Super Mario 2 Essay From Shane Stein For Brett Weiss’s The NES Omnibus: The Nintendo Entertainment System And Its Games, Volume 2 (M -Z)

Friends, Brett Weiss wanted to pass along this essay from his upcoming book, The NES Omnibus: The Nintendo Entertainment System And Its Games, Volume 2 (M -Z) which has begun a Kickstarter campaign.

Super Mario Bros. 2
Essay by Shane Stein, executive producer of The Game Chasers Movie
Excerpted from Brett Weiss’s forthcoming book, The NES Omnibus: The Nintendo
Entertainment System and Its Games, Volume 2 (M-Z), NOW ON KICKSTARTER.

We often make seemingly innocuous decisions that end up profoundly affecting us far in the future. These can be recognized only in hindsight, and we all likely have many such instances to marvel over and be thankful for. In my case, perhaps the most significant such episode involves the NES.

Virtually every kid who touched a control pad in the late ’80s loved Super Mario Bros. In late 1988, as whispers grew that a sequel soon would be headed to stores, anticipation around my neighborhood and at school (I had just started fifth grade) was, to put it mildly, off the charts. And on that first school day after Super Mario Bros. 2’s release date, I vividly recall sitting with my friends at lunch when a kid named Jake, who was a grade below me, ran up to our table, unzipped his backpack, and triumphantly pulled out the boxed treasure his parents must have just purchased for him. The facial expressions of everyone at our table revealed a singular shared reaction: You are so lucky!!

Now, Jake and I were not close pals at the time; friendly, yes, but I really only knew him because he was my good friend Mike’s first cousin. Indeed, he probably raced to our lunch table simply to ask Mike to play the game together after school. But at that moment, with little hope of soon owning SMB2 myself (I usually received NES games only on birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions), I knew exactly who I needed to hang out with, and pronto. And sure enough, I ended up playing plenty of Nintendo with Jake going forward.

Notwithstanding this superficial beginning, Jake and I quickly became close friends, and remain so to this day. Twelve years after our initial bonding over SMB2, he and I attended a party where he introduced me to an attractive brunette named Tracey, who I asked out after five minutes of conversation. She and I went to dinner two nights later and have been together since, marrying in 2003 and becoming parents to three wonderful kids.

I’ve already of course told him plenty, but thank you again, Jake. And thank you, Mario. My princess was indeed in the right castle.

The NES Omnibus: The Nintendo Entertainment System and Its Games, Volume 2 (M-Z) is a fun and informative look at ALL the original Nintendo Entertainment System games released in the US starting with the letters M-Z. More than 360 games are featured, including such iconic titles as Metroid, Super Mario Bros., and Tetris, as well as such hidden gems and cult classics as Mighty Final Fight, Trog!, and River City Ransom. In addition to thorough gameplay descriptions, the book includes box art, screenshots, reviews, fun facts, historical data, memories from the author, vintage magazine ads and quotes, and, best of all, nostalgic stories about many of the games from programmers, authors, YouTube celebs, filmmakers, and other industry insiders. Contributing authors include “8-Bit” Eric, Chris “The Irate Gamer” Bores, and John “Gamester81” Lester, among many other noteworthy gamers. Each game gets at least one full page of coverage in this gorgeous hardcover coffee table book.

Check Out 1982’s Video Games: A Public Perspective From Atari!

Friends, I hope you are more than ready to take a trip back to 1982 with Video Games: A Public Perspective, which was a public service video for communities worried about video games and arcades. During the Golden Age of the arcades it is certainly easy to see why Atari would spend the effort to produce and fund the nearly 20 minute long PSA, the older people who are interviewed at the beginning of the video itself sum up a lot of the fears that were running rampant back in the day.

VIDEO PROVIDED BY Patrick Scott Patterson.

As was demonstrated in that video by Patrick Scott Patterson, it’s not like video game worries have ever truly ceased to be a concern for panic among certain groups. Before I dive into why you should set aside your time to watch Video Games: A Public Perspective though, I need to point out that until yesterday I didn’t even know it existed. It was all thanks to the historians over at Atarimania who have shared the 1982 Atari community awareness pamphlet, which besides offering a VHS copy of the public service announcement, also added the option for an industry spokesperson to appear in front of a concerned community group to discuss any lingering fears.

Now I feel that bit of Atari history is worthy of a post all on it’s own, to demonstrate how the legendary game company was trying to get out ahead of the very same fears that managed to cause pinball to be banned for so many years in most cities. Having said all of that however, Video Games: A Public Perspective also happens to provide an amazing look back at the Golden Age of arcades and video games. In addition it also features interviews with the likes of Dona Bailey, who of course designed the Atari classic Centipede back in 1981. Bailey just so happens to live in my neck of the woods, although as far as I am aware, she has yet to pay a visit to the arcade I work at.


Perhaps what is most surprising in the video though is how many level-headed concerns as well as solutions are brought up in Video Games: A Public Perspective. Granted most of them fall on the side of pro-video games, but my favorite comes from Vinnie Settembre – who looks like he could whip up a mean pizza!


1974 Interview With Darren McGavin About Kolchak: The Night Stalker

Friends, when The Night Stalker was aired as the ABC Movie of the Week on the evening of January 11th of 1972, it was a massive success to say the very least. It managed to earn a 33.2 rating and a 54 share of the television viewers that night, the highest rating for an original television movie for that time. The lion’s share of credit for the popularity of that made-for-TV movie goes to the late and great Darren McGavin as Carl Kolchak, a former Chicago newspaper reporter who has been sacked from the major papers and finds himself working in Las Vegas. Which is how the hapless Kolchak finds himself stumbling onto the biggest case of his career, a serial killer that is in fact… a vampire.


Of course it didn’t hurt The Night Stalker that it featured a slew of solid character actors like Simon Oakland, Ralph Meeker, Claude Akins, Elisha Cook Jr., Carol Lynley, and Barry Atwater to name just a few. Not to mention the fact that it was based off an excellent and at that point unpublished novel by Jeff Rice, with none other than Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, The Twilight Zone) adapting the story into an incredible screenplay.

The popularity of that 1972 TV movie led to 1973’s The Night Strangler, in this made-for-TV film Carl Kolchak finds himself running afoul of a serial killer in Seattle, Washington – one that is using his victims to prolong his own life and has been doing so for over a century.


It would have been an amazing bit of trivia to share on the Saturday Frights podcast, when the Projectionist and I tackled The Night Stalker on an early episode. But there was in fact a third TV movie written by William F. Nolan (Logan’s Run), based on a story idea by Matheson. Entitled The Night Killers, it would have taken place in Hawaii with Kolchak stumbling upon a UFO, people being replaced by androids, and a plot for aliens to take over the Earth. ABC decided that the popularity of the character however was better suited for a television series, with the first episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker airing on September 13th of 1974.

It was in 1974 when this interview between David Moore of KBAK-TV in Bakersfield, California and the legendary Darren McGavin took place. It sounds like it was just before the first episode aired and it sure seems to me that McGavin is excited about returning to the role of Carl Kolchak. My only complaint is that I wish this interview would have run for at least half an hour, as it is an absolute pleasure to witness the charm and wit of McGavin.


Happy 25th To Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie!

Friends, it was while writing for the Retroist that I learned there is an all-important question for fans of classic science fiction and horror B-movies with a sense of humor… Joel or Mike? I can recall being taken aback by just how passionate some Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans were when it came to which host they preferred. Although no battle lines were drawn in the sand that I can recall, some of the comments on the article were at the very least strongly worded. Having said that however I believe that the majority of MSTies know that both Joel Hodgson and Micheal J. Nelson are equally fantastic, as is Jonah Ray who joined the ranks of Human hosts thanks to the two seasons streamed on Netflix. But it was 25 years ago today that Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie was released to the big screen… at least 26 theaters were lucky enough to receive the film that is.


I happened to be working at a local movie theater when Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie was advertised to come out on April 19th of 1996. As the theater was literally run by cinephiles, we immediately began planning on how we would decorate the theater in an effort to promote the film. There was even talk of making a cardboard cut out of Mike, Tom Servo (Kevin Murphy), and Crow T. Robot (Trace Beaulieu), painting it black and placing it on the partition in front of the screen. And then one day we received instructions from the home office to remove the posters from the lobby as we wouldn’t be carrying the film.

Thanks to an oral history article by Adam Carston for The A.V. Club published earlier this afternoon, I found out some interesting facts about what the process was like for the cast and writers of MST3K to make the jump to the big screen. Such as the fact that the attempt to make a movie began when Joel Hodgson was with the show, it was one of the reasons he eventually decided to step away from the series he had created with the 107th episode – Mitchell!


I don’t think that I am spoiling that A.V. Club article too much to say that overall the experience working on the film version of MST3K wasn’t the best for the cast and crew. Although it certainly sounds like there were some high points, such as getting the opportunity to sit in a screening room and checking out the vast catalog of Universal Pictures movies and TV shows. One of the most surprising things was that they entertained the notion of possibly riffing the likes of Kolchak: The Night Stalker as well as Night Gallery.

My first chance though to see Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie was when it was released to video stores in October of 1996. I have to be totally honest and admit that I was a little hesitant about the fact they were riffing on This Island Earth. I get a little defensive when it comes to anything related to the Universal Monster pantheon, a roster that the iconic Metaluna Mutant in the film is part of. Having said all of that however, I was giggling in a matter of minutes after the film had started.


In closing out this article, here is to 25 years of Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie. With a new and already successful Kickstarter campaign underway that is attempting to raise the necessary funds to produce new episodes without the assistance of a network, it looks like we will all be enjoying MST3K for some time to come.

Ready For The Prisoner Action Figures?

Friends, I have talked about my love of The Prisoner television show in past articles and podcasts over the years, something about the 1967 science fiction/spy thriller which was co-created and starred Patrick McGoohan (Braveheart) really clicked with me. It might have had a little something to do with the fact that my Father would continuously tell me about the show while I was growing up, the ambiguity of the actual meaning of the series made it seem incredibly fascinating. It was after High School though when I was working at a mom and pop video store that I learned the cult classic TV show was being offered on VHS by Columbia House. As I had disposable income at that time in my life I quickly signed up and wound up purchasing all 17 episodes of The Prisoner, and while I have most assuredly picked up the series on both DVD as well as Blu-ray over the years, I’ve managed to hold onto those Columbia House video cassettes out of a sense of nostalgia.

VIDEO PROVIDED BY Consumer Time Capsule.

After watching “The Arrival”, the groundbreaking first episode of The Prisoner, I was absolutely hooked and did my level best to share it with friends and even co-workers. Although much like when the series originally aired it was met with varying degrees of acceptance, from outright ridicule to thankfully a few seeing what made the show so amazing.


For such a remarkable cult television series however it has always been a little shocking how little official merchandise has been produced for fans to purchase. While there have been numerous books on the creation of the show as well as a few comic books, novelizations, soundtracks, and of course clothing based on the series for fans to pick up… what has really been missing is an action figure line.

With the subject matter of The Prisoner TV series, you can understand why toy manufacturers weren’t exactly beating down the door in 1967. But thanks to the Kickstarter by Wandering Planet Toys, one that has already been fully funded I should add, we can finally add multiple plastic versions of McGoohan’s Number 6 to our shelves – to say nothing of obtaining the nightmarish Rover and of course the Eric Portman version of Number 2.


Make sure to check out the Kickstarter which has 37 days left for you to find time to back the project. There are multiple levels of pledges from a single Number 6 action figure to a two-pack set based off of the episode entitled “The Schizoid Man”. Wandering Planet Toys has pointed out that these officially licensed action figures for The Prisoner are just the first wave, hopefully this Kickstarter will be a massive success and we might see even more iconic Number 2’s or perhaps a two-pack set based on the episode “Living in Harmony”?


If you’ve not had the pleasure of watching The Prisoner for yourself, I believe that thanks to Tubi TV you can stream the entire series for free!

Join Leslie Nielsen For This 1989 Back To The Future Part II Special

Friends, before Back to the Future Part II was released on November 22nd of 1989, there was a behind the scenes special aired on NBC on the evening of November 17th. One that happened to be hosted by the late and great Leslie Nielsen, who was experiencing a rise in popularity thanks to 1988’s The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!. Although Nielsen obviously had nothing to do with either Back to the Future or it’s 1989 sequel, he was a fantastic choice to act as host for the television event. During the airing of the 1985 film as I understand it, Nielsen would narrate and host the behind the scenes segments from both films – keeping in mind at the time it was a complete secret that Back to the Future Part II ended in a cliffhanger!


I am not sure what I was doing the night the Back to the Future Part II special was shown, but until I stumbled across that video, I have never had the pleasure of seeing it before. Which is curious as I was and still am a huge fan of the trilogy of films, in fact I am that odd duck that really loves Back to the Future Part III more than the other two movies.

While I might have missed that NBC special on TV I was most definitely at the first Saturday matinee showing of the highly anticipated sequel to Back to the Future. And while even in my youth I did my best to avoid spoilers for films, I broke the rule and picked up the novelization for Back to the Future Part II the day before seeing the movie. Judging by the reaction of that packed auditorium when the ‘To Be Continued’ title popped up on the screen, I was the only one who knew that Marty and Doc’s adventures weren’t quite over. The massive groan that came from the crowd turned to grumblings as the majority of them rose from their seats and started to head for the door… just seconds before they rushed back to their seats as the teaser for Back to the Future Part III began.

VIDEO PROVIDED BY Movieclips Classic Trailers.

Now before I end this article on that 1989 Back to the Future Part II special, I would be criminally remiss if I didn’t point out that if you are a fan of the films, you need to check out this interview with the esteemed Rob Klein – pop culture historian and archivist extraordinaire!

New Updates To Disneyland’s The Haunted Mansion On Reopening!

Friends, I was extremely lucky to have the chance to visit Walt Disney World in Orlando at a very early age. It was the Summer before I was to begin first grade and my Grandparents felt a trip to Walt Disney World was in order, taking a leisurely drive from our neck of the woods to Orlando, Florida. All in the comfort of a rather large RV, although we made plenty of stops to stretch our legs and visit one or two roadside attractions as well as a few beaches (Perhaps I might share the jellyfish or snake story one of these days). It was a magical trip to say the very least although it did confuse my Grandparents why I was absolutely terrified during the Snow White’s Adventures ride, covering my eyes with my hands and refusing to remove them until it was over. Having said that however I could not get enough of The Haunted Mansion, dragging them into the queue over and over again, cackling with joy as we rode our Doom Buggy through that delightful and welcome home for the 999 happy haunts that reside within.

You tell them, Madame Leota!

And while I was able to experience the thrill of The Haunted Mansion at Walt Disney World two additional times in my life, I have not yet had the pleasure of visiting Disneyland in Anaheim, California. But thanks to the Disney Parks blog, it was revealed that when the theme park reopens at the end of April, the Disneyland Haunted Mansion is going to have a few new additions. From a portrait entitled “April to December” that will now proudly hang in the portrait hallway to additional monuments to beloved pets such as Old Flybait the frog (“He Croaked”) outside of the mansion.

In fact thanks to the Disney Parks YouTube channel you can get a brief look at what to expect when Disneyland reopens on April 30th. As a bonus it appears that the video is narrated by none other than Disney Imagineer Kim Irvine, who just so happens to be the daughter of Leota Toombs, the original Imagineer who provided the face of Madame Leota and the voice of the Ghostess in the final scene of The Haunted Mansion!


Remember Kenner’s Snoopy Drive-In Movie Theater?

Friends, one of my most cherished childhood toys was the Fisher-Price Movie Viewer Theater, which I believe was released back in 1977. The handheld movie viewer which was originally released in ’73 was obviously easier to take to school or on car trips, but it was that 1977 Movie Viewer Theater though that captured my heart. Thanks to being able to not just watch the Super 8 mm shorts on the much larger screen of the viewer, but I could also flip a dial and cast the moving images on a nearby blank wall or sheet. I am extremely happy to say that not only is that beloved toy still in my collection but it is in working order, to say nothing of the fact that I now possess nearly a complete collection of those Fisher-Price film cartridges.

VIDEO PROVIDED BY Televisionarchives.

As I understand it, Kenner actually beat Fisher-Price to the punch back in 1973 with the Cassette Movie Projector, although they didn’t stop there. Just two years later they would produce the Snoopy Drive-In Movie Theater as well as the handheld Snoopy Movie Viewer. While I believe that four Peanuts shorts were made for the Fisher-Price Viewer and Theater, Kenner would produce a total of 12 cartridges in their line.

VIDEO PROVIDED BY The Museum of Classic Chicago Television.

Considering that I frequently discuss the local drive-in theater of my youth on the Saturday Frights podcast, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that I was blown away when I received the Snoopy Drive-In Movie Theater as a kid. From the plastic Snoopy sitting in his car looking up at the ‘drive-in’ screen to the fact that Woodstock was running the concession stand, it just managed to always make me smile.

Interestingly enough, besides those 12 carts focusing on Peanuts characters, Kenner also ended up releasing six cartridges for The Six Million Dollar Man as well as film carts for the likes of Speed Buggy, Grape Ape, and Scooby-Doo among other Hanna-Barbera cartoons.

“Bring on Godzilla!”

Sadly my Snoopy Drive-In Movie Theater is no longer functioning, and I assure you that my finger hovers over the ‘Buy It Now’ button when looking on eBay, but at least we can enjoy watching it in action thanks to this YouTube video!


Remember Kenny Rogers Performing “The Gambler” On The Muppet Show?

Friends, after finishing up that article the other evening on release of the Army of the Dead trailer, which as I pointed out was wise to use Kenny Roger’s popular “The Gambler” tune during the preview, I had the hankering to pull out his 1978 album of the same name. As I was sitting listening to the LP I couldn’t help but think back to when I first heard it at my grandparents on a weekend long ago. Which also reminded me of the time that Kenny Rogers was the special guest on The Muppet Show, a beloved television series that I would watch while spending the weekends with my grandfather and grandmother. While I was not the biggest fan of country and western music as a kid, it was these weekends with my grandparents that I did develop a love for the likes of Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Horton, The Oakridge Boys, Dolly Parton, and of course Kenny Rogers.

To be completely honest, my grandfather wasn’t exactly a fan of The Muppet Show, I think he found it to be far too silly. He would either fall asleep on the couch while it was playing or he would tinker on his motorcycle out in the garage when I was watching the show. I do remember him paying attention though when Kenny Rogers appeared on the October 1979 episode of the series, ending up performing “Love Lifted Me” from the 1975 album of the same name in addition to “The Gambler”.


The character of the Gambler during the segment was performed by the late and great Jerry Nelson. The talented puppeteer who brought us the likes of Count von Count and the original Mr. Snuffleupagus on Sesame Street, as well as Sgt. Floyd Pepper, Crazy Harry, and Uncle Deadly on The Muppet Show – to name just a very few of the characters he brought to life in the 47 years he was active as a performer.

You might be interested to know that Kenny Rogers was not the first artist to record “The Gambler”, that honor goes to Don Schlitz who also wrote the song back in August of 1976. As I understand it, Schlitz tried to get other artists and labels interested in the song for two years before Bobby Bare ended up recording it for his album entitled Bare. Besides Schlitz and Bare, Johnny Cash would release it on his Gone Baby album. The tune however didn’t take off until Kenny Rogers recorded a cover of it for his sixth studio album which he entitled The Gambler, so if you are keeping count that is four artists who recorded and released the song in 1978 alone.

Kenny Rogers would earn a Grammy for Song of the Year and Best Male Country Vocal Performance, to say nothing of the fact that “The Gambler” would reach #1 on Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs as well as nabbing the number 3 spot for Adult Contemporary and even taking the 16th slot on their Hot 100 list.

It’s Muerto Las Vegas In Zack Snyder’s Army Of The Dead Trailer

Friends, earlier today Netflix released the official trailer for the upcoming Zack Snyder directed Army of the Dead, which looks like it is ready to double down on zombie action and thrills when it pits Dave Bautista against a horde of the living dead in Las Vegas. This is actually the first of three projects though in this new ‘Army’ zombie cinematic universe scheduled to hit Netflix. As there is also an upcoming anime series entitled Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas as well as a prequel film called Army of Thieves.

Snyder is no stranger though to the zombie genre thanks to 2004’s Dawn of the Dead, itself a remake of the classic 1978 film by the late and great George A. Romero. I was one of those many fans of Romero’s work that looked on the screenplay by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) as well as the trailer for the remake of the movie with a healthy does of skepticism. Being a huge fan of the zombie genre though, I scheduled a day off from work so I could catch the first showing… and ten minutes after it began I was grinning ear to ear and planning on catching the second matinee as well. That opening to the Zack Snyder version of Dawn of the Dead managed to give you a slice of normalcy and calm before aggressively letting you see it all get swept away overnight.

Perhaps the most surprising fact of 2004’s Dawn of the Dead was just how much fun it was – it was a still a horror film to be sure – but Snyder and Gunn definitely provided some dark laughs and action to go along with the zombie carnage. And judging by the trailer for Army of the Dead it is a return to form for Snyder, especially with the “Always Bet on Dead” tagline as seen on the official poster. Word of warning though before you check out the trailer for yourself, there is a brief moment of SALTY language, but thankfully it doesn’t cross the PG-13 line. And kudos by the way to the filmmaker for using the 1978 cover of “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers in the trailer below!


Dave Bautista plays Scott Walker, a former soldier who leads a team of mercenaries into the remains of Las Vegas in the hopes of securing $200 million dollars locked in a vault. Not only does the group have to contend with what looks like intelligent zombies and an undead tiger, but they only have 32 hours before a nuclear bomb is dropped on Las Vegas. If you listen closely to the news report at the beginning of that trailer, the city that never sleeps has been walled off to prevent the zombie hordes from spreading. So I think it’s safe to say that the $50 million pay out will still go a long way for Walker and his team… assuming any of them survive the job, right?

In addition to Bautista, the film also stars Theo Rossi (Luke Cage), Ella Purnell (Sweetbitter), Tig Notaro (One Mississippi), Ana de la Reguera (Goliath), Hiroyuki Sanada (Westworld), Omari Hardwick (Kick-Ass), Matthias Schweighöfer (You Are Wanted), Raúl Castillo (Ghost Tape), Nora Arnezeder (Safe House), Garret Dillahunt (Deadwood), and Samantha Win (Mortal Kombat: Legacy).

As I understand it from reading online, Army of the Dead will be released in select theaters beginning on May 14th with it hitting Netflix one week later.