Cinema Sunday: The Gorgon (1964)

THE GORGON

Title: The Gorgon

Distributor: Hammer/Columbia

Writer: John Gilling

Director: Terence Fisher

Producer: Anthony Nelson Keys

Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Richard Pasco, Michael Goodliffe

Released: August 24th, 1964

MPAA: PG

 

Another Sunday, and another movie review! Huzzah! Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are the best acting tandem in horror movies ever assembled. Yeah, I just said that. Come at me with whoever else you have, but it won’t change my opinion. The sheer number of movies they did together helps that fact, and I’m not denying that, but seriously look at their body of work as a tandem, and you’ll be impressed!

This is one of Hammer Studios lesser known films (by the mainstream media types), but still has some redeeming qualities about it that cannot be denied. A tale that has some roots in Greek mythology, and add a splash of Hammer Gothic horror, and voila, you get The Gorgon! Let’s get down to the meat and potatoes of this one now!

The story begins with a young artist, Bruno Heitz (Jeremy Longhurst), as he’s drawing a portrait of his (topless) girlfriend. She informs him that she’s pregnant, and he storms off to tell her father that…”he isn’t going to avoid his obligations.'” As he heads into the forest, his girlfriend runs after him, but suddenly runs into some unseen killer that takes her out. The next day, we see that the girl has been found dead, and a search for Bruno is in effect. It doesn’t take long to find him, and when the police do, they’re shocked to see that he’s hanged himself from a tree…or did he?

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At the trial for this affair, it is clear that the local government wants to silence this case before it gets any more widespread. The father of the deceased, Professor Jules Heitz (Michael Goodliffe), is there, and has his say about what he theorizes happened. He tells the court that he will not rest until his son’s name is cleared. The court rules that Bruno murdered his girlfriend, then committed suicide. Professor Heitz and the local medical authority, Dr. Namaroff (Peter Cushing), are old colleagues, so after the hearing, Professor Heitz pays him a visit. Namaroff tells him nothing, and that he cannot help him. Heitz leaves, and is noticeably upset, but also realizes that he’s on to something fishy going on in Vandorf.

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The next day, Professor Heitz and his butler are at the home that his son was occupying at the time of his death, when all of a sudden, a few locals break in and threaten him if he doesn’t leave. A struggle ensues, but then the police show up. Everyone leaves, and Professor Heitz is even more aroused to find answers to this mystery. Later that evening, Professor Heitz hears some singing and heads over to the property nearby. As he creeps around the old castle, he can feel someone is there, watching him. We see a shadowy figure step out and Heitz screams in agony, and flees for his home. He reaches the home, but is badly hurt (image above). He’s turning to stone, but manages to write a few pages to tell his other son, Paul (Richard Pasco), of what has transpired.

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The following scene is Namaroff and Paul Heitz arguing over what killed his father. Namaroff stone-walls him, so he leaves. As he gets to the home, he sees someone in the house. It’s Dr. Namaroff’s assistant, Carla Hoffman (Barbara Shelley). She tells him that he’s in danger, and he should leave, but Paul refuses. Later on, Carla is talking with Namaroff about the gorgon theory that Paul had written back at the house. Speaking of Paul, as he’s sitting down at the home, a terrible wind blows the doors open, and he then hears that same siren song nearby. As he investigates, he sees a hideous face in water, reflecting at him. It drives him temporarily mad, and he passes out. He wakes up days later in the hospital, and sees Carla watching over him. He’s unaware that he’s been unconscious for days, and gets crazy when he finds out that the court hearing for his father is over. Namaroff has a brief discussion with him, but nothing gets resolved.

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After leaving the hospital, Paul decides to exhume the body of his father, and he then sees that he was turned to stone. He’s surprised from behind by Carla, and the two talk about what’s going on in Vandorf. Paul then realizes he’s in over his head, so he summons his former teacher, Professor Karl Meister (Christopher Lee), to help with the investigation. Once he arrives, the stuff really hits the fan, because of his no-nonsense approach to everything! The two discuss the problems in Vandorf, but Paul has fallen in love with Carla, and is letting it cloud his judgement.

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Meanwhile, Namaroff sends his goon, Ratoff (Jack Watson), to assassinate Paul, but old Professor Meister has a trick or two up his sleeve, and saves Paul. He then confronts the police, Namaroff, and anyone else that he thinks needs to answer some questions. He gets shown the door just like Paul and everyone else before him. Meister and Heitz then try to form a plan, but first visit the police for some information. They figure out that there were only a handful of women that have recently moved to Vandorf, thus giving them the lead that they need to solve this mystery!

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OK, here are my thoughts:

While this isn’t the best of Hammer’s offerings, it still pretty cool. Cushing and Lee both give very solid performances, as does Richard Pasco. Even Jack Watson (the doctor’s goon, Ratoff), is quite convincing with his menacing attitude. Barbara Shelley isn’t anything to write home about in this film (even though she’s had a few other great roles). The film is a little inconsistent with pacing until Christopher Lee’s character show up, and gets the ball rolling.

The sets, and atmosphere are typical for Hammer, meaning that they really drive the mood home. Although the “monster” isn’t very scary, the build-up, acting (for the most part), sets, atmosphere, and music score, make this film certainly worth a watch now and again. I won it on a four disc set that has three other classics on it that I’ll definitely be reviewing in the future (one of which I’ve already reviewed). Listen, give this one a look, if for no other reason than Cushing and Lee giving solid performances!

 

Check out the trailer here!

 

 

Avengers Spotlight #39, 1990 – “Cry Crusader!”

One of my all-time favorite characters, is none other than the Black Knight! I think it goes back to the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends episode where he guest starred. It was a tale featuring the menace of Mordred! Or maybe it’s my love of Arthurian times. Either way, the Black Knight kicks butt! A flying horse, (Valinor), and the Ebony Blade, make him quite a formidable fighter, and he’s proven his worth many times over as a member of the Avengers, or just as a solo hero.

In this awesome issue, the Black Knight gets framed for murder, and he must solve the puzzle of who is committing these murders using a sword, and wearing a cape and armor! With Roy & Dann Thomas writing, Greg Capullo on pencils, Tom Dzon inking, Bob Sharen on colors, and Joe Rosen lettering. An excellent story and solid artwork from a young Capullo (cover by Steve Lightle)! Enjoy!

 
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X-Men Classic #65 (Uncanny X-Men #161, 1982)

I just started to grab some of these X-Men reprints, and wow, are they something! I love the X-Men, and wanted to find a way to get my hands on some of their older material without breaking the bank, and this title was just the way to go. Typically, with reprint titles, Marvel stays pretty close on the cover artwork to the original work. For some reason they really went in the opposite direction with some of these books. Not that I’m complaining mind you, because I’m a big fan of the work of Mike Mignola and P. Craig Russell. He really stands out with his style, but also “gets it”, when it comes to being faithful to the source material. Check out the awesome work by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, Bob Wiacek, Tom Orzechowski, Glynis Wein (Oliver), and Louise Jones (Simonson)!

In this issue we see the first meeting (via flashback) between Xavier and Magneto from way back in the day! Also, we see the Brood, Gabrielle Haller, Cyclops and Storm having a power struggle, albeit a brief one, and then a battle with Xavier and Magneto on one side, and Baron Strucker and Hydra on the other!

 

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Cinema Sunday: The Last Man on Earth (1964)

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Title: The Last Man on Earth

Distributor: AIP (American International Pictures)/ MGM

Writers: Richard Matheson (book and assisted with the screenplay), William F. Leicester, Ubaldo Ragona, Furio M. Monetti

Directors: Ubaldo Ragona, Sidney Salkow

Producers: Samuel Z. Arkoff, Robert L. Lippert, Harold E. Knox

Starring: Vincent Price, Franca Bettoia, Emma Danieli, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart

Released: March 8, 1964

MPAA: NR

 

As many people know, Vincent Price was an outstanding actor. Of course he’s most known for his horror roles, and that was his best genre, without a doubt. I’ve covered his perennial classic “House of Wax“, on my blog before, and that will always be my personal favorite, but this film, is a close second! Post-apocalyptic movies are always intriguing to me, some obviously fall very short of being good, let alone great, but this one does not. A strong nod to the work of Richard Matheson, as he wrote the book and assisted on the screenplay for this one. If you don’t know his work, get cracking, because he’s one of the good ones! Alright, let’s get down to the movie!

LAST MAN ON EARTH, THE (1963)

As the movie begins, we see that a worldwide devastation has left the planet in a barely livable state. We see some corpses lying around, buildings smashed to bits, and absolutely nothing happening. That is until we see a house in the suburbs, and an alarm clock that awakens a man, Dr. Robert Morgan (Vincent Price). His internal monologue pretty much sums up what we’ve already seen with our own eyes. We see him go about a mostly routine, but then we see a wall in his kitchen, and he has used a pen to create a monthly calendar, and he remarks to himself that he “inherited the world” in 1965. According to his home-made calendar, it’s 1967.

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He enters the garage, and readies his car for a trip. Outside, there are two dead bodies, and he kicks one of them aside, as if he tires of this routine. On the front door to his house, we see a ring of garlic, and a cross, and you can begin to formulate what’s happening. He next attempts to use a short wave radio to contact someone, but he gets no answer. He checks his supply closet, and realizes he needs more garlic. He drinks a cup of tea, and checks out a map of the city that he’s been searching, block by block. He also is fashioning some wooden stakes, as well. He remarks (internally) that “they want my blood”, and “how many more will I have to kill.”

As he loads the two dead bodies into his car (from outside his home), he remarks that he needs to stop for gas for the car. He does that, and then we watch, as he drives to a ravine where a fire is burning. He tosses the two bodies into it (after putting on a gas mask), and then throws a torch into the pit, and an explosion follows. Next, he enters a grocery store, and grabs what he needs, including the garlic. He drives to another area, searching for life, and also, more supplies. We watch, as this routine of gathering supplies, killing these “infected” with a stake and hammer, dumping bodies in that pit, and so forth, continues for the rest of the day.

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As night comes, he attempts to get some sleep, but a few of the infected gather around his house, and begin to try to smash their way in. They’re unsuccessful though, because he’s fortified it very well. A scream awakens him, and he plays a few records to try to keep his mind from going off the deep end. The next day, Morgan heads off to the church, and loses himself in his thoughts. Before you know it, he realizes it dark outside, and runs out in a panic towards his car. Two of them attack him, but are tossed aside fairly easy. He reaches his car, fighting off a few more of them, but as he returns home, his house is surrounded. He uses his car to knock some of them over, and as he leaps out of the car, he brandishes a mirror, to keep them off long enough to get into the house.

Then, he watches some home movies, to try to relax. The infected ruin that quickly though, and push him over the edge, and he begins to weep. He flashes back to a time before the plague came upon the Earth. We see Dr. Morgan talking with a relative about a plague that’s sweeping through Europe. Dr. Morgan doesn’t believe its’ as bad as people are saying, but he soon finds out differently. His daughter is the first to get ill, but his wife soon follows. Morgan talks with his wife about the hope of a vaccine, and he believes everything will be fine. As he gets to the lab, he and the other doctors mention the word vampire, but Morgan wont have any of that talk.

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Morgan is still holding out hope for his daughter, but his wife thinks they need to send for a doctor. As Morgan leaves for the lab, a neighbor is screaming, because the military is taking her child (or husband) away to be burned in the before mentioned pit. Morgan drives to his co-workers home to pick him up for work, but he wont leave the house. Morgan shows up at the lab, but everyone is gone, save for one doctor. He returns home later that day (in the evening), and a truck has just pulled away. He sees that his daughter is gone, and his wife tells him that she called a doctor, and then the truck came to take her away. Morgan quickly jumps into his car, and tries to follow the truck to the burn pit. After he arrives, he asks the driver if that truck was just in his neighborhood, and the man doesn’t know. We assume she was in the truck and is now dead.

He returns home, and his wife cries out that she cannot see. He finds her, lying on the bed, unconscious. He keeps her under his constant supervision, but she dies rather quickly. He removes her from the house (wrapped in a sheet), then drives to a remote location, and buries her. He returns home, but soon hears a voice whispering. Someone is at the front door, attempting to get in. He opens the door, and it’s his wife, not looking so good.

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We now flashback into the present, and the infected are trashing his car and house. They call to him the entire time, but get careless, and stay out until sunrise. Morgan awakens the next morning and heads outside to assess the damage. Morgan does some car “shopping” , and picks up a new station wagon. He returns home, and locks it in his garage. Seemingly out of nowhere, a dog appears, and seems to be fine. He scares it though, and it runs off. He chases it, but can’t seem to find it. He does stumble upon some dead bodies that were taken out with metal spears. He now knows someone else must still be alive. He heads back home and once again uses his radio to try to make contact with someone.

As he does, he hears the dog whimpering outside the house. The dog is injured, but how, is unknown. The usual band of infected return and start beating on his house once again. Morgan sees the dog is frightened, and he assures it that things will be fine. It hits him just then, that maybe the dog was infected, so he checks out its blood under a microscope. It was indeed, so then he’s shown burying the dog (that has a stake through it). He looks up, and sees a woman walking through the field. He calls out to her, but she’s afraid. After running her down, he convinces her that she should come with him, and they can fight together.

I’m going to leave off  now, and let the rest to your imagination, but rest assured, this is one you must see!

OK, here are my thoughts:

You’d think that a movie dominated by one actor wouldn’t be something excellent, but Price delivers such a great performance, it’s proof that it can happen. His inner monologue is the driving force for this movie. He really has you convinced there is no hope and that the world is doomed. How then can he carry on everyday? That’s the question everyone would have to answer if they were in this situation. Most people would go insane, no doubt, but a select few would soldier on, no matter what the circumstances.

The ending is quite good, and holds some very dramatic scenes. This story has been remade a few other times- The Omega Man (Charlton Heston, 1971 and I Am Legend (Will Smith, 2007), but don’t hold the power that this film does. Let’s be honest, most remakes don’t touch the original material they’re based off of, and this one is no different. Definitely see this one in black and white, because even though it was redone in color, its way more creepy the way it was intended. Vincent Price isn’t known for being one of the greatest for no reason!

Click here for the trailer!

 

Marvel Team-Up #39, 1975 – “Any Number Can Slay!”

During the 1970’s, Marvel was bursting at the seams with creative talent. The wide array of creator ideas, titles, and characters, pushed them far above DC in the opinion of many a comic book aficionado. They leaped forward due to the fact that their characters were much more unique, the settings were in the real world, and the creative teams were newer, younger, and had fresh ideas. Just one example of all that was Marvel Team-Up.

This title was basically a book for Spider-Man to gain even more presence in the Marvel Universe, and spotlight some more minor characters as well. Whether they were heroes or villains, the book always had a different perspective that helped the characters leap off of the pages and into the reader’s minds.

This team up with Spidey and the Human Torch is no different. We see the two heroes battle alone and then together, with the threat of a multitude of villains ranging from Montana, to the Big Man, to the Sandman! Story by Bill Mantlo, art by Sal Buscema and Mike Esposito (cover by John Romita Sr.), colors by Don Warfield, letters by Karen Mantlo, and edited by Marv Wolfman! Enjoy!

 

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Fantastic Four #186, 1977 – “Enter: Salem’s Seven”

I’ve been on a Fantastic Four kick lately with my buying/reading habits. Either through “Marvel’s Greatest Comics” or the volume one series itself, Marvel’s First Family has me hooked! Unlike a lot of FF fans, I love the post-Kirby/ pre-Byrne era of the team (even more so than the Byrne run…I know, heresy!). Yeah, you didn’t get much in the overarching plot department, but you did get some very cool and quirky stories from people like Marv Wolfman, or in this case, Len Wein (writer), George Perez (pencils), and Joe Sinnott (inks).

Speaking of the latter of those gentlemen, after looking at several different artist’s work, I think I’m convinced that Sinnott is my favorite inker of all time. His inks are very consistent, and concise, and have worked great with some of the best artists in the industry. Well, without too much prattling, this story gives a look at some of the back-matter of the newly installed and mysterious nanny of Franklin Richards, Agatha Harkness! Her origins were very ambiguous but this issue introduced the Salem Seven, and we were able to pull back the veil and see some of her beginnings!

 

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Cinema Sunday: Silver Bullet (1985)

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Title: Silver Bullet

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Writer: Stephen King

Director: Daniel Attias

Producer: Dino De Laurentiis

Starring: Gary Busey, Corey Haim, Megan Follows, Everett McGill

Released: October 11th, 1985

MPAA: R

 

An alcoholic Gary Busey, a pretentious Corey Haim, and a bloodthirsty werewolf…need I say more? Of course not, but I will anyway, when I present this classic film from the 1980’s, Silver Bullet! Back in the day, this film was scary, and had two big names to get people out to see it. It might not hold up as well now, but it’s still worth checking out and in my humble opinion, owning as well. Let’s get down to the plot!

The film opens with a drunken railroad worker, trying to finish a job one night. As he makes his way to the tracks that need clearing, a noise startles him, and before you know it, he’s beheaded by a beast. A howl is heard throughout the town, and everyone gets an icy chill up their spine.

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As we turn to the main character, Marty (Corey Haim- who’s playing a paraplegic), we see him and his friend, Brady (Joe Wright), as they concoct a plan to scare Marty’s sister, Jane (Megan Follows). They not only scare her, but the fright causes her to fall into a huge puddle, and ruins her new dress and pantyhose. Later on that night, Marty apologizes, and gives her the money for a new pair of stockings, that were also ruined. It’s here, that we see the typical relationship of siblings at this age, and it really cements the bond they share. That night, a local woman, who’s contemplating suicide, gets a visit from the same beast that killed the railroad worker. The beast violently kills the woman, and the sheriff, Joe Haller (Terry O’Quinn) has another death on his hands.

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Later, school is over for the summer, and Marty’s Uncle Red (Gary Busey), has come for a visit. Marty’s mom isn’t too happy with him, as he’s a bit of a drinker, and getting his third divorce. He and Marty share a bond though, and Uncle Red then has an argument with Marty’s mom about his drinking around Marty. That night, a neighbor ( a few miles away) is getting drunk, but hears some noise out in his greenhouse. The man thinks it’s kids busting up his property, so he goes out there to teach them a lesson. The lesson is taught to him though, and he gets ripped apart. With another murder, the townspeople begin to panic, and things are getting tense.

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Marty and his friend Brady decide to go to the park and fly kites. The day grows old, and Jane is sent out by her parents to find Marty. He and Jane then make a quick exit for home, and asks Brady if he’s coming too. Brady tells him he’s staying for a while, and Marty can sense something is wrong. He leaves his best friend there, and it will be the last time we see him alive. At the local bar, Andy Fairton (Bill Smitrovich), a local business owner and exuberant gun owner, tells the crowd that the local sheriff isn’t getting the job done, and that they should take matters into their own hands. Just as he and the Deputy are about to get into a fist fight, Brady’s father walks in, and asks if anyone has seen his son.

At Brady’s funeral, Marty is having a tough time dealing with all of this craziness. Reverend Lowe (Everett McGill), tries his best to calm down the townspeople, but it’s having little effect. Back at the bar, Fairton is riling up the crowd again, and this time, they intend on going after the “guy”, who’s doing all the killing. Reverend Lowe attempts to stop them, but they drive right past him.

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The vigilantes split into groups, and start combing the area. In a thick patch of forest, it’s very foggy. So much so, that you can barely see in front of your own face. As they creep through the wooded area, they begin to hear some animal-like noises. The mood turns to pure fear, and the beast grabs its first victim, ripping half of his face off! Two more men meet their maker this night, and that about wraps up the vigilante idea. We then see Reverend Lowe, once again telling the people  all will be OK, but something different happens. Suddenly, the congregation begins to turn into werewolves, and then Lowe wakes up from a nightmare.

As the Fourth of July approaches, Marty is mad that the local fireworks have been cancelled, and the carnival as well. Uncle Red won’t let Marty down though, so buys some illegal fireworks, and gives them to Marty on his way out-of-town. Later that evening, Marty climbs down the lattice, and into his motorized wheelchair. He heads over to a pond nearby, and begins setting off the fireworks from Uncle Red. Some motion in the wooded area nearby spooks Marty for a second, and the next thing you know, the beast jumps out from the woods, and makes a mad dash for Marty! Marty quickly grabs a bottle rocket, lights it, and aims it at the beasts head. It fires off, and hits the creature in the right eye, stunning it long enough for Marty to get out of there, and back home.

Marty immediately calls Uncle Red, but he’s still half drunk, and sleeping, so he blows him off. Marty tells Jane the next day, because he realizes that no adults will believe his story. Jane then combs the town looking for a person missing their right eye. She’s collecting recyclable items for a charitable organization, and hits up everyone she can, all the while searching for this person missing an eye. She ends up seeing nothing out of the ordinary, and then takes her cart of bottles and cans to Reverend Lowe’s parsonage.

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I’m going to stop here for those who haven’t seen this film yet, but rest assured that the secret will be over at this point about who the killer is. The part that keeps you in suspense for the rest of the movie is the fact that you know at some point, the killer is coming for Marty!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

As I said above, this film is still pretty cool after all these years, and only the werewolf scenes (up close) seem cheesy now. Gary Busey gets a lot of flack, but he was right on the  money in this film. Corey Haim did a good job as well, and really was convincing playing a paraplegic. I can’t imagine how tough that would be literally and from an acting standpoint either.

The music score was quite good too, as well as the cinematography. There were a couple of darker scenes that could’ve used more lighting,  but that’s more of a nit-pick than anything. These more old school horror flicks do something newer films don’t understand. When it comes to death scenes, the phrase “less is more’ is absolutely true. Most viewers imaginations can cook up something just as visceral if not more than what’s usually shown, and even if it cannot, sometimes people get turned off by some of the explicit scenes too.

Overall, I still give this film pretty high marks even almost thirty years later. The performances and the scenes with the creepy build-up to the werewolf appearances are still solid. It helps when the film has Stephen King attached to it as well. You see, he wrote the novella “Cycle of the werewolf”, and King also wrote the screenplay. The dude knows how to make a scary movie! Definitely add this one to your collection, or at bare minimum rent or stream it some night and enjoy!

Click here for the trailer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comic Book Legends: An Interview with – Steve Englehart!

I think it’s safe to say, that in the 1970’s, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more diverse, determined, and dominant writer. From The Avengers, to Batman, and Captain America, Steve Englehart wrote stories that were interesting, thought-provoking, humorous, and socially significant. Among these treasures was his work on Dr. Strange.

Along with collaborator Frank Brunner (and later artwork by Gene ‘the Dean’ Colan and others), Steve spun a web involving just about every major villain the Doc had up until that point in the characters history. He also molded Clea, (apprentice/ lover of the Doc) to be more important, and not just a wallflower. The original run began in the pages of Marvel Premiere, and continued on in the Doc’s solo series. I spotlighted that run not too long ago (click here for that one), showing the mind-blowing artwork of Frank Brunner.

Alright, now that the pleasantries are done with, let’s get on with the interview!

 

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Billy: Did you read and/or draw any motivation from the Lee & Ditko work for your Doc Strange run?

Steve: Very definitely. Ditko’s Doc was legendary, and everyone thereafter tried to emulate him to some degree. Ditko’s Spidey got completely overwhelmed when Romita took it over, because Johnny was much better at the people and world that Spidey inhabited – but Ditko’s Doc remained a touchstone of “Strangeness” for everyone who followed on that strip. I had read all of it, just as I’d read all of Marvel, being a fan. I took my own approach to what I did with it, of course, but Ditko’s Doc was always the one I was fleshing out.


Billy: What was the impetus for your Dr. Strange stories? And did you approach editorial with the ideas or did they ask you (what was the process)?

Steve: Frank (Brunner) was taking over the strip full-time and did the then-unusual thing of asking for a specific writer. We knew each other only casually, socially, but he liked what I’d done on other books, so he asked that I be assigned. I had written Doc in DEFENDERS, but figured I’d need to get more mystical for his own book, so I started reading up on magick, which turned out to be interesting on its own, and my reading increasingly shaped my understanding of a sorcerer supreme. I could do this because editorial left each writer to do his job and figure out how to approach it on his own.


Billy: How tough is it juggling multiple titles on a monthly basis?

Steve: I enjoyed it. I loved all the characters, I loved working with artists…there was no real downside to it. I could do a book a week so I did four books a month, and there was always something new going on. Fun!


Billy: Did you guys use the “Marvel Method” or fully flesh out scripts together?

Steve: We did them together. Every two months we’d have dinner at his place or mine, and then talk late into the night putting the issue together. I always had concepts I wanted to explore and he had concepts he wanted to draw, and we’d make something that was more than the sum of those parts, until I, as the writer, was satisfied we had a solid issue. That was the most collaborative of any relationship I ever had with an artist.

 


Billy: Was killing the Ancient One something you felt fit the story (did it feel organic) or was it something you wanted to do from the get-go?

Steve: That evolved in our first late-night session. I thought Doc had been a disciple for quite a while now – and we’d inherited Shuma-Gorath and knew we had to resolve that at some point, preferably ASAP – and by the time we were done, it all came together (image below- the death of the Ancient One- Marvel Premiere #10, 1973).

 

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Billy: Can you speak about the whole atmosphere/work environment at Marvel at the time (other creators you enjoyed working with, etc. in the 1970’s)?

Steve: It was just a time of complete freedom. Everyone working there was assumed to be competent to handle his own titles and was not held back in any way. If you proved yourself _unable_ to handle your titles, they became someone else’s titles, but there was no micromanaging from editorial. Thus, if you _could_ handle your titles, you could be, and were encouraged to be, as creative as possible. And this was all taking place with everyone living in the New York metro area, so pretty much everyone else in comics, at every company, was someone you knew personally. When I moved to New York, as you had to do in those days, I felt from day one like I had three hundred new friends to work and party with. Both of which we did.


Billy: When did you and Frank find out about Dr. Strange becoming an ongoing or was that known from the beginning?

Steve: The book took off with us on it, and we knew what that would lead to, but we didn’t know when. The problem, as it turned out, was that Frank couldn’t do more than a bimonthly book, so when it became an ongoing series that was monthly, he struggled and then dropped off.


Billy: You inserted many of the best villains from Dr. Strange’s rogues gallery into your stories (Shuma Gorath, Mordo, Silver Dagger, Dormammu, etc.), what was the process like for combing thru them to choose which one you’d use?

Steve: I’d always think of character concepts, then go looking for a villain to cause the story I wanted to do. With Doc, Frank and I started, and then I continued, the idea of several-issue arcs exploring a particular concept, so then it was just a question of looking back through my collection. I took every character as real within the Marvel Universe, so I knew them personally you might say, and when I wanted somebody to a certain thing, I could usually go straight to him.


Billy: I’ve read that Frank’s (Brunner) style really wasn’t conducive to the rigors of a monthly title. Is that the reason he left the book?

Steve: Yes. Even on the books he did do, you’ll occasionally see a page or two by another artist. Art was not a slap-dash thing for him.


Billy: Obviously, transitioning to a legendary artist like Gene Colan, who had previously worked on Dr. Strange, wasn’t too bad of a draw, but was it intimidating at all?

Steve: Not really, because I knew Gene’s approach intimately, from having been a fan and then having worked in the same environment. Nobody intimidated me by then; I just saw the possibilities his more photographic approach would open up, after the more designy work by Frank. I consider them equally great at what they did, and Frank’s Doc is legitimately legendary in its own right, but Gene offered new worlds to explore. (And Gene didn’t want to be involved in the stories, so I was also taking that on completely – and that was fun, too.)


Billy: Gene is my favorite artist of all time, but I never got the chance to speak with him. Could you talk about him not only from a professional stand point, but also the man himself?

Steve: As a pro, he drew what you asked him to draw, exceptionally well, without any complaint – what a writer hopes for, and usually gets from pro artists, but not always. There was nothing that stood out in the work process, which is a good thing. (The only caveat was, he wasn’t great at pacing his stories, so writers generally broke their plots down page by page for him – a minor flaw, easily corrected.) As a person, he was just a sweet guy. He knew he was good but he never acted like it, and in fact, he told me that after many years of freelancing, he never assumed that he’d get another job once he turned the current one in.


Billy: Lastly, could you speak about having Roy Thomas as an editor, and what he brought to the table?

Steve: Roy brought the gift of freedom. It was his decision to let us be as creative as possible, without his interference, and I’m forever thankful for that.

 

Well, that’s it for today, but before I go, I want to send out a huge thank you to Steve for doing the interview, and allowing this fan to ask one of his favorite creators of all time some questions! Below is a link to Steve’s webpage, so click and take a look!

DC Comics – Batman #442 (1989)

You know, I seldom buy a comic book that I don’t intend to eventually collect the entire series. First off, I’m a completest, and secondly, in the grand scheme of things, what’s the point if you don’t intend on reading the entire story? Well, recently I bought Batman #442, which falls into that category, and there were a couple of reasons, but mostly because of the George Perez cover. Yes, it’s the first appearance of Tim Drake as Robin, as well, and actually seems to be a good story too.

Plotters, Marv Wolfman and George Perez, pencils by Jim Aparo (one of the best Batman artists of all time in my humble opinion), inker, Mike DeCarlo, letter, John Costanza, and colorist Adrienne Roy (editor Denny O’Neil), bring this great story with the villain, Two-Face! Tim makes the decision to don the mantle of Robin, as he attempts to save Batman and Nightwing from certain death! Enjoy!

 

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Cinema Sunday: The Plague of the Zombies (1966)

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Title: The Plague of the Zombies

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Writer: Peter Bryan

Director: John Gilling

Producer: Anthony Nelson Keys

Starring: Andre Morell, Diane Clare, John Carson, Jacqueline Pearce, Brook Williams, Michael Ripper

Released: January 12th, 1966

MPAA: PG

 

After last week’s review of a zombie flick, I thought I’d go to that well once again, with one of my favorite Hammer films, The Plague of the Zombies! This little gem predates George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, but features Haitian zombies, rather than flesh eaters. Either way, both films are great, but this one doesn’t get a fraction of the attention that NOTLD does, so I’m going to cast some light upon this one for all to see how truly awesome it is! The film was shot back to back with ‘The Reptile“, and you can tell for sure, but it didn’t take away from the movie in the least. So, now let’s get own with the show!

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As the film opens, we see some creepy dude dressed in a robe and mask. There’s also some crazy looking voodoo type guys pounding on drums, adding to the wild scene. The robed man begins to chant something in another language, and then the scene switches to a woman, Alice Tompson (Jacqueline Pearce), as she’s in bed with her husband, Peter (Brook Williams). She’s getting restless and the more the guy in the robe chants, the more unsettled she seems to get. Eventually, she bursts out with a blood-curling scream, and the credits then roll.

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The next scene shows a man, Sir James Forbes (Andre Morell), and he’s checking out his fishing equipment, while on holiday. His daughter, Sylvia (Diane Clare), comes into the room, and brings her father a letter from a friend in Cornwall. A former pupil of his (Sir James teaches medicine, and Peter was his brightest student), Peter Tompson, is having some trouble with the villagers getting ill, and a few deaths were involved. They decide to travel to Cornwall to help him out. On the trip to Cornwall, Sir James and Sylvia see five men hunting a fox. Sylvia tells them that she’s seen the fox, but points them in the opposite direction. Once they reach town, a funeral is taking place. Before they can even have a thought, the five hunters ride through town, and knock the coffin over an embankment. Sir James gets out of the coach, and yells at them, but they just holler back at Sylvia for her trick.

Once they arrive at Peter and Alice’s home, they’re greeted by Alice, and she looks terrible. She doesn’t even recognize her old school mate, Sylvia, at first. She begins to act slightly irrational, but makes them welcome. Sir James asks about a wound on her arm, but she’s very apprehensive about it, and gets a bit angry when he asks to look at the wound. Sylvia and Alice go to the kitchen to make tea, and Sir James sneaks off into town to have a look. At that time, Peter is at the pub, and getting harassed by the brother of the dead man who was knocked out of the coffin. Sir James tells everyone in the pub how lucky they are to have Peter as their physician, and then the two men leave. Peter then tells Sir James about the twelve deaths in the last year that are unexplainable. They all sit down and have dinner, then go their separate ways.

Later, at the house, Sylvia sees Alice leave after dark, and calls out to her, but Alice doesn’t hear her. Sylvia follows her, but gets lost along the way. Suddenly, out of the forest rides the hunters from the earlier scene, and they surround her. After she realizes there’s no escape, they grab her and take her to a large home at the edge of town. They play a card game to decide her fate, but the cards tell them to let her go. As they taunt her more, a voice rings out to let her go. Squire Hamilton (John Carson) appears, and pimp slaps one of the men. He tells them to get out, and apologizes to Sylvia. Her friend, Alice, told her about the Squire, so she gives him some slack, and doesn’t report the incident to the police. While this is going on, Peter and Sir James have taken it upon themselves to exhume one of the victims, and do an autopsy. As the two men are digging up a body, they are surprised by the police (Michael Ripper – image below), but rip open a coffin anyway. They’re all surprised when they see that the body is missing, and Sir James asks the police to help him to figure out this mystery.

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As Sir James is walking home, while Peter covers the grave back over, he sees Sylvia stumbling down the street. He runs to her as she collapses, and then he takes her to the house. The next morning, Sir James gives Peter the bad news, (as Sylvia has told her father that she found Alice dead out on the moors the previous night), and Peter goes off the deep end. They go to the police and then make the trip out to the moors. They find Alice, and also find the drunken man from the pub that was berating Peter (who’s also the brother of the most recent victim). They awaken him and he tries to run off, but the police catch him. Peter and Sir James take Alice’s body back to the house to do an autopsy, and find that the blood around her face is not hers, and not even human. The police question the drunken man, and find out that something else was afoot, something more sinister than just murder.

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Sylvia then explains to her father that the body of her friend wasn’t in the same spot where she’d seen it the previous night. As Peter and Sir James go out to do some detective work, Sylvia gets a visit, from Squire Hamilton. He “accidentally” cuts her finger on a broken piece of glass, and when she leaves the room to attend to it, he gets out a vial to put her blood in, and then excuses himself from the home. He races back to his mansion, and pulls out a small coffin from a drawer, and we see that it contains a voodoo doll of sorts. He then reveals that he has the vial of blood, and also that he’s gathered his cronies again, and the drums begin to beat!

Alice is now being buried, and Sylvia is overcome by the voodoo that’s now being used on her. She leaves the funeral with Peter, and Sir James asks the vicar if he can use his library to research witchcraft. He does, and finds out that someone in the village is practicing witchcraft, and using it to raise the dead. The clues are adding up, but can Sir James and Peter save Sylvia and the rest of the town before everyone is turned into a zombie?!?

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OK, here are my thoughts:

Anyone that doesn’t know of Andre Morell, is in for a big surprise, because he proves without a shadow of a doubt, that he can be the lead in a movie! He did do a great job as Watson, in Hammer’s “Hound of the Baskervilles”, but that was a very strong performance by Peter Cushing, that kind of overshadowed Morell. The supporting cast is also pretty good, especially Jacqueline Pearce (Alice), and John Carson (Squire Hamilton). Both were very convincing, and Carson was an excellent devilish fiend!

The “zombies” didn’t have a ton of screen time, and that is a bit of a downer, but when they were on-screen, they were pretty creepy. Not a lot of makeup on them, but just the way that they were portrayed and used in those scenes, made them rise above mediocrity. The graveyard scene was especially good, as was the last act in the bowels of the tin mine. Michael Ripper added his usual flavor to the film as the constable. He always finds a way to steal the scenes he’s in, and he certainly was a welcomed addition to this cast.

Grab this flick if you can, because any horror enthusiast would be happy to have this one. If it hasn’t been re-released lately, wait for that if you can’t find it at a decent price. Sometimes these online sites can really rip you off, but I know Hammer is putting out Blu-ray copies of films on a pretty consistent basis now and for the foreseeable future.

Watch the trailer here!