Saturday, October 31, 2009

Creepy Beginnings

The early issues of Warren's CREEPY mag in the mid-sixties tried hard to achieve the tongue-in-cheek feel the EC's had presented a decade earlier with a horror host, humorous answers to letters and, beginning in the Archie Goodwin-edited issues, a Creepy Fan Club Page. A regular feature was scary art sent in by readers, Here, from 1965 and '66, are two examples by a fan named Frank Brunner and one by a Berni Wrightson. Oddly, although seemingly a good fit, both men would build their initial reputations away from Warren--Brunner at the rival CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN and Wrightson in the upstart WEB OF HORROR. Later Brunner would become known for his short-lived but memorable runs on Marvel's DOCTOR STRANGE and HOWARD THE DUCK while Berni would later become chief cover artist for DC's mystery books and later Stephen King's favorite illustrator.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Dracula-the Graphic Novel-1966

Ballantine Books had been successfully reprinting comic books in mass market paperback form going back to the original MAD collections of the late 1950's. By 1966, with monsters at an all-time peak of popularity, Ballantine went back to Bill Gaines' well to publish several volumes of classic horror and sci-fi tales from EC. The publisher probably assumed that the horror comics so publicly maligned just a decade earlier were now nostalgic and safe since Warren's CREEPY was using many of the same artists in even more explicitly edgy tales every month on America's newsstands. Begun in 1964, CREEPY was initially edited by Russ Jones.

I'm not sure if Ballantine approached Jones or Jones approached Ballantine but in 1966, one of the first American books that could legitimately be called a graphic novel appeared--DRACULA. Russ Jones packaged the book with a somewhat unconnected introduction by Christopher Lee (which is not even hyped on the covers so what was the point?), a pretty faithful adaptation of the original Bram Stoker novel done by CREEPY contributors Otto Binder (best known for his work on the original CAPTAIN MARVEL and later the LEGIO OF SUPER HEROES) and Craig Tennis and with impressive artwork by Alden McWilliams.

Long a favorite unsung artist, Al McWilliams had also been working for Warren as well as doing a lot of unsigned work for Gold Key Comics. In the 1950's he had done a marvelous sci-fi newspaper strip called TWIN EARTHS. McWilliams had a very clean style reminiscent of EC's Al Williamson (in his later SECRET AGENT CORRIGAN phase), Angelo Torres and George Evans. DRACULA may well be his best work.

Since DRACULA is made up of a series of letters, journal and diary entries, the writers here logically take a more straightforward route of telling the tale while maintaining the episodic feel quite well. We all know the story. Jonathan Harker makes a deal with Count Dracula for some real estate in England. Upon his arrival, Dracula's interactions with those in Harker's circle lead to anguish, pain and death until Dr Seward and Professor Van helsing determine that the Count is actually an undead vampire.

Visually, the Count bears more than a passing resemblance here to actor John Carradine who had memorably appeared in the role in the Universal classics HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and HOUSE OF DRACULA two decades earlier. In 1966, the very same year that this version of DRACULA was published, Carradine cheapened those memories by recreating the role in the Grade Z horror that was BILLY THE KID VS DRACULA!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Christopher Lee Interview-2009

Bela Lugosi Interviewed-1931

Boris Karloff 1960's TV Commercial

Peter Lorre Trailer--Mad Love-1935

Vincent Price Reads the Raven

San Diego Art Jam-1979

Here's a badly cropped and edited image of a San Diego Con jam session from thity years ago in 1979. The accompanying blurb indicates that the pic was taken before all artists had done their part but that the final list of contributors to this 3 feet by 13 feet wall art included, amongst others, Harvey Kurtzman, Trina Robbins, Shel Dorf, Paul Mavrides, my facebook friend Scott Shaw!, the late Dave Stevens, Alan Weiss, Bill Wray, the also late Marshall Rogers, Dan O' Neill, Carol Lay, Dave Scroggy, Melinda (now Alan Moore's lady!) Gebbie, Ron Turner and Mike Kaluta. Where was Sergio anyway? In the accompanying pic I recognoze only Harvey and Trina. Anyone else?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Banana Splits Club

Sure they were just four guys in silly, heavy costumes wandering around bumping into things to pre-recorded dialogue (and laugh tracks that found the whole show funnier than it was) by higher paid voice actors like Paul Winchell but there was somwthing endearing about the Banana Splits. Kelloggs thought so in 1969 and came up with this club you could join for a quarter! I never did but I wish I had!

Broken Springs Trailer

Here's a teaser for an upcoming new zombie film shot in and around Gate City, Virginia. Looks pretty good for a low-budget film and I have it on good authority that the big bearded guy at the end actually fought zombies once before on the cover of a 1990's issue of an indie comic book called THE DEAD!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bettie Page in the 21st Century

I think I may be in the home stretch of getting my Windows7 correctly configured but right now I've been on the phone with the other side of the world for much of the day so no big post today. Nap time soon! To hold you until tomorrow, however, here's one of the rare shots taken of 1950's fan favorite camera queen, fetish model and onetime centerfold Bettie Page a few years ago at PLAYBOY's 50th Anniversary celebration. Those blondes she was with may have been the big thing more recently but neither can hold a candle to Ms Page at her topless jungle girl peak!

Monday, October 26, 2009

My Top Ten Favorite Horror Films--At the Moment

Everyone else is doing this and since my PC is working (for now) I thought I'd jump in. The problem is that my interests and tastes change from time to time and so tomorrow this list might be at least a little different. For now, however, here 'tis.
The Wicker Man
Night of the Hunter
Night of the Demon
Night of the Living Dead
The Devil Rides Out
Theatre of Blood
House on Haunted Hill

1-THE WICKER MAN-Many fans don't consider it technically as a horror film but it's filled with imagery and points of view that make people question their very beliefs even as it glorifies the strange and different. If that isn't scary in a way that Jason never could be, I don't know what is! Add one of Christopher Lee's best performances, the amazing Edward Woodward as the "hero," a naked Britt Ekland (and her body double!) and a lovely music score. A literary horror film for the ages.

2-HALLOWEEN-A nearly perfect film of its type, the original HALLOWEEN has riveting direction and a memorable self-penned score by John Carpenter. Everything works from beginning to end if you can just put it out of your head that by this point you've seen it a million times.

3-NIGHT OF THE HUNTER-Charles Laughton's only film as a director is an atmospheric, poetic scarefest as two children are relentlessly pursued by Robert Mitchum as a cold-hearted, murderous character more realistic and creepy than Freddy Krueger ever was.

4-NIGHT OF THE DEMON-Produced strangely enough by former "Little Tough Guy" Hally Chester (See upcoming installments of my DEAD END KIDS series) and directed by Jacques Tourneur, this dark, suspenseful satanic cult film is the source of the ROCKY HORROR theme's off-color line about Dana Andrews and "runes."

5-NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD-Three nights in a row. What can I say? George Romero's no-budget Indie film is a classic for a reason. An air of non-stop dread and despair permeates nearly every scene in a way the bigger-budgeted sequels and rip-offs never even approached. When it's over, you actually feel changed.

6-FRANKENSTEIN-A tad slow but the atmosphere and the surprisingly still touching performance by Karloff as the Creature get me every time. The whole series has a charm but the original, to me, is the only one that really has a heart.

7-THE DEVIL RIDES OUT-Christopher Lee again, this time as a Dr. Strange type dealing with Charles Gray (himself a future fellow Bond villain) as a satanic conjurer in an old manor house.

8-POLTERGEIST-Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg made the ultimate ghost story movie with this big budget screen sensation. The cast is great and the light-hearted scenes make the scarier ones even scarier. "They're heeeeeeere" indeed!

9-THEATRE OF BLOOD-Vincent Price, Diana Rigg and an amazing cast of equally scene-chewing English character actor victims in a great distillation of the standard revenge-tale horror film.

10-HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL-My first favorite horror film! This 1959 William Castle screamfest introduced me to Vincent Price through frequent local television airings in the mid-sixties. The last time I saw it all those primal fears came back!

The opening of Carpenter's THE FOG is one of my all-time favorites but it's all downhill from there. I love the premise of the FINAL DESTINATION films because you can cheer for "fate" without having to find yourself taking sides with a serial killer. That said, I like SOME of the Freddy Krueger films, the totally unrelated HALLOWEEN 3, the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, Bogdanovich's TARGETS, the AIP Poe films, the EC features and all of the great Universal and Hammer films as well as the unsung Amicus anthologies like ASYLUM and FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE. I loved ZOMBIELAND but I wouldn't call it a horror film. By that score, I've long considered PSYCHO a black comedy so it doesn't count. WITCHFINDER GENERAL, although very much a favorite, is more a historical piece than a horror film. I'm sure there are more.

UPDATE--Okay, here are a few more that were just under my TOP TEN: PHANTASM, BLACK SABBATH, CARRIE, THE RING, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and, of course, THE EXORCIST. Linda Blair uber-fan that I am, it has strangely never been my favorite of her movies.

DC Mystery Comics Subscription Ad

Here's a fun DC subscription ad from the late seventies that someone actually seems to have put a little work into! GHOSTS, HOUSE OF MYSTERY, SECRETS OF THE HAUNTED HOUSE and THE UNEXPECTED and all of their various hosts and hostesses are represented.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

RIP-Lou Jacobi

I first noticed Lou Jacobi during his run on THE DEAN MARTIN SHOW. After that I started noticing him everywhere in serious roles and silly parts. He quickly became a favorite character actor. Sad to say I hadn't really thought about him in years when I read today that he had passed at the age of 95. Sorry, Lou. And thanks.

What's Wrong With This Picture?

If you're reading this blog and I have to tell you... "Arf," indeed!

Movie That Fell Through the Cracks # 57

I always love finding out about a cool-looking film I had no idea existed. This clip from 1969's THE MONITORS popped up on Facebook this evening and I clicked on it to watch on YouTube. I went back long enough to hit the "Like" button during the clip but afterwards the clip was gone and I wasn't even sure who had posted it! My own profile didn't even indicate I had "liked" anything!

I was meant to see it I guess as It looks amazing! In spite of amateurish acting it has nice cinematography. A check of IMDB revealed that it was done by the legendary Vilmos Zsigmond! Based on a story and screenplay by sci-fi author Keith Laumer, it essentially tells the black-comedy story of an already completed benevolent alien invasion that makes things better and the efforts of a group of people to return to the status quo. The director went on to a long and successful TV career so one is tempted to blame the amateurish quality on perhaps a lack of budget for retakes.

The bizarrely psychotronic cast includes Guy Stockwell (brother of Dean), STAR TREK's green girl Susan Olver, F TROOP's Larry Storch. Keenan Wynn, Avery Schrieber, comic Jackie Vernon, Peter Boyle, Senator Everett Dirksen and Mr and Mrs Alan Arkin and pretty much their whole family!

From what I read, THE MONITORS ran on late night TV quite a lot in some parts of the country a couple decades back but was never released on VHS or DVD. I found one dried up source for the whole film on the Net but I'll keep looking. This one looks great!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Random Panels of Comic Book Weirdness # 66

Okay, this whole entire 1950's LOIS LANE story (with Wayne Boring art) in which Lois gets shipwrecked on an Amazon island with a group of women who all worship Superman is pretty weird.This panel stood out to me, though. If Mary Ann had been the scientist and Professor Hinkley just a guy from Kansas, I'll bet Gilligan and them guys coulda got offa that island in less than 15 years!!! Girl scientists obviously rock!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Windows7 and Me

Those of you who are FACEBOOK friends may already know this but just as an explanation for sporadic posting this week on all of my blogs, blame it on Microsoft. It took more than 3 hours to install Windows 7 the night before it officially even came out (Thanks Amazon!) but then nothing worked. I mean nothing. Looked all spiffy but...zilch. Two hours on the phone with a very knowledgeable, funny and instructive help desk rep named Amberdool the next morning (If they're in India, why did I have to wait until 9 AM my time?) fixed the initial problems. Since then, however, I've had to deal with a run of lockups and glitches their pre-scan program told me wouldn't happen. Examples include my media player working but no longer obeying any controls (always on top, full screen, forwarding, etc) but "PLAY" and my 6 month old scanner/printer printing fine even as it's telling me the scanner is incompatible with the new Windows even though Windows itself denies that! Multiple attempts to reinstall have thus failed.

So I'm blogging when I can but I'm stuck to blogging either already scanned stuff or items cribbed from the Net. Hopefully, will all gel soon. I just keep reminding's not Vista.

RIP-Soupy Sales

I never met him but I've known a number of folks who have and I've rarely heard anything negative about him. He was a very silly and funny man who actually started out here in the Cincinnati area. If his popular early sixties show aired around here, though, I never knew about it. I did, however, catch the enjoyable 1978 NEW SOUPY SALES SHOW, from which the opening and closing are seen here. He was also, in my opinion, the best male TV game show player ever!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bohemian Rhapsody For Comic Relief

Queen's BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY is the one song that can be counted on to be heard by any single individual in the western world on the radio on any given day if one listens for any length of time at all. It was popular in its day but has become more popular than ever in the afterlife of Freddie Mercury. Alert readers will recall that this ongoing revival of the song was itself jump started way back when with the movie WAYNE'S WORLD.

Everyone knows the words to the operatic rock classic. Even a whole bunch of UK celebs who perform it along with the record on this COMIC RELIEF show clip from a decade or so ago. If you've ever truly longed to see Stephen Fry and Hugh(HOUSE) Laurie's JEEVES AND WOOSTER singing BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY along with the headbanging of the cast of RED DWARF, this clip is for you! You'll also see Jonathan Ross, Gordon the Gopher (who I hear is actually on TWITTER now!), the disgraced BLUE PETER presenter John (No relation to the porn star/director)Leslie and a dozen more UK celebs, most of whom won't be recognized here in the US. If some of you readers across the pond would care to annotate, feel free.

Watch for the weatherman who cleverly gets the "Any way the wind blows..." line.

Nimbus Libere

Offered purely for historical value and certainly with no malice toward Jews (as tomorrow is my son's bar mitzvah!), here is a 1944 propaganda cartoon from Vichy France that comes complete with Jewish stereotypes, disinformation and negativitybut is distinguished by the bizarre and surprisingly well-animated once in a lifetime teamup of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Felix the Cat, Goofy and Popeye...and NOT in a good way! The credits give the direction to "Cal" but IMDB says the equally unknown Raymond Jeannin.

Who Am I?-- Revealed

How busy was Jack Kirby in the early days of the Marvel Age of Comics? Well, by the time he was drawing FANTASTIC FOUR # 12, he was apparently too busy to remember that Bruce banner was a skinny li'l brown-haired fella with glasses and so here, just months after last drawing him in HULK, the King makes him a handsome, robust looking gent with comic book black (read:blue) hair...and no one noticed. As he began to turn up in other series, he was back to his standard look but here he could pass for Superman if he had a spit curl!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Monty Python's Complete Waste of Time

My wife had a Tandy computer back in the eighties and when we were first married in the early 1990's, I set it up to play the intriguingly titled but ultimately disappointing LEATHER GODDESSES OF PHOBOS on them big ol' floppies! AHEM...

Anyway, we bought our very first REAL PC in 1994. After looking around the computer store for hours, we settled on one we thought sure had a real future--a STARION! (Sound of crickets) It took me a few days to get it all plugged up right but then we couldn't figure out anything to do with it.Luckily we had prepared for that and bought our first software that night, also. MONTY PYTHON'S COMPLETE WASTE OF TIME. With the lads all over the TV last week and this for their 40th anniversary, I remembered this enjoyable mess and dug it out last night. Technology being what it is, however, having been designed for Windows 3.1 it does NOT work on Vista. Sigh. It was a lot of fun, though.

MONTY PYTHON'S COMPLETE WASTE OF TIME was award-winning software in its day. It featured mini-games, dozens of live-action clips from MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS and a secret, hidden game that if you found it and beat it by a certain date could win you big prizes! There was even some new material by Terry Gilliam and Eric Idle (and possibly some of the others).

Here's an excerpt from the only Walkthrough I could find online--

1. To solve The Secret to Intergalactic Success, you must solve each of the brain lobes. To solve each lobe, you must gain access to Inner Space, obtain the four essential clues and use those to solve the lobe.

2. The Loonatorium is the central dispatch for finding The Secret to Intergalactic Success. Play Spot the Loony for hints on solving the secret and to find out which lobe to go to next. Be sure to play until the hints begin to repeat themselves.

3. In each of the scenarios or lobes, you gain entry to Inner Space by finding The Spanish Inquisition. Go to the lobe suggested by the Spot the Loony announcer. After the Cardinal says Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, click on the door, answer the trivia question correctly and you are in. All of the answers to the trivia questions are found within the title so don't be afraid to explore.

4. There are four essential clues (clues needed to solve the lobe) and three non-essential clues buried in each maze. The non-essential clues give you some direction as to what to do with the essential clues to solve the lobe.

5. Once in Inner Space, control access to essential clues by using the Shift key on the keyboard in combination with the question number.

6. Access to Inner Space from the Exploding TV Room can be gained through the Television. Pythonvision, which can be brought up by clicking on the right button on the TV, makes a great remote control. Try watching a show about that penguin on top of the telly.

Monday, October 19, 2009

RIP Vic Mizzy

Two of the undisputed greatest theme songs in TV history were created by composer Vic Mizzy--GREEN ACRES and THE ADDAMS FAMILY. I never understood why everyone didn't get him to do their TV themes in the sixties! I just saw where Mr Mizzy passed the other day at age 93. My favorite music from him was from Don Knotts' THE GHOST AND MR CHICKEN in which his unmistakable themes are a major plot point. In fact, according to Wikpedia, his association with the former Barney Fife in his big screen excursions led to his distinctive style becoming known for awhile as "The Don Knotts Style!" Thank you for the music and memories, sir!

More Aurora Models-1969

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Batman, the Joker and Laughing Girl-1966

The 1966 newspaper comic strip BATMAN AND ROBIN was one of the more bizarre incarnations of the Dynamic Duo in that it took quite a bit from the camp aspects of the TV series, then in its prime, but kept the visual qualities of the Julius Schwartz era comic books. We've written before about the hard to find strip here at the Library but today we're going to take a closer look at one of its daily stories. This story, featuring the Joker who had quickly become one of the most popular villains on the TV series, ran for more than two months starting in July of the summer of BATMANIA. You'll see a lot of Bob Kane's contactually required signature in these panels but keep in mind that Bob Kane had NOTING to do with this strip! Supposedly written by longtime DC writer/editor Whitney Ellsworth (who had been a producer on TV's THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN), this sequence is drawn by Joe Giella who is currently the artist on the venerable APARTMENT 3G.

We open with millionaire socialite Bruce Wayne answering a summons to visit Warden Crichton (a TV creation) at the Gotham City Prison. There he is introduced to the Joker, with whom he refuses to shake hands. The Joker tells Wayne that he's reformed and ol' wishy-washy Bruce then says, "Oh, well, okay then" and shakes his hand after all. Seems the Warden has just up and decided to parole the arch criminal into Wayne's custody without so much as a heads up. Bruce, naturally, is a bit concerned that this might curtail his nightly activities and tries to wiggle out of it.

Just at that point, Dick Grayson calls Bruce at the Prison to tell him that their faithful butler Alfred has fallen and injured himself and will probably be laid up for some time. "Hah!" thinks Warden Crichton, "Now you'll need a new butler for awhile so you can use Joker!" What's a millionaire to do when society needs his help and fate sets him up? Bruce takes the Joker home to Stately Wayne Manor (home of the Statelywaynes?) much to Dick Grayson's youthful consternation. As we readers suspected all along, that villainous villain is soon on the phone rounding up a gang.

The Joker slips out a side window and meets up with the horribly politically incorrect Laughing Girl who's driven over in his Jokermobile. The two cruise by the bank downtown which Joker's unseen cohorts have just coincidentally flooded to the point where the very walls fal ldown under pressure and the money comes sailing out to them! Uhhhh....right. Suspension of disbelief required on this one, readers.

As on the show, Commisioner Gordon (looking like his traditional comic book self) and Chief O'Hara (a creation of the TV writers) can't seem to do anything themselves so they call Batman and Robin and then stand around the office talking about their man-crushes on Batman.

The Dynamic Duo pursue the Jokermobile but the evil clown escapes with an ejector seat leaving them to find only Laughing Girl who says she was kidnapped. Meanwhile their antagonist retrieves a mini-motorcycle from a hot dog cart that just happens to be out on the street that late at night. Uh-huh. While he rushes back to Statelywayne Manor, our heroes are anxiously cruising home to check his bed themselves.

After convincing Bruce and Dick that he'd been snuggled in bed, the next day Joker contacts his Native American moll (who's clearly smoking SOMETHING here!) about sending in RINGER. Ringer is an actor made up to look like the Clown Prince of Crime who takes his place buttling for the boys as the real bad guy heads out to work on his crimes again.

The next morning, Batman delivers one million dollars to the Commisioner TO REPLACE THE STOLEN BANK MONEY!!! He explains to Robin that "The stewardship of great wealth is meaningless unless it is used for great purposes." I see. So is Bruce Wayne's money going to replace every bit of money ever stolen in Gotham then?

Meanwhile, Laughing Girl has been busy buying an abandoned castle in the nearby Batskill Mountains to serve as a hideout for the still unseen gang. In a helicopter, Joker helps her ditch out on her hotel bill by taking her out through the window. The FIEND!!

Bruce easily catches Ringer back at good ol' Statelywayne because he's left handed and the Joker is not! Oh what a giveaway! It occurs to Batman that maaaaybe the Joker really hasn't reformed and that he should have another talk with "that Indian girl." Somehow, they know exactly where she lives and head off to her hotel. By this time, the manager has discovered that she ducked out on the bill and owes them considerable "wampum." Needless to say--and much to Robin's consternation again--Batman agrees to pay her bill! "Would it be fair," he asks, "for the hotel's stockholders to lose out because WE allowed the girl to run free?" A disheartened Boy Wonder replies, "I guess I just wasn't thinking Batman." Then they're off to search her room for clues. Can't take the elevator, though. Oh, no. You see, that would dissapoint the little boy in the lobby who wanted to see them climb their batropes. Couldn't do that! So it's up 20 stories on the OUTSIDE of the building!

When they finally reach the luckily open window, who should fly in right behind them but...SUPERMAN! Seems he saw the helicopter take Laughing Girl and just figured he'd tell the Caped Crusaders. He offers to help but Robin jealously tells him, "We'd rather do it ourselves!"

As the Man of Steel flies off, a framed photo of the Joker on the wall turns out to be a radio and he starts talking to Batman who sends Robin down to the Batmobile for a convenient Bat-radio-direction finder. This time the Boy Wonder happily takes the elevator. The only problem is that once they've gotten a beam on where Joker is, they then crawl back down the hotel's outside wall leaving their big, probably expensive Bat-device back in the abandoned hotel room! This version of Batman seems to think money grows on trees!

The Joker is ready for them, however, as he tells Laughing Girl about a dungeon full of allitrative death traps. We even see one minion now! They find him easily in their Bat-copter but then naturally fly back to Gotham City where they pick up a search warrant before they can proceed any further! Then it's back to the Batskills where they stealthily approach the castle hideout and...ring the doorbell. Laughing Girl answers and immediately drops them into a pit filled with hungry lions! Oh, no! Is this the end of Batman and Robin?

Of course not. Batman knows that all they have to do is stare down the lions to demonstrate the superiority of man over animals. I'm surprised that this works, however, when you consider the Dynamic Duo's traditional white eye sockets (unless drawn by Gray Morrow) on their masks! Ever the practical one, Robin suggests killing the beasts only to have Batman remind him that it's "Be Kind to Animals Week." "I'm sorry, Batman. I'm just a selfish little kid." Not to worry, constant readers. Our hero tosses them some "Batnip" which makes the fierce lions roll on the dungeon floor like kittens.

As they climb out of the pit, the Joker rolls a two ton chrome steel ball directly at them down a sloping hallway which they deal with for nearly two full weeks in the continuity before escaping by spraying it with lox. Not THAT kind of lox, silly! That's what Robin thought, though, too! No, Liquid OXygen! You see there was enough lox in Batman's utility belt Bat-spray thingie to freeze the two ton ball they were holding back with their feet (as improbably as that sounds) to the point where it cracks apart and they're able to get past it! Yay!

At that point, and still with no sign of the "fifty braves" Laughing Girl had rounded up for a gang--even the lone minion had left apparently--Robin simply tackles the Joker and Laughing Girl--who turns out to be in reality one Bertha Schultz--gives up quietly. Batman tells Warden Crichton that he's preeeeeetty sure that the Joker can never be rehabilitated!

To read the entire story yourself (as well as the first and third BATMAN strip stories) go here:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Dead End/East Side/Bowery Kids # 3


Leo Gorcey was an unlikely star. He had literally been working as a plumber's assistant at age 17 when his Vaudevillian father Bernard Gorcey encouraged him to try out for a small role in DEAD END along with his brother David. He not only got the role but he was chosen to understudy Charles Duncan for the more pivotal role of "Spit." Duncan left the play in tryouts and Leo was moved up. He proceeded to give a memorable performance in both the play and the subsequent movie. Over the next two decades, he would play variations on that same wisecracking, language-mangling Brooklyn punk in nearly 100 movies!

From the beginning, Gorcey was at odds with DEAD END KIDS star Billy Halop. When Halop's contract was dropped at one point (along with several of the other kids), Gorcey was given more screen time in his roles. Ultimately, though, he was plopped back down in charge of a gang, in this case THE EAST SIDE KIDS, who had already appeared in one film without him. Fellow Dead Ender Bobby Jordan went with him and in subsequent films, Huntz Hall and Gabe Dell also rejoined Leo. Bernard Punsly gave up acting for Medical School and Billy Halop went into the army.

As Muggs in the new series, Leo was finally given the chance to play a more or less consistent character and refined him well. Sometimes the early films were melodramatic, other times they were played for scares or for laughs. The inspired pairing of Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall grew with each picture.

On radio in 1943, Leo took a role as Groucho Marx's comic relief (like you'd need comic relief if you were Groucho) on Pabst Beer's BLUE RIBBON TOWN. Seriously, Groucho Marx acted as Leo Gorcey's straight man! Somewhere in there Gorcey apparently made the mistake of introducing his wife to the legendary "mangy lover." In 1944, as the radio series ended, said wife left him and married Groucho!

Leo pulled himself together and finished up the last few of the 21 EAST SIDE KIDS pictures, then he and his agent formed a new company, consolidated the rest of the gang and started a whole new series with the now no longer "kids," THE BOWERY BOYS.

Beginning in 1946, Leo played Terence Aloysius "Slip" Mahoney in 41 BOWERY BOYS movies with Huntz Hall as Horace Debussey "Sach" Jones while the rest of the gang--which by then included Leo's brother David--became increasingly superfluous. A particular delight of this series was the addition of Gorcey's father, the diminutive Bernard Gorcey, as Louie, the owner of the Sweet Shop where the boys hung out. (Couldn't have 'em hangin' out in a pool hall or anything like that could we?)

Very few of the Bowery Boys series were anything but flat out comedy. Gangster comedy, hillbilly comedy, horror comedy, military comedy, romantic comedy... Only now at this late date is the Gorcey/Hall team starting to get real credit but over time, they refined their act to the point where they are, at their best, a joy to watch.

Always a bit of an edgy troublemaker behind the scenes, the turning point in Gorcey's life and career came when his father died in a car accident in the mid-fifties. He started drinking even more than he already was and quit the Bowery Boys series. With Huntz Hall now listed above the title but his characterization changed a little, the Bowery Boys limped on for 7 more pictures with former gang member Stanley Clements returning to take the "leader" role, playing a totally different character than Slip. Perhaps the series was already on its last legs but the familiar chemistry between the two stars was notably and sadly missed as it limped to an end in 1957.

With more "episodes" than many TV series, the East Side Kids and Bowery Boys films were syndicated on local TV stations throughout the country beginning in the sixties and became favorites, particularly with children. Leo had retired to his ranch and for the most part kept a low profile even as whole new generations discovered his malapropisms.

He took a couple of small TV sitcom guest roles during this period and, like many old time stars, had a momentary cameo in Stanley Kramer's IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD. In mid-decade, Gorcey teamed up once more with Huntz Hall (each in his trademark hat) to steal the show as comedy relief in the country music feature (a lost genre) SECOND FIDDLE TO A STEEL GUITAR. Even though one could see the effects of time and alcohol and their material seemed largely ad-libbed, they were still a welcome --if pointless--addition to the picture.

Although for some reason published only in a now-rare limited edition, Leo's autobiography, the badly titled AN ORIGINAL DEAD END KID PRESENTS: DEAD END YELLS, WEDDING BELLS, COCKLE SHELLS AND DIZZY SPELLS came out in 1967. That same year, artist Peter Blake added Leo and Huntz to the cover of the seminal Beatles album SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND. When Leo, out of all of the dozens of personal Beatles heroes pictured, demanded payment, his image was removed. Huntz Hall's image remains.

Around that same time, Leo did some interviews and TV appearances with WHATEVER HAPPENED TO...?'s Richard Lamparski (some of which can be found on YouTube) and in either late 1968 or early '69, he and Huntz appeared together one last time--ostensibly as themselves although they still had their character hats--in the legendary, unreleased THE PHYNX. With its ridiculous plot, unfunny script, bad performances and scores of bizarre cameos, THE PHYNX is a legitimate candidate for the worst major studio film ever made.

Had it been actually released, it would have been posthumously as Leo Gorcey died in 1969 of alcohol-related liver failure. No less than five marriages in thirty years, a history of anger issues, the alcohol and general bitterness had aged him well beyond his only 51 years.

Leo Gorcey, Jr. wrote a book about his life with Leo, Sr a few years ago and contributed an introduction to a reprint of his father's 1967 autobiography, maddeningly published yet again as a limited edition only! By all accounts, Leo at his best was a charming and funny man, much like Slip Mahoney or Muggs McGinnis. Although originally just a "Second Avenue Kid," Leo Gorcey became over time the heart and soul of the Dead End Kids and their legacy.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Aurora Monsters

Here's the original batch of Aurora's classsic movie monster models from the early sixties, before the snap-together parts or glow in the dark pieces. Just.Plain. SCARY!

RIP-George Tuska

Monty Python With Regis and Kelly

It's a good week when Monty Python is everywhere. Keith Olbermann was reverential when the two Terry's (Jones and Gilliam) and John Cleese appeared with him the other day, Jimmy Fallon had no hope as Eric Idle was added that same evening for a very wet appearance in which the host was completely superfluous, Mark Evanier has the video up this morning of last night's official onstage reunion (including Michael Palin and Carol Cleveland) sponsored by IFC where the new 6 part 40th anniversary documentary appears this weekend and here in all of its glory is the appearance of the five guys and a Graham Chapman cardboard standup with the annoyingly clueless Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Dead End/East Side/Bowery Kids # 2


Billy Halop was the scratchy-voiced little old man cab driver Burt Munson on ALL IN THE FAMILY for several seasons beginning in 1972. To me he looked 70ish even then but he was only 52. He would die in late '76 looking far older than his age of 56.

Although reportedly disliked by most of the other gang members because of his star treatment and overshadowed by Leo Gorcey's longer run as the leader of the various Dead End Kids spinoffs, make no mistakes about it, Billy was the one and only leader of the original kids. Halop had begun a long radio career (along with his sister Florence who would much later appear on TV's NIGHT COURT) while still a child and was already a veteran thespian by the time he was cast in Broadway's DEAD END.

Although he played different characters, he remained the gang's leader throughout all of the subsequent Warner Brothers features only to have his contract dropped along with Gabe Dell, Bernard Punsly and Huntz Hall. While Leo Gorcey and Bobby Jordan remained at Warner's, the rest of the Kids regrouped at Universal where they continued on in a very similar series of pictures including two action serials. These films all contained various combinations of once and future members of the gang.

By the time the whole gang was regrouped as the East Side Kids, Billy was off to fight WWII. On his return he was a forgotten man in Hollywood and once again found much of his work on radio. Depression, alcoholism, bad marriages and a reported suicide attempt followed in rapid succession. With acting work sporadic, he became first a salesman and later, after caring for a wife with multiple sclerosis, a registered nurse.

By the sixties, with the demise of radio, Halop began picking up more and more small parts on television. A one shot guest appearance as a different character on ALL IN THE FAMILY got him the occasional role of Munson the cab driver.

Towards the end of his life, he was, like many once popular stars, trotted out from time to time in the tabloids as an example of "too much too soon" and "look what alcohol can do to you." He was said to have been pleased with the growing revival of interest in the Dead End Kids films that probably stemmed from most cities running Bowery Boys pictures every weekend but lamented that they got no money out of any of it anymore. Long estranged from the co-stars with whom fate had tied him forever, only Gabe Dell is said to have remained on good terms with Billy throughout the years. By all accounts he and Leo Gorcey were never close.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Help Paty Cockrum

Paty Cockrum has been a colorist and artist for Marvel Comics and is the widow of the late fan-favorite artist Dave Cockrum. I first saw Paty's work in fanzines in the early 1970's. You noticed because there really were not a lot of girls in fandom. Clifford Meth reports that Paty could now use some help. Clifford has often been first in line lately to help out comics veterans who have hit hard times in one way or another. Check out his site for a painless way that YOU can help Paty right now!

The Dead End/East Side/Bowery Kids # 1

Back in the early 1980's, I actually did a considerable amount of research for a possible book on the Dead End Kids in all of their various permutations but a couple of other guys beat me to it. I have, however, remained a fan since childhood Saturday afternoon TV runs of the later films. The other day I gave a typically overdetailed booksteve comment regarding a question about the Bowery Boys that someone asked on Facebook. Another commenter suggested that I start a Bowery Boys Blog. Since I already have 6 blogs (counting I.T.C.H. where I still post daily), I decided instead to do a running series here at the Library. Let's start at the beginning, shall we?


It all started with playwright Sidney Kingsley who in 1934 wrote a play about kids growing up in New York City during the depression. DEAD END was only his second play. His first, MEN IN WHITE, dealt with the taboo subject of illegal abortions and established him as a "message" playwright. The message of DEAD END was that the big city slums were a breeding ground for violence and gangsters.

Produced by Norman Bel Geddes (father of future DALLAS matriarch Barbara Bel Geddes), DEAD END opened in October of 1935 at the Belasco Theatre for a healthy two year run. Actor Joseph Downing had the pivotal role of the gangster later played in the film version by Humphrey Bogart. (Downing went on to a career in character parts in films and would be reunited with some of the DEAD END cast when he played a small role in 1938's ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES).

Some now familiar names in the cast were actors Martin Gabel (later the husband of WHAT'S MY LINE'S Arlene Francis), Dan Duryea and Jeannette MacDonald's sister Blossom MacDonald who, as Blossom Rock, would snap her fingers 30 years later as THE ADDAMS FAMILY's grandmother on television. Ten year old Sidney Lumet was also in the opening cast. Lumet would go on to a long and successful career as a film director. The cast listing also shows Marc Daniels who may or may not be the man who went on to be known for directing TV series such as STAR TREK and I LOVE LUCY. (The IMDB and IBDB birth and death dates don't quite match). Actress Marjorie Main would be the only adult to repeat her role in the film version of DEAD END. Although she had already appeared in a few uncredited roles in pictures, she would go on to quickly become an archetypal character actress and eventually the beloved "Ma Kettle."

None of those actors really mattered, though, because the play was entirely stolen by the kids cast as the slum dwelling street toughs. At only fifteen, Billy Halop was cast as the main kid, Tommy. Sixteen year old Henry Hall, known in real life as "Huntz," became "Dippy." Also sixteen, Gabriel Del Vecchio dropped the "Vecchio" and as Gabriel Dell, was cast as "TB," the kid with the chronic cough. Bernard Punsly--often the "forgotten" Dead End Kid--was only thirteen when the play started. Handsome Bobby Jordan was only twelve! The part of "Spit" was played by one Charles R. Duncan in tryouts but was replaced before the official opening night by Leo Gorcey, an eighteen year old plumber's assistant who, along with his brother David, had been previously cast in small parts as the "Second Avenue boys."

DEAD END ran on Broadway with the classic cast in place until Movie Producer Samuel Goldwyn flew the boys, dubbed "The DEAD END Kids," to Hollywood to appear in his film version of the play in 1937. Once the gang stormed Hollywood there would be no going back.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Movies That Fell Through the Cracks # 56

HAWMPS was a 1976 attempt by family film producer Joe Camp to move beyond the successful BENJI films that had originally starred the dog who had appeared on TV's PETTICOAT JUNCTION. You'll note from the ad that they hedged their bets by pairing it with a new short entitled BENJI'S LIFE STORY. They even threw in singer Jesse Davis who had previously gained some fame for performing I FEEL LOVE, the Oscar-nominated song from BENJI.

HAWMPS is based on the supposedly true story of a 19th Century US Cavalry Unit that imported camels to be used in place of horses as they were based in a desert. The star was James Hampton, a reliable character actor for whom this may well have been his only starring role. Best known for his supporting roles in F TROOP, THE DORIS DAY SHOW and several Burt Reynolds pictures, Hampton worked early on a s Fumetti model for Harvey Kurtzman's HELP magazine and later added writing and directing to his resume.

Christopher Connelly was a gravelly voiced actor who was first noticed in PEYTON PLACE as Ryan O'Neal's character's brother and later portrayed a different O'Neal character as the star of the short-lived (but good!) TV version of PAPER MOON. He worked steadily for another decade or so after HAWMPS and achieved some measure of real fame as an action star in Italy before succumbing to cancer in 1988.

Slim Pickens, Denver Pyle, Jack Elam, Herb Vigran and Gino Conforti are some of the better known character actors rounding out the cast. Benji's trainer Frank Inn appears in a cameo role and actor Tiny Wells is credited as playing a character named "Higgins," yet another nod to the producers' canine breadwinner as Benji's real name was in fact...Higgins.

Nothing special as a film, it's a TV quality romp with some fun and always enjoyable performers. Most of the crew were, in fact, from various TV series including HAPPY DAYS.

HAWMPS is out there. Not too hard to find but as G-rated films go, still deserves to be remembered a little more than it is.

Aside--One of the credited stuntmen was George Fisher who had worked in 1973 on Christa Helm's LET'S GO FOR BROKE. He had probably been brought on to THAT film by its original, uncredited director, stuntman Alex Stevens, with whom he had worked previously on NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Drawing Superheroes

There are several of these online but I chose this one to run as I have always loved sketching CAPTAIN AMERICA myself and it is somewhat humbling to watch a master like the late John Buscema do just that and make it look so effortless. Add in Bill Sienkiewicz doing a lovely drawing of ELEKTRA and I thought this was the one to go with. Follow the links at the end of the video or go to YouTube for more with John Romita, Dave Gibbons and others but first enjoy Big John's Cap!

Italian Superhero Movies of the Sixties and Seventies

The Italians made a lot of superhero films over the years and quite often the posters were the best part. Here are the posters from two such films featuring SUPERARGO who had 3 films and the 3 FANTASTIC SUPERMEN who had who knows how many once you add in various unofficial sequels and foreign rip-offs.