Monday, June 27, 2011

2 Great Pages, Kirby & Wood

Here are a couple of really lovely full page pin-ups by two of the greatest artist in comics history.

First from Captain Action #1, DC's short lived series about the worlds all time coolest action figure, features art by the great Wally Wood....

The art is a bit stiff, but you've got to love Action putting that wimp Superman in his place.

As good as the Wood page is, it pales a bit before this piece of perfection from Fantastic Four #72 by the legendary Jack Kirby

On Counter Earth

Che for Governor

His majesty, King Elvis the First

The true story of the Native Americans vs the Buffalo.

They’ll stone you when you’re playing your guitar......

Office Nightmare 1977

Magazine ad, June 1977.

My eyes. my eyes!!!!!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Circus 1930

More great Circus shots circa 1930...

Posters advertising the wonder of  the upcoming performance.

Trick rider with pony

The original caption reads "Feeding the Hippo"

Clowns, always evil, always scary. If a clown approaches

A mixed animal act, with Lions, Tigers, Leopards, Panthers and Bears.

Child performer, with elephant

The Bitterness of Old Age

It's sad to see someone who was once carefree and full of youthful exuberance and joy...

... reduced by the wear and tear of everyday life into a bitter mess of cynicism.

But it's still very funny.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Rubber Fangs

So I ran across this old commercial for the Barnabas Collins, Dark Shadows Game and I realized that way back when I owned the damm thing.

Now really, the game itself was pretty awful, basically all you did was spin a dial and work on putting together these cheap glow in the dark skeletons.

What made the game awesome however was the set of rubber fangs that came with it. Now of course all of you have owned a pair of plastic fangs at least once, so I am sure that you will all remember how they scrape against your gums, make it impossible to talk and most of all make a person drool, and not for blood.

But these rubber fangs fit in your mouth comfortably, let you talk and best of all, you could hide them in your mouth without looking like a drooling idiot.

And as an 8 year old would be vampire, these quickly became my prized possession, that is right up until I straight up wore them out.

Ah youth.

Greg Said to See The Wicker Man, and He's Right

Something my friend Greg mentioned this evening made me feel the need to post this public service announcement.

Christopher Lee, COMMANDS you to see, The Wicker Man

And no, not the one with Nick Cage

God knows I love the boy, but in that one he acts like a crazed badger, begging to be put out of its misery.

No, I mean the classic original version starring the 'ol Equalizer himself, Edward Woodward.

Weird, witty, and worth the time, the Wicker Man is as good as they come.

Thanks for mentioning it Greg.

The Omega Man

The story is familiar

Under the sky of a beautiful Los Angeles afternoon, a car makes its way around a silent, empty city.

The driver is Robert Neville, played with swaggering machismo by the great Charlton Heston,

In this pre-CGI era we see shot after masterfully composed shot showing an empty and abandoned LA.

Slamming on his breaks after sporting a shadow moving behind a windows Neville pulls out a machine gun and fires a long burst into the building before slipping back into his seat, putting a easy listening tape on the 8-Track and going back along his way. 

Driving off quickly Neville turns a corner too quickly and  just misses a crashed armored truck, flattening the tire of his car against a curb.

Grabbing his gear Neville begins to walk down the deserted street, as the camera pulls back to show us yet another empty and abandoned space.

It doesn't take Neville long to hustle up a new ride, and after dickering over price with the long dead salesman, he is quickly on his way.

Stopping at a nearby movie theater, Neville goes inside and after starting the film using a generator he has previously installed, Neville sits back for a showing of Woodstock.

Neville sits down and watches the crowds of young people, alive, happy and loud.

And as he follows along with each word and piece of dialog it becomes clear just how alone Robert Neville is.

Stepping out into the dwindling afternoon light, Neville realizes that his watch was broken in the earlier accident and that he has lost track of the time. Rushing to his car in a near panic, Neville is stopped in his tracks when a nearby pay phone begins to ring. Neville runs toward the ringing phone only to have it stop and another pay phone a few feet away begins to ring instead, and then all of the phones for miles around begin to ring louder and louder, in unison.

Grabbing his head Neville screams that there are no bells.

And the ringing stops.

Racing his car through the empty streets, Neville reaches his home, but just as he opens his garage and thinks he has reached safety, a bucket of oil and a torch is thrown onto his car starting a fire, and three pale men in sunglasses and black, hooded robes jump after him. Gunning the car, Neville slams into his garage and quickly dispatches the three men attacking him.

Closing the garage door Neville unlocks the nearby generator room, turns on the power, and suddenly the area around his house is flooded with bright lights, revealing dozens more pale hooded figures who scurry away from the light almost exactly the same way that cockroaches would.

Secure in his lair, Neville takes an elevator up to the buildings penthouse where he turns on a multi camera security system, pours a drink and settles down for another night of solitude with nothing to keep him company but the statue of Caesar that Neville plays chess with and the shouts of the pale, scared things outside.

As Neville makes his dinner, we move outside and meet Matthias, the leader of the pack of deformed  and deathly pale people laying siege to Neville nightly. Matthais, played with gusto by the great character actor Anthony Zerbe, is the absolute leader of the his band of survivors, all of who have survived the plague but left albino pale, covered in sores, extremely light sensitive, and murderously insane.

Seeing the plague as a chance to start over, Matthais preaches a totally Luddite way of life. Rejecting all modern inventions and devices, most machinery and all guns, a situation that has worked out rather rather to Neville's advantage allowing Neville to keep the mutated hordes at bay.

Because of his embracing of technology and past as a doctor, the “Family” despise Neville and want nothing more then to kill him.

However since Neville is more than willing to fire away with all sorts of high powered military hardware, and has killed dozens of  the Family a stalemate is in place.

This situation hasn’t escaped one of Matthais’ followers, Brother Zachary, who wants Matthais to go to an old military base or other armory, pick up some bazookas and give Neville a 21 gun salute surprise.

But Matthais, says no, we won’t do that, it goes against our beliefs, our new way of life, our deepest beliefs, and besides the movie will only be 20 minutes long if we do that.

Okay he doesn’t say that last line, but it’s still effectively true.

Nope, instead Matthias has a better idea. Instead of using bad evil technology like missiles and grenades, he’ll use something else, something purer and less technical.

A catapult.

Yes, technology is bad, well mostly.

Soon enough as Neville is trying to enjoy his dinner a ball of fire flies through the balcony window starting a small fire, that Neville responds to first with a fire extinguisher, and second with a high powered rile with a huge attached night scope, opening fire on the mutants rushing around the ancient weapon.

All of this excitement is too much for Neville and he is forced into a flashback, where we discover that what killed everyone was a plague released as part of a Sino-Soviet border war. In between shots of mass death and destruction,

and dead people watching the news,

and dead people going for a drive, we meet  Matthias when he was a healthy, respected, network anchorman keeping the public informed on the ever worsening situation

Meanwhile military scientist Dr Robert Neville, a top biological weapons scientist, in a jaunty air force hat, desperately works on a cure.

People are dropping like flies and Neville is not having much luck, but he thinks he has a glimmer of hope with a vaccination he has developed.

Rushing to get a sample vaccine to a hospital for testing, Neville hops into a waiting helicopter, but no sooner do they get up into the air when both Neville and his pilot are struck by the amazingly fast acting virus. The pilot dies almost instantly and as the helicopter plunges into the ground Neville finds himself fighting to breathe as the plague begins its work on him. Broken and bloody, dying from the plague Neville painfully crawls through the wreckage to his medical bag, and injects himself with the test vaccine, saving his life.

The next morning, after coming out of his flashback,  Neville is out jogging and hunting for the Family. Stopping at a department store to grab a clean shirt, Neville is distracted by the figures of the female shaped manikins, bringing back long suppressed memories of happier times and physical touch, and he distractedly begins to reach out to to touch one, when there is a crashing noise. But when Neville whips around he doesn't see anything, that is until a manikins turns its head to look at him and then bolts from the store running as fast as she can.

Realizing that it’s a real, live none mutated girl Neville chases after her, but soon loses the mysterious woman in the city. Half convinced that he’s gone insane once and for all, Neville laughs it off and goes back to his hunt.

But seeing a girl after several years can distract a man, and so of course, shortly afterwards Neville gets a wine shelf pushed over on him knocking him unconscious.

Waking up Neville finds himself captured and in the hands of the Family.

Placed before Matthias and the rest of the Family,  a “trial” is held for Neville and he is declared guilty of science and perpetuating the wheel and is quickly sentenced to death.

But before Neville is taken away to his fate Matthias takes the opportunity to confront his foe and  explain himself.

The two men debate the fate of the world for awhile, but Neville despite his best try he gets nowhere with the family leader. But then again Matthias gets no further trying to demonstration to Neville the correctness of his view.

Giving up trying to convince Neville with reason Matthias calls in his followers....

And they show Neville their "pretty"eyes.

And their pretty scars

Having had enough conversation Neville, is dragged to a cart and taken off to ...

Dodger stadium where Neville is tied to a post, while the Family makes ready to burn him alive.

The torches are ready and the Family is approaching, when at the last moment, all of the lights in the stadium come blazing on blinding the Family and sending them scurrying for the darkness. 

In the confusion a young man in biker leathers comes running out of the bleachers, and frees Neville. Pointing a gun in his face, the young man rushes Neville away from the field and into the dugout,

....where they meet up with a woman, in fact the same woman who Neville had seen earlier that day in the store.

The young man and the girl bring out a pair of motorcycles....

and after much drama and destruction....

the three manage to fight their way free of the enraged mutants.

After riding throughout the night and as the dawn breaks they arrive at a farmhouse well outside of LA. There Neville is stunned to find that along with the young man, Dutch (Paul Kelso)

and the girl, Lisa (Rosalind Cash),

there are a good half dozen children.

Dirty, very scared, and very well armed, but otherwise, they appear to be perfectly normal kids.

But Neville quickly finds out that isn’t really the case. It seems that all of these people do have the plague, it just that they are resistant and the disease is taking its time incubating, but the truth is that any of them can change at any time.

Which is why they came and got Neville, the disease is about to change Lisa’s little brother Richie (Eric Laneuville), and the band of quiet survivors have nowhere else to turn.

Neville gives them the good news that he is actually fully immune and does not have the disease at all, and should be able to use his blood to make a serum that should cure the boy. So they pack Richie up and move him to Neville’s place, with Lisa coming along to help.

As they get ready to head back to Neville's house, where he has a full lab, a little girl asks Neville, "Are you God"?

A question that the film itself will eventually ask.

That evening as they sit in the penthouse eating dinner as the Family rages outside, Lisa tells Neville about the early days of the Family, back when she had been a member, and how they had become increasingly more irrational as their illness progressed.

Lisa and Neville are attracted and the two kiss, when suddenly the lights go out in the penthouse.

In all of the rush, Neville had forgotten to refill the gasoline in his generators, leaving the house exposed.

Moving quickly Matthias sends a team of Family members to break into Neville’s house and kill him. Among them is Brother Zachary, who unknown to Matthias has had enough of Neville and is packing a very large hand gun.

Eventually Neville gets the power restored and manages to quickly dispatch the two family members who went directly into the house. Meanwhile, almost blind, Zachary has scaled the building waiting on Neville’s balcony for the right moment to strike.

Thinking they are safe, Neville and Lisa are almost killed when Zachary bursts into the room firing wildly. But blinded by the light he misses and is quickly killed by Neville.

Finally alone and while the Family howls and moans outside, Neville and Lisa make love.

Days pass and and after multiple transfusions from Neville,  Richie slowly, but definitely regains his health, even as romance blooms between the new Adam and Eve.

Dutch gets in touch and they all make their plans to leave the city and start over somewhere else far away, safe from Matthias and his brood.

But then Richie, upset over Neville’s unwillingness to share the "cure" with the Family, sneaks away to the Family’s shelter, to find Matthias and to offer him help.

After making his case, Matthias, with some real sorrow tells the Richie that he’s not cured, by taking Neville's blood, all he has done is damm himself.

And of course there is only one thing to do with the dammed.

After discovering that Richie has left, and finding a note telling him where Richie has gone, Neville packs for war and heads out to find the Family.

At the same time, Lisa, walks casually in the dark, not showing any kind of concern as the Family approaches her. Slowly we realize that the disease has progressed in Lisa, and she has now turned into one of Matthias’s own.

Arriving at the now deserted Family headquarters Neville makes a grisly discovery...

....Richie brutally murdered by the Family.

Knowing that his house is exposed and scared for Lisa, Neville races back to his home, fighting Family members the whole way.

But arriving at home, Neville finds the place is dark and empty

But then Lisa, now dressed in the robes of the Family steps out from the shadows and welcomes him.

And she’s brought company, as Matthias and his entire crew fill the room.

A battle breaks out and Neville manages to get Lisa and the only bottle of his cure out of the house.

The lights are still on in a fountain in front of Neville’s house and as they pair shelter there, Matthias picks up a large spear, aims toward the light .....

...and lets fly, impaling Neville though the chest.

Knowing that he has won, but with the daylight approaching, Matthias gathers the Family and leaves, knowing that Neville is at least, finished.

That morning Dutch and the children arrive at Neville’s house and see the aftermath of the battle, Lisa is still there, hiding herself as best she can from the sunlight,

Dying, but not dead, Neville has managed to hold out long enough to make sure Lisa was safe with Dutch and also to give him the precious bottle of his serum.

And then Robert Neville, the Omega Man dies, the savior of the new world.

Taking the bottle, Dutch, the children and Lisa, get in their bus and drive away.

Director Boris Sagal's, 1971 adaptation of  I Am Legend, with a screenplay by John and Joyce Corrington, is a very different take on Richard Matheson's original story then the Vincent Price classic. And yet despite the overboard manly-man action adventure of it all,in my opinion this version is easily the best.

While Price does an excellent job of playing the average man in the apocalypse, there is something so appealing about Heston's over the top performance as a combination medical man and full blooded action hero. And yet Heston also manages to be completely believable as a dynamic man left to nothing but his own resources.

On top of that with strong performances by both Zerbe and Cash, you have a depth that was hard to reach in a low budget Italian feature.

I have to say that I do find the messianic imagery that both films used to be a bit much, but at least in the Omega Man, you've got Moses as Jesus.

And what the hey, Chuck Heston is like a God to me.

I've said it before, Charlton Heston is just about my all-time favorite movie star. Bigger then life and always exciting, most importantly Heston, was the first major movie star to make science fiction movies.

Before Heston, science fiction was the acting ghetto and nobody who wanted to be taken seriously would ever appear in one. 

But Chuck changed all that.

Plus it doesn’t hurt that his movies were just plain good.

It is one of my very favorite movies.