Friday, January 21, 2005

Vince Keenan

Tonight I watched IFC's Ultimate Film Fanatic to see if blogger Vince Keenan (who claims he dreams in Technicolor, SurroundSound, and letterbox format) could capture the title for the Northwest Region. Well, not quite, but he sure came close. In the program's opening round I knew the answers to every question. Except for two, both of which were based on movies I haven't seen, Natural Born Killers and Bride of Chucky. Vince got both those answers right. Then he won the debate with a guy named Tony, who got another chance and beat the other contestant. It came down to who was the most obsessed with movies, as judged by a "panel of experts" that included Tatum O'Neal. I thought Vince had the first round sewed up with a explanation of his blog, but the panel thought Tony's collection of lobby cards from Mexican horror movies was a topper. The second round also went to Tony, thanks to his notebook containing his reviews of horror movies that he'd been doing since he was about eight years old.

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.

What color is the other one?

This is the headline from today's Houston Chronicle (page A21) that prompted my question:

"Marine has Red, White and Blue Ball"

Important Safety Tip!

Always carry a pocket handkerchief!

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

The Adventures of Dr. Fu Manchu

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. Posted by Hello

Hardluck Stories

The word's in from Dave Zeltserman that the new issue of Hardluck Stories is up and ready for reading. Dave says this may be the best issue yet, which is certainly recommendation enough. Check it out.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


The January issue of CrimeSpree magazine arrived at my house yesterday. I've read only a couple of things, including Bob Randisi's anti-Bouchercon rant (actually, its more of an anti-Bouchercon attendance rant) and Sarah Weinman's introduction to the novels of Ross Thomas. Unlike Bob, I still register for Bouchercon when I attend, but I do think he makes some good points in his commentary. And I always enjoy reading about Ross Thomas. I hope that Sarah's article will encourage anybody who reads it and hasn't read anything by Thomas to give one of his books a try. I recently re-read The Fourth Durango and posted about it here. And I plan to re-read at least a couple of his books soon, as February is "Bleeck Midwinter" month on rara-avis, the hardboiled discussion list. (Oliver Bleeck is a Thomas pseudonym.)

The Kinkster - Gov. Kinky -- the next leader of Texas? - Jan 18, 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

The Dramatist -- Ken Bruen

I read The Dramatist, Ken Bruen's fourth Jack Taylor novel, the other day. Jack is clean and sober in this one, but he's still a walking disaster area. If there's a wrong decision to be made, Jack will make it. If there's a wrong thing to say, Jack will say it. (He listens to good music and reads good books, though.) Another of Jack's problems is that he's not a danger only to himself. He seems to bring disaster to everyone who associates with him. I wouldn't want to be his friend, or even to live in the same city with him. But I do enjoy reading about him, so much so that I didn't wait for the American edition of this book but bought the British pb at Murder by the Book.

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

Virginia Mayo Posted by Hello

Virginia Mayo

ABC News: Virginia Mayo, '40s and '50s Actress, Dies

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."

The Rockford Files

Via Incoming Signals, here's a link to The Rockford Files homepage. Just reading those phone messages brings back a lot of memories of what has to be one of the best p.i. series ever on TV.

Chalotte MacLeod, R.I.P.

LEWISTON, Maine (AP) -- The Canadian-born novelist, who moved from the Boston area to Bowdoinham in 1985, died in a Lewiston nursing home.

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

Michael Avallone

Ed's Place

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.