Saturday, April 14, 2007

Archie Comics Update | 04/12/2007 | New art, serialized plot startle fans of Archie Comics
You don't tug on Superman's cape, you don't spit into the wind -- and apparently you don't mess with Archie Andrews and the gang.

In December, Archie Comics announced that a new "dynamic art style" was coming for its classic characters.

Fans were not pleased, managing editor Victor Gorelick says. "Most of the readers were `How can you give them this new look?'" Gorelick said. "'I've read Archie all my life and now you're changing him.'"

But the largely negative reaction stemmed from a misunderstanding, Gorelick said in a phone interview from Archie Comics' offices in Mamaroneck, N.Y.

"People thought we were going to change the entire line, which wasn't so," he said. The change, coming in May's "Betty & Veronica Double Digest" No. 151, applies only to a four-part story running in that title.

While Gorelick doesn't rule out the new look eventually showing up elsewhere, there is no plan for sweeping changes in the classic Archie look set by artist Dan DeCarlo more than 40 years ago.

The story in "Betty & Veronica Double Digest" finds Veronica smitten with a new guy in town. "He's kind of a tough guy, rides a motorcycle, a bit of a rebel," Gorelick said.

The serialized story -- a change from Archie's usual short reads -- and the accompanying new art style are meant to attract a slightly older readership, Gorelick said.
See original post here.

The Adventures of Don Juan

Errol Flynn was a notorious Don Juan, so it must have seemed only natural to cast him in that role. I’m glad someone decided to do it because this movie’s right up there with The Adventures of Robin Hood. Not quite as good, but certainly close enough, filmed in glorious Technicolor, with great costumes and a fine cast, including Alan Hale as the sidekick, Viveca Linfors as the queen of Spain, Robert Douglas as a villainous duke, Jerry Austin as the King’s dwarf, and Raymond Burr (one of his early roles) as a minor villain.

Flynn plays the lead with a panache unmatched in swashbucklers of the era (I’m a fan of both Stewart Granger and Burt Lancaster’s work as well), and though he was already looking somewhat too old for the part at 38, if any man was born to play Don Juan, it must have been Flynn. It’s not hard to imagine that Flynn used some of Juan’s lines for his own conquests. Flynn can deliver those lines and make them believable, and he can be quite witty when the occasion calls for it. He might not have been a great dramatic actor, but in this kind of role he excelled.

There’s a lot of humor throughout the film, but for my money the opening scene is the best. The bit with the grouse is hilarious. And the action scenes are clear and easy to follow. None of that MTV quick-cutting that (for me) ruins so many current action thrillers. The fencing is athletic and exciting, especially the climactic duel on a wonderful staircase. There’s a leap that only one man in Hollywood could have done, or so the commentary track tells us. They called in Jock Mahoney, and he pulled it off.

I have a powerful personal connection to The Adventures of Don Juan. When I was seven or eight years old, I visited my aunt in San Antonio, Texas. She took me to the drive-in to see this movie. Even at that age, I was under the spell of the movies, and San Antonio holds some wonderful memories for me. On other trips, my aunt took me to the Aztec Theater and to the Josephine (where we saw Kon Tiki). But I digress. When we went to see The Adventures of Don Juan, I had a fever, a fact I concealed from my aunt. She found out, however, and we left right after the opening scene, which was burned into my memory. I’ve never forgotten it, and I was thrilled when I finally got to see the rest of the movie years later. I was thrilled again by this newly remastered version on DVD. Check it out.

Update. Harry Whittington scholar David Laurence Wilson has provided the following information:

Yes, that absolutely was Jock Mahoney doubling for Flynn.
Mahoney didn't spend much time at the trade, moving on to
acting, but he was well respected by the pros. At the
time the studio was having trouble finding someone to
make the jump. Production was held up for three days.
Flynn's regular doubles, Don Turner and Saul Gorss,
weren't up to the jump and Mahoney, who had set records
as a long jumper, was suggested. He was working at
Columbia, where he'd been doubling and playing parts
on the Durango Kid series. He was allowed over to Warner
Brothers during his lunch hour.

It was a great stunt, a featured stunt, but the hardest
part, according to stuntman Paul Baxley, was to be the
man on the bottom. Baxley saw the stunt close up ..
he was doubling the villain, Robert Douglas.

"I'd watch these guys come in and try it and I'd wince,"
Baxley recalled. "I wasn't going to let them dive on me.
They might have killed me.

"It wasn't dangerous but it was really a very spectacular
physical feat," Baxley said. "Most guys would try to do
a jump like that upright. Jock realized that he had to go
head first, in a dive to keep his feet up. When he hit me
I didn't even feel it. He was like a bird, he was that
good. The funny part is that I made more money on it
than he did. He said he'd do it for $350. I said, 'I
don't care what he gets, I want $50O. Get somebody
else if you don't want me!"

Friday, April 13, 2007

Barry Nelson, R. I. P.

San Jose Mercury News - Actor Barry Nelson, first on-screen James Bond, dies at 89

LOS ANGELES- Barry Nelson, an MGM contract player during the 1940s who later had a prolific theater career and was the first actor to play James Bond on screen, has died. He was 89.

Nelson died on April 7 while traveling in Bucks County, Pa., his wife, Nansi Nelson, said Friday. The cause of death was not immediately known, she said.

After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1941, Nelson was spotted by a talent scout and signed to MGM. He appeared in a number of films for the studio in 1942, including "Shadow of the Thin Man," "Johnny Eager" and "Dr. Kildare's Victory." He also landed the leading role in "A Yank on the Burma Road," playing a cab driver who decides to lead a convoy of trucks for the Chinese government.

Nelson entered the Army during World War II and went on the road with other actors performing the wartime play "Winged Victory," which was later made into a movie starring Red Buttons, George Reeves and Nelson.

After the war, Nelson starred in a string of movies, including "Undercover Maisie," "Time to Kill" and "Tenth Avenue Angel."

He is the answer to the trivia question: Who was the first actor to play James Bond? Before Sean Connery was tapped to play the British agent on the big screen in 1962's "Dr. No," Nelson played Bond in a one-hour TV adaptation of "Casino Royale" in 1954.

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My Generation. And Stay off my Damn Lawn!

No Thanks

I'm not hungry.

Gator Caption Competition

See it here.

Hard Man -- Allan Guthrie

Because Duane Swierczynski has declared this Allan Guthrie Week, I thought I might as well go ahead and say a few words about Hard Man. I was going to wait until closer to the street date, but what the heck. You can pre-order it now, which might be a smart move. I predict that a lot of people will be talking about the book even before it's published.

I'd call it blue-collar noir. The Baxter family is looking for a bit of help, as the men (father and two sons) don't feel they can protect the only woman, May, from her brutal husband. So they try to hire Pearce (readers of earlier Guthrie novels will have met him before) as a bodyguard. Pearce isn't interested, so they try to persuade him by devious means involving his cute little dog.

Yes, there's a cute dog. But Guthrie doesn't play the cute card like anybody else might. Trust me on this.

It won't surprise you to learn that things don't go well for Pearce, or for anybody else. Especially one guy, who's subjected to . . . , well, I'm not even going to tell you except to say that the word macabre applies. You might want to put the book down and stop reading, but you won't be able to. Or I wasn't.

And did I mention that the book is funny? You may hate yourself for laughing, or you might look back in horror at what you laughed at, but I suspect you'll still find it funny. Or maybe it's just me.

This is one of those books that makes you wonder what the writer will come up with next. Check it out.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

But Will There Be a Role for Cameron Diaz?

Original Charlie's Angels To Reteam For New Film? - Starpulse News Blog: "The original Charlie's Angels are considering reprising their beloved TV characters for an ambitious new movie. Cancer survivor Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith and Kate Jackson have been approached to revisit the crime-busting characters they played on TV in the 1970s.

Smith reveals, 'There's been talk of all of us coming back and doing a movie together... If the script was right and we had it all worked out it'd be fun. It's sometimes hard to revisit the past but, if you do it in the proper way, it's OK.'"

Not Quite the Last Picture Show

But close. Photo at link.

SHARE YOUR STORY: San Antonio's Last Drive-In Shut Down for Good? | WOAI.COM: San Antonio News: "A drive-in movie theater, one of the last in the state, could now be shut down for good, News 4 WOAI learned Monday.

The Mission Drive-In was supposed to reopen for Spring Break, but vandalism forced owners to keep it closed. The theater has been open for nearly 50 years, and it is the last outdoor theater in San Antonio.

The drive-in closes every winter, and neighbors told News 4 WOAI vandalism there is not uncommon. But, this winter, it got worse, and the owners said it may be too expensive to repair."

Kurt Vonnegut, R. I. P.

Some people will remember that Vonnegut was, among other things, a Gold Medal author. Not as much read now as he was 40 years ago, but his works still resonate with me. There's a nice tribute in Salon.

Kurt Vonnegut: 1922 ~ 2007
Author's dark humor captivated generations | Chicago Tribune
: "Kurt Vonnegut, whose dark comic talent and urgent moral vision in novels like 'Slaughterhouse-Five,' 'Cat's Cradle' and 'God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater' caught the temper of his times and the imagination of a generation, died Wednesday night in New York City. He was 84.

His death was reported by Morgan Entrekin, a longtime family friend, who said Vonnegut suffered brain injuries as a result of a fall several weeks ago.

Vonnegut wrote plays, essays and short fiction. But it was his novels that became classics of the American counterculture, making him a literary idol, particularly to students in the 1960s and '70s.

Like Mark Twain, Vonnegut used humor to tackle the basic questions of human existence: Why are we in this world? Is there a presiding figure to make sense of all this, a god who in the end, despite making people suffer, wishes them well?"

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Texas Has a Doo-Wop Group

They're the Moonlites. Check out their site and listen to a couple of their acappella tunes. Great stuff.

So I'm Blogging This. I Can't Help Myself

Blame Jeff Meyerson, who sent me the link.

Paris Hilton, Richie give enemas on Simple Life | Entertainment | Reuters: "TV celebutantes Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie won't answer questions about their checkered driving records, or Richie's recent dizzy spells, or the origins of their highly publicized feud.

But they are more than happy to talk about a certain rectal ministration they performed on participants at a 'wellness camp' overseen by fitness guru Susan Powter for an upcoming episode of their reality show, 'The Simple Life.'

'We gave the campers enemas,' Richie told Reuters on Monday in a brief interview given by the pampered pair to promote their show, which returns for a fifth edition May 28 on the cable network E! Entertainment Television."

Happy Birthday, Johnny Sheffield!

Scott Cupp reminds me that Johnny Sheffield, Bomba the Jungle Boy (also Boy in some of the Tarzan movies), celebrates his birthday today. Here's a link to last year's post, with photo.

Oh. My. God.

You gotta watch the video!

The Herald Sun: THE contemplative poems of William Wordsworth have drawn lovers of literature to England's peaceful Lake District for two centuries. Even without a hip hop beat.

But in an effort to make the region's most famous poet more relevant to a younger audience, local tourism officials have released a rap version of Wordsworth's 200-year-old classic of Romantic verse: I wandered lonely as a cloud.

The reworking manages to "stay true to the original sentiment with some slight variation of the lyrics", Cumbria Tourism insisted.

Accompanying the hip-hop theme on its website is a video featuring "MC Nuts" - a giant dancing red squirrel.

Have a look at the new video, or read the original poem.

Happy (Belated) Birthday, Cheeta!

Nice pic of chimp in birthday hat at link.

Zee News - Tarzan’s chimp ‘Cheeta’ celebrates his 75th birthday: "London, April 11: Cheeta, the celebrity chimp noted for appearing in numerous movies and television shows, celebrated his 75th birthday on April 9, and had the day named after him.

Cheeta, who was born in 1932, shot to fame after appearing in many Hollywood Tarzan movies of 1930’s and 40’s in which he portrayed a fictional chimp of the same name.

The chimp’s first appearance as Cheeta was in the 1936 Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movie ‘Tarzan Escapes’.

With the normal lifespan of chimps being 50 years, Cheeta, at 75, is the oldest chimpanzee in the world, reports The Sun.

Cheeta celebrated his special day in Palm Springs, California, where he has lived for 16 years after retiring from the movie business. "

Gator Update

There's probably a moral here. Or maybe not.

Alligator bites off vet's forearm in Taiwan zoo - Asia-Pacific: "Taipei - An alligator in a Taiwan zoo bit off a veterinarian's forearm Wednesday when the vet was trying to treat the sick animal.

The incident occurred at the Shoushan Zoo in Kaohsiung, south Taiwan, when zoo vet Chang Po-yu was giving the alligator three anaesthesia shots, so that he could treat the alligator's illness."

Anna Nicole Smith Update

Thanks to Vince Keenan for the link. - Ford to star in 'Anna Nicole' film: "Dancer-singer Willa Ford has signed to star as Anna Nicole Smith in an indie biopic that will begin shooting next week.

The previously announced film, 'Anna Nicole,' is produced by Jack Nasser and Joseph Nasser with Elie Samaha exec producing. Keoni Waxman directs.

Movie will cover Smith's life from age 17 until her death in February at 39, including her success as a Playboy centerfold, Guess model and actress, her marriage to billionaire oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II, the death of her son and her own death five months after giving birth to a baby girl, Dannielynn. The dispute that erupted over who was the baby's father was settled Tuesday when a judge in the Bahamas ruled, based on DNA tests, in favor of California photographer and former Smith boyfriend Larry Birkhead."

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Thanks, but No Thanks

Eaten alive | Health and wellbeing | Life and Health: "Exfoliation is a key part of any skin beautifying treatment. But forget salt scrubs, rubs and foot files. Why not try something far more efficient: the toothless mouths of hundreds of tiny, voraciously feeding fish?"

Click the link, provided by Todd Mason, for a photo.

Anna Nicole Smith Update

Breaking News: Anna Nicole Smith Paternity Battle: Ruling Will Not Be Made Public - The Post Chronicle

Update: Gag Order Lifted Birkhead Is the Daddy!

Anna Nicole Smith Paternity Case - A Bahamian court is expected to rule today in the paternity case of Anna Nicole Smith's infant daughter. Under Bahamian legal rules however, the results cannot be made public by either of the parties involved in the paternity and custody battle.

They can however, be revealed. The judge in the case will have to lift the gag order in order to do so.

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Catch It While You Can

TV Week: "NBC has pulled 'Andy Barker, P.I.' after four episodes, replacing the Thursday night series with 'Scrubs' starting this week. The program averaged a 2.1 rating among adults 18 to 49, according to Nielsen. The most recent episode was down to a 1.7.

Two more episodes of the series will be run off this Saturday. "

Thanks to Todd Mason for the link.

Porky's is 25: a Celebration of The Teen Sex Comedies of the '80s

Virgin Territory | Porky's | The Way We Were | Movies | Entertainment Weekly | 1: "On the 25th anniversary of ''Porky's,'' EW's Chris Nashawaty recalls his own age of innocence — and the explosion of teen sex comedies that helped him survive it. Forget school. All you really needed was a private tutor."

Say It Ain't So!

Thanks to Scott Cupp for the link.

Arts & Entertainment | Garage-rock anthem "Louie Louie" turns 50 | Seattle Times Newspaper: "Turning 50. It's a daunting prospect for anyone (and I should know). But for a pop song? Most fade away long before they reach that mark. One exception: the legendary 'Louie Louie' — that eternally youthful 1960s garage-rock anthem first recorded exactly 50 years ago this month. Far from shuffling off to a quiet retirement, evidence indicates that 'Louie Louie' may actually prove to be immortal."

Update: By special request you can click here to hear 1000 guitarists attempt to play "Louie Louie." Frequent commenter Cap'n Bob is wearing sunglasses and a red shirt. Check it out.

Macavity Is a Mystery Cat

Mystery cat takes regular bus to the shops | the Daily Mail: "Bus drivers have nicknamed a white cat Macavity after it has started using the No 331 several mornings a week.

The feline, which has a purple collar, gets onto the busy Walsall to Wolverhampton bus at the same stop most mornings - he then jumps off at the next stop 400m down the road, near a fish and chip shop."

Today's Baseball Card

Gator Update, Milwaukee Style

Police: Alligator Stolen From Milwaukee Barbershop - News Story - WISN Milwaukee: "MILWAUKEE -- Thieves broke into a Milwaukee barbershop, but it wasn't money they were after, according to Milwaukee police.

Police said the burglars took an alligator from the 13th street Barbershop on 12th and Burleigh streets early Monday morning."

Monday, April 09, 2007

Line of Fire -- Donald Hamilton

After reading Murderers' Row I moved on to Line of Fire, which is just as good as I remembered. If not better. It seems to me that there's a direct line from this book to Stephen Hunter's Point of Impact. Even the titles have a certain similarity and fit the stories the same way. Both feature an assassination that's not what it appears to be. Both are full of talk about different kinds of guns and bullets and what they can do, and both have a lot about shooting at a distance.

But I digress. I want to talk about Hamilton's book, which is so well done that even though I'd read it before and knew where it was going, it held me right from the first page. (One great thing about those old paperbacks was that you could read them in a couple of hours.) The story's just packed with stuff: a damaged hero (think Jake Barnes), a crooked politician, a thug with ambition, sex, violence, a couple of neat twists, and just plain good writing. If you haven't read anything by Hamilton except the Matt Helm books, you really should read this one. You won't regret it.

Robert Heinlein at One Hundred

Robert Heinlein at One Hundred @ "The centennial of Robert Heinlein’s birth is coming up in July, and tempers are still worked up over this pulp fiction writer who turned into a consciousness-raising guru during the 1960s. Only a few weeks ago, a writer in the New York Times Book Review attacked Heinlein’s Starship Troopers as “an endorsement of fascism.” Heinlein’s defenders rushed in with letters to the editor to counter these charges, and a mini-controversy was soon brewing over a book for youngsters first published in 1959, by an author who died in 1988."

Jogging in Alvin. . .

. . . you never know what you'll find.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Murderers' Row -- Donald Hamilton

Donald Hamilton's recent death prompted me to re-read a couple of his books. First up was this Matt Helm novel, grabbed at random from a stack of reading copies. In this one, Helm's about to go on a much-needed vacation when Mac sends him out on an assignment. Helm is to beat up a woman (one of Mac's agents), and make it look good to the opposition. Typically, he's being sent because the woman's partner is too squeamish to do the job. Helm, of course, isn't. But there's a problem, and to tell what it is would spoil some of the fun. So I won't tell. Let's just say that Helm's is forced to do a little more than he expected. In fact, because of further complications, Helm has to become a bit of a rogue agent, and there's some question about his psychological stability. Even Helm has his doubts, though of course the reader probably doesn't.

This is a Cold War story, but the time period and the McGuffin don't really matter. The real subject it Helm's toughness and professionalism. Helm scorns amateurs, women who wear pants, sentimentalists (not that Helm is entirely free of sentiment, however), and incompetence. Maybe not the best of the series, but a good one that packs a heck of a lot of story into its 144 pages. Check it out.

Donald Hamilton Update

Be sure to check out Steve Lewis's always excellent Mystery*File for this post, and don't miss the link at the bottom for even more.

Anna Nicole Smith Update

ANNA NICOLE IS ... UM ... WAS DEEP - What Would Tyler Durden Do: "Two diaries kept by Anna Nicole Smith in the early 1990s were made available to the Associated Press yesterday, just a few samples among several pieces of personal items belonging to Smith that will be auctioned off later this month in Dallas. All of which sounds boring and is only noteworthy because of the awesome samples, . . ."

Samples in ANS's own handwriting at the link.

Honored Again

I'm honored that "Cranked" has been nominated for a Derringer Award by the Short Mystery Fiction Society. First the Edgar nom, and now this. It really is an honor just to be nominated. Thanks to Duane Swierczynski and David Thompson for including the story in Damn Near Dead and to Dave White and Byron Quatermous, whose blog project was the impetus for the first story about one of the characters.

Easter in Texas, 2007

My brother, who lives in our hometown, sent this photo, taken yesterday afternoon, of his backyard. This is the first time it's snowed in that part of Texas in April in my lifetime.