Wednesday, June 13, 2018

SCI-FI PEPLUM CLASSIC by Dave Goode


 
One of my favorite Republic movie serials was UNDERSEA KINGDOM (1936). Produced by Nat Levine and directed by B.Reeves Eason and Joseph Kane, this was Republic's second serial and the studio's answer to Universal's FLASH GORDON. The story written by Tracy Knight, John Rathmell, Maurice Geraghty, and Oliver Drake found U.S. Naval officer " Crash " Corrigan thwarting the plans of undersea tyrant Unga Khan to conquer first Atlantis and then the surface world.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
In 1966 the serial was edited into a feature film and released to television re-titled "SHARAD OF ATLANTIS". No doubt to make it sound more like the "gladiator movies"  that were still popular at the time. It was in this form that I first saw this movie.   



 
 
 
 
 
 
When I finally saw the movie in serial form I was pleasantly surprised to see Chapter One unedited. In it the hero's athletic abilities are firmly established as he competes as a track & field star, wins the Army-Navy Game for Annapolis and finally has a wrestling match. So we know that the hero is up to any challenge he may face in the course of the movie. Crash portrayed by stuntman and B-Western star Ray Corrigan is aided in his adventures by reporter Diana Compton (Lois Wilde), Professor Norton (C. Montague Shaw) and the professor's young son Billy played by Lee Van Atta. By the way, Sharad is the high priest of the good Atlanteans. And, he is played by actor William Farnum. The villainous Unga Khan is portrayed by Monte Blue and he is aided by Lon Chaney Jr. who plays Captain Hakur of the Black Robes.
 
 
 
 



The movie has science fiction elements like Professor Norton's super submarine, a tank-like vehicle used by Unga Khan's men, death-rays, and robots. Just enough to make it resemble something akin to Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars series. But most of the action comes from Ray Corrigan's athleticism.






This movie could easily have been remade during the peplum movie cycle starring Steve Reeves or one of his Muscle Beach brethren like Ed Fury.



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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

DC's Other Fantastic Four by Dave Goode


The Sea Devils were another one of those series from the Silver Age of Comic books that I thought would have made a good subject for an adventure movie. The quartet of underwater adventurers made their comic book debut in Showcase No.27 ( Aug.1960 ) in a story written by Robert Kanigher and illustrated by Russ Heath. There was a second try-out story in Showcase No.29 ( Nov.-Dec.1960 ) after which the feature received it's own comic book that ran for 35 issues from 1961 to 1967. The Sea Devils like the Challengers of the Unknown  predated Marvel's Fantastic Four and like the Challengers could have been seen as a prototype for that team. The difference being neither the Challengers or Sea Devils possessed "powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal man". Which might have made them an easier sell to a movie studio in the days before multi-million dollar blockbusters based on comic book superheroes.


Casting a Sea Devils movie would have been a snap. Keith Larson who starred as skin-diver Drake Andrews on THE AQUANAUTS television series ( 1960-1961 ) would have been perfect as Dane Dorrance , leader of the Sea Devils. As his romantic interest , Judy Walton , you could have cast Wende Wagner. Wagner is best known to fan-boys of the Silver Age as Lenore Case , Britt Reid's secretary on THE GREEN HORNET television series. What may not be as well known is that Wagner who modeled also worked as a stunt-double for actresses who appeared on both SEA HUNT and THE AQUANAUTS. Her father having been a swimming and diving coach. And she herself was an champion skin-diver.




In my mind there was only one actor to play Judy's kid brother Nicky Walton. And that would have been Luke Halprin who starred in the movie FLIPPER ( 1963 ) as Sandy Ricks. He went on to reprise the role in FLIPPER'S NEW ADVENTURE (1964 ). And played the character on the FLIPPER television series that ran from 1964 to 1967. As for the character Biff Bailey I would have cast beefy comedic character actor Norman "Woo Woo" Grabowski for comedy relief.
















An alternative pair of actors to portray Dane and Judy might have been Robert
Conrad and Connie Stevens from the hit Warner Brothers television series HAWAIIAN EYE. Just add special effects by the legendary Ray Harryhausen and you'd have a hit film and cult classic.


The faux Sea Devils poster. Conceived by Dave Goode. Designed by Vance Capley


For more comic old school style comic book fun look for Judo Comics at lulu.com

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Jungle Girls You Might Not Have Heard Of by Dave Goode





















I'm going to go out on a limb and say the most successful of the Tarzan imitations that showed up in comic books wasn't another majestically muscled man in a leopard-skin. Nope. The most popular of Tarzan's four-color imitators was Sheena , Queen of the Jungle who inspired a number of her own imitators and a popular television series in the 1950s. The television series starred statuesque Irish McCalla a stunning nearly six foot tall model with a 37- 24 - 35 figure who was born to play the role of the jungle queen. But there were a few other jungle girls that comic book fans may not be aware of.




















The " jungle girl " was a popular gimmick used by old time ecdysiasts. Collecting burlesque memorabilia I have found publicity pics of a number of strip queens like Tempest Storm and Blaze Starr wearing animal print costumes and abbreviated sarongs. The acts consisted of the ladies doing pagan dances that you might find in a Dorothy Lamour or Esther Williams movie. Only more so.





















And there were even some gorilla and girl acts. Legendary cabaret dancer Yolando Montes and movie star a.k.a Tongalele played a voodoo priestess in the camp horror flick Isle Of The Snake People.


























My favorite all-time exotic dancer Lilly " The Cat-Girl " Christine would have been a great jungle girl. Born Martha Theresa Pompender in Dunkirk , New York on December 17 , 1923 and began her career as an exotic dancer in 1948. She would die tragically young of peritonitis in 1965. Throughout her career Christine appeared on the covers and in the pages of the popular men's magazines of the day. With her 5' 7" 37c - 22 - 35  figure she was a popular subject for pin-up photographers. Lilly's signature routine was something called the " Voodoo Love Potion Dance ". And by the way a young bodybuilder named Lou Degni would get his start in show business working in Christine's act. Later Degni would change his name to Mark Forest and become one of the more popular of the sinew & sandal movie stars playing Maciste.







In the late 1940s Lilly Christine was rumored to be considered to star in a Sheena , Queen of the Jungle series of films produced by Sol Lesser. Lesser of course had been the producer of a number of the Tarzan movies starring Johnny Weissmuller , Lex Barker and Gordon Scott. It was also rumored that she was considered for the part of Sheena on the television series that went to Irish McCalla.






















Other actresses that were in the running were Anita Ekberg and Debra Paget. I can easily imagine the Amazonian Ekberg in the role. But the stunning Debra Paget was 5' 2" . A 5' 2" Sheena? Forget about it.

And now for your entertainment pleasure, Miss Ginger Snaps!
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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Super-Powered Sach by Dave Goode


Not a real comic, but Judo Comics is at lulu.com


Growing up I was a huge fan of Monogram's East Side Kids and Bowery Boys series. Actually growing up I didn't know anyone who wasn't a fan of those two series. And I always thought the East Side Kids would have made for a great comic book series during the Golden Age. Stories in a series would pretty much be like the ones in the movies.The kids would help to smash Axis spy rings. Or they would help to bring crooked gamblers and gangsters to justice. They would even have " Scooby Gang " adventures in haunted houses. But over the years I've given thought to the idea that the Bowery Boys may have been an even better subject for a comic book series.




The Bowery Boys were more or less an older version of the Eastsiders with the same actors playing basically the same characters. The difference was the Bowery Boys series injected more comedy into the films. And in many cases the stories were more far-out , with the gang facing a number of mad scientists. Something strangely enough that the East Side Kids never did. Especially when you consider that two of the movies from the series , SPOOKS RUN WILD (1941) and GHOSTS ON THE LOOSE ( 1943 ) featured Bela Lugosi. Also in a couple of the Bowery Boys films Huntz Hall's character Sach a.k.a Horace Debussey Jones gains super-powers.



The first of these Super-powered Sach movies was MR. HEX ( 1946 ) where a hypnotized Sach gains super-strength and limited invulnerability becoming a champion boxer.


























In HOLD THAT LINE (1952 ) he drinks a chemical concoction that increases his physical attributes so that he first becomes a track & field star and then later a football hero.









In NO HOLDS BARRED ( 1952 ) various parts of his body become steel hard and he becomes a professional wrestling star. In PRIVATE EYES ( 1953 ) he gains the ability to read minds and he and the rest of the gang open a detective agency. And in JUNGLE GENTS ( 1954 ) a flick that features a young Clint Walker as a Tarzan-type Sach gains the power to smell diamonds. Smell diamonds? That's a power even the Silver Age Superman never had.








My favorite of the Sach gains super-powers flicks may have been MASTER MINDS (1949). Though as a pro wrestling fan I'm quite fond of NO HOLDS BARRED as well. In this one Sach gets a toothache which somehow gives him the power to see into the future. His buddy " Slip " Mahoney (Leo Gorcey ) comes up with the idea to put him in a carnival sideshow to make some cash. A mad scientist played to perfection by Alan Napier reading about Sach's psychic abilities in the news decides to transfer Sach's brain into the body of Atlas , a humanoid creature of great strength that resembles a prehistoric man. The two have their minds switched for a brief time and comic antics follow. Imagine ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN if Lou Costello's mind had been transferred into the Frankenstein monster's body. Coincidentally enough Atlas in MASTER MINDS is portrayed by Glenn Strange , the same actor who played the Frankenstein monster in ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN.




For my money the best performance in MASTER MINDS comes from Alan
Napier as Dr.Druzik. Best known as Alfred , the faithful Wayne butler on the 60s Batman television series, Napier is one of my favorite actors. I love just about everything I've ever seen him in. Especially as the commie agent in BIG JIM MCLAIN ( 1952 ) and as the acidic art critic in HOUSE OF HORRORS ( 1946 ) . And he's great in this one. It's hard to watch him here and not imagining him in the roles that made Boris Karloff a horror film icon.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

SECRET - AGENT MAN by Dave Goode

During the Silver Age of Comic Books there was only one Marvel Comic Book hero that starred in two separate series. Nick Fury was the star of Marvel's " war comic for people who don't read war comics " , SGT.FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS. He also starred in NICK FURY , AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D A series that first ran as a feature in STRANGE TALES before graduating to it's own title. I never gave much thought to a Sgt. Fury flick. We already had more than enough John Wayne war movies. But a Nick Fury ,Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D movie made during the height of the spy-craze would have been bosso-keeno.







It was in Strange Tales No.135 (Aug.1965) that ex-World War Two hero Sgt. Fury , now a colonel , was recruited to be the director of a new counter-espionage agency in a life or death struggle against the forces of Hydra. But much like Captain Kirk on the original STAR TREK , Colonel Fury never learned to delegate. He wasn't just S.H.I.EL.D's director. He was the organization's No.1 field agent. But who to cast as the combat veteran turned secret agent? For the longest time I had thought Dean Martin. Dino had portrayed secret agent Matt Helm in a series of campy spy spoofs and may have been good as artist/writer Jim Steranko's version of the character. And it was Martin who played opposite Daliah Lavi in the best of the Matt Helm movies THE SILENCERS (1966).















Lavi was the only real choice to play the part of Valentinia Alegra de la Fontaine (Val to her friends). The stunning Israeli actress/singer had appeared in a number of Euro-Spy movies. And reportedly Val was inspired by the actress. I thought she would have made a great Modesty Blaise as well. But that's another discussion.




 

Someone suggested to me a better choice to play Colonel Fury may have been Robert Lansing. And I had to agree. Lansing would have been perfect as the S.H.I.E.D agent created by Jack Kirby and later drawn by John Severin. And if your a fan-boy of a certain age you remember him as Gary Seven on the STAR TREK episode Assignment:Earth. Watch it again. That was Nick Fury. In either case I wouldn't have put Fury in that skintight bodysuit that Steranko eventually did. Too much like Steranko's Spyman from Harvey Comics. Too campy.



Tuesday, April 24, 2018

THE TARZAN THAT WASN'T by Dave Goode


When pole-vaulter Don Bragg won the gold medal at the 1960 Olympics in Rome he thought he was on his way to fulfilling a lifelong dream. That of playing Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan of the Apes on the silver screen.


After all swimming
champions...

Johnny Weissmuller



















and Buster Crabbe



















 used their gold medal victories
as a springboard into the role.

And Herman Brix











 who was the world record holder in the shot-put and won the silver medal at the 1928 Olympics was handpicked by Tarzan's creator Edgar Rice Burroughs to play the Lord of the Jungle in a movie he produced.


And then there was Glenn Morris









who won the decathlon at the 1936 Olympics earning the title of the "world's greatest athlete". Something Burroughs often described Tarzan as being.







It was while in Rome for the Olympics that LIFE magazine did a photo shoot of Bragg clad only in a loincloth among the Roman ruins. And if anyone looked like Tarzan it was the 6' 2" , 200 lb. Bragg. Growing up Bragg watched Johnny Weissmuller movies and played Tarzan climbing and swinging on ropes near his home. He also was blessed by great genetics. His father had done some professional wrestling. And Bragg grew into an all-around athlete who specialized in pole-vaulting.






In 1964 Bragg was given the chance to portray the king of the jungle in
TARZAN AND THE JEWELS OF OPAR produced by Sandy Howard and filmed in Jamaica. But almost as soon as filming started the production was shutdown. ERB Inc. won an injunction against Jamaica Pictures Ltd. headed up by Sherman S. Krellberg and Sandy Howard. I wonder what the finished product would have looked like? Would the script have had Bragg "aping" Weissmuller? Who would have portrayed La of Opar? Who would have played Jane? It's too bad that the film wasn't completed. Maybe changing the hero's name to Tyger or Zantar or something else. Just looking at pics of Bragg you can see he would have made a great jungle hero of some sort.


  Speaking of low budget jungle flicks, let's see what the Golden Adonis is up to in this brand new strip by Dave Goode and Vance Capley:


See more of the Golden Adonis' exploits in Judo Comics! Available at lulu.com

Watch artist Vance Capley draw a Golden Adonis strip!