Friday, April 24, 2015

HEY, I WAS THERE PROOF!

Remember me telling you about meeting Gil Kane at a comic book convention in Houston in the summer of 1980? Well, thanks to my buddy Bob Parker (who snapped these pics and sent me copies this morning), here's photographic proof of that historic meeting. That's me on the left, an unknown woman in the middle and the legendary Gil Kane on the right. He's just signed my copy of ALTER EGO that features his artwork on the cover and an in depth interview. Thanks for the photo and the memories Bob!



 

Monday, April 20, 2015

COLOR ME KUBRICK


Anyone out there ever hear of this one?

Me neither but I found it at the thrift store for ninety-nine cents so I thought I'd take a chance on it. The premise seemed interesting.

COLOR ME KUBRICK is a 2005 British comedy film loosely based on the true story of one Alan Conway, a minor con man who for years went around London and England impersonating legendary film director Stanley Kubrick. At the time (the early 1990s), Kubrick was a notorious recluse and Conway had the good fortune to hit mostly on people who had heard the name Kubrick but didn't really know what he actually looked like. He would use this bizarre charade for money, drugs, booze and gay sex. Oh sure, a few people tumbled to what was going on but no one would come forward and admit that they had been duped because they feared looking like fools.

John Malkovich does a terrific job playing this oddball character and I suspect that Malkovich's performance is even more over the top than anything Conway ever actually said or did. But it's an amusing portrait of a man so hungry for fame and celebrity and the burning desire to be someone else that he manages to pull off the stunt for several years. Of course, his victims are also portrayed as gullible blokes who are so entranced by the reflected glamour and allure of being associated with THE Stanley Kubrick that they willingly go along with his outlandish schemes.

The film offers several visual and musical homages to Kubrick's films and that's not surprising given that screenwriter Anthony Frewin and director Brian W. Cook both had long associations with the real Stanley Kubrick. Cook served as assistant director on BARRY LYNDON (1975), THE SHINING (1980) and EYES WIDE SHUT (1999). As Cook remarks on the special "making-of" featurette on the DVD, Kubrick would appreciate this film and find it hard to believe that it was shot in only eight weeks (Kubrick was notorious for his lengthy film shoots).

COLOR ME KUBRICK features "blink and you'll miss it" appearances by Honor (GOLDFINGER) Blackman and notorious British film director Ken (ALTERED STATES) Russell. The film is episodic in nature, meandering from one con job to the next with no real through line before winding up with a climax that echoes that of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE.

 But the real reason to watch COLOR ME KUBRICK is to see Malkovich's utterly outre performance. He's one strange dude in one strange film.

And let's not forget, Ann-Margret.



No, she's not in this film but I just thought I'd mention her.
 

Friday, April 17, 2015

THE DOC AND THE ROCK




Regular readers of this blog are probably aware of the fact that I'm a huge Doc Savage fan. This pulp hero ranks in my top five favorite fictional characters (along with James Bond, Superman, Sherlock Holmes and Conan the Barbarian).

There's been talk lately about Shane Black making a Doc Savage film with Chris (THOR) Hemsworth as Clark Savage Jr. That's not a bad choice at all but after watching a recent episode of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, I've come to the conclusion that this man:







Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, would make a very good Doc Savage. A spray on full body tan, a bronze wig and a ripped shirt is all this guy needs to look like Doc. The Rock is the only contemporary actor that has the sheer physical presence required to do Doc justice. I'm sure I'm not the first Doc Savage fan to suggest this. What do you think?

Oh, and by the way, here's Ann-Margret (who would have made a terrific Pat Savage if a Doc Savage film had been made in the 1960s).




 

Friday, April 10, 2015

REX HAVOC: ASSKICKERS OF THE FANTASTIC


Recently I reviewed AGE OF VOODOO by James Lovegrove here on my blog. In that review, I mentioned how the military monster fighter group Team Thirteen in the book reminded me of the old Rex Havoc comic book series which ran in Warren Publishing's 1984/1994 magazines back in the late '70s/early '80s.  The series was short lived but very fondly remembered.

Imagine my surprise when comic book writer Jim Stenstrum, the "father" of Rex Havoc, posted a comment on my blog later to inform me that he had just published a new Rex Havoc novel. I was thrilled to hear from Jim and made a point to order a copy.

Before I could do so, Jim contacted me again saying he had some extra copies of his book and he would be glad to send me one if I would just send him my address. I did so immediately and it wasn't long before a signed copy of the book arrived in my mail box.

I finished reading the book this morning and I loved it! If you're looking for serious literature in these pages, keep looking. But if you're in the mood for a funny, fast paced, action packed adventure in which Rex Havoc and his new teammates kick some serious monster butt, this one's for you.

It's a bit darker than previous Rex adventures and Rex has undergone some interesting changes regarding his powers and abilities. The ending leaves things wide open for a sequel which I will certainly read and enjoy. Among the humorous highlights here: an Eegah! name drop, Clint Eastwood on a list of top ten threats to humanity and the real story behind the Rex Havoc adventure entitled The Day The Earth Sat Down.

I must take this opportunity to publicly thank Jim Stenstrum for his amazing kindness and generosity in sending me this book. Hearing from him and receiving this gift really made my day. Which brings me to a couple of final things.

If you're an author of the kind of material that I write about here on my blog, please feel free to contact me about sending review copies my way. I'm happy to read and review your books if you'd like me to. All I ask is that you first take some time to actually read my blog to see the kind of material I write about and only contact me if your work falls within these categories. What do I like? Well, for starters, I enjoy pulp fiction, hard boiled crime stories, thrillers/mysteries, action/adventure, horror, science fiction and American history. 

Finally, I'm reasonably sure that Jim Stenstrum found my blog by doing a Google search for the words "Rex Havoc". I'm not naive enough to believe that he was or is a regular reader of this blog. But this encounter just goes to show that I never know who might find their way to this blog through whatever means, find something they like and contact me directly.

Because of this, I'm going to name drop a certain someone in every blog post I write from here on out because, hey, you never know.

Here goes:

Ann-Margret

 

Monday, April 6, 2015

THE BANK JOB


One of the pleasures of watching a heist flick like THE BANK JOB (2008), is anticipating just exactly what's going to go wrong with the caper. And you know something will. It's one of the tropes of this sub-genre of crime film. No matter how well planned and executed the heist is, something will inevitably go wrong and generate even more suspense for the duration of the film.

In THE BANK JOB (which is set in 1971), British intelligence outfit MI-5 is very interested in a particularly incriminating set of photographs stored in a safety deposit box in a London bank vault. They can't legally touch it but they can recruit a team of amateur bank robbers to tunnel into the vault from the basement of an adjacent purse shop to get the photos and whatever other valuables (money, jewels, stocks, bonds, etc.) they want.

It's not a bad plan and the team, led by Jason Statham with the lovely Saffron Burrows the contact point with the government spooks, gets exactly what they came for. And much more.

Turns out there was more than one set of incriminating photos stored in a safety deposit box and the thieves now have them in their possession along with a ledger (belonging to a pornography kingpin) whose entries list payoffs to various crooked London cops.

The robbers soon find themselves in a squeeze play. The spies want the photos. The mobster wants his ledger. Statham and gang just want to survive and get away to enjoy their loot. It's up to Statham to negotiate some tricky business to insure his safety but not before a few of the gang are caught and killed by various players.

Loosely based on a true story (a London bank was robbed in much the same way in 1971), THE BANK JOB is competently directed by Roger Donaldson with a good script by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais. There's not a lot of action here until the very end when Statham takes out some mobsters. The suspense slowly builds and the story takes some interesting twists and turns.

THE BANK JOB isn't the greatest heist film ever made but it's solid, well done and worth seeing.

 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

CITY ON THE EDGE OF MAYBERRY


I watched THE CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER while eating lunch today. It's the classic first season STAR TREK episode written by one of my all time favorite writers, Harlan Ellison and it ranks as one of the best TREK episodes ever. I've seen it several times.

But this afternoon, I noticed something I hadn't seen before. In the story, Kirk and Spock are supposed to be in New York City circa 1930 but it's clear by the evidence in the photo above that they're not in New York. It appears they've landed in another famous American city. 

Who knew that Floyd Lawson had been in business since 1930?

 

HEY, I WAS THERE!


I recently read ALTER EGO #63 (December 2006), a special issue dedicated to the life and work of legendary comic book artist Alex Toth. Inker Terry Austin contributed a piece about how he met Toth at a comic book convention in Houston during the summer of 1980. I was at that convention. It was held at the old Shamrock Hilton Hotel.

I must confess, I don't recall Toth being in attendance. I do remember that the longest lines were for Chris Claremont, Terry Austin and George Perez. Claremont and Austin (artist John Byrne was announced but was a no show) were riding high with Marvel's UNCANNY X-MEN while Perez (and writer Marv Wolfman) had just hit pay dirt with the release of DC's NEW TEEN TITANS.

I hovered around the tables where these gentlemen were seated, catching glimpses of them signing and sketching but I didn't feel like standing in line for who knows how long just to get something signed. I admired their collective work but I was in search of something else. Something more vintage. I just didn't know exactly what that would be.

Later, at a dealer's table, I found a copy of ALTER EGO #10, the original fanzine published by Roy Thomas and featuring a Gil Kane cover and interview. I immediately bought it and knew what I had to do.

Gil Kane was also a guest at the con and I immediately headed towards his table with my purchase in hand. I expected to find a long line but there was no one at his table. He was sitting there chatting with a young woman. I asked him if he would please sign my ALTER EGO and he gladly agreed to do so. We exchanged pleasantries and I told him how much I admired his work. While we spoke, my buddy Bob Parker, snapped pictures of us. I used to have those photos but lord knows whatever happened to them.

I couldn't believe that I had just met a comic book legend. It was one of the highlights of a memorable weekend that was stuffed with great pop culture experiences because that Saturday night, Bob and I along with our buddy Jim Robertson went to see THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK at the old Alabama Theater near the Rice University campus. We sat in the balcony and felt it literally shake beneath our feet when the Imperial AT-ATs first rumbled onto the screen. That theater later became a Book Stop store. I don't know what's in the space now.

Oh, and on the Friday night before the con, Bob and I went to see THE ISLAND,  a perfectly dreadful film adaptation of Peter Benchley's novel starring Michael Caine.

Well, two out of three's not bad.