Tuesday, April 25, 2017

COMIC BOOK REVIEW BY BILL SHUTE! SAD SACK AND THE SARGE #133 (Harvey Comics, October 1978)


I’ve always been a devoted reader of Beetle Bailey comics, comic books, and paperbacks, and recently I’ve been reading some of the Beetle offshoot-comic book SARGE SNORKEL (I’ll review one here in the coming months). While most people have heard of the Beetle character, his military colleague (at another publisher) SAD SACK is not as well known, although the phrase “Sad Sack” is used by people who have no idea it was once related to a famous comic.

According to Toonopedia, Sad Sack dates back to World War II, when it premiered in LIFE magazine and dealt with the realities of wartime military life and had a certain gallows humor to it as well as suggestive situations. To give you an idea of its roots, the title referred to “Sack Of Shit”! It appeared mostly in military-distributed publications, but when that material was reprinted for the general public in book form, its popularity skyrocketed. It became a comic strip in newspapers, it became a movie starring Jerry Lewis, etc. Harvey Comics eventually purchased the character rights from its creator, beginning an aggressive expansion of the Sad Sack comic book line. As Harvey is best known for Casper, The Friendly Ghost and Richie Rich, you can be sure that the trenchant analysis of military life and jaded fighting-man humor was replaced by slapstick kiddie antics.

From the 50’s through the 70’s, SAD SACK-related titles were common at Harvey, a publisher that seemed to believe in milking a handful of their own characters for multiple comic books rather than developing new items, although Sad Sack never had as many spin-offs as Richie Rich, which according to Toonopedia, had as many as 50 (!!!!) different spin-off publications----that’s right, DIFFERENT spin-offs. Take a look at the page we’ve reprinted of a month’s worth of Harvey Comics. Of the 20 magazines listed, 18 are Richie Rich variations! I’ve never found Richie Rich that funny or appealing (although the worst Richie Rich comic would be better than that frightful movie with McCauley Culkin....or as my children used to called him, “Cauley McCulkin”), and I don’t ever remember buying a Richie Rich comic....ever! I have owned some people have given me, but even recently, when a dealer I get cheap comics from offered me as many different ones as I wanted in excellent shape for seventy-cents each postpaid, I passed.

Sad Sack is a much more worthwhile comic than Richie Rich, but it lacks the bite and the insight into human character that Beetle Bailey offers. There’s a lot of workplace wisdom in Beetle, so that it works for folks who’ve been in the service but it also resonates with anyone who’s worked with a regular crew of varied people on a job. That’s why Beetle is timeless. Sad Sack also has a military cast of characters, a “Sarge” who is like Sarge Snorkel, and I find it funny in the sense that a Police Academy film is funny, but it’s really just sight gags and physical humor, and the gags tend to go on for too long.

Maybe I should be pointing out that I’m talking about the Harvey Comics version of Sad Sack. I am not really familiar with George Baker’s military-era strips, just having read ABOUT them and having seen a few online examples. I’m sure they are NOTHING like this at all.

(EDITOR'S NOTE-Having read various Harvey Comics while waiting my turn at the barbershop, I can tell you that the comic book version and the original were vastly different. When I was about ten I took a collection of World War II-era SAD SACK comics out of the library after reading the Harvey books thinking they were pretty much of the same Harvey kiddie fun caliber. Wrong again...the original version of SACK was very sexy like the seventies and eighties BEETLE BAILEY comics and of course filled with gags dealing with uppity officers, feces, subhuman wartime conditions and the sadistic sarge...I even remember one where Sack is having a sexy dream where some curvaceous cutie is taking her clothes off, and at the moment of truth a couple of large "CENSORED" bars appear across the gals private parts much to Sack's disgust!)

The gags going on for too long is also symptomatic of a page-killing tendency I see in this mag. There are a few full page promos for Casper at charitable events, with pics of a member of the Harvey family in a Casper costume (there’s also a full page throwaway of Casper promoting the Cub Scouts). Then there’s a full-page comic promoting a Richie Rich board game, and of course, a two-page Sad Sack prose short story, which is not the best format for him. That they did not kill those two pages with military humor or military-related stories as they would have done in a Charlton war comic tells you that military folks were NOT the audience here, but kids who could have just as easily spent their dimes and quarters on Richie Rich or Casper.


At his best, this 1978 version of Sad Sack has a kind of Jim Varney quality about him, but he lacks much character at all, other than being a jovial guy who spills things, burns things down, and mis-understands things. He’s a vehicle for jokes.

I actually like the Sarge here (after all, it’s HIS comic book), and the Sarge/Sack dynamic does echo that of Sarge Snorkel and Beetle, but without the subtlety and also aimed at a 10 year old audience.

If you like slapstick comic books and can find a Sad Sack cheap (mine cost 60 cents), give it a try, but for a much better experience and something you can read and re-read and which is funny while reflecting the human condition, go for a Beetle Bailey product. You can still find the paperback collections cheap. We at BTC love them. In fact, last weekend, when I was out bar-hopping and catching live bands, I had a Beetle paperback in my back pocket for the down period in between sets. Even though I’d already read it ten times, it still satisfied.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Hey, do any of you know who the crazy kid on the left is by any chance? Why it's none other than BLOG TO COMM all 'round hero and fan(abla) in his own inimitable way DON FELLMAN as a horny sixteen-year-old recording his answer to "They're Coming to Take Me Away (Ha Ha)" in the sanctity of his storage bunker. Yes, you might find hard to believe but Don did have a childhood, and in fact he's still stuck slab dab inna middle of it as I and presumably you are to a certain extent! Anyway, it's sure nice seeing someone on this planet of ours havin' a bitta fun, especially during them halcyon days of the mid-sixties before everything went down the proverbial fallopians 'n we all hadda save the world 'n stuff like that. And between you, me and the stripper pole don't you kinda think Don looks like a young Richard Benjamin even if Don vehemently disagrees? Well, I'm sure that Don, me or the vast majority of you readers for that matter would never be able to lasso a Paula Prentiss into our corral, but then again what else is new???
***
Well, with that outta the way let's get down to the facts of life reality of it all. Here be the reviews for this week, once again a pretty thrifty seven days since I didn't have to buy any of the platters that are up for inspection thanks to the bountiful blessings of Bill Shute, Paul McGarry and P. D. Fadensonnen (I found the pile of platters he sent for X-mas just yesterday!). Don't worry, one of these days I'm gonna write up some freshly-purchased of my own free will or something like that items but until that day comes (the day when there's something out there that I'd actually plunk down the hard-begged for) it's these freebee burns and nothin' but! Well, hope you like the selection of records being presented even if you're probably never gonna read about any of this spew in any of those nuevo fanzines that seem to be sprouting up on the scene like chancres.


Freddie McCoy-BEANS AND GREENS CD-r burn (originally on Prestige Records)

When I was a kid I used to get served beans and greens, and I HATED that slop! The stuff was tasteless, sometimes some rice would be added and it'd get all mushy and worst of all someone hadda just throw some fatty ham hock into the pot and ya'd get slimy meat to eat along with it. Yes, beans and greens was sorta like the twentieth century's answer to pottage. Needless to say I do not go for this particular platter featuring vibraphonist McCoy playing the hits of the late-sixties in that quaint r&b jazzy way that vibraphones always seemed to come in handy for. The musical version of the dish for sure. Right about now I sure could go for the musical version of Pepper Pot Soup that's for sure!
***
Tiny Tim-LIVE IN VANCOUVER, 1968 CD-r burn

I dunno, but """""I""""" for one consider Tiny Tim to be one of those true under-the counterculture New York City bonafeed heroes just like David Peel, Tuli Kupferberg, Peter Stampfel and a few dozen other natural geniuses who are every bit as much a part of the BLOG TO COMM fringe hall of fame as any potentate punk types you could dare think of. So it's always good to latch onto a recording of his once in awhile to grab a bit of that eternal glory that the man exuded throughout his roller coaster career.

This one's from his height in fame on the heels of "Tulips", with Tim doing a pretty straightforward show highlighting his musical knowledge for a pretty appreciative crowd. Contains material from GOD BLESS mixed in with other updated sorta-classics all presented in that "give 'em a good show" way you just don't see anymore. Not only that, but it all comes down a whole lot better'n yer father, who hated Tiny for natural reasons, woulda predicted given what a freak the guy came off as with that greasy hair 'n all. Even the cornball backing band helps add to the Tim mystique and the sound quality on this ain't too bad even if a good mixing would help plenty. And if anyone out there can scrape up some pre-fame photos and other ephemera well, please post it for all of us you selfish thing!
***
RAINY DAY CD-r burn (originally on Rough Trade Records)

Considering how I pretty much tired of the Rough Trade groove by the time this album came out ('84 or so Paul McGarry says) it wasn't like I missed that much! Not that it's dire, but as you'd expect a whole load of the material (this being a covers album featuring some of the brainier tracks to have been recorded during the sixties and seventies) just doesn't rise to past brass-knuckle intensity levels. It's kinda reminds me of those young folkster types Brad Kohler always has the misfortune to come in contact with who just have to do their own run-through versions of "Sweet Jane" that naturally lack the Velvets' underlying current of passion. Some halfway decent moments ("John Riley" ain't that bad) but otherwise I'd rather hear it done the right way or not at all 'n so there (braappp)!
***
Milford Graves and David S. Ware-LIVE NYC 1981 CD-r burn

I don't think this one was ever officially released, but it sure comes off like one of those seventies platters that New Music Distribution Service would sell way back when. The sound quality is whatcha'd call flat and just like something you'd get offa one of those cheaply-pressed self-produced albums that you wouldn't be able to afford even these days. The performance is just as boffo as those extremely rare gems tend to be, with Graves creating a wall of sheer sound with his percussion while Ware blasts on his horn like he's leading a regiment into the Black Hole of Calcutta. If you're the kinda fellow whose tastes in jazz tend to lean to the fringier aspects of the quest you'd be wise to snatch a copy of this one up somewhere via the internet.
***

Ramshackle Glory-WHO ARE YOUR FRIENDS GONNA BE CD-r burn (originally on Savage Wasteland Records)

If you thought the precious petunia crowd of the eighties and nineties was bad, they sure come off like brave and stoic bulwarks of courage next to today's safe space species that's for sure! And if these guys need a troubadour for these times then Bunny Whatzizname and his Ramshackle Glory would make a definitely good choice. Thirdway decent (if you tilt your ears a little) folkie rock with angst-riddled vocals mix with actual spoken work interludes on a variety of subjects from racism, violence, sexism and underwear skidmarks for all I know resulting in a recording that makes me want to watch a pack of New Guinea tribesmen eat a Peace Corps volunteer. Didn't work for Billy Bragg and it doesn't for Ramshackle Glory either. A band that, like a good portion of you readers, is just too overwrought to live and I only hope that somebody puts them (and you for that matter) out of their (and your) misery very soon!
***
Ernie Freeman-JIVIN' "O" ROUND CD-r burn (originally on Imperial Records)

Nicey nice neo-r&b instrumental album from one of the more prolific in front of and behind the scenes people in da biz. Good for lazin' back and reading comic books and fanzines, or even typing out this drek that you readers seem to gobble up with enjoyment. Once in a lifetime spin for me, but you might be able to ooze some more pre-music-as-gunk pleasure outta the thing.
***
Bob Bailey in YOURS TRULY, JOHNNY DOLLAR CD-r burn

More great radio mysteries that take a whole lot longer'n a minute to solve! And whaddaya know, but BOTH of 'em deal with old guys croakin' and their no account nephews tryin' to get away with the inheritance with some pretty sneaky alibis that mighta fooled Fearless Fosdick but not our guy! Bob Bailey plays it cool as usual and the stories are quite involved. If you like those old tee-vee detective shows of the fifties and early-sixties yet wanna give your eyeballs a break, give some of these a try! From 1/10 and 1/17 of 1960, two dates that certainly have gone down in history if I do say so myself (and if you can tell me why you might just win something I couldn't give away for years!).
***
Various Artists-HILLBILLIES IN HELL---COUNTRY MUSIC'S TORMENTED TESTAMENT 1952-1974 CD-r burn (originally on Light in the Attic Records)

Who woulda thunk that hillbillies were such tormented people? Just give a lissen to these outta-the-loop pre-slicko country tunes where a whole lotta wailin' about everything from offin' oneself to drugs to direct confrontations with the Evil One (and I don't mean Dave Lang!) himself and you'll wonder why the entire Confederacy didn't do a Jim Jones long ago! Not only that, but you can hear the evolution of the country idiom from back porch rural hoo-hah to slicked up bigtime bonanza on this collection. Features the unknown and the biggies mingling together in a big woe-filled bundle of misery that's a whole lot more negative than what wags made punk rock out to be way back when. Special bonus points for yet another re-ish of the Eddie Noack classic "Psycho" which surprisingly enough came out in 1968---I thought it definitely would have been a cash in on the Hitchcock moom pitcher released a good eight years earlier!
***
Various Artists-FIRESIDE MOON DESTRUCTION CHOOCHOO CD-r burn (Bill Shute)

Agin no track listings, but given what is on here like, do I NEED any??? The photo of Chris Christie downing a doughnut, Barney Google/Spark Plug and an Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips don't belie what's in store on this one which features a goofus safe driving song, loads of vintage radio ads, FDR plugging War Bonds and some crazy gibberish song that fails to amuse. Two count 'em Jello ads pop up as does Arthur Godfrey plugging cigars, and who amongst us could ever forget the infamous Choochoo Charlie Good 'n Plenty commercial? Of special interest were the "Five Minute Mysteries" which were kinda like those Ellery Queen one-minute ones only we get four extra minutes to stretch our brains. Oh yeah, there was this one rock song thingie that sounded as if it were of an early-eighties hardcore punk bent. Now how did that get in here anyway???

Thursday, April 20, 2017

BOOK REVIEW! FRECKLES AND HIS FRIENDS COMIC COLLECTION by Merle Blosser (Golden Age Reprints)

It musta been a few weeks since I reviewed a collection of 1937 vintage FRECKLES Sunday comics in these pages. Time seems to go by so woosh-like these anymore that its hard to tell. Anyway, this particular presentation of strips taken from three mid-fifties issues of the FRECKLES comic book (which culls various late-forties/early-fifties strip storylines refitted for magazine consumption) shows just how much the title progressed from its kiddie kapers origins through Freckles as an adventuresome teenager right before the strip changed into a gag-a-day feature that I will dwell even more upon whenever my next HIGH SIX will happen to materialize, probably more later than sooner.

Most of the characters that were prevalent in the earlier FRECKLES comics like Ossie, the kid with the koala face, are long gone. The action here is strictly high school hijinx closer to ARCHIE than HAROLD TEEN with some typical teenage stories popping up in the mix. Nothing that's gonna make you jump up and shout in ecstatic glee mind you, but they do show that sorta suburban slob-styled banality that sure comes off swell next to the modern day deca-drama that makes up a good portion of living, ifyaknowaddamean.

Some nice sagas are reprinted here including one featuring some new teenage neighbors putting on heavy duty Southern airs in order to impress the Yankee rubes, Lard Smith reprising his role as "The Moan" in yet another crooner spoof (this particular saga also introduces Livermore, the English butler who eventually became the Pop Tate of the strip when he opened "The Crumpet Hut"), and a rather funny series of strips dealing with those old bid for a box lunch and eat it with the gal who made it auctions, a practice that I think would never see any serious revival in today's sexually ambiguous world.

Not only that but some FRECKLES Sundays are reprinted as well as are a few HECTOR's, the "topper" strip featuring a friend of kid brother Tag which naturally has more of the old Freckles as a child strip sorta feel. Also padding out these mags is BRENDA BREEZE, a neat pseudo-pantomime strip featuring this sexy fifties-kinda gal who gets into those funny sitegag situations that you used to see plenty of at least until the funny pages began to "mature" much to our detriment. And of course you get the two pages of text which was so outta-place that the ghouls in the EC horror titles used to joke about 'em, but if Bill Shute can read 'em maybe you can too!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

MOOM PITCHER REVIEW BY BILL SHUTE! GOLIATH AT THE CONQUEST OF DAMASCUS (1965) starring Peter Lupus/Rock Stevens!


If you think it’s lonely defending Charlton war and western comics, try championing late 50’s/early 60’s dubbed Italian sword-and-sandal films (known also as “Peplum” films). While disreputable genres such as 90’s shot-on-camcorder gore films and 70’s porn loops are getting blu-ray releases and fawning articles about the “auteurs” in said genres, sword and sandal films can’t get arrested in today’s world. The Warner Archive has re-issued in beautiful letterbox editions the handful of films that MGM released domestically in the early 60’s, but other than that, it’s budget-bin 20 or 50-film multi-packs containing shitty pan-and-scan prints taken from VHS, or old reliables such as Sinister Cinema (and SC is the source of this film under review--a very good print I highly recommend!). They do circulate freely in collectors circles and from grey-market sources, often taken from European cable-TV broadcasts or mid-priced European DVD’s, and I have spent many an evening enjoying a nice widescreen version of something starring Gordon Scott or Guy Madison or Brad Harris or Cameron Mitchell or John Drew Barrymore or Richard Harrison or Roger Browne. Most of these are relatively low-budget, yet they aspire to epic stature, so it takes a lot of imagination and cinematic sleight-of-hand to create the feel of an epic on a limited budget. That to me is an inspiration to any creative person. Unfortunately, whatever residual goodwill the genre might have had in the public mind has probably been snuffed out now by these horrible CGI-filled pseudo-Sword and Sandal films and Biblical faux-epics which have been bombing at the box office the last ten years. They can spend over 100 million dollars on one of these piles of crap, yet they can’t come close to creating the excitement of some 1963 European co-production with an imported American star signed on for 10 days work and which probably had a total budget less than the bottled-water and vegetable-tray budget on something like TROY or GODS OF EGYPT. It’s a credit to the visionaries-on-a-budget film-makers of early 60’s Italy and Europe that they could create hundreds of these peplum (I’m also including the costumed historical films which did NOT feature shirtless musclemen) films which played the world over and excited audiences in Peru or Thailand or the Congo or Tulsa, Oklahoma, and do it for such little money, relatively speaking. Many of the directors and actors and technicians who worked on these later evolved into the Eurospy and Spaghetti Western and then Giallo genres, and they brought the same budget-minded wizardry to the rich fantasy worlds depicted in those hundreds of films too.

Thanks, Hollywood, for leaving a bad taste in most people’s mouths with your bogus “sword and sandal” films of the last 15 years. If someone under 30 today might consider watching a Steve Reeves film on Netflix or Alan Ladd in “Duel Of Champions” on Amazon Prime when snowed in some winter weekend in Rhode Island, now they’ll think, ‘oh, that’s going to be like GODS OF EGYPT, and THAT SUCKED.’

Well, we here at BTC are devoted to giving you the real scoop from the pre-Internet age, before the revisionist historians make their wrong-headed and agenda-driven faux-history become the accepted version of the past.

And what better place to start than GOLIATH AT THE CONQUEST OF DAMASCUS, which came rather late in the sword-and-sandal cycle. 1965 was pretty much the last year when these films were being made as part of the original wave of popularity, which mushroomed in the late 50’s with the international success of the original HERCULES, starring Steve Reeves (although a mini-revival happened in the 1969-72 period, when maybe ten or so were made, they were not part of the original cycle).

This was one of four Italian peplum films (well, his fourth one was a pirate film, not technically a peplum) which starred American actor and bodybuilder PETER LUPUS, who appeared in these under the ROCK STEVENS pseudonym. Lupus was not just a bodybuilder who was approached at a gym and asked if he ‘ever wanted to be in pictures’; he’d been a supporting actor in a number of television comedies, including an appearance on DOBIE GILLIS, and he showed a real talent as a straight man (he later was on the classic POLICE SQUAD series with Leslie Nielsen--his comic timing is excellent). Lupus/Stevens also must be the only person who went into sword-and-sandal stardom after doing a parody of a muscleman in a film (I double-checked Samson Burke’s credits, and he did THE THREE STOOGES MEET HERCULES after he did VENGEANCE OF URSUS, so Burke got the comedy gig after playing a straight peplum hero, so he does not qualify), that film being the classic MUSCLE BEACH PARTY, which he also appeared in under the Rock Stevens moniker. All four of the “Rock Stevens” films are worth seeing, but this one is perhaps the best.

One thing about genre films in any “formula” genre (westerns, crime films, martial arts films, sword and sandal films, etc.) is that the titles are more about creating “mood” than about accuracy. That’s how you can have Charles Starrett "DURANGO KID" westerns with a title such as STRANGER FROM PONCA CITY, which do not have a stranger and do not take place in Ponca City. It’s like labeling a perfume or an automobile. The original title of the film (in the Italian and other European versions) had it set in Baghdad, and certainly a film where the locals are at war with the Kurds would make more sense in Baghdad than in Damascus, but hey....why not! Just change it in the dubbing and no one will be the wiser. So many European “Maciste” films were dubbed as being Hercules films and then released in North America that way--does it REALLY make a difference. It’s not like you are doing a film about FDR and after it’s made change the title to LBJ and then dub it so the other characters call him “Lyndon.” Maciste/Hercules/Ursus/Goliath, they’re all of a type. The question is whether or not the film works. This one does. The title GOLIATH AT THE CONQUEST OF DAMASCUS hits all the right notes that the fan of sword and sandal films wants and needs.

Fortunately, Peter Lupus/Rock Stevens has the acting chops to carry the whole film himself, as he’s out front in almost every scene, and he has no comedic sidekicks or legion of underlings to distract attention. “Goliath” here has been away from his home territory for many years and comes back to find that the princess, just about to be married, has been kidnapped by members of an evil cult which requires its members to be scarred (like a brand or a gang tattoo) on their faces, and on top of that there are elements who are trying to sell out the local leaders to corrupt outside powers. That of course allows for all kinds of double and triple crosses. You know that this film is headed in the right direction when Goliath enters a local tavern looking for information, and he’s treated like crap (shades of BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK) by everyone there, and then has to fight pretty much everyone in the tavern. Yes, Goliath takes on probably 40 people....and of course kicks the butt of every one of them. There is a clever eye-winking quality to this five-minute fight sequence, and each person gets beaten in a different way----it moves fast and has non-stop action with a twist of humor. If Lupus/Stevens can carry that off and get away with it, you know that he’ll be able to handle in a convincing way anything else the film throws at him.

Perhaps the most exciting scene in the film is not one that requires brawn or physical fighting--it’s the scene where, as Goliath is going undercover as someone who wants to join the evil cult, he is about to get his face scarred. The audience is going to be thinking, as I did, “how will he be able to ever show his face again after this.” He ALMOST gets it done a few times, but something comes up....then (major spoiler alert) the leader decides he’d be of more use as an undercover member of the group, and he gets spared the disfiguring scar about one second before the hot metal goes into his face.

Although it runs only 87 minutes, there are enough double-crosses and sub-plots and interesting sets (underground dungeons, palaces, prisons, open markets, etc.) and outdoor locations to keep the viewers on the edge their seat. Again, Lupus/Stevens (who looks like a VERY buff version of early Sylvester Stallone, though of course, he predates Sly by 10 years) not only looks great and moves naturally, but manages to play every scene as if it’s actually a dramatic scene--some stars in this genre seem to be posing in a bodybuilding competition and the scenes happen AROUND them. The film is an excellent showcase for him, and I would have to rank him among the best of the sword and sandal film stars. I read an interview with Mr. Lupus where he mentioned that Mickey Hargitay was a friend who’d lived in the same area of the Midwest at one time and who suggested that Lupus look into acting in Italy.

Of course, these films became a moot point when Lupus--under his real name--became one of the stars of the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE TV show and stayed with it for all seven seasons. That pretty much gave him recognition for the rest of his life--recognition as an actor who happens to be athletic, not as just a bodybuilder who was in some films.

GOLIATH AT THE CONQUEST OF DAMASCUS would be a good litmus test to see if someone is a potential fan of the sword and sandal genre. If you watch and enjoy this, you’ll like others. If not, then you should look elsewhere for entertainment, NOT dubbed Italian historical epics from the 60’s.

Most people my age got into these films when they were shown on Saturday and Sunday afternoons on local TV in the 60s and 70s. They were also staples of late night UHF and independent TV into the early 90’s. In my case, when I was maybe in 2nd or 3rd grade, I remember channel 27 (the station which showed THREE Bowery Boys films a day AND ran the results each night from the local horse and dog tracks--so I suppose that Channel 27 made me the man I am today, since I still go to the track and watch Bowery Boys films) showing a sword and sandal film most afternoons, and I could catch the second half of them when I got home from school (and of course, I could see the whole thing during summer or winter vacations). When I was in maybe 4th grade, I was having a discussion with other kids during recess about movies, and when asked about my favorite stars, I said “Richard Harrison,” and the others said, “no, you mean Richard Harris.” NO, I told them. I know very well who Richard Harris is, and I’m not talking about him. They did not know Richard Harrison, and it was their loss. I hope they later discovered him, as no one’s life is complete without having seen SECRET AGENT FIREBALL or THE MEDUSA AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES or $100,000 FOR RINGO.

Very few sword and sandal films have been released in widescreen on video in North America, and even fewer have been released here in Italian with subtitles....although, as these films were shot without live sound, and basically ALL versions are dubbed, it’s not as though there is an “original” version--I just assume that more work was put into the script for domestic (Italian) consumption than for the many quickie export dubbing jobs. I’m also not sure if Lupus/Stevens even dubs his own voice here. The voice used fits the character (it’s not radically UNLIKE Lupus’s voice as I remember it) and does not sound ponderous or like an Old Testament reading as some dubbed voices in these historical epics do. I’m going to assume that he does not, but I do not know.

A film like this comes from an age before steroids and an age before CGI. These are REAL muscular men who worked on their physique piece by piece, hour by hour, and these are real stunts done by real people. To misquote Robert Frost (not sure if he ever saw a Steve Reeves film), that is what makes ALL the difference.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Given today's Easter I assume that most of you readers are too busy consuming eggs, or in a few cases inserting them somewhere, to be reading this particular post. Another too bad for you, because this particular entry is if I do say so myself pretty tippy top notch, or at least surpasses some of the feh entries that I have been giving you these past umpteen weeks. As for me I'm gonna celebrate in my own usual way, mainly trying to catch up on a vast backlog of Dee-Vee-Dees that I haven't had the time to eyeball these past few months. And frankly, I couldn't think of a better way to enjoy the springtime than be holed up watching THE LONE RANGER and THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN getting in touch with my inner-suburban slob rather'n goin' out 'n enjoyin' the weather like I was told to do for so many years!

In the meanwhile I've been lending ear to a load of pretty good albums that Bill Shute and Paul McGarry sent me out of the kindness of their hearts. Nice pickings too what with the Animals, Rezillos and especially the Jackson Beck interview which turned a ho hum week into one that was...slightly tolerable. Anyway join me in my miasma as you read the following and please, try to understand that my idea of "enjoying life" and yours are probably miles apart!


A. F. Jones-FOUR DOT THREE TO ONE CD-r burn (Kendra Steiner Editions)

This Jones guy is a genius. What he does is take recordings from (in this case) a pond, a pool, a harbor, an estuary, and an open ocean charter and refigures them into honest-to-Bill Shute musique concrete! Dunno how he does it, but it works out and actually makes for fine "ambient" music that you can (once again) sink your nerve endings into. How he was able to make those piano-like tinklings I'll never know, but this guy is a real smartie who I get the feeling ain't gonna be the subject of any hoity arts and music articles any day soon. Available from the link on your left, and who knows, you may even agree that this is one of the more interesting "new music" recordings extant, at least these days.
***
Ian and the Zodiacs-JUST LISTEN TO... CD-r burn (originally on Star Club, Germany)

A lotta the British Invasion groups were kinda wimpy next to some of the harder sounds being made in the USA (especially the Northwest) and you could definitely say that Ian and the Zodiacs weren't any different. OK, like I mentioned in my previous Ian/Zodiacs review they were only big in Germany but the only reason I give for that is that the locals were still too shell shocked from World War II to be able to take anything hard, at least until the krautrock groups began banging up the scene a few years later. Actually these guys were nice enough mid-level rock that really ain't that offensive and can get a toe tapping or even pinkie wiggling when they do get into the right groove. Maybe I shouldn't let a few feh cover versions sway me too much...
***
The Rezillos-GET HIP CD-r burn (originally on Nasty Nasty Records, Scotland)

I dunno if Lindsay Hutton reads this blog anymore. Heck, I don't know if anybody reads this blog anymore, nor for that matter do I care. But if Hutton does read it I'm sure this particular rock and roll album would please his heart to no end considering just what a rah-raher he was for this particular group. Like much of this late-seventies punk rock brouhaha the Rezillos revel in mid-sixties rock 'n roll that sounded so great in light of the tiresome mainstream poo poo on both the AM and FM fronts...too bad that the kinda people who popped pimples to Herman's Hermits in '65 thought it was just too radical for their by-now patchouli tastes. But we knew much better, right kids? A wild ride, featuring fine versions of not only originals but hotcha covers and a general fun attitude that you just know went over the heads of Jann Wenner and the rest of his laid back minions.
***
The Animals-A's, B's AND EP's CD-r burn (originally on EMI)

Can't think of any good egg jokes offhand to start this review with which really shows just how shot my mind has become after years of diligent blogging! Oh well, maybe when I get hold of another collection of Animals single rarities and not-so's I'll have a good one that'll get you all rolling on the floor! This one's got the biggies and the flipsters as well, and although I'm sure all of you big time Animal fans have had these in vinyl form for years this does make for one of those boffo collections that back in the not-so-good ol' days you could only get via import--if lucky or rich that is. Now if I can only think up some good white guy/black women jokes...
***
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS AT A RECORDING SESSION CD-r burn (originally on Warner Brothers Records)

You always wanted to know the ins and outs of big time recording, right? Well, believe it or not but its a whole lot more'n just setting up a microphone and blowin' away like you all thought. Here's an album that gives you an idea of what really goes on, the balancing, the types of microphones used, the acoustics, the editing etc. as it was way back inna late-fifties when Warner Brothers was on top of not only the tee-vee world but making records as well. Features the talents of Joanie Sommers, who a few years after her appearance here attempting to record "Am I Blue", did pretty good chart-wise with "Johnny Get Angry" which is one of those hits outta nowhere that continues to "get" me "right here" and in a good way too!
***
Shin Joong Hynn-BEAUTIFUL RIVERS AND MOUNTAINS CD-r burn (originally on Light in the Attic)

As Richard Nixon once said, "You can get a ca-reer in Ka-re-er!" That's just what this Hynn guy did getting involved with a whole slew of musical acts over their in the southern portion of that particular country cranking out pop and psych recordings. Unfortunately there's nothing here that even remotely stirs the seoul, this being rather restrained Far East pop that has a bitta the local flavor mixed in with various English and Amerigan motions lacking a whole lotta zip you kinda hoped woulda been there. I'll bet if they blasted this at Kim Jong Un's compound night and day he'd end up with hemorrhoids the size of those Golden Grapes that Shin was involved with!
***
Various Artists-OOZINGS FROM THE INNER MYNDE VOLUME 21 CD-r burn

This has GOTTA BE at least thirty years old. Probably one of those samplers you could only get via the Midnight (yech!) mailorder list. Some of this has been comped and even legitimately reissued o'er the years (Mystery Trend, Seeds) and the rest ain't anything that's gonna make Miriam Linna wanna give up her Don Covay albums, but as far as being a STATEMENT I guess it does work. Well, at least it works what with the emphasis on moody psychedelic popster garage rock that proves that overall the psychedelic music experience was a bigger downer than any of the Sunshine Sallys and Flower Power Freds would dare remember. Some Beatle cops here, some West Coast musings there. If you like side four of NUGGETS you might go for this one.
***
JACKSON BECK INTERVIEW CD-r burn 

You may think that radio nostalgia is something that petered out around the time Unca Ezra went deef, but I have just as much a love for this old tymey stuff as I do old comics, old tee-vee shows and old things in general which sure seem MORE REAL than the hippie generation that held these old things in contempt. This particular "Golden Age of Radio" program from (I assume) the early-seventies features an interview with one of the top announcers of the past, Jackson Beck whose career actually eclipsed the radio era well into television and moom pitchers (even lending his voice to some SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE skits). You may know him as the voice of Bluto in the ol' POPEYE cartoons, but if you wanna hear a whole lot more about his career and various jobs (as well as actually lend ear to an old ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN which contain his talents) try and track this informative bit of funtime history down in between the Golden Age Reprints and LONE RANGER Dee-Vee-Dees just like I did!
***
Various Artists-OCEAN FINGER SUNSHINE SPADE CD-r burn (Bill Shute)

With a title like that I thought Bill was aping some early-seventies blaxploitation film, but to the contrary this is a rather varied selection that seems heavy on the poppier side of power. There's lots of that, whether it be from the sixties garage (the Cybermen) or the late-seventies/early-eighties new unto gnu cusp (20th Century) and if you were a "power pop turd" as the Angry Samoans put it well, you'll be in TROUSER PRESS heaven with this one! Yeah there are some definitely non-PP offerings here from the Ray Paul Trio doin' some hotcha countrified guitar picking to the avant whatziz of Barbara Toothpick and Rozkol (and what the heck was this Ben Presto "From Spread to Revolution" thing anyway...all it sounded like was a radio broadcast beamed in from Saigon!) but otherwise it's more of that music that drove Van Halen fans to insanity (me, not that much). Of special note, four tracks by the Tremblers with Peter Noone, the same Noone of Herman fame back when he was trying to muscle in onna new thing back '80 way and don't you forget it!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

MOOM PITCHER REVIEW! THE GAS HOUSE KIDS GO WEST starring Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, Vince Barnett, Bennie Bartlett and Tommy Bond (PRC, 1947)

Can't get enough of the Bowery Boys? Well in that case why dontcha try the Gas House Kids, PRC's cheap-o swipe that not only has that great teen gang (no, make that twentysome guys pretending to be teenagers gang!) film look and feeling, but enough film cheapness to make you miss the glory days of Sunday afternoon and late-night tee-vee viewing back when low budget mooms like this really fit in with your general low budget lifestyles!

It's a good 'un too, where the gang (which includes former LITTLE RASCALS real-life pals Carl Switzer and Tommy Bond), after winning a basketball game against a team who has a revenge-seeking ballet dancer as a ringer, go to California in an unknown-to-them pilfered vehicle and get mixed up with a stolen car ring. The leader of the ring just happens to be engaged to the daughter of the ranch owner where the cars are being hidden, and of course its gonna be a tough case for the Kids to solve before the lass makes the dastardly decision to hitch up with the typically zilch-film Lothario in a role that was custom made for Douglas Fowley! Somehow I get the feeling that a flick like this would have even been too low class for him!

Alfalfa steals the show proving that he was a pretty good comedy actor who shoulda been put to more use in mooms and tee-vee as the years rolled on. I guess his reputation as a trouble maker had really gotten around by this time and given his real life exploits maybe this is why he wasn't working in mooms as much as he did. Tommy Bond plays it more like a doof (somehow I thought he woulda been Leo Gorcey to Switzer's Huntz Hall) and perennial child actor (and one-time Bowery Boy himself) Benny Bartlett ain't too bad either as the Gas House kid who has to uncover the scam while the rest of the gang's out partying with the badskis.

Of special note is Vince Barnett's appearance (he no stranger to the EAST SIDE KIDS/BOWERY BOYS filmography) as the local car dealer handling the stolen booty, he giving a performance with even more comic relief to a moom that already has more'n enough of it. This guy's acting has always been the highlight of many a good filck 'n tee-vee show, and who amongst us can forget his appearances in everything from a variety of Educational Pictures shorts to THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW and GREEN ACRES. Heck, I'm that much of a Vince Barnett fan that I'd even wanna watch his appearances in mainstream Hollywood films like A STAR IS BORN the same way I like to watch GONE WITH THE WIND for George Reeves before flicking to a more exhilarating program. Heck, I wouldn't even mind seeing Barnett in those sleazy drive-in nudie type films he ended his career with like SUMMER SCHOOL TEACHERS...well, at least he didn't appear in any of the nude scenes!

It's films like GAS HOUSE KIDS GO WEST that reaffirm my faith in life, and if you have to see just one low budget low grade funtime film this year, this should be it! And did I mention that it was directed by the infamous William Beaudine, another alumni of the EAST SIDE KIDS/BOWERY BOYS line of fine mooms?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

MOOM PITCHER REVIEW BY BILL SHUTE! TARZAN AND THE SHE-DEVIL (1953) starring Lex Barker!!!


TARZAN AND THE SHE-DEVIL was the fifth and final Tarzan film with Lex Barker, who took over the role from Johnny Weissmuller and who would pass it on to Gordon Scott. The 1950’s were a good time for Tarzan, relatively speaking. The Lex Barker series at RKO, begun in 1949, was quite successful and embraced by fans, the comic books done by Jesse Marsh in this period (which featured Barker on their covers--see pic) were equally popular and are now viewed as part of a “Golden Age” of Tarzan comics, and Tarzan was an important part of popular culture.

Edgar Rice Burroughs never visited Africa prior to writing the Tarzan books and stories, and for me they’ve always existed in that fantasy “jungle” world found in pulp novels and serials. Who cares if they mix up animals from one continent or another if this is supposed to be “Africa.” This isn’t a NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC documentary. People who care about that sort of thing would not want to watch a Tarzan or Jungle Jim film anyway. I’m the perfect audience member for this kind of film--it’s been explained to me ten times the difference between a crocodile and an alligator, and I STILL can’t remember which is which.

After a long work-week and then spending the weekend finishing up the last of the EIGHT (!!!!) reviews I have coming out in the next issue of UGLY THINGS, I wanted to wind down with some solid B-movie entertainment, so I dug TARZAN AND THE SHE-DEVIL out of a stack in the garage. I’ve probably seen this 10 or more times over the years, so I guess you can say I enjoy it. Every two years or so, I’m ready for it again.

This film does not get rave reviews among the Tarzan fraternity. Many consider it the worst of the Barker Tarzans...although pretty much everyone admits that it is fun and entertaining and has a great supporting cast. I’m not the kind of person to watch all five Barker films in order and look for continuity or development. There really is not any in this series, and why should there be. You can stick Tarzan in any situation (the way you could Hercules/Maciste in sword and sandal films) and just let him do his thing. I’m also not someone who is chained to “the canon.” I’ve read probably half of the ERB Tarzan books, and I’ve read years and years of comic strips and comic books and seen pretty much every surviving Tarzan film, including the Steve Hawkes ones! Does anyone reading this REALLY need to know the Tarzan backstory at this point? I think not, anymore than you need Billy The Kid’s or Sherlock Holmes’ or the Frankenstein monster’s. If an entry in a series film is well-done, it can be the fifth or the fifteenth in the series, and a viewer coming in for the first time can “get” who the character is. We don’t need long-winded expository dialogue and tedious re-telling of “origin stories.” I can promise you that someone whose first BOWERY BOYS film is their thirty-seventh one will totally “get” the key characters within the first four minutes of the film, if not sooner.

In the five Barker Tarzans, he’s got a different actress playing Jane in each...and they have a child in one of them, but in the one after that, they don’t, and the child is not even mentioned. Again, that does not trouble me. Maybe they felt the child wasn’t really working out--this is not reality, so if the child isn’t working out, toss him away. It’s just a child actor, and he should be in school anyway! All that I ask is that whatever they do, it is consistent with the general characterization of Tarzan and it’s entertaining, and we’ve certainly got that here.

Tarzan is kept prisoner by the evil ivory poachers for at least half the movie here, so although we see him chained and/or incarcerated, he does not have a lot to do, so inevitably, the film is given over to the villains, and my do we have a colorful and memorable set of villains here. The She-Devil of the title is played by Belgian actress Monique Van Vooren, who later co-starred in ANDY WARHOL'S FRANKENSTEIN and in the odd pre-fame Jon Voight film FEARLESS FRANK. One of the locals, a boy, calls her She Devil, but really, the film should more accurately be called TARZAN AND THE HE-DEVIL, because even though Van Vooren is the head of the evil organization, she shows SOME humanity and is nothing compared to the great Raymond Burr as Vargo, one of the most over-the-top and brutal villains I can remember seeing. Not only does he sneer each line contemptuously through the whole film, he also brandishes a whip and often uses it on the locals he enslaves and denies food and water to. He actually gets excited seeing how long the enslaved locals can work without food and water, and when they drop, he tosses them aside and does not allow his fellow do-badders to assist them in any way when they try to give them water or heal their wounds. Burr was always a great bad-guy in his pre-PERRY MASON B-movie days, but this is surely one of his five best scenery-chewing bad guy roles. For Burr alone, the film is worth the price of admission.

You also get the great TOM CONWAY, the Falcon himself, as Van Vooren’s assistant, and as someone who’s a bad guy but not overflowing with boiling evil the way Burr is, he often finds himself at odds with Burr. He also seems to have had some kind of past relationship with Van Vooren, or at least it is suggested, so that plot element adds another level of interest to their interactions and also gives him a kind of protector role to Van Vooren. Conway is always a joy to watch, and brings his usual classy and suave presence. There always needs to be some Brit in a jungle film. There’s also a Frenchman, who is Burr’s partner, and for the first seven minutes of the film, before we even see Tarzan, Burr and the Frenchman are plotting to take the ivory for themselves and to cheat their employers, Van Vooren and Conway, out of it. The Frenchman is given some depth in an early soliloquy where he talks about how this will be “one last job” for him so he can return to Marseilles and start a new life....just one last job. Anyone who has seen a few crime films with a similar discussion of “one last job” knows how well that will turn out.

As an RKO film, Tarzan and the She-Devil handles the jungle setting adequately, unlike PRC or Monogram or z-grade indie jungle films, where people react to grainy stock footage that looks 25 years older than the feature film. The RKO jungle sets are also larger than the poverty row ones, where people traipse around the same 25 square feet over and over (watch RAMAR OF THE JUNGLE for a good/bad example of that). Only two short clips (each about 3 seconds) here were obviously from another film. You need a lot of willing suspension of disbelief to enjoy a jungle film, but if you bring enough to this one, it works quite well.

Each Tarzan actor brings something special to the role, and for the Princeton-educated Barker, it was a certain elegance and a litheness of movement, almost like a gazelle or a cheetah. Barker had run track and played football, and brought an athlete’s grace to the role. As an actor who’d performed on the stage, and someone who’d worked his way up in films from small supporting roles, he also understood how to establish his character and his presence when not saying anything or when in the background, a very important quality in a Tarzan film....and especially in this one, where he says hardly anything during the half of the film where he’s being held captive.

The film moves very quickly, it’s only 76 minutes long, and with multiple sub-plots and the in-fighting among thieves, and with the brutal performance by Raymond Burr, I can’t imagine anyone in the mood for a 1950’s Tarzan film not enjoying this and going along for the ride.

Gordon Scott took over the Tarzan role after this, and he did five feature films and also a sixth which was cobbled together from three unsold episodes of a TV pilot. He brought his own special qualities to the role, and after his first few films, he changed the role quite a bit, moving toward a more literate Tarzan, but we can discuss that later. Scott and Barker, of course, both found much fame in Europe in the early 1960’s and became much bigger stars there than they ever were in the US. Unfortunately, I don’t believe they ever worked together in Europe. I guess European producers could afford only one imported American ex-Tarzan star per film, so it was either Scott OR Barker.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Well it's sure sad to see that things ain't exactly going to Hoyle right around now, what with Trump emptying a chamber pot full on us all when he broke one of his BIGGEST campaign promises 'n bombed Syria (hey, we would have expected that from the last five prezez but Trump was comin' off the peace candidate and I at least trusted him on THAT!---meet the new Woodrow Wilson, chaps!) and then outta nowhere who else but Don Rickles ups and dies at the same age as...Chuck Berry??? Sheesh, as a kid I never thought that the two of 'em woulda been of the same generation let alone age given just how much Rickles was a humongous part of the "grown up" entertainment establishment and looked a lot older than he was with his bald head 'n paunch. And Berry, if we can trust the aging hippies who wax eloquent about him, was connected so closely with teenage culture that some might have even envisioned him a teenage white guy the way he sang about mid-class Amerigan youth even though you get the idea that he never had the same kinda teen life the kidz listening to his music did. 

Like in the case of Berry, Rickles died right around the time I was thinking about him quite a bit, this time regarding his TWILIGHT ZONE appearance with Burgess Meredith which certainly ranks amongst his better tee-vee roles (and he had many from GILLIGAN'S ISLAND to I DREAM OF JEANNIE) if I do say so myself! Sheesh, I better stop these reminiscences given how deadly they could be...who knows, maybe next time I could be thinking about you...
***
As far as any recent ROCK 'N ROLL-related dreams go, I must admit that I haven't had any that I really thought worthy of relaying to you readers they being so vague and dull and all. However, after months of dry spell dreams I had a really weirdo one a few nights back which had to do with me picking up a late-fifties vintage television magazine and discovering that the Winter brothers Johnny and Edgar actually had their own western tee-vee series back then! Even in my dream I'm figuring out that the pair woulda been way too young to have been grown up tee-vee gunslingers at the time, bu lo and behold I'm looking upon pics of the pair dressed in standard fifties cowboy duds, Johnny with burly whiskers and Edgar clean-shaven, both playing adult gunslingers in what I would hope was a real slam bang series! Didn't catch the name of the show but I kinda think it woulda had a title like ALBINO JUSTICE or PINK EYE.
***
Here are the picking for this week. Some good 'un's here too which I think you'll even wanna seek out 'stead of just schmooze over, though I might as well keep my trap shut because I can't figure any of you guys out anymore. Better watch out, or I'll start thinking about you with a rather strong intensity...


Chico Hamilton-CHIC CHIC CHICO CD-r burn (originally on Impulse Records)

A perfect remedy for these down inna dumps days. Great Impulse sound (thanks to Bob Thiele) and stellar performance from drummer Hamilton and band make this one of those records you can...y'know...just sink yourself into. Gabor Szabo's guitar doesn't sound as cultured as you thought it would, the arrangements are driving, and best of all CHIC CHIC CHICO mixes relaxation and tension in a way very few artists could manage without it all falling apart like overcooked piroghy. Just another reminder of the COOL we were all blessed with at one time, before the jazz mainstream got into the whole bowtie and tux attitude which unfortunately has come to define the sad term these sorriest of sorry days.
***
Running-VAGUELY ETHNIC CD-r burn (originally on Castle Face Records)

I really would have given this grog a go a good thirty years ago when my musical tastes were comparatively more hot-flash go than they are now. Slow grinding post-hardcore drill...y'know, the stuff that Imants Krumins used to travel to Bizoo and back to get hold of. Right now I'm kinda backing off...sure sounds grand in light of many things that are out there mind you, but Running doesn't exactly have me running to find any more examples of their various wares. Good for the hard rock reach of things with enough distortion to sate, but recommended for the true believers out there and I know a whole bunch of you regular readers are.
***
Various Artists-NON-DAIRY CREAMER CD-r burn (originally on Warner Brothers)


For a spell I thought this was gonna be one of those Warner Brothers two-dollar send-away albums that teenbo budget conscious wannabes like myself could get via the mail, though this one is a single album and weren't those all doubles??? I guess you hadda pay a higher price for it because this platter was undoubtedly something that was meant for regular retail, aimed at the more sophisticado listener 'stead of the teenyboppers. But why bother...I mean those other collections (known as "Loss Leaders") might have been filled with gunk but at least you got a few good songs for your money in 'em. NON-DAIRY CREAMER hardly has any...its heavy on the singer/songwriter and intellectual youth sounds that never really gave 1971 a good name, all ending in a heavy rocked up version of "Rumble" by Brownsville Station that would have even made your standard 1959 local kid band's take sound cool and crazy.
***

The Quireboys-HOMEWRECKERS & HEARTBREAKERS 2-CD-r burn (originally on Off Yer Rocks Records)

Hah! The studio material what starts this off actually sounds kinda nice. The singer affects a Rod Steward sperm-coated throat vocal and the band actually sounds like what I would have liked Faces to sound like (who knows, maybe this is what Faces fans think Faces sounded like!). There's even a little bit of the Sidewinders and other early-mid-seventies straight ahead rockers to be found in the sound! Nothing that's gonna make me snatch up any more of this long-lived band's output but I felt it almost as enjoyable as if this were to be some mid-seventies discovery gettin' their dues a good fortysome years after the fact!

Too bad the live material, while good enough, just doesn't rama-lama the fa-fa-fa the way it should. Sounds like an overlong FM radio broadcast which doesn't quite hit the high energy heights it could have. Still pretty hotcha for the studio segment, if you really wanna dish out alla that money for just that.
***

THE ILLUSION CD-r burn (originally on Sinergia Records)

I ain't exactly the kinda guy who cuddles up to early-seventies self-produced laid-back music so why I scooped this one out of the Bill Shute pile I do not know. But then again why Bill Shute would have wanted to send a copy of this to me in the first place is a mystery I'll bet Ellery Queen couldn't solve in a minute! They must be really ethereal over in Hawaii where this one was made because even the token rocking number (every seventies s/s platter just hadda have one!) doesn't spark much if at all. Not much else to say other than if this thing wasn't meant to be a demo for George Harrison's Dark Horse label I dunno what in heck it was supposed to be!
***
SPIELGUSHER CD-r burn (originally on Clenched Wrench)

Dunno how this little gem of a platter slipped through my clams but it did, and although this has been out about five or so years it's like hey, this is perhaps thee outta nowhere surprise of the year which might even chart a top rating once 2017 clocks out!  After all, its platters like this that make the earth rotate and me wanna kick up a little dirt and maybe do something quite OBSCENE, like take double dibs of pudding for dessert its that earth-shattering!

You may remember that planned Forced Exposure single that Richard (formerly R) Meltzer was to have made with then Minutemen Mike Watt and George Hurley, right? Well, this is pretty much what became of that effort a good twentysome years after it was announced only the thing was eventually fleshed out by Meltzer and Watt without Hurley, the other musicians being of the Japanese persuasion and how they got involved I dunno but they sure did and I'm sure glad they did as well!

Meltzer sounds like his typically dirty old punk rocker self on these as he recites out some old faves like "The Sonny Liston Fan Club" along with a variety of things untouched by my ears, or eyes for that matter. The backing music by Watt and the two Japanese fit in swell giving the efforts a bright, jazzy feeling at one time and straight artzy approach the next, but it's always nice and fresh and in fact kinda reminds me of the incidental music I would hear on some weird mid-seventies PBS consumer affairs show that I didn't think sounded bad a-tall! Kinda like the Minutemen when they were striving to get away from their earlier approach yet not quite into their late-eighties dive into the fIREHOUSE mung. A treasure for sure.

Fans of Meltzer's contributions to the Smegma canon should enjoy this, and even a guy like myself who eschewed a good portion of the punk-to-punque-to-aht sound found this a whole lot more adrenaline-pumping than most if not all of the mire that had become of early-eighties hardcore. Another one that like, shoulda gotten out a lot more'n it did.
***
David Bowie-PINUPS RADIO SHOW CD-r burn

Not having heard the original PINUPS platter it was like I was goin' into this blind. Being scared off by the cover as a self-conscious teenbo way back can do strange things to you. But what little of that album that was presented on this special promo package (which I assume was sent to radio stations who promptly tossed it in the waste basket) really ain't that bad, at least compared to some re-dos of various mid-sixties faves years after the fact. Sure Bowie Bowieizes such fave raves by the Yardbirds, Them and Who as you would have guessed, but these covers still retain some of that pre-moosh rock feeling that I really can't complain about this late in the game. Really (if you can believe it), this ain't as bad as all of us Bowie haters thought it was back when the thing came out!!!
***
Various Artists-SHAKE GIRL SPEEDIE SUBSTITUTE CD-r burn (Bill Shute)
Here's a surprisingly even more upbeat 'n usual Bill Shute burn collecting forty-plus minutes of good up-tempo rock 'n roll that tosses some living into your life, or at least attempts to while beating you senseless. Hearing an early Adam Faith and the Roulettes doing "It's Alright" will shake you outta your slumbers while the primitive garage band crank of  The 'In"-Vaders" sounds like a cheap alarm clock ready to fall apart the way it clanks and groans on. Even the neo-Beatles pop of Apple Corps and the"gnu wave"-y stuff sounds fantab by today's sickening standards, and like back in 1980 who woulda thought???.

Take the Speedies for example, this power-pop band from En Why See whose "Can I Take Your Foto" is pretty good straight-ahead rock complete with faux English accents that I'm sure a whole load of people back then coulda gathered about in unbridled joy. Well yeah, all except this rather Pantsios-ish bitch who did an anti-punk rock story for none other'n the tres-chic NEW YORK magazine back '80 way or so who singled out the Speedies in her article because well, she needed a hook and they needed the publicity! I guess the Speedies were rattling her hippie chain by coming out in favor of nuclear energy (a big no-no given just how chic the anti-nuclear movement had become in the wake of Three Mile Island) and that along with a number of opines espoused by  a number of regulars on the scene who rattled her even more was just enough to send her into the comforting arms of...disco which she eventually revealed is where her true music love lied! Kinda makes me wish I could remember her name (some googling might help) just so's I can give her a personal razz the way I did that Simpson dame who wrote the feminist-frothing Harriet Nelson obit way back when but y'know, I somehow get the idea she softened her opinion with the softening of punk rock itself!

Friday, April 07, 2017

SPECIAL REVIEW BY BRAD KOHLER! UGLY THINGS #43!

Everyone and their Aunt Petunia knows UGLY THINGS is the tops. Every issue makes me dig out recordings of whatever bands are featured so that I can sort of rediscover 'em as their saga unfolds. This time around I found out that my Kissing Spell reissue of Bend Wind's LP has a glitch in it. Well, I've had that CD longer than a couple of my cats, so...

Highlights include Ron Swart talking himself into the home of a pleasant if bewildered senior citizen husband and wife on the suspicion that the Music Machine used to rehearse in the basement. Turns out his sleuthing was correct, and you would have thought it was King Phooey's royal chamber pot when he finds the band's name spray painted down below. One day every high energy recording of yore will have been exposed, every reissue reissued, every band practice space rediscovered, and there will be nothing but the slimmest of pickings. You'll have to content yourself with a discography of Mystic Records, maybe the only 80s punk records to DECREASE in value, and there will be nothing but the slimmest of pickings.

Until then, dig into the first part of the story of the Things to Come and the talented and tragic Steve Runolfsson. Right up there with the best the mag has done, and some head spinning twists and turns. Unnatural Axe were a second rate overall outfit, but still enter punk rock Valhalla on the strength of "They Saved Hitler's Brain". The two members of the band sound so excited to recount it all that it might as well be 1978 and they just got some new promo badges. Even better is an interview with Jesse Sublett of Texas punk and rollers the Skunks, someone who has truly earbed the epilet "renaissance man". Harvey Kubernick talks to Travis Pike, who is in the recently rediscovered 1966 movie FEELIN' GOOD. There is a great photo of the gala opening at Boston's Paramount Theater. complete with marching band!

Long Beach garage band Mud talk about their run in with Kim Fowley and being awe stricken  that he had recorded the Belfast Gypsies. And hey, can you ever get enough info on San Fran's ONLY rock 'n roll band, Crime?

About the only thing that didn't grab me by the medulla oblongata was a feature on Ted Newman Jones III who was an ace guitar fashioner for Keith Richards and others. I'm sure Greg Prevost can get excited about the specifics discussed therein but as for me, an auctioneer might as well be describing the subtle differences in Faberge eggs. I'd be thinking the whole time I'd rather have a Cadbury one anyway.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Given that the Fantagraphics published NANCY daily strip series seems to have ground to a stultifying halt it's really hard getting my Ernie Bushmiller fix these days. Thankfully the folks at Golden Age Reprints have come to the aid of many a comic strip fan by reprinting a number of old FRITZI RITZ comic books which, for some extremely odd reason, have fallen into the public domain which only goes to prove that even the eagle eyes at United Features sometimes let these little details slip in the cracks which is their loss but definitely our gain!

Most NANCY fans that I'm aware of aren't even aware that for many years Bushmiller was concurrently doing a solo Fritzi strip. Heck, even I didn't know this until I happened to see a mention of it when I was like a mere ten years old! From what I can tell most papers that were running NANCY didn't even carry FRITZI which only ran on Sundays (Saturday if you're in Canada), and judging from some examples that eventually got reprinted in various NANCY books it was kinda obvious by the comparatively slapdash artwork that Bushmiller probably wasn't even involved with the later comics!

FRITZI RITZ lasted into the mid-sixties and died without anyone noticing. It was more than obvious that NANCY was Bushmiller's bailiwick and like, why exert too much effort on a Sunday only strip that wasn't even getting into many papers and wasn't even being drawn by its creator. But for a comic strip kiddo like me who gobbled up every history of the form book as soon as it hit the library, matters such as a solo FRITZI comic were more'n just "crucial". You can bet that I was on the go for whatever of these comics were available to me, usually via old and tattered copies of SPARKLER, TIP TOP and other reprint titles which thankfully helped fill a dark void that existed in my life.

These comic book reprints are taken from rather beat up (maybe VG- to G+) originals that I assume the people at Golden Age Reprints picked up at some flea market-y antique show recently (the originals don't go for that much lucre). Thus the pages are cream colored and occasionally have those blotches which I usually tend think are age-old food sputters or flicked boogers from some sloppy nine-year-old's nostrils. But you still get the funny stories and even though the color job on these can be atrocious (with totally red faces and blurred lines) you still can osmose all of those great old-timey ranch house fun 'n jamz with these books that remind you of what you used to read during those off times between favorite tee-vee shows and the like.

The United Features titles date from the late-forties and early-fifties and they present a good smattering of old comics, some dating from the late-thirties if my judgement of Bushmiller's artistic de-evolution is accurate. Most feature Fritzi's boyfriend Phil Fumble, a guy who never made it into the original NANCY strip and  has only recently re-appeared along with the likes of Oona who never was in the papers and only existed in the John Stanley-drawn comic books of the sixties. But Phil is a perfect foil for Fritzi, and although Nancy is only occasionally referred to in these strips (I believe I saw her make a brief cameo only once) they are classic bad gag funny and catch you off-guard as true blue fan Bill Griffith said in one of his mid-seventies ZIPPY strips in praise of the then still-pumping on all cylinders Bushmiller.

The same sorta surprise snap is to be found here and anyone who grew up with the Bushmiller NANCY is bound to go fanabla over these. And not only that but United Features decided to pad these books out with other titles from their stable from PEANUTS and ABBIE AND SLATS to such long-forgotten yet still good enough titles like Russell Patterson's MAMIE and the BELIEVE IT OR NOT swipe STRANGE AS IT MAY SEEM. In all a nice li'l bit of comic history that will remind you of just how good the funny pages used to be before the onslaught of the hippie generation and their quotas over quality mindset. The only thing about these I didn't go for were the new stories done up by some guy going by the name of "Dib", whose various characters such as "Bill Bumble" come off as common comic book filler that lacks the verve 'n imagination we actually bought these comics for!

The Dell comics entry dates from '58 and, like the NANCY title from the same time, features nothing but all new stories that were probably (most likely definitely) delineated by longtime comic book veteran John Stanley who was also being overworked on a variety of Dell titles such as LITTLE LULU, MILTON THE MONSTER and naturally NANCY at approximately the same time. But don't worry, the art is impeccable Bushmillerian and the stories match up with anything NANCY's creator cooked up for the papers and if you get these either from Golden Age or by raiding your cousin's comic book stash you're bound to come up with some good reading for those boring Sunday afternoons when you should be out there riding bikes and doing alla that kid stuff the parents sez is good for ya (but we know better, 'eh?).

Lets just say that comes next payday I know where a good hunk of my next check is goin' and it ain't towards a nose hair trimmer that's for sure! And not only that but these are guaranteed to have more staying power than anything Lynda Barry has come up with! FRITZI RITZ or RHYMES WITH ORANGE...the choice is up to YOU!!!!!