Damnit Vincent

shadow_magazine_vol_1_96 It takes a special kind of sidekick to COMPLETELY misapprehend the situation and get jumped, knocked out and hogtied TWICE by TWO DIFFERENT OPPONENTS in THE SAME CHAPTER. The Shadow may take precautions against chance itself but yet he still employs HARRY VINCENT?? Gah.

On the other hand, I too am employed and wonder why my bosses put up with me some times so….

Overheard in the vet office (repost)

“Where’s R?”
“R can’t come now, she’s got a seizuring chicken.”
“Oh.”

“Hey R. That chicken not cooperating?”
“The chicken’s dead.”
“Oh.”

“Someone wants to know if you castrate goats.”
“I’ll castrate anything with nuts on.”

“–’cause horses, horses are just looking for a way to die.”
“Yep. Horses are simple animals. I keep telling people, they have only got room for two thoughts: homicide and suicide.

QuikReview: The Light of The Western Stars (1940)

Primarily a romance. Also note the prominent, witnessing presence of the dumb sidekick, because those always make romances better.

 

So I also watched The Light of the Western Stars from 1940, a Zane Grey adaptation that stars absolutely no one you’ve heard of except possibly Victor Jory, who was in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and yes okay fine, also The Shadow serial from 1937 and no I haven’t watched that yet, I’m saving it. This movie couldn’t have done his career any favors, though, because it’s pretty terrible. (It also has a pre-stardom Alan Ladd in a bit part, but you won’t notice him unless you’re looking pretty darned close.)

Now, I’ve also started the book. The book is basically a romance, and it’s correspondingly scanty on plot, but what there is so far (I’m at about the 1/3 mark) goeth thusly: Madeline Hammond, an independently and inheritedly-wealthy celebrated socialite, goes west to visit her wastrel brother, who has been disinherited for his weird and unfashionable ideas such as “earning money,” “doing hard work,” and “associating with commoners like cowboys, how droll.” 

Madeline promptly smacks into one such cowboy, the basically good-natured but also completely drunk and notably hell-raising Gene Stewart, who has made a bet to marry the first girl who comes into town. Madeline and the local padre both get strong-armed as far as the “Si,” before Stewart gets to the business of asking her name–and stops dead in his tracks at the reply. Alfred Hammond, you see, is highly regarded by his men, and report of Alfred’s beautiful, accomplished, and athletic sister “Majesty” Hammond has particularly reached to Gene Stewart. The duo agree to say nothing of what happened, ever, and it seems to be resolved when Stewart promptly gets into a fight with the corrupt local sheriff and heads over the border to join the Mexican rebels. 

Madeline, who in the book at least is a heroine that excels in brains as well as in beauty and virtue, not only finds that Western life agrees with her, but decides to invest her money into expanding, modernizing, and improving her brother’s failing ranch operation. Things go splendidly for a while, especially with such improvements as less wanton cruelty to animals. Gene Stewart eventually reappears, having won fame in the fighting but also having started to drink himself seriously to death. Madeline persuades him to straighten himself out and work as her foreman. The sexual tension thus remains high but the plot remains low, mostly provided by the suspicious Mexican rancher Don Carlos and his revealed aims to smuggle arms to whatever side  is currently buying…and so on and so forth, plus or minus random outlaw raids on the ranch because by golly if you have a heroine she needs to get rescued. Simple facts of life.

The book is pretty purple, but remains easy reading for two simple facts: one, I skim-read any paragraphs of dialogue that could be summarized to the first or last sentence; and two, the characters are compelling. Madeline (in the book) is as close to the ideal heroine as a writer could sit down and plan out point by point: incredibly beautiful and a great rider (trusted with Gene Simmons’ own beloved horse), intelligent enough to own and run her own business, tactful enough to manage “twenty-seven incomprehensible cowboys,” twenty-six of which are in love with her and the last of which proceeds to elope with her maid; and, also, needing to be rescued but suitably calm during the process and grateful to her rescuer afterwards. The slice-of-life sections of the book–Madeline adjusting to the Western life and dealing with the cowboys, sometimes with the sly guidance of old-timer Stillwell–are actually the highlights thus far. 

Now, the movie: the movie is quite short (just over an hour, it seems), and even this effort was beyond the capabilities of the writers. With the exception of a few bits taken directly from the book and thus built on a much better framework than the scriptwriters were capable of producing, the movie lurches from scene to scene in a manner that can’t really be dignified with the term “plot,” because there’s no coherence or continuity between each aside from the names of the characters or the actors playing them. More distractingly yet, the script lurches from line to line within each scene, and some of the lines are rather good, and the rest of them aren’t.

Back to Victor Jory. He plays Gene Stewart, who in the books is a rather distant and mysterious figure as befits the male love interest. Since the movie shifts protagonists from Madeline to Gene, he’s on screen most of the time, and he’s electric. He’s really great. He’s the reason any of the scenes work by themselves. Now, credit where credit is due: Madeline is played by someone named Jo Ann Sayers, and when she has even the slightest semblance of material to work with, she goes for it, too, and she’s watchable. Everyone else is just…there.

Oh, and there’s a fistfight that to my eye was actually pretty exciting and realistic, as it as it’s mostly two really angry guys grappling and trying to get the distance to swing a punch. Alas, it is also just about the only action scene in the movie, with the exception of a horse chase filmed at a very, very long distance. (Was that Trigger? It might have been Trigger. It was definitely a palomino.)

Anyhow. I definitely am going to finish the book, even if I have to skim-read it.

Rated: Well, it was an hour of my life that I would have also spent unproductively if I had done otherwise, so….

 

QuikReview: Whirlpool (1950)

So I also watched:

Whirlpool (1950) – starring Gene Tierney, Charles Bickford, Richard Conte (the poor man’s Gary Merill), and Jose Ferrer. It was directed by Otto Preminger, who also directed a bunch of other famous noirs you may have heard of and I have watched.

This is a melodrama, not a noir, and this is made evident by the climactic gunfight and desperate chase through alleyways of shifting shadows and muy chiaroscuro completely not happening.

Basically, Gene Tierney is the loving–but deeply troubled–wife of a doctor who has gained prominence and fame as a psychoanalyst. He’s kind of a jackass, though, because although she comes from money, he’s insisted that she take up with him from scratch as a poor doctor’s wife (….what a doofus) and this has combined with her previous money/daddy/control issues. Her form of lashing out is kleptomania, but the side effects are anxiety and severe insomnia. And unfortunately an attempted theft brings her into the orbit of hypnotist and conman “Dr” Korvo.

Tierney is persuaded that Korvo can cure her insomnia via hypnotism. Naturally, he has additional plans: to whit, framing her for murder–and her efforts to make their meetings platonic and public end up backfiring….especially to her husband. Korvo, meanwhile, has what looks like an air-tight alibi: while the murder occurred at eight o’clock, he was having his gall bladder removed at six. Everyone also proceeds to not ask obvious questions such as, “what about accomplices?” “could a physically unimpressive woman have strangled another woman without any signs of struggle whatsoever?” or, “If there’s a police doctor who is also a psychologist, why doesn’t Ann just talk to him? Or even her lawyer?”

Nevertheless, the movie’s great strength is Gene Tierney. Someone who struggled with mental illness and personal tragedies, she’s incredible watchable and sympathetic as someone struggling with mental illness and the resultant incredible difficulty that having to doubt everything your brain tells you causes. Also she’s incredibly beautiful and intensely charismatic. Watching her, you’re in it for the character and her troubles, instead of the (honestly pretty thin) plot.

The rest of the cast fades in comparison, but is still pretty darned good when considered alone. Jose Ferrer is controlled and eternally-smug, even while bleeding out. Conte is far less sympathetic than he could be, but that’s rather the point of his character. Bickford, playing the homicide detective and faced with the over-the-top emotional shenanigans, is wry rather than ascerbic and fair when he could be harsh.

Still, honestly, the lack of fistfights, gunfights, car chases, or at the very least some intense interplay of light and shadow while walking down the street to an old-school orchestra while bad guys are lurking at the other end–or something–really does add up.

Rated: Just one gunfight. Just one.

Read/watchlist

Readlist: Via Town Library B, I have acquired

Tarzan Alive – Phillip Jose Farmer. I have been trying to get ahold of this book since I was approximately ten years old. Hopefully it’ll be…ok…

The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien. This is actually the third or fourth copy of The Hobbit I’ve purchased. The other ones have all walked off or been given away (one of them to a heretic who thought The Hobbit movies were pretty good.) I have a feeling this one will walk too, but, well, who knows.

Watchlist:

Shadow – directed by Zhang Yimou. You know, the guy who made House of Flying Daggers and Curse of the Golden Flower. Apparently those weren’t enough to relieve his desire to Kill ‘Em All, because…. It’s main gimick is that it’s a black and white movie, shot on color film, and also it rains continuously throughout. Now, I actually like old movies, and I don’t mind black and white, but this one failed to land for me because it was simply too obvious. Everything just looked like it was made of black or white material regardless of whether or not it needed to be, and everyone’s faces just looked desaturated. The continuous rain was actually a good touch, though.

So it’s about this guy who is the body double to the General. He’s just challenged the Enemy General to a one-on-one duel for the fate of City. This is highly undesired by the foppish and seemingly-weak Emperor for multiple reasons, among them the fact that he’s going to lose the duel. The double/Shadow is demoted and disgraced, and the Emperor decides he’s going to make a quick marriage alliance offer up, starring his headstrong sister. The offer comes back with a counteroffer: the enemy prince is willing to take her as a concubine, but not a wife. Meanwhile, the General’s wife (who is in on the impersonation thing) comes up with a way to defeat the Enemy’s til-now undefeatable spear technique. It involves fighting with umbrellas, but y’know, the way this movie goes you just roll with it. There’s also a squad of desperate outlaws who have been offered their lives if they help take the City….and then the Princess joins them.

So things go until we get to the duel and then the battle and the weaponized umbrellas (yeah, really) then around half of the named cast dying and somehow we still have forty-five minutes to go and somehow it gets even more intense from there and yet still manages to end on a cliffhanger. That is real skill.

Rated: my watch thought I was napping the whole time but I surely wasn’t.

…baby it’s cold outside…

I've got to go out
but baby it's cold outside
my laptop's all sync'd
but baby it's cold outside
I'm just being a wimp today
but baby it's bad today
the roads are all clear right now
baby it's frozen right now
I really must head out soon
baby it's chilly out there
We drove in the snow before
but baby its cold outside
The waters are gonna be frozen
'cause baby it's cold outside
the bedding might not be fluffed
'cuz baby it's cold outside
I've worked in the rain before
but baby it's cold outside
late night isn't scary no more
but baby it's cold outside
There's such a big box of files to scan
'cause baby it's cold outside....

Frazetta Friday

The Mucker and its sequel, Return of the Mucker, are E.R. Burroughs novels about the kind of guy who might be a third-class mook in some of his other novels. The Mucker is a thug from Chicago with no talents, no prospects, no education, and no morals.

Somehow he develops all of these after fighting degenerated headhunter samurai after being shipwrecked on a Pacific island along with a parcel of high society dudes including a beautiful and nervy girl who is good with a wakizashi. (Not making that up.)

The Return of the Mucker switches genres to Western, but I never got ahold of it to finish.

Overheard or witnessed

“Well, it’ll go fine as long as everybody does OK at the v–at the doctor.”

“I know nothing. I just show up here now.”

“It’s not the end of the world, but it is a 100$ fine.”
Ooo.”

“Good afternoon!”
“Oh is it afternoon already? I’ve been here longer than I thought. They have caracals.”

“Has anybody seen No Way Home?
“No.”
“Uh-uh.”
“Riders, have you seen it?”
“Nope.”
“You didn’t ask me if I saw it.”
“Have you seen it?”
“No :3”

“One of my friends is doing the Daniel Plan for the new year. That’s where you don’t eat anything that doesn’t come from a seed. I thought about it, but no way. No sweet creamer in my coffee? Uh-uh.”
“…so you can’t put milk in your coffee?”
“Milk comes from a cow.”
“….but it’s natural…..?”
“But it doesn’t come from a seed.”
“But you can have almond milk.”
“Have you ever milked an almond?”

Review: The Shadow Magazine – The Python

Shadow_Magazine_Vol_1_90TLDR: Wow, this one starts off with a bang and then it just keeps going. I mean, I rushed over to come write a specific review of it for you guys, it’s really good.

So what, exactly, is a supervillain? I’ve come to the conclusion it’s a gang leader who has come up with what he thinks is a cool name for himself. The actual size of his organization, their competence, his intellect, and their modus operandi are all completely up to chance. Problem is, the names tend to be pretty damn goofy and when they try to follow through and theme-name their lieutenants, it just gets worse. When The Cobra’s mooks start signing off as “Fang 2,” “Fang 3,” etc, it’s really kind of hard to take seriously. And The Python is even worse, because he has five Coilmasters and they all have Coils, and it’s…kind of adorably not nearly as cool as they think it is. I mean, about the most you can go for if you want to name your henchmen, is “Hands,” and that’s because things such as “my right hand,” are already established parts of language. Start talking about “Fingers,” and you’ve lost it.

Overall, honestly, The Shadow’s supervillain antagonists are hard for me to take seriously, even when they really are genuine threats. I mean, even though The Death Giver had a tortured man entombed in the floor of his supervillain lair as decor….said lair was also literally a converted apartment building and The Death Giver was just unhinged, almost as pitiable as he was malevolent. Needing to be squidged out like a bug, of course, but not hateful. Mostly, this is because of the mystery-focused setup of the plots: we rarely see the ultimate villains in their true guise until the denouement when the mask is jerked off and they invariably start frothing at the mouth and waving a gun and/or death ray around–so without getting actual development, they stay cartoonish.

But on the other hand, when there is a mastercrook who is smart enough to a) recognize that The Shadow is likely to become involved, b) plan appropriately by having an overwhelming firepower advantage, things can and do get pretty hot for our hero. The Plot Master was such a one, with brilliant ideas as, “make sure there’s enough sharpshooters holding the lines of retreat open,” and “detail enough men to keep the police busy elsewhere.”

And needless to say, such is also the case with The Python.

So! Remember how Gibson knew how to shake things up with his plot? This one starts off where most stories would put the mid-book crisis: with The Shadow an unconscious, helpless prisoner, directly identified to his enemies and in their grip, with a chunk of his plans revealed to them and no hope of outside rescue. (Not that The Shadow ever gets rescued, and the author takes pains to point this out: at the most, he gets “aid,” or reinforcements. Damsels get rescued. Damsels, and Harry Vincent, but never mind….)

See, there’s this guy who is trying to broker a deal to sell some jewels, a guy who has the actual jewels, a guy they’re trying to sell the jewels for, a guy they’re trying to sell the jewels to, and that guy’s lawyer. And then there’s The Python, who is after those jewels, and then all of his Coilmasters (lol) and their Coils (lolol). Said gems are, at the onset, on a ship heading up the coastline towards New York, and their keeper (Louis Breevort), is being clandestinely guarded by Harry Vincent and Cliff Marsland. No, he doesn’t actually die! And the jewels don’t actually get stolen! It’s amazing! Harry Vincent does get a mild concussion, though. I mean, that’s to be expected. But he does throw Breevort a life preserver first, and that works.

In fact, the only ones who do get murdered are the people who don’t have The Shadow or his agents protecting them, and who make the mistake of coming out of hiding and publically blurting their identities and addresses–complete with room number, seriously guys?–out for everyone to hear. Some people just can’t be helped.

Anyhow, it turns out that The Python is a master of disguise almost as good as The Shadow. He has a communications array that is not quite as good as The Shadow’s (because it’s way more noticeable than a weekly radio broadcast….???) and run by a Burbank-counterpart who is…a hunchbacked mute who answers the telephone only via weird croaks. (There is a marvellous scene, when The Shadow and Burbank do overrun The Python’s comms room, of Burbank practicing his croaks while the actual operator, tied up on the floor, glares on.) The Python is also smart enough to respond to the threat The Shadow poses with the appropriate measures–overwhelming force. And this leads to a scene where The Shadow is faced with escape from ambush in a metal-walled room where he’s locked in, covered from two sides, and also considering the idea that there might be a machine gun trained on him as well. (How he escapes is also worth the epic treatment.)

And so it goes, with improbable but hair-raising escapes, massive but allowable coincidences that enable the plot to continue, sheer efforts of iron will, cleverness, sneakiness, dastardliness, mystery, and also some daring rescues–and it’s all the more satisfying when The Shadow finally does unleash his laugh and his .45s.

Rated: This one. I really like this one.