Friday, February 15, 2019

Friday's Favorite OTR

Philip Marlowe: "Face to Forget" 6/14/50

Marlowe is hired to find a missing man and trails him aboard a train heading from L.A. to Frisco. The trip isn't a pleasant one, as he first finds a corpse and then is forced to jump off the train by a tough guy with a gun.

Click HERE to listen or download.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

My Role Model for Being a Good Husband!

I'm getting married later this year. No kidding--there's a lady out there willing to be my wife and she's NOT make-believe. I don't care what everyone else assumes. She really does exist!

So that means I need to learn what it takes to be a good husband. I could use the excellent pre-marital counselling offered at my church or study Biblical instructions about the responsibility of a husband to be unfaillingly faithful, respectful, compassionate and self-sacrificing towards a wife.

But that hardly seems necessary when Pa Kettle provides such a good example for me.

Ma and Pa Kettle, perfectly played by Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride, started out as supporting characters in the 1945 novel The Egg and I, written by Betty MacDonald. The book was made into a movie in 1947 and the popularity of the Kettles with that film convinced Universal to feature the Kettles in a series of nine B-movies made between 1949 and 1955. Main played Ma in all nine films. Kilbride played Pa in the first seven.

The Kettles are a dirt-poor hillbilly family with 16 kids. Why are they dirt-poor? Well, it's likely because Pa Kettle has an aversion to hard work. His only real talent is avoiding work. But despite this, Ma manages to keep the kids fed. She's at least a tad more ambitious than Pa. She's also the one to do all the cooking. When she thinks their farm--which is in serious disrepair--is about to be condemned, she's the one who snatches up a shotgun and mobilizes her children to defend the homestead.

This is the situation at the beginning of the first of the Kettle solo films--Ma and Pa Kettle, released in 1949. The town council was, in fact, about to condemn the farm. But news that Pa Kettle has won a slogan contest and won an ultra-modern home for his family turns this into a happy occasion.

Well, happy for everyone but Pa, who is perpetually flummoxed by items such as doors operated by electric eyes and automatic sun lamps. Even when the only person in the family with a lick of brains--their oldest son Tom (played by future Big Valley resident Richard Long)--returns from college to help, Pa and technology simply can't be made to mix together smoothly.

Pa finally has enough and returns to the farm. But soon after, it is suggested that Pa (due to forgetfulness rather than dishonesty) might have plagerized the slogan he used. When Pa hears that his family might be evicted from the modern home, he is finally roused to take proactive action.

That this action involves a careless and definitely unwise use of dynamite doesn't make his intentions any less noble.

The movie is a fun, slapstick romp filled with characters we can't help but like. The success of the Kettle films have been credited with helping Universal Studios survive financially during this time, so Pa's inate laziness obviously has its benefits.

So there you have it. Pa Kettle lived a stress-free life as a husband and, when he wasn't being baffled by modern technology, seemed to be enjoying himself. I don't see why he shouldn't be a great role model for me to use after I'm married.

Of course, I suppose I should leave out the parts involving dynamite. And hopefully Angela won't end up chasing me with a two-by-four and murder gleaming in her eyes. But every relationship has its ups and downs.

Pa Kettle as a role model. I don't see how this can be anything but a great idea.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Sacrificed to Sea Monsters!

cover art by George Wilson

 If a Gold Key Turok comic is written by Paul Newman and drawn by Alberto Giolitti, then it is going to be good. This is a truism.

Turok, Son of Stone #70 (July 1970) is an example of this and I think the first few pages are a prime example of how skilled Paul Newman was at story construction--structuring events to link together thematically as well as in terms of plot.

Turok and Andar have found a river that flows into a narrow gorge. Not wanting to bypass any possibility of finding a way out, they plan to build a raft and travel downstream through the gorge. But before this can happen, they are attacked by a giant crocodile. This forces Turok to launch a near-suicidal attack against the monster to save Andar.

This serves two purposes (other than being an exciting and visually facinating action scene in its own right). First, it shows us that the river is dangerous, foreshadowing that there be trouble ahead.

Second, it reminds us that Turok feels an enormous responsibility towards Andar. Their mentor/teacher relationship is such that we can fairly assume that Turok thinks of Andar as a  younger brother--or perhaps even a son. In a few pages, the two are going to be seperated under circumstances that mean Andar might be dead. This earlier scene helps highlight his intense worry later one, adding an effective emotional kick.

Andar dispatches the croc with a poison arrow to the throat. With each of them carrying a pouch filled with a supply of poison berries, they head up the river. But, in a delightfully creepy scene, the raft is overturned by the River People.

Turok manages to get to shore and its here we get the scene in which he doesn't know if Andar is alive. An encounter with large and hungry crabs forces him back into the water, where the River People capture him. He's taken to the underwater grotto that the tribe calls home. Andar is here as well.

Like most tribes in Lost Valley, this one has a nasty tendency to kill all strangers. Turok tries to convince the tribe that he and Andar are strangers, but he fails a test--he's not able to swim deep enough to retrieve his pouch after this is tossed into a deep pool. A tribesman, equipped with fins that allow him to swim faster, brings the pouch back.

More great plot construction here. This scene first puts Turok and Andar back into immediate danger and serves as a reminder that each is carrying a pouch full of poison. Andar's pouch, in particular, is the Chekov's Gun of this story.

The two are strapped to crosses of wood and set adrift in the river. I love that panel above, by the way. One of Giolitti's strengths as an artist is his compositional skills. Notice how he uses the mesosaurus to frame the two Indians in the center of the image. It makes for a wonderful visual.

This is where Chekov's Gun is fired, as Turok manages to reach Andar's poison pouch and toss it into the mesosaur's mouth. The River People, seeing this, assume Turok has powerful magic and run for it.

When the two are swept into rapids, Turok is snapped loose from his ropes when his cross hits a rock. He manages to pull Andar to safety and the adventure comes to an end.

It's an effective and exciting story--one that was particular fun to analize simply because of the skill with which the writer put the whole thing together.

Next week, we head back to World War II to watch a tank do battle with a submarine.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Edgar Rice Burroughs Podcast--Episode 6

Jess, Scott and I have recorded Episode 6 of the Edgar Rice Burroughs Podcast. This one is about the vivid and exciting 1927 Western "The War Chief."

You can listen or download the audio  HERE.

And here's the video version:

Monday, February 11, 2019

Saturday, February 9, 2019

DC vs. Marvel (1963)

This is a discussion I led at Dark Side Comics and Games in Sarasota, FL on October 24, 2018. We are doing a page-by-page comparison of Superman #164 and Fantastic Four #19, both cover-dated October 1963. I started the recording devise early, so the first 3 minutes is a random discussion we were having about the TV show "Land of the Lost." I've left that in because some of you might find it entertaining. Simply jump to the 3:00 mark to skip this and get right to the lecture.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Friday's Favorite OTR

Rocky Jordan: "Memento from Adelaide" 9/25/49

Rocky unexpectedly receives $40,000 in life insurance money. The dead woman who had named him as beneficiary had claimed to be Rocky's wife. But Rocky has no idea who she was.

Click HERE to listen or download.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

The Gun Lap Way

Read/Watch 'em In Order #98

Jimmy Dillon is an engineer who wants a job actually building a bridge he designed. But to get that job, he first has to win a race.

Back in the day, it wasn't unusual for businesses to have their own baseball teams and give men jobs because they were good ball players. In this case, the head of an engineering firm is really into track and field, so he has hired a couple of top-flight sprinters as soon as they graduated from college. So Jimmy and his arch-rival Brayton are both asked to run in a race known as the Golden Mile. Whichever one of them wins gets the prime job of building that bridge.

Jimmy's boss is kind of a jerk in this regard. And Brayton is a jerk as well. A year earlier, he had "accidentally" brushed up against Jimmy during a race. Jimmy ended up with a fractured leg. It's only now that he's ready to run again.

This is the premise of "The Gun Lap Way," by Daniel Winters, the next-to-last story in the February 1949 issue of New Sports Magazine. The theme is one of rediscovering courage--of Jimmy willing to out-run Brayton and fight him for the lead despite the painful memory of that broken leg.

But there is another sort of courage invovled as well. Jimmy tolerates his jerk boss because his job represents security and a relatively secure future. Jimmy has a job offer from another guy--a skilled engineer who appreciates Jimmy's own skill in the field. But that job would be a risky one. If it flopped, Jimmy would be broke and unemployed.

So when the race begins, Jimmy has to find a double-dose of courage within himself to both compete with Brayton and make the best life decisions.

I know my summary makes the story sound corny, but it's well-constructed with good characterizations, endowing the tale with real emotional backbone. What this story and other stories in New Sports Magazine share is the idea that a sport can be more than a game. That the work, courage and willingness to compete inherant in any sport really can teach us life lessons. I remember once reading that Dwight Eisenhower credited playing sports at West Point with teaching him important things about self-discipline and teamwork.

So both "The Gun Lap Way" and the other tales in this magazine rise above merely being corny or contrived, both because the writers were talented and because the lessons being taught really do apply to real life.

You can find this issue online HERE.

Anyway, we have one more tale to go. We'll finish up the issue with a basketball story.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Penguin's First Caper

When Dectective Comics #58 (cover dated December 1941) was published, Batman had only been active in Gotham City for about two years. His established Rogue's Gallery was still growing.

So this issue is an important one, as it marks the first appearance of Oswald Cobblepot, alias the Penguin.

Actually, though, we don't read the name Oswald Cobblepot in this issue. For much of the story, the Penguin is posing as an art dealer named Mr. Boniface. It's not clear if this was originally his name or if it was itself an alias. The Cobblepot name was later introduced in the Batman newspaper strip.

The story is written by Bill Finger, with art by Bob Kane. The Penguin, as already mentioned, is posing as a erudite art dealer, but he's really the one responsible for stealing some valuable paintings. His use of umbrellas for tools of crime is here right from the start. He uses an umbrella to smuggle some stolen paintings out of a gallery and later is seen firing everything from bullets to gas out of it.  That's one heck of an umbrella.

He's soon taken over the rackets in Gotham City. So now he's set up to steal valuable art, but at the same time make himself appear to be an innocent victim of his own crime wave.

But if you are going to be a successful criminal in Gotham City, you need to get rid of Batman. Penguin's plan involves knocking Batman out and leaving him at the scene of a robbery in what appears to be suspicious circumstances.

The Gotham cops take Batman in, though are apparently polite enough not to take his mask off. But, while still enroute to police headquarters, Penguin stages a "rescue."

So Batman is now a prisoner of the bad guys AND wanted by the cops. Fortunately, the Penguin is apparently also too polite to unmask the Dark Knight. Batman, though tied up, taps out a distress signal using a radio hidden in his heel, bringing Robin to the rescue. I love that part and its a scene that helps show us where Batman's reputation for always being absurdly prepared for any circumstance original comes from.

Batman soon demonstrates his innocence by exposing Penguin as a criminal. In future stories, Penguin isn't always noted for his skill in a fist fight, but he manages to actually out-wrestle Batman long enough to make a getaway. This leads directly into the Penguin's second story, which appeared in the next issue of Detective. Penguin's scheme in that one is particularly clever, so I may review it soon.

The Penguin, because of his fun visual design and his erudite speech, quickly became a frequent return villain and eventually led to one of the greatest bits of casting in the history of film and television when Burgess Meredith played him in the 1966 Batman TV series. And it all began in this untitled story from 1941.

Next week, we'll return to the Lost Valley for another visit with Turok.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Friday's Favorite OTR

CBS Radio Mystery Theater: "The Cask of Amontillado" 1/12/75

Poe's classic tale is expanded to include two additional murders and a clever detective working to solve the crimes.

Click HERE to listen or download.

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