Pogo Bal Commercial, Circa 1987

Hasbro’s Pogo Bal made a splash in the States during the summer of 1987, becoming the third bestselling toy on the market after G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (also Hasbro) and Barbie. Invented in 1969 by two Belgians, Raphael J. Van Der Cleyen and Wilfried F. Ribbens, the updated pogo stick became “immensely popular” in Europe during 1985, where it was sold as “Lolo Ball” or “Lolobal.” Hasbro acquired the rights soon after…

“All Them Damn Hippies”: Joseph Sargent’s ‘White Lightning’, 1973

By K.E. Roberts

White Lightning is the first in a long line of films and TV series about righteous lawbreakers in the post-Vietnam American South, where corrupt cops chase hot-rodding bootleggers and paid-by-the-mile truckers through the meager towns and backwoods scorned by “the people in Washington,” a mythical land whose isolated, protective communities both resent and revel in their perceived marginalization…

Brothers in Harm: Common Threads in ‘The Terminator’ and the Myth of the Minotaur

By Andrew Wallace

While Terminator vs. Minotaur probably isn’t a viable franchise, I confess to an abiding love for these two myths, one classical and one modern. Each is horrific, almost repellent, yet also paradoxically fascinating and even erotic. As they’ve both been in my life for a long time, I’ve had the opportunity to notice similarities between the narratives and have identified several themes, images, and characteristics…

Avenge Me!: American Catharsis in 1980s Soviet Invasion Fantasies

Those of us who grew up in the 1980s probably gave a lot of thought (and worry) to the depictions of the aftermath of nuclear war. Films like The Day After and Testament in the US (1983), and Threads (1984) and When the Wind Blows (book, 1982; animated film, 1986) in the UK graphically portrayed the results of a global thermonuclear war. But what about the stories where the Soviets actually, physically invade the West using conventional forces?

Cover Your Eyes: Lynne Littman’s ‘Testament’, 1983

1983 was a pretty fertile year for fictional nuclear apocalypses in Western popular culture. 2019: After the Fall of New York, Endgame, Exterminators of the Year 3000, Stryker, and Le Dernier Combat were released in cinemas, while ABC’s The Day After and Britain’s BBC2 adaptation of 1961 dystopian novel The Old Men at the Zoo, updated to feature a nuclear attack on London, appeared on television…

Threnody in Black and Gold: ‘Twin Peaks: The Return’ as Cold War Historiography

By Michael Grasso

David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks: The Return arrived on television screens in the summer of 2017, promising to take fans of the original 1990-1991 ABC series back to the comfort of coffee and cherry pie at the Double-R Diner. What Lynch and Frost delivered was a sometimes bewildering 18-hour film that tested the limits of serialized television storytelling…

Altering Reality on a Shoestring Budget: PBS’s ‘The Lathe of Heaven’

By Michael Grasso

In the wake of the passing of Ursula K. Le Guin last week, I took the opportunity to revisit one of the more fascinating products of her life and career: the 1980 television-movie adaptation of her 1971 novel The Lathe of Heaven. Produced by station WNET in New York City, the film is the summation of nearly a decade of technological and artistic experimentation in public television…