Melt My Face With Your Kiss – Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

They? A wonderful word. And who are they? They’re the nameless ones who kill people for the great whatsit. Does it exist? Who cares? Everyone everywhere is so involved in the fruitless search for what?

kmd1Watching 1955’s Kiss Me Deadly, I was reminded of two other much later films, 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, and 1984’s Repo Man.

Like those two later films, the lesson that seems to be at the heart of Robert Aldrich’s celebrated noir is that some things shouldn’t be sought after because eventually they will be found.

And that never ends well.

Kiss Me Deadly is ostensibly an adaptation of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer private-eye mystery novel of the same name, but so much change was made between the novel and the actual film that screenwriter A. I. Bezzerides once noted “Spillane didn’t like what I did with his book. I ran into him at a restaurant and, boy, he didn’t like me.”

kmd6The plot of the film is definitely a twisty (and twisted) one, which begins with Hammer picking up a woman wearing only a raincoat who has run in front of his car on the highway, desperately trying to get a ride. Not long after learning that her name is Christina, Hammer is forced off the road, beaten, shoved back into his car with a now-dead Christina, and the car is subsequently pushed over a cliff. Hammer somehow escapes and awakens to find himself in a hospital.

And things really only go downhill from there.

kmd4Kiss Me Deadly is widely considered to be a classic of the film noir genre, and it’s easy to see why. It certainly makes use of the requisite light and shadow that in some ways defines the genre, and heroes don’t come much more luckless than Hammer who is portrayed in a particularly hard-nosed (and even more hard-fisted) manner by Ralph Meeker.

kmd3There’s also the presence of a classic McGuffin, or as Hammer’s world-weary secretary Velda (Maxine Cooper) describes it in the quote above, “the great whatsit”. In this case, the true nature of the whatsit turns out to be even less defined than usual, as it turns out to be a small briefcase containing… well, the truth is, we’re never actually made privy to what it contains, except that it might be radioactive and may have some relationship to the Manhattan Project (where the nuclear bomb was developed). and that it brings pretty much instantaneous fiery death to anyone who dares to open it.

kmd5All of this leads to an ending that, depending on which version you actually see is either depressingly ambiguous or vaguely hopeful. The end of the film was actually changed after its first American release, with scenes which showed Hammer and Velda escaping from the fiery remains of the house where the briefcase has finally been opened excised so that the viewer is actually left with the question of whether they made it out of the house or not. Those scenes were eventually restored when the film was re-released in 1997, but even so, they really only make the finale slightly more hopeful, as befits the film’s noir roots.

kmd2Kiss Me Deadly can also be seen, in a way, as a precursor to many films that would come subsequently. Of course, as I noted above, the ambiguous yet fiery nature of the “whatsit”  is echoed in films from a much later period, and the essential question of “What’s in the box” which forms the ending of David Fincher’s Seven (or, if you prefer to be pretentious Se7en) is almost a direct echo of the question which forms much of the basis for this film.

What is not ambiguous, however, is that Kiss Me Deadly is definitelt a film worth watching.

Here’s a trailer:

 

 

 

 

Twofer Tuesday (Part 2) – The Last Witch Hunter (2015) and Witchfinder General (1968)

Earlier today I posted one possible Double Feature idea that I had based on the trailer for an upcoming movie, and, well, since the idea is “Twofer Tuesday”, why not another one?

I’m actually of two minds about Vin Diesel’s upcoming The Last Witch Hunter. It could be a fun just grab some popcorn and check your brain at the door action flick, or it could be a complete CGI crapfest. That’s something we won’t know until it comes out. But, I’m inclined at the moment to give it the benefit of the doubt, and will probably at least give it a look.

The thing is, though, that whenever I hear the title I can’t help but think of Vincent Price’s 1968 movie Witchfinder General. Plus, let’s be honest, any time I have an excuse to plug a Vincent Price movie here it’s a good day.

So what do you think? Have you seen Witchfindeer General? Do you have any kind of anticipation for The Last Witch Hunter? And do you have any thoughts about other possible double feature pairings of this type? If so, let me know about them in the comments below or over on the DMM Facebook page.

Twofer Tuesday – Our Brand Is Chaos (2015) and The Candidate (1972)

obicI used to do a regular feature here on the blog which I called The Saturday Double Feature, in which I would pair a movie currently in theaters with one from the 80’s or before to make a sort of fantasy double feature.. This isn’t meant to be a revival of that feature, but if enough of you like the idea, maybe it’ll return.

Anyway, while I was watching last night’s premiere of the new Daily Show, I happened to see the trailer for Sandra Bullock’s upcoming film Our Brand Is Chaos.

Watching that, I couldn’t help but think of the 1972 movie The Candiddate which starred Robert Redford:

Obviously there are some differences having to do with place and time, (the Bullock movie, in case it’s not clear from the trailer actually has to do with a pair of American creative teams trying to steer a fictionalized campaign in Bolivia,), but thematically, they seemed a pretty good fit, each of them having to do with just what needs to be done to sell a candidate, and how far one is willing to go to ensure political victory.

I do have to note that while of course I haven’t seen it yet, I’m willing to bet that the newer movie is going to have a more upbeat ending than the somewhat ambiguous one of the Redford effort, but that again is just a sign of the difference in the filmic zeitgeist of the two periods.

So what do you think? Have you seen The Candidate? (If not, it’s film that I highly recommend.) Do you have any kind of anticipation for Our Brand Is Chaos? (I have to admit that based on this trailer I do.) And do you have any thoughts about other possible double feature pairings of this type? If so, let me know about them in the comments below or over on the DMM Facebook page.

Covering Comics #6 – The Brave And The Bold (Part Two)

I’ve often said that I miss the comics covers of old. Those covers were designed, unlike many of the ones being produced today which are merely mini-posters spotlighting the titular character without giving any indication of the story contained inside, to draw readers in and make them anxious about actually reading the stories contained therein. Of course, this was also a time when comic books could be found all over the place, from newsstands to the local drug store, as opposed to only in specialty comic-book shops, and they were largely focused on catching the eye of someone just passing by the comics rack instead of depending pretty solely on regular readers who are willing to go every Wednesday to get their weekly fix, but that’s a discussion for another time, I suppose. Anyway, “Covering Comics” is going to be a probably irregular series of posts where I take a look at various covers from the past, highlighting some of my personal favorites, or other covers of note for one reason or another.

So last time we looked at the Comics series The Brave and the Bold focusing on the early issues before it became pretty exclusively a Batman team-up book. This time, we’ll look at some of the great covers from the later issues.

bb1First, however, I feel like a word of explanation is due. Back in the day when these were written, the type of close continuity that we see largely in today’s comics, where everything has to fit together and all of the stories are tightly controlled on the editorial side so that they all form one cohesive “DC Universe” just wasn’t as much of a concern. This was also the time of the multiverse (a concept recently reintroduced in the comics) which consisted of different “worlds” where these adventures took place.

Thus, you had Earth One, which was where most of the “modern” stories occurred. Earth Two was where the DC heroes that had been active during WW2 resided. Earth 3 featured an alternative world where the bad guys were the “heroes”. Earth S (for “Shazam”) was where the original Captain Marvel and his cohorts had their adventures. And so on and so on…

And then there was “Earth B”.

Earth B was a very strange place. Basically it was sort of a catch-all concept where stories that really just couldn’t be fit into any continuity were said to have taken place.

The name ‘Earth B” seems to have come from a letter column written by editor and DC Answer Man Bob Rozakis in response to the question of just how certain team-ups, such as the ones between Batman and Sgt. Rock could have taken place when the Batman depicted seemed to be the one in current Earth One continuity, but Sgt. Rock was active during World War 2.

As far as why Rozakis chose the name Earth B in particular, well, that seems to be a matter of debate. Of course, some theorize that it could be “Earth Brave and Bold”. Others say it was likely named after writer Bob Haney, who was the writer on most of these stories and simply seemed to operate under the theory of “Why let something like continuity get in the way of a good story?”

In my mind, that’s actually a really good question, and it’s a shame that there’s not more of an outlet for that kind of an idea today.

Okay, I’m not going to do a lot of commentary on these covers today, preferring to let the speak for themselves, which they do quite eloquently. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m going to be completely silent, either, because let’s face it, that’s just not in my nature. Still, I’m going to try to keep the wordsmithing to a minimum.

Okay, let’s start with issue #67 there had been Batman team-up stories befor in the series, but this was really the first of the truly Batman and … dedicated stories:

bb67

BTW, I will point out one iconic feature of the cover of DC books at the time: the black and white checkerboard across the top, as seen on this cover from #69

bb69

bb75It should be noted that on Earth-B, Batman had a brother. At least for one issue. And a son as well:

bb83

Bats teaming up with a house? Not completely unthinkable when that house is The House of Mystery.

bb93

Sometimes DC wanted there to be some surprise as to who the co-star was:

bb95

I’ve noted in the past that 100th issues were considered very special, and this was true for B&B as well…

bb100

I mentioned above that being on Earth-B allowed for unusual team-ups such as those between Batman and Sgt. Rock. Here’s the cover for one of those:

bb108

At one point, DC experimented with 100 page “Super Spectacular” issues. I personally loved these issues, not only because they were a great bargain, but also because they were an opportunity to see other heroes and read stories from the past that were much harder to actually read in those days before there were all kinds of trade paperbacks reprinting material and before the internet made these stories more readily available. Here’s one example:

bb112

This is another example of one of those covers that made the reader wonder what could be going on. Why would The Joker be getting his own logo cover featured with those of the heroes?

bb118

Much like the 100 page issues mentioned above, DC also from time to time experimented with “Giant” issues of series which would come out at seemingly variable times and without any warning. (Of course, this was again at a time before the internet meant that anyone interested would know what was coming up months ahead of time)

bb120

bb137

Issue #146 featured “An untold tale from World War Two”. So how does Batman fit in? Good question:

bb146

Here’s another one of those “question mark” covers, directly challenging the reader to figure out who the guest star was:

(By the way, you may notice that the DC logo on this cover looks a bit different. That Whitman logo indicates that this issue was most likely sold in places like Wal-Mart or some other store as opposed to on the regular news stand, usually as part of a grab bag which would have three or more different comics for a dollar or something like that.)

bb150

What could possibly cause Batman to team up with his arch-enemy Ras Al-Ghul? Obviously that the question this cover wanted you to pick up the issue to find the answer to:

bb159

Again, obviously this next cover is one of those Earth-B “anytime/anywhere” stories. Hey, why not?

bb171

Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever read this story from issue #175, but this cover really makes me want to. And that’s just the kind of effect that this whole series of columns is meant to celebrate:

bb175

Issue #179 reminds us that time-travel doesn’t just mean journeys to the past:

bb179

And once again we get a cover featuring a villain as the co-star. What’s up with that?

bb183

And does this one follow that concept too, or could this be an Earth 2 story, where Batman was actually married to Catwoman?

bb197Of course, eventually all good things must come to an end, and for The Brave and The Bold, that end came with issue #200,  but that didn’t mean there wasn’t time for one last very special team-up:

bb200

Craparama Would Be More Appropriate – Chillerama (2011)

cr1There are those movies that are so bad they’re good.

Then there are those movies that are so bad they’re bad.

Then there’s Chillerama.

I’d call this “movie” an unmitigated piece of sh!t, but to be honest I’d be afraid to let this thing anywhere near my toilet because I would be afraid it would run away in horror, and considering some of the things I’ve forced down it before, well…

Of course, I can’t say that I wasn’t warned. The “friend”who loaned me this disk did try to warn me about how horrible it was, but did I listen? Well, yeah, I did, but at the same time, it really seemed like something that I had to see with my own eyes. A decision which now leads me to feel that I should apologize to my eyes.

cr3Actually, I suspect his real motive in even mentioning it to me falls firmly into the “misery loves company” realm.

The basic concept here is that of your standard anthology film. Four creators get together, decide to make parodies of drive=in movies from different eras, and put them together to make one feature. It’s something that has been done many times before, generally fairly badly, but I can;t think of when it’s been done this poorly and ineptly.

cr2Now generally, I wouldn’t even bother writing a review like this. After all, most of these film are made by first-time creators who at least are trying and/or have good intentions, and simply get in way over their heads or their budgets or their skill level, and can’t help the fact that that what they produce in the end just isn’t that good, and I don’t like tearing people down for trying.

But in this case, we’re talking about film makers who really should have known better. Adam Rifkin. Tim Sullivan. Adam Green. Joe Lynch.

To say I would expect better from each of these guys would be an understatement.

cr4Okay, I admit I am being a bit too harsh here. Actually, Green’s Diary of Anne Frankenstein does live up (or down, considering your perspective, I suppose) to its title, though even it doesn’t make it worth slogging through the rest of this drek.

Anyway, let’s just go ahead and file this one under “I watched it (though admittedly with my thumb firmly poised over the fast forward button) so you don’t have to” and let it go at that.

Here’s a trailer, though I should warn you that even this falls into the “remember, there are some things you simply can’t unsee” category:

Classic Television Thursday #42 – Pat Paulsen For President (1968)

1968… Now why does that year seem familiar? Oh, yeah, maybe because of this. Or a few other posts which I’ve posted in the past and have upcoming…

pp1Anyway, I’m not going to say a whole lot about this special, except that it documents the campaign of comedian Pat Paulsen for the Presidency of the United States in 1968. Paulsen at the time was best known for his appearances, mainly as an editorialist, on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (which, along with the fact that it was produced as a made-for-TV movie makes me feel that it’s entitled to a Classic TV Thursday spotlight). Encouraged mainly by Tommy Smothers, Paulsen entered the 1968 campaign as a candidate for the “Straight Talking American Government Party, or STAG Party for short.”

Oh, and if while you’re watching this you happen to be reminded of a certain currently front-running candidate of a right leaning political party, (or, for that matter, to a certain late-night comedian’s past run for the office) well I’ll simply say that that’s your inference and not my implication. Probably.

Here’s the entire show in a six-part YouTube playlist:

 

With Enemies Like This… – Best Of Enemies (2015)

boe1A friend of mine asked me a couple of weeks ago about my thoughts on Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville’s new documentary Best of Enemies which we had both had a chance to see earlier i the week. At the time, I gave her a quick impression, but also told her that I was still working on absorbing it, and that she would have to look here for further impressions, so here we go.

First off, I feel like I should note that the time period in which the “debates” depicted in this film – basically the period surrounding the 1968 Presidential election – and to a larger extent, the entire decade that runs roughly from 1968 to 1977 is one of particular fascination to me for a number of reasons (and is one you’re going to see a few more posts on soon), not the least of which being that I feel that not only are those years highly reflective of a lot of the things that are going on now, but also that, in large part, we’re currently paying for and having to deal with ideas and changes and business that was left unfinished during that time period.

boe2Before I go any further I want to go ahead and state up front that I have no intention of turning this into a political blog, though I’m sure as I write about these things, it will be next to impossible to keep my own views from coming through. No, the focus here will be, as it always has been, on the films and movies from and about those times, but I also feel that it’s next to impossible to discuss those films without discussing the culture and politics of the time, since so many of them depend upon an understanding of what was going on in the country at the time.

Okay, with all of that preface out of the way, let’s move on to Best of Enemies.

boe5Simply put, the film depicts and examines a series of 10 “debates” which took place between William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal during ABC News’s coverage of the 1968 Democratic and Republican National Conventions.

You might notice that I keep putting the word “debates” in quotation marks, because although that seems to have been ABC’s plan – to have these two towering intellectuals discuss and take sides on the issues that were prominent at the time and were sure to be under discussion not only amongst the various candidates for the nominations, but also on the national stage – what they actually got was a clash between two egos, neither of whom seemed to be interested in discussing the topics at hand, but rather in simply engaging in a game of one-upsmanship and in tearing the other down.

boe3Yes, I know, it almost seems like I could be describing the recent run of GOP debates which we have been seeing during the current nomination cycle. But the actual effect of these 1968 debates was even more insidious than that.

Because of economic constraints the network was facing at the time, (both NBC and CBS were dedicated to providing gavel-to-gavel coverage of the conventions, something ABC simply couldn’t afford), they opted instead for limited coverage with much more emphasis on analysis of the days proceedings. Thus, in pitting these two great intellects from both sides of the political spectrum – Buckley representing what would at the time be considered the far right and Vidal the far left – the hope was that they might bring in more viewers who were looking for interpretation and analysis of what had been going on through the day.

boe7It seems that what ABC simply didn’t account for was the amount of personal animosity towards the other that each man not only brought to the table at the beginning of their confrontations and which would develop even more deeply each time they encountered each other, ultimately boiling over when Mr Buckley turned on Vidal on live television and used language against him that he would later not only regret, but which he would carry with him throughout the rest of his life.

Needless to say, the movie documents an interesting series of confrontations that occurred at a time when the country was sharply divided not just politically, but ideologically, which in and of itself would be enough to make it worth watching.

boe8The thing that gives Best of Enemies more resonance, however, moving it  beyond the realm of being just a document of a historical curiosity, is how this series of confrontations would affect political commentary from that point on, and would act as a harbinger for today when it seems not only that this highly confrontational style of discourse (which is actually not that, but merely an airing of discord) would become the norm rather than the exception, until now it seems that there is no actual reporting being done, and that “news” programming is not shaped by a simple recording and reporting of the events of the day, but by a caustic level of interpretation that borders on propaganda for whichever side the outlet is supporting. And the film does at the end get around to making this comparison also, thus leaving the viewer with the actual thesis of the entire enterprise.

boe9Of course, not all of this can be laid simply to this series of confrontations between these two men. There are an extraordinary number of factors, not the least of which being the explosion of 24/7/365 news outlets which not only need to fill a lot of time, but each of which has grown their own perspective and following. But, much like the film seems to think, there’s just too much to explore there than really is the subject of this particular essay.

In the end, while Best of Enemies does a relatively good job of presenting the material it wants to cover (I say “relatively”, because even as I was watching it, I felt that it could have done a bit better at providing some context for what was happening both inside and outside the convention hall that Vidal and Buckley were supposed to be covering, and even in the context it does present, it focuses solely on the confrontational and sensationalistic aspects of the events, failing to really mention whether the two men did ever even touch upon any of the material they were supposed to be covering), I found myself leaving the theater with a sense of wanting more. What exactly, I can;t say, exactly, though perhaps the above parenthetical is it in large part, and while I can’t say that I completely enjoyed it, I do recommend it to those interested in the ti,e period or in the state of political discourse in the country now.

Here’s the trailer:

Sight and Sound Top 250 – #009 The Passion of Joan of Arc (1927)

Continuing our voyage throught the most recent Sight and Sound Top 250 Movies of All Time list, this time around, it’s #9 on the list, Carl Theodore Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc. And as always I’ll just note that for those just joining us, you can find a full introduction to what the Sight and Sound Top 250 list is, and a look at the complete list of the movies on it, along with links to the ones I’ve already written about here. And, if you want to be sure not to miss any of these posts, just head on over to the Facebook page and give it a “like”or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are also in the sidebar) where I post anytime one of these – or anything else on the blog, along with just random other links and thoughts that may not make it into full posts – goes up. Trust me, if you’re not following one or the other (or both), you’re not getting the full Durmoose Movies experience.

ja0Well, this time out, I not only get to mark another movie off the Top 250 list, but also off of my own personal “I really should have seen this movie before now” list. Of course by now you’ve  figured out that I’m talking about Carl Theodore Dreyer’s silent 1928 classic The Passion of Joan of Arc (or, giving it it’s proper French title, La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc).

Actually it’s a lucky thing that any of us are able to see the film at all, considering all of the troubles that beset the movie both before and after its production.

As soon as the production of Joan was announced, there were protests by French nationalists because of the director and because it had been rumored that Lillian Gish was to star as Joan. As Jean-Jose Frappa famously summed up these objections,

…whatever the talent of the director (and he has it)…he cannot give us a Joan of Arc in the true French tradition. And the American ‘star’…cannot be our Joan, wholesome, lively, shining with purity, faith, courage and patriotism. To let this be made in France would be a scandalous abdication of responsibility.

Then, before its premiere, the Archbishop of France and French censors ordered a number of cuts be made, demands to which the studio acceded, over the protests of Dreyer. Finally, the film had it’s public premiere in October of 1928.

ja1Then, in December of that year, the original negative of the film was destroyed in a fire, leaving only a few prints available, and most of those were heavily damaged. Fortunately Dreyer was able to piece together a new version made from alternate cuts of the film. This new version, however, was also destroyed in a lab fire in 1929.

In subsequent years, various recuts and editions were released, including a truly bastardized version which cut the film down to 61 minutes in 1933, and a 1951 recut by Joseph-Marie Lo Duca which became the prevailing print even though Dreyer objected to it.

ja2For years, it seemed as though there was no real chance that audiences would be able to see anything that truly resembled the director’s true vision for his film.

Then, in 1981, an employee of the Dikemark Mental Hospital  in Oslo, Norway, found several film canisters in a janitor’s closet that were labeled as being The Passion of Joan of Arc. These canisters were sent to the Norwegian Film Institute where they languished for three years before finally being further examined. When they finally were, it was discovered that they contained a copy of Dreyer’s original cut prior to government or church censorship.

These reels were finally restored, and in 1985, the closest thing to a definitive version was finally released to the public.

ja3As far as the film itself, there can be no doubt that Dreyer has created a true masterpiece, though it is a very unconventional one. The director for the most part eschews establishing shots and even the expected mid-range shots, instead spending most of the film giving us extreme close-ups which truly allow the emotions of the characters to come through. Also, through his decision not to allow the actors to wear make-up and to shoot them with mostly only the available light, he really does capture a sense of intensity which heightens not only the viewer’s empathy with Joan’s plight, but the furiousness that is brought by her interrogators.

Even when Dreyer does give us scenes of transition, such as when the action moves into the torture room, he chooses his shot in such a way that gives the room an unexpected starkness that serves only to heighten the viewer’s curiosity and the sense of dread which permeates the film.

ja4There are even times when the film seems to border on the abstract and the expressionist, such as the shots of the spiked spinning wheel which occur during the torture scene.

There’s also really no way to overstate the perfection of the performance which star Renée Jeanne Falconetti brings to the film in the title role of Joan. At the same time embodying the hopefulness of the martyr in her belief that God will save her with an equal sense of the hopelessness of her plight, Falconetti is tragic in a way that I dare say no one has or will ever be on film again.

ja6Kudos also have to be given to the various actors who make up the court. Again, since so much of the film is made up of extreme close-ups of their faces, they have to use those faces to embody an extreme range of emotions without being able to resort to other tricks and tics of body language to do so.

All in all, The Passion of Joan of Arc is one of those transcendent films which truly shows what a skilled and passionate (no pun intended) film maker can create despite the enormous amount of interference from all quarters the Dreyer was faced with, and it’s a film that seems, much like Joan herself, something of a miracle that we are able to see today.

Here’s a trailer that was obviously made for a theatrical showing of the new restoration:

Covering Comics #5 – The Brave And The Bold (Part One)

I’ve often said that I miss the comics covers of old. Those covers were designed, unlike many of the ones being produced today which are merely mini-posters spotlighting the titular character without giving any indication of the story contained inside, to draw readers in and make them anxious about actually reading the stories contained therein. Of course, this was also a time when comic books could be found all over the place, from newsstands to the local drug store, as opposed to only in specialty comic-book shops, and they were largely focused on catching the eye of someone just passing by the comics rack instead of depending pretty solely on regular readers who are willing to go every Wednesday to get their weekly fix, but that’s a discussion for another time, I suppose. Anyway, “Covering Comics” is going to be a probably irregular series of posts where I take a look at various covers from the past, highlighting some of my personal favorites, or other covers of note for one reason or another.

Most likely, I’m guessing, if you know the title The Brave and the Bold at all, it’s from the recent cartoon series which ran on the Cartoon Network from 2008 to 2011 and saw Batman teaming up with various other characters from the DC Comics Universe. I hate to admit it, but I am woefully behind when it comes to the DC animated series, and this is one that I need to catch up on.

bb0Like it’s cartoon counterpart, the comics series is best known as a Batman team-up book, and I’ll be “covering” those team-ups in this column next time. This time out, however, I want to take a look at the series’ life before it became a strictly Batman team-up book, a period that can roughly be divided into three phases. At first, the series was a place for some of DC’s non-superhero concepts, more specifically ones that took place in the past, what I suppose you could call “adventure heroes”. For the most part, these heroes were ones like The Viking Prince and The Silent Knight.

The second phase of the book saw it become a “try-out” title – a place that DC could use to test the waters for characters and concepts that they weren’t sure really merited devoting a full series to. They would then gauge both sales and reader reactions, and if a character seemed like it might hit, then they would “graduate” to having their own feature, sometimes as a back-up in another character;s book, sometimes in their own title. Generally these try-outs would last three issues, then, if the response merited it, the feature might return for another two or three issue run.

Of course, now the trend, instead of having a dedicated try-out book or anthology series seems, for both DC and Marvel to simply announce a new series for a character and then, if it doesn’t seem to be working, redefine the series from ongoing to merely a limited run miniseries (oft times acting as if that were the plan all along), or just abruptly pulling the plug, which really is a shame, because it seems like these days, when the companies can get such instant feedback, there would be more desire to have a series like this than ever before.

Finally, The Brave and the Bold became a team-up book, but not one that specifically featured Batman. Instead, you were likely to see odd pairings that either would never happen anywhere else, or more popular characters paired with lesser-known ones to again judge the readers’ reactions.

Of course, when you’re wanting to get readers who are mostly quite literally “judging the (comic) book by it’s cover” without having any preconceived notions of the characters contained within, it’s important to really draw that potential reader’s eye in by the cover, so this seemed a perfect series to look at here. So let’s get underway, shall we?

Let’s start with issue #1 which cover features The Viking Prince, The Golden Gladiator, and The Silent Knight.

bb1

The spotlighted heroes changed at times, and one of the big additions came with issue 5, when a certain archer joined the title:

bb5

As noted above, it was with issue 25 that the series became a try-out book, beginning with the introduction of the Suicide Squad. BTW, you might also notice that the Brave and the Bold logo has shrunk in prominence and more of the cover is given over to the individual character or team logo. This was actually a practice that had begun a bit earlier when the book shrunk in size and began featuring only one new story per issue as opposed to three or four.

bb25

Issue #28 was one of the most important in the series’ run, as it introduced a new team to the DC Universe.

bb28

Issue #31 gave us Cave Carson. Yeah, he really hasn’t gained the prominence of some of the other characters the series spotlighted, but I really do love the way that lava creature pops out on the cover.

bb31

#35 gave us another character who would find a prominent place in the DC universe:

bb35

It wasn’t long before the Suicide Squad made a return to the pages of B&B, this time with a little tweak, as the group was now officially named “Task Force X” and “Suicide Squad” became their nickname because of the hazards they were facing.

bb39

Cave Carson was also given a return tour.

bb40

As was Hawkman.

bb44

I mentioned earlier that DC also tried out different concepts in the book. One of those was “Strange Sports Stories”. This actually led to a number of different titles which would feature “Strange” and “Weird” short stories in various genres such as “Weird Western Stories” and “Weird War Tales”…

bb45

Finally, issue #50 saw the book transition to its team-up phase, with the seemingly unlikely pairing of The Green Arrow and The Martian Manhunter, or, as he was known then…

bb50

This cover to issue #51 seems to be really reaching for a way to pair up these two seemingly incompatible co-stars.

bb51

Issue #54 had the bright idea of teaming up the kid sidekicks of DC’s heroes…

bb54

…which of course led to this team’s official debut in issue #60. (Though Wonder Girl wasn’t actually Wonder Woman’s kid sidekick. Instead, she was supposed to be a younger version of WW herself, much as Superboy was the younger Clark Kent. So how did she wind up here? Well, that’s a story for another time.)

bb60

Issue #61 was another of those seemingly extremely unlikely pairings that made it seem like the characters to be teamed up were simply being pulled from a hat.

bb61

Here’s another one of those from issue #65:

bb65

And finally, here’s a seemingly more sensible pairing of two of DC’s most prominent female stars at the time in issue #63

bb63

It was after this issue that the title for the most part became a strictly Batman team-up book, but we’ll save those covers for next time.

Classic Television Thursday #41 – The Muppet Show (1976 -1981)

ms1Last week I spent some time writing about the Muppets on Sesame Street, along with a follow-up post featuring some of the Muppets’ original commercial appearances, so it seemed like this would be a good time to take a quick look at the original Muppet Show, especially with a new version on the way.

Again, I have to express my surprise at the fact that so many of my younger co-workers and readers seem unfamiliar with the fact that a version of The Muppet Show existed before the movies, but also again, I suppose it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise since so many of them weren’t even born when the show was originally on the air, and, since the show featured so much popular music from the day, it hasn’t had a really good official DVD or Blu-ray release (at least not in the US), nor is it often rebroadcast.

ms2On the bright side, though, it does appear that most of the full episodes are available on YouTube complete with introductions from Jim Henon’s son, though they have to be viewed in a small window surrounded by a huge blue screen adorned with the Muppet Show logo. Definitely not an ideal way to watch them, but better, I suppose, than nothing for those who want to seek them out.

Anyway, as I noted last time, the Muppets had been a fixture on Sesame Street since 1969, but by 1974 Jim Henson was beginning to feel constrained just working on that show, and was also concerned that his creations were going to be associated solely with children’s programming, so he began to try to figure out something new that he could either with some of his previously created characters, or with some new ones. These concerns led him to create two Muppet specials – The Muppet Valentine Show, and The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence – both of which aired on ABC. Unfortunately, these did not lead to a series pickup, though they did prompt CBS to tell Henson that they would be interested perhaps in syndicating a show to their local affiliates for airing during the 7:30 to 8pm (Eastern Time) time slot.

ms4Henson was reluctant to go the syndication route, and it looked like his dream for a separate Muppet Show might go unfulfilled until rescue came from a very unexpected source. Lew Grade, who was the head of the British television station ATV (which was a commercial station and part of the ITV network, as opposed to the more familiar BBC) offered a deal which would see The Muppet Show produced by ATV in the Elstree Studios in England, and first broadcast there, then sold into syndication in America by ITC entertainment, ITV’s distribution arm.

Yep, that’s right. The Muppet Show is actually a British import.

ms3Anyway, this version of The Muppet Show is both a variety show of the type that was popular at the time, featuring comedy skits, guest stars, and songs, and a throwback to the vaudeville days when such shows were performed on the stage rather than on television. It could also be considered a sort of sit-com, since much of the show was also concerned with showing the backstage shenanigans and interactions between the characters and just what went on in the putting together of the (fictional on-stage) show each week.

SwedishChefIt was in this show that we first met such Muppet staple characters as Miss Piggy, Fozzy Bear, The Swedish Chef, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his assistant Beaker, and many others. And of course, they were all overseen by the ever-present Kermit, who served both as host of the show and show-runner, responsible not only for attempting to keep these disparate characters in check and making sure that the show went on, but also with seeing to the comfort and care of that week’s guest star.

It should also be noted that though at first many big-name stars were reluctant to make the required trip to England to appear on the show, once its popularity soared, it became one of the go-to shows and the stars were virtually clamoring to book an appearance.

Okay, as I noted above, I’m just not that thrilled with the way that the full shows are presented on YouTube, so rather than embed one of those here, I am instead gonna just post a few short bits and clips from the show to give you an idea of what was going on and some of the performers who appeared on the show.

Enjoy!

Oh, and just for good measure, here’s a short compilation of scenes from that second pilot, Sex and Violence, for those who are curious as to what Henson had in mind for a bit more “adult” show: