Thoughts & Musings for Mid-Week: June 24, 2020

My mom in 2009, about a year before her health issues prevented her from going to Publix. (Photo by the author.)

Musings for Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Well, it’s midafternoon here in my tranquil corner of Florida on this, the 24th day of June 2020. It is hot and sunny outside, with temperatures in the neighborhood of 95˚ F  but with a heat index of 100˚ or more.

Now, I know what you’re going to say: “It’s summer, and you live in Florida. Of course it’s going to be hot. It’s the subtropics!”

Yes, it is summer here in the Sunshine State, and yes, I know that this is not exactly the Arctic Circle. But aside from a six-year stay in Colombia between the ages of three and nine and a three-month-long study abroad stint in Seville Spain almost 32 years ago, I’ve lived in Florida all of my life. I’ve experienced all sorts of weather events – from the day it snowed in Miami (January 20, 1977) to a long chain of hurricanes, tropical storms, and even no-name storms – and I can honestly say: until the mid-2000s, it didn’t get this hot so early in the season. 

Highs in the 90s (with heat indexes of 100+ degrees) are common in late July all the way to mid-September. Or at least they used to be. My late mother, in the last years of her life, even commented that she used to hold off turning on the air conditioning till mid-June up until 2003 or so.

Incidentally, I used to dread the coming of summer between 2010 and 2015; Mom was mostly confined to a hospital-type bed in what used to be the guest room in our small townhouse in the Fountainbleau Park area of Miami-Dade County after having back surgery in June of 2010. As her primary caregiver, I fretted about such things as power outages, heat waves, and hurricanes, not so much for the house or even for my own survival, but because Mom insisted that she would rather die at home rather than be evacuated or – worse – go to my half-sister’s apartment.

Indeed, there was one day – I can’t remember the year, but it must have been either in 2013 or 2014 – when we had a power outage shortly after noon on a hot July day. I had help that day; one of the respite aides from Easter Seals was there when the lights, the TV in Mom’s room, my laptop (I was writing a piece for Examiner), and the air conditioning went out, and later my half-sister Victoria dropped by as well.

But my mother’s room had a large window that faced due west, and even though we had some shade from the lychee tree my grandmother planted in the backyard in 1979, sunlight still streamed in starting around one o’clock in the afternoon and didn’t let up till after seven or so in the evening. So that room was unbearably hot in the summertime, and even though Florida Power & Light (FP&L) sent out a repair team as soon as they could, Mom was drenched in sweat and her room felt as hot as an oven.

Vicky and the Easter Seals respite worker did their best to coax Mom into drinking cool liquids, and eventually the power was restored and, with it, the fan in her bedroom and the house’s air conditioner. Mom took it like a trouper on that occasion and didn’t complain much, but there would be other occasions when we’d have what FP&L called “main line power outages” or a transformer would literally explode, and the power would be out for half the day and well into the night. I could cope with the heat by going out for brief walks while the home health aide or my half-sister watched over my mother. Mom, who was bedridden because she’d lost the will to walk sometime in the summer of 2012, could not.

A short time before she died in July of 2015, even though her memory was not terribly reliable due to the effects of dementia, Mom remarked, “Is it me, or are summers getting hotter?”

Odds and Ends

I had hoped to write a review today, but I stayed up too late trying to watch a movie out in our Florida room. I had to wait until somebody else finished watching  America’s Got Talent  – a talent show that I don’t care for, to be honest  – so I could use the TV and the Blu-ray player. I had a hard time choosing what to watch, so rather than doing the wise thing – reading a book might have been a better idea – I ended up watching Star Wars (aka Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) for the nth time.

I tried watching it with the “archival audio commentary track” on the Blu-ray disc from the “international region-free” Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga box set I bought for “regular use” so that I don’t have to handle the more expensive Best Buy Exclusive set with the 4K UHD discs, at least not until we can finish the protracted process of setting up the UHD TV set and its Blu-ray player. I’ve listened to the other audio commentary tracks for the Original Trilogy films in the 2004 DVD set and the 2011 Blu-ray set many times over the past 16 years, but I can’t say the same about the “archival” audio tracks, which are edited from various sources, including 1970s era interviews by the late Charles Lippincott – Lucasfilm’s first vice president for public relations – and the audio track from Kevin Burns’ Empire of Dreams: The Making of the Star Wars Trilogy.

I think I managed to watch about half of A New Hope before I finally got sleepy, ejected the disc, put it in its storage compartment, turned off the TV and Blu-ray player, and shuffled quietly to bed. I’m not sure what time it was when I went to sleep, but it must have been past one in the morning. I managed to wake up early, but I didn’t have it in me to think of something to review or write something topical.

Oh, and speaking of 4K UHD Blu-rays and Star Wars:  I had Rewards Points in my Best Buy account, but they were due to expire on July 4, so I had to choose between using them or losing them. I’d earned lots of points when I ordered the Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga box set In March and a couple of other things in April, but I had let most of them lapse. I only had a $5 certificate left in my Best Buy account, but I wasn’t going to let that lapse, too.

(C) 2017 Buena Vista Home Entertainment and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)
(C) 2018 Buena Vista Home Entertainment and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

So, Dear Reader, I decided to get the 4K UHD discs of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Solo: A Star Wars Story. I really wanted the steel book ones, but I think Target, not Best Buy, sells those. And rather than let my hard-earned $5 credit go to waste, I applied it to my order. If all goes well – and in these COVID-19 times, there’s always a chance that something may not go well – I’ll have my 12th and 13th 4K UHD Blu-rays in my collection by Monday of next week.

Well, that’s all I have to report today. So, until next time, Dear Reader, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.

‘Star Wars’ Collectibles & Toys Review: Star Wars The Black Series Lando Calrissian (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Figure)

Photo Credit: Hasbro. (C) 2020 Hasbro, Inc. and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Lando Calrissian: Smuggler, Cardplayer, Scoundrel…..

On June 22, 2020, Rhode Island-based toymaker Hasbro, Inc. released Star Wars The Black Series Lando Calrissian (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Figure), one of a wave of new or repackaged 6-inch scale figures featuring characters from director Irvin Kershner’s Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. This wave includes Luke Skywalker (Snowspeeder), Imperial TIE Fighter Pilot, and Rebel Soldier (Hoth). Based on the smuggler-turned-Baron Administrator of Cloud City played by actor Billy Dee Williams, this figure is a fine example of Hasbro’s commitment to creating Star Wars action figures that fans of all ages will seek out and add to their collection.

As envisioned by George Lucas in his early concepts for Empire, Lando Calrissian is a “slick, riverboat gambler type of dude. Han Solo is a rather crude, rough and tumble kind of guy; this guy will be a very slicked down, elegant, James Bond-type. He’s much more of a con man, which puts him more in the Mr. Spock style of thinking, being smart, cool, and taking tremendous chances. An emotional Spock, someone who uses his wits rather than his brawn. He could be a gambler friend of Han Solo’s. They’re both underworld characters.” [1]

Lando Calrissian was the second all-new major character introduced in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (the other, of course, was Yoda, the diminutive but wise-and-powerful Jedi Master). In essence, he is what we now call a “frenemy” for Han, a person from Solo’s past – in this case, a fellow smuggler, and the previous owner of the Millennium Falcon. In Empire, Lando is a man who is content with the status quo of the galaxy; he’s not overtly loyal to Emperor Palpatine’s New Order, but he’s willing to overlook its repressiveness and avoid supporting the Rebellion – as long as the Empire doesn’t interfere in his lucrative tibanna gas mining business in Bespin’s Cloud City.  

In many ways, Lando Calrissian is the kind of person Han Solo might have been had he not joined the Rebellion after the Battle of Yavin; a smooth-talking underworld figure looking out only for himself. However, Lando’s position as Baron-Administrator of Cloud City have made him grow a bit beyond that. As Han observes in Empire, Lando is now “a businessman, a responsible leader.” And once his “deal” with a certain Dark Lord of the Sith falls apart and Lando sees the ruthless, venal side of the Empire, he, too, undergoes a transformation from a shady fringe-of-the-galaxy criminal to newly-converted freedom fighter and Rebel.   

The Original Figure

LANDO CALRISSIAN: After losing the Millennium Falcon to Han Solo, Lando Calrissian went semi-respectable as the administrator of Cloud City. – Hasbro promotional blurb, Star Wars The Black Series Lando Calrissian

Photo Credit: Hasbro. (C) 2020 Hasbro, Inc. and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

This Star Wars The Black Series 6-inch scale action figure is a descendent of Kenner Toys original 1980 Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 3.75-inch micro-action figure. Indeed, the package’s back card uses the same still image from the movie on the obverse side, as well as most of the logos and other indicia found on the Kenner figure’s cardback from 40 years ago.

Of course, this 2020 figure is not a remake of the 1980 figure – Hasbro has a separate product line called the Retro collection, which consists of almost-exact replicas of the 3.75-inch figures from the late 1970s and early 1980s. Instead, Star Wars The Black Series Lando Calrissian is a reissue of Hasbro’s 6-inch scale Star Wars The Black Series Lando Calrissian #39 from June 2017, with the same sculpt, paint job, and set of accessories but in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary packaging.

Star Wars The Black Series figures are designed and sculpted to look as closely as possible as the Star Wars characters they represent; Lando Calrissian  looks a lot like Billy Dee Willams’ “card player, smuggler, scoundrel”  as he appeared in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back.

Modern toy manufacturing technology and Hasbro’s continuing efforts to bridge the gap between “toys” and “collectibles” have gradually improved the look of Star Wars-based action figures since it purchased Cincinnati-based Kenner Toys in the merger mania of the 1990s. The 1978-1985 Star Wars micro-action figures that I collected when I was a teenager and young adult were cool and fun to acquire and display, but even the most ardent fans admit that:

  • Most of the human characters had a “generic toy-like” look to them
  • They had limited points of articulation (POA)

Kids younger than, say, nine or 10 usually didn’t notice these flaws, or if they did, they allowed their imaginations to override what their eyes saw and transport them to that galaxy far, far away in their own adventures pitting the heroes of the Rebellion against the forces of the evil Empire. I was too old – I started collecting Star Wars figures on my 15th birthday – and I did notice such details as Luke Skywalker’s hair (and lightsaber blade) being too yellow and that Han Solo, Princess Leia Organa, and Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi didn’t really resemble Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, or Alec Guinness.

Kenner’s 1980 Lando Calrissian figure looks nothing like Billy Dee Williams. Kenner’s Hong Kong-based factories simply didn’t have the technology – such as computer aided design/computer aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM) – to give the small figure the necessary detailing so that it would look like the smooth-talking cardsharp and conman. His skin tone was usually a darker shade of cocoa than that of the actor who plays Lando, and Kenner gave the figure a permanent smile on its tiny sculpted plastic face. And Lando’s elegant cape, which was sky-blue with gold trim on the obverse side and lined with gold-colored fabric, was a solid gray vinyl “cape” in the same style as those solid-color capes worn by Darth Vader, Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi, and Princess Leia Organa.

Lando Calrissian – Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Figure

40TH ANNIVERSARY FIGURE: Celebrate 40 years of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back with this Lando Calrissian The Black Series action figure featuring 1980s-inspired design. – Hasbro promotional blurb on the Lando Calrissian – Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary action figure page

What’s in the Box?

Photo Credit: Hasbro. (C) 2020 Hasbro, Inc. and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

As I mentioned earlier, this Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary figure is a repackaged Star Wars The Black Series Lando Calrissian #39 in “Kenner branding.” The 1980s-styled packaging is a scaled-up (from 3.75-inch scale to 6-inch scale) card back with the same still featuring Billy Dee Williams and a blister pack with the 6-inch figure inside. The old “Kenner” blue-and-white logo is placed – as it was in 1980 – on the lower-right corner of the front side; the back mimics some of the 1980-era branding as well, with five promo photos of figures from the Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Collection surrounded by a silvery Star Wars collection logo.

The five figures advertised here are:

  • Luke Skywalker (Snowspeeder)
  • Lando Calrissian
  • Imperial TIE Fighter Pilot
  • Rebel Soldier (Hoth)
  • Artoo-Detoo (R2-D2) (Dagobah)

The figure is wearing the elegant cerulean blue tunic, yellow shirt, and dark blue trousers we saw Lando wear throughout much of his on-screen time in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. This outfit is accessorized with a stylish black belt and matching black boots, as well as a flowing blue-and-gold cape. Because Lando wears his tunic closed, we don’t see as much of his yellow undershirt as the image on the packaging implies.

The figure also comes with two accessories:

  • A DH-17 Blaster
  • A Cloud City Communicator

PREMIUM ARTICULATION AND DETAILING: Star Wars fans and collectors can display this highly poseable (4 fully articulated limbs) figure, featuring premium deco, in their action figure and vehicle collection. – Hasbro promotional blurb on the Lando Calrissian – Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary action figure page

A significant distinction between the old and new Star Wars figures is the number of points of articulation (POAs) they have. In the context of toy manufacturing, POAs are analogous to joints in the human body, such as the neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and so on. The more POAs a figure has, the more lifelike the poses can be.

An original 1980 Lando Calrissian action figure, seen here in an eBay auction listing shown on Worthpoint.com. Photo Credit: Worthpoint.com

Kenner micro-action figures from 1978 to 1985 usually have only five POAs. They are:

  • One in the neck area (to turn the figure’s head from side to side.
  • Two in the shoulders (to have the figure “aim” a blaster or brandish a lightsaber in “action poses”) or make the figure look like the character is driving/flying a vehicle
  • Two in the hips (to place the figure in a sitting position in a vehicle)

Some figures, such as R2-D2 and R5-D4, only had three POAs; Chewbacca only had four because his head and torso were sculpted as a single piece and thus had no neck swivel point.

Kenner tried hard to make its figures as good-looking and “playable” for kids as possible, so it sculpted some of the figures in such a way that the limbs had natural-looking “bends” at the knees and elbows, but most of the characters (Rebels, Imperials, or “neutrals”) could only grip their blasters in one-handed (and straight-armed) handholds.

Hasbro’s Star Wars The Black Series Lando Calrissian  (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Figure is not only larger than its 1980 precursor, but it also boasts 13 points of articulation. They are:

  • One for the neck
  • Two for Lando’s shoulders
  • Two for his elbows
  • Two for his wrists
  • Two for his hips
  • Two for his knees
  • Two for his lower legs

The advantage of having so many POAs in a figure is that one can pose it in more realistic ways. This is especially true if you create Star Wars dioramas for fun (and to display your action figures).

My Take

The Star Wars saga captured the hearts of millions with iconic characters, impressive vehicles, and a galaxy of stories that has passed the test of time again and again. Commemorate the 40TH Anniversary of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back with figures from The Black Series, featuring classic design and packaging! (Each sold separately. Subject to availability.) – Hasbro promotional blurb on the Lando Calrissian – Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary action figure page

Photo Credit: Hasbro. (C) 2020 Hasbro, Inc. and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

I’ve been collecting Star Wars action figures – and other collectibles – since I was 15 years old. I have several Lando Calrissian action figures from the various 3.75-inch scale collections made by both Kenner and Hasbro over the past 42 years. Some of them, of course, are from Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, including Lando Calrissian (Skiff Guard) and Lando Calrissian (General), but I also have counterparts to this figure, including the 1980 original from Kenner and a 2000s-era Power of the Jedi figure that would be a “Mini-Me” to this one.

I received my Star Wars The Black Series Lando Calrissian (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary) figure yesterday. It is still in its Kenner-branded blister package with 1980s-styled cardback, but from what I see it is a nice rendition of the character  George Lucas described as “a very slicked down, elegant, James Bond-type.”

I don’t think that his face is 100% like Billy Dee Williams’ – some actors are difficult to render in figures of this size, after all – but there is a resemblance. Lando’s skin tone is certainly lighter and more lifelike than that depicted on my 1980 Kenner action figure, which had more of a “dark chocolate” complexion. And the general contours of Lando’s face are sculpted quite nicely – the guy has a nicely neutral-but-serious look on his countenance, which I prefer to a perpetually-smiling one.

I like the amount of detail that Hasbro has given to this figure. The two-tone removable cape is made out of fabric, and the design is faithful to costume designer John Mollo’s. I like how it has the blue-with-gold trim on the outer side, and the gold-colored lining on the inside.

Photo Credit: Hasbro. (C) 2020 Hasbro, Inc. and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Another cool detail: Hasbro doesn’t content itself with giving the figures “solid-color’ accessories, not even with figures that are smaller than this one. The DH-17 blaster has silver and black coloring, and the Cloud City Communicator is silver with gold-and-black detailing.

Whether you are a long-time Star Wars action figure collector or new to the hobby, if you don’t already have the original Star Wars The Black Series Lando Calrissian #39 figure, get this one before resellers snatch them all up for Hasbro’s MSRP of $19.99 and sell them on eBay or third-party stores at Amazon for inflated prices.

 Star Wars The Black Series Lando Calrissian (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary) figure is a nicely rendered replica of a character who has been a fan favorite for over 40 years, and the packaging adds a bit of nostalgia, especially for adults who grew up with the original Kenner Star Wars figures.

As always, I hope you enjoyed reading this review as much as I enjoyed putting it together. And until next time, May the Force be with you.


[1] The Empire Strikes Back Story Conference, November 28 to December 2, 1977, transcript summary, as quoted in The Making of The Empire Strikes Back, J.W. Rinzler, Del Rey Books, New York, 2010.

‘Star Wars’ Collectibles & Toys Review: Hasbro Star Wars The Black Series Rebel Trooper Action Figure

Photo Credit: Hasbro, Inc. via DHCollectibles.com

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Drawn from many homeworlds and species, Rebel troopers were the Alliance’s front-line soldiers in the war against the Empire. They defended the Alliance’s leaders on countless worlds and during many operations, changing uniforms and tactics to meet each challenge. ﹘ Packaging blurb, Star Wars: The Black Series #69 Rebel Trooper

Hasbro introduced the 69th Star Wars The Black Series 6-inch scale action figure, Rebel Trooper, a little over two years ago at the International Toy Fair, an annual event held in New York City’s Jacob K. Javitz Convention Center. Based on a minor character seen in the opening sequence of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, this figure was one of three new figures introduced in an assortment that also included Tobias Beckett (#68) and Han Solo (Bespin) – the latter being the 70th figure in the Star Wars The Black Series collection.

This “wave” started shipping out to retailers – both “brick and mortar” and online stores such as Amazon and Entertainment Earth – in July of 2018, thus increasing the ranks of Star Wars character-based action figures in the Star Wars The Black Series, a Hasbro product line (or collection, if you prefer) that started in 2014 and is popular among Star Wars fans and collectors alike.

Launch into lightspeed adventures with a collection of classic and new characters, vehicles, and role-play items that feature the authentic movie-styling and battle action of the Star Wars universe. ﹘  Hasbro promotional blurb 

 What’s in the Box?

Star Wars The Black Series Rebel Soldier comes in a distinctive red-and-black box, a style of package Hasbro introduced six years ago. The box features the collection’s logo above the “window” on the front panel, and there’s an illustration of the character – done in a muted silver-gray color – on the lower right hand corner of the package’s obverse face.

A screenshot from my digital copy of Star Wars: A New Hope.

A close look at the illustration reveals that Rebel Soldier isn’t just a generic trooper, but represents the first Rebel character seen in Star Wars: A New Hope – the steely-gazed veteran soldier who is the first to raise a DH-17 blaster and aim it at the hatch through which a boarding party of Imperial stormtroopers will invade Princess Leia’s Tantive IV (aka the Rebel Blockade Runner) in an attempt to intercept the stolen Death Star plans.

 In the box?

Well, Star Wars The Black Series Rebel Trooper (#69) is a 6-inch scale figure that depicts a gray-haired, blue-eyed veteran soldier with prominent gray eyebrows and an expression of grim determination sculpted on his face. He wears  a Rebel Alliance fleet trooper’s uniform that includes a vest (removable), a helmet (removable), blue uniform shirt, gray combat trousers, and black service boots. In addition, Rebel Trooper comes with a BlasTech DH-17 blaster pistol and a set of the Death Star plans.

(Incidentally, the simulated “data card” in this figure’s set of accessories links Rebel Trooper to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, as well as to Star Wars: A New Hope.)

My Take

Build your Star Wars collection with authentic, highly detailed Star Wars collectible figures, vehicles, and Force FX lightsabers from The Black Series. Advance into battle with role-play gear that includes blasters, masks, and iconic, customizable lightsabers that are part of the Star Wars blade builders system. ﹘ Hasbro promotional blurb

When I collected the original Kenner Toys action figures – or, as Kenner called them in 1978, “micro-action figures” – in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Rebel Trooper was one of the two characters from the 1977 film that I most wished to have a figure of. (The other one was Grand Moff Tarkin; apparently, a figure based on the Governor of the Imperial Outlands and commander of the first Death Star was designed, but it was never produced.) It wasn’t till the mid-1990s that Kenner – now a division of Hasbro – finally released action figures of the Rebel trooper and Tarkin.

I own two different versions of the 3.75-inch scale Rebel Trooper action figure: a bulky Rebel Fleet Trooper that looks like he’s taken too many steroids, and a 2000s-era Tantive IV Defender variant from the Star Wars: Power of the Jedi line. As a result, I didn’t exactly need #69 Rebel Trooper from the Star Wars: The Black Series collection. Nevertheless, Hasbro did well when it picked one of the more prominent (yet anonymous) crew members of the Tantive IV as its choice for a “minor character action figure.”

Rebel Trooper is truly a top-quality figure. The sculpt/paint job on the figure, which literally could have represented any of the Rebel defenders assigned to delay Vader and his boarding party long enough for Princess Leia to get the Death Star plans away from her captured Blockade Runner, is outstanding. Both the action figure itself and the line drawing on the packaging are so well-done that I immediately knew who the figure was supposed to represent. 

When I ordered Rebel Trooper earlier this year from Amazon, I didn’t notice those details; I just saw that Hasbro had made the figure and that it was available – from a third-party seller – for a reasonable price ($25.98 vs. the MSRP of $19.99). I also didn’t notice that the figure comes with the “data tape” with the Death Star plans and a removable helmet until I received my figure back in late February.

This Star Wars The Black Series figure is, I believe, a Star Wars collectible that is worthy of adding to anyone’s collection. 

Product Information

  • Manufacturer: Hasbro
  • Source Film: Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope
  • Year: 2018
  • Original Retail: $19.99
  • Assortment Number: E1210/B3834
  • UPC Number: 6 30509 68391 8

Thoughts and Musings on a Sunday Afternoon: June 21, 2020

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Well, Constant Reader, it’s Sunday afternoon here in my corner of the Sunshine State, and it’s hot, muggy, and uncomfortable outside. According to my computer’s Weather app, the current temperature is 95˚ F (35˚C), but with an almost becalmed wind and a humidity level of 50%, the feels-like temperature is 105˚ F (41˚C) outside. (Inside the house, that’s a different story; we have the air conditioning on at 74˚ F, or if you use the Celsius scale, 23˚ C.)  According to the forecast, no rain or thunderstorms are expected in our vicinity, but it is hot and humid out there.

I had hoped to have a review or a Movie Watcher’s Memory (MWM) post written and published by now, but the Muses have not been smiling on me this weekend. I started one draft for an MWM post yesterday, but the narrative was going nowhere, so it’s in my “saved drafts” folder in WordPress, at least for now.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

As for reviews…well, last week I wrote two reviews on my latest additions to my Blu-ray library. I have many other Blu-rays and DVDs in my collection to review, as well as books and Star Wars collectibles, but I think that staying up late to watch not just Superman: The Movie but a documentary about the making of the movie Alien Resurrection as well wasn’t the best of ideas.

Promotional photo by Hasbro. (C) 2020 Hasbro, Inc. and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

I do know, however, that if you enjoy my reviews of Star Wars The Black Series figures, you will be seeing at least one new write-up. Today Amazon shipped the Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Lando Calrissian figure that I preordered in April. It’s supposed to get here tomorrow, so I’ll have a write-up on WordPress later in the week. I’d love to say I’ll have it up by Tuesday evening, but since we are entering the rain-and-storm season here in Florida, I can’t guarantee that.

My dad in his Aerocondor pilot’s uniform, circa 1960.

Today is Father’s Day 2020, so I will close this brief Sunday musing by wishing all of my readers who are fathers a Happy Father’s Day. I hope it has been a good one so far, and that you are all keeping safe and healthy during these tough and scary times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Book Review: Marvel Comics ‘Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope’ (Remastered 2015 Edition)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Cover art by Adi Granov (C) 2015 Marvel Comics and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope

Based on a screenplay by George Lucas

Writer/Editor: Roy Thomas

Artist: Howard Chaykin

Consulting Editor (1977): Archie Goodwin

Cover Artist (2015): Adi Granov

The original comic adaptation of the greatest space-fantasy film of all is remastered for the modern age! Weeks before George Lucas’ first Star Wars film hit theatres, Marvel gave fans their first look at Luke Skywalker, boldly asking: “Will he save the galaxy, or destroy it?” You may know the answer, but that doesn’t spoil the fun of seeing Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope like never before…including scenes that never made the silver screen! When Princess Leia is taken prisoner, Luke, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2 ride to the rescue and take on Darth Vader in his awesome Death Star. It’s six against a galaxy – one that’s far, far away and a long time ago! May the Force be with you, in the mighty Marvel manner!  – from the back cover blurb, Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope 

Marvel Comics Star Wars #1 was published in April of 1977, several weeks before the May 25 release of the film. (C) 1977 Marvel Comics Group and 20th Century Fox Film Corporation

On May 5, 2015, Marvel Worldwide published Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope, a 128-page volume that contains issues 1-6 of Marvel’s original 1977 Star Wars comics.

Published originally in 1977, the six-issue series was scripted by writer-editor Roy Thomas and drawn by Marvel’s legendary Howard Chaykin, the artist who also created Star Wars’ first poster for the 1976 San Diego Comic-Con. Based on an early version of George Lucas’s fourth draft of the Star Wars screenplay, Thomas’s comic adaptation gave fans their first in-depth look at Star Wars nearly a month before the film’s May 25. 1977 premiere.

For the most part, Thomas’s comics adaptation closely resembles Lucas’s finished film; however, it recounts the events in Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope in subtly different ways, due to differences between the screenplay Thomas was using as a reference and the final shooting script.

Early in the first issue, Thomas introduces Luke Skywalker in a scene that intercuts the capture of Princess Leia’s consular ship with panels of the young moisture farmer seeing the battle through his macrobinoculars. Director Lucas shot those scenes at the insistence of some of his friends who thought Luke needed to be in the movie earlier. But after thinking about it further, Lucas deleted them because they slowed the movie’s pacing.

There are other differences between the comic adaptation and Lucas’s Star Wars. In his introduction to the remastered version, the late Peter Mayhew, who played the role of Chewbacca in five of the nine  Star Wars Skywalker Saga films, writes:

In the comics, Chewbacca often comes off as a barrel-chested bruiser rather than the gentle giant he was in the films. Seeing another artist’s interpretation of the characters, whether it be in comics or book form, is always fun for me. 

Other minor changes include:

  • Darth Vader uses the Force to summon a cup across a Death Star conference room during his confrontation with an Imperial admiral.
  • Jabba the Hut (there’s only one t in this pre-1983 version of Star Wars) is presented as a humanoid alien in a scene that was filmed but deleted from the 1977 film. This sequence was restored for the 1997 Special Edition; the humanoid alien was replaced with a CGI-rendered slug-like Jabba the Hutt based on the character’s appearance in Return of the Jedi.
  • The two Rebel fighter squadrons’ call signs in the comics are Blue and Red; in the film, Luke Skywalker’s X-wing squadron was Red, while the Y-wings belonged to Gold Squadron.

My Take

The reverse cover features a “remastered” version of Howard Chaykin’s classic 1976 poster for the San Diego Comic Con. (C) 2015 Marvel Comics and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Marvel Comics and other licensed comics publishers have reissued the six issues that comprise this 2015 collection before.  Marvel itself did this several times in the months following the film’s release.

In 1977, before studios started releasing movies on home media, Marvel’s comic books allowed Star Wars fans to relive the adventures of Luke Skywalker and his Rebel friends in a visual medium. Consequently, Marvel’s Star Wars issues #1-6 were so in demand that the publisher reprinted them in various formats, including a black-and-white trade paperback edition and a super-sized Marvel Special Edition Featuring Star Wars #3 (1978).

In many ways, the 2015 Remastered Edition is a refined version of Marvel Special Edition Featuring Star Wars #3. It presents Star Wars issues #1-6 in a single hardcover book, which is divided into six chapters. Each chapter is marked by a remastered reproduction of its corresponding comic book issue.

The six chapters are:

  • Star Wars  
  • Six Against the Galaxy
  • Death Star!
  • In Battle with Darth Vader
  • Lo! The Moons of Yavin!
  • The Final Chapter?

Howard Chaykin’s original cover illustrations for Issues #1-6 are recreated in their over-the-top 1970s style, with wildly imaginative illustrations that capture the swashbuckling spirit of the story but don’t accurately reflect the issues’ content. (On the cover for issue $6, for instance, Chaykin depicts a lightsaber duel between Luke and Vader with this breathless teaser line: See Luke Skywalker Battle Darth Vader!)

The comic books’ original artwork and most of the text have not been messed with – much. Disney-owned Marvel did not compel Thomas to rewrite his script to fit the film’s established canon, nor did Chaykin have to redraw Chewbacca so the Wookiee looks less like “a barrel chested bruiser.” Luke Skywalker is still Blue Five (instead of Red Five), and lightsabers are still referred in the text as “lightsabres.” There’s even an old uncorrected typo (“you’ry my only hope” instead of “you’re my only hope”) in one Chapter Two panel. 

Still, despite changes at the corporate level regarding ownership of the Star Wars franchise, Disney-owned Marvel did not erase Star Wars history with the remastering. When this book was released in 2015, Disney had still not released The Force Awakens, and 21st Century Fox was still owned by Rupert Murdoch and his family. Yet, Disney-owned Marvel (and Lucasfilm) respected the past, so much so that  the cover art for Issue #1 still says “Marvel’s Official Adaptation of the Monumental 20th Century Fox Movie!”   

The biggest difference between the 1977 comics and their 2015 remastering is that colorist Marie Severin’s original 70s Pop style color scheme was replaced by a more subtle new coloring done by artists from Chris Sotomayor’s Sotocolor.

To make this version of the comics adaptation more in synch with 21st Century graphics novel art styles, the coloring artists at New York City-based Sotocolor retouched every panel in the six issues to give them a more coherent and modern look. 

 Sotocolor also color-corrected the energy blades of the lightsabers belonging to Star Wars’ two Jedi characters – Luke Skywalker and Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi – especially on the issue covers. Howard Chaykin, not having seen the film yet, depicted all the lightsabers, not just Darth Vader’s, with red blades. 

Because Lucasfilm canon states that only Sith lords use lightsabers with crimson energy blades, the colorists at Sotocolor now show Luke and Obi-Wan’s laser swords with the more canonic blue ones.

Overall, Marvel’s remastered version of Star Wars – Episode IV; A New Hope is a nice compromise that will please most fans. It doesn’t try to change the 1977 comics’ text or art except where it was necessary. As a bonus feature, the remastered hardcover edition  of Star Wars includes then-editor in chief Stan Lee’s introduction to Issue # 1 and Roy Thomas’s essay “The Story Behind Star Wars: The Movie and the Comic Mag.”

I bought this book as an Amazon pre-order in April of 2015, and I received it on the day it hit bookshelves. I still have my 1978-era Star Wars Special #3 , so I was able to compare both editions. They’re both good; the only differences between them are that (a) the 2015 hardcover is more durable and (b) the color palette reflects two vastly different eras.

I wholeheartedly recommend this remastered edition of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope’s classic Marvel Comics adaptation.

4K UHD/HD Blu-ray Set Review: ‘Jaws’ (45th Anniversary Limited Edition)

(C) 2020 Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Film That Made People Afraid of the Water Turns 45

Jaws (1975)

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Written by: Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb. Based on the novel by Peter Benchley

Starring: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton

On June 2, 2020, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment unleashed Jaws – 45th Anniversary Limited Edition, a two-disc set which presents Steven Spielberg’s first blockbuster film in two Blu-ray formats: 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) and High Definition (HD), along with the Movies Anywhere code for a digital copy.

Packaged in a striking lenticular slipcover and accompanied by a 44-page collectible booklet, this marks the UHD debut of the classic adventure movie about a small New England town police chief’s efforts to deal with a rogue great white shark that has attacked several swimmers at the start of the busy summer tourist season. Jaws – 45th Anniversary Limited Edition was also released 18 days before the 45th Anniversary of the film’s premiere date – June 20, 1975.

“You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat…”

Adapted from Peter Benchley’s 1974 best-selling novel by Benchley and actor-writer Carl Gottlieb, Jaws takes place in mid-1970s Amity, a small Cape Cod-like community that is largely dependent on tourism for its subsistence. Its economic survival is jeopardized when a young woman named Chrissie Watkins (Susan Blacklinie) goes for a moonlight skinny-dip in the waters off Amity Beach – and is promptly killed by a shark.

In the morning, the town’s relatively new Chief of Police, Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), gets a missing person report from the young man who was the last person to see Chrissie alive. But when Deputy Hendricks (Jeffrey Kramer) discovers the young woman’s remains on the beach, and the town coroner determines she died as a result of a shark attack, Brody realizes that he and his community have a serious problem in their hands.

Mayor Vaughn: Martin, it’s all psychological. You yell ‘barracuda,’ everybody says, ‘Huh? What?’ You yell ‘shark,’ we’ve got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July.

At first, the town’s elected officials, led by Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) try to cover up the first shark attack. As he explains to Brody in an effort to justify the decision to keep the beaches open, Amity is a small “summer town” that depends on “summer dollars.”

Mayor Vaughn insists that the “accident” that killed Chrissie is an isolated affair and orders the beaches to remain open. But the shark has claimed the waters offshore as its new feeding ground and kills a boy named Alex Kintner (Jeffrey Voorhees) only a few yards away from the beach.


This incident forces the reluctant Mayor Vaughn and his town council cronies to act. After Mrs. Kintner (Lee Fierro) places a $25,000 bounty on the shark, Vaughn and the town elders make a compromise that pleases no one: the beaches will be closed, but not on the all-important Fourth of July weekend.

Brody is a paradox – he’s a former New York City police officer with a phobia about being in the water yet accepted a job as police chief in a small island town – but he takes his oath to protect and serve his community seriously. Come hell or high water, he’s going to save Amity, not only from the shark he is convinced is stalking the waters offshore, but from short-sighted and narrow-minded politicians like Larry Vaughn.

Forced to confront his deepest fears and those of his wife Ellen (Lorraine Gary), Brody joins forces with shark expert Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and a crusty local captain named Quint (Robert Shaw) to find and kill the deadly aquatic predator – a 30-foot-long great white shark.

Quint: [seeing Hooper’s equipment] What are you? Some kind of half-assed astronaut?

Quint (Cont’d): Jesus H Christ, when I was a boy, every little squirt wanted to be a harpooner or a sword fisherman. What d’ya have there – a portable shower or a monkey cage?

Hooper: Anti-shark cage.

Quint: Anti-shark cage. You go inside the cage?

[Hooper nods]

Quint: Cage goes in the water; you go in the water. Shark’s in the water. Our shark.

Quint (sings): Farewell and adieu to you, fair Spanish ladies. Farewell and adieu, you ladies of Spain. For we’ve received orders for to sail back to Boston. And so nevermore shall we see you again.

The stage is set for one of the most thrilling – and nerve-racking – confrontation between men and nature. And when Brody, Hooper, and Quint go out to sea aboard Quint’s Orca, there’s no guarantee that they will return to Amity alive.

My Take

The art for the Jaws soundtrack. (C) 1975 Universal Pictures

Steven Spielberg’s Jaws is a rarity among movie adaptations of such literary works as short stories, novellas, or novels; as written by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb (with uncredited assists from Howard Sackler, John Milius, and actor-writer Robert Shaw), Jaws is better than the best-selling novel that inspired producers David Brown and Richard Zanuck to adapt it in the first place.

The novel is good, don’t get me wrong. I read the Reader’s Digest Condensed Books edition countless times during the Summer of Jaws – my mother didn’t let me go see the movie in theaters, but paradoxically she let me read the abridged version of the book.[1] I read the unabridged novel when I was a student at South Miami High, along with ‘Salem’s Lot and Carrie by Stephen King.  It’s the perfect “beach read,” really; Benchley was a good storyteller, with a good sense of pacing and a lot of information about sharks, their physiology, and other traits, mixed in with suspense and elements of horror.

The reverse side of the 4K UHD Blu-ray package. (C) 2020 Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Nevertheless, when producers Brown and Zanuck hired Benchley to do the first draft of the screenplay, they told him the movie was going to be a straightforward adventure and that many of the novel’s subplots had to go, including an extramarital affair between Ellen Brody and Matt Hooper, and Mayor Vaughn’s business dealings with local Mafiosos.  Brown, Zanuck, and – eventually – director Steven Spielberg believed those subplots were not important to the story, so out they went.

Spielberg also believed that Jaws needed humor to lighten the movie’s tone, otherwise Jaws would just be a dark horror story. To spice the film with the necessary amount of levity, Spielberg asked actor-writer Carl Gottlieb to come up with additional material for supporting characters, including lines that could be improvised in front of the camera – either on the set or on location.

Theatrical Release Poster from 1975. Art by Roger Kastel. (C) 1975 Universal Pictures

Hooper: Boys, oh boys… I think he’s come back for his noon feeding.

Spielberg made a risky choice and shot Jaws at sea instead of the controlled environment of a water tank at Universal Studios in Culver City (CA). At first, Spielberg’s decision proved disastrous. Bad weather caused costly delays in principal photography; the cast and crew members became seasick; and Spielberg’s judgment was put in question. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the film’s three animatronic sharks, all named Bruce[2],  did not work as well as the director hoped. As a result, Spielberg had to keep his great white shark out of sight for much of the film.

However, the hassles with the balky Bruces proved to be providential and contributed to Jaws’ success. Accidentally, Spielberg managed to make the lethal great white’s non-appearance seem more menacing and frightening.

Serendipitously, Spielberg takes a cinematic trick from Alfred Hitchcock’s playbook of suspenseful filmmaking. By not showing us the shark until late in the movie, Spielberg creates a sense of growing tension and unease.

We usually fear what we can’t see, especially when we are swimming in the ocean. In Jaws, we only know that danger approaches when John Williams’ two-note shark motif plays in the background and Spielberg’s camera shows a vulnerable potential victim in the dark blue waters of the North Atlantic.

Jaws is a character-driven picture, which is rare in the action-horror genre. Screenwriters Gottlieb and Benchley  focus more on the human players of the story rather than on  Jaws’ “creature feature” elements. Their script gives the shark hunters –  Brody Brody, Hooper, and Quint – well-drawn and relatable personalities that allow audiences to identify with and root for them as they go off on their quest to catch and kill the deadly white shark.

45 years after its release, Jaws is still one of the greatest adventures ever made. It’s also one of the most successful films in history. In 1975, its domestic box office gross of $260 million set a record that lasted until Star Wars’ theatrical run in 1977. Per Box Office Mojo, Jaws is the seventh top-grossing film of all time when the effects of inflation are factored in.

Along with Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Superman, Jaws ushered in the era of the Big Tentpole Movie. Crowd-pleasing wide-release films such as Die Hard, Indiana Jones, and the various Marvel Cinematic Universe films probably would not exist if any of those three filmshad flopped.  

Jaws also catapulted the then-27-year-old Steven Spielberg into a long and wildly successful career as one of the world’s eminent filmmakers. This was only his second feature film; his first theatrically released effort, The Sugarland Express, earned good reviews but was not a box office hit. That movie’s producers – David Brown and Richard Zanuck – nevertheless saw that the young director of TV series episodes and the TV movie Duel had talent. And by assigning Spielberg to direct Jaws, they laid the foundation for a brilliant career that includes such films as E.T., The Color Purple, Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park, Amistad, Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln, Bridge of Spies, and The Post.  

The 45th Anniversary Limited Edition Set

(C) 2020 Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment released the Jaws: 45th Limited Edition multi-format two-disc set on June 2. It consists of a lenticular slipcover case with an updated riff on Roger Kastel’s original poster art from 1975.  This slipcover contains:

  • Jaws in a 4K Ultra High Definition Blu-ray Disc
  • Jaws in a 1080p High Definition Blu-ray Disc
  • Insert with Movies Anywhere Digital Copy Code
  • 44-page Collector’s Booklet

Although I own a Samsung 4K UHD TV and a compatible Blu-ray player with the proper cables and a Samsung sound bar, those items have not been fully set up, so I can’t comment on the UHD elements of this release.  But according to Martin Liebman’s review on Blu-ray.com, here’s a little taste of what you can expect from the native 4K (2160p) disc’s video:

For its 45th anniversary, Universal brings Jaws to the UHD format with a practically impeccable 2160p/Dolby Vision UHD presentation. In the early minutes beyond the campfire scene the picture demonstrates superb command of its elements, the first of many notable scenes of practically reference quality. Grain is fine, accentuating the native filmic roots and bolstering the sense of cinematic texturing that sweeps through the shots with resplendent accuracy. Throughout, the picture proves to be very dynamic. There are many examples of notable, superb textures that stand apart at this resolution, notably period attire: light jackets, heavier sports coats, even a thin veil worn by a grieving mother. There’s a tangible increase in sharpness and clarity across the board when comparing to the previously issued, and still perfectly workable, Blu-ray, but the UHD brings out the absolute best the original elements have to offer. Many of the weathered accents around the beaches and piers are tack-sharp and tactile and details both interior and exterior around town gain appreciable boosts to sharpness and clarity, even at distance, obvious in comparison but even plain to see when simply watching the UHD straight through. Skin textures and hairs are unsurprisingly some of the most obvious beneficiaries of the resolution increase and clarity gains. What a vivid, flowing, and fine film-like experience. – Martin Liebman, May 23, 2020 review.


As for the 1080p “regular” Blu-ray, it’s the same disc that Universal released eight years ago as part of its Centennial Anniversary series.  As Liebman says in his review of the 45th Anniversary Limited Edition Jaws set, this Blu-ray is “still perfectly workable.” It contains the film itself, as well as the following extra features (* indicates availability on both UHD and BD discs)

  • The Making of Jaws*
  • The Shark is Still Working: The Impact and Legacy of Jaws*
  • Jaws: The Restoration*
  • Deleted Scenes and Outtakes*
  • From the Set *
  • Theatrical Trailer*
  • Jaws Archives (1080p BD only)

Overall, I like the 45th Anniversary Limited Edition release of this classic film. The new cover art does  take some getting used to, but on the whole, it’s not a bad set to get, especially if you are building a UHD collection for a 4K TV with the proper player connected. (4K UHD discs will not play on a regular 1080p BD player.) The packaging is nice – especially the lenticular art on the slipcover.

The 44-page booklet, too, is a nice bonus that includes stills and publicity photos of the main cast members, short bios, a short history of how Jaws was made, and other cool information about this 1975 classic.

I’m looking forward to watching Jaws in its 4K version! It will take a while, but I’ll see it in its fully restored UHD glory.

[1] See Movie Watcher Memories: or Mom Nixes Shark Pic

[2] Named after Spielberg’s lawyer, Bruce Ramer

4K UHD/HD Blu-ray Set Review: ‘Superman: The Movie’ (1978 Theatrical Release Version)

(C) 2018 Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

“You’ll Believe a Man Can Fly”

Superman (AKA Superman: The Movie) (1978 Theatrical Version)

Directed by: Richard Donner

Written by: Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman, Tom Mankiewicz (uncredited)

Based on: Superman character created for DC Comics by Jerry Siegel and Joel Schuster

Starring: Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Glenn Ford, Trevor Howard, Margot Kidder, Valerie Perrine, Maria Schell, Terence Stamp, Phyllis Thaxter, Susannah York

Jor-El: [bidding his son farewell, as Lara looks on] You will travel far, my little Kal-El. But we will never leave you… even in the face of our death. The richness of our lives shall be yours. All that I have, all that I’ve learned, everything I feel… all this, and more, I… I bequeath you, my son. You will carry me inside you, all the days of your life. You will make my strength your own, and see my life through your eyes, as your life will be seen through mine. The son becomes the father, and the father the son. This is all I… all I can send you, Kal-El.

On December 15, 1978 – five days after two gala premieres in New York and Washington DC – Warner Bros. rolled out director Richard Donner’s Superman – or, as it was marketed, Superman: The Movie – in wide release in the North American domestic market.[1] With an all-star international cast, a screenplay by Godfather scribe Mario Puzo,expensive special effects and spectacular sets by John Barry, and a superb score by John Williams,  Superman amazed viewers and pleased many critics when it lived up to its tagline of You’ll Believe a Man Can Fly.  

Lana Lang: [driving up with Brad] Hey look, there’s Clark! Clark?

Brad: How’d you get here so fast?

Young Clark Kent: [shrugs] I ran.

Brad: “Ran,” huh? Told ya he’s an oddball. Let’s get outta here.

[they drive away, Lana looking back at Clark]

Jonathan Kent: Been showing off a bit, haven’t you, son?

Young Clark Kent: [going over to Jonathan] Um… I didn’t mean to show off, Pop. It’s just that, guys like that Brad, I just want to tear him apart.

Jonathan Kent: Yeah, I know, I know.

Young Clark Kent: And I know I shouldn’t…

Jonathan Kent: Yeah, I know, you can do all these amazing things and sometimes you feel like you will just go bust unless you can tell people about them.

Young Clark Kent: Yeah. I mean every time I get the football I can make a touchdown. Every time! I mean, is it showing off if somebody’s doing the things he’s capable of doing? Is a bird showing off when it flies?

Jonathan Kent:No, no. Now, you listen to me. When you first came to us, we thought people would come and take you away because, when they found out, you know, the things you could do… and that worried us a lot. But then a man gets older, and he starts thinking differently and things get very clear. And one thing I do know, son, and that is you are here for a reason. I don’t know whose reason, or whatever the reason is… Maybe it’s because… uh… I don’t know. But I do know one thing. It’s not to score touchdowns. Huh?

[they laugh]

Young Clark Kent: Thanks, Dad.

Starring Marlon Brando as Jor-El, Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, and a little-known actor named Christopher Reeve in the dual role of Clark Kent/Kal-El (aka Superman), Superman was intended to be the first half of a duology that chronicles the origins story of the Man of Steel from his birth on the doomed planet of Krypton; his father’s fateful decision to send him to Earth; his adoption by Jonathan Kent (Glenn Ford) and his wife Martha (Phyllis Thaxter); and his transformation from dutiful teen (Jeff East) to, well, Superman (Reeve) and his first adventures in Metropolis. Originally, the film was supposed to end with a cliffhanger in which the three villains from Krypton (Terence Stamp. Sarah Douglas, and Jack O’Halloran) escape captivity and fly down  to Earth, but when that didn’t work out due to delays on the set and behind-the-scenes drama, the ending was changed to give audiences a film with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Superman: Easy, miss. I’ve got you.

Lois Lane: You – you’ve got me? Who’s got you?

 By now, the plot of Superman – with its not-too-subtle allusions to Biblical stories (the plot combines elements drawn from the Old Testament and the New) and three distinct acts – is familiar, so I’m not going to delve too much into it here. Suffice it to say that it covers a 30-year span of life (another allusion to the four Gospels of Jesus, with Jor-El as the Father who sends his almost omnipotent Son to Earth and serve as humanity’s protector. Along the way, Kal-El takes on the public persona of mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent, meets (and fall in love with) Daily Planet journalist Lois Lane (Margot Kidder), and covers the City beat for his editor, Perry White (Jackie Cooper).

As Superman, Kal-El also has to stop master criminal Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) from carrying out the Crime of the Century, a nefarious plan that involves stolen nuclear weapons, the San Andreas Fault in California, and Luthor’s seemingly crazy purchase of worthless land in the Mojave Desert.   

Despite its behind-the-scenes woes, delayed release, and the possibility that the public might not flock to a movie based on a comic book superhero, Superman persevered and in less than three weeks it had earned $43,697,365 in the U.S. and Canada.  The film was the biggest box office hit of 1978, grossing  $300.21 million worldwide.

The film was not only financially successful, but it also won many accolades and awards. Reviewers gave Superman largely positive reviews in the media, and the film industry was generous in its praise during the early 1979 awards season. Superman was nominated for four Academy Awards (Best Film Editing, Best Score, Best Sound Design, Best Special Effects -Special Achievement): the Salkind team only took home the Special Effects Oscar, but John Williams – who lost to Giorgio Moroder’s score for Midnight Express – walked away with the Best Score award at the Grammys and the Saturn Awards.  (Superman was also lauded at the BAFTA Awards and Golden Globes for its year, so it didn’t do too shabbily when it comes to industry laurels.)

The Return of the (Original) Man of Steel to Home Media

Since 1986, Superman: The Movie has been released on home media in various formats; the theatrically-released version made its VHS debut that year, some time after the film’s longer International Television Edition[2] had aired on the ABC television network and the original 2 hours and 23 minutes-longtheatrical version had made their final play-out run on HBO and Showtime.

However, when Warner Home Entertainment was laying the groundwork for the 2001 DVD release, the company approached Richard Donner and editor Michael Thau to incorporate some of the longer version’s footage and music. In the end, and with Donner’s personal involvement in the process, eight minutes’ worth of material was added to the theatrical version of Superman: The Movie.  This is the version that most people have seen or owned on DVD and the film’s first release (back in 2006) on Blu-ray.

Although the 2001 DVD edition is, like George Lucas’s Special Editions of the original Star Wars trilogy, the canonical version of Superman, Warner Bros. has released both the International Television Edition and the 1978 theatrical release on home media. The longer cut was released in 2017 as Superman: The Movie Extended Cut as a Warner Archive Collection offering, while the classic Superman: The Movie was released on November 6, 2018 in a 4K UHD/HD Blu-ray + Digital Code two-disc set.  

The 2018 40th Anniversary Release

Warner Bros. released the original version of Superman: The Movie on 4K UHD to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of its theatrical debut. Prior to this home media release, the studio had screened Superman (minus the additions made in 2001 for the DVD edition) in revival screenings throughout the world. When Warner Home Video “dropped” the two-disc set on November 6, 2018, it marked the first time the unaltered version of Donner’s iconic film was available for home viewing since the late 1980s.

This two-disc set consists of:

  • Superman: The Movie (1978 theatrical version) in 4K UHD
  • Audio Commentary by Pierre Spengler and Ilya Salkind
  • The Making of Superman: The Movie 1978 TV Special
  • Three vintage (1940s) Warner Bros. cartoon parodies
  • Superman and the Mole Men (1951)
  • TV and Movie Trailers

My Take

As I wrote in my review of the Best Buy exclusive 27-disc Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga box set, I own a 4K UHD TV and compatible 4K Blu-ray player, so I can’t really comment too much about the disc in that 2160p resolution disc. However, judging by what I have seen in the Blu-ray disc that comes as an “extra” feature, I already know the following things:

  • Some of the weird visual inconsistencies caused by the limits of late 1970s blue-screen photography, such as Superman’s costume sometimes appearing greenish during flying scenes, have been fixed digitally
  • The special effects that were so groundbreaking at the time – unless you examined them way too closely – did not age well. The “Arctic” icescapes seen in the Fortress of Solitude sequences look, sadly, too much like a studio set’s version, with ice that looks like it’s made out of Styrofoam and a backdrop that looks like either a matte painting or a huge backdrop. It doesn’t look as bad in the 1080p Blu-ray, but it will jump out at you when you watch it in 4K UHD
  • The colors will look a lot more lifelike in the 4K Blu-ray
  • The sound mix will be so-so, especially if you forget that the Dolby Athmos sound mix is not the default sound option. The sound mix that the 4K disc has as it’s default setting is the Dolby 5.1 one; to get the best sound from Superman: The Movie, you must manually change it to Dolby Athmos before watching the film

I’m sure there are other audio-visual issues that will catch your attention when watching the 4K version, but as I said, I can’t address them until my UHD set and its associated player are up and running.

I got this movie knowing full well that I wasn’t going to get a perfect movie watching experience. Superman: The Movie itself is far from perfect; even when it was screened in theaters, I could tell that much of the flying involved rear projection effects, blue-screen photography that sometimes messed up the blues and reds of Supe’s costume. And don’t get me started on the Can You Read My Mind scene, which features John Williams’ beautiful arrangement of his Love Theme from Superman under a woefully ill-considered voiceover poem spoken by Margot Kidder (Lois Lane).

I don’t hate the vocal, but (a) it doesn’t propel the plot forward and (b) doesn’t fit the tone of the rest of the film. I tolerate it because the London Symphony Orchestra’s performance is one of the main reasons why I wanted to see Superman. (True story: I actually was less-than-enthusiastic about going to see Superman until I saw the first TV ads several days before it hit theaters in Miami and noticed the  Music by John Williams credit at the tail end of one.)

Still, for all its flaws, Superman is one of my favorite movies from when I was a teenager, and it is a fun and entertaining  one. I like it far more than I do Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel, even though that film benefits from 21st Century filmmaking technology and has a fine cast of its own. And even though I have the slightly longer version on both DVD and Blu-ray, the 1978 original is my sentimental favorite.


[1] Warner Bros. – which also owns DC Comics, Superman’s comics publisher – had hoped to release Superman: The Movie in June of 1978 to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the Man of Steel’s debut in Action Comics #1. However, the film – which was being shot concurrently with Superman II – took longer to film than expected. Tensions between director Richard Donner and producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind arose due to the challenges inherent in filming both Superman films simultaneously. To meet the new release date deadline – now scheduled for December 1978 – production was halted on Superman II, and Donner was told to focus on completing the first film. This was done, and production on Superman: The Movie ended in October of 1978.

Although principal photography of Superman II was 75% complete at this stage of the process, the relationship between Donner and the producers was toxic, and the director was fired soon after Superman: The Movie was finished. He was replaced as director of Superman II by American expat Richard Lester, who had collaborated with the Salkinds several years before as the director of The Three Musketeers. To get his name on the credits as director of Superman II, Lester had to have the screenplay rewritten in order to reshoot enough material (roughly ¾ of the film’s final content) to avoid arbitration.

There’s more to this story, but that will have to wait for another day….

[2] In an effort to recoup some of the money they lost when they had to ask Warner Bros. for financial assistance during the final stages of production, Alexander and Ilya Salkind reinserted a lot of material – some of it with subpar special effects – to Superman in order to sell the broadcast rights to television broadcasters in different countries. The 1978 feature film has a running time of 143 minutes: the International Television Edition clocks in at 188 minutes. This was not done for artistic reasons; it was a purely business-related move, as the Salkinds were charging per-the-minute-of-air-time broadcast rights. Of course, the  network or station that bought the International Television Edition could (and did) edited some of the extra stuff to fit their schedule or cut their costs, so there were several variations of that “cut” of Superman,  not just one.  

Thoughts and Musings on a Muggy Tuesday Afternoon: June 16, 2020

Photo by Ethan Essig on Pexels.com

Written earlier in the day. – ADG

Thoughts and Musings on a Muggy Tuesday Afternoon

Hi, there, Dear Reader. I hope you are well, safe, and coping with the coronavirus pandemic. Right now it’s just past one in the afternoon in my corner of Florida, and – as you can probably see from my post’s title – it’s  hot and muggy outside. Right now the temperature outside is 86 degrees Fahrenheit under mostly sunny skies, but by the time I post this on WordPress, it will likely be 88˚ F; the forecast for today calls for a high of 90˚ at 4 PM Eastern, and a nighttime low of 68˚ F. So, like I said…it’s hot and muggy!

I’m glad I don’t have to be out and about in this late spring heat; when I used to go outside for my daily constitutionals in my former neighborhood in Miami, I usually waited till 5 PM, though when I was taking care of my ailing mother, I would get stir-crazy and would go out for a walk as soon as the home health aide or an Easter Seals respite aide arrived, even if it was around noon. (During the cooler and drier months, I would go for walks or take a book to one of the two pools in East Wind Lake Village, lie on a deck chair, and read for an hour while the HHA watched over Mom for me.)

Here, I don’t do that. I live in a nice neighborhood, nicer than the one I left behind some time ago, but I just don’t feel comfortable going out for walks. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of strolls that I’ve gone on, and that number pales In comparison to the number of walks I’d take in any given week in the Time of Ago.  I just don’t feel motivated enough to go out, even though part of me knows I need fresh air, a bit of sun, and exercise.

Life in the Time of COVID-19

Because I can’t use the Internet during most of the day – there is a dearth of bandwidth in our area now that lots of people are having to work from home, so if we have too many devices connected to the house WiFi, someone will get disconnected or have a slow connection. And because there is at least one person here whose job requires a secure and reliable connection, at least one PC has to be used on “airplane mode.” Right now, that computer is mine, and it will be on offline mode till just after five.

This “restriction” is one that I have grown accustomed to since the COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses to adjust to the situation by assigning many of their employees to work remotely from home. I can still write without being connected, provided that:

  • If I’m going to write a review and need to download images or get information I don’t have on-hand, I need to get what I require for the review either early in the morning or during the head of household’s one-hour lunch break
  • If I don’t have a specific topic in mind, then I should just do a “Random Thoughts” kind of post

Today I overslept, so I didn’t have a lot of time online this morning to plan ahead or do any “prep” work for a review, and even though I had a one-hour window to work on a review, I was still tired and didn’t have anything specific in mind for a review. Even now, in the early afternoon, all I feel like doing is listening to music and lying on a couch with a good book.

Good thing that I enjoy reading and have lots of books to read. I learned to read at an early age – prompted, no doubt, by my maternal grandmother, known to her many grandkids simply as “Tata” – and I’ve never, ever lost my love for books or the act of reading. I can’t conceive of being in a situation where I would have no access to books, and I can’t relate too well to people who don’t read for pleasure. (And, sadly, I know too many people like that!)

Right now I’m reading several books at once – a habit I picked up at a young age from Mom and my maternal grandfather, Quique. They are:

(C) 2016 Quirk Books and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)
  • Library of America Cornelius Ryan: The Longest Day, A Bridge Too Far
  • Library of America Barbara Tuchman: The Guns of August, The Proud Tower
  • D-Day and the Battle for Normandy, James Holland
  • William Shakespeare’s The Force Doth Awaken: Star Wars Part the Seventh, Ian Doescher

And this is only a small fraction of the many books I have on my Ikea bookshelves. So, yes, I have enough reading material – and stuff to review! – to keep my mind occupied and my sanity intact.

Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

Well, Dear Reader, I will close for now; I hear the call of the couch and the aforementioned good book summoning me.  And who knows? Maybe I’ll take a little siesta. So, adios, and until next time, I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.

My Adventures in Screenwriting: ‘Clown 345’

On July 12, 2019, my high school chum Juan Carlos Hernandez posted Clown 345, a short comedy film about three clowns, a phone, and a joke. It stars Juan (a professional actor who has played many roles on TV, feature films, and even local theater in and around New York City), his wife Adria, and his son Anthony James Hernandez.

Clown 345 was not a project that I was linked to at its inception; I was cracking the story to the screenplay that I titled Happy Days Are Here Again and eventually was produced as Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss. I had already sent Juan another script – my first attempt at a comedy – but that one just didn’t flow well, so I decided to go with Plan B, which I envisioned as a riff on All in the Family but scaled down to three characters.

Anyway, while I shifted mental gears to work on Happy Days Are Here Again, Juan wrote a script about a young clown’s attempts to tell a joke, while his father and mother, who are also clowns, try to give him advice. He had most of it done, but he wanted me to contribute some material to bridge the start of the film with the ending.

I hadn’t yet gotten far with the first draft of Happy Days Are Here Again, so I agreed to look at the Clown 345 script and see what I could add to it.

It took me a couple of days to come up with an idea; our first collaboration, A Simple Ad, was a tightly contained story that takes place mostly in one room, except for the coda, which is a brief exterior scene. Juan needed something that was more “opened up” and could be shot outdoors.

So…I came up with a nice little sequence and a sight gag that references one of my favorite authors. It isn’t a long bit and it’s not a David Lean epic, but, hey…it’s my modest addition to Juan, Adria, and Anthony’s 8 minutes and 45 seconds-long short.

A Simple Ad, Clown 345, and Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss are all viewable on YouTube.

If you watched Clown 345 and want to share your thoughts, please jot them down in the Comments section below!

Thoughts On a Sunday Afternoon in Florida: June 14, 2020

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Well, here we are on the brink of mid-June, with the annual transition from spring to summer just a few days off and also 14 days into the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. It’s hot and humid outside; the official temperature outside is 91 degrees Fahrenheit, but with humidity and wind speed/direction factored in, the “feels-like” temperature is 97 degrees. In my home state of Florida, which lies in the subtropical zone, we are used to warm and muggy weather; I’ve lived in the Sunshine State nearly all of my life and I can attest to that.

However, until the 2000s, the average temperatures for June were not quite as hot or humid; this, after all, is only the second month of what Florida residents know as the wet season, and though I remember it getting warm and muggy around this time of year, heat indexes in the low 100s were never quite a “thing” this early. July and August? Sure. June…well, June was when Floridians’ long hot summers were just getting started.

Now, every summer begins with higher-than-average temperatures……

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Because today is one of the few days when I don’t have to write during the day with my computer on airplane mode, I decided to spend my Sunday connected to the Internet and create a post for the original A Certain Point of View over on Blogger. It wasn’t anything special; I didn’t write a review or a politically-themed essay, although I was sorely tempted to write a scathing one about a Cuban-American woman who was complaining on Facebook that her young son had not received a stimulus check from the Treasury Department.

Not only was I annoyed by the sense of entitlement in her public kvetching that her son, who probably has not been working for a long time (he’s 18, if I recall correctly), but what really bugged me is that she had to drag the homeless into the equation.

I should have taken a screenshot of the comments on Facebook before I wrote a politely worded but still critical reply, a reply for which she “unfriended” me on the Social Medium. But basically, it went something like this.

My son still has not received a stimulus check. He has only been working for a few months….He went to the IRS site and filled out a form but he still hasn’t received a payment. It’s not fair! I have seen HOMELESS people get stimulus checks!!

Photo by Arian Malek khosravi on Pexels.com

Again, I wish I had taken a screenshot; once someone on Facebook “unfriends” you, you can’t see any comments you make on his or her page, and it disappears even from your Activities archive. So I can’t quote my own comment to this person. The basic gist was this, though:

I’m truly sorry that your son has not received a stimulus check. To be fair, though, not everyone has. I have not, even though Social Security sent me an email advising me that I’d not be penalized with a suspension of my disability payments when I received a Treasury Department payment, which should have arrived sometime in May. I hope that your son gets his, but be aware that he is not the only one who is in this “no stimulus check” situation. Also, why is it necessary to say that “everyone else, including the HOMELESS, is getting theirs, but not my kid?”

Well, she didn’t block me; I can still see her public Facebook page, but she still unfriended me for daring to call into question her (a) sense of entitlement and (b) her barely repressed bigotry. In her reply to me, she figuratively clutched her pearls and said that she wasn’t generalizing – although she was – and that she was only referring to a young African-American woman with drug addiction problems who had received a stimulus check.

Ugh. That is racist, even if she says that she helps the homeless on a regular basis.

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I wanted to write a review today, but my heart was not in it. In these troubled times of COVID-19, divisiveness of every sort imaginable, including over such matters as politics, religion, and race relations, and the changes in my home country (the United States of America), it’s hard to get into a mindset that’s conducive to writing a review about a book, a movie, a music album, a computer game, or even a Star Wars figure.

Today, unfortunately, was a no-review-for-my-blog kind of day.

Am I upset that the mom who was whining about her son not getting a stimulus check unfriended me? No. Not in the least. She was not a close friend of mine even when we were in the same high school.

What I am upset about is that in the process of asking for advice on what to do about her son’s stimulus check, she had to pull out the “But HOMELESS people are getting theirs! Where’s my son’s?” card.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I think I’ll go watch a Star Wars movie. Or look at my cool new Star Wars 40th Anniversary Legacy Pack display for a while. Watching freedom-fighting Rebels striving to free a galaxy far, far away from a fascist Empire always (or almost always) makes me feel a little better.

My Star Wars 40th Anniversary Legacy Pack display and the 12 Star Wars The Black Series figures for which it was intended. (It came with the 6-inch scale Darth Vader figure (back row, third from right), but I had to buy the other 11 figures on Amazon, To date, that’s my biggest one-time purchase of Star Wars figures in my 42 years as a collector. Note the framed poster from The William Shakespeare’s Star Wars box set, which was one of the last Star Wars collectibles I bought before Mom passed away in July 2015. (Photo Credit: Author’s Collection)