Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Green Hornet's Great Uncle

Though George Trendle and Fran Striker were the creators of both The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet, due to rights for the properties being with different companies the two characters could not explicitly exist in the same universe.  But the intent was there.  The Green Hornet AKA Britt Reid was the son of The Lone Ranger's nephew Dan Reid.  Young Dan Reid who's father was one of the original seven Texas Rangers ambushed and killed by the Cavendish Gang, rode with the Lone Ranger on many adventures during his time on radio and TV.  

The November 11, 1947, radio episode of  THE GREEN HORNET "Too Hot to Handle" insinuates this relationship as Dan Reid tells his son, Britt, about his history with the Lone Ranger. 

I had read plenty of times about this fateful episode, but for some reason never got around to listening to it.  Finally I did this morning and I do have to say it sent a tingle down my spine as Dan Reid recounts the story and the William Tell Overture fades into the background.  Here is the pertinent part of the radio script. The episode itself can be found here.

             BRIT: I saw political grafters and confidence men bend the law nearly double without actually breaking it.  I had inside information on political bribes.  I knew of crooks in our government and there wasn’t a thing that could be done about them.  We couldn’t even publish their activities because the law couldn’t get proof that would hold up in court.  A lot of criminals went free because of tricky laws and red tape.
              DAN: But the Green Hornet – everyone thinks the Hornet is a criminal.
              BRIT: Dad – I could see only one way to get those rats.  Someone had to meet them and play the game their way, with no holds barred.  Putting them in jail was the most important thing in the world to me.  It came ahead of the newspaper.  Ahead of my reputation.  Ahead of everything.  (beat)  If you’ll look at the records, you’ll see that I was successful.  Maybe I was wrong…
              LINDA: No.  No, you were not wrong!
              DAN: Who knows about this?
              BRIT: Kato.  Linda Travis.  And now you.
              DAN: And now that the secret is out – what’re you gonna do?
              BRIT: The secret is not out unless you let it out.  Kato has shared the secret with me.  Linda will share it.  It could be shared with you.
              DAN: (dismissively) Ahhh!
              LINDA: Mr. Reid – regardless of what the public thinks, there isn’t a single charge against the Green Hornet.  The police haven’t a thing on him.
              DAN: There were charges!  The Sentinel has been offering a reward…
              LINDA: Yes, but the record is clean now.  The last murder charge was wiped off the books a few days ago.
              DAN: And Linda – you’d forego the reward to keep this secret?
              LINDA: Oh, I… I don’t want that kind of money.
              DAN: (softening) Well… you can’t buy loyalty like that.
              LINDA: Oh, there’s such a need for someone like the Green Hornet.
              BRIT: It’s up to you, Dad.  Are you… with me?
              ANNOUNCER: After announcing his identity, Brit Reid hadn’t taken his eyes off his father.  He had seen various emotions.  Shock.  Disbelief.  Controlled anger in the strong, rugged face.  This had given way to a hurt expression.
MUSIC:               FADES OUT
              ANNOUNCER: But as he explained his position, Brit saw his father’s chin come up.  Then, during a momentary silence, the eyes of father and son met.  Between the two, there flashed a spark of mutual understanding.  A look of confidence came into Brit Reid’s clean-cut features and the older man looked proud.
              DAN: (begins chuckling under Announcer’s speech.)
              ANNOUNCER: Then there was a faint grin that expanded to a chuckle.
              BRIT: (beat) Dad.  You’re not angry.
              DAN: Angry?  Why, how can I be angry with you?  I know exactly how you feel.  Because… I went through the same thing.
              BRIT: You?
              DAN: Look at that picture on the wall.  The man on that horse is one of your ancestors.  And those hills are in Texas.  When I was a boy, I rode with that man.
              DAN: I saw him six-gun his way through red tape and ride roughshod over crooks who thought they were too smart for the law.  He rode for justice.
              DAN: Brit.  I gave you the Daily Sentinel because I knew you’d learn a lot about smart crooks that the law couldn’t get.  I’d hoped you’d do something about those crooks, just as your pioneer ancestor did.  I wanted to see you use the paper as a crusading weapon.  I wanted to see sparks fly.  But… nothing came! 
              BRIT: But Dad…
              DAN: I was disappointed, son.  I wondered what was the matter with you.  Wondered why the American heritage didn’t assert itself.  That’s why I sent Linda here.  I sent her to find out what was wrong with you.  And… now I learn.  (deeply moved)  Why, confound it, Brit… you’re more like the man in the picture than I dreamed you could be. (This man is definitely using every ounce of willpower to hold back tears.)  This is the biggest thing that’s… that’s ever happened to me.  This is…!
              BRIT: (beat) Dad…
              DAN: (sighs; regains control; chuckles a bit at his “weakness”) You and Linda will have to forgive an old man his emotions.

              BRIT: (beat)

Thursday, December 02, 2010


Here are a couple of new articles on the Pulp History series. "Pulp History brings to life extraordinary feats of bravery, violence, and redemption that history has forgotten. These stories are so dramatic and thrilling they have to be true" And they are true!
This TRUE story is about the man who saved America:
DAVID TALBOT: One day after Roosevelt is elected, two men come out, and they begin to lay out a plot to overthrow President Franklin Roosevelt.
But, you may never have heard of Smedley Butler. His history in many ways parallels the birth of the American empire and modern American history.
This is not your dry stuff of texbooks. Local author David Talbot and his crew have created “pulp history” series, telling the exciting tales of forgotten history.
TALBOT: You can’t make this stuff up.
Pulp history author David Talbot brings us the story of Smedley Butler, the man he claims “saved America.” In his new book Devil Dog, Talbot brings to life the adventures and heroism of the most-decorated Marine in history as he runs down rebels in Nicaragua, throws gangsters out of Philadelphia and blows the lid off a plot against FDR. Let’s drop in on one of Butler’s many tales of heroism, when he was a young marine occupying Nicaragua.
Listen to and/or read the rest of this story at CROSSCURRENTS.


In “Shadow Knights: The Secret War Against Hitler,” one of two books in the series that Simon & Schuster released last month, a British spy named Harry Rée wrestles with a Gestapo agent: “He gouged at one of the man’s eyes, but it wouldn’t come out. He tried to bite off his nose, but it was too tough. Then Ree shoved his forefinger into the German’s mouth, between his teeth and cheeks, and pulled up hard. The man squealed in pain and sent Ree flying over his head.”
Mr. Talbot explained: “We definitely did not want to make history like spinach, good for you but boring. We wanted to do the stuff that wasn’t good for you, with good guys, bad guys, blood, guts and sex.” 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Lone Ranger's Cave of Terror

I was never really a huge fan of the Lone Ranger. I watched the Clayton Moore TV show as a kid, and the Filmation cartoon that came on in the late 70s or 80s. The idea of a masked avenger is a cool one, and one that is tried and true in the pages of the pulps. The list of masked vigilantes in comics, film, TV and books is too long to go into here.

I should admit I'm not a big fan of Westerns in general as well. But in some cases I do find them fun, especially if they are on the weird side. Cowboys fighting zombies, werewolves, vampires and wendigos can be good entertainment.

Lately I've been watching some pretty crumby but very fun Mexican horror/western/masked vigilante movies such as El Charro de las Cavaleras and El Latigo contra Satanis. That sort of got me looking back at the Lone Ranger and I did find some interesting stuff. For one thing there was a Lone Ranger cartoon in the 1960s which seemed to be mirroring or even cashing in on the popularity of The Wild Wild West as it pitted Kemosabe and Tonto against an array of steampunk machinery and vampires and ghosts. That sounds pretty cool! But too bad it isn't available on DVD anywhere.

An episode of the weird west Lone Ranger cartoon from 1966
Another interesting cartoon is this silent short subject.

So as things always seem to go it seemed like looking into Fran Striker's own written word on the Lone Ranger might be a good idea, just in case there were any cool creepies in there.  Well the one title I've found so far that sound creepy is The Cave of Terror and this is our digital experiment for Thanksgiving.  Seems at least kinda fitting.  I don't know if Tonto agrees, but we'll hope so.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

La Pantera Negra (2009)

Though completed in 2009, La Pantera Negra is only now slowly making its way through the festival circuit.  To paraphrase the production notes:  Nico Beamonte is a private detective, alcoholic and decadent. One day he receives a call from God, who asks Nico to find "The Black Panther". What or who is the Black Panther? God doesn't say but Nico takes the job. While looking for The Black Panther he meets Mrs. M., who also asks for help. She says Pedro Infante, the idol of Mexico (a true life music and movie legend comparable to Elvis) who died years ago is more alive now than ever. So she wants Nico to find Pedro as well. What Nico does not know is that this is a plan conspired between God and Mrs. M. to face his destiny. Nico will gradually  notice that the search for The Black Panther is really a search for his own existence, hidden in his past and his dreams.

Mrs. M... aka Death
This is a skirmish into an existential dreamland, full of wild tangents and seemingly side stories.  It is a rare film which while watching it, the thread of the story gets washed away. As we are presented with one stylish set-piece after another forming a string of disjointed, barely discerned narrative it seems to not make any sense.  Usually it's pretty easy to see where a story is taking you by the end of the first act. But with this I was left wondering until the last few minutes of the film what exactly this journey had been.  But at the end of the movie I realized what I was seeing, which was a fresh adaptation of a classic story from an 19th Century American writer.  I won't say more than that about which writer or story, as if you've read it or seen other adaptations, it will be a complete spoiler.

Nico has a talk with God.
La Pantera Negra is shot in black and white, oozing with Noir style and hard-boiled pulp attitude.  There are elements of fantasy and science fiction mixed with some entertaining musical numbers. The music incidentally was written by Director Iyari Wertta.  I am hoping that not only a DVD will eventually be available for this film but also the soundtrack, as the music really was enjoyable and impressive, fusing a 50's Noir vibe with modern rock underpinnings. 

Hoping for a soundtrack CD
During Nico's quest to find the Black Panther we meet a wide array of characters.  His ex-girlfriend and ex-partner who has also been contacted to find the Black Panther and spends her time dressed up as a ninja-like crime-fighting superhero.  There is El Gringo, a rich white guy who sees a flying saucer and tracks it and the alien pilot down.  The alien winds up switching bodies with El Gringo's daughter's lesbian partner.  El Gringo sends Nico on his third mission, to track down the lesbian girlfriend alien.

In the end, all of these disparate threads suddenly collide together in a classic "Gotcha" moment made famous in the story I hinted at above.  La Pantera Negra is a really interesting film mixing mystery, sci-fi, horror, music and comedy but not revealing any of its secrets until the very end.  It made for an interesting thought process while watching the movie, where I wasn't sure if I liked it or not. But when it was over and as the days have gone by and allowed it to percolate in my mind, I found myself really happy with the experience, and find it to be a must have on DVD. Thus hoping for a domestic release eventually.

Tracking the Alien
La Pantera Negra is not even in the art-house circuit but is making the film festival rounds. I just saw it at the Redwood City International Latino Film Festival.  The only way I know of to find upcoming dates is to become a fan on the production's Facebook page and Twitter feed.  I highly suggest trying to track it down. As a lover of odd ball and outre pulp and Noir, I recommend it!

Iyari Wertta
Producer: Issa Guerra
Exec Producers: Henner Hoffman, Liliana Pardo
Scriptwriter: Iyari Wertta
Editors: Luciana Jauffred, Francisco Rivera, Yoame Escamilla
DoP: Christian Rivera
Production Designer: Alejandro García
Sound Production: Marco A Hernández, Iyari Wertta, Izabel Acvedo
Music: Iyari Wertta

Cast: Enrique Arreola, Laura de Ita, Dolores Heredia, Ely Guerra, Mario Almanda, Fernando Cianguerotti, Mariana Gajá, Daniela Schmidt, Mariús Biengai, Arnulfo Reyes

Thursday, November 04, 2010

A pledge for The Trail of the Octopus

Although we may never see the complete serial of THE MYSTERIES OF MYRA there are other serials that may be just as amazing from the silent movie era.  Serials where it is obvious that a lot of money, time and creativity went into the productions.  One that will hopefully be available in Spring 2011 is THE TRAIL OF THE OCTOPUS.  This is another revelation from the age of the silents; where an amazing globe-trotting adventure comes to life as we meet great detectives, evil cults and mysterious strangers, spanning from a lost city in Egypt to the streets of San Francisco.

THE TRAIL OF THE OCTOPUS (not to be confused with the book by Goddard & Coleman) is a serial from 1919 consisting of 14 episodes totaling 7 hours. From the Serial Squadron's page the story goes:

Dr. Reid Stanhope, a noted scientist, and Raoul Bornay, a Frenchman of questionable standing, set out upon an expedition to explore the mysteries of ancient Egypt. With their caravan of natives and camels, they pierce the very heart of the great Sahara Desert in their search for the Temple of Death and the sacred Talisman of Set, both considered mythological by everyone except Dr. Stanhope.

After weeks of searching they discover a sarcophagus upon which hieroglyphics read: “He that toucheth or taketh away the Sacred Talisman of Set will bathe his hands in human blood.” Reaching inside the sarcophagus, Stanhope takes out the Sacred Talisman which is also known as the Devil's Trademark – the cloven hoof of Satan.

From the moment the Talisman is released, murder and destruction run rampant. Stanhope is forced to kill Bornay when attacked by him and Bornay's final words are “Don't think you killed a friend – they sent me to get you and the Talisman.” Who “they” are provides the foundation for the story of the rest of the serial, which takes place after Stanhope returned to civilization.

When we pick up the story from there, we see Stanhope telling his niece Ruth he has never had a moment's peace since he hid the Devil's Trademark in a rock vault – he's been haunted by the sudden mysterious appearance of a pair of uncanny looking eyes. While Dr. Stanhope tells the story, a thunderstorm arises and the “eyes” appear outside. He tells Ruth she must get rid of the Talisman as it endangers her life. He takes a dagger from a drawer and says, “Eight other daggers like this are in the hands of eight fellow scientists for safe-keeping. You must have all of them to get the combination of the rock vault, in which is hidden the sacred Talisman.”

When Stanhope receives a telephone call from the mysterious masked Monsieur X, who tells him that his friend, Professor Hubbard, one of the scientists, is dead, Ruth runs across the street to call on Carter Holmes, the criminologist, taking the dagger with her.Stanhope's scream in the distance begins a chain of events that leads to the kidnapping of Ruth by a clan of Devil Worshippers headed by a sorceress named Madame Zora, and a three-way battle between Holmes, the Devil-cult, and an Asian mastermind known as the Octopus to possess the Talisman by collecting the remaining daggers and placing them together in a cliffside vault that will reveal its secret.

An extremely atmospheric serial, heavily influenced by aspects of THE MYSTERIES OF MYRA (the Devil-cult with its crystal ball, and characters who disappear into astral form), and anticipating DRUMS OF FU MANCHU in its noir-ish look, THE TRAIL OF THE OCTOPUS changes location and emphasis many times but remains generally in early pulp/detective/horror mode throughout, with more than the occasional element of the paranormal thrown in to kick the mystery up a notch.
This serial is being restored by the Serial Squadron and even some missing scenes are being re-filmed with contemporary actors in order to have the story be as complete as possible. Doing this costs money though, and to get this production completed the Serial Squadron has a pledge drive going.  What this means is that you pledge beforehand to pay for the DVD upon completion of its production (Spring 2011).  This ensures that the costs of restoration and DVD production are covered.  The TRAIL OF THE OCTOPUS page explains:
Pledging does not require immediate payment, however, your pledge is a promise to pay for your DVD set when the DVDs are ready to go to press and should be considered an "order" to be billed to you. You will be sent an email confirming your pledge which only requires response in case of any error in the message, then, if and when the pledge drive reaches its total, an invoice with a PayPal link which will allow you to pay for your DVD set, or information on how to pay using a check or money order by regular mail.
The pledge for TRAIL OF THE OCTOPUS is $40 for 2 double-sided DVDs.  This is a very fair and reasonable price for a micro-production which is putting out a small run, but professionally restored and extremely rare serial.  You won't find this serial anywhere else because it does not exists anywhere else. This DVD set is being digitally remastered from a 35mm print from the Library of Congress.

Along with the visual restoration the Squadron's Eric Stedman has mixed a new sound track including music that is scene relevant along with sound effects for important points of nuance.  This in my opinion really adds a layer of watchability and entertainment value to the whole project. You can see and hear the results in a sample posted at the bottom of this entry.

Please do NOT pledge if you do not intend to follow through with your order.  But please do pledge if you want to be able to own a cool if not amazing part of movie history. Head to the Serial Squadron and fill out the form at the bottom. Be sure to click in the yellow box on which pledge choice you want to make.

The Squadron has a few ongoing pledge drives for different serials and as of this writing TRAIL is at 48% of its goal.
Check out the first 15 minutes of the first episode of TRAIL here:

Friday, October 29, 2010

Tonight, My Love

In 1954 Mickey Spillane wrote and performed a Mike Hammer bit on an extended play 45 RMP record which tells the story of how he first met Velda who would later become his secretary. Velda is played by Betty Ackerman with music written and performed by Stan Purdy. So if you ever wondered what Mickey Spillane sounded like, especially when acting as his quintessential PI, head over to The Pulp Reader facebook page to check it out.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pulp Reference Online

The mysterious yet prolific Robert Sampson wrote a lot of reference books about the world of the pulps. Some are limited editions that now sell for astounding amounts of money, if they are findable at all. Certain books may never come to light again such as his seminal work on Norvell Page's SPIDER.

But Popular Press, an imprint of The University of Wisconsin has made available to Google Books several of Sampson's other texts. These are titles which are more readily available on the market, but hey, this is free... if you don't mind reading online. Certain sections of each book seem to be missing, but I'd say 90% of each is present.
Click the book TITLE to go to the books!
History of the American pulp magazine. Includes such titles as The Shadow, Black Mask, Weird Tales, Scientic Detective Monthly and Scarlet Adventuress as well as characters like Doc Savage, Captain Future, The Spider, Phantom Detective, The Whisperer and Senorita Scorpion, quick-trigger blonde from Old Texas.
The pulp magazines dealt in fiction that was, by reason of the audience and the medium, heightened beyond normal experience. The drama was intense, the colors vivid, and the pace exhausting. The characters moving through these prose dreams were heightened, too. Most were cast in a quasi-heroic mold and moved on elevated planes of accomplishment. 

    This book and its companion volumes are concerned with the slow shaping of many literary conventions over many decades. This volume begins the study with the dime novels and several early series characters who influenced the direction of pulp fiction at its source.
The second volume within this series presents more than fifty series characters within pulp fiction, selected to represent four popular story types from the 1907–1939 pulps—scientific detectives, occult and psychic investigators, jungle men, and adventurers in interplanetary romance. Some characters—Tarzan, John Carter of Mars, Craig Kennedy, Anthony (Buck) Rogers—became internationally known. Others are now almost forgotten, except by collectors and specialists.
For the fourth volume of this series, Robert Sampson has selected more than fifty magazine series characters to illustrate the development of the character of the detective. Included here are both the amateur and professional detective, female investigators, deducting doctors, brilliant amateurs, and equally brilliant professional police. There are private detectives reflecting Holmes and hard-boiled cops from the parallel traditions of realism and melodramatic fantasy. Characters include Brady and Riordan, Terry Trimble, Glamorous Nan Russell, J. G. Reeder, plus many others.

In this fifth volume of the Yesterday’s Faces series, Robert Sampson has selected a host of series characters who adventured throughout the world in the 1903–1930 pulps. Sparkling brightly among these characters are Terence O'Rourke, Captain Blood, and the ferocious Hurricane Williams. More characters include Peter the Brazen, in China, Sanders of the River, in Africa—and much, much more.  

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Wrong Block

More animated Noir, this time it's a feature coming from Montreal:





Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Stark and Cooke's The OUTFIT

Darwyn Cooke has a wonderful retro yet modern style to his art and has written some of the great stories of the last few years including the remarkable Justice League: New Frontier. Also he was the artist at the forefront of rebooting Will Eisner's The SPIRIT which has been running for a few years now.

He has now adapted a bit of hard boiled crime to graphic novel format. Usually I don't think comics and pulp go together that well. But from what I've seen of The OUTFIT this might be a good exception. My suggestion is the head to amazon and check out the "Look Inside" preview there.

There's a great, in depth interview at Comic Book Resources with Cooke talking all about the production of this latest effort. This is the intro which will give you some background and there's a link at the end for the interview.

There is no doubt that Darwyn Cooke and IDW Comics took a bit of a gamble when the decision was made to re-imagine Richard Stark's "Parker" hard-boiled crime thrillers into a series of graphic novels. But man, did that gamble pay off.

Last year, Cooke landed an Eisner for "The Hunter," which he adapted and illustrated, and the 140-page hardcover book also found a home on "The New York Times" bestseller list.

IDW released Parker Book 2: "The Outfit" today and CBR News spoke with the critically acclaimed cartoonist about the title character's latest exploits.

Originally conceived by Donald Westlake, under the pseudonym Richard Stark, Parker made his first appearance in "The Hunter" in 1962. The first novel was adapted into three different movies; "Point Blank" starring Lee Marvin, "Full Contact" with Chow Yun-fat and the Mel Gibson vehicle, "Payback." Parker, an anti-heroic criminal, ultimately appeared in 23 novels, including "The Outfit," which was published in 1963.

Cooke told CBR News that while he made some changes to the original story, every one of those types of choices was a difficult one. But he believed if he stayed true to Parker, a now deceased Westlake would certainly approve. Or at the very least, understand. He also revealed details about the remaining books in the series - "The Score" and "Slayground" - and teased a possible major project for DC Comics. And no, it's not a sequel to "DC: New Frontier."

Interview is continued here...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lydecker Brothers Review

Since I plugged this book, now that I've read it I feel it only fair and honest to give a review of it.

In short, I have to say that the photos are rare and amazing, and if you are into movie history and behind the scenes stuff, this book is priceless. But unfortunately the text is mostly irrelevent fluff with disturbingly little to actually do with the lives of the Lydeckers.

I recommend it based on the power of the photos and the several recollections from people like George Lydecker.

Here is my full review:

I first heard of the Lydecker brothers in a 1991 issue of American Cinematographer. That article incidentally was written by the author of this book. Since that time I had hoped that one day a definitive look at the work and lives of the Lydeckers would come about. I was very excited to learn about this book.

The photos in the book are astonishing. I have bookshelves full of books on movie making, special effects and classic movies and serials and maybe 90 percent of the photos in this book I have never seen before. In my opinion, if you are into behind the scenes movie photos, this is a must have book.

Unfortunately the text leaves a lot to be desired. From reading an interview with the author I understand he was under the gun to get the book written in 4 months. This obviously was not enough as the first 150 or so pages are 75 percent irrelevant fluff. Most chapters really have nothing to do with either the family, lives or thoughts of the Lydeckers and rarely are their effects techniques discussed. Only a few stand out moments show the promise of what I was hoping the book could have been in total. There are great descriptions of how the Lydeckers did their flying effects for aircraft, Captain Marvel and the Rocket Men. Unfortunately those types of descriptions about working on production special effects are rare. Just describing an "exciting scene where a flaming stage coach goes over a cliff" doesn't tell the reader anything about the Lydeckers. There's no story behind the glib descriptions.

Typically a chapter covers two serials of which Henderson lists several Lydecker gags. Simply listed mind you, as in "there's a exploding barn, a car crash, a model plane" etc and then the text drifts off talking about random snippets of trivia that literally has nothing whatsoever to do with the subjects featured in the title of the book.

Many times there is a sentence which promises to be the beginning of a nice story about some aspect of the brothers life in the business, but it's just one sentence that even though it begs further exploration there is none. The narrative drifts off into nonsense and tangents about things like Tom Neal's fling with Barbara Payton. That was a low point at which I was debating with myself whether I should try to continue reading. I bought a book about the Lydeckers, not a Hollywood gossip clippings collection.

The last couple of chapters hone in on more material that actually is relevant to Howard and Theodore, but it is too little too late. There are a few reminisces which are lovely, and sprinkled throughout there are some interesting revelations. Particularly the story about visiting the volcano set from FAIR WIND TO JAVA which is still standing and even used as housing for visitors to the remote island it was built on over 50 years ago. So there are certainly worthwhile bits in the books, but I am saddened that they are so few and far between.

Also it bears mentioning though there is a list of article sources, there is no filmography and no index.

Since he was stuck with just 4 months to write it, I would encourage Mr. Henderson to continue his research in earnest on the Lydeckers and find a publisher that will be a pain in his butt making sure he has the time and resources to dig up information pertinent to the subject, has time to be edited and groomed and matured into a serious and truly definitive work on the Lydeckers. An editor who is a true pain in the butt for all the right reasons can help turn a piece of fluff into a masterpiece.

I've waited nearly 20 years for this book, but strangely and sadly feel I'm still waiting.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Legendary Lydecker Brothers

When I was in art school I read a 1991 issue of American Cinematographer which had an article on the Lydecker Brothers. Theodore and Howard Lydecker were special effects geniuses who made their names working on Republic Pictures' cliffhanger serials. Some of the iconic imagery that comes to mind are the flying wing used in Dick Tracy (1937) and later reused in The Fighting Devil Dogs (1938). Using life-sized (and bigger) mannequins on string they made a generation of kids believe Captain Marvel and Commando Cody could fly. They created a lot of miniature sets and blew most of them up.

Building sets outdoors to take advantage of natural lighting and skillfully use forced perspective landscapes and models, they created a lot of truly amazing visual effects. And especially while at Republic, always done on a shoestring budget.

Later in their careers they worked in movies such as Sink the Bismark (1960), Fair Wind to Java (1953) and The Flying Tigers (1942) with John Wayne, which was considered for an Academy Award for best special effects, though the Academy board thought the aerial dogfights the Lydeckers created were purely real, causing some disbelief and uproar.

Eventually they transitioned from film to television productions such as Irwin Allen's Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea.

Well, in this American Cinematographer article on the Lydeckers I got an inkling of what these guys were about. They were hands-on, crafty and tricky artists who created movie magic not on a computer, but out of carpentry. Using wood and nails, chicken wire and paper-maché. But sadly there was scant information beyond this one article about their work. No books, no documentaries and just a passing mention in books about special effects or cliffhanger history. This was something I really lamented because I could so easily visualize the adventure of working on the set with the Lydeckers. I wanted to be able to read more about their moments of triumph and disaster.

Well now it's time to rejoice.

Jan Alan Henderson, who wrote that 1991 article was requested to fill that original piece out into a full fledged book. And it is now out through some mail order venues but primarily through for the time being.

As someone who has bookshelves full of eldritch tomes on movie making, special effects, radio, television and cliffhanger histories, I am impressed with the large amount of photos in this book of which 98% I have never seen before. Henderson has a thoughtful and personal angle to the whole narrative and is able to weave a human story into a lot of behind the scenes info.

This book has needed to be made for years and I'm glad that it has finally arrived. You can find THE LEGENDARY LYDECKER BROTHERS at
If you're not sure about the book, check out more online info on the Lydeckers at The Matt Shot blog and at

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Mysteries of Myra

I love pulps. I also love cliffhanger serials. And maybe more than anything, I love behind the scenes info and history about movie and television production. As my poor suffering wife can attest, my bookshelves are jammed with reference books and guides about pulp characters, old movies, radio dramas and T.V. shows.

Enter Eric Stedman, an entrepreneur who dedicates long hours to the restoration and preservation of many cliffhanger movie serials. At The Serial Squadron you can get a taste of the massive amount of work he has put into the genre through his line of restored movie DVDs along with relevant books and audio.

One of Eric's latest projects (one of many ongoing productions) is the novelization of a lost serial from 1916. THE MYSTERIES OF MYRA is a strange brew of action, intrigue, magic, spiritualism, monsters and zombies. As Eric put it "an X-Files of 1916". Unfortunately quite possibly all prints of MYRA were lost in a warehouse fire. At least at this date it is still considered a lost serial. This is truly unfortunate as from the evidence at hand and eloquently shown in this book, MYRA may be one of the most astoundingly put together serials of the silent and talkie era. From the looks of the stills and behind the scenes photos and info, this was a lavish production with impressive sets and intriguing special effects.

The process of this production was a painstaking one, as Eric explains:
Tracy Burton ... took on the job of interpreting fuzzy microfilm versions of the newspaper serializations of the story -- virtually all of which were incomplete, damaged, or otherwise messed up, which means after her pass through it and interpretations she was able to make, it took two other guys (me and Dr. Daka) hours and hours to fill in the missing words and correct errors. Daka discovered ... that there were about 5 different versions of the text, also, which all appeared in different newspapers, with different illustrations.

Along with reconstructing the various newspaper serializations of the story into a coherent novel, Eric delved deeply into researching the production history of MYRA, which is contained in a lengthy introduction and includes many production photos and biographies of cast and crew.

So here we have it; a novel that any pulp writer would dream to write, which is based on a legendary serial that no longer exists, along with a lot of tasty background info and photos. A perfect storm of entertainment for anyone who is into pulps, serials and movie history bound into one handsome tome.

This is the sales blurb for the book, which concisely explains what it's all about:

BEWARE THE BLACK ORDER! So comes the warning from the spirit of Myra Maynard's father, who reaches out to her from beyond the grave to warn her of danger from the masters of the occult arts that lurk in the shadows and mark her for murder on her eighteenth birthday. Only the world's first psychic detective, Dr. Payson Alden, and his friend Haji the Brahman mystic, can save clairvoyant Myra from the terrors of The Grand Master of the Order, who tries to claim not only her fortune but her life by means of suicide-inducing spells, invasion of her chamber by spirit assassins, and even reanimation of the dead by a fire elemental. Originally a fifteen-episode serial shot in Ithaca, New York (before Hollywood became the center of American movie-making) in 1916, painstakingly reconstructed from the original screenplay, novelization, and existing stills. Includes background information, behind-the-scenes photos and cast biographies.

At $25 it is well worth the price of admission and I urge you to head over to the Serial Squadron and pick up a copy.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The India Rubber Men

I occasionally get these ebay email alerts from certain favored sellers. One of them sells older newspaper comics that have been repackaged into books. The pesky thing about the alerts I get on this guy is that sometimes he has really odd items which get my curiosity up in a dander. I've discovered some great graphic artists and obscure comics and just recently discovered the wacky world of English fiction writer Edgar Wallace.

Though the internet is a global community and many of you dear readers may "get this" already, from an American standpoint Wallace is basically non-existent within pop-culture. Even within U. S. pulp circles he is not a common name to run across. About the only thing where his name is seen regularly in the U. S. is as the author of the novelization of the original 1933 movie King Kong. Which he didn't actually write. But that is a completely different story of which if you want to investigate, you can check it out on wikipedia.

Well back to this ebay seller alert. Recently he had an ad for a newspaper strip called "Inspector Wade, by Edgar Wallace". I recognized the author's name from Kong. Intrigued I looked "Inspector Wade" up. A google search turned up an interesting link which led to a whole bizarre world of which I previously had no knowledge. A German subgenre of crime and mystery movies known as "krimi". Apparently within the krimi genre Edgar Wallace reigned King, with 44 movies adapted from Wallace and his son's books and short stories in a 13 year period. Here are a few krimi movie links for your edification: krimi corner, Cinefear, and Kinwelt has a great listing with descriptions of the 44 Wallace Krimis.

Wallace in fact had a lot more media based on his works. For instance in the UK there was the Edgar Wallace Mysteries; theatrical shorts that eventually were turned into television episodes. For a description and list of "episodes" please check out a great article at Mystery*File.

ITV, the trailblazing "indie" UK television network created a series based on Wallaces most enduring detective J. G. Reeder, about a bookish, nerdy Gent who puts the fear of God into the gangsters and criminal underworld of London. I've checked out several episodes of this show and have found it to be highly enjoyable.

Probably one of the few U. S. adaptations of Wallace to film was the silent 1925 cliffhanger serial THE GREEN ARCHER which later got a talkie serial adaptation in 1940.

Along with the checking out the Edgar Wallace Mysteries series and J. G. Reeder series, I had to investigate these German krimis.

Were these good movies? I had to view some for myself and long story short; not completely, of the ones I sampled, it was about a 40 percent success rate. The unsuccessful entries are overlong and overcomplicated with a focus on immaterial stuff that really has nothing to do with the central plots. Maybe it's something that gets lost in translation but they essentially are beautifully shot, moody and gothic looking Noir and even horror type mysteries that suffer from poor scripts. Some are very good though, two of them being the very first in the series THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE FROG (Der Frosch mit der Maske, 1959) and a few films later the closely related THE INN ON THE RIVER (Das Gasthaus an der Themse, 1962).

THE INN ON THE RIVER is based on an Inspector Wade tale (of the above mentioned comics that originally drew my interest) called THE INDIA RUBBER MEN, described as such:

A classic Wallace, stitching together his favourite themes with enough humour and vigour to keep the reader intrigued till the very end. John Wade is the young Scotland Yard inspector, Lila Smith the beautiful orphan with a mysterious past. There is a a criminal mastermind, a long-standing gang of jewel thieves -- the India-Rubber Men, who wear gasmasks and rubber gloves, and carry gas bombs to stave off pursuit -- and a smattering of Chinese bandits and American mobsters. Through it all runs the Thames, and there is even time for a little excursion out of London to its upper reaches in Oxfordshire. The mixture as before,expertly blended. (description quoted from "Jon" at The Golden Age of Detective Fiction)

After reading a review of THE INDIA RUBBER MEN (again at Mystery*File) which did not give a sterling impression of the book, I still felt that maybe it would be worth a read. Or in this case, a listen. So it is our newest entry into the world of the digital pulp reader.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Animated Hard-Boiled Noir

From the Curious Pictures profile on Osbert Parker:

Three-time British Academy Award nominated director Osbert Parker is perhaps best-known for his signature style of using cut-out animation mixed with live action to create one-of-a-kind imaginary landscapes within commercials and short films.

For the past three years Parker has been experimenting and crafting two short films that are receiving great acclaim on the international film festival circuit. “Film Noir” was nominated for best short animated film by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in 2006 and also was nominated for the Palm d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival that year. "Yours Truly," which received the best short animated film award at this year’s British Animation Awards, was also nominated for a BAFTA in 2008 and selected for Sundance. Both films have been screened at the Telluride Film Festival.

He is currently creating the third short in his “Noir” trilogy and developing a mixed-media feature.

I go back to these clips from YOURS TRULY and FILM NOIR on a regular basis. I think they are rich in texture and depth, being pregnant with many possibilities for story threads.

As an animator who started out in the 70's animating in stop motion, I have a special fondness for the medium and a deep appreciation of artists who utilize it well, such as Mr. Parker does. I do hope that once his third installment is completed that the trilogy will come available on DVD.

Here are the two clips I've probably worn a hole in youtube from over-watching.



Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Pulp Reader Gets Social

You can now subscribe to The Pulp Reader on Facebook. If it works correctly, you can become a "fan" of the page and you will start getting the latest Pulp Reader articles on your FB wall.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Arsene Lupin: 813

It's Lupin time again folks. So far LeBlanc's seminal character has appeared twice at The Pulp Reader and is returning again today for the grand novel 813.

What garners this current return is the fact that Black Coat Press has just published a rather amazing book called ARSENE LUPIN VS. COUNTESS CAGLIOSTRO. This collects the Cagliostro cycle (the books COUNTESS CAGLIOSTRO and COUNTESS CAGLIOSTRO'S VENGENCE plus the short story The Queen's Necklace). The first book appeared in English in 1925 and has not been reprinted since, while VENGENCE has not previously been translated to English. Both books are new translations, which may be a good thing as the original THE MEMOIRS OF ARSENE LUPIN translated by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos was not completely faithful and even changed Lupin's original name of Raoul to the terribly mundane "Ralph".

What does this have to do with 813? Not much, but I have never read this story and so thought it'd be great to give it the Pulp Reader treatment while reading the Cagliostro books at home.

813 has had a few media treatments, first appearing in the 1920 American silent movie "813" starring Wedgwood Nowell as Lupin. A Japanese version was filmed in 1923, and later Japanese animation company Tatsunoko filmed an animated version in 1979 called "Kaitō Lupin - 813 no Nazo". Then finally in 1980 an acclaimed French mini-series called "Lupin joue et perd".

As a small aside, once again I want to give a nod to the 2004 movie ARSENE LUPIN. I found it to be highly entertaining with a plot that is maybe too complex for general movie-going American audiences and too effects laden and full of explosions for French audiences. This landed it in a no-man's land where it has suffered a lack of distribution in Region 1 DVD countries. Probably the only way to see it in the states is by finding the DVD on ebay or other secondary marketplaces like that.

One of my favorite type of reviews is one with a lot of historical insight into the subject at hand. As such I'd like to point to the able folks at who reviewed the movie several months ago.

Back to 813. As major as this novel is supposed to be, there is not a lot written about it. Therefore I've put up this chronology from Cool French Comics which gives the best rundown of story. It serves as a great hook to get you interested in this story. There are some SPOILERS so you may not want to read beyond the first paragraph if this concerns you.


April-June - The murder of millionaire Rudolf Kesselbach in Paris begins the prodigious affair of "813", Lupin's greatest epic. Kesselbach's secret may lead to the redrawing of the political map of Europe. Lupin's adversary is the mysterious "L.M.", or L de Malreich, a more-than-human, black-clad, merciless killer, whom Lupin refers to as the "Monster" or the "Vampire." L.M. eventually unmasks Lupin who was hiding behind the guise of Lenormand, and arranges for him to be arrested.

July-December - Lupin is thrown in jail, but continues the fight from his cell. He learns that the Kaiser has called upon Sherlock Holmes to solve the mystery of "813", but the great detective fails to solve the riddle. In August, the Kaiser arranges for Lupin to be freed. Lupin eventually finds the solution, but is outwitted again by Malreich. (Fairness forces one to acknowledge that Lupin solves the mystery in circumstances that may have given him an edge over Holmes.)

January-April - The "813" saga continues. Back in France, Lupin finally defeats Marcheich. (Or has he?) Devoured by megalomaniacal ambition, he uses his own daughter, Geneviève, to further his plans, against Victoire's wishes. He hopes to marry her to Pierre Leduc, the heir to the Duchy of Deux-Ponts-Valdenz. But Lupin's scheme eventually collapses: instead, Leduc falls in love with Dolores Kesselbach, whom Lupin also loves. Tragedy ensues, resulting in the deaths of both Dolores and Leduc, and the permanent alienation of Genevieve. A thoroughly depressed Lupin fakes his own death and disappears.
Okay, is your appetite whetted? Mine is!