Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Brian De Palma's HOME MOVIES

Haven't done any movies in awhile but here’s one that seemed to slip through the cracks. I just wish I remembered more details other than the fact that I really liked it. Brian De Palma’s HOME MOVIES is not Brian De Palma’s ACTUAL home movies but an unusual little film comedy-drama shot by the famed director and a number of his film students. Originally shot on 16MM film and with a cast made up of veterans of other De Palma pictures, HOME MOVIES tells the story of a young film student (future director Keith Gordon) and his attempts to film his own real life a la his idol, "the Maestro" (Kirk Douglas in a fun, scene-chewing performance) in order to get the girl (De Palma’s then wife, Nancy Allen in her trademark lingerie scenes).

Since De Palma is acknowledged for appropriating (some might say stealing) other director’s styles in his own films (notably Hitchcock’s in DRESSED TO KILL), this adds several layers of irony to HOME MOVIES. It seems to be available on video and/or DVD but I’ve never seen it in stores. In fact, the only time I saw HOME MOVIES was in an early eighties arthouse. Call it a school project if you will but a school project from a student of film as good as Brian De Palma as well as HIS students deserves a wider audience. If you’re a student of moviemaking, find a copy of HOME MOVIES for a unique film experience. In the meantime, enjoy this original ad.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Sherlock Holmes in America

Yesterday's post mentioned Bill Blackbeard as one of the authors of THE COMIC BOOK BOOK. Blackbeard, the founder of the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art, was also the author of this magnificent 1981 coffee table book. This is the story of the great British conslting detective's rise to fame in America, from the stories and plays up through the radio, comic strip and advertising versions and burlesques. As you might suspect, there's quite a bit on the various comic strip parodies. Lots of unique pieces here, many in full color. I recieved a volume of THE COMPLETE SHERLOCK HOLMES as a Christmas gift in 1976 and his adventures have been favorites ever since. This study of peripheral Holmesian trivia is one of my favorite books here in the Library.

I'll probably write more on Sherlock at some point, but if you just can't wait, visit Sherlock Holmes Shoppe: About Classic Specialties , run by my old friends Joel and Carolyn Senter. There! I made it through the whole piece without a single "Elementary..." joke!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Comic Book Book

The other day, I wrote of four very influential books about comic books. Today, I offer THE COMIC BOOK BOOK, the official sequel to the legendary ALL IN COLOR FOR A DIME. The latter book was actually a collection of early sixties fan reminiscences on golden age comics published originally in the science-fiction fanzine XERO. This follow-up consisted of all-new articles of a similar nature on different aspects of comic book history.
Edited, like the original, by uber-fans Don Thompson and Dick Lupoff, their introduction offers a fascinating look at the possible directions for comics in the future.

Subjects covered in this entertaining and enlightening volume include Jack Cole and PLASTIC MAN, Will Eisner and THE SPIRIT, TARZAN, airplane comics, EC, Frankenstein in the comics, magicians and radio heroes. Along with the editors, the authors include such experts as Maggie Thompson (longtime CBG editor), Bill Blackbeard (internationally respected comic strip historian), Don Glut (world's greatest expert on Frankenstein in all forms), Caz Cazadessus (world's greatest Edgar Rice Burroughs expert) and Ron Goulart (sci-fi author and all around pop culture historian).

Time being what it is, we now have DC's Archive reprints of PLASTIC MAN and THE SPIRIT as well as Russ Cochran's unprecedented hardback box sets of THE COMPLETE EC LIBRARY but note that at that time, these were virtually impossible for the casual fan to come by! Now we just have to figure out how to afford them!

Just a reminder that co-editor Dick Lupoff is also featured in IT'S THAT TIME AGAIN, VOL. 3, now scheduled for release in March from BearManor Media and featuring my own book debut as well!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Disney On Parade

Before there was DISNEY ON ICE, there was DISNEY ON PARADE, an arena stage show for all ages without the gimmick of the skates. I saw the second touring production in 1971. The pictures here are a representative sampling of the souvenir book.

This edition was entirely different from the first and was highlighted by a live version of SNOW WHITE, scenes from PINNOCHIO, a live interpretataion of the hippo ballet from FANTASIA and, my favorite section, Goofy meets Herbie the Love Bug! Watching the car dance and wrestle with a guy in a dog suit wearing a janitor's costume was hilarious silent movie-style slapstick!

DINAH! at Kings Island

Besides THE BRADY BUNCH and THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY, there was at least one more TV show that was shot at Kings Island amusement park outside Cincinnati. This one I actually attended: DINAH! Seemingly ageless Southern chanteuse Dinah Shore was still near the top of the talk/variety show market with her syndicated series when the show visited the park. Clearly, according to the ad, it was on June 4th and June 5th. Since I'm pretty sure that it was on a Saturday and a Sunday, that would seemingly place it in 1977. The problem, with that was that my high school graduation was on that Sunday and that's the day I thought we were there. Maybe it was Saturday.

Anyway, it was fun to watch. The show was set up in a semi-open amphitheater and Dinah's guests were comedian and Rat Pack member Joey Bishop, golfer Nancy Lopez, Reds catcher Johnny Bench (who was also on THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY episode) and the pop soul group, the Spinners (who did a fantastic version of Rubber Band Man wearing suits the color of fried eggs!). The real fun was the weather which twice pre-empted the taping with unexpected showers prompting a fast retreat from the stage for the celebs and several attempts at retakes on "spontaneous" scenes after everyone's hair was dried. Overall, though, much fun and Dinah looked and sang marvelously, having been a star for nearly 35 years at that point in an industry known for regularly jettisoning talented women.

More Kings Island

Wow! Yesterday’s Kings Island post seems to have hit a cord with just about everyone so lets talk about it a bit more. Many people cited the classic BRADY BUNCH episode from November of 1973 (and if you haven’t read Barry Williams’ behind the scenes stories of THAT in his book, GROWING UP BRADY, go do so now. We’ll wait.) THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY also did an episode at Kings Island that featured Keith falling in love with an older park tour guide played by Mary Ann Mobley. Locally, they even ran a "making of" TV special about that episode at the time of its initial airing.

Here are some more pictures of Hanna-Barbera Land or The Happy Land of Hanna-Barbera as it ended up being called. These are from the park’s official 1973 souvenir guide. I always liked the way the motif presented characters that hadn’t been on TV in years. Tell me they weren’t aiming just a little for that nostalgia market. Here we even have some shots from inside the legendary Enchanted Voyage water ride which was set up like you were travelling right through a giant TV set. Note that giant Gulliver from a show that was already gone by the time the park opened! And Squidley Diddley! Oh, and check out that telephone behind Fred and Barney. We really were living in the stone age. We just didn’t know it. Kings Island was the first place I ever saw a video game, though, when they got an early Pong machine. I remember that it was big and bright yellow and most of the guests seemed intimidated by it, opting instead for the classic pinball machines in the Arcade and leaving Pong for me. Hehehe! Over the next few years, they got more and more video game machines, eventually, of course, squeezing out most of the pinball machines!

If you still want more, author Charles Jacques, Jr., who’s already chronicled the legends of various amusement parks around the US, is working on a Kings Island volume so watch for it!

Friday, January 27, 2006

More Not Ready For Drive-Time Newsletters

Here's a couple more cartoon-related covers from my short-lived and barely distributed mini-mag from the early eighties.

The Bugs Bunny/MJ Frog cover was drawn and hand-colored by my associate Ms. Terri Riegler whereas the Boris and Natasha issue was all mine. (I once got a nifty letter from the legendary Ms. June Foray written entirely in the voice of Natasha Fatale. Cool!)

As ever, THE NOT READY FOR DRIVE-TIME NEWSLETTER was a product of Creative Differences.

Hanna-Barbera Land

As a child, I LOVED Cincinnati's Coney Island amusement park. A visit was the highlight of every summer. At the end of the 1971 season, however, Coney Island as we knew it closed and was replaced far north of town with Kings Island--bigger, flashier, cleaner, harder to get to and not nearly as much fun. My family and I would dutifuly go every summer but it actually got to the point where I'd let them go without me.

Still, the highlight for me, even though it was designed for younger children, was the area of the park called Hanna-Barbera Land. Taft Broadcasting was the major owner of KI and Taft had also recently purchased (in retrospect perhaps with an eye toward "Disneyfying" their new amusement park) Hanna-Barbera.

Zoom in on these pre-opening flyers for more details. Somewhere I have a picture of my dad posing with the Banana Splits. The last time I was there (before Paramount took it over) I posed for a shot with George Jetson and a Smurf.

Perhaps surprisingly, I haven't been back since my son was born 9 years ago but he loves cartoons. I think he would have liked Hanna Barbera Land.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Comic Book Books

I had begun collecting comic books in 1966 (as had many others due to the phenomenon that was BATMAN) but it was not until the early seventies that I knew they wrote histories of the darn things! Along with Steranko's HISTORY OF THE COMICS and ALL IN COLOR FOR A DIME, the four books pictured here were among the earliest books about comics.

Jules Feiffer's book, THE GREAT COMIC BOOK HEROES came first in 1965. I grabbed it as a bargain book reprint circa 1971. The author, as you may know a cartoonist himself of some reknown, offers a series of nostalgic essays on the early days of comics. Fascinatingly, in the Will Eisner chapter, he manages to completely leave out the fact that he himself was once an assistant to Eisner and actually wrote quite a few classic SPIRIT stories! The meat of the book for my pre-teen self, though, was more golden age reprints than I had ever seen in one place up to that time! Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Sub-Mariner and my very first exposure to the original Captain Marvel! Already owning the Harvey Comics SPIRIT issues, I could never figure out why that character was dressed in white in his reprint here. When the book was reprinted again a few years back, Feiffer's prose was deemed the most important factor and thus, probably due to rights issues, the reprints were left out.

THE PENGUIN BOOK OF COMICS was originally published in England in 1967. This is the revised 1971 edition and it was a revelation to me. I had no idea that comic strips were international! I guess I just myopically assumed that all the comics I knew were all there were. Sigh. This tome delves into pre-history with cave paintings and greek frescos. Then we see quite a bit of the early British tabloid comics. In fact, we're well past page 100 before we even get to US comics of the early twentieth century. Eventually it touches on comic books as part of the larger worldwide pop art phenomenon. This book introduced me to Barbarella, PUCK, Fritz the Cat, Garth and Fred Bassett.

COMICS-ANATOMY OF A MASS MEDIUM was a 1971 German book that deals with comics in a more-or-less scholarly fashion in spots and a bit exploitatively in others. Lots of good black and white illustrations, though and it introduced me to Carl Barks, the Underground movement and the whole concept (remember I was 13!) of nudity in comic books and strips everywhere in the world except the US, the "land of the free."

Finally, Les Daniels offered COMIX-A HISTORY OF COMIC BOOKS IN AMERICA with a cover that must have been somebody's idea of pop art but...ugh! Although riddled with errors, Les offers an enthusiastic look at his subject that introduced me to EC, Kurtzman and 8 pagers! There's also a nice selection--not the usual stuff--of sideways black and white (and some color) reprints that include Barks, Steranko and Graham Ingels as well as the Fox and the Crow! Les resurfaced in relatively recent years doing the "official" histories of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman as well as the very pretty "official" coffee table histories of both Marvel and DC.

There have been other, better books on comics since these (many of them written by Ron Goulart but the best by Gerard Jones!) but these will always be special to me because they fired up my sense of wonder and that's why we all read comics in the first place, isn't it?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

1929 MGM ads!


Running short on time today so I thought I'd share a portion of my corkboard button collage!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Dr. Science

Okay, it sounds like a bad name for a comic book hero but in actuality Dr. Science is a modern day radio star, appearing in a long-running series of minute and a half long radio bits in which the esteemed Doctor answers questions from listeners as they're read to him by his assistant, Rodney. There was even a short-lived television transfer in the mid-eighties. To this day, though, radio--as well as the Internet--is where you'll find him doing what he does best. Why? Because "he knows more than you do! He has a Masters Degree...IN SCIENCE!!" Smug, arrogant and idiotic, this latter day Clyde Crashcup is the creation of Duck's Breath Mystery Theater veterans, Dan Coffey and Merle (Ian Shoales) Kessler. Coffey plays Dr. Science with a smooth voice and a smart ass know-it-all outlook that annoys some folks (like my wife) but which I've always found tremendously, cerebrally hilarious. here's a link to the Official Ducks Breath Mystery Theater site where you can sample some Dr. Science and read up on lots of other kewl stuff from one of the funniest comedy troupes of them all.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Pete Best/Linda Blair

The Beatles' ex-drummer understandably puts a positive spin on his time with the pre-fab Fabs in this 1982 interview but I find some of his claims a bit much. Rather controversially replaced by Ringo in 1962, he has emerged in a comeback attempt every few years since then, appearing on chat shows, game shows, at Beatles conventions and once going so far as to release an all-new album with the entirely accurate but amazingly misleading title, BEST OF THE BEATLES. This particular interview appeared in OUI magazine, at the time much more of a PLAYBOY clone than the sleazefest it eventually became (in other words, it really did have good articles). Best claims that he had handled all of the Beatles business interests and even advised Brian Epstein after he entered the picture. He claims herein that he was more popular than the rest of the lads and that he was let go because they were jealous. When asked who was the "sexual star" of the group in his day, he points to himself and says "...the opportunities were there and I think everyone claimed it. It's just that some of us got a little more than others." Oh, and he naturally owns up to being a much better drummer than Ringo. It's hard to blame Pete for any sour grapes and by all accounts, he's a very nice guy. Still, reading this interview makes you wonder just where the truth lies in the whole story.

Anyway, the real reason to buy this issue was because they were giving away a free record featuring two previously unreleased Beatles recordings with Best! Okay, okay, the songs in question, LIKE DREAMERS DO and LOVE OF THE LOVED, had been heavily bootlegged for years but still, this was the first legitimate(?) release. To this day, I can't figure out how they actually got the rights to these songs and Best, in his interview, skirts the issue by simply stating that he wasn't involved in the legalities. Credited as "OUI presents the Silver Beatles," the 45 was sent in the mail after you returned a coupon from the mag. It arrived in just the plain envelope seen here so I'm surprised it remained uncracked.

OKAY, I ADMIT IT!!! I had another motive for buying this issue of OUI (as if the title of this post wasn't a giveaway). It was the now somewhat infamous Linda Blair issue! Week after week since my previous Linda Blair posting, the top keywords leading folks to my site have included "LINDA BLAIR NUDE" or "LINDA BLAIR OUI." People, I'm telling you! She's about so much more than that! She's a caring, charity minded, athletic, funny human being! I am most certainly not going to cheapen myself or Linda by running anything other than the cover of the issue (which also featured Buckminster Fuller, Pink Floyd and Orson Bean). The pictures--even outtakes!--are all over the Internet anyway...not the I looked them up or anything. Ahem!Oh all right, maybe one pic just so those of you who found this site with your naughty keywords don't feel that I've misled you. Quite frankly, I don't care how you found the site. I just hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Beatles Forever Yet Again!!!

This time, we're talking about the great 1977 book of that name by author Nicholas Schaffner. This was, and remains, one of my favorite Beatles books, packing in tons of factual information on not just the group themselves but their marketing and their effect on pop culture in the rest of the world. Add to that a whole slew of pictures I have, to this day, never seen anywhere else and you have perhaps the perfect Beatles book!

In 1983, Schaffner also published this essential music reference, THE BRITISH INVASION. With in-depth alphabetical biographies of just about every group or singer that could even peripherally be considered part of the British Invasion (and, in fact, stretching that term to include punk and new wave!), this is a great sourcebook for the casual fan and a must for the researcher.

Schaffner went on to write A SAUCERFUL OF SECRETS, the definitive Pink Floyd biography, in the early nineties before his untimely (aren't they all?) death from AIDS. A fan first and an author second, any rock book by Nicholas Schaffner is worth adding to your own collection.

For lots of British Invasion grooviness, I've been hanging out lately at Sonic Pollutions which features not only ultra-rare footage of the Floyd, the Stones, the Hollies and my new faves, the Pretty Things but also some amazingly well-written essays on them for the more obsessive among us. Thanks to Bedazzled! for pointing this new site out to many of us!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Reader Question # 1: Answer:Hero High

A reader named Greg said that no one he knew could recall a cartoon that featured a surfer super-hero. This was the best pic I could find but I assume, Greg, that you're thinking of HERO HIGH and Captain California. This segment aired, along with the animated SHAZAM, as part of Filmation's KID SUPER POWER HOUR back in the early 1980's. There were also live action wraparound segments
a la' the BANANA SPLITS that featured some of the characters. Hardly Filmation's shining moment, though. I have yet to see SKY HIGH but I'll be curious to see if it's similar. Thanks for reading, Greg! Next Question?

Doc Savage

This weekend, the ever-popular website,This is Pop! is offering a large selection of DOC SAVAGE pulp covers so it seemed like a good time to do the DOC SAVAGE piece I'd been meaning to do.. Clark Savage, Jr., AKA "Doc", was originally a pulp hero of the 1930's who, along with his team of experts (and comic relief), the fabulous five, righted wrongs throughout the world. Author Lester Dent created the character and wrote most of the monthly issues under the publishing house pseudonym, Kenneth Robeson. (It's my understanding that Dent did not create or write THE AVENGER, also credited to "Robeson.")Doc was revived in a long-running series of paperback reprints (and eventually new material by Phillip Jose Farmer and others) that ran through the seventies and eighties. During the mid seventies, though, the series' popularity peaked. During that period, you had Ron Ely as Doc in the not completely unworthy George Pal feature film, DOC SAVAGE, THE MAN OF BRONZE (a much better variation on Doc would come along later as BUCKAROO BANZAI!) and Marvel Comics (ever the bandwagon jumper) offered both a color (drawn by Ross Andru) and a later, better black and white version.

In fact, the picture at top is a detail from Jim Steranko's cover to Marvel's 2nd color DOC SAVAGE issue. This particular image, however, is taken from the cover of the very first issue of Steranko's newsletter, COMIXSCENE (which would change its name more times than Liz Taylor changed husbands). Inside that issue was a big article on Doc and a centerfold in which were presented various drawings of Doc as he would have appeared had other Marvel artists been given the nod. Thus we have here, Steranko's own variation as well as illustrations of the Man of Bronze by Marie Severin, Dan Adkins, Gene Colan (not that you could really tell that's Doc) and, my favorite, Mike Ploog with his off-model, Hamletesque version.

The Beatles Forever Again!

Recently, I was surprised to find that the early seventies magazine, THE BEATLES FOREVER was put out by the fine folks who went on to produce the estimable STARLOG magazine. Imagine my surprise this morning when I ran across my completely forgotten copy of…THE BEATLES FOREVER, a 1995 magazine with a virtually identical cover also published by Norman Jacobs! Although some of the historical material is the same, the entire project is updated with new articles, new photos and, of course, coverage of Lennon’s death, McCartney’s concert success and the then-eminent debut of the ANTHOLOGY project. The writing is knowledgeable throughout and, although obviously intended as a money-making tie-in, clearly the folks who made this were real Beatles fans. Printed on two types of paper, the slick pages offer fine photo reproduction but the pulpier paper makes the whole enterprise look cheap.

The back cover, reproduced here, is a snow scene from the set of HELP. I’m on record as saying that if a movie has a good snow scene, it’s a good movie. Thus DEATH WISH, SERENDIPITY, LOST HORIZON (the original. Nothing could help the remake!) and even SNOWBALL EXPRESS are good movies. The scenes in HELP are what started my lifelong love of a good snow scene. Yeah, yeah, yeah, indeed!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Superman & Batman

This is issue number 8 of SUPERMAN AND BATMAN MAGAZINE from 1994, a children's magazine (meaning bigger than a comic book) from 1994 inspired by the great Paul Dini/Bruce Timm cartoons. This issue features what I believe to be the first appearance of the Timm style Justice League, nearly a decade prior to their TV popularity. Here's a shot of them. Although most issues of this type of kids mag have puzzles, games and more, this one is nearly all comics. Good comics, too, written by Roger Stern (Sterno!) and drawn by one of my faves, Ty Templeton! There is also, though, this really cool piece on DC's involvement with the Olympics.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

McCartney in Time

Magazine Week continues (Notice I’ve named it now) with this groovy 1976 Peter Max TIME cover spotlighting Paul McCartney’s return to live concerts in America. It had been ten years since Paul had performed onstage in the US. Since forming Wings in 1973, he had done several small concert tours around Europe but a pesky drug conviction had dogged him and kept him from getting the proper US visas. Then, suddenly, things were cleared up (around the same time John Lennon’s immigration troubles were also cleared) and the Wings Over America tour was a go.

The week that this issue of TIME was on the stands saw Paul’s SILLY LOVE SONGS at number one on the charts and best of all, I saw Paul in concert in Cincinnati. In fact, I still have my ticket! Like the infamous Who concert at the same venue a few years later, Wings had festival seating, meaning every man for himself. I saw the gathering crowd on TV and so rushed to join it. By the time the doors were opened, I was somewhat near the front but I was almost immediately knocked down and stepped over. Since I was so close, I managed, along with a few other concertgoers, to crawl inside. No one was taking tickets at all which is why mine is still intact. I then proceeded to grab the first seat I could find. It happened to be about a mile from the stage but the important thing was I had one!

If you’re a fan, then you know it was a great tour (here’s the local review), documented first in a late night TV special, then the triple album at the end of the year and eventually (about 5 years later I believe) in the feature film, ROCK SHOW. Wings will undoubtedly and unfairly always be overshadowed by the legacy of the Beatles but they were, in all of their incarnations, more than just McCartney’s backing band and this issue of TIME will always remind me of that magical moment when I saw them live! I’ve seen Paul several times since (until the ticket prices became astronomical!) and with much better seats but seeing Wings was a special treat!