About Robert Lamb

As a child, Robert Lamb dreamed of becoming a mad scientist when he grew up. As this profession later proved to be largely fictional, he swallowed his heartbreak and turned his attention to the written word instead. He earned his bachelor's degree in creative writing from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, which launched him on a path of positions such as high school teacher, journalist and newspaper editor. Robert finally landed a position as science writer for HowStuffWorks.com, which has allowed him to rediscover all the things that made the world seem so mad and amazing to begin with. He currently lives in Decatur with his lovely wife and their beautiful one-eyed cat. You can find Robert on Twitter at @BlowtheMind and on Facebook at the official Stuff to Blow Your Mind page.

Most Recent: Robert Lamb Postings

splitsecondSplit Second (1992)

The Sell: Imagine the epitome of a sci-fi, grimdark future city — you know, the sort of place where it’s always midnight and always raining oil. Now add Rutger Hauer in a trench coat and a deadly, inhuman killer that comes off like the buck-naked offspring of Venom and Judge Death. The 14-year-old me was all over that, especially since the trailer also offered giant guns and the promise of a Kim Cattrall shower scene.

The Reality: Oh, this one is bad. Poorly-written cop movie dialogue serves as the framework and the rest is all gun blasts, murder scenes and pigeons that fly around Hauer’s apartment for no reason. And the monster turns out to be just another guy in a cheap, rubber costume — with what appears to be a built-in Laser Tag visor.

I’m as shocked as you are to learn that Wendy Carlos did the soundtrack. I’m somewhat less shocked to learn that the screenwriter went on to create the “Fast and Furious” franchise.

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Can modern science give us the wings we’ve always envied in the birds of the air? Can modern plastic surgery elevate us to a higher human form? In what’s probably one of our stranger episodes of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Julie and I discuss the post-human philosophy of leading plastic surgeon Joseph Rosen and the invisible line between surgical correction and surgical transformation.

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arenaArena (1989)

The Sell: Imagine the perfect movie for a 12-year-old-boy and it probably looks like this. It combines all the glory of pro-wrestling and kick-boxing movies with the grandeur of space monsters.

The Reality: It’s another Charles Band production, so you know you’re in for a cheesy, entertaining romp with decent monster FX. It’s your basic underdog fighting tournament flick just with space opera flavoring. So in other words it’s tremendous — at least if you want to see a man in his underwear box a giant space slug. They don’t make ‘em like this anymore.

And if you’re looking for a double feature, you can always follow up “Arena” with a good dose of “Robot Jox,” another Charles Band film — this time directed by Stuart Gordan (“Reanimator”) and written by Hugo Award-winning author Joe Haldeman. “Jox” is more sci-fi wrestling action, only with mechs. And I think it had a co-ed shower scene in it as well just to keep things classy. Haldeman, you dog! Still, the VHS box art didn’t hold a candle to “Arena.”

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“There’s Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoist alchemy and sorcery. We take what we want and leave the rest… Just like your salad bar.”

That’s a quote from Egg Shen (Victor Wong) in John Carpenter’s “Big Trouble in Little China,” a film that mixes exploitation cinema, kung-fu, political commentary and cosmology all into one big stew . It’s one of my favorite flicks, so it tends to worm its way into my daily thoughts one way or another — and recently I’ve been thinking about religion and spirituality…

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ROTORR.O.T.O.R. (1988)

The Sell: Incredible box art unloads an apocalyptic vision of gun-slinging cyborg shenanigans in a Hellish, war-torn wasteland. Plus, the similarities to the “Mad Max” poster are far from subtle.

The Reality: As you might expect, this hybrid Robocop/Terminator rip-off fails to deliver anything close to that. While the image may well represent how R.O.T.O.R. (Robotic Officer of the Tactical Operations Research/Reserve Unit) looks with its skin blasted off, we never see such things in the film. Instead, R.O.T.O.R. always just looks like a white motorcycle cop – like the T-1000 without all the liquid metal FX or Maniac Cop without Robert Z’Dar’s chin.

Hey, but at least you get great lines like, “You fire me and I’ll make more noise than two skeletons making love in a tin coffin, brother.”

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In anticipation of Saint Patrick’s Day, our minds inevitably turn the little people of Irish folklore.

But as Julie and I discuss in this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, diminutive magical fairy folk pop up in folk traditions around the world – as do the Lilliputian hallucinations that produce such fantastic visions.

So listen in and I’ll help you bone up on Irish myth and then we’ll introduce you to the science behind those paranormal leprechaun encounters.

Blind men will see again.

Gaunt beings will gather around death beds.

Little people will frolic in the woods.

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slavegirlsSlave Girls from Beyond Infinity (1987)

The Sell: This box promises silver-headed androids, horned monsters, a castle and bikini women with laser weapons – so it was everything I desired in middle school. But there was also an air of danger surrounding this film because the mom-and-pop video store my family went to had a backroom for all the adult movies — and this was one of the movies that wound up on the shelf of vaguely naughty titles just outside that gateway to sleeze. So I never got to get a good look at the box since I didn’t want to be seen checking out videos so close to the depravity vault.

The Reality: So this film really got a bad rap for what really amounts to some partial female nudity in a sexist but otherwise harmlessly cheesy sci-fi flick. Think “USA Up All Night” (if you’re old enough to remember such things) and you’re on the right track. It didn’t help that Jesse Helms singled the film out on the Senate floor in 1992, but its absurdly tame by 2013 standards.

The trailer is awesome, but I can’t show it here due to (barely) visible boobies. Still, look it up on YouTube when you get home.

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eliminatorsThe Eliminators (1986)

The Sell: Holy crap, this movie promised exactly the sort of stuff I doodled on the back of all my homework. To be honest, it’s still the sort of stuff I doodle A tank/human centaur with a robot eye and a wrist gun? It was absolutely perfect.

The Reality: In reality, the sell isn’t too far off. A mandroid with a heart of gold teams up with a beautiful woman (Denise Crosby), a mechanic and a ninja to battle the power-armor clad BRITISH mad scientist (Roy Dotrice) that created him to begin with. I never saw “The Eliminators” as a kid, but I probably should have because it’s ridiculous, cheesy and ultimately harmless.

As a side note, Waxfactor (AKA Pete Gleadall/SasQwax) sampled some lines from the film to excellent effect on his album “Sci-Fu,” which you can still download for free right here.

Anyway, the trailer is pretty fantastic — distilling all the cheesy fun in this film down to an easily digestible capsule of B-movie wonder:

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enemymineEnemy Mine (1985)

The Sell: A scraggly human and a reptilian alien hold an intense staring contest set against the cold background of deep space. It’s simple but evocative, so it always stood out to me on the VHS racks. Racial differences alone seemed the cause of their conflict and it forced even a young mind to ponder the real world analogs.

The Reality: In a rare moment of VHS box art honesty, the film delivers on everything promised on the cover – at least for the first two acts. Wolfgang Peterson gives us an intense, personal encounter between two individuals whose cultures are locked in interplanetary war. Granted, it’s a bit heavy handed, especially for modern audiences. But it’s a rare case where I could have probably seen the film at a much earlier age since it beats you over the head with some some positive, thought-provoking sci-fi ideas. The special effects and Louis Gossett, Jr.’s performance really carried the picture.

By the way, all of this was based on the work of author Barry B. Longyear.

This teaser trailer for the film was pretty great as well since it’s essentially an “Enemy Mine” motion poster:

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Chances are you didn’t pack a mud pie or a brick of clay for lunch today, but humans – like many animals – are not above a little pica in their diet.

In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Julie and I discuss the practice of dirt and mineral consumption and just what natural and unnatural impulses are at work.

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