Thursday, December 18, 2014

Fifty Year Voyage: 1966 Chronicles “Monster from the Inferno”

The 1964-1965 television season marks the fiftieth anniversary of Irwin Allen’s classic sci-fi TV series VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, and we continue that celebration with a VOYAGE installment of an old project of mine – “The 1966 Chronicles”.

Before there was a TIAH Blog, there was “The 1966 Chronicles”. 

1966 was, and always will be, my absolute favorite year for pop culture.  And this is reflected in “The 1966 Chronicles”, but with an interesting twist.  “The 1966 Chronicles” was a series of TV episode commentaries, but written AS IF I WERE IN 1966, seeing these shows for the FIRST TIME, with the only the knowledge of prior seasons – and with ever so much the hint of an anomalous “glimpse of the future to come”.

Maybe you watched an old TV like this in 1966!  I wish I watched it with her!
So, if you were hanging out with me, or reading my writings on THE DAY AFTER THE SHOW ORIGINALLY AIRED, this is more or less what you’d get.  

The commentaries that made up “The 1966 Chronicles” were limited to those TV series that aired in Fall 1966, that were released on DVD at the time (prior to mid-2008), and were in my DVD collection.  That way I ACTUALLY DID watch the episode, and then commented on it. 

Thus, there were no reviews of BATMAN '66 and THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (not yet released), or BEWITCHED (didn't have it then, have it now). 

There were 22 installments in all, before I moved on to Blogging, and they are all eligible to become Blog posts, if you desire. 
So, let's go with the Fall 1966 premiere episode of VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, Monster from the Inferno” - which, coincidentally, just aired on ME-TV Saturday evening / Sunday Morning, November 30, 2014, OVER FIFTY YEARS after the series premiered! (How about that!)

VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA: “Monster from the Inferno”  (Airdate: 09/18/66)

FantasticThe closer we get, the more these readings resemble human brain waves!”

So declares Admiral Harriman Nelson, to open the third season of what, after an outstanding second year, has become my favorite prime time TV series of 1966. 

 And what a delight it was to see that establishing shot of the Submarine Seaview gliding through the depths toward the eager Sunday evening viewers of ABC TV.  Yes, Richard Basehart as Admiral Nelson and David Hedison as Captain Lee Crane, two of television’s most unflinching heroes, are back for another year of underwater science fiction thrills.  

By now, the rest of the crew are practically old friends – Lt. Cmdr. Chip Morton, crewmen Kowalski and Patterson, and returning after an absence of the latter part of last season is the character of CPO Francis Sharkey!  Sharkey was last seen recovering from having been badly busted-up in the mid-second season episode “The Sky’s on Fire” many months ago but, happily, appears fit for duty again! 

Sharkey's back (Left) and so is Doc (Right). 

Something's Out There!  
And, just in time too… as the “Monster” from the title is a big, boulder-sized, disembodied BRAIN, fallen to Earth from outer space and radiating waves from the ocean floor that have caused a “thousand mile communications blackout”, which Nelson’s crew and “special guest visiting scientist” Lindsay (actor Arthur Hill) have come to investigate.  

The Brain makes First Contact.

Lindsay quickly falls under the influence of the creature, after having received a massive shock from it in the show’s teaser.  The Brain communicates with its newfound thrall, slowly at first before building in both Earth/English vocabulary and overblown intensity.  “In the water… I entered your mind… I speak to you alone…” 

Its telepathically transmitted dialogue is an odd mix of both spooky and hammy – delivered in the familiar voice of the LOST IN SPACE Robot, by the Robot’s voice actor Dick Tufeld!  Yes, really… Will Robinson!  

The Brain is taken aboard and stored in the ship’s lab specimen tank.  In short order, it also enslaves Crane, “takes over” the Seaview by interfacing with its computer banks, and energizes itself by drawing power from the sub’s nuclear reactor.  

As it becomes more powerful, it also becomes increasingly arrogant, spewing such over-the-top gems as: “In time, there shall be others like me – and then man will live to serve us – and only to serve us!”  And, of course, the expected:  “I grow in power all the timeFEEL MY POWER!” 

The Brain ultimately kills a rebelling Lindsay.  Nelson frees Crane from its influence, and overloads it with energy by pulling the dampening rods from the reactor.  Our lobed friend hardly goes quietly.  

I will not be defeatedWe were created to ruleNo living creature in the universe has ever stood in our wayThe galaxies have bowed their heads to usThere cannot… There MUST NOT be defeat!”  And, while we wonder if there are any “Anger Management Clinics for Huge Cosmic Brains” in outer space, Nelson ejects the creature back into the depths of the sea – where its over-energized form explodes into oblivion! 

As Nelson and Crane reflect on the episode’s events, sans their usual episode-ending coffee, we viewers do the same, having just witnessed a rollicking good adventure, chock full of the type of fun and excitement that is the hallmark of VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA!  

How good it is to have it back, as part of this wonderful year for television science fiction and adventure!  More fathoms of fun to come next week – with a werewolf on board!

If you dare, there are previous installments of “The 1966 Chronicles” on this Blog for you to explore:  

The Fall 1966 premiere of LOST IN SPACE.

The Fall 1966 premiere of STAR TREK.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

“Introducing Daffy Duck”

That's exactly what I was doing on Thursday evening, December 11, 2014 - introducing Daffy Duck.   

I've mentioned the "Horror and Sci-Fi Film Appreciation Society", hosted by Keith Crocker, that I attend on Thursday nights.  We watch actual film prints or DVD versions of related films, introduced by Keith, and later commented upon by the members. This past week we wrapped up a "dinosaur-centric" series that had featured the following:  

"Unknown Island" (1948)

"The Land Unknown" (1957)

And the ultra-classic "King Kong" (1933), which prominently featured dinosaurs.  

With the final entry in the series to be "Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster" (1971),  I suggested -- and Keith was open to including -- an all-time favorite short cartoon of mine, "Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur" (1939).

So, I brought my DVD copy of "Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur", and introduced the cartoon as follows:  

“Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur” (1939) 

This is a very early effort by the great cartoon director Chuck Jones, who will later guide Daffy through some of his best and most well-known cartoons. 

The Duck Season / Rabbit Season Trilogy, “Duck Dodgers in the 24 th and a Half Century” with Porky Pig as his eager young space cadet, and “Duck Amuck” where Daffy is at the mercy of an unseen animator who controls every facet of Daffy’s existence.    

It’s also an early outing for DAFFY too.  It is the SIXTH of about 130 Daffy Duck theatrical appearances (counting his own cartoons and those that were part of the Bugs Bunny series) and is a very different Daffy than the one you may be used to. 

He's still in a prototypical design, has a higher-pitched and more frenetic voice, and is pursued by a prissy caveman hunter and his dinosaur.  The caveman is voiced like Jack Benny - but is not drawn to resemble him.    It also has one of my most favorite endings in all of cartoons.    

Mel Blanc, as he always has, voices Daffy -- and an actor named Jack Lescoulie does the Jack Benny caveman. 

You will enjoy this one!   

And, enjoy it they did.  Unanimously.  And, I daresay, more so than "Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster".  (...Maybe if Raymond Burr was on hand, it might have helped things!) 

The expected "good time was had by all", except Daffy, the Dinosaur, and the Jack Benny Caveman - who [SPOILER ALERT] all end up dead! 

"Ya know, maybe that wasn't such a HOT IDEA, after all!" 

"Good Night, folks!"  


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Fantagraphics Mickey Mouse by Floyd Gottfredson: “Long Ago”, but Not Far Away!

Now that we've survived Thanksgiving, you're probably wondering what to get that special man, woman, comics-fan, duck, or mouse in your life for the holidays.  Right?  

Look no further than "Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse by Floyd Gottfredson Volume 6 Lost in Lands of Long Ago", the latest in the magnificent Disney comic strip classic volumes published by Fantagraphics!  

I've said it before, and I'll never stop saying it: "These books are a reader's and fan's dream come true!"

This volume could be said to bring the remaining "Golden Age" adventures of Mickey Mouse to a close, before he embarks upon his World War II, Post War, and Cold War Era adventures.  

Contained herein are such well-known Mouse classics as: 

"The Bar-None Ranch" (1940)

"Bellhop Detective" (1940)

"Land of Long Ago" (1940-41)

"Love Trouble" (1941)

"Mickey Mouse Super-Salesman" (1941)

"Mystery at Hidden River" (1941-42)

"The Gleam" (1942)

Most of these have transcended the newspaper funnies pages of the early 1940s, and permeated our general consciousness, thanks to subsequent printings by Dell Comics, Gladstone Series One, and Gemstone. 

However, here is your opportunity to see them in all their original glory, just as Floyd Gottfredson intended -- and with more "Extra Features" than you'll find on most contemporary DVDs!    

One of those "Extra Features" being an introductory text to "The Gleam" written by yours truly, in which I finally get the opportunity to to discuss (as part of the greater topics of "hypnosis" and "deception", as seen in this story) what I have always felt was perhaps "...the comics medium's biggest cheat" - and how comics creators often turn it to their advantage in ways that could never apply to other media.  

It's come up in my fanzine writings and Letters of Comment to comic book editors over the years, but now I finally make the case on the grandest stage of all!  Do let me know if you agree. 

I also note "The Gleam's" place, on the Gottfredsonian Timeline as the "perfect transitory midpoint" between the more classic mysteries like "The Phantom Blot" and the Post-War adventures to come.  Your thoughts on that are also welcome.  

But, let us never forget, it is the enduring genius of Floyd Gottfredson and the impeccable production values of Fantagraphics that are the stars here - and I remain humble and grateful for the opportunity to be a very small part of of this outstanding endeavor.     

Friday, November 28, 2014

How We Celebrated Thanksgiving in New York!

Forget turkeys!  We had GIANT APES and REPTILES to deal with!  

Courtesy of Keith Crocker, please take THIS LINK to learn (or, if you're one of the fortunate ones, recall) just how great it was!  

"King Kong", on the above-pictured Blu-ray, has a running time of 01:44:25 including an opening  overture that lasted four minutes and fifteen seconds!  If Channel 9 showed it in TWO HOURS with commercials (CRAZY EDDIE RULED!), they sure cut out a lot!  I did notice more graphic violence and set up bits than I recall from those days.  But it's funny, how our recollections tend to vary!

WOR TV Channel 9 was unique among New York TV stations because it seemed to have only two staples - old movies and the New York Mets!  It didn't run a lot of off-network shows, like Ch 5 (WNEW) and 11 (WPIX).  Though, it did run two of my favorites; THE WILD WILD WEST (briefly about 1971) and VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA (1976 to about 1982, when they were finally running it at 5:30 AM!)

Starting in 1979, and into the mid-eighties, Channel 9 was also the home of THE BENNY HILL SHOW!  Unlike its competitors, it also almost never ran cartoons!  

The films "Ginga Din" and John Wayne's "The War Wagon", in particular, seemed to turn up almost once a month!  That was okay, though, because they're both enjoyable films!   

You could say Channel 9 had a unique "personality" all its own, among New York television stations!

Finally, I not only agree with that final paragraph on the more recent state of TV.  I've probably said or written pretty much those very same words!  

Now, of course, we can spend the holidays with King Kong and Godzilla via our many home video options.  The prints are better, uncut and have no commercial interruptions.  But, it's sure nice to look back on those glory days of Kong, 'Zilla, and WOR TV Channel 9! 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving 2014!

Happy Thanksgiving 2014!  

Wherever you go, and whatever you do, just remember you COULD be having Thanksgiving dinner at GOOFY'S house!  

Then again, it looks like the Goof can roast a mean turkey!  Just watch where he puts those serving articles! 

Allow me to give thanks to all of you, who make this Blog so much fun throughout the year!   

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Animation Writer Len Uhley Honored

Here's an item I stumbled upon purely by chance, but might be of interest to the readers of this Blog.

Len Uhley, perhaps the best writer for the collection of animated TV shows we've come to know as THE DISNEY AFTERNOON, is being honored by the Writer's Guild of America.  The details can be found HERE - and my profound apologies for the annoyance of having to watch an ad in order to read the piece. 

I was introduced to the work of Len Uhley in this wonderful episode of the Disney TV series DUCKTALES.  Chris Barat writes far more about the episode at THIS LINK.  

Do continue into the Comments Section of Chris' Blog post, to find yours truly heaping much additional praise on the episode.  It saves me from having to write more here.  Efficient, eh?   

From that point on, I noticed that anything under the DISNEY AFTERNOON umbrella with Uhley's name attached to it was generally a cut about the rest.  

Uhley was also a contributor to the classic-era DISNEY AFTERNOON series GUMMI BEARS, DARKWING DUCK, and TALE SPIN - the later of which we'll be posting more about very soon.  

The full list of Len Uhley's TV writing credits can be found HERE.  

Congratulations to Len Uhley on his much deserved honor!  

Monday, November 17, 2014

Biff! Bam! Boffo! – on Blu-ray!

Batman’s 75th Anniversary has also been a great year for the BATMAN (1966) TV series. 

There is the wonderful BATMAN ’66 comic book from DC Comics… and now there is “BATMAN THE COMPLETE TV SERIES LIMITED EDITION BLU-RAY”! 

I just got, and spent much of the day with, this amazing Blu-ray set! 

"It is TRULY AMAZING, Old Chum!"
By all accounts, it’s been a long and difficult battle to get the BATMAN (1966) TV series to DVD – but was this remarkable deluxe set ever worth the wait! 

All three complete seasons on Blu-ray discs – with many Extra Features. 

A softcover Episode Guide book.

The Adam West Scrapbook, hardcover and filled with great photos from the Batman '66 era. Including one each of West with William Shatner... and John Wayne!

A reproduction set of the original Batman Cards (the first set with drawings, and not actor’s photos) that I had way back in 1966! 

A Hot Wheels Replica of the Batmobile!  (…Atomic Batteries to Power!  Turbines to Speed!

The episodes TRULY never looked better!  The picture quality is bright, sharp… and Bat-tastic!  And, for a series that used color in such a then-unique way, Blu-ray is the perfect format for BATMAN! 

I must note that the illustrations used here are culled from around the Internet, and my own scans, and are NOT indicative of the magnificent picture quality seen in the Blu-ray set!  

"HOLY HIGH-DEF! We look MUCH better than this, on Blu-ray!"

On the first day, I skipped around the vast BATMAN ’66 video-verse with gleeful abandon!  It went something like this: 

"Buckle-up! You're in for quite the ride!

The first two-part episode, featuring Frank Gorshin as The Riddler: “Hi Diddle Riddle” / “Smack in the Middle” – an amazingly new and colorful approach to television (…even though *I* first saw it in Black and White), with an equally amazing Jill St. John disguised as Robin.  Hmmm… Methinks Adam West’s Batman might not have been “The World’s Greatest Detective”, after all! 

Oh, and the episode was based on this comic.

Skipped to the first appearance of my favorite TV-Bat-Villain, the great Victor Buono as King Tut.  “The Curse of Tut” / “The Pharaoh’s in a Rut”. 

Jumped to the many Extra Features and watched the Batgirl Pilot – with Adam West, Burt Ward and the (need I say…) amazing Yvonne Craig as the Terrific Trio vs. Killer Moth, a comics villain who never appeared on the series.  Alas, the actors who play Killer Moth and his Mothmen remain uncredited in the piece.  It runs just shy of 8 minutes and really does feel like a “lost” episode of the series.  

Then, “Batmania Born! Building the World of Batman”, a superb documentary on the “life and times” of the show as a pop-cultural phenomenon, with Adam West, Burt Ward, Julie Newmar, persons from DC Comics like Paul Levitz, Mike Carlin, Dan Di Dio, Jim Lee, and Len Wein, key creative figures in Warner Bros. different Batman animated series Bruce Timm, James Tucker, and Alan Burnett, and file footage of Caesar Romero, Producer William Dozier and Writer Stanley Ralph Ross.  This feature should actually be released on its own!  It’s THAT GOOD!  

On to Season Two and the first appearance of Vincent Price as Egghead “An Egg Grows in Gotham” / “The Yegg Foes in Gotham”.  After all, it recently WAS “Vincent Price Week”! 

Next, near the end of Season Three, the final appearance of Victor Buono as King Tut.  “I’ll be a Mummy’s Uncle”. By Season Three, most Bat-episodes were one-part and self-contained.  A wonderfully funny affair with great dialogue.  …And, you KNOW how I love great dialogue!  By this time, Buono was REALLY hamming it up! 

 And, “The Joker’s Flying Saucer”, the last appearance of Caesar Romero’s Joker! 

"Is it really THE END for me? Unthinkable!" 

Finally, back to Season One, for its second adventure “Fine Feathered Finks” / “The Penguin’s a Jinx”, and the first go-round for Burgess Meredith as The Penguin. 

That is SOME BAT-DAY!!! 

I hate to "RIP" anything about this set, but...

If there’s one CON about the set, it’s something that may unfortunately be typical of Warner Home Video’s Blu-ray product – specifically such product that contains “episodes or installments” that should play individually off of a menu.   It’s certainly true of the three Looney Tunes Platinum Collection Blu-ray sets. 

Once you select an episode for play from the episode menu, at episode’s end we are not taken back to the menu to make another selection – but, instead, the NEXT SELECTION (from whatever point you are at on that menu) plays automatically, and then the next, in non-stop fashion.

It’s an involuntary version of “PLAY ALL”, only starting at which ever point you choose.  It’s rather annoying to not be able to make “your next viewing choice” yourself, without explicitly pressing the “MENU” button of your remote.  …But, in the grand Bat-scheme of things, this is a minor quibble. 

SECOND DAY UPDATE: Another minor quibble”, but particularly noticeable to someone like me, is that, in the first two seasons at the end of “Part Two” of every episode, there was a Next Week's Villain” intro.  It would just be a STILL of the villain that would hold on the screen for as long as it took William Dozier to say: Next Week: Batman vs. The Penguin!”  These bits have always been cut from syndication prints.  

Alas, they are also missing from these otherwise perfect episodes. However the Next Week's Villain” intro for Zelda the Great, at the end of the first Mister Freeze appearance, Instant Freeze” / Rats Like Cheese” seems to have been accidentally left on, to the great pleasure of authenticity enthusiasts everywhere!   

What are you waiting for?  Get down those batpoles, already! 

“BATMAN THE COMPLETE TV SERIES LIMITED EDITION BLU-RAY” is pricy, but SOOOO worth it, especially with online deals – and Black Friday coming up.  So, slide down the Batpoles, and get yours on the “Same Bat-Day!”  

"I'm getting MY COPY right now!"