Friday, December 26, 2014

Reefer Madness! (What more needs to be said?)

Reefer Madness (aka "Tell Your Children", "The Burning Question," "Dope Addict", and "Love Madness") (1936)
Starring: Dave O'Brien, Dorothy Short, Kenneth Craig, Carleton Young, Lilian Miles, and Thelma White
Director: Louis Gasnier
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

A societal scourge is exposed through this cautionary tale where Bill (Craig) is framed for murdering his sister (Short) and a hood (Craig) is driven mad... all because of the evils of marijuana!

"Reefer Madness" is one of those Bad Movie Night mainstays that I have been avoiding for many years. Everyone had written about it, it didn't sound all that interesting to me, and there were so many other unseen films out there. A friend gave me the "Taboo Tales" DVD collection for Christmas, and since "Reefer Madness" is the first film on the first disc, I figured the time had come to watch it.

I found that it was neither as bad nor as unintentionally funny as I had been led to believe. For the most part, it's a ham-fisted melodrama that alternatively exaggerates and misrepresents marijuana and its effect on those who use it. It moves along at a steady steady while beating viewers over the head with its anti-drug message, never being exactly boring but never being all that engaging because the characters are mostly unlikable. It gets truly interesting only in those few scenes were it goes way over the top with caricatures of marijuana smokers. Like so many drug movies, I think this is probably funnier if you're stoned while watching it.

For me, the most interesting part of the film was that I only really grew to care about the fate of Ralph, an utterly despicable thug and rapist played by Dave O'Brien. I think this was because the character was being played by one actors with honest-to-God careers in the field, and because Ralph holds a more important place in the story than even the character we're supposed to care about--the poor kid who's life is being ruined by drugs, drug pushers, and drug users. I suppose the film really is more about Ralph than Bill, since Ralph's even the subject of the movie's greatest scene, in which he beats a person to death in a fit of marijuana-driven paranoia.

I wouldn't say this film is worth going out of your way for, nor even that you should start with it if you find yourself with it included in a DVD multi-pack. The Four rating I gave it is as low as it can be without being a Three, and it barely earns that on the back of my being entertained by Dave O'Brien's performance. I suppose the nicest thing I can say about it is that it's far better than the other Dwain Esper-involved film I've watched. But, like I said above, maybe it's funnier if you're high. I understand EVERYTHING is funnier if you're high.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

May Santa bring you the gift you want the most!

Although... I suppose Santa may be taking Peggy Dow *with* him, rather than leaving her there. So... if he doesn't leave you the gift you really want, I hope he at least doesn't steal your wife or girl friend! (Because that could happen. What man can complete with Santa Clause?! Other than Chuck Norris.)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

'Twas the Night Before Christmas...

... and Barbara Eden was trying to convince the Elf (and his drunk friends) to get back on the Shelf.

I hope Santa brings everyone reading this something cool this year! Merry Christmas to you!

Christmas is almost here!

Myrna Loy is helping Santa get ready by feeding the reindeers buns laced with Red Bull! Are you excited for Christmas yet?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

All Santa's helper wants for Christmas is..

... a pair of pants.

Santa has told me that if NUELOW Games sells ten copies of A Christmas Box (a collection of roleplaying game material, fiction, and comics) that the royalties he's paid for the use of his name and likeness (as well as that of Mrs. Clause, their daughter Sugar Plum, and Rudolph the Reindeer) he will be able to afford to buy Penny a pair of pants.

So, there you have it. Get A Christmas Box--if not for yourself, then for Penny! Let the Christmas Spirit guide you to some off-beat Christmas fun (and some great comics).

(The collection contains 8 separate NUELOW Games releases, and you'll get them for half the price of what it would cost to get them individually. Click here for details.)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Are you excited yet?

There are only two days until Christmas Eve! (Santa's Helper Ann Miller would like everyone to know that she's happy getting sweaters and other articles of clothing for Christmas.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Santa's helpers are busy...

... making notes and checking them twice. Are you on the one listing the naughty or the one listing the nice?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Mary Ann Mobley dead at 76

Mary Ann Mobley, one of the few Miss Americas to find lasting success as an actress and television personality, passed away on December 9, 2014. She starred opposite Elvis in a couple films and frequently appeared in guest-starring roles during 1960s television shows such as "The Man From UNCLE" and "Perry Mason." She was even originally cast as Batgirl in the "Batman" TV series, but was replaced by Yvonne Craig before filming began. Her acting output slowed as she raised her daughter during the 1970s, but she returned to television acting in the 1980s and became a regular on several 1980s game shows like "Hollywood Squares." She also appeared as a co-host on a talk show hosted by her husband, Gary Collins. She continued appearing in movies and in television through the 2000s.

She was preceded in death by her husband in 2012, and she is survived by her daughter, Clancy.

Here are a couple of pictures of Ms. Mobley, in honor of her memory. The second picture is, by all accounts, a lie, as she earned awards for her humanitarian work.

Monday, December 8, 2014

... in which I pretend to be an artist

Here's the cover image for the soon-to-be-released "ROLF!: Fugue for Johns in D Minur," a Houseboat on the River Styx scenario from NUELOW Games.

The battle scenario sees John Lennon, Johnny Cash, John Bohnam, and John Philip Sousa join forces with John Denver in the afterlife to stop another atrocity on the scale of Justin Bieber!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

'Second Chorus' is an obscure gem

Second Chorus (1940)
Starring: Fred Astaire, Burgess Meredith, Paulette Goddard, Charles Buttersworth, and Artie Shaw
Director: H.C. Potter
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

When a pair of musicians, Danny and Hank (Astaire and Meredith), attempt to dodge Ellen (Goddard), a debt collector, by (literally) charming the pants off her, they end up on the fast track to fame with her as their booking agent. When she is later hired away by the famous band leader Artie Shaw (Shaw, playing himself), the two friends begin to sabotage each other in a bid to earn Ellen's romantic attention.

Fred Astaire described "Second Chorus" as his worst movie. He may not have liked it, but it's a lot of fast-paced fun, and chockful of great musical numbers and strong performances from the entire cast. Goddard is spectacular, as usual, and Meredith's comedic performance here really makes one wonder what sort of super-star he might have become if his career hadn't been detailed by McCarthyism during the 1950s.

The only complaint I have about the film is that the main protagonist, played by Astaire, is a king-sized jerk. I understand that the tricks he plays on his friend Hank to gain the upper-hand romantically and professionally are supposed to be viewed as comedic by the audience, but time and again, he resorts to an almost scorched earth sort of approach with an apparent desire to destroy his supposed best friend just so he can tell himself that we "won." In the process, he ends up sabotaging himself as well--and this karmic justice keeps the character from becoming completely unsympathetic--but his 11th-hour conversion to Nice Guy comes a little too late to win me over as a viewerm even if it does get him the girl. (That's not a spoiler... given that it's Fred Astaire vs. Burgess Meredith, it was a foregone conclusion who Paulette Goddard would end up with. Except, of course, in real life, where Meredith and Goddard ended up as a couple and eventually married.)

Hardcore Fred Astaire fans may be disappointed in the film for the same reason I suspect Astaire rates it as the worst of his efforts: He does very little dancing in it. There's really on one remarkable routine where he takes to the floor with Goddard at roughly the halfway point. But of those who enjoy big band swing music and 1940s comedies, "Second Chorus" is going to be time well spent.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014

'Outpost in Morocco' is a fast-moving war pic

Outpost in Morocco (1949)
Starring: George Raft, Akim Tamirof, Marie Windsor, and Eduard Franz
Director: Robert Florey
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

A French Foreign Legion Officer reknowned for his way with the ladies, Capt. Paul Gerard (Raft) is assigned to escort and seduce Cara (Windsor) in order to discover if her father (Franz) is plotting with other Arab tribal leaders to stage an uprising against the French forces. His mission becomes complicated when he falls in love with her in earnest... and it becomes deadly when it turns out that her father is not only plotting an uprising but he is unleashing it.

"Outpost in Morocco" is a fast moving film that features a perfect blend of war, espionage, and romance elements. I often complain about how movies have "insta-romances" that make little or no sense in context of character and story just to keep the plot moving, but the love that develops between the Capt. Gerard and Cara feels realistic and firmly rooted in the characters.

The acting and dialog is also top-notch all around. Stars George Raft and Marie Windsor are evenly matched on screen, and Akim Tamirof (as a hard-bitten veteran Foreign Legion junior officer who becomes Gerard's go-to right-hand man) switches gears easily from dramatic to comedic depending on the scene.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

From NUELOW -- 'Princess Pantha: the Footsteps of Fate'

NUELOW Games has recently released another of its comics/rpg hybrid books co-edited by yours truly. This one is a stand-alone sequel to Princess Pantha: The Hunt for M'Gana. It contains four classic comics with art by Gene Fawcette, Ralph Mayo, and Art Saaf. It also contains a complete supplement for ROLF!: The Rollplaying Game.

By way of a preview of Princess Pantha: The Footsteps of Fate, here are the splash pages for the four included comics stories. You can click here to see further previews and to get your very own copy. (And if you do, please let me know what you think of it.)

By Art Saaf
By Gene Fawcette
By Ralph Mayo
By Art Saaf

Monday, November 3, 2014

Now available from NUELOW Games --
The Three Lives of Fantomah: Book Two

Fantomah has been accurately described as the first female superhero in comics. Readers were first introduced to her in Jungle Comics #2 (cover date Feb. 1940), a full two years before the celebrated debut of Wonder Woman. Fantomah soon lost the superhero flavor.

Fantomah, as drawn by Richard Case
When series creator Fletcher Hanks was replaced with a mixed bag of artists and writers who worked under the house-name "W.B. Hovious." From Jungle Comics #16 through #26, Fantomah moved away from the fearsome incarnation of nature's vengeance that she had been under Hanks, and became increasingly a "jungle girl"-type character. She still had magic powers, but they were increasingly de-emphasized as she gained a faithful pet panther, rescued and took charge of a lost boy--and generally came to seem more like a female Tarzan.

Fantomah's "jungle girl" period is the subject of The Three Lives of Fantomah: Book Two from NUELOW Games. It presents the six best episodes from Jungle Comics #16 - #26, together will all new roleplaying game rules that will let you bring Fantomah-style magic to your OGL Modern d20 games. For a sample of the game content, click here to visit the NUELOW Games Blog.

The majority of the art in The Three Lives of Fantomah: Book Two is by Richard Case, although some stories were penciled and/or inked by "W.B Hovious." I designed the new game content, as well as wrote a small piece of fiction intended to shed light on why Fantomah is transfirming -- and to set up her final transformation that will occur in Book Three.

I hope you will download a copy of The Three Lives of Fantomah: Book Two. Click here to see previews of the book. If you do, be sure to tell me what you think of it.

And please keep en eye out for Book Three some time after Christmas.

Fantomah: When she kicks ass, she doesn't bother taking names.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Halloween is coming...

... and Etchika Choureau wants to protect her new friend from all the ghosts and goblins that are going to be popping up. Or maybe she's just protecting the candy inside?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Thursday, October 2, 2014

'Up in the Air' has strong cast and weak script

Up in the Air (1940)
Starring: Frankie Darro, Mantan Moreland, Marjorie Reynolds, Tristram Coffin, Lorna Gray, and Dick Elliot
Director: Howard Bretherton
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

When the obnoxious singer (Gray) headlining a radio station's anchor program is murdered, Frankie (Darro) gets his friend Jeff (Moreland) to help him find the killer. Along the way, he tries to fulfill his dreams of stardom while also helping a beautiful young singer (Reynolds) to become the program's new headliner.

Jeff (Moreland) and Frankie (Darro) prove themselves not ready for prime-time.

"Up in the Air" is a film where the cast is doing there very best with weak material. Darro and Moreland are great together--as they are in every teaming I've seen so far--and the other performers are also at the top of their game. If only more effort at been put into the script, as well as the set-piece musical performances by Lorna Gray and Marjorie Reynolds, this could have ranked among Monogram's best efforts. It's always a shame to see actors giving it their best but being undermined by weak material.

I think the film is still worth seeing if you are a fan of either Frankie Darro or Mantan Moreland, and a must-see if you like them when work together. One part of the film that I'm curious about is the "minstrel show" sequence where Frankie and Jeff are trying out for a spot on the radio show. Their routine is intentionally embarrassing--and even more so when viewed through 21st century eyes. Given that black-face was already falling out of favor by 1940, I wonder if that medium wasn't chosen to make Frankie and Jeff's comedy routine seem even more hackneyed and bad.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


.... didya know that Halloween will be here in just 30 short days? You better get ready!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

NUELOW reveals the lives of Fantomah

Many comics fans will tell you that Wonder Woman was the first female superhero. Others will tell you that it was Phantom Lady. True masters of trivia will tell you it was the Woman in Red.

Truth is, they're all wrong.

The first female superhero, Fantomah, saw print in Feb. 1940, in the pages of Jungle Comics #2.

Created by writer/artist Fletcher Hanks (working as Barclay Flagg), the earliest "Fantomah" stories carried his trademark powerful character type dishing out extreme supernatural justice against evil-doers. Here's a splash panel from one of the early Fantomah stories that tells you everything you need to know about her -- other than her habit of turning villains into strange creatures or dispatching them violently. Oh -- and her own ability to turn into a terrifying skull-faced Furie when angered.

The "first life" of Fantomah
Unlike other Hanks creations, Fantomah continued past his involvement with the strip, evolving as it passed through the hands of other creators (working under the name W.B. Hovious). The surreal, macabre flavor that Hanks brought to most of his work faded quickly from the series, and for a time Fantomah was not very different from jungle girls, such as Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.

Fantomah, with Ken and Fury, during her "second life."
Eventually, it was revealed that she was the lost ruler of the City of Khefra, and for the final 20 or so episodes of the series she ruled justly while fighting off challengers to her throne. As she claimed her inheritance, the last vestiges of the powerful magic she had once wielded seemingly faded forever. The series came to a close in Jungle Comics #51.

The undead stalk Fantomah, Daughter of the Pharohs, during her "third life."
NUELOW Games has just released The Three Lives of Fantomah: Book One. It contains four of Fletcher Hanks' best Fantomah stories, as well as one by "W.B. Hovious," all spotlighting Fantomah during her "first life" as a vengeful demi-goddess. The book also contains an all new OGL Modern/d20 System prestige class and related feats that set out to capture the unusual nature of Fantomah's development over the course of her series.

Like most of NUELOW Games' releases, it's co-edited by yours truly, and I am also responsible for the game design. I hope some of you will check it out and let me know what you think.

And, of course, I hope you'll like it well enough to come back for Books Two and Three!

Friday, September 19, 2014

'Tis Talk Like a Pirate Day, me hearties!

NUELOW Games is celebrating Talk Like a Pirate Day with the release of an anthology featuring two comics adventures of Lila the Corsair Queen, and Robert E. Howard's classic pirate tale "Isle of Pirate's Doom."

Click here to see previews or to download your own copy of the book, which also includes a handy guide to pirate vocabulary.

 By way of further preview, here are a couple sample pages...

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Dancing into Fall

With the last day of summer officially behind us, Ann Miller dances her way into autumn.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Big Labor Day Weekend Sale!

(This should have been posted to the NUELOW Games blog, but I stuck it here by accident. Well, since most the books are in black and white, it is kinda-sorta fitting for here too. So, support my blog by buying my books from NUELOW Games. And happy Labor Day!)

All NUELOW Games fiction anthologies, comics/rpg hybrid books, core rulebooks, art packs, and selected other products are on sale this Labor Day Weekend for just $0.99! The special prices are good through September 1.

Treat yourself to some fun games and great games and reading material!

Click here to see the full listings!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Milla Jovovich Quarterly

As summer is coming to an end, the winds will start to pick up. Ladies in dresses and men in kilts had better be careful.

Or not. The rest of us might enjoy the show....

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sorceress of Zoom... Re-Envisioned!

Back in 2009, Warren Ellis put out a call for artists to have fun with the "Sorceress of Zoom" by redesigning her look and generally "remake" her. Since NUELOW Games has just released a collection of the original "Sorceress of Zoom" stories, this seems like a good time to post my favorite of those "remakes."

First, there are two illos from Valerio "Pupato" Gomez, one draft and one final. The artist named the pictures "The Doom from  ZooM."

I liked Marty Nozz's take on the character, too.

These two drawings update the character while capturing her nature as seen in the original series. Others were a bit further afield, so they don't appeal to my fundamentally conservative nature. You can see the entire thread on Ellis' message board by clicking here.

You can see another modern take on the "Sorceress of Zoom" on the cover of NUELOW Games' first book in their three-volume series by clicking here. It's by Bradley K. McDevitt, and he remained faithful to the original character design as he was drawing an illo that he knew would be used with the original stories.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

By-the-numbers mystery with a nice twist

The Lady Confesses (1945)
Starring: Mary Beth Hughes, Hugh Beaumont, Edmund MacDonald, Emmett Vogan, and Claudia Drake
Director: Sam Newfield
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

When her wedding plans are derailed by murder, Vicki (Hughes) sets out to discover why nightclub owner Lucky Brandon (MacDonald) lied to cast doubt on her fiance's (Beaumont) otherwise unshakable alibi.

"The Lady Confesses" is a standard murder mystery that is elevated by a nice third-act twist. As is the case with many of these B-movies, the short running time leaves viewers wanting for a little more background on some of the characters. It would have been nice to know why the eventual murder victim disappeared for seven years, and it would have helped the story if we'd been given more information about Lucky's relationship to Vicki's fiance, Larry. However, I feel inclined to forgive the filmmakers, because there's not a wasted moment anywhere in the film where they might have squeezed such exposition in -- even the obligatory musical number at the night club is truncated when compared to what is typical in a movie like this.

The cast is interesting in this film, especially if you're a big fan of these kinds of movies. Mary Beth Hughes plays a role very different from the bad girl ones she's usually cast in. Hugh Beaumont also gets to play a role that's a little meatier than what we usually expect from him. He doesn't quite rise to the challenge, but nice lighting and some decent dialogue helps prop up his performance.

All in all, this is not a bad little movie.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The arrival of Zoom!

I am co-editing and writing material for a new three-volume series from NUELOW Games featuring the classic Golden Age magical femme fatale -- the Sorceress of Zoom!

The Sorceress of Zoom is the most powerful magic-user on her home world. She rules the flying city of Zoom, and she travels through space and time seeking to take whatever, and whomever, her heart desires. For the people of her world, few things are more terrifying than the sight of Zoom appearing in the sky, because the Sorceress always gets what she wants and others pay the price.

Click here to see previews of The Sorceress of Zoom, or to get your own copy. As a further preview, here are some splash pages from the book. It contains five "Sorceress of Zoom" stories and a new approach to incorporating magic into the OGL Modern d20 System roleplaying game.

Monday, August 18, 2014

When journalists were heroes

Back when Americans trusted journalists, and reporters were more interested in keeping the public informed than advancing their personal political agendas, they were pop-culture heroes. During the 1930s and 1940s, crusading reporters and news photographers were the subjects of movies and numerous comic book series.

Newshounds is a new series from NUELOW Games that presents some of those classic stories from the Golden Age of Comics when journalists were more interested in speaking truth to power and uncovering dirty corporate dealings than being part of the elite and reaping the benefits.

Click here to see previews and to get your own copy of Newshounds #1, which collects classics by Matt Baker, Bob Oksner, and Harvey Kurtzman. Like all NUELOW Games comics projects, this issue contains roleplaying game content. This one presents rules for playing adventuresome reporters using Lester Smith's d6xd6 CORE RPG system.

As a further preview, here are a few sample pages from the book.

Art by Matt Baker

Art by Bob Oksner
Art by Harvey Kurtzman

Art by Matt Baker