Monday, April 13, 2015

Mohammed Monday: Dedicated to Gary Trudeau

After accepting the George Polk Award, Gary Trudeau blamed the victims in the "Charlie Hebdo" murders, You can read his speech here. Apparently, he thinks that if you're "offended" or "feel pain" over something someone writes or draws that it's an appropriate response to murder the people who offended you.

The only appropriate response if someone threatens murder or commits murder over art is for anyone who cares about the freedom of expression to do MORE of the same. I don't describe myself as a "free speech absolutist" but I AM a fanatic when it comes to the position that it's never an appropriate response to commit violence over a drawing or a cartoon. In my mind, there should never be a "but" behind that sentiment... especially not when it's coming from someone who has made their living drawing cartoons, like Gary Trudeau

In honor of Gary Trudeau's fucked-up outlook are a trio cartoons I did a few years ago for the "Everybody Draw Mohammed" craze. I figured I'd practice what I preach.

And if you feel pain or feel like I should die because the cartoons are badly done or because they feature magical, soul-searing images of the Prophet Mohammed, I really don't care. I do suggest you seek the services of a good psychiatrist, however. You clearly have issues that need to be worked out, and that may only be treatable with anti-psychotic medications.

Trivia: The first image led to the idea that became the "Jihad Fairie Activity Page" cartoons.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Easter!

Easter Fact: The easter bunny gets to hang out with chicks. It doesn't matter if he's being cute...

... or creepy.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Mohammed Monday: Will the real Mo please stand up?

Once a month (if I remember), I'm post a Mo-toon to this blog, as a sign of disrespect to the idolators who so worship images of the Prophet Mohammed (may pies be upon him), they fly into blind rages over ,mere implication that their false god has been portrayed with pen or pixels.

If I know who the original artist was, I provide credit. In this case, I do not.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Karloff portrays his most evil character in 'Bedlam'

Bedlam (1947)
Starring: Boris Karloff, Anna Lee, Billy House, Richard Fraser, Ian Wolfe and Leyland Hodgson
Director: Mark Robson
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

When Nell Bowen (Lee), an actress turned live-in companion and jester for one of London's leading citizens (House) makes it a personal crusade to improve conditions at the Bedlam institution for the insane, she makes a personal enemy of its Apothecary General, Master Sims. She soon discovers that those who Sims feels threatened by end up as inmates at Bedlam, whether they are insane or not.

In "Bedlam," we see Boris Karloff playing the most despicable and evil character he ever portrayed during his career. Master George Sims is a self-centered little man who has achieved some small degree of social standing through toadying and by abusing his position by turning the government-operated asylum and its inmates into a sideshow attraction, complete with admission fees. Although he talks about compassion, it is clear that he has has none, both from his attitude and deeds. Everything within the walls of his asylum are there to boost his fragile ego, and anyone who threatens it from the outside, he brings under his control by having them committed by a board of governors that he has under his sway.

If played by a lesser actor, Master Sims would probably have been a boring character consisting of pure evil covered by a thin veneer of hypocrisy and oily charm. However, Karloff manages to infuse humanity into this monstrous figure, giving Sims a dimension that makes him just sympathetic enough that viewers can appreciate where he's coming from even while recognizing that he is an absolute villain.

One of the key moments for Sims' is when he falls into the hands of the inmates and they put him on trial to determine if insanity drove him to commit all the cruel acts he is responsible for. Without ruining the film, I can say that Sims gives a speech that convinces the inmates that he is indeed sane, because his actions were driven by a hunger for recognition from his betters and a sad hope to be accepted as their equal. But, although Sims seems to be soul-searching and understanding that his behavior is misguided and wrong, it quickly becomes apparent that he will fall back into his old ways, because the only way for him to overcome what is ultimately an unsurmountable degree of self-loathing is for Sims to feel himself bathed in what he considers the reflected light from his "betters."

And it is this reflected light that starts the conflict between Master Sims and Nell Bowen. She not only shows Sims up in front of one of the nobles whose approval he so desperately wants, but she shows herself to be more favored than he when she isn't punished for displaying repeated and open contempt for him. Worse, Bowen doesn't need the approval that Sims devotes his entire life to gaining, so he has no real weapons to weild against her except his ability to force her into his charge and break her spirit and mind.

It is plain to viewers early on that Nell will ultimately end up at Sims mercy, because she refuses to back down, and as the film unfolds, much of the suspense comes from the fact that there seems to be no way out for Nell and that her strong spirit will get her killed. The confrontations between Sims and Nell, which never rise above verbal sparring, are really the heart of the film... and they are scenes that would not work half as well if it wasn't because the lines are being delivered by two great actors whose performances are bringing dimensions to the characters far beyond what would usually be expected from a low-budget drama.

These great performances also lift the film to the point where you're not quite sure what's going to happen... and not just because Val Lewton has delivered films with genuinely suprising endings before (is there anyone who can honestly say they saw the ending of "Cat People" or "I Walked With a Zombie" coming before it hit?), but because the characters have a degree of life to them that doesn't let us assume that the script will follow the pat ending where the heroine is rescued and the dastardly villain gets his just rewards. (And, to some degree, Lewton once again delivers a powerful and unexpected ending, perhaps the creepiest of any of his RKO films.)

Of course, I also need to give some credit to Mark Robson, the film's director. He was an editor at RKO whom Lewton wanted to give a chance to direct, and for whom Lewton passed up the opportunity to work on films with bigger budgets. 

After his early hits, RKO execs wanted to give Lewton more money to work with, but it meant that Robson would not have a chance to direct. Lewton chose to stay with the smaller budgets and the B-pictures, showing personal character and a degree of loyalty to his fellow creators that one wishes more people possessed. 

And Lewton's faith in Robson was obviously well-placed. While most of Lewton's RKO pictures are lean efforts without a second of filler to be found, "Bedlam" is even tighter than the rest. There is not a single scene that doesn't start or end at just the right moment, and there is not a single shot that isn't perfectly timed or lit.

With the excellent performances from its stars, able assistance from a talented supporting cast, and great direction, camera-work and editing, "Bedlam" is a fine thriller that fans of classic movies should seek out. 

"Cat People" and "The 7th Victim" may get most of the commentaries when it comes to Lewton films, while "Frankenstein" and "Targets" get the accolades in the Karloff canon, but "Bedlam" is a film that deserves more attention from fans and reviewers alike.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Return of the Space Girls:
Meet Tara, Marauder of the Spacelanes!

She may not typically wear a rocket pack nor a fishbowl helmet, but Tara rates top marks among Space Girls anyhow... because she's an original whose adventures were first published in issues of Wonder Comics during the late 1940s!

Art by Alex Schomburg
Tara is the star of NUELOW Games' latest release Tara: Marauder of the Spacelanes. The book contains four great retro sci-fi comics stories by Tara's creator Gene Fawcette, with a cover by Alex Schomburg, and a never-before-seen origin story by yours truly. I also contributed game stats for Tara's favorite weapon, the Atom Sword, for the OpenD6 and OGL d20 game systems, as well as designed a complete ROLF! supplement included in the book.

Click here to see previews of Tara: Marauder of the Spacelanes or to download your own copy. For further previews, here are some splash pages from the book.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Mohammed Monday: Better Late Than Not At All Edition

Don't go to pieces... we're just toying around with pictures of the Prophet Mohammed! (Drawing by B. West.)