Saturday, June 24, 2017

Kolchak: Or why I don't write for TV

Some of you folks might recall a series by the name of Kolchak: The Night Stalker (currently airing on ME TV, so check your local listings), about a down on his reporters who tended to get involved in odd cases usually dealing with the supernatural.

They remade it back in 2005 with the young and hip Stuart Townsend playing lead, which seemed to be missing the point by about a mile. So, assuming I was hired to run the show, what would I do?

Friday, June 23, 2017

Bleeders (1997)

Bleeders (1997), dir. Peter Savtek, Fries/Schultz Film Group


And so we once again venture into Lovecraft country for the Summer of Love(craft). This, the third and final adaptation of the Lurking Fear, was a standout for me, although that had more to do with the VHS box cover than the story. The cover was pretty much what I posted here, but it was three dimensional, with a clear plastic cover and thick red slime on the inside, so the monsters would look nice and bloody when you picked it up.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Animation Block: Sherlock Hound/Famous Detective Holmes

Funny as it may sound, I was never a huge anime fan as a youth. Of course, back in my day it was called Japanimation, and the only things that came to mind were Voltron and Robotech. I wouldn't really get into the whole scene until the 90's, but even today my exposure and knowledge of the medium is sadly lacking.

So, when I heard that famed director Hayao Miyazaki did a Sherlock Holmes series in the 1980's, well, that's something you need to track down.

The show itself was a joint production between Tokyo Movie Shinsha and the Italian company RAI. Thanks to issues with the Doyle estate, Miyazaki left after six episodes by the time the issues were cleared up, with the rest of the series being handled by director Kyosuke Mikuriya.

As for the show itself, it isn't the most faithful adaptation of Sherlock Holmes. If anything it seems more inspired by the Universal series than the Doyle stories. Sherlock Hound is still the droll consulting detective, whereas Dr. Watson is clearly inspired by Nigel Bruce's Col. Blimp take on Watson. Inspector Lestrade similarly draws on Dennis Hoey's portrayal as the bumbling Scotland Yard inspector. Mrs. Hudson is probably the biggest departure, here portrayed as a young widow with a past as an aviator and quick with a pistol.

As for the episodes themselves, not terrible but nothing really stays with you. Hound and Watson usually get dragged into solving seemingly impossible crimes, usually carried out by Professor Moriarty, here seen as far more comedic than most portrayals. Thanks to Miyazaki though we do get to see plenty of light aircraft fighting over the English countryside.

A pity that Miyazaki didn't stay with the series, but overall not bad. The entire series was released on DVD, so worth a shot if you can get it from a anime standpoint. If you're a Holmes fan, it might be worth a rental at least.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Wild, Wild West 2: Or Why I Don't Write for a Living

Assuming the first film did alright, let's talk sequels. The cast is more or less the same unless noted.

1879-time has moved more or less normal. President Grant has given way to President Rutherford B. Hayes (James Brolin). Hayes wants to clear some of the deadwood out from the Secret Service, which suites agents James West and Artemus Gordon just fine. West wants to retire out west, while Gordon has been eyeing a return to the stage.

There's just one last mission. West is tasked to captured the rogue Mexican agent Rita Escobar. Escobar has gone crazy, apparently, and according to intelligence is looking to do in several world leaders.

West and Gordon don't believe it, but orders are orders. Besides, better for her if they take her in rather than some hotshot Pinkerton agent, right?

They catch her trying to slip into the French embassy with a satchel of dynamite. She swears there is a good reason though, just as the aforementioned Pinkertons show up. West gets suspicious when the dozen or so agents open fire with Gatling guns instead of trying to arrest her.

Now on the run, Rita explains what she was doing. She was placed undercover in the traveling circus of  Count Carlos Mario Vincenzo Robespierre Manzeppi (Maury Chaykin). The Count's circus is actually a front for a ring of assassins. The Count is also rumored to be a sorcerer. Rita swears that last one isn't a rumor.

What the Count has done has killed the heads of various states and replaced them with magically created doubles. Rita has a list and dozen hired killers on her tail.

Naturally West and Gordon aren't going to let this slide. Can they stop the Count in time? 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Bring on the Bad Guys: Jimmy McCoy

Real name: Jimmy McCoy
A.K.A.: Red
First Appearance: Batman I#4 (Winter 1940)
Abilities: Gangster
Weapons: guns
Quotes: "I'm not going to jail anymore! You're a little too late!"
Worst Act: Being labeled public enemy#1 must have warranted something
Created by: Bill Finger (writer) and Bob Kane (artist-credited), Jerry Robinson/George Roussos(inks)

We spend most the story on Jimmy McCoy and his rise from low level punk to gang lord. A series of pranks ends with him going to reform school, which only teaches Jimmy how to be better crook, but only to extent. His next caper gets him a year in prison, which teaches him more, but he gets picked up on tax evasion next.

Out after ten years, Jimmy wants to retake the streets. The problem is that while he was away, crime continued. "Big" Costello has moved into Jimmy's old rackets and taken most of his old gang. Jimmy aims to settle the score and make himself the big man once again.

Pretty good, although Batman and Robin come across as more extras than anything else. This particular yarn could just as easily been told in any 'Crime Does Not Pay' mags that were sold at the time.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Bring on the Bad Guys: Blackbeard

Real name: Thatch
First Appearance: Batman I#4 (Winter 1940)
Abilities: Pirate captain
Weapons: guns, saber
Quotes: "Ho-ho What a prize catch this is!"
Worst Act: Piracy
Created by: Bill Finger (writer) and Bob Kane (artist-credited), Jerry Robinson/George Roussos(inks)

A fairly weak character and story. A pirate shows up and attacks a yacht, robbing the people and holding them hostage. Batman and Robin show up, they fight, and Blackbeard is exposed as a run of the mill gangster.

Which begs the question of why go to all the trouble? He and his men are dressed as your stereotypical pirates (cutlasses and all), but he makes no effort to pass himself as the legendary Blackbeard. If his goal was pure robbery, why bother with the dress up?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Bring on the Bad Guys: Big Boy Daniels

Real name: Daniels
First Appearance: Batman I#3 (Fall 1940)
Abilities: Gang ringleader
Weapons: guns
Quotes: "So, you ratted to the Batman, eh 'Pockets'! I'll teach ya to double cross me!"
Worst Act: Murder
Created by: Bill Finger (writer) and Bob Kane (artist-credited), Jerry Robinson/George Roussos(inks)

Another Robin feature. While Gotham is plagued by yet another gang, Batman discovers this one uses kids as a members. Sending Robin undercover ferrets out the big man-Big Boy Daniels.

Daniels is fairly plain. He's yet another gangster, and the kids as criminals bit isn't even a year old. Repeating storylines isn't unique to comics