Time Warp 1, 1979 “Doomsday Tales and Other Things”

In the late 1970s, DC cut back on their titles, and laid off a ton of employees. The comics just weren’t selling, and they needed to regroup. The early 1980s would bring some new hope in the form of All-Star Squadron, and New Teen Titans, but there were also some additions that are very obscure, but noteworthy for the comic book aficionados out there!

A short series of only five issues, this weird book gave us some rather interesting material. Mostly sci-fi (with a little horror), this first issue is chocked full of creators with a long list of credits, and quite frankly, legends in the business. From aliens to spider-men, you’ll be whisked away to fantasy worlds that will take you back to a time when comics were great!

Cover by Mike Kaluta, interiors stories by Denny O’Neil, Michael Fleischer, George Kashdan, Mike Barr, Jack Harris, Bob Rozakis, and Paul Levitz. The art teams are nothing short of spectacular and include the late, great Rich Buckler, Dick Giordano, Steve Ditko, Tom Sutton, Jerry Grandenetti, Don Newton, Dan Adkins, and Jim Aparo!

 

 

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Cinema Sunday: It Came from Outer Space (1953)

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Title: It Came from Outer Space

Distributor: Universal-International

Writer: Harry Essex (novel by Ray Bradbury, and perhaps the screenplay as well)

Director: Jack Arnold

Producer: William Alland

Starring: Richard Carlson, Barbara Rush, Charles Drake, Russell Johnson, Joe Sawyer

Released: May 1953

MPAA: Approved

 

 

After a long winter hiatus, I wanted to return to my roots and review a film from the classic sci-fi (B-movie) genre! Along with classic horror, this category is near and dear to my heart, for reasons that would take forever to explain. Suffice to say they both are treasures from my youth that I still hold close, and got me through some adverse times.

One thing that makes B-movies from the 1950s and 1960s so good, was the “tough guy” lead actors. Perhaps none more so than Richard Carlson. A real life bad apple, serving in the United States Navy as a pilot, Carlson brought his fearlessness to the big screen (and small screen). A cigarette smoking, fist fighting, ladies man who had a very short list of peers in those categories (probably only John Agar), Carlson epitomized everything about that far gone era of films.

In this film however, Carlson is more of the reasonable man, than throwing punches every five minutes. Yes there is some action on his part, but he’s mostly the voice of reason that doesn’t use violence. OK, let’s get on with the show!

 

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The film begins with a spaceship crashing to Earth, on the outskirts of a small, middle-American town. A voice tells us that a little about the town, and the scenery there. We see inside the voice’s home, and as John Putnam (Richard Carlson), and his girlfriend, Ellen Fields (Barbara Rush) are sharing a quiet moment together, they head outside to stargaze. Putnam has a huge telescope, and he peeks through it, hoping to see something. Ass the two are about to start making out, they see a meteorite (or so the think)rocketing towards the nearby desert. It smashes into the Earth, and Putnam, being an amateur astronomer gets riled up about it.

 

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We the viewers get to see that it was no meteorite, but a space ship that crashed. As the smoke clears, we see a terrifying looking alien pop out of a door on the ship! It searches the nearby area, leaving a trail of slime behind it as it scares off the desert animals. The following day, John, Ellen, and a chopper pilot (Dave Willock) investigate. John heads down inside the crater to get a closer look, and when he does, he’s shocked to see an alien space craft! He approaches the open door, but it slams shut, causing some loose rocks to slide down over the craft. John manages to crawl out unscathed, but Ellen and Pete don’t believe him.

 

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As they’re trying to figure things out, Sheriff Matt Warren (Charles Drake) shows up with his deputy, and of course they laugh at Putnam, saying he’s nuts. Of course Ellen and Pete can’t verify the story since they didn’t go down to see it themselves. As they’re driving home, one of the creatures is standing right in the middle of the highway! It forces them off of the road, causing them to almost smash into a rock. As John gets out to investigate, the creature is in the brush, watching him.

The following day, the news media has found out about the “meteorite” crash, and is going crazy. Scientists, the military, and even the sheriff and his men are there lurking around. They continue to make fun of John, and even harass Ellen. The sheriff also tries to warn off John about being with Ellen (as he worked for her father and told him he’d look out for her after his death). John tells the sheriff that Ellen does what she wants, and that he isn’t telling her to do anything she doesn’t want to do.

 

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On their way home, John and Ellen run into a couple of friends that work for the utilities company. One of them, George (Russell Johnson) tells them that everything has been calm as far as they’ve seen. He and Frank (Joe Sawyer) let John listen to some strange noises over the phone lines, but they can’t figure out what is causing it.

Over the next few days, townspeople, begin to disappear for a day or so, only to return in a dazed state like they’ve been hypnotized. They seem to have an ulterior motive for everything they do, and that eventually gets the skeptical sheriff to wonder what is going on. John eventually searches the desert area by the crater, and finds an old abandoned mine. He tries to enter but is confronted by one of the aliens. The alien tells him they mean no harm but recruited the townspeople to help repair their ship, so they can return to the cosmos. Putnam believes the creature, but will the sheriff?

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

One of the earliest films about this subject (you did already have The Thing from Another World, and The Day the Earth Stood Still at this point, plus some other notables), the angle of aliens that were not evil is something you really need to consider. That was not the norm and quite frankly still isn’t. We have Ray Bradbury to thank for that, and from some reading I’ve done, the man credited as screenwriter pretty much just took what Bradbury wrote and made extremely minor changes. We all know Bradbury is a beast at writing scary, weird stories, but he should get the credit for this one.

Most of the films from this era don’t have very notable music but Herman Stein did a good job on this one. Very threatening, and melodramatic when needed. Clifford Stine was on top of his game with the cinematography as well, especially in the scenes with the aliens.

Carlson is his usual awesome self. He’s a very strong presence in every film he’s been the lead in, and that is a fact. Barbara Rush is quite good as well. She does a fantastic job as John’s girlfriend, a concerned citizen, trying to balance being a school teacher and that usual form of reasoning versus her feelings for John and his beliefs and so on. It doesn’t hurt that she’s a very beautiful woman either (image below), as she’s basically the only woman in the entire film!

 

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Don’t hesitate, look this one up and give it a viewing. Set aside a rainy afternoon and check out this classic! You won’t be disappointed!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

 

 

Jack Kirby’s – Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth!

A post-apocalyptic world dominated by talking apes with an odd assortment of other talking creatures such as killer dolphins…yep. The unbridled imagination of Jack “King” Kirby (writer, editor, penciler) is something of wonder to us mere mortals, and it has been from his earliest works to his creations in the 1970s- work such as Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth!

The book has a Planet of the Apes meets Escape From New York kinda vibe to it, and that’s a wonderful combination. No, Kamandi isn’t Snake Plissken, but the general tone and war-torn future definitely match up. There’s quirkiness to this title that has all the charm you’d expect from a comic produced by Kirby. Every issue I own contains not just a wild story, but also multiple splash pages that will absolutely blow your mind!

The early issues were inked by Mike Royer (also inker on another great Kirby DC title during this era, The Demon), and other than Joe Sinnott and Bill Everett, he’s probably my favorite Kirby inker. The later issues were inked/lettered by D. Bruce Berry. His style fit Kirby pretty well too, but not quite as powerfully as Royer’s. My absolute favorite issue is 29, because of the Superman tie-in! Kirby was a creator that can make anything seem real, no matter how ludicrous it seems when you step back and look at it.

 

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The Man Called Nova 23, 1978 “From the Dregs of Defeat!”

Wait, why am I spotlighting a random issue of Nova…? I’ll tell you why! Because of the villain(s) in this mag! First of all, I’m a huge zealot when it comes to the Tomb of Dracula! In my humble opinion, the best villain in that awesome comic was none other than that body-less brain, Dr. Sun! But wait, didn’t he perish in the series? NO, he did not! And thanks to one of his creators, he appears once again in the pages of Nova! And at the end of this tale, we also see another great megalomaniac, The Sphinx!

The sheer amount of comics either written, plotted, and/or edited by Marv Wolfman (writer/editor) is astounding! For me his crowning achievement will always be Tomb with Gene Colan (pencils on the flashback panels with Tom Palmer inks), but his Fantastic Four is pretty good, and his work on Marvel Two-in-One, Teen Titans, and of course all the great content in the black and white mags from the 1970s! Long time DC comics artist Carmine Infantino (pencils- cover and interiors- cover inks by Bob McLeod), the inking was by a plethora of gentleman (M. Hands…many hands), colors by Janice Cohen, and letters by Jim Novak!

 

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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 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!

 

 

 

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: X The Unknown (1956)

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Title: X The Unknown

Distributor: Warner Bros. (Hammer Studios)

Writer: Jimmy Sangster

Director: Leslie Norman (and originally, Joseph Losey)

Producer: Anthony Hinds

Starring: Dean Jagger, Edward Chapman, Michael Ripper, Leo McKern, Anthony Newley

Released: November 1956

MPAA: Approved

 

Of course, everyone that’s a fan of the sci-fi/horror genre has heard of the 1958 classic, The Blob. I’d like to spotlight a film that has quite a few similarities…and was released two years previously. Not trying to imply that The Blob is a ripoff but they certainly seemed to “borrow’ a few ideas from this film. A film that was originally intended to be a sequel to Hammer’s successful sci-fi film, The Quatermass Experiment, but the writer of that film (Nigel Kneale) wouldn’t allow the use of his main character (Professor Bernard Quatermass) to be used, so they reconstructed slightly, and moved forward.

Limited budgets have never stopped Hammer Studios from producing great material, and this film is no exception. The cast isn’t very recognizable to fans of Hammer’s horror films (except for Michael Ripper!), but don’t let that dissuade you from watching. Alright, let the storytelling commence!

 

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The film opens with a soldier, Corporal “Spider” Webb (Anthony Newley), as he’s using a Geiger counter to search an area for radioactivity. He gets a reading, and then finds something buried just below the surface. We then see that it’s a training exercise, and the soldiers are prepping for a mission. We see Sergeant Grimsdyke (Michael Ripper) and he’s told to retrieve Major Cartwright (John Harvey) because one of the soldiers is getting a reading nowhere near one of the test areas. They then try to find the device they planted for the exercise, but the muddy ground begins to bubble near the other site, and one of the soldiers gets frightened. Grimsdyke orders the men to back off, but before they can get away, two of the men are caught in an explosion. We see a “Y”-shaped crack in the Earth, and smoke pouring out of it.

 

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Over at a lab, we see Peter Elliott (William Lucas), and Dr. Adam Royston (Dean Jagger), conducting experiments. Royston seems like a bit of an eccentric old chap, and has an affection for oddities of all kinds. Royston then gets orders to go check out the radioactive area that the Army discovered. The area doesn’t seem to be radioactive anymore, so Royston is skeptical. He then gets a look at the soldiers that were burned in the incident, and changes his mind. He immediately requests for his equipment to be brought out to the site. There are some reporters there and they start to badger the military.

 

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Later that night, two kids are up to some shenanigans, and one ventures out to the restricted area by the fissure. He nears a structure, but then stops when he hears a noise. He’s stopped in his tracks by something horrific that is sizzling like bacon. He runs so fast that he passes out his mate that waiting for him. We next see the boy in the hospital (he eventually dies from the encounter), and Dr. Royston has been brought in to examine him. It seems the boy has radiation burns. Royston questions the other boy about their whereabouts the night before, and he confesses that they went near the restricted area.

 

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Royston heads to the Tower near the restricted area to do some investigating. He finds a old man making moonshine, and then also a metal canister from his lab. He rushes back to his lab, and sees that it has been broken into by some unknown person(s). The lab is ransacked, and there’s a strange film over everything. Peter arrives and is shocked at what has happened. Inspector “Mac” McGill (Leo McKern) is sent by the local authorities to investigate the strange goings-on. That very night, a doctor and a nurse are “fraternizing” but get interrupted by the same unforeseen force that burned the boy. It chars the man to ashes.

 

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Out on the marshes, two soldiers are attacked by the radioactive force, and killed. Royston concludes that there must be a sort of radioactive prehistoric creature that is causing this havoc, and that it must be stopped or many more will die a horrible death! They hatch a plan to repel down into the fissure, and see what exactly they are up against. Elliott volunteers to be lowered down, and as he’s being lowered down, he sees the remains of one of the soldiers that was killed. The creature then moves in to attack, and the army tries to fight it off with guns and flamethrowers. They next attempt to seal the creature below by filling the fissure with concrete. Royston tells them that it wont work, because it already made its way to the surface through tons of rock.

Will Dr. Royston be able to concoct a plan to stop this radioactive nightmare or will the entire countryside be burnt to a crisp?!? Tune in to find out!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

Although this film is very good, it does lack star power. The other films (in the Quatermass trilogy) have a very strong lead, and that certainly helped them stay a bit more on point. Dean Jagger isn’t bad or anything like that he just lacks any real “oomph” on-screen. The erst of the players are good but not great, so there’s really no support to help push the cast ahead. There is some great atmosphere and thrilling moments in this film, and they give it a feeling of comfort while watching.

The soundtrack is average, and the sets just above that bar. A few moments of humor are well placed, and throw a good curveball into the mix. There is one glaring omission from this film that you typically find in all of their films- an attractive but competent female role. It would’ve’ benefited the film immensely, and added a nice and missing angle from the film.

Overall a good sci-fi flick that helps set the tone for the other Quatermass films that follow down the road. Definitely set aside some time for a viewing!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

Strange Adventures 232, 1971 “Hollywood in Space!”

Every once and a while, you just grab a book on a whim, and soon realize you struck gold! This book is one of those times. If this cover doesn’t grab you with its stunning display of sci-fi action, or the proclamation of “Startling Stories of Super Science-Fiction,” then you’d better check your pulse! Seeing the twenty-five cent cover also was a dead giveaway that this book is from my favorite era, the Bronze Age. It sounds as if this book is a sure winner, but being a DC noob, and no creator credits on the cover (that I saw at first glance), it was a shot in the dark, personally. Little did I know that the five stories inside would be to my liking, and quite honestly, anyone that’s a fan of the genre.

This gorgeous cover was brought to you by the man, the myth, and the legend, Joe Kubert. This guy could draw a jungle scene one minute, a fantastical world from outer space the next, and then finish off with a gritty war comic, all before lunch. And oh yeah, it would blow your mind. I’ve just scratched the surface with his work, but I already know he’s one of the greatest men to ever pick up a pencil. The interior has work from some incredible creators from days gone by, like Mort Drucker, Sid Greene, Gardner Fox, Carmine Infantino, Murphy Anderson, and more! If you love sci-fi and action, this one will impress you, I guarantee it!

 

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