Or how Betamax changed my life.
Back in the heady days of the mid-eighties my Dad made a decision. A decision that would resonate for the rest of my childhood. A decision that would fundamentally change my outlook on life. A decision that would be looked back on as one of the most important of the late 20th Century. He decided to buy a video recorder.
Not just any video recorder, but a Betamax video recorder.
Those of you that know your history will recall that back in these times of big hair and constant fear of nuclear Armageddon there were a number of competing formats for home video. Betamax (arguably technically superior) backed by Sony and VHS by JVC appeared as the top runners and therein entered into a brief period of competition from which one only would emerge triumphant (spoiler – it was VHS). (Older readers may also remember other formats, including the curious Video 2000 with it’s curious two sided cassettes – something that remained in use in my school anyway well into the nineties, often wheeled into classrooms on giant wheeled trolleys also holding very flammable looking wooden framed TVs).
So the fateful decision having being made we were then the proud owner of a technically great machine, but within a few months without the ability to rent or buy any tapes. What this did mean was that as a youngster I was limited to those films we taped off the telly and the increasingly rare (and often ex-rental) tapes we could still buy. Accordingly I had a relatively small pool of things to watch, and watch them I did, repeatedly. Some of my all-time favorite films were discovered during this period, including the 1978 animated version of the Lord of the Rings, the second 60’s Peter Cushing Doctor Who movie (Daleks Invasion Earth 2150AD) and of course the camp, cult classic Flash Gordon.
I must have watched the 1980 Flash Gordon film hundreds of times over the past few decades, and I’ve often thought about how I might bring Flash to the tabletop. A successful Kickstarter was recently run to publish a Flash Gordon setting for the Savage Worlds roleplaying system. I’m more of a miniatures person though, and although the Kickstarter produced a limited set of miniatures they weren’t quick what I was looking for.
Fast forward to last year and a random Facebook post pointed me in the direction of Cold War Miniatures. This is a small Scottish based miniatures produced (who interestingly despite their name do not have any Cold War ranges), but do have a number of interesting lines, including a wonderful range called Princes of the Universe (retro sci fi minis with a Flash Gordon flavour in 28mm scale miniatures in both resin and metal). I ordered a couple late last year to check them out and they are very well sculpted, clean and crisp with no flash at all.
The style is very much based on the classic Flash Gordon comic strips of Alex Raymond from the 30’s and 40’s, with a significant nod to the Larry ‘Buster’ Crabbe movie serials of the same time. (The black and white serials were often shown daily during school summer holidays on TV in the UK and I remember watching and loving these way before I got a view of the Technicolor delights of the 1980 Mike Hodges film.)
As regular readers of my blog may know, my go-to miniatures game is 7TV as it allows me to game pretty much what I want and allows me to field all those random cool toys that catch my eye. So it is that my ‘Flash Gordon’ cast is beginning to take shape. I’ve decided to concentrate on the good guys to start with, so an additional order to Cold War Miniatures has resulted in the fleshing out of the team to include not only the dashing hero, his muse and their mad scientist companion, but also a couple of alien princes (one at home in the forest kingdoms, the other a winged behemoth with a passion for shouting!)
These guys are currently work in progress. I am due to attend a couple of 7TV gaming days this year. The one at Board in Brum in January might be a bit too soon to get these guys finished, however I’ve also recently signed up for the Wargames Illustrated 7TV day at Wargames Foundry in the summer (at which conveniently the new Pulp version of the rules will be being used). (You can read about last year’s event elsewhere on the site).
I’d highly recommend checking Princes of the Universe and Cold War Miniatures in general. Not only lovely miniatures but great service and very quick postage within the UK. In addition to the miniatures I also bought from them a couple of the 3D print files for a rocket ship and some giant trees to go have a go at with my newly acquired toy (but that is a story for another time….)