Home Blog Page 2



Title:  The Matt Helm Collection (1966-1969)
Directed by:  Phil Karlson
Starring:  Dean MartinStella StevensDaliah Lavi

If Austin Powers had a favourite movie spy series it would have to be the Matt Helm movies made by Dean Martin in the 1960s. Matt was a hard-as-nails U.S. government counter-agent, hero of 27 books by Donald Hamilton. Dino played him as a lecherous, chain-smoking, permanently pickled lounge lizard who gets more crumpet than Greggs. Columbia Pictures originally planned at least five Matt Helm movies, starting with The Silencers (1966), where our hero is joined by sexy Stella Stevens on a booze-fuelled mission to prevent a baddie named The Big O (played by Batman villain Victor Buono) from creating a nuclear disaster.

Dino’s Helm is so laid back that even if a nuclear bomb went of behind him he wouldn’t drop his martini glass. He has a sexy secretary named Lovey Kravesit and a small harem of stunning ‘Slaymates’ ever ready to soap his back in his king-sized tub. He’s armed with a special gun that shoots backwards, a blade-firing camera and exploding buttons.

96JE9fN60EjjvfLiUwaOPNOw9zn_cropThis permanently sozzled superspy also has a fully stocked bar in his wood paneled station wagon so that he can get tanked up as he drives. Hey, it was the 60s, get over it and have one for the road.

Martin was 50 years old when he made his first Matt Helm flick and while he manages to bed every sexy woman he meets he’s not so energetic in the action scenes, But there aren’t that many of them here anyway. The critics hated this movie but Dino had the last laugh, it made a fortune at the box office and he ended up with a bigger payday than Sean Connery got from playing James Bond in the same year’s Thunderball!

Martin was back as Helm the very same year in Murderers Row (1966). The film was supposed to have been released in 1967 but Columbia’s big Christmas release, Casino Royale, was mired in production problems so the Helm pic took its place as a Yuletide treat.

Silencers-startled-Stella_cropThis second movie in the series saw our lackadaisical hero bedding sexy Ann-Margret and trying to stop her evil dad Karl Malden (who changes his accent in every scene) from melting Washington DC with his “helio-beam.” Dino didn’t exactly knock himself out making this one. He refused to travel for Europe to do any location filming, and therefore a good proportion of the movie involves the use of an unconvincing double!

Murderer’s Row took a tip from James Bond’s You Only Live Twice and opened with Dino supposedly being murdered in his bathtub, leading to an amusing scene where his countless girlfriends all turn up to his funeral in the same outfits. The fashions here are 60s kitsch at its craziest, and again Dino is obviously just playing himself, making jokes about fellow rat-packer Frank Sinatra and knocking back whisky on the rocks as he drives. The film features a bad musical number from the pop group ‘Dino, Desi & Billy’. One member is Dean Martin’s son, and we know this because he calls out “Hi Dad!”

The gadgets here include a gun with a delayed action, so that when a baddie uses it and it doesn’t go off they inevitably look down the barrel and… that’s their lot. Cunning.

The Ambushers came next in 1967, with more off-colour jokes, scantily-clad females and plenty of lovable sexism from Dino. Meeting one well-endowed female secret agent Helm comments: “When you say you’re a ‘38’ you ain’t just kidding.”

“It’s not a gun, Mr. Helm,” she replies. “It’s the new weapon they gave me, developed right here in our labs.”

“Developed pretty well, too!” says our man with a wink to camera.

The plot of this one had Dino traveling to Mexico to retrieve a flying saucer stolen by a rogue beer manufacturer! At one point the baddies try to kill Helm by chucking him into a huge vat of ale. How daft is that? The guy who has been thrown in with him glugs frantically that he can’t swim, and Dino coolly advises him: “Drink your way to the bottom.”

Amazingly The Ambushers made a big profit at the box office and so the Helm bandwagon rolled on with The Wrecking Crew (1969). This time our hard-drinking hero linked up with sexy Sharon Tate (a tragic victim of the Manson murders only a few months after this hit cinemas) to save the world’s economy from the meltdown that seems imminent when dastardly crime baron Nigel Green hijacks $1 billion in gold.

Chuck Norris turns up in a small role and Columbia hired Bruce Lee to train Sharon for her kung fu fight with sexy Nancy Kwan – the undoubted highlight of the film. Otherwise it’s all extremely lame, with very tacky production values – at one point Dino lands on a lawn and it bounces!

While The Wrecking Crew was utter rubbish it was not much worse than previous entries, and the only reason it became the final entry in the series was because Dean Martin himself decided to call it a day.

It is believed that he was so distraught over the murder of his Wrecking Crew co-star and friend Sharon Tate that he abandoned the next already-announced Matt Helm motion picture series installment (to be titled The Ravagers), and never played the character again, though there was a short-lived TV series in the 70s starring Anthony Franciosa in the part.

If you’re a fan of Dino himself or maybe just of really trashy 60s spy flicks with swinging chicks and groovy tunes then you’ll probably get a kick out of the Matt Helm movies despite their ineptitude. All four movies are available as a box set from Amazon. Pour yourself a large martini and enjoy.


John Thaw and Dennis Waterman - April 1978 with Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise, filming for the TV Programme - The Sweeney - Television 1960s Actors

Right you lot, pin your ears back and listen. No cop series now or in the future will ever match up to The Sweeney, and if you’re thinking even for a second of arguing about it, SHUT IT, YOU SLAGS!

Now we’ve got that out of our system I’ve got to tell you I’ve been dipping into my 16-disc Complete Sweeney box set. It only took a few episodes to get me chain-smoking, reminiscing about the positive virtues of flares and Cortinas, and drinking heavily, straight out of the bottle.

Can it really be over 40 years ago that it was first on? A dead giveaway is the lack of swearing. No F’ words in this show, but they didn’t need them because the language was colourful enough anyway. How many times did Regan get called an evil bastard? Then there was always the obligatory scene where they broke in on some hardcase blagger while he was in bed with some brass: “Look slag, I don’t give a toss who you have in your bed… Get your clothes on, you’re nicked!” Season 3 episode May had Regan saying, “If you weren’t who you are I’d kick your arse up to your shoulderblades.” Sheer poetry.


The Sweeney came about not long after Thames Television set up Euston Films Limited at the beginning of the 70s. One of their first projects was a series of 6×90 minute TV movies Each film was budgeted at £85,000, quite a lot at the time, but they made their money back in international sales. Most popular of the lot was a show called Regan, written by Ian Kennedy Martin, with John Thaw as the central character, a maverick Detective Inspector of the Flying Squad, the Metropolitan police’s elite armed-robbery unit,

The film was quickly spun off into a 13-episode series which derived its title from the Cockney rhyming slang for Flying Squad – “Sweeney Todd” – and TV history was made.

The Sweeney was like nothing that had ever appeared on British TV before, a hard-hitting, action-packed 48 minutes with dog-eared cops breaking all the rules to bring down some very nasty bastards.

Think back to the series as a whole and the memories that surface are the boys piling out of the back of a transit, mob-handed, to take on the blaggers at the scene of their crimes. Inevitably Dennis Waterman’s George Carter gets a bloody nose – “looks like it’s schnozzle’s birthday again!”

The show was actually made at a lightning pace. Throughout The Sweeney’s four series, writers were apparently given a month to write each script, but many were delivered in just a few days. With only a ten-day shooting schedule it’s amazing they managed to keep the quality so high throughout the entire 54 episodes.

It’s easy to see that The Sweeney was influenced by contemporary cop shows like The French Connection and Dirty Harry. Regan and Carter weren’t much different from the villains they were out to catch, and their off time was spent drinking and womanising.

One of the first shows that set the tone was the classic episode, Ringer. While Regan is ‘on the nest’ with his latest bird, a small-time criminal nicks his car, which has a series of surveillance photographs in the boot. The bad lad takes them to their subjects – top local gang boss Brian Blessed and his tough henchmen Ian Hendry and Alan Lake. When Regan and Carter arrive at the dodgy garage where the stolen car has been taken, they put the frighteners on the thieves.

“Who are you anyway?” asks the lad with lots of false bravado, prompting Regan’s now-legendary reply: “We’re The Sweeney son, and we haven’t had any dinner!”

Of course the series provoked a lot of controversy, giving the public an image of the police that was a helluva way from Dixon of Dock Green. Mind you, it was probably more accurate – at the time of transmission, a prominent officer in the Squad was under investigation and was eventually imprisoned for corruption.

The Sweeney was shot on location around London on 16mm film, which gave it a grainy and realistic look. Unfortunately the shows don’t look anywhere near as good as, say, the ITC shows like Danger Man, The Saint and Man In A Suitcase that were shot in studios on 35mm, but you can get them on Blu-ray these days my son.


Some of my favourites? Well, I reckon The Ringer is number one, and the one where Morecambe and Wise guest star is also a lot of fun, as is Stoppo Driver, where Billy Murray (of EastEnders and The Bill) plays a maverick cop who becomes  Regan’s temporary driver. He’s so good at driving cars at high speeds that he’s ‘recruited’ by a local criminal gang. Of course Regan and Carter think that Billy’s gone bent, but he has a plan of revenge that isn’t uncovered until the explosive finale – which involves that old standby of smashing through piles of cardboard boxes at speed!

Another great one is Night Out, written by Troy Kennedy Martin. A team of villains are out to raid a bank vault, and the glory boys of CID want to be there when it happens. They are going to make their getaway through the cellar of a pub, and Regan is sent in there to wait for them. Will he be sober by the time they arrive? Leave it out, guv!

Another top show is Abduction, in which Jack Regan is on the track of a gang of blaggers as per usual, but this mob is so worried about him that they kidnap Regan’s daughter to use as a hostage until the job has been successfully pulled. Jack goes against his ex wife and his superiors to rescue the girl in one of the most suspenseful and exciting episodes of the series.

In Hit and Run, it’s George’s turn to suffer a personal  tragedy when his wife Alison is killed by a hired assassin. It turns out that the murder is a case of mistaken identity, but George won’t accept that as an excuse when it comes to doling out retribution. “Kick him, George!”

Emmerdale’s Patrick Mower had a great recurring role in The Sweeney as an Aussie robber. He and comedy actor George Layton played Colin and Ray, a couple of cheery baddies who outsmarted Regan and Carter in an episode called Golden Fleece. It was unheard of for the crims to get away with it in these days, but they didn’t really, because they returned to get their comeuppance in an equally good episode entitled The Trojan Horse. This was the one where Sweeney boss Haskins (Garfield Morgan) was framed for corruption and Jack and George set out to clear his name even though he was a boring bastard.

Bad Apple also gets a top rating from us. The plot of this one has our boys going undercover to track down a group of bent coppers. We’d also thoroughly recommend Hard Men, the episode where James Cosmo played a tough as nails Glasgow cop who came down to London to help Regan and Carter pursue some Scottish villains. Cosmo would have been great as a regular character, unlike Norman Eshley (of George and Mildred fame), who joined the Sweeney in another cracking show, The Taste Of Fear. He was a bullying ex-soldier who lost his bottle when the bullets started flying and was found gibbering away in a phone box!

We always liked the shows where one of the lads went undercover, and the best of these by far was One Of Your Own, where George Carter did some time in prison to get close to small-time criminal Michael (Boon) Elphick. He actually does get to like him, and vice versa, leading to an interesting conflict of loyalties. This is the show where Regan meets Jenny, a barmaid who is especially attracted to policemen, particularly when they are in uniform!

We could go on, but really there were hardly any dud episodes of The Sweeney. I guess Contact Breaker gets the vote for the worst, but even that wasn’t too bad.

There were also two movies of The Sweeney that are readily available on DVD. The first is good, but it sort of misses the feel of the TV show because it so wants to be a big screen project, pitting Regan against a team of international assassins who think nothing of shooting bobbies in the head in the street. Still, Colin Welland gets blown up by a bomb and Diane Keene gets her tits out, so what’s not to like?

Sweeney 2 was much more like it, with our boys on the track of a team of highly organised blaggers who nip over from Spain on a regular basis to pull violent armed robberies. Aside from the main plot, the movie throws in fun scenes where the team get pissed at a brewery and a bit where poor old George is dressed up as a waiter and sent into a hotel room to apprehend a possible terrorist – “Nobody told me he was armed and dangerous!” Meanwhile Jack is boozing it up in the hotel bar with Special Branch and MI5!

Enjoy, and be lucky, son!



Here’s an interesting post just in from reader Richard Dixon:

Just purchased the first edition of Infinity….superb new magazine….editorial spot on / great articles and some really good images…..Rick Melton’s art posters for the mag are brilliant – please keep more of Rick’s art coming through for the new magazine – like his work for the Dark Side it will really lift the quality if you could have a regular spot for his artwork in your new publication …..looking forward to issue 2….

May be if you are interested, I have a Science Fiction Concept Story idea which I have created in a model animation format and published it on the web on my web site. It’s called SEASTAR 5 INVADERS FROM THE ABYSS . Perhaps your readers might like to take a look at it if you could give it a small mention. It’s fully illustrated in a photo story format, with a four episode production .

The production has been viewed by over 34,000 people to date .

A second photo story production SEASTAR 5 OCEAN WARS is in production for a late 2017 release to the web to continue the story line.

The production concept story features a super submarine and her crew of Aquanaut Commandos in the underwater world of the 21st Century…..the first story covers how the sub gains a new Captain and the second story the subs first mission to the undersea Empire of Lemuria.
I have enclosed with this e-mail eight images from my work on the project……the full story concept , first four episodes , the second story sample images and all about it are available on my studio web site.
www.richard-dixon-tpd-studios.co.uk .
Looks good to me, Richard, keep up the good work mate!


What the Duck?



What the duck was George Lucas thinking of when he decided to lavish $52 million on producing this truly awful movie about a duck from a distant duck planet who comes to earth for a series of distinctly underwhelming adventures? Now, I have nothing against ducks in general; Donald has always provided plenty of amusement over the years, and you can’t beat some nice crispy duck from the Chinese takeaway. It’s good with orange sauce too. But I do draw the line when it comes to films featuring dwarfs in obvious duck suits.

Based on a Marvel comic book, the film opens like 2001 with a bombastic John Barry score and epic style credits. Then we find ourselves on a Planet of the Ducks in a far-away universe, where all ducks can talk and all Chinese takeaways are banned.

Everyday cigar-smoking, beer drinking working duck Howard is relaxing in his living room on his recliner reading “Playduck” after a hard day doing whatever working ducks do, when suddenly the chair starts vibrating. No, it’s not because it came from the duck branch of Anne Summers. Before you know it Howard is yanked through space and deposited on earth. In Cleveland.

Once he has landed in an oil drum he sees big-haired Lea Thompson (Back To The Future) being attacked by a pair of thugs and uses his “Quack Fu” skills to save her. She’s the lead singer of an all-female punk band called The Cherry Bombs and doesn’t regard a talking duck as that much out of the ordinary, especially in Cleveland.  Taking Howard back to her place, a grateful Lea agrees to help him find a way back to Duckworld, a task that means enlisting the aid of goofy, baby-faced lab janitor Tim Robbins and eccentric nuclear scientist Dr. Jeffery Jones.

It seems that a giant laser developed by Jones went haywire and was responsible for Howard’s wild interstellar ride. Now all that he needs to do is reverse the laser and send Howard back where he came from. The sooner the better as far as we’re concerned. But a member of an alien race called The Dark Overlords of Evil also hitched a ride on the laser, and he craftily possesses Jones, who now feeds on electricity by plugging his tongue into a truck cigarette lighter.

2-Feature-Pic32_cropThe rest of the movie sees Howard and Tim Robbins attempting to rescue Thomson after the evil alien has kidnapped her, and involves lots of explosions and car chases plus an endless number of truly lame duck jokes. At one point Howard is attacked by a diner chef who wants him on the menu. “I can’t believe this planet. Fried eggs – yuck!”

It doesn’t help that the central character is such an annoying little twerp – Howard the Dick might have been a more appropriate moniker. The script is excruciatingly bad throughout and even the action scenes are boring. The single most amazing thing about the movie though is how cheap it looks considering the vast amount of money spent. It has the feel of a mediocre TV movie and the pathetic special effects mark an all time low point for George Lucas’s own Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) team.

howard-the-duck-12-marvel-movie-picture_cropThe movie was nominated for seven Golden Raspberry Awards in 1986 including Worst Director (Willard Huyck), Worst Original Song (“Howard the Duck”) and Worst Supporting Actor (Tim Robbins). It won four Razzies, for Worst New Star (“the six guys and gals in the duck suit”), Worst Visual Effects, Worst Screenplay, and Worst Picture, which it tied with Prince’s Under the Cherry Moon.

One final thing. George Lucas apparently stated back in 1986 that in 20 years time he believed audiences would rediscover the movie as a masterpiece. Bad call on that one, George. But then it seems like par for the course for the man who thought Jar Jar Binks would gain a huge fan base.



Welcome to Infinity, the brand new magazine for fans of science fiction and cult TV. On sale at all major newsagents and travel points in the UK as well as Barnes and Noble and other premium booksellers in the USA, the first issue goes on sale April 27th, 2017. New issues will be available every six weeks from then on, and there are good savings to be made if you subscribe. What’s different about Infinity that sets it apart from the other sci-fi mags out there? The main difference is we will not be confining ourselves to press release-type information on the new science fiction blockbusters and going over the same old ground about who should or should not be the next Doctor Who! We will be looking at the rich history of the genre, with the help of some of the best writers around. If you are already a fan of The Dark Side magazine then you will know exactly what kind of high quality to expect, and Infinity will be dazzling to look at too. The first issue contains many of your sci-fi favourites and we take a close-up look at Blade Runner on the eve of the long-awaited 2017 remake. Check it out and let us know what you think – we are certain you will not be disappointed!



Our first great issue of Infinity contains a superb interview with director Ridley Scott on  Alien: Covenant, and to celebrate we are also offering a stack of great merchandise related to the movie, generously supplied by 20th Century Fox, who release the film to cinemas on May 12th.
 The pack includes
Bottle Opener
Metal Playing Cards
Set of Pin Badges
Just drop us an e-mail at yannie.overton@gmail.com and tell us the name of the cat in the first Alien movie and one lucky winner selected at random will be getting this lot through the post!



Luke Hemsworth to star in sci-fi thriller “Encounter

Beyond Casual Media has cast internationally recognized actor Luke Hemsworth (Westworld) in Encounter, a new sci-fi drama shooting in Georgia under the direction of tyro filmmaker Paul J Salamoff.

Salamoff’s script for Encounter was inspired by The Twilight Zone. A group of friends make a remarkable discovery in a rural field – a crashed spacecraft – And there’s a survivor. But when they bring the otherworldly being home, they soon discover that it holds even greater secrets than they could imagine. But with the government on their tail, time is running out to ascertain the alien’s true intentions

The first-time feature filmmaker states: “We are all very excited to bring this unique and exciting modern day science fiction story to life. The world of Encounter is a nod back to classic Sci-Fi movies of the 70’s and 80’s. Its fresh approach offers a new twist on science fiction’s strengths of exploring very human themes of loss, grief in an unexpected and thought-provoking way.”

Hemsworth leads a cast that includes Anna Hutchison (Cabin in the Woods), Tom Atkins (My Bloody Valentine), Glenn Keogh (Transformers: Age of Extinction), Vincent M. Ward (The Walking Dead), Cheryl Texiera (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and Christopher Showerman (Supergirl) and Arthur Askey (The Ghost Train). Okay, I sneaked that one in just to see if you were still paying attention.

Writer-director Salamoff began his career as a Make-Up FX artist on over 40 films. His writing career now spans film, TV, short stories, books, comics and graphic novels. As a producer he has worked in film, video game marketing and DVD content and was Vice President of Production for BOLD Films and President of Production for Rat Bastard Productions.

Studio marketing and development veteran Robert Hollocks, declares: “The reaction to Encounter has been incredible. It’s intelligent, smart and terrific on every level. As an Exec. Producer it’s the kind of material you always hope to find. I’m proud to be part of the team bringing it to fruition.”



The day that the first issue of Infinity goes on sale is also the day that Sci-Fi London takes place. Check out the details here!


The SCI-FI-LONDON FILM FESTIVAL 2017 has launched its astronomical 17th annual programme which will run from the 27th April until the 6th May 2017 across London with ten days of amazing film, live music, immersive experiences and more. It will showcase a fantastic lineup with 6 world film premieres, 13 UK film premieres, 11 world short premieres and 13 UK short premieres. It will host 25 features, 51 shorts and 4 VR shorts alongside its regular classic cult events such as the 48 HOUR FILM CHALLENGE and SCI-FIDO, the world’s only cosplay for dogs!

 Opening this year’s festival on the 27th April at the Rich Mix is the UK Premiere of CAUGHT– a film that returns us to the great days of British Science fiction, directed by Jamie Patterson (Fractured), written and produced by Alex Francis (Moon) and starring April Pearson, Mickey Sumner and Cian Berry. It’s the story of a ‘work-from-home’ journalist couple who invite a man and woman, called Mr & Mrs Blair, into their idyllic village home. But what begins with an informal interview descends into a nightmarish fight for survival.

 The festival’s Closing Night on the 6th May at Stratford Picturehouse is the World Premiere of THE RIZEN directed by Matt Mitchell and Taliesyn Mitchell and starring Lee Latchford-Evans, Laura Swift, Tom Goodman-Hill, Adrian Edmondson and Sally Phillips. The year is 1955. NATO and the Allied Forces have been conducting secret, occult experiments in a bid to win the Arms Race. Now, they have finally succeeded but what the Army has unleashed threatens to tear our world apart. One woman must lead the only survivors past horrors that the military has no way to control – and fight to close what should never have been opened.

 This year we’ve teamed up with the Science Museum and their fantastic blockbuster Robots exhibition, to present a movie double-bill focusing on the world of artificial intelligence with A.I. AND EX MACHINA.

 Special events don’t stop there. Screenwriter Darren Rapier and SCI-FI-LONDON’s Louis Savy will be hosting a Sci-fi SCREENWRITING WORKSHOP: ROBOTS & ROCKETS at the BFI on Sunday 30th April 10.30am. It will take you through the process of creating a low-budget sci-fi screenplay, and provide a practical guide on how to choose the best ideas, then work them into a pitch, synopsis and script.

 The festival will host electronic live music event from the future with KRAUTWERK at London’s Moth Club and Ramsgate Music Hall on the 5thand 6th May. SCI-FI-LONDON in association with PsychFI, Bad Vibrations and Snap Crackle & Pop are delighted to bring together one of the most exciting music collaborations in recent years. For the first time, Eberhard Kranemann (Piss Off, Kraftwerk, Neu) and Harald Grosskopf(Synthesist, Ash Ra Tempel, Klaus Shulze) will transmit live their cosmic sonic visions of TODAY, TOMORROW & BEYOND.

 SCI-FIDO – THE WORLD’S ONLY COSPLAY FOR DOGS EVENT returns again this year on Sat 29th April at Juju’s Bar, The Old Truman Brewery in association with ALL DOGS MATTER for the Crufts of Science fiction! Do you have a four-legged friend who likes to dress up as a sci-fi character? Or a pooch that looks like Princess Leia? Bring them along to our ‘dressed-up dog’ photo session!

 R.I.S.E – A DYSTOPIAN VR EXPERIENCE will play out on Mon 1st May catering for our trumpocalyptic and brexited, post post-modern lives. Maybe the robots should rule?!  But what if the malaise gets to them too? Who wants to work to survive when we have such wonderful technology at our fingertips? SCI-FI-LONDON and PsychFI have produced an immersive experience in VR to give you a taste of how our robot friends cope with their utopia. Developed by leading VR house, beLoudest, the experience will be available on IoS and Android for all good smartphones and will work in your lovely Google Cardboard or headset of choice.

 Augmented, virtual, enhanced, trans or multimedia – it’s ‘mixed up’.  A few brands have led the way – adding a VR thing here, an AR thing there – but does it really make any difference and does this usual corporate approach get to the audience in a way that makes them care? #HACKSTOCK: BEYOND 2017 on the 5th and 6th May at The Trampery in Old St is our answer – bringing creators, makers, disrupters, artists, musicians, hackers, developers and you together in one place to talk it, think it, do it and play with it. And it’s Free! We have every flavour of headset – from cardboard to HoloLens and a myriad of other toys to play with. Our discussions are around the Talkaoke table. It’s informal, organic and not as arsey as this sounds! Like looking at the ocean, you think you know all about it… but underneath the surface there is a whole ecosystem we have hardly explored.

Other major Film Premiere Galas this year include the UK Premiere of BLUE WORLD ORDER directed by Ché Baker and Dallas Bland, starring Billy Zane, Stephen Hunter, Bruce Spence, Jack Thompson. The film is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which civilisation has crumbled. A massive electromagnetic pulse has killed all children on the planet, with the exception of Molly (Billie Rutherford), the daughter of Jake Slater (Jake Ryan). Mad Max meets Star Wars? With a car chase in the desert by 7 DeLoreans this will hopefully be a reference for other films of the future.

 Celebrating its World Premiere, FLORA is a brilliant début for director Sasha Louis Vukovic, whose excellent cast deliver a refreshing take on the ‘monster-in-the-woods’ canon. Set in the spring of 1929 near the end of a golden age of exploration, an expedition of Ivy League University Botanists enter an uncharted forest on the North American frontier. Tasked to study the native flora, the students unearth a deadly organism and are soon in a fight with nature itself.

 NEIL STRYKER AND THE TYRANT OF TIME Directed by Rob Taylor and starring David Ogden Stiers, Rob Taylor and Walter Koenig, this is a cult film in the making. Set in a future time, Neil Stryker is a hardened Elite Forces agent famous for hunting and capturing his former mentor and villainous time-traveller, ‘The Mad Scientist’. Following a magnificent escape, the Mad Scientist rains down chaos on the city in a quest for revenge. Stryker must now race through time and do battle with goblins, robots, and ten-foot killer penguins in order to save the world and rescue his son from the clutches of his infamous former mentor. This sci-fi/comedy feature is a 1980s throwback where every set, every effect, every puppet was crafted by dedicated artists, some of whom might get time off for good behaviour!

Other World Premieres include YESTERDAY LAST YEAR directed by Jeff Hanley and written by Adam Bradley, this is a brilliant debut on time travel with lots of loopholes and paradoxes. SUBLIMATE, directed by Roger Armstrong and John Hickman, is based on a short film made for the SFL 48hr Challenge and is a beautiful, raw, unflinching, nihilistic satire on twenty first century life – a tale of idiocy, delusion and obsession. LOVE AND SAUCERS, directed by Brad Abrahams, is a documentary exploring issues of time, space and fractured identity.

 UNSPEAKABLE HORRORS: THE PLAN 9 CONSPIRACY, directed by Jose Prendes, is a docu-film focussed on Ed Wood who unleashed PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE in 1959 to an audience not yet ready to look beyond the limitations of budget to what was really being said in the film. The film received a remarkable amount of backlash that, not only ruined many a career (including Eddie’s), but gained the film the unwanted prize of ‘Worst Movie Ever Made’. This film attempts to set the record straight by highlighting the unspeakable horrors that Ed Wood was trying to shed a light on with the help of some of the genre’s best and brightest inducing: Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Fred Olen Ray, Brian Yuzna, and Larry Kraszewski and Scott Alexander (who wrote Tim Burton’s ED WOOD), among many others. “Remember, my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future” Criswell.

 Other UK Premieres include: SPACE DETECTIVE directed by Antonio Llapur featuring galactic gangsters, interstellar visuals and an out of this world soundtrack and dry wit in vast amounts – this is not to be missed! DOMAIN about a deadly virus directed by Nathaniel Atcheson also celebrates its UK Premiere as well as THE FITZROY, directed by Andrew Harmer. The Fitzroy Hotel, set in a post-apocalyptic 1950s, is a derelict submarine beached just off Margate, and the last place for a traditional summer holiday. A joyous black comedy, think Basil Fawlty running the Crimson Tide.

THE END OF THE LONELY ISLAND directed by Ren Chao Wang from China is set against the backdrop of a deadly plague spreading across the Earth, the ‘Bi’an’ (“another shore”) project is humanity’s first interstellar exploration. The ‘Shenzhou 20’ starship has set off toward the Centaurus planetary system but now this scientific journey has become the last hope for human civilization. China is becoming known for producing effects-heavy action movies for the international market, but a few independent filmmakers are making superb high-concept science fiction, which is why we are excited to bring Ren Chao Wang’s début feature to the UK.

We are used to cameras everywhere, recording everything we do – what if they capture things our eyes cannot see? OCCUPANTS, directed byRuss Emanuel and starring Robert Picardo and Briana White has been a worldwide film festival hit. It’s a cutting edge and brilliantly performed thriller that puts a new twist on ‘found-footage’.

 THE IMMIGRATION GAME, directed by Krystof Zlatnik is set in a Europe that has closed its borders to millions of refugees. Only Germany continues to offer citizenship if you compete and survive a new TV show called “Immigration Game”. The show is a manhunt through Berlin where every citizen can become a Hunter to track down refugees and stop them from winning their priceless German citizenship. In 2017 we are talking about immigration, wall-building and travel bans and the far-right being is called ‘populist’! The premise of this film could never happen right… Right?

 Snowden, Assange, and even the Russians have ‘allegedly’ been putting leaked information online for a while now. When KAOS, a group of anonymous activists find some footage in a Snowden file that reveals the events surrounding the disappearance of four teenagers, they put it out there to try and get some answers. THE KAOS BRIEF, directed by JP Mandarino also celebrates its UK Premiere.

 THE LAST SCOUT, directed by Simon Phillips, is ambitious and will appeal to old-school Sci-fi enthusiasts. It is also set in 2065 when Earth is rendered uninhabitable by war and humanity’s remaining survivors send a fleet of ships to different points in the galaxy in the hope of finding a new world.

 DIVERGE, by US director James Morrison, follows the aftermath of a global pandemic when a survivor searches for ways to cure his wife of a deadly virus. In movie shorthand, you could use TWELVE MONKEYS meets PRIMER as a reference, as it deals with similar ideas and is brilliantly constructed on its modest budget, however it packs a feisty punch in the time-travel genre. Winner of the Siren Award for Best International Feature at the 2016 Lund Fantastic Film Festival.

 MAGELLAN, directed by Rob York, follows seasoned astronaut Roger Nelson who is picked to pilot a mission that will challenge his skills and test the life he leaves behind. After NASA picks up a trio of mysterious signals from within our solar system, Nelson is dispatched on a multi-year trip aboard the Magellan spacecraft to investigate the sources. What he discovers will change our understanding of science and our place in the universe. Magellan delivers a credible high-concept science fiction. If they asked you, would you go?

 For the full line up visit the website: sci-fi-london.com #SFL17




The Prometheus sequel, Alien: Covenant arrives in UK cinemas on May 10th. But will it be a new beginning or a franchise killer?

Director Ridley Scott’s 1979 Alien reworked It, The Terror From Beyond Space into a big budget old dark house movie set on board the spaceship Nostromo. More horror than sci-fi, the basic premise had foolish Earth astronauts taking aboard a monstrous  hitchhiker with acid for blood who then proceeded to scoff his way through most of their number. With its macabre ‘organic’ production design, drawn from the work of Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger. and Jerry Goldsmith’s jittery score (some of it borrowed, on Scott’s insistence from his earlier, Freud: The Secret Passion) it scared up some serious box office dosh.

Five films later the franchise has had a few hiccups but is still going relatively strong with the introduction of a prequel series set decades before the crew of the starship Nostromo first tangled with a terrifying, acid-blooded alien creature.

Production company Fox always play their cards close to their chest with these movies, but that chest has burst open of late to reveal that the next installment of the prequel series, Alien: Covenant, serves as both a sequel to the 2012 film Prometheus and a bridge  between the events of that film and the 1979 original.

The story involves a colony ship, called Covenant, landing on an uncharted planet. Shortly thereafter the crew discovers a sole inhabitant – the android David (Michael Fassbender), first seen in Prometheus.

Directed by Scott from a screenplay by the Oscar-nominated John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator), the film stars Michael Fassbender, Billy Crudup, James Franco, Katherine Waterston, and Danny McBride.

It has to be said that Prometheus was a bit of a disappointment, and Fassbender’s character was one of the weakest and most poorly developed in the entire movie. Beyond all that, the movie left viewers confused. They wanted another Alien but didn’t really get it. Obviously conscious of this, Scott himself has said: “Covenant is really going to show you who did it and why.” Cheers for that.


Concrete Connections

It seems now that Ridley has come to his senses at last and realised that people want more concrete connections to the Alien franchise, hence this title and not Prometheus 2.

Earlier in the year he attended CinemaCon in Las Vegas to present a preview of his new film to exhibitors, footage of which provided firmer details of how each film is linked.

It’s Michael Fassbender’s robot David who provides the films with their connection, and he’s the one who creates the “horrific world” depicted in Alien: Covenant.

The sneak preview begins with the spacecraft from the last film arriving at the Engineers’ home world. Surprised, startled or curious about this ship’s arrival, hundreds of Engineers have gathered below. As they look on, the base of the ship opens and we find David walking on a deck. A mass of bombs fall from David’s ship, dousing the Engineers with a black ooze that quickly transforms them into hundreds of alien creatures as David watches from above.

It looks like the planet the ‘Covenant’ crew have landed on is either the Engineers’ abandoned home world hundreds of years after David’s actions or a sister planet that David has also seeded with alien spores. As the first trailer depicts, this crew of the colony ship the Covenant lands only to find themselves infected with the same alien monstrosities that besieged the crew of the Prometheus.

The future of the Alien franchise

At 79 years of age one might think that Ridley Scott would be slowing down a little but that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. Now he has completed the Prometheus follow-up he is ready to get on with the next step of the franchise, and it appears the sequel to Covenant is already written and ready to go.

“You’ve got to assume to a certain extent success and from that you’d better be ready,” he says. “You don’t want a two-year gap. So I’ll be ready to go again next year.”

This was said in an interview he did in 2016, so that could mean production going ahead later this year. Before Prometheus was released, Scott was talking of sequels that would venture further away from the Alien franchise, focusing on Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender’s characters as they set off to find the home world of the Engineers.

This could all change, but it does seem all roads lead back to the original Alien, land Scott has a master plan in mind.

Where does this leave Neill Blomkamp’s Alien sequel? Not in a good place. The District 9 filmmaker showed off some fan art of his online and there was talk of a film that would pick up after the events of Aliens and bring Sigourney Weaver and Michael Biehn back into the franchise.

Bloenkamp is a big Alien fan who has always wanted to stake his claim on the franchise “My favourites are the first two movies,” he said. “So I want to make a film that’s connected to Alien and Aliens. That’s my goal. I’m not trying to undo Alien 3 or Alien: Resurrection, I just want it to be connected to Alien and Aliens.”

Sigourney Weaver certainly seems to be fully on board with this creative decision. “It’s just as if, you know, the path forks and one direction goes off to three and four and another direction goes off to Neill’s movie,” the actress revealed.

Not having had the chance to preview Alien: Covenant before we went to press, we have to say that we are not hugely enthusiastic about the storyline, which harkens back to a huge number of previous sci-fi epics including Planet of the Vampires (1965), often said to have provided some inspiration for the original Alien.

In that, as in countless other sci-fi flicks, a spaceship lands on a mysterious alien planet and discovers the natives aren’t friendly. It’s a cliche Jim, and just as we know it.

Oh well, we won’t have long to wait now to find out if Scott has been able to recapture the fearsome magic of the Alien franchise. Will we be hearing punters screaming or just groaning in annoyance? Fox will certainly hope it’s the former, but hey, don’t worry guys. because you can’t hear either in space.