Friday, March 28, 2008

BATMAN (1943)- Chapter 2

Chapter two is entitled THE BAT’S CAVE and begins with Batman falling to his death from a multi-story building! But luckily he only falls a few (?) feet before landing on the window washer’s platform below. Leaping back into action he joins Robin in subduing one of Daka’s henchmen and getting their hands on the mighty Atom Smasher Gun (which for some reason is now being called the Radium Gun). Knowing they need to pump the criminal for information they blindfold him and take him back the Bat Cave for interrogation. In a funny scene Batman tells the poor sap that the bats flying around the cave will attack him and drink his blood. When this fails to produce answers he threatens the criminal with the Atom Gun. He finally spills what little he knows about the Japanese organization and the dynamic duo dump him in front of the police department with a note pinned to his chest.

Now at this point I have to note that there has been nothing mentioned about Linda’s Uncle who was last seen plunging off the top of the building. And indeed there is no mention of old Uncle Martin’s apparent death at all. By any one. It’s like he was never there. The next time he’s spoken of it’s by Daka ordering another henchman to impersonate his voice to lure Linda someplace to kidnap her. It seems the wily Jap bastard thinks she might know where the missing Atom—I mean Radium Gun has gone.

Of course Linda falls for the phone call from her ‘uncle’ and is easily gassed and grabbed in a restaurant. But Bruce and Dick have followed her and realize she’s been carted off by the bad guys. The clue gleaned from the captured henchman was the name of a flop house called the House of the Open Door. Working on intuition (or a peek at the script) they go there in disguise and spot one of Daka’s men enter a carefully chosen room. Sure enough this is where Linda is being held as the goons slap her around and ask her questions.

Our heroes change into their pajamas, scale the building and crash through the window to rescue the lady. But they choose a risky means of escape! With the unconscious Linda slung over one shoulder Batman walks across electrical wires to the roof of an adjacent building as a henchman swings a connecting wire over his walkway. Will the sparking electricity kill the mighty Batman? Will he drop the not very convincing dummy he has over his shoulder? Will someone clear up the mystery of Uncle Martin’s amazing disappearance between the roof and sidewalk?

Some or all of these questions will be answered (or at least addressed) in chapter three of BATMAN.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Cannon Film's SPIDER-MAN??

File this under "Things I'm Stunned to Learn".

It seems that back in the mid 80s Cannon Films (best known for schlock of the Ninja and Chuck Norris variety) had the rights to Spider-Man and were planning to make a feature film. They even had a partial cast set which explains this strange (and until now unexplained) cover for Amazing Spider-Man # 262. It seems Marvel thought his sucker was going to really get made. So much work went into this abandoned project that they spent over $2 million before they stopped. Some of the names involved are incredible and the mind boggles at the idea of what might have been. Follow this link for some fascinating info and an interview with potential director Albert Pyun.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Amicus movies coming to DVD

Yet more great news of future DVD releases! It appears that several rare Amicus films will be coming out later this year from Legend Films. The big news is that one of them is THE SKULL (1965) directed by Freddie Francis. This is a very good chiller centered around the mystic powers of the titular cranium of Edgar Allan Poe and the creepy shenanigans it gets up to. It stars Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing but I haven’t seen the film in so long I can barely remember what they do or if Lee is his usual villainous self in it. The others being released include THE DEADLY BEES (also directed by Francis) which I’ve only seen via Mystery Science Theater 3000 and THE MAN WHO CHEATED DEATH which I’ve never seen.

I need to start saving my pennies immediately!

Thursday, March 20, 2008


I was looking over some recent posters for movies and found myself sad that this kind of painted work is so very rare today. Things like this are so much more memorable than the photoshopped images that grace film posters nowadays.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

BATMAN (1943) Chapter 1

Only 4 years after the character debuted in comics form BATMAN made the leap to the movie screen. That it was in a 15 chapter serial was natural. Perfect for the format Batman and his sidekick Robin were pressed into duty by Columbia pictures who took their cue from the comics being produced at the time and made the heroes our frontline warriors against foreign saboteurs. This was the first of two Batman serials made in the 1940s and I’ve heard they are far from the best ever made. But I love the old chapter plays and have been able to enjoy some of the worst even if it was hard slogging through things like THE WHISPERING SHADOW just because Bela Lugosi starred.

I’m going to try to blog each chapter of this first screen adaptation of Batman over the next few weeks. I’m not quite sure how long it will take or if I’ll have the will to finish but I’m going to give it a good try. I’ve found most Columbia serials to be impoverished affairs with the usual repetitious structure of the story getting to be very hard to bear. The exceptions to this rule were the two SPIDER efforts which I found to be great so maybe pulp superheroes are what they did best. We’ll see………

Chapter one begins with a voice over telling us about Batman and Robin’s relentless fight against crime. Over a montage of fisticuffs and swashbuckling we’re told of their secret identities and introduced to Wayne Manor, the rather plain looking Bat Mobile and the Bat Cave. (History note- This is the first ever appearance of the cave which afterwards was adopted into the comic books.)Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson go to meet Bruce’s lady love Linda at her place of work. She is to pick up her uncle who is being released from prison that day and the duo accompanies her. But before they can get to the jail Uncle is forcibly picked up by a group of criminals for their own reasons. Spotting Linda's uncle in a car headed away from the prison Bruce tries to follow to no avail.

The men who shanghaied Uncle turn out to be Japanese agents working to undermine the American war effort. Their boss is Dr. Daka (J. Carrol Naish) who wishes old Unc to join these 5th columnists in taking down the US of A. When he refuses Daka threatens to turn him into a living ‘zombie’ with no will of his own so that he will do as ordered anyway. To show his power the evil (and clearly pleased with himself) Daka demonstrates his Atom Smasher Gun. This nasty weapon can cause walls to disintegrate by turning them to powder! And that’s on its lowest setting!

Daka zombiefies the uncooperative new recruit and sends him and two other henchmen off to use the gun on the safe in Linda’s office. They are to steal radium from the safe to power the gun. But they have to use the gun to open the safe. And the radium inside will power the gun. Whoa! Got caught in a Serial Plot Feedback Loop there! That’ll happen a few times in most serials. I’m just surprised it happens so soon in this one.

Any how—Linda gets tossed into a closet while the Japanese agents crack open the safe. But Bruce and Dick have spotted the men entering the building, changed into their crime fighting outfits and rush in to stop them. During the resultant rooftop battle Daka orders poor old Uncle to jump to his death as a way to distract the heroes long enough for the henchmen to escape. But right after Uncle takes the plunge a dazed Batman is tossed over the side as well! Will the Caped Crusader splat on the pavement below? Will the older man’s corpse somehow cushion his fall? Will Robin weep in grief? Tune in next week for the answers!

Or in this case- tune in when I get around to the next chapter.

This is a lot of fun so far. I’m happy to see this early version of the Dynamic Duo for the similarities and differences to what I grew up reading. The characters are easily identifiable as the standard versions from the first couple of decades of the comics with some slight alterations for the new format. The strangest thing has to be the whispered conversation between Bruce and his Boy Wonder that lets us know that they are somehow on a special assignment for Uncle Sam. I’ve never run across another Batman story in which the Dark Knight worked for the government but I guess everyone was expected to help out on the home front in WWII. And, of course, the plot is pure war propaganda with the evil Japanese doing everything possible to destroy the American way of life. Naish makes for an interesting choice to play the main villain as he looks nothing like a native of Japan. But I guess if I can accept Peter Lorre as Mr. Moto then what the hell.

It should be noted that the superhero costumes are pretty ill-fitting with the Batman suit looking like oversized footie pajamas when they bunch up in the back. There’s just no way to keep from laughing when the Batman Under-roos try to creep off our hero’s butt.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

More Hammer DVD on the way!

Over at DVD Drive-In its been announced that Sony will be putting out a set of four of Hammer Studio's adventure films. Included are TERROR OF THE TONGS, PIRATES OF BLOOD RIVER and DEVIL SHIP PIRATES but I am most excited about THE STRANGLERS OF BOMBAY. Directed by Terence Fisher it's one of the hardest of his movies to see. I've had a framed lobby card from the film hanging on my wall for years and I can hardly wait until it comes out later this year. The information about three of the movies in the set having commentary tracks with screen writer Jimmy Sangster is just icing on the cake.

It's a good time to be alive and a film nut!

Sunday, March 02, 2008


Back in the 1970s Theodore Sturgeon's short story KILLDOZER was made into a TV movie. I have vague memories of seeing parts of it as a kid but I know I never saw the whole thing. I surprisingly had enough time this past week to read something for fun instead of having to read a textbook for class so I pulled my copy of the complete Sturgeon Vol. 3 from the shelf and started reading it. MAN! What a great story.

It sounds ridiculous of course. An ancient, malevolent energy creature is freed from its rocky prison by a construction crew building an airfield on a Pacific island. It takes over a large bulldozer and goes on a killing rampage slaughtering as many people as it can get beneath its treads. Crazy! But boy does Ted Sturgeon make it work. I’ve got to find a copy of the TV film someday soon. A nice DVD would be good.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

What I watched in February 2008

PULP (1972)- 8
I HATE MY BODY (1974)- 6
RAMBO (2008)- 7
MIDNIGHT MOVIES (2007)- 8 (great IFC documentary)
SHOWDOWN (1973)- 5
SUNSHINE (2007)- 9
THE LOOKOUT (2007)- 8
DIE! DIE! MY DARLING! (1965)- 7

I only got out to the theater once this past month but I was surprised by my visit. RAMBO turned out to be a pretty darned good film. I've never been a fan of the series finding them simple-minded exercises in jingoistic BS, but this was a well done movie. It's as violent as it can be but I had no problem with that.

On the television front I'm still slowly watching the first season of HEROES. I have to admit that though I like the show its not something I find really compelling. It's very good, but I just am just not that invested in it as a viewer. I may never see the second season.

Thanks to ComCast On Demand I caught another couple of episodes of THE RIFLEMAN and enjoyed them. I've also been keeping up with THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES and I'm finally up to date on LOST. The Terminator show is OK with a lot of (so far) unrealized potential. Its not bad but not great. It sadly hovers in the mid-range and if I weren't watching it with a friend I might have given up on it by now.

LOST on the other hand is brilliant! They have finally brought in the time slip idea and that is really firing things up. I loves me some science fiction weirdness! I can't wait to see how this season plays out- now that the writers strike is over.