Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Monster Invasion hits Norway

In the quickly shifting dynamics of world politics a little-noticed box of 1960s monsters and soldiers spilled out a surprise invasion force today. A lone viking looks ill suited to thwart the fearsome onslaught, captured here on a verandah in the small hamlet of Herre, Norway. Worrisome is the apparent loss of the viking's sword. At closer inspection, however, the monsters seem to suffer from a variety of disabilities also.
The wolf man, for instance, looks to be lacking fingers. An eye witness recalls that boys probably burned the blue monster in the early 1970s, over-zealous in their playing with matches and firecrackers. The orange Creature, too, seems to be suffering from never-drying motor oil, despite having been kept in a dry closet for decades. Soviet soldiers dance like Cossacks, intent on muddying the message.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Alexander Haig

Alexander Haig (1924-2010) appeared in my mind recently, due to the discussion in the media about the 40th anniversary of Nixon's resignation.  He was chief of staff under Nixon/Ford, and later Secretary of State under Reagan. He was not fresh in my mind-- I only recalled his coup d'etat-sounding "I'm in control now" quote, after Reagan's 1981 almost-assasination.

So long had it been since I'd thought about him, it was in my mind's eye that he was blended with the face of equally dour and grim Henry Fonda in Leone's Once upon a Time in the West. 

I had to google him, finding that he had died not terribly long ago. I wouldn't have been surprised if he had been still alive, Kissinger-like. He certainly looked every bit a general.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Anatoly Dneprov

Last week I bought a pile of good old mid 1960s sic-fi paperbacks. Among the summer reading gems is  an anthology of Soviet SF, in which I encountered a (for me) unknown writer, Anatoly Dneprov (1919-75)
His tale The Purple Mummy is uncanny. He's writing in the early 60s probably, in the Soviet Union no less, about stuff that is in the air today. The first part of the story is Zamyatin-ish, full of par-for-course lucid utopian city infrastructure. But soon, disquietingly, he discusses machines that we are trying to build now, 3-D printers, making plastic facsimiles of objects gleaned from digital transmissions. Good god, these things are still on their baby steps 50 years later!

If that weren't enough, he's discussing the diagnoses of cancer through these 3D imaging--what the!
That he wrote this when and where he did it, is as uncanny as the story itself. Here I was, sitting under the apple tree, thinking I would encounter some good old future nostalgia, and I get my socks blown off.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Poor Old Leo G. Carroll

Poor old Leo G. Carroll, I remember my mother saying.  She mentioned this when I talked about the classic 1955 horror movie, Tarantula.  I had just seen a bit of it during an exciting film extravaganza in the gymnasium of my school in Pocatello Idaho, 1972. (I reckon it was an 8 mm silent, but an amazing thing for a second grader in that innocent era, long before VCR, cable TV, etc.)

The little snippet of a memory I have of my mother saying poor old Leo G. Carroll has stuck in my mind all these years because, perhaps even as a young boy, I thought it an unusual remark. He was an actor in the film, playing a man with a horrifying disfigurement--it wasn't a documentary.

All these years later, having seen the film again ( and loving it just as much), I have a clue as to the context of my mom's remark.  I have just read on Wikipedia that he died in 1972 (living to a ripe age of 85.) It could well be that mom had read his obituary recently in the paper, and this flavoured her memory of him.

In any case his role is stunning in the film. His metamorphosis from a crotchety geezer into a gruesomely distorted, asymmetrical acromegelic is scary. I love the scene when he is lecturing his young graduate student intern, who notices something odd in his face. The make-up job is subtle, the success of the scene due more to the actor's qualities.

The whole film is good, one of the very best of the big bug movies. This is largely due to the human interest of a parallel, human monster. The big spider in the desert is excellent, shucking cattle and humans like the best cattle mutilation theories, but the strange tragedy that befalls the the scientist is equally compelling.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Al Feldstein

Al Feldstein, last of the E.C. Giants, has fallen

Earlier this year I had the pleasure to pore over a recently published book, Feldstein by Grant Geissman It's a monograph of the master artist, writer  and editor, a book with the perfect ratio of mouth-watering art and well-researched biographical info.

The young Al Feldstein (right) with publisher William Gaines during their E.C. years (early 1950s)

Part of the pleasure of the book was the awesome feeling of  I'm reading about this genius in the year 2014, and THE GUY IS ACTUALLY STILL ALIVE! All the other titans of the era are gone, often decades gone. I'm glad that I was able to read the book with this feeling, which suddenly ended yesterday, when I turned the pages of the NY Times,  to find his obituary starring at me. At least the article is a substantial one.

 Feldstein was the editor of Mad Magazine during its most influential years. South Park, The Onion, The Simpsons-- almost any type of humour we know of now owes itself to the Mad mentality. Mad was a collaborative effort, but Feldstein propelled it into its huge circulation, which influenced at least one generation directly, and indirectly influences us all henceforth.

As Mad editor Al Feldstein has wide cultural significance, and all the world needs to acknowledge his import. But for the more narrow group of comic book geeks (of which I am certainly a member) he will  also be remembered as a founding member of E.C. comics, the high watermark of the art form.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lee Marvin

Point Blank Color
25x25 oil 2014

Lee Marvin (1924-87)… Point Blank is a film that hypnotises me every time it is on. This little painting just happened when I was making a color wheel the other day. No spoilers here, but the film is circular.  Walker, a target… The walking sequence… 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Lee Van Cleef

On my favourite podcast,, I just heard that Grindhouse has released a deluxe, extra-laden disc of the The Big Gundown, one of the greatest films that Lee Van Cleef ever starred in. What better time for me to display my recent Van Cleef ceramic sculpture (with hat it becomes a kind of jar.)

Whether Lee Van Cleef remains in our memory as the stoic bounty hunter in the Leone westerns, or the more surprisingly faceted gunman in Sollima's Big Gundown, we must concur-- the actor had a face made for the spaghetti western genre. Or maybe it's the other way around…perhaps the genre was made by his face!

His hawk nose embodied a hunter. His steely squint…pity the prey on the receiving end!  He was a sculpture in flesh and bone, topped off with sweat beads.

Yet, unlike certain actors, who are at best when silent, the guy could act with words. They matched his looks, sometimes wry, sometimes reptilian. He could handle horses too, important for a western actor.

His presence is indelible, making him one of those actors who hasn't seemed to have died so long ago. But he has been gone nearly a quarter century, dying in 1989.