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July, 2011

  1. Revell Sells Secrets to the Soviets…for $2.98

    July 31, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    revelluss george washingtonIn the summer of 1961 the New York Times ran a front page story entitled: ADMIRAL RICKOVER SAYS REDS LEARNED SECRETS FROM TOY SUB.  In that story the father of the US Navy’s nuclear submarine program claimed that the hobby company Revell’s model of the USS George Washington nuclear-powered Polaris missile submarine had given away classified information to the Soviet Union. “If I were a Russian,” declared Rickover, “I would be most grateful to the United States for its generosity in supplying such information for $2.98.”

    Under the helm of its president, Louis (“Lew”) H. Glaser, Revell’s PR department went into combat mode to not just defend its reputation as a patriotic American hobby company, but also to exploit Vice Admiral Hyman G. Rickover’s backhanded endorsement of their models’ authenticity (“Accurate to one thousandth of an inch” was Revell’s claim).  A photographer and writer from LIFE magazine were invited to the company’s headquarters so Glaser could counter that the charges were absurd and demonstrate that the details of the submarine were easily obtainable from unclassified trade and technical journals.  A photo taken of Glaser holding the submarine model was the 1960s equivalent of a  captain of industry flipping the bird to a military hero.

    Once the small feature appeared in the magazine, the Admiral refused to speak further of the incident. Revell on the other hand used the brouhaha to sell record numbers of the Polaris submarine kit.


  2. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (in Concept)

    July 30, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

     I have to admit I am hesitant to post an entry about Irwin Allen’s 1961 film Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. There are millions of fans of the movie and the TV show it spawned and I can’t get away with the kind of lazy research that passes muster when writing about the plot of a 50 year old comic book that barely anybody alive remembers reading. So, this weekend, the 50th anniversary of when Voyage to the Bottom of Sea was playing in theaters, I’m merely going to post some great pictures of the concept art used in pre-production, and a few of my modest observations based on nothing more than a couple casual viewing of the film when I was a kid.

      

    This, apparently, was the original design of the submarine Seaview. It’s missing the iconic “manta” bow of the final design and the windows are enormous! I remember thinking how impractiacal the windows on the movie and TV version were. The windows on the submarine in this picture just scream peril.

    I really like this picture! It’s a lot more expressive of a sky on fire than the roiling red glow seen in the film.

    I’d forgotten there was a giant squid in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. If I’d remembered that, I would have mentioned it in last week’s post about Jules Verne’s banner year in film. Surely, Voyage is only the second most famous story featuring a submarine and a giant cephalopod.

    Here’s a view through the interior of the “bigger windows” Seaview, made even more frightening by a gauntlet of sea mines. Granted, windows in a submarine are worth a few points in the terror department, but I think I’d have a hard time following the story worrying that at any moment a stray mine, or (illogically) sinking chunk of ice, or stray baseball could doom the entire crew of this technological wonder.


  3. Kid Colt, Outlaw: When Westerns Got Weird

    July 29, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Kid Colt Outlaw Vol 1 100.jpgUntil I took the time to research the entirety of Marvel titles from 1961, I would have given DC credit for inventing the “weird western” genre in the early 1970s with characters like Jonah Hex and the Scalphunter. I now think that honor should go to Stan Lee, Jack Keller and Jack Kirby for several stories and covers produced between 1960 and 1962.

    Kid Colt was no stranger to the “apparently” weird. In a 1949 story entitled “Curse of the Chinese Idol” (Wild Western #7) Earnie Hart and Russ Heath spun a tale about an object that brings death to all who come in contact with it. Kid Colt investigates and exposes it as a hoax.

    This type of “explainable” weird western plot was also used by Lee and Keller in Kid Colt, Outlaw numbers 93, 100, and 102. Kirby (who was mostly penciling monsters at this time) provided the cover art.

    “The Ghost of Midnight Mountain” in Kid Colt, Outlaw #93 (1960) is resolved with the Kid exposing the “ghosts” as cloaked members of the Caleb gang. There is, however, a slight “wink” at the end as the gang appears to be frozen stiff by a real ghost.

    “When the Witch Doctor Strikes” was the cover story of Kid Colt, Outlaw #100 (1961).  The Kirby cover shows the Kid being forced down a gauntlet of crazed Indians only to face a devil-like Warloo. Warloo is soon exposed to be the work of a stage magician named Rack Morgan and a Comanche usurper called Black Feather.

    Kid Colt Outlaw Vol 1 102.jpg“The Ghost of Silver City” in Kid Colt, Outlaw #102 (1962) has the Kid once again exposing a fake ghost; this time it’s the outlaw Johnny Ringo who fakes his own death in a plot to frame the Kid for his murder.
    Kid Colt Outlaw Vol 1 107.jpg

    Finally, in Kid Colt, Outlaw #107 (1962) we see the true birth of the weird western as Lee, Keller and Kirby jump the shark with a tale called “The Giant Monster of Midnight Valley”.  This one has an honest-to-goodness monster from another planet! Kid Colt readers may have been too jaded to suspend their disbelief in ghosts, but green men from outer space were still within the realm of comic book reality, coming on the heels of a Skrull invasion in Fantastic Four #2.

    In “”The Giant Monster of Midnight Valley”, a gigantic telepathic and telekinetic alien creature is castaway in the old west after its spaceship crash-lands on Earth. The Kid encounters the alien and decides to help him return to his planet. When the posse chasing them tries to shoot the monster the Kid takes a bullet for him. Moved by Kid Colt’s sacrifice, the alien uses a special lotion to bring him back to life. Just as the posse is moving in, a rescue party from the alien’s planet arrives and takes him away, but not before erasing the events from the minds of the posse and the Kid.
    Now, the kicker: The alien is so impressed with the daring-do of Kid Colt, he can’t abide that the Kid’s fellow humans will never know about his brave act. So, nearly a century later,  the alien visits the office of a comic book writer named Stan Lee and gives him the story so he can tell it in the pages of Kid Colt, Outlaw.
     
    Update: Somehow, I neglected a June, 1961 issue of Kid Colt‘s sister title Rawhide Kid. I have no knowledge of what the story entails but the cover is definitely in the realm of weird western. Without further comment, here is the cover of The Rawhide Kid #22:
    Rawhide_Kid_Vol_1_22.jpg


  4. Atlas Monsters: Xemnu the Living Hulk

    July 28, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Ask any “true believer” in 1961 who the Hulk is and his answer wouldn’t have anything to do with gamma rays or purple shorts. Hulk was the cover name of a mind-controlling monster from Titan named Xemnu who first appeared in late 1960 and again in 1961 within the pages of the pre-Thor Journey Into Mystery (#62 & 66). Like the later  Hulk, Xemnu underwent an evolution of hues through the years; first a rust brown, then gray, and finally a snowy white which makes him resemble the abominable snowman from a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Despite his fur, he is apparently made out of metal.

    In his debut, Xemnu is one of several inmates on a prison planet until he escapes on a supply ship. The spacecraft runs out of fuel and he is forced to crash-land on Earth. There his unconscious body is found in a swamp by an electrician, Joe Harper. Sure that he can revive Xemnu by repairing his robot parts, Joe brings Xemnu’s body to his workshop. There he revives Xemnu through a process called electrolysis (I’m not making this up!). While recharging, Xemnu reveals that he is a convict and then uses his hypnosis rays to take control of Joe. After confirming that his hypnosis works on humans, Xemnu brings Joe out of his trance and reveals his plan to enthrall all humanity in order to build a new ship to take  him home. The force needed to launch the ship would cause a chain of geological events which would tear the Earth apart. Since Joe was the one who revived Xemnu, he is to be taken along and spared the fate of the rest of Earth. Xemnu enthralls the entire human race with his hypnosis rays, and has them design and construct a new spacecraft. Joe saves Earth by sabotaging the spacecraft. When Xemnu prepares to depart, two crossed wires cause a short-circuit which send him into a state of suspended animation. Harper then launches the spacecraft, sending Xemnu into orbit around the sun. Released from the effects of the hypnosis rays no one on Earth but Joe remembers that Xemnu once controlled the entire human race.

    In Journey Into Mystery #66 Xemnu awakes to find himself hurtling towards the sun.  He uses his telekinesis to bank shot an asteroid off the rocket changing its course back towards Earth. Once he arrives he sets about hypnotizing the residents of a small town to build a mass hypnotizing device. When the electrician, Joe Harper from the first story, cannot detect Xemnu’s rocket, he figures out the alien must be back on Earth and deduces his location from the blackout Xemnu has imposed on the town while his device is being built. When Joe confronts him, Xemnu pursues him to the top of an oil tower where he threatens to  ”hypnotize your atoms to fall apart”.  Joe outsmarts the metal furball once again by pulling out a mirror so Xemnu disintegrates himself.

    Something as minor a not having a body anymore didn’t keep Xemnu from returning in the pages of The Incredible Hulk, The Defenders and The Sensational She-Hulk.

    Sensational She-Hulk Vol 1 7.jpgIn the She-Hulk story entitled, “I Have No Mouth And I Am Mean!” Xemnu has taken to kidnapping pregnant women so he can take over the mailable minds of unborn children (apparently the whole enthralling thing gets harder with each appearance).  Even Xemnu must have smelled the stink on this latest plan and soon abandoned it for Plan B: Transform She-Hulk into The Bride of Xemnu! She-Hulk and her friends thwart this plan and decide to turn the defeated Xemnu over to a teddy bear loving alien called Big Enilwen who promises to ”hug him and hold him and love him forever!”
     
    You may remember how Fin Fang Foom had also become satiric fodder for the chuckleheads at Marvel. May the ghost of Jack Kirby haunt them forever…


  5. Music for Robots

    July 27, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Inside dozens of comic books in 1961 could be found the following advertisement:

    “Brand New – Created Just for You – the Most Amazing Half Hour on Record as FORREST J ACKERMAN himself time-travels to the 21st Century to bring back Music for Robots.  FJA talks to YOU for 18 minutes in a thrilling narration about RUR, Tobor, Gort, Robby…the automatons of Jules Verne, Edgar Allan Poe, Isaac Asimov, Leonardo da Vinci…the metalic Frankenstein…Hear weird vibrational multisonic effects, electronic melodies created for the ears of androids! ONLY $1.98″

    From all accounts the Ackerman narration on side one was the selling point of this LP. Side two is made up of a fifteen minute composition by a man named Frank Coe. I’m pretty sure this Frank Coe wasn’t the same one who rode with Billy the Kid in the 1880s, but there is the slight possibility that he was the same Frank Coe who is notable for being the first disgraced director of the IMF (for being “commie”, not “rapey”) in 1952.

    Have a listen to Coe’s Tone Tales of Tomorrow and then as an extra treat I offer the first song ever sung by a computer (the versatile IBM 7094).

     


     

     Daisy, Daisy
    Give me your answer do!
    I’m half crazy,
    All for the love of you!
    It won’t be a stylish marriage,
    I can’t afford a carriage
    But you’ll look sweet upon the seat
    Of a bicycle made for two.

     


  6. Atlas Monsters: Fin Fang Foom

    July 26, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    When Fin Fang Foom first appeared on comic stands in the late summer of 1961, not even the most enthusiastic fan of the speedo-sporting space dragon had any expectation that the character had much of a future beyond his first appearance in Strange Tales #89. ST-89.jpg

    In the cover story for that comic book, Fin Fang Foom was merely an ancient hibernating dragon  who is deliberately awakened from his slumber in a cave by an anti-communist Taiwanese man,  Chen Liuchow, whose homeland is under threat from the Red Chinese. Chen uses a special herb to awaken the dragon, and taunts Foom with the threat of another herb that will put him back to sleep. Chen goads Foom into chasing him, and leads him straight into the Communist invasion force, which Foom destroys. With the Red threat eliminated, Chen leads Fin Fang Foom back into his cave, where the sleep herb returns Foom to his hibernative state.

    Fin Fang Foom’s story would have to wait another 13 years to be continued  in Astonishing Tales #23 & 24 (1974).  In that story, Foom is again awakened by someone who needs the dragon to eliminate a threat, this time a giant stone monster called “It, the Living Colossus” (who, like Foom, made his debut and previous appearance in 1961). Foom and the Colossus eventually join forces to foil an invasion from the planet Stonus V. Foom swims home and goes back to sleep.

    Not until a long story appearing in Iron Man #261-275 (1991) do we learn Foom’s full back story.

    It is revealed in flashback that Foom is an alien being from Maklu IV in the Greater Magellanic Cloud. Foom and his fellow Makluans arrived on Earth in ancient China, intending to conquer the planet. Using their natural shapeshifting powers to mimic human form, the aliens infiltrate human society to study it before beginning their conquest. The ship’s navigator (Foom)  is the exception, and acting as a reserve is placed in a tomb in a state of hibernation

    The Makluan vessel is eventually found  by a supervillain, The Mandarin who steals ten sophisticated rings from it. The Mandarin was guided to the cave in the  Valley of the Sleeping Dragon by a man called Chen Hsu, who is also an alien dragon and the captain of the vessel. The Mandarin finds and wakes Fin Fang Foom, using the dragon to threaten the Chinese government. Foom helps the Mandarin take control of one-third of China. With “Chen Hsu”, whose true form is also revealed, the pair begin to summon their fellows, who had been disguised as humans for centuries. Realizing he has been tricked, the Mandarin joins forces with the heroes Iron Man and War Machine to defeat the dragons.

    Foom would make further appearances in the pages of Iron Man until apparently being exiled to Monster Isle by The Fantastic Four. After a five-year legal battle, Fin Fang Foom and three other Atlas age monsters are granted release from Monster Isle. Foom decides to reform and becomes a Buddhist.  He enters a rehabilitation program with the other monsters,  the robot Elektro; the giant ape Gorgilla, and the alien Googam. Foom is shrunk down to human size, hypnotically stripped of all his powers and allowed to enter human society. Foom becomes the  head chef at a Chinese restaurant in the Baxter Building, taking time out to team up with the other monsters to defeat the size-changing warlord Tim Boo Ba. Foom also helps Doctor Strange’s servant, Wong to defeat a bunch of Hydra agents.

    And you thought Fin Fang Foom was silly in 1961…


  7. Atlas Monsters: Stan & Jack before the Four

    July 25, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    I think most comic book aficionados would agree that 1961 was THE landmark year for Marvel comics . The end of that year saw the publication of Fantastic Four #1 and thus the creation of a vast mythology we know today as the Marvel Universe. Be assured that when the 50th anniversary of that event comes around later this year, I will be writing about it. In the meantime, it might be interesting to explore what the Marvel landscape looked like before the return of the superheroes changed it forever.

    The situation was pretty grim at Marvel fifty years ago. Because the sole distributer of comic books at the time was a sister  company of DC comics, Marvel was limited to less than a dozen titles a month. The comic book company (which had changed its name from Atlas to “MC” in June 1961) pretty much consisted of one full-time employee (editor Stan Lee) and an assortment of work-at-home freelancers that would eventually (and ridiculously) be referred to as the “Marvel Bullpen”. The king of the bullpen was, of course, Jack Kirby who, by 1958, had burned so many bridges in the industry that he had little choice but to work for his one time assistant Stan Lee. Seemingly forgotten was his heyday as co-creator of Captain America and the entire genre of romance comics. In addition to Kirby, the bullpen included freelance artists, Don Heck, Paul Reinman, Joe Sinnott, Dick Ayers, and Steve Ditko.  Helping Lee with the writing chores was his brother, Larry Lieber, although much of the actual writing was done by the artists themselves. 

    Of the 10 MC titles with a cover date of July, 1961, two were romance books, two were westerns, one was Millie the Model (guest-starring Patsy Walker), and five – fully one half – were monster books!

    We begin an entire week dedicated to a roll call of Atlas monsters with those five comic books that appeared that month in the summer of 1961:Amazing Adventures Vol 1 2.jpg

    Manoo, The Thing that hid on Earth made his first appearance in Amazing Adventure #2. An 8 foot tall alien who could change his form at will, Manoo was a cop from another planet searching for an alien  fugitive on Earth.

     The fugitive has convinced young Billy Jones that Manoo is the actual criminal and gives Billy a ray gun to bring Manoo to heel. Billy searches high and low for Manoo with the knowledge that even when disguised as a human, Manoo casts no shadow. When  he fianlly discovers Manoo in a movie theater, Billy finds that he is unable to gun down the alien in cold blood. Manoo explains to Billy that he has been tricked. Billy and Manoo come up with a plan to take the actual fugitive alien into custody. They return to the fugitive’s crashed ship, pretending that Manoo is Billy’s prisoner. The fugitive attacks the boy for not killing Manoo who then engages the fugitive in battle. Billy can’t tell the aliens apart and can’t decide who to shoot with the ray gun until one of the fugitive grabs him and threatens to kill him unless Manoo gives up. Billy escapes by grabbing a tree branch and Manoo subdues the fugitive. Before leaving Earth with his prisoner, Manoo rewards Billy with a giant gemstone, making him one of the wealthiest men on Earth.

     Written by Larry Lieber – Pencils by Jack Kirby – Inked by Dick Ayers

     

    Strange Tales Vol 1 86.jpgMechano made the cover of Strange Tales #86.

    In the story, I Who Created Mechano, an old man and a boy  put together a robot for a fair.  After an atomic accident, the robot begins moving under its own power. Meanwhile, aliens are invading earth. The robot’s creators, Mister Hopkins and Tommy, use an electromagnet as bait to lure their creation to a forest where it defeats the invading aliens

    Written by Stan Lee - Pencils by Jack Kirby – Inked by Dick Ayers

     

     

     

     

     

     
    Journey into Mystery Vol 1 70.jpg
    The Sandman from Journey into Mystery #70′s The Sandman Cometh isn’t likely to be confused with Spider-Man’s future foe.

    An ex-marine takes his “pansy” son and wife out to Mexico to toughen the boy up. They explore a cave and find a sealed door that once opened, releases an alien creature made of sand that desires world conquest. The man tries fighting it, but his blows merely scatter sand which reforms. The creature shapes itself so that it appears human and all of them return to the United States. As the creature observes humans, a military parade passes by, and the man attempts to attract the soldier’s attention to attack the creature. They do so, but have no better luck than the man himself. Grenades, tanks, and bombs merely disperse the sand which reforms by willpower. The creature heads towards the beach where it intends to grow, but the man’s son becomes the hero of the story by defeating the creature with a pail of water

    Written by Stan Lee - Pencils by Jack Kirby – Inked by Dick Ayers

     

    Tales of Suspense Vol 1 19.jpg

     The Green Thing appeared on the cover of Tales of Suspense #19.

    A botanist has a theory that even plants have intelligence and so he develops a serum to increase it. He travels to an island looking for a rare highly-developed plant, but can’t find one, and so he injects the serum into a simple weed. Not only does the serum work, giving the plant reasoning capability, but it increases its height and strength as well. The weed harbors plans of conquest, and so to prevent the plant from reaching the mainland, the botanist destroys the motor from his boat. The weed declares that his life is forfeit and so he runs off to hide in a cave, where he finds a member of the plant he was originally seeking. He injects the serum into it, and the weed offers to ally with it in the conquest of mankind, but the highly developed plant refuses and destroys the weed. He admonishes the botanist to give up his experiments and fashions two oars for his boat so that he can return to the mainland alone.

    Written by Stan Lee - Pencils by Jack Kirby – Inked by Dick Ayers
     

    Tales to Astonish Vol 1 21.jpg
    Trull, the Inhuman (not to be confused with Blackbolt, Medusa, et al) made the cover of Tales to Astonish #21.
     
    The mental essence of an alien bent on global conquest takes over a steam shovel and…Okay. This one is simply a rip-off of the Theodore Sturgeon story Killdozer. We’ll still give Stan the writing credit because the hero who finally defeats the evil alien steam shovel is an elephant. ‘Nuff said!
     

    Written by Stan Lee - Pencils by Jack Kirby – Inked by Dick Ayers

    TUNE IN ALL THIS WEEK FOR MORE ATLAS MONSTERS!


  8. Sin in Space

    July 24, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Long ago when I first discovered the wonderful world of Golden Age science fiction through several anthologies edited by Groff Conklin, I became a big fan of Cyril Kornbluth. I quickly exhausted every story and novel he had written before his death in 1958, including his collaborations with Judith Merril under the pen name Cyril Judd. Or so I thought until perusing online galleries of paperbacks from 1961.

    The little gem of a cover to the right had evaded me, if not the story inside. The story inside was previously published as Outpost Mars in 1952 and serialized the year before as Mars Child in the science fiction magazine Galaxy. Sin in Space (1961) was the last of a series of science fiction novels published by Beacon Books starting in 1959.

    Beacon Books was mostly known for their sleazy sexploitive pocket-sized paperbacks with titillating cover art and taglines (“For a dame like this I’d sell out to Satan – but the devil was ahead of me in line!“)  How Beacon got into the business of  publishing science fiction is fairly straight forward, although the “why” of it is rather baffling. Galaxy magazine published a series of 35 science fiction novels gleaned from their serials as a giveaway for those who bought their magazine. When they were done, they sold the rights to Beacon. Someone at Beacon must have asked, “What the Hell are we going to do with these?  We sell soft-core porn, not rocket stories!”

    The answer was to spice up the titles, cover art, and (as a few readers have claimed) the stories themselves. The cover blurbs were also tailored to appeal to a certain demographic beyond the typical science fiction fan (“On a world older than time, built upon dope and vice, this was…SIN IN SPACE”) I haven’t gotten my hands on one of these treasures so I can’t comment on any changes to the actual  prose. Having read many of the original stories, I can tell you there is  little in them to specifically recommend to a fan of sleaze (Not making any judgements here; I’m a fan of sleaze, myself.)

    I’ve managed to track down the cover images to a few more of these Beacon paperbacks and I present them now for your edification, education and titillation:

    [odd_john.jpg]

     

    Odd John (1959)   retained its original title from the 1952 Galaxy novel by Olaf Stapledon  but  the cover art and tagline are new.

    “He had to be stopped, for all women were his playthings and all men his pawns.”

        

     

     

     

     

     

    [the_deviates.jpg]

     

    The Deviates  (1959) was the Beacon title for Raymond F. Jones’ 1952 Galaxy novel, The Secret People.

    “One man alone had any woman – every woman – in his power!”

     

     

     

     

     

     

    [pagan_passions.jpg]

     

    Pagan Passions (1959)  is a bit of a mystery to me since no Randall Garrett bibliography I’ve seen shows any collaboration with Larry Harris (Laurence M. Janifer) until 1962.  Perhaps “adult Science Fiction at it’s best” wasn’t something you wanted on your resume in the early Sixties.

    “Forced to make love to beautiful women!”

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    [vergin_planet.jpg]

     

    Virgin Planet (1960) by Poul Anderson retained its original title. Why would you change it?

    “A world of beautiful women – and one man!”

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     The Sex War (1960) was originally titled The White Widows when it was  published in Startling Stories and expanded into a novel by Galaxy  in 1953.

    “The silent war had just one aim – To wipe out all sex on Earth!”

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    [a_woman_a_day.jpg]

     

    A Woman a Day (1960) by Philip José Farmer had several different titles before Beacon got hold of it: Moth and Rust, The Day of Timestop and Timestop.

    “He defied the 25th Century with a woman who was NOT HIS WIFE – and a wife who was NOT A WOMAN!”

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    [the_mating_cry.jpg]

     

    The Mating Cry (1960) by A.E. van Vogt was originally titled The House that Stood Still and would see a post-Beacon printing under the title The Undercover Aliens.

    “I have come to pay my debt – In a way I discovered men prefer.”

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    [the_male_response.jpg]

     

    The Male Response (1961) claims to be an original Beacon novel by science fiction writer Brian Aldiss . Who am I to argue?

    “Every Woman in the city was his.”


  9. A Good Year for Jules Verne

    July 23, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Remember back in the ’80s when Stephen King would have half a dozen new titles on bookstore shelves and 2 or 3 films in movie theaters based on his stories? Now, imagine that he’s been dead for 50 years. Do you think there will be twice that many Stephen King books on the shelves and 4 or 5 current films based on his stories? How about Stephen King comic books in the late 21st Century? Maybe he will, but I write about 1961, not 2061 (No, I’m not implying that  Stephen King is going to die this year!)

    By my reckoning, 1961 saw the release of no less than four motion pictures based on Jules Verne stories!

    Master of the World, starring Vincent Price and Charles Bronson was based on two Verne novels, Robur the Conqueror and Master of the World.  At first glance, the production values are pretty impressive for cheapo studio American International Pictures (AIP). This is partly due to the use of superior stock footage  behind the airship, Albatross.

     File:Master of the world poster.jpgFile:Mysterious Island.jpg

    Mysterious Island  was a bit more prestigious; having on board the special effects great Ray Harryhausen (who was also one of the producers).  The cast isn’t as readily recognizable as that in Master of the World - we have to settle for Inspector Clouseau’s boss (Herbert Lom) as Nemo doing his best  James Mason impersonation. But who needs a star when you have a giant crab?

    Valley of the Dragons was based on Verne’s Off on a Comet which was about a group of people swept from the Earth by a comet and having to learn to live together. Valley of the Dragons shaved the comet travelers down to two rivals (a Frenchman and an Irishman). On the comet, they encounter cave people and dinosaurs, which allows the director to splice in substantial chunks of stock footage from One Million B.C (1940). The film ends with the two leads becoming pals and shacking up with some cave-babes until the comet revisits Earth seven years hence. I have no idea what “Monstascope” is. If you do, please let me know.

    Triomphe de Michel Strogoff was a French/Italian production based on one of Jules Verne’s non-fantasy/SF tales so I won’t spend too much time on it except to note that it stars a future 007 villain (Curt Jurgens) and Peter Seller’s costar from The Pink Panther and What’s New Pussycat (Capucine).

     

    AIP’s Off on a Comet may not have actually been made for all I can tell. The only evidence of its existence (that I know of) is a contest announced on the back of Charlton comic books in 1961. Perhaps the project was canceled when Valley of the Dragons(based on the same story) came out.  I welcome any additional information on this mystery film.

    It’s worth noting that Jules Verne also had a banner year in comic book adaptations; something I may address in a future post.


  10. And the Next Day 147 People were Hit by Buses

    July 22, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Thanks to Google for this wonderful photo archive from LIFE magazine, 1961:

     Hollywood Audition for a Black Cat

       

    There isn’t any text available in the archive but it’s fairly obvious that this was some sort of publicity stunt staged by the producers of the 1962 Roger Corman Horror trilogy Tales of Terror (one of the tales is Poe’s The Black Cat). You have to admire the gumption of the lady who brought a white cat to the audition. It’s great that they were able to rope the film’s stars Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, and Joyce Jameson into the event.