Monday, July 12, 2004

Lately I've been browsing the capsule movie summaries in Arthur Lyons' book called DEATH ON THE CHEAP: THE LOST B-MOVIES OF FILM NOIR, and I find them highly entertaining.

But here's something that's really bothering me. It has nothing to do with the movies or the book itself. It's a sentence in the blurb from Robert Crais in the front of the book. Here it is: "Written with the sure hand of a gifted novelist, Arthur Lyons has opened an entertaining treasure chest that will have you racing to your local video rental joint." As a former English teacher, all I can say is, "Arrrgggghhhh!" And to think that Crais out-sells me about a million to one.

Since I'm far from a film noir geek, or even a film geek of any kind, I don't have too many nits to pick with Lyons himself. However (you knew there was going to be a "however," right?) there's this on page 122 in Lyons' comment on THE MYSTERIOUS MR. VALENTINE (1946): "This film was a new kind of role for Linda Stirling, who up to this time had spend most of her time at Republic dressed in a leopard cat suit and beating up bad guys in THE TIGER WOMAN serials (sic). Tristram Coffin, in contrast, was right at home, having been a staple minor villain in many a Republic feature. In 1951, he finally got a taste of what it was to play a good guy when he starred as Commando Cody in LOST PLANET AIRMEN, Republic's feature release of its serial KING OF THE ROCKETMEN."

As I said, I'm no expert, but this wrong on so many levels.

As far as I know, for example, there was only one TIGER WOMAN serial (Lyons is right about the leopard costume, though. Why they didn't call her the Leopard Woman is a still-unanswered question.) She certainly hadn't spent all her time at Republic in that one serial, either. How can one forget her sparkling performance in another serial, ZORRO'S BLACK WHIP? (Alas, I'm pretty sure it wasn't Linda wielding the whip in several scenes, which sort of takes away the fun of it if you know what I mean, and I think you do.) Or THE PURPLE MONSTER STRIKES, for that matter?

And if Tristam Coffin played Commando Cody in the feature release of KING OF THE ROCKETMEN, wouldn't he have played good-guy Cody in the serial itself? (You'd think so.) But wait. Since the title of the serial is KING OF THE ROCKETMEN, wouldn't Coffin have played a guy named "King"? (Darned right. Jeff King.) And wasn't Commando Cody in a completely different serial? (Darned right: RADAR MEN FROM THE MOON. He was played by George Wallace [not the Governor of Alabama]. And by some other guy in COMMANDO CODY: SKY MARSHAL OF THE UNIVERSE.)

Sort of makes a fella wonder about the rest of Lyons' commentary.


Anonymous said...

Hello, Brother Bill--

Well, for a fella who's not a film geek, you certainly do know a lot. As an old republic serial fan myself, I always enjoy your comments on them.

I do think you're premature in pronouncing "guy books" as dead, however. In pure comparative numbers, it's always been thought that men read more fiction than women. But it seems that writers who have written pulp fiction always want to think that pulp ended when they stopped writing it. Just yesterday I read Pronzini's mostly okay "Forgotten Writers" piece on Gil Brewer, wherein Bill makes the ridiculous claim that "real" pulp ended in 1965!!! This was four years before the first Mack Bolan novel! I see plenty of pulp fiction for guys around, and know a lot of the 30-something fellas who are writing it. There's the Gold Eagle stable, those Op Center and other Clancy spinoff series and, Lord knows, the western field shows no signs of shirking its pulp roots, what with all the series stuff out there and houses like Leisure and Zebra putting out writers like Johnstone and various stand-alones.

There will always be pulp fiction and, for the folks reading and writing it today, it's alive and well.

--Steve Mertz

Anonymous said...

Shhot. I meant it's always been thought that women read more than men. Ugh. Usually I know the difference between men and women. I shouldn't type before I've had caffeine.