Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Emanuelle in America Theme (Instrumental Version)


Includes credit sequence and other scenes from the film, accompanied by the music of Nico Fidinco... and full frontal.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

DC Challenge #6 (April, 1986)

  • On his deathbed in 1955, Albert Einstein solved "der great mystery! Der concept of der Unified Field. I am now unbound by der reschtraints of time!" This gave Einstein extraordinary power over reality, but unfortunately, he seemed unable to correct his terrible accented dialogue.
  • On the planet Rann, Batman and Hawkwoman wondered after Captain Marvel and Dr. Fate, even though the first pair's even knowing the second pair were on Rann was a bit of a stretch. Alanna was proactive, while her father Sardath became a real Negative Nelly. Batman, like the author, never clarified after repeated references that "Fate" referred to the Doctor, then stumbled into a warp hole. Hawkwoman went looking for Fate, Marvel, or at least her husband. The evil aliens in the distance were set on shooting her out of the sky.
  • Around 6th Century England, the writer confused the Greystone Castle where Sir Edwin Kent once ruled with the family name of "Young Brian, son of our late lord, Grayson the Just..." Also, the writer confused "Greystone" with "Grayson." Anyway, Brian was finally being crowned king, at which point he intended to reveal that he'd secretly been the Silent Knight for years to his people... except Einsten wasn't having that...
  • In the Plane of Holes, Deadman failed to possess the Anti-Matter Man. Albert Einstein then froze time, explained his new powers to Adam Strange and Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen, then assumed the role of deus ex machina in a bid by a really lousy writer to cheat the entire series into a premature wrap-up.
  • Rip Hunter, Time Master, was showing his Time Sphere to a Dr. Kemeny as Princeton University in hopes of legitimizing his remarkable invention. However, the pair passed through a warp hole while on a temporal spin.
  • Einstein brought Batman to the Plane of Holes "to make sure I could properly coordinate between planets dat are light-years distant!" Pull the other one.
  • Einstein directed the temporally displaced Rip Hunter to don the Shining Knight's armor and assume the role. Rip did, and when he and Kemeny appeared at King Brian's coronation, the new lord thought, "Apparently this magical suit of armor that gave me great power and taught me the proper use of weaponry... has chosen a new master! Well, good luck to him, whoever he is!" Either the writer was trying to sneakily allude to problems with Einstein mucking about with time, or he'd never read a Shining Knight comic in his life, since the character's armor was neither magical nor responsible for Brian's abilities.

    Regardless, the terrible writer then had Hunter and Kemeny stay in the past for several years, during which they did not age, and acted as mostly-mute heroes. The pair spent the rest of their medieval holiday trying to fix the Time Sphere. Instead, Einstein eventually returned, and sent them to kill the minor demon S'thulum, who had previously tried to eat Captain Marvel and Dr. Fate. As Kemeny cautioned, "be very careful-- never to underestimate an experienced dragon-slayer!"

    Hawkwoman, Alanna and Sardath raced to the scene, even though the other heroes shouldn't have been on Rann anymore after being taken to S'thulum's realm. The writer, whose work I've always hated, concluded that he had ended "after years of training, the suspension of time, and the solution of the Unified Field Theory-- the longest-resolved cliff-hanger in human history!" Um, did the guy who wrote many of the lousy Superman stories that led to the Byrne reboot mean "unresolved?"
  • Darwin Jones, Deadman, Bobo the Detective Chimp and Dr. Terrence Thirteen, Ghostbreaker were present for Albert Einstein's fixing of all the unresolved plot points in the series to date by shoving them into warp holes. Goodbye Uncle Sam, Aquaman, Zatanna, Superman, Captain Comet, invading aliens and all the rest!
  • One problem: an alien spaceship beat the Blackhawks back to World War II. Because "I cannot change a time und a place vhen I vas alife," Einstein bailed on Adam Strange and Jimmy Olsen. This left the pair stranded in a present world dominated by the Nazi Germany.
  • For no discernable reason, Einstein left Batman in a jungle, where negro savages attacked the Darknight Detectives with spears. Oy. Robin the Boy Wonder showed up on a Whirly-Bat to pick his mentor up, but turned out to be a demon in disguise, and dropped the Caped Crusader into an active volcano.
  • "A Matter of Anti Matter" was perpetrated by Elliot S! Maggin, Dan Jurgens and Larry Mahlstedt

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Frank Review of The Monster Squad (1987)

The Short Version? Goonies versus Universal Monsters
What Is It? Horror Comedy.
Who Is In It? Nobody.
Should I See It? Absolutely.

One day, my father had me ride along on his route stocking movie theater concessions. While he was doing his job, I'd sneak into screenings of two movies, The Untouchables and The Monster Squad*. In the case of the former, I wouldn't finally get to see the end of the picture for several years. The latter I managed to wrap up, and though I enjoyed it, there was no reason for it to linger in my consciousness. I'd revisit it on video from time to time, and while always a pleasure, I never really considered it a favorite. The thing is though, I revisit a lot of movies I grew up on, and The Monster Squad continues to hold up far better than most. It really is an excellent, almost timeless, and sort of family friendly classic.

I'm required to issue caveats, because part of what makes the picture such a joy is that it has nards. The kids act like they actually should at their ages: talking shit, tossing through nudie mags and such. The Holocaust is referenced. Parents don't exactly live in marital bliss. The services of a teenage girl are extorted through a compromising photograph. The monsters can get gruesome at times, and these kids are genuinely imperiled by them. People die, often at the hands of children. It's an awesome boys movie, with enough heart for girls, and truth for adults. Even with a budget of just 12.5 million, this died at the box office, as it was considered too dark for younger audiences. It failed to find its niche until video, and even then it didn't exactly do gangbusters. Clearly, the flick isn't for everybody, but certainly deserves a lot more attention than it received for twenty years.

After Dracula arrives in Middle America, he begins collecting the Wolfman, Gillman, Mummy and Frankenstein as part of a plot that will cause darkness to spread over the yadda yadda. A club of monster-fixated kids led by the steadfast Sean Crenshaw (in a solid turn by André Gower) are the first to learn of the creatures on the loose, and take steps to stop their rampage. The young cast hits all the right notes, the monsters are terrific, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans will find this all terribly familar in tone and presentation. If Joss Whedon wasn't a big fan of this flick, I'll eat my hat.

There are a number of connections between The Monster Squad and Lethal Weapon. Co-screenwriter Shane Black was clearly honing his buddy cop banter formula here, particularly between Sean's detective father and his partner. Sean's mother is played by Mary Ellen Trainor, LW's staff psychiatrist, and her house is located near the same set as the Murtaughs. One wouldn't naturally expect a supposed kid's picture to feel similar to a violent action franchise, but the flavor works even better on an actual juvenile vehicle than a somewhat sophomoric one. Also, comic book fans are given a good deal of winks, including the 1986 DC Wall Calender, an old Spider-Man poster, and a Mike Zeck Punisher visible. A copy of George Perez's Wonder Woman #3 is ripped up by the older brother from The Wonder Years. On the paid advertising front, Pepsi Cola is also all over this picture.

There are some problems, caused in part by tensions between inexperienced co-writer/director Fred Dekker and micromanaging executive producer Peter Hyams. Some of the effects are dodgy, and not everything will be explained to the satisfaction of the obsessive, but most viewers will just go along with it. Generally speaking, this is manna from Geek Heaven, and a fine time for their too often afflicted loved ones.

The two-disc 20th Anniversary Edition comes with a slew of extras. The feature length documentary Monster Squad Forever is a must see, featuring interviews with most of the surviving cast and key crew. Too much of the same information is covered by a group audio commentary, but a second track with just the director and DP warrants a listen from the devoted. Most of the deleted scenes were excised for a reason, though, and A Conversation With Frankenstein is tedious. The full package can usually be picked up for less than ten buck though, so I'd recommend it highly.

*I'm trying to figure out exactly how, as the movies were released about nine weeks apart. I guess DePalma played long.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

nurghophonic jukebox: "Bernadette" by The Four Tops

Written By: Lamont Dozier/Brian Holland/Edward Holland, Jr..
Released: 1967
Album: Reach Out
Single?: #4 on the Billboard Hot 100

Bernadette, people are searchin' for
the kind of love that we possess.
Some go on searchin' their whole life through
and never find the love I've found in you.

And when I speak of you I see envy in other men's eyes,
and I'm well aware of what's on their minds.
They pretend to be my friend, when all the time
they long to persuade you from my side.
They'd give the world and all they own
for just one moment we have known.

Bernadette, they want you because of the pride that gives,
But Bernadette, I want you because I need you to live.
But while I live only to hold you,
Some other men, they long to control you.
But how can they control you Bernadette,
when they can not control themselves, Bernadette,
from wanting you, needing you,
But darling you belong to me.

I'll tell the world you belong to me,
I'll tell the world, you're the soul of me,
I'll tell the world you're a part of me.

In your arms I find the kind of peace of mind
the world is searching for,
But you, you give me the joy this heart of mine
has always been longing for.

In you I have what other men long for.
All men need someone to worship and adore,
that's why I treasure you and place you high above,
for the only joy in life is to be loved.
So whatever you do, Bernadette, keep on loving me,
Bernadette, keep on needing me,

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Frank Review of "Farinelli: Il Castrato" (1994)

The Short Version? Amadeus with less ejaculation
What Is It? Musical Drama.
Who Is In It? Europeans.
Should I See It? No.

If you're a lover of opera, especially through the voice of the soprano, have I got a movie for you! If, like myself, you hate the stuff, have I got a new method or torture for you!

The film opens with a castrato leaping nude from a balcony to his death. Young Carlo Broschi was in attendance, and wishes afterward to never sing again. However, his father makes him swear an oath to his family, and a horse riding accident soon takes care of Carlo's man parts, so the great 18th century soprano was born. From there, Carlo preens, acts as warm-up in double teams on fans with his composer brother, takes opium, and sings. Lots and lots of obviously lip synced singing, delivered from the painted and pained but entirely too chiseled face of Stefano Dionisi. Regardless of his circumstances, Farinelli is himself an impressive prick throughout, but at least in most rock god biopics you're treated to more generally agreeable music.

A rivalry with the composer George Frideric Handel is established early on, but doesn't pay off until the final reel. In the meantime, the movie drifts through moments and musical numbers without much rhyme, reason, or detail. The characters as scripted and acted are one note, the real attention devoted to sets and costumes. It put me in mind of how much more I'd enjoy a movie about the New Romantics. By the time revelations and motivations finally surface, they're drowned in a sea of melodrama and histrionics, far too late to redeem the film.

Friday, April 24, 2009

1992 Amazing Heroes #202 Jim Lee Sketch

From the June 1992 Amazing Heroes' table of contents comes this nifty image. He looks a bit like a cross between Deathblow and Lobo, and I like to call him Blackspade-C3: Clandestine Creed Commando! No offense intended, though come to think of it, the race here is indeterminate. This guy really intrigued me near twenty years ago. Now, he makes me want to hang myself. Oh, elusive youth! Such wasted years! Why doesn't my ass look anything like Blackspade-C3's anymore?!? Do those weighted boots give him a butt advantage?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Frank Review of True Blood (1989)

The Short Version? Saving your brother from gang violence through regular violence.
What Is It? Action/Drama.
Who Is In It? Jeff Fahey, Chad Lowe, Sherilyn Fenn, James Tolkan, Ken Foree and Billy Drago.
Should I See It? Maybe.

Writer-director Frank Kerr isn't particularly good in either creative field, based on this effort. For starters, he cast 37-year-old cheese wiz Jeff Fahey as a teenage gangbanger. Raymond Trueblood is implicated in a cop killing, but miraculously vanishes for ten years into the military without anyone batting an eye. Since he failed to keep contact with the much, much, much younger brother he abandoned at a train station(?!?) during a police chase, Fahey returns to find him also in a gang. You know, the kind of mixed-race-but-mostly-white-boyz you only see in the movies. Led by cult creep Billy Drago, the only way this gang could be less credible is if they allowed Chad Lowe in... and they did. Rob Lowe's younger and much, much, much less talented brother plays Donny Trueblood as an overly emotive greaser in the James Dean mold. Cementing this picture as taking place in some anachronistic alternate dimension, the cops pursuing both Truebloods are played by Peter from Dawn of the Dead and Mr. Strickland from Back To The Future (sometimes sporting an unconvincing mullet.) Friggin' Robert LaSardo even gets in on the action as, what else, a tatted-up Latino punk.

The thing is though, while underlit, stiffly acted, and staged like a TV show with lousy dialogue, this thing is totally watchable. As bad as some of the performances and stunts are, everyone is approaching the material with a scene chewing zeal that's worthwhile. Mix in the lovely Sherilyn Fenn (and of course, some subliminally brief nudity,) and you've got a cast of colorful characters that get over in spite of the rickety framework. I dug this out of a dollar bin, and for that price, you just may dig it too.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Emanuelle in America (Epilogue, 1977)

Character Name: Emanuelle Rogers
Actress: Laura Gemser
Actual Movie Title: Emanuelle in America
Known Aliases: "Brutal Nights," "Black Emanuelle en Amérique"
Country of Origin: Italy
Character Nationality: U.S.A.
Occupation: Photographer (news, nudes)
Zodiac Sign: Gemini
Married: No.
Locales: New York City, Venice, Washington D.C., Caribbean
Release Date: January 5, 1977 (Italy)
Director: Joe D'Amato
DVD: Emanuelle In America (1976)
Stats: Third Black Emanuelle, 2nd with Laura Gemser

Story: On a tropical getaway, Emanuelle finished telling Bill (Riccardo Salvino) "...and then I just slammed the door and walked away from him." The couple laughed, and Bill proclaimed "Goodbye editor!" Emanuelle continued, saying farewell to her camera equipment and so on. Emanuelle joked about casting off her career and going native. "The people are beautiful and healthy here. We'll live like them and become even more beautiful and more healthy!" Bill discussed building a bamboo cabin, while Emanuelle thought she was the happiest girl in a world, but couldn't remember which. "...and I'm gonna forget everything else that isn't necessary in this paradise-- like words, success, poli--"

Emanuelle's escapist ramble was interrupted by her being caught in a net trap laid by villagers and left dangling from a tree. Emanuelle cried for help and release, but Bill smiled and looked on as she was carried off by tribesmen. The ladies of the village then seized Bill and drug him off.

In a hut, Emanuelle had lotions rubbed into her nude body by women of the village, as she rested regally on her knees. Bill, now wearing only a sarong and drinking, spoke to Emanuelle from outside. "Is everything alright, darling?" Emanuelle broke her poise, calling out with concern, "Bill! What's going on?!? Come in here!" Bill lazily replied, "I can't, it's forbidden. They're sort of-- ah-- preparing you..." Bill laughed, "I think I sold you... for a splendid collection of tropical shells and for a good cup of, ah, local beer. Good beer. Very very alcoholic."

Emanuelle was dressed and led to a tribal gathering. She was set beside the chief, who claimed her as his wife. Bill continued to egg Emanuelle on, telling her "his majesty" was a jealous husband who wished her to bear children and for Bill to leave the island after the upcoming celebration. Instruments were played and dancing began, while others knelt down and prayed. His Majesty claimed that thirty-two of those present were his children. Other wives needed him, so his majesty left the festivities in Emanuelle's hands. Emanuelle smiled and looked on, while Bill drunkenly snickered and bobbed his head about, until both danced.

Later, Emanuelle and Bill woke up in bed together, hearing orders shouted from outside their hut. A film crew was outside: costuming the natives, practicing dance choreography, setting up lights and so on. Bill determined that paradise was lost, and felt the pair should get out of there, before someone tried to cast them as extras. As the haunting sounds of Armonium and Nico Fidenco played, Bill and Emanuelle ran barefoot along the coast, the sun setting in the distance.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Frank Review of "Live Free or Die Hard 4.0" (2007)

The Short Version? John McClane vs. cyber-terrorists
What Is It? Action.
Who Is In It? Bruce Willis.
Should I See It? Yeah.

This will be a short piece, because there isn't much to say. If you like big dumb action movies, this is among the least embarrassing options available. It has an appropriate lead, solid action set-ups, and comic relief that doesn't grate too much. It resembles the other movies in that it has a roughneck hero in an out-sized situation, a Eurocentric hands-off main villain, a long-haired chief chop-sockey lackey, and banter.

The movie varies from its predecessors in that, despite protestations during production, there's an excessive amount of obvious CGI. I don't recall any black people in the movie, though there's healthy racial diversity in minor roles. John McClane's everyman quality is strained by his going from a balding disadvantaged cop to the Übermensch with a glistening clean cranium. McClane doesn't feel much at all like the guy from the other movies in personality, but his shoehorned daughter/damsel-in-distress sometimes seems to channel him, so there's that. Everything's ridiculous and incredible, with no relation to anything resembling reality.

So hey, big booms, slight ha-has... Set aside the title "Die Hard," which hasn't exactly been a banner of quality since 1988 anyway, and enjoy this brainless fluff as best as you can.

Monday, April 20, 2009


David Doub is a Texas-based comics writer whose fandom dates back to the 1980s. Widowed and dissatisfied with his career, Doub decided to focus his attention on finally getting the adventures of his heroine, Eve, into print. After two publishers folded on him and he lost his first artist, Doub decided to invest his efforts to a Print On Demand service. Thanks to this method, his 104 page graphic novel, Dusk, is available through Amazon and other book sellers.

You can read the first 32 pages for free online here, and read more about the journey to publication in an interview with Jennifer M. Contino at

As a battered wife, Eve's only concern was to keep her marriage together. But when she is kidnapped into the sordid supernatural world of vampires and foul magic, Eve finds she doesn't want to leave. Her mysterious benefactor, the Vampire Lord Ash, wish her to have a normal life but Eve chooses to stay in the service of Ash. Dusk is the stories about Eve and her challenges living in the darkness. Dusk is a supernatural action/drama story done in a dynamic blending of the sequential art styles of American Comics and Japanese Manga. Several artists help tell these stark noir tales of Vampires and Unrequited Love.
100 Pages
$10 Retail
B&W Interior Art

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Scapegoat in Four Colors by Charles Meyerson

This series of articles on Seduction of the Innocent and censorship in comics written by Chicago area radio personality Charles "Charlie" Meyerson was originally run in First Comics late in 1984. I was going to post my own scans, but I found superior ones at datajunkie, so I figured I'd just link to those...

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Saturday, April 18, 2009

nurghophonic jukebox: "My Girl Bill" by Jim Stafford

Written By: Jim Stafford
Released: 1973
Album: Jim Stafford
Single?: #12 on Billboard in 1974. Clearly, Katy Perry and Jill Sobule were latecomers.

Bill walked me to my door last night
And he said, 'Before I go
There's something about our love affair
That I have a right to know
I said, "Let's not stand out here like this
What would the neighbors think
Why don't we just...step inside
And I'll fix us both a drink"

My girl, Bill
My, my, girl, Bill
Can't say enough about the way I feel
About my girl
(My girl, my girl)
My girl, Bill

William's hands were shaking
As he took his glass of wine
And I could see we both felt the same
When his eyes met mine
I said, "'Who we love and why we love
It's hard to understand
So let's just sit here on the couch
And face this, man to man"

My girl, Bill
My, my, girl, Bill
Can't say enough about the way I feel
About my girl
(My girl, my girl)
My girl Bill

Bill, you know we just left her place
And we both know what she said
She doesn't want to see your face
And she wishes you were dead
Now, I know we both love her
And I guess we always will
But you're gonna have to find another
'Cause she's my girl...Bill

My girl, Bill
My, my, girl, Bill
Can't say enough about the way I feel
About my girl
(My girl, my girl)
Talkin' 'bout my little girl
My girl, Bill

My girl, Bill
My, my, girl, Bill
Can't say enough about the way I feel
About my girl
(My girl, my girl)
My girl, Bill

Friday, April 17, 2009

1984 First Comics Tim Truman Ad

Not to be confused with the '84 The First Choice Subscription Ad, which was just a collection of clip art from the comics. Here, a young Truman drew his then-signature characters from Grimjack and Starslayer in his own style, and then tried to ape the look of the other First artists on their books. His Mike Grell on Jon Sable is convincing, and the Warp heroes are mostly on-model. Truman pulls off Joe Staton on Mike Mauser, but his attempt on E-Man looks processed through Joe Rubenstein. He has in interesting take on Mark Hempel's Mars, but his style is way off on Howard Chaykin's American Flagg! Regardless, if Truman hadn't been the only artist to sign off on this, I'd've never taken this for the work of one hand.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Frank Review of "D.C. Cab" (1983)

The Short Version? Dirty cabbies rock the capitol.
What Is It? Ensemble Comedy.
Who's In It? Only the worst 70s/80s TV personalities.
Should I See It? No.

I remember watching this movie as a kid at a dollar cinema in 1984. The opening "Star Wars" riffing trawl and the spooky night sequence drew me right in, until the comedy stylings of Charlie Barnett completely sold me. Further, this was the inspirational story of a Vietnam vet and his dead buddy's son turning around a bottom-feeding cab company. How could you lose with such a fantastic ensemble of luminaries like Max "Wojo" Gail, Mr. T., Paul Rodriguez, Whitman "Grady" Mayo, Bill Maher, and the Barbarian Brothers?

In 1984 with an idiot kid, you couldn't. In 2009? Big, big loss.

Written by a Joel Schumacher early in his direcing career and likely trying to recapture the magic of Carwash, D.C. Can is a monstrosity. A painfully young Adam Baldwin headlined the weak thread of a main story, while oversized TV and comedy club entertainers were expected to ad-lib their way to a funny movie. That expectation does not pan out, resulting instead in relentlessly obnoxious mugging for the camera. Falling back on the most tired of formulas, the movie drifts from one random episode into another until wrapping things up with everyone banding together to save our imperiled hero. There's lots of cursing, and an obligatory nude scene, capping D.C. Cab as the epitome of bad 1980s distractions that masquerade as humor.

All in all, the flick isn't completely worthless. Gary Busey has some good bits, while a young Marsha "Roz" Warfield offers both a solid dramatic performance and *gasp* some sex appeal. Scream Queen Jill Schoelen at 19 should have guys my age panting, and the soundtrack is surprisingly good. The movie, while still garbage, doesn't so much stab you in the eye as lap lazily against you. If you can allow yourself to passively idle on the beach along the vast ocean of 80s mediocrity, you could discard a small piece of your life with this flick. Otherwise, it should be avoided at all costs.

Speaking of the soundtrack, Irene Cara makes a cameo, and offers a memorable tune over the closing credits, "The Dream (Hold On To Your Dream...)"

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Emanuelle in America (Part 6, 1977)

Character Name: Emanuelle Rogers
Actress: Laura Gemser
Actual Movie Title: Emanuelle in America
Known Aliases: "Brutal Nights," "Black Emanuelle en Amérique"
Country of Origin: Italy
Character Nationality: U.S.A.
Character Age:
Occupation: Photographer (news, nudes)
Zodiac Sign: Gemini
Locales: New York
Release Date: January 5, 1977 (Italy)
Director: Joe D'Amato
DVD: Emanuelle In America (1976)
Stats: Third Black Emanuelle, 2nd with Laura Gemser

Story: Emanuelle was taken to her publisher's offices by taxi (370 ??? St?,) where she began doing research. Her newspaper can be seen, called the Courier (perhaps the Queens Courier?) At the presses, she read about a missing prostitute believed to have fallen to a possible revenge killing. "Like hell. Hey Frankie! I'm convinced I saw her in that film." Emanuelle's editor asked if she was sure the seeming snuff film wasn't really just a porno, but like Italian authorities when this flick came out, she was sure "You can't get that kind of simulation from a professional actor." Frankie tried to warn her off such a dangerous story, but Emanuelle smiled confidently. "After all the things that have happened to me, I've always managed to come back." Frankie continued, "Hold on. As your friend, let me give you some good advise: Don't have anything to do with this story unless you're sure it's safe. As your editor, I can give you a name and an address: A guy called Ronnie. He lives down at the East River on a fishing boat. He's an ex-cop who got kicked out of the police department for accepting bribes and God knows what else. He knows everything there is to know about everybody, and he doesn't give interviews, so you'll have to have something to offer him. Alright?"

At the docks, Ronnie explained that not even the police could handle the snuff ring, as its backers were too powerful. Ronnie didn't have names, and was hot to bet on a horse. Emanuelle offered a 20-to-1 yield without even having to placing a bet, so Ronnie directed her to Washington, D.C...

In the capitol, Emanuelle began trailing a senator (Roger Browne,) spying on him with his family of a wife and three kids. Eventually, she "accidentally" dropped her drink off a lunch tray at a restaurant onto the Senator. Asking for a way to make up for her clumsiness, the Senator suggested Emanuelle be his company at his table. The pair hit it off, and continued their conversation into a park. Emanuelle buttered the Senator up, speaking of how attractive, intelligent, charming, patriotic and responsible he was. This prompted the Senator to launch into a speech. "Everybody in this country is so concerned about what the world thinks of us, when actually we should feel great pride in what we've achieved-- for this is the greatest country in the world... What about the young people of today? Their heads are stuffed full of crazy ideas and a lot of nonsense. What we really need right now is another war. Then they'd come back with their heads screwed on straight... and the ones that don't come back will have given some meaning to their lives-- sacrificing themselves for their country... It's a fantastic country."

Emanuelle kept up the sweet talk, claiming to be on vacation, so this important man jokingly demanded she follow him to his place to change the coat she ruined. One scene later, and Emanuelle was stripping naked in his bedroom. The make-out session commenced, where Emanuelle pressed for the Senator to produce something "far out-- forbidden." The Senator cued up a concealed reel-to-reel, which projected a grainy black and white ménage à trois. Emanuelle played cold fish, until she convinced the Senator to produce something "really strong." Careful what you wish for...

A topless girl with short, dark, curly hair and a bloody slash across her breast was punched. Dropping to her knees, she was forced to take her attacker's prick in hand. Cut to the girl being sodomized while bound over a rack. Cut to three girls with their hands tied with rope behind them, their backs flogged by soldiers. Cut to a brunette woman in a choke hold, her legs lifted and spread apart by another two militants, and a long, moored, barbed wooden phallus forced inside her. Cut to three women writhing on the floor as their clothes are forcefully pulled off. Cut to the brunette's gored vagina. Cut to a woman on the floor, hands behind her back. Blood flows from her nose, mouth, and torso as she's flogged. Pan to another woman's flayed back. Pan to another woman covered in blood as she's lifted from her bonds and flogged. A man's hand reaches for a large black metal hook on a line. Pan to a brutalized woman whose forehead, wrists, waist and knees are restrained by metal brackets, as the hook is inserted into her vagina. Cut to a man turning a crank to tighten the line. A soldier looks on while swigging a bottle, while another heats a rod in a brazier. Pan to a limp woman bound to a St. Andrew's cross molested by a sweaty militant. Pan to the sodomized woman, her arms increasing wrenched by another soldier cranking the rack. She is bound at the shoulders and small of back by metal rails. Cut to woman on barbed phallus hemorrhaging and slumping lifeless.

Emanuelle accepts the Senator's mouth against her body, as she focuses on taking covert snapshots of the film with her necklace camera. The sound of celluloid slapping signals the end of the ordeal. The Senator did not appear to have removed his short robe for fornication, but still declared the experience fantastic. Emanuelle agreed, claiming to have been turned-on by the awful images. Emanuelle "confessed" to being a closet masochist who fantasized about having such a cruel experience in real life. "It's the raw horror of it that excites me... Who knows where, or when, a normal middle class American girl like me could see things like that?" The Senator took this as consent to drug her drink. The Senator finally stripped and laid Emanuelle down, just as her eyes widened in confusion...

Visions of a private airplane trip with the Senator filled Emanuelle's mind. She saw herself in the back of a military jeep in the jungle, riding with the Senator and soldiers to a secluded base. Inside a house, the couple were led by a trooper to a wall with a shuttered viewing window. Once opened, what Emanuelle sees appears as another movie...

Film of various nude and beaten women led by a military troop. Cut to a large bestial phallus-funnel being forced into a girl's mouth. Cut to woman shackled to table with a broom handle in her bloodied vagina. Cut to steaming hot/molten liquid being poured into the funnel and down the victim's throat. Cut to near-dead woman bent over a table, the ribs of her flayed back exposed. Two soldiers hoist her up and place a bit in her mouth. She is then sodomized by one soldier as another tugs at her reins. Cut to woman on St. Andrew's cross, covered in blood, as her nipples are cut off in turn with a dull machete. Cut to flayed/sodomized woman as the force of the reins tears her cheeks open.

As Emanuelle and the Senator watched, he positioned himself behind her; lifting her skirt and tugging off her underwear. Emanuelle was in a drug-addled haze, transfixed by the deprivations playing out before her as she's taken from behind.

Emanuelle awoke from her nightmare, back in the Senator's bed. He explained that her vision was the result of a little powdered LSD, which Emanuelle had never tried before. Emanuelle claimed to be pleased by the trip, and promised she'd visit the Senator again whenever he wanted. The Senator kissed Emanuelle, saying, "We'll pick up tomorrow where we left off today."

Emanuelle returned to the New York offices of her employers, believing she had wasted her time on an acid trip. Perhaps that could explain why she now called her editor "Freddie." Regardless, the editor had an envelop full of "magnificent" developed black and white photos from Emanuelle's "dream." Emanuelle was pleased that her experienced happened after all, while her editor felt, "It's enough to make you puke. I'm not surprised you remember it as a nightmare. You're lucky you woke up." Emanuelle thought she had the scoop of the century, but her editor thought she should forget the whole thing. He explained that for the first time since he'd been with the paper, its owner had commanded him to kill a story. "No two ways about it, but don't worry... I'll put it in the archives, and at the first opportunity that comes along, I'll publish it. Alright?"

Emanuelle was livid. "Hey, wait a minute! I don't give a damn about the archives! Don't you realize I could have been killed? If we don't condemn these atrocities publicly, other girls are gonna get dragged into it, and we'll become accomplices to the whole filthy business!" Freddie wasn't any happier than Emanuelle, but even as she continued to plead with him, the matter was closed. Furious, Emanuelle proclaimed she wanted to blow the whole paper up, owners and editor included! Freddie told her to take a few days to calm down, but Emanuelle said she would take a week... month... year... five years... ten... "All my life if I feel like it!" be concluded...

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Frank Review of "White Zombie" (1932)

The Short Version? Newlywed bride becomes zombie love slave.
What Is It? Horror.
Who's In It? Bela Lugosi.
Should I See It? No.

What we have here is an historic document: the first ever zombie movie, appearing a year after Lugosi's star turn as Dracula. The sets are grand, especially for an independent production. There's some potent use of superimposed images, the make-up effects are excellent, and the acting is solid. The music and lighting are well above par for the time.

All those accolades aside, watching the movie makes for a damned long hour and change. Unless Lugosi or a zombie is on screen, there is nothing particularly interesting to look at. The film is shot dark and dull, with perfunctory dialogue and a great deal of padding. Scenes start out creepy, then run so long that you become accustomed to the images, like staring at a Halloween mask until all you see is the rubber and glue. Lugosi's wry manner is droll, but also negates any tension generated from his diabolical appearance. A vulture emits a loud "scream" that begins to grate on the nerves by the third attempt at a jump scare. A slew of silly wipes reminds why the technique was relegated to home movies.

There are plenty of nice touches, though. I especially like the moment where Beaumont clutches the villain's hand like an elderly woman desperate to communicate with a dismissive grandchild. Still, you could edit the most worthy elements of the film to a 5-10 minute YouTube presentation and do the public a great service.

If you're interested, you can watch the entire feature below...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Frank Review of "Across the Universe" (2007)

The Short Version? A Beatles movie without the Beatles, for the benefit of Mr. Jackson (Andrew or Michael)
What Is It? Musical.
Who's In It? Evan Rachel Wood and too many celebrity cameos.
Should I See It? No.

I was raised on Elvis, but by my late teens I'd seen "Help!" and "A Hard Day's Night," so I figured I was reasonably enlightened about the Beatles. Then one day, my estranged father cried, "What do you mean, you've never heard 'Bungalow Bill'?" A few mix tapes later, and my education had truly begun. This is why, like you, I'm appalled to hear my girlfriend tell how, a few song exempted, she hates the Beatles. I assure you good reader, I'm working on this grievous error in her judgment (she's foreign, you know,) and my visiting sister & brother-in-law seemed inclined to help. They excitedly recommended Julie Taymor's "Across the Universe," claiming that it recontextualized the Beatles catalog through a rock operatic narrative. Well, maybe not exactly in those words, but that's what they meant. You see, normal people don't use words like "recontextualized," and they get off on middling tripe. If you're reading these words, you're probably abnormal, and have better movies to waste over two hours on. For instance, "Hair" or "The Wall," or even "Grease," from which this flick steals liberally.

There's a lot to criticize here; the "on-the-nose" references, the barely existent characterization, the nonexistent story, the over reliance on hits over album cuts, the parade of pointless cameos... but the main source of irritation is the phoniness of it all. This is a Vietnam-era musical written by a pair a geriatrics (born: 1937) acted by kids too young to remember New Kids On The Block, with only the director being of a generation that should know better.Truth to tell, I'm about a generation removed from Taymor, and I still feel like I already lived through this version of the decade via other movies. The film doesn't represent history so much as regurgitate other features' nostalgic recollections. It seems to base/plagiarize its '60s on such unimpeachable sources as Forest Gump, old episodes of The Wonder Years and the worst of the 1980s flashback flicks to the hippie era. I hope Taymor lived the '60s, and was therefore too stoned to remember them, but I suspect she was instead a shut-in getting her information on love-ins from Walter Cronkite and Dragnet reruns.

The only thing lending this parade of cliche legitimacy is the Lennon/McCartney songbook, sung with all the verve of an Accura commercial. Jim Sturgess adequately channels the songwriters' spirit, but Evan Rachel Wood's vocals, while respectable, are ill-suited for the material. You've got characters with names like "Jude" and "Prudence," because someone has to have a reason to sing "Hey Jude" and "Dear Prudence." Never mind that Prudence only appears in a few scenes, offering a rare amusing variation on a standard and a heaping helping of political correctness (serving double duty as both "token Asian" and "lesbian." Never fear, there's a token black to peddle a limp Jimi Hendrix riff, while his girlfriend stands in for Janis Joplin (though her namesake track, "Sexy Sadie," doesn't seem to have been popular enough to make the cut.) Eddie Izzard offers an inspired turn as Mr. Kite, but to reach him you must cross over Bono's heinous East Coast accent and absolute butchering of "I Am The Walrus." Once again, Bono plays Dr. Robert, referencing a song that hasn't been licensed for a Microsoft commercial, so don't expect the actual tune.

That's the movie in a nutshell, actually. All the biggest, most familiar tunes; used in the most obvious ways, disregarding any deep meaning, with the expectation of the greatest commercial yield. It pretends idealism, but is really about as cynical, shallow, and opportunistic as you can get. If that's your take on the Beatles intentions with the material, they nailed it.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

DC Challenge #5 (February, 1986)

  • Outside Salem, MA, Dr. Fate saw chaos reigning on Earth, and sought to defend her.
  • On Earth-S, their New York was also being invaded by aliens, as reported by Billy Batson for WHIZ Evening News. This looked like a job for Captain Marvel, but the magic word wouldn't work for Billy. Making his way to an abandoned subway station, Billy lit a mystic brazier to summon the wizard Shazam. However, the spirit was "dying," as magic was being sapped throughout the universe, and Shazam had no super powers to offer Billy.
  • Back on Earth-1's New York City (or is it Metropolis? I'm confused,) the invaders prepared to publicly execute our alien heroes. Supergirl and Superman were helpless so long as a weird machine projected red sun radiation about them, so Jemm silently blasted it with his tikka jewel. "Good going, J'emm! Kara, what say we return the favor?" The Girl of Steel released the Son of Saturn, Manhunter from Mars and Starfire. Superman announced, "together, we'll show that these no-goods don't speak for all aliens!" The Maid of Might added, "When we're through with 'em, they'll be lucky to mumble!"
  • In Los Angelas, Adam Blake meditated in his apartment, until Dr. Fate called for the return of Captain Comet.
  • Adam Strange returned to Earth and an emergency equipment cache. However, Dr. Fate compelled Adam to miss his next zeta-beam to Rann, assuring him Alanna would be alright, and that his native world needed him more.
  • "Meanwhile, the city of Metropolis plays unwilling host to the jackboots of an invading army... and finds itself liking the experience not at all!"
  • "In a stately house overlooking that troubled town," Tabu argued for Peter Cannon to intercede. Peter initially protested, wishing to allow civilization to lie in its own bed, but his conscience got the better of him. Thunderbolt's "lithe figure in scarlet and blue" let out in a hurry.
  • Dr. Fate could not take a direct hand against the "alien infestation," so the "Nile Necromancer" opened a temporal ankh that brought the Blackhawks to modern Metropolis. Even in World War II era planes, the Blackhawks were skilled enough to down several spaceships in a nighttime battle. Chop Chop grinned, "Good shootin', guys! We won't be able to tell their pilots from hamburger!" Once the Blackhawks were themselves shot down, they parachuted, guns in hand, back into combat.
  • The aliens burned and trampled an American flag, invoking the wrath of Uncle Sam.
  • In the city, aliens shot Thunderbolt with a "Pain Ray," but through force of will Peter Cannon fought through his agony. In the same area were Uncle Sam and the Blackhawks, all fighting the good fight. Then, a whole other batch of creatures drove by in a Daily Planet truck, delivering bundles of newspapers with the headline "Clark Kent Really Superman." Thunderbolt took this as just another bit of strangeness going around.
  • Dr Fate flew to the Rock of Eternity. "Blessed Ohrmazd! Still the wizard lives!" The spectral Shazam knew Fate's master Nabu "eons agone," and hoped the Doctor could succeed him in death. "No, great one! A war is being waged, between out-worlders who wish to destroy all magic, and savage monsters who desire to master science! The former are the cause of your weakness! But I am come that you might have strength... strength enough to send your chosen one to battle at my side! Now rise!" The renewed Shazam felt "merely nine hundred!"
  • Billy Batson was surrounded by aliens on Earth-S, so he used smoke bombs he'd found at the station, but still got himself shot with a ray gun. Before Billy could be finished off, Shazam's voice could be heard from the heavens, commanding the boy to speak his name. "A crash of magic lightning comes... changing Billy to mighty Captain Marvel," who made short work of the ground forces. The World's Mightiest Mortal then converted a highway tunnel into a giant butterfly net to capture their spaceships. Captain Marvel next flew to the Rock of Eternity, where he joined Dr. Fate for a trip to Rann.
  • Adam Strange and Captain Comet teamed up to fight the aliens on Earth-1, until they were struck by a crimson beam. "The fabric in the curtain of reality abruptly frays, then reweaves, with the Man of Destiny and the Champion of Rann on the wrong side!" Landing in the Plane of Holes, the pair was greeted by Darwin Jones, Deadman and Bobo the Detective Chimp. Jimmy Olsen and Dr. Terrence Thirteen, Ghostbreaker were still unconscious when the Anti-Matter Man approached, threatening their destruction with the slightest touch. Warp-Holes that had surrounded the heroes vanished, as did the brief physical form of Deadman. Captain Comet couldn't control or even communicate with the threat through telepathy, and Adam's ray-gun was useless...
  • Dr. Fate and Captain Marvel flew to the city of Ranagar, where Sardath and Alanna were among the citizens "caught in the middle of a conflict between the invading aliens and mystical demons!" The Big Red Cheese rightly figured he and Fate were perfect to fight the "magic-based no-goods," while the forces of Ranagar fended off the extraterrestrials. However, the demons chanted an incantation that opened a warp-hole to the Nether Plane. The tentacles of minor demon S'thulum seized the mystical heroes, who could not fight as it drug them through the hole, because S'thulum would devour their magical power...
  • "If There's A Hole In Reality, Is Life A Cosmic Donut?/Thunderbolts And Lightning" was by Mike W. Barr, Dave Gibbons and Mark Farmer

Friday, April 10, 2009

1994 Marvel Comics Pepsi Prisma Cards

My girlfriend loved the super-hero trading cards while growing up in Mexico, and it's thanks to her I present these examples. Per Jeff Allender's House of Checklists, this is from the 9 card Mexican/Puerto Rican/Dominican Republican/Guatemalan set. Pictured are card #2: Punisher, #4: Gambit, #6: Ghost Rider and #8: Ciclope (Cyclops.)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Ruins (1995/2009)

Not to be all Johnny Cool and shit, but I burned out on Warren Ellis' shtick before he hit it big with Transmetropolitan. There's only so many variations on a politically aware John Constantine a man can stomach, after all. However, I will always respect Ellis for his mid-90s hat trick at Marvel: Druid, Carnage: Mindbomb, and Ruins. To this day, I can't believe any of these books came into print through a mainstream publisher.

Pissed that the gory and generally twisted Druid series had retroactively become a mini, Ellis had the title character get his prick stuck in the tree he was fucking until he was killed by the Son of Satan. Carnage lived up to its name, including near-male nudity and a guy eating an intestine in a hot dog bun while drinking a urine sample, all under a foil cover with CCA approval. Finally, there was the gloriously hateful Ruins, two prestige format editions with acetate covers representing the Anti-Marvels.

Marvels was the book that made stars of Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross; a fully-painted, photo-realistic, nostalgic walk through Marvel history from the Golden Age to the early '70s. Ruins was the piss-take, showing a more likely outcome from all those characters' radiation exposure. Cancer, mutilation, internment camps, cannibalism, repression, suicide, prostitution... all manner of bug-fuckery. I remember extolling the books' absence of virtues to customers when I had my shop, which meant I couldn't keep a copy of the title in stock for long. At something like 50,000 copies in print of the first issue, and far enough less of the second for it to sell for better than ten times its original price, this became quite the illicit collectible. Among my friends, offering a Triple H crotch chop while quoting President X's "You all came from this" was the put down de jure of 1998.

Reading Marvel's remarkably low priced (80 pages at the same price of a single issue 14 years ago,) I'm still amazed at how transgressive and effective the book remains today. The painted art of Terese and Cliff Nielson realizes Ellis' nightmarish, dystopic vision. At the same time, the paintings are often very rough and minimalist, so I'm surprised the final seventeen pages had to be turned over to the strikingly dissimilar Chris Moeller. Then again, there was an editor swap in between issues, Carl Potts was himself Editor In Chief for about 5 minutes, and I've heard rumors Ellis' ending was rewritten. After the Nielsons, Moeller's colors seem painfully garish, and his figures of too strong a constitution, but that shouldn't be seen as a criticism of the artists so much as the editors. Regardless, the last quarter remains appropriately bleak and vicious.

I refuse to spoil any more of the story, so let me just say the reprint of Ruins is the best deal in deviant comics today, and comes highly recommended for the stout-hearted.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Emanuelle in America (Part 5, 1977)

Character Name: Emanuelle Rogers
Actress: Laura Gemser
Actual Movie Title: Emanuelle in America
Known Aliases: "Brutal Nights," "Black Emanuelle en Amérique"
Country of Origin: Italy
Character Nationality: U.S.A.
Character Age:
Occupation: Photographer (news, nudes)
Zodiac Sign: Gemini
Locales: New York
Release Date: January 5, 1977 (Italy)
Director: Joe D'Amato
DVD: Emanuelle In America (1976)
Stats: Third Black Emanuelle, 2nd with Laura Gemser

Story: Driving her car through New York to a jazzy soundtrack, Emanuelle makes her way to another nude shoot with Janet (Stefania Nocilli.) Emanuelle asked about Tony (Giulio Bianchi.) "He's terrific. Believe it or not, we were married two weeks ago... He's really changed. That's all he thinks about... He's so horny, the only rest I get is when I'm working." Emanuelle chirped "Maybe he's taking vitamins." The phone rang, and Emanuelle dismissed Janet to talk to Bill (Riccardo Salvino,) working with the Queen out of Buckingham Palace. Painfully lonely, Emanuelle demanded phone sex from her obliging lover.

The next day, a disguised Emanuelle was being driven to the pleasure island she'd learned about at the orgy. Her driver couldn't stop staring, and he explained that he had been born there, and saw his share of ladies come and go. "I drive t'the Chez Fabienne Singles Club every day. Have done for years. The ladies I bring out are filthy rich-- ugly as hell, so I think they ought to pay. But lady, that stuff's not for you, cause you're first class material." Emanuelle said that she was just curious about a new experience, steadily working her secret necklace camera.

At the club, Emanuelle introduced herself as "Laura Rogers" to Diana Smith (Maria Piera Regoli,) who ran the club. "Later this afternoon, you'll be able to choose your partner. Would you like something to drink? Go ahead-- I don't drink myself." Emanuelle was more interested in her penis-shaped cookies. "Oh no, not one of those. They're made with some rather special ingredients that can have quite an effect on you. I'd wait until later." Smith required a half payment down, which would cover any "accessories" that might be required. The price was steep, but between the discretion, security, and opportunities available, Smith felt it was justified.

Emanuelle soon found herself in a lounge amongst other guests, inspecting a gaggle of well-toned, nearly nude hunks wearing numbered collars. Cookies were eaten, covert photos were taken, and couples paired off into seclusion. Emanuelle overheard role-playing coming from a small hut outside, revolving around a Tarzan (Rick 'Ercolino' Martino) "eating" Jane (Marina Hedman.) Well, she ate him right back, performing fellatio to climax in the XXX European cut, along with brief penetration. Emanuelle took her shots, then progressed to another woman threading flowers through the bush of an uncircumcised male. Emanuelle then reentered the hotel, where she furthered her investigation by peeking into rooms. The first offered an older blond woman, a strapping black man, his white partner, hand jobs, finger bangs, snake tongue, dual oral, doggy style, and ejaculations. Emanuelle next spied a Sam Elliot lookalike "Zorro" and his fire-crotched cougar (Renate Kasché) on the stairs, she masturbating while he cracked a whip off-screen.

Still not satisfied, Emanuelle took advantage of a key left in a door to open it a crack and peer inside. Her first sight was a reel-to-reel film projector, then a platinum blond enjoying the movie and a man's mouth on a bed alongside. Emanuelle's eyes followed toward the screen, where she was disturbed by the sight of a screaming nude black woman bound with rope to a St. Andrews cross while being threatened with a blowtorch. Cut to uniformed militants shackling a bloodied woman to a table. Cut again to a woman with a pipe shoved down her throat, blood spurting out, her wrists tied behind her back and hair pulled. Emanuelle paused, seemingly on the verge of tears. A black militant on screen pushed a woman to the ground. Cut to mostly nude men in army caps raping a variety of women. One has an enormous phallus, which he forces into the bloody vagina of a victim, her legs covered in scratches. Several men hold her down, one choking her about the throat with his hands. Cut to the girl who had taken a pipe in her mouth, dazed as a soldier cocked a gun in her face. Through wide-eyed horror, Emanuelle returned to shooting pictures. A branding iron was pressed into the flesh of a girl's back. Emanuelle heard the moans of the couple, taking pleasure in this atrocity, and closed the door silently.

Emanuelle returned to her room to remove the camera from her necklace. Two burly hotel attendants rushed to her door, so she hid in a closet. Emanuelle at first seemed concerned, then smiled before her door was broken down. The necklace was found empty, and Emanuelle was escorted to Diana Smith. It seemed one of her "stallions" read Emanuelle's magazine all the time, so Smith deduced the real reason for her visit. Smith refused to return Emanuelle's clothes and other belongings until the roll of film she'd been spotted taking was handed over. Murderer wasn't on the table, as Smith was certain it wouldn't come to that. As this was a matter of potentially compromised reputations, Smith seemed inclined more toward having Emanuelle arrested on trumped up charges.

Emanuelle didn't seem worried, as she sensed sexual tension from the tightly wound Smith, who refused all drinks, smokes... and men? The lady dost protest to much, as Emanuelle very nearly got Diana to eat a ecstasy cookie with her feminine wiles. When Emanuelle pegged Smith as a lesbian virgin, it earned her a backhand with a slap follow-up. Slightly pissed, Emanuelle forced Diana to the ground, tearing at her clothes with her hands. After ripping off Diana's panties, Emanuelle forced Smith to drink alcohol, then initiated her in the Sapphic delights. Leaving Smith writhing on the floor, Emanuelle took Diana's clothes and claimed she was going to get the roll. Instead, she snuck out to the car of the overly-friendly driver who had first brought her to the "Singles Club." Emanuelle even bargained for airfare and a new dress, courtesy of gratitude sex... be continued...

Monday, April 6, 2009

DC Challenge #4 (2/1986)

  • Director Darwin Jones of the Department of Scientific Investigation in Washington D.C. was trying, like the readers, to make sense of DC Challenge #1-3. Having borrowed Bobo the Detective Chimp from Sheriff Chase to investigate the chimpanzee's extraordinary longevity, he was pleasantly surprised when Bobo determined a pattern in the unusual instances that circled Metropolis. Just then, Superman arrived to enlist the DSI's analytical help, as it was too much for S.T.A.R. Labs. Bobo had to "chee" at Superman to remind him his JLA signal device was going off, as the Detective Chimp couldn't talk back then, and Superman was still rattled by the beating Mongul gave him. Jones and Bobo then set out for Metropolis.

  • Aquaman: In the Sahara Desert, the Sea King was surrounded by pointy-eared aliens. "We will indeed end the 'menace,' Aquaman-- and you will be one of the most important tools we shall use! ...Just as we took knowledge of the JLA from your mind to 'borrow' their shapes-- we used your signaler to call your comrades! There are several among them who can be important pawns in our game-- for they are traitors to our cause! ...Some of your comrades are no more 'people' than I am, Aquaman! Your purpose is concluded, human. You are now irrelevant, and may prepare to cease existence."

    Martian Manhunter: "Whoever you are, you can't kill a Justice Leaguer that easily!" The Alien Atlas flew into the aliens line of fire, shielding Aquaman with his own body.

    Zatanna: Teleported with Martian Manhunter. "You didn't think we'd ignore our leader's summons, did you, cutie? Besides, I haven't been to Egypt for years, and the sight-seeing's great!" Zee tried to apply her sorcery to the aliens, but it wouldn't work. "The power of magic is no longer so great, woman-- and soon will be gone entirely!"

    Martian Manhunter: Screamed "AYEEEIIIII!" when confined in an energy cage projected from an alien's ray gun. Spirited away through a portal in the sky with the other extraterrestrials. "We will let you live to ponder that knowledge-- for we have the traitor now-- and although your powers may be sufficient to allow you to survive, you are, as we said, irrelevant. Hardly worth bothering to kill."

    Aquaman & Zatanna: "Huh???" Left to die in the desert, again.

  • Batman and Hawkwoman hung from a branch on the side of a Peruvian jungle cliff, until Adam Strange lept to grab the same. The limb snapped, but as Adam had planned, the trio just fell into the Zeta-Beam to Rann that brought Strange there in the first place. On Rann, the heroes met with the Viking Prince, the scientist Sardath and his lovely daughter Alanna in an open field. The mythological monsters had followed a crystal Sardath had left the city with, so Hawkman and Hawkwoman flew to the defense (even though Hawkgirl lost her wings to a monster last issue, hence the falling.) To compound the insult to reader's intelligence, Superman showed up out of nowhere, though it was claimed he too had ridden the zeta-beam after following his JLA signal device to the jungle. However, a magical monster quickly hypnotized and captured the Man of Steel. Then those pointy-eared alien guys showed up to take the crystal from Sardath and use it to barter with the monster for Superman.

  • Darwin Jones and Detective Chimp were in Metropolis on the Daily Planet's roof as an alien invasion began. Our nuclear missiles bounced harmlessly off their ships, although Darwin learned from a phone call to Simpson that in countries still in the dark of night, they were more effective. Invaders burst onto the roof Darwin was on, so he whispered a simple plan to Bobo. The chimp drew fire, as Darwin escaped down a staircase.

  • In New York, Jimmy Olsen enlisted the services of Dr. Terrence Thirteen, Ghostbreaker to solve the mystery of dead celebrities haunting the Daily Planet.

  • Metropolis: Bobo reunited with Darwin Jones, showing him the demons that were also invading, this group in the Planet basement. Radiation the pair seemed to pick up on the roof again passed between them. Bobo pointed to a matter transmitter the demons were using for transport, and convinced Jones to join him in passing through its portal. The demons who remained were printing a newspaper headline declaring Clark Kent was Superman.

  • Before Olsen and Dr. Thirteen reached the airport, aliens conquered New York, even though Floyd also appeared to be in town. The aliens had Supergirl, Superman, Martian Manhunter, Starfire and Jemm: Son of Saturn tied to poles for a public execution. "The independence of this planet has ended! You are now to be a part of the Greater Galaxies-- and these aliens who have lived among you shall be the first to feel our justice! For having dared fraternize with you-- for pretending to live among you in peace-- these traitors shall die!" Jimmy Olsen couldn't help directly, so he guided Dr. 13 through another matter transmitter portal that had appeared.

  • In an energy spewing limbo, Darwin Jones was beyond incredulous regarding Bobo's intelligence. Jones demanded answers from an inarticulate chimpanzee, just as Olsen and Thirteen fell on top of him. After introductions were made, an armed alien invader appeared. "We had not thought any Earthmen had the resources to invade the Plane of Holes-- you surprise us." The alien stunned the humans to sleep, but as he prepared to kill their "pet," Deadman leapt out of Bobo's body. Surprisingly solid, Deadman socked the alien, though his previous host took a hit from the ray gun...

  • Previous issue writer Doug Moench noted the literal Hawkgirl/Batman/Adam Strange cliffhanger was resolved as he imagined. Moench imagined Aquaman would have saved himself by leaping back into the oasis pond and controlling the algae to form either a giant SOS or reflective surfaces to deflect lasers. On the matter of Alanna of Rann being left to fend for herself, Moench said "Paul blew this one completely! Hah!" Instead, Alanna should have used the Projection Device to reverse shrink and imprison the monster in the gem Viking Prince was just released from. Maybe that happened between panels?

  • "Atomic Nights" was by Paul Levitz, Gil Kane and Klaus Janson.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Frank Review of "Slumdog Millionaire"(2008)

The Short Version? Dickensian Indians/Colonized Bollywood
What Is It? Melodramedy.
Who's In It? No Honkeys.
Should I See It? Yes.

My girlfriend had been wanting to see this Best Picture Oscar Winner since the days it was looking to be strictly art-house fare, so we caught the very tail end of the theatrical run before it hit home video. Since I'd heard for months what a crowd-pleaser it was, I assumed it was just the sort of opiate for the masses I usually have no taste for. In fact, the opening scenes are entirely too cartoonishly cute, but when the bitter hits the sweet square in the kisser with a baseball bat, I'll admit I had to reconsider my initial impression. As the film continued to offer subtitled Hindi dialogue from true life slum kids and some truly diabolical goings-on, I was drawn into this desperate, engrossing world. Orphaned brothers Jamal and Salim grow into a pair of teenage rogues as they brave exploitation, mutilation, and other violations that only enter the equation under the worst or most melodramatic of circumstances. These young child actors perform with all of their hearts and awkward bonafides, earning monolithic good will that carries the audience through the rest of the picture. In the middle third, the youths are replaced with less believable teenaged actors, and less quaffable circumstances. The children's existence is dire but transfixing and redemptive, where as teens they fall into hoary territory with painfully self-conscious acting. Still, you're already involved with these characters, and the film remains entertaining and affecting, so you forgive its shortcomings.

The picture had by this point been sewn together by a series of recollections from a young adult Jamal, as he was tortured by police during an interrogation. Jamal had performed more than a bit too well on the game show "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" for an ignorant guttersnipe, so the flashbacks served to explain how he was able to draw upon his incredible experiences to answer seemingly impossible questions. It's a clever device, and unlike some critics, I did not find it sapping of tension. Up until the last third, the flick remained riveting. However, the actor playing Jamal is clean cut and speaks perfect English. The skinny childhood love Latika had grown into one of the most beautiful women you can imagine, a cross between Rosario Dawson and Eva Longoria. Mobsters and double-crosses and starcrossed lovers and shitty MTV editing had invaded the space. In an imaginary sequence, the film had almost literally jumped the shark, and is utterly reliant on the goodwill engendered earlier to overlook a screenplay turn toward tripe.

I've never been a big fan of director Danny Boyle. I find Trainspotting to be one of the most overrated films of my generation, 28 Days Later... pathetically derivative, The Beach mildly amusing, and the less said of A Life Less Ordinary the better. Only Shallow Grave really worked for me, and Boyle's portions of this film continue my feeling that the director leans too much toward style and cliché as "homage." The influence of sillier, dated Bollywood fare is all over his portion, not to mention a full-on tongue kiss to old school Hollywood. Most egregious, if not outright offensive, is the closing credits dance sequence. Set to the tune of the remarkably stupid, inexplicable Oscar winner "Jai Ho," a "Macarena" for the '00s, this number is further marred with comic book hyperbolic credit text. I'd also like to take this moment to demand a indefinite moratorium on the use of M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" on any film soundtrack. Co-director Loveleen Tandan seems the talent to watch, even after having suffered through her misguided interpretation of Vanity Fair. Let's leave the English to Boyle and the Indian to Tandan, and hope for the best in future endeavors.

Criticisms aside, and I do mean even in the face of much to complain about, Slumdog Millionaire remains a viewing pleasure that offers somewhat cultured comfort food for our troubled times. This is classic, heart-string-tugging cinema that works on any but the most hardened viewer. The returns may diminish as the roles rotated and the celluloid rolls on, but there's so much spirit here, you'll likely be carried along with a smile on your face at the closing. It's always big, it's often ridiculous, but it's truly worth your time.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A Frank Review of "Fidel" (2000)

The Short Version? Castro the idealistic revolutionary gone wrong.
What Is It? Biopic.
Who's In It? Gael García Bernal as Che.
Should I See It? Maybe.

A solid if somewhat typical biographical mini-series, originally presented by the Showtime cable network. The dialogue is, as expected, plagued by exposition and diatribe. Víctor Huggo Martin plays the infamous political figure as an inspired idealist, but also an opportunistic and deluded rebel leader turned paranoid dictator. A lengthy credit sequence in which an aged Castro marches through his palace makes clear the filmmaker's prejudice against the man, and as the story unfolds we find a womanizer whose trial-and-catastrophic-error path toward social uprising costs hundreds of dedicated lives. Still, Martin remains sympathetic through most of the running time, with devoted speeches and, eventually, clever strategy. Gael García Bernal delivers a quirky and passionate performance as Che Guevara, later to be reprised in The Motorcycle Diaries, and putting to shame Benicio Del Toro's ill-considered turn in Steven Soderbergh's Che. Cecilia Suárez is a cool and intense Celia Sanchez. Tony Plana, long typecast as "evil Latino," in no way endangers his niche as Battista. There's no shortage of strong heroines in the picture, well played by Alejandra Gollas, Margarita Rosa de Francisco and Patricia Velasquez. The direction of David Attwood is problematic, as there are stylistic flourishes and a laughable bit of dubbing at the end that drop kick the viewer right out of the movie. Still, surprisingly entertaining for a movie about the inequities of capitalist and socialist regimes.

Friday, April 3, 2009

1985 DC Comics Robert Bloch Hell On Earth Adaptation Ad

I haven't seen one of these adapted science fiction graphic novels in years, and never read any, but I'd like to. I'll have to order that Keith Giffen/Bob Fleming one the next time I mail order some back issues...

Thursday, April 2, 2009

nurgh's Worst. Songs. Ever. #3: "Smoke" by Natalie Imbruglia

(Commentary for original music video, which got disabled. You can see it here or here.)

So you're an Australian soap opera actress who decides to cut a pop album. Nothing new about that. You pull off a hit single that features the lyric "I'm cold and I am shamed lying naked on the floor," and a video set on a soap opera set. You're in your element, so I guess that's fine. Then, your follow-up single features only your very attractive, dolled-up self against a white background, with occasional effects thrown in. Here's where you're starting to push it, but you might be okay if you stick with an epic love song instead of being fully relatable. But wait, you choose instead a dire pity party of a number, focusing especially on childhood emotional trauma, explored through some of the worst lyrics ever. Added bonus: pretty much just a retread of your first single, to boot. Now, I believe you've gone too far, and I personally don't recall her scoring any more hits. Having heard the album, I'd say a far wiser selection would have been "Leave Me Alone," a remotely daring dabbling into a 1920's sound. Otherwise the album was more "Left of Middling" than anything. Terrible, simplistic song to follow, as well as a favorite bit of audible masochism, "what's up with that...?"

My lullaby,hung out to dry
What's up with that
It's over
Where are you dad
Mum's lookin' sad
What's up with that
It's dark in here
Why bleeding is breathing
You're hiding , underneath the smoke in the room
Try , bleeding is believing
I used to
My mouth is dry
Forgot how to cry
What's up with that
You're hurting me
I'm running fast
Can't hide the past
What's up with that
You're pushing me
Why , bleeding is breathing
You're hiding , underneath the smoke in the room
Try , bleeding is believing
I used to
I used to
Why , bleeding is breathing
You're hiding , underneath the smoke in the room
Try , bleeding is breathing
I saw you crawling on the floor
Why , bleeding is breathing
You're hiding , underneath the smoke in the room
Try , bleeding is breathing
I saw you crawling to the door
Why , bleeding is breathing
You're hiding , underneath the smoke in the room
Try , bleeding is breathing
I saw you falling on the floor

Now that you've seen it, I ask if you were also wondering when she was going to stop twirling and go away. "You're smoke, damn it! Blow out already!"

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

"The Sand Pebbles" Cast and Crew on Marayat Andriane

In commentary, the actor Mako said of Marayat, "she was much of a, you might say, loner really. Plus, she and I were staying at different hotels."

Director Robert Wise simply said, "Isn't she marvelous?" He then began laughing to himself for seven uneasy seconds, followed by another gulped chuckle.

Candice Bergen elaborated more fully: "Marayat; who was married to the French head of 'Ceto,' or something; she lived in Bangkok, and I remember that when I left, I visited her there and-- and had a lovely dinner with her, and she was quite exotic. Very beautiful, and, um, very educated, and fairly mysterious, but-- but lovely."

Sir Richard Attenborough continued: "The actress who I played opposite, I don't think, was an enormously experienced young actress... On the other hand, she had a wonderful truth about her. There was a wonderful sympathy. There was a wonderful simpleness-- uh, uh-- about the character. You didn't feel she was world wise a'tall... She was enchanting, I might say. Absolutely delightful, and very gracious to me, as being the 'professional actor,' as it were. I found myself very fond of her by the end of the movie."


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