Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Jean-Claude Van Damme vs. Dolph Lundgren: The Starlog Project, Starlog #182, September 1992

I’d love to make some snarky remarks about Universal Soldier, the beat-em-up flick starring action actors Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren. I’d love to, but I’ve never seen the movie, and even after being reminded about it when reviewing this issue of Starlog, which features the movie on its cover, I haven’t got the slightest interest in seeing the film.

It did unspectacularly at the box office. According to IMDB, the film’s budget is estimated to have been $23 million, and it grossed around $36 million. People (including, if I recall correctly, David Gerrold in the pages of Starlog) have estimated that a film has to gross a huge amount over its production budget before it records any profit, because after production there are still additional millions poured into advertising and promoting the film. So it is possible that Universal Soldier did not make any money back in 1992.

That doesn’t mean that you should shed a tear for Carolco Pictures, which produced the film. Hollywood studios are notorious for being stingy on reporting profits; in the very early 1980s, Starlog reported a short news item that Paramount Pictures was still saying that the classic Star Trek TV series had yet to produce a profit. That, despite its original run and endless repetition in lucrative syndication ever since; it was apparently successful enough to spawn an animated TV series in the early 1970s as well as a motion picture franchise; but no profit, mind you.

At least director Roland Emmerich emerged from this film with his career intact, so he could go on to produce blockbuster after blockbuster after blockbuster. Carolco, however, would be bankrupt within four years.

Starlog #182
84 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.95

But you’re looking for significance in this issue of Starlog? Look no further than page 34, the first page of Lawrence V. Conley’s preview of a li’l show called Babylon 5. Doesn’t get more significant than that.

The rundown: As noted above, Universal Soldier’s two hunks of euro-meat are featured on the cover; but the contents page photo goes to three male stars of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. David McDonnell’s Medialog column tells us that the great Terry Gilliam’s set to direct a new version of Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (don’t hold your breath), and Patrick Stewart is set to portray Daddy Warbucks in the sequel to 1982’s Annie (again, don’t hold your breath – though the film was eventually made in 1999, it is 100 percent Stewart-free); and managing editor Michael McAvennie’s Gamelog reviews Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday and Star Trek: The Game.

Communications letters include a reader complaining about a lack of coverage of female writers, directors, and producers in the pages of the magazine, plus letters about Alien3, Lost in Space comics, humanity’s future, and more, and Mike Fisher’s Creature Profile features Saucer Men; the Fan Network includes the usual convention calendar and Lia Pelosi’s directory of science-fiction fan clubs and publications; David Hutchison’s Videolog lets us know that Medicine Man is out and is priced for rental (which I assure you I will never take advantage of; I saw the Sean Connery flick in the cinema and it convinced me that there exists no more irritating actress than Lorraine Bracco); Booklog reviews City of Truth, And the Angels Sing, Crystalworld, Lethal Interface, Crisis on Doona, Outnumbering the Dead, Lady El, Crusade, and Trust Territory; and Kerry O’Quinn reports on “Scenes from a Convention” in his From the Bridge column.

You knew him as the original Commander Cain on Battlestar Galactica, but apparently this Lloyd Bridges fella did other things, too, such as starring in the classic Rocketship X-M or lampooning everything in the Airplane films, and he talks about all of that in a discussion with Tom Weaver; Stan Nicholls interviews author Robert Asprin (Phule’s Paradise, The Cold Cash War, etc.); Lawrence V. Conley previews Babylon 5, a show that was as groundbreaking as it was troubled and eventually truncated (the article includes some pretty cool preproduction art for the series), and Conley also provides a sidebar looking at Straczynski’s plans for a revival of V; and Debora Hill and Sandra Brandenburg interview Arachne novelist Lisa Mason.

Kim Howard Johnson chats up muscled hero Jean-Claude Van Damme, who says, “I’m not afraid to be typecast. .. I’m very young. I’m 30, and I go with the script. I know right now people want me to do action films, so why should I disappoint my fans?”; Marc Shapiro talks to director Peter Hyams about his John Ritter- and Pam Dawber-starring comedy Stay Tuned, though he also discusses some of his controversial past films such as 2010, Capricorn One, and Outland; you know the editors had fun titling this article: “Bimbos, Zombies & Fans,” an interview of writer Sharyn McCrumb by Paul Dellinger; and Kim Howard Johnson talks to director Roland Emmerich, the German-born filmmaker who would go on to bigger and better films – Emmerich notes of working with his two stars: “The funny part is, we’re all three Europeans. All three of us come from the same region, so Dolph [who’s Swedish] and Jean-Claude [Belgian] are pretty easy to work with.”

What’s it like to work with William Shatner? Veteran writer Ron Goulart says it's a pretty good experience, and he tells Bill Florence about working with the actor and director on the series of Tekwar books; Stan Nichols talks to actors Paul Kent and Wayne Forester about their stage show Thunderbirds FAB: The Next Generation; the Tribute section includes obituaries of Anton Furst by Adam Pirani and Ian Wolfe by Bill Florence; in part two of his series, Mark Phillips continues talking with Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’s writers, which includes this gem: “William Read Woodfield was a full-time writer for Voyage by the middle of its first season, but he made a point of watching only his own episodes. ‘Occasionally, I caught bits and pieces of other episodes, and I would say, “Geez, what shit!”’”; and editor David McDonnell talks animation in his Liner Notes column
“The inhabitants and crew of Babylon 5 are people who have put themselves on the frontier, on the fringe, fully aware of the dangers. This causes a certain pressure, as does the isolation. New people and visitors coming in every day also causes pressure, and it becomes a very volatile environment. That’s what I like for my stories – volatile environments.”
–J. Michael Straczynski, creator and executive producer, interviewed by Lawrence V. Conley: “Where Empires Touch”
For more, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent site.

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