Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Swinging 60s Saturday Morning Space Opera by Dave Goode

When I was a kid I would wake up early on
Saturday mornings to catch the sci-fi series
FIREBALL XL-5. The show originated in the U.K. AND was syndicated here in the U.S from 1963 to 1965. It had a catchy theme song and was set in the far-flung future of the 21st century. It was the 3rd "Supermarionation" show (the 1st was FOUR FEATHER FALLS, 2nd  SUPERCAR) produced by the husband and wife team of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and followed the Flash Gordon-like adventures of Col.Steve Zodiac and his crew Dr.Venus,Robert the Robot and Prof.Matthew Matic.

The show was hugely popular. And with it's success there came a slew of Fireball XL-5 spin-off products. One of the coolest products was a lunchbox/thermos set designed by comic book artist supreme Wally Wood. Wood was a master illustrator and his work in the space opera genre is considered some of his finest and made him perfect for this job.

There was also a one-shot comic book from Gold Key in 1964 with a way-out cover by George Wilson.* Of course in that alternative universe that sometimes runs through my mind there was a live-action FIREBALL XL-5 movie starring Steve Holland and Eva Lynd. In fact the Steve Zodiac marionette looked quite a bit like Steve Holland. And I wouldn't at all be surprised if Holland had posed for the cover of that Gold Key comic book cover.After he and Wilson had worked together to produce some other striking comic book covers.

In Britain, a two-page black-and-white Fireball XL5 comic strip appeared in the weekly TV Comic between 1962 and 1964 before moving to the newly launched weekly TV Century 21 comic in January 1965 for another five years. The strips that appeared between 1965 and 1968 were in color only reverting to black-and-white in 1969. Four hard cover Annual books were published in Britain by Collins between 1963 and 1966 featuring color and black and white comic strip and text stories.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


Growing up in the Silver Age of Comic Books no doubt played some part in my becoming a fan of "ape-suit cinema". I even have a theory that all the intelligent gorillas that appeared in the comic books of the 50s and 60s were the results of those brain transplant experiments by mad scientists in the horror movies of the 30s and 40s. One of my favorites from the ape-suit genre was the fab 50s 3-D flick GORILLA AT LARGE.

I never considered it a horror flick. More like a murder mystery with the chief suspect a gorilla. A major reason I like this flick so much is that it features Anne Bancroft in what would be her sexiest role until she portrayed Mrs.Robinson in THE GRADUATE. In GORILLA AT LARGE she plays a nymphomaniacal aerialist who spends most of her time dressed in leotards. Another plus,for me at least,was that judo plays an integral part in the movie's plot. No there's no fight between the hero and Goliath,the eponymous gorilla at large.But the hero played by Cameron Mitchell is an ex-Marine with a working knowledge of judo. This makes him a prime suspect when characters start turning up with broken necks. You're left to guess who the real killer is...Goliath or someone in a gorilla costume?

Another favorite of mine is THE APE-MAN. Directed by the legendary William "One-Shot" Beaudine from a screenplay from Barney Sarecky this psychotronic movie isn't great art. But it's a heck of a lot of fun. It stars iconic horror movie star Bela Lugosi with Louise Currie  and Wallace Ford.And in a nod to equal opportunity it features Ernie "Sunshine Sammy" Morrison as a newspaper copy boy.Think about it. They could have cast any of the East Side Kids in the role. But they cast "Scruno". It's one of those movies where a scientist breaks the laws of the nature and pays a price for it.Emil Van Horn portrays Bela's pet gorilla. And as usual he's great. One of my favorite ape-suit actors Van Horn also worked in a few Gorilla & Girl nightclub acts.

Retro art by Vance Capley

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


One of the things that has bothered me over the years is how you can say something is your "favorite" and people take it to mean you're saying it's the "best". So let me say I consider THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL the best science fiction film of the 50s. Just my opinion.But my favorite sci-flick of the 50s is INVADERS FROM MARS.

The movie was produced independently by Edward L.Alperson and directed by William Cameron Menzies.It starred Jimmy Hunt as the young hero David McLean and stunning Helena Carter as Dr.Patricia Blake. With Arthur Franz,Leif Ericson and Hillary Brooke and a number of other 50s television supporting actors.

The screenplay is by Richard Blake from a story by John Tucker Battle and the film has a surrealistic,nightmarish quality that makes it almost a horror film.I know the Martians gave me nightmares for years.And one of the cool things about this film is that you don't see the "invaders from Mars" until about an hour into the picture. And they're well worth the wait.They're like something out of a sci-fi pulp. As is Helena Carter as Dr.Blake. In the movie's climax with her torn dress high heels and seamed stockings she looks like a pulp heroine come to life.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

I'm Ready For The Remake by Dave Goode

If you're a fan-boy then you know what I'm talking about when I say that I can easily imagine favorite movies adapted to the comic book medium as easily as I can imagine favorite comic book stories adapted to the silver screen. For instance can't you picture adaptations of the John Wayne movies BACK TO BATAAN,THE SANDS OF IWO JIMA or THE GREEN BERETS drawn by Russ Heath,John Severin or Joe Kubert? Most of the time I'm imagining adaptations of masked wrestler movies. After all that genre has so many similarities to super-hero comics. But another movie I think that would be great as a comic book is THE BLOODY PIT OF HORROR a.k.a THE CRIMSON EXECUTIONER.

THE BLOODY PIT OF HORROR was a flick that had it's roots in Euro-pulps and Italian horror flicks like BLACK SUNDAY,THE WHIP AND THE BODY and THE VAMPIRE AND THE BALLERINA. It's a story that could easily be reimagined as a story published by Myron Fass. THE BLOODY PIT OF HORROR in fact sounds like the title for one of his horror comic book anthologies.

The movie stars former Mr.Universe winner Mickey Hargitay. And if this wasn't his best role he was at least perfectly cast. He plays Travis Anderson a "muscleman who formerly starred in costume movies". Mickey did the same. Most famously he portrayed Hercules in the camp classic THE LOVES OF HERCULES opposite his wife 50s icon Jayne Mansfield.

As Anderson, Mickey imagines himself to be the reincarnation of the Crimson Executioner an exceptionally sadistic member of the Inquisition. So when a group of models and photographers show up at his castle-home to take photos for foto-novel you know they're going to get more than they bargained for. Especially after Mickey starts dressing like the Crimson Executioner and delivering lines like "Mankind is made up of inferior creatures,spiritually and physically deformed,who would have corrupted the harmony of my perfect body." I can't speak for anyone else. But I'm ready for a remake.