Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Quick Look: THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958 - color)

   THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD was the most influential special effects picture since KING KONG, inspiring another generation into the field of effects and film in general. The plot is fairly simple. Torin Thatcher is an evil magician who must return to his cave lair on a remote island in order to recover a captive genie. He traps heroic sailor/adventurer Sinbad into helping him by casting a spell upon Princess Kathryn Grant that shrinks her to the size of a doll. Only Thatcher has the spell to return her to normal, and the ingredients are back on the island. Kerwin Matthews' Sinbad is fearless, which is good because the island is swarming with giant monsters! Prior to THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, Sinbad movies weren't known for their monsters. Aside from a little magic, the bulk of Sinbad epics were basic costume adventures. Only THE THIEF OF BAGDAD really played to the all-fantastic, all-the-time formula which was to take over the genre following this Columbia release in 1958. Ray Harryhausen had reached a point where he could help form the direction of the films he worked on. Tiring of destroying modern cities, Ray turned his attention to the more romantic era of fantasy. He'd long wanted to do an Arabian Nites picture, and Sinbad, as Ray put it, "personified adventure." Pulling out all the stops, the film was a full color feast for the eyes! Ray's cyclops remains one of his most identified creations. The film was an astounding success, paving the way for similar fare. An imported Russian fantasy film was dubbed to name it's hero Sinbad and released as an unofficial sequel titled THE MAGIC VOYAGE OF SINBAD. (And somewhere in there was even a Toho epic released as THE LOST WORLD OF SINBAD...) Kerwin Matthews and Torin Thatcher were hired to essentially re-create their roles for the delightful fantasy adventure JACK THE GIANT KILLER. Harryhausen would return the character with THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD, where John Phillip Law turned in a fine performance as our hero. One of Ray's last films was SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER, with Patrick Wayne. Even before those sequels, Ray had officially found his niche in period adventure epics. His Sinbad vehicle was followed by the even bigger smash, JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS. Based in Greek myth, that film is largely considered Ray's best.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Jungle Doll (Betsy the Bookwriter episode, complete)

   From back in 2011 (published in Jim Main's Main Enterprises PRESENTS no. 5), very early in my career as a professional cartoonist. My anatomy wasn't very strong this early, so I had to focus more on the jokes. And in doing so, I went wild, as you can see. (No pun intended.)

Friday, April 14, 2017

A very Happy Easter to you!

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." -Jesus, the Christ, John 5:24

Friday, April 7, 2017


   I believe this image is actually from one of the video featurettes which preceded the popular and long-running Saturday morning cartoon series Garfield And Friends. As one might expect, the show was an animated adaptation of the wildly popular newspaper strip by cartoonist Jim Davis (not to be confused with the actor Jim Davis). Two Garfield cartoons (and a "Quickie" often based on a Sunday strip) sandwiched a back-up cartoon adapted from Davis' lesser-known strip U.S. Acres (reportedly, it was this segment that Davis wanted to headline the show). The Garfield segments were expansions of everything we'd come to know from the strip, as we followed the adventures of gluttonous, TV-watching, ever-napping house-cat Garfield and his often hapless owner Jon Arbuckle. Arbuckle was a cartoonist, something which was referenced far more frequently in the cartoon than is was in the newspaper strip, though it was still pretty peripheral. The animated Jon was marginally less pathetic than his print counter-part, and seemed to be doing better financially. He managed to cope with Garfield's out-of-control behavior, which included routine pestering of Jon's dog, Odie, and a militant hatred of occasional visitor Nermal, The World's Cutest Kitten. Over at U.S. Acres, level-headed pig Orson tried to referee the situations born of prankster rooster Roy, cowardly duck Wade, laid-back sheep Bo and his constantly aggravated sister Lanolin, adventurous chick Booker and his calmer, still-in-the-shell brother, Sheldon. The aesthetic of Garfield And Friends was a combination of earlier Warner Brothers and Tex Avery cartoons, with constant poking of fun at the very fact that it was a Saturday morning cartoon show. There was regular breaking of the forth wall and gags involving the behind-the-scenes crew. The characters were obviously actors playing parts which mirrored their real personas. One cartoon showed Garfield accidentally walk off of his set onto another show -a science fiction series with giant robots (complete with a new style of animation)! The animation was deceptively simple in design, but could occasionally be rather wild in execution, particularly on the U.S. Acres segments. Pop culture references were frequent, and of a sort embraced by later Steven Speilberg shows like Animaniacs and Freakazoid!, such as visual gags where a ship of galley slaves always included a caricature of Charlton Heston, or a character stopping by who for no reason had the voice and mannerisms of Gregory Peck. At any given moment, a character could reference/impersonate Jack Benny or Ed Sullivan. Old pros like Pat Buttram, June Foray, and Carl Ballentine were frequent supporting voices. Sportscaster Chick Hearn even parodied himself by playing a commentator during a sports spoof. There was even irreverent spoofing of network guidelines and current events (dig the U.S. Acres segment which parodies -as a background bit- the ozone layer hysteria of the day). The show gave it's youthful audience a lot of credit, and on top of that was very funny. Lorenzo Music perfectly voiced the pasta-loving feline, and the show's music coordinators did some excellent work. Lasting for seven seasons, Garfield and Friends was one of the truly great Saturday morning series produced before the format began to target older audiences with material far less sophisticated than this. Everyone who worked on the series can be proud of their contribution to pop culture.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A Quick Look: TERROR IN THE JUNGLE (1967 - color)

Warning, spoilers ahead.... 

   TERROR IN THE JUNGLE may well be the most bizarre jungle movie I've ever seen. The first couple of reels play out like a very cheap version of THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY, as a soap opera's assortment of characters (a wealthy-but-unfulfilled playboy, an up and coming actress, a woman who may or many not have murdered her husband, a singing trio, etc) board a plane headed for Rio. On the way, the plane mysteriously loses fuel and is forced to make a crash landing on the Amazon. Then the movie goes completely berserk! The survivors are hurried into the river before the plane can sink -where the entire lot of them is devored by crocodiles! Everyone is either killed in the crash, eaten, or blown up when the plane explodes! All, that is, except for one small boy traveling alone. The flight crew manage to place the boy in the safety of a coffin and set him afloat! The film now in a relative calm after the madness of the crash sequence, it manages some of it's most effectiveness here. After all, a small boy lost in the jungle ramps up enough instinctive suspense to keep us on the edge of our seats. He's eventually found by a tribe of savages, who by virtue of his blond hair they believe to be the son of their sun god, Inti! One of the natives, however, feels the child is dangerous and plots to have him killed -despite the rest of the village falling in love with the lad. Meanwhile, the boy's father assembles a rescue party to search for him. Back at the village, the hostile tribesman has managed to throw the entire tribe into bloody war over the boy! The boy escapes, but is chased by the native who hates him. In one of the most unexpected endings I've ever run across, the boy drops the stuffed leopard he's been clinging to the entire movie -which then transforms into a real leopard and mauls the native before he can kill the boy! They even show the leopard morph back into a toy! This is presented as an act of Divine intervention, and indeed there's a spiritual undercurrent running through this picture. Ultimately, it's pretty interesting for that point. Anyway, father and son are reunited and the picture ends. The cast is pretty stiff, for the most part (the only really notable name in the cast is that of Fawn Silver, who will probably be longest remembered as the substitute Vampire Ed Wood used in his nudie film ORGY OF THE DEAD), and the dialog is all over the place. The production values are also constantly in flux. It's a cheap movie, with mismatched wildlife stock footage (that stuff filmed in wide scope and thus presented squeezed much of the time), and some pretty dinky model work where the troubled plane is concerned, and amateurish camera work abounds. Still, the natural suspense of the situations keep one invested. Oddball little adventure movie, but when all is said and done, not completely terrible. It's certainly intriguing!

Saturday, April 1, 2017


   EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS was, although a B picture, one of the major achievements of the whole flying saucer scene. In the film, invaders contact scientist Hugh Marlowe to arrange a meeting. Unfortunately, he doesn't decode the message until after the saucers land and lay waste to a military project base. When he does make contact, he discovers the invaders are planning to subjugate our planet. As armadas of death-ray-spewing flying saucers descend upon our major cities, the military must fight back with the usual experimental equipment developed by our heroes at the last minute. What a grand show! Morris Ankrum is on hand to play another of his military leaders faced with an impossible situation, and Paul Frees provides the voice of the invaders. Harryhausen, meanwhile, cuts loose with a crescendo of stop motion destruction as the saucers invade Washington. Our most iconic reflections of spinning 50's-type saucers are seen here. The film was produced during the height of flying saucer mania, which about this time fell to a ploy by authorities to erase a lot of the sensationalism connected to the craze. Officially, what the public had been calling "flying saucers" were re-termed U.F.O.'s. U.F.O. is a pilot's term referring to any Unidentified Flying Object, but the public in later decades would embrace the term as a catch-all to describe spacecraft supposedly of extraterrestrial origin. I kinda prefer the more descriptive Flying Saucer designation, myself, since it refers specifically to other-world craft and a U.F.O. could be anything in the skies. Anyway, the film was a hit for Columbia Pictures, and much of the destruction footage would be recycled for the next year's THE GIANT CLAW. The saucers themselves, meanwhile, were given homage in the woefully misfired MARS ATTACKS! in the late 90's. A decade earlier, footage from EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS was heavily featured in both IT CAME FROM HOLLYWOOD and INVASION EARTH! THE ALIENS ARE HERE!. I recall seeing a commercial as a kid in which footage from the film was used -replacing the saucers with flying hamburgers! The spacesuits of the Martians were seen briefly in the prolog to THE CREATION OF THE HUMANOIDS. Ray would follow EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS with what is considered his best black and white solo effort, 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH, his last film not to be shot in color.