Covering Comics #14 – Artist Spotlight: Neal Adams

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 an 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.

Back in Covering Comics #11 I took a look at Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams’ legendary run on Green Lantern/Green Arrow, but Neal Adams did far more than just that series, and he was one of the most sought after cover artists at the time. Adam’s style was, as you will see, highly realistic, but he never forgot that he was drawing comics, so there’s also a very stylistic quality to his drawings.

Once again, I’m not going to comment on these covers because I think they speak for themselves. Enjoy!

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I should note that though most of these covers are from the 60s and 70s, Mr Adams is still alive and working infrequently in the comics field, and even has a new mini-series which he is both writing and illustrating coming from DC entitled Superman: Coming of the Supermen and is scheduled to launch next month.

 

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Throwback Thursday – Rage At Dawn (1955)

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back.

Today we’re heading back to March 2010 when I wrote on PDPDTC about the Randolph Scott starring 1955 movie Rage at Dawn. One major change that I have made to the post below is that originally I simply had a clip to a scene from the movie because I couldn’t find a good trailer for the film. This time I’ve edited it to embed the entire movie.

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Monday Oaters – Rage At Dawn Starring Randolph Scott (1955)

tt02aJust because you’re paranoid it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. Yeah, it’s become a cliche, but it definitely seems to be the attitude of the Reno brothers in today’s feature, Rage at Dawn.

Rage at Dawn is the story of the Reno Brothers, wild west outlaws who become, according to the opening of the film, America’s first train robbers. Yes, these are the same Reno Brothers that would be portrayed in the next year’s Elvis Presley movie Love Me Tender, but there’s no singing in this flick. Instead it’s definitely a rootin’-tootin’ film full of white and black hats, six-guns, betrayals and tough guys.

When one of the brothers is shot down during an aborted bank robbery, it becomes obvious that someone has betrayed them. They soon track down the informant who turns out to be the bartender at the local saloon, actually an undercover agent of the Peterson Detective Agency. In revenge, the boys knock him out, tie him up in his barn and set the place ablaze. They are able to act as they wish with impunity because they are paying off the local lawmen and judges, cutting them in on the loot from each of their jobs. Soon the Peterson Agency decides to bring in a new man, James Barlow, played by Randolph Scott. Barlow’s plan is to infiltrate the gang by posing as a train robber (the company sets up a fake robbery for the Reno’s to get wind of, with the full cooperation of the train company) and getting them to want to join him. Barlow also finds time to romance the Renos’ sister, in whose house the brothers are living.

tt03aOf course, there is no way that this movie can really live up to the true epitome of the paranoid western The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, but it does a good job of evoking the distrust and suspicion that so often accompanies any criminal enterprise. This infection of paranoia is not limited solely to the Reno Brothers either, as, for example, when their co-conspirators first hear of the train robbery they immediately think that the Renos have pulled the job and are holding out on them. The question then becomes, as suspicious as the brothers are, is there any way for Barlow to actually gain their trust and lead them to capture without getting himself or his fellow agent killed?

The film is shot in color, and though it’s supposed to take place in Southern Indiana (hey, at some time in this country’s history, EVERYWHERE has been “the west”), the California scenery does not really look anything like that part of the country. Nonetheless, the movie is lifted by a number of very good performance. Besides Scott, it stars Forrest Tucker as Frank Reno, J. Carrol Naish as ‘Sim’ Reno, and Uncle Jesse himself, Denver Pyle as “good” brother Clint Reno.

No trailer today, I’m afraid, (if anyone out there can find one, let me know and I’ll be happy to add it) but I’ve embedded the entire film below:

Now, here’s the skinny:
Title: Rage at Dawn
Release Date: 1955
Running Time: 87 min
Black and White
Starring: Randolph Scott
Directed by: Tim Whelan
Produced by: Unknown
Released by: RKO Radio Pictures

If you’ve seen this flick, please be sure to leave a comment and let me and everyone else know what you thought.

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

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Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.

 

Quickie Review – The Super Cops (1974)

sc1Part buddy cop movie, part let’s fight police corruption movie, The Super Cops works pretty well as at least light entertainment. This is definitely one time where you should think Starsky and Hutch much more than say Serpico or even Lethal Weapon.

The setting is early 70s New York, and newly minted NYPD officers Dave Greenberg and Robert Hantz are eager to move beyond the day-to-day low level duties (such as directing traffic) that they are given, so they decide to spend their off-duty time making drug busts and attempting to get the attention of their superiors so that they can quickly make their way up to detective.

They definitely get attention, but it’s not really the kind they want, as the real detectives on the force feel like the pair are trying to make them look bad, and they are eventually investigated by Internal Affairs who assume that they must be somehow corrupt.

sc3Eventually they are assigned to the (fictional) 21st precinct in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Appalled by what they see there, they make it their mission to try to clean up the neighborhood and do what they can to get as much of the drugs off the streets and to bust the Hayes brothers who are the major drug suppliers in the neighborhood. Though they are secretly supported by their captain who wants the to make the busts so that they can get their detective badges and he can, as he says “ride their shirt tails” out of the precinct, this only further infuriates those who oppose them, including among others, a corrupt District Attorney.

Based on the true story of two real-life detectives, The Super Cops, directed by Gordon Parks (who also directed the seminal blaxplitation movie Shaft) from a script by Lorenzo Semple Jr. (who helped develop the Batman television show) does itself a favor by never seeming to take itself quite too seriously. Though it’s not a comedy, and the subject matter is serious, there is a light touch to the movie that keeps it rollicking along at such a breakneck pace that at least for me it seemed much shorter than it’s running time of 90 minutes.

sc2One thing that definitely helps keep the movie light and mving are the performances by leads Ron Liebman and David Selby who portray the pair as competent though frequently awkward, so that they always seem just slightly out of place both in social settings and while chasing down bad guys. Also of note in the cast is Pat Hingle who plays the IAD inspector charged with bringing them down. Hingle would later go on to portray Police Commissioner Gordon in Tim Burton’s Batman films.

As far as historical accuracy goes, I suspect that it’s best not to really question it, especially considering the later careers and corruption charges eventually brought against the real cops upon whom the movie pair are based.

I suspect that your reaction to The Super Cops will really depend on just how much you’re into this kind of movie. If you’re looking for a film where things are always exploding and everything is a matter of life or death and the end of the world could come at any moment then this is not going to be for you. If on the other hand, you’re just looking to some light buddy cop entertainment, and especially if you’re a fan of that late 60s early 70s New York setting like I am, then you could certainly do worse.

I couldn’t find a really good trailer for the movie to embed, but here’s a short clip to give you a feel for it:

 

 

Sight and Sound Top 250 – #199 Out Of The Past (1947)

It’s time to take a look at one of the films on the Sight and Sound Top 250 of All Time again, and today’s pick is #199 on the list, Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past. And as always I’ll 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.

ootp01There are a couple of different definitive film noir themes that Out of the Past immediately brings to mind.

The first is the one articulated in The Godfather Part Two, that of “I thought I was out but they drew me back in.”

The other is that of the inevitable spiral. That’s the idea that once started on the downhill slope, no matter how it happens, our protagonist is doomed and there’s nothing he can do to change that.

In Out of the Past, Robert Mitchum plays Jeff Bailey, the proprietor of a small gas station in the off the road town of Bridgeport, California. One day he is approached by Joe Stefanos who claims he knows Jeff from a previous life when he went by the name of Jeff Markham. He initially claims that he was just passing through town and happened to recognize his old friend, but it turns out he was sent there by Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas) to bring Jeff back to see Sterling. Sterling wants Jeff to perform one more job for him in order to wipe out a long-standing debt from Jeff’s previous life.

If all of this sounds familiar, it’s because this type of story is prototypical for film noir and is one that has been told time and again in films both before and since, with one more recent example of the trope being 2005’s A History of Violence.

ootp03The next thing a great noir needs, of course, is a stunning femme fatale, someone whom the audience can believe is worth the protagonist risking everything to either protect or to follow into the depths of a heavenly hell, and Jane Greer as Kathie Moffat ably fits that bill. Not only does she have the classic beauty of a femme fatale, but she perfectly embodies the attitude that goes along with it.

She also has a number of great dialogue exchanges with Jeff that wonderfully encapsulate that ideal such as:

Jeff Bailey: That’s not the way to win.
Kathie Moffat: Is there a way to win?
Jeff Bailey: There’s a way to lose more slowly

or:
Jeff Bailey: I didn’t know you were so little.
Kathie Moffat: I’m taller than Napoleon.
Jeff Bailey: You’re prettier, too.

or
Kathie Moffat: I think we deserve a break.
Jeff Bailey: We deserve each other.

And there’s also more great dialogue that makes Out of the Past such a great example of the genre, such as Jeff’s encapsulation of his relationship with Kathie which also emphasizes the darkness and night-time setting and tone of the film:

I never saw her in the daytime. We seemed to live by night. What was left of the day went away like a pack of cigarettes you smoked. I didn’t know where she lived. I never followed her. All I ever had to go on was a place and time to see her again. I don’t know what we were waiting for. Maybe we thought the world would end.

More great dialogue? Okay, how about this from Douglas’s Whit Sterling:

You’re gonna take the rap and play along. You’re gonna make every exact move I tell you. If you don’t, I’ll kill you. And I’ll promise you one thing: it won’t be quick. I’ll break you first. You won’t be able to answer a telephone or open a door without thinking, ‘This is it.’ And it when it comes, it still won’t be quick. And it won’t be pretty. You can take your choice.

Obviously screenwriter Daniel Mainwaring who was adapting his novel Build My Gallows High which was published under the name Geoffrey Homes, the same pseudonym he used for the screenplay, knew exactly the kind of film he was writing and made the most to produce the kind of florid writing that epitomizes the noir genre.

ootp07That last bit of monologue also emphasizes another important aspect of film noir or really of any great narrative film like this: a truly evil villain. Well, okay, that’s not entirely true, because in many cases the real opponent for the protagonist in a noir is simply Fate itself, but, if that fate is going to be brought in by an outside force, especially as a personal antagonist to our presumptive “hero”, then it’s important that they be just as outstanding and powerful as the main character, and that is something that Douglas provides in spades.

Though he is off-screen for much of the action, Sterling is a presence who is felt throughout the entire film, and is never far from the action even if his impact is at times only implied. Props should also go to Paul Valentine who plays Sterling’s heavy and enforcer Joe Stefanos for providing just the right amount of detachment and irony to what could have been a truly thankless role.

ootp06Finally, one absolutely has to credit cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca whho also shot Jacque Tourneur’s Cat People. Musuraca’s use of light and darkness is masterful and fully epitomizes what the genre needs and exemplifies exactly where the genre got its name. Truly there are shots in this film that could stand alone as beautiful pices of black and white photography even when taken out of the context of the film. Yet at the same time he never dwells on them or lingers so long that the shots lose sight of what they are supposed to be doing in the first place, and that is servicing the film of which they are a part.

In the end what we have with Out of the Past is a film which encapsulates the film noir genre and would serves as a perfect entre into the dark world of the genre. It’s one of those movies that one could very easily use as an example in a film class or to show to someone who had no experience with the genre and say “You want to know what noir is? Then watch this.”

And that’s what I say to you now. Watch it. Or at the very least, for the moment watch the trailer below. Then go watch it. You won’t be sorry.

Kubrick On Kubrick – Stanley Kubrick: The Lost Tapes

skStanley Kubrick: The Lost Tapes is a short documentary which was compiled by Jim Casey from a series of tape recordings made by Jeremy Bernstein in 1966. At the time of the recordings, Kubrick was in the midst of making 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Bernstein was writing a profile on the director. Casey has taken excerpts from the tapes and edited them together with clips from the director’s films and behind-the scenes photographs to form a very good self-narrated profile of the director from his childhood through his early films, and on until the making of 2001.

Even for those who may not have a particular interest in the films of Kubrick, the documentary is interesting because the director spends quite a bit of time talking about how he managed to get his start and how he went about getting the equipment and financing for his earliest films, and it also provides some interesting insight into scripts that he wrote and film projects that were either started and abandoned or for which he wrote scripts but then were actually, for one reason or another never made.

The films covered in the documentary include:

1951 – Day of the Fight (Documentary short)
1951 – Flying Padre (Documentary short)
1953 – Fear and Desire
1955 – Killer’s Kiss
1956 – The Killing
1957 – Paths of Glory
1960 – Spartacus
1962 – Lolita
1964 – Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
1968 – 2001: A Space Odyssey

What is perhaps most surprising about these tapes is how candid the director is about what he sees as his own failings, and also how he responds to some of the criticisms of his early works, especially Lolita.

You can watch the entire documentary below.

Another Lost Film Found! – Pages Of Death (1962)

pod1In October of 2015 Gambit Magazine posted a list of its top 15 films that were still considered “lost” at the time. The list contained many of the usual suspect such as London at Midnight, but it also highlighted some obscurities such as a Filipino parody Batman Fights Dracula and one I’d really love to see: a 1933 version of The Monkey’s Paw directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack.

Also on the list was a 1962 PSA-style short (it runs just under 30 minutes) titled Pages of Death.

Well, thanks to the work of the Oregon Historical Society, this is one that can now be struck from the list.

I’ll let the OHS take up the story and film description from here, courtesy of their posting of the film on YouTube:

Considered a “lost film” as of early 2016, a faded 16mm print was discovered in the Moving Image collection at the Oregon Historical Society in 2015. Created in 1962 the film was recently ranked #14 in Gambit Magazine‚Äôs list of 15 Films Lost to Time.

An anti-pornography and pro censorship film running 27 minutes in length, Pages of Death was produced by the Hour of St. Francis radio program and distributed by the Citizens for Decent Literature (Cincinnati, Ohio) which was affiliated with the Roman Catholic anti-pornography campaigner, Charles Keating.

pod2Charles Keating is probably best remembered as an overzealous and nearly rabid campaigner against pornography in the 50s and 60s, including leadership on the 1969 President’s Commission on Obscenity and Pornography. Later, as a corrupt and criminal banker in the 80s, he ran the American Continental Corporation and the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, which so exploited the banking deregulations under Reagan that it led to the complete collapse of the Savings and Loan industry, not to mention investigations of the “Keating Five,” which included the current Senator John McCain.

Tom Harmon, the narrator of the film, was married to actress Elyse Knox whose career include being a WWII pin up girl, which landed her similar roles in quite a few films. In 1962 when Pages of Death was produced, he was a well-known sportscaster at CBS and delivered the nightly sports report on KTLA-TV in Los Angeles. Late in 1962, he joined the sports staff at the ABC radio network, produced his own show and eventually created his own production company. The actor Mark Harmon (Summer School) is the youngest of his three children.

Pages of Death stars John Larch, Vivi Janiss and Paul Picerni.

Considering its origins as an anti-pornography propaganda film, Pages of Death actually plays as a pretty decent take on, say, an episode of Dragnet, which was often as moralizing as this. No, the acting isn’t great, but it’s as good as it needs to be in order to get its point across. Especially when taken in comparison to much of the similar work that was being produced before and around this time, it’s not bad at all.

pod3I suppose I can’t really conclude this without taking a moment to talk about the actual content of the film itself, so I’ll just throw up a quick ***Spoiler Warning*** though what happens really should be obvious. When young Karen Fleming doesn’t come home from school in time for dinner, her parents begin to worry. After checking with neighbors and friends they call in the police, who soon track her to her last known whereabouts, Baker’s drug store. Upon questioning Baker, they find that an older boy, Paul Halliday was also in the store at the time. Though Paul initially denies having had any contact with Karen, or even noticing that she was in the store, further investigation leads the police to discover that Karen is indeed dead (and though it’s never straight-out stated, probably sexually assaulted) and they once again go to question Paul.

During this part of their investigation, the policemen not only turn up enough evidence to finger Paul and get him to confess, they find a number of pornographic magazines, books, films, and slides, enough to indict not just Paul, but the porn industry as the culprit behind the young girl’s death. A final epilogue returns the police to Baker’s store, where he defends himself only by saying that the boy could have picked up the offending magazines at “10 or 12 places around town”.

pod4All of this is wrapped around by a narration by Tom Harmon further indicting the porn industry and those who make this kind of material available to youths as just as responsible for Paul’s actions as he himself.

No matter how you feel about the subject matter of Pages of Death -the actual assertions made or the indictment of pornographic magazines as responsible for Paul’s actions – it’s always exciting when another of these “lost films” is resurrected and made available for viewers today, so thanks have to be given to the Oregon Historical Society for their efforts to bring back this seemingly gone forever treasure.

Now let’s just hope that discoveries like this will help us mark a few more off that list. Especially that version of The Monkey’s Paw.

Here’s the film:

Throwback Thursday – The Ghost Walks (1934)

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back.

Today we’re heading back to February of 2011 when I wrote on PDPDTC about Frank R. Strayer’s 1934 movie The Ghost Walks.

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The Ghost Walks – And Proves Once Again That “The Play’s The Thing”

tt1Hiya, kiddies! So, the “old dark house”. It’s a mystery/horror sub-genre that we’ve discussed before, and honestly, it’s one of my favorites. I suppose one of the main reasons is because it’s like ordering a favorite meal at a restaurant. Even if you’ve never been to that particular eatery before, you still pretty well know what the ingredients are going to be and how it’s going to taste before you get it. Oh, sure, one cook may include a bit more or less of this ingredient or may put them together in a way that tries to impart a bit of his or her own personal style, but nine times out of ten you’re going to get something pretty much the same as that dish that you’ve enjoyed time and again.

Then, of course, there’s also that tenth time, when the cook actually does something somewhat unique and surprising with those familiar ingredients.

tt2Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m certainly not suggesting that director Frank Strayer has invented anything truly new with The Ghost Walks. No, for the most part it consists of all of the familiar elements that make up an old dark house mystery. 1) A group of disparate people are, for one reason or another gathered together in a creepy old mansion – in this particular case a fallen tree and a washed out road prove effective enough to thrust our protagonist and his traveling companions into a seemingly already quite awkward family gathering, thereby allowing this particular phase to move along quite quickly. 2) There is some reason for everyone to be suspicious of everyone else – often the cause of the gathering is the reading of a will which leaves one or more parties dissatisfied with the results. In this particular case the Mcguffin is the anniversary of the murder of the husband of one of the characters. 3) There should be at least one “coincidental” connection between some of the characters – ofttimes one or more will know another character from a different setting. 4) Quite often there is also a random element thrown into the mix – for instance here we are informed of an inmate recently escaped from an insane asylum. 5) Eventually all of the lights in the house will inexplicably go out, and when they come back on, someone will have been killed leaving the survivors to try to figure out who among them could possibly be the killer. 6) Soon, even more mysterious things begin to happen – a strange hand will reach out from around a corner, the eyes of a picture will move in a way that tells us someone unknown is watching the proceedings, more people will die or disappear, secret passages will be found and more. Yep, kiddies, all of these elements are present in The Ghost Walks, just as they are in pretty much all old dark house mysteries.

What sets this particular film apart from most of its brethren of the genre, however, is the twist that occurs just after the victim of the first murder is revealed. Now, I’m not going to say that it turns this little quickie into a great movie, but it does serve not only to explain some of the “coincidences” that we’re asked to swallow during the first act, and also provides the film with a sense of humor that it would otherwise be lacking, which helps to keep the whole piece from becoming too familiar and dreary. In other words, just as with that one time in ten that that favorite meal is transformed into something above and beyond just “the usual”, The Ghost Walks manages also to take the usual ingredients and transform them into a unique taste sensation.

Ok, I couldn’t find a suitable trailer for this one, but since the whole movie is embedable in one piece from YouTube, here ya go:

And here’s the Skinny:
Title: The Ghost Walks
Release Date: 1934
Running Time: 63mins
Black and White
Stars: John Miljan, June Collier
Directed by: Frank R. Strayer
Produced by: Maury M. Cohen
Distributed by: Chesterfield Motion Pictures Corporation

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting
-Professor Damian

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Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.