Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Hitchcock Project-Clark Howard Part One: Enough Rope for Two [3.7]

by Jack Seabrook

Clark Howard (1932-2016) wrote two stories that were adapted for the Hitchcock TV show: "Enough Rope for Two," which aired in late 1957, and "Night Work," which aired in 1965 as "Night Fever." Howard grew up on the streets of Chicago, as he recounts in his autobiographical novel, Hard City (1990), enlisted in the Marines, and served in Korea. He wrote hundreds of short stories, many of which were published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine or Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, between 1957 and 2013. He also wrote novels and non-fiction crime books from 1967 to 1994 and he wrote a column for the boxing magazine, The Ring. Howard's short story, "The Horn Man," won the Edgar Award for Best Short Story in 1981, and the Short Fiction Mystery Society gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009. He also won five Reader's Awards for his work in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.

Though Howard never wrote for film or television, he did see a handful of his stories adapted for the big and small screens: one film, two TV movies, and four Hitchcock episodes. Oddly enough, the two stories adapted for the original Hitchcock TV series were both remade for the Hitchcock series revival in the 1980s.

"Enough Rope for Two"
was first published here
Howard wrote that David Goodis "had an enormous impact on my life as a writer" and Goodis would have recognized the desperate characters in "Enough Rope for Two," which was first published in Manhunt's February 1957 issue. The author later commented that this story was the eighteenth he ever wrote, the fifth he sold, and the first that was sold to television.

Released from a ten-year stretch in prison, Joe Kedzie visits the Main Line Hotel in a seedy part of Los Angeles and finds Madge Griffin living in Room 212. They are soon joined by Maxie, who had conspired with Madge to ensure that Joe took the fall for a payroll theft that netted $100,000. Joe agrees to take Maxie with him to New Mexico to recover the hidden loot. They drive through the desert, stopping for the night in Tucson before visiting a General Store in Lordsburg, New Mexico, where Joe buys sixty feet of strong rope and a flashlight. He also buys a gun when he thinks Maxie is not watching, though Maxie witnesses the purchase.

They drive to a remote spot where Joe had thrown the money down an abandoned well. Joe shoots Maxie, who falls down the well. Joe then secures the rope and begins to climb down into the darkness. Halfway down, the rope breaks and he falls, breaking his leg; it seems Maxie had cut the rope almost all the way through after seeing Joe buy the gun. Unable to climb out, Joe faces the prospect of dying at the bottom of the well with his money and the corpse of Maxie, who seems to be smiling.

Jean Hagen as Madge
"Enough Rope for Two" is a tough, fast-moving crime story with a gruesome twist ending. It is essentially a three-character play, though Madge disappears about halfway through. When it was sold to Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the role of Madge was expanded to feature the actress Jean Hagen, who received top billing. As a result, the TV show plays out somewhat differently than the story. The changes begin immediately, with a new opening scene in which Max visits Madge to tell her that Joe just got out of jail. They discuss having double-crossed him and how he hid the money that they have waited ten years for. In the story, we learn of their deceit a few pages in, through Joe's private thoughts in narration. In the show, the information is conveyed upfront, through dialogue, and this scene replaces the story's opening, where Joe arrives in Los Angeles by bus and finds his way to Madge's hotel.

After Max leaves, we see Madge preparing herself before a mirror for Joe's impending arrival and we hear her thoughts about him in voiceover narration; when he arrives, she embraces and kisses him, something she repeats once they are seated together on her couch. The Madge of the TV version is more affectionate toward Joe than she is in the short story, at least at first, and Jean Hagen's performance suggests that Madge's behavior stems from a mix of fear and love. Max arrives and Joe confesses that he hid the money in the Mojave Desert, not in Barstow, where they had planned for him to stash it. Changing the location of the hidden money allows for other changes in the story as well; Barstow and Mojave are within a couple of hours' drive from Los Angeles and thus there is no reason to stay overnight, a stop that is required in the story due to the long drive through Tucson to Lordsburg, New Mexico.

Steve Hill as Joe
Another big change in the TV version happens when Madge joins Max and Joe on the drive out to the desert! Seated between the two men in the front seat of a rented jeep, she wonders in voiceover if she and Joe will ever be able to take a trip together like this without being afraid. When they stop at the hardware store, Joe tells Max that he hid the money in an abandoned mine shaft (not a well) and when Max sees Joe buying the gun he goes back to the jeep and tells Madge that Joe knows that they double-crossed them; he hands her a knife that will figure in the show's climax.

After a quick drive into the desert, the trio reach the abandoned mine shaft and, with the addition of Madge to the scene, the story's concluding events play out rather differently. When Joe prepares to shoot Max, Max calls out to Madge, who rushes at Joe with the knife, apparently forgetting her tender feelings toward him. Max throws a shovel at Joe but misses and the shovel knocks down Madge. Maxie runs to the nearby jeep and Joe shoots him twice, also puncturing a canteen of water that sits in the back of the jeep. Joe pulls Madge to her feet before knocking her down again with a slap.

In the story, Max falls down the well and Joe is left alone to venture down after him. In the show, Max lies dead by the jeep and Madge is still with Joe. Adding her to the situation makes it overly complicated and leads Joe to act in a way that is out of character. He lowers himself into the mine shaft and gives Madge a ball of twine that she can lower down to him so he can tie it around the money and let her pull it up. This is a somewhat incomprehensible turn of events, especially in light of the fact that Madge just ran at Joe with a knife and he knocked her to the ground with a smack across the face. In the story, the rope breaks as Joe lowers himself down. In the show, he makes it to the bottom safely and sends the money up to Madge. She caresses the package of cash and thinks, in voiceover, that she can have it all to herself. As Joe is climbing back up, she cuts the rope, and he falls to the bottom, breaking his leg.

Steve Brodie as Max
The show's final twist is new and effective. Madge leaves Joe at the bottom of the shaft and climbs in the jeep to drive away, only to find that the key is missing, presumably in Joe's pocket. She offers to lower the twine again so he can send the key up, arguing that if she backs the jeep closer to the hole then the rope will be long enough for him to climb out. Joe sees that the rope was cut and tells her that he will die more easily in the cool, dark pit, while she will die in the hot sun, calling out for water. She walks off into the desert alone and the show ends.

The changes that were made to the TV adaptation of "Enough Rope for Two" do not improve the story and, in fact, having Madge present for the climax requires Joe to behave in a manner that is inconsistent with his character. The show is a gritty, 25-minute short noir crime film but the plot, which is so solid in Howard's short story, does not hold together as well with the changes. For the record, Clark Howard had no complaints about the TV adaptation of his story and wrote that it was "a thoroughly pleasant experience."

The teleplay is by Joel Murcott (1915-1978), who began writing for Old Time Radio in the late 1940s and who also worked as the radio editor for The Hollywood Reporter before starting a two-decade career as a writer for episodic TV, from 1955 to 1975. He wrote 12 episodes of the Hitchcock show, including the classic hour, "Behind the Locked Door."

A process shot
Directing this episode is Paul Henreid (1908-1992), who began his career as a film actor. He also worked as a director, starting in the early 1950s, and directed 29 episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "A Little Sleep" and "Annabel." In "Enough Rope for Two," he includes a few interesting shots. When Max looks through the window of the hardware store, he is able to see Joe loading bullets into the gun by means of a mirror that allows him to view an action that would otherwise be hidden. The drive out to the Mojave Desert is accomplished with what appears to be a mix of location shots (of the jeep) and process shots (of the actors). Best of all are the shots when Madge looks down into the mine shaft at Joe far below; the camera is at the bottom, looking up, and Madge's face is framed by the square opening at the top of the shaft.

As Madge, Jean Hagen (1923-1977) plays against type. Like Joel Murcott, her career began in radio in the 1940s before she moved to film in 1949 and then television in 1954. She is best remembered today for playing Lina Lamont in Singin' in the Rain (1952), but in 1957 she was best known as Danny Thomas's wife on the popular TV show, Make Room for Daddy, where she had co-starred from 1953 to 1956. This was her only appearance on the Hitchcock show but she kept making movies until the late 1970s.

Steven Hill (1922-2016, and billed here as Steve Hill) plays Joe. He was born Solomon Krakovsky or Solomon Berg and started out on Broadway in 1946; he was also a member of the Actors Studio. His screen career began in 1949 and he was the star of the TV series, Mission:Impossible, during its first season (1966-1967) before he left the show for what are still unclear reasons. He continued acting on screen and later had his biggest success starring on another TV series, Law and Order, from 1990 to 2000.

Don Hix as the
hardware store clerk
Max is played by Steve Brodie (1919-1992). He was born John Stevenson and took his screen name from the man who famously claimed to have jumped off of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1886 and lived. Brodie was a busy character actor on screen from 1944 to 1988, appearing in films such as Out of the Past (1947). He was also on Thriller. This was one of four episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents in which he appeared.

Finally, the small part of the hardware store clerk was played by Don Hix (1891-1964), a bit player with a short TV career from 1954 to 1962 who was not on any other episodes of the Hitchcock show.

"Enough Rope for Two" aired on CBS on Sunday, November 17, 1957. It was remade in color for the Alfred Hitchcock Presents revival and aired on March 9, 1986, written and directed by David Chase. Chase reimagines the story and, while it is jarring to see the tale told in color and with '80s hair and music, by the end it works better than the 1957 version. This time, the Joe character is named Scott, and he is an innocent who is tricked by his girlfriend Zoe into taking her "cousin" Ray on a camping trip. On the way, Ray shoots and kills the man at the hardware store.

In the final scene, Scott runs at Ray with a small axe and Ray shoots and kills him before climbing down into the pit. The money is in a large suitcase that is too big for Ray to hold while climbing back up the rope, so he asks Zoe to lower a smaller rope to bring up the loot. This makes more sense than the 1957 version, where Joe should know better than to trust Madge with $100,000. In the remake, she gets the money and then cuts the climbing rope. The twist ending with the key is the same, though this time it seems that Ray took the key from Scott before going down into the pit. The key scene suggests that David Chase based his teleplay on the 1957 TV show rather than the short story, though only the story is noted in the opening credits.

Watch the original version of "Enough Rope for Two" here or buy the DVD here; read the GenreSnaps review here. Watch the remake here.

Sources:
Amazon, Amazon, www.amazon.com/.
“Clark Howard.” Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2006.
Ellett, Ryan. Radio Drama and Comedy Writers, 1928-1962. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2017.
“Enough Rope for Two.” Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 3, episode 7, CBS, 17 Nov. 1957.
FictionDB - Your Guide to Fiction Books, www.fictiondb.com/.
“The FictionMags Index.” www.philsp.com/homeville/FMI/0start.htm.
Gorman, Ed. “Ed Gorman's Blog.” Hard City by Clark Howard, 1 Jan. 1970, newimprovedgorman.blogspot.com/2011/05/hard-city-by-clark-howard.html.
Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. OTR Pub., 2001.
Howard, Clark. “Enough Rope for Two.” Alfred Hitchcock's A Choice of Evils, The Dial Press, 1983, pp. 48–60.
IMDb, IMDb.com, www.imdb.com/.
Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 5 July 2018, www.wikipedia.org/.
WorldCat, www.worldcat.org/.

In two weeks: Our short series on Clark Howard concludes with "Night Fever," starring Colleen Dewhurst!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Our 1,000,000th page view!

The gang here at bare*bones e-zine wants to thank you, our readers, for making our blog a success!

Today, we had our 1,000,000th page view!

From our very first post, on April 1, 2008, to today, 10 years and over 740 posts later, we're still having a lot of fun reading comics, watching TV, and drooling over pictures of Caroline Munro!
Journey Into Strange Tales

We have two new and exciting series coming up:

Journey Into Strange Tales, starting on September 6, 2018, in which we examine the Atlas horror comics of the 1950s, and

The Warren Report, starting January 14, 2019, in which we examine the Warren horror comics of the 1960s and beyond.

The Warren Report
Of course, we have a way to go yet with Star Spangled DC War Stories, which will cover the DC War Comics through the end of 1976, It's an Entertaining Comic, which will cover EC Comics through to the bitter end in 1956, and the Hitchcock Project, which aims to cover every last episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour!

So keep coming back, tell your friends, and don't forget to comment on our posts!

From Peter, Jack, John, Jose, and the rest of our guest (ghost?) writers--thanks a million!

It's an Entertaining Comic

The Hitchcock Project

Star Spangled DC War Stories

Monday, July 16, 2018

Star Spangled DC War Stories Issue 134: January 1973

The DC War Comics
1959-1976
by Corporals Enfantino and Seabrook




Kubert
Star Spangled War Stories 166

"The True Glory"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Jack Sparling and Joe Kubert

"Ghost Raiders"
Story Uncredited
Art by Jack Abel

Peter: The Unknown Soldier is sent on a mission to Italy to uncover why the advance is moving so slowly. What he finds is a couple of GIs named Mac and Buster who have a love for vino and portly Italian women. At first, the two GIs come off as a couple of grunts to the highly-trained Unknown Soldier, but after some time with the men in combat, their true colors are shown. Behind the drunken facade lie two great military brains and a lot of luck. US returns to base to share what he's found and his CO informs him that the advance will be stopped. US urges his boss to let the grunts be grunts. A not-too-bad script weighted down by awful visuals, "The True Glory" might have gotten a big thumbs-up had someone like Kubert or Heath handled the art chores. Mac and Buster are obviously Bob Haney's attempt to channel Gunner and Sarge, mopes who get the job done despite their outward appearances. It might not be a bad idea now and then to throw something new in the mix like hiding US's identity from the reader rather than continually bombarding us with reminders that the guy who's just arrived in the scene is our hero. Just a suggestion.

The Unknown Soldier checks his contract to see whether
he's entitled to a better artist or not.

The trio of young freedom fighters known as the young commandos are given a top-secret assignment: travel to Hitler's nest, Berchtesgarten, kidnap Adolf, and deliver him to their CO. All the while, the commandos are watched over by a French captain named Francois Girard, who has a nasty habit of disappearing into thin air. The commandos make it to the nest but are foiled in their attempt to bag Hitler when an alarm brings tons of rubble down on the secret tunnel underneath the nest. The boys make it back to their base where they are told "Good job, you've delivered a blow to the morale of the Nazis" (How? Who knows?) and that their guardian angel, Captain Girard, was actually killed in action six months before!

A groan-worthy DC War-Lite tale that does nothing but take up space, "Ghost Raiders" feels and looks like a remnant from DC's "Golden Age" of the 1950s. Ostensibly, the morale blow delivered to the Nazis is that three toddlers could make it into the Eagle's Nest so easily but the real puzzler never explained is why the Army would send these moppets in the first place. Jack Abel delivers exactly the type of art we've come to expect from him; it's generic and lacking anything remotely close to exciting. It may just as well be stick figures. I can't find any reference to an earlier appearance (even though it's as if we've already been introduced to the kids) or to any further appearance. I'll cross my fingers.

Holy Cow! He wuz a ghost?

Jack: You're right about Jack Sparling's art being hard to take, Peter. Haney's story jumps around a lot but ends up being pretty interesting. I did not suspect the Doc as the spy, partly because I didn't know what the heck was going on for at least the first half of "The True Glory." As for "Ghost Raiders," I also wondered if it was a reprint or a file story so bad it had not seen the light of day before this. There's someone else inking Abel here; I just can't put my finger on who it is.


Kubert
Our Army at War 253

"Rock and Iron"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Russ Heath

"The Man"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Ric Estrada

Jack: Walking away from the bridge that was opened at the end of last issue's story, Sgt. Rock wanders into a cave and suddenly finds himself being held at gunpoint by the Iron Major. Though Rock is helpless, the Iron Major does not shoot him because Rock is "too much a soldier." The Iron Major turns his back on Rock, knowing that Rock won't shoot him in cold blood, either.

In the tried and true villain tradition, the Iron Major then decides to try to talk Rock to death by explaining that he was the guy who blew up the bridge after Easy Co. had liberated it. After a couple of quick punches are thrown, the cave collapses on the Iron Major and Rock escapes.

This guy is good!
Okay, I get that the Iron Major is a cool character, but this is getting ridiculous! We get a splash page, a double splash page, a five-page flashback, and two quick punches before the Iron Major dies yet again. Bob Kanigher was really collecting a paycheck for not much story in "Rock and Iron." And what about that bridge? I went back and looked at last issue. Rock knocked the Iron Major down below the bridge and Easy Co. declared it open. This time, the flashback reconfigures the story and adds a whole battle between the Americans and the Nazis after the Iron Major is out of commission and before the bridge is declared open. What gives?

In India in 1856, a British officer and a young Indian native ready themselves for battle at the Khyber Pass: the officer in luxury and the native in poverty. When the battle comes, each kills the other. The officer remarks that the native is "just . . . a . . . boy" but the native says no, he is "a . . . man."

"The Man"
There's not much to "The Man," a vignette about a famous battle. Ric Estrada's art is not something I particularly enjoy, and I remember feeling that way about it way back when I was a kid in the '70s and he was drawing comics like Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter.

Peter: I love the Iron Major but this and his other most recent appearance are pretty flimsy excuses for story; the Major makes almost a cameo to reiterate that he and Rock were meant to fight hand-to-hand and then he gets buried in a rock slide. No explanation how he managed to come back from his death last issue or what exactly the Grotto of Death is (looks like a very hep man-cave to me) but if it gives Russ Heath an excuse to draw lots of pretty pitchers then I'm game. Seriously, is it just me or is Heath getting better and better at this art stuff?  Dynamic! Exciting! Visually brilliant! "The Man"continues the high quality displayed in previous "Gallery of War" entries. Though I thought we might be entering too-familiar territory with the comparative viewpoints that introduced the story, Big Bob soon jettisoned that particular gimmick and settled down into the brief narrative. I'd have preferred the visuals of Toth or Alcala (Estrada is just too cartoony for my tastes) but I can't have it my way all the time.


Kubert
G.I. Combat 157

"The Fountain"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Sam Glanzman

"Son of the Nibelungs"
Story by Raymond Marais
Art by Ric Estrada

"This is the Ship that War Built!"
Story and Art by Sam Glanzman

Peter: The crew of the Haunted Tank come across a woman and her child on a deserted road and offer the pair a lift. The woman politely declines and informs Jeb that she is taking her son to the town of La Fontana in order to bathe his withering legs in "The Fountain" of hope that lies just outside the town. As the tank grinds away from the pair, a sniper manages to nail Jeb, mortally wounding him. His comrades race to find a doctor in La Fontana but find a miracle instead. This feels like a story that's been told quite a few times before but, for just a moment there, it seems as though Jeb is actually in peril. Of course, the miracle arrives just in time and he's resuscitated but the sniper sequence is startling nonetheless. Glanzman is getting very good at drawing anything but human beings; his tank is a pretty awesome vehicle but his characters are still on the sketchy side. There certainly has been a bit of progress made since Sam took over the chores a few issues ago but I'm still mourning the loss of Russ and probably always will.

"The Fountain"

"Son of the Nibelungs" is another of the Marais/Estrada "Germanic Tales" that dip into ancient lore. These aren't written poorly (though the art is awful), but I just can't seem to warm up to them. Perhaps because they all seem to be a chapter in some huge epic and always cut out just when they're getting interesting. "This is the Ship that War Built" is almost a poem about war and death (and the USS Stevens) but what's the purpose? We know that war means death. Glanzman's illos are nicely done.

This is the Fable that Glanzman Wrote

Jack: Kubert's cover is the best thing about this issue and, like his cover for this month's Star Spangled, it follows the DC formula of showing us people who don't know they're in peril. I don't understand the cover's banner touting "The New Haunted Tank!" What's new about it? Does this refer to them rebuilding the tank a while back? There's certainly nothing new about the story or the art, though I liked the novel method used to remove a sniper from a tree--bang into the tree with the tank and shake him out! The story gives the supporting players a rare chance to take center stage but overall it fails to take off. I am starting to dread the stories drawn by Ric Estrada in these comics and the one about the Nibelungs is no exception. Richard Wagner must have been rolling over in his grave when this mess was published. It's four pages of ugly confusion! Glanzman's latest anti-war sermon is tiresome until the powerful fourth and last page that is reproduced above. All in all, a very poor issue of G.I. Combat.


Nick Cardy
Weird War Tales 10

"Who is Haunting the Haunted Chateau?"
Story by Sheldon Mayer
Art by Alex Toth

"The Room That Remembered"
Story by Raymond Marais
Art by Frank Redondo

"Cyrano's Army"
Story by Len Wein
Art by Walt Simonson

Peter: The last time Captain Towers saw Sergeant Herbie Lang, it was in World War II, when Herbie parachuted over the fabled Haunted Chateau. Now, nearly ten years later, the captain runs into the sergeant in an after-show crowd in New York City. Herbie introduces his wife, Cecile, to the captain and explains what happened to him when he arrived at the chateau. The trio enter a nearby bar and the story unfolds. Most of the haunting nonsense was a ruse to keep the Nazis away but there was one authentic spirit roaming the halls of the chateau: Cecile. Yes, Herbie had fallen in love with a ghost and luckily, he explains to his captain, he was killed in action and was able to travel back to the chateau and marry the love of his life. Towers guffaws at the story and turns to request more drinks for him and his two friends but the waiter protests that Towers is there all by his lonesome. "Who is Haunting the Haunted Chateau?" is a charming, very 1940s-ish fantasy/screwball comedy that makes very little sense (why does Herbie wait so long to drop in on his old comrade and what is the reason for the visit?) but looks very nice and is guaranteed to raise a smile on even the most hardened of readers; a breezy break from the nasty Nazi horrors of war. Have I mentioned I love Alex Toth's work? Bring on more quickly!

Toth!

The support acts are so-so terror tales highlighted by some interesting artwork. "The Room That Remembered" is a predictable revenge tale (well, sorta) about a Nazi commandant who steals from the Jews he's having killed and buries his treasures under his office floor. When the Americans storm the camp's gates, the monster must sit in prison and bide his time until his release, when he can dig up his ill-gotten gains. But the dead remember. "Cyrano's Army" steals a bit from the classic "House of Gargoyles" (from House of Mystery #175) but it's still an effective fantasy and features some early work by Walt Simonson. Simonson's art here is like a see-saw, great in spots and atrocious in others, but it's different. That's what's suddenly separating Weird War from the other titles; it's book that is trying to stretch the boundaries of the war story and doing a decent job after a shaky start as a reprint dumpster. It also helps that editor Joe Orlando (who was also editing the horror titles at the time) came to the same conclusion that Jack and I did: those frameworks were getting really creaky. With ace visualizers like Simonson, Redondo, Toth, Alcala, DeZuniga, and Nino aboard, we're guaranteed that the ride will at least look good! Interesting that a letter-writer dubs Weird War #7 an "all-cripple" issue and doesn't get called on the mat by editor Joe. The times they have a-changed.

"The Room That Remembered!"

Jack: Easily the best war comic of the month, this was readable from start to finish. The Toth story is an early contender for my "Best of 1973" list--it's refreshing and funny, mixing ghosts, romance, and war with superb art. "The Room That Remembered" is fast-moving and rewarding, though Redondo's art is an odd melange of styles. I'm glad to see Marais write something enjoyable! "Cyrano's Army" was Walt Simonson's first published story and, while I can't say the art is great, the layouts are certainly creative and point the way forward to the terrific work he would do very soon.

"Cyrano's Army"

Next Week . . .
More proof that the New Direction
may be . . . down!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Caroline Munro Archive: Woman's Mirror - September 17, 1966

by John Scoleri

I'm back again with yet another rarity from my Caroline Munro collection, a continuing series here on bare•bones.


This time out is an advertisement in the Woman's Mirror in 1966.


Woman's Mirror
September 17, 1966

A seventeen year-old Caroline appears in an advertisement for Number Seven All-In-One make-up in this very rare advertisement.


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

Monday, July 9, 2018

EC Comics! It's An Entertaining Comic! Issue 61







The EC Reign Month by Month 1950-1956
Issue 61: May 1955


Johnny Craig
M.D. 1

"The Fight for Life"★1/2
Story Uncredited
Art by Graham Ingels

"Janie Some Day"★★
Story Uncredited
Art by George Evans

"To Fill the Bill"★1/2
Story Uncredited
Art by Joe Orlando

"The Antidote"★★★
Story Uncredited
Art by Reed Crandall

From ancient times till only recently, illness was treated in the dark, as medical knowledge grew in fits and starts. Today (that is, 1955) the friendly doctor knows how to take good care of you.

George Evans gives
"Janie Some Day" crazy eyes
Yes, that's about all there is to "The Fight for Life," a six-page history of medicine illustrated by (of all people) Graham Ingels, who does his best to make things interesting. There's only so much one can do with such a dry topic.

The kids on the playground call her "Janie Some Day," because the six-year-old gal has had both legs in a cast since birth due to congenital osteomyelitis, a bone infection. The nice doctor cures one leg and the cast comes off, but the other one has to be amputated. Janie fears she'll need a wooden leg, but instead she is fitted with a modern prosthetic and now she can run and play with the other kids.

Seriously, did Bill Gaines really think this would sell? Who would buy this comic? Young doctors-to-be? George Evans can draw just about anything and, like Ingels in the first story, he gives it the old college try, but the subject is just not one I really want to read about in comic book form, and I'm a guy who likes adult-themed graphic novels.

Which is it? Bobby or Jimmy?
"To Fill the Bill"
When Jim Saunders pays the bills each month, he ignores Dr. Bennett's bill because he knows the doctor will always come when he's called. Little Bobby, who suddenly becomes Little Jimmy in the middle of one panel, swallows a safety pin and dear old Dad uses the tried and true method of pounding on his back. A call is made to Dr. Bennett, who races to the Saunders' apartment, where Bobby cannot breathe. The doc realizes right away that (just like on Baywatch!) an emergency tracheotomy is called for and, before you know it, the heroic doc uses a kitchen knife to open an airway and a pair of tweezers to extract the safety pin. Jim sheepishly tries to pay the doctor, who gallantly refuses money for now, understanding the family's financial situation.

What a load of hooey! I think Dr. Bennett should have told the Saunders family to pound sand and let little Bobby (or is it Jimmy?) pass on to the next world. That would have been better than making us suffer through six pages of Joe Orlando's art, which is not exactly pleasing to the eye. How did he get so good in the 15 years or so between this and when he started drawing Cain for House of Mystery?

A riveting panel from the "appendectomy sequence"
in "The Antidote"
It's been a long day for Dr. Anders, but he still has to meet with a neurosurgeon who's coming in from out of town to do brain surgery. Danny Borden's parents insist that Dr. Anders see their son, who (it turns out) has appendicitis and needs emergency surgery. Anders agrees to participate and the boy is saved. When the neurosurgeon finally arrives, he tells Anders that the brain surgery can go forward at eight a.m. There's no reason to delay removing the tumor--from the brain of Anders's wife!

Reed Crandall to the rescue! His fine art keeps the story interesting enough that the final twist is a welcome surprise. If this first issue of M.D. is a harbinger of the next four, it's going to be a tough read, but the art is at least bearable, for the most part, though I wish Johnny Craig had done more than just draw that fine cover.--Jack

"The Fight for Life"
Peter: The first issue of M.D. opens with a (ostensibly unintentionally) hilarious travelogue of pain through the ages that makes this reader wonder if "The Fight for Life" (with its cavemen who speak almost Shakespearean English) was, instead, scheduled for MAD! My favorite bit (reprinted here) is the Polynesian form of doctoring, which isn't that far from the methods practiced by my GP. "The Antidote" has a nice twist in its tail but, otherwise, the contents of M.D. #1 are universally silly, dated, and boring. "To Fill the Bill" is a monologue on paying bills and "Janie Some Day" is a nauseatingly maudlin precursor to the hospital dramas we grew up with on TV. Obviously, the prevailing sentiment in Bill Gaines's office was that funny books based on "professions" were going to be the next big thing. Thankfully, M.D. and Psychoanalysis proved otherwise or, fersure fersure, we'd have gotten Two-Fisted Plumbing Tales, Stock Exchange SuspenStories, and Tales from the Mailroom.


Panic 8

"Irving Oops" ★
Story by Jack Mendelsohn
Art by Will Elder

"Carmen" 0
Story by Jack Mendelsohn
Art by Joe Orlando

"Panic Peeks Into Some Old Underpaints" 1/2★
Story by Jack Mendelsohn
Art by Jack Davis

"Gone with the Widow" ★
Story by Jack Mendelsohn
Art by Wally Wood

Guess who drew short straw yet again? My thesaurus only goes so far and I believe I've dried up every possible variation on the word "awful" but here we go anyway. I'm just not sure why even Bill Elder can't work up enough enthusiasm to fake his way through a seven-page strip when he's been (half-) responsible for several out-and-out comedy classics over at that other rag. "Irving Oops" is dreadful (there ya go, that's another word for "awful"), boring, lifeless crap and, doubtless, Al knew it. Just like he knew that "Carmen" was embarrassingly bad (I assume that's publisher Gaines as our emcee, Melvin Kross) but moved it along anyway. "Carmen," by the way, receives a rare 0 score from me. How rare? I've never used it. "Underpaints" is no better, nor is "Gone with the Widow," the hilarious movie send-up we've been begging for. Scarlip O'Hare and Rhett Buttons gives you a mere taste of just how rib-tickling this parody is. But, no wait, there's more . . .

Four issues more to be dreadfully, awfully, horribly, odiferously exact. -Peter

In this case, one panel will have
to be worth a thousand words

Jack: "Irving Oops" makes me think about how hard it is to pull off an effective parody. Bill Elder's work with Harvey Kurtzman is hilarious, but he can't bring life to a Jack Mendelsohn script. Since I've never read "Alley Oop," the jokes fall flat for me. It seems that parody only works when the reader is familiar with the subject being parodied. At least "Carmen" has a quick reference to Stan Freberg's "John and Marsha" routine, so I got a smile thinking about that. Joe Orlando does draw a good-looking Carmen. The parody of classic paintings was surprising because I've never seen Jack Davis draw seriously before. I guess he was able to do more than the usual style he made his living at for decades. As for "Gone with the Widow," Wally Wood's art is gorgeous, and of course his Scarlip is a knockout, but this time even with knowledge of the story being parodied it wasn't a tiny bit funny.


Crandall
Piracy 4

"Pirate Master" ★★★
Story Uncredited
Art by Reed Crandall

"By the Book" ★★★
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by George Evans

"The Sheba" ★★1/2
Story Uncredited
Art by Graham Ingels

"Inheritance" ★★★
Story Uncredited
Art by Bernie Krigstein

No one is feared on the seven seas like Captain Satan, the "Pirate Master," a man so devoid of kindness even his scurvy crew fears him. Satan and his men attack and board a merchant vessel and murder every one on board save a couple of women stored below deck during the journey. As Captain Satan prepares to unveil the potentially-valuable cargo, two of his men wonder what could possess a man to be so heartless and cruel. What indeed? Well, luckily we get to see into Satan's mind and what we see makes his cruelty understandable. In his past life, Satan was blacksmith Juniper Dell, who did everything he could to keep his wife, Viola, content and comfortable but nothing was good enough for his vicious mother-in-law, who henpecked Juniper into leaving home. While musing on the docks,  the morose young man is shanghaied and becomes a pirate under the notorious Captain Ambrose Cates, who takes a shine to young Juniper. A year later, Cates is fatally wounded and turns the ship's wheel over to his apprentice, who quickly earns the fear, if not respect, of the crew. Finally coming out of his daydream, Satan watches as the two women are brought up from below and . . . suddenly, Juniper is confronted with wife and mom-in-law. Mom wastes no time in reminding her good-for-nothing son-in-law who's boss and Juniper finds himself aboard the merchant ship, heading back home to his blacksmith job, the laughter of his former crew receding in the distance.

Every pirate's nightmare

A bit of a change of pace from the usual Piracy tale; well, actually the first three-quarters are just like the usual Piracy tale, rip-roaring and bloody, with fierce battles and inhumanity abounding. Then comes the about-face in the final panels, a hilarious and startling swerve into something akin to a MAD parody. Yes, the twist of Juniper/Satan's past catching up to him is predictable, but our uncredited tale-spinner does a great job of making the sudden infusion of humor work after such a violent build-up. Reed Crandall was born to draw pirates; that much is obvious.

The fact that Midshipman David Price does everything "By the Book" is driving the rest of the crew of the Troy, an American ship fighting in the War of 1812, crazy. To Price, it all comes down to the regulations listed in his Maritime Manual but, to his comrades, there's no time for rules during engagement and the book should go the way of the used coffee grounds. When a chance to sink a British ship comes, Price leads a band of brave men in a rowboat armed with a single mine to blow the Macedonian to kingdom come (or United Kingdom come). The smoke that allowed the little rowboat to approach the Brits without being seen lifts and the Macedonian opens fire on the men. Price grabs the mine, leaps into the water, and manages to attach the explosive to the ship before being fatally shot. The British ship seriously compromised, the longboat returns to the Troy and Midshipman Price's book is tossed into the deep to sink with his brave body. A rousing sea tale with a bittersweet finale (nothing maudlin about that climax), "By the Book" proves that even Carl Wessler was being bitten by the "novelty bug" that was bringing out the best in writers who had seen better days (or had yet to see good days, for that matter); most of these guys were probably sick to death of horror, crime, and shock tales and something fresh like Piracy was infusing them with new ideas. George Evans, like Reed Crandall, is ideally suited to the genre.

Ben has always hated "The Sheba," a ship he helped build with his father; the massive construct of wood seems always out to harm the poor young man. When the Sheba breaks its constraints at the shipyard and mows down Ben's father, Ben vows one day to destroy her. Meeting the love of his life, Ivy, seems to put destruction to the back of Ben's mind but, when one of the ship's pulleys breaks loose and cracks Ben across the skull, he stands on the verge of sanity and once again makes the destruction of the Sheba his top priority. His captain puts Ben ashore at a tiny island so that he can hop another boat to make it back to Ivy but, months later, it's the Sheba that arrives to pick him up. Ben steals onto the ship in the dark of night and sets her adrift; he watches in glee as the Sheba wrecks on a nearby reef and sinks with all crew aboard. But when Ben makes it back to his beloved Ivy, he realizes the torture he was subjected to by a hunk of wood has not ended . . . Ivy boarded the Sheba and took her to the island to see Ben. Another good, solid six pages of sea-faring adventure, though the climax is a bit predictable and I'd question Ben's seesawing sanity; one moment he's lucid, the next he's a raving maniac. Graham (difficult not to type "Ghastly!") proves again that switching genres was no problem but it might have helped that "The Sheba" was just one rising sea-corpse away from being a Tale from the Crypt.

Count Charles Devigny rules his French war frigate, the Bon St. Louis, with an iron hand and only his brother, Emile, is sympathetic to the complaints of the "common" crew. That's what the crew thinks, at least, but at night Emile reports the murmurs of mutiny to his brother, effectively playing double spy. Charles, we come to discover, was granted the family power and wealth while Emile stands penniless and jealous. If Emile can somehow talk the men into a mutiny and Charles is out of the way, Emile is next in line for the "Inheritance." The crafty dog talks the men into murdering the entire crew but finds his victory is short-lived when the Bon St. Louis docks at Cherbourg just after the Bastille has been stormed. Having ascended to Count, Emile is put on trial and sent to the guillotine. Not really a tale of piracy but close enough I guess, "Inheritance" is another well-written and exciting tale à la Shock SuspenStories. Krigstein seems to be finding his sea legs after a rough, cartoony start last issue; the human beings are not as exaggerated. I continue to be impressed with this title, which has already ascended (maybe by process of elimination, but still . . .) to the top of the New Direction books. -Peter

Jack: It's good to know that even a feared pirate had an overbearing mother-in-law! I began to suspect the identity of the passengers in "Pirate Master" around page five but the end was still very funny. "By the Book" demonstrates some thrilling and unexpected heroism, while I found "The Sheba" rather dull and note that Ghastly is still being assigned the quasi-horror stories. Krigstein's technical skill continues to lag behind his cinematic imagination in "Inheritance," though I did like the final panel, where Emile is being guillotined.


MAD 23

"Gopo Gossum!"★★★★
Story by Harvey Kurtzman
Art by Wally Wood

"Scenes We'd . . . Like to See!"★★★
Story by Harvey Kurtzman
Art by Jack Davis

"Ripup's Believe It Or Don't!"★★★
Story by Harvey Kurtzman
Art by Wally Wood

"The Barefoot Nocountessa!"★★★
Story by Harvey Kurtzman
Art by Jack Davis

Back from a trip to the big city, "Gopo Gossum!" tells all his friends in the swamp that they need to stop standing around making great puns and start thinking about politics. Before you know it, political parties abound, as do caricatures of political leaders of the time. The natural end of all this is an atomic explosion, witnessed by four very familiar Disney animals passing by through the woods.

"Gopo Gossum!"

Reading this story not long after suffering through an issue of Panic really shows how much Harvey Kurtzman meant to the success of MAD. The story is very funny and a perfect (and loving) parody of the great Pogo strip, right down to Wally Wood signing it "Walt Wood." This is witty, intelligent, clever writing and great comic art.

"Scenes We'd . . . Like to See!"
In "Scenes We'd . . . Like to See!" a series of typical movie scenes are presented then repeated in a more likely fashion. A couple kiss passionately but get slobber all over their faces. Two swordsmen fight and one is killed with a well-placed thrust. A western hero does not arrive in time to save a fort, some Nazis prevail, a detective gets shot instead of talked to death.

This sort of thing would become more prevalent as MAD continued, with endless (nine pages, in this case) comparisons of the way things are with the way the MAD staff would like to see them. It's funny enough, just not outstanding, and I get tired of Jack Davis quickly.

Do you remember the newspaper strip, "Ripup's Believe It Or Don't!"? Sure you do! It had fascinating facts about unusual folks, such as Galusha Sturdley, the tallest man in the world, and Joseph Stalin of Russia, who was really born in the Bronx.

At three pages, this is just the right length. Wood imitates the Ripley's drawing style perfectly and the "facts" are just absurd enough to be funny and to seem reminiscent of the real strip's panels.

Harry Drawers stands in a cemetery in the pouring rain, recounting the story of "The Barefoot Nocountessa!" Harry was sent by a Hollywood mogul to bring her back from Spain. Men fought over her because of her beauty and, eventually, one killed her.

I've never seen The Barefoot Contessa, so this is kind of foreign to me, but I can appreciate Jack Davis's takes on Bogart, Ava Gardner, and Sinatra. It's all pretty funny and puts a fitting capper on an above-average issue of MAD.--Jack


"The Barefoot Nocountessa!"

Melvin Enfantino: The final issue of funny book MAD is a mixed-bag. On one hand, "The Barefoot Nocountessa!" is proof that Harvey had had enough of movie parodies and was just cruising while, on the other, "Gopo Gossum!" was just as much proof that Kurtzman could probably continue satirizing comic strips and make readers guffaw until he ran out of material. "Gopo" is chock full of hilarious little nuances (like the little guy who spouts gibberish, including "NBCTV" and the polliwog in a glass who notes how nice the art is) and fourth-wall breakers but, curiously, is missing the Elder section of KurtzElder. Wally is perfectly suited for swamp creatures, anyhow. "Ripups's Believe It or Don't" is a knee-slapping collection of silliness and startling facts (5+3-2=7248 has always been debated at our EC Club meetings) but "Scenes We'd . . . Like to See!" is monotonous and a chore to get through. Obviously, it was popular, though, since it became a regular feature in the zine-sized MAD, which debuted its new 68-page, magazine-sized, two-bits cover-priced incarnation in July 1955. Goodbye, MAD, we'll miss ya. But wait, in the words of Gopo Gossum, "You ain't heard the worst!" We're stuck with Panic for four more issues!



Next Week . . .
Will Jeb Stuart get to meet
his ghostly ancestor on the other side?

ATTENTION!

Desperately needed for an upcoming project. If you have scans for the following Atlas comic books, or can make us a scan, please contact us:

Adventures Into Weird Worlds #1, 4, and 23
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Mystery Tales #4, 8, 11, 12, 21, 42, 43, 49, and 51
Mystic #13
Spellbound #14
Suspense #26 and 28

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