Marvel Comics: The Liberty Legion and The Crusaders!

Roy “The Boy’ Thomas, is one of my all-time favorite comic book creators. Not only is he one of the best writers, editors, and creators of characters (the two teams I’ll focus on now!), but also one of the best historians of the industry as well (Alter Ego). One of the things I think he did best was create teams that were retcons (retroactive continuity- meaning they didn’t exist in the same time-frame where their stories were written, but during the Golden Age instead).

Whether it was battling the Red Skull, fighting alongside The Thing against more Nazis, or arm in arm with The Invaders in the European Theater, these two teams were always right in the middle of the action! Other than Rascally Roy, these characters were brought to life by the best, including Jack “King” Kirby, Don Heck, Sal Buscema, Frank Robbins, Alan Kupperberg, Frank Springer, Vince Colletta, Joe Sinnott, Chic Stone, Don Glut, and more! Images from Marvel Premiere 28, Marvel Two-in-One Annual 2 (1976), The Invaders 41, 15, 35, 36, and 37 (1976-1978)!

 

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Cinema Sunday: The Devil Commands (1941)

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Title: The Devil Commands

Distributor: Columbia Pictures

Writers: Robert Hardy Andrews, Milton Gunzburg, William Sloane (novel)

Director: Edward Dmytryk

Producer: Wallace MacDonald

Starring: Boris Karloff, Richard Fiske, Amanda Duff, Ralph Penney, Anne Revere

Released: February 1941

MPAA: Approved

 

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I’d like to say that there’s a rhyme and reason to my movie selections, but alas, there is not. I will say that for now, I’m severely addicted to movies starring Boris Karloff. His filmography is fascinating to look at. Diversity, longevity, and power, make it nothing short of spectacular. The man is one of the true legends of the genre. And quite honestly, I’d say all that even if you removed “Frankenstein” from his list of credits!

After leaving Universal Studios when his contract expired, Karloff worked for Columbia Pictures, RKO Pictures, and AIP (with Roger Corman directing most of those). He hosted some television shows (Thriller, Out of this World, and The Veil), used his awesome voice on radio shows (Lights Out), and made cameo or guest appearances on a few different television series. The man, by all accounts, was a great guy that kept most of his personal life to himself, and even helped build the Screen Actors Guild from its infancy!

OK, now, I give you…The Devil Commands!

 

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The film opens with a the voice of a woman telling the audience her name is Anne Blair, and her father’s name was Dr. Julian Blair (we see a creepy old house, during a thunderstorm). She tells of how the townspeople were afraid of her father, and the strange goings-on at his abode. She tells of better times when her father was a professor at a local university, but that one night, an experiment changed all that…

We then see a scientist, Dr. Julian Blair (Boris Karloff), as he’s attempting to show five other scientists that his invention (a wild looking helmet, some wires, and a machine that looks like a polygraph), and research, have yielding fantastic results. He shows them how his machine, while hooked up to a human being’s head (one of the scientists at this time), can show brain activity, and possibly even thoughts! The scientists are skeptical, and Blair seems a bit put off. As the experiment winds down, his assistant, Karl (Ralph Penney) bursts into the room, along with Blair’s wife, Helen (Shirley Warde). He then straps her into the machine to show them that the brainwaves of a woman, are far superior to that of a man (the two of them make a a lot of jokes, but loving remarks as well). Again the crowd is skeptical that this means anything significant, but Blair and his wife must rush out the door to pick up their daughter.

 

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The two drive off, and speed toward their destination. Helen then remarks that they must stop to pick up a birthday cake for their daughter. There’s nowhere to park, so Helen (who’s driving) tells Julian to get out of the car and get the cake, and she’ll drive around the block and pick him up upon returning. He barely gets back outside after getting the cake, when a car slams into their car, killing his wife. After the funeral, you can see a marked decline in Dr. Blair’s demeanor. Not in the way any grieving husband would be, but completely lost in his soul.

 

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Later, he heads over to his laboratory, and for some unknown reason, he turns on his machines. The last person he used it on was his wife, so her brain patterns are still on the graph. Suddenly, the graph beings to move again, and the waves are in the same pattern as his wife’s were! He deduces that this means his wife’s spirit is trying to contact him. Just then, his daughter walks in, and his mistakes her for his wife for a moment. As Anne (Amanda Duff) walks in, he tells her that her mother’s spirit is alive and well, and made the waves on the graphs.

 

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He then brings his colleagues back to tell them, and they think he’s had a mental breakdown. He becomes angry, and even resentful of the fact that they don’t believe he’s discovered something astonishing. He flips out, and orders everyone t leave, including Anne, and her boyfriend (and former assistant to Dr. Blair, Dr. Sayles – Richard Fiske) to get out. Karl stays behind though, and tells Dr. Blair that he talks to his dead mother all the time, with the assistance of a medium named Mrs. Walters (Anne Revere – image above). At first, Dr. Blair doesn’t think she’s for real, but then he agrees to go see her. As the séance begins, we do see an apparition, that supposedly talks to Karl. After it’s over, Dr. Blair confronts the medium about some of her shenanigans, but does come to realize she has some latent psychic powers that he can use to talk to his dead wife.

From this point on, Dr. Blair does anything and everything it takes to achieve his goal. But is that goal so terrible?

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

This film definitely has one not so good thing going for it…the title. I don’t know who decided on the title, but it’s absurd. Not once is “the devil” mentioned that i can recall, or do they ever imply that Satan is in any way shape or form involved. It’s quite ludicrous. Other than that, this film is a real gem for Karloff. He plays a great mad scientist, but also it’s how he plays someone grief-stricken from losing a loved one. Bravo, Mr. Karloff.

The performance lifts this film to unbelievable heights, as the sets, music, and costumes are nothing above average. The atmosphere is quite good, especially after Karloff’s character begins his association with the medium. Speaking of that character, Anne Revere does a splendid job with her performance as well, and should be lauded for it. She’s a real creepy lady in this one! Oh, and Amanda Duff is absolutely gorgeous in this film (image below)!

I know this one is available online and in a DVD set you can grab cheap too if you’d rather go that route. No excuses, get this one ion your collection!

 

Click here for a clip!

 

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Cinema Sunday: The Lodger (1944)

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Title: The Lodger

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Writer: Barré Lyndon

Director: John Brahm

Producer: Robert Bassler

Starring: Merle Oberon, Laird Cregar, George Sanders, Sir Cedric Hardwicke

Released: January 1944

MPAA: Approved

 

 

I’ll come right out and say that I love the lore surrounding Jack the Ripper. No, I’m not a fan of murder, but the fact that the killer evaded detection, while performing his hideous deeds is quite remarkable. It’s always been a fascination of mine, even to the point of watching and liking films that are loosely based (if that in some cases) on the murders in Whitechapel, London.

Another to be clear about is that none of these names ring a bell with me. Perhaps I’ve seen a film or two with one of the actors before, but the names definitely don’t seem familiar to me. One thing is for sure though, after watching this one, I’m a big fan of Laird Cregar! Alright, now for the movie!

 

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The film begins after a couple of murders have already taken place. London (especially the Whitechapel area) is full of panic. Outside a pub, two locals read a paper posted about the murders and a reward for help leading to the capture of the murderer known only as “Jack the Ripper!” A couple of Bobbies (cops), begin to patrol the area. We then see a few more of them on horseback. Close by, a few inebriated patrons spill out of a pub, singing and dancing in the street. One woman in particular walks by, and tells them that she lives just around the corner, so they let her go alone. A few others call out to “Katy’ to tell her goodnight. She sings playfully on her way home. As she turns around a corner (where we cannot see her, but only hear her), where she’s apparently run into by someone unknown to her. A few seconds later she cries out in horror, and she is presumably dead. A crowd gathers around the police as they arrive to find her dead body. A few people talk of how it must’ve been the Ripper again, as she’s apparently been cut up quite badly.

 

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The following day, a newspaper boy is selling copies of the latest edition, warning of another Ripper murder in Whitechapel. A woman supposedly got a look at him, but due to the darkness, couldn’t be of much help with a description. The people in that area are quick to buy copies to read about the horror. Out of the shadows, we see a man, “Slade,” walking towards a home. A man, Robert Bonting (Sir Cedric Hardwicke – image below) comes out of that home to buy a copy of the paper. Just as he returns inside, a knock on the door occurs. His wife, Ellen Bonting (Sara Allgood – image below), answers, and lets Mr. Slade (Laird Cregar – image above) into the house after he inquires about a room for rent. She tells him they do have one, and then she takes him upstairs to show him. He asks if there is any other rooms, and she says nothing except the attic. He gets visibly aroused when he sees how inconspicuous the room is and that there’s a back door to which he can use since he works late at night…

 

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Ellen also remarks that their niece lives in the house as well, and that she’s an “actress” singing and dancing in a cabaret. Afterwards, Ellen returns downstairs and informs her husband that Mr. Slade will be renting the room and attic, beginning tonight. He’s more interested in the Ripper murders, and theorizing about them. He’s had a nervous breakdown after losing his job, but knows they need money. A while later, Ellen brings some food to Mr. Slade, and she finds him very irritable, and turning over all the pictures in the room (they’re all of gorgeous actresses). He tells her that he doesn’t like actresses, but she hopes he’ll change his mind because her niece, Kitty (Merle Oberon – image below), is one. As the week winds on, one night Mr. Slade is on his way out to “work,” and runs into Kitty, Ellen, and Robert, as they’re exiting to go see one of Kitty’s performances. They ask him where he goes at night, but he’s quite mysterious about it. He seems to be smitten with Kitty, but most men probably would be (I know I am!).

 

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At the theater, Kitty is getting ready, when a former actress, Annie Rowley (Helena Pickard), comes to see her. She just wants to see her old dressing room again, as she apparently does every time a new girl gets to perform at this theater. Kitty appeases her, and invites her to stay, but Annie tells her she has other plans. Kitty throws her a few bucks, and Annie tries to refuse, but Kitty insists. The show goes on, and Kitty gets a thunderous applause. The show is a success, but during the performance, Annie Rowley is brutally murdered by the Ripper, in a nearby alley. One man, Inspector John Warwick (George Sanders), seems to be a bit ahead of the curve, and might just have a chance to figure out the riddle of Jack the Ripper!

The fear and panic are almost at a height where people are hysterical. There are hundreds of police combing the streets every night, but it seems they are at a loss to stop this fiend. Can Inspector Warwick and Scotland Yard catch the murder, or will he keep slaying unsuspecting women in London?

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

So, anyone with half a brain will obviously know that “Slade” is the killer 20 minutes into the film. Of course, they do a great job of keeping the illusion alive in the movie itself, so that makes it watchable. There are several good performances in the film, but none better than that of Laird Cregar. His portrayal of Jack the Ripper is exquisite. His cool demeanor when he’s trying to hide who he really is when the lights go down is excellent. The opposite is very menacing too, as he’s an extremely scary dude, due to his facial expressions and size. It sort of reminded me of Spencer Tracy in the 1941 classic “Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde.” Yeah, it’s that good.

 

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Merle Oberon is also very good. She excels at being a strong female character (for the time), and is also extremely vivacious (see image below). Hardwicke and Allgood also do a fine job at their parts. Even the maid, Queenie Leonard, is fantastic at playing a quirky secondary character. A standard soundtrack does lend a hand in some parts, but isn’t necessary to be honest. The atmospherics and acting lift this film above any other film about this subject that I’ve ever seen. Quite easily, to be perfectly honest.

 

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Hit up your local big box store or online at Amazon or some such sites. The film is definitely worth asking price!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

 

Cinema Sunday: The She-Creature (1956)

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Title: The She-Creature

Distributor: American International Pictures

Writer: Lou Rusoff

Director: Edward L. Cahn

Producers: Alex Gordon, Israel M. Berman, Samuel Z. Arkoff

Starring: Chester Morris, Marla English, Tom Conway, Cathy Downs, Lance Fuller

Released: August, 1956

MPAA: Approved

 

After a tumultuous month of June, I’m going to try to tackle two movie reviews this month to make up for that loss! This B movie might not be on the radar of some but definitely give it a chance. The original casting included horror stalwart, Peter Lorre, but he ended up pulling out for whatever reasons. Don’t worry though, AIP has always delivered in the genre, and whether it’s a solid film or so hokey it’s good for a laugh, Samuel Z. Arkoff knows how to get a reaction!

This film was part of a craze that had a scorned/enraged female monster-type character that would get revenge on men or just society. Of course, like everything, it was run into the ground after a while, but there are some good ones out there for sure (check out this one- Night Tide). Alright, let’s get on with the show!

 

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The film begins with some underwater shots, then topside we see a man thinking to himself. Doctor Carlo Lombardi (Chester Morris) is wavering about something he’s brought to life, something hideous, and “the world will never be the same!” He’s then approached by a barking dog that snarls as if it wants to attack. Lombardi stares at the beast, and within seconds, it turns tail and runs away, as if scared of him.

 

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Nearby, at a house party, Dr. Ted Erickson (Lance Fuller), and Dorothy Chappel (Cathy Downs) flirt with each other, then go for a walk along the shoreline. Dorothy’s mother worries that she’ll miss the appearance of Dr. Lombardi at the party, but her father shrugs it off, believing he’s just a two-bit, carny hypnotist. Dorothy’s mother says that Lombardi warned that tonight something sinister was afoot, and that an unspeakable horror would arise. As Ted and Dorothy walk along the beach, we see Lombardi enter a beach house. It’s been ransacked pretty bad, and then we see a woman, bound and quite dead. A man inside the home is dead as well, but there doesn’t seem to be any trace of what happened. As Lombardi leaves the home, Ted and Cathy see him leave. They investigate, and find the bodies as well, then call the police.

 

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As the police show up, they remark about how they’ve never seen a murder like this before, because the victims have had their neck’s snapped like a twig. For some reason though, the cops are letting Dr. Ted walk around, contaminating the crime scene. They ask him what he saw, but he can only tell them he was walking on the beach, then saw Lombardi walking out of the house, just before he got there. They also find a strange footprint, but cannot identify it. The one cop remarks about how Lombardi said something was coming from the distant past to kill.

 

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Lombardi returns to the carnival, and is approached by another guy that works there. He tells Lombardi he heard a scream coming from his house a while ago and went to see if everything was OK. Lombardi warns him to stay out of his business, but the man was worried about a certain female carnival follower that Lombardi has taken in. Lombardi then threatens the man and walks away. We see a poster telling people about the girl and how Lombardi, using his hypnotism, can make her remember a former life from hundreds of years ago.

 

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Inside the home, we see a beautiful woman, asleep on a couch. Lombardi walks over and we see he has her hypnotized, and in a deep sleep. The woman, Andrea Talbott (Marla English), looks as if she’s dead., but then he revives her. As she does, Lombardi looks out to the ocean, as if to see someone or something. Andrea finally comes to, and tells Lombardi that she hates this place and him, and that she wants to get away. At that moment, the police show up and arrest Lombardi. Ted seems smitten with Andrea, and as the two walk out together, he asks her to have a cup of coffee. At first, she seems very interested, but then she can see the piercing eyes of Lombardi in her mind. She then tells him that she can’t go with him, and walks off.

 

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The next morning, Dorothy’s father, Timothy Chappel (Tom Conway), is trying to persuade Ted to back him and some friends that want to hire Lombardi and make money off of his “talents.” Ted stoutly refuses,  and walks off in a huff. That evening at the carnival, Tim Chappel visits Lombardi, who knew he was coming and who he is already. The two discuss making a deal to make lots of money, but Lombardi seems a bit reluctant especially when Tim makes fun of his abilities. He warns Tim that tonight the monster will return , and murder again!

Will Lombardi be held responsible for this? Can Andrea get away from his slimy grasp? Which beautiful woman will Ted choose? Watch and find out the answers to these burning questions!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

This film is one of the hidden gems of the era. No, it’s not Oscar worthy or anything, but anyone that is into B movies needs to see this one. The hypnotism angle, using a woman as the scapegoat, the occult, etc. are all tropes that were big at this time. The film has a great atmosphere, and utilizes dark, shadowy scenes well. The soundtrack is standard fare but pretty good. Marla English (image below) is absolutely beautiful in this one, too.

As far as the acting goes, you get a couple of solid performances by Chester Morris and Lance Fuller. Both show that they’re above the rest of the cast. The actual monster is pretty cool, and we have legendary designer Paul Blaisdell to thank for it! His work is nothing short of cool, and for his time, he was a visionary.

Get out and watch this one for all the reasons that maker B movies awesome!

 

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Click here for the trailer!

 

 

 

Strange Tales 146, “The End at Last!”

All good things must come to an end…and so did the reign of a certain creator on this title! In this awesome story, we see Dormammu battling not only his nemesis Dr. Strange and then none other than Eternity! Dormammu laid a trap for Eternity and the Doc, but things fall apart rather quickly in this issue for the fiery-headed fiend! Before that though, we do see just how powerful Dormammu is, when he confronts Eternity, and manages to hold his own for a while!

The glorious artwork by “Sturdy” Steve Ditko in this, his last issue of Strange Tales, is absolutely marvelous. There are three full splash pages that are nothing short of brilliant, and Spider-Man aside, show his best work in a superhero book. Most know of Ditko’s abrupt departure from Marvel Comics, and how he’s the biggest recluse in comic book history (to my knowledge). I’d love for him to do just one interview to set some things straight, and not listen to all the pundits speculate about certain matters. Either way, he’s one of the best creators of the industry has ever seen, and should be lauded as such. The story is scripted by “Dandy” Denny O’Neil, colors by Stan Goldberg, and letters by Artie Simek!

The other story in the book (“When the Unliving Strike!”) features Nick Fury. The story by Stan Lee, and layouts by Jack “King” Kirby, pencils by “Dashing” Don Heck, inks by “Mirthful” Mick Demeo, and letters by Sam Rosen.

 

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The Project Pegasus Saga Part Two (Marvel Two-in-One 56, 57, 58, 1979)

The next few issues of this great story saw a change in art, but not in tone for sure. You still get action supreme, and we really see what Ben Grim is made of as not just a superhero, but a man. We also get Bill Foster in action, Quasar showing off his abilities, and the mysterious Wundarr as well! After all is said and done, Wundarr fell a little flat, but Thundra was awesome! One thing to note about issue 56- the Thing and Thundra brawl, and as older readers know, this isn’t anything to get worked up over. In this day and age, you’ll be hard-pressed to see a brawl between a male and female characters in a mainstream book.

Props definitely need to be given to Mark Gruenwald and Ralph Macchio (writers). In only six issues, they utilize at least fifteen different characters in this setting (plus a flashback or two), and get more out of them than all their previous appearances combined! They do a great justice to Bill Foster especially. The artwork by George Pérez (pencils) and Gene Day (inks)(and one cover, 56, by John Byrne and Terry Austin), is very solid. I’m not very well versed in Day’s career, but Pérez is dynamite. Some of the pages of the issues I own, are a little muddy, and seem more like a printing issue than the artist’s not doing their job. Names like Bob Sharen and Carl Gafford (colors), Irv Watanabe and John Costanza (letters), and Jim Shooter (editor), round out the creative force behind this gem!

 

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Cinema Sunday: Justice League: The New Frontier

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Title: Justice League: The New Frontier

Distributor: Warner Bros.

Writers: Darwyn Cooke (original story/Graphic Novel), Stan Berkowitz (screenplay)

Director: David Bullock

Producers: Bruce Timm, Mike Goguen

Starring: David Boreanaz, Brooke Shields, Lucy Lawless, David MacLachlan, Neil Patrick Harris

Released: 2008

MPAA: PG-13

 

I typically only review older films, for the simple fact that is where my greatest interest lies, and I believe film-making as a whole has lost something it will probably never regain from these past decades. After learning of the recent passing of comic book creator, Darwyn Cooke, I felt compelled to review this wonderful film based off of his story.

By the time the story was written, there were of course many origin stories written for these characters, and retcons, reboots, etc., but Cooke not only used elements of all that material, he infused something in the characters using the whirlwind of ideas found in the revolutionary times of the 1960’s. That decade is probably second place in the history of comics (as far as relevancy) to the  Golden Age that birthed Superman (Siegel and Shuster), Batman (Bill Finger and Bob Kane), and Captain America (Jack Kirby and Joe Simon), just to name a few. These pioneers shaped and molded things to come, and most certainly influenced Cooke. Godspeed, Darwyn!

 

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The film begins with a monologue, or better yet, a recounting of Earth’s history since before the dawn of man. It shows the age of the dinosaurs, all the way up to the creation of the Atom Bomb (The Manhattan Project). The person speaking is never shown, but calls himself, “The Center,” and speaks as if it’s some kind of elemental force of nature that needs to purify the Earth because of its latest discovery (atomic energy). We then see that this “person” is writing a book called “The Last Story,” and at its conclusion, the writer picks up a revolver and apparently commits suicide.

 

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The following scene shows two pilots, one of them being Hal Jordan (David Boreanaz), flying jet fighters at the conclusion of the Korean War. As the two joke around, suddenly two communist jets attack them, and after Hal causes them to crash into each other, one more appears, and shoots down Jordan. As he lands in hostile territory, he attacked by a communist soldier. He has to kill the enemy soldier, and he apparently never had to kill before, so this traumatized him to the point of having a nervous breakdown or basically, PTSD.

The scene switches to an observatory in Gotham City. A scientist is on his death-bed from a heart attack brought on by an alien (John Jones, voiced by Miguel Ferrer) from Mars that was transported to the planet while the scientist was trying to beam a message to Mars. The alien looks rather scary, but shows absolute compassion for the man, and covers his corpse with a jacket. The alien then assumes the identity of the scientist by shape-changing into his likeness. Meanwhile, a world away in Indo-China, we see Superman (Kyle MacLachlan) flying into a jungle area. He sees an entire village on fire, but then hears someone celebrating. He enters a shack, where Wonder Woman (Lucy Lawless) tells him that the women from the village were captured, while the men and children were murdered. She set the women free and let them kill their oppressors. This doesn’t sit well with Superman but after a heated conversation, she tells him…”there’s the door, spaceman!” He walks out without arguing any further about her methods.

 

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Back in Metropolis, we see the alien that assumed the form of the scientist, as he’s living a somewhat normal life, and that he’s addicted to television. On the roof of the Daily Planet, Superman and Lois Lane (Kyra Sedgwick) are trying to figure out what the “right” thing to do is these days. Over in Las Vegas, Hal Jordan and his friend “Ace” are having a good time, gambling and boozing. They talk briefly about a mission, but quickly get back to having fun. Over in a corner, Iris West is interviewing some Hollywood type sleaze, but shortly after makes a quick phone call to her boyfriend, Barry Allen (the Flash, voiced by Neil Patrick Harris). Suddenly, Captain Cold (James Arnold Taylor) bursts in the casino, and robs the place. Of course, he doesn’t get very far before the Flash shows up to apprehend him though. As he’s all but beaten, a different voice comes out of his mouth, stating that Barry’s “not like the other lesser beings” and that “the Center is coming.”

 

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Batman (Jeremy Sisto), Green Lantern, and other heroes are introduced, and we see that it seems as if a cult is rising and taking over the minds of people all over the world. We also see that the martian, has assumed a new identity as a policeman named John Jones. He has a run in with Batman and the two begin to pool their resources to figure out what’s going on. Will they be able to find out the sinister secret of The Center? Will they be able to unite the heroes of the world while the government is becoming increasingly uneasy with super-powered beings running around unchecked? Watch to find out!!!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

While I admit I haven’t rad this story yet, if it’s even half as good as the film, it must be incredible. I’ve seen Cooke’s artwork many times, and his style is very good, and not comparable to really anyone else of that caliber. His vision and use of the zeitgeist of the times was absolutely brilliant. The mysterious elements as far as the government and the cult blend together nicely. I wonder if he was influenced by Alan Moore’s Watchmen slightly, as those heroes were under scrutiny from the government and within their own minds.

The animation in this movie is top-notch, and that is to be expected when Bruce Timm is involved. He’s set a high standard for DC animation, I’m not sure anyone can ever top it. Voice director Andrea Romano has been a part of that team (Bruce Timm and company) for a long time, and always does a great job getting quality voice actors for these roles. Stan Berkowitz is another name from the good old days of Batman the Animated Series, where these names all came together to begin molding the DC animated universe into the gem it is now.

Do yourself a favor and buy this DVD/Blu-Ray, there is no way you will be disappointed by the film. It just isn’t possible, because Darwyn Cooke put his heart and soul into this story. Rather than post shots from the film, I’m going to show some of Cooke’s work from the actual comic books themselves.

 

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Click here for the trailer!

Cinema Sunday: The Colossus of New York (1958)

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Title: The Colossus of New York

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Writer: Thelma Schnee (screenplay), Willis Goldbeck (story)

Director: Eugène Lourié

Producer: William Alland

Starring: Ross Martin, Otto Kruger, Mala Powers, John Baragrey

Released: June 1958

MPAA: UR

 

After missing out on a movie review for the month of March, I thought it would be nice to double up for the month of April! So, in grand fashion, here comes a time-honored sci-fi classic from the greatest decade for the genre, the 1950s! Just do a quick search from this decade, and you’ll find a treasure trove of classics that still stand the test of time to this day.

This film had one name on its lobby card that is synonymous with great films of the genre and decade, in William Alland (the Creature from the Black Lagoon trilogy,  This Island Earth, It Came from Outer Space, etc.). Just his name alone meant you were going to get our monies worth. Throw in some cool special effects, and a cast that had the experience to make the film feel real, and you’ve got a fantastic film that deserves your attention (provided you haven’t already seen it!). Alright, let’s get to the film…

 

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The film begins with a man, Jeremy Spensser (Ross Martin),  and his son, Billy, (Charles Herbert) watching a film with Henry Spensser (brother/uncle) (John Baragrey). The boy remarks about the robotic machinery in a factory that the movie shows, but suddenly, Anne Spensser (Mala Powers), bursts into the room to congratulate her husband on winning the “International Peace Prize!” After a trip overseas to claim the award, Jeremy and his family return and his father, world-renowned brain surgeon, William Spensser (Otto Kruger), is at the airport waiting for them. After a quick reuniting, Jeremy heads across the parking lot to get the car. He’s run down by a truck though, and dies on the scene.

 

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William believes that his son’s brilliance needs to be preserved though, and that the world needs it so badly, that he keeps the brain alive! A friend of the family, Dr. John Robert Carrington (Robert Hutton), urges the family to move on after the accident. Meanwhile, Henry begins to fall in love with Anne. William then reveals to Henry that he’s kept the brain alive, and that he wants him to make a mechanical body for the brain (since he’s an expert in robotics). He’s reluctant at first, but eventually builds the robot.

 

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At first, the robot (Ed Wolff) exhibits some of the traits of Jeremy’s personality, but over a short period, we see the deterioration of those characteristics. Slowly, over time he begins to see himself as more of a device for the destruction of the world, than a provider/savior. In the beginning, the robot will follow simple commands, and doesn’t really resist being told what to do. At one point, the robot begs to be destroyed, but William won’t do it.

 

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William eventually thinks the plug needs to be pulled, but just as he attempts to do it, “Jeremy” hypnotizes him with his glowing eyes, and stops him. He then proceeds to roam around the estate. Within a minute though, he runs into his son, Billy. He talks to him and tells him he’s a good giant, and not a bad giant. Anne begins to call for Billy and search for him, and ten actually gets a glimpse (from far away) of the giant. Billy tells her that he’s a good giant, and not to be scared. Later that night, Henry is in the garden making out with Anne. Jeremy shows up and gets furious. Anne faints, and Jeremy picks her up and carries her back to her room. Back at the lab, there is a device that William made to use as a fail-safe to shut Jeremy down, but Jeremy finds it and smashes it to piece.

 

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The following night, Henry is downtown and realizes that Jeremy is going off the deep end. He calls and asks his father for money to get out-of-town, but Jeremy is there, and hypnotizes William, and tells him to instruct Henry to meet at a quiet location in the city. Henry shows up, and we see Jeremy emerge from the Hudson river! He casually stalks Henry and when the time is right, he uses his disintegration eye beams to turn him into ash! Jeremy then returns home and begins to destroy his father’s lab.

Can anyone stop this out of control giant that seems to be bent on destruction? Will it/he ever regain his will to help and not destroy? Watch the film to find out, people!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

The film is a morality play but they don’t beat you over the head with it. Yeah it’s a bit corny by today’s standards, but it is quite endearing as well to think there was a time when the majority of people actually cared about each other. OK, I’ll get off my soapbox. Anyway, the acting was pretty good in this one. Otto Kruger seemed a little off at times, forcing things to the point of being so deliberate with his lines, it was awkward. Other than that, the acting was solid and should be admired.

The “giant,” was pretty cool, and the special effects were great. The flashing eyes for the hypnotic effect, and the disintegration beams! One more small thing that was sort of odd, was the music. Mostly just piano music, especially at the beginning and end, but it was strange. A beautiful leading lady (image below!), a science experiment gone wrong, and New York City as a back drop…what else could you ask for in a B movie?

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

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Cinema Sunday: The Door with Seven Locks (A.K.A. Chamber of Horrors- 1940)

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Title: The Door with Seven Locks

Distributor: Pathe Pictures (Warner Bros.)

Writers: John Argyle, Gilbert Gunn, Norman Lee (Edgar Wallace – novel)

Director: Norman Lee

Producer: John Argyle

Starring: Leslie Banks, Lilli Palmer, Romilly Lunge, Gina Malo

Released: October, 1940 (U.K.)

MPAA: PG-13 (est.)

 

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Hey folks! It’s nearly the last of the month, and I’m back with another movie review! When I set out to do movie reviews, I wanted to cover every good classic horror and sci-fi film I’d ever seen. I discovered that’s going to take a long time, but also I’ve discovered a few new ones along the way, like this one! Not many people outside of the United Kingdom will probably think of films of this genre produced there in the 1940s, as the Universal Studio films were dominating throughout the previous decade (and into the next).. But those who do that, will miss some absolute classic films that deserve your attention.

This little film doesn’t have any familiar faces/big names (to me), but that doesn’t hold it back one bit. A thriller with all sorts of intrigue, murder, torture, etc., will have you on the edge of your seat! Alright, let’s get down to the story…

 

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The film opens at a mansion, with an old man in bed, apparently near death. Dr. Manetta (Leslie Banks“The Most Dangerous Game”), tries to tell Lord Charles Francis Selford (Aubrey Mallalieu) that he’ll make it, but Selford knows his time has come. He announces to those present, that the majority of his fortune will go to his young son, John (Ross Landon). The other people in the room seem put off by that statement, but Selford doesn’t seem to care. He then reveals a box, which contains seven keys, and tells those in attendance that he’s appointed Edward Havelock (David Horne), as trustee of his estate. He says that in the event of John’s death, everything goes to June Lansdowne (Lilli Palmer – above right), his cousin. The keys are to be separated and are needed to open the seven locks on his tomb, which coincidentally is full of jewels!

Soon after, Lord Selford dies, and is buried. The keys are removed from the door with seven locks. Ten years pass, and we see Luis Silva (one of the men present during Lord Selford’s death scene- J.H. Roberts) writing a letter, but he’s interrupted by someone unseen. We next see him in an institution, and after others leave the room, he leaps up, and writes a letter to June, and throws it out of the window. A couple of delivery boys pick it up and take it to her home. One of the keys for the door with seven locks is inside the letter,  and he tells her to come to the hospital. Her roommate, Glenda Baker (Gina Malo) listens as June tells her about the key and letter. Glenda thinks Silva is just some old pervert that’s trying to hook up with June, so she tells her she wants to go with her to keep an eye on things.

 

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June arrives and is taken to Silva’s room by an orderly. Once inside the room, the orderly and a cop plot to try to get some info from the conversation the two in the room are about to have. As the two talk, we see that someone is peeking through the eyes of a painting on the wall. Just as Silva is about to tell her where the other keys are, a secret panel in the wall moves slightly aside, and a pistol fires a shot (silenced) at the old man. June calls for help, and when she reaches the hallway, a woman asks her what she’s doing. She explains, but the woman tells her no one has been in that room lately. As the two go back in, the body is gone. The two women argue over the validity of the situation, and then June runs to the police.

 

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At the police station, we see Inspector Sneed (Richard Bird), and Dick Martin (Romilly Lunge), talking as Martin has resigned and is leaving the police force. Just then June and Glenda run in to tell the story of their wild afternoon. Sneed and martin are skeptical, but seem to think there might be something to this story, so they agree to check out her story. Martin agrees to stay on a bit as an advisor (at this point it seems only because of an attraction to June). Glenda, June, and Martin return to the girl’s apartment, and find a burglar inside. Martin attacks him and the two fight. The “cop” from the nursing home scene then sneaks up behind Martin and knocks him unconscious. The girls hear the fighting stop, and see Martin on the floor. Eventually he comes to and they make an appointment to see the executor of the estate. The man thinks he has six of the keys but when he looks into the box where they are kept, he finds them missing!

 

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Now we understand why person or persons unknown are trying to kill June and get the last key! Will they succeed and get the jewels or will Inspector Sneed and Martin be able to stop them?!?!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

This neat little film might not have any of the industry giants from the horror/thriller genre, but it does have a certain charm about it that makes it a winner. The sets are incredible, the mood and atmosphere are great, and the acting very good. The only scene that seemed a bit lame was the fight scene between Martin and the burglar.

There are a few humorous moments that break up the darker ones, and they are well placed and hilarious, even by today’s standards. Slightly sexist, and stereotypical, but funny nonetheless especially when you consider it was 1940. The musical score was just slightly above average I’d say, but doesn’t bring the film down in the slightest. And not to be forgotten, Lilli Palmer is stunning in this film (image below)!

Get out there and grab this flick because it is more than deserving of a viewing!

 

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Click here for trailer!

 

 

The Project Pegasus Saga Part One (Marvel Two-in-One 53, 54, 55, 1979)!

As of now, you can buy a deluxe hardcover of this great story, but back in the day, you had to grab the single issues. One of my favorite off-beat books of all time is most certainly Marvel Two-in-One! The title almost always featured Ben Grimm, and this Jack Kirby creation is one of the best characters to spring from his incredible mind. When thrown-in with another character, Grimm really shines. His personality is often repressed slightly when issue after issue of Fantastic Four he was portrayed as just muscle (with exception of an issue here and there). His sense of humor really shined in these stories, and solidified him as one of Marvel’s greatest characters.

One of the names synonymous with Marvel Comic’s history is Mark Gruenwald (writer). His days as an editor, writer, and overall continuity cop are nothing short of legendary. Along with Ralph Macchio (writer), these two men gave us an epic story that endures! If you need two men to render a story, you might as well get John Byrne (pencils) and Joe Sinnott (inks)! Toss in names like Bob Sharen (colors), John Costanza (letters), Diana Albers (letters), George Pérez (cover pencils to 55), and Roger Stern (editor),  and the dream team is set!

 

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