Captain America 244, 1980 “The Way of All Flesh!”

Taking a peek at a comic book that gets overlooked because it fits between two legendary runs (Englehart/S. Buscema and Stern/Byrne). Sometimes people forget or just out right malign certain batches of issues because they aren’t widely regarded as gems. There’s a huge downside to that though, as many never get to see books like this one. The second issue of a two-parter, we have a sort of a “monster gone amok” story. But, not just all action, there are some great panels of emotion in this issue as well!

The names attached to this book are some of my favorites. Roger McKenzie (writer- click here for an interview that Roger recently gave on the Charlton website), is probably most famous for his excellent run on Daredevil, or his horror work, but don’t sleep on his other stuff, because the guy knows how to write any kind of story. Don Perlin (pencils) is one of those under-appreciated guys that I hope some day gets the recognition he deserves. His work on Ghost Rider and Werewolf by Night are super cool. An artist that you don’t see much for Marvel (that I know of) in the way of inking another penciler, is Tom Sutton. Like McKenzie, he’s probably most noted from his horror work, and that genre definitely suited him best (but he did do a solid job here). Mark Rogan (letters), George Roussos (colors), and Jim Salicrup (editor), round out the interiors. The cover is by the team of Frank Miller and Al Milgrom!

 

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Cinema Sunday: Shock (1946)

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Title: Shock

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Writers: Eugene Ling, Martin Berkeley (screenplay), Albert Demond (story)

Director: Alfred L. Werker

Producer: Aubrey Schenck

Starring: Vincent Price, Lynn Bari, Frank Latimore, Anabel Shaw, Stephen Dunne

Released: January 10th, 1946

MPAA: NR

 

 

Getting back into the swing of things this new year, I thought it appropriate to lift high the name of Vincent Price, as he is one of the masters of horror! Looking through his catalog, you see quite an array of films, but of course, the horror films are the ones we most remember. Why is that? Because he was born for it. He could act well enough for any genre, but is performances in horror films are more than just memorable, they’re magnificent. This film is more of a thriller than horror, but Price is a fantastic villain!

I could go on all day about him and his films, but instead, let us get to this wonderful film. It’s not easy to find a decent copy, but the usual video sites have copies for a viewing (I own a set with it on, and the quality is slightly better than online). Here we go!

 

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The film begins with a woman, Janet Stewart (Anabel Shaw), who is entering a hotel (in San Francisco). She asks the desk clerk if her husband has arrived yet, but he tells her no. Her husband is returning from the military (serving overseas), and supposedly has booked a room at his hotel. The man at the desk tells her that no one has check in under that name. He tells her that they’re completely booked. But after she starts sobbing, the manager finds her accommodations for the night.

 

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Later, Janet is thinking about how great it will be to finally see her husband after him being away for so long. She falls asleep and dreams of him returning. It soon turns into a bit of a nightmare though, but she eventually wakes up. She calls the front desk and asks if her husband arrived, but he hasn’t. She then heads out on to the balcony for some fresh air. She then hears the voices of a man and woman (presumably husband and wife) arguing. The husband, Dr. Richard Cross (Vincent Price), tells his wife that he wants a divorce because he’s in love with his nurse. She laughs at him and threatens to call and rat him out for his infidelity. He gets enraged, and then picks up a candlestick, and bludgeons her with it. Anabel is horrified, and falls to the couch.

 

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The next morning, Lt. Paul Stewart (Frank Latimore) shows up at the hotel, and rushes upstairs to meet his wife. As he walks through the door, you can see Anabel hasn’t moved an inch from the spot where we last saw her. Paul rushes over to her, but within a minute, it’s obvious that she’s in a trance-like state, and nothing seems to be getting her out of it. He immediately calls for a doctor, and luckily there’s one close. He examines her and tells Paul that she’s in a deep state of shock. He recommends a very good neurological doctor that goes by the name of Dr. Richard Cross!

 

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The doctor shows up and examines Janet. He tells Paul that she’s had a nervous breakdown from something traumatizing. Dr. Cross then heads out to the balcony for a cigarette, and notices that her balcony can see directly into the room where he murdered his wife. He realizes that there’s more than a good chance she witnessed the murder, so he suggests that Janet be transferred to his sanitarium in the country (so he can keep a close eye on her). Dr. Cross’s naughty nurse/lover takes Janet to the hospital, and tells her to give her an injection to keep her calm.

 

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After a while, Janet begins to respond slightly to Dr. Cross’s voice. It’s almost like she’s under hypnosis. He questions her about what she saw the night before, and she admits that she saw him kill his wife. Janet’s eyes open , and as she recounts the event, Cross realizes she must be kept from telling this secret. Later that night, Nurse Elaine (Lynne Bari) comes over to the Doc’s house for some hanky-panky, and the two plot to keep Janet under their sway so she doesn’t spill the beans.

 

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The following day, Dr. Cross brings Paul to see his wife. She’s very groggy and almost seems worse. Cross informs him that his time missing in action in the war has disturbed his wife’s mind, and that she may never recover. He informs the good doctor that he went to the local military base and got a second opinion. Later, Dr. Cross and Nurse Elaine are mentally torturing Janet to drive her further into insanity.

 

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Will the new doctor be able to help Janet awaken from her nervous breakdown? Can Janet ever live a normal life again? Will Dr. Cross and his sinister nurse get caught and pay for their crimes? All will be answered…maybe.

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

If you think about it, this is one whacked out film. Imagine a doctor this sinister. Killing his wife, then using drugs, and any other means possible to drive someone insane. I’m sure a plot like this was quite shocking (no pun intended) back in 1946 for the audience. Obviously in today’s reality, this kind of thing is old news, sadly. The supporting cast isn’t all that stellar, but Price is on point once again. At certain moments, he’s truly evil, but once in a while, he’s conflicted. This sets in motion the thought: Is Price’s character insane or just tormented? Sure, he bludgeoned his wife, but that was in a fit of rage, the textbook definition of insanity. And when it comes down to actually killing another, he’s torn about it because he loves the nurse, but realizes killing is wrong.

We do see a solid performance by Anabel Shaw (Janet). She does a pretty good job at portraying someone fight for their sanity. The sets were pretty much standard fare, as was the soundtrack (it did have its moments, but overall it was average). Another classic that any fan of Vincent Price must see. It almost has a vibe to it like “The Fly,” as far as the conflicting emotions go. Hit up any video site, as I believe this one has fallen into public domain.

 

Click here for a clip!

Fantastic Four Annual 11, 1976 “And Now, The Invaders!”

Returning to the corner of the Marvel Universe occupied by Marvel’s first family, I thought it would be appropriate to focus on an amazing annual from the Bronze Age. In FF 169, Luke Cage was under the sway of the Puppet Master, and attacked the Fantastic Four. While he was going crazy, he knocked some Vibranium into Reed’s time machine. It was transported back to WWII era, and into the hands of the Nazis. With this awesome weapon, it looked as if the Allies would be defeated, and the world would live in tyranny. The FF then uses the time machine to hurl themselves back in time to help the greatest team of WWII, The Invaders, stop the Nazis and Baron Zemo!

This era of Marvel will always be my favorite, as Jack Kirby (cover pencils, inks by Joe Sinnott) returned to do some great covers like this one. Not to be outdone, is Mr. editor/writer/everything man, Roy Thomas, as he adds his uncanny ability to write team books. And this one has two great teams in it! One of my all time favorite artists, is “Big” John Buscema (pencils). His pencils are always a treat to see, and the inks of Sam Grainger compliment him well. Colors by Phil Rachelson, and letters by Sam Rosen!

 

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Doctor Strange 29, 1978 “He Who Stalks!”

Another post about Doctor Strange, and this one is another favorite of mine. One of the reasons is because it has several guest appearances. The tale centers around the Doc and Nighthawk (both heroes are members of the non-team “The Defenders“), as they face off against a villain that’s been in the pages of Daredevil during this era as well. The Death-Stalker is a very mysterious villain and a sinister one too that has the power of intangibility, and a “death touch” that renders lesser men dead!

In his long career, Roger Stern (writer) has written some very compelling stories, and had some lengthy runs on titles. Of course, most everyone will gravitate to his Amazing Spider-Man work, or his tremendous collaboration with John Byrne on Captain America, but don’t sleep on his Dr. Strange stories because they are great! Tom Sutton (pencils) is most noted for his horror work, but given the opportunity, he can draw a wider range of material. Veteran artist Ernie Chan (inks) is always a welcome sight in the credits box, because he was a very solid artist that put in good work. Petra Goldberg (colors), Annette Kawecki (letters), and Archie Goodwin (editor), round out the creative team! I shall not forget awesome artist, Frank Brunner (cover), who is one of the best to ever pencil the Doc!

 

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Doctor Strange 12, 1976 “Final Curtain!”

It’s no secret that Doctor Strange is my favorite character. His 1974 series is undoubtedly one of the most underrated series of all time. From start to finish it’s incredible. And let’s be honest, with creators like Steve Englehart, Gene Colan, Roger Stern, Jim Starlin, Tom Sutton, Marv Wolfman, Rudy Nebres, Paul Smith (and more!), you can’t go wrong! This particular issue deals with the Doc, as he’s about to be in conflict with Eternity himself, for the soul of his recently deceased master, the Ancient One! A flashback of the insidious Baron Mordo, and the Doc and Clea see the world die!

As the creative tag-team of Steve Englehart (writer) and Gene Colan (pencils) was beginning to wind down, one might think that the material might suffer, but this is not so. Both men brought their “A” game until the end of the run. It’s to be expected though, as both were consummate pros throughout their comic book careers. Another link in the awesome creative chain, is Tom Palmer (inks, colors). His work alongside Colan is legendary, even if you only look at this title or Tomb of Dracula. Yet another name synonymous with Bronze Age royalty is Tom Orzechowski (letters). He was a constant at Marvel and definitely earned his place among these other greats with his diligence. Throw in Marv Wolfman (editor), and the credits are full of amazing creators that gave their best!

 

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The Phantom Stranger 33, 1974 “Deadman’s Bluff!”

Supernatural characters are a huge draw for me. Whether it’s movies, television, comics, etc., they always seem to deliver a little something extra you don’t always get from superheroes. Now, take two of these characters, put them in the same book, and you’ve got something special! On one side, you have Deadman- a temperamental ghost that inhabits the bodies of the living to get things done.  On the other end of the spectrum, you have The Phantom Stranger. A guy who has been portrayed in a few different ways over the years with a couple of back stories. Both are intriguing, engaging, and unpredictable.

I’m starting to believe there might not be a better way to start off a comic from this genre than with a cover from Jim Aparo. To say that they’re eye-catching isn’t giving them their due justice, especially when dealing with the supernatural. The story is by Arnold Drake (RIP), a man who began his career in the 1950s, and worked on everything from The X-Men to Batman. Mike Grell (art) is a name most will know from his work on titles like Green Arrow, and a host of others. He’s one of those guys that don’t get mentioned very much but made some fantastic contributions to the industry and should get more credit. The legendary Joe Orlando was the editor of this great issue and rounds out the creative team.

 

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The Demon 6, 1973 “The Howler!”

The Bronze Age was a great time in comic books. After a long stint with Marvel Comics, Jack Kirby decided to take his talents to South Beach…oh, sorry wrong guy. He decided to take his enormous talents (back) to DC Comics, where he could have free reign over the books he was going to create. This allowed the king to really go wild and let his imagination run free. One of the best things he created was the character called, Etrigan the Demon! Many have probably heard of this character, but might not have read any of the short-lived series. It’s definitely worth a look, especially when you see quirky issue like this one, where Etrigan battles a werewolf!

The exploits of Jack “King” Kirby (writer, penciler, editor), are well documented. That doesn’t mean myself and tons of others are ever going to stop slobbering over his greatness though. His imagination unbridled is simply astounding. After decades of creating, the 1970’s brought no slow down for him, and just solidified him even more as one of the true greats (if not the greatest) in the medium of all time. The man who shared some of the spotlight during this era, was Mike Royer (inks). His inks on this book, Kamandi, and others, gave Kirby’s pencils a uniformity and that’s definitely a compliment to his work.

 

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Marvel Team-Up 104, 1981 “Modok Must Triumph!”

Another “wacky villain” post here, and this guy probably isn’t considered wacky by most, but only because he’s a little more mainstream than the others I’ve typically spotlighted in my blog. Just on appearance alone though, you’ve got to admit that M.O.D.O.K. is weird. Now, throw in the Hulk Ka-Zar, and a boat-load of Dinosaurs, and you’ve got magic! You even get to see Ka-Zar take down a T-Rex*!

With all that’s going on in this book, it’s kind of a “can’t miss” for me personally. The Savage Land is a great setting for a comic book story, and Roger McKenzie (writer) delivers a good one. He completely understands how to articulate the way the Hulk and Ka-Zar communicate, fight, etc. Ka-Zar referring to the Dinosaurs as “thunder lizards” and the Hulk calling MODOK “big head,” are just two examples. Although Jerry Bingham (pencils) isn’t a well recognized name, he does a fine job in this book, and especially with MODOK. Mike Esposito (inks) is a Marvel stalwart from the Silver and Bronze Ages, as he kept books looking consistent and clean. Diana Albers (letters) and Christie Scheele (colors), round out the creative team on the interiors! The cover is by none other than Mr. Al Milgrom, and his rendition of the dinosaurs is awesome (edited by Denny O’Neil)!

(*note from the editor: no dinosaurs were hurt during the making of this comic book)

 

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Giant-Size Werewolf 5, 1975 “The Plunder of Paingloss”

In my time-honored tradition of spotlighting goofball villains, this one is a doosie! When the front cover of a comic book exclaims…”The Peril of Paingloss,” it’s a pretty safe bet that you’re in for something wacky. That said, Werewolf by Night could fight a troupe of clowns and I’d buy it, so maybe I’m not the best measuring stick for this one. Moving on, Jack Russell and his confidant, Buck Cowan, end up embroiled in some mystical mayhem that almost kills the two of them! Yes, by the mighty Paingloss (try to hold back your laughter)!

I didn’t know who the creative team was on this one until I got it home and checked it out. I wasn’t shocked to see the name Doug Moench (writer) in the credits. He did plenty of work on this title and during this period for Marvel. You could always count on a solid script/story with him at the helm. The artist is one that I’ve seen before, maybe once or twice, and Yong Montano (pencils/inks) definitely delivered in this issue. The letterer is another name that doesn’t evoke the Bronze Age feel, but Marcos Pelayo does a fine job. The rest of the cast is the usual bunch of stalwarts in Len Wein (editor), George Roussos (colors), and a wonderful cover by Gil Kane (pencils) and Tom Palmer (inks)! There are a couple of back-ups as well, and one features art by the legendary, Joe Orlando!

 

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Cinema Sunday: King Kong (1933)

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Title: King Kong

Distributor: RKO Radio Pictures

Writers: Merian C. Cooper, Edgar Wallace (story), James Ashmore Creelman, Ruth Rose (Screenplay),

Directors: Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Shoedsack

Producers: Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Shoedsack, David O. Selznick

Starring: Fay Wray, Bruce Cabot, Robert Armstrong, Frank Reicher

Released: March 1933

MPAA: UR

 

Although I’m partial to B-movies, every once and a while, I crave for something big. Something so huge, it must get attention. Not just huge mind you, but a film that was revolutionary. Two men that took this film and made it larger than life- Merian C. Cooper and Willis O’Brien. These two men are nothing short of pioneers in their respective fields, and if not for their achievements and courage to be visionaries, I shudder to think where the film industry would be today (or wouldn’t be).

I won’t go into a huge breakdown of the actual film, because lets be honest, the over whelming majority have seen it, and probably multiple times. This will just be a subtle reminder of how awesome this film is, and how its creators shocked the world back in 1933. Yes, amid the greatest economic downfall of this great country, these filmmakers went all out and made a movie that brought people to the theaters. I give you, King Kong…

 

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The film begins with two men talking about a “crazy” trip that a vessel will soon embark on, led by Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong), a wildlife photographer/filmmaker that apparently knows no fear. The first mate, Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot) then yells down at the men, questioning who they are. We then see Denham and Captain Englehorn (Frank Reicher), arguing over the trip and its specifics. An agent then shows up that was supposed to get a girl for this excursion, but he tells Denham that with his reputation for danger, no one will do it.

 

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Denham then storms out, vowing to find a girl, “even if he has to marry one.” Denham is no dummy, so after he sees a bunch of women hanging around a homeless shelter, he swoops in for the chance. None of them cut the mustard for him, so he carries on. He happens upon a vendor selling fruit, and a girl tries to steal an apple, but the owner catches her. He tells her he’s going to call the police, but Denham intervenes, and pays for the fruit. He then takes the girl, Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) to a restaurant, and buys her a meal. He tells her that he’s making a movie and he wants her to be in it. With no other course of action (she’s apparently hit a string of bad luck and is homeless), she agrees to do it.

 

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The following morning, Denham and his crew load the ship, and get ready to head out. Driscoll and the Captain aren’t sure this wide-eyed girl is up for this trip. Driscoll scoffs at a “woman” being on board, but does let up after talking with Ann. Charlie the cook (Victor Wong), seems to be Ann’s only friend, even after six weeks on the seas. Eventually, the expedition reaches Skull Island. Denham found the island’s location from an ancient map, and also heard about many strange creatures that inhabit the location. As they sit closely to the shores, they can hear the ominous sounds of beating drums.

 

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They make the decision to take some men to investigate the island. They head deep into the jungle, and discover an indigenous tribe of warriors that is performing a ritual dance. After a few minutes of observing, Denham and his crew are discovered. The tribe seems peaceful enough at first, but then when they discover Ann, they get restless. The Captain knows some of the dialects from the area, and communicates as best he can. The chief of the tribe tells him that the girl they see chained up is the “bride of Kong.” In the end, Denham decides discretion is the better course, and they leave. The tribe inhabits a village surrounded by walls that are twenty-five feet high, at least. This puzzles the crew, and they wonder why they need walls that high.

 

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That night back on the ship, Ann is chilling out on the deck, but suddenly is kidnapped by some of the tribesmen from the island. The crew soon figure it out, and the chase is on. The tribesman have a huge advantage knowing the island and its many trappings, so they elude the crew for quite some time. Inside the village walls, the tribe begins to start up the ritual again, this time with Ann as the sacrifice! The tribesmen strap her to a couple of trees, then lock the gate to the village, then begin to bang a huge gong, as if ringing the dinner bell. Minutes later, a huge ape crashes through the jungle, and eyeballs the beauty.

 

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By the time Denham and his crew show up, Kong has already carried Ann off, to who knows where. They pursue, and almost immediately are attacked by a dinosaur! On the way to his man cave with Ann, Kong encounters an Allosaurus, and battles the creatures (at one point we see a single-leg take down and a also a judo throw!), eventually breaking its jaw. Kong plays with his kill like a toy for a minute afterward, then turns his attention back to Ann (who was tossed into a tree top). Along the way the crew fights a Brontosaurus, and Kong faces off with an Elasmosaurus and even a Pteranodon!

The crew eventually catches up to Kong, and manages to steal Ann away, then they head back to the village with Kong in-tow. A huge donnybrook breaks out back there between Kong, the villagers, and the crew. Kong is eventually subdued by gas bombs that Denham brought along for just such an occasion. He intends to take the behemoth back to NYC to display him to make some big bucks.

 

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Will Denham find out that nature cannot be controlled? Or will Kong become the first giant ape that people actually pay money to gawk at? Will Ann get kicked to the curb now that the adventure is over? Only a viewing of this classic will answer these soul-searing questions!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

If there is actually anyone out there that hasn’t seen this film, you need your head examined. A classic if there ever was one, this movie made Willis O’Brien a household name in the area of stop-motion animation (Kong and the other creatures were spectacular). This film had a huge influence on the man most noted for that part of filming, Ray Harryhausen.  The film also put Fay Wray (image below) on the map, although she had a bit of a career before this film hit. After it though, she was used extensively in horror and action/adventure films.

The influence of this film doesn’t stop on these shores, and is absolutely a direct influence for Godzilla, and all other giant monster films that followed. Speaking of what followed, Son of Kong is also an interesting film and deserves a viewing, as does Mighty Joe Young (more comedic moments, but still good).

You must certainly give this film a viewing every now and again. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen it, because it entertains every time, and if you look closely, you can find something new every time as well. Armstrong plays a great showman, Wray a great damsel in distress, and Driscoll a fabulous hard-nosed sailor. The cast was key in this one, but without Willis O’Brien and his efforts, it would’ve all been for naught. The music score was spot on, and made the dramatic scenes feel even more real, and they help keep you on the edge of your seat!

 

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Click here for the trailer!