Diary of an old cheeser

Hi there! Like other blogs, this is my chance to wax lyrical (some might say talk utter cr*p) about a) what's happening in my life b) all of my pet obsessions in particular music, tv, movies, books and other generally connected things, quite often of the retro, old and "cheesy" variety. Hence the title of my blog. Feel free to leave a comment if the mood takes you. There's nothing like a good chinwag about one's favourite topics and besides I love to meet new people! Cheers, Simon

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Scarey monsters

As it's Halloween today, I couldn't resist including these pictures of people's pet dogs dressed up in some decidedly strange outfits (previously sent to me by a friend and thus brightening up my day considerably - doesn't say much about my existence, does it?) Scarey huh. And actually quite convincing. The latter two "doggies" are the stuff of nightmares and wouldn't look out of place in ... oh something like Dr Who? (Yes, predictably I had to shove in a reference somewhere). Actually, they're probably more likely to appear in a teen-horror flick or something similar. The kind of thing where Mary-Ann's little pooch grows three heads after she's taken too many amphetamines. Anyway, these might give you some ideas for dressing up your own pet, if you're into that kind of thing. I know some of you might think it's being cruel to animals and all that .... in which case ...TOUGH TITTIE!! (My, don't I sound butch today).

Meanwhile I am having a rather uneventful week. Seem to have mountains of work to do at present and not feeling very inspired to do it. And it's only Tuesday!! Still there's lots of TV to look forward to this week ... Torchwood tomorrow, Catherine Tate on Thursday ... Mmm am I possibly living in an escapist world?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The return of the Aussie

Just spent the afternoon listening to "The Gathering", one of the many Dr Who audio dramas produced by Big Finish. I'd only intended to listen to some of it and save the rest for later, but I got hooked and listened to the entire thing from start to finish. Well, it's Sunday and I don't have much else to do....(excuses). The big hook for me was the fact that the story features the return of one time Dr Who assistant Tegan Jovanka, played by Janet Fielding. Yaaay!! Well, I for one was pleased. And if you don't know who Tegan is, you obviously haven't read my previous post.

So did it live up to the (difficult) task of bringing back an old companion and re-uniting them with the Dr? On the whole, yes! "The Gathering" is a well-paced story with some strong scenes and dialogue (although Tegan doesn't appear properly until about half way through the first installment). The story takes place in modern-day Brisbane and it's 20 years on from when Tegan left the Dr, so there's a lot of ground to be covered. Janet Fielding slips effortlessly back into the role as though she's never been away from it. Tegan's trademark Aussie twang and dry sense of humour are still intact, but, since leaving the Dr, she has turned into a pretty bitter and twisted person. However, there is a very good reason for this, brought to light in the course of the story, which I won't spoil by revealing. There's also some great banter between Tegan and the Dr (Peter Davison) and they spark off each other effectively, just as in the original show. The farewell scene at the end is well-played too. I was actually a bit surprised to hear Tegan telling the Dr how travelling with him had changed her for the better, given how much of a ratty cow she is in this!

The only thing I found a bit irritating was the sometimes very loud and intrusive incidental music - obviously meant to add tension and excitement to proceedings, but at times just too overbearing. All in all though an enjoyable piece of drama and if you're a Tegan fan like me, I'd recommend it.

Hope you're all having a nice weekend...just where does it go, eh?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Have you got any torch for the wood, chuck?

Last night I was mostly watching .... Torchwood. Yes, even if you're not a sci-fi geek-freak like me, you'll probably have found it hard to avoid the media barrage surrounding the launch of this new programme, what with adverts on TV every five seconds and even pictures of Captain Jack adorning buses (nice!) If you don't already know (in which case, what planet have you been on?) "Torchwood" is the new Dr Who spin-off set in modern-day Cardiff, and is all about a team of experts who have been charged by the British government to covertly investigate aliens and alien technology (ooer). The group are led by Captain Jack Harkness (played by the dashing John Barrowman) a time agent from the 51st Century (although the rest of team don't really know his origins and this is discussed at one point). Dr Who fans will of course recognise Jack from the 2005 series of the show, in which he was introduced in a rather excellent story about the Blitz in 1940s London. His last appearance came when the Dr (unknowingly?) left him stranded on a spacestation, following the defeat of the Daleks. And now he's back!! In Cardiff of all places!!

So what about "Torchwood" itself? Last night the first two episodes were broadcast on terrestial TV (the show debuted on BBC3 last Sunday but I'm one of those poor unfortunates without a digital box so this was my first viewing). And on the whole I found it enjoyable and entertaining if lacking a certain ... something. It's certainly very slickly made, reminiscent of other contemporary sci-fi / fantasy shows. There's a good sense of pace and lots of action and even violence. There's also four letter words and real sex (which you wouldn't get in Dr Who - this is post watershed TV). The characters all look very stylish and cool. And I like the team's secret underground base (the "Hub") which can be accessed in a number of interesting ways (e.g. via a lift disguised as a pavement stone which also camouflages you from passers-by).

The first story introduced us to the team, seen through the eyes of Cardiff police woman Gwen Cooper, played by Eve Myles. I thought she gave an excellent portrayal, conveying the sense of total bewilderment one would feel on being catapulted into a totally alien world and having to come to terms with it all, whilst staying very "human". Ms Myles has a very expressive face and big brown puppy dog eyes, which can show genuine emotion at all the right times.

The rest of the Torchwood team I thought came across less convincingly. I'm a bit disappointed with John Barrowman so far. Sure he's commanding and has quite a nice line in wit when the situation demands it (references to all the people he's slept with etc) but the sense of boyish energy, silliness and fun that he possessed in Dr Who seems to have evaporated here. Maybe this is deliberate, after all, he's not only had to recover from the trauma of being abandoned by the Dr, but also deal with being killed by the Daleks and brought back to life again! So it's understandable that he might be feeling scarred, with a more serious, cynical outlook on things. It would be nice to get a deeper insight into what's been going on with him in forthcoming episodes and see a return to the "old "Jack.

I did quite like Owen Harper, the cheeky and highly-sexed Torchwood medic. He's obviously there for comic relief and he had some funny scenes. For instance in the second episode, when a sex-crazed alien takes over the body of a teenage girl and starts snogging Gwen, we see a naughty Owen voyeuristically observing these activities on his computer monitor. Later on he ends up naked in the same cell as the alien and almost has amazing rumpo with her/it. Nice body too.

The other members of the team, Toshiko Sato and Ianto Jones, were less successfully fleshed out I thought. Toshiko actually appeared in a previous Dr Who story "Aliens of London" and I quite liked her in that although she didn't have a major role. So far her character has been rather non-descript and vague (even though she's pretty). Ianto isn't much more than a glorified receptionist. Hopefully we'll find out more about these two as the programme progresses. Then there was also Suzie, another member of the team who got bumped off in the first episode, so she didn't last long ... but of course Suzie's demise conveniently paved the way for Gwen to step into her shoes as "new girl" at Torchwood.

There were also lots of shots of Cardiff, showing off all the city's landmarks and hot spots like some kind of endless tourist advertisement, which did get kind of irritating after a while (the swirling aerial views especially). However I am sure there's many Welsh people who are glad that Cardiff has been put firmly on the map, Russell T Davies notwithstanding. Too much of our television is London-centric admittedly.

The storylines themselves were okay, if not mind-blowingly original. In fact the first episode was pretty much plot-free, serving more as an introduction to Torchwood itself and Gwen's "initiation". However it looks like there are some interesting episodes coming up, including one involving a Cyberwoman and another with Jack returning to the Blitz. And there's lots of links to Dr Who as well, including a mysterious hand in a jar which Jack seems rather covetous about (no comments about hand jobs, please...)

As I said though, "Torchwood" does seem to be missing a certain something. Although technically proficient and exciting too watch, it seems rather clinical in tone / style and for me, it lacks the warmth and whimsy of Dr Who. Apart from Gwen, the characters all appear rather two-dimensional and it's difficult to care about them that much. But hopefully all that will change as we get to know them and the world of Torchwood better. In the meantime I can think of far worse ways to spend my Wednesday nights and certainly it will keep me happy until the return of Dr Who next Spring. Even my hubbie liked it!

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Still recovering from last night's excursion to exotic West Norwood in South London. Me, my hubbie and a bunch of friends went to a bar/club called "Ego", billed as "South London's premier gay and lesbian nightspot." Judging by the experience I think the "premier" bit is stretching things a little. We all had a good time but I wouldn't call Ego the most, ahem, sophisticated of clubs and West Norwood doesn't appear to be the nicest part of London either, rather run down and dodgy and an odd location for a gay bar. But hey! Let's be fair, guys and gals. The provinces need their safe-havens for poofs and lezzers too. There is a world outside the fashion-conscious, looks-obsessed culture of Old Compton Street and Soho. It's just sometimes a bit of a naff and trashy one ... Ego being no exception. However I'm a good sport and always willing to embrace trashiness ...

As luck would have it, Saturday night at Ego is karaoke night and we ended up participating. Okay, confession time. I am a bit of a karaoke addict. That doesn't mean that I'm brilliant at it. I'd describe myself as having an above-average singing voice but my octave range is, shall we say, limited. However with the right crowd and atmosphere and a few drinks to bolster my courage, I will happily get up there to strut my stuff. It must be the performer and inner diva in me, dying to burst forth. I've got a few favourite numbers that I like to sing , such as "Physical" and "Material Girl", and I ended up doing these last night, as well as dueting on "You're The One That I Want" with a lady friend (and no I didn't sing the Olivia part). So yes, I'm no snob when it comes to karaoke.

As for the rest of the evening, we had a fun time hanging out in the front bar and then as the night progressed, we moved to the "dance area" at the back. Quite an impressive space actually, with a large stage at the end of the room that me and some of the girlies danced on. The music was a rather weird mismash though. House tunes followed by stuff like "Oh Carolina" by Shaggy and "Sorry" by Madonna, all thrown together in no particular order without much thought or decent mixing. That's another thing about provincial clubs. You don't get professional DJs as you would in clubs like "Heaven" and it can all be frighteningly amateurish and tacky. But if you're with friends who are up for a good time and boogie, and you've all had enough drinks, it probably doesn't matter too much. Certainly that's how we were last night, flinging ourselves around with wild abandon. Another nice aspect of the club was the fact that it wasn't crowded atall (unlike all the West End clubs) and there was plenty of room to express oneself on the dancefloor. I have a bit of a thing about personal space and don't really like being hemmed in by large crowds in clubs, so this was a welcome change.

As for Ego's patrons they were rather a mixed bunch. There was a fairly large number of trendy young men and women. Then there were the older gays, some of whom had rather "peculiar" dress sense. One fellow of advanced years who we witnessed in the bar was wearing a pair of tight cycling shorts that left very little to the imagination. Why is it wherever you go, you always see guys like this, desperate to remain young and show off their wares, even when they are clearly past it? Okay maybe that sounds cruel as we're all going to be old one day, but it's such a typical symptom of the gay scene. What about personal dignity, for gawd's sakes?? Mind you it's sights like this that make for a more entertaining evening and me and my friends couldn't resist a furtive giggle or two. There were also three transvestites (I counted them) in the establishment, which was nice to see. Quite decently dressed they were too, in contrast to some of the tawdry female impersonators one often sees on the scene. And then there were a bunch of very chavvy looking men and women who I assume were straight and locals. They'd probably come for a bit of a gawp at gay culture, and let's face it, this place was probably the hottest nightspot in the whole of West Norwood. Yes faggots and dykes really do have more fun.

We tumbled out of the club around 2am and made our way home. Today I have been nursing a slight hangover and taking it easy. However a good time was had by all. Not sure when we will next venture over to "Ego" though. I think I prefer "The Two Brewers" in Clapham which is the nearest equivalent to a gay local for us and somewhat more stylish. But when that karoeke urge grabs me again, who knows, Ego and West Norwood might just be calling...

Saturday, October 21, 2006

I've been so tempted to try Easy on...

Today I have been mostly ... cleaning. Woo-hoo!! Yes, I know how to LIVE, don't I? As my hubbie is once again at work I have taken it upon myself to do the usual weekend scrub-down (or should that be scrub-up?) of our abode. Fortunately this only takes a couple of hours as we live in a relatively small flat. God knows what it would be like if we lived in a five bedroomed house. Not very likely actually, as neither of us ever wants children but living in a larger sized abode would of course entail more housework. Of Gustavo and I, he's definitely the more motivated one when it comes to cleaning and I am somewhat lazy by comparison. However there is no way I would put myself in the same league as some of those unfortunate people on "How Clean Is Your House" who are taken to task by the frighteningly efficient Kim and Aggie for their horrendously filthy homes. I DO have standards. But I'm not as obsessive as a Stepford wife ... Now there's an expression you might have heard of...

Virtually every time I pick up the kitchen cleaning spray, or when I'm going about some little domestic task, I can't help thinking of the Stepford Wives. The term comes from the best-selling novel of the same name, by American author Ira Levin, subsequently made into a movie in 1975 and one of my all-time favourite films (I won't mention the 2004 remake, although entertaining enough, it takes a lot of liberties with the story and is something of a travesty). It tells the story of Joanna Eberhart, a photographer, who moves with her lawyer husband Walter (!) and their two kids from noisy New York City to the quiet, seemingly idyllic rural town of Stepford. However it doesn't take long for Joanna to notice that most of the wives in the community are behaving rather strangely. These women are obsessively devoted to their husbands and have perfect, beautiful faces and bodies (not to mention ample-sized cleavage). All they want to do is cook and clean and look sexy, having no ambitions beyond the domestic sphere. Meanwhile all the husbands in the community belong to an organisation called "The Men's Association", which meets in an secluded, old house (ooooo!!) and what goes on there remains a mystery. Fortunately Joanna befriends the rebellious, tomboyish Bobbie, another recent arrival in Stepford, who is refreshingly different from all of the other drone-like women. Together, the duo start to investigate the reasons behind the conformist behaviour of the Stepford wives...

Although now rather dated in style, I love this film. It's actually a pretty cutting indictment of men's attitudes toward women and how they perceive them i.e. only wanting a wife who will cook, clean and sh&g when necessary. By today's standards, it could easily be argued that these ideas are outmoded and most men wouldn't hold such a narrow view of women. Yet the film's impact comes from its portrayal of what might happen if men's fantasies really were allowed to get out of control.

Although we're meant to pity their behaviour, the Stepford wives themselves are hilarious in the way they're presented. As this is a 1970s movie, all of the women wear long, flowered dresses and floppy hats, however they are undeniably Barbie-like and plastic in appearance. The wives' dialogue is even funnier and exemplifies their pre-occupations: "I've been so tempted to try Easy on"..."You need a fresh cup of coffee!" ... "I really shouldn't say it, but I just love my brownies"... "I'll just die if I don't get that recipe". Tres camp. Even funnier is a scene when Bobbie and Joanna overhear one of the wives having sex with her husband: "Oh Ted...you're the king...you're the MASTER!" Undercutting all of this ridiculousness is a growing tension, as Joanna and Bobbie realise that new women arriving in the community seem to "change" after a period of a few months, losing their individuality and becoming domestic drones like the rest, and there's a horrible feeling that the duo might be next for the chop...

Anyway I'm rattled on for far too long again and as it's Saturday night I am going out... so I will bid you adieu. If you want to know more about "The Stepford Wives", I've submitted a review of the DVD on Amazon.co.uk that's worth checking out (he said modestly).

Have a good one and don't spend all weekend cleaning.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Dante's Cove

Hello dudes and divas! Hope you are all having a good week...we're not doing too badly considering that winter is round the corner really, are we?

Well I didn't get the manager's job I had the interview for. Oh well. Got some feedback from one of the interviewers regarding my performance in the interview which is always helpful. Plus I applied for another job as an online content coordinator but didn't get shortlisted for that one. Oh well again! One must keep trying. Actually we will (hopefully) be getting a bonus at the end of this year and that's reason enough to stick around for a bit. It's kind of been the thing that's kept me here until now really...

So - what else? This week my hubbie and I have been mostly watching..."Dante's Cove". If you're a Brit the chances are you won't have heard of this, however if you're of Yankee origins you will probably know all about it already (after all, it's an American show). And in fitting with many of my other tastes, "Dante's Cove" is a) rather cheesey b) melodramatic c) camp d) entertaining e) chock-full of gorgeous, hunky men, often to be seen i) in a state of undress ii) engaged in lewd relations with one another. And I'm sure e) alone has instantly aroused your interest, that is if you're a 1) straight female 2) gay male. Okay, I will stop the labelling bit now cos it's getting silly.

So what's "Dante's Cove" I hear you cry? In a nutshell, it's a kind of gothic/gay-themed drama with a strong emphasis on the supernatural. However as I hinted rather strongly above it's a drama that can't be taken seriously. Whilst surfing Amazon and looking at gay-themed movies I came across the first series on DVD. The second series has already aired in the US and the show as a whole has apparently taken gay America by storm.

The story kicks off in the year 1840, in which we're introduced to Ambrosius Vallin (! nice name!) and Grace (not sure what her surname is), an aristocratic couple who are engaged to be married and reside in the seaside resort town of Dante's Cove. However Ambrosius is harbouring a dark secret - he's really a homosexual. GASP!! In a wonderfully naughty opening scene, Grace discovers her hubbie engaging in a spot of bottom bandetry with...the butler (and you get to see pretty much everything where this man servant is concerned!) Outraged, the spurned Grace uses her supernatural powers to kill her husband's lover (sending him into a spasm of quivery shakes before he cops it, the poor love). As if that wasn't punishment enough she proceeds to chain her husband up in the cellar of their house and makes him age hideously in appearance. Only the kiss of another man will restore his youth and vitality and as he is kept hidden in the locked-up cellar there isn't much hope of that...

Cut to several decades later and it's the modern day. Kevin, a rather handsome young man, is running away from an abusive family to be with his lover, the lovely Toby, in ... Dante's Cove. (The aforementioned couple are in the second photo from the top. Cute eh?) Toby and his highly photogenic housemates all inhabit the "Hotel Dante" which by an odd coincidence used to be the house where Ambrosius and Grace once lived. You can probably guess what happens next can't you?

The whole thing moves along at a fairly breathless pace and is very glossy in a modern MTV-ish kind of way. The beach scenery is beautiful too although you don't get to see so much of that. And as I've intimated, most of the characters are all unbearably good looking, with perfect, gym-toned bodies to match (the men especially). Plus the majority of them can be seen getting their kits off at regular intervals. The acting, whilst not always great, is nowhere near as bad as some have made it out to be, however there are still some deliciously OTT performances, most noteably from William Gregory Lee as Ambrosius and Tracey Scoggins as Grace. Ambrosius is all smoldering looks and "profound" statements, playing the evil but sexy stud bit to the hilt (there's one very saucy scene when he hypnotises the hapless Kevin into taking his pants off and ... you can imagine the rest). Best of all though is Grace, played by the aforementioned Ms Scoggins. If you're an old cheeser like me you will of course remember her from "The Colbys" some 20 years back. She's still looking good (a bit wrinkled in places but holding up well - that's her in the first photo, on the right) and gives a great camp turn as Grace, taunting her horrid homo hubbie, casting spells and flirting with other townsfolk. Being the "bitch" she's also got an English accent a la Alexis Colby, which she actually pulls off pretty well. In short "Dante's Cove" is no "Dracula" but it's still fun, saucy stuff and to be recommended. So go surf that net now and purchase (it's not too expensive either).

If you want to know more, check out:


Friday, October 13, 2006

Horticultural Horror

The other night me and my hubbie went to see a truly bad 1970s film called "The Freak Maker" (also known as "The Mutations"!) at the Barbican centre in London. Oddly enough, it was showing as part of a "Bad Film Club" festival hosted by a comedy duo called Nicko and Joe. This may sound a complete nightmare to some, but for afficienados of trash like me it was pure heaven and a well-executed idea. Nicko and Joe and a special guest do an introduction to the movie before it starts, going through the "bad bits to watch for" and encouraging as much audience participation as possible e.g. clap slowly when a "so bad it's good" bit gets shown. They then gave a very funny commentary whilst the film was actually showing, which added a new dimension to the whole experience.

The movie itself was, admittedly, dreadful (well it could hardly be part of a "Bad film" series it if it wasn't, could it?) but that was the appeal. One must not take a movie of this calibre in the slightest bit seriously. It's actually hard to imagine the film ever being treated as a serious example of the horror genre, but I suppose at one point it might have been...just.

The "plot" such as it is, concerns a biology professor-cum-horticulturist-cum scientist played by Donald Pleasance (an actor who's specialised in being psychotic or weird in virtually every other thing he's done) and the results of a series of experiments that he is carrying out. The evil professor is kidnapping students from his own college and turning them into a bizarre hybrid of human and plant, for he believes that this is man's destiny - as you would. A group of students grow suspicious by the disappearances of their friends and start to investigate. To add to the mix there's also a group of dwarves (that's them in the photo above) who work in a local fair and are in fact the results of the professor's experiments gone wrong. Rather an insult to anyone who's a dwarf. There's also a giant sized fellow with elephant-man style features who's the Professor's henchman, played by none other than...Tom Baker!! (He's the tall bloke in the pic). This is a pre-Dr Who role for Mr Baker and oddly, one that he's never mentioned since. Strange, that. One can only imagine that he was so strapped for cash he had no choice but to star in such a pile of drivel. Would even the Nucleus of the Swarm have sunk so low?

As you can imagine, a potentially interesting concept (I say "interesting" very cautiously) is presented with supreme tackiness. The plant-humans look totally cr*p (one of the male students gets turned into a kind of giant venus fly-trap with cabbage hands - honest) although I guess there is a kind of horrific fascination in seeing the results of these transformations. The acting is atrocious (Donald P speaks in a dreary drone when lecturing his students and it's a wonder they don't die of boredom). The dwarves look freakish (the lizard-skinned lady for instance). There's also some gratuitous nudity (usually involving female characters getting their knockers out for no real reason - for instance when one of the lady students takes a bath). The pace is deathly slow at times (the opening scenes showing shots of plants and flowers blooming goes on forever). And there are some hilarious attempts to make it all serious and scientific (the daft voice-over at the start going on about the plant world and the professor's "meaningful" lectures). Finally the very fact that this is a film from 1974 dates it incredibly - the whole "look" of the film has a kind of tawdry grubbiness about it.

Many of these above aspects would probably render the film unwatchable, had it not been for the highly entertaining commentary provided by the presenters and the spontaneous audience contributions. Fittingly, the commentators took the p*ss out of the whole thing as it went along, such as the music, fashions, dialogue, acting etc. Anyone hoping to watch the film in respectful silence was sorely disappointed. But screw them! This was definitely THE way to enjoy the movie. Perhaps the ONLY way.

At the end of the movie, Nicko and Co asked the audience for feedback and also their own bad movie suggestions. I was a bit too shy to air my views in front of a load of strangers (chicken I know) and ended up emailing Nicko a bit later instead to say how much I had enjoyed the experience. If you want to find out more about the bad movie club, try: www.badfilmclub.com

Just before I sign off, here's a few of my own personal favourite BAD movies...

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman - the title says it all. B+W B-movie classic in which an American wife finds out that her husband is cheating on her with the local town floozie. Then a space craft comes down to earth and zaps her, causing her to grow to a staggering....50 foot. She goes on a rampage, smashing up pylons, and more importantly, getting her own back on her philandering hubbie. Often viewed as a metaphor for the empowerment of women and the "belittling" of men. Clever, eh.

Girl On A Motorcycle - made in the 1960s, starring Marianne Faithfull as a leather-clad biker (she's actually nude underneath her leather cat-suit, hence the film's other title of "Naked Under Leather"). In the film she's zipping across the countryside on her motorbike, having left her boring teacher hubbie (played by someone with the enticing name of Roger Mutton) to rendezvous with her hot lover (played by once-saucy French actor Alain Delon).

The Devil Within Her aka I Don't Want To Be Born - another tacky 1970s horror, with that classiest of ladies, Joan Collins as ... wait for it ... an ex-stripper who is cursed by a dwarf (they seem to crop up a lot) into giving birth to a baby possessed by the devil. A normal, every day kind of occurence really. She is well-supported (no, I'm not talking about Ms Collins' bra) by Ralph "Dear John" Bates as her husband, Donald Pleasance (again!) as a weirdo Doctor and Eileen Atkins as a nun with a dodgy Italian-English accent (she refers to the possessed baby as the "deeeeevil"). One not to be missed. For more on this masterpiece of trash check out:

Empire of the Ants - yes it's Joan again, in another pre-Dynasty role, this time as a rich-bitch land developer who is trying to sell off holiday homes on an island. However a chemical spillage has caused the local ants to grow to massive proportions and they start terrorising everyone. Cue shit special effects of giant ants and lots of hysterical acting.

The Lair of The White Worm - made by the enfant terrible of movie directors, Ken Russell. A group of friends, including Hugh Grant (ages before "Four Weddings") and Catherine Oxenburg (once the frightfully posh Amandaaaaa in Dynasty) are disturbed by goings-on in the Derbyshire countryside and rumours of a giant white worm that inhabits the local caves. Also features classy chick Amanda Donohoe (most recently seen in "Bad Girls") as a local toff who is really a high priestess and devotee of the worm. The scene where she dons a strap-on dildo to f*ck Catherine O. has to be seen to be believed.

There's plenty more to add to the list but I feel it's time for me to sign off...but if you have any favourite bad movies, I'd love to hear about them.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

WHO do you think you are??

4. The Nucleus of the Swarm

Hey y'all!

Okay, yet another highly original title for my latest post (NOT! Well, whatever...) Apologies for not writing sooner. I was intending on writing more frequently than this but keep getting side-tracked by things like job applications and interviews (yeah yeah, excuses excuses). Yesterday I had an interview for an internal position within my workplace, a managerial post. Not only was I subjected to the scrutiny of the interview itself, I also had to do a presentation. I spent ages preparing for the latter bit (all bloody weekend in fact) providing lots of ideas and information and a flash PowerPoint demo to accompany it. That part went well I think. It's interviews themselves that I hate and that bit seemed to go less well, I came out of it on something of a downer. No matter how much preparation I do I always seem to get caught out by questions I wasn't expecting and forget to say obvious things! So unfair when you know you are certifiable genius and could do the job standing on your head. Why can't they assess your skills and knowledge through some kind of sophisticated brain-scanning technique instead? I'm sure scientists could invent some kind of wonderful machine, the kind of thing you might see in .... Doctor Who for instance.

My, wasn't that a subtle segue?

Yes, once again I am returning to the oft-discussed topic of fave Dr Who things. And this will be the last for some time as I am becoming paranoid that I am boring the pants off people. Judging by the lack of response to this blog that may well be the case!! Only my friend Stephen has bothered to post comments in response to my posts, huh! Or maybe this blog just isn't getting enough publicity...well hopefully there's quite a lot of you out there reading this even if you're not responding, always a possibility...

Anyway, fave thing number 4 is none other than a lovely Dr Who monster who goes by the name of the Nucleus. Of the Swarm, no less. That's "him" above. Lovely-looking creature isn't he? The Nucleus, or Nukey as I prefer to refer to him (perhaps I should say "it", I'm not sure) isn't the most obvious of choices in a favourite list. In fact, he has to rank as one of the crappiest, most hilarious monsters ever to appear in Dr Who, outstripping even the Ergon and the Candy Man, to name a couple of other disastrous looking aliens from the show. But that's one of the reasons why I love him so much.

As mentioned in my "K9" post, the Nukey appeared in "The Invisible Enemy", a Tom Baker story of already dubious quality. In the aforementioned tale, the Dr's mind is taken over by a mysterious alien virus and he lapses into a coma (after attempting to shoot his companion Leela). In fact several other people succumb to this strange contagious illness. In typically tacky '70s fashion, the "infected" characters go around "converting" other people with what can only be described as crayoned-over-the-picture rays of light that pass from them to their victims. The newly infected characters then annouce that "Contact has been made". Scarey stuff.

Loyal companion Leela takes the Doc to the Bi-Al foundation, a hospital situated in the asteroid belt, to try and find a cure for the virus. The good Professor Marius comes up with an ingenious solution to the problem, which is to send a minaturised version of the Doc and Leela into the Dr's brain, where the virus is located and needs to be neutralised (not an entirely original idea though, for anyone who's seen the classic 1960s movie "Fantastic Voyage"!) The Dr clone tracks down the source of the virus - the Nucleus! - lurking in a dark part of the Dr's consciousness. Up until this point we'd only actually heard the voice of the Nukey, saying "shocking" things like "I am the Nucleus of the Swarrrrrrrrmmmm" and "The host must be protected!" in rasping, throaty tones. Ooooh! But finally we get to see the monster that has taken over Dr's mind!! And...well...

...erm...to put it bluntly, the Nukey resembles a black sack , with one pincer claw sticking out and waving around a bit, whilst screeching "I am the virus". Not terribly impressive and personally, I've never been able to look at a bin liner in the same way since. Hats off to Tom Baker though, who manages to act opposite a black plastic bag with remarkable composure. Then! Hey presto! Just as you are marvelling at the total abysmalness of the budget, the Doc shoots the Nukey, leaving a pile of smoking rubble! Hoorah! Has the black sack been vanquished?

NO!! Because this devious alien manages to escape from the Dr's brain to the real outside world, suddenly materialising inside the Professor's laboratory and growing to large proportions! And...the giant-sized realisation of the Nukey looks even crappier!! Those seeking proof need look no further than the photo above. Many critics have referred to the Nukey as an over-sized prawn, which sums him up pretty accurately. With a scaly body, giant green eyes and several pincers, as well as an array of quivering whiskers, one would be forgiven for thinking this creature had escaped from a seafood restaurant in Blackpool whilst becoming grossly enlarged in the process. Dear oh dear. The "cliffhanger" at the close of Episode 3 is one of the funniest ever, with Nukey Version 2 waving his pincers / claws around in disco-dancing fashion, like some kind of John Travolta-prawn hybrid. Poor old Nukey also seems to have some problems with mobility, having to get some of his minions to wheel him along on what appears to be a trolley under his "legs". Quite how we're meant to think this creature can threaten the entire universe when he can't even get from A to B is beyond me. When the Dr himself refers to the Nukey as a "pathetic crustation" one can't help feeling his words are all too true. But wait!! No!! We must not mock the virus! For as the converted Professor Marius says: "You are speaking of the Nucleus!! The Nucleus of the swarm!!"

However like most Dr Who baddies, old shrimp-features eventually gets his comeuppance. Toward the end of Episode 4, the Nukey has made himself nice and comfy in an incubation chamber on one of Titan's moons, and several hundred baby Nucleuses (Nuclei??) are about to hatch from some slimey looking eggs, ready to swarm across the cosmos. Aaaaaah!!! But once again the Dr saves the day, cunningly locking the Nukey inside the chamber with a piece of wire (??) and suffocating him (at least that's what it looks like). In his final scenes, we see the Nukey frantically trying to break open the incubation door, failing miserably (well, wire is VERY strong isn't it) and choking on clouds of smoke. Even if he had managed to get out it wouldn't have done much good, as the planet then blows up. Adios La Nukey!!

For me the Nucleus will always be one of the baddest (and I don't mean bad in the Michael Jackson sense) monsters from old school Dr Who. But I love him all the more for it. And whenever I eat a king-prawn curry, a feeling of nostalgia positively overwhelms me.

What's your crappiest Dr Who monster / alien? Send me your comments, purlease...

And beware, for "the age of the virus has begun" !!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

More Who

3. Tegan Jovanka

G'Day! As a certain Australian air stewardess might have said. More on her in a moment.

Okay so it's been a few days since I've written an entry. Hecticness of the week and all that. At the moment I'm suffering from a bit of a submerged cold - sniffly nose with a sore throat, nagging cough and aching glands - ugh, horrid - but thankfully I'm not totally out of action. Today was a rather busy day at work. I had to do a series of presentations for our Customer Relations department on some FAQs (that's Frequently Asked Questions, fact fans) that I'd helped put together, all to do with the qualifications we're responsible for in my sector. Unfortunately the laptop I'd been provided with wasn't properly networked and so I was unable to do carry out a zippy demonstration and had to take my audience through the information via a boring old handout instead (which at least I'd had the good sense to write up before, phew!) As if that wasn't dramatic enough, I then had to hotfoot it back to my department (in another building!) in time for a visit from the Director General of City & Guilds who wanted to see the FAQs as well. As you can tell, I am soooo in demand. Well actually, my managers asked me to show him them as part of his tour, but that's beside the point. Simon and his FAQs are where it's at!!

Okay, that's enough self-congratulation for one day. Onto other things. I trust all of you have been having a good week. The weather is regrettably on the turn now and Summer is well and truly over (well, ahem, it is October). We've had to turn the heating on in our flat which is a definite sign of the encroaching coldness.

Anyway on a (literally) warmer note, I shall continue with my favourite things from the world of Doctor Who. And fave thing Numero Trois is none other than companion Tegan Jovanka, played by Ms Janet Fielding. Who the devil is she, I hear you ask? Well...

As you might have guessed from the photo at the top, THAT'S Tegan. Aussie girl, air stewardess and self-confessed "mouth on legs", she burst onto the Dr Who scene in Tom Baker's final ever story, entitled "Logopolis". Despite sounding like a Greek cafe, Logopolis was actually a planet run by a group of elderly mathematicians living in rows of funny little huts, whose calculations were in fact responsible for holding the entire fabric of the universe together. Bizarre but true. Unfortunately the Dr's old foe, the Master, turns up and starts zapping the Logopolitans, so disturbing the equilibrium of the universe... Anyhow I am digressing slightly. At the beginning of the story Tegan and her wise-cracking Aunt Vanessa (looking very alluring in fur) are on their way to Heathrow Airport where Tegan is due to start her new job as air stewardess (hence the not-so alluring purple uniform above). Fate throws a spanner in the works and Tegan's sports car breaks down en route, in front of a certain police box. Thinking it to be a real phone, the hapless Tegan goes inside...and ends up getting lost in the maze of TARDIS corridors, before finally finding her way back to the control room. Unfortunately by that point the ship is in flight and Tegan's beloved Auntie V has been shrunk by the Master to doll-sized proportions, so going home isn't really an option any more...

I was about 11 years old when Tegan first appeared and at the time convinced I was in love with her. Well, I was pre-pubescent and my real sexuality was years off. All pre-homosexuals need a female icon to latch onto and Ms Jovanka was no exception. Like her predecessor Sarah-Jane Smith, Tegan was feisty, spoke her own mind and was no shrinking violet. However unlike Sarah, she was somewhat more brash and aggressive in character and had a bit of a temper (Australian stereotype, anyone?) Yet beneath the stroppy madam exterior lay a good heart and a curious mind. Though Tegan and the Dr sometimes clashed, their relationship deepened and Tegan came to enjoy her travels in the TARDIS, even forgetting her original desire to return to Heathrow. However at the end of the first Peter Davison season, she ironically ended up stranded at the aforementioned airport, the Doc leaving her behind (it was never clear if this was intentional or not). But there was no escaping Ms Jovanka. Destiny re-united her and the Dr in Amsterdam and she re-joined the TARDIS crew, staying on until the traumatic events of "Resurrection of the Daleks..."

As said, I really liked Tegan's feistiness and independent qualities as well as her often sarcastic sense of humour and wit. Although from the point of view of 2006 she isn't the subtlest of characters, she was surely a template for new series companion Rose Tyler. Tegan's mouth could often get her into trouble and she loved a bit of a rant. In one story, "The Visitation", the Dr has failed yet again to get Tegan back to Heathrow, materialising in the right location but about three hundred years too early, hence no airport, only forest:

Tegan: Is that supposed to be Heathrow?

Adric (another companion): It is.

Tegan: Well, they've certainly let the grass grow since I was there.

(and later, to the Dr...)

Call yourself a Time Lord? A broken time keeps better time than you ! At least it's accurate twice a day...which is more than you ever are!

Ooooh miaow. In spite of her sometimes catty tendencies, Tegan had better and more likeable moments. In "Castrovalva" the first Peter Davison story, she attempts to learn how to fly the TARDIS and (she thinks) succeeds in landing the ship on an alien planet. In rather lopsided fashion admittedly. However she's disappointed when it turns out the Master has controlled the whole voyage. In "Black Orchid" she loves being back in 1930s England, chills out much more and performs a mean dance to the Charleston. And in "Earthshock" we see her most sensitive side, stricken with grief when her fellow companion Adric dies. God knows why as he was the most bratty, petulant, precocious, annoying sh*t of companion there ever was (an opinion shared by many Who fans) and getting blown up was probably the best thing that ever happened to him.

In a couple of stories, "Kinda" and "Snakedance", Janet Fielding also got the chance to play Tegan in a radically different way when her character was taken over by an alien entity known as the Mara. In its proper form the Mara looked like a crap giant rubber snake, but the scenes when Tegan is possessed by "it" are quite scarey. Even more creepy are some scenes in "Kinda" where she becomes trapped in her own mind, all bleached out and strange...

Tegan also had a variety of interesting outfits. For her first stories she stayed in the unappealing starched stewardess uniform, which was kind of stupid considering she'd decided to stay with the TARDIS crew, so why on earth would she need to keep wearing it? However the producers saw the light and shoved her into a tight-fitting corset top and shorts, much more revealing. In one story, "Terminus", Tegan gets groped by a group of lepers whilst wearing this get-up. Nice. They probably wanted to know which branch of Ann Summers she'd bought it from. Then she was stuck in some psychedelic mini-dresses, before her final crowning glory, a trendy t-shirt, leather mini skirt and heels.

Tegan's final departure was rather upsetting for me. By that stage I was 14-15 years old but still convinced that she was the woman of my dreams. Disgusted by all of the death and carnage caused by the Daleks on modern day Earth, Tegan makes the decision to stay behind. In her last scene, she watches the TARDIS dematerialise for the last time:

Tegan: Brave heart Tegan...oh Doctor, I will miss you...

However Tegan fans need grieve no longer! Firstly a brand new Tegan adventure has just come out on audio (Janet Fielding's first ever audio Dr Who adventure and possibly her last). Second, in January next year a super-duper DVD boxset is to be released, entitled "The Return of the Master" and including "Logopolis" and "Castrovalva". Ms Fielding has apparently done commentaries for these stories. Yay! The spirit of Tegan lives on!

Okay well I have wittered on for long enough so will say adieu for now. Rabbits! As Tegan would say. Till next time, nighty night!