Happy 30th Anniversary, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country!

“Captain’s log, stardate 9529.1: This is the final cruise of the Starship Enterprise under my command. This ship and her history will shortly become the care of another crew. To them and their posterity will we commit our future. They will continue the voyages we have begun and journey to all the undiscovered countries, boldly going where no man…where no one…has gone before.”

Far out in space, the U.S.S. Excelsior commanded by Captain Hikaru Sulu observes the destruction of the Klingon moon Praxis. This is followed by a request for aid from the Klingon Empire when it’s learned that the moon’s obliteration has contaminated the atmosphere of the Klingon home world, threatening all life on the planet within fifty years. Unable to combat the ecological disaster on their own, the Klingons have come, hat in hand in the form of Chancellor Gorkon, leader of the Klingon High Council, who proposes a peace between the Federation and the Empire.

Dispatched to escort Gorkon to Earth to meet with the Federation President, Captain Kirk and the Enterprise soon find themselves caught up in a conspiracy when the chancellor is murdered aboard his own ship. The Enterprise crew is implicated in the assassination, and Kirk and Dr. McCoy tried in a Klingon court and sentenced to imprisonment on a remote Klingon penal colony. Spock and the rest of the crew must now race against time to expose the conspiracy and prove Kirk and McCoy’s innocence, before assassins can strike once again at an upcoming peace summit.

And hilarity ensues.

Released on December 6th, 1991, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country marked the final time the entire cast of the original Star Trek series would appear together on screen*. The film brought to a close one of the more remarkable resurrections and evolutions of an entertainment property, from cancelled 1960s television series to full-blown multi-media franchise. Its release concluded a year marked by celebration and mourning, highlighted by the observance of Star Trek‘s 25th anniversary as well as the death of original series creator Gene Roddenberry.

Developed by Leonard Nimoy and director Nicholas Meyer, the story was conceived as a way to bid farewell to Captain Kirk and his crew, clearing the decks for the eventual promotion of Star Trek: The Next Generation to the big screen. This proved to be accurate not just in real life but also within the fictional construct of the Star Trek mythos, as the film depicts the thawing of relations between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. This leads to an uneasy alliance between the two interstellar powers which eventually allows for the presence of a Klingon, Lieutenant Worf, on the bridge of the Galaxy-class U.S.S. Enterprise nearly eighty years after the events of this story. Indeed, that bit of progress was even foretold in “Errand of Mercy,” a first-season episode of the original series in 1967, in which the alien Organians predict that the Federation and Empire would one day work together as friends.

Pretty cool, huh?

In addition to making sure each of the main cast has at least one moment to shine at key points throughout the film, Star Trek VI also boasts an impressive guest cast including David Warner (Time After Time, Tron, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier), a pre-Sex and the City Kim Cattrall, a post-Robocop Kurtwood Smith, Brock Peters reprising his role of Admiral Cartwright from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (and who would later portray Joseph Sisko, father to Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), and the late, great Christopher Plummer.

It also has what I still rank as my favorite teaser trailer of any Star Trek movie ever:

Though Star Trek VI marks the end of adventures with the original Enterprise crew, we would later see Scotty appear in “Relics,” a sixth-season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Sulu would appear in a third-season episode of Star Trek: Voyager, “Flashback.” And we can’t overlook “Trials and Tribble-ations,” where the cast of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine insert themselves into the events of the classic original series episode “The Trouble With Tribbles.” Archival footage of Leonard Nimoy as Spock also appears in 2020’s third-season Star Trek: Discovery episode “Unification III.” That episode is itself a sequel of sorts to two-part Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Unification,” broadcast in 1991 prior to Star Trek VI‘s release.

On the big screen, Scotty, Chekov, and Captain Kirk in particular would factor into the events of 1994’s Star Trek Generations, which would cement the passing of the baton to Jean-Luc Picard and his Next Generation crew. Fifteen years later, Leonard Nimoy would reprise his role of Spock and help to usher in a full-on reimagining of Kirk and the gang for 2009’s Star Trek reboot film. His final on-screen performance was as Spock in 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness.

Still, Star Trek VI ends up being somewhat bittersweet. Though my fellow fans and I were happy to see our heroes in action once more, I also knew even as the end credits rolled and the theater lights came up that Star Trek–the Star Trek I grew up with, at any rate–was over. There would be more adventures in the Final Frontier, of course, but I couldn’t help feeling like I was saying goodbye to old friends for the final time. The last scene of the film, with Kirk reading his log entry as the Enterprise sails away before the cast “signs their names” across the screen and the music builds to a rousing rendition of the original Star Trek fanfare, is still something to watch.

It’s not a perfect movie, but it’s still a worthy sign-off for lifelong friends, celebrating the end of an era (of sorts) for those of us who love this stuff.

Happy 30th Anniversary, Star Trek VI.

* in addition to the DS9 episode, the other notable exception is a photograph of the cast inserted into a brief yet touching scene from Star Trek Beyond, released in 2016 to celebrate the franchise’s 50th anniversary.

Happy 35th Anniversary, Heartbreak Ridge!

The Marines are looking for a few good men. Unfortunately…you ain’t it.”

Holy crap! Heartbreak Ridge, the 1986 film starring and directed by Clint Eastwood, turns 35 today.

After all of these years, this film remains one of my guilty pleasure flicks, possessing two things I can never have enough of: movies about Marines, and movies featuring Clint Eastwood. As much a fan as I am of Eastwood the actor, it’s Clint the director who’s also given me a healthy number of films I enjoy revisiting. I started to really take notice of his directorial talents with 1985’s Pale Rider, which for me signaled a shift in my appreciation of the man as a filmmaker. At some point several years ago, I realized the older Clint was getting, the more inclined I was to like a movie he was in. That went double if he was directing. Of course, he’s directed a few in which he did not appear, and those usually have been worth checking out, too. Indeed, this past year has seen a sharp increase in my desire to watch Western films and sample more Western fiction, and Eastwood’s contributions to that particular genre have been well-represented during my various revisitations.

Meanwhile, there’s this not at-all Western, Heartbreak Ridge.

It’s a familiar formula: A hard-assed, battle-tested veteran is put in charge of a group of malcontents or otherwise underperforming troops and has to whip them into shape before they head off to combat. Of course they hate him at first, doing their best to side-step or undermine the salty vet’s efforts until he finally earns their respect and they come together as a cohesive unit just in time for the bullets to start flying.

In this case it’s Eastwood as Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Highway, a grizzled Marine who’s this close to being sent out to pasture, having nearly reached mandatory retirement. Before he was a Marine, Highway served in the Army during the Korean War, and awarded the Medal of Honor for heroic action during the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge.

As for the movie? The plot is pretty simple: In 1983, Highway is a decorated, battle-tested warrior without a war to fight. Rather than ride quietly off into the sunset and retirement, he opts for a transfer back to a combat unit; in this case, a Force Recon battalion attached to the 2nd Marine Division. It’s the unit in which Highway served many years earlier, so it’s a bit of a homecoming. The battalion sergeant major is a familiar face, a buddy with whom Highway served going back to Korea. The recon platoon Highway is tasked with leading is another matter, filled as it is with a bunch of slacking loafers who’ve been allowed to lapse into a state of utter shambles thanks to Highway’s inept and ambivalent predecessor. Highway’s task: make the young Marines combat ready, with their first test coming as President Reagan sends troops to Grenada.

Gunny Highway, getting to know the troops.

I have a few fond memories of this movie. When it was filmed in the spring and summer of 1986, several scenes were shot at Camp Pendleton, California (which stood in for Camp Lejeune, North Carolina), and at the time I was a lowly private first class stationed there. I got to see some of these scenes being filmed, though unlike other Marines I didn’t get to serve as an extra in the background or anything like that. One scene in particular near the movie’s beginning shows Eastwood as Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Highway walking across a collection of amphibious landing vehicles, which are/were a sort of outdoor museum showing the evolution of such craft. That area was just a couple of hundred yards from the barracks building where I was living at that time.

In a later scene when Highway steps outside and salutes the flag as it’s lowered for evening colors? That was the headquarters for the 1st Marine Division (standing in for the 2nd Marine Division, in this case). Several of the training areas shown in different scenes where Highway is getting his men into shape? Been there, done those.

One of the other memories which sticks out about the film is how roundly disavowed it was by pretty much anyone high up in the Marine Corps chain of command. Upon seeing an advance screening of the film, Marine officials denounced it, even going so far as to issue directives prohibiting Marines from going to the theater in uniform to see it. According to them, Eastwood’s portrayal of Highway–a rude, crude, throwback “salty vet,” forged in the fires of combat from Korea to Vietnam–was not in keeping with the image the Corps wished to convey as being commonplace among its ranks.

I’m pretty sure none of the folks raising objections ever met my drill instructors, or any seasoned senior enlisted Marine. At that point in my young career, the upper enlisted ranks still teemed with Vietnam vets, and most of them were like, “Are you fucking kidding me?” upon hearing about the condemnation of Eastwood’s Gunny Highway. I distinctly remember an editorial cartoon from the local newspaper showing a Marine general covering the eyes of a young private to prevent him from seeing Eastwood’s grizzled image.

None of this stopped me and my friends from hauling ass to town from the base on a Friday night to check out the flick for ourselves, of course.

(Yes, I’m keenly aware that I am, of course, 35 years older than I was that night. I’m choosing not to dwell on that right now, thanks very much.)

This isn’t to say the film isn’t without its problems. There are several inaccuracies of varying degrees, most of which will not bother “regular” viewers one whit. The notion of a Force Recon platoon harboring so many completely useless losers for longer than one day is something that’s hard to swallow, of course. As arrogant and super-confident as Marines can be so far as their being the “best of the best of the best” and all that jazz (It’s true, you know.), Force Recon Marines occupy their own level of badassery with even fewer peers. In the unlikely event a couple of shitheads infiltrated the ranks, you can be sure the rest of the platoon would see to such “deficiencies” in short order.

That Highway could unleash live ammo over the heads of his Marines during a training exercise isn’t out of the question, but just doing it without clearance from four or five different links in the chain of command is a tad unrealistic. Also, there’s very little chance anyone would talk to a Medal of Honor winner the way Highway’s commanding officer treats him during the course of the film. Okay, it could happen, but my money’s on the MoH winner stomping a new mudhole in the other guy’s ass and then walking it dry. Come to think of it, how does a supply weenie get put in charge of a combat battalion in the first place?

Anyway….

Despite these and a few other flaws, Heartbreak Ridge has its share of good moments, most of them involving Eastwood. As is the case with almost all of his films, Eastwood himself is always great to watch. His gruff, war-weary Tom Highway is pretty convincing, at least to me. Several of the other characters tread a bit too close to the line of caricature, but even then the performances by actors such as Mario Van Peebles, Boyd Gaines, Everett McGill, Marsha Mason, and so on are pretty solid. The story also suffers from a couple of logistical hurdles, in that the “Heartbreak Ridge” battle that gives the film its title (and where Highway earns the Medal of Honor for his actions) was actually an engagement involving the Army rather than the Marines. The script solves this problem by having Highway in the Army during the Korean War, then changing to the Marines at some point after that conflict. The Army also handled most of the heavy lifting in Grenada, though Marine elements also were involved.

Why the weirdness? Well, the script as originally written featured Highway as a Soldier, with the action taking place at an Army base and leading up to Grenada. When the Army expressed reservations and declined to offer their support–technical or otherwise–for the film’s production, Eastwood and his people took the screenplay to the Marine Corps, who were all about this thing…until seeing that aforementioned advance screening.

So, yeah. It plays fast and loose with historical fact and Marines in general. Eastwood is – to put it kindly – a “throwback” to what is largely (but not completely) an outdated old-school military stereotype, something far more obvious today than when during the film’s original release. On the other hand, I’d argue there are, among a certain generation of those who’ve served in uniform during the past two decades, individuals who’ve since come to know if not become themselves a more modern version of the uncouth, no-nonsense hard-charger whose methods don’t count for much with dinner parties and recruiting films but represent just the sort of warfighter you want by your side when shit gets real.

With all due respect, sir, you’re beginning to bore the hell out of me.

Happy anniversary, Gunny Highway!

Happy 70th Anniversary, “Superman and the Mole Men!”

There are actually a couple of geek milestones being observed today. Getting more notice among my friends and colleagues is the 58th anniversary of the initial airing of “An Unearthly Child,” the first-ever episode of the long-running BBC television series Doctor Who, broadcast on November 23, 1963 and starring William Hartnell as the first of what is now thirteen (and counting!) “official” incarnations of the venerable time-travelling Doctor…plus one more if you count John Hurt’s self-exiled “War Doctor,” and another one if we consider Jo Martin’s “Fugitive Doctor.” Oh, and plus yet another one if you count Peter Cushing’s outings in a pair of theatrical releases).

And I do count all of those.

Meanwhile, I’m going to back you up several more years to this day in 1951, which brought with it the premiere in theaters of Superman and the Mole Men. Already a staple of comics and radio by this point as well as the movie serials starring Kirk Alyn, this “full-length” feature film introduced audiences to actor George Reeves as the Man of Steel and paved the way for a whole new era of Superman stories.

Though serving as something of a trial run for the weekly Adventures of Superman television series which would premiere the following year, Superman and the Mole Men features very few of the trappings which ultimately would become commonplace on the show. George Reeves as Clark Kent/Superman and Phyllis Coates as reporter Lois Lane are the only familiar characters.

The iconic series opening sequence is absent, of course, as is anything resembling the equally memorable theme music. A brief bit at the beginning introduces us to Superman, including a shot of Reeves in costume and standing before a waving American flag which would end up being used in the TV show’s opening. That’s all the exposition we get, though, before we’re hip deep into the “action” as the story unfolds, taking place at an oil field on the outskirts of a small town called Silby. There, the “world’s deepest oil well” has broken through to the subterranean world of the “Mole Men,” who naturally come up to have a look around and see who’s been partying with the music cranked up too loud.

Kent and Lane, sent by the Daily Planet to cover the event of the well having reached its milestone depth, get caught up in the craziness as the local townspeople freak out over the presence of the Mole Men in their midst. They’re organizing with torches and pitchforks to hunt down the little guys, and only Superman can stand in their way. Duhn duhn DUH!!!!!

(Trivia: some of the behind-the-scenes goings-on from this movie and even some filming sequences were recreated in 2006’s Hollywoodland, the pseudo-historical retelling of the investigation into George Reeves’ death in 1959.)

As a standalone film, Superman and the Mole Men really isn’t all that great. It was produced on a very low budget, which is pretty evident in just about everything from the obvious back-lot exteriors to very little in the way of flying or other “super stunts.” Still, its nostalgic value comes from being Reeves’ first turn in the cape and tights, a role which he would make his own in the years to come. However, there’s still a bit to enjoy here. First, I love, love, love black and white TV and movies, and this flick does look pretty darned good.

Next, this movie, like the first two seasons of the ensuing television series (also filmed in B&W), was played straight and aimed at an adult audience, rather than harboring any of the near-camp/kid-friendly tone which would become more prevalent beginning with the series’ third season. Despite the story’s subject matter, there’s still a feel of great old-school mystery/crime drama at work here. The focus is more on Clark Kent (with Lois Lane’s able assistance) delving into the mystery, only to switch to his Superman persona when circumstances require it. That approach would continue into the first year of the series, only to have the balance shift a little more toward “tights and flights” with each successive season.

Phyllis Coates, the actress who portrays Lois Lane in the film, would reprise the role in the TV series’ first season. When she was unavailable to continue with the second season, Noel Neill replaced her, returning to the role she had first performed in the Kirk Alyn Superman serials. Though Neill is the Lois Lane people think of most often when considering George Reeves’ Superman, I’ve always preferred Coates’ take on the character. Of course, it would’ve been nice if they’d given either actress more to do than be the damsel in distress for Superman to rescue.

Superman and the Mole Men would be cut in half to serve as the two-part episode “The Unknown People” to finish out the TV show’s first season, though the original version is included as a special feature on the first-season DVD set. I’d only ever seen the story in its two-part format before picking up the set, so being able to watch the theatrical version was something of a treat.

Although Christopher Reeve’s portrayal of the Man of Steel is the definitive screen Superman for me, George Reeves and the Adventures of Superman series are a couple of those fondly remembered bits from my childhood, as the show ran regularly in syndication when I was growing up. After all, he’s the one I portrayed when I tied a towel around my neck and took a leap over a tall building down the stairs in my house.

Happy Anniversary, Superman and the Mole Men!

Veterans Day.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

– Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, 1915

Erin-PoppyField
(Artwork: Erin Ward)

Happy 246th Birthday, Marines!

On November 1st, 1921, John A. Lejeune, 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps, directed that a reminder of the honorable service of the Corps be published by every command, to all Marines throughout the globe, on the birthday of the Corps. Since that day, Marines have continued to distinguish themselves on many battlefields and foreign shores, in war and peace. On this birthday of the Corps, therefore, in compliance with the will of the 13th Commandant, Article 38, United States Marine Corps Manual, Edition of 1921, is republished as follows:

On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of the Continental Congress. Since that date many thousand men have borne the name Marine. In memory of them it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the birthday of our Corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.

The record of our Corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous military organizations in the world’s history. During 90 of the 146 years of its existence the Marine Corps has been in action against the Nation’s foes. From the Battle of Trenton to the Argonne, Marines have won foremost honors in war, and in the long era of tranquility at home, generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres, and in every corner of the seven seas that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.

In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our Corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term “Marine” has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.

This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the Corps. With it we also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our Corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of the Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish, Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our Nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as ‘Soldiers of the Sea’ since the founding of the Corps.

— from The Marine Officer’s Guide

———

Today marks the 100th anniversary of General Lejeune’s original birthday message, which to this day is read aloud each year at Marine Corps celebrations around the globe. I’ve even had the privilege of doing this myself, at a birthday ball or two.

Happy Birthday, Marines. Semper Fi!

November 1st, 1921: Liberty Memorial

Many of you who frequent this space or follow my antics on Facebook, Twitter, and (more infrequently) Instagram have likely seen me posting pics and such from the National World War I Museum and Memorial here in Kansas City. For the past four years, I’ve served as a volunteer there, acting as a guest-facing representative while greeting and interacting with visitors to the museum and the Liberty Memorial tower. It has been tremendous fun, giving back in this way to the community I’ve called home for nearly 30 years.

Part of being a good volunteer for the museum is being able to discuss its history, going all the way back to the very beginning. I hold my own well enough, but I can’t hold a candle to some of our volunteers who can hold your attention all day if you let them. Soon after the Great War’s conclusion, with the armistice taking effect on November 11, 1918, prominent Kansas City leaders and other interested parties formed the Liberty Memorial Association, with a goal of establishing a permanent monument to those who’d served in the war, including more than 400 men and women from the Kansas City area. A fundraising effort was launched, collecting more than 2.5 million dollars in just ten days (about $35 milllion in today’s dollars). With these initial monies established, a plan for constructing a lasting memorial began to take shape.

On November 1st, 1921 — one hundred years ago, today — more than 100,000 people gathered at Union Station and the low, sloping hill just south of the station to dedicate the site which would serve as the new monument’s home. The occasion was marked with the attendance of the five supreme commanders of the Allied Forces during the war: Admiral David Beatty of the United Kingdom, General Armando Diaz of Italy, Marshall Ferdinand Foch of France, General Baron Jacques of Belgium, and General John Pershing of the United States. It was the first time the five men had ever gathered in one place.

General Jacques, General Diaz, Marshal Foch, General Pershing, and Admiral Beatty, November 1st, 1921.

Liberty Memorial was officially dedicated on November 11th, 1926, eight years to the day after the armistice that ended World War I. At the time, the site consisted of a courtyard atop which sits Liberty Tower and two buildings flanking the monument which served as the museum, with the Assyrian sphinxes standing vigil. Following years of deterioration, funds were raised in 2004 to repair the monument and expand the existing museum facilities. This was the same year the United States Congress designated the facility as the nation’s official museum dedicated to the First World War.

In September 2006, a brand-new museum constructed beneath Liberty Tower opened to the public. That same month, the memorial was designated a National Historic Landmark. In 2014, Congress came calling again, officially designating the site as the National World War I Museum and Memorial. Its mission statement:

“The National WWI Museum and Memorial is America’s museum dedicated to remembering, interpreting and understanding the Great War and its enduring impact on the global community.”

Despite its location in America’s heartland, the museum is not solely focused on America’s World War I experience. Instead, it’s devoted to memorializing and preserving the history of the entire conflict, from its beginnings in July 1914 – three years before the United States entered the war – through its official conclusion in the summer of 1919 and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. It houses a catalog of artifacts from the war that is unrivaled in its extent and diversity, and due to space limitations only a fraction of the total collection is visible to the public at any one time.

For the past several years, the museum staff has created a number of programs to commemorate the 100th anniversary of various observances about the Great War and its aftermath. I suspect we’ll be seeing a new slate of efforts to celebrate one of Kansas City’s foremost landmarks as we march toward its own centennial. I’m excited to see what our staff will come up with.

Meanwhile, whether you’re a local or just visiting one of these days, I hope you’ll find time to visit the nation’s official museum and memorial dedicated to the men and women who served and perished in the Great War.

October 23, 1983. Semper Fi.

In early 1983, the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit was deployed from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina to Beirut, Lebanon. They were sent as part of the peacekeeping force originally inserted the previous year into the conflict raging there between Christian and Muslim factions.

On the morning of October 23, 1983, 38 years ago today, an explosives-laden truck driven by a suicide bomber destroyed the headquarters building of the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, killing 241 Marines, Sailors, and Soldiers and wounding more than 100 others. Minutes later, a second truck drove into a barracks building housing French peacekeeping forces and detonated, killing 58 French paratroopers and wounding 15 others.

The bombing resulted in the highest single-day death toll for the Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II, and the costliest day for U.S. military forces since the first day of the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War. The harsh lessons imparted on that fateful Sunday morning in 1983 resonate today. They remain relevant even as American military personnel continue to stand in harm’s way around the world.

The following poem is cast in bronze at the official national Beirut Memorial near Camp Lejeune:

THE OTHER WALL

It does not stand in Washington
By others of its kind
In prominence and dignity
With mission clearly defined.

It does not list the men who died
That tyranny should cease
But speaks in silent eloquence
Of those who came in peace.

This Other Wall is solemn white
And cut in simple lines
And it nestles in the splendor
Of the Carolina pines.

And on this wall there are the names
Of men who once had gone
In friendship’s name offer aid
To Beirut, Lebanon.

They did not go as conquerors
To bring a nation down
Or for honor or for glory
Or for praises or renown.

When they landed on that foreign shore
Their only thought in mind
Was the safety of its people
And the good of all mankind.

Though they offered only friendship
And freedom’s holy breath
They were met with scorn and mockery
And violence and death.

So the story of their glory
Is not the battles fought
But of their love for freedom
Which was so dearly bought.

And their Wall shall stand forever
So long as freedom shines
On the splendor and the glory
Of the Carolina pines.

— Robert A. Gannon

It’s Jupiter 2 Launch Day!

October 16th, 1997:

“This is the beginning. This is the day. You are watching the unfolding of one of history’s greatest adventures–man’s colonization of space beyond the stars. The first of what may be as many as ten million families per year is setting out on its epic voyage into man’s newest frontier, deep space. Reaching out into other worlds from our desperately overcrowded planet, a series of deep thrust telescopic probes have conclusively established a planet orbiting the star Alpha Centauri as the only one within range of our technology able to furnish ideal conditions for human existence.

Even now the family chosen for this incredible journey into space is preparing to take their final pre lift off physical tests. The Robinson family was selected from more than two million volunteers for its unique balance of scientific achievement, emotional stability, and pioneer resourcefulness. They will spend the next five and a half years of their voyage frozen in a state of suspended animation which will terminate automatically as the spacecraft enters the atmosphere of the new planet.”

Lost In Space, “The Reluctant Stowaway”

jupiter2-missionpatch

70 years ago was The Day the Earth Stood Still.

“I came here to give you these facts. It is no concern of ours how you run your own planet, but if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple: Join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer; the decision rests with you.”

Klaatu, taking “F*ck Around and Find Out” interstellar.

Today, September 18th, 2021 (if you’re counting its New York City premiere; September 20th if you mean opening across the U.S.), marks the 70th anniversary of one of my all-time favorite films, The Day the Earth Stood Still from 1951. I’ve loved it for as long as I can remember. Though I’m of course too young to have seen it in theaters, I watched it numerous times when I was a kid, whenever it ran on my local TV station’s Saturday afternoon SF/horror movie double feature. When home video became accessible even to poor bastards like me, TDTESS was one of the first films I acquired on VHS, and later LaserDisc and eventually DVD and (finally?) Blu-ray. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve watched it, and thanks to a local theater owner here in Kansas City, I was finally able to watch a pristine print of the film on a big theater screen several years ago.

(We pause to recall fangasms…..everybody good? Okay. Moving on….)

Continue reading “70 years ago was The Day the Earth Stood Still.”