My Year in Junk

Our junk hoarders paradise

This is the time when everyone publishes their year-end review or their best of the year or whatever column. This year, a great many of them seem to be along the lines of, “Jesus, what a garbage fire 2016 was,” or sometimes “I guess 2016 didn’t entirely suck.” And of course there’s always the entertainment round-up, best new this, best new that.

Truthfully I’m a bad blogger when it comes to this sort of thing, because rarely, if ever, do we get to anything when it’s NEW. Julie and I are low-income; we live on a very tight budget and the entertainment allowance is next to nothing so we are always buying discount or used. Even our television tends to be time-delayed, mostly shows that we stream or watch on DVD long after all the cool kids have already seen them. This used to be especially graveling at the old stand when I’d get asked to contribute to the best-of-the-year overview and I’d have to sheepishly admit that I never saw anything current.

So when we started up here, one of my contributions to the mission statement was that we would never feel pressured to talk about stuff that was new. This is the Junk Shop, after all.

And as it turned out, 2016 was kind of a cool year for us turning up oddball bits of this and that on the cheap. These are just a few of the not-current-but-still-awesome things I came across this last year that I thought were great fun, and not very expensive at all. Some of it’s even free. Not all that much of it has what you might call artistic merit in the traditional sense, but we sure enjoyed the hell out of it. Anyway, here’s a sampling.

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Tom Selleck TV Westerns. Back in the day, Tom Selleck made a number of straight-to-television Western movies and mini-series, most of them adapting one or another of the works of Louis L’Amour. They are all pretty good but the best of them is actually not a L’Amour; it’s an adaptation of an Elmore Leonard novel, Last Stand At Saber River.

Selleck Elmore Leonard Western

Selleck was absolutely born to do Westerns anyway, and this one came at a point in his career where he looked just exactly weary and weatherbeaten enough to perfectly inhabit the character of Cable, a Confederate war veteran who comes home to find that his kids hardly know him and his wife deeply resents him, a couple of diehard Union men have taken over his ranch, and everything he thought about his life was wrong. It’s amazingly layered for a TV western, but still has plenty of action for those of us who like to see some ridin’ and shootin’. It’s got a great supporting cast, too, particularly David and Keith Carradine as the Kidston brothers, and Suzy Amis as Cable’s wife Martha. This should be known as one of the great modern Westerns and somehow it never seems to get mentioned anywhere by anyone, despite its ubiquitous presence in grocery store DVD racks and discount bins everywhere. It instantly tied with Quigley Down Under as my favorite Tom Selleck anything ever. And it cost less than five dollars.

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The Invaders. This was something I picked up on a whim when I realized Julie had never seen it; in fact, had never heard of it at all.

Invaders DVD sets

They are marketing it as a complete series set now, I guess, so the individual season sets are pretty cheap… Cheap enough that we ended up getting the second season as well, after Julie fell swooningly in love with the first one. It was fun for me too, because as often happened with the cool TV shows and movies from my childhood, when it was actually airing I only got to experience this show at second-hand. I was all over the licensed stuff like the books and comics, of which there were quite a number…

Invaders books and comics

…there was even a Big Little Book.

Invaders Big Little Book

The Big Little Book cover never fails to make me laugh. Seriously, David Vincent was always running around in the desert or somewhere trying to find flying saucers, he would NEVER be rocking the ascot. (Though Roy Thinnes today is a rather dapper fellow.)

Roy Thinnes then and now

Anyway. My point is, I almost never got to see episodes of the actual show, because it only ran for two seasons and that generally is not enough for syndication. So most of these were new to me too, though the introduction was so indelibly imprinted on my consciousness back in 1967 that I was able to say it verbatim along with the narrator…

(One of these days, I’m going to get around to the column about great TV openings. It’s a damn shame that commercials have eaten into the time that used to be allotted for a television show’s opening credits; the best of them served as a sort of grand overture for the show itself.)

We found that the episodes themselves held up remarkably well, even the effects. It really was one of the smartest SF shows done for TV back then, and I’d rank it up there with the original Star Trek at its best, though its paranoiac view of aliens is the polar opposite of Gene Roddenberry’s utopian outlook.

Invaders paranoia

And we picked up both seasons on DVD for less than half of what the ‘Complete Series’ is going for, even used.

A lot of complete episodes are up on YouTube, as well, but you miss the DVD’s episode introductions from dapper Roy Thinnes, who is obviously still very proud of the show, fifty years later. Julie was annoyed that there was no actual conclusion to the story; although there was a mini-series/reboot in the 1990s featuring Scott Bakula that also had Thinnes returning as David Vincent. So we know that Vincent’s secret war was still going on well into the 1990s. That’s on YouTube as well, though we didn’t much care for it. Stick to the originals.

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Star Trek Animated. Speaking of Star Trek, we also finally acquired the animated series from 1974. This show is kind of the overlooked middle child of the Trek franchise. Trekkies tend to completely ignore it, even though it added a great deal to the lore of the show and marked a lot of firsts for the Star Trek property.

Star Trek Animated Filmation

I hadn’t seen most of these for some thirty years at least, and it was great fun to revisit them. In particular, I’d forgotten the connection to Larry Niven and the Kzinti, which back then could only have been done in animation.

Star Trek Kzinti

Granted, it’s very LIMITED animation– these were never meant to be binge-watched, for certain, and the number of recycled bits gets a little annoying. But as always with Filmation, the strength of the show is in the scripting. And the stories really hold up. The whole set plus shipping ran us about eight bucks on DVD.

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Hardcover Western pulp collections. Now, technically, this is not a new thing for me because I’ve had a soft spot for these for years.

Western anthologies

Every so often, if we’re feeling a little flush (which is not terribly often, but it happens) I do a search on Amazon that goes something like Hardcover Western Collection, and arrange it from Price Low To High. As a result, I’ve acquired a fairly tall stack of these books, generally priced under a buck, in like-new hardcover still in the jacket. You’d think there would be a lot of overlap in the story selection but really there’s hardly any. Pulp magazine westerns were a going concern for almost three decades so there is a vast pool of short stories to draw on.

Most of the best of these anthologies are assembled by Jon Tuska, who does for Western pulp collections what Martin H. Greenberg did for themed mystery and SF anthologies.

Jon Tuska Werstern anthology collections

These books are like potato chips for me. I’ve been kind of wallowing in Westerns lately anyway, as the current “new pulp” freelance project is a Western of sorts and reading these gets me in the right frame of mind to work on it. I’m enjoying all of them but if you have to pick, start with one of the Tuskas.

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Black Dog. This movie is one of those artistically-lacking projects I warned you about that we just loved anyway.

Black Dog Swayze DVD

I stumbled across the listing for Black Dog while I was looking up something for last week’s Road House piece, and this movie seemed like it would be exactly the same kind of cornpone macho AWESOME as Road House, so I figured we’d risk a dollar on the DVD. Here’s the trailer: you tell me. Wouldn’t you risk a dollar on that?

Well, anyway, we did, and we got at least DOUBLE our money’s worth of fun out of it just for the bug-eyed psycho Meat Loaf scenes alone. It was a great throwback to the old car-crash B-movies of my youth like Eat My Dust or Grand Theft Auto, but with giant semis instead of muscle cars. You definitely have to be in the right mood for it, but I am glad to have it in the library.

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So that was a taste of our year in cost-conscious scrounging. Feel free to add your own re-discoveries down below. And remember, if you should happen to be in the mood to do a little Amazon shopping yourself now, if you go through the links posted here at the Junk Shop we get a referral fee. This keeps us from having to stack the place with annoying ads. Every little bit helps.

Back next week with something cool.

9 Comments

  1. Edo Bosnar

    While Selleck will always be Magnum to me, I agree with you that he’s a natural fit for Westerns. It’s been a while since I saw it, but I think another good one is Shadow Riders (with Sam Elliot, too).
    I finally got a hold of the Trek animated series on the cheap a few years ago, but only started to watch them this year. Despite all of the shortcomings of the animation, I agree that the stories are quite good. And one of my favorite of those firsts that you mentioned is when Uhura temporarily takes command of the Enterprise.
    By the way, did you post something about Invaders before? I only ever heard of it quite recently when you mentioned it somewhere. You’ve definitely got me interested…

  2. frasersherman

    My purchasing has always been shaped by what’s on sale in used-book/DVD/CD stores. One of the nice things about living in Durham now is that the library has a lot of trade paperback comics collections for filling in gaps.

    Watched The Invaders a couple of years ago, for a book on infiltration and subversion in film and TV (Screen Enemies of the American Way). I’d never cottoned to it as a kid, and I must admit I liked it less now. For one thing, Vincent is constantly searching for witnesses to support his story, but when he finds them in some episodes, he tells them not to bother (it wouldn’t make a difference. The aliens will kill them. Etc.).

  3. Jeff Nettleton

    Never watched the Invaders, though I tried the 90s venture. It didn’t quite pull me in. Like the concept, though.

    I actually kept up on the animated series, as a local video store had the vhs collections, with all of the original Trek episodes. You are correct that binge watching gets repetitive fairly quickly (really, two episodes, back-to-back, is that way with most Filmation series); but, the stories were great. My only quibble with the show has always been the rather flat voice acting (mostly Shatner, though Nimoy is guilty, at times, too). Nichelle Nichols and James Doohan are usually good and Doohan had extensive radio experience. They also got to branch out into other characters.

  4. Caanan

    Most of my retro purchasing these days involves me building a library for our three year old so he’ll have an endless supply of cool things to watch as he gets older. (Somehow this is more important in Canada than it ever would have been in Australia, what with the long winters and all.)

    The best thing I got was the entirety of the 80s Astro Boy on two DVD sets from Australia, sent here for little (thanks dad! He actually brought them here in his luggage when visiting.)

    In that same package was a copy of Fatty Finn. No-one outside Australia will know or care about that, (it’s based on a comic strip!) but suffice to say, some 80s stuff is incredibly non-PC. This thing should have come with one of those Lenoard Maltin Disney apologist videos.

    I also bought the Minuscule movie for the little guy. A couple years old, I think, but after the movie I discovered it’s actually a French series of shorts that has been running for ages, so I could the whole thing again from Australia (7 hours of it!) but currently, it is lost in transit. I’m hoping it just got lost in the Christmas post blitz and they’ll dig it out of the hole it’s fallen in to, eventually. I HIGHLY recommend Minuscule to anyone with little ones.

    For myself, with an unexpected royalty cheque, went a little nuts on this Fantagraphics Carl Barks books. So many memories! Makes me wish I still had the old Gladstone floppies for my son to devour and destroy like me and my brother did to our dad’s Gold Key and Dell copies. The cycle. The cycle!!! 😉

    Which reminds me, I bought six of those Gladstone Giant albums at a 2nd hand bookstore in Kelowna, BC. I coveted the heck out of those when I was a kid but could never afford them. Even now, I only bought six out of the 30 or so they had.

  5. Simon

    – “The Invaders […] We found that the episodes themselves held up remarkably well”

    I understand Frasersherman’s criticism about David Vincent seemingly running around in circles, but it seems an unfortunate side-effect of producers wanting to avoid anthology-like shows, hence the recurring hero and his unsolvable MacGuffin (ala THE FUGITIVE). I think it’s better to ignore the silly bits of overarching artifices and just see THE INVADERS as episodes, as if it was THE TWILIGHT ZONE.

    I remember a Philip K. Dick-like episode where a progressive faction of the Invaders apparently make peace with David Vincent, who can resume his life and become a great architect. And a strange episode with air-eating rocks. Or one whose terrible twist involved pinky surgery…

    – “Feel free to add your own re-discoveries down below.”

    I’ve re-discovered Raymond Carver’s WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT LOVE (1981) in a completely different light when read alongside its twice-longer original manuscript BEGINNERS.

    (Carver had foolishly signed away this collection without a veto right. His editor, not giving a sucker an even break, cut down an average of 50% of each short story, and altered many endings. Carver released a few of the original stories and died too young in 1988 to have the original book published, but it was eventually released in 2009 and paperbacked in 2015.)

    On top of getting about 150 pages of “new” Carver, reading the two versions side-by-side is quite revelatory for the Carver fan! (Plenty has been said on the topic. Such as here and there directly, or here and there indirectly.)

    – “rarely, if ever, do we get to anything when it’s NEW”

    Still, you reviewed Gibson & Wijngaard’s TABATHA one year before other-Greg Burgas, so that’s gotta count for something, right?

    Also, there’s a wealth of ongoing webcomics being there for the reviewing before everyone else. (Or completed but under-reviewed ones, such as Ursula Vernon’s GN DIGGER, etc.)

    BTW, there’s one linked daily @ http://www.comicsbeat.com/tag/a-year-of-free-comics/

    1. frasersherman

      I agree to some extent. This was before series arcs and they weren’t looking to change things up. Though even when they did, introducing the Believers as David’s allies, it was a very half-hearted change.

    2. Still, you reviewed Gibson & Wijngaard’s TABATHA one year before other-Greg Burgas, so that’s gotta count for something, right?

      Well, Gibson sent it to me. It was a review copy, so we didn’t BUY it. He also sent along his excellent Twisted Dark, which I was going to write up but never got around to it. It’s terrific, and I recommend it. Actually everything I’ve seen from TPub is good.

      Also, there’s a wealth of ongoing webcomics being there for the reviewing before everyone else.

      No question. In fact I think indie web stuff– either webcomics or websites indie creators use to market their zines and comics– is definitely where the action is these days. But one of the inducements of the Junk Shop gig after eleven years at CBR is that I am not REQUIRED to talk about comics any more. So unless there’s a really amazing book I run across that I MUST share with all of you, I’d just as soon leave it to my colleagues. I’m enjoying going through other parts of the home library, even if the header of this column does show part of our graphic novel and pulp shelves.

  6. Le Messor

    I got my copy of Star Trek: TAS on BluRay in the last couple of weeks.
    I haven’t started watching it yet, but I’ve recently seen a few eps on a friend’s DVDs. They’re better than I expected (I last saw any of them when I was 12).

    Oh, the reason for the delay: I also got Once Upon A Time season 5, so I’ve been watching that, and some time last year I bought all the Star Treks that were then on BluRay, and I started watching with Enterprise and now I’m up to season 3 of TOS with that, so when that’s done, TAS then the original-cast movies, then NexGen.
    Um… there was a buy-one-get-one free sale. I basically didn’t pay for Enterprise or the movies… how could I resist?

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