Friday I’m In Love: The Polish Science Fiction Poster Edition

August 29, 2008

Yesterday we looked at some Polish film posters, and then we cried in a corner for a bit.

Look at this – guess what this is the poster for?

Did you say Weekend At Bernie’s? Of course you didn’t. Why would you?

In the comments Tim said “Awww, you should’ve held on and revealed the answers next week, after we’d all made fools of ourselves guessing wrongly.”

Your wish is my command. Here’s round 2 – below are details from six Polish posters for well-known science fiction films. Can you name these films? Answers will be posted next Friday, feel free to share your workings in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

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From Poland With Love

August 28, 2008

You may be aware that when it comes to film posters, they do things differently in Poland. For whatever reason, they have resisted the hegemony of international marketing, and Polish film posters are often extremely striking works of art only tangentally connected to the films they advertise.

Here are details from four Polish posters – can you name these classic Australian films?





And the bonus question:

Your time starts now. Answers after the jump…

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Great Literature Of The 20th Century: Passport To Survival

August 27, 2008

Imagine if society came crashing to a halt, if everything we knew and relied on was torn away. As you stood among the rubble of the modern world, surely only one question would come to mind – “what’s for dinner?”

Thankfully you have a copy of Esther Dickey‘s Passport To Survival. This book contains over 100 recipes you can make using only four basic ingredients. You heard me, only four ingredients that will survive a year’s storage in your bunker/biodome/orbiting satellite/mountain cave. Those four ingredients are wheat, salt, honey and powdered milk. There’s even a jazzy illustration to help entertain you while the corpses of the dead pile up outside your air-tight doors.

Actually, for a book predicated on the downfall of the civilization, Passport To Survival is surprisingly perky. The dust-jacket claims that “filled with creative, cheerful thinking, it reflects the author’s faith in the power of the human heart and will”. That’s not the only thing the author has faith in, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

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7 Popular Motifs of Cheap Science Fiction

August 26, 2008

Since last week’s article about the glory of cheap science fiction, the switchboard at The Outland Institute has been running hot. Poor Glynnis has been swamped with calls, all saying much the same thing – “I’m all ready to make some cheap science fiction – I’ve got a camera, some actors and a clever script that uses Martian terraforming as a metaphor for the war in Iraq – but I don’t know what special effects to use”. They usually go on to say that their film’s budget is three fifty cent stamps, and that Glynnis has a lovely telephone manner (it’s true, she does).

So as a follow-up to last week, let’s look at some of the common elements you can find in cheap science-fiction. You can even try these out at home! Read the rest of this entry »

On Ozploitation

August 25, 2008

It’s hard to believe now, but there was a time when Australia dared to make films that were entertaining. Mark Hartley‘s new documentary Not Quite Hollywood takes a loving looks at all the horror, thrillers, science-fiction/supernatural features, action films and sex comedies that were abundant during the 1970s and ’80s, films which have recently been collectively branded as “Ozploitation”.

The term “exploitation picture” originates around the 1950s, when small independent producers would make cheap films to cash in on popular trends. These weren’t B-pics, which were also produced by the studios, but something cheaper and rougher. Intended for drive-ins and fleapit cinemas, they would often exploit current concerns or fads, getting their films to the screen before the polished studio pics had a chance. Sometimes they would use misleading titles, or ride the anticipation generated by highly advertised studio product – Invaders From Mars cashing in on Paramount’s War Of The Worlds (1953), for example, or Beyond The Time Barrier opening during promotion for The Time Machine (1960).

Later the term became more specific – the Sexploitation pictures of the 1960s (such as I Am Curious (Yellow)) or the Blaxploitation films of the 1970s (created in the wake of Melvin Van PeeblesSweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song). Other sub-genres include Nunsploitation, Nazisploitation, Eschploitation (apocalyptic Christian end-times thrillers), Pinku Eiga (“Pink Film” – Japanese sexploitation), Pornochanchada (Brazilian softcore) and Cat III (named after Hong Kong’s equivalent of the R classification)>

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Friday I’m In Love: The Weekly Wrap-Up

August 22, 2008

I was a guest on the world’s best podcast-about-television- recorded-in-a-radio-station Boxcutters again this week – you may remember last time I did that I wrote about RRR’s espresso machine. Well here’s a picture:

Oh coffee, I love you so. If you want to hear me blather on about Quantum Leap, visit– since I’ve already done the research I’ll probably use it here next week as well – after all, there’s just so many unanswered questions.

I also recently had a chance to see the studios of Joy Melbourne– it’s somehow fitting that the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered/ intersex/ham-on-rye radio station should have the most fabulous studios in all of Melbourne. They’re part of a great new Arts Mind Meld building in the city, where a whole lot of organisations – MIFF, Fringe, Melbourne Queer Film Festival – have been locked in together and won’t be let out until they’ve created an important new work. Or had a bunch of marketing types fill in several grant applications, whichever comes first. It’s like Big Brother, only without the racist grandmothers. And the views from the studios are amazing, hopefully I’ll be in there again soon and will bring back pictures.

So what have we learnt from the Institute this week?

1. The food on the restaurant tram is surprisingly good.

2. If you’re ever in nineteenth century Melbourne, you can find prostitutes on Romeo Lane and Juliet Terrace.

3. Green Lantern once had an alien vegetable for a pet. It was called Itty.

4. There are no Italian knock-offs of 2001: A Space Odyssey starring Caroline Munro

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Warm Nights On A Slow-Moving Tram

August 21, 2008

For 25 years, the Restaurant Tram has been shuttling tourists to St Kilda and back, yet the closest most Melbournians have been is seeing it on Kath & Kim. Janet Greason takes a trip down memory lane for The Outland Institute.

1983, the year I moved to St Kilda, was also the year the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant began. To the denizens of St Kilda then, the tramcar was seen as tacky and middle class – the same as the tourists. To have three dozen people stuffing their faces as they trundled through a suburb that was surviving mainly on the dole seemed a bit rude. Another crappy function centre that just happened to be on wheels. The only positive thing was that it kept them corralled and off the streets – had they allowed the poor locals to sell their artwork and crafts each time it stopped (like they do in other third world countries) things might have been different…

By the end of the eighties I had moved to Elwood, and my snarling Pavlovian response to its bells became as infrequent as its sightings.

It was still with some trepidation, however, that my partner and I recently turned up at the Tramcar shelter opposite the casino – friends had bought us dinner on the tram as a birthday present. Like the popstars and actors that mean so much to us at a certain time in our lives but eventually vanish into thin air, I had assumed the tramcar restaurant had married a rich bloke and gone off to have his kids. I was curious to see who else would be joining us. What kind of people would want to do this?

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Where The Streets Have No Shame: Dame Edna Place

August 20, 2008

Melbourne loves a laneway. And Melbourne loves Dame Edna Everage. So it was only fitting that on March 7th, 2007, Lord Mayor John So renamed Brown Alley after the superstar housewife.

Dame Edna didn’t attend the ceremony at this dead-end off Little Collins Street, but was represented by ten lookalikes.

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Disappearing Pets: 11 Pop-Culture Animals You Just Don’t See Anymore

August 19, 2008

Some dogs are for life, and some are just for Christmas Specials. The Outland Institute looks at eleven fictional “animal companions” that found themselves flushed down the toilet of life…

Kitty Fanastico (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, 2000)

If you’re a lesbian couple who live in a university and you have magic powers, you’ll be wanting a cat. And so it was that in Buffy’s fourth season Willow and Tara found themselves the proud owner of Miss Kitty Fantastico. She appears in three episodes, and even gets some fantastic slow-motion work dedicated to her, but by season five she’s vanished. No explanation is given until the penultimate episode of season seven, when Buffy‘s sister Dawn gets the slightly clumsy line, “I don’t leave crossbows around all willy-nilly. Not since that time with Miss Kitty Fantastico.” Kitty still lives on though – in collectable action figure form (see above).

Queequeg (The X Files, 1995)

What do you do with a Pomeranian who’s eaten her owner? If you’re Special Agent Dana Scully you take her home with you – she may be a man-eater but she’s still cute, and if anyone needs some cheering up it’s Dana. Her dad’s died, her sister’s died, she lives in Vancouver but thinks it’s Washington… Arriving in the fourth episode of season 3, Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose, Queequeg promptly vanishes for most of the season, making one brief appearance before episode 22, when Scully inexplicably decides to bring her along on their latest case – chasing a giant alligator. Queequeg is never seen again.

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“Extraordinary How Potent Cheap Science Fiction Is…”

August 18, 2008
Recently I was asked by the delightful Louise Angrilli to write something for Ethel The Ardvark, the official publication of the Melbourne Science Fiction Club. I promised to write an article about the importance of exploding collars in science fiction, but I got stuck when trying to find anything to actually say about the subject. So I wrote in praise of cheap science fiction instead.

For some reason, I’ve never trusted big budget science fiction.

Universes torn apart by CGI explosions, vast armies of robots battling across infinitive voids – it leaves me cold. But a fabric backdrop painted silver and lit by an ex-disco oil projector? I’m there. I was raised on a diet of ’70s BBC television, in which ancient Rome and the far future had a tendency to look much the same – like a large television studio, in fact. Shot on harshly lit videotape, everything was exposed – special effects were simple and often done live-to-tape, with only basic chromakey or model footage for those “wow” moments. All the film-makers could truly rely on was the acting and the writing – the very essence of storytelling. They couldn’t hide behind mere spectacle.

As a young audience member, I had no problem with that. I knew that every time an “army” of Daleks stormed somewhere, we’d only see three of them at a time. I was happy to take those as symbolic Daleks and not literal Daleks. (The Jon Pertwee Doctor Who story Day Of The Daleks features a large country house being “surrounded” by three Daleks. It always reminds me of the old Soviet joke – “Why do policemen travel in threes?” “One who can read, one who can write, and one to keep an eye on the two dangerous intellectuals”).

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