RECENTLY, my friend Cheryl handed me a large plastic bag and said, ‘you’ll enjoy these’.
Putting aside my concerns about said bag I had a look and she was right – inside was a large collection of Starburst magazines, from the 1980s.
Looking back now – where full colour production on glossy paper is the norm – it is amazing how shoddy they looked, with only the occasional colour page and very basic design.
However what they lacked in looks they made up for in content, with great access to the shows and films of the day. I have picked out a few highlights to share with you.
1. The earliest one
The more things change, the more they stay the same, as shown by this 1978 mag (issue nine, just 50p) trumpeting the new Lord of the Rings film – in this case a cartoon instead of the Peter Jackson Oscarfest.
The man behind it, the uninspiringly named Ralph Bakshi, is quoted as saying live action would be a total disaster. “Where do you get live action hobbit, elves and orcs? The answer is, of course, that you can’t. Also a live action version of LOTR would cost at least $30m!”
As it turned out – more than two decades later – it would cost considerably more, just for Orlando Bloom’s hairdressing bill, but the cartoon still had a certain charm.
I went to watch this at the cinema as a kid and while I didn’t know what was going on, I still remember it fondly, with the characters traced over live actors, a groundbreaking technique for the time, which looked like it had ben done by blind amputees on crack.
2) Battlestar frustration
The mag contains some incredibly ill judged predictions – like saying Sam Jones (Flash Gordon) would make it big as The Highwayman, a futuristic lawman who drove a truck that turned into a helicopter, or to watch out for Split Second, starring Rutger Hauer and Kim Cattrall – he on his way to his own section of the bargain basement bin in Blockbusters and she slumming it before Sex and the City.
However, it was right on the money about Battlestar Galactica, the original series. Now I loved this – still do – but the mag takes a more critical tone, saying most of its good ideas where wasted by formulaic plotting and characterisation.
“And yet, derivative though it was, the original concept of BSG had been rich with promise and possibilities.”
How right they were, although we had to wait for years – and the absultely awful Battlestar 80 – to find that out. Still gotta love Starbuck though!
You don’t need to be a student in film history to know that Superman Four was a pile of crap. It was filmed in Milton Keynes for god’s sake, had terrible plotting, dreadful special effects and even worse characters – Lenny Luthor anyone?
And then there was Nuclear Man, played by Mark Pillow, which was apt as the film sent everyone to sleep. As bad as this film was, he was the worst thing in it by a mile, which is some achievement.
God bless Starburst then, for doing their best to big it up as the latest epic.
By the next edition though, it was calling it a superflop, which was spot on.
A hole in the screen would have had more impact than Pillow, said reviewer Alan Jones, while the special effects ‘reduce Superman to a cereal box freebie being waved in front of a camera’. Ouch.
4) Jet – oooooooh!
Remember the original Gladiators? If you do, then you must remember Jet, the fantastically attractive one who made a whole generation of men feel a bit funny, like they were climbing the ropes in PE.
God, she was gorgeous, and was an undoubted highlight of Saturday night telly.
Which makes it all the more surprising that an earlier appearance by Diane Youdale didn’t take off – the She Wolf of London in 1990.
The Anglo-American production cast her as a Yank student who turns into a werewolf, but is struggling to find a cure.
Although anything that allowed me to look at Jet doing stuff would have been great, it sounds like a pile of shit dreamed up by Alan Partridge, alongside Monkey Tennis.
There were apparently 20 episodes of it, but I can’t remember it finding the light of day, more’s the pity.
Still, Diane’s time in the spotlight would come, on TV and in numerous adolescent boys’ sexual fantasies.
Gladiators … ready!! And all hail Starburst!!