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Now in our ninth calendar year!
PCR #406 (Vol. 9, No. 1) This edition is for the week of January 1--6, 2008.

The Keys To A Great Vacation, Part Two  by Will Moriaty
"The Best of 2007"  by Mike Smith
VHS Grindhouse: Starchaser: The Legend of Orin, Hooters  by Andy Lalino
2007: The Year That Was  by ED Tucker
2007 - The Year the Tampa Film Community Became a Family  by Paul Guzzo
I Guess It's Ok If You Miss .... Welcome To The Hall .... Happy Birthday .... .... .... .... .... .... And The Oscar For 1976 Should Have Gone To... by Mike Smith
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Oddservations by Andy Lalino

VHS Grindhouse: Starchaser: The Legend of Orin, Hooters

VHS Grindhouse: Starchaser: The Legend of Orin (1985)

Though unabashedly inspired by Star Wars and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, science-fiction fans may want to give Starchaser: The Legend of Orin a reassessment, if nothing else for the sheer fun of experiencing it.

Now here's a true cinema rarity: a feature-length, fully cell-animated science-fiction film - originally released in 3-D no less! While not displaying the image quality of Heavy Metal (1981), Starchaser is a noble attempt at disciplined, skillful imitation. Now, we fans of Grindhouse Cinema welcome the concept of "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery". Should we not, the majority of Grindhouse/Drive-In features would not even exist, so Starchaser, I'm behind you 100%.

The story begins in the deep crystal mines of the faraway planet of Mine-World, where a naive young hero named Orin and his people are enslaved by Zygon a villainous overlord. For untold years, they have been forced by Zygon and his army of abusive robots (with light-whips) into backbreaking labor to retrieve the valuable crystals. In the process of digging, Orin finds the hilt of a sword, and is told by an elder that it is this weapon which will aid in freeing their people. Orin is instructed to dig upward - toward a surface world that they believe does not even exist.

In a scene reminiscent of another George Lucas film, THX-1138, Orin begins the perilous mission to drill upward to this unseen world, leaving behind his blind younger brother and losing his girlfriend to the grip of Zygon. Finally, an overwhelmed Orin reaches the surface and its breathtaking alien landscapes and starry skies. But the promised land is not the tranquil paradise so envisioned; almost immediately Orin is confronted with man-eating plants and giant organisms that take one look at him and see a giant chicken leg. Before a quick brush with death, he encounters Dagg, a Han Solo-esque smuggler here on Mine-World in search of crystals. They help each other fend off the alien threats and are forced to flee the planet, with Zygon close in pursuit.

The rest of the plot revolves around Orin's quest for the hilt's missing blade, which takes he and Dagg to different planets where they meet a variety of droids and aliens. Of course, there's a love interest, the red-haired daughter of a wealthy politician who has an attraction to Orin. More bizarre is the relationship of Dagg to a sexy "fembot". In one scene, Dagg has to rewire her (not to bitch) by opening a panel in her "posterior"! God, I wish it were that easy...

At the conclusion, events lead our heroes back to Mine-World, and a final confrontation with Zygon. As not to spoil any surprises, should you see this recently resurrected feature on cable TV, I don't want to give too much away. The animation itself is above-average, and according to my research it's one of the first films to incorporate computer graphics in cell animation. Upon watching it, I believed the stunning ways the animators rendered out the spaceship dogfights were with rotoscoped models, but evidently, that was not the case. The designs of the ships themselves (Dagg's smuggle ship, Zygon's flagship) were very good. In the '70s/early & mid '80s, designers were able to create memorable space ship designs with relative ease, fueled by the wondrous imagination of Star Wars, which has since become a lost art. Forgettable designs, despite a nonstop barrage of CGI, is the norm nowadays, no doubt thanks to pixel wizards whose idea of good science-fiction is 'Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within'.

What I was somewhat amazed by was the quality of writing despite a storyline so similar to Star Wars, and keep in mind this material is squarely aimed at teens. Despite that, however, there's an ample quotent of titillation and violence contained within, not that it was unusual at the time for a PG-rated fantasy. Anyone recall the bare breats flopping around in Airplane! (1980) or Brooke Adams' topless scenes in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)?

Starchaser possesses genuine heart, is unsettingly tragic in many ways, and is ultimately good pulpy science-fiction. If you're a Crazed Fanboy who really gets a thrill of witnessing land and space scapes inspired by Frazetta, McQuarrie, Wood, and not a Macintosh computer - I suggest a viewing.

Hooters Gathering and Pics

Thanks, Nole, for posting some great pictures of our last gathering at Hooters and the one when Mike Smith and Juanita visited. Sandy and I had a great time, and hope we can do another one soon!

"Oddservations" is ©2008 by Andy Lalino.  The Oddservations banner is a creation of Andy Lalino. All other graphics, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2008 by Nolan B. Canova.