Friday, January 21, 2005
So Tony won the $5000 and the big-screen plasma TV. I would have liked to see the "obsession round" go for the third item, just to see what the guys came up with. I'll bet Vince would've crushed Tony, but it wasn't to be. Still, when it comes to knowledge of movies, I think Vince was the clear winner. I'm sorry he didn't win it all.
I learned this from two episodes of The Adventures of Dr. Fu Manchu, the TV series I mention below. If you ever have to deal with (A) deadly poison gas ["The Death Ship of Dr. Fu Manchu"] or (B) virulent plague germs ["The Prisoner of Dr. Fu Manchu"], simply take the handkerchief from your pocket and use it to cover your nose and mouth. You'll be entirely safe and unaffected.
Thursday, January 20, 2005
So I went to The Dollar Tree the other day and bought some more DVDs, one of which has four episodes of The Adventures of Dr. Fu Manchu, a TV series I'd never heard of. And no wonder. I've watched all four shows, and they're pretty bad. I mean that in a good way, of course.
Each show opens with Dr. Fu Manchu playing chess with an unseen opponent while the narrator intones the following lines: "Black and white. Life and death. Good and evil. Two sides of a chess game. Two forces in the universe. One magnificent. The other sinister. It is said that the devil plays for men's souls. So does Dr. Fu Manchu. Satan himself. Evil incarnate."
Each show concludes with a scene of the evil doctor (Glen Gordon) walking to the chessboard, picking up a couple of pieces and throwing them onto the board in resignation, as he's once again been defeated by Sir Dennis Nayland Smith (Lester Matthews), Dr. John Petrie (Clark Howat), and Dr. Petrie's nurse, Betty Leonard (Carla Balenda).
The other members of the cast are Dr. Fu Manchu's dwarfish assistant, Kolb (John George), and the main reason to watch the show, Karamaneh (Laurette Luez). Kolb made a career of playing characters referred to in the credits as Shorty, Hunchback, Dwarf Beggar, Pygmy in Rescue Party, The Gnome, and Midget. Luez was the star of the classic Prehistoric Women, and she played opposite Bomba the Jungle Boy in African Treasure. And she was in Jungle Gents with the Bowery Boys. As if that wasn't enough for a great career, she also played the wicked Felina in Marty Robbins' Ballad of a Gunfighter. She doesn't do a lot in the Fu Manchu series, but shes certainly nice to look at, as always.
Sample show: "Dr. Fu Manchu's Master Plan" is about how Hitler didn't really kill himself at the end of WWII, and how old Fu has a plastic surgeon give him a new face. Why Hitler needs a new face is a puzzle, since apparently he's has been living in an immense underground cavern on an island in the South Seas where everybody knows who he is anyway. Be that as it may, Fu gives him a new face, kidnaping Dr. Petrie to look after him after killing the original surgeon. They sail back to the island on a submarine (that's shown only above the water), where Hitler has this device that will explode when you put it next to atomic bombs. It's apparently nothing more than a remote-controlled bomb, but Hitler thinks it's a big deal. He's going to put it next to all WMD that the U.S. has stockpiled and blow them up (too bad GWB didn't stumble on this plan for Iraq). With all its stockpiled WMD destroyed, the U.S. will, of course, be weakened to the point of impotence and a prime target for takeover by the Reds. After which, Hitler is somehow going to move in and take over for himself. And for Fu, naturally. Unfortunately for them, Sir Dennis Nayland Smith foils the plot: "We've found a copy of Hitler's book, and films of his speeches. Betty, I believe that he's alive!" Heck, with clues like that, anybody could have figured it out. Sir Dennis goes to the island, saves Petrie, shoots Hitler (who then blows up the underground cavern with his secret device), and saves the world again.
Well, what can I tell you? You either get a kick out of this kind of thing, or you don't. For me, it was a buck well spent.
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Like Jayme Blaschke, I think the Kinkster could be the best governor of Texas in generations. Not that that's saying a whole lot. Can Kinky win? Well, W. Lee O'Daniel did, touring the state with a hillbilly band and the Bible. It would be great to see Kinky making whistlestops with the Texas Jewboys and the Torah. This could be the most entertaining political campaign in Texas in fifty years.
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Which reminds me that Martha Farrington, the founder and owner of the Murder by the Book will receive a Raven this year from the Mystery Writers of America. This award is given to people who have made a special contribution to the mystery genre or to MWA. I'm sure Martha's getting it because she has one of the oldest and best mystery bookstores in the country, and she (along with her crack staff) has certainly contributed a lot to the careers of any number of mystery writers. Congratulations to Martha and to everyone at Murder by the Book.
Monday, January 17, 2005
Another of the icons of my youth is gone. I remember her from many movies, but of course the one that stands out is White Heat, though I guess most people will remember her from her Technicolor musicals. The article linked above has a great line from a Warner Bros. press release: "At 115 pounds she is potentially as valuable as an acre of land in downtown Los Angeles and at least several times more desirable."
MacLeod wrote more than 30 mystery novels. Her specialty was the so-called "cozy" mystery, which steered clear of gore, sex, violence and vulgar language.
MacLeod's Peter Shandy series traced the adventures of a college professor. Her other protagonists included a mystery-solving couple from Boston's Beacon Hill.
MacLeod's work won five American Mystery awards and a Nero Wolfe Award.
I know this will play hell with my "street cred" (as if I had any!), but I enjoyed Charlotte's MacLeod's novels quite a bit. They were funny and clever and well-written, which is quite an accomplishment if you ask me. I met Charlotte a number of times and liked her a lot. I remember that when she came to Houston one February, she wanted to know where the sand and cactus were. Because she was afflicted with Alzheimer's disease, her last years weren't happy ones, I'm sure. She deseved a lot better.
Sunday, January 16, 2005
Ed Gorman has piece about Avallone today, and it's a great story. My own favorite Avo tale is that when he made a list of the Top Ten Private-Eye Novels of All Time, he put two of his own books on it. As I recall, however, he did modestly give Raymond Chandler the #1 position.
Via James Reasoner's Rough Edges, here's a link to a website devoted to Avallone's work. It's called The Mouse Auditorium, and any reader of the Ed Noon novels will know why.