Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chase Craig 101.

…Yes, there SHOULD be a college course by that name!

It’s always been difficult for me to think of Del Connell  and not think of Chase Craig. Perhaps it’s because they both had the greatest amount of influence and guidance over my favorite line of comic books. Those published under the Dell and Gold Key banners.

Since we just, regrettably, noted Del Connell’s passing, we now celebrate what would have been Chase Craig’s 101st birthday, courtesy of Mark Evanier’s Blog.

Aside to GeoX… Although I remain flattered at your suggestion that I write some sort of official history of Western Publishing, the piece by Evanier that I link to above shows EXACTLY WHY Mark Evanier may be the only man alive who can do the topic the justice it deserves.

Besides, so much of what I know came directly (or indirectly, via a contact he provided) from him that I’d never dream of putting myself in that company.

Mark, if you’re reading this (…and I’ll not flatter myself to presume so), please consider such a project while one is still possible. There are MANY folks who’d love to get their hands on it.

Thanks for posting such great material on Mr. Connell and Mr. Craig… and thanks for writing that long ago Super Goof Museum story (for George Sherman?) that, decades later, I dialogued as my first professional job!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Life is Like a... Well, you know... (And Some Batman Stuff!)

...And, if you don't know, The Riddler has the answer above!  ...Kinda!

Anyway, one o' those big-scary-windy-rainy-things is coming!

So, I'll see you all on the other side! 

...Of the HURRICANE, that is! 

Oh, did you know that the comic pictured above (BATMAN # 171  May, 1965) was the basis for the pilot episode of the 1966 Batman TV show -- "Hi Diddle Riddle / Smack in the Middle"? 

Neither did Adam West and Frank Gorshin, until I showed it to them at a 1999 New York appearance!  

They each were pleasantly surprised -- and autographed the comic for me!   

Monday, August 22, 2011

DVD Review: The Herculoids: The Complete Series (1967)

The Herculoids: The Complete Series (1967)

(Released: June, 2011 by The Warner Archive Collection)

Another looong DVD Review by Joe Torcivia

Summary: The Herculoids are… are… Well, even after all these years, I’m not entirely sure WHAT The Herculoids are! But I DO know that they (and the Hanna-Barbera studio that produced them) were responsible for the coolest animated action of the 1967-1968 Sat AM television season.

And, if not exactly WHAT they are, I can tell you WHO they are:

Zandor: The human or humanoid leader of The Herculoids.

Tara: Zandor’s wife

Dorno: Zandor and Tara’s son (about 12).

All sport primitive, caveman-like dress and pack weapons such as sling-shots.

Zok: A flying dragon, who shoots laser beams from both his eyes and tail.

Igoo: A huge gorilla-like creature made of solid stone.

Tundro: A ten-legged triceratops, who shoots explosive projectiles from his horn.

Gloop and Gleep: Father and son (?) formless ectoplasmic beings, who can squash, stretch, multiply and reintegrate, and generally bounce around and do anything the writers can come up with. Oh, and they speak gibberish with a wonderful throat-bobbing sound supplied by Don Messick. You might have heard him do something similar for a ghost on SCOOBY-DOO, or aliens guesting on YOGI BEAR.

Set on a prehistoric-looking planet, the humans live in a tree – not a “tree-house”, but a TREE – while the other creatures bed-down nearby.

We never learn who these beings are, how they came together, or how they can even communicate (the creatures growl, roar, screech, grunt, and do that throat-bobbing thing), but what we DO know is that invaders, would-be conquerors, and plain old dangerous natural phenomena find their way to The Herculoids’ planet with alarming frequency (TWO per show, in fact!), and must be turned-away, destroyed, or otherwise neutralized.

And it is THAT (…and perhaps ONLY that) at which they excel!

In the first cartoon (of two), a threat shows up and Zandor leads the Herculoids into battle against it. Then, in the second cartoon, the same thing occurs – but the invading entity shows up in a TEASER before the cartoon’s title card. This only happens in the second cartoon, and not the first, leading me to believe that there was probably a COMMERCIAL inserted between the second cartoon’s teaser and “main body”. Sorry, but I can’t recall that for certain… seems very likely, though.

The show is light on (or completely devoid of) everything but action. But, DAMN… that action was both clever and well-executed within the constraints of 1967 SatAM television. The character designs, by the great Alex Toth, certainly account for some of that! Lots of stock music, left over from JONNY QUEST, also helped!

The trio of credited writers, Ken Spears and Joe Ruby (later of SCOOBY-DOO WHERE ARE YOU, as well as their own animation studio) and David Scott find endless variations on how Zandor, his family, and the creatures under his command bring their uniquely individual talents to bear.

Each individual episode is great fun to watch, but you quickly realize there was a REASON why THE HERCULOIDS aired only once a week. If you’ve seen one, you’ve pretty much seen them all. But, with only 18 shows all told (with two cartoons in each – for a total of 36 adventures), judicious spacing of the shows among the rest of your entertainment viewing can – and will – result in maximum enjoyment.

Credited voices are:

• Mike Road (Race Bannon on JONNY QUEST) as Zandor.

• Virginia Gregg as Tara.

• Teddy Eccles as Dorno.

• Don Messick as Gloop and Gleep.

It is presumed Messick and other actors doubled as the various sounds of the creatures – perhaps even including very early performances by Frank Welker.

Uncredited (but certainly noted), usually as invaders: Paul Frees, Henry Corden, John Stephenson, Hal Smith, and doubtless others.

ODDITY: Starting with Episode Three, Mike Road does the following narration over the opening theme sequence:

Somewhere out in space, live The Herculoids! Zok the laser-ray dragon! Igoo the giant rock ape! Tundro the tremendous! Gloop and Gleep, the formless fearless wonders! With Zandor their leader, and his wife Tara and son Dorno, they team up to protect their planet from sinister invaders! All-strong! All-brave! All-heroes! They are The Herculoids!"

…There! Don’t we feel a lot more knowledgeable now?

Of late, “The Warner Archive Collection” has been pretty diligent at releasing Hanna- Barbera material, and I hope to see that trend continue.

As it is a relatively new enterprise, “The Warner Archive Collection” might require as much initial explanation as do The Herculoids, themselves. And, thanks to me, you’ll learn more about TWAC than all 18 episodes will tell you about The Herculoids. (…How DID they get that NAME, anyway?)

“The Warner Archive Collection” offers online exclusive DVD packages that are “manufactured-on-demand” (or MOD). They are not mass-produced, standard pressed DVDs, but are recorded on DVD-R.

I don’t consider DVD-R to be the most desirable medium. Though the end product is certainly superior to “bootleg” material, it is sometimes a step or two below the mass-marketed product we know and love.

At least in this regard, Warner plays fair with us by issuing the following disclaimer:

This disc is expected to play back in DVD video ‘play only’ devices, and may not play back in other DVD devices including recorders and PC drives”.

True enough. Warner Archive discs are not recognized by my computer, though they play just fine on my Blu-ray player.

“The Warner Archive Collection” product takes a no-frills approach. Extra Features, if they exist at all, are kept to a bare minimum. Movies are not segmented by “Chapters”, but the Skip Forward and Skip Backward keys of your DVD remote allow you to navigate at ten-minute intervals – regardless of where that ten minute jump will land you logically within the story.

But, at least for animated series like THE HERCULOIDS which are ALREADY segmented into different cartoons, the Chapter Skip functions adhere to the boundaries of those segments. No subtitles are included and source material is generally fine and sharp, though not always as pristine as a standard release.

Retail prices are often higher than they might otherwise be, but that comes with the nature of “Manufacture on Demand”. Sales and other promotions are offered regularly, once you’ve made the initial foray into TWAC, mitigating the impact of pricing somewhat.

On the plus side, “The Warner Archive Collection” is able to offer many movies, TV shows, and animated series that would not likely find support in the present-day mass market. “The Warner Archive Collection” has provided such wonders as Hanna-Barbera’s ‘60s series FRANKENSTEIN JR. AND THE IMPOSSIBLES and Irwin Allen’s early ‘70s aborted TV pilot CITY BENEATH THE SEA... just to name two.

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, subtitles, etc. No commentaries. And, there is a needlessly limited choice of devices on which to play it, vs. standard DVD. But, hey… We knew that going in!

 Not Much Depth: But, in the days before Mr. Sulu and Lt. Uhura even had first names, did we even need it? Let The Herculoids remain a mystery. That’s part of the fun!


It’s Warner Archives: That means we get a series that (at the present time and economic and technological climate) would probably not garner sufficient support for a general DVD release. Given a choice between THE HERCULOIDS as a Warner Archive Collection release, or no release at all, I’ll gladly take a TWAC version.

The “Special Feature”(singular): The short Herculoids feature from SATURDAY MORNING CARTOONS 1960s Volume One is ported over to this set. Even if you already have it, it’s worth seeing Paul Dini, Mark Evanier, Scott Jeralds, and others wax nostalgic over THE HERCULOIDS.

Chapter Skips: Imagine listing this as a “PRO” but, unlike many Warner Archive products, this one actually skips forward and backward to LOGICAL points in the show: First Cartoon, Mid-Break of First Cartoon, Teaser of Second Cartoon, Mid-Break of Second Cartoon… but not directly to the End Credits (but they’re the same for every show, anyway).

Action: And, of the non-stop variety, to boot! Villains were killed nearly as often as they were driven off! Gotta love that in a cartoon! ANY cartoon! And, to the do-gooders who objected to the content, THE HERCULOIDS emphasized the value of TEAMWORK! No one Herculoid could destroy a foe… it took ‘em ALL! Nyaaah!


THE HERCULOIDS was produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions during the curious window of time where they had, once and for all, abandoned the “Three-Feature-Funny-Animal” type of series that put them on the map.

The 1966-1967 season marked the end for MAGILLA GORILLA, PETER POTAMUS, ATOM ANT, and SECRET SQUIRREL. It was also the season that begat FRANKENSTEIN JR. AND THE IMPOSSIBLES, still a (somewhat) “funny” series that sort of bridged the way to the more straightforward and adventurous SPACE GHOST AND DINO BOY. The season also saw the short-lived comedic SPACE KIDETTES.

1967-1968, for H-B, was completely given over to the action and adventure type of show (of which THE HERCULOIDS – along with SPACE GHOST – were the best), until an uprising of do-gooders began pounding Saturday Morning programming into the type of tepid pulp it pretty much remains to this day (The ‘90s series from WB excepted!)

So, one might choose to indulge in THE HERCULOIDS as a game-changing, historic series. Enjoy it for that, or a flat-out action series. Just enjoy it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

SpongeBob’s Birth Date – and Other Vital Statistics!

How often is an animated character’s actual date of birth revealed?

Practically never, I’d say! If, for no other reason, than to make that character seem more timeless. For the best example of this, just observe the “sliding timeline” of Homer and Marge Simpson who, last time I noticed, were depicted as being in high school or college in the EIGHTIES! Used to be the SEVENTIES like me!

But, we get the real scoop on SpongeBob SquarePants in the episode “No Free Rides”, in which SpongeBob (at least temporarily) receives his Boat Drivers License. The camera gives us a very brief FULL VIEW of said license – and, with the aid of DVD Freeze Frame, I’m here to give you ALL the vitals!

License Number: A1356021. Expiration: 12-11-03.




Sex: M. Hair: Yellow. Eyes: Blue.

Ht: 0’04” (That’s FOUR INCHES, folks!)

Wt: 1 oz.

DOB: 07-14-86.

As I continue to joyously wend my way through the BIG SpongeBob DVD collection described HERE, I find that “No Free Rides” was Episode 30 of the series – and aired on April 14, 2001.

That would have made SpongeBob LESS THAN FIFTEEN at the time it aired (Old enough to FLOAT, but not VOTE!)… and over 25 at the time of this Blog post!

How ‘bout that! They give drivers licenses to 14 year old goofy sponge kids in Bikini Bottom. I’m stayin’ off the roads in THAT place!

Of course, maybe 14 in “Sponge Years” is something else entirely!

…Now, don’t ya wish you knew how old Homer Simpson – much less Donald Duck and Bugs Bunny – is?

Monday, August 15, 2011

R.I.P. Del Connell

Del Connell, a very prolific writer and later editor for Western Publishing, passed away this weekend at the age of 93.

If there are two things I shall be forever grateful to Del Connell for, it was the creation of Super Goof (in PHANTOM BLOT # 2, pictured below) and the concept of “Space Family Robinson”, which later became the TV series LOST IN SPACE.

And, for all I know (but have long suspected), he MAY have even written THIS STORY, that I consider to be one of the best of all time, and the reason I became a regular Disney comic book reader, fan, and later contributor.

Please go to THIS POST by Mark Evanier, who actually knew and worked with Mr. Connell, for more and better detail than I could ever provide. Also, read the links within Evanier’s post for some of the best information I’d ever seen on Connell… including a quote from Vic Lockman!

With the retirement of longtime editor Chase Craig, Del Connell became editor of the Gold Key Comics line (in its final years) and the later Whitman Comics line. This would be somewhere between 1975 and 1978. I used to know this precisely, but I’m afraid the more exact data has retreated to the recesses of my memory, and is likely to never find its way back out.

Back in the eighties, when I was an enthusiastic, twenty-something fan, I established mail correspondences with as many of the persons who worked for the Dell / Gold Key / Whitman comic books as I could. My correspondence with Mark Evanier yielded more valuable information (which Mark was happy to provide) than I imagined possible – and remains the basis for the information I’ve gathered over the years on the subject… long before there was a handy-dandy Internet to answer all your questions.

Most of the people I contacted via mail were pleased to engage in either a long or short term dialogue with me. Del Connell was one of two exceptions – the other was Paul Murry.

I wish I still had Connell’s exact words handy, so that I might not misquote him, but the gist of his one and only brief response to me was puzzlement over why anyone would have any interest in his work. He offered no more than that, and no invitation to continue. Being a non-pesty sort, I left it right there, and concentrated on those who had more information and stories to share.

At the time, I thought that Connell simply did not want to be bothered but, reading Evanier’s description of the man’s great humility, perhaps he REALLY DID believe that no one could possibly have any sort of interest in his work.

From this perspective, it is a shame that Del Connell did not participate in a postal exchange with me, as very little insight into those strange and unusual “Whitman years” appears to exist anywhere. For anyone who lived through it, as I did, it was anything but “standard-comic-book-operating-procedure”.

On this we can all agree, the Whitman comics were inferior to their Gold Key and Dell predecessors in both quality and (especially) distribution. I’d sure like to have known some of the reasons why, but that, alas, was not to be.

One area in which I will give Del Connell BIG PROPS is that, once the comics no longer ran interior advertising – and ran 32 pages of story, we began getting issues like THESE!
In the post Gladstone / Gemstone days, getting stories like this may not seem very unusual… but in the early eighties, seeing stuff like this was a DREAM COME TRUE!

Unfortunately, they found themselves alongside issues like these.
I can’t imagine there was NO “new blood” out there that might have improved the story and art of what looked to be a tired old comic book line. Gladstone certainly found some, and might have found still more, if finances were less of a factor. I felt this was something Whitman could have attempted as well.

We’ll never know, of course, but I wonder if Del Connell might have taken the time to trade letters with an occasional fan of the product he presided over, might there have been a difference in the overall look and feel of the books? Probably not, as Western seemed fiercely loyal to the remaining few writers and artists that hung with them for years (regardless of the current quality of their work), but it’s nice to think about.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Del Connell. Regardless of era, we comic book fans have LOTS to thank you for! And *I* have lots to thank you for!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

DVD Review: I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang. (1932)

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang. (1932)

(Released: 2005 by Warner Home Video)
Another looong DVD Review by Joe Torcivia

Doesn’t a man ever break loose?”

There’s too many breaks against you! You gotta beat the chains, the bloodhounds – and a bunch o’ guards, who’d just as soon bring you back dead!”

Based on the true-life experiences of fugitive Robert E. Burns, “I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang”, is one hell of a film!

Returning WW I hero James Allen (Paul Muni) is enthusiastic about applying the engineering skills acquired in the military to civilian life. Alas, there are not enough jobs for the returning forces, and Allen wanders the USA in search of his dream situation – facing rejection at every turn. In desperate straits, he even tries to pawn his Medal of Honor, only to find others have done so before him.

Down and out, a flophouse bunkmate invites him to a diner for a meal. It turns out to be a holdup into which Allen is coerced as an unwitting participant. The deceived Allen ends up caught with the loot. He is sentenced to ten years (!) in prison – and hard labor as part of a brutally run chain gang. So hard, that permission must be requested to wipe sweat – or face beatings by the guards.

Strong-willed Allen manages to escape, and spends a lengthy period on the run. To shake the pursuing bloodhounds, he hides at the bottom of a lake – and breathes through a hollow reed, just like they do in cartoons! I’ll never know if this ploy really works but, like all good clichés, it had to come from somewhere – and this is as good a place as any!

A notable moment finds him lathered-up in a barber shop, when a policeman enters… and discusses the pursuit of Allen with the very barber servicing Allen. Quick-thinking Allen requests a hot towel to further shield his face from the two and escape narrowly! On the run, he is temporarily sheltered by a former chain gang mate, played by Warner Bros. contract player and character actor Allen Jenkins, the proprietor of a brothel.

His travels as a fugitive lead him to Chicago, where, reversing his name to “Allen James”, he works his way up from laborer to respected engineer and solid citizen. Along the way, his landlady Marie (Glenda Farrell) moves in on his success to become his wife – eventually in name only – taking full advantage of Allen’s stature and earnings potential, while continually carousing, drunken with other men.

Meeting the “right girl”, Allen proposes divorce to Marie but wayward wifey is not about to give up the gravy train, particularly because she feels Allen is still on the way upward. Learning of his fugitive status by intercepting a letter from his brother, Marie blackmails Allen, threatening to turn him over to the police.

From here it gets considerably worse for Allen, but we’ll avoid further spoilers.

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang” is directed by Mervyn Le Roy, who had previously directed the iconic Little Caesar (1930) for Warner Bros. It is a hard, adult-oriented film for the time, preceding the censorship of the Hollywood Code that would soon follow. It is even said to have resulted in certain prison reforms, particularly in the state of Georgia, which Warner Bros. left unnamed in the movie – but was explicitly named in the writings of chain-ganger Robert E. Burns.

Paul Muni, fresh off his success as “Scarface” (1931) for Howard Hughes, came to Warner Bros for this film. I often sing (…or would that be “sing-sing”?) the praises of Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney, and Humphrey Bogart in these reviews, but Paul Muni was spectacular in both “Scarface” and “I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang”! I wonder why he isn’t regarded as a bigger star today.

Lastly, Paul Muni isn’t exactly the first “movie star” to escape from a Chain Gang, as Mickey Mouse did so in a 1930 cartoon aptly titled “The Chain Gang”. This short featured Peg Leg Pete as the primary prison guard, and the “alleged” first appearance of Pluto, as a bloodhound on Mickey’s trail.

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang” also influenced television productions decades after its release. Most notably is THE FUGITIVE (1963-1967), given Richard’s Kimble’s assumed identities, employment and social situations, narrow escapes, and general apprehension toward each and every day. David Jansen’s Kimble, like Paul Muni’s James Allen, was a hounded innocent man on the run.

LOST IN SPACE did a superb send-up of this concept, titled “Fugitives in Space” (1968), with Dr. Zachary Smith and Major Don West unjustly sentenced in a galactic “Instant-Trial” to a prison planet – and forced to work, in 100-plus degrees, on a Chain Gang! Indeed, the WHISTLE SOUND EFFECT that signals activities in “I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang” appears to be the same one used in “Fugitives in Space”! …You’ll only find stuff like this here, folks!

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


Extra Features: I think I’ve been spoiled by the regular inclusion of “Warner Night at the Movies” in such packages! Surprisingly, though it is a prime specimen of Warner Bros. filmmaking of that early ‘30s period I’ve come to love so much, “I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang” does not offer “Warner Night at the Movies”! I shouldn’t consider this to be such a serious “CON”, but I do! …As I said, I’m spoiled.

This said, the only other “CON” in this package is James Allen himself – but only in the literal sense. The rest is gold!


The Film: A superb example of Pre-Code Warner Bros. cinema, with little or no scrimping on the “harshness”. Not exactly a “gangster film” like “Little Caesar” and The Public Enemy, as James Allen is more an unfortunate victim of circumstance, but brutally effective nonetheless.

The Cast:

• Paul Muni as “James Allen”.

• Glenda Farrell as “Marie”.

• Helen Vinson as “Helen”.

• Edward Ellis as “Bomber Wells”.

• Preston Foster as “Pete”.

• Allen Jenkins as “Barney Sykes”. (His 6th known role.)

• Noel Francis as “Linda”.

• Hale Hamilton as “Rev. Allen”. (James’ brother.)

Extra Features:

Theatrical Trailer for “I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang”: (Runs 01:33) Cue the on-screen text hype:

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang is a TRUE autobiography by Robert E. Burns, who is now a FUGITIVE! But fiction has never matched this story for… Dramatic Intensity… Thrilling Love Interest… Terrific Suspense!”

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang – Another great Warner Bros. hit!”

Starring Paul Muni, with Glenda Farrell, Helen Vinson, 56 other important players, more than 2,000 extras!”

…THAT, folks, is a LOT of extras!

Oddly, the LOGO for “I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang” looks like a bit the logo for the TV series LAND OF THE GIANTS!

"20,000 Cheers for the Chain Gang": (19:49) A Vitaphone comedy short satirizing “I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang”. Usually, such shorts included in Warner film packages are those that were released at or about the same time as the main feature (and may likely have played WITH said feature), but this one was released in 1933 – one year after the film.

The short stars: Jerry Bergen, The Rollickers, Novia, The Pickens Sisters… and The Vitaphone Boys and Girls! (Surely, you remember THEM!) It also employs stock footage from “I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang” for establishing shots.

A convict who’s supposed to be Paul Muni (…but bears nearly as great a resemblance to Shemp Howard) escapes from a Chain Gang, to be pursued by three POODLES in place of bloodhounds! Like Muni’s James Allen, he marries and soon decides life in prison is preferable. During the period of his escape, prison reforms have gentrified the institution. Our fugitive returns, hoping to get a taste of the “good life” that is depicted on the inside.

…But he is turned away! “We’ve got no room in here for mugs who try to escape!”

Then, he wakes up to find it was all a dream… but, sadly for him, he’s still in prison.

Commentary Track by Richard Jewell: Runs for the entire 01:32:30 of the film. A frequent commentator on matters Warner, this is one of Jewell’s very best commentaries!

• Jewell describes “I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang” as “One of the most acclaimed examples of Social Consciousness Filmmaking of the 1930s!”

• Unlike fictional James Allen, real-life fugitive Robert E. Burns was not a war hero, but was more of a lost soul and a wanderer

• Paul Muni arrived in the USA from his native Austria at age 7 and, as a performer, was a demanding perfectionist.

• Mervyn Le Roy, proficient at directing early sound films, was also the director of “Little Caesar” (1931).

• Glenda Farrell (Marie) played “Olga” (girlfriend of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) in “Little Caesar” – and the DINER, at which James Allen is framed, was the same diner patronized by Rico and Joe (after their gas station holdup and killing) early in “Little Caesar”.

• Warner Bros. did not name the state of Georgia in the film, nor did they exaggerate the brutal conditions. If anything, they understated the conditions.

• “I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang” is credited with bringing about certain prison reforms.

Allen Jenkins is described as “one of the more memorable Hollywood character actors”. He generally played “urban types” in about 175 films.

• Suspenseful as the film is in spots, Jewell wonders what Alfred Hitchcock might have done with “I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang”. Ratcheting-up the suspense quotient in scenes such as the aforementioned “barber shop scene”.

• “I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang” was made in little over a month, and was a “blockbuster” at a time when most films were losing money.


I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang” is a prime example of Pre-Code Hollywood crime drama, and a must-see for anyone with even a remote interest in the depression period or crime genre! Paul Muni gives a powerful performance.

The Extra Features are found lacking only when compared to other Warner Bros. movie packages of the time. “Warner Night at the Movies” is particularly missed, but even that is somewhat mitigated by the presence of the “20,000 Cheers for the Chain Gang” satiric comedy short!

True, there is no “making of” or background featurette, but “Welcome to the Big House” (with a running time of 18:30) – and found on the “San Quentin” (1937, starring Pat O’Brien and Humphrey Bogart) DVD set – could just as easily have been slotted into this package. Its look at prisons in our culture and the Hollywood “prison picture” devotes much of its attention to “I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang” as well. …Get ‘em both, folks! ‘Cause you can never have too much IRON (bars) in your diet!

Now, I’ll be off to prison for such a horrible closing line! See ya!