Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Mexico's Justice League by Dave Goode


 



By their very nature Mexico's masked wrestler movies a.k.a Mexiluchahero movies can only be described as psychotronic. What with their colorfully costumed heroes having comic book-like adventures with alien invaders , mad scientists , mummies , vampires , werewolves and zombies what else could they be described as? And none of these flicks were more psychotronic than the Los Campeones Justicieros series. Better known in the U.S.A as the Champions of Justice trilogy. I consider the first film from this series to be the best. And it has what I consider to be the best team. Blue Demon , Mil Mascaras , Tinieblas , el Medico Asesino and el Sombra Vengadora.


The 1971 movie was directed by Federico Curiel and written by Rogelio Agrasanchez , Rafael Garcia Travesi , Ramon Obon and Valente Perez. The flick has five Mexiluchaheroes team up to thwart a mad scientist known as the Black Hand and his minions , including a squad of midgets in Halloween-like superhero costumes. There is also a plethora of Mexican pulchritude on parade provided by the actresses portraying our heroes' goddaughters/nieces. Do you remember the scene in the blockbuster movie PRETTY WOMAN between Julia Roberts and Elinor Donahue. Roberts tells Donahue that Richard Gere isn't really her uncle. And Donahue replies " They never are dear. "


The best remembered scene in this flick may be the one where the villain gives his team of  costumed midgets super-strength. It's hilarious watching the Black Hand's miniscule minions toss around the muscular heroes like rag-dolls. Almost as funny is the scene where their super-strength wears off and the heroes turn the tables on them. If you're a fan of psychotronica and Mexiluchahero movies and have never seen this flick or it's two sequels ( Vuelven Los Campeones Justicieros and Triunfo Los Campeones Justicieros ) search them out. You won't be sorry.


If you're a fan of comic book hero teams check out this alternate-universe JLA illustration by Vance Capley. It features Dr.Judo , Mr. Incognito , the Phantom Gorilla and the Judo Twins (Judo Jim & Judo Jenny).

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Where Was The Sequel? by Dave Goode




One of my favorite flicks from the sinew & sandal genre is SAMSON AND HIS MIGHTY CHALLENGE. Not to be confused with HERCULES , SAMSON AND ULYSSES. This one features the strength heroes Samson , Hercules , Maciste and Ursus. Directed by Giorgio Capitani and written by Sandro Continenza and Roberto Gianviti this movie was a wonderful spoof of the genre and was originally titled ERCOLE , SANSONE , MACISTE E URSUS GLI INVICBLI. Hercules getting top billing makes more sense as he carries the picture.





Alan Steel is great as a narcissistic, ego-driven Hercules. He even bullies Samson, played by Nadir Moretti, after the biblical strongman has his hair cut by Delilah. In an interesting switch from the Bible Delilah is Samson's wife. And she doesn't cut his hair to betray him to the Philistines. But to keep him from chasing after other women. Maciste in this movie is played by Howard Ross. And Ursus is portrayed by Yann Larvor. Any of these four musclemen could have carried a movie on their own.



 Also notable are the women in the film. Moira Orphei portrays Delilah. And she's really quite stunning. Interestingly enough her cousin Liana Orphei played the Philistine temptress in the movie HERCULES , SAMSON AND ULYSSES. Helene Chanel never looked more beautiful than she does here as the oracle Onfale as opposed to the Princess Omphale played by Elisa Montes. Montes has one of the funniest lines in the movie. When told that Samson once killed one thousand Philistine soldiers using the jawbone of an ass she asks " Was that the best weapon he could find? ".

The movie climaxes with a free-for-all with the four heroes. And it ends with them riding off together. A perfect springboard into a sequel or two or three. But unfortunately we never got one.


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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Steve Ditko...Luchador Artist by Dave Goode





When I first heard of the controversy involving the creation of Spider-Man's costume and Halloween costume designer Ben Cooper I was quite stunned. To be fair there is a superficial resemblance between the Spider Man costume created by Cooper's company in the 1950s and the one familiar to comic book readers.






But I always assumed that Steve Ditko's inspiration was the costume Warren Hull wore in the two Spider serials for Columbia , based on the popular pulp magazine hero. And this costume bore no  resemblance to the one the character wore in the pulps. But to me if a character has "spider" any place in his name he (or she) should have some sort of webbing on their costume. If anything Ditko's mask looked like that of Mexican wrestling icon el Santo. Only in red and covered with black webbing. Which makes me wonder if Ditko was a fan of lucha libre. After all the first person Peter Parker takes on after gaining his spider powers in Amazing Fantasy No.15 (August 1962) is pro wrestler Crusher Hogan.









If you've ever seen a Ditko-drawn fight scene you can't help but marvel at how the two protagonists look like acrobatic wrestlers in action. That's why for years I could readily imagine Ditko illustrating comic book adaptations of el Santo's and Blue Demon's movies. Or adaptations of Mil Mascaras movies while working in a tag-team with Wally Wood inking his pencils. Also a number of characters created or co-created by Ditko wore masks that would have done any luchador proud. In fact the villain in Beware The Creeper No.1 (June 1968) not only has a pretty cool mask. But talks about his physical training. The same type a champion luchador may have undergone.




Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Nyoka Returns? by Dave Goode






When I was a kid back in the early 1960s I got to see a lot of old movie serials on after school television. The Masked Marvel , Scouts To The Rescue , the Flash Gordon trilogy. One of my very favorites was The Perils Of Nyoka starring Kay Aldridge as Nyoka Gordon. There was an earlier serial Jungle Girl in which beautiful Frances (no relation to Frank) Gifford portrayed Nyoka Meredith. The first serial was based on a book by Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs. And Nyoka Meredith was a sort of female Tarzan. Nyoka Gordon was more like a female Jungle Jim.



  


The cast for The Perils Of Nyoka was outstanding. The 15 chapter serial featured Tristram Coffin playing Torrini , a double-dealing double agent of Vultura the film's beautiful villain played by luscious Lorna Gray. Charles Middleton who gained film immortality as Ming the Merciless in the Flash Gordon trilogy plays Vultura's right-hand man Cassib in this one. This one also features a pre-Lone Ranger Clayton Moore as stalwart hero Dr. Larry Gordon.



Dr.Gordon could have been one of the models for Indiana Jones. Vultura was portrayed by sultry Lorna Gray. And in her turban , slit skirt with snake emblem and platform shoes she was one of the sexiest serial villains ever. Plus she had a pet gorilla named Satan played by ape-suit actor the great Emil Van Horn.




And then of course there was Kay Aldridge as heroine Nyoka Gordon. As an adult I wonder how she got her thick Southern accent raised in Africa. And regret that she didn't have the opportunity to wear the outfit that Frances Gifford wore in Jungle Girl. The outfit she's given fairly covers the former swimsuit model's outstanding figure. But the seven year old fondly remembers the character. She wasn't some helpless damsel in distress like other serial queens. She rode , shot and fought as well as her male comrades. She had moxie. She was girl next door pretty. But she had a tomboy feel to her. She was the girl you could play sports with. Or talk about comics to. And speaking of comics. The Nyoka serial proved so popular that there was a spin-off comic book series.First from Fawcett which adapted The Perils of Nyoka to the 4-Color page. And later by Charlton Comics.





Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Bettie Page...B-Movie Starlet by Dave Goode


Time for another excursion into that alternate universe that my mind sometimes populates. Where Johnny Weissmuller played Prince Namor in a Sub-Mariner movie and Esther Williams played Wonder Woman. Where Bernard Gorcey won an Academy Award portraying a burlesque club owner in a movie where George Reeves portrayed an investigative reporter minus glasses.And where Steve Holland played Steve Zodiac in a live-action Fireball XL-5 movie. This week's Goode Stuff blog looks at Bettie Page...B-Movie starlet.






Miss Bettie Mae Page of Tennessee went to Hume-Fogg High School where she was a member of the debate team and graduated salutatorian of her class. She would later graduate from George Peabody College with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Eventually she made her way to New York where she worked as a secretary while she looked for work as an actress. She was discovered in 1950 by NYC Police Officer Jerry Tibbs ,an amateur photographer. It was Tibbs who suggested to Page to adapt her now iconic bang.












Bettie would find work for a number of "camera clubs" during the 50s. But it was her work for Irving Klaw that would earn her cult status. From 1952 to 1957 she would appear in dozens of 8mm and 16mm "specialty films" for Klaw. In 1953 she appeared in the grindhouse movie STRIPORAMA for Jerald Intrator. In 1954 she appeared in the Irving Klaw produced VARIETEASE. And in 1955 , the same year she was Playboy's Miss January she appeared in TEASERAMA also produced and directed by Klaw.







Reportedly Bettie had a screen-test with 20th Century Fox. But nothing ever came of it. It was rumored that her Tennessee accent cost her a shot at stardom. But while re-watching the Johnny Weissmuller Jungle Jim movie VOODOO TIGER I started imagining Bettie as eye-candy in a number of B-Movies. Imagine Bettie as one of the Vesuvian soldiers in QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE or as one of the daughters of the 40 Thieves in the Howard Hughes produced THE SON OF SINBAD.























But as long as we're playing "just imagine", imagine Bettie as Fox Comics Rulah,
Jungle Goddess, one of the many Sheena imitations found in comics. Or imagine Bettie as Fox's cult comic book heroine the Phantom Lady. That would have been a natural.




Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Crimson Ghost by Dave Goode


 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrvHzIJ6zx8
Something that I've found very gratifying over the last couple of years is that fans of the band The Misfits now know who the Crimson Ghost is. Remember years ago you would see someone wearing a Misfits T-shirt and you would mention the Republic movie serial villain and they would have no idea what you were talking about ? Well now they do.
 
http://judocomics.smackjeeves.com/archive/
 
THE CRIMSON GHOST (1946) was one of the best of Republic's movie serials. Directed by Fred C. Bannon and William Witney the screenplay was credited to Albert De Mond , Basil Dickey , Jesse Duffy and Sol Shor.
 
 
 
The 12 chapter serial has the Crimson Ghost , a mysterious , masked criminal mastermind out to steal the cyclotrode ,a device that can short-circuit electric currents. With this device he plans to conquer the world.
 
 
 
 
 
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeCx-6S7UyI
 
 
The cast is great. You have a pre-Lone Ranger Clayton Moore as Louis Ashe , the villain's chief henchman. In his fedora and pinstriped suit he looks like a gangster from a Batman comic book of the era. Charles Quigley a veteran Republic hero plays stalwart hero Duncan Richards. Lovely Linda Sterling , Republic's B-movie and serial queen portrays heroine Diana Farnsworth. I always thought Republic should have purchased the rights for the Golden Age comic book heroine the Black Cat as a vehicle for Miss Sterling.
 
 
 
 
https://archive.org/details/JudoComicsTvSpring2012Edition
 
 
 
 
 
 
And of course there was the Crimson Ghost himself. One of the best serial villains ever ,the Crimson Ghost was visually striking. At first glance you're looking at what appears to be an adult Halloween costume. But it's truly frightening. I can see the character starring in a villain-driven pulp or comic book.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

THE NEVER ENDING DEBATE by Dave Goode

If you put a group of Tarzan fans together in a room inevitably a debate will break out about the Lord of the Jungle's physique and how Tarzan should be built. The reason there is a debate is because Edgar Rice Burroughs never wrote how much Tarzan weighed. He said that he was slightly over six feet tall. But never gave his literary hero an approximate weight. One group declares that since Tarzan is strong enough to wrestle a gorilla he should look strong enough to wrestle a gorilla. To many that means being built like a Mr. Olympia winner. The members of the other group imagine Tarzan being built like a decathlete. I'm a member of the latter group.


Tarzan of the Apes was first published in 1912.That was the year legendary Native-American athlete Jim Thorpe earned the unofficial title of the " World's Greatest Athlete " for himself and generations of Olympic decathlon champions to follow. He placed first in four of the decathlon's ten events. And never placed lower than third in any of the other events. He also won the pentathlon. In that competition he won four of the five events while placing third in the javelin.My point being Burroughs described Tarzan as being the " world's greatest athlete ". Thorpe stood 6' 1" and weighed 200 pounds depending on what he ate for breakfast.


You want someone who was a bit larger? How about heavyweight champion Jack Johnson? In 1912 Johnson was in the fourth year of his reign as world champion. Johnson is listed in his prime as standing 6' 2" and weighing 215 pounds.








And then there was Eugene Sandow a.k.a The Great Sandow. A professional
strongman who was even better known for his physique. Sandow looked as if he had been carved out of marble. If the 5' 9" 190 pound strongman had been taller he might have been a match for Tarzan. Charles Atlas could have fit the bill as well. But like Sandow the " World's Most Perfectly Developed Man " at 5' 10" might have been a bit too short to portray Burroughs' jungle hero. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that in 1912 you were not going to find someone built like a Mr. Olympia. So why would you expect Burroughs to create a character who looked like one.

I'm not saying Tarzan shouldn't be muscular. He should be. I just don't think he should be hugely muscled. Look at Mike Henry. I mean seriously look at him. Considered to be one of the best built actors to play Tarzan he doesn't have 18" arms outside of the dreams of a size queen or a studio publicist. But the former NFL linebacker is very muscular. He reminds one of the illustrations of Tarzan comic strip artist Burne Hogarth.









I think Mr.America, Mr.World, and Mr.Universe winner, Steve Reeves, could have been great posing as Tarzan for paperback photo covers. He did portray Kimbar , a Tarzan-like hero in a television pilot. Standing 6' 1 1/2" tall and weighing 215 pounds he was known for his symmetrical physique. Like Sandow , Reeves sought to obtain the " Grecian ideal " and not size for size sake. Burroughs describes Tarzan as being more Apollo than Hercules. That's a description that fits Reeves perfectly. Which is kind of funny when you consider that Steve Reeves is most famous for portraying the demigod Hercules on the big screen.


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