Thursday, 19 July 2018

The Mystery Science Theatre 3000 2018 Experience: Part 2. The Mads!

Having met Mike Nelson, Crow and Tom Servo back in February the opportunity to now meet the Mads (the mad scientist in the show) become available to us via an Indigogo campaign, offering “UK fans of MST3K - join Frank & Trace at the 18th SCI-FI-LONDON festival for a live riffing show!!! Spend some time with the guys, laugh your arse off and generally curl up in an event that will be comfort-rated to 10” Amongst the various perks on the Indigogo page there was one on there that appealed to both Mrs Jones and myself  Ok, how about lunch with the guys? Limited to 15 people, Sun 6th may 2018. We meet Trace & Frank at the London Eye then take a trip down the River Thames to Greenwich. Followed by a lovely lunch. Boat trip, food and drink included. 4 Pin (badge) set and show ticket included. Very special limited edition perk” we did just that and the campaign was a success! So it was back to London on the 18th of May to SCI-FI-LONDON to meet Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff!

Dr. Forrester (full name Clayton Deborah Susan Forrester) the man, with the “vision” to send a man into space and forcing him to watch the worst 'B' movies ever made is one of my all time favourite Mad Scientist. So when we arrived at SCI-FI-LONDON which was celebrating the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein I couldn’t think of a more fitting setting to meet him and his assistant TV’s Frank! Once again we joined a line of fellow British MSTies as we made our way to the front to meet them, awkward, “errr...err... your my favourite mad scientist muah-bla blu-blah!” out of the way  we took to our seats for the show, I was delighted that they also picked an Ed Wood movie perhaps not as popular as Plan 9 from Outer Space but an important piece all the same, Wood’s personal piece from 1953 Glen or Glenda a documentary disguised as an exploitation film about a subject matter close to his heart cross-dressing and trans-sexuality. Trace and Frank took to their seats at the front and the riffing commenced, much like before it was a surreal experience hearing familiar voices but seeing them in person before you, oh and it was very funny! They followed with a Q&A afterwards with host, Bunny Galore not even prizes they gave out for each question was enough to break my shyness, no matter I thought- tomorrow we would be meeting them at the London Eye I will ask them then!

Trace Beaulieu, (TV’s) Frank Conniff and Bunny Galore

A very hot day followed and we made our way to the London Eye to meet the Mads, spirits were high (despite British Rail making us ride by bus!) as soon as heads were counted we boarded the ferry and sailed down the Thames and I had a really pleasant chat with Trace and fellow fans about the show, robots, Frankenstein movies and Sci-Fi in general before we arrived in Greenwich. Stopping briefly to admire the Cutty Sark we went into a restaurant for lunch. As we awaited our meals conversation continued along similar lines in relaxed surroundings, we had a blast. A nice meal and pleasant conversation with like minded people about comedy, Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, Frankenstein, This Island Earth is one thing but to do so with the Mads was fantastic! We then made our way onwards to Greenwich Park for a look around, some photos and we educated Trace and Frank in the ancient British custom of the’ 99’(for those of you also in the dark about such matters a 99 is an ice cream cone with a Cadbury flake inserted in it) and that was it, it was time to go home, but we had an amazing time doing something we never thought we would get to do, and we thank Emm Ledsam for making it happen and of course Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff for coming over to visit us let’s hope it happens again very soon! Well, unless they all decide to come over again this year with Joel Hodgson, Mary Jo Pehl and Josh Weinstein I think it’s safe to say that, that was our own little MST3K 30th anniversary event! 
Thanks to all involved, until next time....


© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

The Mystery Science Theatre 3000 2018 Experience: Part 1. Rifftrax Live!

Continuing the trend of up-beat posts, this post is devoted to two adventures Mrs Jones and I embarked on a few months back, BUT first a back-story...Back in the day Mrs Jones told me about a movie I had never heard of called, Mystery Science Theatre 3000: The Movie which seemed to follow a simple enough premise, a mad scientist sends a man into space as part of an experiment, forcing him to watch the worst 'B' movies ever made, aided by a group of robot friends they can be seen in the bottom right of the screen while the movie plays as they heckle or 'riff' (“A monologue or spoken improvisation, especially a humorous one, on a particular subject”- oxforddictionaries.com) the movie. “You’ll love it!” she said, “They make fun of This Island Earth!” well, being rather fond of This Island Earth I went into this movie rather apprehensively but by the end of it I can honestly say that I hadn’t laughed so hard during a movie in my life! It didn’t really make fun of the movie, if anything there was love there for it and the humorous observations and references added an extra layer to an already great movie. Shortly after that I astutely discovered that the reason it was called 'the movie' was because it had in fact started out as a TV series which ran from 1988 to 1999 clocking up an impressive 197 episodes! Created by/ starring comedian, Joel Hodgson it first ran on KTMA in Minneapolis, Minnesota before moving to Comedy Central and ending its days on The Sci-Fi Channel. Then after 100 episodes Joel left the series and was replaced by Michael J. Nelson (he also starred in the movie, essentially where we came in) The show was produced by very (very) funny people such as Trace Beaulieu, Josh Weinstein, Jim Mallon, Kevin Murphy, Frank Conniff, Mary Jo Pehl, Bill Corbett, Paul Chaplin, and Bridget Jones Nelson but being a cult show in America it's was largely unknown here in the UK but I urge you all to do as we did, seek out these episodes! The program is certainly one of my all time favourite television shows and it features some of my all time favourite robots and mad scientists and it introduced me to countless movies that would have otherwise been unheard of or forgotten (some of which might have been for the better) and suffice it to say this show has been a large feature in my life these past 14 years! Although the show had ended in 1999 most of the cast remain in contact and continue to “Riff” in some form or another in live shows across the US and during the past 14 years all we could do was look on with envious eyes.... hoping that one day, in the not too distant future, we would get to experience the MST3K experience.

2018, the 30th anniversary year was that year! RiffTrax started back in 2006 and it’s a very clever idea, Mike J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett sell audio MP3 file voice tracks of themselves making jokes (much the same way as they used to do on the show) once you have downloaded the track you find a copy of the movie they were watching on disc or streaming service and sync the two together and you get a hilarious commentary track on all the big budget movies with no legal issues for them, and they are hilarious! Equally hilarious and popular are their live shows and when we saw that they were going to riff Plan 9 from Outer Space and Samurai Cop live and for one night only at the Prince Wales Cinema, London on February 15th we couldn’t believe our eyes! Valentine’s Day was sorted! Having booked well in advance we showed up at the cinema to pick up our tickets before going around the corner to China Town for a meal at the Gourmet Kitchen we were giddy with excitement, we would finally see these guys live and when we joined the line you could tell that we were not alone on this! Mrs Jones tugged on my arm when she spotted Mike Nelson in the foyer and then Kevin Murphy, Tom Servo himself came outside to shake hands and thank everyone for turning up, we were both “geeking-out” at this stage.
When the doors opened at 6:30 we took our seats and they took to the stage to a great round of applause before starting the show with an educational short entitled The Calendar: How to Use It before going headlong into a colourised version of Plan 9 from Outer Space a movie, another move that I am rather fond of, I am a big Ed Wood Jr. fan and unfortunately Plan 9 is often cited by lazy journalists as “the worst movie ever made” trust me, it’s not and these chaps concurred (they have made a career of watching bad movies so they would know!) the show was hilarious! I have been to several comedy shows over the years but I don’t think I have ever heard so much laughter at one before. The show was over before we knew it, and it was a surreal experience, having listened to these guys for over 14 years and to finally see them on stage, in person was an experience.

We got up, stretched our legs and took to our seats again for the second part of our double bill Samurai Cop from 1991 starring Robert Z'Dar, Matt Hannon and Mark Frazer which I hadn’t seen before, which was excellent as its quite an insane film in itself and so combined with the riff it was hilarious! As we made our way out of the cinema I wandered over to the main desk and enquired if the RiffTrax guys were signing autographs? The girl just waved me away and dismissed me with a “no” we shrugged and thought that was it, at least we got to see them live and on stage but when we walked through the door onto the street there they were! The three of them signing autographs, meeting greeting and taking ‘selefies’ so we got to go up, shake hands and thank them for their humour, their talent and for all the years of laughs in person, and they didn’t disappoint, they were as friendly and humble as we had been led to believe. The show (as I stated before) was hilarious and IF they should come back to the UK again I urge you to check it out! That was it, we got to finally meet the crew of the satellite of love and we wandered off smiling, quoting various lines to the Tube station. But that wasn’t the end, oh no. The cogs at Gizmonic Institute were turning, we would soon be returning to London for phase 2...

Meeting the cast of the Satellite of Love Mike J. Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy
slightly overwhelmed as you can see!

Onward to part 2! The Mystery Science Theatre 3000 2018 Experience: Part 1

© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Arfon’s Studio: VID -O -RAMA!

The new look studio is fast approaching completion and so I thought it was time for a small reveal and seeing as it was mentioned in a radio interview last year we might as well start with this corner, the VID -O -RAMA! Being fond of having movies play while you paint you accumulate stacks of DVD’s and Blu-rays in your studio and it soon become increasingly difficult to manoeuvre around them all so I decided to use my new tools and newly found confidence in woodwork to good use and started to design and construct adequate shelving for them all. The theme for this storage space was inevitable really, sheer number of movies aside it all happened when my wife came in one evening to select a movie to watch and having browsed for some time she asked me if one particular movie was “any good?” and so it was decided, I would replicate an old video shop! Ignoring the lack of any actual VHS’s (I only have a few out of print titles now DVD’s are purely a space saving compromise I assure you!) this storage space was to serve as a loving nod to the video shops of the past, seemingly, ripped from the past and shoved into the corner of the studio. 
I wanted the shelves to be made of wood and have that independent, ‘mom and pop store’ look about them and once they were up I pinned a few random retail stars that indicate genre to them. Another additional feature was authentic 40 year old interior wood paneling finished off with video release posters for such movies as Humanoids from the Deep, The Toxic Avenger and Predator not forgetting an original Video Week chart poster, “the only national computer monitored top 50” from August 1989 which had A Fish Called Wanda at number 1, Schwarzenegger’s Red Heat at 2 and Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Bloodsport at 3 it also highlights the upcoming Elvira Mistress of the Dark movie. Between the posters you will also find genuine rental conditions, membership hire and  tariffs (including a warning that a charge 25p will be made if tapes are not rewound after use!) that once belonged to Cray Video Club once located on the high street in St. Mary’s Cray in Kent the space under the window is also occupied by a relic from the glory days of video rental, an 8ft long sign that once belonged to our local video shop that I obtained a few years back! Mounted on the wall nearest my desk is my original 20 year old Panasonic Telly and Bush VHS player that plays movie trailers when not in use and if that doesn’t aid your decision making our handy ‘New Releases’ marquee board will, which is updated weekly! I am rather pleased with the way VID -O -RAMA! turned out both as a storage solution and feature designed to celebrate the good old pre-onlinestreaming days, I hope you agree.



© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs: The greatest live show I (didn’t get) to see!

When I first enrolled in Art College in 1996 I was granted access to one of the greatest libraries I had ever seen! Offering access to thousands of books relating to art and design and the college also offered various courses in media and performing arts and so there was  all manner of books and magazines devoted to cinema on hand which provided me with endless amounts of reading material for my daily 30 mile commute to college. Books devoted to animation and cult cinema were a particular lure for me and I read about the works of people such as Ed Wood Jr, Russ Meyer, Roger Corman and Lloyd Kaufman. One book I held in high regard was Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In a humorous movie guide written by Joe Bob Briggs that both celebrated the iconic American Drive-Thru appealing to my fascination with all things Americana and exploitation and B Movies of the past. Joe Bob seemed to speak to me, reviewing the then current movie releases through a tall tale about his exploits at the Drive-Thru all the while upholding the all important three B’s rule  "Blood, Beasts and Breasts!" as I noted the movie titles he had advised me to  “check it out” I had no idea who Joe Bob (aka John Bloom) actually was beyond the blurb in the book and certainly had no idea that he was the host of TNT cable network’s  MonsterVision series, regarded by many to be a cult classic. 
I didn’t even know what he sounded like until we had YouTube when I was finally able to put a voice to the words and face and binge watch segments from his past shows, combine his immortal 'Drive-In Totals' and his infectious devotion for the subject matter I have long regarded him to be one of the all time great horror hosts and B Movie/ exploitation cinema aficionado. But each time I watched these clips I was always sorry that we never had this guy here in the UK, celebrating the movies that mainstream critics and reviewers looked down on. So when I heard that eighteen years after his MonsterVision show had ended he was going to return for one last hurrah on Live stream I thought I was finally going to get experience Joe Bob Briggs experience for myself! First hand! 

When news of the The Last Drive-In broke all fans rejoiced, it was to be a 24 hour marathon on Shudder the streaming/ subscription video on demand service on Friday the 13th of July and it was to be  Joe Bob in his chair, beer in hand highlighting some of his favorite movies over the years, ones that upheld the MonsterVision rule, “Anybody can die at any moment” but, my heart sank when it seemed that it was only available to Shudder customers in the US (due to copywrite issues) “dang it!” but when I looked on the Shudder UK site in the lead up to it, the show featured in its listings, so I figured I still had a chance! So I signed up to Shudder and took my seat at 3am but.... Shudder had underestimated Joe Bob’s popularity, they broke the internet! Hundreds despaired (myself included) as they only got loading screens! After an hour I walked away and decided I would try and catch up after I had some sleep, but I did contact Shudder themselves before going to bed asking what was going on and within a few hours  Shudder contacted me and said, “Hi there, The staggering demand for Joe Bob’s Last Drive In had temporarily overwhelmed Shudder devices. Things have been fixed and you should be able to join the live-stream in progress. Even better, we’ll be posting the entire Tourist Trap with Joe Bob’s commentary so you can catch up. And on top of it all, we will rerun the marathon in its entirety later next week on ShudderTV We apologize for a frustrating experience this past evening, but we THANK YOU for your tremendous support and fandom!” Well, there we go I thought I should be able to be a part of this at some point then? Nope! I tried with my TV, computer and phone throughout the day- no joy! All seemed even bleaker when I noticed that Shudder has issued the very same message I had been sent to everyone on Facebook! The 24 hour marathon drew to a close and I hadn’t seen a single second of it! Everyone heralded it as his triumphant return! One of the single important horror experiences in many a year! And I missed out!! I e-mailed them again, asking why had I not been able to join in on all the fun and games and essentially fobbed off? They replied “Dear Arfon, Unfortunately the marathon was available to US members only. We sincerely apologize about this inconvenience.” So it was all a waste of time?! Why advertise it on the UK site?  I’ve asked around and apparently according to a gentleman called Tom Waller who had been in contact with the channel before the show went to air offered some insight, apparently UK customers would be getting VODs (Video on demand) sometime during the next week but only for the films that Shudder have licensed for in the UK, so no Tourist Trap, Pieces or Sleepaway Camp!
But there might be a glimmer of hope, we might possibly get to see the Joe Bob segments themselves edited much like the ones we have been watching on YouTube all these years (not what I was going for but at least it’s something!) Tom thought it would be an idea to contact Shudder UK direct and show them Joe Bob also has a fan base here in the UK and I agree! So come on fellow British Mutants, contact Shudder and tell them we want to see Joe Bob! Contact them via their contact page or their Facebook page or Twitter and remember, the Drive-In will never die!


UPDATE: 18/07/2018
I received this message from Davidson from Shudder Support, “ Hi Arfon, Thanks for the email and sorry for any confusion. In the near future, we will have most of the movies with Joe Bob Briggs’ commentary available for our UK subscribers. There are a couple films that we were not able to get the rights to in the UK, and that is why it was not originally available in the UK."
My sincere thanks to Tom Waller and Joe Bob’s assistant Tracy and of course Mr Joe Bob Briggs himself!
© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

From the Vaults: 2009 'Cei Bach'

Back in 2009 I was hired to help out with the production of a Welsh language children’s television series entitled Cei Bach it’s been nine years so I’m assuming that they won’t mind me mentioning it now (If I’m wrong S4C please let me know) Cei Bach centred around Prys the village policeman and his wife Mari who ran a B&B on the sea front along with various other characters which made up their community, described as the 'Welsh Balamory' the show was filmed around the village of Borth-y-Gest (one mile outside Porthmadog) and yours truly was hired to decorate a snack van which featured in the series and paint a donkey for a pin the tail on the donkey competition which featured in a village fate. 

I haven’t been able to find the village fate episode online but here are some random shots of the van which I adorned with various snacks. Look out for them on iPlayer or follow this link to Cyw (A Welsh language Children's television block on S4C) to watch some episodes. Fear not non Welsh speakers I understand English subtitles are available!      

the van also featured on the show’s interactive website    
© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Arfon's 24 Hour Shark A-Thon! Countdown begins!

Arfon's 24 Hour Shark A-Thon! Will commence in 26 days and thanks to your kind generosity through donations via the Justgiving page or adding your pledges via my sponsor forms we have broken the halfway mark and raised £300 for Alzheimer’s Society!
BUT this is only the beginning! There is much more to do as I want to raise as much as possible with this, so please- if you haven’t donated yet do it now! Remember there is no set pledge amount here, give what you can! Whatever you can spare and if you’re not so keen on online pledging fine, get in touch and make your donation/pledges anyway you wish! Be sure to tell everyone about this challenge any attempts to spread the word would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Artistic Influences: Happy Birthday, Garfield

Introduction: Adjusting and rewriting the past
Acknowledging artistic influences is a nice touch to someone’s ‘about’ page however back in 2014 I found myself having to edit mine somewhat when an enduring television personality named on my bio as a creative influence was convicted and imprisoned for sexual offences. As he was led away to begin sentence, his various honors and achievements stripped from him, people started to distance themselves from him and  history was effectively, rewritten.  It was a surreal time for me, because for many years I had regarded this man to be an integral part of my career, he had inspired and steered my life in this direction but now I wasn’t able to look back because most of the past had been wiped away. From now on I was no longer able to give his name when asked, “what made you want to become an artist?” and I was no longer able to recount how important his TV shows and books had been for me, no longer able to say that meeting him had been one of the highlights of my life, his photo was removed from my wall of fame and the paragraph referring to his influence was deleted from my online bio. But he wasn’t the only influence I had, far from it and so I have decided to go back and highlight others that influenced me just as much and played as much a part in my career path.

"Happy 40th Birthday Garfield!"  I was staggered that on the 19th of June Garfield celebrated his 40th Birthday as it seems like only yesterday we celebrated his 10th! Back then I was a massive Garfield nut and collected all things Garfield related and to this very day I have a lifelong love of Lasagna (a result of trying it after reading about it so often!) But this occasion also marks the 30th anniversary of one of my Artistic Influences entitled, Happy Birthday, Garfield an hour-long television special devoted to Garfield’s tenth anniversary in 1988 hosted by creator Jim Davis. It was released on VHS in the UK and I received the tape on my ninth Birthday (as seen in the bellow photograph taken of me on my 9th Birthday). The program certainly played a part in my career path as it not only provided an insight into the creation of the character but also took us behind the scenes to meet the people responsible for both the Garfield strips and animated specials. 

This VHS opened my eyes to the world of comic strips and animation, a profession I aspired to be a part of when I grew up. I was fascinated because it gave a voice to the man whose name I had seen in the corner of each strip and piece of merchandise, allowed me to see him draw his creations and talk us through the process of creating a newspaper strip. It convinced me that the life of a cartoonist in America was the life for me! Attending cartoonist events, Hollywood parties dedicated to your creations, flying in a balloons bearing the likeness of a character you had created and hanging out and chatting with fellow cartoonists by a pool was the way to go.  I watched it over, and over again and as my VHS collection has whittled down to single numbers over the years- Happy Birthday, Garfield remained on my shelf alongside all the books that I have devoted to animation/ cartooning history.

I have uploaded the VHS to my YouTube Channel for your viewing pleasure! 


© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

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