Friday Flotsam: Corman and Earthbound

1. Very busy week at the job, with all kinds of calls and issues coming up. And I’ve got a cold on top of it. Things seem to have tapered off a bit, fortunately, and the cold only gave me one really bad day. Still, looking forward to the weekend.

2. A good mark of how strung-out I am at the moment: I completely forgot that yesterday, November 3rd, was the 68th anniversary of the premier of the original Godzilla. And only just this past year, Akira Takarada passed away at the age of 87: the last surviving main cast member of the film (and a mainstay of the series throughout). It’s actually a little surprising that one of the main male leads of such an old film was still going into the 2020s. Hardly any of that era are left.

3. Speaking of long-runners, the legendary Roger Corman is still going at 96! His name is still getting attached to Z-grade movies, though I suspect this is much the same way that Tom Clancy’s name is still getting attached to things. Still, it’s impressive. It will mark an epochal shift when he passes on, given his impact on the film industry.

4. For those who don’t know, Corman was / is a producer of B-films who got his start in the 1950s and has never stopped working since. He was famous for his ability to bring a film in on time and under budget, often re-using sets and locations to save money. The original Little Shop of Horrors, famously, was filmed in two-and-a-half days on a budget of less than $30,000 (still a record for a professionally-produced film, I believe), in part because Corman finished another shoot early and didn’t want the sets and crew to go to waste. It featured Jack Nicholson in his third film role as a supporting character (it was the role played by Bill Murray in the remake).

That kind of sums up Corman: he made tightly-budgeted, tightly-scheduled films, and he had a tremendous eye for talent. A lot of major stars and directors – Joe Dante, Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, Robert de Niro, Jack Nicholson, Sylvester Stalone, etc. – got their start under his direction and mentorship.

5. At the moment my gaming relaxation is Earthbound, the quirky classic RPG from the SNES. I’d started it a couple times before but hadn’t been able to get into it. Now that I’ve made some progress, though, it’s becoming a lot more engaging.

Earthbound is set mostly in a fantasy version of middle America (“Eagleland”), where a meteor lands next to the house of Beaver Cleaver-like Ness, who goes to investigate and finds a bee from the future named Buzz-Buzz who informs him that the evil Giygas is coming to destroy the world, and only he and three other gifted children can stop him!

Buzz-Buzz then gets swatted by one of Ness’s obnoxious neighbors, leaving him to carry on the quest alone.

Oh, and Ness is psychic, as are many of his friends. Meanwhile, you call your father to save the game, and you periodically get a ‘homesickness’ static effect that requires you to call your mother to alleviate it. Ness’s weapons include baseball bats and yo-yos, and he eats hamburgers to restore HP. One of the enemy factions is a cult that wants to paint the world blue.

In summary, it’s a strange and endearing blend of cartoonish 50s wholesome charm and apocalyptic cosmic horror.

The big sticking point is the combat, which is almost completely static and text based and at first very unintuitive. But you get used to it, especially as you start leveling up and gaining more options. I’m really enjoying it so far.

6. Frankly, I’d like to see more fantasy stories set in 1950s America, or a world resembling it. That time has something of a legendary, magical tone to it; one of those periods in our history where, looking back, things just seemed right in a way, at least to look at, and it comes with its own kind of mythology in the form of the nuclear-powered sci-fi of the era. It’s fertile ground, especially for anyone not bogged down by socio-political ideas.

7. Not much else I’m afraid: I’ve been mostly useless this week outside of the new job. Hopefully I’ll be able to turn it around this weekend.

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