Monday, December 11, 2017

Star Spangled DC War Stories Issue 119: August/September 1971

The DC War Comics
by Corporals Enfantino and Seabrook

Our Army at War 235

"Pressure Point"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Russ Heath

Story and Art by Sam Glanzman

"The Glory Boys!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Alex Toth

"Wall for a Fighting Man!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Russ Heath
(Reprinted from Our Army at War #52, November 1956)

"Instant Hero!"
Story by Hank Chapman
Art by Joe Kubert
(Reprinted from Captain Storm #6, April 1965)

Jack: Sgt. Rock and his men are under fire and one by one he sees his soldiers get mowed down--or does he? It seems Rock has reached his "Pressure Point" and is in a field hospital, imagining the death of his men. The doctor says that the sergeant has seen too much dying and decides to ship Rock back to the states, but when a Nazi plane starts shooting at the hospital tent, Rock gets his wounded men together and heads outside to blow up an enemy tank. Though the doctor says the men are too ill to fight, Rock takes over and leads the walking wounded into battle once more, wiping out another tank and the Nazi infantry that supports it. He tells the doctor that he and his men are heading back to the front, wounds or no wounds.

One of the sideways pages from "Pressure Point"

The first 25-cent, 52-page issue of Our Army at War starts out with this odd story, which features some excellent panels by Heath and some that look like he drew them with his eyes closed. In many places, it looks like he was using photos as models for characters' faces, but I don't know who was in the photos. There are also two pages near the end that are sideways--one has three panels and the other (reproduced here) is a graphic, wide-angle splash.

Tatsuno Sakigawa is a Japanese fighter pilot on a "Kamikaze" mission to strike an American ship. As his plane plummets toward the deck, he thinks of the devastation visited upon his country by enemy bombs. Sam Glanzman makes a rare mis-step with this story, in which he gives the reader a glimpse inside the perspective of the enemy. Very much of its time, in the Vietnam era, this story fails to reach the level of humanity that the stories set on the U.S.S. Stevens often do.

Jeremy Leigh fulfills his childhood dreams of being among "The Glory Boys!" when he enlists as a Confederate soldier in the Civil War at age 17. Battle seems exciting at first, but he soon learns the horrors of war as first his friend and then he himself are shot dead.

A fairly standard six-page war story is improved by Alex Toth's clean lines, though the anti-war message at the end is, yet again, very 1971.

"The Glory Boys!"

"Wall for a Fighting Man!"
When a downed pilot in WWII hides behind a pile of rocks to avoid an enemy tank, he wonders where the rocks came from, since everything around them is sand. This "Wall for a Fighting Man!" began as a Roman wall and sentry tower before being partially destroyed in an attack. In the Middle Ages, a knight used the wall for defense; it got more use in WWI. The pilot knows none of this but manages to destroy the tank; he walks away as the spirits of the soldiers of the past watch over him.

Credit Bob Haney for a neat premise in this story, and credit Russ Heath for solid art, 15 years before his work on the new Sgt. Rock story that opens this issue!

Jonesy learns that it's not easy to become an "Instant Hero!" when he is called up to Charlie Co. as a replacement soldier during WWII. He is captured and brought aboard a Nazi ship, but manages to use some clever trickery with a grenade to destroy a tank commanded by the Nazi known as the Iron Major.

An unusually sloppy figure on the
right from Joe Kubert in "Instant Hero!"

Strictly from hunger, Hank Chapman overuses the "instant" adjective and Joe Kubert contributes some hurried art. We did not read the Captain Storm series for this blog, but if this backup story from 1965 is any indication of its quality, we didn't miss much.

Peter: "Pressure Point" is top-notch Kanigher/Heath but I can't help but wonder how much better it would have been if Big Bob had stayed on the initial path, that of investigating Rock's breakdown under pressure. As it is, way too little time is spent on that and we just dive head-long into action. I can't put my finger on it (different inker perhaps?) but Heath's work looks . . . a bit harder-edged this issue, as though he's experimenting with styles (look at the panel below, which seems to suggest Heath was working from stills). No complaint; still dazzling visuals. Sam Glanzman's "Kamikaze" purports to be another chapter in the saga of the U.S.S. Stevens but are we to assume, then, that Tatsuno's Zero crashed into the Stevens? One of the best of the little sagas. "The Glory Boys!" has a fine Kanigher script and that Alex Toth magic but its heavy-handed (and oh-so poetic) finale is a bit of a disappointment. This one reminded me of the stories Archie Goodwin pumped out for Warren's Blazing Combat in the mid-'60s. Neither of the scripts for the reprints lit my TNT fuse (and "Instant Hero!" became an instant annoyance with its patented Hank Chapman catch phrase), but the art at least gets us turning pages without falling asleep.

A photo swipe by Russ Heath?

G.I. Combat 149

"Leave the Fighting To Us!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Russ Heath

"Last Man--Last Shot!"
(Reprinted from Our Army at War #152, March 1965)

Peter: The Haunted Tank crew comes across an Allied jeep being strafed on a bridge; they take the Nazi out but one of the men in the jeep is killed. By the time, the Jeb Stuart arrives, Sgt. Saul Levy, the survivor from the jeep, is reading Kaddish over his comrade's body. Levy climbs aboard the Stuart and gets a ride back to the base, where he receives the news that he'll be fighting with Jeb and his men. Later that day, most of the crew of the Jeb (sans Jeb himself) express their dismay at being saddled with a Jew, whose people "make good doctors--lawyers--businessmen! But fightin' they oughta leave to us!" Of course, as we all know from previous Bob Kanigher morality plays, Saul Levy proves his mettle in battle when the Jeb liberates a concentration camp and kills scores of dirty Ratzi bastards. Levy is sacrificed but the men of the Jeb Stuart have learned their lesson.

As with most of Big Bob's racism dramas, the innocent are sacrificed but a lesson is certainly learned. It's hard to fathom that the good guys of the Jeb may have been anti-Semites but this may be Bob's way of saying that even his heroes have feet of clay. In any event, the script is one of Bob's best in a while and Heath is on the money (the bridge scene that opens the story is gorgeously rendered), though it's getting tough to tell his Jeb crew apart. The General's appearance is a joke, by the way, as he pops in just long enough to tell his descendant that nothing special will happen that day but the next day is another story. Brilliant.

Jack: I give story and art an "A"! I was surprised to see the Jewish soldier identified as such, and Kanigher has his cake and eats it too by criticizing anti-Semitism while also showing us a Jew who can't play baseball. It reminded me of the famous scene in Airplane. I liked that the Jeb liberated a concentration camp. In all, a strong story with fine art by Mr. Heath. The backup also features great art, though looking back at my notes from 1965 I found the story repetitive.

Our Fighting Forces 132

"Pooch: the Winner"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by John Severin

"The Invincible Armada"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Ric Estrada

"Cabbage and Kings"
Story and Art by Sam Glanzman

Jack: The Losers are outside Buckingham Palace when Gunner and Sarge see a familiar, furry face inside the gates--Pooch! He greets them happily and they remember when he was first assigned to work with them in the Pacific Islands. Good old Pooch saved the day many times, but when his masters were sent to Europe they became losers and had to break up the band. Though they'd love to be reunited with their four-footed pal, Gunner and Sarge decide that the pup is better off in his new gig at the palace than hanging around with the Losers.

We missed you!
Boo! Hiss! Arf! A glimpse of Pooch and he's taken away from us for good! This is so cheap! Most of the story is a long, cheesy flashback to the good old days with "Pooch: The Winner." One thing I can say for this story is that it's great to see John Severin on his own; his art may not quite match up to that of his glory days at EC, but it's a heap better than what we've been subjected to in many of the entries in this series.

In 1588, "The Invincible Armada" of Spain is not so invincible when it meets up with the British fleet. Three and a half centuries later, German pilots meet the same fate as the Spanish Armada when they are defeated by British planes in WWII. Ric Estrada's art is not something I can warm up to, and Kanigher reaches a bit far in trying to find common ground between the 16th century Spanish fleet and the German fighter planes of the early 1940s.

"The Invincible Armada"

It's mid-December 1944, and Bo'sn Egloff is aboard the U.S.S. Stevens as a massive storm rocks the ship. He goes on deck to make sure everything is secure and saves the life of a young seaman who came up to help him. "Cabbages and Kings" features nice work on the rain and wind whipping the ship; often, Glanzman is at his best when he is not drawing human faces.

"Cabbages and Kings"

Peter: So, only a few installments into this new group book and we're already getting "solo" stories. This one is an off one, as if Big Bob wants to dangle the "Pooch carrot" in front of Jack Seabrook's nose only to keep it just out of reach. We get a Pooch origin but he's not coming back, so what's the purpose? "The Invincible Armada" has a very cool twist ending but you've got to wade through some pretty bad art to get there and a similar fate awaits you with "Cabbage and Kings." Sam Glanzman could be a maddening artist; sometimes very good and sometimes, like with this entry in the U.S.S. Stevens epic, very bad.

Star Spangled War Stories 158

Story by Bob Haney
Art by Joe Kubert

"The Flattened Point!"
(Reprinted from Our Fighting Forces #74, February 1963)

"Enemy Ace"
(Reprinted from Our Army at War #151, February 1965)

"Lame Duck Glider!"
Story by Ed Herron
Art by Russ Heath
(Reprinted from All-American Men of War #57, May 1958)

Peter: Unbeknownst to the Nazis, one of their most-wanted enemies, the mysterious Berengaria, lies right under their filthy noses in the "Totentanz" concentration camp. There, the gorgeous Berengaria (a/k/a Erika Hauser) has become the object of desire of the camp's commandant. Allied brass send the Unknown Soldier in, disguised as Erika's husband, to rescue the freedom fighter before the Ratzis wise up. US manages to infiltrate the camp and alert the girl to his presence. The commandant, aware that having Erika's spouse gives him leverage with her, uses his new prisoner to coax affection from the gorgeous girl. When a visit from one of Hitler's right-hand men, Adolf Eichmann, is announced, the Unknown Soldier uses his master skills of deception to fool the Germans and get Berengaria to safety.

Fairly exciting adventure with wall-to-wall action and suspense. Joe's art is particularly engaging here, as is Haney's compact script. In fact, the scripts are getting more and more compact it seems (this issue sees only 11 pages of original content, despite the higher price tag) as we make our way through the age of the quarter-books. As I mentioned some time before, the violence seems to be ramping up and Kubert isn't shying away from showing us disturbing images (as in this issue's row of hanging prisoners) of war.

"Lame Duck Glider!" focuses on an aspect of war we don't see much of: the glider pilots. Even though these guys somehow attract half of the Germans in World War II, they arrive on the other end unbowed and ready for more action. All in all, a likable little drama with great art from the Master.

On the letters page, Joe answers several heated missives from Enemy Ace fans not happy with the direction the series was taking (y'know, like reprints of reprints). To his credit, Kubert spends the time explaining what happened (the quasi-editorial is reprinted far below).

Jack: Two concentration camp stories in one month are probably two more then we've seen in 119 posts! The Unknown Soldier is clearly Kubert's new favorite series, since his art is superb, starting with a great splash page featuring two figures placed over a black and white photo collage. Haney's script is a thrill from start to finish, making this one of the best stories of 1971. The Heath reprint is a fun little tale with more fine art.

Our Army at War 236

"Face the Devil!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Russ Heath

"22 Hrs. to San Francisco"
Story by Mike Friedrich
Art by John Severin

"The Empty Cockpit!"
Story Uncredited
Art by Joe Kubert
(Reprinted from Captain Storm #3, October 1964)

"The Third Enemy"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Russ Heath
(Reprinted from Our Fighting Forces #45, May 1959)

"No Beginning--No End!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Frank Thorne

"Face the Devil!"
Jack: A new recruit known as Billy Boy is a good luck charm for Easy Co., since no one has died since he joined them. As Rock and his men approach a peak called Satan's Height, they enter a dense fog and pass through a graveyard, where an old man with long white hair and a long white beard approaches and embraces Billy Boy, calling him his long-lost son. The old man tells a tale of his son's wedding day long ago, when a barbarian-like man came on his son's wedding night and murdered him. The villagers killed the barbarian and buried him in an iron mask so no one would ever gaze upon his evil face again.

When shelling hits the graveyard, Billy Boy and the old man are killed and Rock tells Easy Co. to scatter for safety. Suddenly, Rock is attacked by a giant wearing an iron mask, and when Rock rips the mask off he is face to face with a grinning skull. Eventually, Rock comes out of it alive, the fog lifts, and Easy Co. marches on.

"Face the Devil!" is easily one of the spookiest and most mysterious Easy Co. stories we've ever read. Why did Conan the Barbarian suddenly show up at the village and how were the villagers able to subdue him so easily? Is Rock's battle with the skeleton in the iron mask a dream? Who knows? I don't really care, because it's cool as heck. My only complaint is that Kubert did not draw this story, because his cover is even better than Heath's interior art.

A Vietnam soldier is about to get on a helicopter to start the long trip home of "22 Hrs. to San Francisco" when the soldier next to him is shot dead by the enemy. We see a duffel bag make it all the way to the airport, but whose is it--the survivor's or the victim's? Fortunately, it belongs to the survivor, who meets his wife and retrieves his bag.

"22 Hrs. to San Francisco"

Mike Friedrich and John Severin tell an effective little story here in four wordless pages, where the fighting in Vietnam is in black and white and the return to the airport is in color; the two narratives intertwine and suspense is created as we wonder up to the last panel whose bag is on the belt.

In WWI, Lt. Danner dreams of filling "The Empty Cockpit!" of Spad #7, which Captain Kelly had managed to fly back on his final mission "ever after his heart stopped beating." Ever since he failed to live up to his football-star brother in high school, Danner has wanted to prove himself--and prove himself he does when, on a mission, he manages to take out a zeppelin and an enemy plane all by himself after parachuting out of his own plane!

"The Empty Cockpit!"

It's a little ridiculous how much Danner accomplishes while in free fall, but Joe Kubert's art is particularly strong in this story so it goes down smoothly.

"The Third Enemy"
In WWII, a scout on skis is told that his first enemy is the mountain and his second is the Nazis. But who is "The Third Enemy"? He battles his way up and down the mountain in a storm, evading Nazi gunfire, and finally learns that the third enemy is himself and the doubts and fears he has to conquer.

We always enjoy war stories set in snow, and fine pencils by Russ Heath make this one exciting, even though it goes by in a quick six pages.

Since caveman times, man has fought and killed his fellow man as the animals of the forest looked on, wondering why the killing has "No Beginning--No End!" Through the middle ages and the two world wars, the killing goes on with no explanation. It also goes on for a very tedious six pages here, though this issue of terrific art goes out on a strong note with Frank Thorne's work. A great cover, stories drawn by Heath, Kubert, Severin, and Thorne, and some top-notch reprints--all in all, quite a bargain for a quarter!

"No Beginning--No End!"
Peter: "Face the Devil!" has an intriguing set-up, with a supernatural vibe to it . . . so far, so good . . . but the denouement is a let down. There's no rhyme or reason to the masked creepy attacking Rock nor any explanation as to what it is (well, yes, there's a semi-sorta reasoning given, but it's pretty darned hazy if you ask me), just another one of those quasi-spooky stories Big Bob liked to lay on his readers now and then. Hey! Why am I complaining? At least the monster wasn't explained away as a gorilla escaped from a local circus or a villager trying to keep property values low. "22 Hrs. to San Francisco" and "No Beginning--No End" are tolerable and short. It's lucky that Bob Haney kept reiterating what the "First Enemy" and the "Second Enemy" were in nearly every panel of "The Third Enemy," or I would have forgotten what they were. "The Empty Cockpit!" is a pretty good thriller a la Raiders of the Lost Ark. Our hero's trek from one peril to the next in the fiery climax stretches credibility but if the art is good enough and the action moves quickly enough, it's tough to complain.

You tell 'em, Joe
Hang on . . . I'm with the letter writers!

In Only Seven Days . . .
Shock Upon Shock!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Hitchcock Project-Francis and Marian Cockrell Part Eight: The Gentleman From America [1.31]

by Jack Seabrook

In "The Gentleman from America," writer Francis Cockrell and director Robert Stevens combine to update a classic ghost story from the World War One era to the World War Two era. Michael Arlen's short story of the same name was first published in the Christmas 1924 issue of the British magazine, The Tatler, and begins as Englishmen Sir Cyril Quillier and Mr. Kerr-Anderson bet American Howard Cornelius Puce 500 pounds that he cannot spend the night in a haunted room. Left alone in the room with but a single candle, Puce reclines in bed, certain that ghosts do not exist and comforted by the automatic pistol at his side.

Puce picks up a book called Tales of Terror for Tiny Tots and reads "The Phantom Footsteps," a story about twin sisters spending the night alone in a strange house. Julia ventures downstairs to investigate a noise and Geraldine is terrified when her sister returns. The next morning, their father finds Julia dead, "her head half-severed from her trunk," and Geraldine driven mad by fright. Puce slams the book closed and accidentally blows out his candle. He begins to doze off but wakes to sense someone at the foot of the bed, cloaked in darkness. He threatens the figure, sure that it is Quillier masquerading as a ghost, and fires shot after shot into the specter, to no avail. He empties the gun and screams.

Biff McGuire as Latimer
Eleven years later, Quillier and Kerr-Anderson encounter Puce outside an inn in the English countryside. Quillier lost an arm in the first world war and Puce is "a wreck of the hearty giant" of years before. The Brits explain what happened on the fateful night: they had thought Puce dead and run off, leaving him alone in the house where he was later discovered to be suffering from shock and nervous breakdown. Quillier had impersonated the ghost and they had replaced the bullets in his gun with blanks.

The truth revealed, Puce attacks Quillier and has to be pulled off him by "the men in dark uniforms"; it is explained that Puce is now a homicidal maniac who had escaped that morning. " 'Been like that eleven years. Got a shock, I fancy. Keeps on talking about a sister of his called Julia who was murdered, and how he'll be revenged for it,' " says the head-warder. " 'God have mercy on us!' " sobs Quillier.

Arlen's story has been anthologized many times, and in the 1944 collection, Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural, the editors comment that it is a "clever and exciting story; but when the titular hero opens his lips, he speaks in the weird tongue that is employed only by 'American' characters on the British stage." Some examples:
  • "You get a guy so low with your talk that I feel I could put on a tall-hat and crawl under a snake."--Puce
  • "Sir, you are one big bum phantom!"--Puce
  • "Jupiter and Jane, but he'd learn that ghost to stop ghosting!"--narrator
Ralph Clanton as Sir Stephen Hurstwood
In addition to the dated writing style, there is a subtle, anti-American message in the story. Puce, "like a good American, could never get the cold dope on all this fancy title stuff," and bristles at addressing Quillier as "Sir." The narrator also comments that "Travellers have remarked, however, that the exciting traditions behind a hundred-per-cent American nationality have given birth in even the most gentle citizens of that great republic to a feeling of familiarity with 'guns' . . ." Despite his large, athletic frame and his boasting about guns, Puce is put into a state of fright by a children's book of ghost stories and, in the end, driven insane by Quillier's prank. Perhaps this is a subtle jab at Americans in the years following World War One, aimed at British readers tired of Americans reminding them of the role that the former colonies played in winning that war.

John Irving as Derek
The story's author, Michael Arlen (1895-1956), was not English by birth, having been born Dikran Kouyoumdjian in Bulgaria to parents of Armenian heritage. His family moved to England in 1901 and he began writing in 1916. His 1924 novel The Green Hat was a big success and he became a celebrity in the Twenties, writing a number of novels and short stories. Arlen created the character of the Falcon in a short story called "Gay Falcon" that was published in 1940; this led to a series of Hollywood films. After his loyalty to England was questioned in 1941, Arlen moved to America, and many film and television adaptations of his novels and stories have been produced.

"The Gentleman from America" has been adapted for the large and small screens more than once. A 1948 film called The Fatal Night was an official adaptation, and on April 25, 1950, the story was adapted for the television series Suspense, in an episode directed by Robert Stevens. On December 18, 1958, a Canadian TV show called The Unforeseen produced another adaptation of the story, and it was also the uncredited source for an episode of Thriller called "The Purple Room," which aired on October 25, 1960.

A typical Robert Stevens shot
The most well-known adaptation of the story was broadcast on CBS on Sunday, April 29, 1956, near the end of the first season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The story has been updated, as shown by the opening title card superimposed over a street scene; the title reads, "London/ May, 1940." Francis Cockrell's script adds scenes to the beginning of the story to provide background. The first takes place inside a men's club, where a radio broadcasts a horse race. Puce, Quillier, and Kerr-Anderson have been renamed Howard Latimer, Sir Stephen Hurstwood, and Derek; the two Brits discuss their impending military service while Latimer roots for his horse. He bet five hundred pounds on a pony with odds of ten to one, establishing that he is a reckless gambler who has money. One hallmark of director Robert Stevens's style is apparent right away as he has actors approach the camera to show their faces in extreme close up so that we can read their thoughts while they listen to dialogue spoken by other characters off screen. Here, we see Stephen in close up and Derek off to the side and just behind him. Stephen realizes that Latimer is wealthy and asks Derek to introduce him to the American.

Latimer refuses Stephen's invitation to play poker but is intrigued when Stephen mentions the ghost at his family estate called Hurstwood; skeptical but intrigued, Latimer asks to stay the night in the haunted room and Stephen insists that he never bets less than 1000 pounds, a 100 percent rate of inflation since the short story was published thirty-two years before. The scene changes and the location is provided by another title card that reads "Hurstwood Manor" and is superimposed over an exterior shot of a large, gloomy estate. Inside, the terms of the bet are agreed on and Stephen gives Latimer a gun and shows him how to use it. Unlike the American in the story, who at least gave the impression of familiarity with guns, Latimer is resistant to the idea and not a great marksman, as shown by his attempt to fire a test shot into the fireplace, a shot that lodges itself in the wooden molding around the fireplace's opening.

These added scenes dramatize events leading up to the frightful night and help to introduce the story's three main characters. Cockrell updates the time of the events and removes the anti-American sentiment that was present in the source; here, Stephen and Derek are shown to be duplicitous and Latimer seems to be an honest man. Director Stevens creates interest with good camera movement and creative shots, including one where he frames Latimer between two candles in a candelabra held by Stephen. When the trio enter the haunted room, the scene features wonderful shadows, though they do not quite match up with the room's only light source. Instead of the children's ghost story book of Arlen's tale, Latimer picks up a volume entitled Ghosts of Notable British Homes; a nice detail here is that the table on which the book rests is covered in dust, and when the book is picked up it leaves a dust-free rectangle, showing that it has not been looked at in some time.

Left alone in the room, Latimer reads the Tale of the Hurstwood Ghost and Cockrell and Stevens dramatize the story as a flashback: the camera focuses on Latimer reading in bed, then pans right to focus on his bedside candle, then pans back left to show the two sisters in the same bed as Latimer narrates the story in voice over. There are dissolves back and forth between shots of Latimer reading and the girls acting out the story, and the effect generates suspense. The dated humor in Arlen's story has been removed and what remains is more effective.

The scene where the ghost appears to Latimer may have worked better at the time of its original broadcast, when the ghost was only glimpsed several times on black and white television sets, rather than today, when a viewer can scrutinize it in high definition on a large screen. The ghost is luminous and there is no explanation for this, unless it is meant to be an expression of what Latimer perceives rather than what he actually sees. Shots of Latimer in bed alternate with shots of the glowing ghost slowly approaching, and Latimer progresses quickly from confident to angry to frantic--his collapse occurs rapidly.

The final scene of the show begins with another title card, superimposed over the same exterior shot of the estate, reading "Hurstwood Manor/October, 1945." Instead of meeting on a country road, the three men meet back at the scene of the haunting. In the story, Quillier lost an arm in the war; here, Stephen walks with a limp. Latimer shows up unexpectedly at the door and Robert Stevens again uses extreme close ups to show Latimer listening to the other men speaking. When Julia and Geraldine are mentioned, he snaps and attacks Stephen. The final images of the show are well done, as orderlies from the asylum rush in, subdue Latimer, and take him away in a strait jacket.

John Alderson as the asylum attendant
Francis Cockrell's script updates Michael Arlen's story and removes much of what makes it difficult to read with enjoyment today, while Robert Stevens uses various techniques to translate the story from the page to the small screen and create a suspenseful half hour of television. Stevens (1920-1989) directed no less than 49 episodes of the Hitchcock series; the last one reviewed here was "You Got to Have Luck."

Starring as Latimer is Biff McGuire (1926- ), who was born William McGuire Jr. and acted mostly on TV for over 60 years, from 1950 to 2013. He was in four episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Ralph Clanton (1914-2002) plays Sir Stephen Hurstwood; his screen career lasted from 1949 to 1983 and included seven episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (including "Dip in the Pool") and three episodes of Thriller.

Derek is played by John Irving (not the writer of The World According to Garp), who had a ten-year career on TV from 1955 to 1965 but was only in this episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Finally, John Alderson (1916-2006) plays the attendant from the asylum; at end the of the show, he tells Stephen and Derek that Latimer escaped. Alderson had a 40-year career on screen, from 1951 to 1990, and appeared in three episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "The Crocodile Case."

"The Gentleman from America" is available on DVD here or may be viewed online here. The 1950 version produced for Suspense is lost. Read Arlen's short story here.

Arlen, Michael. “The Gentleman from America.” Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural. New York: Random House, 1944. 212–230. Print.
The FictionMags Index. 26 Nov. 2017. Web.
“The Gentleman from American.” Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 1, episode 31, CBS, 29 Apr. 1956. DVD.
Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. Churchville: OTR Pub., 2001.
IMDb. 22 Nov. 2017. Web.

Wikipedia. 22 Nov. 2017. Web.

In two weeks: "Conversation Over a Corpse," starring Dorothy Stickney and Carmen Mathews!

Monday, December 4, 2017

EC Comics! It's An Entertaining Comic Issue 46

The EC Reign Month by Month 1950-1956
     46: June 1954

MAD #12

"Starchie!" ★★★★
Story by Harvey Kurtzman
Art by Will Elder

"From Eternity Back to Here!" ★ 1/2
Story by Harvey Kurtzman
Art by Bernie Krigstein

"Mark Trade!" ★★★ 1/2
Story by Harvey Kurtzman
Art by Jack Davis

"3-Dimensions!" ★★★★
Story by Harvey Kurtzman
Art by Wally Wood

"Starchie!" and Bottleneck run the halls of their high school like Big Men on Campus, selling school passes to the freshmen and breaking the hearts of nicely-drawn chicks like Biddy and Salonica. When they find out that fellow student, Wedgie, is selling passes as well, they take the interloper for a deadly ride. In the end, Bottleneck sells his best buddy out to the cops and takes the business over. Starchie rots in prison, missing his high school days and regretting his bad decisions. Elder and Kurtzman have teamed up in the past on some incredible parodies, but "Starchie!" could well be their apex (at least until the next peak comes along, that is).

Arguably, the funniest thing published in MAD to this point, "Starchie!" is jammed full of hilarious sight gags and knowing jabs at the industry that feeds Kurtzman and Elder. Starchie and Bottleneck smoke, chew tobacco, terrorize their principal, and break the fourth wall constantly. Kurtzman points out the silliness of a character who never graduates and has "criss-cross marks" on the side of his head! Biddy and Salonica have pimply faces, are drawn exactly alike (almost, ironically, like Jack Kamen women), and carry a heroin kit (!). When Wedgie threatens the Starchie trade, the boys strip him, take him for a ride, and dump him off a cliff. Perhaps my favorite moment (among many) is when Starchie sits in his cell, looks at Biddy's picture, remembers how he used to stave off her advances, and beats his head on the wall, chanting "JUST THINK! I GOT RID OF HER! SHE THREW HERSELF! JERK! FOOL! IDIOT!" No, wait, what about when Starchie calls his partner at the candy store and when Bottleneck asks where he is, Starchie sticks his head over the divider and exclaims, "I'm just on the other side of this jagged separation line, you fool!" No, wait . . .

Starchie and Bottleneck pull a fast one on Wedgie.

The Lone Guffaw.
("From Eternity Back to Here!")
Harvey takes aim at the film version of From Here to Eternity in "From Eternity Back to Here!" and shoots blanks; it's a painfully unfunny parody, the only point of interest being Bernie Krigstein's debut as a MAD artist. Krigstein is spot-on with his movie star doodles but his style really doesn't jibe with the MAD vibe (in fact, this is his only solo MAD work--he'll duet with Bill Elder later in the run). There's an amusing running joke concerning the famous shot of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr sucking face in the sand but that is the sole smile earned during its seven-page span.

There's a man who hunts and lives off the fat of the land, whose name is his trademark, his trademark his name . . . and that's his name . . . "Mark Trade!" While showing boy scouts the wonder of nature (and beavers who build brownstones and offer fixed rent), Mark is approached by Wildwood Magazine and offered five grand to hunt and stuff the rare species, Canis Bernardus Saintus, for the magazine's next cover. Never one to turn down a challenge (nor five grand), Mark solicits the help of his boy Friday, Morsemere (a tyke who happens to grow a five o'clock shadow), and his trusted St. Bernard, Sandy. Mark and his assistants hit the road but can't seem to find any game outside a skunk or two. Suddenly realizing he has no idea what a Canis Bernardus Saintus is, he visits the Wildwood office, where he's informed the rare species is a St. Bernard dawg. Weighing his love for Sandy in one hand and five grand in the other, Mark makes his decision and then retires from the stress of nature to live out his days at the Wiltshire-Plaza. One of Harvey's better "throw it at the wall and see what sticks" whackfests, "Mark Trade!" (a parody of the environment/nature-themed comic strip, "Mark Trail") manages to score on about half of its one-liners (a pretty good percentage for one of these things) and Jack Davis gives Elder a run for his money in the sight gag department. Highlights: Morsemere's stubble, the splash with the "subtly" placed cartoon characters, the subway visit, the brick-and-mortar beaver, and the horny boy scouts all elicit hearty guffaws. "Mark Trade!" gives hope that there is more to MAD than Kurtzman/Elder.

"Mark Trade!"

In a final belch of lunacy this issue, Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood demonstrate the highs and lows of "3-Dimensions!" Harvey defies the critics, who claim that 3-D leads to eye strain or blurred vision, in several very helpful training panels and shows us how 3-D can liven up even the most boring proceedings. Unfortunately, for Woody and Harvey, things get a little out of hand at the climax but we get the picture anyway. An absolute joy from start to finish, "3-Dimensions!" defies simple synopsis; you have to experience this. Wally throws the rules out the window and performs some hilarious sleights of hand with panel placement and destruction. The sixth page may be the definitive statement ever recorded on . . . something. I dare you, the reader, to touch the panel reprinted below and not smell newsprint . . . well, um, okay, go get the funny book and try it then. --Melvin Enfantino

Jack: Archie and Jughead slouching their way through every panel, cigarettes hanging from their lips? Betty and Veronica built like Vegas showgirls? "Starchie!" is classic, early Mad, yet another display of the Kurtzman/Elder genius. "From Eternity Back to Here!" shows how bizarre the sight of Bernie Krigstein trying to do comedy can be, while "Mark Trade!" is much more enjoyable than "Mark Trail" ever was. "3-Dimensions!" cements Wally Wood as the second best Mad artist in these early issues (behind Elder, of course), but is page six really blank or is my electronic file copy of this issue missing something? Would they really print a blank page?


The Haunt of Fear #25

"The New Arrival" ★★★
Story by Otto Binder
Art by Graham Ingels

"Indisposed!" ★★★ 1/2
Story by Al Feldstein and William Gaines
Art by George Evans

"Out Cold" ★ 1/2
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by Jack Kamen

"The Light in His Life!" ★ 1/2
Story by Otto Binder
Art by Jack Davis

A sentient mansion tells us its tale of woe and how it is a house haunted by “a horrible living secret”, a secret whose anguished cries can be heard echoing throughout its corridors. One tempestuous night a driver cruising past the house has his car break down so, naturally, the man seeks assistance at the benighted residence despite the house’s best efforts to deter him with well-timed shutter-banging and bat-releasing. The man is greeted by the house’s human owner, a withered old woman who happily invites the young man to spend the night. The motorist remains ill-at-ease about the whole set-up, especially the woman’s insistence that her guest stay away from the room where her sick, mewling baby rests; surely a woman her age could not possibly be caring for a newborn? Rationalizing his way into bed, the man later awakens to the cries and then resolves to get to the bottom of it all. Breaking into the room, he’s horrified to find that the “baby” is actually a wretched, emaciated full-grown man chained the walls, and it isn’t long before the old madwoman has knocked the motorist out and claimed another “ittle dumpling” for her brood.

A boy's best friend?
("The New Arrival")

In retrospect, the whole framing device of the house relating the events of “The New Arrival” isn’t all that necessary, seeing as how the manse ends up playing virtually no role in the actual drama, but if you ask me that just adds to the charm of this flawed, perverted little chiller. If you look at it this way, the incapacitated house is there to play the part of the surrogate reader, cut off from the tragedy being enacted before it and “shouting at the screen” to no avail. This has the added benefit of diverting our attention away (at least partly) from how played-out the story’s setup is: dark and stormy night, broken-down car, weirdo crone, et al. The house is there to tell us, “Hey, I’m with you! I’ve seen this same thing for countless years…” The story is still far from perfect—Ingels’ art, in particular, looks really downgraded, the first half of the story showing only the minimum detail—but it’s redeemed by a pretty grisly climax that looks ahead to all of the psycho-family fare that would only begin to take prominence in the genre during the following decade. For all of its setbacks, you have to admit that “The New Arrival” could have been published in DC’s mystery line or even by, say, Dark Horse today with very little variation and still have managed to raise a hackle or two. 

The joys of suburban living: henpecked husband Henry has just finished slaughtering his nagging wife Rita and pouring her segmented bits down his newly-installed garbage disposal. The murderer has figured out the timing for his crime so perfectly that he manages to bash Rita’s head in during their drive to the “airport” for Rita’s surprise “trip to Florida” and clean up the mess back at the kitchen just before his neighborhood pals show up for a celebratory stag night free of their respective ball-and-chains. One of the buds visiting that night is Henry’s neighbor George, a plumber who had offered to install the garbage disposal as a friendly favor. Henry is basking in the glow of his perfect crime when he casually mentions to the group that his house is on well water, a fact that draws some concern from George. As the plumber explains it, he had thought the well water intake pipe was the waste pipe during his installation, and the full ramifications of his mulligan is made apparent when the guys turn on the tap and see the bloody slop that was once Rita come pouring out of the faucet.

Nightmare fuel.
“Indisposed” is one of those prime slices of suburban Guignol that EC only managed to pull off on a small number of occasions. Having George Evans in your corner certainly never hurts, but Feldstein’s script works just as adeptly as the artist’s noirish inks here. When those two forces are working in concert as they are here it results in some of the company’s grimmest narratives, Evans’ illustrations lending an air of kitchen sink realism (sorry) to all the gruesome shenanigans, producing a disturbing frisson that no other artist could touch. Reading an Evans story like “Indisposed,” you get the feeling that something like this could very well happen (and probably has). This story had two of the most shocking and unsettling panels this side of “Squeeze Play”, the first being Henry’s happy bludgeoning of his wife (his hard smile, the blurred action of his hands, Rita’s outstretched arms—ugh), and the second being the one immediately following it, an extreme close-up of Henry’s blood-drenched hands mopping up the mess in the kitchen through the filter of Marie Severin’s crimson coloring. Yikes.

Smitten with the new redheaded typist at the office, Ralph Cowan plans to ask the beauty out on a date, and here the story posits just what would have happened had Ralph gotten this chance. It’s your typical American love story: boy asks girl on date; girl says yes; boy eventually discovers that girl has weird, profound, and seemingly random distaste for all cats big and small;  boy sees this demonstrated firsthand when girl sends a little kitty into the end zone with a swift kick; boy naturally proposes marriage after this; girl thinks mom isn’t going to approve of union; boy visits old biddy to ask for daughter’s hand and instead gets a mickey slipped in his wine that completely paralyzes him; girl turns out to be flesh-hungry ghoul who wanted to find true love but instead concedes boy’s body to old biddy who proceeds to chop it to bits with a hatchet. Yes, this idyllic story would have happened, if daydreaming Ralph hadn’t walked right out of the office window and fallen twenty stories to his death.

Thank you, Jack Kamen.
("Out Cold")
Holy shnikes! “Out Cold” just might be the whackiest tale that ever graced EC’s horror titles, operating on a level of pure lunacy that was generally reserved for the company’s early SF stories. Carl Wessler’s script is a discordance of moods and tempers, going from straight romantic drama to tongue-in-cheek satire at the turn of a dime. Once we get to the panel of Ralph cowering in terror as his redheaded sweetheart and two maleficent kitties look on with evil grins as Granny the Crossdresser prepares to turn him into mince meat, we realize that we have stepped off the bus into Crazy-Town. This is the kind of delirious, barely coherent yarn that we would have found in the competitor’s rags, so in a lot of ways “Out Cold” feels completely alien. And that ending! Nothing spices up a confused narrative like a guy getting killed for being horny.

The life of a trapper is hard and harsh in equal measure, as young Ned Drake discovers when he listens to some sage words of advice from old-timer Jake Barrow after he mentions his plans to bring his wife along to stay for the winter. Jake advises that Ned reconsider this point, as the isolation and freezing weather have a way of bringing out the worst in people, as it did for Jake and his wife Miranda. Though Jake was able to keep busy in his off-hours by reading his treasured books, Miranda’s only hobby was stuffing her face. Once the store of food was gobbled up, Miranda grew desperate and began eyeing the supply of whale oil used for keeping the cabin lamps alight. After guzzling her way through the casks of oil, Miranda then began making designs on the tallow candles fashioned from whale blubber. The “fat slob” greedily chomped down every last candle and then even slurped up the fat shavings from the animal hides Jake was planning on using for light to read his books. This proved to be the last straw for the trapper, who then made one final innovation to provide fuel for the kerosene lamp in whose glow he now relates this tale to Ned: rendering Miranda down to her most basic elements.

The one shining ray.
("The Light in His Life!")

Although I can appreciate the muted reveal of Jake’s crime in the final panel—he looking on in grim satisfaction at the tiny flame inside the lamp as Ned backs away gagging—everything else in “The Light in His Life” is just a dreary retread of Feldstein’s old spouse-pushed-to-the-edge-enacting-ironic-vengeance formula realized through the "talents" of Otto Binder. Jack Davis’ depiction of Miranda seems to be… inconsistent, to say the least. In some panels she’s not recognizable as a woman; in other she’s not recognizable as a human. The endless “let’s see what she’ll eat next” pattern the story follows gets old real quick, but it should be noted that the sight of Miranda chugging oil and chewing candles has the power to provoke a more icky visceral reaction from the reader than any display of overt violence in this funny book. --Jose

Peter is forced to pick up all of Jose's toys again.
("The New Arrival")
Peter: "The New Arrival" is like one of those jokes your co-worker tells you where you patiently wait through the long monologue hoping for a great punchline (but knowing it'll be weak) and then that final line is delivered and . . . holy cow, it's not too bad! The revelation that the old lady was keeping something other than a baby upstairs isn't that startling; the unsettling bit is the notion that this is her own kid kept chained for forty years. After several weak entries lately, Graham finds his old form again. Anything George Evans works on becomes that much more readable, even a so-so script like "Indisposed!" Having been married once, I felt complete sympathy for Henry. "Out Cold" is more silly, warmed-over nonsense ostensibly whipped up as fast as possible to fill space and then handed over to . . . guess who? The Denver Broncos could probably use the kicking skills of Wilma. "Out Cold" does contain the funniest bit of dialogue this month (outside of anything in Mad) when dopey Ralph takes his header and Wilma exclaims, "Why, the stupid @#!!!" The final tale, "The Light in His Life!," starts off intriguingly, almost as though we're in the room around the candle fire while Jake begins his story. But then Otto falls back on that cliched fat-hate that Al used to load into lots of his narratives. Miranda's growing obesity and disgusting eating habits (seriously, candles?) are all bait for the reader to find sympathy for the skinny guy. Ironic, since EC publisher Gaines was morbidly obese.

Jack: That is one heck of a garbage disposal in "Indisposed!" The story was completely satisfying, with nice art by Evans and a great final panel payoff. "Out Cold" meanders along pretty well but the revelation that the women are a ghoul and a witch is a letdown and the final half-page twist is unnecessary. Still, it's better than the lame "The New Arrival," which continues to track the decline of Ghastly's art. It's never good when a story is narrated by an inanimate object, and I found the surprise twist to be a big disappointment. Worst of all is "The Light in His Life!"--I think Otto Binder and Carl Wessler are vying for worst EC horror writer. Who will win?

Weird Science-Fantasy #24

". . . For Posterity" ★★★
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Wally Wood

"The Teacher from Mars" ★★★
Story by Eando Binder
Adaptation by Al Feldstein
Art by Joe Orlando

"The Pioneer" ★★★★
Story by Al Feldstein
Art by Bernie Krigstein

"Upheaval!" ★★
Story by Harlan Ellison and Al Feldstein
Art by Al Williamson and Roy Krenkel

Marty and Phil are two young men who are out prospecting in the desert for uranium when they witness the landing of a spaceship! They explore the ship's interior and suddenly the hatch closes and the ship takes off into outer space. They pass out from the tumult and later awaken to see the ship hurtling through the vast unknown. When it lands and the hatch opens, they are shocked to see that, instead of horribly-tentacled alien monsters, they are greeted by a huge crowd of beautiful women! The queen explains that all of the men died off centuries before, due to fallout from an atomic war, and the women discovered how to reproduce by means of a chemical, yet that chemical has now run out. Fortunately, the women also discovered how to travel through space and time and oh, by the way, they are on Planet Earth, six thousand years in the future!

Phil seems to think he needs to get married first!
("...For Posterity")
They hopped in a space ship and traveled back through time, eventually ensnaring Marty and Phil, who jump at the chance to do their duty "For Posterity . . ." and help repopulate future Earth. Their work complete, they are whisked back to the present-day desert as if no time had passed. Both men awaken from what seems like a dream, but their suspicions are confirmed when they find roses pinned to their sleeping bags.

Hoo boy! I could've read about ten more pages of this highly entertaining yarn. Wally Wood is the perfect choice to illustrate a story that features a planet of gorgeous gals and, while his art in some places here is not as strong as usual, the story is a ton of fun. My favorite bit of dialogue:

Queen: It is up to you! You know the story, now. We cannot force you to help us! If you want to, we will be most grateful!

Phil: Look, Ma'am! We're just two normal guys! I mean . . .

Jack is reminded of eighth grade for some reason.
("The Teacher from Mars")
Marty: That's a big crowd out there!

That is about as R-rated as a comic could get in 1954, it seems to me!

There's a new teacher at Caslon Prep in Elkhart, Indiana, and his name is Mun Zeerohs--a Martian! He's patient and kind, despite being tormented by the nasty young men, who are led by Tom Blaine. Blaine plays one cruel prank after another on the new teacher, who is about to throw in the towel and head back to Mars when he learns that his son was killed protecting Blaine's father from space pirates. Young Tom sees the error of his ways and he and "The Teacher From Mars" become friends.

Joe Orlando is the right choice to draw this adaptation of a story from the February 1941 pulp, Thrilling Wonder Stories; his teenage students are just creepy enough and the Martian teacher is just weird enough to make the whole thing work. The story veers a bit too close to Messiah imagery (the teacher quotes Jesus on the cross in one thought balloon) but, for some reason, it all fits together neatly in the end. It's interesting that editor Al Feldstein thought to pull an old Binder story out of the files now that one of the Binders was writing new stories for EC.

Krigstein does Kirby?
("The Pioneer")
Professor Alec Lathem is injured when his new rocket fuel explodes and, after that day, he is obsessed with developing a rocket engine and also very short-tempered. Fired from his university post, he buys a farm in the country and begins to build a prototype but is pestered by Hiram Jenkins, a nosy hick neighbor. Lathem finally tests the engine and Jenkins is fried to a crisp by the flame from the exhaust; the cops come and take the professor away. From then on, the professor lives a fantasy life, thinking that he is being taken seriously and encouraged in his research, while in reality he is in jail and on Death Row. He is finally electrocuted but, in his mind, he is taking off on the first trip into outer space.

A brilliant synthesis of art and story, "The Pioneer" is a fascinating psychological study of a man whose mania blinds him to the truth of his experience. Krigstein's art is almost Kirby-esque in spots and the contrast between the narration by the professor and the reality of what is happening, as shown pictorially, is powerful.

Earthmen search the vast reaches of space, seeking proof that there is life elsewhere. Finding none, they are on the verge of being convinced that man is the ultimate result of evolution when they land on a green planet where first their ship and then their bodies are sucked underground as if by a giant mass of protoplasm. They are saved by a sudden "Upheaval!" that delivers men and ship back to the surface; flying away, they realize that they are not the end of the evolutionary line and that a more-advanced life form just vomited them up.

Too talky and too preachy, the Ellison/Feldstein co-production wastes more technically superb art by Williamson and Krenkel. Al's little in-joke comes on page three, as one crew member remarks, with a lascivious grin: "What I'd like to find is a planet completely inhabited by women! Nuthin' but women!" All he needs to do is turn back to the first story in this very fine issue of Weird Science-Fantasy!--Jack

Jack and Jose look on as Peter expresses himself.
Peter: Fresh from his viewing of Cat-Women of the Moon, Al Feldstein delivers the novel known as ". . . For Posterity," a boring, talky, silly space opera that wastes Wally's talents and eight pages. I'm sure the kids appreciated the long x-y, y-y, yy-y, why-why discussion between the Queen of Outer Space and Buck Rogers. I love the panel where Phil gasps about sure death coming through the portal and how he wished he'd brought a knife. Only problem is that Wally's depiction makes Phil look super cool and calm! "The Teacher From Mars" is obviously Al's way of expanding the "literary" horizons of the EC SF tale but Eando Binder (a pseudonym for brother Earl and Otto) is no Ray Bradbury. "Teacher" is predictable, maudlin nonsense featuring some of Joe Orlando's worst art. Really, this strip looks so out of place in an EC SF title. "Upheaval!" begins as another one of those interminable "Space explorers searching for life" snoozers but has a decent twist (and a very funny wink-and-a-nod from Al when one of the travelers exclaims "What I'd like to find is a planet completely inhabited by women! Nuthin' but women!"). Nothing here screams "Future Great Writer." "Upheaval!" was based on Ellison's short story, "Mealtime," which was adapted (by Ellison under his Cordwainer Bird pseudonym) a decade later as the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea episode, "The Price of Doom." As with most anything to do with Harlan, there's an interesting story to go with that adaptation. "The Pioneer" is, by far, the best story this issue. Professor Lathem's sad, strange trip from genius to lunatic is heartbreaking and the march from cell to electric chair particularly powerful. I could have done without that tacked-on final panel, seemingly placed to help the slower readers comprehend what had just happened, as the penultimate panel would have been the perfect last look at Lathem.

The lunatic but genius finale of "3-Dimensions!"

Next Week . . .
Jack has to read another Losers story!!!