Friday, 25 December 2015

Famous planes & pilots

Not really a proper top 10 listing, this is just a selection of (mostly) named pioneering aircraft and/ or famous flyers as a theme for a shelf display of diecast model aircraft.

In the beginning, there was Orville and Wilbur Wright - whose Wright flyer made history at Kitty Hawk in 1903. The diecast model I have is by Corgi, part of the toy company’s celebratory ‘100 Years of Flight’ range. It is only a small version, with a wingspan of approx. 11 cm, and the not-to-scale detail is merely satisfactory, with clear plastic ‘windows’ supporting the wing struts so the model isn’t too fragile. Still, it’s a starter for this decidedly modest collection.     

The second pioneer is Louis Bleriot, whose ‘Bleriot XI’ mono-plane was, in 1909, first to cross the English Channel, proving that the Aerial Age had truly begun. Again, the Corgi diecast model uses clear plastic to hold the framework together on this smaller scale. Bleriot appears as a character in British docu-drama feature The Conquest Of The Air (1936).  

In 1927, Charles Lindbergh piloted the ‘Spirit of St Louis’ for the first non-stop New York to Paris flight, ushering in the Golden Age of Aviation. Corgi’s fit-the-box scale model is one of their better efforts in this 100 Years of Flight range. In Billy Wilder's 1957 bio-pic, The Spirit Of St Louis, Lindbergh is portrayed by Jimmy Stewart. 

Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly solo over the Atlantic Ocean. Her plane was a red Lockheed Vega 5B. Corgi’s diecast model is the best of their 100YOF air-pioneer set. After a few episodic outings, plus a TV-movie in 1976 starring Susan Clark, Earhart's story finally got a big screen showing in Amelia (2009), with Hilary Swank playing the heroine. 

A year earlier than Earhart’s 1932 flight, Amy Johnson set a record time flying from Britain to Japan. Her plane was a de Havilland DH.80 Puss Moth named ‘Jason II’. The 1:72 scale model is by Oxford Diecast and is very good quality as a collectible.

Designed to be fast, the de Havilland DH-88 Comet was built for the MacRobertson (London-to-Melbourne) air race in 1934. Flown by C.W.A. Scott and Tom Campbell Black, the striking red version of the plane, named ‘Grosvenor House’, won the race.

The Comet model by Oxford Diecast (a 'Black Magic' version is also available) comes in 1:72 scale, with a very shiny red finish.

The next choice for a famous pilot is a cheat, really. James ‘Biggles’ Bigglesworth is a fictional hero of WW1, and his Sopwith Camel bi-plane makes a fine addition to this collection. The diecast model is produced by Amercom in 1:72 scale. Apart from a 1960s TV series, the only screen adventure for this archetypal British hero is sci-fi movie Biggles: Adventures In Time (1986), starring Neil Dickson. 

Since we have Biggles, it would be churlish to neglect his airborne opponent, Manfred von Richthofen, the ‘Red Baron’, and so I have a placeholder model of his Fokker Dr.1 tri-plane. It’s a smaller scale diecast made by Lledo, and I’m not sure if the green and red colouring (see below) is authentic. German movie The Red Baron (2008) celebrates his career but, of course, makes him the hero of the war.  

Representing flying aces of WW2, there’s legendary RAF pilot Douglas Bader, whose Supermarine Spitfire is a 1:72 scale model in Corgi’s low-cost Warbirds range.
This is a well-made diecast, but it lacks the detachable undercarriage of the other Spitfire in my collection, an unarmed reconnaissance version in blue (below), also made by Corgi in 1:72 scale.   

Nowadays rightly celebrated for breaking the sound barrier in 1947, US pilot Charles ‘Chuck’ Yeager also flew a North American P-51D Mustang, named ‘Glamorous Glen III’ (after his wife Glennis). This diecast model is a smaller Corgi, quite nicely detailed for its fit-the-box scale. Most famously, Yeager was played by Sam Shepard in The Right Stuff (1983).   

Friday, 18 December 2015


Nothing about this remake works as it should. The pace seems awkward, and its tone shifts from SF-horrors to action fantasy with all the finesse and charm of a coal sack falling off the back of a lorry. There are a few good sequences with dramatic impact, and its darker style, with some disturbing or at least unsettling moments, looks fine. By far the best thing about this version of the Fantastic Four is the CGI character of the Thing.

When reminiscent of Cronenberg shockers, or superhero movies like Watchmen, this is an average comicbook adaptation. But with its overlong childhood scenes and quite dementedly rushed climax, Josh Trank’s failure might have sunk hopes for a renewal of Marvel’s most family-friendly franchise.   

Sunday, 22 November 2015


The funny thing about having a hobby that I call ‘extreme collecting’ - mainly diecast models of helicopters, aeroplanes, assorted NASA vehicles, and sci-fi/ fantasy related items - is that when looking out for new stuff on e-bay now, the problem is I’ve already got one (my list of rotorcraft is 29 pages, but I’ve actually lost count of how many models there are), or I am really not interested (WW2 bombers, numerous airliners, blah), or - in a few cases - I simply can’t afford one (seen the ridiculous prices for Product Enterprise’s Gerry Anderson range?).
I have also reached the stage where all the display space left in the house is down to just a couple of shelves.  

My recent bargain buys include four aircraft of types that can float in water (see also 'flying boats'). Two are imported part-works from the Russian/ USSR Legends magazine series:

#63, Beriev A-40 Albatross (NATO name: Mermaid), a rare a jet-engined amphibious aircraft. The diecast model is by DeAgostini - 1:350 scale.

#82, Shavrov Sh-2S (nicknamed ‘Rusalka’ in USSR) a small wooden aircraft, this was the first mass-produced Russian plane of its type in the 1930s. From DeAgostini, this small (wing-span only 12 cm) diecast model (scale - 1:111) is the ambulance version.

The third is an Italian military float-plane, the three-engined CANT Z.506B Airone (Italian for ‘Heron’). It’s a sturdy diecast model produced by Altaya in 1:144 scale. 

I also bought a Savoia-Marchetti S.55X. A twin-hulled flying boat, this was used by Italian air marshal Balbo in a V-formation flight of 24 planes for the historic Atlantic crossing to Chicago for the World’s Fair in 1933. Exquisitely detailed, this diecast and plastic model is produced by Italeri - 1:144 scale. 

Thursday, 19 November 2015

New mags

Due to the mystery of consciousness we apprehend our world via pattern recognition. Cloud shapes are signs from above. Untoward events are omens from beyond. Optical illusions defy our mental processing, attaining a form of modest perfection in cinema. Thinking one thing leads us to think of another thing but we often confuse connection with causality because everything is relative. Except for scientific evidence, objectivity is impossible, but well informed opinions are more useful than rushed judgements, or unconsidered viewpoints. Of course, when abandoning rationality and logic, in favour of the metaphorical and the poetic, there is a profound risk of creating art, or, at least, recognising it for purposes of media commentary. So, is realism in movies insufficient for artistic expression?

Meanwhile, the latest issues of TTA Press magazines are out now. Interzone #261 includes my 'Laser Fodder' column of blu-ray & DVD reviews. Here's the line-up + ratings:

The Dance Of Reality (7/10)
The Flash - season 1 (6/10)
Arrow - season 3 (5/10)
Iceman (6/10)
Infini (3/10)
Max Max: Fury Road (8/10)
Turbo Kid (6/10)
Dark Matter - season 1 (6/10)
Haven - season 5 (6/10)
Metal Hurlant Resurgence (4/10)
Terminator Genisys (4/10)
Technotise: Edit & I (7/10)
Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! (3/10)

     Spec Ops: Retro
Eyes Without A Face (8/10)
Seconds (7/10)

     Skunky Chunks: Round-up
Tour Of Duty
Elimination Game
Alien Strain
Song Of The Sea

There's also Black Static #49 with my Blood Spectrum column about horror movies & TV.

The Canal (3/10)
Hard To Be A God (7/10)
John Wick (7/10)
The Man Who Could Cheat Death (6/10)
Gotham - season 1 (6/10)
Bones - season 10 (6/10)
Insidious - chapter 3 (3/10)
Wer (3/10)
The Naked Prey (5/10)
Pay The Ghost (5/10)
The Skull (6/10)

     Utter Matters: Round-up
Final Girl
Blood Moon
The Houses Of Halloween
The Passage
A Christmas Horror Story
Deadly Virtues
Knock Knock
Let Us Prey
The Messenger

Sunday, 18 October 2015


When it comes to helicopters used by the New York Police Department, some of my favourites were often seen in movies and TV shows, and I have collected five different diecast models, so far...

The Bell 47B (with floats for landing on water, and saddle fuel tanks) is made by Corgi in 1:48 scale. 

Adopting the classic blue and white livery, N.Y.P.D. helicopters upgraded with the Bell 206 JetRanger. My model of this is by New Ray in 1:34 scale. 

I have a smaller Bell 204 / Huey UH-1B from Corgi, that was made for their series of fit-the-box models. It’s approx. 1:100 scale. 

This Bell 412 (below) looks an impressive 14 inches long with over-hanging rotors. With opening sliding doors, it’s made by New Ray in 1:48 scale. 

Finally, I have two versions of the Agusta A-119 Koala - a larger New Ray model at 1:43 scale, and the detailed Amercom edition at 1:72. 

Thursday, 17 September 2015


The latest magazine issues from TTA Press have just been published. Interzone #260 includes my ‘Laser Fodder’ column of blu-ray & DVD reviews of recent SF and fantasy releases. Here’s the line-up:

Contamination (4/10)
A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence (3/10)
The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension (9/10)
Metal Hurlant Chronicles (4/10)
Robot Overlords (6/10)
The Blacklist - seasons 1 & 2 (7/10)
The Hourglass Sanatorium (8/10)

            Gaze Control: round-up
Monsters: Dark Continent
Knights Of Sidonia - series 1
The Phoenix Incident
The Age Of Adaline

Also available, sister mag Black Static #48 has my ‘Blood Spectrum’ column about horror movies & TV on disc...

Housebound (4/10)
White God (6/10)
Jordskott (8/10)
The Town That Dreaded Sundown (4/10)

            Grue Sums: zombies round-up
The Dead 2: India
Dead Rising: Watchtower
Dead Shadows
Fallen Soldiers
Zombie Fight Club
The Walking Dead - season 5 (6/10)

            Laborious: also received
Return To Sender
The Burning
Cottage Country
Into The Grizzly Maze
The Falling

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Flying wheelbarrows

There are several aircraft of a particular style or design, used for both turbo-prop and jet engine planes, with twin tail-booms in a basic fuselage shape that’s nicknamed the ‘wheelbarrow’, for obvious reasons.
The De Havilland FB.9 Vampire was an RAF fighter made in the 1950s. It name fits a plane that looks like a fang-tailed devil. The diecast and plastic model is by Amercom in scale 1:72.  

Nicknamed the ‘fork-tailed devil’, American fighter the Lockheed P-38 Lightning is a lovely silvery model (scale 1:72) with some neat detailing, but I dislike the stand (with a tilt), produced by Oxford Diecast. Most disappointing, in terms of build-quality, is that the propellers are fixed. Even far cheaper, and comparatively tiny, model planes by Corgi - and others - have turning props.  

Armstrong Whitworth AW660 Argosy - was used as an RAF support command plane. A cargo transporter with a rear ramp access, this is notable for perhaps the first of its kind to be nicknamed a ‘whistling wheelbarrow’. The Amercom model is 1:200 scale.  

French air force transport the Nord N2501 Noratlas had clam-shell doors at the back instead of just a ramp built into the fuselage. This diecast model is by Atlas Editions (at a scale of 1:144), and the detail is only basic with static propellers. 

American cargo plane the Fairchild C-119, nicknamed a ‘flying boxcar’, was also used by the Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare). The diecast model that I have is from Italeri, in 1:200 scale. 

Disney’s animated movie Planes: Fire & Rescue has a Fairchild C-119 as the character named Cabbie. 

A Royal Navy jet-fighter, the De Havilland 110 Sea Vixen is a large (21cm wingspan) diecast model, of merely average mostly-plastic quality in 1:72 scale, from Altaya.

Italian bi-plane Caproni Ca.3 was a heavy bomber of WW1. Its three engines included a pusher situated behind the pilot, and combo of twin booms and three tail-fins make the aircraft seem like an oddly flimsy kite design by later standards.    

Still on my wants list is the WW2 night fighter, Northrop P-61 Black Widow, produced by Air Force 1 (scale 1:72), in top quality diecast but, so far, it’s hideously expensive. 

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

TTA summer

SF/ fantasy magazine Interzone #259 is out now, and it includes my regular 'Laser Fodder' column of blu-ray and DVD reviews. Here's the line-up, with ratings, for this issue:

Sword Of Vengeance (3/10)
Vice (4/10)
Tokyo Tribe (3/10)
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (8/10)
Jupiter Ascending (6/10)
Last Knights (4/10)
Hawk The Slayer (4/10)

    Redundoes: also received
Project Almanac

Also just published, horror mag Black Static #47 has the latest 'Blood Spectrum' column of my movie reviews, with coverage of...

The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Miss Osbourne (8/10)
Wyrmwood: Road Of The Dead (5/10)
The Haunting Of Radcliffe House (6/10)
The Sleeping Room (4/10)
Dream Home (5/10)
Whiplash (6/10)
Kajaki (4/10)
Twisted Tales (5/10)
Can't Come Out To Play (3/10)
Out Of The Dark (4/10)
Stonehearst Asylum (4/10)
It Follows (7/10)
The Voices (5/10)
The Woman In Black 2: Angel Of Death (4/10)
The Human Centipede 3: Final Sequence (6/10)
Tusk (4/10)

    Mediocritique: also received
Home Sweet Hell
Island Of Death
The Cutting Room
Girls Against Boys
The Loft
Digging Up The Marrow
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
Unhallowed Ground

Sunday, 17 May 2015


Just watched The Magic Roundabout (2005), which had been on my DVD rental queue for years. Whereas The Clangers was a great sci-fi/ fantasy, the original Magic Roundabout of the 1960s was never as marvellously eccentric as genre entertainment or quite astonishingly weird as cultural artifice for children’s TV.

Stuffed with star voices - including Tom Baker, Jim Broadbent, Joanna Lumley, Bill Nighy, Ian McKellen, Robbie Williams, Ray Winstone, and Kylie Minogue (who also does a new theme song) - as this movie is, there’s no denying it is basically a British attempt on the American market’s dominance of fairytale quests in animated format. 

Here we have Dougal ‘Baggins’ and a fellowship of the runaway train from the village square in the shire, that is clearly designed/ intended to compete with those kung fu penguins, and whatnot. 

It’s a colourful adventure, with a superhero cinema plotline (baddie Zeebad schemes to freeze the world with magic diamonds), and various po-mo jokes (Dylan is a Kinks fan!), that lacks the obvious charms of Wallace and Gromit. Oh well, it’ll soon be time for bed. 

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Flying boats

I have always liked old flying boats and the amphibious type of aircraft rates highly on my top 10 planes list. As throwbacks to a nearly-forgotten era of bygone aviation freedoms, these big sea-planes remain iconic simply because they didn’t need runways. Any stretch of open water made landing and takeoff easy, although it helped if the plane could coast up to a pier or jetty for passengers to disembark or for unloading cargo.

Centrepiece of my flying boats collection of diecast models is a Short S-25 Sunderland III, a BOAC ‘Hythe’ class prop-liner (reg. G-AGKY) named Hungerford. A very heavy model of solid construction, this is a shiny limited edition (at 1:144 scale) from Corgi. 

Also a BOAC aircraft, I have a Boeing 314 Clipper (not pictured). It's another Corgi model, but only a very small one (wingspan: 125mm) of an unknown ‘fit-the-box’ scale.   

The main American flying boat I have is a Consolidated PB2Y-3 Coronado. A highly detailed 1:144 scale model (more plastic than metal, see above) made by Amercom, this diecast product usually comes with a free magazine.

Japanese ‘Emily’ is a Kawanishi H8K2, and this 1:144 scale model from Amercom is another part-work of the fortnightly Giant Warplanes magazine collection.

On my wants list:
German plane Dornier Do X (above) is a Lufthansa aircraft with six engines, and the model is produced by Postage Stamp Planes - scale 1:350, and Russian Beriev A-40 Albatross (rare jet-engined flying-boat only built as a prototype), from DeAgostini.     

Friday, 20 March 2015


While I wait for the Solar eclipse to darken a solid grey sky, here's a quick update about what's in two new issues of the magazines...

Interzone #257

My 'Laser Fodder' column of DVD & blu-ray reviews:

Extant - season 1 (4/10)
The Haunting Of Black Wood (6/10)
Enemy (4/10)
The Maze Runner (4/10)
The Rendlesham UFO Incident (1/10)
Coherence (2/10)
Dark Planet (7/10)
Game Of Thrones - season 4 (7/10)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (3/10)
Continuum (4/10)
Halo: Nightfall (4/10)
The Device (1/10)
The Signal (5/10)

Black Static #45

My 'Blood Spectrum' column of movies & TV:

The Guest (3/10)
Dark House (3/10)
Grace: The Possession (2/10)
Jessabelle (3/10)
The Babadook (7/10)
The Calling (4/10)
Annabelle (4/10)
The Other (6/10)
Clown (5/10)
REC: Apocalypse (6/10)
Wolves (3/10)
Horns (5/10)
Zombie Resurrection (1/10)
Doc Of The Dead (4/10)

    Dunce Macabre: round-up
Ninjas Vs. Monsters
Hunting The Legend
Scar Tissue
A Haunting At Silver Falls
Kissing Darkness

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Look up!

Here's another post about my collection of diecast models...
Long before British squad the Red Arrows became synonymous, the world over, with aerobatic displays, the RAF had other flying teams, using different planes. My diecast model of the Reds' BAE Hawk is a budget-priced Corgi version at 1:72 scale.

Way back in the 1950s, the Black Arrows (of RAF 111 Squadron) flew Hawker Hunter jets, and the team still hold a couple of world records (including one for 22 aircraft performing a loop in formation). This Hawker Hunter F, mark 6, diecast is 1:72 scale - again by Corgi.  

In the 1960s, the RAF’s 92 Squadron took over, with the Blue Diamonds also flying Hawker Hunters. 

This popular British plane was also used by Belgian display team the Red Devils (aka: Diables Rouges). All three of these diecast models are just variations of the same Corgi product.

The immediate predecessors of the British ‘Reds’ team, an RAF unit called the Yellowjacks, flew in a jet trainer called the Folland Gnat. My diecast model of this plane is by Aviation 72. 

The Gnats were inherited by the Red Arrows and operated until 1980, when the team switched to flying the Hawk. I also have the 1:72 scale Amercom version of this plane, which is a more detailed model than the Corgi diecast (see top), but it's a lighter product using more plastic than metal.