Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Overlooked Films: THE OUTLAWS IS COMING (1965)


When I was a little kid I loved everything about the Three Stooges, including the series of feature films (starting with Have Rocket, Will Travel) featuring the ersatz Curly, Joe DeRita. As a bigger kid, while my Stoogemania is undiminished, I find DeRita extremely painful to watch. Curly Howard's humor was demented, simple-minded and ferocious all at the same time. Joe DeRita's is simply meek. And since much of the Stooge dynamic still revolves around his character, the group is a pale shadow of what it once was.

On the plus side, I suppose I should be thankful they were still making films at all. And The Outlaws Is Coming isn't all bad, For instance, what other western film gives you Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill Hickok, Bat Masterson, Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Belle Starr, Johnny Ringo, Cole Younger, Rob Dalton and Annie Oakley, all at the same time? It would have been better, of course, if even one of them had been portrayed by a memorable actor, but their inclusion still falls into the plus column. 


For purposes of the story, everyone in that group except Annie is considered an outlaw. It's only through the intervention of the Stooges that they all profess to see the light and pledge to uphold law and order, making them eligible for future TV series. The only one with serious screen time is Annie. Aside from being the female romantic lead, she gets the John Wayne role from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, secretly doing the shooting for hapless dude Adam West. 

The film makes some odd attempts at topical humor, with a couple of Beatles jokes and references to 1960s TV commercials. And toward the end, what really saves the day is the highlight of many a classic Stooges film, a pie fight. Though I cringed every time Joe DeRita opened his mouth, I just couldn't stop watching.








The Overlooked Films Round-up is at Sweet Freedom.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Cap Gun Monday: NICHOLS PINTO (and Paint)


This 3 1/2-inch beauty made the scene back in 1959 on the heels of the Nichols Dyna-Mite Derringer. The plastic holster was designed to be worn on belt, though I never it done. Like the Marx Miniatures, it was a cap gun I could (and did) take to school in my pocket.








The Pinto used the bullets and caps designed for the Nichols Stallion .38, the same ones used in last week's Halco Marshal. You inserted a cap in the shell, added the slug, and loaded the cylinder. The hole in the slug runs all the way through, allowing smoke to roll out the tip.



I read somewhere that the Pinto was rolling merrily along until the Ford Motor Company introduced a car of the same name and asked Nichols to desist, resulting in the renamed Paint. That story is a little hard to swallow, especially since the Ford Pinto (which you may recall was a lemon) was not introduced until 1970. But for whatever reason, the nearly-identical Paint was produced, based on the same mold.


Cap Gun maniacs are encouraged to click HERE

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Toy Soldier Saturday: MARX 54mm Cavalry (Part 1)


These stalwart Marx troopers came on the scene around 1957, and defended dozens of variations of Fort Apache from wild Marx Indians. They also helped out General Custer at the Marx Little Big Horn, for all the good it did him. We'll meet more of their brothers-in-arms in Part 2. 







More Toy Soldiers HERE.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Forgotten Books: REBEL by Bernard Cornwell (1993)

No, this one (unfortunately) is not about Johnny Yuma, and is not to be confused with the even more unsatisfying book of almost the same name by Johnny Yuma's creator, Andrew Fenady.

Having recently finished Cornwell's amazing Richard Sharpe series, and having read most of his other books (and enjoyed the hell out of all of them), it seemed like a good time to dig into this four-book series starring Nathaniel Starbuck in the American Civil War. Actually, the timing was terrible.

We were getting ready to leave for our week in NYC, and I needed books on my iPad to help me survive the flights. Knowing that ebook versions of most of Cornwell's novels were available through our local libraries, I checked out and downloaded this one and Copperhead (the second in the series), and figured I was set. What I hadn't reckoned on was the American Airlines flight from Hell (Portland to Dallas) and flight from Hell and back (Dallas to New York). The seats were designed for midgets, the air circulation bad and the engine noise loud (no surprises there), but we were seated next to a side passage where rude flight attendants stood yakking incessantly (and at great volume to be heard above the engine noise) about their adventures in home remodeling. They used the same space to refill their metal push carts with pop cans, which they also did with great gusto. Leg 2 of the trip involved less yakking but far more banging.

I've suffered such misery before, of course, and that was the very reason I needed good books to keep me sane. And that's where Rebel enters our story. My first unpleasant surprise was that it was all depressingly familiar. I soon realized I had attempted to read this book before, and eventually gave it up in disgust. The problem is that the hero, Nate Starbuck is (or at least was) a world-class wienie.

Most Cornwell heroes are flawed in some manner, and most live a fish-out-of-water existence, but Starbuck is simply insufferable. The son of a famous firebreathing Northern preacher, Nate is a divinity student lured South and abandoned by an evil woman. Once there, he's too embarrassed to return home, so he decides to stick around and become a rebel. While doing so he mopes about, wallowing in guilt for committing various minor sins of thought or deed.

I might have borne that if there had been other admirable characters, but everyone else in the large cast was almost equally dislikeable. There's a rich guy funding a private Legion for his own glory, his spineless and venal brother-in-law, a son so distressed by the break-up of the Union that he can't bear to fight, a prospective son-in-law who despises his prospective bride and is only in it for the money, a Southerner turned Northern spy who is only in it for the money, and a beautiful but whorish girl who leads men around by their ding-dongs.

Needless to say, these fictional creeps aggravated rather than alleviated the yakking and banging of the real life creeps, and I quit the book halfway through. Normally when that happens I slam the book shut and chuck it against a wall, but as this on my iPad I was deprived even that small pleasure.

Time out. We were so busy in New York that there was no time to read, and by the time we started home I was able to check out the Kindle version of Silent Night, a Spenser novel completed by Parker's agent Helen Brann. It was a great read, and restored my faith in fiction.

Home again, I gave Rebel another chance, and after another chapter or two lamenting Starbuck's sins, Cornwell finally got down to business. The story had been leading up the battle of First Bull Run/Manassas, and once there the author couldn't help but shine. Eventually, Starbuck and two of the other wienies found their backbones, and one of the moneysuckers suffered a satisfying death. I have since peeked ahead at the first couple of chapters of Copperhead, and the improvements appear to be permanent. I'm hoping there will be no relapses.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

On Hallowed Ground: Where the Pulps were made

Frank Munsey Co./Red Star

You may have noticed I've been posting pics from the recent trek my wife and I made to New York City. One of my goals was to see what's become of the editorial offices of my favorite pulp magazines. The results were underwhelming. The building above, at 280 Broadway, is the best of the bunch. Near as I can tell, construction on this one began back in 1845, with additions and such until 1917, when the New York Sun moved in. The Sun was a Munsey paper, and the offices for such Munsey mags as Argosy and Detective Fiction Weekly were housed here. Coincidently, this is only about a block from the current office of Dell Publications, the modern day heir to the pulp tradition. 

Popular Publications
 
205 East 42nd Street - little more than a block from Grand Central Station - was home to Popular Publications, purveyors of such fine magazines as Dime Detective and The Spider. This building went up in 1927, and tenants now include CUNY and the United Way of New York. I could almost imagine Frederick Nebel going in the front door to meet with Harry Steeger, if I could tell where the front door was.
 
Street & Smith
 
Street and Smith, from whence The Shadow and Doc Savage ventured forth, was at 79 7th Avenue. This building, at 77, has eclipsed that space, on the edge of toney Chelsea. That's the Westside Market at street level. Condos in this place now go for up to - and over - a million bucks. Heck, wouldn't you cough up a million to live in the Shadow's sanctum?

Trojan Publications
 
From this hallowed ground at 125 East 46th Street came such classy mags as Dan Turner - Hollywood Detective and the Spicy line. That address no longer exists, but its replacement houses a bakery on the corner, and one of the main tenants is a branch of the New York Public Library. Gotta wonder what those librarians would think of the building's spicy past.

Black Mask

During the Joe Shaw years, Black Mask was headquartered here at 575 Madison Avenue. I'm sure this 21-story monster bears no resemblance to the original building, but from a distance it does look black. More than a coincidence? It would be pretty to think so.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Overlooked Films: PHILIP MARLOWE, PRIVATE EYE in "Finger Man"


I have not examined the original appearance of "Finger Man" in the October 1934 issue of Black Mask, but as reprinted in the 1947 Avon digest below, the detective narrator seems to be unnamed. That changed when the story saw print in the 1950 hardcover collection The Simple Art of Murder, and it has been reprinted as a Philip Marlowe story ever since.

So, the HBO series Philip Marlowe, Private Eye was not breaking new ground when they presented this as a Marlowe story when it was broadcast back in 1983. Give it a look see.

FINGER MAN - Part 1



FINGER MAN - Part 2



FINGER MAN - Part 3



FINGER MAN - Part 4



Get your Overlooked Film fix at Sweet Freedom.