Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Caroline Munro Archive: Oui, April 1973

by John Scoleri

Welcome to the latest installment of another one of our semi-regular features on bare•bones, in which I feature rarities from my Caroline Munro collection. This time out I'm featuring a unique, albeit brief, interview with Caroline from Playboy's sister publication, Oui.

Vol. 2, No. 4
April, 1973
Page 18

New sex symbol discusses leeks

Does Caroline Munro have the power to cloud men's minds? Is it her unnerving habit of serving Scotch neat in a large wine glass? Her extreme height? Could it possibly be her boobs? Would you like at least one declarative sentence instead of all these questions? Hang in there.

A cheery, wholesome English lady gave birth to a girl 23 years ago in Brighton. She named her Caroline.

A happy, contented child, Caroline Munro ate all her porridge and grew up into a sex symbol. This was not widely known at the time. Barring a worldwide epidemic of glaucoma, it will be known sooner or later. Caroline married American pop singer Judd Hamilton at the age of 17 and became a fashion model. An American movie mogul, thumbing through a copy of British Vogue, eyeballed a picture of Caroline and fell right off the crapper.

"One inch equals one foot"

Caroline is now taking a breather (and you have never seen anyone breathe until you've seen Caroline Munro breathe) from her fifth film, Sinbad's Golden Voyage—a good old-fashioned hokey epic in which she co-stars with John Phillip Law, and gets her first screen kiss, such as it is, and is lowered into a cave populated chiefly by a randy, one-eyed centaur.

But when you are sitting in Caroline Munro's London flat on a Saturday night drinking Scotch neat out of a large wine glass, you are apt not to be concentrating on randy one-eyed centaurs, let alone John Phillip Law.

"No, I've never been nude in a film," Caroline was saying in response to a question. "I don't really think it's essential. I mean, you can get so much more—well, meaning out of a bikini or a little décolleté, if that's what they want. Don't you think my dog is intelligent? She can sing, you know. Not on key, really, but she could if she wanted to. She doesn't see much point in it. She'd rather be a journalist. Are we still on that nudity thing? I mean, we do need the press. A pity. I adore celery. Cooked or uncooked. I love it with cheese on it. You can't be all that bad if you write about celery. You can put cheese on leeks, too. That's the Welsh national dish. I'd give you a good recipe, but I'm getting on to you chaps now. I mean, I can see the headlines now: 'How Caroline Munro Does Leeks.'"

Caroline has a sense of humor.
—R.R. (Richard Roraback?)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Batman in the 1970s Part 42: May and June 1976

by Peter Enfantino
& Jack Seabrook

Detective Comics 459 (May 1976)

"A Clue Before Dying!"
Story by Martin Pasko
Art by J.L. Garcia Lopez

Writer Elliot Quinn is having a bash in celebration of the book he's working on, "The Dreamhouse Murder." The shindig is being held in the same house the famed murder was committed in as this gives Quinn his mojo. Unfortunately, that book will have to be ghost-written since Quinn is found dead - shot in the jugular - at his writing desk later that evening. Luckily (or coincidentally), Bruce Wayne's name was on the invitation list and where he goes, so does The Batman. The suspects include: actor Walter Gaunt, Detective Dannay, secretary Lyle Keane, housekeeper Emma Rundle, and one Alfred Pennyworth (identified by Mrs. Rundle as exiting the room where Quinn's body was found). When Mrs. Rundle is found dead, by poker, in the parlor, the suspect list dwindles. Thankfully, the dead writer left a clue and Batman adds one plus one and that equals toupee! We eventually discover Quinn's murderer was also the guilty party in The Dreamhouse Murder and was afraid the writer would find him out. 

Jack: Martin Pasko’s tribute to Ellery Queen features a mystery writer named Elliot Quinn (E.Q., get it?) and a detective named Lt. Dannay, a nod to Frederic Dannay, one of the two men who wrote as Ellery Queen. The story itself is simple and the clues rather obvious. Still, having Batman solve an actual mystery with any clues at all is an improvement over having him herding horses or camels in Gotham City.

PE: Do I have to select either door, Jack? Bruce Wayne always seems to get invited to these whodunits. The only piece missing is Commissioner Gordon, who's usually at the party as well. Can a corpse actually point out a clue? And would that corpse actually have the wherewithal to point to a rug as a clue that his murderer wears a toupee?! That "startling" cover is a bit of false advertising. Alfred's guilt is discussed in about two panels (and he's certainly never asked by Bats to be a patsy), the cops haul him away (in his nightgown, no less), and nothing more is said about our favorite butler. In fact, as far as we know, he's still waiting to be bailed out.

"Scream of the Gargoyle!"
Story by Marty Pasko
Art by Pablo Marcos

To save his wife Francine, Man-Bat must first face the threat of Dr. Thanatogenos and his Devil-Bell.

PE: Thank goodness this is only six pages long as I had to read it twice to figure out what was going on. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if I grasped it even after the double pass. So Thanogenitals turns out to be the demon-gargoyle, I guess. That should be a shocking development but leads to more head-scratching on this reader's part. What we end up with here seems to be five pages explaining what happened in the first chapter (last issue) and a one-page wrap-up. I argue that all action would stop for minutes on end as Man-Bat tries to pronounce the good doctor's name without skreeking (and how about the demon's "gleeking"!)

Jack: This conclusion to the Man-Bat two-parter is very quick and not terribly coherent, but the art by Pablo Marcos is nice. I find it hard to believe that the Langstroms are the only people in Chicago possessing mystic energy; I’ve been to the Windy City enough times to know better! It looks like the artists have stopped numbering pages—I wonder if this was intentionally done to make it less obvious that readers were paying 30 cents for 18 pages of new material. I also wonder if Pasko took the backup story less seriously, since the Batman lead story is credited to “Martin” while the Man-Bat backup is credited to “Marty.”

PE: Based on evidence presented in this issue, Jack, I'd say Pasko didn't take either one seriously.

Batman 275 (May 1976)

"The Ferry Blows at Midnight!"
Story by David V. Reed
Art by Ernie Chua and Tex Blaisdell

Batman is determined to crack the case of the mysterious crimes that have been occurring in Gotham. Luckily, the North American team is hard at work fulfilling its assignment as the last group to take a turn in the Underworld Olympics. Batman succeeds in foiling their attempt to blow up a ferry and then follows a spotter back to their headquarters, where the entire crew of international bad guys is rounded up.

Jack: The fourth and final Underworld Olympics story is on par with the first three. The North American team consists of a Native American, an African-American, a Mexican bandito, a bald guy with an eye patch (Joey One-Eye), and a cowboy. David V. Reed is using plenty of “bat” this and “bat” that, including the Whirlybat, a nifty one-man helicopter that allows Batman to fly low and follow a crook. Reed is also slipping back into the old tradition of corny Bat-quips, such as this line from the Caped Crusader: “as they used to say in vaudeville, ‘dis must be de place.’”

PE: 4 issues wasted on this garbage? I still have no idea what the point of this arc was. Why were these underworld goons risking life, liberty, limbs and, in one case, a million bucks? For some silly "underworld olympics?" I'd applaud the wrap-up of this detritus but who knows what Julius Schwartz had up his sleeve next? It almost seems, as the 1970s wear on, that the Batman character (and the stories around him) is sliding back into the 1960s.

Detective Comics 460 (June 1976)

"Slow Down--and Die!"
Story by Bob Rozakis and Michael Uslan
Art by Ernie Chua and Frank McLaughlin

There's a nut loose in Gotham who believes that Batman is actually triplets and he intends to prove it. To his chagrin, Commissioner Gordon discovers someone has placed a bomb in his patrol car. An unknown voice over his C.B. tells him that if he, at any time, decreases his speed below 50 mph, the bomb will detonate. As with all cases large and small, Gordo's first call is to Batman. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne is enjoying the company of buxom Barbi Brendan aboard The Stingapee, "Gotham's hottest in-spot for the jet set." The Stingapee is a faux pirate ship (or is it?) run by Karl Crossman aka Captain Stingapee. When Bruce's Gordo-buzzer vibrates, he hightails it to the awaiting Batmobile (courtesy of Alfred) and heads to the open road to help Gordo. After an exciting mid-road transfer, Batman is able to open the hood of the car and defuse the bomb, but Gordon's car is wrecked and Batman is thrown to the road, dazed. An ambulance arrives but the paramedic turns out to be none other than Captain Stingapee himself. The Captain takes Batman hostage but our hero is able to damage a tank of ether and both are rendered unconscious. Stingapee revives first and unmasks Batman, who is revealed to be Michael Courtney. Who?

PE: Not nearly as bad as a/ it sounds and b/ the tripe that's been filling the pages of the two Bats titles lately. There's a lot of credibility-stretching stuff going on here (Bats' climb onto Gordo's speeding car hood, the fact that rich people would spend lots of money in a pirate ship, Bruce Wayne's outfit while aboard said ship) but the oddest to me was that Jim Gordon would be riding home in a patrol car. The surprise ending might have been more effective if the man unmasked had been someone we were more familiar with (no, I'm not suggesting Alfred) rather than a character that, as far as my admittedly bad memory goes, has never been introduced. Co-writer Michael Uslan has lived the dream life of every Batman fan, first as a comic collector, then as a writer, and graduating all the way up to executive producer of all seven of the big screen Bats flicks beginning with Tim Burton's Batman (1989) up through this past summer's The Dark Knight Rises. I'm not sure if this story was ever pitched at brainstorming sessions but, who knows, Hollywood loves Batman and pirates so maybe someday...

Jack: I don’t know where this kook got the idea that Batman is actually three brothers, but it’s nutty. The “surprise” ending where Batman is unmasked and turns out to be someone other than Bruce Wayne has been done many times before. At least now we know where the idea for the movie Speed came from! Most interesting is the character of Bruce Wayne’s latest girlfriend Barbi Brendan, who is clearly a takeoff on Barbi Benton, the Kim Kardashian of the 1970s. The lack of page numbers is already having an effect—the lead story is down to 11 pages, making the total of new material in this issue a paltry 17 pages.

They don't make 'em like this anymore

"The Cold-Fire Caper!"
Story by Denny O'Neil
Art by Pablo Marcos and Al Milgrom

Private Dick Tim Trench is asked by the beautiful Velma Grayle to hold onto a massive ruby for her friend. Trench smells a rat but agrees. He soon regrets his decision as bullets fly all around him.

Jack: This is a great little strip! In six pages, O’Neil, Marcos and Milgrom paint a good, hardboiled picture that reminded me of something out of a 1970s Charlton comic crossed with a Max Allan Collins novel. This is more adult than the usual Detective fare and it’s a lot of fun!
PE: I was a bit less entertained by this strip than you, Jack, but I guess I've read more quality detective fiction than you. Your Max Collins reference is spot on and I'd throw in more than a heaping helping of Dirty Harry Callahan as well (that's quite a trick Trench pulls off, firing those deadly .357s without breaking a wrist). I'm open to more cases with Tim for no other reason than it leaves no room for The Elongated Man.

Batman 276 (June 1976)

"The Haunting of the Spook!"
Story by David V. Reed
Art by Ernie Chua

The Spook returns to drive Batman crazy with his disappearing tricks. Using subliminal messages, he hopes to get Batman so riled up that he will kill the Spook—or seem to, since the Spook can feign death. The Dark Knight turns the tables, however, and it is up to Commissioner Gordon to figure out a way to keep the Spook locked up this time.

Jack: I think the Spook qualifies for the Rogues’ Gallery by now, after this, his fourth appearance. As before, his tricks don’t seem very plausible and the explanations behind them are pretty far-fetched. It’s almost funny when Batman tries to use the Spook’s methods against him, since the fake Batman ghosts that appear outside a window look completely phony. Still, the Spook is a fun villain and the story is entertaining enough. Like this month’s Detective, Batman is now down to 17 pages of new material.

PE: I should applaud that! Good trick that dolphin leap Batman executes under the Kingsboro Bridge, a move I doubt even a 1976 Gold medalist could pull off. Our favorite cop, Commissioner Gordon, has moved from convincing The Dark Knight he should handle all the dirty jobs Gordo and his donut crew can't to ordering Bats to strongarm their mutual buddy Bruce Wayne!
Gordo: Never mind this Spook menace! Tomorrow the Gotham Assistance Corporation is meeting to consider the department's budget! Bruce Wayne is representing his bank at that meeting! You've got more influence with him than I have! Explain the situation...

Bats: ...about the Spook...
Gordo: Blast The Spook... Now... Get going!

I guess we know who wears the pants in this relationship. The motive behind The Spook's latest haunting is revenge. He goes to amazing lengths to push Batman into humiliation. This is an old plot line, one we've been "enjoying" over at Marvel University time after time. These crooks are such dopes.

Not very convincing!

Limited Collector's Edition C-44
also came out in June 1976
and featured reprints of
4 Batman stories

Straight from Red China!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Batman in the 1970s Part 41: March and April 1976

by Jack Seabrook

& Peter Enfantino

Batman 273 (March 1976)

"The Bank-Shot That Baffled Batman!"
Story by David V. Reed
Art by Ernie Chua and Frank McLaughlin

The Underworld Olympics continue as Team Europe steals a British Revolutionary War cannon. They use the cannon to fire a shell containing a safety deposit box into the air, but Batman intercepts them when they try to recover the shell after it hits the ground. Although they got caught, Team Europe leads with fifty points.

PE: The idea that the Colonial Cannon could be broken down into so many wee small bits that it would fit in a bank of safe deposit boxes is moronic. Was the barrel of the cannon folded lengthwise? But then pop that idea into a story about Batman being menaced by the "Underworld Olympics" and it's not so silly, is it? Well, not if this comic was Batman and His Amazing Super Friends, but bearing in mind this is the same title that gave us "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge" and introduced Ra's al Ghul, it's tough to swallow. Colossally stupid.

Jack: I went over this story several times and I still can't figure out what was in the box or why they fired it into the air. I like the opening Bicentennial celebration and I'm glad to see that the British reenactors are the ones who cheat by using real bullets. I like the idea of an ongoing series but the stories don't make a lot of sense. In addition, the scoring seems capricious--Europe gets 50 points but South America got only 20?

Detective Comics 457 (March 1976)

"There is No Hope in Crime Alley"
Story by Denny O'Neil
Art by Dick Giordano

On the same night every year, for the last 21 years, Batman has made his way to the dangerous neighborhood known as Crime Alley. There he tries to make the block just a little safer from pushers and hoodlums. He always ends his night with a visit to a woman named Leslie Thompkins and through a series of flashbacks we find out why. When his parents were brutally murdered in Crime Alley (nee Park Row), Ms. Thompkins comforted little Bruce Wayne and now, as his alter ego, he makes the yearly trek to give something back...and perhaps take something back at the same time.

PE: This is one of those stories that feels like it was written to be iconic. For the most part it succeeds. It's a bit overly-sentimental (with a little bit of reworking this could have been a Christmas story) and I question how Alfred, perhaps the most trusted man in Batland, could possibly have no idea "where (Batman) goes on this date every year...or why!" He was, after all, in the Waynes' employ when they were gunned down all those years ago. And about that gauntlet: does Ms. Thompkins walk the same route every night or once every year? Seems as though she picked just the right time to wander down Crime Alley with "the receipts from the street fair" in her purse. And then there's the matter of time-elapse. If only 21 years has gone by, that makes Bruce about 31-33. Doesn't jibe with some of the other stories we've read from the 1970s. Ah, no matter, it's a great story and indeed iconic. I get the sense Denny O'Neil peeked above the hedges of mediocrity he'd been hiding behind for the last couple years and said "Wait'll they get a load of this!" Welcome back, Denny.

Jack: Not only is this a beautiful story, but Dick Giordano's art is as close as we'll come to that of Neal Adams in 1976. I have read rumors about swipes (or "cloning"), and it may be true, but it looks great. This is one of those Batman stories that comes along every so often and makes me glad we're doing this project. There's just one problem with this issue. Look at the cover of Batman 273, then look at the cover of Detective 457. Somewhere in March 1976 (actually, December 1975), between the time Batman came out and the time Detective came out, DC raised its cover price to THIRTY CENTS! Arrgh! Now we get 18 pages of new material for 30 cents. Believe me, it won't end there!

"Make Way for the Elongated Woman!"
Story by Bob Rozakis
Art by Kurt Schaffenberger

Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man, is being held for ransom by three young fur robbers. All they want is Ralph's secret stretch potion and Sue might be the one to hand it over to them.

Shouldn't someone tell Sue that Ralph
has been dipping into her hormones?

PE: There's not much to discuss here. The Elongated Man is obviously an acquired taste, one I have yet to acquire, and his adventures could be categorized as "fluff." The art is just as dreadful as it was in the first chapter. The only ray of sunshine I see here is that next issue will see the return of Man-Bat as a back-up.

Jack: I agree that this is pretty hard to take. The only highlight in the art is the female criminal in short-shorts.

Batman 274 (April 1976)

"Gotham City Treasure Hunt!"
Story by David V. Reed
Art by Ernie Chua

In round three of the Underworld Olympics, the Afro-Asian team is sent on a treasure hunt. Batman catches the crooks at their first stop, but one of the bad guys manages to relay a clue to his compatriots by hand signals when his arrest is televised. The second phase goes well, as Batman is decoyed by a fighting she-devil. The Dark Knight figures it out and catches the criminals in phase three; unbeknownst to him, their team earns 36 2/3 points.

Batman kicks back by
pushing back his mask.
PE: I can't help but feel that something better, possibly something of substance, could have filled what will eventually be 72 pages of mindless fluff. It wouldn't be so bad if the story was entertaining but it's not. It's tedious. Are we really supposed to believe that a crew of international terrorists have come to Gotham and while one or two of them venture out, the rest stay inside listening to a guy with a mic running down scores? "Well, the Afro-Asians did blow up the bank. That's good for 10 points. They also killed two guards. That's twenty points for a total of 30 but we have to minus 11 and 2/3 because they were caught by police so their total now stands at 18 and 1/3. Next up: the Jamaicans!" All three of the installments thus far have set the same pattern: Crew goes out based on clues, does some damage, and gets busted by The Batman. There are some real howlers here as well, such as when The Dark Knight yells out to a bad guy "Wait for me! Uncle Batman wants you!" Or how about at the climax of this third chapter, when Batman says to Gordo: "Commissioner, it's as if we're in some kind of underworld olympics!" We've said it before but I think I really mean it this time: the bottom of the barrel has been scraped.

Jack: This is getting tedious. It has become apparent that the Underworld Olympics are pointless and the crimes have no ultimate goal. I am concerned by the odd grouping of criminals. We had the South American team, the European team, the Afro-Asian team, and--next issue--the North American team. Why didn't Africa and Asia each get their own team? And what about Australia? Those Aussies could have kicked serious butt. Are there no criminals in Antarctica? This should be a seven-issue arc but mercifully it will end after the fourth issue.

Detective Comics 458 (April 1976)

"The Real Batman Dies Next!"
Story by Elliot S. Maggin
Art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Ernie Chua

At the annual Policeman's Costumed Ball, a young lieutenant named Bucky Dunlop, dressed as The Batman, is murdered. On his forehead reads "The Real Batman Dies Next!" Commissioner Gordon suspects and later arrests tattoo artist Slats Johnson but Batman is holding out for more evidence. Eventually the trail leads The Dark Knight to calligrapher Charles Fellman. After a brief showdown, the murderer is brought to justice.

PE: I couldn't make heads or tails of this story. I assume Fellman had a run-in with Batman in the past and so swore vengeance on him. I'm not sure how the tattoo got onto Bucky's forehead. Maggin might have strained to explain it but it just wasn't clear enough. Nor was the reasoning behind killing a cop dressed like Batman and putting the world's greatest detective on alert that he's next. It's not a horrible installment, it just feels unfinished and rushed. For the most part, Garcia-Lopez is keeping up his end although there's one panel (reprinted here) that has some perspective problems. The two characters look larger than the automobile.

Jack: I thought the art by Garcia Lopez and Chua was smooth overall and the story, while it had some major holes in the plot, had a nice theme about a wasted life. I like Batman's final comment to Commissioner Gordon: "If you can figure out how the law comes out ahead with this arrest, I wish you'd let me know."

"Peal of the Devil-Bell!"
Story by Martin Pasko
Art by Pablo Marcos & Tex Blaisdell

Man-Bat must fight a sorcerer named Dr. Thanatogenos who has kidnapped Mrs. Man-Bat (Woman-Bat?) and turned her to stone. Before Dr. Langstrom can free Francie, he's also turned to stone.

PE: Clearly this was meant for the aborted Man-Bat #3 as it riffs on events that took place in the second issue (published just one month before Tec 548). Suddenly, Kirk has a sister (who wears what looks like native clothing) not privy to the goings-on at House Langstrom. Wife Francie (we really have to get a moniker for her soon) turns into a Girl-Bat and bursts her dress but, in the best traditions of comic book history, retains a modicum of decency thanks to a purple two-piece. Dr. Thanatogenos (just rolls off your tongue, don't it) is obviously patterned after Marvel's Damon Hellstrom, The Son of Satan. I usually like Pablo Marcos's work but here it's too cartoony. M-B looks like an ape in some panels and, come to think of it, so does his sister. This is Marcos's stomping ground, to be sure, as he's done good work for Tales of the Zombie, Planet of the Apes, Conan, and several other Marvel monster titles, but he misses the mark this go round.

Jack: I enjoyed this story, but then I always liked Man-Bat. Langstrom refers to his wife as "the She-Bat" in the course of the story. I think the cartoony vibe you're getting is the fault of inker Tex Blaisdell, who had turned in worse work in Batman 268 (the awful "Murder Masquerade"--the one with the camels and the ice skating rink). We should give him a pass, though, since he'd been drawing comics since the dawn of the industry. I have had it in for writer Martin Pasko since he did such a terrible job reviving my beloved E-Man for First Comics in the 1980s.

What Neal Adams was doing in March and April 1976 instead of drawing Batman:

Neal Adams part one--
cover for the Marvel-DC crossover

(from Detective 457)
Neal Adams part two--
public service announcement
(from Detective 457)

Neal Adams part three--
public service announcement
(from Detective 458)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Ray Bradbury on TV Part Six: The Alfred Hitchcock Hour "The Jar"

Pat Buttram as Charlie Hill

by Jack Seabrook

“The Jar” is one of the best hours of television I have ever seen. The creative team behind this masterpiece takes Ray Bradbury’s short story and brings it to life on the small screen, expanding it, deepening it and, in the end, making it as fascinating and mysterious as its central object. On its surface, “The Jar” is a simple story, yet it has layers upon layers that make it worth watching more than once.

The story begins at a carnival somewhere in Louisiana, near an unnamed city but only ten miles from Wilder’s Hollow, a small settlement on the edge of a swamp where the people live in poverty, ignorance and misery. Charlie Hill, a heavy set simpleton who works in “the bottoms,” is visiting the carnival on his own. Like many of his neighbors, he is childlike, and later tells his child bride Thedy that he “rode on the merry go round three times [and] the Ferris wheel twice.” It is not the rides that entrance him, however, it is a sideshow attraction: a large glass jar with something floating in it. Charlie has been staring it at for three hours and, as the carnival is about to close, a midget carnival barker responds greedily when Charlie offers to buy the jar. The carney sells it to him for twelve dollars after figuring out that that is all the money Charlie has; Charlie is easy to fool and is taken advantage of, time and time again. When he returns home to his wife, he gives her a hair ribbon with her name stitched on it with sequins—“Thedy Sue Hill”—and tells her that it cost sixty-five cents, “nickel a letter.” Once again, Charlie was taken: at a nickel a letter, the cost should have been sixty cents.

Billy Barty as the carney
Thedy is a young woman married to an older man whom she clearly finds grotesque. She pivots between child and woman in the space of a heartbeat, her voice lisping like that of a little girl but her figure and clothes demonstrating that she is well aware of her power over men. Charlie’s dream of being a respected member of his community is fulfilled when he displays the jar in his parlor (with an embroidered cloth cover featuring a poem about “Mother” left over it when no one is there to see it) and all of his neighbors, from a pair of elderly grandparents to a pigtailed little girl, come to sit in his house and stare at the jar, fascinated, wondering what it is and sharing their personal interpretations.

The stories these backwoods people tell are harrowing. One young man named Juke, who boasts that a doctor told his mother that he had the mind of a ten year old, tells about a time when he was a child and his mother told him to drown a kitten. A mother suspects it may be the remains of her little boy who was lost in the swamp. A grandmother suggests that it is all things to all people, asking “why does it have to be just one thing?”
There is a snake in this Eden, however, named Tom Carmody. He is a handsome young man who is having an affair with Charlie’s wife Thedy. Tom is jealous of the attention paid to Charlie, and he and Thedy run off together one evening to the carnival at which Charlie first bought the jar. Thedy returns to find Charlie in bed and tortures him by telling him that she and Tom spoke to the little man at the carnival and learned what is really in the jar. “It’s paper and it’s clay and it’s cotton and it’s string . . . and that’s all it is,” she tells her husband, who is horrified that she will tell the neighbors and end his reign as someone to be looked up to. Recalling Juke’s story of drowning the kitten, Charlie playfully chases her around the bedroom and through the house, calling “Here, Kitty.” She plays along, purring and mewing, until suddenly he grabs her and pulls the jar’s embroidered cover over her head. A shock cut follows and we see Charlie at another evening get together, as he brutally slices the end off of a large watermelon with a huge knife. It is clear that he has killed and beheaded Thedy, and the scene that follows is a classic of horror, as the neighbors sit in their usual places in Charlie’s living room, looking at the jar and arguing about whether its contents have changed. Finally, the little girl approaches the jar and announces that there is a ribbon in the hair of what floats inside. She spells out the letters on the ribbon: “T-H-E-D-Y-S-U-E-H-I-L-L.” It is the ribbon that Charlie had brought back from the carnival, and the group suddenly realizes what Charlie has done, as he sits in his usual spot, smiling placidly, unconcerned with being caught and loving the attention.

"The Jar" walks a fine line between humor
and horror, as this sign demonstrates.
“The Jar” benefits from superb casting and brilliant work behind the camera. The script by James Bridges is outstanding, taking Bradbury’s short story and adding scenes and elements to make it a more powerful tale of horror. The character of Jahdoo, the black man, is the focus of a scene that is added, as he is paid one dollar by Tom and Thedy to steal the jar and destroy it. He believes that it contains the heart and center of all life from Midibamboo Swamp, from which all life came ten thousand years ago. Charlie learns from Juke that Jahdoo has stolen the jar and tracks him through the swamp, rifle in hand, until he sees the jar sitting on an old tree stump. Approaching it, Charlie gets caught in quicksand and calls for Jahdoo, who gives a long and wistful speech about his interpretation of the jar’s contents as Charlie sinks lower and lower. Jahdoo ignores Charlie’s pleas, showing that life has little value in the swamp, but he finally pulls Charlie out, commenting that “they paid me a dollar, Charlie, to steal and destroy the center of all creation.” Jahdoo is no Judas and will not let Charlie die; Charlie is like the messiah who has brought the gospel of the jar to his people.

Collin Wilcox as Thedy Sue Hill

The most significant change from story to script comes at the end. In Bradbury’s story, the suggestion that Charlie killed Thedy (neither has a last or even a middle name in the original) and put her severed dead in the jar is subtly made but never spelled out; in the television show, it is made very clear and is the source of the show’s horrible and shocking ending.

In his closing remarks, Alfred Hitchcock jokes that the events of “The Jar” are not to be taken as comparable to those of the popular pursuit of sitting in one’s living room watching television. But “The Jar” is much more than that—it is a religious experience, where Charlie’s disciples see into the deepest, darkest parts of their own hearts and confess to what they find. The comparison to religious experience is made later when Jahdoo tells Charlie in the swamp that he was not confident enough to “testify” to what he saw in the jar, much as his fellow black churchgoers testify in the Southern Baptist church.
As with so many of the adaptations of Ray Bradbury stories for the Hitchcock series, Norman Lloyd was centrally involved in the production, both directing and producing. He draws perfect performances out of the entire cast and weaves together a story onscreen that is impossible to look away from. The cinematography by Walter Strenge demonstrates a careful use of grays and shadows, with both the interior of Charlie’s house and the exteriors in the swamps dripping with mystery, horror, and despair. Finally, the music by Bernard Herrmann is central to the experience of watching “The Jar.” It begins at the carnival, with a spooky calliope theme that returns on and off throughout the episode. The combination of a source by Ray Bradbury, a script by James Bridges, direction by Norman Lloyd, cinematography by Walter Strenge, and music by Bernard Herrmann make “The Jar” one of the highlights of the ten-year run of the Hitchcock series.
As Charlie, Pat Buttram is a force of nature. Buttram (1915-1994) was a comedic performer who was best known for his performances in Westerns; he is most familiar today to viewers as Mr. Haney on Green Acres, in which he appeared from 1965-1971. “The Jar” is well known as one of Buttram’s rare serious performances and his light comedy background is perfect for Charlie, making his shift to a menacing tone at the end of the story that much more frightening. Buttram appeared in one other episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

Collin Wilcox (1935-2009) plays Thedy as a childlike woman with a cruel streak. Twenty years younger than Buttram, she seems like a woman who has very little going for her but who makes the most of what she has. While she appeared in two other episodes of the Hitchcock series, she is best remembered to fans of classic television as the young woman struggling with a decision to change her appearance in the Twilight Zone episode, “Number 12 Looks Just Like You, which had aired three weeks earlier on January 24, 1964.

William Marshall as Jahdoo
James Best (1926- ), as Tom Carmody, does not have much to do other than to look handsome and mean. He had been acting in movies and on TV since 1950; readers will recall him as Jeff Myrtlebank in the Twilight Zone episode “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank”; he also appeared in three episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and played Sheriff Roscoe Coltrane from 1979-1985 on The Dukes of Hazzard.
William Marshall (1924-2003) appears as Jahdoo; he had a long career but is best known as Blacula (1972). He succeeds in portraying the black character in “The Jar” without resorting to stereotype, something that mars Bradbury’s original story, where the character verges on offensive.
The cast of “The Jar” is so impressive that even the actors in small roles deserve mention. Granny Carnation is played by Jane Darwell (1879-1967), a great Hollywood actress who started in films in 1913 and played Ma Joad in John Ford’s classic The Grapes of Wrath (1940). “The Jar” was one of her last two roles; the last was as the woman feeding the birds on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Mary Poppins that same year.
George Lindsey (1928-2012) plays Juke, who is said to have the mind of a ten year old. Like Pat Buttram, Lindsey was known for folksy humor, appearing as Goober on The Andy Griffith Show from 1964 to 1968. In”The Jar,” he gives a great performance, highlighted by his powerful monologue about drowning a kitten.
George Lindsey as Juke 

Jocelyn Brando (1919-2005), Marlon’s sister, has a very small role as the mother of the pigtailed little girl who reads off “Thedy Sue Hill” at the end. Brando appeared in three other episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including “A True Account.”

Slim Pickens (1919-1983) plays Clem; his face and voice are instantly recognizable from countless westerns, but he will always be remembered riding the atomic bomb and waving his cowboy hat at the end of Dr. Strangelove (1964).

Finally, the carnival barker is played by the great Billy Barty (1924-2000), who had a long career in Hollywood and also appeared in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, “The Glass Eye.”
With this cast and crew, it is not surprising that “The Jar” is such a brilliant hour of filmed television. Bradbury’s story was remade twice. The first time was in 1986, when it was filmed in color by director Tim Burton as an episode of the 1980s revival of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Just half an hour long, this version of “The Jar” begins promisingly as a reimagining of the story, set in the contemporary New York art world and starring Griffin Dunne as an artist who finds the jar in a junkyard and sees his career take off when he makes it the centerpiece of an exhibit. There is a clever bit where a Texan named Charlie (played by an actor with a resemblance to Pat Buttram) tries to buy the jar and ends up buying other pieces for $12,000 (rather than the $12 the jar costs in the original), but the second act quickly devolves into clichéd soap opera and the program has none of the emotional power or mystery of the original.
Jane Darwell as Granny Carnation
The second remake was for an episode of The Ray Bradbury Theatre; it is not available online, but you can read Phil Nichols’s review of it here. There was also a radio adaptation for Tales of the Bizarre; listen to it here.

“The Jar” was broadcast on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour on February 14, 1964, a gruesome little gift for Valentine’s Day on Friday night on CBS. Right before it, also on CBS, The Twilight Zone’s episode, “From Agnes—With Love” premiered. “The Jar” is not yet available on DVD but can be viewed online here. The first remake was broadcast on April 6, 1986, on NBC; it can be viewed online here. The second remake, on The Ray Bradbury Theatre, was first broadcast on January 17, 1992. It is not available online but it is part of the DVD set of the series that can be purchased here. Ray Bradbury’s story was first published in the November 1944 issue of Weird Tales; it has been reprinted in Dark Carnival (1947), The October Country (1956) and The Stories of Ray Bradbury (1980).


Bradbury, Ray. "The Jar." 1944. The October Country. New York: Harper, 2011. 97-115. Print.

Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. Churchville, MD: OTR Pub., 2001. Print.

IMDb., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2012. <>.

"The Jar." The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. CBS. 14 Feb. 1964. Television.

"The Jar." Alfred Hitchcock Presents. NBC. 6 Apr. 1986. Television.

"Weird Tales - 1944." Weird Tales - 1944. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2012. <>.

Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2012. <>.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Batman in the 1970s Part 40: January and February 1976

by Peter Enfantino
& Jack Seabrook

Batman 271 (January 1976)

"The Corpse Came C.O.D.!"
Story by David V. Reed
Art by Irv Novick and Frank McLaughlin

Alfred the Butler ordered an antique rug to surprise Bruce Wayne for his birthday, but when the rug arrives and he unrolls it he finds a corpse inside! Roving reporter Carol Ames follows Batman around as he investigates the crime and discovers that the rug was stolen from the secret temple of a cult in Gotham City. Cult members killed the thief for defiling their temple, and now Batman must locate the temple and catch the crooks. At the temple, Batman, Carol Ames, and a second thief are menaced by the dance of death, where dancing girls whirl and wear gold discs that vibrate at deadly frequencies. Batman saves the day with a defensive amulet and ends up destroying the temple.

...and starring Don Knotts as Bruce Wayne.
Jack: This was a tough story to summarize. I read it twice and still couldn't really figure out what was going on. Carol Ames is one of those annoying, modern female characters that popped up every so often in Batman. She adds nothing to the story and gets in Batman's way, making it harder for him to save the day. I still don't understand the temple, the cult, or why the rugs disintegrated, not to mention why the vans driven by the thieves and Batman fell apart. The whole thing is a bit of a mess.

PE: A bit of a mess?! Since Robin's not around, I assume Bats feels he needs a partner. How else to explain The Dark Knight allowing ace photographer (with instant photos!) to be a part of his investigation? Unfortunately, it seems that this partner is just as useless as the last one. The art is dreadful and the story is lazy. Not a good start for 1976. And how about those chicken legs on billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne? Nothing says "well exercised and ripped" more than a couple of meatless drumsticks like these.

Detective Comics 455 (January 1976)

"Heart of a Vampire"

Story by Elliott S. Maggin
Art by Mike Grell

When their car breaks down, Bruce Wayne and Alfred are forced to break into a seemingly-deserted old dark house. Inside they find some odd furniture, including a casket with a sun lamp directed at it. When Bruce accidentally breaks the lamp, he sends Alfred to the car for a flashlight and goes off to look for water. He is surprised by the resident of the house...Gustav DeCobra, a vampire! Quickly changing into his night wear, Bruce attempts to catch the monster off guard with a quick lunge but to no avail. The vampire easily lifts The Dark Knight and sends him sailing. Alfred chooses that moment to enter the house and Batman knows he has to get the two of them to a secure spot in the house. While there, Bats remembers where he'd heard the creature's name. In the 19th Century, Gustav DeCobra had been a brilliant scientist who was attempting to transplant hearts from one body to another. To achieve that end, he became a grave robber and opened one casket too many, accidentally disturbing a slumbering vampire. Realizing DeCobra is a legitimate creature of the night, Batman attempts to drive a stake through his heart, only to find out that DeCobra has transplanted his own heart elsewhere to keep him safe from vampire hunters. Ingenious detective work and a handy bow and arrow allow the Batman to gain the upper hand and send DeCobra back to the grave.

PE: Slightly atmospheric, incredibly dumb, and nicely illustrated (for the most part). I thought for sure when we got to the climax, we were going to find out that Bruce had been conked on the head by a falling timber as the pair were breaking down the door to the old dark house and he was dreaming this whole thing up. Alas, that was not meant to be. I love a good supernatural Batman story but this ain't it. Elliott Maggin must have thought crossing Frankenstein with Dracula would provide double the thrills but all it provided here was head-scratching (how would you transplant a human heart into a grandfather clock anyway?) nonsense. For his first Batman story, Mike Grell turns in a fine piece of work when he's focusing on The Dark Knight himself but DeCobra is made up of swipes from stills of Christopher Lee in Horror of Dracula. Couldn't Grell have come up with something a little more imaginative? The same month saw the debut of DC's The Warlord, Grell's homage to Edgar Rice Burroughs. Perhaps even more popular was Jon Sable, Freelance, a long-running comic about a mercenary created for First Comics in 1983.

This just in: Chris Lee's lawyer 
was on vacation that week
Jack: I love this story! This marks the only time Mike Grell would draw a Batman story for Detective, and it’s great! There is no explanation or excuse for the vampire that Batman faces; it’s purely supernatural and follows the usual vampire rules. I like the added twist of his having been a doctor who figured out a way to remove his heart and put it in a grandfather clock. Best of all, for me, were the various photo swipes Grell used from mostly Christopher Lee as Dracula classic scenes to illustrate key moments in the story. One panel even looks like Frank Langella as Drac, though that movie wouldn’t come out till 1979.

PE: Mister contrary!

"Battle of the Backfiring Weapons"
Story by E. Nelson Bridwell
Art by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez

Hawkman and Hawkgirl try to put a stop to Chuck McCann's robbery binge, but how do you stop a super villain who doesn't even know he's a super villain?

PE: I thought the idea that Chester McCann, the crook with super powers, has no idea why he can suddenly do these magical things was a novel concept. What was equally startling is that, despite his newfound stamina, the guy dresses like a dandy. A nice twist at the climax, too, as we find out that McCann's mind is actually being "possessed" by Professor M'Kan, his descendant from the 47th Century, a scientist who has perfected mind control through time. In the final panel, we find out from M'Kan's lovely assistant that after Chester was released from prison he became a brilliant lab technician and his brains got passed on from generation to generation. I love this strip! Bring on more Hawkman!

Jack: My worst fears have been realized—the good first part of this story was followed by a weak second part. I learned recently, from reading The Comic Book History of Comics (highly recommended!), that DC editors in the 1950s decided that they could revive interest in their superheroes by jumping on the bandwagon of the science fiction craze. That explains why so much DC from the mid-50s on had a science fiction flavor. This Hawkman story is definitely in that category, though it suffers from the usual inability of the creators to develop much of a story in six pages.

Batman 272 (February 1976)

"The Underworld Olympics '76!"
Story by David V. Reed
Art by J.L. Garcia Lopez and Ernie Chua

The First International Crime Olympics are in session! Top criminals from four continents have gathered in Gotham City to compete for the title of Underworld Olympic Champions for 1976! The South American team draws first and carries out its three-part assignment: to kill J.P. Vandermeer, steal his body, and bury it in the base of Cleopatra's Needle. Batman intervenes and prevents the final phase from succeeding, resulting in the team's being awarded just 20 points. Batman wonders at the motivation for these crimes as the underworld plans to meet again the next day.

Jack: This is a strange idea for a multi-issue arc, but I like it! For those of us of a certain age, the 1976 Olympics were a big deal. The Winter games began on February 4, 1976, in Innsbruck, Austria, and made a star out of figure skater Dorothy Hamill. This issue of Batman came out in mid-November 1975 and had a cover date of February 1976, making it eligible to be on the stands when the Olympics began. This is a straightforward, effective story that is just goofy enough to work.

PE: The Bat-Curmudgeon has returned, I guess. Stories like these usually appeared in titles like Superman and His Amazing Super-Friends or Spidey Super Stories, something aimed a bit lower than the usual Bat-reader. The Underworld Olympics Committee handed out four envelopes, all including difficult and dangerous assignments. I think I got the unmentioned fifth envelope. Mine read "Watch the steady, eminent decline of your favorite comic book character continue." We still get those glorious graphics from Garcia-Lopez so it's not all bad, but the story has a 1960s TV show vibe to me. That's all bad.

Detective Comics 456 (February 1976)


Story by Elliott S. Maggin
Art by Ernie Chua (Chan)

While out on a date with the beautiful Angie Larner , Bruce Wayne is poisoned by the siren's deadly lipstick, treated with the poison known as Amory. Batman has sixty minutes to find the antidote before his career is over. But the question that looms over his head is: was it Bruce Wayne who was meant to be poisoned or The Batman? The answer comes when the Caped Crusader manages to track Angie down and the villainous vamp spills the beans. It was Wayne's financial rival, the rather dramatically-named Ulysses Vulcan, who hired the girl to buss Bruce to heaven

PE: While it's not as bad as the stories presented in the regular Batman title this month, "Death-Kiss" leaves a lot to desire. After bathing in Jose Luis Garcia Lopez's art in Batman 272, suddenly Ernie Chan's work looks a bit rushed and amateurish--almost as rushed as the slipshod script that sees Bruce Wayne get what he deserves if he doesn't even have the brains to check out these girls before he dates them. I assume that the story will be completed in a future issue since it's rather abruptly cut off at the climax. We do get to see what I believe is a new Batmobile (unless I haven't been paying attention lately), a bit sleeker than his last few modes of transportation. This installment also has one of the most embarrassing sequences for The Dark Knight I've ever had the misfortune of reading. While under the influence of the Amory drug, Batman hallucinates quite a bit, so naturally his dead parents appear before him: "Daddy!... Mommy!...but you were killed...when I was a kid!" he mewls before being slapped back into the real world by the mean-spirited doctor attending him: "Snap out of it, Batman! We're not your parents -- we're Dr. and Mrs. DeMaree... understand?" One can only hope that Dr. DeMaree isn't a pediatrician or proctologist.

Jack: When did the Batmobile get a big decal of the Bat-Signal on the hood? I don’t think I’ve seen that recently, if ever. I’m not sure I approve of Dr. Demaree’s bedside manner when he slaps Batman across the chops, though seeing the Dark Knight calling out to his “Daddy” and “Mommy” in his delirium was disturbing. If I had an hour to live, I don’t think I’d spend it making myself up and dressing like an underworld character in order to flush out information. It was interesting that the intended murder victim turned out to be Bruce Wayne rather than Batman, but this story seemed to end too quickly to get much interest going.

"The Un-Stretchable Sleuth"
Story by Bob Rozakis
Art by Kurt Schaffenberger

A particularly bad morning at the breakfast table with his wife (P.M.S.)ue, Ralph Dibny neglects to ingest his Gingold, the formula that allows him to stay Elastic. Not a problem until he decides to tackle three fur thieves and he becomes just a blonde in a nerdy outfit. He's captured by the trio and hauled away.

"Do you like movies about Vikings?"
PE: Why in the hell would a super hero like Elongated Man stay married to such a shrewish, self-centered, airy, vapid bitch as Sue? This woman has a man who can stretch his neck to get at any sort of odd angle and she's still not happy? Time to shop for an Elongated Woman. The story, such as it is, is on the level of one of those really dreadful Saturday morning cartoons that prevailed in the early 70s (and the art here, by Kurt Schaffenberger, matches that lofty goal). Everyone in the story has a sneer on their face and bug eyes. Please bring back Hawkman, Julie.

Jack: Kurt Schaffenberger’s art is so distinctive that, even though I hadn’t seen it in a long time, it came right back to me immediately. I was reminded of his work on Shazam! or Jimmy Olsen, though his characters also remind me of those in Archie comics. What is odd about this story is that Elongated Man seems to have to drink something called Gingold every so often or he will lose his stretching powers. I don’t remember hearing that in any of the previous Elongated Man stories we’ve read in Detective.

Man-Bat 1

Jack: January 1976 was also notable for the first issue of Man-Bat, featuring Kirk Langstrom and his wife, with an appearance by Batman. Pencils for the first issue were by Steve Ditko! Unfortunately, this series only lasted two issues before being canceled.