Forgotten Book: Mexican Pulp Art Introduction by Maria Cristina Tavera, 2007

The cover image from Mexican Pulp Art.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 205th in my series of Forgotten Books.

This will be a relatively short review because the book is short by itself. This volume collects cover illustrations from a variety of Mexican pulp magazines over 134 pages. Some are one page or smaller, though there are several double page spreads. The pictures are from the collections of Bobbette Axelrod and Ted Frankel.

The introduction contains a little on the history of Mexican pulp magazines. According to the introduction, at their peak the Mexican pulps were being printed in amounts of 50 to 80 million per month!

The photos are from the 1960’s through the 1970’s.  Not a lot is known about the artists since, as in the US, these were disposable items, meant for momentary amusement and then the ashcan.

Dinosaurs attack in Mexican Pulp Art.

The artists are primarily known by the last names shown on the paintings. There does not appear to be anyone equivalent to J. Allen St. John, Rafael deSoto, Norman Saunders, Margaret Brundage or Hannes Bok, among the many others who graced the American pulps, but there are some gems here, including the lovely bee woman cover featured on the cover.

I have included some random shots I took from the interior of the volume. My only complaints are the size of the book and just nine pages of text,. It is barely larger than a mass market paperback. I would have loved to have seen a large trade paperback or art book to revel in. I would have loved more on the Mexican pulp industry, perhaps something about recurring characters or about how the two collections were acquired and evolved over the years. I will take what I got, though.

Check out these photos and let me know your thoughts.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

Strange things are afoot (and aneyeball) in Mexican Pulp Art.

Another of the ghastly images from Mexican Pulp Art.

Forgotten Films: Bulldog Drummond (1929)

The 1929 version of Bulldog Drummond stars the dashing Ronald Colman.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 184th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

This week, I am still hanging out in the early stages of cinema with the first talkie version of Bulldog Drummond. (There had been two silent films prior to this one.)

If you are not familiar with Bulldog Drummond, you should correct that fault. Hugh “Bulldog” Drummond is one of the singular British heroes of the period between the World Wars. He is the creation of “Sapper” (otherwise known as H. C. McNeile. Sapper did ten novels featuring Drummond prior to his death in 1937 from throat cancer. The series of was continued by Gerald Fairley (seven novels until 1954) then Henry Reymond (two novels in the late ’60s). While not a first-tier character like Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes, or Superman, he was a fairly well-known and popular character during his time. His popularity was on a par with Fu Manchu. Wikipedia lists 23 films featuring Drummond from 1922 to 1969, including the two silent versions with 12 different actors taking on the role. Alan Moore even inserted him into the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen history, while Philip Jose Farmer includes him in his Wold-Newton Universe of various heroes and villains.

The 1929 version of Bulldog Drummond has several distinctions going for it. First, it was a talking picture. Second, the star was a well-known silent film star trying to make the jump to the talkies. Ronald Colman was dashing and heroic. He had appeared in more than 25 films prior to the talking revolution, per IMDB. Samuel Goldwyn wanted to make a splash with Colman’s debut in the sound era, and he decided Bulldog Drummond would be the vehicle. As Singing in the Rain showed us, many silent stars had trouble making the transition. Colman was not one of them. This was the perfect choice. In fact, he got an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor as a result.

But, on to the film. As it opens, “Bulldog” Drummond is sitting at his club one night. He is amazingly bored. The most exciting thing happening is that someone has dropped a spoon. He is too rich to work and totally bored. So, he posts an ad in a London newspaper. He states that he is bored and looking for adventure. It gives a post box for replies. Almost immediately he receives one.

A woman asks if he is serious. If he is, she requests that he meet her at an inn where she has reserved a room for “John Smith.” She asks to meet him at midnight. He arrives and meets Phyllis Benton (Joan Bennett). But his good friend Algy (Claud Allister) is suspicious of the whole matter and drags along Drummond’s valet, Danny (Wilson Benge).

Phyllis tells Drummond a strange story involving her uncle; John Travers (Charles Sellon), whom she suspects has been kidnapped into a hospital and is held against his will. He is rich, so money is the obvious motive. The hospital is run by Dr. Lakington (Lawrence Grant), who is aided by Carl Peterson (Montagu Love) and the slinky Irma (Lilyan Tashman). Drummond soon determines that Phyllis is correct and he sets out to rescue Travers.

Algy and Danny provide some comic relief amid all the posturing, testosterone and action. There are twists and turns in the overall process, but Drummond finally succeeds.

Bulldog Drummond is fun film and it kept my interest. There was some horrendous overacting by Joan Bennett, who took a little longer to make the successful transition to sound pictures. The film music was sparse, as was true early on. So there are some long silences in the film.

I’ve seen several of the later Bulldog Drummond films with Tom Conway, Walter Pigeon and John Howard, who played Drummond seven times. Ronald Coleman recreated the role in Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back. They are passable B films of the times.

Of course, your mileage on the first Drummond talkie may vary, particularly during the comic bits. But I recommend this one.

Series organizer Todd Mason host Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

 

 

 

Forgotten Book: Sherlock Holmes: Zombies Over London by Stephen Mertz (2015)

Sherlock Holmes: Zombies Over London delivers fast-paced action over its 135 pages.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 204th in my series of Forgotten Books.

To be upfront, I will need to point out that I have known Steve Mertz for a long time. Not a close friend, but a friend none the less. And the publisher of this volume, Rough Edges Press, is owned by my friends James and Livia Washburn Reasoner, who have published at least one of my stories in the past.

Last year at ArmadilloCon 38, James Reasoner and Steve Mertz, along with Joe Lansdale, were on a panel I moderated on writing men’s adventure fiction. Steve had apprenticed with Don Pendelton for several years and had written and created a variety of men’s adventure series. For his part, James had written a number of Mike Shayne stories for Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine. And Joe had written three MIA Hunter novels for Steve in his early days. Bill Crider had also been scheduled for the panel but he missed due to health issues. Bill had written MIA Hunter, Nick Carter, and a number of western series. Between them, the participants had probably written over 600 novels.

After the panel, I purchased several of Steve’s novels including this week’s Forgotten Book, Sherlock Holmes: Zombies Over London. It’s not exactly so much forgotten as it is unseen or underappreciated. Everything about this book appealed to me. The writer, the cover, the subject matter – everything! Sherlock Holmes, Zombies! Zeppelins! Oh my!

The novel begins with Holmes and Watson aboard the zeppelin Blackhawk about to parachute into Castle Moriarty to rescue Mary Watson who has been taken captive. Upon arriving, they find Moriarty has a group of supremely powerful men that do not react well to any actions directed their way. In fact, they are nearly unstoppable.

Watson and Holmes rescue Mary but Moriarty escapes. They try to track him down but with no success. Back at 221B Baker Street, a new client arrives. He is a tutor and writer, a Mr. Herbert Wells. Watson is familiar with his work, stating that he has loved The Invisible Man. Wells reveals that his next book will be The Time Machine, and he is working on perfecting a model of the device. Holmes is familiar with Wells’ social writings, but ddoes not waste his time on fiction.

Wells is concerned that a young German student he knows appears to be missing. The 16-year-old Albert Einstein is a member of some of Wells’ mathematical circles and has been staying with Wells and his new wife.

A search of Einstein’s room discloses a flyer to a sleazy burlesque house signed by “Danielle” as well as a handkerchief with Mrs. Wells’ monogram. Things may not be all rosy at the Wells’ household.

A trip to the Leicester Square burlesque square finds the mysterious Danielle is a performer with Andre, a knife thrower. During the performance a knife narrowly misses Holmes and mayhem ensues. Danielle and Andre try to flee. A zeppelin shows up with some zombies aboard. Holmes and Watson escape.

Steve Mertz is known for writing good plots with fast action. This volume does not disappoint in those regards. At 135 pages, it is a little short for my taste, but the action never flags. There is conflict with Holmes and Moriarty and zombies and dirigibles. Einstein and Wells are involved in more than is originally thought. Danielle works her wiles. Mrs. Wells has secrets.

During this same period, I read Bill Crider’s Eight Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, an e-book of Crider’s occasional forays into the Holmes canon. I liked Crider’s just as much, even though it was more traditional than the Mertz adventure. I can easily recommend both.

I do have one minor quibble with this book. As mentioned above, Wells is working on The Time Machine and has already published The Invisible Man. The Time Machine was Wells’ first novel. But, in a world of zombies and dirigibles in 1895 London I guess I can allow that transposition.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

Forgotten Film: The Case of the Curious Bride (1935)

The Case of the Curious Bride is an early Perry Mason mystery.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 183rd in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films 

This has been a week! Normally, depending on other commitments, I try to watch a film during the week, then I write up my thoughts on Sunday. This go-round, I was going to have to both watch the film and do the write-up on Sunday.

I had thought to do The 39 Steps, the early Hitchcock version since I had recently seen a dramatization of it, but I could not locate my copy of the film. I had recorded Man Hunt, but when I went to watch it, the recording was of a 1933 film starring Junior Durkind, not the Walter Pigeon and George Sanders suspense thriller. I thought I would watch the Durkin one, but after 10 minutes I turned off the recording and deleted the film from the DVR. I made it 5 minutes further than Sandi did. So, I dipped back into the DVR.

I pulled up The Lost Continent, a Hammer thriller from 1968 with Hildegaard Neff, Eric Porter and Suzanna Leigh. But the quality of the recording was iffy at best. Several times I got a message that the recording had been interrupted. Normally, these interruptions were for a few seconds and I was able to follow the film. But at one key point, the gap was substantial with a total change of scene and characters. I gave up on it also.

Back to the DVR. Hopefully the third time was going to be the charm. I had an early Perry Mason film recorded. I had seen several of the Warren William Masons, so I knew it would be fun. Up popped The Case of the Curious Bride, Williams’ second outing as Mason. The film went smoothly, so here we go.

Perry Mason has just completed a successful defense and is celebrating with his friends and associates. He has picked out some crabs and has gone to Luigi’s to make some fancy Italian dish. Afterward, he plans to leave for a long delayed vacation to China. While preparing the meal, though, he is interrupted by Rhoda Montaine (Margaret Lindsay), who wants to ask him about a problem one of her girlfriends has. The girl had previously been married and husband died four year earlier. She’s since fallen in love and wants to get re-married. But the first husband may be alive. Mason asks the girl’s name and address and Rhoda provides information, which proves false.

Mason is called away and when he returns Rhoda is gone. He has his meal and goes home. The next day, he finds that Rhoda was speaking of herself and that her supposedly dead first husband, Gerald Moxley (Errol Flynn in his second credited Hollywood role) has been killed. Rhoda is fleeing the city and is the obvious suspect. Her new husband, Carl, is suspicious of her behavior and her relation with Dr. Millbeck. Her new father-in-law, C. Phillip Montaine of Pasadena, wants the marriage broken up and offers Mason a lot of money to lose the defense. What’s more, the DA is out for blood.

Williams does pretty well as Mason, but Claire Dodds is wasted as Della Street who does not do much in The Case of the Curious Bride. Allen Jenkins returns as “Spudsy” Drake, Mason’s gopher and right hand worker. He provides a lot of comic relief to these tales, which I do not recall in the novels. (Come to think of it, it has been more than 40 years since I read a Perry Mason so maybe that could be a Forgotten Book column soon.) Olin Howard reprises his role as the coroner Wilbur Strong, who partakes of the gourmet meal with gusto and has a wonderful revelation when exhuming a body early on. And Wini Shaw has a fun song and dance number at the Midnight Burlesque doing a piece called “It Was a Dark and Stormy Night.” Sorry, no Snoopy sitting on his dog house.

These films will never replace the Raymond Burr TV appearances, but they are an interesting representation of the time. I found The Case of the Curious Bride worth a viewing. Perhaps you will too. But, as always with a film this old, your mileage may vary.

Series organizer Todd Mason host Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.  

Forgotten Book: Libriomancer by Jim Hines (2012)

By Scott A. Cupp

Jim Hines’ Libriomancer is packed with fast-moving fantasy fun.

This is the 203rd in my series of Forgotten Books.

My good friend/book pusher Willie Siros suggested Jim Hines’ Libriomancer to me several years ago. In deference to his wisdom in such matters I bought a paperback copy. It stayed in my “to be read” room. Yes, others have a stack. I have a room full of titles that are in my near-future plans to read. Of course, those thoughts and ideas change frequently as I buy new books and things appear and disappear. So, time passed.

Eventually, I acquired all four volumes in the series. In hardback. I had met the author, Jim Hines at a convention in Houston. He was very nice and I enjoyed talking to him. I had him sign some bookplates to put into my copies because I did not have them with me. I managed to acquire first editions of all but the first. The one I’m reviewing now.

So, I was searching for the right book to read and glanced at this one. Serendipity happened.

With 300 or so pages, I only needed to average 50 per day to complete Libriomancer in time to write this review. As a credit to Hines’ story, I finished a day early.

Isaac Vainio is a librarian in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is having a quiet day when vampires show up and attack him. Now, most librarians would have some trouble fending off vampires (and I am not talking about you Bill Page, Peggy Hailey, April Aultman Becker, Jeremy Brett or Jess Nevins, all of whom would kick butt). But Isaac is not your ordinary librarian. He was once one of a select group known as the Libriomancers. That means he can literally reach into a book and pull out a weapon.

The power of the Libriomancer comes from the collective belief of readers who want the activities in their favorite books to be real. Isaac had discovered this as a teen when he found his hands slipping into a novel he as enjoying. He was found and trained to be a part of Die Zwelf Portenaere (The Twelve Doorkeepers, or the Porters).

There are limitations to this power, of course. The withdrawn weapon must be able to fit through the physical dimensions of the book, so tanks or flame throwers are generally out of the question. Certain incredibly powerful items, like the One Ring, have been proscribed by the Authorities and are “locked.” Still, Isaac knows how to work with these limitations, and vampires dispatched, soon is at home wondering what is going on.

There, he meets Lena Greenwood, a dryad who is attached to his analyst/libromancer shrink Dr. Nidhi Shah. He learns that Dr. Shah has been kidnapped and the peace with the vampires has been broken. Also, Isaac’s best friend among the libromancers has been murdered. On top of this, Dr. Shah had recommended that he be taken off of field work, essentially confining him to his library with no magic involved.

But there are other problems. The creator of the Porters, Johannes Gutenberg, has disappeared, along with his 12 undefeatable automatons. There are traitors within the Porters. Some of the Porters’ libraries have been attacked, including the one at Michigan State University, which has been leveled. And someone, a very powerful someone, wants Isaac dead. Oh, and the dryad needs to form a relationship with someone or die. And that someone is Isaac, based on his interviews with the good doctor. And Ponce d Leon makes an appearance too.

I’m not going to reveal much more of the plot. But a lot happens in these pages.

Libriomancer was a blast. No one will confuse it for William Faulkner or John Steinbeck. But if you want to read good, fun action and adventure, this one is for you.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

Forgotten Films: They Met in Bombay (1941)

They Met in Bombay is part comedy caper film and part WW2 action yarn.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 182nd in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

As I said last week, “police and detective films of the ’30s and ’40s can be a wonderful thing.” So, when browsing through the program guide a few months ago, I was immediately struck by the title They Met in Bombay. I looked up the summary and found it to be a comedy caper about two jewel thieves in India. The stars included Clark Gable, the amazing Rosalind Russell and Peter Lorre. So, onto the DVR it went.

When I was looking for something to watch and describe for you faithful readers, the film struck me again. It starts in Bombay, where the Duchess of Belltravers (Jessie Ralph) is set to appear at the annual celebration of colonial British rule. The Duchess owns a fabulous necklace with a huge diamond pendant, the Star of Asia. Being a well-known jewel, it naturally attracts the attention of thieves. Gerald Meldrick (Gable) is such a thief and he has made a very acceptable copy of the necklace. He arrives at the hotel where the celebration will take place. He presents the manager (Eduardo Ciannelli) with a telegram presenting him as a detective for Lloyd’s of London, which insures the necklace. The necklace is kept is the hotel safe and guarded at all times when it’s not worn.

As he Meldrick checks in, he sees the Baroness Anya van Duren (Russell) arrive to make her own play as a con artist. She goes to her room and studies the history of the Belltravers family, brushing up on the family lineage and personal details such as who their friends are.

When Anya goes to get her hair and nails done, Gerald is there getting a shave. That shave quickly turns into a haircut so he can look admiringly at her. At the celebration, the Duchess notes that Anya looks just like she did when she was younger. Anya’s guests include a local prince, but they have not shown up (because they were never invited). The Duchess invites Anya to join her party as the prince in question is also a friend of hers.

Anya, being a good con artist, ingratiates herself into the Duchess’ confidence, and soon the two are back at the Duchess’ suite where the older woman falls asleep. Anya removes the necklace and departs to her suite. When Gerald enters, he sees that the necklace is gone. He puts his copy on the woman and goes to Anya’s room, where he confronts her as the Lloyd’s detective and gets her to give up the goods. A few minutes after he leaves, she sees the real hotel detectives leaving the Duchess’ room with the necklace, which she asks to see. She then realizes that she has been conned herself.

The next morning, Gerald checks out of the hotel and grabs a ride to the airport. Inside the cab he finds Anya. They discuss the evening’s happenings and the possibility of a partnership. Just as they reach the airport, they hear the sound of the police. Realizing the jig is up, they steal a boat and row out to a freighter on its way to Hong Kong. Captain Chang (Peter Lorre) realizes who the pair are and offers to turn them over when they get to Hong Kong for a £10,000.

The two grab the jewel and escape over the side of the freighter and hide out in Hong Kong for several weeks. Anya has acquired a domestic streak and is hoping the two can retire from theft. Nearly broke, Gerald concocts a new plan to steal money from a businessman who has defrauded the military. Getting a military uniform, he marches through the street acquiring soldiers as he goes along. He arrives at the mark’s house with a large contingent and fleeces the man of his ledgers and all the cash on hand. Things are going well. He and Anya are leaving in a couple of hours. Then the real military shows up. Gerald, using the name Captain Houston, is whisked to the garrison where he is impressed into handling the evacuation of the Chiang Lin province from the Japanese occupation. (This is at the beginning of World War II.)

Here the film turns into a heroic adventure and is no longer the romantic caper comedy it started as. Still, it remains fun. Gable and Russell work well together throughout, although Wikipedia tells me that Lana Turner was originally slated to be the co-star. I like Russell more than I do Turner, so this was fine by me.

Overall, They Met in Bombay was was good film and I really enjoyed it. Peter Lorre was only in the film 10 or 15 minutes and was pretty well wasted as an unscrupulous Chinese freighter captain. I had never heard of this film before, so it was a nice piece of serendipity that I found it and watched it. Perhaps it will work for you also. Though, of course, your mileage may vary.

Series organizer Todd Mason host Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.  

Forgotten Book: The Continental Op: The Complete Case Files by Dashiell Hammett, 1923 – 1930, Edited by Richard Laymon and Julie M. Rivette

Hammett’s Continental Op stories aren’t as well known as his novels, but they still pack a punch.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 202nd in my series of Forgotten Books.

Like John D. MacDonald in last week’s Forgotten Book, it would be hard to imagine a world where Dashiell Hammett is a “forgotten writer.” The five novels ranging from Red Harvest, The Dain Curse, The Glass Key, The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man have been printed and reprinted over and over. In fact, The Maltese Falcon is one of the greatest novels in the English language. Together with Raymond Chandler and Carroll John Daly, Hammett led the charge to take murder and mayhem out of the English drawing room and pit it back on the mean streets.

I have read each of those books, multiple times, over the past 50 years, and I watch the films whenever they are on. I cannot count the number of times of time I have heard Sam Spade say “the stuff dreams are made of.”

But it is easy to forget that those novels did not spring fully realized from the head of Hammett. He had an apprenticeship period, generally in the Black Mask magazine. And he told many of these tales through the eyes of a short, fat unnamed detective who worked for the Continental Detective Agency in San Francisco. There are a number of Hammett short story collections that have been published throughout the years, some with great titles like Dead Yellow Women, The Creeping Siamese and The Big Knockover. But, until this volume, there has never been a complete accounting of the Continental Op stories.

The three title stories listed in the previous paragraph are all among the best of the stories contained in The Continental Op: The Complete Case Files, this week’s book. But, again, these stories did not just leap from Hammett’s fingertips. Editors Laymon and Rivette group the stories into three groups – The Early Years (1923-1924) with 10 stories beginning with “Arson Plus”; The Middle Years (1924-1926) with 11 stories, beginning with “The House in Turk Street” (one of my favorites) through “The Gutting of Couffignal” (another amazing story); and The Later Years (1927-1930) with 8 stories beginning with “The Creeping Siamese” and including the near novel The Big Knockover,” its sequel “$106,000 Blood Money” and “Death and Company.” That period also includes one unfinished story, “Three Dimes.” All but two of the published stories appeared in Black Mask.

The Early Years stories are all okay. None of them particularly leapt out to me as an Oh-My-God! moment. But with the advent of Hammett’s middle period and “The House in Turk Street” and its sequel “The Girl With the Silver Eyes,” there was a difference in the writing, a leanness that moved the stories along, even though they were longer pieces. In this period we get the stories previously noted as well as “The Whosis Kid,” “Who Killed Bob Teal” and “Dead Yellow Women.” If he had stopped writing at this point, he would still be revered today.

The later years bring it all home, though. “The Big Knockover” and “$106,000 Blood Money” were issued together as a short novel by Dell Paperbacks and as a hardcover from World Publishing. They are a little short to be considered a complete novel, but they are very, very good. During this period, I also liked “The Creeping Siamese” and “Fly Paper.” There were one or two contrived pieces, especially “The King Business” (one of the two non-Black Mask stories), which takes the Op away from San Francisco and into Europe with a young man being maneuvered into funding a political revolution.

Read in one or two sittings, these stories will get old. Spread over a week or month, however, they retain their wonderful flavor. If, like me, you have not read all of these or only know Hammett through his novels, this is where you want to be. If you are interested in the history of the mystery field in the 20th Century, this is where you need to be. The introductory essays before each section are worth the price of admission alone. If character names like The Whosis Kid, Paddy the Mex, Bluepoint Vance, Wop Healy, Tom-Tom Carey, and the Did-and-Dat Kid strike your fancy, this is the book for you. (I should mention that Hammett was definitely a product of his time, and there are some ethnic slurs that were common in the period and which reflect the character of the Operative. Just a word to not be surprised when you run into those words. There are not a lot of them, but they could be jarring to some readers.)

Looking again this evening, this particular version does not appear to be available on Amazon. Which is a crying shame. There are multiple volumes which reprint all the stories, but it talks some work and money. I got this in September 2016 for $14.99, the most I ever have paid for an e-book. And it was worth every penny.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

Forgotten Films: The Amazing Mr. Williams (1939)

The Amazing Mr. Williams is fun clone of The Thin Man.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 181sth in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

Police and detective films of the ’30s and ’40s can be a wonderful thing. Recently, while scrolling through the guide on my television, I saw one listed that I had never heard of. Billed as a “breezy Thin Man clone,” The Amazing Mr. Williams starred Melvyn Douglas and Joan Blondell, two stalwarts of this period. I gave it a chance.

Lieutenant Kenny Williams (Douglas) is a homicide detective who has amazing insights in solving cases. Maxine Carroll (Blondell) is the mayor’s secretary and Kenny’s fiancé. But Maxine does not like that Kenny works a job with hours beyond 9 to 5. Their dates are frequently interrupted by murder. Maxine hates that Kenny is a policeman and threatens regularly to leave him unless he quits.

In the opening moments of the film, Kenny is late in arriving to a date and Maxine is furious. He gets there in time to drink her Old Fashioned and apologize. Before he can order, he is dragged away for a locked-room murder involving a woman, midgets and a snake. (And it did not involve the Harry Stephen Keeler solution of a midget hanging from a rope from a helicopter).

Kenny tries to apologize to Maxine and solemnly swears to be there for her. His boss, Captain McGovern (Clarence Kolb), overhears the plans and decides to send Kenny to take convicted murderer Texas Buck Moseby (Edward Brophy) to prison for 40 years. Rather than explain the situation to Maxine (who does not want to hear any more excuses), Kenny takes Buck in tow as he takes Maxine to the Beach Casino for an evening of dinner and dancing. Maxine does not believe that Buck is an old college friend and blows the whistle on Kenny, getting him suspended for 60 days without pay.

Except of course there is another job that needs to be done. The Phantom Slugger has been preying on women on the streets, hitting them with a baseball bat. Seven women have died. Kenny has the idea of sending one of the male cops out in drag to attract the Slugger. But, because of the screw-up with Moseby, Kenny is told he will be the decoy. Maxine fed the idea to the mayor to make Kenny get fed up and resign, but it never works out the way she wants.

In another episode, Kenny resigns but is drug back into service by McGovern, leaving Maxine waiting at the altar. And a final incident which involves an innocent man captured by Kenny who is convicted of murder. While taking him to prison, Kenny realizes that a mistake has been made and that he must remove the man from the train and prove him innocent before the police capture Kenny and send him away for 10 years.

It is light hearted and breezy and episodic. The supporting cast with favorite Donald MacBride as Lieutenant Bixler and Ruth Donnelly and Effie Perkins, Maxine’s roommate and work assistant, is also quite good.

A lot happens in The Amazing Mr. Williams’ 80 minutes, and there are no real dull sections. I really like both Melvyn Douglas and Joan Blondell. They made three films together in 1938 and 1939, as well as one in 1964. This was the second of the three.

Melvyn Douglas also starred in Fast Company, a bibliomystery I reviewed last year which I really enjoyed. He was one of three actors to play book dealer/sleuth Joel Sloan. All three of those films also qualify as The Thin Man clones and are worth watching.

Series organizer Todd Mason host Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

Forgotten Book: The Deep Blue Good-By by John D. MacDonald (1964)

The Deep Blue Good-By is a fast-paced 144 pages.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 201st in my series of Forgotten Books.

Recently, on a trip, I was getting tired of no music on the radio from Alpine to the rest of the world and my USB stick was wearing a little thin. I pulled into a truck stop, and sitting on as shelf was a CD version of this novel, The Deep Blue Good-By by John D. MacDonald. For five discs and six hours, I was back in a world that I had not been to for a long time.

OK, before anyone says anything, John D. MacDonald, is not a Forgotten Writer. At least not to many who follow this blog. But to many of the readers out in the world, he is. MacDonald has been dead since 1986, more than 30 years. Travis McGee, the hero of this novel, somehow never made it into a profitable film franchise, and MacDonald is not being carried in the bookstores anymore.

But there was a wonderful time — a time when you could find a new book by John D. and the prose would sparkle and dazzle and race through your eyes and your brain. I came to John D. later in life thanks to the insistence of Joe R. Lansdale. He thrust a copy of The Executioners into my hands on a vacation. I read for two hours straight. I’m not sure I was breathing when I finished it. I had not seen Cape Fear at that point — the original one — the remake was still four years in the future. I deeply hooked into that prose and pacing. When I returned to Dallas, I started looking for every book of his I could find. And there were lots of them. There were the mysteries, the wonderful science fiction, the fantasy of The Girl, the Gold Watch, and Everything (I reviewed the film version last year), the suspense novels, the non-fiction, his letter exchanges with Dan Rowan and the short stories. I read a lot of John D. during those days.

Unlike many other writers, he only had one series character. The formidable Travis McGee, fixer of problems, salvage consultant, beach bum, and chief resident of the house boat The Busted Flush, generally moored at Slip F-18, Bahia Mar Marina, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

The Deep Blue Good-By introduces Travis McGee, and he would be with us for 21 novels, each with a color in the title. Chook McCall is an old friend of McGee’s. She has a dance troupe at one of the clubs. One of her dancers, Cathy Kerr, has a problem. An old boyfriend, one Junior Allen, up and left her one day after destroying a mailbox. He returned about a month later with a fancy houseboat and lots of money. He ignored Cathy and took up with a Mrs. Lois Atkinson, a divorced woman. But Junior soon deserts her. Cathy believes Junior has found some cache that her father brought back from World War II. On his return, Cathy’s dad struck an officer in a bar fight and got sent to a military prison. He told his family that he would be taking care of them when he got out. But he never got out.

Cathy wants McGee to locate whatever junior has found and recover it for her. His fee is half plus expenses. Cathy seems like a nice person, so he agrees, even though he has reservations.

He soon finds out that Junior is a full-on psychopath with deep issues and great personal strength. He enjoys finding a certain kind of woman and destroying her self worth and personal pride.

It’s a good, quick read — the perfect lead in to the series. The second book Nightmare in Pink was published the month after The Deep Blue Goodbye, giving 1964 readers two quick bites of a very complex apple.

It had been a long time since I read a MacDonald novel. I no longer have all of them, but I have still own quite a few. I’ll be delving back into that world again soon. If you are a MacDonald fan, what’s your favorite JDM book and favorite McGee mystery? If you’ve never read him (and you know who you are!), that needs to change this week. Just go to the bookstore, find a couple of his books (you will want another as soon as you finish the first), call in sick to work, and luxuriate in the sparse prose and lightning action. You can thank me next week. None of the early tales are bloated 300-page tales. The Deep Blue Good-By clocks in at a trim 144 pages in the Gold Medal first edition. No wasted or excess words here. Check it out.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

Forgotten Films: Swamp Thing (1982)

Swamp Thing Movie

Great comic, great poster… um… not so great movie.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 180th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

One of the things that I enjoy in my life is comic books. I got my first in 1959. I collected comics for several years and in 1962, the family moved from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Texas. My comic books at the time included early Green Lantern, Justice League of America, Thor, Hulk and Fantastic Four issues.

The comics were shipped in the family station wagon to Seattle, where we met up with it and discovered two items missing. One was a fire extinguisher; the second my stack of comics. I was devastated. We were about to embark upon a family trip, driving from Seattle to Dallas over a two-and-a-half-week period. We went to the Seattle World’s Fair, Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm and more. We got to see some military bases, including a naval station and a nuclear sub! Wow!

But two and half weeks in a station wagon with my parents, smoking two packs a day each, without comics was going to be hell, so pretty much every time we stopped I picked up more. This started a comic collection that lasted until 1968. My parents said they were not moving the comics anymore and that I had to rid myself of the collection, which I did a two cents apiece. I was crushed again.

But, soon, in college, I found my niche and friends who loved the illustrated page as much as I did. Among the titles starting to come out was Swamp Thing. (Hey, you knew the story was going somewhere.) Swamp Thing was a DC comic written by Len Wein and illustrated by Bernie Wrightson. It became a favorite comic because it was intelligently written and impeccably illustrated. The team worked together for only ten issues before they went in different directions. But Swamp Thing remained a classic.

So, you can guess my reaction in 1982 when this film (as you should remember, this column is about films) was announced and released. The track record of comic films at that time was not very good (except for Superman 1 and 2). And I was not familiar with the director at the time. His name was Wes Craven. Somehow I had missed his earlier directing stints, including The Hills Have Eyes.

So, I went to the theater and sat through the film. It was a mess. The story of Dr. Alec Holland and his botanic research in the swamp was there. The vicious attack by thugs and the horrific death suffered by Holland and his wife was there. The villain Arcane was there. Beyond that, things were muddled.

Dr. Alec Holland (played by the inimitable Ray Wise) has a shop in the swamp with his wife Linda (Nannette Brown). One of his security people has left and is replaced by Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau). As Cable arrives, some of the security network starts to malfunction and Alec and Alice investigate to find that wiring has been cut. When they return to the lab, some serendipity happens and the formula he’s creating starts to work in a fantastic manner.

Then the bad guys of Arcane (Louis Jordan) begin to arrive. Notebooks full of Alec’s research are taken, Linda is shot and Alec is doused in his formula and lit on fire. He runs screaming into the swamp, where he dies. Cable is hiding during some of this and has found the final notebook with the truly relevant information.

Now, the film falls off the rails. We get lots of shots of inept mercenaries trying to find Cable and we get the first appearance of the title character. Hollywood actor/stuntman Dick Durock wears the rubber suit and tries to make something out of the mess. Somehow he learns to speak, which the Swamp Thing in the comics did not regularly do.

There is some comic relief with a young black man running a gas station who is there when Alice runs in trying to escape Arcane. Reggie Batts plays Jude and is only in the film a few minutes. Soon, the film turns into a rubber-suit monster fight with broadswords in the swamp. Then it mercifully ends. But, like the seven year itch, the character returned in 1989 in The Return of the Swamp Thing.

As I watched this the other day, I cannot believe I watched both films back when they were released and had fairly decent memories of them. All I can say is, “I was young! So very young!” And I was starved for good comics-related films.

Pretty sure I will not be re-watching this one or the sequel any time soon. Or ever again. However, your mileage may vary.

Series organizer Todd Mason host Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.