Thursday, July 26, 2012

Virtual Reality Can Be Murder

I just came across this magazine I purchased back in April 1995 and haven't seen since. It's odd, I can even remember the store I bought it at. Well, I bought it for the feature article on William Shatner's TekWar and thought it might be of interest to some of you who may remember the show.  From the April 1995 issue of Sci-Fi Universe...

Keep On Tekking
by David Giammarco

Old starship captains don't die... they just franchise. While Captain Kirk's remains are presumably disintegrating under a pile of rocks somewhere, William Shatner finds himself at the helm of another science fiction enterprise: TekWar.

The futuristic action/adventure cyberseries which premiered early this year has evolved into a multi-media empire built from Shatner's one-line pitch back in 1988: "T.J. Hooker in the 22nd Century."

First Shatner penned the TekWar novel which, in due course, led to four TV movies, a series of novels (the sixth TekPower has just been published), as well as a Marvel comic book series, CD-ROMs, trading cards, and now, the weekly series that he executive produces, not to mention occasionally stars in and directs.

"Bill is a very shrewd businessman," notes produce John Calvert, on the Toronto set of TekWar. "He is really the fountainhead for all of this."

Hans Beimler, who served as writer and then producer on Star Trek: The Next Generation, is now co-executive producer on TekWar and says Shatner's involvement is invaluable. "We're on the phone all the time," offers Beimler. "Sometimes ten times a day. Bill throws out story ideas and we take them and run with them. One of the pleasures of this series is that stories are not so very hard to come by.

"A lot of times Bill will walk into our office or call me and read stories to me from today's newspapers, literally ripping the stories from the headlines because this show is very grounded in reality," says Beimler. "We look at issues from today and project them 50 years from now and see what might happen to them."

TekWar's hero, played by Greg Evigan, is a renegade ex-cop named Jake Cardigan, who was accused of murdering his partners while under the influence of Tek, an illegal and highly addictive virtual reality drug that can prove fatal. Cardigan is imprisoned in a cryogenic freeze for a crime he didn't commit, but is freed after four years of incarceration by Walter Bascom (Shatner), the enigmatic head of the Cosmos Detective Agency, who recruits Cardigan to work for him. Partnered with Sid Gomez (Eugene Clark), Cardigan hunts down Tek drug lords, killer androids, and greedy cartels, all the while trying to repair his strained marriage and clear his name.

The Trek To Tek
Shatner originally envisioned the TekWar universe back in 1988, when he was biding time during the writers' strike that grounded his directorial debut - Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. He wrote the part of Jake Cardigan for himself, but then remembered how gruelling series work was. "It would've been too much to be responsible for the world and also play the part at the same time," says Shatner. It's more fun for me to produce and direct." 

"Someone else told me that Bill was originally going to play Jake," relates Evigan, resting between scenes for episode number six, Stay of Execution, "but it didn't change my way of doing the character.

"And that's why I didn't want to read the books either," adds Evigan. "I didn't want to get any kind of suggestions on what they were going for or any preconceived notion of what the concept of the character was. I just didn't want to imitate anything. That's how I approach almost everything. I just try to come up with what I would normally do and then see how much I can get away with."

"But I did get a few tips on what the universe was all about," says the former star of My Two Dads and B.J. and the Bear." I think Jake was this hard-line tough guy who didn't take any crap. I wanted to keep that because you can understand from the first show that he was pretty angry about being frozen and coming back to find his family gone.

"And to be honest, that anger really propelled me through the first few episodes," says Evigan. "It was that struggle to get information. That was such a drive in itself. And what I really like about Jake is that he was a Tek addict himself. It makes him more human and it gives him even more of a fight to overcome it. I mean he is the hero, but he makes a lot of mistakes. And it's how he gets out of those mistakes and how he handles it that makes it so interesting."

Beimler feels that what made Star Trek: The Next Generation so successful can be duplicated for TekWar. "One of the things we did very, very well on Next Generation was present an optimistic view of the future. And that's the key for TekWar too," he says. "You don't want to tune into Blade Runner every week. Blade Runner is a wonderful movie, but I don't think it'd work well as a weekly series. It's too dark. Our characters aren't those brooding, troubled people, though they are human characters. Jake has a lot of flaws and foibles but at least he's not too unhappy getting up in the morning."

"Jake is actually more like Jim Rockford," adds Beimler. "Rockford lived at the beach in a little RV, but I don't think he'd trade his life with anybody. Neither would Jake Cardigan. He likes his job, he likes his work, and he's a good detective. And even though there's danger in this world, it's not that bad a place to be."

Future (Sticker) Shock
Of course, when you think science fiction, you figure hundreds of years in the future, like the setting for the TekWar novels. But the TV series is only set fifty years from now and Beimler has a quick explanation. "If it was set any further into the future, we couldn't afford it," he laughs.
"The books are set 200 years in the future and this is set 50 years in the future in order to really take advantage of the world," explains Calvert, who won't divulge the shows FX budget, but says it's a substantial amount of each show's bottom line. "What we do we want to do well. We don't want to do anything cheesy. So rather than do 10 or 15 things cheesy per episode, we'd rather do four things, but do them extremely well. And some of our signature pieces, like cyberspace, are done extremely well, but they're scaled to something we can afford to do. Even though it's a big production, we don't have the budget to do the kind of world we'd like to do."

But Beimler is quick to add that "we're doing stuff in this show I've never seen done before. And it's the guys at CORE who are always coming up with new and mind-blowing ideas for the show."

CORE is the digital-effects company based in Toronto that provides the various CGI effects sequences. Shatner also happens to be a partner in the FX house, which he refers to as "the ILM of Canada."

"CORE always brings new and different effects to us," says Beimler." They give us choices as opposed to us anguishing over how to do something. It's more like 'look at this cool effect' and 'look what we can do!' It's very exciting to be coming up with effects no one else has. Stuff we're doing on this show, like weather manipulation, we couldn't ever dream of doing on Next Generation - the technology just didn't exist. And when it did exist, it was so expensive that you still couldn't touch it. It's really amazing that we can do things now that we couldn't do even just last year. I think it's incredible how far we've traveled since Jurassic Park."

Calvert cites TekWar's cyberspace sequences as an example. "We shot cyberspace in the first movie and it took us almost two days. Now we can shoot that same scene in half a day. The work is of the exact same quality, but the technology is just advancing tremendously."

"And really, those first TekWar telefilms really broke the ground for the series," Beimler admits. "They really discovered what worked and had the budget to experiment and make those discoveries. We've really taken advantage of that very expensive learning curve from last year."

As for TekWar's look, Shatner immediately cites cyber-punk author William Gibson as his influence. "Gibson is our mentor in that he brought forth the archetypal cyber-punk world and from that we've got all kinds of ideas, like downloading brains and things of that ilk. I admire Gibson very much and took a great deal from him in the visualization of TekWar - the movies and the series."

Regardless of the dollar exchange, Shatner says that shooting on location in Toronto, as opposed to Los Angeles or New York, is essential to the look, feel and attitude of TekWar.  As a city, Toronto has the exact combination of old and new, which is truly an integral part of TekWar's look," he offers.

"Also, the people of Toronto are different than people in other cities," continues the 63-year-old Montreal native. "There's a feeling of security in Toronto. There's a feeling of friendliness - it's the feeling of the way things used to be before I came to the States . And there's an undeniable sense of enthusiasm among the Canadian crews and a real sense of adventure about them that a lot of American crews have lost. They've seen and done it all so many times before. But Canadian crews still retain a real enthusiasm and loyalty that is just so beneficial for a production."

Words, Not Deeds
TekWar employs a crew of top sci-fi writers, including Beimler and his partner, Richard Bernheim (Quantum Leap, Next Generation) and David Carren and Larry Carroll (Next Generation). And although Beimler won't confirm or deny it, upcoming TekWar scripts are set to include Cardigan's spiral into Tek addiction, as well as the strengthening and disintegration of certain relationships.

"On Next Generation, my argument with Gene Roddenberry was that he felt we were going to solve too many of our problems," confesses Beimler. "Human characteristics, like greed and that kind of thing, were going to be gone. Captarin Picard doesn't have those really. He doesn't have any deep, dark secrets or fears... but Jake does. Jake Cardigan has a lot of fears.

"And I always said to Gene Roddenberry that Shakespeare works 300 years later because the things that motivated human beings then still motivate us today. And I think that's still going to be true in 50, 100, or 200 years."

"People love to see science fiction," adds Evigan, "Because they want to see what might be. You can do anything and create anything and get away with it because it's science fiction. And TekWar isn't so much science fiction that you can't believe it either. That's what I really like about this show - it's science fiction, but it's also based on what's now. It's taking things, issues, technology to the next step, but not too far out of reality."
Adds Shatner, "Because it's a science fiction show on which we have limited money, it's going to affect the ability to project the futuristic look of it. But all series rely on good stories and good characters, so we'll be concentrating on good stories that have their basis in a futuristic concept, and that should help. There is no overriding philosophical element or message involved. To my mind, as long as the characters are colorful and interesting and the plot progresses and excites you makes you want to find out how it ends: Those are the criteria I use in selecting story material. Each story has at its core a very interesting idea and if tyou were to distill it over the coffee maker in your office the next day, you could say, 'The story was about such and such,' but there will be a core of an idea that you will be able to grasp and say, 'Wow, they took off on that.'"

With another Star Trek Memories book in the works, as well as two Star Trek novels and an upcoming film entitled Underground, which he will direct and star in alongside pal Leonard Nimoy, Shatner feels this sudden flurry science of activity can be directly attributed to the success of TekWar.

"I think what I have learned as a like result of writing and becoming connected in more creative areas," Shatner explains, "is that although I had directed before, I did it with some tentativeness. I felt, even though I had been films all my life, that others who had made decisions must have known what they were doing. I finally discovered that my creative choices were just as valid as anybody else's. And once I understood the material and had a view of what was needed dramatically, I could then judge what was needed as readily as anybody and probably better than most.

"To be honest, TekWar has really taken on a life of its own," marvels Shatner. "And I don't know if you can ever plan anything. The only thing you can do is just go with the flow. You know, after the first TekWar book started selling and I was asked to do more, I started wondering if there was more to it that I didn't understand, some universals that I'd tapped into. It's the same with Star Trek. Who knows why those things work? It's just magical when it happens and you go with it. You hire and associate yourself with the best people you can find to help and then cross your fingers."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Not Available In Store

As many of you are probably aware, Best Buy is running their Upgrade and Save promotion where you can bring in any old DVD (except porn) and they will give you a coupon for five dollars off any blu-ray priced at $9.99 and above. And they will take just about any DVD in trade. I've seen people go to the dollar store to pick a bunch of cheapo DVDs and trade them in for $5 coupons (limit 5 coupons per trip).
Just head on over to the Customer Service desk, give them the disc and they'll give you a coupon and a recycling receipt which must be presented when you use the coupon. If you can't find anything to buy at the store, you cannot get your discs back. Not a big deal as you're more than likely bringing them crap that no other used record store would touch.   
This all sounds like a pretty good deal, and it is. If you can find something at a good price to purchase. I had the idea that I would trade in some old, worthless budget label DVDs that I had upgraded long ago and use those coupons for some more upgrades, this time to blu-ray.  That means I have the potential to pick up some blu-rays for only $5.
Being in a fairly large city like Chicago, you would imagine that the Best Buy stores around here would carry the titles I'm looking for.  And herein lies the problem.

So, I head over to the Best Buy website to find which stores have the movies I want.  I'll start with the new release of Outland with Sean Connery that came out two weeks ago.  What do I find? Not Available In Store.  That's disappointing, but surely I can find another one.  How about the Chuck Norris epic Lone Wolf McQuade? It only came out one week ago.  I search and find that it's Not Available In Store.  Okay, how about some that I know I've seen at Best Buy in the past - the digibook of the original Clash of the Titans or Escape From L.A. or The Green Berets? You guessed it... Not Available In Store.

I was still determined to find at least one movie that would only cost me between five to ten dollars. I switched tactics and started searching for new releases instead.  How about Peter Cushing's Blood Beast Terror?  Not Available In Store.  Burke & Hare? Not Available In Store.  Dracula vs Frankenstein, it came out today so surely at least one store would have it.  Nope, Not Available In Store.

Needless to say that not one of the movies on my list (that are priced competitively) are actually available in store. I think I'll head over to Barnes & Noble and pick up another Criterion Collection title before their sale ends.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Dollar DVD Sale

It's time once again for another one of my Dollar DVD Sales. I've gone through the collection and have listed a pile of DVDs on eBay, all with the starting price of one dollar. Please feel free to take a look and then bid exorbitant amounts of money on these titles.  How else can I come up with some cash for a vacation?

Titles include:
All Quiet on the Western Front
Austin Powers Trilogy
Barbarian Queen
Ben Hur
Bible Black
Casualties of War
Cold Mountain
Conan: The Complete Quest
Deathstalker 2
The Deer Hunter
Django Kill! If You Live Shoot
First Blood
Gods and Monsters
The Good German
Horror Express
Horrors of War
The Horse Soldiers
Journey to the Center of the Earth
King Kong
Legends of Horror 50 Movie Pack
Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Theatrical)
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Extended)
M*A*S*H Season 1
The Man Who Would Be King
The Man With the Screaming Brain
Maniac Cop
Night of the Demon
Night To Remember (Criterion)
The Outlaw Josey Wales
Poirot Volume 6
The Postman Always Rings Twice
Red Dawn
The Road Warrior
The Rocketeer
Sharpe Series
Straight Into Darkness
Strangers on a Train
Tank Girl
Thou Shalt Not Kill... Except
Touch of Evil
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
The Warrior and the Sorceress
Witchfinder General

Friday, July 20, 2012

Westerns 10 Movie Pack

Here's another budget release from Mill Creek Entertainment, this time it's the Western 10 Movie Pack released back in 2005. This set features ten movies on three discs, six of them being spaghetti westerns.

The Cover Art
This three disc set comes packaged in a one of those double wide keep cases which features a cover image of Lee Van Cleef looking mean. The reverse gives a synopsis for each film and the runtime (which is not always accurate). No indication is given if the movies are widescreen or not.

The Discs
The Westerns 10 Movie Pack includes three single sided dual layer discs. Discs 1 and 2 each feature three movies, with the third disc holds four titles. The same image of Lee Van Cleef appears on the disc art along with titles included on it.

The Menus
The menus are very basic, to say the least. There's not much to write about them, so I'll just let the screenshots speak for themselves.

The Movies
This set contains ten movies, three or four per disc. They are not all spaghetti westerns, but this time, at least, they aren't being advertised as such. Again, the plot summaries will be taken from the back cover while the reviews are from Spaghetti Westerns: The Good, the Bad and the Violent by Thomas Weisser.
Disc One
Dead Aim (1971)
Original Title:  Arde baby, arde
Starring:  Glen Lee
Directed by:  José Antonio Bolaños
Music by:  Luchi De Jesus
Original Aspect Ratio:  2.35:1
DVD Aspect Ratio:  1.33:1
Original Runtime:  98 minutes
DVD Runtime:  87 minutes

Synopsis: Raised in a quiet, yet grim lifestyle of his guardian, things get complicated for our hero when he starts to spend time with a married woman. Throw in a some stage robbers, bounty hunters and an African-American cavalryman into the mix and you have a western full of excitement and action.
Review: There's lots of "desert wilderness" stock footage crammed inside this witless (but bloody) Italian/Mexican production, shot in Mexico. Johnny is a notorious gunfighter, raised by an undertaker who falls in love with a beautiful woman who happens to have a very jealous outlaw husband. Obvious and predictable.
Notes:  There doesn't appear to be many releases of this film on DVD. The only others I was able to find also appear to be this same version. The one in this set is a VHS transfer.
It Can Be Done... Amigo (1972)
Original Title: Si può fare... amigo
Starring: Jack Palance, Bud Spencer
Directed by: Maurizio Lucidi
Music by: Luis Bacalov
Original Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
DVD Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Original Runtime: 109 minutes
DVD Runtime: 98 minutes

Synopsis: Sonny is one very unhappy gunslinger. Coburn has seduced the gunman's sister, and now Sonny is insistent that the young punk marry her to escape the shame and stigma of their behavior.
Review: Director Maurizio Lucidi constructs an enjoyable parody with this film. He recreates the flavor and style of Sergio Leone's Dollars Trilogy, but substitutes slapstick for violence. Some of it works. Unlike many Spencer-tailored roles, this one allows him to be something besides a brutish clown.
Notes: An anamorphic widescreen disc, which clocks in at 103 minutes, has been released by Wild East as Volume 33 of their Spaghetti Western Collection.

The Grand Duel (1972)
Original Title: Il grande duello
Starring: Lee Van Cleef, Horst Frank
Directed by: Giancarlo Santi
Music by: Luis Bacalov
Original Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
DVD Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Original Runtime: 98 minutes
DVD Runtime: 89 minutes

Synopsis: In one of a long series of spaghetti westerns, Lee Van Cleef stars as a hard-as-nails gunman who is pitted against an equally tough opponent.
Review: The story is an engaging whodunit. Good direction from Giancalo Santi, the initial director for Duck You Sucker before stars Rod Steiger and James Coburn demanded Sergio Leone's personal attention (is that really true?). This film features another stirring score from Django composer Luis Bacalov.
Notes: Wild East released an anamorphic widescreen version which runs 90 minutes as Volume 10 of their Spaghetti Western Collection, which is long out of print.  This was the best version available for the longest time until Mill Creek released a 94 minute version, which restores the original titles, on blu-ray as the second release in the Spaghetti Western Double Feature lineup.
Disc Two
Gunfight At Red Sands (1963)
Original Title:  Duello nel Texas
Starring:  Richard Harrison
Directed by:  Ricardo Blasco
Music by:  Ennio Morricone
Original Aspect Ratio:  1.66:1
DVD Aspect Ratio:  1.33:1
Original Runtime:  94 minutes
DVD Runtime:  94 minutes

Synopsis:  A Civil War fighter engages in bloody combat with the enemy, and wages a personal vendetta against his despised foster father.
Review:  A pre-Leone spaghetti western starring Richard Harrison with music by Ennio Morricone and written by Albert Band (who co-directed his own western with Sergio Corbucci that same year, Massacre At Grand Canyon). The plot is simple, and in actuality, a predecessor of countless similar themes spanning the next ten years.

Notes: Widescreen versions have been released in Italy, Germany and Japan. All have been uncut, including the one here. This release is a VHS dub (complete with tape rolls) from a badly damaged print.
China 9, Liberty 37 (1978)
Original Title:  Amore, piombo e furore
Starring:  Fabio Testi, Jenny Agutter, Warren Oates & Sam Peckinpah
Directed by:  Monte Hellman
Music by:  Pino Donaggio
Original Aspect Ratio:  2.35:1
DVD Aspect Ratio:  1.33:1
Original Runtime:  98 minutes
DVD Runtime: 92 minutes
Synopsis:  When a condemned gunfighter is reprieved by an unscrupulous railroad company, the trade off is the assassination of an unsuspecting rancher.
Review:  This Italian-Spanish co-production is directed by US filmmaker Monte Hellman, who, after this film, didn't make another movie for ten years. Co-star Jenny Agutter is the beauty from Logan's Run (remember the nude scene in the lake?).
Notes:  I couldn't find any commercially released uncut, widescreen versions of this movie. The above mentioned nude scene by the lake has been excised from this release.
White Commanche (1968)
Original Title: Comanche blanco
Starring: William Shatner, Joseph Cotten
Directed by: José Briz Méndez
Music by: Jean Ledrut
Original Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
DVD Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Original Runtime: 94 minutes
DVD Runtime: 94 minutes

Synopsis: Twin brothers battle with each other and their identity crises as they come to grips with what it means to be the children of a white father and an Indian mother. This film is notable for the early co-star role of William Shatner.

Review: This film is William Shatner's only contribution to the spaghetti western genre.

Notes: Yet another budget collection that includes White Commanche.

Disc Three includes the remaining four films of the collection. None of them are spaghetti westerns and are of little interest to me.  For those that are curious, they are Kentucky Rifle starring Chill Wills from 1956, Gone With The West starring James Caan and Sammy Davis Jr. from 1975, Mohawk starring Neville Brand from 1956 and The Hanged Man starring Steve Forest from 1974.

Special Features
Like most budget collections, there are no special features.

The Bottom Line
It's safe to pass on this collection, but you can pick up brand new copies from the Amazon Marketplace for $2 if you want to add this gem your collection. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Quantum Leap: Independence

Quantum Leap: Independence by John Peel
Published by Boulevard Books in August 1996

Dr. Samuel Beckett finds himself leaping into Samuel Beckett, and into trouble, on the eve of the Revolutionary War. The plot revolves around Sam and Al trying to figure out what they need to put right without changing the outcome of the revolution. This normally wouldn't be so hard, but the Sam Beckett from 1776 isn't cooperating for fear of a British trap, and to top it off, access to him has also been restricted for fear of contaminating the timeline.
Sam finds himself being forced to join the Committee of Safety, which is basically a group of overzealous patriots who bully Tories that they have a personal grudge against. From the minute Sam begins his mission, he is in trouble as several members of the Committee are out to frame him as a traitor; which is made easy when he saves the life of a man the Committee has decided to run out of town, quits the Committee with his friend Isaiah, and is seen meeting with a known British spy - it just happens that he's actually a double agent for the patriot cause.

With a little trial and error, it is determined that Sam is here to save Isaiah's live during the Battle of Brooklyn. The task would normally be challenging, but it's made even harder when he's captured and beaten by the Committee while his wife, Hannah, is shot trying to help him. Some derring-do, and a little help from Al, sees Sam escape, get Samuel Beckett's wife and son to safety and rescue Isaiah. To confound matters a little more, Sam is strongly attracted to Hannah and he has the moral obligation to not act on it.  It later turns out that she is the spitting image of his own wife, who he can't remember with his swiss-cheesed mind.

While this is the first Quantum Leap book that I've read, I'm no stranger to the series; and I think that a knowledge of the show is a requirement for the enjoyment of the book. Some story points and characters are not explained very well and relies on the assumption that if you're reading this book then you already know all about the story points from the television show. While I quite enjoy the show and the time period, it goes without saying that I enjoyed this book. I found the feeling of the show is captured quite well within the pages of the book. Quantum Leap: Independence delivers a fun adventure story with a few added touches from the series that enhances the human drama - the loneliness of being "trapped in the past, leaping from life to life, putting things right that once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Summer Criterion Collection Sale

Barnes & Noble has once again priced all of their Criterion Collection DVDs and Blu-rays at 50% off.  It looks like the sale runs July 10th through the 30th.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Hunt Through the Cradle of Fear

Hunt Through the Cradle of Fear by Gabriel Hunt
Published by Leisure Books in 2009

This is the second of six books in the adventures of Gabriel Hunt series. Each book was written by a different author using the name of the main character of the series. From the cover image alone, you know you're in for a pulp hero type of adventure along the lines of Indiana Jones; and that's just what I was looking for. Hunt Through the Cradle of Fear was written by Charles Ardai, the same man who came up with the idea for the Hard Case Crime series.

Gabriel Hunt is the oldest son of two famous authors who mysteriously vanished in the Mediterranean. Using the Hunt's substantial fortune, Michael, the younger son, runs the Hunt Foundation which bankrolls archaeological expeditions for legendary artifacts.
Hunt Through the Cradle of Fear begins with Gabriel Hunt rescuing a lovely damsel in distress named Sheba from the clutches of our villain Lajos DeGroet, a very wealthy Hungarian antiquities collector and Olympic fencing medalist. He brings her back to New York, but before they can determine why DeGroet is interested in her, she is kidnapped once again. After a car chase through the streets of New York, Gabriel manages to sneak on board the villain's plane by hiding in a crate. The plane lands in Egypt and they are taken to the Sphinx where DeGroet opens a hidden chamber in the Sphinx's left paw. Since Sheba is an authority on ancient linguistics, she has been brought in to decipher the inscriptions hidden within the chamber.
Dressing in the traditional Arab desert gear, Gabriel manages to disguise himself as one of the diggers and follows them into the Sphinx. After witnessing a deadly booby trap, which is quite reminiscent of the Breath of God from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Gabriel is chosen to try to go in next, and is found out. With Sheba's help he is able to work out the way through the trap and makes it into the inner sanctum where he discovers an ancient coin and a map showing the way to Greece.

After a brief fight, Gabriel Hunt and Sheba escape DeGroet and his thugs and it's off to Greece where our heroes get into (and out of) several fights and meet an old bard who is a direct descendant of Homer. More importantly, the bard tells them of the Greek influence on the Egyptian Sphinx, the ancient legends of the Sphinxs and he shows them an ancient temple which holds another coin and a second map pointing the way to the Cradle of Fear in Sri Lanka. It turns out one of these legends tells of some terrible weapon that freezes it's victims with fear.

Next, it's off to Sri Lanka, by way of Istanbul where Hunt meets up with his long, lost sister who just so happens to be an ace computer hacker. She rigs up some kind of tracking device that homes in on DeGroet's cell phone and the race is on to the Cradle of Fear. Hunt and Sheba arrive in Sri Lanka shorty before DeGroet and are captured once again. Another secret chamber and a few booby traps later, Gabriel Hunt has thwarted DeGroet's plans and came face to face with the last living sphinx whose riddle he must solve to save mankind from annihilation.

All in all, this series seems to be shaping up nicely; it's a shame there didn't seem to be enough interest to keep the series going (although I've only read the first two books - so far). While not quite as good as some of the better Indiana Jones novels, Hunt Through the Cradle of Fear is a solid, action-packed pulp adventure - some fun summer reading.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Never Get Out of the Boat

Happy Independence Day!

The Deer Hunter by E.M. Corder
Published by Jove in March 1979 (2nd printing)

He was a young steelworker from a sad little hill town in Pennsylvania. Nothing had prepared him for war in the jungles of Asia... nothing except the hellish heat of the blast furnaces... gut-searing boilermakers... the trailer life... and the strength of his passion for hunting the great deer of the Alleghenies.

The deer hunter was young, but he had steady nerves, the grace of a cat, and the high mountain passes in his heart. He would need all of them to survive.

The Deer Hunter

A deeply moving story of courage and friendship set against the terrifying odds of war.

Rambo: First Blood Part II by David Morrell
Published by Jove in May 1985

First Blood.
Second Chance.

John Rambo. Vietnam vet. American. First Blood unleashed the fury of his rage. Now in prison for his bloody one-man war against a small-town sheriff.

Colonel Trautman. Green Beret. Rambo's former commanding officer. With a signed release form - if Rambo will take on what would be a suicide mission for most men.

One:  Penetrate the remembered jungles of Hell, and find the missing Americans who are still being tortured there.

Two:  Don't rescue them. Only bring back photos. Don't engage the enemy. Don't get revenge.

For Rambo, the first part is tough.
The second, impossible...

Platoon by Dale A. Dye
Published by Charter Books in December 1986

They were the men of Bravo Company. Officers and grunts. Black and white. All of them Americans. It was war that brought them together - and it was war that would tear them apart. This is their war - a war of camaraderie forged in violence and of brutality born of madness. This is their story - gritty, unflinching and real.

You'll never forget the men of Platoon.

A novel by Dale A. Dye, a Vietnam veteran who served 21 years in the Marine Corps and was technical advisor for the film.

Based on a screenplay by Oliver Stone, a decorated infantryman who spent 15 months in Vietnam. A screenwriter with Midnight Express, Scarface and Salvador to his credits. Stone was one of the men of Platoon - and he still is.

Hamburger Hill by William Pelfrey
Published by Avon Books in 1987

In ten days, they lived a hundred lifetimes...

On 10 May 1969 troops of the 101st Airborne Division encountered the enemy at the base of Hill 937.

Ten days and 11 bloody assaults later, the men who fought there called it...
 Hamburger Hill

A brutal testing ground of courage, sacrifice, and the kind of brotherhood where a buddy's life meant as much as your own... and sometimes more.