Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Bogdanovich Challenge: Week Zero

I hate New Year's resolutions, but I don't mind a good challenge.

Actually, I probably hate both things. I've never been a particularly motivated person. A quick glance at the fine details of my life could clue just about anyone in that I'm much too content with mediocrity. Happy to sleepwalk through life, armed only with a comfy blanket, plenty of unhealthy treats and enough VHS and DVDs to last however long I end up lasting. Which is precisely why instead of a New Year's resolution I'd be sure to toss aside within a couple days, I've decided instead to use this blog as the staging ground for a new endeavor. A new challenge..!

Yup, it's The Bogdanovich Challenge.

You see, I didn't just score vintage '80s action figures during my last thrift shop scavenger hunt. I mentioned before that I picked up a couple of books and up above you see what could possibly be one of my greatest victories ever... or one of my gravest defeats. Peter Bogdanovich's Movie of the Week was first published way back in 1999 and features fifty-two classic films, one for every week of the year, and I'm making it a goal to view each and every title within during their appointed weeks.

I know you're probably thinking that it's not much of a challenge to watch movies and you're mostly right. Unless you happen to live in a town with absolutely no way to rent movies besides the 'ole Red Box kiosk. It's no easy task to dig up films from any other decade other than nownownow without a mom 'n pop video store to show you some love and a few scenes from some flick that's older than you are. And, man, there are a lot of "ancient" titles lurking within Bogdanovich's book; I've seen a handful of them in the short time I've considered myself something of a cinephile, but you may have noticed my bread-and-butter tends to be junk. All the more reason to see this through to the bitter, butter end.

Tomorrow marks a new year for all of us, and hopefully a chance for me to become something a little bit better than trash.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Bring On the Bad Guys

A post-holiday visit to my favorite thrift shop found me splurging on grab-bags full of toys, ancient boardgames, a couple books and some VHS. I'm not here to show off all the goods I scored, but to focus on a few of the action figures I picked up for mere dollars apiece. That's right, kiddies. We've got ourselves a good 'ole fashioned theme this time around.

We all love a hero. Capes and cowls and vigilantes hiding their identities behind masks to protect the ones they love. They wait patiently for the Bat-signal to light up those darkest nights, to announce to the scum and the wicked that the streets are theirs to keep safe. That crime will not go unpunished. Fists of righteous justice and striking fear into the hearts of the cowardly and the cruel.

For mom and apple pie and for The American Way..!

Sure, we all love a hero, but sometimes it's the Man in Black that we secretly want to cheer on. For every Batman and Spider-Man and Flash Gordon, there's an arch-enemy. Whether it's the Joker or Venom or Ming the Merciless, it doesn't matter. For each of these crime-fighting, world-saving heroes, there's a bad guy that catches our attention just as much as, if not more than, their heroic counterpart.

I've always been a bigger fan of the bad guys. Rogues and crooks and back-stabbing flunkies. I'll take Starscream to Bumblebee; Destro over Gung-Ho every time. Someone give me a comic series that focuses on The Injustice Gang or the Legion of Doom and I'll cut Justice League from my pull-list right this second. The same goes for any of the Flash's Rogues Gallery or Shredder and the Foot Clan. I really hope someday that The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man gets the chance to finally squash Ray Stantz.

Yeah, I love me some villains.

Like this guy here.

From the absolute tail-end of The Masters of the Universe toy-line comes Mosquitor. The "evil energy-draining insectoid" is a member of The Evil Horde and was released just prior to the cancellation of everything He-Man back in '87. I never owned him as a kid, probably because my parents were against the idea of their son owning an action figure whose main feature was a chest full of "real" churning blood.

They were okay with Stinkor, though, who was a villainous skunk and a toy that literally smelled bad.

Mosquitor wasn't alone in his grab-bag, nor was he the only bug-inspired baddie to dwell within. Joining him in his plastic prison, a sorta' Phantom Zone for decades-old toys, was Commander Waspax. I recognized him as a character from the short-lived Sectaurs line, but didn't know much else besides that. I wasn't even entirely sure if he was from the heroic faction or one of the series' villains. A little research revealed his identity and his allegiance, and I was glad to see that he was the exact kind of untrustworthy, cheating scoundrel that I so admired.

This guy right here, I'm not at all ashamed to admit, was a truly fantastic find for me. I've mentioned before that I was something of a Gobots fan growing up. It's not uncommon for the hardcore Transformers fan-base to dismiss them as glorified knock-offs, but I loved them just as much as the real deal when I was younger. The original Gobots toys were pretty inexpensive, so I had amassed a pretty good size collection. I definitely owned more of them than I did their more expensive, Hasbro-released "cousins". And really, there was room enough in my heart for both, so I was glad to collect from either toy-line.

Until now, though, I never owned Cy-Kill, leader of The Renegades and top-tier villain for the Gobots animated series. This is actually the Super- version of the figure, which is perfect, because its the one I've always wanted. He's bigger and badder than the regular release, naturally, and there's a good mix of die-cast and plastic pieces. That means his toy is heavy enough to cause some serious damage when I go and throw him at my sister's head.

Precisely the kind of thing my favorite villains would want me to do.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

It's a Christ-Mess Miracle

Well, it's not quite a miracle. But after a nearly two week absence, I've returned to quickly wish you all a very Merry Christmas. Things didn't pan out here on the blog the way that I had originally intended, but that seems to be the consensus for a lot of us these last couple weeks, right?

TBS just started their A Christmas Story (1983) marathon, so I've already caught Flick getting triple dog-dared to stick his tongue to a frozen flagpole. There's tupperware full of sugar cookies sitting unattended on the counter that I'm ready to raid. And my sisters will be home shortly so we can start our yearly tradition of swapping sibling presents the night before the big day. It really is beginning to look a lot of Christmas.

I want to thank each and every one of you for spending time with me here this holiday season. I only wish I could have shared more, posted more about all the treasure and trash that's come my way this month, but there will be plenty of time for that heading into the New Year. Lots of goodies to post about, tales to weave and the long-awaited return of my monthly Free Giveaways.

For now!

For now, I wish you all the very best of holidays. I hope that everyone gets to spend this wonderful time with their loved ones and that Santa brings you that Cobra Terror Drome you've been asking for since 1986. You really deserve it for being such a good doobie this year.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Have Yourself a Merry Jason X-Mas

I can't believe that Friday the 13th fell so close to this Christmas holiday and I didn't think to plan something special to celebrate the occasion. I could have made gingerbread Jasons or sat down with a glass of eggnog and watched Part VII: The New Blood.

What a waste..!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Be Kind, Please Rewind: 'Tis the Season

The holiday is fast approaching, too fast approaching, and we haven't even begun to celebrate here at the 'ole Trash Pile. The tree is still packed away in the basement and I've barely started checking things off on friends' and loved ones' Christmas wishlists. No eggnog or Lego advent calender and certainly no visions of sugar-plums dancing in my head. The days are running out, passing by while all my favorite traditions fall by the wayside.

At some point over the last few years, one of the things I've adopted into my holiday season is watching a cherished Christmas special from my youth and documenting it by taking pictures with my cellphone. Nothing screams "Happy Holidays!" like low-res photos of two decades old animated features, right?

Well, you lucky ducklings, I've decided to share my inaugural attempt [from the 2011..!] with you.

No, your eyes do not deceive you. That really is a VHS-copy of He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special (1985). More specifically, it's a bootleg and it's one of my absolute favorite videos in my collection. It was originally acquired by a friend of mine at a collectors' show circa 1998, but with a little persuasion, it ended up in my possession a few years back. The fact that I owned a functioning VCR and he didn't probably worked in my favor. I may also have begged a little, drooling like one of Pavlov's puppies, at the sight of that gorgeous, yellow plastic-shell.

I have no shame.

Now, before we get to the main event, just a friendly reminder that these pics were taken with a cellphone camera from a bootleg VHS that's well over a decade old. You just sit back, relax and embrace the low-fi wonders you're about to see.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


All I wanted for my tenth birthday was some Killer Tomatoes.

Yeah, the world was a strange place in 1991. Eastman and Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had already taken over and toy companies were scrambling to find the next big thing. Their search for potential properties led them to some strange places; ultra-violent, R-rated films like Robocop and The Toxic Avenger both received animated series and their own toy-lines. The same went for Bucky O'Hare, a small-press comic book from the mid-'80s.

And a B-movie spoof from the late '70s managed to squeeze out three sequels, a Saturday-morning cartoon, and a short-lived line of toys from Mattel. If you don't know which flick I'm talking about, well, shame on you, because it's Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978).

When my tenth birthday rolled around, there was already an Attack of the Killer Tomatoes cartoon airing as part of Fox's Saturday morning line-up. Mattel had just launched an accompanying toy-line a few months later and I was absolutely obsessed with both. The only problem that existed was my mom's refusal to allow me to own any of the toys. I'm still not sure why, since she never had any problem with me collecting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures, a line which featured characters like Pizza-Face and the Rat King.

Twenty-two years later and a dream has been achieved.

It does not make me feel like an adult.

I picked up Ketchuck, the drooling monstrosity seen above, a couple weeks back on eBay. Of all the Killer Tomatoes toys, he appealed to me most because of the companion PVC piece he originally came packaged with, Dr. Putrid T. Gangreen. In both the original films and the animated series, Doctor [or Professor] Gangreen was portrayed by the legendary John Astin. As a life-long fan of The Addams Family and Night Court and Eerie, Indiana, it's way too exciting for me to finally own one of his characters in toy-form.

This actually arrived in the mail today, another recent eBay score, along with a second carded piece I'll get to in a moment. This particular one is Tomacho, along with young Chad Finletter, the main "hero" of the cartoon series. I had no interest in keeping either toy in the package, despite how ridiculous and fun the card-back is. You can barely make it out, but there's a clearance/mark-down price tag from the now defunct Child World/Children's Palace, which brings back far too many happy memories.

I did own one toy from the Killer Tomatoes line when I was a kid and it's the one above. Thanks to some clever subterfuge, I managed to score Beefsteak, packaged along with Uncle Wilbur [and his dumb parachute..! Tomatoes! Tomatoes!], for my birthday. One of my aunts used to work part-time at a local Caldor store and she would occasionally allow me to pop in and pick out a toy or candy bar or comic book. It was during one such visit that I convinced her that what I wanted most for my foray into the double-digit ages was a murderous, plastic fruit/vegetable. The ploy worked and I remember opening gifts at my grandparents' house the day after my birthday.

And I clearly remember the distinct look of disgust on my mom's face when I unwrapped this particular present.

Beefsteak disappeared from my collection only a short time later.

I never forgave my mom for her obvious betrayal.