Thursday, November 25, 2010

Forget Turkey Day, it's Turtle Day!

We here at Gravedigger's Local 16 celebrate Godzilla's birthday every year, but what about Gamera?

Regular readers of this site are no doubt familiar with Japan's favorite giant, flying turtle (that breathes fire to boot). If not, then you need to read this. Now. In either case, what you may not realize is that the first Gamera movie came out all the way back in 1965 on this very da...What? It came out on the 26th? Seeing as how I'd have to wait until 2015 to have this article posted on the correct day and still have it be Thanksgiving at the same time, I'll think I'll just celebrate a day early. I'd probably still be too busy being in a food coma to write this up tomorrow anyway.

In honor of Gamera's birthday, I wanted to post something really unique and special. So let's look at the Gamera movie that never made it. After 1971 Gamera vs. Zigra (the 7th film of the original series), Daiei planned on pitting Gamera against a giant serpent called Garasharp. Although things apparently got to the point where a costume was made, Daiei's bankruptcy effectively ended the project. Sadly, the costume was either unavailable, unusable or forgotten when the Tokuma Shoten publishing company bought Daiei and released Gamera: Super Monster in 1980. It's a shame, too, as doing so would have spiced up what little new Gamera footage was shot for the film (which largely consisted of stock footage from the previous entries in the series).

However, fans did eventually get a chance to see Garasharp. For you see, a short film was created about the film for the release of the Gamera series on laserdisc (and later carried to DVD). Using a combination of interviews and narration over concept art, storyboards and models, the basic plot for the film was revealed. Thanks to kaijusroyaume, we can watch it right this instant:

I don't know much Japanese, but the basic jist of the video is that Gamera would fight and eventually kill Garasharp. Although Garasharp dies, it was able to give birth to either two offspring or a single two-headed creature. Being the friend of all children, no matter what species they are, Gamera spares the offspring's life by flying it to a deserted island to live out its days in peace. The end also offers a tantalizing glimpse at another monster in addition to Garasharp: a bulky orange monster on four thin legs that isn't shown in the synopsis detailed in the video. Apparently, this creature is named "Malcobkarappa" and its name seems to indicate that it's a mutated fungal growth of some kind, presumably something that was originally growing on (or in) Garasharp.

Hopefully, Kadokawa Pictures (the company that bought Tokuma Shoten and now owns Daiei's assets) will see fit to revive Garasharp and Malcobkarappa for a future Gamera film. Until then, we'll have to make due with the information gathered here. I'm just thankful they made that video showing what could have been.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Happy (Early) Birthday Gamera!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Edison's Conquest of Mars

Oh no, nothing phallic here...

No, this is not a book/DVD release of an old silent movie like Edison's Frankenstein. It's actually the unauthorized sequel to H.G. Wells' classic novel, The War of the Worlds!

The year was 1898. Wells' alien invasion classic had been published in complete book form after being serialized the year before in Pearson's Magazine. During that same time, an unauthorized version of the story was serialized in a New York newspaper and 1898 saw another unauthorized serialization published by the Boston Post, that was retitled as Fighters from Mars. In both cases, each of the pirated versions changed the setting of the story to the city the newspaper was published in, something that only increased Wells' dismay over the unauthorized works.

Although such flagrant acts of intellectual property theft might seem mind-boggling, such things were all too common in America during that time. Bootleg books were a big business back then, with the USA being the 19th century equivalent of China today when it comes to unauthorized DVDs. Despite pleas from famed authors like Charles Dickens, a combination of isolationists and those who profited from said bootlegs successfully pushed for the government to refuse signing any international copyright agreements. In fact, it was not until about 1988 that the United States signed onto the Berne Convention, which had been in existence since 1886!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


As a fan of Japanese monster movies, it should be no surprise that Rampage is one of my all-time favorite video games. For the uninitiated, Rampage is a 1986 video game by Bally Midway that allows players to control one of three giant monsters and wreak havoc across the USA by smashing buildings (but being careful not to be on one as it collapses) and eating people. The monsters in question are George the gorilla, Lizzy the lizard and Ralph the werewolf. But those names meant nothing to me as a little kid when I first encountered the game during a family vacation in Vermont; I knew King Kong and Godzilla when I saw them. I had no idea why there was a giant werewolf and even to this day I'm still not entirely sure. My best guess is that the programmers decided to throw in a non-traditional giant monster so they could claim that had only used enlarged versions of random animals if the owners of Godzilla or King Kong ever threatened a lawsuit. I also recall being baffled over Lizzy only breathing fire after eating certain items that took away health and how the monsters turned into human beings after losing too much health, but I still had tons of fun smashing cities anyway.

Although not the first game of this nature, an honor that belongs to 1981's Crush, Crumble and Chomp!, the influence of Rampage cannot be denied. Is it mere coincidence that The Movie Monster Game (notable for actually licensing Godzilla) came out that same year? The game Ramparts (not to be confused with Rampart by Atari) came out a few months after Rampage debuted and has been accused of being a thinly disguised knock-off. If not for the success of Rampage, it's quite possible that the 90's King of the Monsters series and 2003's War of the Monsters might not have come into existence.

Said success eventually resulted in the release of 1997's Rampage World Tour, which added a storyline, bonus superpowers and the occasional computer-controlled monsters that had to be defeated. The series continued (and added new player-controlled monsters) with Rampage 2: Universal Tour, Rampage Through Time, Rampage Puzzle Attack and Rampage: Total Destruction.

Although the original game is often available as an unlockable bonus in many of the above games, there's also a way to play it if you don't have them. Just make sure you have Shockwave enabled and click here for some city-smashing fun!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Costume Crazyness 2010

Back when Weird Jon wrote "Son of Shameless Cross Promotion," he had no idea that the "Costume Crazyness" series would be dropped from URBMN the very next year due to changes in the site's format and would be moved to Gravedigger's Local 16. Neither did I, for that matter, but the site had changed so much since then and both the owner and I agreed that it would make more sense over here, Sadly, this happened after I had written my update for the Halloween countdown and what little free time I had was soon devoured by other things. So rather than disappoint fans of the series by not doing a 2010 installment I decided to post it in November, just like a Halloween episode for any given animated comedy series on Fox. But enough about that, let's get to the knock-offs and other assorted costume oddities!

Holy crap, they made a Pai Mei knock-off? That's...pretty cool, actually. It's a shame they referred to a Chinese character as a Japanese "sensei" rather than the proper "sifu." They also lose style points for not calling it a Bak Mei costume.

Scream knock-offs? That is so 1996. I am somewhat impressed by the fact that the last one is also a knock-off of Ex Mortis' Stalkarounds. You rarely see something rip off two different costumes at the same time.

This is just a "Ragga Muffin Sailor" costume and not Raggedy Andy. Right...

Friday, November 5, 2010

Guest Writer: Mr. B. Bertram

[Recently, we got in touch with one Mr. Bertram Bertram, soliciting his expert opinion and analysis for our readers. As one of the foremost Haunt Experts around (you may find his expertise readily available here), we were incredibly pleased to hear back from him and are honored to present his writing here today.]

Observations on a Peculiar Entertainment
by Mr. Bertram Bertram

When I was first contacted by the Gravediggers Local to contribute to the publication, I demurred. My time was simply too restricted to allow for proper reflection and coherent narration upon the subjects to which I am most engaged. Yet now that October has again given way to November (which seems to happen with increasing regularity), I found myself idly wandering the stacks of the manor library in vague disquietude.

My manservant, Walter, concerned with my saturnine mood, suggested that I revisit the Gravediggers’ invitation to share with you my vast experience in the field of haunted attractions. Walter’s reminder was timely. After fortifying myself with his excellent cucumber sandwiches and black coffee, I was ready to embark upon this project that I know will be as educational for you as it is enjoyable for me.

The Basic Idea
“Haunting” and being a “Haunter”, in my field, refers to working in the haunted attraction industry. In the broadest possible terms, a haunted attraction (or “haunt” for brevity’s sake) is any dedicated venue that seeks to entertain patrons using elements of horror, the macabre, and/or the supernatural. This definition does not include horror movies or horror based theater plays because the theaters in which they are experienced feature many different genres over time.

However, films, film technology, and many elements of theater are incorporated into modern haunted attractions. Further, dark rides, such as Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, are considered haunted attractions because of the overall theme, not because of any particular use of technology or level of intensity. There are, of course, grey areas to these definitions that I will explore later. But for now, this should provide a basic concept of a haunted attraction for our discussion.

What Do We Do?
Much of my work has been, first, as a performer then as an advisor to performers in haunts. We are often referred to as haunt actors, but I find that label a tad misleading. We certainly do act in our work as haunters, but it’s a peculiar form of acting that incorporates facets of several types of entertainment finally brought together into a unique type of performance.

We haunters create a form of entertainment that is similar to theater, movies, stand-up comedy, and performance art. Like theater, we create artificial characters that communicate their basic natures through costume, makeup, spoken words, embodied actions and constructed environments. We utilize technology and special effects that have been developed for theater and for Hollywood films. We interact with patrons on an individual basis each night like a stand-up comedian who finds source material in the audience, but who also must defend against hecklers. Lastly, we create immersive fantasy worlds in which to perform, complete with sound tracks, odors, props, lighting and pathways for guests. These environments are more akin to site-specific artworks than to 3-walled sets found on theater stages.

We may or may not be required to support an overall narrative. We may or may not say the same lines each night we perform (assuming that our character has lines). We may not even be performing as the same character each night. Lastly, we risk bodily harm each night from the environments in which we perform, but mainly from the guests who may be so caught up in our performance or in their own inebriation that they find it acceptable to physically attack us in ways that only the worst stand-up comedian has ever suffered.

In Closing
So you see that being a haunter is, at the most basic, a unique type of performing in a strange medium of entertainment. This is an adequate introduction to my series of short articles. I hope that I have whetted your intellectual appetite for further discussion of my peculiar field of study. I will return soon with more commentary on working in the haunt industry.

For now I remain truly,

Bertram Bertram

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

For He's A Jolly Good Kaiju...

...which nobody can deny!

That's right, it was on this very day that the first Godzilla was released in Japan. So what better way to celebrate the first Godzilla movie than by watching Godzilla movies? Thankfully, Crackle has a bunch of streaming Godzilla films available online and they're all legit.

If you want more streaming tokusatsu fun (albeit not Godzilla or Toho-related), head on over to Hulu to watch episodes of Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot and Ultraman Towards The Future (known as Ultraman Great in Japan). But parents should keep in mind that level of violence might be an issue in Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot and that a character swears in the 5th episode of Ultraman Towards The Future.

Finally, here's a cool Godzilla blog that you should check out.

Happy Birthday Godzilla!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Day of the Dead

It's el Dia de los Muertos! Seeing as how I explained the holiday last year, let's skip straight to the fun stuff!

Have you ever read about the delicious-sounding Mexican pan de muerto (bread of the dead) and wanted to have a taste? Well, you're in luck, because I found a two page recipe for it in John Lithgow's (yes, that John Lithgow) Boredom Blasters: Halloween Edition. Although it's not quite the traditional Mexican sugar skull, Skull-A-Day does have a recipe for sugar skull cookies.

But there's more to the Day of the Dead than just food, there's also the beautiful folk art, also known as "La Calavera Catrina" (The Elegant Skull). Both Senora Muertos and Ethan Cranke have some incredible stuff inspired by the holiday that I highly recommend checking out.

Speaking of checking stuff out, here's a picture of a Santa Muerte figure in front of a fortune teller's parlor in Mexico's Chinatown. Ain't multiculturalism grand?

Feliz el Dia de los Muertos!

Happy Day of the Dead!