Thursday, August 25, 2022

SPIDERHEAD (2022) Movie Review

Earlier this summer, Netflix premiered Spiderhead, a full-length science-fiction movie that presents us with a fascinating concept… can there truly be a drug manufactured that provides us with full compliance. For fans of the television series, Black Mirror, longing for new episodes that have yet to be produced, this film is a close second. Even better is the fact that this movie is a human character study that would work as the best of a science-fiction anthology. 


Based on the dystopian short story, “Escape from Spiderhead,” by George Saunders, first published in The New Yorker, the story follows inmates in a luxurious prison who participate in experiments involving mind-altering drugs. The film received mixed reviews from critics, and rightfully so. Viewers are going to either love this movie or dislike the movie. Personally, I found it enjoyable and a daring concept for Netflix to produce.


Spiderhead is a state-of-the-art penitentiary experimenting with the effects of research chemicals. The test subjects, technically prisoners of the state, are volunteers for the project aiming to reduce their sentence time. The program is overseen by the sympathetic and hospitable Steve Abnesti, along with his assistant Mark. The prisoners have their own rooms, do chores, and are free to roam without guard supervision. The subjects go through daily test runs of various drugs, all of which alter their emotions and their perceptions of their surroundings.


Inmate Jeff, still reeling from having killed his friend whilst drunk driving, is given N-40, a "love drug", which distorts his senses and drives him to have sex with two of his fellow inmates. Steve asks him to choose which one of them to give Darkenfloxx, a drug that induces intense fear and psychological pain. He declines to choose, claiming he feels nothing in particular for either one of them after the effects of the love drug had worn off.

Chris Hemsworth plays a role that you either love or hate, and proves he is more than capable of handling a role with diverse emotion and not just a hammer-wielding Norse god as he has in past years. 


The film has a happy ending (or not-so-happy ending, depending on how you look at it) and during the closing voice-over, we are reminded that self-forgiveness has to be worked on and chosen, rather than being easily curable.


I love science-fiction but find motion-pictures oftentimes cannot provide more beyond the concept. Films earlier this year such as Lightyear and Everything, Everywhere, All at Once had a fascinating concept but the execution was just not there. In Spiderhead, the concept was only unraveled as we watched various character interact against their will in a science experiment. From a dramatic standpoint, whether you enjoy stage drama or television anthologies, this is one of the better ones worth watching this year.


Friday, August 19, 2022

STAR TREK: Strange New Worlds Review

The eleventh series in the Star Trek saga premiered over Paramount Plus a few weeks ago, a streaming service providing CBS television programs and Paramount motion pictures. While technically a spin-off of Star Trek: Discovery, this new series, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, is technically a prequel to the original 1960s Star Trek series. Captain Pike of the Enterprise, along with a cadet (not lieutenant) named Nyota Uhura, Nurse Christine Chapel and Science Officer Spock, will badly go where no man has gone before... prior to Captain Kirk.

To be fair, the closest any of these sequel (and prequel) series came to the original series was Star Trek: The Next Generation, which launched additional spin-offs and sequels such as Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager, but the producers wanted to take us back to the type of stories the original series did in the 1960s. Every episode is a self-contained adventure (unlike the prior Discovery which provides us with one long continuous story arc that each episode picks up where the last ended) and with the same style uniforms, dialogue and plots. Never was the latter more evident than the third episode of this series, "Ghosts of Illyria," which gave us another magnetic storm and a medical outbreak from an alien planet as the third and fourth episode of the original series did, but with a variation-on-a-theme and a social issue we can all be reminded of. Some might complain that Strange New Worlds is basically borrowing ideas from the original series, but is that really a bad thing?

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds follows Captain Christopher Pike (played perfectly by Anson Mount) and the crew of the starship USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) in the 23rd century as they explore new worlds throughout the galaxy, in the decade prior to the original television series. This rendition has a contemporary take on that series' episodic storytelling and while the computers look more realistic than the 1960s counterpart, they still maintain the same art deco and designs. 

Fans of the original series will not only rejoice in how well this rendition plays out -- the first to truly capture the feel and formula of the original series -- but also the fact that Easter Eggs can be found for the die-hards who realize planets are named after actors who played guest starring roles on the original series, and names of species Captain Kirk would ultimately face off against such as the "Gorn." In one episode, a direct reference to "Space Seed" and Khan was obvious, as was Spock's carotid artery joke also from that same episode

The final episode of the season concluded on a high note and all ten are available for streaming on Paramount Plus. If you love the original 1960s Star Trek, then this is definitely the series for you.
The producers might be saying "We're doing this for the fans" but they are clearly working from an old recipe. Which reminds me of the old fable of great grandma's cookie recipe. With each generation, whether it be due to technical advancements or the supply chain of ingredients, the recipe was tweaked -- and then tweaked again. Generations later, someone found the original recipe and tried it out and asked why was the recipe even tampered with in the first place. Well, it seems the same can be applied here as well. The Star Trek premise was tweaked and revised with each new series until (apparently) someone at Paramount stopped and asked why they were not going back to the series' roots. After all, that old recipe still tastes good. I, for one, am looking forward to future episodes this summer and hoping the producers maintain the plotted course for a five year mission... 

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Jay Hickerson, 1934 - 2022

Jay Allen Hickerson passed away at the age of 87. Some knew him as a talented piano player, others as a historian for old-time radio. But for me, he was the most inspirational person I ever met.

Jay was the first person beyond a mail order catalog (Metacom/Adventures in Cassettes) that I talked to in the hobby and it was during our 20-30 minute phone call that opened Pandora’s box for me. From there I discovered old-time radio was a hobby that included conventions, fan clubs, published books, newsletters, and hundreds of thousands of other radio recordings available from multiple vendors and companies.

It was Jay and his Yoda-like influence that turned me over to the darkside and from there I become obsessed with Old-Time Radio beyond mere entertainment and curiosity. He asked how young I was when we first talked on the phone and he never judged… only influenced and encouraged. Few would have done that -- many would have judged and quickly ended the call. 

My phone call was in query to a printed broadcast log he wrote about Suspense, how I discovered there was discrepancies between his log and two other logs, and that I had intention to write a book documenting the history of the radio program, television program and comic books on the same subject. It was Jay who gave me phone numbers and names of people he suggested I contact, provided me leads for research, and motivated me into writing what would ultimately become the first of 40+ books. Over the next three decades, it was Jay who became my sole contact when I needed to track down someone in the hobby. In fact, it is Jay's name that probably appears in the acknowledgments of almost every book I ever wrote.

During that monumental conversation over the phone, Jay also encouraged me to attend the Friends of Old-Time Radio Convention, held every October in Newark, New Jersey, which ran 36 years. Jay owned and operated the event, which focused primarily on old-time radio programs. I convinced my father to drive me up to the event (I was too young to drive at the time) and it was there I was able to put a face to the voice. 

Of all the conventions I ever attended, FOTR was my favorite. It was there that I met Raymond Edward Johnson, Ralph Bell, Bill Dana, Jerry Stiller, Fred Foy and many others. That was also the event that inspired me to launch my own convention, the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, which is now (to date) 17 years and still going strong. With Jay's blessing, we even give an award every couple years named The Jay Hickerson Award, inspired by someone who has done so much for the hobby.

When Jay announced he was closing down the Friends of Old-Time Radio Convention, I wanted to do something special for him. I phoned Jay and asked if he would like me to assemble a 52 to 56 page book documenting all 36 years of the convention, complete with photographs from every year, a complete list of the celebrities that attended each year, highlights of each event, and produce a lavish full-color publication to give away at the last convention. Jay was very receptive and gave me the official go-ahead. Through friends we scanned photo albums and scrapbooks, digitized every flyer and annual program guide for all 36 years (and the five years prior when the event was known as SAVE), and solicited memories and recollections from past attendees. This was the least I could do for what all Jay did not just for the hobby, but for myself. I never felt I did enough to return the favor.

No one was more influential or so large a spear-header in the hobby than Jay Hickerson and the hobby is smaller as a result of his death. He will never be forgotten.

Jay relaxing for a moment at FOTR in Newark, New Jersey.

Jay Hickerson at the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention.

Sean Doughtery, Jay Hickerson and Steven Lewis

Jay giving away the Dave Warren award at FOTR.


Friday, August 5, 2022

The Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention 2022

If you are looking for a destination convention this year, I recommend you check out the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention. The three-day film festival has been bringing fans together for seventeen years, who flock in from all over the country. Hollywood celebrities sign autographs and pose for photos with fans. Over 200 vendor tables provide a wealth of treasures. The event even provides a platform for museum curators, authors and film preservationists to give us slide show presentations on varied subjects. 

This year's event is scheduled September 15 to 17, 2022. Among this year's celebrity guests are Bob Eubanks, Melissa Gilbert, Nancy Kovack, Susan George, Jamie Farr, and many others!

The following photos were taken by Martha Guptill, Bill Guptill, Al Stone, Mark Gross and myself from previous years and a fond look back at some of the event's memorable moments. If you have never been to the event, I hope these photos entice you to attend. 

In the background is Russ Tamblyn and George Chakiris from West Side Story.
In the front is Karolyn Grimes, known as little Zuzu in the Christmas
classic, It's a Wonderful Life.

A sample of what can be found on the 200+ vendor tables.

Autograph lines stretch outside the hotel for the most
popular celebrities.

Kristy McNichol posing with a fan at the show.

Kent McCord from television's Adam-12 signing autographs
for fans throughout the weekend.

Stefanie Powers and Robert Wagner spend the weekend signing
autographs and posing for photos with fans all weekend. 

The WKRP in Cincinnati cast reunion with Jan Smithers
and Howard Hesseman.

The autograph lines can be long. Sometimes the event has what is
referred to as "time passes." This gives attendees the advantage to
enjoy the show throughout the weekend and not stand in line all day.

Groucho Marx, The Lone Ranger and the Snow Miser.
Fans like to dress in cosplay during the weekend.

Gene Carpenter is one of the many vendors selling vintage
collectibles. His specialty is first issues of old comic books.

The third of only three times the entire cast of The Bionic Woman 
and The Six Million Dollar Man together to meet fans. Most of
the celebrities go up on stage during the weekend and for an hour
they answer questions from the audience. (Left to right) 
Richard Anderson, Lindsay Wagner and Lee Majors.

A cinematic movie monster in person. Ricou Browning, who was
The Creature from the Black Lagoon, signing autographs for fans.

Visit the convention website at 

Mary Foster, the Editor’s Daughter

It only happens once or twice a year… an opportunity where we can contribute to the cause. Radio Spirits released this set of unreleased recordings for a radio soap opera that collectors have sampled over the decades from four to seventy installments — and not always consecutive. But Radio Spirits released this CD set containing consecutive episodes from April and May of 1947, a godsend for those who enjoy radio soap operas. On a personal note, these get addictive.

Radio Spirits purchased a collection from a private collector who transcribed from transcription disc and if we want to see all 1,200 plus episodes known to exist to be made available, it will depend on the sales of this set. Through one report, sales are lackluster and there is the risk that the majority of those 1,200 recordings may remain on the shelves. The costs involved with production of such sets means a minimum number of sales are required to financially justify the release of additional volumes. Your purchase today will send the message. Otherwise, this is a one and done release. As of right now it is discounted and on sale, so click the link right now and support the cause.