Friday, February 25, 2022

THE SHADOWED CIRCLE (Issue #2)

Fanzines have been around for decades and while a large number of them from the 1970s and 1980s are collected these days for historical value, due to their content, the recent addition to the hobby is THE SHADOWED CIRCLE, a fanzine devoted to all things related to the vigilante of pulp fiction and old-time radio.

The first issue was released a few months ago and being a fan of the property, naturally I paid for a subscription. The second issue just arrived in the mail this week and like the first issue it contains articles, profiles, artwork, reviews, and interviews about the pulp-radio-comic book character known as The Shadow.


Reprinting the Table of Contents so you can see what all is included in this issue:

  • Staff, Contributors, & Corrections
  • Editorial: It Takes A Village To Grow A Pulp Journal - Steve Donoso
  • Stories of World History and The Shadow, Part 1 - 1941: Hitler’s Astrologer - Malcolm Deeley looks at how The Shadow was sometimes skillfully blended into world events.
  • Shadow Play - Will Murray reflects on the process and surprises that he and Anthony Tollin experienced in pairing Shadow novels for the Nostalgia Ventures/Sanctum Books Shadow novel reprints. 
  • The Shadow’s New York - Steve Donoso collaborates with the work of noted 20th century photographer Berenice Abbott to create a photo and text essay of New York in the 1930s during The Shadow’s time. 
  • Casting A Long Shadow: The Dark Avenger in Military Heraldry - Tim King discovers Shadowy imagery in the Military and Intelligence Services.
  • Book Review: Will Murray’s Master of Mystery: The Rise of The Shadow - Steve Donoso reviews Will Murray’s recent and fascinating non-fiction volume of Shadow essays and interviews.
  • Comments & Letters
  • The Shadow Laffs - John Sies offers another Shadowed Circle Cartoon.
  • The Shadow: Mysterious Being of the Night - The Pulp Years, Part 1 - Todd Severin and Keith Holt detail the history of The Shadow’s pulp years.
  • The Shadow and The Explorers Club - Juli├ín Puga proposes that The Shadow may very well have been a member of The Explorers Club.

The most fascinating article in the latest issue is Steve Donoso's view of what New York City looked like in the 1930s during the time period these Shadow pulp adventures took place. 

If you are a fan of THE SHADOW, click the link below and buy issue #1 and #2 today. 


Friday, February 11, 2022

TRY AND GET ME! (1950) Movie Review

In what might be one of the most brutal sequences in film noir history, the prison assault at the end of The Sound of Fury remains unforgettable, decades after its theatrical release in 1950. The source subject, the 1933 Brooke Hart incident in San Jose, was also covered in Fritz Lang’s film, Fury, in 1936 with Spencer Tracy in the lead. The film would later be re-titled and re-issued as Try and Get Me, now available commercially on DVD.
 
The unemployed Howard Tyler (played by Frank Lovejoy) is desperate for a job since he is married with a wife and son, and his wife reveals she is pregnant. When he meets the "bon vivant" Jerry Slocum (played by Lloyd Bridges), the stranger offers Howard a job. It does not take long for Howard to discover Jerry is a small-time thief, robbing convenience stores, and his job would be to drive the getaway car after the heist. For a few weeks, crime does pay and Howard improves the life of his family with his new found fortune. He fibs to his wife about working the night shift at a factory.
 
Meanwhile, a journalist named Gil Stanton (played by Richard Carlson) works for a newspaper and through strong insistence of his boss, the editor-in-chief, Stanton is asked to cover the rash of crimes in his daily column. But, as the editor discovered fear and anger sells more newspapers, he encourages his employee to write “editorials” which, even in a journalistic field is the equivalent to “news commentary.” Profits grow for the newspaper, as does circulation numbers.
 
When Jerry kidnaps the son of a millionaire, he brutally kills the man and forces Howard to help him to dump the corpse in the sea. Jerry even writes a ransom note to the family. When the body is found, Stanton incites the population in his columns citing the abductors are “monsters.” Howard breaks down, due to too much alcohol, and is promptly apprehended – as is Jerry. While Howard and Jerry remain behind bars to face a courtroom, Stanton’s editorials suggest the men will get away with murder and walk away free – demanding justice. This prompts the town citizens to protest in the streets, breaking down the doors to the local precinct, killing police, stealing guns and brutally murdering Howard and Jerry.
 
Mob violence provided the springboard for this shocking but gripping account of mass hysteria not as a result of the crime spree, but the news media that was designed to incite and infuriate their readers.
 
Frank Lovejoy (left) and Lloyd Bridges (right)

Cy Endfield and Jo Pagano wrote the screenplay, adapted from Pagano’s novel, The Condemned. For mystery buffs, Pagano is not an unknown name. For film buffs, the movie provides a number of treats: filmed on location the Phoenix area, an early screen appearance by Yvette Vickers, and the film debut of Joe E. Ross performing his popular nightclub act with Frank Lovejoy as the foiled audience member. The film had a rocky distribution and reportedly Martin Scorsese owned the only remaining 35mm print. Thanks to Scorsese, the film went through a major restoration and a new print was struck in 2013.
 
A few months ago my wife and I went to see The Forever Purge (2021), a dystopian horror movie about a battered nation that decides murder should be legal for twelve number of hours, with federal approval. The “purge,” however, was not for a limited time. Fueled by countless social media feed, dark web conspiracies and the news media spewing hatred about our next door neighbors and fellow Americans, the bloodshed never ends. The country burns to the ground and the final chapter in the history of the United States comes to a close. In a movie review I mentioned, sincerely, that The Forever Purge was the scariest film I have seen in a decade. Just a few months later, watching Try and Get Me (1950), I can now say I have seen the second scariest movie in the last decade.
 
Fans of film noir may want to catch this movie, even though the movie has no trademarks commonly found in film noir: femme fatales, plot twists, etc. The pace is a tad slow but it builds momentum. Having watched over 300 film noir classics in the last decade, I am now forced to decide whether this goes on my top ten film list of must-see film noir. If not, it certainly deserves honorable mention.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

KIMI (2022) Movie Review

Fans of SORRY, WRONG NUMBER (1948) may want to check out HBO Max this weekend, streaming a new movie directed by Steven Soderbergh. KIMI stars the talented Zoe Kravitz (who is also bound to make a splash as Catwoman in next month's THE BATMAN on the big screen) as a tech worker with agoraphobia who works remotely from her apartment and discovers recorded evidence of a violent crime. It is clear a murder was committed but when she attempts to inform her employer, she is met with resistance. Seeking justice, she must do the thing she fears the most: she must leave her apartment. 

Like the protagonist of the radio script and the 1948 motion-picture, she is disrespectful to everyone she knows and works with. In attempting to track down the source of the recording and the murder victim, she will ultimately be the next target of the murderer. 

David Koepp, who is presently working on the screenplay for the new Green Hornet movie, wrote this screenplay as well as co-produced. He is a talented writer who was clearly inspired by such classics as Rear Window (1954), and it shows perfectly here.


The film is a tour de force for Zoe Kravitz, who is almost every scene of the movie. The director made sure to capture her facial emotion with various lenses and cameras during specific scenes. But even more noticeable was the music score which was customized for the movie, but a loving tribute to the Hitchcock scores of Bernard Herrmann.

If you ever wanted to know how the 1943 radio drama could possibly translate to a movie in today’s environment, this is that movie. 

Friday, February 4, 2022

PLAYS FOR BRITAIN: The British Playhouse 90

Over the years I have become a greater fan of anthology series than I used to be. Today’s television programs, episodic in nature, are populated with anti-heroes like the soccer mom who sells dope to parents and students or the high school chemistry teacher who creates a demand for blue meth. Anthologies like Amazing Stories, Black Mirror and Playhouse 90 have always been favorites of mine, but I find while not every entry in a television anthology is a gem, one out of every four or five are so good it makes watching the other stories worth viewing. (Limited series, the new term for what we used to refer to as a mini-series, are also treasured.) In short, I simply found myself unable to continue watching these ongoing multi-season story arcs. While some like Gotham are of amusement simply for the comic book nature, they are still considered primetime soap operas.

 

For those who cannot get enough of Playhouse 90, I would like to introduce you to a hard-hitting program that aired in England from April to May of 1976. The program is title Plays for Britain and the six hour-long episodes are both compelling and provocative. In “Paradise Run,” Johnny joined the Army because he liked canoeing. Now he finds himself in the middle of a strife-torn city and discovers other qualities are necessary to survive. In “The Lifeswappers,” things have gotten so bad for Trevor – rotten job, bitchy wife – he decides to answer a “life-swapping” ad in the local paper. But this science-fiction tale literally means swapping bodies and identities – Princess Anne? Linda Lovelace? Who knows where it could this darkly-comic take would end?

 

In the episode “Sunshine in Brixton,” 16-year-old Otis loathes school. He wants to be a professional footballer, but is good at drawing, so his mother wants him to become a draftsman. When, a new sports teacher appears at his South London comprehensive school, and life starts to look a little more hopeful… In “Fast Hands,” Jimmy is a talented young boxer. Every punch he throws is eagerly watched by his trainer and resented by his girlfriend. His parents, however, are not particularly interested – until a large car and what appears to be a handsome contract arrive at the door.

 


In “Hitting Town,” Ralph decides to give his sister Clare a night on the town to cheer her up. They visit a burger bar and a disco in a modern precinct, and Clare gets slightly drunk. At the end of the evening, they both end up at Clare’s flat. The intense portrayal of siblings who find refuge from their bleak lives in one incestuous night is one to spawn controversy. In “Shuttlecock,” Sam likes his children to be grown-up chaps. So nine-year-old Harry is at a disadvantage in the battle of wits that develops.

 

The entire series is now available commercially on DVD, in PAL format from England. I watched one episode per night for the past week and while not every episode is a gem, there were at least two that I found to be fantastic stories. Basically this is a British version of Playhouse 90, with each episode meant to strike a nerve and spawn discussion and controversy. Rekindling my love for anthology programs is the biggest compliment I could give this series, worth watching if you love British television.