ALL PULP FLASHBACK-REVIEWS!!!
Remember that movie Derrick reviewed? Or that series Barry called ‘one of the best out there’? No? Well, below you will find reviews from our first month in our continuing effort to save our work and revamp our little home here!! Re-read them as if it were the first time!!
REVIEWS FROM THE 86TH FLOOR – Book Reviews by Barry Reese
FIRST WAVE #4
Brian Azzarello & Rags Morales
The fourth issue in the First Wave “kick-off” limited series is finally here, despite the fact that the line has progressed far beyond it at this point. As with the first three issues, the art is stellar — Rags Morales is one of the best working in comics today and I enjoyed his interpretations of Doc Savage, The Spirit, Rima and The Bat Man quite a bit.
Unfortunately, the story is still a bit of a mess, with an unclear plot-line and some unlikeable characterization along the way. How does Doc Savage know the Golden Tree is evil? Because they claim to be interested in promoting peace but they haven’t invited him to be a member, and he’s practically the face of fighting for peace! I’ve seen some reviewers online who seem to like that reasoning but it stopped me in my tracks and made me wonder just how big Doc’s ego is supposed to be. They must be evil because they didn’t invite me to join? What?
I did enjoy The Bat Man’s internal narration at the end and there is an undeniable thrill to seeing Doc alongside The Spirit and Bat Man but if this is the best DC can do with these characters, I think the First Wave isn’t going to be around much longer.
Written by Philip Jose Farmer & Win Scott Eckert
Directed by Jon Turtletaub
THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN
20th Century Fox
Produced by Trevor Albert and Don Murphy
Directed by Stephen Norrington
Screenplay by James Robinson
Based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill
The concept of THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN is so simple that I’m honestly surprised nobody before Alan Moore thought of it. Here it is in a nutshell: From time to time many of the great fictional heroes (and sometimes villains) of the past and present have found it necessary to come together to form an alliance against evil so overwhelming that it threatens to conquer or destroy the world. They do so under the authority of a special Branch of The British Secret Service, under the direction of a mysterious figure known only as M. This alliance is known as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It is rumored that members of Leagues past and present have included Dr. Syn, Sherlock Holmes, Captain Blood, Lemuel Gulliver, Robin Hood, Tarzan, Doc Savage, The Shadow, James Bond, and many, many others. But for the purposes of this review we’re going to look at a particularly unique grouping of The League, one led by the world famous adventurer Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery)
THE LONG MATINEE – Movie Reviews by Derrick Ferguson
TIPPIN’ HANCOCK’S HAT-Reviews by Tommy Hancock
FROM THE VAULT: THE PULP FILES
MOONSTONE BOOKS-THE RETURN OF THE ORIGINALS
Wow. If it were kosher to leave one word reviews, then that would be my one word. This fine compendium of fact sheets on pulp characters that will appear in Moonstone’s RETURN OF THE ORIGINALS line does not tell a story in a traditional comic sense, but it sure weaves a tale of heroes, tragedy, justice, and redemption like none you’ve ever read. From The Spider to the Green Lama to The Golden Amazon and Death Angel (Who? Why new additions to the genre of course), the breadth of pulp history that is covered in these 36 pages is astounding. The file like look of the fact sheets is awesome and the accompanying art, pretty much a pin up with each fact sheet, makes me not only want to see this line of books, but wants Moonstone to tackle ALL the pulp heroes AND villains in this format, just for informational purposes for us writers!
Five out of Five Tips of Hancock’s Hat-and if you didn’t hear me the first time…wow.
TIPPIN’ HANCOCK’S HAT-Reviews by Tommy Hancock
Although this story is not newly published, it is one that bears reviewing, primarily because several people have mentioned it to me as ‘a story you just have to read’ or ‘the best Spider story ever.’ With praise like that, I had to look for myself.
Is it the best Spider story ever? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s close. Did it turn out to be something I just had to read. You bet your pointed teeth and spider ring it did!
In ten pages, Martin Powell twists a tale that in all honesty comes in at the middle. It’s a typical Spider and pulp type tale, Bad guy has the Spider’s beloved captured and is delivering chemical vengeance on the city and it’s up to the Spider to stop him. But what Powell works into this in a short space is pathos, action, romance, and character education as well as development. If you read this story and know nothing of the Spider, this ten pages gives you enough to say you know something about the character.
The art of Tom Floyd blends well with the storytelling in this tale. It’s classic art on one hand, yet disturbing on the other. The reason it’s disturbing is even though the Spider’s world is dark and scary, Floyd’s art makes it look very much like..our world. This story because of its art and its human portrayal of this most inhuman acting character hits a really poignant note of realism.
ALL PULP REVIEWS By Ron Fortier
By James Rollins
When a book mixes science, religious philosophy and secret societies dating back to the Nazis, you can expect a real spicy pulp stew. Veterinarian turned thriller novelist James Rollins delivers just that and the meal is absolutely scrumptious for the first page bite to the last closing line morsel. Easily one of the best modern pulp adventures I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.
The adventure opens during the closing days of World War II when allied forces are racing against each other to lay claim to Germany’s scientific innovations developed during the war to include everything from rocket propulsion to medical experimentation.
Amidst this chaos, one German commando unit is attempting to flee the invaders and smuggle out the results of an amazing breakthrough in quantum physics that could alter the shape of mankind forever. Along with these papers and artifacts is a baby unlike any other in the world; the first of a race of true supermen.
Like any good thriller writer, Rollins then jumps ahead in time to the present where members of a special Washington based group known as Sigma Force are involved with what they believe to two distinct missions. The first is an antique book auction being held in Copenhagen and the second is a distress call from a Tibetan monk residing in a monastery located deep in the Himalayas. Commander Gray Pierce follows the European case which centers around a group of killers eager to get their hands on Darwin’s Bible. It supposedly contains secret runes put their by a former German scientist involved with a secret project known only as the Bell. At the same time, Sigma Director Painter Crowe arrives in Tibet, only to find the monks have somehow gone insane and murdered each other. No sooner does he uncover this horror then he is captured and taken to a hidden mountain lair operated by the descendants of the very same German researchers who developed this mysterious Bell.
Rollins’ genius is that he keeps both plot threads moving at breakneck speed, constantly putting Pierce and Crowe in cliffhanger perils and then deftly jumping from one to the other. Thus the action seems to flow non-stop, scene after exciting scene. He also glues these action set pieces with thought provoking debates on what is evolution and where do science and religion meet in its process. Is there a grand design and will quantum physics someday open the blueprint to creation? That these weighty dissertations occur while men are being shot at, mountains exploding and mutated monsters roam the jungles of South Africa is all part of the roller-coaster ride BLACK ORDER delivers.
Recently a friend wrote asking me to passing along names of people I considered to be top-notch modern day pulp writers. James Rollins was at the top of the list I passed along and BLACK ORDER reaffirms that choice beautifully.
Directed and Produced by Warren Beatty
Written by Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr.
Based on the characters and comic strip created by Chester Gould
So I’m at home taking care of some chores since Patricia and I are trying to get the house in order for Labor Day Weekend. I take the opportunity to burn some movies from one of my DVRs to DVD and free up some recording space and two of those movies happen to be the Tim Burton “Batman” and DICK TRACY. Patricia is curious as to why I put the both of them on the same DVD. I shrug. I dunno. Just worked out that way.
She has a different theory. “Maybe because your subconscious made the connection that if Bruce Wayne had decided to be a cop instead of Batman he’d be Dick Tracy?”
Actually, I think it had more to do with the fact that both movies together had enough running time to fit on one four hour DVD but I have to admit that Patricia may just have a point. Batman and Dick Tracy have an awful lot in common. Both men have sacrificed normal lives to wage an unending war on crime. Both fight bizarre villains with outrageous physical and psychological deformities. Both utilize advanced technology in their work and both wear distinctive outfits that identify them immediately so you have no doubt whom you’re dealing with.
This is never more apparent than in the scene where we first see Dick Tracy (Warren Beatty) clearly when he steps out of a police car wearing a black suit, white shirt, red tie and yellow trench coat with matching hat. Now no self-respecting cop in the real world is going to wear a getup like that but hey, this is DICK TRACY we’re talking about and the way Warren Beatty wears the clothes and plays the character, we buy into it with no problem. He’s Dick Tracy.
Dick Tracy has been summoned to a massive mob rubout. Big Boy Caprice (Al Pacino) has made his move to take over The City. He’s rubbed out his major rival Lips Manliss (Paul Sorvino) and seized all of his assets, including his sizzling hot girlfriend Breathless Mahoney (Madonna) who’s also the best singer in The City, backed up by her master pianist 88 Keys (Mandy Patinkin)
Dick Tracy isn’t able to get the goods on Big Boy, not even after sweating Big Boy’s stooges Mumbles (Dustin Hoffman) Flattop (William Forsythe) and Itchy (Ed O’Ross). But he’s not about to let Big Boy have his way in his town and he goes on a crime busting crusade that would make The Dark Knight himself envious. While Dick Tracy is cleaning up the town against such miscreants such as The Brow (Chuck Hicks) Pruneface (R.G. Armstrong) and Spud Spaldoni (James Caan). He’s also got to deal with other matters such as his relationship with his longtime girlfriend Tess Trueheart (Glenne Headley) who’s starting to think that maybe there’s not much future in being involved a man whose true love is fighting crime. And then there’s The Kid (Charlie Korsmo) a street urchin who comes to live with Dick Tracy after
DICK TRACY originally showed up in theatres the year after the wildly successful Tim Burton “Batman” and it was pretty obvious that Touchstone Pictures/Disney was trying to generate the same kind of hysteria “Batman” had generated and they came pretty close. The DICK TRACY logo was almost as ubiquitous as the Bat symbol had been the summer before and the media hype generated was at a fever pitch, fueled mostly by the Madonna/Warren Beatty romance that had begun while they were filing this movie. But despite all the hoopla that DICK TRACY would be another “Batman”, it stands up as a unique interpretation of the character. I like how everything in this world has only primary colors and most of the time everything is staged as if the action is supposed to be in individual comic panels. And there’s no product placement at all here. When
That’s not to say that there’s not things about the movie I don’t like. Much as I love Madonna I wish the movie had spent less time with her trying to vamp Dick Tracy and more time with him going toe-to-toe with the various bizarre crime bosses of The City in tommy-gun shootouts. I mean, this movie has great visual bad guys like Littleface, The Brow, Influence and Mumbles and most of them we see only enough of to get us interested in and then they’re either bumped off or we never see them again. I also don’t like the music by Danny Elfman. He’d just done the soundtrack for “Batman” the year before and indeed, a lot of the music in DICK TRACY sounds like music left over from “Batman”
But then there’s the extraordinary visual style of the movie, which suckers me in every time. And the performances of Warren Beatty and Al Pacino. Warren Beatty really seems to be having fun playing Dick Tracy and I wished he could have made a sequel. He manages to be unbearably square and awfully cool at the same time and as I said earlier, I don’t think there’s another actor who could wear a bright yellow coat and hat while looking cool. Glenne Headly as Tess Trueheart is really good. I like how she lets
And there’s a remarkable amount of talent in DICK TRACY. You oughta see it just for the cast alone. You’ve got Warren Beatty, Al Pacino, James Caan, William Forsythe, Ed O’Ross, Glenne Headly, Seymour Cassel, Charles Durning, Allan Garfield, John Schuck, Charlie Fleischer (we all love him as the voice of Roger Rabbit) Mandy Patinkin, Madonna, Paul Sorvino, James Tolkan, Dustin Hoffman, Kathy Bates, Dick Van Dyke, fer crying out LOUD! Colm Meany (from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) Catherine O’Hara, Henry Silva, Mary Woronov, Michael J. Pollard (Warren Beatty’s co-star from “Bonnie & Clyde”) and Mike Mazurki….whew….and that’s not even half of the cameos you can spot when you really try.So should you see DICK TRACY? Sure. I don’t see why you wouldn’t. Yeah, it may not have a lot of over-the-top violence and sex and cussing and all of those things. But it’s just plain old fun to watch. It’s a movie you can pop into the DVD player, sit back with your beverage and snacks of choice and just have a good time watching. And it’s for that reason that I suspect it’ll be a favorite of many for a long time. I know it’ll be one of mine. Enjoy.
Art by Hannibal King
THE PHANTOM UNMASKED is a very complex, yet very fast tale. The Phantom, although it is about him, plays more of a backseat role initially to the quest for information about him. An old enemy desires to know all he can of the Phantom and hires a well known lady investigator for hire to gather the information. Laughton Brice, one of the most striking female characters I’ve seen in a long time, both in artistic rendering and overall development, overlooks the holes in her employer’s story and dives into the search. Why? Not just for the money, but for her own reasons. Powell captures well the purpose of this story. It is about searching, finding oneself. Finding the good, the bad, the hero, the villain. That is done extremely well in the first issue. What is done even better in the second issue is the other half of the point. Once you find what and who you are, the hardest part is actually looking upon your true self. The second issue sees some stripped clean of any camouflage, others forced to face their own secrets, and still others refusing to understand. And the title of the series holds a very special literal meaning that was not only expected, but also angered me in a very, very positive way. You’ll see when you read it.
As concise and tight as the writing is, the art is built to match. King’s images are sleek, suggestive, and move the story along wonderfully. Both issues gallop along with the speed of a 1940s serial cast in stark bright color. The team that took Powell’s tale and drew from it these wonderful images deserves as much credit as the storyteller himself.
In no way does THE PHANTOM UNMASKED disappoint. It is a taut, revealing story that touches all the right places to make one care for or despise characters, or maybe a little of both for some.
Five out of Five Tips of Hancock’s Hat (Five tips are reserved only for those who have channeled Dent, Gibson, Page, or one of the long gone, but not forgotten greats.)
THE LONG MATINEE-Movie Reviews by Derrick Ferguson
Produced by Robert Evans and Alan Ladd, Jr.
Directed by Simon Wincer
Written by Jeffrey Boam
Based on “The Phantom” created by Lee Falk
I have absolutely no idea why some movies become major hits and others fail miserably. Especially a movie such as THE PHANTOM which ranks right up there with “Superman: The Movie” Tim Burton’s first “Batman” “Batman Begins” “Spider-Man” “The Rocketeer” and “The Hulk” as one of the best superhero movies ever made. Hell, it’s a damn good movie, period. The cast is outstanding, the locations beautiful, the action non-stop, the music appropriately heroic and romantic. This was a movie that should have been a blockbuster hit in theatres. But it failed to find an audience. I was one of those who saw it during the original theatrical run. I went during a matinee and there was just myself and two guys in their seventies who remembered reading “The Phantom” in the newspapers as kids. We all had a great time watching the movie. Since then I’ve recommended THE PHANTOM to a lot of people who have seen it and loved it. They claim that they never saw advertisements for the movie but that may be just as well. The tagline for the movie was so colossally stupid I hope the egg roll that thought of it was demoted to Junior Washroom Attendant (What the hell was ‘Slam Evil!’ supposed to mean?)
It may be that people just looked at the ads and assumed that The Phantom was a rip-off of Batman set in the jungle. Actually, The Phantom debuted in 1936 and Batman didn’t appear until 1939. Indeed, The Phantom is credited as being the very first costumed superhero. But so many things that made The Phantom unique has been taken as adopted by creators of other superheroes that it’s not surprising that many modern day viewers dismissed the movie as being an attempt to cash in on the popularity of Batman and Spider-Man. Which is really a shame. THE PHANTOM is remarkably faithful to the source material and a movie done with a tremendous amount of respect and love for the character.
The origins of The Phantom are told to us during the credits: In 1516 a young boy named Kit Walker is serving as cabin boy aboard his father’s ship. During a routine voyage to Africa to trade goods the ruthless Singh Brotherhood, a feared band of pirates, attacks the ship. The boy Kit is the only survivor and escapes to be washed up on the shores of Bengalla. The Bandar tribe who teach them his language befriends him. Kit finds the body of his father, partially eaten by scavengers. He takes his father skull and swears an oath upon it: Kit and all his descendants will combat piracy in all its forms. And so The Phantom is born. When one Phantom dies, his eldest son takes on the role of The Phantom. As a result, there is a myth that The Phantom cannot die and is immortal. He is known the world over as The Ghost Who Walks and it is this belief that is The Phantom’s strongest weapon in his battle against evil. Only the Bandar tribe, the wives and family of the various Phantoms know the true secret.
THE PHANTOM takes place in 1936 where the current Phantom/Kit Walker (Billy Zane) finds himself up against Xander Drax (Treat Williams) a millionaire industrialist/crimelord who is searching for the Three Skulls Of Togunda: mystical artifacts that when brought together will give him ultimate power. Drax has two formidable henchmen in the mercenary Quill (James Remar) who killed the 20th Phantom (Patrick McGoohan) and female martial arts expert/pilot Sala (Catherine Zeta-Jones). But The Phantom has help from the equally formidable Diana Palmer (Kristy Swanson, the original Buffy The Vampire Slayer, yay!) who has uncovered a connection between Drax and The Singh Brotherhood. Diana’s a plucky, adventurous girl with a mean right hook that still carries a big torch for a boy she loved in college. They had thought about getting married but his father died and he had to leave The United States to take over the family business. The boy’s name was Kit Walker.
Diana and The Phantom meet after Diana’s plane is forced down by Sala and her crew of female fighter plane pilots and The Phantom has to rescue her from a tramp steamer crewed by merciless killers. From then, it’s on to New York where Diana and Kit have a reunion that’s both painful and touching. But then Diana is once again kidnapped by Drax and his crew and taken to the horrifying island fortress of The Singh Brotherhood located in The Devil’s Vortex, from which no man ever returns. But it’s there that the third skull is located, held by the bloodthirsty Kabai Sengh (Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa) the current leader of The Singh Brotherhood. And they have their own plans for the Three Skulls…a plan that will also end their 400-year-old war with The Phantom…
Anybody who knows me knows I eat up this stuff and totally choke on it. I’ve seen THE PHANTOM perhaps a dozen times and I’ll gladly watch it a dozen more. It’s simply terrific superhero stuff that has a thick layer of pulp action adventure that is presented in such a fun way that I honestly don’t see how anybody couldn’t watch this movie without a goofy grin of delight on his or her face. Billy Zane is totally perfect in the role of The Phantom/Kit Walker in the same way Michael Keaton was perfect for Batman/Bruce Wayne and Christopher Reeve was perfect for Superman/ Clark Kent.
I really like how The Phantom is presented in this movie. First of all, Billy Zane insisted that the suit not be padded. So those muscles you see are actually his. And yeah, Billy Zane wears a purple bodysuit and makes it look damn cool. But the suit isn’t a bright purple. It’s a dark, muted purple that is even darker by what appears to be black tribal markings/tattoos on the suit that brings down the purple even more. It gives The Phantom’s costume the appearance of a tribal ceremonial garb he’s adopted for his purposes which works well with the jungle background of the character. And The Phantom is wonderfully low tech. He gets around on a magnificent Arabian stallion named Hero. His enforcer is a wolf named Devil. He carries no gadgets, just two black .45 automatics that he uses with such skill that he can knock a gun out of a man’s hand with a single shot. His radio is operated by his faithful servant/boyhood chum Guran (Radmar Agana Jao) who has to pedal the electric motor to give it power. Guran also won’t let you smoke in The Phantom’s base of operations, The Skull Cave.
It makes for a terrifically physical hero who relies more on his wits, brains and athletic abilities to get out of scrapes than we’re used to in these kind of movies. The Phantom can’t pull stuff out of his utility belt to get out of trouble which makes for a lot of really tense action scenes where you’re really wondering: “How’s he going to get outta this one?”
If you don’t know that I totally love Kristy Swanson, then be advised now that I do. I remember seeing the original “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” movie she starred in back in 1992 and I immediately became infatuated with her. And I love her in THE PHANTOM. She’s a vastly underrated actress who should have had a bigger career. She deserves it. She’s gorgeous, she’s intelligent and every time she’s on screen you believe what she’s doing. James Remar and Catherine Zeta-Jones have a great deal of fun with their badguy roles. And Patrick McGoohan is wonderful as the former Phantom who might be an actual ghost coming back to advise his son on how to handle the family business or he might be a psychological quirk that Kit needs to get through his job.
So should you see THE PHANTOM? Without a doubt, yes. In my opinion it’s one of the best superhero movies ever made and should be seen just for the performances and production values alone. It’s an awesome looking movie, period. The costumes the cars, the whole 1930’s period is recreated in fantastic style. And the damn movie is just so much fun. The Phantom is a hero is actually enjoys being a hero and it’s a change to see a hero who enjoys doing what he’s born to do to. He doesn’t angst about it or moan and cry or worry about paying rent or whatever. Simon Wincer directs this movie with a great sense of style and you get the feeling that everybody had a wonderful time making this movie.
If you’ve been reading my reviews and trust my opinion at all then go get yourself a copy of THE PHANTOM this weekend, get the snacks and drinks of your choice and have yourself a great time watching a great movie. Enjoy.
Reviews from the 86th Floor by Barry Reese
DOC SAVAGE # 6 (DC Comics)
By Ivan Brandon, Brian Azzarello & Nic Klein (Doc Savage); By Jason Starr & Scott Hampton (Justice Inc.)
This series is part of DC’s First Wave line, which puts classic pulp characters alongside some re-imagined versions of DC’s own heroes on an alternate earth. The time-frame is “today” but with design elements meant to invoke the classic pulp period (zeppelins roam the skies of New York, for instance). First Wave got off to a rocky start with pulp fans after the line’s overseer, Brian Azzarello, made a handful of comments that insulted the core fans of Doc Savage and The Avenger. Why anyone would want to launch a line by insulting the people who are already engaged by the property is beyond me but I suppose I’m not as smart as Mr. Azzarello seems to think he is. Also hurting the line is the fact that the kickoff limited series (entitled First Wave, of course) still hasn’t finished, thanks to several lengthy delays.
Early on, I tried all the First Wave titles but I dropped The Spirit after one issue, realizing that all the joy of the Eisner version had been stripped out of it. I’ve kept up with Doc Savage, though, mostly out of an inability to stop buying anything with Doc on the cover. I share this shame with all of you, like an alcoholic admitting his problem.
And it is a problem. Because this series is awful.
Issue six gives us our third and fourth writers on the series. I’ll repeat that – six issues and four writers. Right away, you see that stability hasn’t been a strong point. Now, I will give Brandon and Azzarello credit here — this is the best issue so far, but that’s not really saying a whole lot.
Because Doc’s blamed for the destruction of the Empire State Building (don’t ask), the government has brought him in for questioning and is strong-arming him, implying that he’s going to be treated as a terrorist if he doesn’t agree to take on a mission for them. Now, normally the Doc I know would love to help out the government, especially if it involves a horde of weapons aimed at the West. But in this case, Doc says no. The government ropes him back in by telling him that a supposedly dead friend of his has been spotted alive and well, in the heart of the Middle East — which is where the government wants to send Doc. After a scene in which Doc beats up a bunch of guards and uses one of them as a human shield (thankfully, the poor guard was just shot full of mercy bullets), Doc and his aides take off for the Middle East, where we see the area where “The War” ended five years before. Since Doc and his gang seem to avoid anything resembling a plan, they’re quickly in hot water and Doc is left to fend for himself, whereupon he’s quickly taken prisoner. End of story.
The sad thing is, as I’ve pointed out, this is the high-water mark for the series. This book failed on several rather important levels: 1) It’s boring. Doc Savage may have been many things, but I don’t recall it ever being boring. 2) Who are these people? If you know Doc and the gang, you can mostly figure out who the aides are from the pictures but not always. The script doesn’t refer to most of them by name nor does it tell you anything about why they do these things. Back when Jim Shooter was at Marvel, he frequently pointed out that every issue was someone’s first, so you should find a way to remind people who your characters are, what their motivations are, and why people should care about them. Obviously, Azzarello and Brandon figure that you should already know these things, which is ironic given Azzarello’s stated opinion that nobody remembers Doc and his ilk anyway. Seems like he’d want to explain it all to people, then. He doesn’t.
Ah, but there’s still room for the issue to be saved — there’s a backup feature, after all. In part one of a new serial entitled “Murder and Vengeance,” we find out about Justice Inc. ‘s Smitty. To be honest, I wasn’t sure this story was about Smitty but that’s what it says on DC’s website: “And in the JUSTICE, INC. co-feature, a new story sheds light on the criminal past of Smitty, one of Benson’s most trusted detectives.” It’s funny, ’cause in the books Smitty was a giant of a man. Here, he looks like a tough guy but he’s not huge by any means. They never refer to him by name, either, which is just amazingly dumb for any writer to do. It turns out that this version of Smitty became a gangbanging killer at age 16, then was framed for the murder of his stripper girlfriend. He was sent to prison, where he murdered somebody to prove his toughness and people left him alone in the aftermath. When he was released, Benson offered him a job and we move on up to the present day. Smitty takes a job from a guy whose wife was sexually assaulted and murdered in front of him, leading the man to seek revenge on the assailant. Smitty is so incensed by the description of these crimes that he plans to find the rapist and kill him, despite Benson telling him to remember Justice Inc.’s # 1 rule: no killing.
Now, The Avenger is my all-time favorite pulp series. This backup isn’t all that bad — but it’s not The Avenger. This Smitty bears no resemblance to the original. Gone is the sweet back-and-forth patter between him and Nellie Gray (heck, Nellie isn’t even mentioned in this story). Gone is everything that made Smitty a fun character, in fact. Thankfully, the writer has dispensed the disturbing tendency for people to refer to Richard Benson as “Benny,” but that’s not much a saving grace. This story leaves you feeling dirty, like the ‘heroes’ are almost as grimy as the men they’re chasing.
It’s obvious that the people behind First Wave have read the old stories — they just simply didn’t get them. They’ve missed the heart and the soul of these characters and the fast-paced stories that they were a part of. The Avenger wasn’t noir and that’s obviously what they’re going for here. There was plenty of pathos in the old stories but it was mixed in with humor and the obvious respect between the members of Justice Inc. All of that is leeched away in this version.
I know some folks who are really enjoying the First Wave books — but almost all of them are unfamiliar with the classic versions. I can only hope they’ll be inspired to discover the real Doc Savage and the real Avenger.
Doc Savage # 6 earns a whopping 1 out of 5 on the ratings scale.
Book Reviews by Derrick Ferguson
THROUGH THE GROANING EARTH:
A TALE FROM THE CITY OF BATHOS
BY JOEL JENKINS
FROM PULPWORKS PRESS
I suspect a lot of you reading this that were around in the 70’s got turned onto the sub genre of heroic fantasy called sword and sorcery the same way I did: The re-discovery of Robert E. Howard thanks to the Lancer Conan paperbacks with the exquisite Frank Frazetta covers. I devoured all the Howard I could get and once I was through gobbling all of his stories I quickly moved onto Charles R. Saunders, Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock, Jack Vance and Lin Carter. Carter was a little bit too slavish in his homage’s to Howard in his Thongor series, though. But still, at that age I didn’t care. If it was sword and sorcery, I wanted it.
Never got into J.R.R.Tolkien, though. To me, Tolkien was all about the world building and creating a mythology and he’s certainly done that as “The Lord of The Rings” is still going strong to this day. Not that I have anything against that kind of fantasy. I would just rather read about working class barbarians and warriors who hack and slash their way through the day and spend their nights wenching and partying.
Which is probably why my interest in sword and sorcery dropped severely once the popularity of Tolkien style heroic fantasy seemed to me to have taken over. Nobody really was writing meat and potatoes sword and sorcery and the trend appeared to have swung over to what I call, for lack of a better way to put it; more ‘literate’ high fantasy. None of which appealed to me as I simply can’t slog through 1,000 page books that really have just enough story and plot for 150/200 pages.
Knowing Joel Jenkins as I do I think he misses that kind of straightforward, testosterone laden sword swinging tale. And Joel’s the kind of guy who doesn’t lay back and wish somebody would write the kind of story he wants to read. He goes ahead and writes it himself. And in his two books set in the legendary City of Bathos that’s exactly what he’s done: write about blue collar, working class barbarians and warriors in “Escape From Devil’s Head” and THROUGH THE GROANING EARTH.
Both books, but especially THROUGH THE GROANING EARTH aren’t ‘novel’ novels. Instead, they’re like a sword and sorcery version of that old television series “Naked City” that always started off with the narrator saying that “there are eight million stories in the naked city”. I don’t know how many inhabitants of Bathos there are but they include courtesans, thieves, disgruntled godlings, out-of-work mercenaries, farmers, innkeepers, outlaws, priests, schemers, cowards, cutthroats and they all have their own stories to tell.
And by this method of telling various stories set within this city, with some characters occasionally crossing over from one story to another, Bathos itself becomes a character in its own right. A marvelously decadent city that at once and the same time is wonderfully sleazy as well as gorgeously thrilling.
A large part of adding to the City of Bathos taking on a life of its own and becoming a character is Joel’s lush descriptions and dialog. One thing that turns me off from a lot of modern day fantasy is that the writers will have the most amazing characters populating their stories but those characters talk as if they’ve been watching MTV and CNN for the past 10 years or so. Joel’s characters have a richness to how they speak and how they phrase their sentences that immediately let you know that you’re reading about people who live in a mythical place and time.
And these are people, no doubt about it. Nobody’s going on some impossible quest to save the world from an all powerful wizard or to save the world from an ancient evil. Bathos isn’t that type of city and the people who inhabit Joel’s story are just trying to get through another day without getting killed. For the most part, a lot of the characters in THROUGH THE GROANING EARTH are minding their own business when they get caught up almost without knowing it into a wild adventure. And they rise to the challenge with an enormous amount of well written fight scenes in which Joel runs riot with the description. I strongly suspect Joel has just as much fun writing those scenes of carnage as I did reading them.
And Joel does go in for world building just as much as Tolkien or Stephen R. Donaldson or Robert Jordan. But he doesn’t give you these honkin’ huge pages and pages of back history or have characters relate what you need to know through info dumps. Joel weaves and integrates the geography, history and political dynamics of Bathos into the story and into the dialog of his characters. It’s an effective technique that I really like to see writers use. You get your world building but the story itself it’s put on hold while the writer attempts to impress with how much effort he’s put into thinking out this imaginary world. And in fact, I’m of the school of thought that says if you’ve put enough into this imaginary world then the information can’t help but find its way into the mouths of the characters. Which is where it should be in the first place.
So should you read THROUGH THE GROANING EARTH? I don’t see why you shouldn’t. If you like Old School sword and sorcery like Robert E. Howard used to make then I heartily recommend this book as well as “Escape From Devil’s Head”. Joel has a sincere love and respect for this genre and if you’ve read Joel’s other books set in the modern day then here’s an excellent chance for you to experience another aspect of the marvelous talent of Joel Jenkins.
THROUGH THE GROANING EARTH is available from Amazon.com or through Pulpwork Press http://www.freewebs.com/pulpworkpress/
Reviews from the 86th Floor by Barry Reese
IN THE SHADOW OF FALCON’S WINGS: THE ADVENTURES OF DODGE DALTON by Sean Ellis
I received this review copy from the author and was immediately intrigued when I saw that one of the quotes on the book was from Rob MacGregor, the author of my favorite Indiana Jones novels. While a positive word from an established author doesn’t always ensure you’re about to read something good, it certainly caught my eye since I’m such a fan of Mr. MacGregor. So I dove into this book with high hopes and they were richly rewarded. This is a tour de force that deserves a spot on the shelves of anyone who calls themselves a fan of pulp adventure. When it comes time for nominations for pulp awards, this one deserves a spot on each and every ballot.
The story revolves around David “Dodge” Dalton, who scripts stories about Captain Zane Falcon. These stories were initially dictated to him by an alleged associate of Falcon’s, one “Hurricane” Hurley. When Hurley’s remembrances run out, Dalton begins fabricating stories out of whole cloth and the character becomes immensely popular with the reading public. When a mysterious villain appears on the scene, threatening to kill the President unless Falcon himself comes forward, Dalton is put into a conundrum: How can he produce someone that he’s always considered a fictional construct of himself and “Hurricane” Hurley? Dalton and Hurley end up traveling around the globe in search of the true Zane Falcon and along the way Dodge becomes the kind of hero that he’d always written about. There’s tremendous humor, great characterization and the kind of by-the-seat-of-your-pants adventure that I associate with old movie serials and Indiana Jones. The ending of the book is both touching and inspirational, clearing the way for further adventures of Dodge. Thankfully, a preview of the next book in the series is included in my advance review copy, assuring us that the series will, indeed, be continuing.
From page one, I was engaged and I’m certain that you will be, as well. Highly recommended and one of the best “new” pulp novels to come along in quite awhile. 5 stars out of 5.
Reviews from the 86th Floor by Barry Reese
TUNED FOR MURDER (The Avenger # 9)
Folks who know me are well aware that The Avenger is my favorite pulp hero. I frequently break out the old paperbacks and read through them when I’m looking for something relaxing and enjoyable — the latest one that I finished going through is the ninth in the series and, while far from the best in the series, it’s still a quality piece of pulp fiction.
There are two plot lines in this one that quickly converge: a scientist has developed a mystery super-weapon that he refuses to sell. He says that he’ll only share it with small nations that are being attacked by bigger ones and then he’ll give it to them for free. In other words: it’s not so much a weapon as a deterrent to war. Meanwhile, a man whose company manufactures parts for the government (and who is also funding the scientist’s research) becomes the focus of The Avenger’s investigations when a large number of people who come into contact with the man go insane. The only clue involves the fact that any dogs in the area just before the men go insane howl in pain.
As always, the supporting cast shines but that’s actually the biggest regret I have about this one: unlike the Doc Savage series, where I sometimes gritted my teeth while Monk and Ham were given the spotlight instead of Doc, I actually really enjoy seeing Smitty, Josh, Nellie, etc. take the active role. They’re each given their parts in this story but it’s not nearly as much as in some other stories and I missed their interplay at times. The secret behind all the mischief is a bit goofy but it’s good fun and I’d recommend this one. 4 out of 5 stars!
Rank and File Reviews by Sarge Portera
PULP HEROES: MORE THAN MORTAL authored by Wayne Reinagel, published by Knightraven Studios and available at Amazon.com.
Felt like I slipped through a ripple in time when I began reading Wayne Reinagel’s PULP HEROES: MORE THAN MORTAL! Found myself in a mind blowing parallel Pulpdom that goes unparalled from beginning to end. It’s a Big Rock Candy Mountain for pulp enthusiasts with just the right blend to want to read it, again and again! If you like Fu Manchu, Indiana Jones with nefarious fascists and mummies on the loose than you will get a positive energy boost that can power up pulsars.
All crossovers, bronze and silhouette pastiches are masterfully blended together in the hands of Wayne Reinagel. Soon as you begin reading his PULP HEROES: MORE THAN MORTAL (published by Knightraven Studios and available at Amazon.com) you’ll be swept up in a frenetically paced story that pays tribute to every pulp hero that was ever published before! I’ll even dare to say that you can shove the Wald Newton meteorite out of the way for speculative fiction fresh from the imagination behind Knightraven Studios. Doc Titan, the Darkness, the Guardian and the Scorpion team up for a megadose of mayhem, menace and mystery!
You’ll not only meet Doc Titan but a fighting legion of pulp heroes in the closing days of World War II! This first entry into Wayne’s PULP HEROES trilogy is peppered with flashbacks that effectively tie together numerous plot threads that the pulp writers of yesteryear never had the time to answer in the unique way Wayne Reinagel has answered them!
Rank and File Reviews by Sarge Portera
PULP HEROES: KHAN DYNASTY was authored by Wayne Reinagel, published by Knightraven Studios and available at Amazon.com.
WARNING: This tome is riddled with danger packed alleyways, conspirational power struggles and decade spanning romance and mystery that will leave you breathless.
With its similar size and heft expect an adventure of Biblical proportions as you page feverishly through Wayne Reinagel’s KHAN DYNASTY. This rippin’ yarn was written for armchair adventurers like you and me. Wayne took me on a rollicking trip thru time without me even having to step through the portals of a time machine. Let Wayne serve you as the most capable captain with a handpicked crew that will fire your imagination as you set sail for high octane high adventure in the second volume of his PULP HEROES trilogy.
If Wayne Reinagel’s KHAN DYNASTY was required reading in high school or college there would be lot less complaining and much more applause for literature. This rollicking compilation gets an A+ as it weaves together a decades spanning tapestry of high adventure!
Reviews from the 86th Floor by Barry Reese
Sun Koh: Heir of Atlantis Volume One
Written by Art Sippo
I’m not usually one for hyperbole, but this was one of the best pulp novels I’ve read in a long, long time. The main character is somewhat controversial in that he was the “Nazi Doc Savage” and many people are hesitant to root for such a protagonist. But Art Sippo manages to make the characters both appealing and repugnant at the same time, which is quite a feat. Sun Koh’s views on the “servant races” are disturbing but it would be wrong to really dub him a Nazi — in many ways he was using Hitler’s forces to pursue his own agenda (which, again, is disturbing — he wanted to save the world for the Aryans with everyone else serving them). The first three stories … More >are the origin of Sun Koh but the last two are the most interesting because they’re Doc Savage-style adventures and we get to see the team in the field. The rape scene with Shani in the fourth tale was one of the most disturbing things I’ve seen in a pulp novel. I really can’t wait for the continuation of Sun Koh’s adventures but I do yearn to see a truly great antagonist introduced for him. In other words, Sun Koh needs his own John Sunlight character, someone worthy of combating him. Truly a great book! 5 out of 5 on the rating scale!
Reviews from the 86th Floor by Barry Reese
Ghosts of the Sargasso by Bill Craig
A small word of warning for those who might purchase this title from Amazon.com: Despite the fact that the title listing on amazon includes the words volume 1 — this is NOT volume 1 in the series! It’s actually volume four. Because of this, I ended up reading this book without having read the first three — it didn’t really hurt my enjoyment of the book, though.
I don’t think I’ve encountered someone who channels Lester Dent quite as much as Bill Craig in this book. The pacing and storytelling was very, very reminiscent of Dent. I mean that in the best of ways — though there are flaws in the style and formatting (more on that to come), the enthusiasm of the author and the great pulpy ideas (a floating ghost city of lost ships; an undersea warlord bent on destroying all life on land; etc.) more than makes up for the flaws. The characters are vibrant — Hannigan is your prototypical hero, Abigail is a wonderful girlfriend/partner who nearly stole the book and so forth. The main villain (Kraken aka The Sea Devil) is deliberately similar to Captain Nemo but that’s okay. It lends the whole affair a definite sense of the epic.
As for the flaws… the formatting of the book is really messed up. Some chapters begin on the lower third of the page with the top two-thirds blank space. Page 35 of the book is blank. I can only assume that something in the conversion process of the book went awry. It’s distracting but not so much that I couldn’t still enjoy things. About the Dent comparison: I mean that both in the good sense and the bad. Like Dent, Craig sometimes re-uses the same words and phrases a tad too much. One of the characters calls Hannigan “old friend” four times in the space of two paragraphs, for instance. And the jokes about Hannigan’s bad luck are amusing but there’s a few too times many that the joke is used.
Overall, I really liked the book. I would have given it a 4 out of 5 except for the formatting issues. As it is, it still manages a 3 out of 5.
Tippin’ Hancock’s Hat-Reviews by Tommy Hancock
PULP WILL EAT ITSELF, VOL. 2, No. 1
General Jack Cosmo Productions
Writers-Robbie Hibbs, Adam M. Lahners, Jim McKern
Artists-Michael Shiroda, Apri Kusbiantoro, Mike Cody, Matthew Weldon, Carla Wyzgala, Jim McKern, and Michal Szyksznian
One of the fantastic things about the Pulp genre is just how wide its boundaries are. Multiple genres can live and prosper within Pulp Fiction. Also, Pulp is an area open to any and all willing to offer suspense, thrills, and all around good storytellin’ to the general reader. A book, comic, or story doesn’t have to come from one of the “Big Whatever” to draw a fan in and hold onto them.
The above statements are proven upon reading PULP WILL EAT ITSELF from General Jack Cosmo Productions. This is a flipbook that debuted at the 2010 Wizard World Chicago Con and is chock filled with what one of its creators, Adam M. Lahners calls “SouthernFried SuspenStories.” This description fits as the two stories involve Southern themes, culture, and characters, albeit from decidedly different directions.
Mournin’ At the Grave, the comic story in this tome, stars a character created by Lahners and McKern, a masked Southern hero known as Crawdaddy. Although this is just a short story, Crawdaddy is the type of character that I want to see more of. Part Errol Flynn/Part Clark Gable/Part Hero on a quest, he translates well both visually and within the story. This is a little Gothic ghost story of sorts and as that, stands pretty well. The only issue is that the story gets confused in the middle, making understanding what takes place a little difficult. This may be in pacing or simply in the art not being narrative enough to convey the thought. Having said that, the ending is poignant and is a fine resolution.
The other side of this flipbook moves from heroic fiction to horror fiction. O Wicked Wendy by Lahners and McKern is a prose story with some awesome illustrations provided, illustrations of lyrics of a song the story is built around. Based on a monster legend from Fouke, Arkansas, this story follows a special type of government official on his quest for music. Yes, music. This story makes good use of history and lore, mixing the two together deftly. Also, the connection made between traditional Southern music and the accompanying art adds a depth to the tale of violent love and even more violent retribution that is just awesome.
The singular issue with this tale, particularly the prose side of it, was the editing. Some of the phrasing was awkward, but the biggest problem was the punctuation, or absence of punctuation for the most part. This definitely does not affect how good the story is, but it does prove distracting to the reader, well, this reader anyway.
PULP WILL EAT ITSELF overall is an enjoyable romp through Southern culture and legends and, even though a bit uneven at times, paints a grand picture and makes me hope the crew at General Jack Cosmo will be doing even more of this sort of Deep South Pulp. The character images of what I suppose are future story subjects are intriguing and only add to the desire that PULP WILL EAT ITSELF will continue.
Three out of Five Tips of Hancock’s Hat (Three tips are generally reserved for those that I like and see potential in for more tips of the hat in the future.)
Reviews from the 86th Floor by Barry Reese
Captain Hazzard: Cavemen of New York by Ron Fortier
This series is an interesting little thing. The ‘real’ Captain Hazzard appeared in exactly one story back in the golden age of the pulps and was an obvious rip-off of Doc Savage. Veteran author Ron Fortier took that story and rewrote it for a modern audience (volume 1) and then has collaborated or written by himself three new adventures. His version of Hazzard is still heavily influenced by Doc Savage but has enough unique elements to stand on his own.
In this story, the good Captain crosses paths with Lester Dent, who created Doc Savage, while dealing with a couple of mad scientists, one of whom is a relative of the infamous Doctor Moreau. So you get weather-controlling machines and innocent people transformed into throwback cavemen… it’s a fun romp that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Unlike the old pulps, Forttier is careful to avoid anything that smacks of racial stererotyping and several of the characters in this story are refreshingly treated as equals, where in the old days this probably wouldn’t have been the case (outside of the Avenger series, where characters of all races contributed equally).
There are a few typos that stop the flow of the narrative but in the world of small press, that’s to be expected. If you love Doc Savage and the other old-school pulp heroes, you could do a lot worse than checking out these Captain Hazzard books by Ron Fortier. I’ve enjoyed them all so far, with this one probably being the second-best in the series.
In terms of things that I didn’t like so much, I’d have to say that I’d like to see more of Hazzard himself and less of the fabulous five who adventure with him — even in the old Doc Savage tales, I sometimes grew very tired of the Ham & Monk scenes and wanted more Doc!
Tippin’ Hancock’s Hat-Reviews by Tommy Hancock
BLACK BAT DOUBLE SHOT
(NOTE-This review is for the first of two stories in this issue. A review of the second story starring Death Angel will appear at ALL PULP soon!)
Black Bat in BLACK DEATH
It’s always tricky when a creative team tackles a character who has a strong fan following and an established history with the intent of making that character a hit with modern audiences. And I don’t mean tricky like pulling a rabbit out of a hat. I mean more like passing through a series of booby traps and running from rolling boulders and ducking from razor sharp blades tricky. If a writer attempts to modernize a known character, even one whose publication history has been spotty at best in the last fifty years, and doesn’t stay true enough to a fan’s concept, then that writer has committed a major faux pas. If the artist takes liberties with an icon’s costume, he runs the risk of angering those he hopes will buy his book. Suffice it to say, any team undertaking this challenge walks an extremely fine line, a tight rope most can’t stay on.
It’s a good thing the team on Moonstone’s Black Bat: Black Death, Bullock and Metcalf, have such great balance.
This is an origin story. This is a black and white with jarring splashes of red portrait of a great man damaged by the very crime he swore to fight. This is a psychological expose’ of that man, torn apart by his personal injury, remade into something that before just bubbled under the surface, but now has exploded outward all over society. This is The Black Bat flying straight out of faded pulp pages. This is The Black Bat of tomorrow.
Bullock has crafted a great way to jump right into the violent career of the Bat and still let new readers in on how he went from Tony Quinn, D. A. to conflicted animal themed crime fighter. It reads like a rapid fire barrage of good and evil with pathos flowing under it like a crimson stream. Metcalf’s art, gritty when it needs to be and clean when the tale needs that, not only compliments the story, but gives it brass knuckles.
The story has a couple of chinks in its armor. Storytelling gets uneven a couple of times as action takes place in a few panels that surely hints at things to come, but causes some confusion currently. There’s a spot or two where the art is a bit too dark, mostly in shade. These points, though, do not take away from the fact that this initial journey into this version of The Black Bat is much more than a walk. It’s a breakneck, flat out run into Pulp.
Now, the question that hangs in the air is just how true to the original Bullock’s and Metcalf’s take on this character is. As a reader and fan of the Black Bat (actually of both the masked Bat and the hilariously driven public hero of the same name in pulpdom), I must say I am very satisfied with this version of Tony Quinn’s alter ego. In twelve pages, we have the origin and we have a sample of the drive motivating this man to put on his mask and take his vengeance wholesale. There are even hints at his supporting cast, which is one of the favorite parts of the original Bat. So, is it exactly like the original Pulp yarns…exactly? No. Does it hold its own in comparison? You bet your Bat it does.
Four out of Five Tips of Hancock’s Hat (which is a fedora, by the way, and four tips are usually reserved for heads of state, arresting officers, and little old ladies, which is pretty darn good.)
ALL PULP REVIEW – By Ron Fortier
By Barry Reese
Wild Cat Books
Modern day pulp writer, Barry Reese, eschews the traditional hero avenger fare for something much darker and violent with this thriller that borders on the sensational. One has to imagine he dove into this adult orientated tale with both trepidation and a palpable sense of unfettered freedom. There is plenty of gore, sexual brutality and blatant acts of depravity all meticulously embellished with not a gruesome detail omitted. If you’ve the stomach for it, Rabbit Heart is a savage reading experience but it is not for the timid.
The adventure begins with the death of the protagonist, a young girl named Fiona Chapman. She’s murdered by an outdoor serial killer who fancies himself the next Jason from the Friday the 13th movies. But Fiona doesn’t die, or at least in the same way normal people expire. Instead she somehow biologically evolves into another state of being, one in which she is incredibly strong and powerful. She soon learns that she is one of a handful of mythological spirits who have roamed the world for centuries known as the Furious Hosts.
These semi immortal deities exist only to kill and be killed. They are all players in a bizarre, savage game known as the Hunt. Each is filled with an unquenchable lust compelling them satiate their dark passions by preying on innocent humans while at the same time battling each other until eventually only one will remain. This is of course reminiscent of the Highlander movie series, but with a neat twist. When a Furious Host is killed by another, he or she will be reborn into another body at a later date to resume the contest. Thus killing them permanently is a problem.
Fiona, whose archetype figure she becomes when fighting is that of a sexy bad-girl warrior, is different in that she is actually repulsed by her new supernatural identity. She truly wants to no part of it but doesn’t know how to escape her fate. Then she meets an occult detective from the past who has been tracking the activities of the Furious Host and has come to her with an offer. His name is Ascott Keane and he wants to help Fiona take on the task of finding and destroying all the Hunters, ridding the world of them once and for all.
RABBIT HEART is by far the most accomplished of Reese’s writing to date. Unlike his earlier, fanciful pulp adventures, there is a steadier prose here that is precise and confident. The excess sex and violence is never gratuitous, serves the plot and avoids being pornographic by that masterful writing. I strongly recommend this book to my adult readers looking for something new. Final warning, this is a superior effort but NOT for the squeamish.
THE LONG MATINEE-Pulp Movie Reviews by Derrick Ferguson
ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT
Produced by Hal B. Wallis
Directed by Vincent Sherman
Screenplay by Leonard Spiegelgass and Edwin Gilbert
Based on a story by Leonard Spiegelgass and Leo Rosten
I am so confident that you’re going to want to see ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT when this review is over that I’m just going to give you the plot and the characters and I’m going to bet my mint condition #1 of DC Comics ‘Black Lightning’ that by the end of this review, this movie will be on your Netflix list. Ready? Okay, here we go:
Well-known man-about-town and professional gambler Alfred “Gloves” Donahue (Humphrey Bogart) is summoned from Yankee Stadium by his mother (Jane Darwell). Papa Miller who runs the neighborhood bakery has gone missing which upsets Gloves to no end as he won’t eat any other cheesecake except for Papa Miller’s. A search of the bakery’s basement soon turns up the dead body of Papa Miller. Mother Donahue won’t rest until her son gets involved to find out who killed Papa Miller even though Gloves keeps insisting he’s just a ‘sports promoter’ and not a cop. With the assistance of his trusty sidekicks Sunshine (William Demarest) Starchy (Jackie Gleason) and Barney (Frank McHugh) Gloves tracks down a mysterious girl who had come to the shop to see Papa Miller and was highly upset about hearing about his death. The girl is the torch singer Leda Hamilton (Kaaren Verne) who works with the pianist Pepi (Peter Lorre) whose disarming charm masks a soul filled with bloodthirsty sadism.
It isn’t long before Gloves and his boys find themselves up their stylish fedoras in a nest of Nazi Fifth Columnists led by the sinister Franz Ebbing (Conrad Veidt) and his assistant Madame (Judith Anderson) who along with Pepi make as ruthless a trio of villains as you could ever imagine. Turns out that the Fifth Columnists were blackmailing Papa Miller into working with them and when he couldn’t take it anymore and threatened to go to the cops, Pepi killed him. Gloves is framed for murder by Pepi and having nowhere else to turn, appeals to New York’s underworld element. Gloves has discovered that Ebbing has a plot in the works to blow up an experimental prototype battleship docked at The Brooklyn Navy Yard and there’s no time to convince the cops of what’s going to happen. And it’s on as New York’s criminal underworld throws itself into the race against time to stop the Nazis while Gloves has a no less dangerous task: save Leda from the clutches of the villains in order to clear his good name and still get home in time for dinner with his beloved mother.
You’re going to tell me you don’t want to see this movie? ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT has a screwball plot that is so wonderful I wish I’d thought of it myself. Humphrey Bogart is terrific as Gloves Donahue. He’s totally charming when he has to be and when he has to be tough, well…let’s just say that for me, Bogart is the living embodiment of ‘tough’. I really liked the scenes he has with Jane Darwell who plays his mother. Even though Gloves insists he’s juts a gambler and a ‘promoter’ his mother knows her son is a gangster. But she loves him to death anyway. The rapport between them is wonderfully to see on screen.
Conrad Veidt, Judith Anderson and Peter Lorre make a formidable trio of villains and it’s fun to see Bogart’s street-smart gangster match verbal wits with Veidt’s sophisticated European intellectual. There’s an interesting subplot where we see that Judith Anderson’s character is clearly jealous of the attention Ebbing shows Leda. Another subplot that is played for very effective laughs is that Barney has just gotten married but he can never get to spend time with his wife because Gloves and the boys are always dragging him off on a new escapade.
William Demarest (Uncle Charlie from ‘My Three Sons’) Frank McHugh and Jackie Gleason (yes, that Jackie Gleason) are all terrific as Bogart’s sidekicks with personalities, quirks and mannerisms that are as distinctive as those of Doc Savage’s Amazing Five or Buckaroo Banzai’s Hong Kong Cavaliers. The whole movie is a weird type of action/comedy that we like to think is a modern movie convention but ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT proved that they did back then in 1942 and did it well. The dialog is absolutely fantastic and delivered in a Damon Runyonesque style that will make you think of ‘Guys And Dolls’. There’s a wisecrack thrown off in almost every sentence and the use of a type of Pig Latin doubletalk is used to hilarious effect in what is probably the funniest scene in the movie: Gloves and Sunshine infiltrate a secret Nazi meeting by posing as German demolition experts. I won’t even spoil it for you by explaining how Gloves and Sunshine get there.
Just take my word for it: ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT is a lot of fun and it’s a great movie. It’s been one of my favorite films for years. If you’re a Bogie fan you’ve probably seen it already and if you’re not, you will be after you see it.
By Barry Reese
Dagon’s Disciples (The Adventures of the Scarlet Shroud # 2)