new Gigan all make appearances. Gigan would appear in the sequel in 1973, do a small bit on Japanese television and then would not appear on film again until 2004.

Gigan is a pretty nifty villain with cybernetic implants, retro futuristic night rider eye wear and curved blades for hands. Apparently giant monsters don’t need to perform any actions that would require opposable thumbs.

Godzilla vs. Gigan also has an ecological message, but many Godzilla films do and it is essentially a watered down version of the original film Gojira’s message of American nuclear apocalypse.

Bonus Round

I had heard that in the original Japanese cut of the film before American distribution that in the scenes were Godzilla ‘talks’ to Anguirus that they put in speech bubbles that were cut for the American version.  Since this movie is manga themed I have no reason to doubt it.  I found this odd clip that may be real, but having them speak in English is a little dubious, if true it would be fantastic, you can judge for yourself.  If there are any Japanese readers out there you can let me know if the dialogue even remotely matches the bubbles.

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Before I there was Star Wars, there was Space Battleship Yamato.  You may know it better as Star Blazers if you hail from the US.  I am stretching the eighties tag a bit, the series came on the air in 1979 when I was an impressionable six year old, but originally broadcast in Japan in 1974.

Regardless of decade Star Blazers started my fascination with Japanese animation that ended up dominating my television habits all throughout the eighties.  If you grew up during that time the theme song should bring warm nostalgia, a stirring song of human pride and optimism over evil and crisis, in this case the crisis being the extinction of all life on earth within a year if the crew of the Yamato (Argo in the US) does not succeed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0H5xz8alVfo

I was instantly hooked.  I had never seen any sort of  programming aside from movies that carried a continuous, threaded story.  Trouble did not resolve by the end of the episode, people died and war had consequences.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I was able to process the WWII imagery properly but as a child I knew there was gravity and importance beyond the surface.  The striking character designs by Leiji Matsumoto also fascinated me in as I had never seen humans drawn in this way.   There are several sequels and spin offs, but most did not make their way to an English translation in the days before the web took hold as a way to share media.

Over the next couple of weeks you will probably see a lot of these cartoon/anime posts.  I’ve been thinking a lot about how values are formed in geeks and going to my own past to look at my influences.  Star Blazers was a big part of that and if you were a fan chances are that it was for you as well.

BONUS ROUND:

In case you were not already aware, Japan recently finished their airing of a Star Blazers  remake ‘Yamato 2199’.  While the art style is a lot more modern there is a lot to like for fans of the original.  Check out the trailer below, I’m positive you will find enough familiarity to pique your interest.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnpEU8DPzZ4

UPDATE: I replaced the original link with a full twelve minute version including Paul Lynde as Grand Moff Tarkin.  It is pretty painful.

This probably deserves a bigger post and maybe I will do a Star Wars disco omnibus post soon but I wanted to share with you a Donnie and Marie Stormtrooper clip.  I can imagine kids watching the Donny and Marie show waiting for the Star Wars part and being very confused about seeing Han Solo with a beard (Kris Kristofferson?!?) and different actors playing the parts of their new heroes.

People have known about this forever, and I actually vaguely remember seeing it when it aired.  I also had the (mis)fortune of seeing the Star Wars Holiday Special, which we can talk about later.

 

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I consider myself a student of exploitation and B cinema but did not know this existed.  Kansas City Bomber is a 1972 movie starring the great Raquel and what appears to be real Roller Derby athletes.  I don’t much about this, but I guarantee that I will soon.  I expect my weekend will be filled with finding a good print of this.

Watch the video below and be amazed.

found via Messy Nessy Chic