Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Girls For Rent/I Spit on Your Corpse

I watched a movie this afternoon--Al Adamson's GIRLS FOR RENT-- that I had only previously been aware of at all because of its poster, illustrated by the great Gray Morrow. One reason I avoided watching it was that it was long ago re-christened I SPIT ON YOUR CORPSE--such a lovely title. The reason I chose to finally watch it was that the picture's Director of Photography was the late Gary Graver, Orson Welles' longtime sidekick, whose bizarre and fascinating career I've become somewhat obsessed with in the lead-up to the release of the long-delayed THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND. 

Perhaps another reason I ignored it was that the film's online description, lifted from somewhere and spread across the Internet, is the inaccurate, "A group of girls go on a cross-country killing spree." Turns out that's not even close to the plot of the picture.

This is, in fact, quite an entertaining low budget chase flick that benefits not just from Graver's superior photography but also a nice, lightly jazzy theme and an unusual cast of actors.

One trademark of director Al Adamson and producer Sam Sherman was to always have some recognizable Golden Age of Hollywood names in their casts. In this case, those roles fall to Kent Taylor and Bob Livingston, for both of whom this was their penultimate acting appearance according to IMDB. 

Kent Taylor had been a leading man in A and B pictures of the 1930s and '40s and a reliable character actor ever after. He is also--along with Clark Gable--generally credited as having influenced movie lover Jerry Siegel in his choice of name for Superman's alter ego. 

Bob Livingston was an old-time B movie cowboy hero, perhaps best remembered for his roles as the Lone Rider and also Stony Brooke, a role also played by John Wayne, in the Three Mesquiteers movie series. 

Livingston was a close friend of producer Sam Sherman who used him a lot in his exploitation films. In this one, Livingston's real life son appears as well, Addison Randall. Addison was also the grandson of legendary producer Hal Roach--he of Laurel and Hardy fame--as Bob Livingston (real name Edgar Randall) had been married to Roach's daughter. Addison Randall has gone on to a long career in many different areas of the motion picture business including writing and producing.

The heroine of the picture is played by Susan McIver (now known as Susie Ewing), recognizable to many viewers at the time as the Captain of the dazzling all-girl performing song and dance troupe, the Golddiggers, so long associated with Dean Martin. 

Preston Pierce plays the suitably stalwart hero. A rugged actor with very few credits to his name before dying at only 52, he is the most obscure person connected to this movie.

Rosalind Miles and Georgina Spelvin make up the film's double act as a pair of hit women relentlessly chasing down the heroine. (One of the other titles the film briefly had was FATAL PURSUIT.) 

Miles had also been one of the two leading ladies (along with Kathy Imrie whom I interviewed in 2017) in SHAFT'S BIG SCORE.

Spelvin was much more notorious as the star of the then still recent "Porno Chic" hardcore picture, THE DEVIL IN MISS JONES. Her distinction as a porn star was always defined by the fact that she could genuinely act--not always the case in the adult film industry. She gives quite a good performance here albeit within the obvious limits of the low-budget quick turn around production.

The actual plot has Taylor springing Spelvin from a prison gang to front a call-girl operation that doubled as a kind of extortion/assassination bureau. When one of the girls balks at having been involved in a murder when she was told it was just blackmail, she makes a run for it. Spelvin and Miles follow in pursuit and that's pretty much the plot of the picture. Yes, there are a couple killings along the way but it's hardly "a group of girls go on a cross-country killing spree."

There's toplessness here and there, too, as was mandatory for this type of exploitation picture, and one surprisingly explicit (without actually showing anything) sex scene with a decidedly shock ending!

Overall, though, unusually entertaining for what it is, with charismatic performances (if not Oscar-caliber ones) from nearly everyone involved elevating what is at heart a basic chase picture at least a little above what it should have been and certainly far beyond its ridiculous, pointless I SPIT ON YOUR CORPSE title.

If you get a chance, and you aren't easily offended, you might actually like it. I did.

Spider-Man and the Coldest Day

Above you see the SPIDER-MAN newspaper comic strip from January 19th, 1977--42 years ago this month. I can't be sure but I BELIEVE this was the strip I never got when I was clipping the original run.

The SPIDER-MAN strip began on January 3rd 1977 and, the CINCINNATI ENQUIRER was carrying it. The problem was that we never received the ENQUIRER, the morning paper. My family took the CINCINNATI POST, the evening paper. Being a huge Spidey fan, I decided to clip them out daily and paste them in a scrapbook but in order to do that, I had to talk my parents into adding the ENQUIRER. Luckily they were open to the idea and we began receiving both the morning and evening papers at the beginning of the year.

Everything was going fine until the weather took a turn for the worse. According to online reports, it was on the evening of January 18th when temps in the Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati area hit an all-time low of -25 degrees, with thick snow on the ground!

My memory is that it was still -25 the next morning when we did NOT get a newspaper. The papers had always been delivered around 5AM but that morning, even by 8AM there was no sign of ours, nor were there any visible in neighbors' yards.

What to do? I was a completist and had to have that strip!

Only one thing to do. Go buy one. There was an ENQUIRER rack just down at the end of the alley behind our house. Wouldn't take 5 minutes. Brilliant! So I got dressed appropriately--Two pair of underwear, two pair of socks, two shirts and two pairs of pants, a sweater, snow boots, a knitted face mask, a scarf, and two pair of gloves, one of which contained the precious dime I would need to open the rack and get my prize.

And off I went, all trussed up, trudging slowly but carefully down the alleyway, each step taking a second or two to penetrate the blindingly white snow blanket. Took me about 20 minutes to get to the other end of the alley. There were no cars driving. None. The street didn't look as though anyone had even tried to drive on it. Took me another 3 or 4 minutes to get across that street!

Finally! The rack, right in front of the Burger Chef, which I doubted would be opening that day. The clear plastic case was completely frosted over but I just knew the papers would be in there! Why wouldn't they be? It never occurred to me that with no car tracks or footprints, I was likely the only person stupid enough to have come out that morning!

I pulled off my thick glove. I had my dime in the palm of the thinner glove underneath. My hand was already shivering as I tried to drop it in the coin slot only to find an icy barrier blocking it. I dropped the dime. Luckily, since it was the type of snow it was, it just lay there on top. I picked it up and tried to force it into its slot. It worked! I pulled at the handle only to find it, too, was frozen. Sigh. I put my glove back on and rubbed it across the plastic rack. I saw that it was empty.

It took me another 25 minutes to trudge back home and probably twice that long to warm up.

In my scrapbook I noted the missing strip. Not exactly sure of the date at the moment because I sold my collection of the first three years or so some years back now.

I finally saw the strip in the reprint book at right, which I took with me to San Diego in the 1980s to get Stan Lee to sign. I ended up without a signature as the line was hours long (but I DID follow Stan and some friends down the Embarcadaro as we were both headed out to lunch).

All of this comes to mind this morning in 2019 as much of the US, including my little corner of Kentucky, sits here with snow on the ground and temps--with the windchill factor--feeling an unprecedented -20 to -30 degrees!

Stay warm and safe, everyone. Like the freeze of 1977, this, too, shall pass.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Tiny Ruffner

Longtime readers might recall the autographs below that my wife purchased for me back in the early 1990s. A date on the back is from April in 1933. Some forever anonymous someone went walking through NBC studios and got signatures from several then-popular radio names. Jack Benny and Mary Livingstone (before her "e") are still known. Back in 2016 I posted a picture of comedian and later quiz host Tom Howard alongside James Melton, opera singer and then on the Benny show. Now I've finally seen a picture of Frank J. Black, longtime leader of the NBC Orchestra, and announcer Tiny Ruffner. Still need a picture of Jack's announcer for Canada Dry that year, Howard Claney.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Happy Birthday John Romita, Sr.

The Internet is celebrating John Romita, Sr. birthday today so I thought I'd share my very favorite John Romita character in both panels and what appear to be commissions found online. GWEN STACY LIVES! (I know she was created by Ditko but let's face it, John RE-created her to perfection!)

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Batton Lash--R.I.P.

Cartoonist Batton Lash died this morning. Along with being the snappiest dresser in the industry, he was also a genius comic writer with a great understanding of the various tropes of different eras and how to use them. The two of us never met in person but he had long been one of my favorite comics people and our stories had actually interacted a number of times. 

I first discovered Batton when the Comics Buyers Guide began reprinting his uniquely entertaining WOLFF AND BYRD, COUNSELORS OF THE MACABRE strip more than 30 years ago. Through the years he also did some hilarious but also ingeniously written stories of RADIOACTIVE MAN for Bongo Comics. After he wrote the infamous ARCHIE MEETS THE PUNISHER, he went on to write some of my all-time favorite Archie stories including the ARCHIE FRESHMAN YEAR arc.

My first contact with Batton was in 2006 when I interviewed him about Jack Benny after one of his Wolff and Byrd stories was clearly inspired by Jack. That interview turned out to be my first non-fiction piece to be published in a book--WELL! REFLECTIONS ON THE LIFE AND CAREER OF JACK BENNY, which came out in 2007. Batton was kind enough to send me a handful of signed copies of recent comic books featuring his work. 

That same year, I joined Facebook and Batton and I became FB friends. From time to time he would ask me to promote his Kickstarter campaigns for his new SUPERNATURAL LAW books and I was always happy to do so, even backing them myself in periods where we had money. 

Back when Obama was president, Batton got in some hot water with a cartoon published on the Breitbart site that saw him being taken to task on MSNBC and Huffington Post. Our politics sharply differed but I saw a man being unfairly treated and contacted him to let him know when his home address was made public! I also contacted those who were publicizing it about it. I didn't realize at the time how much Batton would remember this gesture.  

In 2013, when Archie writer George Gladir passed, Batton wrote an eloquent eulogy online. I asked him if I might post that as a guest post on my blog and he agreed. 

In 2014, Jon B. Cooke interviewed Batton for hours and hours for an issue of COMIC BOOK CREATOR that would come out the following year. I was the magazine's main transcriptionist and tackled that interview. I was particularly surprised when Batton recalled my participation in that earlier incident IN the interview, apparently unaware that I was to be the one transcribing it later.


In 2017, Batton allowed another interview, this time for my BACK ISSUE article on ARCHIE MEETS THE PUNISHER, for which he was also kind enough to provide lots of behind teh scenes art and illustrations. 

My last interactions with Batton were in 2018 when he published the latest SUPERNATURAL LAW book. My review of it appeared on Forces of Geek less than two months ago.

On December 31st, I sent a private message to Batton that included a wish for a great New Year for he and his wife, Jackie Estrada. Not expecting an immediate response, I left. I returned to see where Batton had attempted to contact me in a FB video call that I had missed. Never having done one of those before, I figured he'd call back.

Now this. 

Rest in Peace, my friend, and thank you for everything. I'm sorry we never got to meet.  

Then I started hearing the rumors. 


Wednesday, January 09, 2019

About the Author (1976 Version)

In 1976, I decided to write a history of comic books. I didn't KNOW the history all that much, mind you, but I was determined to do it anyway and wrote quite a few two page "chapters'" on individual--mostly Silver Age--comic books. 

This morning I ran across my "About the Author" section, written on the back of the planned Table of Contents. 

As I turn 60 today, it seemed appropriate to revisit this earlier incarnation of me.