Well, it’s Wednesday again, and I have spent the first half of my week relatively wisely. As I believe I mentioned the other day, Daughter Sarah Lydia and I spent this weekend getting materials together to make our first Steampunk costumes. We want to make a good showing at Vandalia-Con at the end of this month (hint hint: check it out and if you can get there, you really should attend. It’s gonna be fun, and the money raised goes to the best of causes!). Anyway, Sarah Lydia and I have spent the week thus far working on those costumes. I am lucky in this regard: being good country mamas, my granny and mother first put needle and thread in my hands when I was four years old, and I have been making my own clothes since I was eight or nine. When my own children came along, I made sure they had the same skills (including the boys; boys need those skills as well, and my eldest, at least, is not too shabby at it!) So knocking together a costume like this is not anything new. I feel confident that we can put together something fun.
Sarah Lydia is going the airship pirate route: flounced skirts, sexy peasant blouse, visible corset, piratey accessories. She is considering wearing a sword (I still have my fencing epee, though my fighting days are way over) to complete the look, but that hasn’t been absolutely decided yet. We’re still debating the hat.
Since I’m a good deal older, I originally decided to go with a look more in the Victorian Dowager vein: long skirt, frilly lacy blouse with big poofy sleeves. Since I’m hoping to pimp out my wheelchair a little, I may be less “Downton Abbey” and more “Victorian Bond Villain.” Which would not break my heart at all! Again, still debating the hat. First problem: budget. We only had a little bit of cash to spend on costumes, and we used most of it already; I’m going to have to wing it on my outfit. Second problem is that, after being so sick for so long, most of my hair is gone gone gone. So I wear a headscarf. But what hat will look good with my headscarf? Maybe skip the hat thing altogether and put together something gear-i-fied and gadgety to go with the headscarf? Hmmm… decisions, decisions…..
Anyway, when we’re finished making all those pesky decisions, I’ll let you know what we’ve come up, hopefully with pictures to go with it! In the meantime, let’s talk about today’s topic:
The Mercury Men was a web show done for the SyFy channel’s webpage and released in 2011. It starred Mark Tierno and Curt Wootton (hey, this guy is from my neck of the woods! hillbillies represent, y’all!) Both actors have had minor roles here and there (Tierno was in Day of the Dead, according to IMDB), but they’re mostly unknowns. Both of them were in Captain Blasto which, if you recall, I wrote up here; the Mercury Men director, Christopher Preksta, was also on the Blasto team.
Anyway, the story is simple enough. In the mid 1970’s, Edward Borman, corporate drone, is working late at the cubicle farm when trouble arrives in the form of these glow-in-the-dark Mercury Men, aka The First Men, “made of a light so dense it’s become a solid.(and they ain’t kidding; they’re simply silhouettes of light, no features whatsoever, but traceable by the intense light that glows from them all the time). Since they’re light, no conventional weapons can harm them; our heroes use condensed light bullets that glow the way the Mercury Men do. They just show up in his building, kill the janitor, kill a construction dude, and try to kill poor Edward the Schlub.
Edward is rescued at the last minute by Jack Yaeger, Hero At Large. Nah, they don’t call him that, but I would have totally gone with it, if they had done. Jack is an absolute throwback to the serial heroes of the 1930’s, right down to the jodhpurs and shiny boots. the leather jacket and aviation cap, the goggles and the way retro-cool ray gun he uses to shoot the Mercury Men. Jack is a member of The League, a decisively vague conglomeration of heroes who defend humanity against these sorts of B-movie threats.
Dude even uses a slide rule! God bless them, I love it! (My dad tried to teach me to use a slide rule. I never did understand it. They’re wonderfully retro, but my brain rejects math the way my immune system rejects seafood)
Why are the glowy guys here? Well, they’re using a “gravity engine” and wiring it to the steel framework of Edward place of work (a skyscraper), so they can pull the Moon down from the sky and crash it into Earth. Wait, what? Yeah, just roll with it. The science in this thing is delightfully whack-a-doo, just like the cheesy movies that inspired it. Why do they want the moon to crash into the Earth and destroy us? Ummm… well, they have an explanation, but it’s not much more than, “because we’re the bad guys.” Anyway, our heroes figure out what’s going on, and call for help from The League. But, naturally the League is not in a position to help, so our guy have to figure out a solution on their own. And I’ll not give you any more than that; you’re gonna have to watch it yourself.
My thoughts on the production? This was FUN! It’s shot in black and white, and the costumes remind me more of the 1930’s than the actual setting of the mid ’70’s. Even Edward’s glasses look wonderfully retro. And “wonderfully retro” is exactly the feel of the whole business. The director pulled out every stop on the B-movie instrument. Dutch angles, creative lighting, melodramatic music, you name it, they got it in there. I want to reiterate the lighting (which is not something you often hear from me). They did a brilliant job of playing with the lighting. Of course there are the B-movie standards, like the face thrown into shadow except for the convenient rectangle of light across the eyes (I don’t know what that’s called; if you know, tell me in the comments). And then there was the fact that the baddies were made of light. As they were chasing our heroes through a darkened skyscraper, the encroaching light, moody at the best of times, was a terrifically visual signal that the bad guys were close. There were some genuinely frightening moments, and some very sweet, lighthearted moments. Tierno is a delight in these funny bits; he has wonderful pathos, and even his body language is perfect for the nerdy character he’s portraying.
To be fair, it’s not perfect. I find some of the dialogue clumsy. Maybe they did it on purpose, in imitation of the b-movie standard. I don’t think so; I think it was just hamfisted writing. But it’s just the occasional stumble, a bad word choice here and there (particularly on the technospeak, which, granted, is not easy at the best of times), a hair too preachy there. Little things that, while noticeable, do not really take away from the whole.
In short, it was well done. It has a wonderful drive-in movie feel to it, and it gave me shivers of dread on more than one occasion. Definitely worth watching. My biggest disappointment? The ending sets up for a sequel, but so far, nothing. Waaah! Anyway, when I first went searching for this show, it was only available on Hulu. Luckily, that has changed, and the episodes can be watched for free here, on YouTube.
And that’s it for today! You know the drill: share, tweet, comment, write. My email addy is ajwriter-at-ajclarkson-dot-net, and I can be found on Twitter and Facebook (links on my About page). If you have any recommendations for Fun Friday, give me a shout. I’ll be back on Friday to share fun links with you. Until then, be good, and if you can’t be good, don’t get caught!