Sunday, September 30, 2012

THE AFFINITY BRIDGE


I finished reading THE AFFINITY BRIDGE by British science-fiction author George Mann this morning and what a rattling good read it is. It's the first of the Newbury & Hobbes Investigation series which has thus far produced three books. I haven't read the other titles, THE OSIRIS RITUAL and THE IMMORTALITY ENGINE, but rest assured they're on my list as well as any future installments in this series.

This steampunk science fiction novel is set in 1901 London. Sir Maurice Newbury of the British Museum (and a secret agent for Queen Victoria) along with his assistant Valerie Hobbes, embark on their first case and it's a doozy involving the crash of The Lady Armitage, an immense airship, in a field outside of town. There are no survivors of the crash and the pilot, an automaton (mechanical man) is missing from the wreckage. Add to this mystery a series of murders in Whitechapel allegedly the work of a mysterious and ghostly policeman with weirdly glowing blue skin and a plague among the lower class which turns victims into flesh-eating "revenants" (aka, zombies). There's a connection between all three of these disparate elements and it's up to Sir Maurice and Valerie (along with Inspector Charles Bainbridge of Scotland Yard) to solve the mystery and bring a halt to the murders. 

The novel is set in an alternate universe London in which the industrial revolution proceeded at a far more rapid pace than the one in our world. Mechanical men are programmed as servants, giant airships transport goods and passengers to all corners of the British Empire and steam driven surface trains run on the streets of London along with steam powered carriages. The action takes a while to get underway but once it does, author Mann skillfully orchestrates some spectacular action set pieces including battles with revenants, automata, the blue policeman (atop a speeding train) and final, fight to the death aboard an airship.

The best way to read and enjoy this book is to picture John Steed and Emma Peel, of the British television series THE AVENGERS, as Newbury and Hobbes. That's the way I read it and that's the way I enjoyed it. Thumbs up and highly recommended.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

JAMES BOND IMAGE OF THE DAY




DOC SAVAGE IMAGE OF THE DAY


SUPERMAN IMAGE OF THE DAY


JACK KIRBY ART OF THE DAY


VINTAGE MOVIE POSTER OF THE DAY


GOLDEN AGE COMIC BOOK COVER OF THE DAY


SILVER AGE COMIC BOOK COVER OF THE DAY


VINTAGE PAPERBACK COVER OF THE DAY



PULP MAGAZINE COVER OF THE DAY


MEN'S ADVENTURE MAGAZINE COVER OF THE DAY


Is anyone reading this surprised to learn that I have this beauty of a book sitting on my shelf? If you have any interest in this subject at all, this book is a must read. It's a veritable encyclopedia of the men's sweat magazines, full of interesting publishing history and tons of great covers. Check it out!

Friday, September 28, 2012

MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. IMAGE FOR THE DAY



TO TRAP A SPY



"What would you like me to change into?"
"Anything but a boy."
The above exchange between Luciana Paluzzi and Robert Vaughn occurs midway through TO TRAP A SPY,  a 1964 MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. movie that I watched this afternoon. Wait a minute? A MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. movie in 1964? How did that happen?
It not only happened, it happened a total of eight times over the course of several years. And it happened because the theatrically released MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. movies weren't really movies at all. They were episodes (usually two-parters) of the hugely popular NBC-TV series that were edited and expanded for release to theaters both in the U.S. and overseas. 
TO TRAP A SPY has an interesting, if somewhat convoluted pedigree. The material is essentially the filmed in color, one-hour pilot episode, SOLO, which was shown to NBC-TV executives as a pitch for the series. The suits liked what they saw and the series, now re-christened THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. was given the green light. The series premiered on NBC-TV on Tuesday, September 22nd, 1964 at 7:30 CST.
The premiere episode was the footage from SOLO, edited and broadcast in black-and-white under the title "The Vulcan Affair." The adventure finds Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) enlisting the aid of a housewife (Patricia Crowley, who starred on PLEASE DON'T EAT THE DAISIES on NBC) to bring down one Andrew Vulcan (Fritz Weaver), a chemical manufacturing magnate in the employ of WASP (the super criminal organization was later re-named T.H.R.U.S.H.). Vulcan plans to kill two members of the cabinet of a newly organized African country (one of the targets is played by Ivan Dixon, of HOGAN'S HEROES fame). Solo and Elaine are captured by the bad guys but manage to break free in time to disrupt the plot.
It's fairly routine television spy stuff but the seeds were planted for what would become an enormously popular series. In this first episode, Solo and Ilya Kuryakin (David McCallum) work for Mr. Allison, instead of Mr. Waverly (Leo G. Carroll) and Ilya has very little screen time. It's Napoleon's show and Vaughn, oozing smarmy charm, acquits himself well in this initial outing.
When the decision was made to begin releasing U.N.C.L.E. material in theaters, the original color material for SOLO was re-edited and new footage was shot to pad out the running time to 90 minutes. The new footage features Luciana Paluzzi (who was a bad girl in THUNDERBALL) as a bad girl who seduces and then tries to kill Solo. The new footage is used at the beginning of the film and in the middle of the action and the scenes don't really add anything to the narrative other than giving Solo a chance to bed the comely vixen (after all, Solo couldn't have any romance with Crowley, whose character was married with two children).
I don't recall seeing TO TRAP A SPY at the theater but I know that my buddy Steve Cook and I did see some of the other MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. movies at the Paramount and State Theaters.
I loved THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. when I was a kid and I still do. This "movie" was a ton of fun to watch and brought back lots of great memories. It's not Bond level material but for a 1960s weekly television series, it was pretty good. Besides, when I watch THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., I'm seeing it through my eight-year-old eyes.
And that vision is perfect. 

JAMES BOND IMAGE OF THE DAY


DOC SAVAGE IMAGE OF THE DAY




SUPERMAN IMAGE OF THE DAY


JACK KIRBY ART OF THE DAY



VINTAGE MOVIE POSTER OF THE DAY


GOLDEN AGE COMIC BOOK COVER OF THE DAY


SILVER AGE COMIC BOOK COVER OF THE DAY


VINTAGE PAPERBACK COVER OF THE DAY


PULP MAGAZINE COVER OF THE DAY


MEN'S ADVENTURE MAGAZINE COVER OF THE DAY


Thursday, September 27, 2012

CLASH OF THE TITANS



I was seven-years-old in 1963, the year KING KONG VS. GODZILLA was released in the United States. I desperately wanted to see this film but as I recall, the film was never booked into any of the regular, walk-in theaters in Austin. Instead, it played the drive-in circuit and there was just no way I was going to get to a drive-in movie at the age of seven. My parents never took us to the drive-in and I had to wait until I was in high school to savor the drive-in movie experience.

The funny thing about this movie was that I had, at that time, seen none of the existing KING KONG films (KING KONG, SON OF KONG and MIGHTY JOE YOUNG if you will), nor either of the two GODZILLA films (GODZILLA and GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN). In fact, what I knew about these two giant monsters was derived from two main sources. The first was (say it with me), FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND Magazine which ran a feature article on the film. The other was the two all-plastic assembly kits of the monsters manufactured by Aurora Plastics Corporation, both of which I had purchased, painted and assembled.

But, oh, how I so desperately wanted to see this movie. In fact, I wanted to see it so badly that I lied to the neighborhood kids and told them that I had indeed seen the movie. This gave me instant (if ill-gotten) street cred. Using the article and published stills from FAMOUS MONSTERS, I cobbled together my own version of the events of the film and regaled the other kids with it. Turns out my version wasn't too far from the truth.

After waiting forty-nine years, I finally saw KING KONG VS. GODZILLA in its' entirety this afternoon. The DVD version contains the American version of the film which is a bit of a disappointment. I enjoy watching the original, uncut Japanese versions of these films in Japanese with English sub-titles. It's a purer, more authentic way to experience Japanese giant monster movies. But it appears that this is only version of KKVG that's currently available and it is the version I would have seen as a kid, so I can't complain too much.

The American version of KING KONG VS. GODZILLA resembles the American version of GODZILLA with lots of scenes of American television reporters commenting on the plot and advancing the action. These scenes are numerous and, while well integrated into the storyline (they disappear completely about half-way through the film), they serve to remind us that what we're seeing is something different than what was originally filmed. Plus, the source music appears to be made of cues from the Universal Studios (which released the film in the U.S.) music library. I swear I heard music from THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and other '50s science fiction films more than once in KKVG.

It's evident that we're missing material concerning two major plot threads from the original film. One involves a comic relief television film crew and their voyage to the island where Kong resides. It's during this segment of the film that Kong battles a giant octopus (a real, rear-screened octopus is used). This was a sequence that I greatly embellished when I was seven.

The other plot thread concerns two young lovers in Tokyo (the man resembles Gregory Peck) and this storyline appears to be missing the most footage. But all of this is secondary to the main event. After all, we bought our tickets to see KING KONG VS. GODZILLA and the sooner we get to that monumental clash of titans, the better.

The fight scenes are well staged. The King Kong costume sports a grotesque face and looks a little ratty. The Godzilla suit is visibly rubbery and flexible as it needs to be when these two start throwing each other around. The climatic battle atop Mt. Fuji is played fairly straight with a minimum of the laughs and silly stuff that came in later entries in the GODZILLA series.

For years a rumor persisted that there were two endings of this film. In the Japanese version, Godzilla wins, in the American version, Kong is the victor. This is erroneous. There's only one ending which has both monsters toppling into the sea. Kong emerges and begins swimming for home while Godzilla remains underwater until his next appearance in MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA (1964).

KING KONG VS. GODZILLA is not a great film. But it is competently staged and fun to watch. It made me feel like that seven-year-old kid again for an hour and a half and that's not a bad thing at all.

And I didn't make any of this up.


JAMES BOND IMAGE OF THE DAY


DOC SAVAGE IMAGE OF THE DAY



 

SUPERMAN IMAGE OF THE DAY


JACK KIRBY ART OF THE DAY



GOLDEN AGE COMIC BOOK COVER OF THE DAY


SILVER AGE COMIC BOOK COVER OF THE DAY


VINTAGE PAPERBACK COVER OF THE DAY


PULP MAGAZINE COVER OF THE DAY


MEN'S ADVENTURE MAGAZINE COVER OF THE DAY


COUNTING CARS



Here's another television show that Judy and I enjoy watching. COUNTING CARS, on The History Channel, is an unofficial, sort-of spin-off of the hugely popular PAWN STARS series. Danny "The Count" is the go-to guy whenever Rick and the crew on PS are considering buying anything automotive. They'll buy or not buy based on The Count's input. Often times when they do buy a vintage auto, they take it to The Count for restoration. The Count's appearances on PAWN STARS must have proved popular enough to warrant giving him his own show and since both PAWN STARS and COUNTING CARS are based in Las Vegas, it's safe to assume that production costs are spread out and shared by those two shows, along with AMERICAN RESTORATION, another History Channel show that's based in Vegas.

The Count and his crew are a bunch of colorful characters and they know their stuff. They rebuild, restore and repair classic cars and motorcycles and The Count has his own personal collection of at least 50 vintage automobiles that are on display at his shop.

The unique thing about COUNTING CARS is how The Count acquires some of his stock. He cruises the streets of Vegas and when he sees a classic car in good condition, he asks the driver to pull over so they can talk. When he finds something he likes, he offers cash on the spot. Many times the owner of the car will accept the deal and The Count has a new car, either for his collection or to restore and flip.

If you like muscle cars from the '60s and '70s and enjoy seeing these beauties restored to their original condition (and better), you'll enjoy this show. The Count and his crew are entertaining and they do stellar work. Thumbs up.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

JACK KIRBY IMAGE OF THE DAY




GOLDEN AGE COMIC BOOK COVER OF THE DAY


VINTAGE MOVIE POSTER OF THE DAY



SILVER AGE COMIC BOOK COVER OF THE DAY



VINTAGE PAPERBACK COVER OF THE DAY




PULP MAGAZINE COVER OF THE DAY




IS SHE OR ISN'T SHE?


I watched LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH (1971) this afternoon. I'd never seen this early '70s horror film, although it has a reputation as being a pretty good little film.
It is but I've got one minor gripe. The title implies a plot or conspiracy of some kind by "us" (as in "let us scare Jessica to death", whoever "us" is). Because of that, I was setup to expect some kind of "Scooby Doo" reveal in the third act in which all of the mysterious goings-on were revealed to be all part of an elaborately orchestrated plan to frighten poor Jessica into her demise.
That's not what the film is about at all. Instead, we find Jessica (Zohra Lampert), a young woman recently released from a sanatorium following a nervous breakdown trying to put her life back together with her husband, Duncan (Barton Heyman) and their friend, Woody (Kevin O'Connor). The trio have sold all of their worldly possessions to purchase an old house and apple orchard somewhere in New England. They've abandoned the stress of New York City and have "gone back to nature", as so many members of the '70s counter culture did.
Trouble is, Jessica may not be entirely cured of her mental illness. Her mind is still a very frail thing and she's obsessed with death (the trio drive a Cadillac hearse and Jessica takes rubbings of ancient tombstones). They discover an attractive young girl living in their house (she's a squatter and a wanderer with no place to go). They let her stay with them and things start to get interesting.
It seems there's a legend about a young bride who lived in the house in the 1880s. She was drowned in the cove behind the house on her wedding day and never got to wear her wedding gown. Rumor has it that the girl is still alive and is now a vampire who haunts the woods and drains the blood of the local townspeople. Is this legend real or not? Are the weird things that Jessica sees and experiences all part of her unbalanced mind or a terrifying reality?
The voice over at the end of the film implies that Jessica herself is incapable of discerning what's real and what's fantasy but if we are to believe what's shown in the film, there's the very real and distinct possibility that she's the last one left among a group of vampires and a beautiful, undead woman.
Director John Hancock brings unease and creeping dread to the beautiful New England countryside and he slowly builds the tension and suspense. With a rating of PG-13 the emphasis here is thankfully not on gore but on more psychological shocks and surprises.
LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH is no masterpiece but it is an effective, handsomely mounted little horror film that is worth seeing if you like ghost stories and tales of psychological horror. Thumbs up.

FACT OR FAKED?


Judy and I enjoy watching STORAGE WARS: TEXAS on A&E. A spin off of the popular STORAGE WARS series, SW:T focuses on a group of colorful characters who bid on storage lockers that are put up for auction. High bidder gets the locker and all of the contents within. Sometimes there's trash. Sometimes there's treasure. No, there's always treasure of some kind.

No matter which bidder wins which locker in each episode, there's always some unique, odd, one-of-a-kind, valuable item within the locker. Always. Of course if there wasn't, there wouldn't be much of a show. The bidders have to win something of interest which they then take to an expert appraiser to find out just what the item is and how much it's worth. That's the format and structure of the show. The appeal to the home viewer is that you too could attend one of these storage unit auctions near you, bid on and win a locker and discover some rare and valuable treasure within. Good luck with that.

I've read unsubstantiated reports that the contents of the lockers are known to the show's producers in advance and that sometimes certain items are salted away within said lockers in order to insure a big pay day for the winning bidder. I don't know if this is true or not. I hope not as I'd like to believe that this show is on the up and up and these bidders (who are all fun, crazy characters) are just skilled and/or lucky in winning the lockers.

But still, it does make you wonder. How do they always, always, always end up with something of value? As the Joker (Jack Nicholson) said in BATMAN (1989), "Where does he get those fabulous toys?"

MEN'S ADVENTURE MAGAZINE COVER OF THE DAY



Tuesday, September 25, 2012

MEN'S ADVENTURE MAGAZINE COVER OF THE DAY







AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!



 It's been awhile since I've watched any episodes of AVENGERS: EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES on the Disney XD cable channel. I recently watched a couple of new episodes and really got a kick out of them.
In one, the Avengers (comprised of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel and the Vision) square off against Killgrave, the Purple Man. In the other, it's the beginning of the Skrull invasion of earth, a storyline lifted directly from the recent SECRET INVASION series that ran in almost all Marvel Comics titles a couple of years ago.
The writers, directors, animators and voice actors get everything right with this one. Tony Stark sounds like Robert Downey Jr. The characters look like they should and the entire Marvel Universe is on display here, both heroes and villains. While the emphasis is on action, there's character development as well. Very impressive.
When I was a kid, the only Marvel comic book superhero cartoon shows I could watch were SPIDER-MAN and THE FANTASTIC FOUR. I have the complete SPIDER-MAN series on DVD but the FF (produced by Hanna-Barbera) has never been released in any home video format. The syndicated, limited animation series, MARVEL SUPER-HEROES, never ran on an Austin television station and, to my knowledge, has never been released in an authorized format (bootlegs and downloads are available).
DC comic book superheroes were represented by in shows featuring Superman, Batman, Aquaman and other DC characters. These have all been released on DVD and I've got them on my shelf.
Of course, there were other classic super-hero cartoons when I was a kid: JONNY QUEST, SPACE GHOST, BIRDMAN, THE HERCULOIDS, MIGHTY MIGHTOR, DINO BOY, MOBY DICK, SHAZAN!, FRANKENSTEIN JR., THE IMPOSSIBLES and THE GALAXY TRIO ruled the Saturday morning airwaves on CBS and NBC for several seasons. I have some of these on DVD and will certainly have them all at some point in the future.
If someone had told me when I was ten-years-old that I'd be able to see both an Avengers animated television series and a big screen motion picture in the same year, I would have thought they were dreaming. Whaddya know? Dreams do come true.
Check out THE AVENGERS: EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES if you love classic Marvel Comics and well-done animation. You won't be disappointed.

JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF TEDIUM



I watched JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF TIME (1967) this afternoon. Who knew time had a center? Who knew it would look so cheap?

This micro-budget turkey has elements of STAR TREK (the time machine set resembles a $1.98 version of the bridge of the Enterprise) and THE TIME TUNNEL (scientists lost in time). It has none of the spark, creativity and imagination of either of those series.

Shot on a bare, stark sound stage, there are minimalist sets, poor lighting and the barest of props. Most of the action occurs off screen and is conveyed through dialogue. Stock footage from various other films (and real newsreel footage) is used extensively as the scientists journey to the far future and the distant past. In the future, they meet some aliens who have come to earth in the midst of an atomic war. One of the aliens is Lyle Waggoner (of THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW and WONDER WOMAN). In the distant past, the age of dinosaurs is represented by some potted palms and a couple of monitor lizards.

The leading players have all appeared in countless other films and television shows. Scott Brady, Anthony Eisley, Gigi Perreau and Abraham Sofaer give it their best but they can only do so much when so little money has been spent on their behalf. The script is loaded with scientific double-talk and the film is woodenly paced, staged and shot.

The print I watched was horribly washed out and badly faded but this film didn't look good in 1967 so I didn't miss much. There was high contrast in some scenes which made it difficult to figure out exactly what I was looking at. With a larger budget and more component talent both in front of and behind the camera, this could have been a good little B-movie. The ideas are there: scientists journey to the future, the past and back to the present where (and when) they become unstuck in time and are doomed to wander the time stream for all of eternity never knowing where or when they'll end up next. That was the basic premise of Irwin Allen's THE TIME TUNNEL television series, a show I loved when I was a kid.

Bottom line on this one: don't take this journey.


Monday, September 24, 2012

HORROR HOTEL

Pictured above is the cover of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND #40. You'll note that one of the cover features is a film entitled HORROR HOTEL. The article and photos in this issue were my first exposure to this British horror film from 1960. It was a film that I wanted to see when I was a youngster but never did. I finally did see it on video tape with my buddy Kelly Greene several years ago. I watched it again this afternoon on DVD.
The film was originally entitled THE CITY OF THE DEAD in Great Britain (a better title, don't you agree?). It was released in the U.S. as HORROR HOTEL. The film was produced by the company that would eventually become Amicus Films, a second tier British film studio that specialized in horror films. Amicus was the "little brother" to the far more successful and well-known Hammer Studios. HORROR HOTEL was made at Shepperton Studios over the course of three weeks but star Christopher Lee filmed all of his scenes in one day.
It's amazing how much you can get out of simple, stark sets and a fog machine. All of the film was shot on a sound stage and the black and white cinematography creates a terrific atmosphere of dread and foreboding. HORROR HOTEL mirrors PSYCHO (from the same year) in a similar narrative structure: a pretty young blond checks into a remote and not-quite-right hotel run by strange and slightly sinister characters. The blond is abruptly murdered early in the film and it falls upon her relatives and other loved ones to investigate her disappearance and find out the truth about what's really going on. There's even a scene at the end of the film involving the dessicated corpse of a woman in a chair which causes the heroine to scream when the woman's burned countenance is revealed.
But instead of housing a serial killer, this horror hotel is the home of a coven of witches who must make human sacrifices twice a year to their dark lord. Christopher Lee is his usual imperious, magnificent best and the supporting cast, comprised of lesser known British actors, are all first rate.
HORROR HOTEL is no masterpiece but it's an effective, earnestly mounted, tight little movie that delivers what it promises. I enjoyed watching it and I think you will too. Recommended.

HIGH TENSION



Somehow over the years, I've come into possession of an advance screener DVD copy of HIGH TENSION, a 2003 French horror film. I decided to finally sit down and watch it the other day and I can't honestly say I'm glad I did.

The story focuses on two college girls, Marie and Alex. They travel to Alex's parents farmhouse in a remote part of the French countryside for a weekend of intense study. The first night they're there, a serial killer shows up at the front door and immediately kills Alex's father, mother and little brother. Alex is taken captive by the killer and placed in his truck/van. Marie escapes the killer by keeping her presence in the house hidden. She manages to get into the van with Alex and the two girls are spirited away into the night.

Thus begins a tense, suspenseful game of cat-and-mouse as Marie tries to kill the killer and free her friend. All goes well until a third act narrative twist that I never saw coming. The twist completely derails the film and had me scratching my head for the rest of the day and most of the next. I have nothing against plot twists but they need to make sense. This one doesn't and is never adequately explained to clear up the confusion it creates.

Spoiler warning: the twist is that Marie herself is the killer and the male serial killer is a persona created within her mind. Marie is a jealous, jilted lover of Alex and she wants Alex all for herself. This could have worked if there had been a bit more expository dialogue from someone (as in the last scene of PSYCHO) that explains all of this. As it is, it's a twist for the sake of throwing the viewer a curve and it just doesn't work.

Other than that, the film is well made, with good production values. However, it's one of the most relentlessly brutal, sadistic and depraved movies I've ever seen. I usually don't mind violence in films but there were several instances in HIGH TENSION that made me seriously consider turning the thing off. It's extremely graphic gore and the entire movie is just unpleasant and difficult to watch. Some younger fans may enjoy this kind of film but I much prefer something a little less intense.

I can't recommend this one. Thumbs down.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

GHOSTS OF WAR



I finished reading GHOSTS OF WAR yesterday. This "steam punk superhero" novel is the second in The Ghost series by British science fiction author George Mann. If you'd like to know more about this author, there's a link to his website posted in the "my favorite blogs" section of this blog.

GHOSTS OF WAR follows close upon the heels of the debut Ghost novel, GHOSTS OF MANHATTAN, which I recently gave a highly favorable review to. To bring you up to date, it's New York City, 1927. The U.S. and Great Britain are involved in a Cold War after the events of WWI. Automobiles run on coal-fired steam, rocket launched biplanes and police dirigibles fill the skies and the Ghost, a masked, cloaked vigilante roams the city at night fighting bizarre criminals and monsters. The Ghost is wealthy playboy Gabriel Cross, a WWI vet who is haunted by his war-time experiences. He's aided in his war on crime by police detective Felix Donovan, one of the few clean cops in a police department rotten to the core with corruption.

In GHOSTS OF WAR, The Ghost and Donovan, along with Gabriel's newly returned girlfriend, Ginny, race against time to prevent an outbreak of war between the U.S. and Great Britain. They're aided by a British spy who has learned the secrets of the insane plot hatched by a cabal of wealthy and powerful politicians and businessmen.

The scheme involves a gigantic airship, The Goliath, that carries a gateway to another dimension within it's cargo hold. The gateway will allow Lovecraftian "things" to enter our world and wreak havoc. The plan is to unleash these deadly weapons over the city of London, sparking a world war in which the UK will be decimated and the U.S.A. reign supreme.

Also figuring in this plan is a leprous cyborg of a mad scientist (part man, part steam driven machine) who has built a small squadron of mechanical raptors, hideous beasts composed of brass skeletons, shoulder mounted propellers, bat-like wings, razor sharp talons and glowing red eyes. I can just picture these things as animated by the great Ray Harryhausen. They're a combination of the skeletons and the harpies from JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS.

The Ghost, Donovan, Ginny and Rutherford are hopelessly outmatched and outgunned but they never give up and are determined to fight to the death to prevent total disaster. I inhaled the last fifty pages in one sitting, turning the pages as fast as I could, my senses reeling from a climax that involves the giant airship, a lone bi-plane, a multi-tentacled creature on the loose and a spinning ferris wheel of doom. It's pure, adrenaline fueled pulp action of the highest order and this material is screaming to be made into a motion picture.

The last chapter leaves things wide open for future adventures of The Ghost including a coven of witches conducting blood sacrifices, a female bank robber who can apparently walk through walls and a dangerous new drug being distributed by the mob. Any one of these will do nicely Mr. Mann and I sincerely and earnestly hope that we get to read all three of these adventures (plus many more) in the years to come.

If you love pulp fiction like I do, do yourself and favor and read both of these terrific books. They're well-crafted page-turners that are absolutely impossible to put down.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

SATURDAY MORNING ODDS AND ENDS



I'm enjoying listening to Tom Allen's COUNTRY GOLD radio program this morning on KOKE-FM (the link to the website is on this blog). Today's featured artist is the late, great Marty Robbins, one of my all-time favorite country/western stars. I'll publicly state right here and now that I want EL PASO by Marty Robbins to be played at my funeral. I also want THE THEME FROM SHAFT by Isaac Hayes to be played. You think I'm joking. I'm not.

In addition to Robbins' hits, there's a great mix of classic country music. You know, the good ol'stuff. Check it out if you like this kind of music. I sure do.

The score was University of Louisiana Monroe 21, Baylor 7, when I turned on the game last night. The final score was Baylor 47, ULM 42. It was a wild, exciting game to watch with lots of points scored by both teams. Two things: Baylor has a great offense. Baylor has a horrible defense. Should be interesting to see how they fare in the Big 12 this year. I'm looking forward to watching OU-Kansas State this evening. If I was to wager money on this game, I'd pick the Sooners to win but I'll be pulling for the Wildcats to win.

I worked on my Sunday School lesson for tomorrow this morning. I'll be presenting a classic episode of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW at the Seekers Class at 9:30 tomorrow morning at Tarrytown United Methodist Church. The episode is ANDY ON TRIAL. It's from the second season of my all-time favorite television series. In addition to the humor, there's some terrific life lessons to be learned from these shows. I'm looking forward to a thought provoking discussion.

So I'm sitting in the back seat of a limousine. I'm on my way to the premiere screening of TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE. In the back seat with me is the star of the film and my good friend Clint Eastwood. I say to him, "You know Clint, nobody believes me when I tell them that we're friends. I don't have any proof, no evidence, no photos of us together."

"That's right," he replies. "Maybe you should do something about that. Let's get some photos when we get to the theater."

I'm all excited about this. Finally, proof, validation, solid evidence of my long running friendship with my buddy Clint Eastwood.

And then I woke up.

That's a recounting of one of my dreams last night. For the record, this is not the first time I've had such a dream. Not the exact storyline, not a recurring dream in the sense of the same thing happening over and over again. But common enough in the sense that I've had many dreams over the years in which Eastwood and I are good buddies.

I suspect there's several reasons for this. Clint Eastwood is my all-time favorite movie star for one. I've seen every one of his films and will certainly see TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE (the constant ads for it on television have certainly placed him in front and center in my thoughts lately).

And I'm surrounded by images of Eastwood in my man-cave. I have framed and mounted one-sheets for TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA, HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER, THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES and THE GAUNTLET on the walls of my upstairs office, plus framed record album soundtracks for A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS and HANG 'EM HIGH hanging above my desk.  I see Eastwood every day so it's no wonder I would dream about the guy on a semi-regular basis.

They're very pleasant dreams. They're total wish fulfillment. I enjoy them. The only bad thing about them is they're only dreams.