Friday, April 17, 2015

FFB: Death on the Cheap: The Lost B Movies of Film Noir -- Arthur Lyons

This is a rerun from July 12, 2004.  I thought that after more than 10 years, it might be time for another look at it.

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.


George said...

I'm ordering this book Right Now!

Barry Ergang said...

I enjoyed Lyons' Jacob Asch mysteries a great deal, but his knowledge of serials definitely sounds shaky. If you enjoy old cliffhangers, check out To Be Continued... by Ken Weiss and Ed Goodgold, and Days of Thrills and Adventure and A Thousand and One Delights, both by Alan G. Barbour, the latter title covering other types of Saturday matinee films as well.

Barry Ergang said...

I almost forgot another book about serials by Alan G. Barbour: Cliffhanger. Linda Stirling wrote the introduction--all of two short paragraphs.

Jeff Meyerson said...

And stay off your lawn, right?

George Wallace?

I liked Lyons' Asch books too. He died way too young.

I will definitely be buying this one, even though I was not a big fan of the serials (before my time).

Jeff the (relative) whippersnapper

Jeff Meyerson said...

I would also add Don Miller's D MOVIES and Todd McCarthy & Charles Flynn,e ds., KINGS OF THE Bs.


Unknown said...

Those are excellent suggestions, Barry and Jeff. I own most of those titles.

Barry Ergang said...

If you want to check out some of the serials, Jeff, you can find some complete on YouTube.