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02 September 2015 @ 03:39 pm

Hmmm, looks like the new BATMAN movie might be a little odder than expected.

From November 1982, this is one of the best books in the series. Less than sixty pages long, THE DAY REMO DIED is a re-telling of the first Destroyer but thoroughly revised and polished. First published back in 1971, the first book CREATED, THE DESTROYER seems very crude and uncertain today, with none of the humour or mythology that gave the rest of the series its distinctive flavor. Chiun is basically a karate teacher, the action is flat and unconvincing, and if the series had continued in that style, it would be likely be forgotten today.

THE DAY REMO DIED appeared in a trade paperback called THEASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK. Mostly an introduction to the series, filled with quotes and highlights and lists of the best villains and history's best assassinations, this book also has a twenty page interview with Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir. While most of this handbook was written and edited by Will Murray, THE DAY REMO DIED is credited to Murphy and Sapir themselves, and I haven't seen any indications it was written by anyone else. It certainly reads like their best work, but then so do a few of the books written by Will Murray

The short novel tells the origin of the Destroyer, almost entirely from Chiun's point of view. Not much in the original book is flatly contradicted, but instead we see the significance and implications of what's going on. I particularly liked the way Chiun is stunned by how quickly and easily Remo learns the art, as if the Destroyer-to-be has an inborn gift. When asked for a flowery speech of gratitude, Remo answers offhandedly, "I figure that when I do something right, that's the greatest compliment you can get." This knocks Chiun speechless, because it's exactly what every new Master of SInanju says.

A large part of the Destroyer appeal is its inner mythology and here we have the most important single moment in the series. As Remo is shot and literally killed (Chiun wanted him only injured by a killer he hired, to teach some humility), the prophecy of the dead night tiger made whole comes to pass. It's actually Chiun who is surprised and humbled by this moment. (One of the things the 1988 TV pilot got exactly right was the significance of this sequence.) When Remo comes back to life, he calls Chiun "little father" for the first time, a wonderful touch.

I remembered the first thirty or so books as being excellent adventure stories with a unique blend of action, humour and mysticism, but re-reading this novella now brings back just how very good they were. After a while, they seemed to lose their spark and unpredictability, and I've picked up a few new titles over the years but not really been satisfied. The realities of the business of publishing will keep a series going as long as there's profit, but personally I would have liked to see the Destroyer book come to a natural resolution. Chiun going to meet the Great Wang, Remo taking on a disciple of his own, maybe an occassional sequel every few years. On the other hand, many thousands have enjoyed the ongoing series just as they are, and I wouldn't deprive readers of a page. I would have liked to see Sherlock Holmes actually die at Reichenbach, too, and any further stories being
flashbacks, so you can't always go by my instincts.
Remember Billy Joe Royal? He had a strong Gene Pitney influence, I always thought (and now I realize how long it has been since Gene Pitney crossed my mind! I'm just a town without pity.) His first and biggest hit was the epic about the gap between social classes, "Down In the Boondocks." This was a frequent theme in music back then, with the poor boy explaining to the posh girl how it would never work out between them. ("Dawn, go away I'm no good for you" as the Four Seasons said or even Tom Jones with his heartfelt "I Who Have Nothing.")

But Billy Joe also had a song where he really held nothing back.
"I knew You When"
and he did some thoughtful poignancy, too.
"Funny How Time Slips Away"

But those aren't the songs that are bothering me today. Now, it's hearing this on the car radio.
From 1969, "Cherry Hill Park"

Is that kind of a sleazy song? You bet. What the heck was going on up in Cherry Hill Park every night? Evidently, during the day Mary Hill teased the local boys into a foaming frenzy and then satisfied them after it got dark. I'm getting the impression these are high school age kids with no much to do during the summer, no jobs getting in the way of the game. "All the girls they criticized her"...I bet. But I don't know if Mary Hill was a threat to society or anything. There's no mention of money changing hands. Maybe she had a charged up libido and knew what she liked.

It's interesting too that Mary is not punished as conventional morality once would have demanded. She finds a happy ending (so to speak) as she meets "a man with money said come on honey/And she said okay." Nor is she being hauled away into the sex traffic tawdriness. She is specifically said to have "married away," and went "to play a one man game." But the boys in town remember her fondly.

Dang. Only a few years earlier, the Rolling Stones had to change "Let's the Spend The Night Together" to sing, "Let's spend some time together." Things change.
02 September 2015 @ 01:45 pm

From around 1960. Well, USA as the Grim Reaper. Got it. Using a nuclear bomb as a baby bottle to feed an infant with a Swastika...? What? Does the baby maybe represent Japan (or Taiwan, I suppose) under American nuclear protection and turning into another Nazi Germany? Kind of puzzled by this one. The only person from Taiwan that I knew told me one night that she was descended from the original inhabitants (not Chinese newcomers) and her grandparents told her that the Japanese hadn't been that bad but the mainland Chinese were a big threat. I wish now I had asked her questions all night.

"Steve, I don't CARE if you only count five tentacles! So it's a Quintopus or something, just help me!"
01 September 2015 @ 03:08 pm

From a 1969 TV production. Looks like he's found himself part of a second family with slightly odd tendencies.
01 September 2015 @ 01:57 pm
Might as well get the theme song going through our heads, eh?

I would hate to be an actor and be told that I was perfect to play Mike Mercury in the live-action SUPERCAR movie....First, you have to realize that I did not grow up watching shows from Gerry & Sylvia Anderson. Not STINGRAY, FIREBALL XL-5, THUNDERBIRDS, nor CAPTAIN SCARLET. None of them. So when I check them out now on YouTube, it's without the golden hazy aura of childhood nostalgia and I go, "Eh, that's not bad. It's a good concept but the marionettes are dodgy." I think you have to be exposed to stuff like this when you're very young and receptive, and then you'll always have a warm place for it. SUPERCAR was produced in 1961 in England and was the first half-hour series from the Andersons. Since marionettes walk with their butts hanging down and their knees rising and falling alternately, the result doesn't look convincing to even grade school children. SUPERCAR eliminates most of that by having its action take place with the hero sitting inside a vehicle. Pretty sneaky...

SUPERCAR itself is a vertical take-off rocket propelled vehicle that can hover or bolt along at 1,500 MPH. It can also dive under water like a submarine or zip along the highways on a cushion of air, giving State Troopers cardiac arrest. While it's an experimental device still being developed by Professor Popkiss and Dr Beeker, it's called on for rescues and delivering medical supplies in emergencies, that sort of schtick. Ace pilot Mike Mercury is accompanied for some inexplicable reason by young Jimmy and Mitch the Chimp... maybe they were thinking of a team-up with Speed Racer or something. Many of the plots involve international finks Masterspy and his stooge Zarin trying to get control of Supercar.

There were four issues of SUPERCAR from Gold Key, about as primal and uncluttered as cave paintings. Gold Key did have the nice touch of their painted covers, with the pure image on the back as a pin-up; I wish Marvel and DC had done that in the 1960s, think of the artwork we'd see without logos and blurbs for the first time.
01 September 2015 @ 01:27 pm

And here's her OFFICIAL Accept-No-Substitutes Website:http://martakristen.com/

I must have watched LOST IN SPACE, I seem to know a good deal about the show including its cast and themes, but I can't remember any of it. Most likely I was on the rug with a comic books or HP Lovecraft paperback and only glanced up when something sounded interesting. This is how I absobrbed a lot of pop culture through a sort of unconscious osmosis.

Marta Kristen is half Finnish and half German, usually referred to as a "Norwegian actress." You may notice that she does not much resemble our own clan of Rasmussens. It is prudent not to mention this as our Lajka tends to go off on a rant about how people who say this don't know anything about Norway. ("Have you ever BEEN to Trondheim?" she usually hollers, "I didn't THINK so!") The mystery of the Rasmussens is best left as is.
01 September 2015 @ 01:11 pm

Luckily, we don't have to choose one or the other!