Sunday, June 30, 2019
I can see right now that I'm going to have to follow the never ending election process with discretion. Once upon a time I can remember when reporters were somewhat ashamed to cover the "horse race" aspect of political contests because I suspect it was considered small minded and took away from the responsibility of the media to the public it supposedly serves. Well those days are far behind us as all that is covered these days is the horse race as the twin towers of Babel called MSNBC and FOX News tout their philosophies and the pols who preach them. Many decry the large number of candidates on the Democratic side of things this season and I wonder why. How can you have too many candidates as the very nature of the process will winnow those options. It's about the drama of TV, because as with the Republicans some years ago, too many candidates undermines the media's ability to cast the races in quasi-Shakespearean combats. I thought of the Archie Comics comic book cover above when I heard some pundit say there were too many Dems running for the chance to be president. Like the Mighty Crusaders they will tussle among themselves and fight and brawl and then when the dust has settle the battle for the soul of the United States will truly begin.
For your viewing pleasure, here are the other 60's Mighty Crusaders covers, a team which debuted in Fly Man before getting their own gig.
Saturday, June 29, 2019
It's been a long time since I sat down and watched Frogs, an early 70's movie about relative weakness of man in the face of the natural world. I think another decent title for this movie might be The Revenge of Rachel Carson, Carson of course being the revolutionary researcher and writer of Silent Spring, the book which in no small order established the modern regime of environmental controls. This movie, with all its offbeat textures tells the story of what happens when nature fights back.
Sam Elliott is a photographer and ultra-cool hunk named Picket Smith who falls in with a discordant family named Roarke. They are a rich southern family with much of the baggage that suggests. The family is gathered to celebrate the birthday of hits patriarch played by Ray Milland. They quickly note the abundance of frogs, but assume that nature is just doing what it does, moving in waves of plenty and scarcity. Little do the people realize the attach as already begun.
Smith finds the body of a workman and before you know it the family members are falling victim to the creatures of the swamp as lizards create toxic gasses in an enclosed space and snakes strike at people constrained by the very vines of the swamp itself. The attack is slow and steady and that's the greatest power of this movie, the relentless power of nature which is presented. The film makers use very little music, just some spare sounds and that relative quiet adds to the power and tension of a movie which by all accounts shouldn't be scary at all.
Frogs is clunky in all sorts of ways, but I was struck by the idea that when nature rises up to strike down the blight of man we'll never see it coming.
Friday, June 28, 2019
Thanks to a recommendation here at the Dojo when I taking a gander at another Larry Cohen movie, I was made aware of and swiftly got possession of a copy of Cohen's God Told Me To (also released under the title Demon), a 1975 Horror-Science Fiction-Crime drama blend which delivers on all its premises surprisingly effectively. The movie sports a very strong cast with a bevy of familiar faces if not names occupying nearly every scene. Even the late Andy Kaufman the rebel comedian makes a showing as a killer cop. This is one of those movies that takes a few different directions. If you've not seen it, I recommend it, if you have than venture further.
We begin on the streets of New York City when suddenly folks begin to drop dead, the victims of a sniper tucked in high above the crowds on a water tower. He kills many and when queried by our hero cop named "Michael" played by Tony Lo Bianco says simply it was because God has told him to. He then promptly leaps to his death. This is just the beginning of a spate of murders, with each murderer stating unequivocally that God had told them commit their crimes. And as the hero pursues the clues, the story switches from a crime drama to a horror story with implications of the supernatural abounding.
We meet Michael's girlfriend and ex-wife, both of whom he still seems to be friendly with. We learn that Michael is a devout believer in God. His journey leads him into the unnatural which slides over into the sci-fi vein when alien abduction becomes the possible explanation for a "man" who seems to have the power to order people to do whatever he wants them to do. Naturally enough the authorities are reluctant to reveal to the public such theories so Michael takes it upon himself to do so and promptly is suspended. But that doesn't stop him.
He suspects and soon so does the audience that Michael is specifically connected to the man named "Bishop" who is behind the killing spree and when we meet him he's clearly nothing from this world, or least not completely. After Michael confronts a woman who evidently was his own mother despite her status as a virgin and you quickly get the sense of what Cohen is driving at.
This is a fascinating movie, richer in texture than you'd expect from a relatively low-budget affair. The editing is a little awkward in places, but overall you have no trouble following the plot and there are some outstanding performances along the way. I'm glad to learn of it at long last.
Thursday, June 27, 2019
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.
Wednesday, June 26, 2019
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.
Tuesday, June 25, 2019
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 really...er...well pop.
Monday, June 24, 2019
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.
Sunday, June 23, 2019
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.
Saturday, June 22, 2019
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.
Friday, June 21, 2019
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.
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.