Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Happy Birthday, Superman!

April 18, 2018 marks the 80th anniversary of the very first appearance of Superman! In celebration, I am posting some drawings of the Man of Steel by my favorite Superman artists, in the order they come to mind.

First, there's Curt Swan, who drew Superman during 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. I don't think he'll ever be topped. His art was especially good when inked by Murphy Anderson.

Next, there's John Byrne, as a close second. He didn't have anywhere near Swan's track record on the character, but his breif tenure during the mid-1980s was very impactful and carried the character through the 1990s.

Gil Kane didn't do a lot of work on Superman, but the stories he did draw (in Action Comics and a couple Specials in the 1980s) were spectacular!

Finally, there's Jose Luis Garcia Lopez who, sadly, spent most of his career in DC Comics' licensing arm drawing style sheets and merchandising artwork, but he drew some spectacular Superman team-up stories in early issues of DC Comics Presents. I'm ending this survey of the Man of Tomorrow's yesterdays with a drawing from his that shows Superman's changing looks from his debut in 1938 through to the 1990s.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

'Thru Thicket and Thin' is a nutty send-up of jungle pictures

Thru Thicket and Thin, or Who's Zoo in the Jungle (1933)
Starring: Eddie Borden, Dorothy Granger, and James Finlayson
Director: Mark Sandrich
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

A booze-happy reporter (Borden) and an unscrupulous African explorer (Finlayson) compete for the attention of Tarkana, Queen of the Jungle (Granger).

"Thru Thicket and Thin, or Who's Zoo in the Jungle" is a fabulous send-up of the jungle explorer genre of adventure films. From the first mocking of the liberal use of stock nature footage in such pictures, through the final scene of "jungle domestic bliss", this film offers some 20 minutes of absurdist humor with barely a break between gags to let the viewers catch their breath from laughing.

Eddie Borden and James Finlayson (the latter of whom I recognized from his many parts as the frustrated man caught up in Laurel & Hardy antics) are great fun as the smarmy would-be beneficiaries of Tarkana's Innocent Affections... and Dorothy Granger is hilarious as the not-so-innocent wild woman. Everything you expect in a jungle picture is either turned on its head or savagely mocked (or both) in this brief film, including the portrayal of the natives. (And I can't even comment on one of the film's funniest and most startling gags, because even mentioning it will ruin its impact.)

"Thru Thicket and Thin" is one of 13 short films that were produced by members and starred members of the Masquers Club, a private social club for comedians when they wanted to raise funds for a new meeting place in the early 1930s. Several of them are available on DVD, or can be viewed for free online.

And while I'm at it, here are some publicity stills of Dorothy Granger as Tarkana. (The weird contraption she's sitting next to in one is a "radio" that is playing music in a scene.)

Friday, April 13, 2018

It's Friday the 13th!

Adrienne Ames wants everyone to know what day it is, and she wants everyone to watch out that bad luck doesn't strike them (and let's not even get into the threat of goalie-mask-wearing maniacs!).

Meanwhile, Jeanne Carmen is like the honey badger, 'cause she just don't care!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Musical Monday: 'Hey Ho' by Gin Wigmore

"Hey Ho" was a single from Gin Wigmore's 2009 "Holy Smoke" album. It's cool song with an even cooler video, shot entirely in black and white.

You can read more about this fantastic talent from New Zealand here. You can also visit her official website here.

Monday, April 2, 2018

'Ticket to a Crime' starts strong, but falters

Ticket to a Crime (1934)
Starring: Ralph Graves, Lola Lane, James Burke, Charles Ray, Lois Wilson, John Elliot, and Hy Hoover
Director: Lewis Collins
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

When a financially troubled jeweler (Elliot) is murdered before he even has a chance to fully explain why he's hiring P.I. Clay Holt (Graves), Holt and his secretary (Lane) must not only find the killer, but try to learn what their job was supposed to be.

"Ticket to a Crime" is one of those films I started out liking, but which fell in my estimation as it progressed. It benefits from a pair of charismatic leads (Graves and Lane) that played well off each other, and the mystery at the center of the film is more complex that what is often the case with these low-budget films, with multiple possible motivations for the murder, as well as a slate of several likely suspects.

Unfortunately, the interesting plot and its relative complexities get derailed as the pace of the film accelerates during its second act and then rushes toward its conclusion with such a breakneck pace that the solution to the case feels lazy (and the criminal behind the action appears to be complete moron). But even before that, the character of Clay Holt (Ralph Graves) who started out as a charming, if somewhat self-absorbed rogue, has turned into a detestable and unlikable jackass.

First, there was the way he treated his secretary--she barely rated a kind word from him when she was wearing glasses and frumpy business clothing, but once she was in a party dress and without her "cheaters", he was head-over-heels in love. Was this really an amusing or endearing trait to movie-goers in the 1930s? From the moment Penny (played by Lola Lane) appeared on screen, I thought, "Wow... that's a pretty woman" and the fact that Clay Holt couldn't see that made me think he was either gay or stupid.

And, speaking of stupid, the second thing drags the character of Clay Holt down is his persistent pranking/tormenting of his former partner from his days on the police force, the slow-on-the-uptake Lt. McGinnis (James Burke, in a role he played many times over his career). Not only does he thoroughly obstruct McGinnis's investigation by withholding, and even planting fake, evidence, but he identifies a completely innocent bystander to McGinnis as a person he is seeking. Early in the film, a police official threatens to pull Holt's investigator license... given his behavior over the course of "Ticket to a Crime", not only should that license be pulled but Holt desperately needs to be prosecuted and locked up, since his behavior not only obstructed justice but it endangered both police officers and civilians.

Even if the writers hadn't completely botched the character of Holt, the rushed ending in and of itself ruins what began as a nice mystery picture. The solution to the crime is so simple that the criminal never had a chance of getting away with it in the first place: If Holt hadn't concealed evidence, even McGinnis would have identified the killer well before the disappointing Big Reveal. What's worse, the ending--the entire second half of the movie, actually, is so sloppy and rushed that we don't even find out the reason for why Clay and Penny were hired in the first place.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Picture Perfect Wednesday: Hedy Lamarr

In "Hollywoodland", the time-traveling heroes of "Timeless" went to 1941 to save Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane" from oblivion. Along the way, they met Hedy Lamarr (portrayed by Alyssa Sutherland), 1940s superstar and brilliant inventor who came up with the basic idea that led to WiFi.

Here are some promotional stills and glamour shots of the real Lamarr. Maybe I'll dig around to see if I can find some suitable images of Sutherland and feature her on some Wednesday as well.