• A Little SFX Goes A Long Way

    If you are a female over the age of 6 or a male over 28 and posted an excited review or Transformers 2, your movie-reviewing bona fides are hereby revoked. The only exception is granted to those who were stoned or too upset over Michael Jackson’s death while watching this pile of robot rust.

    Two hours worth of repetitive CGI accompanied by non-stop metal clanging noises made me think how little was needed to impress a young viewer just 30-50 years ago. I remember my Dad telling me how during his school years everyone went crazy over the Tarzan movies with Johnny Weissmuller. The old Tarzan movies produced in the 1930s made it to the USSR as war trophies and were shown everywhere for years after WWII (In the following book clip start reading the paragraph starting with “Basically Hollywood…”).


    Many injuries resulted from attempting to swing on any hanging rope with one arm while imitating the Tarzan call.

    Cheesy special effects of the 1930s and even an obvious reusing of the same footage throughout the series didn’t prevent me from enjoying them when I saw Tarzan for the first time in the early 80s.
    When I was very young another movie took me and my classmates by a storm. Zorro probably caused more property damage than any movie before it, with a “sign of Zorro” drawn, engraved, chiseled or carved on everything with a surface.

    Speaking about cheesy special effects, how can one forget “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad“. When I was 8 or 9 the monsters from this movie looked totally real. Not so much anymore.

    In the late 70’s a Japanese movie The Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds was the talk of the country, at a time when Jurassic Park wasn’t even a concept. From appetizer to dessert – One town becomes a monster meal – was the tagline.I still distinctly remember a half of a horse falling off the cliff, the other half bitten off by a dinosaur, and I still avoid bloody movies.

    Another scary Japanese movie of my childhood was the Sinking of Japan (Tidal Wave) which came out in 1973 and was remade in 2006. Here is a clip of a recent remake.

    You can imagine pitiful special effects of 1973 but I still remember it as a terrifying movie years later.
    There are plenty of acclaimed and beloved movies with really low-quality special effects, that did not benefit from a more sophisticated remake.
    Unfortunately no amount of special effects could benefit Transformers 2.

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  • Comrade Rockstar

    Dean Reed was an American singer who was more popular in the Latin America and the USSR than in the USA. He would have turned 70 today. Because he was a communist sympathizer he was one of a few English-speaking performers approved to entertain the Soviet people. I remember as a child playing his records and watching him on TV and in cheesy Easter European Westerns. I read that he was sometimes referred to as the “Red Elvis” due to his popularity, I personally never heard anyone say that, but at the time I didn’t even know who the real “Not-Red” Elvis was, so I wouldn’t get the reference anyway.

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  • Tuna of the Prairie

    I had always imagined Flint Hills to be a rocky desert-like area in the Central-Eastern Kansas where one could walk up to the nearest cliff and chisel away a piece of flint big enough to make a tomahawk. I guess I’ll add this to the list of many other things that didn’t turn out the way I imagined. Driving the Flint Hills Scenic Byway was somewhere on my list of things to do and it turned out to be probably one of the best, most relaxing day-trips from Kansas City, filled with nature, views, history, vast spaces that make you feel small and roads reaching all the way to the horizon. It’s hard to imagine covering these hills on foot, living on remote ranches, surviving without all the conveniences of the modern age. It’s fun to think about things like these while flying at high speeds in a comfortable vehicle with the windows down and the radio up.
    The South end of the Scenic Byway is at Cassoday, KS, population 130, with just about as many signs proclaiming it to be the Prairie Chicken Capital of the World.

    Prairie Chicken, also known as the “Tuna of the Prairie” are nowhere to be seen, probably busy hiding from the 130 hungry Cassodayans. The signs are the most photographed object in Cassoday.

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  • Old Photos: Art Conquers Attica, KS

    A recent post on Kansas Travel and my own visit to a gallery this week, where I was chastised by my daughter for not understanding art, reminded me that I had this set of photos from 1955 bookmarked for a long time.

    It’s no Paris, but a tiny Kansas farm town grows its own crop of painters.

    Up to now Attica, Kan., for all its classical name, could pass for any other tiny town in the wheatlands – a slowdown point on a rural highway leading to Wichita. But today traffic through Attica not only slows down but stops and looks. Encamped with palettes and drawing boards on the sidewalks, along the railroad, in the wheatfields are painters – singly or in bunches – recording the surroundings with the earnest concentration of Paris professionals. The painters are members of the Artists Guild of Attica, a burgeoning group that in course of three years had made the town of 622 people aware, curious and eager about art.

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  • Kansas Roadtrips: McElangelo of Coffeyville, KS

    On a crisp November morning the only sound in the historic downtown Coffeyville, KS  was the uncontrollable laughter of two people sitting in a small car in front of a mural hanging on a brick wall. Two people have been doing this for some time, and when one of them would stop laughing, the other pointed to the mural again and both would start giggling again, feverishly wiping away streaming tears. Two people were not strangers to the small town folk art but just like visitors to the Sistine Chapel they knew this could never be surpassed.

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