Benny Binion

Five Things – 04.25.16 – I’ll Be Bigger Than Ollie North

1987 NBC Saturday Morning Preview

ALF hosts this Friday Night preview of NBC Saturday Morning lineup featuring, well, ALF. The premises for these specials are always so ridiculous, and this one’s no different:

ALf Loves A Mystery

The special begins in the Tanner family garage, where ALF is on the phone with his agent regarding his new prequel cartoon series. ALF and his buddy Brian decide to imagine a mystery story specifically featuring characters from the shows in the NBC Saturday Morning lineup, which is natural and makes sense.

ALF and Brian

The special then turns into a Film Noir homage, which kids are totally into, with ALF providing the narration and Brian starring as the detective. Brian’s invited to the Countess (Jackee’s) mansion, where random stars from NBC Prime Time programs like Our House, Rags To Riches, The Golden Girls, and others are gathered and given the challenge to find the treasure hidden within the house.

Shannen Jackee Betty

The kid faction of the party teams up to solve the mystery, awkardly led from clue to clue by clips and voiceovers from the Saturday Morning shows.

Clue Alvin and the Chipmunks, the Smurfs, the Gummie Bears, Archie, and that awful animated version of Fraggle Rock help the gang along.

Fraggle

The adults at the party, predictably, are all bad guys.  They’re also dumb.  They follow the children around as the kids solve the mysteries, waiting for their chance to steal the treasure once it’s found. Shannen Doherty masquerades as “kid-cool” to try and trick them!

Shannen Kids

The joke’s on all of them, kid and adult alike, when Jackee tries to take it all for herself at the end.

Ending

I won’t tell you how they get out of that particular pickle, but ALF and Shannen Doherty DO go on a date after all is said and done.

This special is so bad and hamfisted, but in a really good way.  Even Shannen Doherty’s redeemed in it.  I can’t figure out how the effort spent on this was justified, but I’m glad it was.  Here’s the whole thing. Also included are some VERY ’80s Cherry 7-Up, Milky Way, Snickers, Wendy’s, Diet Coke, KFC, and Crave Cat Food commercials.

Also I forgot about Chicken Littles – that 39 cent price point is nice.

 

Discover Atari

This early 1980s “Prism” campaign for Atari shows the breadth of the company’s offerings past just video games, but still mostly focuses on the video games.  They know which side of the bread gets the butter.  Still, a good looking campaign with some great motion graphics and some EPCOT-level synth.

That’s Jack Palance doing the voiceover. You hear it now, don’t you?

This one interestingly focuses on the whole portfolio of Atari’s offerings – minimizing the games as much as they probably can.  Makes Atari look like a much different company than it was – the company they probably wanted to be.

 

Safe As Houses

This charming 1983 UK Public Information Film uses a mixture of animation and live action to teach kids about electrical safety. Voiced by Judi Dench and Michael Wiliams, it’s kind of like a G-rated “Shake Hands With Danger”.

 

Atom Bomb Blasts

This 1950s-era postcard from Benny Binion’s Horseshoe Club boasts the spectacular view of atomic weapons testing that can be had nearby. Amazing.

Benny Binion

 

Burpee Cover

Potatoes have never been so beautiful. A cover from an 18th century seed catalog.

Burpee Cover

 

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Kotter

Five Things – 04.18.16 – Foxes Will Be Destroyed

Future Magazine Covers

The relatively short-run Future, and later Future Life, magazine featured sci-fi stories and futurology from 1979 to 1981.  It included some pretty top-shelf contributors like Harlan Ellison, Roger Zelazney, and Issac Asimov and the interviews of high profile figures in the science and science fiction community are impressive but what really stands the test of time for Future are the covers.  There’s something about magazine covers from this era – it doesn’t seem to matter what the genre is, the covers are impressive. Here are some of my favorite Future and Future Life covers.

1978 Orbiter Comic Improved Human Return of the Airship

Russians

 

How’s the Weather, Lucy?

Before there were programs and apps that allowed us to do the same thing, we had Colorforms: semi-adhesive reusable plastic elements of our favorite television and movie brands that we used to build scenes of said television shows and movies.

Colorforms

They were probably pretty toxic, and we probably shouldn’t have put our hands on them or put them in our mouths.  They smelled like chemical factories and that smell never really wore off.  As far as the variety of sets goes, it got a little out of hand; there wasn’t just one set of Coloforms for a given brand, there were several sets for many different situations.  Case in point: a Peanuts set that exists only to give Lucy different clothes to wear depending on the weather.

 

Jungle Book Toy Box

This 1966 cereal ad for a Jungle Book themed toy box has a pretty exclusive design itself.

Jungle Book Toy Box

 

Keep Rabies Out

A pretty heavy-handed 1970s UK Public Service Announcement about the dangers of rabies. Why doesn’t anybody think of the cat shows?

 

 Robocop + Bad Dudes

Hats off to Data East for having the foresight to combine two different games into one commercial. Because, why not?

 

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Cooper Sanchez – Illumine

My dear friend Cooper Sanchez is at it again this weekend with Illumine: Art and Light In The Gardens.  If you’ve read miniature ships, which I wrote and he drew, you’ve seen Cooper’s incredible ink work.  If you’ve read distant friends, arizona, or (soon) the mister, you’ve seen the strong influence he’s had on my own drawing.  More than just pen and paper, though, he’s got this amazing ability to take the stuff in his head and get it out into the world without having it pass through the sieve(s) that most of us struggle with.  Sometimes it’s on canvas, other times it’s with light, still others it’s with nature, and sometimes it’s all of these.  It’s sometimes simple, sometimes complicated, but always pure. He’s got a really lovely way of looking at the world, and this show promises to back me up on that.

The show is on Saturday, April 16th at 6pm in Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta.  If you’re local, you should go. If you’re not, you should move.

Illumine

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Ladies

Five Things – 4.11.16 – Trying To Get The Planet Ready For Space Beings

The Amazing Live Sea Monkeys

In true 1980s and 1990s take-a-popular-thing-and-make-a-kids-show-out-of-it fashion, comedian Howie Mandel was prompted by his daughter’s enthusiasm for those mail-order and store bought packets of brine shrimp labelled as Sea Monkeys and made a few Hollywood calls. The result, The Amazing Live Sea Monkeys, debuted on CBS in 1992.

Sea Monkeys

The series starred Mandel as a Professor who enlarged three Sea Monkeys to human size, and the antics that result from such an assault on nature.  Each of the Sea Monkeys had a distinguishing trait that would typically either initiate or dial up said antics.

Octapotamus

CBS was in a tough spot for live action kids programming in 1992, specifically.  Pee-Wee’s Playhouse had just ended its run, and after The Amazing Live Sea Monkeys‘ cancellation, Beakman’s World would take its place.  Those are two really solid kids shows – wish the same could be said for Monkeys, but it really falls flat. Probably from trying too hard.

Here’s an episode.  11 episodes feels like too much of this.

 

1975 Betamax Promo

This debut promotional video for Sony’s Betamax comes off as a little hyperbolic, but it’s important to remember the significance of this technology when it came out.  It really was a new era and the idea of freedom from having to be in front of a living room television on a specific day and at a specific time must have been intoxicating in the 1970s.

Heaven

There are some great visual effects used for the conversations illustrating society’s tether to the live television experience, too.

Time Exercise Ladies

Here’s the video.  “It’s only purpose is to serve you.” I love it.

 

 

Vader Lives

This comic ad for Star Wars merchandise really goes on a limb in assuming you’re up to speed on the Star Wars saga.  Probably a safe bet, given the medium.

Vader Lives

 

Brylcreem Ad

The 1950s were not kind to slightly unkempt men, at all! This commercial for Brylcreem is pretty great, though and the stop-motion effects at the end are fantastic.

 

Sun Ra – Night Music 1989

My man Sun Ra appeared on a 1989 episode of the short-lived Lorne Michaels-produced Night Music, also known as Sunday Night.  If you’re a Sun Ra fan, this is fantastic. If you’re not, this will be terrible. Kind of the way it goes with Sun Ra.

 

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Clean It

Five Things – 04.04.16 – That Men May Fight

You Dont Know Jack

In the summer of 2001 ABC tried to create a televised version of the crazy successful trivia video game show You Don’t Know Jack.   It was not successful, but it did end up being kind of crazy.

YDKJ Title

The show was pretty loyal to the game’s format. Instead of the game’s regular host Cookie Masterson (who still performed as the show’s announcer), Paul Reubens played Troy Stevens – and did a really great job at it.

Troy

The guests selected were pretty colorful people, some with pretty colorful talents.

Contestant

The “standard” trivia questions were typically worded or executed in a unique way, true to the video game’s style.  There were also mini-games throughout the show, just like in the game, that offered bonus money.

YDKJ Question

The “Dis or Dat” minigame picked one player and gave them two categories. Troy would then run through several items that the player had to place in the correct category.

Dis or Dat

Dis or Dat 2

Narrative arcs sometimes carried through the shows as well, centered around Troy.  The final round is the same as in the video game, the “Jack Attack” lightning round that pits the top two contestants against each other . Reubens really puts on his Pee-Wee hat for this round.

Jack Attack 2 Jack Attack

All in all, a fun show – I guess America wasn’t ready for game shows that didn’t involve asking if you wanted to be a millionaire or what’s in a briefcase.  You Don’t Know Jack ran for six episodes and was cancelled.

Here’s an episode.

 

Wall Street

Wall Street Title

This bizarre 1982 arcade game has two types of rounds. In one, you are rescue workers saving stock brokers who have jumped out of windows in attempts to commit suicide.

Wall Street 1

In the other, you are presumably a banker or stock broker running through the streets of a foreign city destroying tanks that are pursuing you and collecting large sums of money.

Wall Street 2

Here’s some gameplay.  I don’t understand. I mean, I understand the gameplay, but not the container that the gameplay was placed in.

 

YWCA Posters

In 1918, the YWCA provided personnel to assist the Armed Forces in World War I.  Here are some gorgeous posters from designed to raise money for the effort.

Men May Fight Help Our Boys Care for Her Building For Health Back Our Girls

 

Clean It

This mid-’80s McDonald’s training video features a Michael Jackson ripoff encouraging employees to clean the restaurant.  I use the term “training video” loosely, as there’s not much how-to here other than “clean it”!

 

Castlevania Soundtrack

The score for the original Castlevania on the Nintendo Entertainment System is real funky! Who knew, or remembered?

 

 

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Hog

Five Things – 03.28.16 – It’s That Party Line Piggy

Adventure in Telezonia

This 1950 film teaches kids how to use the phone correctly, politely, and efficiently. And if in the process of learning a kid picks up some nightmare fuel along the way, so what?

Telezonia

The film is produced by and features the Bil Baird marionette puppets as the residents of Telezonia, but I’m getting ahead of myself. We’re immediately introduced to the main character, for lack of a better word, named Handy.

Handy

Handy travels the phone lines of the world listening in on people’s conversations. He knows when you’re sick and on the phone with the doctor, he knows what you’re ordering for dinner, and he knows when you’ve lost your dog like Bobby has.

Listening In Bobby

Handy tells Bobby he can help him find his dog and instead of putting up flyers or going outside he whisks him away to the land of Telezonia to learn about phone etiquette with his friends.

Telezonia 1

Telezonia’s what you would expect a society built around and beholden to the telephone to look like.  The residents all have specific roles in telephone usage. For instance, this guy tells you to wait for a dial tone. Remember dial tones?

Dial Tone

This girl is the party line expert.

Calling the Party Line

And this guy’s job in this society is to hog the party line and make everyone hate him.

Hog

I’m not going to drag out the ending; they find the dog and it’s all thanks to the telephone skills Bobby learned in Telezonia.  Here’s the film – I’m not sure what’s scarier – the puppets themselves or the antiquated way telephone operation used to be!

 

 

Ark II Animated

Space:1970’s got a great set of animatics for a never-realized animated version of the post-apocalyptic kid’s show, Ark II.  Check out the link for the rest.

Ark Animated

 

Victory Garden Poster

A gorgeous, gorgeous poster compelling Americans to grow victory gardens to feed themselves during World War II. I love everything about victory gardens, besides the conditions that necessitated them.

Victory Garden

 

Primley’s Chewing Gum Ad

And a beautiful ad from the 19th century for Primley’s Chewing Gum!

Primleys

 

The Abominable Dr. Phibes

Check out this amazing poster for The Abominable Dr. Phibes!

Phibes Poster

And a newspaper ad which is just as good in its own way!

Dr Phibes Newspaper

And this amazing trailer!

 

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Man and His World

Five Things – 03.21.16 – If They Do This, What Will Happen?

Incredible Machine

The 1960s must have been a pretty exciting time to work in R&D at a telecommunications company like Bell Labs. Computers were still huge but becoming common in the workplace.  By the end of the decade several communication satellites were in orbit and each day it was becoming easier and easier to transmit information across the globe. Combine this technology with the futurist ideas of the time and you get a lot of musings about how daily life could be transformed by personal communication and computer integration – a lot of which has borne itself out over the years.

In a lot of ways this film is a subset of that endeavor, but it does a good job at reflecting the larger idea – using computers to help us understand ourselves so that we can then help ourselves using computers.

Incredible Machine

The Incredible Machine is a snapshot of our 1968 efforts at developing computer graphics, synthesized music, computer-made movies, and digital input devices, all things which defined the decades that followed. Visually, there’s a lot to love here:

Painting Areas Graph Globe Diagram

These are the guys who paved the way for me to become delighted when Alexa tells me the weather and frustrated when Siri seres me dubstep instead of folk.  God bless you, gentlemen. Here’s the whole film.

 

1977 Atari 2600 Commercial

This holiday ad for the Atari 2600 system is pretty great; in this age of the decline of the department store it’s neat to see how central and relevant it is here.

 

Collector’s Item

Vincent Price and Peter Lorre together? Sign me up. Collector’s Item was a pilot that never went to series featuring Price as Prentiss, an appraiser of collectables and Lorre as Munsey, his associate.

Collector's Item

The idea seems to be for the series to be a mystery/detective show themed around legendary artifacts and the seedier side of their tracking/acquisition/theft.  It’s a promising idea, not sure why it didn’t get broadcast or picked up.  Price and Lorre are great in this.

 

Tetris 2

Here’s Nintendo’s attempt to capture that Tetris lightning in yet another bottle. Not as successful but just as ’90s!

 

Beijing 1920

Ten years later! Here’s Beijing from 1920.  I think I liked 1910 better but still, beautiful.

 

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tenspeed ad

Five Things – 03.14.15 – Square, Rectangle, Trapezoid, Tetrazoid!

System Technology

It’s a really dry title and if we’re being honest, a really dry delivery.  BUT! If you squint a little bit at this early 1960s informational film by the Systems Development Corporation you’ll find a lot to love beyond the subject matter.

System Technology

If you’re into the step by step development process for early warning systems for aircraft you’ll already be on board.  But let’s assume you aren’t. The film benefits from the inescapable fact that the camera was pointing at things happening in the ’60s.   More specifically, it’s pointed at men and women who are wearing clothes and using machines that existed in the 1960s.

Team

Bank Americard Tape Suit Room Illumination Wheel Data Entry

The subject is interesting, but the structure of the film just isn’t.  Using a man-from-the-future perspective it’s noteworthy just how much of this process is probably truncated and made vastly more efficient today.  The hand tools and bulky machines used are fantastic in their ubiquity as well as their design.

The film oddly cuts into animated segments that look like lifts from a Roald Dahl book.

Meeting

Data Processing

And there’s a strange bit toward the end about computers replacing teachers in a 1:1 classroom setting.

Computer Teacher

If you’re going to name a project  “The Leviathan Project”, your first step really needs to be to make sure it’s an interesting project.

Leviathan Project

All-in-all, worth the watch.  Not for what it’s about, but what it does while it’s being about what it’s about. Here it is.

 

Tenspeed and Brown Shoe

This 1980 one-season detective show featured stage veteran Ben Vereen (also Wil Smith’s father on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air!) playing a hustler-turned-detective and an up-and-coming nobody named Jeff Goldbum playing his partner, a straight-laced accountant-turned-detecive who was a Black Belt in Karate.  That kind of feels like putting too many spices in the soup.

Tenspeed Title

Regardless, it gave us intros like this…

…and newspaper/TV Guide ads like this…

tenspeed ad

…and for that, I’m thankful.

 

1910 Beijing

This is easily the most beautiful thing I’ve seen this week.  I could watch this over and over again.

 

Tetris Commercial

It’s easy to forget or overlook the stranglehold that Tetris had on the American public in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  This commercial ran in pretty much every break on kid’s TV back then.  It tries way too hard!

 

Practical Taxidermy

I love this beautiful 19th-century cover for a book called Practical Taxidermy.  I wonder if impractical taxidermy got a similarly ornate treatment.

Practical Taxidermy

 

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Big Picture

Five Things – 03.07.16 – Tiny the Mustache Twirler Is Pointing At Me

Popular Science Covers

Here’s a roundup of some gorgeous covers of the long-running Popular Science magazine. Retrofuturism bliss ahead!

Popular Science 3 Popular Science 2 Popular Science 1

I particularly love this one featuring automotive issues as devils!

Popular Science 5

 

Blankety Blanks

This 1977 game show is an Australian version of The Match Game. Pretty much line-by-line. They even had their own Charles Nelson Reilly!

Blankety Blanks

Blankety Blanks 2

David

It’s probably my own ignorance that I don’t know who these celebrities are, but for me this is like what waking up in an alternate dimension in the 1970s and seeing their version of The Match Game would be.

 

Science Moves The Army

I’m not much of a war guy by any means; I certainly don’t plan to start any myself. This 1950s propaganda film about the role science is playing in military development, however, is still pretty fascinating.

 

Lucid Dream Machine

How about this crazy 1980s infomercially ad for a Lucid Dream Machine? Also, I’m in for two. Get me Preston Hogarth on the phone.

 

Bonk’s Adventures Commercial

A super cute animated 1990s Bonk’s Adventure (called PC Kid in Japan) commercial rounds us out this week.

 

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Atom Banner

Five Things – 02.29.16 – I Swear By My Tattoo

Saturday Morning Sneak Peek 

Well, they called it what it was. No razzle, no dazzle, no confusion. Also, this was apparently before drop-shadow was invented.

Saturday Morning Sneak Peek

Avery Schreiber and Jack Burns host this 1973 ABC special, under the premise that the comedy duo is setting up a surprise party for Schreiber’s nephew.  Burns pulls some strings to invite who he considers the Hollywood A-list: Bugs Bunny, Yogi Bear, Batman, Superman, and Lassie.

Yogi Avery

Oh, and Rick Springfield.

Yogi Rick

Oh, and Superman is played by Chuck Woolery.

Superman

As they wait for the party to begin, each attendee shows off a reel of their Saturday Morning show: Lassie Rescue Rangers, Superfriends, Yogi’s Ark, and Mission: Magic, which looks absolutely bananas.  Springfield predictably introduces his cartoon musically.

Springfield Dance

Can’t find the full episode of this anywhere, so I don’t know how the party goes but thanks to Avery Schreiber’s son we have about 15 minutes of ’70s-era-TV-magic.  And it is magical.

 

The Power of He-Man

This 1983 home video game features some fantastic box art, a pack-in comic, some great advertising and….some mediocre graphics and gameplay.  I’m a little upset that I wasn’t aware of this game in 1983, when I was in the middle of my He-Man Mania.  He-Mania? Nevermind.

The_Power_of_He-Man He Man Ad

Pretty ads, right? Here’s our hero in the game:

Masters Title 1

Oh wait, here he is as He-Man:

Masters Title 2

The first portion of the game is a side-scroller in He-Man’s speeder.
Masters Gameplay 1

The second portion is a gorgeous ripoff of Yars’ Revenge set in Castle Greyskull.

Masters Gameplay 2

Here’s a playthrough:

 

Radiological Defense

To me, this film is more chiliing than The 8th Day from last week. It’s a 1961 public informational film that goes to lengths to both educate its viewer on the nature of fallout and radiation itself as well as provide information on what to do in the event of a nuclear attack.  This one has a kinder hand than most films of this type – there’s not a lot of fear here, just a compassionate sort of education. And some great illustration.

Fallout Map Fallout Atom

 

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea Trailer

There’s everything to love about this trailer. I could only imagine how stunning this would have been in 1954.

 

How to Dance Manual

Beautiful, beautiful design on this 19th century dance manual cover.

How to Dance

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