Reviews

Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations 3

Continuing commentary on the Blu-ray set of Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations , following up on postings here and here.

Since the last post, I’ve viewed the shorts Hog Wild (1930), Come Clean and One Good Turn (both 1931), and the feature Sons of the Desert (1933). All have superb commentary tracks by Randy Skretvedt—whose L&H book is absolutely definitive (to overuse the word!). I bought the first edition paperback in early 1988, and this copy is still with me—and in surprisingly good shape! The newest edition is more of the same, only much more, but it’s an indispensible tome whatever edition you own. (I own both. I wouldn’t part with that first edition.)

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David Bowie: “Where Are We Now?”

Where were we then? David Bowie’s first solo single in more than nine years dropped out of nowhere on his 66th birthday—January 8th 2013. (Also Elvis Presley’s 78th birthday, of course.)

I woke up that morning to find social media (I still used social media quite extensively, if not enthusiastically, back then) buzzing with it. Still groggy and sipping a coffee, I tried to absorb the song and its video, while dutifully sharing my own reaction amidst the digital cacophony.

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Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations 2

More on the Blu-ray set of Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations , following up on this post.

The two shorts Berth Marks (1929)—their second “talkie”—and Brats (1930) benefit from having their original soundtracks offered as an option, in addition to the more familiar 1937 reissue sound (different music cues and, in some cases, FX).

Picture-wise, neither come off as pristine as the first reel of Battle of the Century, but few things of this vintage do. I felt Berth Marks was the clear winner of the two—Brats seems, at best, occasionally a marginal upgrade on the DVD transfer, but some shots seemed a whole lot softer than I ever remembered them from back in the 1980s on TV and VHS. Neither are in brilliant shape, and sadly it seems they will never look any better. Of course, it is high definition, so is inherently stronger than previous releases, but the condition of the source materials does place limitations on some of these items. I do believe there are much stronger items to come in this set.

Brats

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Comics: The Ring Of The Nibelung

Written by Roy Thomas. Drawn by Gil Kane (w/assist by Alfredo Alcala). Lettered by John Costanza. Coloured by Jim Woodring. Edited by Andrew Helfer. Published in 1989-90 by DC Comics.

Summary: A squarebound, four-issue mini-series adapting Der Ring des Nibelungen, Richard Wagner’s epic musical drama, aka the Ring Cycle, based on Norse Legend and the German epic poem Nibelungenlied.

Read more about Der Ring des Nibelungen on Wikipedia. (Saves me writing a synopsis!)

The Ring has also notably been adapted in comics form, at much greater length and more faithfully to the Wagner source, by P Craig Russell in 2000; and of course, there is the two-part 1924 silent movie by the great Fritz Lang, Die Nibelungen. The Thomas & Kane version is perhaps not so different from their work on various Conan projects—it has an old school adventure comics feel. If you like those books as much as I do, you won’t see that as a drawback.

The Ring Book 1
Epic Kane art from THE RING Book One.

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Comics: Hulk #182

“Between Hammer and Anvil”

THIS REVIEW HAS SPOILERS!

Written by Len Wein. Pencilled & Inked by Herb Trimpe. Lettered by John Costanza. Coloured by Glynis Wein. Edited by Roy Thomas. Published in 1974 by Marvel Comics.

Summary: Stanley Kramer Meets John Steinbeck via the Outer Limits.

Let’s talk about one of my favourite comics. There are a few reasons why this is so: the Hulk was the first comics character I really bonded with, for one thing, and it was by accident. My nan used to buy me random comics when I was a little kid, and one of them was a Marvel UK Hulk book—which I doubt my mom would have ever bought me—and I instantly liked him. I already loved the original King Kong (1933), as well as all the Universal Monsters—I was definitely a Monster Kid. The Hulk was somewhere between Frankenstein’s Monster and Kong… today, I also see a lot of Lennie Small (Of Mice and Men) in him. And I do mean the 1970s Hulk—there are a number of spins on him, but the ’70s one is IMO the best.

Hulk 182
The cover to HULK #182, by Herb Trimpe, 1974.

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Movies: The Defiant Ones (1958)

In Brief: this is the write-up of The Defiant Ones prepared for my in-progress book on Lon Chaney Jr, as mentioned here. Feedback is very welcome!

Defiant Ones Poster

Produced by Stanley Kramer for Lomitas Productions, Inc. Directed by Stanley Kramer. Screenplay by Nedrick Young & Harold Jacob Smith. Music score by Ernest Gold. Cinematography by Sam Leavitt. Edited by Frederic Knudtson. Distributed by United Artists.

Technical: 1.66:1, black and white, Westrex mono. Running time: 96 minutes. Production: late February to early April 1958. Premiere: September 24 1958 (NY).

With Tony Curtis, Sidney Poitier, Theodore Bikel, Charles McGraw, Lon Chaney, King Donovan and Claude Akins.

Two convicts—one white (Tony Curtis), one black (Sidney Poitier)—in a Southern chain gang are being transported in a van when the vehicle crashes. They escape, and what follows is a story of the tensions between the two, being forced to flee cross-country together―mostly through swamplands―until they find a way of breaking the four-foot chain that binds them.

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Rambling Spider-Man Review

So I saw the new Amazing Spider-Man movie last Monday (the 9th). Given the shoddy treatment of some major creatives involved in developing the 1960s Marvel line (one or two in particular), it’s hard not to have mixed feelings. Part of me says a boycott on principle is honourable; another part says it’s futile. So between the two extremes I just throw up my hands. I was already in town to see something else anyway (The Casebook of Eddie Brewer—more on that in another post, maybe).

Spider-Man 2012

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