Franchised Goodies for the Children of Dune

In light of the charming Goodnight Dune children’s book that’s making the rounds online right now, today seems like a great time to share some treasures from my personal stash of weird, random, off-color, No-Seriously-WTF-Were-They-Thinking movie franchise ephemera.

These, for your delectation, are scans and photos of various pages from the astoundingly age-inappropriate Dune activity book series, published in 1984 to promote David Lynch’s movie adaptation of the classic Frank Herbert novel, produced by Universal Studios.

You know, FOR KIDS:

Yes, that’s a coloring page of Dr. Yueh preparing to assassinate Duke Leto with a dartgun. And up at the top there, that’s a floppy, diseased sex organ-reminiscent Guild Navigator, presented a-la la la “Connect the Dots”.

And here’s another cheerful coloring page of the fresh corpses of Duke Leto and Piter:

Heeeeee! Who the frak was in charge of marketing? More to the point, what kind of Melange were they smokin’ during the merch meeting, when it was decided that producing this series of vengeful activity books for a K-through-8 demographic made good business sense?

Well, whoever they were, Coilhouse salutes them.

Explore the childlike wonderment murder, intrigue, suppurating boils, phallic symbolism and knifeplay after the jump.

The Friday Afternoon Movie: The Secret Of NIMH

I’m not sure how Hulu works in countries outside the US at this point. My apologies if you cannot watch this, it’s one of the reasons I try to avoid sites like Hulu.

It’s Friday, people, which means that there’s only a few more hours until you can stick a fork in another soul-crushing work week. Allow the FAM to help that time pass a little more quickly with this week’s presentation of Don Bluth’s 1982 classic The Secret of NIMH, starring, among others, Mary Elizabeth Hartman (in her last role before her suspected suicide), John Carradine, Dom DeLuise, Aldo Ray, and Wil Wheaton.

An adaptation of Robert C. O’Brien’s 1971 children’s novel Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, the movie tells the story of Mrs. Brisby, a widowed field mouse, whose son falls ill with pneumonia and cannot leave the house for three weeks. At this time, Spring plowing is set to begin on the farm the Brisbys live on and Mrs. Brisby, knowing she cannot stay where she is, visits the Great Owl who directs her to a group of mysterious rats who live in a rose bush and are led by a wizened old rat named Nicodemus. Brisby learns that the rats, along with her late husband Jonathan, were part of an experiment performed at the National Institute of Mental Health which boosted their intelligence to human levels at which point they made their escape.

The Secret of NIMH was a favorite of mine as a child and recent viewings have done little to dampen my enthusiasm for it. Bluth and his partners, most of who had defected from Disney with him, were fixated on what they perceived to be the decline of animation as an art form. The Secret of NIMH, then, was a collection of expensive and, even at the time, outdated animation techniques. The glowing eyes of Nicodemus, for example, were created by back-lighting colored gels. Characters had different color palettes for individual lighting situations (Mrs. Brisby alone had 46). It’s a veritable showcase of animation and it all makes for a beautiful film. Still, it came at a price, and the film came in so over the original budget that Bluth and his co-producers had to collectively mortgage their homes to finance some of it. There was even a problem with their diminutive protagonist’s name:

During the film’s production, Aurora contacted Wham-O, the manufacturers of Frisbee flying discs, with concerns about possible trademark infringements if the “Mrs. Frisby” name in O’Brien’s original book was used in the movie. Wham-O rejected Aurora’s request for waiver to use the same-sounding name to their “Frisbee”, in the movie. Aurora informed Bluth & company that Mrs. Frisby’s name would have to be altered. By then, the voice work had already been recorded for the film, so the name change to “Mrs. Brisby” necessitated a combination of re-recording some lines and, because John Carradine was unavailable for further recordings, careful sound editing had to be performed, taking the “B” sound of another word from Carradine’s recorded lines, and replace the “F” sound with the “B” sound, altering the name from “Frisby” to “Brisby”.

In the end, there are really two things that make NIMH stick out: its tone and its protagonist. The mood of the film is exceedingly foreboding, especially for a G-rated feature intended for children, without crossing into the historical seriousness of, say, Grave of the Fireflies or the political allegory of Watership Down. When I think of it, the images that come to my mind are bleak, eerie, and filled with fire. Likewise, its heroine is unlike anything one would have seen from Disney. Mrs. Brisby is no princess. She is a middle-aged mother and widow. Her quest is not an epic struggle between good and evil, it is to save her family. She doesn’t fall in love with a dashing male lead, she is not even looking for it, the love she had for another is in her past, before we are even introduced to her. Is she one of the great feminist characters in film? No. But she is a refreshing change from the typical Barbie doll pap most peddle.

Watching The Secret of NIMH it is perhaps most evident that it is a labor of love, both for its story and for the medium it is presented in. It is not a stretch to say that they don’t make them like this anymore. After all, who would be crazy enough to try?

Trails Of Tarnation

Black Coffee: Chapter 1 of Trails of Tarnation from New Picture Agencies on Vimeo.

From Nicholas Gurewitch, cialis sale creator of The Perry Bible Fellowship comes Trails of Tarnation, recounting the travels and travails of Jeff and Derek. In this inaugural episode, entitled “Black Coffee”, Derek instructs Jeff on the proper way to brew that most holy of morning beverages with unintended consequences.

North Korean Film School

Al Jazeera English has proven to be, perhaps, the best news organization going at the moment with their top-notch coverage of the events transpiring in the Middle East. In this particular segment of their program 101 East, they turn their eye to another oppressed nation: North Korea, specifically the Pyongyang University of Cinematic and Dramatic Arts. Here, as everywhere else, the curriculum is focused on the teachings of the state, specifically Kim Jong Il, heralded in his country as a cinematic genius. The university, then, is a training ground for the actors and directors who will make up the North Korean government’s propaganda machine.

To their credit, reporters Lynn Lee and James Leong have few illusions as to what their report is about. While they do manage to get inside the school, much of their footage is confiscated due to the draconian rules for filming within the university (only uncropped, stationary shots of images of the Dear Leader and his words). It is, however, an interesting look at how the elite live in the nation’s capital city. The country is once again experiencing food shortages, but while most of the country starves, its embassies instructed to beg for food, high ranking members of the North Korean government live in relative luxury. Of course, as we have seen before, not everything is quite as it seems in the DPRK.

BTC: Animal Beat Box

Australian animator/musician Damon Gameau and his cutting-edge team of cut n’ pasters just won top prize at the 2011 TROPFEST for this adorable (not to mention highly addictive!) animated shout-out to the animal kingdom.

Via Ariana, ‘cos she’s awesome.

There are plenty of other incredible indie shorts on TROPFEST‘s YouTube channel, go check ’em out.

The FAM: Animation Fun Time With David O’Reilly

Please Say Something from David OReilly on Vimeo.

Like Edgar Allan Poe, the FAM returns after a week’s absence, delirious and with no memory of its whereabouts. Who knows what trouble it got up to? Regardless of whether or not the FAM spent last week in a meth-fueled haze, the fact of the matter is that it is back, looking to put the deaths of all those Shriners behind it. So let us get to today’s films instead of dwelling on the fact that those tiny cars are not street legal and one cannot be blamed for driving through a parade if the route is not clearly marked.

Today it’s two short films by David O’Reilly: 2009’s Please Say Something and his most recent External World. Both feature his off-beat direction combined with a dark sense of humor. External World takes a page from Robot Chicken with stories told in bite-sized morsels stitched together with a thin, overarching tale while Please Say Something follows a cat and her mouse husband through their dysfunctional relationship. O’Reilly and his team do a spectacular job, using a bare minimum of detail to convey each scene. The characters are equally simple though they still manage to display a wide range of emotions. They are wonderful and delightfully weird, though your tolerance for acerbic wit will determine how well you take to them.

Alternative Trailer: The King Spits

I’ve not seen The King’s Speech, though I have heard nothing but good things about it. The trailer made me immediately think of The Madness of King George. This is, perhaps, unfair and may be due mostly to the fact that both films are about British royalty. Whatever the case, I can’t help but think that this trailer, with music by Dan Bull, would have sold the movie better, though perhaps not to its intended audience.

Thank You, Tura Satana

Tura Satana as Varla in Faster Pussycat, Kill!  Kill! (1965)

Iconic cult actress and femme fatale Tura Satana passed away last week, at the age of 72.  The death was announced by her longtime manager, Siouxzan Perry, who said the cause of death was believed to be heart failure.

Born Tura Luna Pascual Yamaguchi in Hokkaido, Japan, to a father of Japanese and Filipino descent and a mother who was Cheyenne Indian and Scots-Irish, Ms. Satana had been a gang member, martial artist, burlesque dancer, actress, stunt woman, nurse, police radio operator, bodyguard, wife and mother – but it was her breakout role as the “brazenly violent but unapologetically feminine” Varla in Russ Meyer’s 1965  exploitative girl gang saga Faster Pussycat, Kill!  Kill! that earned her an enduring cult following.

Tura Satana
, by Molly Crabapple (2008)

Renowned film critic Richard Corliss called her performance “…the most honest, maybe the one honest portrayal in the Meyer canon and certainly the scariest.”

“A woman, like my character, was able to show the male species that we’re not helpless and not entirely dependent on them,” Satana said of Varla, in 2008. “People picked up on the fact that women could be gorgeous and sexy and still kick ass.”

“Eye of the Storm” by Lovett

From a seasoned shoestringer’s standpoint, this music video for Lovett’s “Eye of the Storm” is just so impressive and inspiring:

Via James Sime.

Also worth watching is this short making-of documentary, detailing how the production team managed to pull everything together on next to no budget. “It was just a group of folks who got together and made this through sheer will.”

Wow. Huge admiration for musician Ben Lovett, director Christopher Alender, producer Kris Eber, animator Wes Ball, and their entire crew. UR DOIN’ IT RIGHT.

The Friday Afternoon Movie: Let The Right One In

My apologies but I’m unable to embed today’s film. Above is the trailer. The playlist with the film is here.

The FAM is ever ephemeral, dear readers. It is the nature of finding films posted on the internet. Sooner or later they shall be found and, no doubt, taken down. That said this movie’s time may be shorter than some, so get it while it’s hot. Today the FAM presents 2008’s Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in) the Swedish vampire masterpiece directed by Tomas Alfredson, based on the book by John Ajvide Lindqvist who also wrote the screenplay.

I’m posting this today mostly because I finally got around to reading the original novel so the details are still fresh in my mind and, thus, this will be more of an examination of some differences between the film and its source material (though by no means a thorough one.) For those who haven’t seen it, Let the Right One In takes place in 1982 and tells the story of 12 year old Oskar who lives with his mother Yvonne in Blackeberg, a suburb of Stockholm. He is a shy, meek boy who is tormented at school by bullies. One night he meets a young girl on the playground by his building. Her name is Eli and she has moved into the apartment next to his with an older man, Håkan, who Oskar assumes is her father. Oskar will soon learn, as you no doubt guessed, that Eli is not who she seems.

Spoiler Warning: I usually don’t do these as I assume that most people realize that these posts are bite-sized analyses and expect spoilers. However, I will also being discussing the book in some detail, and the thought of ruining two forms of media for the unsuspecting reader makes me feel that a warning is necessary.