Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ernie Chan (aka Ernie Chua) has passed away.

Ernie Chan was 71. If you read DC Comics during the 1970s, you saw lots of his art, as he drew hundreds of covers for them. He was also a prolific inker for Marvel Comics, perhaps working over John Busema's pencils more than any other artist.

Here is a small sample of his solo work, focusing on fantasy art.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

'Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster' review

Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (1965)
Starring: Marilyn Hanold, Lou Cutell, Robert Reilly, Jim Karen, and Karen Grant
Director: Robert Gaffney
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

A sexy alien queen (Hanold) and her pointy-eared second-in-command Dr. Nadir (Cutell) come to Earth to abduct bikini babes to replenish the breeding stock on their homeland. Unfortunately for them, their arrival on our world interferes with the test-flight of a cybernetic astronaut (Reilly), causing his ship to crash near the alien landing site.

Some movies derive their entertainment value from the fact that you will spend the entire time you're watching wondering if what you're watching was really that nonsensical on paper, and how one director could make so many bad decisions in the course of one movie.

Even in 1964, the "Mars needs women"-type scenario must have seemed silly, although it does provide an excuse to show attractive women in little bikinis so one can understand why the filmmakers and viewers ran with it. But one wonders what bizarre fetish the writers or director must have been trying to bring to the screen with the oddball "physical exam" that the aliens use to determine the fitness of the women for alien breeding stock.

That said, for a film that was clearly designed to show off fit birds (to borrow a phrase from Joe Bloke's excellent blog) the director made a bizarre choice in casting Playboy-Bunny-turned-actress Marilyn Hanold and yet hardly showing her body off at all. Viewers can see hints of a sexy costume, but she spends most of the movie seated, so it hardly gets shown off.

The only thing that makes the film mildly interesting, aside from the bikini babes if you're hard up, is when the heroine gets grabbed by the aliens and almost becomes chow for the Spacemonster of the film's title, and the runaway robot who stumbles his way through the movie to ultimately serve as something of a literal deus ex machina plot device. Unfortunately, he doesn't quite qualify as a "Frankenstein" in any sense, but instead serves as an illustration of the illiteracy that seems to have been a mainstay of the movie business from the get-go.

(By the way, if I had watched this this movie three-four weeks ago, "ROLF: Attack of the Commies from Jupiter" may have been an unauthorized adaptation of this film given there are some similarities content-wise. Heck... there may still be one forthcoming, given its mostly designed. :) )

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Great cast and locations, but lackluster direction

The Green Glove (aka "The Gauntlet") (1952)
Starring: Glenn Ford, Geraldine Brooks, and George Macready
Director: Rudolph Mate
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

A down-on-his-luck US Army veteran (Ford) returns to France in the years following WW2 to retrieve a gem-encrusted relic he left behind in a villa on D-Day. But he is soon framed for murder by an unscrupulous art dealer (Macready) who is also trying to recover the artifact, and treasure becomes secondary to dodging police pursuit.

"The Green Glove" should have been much better than it is, given the great cast (which, in addition to the stars listed above include such genre-picture stalwarts as Cedrick Hardwicke and Gaby Andre) and the spectacular settings it was filmed in... and that doesn't even take into account the smorgasbord of thriller conventions that are crammed into the story, what with it being a man wrongfully accused on a treasure hunt with a good-hearted woman while being pursued by mysterious forces.

But, despite all the potential here, the director seems incapable of generating any real suspense, squandering almost every build-up with a confrontation that is either badly staged, too abrupt, or both. In fact, the part of the film that works best is a comic relief sequence where Glenn Ford and Geraldine Brooks' characters spend the night at an isolated country inn. But I think that part of the movie shines mostly because you've got two good actors doing their thing without clumsy staging getting in the way... and because everything else around them is lackluster.

The director's insecurity with his subject matter (or maybe the producers recognizing the dog they had on their hands) is made painfully evident right up front, with an over-use of narration, setting a stage that the film itself was setting far more effectively as it unfolded.

Although... the "insta-romance" that develops between Ford and Brooks isn't as hard to swallow as it is in several other films of this kind. This is both because there seems to be real chemistry between the two performers, but also because everything else around them is so unconvincing that the you'll find you'll want something to hand onto as the film unfolds.

For this kind of story done right, you should check out "The 39 Steps" or "Young and Innocent" from Alfred Hitchcock.

Note: One of the things that attracted me to this movie was a half-remembered comic book series that I read as a kid. I think it, too, was called "The Green Glove" (or maybe just "The Glove") and it was a quirky horror strip about a cursed, jewel-encrusted gauntlet that entered the lives of the characters and caused some even of poetic justice or transformation before being lost again until the next episode. From the art style, I think the series must have originally been English or Spanish in origin, even though I was reading them in Danish translations.

Does anyone else remember these comics?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

It's the Final Battle (#4)!

Every month this year, until the Mayan-predicted End of the World, I am producing a ROLF! Final Battle product for NUELOW Games.

Given that the world has survived yet another month, the fourth one just saw release. The cover for it, by Darrel Miller and Karl M., is on display below. Click here for more information, or to download your very own copy from RPGNow.