Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Starlog Project: Starlog #35, June 1980: The Year of Empire!

Okay, so technically this is the final issue in the Year of Trek at Starlog, but The Empire Strikes Back struck a month early. Over the next year, Empire would command three of the magazine's covers (including one of my all-time favorites, which comes up in two months) and countless articles. After Star Trek -- The Motion Picture had its 11-month year in the sun, the Star Wars sequel moves in. Unlike Trek, Empire would be almost a complete critical success. Science-fiction magazines like Starlog live and die by how they latch onto the big movies and TV hits of of the day, so it's natural for its editors to pivot quickly to a galaxy far, far away ...

Starlog #35
72 pages (including cover)
Cover price: $2.25

As the cover's roof text declares: At Last: The Empire Strikes Back! That enthusiasm is spread throughout the issue, which includes an extra four-page photo spread from the movie (and if you've ever been in magazine publishing, you know it is usually not financially feasible to add four pages instead of eight, just because of the way the printing presses work). But there's other interesting stuff in this issue, including a good long look at Star Blazers (aka Space Cruiser Yamato) and previews of many upcoming productions. Also this issue, we have the first appearance of another extension of the Starlog brand: Starlog Video, classic SF TV and movies on VHS or beta (for only $59.95 each!! -- oh, those early days of home video!). A very cool idea, though expensive and ahead of its time. By the time home video hits big in a few years, Starlog Video will have been long gone. Also this issue is the first notice of Starlog Records' latest release, and it's a coup: Bernard Herrmann's score for the Hitchcock classic North by Northwest.

Kerry O'Quinn kicks off the party in his From the Bridge column by exploring "Invisible Death," really a continuation of his "Dreams" theme about the need to pursue dreams and to not let other people deter you from your passions; Communications letters include the first fiery batch of reader responses to Harlan Ellison's (and David Gerrold's and Howard Zimmerman's) negative review of Star Trek -- The Motion Picture, as well as the evergreen complaint that Starlog disses non-Trek TV shows, reactions to Galactica 1980, and more; Short news items in Log Entries include a call for SFX help on the TV special The Tears of Thoria, reprints of the UK comics hero Dan Dare, new Bugs Bunny shorts, Kenner's Empire Strikes Back toys, announcement of th second annual Short Film Search, and more.

Alan Brender interviews George McGinnis, designer on the Disney SF film The Black Hole; Karen E. Willson interviews Bruce Lansbury, supervising producer for Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (and which, in a photo, reminds us all that the late actor Peter Graves guest starred on that show); David Gerrold's Rumblings discusses how Hollywood misses the magic when it brings science-fiction stories to the screen; Bill Cotter & Mike Clark share an extensive background on a classic (to some) TV series and movie, "Up from the Depths: The Making & Breaking of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea"; Gerry Anderson's Space Report covers "The Mysterious Unknown Force, Part II"; David Houston kicks off the Empire coverage by interviewing SFX co-supervisor Brian Johnson (the article includes the four-page bonus photo section, illustrated with some of the movie's scenes that would become iconic); Bob Woods continues the fun with his interview with Lando Calrissian himself, Billy Dee Williams; an unbylined one-page article updates readers on happenings at the Star Wars Fan Club (which also advertises earlier in the magazine; draw your own conclusions); the Quest reader-talent page includes Doug Chaffee's illustrations (quite good, I might add); David Houston writes a preview of Universal Pictures' slate of productions for 1980, which include "More Fuel for the Science-Fiction Boom" (such as Flash Gordon, the Get Smart movie The Nude Bomb, and more); James H. Burns introduces American audiences to a Japanese classic in "SF Animation at Its Best: Make Way for Star Blazers"; Susan Adamo's first feature article is a preview of Battle Beyond the Stars, in which she interviews director Jimmy Murakami about this Roger Corman SF remake of The Seven Samari (scripted by John Sayles and starring Richard Thomas); F.W. Evans writes this month's SFX section, focusing on "The Crew" -- a behind-the-scenes look by a special effects crew member at the miniature work on Steven Spielberg's 1941; David Houston's Visions column looks at the visualization of William Cameron Menzies' Invaders from Mars; and Howard Zimmerman's Lastword sort of echoes Gerrold's column by talking about the compromises made in bringing good SF to the screen.
"Despite Star Blazers' American hassles, Space Cruiser Yamato continues to be one of Japan's most popular television shows. Yoshinobu Nishizaki has just finished production on 26 new episodes that reportedly depict Desslok and the Star Force uniting against a common enemy that threatens the existence of both humans and Gamilons. Marcella would eventually like to import this third season, but is currently going to concentrate on getting Star Blazers seen by a wider segment of the American public."
--James H. Burns, writer, "SF Animation at Its Best: Make Way for Star Blazers"
To view previous Starlog issue descriptions, click on "Starlog Internet Archive Project" in the keywords below.

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