Friday, October 20, 2017

Monsters Of The King - Groot!

Everybody knows Groot. After his star turn in the Guardians of the Galaxy comic books and two (count 'em two) big time Hollywood movies, Groot is a household name, likely the most famous of the Kirby monsters. 

But it was not always thus. Originally the cute Groot was merely another alien invader, a monster who fell victim to the enemy of most wooden thing -- termites. Since then, he's been revised as an ongoing character. As cute as little Groot is, I find a soft spot in my heart for the deadly original.

 More monsters are coming tomorrow.

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Dojo Classics - The She-Creature!

The She Creature is yet another of those vintage monster flicks which has eluded me until I got hold of a copy and enjoyed it recently. The monster, designed by Paul Blaisdell, has been part of my imaginative world since I first got a look at on an old issue Famous Monsters of Filmland with a wonderful cover which I recently learned was by Ron Cobb.

This was another look at some artwork he'd done for an earlier Warren Magazines project dubbed Monster World.

The story is purports to be based on true event,  not quite what I expected. It has elements of The Mummy, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, with a dash of Mandrake the Magician thrown in to boot. The story concerns Dr. Carlo Lombardi,  an unscrupulous tuxedo-wearing stage hypnotist (Chester Morris) who has under his thrall a lovely  young woman named Andrea Talbot (Marla English) and is somehow able to tap into her long-ago life as a prehistoric sea-monster and bring that monster into the modern world.

The notion is that we all have lived many many lives over the eons, and some of those lives were not human. A rather severe and forlorn looking scientist, Dr. Ted Erickson (Lance Fuller) slowly discovers the situation, especially when Lombardi uses the beast to commit murders. The infamy of the murders cause mildly greedy publisher Tim Chappel (Tom Conway) to try and make Lombardi a celebrity and sell books on the back of that. Both men do quite well financially, but eventually it all goes to smash.

It's a much more complicated story than you'd actually expect for a monster movie. That is likely due to its source, the story it's based on, a notorious news item of the day in which a woman Virginia Tighe claimed to have been reincarnated many and once was known in years previous as Bridey Murphy. To be fair to the movie, there is some strong attempts to bring out some distinctive characters and explore some odd relationships. They fall short, but they try. But the story really picks up when the monster appears out of a hazy mist and wreaks whatever havoc is called for. The monster design is an oddity. It's not really good, but it's incredibly memorable and while there's little time explaining it all, the whole of the yarn does add up.

This isn't by any means a bad movie, but it's not really a good one either,not in any objective sense. But it is entertaining at times. It performs as genre flicks of this kind ought, supplying the necessary distractions at the proper moment.  It's well worth checking out.

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Monsters Of The King - The Mummy!

A couple of reckless archeologists wake a Mummy in the pages of Tales to Astonish. This giant mummy turns out to be an alien who has been waiting to signal his fellow aliens for a timely invasion of Earth. But he forgets why he was entombed to begin with and his plan falls apart.

For more shambling monsters check in next time.

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The Maddest Heap!

In a strange and bewildering coincidence, the MADmen Harvey Kurtzman (writer) and  Will Elder (artist) concocted their own "Heap" in the pages of EC's famous satire comic.

This is a Heap in a spoof titled "Outer Sanctum" made not of moss and swamp detritus, but of garbage and the refuse and steaming chemicals of modern man, it's most powerful aspect is the awesome smell.

It happened in the pages of MAD #5, the cover seen above by Elder gives no hint of the Heap's murky presence. To read the story of the MAD Heap, go here and enjoy! All this Heap wants to do is get along.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Monsters Of The King - Thorr!

Thorr (renamed "Thorg") first came to Earth in Tales to Astonish #61 and millions of years ago to await the day when he'd signal his stony comrades to come to Earth and conquer it. But a savvy Earthly lures the heavy aliens into the sea and they sink. Sigh -- those silly aliens. To read the complete story of the other mighty Thorr, go here.

More Kirby monsters lurk next time.

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The Horror Of Party Beach!

The Horror of Party Beach from 1964 is one of those hapless cheapo flicks you cannot take your eyes off of, or at least that's what I discovered. Your mileage on this one might vary -- I cannot vouch for this movie at all. What I can say is that if  you want to listen to some not-terrible rock 'n roll tunes from the early 60's and see some surprisingly realistic beauties dancing on the beach this is a movie for you. There are also some very hilarious monsters, some fry-your-eyes-out acting and even a "motorcycle gang".

The story begins when our hero Hank and his rambunctious girl Tina show up for a beach party which is also attended by a motorcycle gang. Hank and Tina are fighting, she blows him off and takes up with the top cyclist before taking an impromptu swim in the bay which just so happens to have a monster, one created when human bones are slathered with radioactive waste. The monster kills her pretty quickly and the party is over. The town is in an uproar (but not so much that anyone actually appears to alter their behavior) and the monsters start stalking around killing drunks, sorority girls, and anyone else they stumble across. Meanwhile Hank and his new girl Elaine, conveniently the daughter of the local scientist work with aforementioned scientist to discover the origin of the monsters and stop their spree. They do as you of course already know, but it's a wild and rocky excursion to get there.

This flick was given the fumetti treatment by the folks as Warren Magazines and so I guess achieved some sort of cult identity as a consequence of this relative permanence in the imagination. The director, a mild-mannered actor named Del Tenney just wanted to make a quick buck with a couple of drive-in offerings and appears to have as flabbergasted by the staying power of this insane romp as anyone. The musical offerings of the beach band named the "Del-Aires" are almost good, but are certainly ear-worm ready. Our hero and heroine are pure stiffs and a hapless stereotypical maid named Eulabelle (yep she's the only black character in the movie) acts rings around everyone and also supplies most of the original thinking.

The Horror of Party Beach can be seen in all its black and white awesomeness on a dvd it shares with The Curse of the Living Corpse, a more straightforward period haunting by the same director produced at the same time for the big outdoor screens of the day. If you're into oddball monster movies in the vein of a hapless Ed Wood vein, this package might well fill the bill. I found it more than a tiny bit entertaining.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Monsters Of The King - Titan!

In Tales of Suspense #28 we meet Titan, the Amphibian from Atlantis who invades the surface world and threatens to destroy it all. But a single human seemingly agrees to betray mankind and goes with Titan to his fellow creatures deep beneath the sea. There the human describes man as possessing great weapons and all but unbeatable. Though it means his death and the hatred of his fellow man, this single human's deception convinces the Titans that invasion is a waste of time. This is a singular story in one respect as according to sources Russ Heath, the famous artist for many a war tale and others over the decades inked Jack Kirby on this story.

More monsters rise next time.

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Dojo Classics - Terror Beneath The Sea!

If ever a movie qualified as a "time waster" then this charming and harmless bit of 1966 Japanese sci-fi fluff is it. Terror Beneath the Sea stars Sonny Chiba and a curvaceous American blonde as a duo of reporters who uncover an underwater kingdom ruled by a mad scientist and his minions and the mutant/cyborg fish-men he's created to eventually take over the world.

There's precious little mystery here as the reporters investigate a failed missle test and are quickly captured by the fish-men and begin to unlock the secrets of the underwater base which seems to be located almost adjacent to an island and presumably would be relatively easy to locate for the military who nonetheless seem at a loss.

This movie is overacted with a tenacity and consistency that almost results in an actual style for the whole shebang. The action sequences are extremely long and seem keyed to rhythms of suspense I'm not immediately familiar with. The final battle beneath the waves is a heady affair with a great deal of exotic pistol shooting as well as some pretty potent spear-gun action.

This movie has the veneer of hip 60's super-spy genre all over it, with a number of scenes triggering memories of James Bond sequences, but without actually being rip offs of same. Sonny Chiba is intense in the lead and while not always believable is relentlessly earnest. The lead actress Peggy Neal is a specimen for sure and seems to have nearly zero actual acting ability, but she sure is dandy to look at. Also of note is Franz Gruber who plays a well-meaning Navy man who gets more and more worked up as the movie unfolds until you actually begin to worry about his health.

This is not a "good" movie, but it is a diverting entertainment of the highest order. It's sleek and delivers what it seems to promise which ain't much. But that's more than a lot of movies do.

UPDATE: My opinion has not changed. This is a light frothy entertainment which doesn't make much sense. Enjoyed the mutated cyborgs more this time around, their inane acting really set the tone.

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Monday, October 16, 2017

Monsters Of The King - Two-Headed Thing!

The Two-Headed Thing rears its ugly heads up in Strange Tales #95. Not to be confused with other Marvel "things", this is the one with two heads, not just one. To read the story of the Two-Headed Thing go here.  Suffice it to say this critter proved more than a bit problematic for a certain convict trying to evade the long arm of justice.

More monsters from the mind of the King tomorrow.

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Tom Sutton's Creepy Things!

I likely said this before, but alas it remains true -- Tom Sutton is one of the most underrated artists of his generation. The Yoe Books publication Tom Sutton's Creepy Things gives us a nifty insight into one of the finest stylists of the Bronze Age of comics. Sutton's career in comics was an off and on again affair for many years before he finally began to submit work to Warren Magazines. There Nicola Cuti became aware of him since he illustrated some of Cuti's scripts and when Charlton needed talent during the expansion of the early 70's he tagged Sutton and the "Bear" as Cuti called him found a home.

(Tom Sutton's first Charlton cover art -- not included in this collection.)

This volume showcases many of Sutton's outstanding covers for the little Derby company, notorious for its small by reliable payments and also some of his best stories. Some are written by the old pro Joe Gill and many are penned by Cuti. But more than a few of these are written and drawn by Sutton himself. Among them are masterpieces like "Terrible Teddy" and "Bones" from Ghost Manor, "Journey to Lost Rlaak" from Haunted Love, "Grave Story" from Midnight Tales, "Subway Stop" from Haunted, "The Game Keeper" from Ghostly Haunts, "The Kukulkaton" from Monster Hunters, "The Well" from Creepy Things, and "Through a Glass Darkly" from Ghostly Tales. Many of the stories were written by Cuti and drawn by Sutton for Midnight Tales, the stellar anthology overseen by Wayne Howard -- among those are "Lost in Transit", "The Kilgore Monster", "Goo", and "The Tower Maiden". And there are more stories such as "The Weirdest Character I've Ever Known", "Mother's Boy", and "Where's Cyrus Bull?" written by Joe Gill. Great stuff.

(Sutton in the Charlton years.)

The volume also features a number of pages derived from original artwork when possible from the collections of editor Michael Ambrose (of Charlton Spotlight fame and a friend of the Dojo in times past) and Bryan Fowler. These pages really allow you to see with startling clarity the potency of Sutton's art. This volume is a gem for any Charlton fan and a must for any fan of Tom Sutton.

Here are most of the covers featured in this tome.

Beautiful. Thanks to Michael Ambrose and the folks at Yoe Books for giving us this tome dedicated to a real master.

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