Great Television Analyzed : Boris Karloff’s THRILLER (1960-1962)

THRILLER is a tv series hosted by the late, great Boris Karloff, that even for fans and students of cinema and television, is more rumored of than actually seen. So imagine my happy surprise to come home from a hard day of work and find the first season of this perennially hard to find show, available on the Roku Streaming Channel for free.

Very much an attempt to ride the popularity of Rod Serling’s TWILIGHT ZONE (1959-1964), THRILLER ran only two seasons, starting out as a crime/thriller series before drifting into pure horror. The show never truly finding its footing or audience, but is remembered fondly by fans of classic television.

After watching the first episode “Twisted Image” I can see why. WoW! As someone watching this episode for the first time, 59 years after it was first aired, I was absolutely riveted. Everything here, works, the cinematography, the direction, the performances, the writing, the undercurrent of sex, dread and desperation… I mean we have seen variations on this theme, in the decades since, and yet this episode  still manages to own every single minute of its 48 minute run-time.

I can only imagine how powerful this episode must have seem in 1960. To a generation just coming off of shows like LEAVE IT TO BEAVER it must have felt nearly X-rated. And yet 60 years removed from that relatively simpler America, the show somehow magically still has power, and is still oddly relevant to our world now. A world of desperate people, doing desperate things, in an attempt to find someone to hold them through the night.

Directed by the esteemed Arthur Hiller, from a teleplay by James Cavanagh, from a novel by William O’Farrell, this is as good a 48 minutes of television as you will find.

And a quick aside about Arthur Hiller, while his cinematic filmography is impressive (see some of his movies below) it is filled mostly with comedies.

It is his little seen early television work that is imbued with this seedy, nightmarish intensity.

Tobruk (1967)The Out of Towners (1970)Miracle of the White Stallions (1963)Man of La Mancha (1972)

Al Pacino, Dyan Cannon, Tuesday Weld, Bob Dishy, and Alan King in Author! Author! (1982)

Liam Nielsen, long before becoming known to a younger generation as a comedic lead, cut his teeth doing serious, often mirthless roles. And this episode of THRILLER is one such role.  He is great here, as is the rest of the cast, but the real draw for me is actress Natalie Trundy, her beauty and fragile madness is the spark, that burns the whole world down.

Just a phenomenal episode. I would buy the boxset of THRILLER on Dvd/BLU-RAY  just to own this episode. It is that good. I put it right up there with the first episode of the original ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS. Now as I mentioned not every episode is a hit. Every great episode seems to be followed up with two mediocre ones, but the series is worth having for the great ones. Try it for free courtesy of Roku, and if as impressed as I, use the link below to get the box-set, while you can.

 

https://amzn.to/2IjIrsF

 

 

 

Thanks and Happy Holidays to You!

Thanks and Happy Holidays to the followers and supporters and visitors of this oft different blog on our pop culture and our times as seen thru an admitedly biased lens.

To paraphrase the great conversation between Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles characters in CITIZEN KANE (the product of 27yo wunderkind Orson Welles) :

Cotton: You know your problem, you want love on your own terms.

Welles: In the end those are the only terms anyone ever knows, their own.

This blog at its best is about things worth loving, on their own terms.

Thank you for a fantastic year of likes, comments, emails and suggestions, and of your own excellent content.

I am going to be shouting out all my followers (probably starting at the end of the day), from WAYLAND PROD of the excellent, and award winning podcast WE”RE ALIVE (https://www.werealive.com/) to one of the most talented people, writer, podcaster, reviewer DERRICK FERGUSON of the brilliant and must visit FERGUSON THEATER (https://derricklferguson.com) to THE GODLY CHIC of the always uplifting and rewarding GODLY CHICK DIARIES (https://gcdiaries.wordpress.com/) and every follower inbetween.

I’m going to try and space it out and do maybe 25 to an update so as to not inundate you guys, and keep my overview on their site very brief.

But I do want you guys to patronize some of the wonderful people who have patronized me over the years. Giving back and paying forward, I would like that to be how I end this two thousand and eighteenth year of a crucified lord, and begin the two thousand and nineteenth.

Happy Holidays to all of You!

 

 

 

John Krasinski’s THE QUIET PLACE : A Movie/VOD Review!

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So A QUIET PLACE has been on my radar to watch for a while, however other things took priority. However I heard a Youtube Film critic, recently say that A QUIET PLACE was his best film of 2018. Given the stiff competition of monumental film-making occurring in 2018, that seemed like a bold statement.

But I am always open to discovering a new great film. So today I watched, courtesy of Amazon Prime VOD, John Krasinski’s A QUIET PLACE.

John Krasinski came on my radar as he did with most people  in the brilliant 13 HOURS (that reminded Michael Bay critics, Michael Bay can be a great director), and this year in Amazon’s equally brilliant JACK RYAN series.

Here with his Sophomore feature film, A QUIET PLACE, Krasinski makes a solid little horror film. The silent conceit is a nice touch, and the movie plays a bit like an updated SEVEN.

The third act I feel the audience is way ahead of the characters, at least I was, so you are screaming at the characters to catch up and figure out the ultimate solution to the movie. Also somethings seemed odd… why wouldn’t you, in such a world, carry around firecrackers with you at all times to distract the menace, and carry weapons, and set traps etc (ala a bear trap and an alarm clock, as these things do not seem too particular in what they attack).

But overall a good B-movie. A solid B-. John Krasinski as well as being an actor to watch, is a filmmaker to watch.

Grade: B-.

As far as claims of A QUIET PLACE being the best movie of 2018… in a word… no.

Even allowing for film being subjective, it is not even the best b-movie film of the year (that honor goes to the excellent UPGRADE) much less the best film of the year (that would go to films like BLACK PANTHER, AVENGER INFINITY WAR etc).

But it doesn’t have to be. It just has to be worth your time, and for most of its run time it is. Recommended!

p.s.

And in case you wonder what is my bar for great films. here are some films I consider great, as in best of the year great (in their respective years) in no particular order…

THIRD MAN (Carol Reed/Orson Welles)

LAWRENCE OF ARABIA

SUPERMAN

WRATH OF KHAN

MEMORIES OF MURDER

DARESALAM

CITY OF GOD

HYENA by Djibril Diop Mambety

Just about anything by Michael Mann

Just about anything in the latter half of his career by the late Tony Scott

Just about anything in the first half of his career by Ridley Scott

THE MISSION (both the Johnnie To Film and the Turkish film of the same title)

TUCKER

BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA

MALTESE FALCON

BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN

GREED (Silent Film)

SUNRISE (Just about anything by Murnau or Fritz Lang or Alfred Hitchcock)

The early films of M NIGHT SHYMALAN

PICKPOCKET (Robert Bresson)

And to this list you can safely put AVENGERS INFINITY WAR, BLACK PANTHER, CAPTAIN AMERICA WINTER SOLDIER, and the first AVENGERS, which all transcend being genre movies, to just be great films.

Haul / Ebay Unboxing and Why Variant Covers are destroying the Comic Book Market / Experience!

THE BEST OF DC WAR COMICS AMERICA AT WAR  Edited by Michael Uslan

One of the great discoveries of 2018, in addition to me getting back into old back issue comics, and purchasing my first Golden and Atomic age comics, is my jumping into conflict or combat or war comics, with both feet.

The first conflict title that really grabbed me was OUR FIGHTING FORCES STARRING THE LOSERS. I have been reading comics for decades and somehow I managed to remain largely clueless to these comics. I mean I had seen war and western comics as a kid, and had no interest in them as most kids of my age at the time.

I think those books are very much something you have to grow to appreciate, much like the art of Jack Kirby.

But here many decades removed from that kid, this year I stumbled across the amazing run of Joe Kubert covers for OUR FIGHTING FORCES, and they just blew me away.

In an age where a lot of morons are using gimmicks like variant comics to sell multiple copies to a dwindling reader base , and publishers are playing into the gambling aspect of the speculators, who don’t even read the comics, they just oooh and ahhh over what amounts to pinups on the cover, rather than in the book where they used to be.

To the point where you have covers that are completely devoid of typography. Typography is part and parcel, of what makes s great, iconic cover. Another part of being iconic, is there being only one image,  per issue, a popular shared point of reference that an entire public can reference.

If you say Amazing Fantasy 15, or X-men 94, or Hulk 181, what makes all those issues so iconic, is they  bring up one agreed upon, and shared image in the minds of the audience.

Now covers have a minimum of 2 variants and often 10 times that many. At that point you have stopped selling stories, and are in the business of selling pin-ups. And if all you want is a pin-up, just download the damn cover images. Do not get me wrong there are some wonderful images being created for these ‘variant’ covers. But they are pin-ups or posters, they are not covers. They act against the very idea of a cover, which is a single, memorable image you can identify with that story. You weaken your own product, by dilluting and muddying the waters, with multiple covers, or multiple endings, or multiple versions. Plurality being the enemy of the iconic.

It is the reason modern comics are a speculator’s bubble, poised to burst. The whole market, much like the 90s, is built on speculation, and chasing the very transitory and ephemeral nature of what is hot. A lot of it is forced or manufactured rarity. Ooh this issue had a curse word in it, ooh this issue had a possibly risqué or controversial image.

It is completely manufactured market, based on very superficial minutiae, than in any way on content or quality.

DEATHSTROKE is consistently one of the best books DC comics is producing. Christopher Priest month in and month out delivering fantastic writing, with fantastic interior art.

Unfortunately all the speculator’s comment on is the cover variant.

While no doubt the creators are glad to have the numbers, having the readers is the real goal of this medium, and the real satisfaction of being a creator.

It is one reason that older comics, particularly from the Bronze Age, are getting so popular. The storytelling, the typography, the beauty, the singularity of vision, all stands out, especially in comparison to the lack of all of those things in most modern comic books.

Joe Kubert I really have grown such a HUGE appreciation for his story-telling, particularly his covers. He is such a master artist, and no-where is that more obvious than on his long and fruitful run in Conflict Comics.

Here without further ado are just a few of the must own LOSERS Joe Kubert covers (the complete essential run goes from OUR FIGHTING FORCES 123 TO 141. 19 issue run of AMAZING covers. And even though Kubert keeps doing the cover art till 151, I would say 141 is a good jumping off point for individual issues collectors.  After 141 DC would go for a more conventional , less experimental style, and those later issues lend themselves to just picking up in a collected trade format.

The more boring covers seems to coincide with the switch of Editors from Joe Kubert to Archie Goodwin. And then it would quickly bounce to Jack Kirby and Finally Murray Boltinoff who would see the series to its demise at issue #181. The series at its strongest, and the individual issues worth collecting, are issues 123 to 141.

Buy your issues here:

https://www.mycomicshop.com/search?tid=180611&pgi=101&AffID=200301P01

Use the link above, and get great deals, and help this blog keep putting out content.

 

Thanks!

 

You heard it here first!!! Forget about paying a fortune for the first issue of new book BATMAN DAMNED, a flash in a pan overpriced at cover price, book. And get something with real staying power, Joe kubert’s 1970’s run on OUR FIGHTING FORCES issues #123 to141!!

 

Currently Watching : 1976 Interview with Stan Lee interviewing Roy Thomas

Stan Lee and Roy Thomas, and their creations and stewardship of a small publishing house called MARVEL COMICS was very much a touchstone of my youth. So to see the two share this 1976 interview, on what is seemingly a local public access show, is just fantastic. And with current, sad talks of abuse against Stan, it is great to look back and see him in happier days. Also it is amazing how relevant the topics are and how prescient both men were of a future where comics sold outside of the monthly format, and instead in collected and hardcover formats.

A great way to spend about 28 minutes. And here is wishing improved fortune for Stan Lee, and continued great fortune for Roy Thomas.

Currently Watching : CW’s BLACK LIGHTNING Season 1 Episodes 1 -5

This is, despite some misfires, a golden age of TV. With just about every broadcast, cable or streaming channel producing quality shows.

CW after spearheading the SuperHero explosion on television, with its ARROW show, leading into a veritable universe of comic related shows, has unfortunately become a victim of its own success. Other channels buoyed by ARROW’s initial ground breaking success have followed suit, and quite frankly have surpassed what is coming out of CW. The action and fight choreography of DAREDEVIL making the once jaw dropping ARROW fight scenes, look gimmicky and sub-par by comparison.

Black Lightning Movie Poster

FLASH while filled with likable characters, gets increasingly less inspired stories each season. SUPER-GIRL after an initial strong first season, follows it up with a weak syrupy second season, that spent too much time on her Sister’s Lesbianism, which I really could not care any less about, and introducing other uninteresting characters. SUPERNATURAL jumped the shark over 5 seasons ago, and hasn’t had an engaging season since (as every season,simply plays out as watered down ou can definitely add BLACK LIGHTNING to the mix.. variations of that, And LEGENDS OF TOMORROW  is just bad on every level. Shows such as LEGION and RUNAWAYS making the CW shows look like the 60s BATMAN or GREATEST AMERICAN HERO show, by comparison.

Only IZOMBIE, currently on hiatus, has been consistently entertaining to date.

Now after five episodes you can add BLACK LIGHTNING to that list. It has the freshness and energy and charisma and captivating stories, that the other CW shows largely lack. With a great lead, excellent costars, vicious enemies, and mysteries abounding. It from top to bottom isn’t just an exciting and addictive and fun show, but also a needed one. If ARROW five years ago was the show we needed then, BLACK LIGHTNING very much, is the show we need now. Five episodes in I’m hooked, I love it. Grade: B+.

 And while the show can b e released and enjoyed anytime, I do appreciate it being released during Black History Month/Year. It touches with a deft hand on issues that still resound.

Three Defunct Podcasts that are still missed! INDIE SPINNER SIDEBAR HORROR ETC

These three podcasts all had long runs that unfortunately came to an end, and while there have been no end of new podcasts since ( and I’ll cover some of those new discoveries next installment), the niche these three podcasts filled, and the personalities thst filled them… remain unduplicated and sorely missed.

They are INDIE SPINNER RACK and SIDEBAR and HORROR ETC.

The first was a 2 man New York show that covered all things Comics Indie related, with style and panache and good natured, quirky humor. The third was a 3 man Atlanta show that sported some of the best interviews with illustrators, painters, comic pencillers, etc; and the last was a 2 person Canadian show covering Horror films, tv shows, books, comics. All 3 of those excellent shows have given up the ghost, but it is a testament to how good each one was, they remain… sorely missed, and the episodes… particularly SIDEBAR, important.

If you have the opportunity to download any of these podcast’s old episodes ( check the search engines) , get them. They are the real thing… they are pure.