007 tangled with the forces of darkness and organized crime in LIVE AND LET DIE (1973), the first of the Roger Moore Bond films. Great one-sheet, terrific soundtrack album (which I played to death during the summer of '73), kick-ass title track by Paul McCartney and Wings. I saw this film on first release at the Paramount Theater. The boat chase is the stand-out sequence in what's otherwise a pretty routine Bond film.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
The Man of Bronze meets the Frankenstein Monster. Both images by the great James Bama. If you like this idea, there's a terrific website that features more of these great Doc Savage fantasy covers. Check it out at http://www.miscmayhemprods.com/doc/
Something a little different for today in honor of Halloween. FAMOUS MONSTERS was my childhood bible for all things monster. I'll post about the magazine and my relationship with it at length in the future. For now, enjoy the cover of #16 featuring Basil Gogos fantastic painting of the immortal Lon Chaney Sr. in his greatest role, Erik in the original silent version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.
I don't currently have this issue in my collection. In fact, I've never owned a copy. I would love to have one though. Is there a faithful reader of this blog out there who has a copy for sale at a reasonable price? If so, please let me know.
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
|Detail of Rags Morales' cover art for ACTION COMICS #1, which DC released in September, 2011 as part of their "New 52" revamping of the DC Universe.|
I've read all of the issues of the new ACTION COMICS published to date and my biggest takeaway from the series is frustration. Writer Grant Morrison decided to set this Superman comic five years in the past from the present-day DC continuity and explore a young Superman just coming into his own in Metropolis. This young Clark doesn't know the extent of his powers or the truth about his origin. He doesn't work for The Daily Planet at first but he's friends with both Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane. He's also as deeply committed to righting social injustices as to fighting crime and menaces from beyond the stars.
The trouble is, Morrison can't start a story and stay with it until it's over. He'll start one storyline, then jump to another, then come back to the original, then throw in a stand-alone adventure on an alternate earth where Barack Obama is the Man of Steel. As usual, Morrison's stories are spilling over with brand new concepts and ideas, none of which are ever fully developed, explained or used consistently. Morrison clearly has no editor. DC has given him carte blanche to write ACTION COMICS the way he wants to and if the stories don't make sense, the continuity is shot to hell and readers are left scratching their heads and wondering what in the name of Rao is going on, who cares? It's Grant Morrison. It's Superman. It's ACTION COMICS. It's a license to print money for DC Comics.
Thankfully Morrison will soon be leaving ACTION after his first year is up. Can't say I'll be sorry to see him go. You know the old story about the emperor and his wardrobe? Grant Morrison's been buck naked for years.
THE TIME TUNNEL ran on ABC-TV on Friday nights for one season from September 1966 to September 1967. It was a science-fiction adventure series about two scientists who became "lost in time" when they tested their new invention, The Time Tunnel. Each week would find Doug and Tony in an adventure set either in the past or the future as they bounced around the timestream while the scientists at Project Tic-Toc (including the lovely Lee Meriwhether) tried to return them to the present day.
The series was produced by Irwin Allen, the television sci-fi auteur responsible for VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, LOST IN SPACE and LAND OF THE GIANTS. TIME TUNNEL was a personal favorite of mine.
Gold Key Comics produced two issues of THE TIME TUNNEL tie-in comic book. I own both issues. The above art is the cover of a recent hardcover reprint which collects both issues. The art is from the first issue of the series. The comic books aren't that great but they are some of the few collectibles produced for the series. In addition to both issues of the comic book series, I have the complete TIME TUNNEL series on DVD. You can bet I'm keeping these babies!
|"You wouldn't put a bullet in your own head, would you?"|
I watched THE SPY WITH MY FACE yesterday. It's yet another MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. "movie" but this one's a bit different. Instead of pasting together a two-part episode, SPY is actually a first season episode, THE DOUBLE AFFAIR, with some new footage edited in to expand it to feature length.
How do you get a guest villain for an episode of U.N.C.L.E. without paying for a guest actor (or actress?) Simple. You use one of the oldest narrative gambits in the book: the evil twin (or bad double, in this case). Yes, it's two, two Napoleon Solos for the price of one (both played by Robert Vaughn). It's cheap but effective as Vaughn displays a talent for playing a bad guy.
The plot deals with the replacement of Solo with a THRUSH double in order to gain access to a super-secret weapon. The exact nature of this wonder weapon is never fully explained, despite a lot of gobbledy gook tech speak in the script. The one thing we know for sure: when the vault containing the weapon is open, you don't want to be looking at it.
There's plenty of eye candy in this one. Sexy Senta Berger plays Serena, a THRUSH agent good/bad girl who seduces the real Solo (in semi-nude footage shot for the film). At the end of the affair, Solo allows her to escape despite the fact that she tried to murder his best friend, Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum). Also on hand is the lovely Sharon Farrell as Sandy, an airline hostess romantically involved with Solo (the real one) who is unrecognized and snubbed by the bad double.
Highlights include an attack on Illya by two Robot Commando toys outside of U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. These robot warriors were manufactured by Ideal in 1961 and they received a nice bit of product placement in this 1964 episode. Oh, and the real Solo is held captive in an observatory in the Swiss Alps. The observatory is the iconic Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles and it has served as a setting for numerous motion picture productions including the classic REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and THE ROCKETEER. My buddy Kelly Greene and I visited the Griffith Observatory grounds during our trip to LA in 1994.
THE SPY WITH MY FACE is fast paced fun. Since the source episode is from the first season of the series, the tongue in cheek humor is kept to a minimum with the emphasis on plot, action, intrigue and gorgeous women. I can't complain.
Monday, October 29, 2012
Pictured above is the one-sheet for a mid 1960s underwater adventure film entitled AROUND THE WORLD UNDER THE SEA. The film stars Lloyd Bridges, Brian Kelly, Keenan Wynn, Marshall Thompson and Gary Merrill. But the standouts in the cast were David McCallum, fresh from his co-starring stint as Illya Kuryakin on television's MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. series and Shirley Eaton, who was the doomed, gold plated "Bond Girl" Jill Masterson in GOLDFINGER. If you haven't seen the movie, you're not missing much. It's a fairly routine adventure film with some nice underwater photography. The poster is really the best thing about the movie and it's definitely selling the sizzle, not the steak.
I own this one-sheet. It's an original, nicely framed and matted and it hangs on a wall in my man-cave. How I got this treasure is an interesting story.
A few years ago, Judy and I, along with my sister and her husband, dined at a seafood restaurant in a strip shopping center in Spring, Texas. The decor was an interesting assortment of movie one-sheets, all of which had a nautical theme and one of them was AROUND THE WORLD UNDER THE SEA. I saw a young waiter remove the poster from the wall and replace it with another one.
"Excuse me, but what are you going to do with that poster? " I asked.
"I don't know, my boss just told me to take it down," he replied. "We'll probably put it in storage."
"Would your boss be willing to sell it? If so, I'd be willing to buy it. Ask him what he wants for it."
The waiter returned a few minutes later. "Seventy dollars," he said.
"I'll take it," I said. "Just put it on my bill."
He did and I paid for our meal and my one-sheet and walked out of the restaurant one happy camper. It was one of the most expensive seafood dinners I've ever had but it was well worth it. Just goes to show you, you never know what you can get if you just ask.
Friday, October 26, 2012
|The third Wizard World Austin Comic Con takes place this weekend but due to a scheduling conflict, I won't be able to attend. I did attend the previous two Wizard Worlds here in Austin and here are some of my memories of those two cons.|
I bought a one-day ticket for the first WW in 2010. The doors opened at noon on Friday. I had the entire day off so I arrived at the Austin Convention Center about an hour early. I waited outside the dealers room with a rapidly growing crowd of fellow fans. I found myself standing next to a very tall young gentleman who was completely adorned from horned head to booted feet as Darth Maul from STAR WARS: THE PHANTOM MENACE. I figured, what the hell, it's a long wait and I've got nothing else to do, I might as well talk to this guy. So I asked him about his costume and the race was on.
He lit up like a Christmas tree over the fact that someone was paying attention to him and treating him with respect and kindness and not laughing at him and making fun of him. I gather he must get that a lot. He told me in great detail about his costume, how he made it, how long it took him to do so, where he acquired the materials and accessories (including a wicked dual "bladed" light sabre prop). I enjoyed listening to him but as time went on, I became aware of something.
I was doing all of the asking and he was doing all of the telling. I felt like I was interviewing him for a magazine or newspaper feature article. At no time did he ask me anything about myself or my interests. It was a decidedly one way "conversation". But the kid was so nice, so enthusiastic, so practically giddy with joy and excitement about the con that I couldn't really hold it against him.
We'd been standing there for several minutes when we suddenly found ourselves joined by a 400 pound "Toad Prince" of a young man wearing a dirty brown bathrobe (I think it was his "ren fair" costume). He immediately got into a pissing contest with my buddy Darth about how he (Toad Prince) had a bigger and better light sabre prop.
When they finished debating this subject and talking specs and costs, Toad Prince turned and for reasons entirely unknown started talking to me about Magic: The Gathering, the role-playing card game. Please understand, I have absolutely no interest in this subject whatsoever. Didn't matter to Toad Prince. He wanted to talk about Magic and I was the closest pair of ears to his constantly moving lips and tongue.
At one point, I politely told him that I preferred to play poker and that I get together with some friends on a monthly basis to play cards, drink a few beers and eat Mexican food. Some small amount of money is wagered and we all have a good time. Toad Prince told me that he didn't play poker because he found it "too complicated." This from the man who just spent thirty minutes explaining to me the theory of quantum mechanics otherwise known as the rules of Magic: The Gathering. Poker too complicated?
I finally asked him how much he spent on all of his custom costumes, props, Magic cards and other things that he was clearly passionate about. The amount was staggering. I asked him what his wife thought about his spending that much money on this stuff.
"Oh, I'm not married," he replied with a satisfied smirk.
Of course you're not bubba. And if you keep going out in public in a dirty brown bathrobe yammering about Magic: The Gathering to total strangers, you probably never will be.
More Wizard World adventures to come. Stay tuned.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Here's a question for you. Let's say you go and see a movie at your local theater and then a few months later, when the film is released on DVD, the DVD contains both the "theatrical version" (aka the one you saw) and the "director's cut" (a version which contains never-before-seen footage, some deletions of previous scenes and maybe even a bit of re-editing so that scenes occur in a slightly different sequence).
My question is, if the movie you paid to see at the theaters wasn't the director's cut, whose cut was it? For the last fifty years or so the auteur theory of film making has held that the director is the one, true creator of any given film. The director's status supersedes that of the screenwriter, the composer, the editor, the special effects technicians, the cinematographer and the sound engineer (among others). The director is king and has been for many years.
But if the director didn't "cut" the version of the film seen in theaters upon first release, who did? The producer? The studio executives? It certainly wasn't the screenwriter or any of the other craftspeople that worked on the film. Why not just let the director "cut" the film the way he or she wants it the first time and be done with it? Why not just one official version of the film for everyone?
The answer of course is money. There's money to be made by having a second version (or, in the case of BLADE RUNNER, eleventy-hundred versions) of the same film. This helps drive sales of DVDs and Blu-Ray discs and it also helps with any future theatrical re-releases.
The first movie that I can recall having a special "director's cut edition" was Steven Spielberg's CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1978). A few months after the film was released and became a box-office blockbuster, a tinkered with version was re-released to theaters that contained footage of the interior of the alien mothership at the end of the film plus a few brief new scenes here and there along with some deletions of previously seen material. Did it make the movie any better? Not really. The entire narrative and ending certainly weren't changed in any major way. I got to see some stuff I hadn't seen before and I had to pay to do it. The DVD release of CE3K contains not one, not two but three versions of the same film (the theatrical version, the special edition and the director's cut). I should know. The DVD box set is sitting on my shelf.
The last great Universal "famous" monster was the Creature From The Black Lagoon who made his debut in this terrific film directed by genre legend Jack Arnold. Julia Adams was never lovelier.
The Creature returned in two sequels, REVENGE OF THE CREATURE (with Clint Eastwood in a bit part) and THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US. My buddy Kelly Greene and I believe that if a movie series reaches a third film, that film should automatically be entitled "Fill-in-the-blank Walks Among Us" instead of having a number attached to it. For instance, wouldn't you rather see ROCKY WALKS AMONG US or THE GODFATHER WALKS AMONG US, than ROCKY III or THE GODFATHER PART III. Has a nice ring to it, don't you think?
Oh, and of course I have all three Creature films on DVD. I love 'em!
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
I finished reading this fascinating history book by Matthew Goodman last night. The sub-title is: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats in Nineteenth-Century New York. Whew! That's a mouthful but it does pretty much sum up what this well written and researched book is all about.
I first became aware of The Sun and The Moon when I heard a review of the book on NPR a couple of years ago. It sounded interesting so I tracked down a copy and gave it a read. It's the story of one Richard Adams Locke, the editor of The Sun, a daily penny newspaper in New York City in the 1830s. Locke wrote a series of articles describing the astounding scientific discovery of life on the moon. And not just any life. We're talking unicorns, bipedal beavers, woolly bison and most astonishingly of all, winged man-bats. The series was a huge success and caused the circulation of The Sun to skyrocket making it the most widely read newspaper in the world at the time.
Of course the story was bunk but it was well told with just enough "scientific" facts and figures to make it seem slightly plausible. The story was written as an account of the findings of astronomer John Herschel who was at the time engaged in lunar observations at an observatory at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. Herschel was a real person, as was his observatory but that's where the facts end and the fiction begin.
The "moon hoax" as it came to be known was so popular the series was reprinted in other newspapers in both New York and other American cities as well as being reprinted in its' entirety in pamphlet form several times over. At the end of the book, Locke's real motivation for writing the series (besides remuneration) is revealed by the author.
But The Sun and The Moon is also a story about the birth of mass media in the United States. In the early 1800s, the six-penny newspapers in New York City were written for and read by the merchant class as the papers contained important business news and information. The Sun and other "penny" papers, went after the common man and captured readers with stories that emphasized crime, scandal and sex. Soon, the penny papers came to dominate the New York newspaper scene and a city (and later, an entire nation) of regular newspaper readers came into being.
Also included in this fabulous tale are such larger than life figures as Edgar Allan Poe (who was convinced that Locke had plagiarized one of his stories) and P.T. Barnum who was quite an expert on hoaxes and "humbugs" himself.
The Sun and The Moon is a fascinating account of a pivotal moment in the history of American mass media. Amidst the colorful characters and wild stories lies a compelling look at a city and it's citizens and how they consumed the news of the day. Highly recommended.
Monday, October 22, 2012
Green Lantern Hal Jordan vs. Doctor Light. Great art by the legendary Gil Kane. Here's my Gil Kane story.
I attended a comic book convention in Houston, Texas in the summer of 1980 right around the time THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK was first released. Among the featured guests at the con were young turks George Perez, Chris Claremont and John Byrne (although, if I recall correctly, Byrne was a no-show). I remember that Frank Brunner was also in attendance. This was during the period when THE X-MEN and THE NEW TEEN TITANS were the bestselling titles for Marvel Comics and DC, respectively. The lines were always long to meet and greet Perez and Claremont and get comic books signed.
I opted not to stand in those lines. It wasn't that I didn't like the work of those men it's just that there were other things I found more interesting. Like the fact that Gil Kane was sitting a table all by himself. There was no one in line to meet him, no cluster of fans eager to shake his hand and his get his autograph. It was just him and the crickets.
This was wrong. Gil Kane was one of the chief artistic architects of the Silver Age of Comics and he deserved more respect and attention than he was receiving at that con. As fate would have it, I had earlier purchased a copy of ALTER EGO #10 from a dealer at the con. This was the first iteration of Jerry Bails/Roy Thomas's legendary fanzine and this issue was entirely devoted to the life and work of one Eli Katz, aka Gil Kane. The zine featured a lengthy interview, unpublished art and a self-portrait cover by the man himself.
I walked over to where Mr. Kane was seated and introduced myself. I told him how much his work meant to me and asked him if he would please sign my copy of ALTER EGO. He hadn't seen the zine in many years and he told me some stories about that issue while he signed the cover for me. I still have this zine in my collection. My buddy Bob Parker snapped a photo of the two of us together and we chatted some more. He was an extremely nice man. Very kind, patient and willing to talk and answer some of my questions. I could have stayed there for quite some time. After all, there was no one behind me clamoring to meet Gil Kane.
I don't know if that situation changed over the course of the convention. I sure hope it did. That night, Bob and I along with our pal Jim Robertson, went to see THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK at the Alabama Theater in Houston (the theater eventually became a BookStop location). We sat in the balcony and felt our seats literally shake when the Imperial Walkers first appeared in the opening battle scene. It was a memorable night, capping off a memorable day, the day I met the one and only Gil Kane.
"One good affair deserves another."
I watched ONE SPY TOO MANY the other day. This was the third MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. "movie" to be released in both the U.S. and overseas. After this film, all other U.N.C.L.E. "movies" were only released in foreign markets.
Like the other MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. movies, this was cobbled together from a two-part episode of the weekly television series that ran on NBC TV in the mid-'60s. For this movie, the second season premiere two-parter THE ALEXANDER THE GREATER AFFAIR was used.
In this adventure, billionaire industrialist Alexander (played by UT alum Rip Torn), plans to conquer the world by breaking each one of the Ten Commandments in some spectacular fashion. Agents Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Ilya Kuryakin (David McCallum) are aided in their efforts to stop Alexander by his estranged wife, Tracy (Dorothy Provine, who provides much of the humor in this outing). The film opens with the theft of a nerve gas that saps human will power but nothing is ever done with this weapon. It's a red herring/McGuffin plot device that is quickly forgotten and ignored.
Since the material was originally broadcast over two weeks, the end of the first episode ended on a cliffhanger in which Solo, strapped to a stone slab, is menaced by a slowly descending razor sharp pendulum while Ilya and Tracy hang suspended by a slowly burning rope over a bottomless pit. The cliffhanger now occurs at the mid-point of the film and is thus completely devoid of suspense.
The episodes were altered for the film. Some material was excised while new footage featuring Yvonne Craig as Mr. Waverly's niece, Maude, was shot and edited into the film. Maude carries on a sexually charged flirtation with Solo throughout the film.
There's a fairly well staged car chase through the tunnels of Bronson Canyon (a Los Angeles location that I visited with my buddy Kelly Greene back in 1994) and the film is loaded with one-liners and double entendres. By the second season, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. was already starting to include more tongue-in-cheek humor in an effort to make the series more kid friendly.
If you think about it too much, the plot really doesn't make a whole lot of sense, so I'd advise you to turn your thinking cap off while watching this one. Also, it's amazing how cheap the series was when you see several episodes back-to-back. The same sets and back lots are used repeatedly and while THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. was a globe-trotting adventure series, the entire production was filmed in probably two zip codes in the Los Angeles area.
Still, it's hard to be too critical of this movie or the series in general. It's one of my childhood favorites and I still enjoy watching Solo and Kuryakin even after all these years.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
I finished reading this one the other day and it's a corker. THE OSIRIS RITUAL is the second novel in the steam punk/mystery series by British science fiction author George Mann. The series stars Sir Maurice Newbury and Miss Veronica Hobbes. They both work for the British Museum and they are both special agents of Queen Victoria. Imagine John Steed and Emma Peel, of the cult British television series THE AVENGERS, running around a 1902 London with steam driven technology and you've got a pretty good idea of what this series is like.
THE OSIRIS RITUAL picks up right where the first book in the series, THE AFFINITY BRIDGE (which I also read and enjoyed) leaves off. This one involves a "screaming" mummy, the disappearance of several young women, a rogue agent newly returned from assignment in Russia and a mad genius intent on practicing an arcane, ancient ritual that will bestow upon him eternal life.
All of these disparate elements eventually tie together but not before Mann has rung up a pretty decent body count. There's deduction aplenty along with some furiously paced action set pieces, one of which involves a rooftop chase, which takes to the streets of London before coming to a smashing climax in an underground subway tunnel. The final showdown between our heroes and villain takes place aboard a steam-driven submarine in the River Thames.
Added to the mix is a steam punk version of a cyborg (part human flesh, part mechanical man), a device for extracting organic material from human brains, Newbury's increasing reliance upon opium, Veronica's younger sister, Amelia, who suffers from debilitating visions of future events, Newbury's encounter with his predecessor (who has turned to the dark side) and a final revelation that both changes the relationship between Sir Maurice and Veronica and sets the stage for the next book in the series, THE IMMORALITY ENGINE (which I just started reading).
This is great, pulp adventure stuff. The action is well orchestrated, the period vividly realized, the mysteries perplexing and the characters compelling. Highly recommended.
Friday, October 19, 2012
I'll admit it: I'm cheap.
Hell, yesterday I picked up a penny (a penny!) off of the sidewalk and happily put it into my pocket.
Whenever I go to the post office, a Starbucks, a convenience store, a fast food place, etc., I'm always looking at the floor in front of the counter. That's where small change often ends up. Coins fall out of people's hands, pockets and purses all the time and many times, people don't bother to pick them up. Or, they don't pick up all of their change at the end of their transaction. However it gets there, that money on the floor is mine to claim. And you bet I do.
I could list other ways in which I'm frugal (and some of my old friends who read this blog may want to provide some first hand examples) but I'm nothing compared to the woman on the premiere episode of TLC's EXTREME CHEAPSKATES. I'm cheap. She's crazy.
The episode featured a young woman who works as a CPA in New York City, so you know she must make a pretty good living. She owns her own apartment, a solitary confinement cell of a place that consists of one room, a tiny galley style kitchen and a bathroom. The place is so small, you have to step outside to change your mind.
This woman has furnished the space entirely with scavenged furniture she rescues from dumpsters. Needless to say, nothing matches and nothing looks very comfortable (her "bed" is a pile of yoga mats) but she's proud of the fact that she's never bought a piece of furniture in her life.
She also doesn't invest in toilet paper (she washes her self with soap and water), she does her laundry in the shower, she cooks her meals on a two-burner plug in hot plate and uses her oven and dishwasher for storage. She reuses paper towels from public restrooms and uses a binder clip to hold up her twelve-year-old shorts whose elastic waistband is completely shot to hell.
Worst of all, she dumpster dives for food and then serves a mess of stale, spoiled and highly questionable foods to her friend from college and his girlfriend. Gross!
This woman clearly has the money to spend and clearly chooses not to. But what in the name of Scrooge McDuck is she saving it up for? C'mon, lady, it won't kill you to spend a little money.
I can't believe I just said that.
I didn't buy this one but I do remember seeing house ads for it in other Marvel Comics of the time and of course, I have reprints of it in various volumes here in the man cave. Great art by Jack Kirby. The Avengers line-up undergoes the first of many, many changes that would take place over the years. At the end of this issue, "Cap's Kooky Quartet" is introduced: Captain America, Hawkeye, Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch. All three new Avengers had begun their careers as criminals. A bold, daring move that produced some pretty good comics over the next year or so.