Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Rooting for the “Underdog”! Initial Observations.

Just got my copy of “UNDERDOG THE COMPLETE COLLECTOR’S EDITION” on DVD, from Shout! Factory on Friday, February 27. 

I’ve only scratched the surface of Set One (of THREE multi-disc sets contained therein), so it will be a long time (if ever) until I get around to doing one of my “Loooong DVD Reviews” of the entire package.  But, I will offer some early observations…

The FIRST EPISODE (presumably the pilot for the series) is unlike any other episode of UNDERDOG that I recall seeing over the decades. 

There are FIVE separate segments – 3 Underdog, 1 Go-Go Gophers, and 1 featuring perhaps my favorite character to emerge from the Total TeleVision animation studio … the stuffy, tall tale-telling Commander McBragg – and, unlike that which is to come, none of the Underdog segments are part of a longer, continued story. The three Underdog segments are:

  • Safe Waif”: Underdog rescues a “child” (quotes mine) locked in a bank vault.

  • March of the Monsters”: Underdog finds the almost literal “glass jaw” (well, not exactly a “jaw”) of an army of invading giant robots. 

  • Simon Says”: In which we meet evil genius Simon Bar Sinister, whose fiendish device can turn people into flat, 1-dimensional, life-size, black and white photographs.  (…Um, what’s a “black and white photograph”?)
The odd thing is that these three Underdog segments have a much higher “humor quotient” than does the typical Underdog segment. 

The recurring theme in these early entries is that, while Underdog always saves the day, he leaves a great deal of gratuitous property destruction in his wake!  Much like this very early SUPER GOOF entry!  Unlike Super Goof, however, Underdog is not completely oblivious to the damage he causes – but flies off, dismissing it as “details”.  In an odd way, this MIGHT actually make the casual carnage all the more humorous. 

In fact, in “Simon Says”, you can actually SEE the upcoming destruction telegraphed – and your advance cringing only adds to the fun.  Fun, the type of which, I must emphasize again, that one does not ordinarily associate with UNDERDOG. 

Once we move beyond the “pilot” (?), things settle into their familiar pattern. 

The next show offers Parts One and Two of “Go Snow”, in which Underdog faces Simon and his “Snow Gun”.  Surely, you remember this:  Simon Says… Goooo Snooow!”  This is followed by Parts Three and Four of “Go Snow” in Show Number 3. 

Each show also features a Go-Go Gophers segment – and the expected adventurous whopper from Commander McBragg! 

Shows 4 and 5 follow suit with the Underdog serial “Zot”, where a spoiled, whiny, plus-sized, three-eyed alien princess desires a strong champion for a husband – and sets her sights on Underdog.  Go-Go Gophers and Commander McBragg follow along as before. 

Odd thing is the Underdog “Pilot” runs for 22:07 (somewhat the norm for a show of this type), while the first four “regular” shows I’ve seen so far clock in at an average of just over 17:00. 

This cannot be… and something must be missing.  Perhaps it’s because the Commander McBragg segments average less than two minutes each, and other “standard cartoons” run anywhere from 5 to 7 minutes. 

According to the liner notes, the third set of the package, comprising the last 14 episodes (and described as “Season Three”), dispense with the short McBragg segments in favor of other TTV “stable characters” such as Klondike Kat, Tooter Turtle, and The Hunter.  As these cartoons were more of a standard length, than was McBragg, I’ll presume these shows to have longer running times.  It’ll be a long while before I get there, though – because I wanna see ‘em in order… assuming they *are* presented in anything resembling Original Broadcast Order.  I’m not familiar enough with UNDERDOG to know that for certain. 

One the plus side, these shows are chock full of interstitial segments that you just don’t see on TV anymore, even on the rare occasions that you might find UNDERDOG on Cartoon Network or Boomerang.  Even WITH these, they still come up short in length!

I have one “bootleg” UNDERDOG SHOW broadcast from the sixties – and it is comprised of the two expected Underdog segments… and one each of “Aesop and Son” (from Jay Ward’s BULLWINKLE SHOW) and “The Hunter” from Total TeleVision’s KING LEONARDO AND HIS SHORT SUBJECTS. 

As the Ward properties are already licensed for DVD, one would figure that they could not be included here – and this may account for the shortfall in running time.

At this point in time, I’m not sure it is at all possible to properly reconstruct multi-segment shows like this – that were “sliced and diced” in countless ways for various syndication packages.  And, I’m certain that Shout! Factory did the best they could in reconstructing the original “Underdog Experience”.  So, I’m willing to concede this, and give ‘em points for trying. 

Longtime friend Mark Arnold and others supply commentary and other Extra Features, including a 20 page (!) booklet in which Mark details the history of Underdog, making this package a worthy addition to anyone’s animation DVD collection. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

I Quit!

The unthinkable occurred today! 

I’ve made the decision to stop purchasing new comic books.  This will be the first time I have not purchased new comic books, in an unbroken streak dating back to 1981!  …And, before that, regularly during the Silver Age into the beginning of Bronze.

The primary factors are:

No viable Disney comic book line.  Since Boom! called it quits – and *I* maintain that happened with the release of WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES # 720, not later – I’ve been without the comics I love best.  With no alternative licensed publisher on the horizon, there’s no point in remaining hopeful, until some actual progress (if any) is made.  

The DC relaunched line called “The New 52” has been GOOD, but overall not great.  See THIS REVIEW of a “New 52” comic that I liked.  I thought I would have had MORE such reviews.  The fact that I have not, is probably indicative of something. “Good”, I’ve determined, is not “good enough” for the continued expenditure and storage of product that has failed to thrill me as DC once did. 

Oh, I still love the DC characters – and it is precisely when I look at older DC comic books – from the ‘80s and ‘90s, much less from the Silver Age – that I realize how short these new incarnations fall.   If only they’d stop reinventing and re-imagining, and go back to what made the characters great in the first place. 

With ongoing new Disney stuff that I found worthwhile, I might have continued to pull DC “along for the ride” but, as things stand, it makes more sense to just cut the cord… or paper, staples, whatever. 

What this means is that my comics reading will be confined to older titles already in my collection – from all of the “Ages of Comics”.  I have more than enough of those to last me for the rest of my natural life. 

What this also means is that, now (when I read comics) I’ll be reading comics that I’m more “passionate” about, and we should have more discussions and posts on those comics than we’ve had before. 

Stick around and let’s see how that works out.  …I feel so liberated! 

Though I have two DVD and ‘60s entertainment-related posts (not actual reviews) ready to go over the next few days.  I’m hoping you’ll enjoy those too. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Simpsons: To Infinity (or 500) and Beyond!

How many of you saw the 500th (!) episode of THE SIMPSONS last Sunday evening, February 19, 2012?

First, WHAT AN ACHIEVEMENT! 500 episodes!!! That’ll make for a LOT of DVDs!

The series began in late 1989 (!) and still runs new today! There are ADULTS that have never known life without THE SIMPSONS!

But, more to my point…

Not far short of TWO DECADES AGO (!) – I just can’t help the parenthetical exclamation points – I can recall a discussion with Friend of This Blog Chris Barat on what the final episode of THE SIMPSONS might be like!

One of us – by now, I can’t recall who – suggested that The Simpsons’ hometown of Springfield be blown-up, or otherwise destroyed as a suitable finale – or some such thing that will leave a lasting impression, and will forever change your perception of the series.

…Yeah, I’m talking to YOU, “St. Elsewhere”! And, maybe YOU, “Lost”! (But, I digress!)

NO SPOILERS: But *that* didn’t exactly happen in the vaunted Episode 500, but something close enough DID (with echoes of a particularly bizarre episode of PINKY AND THE BRAIN for good measure), to remind me of that long-ago fannish conversation.

Indeed, this would have actually made a fine “Series Finale”, considering the events of the last 2-3 minutes.

Given this, I can’t help but wonder what they actually DO have in store for us when the series finally concludes. I CAN WAIT a while (preferably, a LONG while) before finding out, though!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Happy President’s Day 2012!

Is he “Smarter than the average president – or presidential candidate?”

In October of 1969, when this comic was released, perhaps not. In 2012, alas, perhaps so!

Either way, I find myself wishing Yogi WERE a viable alternative! It would be nice just to see him on TV again… on political talk shows like “Bear-Face the Nation”, and such!

Below: Yogi is a guest on ( "Fox News"!  (Lower case "ox", of course!)

Notice how "fair and balanced" the fox is, atop Yogi's head! 

And, he’s almost as honest as George and Abe – unless you ask him what happened to that “pic-a-nic basket”!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

R.I.P. Gary (“The Kid”) Carter.

We at TIAH Blog remember Major League Baseball Hall of Famer and catcher for the 1986 World Champion New York Mets, Gary (“The Kid”) Carter, who died from a malignant brain tumor on February 16, 2012, at the unjustly premature age of 57.

Gary Carter was nicknamed “The Kid” for his youthful exuberance for the game of baseball. The photo above says all you need to know about that!

I’ll just let quotes from today’s sports-talk radio say it for me:

He was a Hall of Famer as a player and as a man!”

He was a great player and a greater human being!”

As I listened, the quotes continued, on and on, in the same vein. Funny, though… they never became repetitive!

Though he wears a Montreal Expos cap in Cooperstown, we, in New York, will never forget him!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

DVD Review: Conflict (1945)

Conflict (1945)

(Released: January 24, 2012 by The Warner Archive Collection)

Another looong DVD Review by Joe Torcivia

Summary: You haven’t really murdered your wife until she stays dead!

Doctor, I don’t believe in GHOSTS, and I don’t believe in the supernatural. I don’t believe that people live on in life after they’ve LEFT IT! But I SAW Kathryn – or someone who looked like her!” -- Dick Mason, deciding that the “super” just ain’t “natural”, in “Conflict”.

What would an Alfred Hitchcock-style suspenseful film be like, if it were made at Warner Bros. and starred Humphrey Bogart and Sydney Greenstreet – and had just the smallest pinch of the supernatural qualities of a Universal horror picture? “Conflict” comes as close to answering that infrequently-asked question as any movie I can name!

Dick Mason (Bogart), a successful engineering executive, had the life. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the life he wanted.

On the occasion of his fifth wedding anniversary to wife Kathryn (Rose Hobart), a not entirely unattractive woman slightly marred by a sort of “Bride of Frankenstein” streak of grey in her otherwise nicely coiffed black hair, Mason has come to the realization that he is in love with Kathryn’s younger sister Evelyn (Alexis Smith) – who has grown into a beautiful young woman over those five years.

Tensions rise, as the couple prepares to depart for a party in their honor, hosted by Kathryn’s close friend, psychologist Mark Hamilton (Sydney Greenstreet), with Evelyn along in their car for a ride to the party. The couple fakes their way through the rain-stormy evening’s festivities and, on the way home Dick looks longingly at Evelyn in his car’s rear view mirror and, in the unsafe driving conditions, smashes into a tree.

Only Dick is hurt, suffering a broken leg – and, waking up in the hospital, tellingly asks of Evelyn before Kathryn.

Using the leg as an excuse (though he has concealed his regained mobility), Dick sends Kathryn up to a mountain lodge via the expected treacherous winding road. Setting up an alibi of having associates visit him at home to confer on vital engineering matters, Dick gets up the lonely mountain road first, blocks Kathryn’s way, kills her, and arranges for her car to go off a cliff and become hopelessly buried beneath a tomb of logs.

With Evelyn and Mark, he goes to the police to report his wife missing. Then, he plans to make his move on Evelyn.

But suddenly, strange things begin to happen…

Kathryn’s safe key (which she carried with her on the ill-fated trip) suddenly turns up in Mason’s home. Followed in short order by the scent of her specific brand of perfume permeating their bedroom, her monogrammed handkerchief, wedding ring, mysterious phone calls from a woman who hangs up before Mason can reach the phone, and an envelope (addressed to Mason in Kathryn’s handwriting) containing a pawn ticket for the gold locket that keeps Kathryn’s and Dick’s pictures inside it – also taken on the trip.
Finally, Mason sees a woman making her way through a crowded city street – in the exact outfit Kathryn wore in the day she was murdered – who enters an apartment building, then enters an apartment, closes and locks the door. Dick follows and pounds on the door to no avail. The landlady tells him the apartment is VACANT and for rent. He asks to see it and, sure enough, that is the case.

And that brings us to our opening quote about “ghosts”!

So what’s going on here? No spoilers coming, but…. Has Bogie gone bats? Or, did he just drive “a Lexus” [ Smith ] down the wrong [ Green ] street! (Pardon for both puns!)

No one can truly know what makes a “Hitchcock Film”, save for Hitchcock himself. But the level of tension and suspense in “Conflict” is more evocative of Hitchcock, than of a Bogart / Warner Bros. film. Even the TITLE – the simple and straightforward “Conflict”– says “Hitch” more than Warner.

Shifting gears: STAR TREK TOS fans will find something to like about “Conflict” as well. Charles Drake (“Commodore Stocker” in “The Deadly Years”) plays Evelyn’s love interest and John Harmon appears, aptly, as a hobo. Harmon was the unfortunate derelict who curiously toyed with Doctor McCoy’s time-displaced phaser and vaporized himself in the ultra-classic “City on the Edge of Forever”. Harmon also had a small role as a lower-level hood in TREK’s “A Piece of the Action”.

Conflict” is a release of “The Warner Archive Collection”. Please GO HERE to read more about this relatively new enterprise from Warner Home Entertainment. .

As is our custom in these reviews, we’ll break it into CONS and PROS.


It’s Warner Archives: That means virtually nothing in the way of Extra Features. No commentary, subtitles, logical chapter skips – or even MENUS specifically designed for this movie. No background or “Making Of” featurette. No “Warner Night at the Movies” that I’ve loved so much in other packages! And, there is a needlessly limited choice of devices on which to play it (no computers), vs. standard DVD.

Chapter Skips: Though mentioned above, “Chapter Skips” gets a special mention in our CONS section for “Conflict” because the situation has actually REGRESSED from prior WAC releases. The earliest WAC DVDs came with fixed 10-minute interval Chapter Skips – regardless of where that put viewers logically within the film. A later wave of WAC releases seemed to correct this situation, offering Chapter Skips that worked more logically with the film. But, now “Conflict” returns us to the “10-minute intervals”, and that is both a step backward for WAC and a CON for this review.

Menu: (Singular): The Main (and only) Menu also takes a step back for this series of releases. (James Cagney’s 1932 film “Taxi”, released by WAC on the same day, exhibits the same regression in menu design. So this can be considered a backward trend). Recent WAC menus offered a nice departure from the original standard, stark dark blue Warner Archives menu (Above). To the left, there was an attractive photo of “The Warner Bros. Theatre” (Was there actually such a thing?), with the marquee reading: “Now Playing: [Insert Name of Film Here], and a large image of the DVD box cover is pictured on the right of the menu.

Now, it’s just an image of an indistinct brick building at left, the iconic Warner Water Tower at right, with a medium blue sky backdrop. There is NO picture of the DVD box cover – or ANY mention of the particular film you have purchased! Only the options to “Play Trailer” and “Play Movie” are offered on this single generic menu.

It must be noted that both “Chapter Skips” and “Menu” had become “PROS” in the last wave of WAC releases – and have now both regressed into “CONS”.


It’s Warner Archives: That means we get a film that would probably not garner sufficient support for a general release. Given a choice between “Conflict” as a Warner Archive Collection release, or no release at all, I’ll gladly take a WAC version.

I fear, as the DVD market contracts (what with downloading and most of the “best material” having already been released), more and more of the remaining as-of-yet-unreleased material will come via avenues such as this one. But, up to now, we’ve sure gotten a LOT of great stuff. More than I could have ever imagined some years ago. So, if the “last of it” arrives in this form… so be it.

Robo-Promos: The usual “Warner Archive Collection” Robo-Promo, standard on earlier releases, appears to have been eliminated.

Warnings: The overabundance of Warnings, present on standard Warner commercial releases (as in THIS ONE), has not manifested itself on Warner Archive Collection product.

The Extra Feature (Singular): Theatrical Trailer for “Conflict”: (02:03)

Cue the Large On-Screen Text:

The brilliant star of ‘Cassablanca’

The heroic skipper of ‘Action in the North Atlantic’

The adventurer of ‘To Have and Have Not’… Humphrey Bogart… Now brings you another magnificent portrayal in ‘Conflict’!”

We now cut to a disembodied head of Sydney Greenstreet (!) set against a field of black. He speaks, as only HE can:

Driven to desperation by the scent of an exotic perfume! Trapped by the conflict that obsesses every killer!”

Who would want to murder the wealthy Kathryn Mason?”

Was it Evelyn?” [Head shot of Alexis Smith]

Was it the ex-convict?” [Shot of John Harmon]

Or, was it…” [Cut to Bogart]

Return to Text:

Never has the screen presented a more daring motion picture! [Joe’s Note: Really? Sure I LIKED this film… BUT…]

Powerful drama, which lays bare the innermost soul of a man, torn between two loves, caught in the inescapable conflict of his overpowering emotions!

It’s Humphrey Bogart at his best – with Alexis Smith – Sydney Greenstreet (The Fat Man) – in ‘Conflict’! …A picture as great as your favorite star!”

…Um, even I’m not sure what that last line means! What if your “favorite star” was the guy who played “Urkel”, or sumpthin’? Odds are he’s got to be SOMEONE’S favorite!

The Film: Does Bogie meet Hitch, not to mention the ghost of his wife? Watch and see for yourself. Those familiar with the films of producer Val Lewton, might also consider what HE would have done with this idea, at RKO. Ratchet up the fear-factor just a tad (not much) – add a trademark “abrupt, loud sound” – and there you have it! …Would have been interesting.

The Cast:

• Humphrey Bogart as “Dick Mason”.
• Alexis Smith as “Evelyn”.
• Sydney Greenstreet as “Mark Hamilton”.
• Rose Hobart as “Kathryn Mason”.


Conflict”, being a product of “The Warner Archive Collection”, and not a standard Warner Home Video release, must be reviewed and rated by a new and different set of standards.

There are no extras (…or no extras to speak of), and print quality is as good as the source material – with only minimal efforts at remastering. In the case of “Conflict”, the print is generally sharp and good overall.

As a film, “Conflict” may not be one of the all time classics, but it is a pretty unusual vehicle for both Bogart and Greenstreet, in terms of story. Directed by Curtis Bernhardt, it is 01:25:26 of Bogie Goodness, with a dash of Hitchcock (or “Hitchcockian motifs”) to keep things interesting. If only there were commentary tracks or other features to discuss this aspect of the film.

Conflict” also plays very fair with its audience, in that a key clue to the picture’s dénouement is available for all to observe. The astute in the audience please take note.

Interested parties might also wish to check out Bogart and Smith -- but no Greenstreet, alas -- in “The Two Mrs. Carrolls” (Also available from The Warner Archive Collection), which takes a similar path, but with less of the intrigue and supernatural aspects.

Conflict” is recommended for fans of Humphrey Bogart and Sydney Greenstret, the type of films they did at Warner Bros., the Hitchcock style of tension and suspense, the crime/murder plot and supernatural genres in general, and for those enthusiasts of Golden Age Hollywood interested in “lesser titles” with “big stars”.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

DVD Review: G-Men (1935)

G-Men (1935)

(Released: 2006 by Warner Home Video)

Another looong DVD Review by Joe Torcivia

James Cagney does it again in “G-Men” – this time, on the "right side of the law" – in this early “Code-Era” film directed by William Keighley…

Oh, no… wait!

I don’t mean those “G-Men”…

I mean THESE “G-MEN”!


I mean the ones lead by Eli Manning, that beat the New England Patriots and Tom Brady 21-17 in Super Bowl XLVI (…or as I prefer to call it: Super Bowl 46)!

I mean THOSE "G-Men"!


Go Giants! Go Eli!

We’ll review more old films on DVD soon enough… This week, we’re enjoyin’ the Super Bowl!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Time To Retire It: Roman Numerals.

Quick, look at the phrase below in orange. Then, just as quickly, look away.


No peeking or cheating, but tell me what Super Bowl that is.

Yes, it’s next year’s Super Bowl 47.

So why can’t we simply call it: Super Bowl 47?

And why do we continue to use Roman Numerals for ANYTHING in the 21st Century?

I think the only thing I’ve ever used Roman Numerals for is to tell when old movies and TV shows were made… as with this Lost in Space episode of 1968 – or MCMLXVIII.

In 2000, it became easy to tell a Star Trek Voyager made in that year, because it was designated as MM. …But why should we have to?

One wonders why did movies and TV adopt this convention in the first place?  Anyone know?  ...But, back to football.

Let’s just say the NEW YORK GIANTS beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 46, 21 – 17.

It’s a heck of a lot easier than saying the NEW YORK GIANTS beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, XXI – XVII.