Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Atomic Superman by Dave Goode

Back in the mid-1960s I remember seeing a copy of a poster for NEUTRON,THE ATOMIC SUPERMAN in a copy of Castle of Frankenstein magazine. Pure coolness. A couple of years later I got to see it under the title NEUTRON,THE BLACK MASK. And it was just as good as the poster. Neutron would be my introduction to South of the Border super-heroics. Despite the fact that Neutron wore the boots ,tights and mask of a luchador unlike Santo ,Blue Demon and Mil Mascaras he wasn't fighting the forces of evil in between his scheduled wrestling matches. He was a full-time crimefighter.

This is a "MacGuffin movie" with everything revolving around the good guys keeping criminal mastermind Dr.Caronte from getting his hands on the neutron bomb. Also there's a subplot that would be familiar to Republic movie serial fans. The viewer is left guessing which one of the 3 heroes is the mysterious masked Neutron. His identity is revealed at the end of the picture. But by the time of the sequel LOS AUTOMATAS DE LA MUERTE a.k.a NEUTRON VS.THE DEATH ROBOTS everyone seems to have amnesia. And no one remembers the hero's secret identity.

In the third film NEUTRON CONTRA DR.CARONTE it's revealed that one of our 3 heroes was in fact the masked super-criminal Dr.Caronte.
 There were two more Neutron flicks after the Dr.Caronte trilogy LOS ASESINOS DEL KARATE and NEUTRON CONTRA EL CRIMINAL SADICO. But these two flicks were lacking a certain coolness. For one thing Neutron was no longer wearing his cool black mask with the 3 lightning bolts. Secondly there was no musical interlude with the pop group Los Rebeldes Del Rock performing their hit song Melodia De Amor.
There was also a series of Neutron Fotonovelas. And luckily enough the hero was once again wearing the lightning bolt mask. Atomic Superman? I wonder if anyone was disappointed that Neutron was a costumed athlete ala' Batman or the original Daredevil and didn't posses "powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal man".

 *Editors notes: Wolf Ruvinski, aka Neutron, was a rudo who wrestled in South America, Mexico, and the U.S. He wrestled professionally until 1950 leaving only after he was injured. He was also a a pretty good actor, appearing in over 50 films all the way up to 1996. In 1968, Ruvinskis appeared on TV's I Spy in the episode titled "Shana". You can read more about Wolf Ruvinskis here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolf_Ruvinskis 

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Man Who Never Dies by Dave Goode

When you talk about mythic comic book/strip heroes the discussion has to begin with Lee Falk's iconic the Phantom. Each new comic strip serial began with a recap of the hero's origin. "For those of you who may have come in late..."

I knew the Phantom from the comic strip. And from the Gold Key comic books
with the wonderful painted covers by the likes of George Wilson.

 In 1966 at the height of Batmania Warren put out a one-shot magazine titled On The Scene Presents Super-Heroes. The mag reprinted articles from Screen Thrills Illustrated on the Batman serials, Flash Gordon, the Superman serials, the Captain America and Captain Marvel serials ,the new Batman movie and the 1943 Phantom serial. From the photos that accompanied the Phantom article I knew I needed to see this serial. And I would years later when it was released on VHS.

Reportedly Lee Falk ,the Phantom's creator ,wasn't crazy about the serial. For the life of me I can't understand why. The chapter-play featured all the requisite thrills you'd expect from a jungle cliffhanger. The hero gets caught in quicksand. There's an avalanche/rock slide. There's a collapsing bridge. And best of all (to me at least) the hero fights a gorilla. There are chapters that seem to be lifted from the comic strip itself. And just might have been. The bits with the Tartar chief and the Fire Goddess for instance.

Tom Tyler is picture perfect as the mysterious
masked avenger. Though he's not the wisecracking hero that the character is in the comic strip. And Kenneth MacDonald is outstanding as the villainous Dr. Bremmer. It isn't perfect by any means. The "jungle natives" look like Native-Americans. In fact one of them was played by Jay Silverheels. And the Phantom's pet wolf is portrayed by German shepherd Ace,the Wonder Dog.
  My biggest beef though is that the Ghost Who Walks is seldom referred to as the Ghost Who Walks. Instead he's referred to as the "Man Who Never Dies". Maybe that's the problem Falk had with the serial.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Casting A Saturday Morning Favorite! by Dave Goode

Saturday mornings back in '66 and '67 were very cool if you were a comic book loving kid*. Aside from cartoon shows featuring comic book stand-bys like Superman and the Fantastic Four you also had new characters created just for TV. Birdman,the Galaxy Trio,Mighty Mightor even a Super President. At the top of my list was Space Ghost. A sort of Batman in outer space. But running a close second was The Herculoids. The show was created and designed by Alex Toth for Hanna-Barbera Productions and featured the adventures of Zandor, the Tarzan-like ruler of the jungle planet Amzot (later renamed Quasar) and his allies the Herculoids.

The Herculoids were 5 alien creatures. There was Tundro a rhino/triceratops hybrid that shot "energy rocks" from his horn. Zok was a space dragon who could not only breathe fire but could shoot laser beams from both his eyes and tail. Gloop and Gleep were two protoplasmic shape-changers who were able to absorb and deflect energy rays. And then there was my favorite Igoo,a great stone ape who I couldn't help but imagine being brought to life in a live-action Herculoids movie by Ray Harryhausen. Harryhausen could have taken care of bringing the Herculoids to life.But who to cast as Zandar and his wife and son Tara and Dorno???

Truth be told Zandor and his family always reminded me quite a bit of Tarzan,Jane and Boy from the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies from MGM and RKO. In fact Zandor was originally going to be called Zantor (Which is Tarzan spelled sideways...sort of). So if I'm casting an alien Tarzan in the 1960s my first choice for the role is Ron Ely who portrayed Edgar Rice Burroughs' jungle hero on television.
When I first thought of casting a Herculoids movie the first actress I thought of to portray Zandor's wife was Marissa Mell who became a cult figure appearing in Italian B-Movies in the 60s including DANGER:DIABOLIK.

As for Dorno that becomes a bit more difficult. Jay North would have been 16 in 1967. A wee bit too old to play Dorno. So maybe Tommy Norden who played the younger brother on FLIPPER.




editor's note* If you were a kid growing up in the early 1980s, you might recall the Herculoids on Saturday mornings. They were featured, along with Space Ghost, in new adventures on NBC's Space Stars. For many of us "monster kids", this was the gateway into the world of HB superheroes.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Why Not A Pro Wrestler As Tarzan? by Dave Goode

I was watching THE LOVES OF HERCULES again the other day. That's the sinew & sandal flick in which Mr.Universe 1955 Mickey Hargitay portrays Hercules. And his wife blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield in dual roles portrays two of his loves. Tina Gloriani plays another. It got me to thinking. Mickey and Jayne might have made for an interesting Tarzan and Jayne. Or at least a Tarzan-like hero and his mate. In fact in the movie adaptation of the hit Broadway play WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER?,Mickey plays the Tarzan-like star of a television series. Wife Jayne recreates the role she made famous on Broadway as the Marilyn Monroe-like Rita Marlowe. It's not hard to imagine the duo starring in a musical-comedy parody of Tarzan. Or a remake of BEYOND THE BLUE HORIZON with Mickey as Jackra the Magnificent.

Jackra the Magnificent always sounded
to me like the name of a pro wrestler.
And in BEYOND THE BLUE HORIZON Richard Denning with his wavy blond hair and leopard loincloth sure looked like a refugee from the squared circle.Hmmm. That might have been a great storyline for the Mickey and Jayne "jungle man" movie. A wrestling promoter vacationing in Africa discovers a Tarzan-type 'rassling gators and gorillas and brings him and his mate back to civilization to make a fortune in the grunt & groan racket. That makes me wonder why no Hollywood producer ever thought to cast a professional wrestler as Tarzan. Swimmers, track & field stars , football players. And in the case of Frank Merrill a national gymnastics champion. But no pro wrestlers. Unless you count Joe Robinson in TARZAN ROI LA FORCE BRUTALE.

TARZAN ROI LA FORCE BRUTALE (Tarzan The King of Brute Force) was an unauthorized European Tarzan film. It was seized and released only after the producers agreed to change the hero's name to " Thaur ". I have no idea why they chose to name the character Tarzan to begin with. The character in no way resembled Edgar Rice Burroughs' jungle hero. The flick itself was more of a peplum picture. The star Joe Robinson might have made for an interesting Tarzan though. Robinson was a third generation pro wrestler, physical culturist and judo champion turned actor who played in a number of peplum movies. My favorite movie that he appeared in though was A KID FOR TWO FARTHINGS. In that film he plays opposite Britain's Jayne Mansfield , Diana Dors. Or was Diana Britain's answer to Marilyn Monroe. In any case Joe plays her boy friend, a bodybuilder turned wrestler. And he was perfect in the role.

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