Friday, November 17, 2017

UFO Kidnapped

UFO Kidnapped
Geoffrey Darby

Back in early days of Nickelodeon, the cable channel had not yet clamped down on a particular formula for its programming.  At the time much of its output consisted mainly of imported shows and reruns. One of its early hits, and the show really defined Nickelodeon, was the Canadian sketch comedy show You Can’t Do That on Television. It was the first thing that was a bonafide hit for the channel. It was where Nickelodeon’s green slime fetish came from, which is still occasionally seen today over thirty years later. Nickelodeon also brought over some repackaged science fiction: The Tomorrow People, The Third Eye, and the TV movie/pilot for UFO Kidnapped, which was both an SF show, and from the creators of You Can’t Do That on Television. It seemed a surefire success, but it was never picked up as a series.

Sam Smythe (Les Lye) is a would-be burglar who is scooped up by a green ball of light emitted by a mysterious disc shaped craft. Nearby, two boys, Alasdair (Alasdair Gillis) and Kevin (Kevin Kubusheskie), along with their dog are transported away too. On board, the boys discover that they are the prisoners/pets of a couple of lumpy aliens called the Shandrillas. They also meet Klea (Klea Scott), a young woman in Victorian age dress who has been a guest of the aliens for some time. Together, along with Sam, a couple telepathic of mini-Wookies, and a horned devil-boy, they must find a way to elude their captors and get home.
The Assheadians of Altair VI
UFO Kidnapped is an SF adventure story that treats its young audience with respect. It throws out a number of concepts (aliens, black holes, time travel, parallel universes, rooms formed by thought, relativistic speeds, etc.) in a short amount of time and it expects the viewers to keep up. The children are bright without falling into the trap of making them wunderkinds. Sam is the only adult human of note in the whole show, and at first he’s bumbling and just a little dangerous, but he shows some nobility by the end which is more characterization than I expected.

UFO Kidnapped was a low budget television production from early 1980s, so the special effects are not astounding, but they are made with care. The models and the composite shotswork better than you can imagine from such a production. The alien make-up and costuming is actually good and a cut above some movies of the time. The Shandrillas look like the This Island Earth (1955) Mutant’s distant cousins. I had concerns that the Loolis (red-nosed hairy telepaths) were going to be cloyingly cute, but they are used sparingly enough to keep from becoming annoying.

"OK, that's close enough you smell like beef jerky on a wet carpet."
Why UFO Kidnapped was not picked up for series, I am not sure. It may have been too expensive a prospect for Nickelodeon. It has never been officially released, but there is a VHS sourced version available on YouTube. UFO Kidnapped is a weird footnote in children’s shows, SF, and Canadian productions. It’s definitely worth 51 minutes of your time.

Friday, November 10, 2017


Robert Emenegger, Allan Sandler

A few aliens in shining silver suits… (or they are the silver suits?), abduct a bunch of middle-aged people after carefully classifying them by skin color (the aliens must be racists…). These people wake up in a run-down building and find themselves not only having to contend with various tests performed by the aliens, but also with each other. The aliens are difficult to communicate with, and the people are jerks who can't get along. Things look very dim indeed for our heroes.

Much like The Killings at Outpost Zeta (1980) and Warp Speed (1981), from the same directors, Laboratory is a mix of low-cost visuals, questionable acting, and some chunky analog synthesizer sounds. Playing up the fascination with alien abductions, Laboratory forgoes most of the tropes associated with these kinds of stories and creates its own aesthetic of sorts. Shining discs from space are replaced with glowing orange blobs, lanky grey aliens are forsworn instead for shiny diamond encrusted disco monsters, the strange clinical interior of a spacecraft is replaced with an abandoned dorm, and anal probing makes way for stomach needles.

The story of Laboratory is extremely thin; people are abducted and run through weird tests by aliens. That is about it. There are not any big twists. The alien’s motivations are called into question, and there seems to be a moment when they turn from something sinister towards something more like beneficent space-brothers who are looking out for us. This is not really capitalized on, and for all the revelations that these creatures might not be as evil as advertised; they are still callous and more than a little cruel.

"Oh my gosh, UFO: Kidnapped is on!"
This kind of story can survive through strong characters and performances.  Sadly, there isn’t much of either to be found. The acting ranges from serviceable to irritating, while the characters themselves hover around annoying with occasional forays into, ‘Please get killed soon.’ Everyone seems relentlessly antagonistic. Better writing would show this as happening because of a confined space and severe stress, but it never comes across this way. All evidence points to some aliens just wanting to put a bunch of assholes in a room together and watch them explode.

One of my favorite aspects of these Emenegger and Sandler films is the analog synth soundtrack. Laboratory doesn’t seem to have quite as much music as some of their other films, but there are still some very eerie atonal sounds that enhance the alien and the strange situation our characters find themselves dealing with.

"Welcome, Steve, to the future... THE DISCO FUTURE."
If you are into alien abduction stories, this one is worth viewing for how atypical it can be. If you like other Emenegger and Sandler movies, this one lacks some of the finer points of their low budget, early 1980s aesthetic, but there are some interesting moments. If you are fan of annoying people acting out and being weirdly cruel to other annoying people, this just might be the perfect movie for you.

Friday, November 3, 2017

31 Monsters

I decided to make a monster card every day in October leading up to Halloween. Here they all are! Click on and you will be take to a larger image and short write-up of the monster in question!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

31 Monsters #31 - The Bride

The Bride is the iconic figure behind the The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). She is the best kind of monster: horrific, tragic, sympathetic, yet still other. It is a testament to her potency as a monstrous figure in that she has an extremely brief amount of screen-time in the actual film, but she has left an indelible mark on popular culture.

Likes: Staying dead
Dislikes: Arranged marriages

Happy Halloween from Outpost Zeta!

Monday, October 30, 2017

31 Monsters Day #30 - Ro-Man

Aside from his irritating boss, Ro-Man is the lone figure in the criminally understaffed invasion plans of his race during the events of Robot Monster (1953). It's pretty obvious his heart isn't in it, he can't even get around to wiping out the last few humans on Earth. He'd much rather (literally) pursue his romantic interests even though it could mean a terrible job review.

HQ: A bubble filled cave
Likes: Unattainable women, dinosaurs
Dislikes: Being called a "Pooped-out pinwheel."

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Saturday, October 28, 2017

31 Monsters Day #28 - Martian Invaders

These handsome creatures are the servants of the Martian brain-monster from the 1986 version of Invaders from Mars. They are teacher-eating frog aliens with ray guns that run on copper pennies. They ride that great line between monstrous and just a little comical. They must like their jobs because they always seem to be laughing.

Likes: Your penny collection, Biology teacher à la carte.
Dislikes: Bullets