Sometimes things are never as they seem. Or, why Eureeka’s Castle was actually a Steampunk Horror Nightmare

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Eureeka’s Castle (yes, there are two ‘E’s in Eureeka – more on that later) was a children’s television show that aired on Nickelodeon from 1989 to 1995.  I remember it fondly – the anticipation as I heard the plinking music come out of my family’s wooden console tv set, the joy of watching the Jim Henson puppets sing and dance, the satisfaction of quality Nickelodeon programming.

Looking back on it, however, I realize it was a dangerous, horrifying Steampunk nightmare show.

Let’s take the opening:

We start with a giant.  This giant is walking through the countryside, which in itself is a frightening thought to any sane bucolic denizen.  But the camera pulls back even more to show that this giant has his nose stuck in a book!
What?!  So not only is he traipsing through these rollings fields and hills, but he’s not even watching where he’s going??  How many innocent farmers and shepherds died in the wake of this giant’s carelessness?  How much blood covers the bottom of those ginormous shoes?

Moving on – the giant notices a castle nestled in these hills and puts down his book (I’m not even going to talk about how he apparently just tosses the book aside, no doubt crushing several loyal serfs of the castle into jelly).

The castle has a huge hand-crank on the side.  What kind of castle has a huge hand-crank on the side, you ask??  A Steampunk castle has a huge hand-crank on the side!  As the giant proceeds to engage the device, we are shown flashes of what lurks inside the walls:
With one turn of the crank, we see algae-covered gears rotating, their teeth interlocking with vicious force.  With another, we’re shown various figures that come to life – monsters covered in fur, talking mice, dragons, bats, fish made out of stone, and a couple of humanoids who don’t look quite human enough to me.

Now, if the entire castle is mechanical, and needs to be “turned on” with the turn of a crank, then we can assume that these creatures that spring to life are also subject to the turning of the crank as well.  So these beasts are really not alive at all, but some sort of automaton army with artificial intelligence!  That’s beyond frightening!

Why does this giant have this castle filled with AI automatons?  Well, he was reading a book when we first saw him and he said it was “very interesting reading.”  Might it have been Sun Tzu’s THE ART OF WAR?  Is this giant planning a full-scale war against humanity using his mechanical army of creatures?  Are there other castles strategically placed throughout the world, ready and waiting for him simply to come over and turn the key?  Might this be the end of human-kind, leaving the world to be run by this maniacal giant and his army of mechanical creatures??  This does not bode well…

The creatures themselves are – of course – terrifying:
– There’s the kamikaze bat who could easily be outfitted with a bomb and sent out to a major metropolis.  He’d find a building to crash into in no time, taking hundreds or thousands of lives with him.  He also has a pet spider, who could also be outfitted with a bomb set to blow as soon as he’s scurried into a small space that only a spider can get to.
– There’s the dragon whose tail does not obey him.  Even if you could get the dragon to change sides in the great war against humanity, his tail would still act of its own accord.  Also, the dragon’s sneezes are big enough to shake the entire castle.  All the giant would have to do is to plant the guy in the middle of Grand Central Station, give him a sniff of pepper, and the whole place would come tumbling down!
– The talking fish fountain has to be spitting out acid.  No normal fountain that spits out water could talk and sing in harmony.
– The two monsters who live in the sewers of the castle will forever haunt my dreams.  The giant could set them loose in the water lines and they could enter your homes!  Their crazy long limbs would grab you before you ever knew they were there.
– The guy named Mr. Knack is interesting.  He seems to be a handyman of sorts, and he pushes around the cart filled with seemingly useless junk.  Perhaps this is the automaton programmed for internal repairs.  It’s genius – if the giant has multitudes of castles around the world, he would not be able to service them all in a timely fashion should one of the parts go out of whack.  So what he has done is to install a mechanical repairman to wander around with his little tinker cart, taking care of anything that needs his attention.  Genius.  Super evil genius.
– Finally, Eureeka.  What exactly IS Eureeka?  First off, let’s take her name:  There are two “E”s, creating “reek” in the middle of what was once a normal word used for illumination and creation.  So obviously something has gone awry here.  We know she can’t be exactly human because she has those horns coming out of her head.  Some sort of mechanical troll, then.  And she claims to be a wizard-in-training.  Like Harry Potter?  But who is teaching her?  The giant?
Perhaps we will never fully understand the reasoning behind Eureeka’s presence in the giant’s diabolical Army of Death castle, but let us be wary of her anyway.  I trust nothing that outwardly perky that has horns and is probably an automaton.

The mechanical creatures are terrifying, yes, and their predilection for human bodily harm is evident in the examination above, but I would like to add one more layer of horror on top of the already steaming pile of nightmares:

These automatons are trained in psychological warfare, as well.  They have been programmed by the evil giant to confuse and confound the human race, thereby making it easier for them to attack us.
Just look at the words to their marching death-chant:

You, Me, You, Who?
You we you see you we who?
Who me?
No, you!
Don’t you see?
You!
Me?
Me!
Gee.
Gee what a wonderful place to be
Castle, pastle, hassle, tassle!
You, us, they, we,
You we you me one two three!

If that’s not enough to singe off your brain stem then I don’t know what is.

In conclusion, what may seem at first like an innocent, enjoyable children’s television program is actually a blood-curdling, terrifying, Steampunk nightmare from which you can never awaken, because it will end with the annihilation of all humanity, leaving the world to be run by the evil giant and his army of automatons.
And that’s just the opening…  What other horrors lie in store in Eureeka’s Castle?  And when will Wes Craven make a film version?

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Sometimes there can only be one.

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But sometimes that’s one too many…

Yesterday, on the Fifth of July, Anno Domini Two Thousand and Thirteen, I watched HIGHLANDER for the first time.  

I’m not sure why I had never seen it before, since it’s one of those movies that’s famous just for being famous.  It’s referenced in movies and television, it’s sparked lines and jokes that I never even knew were from the movie until I actually saw it, and it’s got Sean Connery fighting with an ancient Japanese sword to the music of Queen.  Sounds like a fantastic afternoon on Netflix, no?  

I have to admit something:  I didn’t like it.

I know, I know, it sounds like blasphemy coming from a fan of science fiction, fantasy, and the eighties in general.  But I just couldn’t get on board.

Here are my thoughts (and as I seem to be into lists of late, I will continue in said fashion):

1. So, who exactly ARE these Immortals?  WHY do they exist?  WHY do they need to kill each other off?  Also, the Prize for killing off everyone else who’s exactly the same as you is you get to read mortals’ thoughts and then become mortal yourself?  And everyone is really into this lame prize?  If you say so…

2. Are there really only four left at the beginning of the movie?  (The guy that Connor kills at the wrestling match, Connor’s friend who gives him booze in Central Park, Connor, and Kruger)  We are really starting late in the game here…

3. When did the Immortals stop being born?  Was Connor the last one back in the 1500’s?  Also, why are some of them young guys in their twenties (Connor, Kruger) but other ones are older (Ramirez, the guy Connor beheads in the parking lot)?  How is it determined when they’ll stop aging?  Are there any eighty-year-old looking Immortals out there?  Hmm…

4. So, they’re all pretty old.  You would think that after living for so long, they would have learned more about how better to do their business.  Why do they only try to hack off their opponent’s head?  They should try to cut off some legs or arms, then it would be easy to cut off the head, right?  Or why don’t they use a numbing agent?  Or why don’t they seek each other out when they’re sleeping and take care of it when they’re in bed?  You can’t tell me that Kruger couldn’t have figured out where Connor lived…

5. Ramirez is a Spaniard who’s really Egyptian.  But Sean Connery is really just a white guy. With the most recognizable Scottish accent in the western world.  With intense eye liner.

I dunno.  I guess I was expecting something a little more…… amazing.  

Maybe I just need to watch the sequels.  Or the television series.  
Or something else entirely.

One thing I can give it, though – a ridiculously fantastic tagline.  And sometimes that’s all you need.  🙂

 

 

Sometimes you start a story at 16. And finish it at 26.

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Ah, high school.  Those ripe and rare salad days.  The virgin landscape of yesteryear.  That delightful time when anything can – and does – occur.  When all roads are open to you, and everything is possible.

It was during this impressionable time in my life that I explored every creative outlet I had in my body.  I acted, I sang, I danced, I composed music, I wrote plays, and of course – I wrote fiction.  Although recently undertaken as a solid professional goal, the urge to write was bred in me long before a whisker showed its face on my chin.  Now, there have been little stories swimming through the river of my mind for as long as I’ve been a sentient being, but it was in high school that the idea of THE NOVEL first reared its head. 

THE NOVEL came to me one day after watching a performance of Puccini’s La Boheme at a waterfront amphitheater.  It was a beautiful evening, and Rodolfo and Mimi sang of their love as the sun set behind them.  I was with my first love, and I had never felt more alive before.  I went home and immediately knew what I was meant to do with my life.
Well, not really.  That never happened.

Really, I have no idea where or how I got the idea for THE NOVEL in the first place.  But it appeared one day and I said, “Hey, that’d be a cool book.”  So I sketched out some ideas and wrote a chapter or two in a journal and promptly forgot about it.

Cut to my sophomore year of college four years later.  Going to school in Philadelphia, I was working part-time at Adventure Aquarium across the Delaware River in Camden, NJ (which, at the time, was considered the most dangerous city in America – fun fact).  Every day I had to get on the PATCO train which connected the two cities and ride it across the Ben Franklin Bridge.  While on this commute one day, I suddenly remembered THE NOVEL.  (I should mention I was going to school for musical theatre at this time, so I had entertained no intention of writing.  Ever.  Not that I was against it – it had just never occurred to me.)

Being an ambitious lad with an hour of nothing to do every day while commuting, and not being one of those silly bookworms who read on the train, and not being one of those crazy teenagers who listen to music on the train, I decided I liked the romance of writing a novel on the train.  I found my old red notebook and set to work with a serious mind.

I plotted out THE NOVEL and created a map of the world (Yes, it was an epic fantasy.  Of course.).  I wrote a few chapters and was so pleased with the novelty of it all.  This was so different than going to voice lessons and dance class and crying in Meisner studio and dealing with hot girls who were actually crazy.  Alas, all good things end, however, and my time at the aquarium drew to a close.  I typed out what I had written and saved it on my computer.  And promptly forgot about it again.

So it went for the next few years – I graduated and got my first professional acting gigs.  I fell in love, fell out of love, moved in with people, moved away from people, had other day jobs, and eventually moved to New York.  During all of this, THE NOVEL would stop by my head to say hello every now and then.  I wrote a couple of chapters between acting gigs, I rearranged a bit of dialogue when going through a breakup, I edited the map anytime I saw a cooler map in another epic fantasy book.

I actually got a lot of writing in during Army basic training.  After the day was over and our drill sergeants released us for the night, I’d sit up in bed with my little notebook, scribbling away about fairies and magic with my M-16 semi-automatic rifle by my side.

Anyway, there came a point when I realized I had finished the darn thing.  So I said, “Neat!” and promptly forgot about it.

Cue me making the decision that I’d like to start writing fo’ realsies.  THE NOVEL is ecstatic.  Happily, I read through it, prepared to start the editing process.  I am appalled.

Here is the problem with beginning a novel at 16 and finishing it at 26:  it was written by at least ten different people. 

I could point out exactly what section each author wrote.  And not because I remembered when I wrote what.  It was because it was so blatantly obvious.  I will highlight a few of these authors:

The 16-year-old wrote like Tolkein or Dickens:  long, luxuriating sentences that carried such weight of import that you wanted to take a nap after every period.  You lost track of the subject of the sentence after hearing how beautiful it was in the moonlight.

The 21-year-old wrote like David Mamet:  whole chapters filled with dialogue.  Occasionally there’d be a “he said” in there, but that was about it.  Otherwise, it was action-action-action.

The 26-year-old wrote with a sense of motivation: whole pages where we followed the characters’ thoughts and feelings, their wants and desires, and then a little blip about what them doing something to get it.

It was like somebody with multiple personality disorder wanted to write a book.

So here we are, a year later, and my agent suggests (not wrongly) that I give it yet another go-through to clarify some points.  Sigh.  How much longer shall I continue to edit, trying desperately to unify these many voices into one?  Only time will tell. 

Hopefully it’s not another ten years.