Thursday, June 27, 2019

How Green Is The Archer?

I've been hankering to see The Green Archer forever and a day, but for whatever reason I never picked up a copy and never sat down to enjoy this Columbia chapter play starring Victor Jory as the hero seeking to get inside a displaced castle in which is held captive a lovely woman and where a gang of thieves hide and plot their schemes. It's a castle full of the usual, hidden doorways galore, mysterious steps, dungeons in offbeat places, and one of the wackiest garages you'll ever see.

It's generally assumed The Green Archer inspired the creation of DC's longtime bowman Green Arrow. The timing of this film's release over many months and Green Arrow's debut in the pages of More Fun Comics is certainly coincidental if nothing else. But I think this serial has progeny in the TV realm as well, specifically The Green Hornet show. There's a giant hedge that opens up automatically when the villains drive off their lot and they rise up into position to do that by an dandy elevator, and all these gimmicks stay hidden pretty much through the entire movie. It's not quite as cool as the kissing pair billboard or the turntable garage for Black Beauty, but it sure put me in mind of them.

The story is an ambler. The hero drops into the castle and out with varying motives, sometimes it seems forgetting all about the damsel in distress. And the cops appear unusually feckless, though that is kind of explained later as well. One thing which really pops out is the gang employed by the top villain, in that they are an unusually specific and unusually funny gaggle of baddies. Attention is given to them to a surprising degree for a serial, but that's good since it adds some zest to a show which gets rather repetitive quickly.

I haven't mentioned the Green Archer himself yet. Well, he's a ghost supposedly and represented in the movie in three ways. There's a painting and a fake Archer who works for the villain. And then there's a mysterious other Green Archer who  helps the hero and foils the villains and seems to have an unusual familiarity with castle's hidden avenues. Arrows zing all over and some deliver messages, a few deliver death, but always they mark a turn of plot.

This one can get a little rusty, but try to have fun with the bad guys, because they singularly good.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Monster Or The Ape!

The 1946 serial The Monster And The Ape might be more accurately titled "The Monster OR the Ape" since to my memory the two titular entities which promise so much only get together once and the "Monster" (a robot) is incapacitated at the time and the ape just carries it about for his masters. I will tell you now that the clash between the polished menace of the future and the furious might of the natural world  does not happen. I thought maybe they were keeping the two apart to save them up for the finale, but alas I was disappointed.

The story is pretty simple. A scientist has constructed a robot he dubs "The Metagalon Man" (the name referencing the fictional rare metal used in the construction) and wants to market it to the world. But his former partner wants the riches all to himself and begins a campaign of crime to steal the robot and in the course of that uses a giant gorilla from the local zoo. The robot has three parts, the robot itself, a small device fitted to the hip to connect it to the third part,-- a control panel. All three are needed to activate the robot and rarely are all three in the hands of either the villains or the heroes, so that means the robot moves relatively rarely.

There's nothing really wrong with this serial, but there's little really to recommend it above any others save possibly for the work of Ray "Crash" Corrigan as the gorilla. His antics are particularly good and it's always fun to see his ape suit in action. The whole movie seems to be on a simmer most of the time waiting for something big to happen and as I've already said, that doesn't happen. More's the pity. It's a diverting entertainment, but a true missed opportunity for psychotronic splendor.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

What's A Spirit To Do?

This notorious image by the Spirit's creator Will Eisner says much about where we were once upon a time and points up where we are today. The idea that women were to be taken in hand, reared as it were by the adult men in their lives has been the classic mode for generations. But the world was soon change even as Eisner was drawing this cover in 1941.

Only a few months after the beginning of World War II women were called upon to leave their classic roles and step up to fill in. The returning men after the war needed for the old way to reassert itself and to some extent it did, but it was just another step in the progression of women to full participation in the society in which they are critical. Feminism has never stopped despite the caveman attitudes which deride it daily and sooner than later women will taken the wheel in the country in which I live. They will lead us out of the constant cycle of war and not-war, at least that's what I hope.

That said, it's still a nifty evocative image which has been used a few times over the decades. The shadows added by Kitchen Sink's Pete Poplaski make it pop.

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Monday, June 24, 2019

The Man Who Killed Hitler And Then The Bigfoot!

How could I resist a title like that -- The Man Who Killed Hitler and the The Bigfoot is a movie that demands that it be seen. and requires that whatever you expect, you must anticipate surprise and possible disappointment. With the great Sam Elliot, one of the few actors of our time who is almost always larger than the parts he plays, this is a movie that was only ever going to be so bad regardless of what else anybody other than Elliot did. He has delivered in every movie I've ever seen him in and that made me feel safe in trusting my imagination to this film.

Get it and see it. I highly recommend it.

Now for those who have already seen the movie let me continue.

The yarn (I use that word a lot but never more accurately) here is divided fragmented in time. We begin with a weary old warrior named Calvin Barr who lives alone and mired in regrets and oddly some degree of guilt. He was commissioned by his country in World War II to infiltrate the Nazi territories, find the real Adolph Hitler and assassinate him. He did and we follow along as the young Calvin (Aiden Turner) completes his mission. But we also see him leave behind the love of his life, hesitate to make her his wife and then lose her for all time in that way so many people leave our lives, they just go away. Nothing of his life between that spectacular secret mission and the modern day is really revealed save a few comments between Barr and his brother, a local barber who has had a regular life (whatever that means). We get feelings but not details, not really.

It is into this somber environment that two agents appear, one from the United States and the other from Canada and they say they need the help of Calvin Barr yet again. There is a mission he is uniquely qualified for because he is among the very very few with the training, talent and blood immunity to confront the Bigfoot. The creature is alone and sick, and that illness is threatening to spill across all borders as a plague they world has rarely seen and which civilization would be hard pressed to survive. With the nuclear option at the ready and looming in the distance Calvin journeys beyond the firewalls meant to keep out the curious and into the depths of the Canadian wilderness, to find Bigfoot and put it down.

But what's the movie about? As it turns out it ain't really about Hitler and it ain't really about Bigfoot, it's about what it requires of men and women to deal with the monsters in the world, monsters rearing up from the bowels of civilization or leaping forth from the depths of the natural world. It's about that what it happens to people when they face cold reality and still must find a means to progress forward. It's a love story too of course, but it's a heartbroken love story and how a person must come to terms with time after lost opportunity. It's about what's real and what's myth.

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Sunday, June 23, 2019

"T" Is For Tobor!

Tobor the Great is yet another of those vintage sci-fi classics I'd never seen until recently when I grabbed a copy off of the Amazon and sat down to enjoy it in all its 50's psychotronic splendor. I was not disappointed and the movie was all that I expected and more too.

Of course "Tobor" is "Robot" spelled backwards and the movie points that out a few times for the folks who don't tumble to it. (I'm not going to criticize because there are lots of obvious things I didn't get until much later than I probably should have.) We are in the later 50's (some few years beyond the 1954 film's release date) and man is pushing to get into outer space. The debate which opens the movie is whether its ethical to expose people to the rigors of space without foreknowledge of what they will encounter. This debate results in a classic absent-minded professor and a fiery young doctor working together on a machine which can take a person's place.

Charles Drake and Karin Booth play the obligatory romantic leads in a movie in which neither of them is the focus and who have names I don't care enough about to look up. We spend more time with the robot, his ancient creator (Taylor Holmes),and the latter's grandson "Gadge", a genius of a kid who has a knack for doing exactly the opposite of what he is told and getting away with it. It is the relationship between Tobor and Gadge which is the core of the story, as the boy seeks a strong male having lost his father in the Korean conflict. Despite lots of screen time devoted to the shenanigans of red spies (Stephen Geray and Peter Brocco among others) working almost in a Three Stooges style to get the secret of Tobor, this is the story of a boy and his 'bot.

There are lots of familiar movie locations in this little yarn from the friendly sci-fi confines of Griffith Park Observatory to the "Garden of the Gods". This is a perfect example of movie craftsmanship with good work done on nearly all fronts resulting in an entertaining movie. It's not going to elevate beyond that status because frankly it never wants to. But for those wanting a pleasant sci-fi diversion Tobor the Great is ideal.

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Saturday, June 22, 2019

Just Call It "Q"!

I've been watching a lot of Larry Cohen movies of late and recently learned that this maverick director passed away just a few months ago. He seemed to be one of those energetic characters that the movie industry loves and hates at the same time, a go-getter but not one who does things by the book. That's all well and good until someone gets hurt and on Q, a movie about the great flying god of the Azetics Quetzoquotal setting up shop in New York City there was ample opportunity for that.

I've long wanted to watch Q, but it never seemed to be a movie which played anywhere I was and I kept running across references to the stop-motion animation, a dying art even when this 80's flickw as being made. The flying monster in this one is okay and performs its functions well enough,but like so many movie monsters fails to live up the outstanding imagery of the posters. Boris Vallejo outdid himself on this one.

The story of how the movie got to be made is fascinating as well. Cohen was fired off a project and just to keep his hand in and to stick to the folks who sent him packing he put together a movie in a matter of days, calling favors from across the world. David Carradine , Richard Roundtree and Michael Moriarty give this monster epic heft, and the presence of Candy Clark assures one and all its status in the cult community. Cohen and Moriarty got along so well on this movie that they worked together on several of other projects.

Q ain't a great monster movie by any stretch, but it's a darn entertaining one and has an energy many of the modern much ballyhooed epics fail to match.

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Friday, June 21, 2019

A Day In The Anti-LIfe - Drum Beats!

I talk less about the deplorable state of the nation here for the simple reason I try not to think about it much. Life needs living and there's an ample library of books and films in my possession which allow me to go days on end without hearing the T-Word. That's good for my blood pressure. But at the risk of my health (not really) let me reflect on some more recent events.

The loathsome nature of the current leader is all too clear to anyone willing to glance in the direction. All the people I interact with who support our Dotard-in-Chief regardless of his endless whimperings know full well how low he is. But they set that aside because somehow they are convinced the the other side is worse. And while the other side is not worse in terms of policy (which will be revealed agonizingly slowly over the course of the next few decades as the cost of deregulation begins to create problems once thought solved) the opponents to the current Blowhard-in-Chief lack the stupid single-mindedness which seems ultimately to pay so many dividends these days.

I am reminded of quaint far off times when "flip flopping" once could well be the harpoon to the gut of any campaign, and now we are riddled with flips and flops so pronounced and frequent that just cataloging them requires due diligence and framing them into context utterly impossible save in reflective articles which almost no one will ever read. The secret is never to admit the obvious, just plow forward regardless of ethics. Power is all that matters, the getting and using of power to achieve ends or in the case of our cringe-worthy leader just as end in itself so that he can  bask in the soft warm glow of sweet lovely power.

I've said before and I'll repeat that the amazingly callous administration which currently heads up the United States has found far more traction than I thought it ever could. A brief bout of madness is not uncommon in American body politic, but usually a few years washes it out of the system and we return to the normal state of politics which is no bag of sugar on its own. The difference these days to me seems to be the utter openness of those in power to talk about maintaining that power and doing so at the cost of failing to meet their responsibilities. The House of Representatives was returned to the Democrats for the express purpose to put a check on the flagrant violations of the Republicans and especially these Republicans who treated Washington and the country as their own personal pig sty. They were not put into place to merely watch the pigs and secure a seat to watch them longer, they are there to clean up the sty. 

Not only that, but in the face of obvious provocations it is the responsibility of the House to impeach the President. I'm not crazy about the prospect, but it is their duty and as far as I can see the only way they are going to be able to gather the necessary footing to tip the balance of power back into the hands of the legislature which has for far too long allowed the executive to have its way. As the drum beats of a yet another possible conflict in the Middle East begin to thrum through the land, the Democrats must stick the bully in the eye before he  ruins another two decades of the twenty-first century. It may already be too late. 

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Thursday, June 20, 2019


My daughters demanded that I sit my ass down and watch the mini-series Chernobyl. For some reason I don't really understand I was mildly reluctant, but finally they got me to do it. God almighty what did we almost do!

The saga is one of simple human failings, both on a large scale and a tiny one. Arrogance, ignorance, fear, and even love cause disease and destruction and death. When a few craven men decide to toy with the machinery of an atomic reactor for short-term gain they unleash an atomic monster with a blazing eye that man dare not stare into, because to behold the monster is to die. It remains to stalwart people to step into the breach and give themselves up to forestall the menace, if not end it. The story focuses mostly but not exclusively on three people, two physicists and one bureaucrat who must find a way to combat the monster.

I of course knew about the disaster at Chernobyl or thought that I did, but I did not know that the end of civilization as we know was nigh when the monster erupted sending emissaries of death on the winds and at the same time began to seek out the very center of the planet. I'd seen a few television shows here and there in more recent times and had some sense of how dangerous the place still was and will continue to be. But watching the story of men and women who willingly went to confront the monster knowing that death was soon to touch them on the shoulder for their courage, I was humbled.

There are five episodes of this series and if I'd have had my way, there might have been just four. But a desire to create an emotional connection to what all too often is just a rational judgment might have been worth the few more minutes, some of which were just delivering the serene quiet of the world when man is no longer admitted. The story of Chernobyl is a story of the utter ruthlessness and inane stupidity of bureaucracy but at the same time shows that same system rising up with good and true leadership to get things done that need doing.  It ain't the chain of command that's the problem in most cases, it's rotten links that nestle along that chain which make an unreliable problem solver.

If you want to stare into the abyss, watch Chernobyl. It's all still out there.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Rainbow Phantom!

This made me smile. The Phantom remains among the sturdiest heroes across the globe, in whatever color your prefer.

Here's the purple Phantom I grew up with and know -- purple tights and those outrageous strip shorts. This is the primary Phantom as far as I can tell.

Here is the red Phantom from Italy. For whatever reason he was given a red costume in that region and it stuck. He's sure easy to see.

In Sweden The Ghost Who Walks is blue. Maybe it's because it so much colder up there, but still the Phantom is, still the concept holds.

And here's the original Phantom, the grey Phantom, which was the intended color by Falk. It was changed to make the hero pop off the page a bit more I suspect. But I like the idea of this Phantom, it's very...well..."Phantomy".

UPDATE: It's confirmed (by the artist himself) that the Phantom cover above by Reno Maniquis is an homage to the vintage Detective Comics #241. Thanks Reno for brightening our day.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

When Wheels Were Hot!

Hot Wheels were awesome! Little cars, each hard die-cast beauty performing as a talisman to evoke a full-size car which was beyond the reach of the kid who cherished it. Driving, having the freedom of the car is crucial in some areas of the United States and is a powerful marker on the road to adulthood.

The toy car, either Hot Wheels or Matchbox or some other provided a device to dream about that delightful day of freedom and power.

And once upon a time there were car comics, performing the same function arguably and briefly DC Comics tried to bring the magic of Hot Wheels onto the newsstands with a comic produced by some of the best talent in the DC pen -- Alex Toth and Neal Adams to name two. But DC reached beyond its usual stable to grab Joe Gill, the ace script man at Charlton and veteran of many a car comic tale to write most of these stories before Len Wein too the reins in the final few issues. Doubtless Gill was there because he came with  Dick Giordano when the latter shifted over to DC after his relative success with the "Action Heroes". But while Giordano and others like Jim Aparo stayed, Gill and artist Pat Boyette eventually returned to the friendly climes of Derby.  The comic was produced in conjunction with a cartoon show, but neither found long term success. These stories need collecting -- but so much does.

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Monday, June 17, 2019

Beasts Of The Wood!

I'm a sucker for the work of the late great Wally Wood (born on this day in 1927), and I've long wanted to snag Vanguard's Jungle Adventures. Alas the only version I ever ran across was the hard cover edition and I couldn't justify the cost since many of stories are nestled in my collection in some form already. But I recently found the softcover version for small money and brought it home. Aside from the misadventures of white hunter Jim King (another name for the rights protected Jungle Jim) there are several stories from Wood's earliest days with the likes of Dorothy Lamour and such having jungle escapades.

But the clear mainstay of this collection is Animan, one of Wood's ground-level independent creations for Witzend, who in the splash page above from his second and last appearance screams Wolverine. Animan is not a human being, but something other, a concoction of the jungle imbued with human desires (hence the kidnapping of the obligatory dame in the yarn) but also gifted with senses and abilities beyond the ken of men. To see him in all his glory check out this link. Animan had apparently been rustling around in Wood's mind for a bit as he'd had a fascinating previous attempt at the concept in other quarters.

It was in the pages of Daredevil, the Marvel Comic Wood rescued from oblivion when he cooked up the amazing red costume and brought to the comic a noir sensibility which added spice to a book which was all too consumed with being Spidey on the half-shell. It was this noir feel that Frank Miller mined so effectively some years later to elevate the hero even further.

What did Wood do in DD, he gave us the Ani-Men. They were Cat-Man, Ape-Man, Bird-Man and Frog-Man, four felons from the teeming horde of Marvel's criminals who were given suits and potions to make them even more effective evil-doers. (I miss villains who only wanted to steal jewels and money and such, and not destroy large segments of the universe.) There's something elegantly simple about the Ani-Men and for all the hokey touches I really looked forward to their appearances. But they never looked as good as they did when Wally Wood was in charge.

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