Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Caroline Munro Archive: Manikin Cigars Calendar

by John Scoleri

I'm back again with yet another rarity from my Caroline Munro collection, a continuing series here on bare•bones. As we're celebrating Caroline's Birthday this week (January 16th), we'll consider this a special Birthday installment!

One of the many ad campaigns Caroline Munro worked on in the early 70s was for Manikin Cigars. My friend and fellow collector Holger Haase was the first to upload a copy of the Manikin Cigar commercial 10 years ago, and since then a slightly longer, higher quality version has surfaced:

Most fans know that Caroline appeared in several Lamb's Navy Rum calendars throughout her 10-year tenure with the brand, but until recently, I was unaware that she also made an appearance on a calendar for Manikin Cigars (circa 1970-71). I was pleased to add this particular rarity to my collection, as it contains three great images of Caroline tied to the commercial shoot above.

Fans may also recognize this shoot as the source of two unauthorized topless photos of Caroline that have been circulating for many years (after first appearing in Japanese publications). Out of respect for Caroline, you won't find those here, but I assume her devout fans are already be familiar with the images in question.

If you have any information about further Manikin campaigns featuring Caroline (be it print, commercial or calendars), please leave a comment below!

Watch for more Caroline Munro rarities here on bare•bones, and be sure to check out the prior entries in this series!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Hitchcock Project-Francis and Marian Cockrell Part Eleven: The West Warlock Time Capsule [2.35]

by Jack Seabrook

Business is good at the Tiffany Studio of Creative Taxidermy, where George Tiffany stuffs animal heads for hunters and enjoys the company of Charlie, a boy who hopes to be his apprentice when he grows up. George's latest project is to prepare a full-sized model of Napoleon, the beloved nag who gave local children rides in the park for 22 years. Modern taxidermy techniques do not require George to use Napoleon's actual skeleton, however--he uses the late horse's skull and skin and makes a wooden frame for the body. Inside this wooden frame he will place "The West Warlock Time Capsule," a large, metal cylinder that will contain examples of what life was like in the little town of West Warlock in 1957. Townsfolk will open it in 100 years and be amazed at what life was like so long ago.

George and his wife Louise live a comfortable life in an apartment upstairs from his taxidermy shop; they both look happy in cardigan sweaters as he relaxes in his Morris Chair while she sits knitting on the sofa. "Into each life some rain must fall," as Longfellow wrote, and a violent storm outside is a harbinger of the arrival of Louise's "little brother Waldren," whom she has not seen in 25 years and who arrives with no suitcase but with a bad cough and a healthy sense of entitlement. He takes over George's favorite chair and quickly makes life miserable for the taxidermist and his spouse with his demands for constant pampering.

Henry Jones as George
As work progresses on Napoleon, George's patience with Waldren wears thin; he suggests to Louise that it's time to tell Waldren to get a job, but she won't hear of it. One day, George arrives home to find Waldren resting comfortably in his chair and Louise passed out from exhaustion on the kitchen floor. The doctor tells George that he must "get rid of" Waldren to preserve Louise's health, but when George tries to talk to Waldren, his uninvited guest refuses to listen. George has an idea and asks Waldren "about how tall are you?" He types a letter to Louise from Waldren, writing that he has left for warmer climes in Mexico, then goes down to his shop and removes the time capsule from Napoleon's abdomen.

George waits in his shop until Waldren ventures downstairs, seeking food. George gives Waldren a large bottle of formaldehyde and a syringe to hold, then takes a large hammer and aims it the back of the man's head. The next thing we see is the unusually heavy stuffed horse being loaded onto the back of a truck. Musical cues (a few bars of Chopin's Funeral March) tell us that Waldren's body has replaced the time capsule inside Napoleon and this scene is followed by a town meeting, where the mayor thanks George for creating the "priceless memorial" and remarks that the town of West Warlock will be in "the national limelight" when the time capsule is opened in a century.

Mildred Dunnock as Louise
Marian Cockrell's teleplay for "The West Warlock Time Capsule" is a delightfully humorous treatment of family dysfunction and murder. As in "Conversation Over a Corpse," violent death occurs off screen but the bloody details are ignored in favor of clever wordplay and the killer succeeds in getting away with the crime. The show opens with a shot of the window of George's shop, with the words "The Tiffany Studio of Creative Taxidermy" stenciled on the glass. The events of this episode demonstrate just how creative George can be, since he manages to find a way to dispose of an unwanted guest without arousing suspicion. The name Tiffany is used ironically, since the image of the lavish, expensive New York City jewelry store contrasts with the reality of the homey, small-town taxidermist.

Equally ironic is the fact that the old nag who gave children rides in the town park for decades is named Napoleon, after the great French general. Cockrell educates the viewer very early in the show by having George explain that wooden frames are now used rather than the animal's skeleton; this also serves to provide support for the overweight corpse of Waldren. A subtle comparison is made between the horse, which is said to have given rides for about a quarter century, and Waldren, whom Louise has not seen for the same amount of time. The two characters are linked early on and will spend the next 100 years together in the park, unbeknownst to the people of West Warlock.

Sam Buffington as Waldren
Cockrell uses foreshadowing when Charlie, the boy who likes to hang around George's shop, comments that when he becomes the taxidermist's apprentice, he'll put "a surprise in every job." By placing Waldren's body inside Napoleon, George follows the boy's advice! In the same scene, Charlie sees Waldren walk by the shop and asks George if all his brother-in-law ever does is "sit in the park." In a sense, George will ensure that that is all Waldren will ever do. Later, after Louise collapses, the doctor tells George he'll have to "get rid of" Waldren, advice that George proceeds to take. Cockrell has all of the messy details of Waldren's murder occur off screen and they are never referred to. We see George reach for the hammer and then there is a dissolve to the horse being loaded on the truck. George must have bashed Waldren's skull in with the heavy tool, then cleaned up the blood. Presumably, he used the formaldehyde to preserve Waldren's body so that it would not smell and attract attention once the horse was placed in the park. Cockrell's work here is wonderfully subtle and delightfully horrible.

In the final scene, the dialogue is perfect, as the characters say one thing and we know that George means another. Louise says that Waldren is "better off though where he is"; she thinks he's in Mexico but George knows he's in the horse. The mayor's comment about the reaction in 100 years is also more accurate than he knows--surely the town will make the news when a corpse is found inside the nag instead of a time capsule! After all, while time capsules were often full of junk that did not really depict how people lived, the body of overweight, lazy Waldren may provide a far more accurate depiction of life in small-town America in 1957.

A strong script needs good actors to bring it to life on screen, and "The West Warlock Times Capsule" features three fine performers in the lead roles. Henry Jones (1912-1999) is perfect as George, his laconic drawl exhibiting just the right amount of frustration with his wife's no-good brother. Jones won a Tony Award for his 1958 role in "Sunrise at Campobello" and was a fixture in character roles in film and on TV from 1943 to 1995. He was on countless shows, including The Twilight Zone, Thriller, Night Gallery, and The Night Stalker, and he appeared on the Hitchcock show six times, including "De Mortuis." He was also in Hitchcock's classic, Vertigo (1958).

Mildred Dunnock (1901-1991) plays his wife, Louise; she was a founding member of the Actors Studio and originated the role of Linda Loman in Arthur Miller's classic play, Death of a Salesman, on Broadway in 1949. Dunnock played many roles on screen from 1944 to 1992 and appeared in Hitchcock's "The Trouble with Harry" (1955). She was on the Hitchcock show four times, including "Heart of Gold," and she was also seen on Thriller. She and Henry Jones again played the married couple of the title in "William and Mary," a 1961 episode of Way Out that was based on a Roald Dahl short story.

Bobby Clark as Charlie
The lazy, overweight brother-in-law named Waldren is played by Sam Buffington (1931-1960), an actor who made quite an impression on screen during a brief career that lasted from 1957 to 1960, when he killed himself at age 28. He was on Alfred Hitchcock Presents three times, including "A Night with the Boys."

Charlie, the boy who likes to hang out at the taxidermy shop, is played by child actor Bobby Clark (1944- ), who was on screen from 1949 to 1964 and who was also seen in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, "Santa Claus and the Tenth Avenue Kid." He also had a part in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).

"The West Warlock Time Capsule" is directed by Justus Addiss (1917-1979), whose work is competent but rarely remarkable. He worked mostly in TV from 1953 to 1968 and directed ten episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "The Night the World Ended." He also directed three episodes of The Twilight Zone.

Finally, the credits for "The West Warlock Time Capsule" say that the teleplay is based on a story by J.P. Cahn (1918/19-2004), but I have not been able to find a published story by the author that could have served as the basis for this show, so he probably wrote a treatment or a teleplay that Marian Cockrell then revised, as she did with Norman Daniels's teleplay for "Conversation over a Corpse." I found one story by Cahn listed in the FictionMags Index ("The Magic Guy," in a 1943 issue of Liberty) and one other listed at ("Sovereign Republic of Rough and Ready," in a 1960 issue of Coronet), but that's all, and IMDb only has one credit for him--this episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. A detailed obituary from the San Francisco Chronicle tells us that Cahn was born and lived in California, served in the Navy in WWII, and wrote for the Chronicle until the mid-'50s, when he supposedly quit to freelance for magazines and television. His most memorable work seems to have a been a six-part series in the paper in 1954 called "The Great Flying Saucer Bunco," in which he exposed a flying saucer scam. He died in obscurity in 2004.

"The West Warlock Time Capsule" aired on CBS on Sunday, May 26, 1957, and is available on DVD here or may be viewed online here.

The FictionMags Index,
Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. OTR Pub., 2001.
IMDb,, 6 Jan. 2018,
Taylor, Michael. “John P. Cahn--Ex-Chronicle Writer/He Later Freelanced for Magazines, TV's 'Hitchcock.'".” San Francisco Chronicle, 6 May 2004,,
“The West Warlock Time Capsule.” Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 2, episode 35, CBS, 26 May 1957.

Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 6 Jan. 2018,

In two weeks: Miss Paisley's Cat, starring Dorothy Stickney and Raymond Bailey!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Star Spangled DC War Stories Issue 121: December 1971 + The Best of 1971

The DC War Comics
by Corporals Enfantino and Seabrook

Weird War Tales 2

"Reef of No Return"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Mort Drucker
(Reprinted from Our Fighting Forces #43, March 1959)

"The Moon is the Murderer"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Frank Thorne

"A Promise to Joe!"
(Reprinted from G.I. Combat #97, January 1963)

"Monsieur Gravedigger"
Story by Jerry DeFuccio
Art by Reed Crandall

"The Face of a Fighter"
Story by Bill Finger
Art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito (Reprinted from Our Fighting Forces #25, September 1957)

Jack: A Navy frogman parachutes onto the "Reef of No Return" and manages to avoid enemy attack and blow up the reef. Mort Drucker's gorgeous art makes me wish he was still drawing serious stories for DC by 1971 and that we did not have to see his work only in reprints like this one from 1959.

"The Moon is the Murderer"
"The Moon is the Murderer" when an American soldier and a German soldier face off in No Man's Land during WWI trench warfare. Frank Thorne's work here is a bit sketchy for my taste but I applaud him and Bob Kanigher for telling a four-page story wordlessly.

Sergeant-Major Florimond-Loubet is known as "Monsieur Gravedigger" because he rides his troops so hard, but that tough training comes in handy when fighting Arabs in the desert. I have no idea what a Jerry DeFuccio/Reed Crandall collaboration is doing in a 1971 DC comic rather than a 1953 EC comic, but one thing I do know--I didn't follow this story at all. It jumps from base camp to desert to doctor's office and doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Crandall is not at his best but it's still good to see him at work.

"Reef of No Return"
A young American soldier in France in WWII develops "The Face of a Fighter" after he must battle his way back to base through enemy fire. There's not much of a story here and Andru and Esposito's art is particularly weak, even for them.

Rounding out the issue are a three-page introduction/frame story by Kubert that features a new host who has skin like an alligator and wears a hooded cloak. That makes two hosts in two issues. There's also a two-page "Behind the Cover" feature by Kubert that fleshes out the story hinted at on the cover, a two-page Glanzman feature about a particular type of rifle, and two final pages by Kubert to wrap up the intro with the hooded figure. Two issues in and Weird War Tales is a hodgepodge of reprints, filler, and linking material.

Reed Crandall's sole contribution
to WWT is a stunner!
Peter: "The Moon is the Murderer" is a word-free quickie devoid of anything resembling a "weird" angle and sporting a very crude Grandenetti-esque art job by newcomer Frank Thorne. With a rambling but intelligent script and striking art by Reed Crandall, "Monsieur Gravedigger" is the issue's standout. Though there's not much "weird" about it, it's certainly grim and dark with its implied mutilations and barbaric treatment of soldiers. Unfortunately, this is Crandall's only WWT work; with his EC and Warren history, he'd be a natural for this title.

Of the reprints, "Reef of No Return" is the best, a nail-biter concerning a frogman parachuting into a dangerous reef where the enemy seems to always be one step ahead of him. Drucker's art is fantastic and it's amazing that he's not more widely known for his war art (yes, I'm sure being a popular MAD artist may have something to do with that) despite the fact that he contributed art to over 60 stories in the DC war titles. By the way, interestingly enough, Weird War Tales includes one of those full-page prose stories that were so popular in the sixties. I assume that's because DC was trying to establish a second-class rate with the USPS for Weird War Tales and that was essential (at least in the early days) for gaining that privilege.

Our Fighting Forces 134

"The Real Losers!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by John Severin

"In Tsingtao"
Story and Art by Sam Glanzman

"Soldier's Grave"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Alex Toth

"Number One"
(Reprinted from Our Fighting Forces #90, February 1965)

Peter: After being ambushed by Krauts for the 600th time that day, Gunner has had enough and informs his fellow Losers that he quits and heads down the dirt road to find an embarkment boat. Sarge heads off to change his partner's mind but Gunner seems pretty set in his ways, refusing even to fire his gun when attacked several times along the way. Once they get to the embarkment, the boys are surrounded by wounded G.I.s. Yet another German attack changes Gunner's mind and he sees his place is here with the Losers. Hand in hand, Gunner and Sarge walk back to where their comrades are waiting, probably wondering why they've been left out of so many stories lately. Last issue's story seemed to signal an upswing in quality for this doormat of a series but Big Bob seems to have decided his energies are better focused in other areas. "The Real Losers!" are the readers. The whole script is one long road to the inevitable change of heart and that 180-degree turn is just as dopey as we'd expect.

Has the Sarge become an old softy?
At one point in the journey, Gunner becomes aware of a sniper in the tree but refuses to pull his gun, leaving Sarge open to a machine-gun tattooing, insisting he's done caring about what happens. But, once he witnesses the "horrors of war" down at the embankment, Gunner does a complete turnabout. The tone is completely different from the old Gunner + Sarge series as well, as if Big Bob had forgotten the dynamic that "made the series tick" (I put that in quotes because that old series never ticked). When Gunner makes his startling proclamation, Sarge looks almost defeated and sighs, "I talked him into stayin' with me . . . for the duration! If it wasn't for me--he wouldn't even be here!" The old Sarge would have thrown a pineapple at Gunner and told him to grow up. And what's with the Gunner and Sarge solo stories? I thought this was supposed to be something unique; a quasi-Justice League of G.I.s. That's not what we're getting. Severin's art, however, is just what we wanted. His visuals are so much more dynamic than what Andru and Esposito were delivering; just three installments in and Severin has made this his series.

Alex Toth's art highlights "Soldier's Grave," which focuses on Mullah, a poor beggar who joins up with the Egyptian army in order to earn enough shekels to feed his family. Mullah single-handedly fights off a regiment of Persians and dies with a jewel-handled blade in his chest but his commander swears Mullah's family will be taken care of. I find that Toth's work is best suited to black and white but it's very effective here in color. The story is also engaging, giving us a protagonist we can root for and an unpredicted climax. I'm not a big fan of the "ancient war" stories that pop up here and there but this one's a keeper. Sam Glanzman contributes another installment of the USS Stevens series with "In Tsingtao." This one concerns a quartet of sailors who sneak off the Stevens and head into a port in China, recently deserted by the Japanese, for some R'n'R but get mowed down by a crazed Japanese soldier instead.

It's tough to fairly synopsize and critique these vignettes as they really don't tell much more than a fragment of the story but, at the same time, they're effective and by no means a waste of paper. One thing I don't get from the pieces is that a whole story is being told; that is, if I were to read the collected USS Stevens volume, I'd still get a sense that these are all little jigsaw puzzle pieces on a table and they don't fit nicely together. Glanzman's son, Tom, writes in to rebut a past letter hack's assertion that "The Losers" is an awful series.

Jack: "The Real Losers!" is one of the best DC War stories I've read recently, with a good mix of story and art and a powerful message as Gunner has a change of heart when he sees wounded soldiers fighting to the death. "In Tsingtao" is a strong vignette about a tragic, unauthorized trip to a liberated city in China. I love Toth's art on "Soldier's Grave" and am always happy to see a story set in Ancient Egypt. All in all, a surprisingly satisfying comic book!

Our Army at War 239

"The Soldier"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Russ Heath

"Capt. John Cromwell"
Story Uncredited
Art by Norman Maurer

"Charge on San Juan Hill!"
Story and Art by Ric Estrada

"Sergeants are Made--Not Born!"
(Reprinted from Star Spangled War Stories #102, May 1962)

"The Unsinkable Wreck!"
(Reprinted from Star Spangled War Stories #101, March 1962)

"The Soldier"
Jack: On patrol during a heavy rainstorm somewhere in Italy, Easy Co. comes face to face with a Nazi patrol. Sgt. Rock is shot in the shoulder and falls down a muddy slope; lying unconscious at the bottom until the rain awakens him, Rock makes his way to a convent, where Sister Angelina takes him in and a boy named Domenico wants to fight alongside him. When Nazis come knocking at the door, the sister disguises Rock as a monk and he avoids capture, but when he leaves the next morning the Nazis quickly intercept him. Only a distraction from Domenico prevents Rock from being killed, and the sergeant marches off with his Nazi prisoner as the nun and the boy wave goodbye.

Kanigher tells a straightforward, effective story here and Heath's art is decent though not spectacular. The image of tough-guy Rock in a monk's robe and hood is unusual and amusing, and the emphasis "The Soldier" places on advising the boy not to kill is admirable, especially in light of the ubiquitous "Make War No More" badge that now appears in the final panel of each story.

"Capt. John Cromwell"
"Capt. John Cromwell" knew secret plans when the sub he was on was attacked during WWII; heroically, he elected to go down with the ship rather than be captured and interrogated. Norman Maurer drew a series of these "Medal of Honor" short stories for the DC War comics in the early '70s; his art is competent but not much more than that. He was a long-time comic artist who did loads of work for Lev Gleason in the '40s and married the daughter of Moe Howard!

"Charge on San Juan Hill!"
The story of Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders is told in six breezy pages that climax with the "Charge on San Juan Hill!" Unfortunately, Ric Estrada's art seems so childish that it's hard to work up much interest in the story.

Peter: I didn't find much to salvage from this issue's offerings. The Rock story is gorgeously illustrated but heavy-handed and predictable, while the art passed off by Maurer and Estrada is barely tolerable. I did find the story of Captain John Cromwell engaging and, like the best of these little bios, it sent me straight to Wiki for more info.



Best Script: Robert Kanigher, "Head Count" (Our Army at War #233)
Best Art:  Joe Kubert, "Man of War" (Star Spangled War Stories #159)
Best All-Around Story: "Head Count"

Worst Script: Robert Kanigher, "I Kid You Not" (Our Army at War #238)
Worst Art: Ric Estrada, "The Invincible Armada" (Our Fighting Forces #132)
Worst All-Around Story: "I Kid You Not" 


  1 "Head Count"
  2 "Man of War"
  3 "I'll Never Die" (Star Spangled War Stories #154)
  4 "Death of the Haunted Tank" (GI Combat #150)
  5 "Monsieur Gravedigger" (Weird War Tales #2)


Best Script: Joe Kubert, "Summer in Salerno!" (Our Army at War 234)
Best Art: Joe Kubert, "Totentanz" (Star Spangled War Stories 158)
Best All-Around Story: "Totentanz"

Worst Script: "I Kid You Not!"
Worst Art: Ross Andru & Mike Esposito, "Ride the Nightmare" (Our Fighting Forces 129)
Worst All-Around Story: "Ironclad! Man Your Guns!" (Our Fighting Forces 129)


  1 "The Gold-Plated General!" (G.I. Combat 148)
  2 "Summer in Salerno!"
  3 "Leave the Fighting to Us!" (G.I. Combat 149)
  4 "Totentanz"
  5 "Face the Devil!" (Our Army at War 236)

Can Shock Regain Its Luster?
We'll Discuss Next Week . . .

Monday, January 8, 2018

EC Comics! It's An Entertaining Comic! Issue 48

The EC Reign Month by Month 1950-1956
  48: August 1954

Melvin DaVinci
MAD #14

"Manduck the Magician" ★ 1/2
Story by Harvey Kurtzman
Art by Will Elder

"Movie . . . Ads!" 
Story by Harvey Kurtzman
Art by Wally Wood

"The Countynental!" ★ 1/2
Story by Harvey Kurtzman
Art by Jack Davis

"Plastic Sam!" ★ 1/2
Story by Harvey Kurtzman
Art by Russ Heath and Bill Elder

Manduck the Magician, vigilante/peddler with the power to cloud men’s minds with “hypnotic gestures,” and his faithful assistant Loathar must continuously evade the wrath of the law and the pretty ladies he smooches every time he sets up shop, even going so far as to use his abilities to swap identities with a virtuous Boy Scout and his elderly charge while the real bystanders are pummeled with batons. Even when he tries to take the edge off by hypnotizing himself, obstacles still plague Manduck, namely when he’s summoned to the abode of Lamont Shadowskeedeeboomboom, “Shadow” for short, another superhero with the ability to cloud men’s minds who challenges the magician to a battle of mental suggestion that ends up getting everyone’s identities more mixed up than a barrel full of nuts.

A very special guest appearance.
("Manduck the Magician")
If “Manduck the Magician” is a low-tier Kurtzman/Elder collaboration—as some unnamed bloggers would have it—then it just goes to show that Mad’s first editor and star artist were still pretty damn funny even when they weren’t firing on all cylinders. Personally speaking, I think this newspaper strip parody can easily stand amongst the comedy duo’s other classics. With the exception of an unfortunate exaggeration of the size of Loathar’s lips, this story doesn’t have many false steps to fault it with. The thing that tickles me so much about Harvey Kurtzman’s brand of humor in general is that he was so eclectic in the variety of jokes that he employed: there are great traditional setups like when Manduck informs the crushed Loathar that he had no idea about the falling safe, unexpected cameos such as the ubiquitous comic book hunk Charles Atlas singing his praises, and the completely madcap climax that has the reader seeing doubles (and triples) of the characters in a final “mesmerizing” brawl.

Kurtzman pulls out his spades yet again to take a dig at the commercial machinations of Hollywood in “Movie… Ads!” Acting as a kind of inverse to “Book… Movie!” that showed how film adaptations generally neuter the scintillating material found in their source novels, this “story” demonstrates how the ad men of Tinsel Town copy and paste short, incidental scenes from a range of films including war epics, courtroom dramas, and romances to make them come across as X-rated wonderfests boasting the fleshy pleasures of actresses such as Vava Voom and Vava Vow, the “Pow” and “Wham” Girls respectively in their newspaper spreads. The first page of “Movie… Ads!” gets the point across just fine, but the pages that follow only succeed in taking a mildly funny joke and making us tired of it.

This is really all that we needed.

Men, lock up your wives and daughters: “The Countynental” is on (the prowl)! Yes, that’s right. That famed predator of feminine virtue is broadcasting live from the studio set doubling as his plush hotel room, eager to sway his intended victims with dry martinis and a foreign accent. Try as he might, the Countynental can’t seem to land himself a date, as the vagaries of 1950s television, such as fine tuning and vertical holds, take their toll on him, not to mention the boots and fists that come flying through the screen from righteous husbands at home. Finally able to retire from his program to spend an evening with his true love, the Countynental saunters off “arm in tripod” with the television camera of his affections.

What lovely furniture you have!
("The Countynental")
If you’re a six-year-old whippersnapper like me, you might only be familiar with the overall thrust of this parody from Christopher Walken’s bit on Saturday Night Live wherein he played the amorous wooer tempting the studio audience to bed down for the night. I found out from John Benson’s The Sincerest Form of Parody, as Jack might have, that the original televisual oddity being parodied here inspired a surprising amount of lampoons in the funny books. It’s also surprising seeing Jack Davis in this slightly more subdued, domesticated (but no less cartoony) mode, but I for one dig his handling of the material.

Life isn’t easy when you’re a superhero; just look at the crap that “Superduperman,” “Batboy and Rubin,” and “Woman Wonder” had to put up with. It’s no different for that rubbery rouge Plastic Sam either. If he isn’t putting up with the travails that come with having a malleable body, such as his pants slipping off for a crowd of a hundred ogling onlookers to see, then it’s the weary trials that come with having to put up with the reheated and rehashed plots that his partner and scriptwriter Wheezy Wunks cooks up for him. This episode finds Sam wiggling his way through a favorite chestnut, that of a low-down hood masquerading as the superhero during a bank robbery and Sam being persecuted by the law. But the hood proves to be even smarter than he looks (erm…) when he demonstrates how having an elastic body is just about the worst superpower one could ask for by tying knots and tearing holes into poor Sam’s anatomy like a tortured balloon. Thankfully Joe Friday and Ed Saturday from Dragnet arrive to sort out the kerfuffle, finally deciding to throw Sam in prison because, as they reason, “anything plastic is an imitation of the real thing!”

You know your life sucks when you *are*
the rotten tomato that people throw.
("Plastic Sam")
Though I wasn’t exactly blown away by Russ Heath’s artwork on this assignment—it felt a little more like “funny animal” than “zany satire” to me—“Plastic Sam” is yet another great send-up of the DC hero universe, filled with great bits that don’t reach the chicken fat levels of Bill Elder but that still deliver solidly and consistently throughout the story. I loved the sick and twisted humor involved in detailing all the nasty side effects of Sam’s elasticity, and the panel where the prison guards mistake the gooey, teeth-littered remains of Wheezy for Sam in disguise is a riot. I’m not sure if Harvey brought in Elder’s Dragnet caricatures to ease newcomer Heath into the Mad mold and give readers a point of identification, but I think that Russ could have seen the story through to its end all on his own. --Jose

Peter: It was only natural, after the classic laugh-fest we received last issue, that this one would be a bit of a letdown. It's got its share of smiles and giggles but no guffaws, unfortunately. "Manduck the Magician," the latest Elder/Kurtzman team-up, is the weakest parody the boys have knocked out yet. Manduck's unchanging facial expressions are a funny dig at Lee Falk and the final panels (especially the one where Manduck and Narda are crowded out of the panel by their own word balloons) are the funniest moments this issue but, overall, it's a bit of a chore.  Maybe I'm becoming an elitist Kurtzelder snob but "Plastic Sam!" did not make me laugh once and if you were to quiz me as to the identity of the artist, I'd guess anyone but Russ Heath. Don't get me wrong . . . it's good art . . . I just don't recognize it as Russ (and that may be due to the assist from Elder). "Movie . . . Ads!" has some interesting black-and-white art from Woody but, again, the script is weak. "The Countynental!" shows that Jack Davis can experiment (something we don't see much from Jack) but the strip is just not funny at all. If it didn't have the MAD logo across the cover, I'd swear this was an issue of Panic.

Jack: It isn't as bad as all that! "Manduck" is more a series of hilarious panel jokes than a story, but it's still extremely funny. I like seeing the return of the Shadow and I think there's a nod to Syd Hoff in the first panel where a man on the beach walks by a woman in a bikini and imagines she's wearing clothes. Wood is the perfect person to illustrate "Movie . . . Ads!" because his women are stunning; I thought the piece was a funny look at how movies are promoted. "The Countynental!" is another TV parody whose subject is lost to history; the TV show it satirizes did not last as long as the series of lampoons that followed. I just read Art Spiegelman's book on Jack Cole and was prepared for "Plastic Sam!," which features the strange spectacle of Russ Heath trying to draw in the MAD style. It's good to see the duo from Dragnet return briefly, but this story was doomed to failure partly because the thing it satirizes was wildly funny to begin with.

Feeling hemmed in?
("Manduck the Magician")

The Haunt of Fear #26

"Marriage Vow" 
Story by Otto Binder
Art by Graham Ingels

"The Shadow Knows" ★ 1/2
Story by Otto Binder
Art by Reed Crandall

"Spoiled" ★ 1/2
Story by Otto Binder
Art by Jack Kamen

"Comes the Dawn!" ★ 1/2
Story by Otto Binder
Art by Jack Davis

Try as he may to get out for a breath of fresh air, Martin Saunders can't escape his wife Eva, who used to be beautiful, rich, and randy, but who now is ugly, poor, but still randy. They wed seven years ago and Martin was happy to have her money, but when he tired of her company he murdered her by rigging an iron balcony to collapse under her weight and let her fall to be impaled on a spiked fence below the balcony. Unfortunately, Eva interpreted their "Marriage Vow" strictly as requiring them both to die before they may be parted, so she came back from the dead and now insists on marital relations even though she's rotting away.

An unusual panel design for Ghastly in "Marriage Vow."

More a situation than a story, Binder's tale sets up a problem and then spends eight long pages explaining what's going on. Ghastly is going through the motions once again and the disgusting point of the narrative, which is that Eva still insists on having sex with Martin even though she's a corpse, is one that can't really be fully explored in a comic book, thank goodness.

Eric Cooper's job means he has to spend a lot of time on the road, away from his lonely wife Mabel. He has an affair with Jondra and when she starts asking about marriage he decides to murder Mabel and marry his rich girlfriend. Eric gets away with staging Mabel's suicide, but soon her shadow begins to stalk him, which leads Jondra to think he is cheating on her. A policeman sees what appears to be the shadows of Eric murdering a woman on the street, but when Eric insists that it was only shadow play, the cop finds Jondra's dead body and Eric is arrested, tried, and executed. Finally, Mabel's shadow can rest.

Reed Crandall does his best in "The Shadow Knows."

"The Shadow Knows" is a poorly thought out piece of writing with Reed Crandall trying to bring some life to the proceedings. It's not clear who murders Jondra in the end but the story is so weak that it doesn't bear investigation.

Janet Grover was lonely and bored because her husband, surgeon Abel Grover, left her home alone night after night. She began to go out and, soon enough, an affair with Leon Payne began. When Abel found out about it, he exacted an unusual revenge by anesthetizing the lovers and sewing their heads on each other's bodies. Thus, their mutual attraction was "Spoiled."

All that's missing from the last panel
of "Spoiled!" is an angora sweater!

Does it get much worse than this? Like "Marriage Vow," Binder sets up a situation on page one and then uses flashback techniques to show the events leading up to it before revealing the nature of the problem on the last page. Kamen is not the one to breathe life into this tired script, though the final panel is almost Ed Woodian in its awfulness.

Jack Bolton flew to Alaska with two partners to prospect for Uranium but found a vampire's coffin frozen in the ice. He freed the vampire and let it kill his partners, thinking that he was safe in his cabin until dawn, when he could escape. There's just one problem: dawn will not rise in that part of the world for another week and he's out of food!

Jack Davis presents a spooky picture of the Alaskan
vampire peering through the space between the logs
of the cabin wall in "Comes the Dawn!"

"Comes the Dawn!" is, by default, the best story in a poor issue of Haunt of Fear. Jack Davis can draw desperate men, a vampire, and a cold and snowy landscape quite effectively, and the idea of the frozen vampire is a neat one; however, Binder once again relies on the twist of having a character not pay attention to the calendar (last time it was the time change between time zones), so the ending is not terribly satisfying.--Jack

Stiff punishment.
("Marriage Vow")
Peter: While still plundering Al's old scripts, at least Otto Binder seems to be getting the hang of a Haunt of Fear story. "Marriage Vow" is about as sick and vile as they come (it's almost as though, even while the castle crumbles around him, Bill Gaines holds his middle finger up at Wertham and dares him to make something of it), which is just fine with me, thank you. The most nauseating aspect, amidst lots of nauseating stuff, is that Martin Saunders will be spending every night, for the rest of his life, screwing a corpse ("It's time for bed, Martin!"). What were the kiddies thinking when they read the words . . . Every night, the ritual? Seriously, is it any wonder the heat came down on the EC empire? "The Shadow Knows" is silly nonsense (if Mabel's shadow can actually do harm then why not kill Eric rather than Jondra?) but Reed Crandall's art makes the ride scenic (Mabel's death throes are exceptionally brutal) and it's certainly better than the Kamen entry this issue. "Spoiled" almost feels like an in-joke; Binder is winking at his reader, whispering "Switching heads on a Jack Kamen character! Get it?" The "shock" is certainly not worth the long, slow build-up. And, unfortunately, anytime you use the words "Vampire" and Alaska" together, any hoped-for surprises are pretty much thrown out the window. I liked Jack's art in "Comes the Dawn!," though his bloodsucker looks more like a werewolf.

Jose: “Marriage Vow” is one sick puppy, and it knows it. Revels in it, in fact. Otto Binder, much like the horny zombie wife of his story, seems to take delight in rubbing our noses in the putrescent conceit of the narrative, subjecting Martin and audience alike to every last taboo-shattering innuendo. While historians and fans tend to point to “Foul Play” as being the “point of no return” in the annals of EC horror, I think the case can be effectively made that “Marriage Vow” is the real anarchist here, flipping everyone off and being disgusting just for the sake of creating some chaos. One is tempted to call it a bad story, indicative of the company’s downward slide into the maw of public backlash, but its brazen ballsiness earns my perverted respect. The rest of the issue’s contents, all penned by Binder, are nowhere near as memorable. Reading dried-mouth tripe like “The Shadow Knows” and “Spoiled”, stuff that was passé even before the Old Witch lit her first cauldron, makes me wonder if Bill and Al played a more direct hand in pumping up the salaciousness of “Marriage Vow.” The three other stories read more like what we’ve seen of the author in the past, for badder and worse. “Comes the Dawn” at least has the draw of a fairly intriguing concept and setting that enhances the survivalist suspense and action, and the small peeks that Jack Davis provides of the bestial bloodsucker give it an air of mystery and increased menace.

Next Week . . .
Rock finds himself trapped in a vicious circle
He hates killing but . . .
No killing, no funny book!

From Haunt of Fear #26

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Hitchcock Project-Francis and Marian Cockrell Part Ten: The Hands of Mr. Ottermole [2.32]

by Jack Seabrook

The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927) is considered the first true Hitchcock film and tells the story of a murderer similar to Jack the Ripper. In a similar vein is the classic Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, "The Hands of Mr. Ottermole," which aired on CBS on Sunday, May 5, 1957. The script by Francis Cockrell was adapted from the short story of the same name first published in the February 1929 issue of a British fiction magazine called The Story-Teller.

In London's East End, a man named Whybrow and his wife are murdered, the first victims of London's Strangling Horrors. The murderer leaves no trace and seems to have no discernible motive. Soon, another murder occurs, and this time the victim is a child named Nellie Vrinoff. Her death is followed by that of a police constable. Eventually, a journalist reasons that, if no one but the police are ever in the vicinity of the crimes, then the murderer must be a policeman. The reporter tests out his theory on Sergeant Ottermole, who confirms that it is correct and makes the journalist his next victim.

"The Hands of Mr. Ottermole" is a classic story of a serial killer whose lack of motive makes him hard to catch. The horror of the situation is that the authority figure trusted to protect the public is also the guilty party. Ottermole's final confession is chilling, as he claims that his own members are seized with an inexplicable compulsion:

A sample issue of
The Story-Teller
"Couldn't it be that parts of our bodies aren't really us, and couldn't ideas come into those parts all of a sudden, like ideas come into--into"--he shot his arms out, showing the great white-gloved hands and hairy wrists; shot them out so swiftly to the journalist's throat that his eyes never saw them--"into my hands."

Two unusual names stand out in the story. The first is Whybrow, the initial murder victim, who is followed through the foggy streets of London and who, once he seems safe at home, opens his door to his killer. Perhaps Burke was rhyming "Whybrow" with "highbrow" in order to suggest that this will be no "highbrow" or scholarly tale, since the character with a similar name is killed in the first section of the story. The second name of interest is that of the killer, Ottermole. The name jumps out at the reader as unusual in the title but is then conspicuously absent until the final confrontation between reporter and sergeant, when the sergeant is identified by name for the first time: " 'Now, as man to man, tell me, Sergeant Ottermole, just why did you kill those inoffensive people?' " In addition to the clever way that Burke holds back this name until the climax, the name itself contains two animals: the otter, a creature that can exist just as easily in land or in water, and the mole, which has strong "arms" for digging and is comfortable living underground and in darkness. A mole is also a term for a spy, so Sergeant "Ottermole" embodies characteristics of both animals, able to be both policeman and killer, to live among normal men while pursuing an underground life as a murderer, and to operate with strong hands while seeing through the dense London fog that hides his actions.

After its initial magazine publication in early 1929, Burke's short story was collected in his 1931 book, The Pleasantries of Old Quong, which was published in the United States under the alternate title, A Tea-Shop in Limehouse. Burke recognized the story's quality and selected it as his entry for inclusion in a multi-author collection that same year called My Best Detective Story. The story was reprinted a decade later in the September 1942 issue of the British magazine Argosy, and began to appear in radio adaptations when it was broadcast on Molle Mystery Theatre near the end of World War II, on February 6, 1945. This broadcast is now lost, but a second adaptation for the same series was aired on June 21, 1946; this version survives and may be heard online here.

Theodore Bikel as Sergeant Ottermole
Comparing the existing versions of "The Hands of Mr. Ottermole" to Burke's story is interesting and allows one to determine with some accuracy what Francis Cockrell contributed to the evolution of the story when he later adapted it for Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Each of the four existing versions of the story (three on radio and one on television) preserves the essential structure of Burke's story while making certain changes. The 1946 radio version is set in London in 1890, near the end of Britain's Victorian era, and a narrator describes the events leading up to and including the Whybrow murder in a long opening sequence. Perhaps thinking that the murder of a child was too shocking for 1946 radio listeners, the second murder victim becomes an adult woman, while the third remains a policeman. In a major change to Burke's story, the character of the reporter becomes much more central and is introduced early in the proceedings. He appears after each murder and eventually becomes a suspect due to his proximity to each crime. In the final confrontation, the reporter has a gun and shoots Ottermole as the policeman strangles the reporter. Ironically, both men die, and the mayor later awards a posthumous medal to Sergeant Ottermole for killing the reporter, who is thought to have been the strangler! This version of the story was written by L.K. Hoffman.

Two and a half years later, "The Hands of Mr. Ottermole" was again adapted for radio, this time for Suspense, where it was broadcast on December 2, 1948. The script was by Ken Crossen and the story is narrated by Sergeant Ottermole himself, played by Claude Rains, whose marvelous voice is used to great effect as he tells the story to the reporter, played by Vincent Price. This time, the murder of Whybrow is followed by the murder of the policeman, skipping the girl's murder altogether. Having Ottermole narrate the story makes it even more shocking when he is revealed as the killer and, as in the story and the 1946 radio version, the sergeant succeeds in killing the reporter. This time, however, the reporter had sent a letter to the newspaper identifying the killer and Sergeant Ottermole is later sentenced to death and hanged. The Suspense adaptation of Burke's story is widely available and may be heard here.

Rhys Williams as Summers, the reporter
The third and final radio adaptation of the story was aired on May 2, 1949, just five months later, on NBC's Radio City Playhouse. This time, the setting was moved from London to New York City, where the borough of Brooklyn is terrorized by the Greenpoint Strangler. This version is the only one to feature the murder of the little girl, as in the original short story, and once again the reporter has a gun and shoots Sergeant Ottermole, killing the strangler but surviving the encounter. Ironically, a $10,000 reward is posted for the killer of the sergeant, so the reporter cannot write the story and admit killing the murderer. Instead, he writes a false story and claims that Ottermole was the strangler's next victim. George Lefferts wrote the script for this version, which may be heard here.

In addition to being the subject of four radio adaptations in the years from 1945 to 1949, "The Hands of Mr. Ottermole" was also the subject of some critical acclaim in the immediate post-war years. Ellery Queen included it in the 1946 collection, 101 Years' Entertainment: The Great Detective Stories 1841-1941, and it was selected by Anthony Boucher for inclusion in the 1947 volume, Murder By Experts. In both books, it was referred to as one of the all-time great mystery stories.

Less than two months after the story was adapted for Radio City Playhouse, it made its TV debut on Suspense, in an adaptation credited to Frank Gabrielson and directed by Robert Stevens. This version was aired live on June 28, 1949, and has been lost. The story was aired live for a second time on Suspense on November 28, 1950; this version is also lost and the writer of the teleplay is unknown, so it is not clear if the 1949 script was re-used. This version starred Robert Emhardt, who would later appear on six episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Summers and Ottermole in the London fog
The last adaptation of "The Hands of Mr. Ottermole" was filmed for Alfred Hitchcock Presents and has become the definitive version due to its availability and the quality of the production. The teleplay is by Francis Cockrell and the show is directed by Robert Stevens, who also directed the two prior television adaptations for Suspense. The time and place are set by means of a title superimposed on the opening establishing shot; "London 1919," the title reads, and behind it is a foggy scene of the Thames with Big Ben in the background. There is a dissolve to an "Underground" sign and the mobile camera then follows Mr. Whybrow through the foggy East End streets.

Cockrell's first notable addition to the story is the killer's habit of whistling "Greensleeves" just before each murder; the old English tune is haunting and tips the viewer off to imminent danger. Whybrow's walk home and subsequent murder are depicted as in the story and in prior adaptations; director Stevens uses his camera to show the scene from the killer's point of view, as he follows Whybrow home and strangles him when the man opens his front door.

Cockrell introduces a new character in Whybrow's nephew, who is summoned to the house of the murdered couple and questioned. Sergeant Ottermole is in charge of the investigation; Theodore Bikel plays the character with a Scottish accent, marking him as the "other" even amidst his fellow policemen. In the scenes that follow, Cockrell's script follows the prior radio adaptations by bringing the reporter into the story as a character much earlier and having him pester Sergeant Ottermole about the lack of progress in the police investigation.

Stevens stages the second murder evocatively; Cockrell eschews the death of a child and instead has the killer strangle an old woman selling flowers. We know a murder is coming because we hear Ottermole whistling "Greensleeves" again and we see the use of the subjective camera that both provides the killer's point of view and masks his identity. As the flower lady is being strangled, the camera pans up and over to a store window beside her and the word "Palmistry" is written in large letters on the window. Inside the window display, a large model of a hand rotates, reminding the viewer of the hand motif that runs throughout the story.

Cockrell uses dialogue in the scenes that follow to delve into the killer's motive or lack thereof, as the reporter visits the police station and converses with Ottermole and a police constable. The constable suggests that the killer is a foreigner and, while he surely means a Chinaman--London's East End was filled with immigrants from the Far East at that time--the actual killer is a Scotsman, a foreigner who is able to blend in among the British. On another foggy night, the same constable discovers the dead body of a policeman and then the reporter, here named Summers, figures out the identity of the killer and makes the fateful decision to approach Sergeant Ottermole on a foggy night street.

The one constant with all of the adaptations of "The Hands of Mr. Ottermole" is the writers' determination to tinker with the ending. In the version filmed for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Summers confronts Ottermole and the sergeant begins to strangle the reporter, but this time the constable grabs Ottermole from behind and subdues him before he can kill the reporter. Ottermole is handcuffed and led away and Summers is troubled by the sergeant's comments about ideas coming into his hands. The show ends here, with both Ottermole and the reporter surviving the final conflict and without any confusion about the killer's identity.

Torin Thatcher as Constable Johnson
Francis Cockrell's script for "The Hands of Mr. Ottermole" differs from those used for radio adaptations in that it relies heavily on dialogue rather than narration to advance the story. He inserts the flower lady in early scenes so the viewer is familiar with her by the time she is killed, and he gives the killer the habit of whistling "Greensleeves" before each murder. Robert Stevens does an outstanding job of direction, creating a foggy London atmosphere that fits the mood of the story perfectly and using subjective camera work to hide the murderer's identity and force the viewer to identify with him by showing the first two killings from his point of view. In short, this episode is a classic example of what the Hitchcock show does best: creating suspense and entertaining the viewer, even when telling a familiar story.

Robert Stevens (1920-1989) worked mostly as a TV director from 1948 to 1987, directing 105 episodes of Suspense from 1949 to 1952 and 49 episodes of the Hitchcock show. He won an Emmy for "The Glass Eye."

Thomas Burke (1886-1945), who wrote the story, was born in London and wrote both novels and short stories, often set in the Limehouse District of London's East End. Three of his stories were adapted for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "John Brown's Body."

A.E. Gould-Porter as Whybrow
Sergeant Ottermole is played by Theodore Bikel (1924-2015), who was born in Austria and whose family fled to Palestine in 1938. He began acting on stage in his teens, moved to London in 1945, and finally settled in the U.S. in 1954. He was on screen from 1947 to 2003 and also had a busy career as a folk singer and musician. This was his only appearance on the Hitchcock show, though he also played a memorable role on one episode of The Twilight Zone titled "Four O'Clock."

In the role of Summers, the reporter, is Rhys Williams (1897-1969), an actor who was born in Wales and who made his screen debut in John Ford's How Green Was My Valley (1941). He was on screen until 1970 but this was his only appearance on the Hitchcock show.

The police constable who prevents Ottermole from killing Summers is played by the familiar character actor Torin Thatcher (1905-1981), who was born in India to British parents and who was on screen from 1927 to 1976. In addition to three appearances on the Hitchcock show (including "Bed of Roses"), he was seen on Thriller and Night Gallery and played important parts in Great Expectations (1946) and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958).

Charles Davis
A second reporter is played by Charles Davis (1925-2009), who was born in Ireland and who worked mostly on TV from 1951 to 1987. He was seen on seven episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "I Killed the Count," where he plays the long-suffering junior to John Williams's inspector.

In small roles, A.E. Gould-Porter (1905-1987) plays the ill-fated Mr. Whybrow; he was in 10 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "The Glass Eye." His wife, who is heard but not seen, is played by Hilda Plowright (1890-1973), who was also in "Banquo's Chair" as the ghost.

"The Hands of Mr. Ottermole" is available on DVD here or may be viewed online here.

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In two weeks: "The West Warlock Time Capsule," starring Henry Jones!