Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Man Has To Dream, Doesn't He?

   There are certain things men expect from the opposite sex. Certain men expect certain things, be they intelligence, innocence, loyalty, or what have you. In each male brain is also the image of an ideal woman, the girl we subconsciously, or consciously, keep our eyes peeled for as the ultimate expression of pulchritude. That one perfect female meant to be our mate for life. More and more, I'm finding my ideal is a girl who looks like she just stepped out of 1961. Unrealistic? Well, that's what makes finding the perfect mate a miracle! (And considering I, myself, already look like a citizen of the early 60's, it's not like I'm advertising for something different than that anyway.)

Monday, October 10, 2011


   The fad for beach-themed teen comedies following the success of 1963's BEACH PARTY was intense, but short lived. While American International Pictures was making a fortune on the 'Beach' series, it was also quite evident that these good natured cornball musicals wouldn't continue to bring in the kind of money they were making in an era of increasing cynicism and rougher drive-in fare. The same year that Nancy Sinatra made today's subject, she also made THE WILD ANGELS for the same studio, and it was the biker flick that made the most money. Overnight, THE WILD ANGELS did to AIP and the teen exploitation market what BEACH PARTY had done earlier. The Beach films quickly fell out of date, yet for many, those films defined the 1960's with their innocence and sheer fun. A stray Beach movie would occasionally pop up again before the decade finally gasped its last. There were plenty of Beach movies to pick from, made by various studios (BEACH BALL, IT'S A BIKINI WORLD, THE FAT SPY, my personal favorite probably being THE GIRLS ON THE BEACH), though the AIP films remained the yardstick by which the others were measured.

   AIP was really coming into its own by 1963. No more black and white quickie double features. The studio had entered the big time with its color Roger Corman/Vincent Price/Edgar Allen Poe films. That slate of films would help define the studio as much as their playful teen Beach movies (both were spoofed in AIP's comical spy epic DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE BIKINI MACHINE). With these horror films, AIP developed a reputation for lavish spectacle and major stars (even if they tended to be, with all due respect, a tad past their prime, or on their way up to bigger and better things). Yes, by the mid 1960's, AIP had become one of the majors. While still thrifty in the extreme, AIP was spending a fair chunk of change to make their movies more lavish. Just look at the cast for BEACH PARTY: Bob Cummings, Dorothy Malone, Morey Amsterdam, Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Harvey Lembeck, John Ashley, Jody McCrea, etc. The following films in the series would include such noted performers as Mickey Rooney, Paul Lynde, Keenen Wynn, Donna Loren, Buster Keaton, Jesse White, Don Rickles, Peter Lorre, Brain Donlevy, Earl Wilson, Buddy Hackett, Linda Evans, and more!

   While always considered cartoonish camp, the films still have a very earnest appeal. While continually badmouthed by critics, the fact remains that people love the Beach movies. Calling Avalon and Funicello America's sweetheart couple of the 60's isn't much of an exaggeration. The bulk of the Beach movies would follow their "teenage" romance through various trials and tribulations, often in the form of some groovy chick who set her sights on Frankie at about the same time that he and Annette had had a tiff, or vise versa. (Aside from returning characters, the films really had little connection to each other, for the most part.)

   By 1966, though, the relationship of Frankie and DeeDee (Avalon and Funicello) had been milked for about all it was going to give. Not that there hadn't been some experimentation within the series. The first three films in the cycle (BEACH PARTY, MUSCLE BEACH PARTY, and BIKINI BEACH) form a nice trilogy that connect to each other quite nicely, in theme and in continuity. The remaining films in the series would continue to recall these films, forming a loose connection. The fourth film of the set, PAJAMA PARTY, took things in a new direction. Rather than focus on Frankie and Annette, we meet a whole new cast of characters. Funicello now plays Connie, and her steady is Big Lunk (Jody McCrea, "Deadhead" of the other films) until she meets George, a Martian played by Tommy Kirk. While one of the best films in the series, audiences must not have been too thrilled with this new direction, for the very next film, BEACH BLANKET BINGO returns things to normal with Frankie and DeeDee and the gang. BEACH BLANKET BINGO is the one everybody remembers, the one with the mermaid that falls in love with Jody McCrea, and is in many ways the ultimate Beach Party movie. (Interestingly, THE FAT SPY, made the same year, also features a subplot involving that film's Jody McCrea analog -played by singer Johnny Tillotson- falling in love with a mermaid. I'd be interested to see which script was written first.)

   Somewhere along the line, money concerns or contract disputes lead to trouble (as the story goes), forcing Avalon and Annette to seek greener pastures. And it seems they took most everybody else important to the series with them. Most of the familiar faces of the previous films are absent from GHOST IN THE INVISIBLE BIKINI, although we're still served up a fine cast. Despite a nice effort, the film ultimately suffers from a lack of Avalon, Funicello, McCrea, Donna Loren, or John Ashley. Also missing is series director William Asher, replaced by Don Weis, the director of the earlier PAJAMA PARTY. It seems that, if Asher had his stock characters, Weis had his too. The characters here are either returning from PAJAMA PARTY, or bear a strong resemblance to them. Thus, a little recap of PAJAMA PARTY is called for.

   As mentioned earlier, Connie was dating Big Lunk, the numskull nephew of Aunt Wendy (Elsa Lanchester!). Big Lunk had the previous year dated Vickie (singing sensation Donna Loren, who played 'Donna' in the other films, where she didn't do a lot of acting but would belt out some incredible tunes). Wendy had a fortune hidden somewhere in her house, and it was being sought by notorious conman J. Sinister Hunk (Jesse White) -subtlety was out of the question, obviously- and his cronies that included Chief Rotten Eagle (Buster Keaton!) and a Swede bombshell named Bobbi (Bobbi Shaw, who will probably be forever remembered as the blonde in the fur-lined bikini who could only enthusiastically exclaim "Yah! Yah!").

   Weirdly, Harvey Lembeck's Eric Von Zipper and his motorcycle gang, the Rats, are in both continuities. Even stranger is that the Rats and Mice are the only characters in the series to have a continuity that remains the same in all the films! Through Von Zipper and his gang, mention of the earlier trilogy is carried over into PAJAMA PARTY. Likewise, they carry references from PAJAMA PARTY back into the regular continuity! (For instance, at one point in GHOST IN THE INVISIBLE BIKINI, Von Zipper is asked if he plans to give another character "the Finger." This is a running gag going all the way back to BEACH PARTY, where a professor played by Bob Cummings demonstrates Himalayan Time Suspension by pressing his finger against Von Zipper's temple. This would freeze Von Zipper like a statue. Forever afterwards, Von Zipper would threaten to place people into "Himalayan Suspenders" if they crossed him. Unfortunately for him, Von Zipper would often inadvertently demonstrate on himself and be out of action for a while. The various ways Von Zipper would give himself "the Finger" became a running gag of the series.)

   Here, we have eccentric Aunt Millie (Patsy Kelly) and her numskull nephew GooGoo (Aron Kincaid), who is dating another Vickie (Nancy Sinatra!). J. Sinister Hulk is back (still played by Jesse White) as is Cheif Chicken Feather (the name exposed to be the true moniker of Cheif Rotten Eagle in the earlier film), no longer played by Buster Keaton, but by Benny Rubin. You undoubtedly remember Rubin from his patented Chinaman routine which he did on nearly every sitcom and variety series of the early 60's (he's the owner of the Chinese laundry who gives Herman Munster a job, for instance). Bobbi Shaw is also back (yay!) only this time they've decided to let her speak fluent English. This obviously isn't the same character as before (who had fallen in love with Big Lunk), as she's now Princess, a ruthless cutthroat dressed as a harem girl, and owner of a huge gorilla named Monstro (George Barrows!). She and Chicken Feather apparently work in a traveling carnival these days. The most glaring change is the replacing of series leads Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello with Tommy Kirk and Deborah Walley. The pair had earlier played the leads in an Allied Artists' attempt to copy the beach films, IT'S A BIKINI WORLD. Both were vets of the series (Kirk in PAJAMA PARTY, Walley in BEACH BLANKET BINGO), and both are fine here. You can just tell the parts were written for Avalon and Funicello, though, and you keep imagining the earlier actors in the parts.

   We open with a send up of the popular Poe films AIP was famous for (the studio was never slow to poke fun at itself) with a spooky title sequence seen over a field of shifting fog before we open on a cloaked figure walking through a foggy cemetery during an electrical storm. The figure enters the crypt and reveals itself to be a beautiful platinum blonde (Susan Hart! Another carry over from PAJAMA PARTY), a ghost of a circus performer who had died in an accident 30 years earlier. She was an acrobat, famous as The Girl in the Invisible Bikini*, and died in a fall during her performance. This is Ceciley, and she's come to call on the recently deceased Hiram Stokley (Boris Karloff!). Hiram is a bit disappointed to find he's no longer among the living, but Ceciley tells him he still has a shot at the pearly gates if he can arrange a good deed within a set number of hours.

   (*From what we learn here, Ceciley died in 1936, already famous as "the Girl in the Invisible Bikini." It probably seems silly to raise issue here, but the term "bikini" didn't enter the lexicon until 1946, when a new, skimpier cut of two-piece bathing suit was named after the atomic bomb test on the Bikini atoll. So, this makes no sense, given there's no indication that all this is supposed to be happening 30 years into the future.)

   Hiram can't leave the crypt, so Ceciley will have to do the field work. The two will keep in touch with a crystal ball. Hiram's good deed will be to make sure his fortune goes to his rightful heirs (children of fellow carnies that Stokely had bilked out of their fortunes) and not his crooked attorney, Reginald Ripper (Basil Raithbone!). Ripper has contracted Hulk and his associates to bump off the other heirs, which include Aunt Millie, Chuck Phillips (Kirk), and.... That's funny, I can't remember the name of Deborah Walley's character! And I've seen this flick several times!

   Anyway, the parties start arriving and Millie suggests a seance (wouldn't want to skip a haunted house cliche, would we?). During this, Hulk fakes a few scares, including a knife that shoots into the back of Walley's chair. Ceciley watches all this from the chandelier, which breaks under her weight and crashes to the table. This thoroughly convinces Walley to leave, until Kirk reminds her that she'll be forfitting her share of the money. About then, GooGoo arrives with a literal busload of teenagers who quickly set up out by the pool and shimmy and twist as Nancy Sinatra offers a tune titled "Geronimo!" (Interestingly, the 1959 film GHOST OF DRAGSTRIP HOLLOW, which could be considered a sort of dry run for the Beach formula, also features a song titled "Geronimo!" Both films have been packaged on a double feature DVD my Metro Goldwyn Mayor.)

   With all the noise, Millie states there's no use in further trying to communicate with the departed Hiram Stokely. The will to be read at midnight, Ripper sets in motion another scheme to cut down on the number of potential heirs by sicking his daughter Sinestra (Quinn O' Hara!) on GooGoo. O' Hara quite nearly steals the whole show as the seductive, and quite murderous, femme fatal of the piece. Meanwhile, Von Zipper and his gang* have spotted Princess and Chicken Feather driving out to the Stokley place. Upon seeing her, Von Zipper falls in love with Princess and follows her to the mansion. There, the gang sees Princess and the other villains pass through a secret passage in the garden wall. The film's best laugh probably comes from Von Zipper eyeing Ripper and noting "that one guy looks like Sherlock Holmes."

   (* Eric Von Zipper goes through an interesting evolution over the series. The first couple of times we see him, he's a rotten thug and proud of it. By the time we get to BEACH BLANKET BINGO, however, Von Zipper sees himself as a social crusader, and believes that "them beach bums" are the true stain on society. This idea emerges in Von Zipper's second appearance in BIKINI BEACH (the character is absent from MUSCLE BEACH PARTY, making it the odd duck of the series -although it is one of the best entries, despite that fact), but by BEACH BLANKET BINGO the character sees himself as heroic. He starts the song "Follow Your Leader" with the line "If there's a battle to fought, then to the battle go we ought!" By this film, there's still some talk of him as being rotten when we're introduced to the gang "bustin' up billboards" out in the countryside. Despite this vandalous "game" however, Von Zipper notes how safe it is. He also attempts to save what he thinks is a girl in trouble twice. First, he attempts to save Princess from drowning, although he can't swim and she ends up saving him. Later, he sees a mechanical depiction of a girl being tortured and he steps in to save her. By now, he's more of a Lou Costello-type. He's just a kid who doesn't know he isn't smart.)

   After Sinestra tries to kill GooGoo a couple more times (but fails due to Ceciley's intervention and Sinestra's own nearsightedness) midnight arrives and its time to read the will. To let you know how much times have changes, Stokley's fortune is $1 Million, not including the house and grounds. Now, its true that a million bucks was some major wampum in 1966. In an era where a film like this would cost upwards of $70 million, though, this bit has lost a lot of its punch. At any rate, the money is hidden somewhere on the grounds. Von Zipper overhears Princess and the other killers discussing how they will steal all the money for themselves. This cools Von Zipper's affections for Princess, and he decides the thing to do is to find the money first and keep it, that'll show those crooks. Hulk and his crew try to scare the others out by dressing as monsters (including a costume renovated from THE EYE CREATURES), while Monstro breaks loose during the storm and roams the halls of the house. Monstro makes off with Walley, the others give chase, and everyone converges in Hiram Stokley's basement mechanized chamber of horrors (doesn't every carny have one?), complete with working buzzsaw!

   While THE GHOST IN THE INVISIBLE BIKINI is certainly entertaining (I wouldn't let October go by without a viewing), it also remains true that this is the low point of the Beach series. This, as noted, is due almost entirely to the lack of the regular players. Things tend to pick up when Von Zipper is on the screen, but its due to his presence that the film really fails to stand on its own. Rather than a playful spoof of AIP's Poe series, the film feels like a tacked on entry to a series that can't really accept it into the fold. Terrific fun, yes, but it almost feels forced at times.

   Frankie and Annette would return to the genre with BACK TO THE BEACH, which tried to bring the formula into the 80's. The lack of further sequels would seem to indicate the time hadn't come. (Some have speculated though, that Disney's "High School Musical" franchise is the modern equivalent, and the Mouse seems to be cleaning up with those, last I heard.)

Sunday, October 9, 2011


   While the old Warren adult-themed horror comics don't do much for me, I must admit some of the funnest work I've done involved drawing Warren-style, adult-themed horror stories for BLOKE'S TERRIBLE TOMB OF TERROR. I think the excuse to cut loose and draw some period cheesecake mixed with some old-fashioned horror plots has made the assignments incredible fun. Here are a few pages of art I drew pencils for.

   "Love Hurts" was inked and toned by Mr. Jeff Austin. It was a voodoo tale written by Mr. Jason Crawley. Once again, we learn cheating on your spouse is very, very bad.

    In the upcoming issue 3, I return with "Green Fingers." The inking duties have been taken over by Mr. Mike Hoffman, giving this story even more the style of a 70's Warren. Here's a tiny little preview. Neglecting one's spouse isn't much better than cheating on them......

These images have been reproduced through the permission of Mr. Jason Crawley. To see the full "Love Hurts" check out issue no.1 of BLOKE'S TERRIBLE TOMB OF TERROR (which is probably the slickest title I've had the good blessing to appear in). "Green Fingers" will be seen in issue no. 3, release date pending. You can buy issue no. 1 here:

Friday, October 7, 2011

Oddball Film Report: BUMMER! (1973)

Look at that tagline. Was this flick aimed
at rapists?

   This is one report that won't take up too much space.

   Calling your movie "Bummer!" would seem to be a bad omen, wouldn't it? Hollywood is notorious for its superstitions, like never having a question mark in the title (thus, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT was a statement rather than a question). I guess those superstitions never crossed over into predictive titles like "Bomb" or "Drag." The most obvious thing about the title BUMMER! is that it leaves the door open for the predictable assessment "BUMMER! is a bummer!" Granted, there's nothing in the movie to counter the chosen title. I wound up with a copy because I wanted to see JOHNNY FIRECLOUD, and Something Weird Video had included BUMMER! as the co-feature (presumably because there was no other way to pawn it off on even their eclectic customer base).

   It's a good thing I enjoyed JOHNNY FIRECLOUD, because BUMMER! is exactly the sort of meandering, plotless (until the last two reels, which pick up considerably) 'hippie' flick one usually avoids. BUMMER! was one of David Friedman's 'legit' pictures made for the mass market, and thus only made for an R rating. Of Friedman's other 'mainstream' movies that I've seen (TWO THOUSAND MANIACS, JOHNNY FIRECLOUD, SHE FREAK), I've been fairly impressed. Even the 'dirty' movie of his that I saw (SPACE-THING!) had enough clever or dumb bits to be entertaining. BUMMER! had me wishing it were one of Friedman's sex films, since at least something interesting would be going on (actually, the film features quite a bit of nudity, but I had forgotten most of this until I went back and watched the trailer again).

   BUMMER! is what I guess you could call a "slice of life" epic about the lives of the members of a struggling band imaginatively named "The Group" and their three groupie chicks. No one here is really likable, but some of the characters are slightly less unlikable than the others. The designated loser of the bunch is the obese Butz, who can't get a girl, even a groupie, because he's a perverted jerk of a fat slob. He's also holding back The Group, but the others can't leave him because he owns a van. (It's That 70's Show, only it makes you want to kill yourself!) Mostly, we'll spend an hour watching these people interact, and steadily grow to hate them.

   Within the final stretch, we actually move into a real plot! This involves Butz trying to rape one of the groupies and killing her in the process, after which the entire gang is pulled over and arrested because Butz has a warrant on him for an earlier rape charge involving a groupie. At the station, it becomes clear this will end only in bloodshed and gunfire. This last bit isn't bad, technically speaking, but getting there is a chore. (And for the sake of anyone who might want to track down a copy of the film, it would be remiss of me to blow anything else.) The music isn't even much of a draw, but I admit this isn't my kind of music, so others might enjoy it more than I. Maybe you will enjoy "A far-out trip through a hard rock tunnel" more than I did. Being fluent in 70's slang will help you. Seeing this flick, I discovered that it really is a different language, and fortunately (?) I could rap this jive lingo, Turkey! (Not that I ever would speak that way in public, but I've seen enough films from the era to dig what these cats are talkin' 'bout.

   Happily, JOHNNY FIRECLOUD (a sort of BILLY JACK with more substance and less hippie preachifying) proved to have a lot more meat to it than I expected. But, it was BUMMER!'s one-sheet that I found, so it became the subject of this report.

   As is the custom with Something Weird Video, the DVD is packed with goodies. In this instance, though, there's not a lot of fun in the supplements. Firstly, there are the trailers for the two main features. BUMMER!'s trailer gives the impression that the film has a lot more plot/sex/action than it actually serves up. The trailer for JOHNNY FIRECLOUD on the other hand, may be Friedman's best work of all time (he wrote the trailers for most or all of his releases). Not only does the film have some impressive visuals and production values, and a top notch cast including Ralph Meeker, Frank DeKova, and David Canary, but the trailer announcer offers some of the best taglines I've ever heard ("It was now! Redskins no longer bit the dust, they just ate dirt!" "They pushed and shoved, squeezed and leaned, and leaned harder, until they bought themselves an all-American one-man Indian massacre!" "JOHNNY FIRECLOUD! A HATE story!"). That right there was worth the price of the disk. The other trailers here are for assorted 70's films that don't seem to fit into regular genres, including some 'wacky' looking comedies and a skin flick being pushed as an actual dramatic feature. It has to be the only SWV disc I've ever bought with trailers that I don't intend to watch again. Ever.

   The other extras are more interesting. Best is a neat little short about blind bidding, the practice of selling films to theater owners before they can see what kind of films they're buying. Then there's a girlie loop (from the 40s, maybe?) showing a striptease by a gal dressed as an Indian. Since BUMMER! features a detour to a strip club, this short manages to play into the themes of both films.

   The other thing on the disc is a commentary track over JOHNNY FIRECLOUD with David F. Friedman himself. Unfortunately, he doesn't spend a lot of time actually talking about what may be the best film his name was ever attached to. (Per usual, though, the late Mr. Friedman offers a colorful and entertaining commentary as he discusses various stages of his career in the exploitation/sexploitation industries.) Sadly, he doesn't perform similar duties for BUMMER!, which could have used a nice distracting commentary track.

   Those interested can purchase the double feature DVD direct from Something Weird Video here:

Godzilla, chick magnet!

   My brother ran across these shots on the internet, and they brought a smile to my face. Any day you can combine giant monsters and beautiful women, life is good. I thought I'd share.

Godzilla and his first leading lady, Momoko Kochi,
got along much better off screen, as you can see in
this behind the scenes shot from GODZILLA, KING

Godzilla's singing career never went very far, despite
his putting together this musical comedy act with his
Momoko Kochi and Akira Takarada

Actress Yukiko Kobayashi didn't have a very
long career in films, but she quickly caught the
eye of Japan's biggest movie star. Here they are
together on the set of DESTROY ALL MONSTERS

What I assume is a press party for 1968's DESTROY ALL
MONSTERS, to show off some of the spiffy new monster
suits built for the picture. But really, who was looking at the
monsters? Oh, I guess the girls might have been.

Baragon and pals from the same photoshoot

Thursday, October 6, 2011


    Very early in my career as a pencil jockey, I tried to sell a newspaper strip to King Features. EV was the only strip to get as far as submission, although I developed a couple of others. As you can see, my work on this project was very crude (and obviously I didn't sell this or any other strip). I didn't yet have a handle on the human form, it was my first attempt at inking (on the wrong kind of paper, which is why the images are weirdly textured in spots), and I was never meant to be a letterer. But for the sake of entertainment, I thought you might like to see this early work of mine (actually, I think it was only about five or six years ago. I really haven't been at this very long, but even I can see quite a bit of improvement over these few years).

   I've thought about resurrecting the EV character, possibly for a regular comic book. Or maybe I should get a real inker and redraw the whole thing and make another try at landing a newspaper strip, since it looks like the newspaper industry might recover before the comic book industry does.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Oddball Film Report: THE SIDEHACKERS (1969)

Despite what you see on the one sheet,
I don't recall a chick wearing a red bikini
anywhere in the picture.

   So I guess the logical first question one has going into THE SIDEHACKERS is: what in the world is sidehacking? I'm not sure how popular the sport ever became, but the film credits technical information to a legitimate sidehacking club. As explained in the movie, a sidehack is a narrow, wheeled platform bolted onto the side of a motorbike (like an open sidecar). Two man teams then race over an obstacle coarse, with one man driving the bike, and the other standing on the sidehack and shifting his weight back and forth to keep the bike level on hard turns. Doesn't sound very practical to me, nor does it look very practical in action. Aside from today's feature, I don't recall ever seeing another sidehack.

   It would seem the producers understood that sidehacking is hardly involved enough to sustain a feature film, so the sport pretty much vanishes from the film after the first 20 or so minutes. The rest of the film plays out like a mock THE BORN LOSERS. Things open like a documentary about sidehacking, though, and one doesn't really expect the direction the film takes at the mid-point. The opening is pretty cool too, showing close-ups of the men making ready their bikes as framed through a small rectangle in the center of the screen. When the credits pick up as the race begins (the camera tracking a bike moving toward the audience), the screen suddenly opens up as the frame pulls back to full FANTASCOPE proportions. This must have looked simply stunning on theater screens. Sadly, this print of the film (from Mill Creek's "Savage Cinema" collection) is cropped to regular aspect ratio. This becomes increasingly annoying as it's rather obvious that the blocking and cinematography have been formulated to take full advantage of the wide-screen format. If there's a scope version of this movie floating around out there, do let me know.

   The plot here is pretty simple (a common trait with "biker" flicks). Rommel is a sidehacker who is about to marry the girl of his dreams (and I can't remember her name for some reason, so I'll call her Peggy), and he's half owner-operator of a motorcycle repair shop (I can't remember his best friend's name either, so I'll call him Andy). One day, the leader of a group of exposition riders drops off his bike. This is the psychopathic J.C. Included in the group is his girl Paisley (see, I remember the weird names), who takes an instant shine to Rommel. J.C. notices the sidehack on Rommel's bike and asks about it. Rommel invites J.C. and his gang out to the track to see how it works.

   J.C. is quite a bit more impressed with sidehacking than you'd expect and he talks Rommel into teaching him how to sidehack. J.C. invites Rommel and Peggy to go on the road and do some sidehacking for county fairs. J.C. is a psycho, though, and its starting to show through now that he's got a few drinks in him, so Rommel turns him down. Paisley later makes an advance on Rommel, who refuses her (he's got Peggy and everything, remember? They started the film with a downright farcical 'frolic in the meadows' montage). Upset at being turned down, and knowing that J.C. will slaughter anyone else who touches his girl, Paisley claims Rommel raped her. J.C. then breaks in on Rommel and Peggy. Cut to later and Rommel wakes to find Peggy has been murdered and hung from the rafters of his cabin. Rommel spends the second half of the movie getting together some muscle so he can track J.C. down and go all Billy Jack on him (Rommel even starts wearing denim jeans and jacket over a dark shirt!).

   Rather famously, THE SIDEHACKERS is the film that changed the selection process for choosing movies to be featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. At the time, one of the crew would watch about 15 minutes of a film and put it on the pile if it looked promising. They started watching this film, and were shocked to find a rather violent rape scene half way through. Ever since, SOP involved watching an ENTIRE movie before picking it. And indeed, the rape scene is pretty shocking. The way the film cuts from J.C. breaking in, to a badly beaten Rommel waking up the next day and finding Peggy strung up, I started to wonder if the scene had been removed from this print. No, it wasn't.

   The sequence is actually quite effective. Rommel runs to Andy's house, and Andy tries to administer aid to his friend. Rommel hears Andy's kids playing and sees the little boy and girl innocently roughhousing in the floor, the boy pinning down the girl. This triggers flashbacks to Rommel being forced to watch as Peggy was gang-raped and killed. The scene is horrific and staggeringly realistic, and its being counterpointed by the similar but wholesome actions of the children is actually quite effective. The scene is repulsive and uncomfortable, yet it works perfectly within the context of the story. The increasingly quick cuts between the attack and Rommel's pained expression before he screams and runs out of the house is an amazing trick of editing. The bulk of the film fails to match the intensity of this sequence, both artistically and emotionally, but the scene alone leaves quite an impact. (Something one might not expect is that the sequence features no nudity. In fact, the only exposed flesh in the whole film is a quick shot of Peggy's duff as Rommel grabs at her hanging body and the remains of her skirt shift to the side. Well, there is a conversation taking place in front of a wall plastered with photos pulled out of various 60's girlie mags.)

   In the end, a better than average biker movie, mostly because it has a plot and there isn't much biking involved. Truly a product of its time, the late 60's, as it features a fairly workable storyline and decent production values countered by plenty of harsh language and frank discussion of intimate matters. Not great, but not bad either.

Why, yes, I have drawn Jessica Rabbit

As Catwoman, 40's style

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Today's subject: Movies I'd Like to Make - Return to the Land of the Lost.

    Many a viewer felt the Will Farrell comedy based on the classic 70's Saturday morning adventure series Land of the Lost was designed to offend those who loved the show, seen as ripping the throat out of their childhoods. Because of the title, its pretty difficult to look beyond the "screwing with a beloved classic" and taking the film on its own terms. Honestly, I don't know what Sid and Marty were thinking, as LAND OF THE LOST could have been one of the greatest science fiction adventure movies of all time. Having recently gone through the entire series, I have decided one of the Movies I'd Like to Make when I get the chance will be RETURN TO THE LAND OF THE LOST.

The plot:

     Two couples are out yachting. Mark Randall and his wife, Joan, and Cliff Hart and his wife, Sylvia. Mark and Cliff have just gone in together to buy the yacht currently being sailed, and girls are enjoying the voyage. Having lashed down the sail for the night, the men decide to play a little poker before turning in. The girls go topside to enjoy the sunset, but report that a strange fog is moving in. Mark and Cliff reach the deck and see a dense cloud moving across the surface of the water. "Doesn't look like any fog I've ever seen, looks more like a smoke screen." The fog drifts toward them. A waterfall is heard. The girls suddenly get dizzy and faint. The men shortly get dizzy too, lasting a little longer because they came on deck after the women. Cliff drops to the deck as Mark reaches for the flare gun. He tries to aim it, but falls to the deck before he can take any action.

   They are sucked into the Land of the Lost, which is this time built like the strange wonderland seen on the teleseries.

   The crew awakes in the swamp. They have no idea where they are or how they got there, but they're seeing living dinosaurs on the shore. LuLu, the two-headed sea serpent from the third season appears and attacks the boat. The men manage to fight it back long enough for Sylvia to turn the boat toward shore and beach the craft. Grabbing all the supplies they can think of, they leave the boat before LuLu can attack again. They must find shelter that can easily be defended. They are chased through the jungle by Grumpy, and the gang takes refuge in an open pylon. There, they discover Enik (and fortunately he speaks quickly enough that they don't shoot him), who gives them a little exposition ("You are not the first humans to enter the Land of the Lost, nor, I fear, will you be the last.") before taking them to the temple used as base camp in the third season of the show. Joan is confused, having heard the phrase "land of the lost" sometime in her childhood.

   In the ruins, Enik presents a large collection of notes prepared by the Marshalls before they left the Land of the Lost, a collection of notes prepared to bring the next stranded party up to speed. The Marshalls had been in the Land of the Lost five years before the "Pylon Express" took them home (at one point, Rick Marshall had found a way back into the express and eventually met up with Uncle Jack and the kids before the group managed to go home when the moons were in the right order once again. Since no one would believe him on the outside, thinking Rick had broken down after the kids were lost on the river, he had to read up on dimensional anomalies and find a way back himself, keeping the pylon express in mind the whole time). The notes lay out everything the Marshalls were able to learn about the Land of the Lost and the creatures that inhabit it, as well as a diorama of the explored areas to show how the land is formed.

   Once returned to the real world, Holly Marshall became a successful writer of children's books all about the Land of the Lost, which is why Joan remembers a few things, including Enik. Enik failed to return to his time on the express due to an anomaly he couldn't solve in time, but he may have found a way of forcing the express open sooner than due if he can find the proper sequence of crystals. On his own time board in his cave, Enik has reasoned the opening on the express into his time is blocked by a cataclysm, the one which possibly created the Land of the Lost. With the proper crystals, Enik may be able to control the passage of time and dimensional flux and return to his world early enough to prevent the disaster. He can also return his new friends to their proper time and close all the openings to the Land of the Lost.

   Cliff's radium dial watch turns out to be the missing component in Enik's locator, and Enik discovers the locations of the assorted crystals needed to operate the flux controller. The party then splits up and searches the indicated areas of the Land of the Lost, looking for the crystals (including the snowy lair of the yeti creature and that dark foggy area where Marvin Milner's ship was destroyed). Chaka, who has taken a vow to help all humans, also joins up (Jack had helped Chaka build a bridge across the ravine that cut him off from the other Pakuni). Meanwhile, the Sleestack learn of Enik's plan and try to prevent it, knowing that they would cease to exist if Enik's plan works.

   Toss in the desired amount of stop-motion dinosaur action and you're good to go. And yes, since they were on a sailing vessel, Joan and Sylvia spend the entire film in their bikinis. Its the film that's fun for everyone! Now, where can I get my hands on about 17 million dollars.......

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Published by Main Enterprises

I had been drawing for AC Comics for a while when my regular inker, Jeff Austin, helped me branch out. That first step was to draw for Main Enterprises (mostly to salvage some pencil sheets I had drawn for an abruptly cancelled project). Jim Main has helped me keep busy ever since, and he even published the first book for which I was seen cover to cover, the mini-comic SAY CHEESECAKE! Here are some things I've had published by Mr. Main.......

This image was used on the cover of Jim
Main's PRESENTS no. 4, featuring the
'super spy' episode of Betsy the Bookwriter.
Inks by Jeff Austin, colors by Marc Haines.

This was quite a thrill for me, as I had the
honor of being profiled in THE GALLERY,
a showcase title from Jim Main. Again, inks
by Jeff Austin, colors by Marc Haines.

This was a gag pinup I drew, and Jim Main
liked it enough to have Jeff Austin ink it for
the cover of his comedy title SHEESH!
Here's the original pencil version, by the way, which I
drew so I would have something to post on my then
brand new Facebook page. I've tried to post a new
pinup every working day since that time.

Here's a preview of an upcoming character
to be published by Jim Main, Sadie Six-Gun.
Inks by Jeff Austin. This strip to be in full

Finished art from the very first page of the very
first adventure of Betsy the Bookwriter. Talk
about a fun strip to draw! Inks by the Jeff Austin.

Here's a finished and lettered page from
Betsy the Bookwriter's spy story from
PRESENTS no. 4. Inks by Jeff Austin.
No Jeff Austin this time. This drawing for
THE GALLERY was printed as is!

10 Questions with Tim Ferrante

My latest interview for, with Mr. Tim Ferrante: