Superman 3 tie-in novel by William Kotzwinkle


I’m not insane. I know that Superman 3 is not the greatest film in the world. I know it’s never going to win any awards. Yet I absolutely love it, and I’ve probably watched it as many times as the two earlier entries.

So why do I love it so much. I think it’s mostly down to familiarity. There are a number of movies like this from my childhood where I recorded it onto VHS from the telly and watched it time and time again, so much so that I remember the dialogue sequences as much as the action. I love the bit at the start where Richard Pryor suddenly discovers he’s a master computer hacker. The bits in Smallville pass the time as well, as does one of my favourite scenes involving Brad and the two keys. I even like the music playing in the background.

As a kid, I found Vera’s transformation scene unsettling, even though now it looks faintly ridiculous. I don’t miss Lex and Lois, and think the scene at the chemical plant is terrific. I even laugh at the montage when Gus fiddles about with the weather satellite. It’s got Bob Todd in it, why wouldn’t I laugh? Yes, for some inexpicable reason I love Superman 3, even though I know its not very good. I didn’t have so much to occupy my mind back then and I just used to watch it day after day.

There are tons of other risible films like this in my life. Take Battle Beyond the Stars for example. Again, I taped this from the telly, and know it inside out. I realise its daft and hokey, but I love that movie. If I could rent a cinema for a day and curate a festival, I would 100% show it. Likewise fantasy epic Krull, which manages to have Bernard Bresslaw as a Cyclops and Tucker from Grange Hill as a young criminal fugitive. I do not see this sort of repetitive behaviour in my children at all. They watch something once and never return, simply because there is too much choice. Netflix and Prime are groaning with the next thing, which never gives them time to linger. I had a few VHS tapes, crammed with my favourites, adverts and all, whereas they have thousands of choices on tap yet rarely find anything they want to watch.


And so onto this paperback. It is written by the amusingly named (at least it used to amuse me in my early teens) William Kotzwinkle, a prolific writer who also wrote the excellent tie-in novel for ET, The Extra-Terrestrial. And its superb, really well written and tells the story perfectly. He even adds little flourishes here and there to make the story better.

I used to love tie-in novels as a child, because it was simply the only way I could relive a story. My absolute favourite was the one for The Empire Strikes Back, by Donald F. Glut, which was sensational. I read it night after night, which again is behaviour I don’t see exhibited by my children. Even better was when they contained stills from the movie within the book, Superman 3 showcasing a bunch of excellent photos that were clearly taken on set.

I did not pay for this book. A friend got it in a charity shop for me. But I have spent a ton of money on Superman over the years. He remains my favourite superhero, even if I don’t care much for the current incarnation. Christopher Reeve was perfect in the role, and Superman 3, despite it’s flaws, will always have a special place in my heart.

Twelve Palitoy Snowtrooper Action Figures


On my kitchen windowsill are twelve, identical toy Star Wars Snowtroopers, standing around a toy Darth Vader. It’s like a twisted version of Jesus and his disciples. Let me explain.

In the town where I live there is an excellent junk shop. They sell everything – old vinyl, Dinky cars, DVD’s, weird ceramics, thimbles, the works. It’s a collectors dream. A paradise maybe. And they have hundreds of 1970’s and 1980’s Star Wars action figures for sale.

I already owned a Snowtrooper, given to me a child when Empire Strikes Back was released. Passing the shop one day, I noticed there were two in the window. This got me thinking how fun it would be to have three together, a Snowtrooper boy-band. They were only £4 each, but I talked the man down to £7 (I’m quite the negotiator).

Since then, every time I walk past and see one in the window, I buy it. My wife does the same if she spies one on her lunchbreak. The man in the shop comments to her that there is another collector, and he will be annoyed to have missed out. He says the same to me. He doesn’t realise that these rival collectors are actually a double act, and we’re too embarrassed to tell him.

And I’m now up to 12. I like the fact it’s a dozen, like our Lord Jesus and his friends, and am unsure if I will buy anymore. What’s tempting me at the moment is the fact the shop currently has five General Madine’s for sale. The thought of a dozen of these occupying a space in my house amuses me as well, and so I may well start another collection.

Obviously, this is madness, and I am unsure what compels me. Why on earth would anyone want a dozen little bearded action figures stood next to the microwave? My wife certainly doesn’t. But it’s taking considerable willpower not to march in there with £20 (which I should be spending on food and shoes for my children) for all five.

As a child, the Star Wars action figures were my favourite toys. I was six when the first film came out and like all boys I was quickly smitten. Of the original 12 figures that came out in 1978 I had eleven, which are still in my possession. I never had Ben Kenobi, not sure why. My friend Adam did and I viewed this figure with envious eyes. I also had the Sandcrawler playset (which meant I owned two Jawas) and Luke’s speeder.

I was still crazy about these toys when Empire Strikes Back came out. These are my favourite figures. I sent off box-tops to get a mail order Dengar to complete my collection of bounty hunters. I didn’t have any Ugnaughts but did own Lando and Lobot, plus scores of rebels in differing costumes. I didn’t get any playsets, only figures.

Then along came Return of the Jedi, but my interest in toys had waned. I didn’t get any, not even an Ewok. My son now plays with my original action figures, all safely stowed in a shoebox. In adult life, I toyed with the idea of collecting all the figures from my childhood, but never got round to it. And so instead I have collected multiple versions of the same figure.

All in I estimate this has cost me £60. Does this represent excellent value for money. NO. Has it been fun collecting them? You know, I’d have to say YES.

Samsung DVD709 DVD player

In 2000, a savings bond my wife started in 1990 matured, releasing a nice lump sum. Not loads, but enough to make us dance around the kitchen. Ever conscientious, we set about spending this money as frivolously as possible. Our first purchase was a DVD player.

These were a relatively new concept. Of course we had a VHS recorder, and hundreds of tapes, but we were the first of our contemporaries to own a DVD player. I’m not sure what research I did into choosing the right machine. I think I had a vague understanding of ‘regions’ and wanted a player I could ‘hack’ to view American discs, which I think is what led me to the Samsung DVD709.

We purchased it from a branch of Dixons and chose a disc each. My choice was Starship Troopers, one of the earliest DVD’s, so much so that you had to get up halfway through the film to turn it over. My wife went for Shakespeare in Love.

We were newly-weds, living in a little upstairs flat. We plugged it in with enormous excitement, popping the scart lead into our rented television. We had a 32”, widescreen set, which depth-wise was massive. It took two of us to carry it upstairs. We tuned in the player and popped on my wife’s disc.

And we were blown away. I can honestly say we’d never seen a picture as clear, with colours as deep and pronounced. I’ve never been that bothered with HD and Blu-ray, but the leap from VHS to DVD was staggering.

We set about building a collection with some gusto. Before we knew it, we had a shelf full of discs. We discovered the joys of and the postman regularly delivered little yellow envelopes full of excitement. I became an extra’s junkie, watching those little features about how they blew up models on Bond movies and listening to commentaries. I even got excited about that thing on the Men in Black DVD where you could change the order of a sequence to make your own little movie.

I soon discovered there was a whole community behind the humble Samsung 709. I lurked on a website called 709Online. They had the hack to make the player multi-region, but also an extremely lively forum, which was full of people going to enormous efforts to wind each other up. My main memory is of two members, someone called Ka$Shif (I think, it was a long time ago) and a man from the North called Alex Duxfield, who metaphorically jabbed at each other with pointy sticks all the time. Endlessly entertaining when viewed from a distance but I’m sure a real hassle for whoever ran the site.

I also lurked around another called thedvdforums. This website is still going, though not as active as it was back in 2001. I remember watching the events of 9/11 unfold on one of their threads, the only site I could access as internet new-sites collapsed under weight of traffic. Some of the discussions on that site were frankly bizarre, tales of wallet inspectors and wife swapping, none of which had much to do with DVD’s.

I replaced the Samsung player after five years. I wanted surround sound and it was easier to buy a new player that came with speakers in the box. But I loved that machine. Clearly many have fond memories also. It still exists, up in my loft. Maybe one day I’ll take it down and see if it still works. It would be nice to view the menu screens again if nothing else.

I can’t remember what the player cost me. I have a feeling it was about £400. Friends raised eyebrows when we told them we’d bought it, as if we’d morphed into the man from Monopoly. It’s not as if we were early adopters particularly, but ahead of the masses.

How much have I spent on DVD players over the years? Well, there was the Samsung’s replacement, and then a Blu-ray player purchased about 4 years ago. So I’d say about £1000 on DVD equipment.

But before the Blu-ray, there was an HD-DVD player. Yes, I know, pretty stupid. But we’ll tell that story another time.