|STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS|
"You didn't expect to find me"
Somewhere over the course of this weekend, a ten-year-old child will go to a movie theater to watch STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS. He or she will absolutely love the movie. In fact, it will become the youngsters' all-time favorite movie. Said youngster will grow up to be a filmmaker and thirty years from now will be in charge of rebooting the Star Trek film franchise yet again. The first iteration will do well at the box-office and be critically acclaimed. When it comes time to make the second Star Trek film in 2043, our intrepid filmmaker will plunder his or her past and remake STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, just as their cinematic hero J.J. Abrams based INTO DARKNESS on STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN. I won't be alive to see this movie for a third time but I hope to hell it doesn't have all of those damn lens flares.
STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, which I saw this afternoon, is not a bad film. In fact, it's a very entertaining one, full of action, suspense and humor. The special effects are spectacular, the set pieces breathtaking and the cast uniformly excellent. It's a fun, thrill-ride of a movie that rings some neat changes on established Star Trek canon while re-imagining one of the most beloved Trek adventures of all-time.
But I've seen this movie before and I liked it better the first time, when it didn't have all of those annoying lens flares. If you think J.J. Abrams' overused lens flares in his previous film, SUPER 8, you haven't seen anything yet. Rumor has it that his first STAR WARS film will be subtitled THE LENS FLARES STRIKE BACK. Please. Enough already.
Still, there's a lot to like in INTO DARKNESS: a tribble, a Mudd namedrop, Carol Marcus, Klingons, a dreadnought class star ship, "damn it Jim, I'm a doctor, not a...","the needs of the many.." and the death of a major character. But we won't have to wait for the third installment in the series for his/her revival as that plot point is taken care of in the third (or was it the fourth? the fifth?) act of this very long but never dull film which nicely sets the stage for a certain "five year mission".
Friday, May 17, 2013
|REVENGE OF CASTING DOC |
Actor Darrell Zwerling, pictured above, played the part of Brigadier General Theodore Marley Brooks, aka Ham, in the 1975 DOC SAVAGE film. Ham is of course, a dapper and debonair lawyer and is a vital member of Doc's Fabulous Five. Continuing the fantasy parlor game of casting an imaginary series of Doc Savage films from the 1930s on, which actors would have made good Hams over the years? Here are some choices.
What do you think?
|MY MEN'S ADVENTURE MAGAZINES 2|
Pictured above is ARGOSY for August 1960. I purchased it at a City Wide Garage Sale in 2012.
ARGOSY was another long-lived title that began its' life as a pulp magazine printing adventure fiction. Over the years, it slowly changed into a magazine size and format featuring a mix of fact and fiction. The cover painting on this one is of Captain Edward L. Beach, author of the classic WWII submarine novel RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP (which was turned into a terrific 1958 Robert Wise directed film starring Burt Lancaster, Clark Gable and, believe it or not, Don Rickles).
Thursday, May 16, 2013
To date, only one man can lay claim to having portrayed Doc Savage on the screen. That man is, of course, Ron Ely, who was one of the few good things about George Pal's otherwise disappointing 1975 film version of the Man of Bronze. As of this writing, no one knows who will play Doc in the recently announced film to be written and directed by Shane Black. And in a recent post, I wrote about how Chuck Connors almost became Doc in 1966. But what about other actors in other decades playing Doc? What if Doc Savage movies had been made on a regular basis beginning in the 1930s? Who would have played Doc in those imaginary films? Here are some of my choices.
Joel McCrea, pictured above with the lovely Fay Wray, in a scene from the pulp adventure classic film THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (1932).
Steve Holland, who really was Doc Savage. Holland was a model/actor who posed for artist James Bama for his cover paintings of the Doc reprint paperbacks published by Bantam.
Race Bannon. If there had been a Saturday morning Doc Savage cartoon show in the 1960s, Hanna-Barbera already had the character design in Race Bannon from the dearly beloved JONNY QUEST animated series. Heck, JQ was a Doc Savage cartoon show!
|MY MEN'S ADVENTURE MAGAZINES|
For some time now, I've posted random images of men's adventure magazines on this blog, none of which I own. For a change, I thought I'd share with you the men's "sweat" magazines that I do own. There aren't nearly as many as I'd like, but I'm working on that.
First up is ADVENTURE for June, 1953. ADVENTURE was one of the longest lived pulp fiction magazines of all-time. It began publication in 1910 and published it's last issue under the original title in 1966.
ADVENTURE featured pulp fiction stories of adventure (duh!) for many years. The last pulp size and format issue was published in June, 1950, at the extreme end of the pulp era. The magazine went on hiatus for a few years and resumed publication in January, 1953 in the traditional magazine size format. ADVENTURE now featured a mix of fiction and "fact" stories but still emphasized adventure stories of every kind. The issue above was only the second to be published in the standard magazine format.
I purchased this beauty in 2012 at one of the City Wide Garage Sales.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
In 1966, spurred by the tremendous success of the James Bond films and the Batman television show, producers Mark Goodson and Bill Todman (best known for their television game shows) attempted to secure the rights to produce a DOC SAVAGE feature film. Sales of the Bantam paperback pulp reprint series (with cover art by James Bama) were going strong at the time and the property wouldn't require too much development. The pre-existing Doc Savage mythos was a natural complement to Bond and Batman with a fantastic hero, plenty of scientific crime-fighting gadgets, larger-than-life villains, a colorful supporting cast, exotic locales and tons of action.
The plan was to use THE THOUSAND HEADED MAN pulp story as the basis for the film and towards that end, Gold Key comics published a one-shot DOC SAVAGE comic book that contained a condensed version of that story with artwork by Jack Sparling. The cover art was taken from the Bantam paperback. I have a copy of this book in my collection.
Goodson and Todman also planned to feature Chuck Connors (who had starred in the television series THE RIFLEMAN, BRANDED and COWBOY IN AFRICA) as Doc. There's no word on any other casting choices from that period but I've been watching a lot of episodes of THE RIFLEMAN (recorded off of AMC) lately and the more I watch the show, the more I'm convinced that Connors, who was big, blond and square-jawed, would have been an excellent choice for Doc. Unfortunately, Goodson and Todman were unable to secure the rights to the property and the Doc Savage movie had to wait several more years to be made. But so as not to let the talents of Connors go to waste, G & T produced a western film, RIDE BEYOND VENGEANCE with Connors in the starring role.
The photo at the top of this post (http://comicbookcatacombs.blogspot.com) appears to posit some choices for actors to fill the parts of Doc's aides. J.D. (MCCLOUD) Cannon looks to be Ham, Neville Brand is Monk, Ray (MY FAVORITE MARTIAN) Walston is either Johnny or Long Tom and Fred (THE MUNSTERS) Gwynne is Renny. At least, I think that's how these images would match up.
My dream cast for a mid-1960s Doc Savage film would star Connors as the Man of Bronze.
Here are my choices for the fabulous five.
Robert Vaughn as Ham.
Charles Bronson as Monk
Clint Walker as Renny
Whit Bissell as Long Tom
William Schallert as Johnny
Tina Louise as Pat
There you have it, my dream cast for DOC SAVAGE (1966). What do you think?
Sunday, May 12, 2013
|FAREWELL TO THE MASTER|
I finished downloading the magnificent soundtrack by Bernard Herrmann for THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD to my digital music player the other day, just a few minutes prior to finding out that Ray Harryhausen has left us at the age of 92. It's impossible to measure the influence that this man's lifework has had on not only the motion picture industry but upon an entire generation of fans, many of whom went on to fashion their own careers in the movie business. Ray Harryhausen was the first special effects technician in film history to rightly earn the distinction of "auteur" because even though other people were credited as director, every film that featured his stop-motion animation effects was, forever and always, a Ray Harryhausen film.
I first encountered the magic of Harryhausen at a very young age. It was a Friday night in the early 1960s in Fort Worth, Texas. I was about five, maybe six-years-old at the time. The local independent television station, Channel 11, broadcast a late-night horror film every Friday night at 10:30 p.m. The show was entitled "Nightmare" and the on-camera host was the same gentleman who donned a fright-wig and played the part of Icky Twerp on that station's "Slam-Bang Theatre", a Monday-Friday afternoon program that featured Three Stooges shorts. I was a die-hard fan of that program, as well as the one that came on after it, THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, starring George Reeves. At a very early age, my formative influences were already locked into place: the Stooges, Superman and monster movies. Not a bad combination. I loved them then. I love them now.
One of the things I'm eternally grateful to my late father for is the fact that he would stay up with me on those Friday nights and watch the monster movies with me. I recall seeing THEM! (which scared the hell out of me), GOG and the Steve Reeves HERCULES movie this way and during the same time period, watching THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL on NBC's SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES.
One of the films I saw on "Nightmare" was THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS. I had no idea who Ray Harryhausen was at the time. All I knew was that there was a living, breathing dinosaur (another one of my major childhood (and adult) passions) on the rampage in New York City. Part of my young mind imagined that this was somehow real, a documentary of an actual event. But no, I knew that dinosaurs no longer existed. This was some kind of movie magic that I simply could not fathom (pardon the pun) but which nevertheless held me spellbound until the end of the film.
I watched BEAST again the other day in celebration of Harryhausen's life. I hadn't seen it in years and while it's far from his best work, it is nevertheless a good, solid effort. BEAST was the first film in which Harryhausen provided the stop motion effects entirely on his own. Using only one model, he delivered an unforgettable creature (the Rhedosaurus) that has more life in it than many modern CGI creations. The story is pretty standard stuff: a nuclear blast near the North Pole frees a frozen dinosaur from the ice who then makes its' way down the east coast to New York City. The human players are secondary to the beast but they do okay with what's given them. Genre icon Kenneth Tobey is the military man of action, Paul Christian the atomic scientist who first sees the beast, Cecil Kelloway the delightful (and doomed) paleontologist and the lovely Paula Raymond his assistant (and love interest for Christian).
The film's climax takes place at a deserted amusement park at night where the beast is trapped within the tracks of a roller coaster. Hawk faced Lee Van Cleef is the military sharpshooter who must fire a radioactive isotope into the beast and kill him. He does so, the beast has a spectacular demise and when the monster is dead, the movie is over.
I find it interesting that both Lee Van Cleef and Clint Eastwood killed giant monsters (Eastwood in TARANTULA) in their early film roles before teaming up years later in the classic spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone: FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY. I wonder if they ever compared notes about monster killing? Also of interest is the fact that director Eugene Lourie, who does a competent job with BEAST, went on to make the same movie not once but twice with THE GIANT BEHEMOTH and GORGO. Maybe he was seen as the best director to handle this type of material. Either that, or he just couldn't get those big uglies out of his system.
THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS was independently produced at an astonishing cost of $200,000 before being sold to Warner Brothers where it turned a nice profit for the studio and led to the production of THEM! a couple of years later.
I knew none of this when I was a kid watching this black-and-white monster movie for the first time on a late-night horror movie television show. I only knew that there was wonder and magic on display thanks to the Promethean talents of a gentleman named Ray Harryhausen. Thank you Mr. Harryhausen, thank you so very, very much for your gift not only to me but to a generation of "monster kids." We all love you and miss you but your films will live forever in our hearts and souls.