‘The Last Starfighter’ with Catherine Mary Stewart

The Last Starfighter (1984)
Rated: PG
Written by:
Jonathan Betuel
Directed by:
Nick Castle
Lance Guest as Alex
Robert Preston as Centauri
Catherine Mary Stewart as Maggie
Dan O'Herlihy as Grig 
Barbara Bosson as Jane
Norman Snow as Xur


By Bo Ransdell from Last Blog on the Left

Pre-screening memoriesSure, the plot seems familiar now:  A young man, trapped by circumstances of economics and class, struggles to be something more, something different.  He knows there’s an “out there,” a world that he could conquer if he could only get free and find the opportunity.  That’s the situation that Alex Rogan (Lance Guest) represents, and, to an eleven year old boy in 1984, it was a projection, quite literally, of everything that a pre-teen felt.   

Add to that healthy mix of angst the element of technology, specifically the home video game revolution, and you’ll find that same pre-teen, filled with a vague wanderlust, debating with his friends in the schoolyard whether the Atari 2600 translation of Donkey Kong could hold a candle to the arcade version (it can’t) or if Yar’s Revenge was the best in the 2600 library (it was).  So, when a movie made escape possible through the medium of video games, the scales had lifted from my eyes.  This was a movie I had to see.   

I saw The Last Starfighter a lot as a kid, where it found a lot of screenings thanks to premium cable channels and a brand-spanking-new VCR.  I still have the tape on which The Last Starfighter resides, alongside The Terminator.  Even as a child, I enjoyed juxtaposition.  At every viewing of the film, it reinforced the idea that you can truly excel, if only given the opportunity to do so, and it’s a belief I still subscribe to.

New memories: Seeing it as an adult, it’s hard to quiet the thrilled child still inside, the one who still believes everything is possible if given the chance and that Yar’s Revenge is the best Atari 2600 game.  Roughly halfway through my mature, well-considered viewing of The Last Starfighter, I gave up trying to silence him.  This was and remains a movie that encourages a sense of wonder, a sense of possibility, and, if you remembered it as a special movie when you were young, seek it out.  The optimism of the film is there, and a real sense of magic, managed by genuine emotion thanks to a very talented cast.  Sure, the effects, revolutionary at the time, haven’t aged so well, but they fit the imagination of the movie.  And it’s that part, the spirit of opportunity in the face of adversity that makes this a treasure. 

Download Natsukashi’s ‘The Last Starfighter’ podcast here

or venture to our online player below:

Our featured guest: Catherine Mary Stewart

Catherine Mary Stewart returns to Natsukashi to revisit yet another indelible role from her resume.

She had first joined us for a chat about Mischief and also spoke about her other cult classic of 1984, Night of the Comet, but Last Starfighter hold a special place in her memories for reasons she recounts for us in the podcast.

After taking a stretch to focus more on being a mom, Catherine is reigniting her career with roles Rising Stars, a film with Fischer that she describes as an anti-American Idol, and a just-announced A Christmas Snow, which she details on her Facebook page (where she personally connects with her fans). You can also follow her at her blog.

Catherine is always a fun, engaging guest and has several tales about working on the set of The Last Starfighter, and we thank her for letting us share them with her.

‘The ‘Burbs’ with fx artist Peter Kuran


Film: The ‘Burbs (1989)
Rated: PG
Written by: Larry Brezner and Michael Finnell
Directed by: Joe Dante
Starring: Tom Hanks as Ray Peterson
                   Bruce Dern as Mark Rumsfield
                   Carrie Fisher as Carol Peterson
                   Corey Feldman as Ricky Butler

By E Dagger from CruJonesSociety

hanksPre-screening memories: When I was a kid, I think I felt obligated to like The ‘Burbs. One of my favorite movies as a young lad was definitely Big, although that was mostly for the sweet apartment he had in Manhattan with the basketball hoop, soda machine, and huge trampoline. But Tom Hanks still served as that movie’s icon and got to live out every young boy’s fantasy by trying out toys for a living, getting to have a Pepsi whenever he wanted, and feeling a boob with the lights on.
I remember hoping he’d do more awesome stuff like that in The ‘Burbs, but what I got instead was one creepy, weird-ass, maddeningly uneven jaunt through the anarchic imagination of Joe Dante.
Parts of it were still childishly funny to 9 year old me, like when Tom Hanks runs face first into the screen door and angrily crushes the beer cans or Rick Ducommon getting hit by a pickax flying over the fence, but I vividly remember being more than mildly freaked out by the unshaven Hans, the ghoulish-looking Reuben, and bizarre scene of Tom Hanks looking out his bedroom window to see the three shadowy Klopeks next door digging what appears to be graves in the pouring rain.
coreyThis was a dark movie. And having grown up in the suburbs, I had a decidedly rosier perception of life in a seemingly idyllic hamlet on the outskirts of town, but here was Rick Ducommon talking about the local ice cream man losing his mind due to suburban monotony-turned-madness and butchering his entire family. As a third grader, what the hell am I supposed to do with that? This was supposed to be a Tom Hanks movie, dammit!
bruceNew memories: This movie is still dark, but compared to some of the really dark comedies I’ve seen and enjoyed since (the borderline-evil Death to Smoochy comes to mind), The ‘Burbs comes off as mostly tame. It strikes me more as a live action satirical comic book than anything else. The plot moves along briskly, macabre situations contrast against the bright, picturesque background and perfect weather of suburban tranquility, and we’re treated to some genuine laugh out loud moments along the way.
Special mention must go to Bruce Dern and Corey Feldman who give my favorite performances here. Bruce Dern has the funniest lines delivered with a brusque, confrontational assertiveness all ex-military guys have. He doesn’t have time for your crap and let’s you know as much. When nosy neighbor Ricky (Feldman) asks him what he’s doing on the roof, Dern responds gruffly, “Shut up and paint your goddamn house.”
Feldman as Ricky almost serves as Dern’s counterpoint. He’s the surrogate for the audience to experience the action. At one point, he narrates the story of his street and all its players to a date, and at another invites friends over to watch the proceedings. He and his friends applaud, cheer, and “call the pizza dude” as Ricky’s neighbors go completely insane acting. Ricky and his friends serve as a Greek chorus to the action, or perhaps more appropriately, as a less sardonic Crow, Servo, and Mike.
The ‘Burbs is still an unusual movie, but expecting anything less from certified weird dude Joe Dante would be foolish. As an adult, I think that’s what I like about it best. Sure it’s uneven and the “suburbanites are repressed lunatics” theme is hideously tired in 2009, but it’s got a vivacity and anarchic spirit missing from a lot of today’s offerings. It’s weird. It’s fun. It knows it’s a movie. It’s not Shakespeare. But it is a great freaking time.

Download Natsukashi’s ‘The ‘Burbs” with Peter Kuran podcast right here

Or, you can hop the fence and merely listen to it online below:

Our Featured Guest: Peter Kuran

kuranAt the tender age of 17, while most kids are contemplating colleges, struggling to find out just what the hell they want to do with the rest of their lives, Peter (pictured far left, next to that robot guy) decided he would kick it with some new friends on a little movie “made from the guy who made American Graffiti. ”

Yes, before he was old enough to vote, Peter was hustling around the set of Star Wars as part of the Industrial Light and Magic crew. That endeavor obviously left an impression on his young mind, and kick-started a career in film that reads like a fantasy film geek’s fever dream: The Thing, Conan the Barbarian, RoboCop, BeetleJuice, Critters 2, Gremlins 2, Ghostbusters 2,Edward Scissorhands are but a few of his more than 250 films.

In 1982, he founded VCE Entertainment, which went on to provide effects work for numerous mainstream features, ranging from X-Men 2 and Men in Black to Thirteen Days and The Last Samurai, ultimately earning an Academy Award.

Kuran has also produced and directed five award-winning documentaries on Atomic testing, history and weaponry.

‘The Dark Crystal’ with puppeteer Dave Barclay


Film: The Dark Crystal (1982)
Directed by: Frank Oz and Jim Henson
Written by: Jim Henson (story) and David Odell (screenplay)
Puppeteers: Jim Henson as Jen
                          Kathryn Mullen as Kira
                          Frank Oz as Aughra and Chamberlain
                          Dave Goelz as Fizzgig

By: Bo from Last Blog on the Left

gelflingsFormer memories: One of the benefits of being involved with Natsukashi is the rediscovery of a film that lingered in memory as a child very distinctly, but becomes something else entirely when seen through the eyes of an adult.  The Dark Crystalwas such an experience, a movie that was best recalled as a source of fear when I was a child (those creepy Skeksis still give me the wiggins). 

skeksisAs a young boy, I was terrified of the beaked Skeksis, the Garthim, creatures existing somewhere on the evolutionary ladder between a beetle and a crab, and the horrible fates of the Podlings as their life essence is drained for the use of the warped Skeksis civilization.  These are the perceptions of a child, one who has grown accustomed to fears, now, but was rattled by these images when first exposed to them. 

aughraNew memories: As a grown-up, what I found upon a return to the world of The Dark Crystal was something I not only didn’t remember clearly, but was amazed by: the beauty of this film.  In a world dominated by CG imagery, The Dark Crystal is a deep and satisfyingly real movie experience, and I was reminded of how a movie could create such an authentic experience while wrapping itself in imagery that is decidedly authentic while remaining imaginative and unique. 

Within the film, there are hints of Eastern philosophy, mythology that is worthy of dissection by the Joseph Campbell crowd and a hero that is as naive as he is brave.  Speaking with one of the creators of this film has been one of several highlights of recent years, and getting a glimpse of David Barclay’s work not only gave me an appreciation for the film’s tricks, it made it all the more magical for the twinkle in the artist’s eye that can still be heard clearly.

Download Natsukashi’s ‘Dark Crystal’ podcast

or transport yourself below to our on-site player

Our featured guest: Puppeteer Dave Barclay

davedarkcrystalDave has had the kind of career that most sci-fi/fantasy geeks dream would sever an appendage for. Learning a craft of on-screen puppetry under the caring eye of  Jim Henson, starting your career by bringing Yoda to life. Working with Roger Rabbit, Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors, Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, as well as the much-anticipated Spike Jonze adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are, Dave’s work reads like a laundry list of movie lovers’ desert island features.

dave yodaDave is living the dream, quite literally, as it was his desire as a young child to pull the strings as a puppeteer. The Dark Crystal was one of his earliest gigs (after assisting in a couple of small films called The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) and, as the first Brit to do so, he perfected his craft in the house that Muppets built, the Jim Henson Company.

Today, he continues to stretch the limits of his craft, working with both the digital technology as well as the time-honored art he grew up with.

We were quite honored to have Dave join us and we know that a lot of Natsukashi listeners will enjoy his recollections of time spent on such influential films.

Episode XXXVIII: ‘American Graffiti’ (with ‘Kip Pullman’)


Title: American Graffiti (1973)
Rated: PG
Directed by: George Lucas
Written by: George Lucas and Gloria Katz
Starring: Ron Howardas Steve Bolander
                   Richard Dreyfuss as Curt Henderson
                   Charles Martin Smith as Terry ‘The Toad’ Fields
                   Cindy Williams as Laurie Henderson
                   Candy Clarkas Debbie Dunham
                   Mackenzie Phillips as Carol
Tagline: “Where were you in ’62?”

Contributor Pete Hayes goes cruising down the strip with Mark aka Kip Pullman, the owner of ‘Kip Pullman’s American Graffiti’ website to relive the sights, and most importantly the sounds of the seminal coming-of-age film from George Lucas.

Mark’s site is the go-to resource for all things ‘American Graffiti,’ and he shares his encyclopedic knowledge of the film, the soundtrack, behind-the-scenes trivia and his own tales of his first time witnessing ‘American Graffiti’ with his father. (A big thanks to Mark for all his knowledge in this episode!)

Find out if the return trip was worth the drive for Pete as he navigates his way down memory lane by clicking here, or listening below (and turn the sound up loud enough for your neighbors to hear it!).

submit to reddit
href=’http://www.blogs.com’>Find the best blogs at Blogs.com.

Episode XXXVII: ‘The Black Hole’


Title: The Black Hole (PG)
Directed by: Gary Nelson
Written by: Jeb Rosenbrook and Bob Barbash
Starring:   Anthony Perkins as Dr. Alex Durant
                      Maximillian Schell as Dr. Hans Reinhardt
                      Yvette Mimeux as Dr. Kate McCrea
                      Robert Forester as Captain Dan Holland
                      Roddy McDowell as the voice of V.I.N.Cent
                      Slim Pickens as the voice of  B.O.B.
Tagline: A journey that begins where everything ends!

By Count Vardulon

Pre-screening memories:

The Black Hole was another one of those movies that I was familiar with because of gossip around the playground. I had been too young to see it when it was first released, and without cable or a VCR there was really no chance to see it, so all I had to go on were the exaggerated stories of my classmates, and the toy Maxmillian that hung on store shelves. I never actually had the Maxmilian myself, although I always treasured my VINCent figure. I’d had enough time playing with the Maxmilian model at friend’s houses and heard enough of their tall tales about him to understand just how absolutely cool he was, and to cement my determination to see the film.

bob1At around six or seven years old, I finally managed to see The Black Hole, thanks to an uncle who had both cable and a VCR, and it has the distinction of being the first film I remember being so upset by that I was unable to continue watching. The memories are so fuzzy that I can’t even judge how far into the film the disturbing part occurred, and time has left most of the film’s details as little more than fuzzy images in my mind. Men gathered around machinery, talking about science that I couldn’t understand. Lots of walking down long hallways with weird monks. Of course, the adorable floating robots, one of whom I remember feeling very sorry for because he looked so sad and beaten up.

maxAnd then Maxmilian gutted someone with a spinning claw, and my experiences with the film ended abruptly. I can’t swear that it was an especially graphic scene of violence, or even that it had no place in a G-rated film, but the image of a person being gutted by a deadly robot arm was so burned into my mind that it became the focus of my nightmares for years to come. The fact that it was Maxmillian, a figure second only to Darth Vader in my imagination when it came to cool villains, made it all the worse. Years of having the robot built up, his cool design capturing my imagination, led to it almost feeling like a betrayal to see him performing such a brutal act. Even as a child, I understood that he was the villain, and that was what villains do, but the quality of the action he took was far more intense than I was obviously prepared for – as evidenced by the fact that my screams of horror led my mother to turn the film off then and there, and my traumatized associations with the film kept me from ever watching it again.

New Memories:
maximillianclawYou know what? I stand by my childhood cowardice. Although it was the only truly intense scene in the film, that gutting is basically as intense as you can get in a PG-rated film. It’s also a perfect example of how to get an incredible reaction without any blood. Anthony Perkins (who I did not remember was in the film!) is trapped in front of a door with Maxmilian’s spinning claw thrusting towards him – he holds up a book to defend himself – the claw spins right through the book and into Anthony Perkins. We don’t see what it does to him, he screams and then his body is tossed into some circuitry, but we saw what it did to the book, and that’s enough to let our imagination fill in the details. Something my imagination has actually been doing for most of my life. I think the reason this weighed so heavily on me is because it’s one of those rare moments of intense violence that made it into my extremely young viewing material. There’s basically just this, the earwig from Wrath of Khan, and my aforementioned experiences with Swamp Thing. It’s obvious that all the buildup of Maxmilian in my mind led to the kill in the movie being a key moment, but it’s important to note that it really is an intense sequence. Look at the only character to be a cooler villain than Maxmilian, Darth Vader. Across three films he kills a total of four people (not counting rebel spaceships he shoots down), and all of them in the most bloodless way possible. The heroes are cutting some people apart and blasting holes in others, while Darth uses a light saber to make a guy disappear, throws another down a pit, and, in the least bloodless murder method possible, uses remote-control strangulation on the other two. These aren’t really the things nightmares are made of.

Now for a discussion of the actual movie. My three-word review? Schizophrenia on celluloid. The Black Hole seems to have no idea what it’s trying to accomplish. Is it a meditation on the point at the end of scientific knowledge, where the limits of our perceptions and measurements lead us to a terrifying place where science and religion become one? Is it a wacky comedy about sassy robots? Is it an action-thriller about spacemen battling evil robots? I have no idea, and I just watched the movie. If it weren’t for the great art design tying everything together, I’d be left wondering if the individual scenes hadn’t been snagged from unrelated films and edited together. On its most basic level (ten or fifteen script drafts before production, I’d wager), the film seems to be a reworking of The Tempest set against a purloined vision of 2001’s future. There’s just enough of the original film in there to make me wish I was watching it – the actors are good enough to express the themes that the dialogue isn’t quite up to making clear, but for every scene that features characters essentially debating whether or not morality has any relevance in the field of scientific research, there’s another scene where pompous robots get into target-shooting competitions with each other to prove which model is superior.

And what robots they are. It’s hard to express to someone who hasn’t seen the film just how much damage V.I.N.Cent. does to the credibility of every scene he’s in. It was a daring choice to one-up to attempt to make the robots actual characters in the film, rather than just passive devices needed to move the plot along, as they had been in Star Wars. The attempt by the filmmakers is in no way helped by the utter failure of Vincent and B.O.B.’s design. While the zombies and Maxmilian look like they realistically belong in the world of the film, Vincent looks like a cartoon character brought to life, as if the whole thing was based on a long-running French comic strip, where the bizarre exaggeration of his huge eyes and ball legs made perfect sense, but then the filmmakers were too faithful to the source material and tried to recreate him exactly, winding up with an awkward thing that looks utterly out of place standing next to real people.

If nothing else, I’ll give The Black Hole this – it really made me fall in love with model-makers and matte artists all over again. The film is packed with FX shots panning around the Cygnus, and it looks fantastic every time, as do the endless hallways that fill it. While it may not ever have an important place in cinema history, if anyone ever wants some examples of two wonderful artistic disciplines that CGI has bludgeoned to death, they need look no farther.

For a journey back in Black, click here, or warp down below:

Episode XXXV: House (with its writer Ethan Wiley!)


Hear House writer Ethan Wiley on the podcast to this episode

By: Bo from Last Blog on the Left

Film: House (1986)
Rated: R
Directed by: Steve Miner
Written by: Fred Dekker and Ethan Wiley
Starring: William Katt as Roger Cobb
                   George Wendt as
                   Richard Moll as Big Ben
                   Kay Lenz as Sandy Sinclair
Tagline: Horror has found a new home.

Pre-Screening Memories: To be fair, I loved the movie House as a kid.  Really loved it.  Despite the R rating it carried, it was a movie that was harmless enough to keep the parents from fretting, and it contained enough gore and strangeness to keep a newly crowned teenager coming back for more.  My memories of the film were faint, but not too obscured by time to feel as distant as, say, Explorers.  I still think trauma may have had something to do with that one.

 So, House is the story of Roger Cobb, a horror novelist who moves into his aunt’s home after her death.  The house is filed with memories, both of Roger’s youth with his aunt and the disappearance of Roger’s son.  Roger recalls seeing the young tyke in the pool, but, after jumping in after the kid, finds himself alone in the pool.  Much like a werewolf bar mitzvah, that is both spooky and scary.


Roger finds himself alone in the house, separated from soap opera actress/wife Sandy Sinclair (Kay Lenz), devoted to the idea that he is finally going to write his Vietnam memoirs.  Unfortunately, Roger is beset by odd neighbors, including Harold (George Wendt from Cheers), and some poltergeists, one of which is quite scratchy and lives in the closet.  Metaphor, anyone?  Seriously, though, the house comes at Roger from some odd angles.  The missing kid showing up in the window’s reflection, a troll-like version of his wife, and the phantom of his dead aunt, warning him about the house’s attempts to trick Roger.


Ultimately, the movie marries the threads of Roger’s Vietnam memories and his missing son, culminating in a showdown between a zombified war buddy and Roger.  I remember reading a review of this movie in a rag called The Horror Show from my youth which ended with the line (and I’m certainly paraphrasing from memory), “The film ends, perhaps not in as satisfying a manner as one would like, but, like all nightmares, it does end.”  I think that’s about right.  The problem I’ve found with almost all ‘haunted house’ movies is that, once you establish the creepiness of the haunting, how do you end it?  Do you personify the house in a single entity like in House or do you go all psychological like The Haunting?  I don’t know the answer to that, but I think it’s an appropriate question.


New Memories: Upon viewing this movie as an adult, I couldn’t bring myself to dislike it.  There are some goofy effects, some jokes that fall flat, some moments when the tone doesn’t quite jive, but I couldn’t hate it.  House is the cinematic equivalent of a puppy for a horror fan.  It just wants to please you soooo much, and it often succeeds, but it’s the effort that counts.  The story, by and large, makes sense, and I really like television’s The Greatest American Hero, William Katt, in this one.  I think he gives a pretty fun performance, if not always a consistent one.  It was an important film for me as a burgeoning horror fan, understanding the delicate balance between horror and comedy.  I have now seen House twice since my reintroduction to the movie, and it has been a wholly satisfying experience.   It does my heart good to hear that a new generation has discovered this movie, this strange movie.  Much like Big Ben, it won’t lay down and die, and I, for one, am happy to hear it.


wiseacrefilmsEthan Wiley makes a return to the House with Bo and Rob and recalls some fascinating tales from his years in the business, from sweeping floors at Industrial Light and Magic, to his puppeteering prowess in Gremlins and the mad skills of John Ratzenberger. Check out Ethan’s site as well, Wiseacre Films, for news on his current projects.


A big ‘thanks’ to Ethan for his contribution to this episode! You can hear it all here, or scroll down just a little bit:

submit to reddit
href=’http://www.blogs.com’>Find the best blogs at Blogs.com.

  • Now Flixster Certified!



  • CLUE with director JONATHAN LYNN




  • THE WRAITH with co-star CHRIS NASH


  • darkcrystalsmall


  • mischiefsmall


  • christinesmall


  • rockulasmall

    ROCKULA with writer/director LUCA BERCOVICI

  • justonesmall


  • buffysmall


  • tremorssmall


  • 3oclocksmall


  • visionquestsmall


  • westwordlsmall

    WESTWORD with co-star JARED MARTIN

  • SKI PATROL with star Roger Rose

  • BEAT STREET with Ralph Rolle

  • NIGHT OF THE COMET with Kelli Maroney

  • Support Natsukashi: Visit 80s Tees

  • RAD with its star Bill Allen

  • HOUSE with its writer Ethan Wiley

  • THE TERROR WITHIN with its fx artist Bruce Barlow

  • HARLEY DAVIDSON and the MARLBORO MAN with actor Jordan Lund

  • TROLL with fx artist Jim Aupperle

  • AMERICAN GRAFFITI with ‘Kip Pullman’









  • wordpress