I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Don’t give up the ghost

Join us every week for a trip into the weird and wonderful world of trailers. Whether it’s the first teaser for the latest instalment in your favourite franchise, an obscure preview for a strange indie darling, whether it’s good, bad, ugly or just plain weird – your favourite pop culture baristas are there to tell you what they think.

Do you know how difficult it is to get your hands on trailers for video games before, say, 1995? The short and boring answer is: pretty difficult. If we wanted to present a trailer for one of the Ultima games featuring the Guardian, the series’ long-time antagonist, we’d have to resort to an ultra-low resolution video for Ultima IX, and that’d be in no one’s interest. (Also, we already posted that one last week.) So instead, here’s a very loosely related trailer for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre II, which didn’t just feature one Dennis Hopper, but also Bill Johnson, who would later voice the Guardian. These days, we get the likes of Willem Dafoe and Liam Neeson in video games, but in 1992 we had to make do with the guy who played Leatherface.

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Poltercast: The Battersea Poltergeist (2021)

Ghost stories are a genre well suited to the audio format: they are, after all, about things going bump in the night. Fear is often generated more by what we imagine, how we fill in the blanks, more so than what we see with our own eyes. As such, BBC Radio’s The Battersea Poltergeist is a good fit for radio – and podcast, which is the format in which I listened to the series. Who wouldn’t want to hear all about ghostly goings-on while preparing dinner?

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #23: The Guardian

Okay, to get this out of the way first: no, this entry in our weekly Six Damn Fine Degrees feature is not about the centre-left British newspaper famous for its idiosyncratic spelling abilities. Instead, it is about the main antagonist of several instalments of the classic series of computer role-playing games Ultima, a transdimensional being of immense power bent on conquest, a villain to match the likes of Marvel’s Thanos, DC’s Darkseid or the First Evil from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Or, as some fans of the Ultima series like to call him, the big red muppet.

This was the face that emerged from my screen when I started to play Ultima VII.
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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Hungover cops can’t jump

Join us every week for a trip into the weird and wonderful world of trailers. Whether it’s the first teaser for the latest instalment in your favourite franchise, an obscure preview for a strange indie darling, whether it’s good, bad, ugly or just plain weird – your favourite pop culture baristas are there to tell you what they think.

1994 saw a great disturbance in computer games, as if thousands of geeks suddenly cried out in disappointment and then fell silent – most likely because their Avatar had just failed to successfully jump from one small rock to another. Back then, reloading a save game wasn’t just a matter of seconds: it was a commitment, and the more time you’d already sunk into a game like Ultima VIII, the less likely you were to stop playing, especially if you’d paid close to a hundred dollars, and doubly so if you were a fan of the Ultima series of computer role-playing games. This week, Eric wrote about his memories of his first big computer game disappointment, and it is a pain that many fellow geeks felt at the time.

This was before computer games received trailers, so instead, let’s start this week’s post with the trailer issued for its sequel, and the final single-player Ultima game – which (wait for it) turned out to be even worse in some ways. But hey, at least it wasn’t quite as much of an active exercise in masochism!

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #43: Meanwhile, the war was happening elsewhere…

As Edwin Starr asked in 1970: “War, huh, yeah! What is it good for?” Hollywood has known the answer to that one for a long time – war makes for very lucrative movies. From the trenches of the First World War to the urban combat of the Iraq War, there are many, many movies ready to show us combat, heroism, excitement and horror – more often than not veering close to, or outright crossing into, propaganda. The genre of war movies – even if we could spend many podcast episodes just trying to find a useful definition of what exactly makes a war movie – is often used to make a statement about one thing or another: nation and patriotism, masculinity, class, ideology. While we talk about all of these things with our guest Laura Binz, we look at an atypical example of a war movie (and one that Roger Ebert famously walked out of): the Italian film Mediterraneo (1991) by director Gabriele Salvatores, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1992. Is there such a thing as a war movie when the war only takes place far, far away?

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #22: Ultima VIII

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness.

Imagine a game that set you loose to roam a mediaeval world under the influence of a shadowy religious cult, that let you discover how to bake bread or milk cows while trying to save the world just because you could, a game that was dead serious yet could look upon itself with the wryest of smiles, a game that was shot through with a sense of familiarity and wonder in equal measure.

Now imagine a game that has none of that at all.

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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: In the Heights, everyone can hear you sing

Join us every week for a trip into the weird and wonderful world of trailers. Whether it’s the first teaser for the latest instalment in your favourite franchise, an obscure preview for a strange indie darling, whether it’s good, bad, ugly or just plain weird – your favourite pop culture baristas are there to tell you what they think.

Maybe Matt shouldn’t play games during a pandemic – because it seems that he mostly picks ones that translate this whole ‘social distancing’ thing into a video game format: first Journey, then Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. Turns out that the most social contact he’s had in a game recently was in the ultra-Swiss folk horror game Mundaun, a grim little tale about deals with mysterious old men and disembodied goat heads that nonetheless talk fluent Romansh. At least that’s not something that the COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly well known for!

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #21: Perspective and Memory: Dario Argento

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness.

“I like women, especially beautiful ones. If they have a good face and figure, I would much prefer to watch them being murdered than an ugly girl or man.”

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The Corona Diaries: Raptured away

We’ve had this before: video games can be many things, but one thing they are particularly good at is escapism. A video game can be extremely effective at taking you out of your current situation, when you need something of a getaway.

So, after replaying Journey and finding it an exceedingly solitary experience of quite limited escapist value during these pandemic times, what do I do? I go and replay Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (2015), in which the player walks a Shropshire village that is deserted – but everywhere there are traces of the people who are gone after a mysterious epidemic has struck. Oh, and the world has ended.

D’oh!, as the kids say.

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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Do you think death could possibly be a boat?

Join us every week for a trip into the weird and wonderful world of trailers. Whether it’s the first teaser for the latest instalment in your favourite franchise, an obscure preview for a strange indie darling, whether it’s good, bad, ugly or just plain weird – your favourite pop culture baristas are there to tell you what they think.

Last week it finally happened: A Damn Fine Cup of Culture was deemed too raunchy by Facebook. Okay, that may not be quite accurate – truth be told, we will probably never know why Facebook suddenly decided that we’d violated their T&Cs with the name of our page. Was it the “damn”? Was it that we made claims to the extraordinary quality of our cups of culture? Or was it something else entirely, like the wrong number of capitals? Anyway, we are now back on Facebook, complete with what some people might consider naughty words in our name. Let’s see what Mark Z comes up with next, shall we?

All of this happened on the same day that Sam posted another wonderful instalment of Six Damn Fine Degrees, in honour of two of the Grande Dames of dubbing: Marni Nixon, who featured in many a film musical without getting the credit she deserved, and Nikki van der Zyl, the woman who gave a voice to so many Bond girls. We can hear a (sadly, very small) handful of her lines dubbing Ursula Andress in the trailer for the Bond film that started it all, Dr. No.

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