Thursday, January 26, 2023

The Hitchcock Project-Leigh Brackett Part Two: Terror at Northfield [9.3]

by Jack Seabrook

Leigh Brackett's second and last teleplay for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour was "Terror at Northfield," which was based on a story called "Terror Town" by Ellery Queen that was first published in the August 1956 issue of Argosy.

The story begins as Susan Marsh, a young librarian in the New England town of Northfield, is driving the ramshackle 1940 Buick that was given to her by Flora Sloan, the town's "undisputed autocrat," and worrying about the missing Tom Cooley, the 17-year-old son of truck farmer John Cooley. She had encouraged the boy to consider college but he would not agree to leave his father to tend the farm alone. Tom disappeared in early November and now Susan is concerned enough to visit sheriff's deputy Linc Pearce, the only policeman in town. They had played together as children and it frustrates her that he still treats her like a tomboy. Linc agrees to ride out to the farm with her and makes fun of her car, which she got three weeks ago after Flora won a new one.

"Terror Town" was
first published here
At the Cooley farm, John says that Tom has not been seen for over a month. A search is organized and three search parties comb the woods and countryside for weeks without success. Susan grows frustrated with Linc's failure to find Tom; she hears disturbing rumors about the Cooley farm going to seed. In the spring, heavy rains reveal a hole not far from the farm, and in the hole are Tom's remains. At the site, Susan sees the boy's distraught father taking items from the hole and putting them in his coat pocket. The coroner says Tom's body has been there since the fall and the back of his head was crushed.

Linc at first rejects Susan's offer to help find Tom's killer, but he is unable to solve the case and one night he visits Susan at home and admits that he has no good theory. He gets a call telling him that the body of bar owner Frenchy Lafont has been found in the hole where Tom's body was found. At the site, townsfolk blame Linc for not finding Tom's killer before he killed again. No clear motive is seen for Frenchy's killing; the back of his head was knocked in, just like Tom's. Susan fails to find a link between Tom and Frenchy and grows frustrated with Linc.

Dick York as Will Pearce
Two nights later, Flora Sloan's body is found in the same place, the back of her head battered in, again with no clear motive. At a town meeting, Linc lays out the facts and the apparent lack of connection. This time, the townsfolk support him. Alone in his office, he recalls seeing John pick up items from the hole where his son was found and pocket them. He wonders if one of the items was a clue and rushes to Cooley's house, which is empty. Linc finds a piece of glass in the farmer's coat pocket; he suddenly realizes what happened and that Susan is in danger. At her house, John Cooley has broken down the door and she realizes that he killed Frenchy and Flora with the metal butt of Tommy's hunting rifle. John explains that Tommy was killed by Susan's old car, which had been owned previously by Flora and Frenchy. Since the exact date of death is unknown, he has been killing all those who might be responsible. Linc arrives just in time to rescue Susan. Soon, he has proposed marriage, and no one ever finds out who accidentally ran over Tom.

Jacqueline Scott as Susan
"Terror Town" is an entertaining story with a central mystery that is not hard to figure out. It's the only short story by Ellery Queen not to feature Queen as the detective, and Francis M. Nevins wrote that the authors hoped to sell it to television. Ellery Queen was the pen name of Frederic Dannay (1905-1982) and Manfred B. Lee (1905-1971), two men who were the most important figures in crime and mystery fiction in the twentieth century. Their novels and short stories, most featuring Ellery Queen, appeared from 1929 to 1971, and the character flourished on radio, TV, and film. The authors also championed other writers, especially in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, which has been publishing great mystery fiction for over 80 years.

Unfortunately, the TV adaptation of "Terror Town," retitled "Terror at Northfield," is a mess. It aired on CBS on Friday, October 11, 1963, and it was director Harvey Hart's first effort for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. He tries to create a spooky atmosphere with some unusual shots and lighting, but there's not much he can do with the flawed teleplay and poor casting.

R.G. Armstrong as John Cooley
The show begins with Will (as Linc has been renamed) pulling up in his police car to the Cooley farm, with Susan in the passenger seat. The farm appears to have been deserted for weeks, but we see John observing the visitors from the shadows. They soon hear him working in the barn, fixing a tire with the large hammer that he will later use to commit two murders. We learn that his son Tom is missing. By starting the story at this point, Brackett removes the first section of the short story, including background on Susan, Flora, and the car. Also gone are the details of Susan and Linc growing up together and their familiarity with each other, so the tension in their relationship that exists in the story is absent from the show.

Back in town, Susan gets out of the police car and into her own car; Will points out the broken headlight. Susan drives a short distance and parks outside the library, where she meets Flora; we learn that Flora sold the car to Susan.

Katherine Squire as Mrs. Lafont
A closeup of a library book on the ground, its pages blowing in the wind, begins the following scene; Tom's body has been found at the bottom of a steep hill. Frenchy Lafont is seen holding onlookers back from the edge, though his character is not yet identified. Gone are the story's search party and the extended period of time before Tom's body is found. Cooley leaps into the hole and picks up the button and piece of broken glass, but he conceals the glass from Will and only admits to finding the button, suggesting that the glass is an important clue, something that is not revealed in the short story until the end. In the next scene, Will, the mayor, and the coroner discuss the mystery of Tom's death, compressing the story's long investigation into a brief exchange.

A major change follows as the next scene begins with a closeup on the broken headlight on Susan's car. John fits the piece of glass into the broken section, so the viewer knows how Tom was killed, something that was not revealed until the end of the short story. John then looks into the window of Susan's home at night before he is chased off by a barking dog. Since we know from dialogue in an earlier scene that Flora sold Susan the car, we now know that Flora and Susan are in danger and that John is the villain.

Peter Whitney as Bib Hadley
The scene shifts to the Cooley farm, where we see John erecting a For Sale sign as Frenchy drives up and expresses interest in buying the property. They explore the farm until John suddenly takes his hammer and murders Frenchy. In the story, Frenchy's body is found in the same spot where Tom's body was found, so his murder is not described. However, Leigh Brackett decides to show the viewer the murder, which removes any mystery about the killer's identity. The only mystery in the show is why John kills Frenchy. John dumps the body in the ravine and in the next scene the crowd is back at the site as Will investigates.

Bib Hadley, who is a bartender at Frenchy Lafont's bar in the short story, excitedly tells Susan what happened. At the end of this scene, it's clear that Will and Susan are already a couple, unlike in the story, where they don't get together till the end. In the TV show, he calls her "'honey,'" says he'll pick her up and take her to work to keep her safe, and kisses her goodbye. In the following scene, set at the police station, another new character is introduced: Frenchy's mother, who Will interrogates as he tries to find a link between the murders. The show slows to a crawl here with the only interesting aspect being Bernard Herrmann's moody score.

A night scene follows, as John Cooley buys groceries in the town, which seems deserted. Director Harvey Hart tries to create viewer interest with unusual camera placements that only serve to draw attention to themselves, such as putting the camera on the far side of John's truck and shooting through the window at the action across the sidewalk. John's repeated references to "'the Lord'" also become tiresome very quickly. He creeps around outside the library after dark and the scene continues inside the library, where camera placement becomes a major problem as Hart continually shoots through the stacks, looking at people on the other sides of shelves of books.

Susan and Flora both work at the library in the TV show, unlike the story, where Flora is a wealthy town resident. They discuss the murders in the shadowy library interior until Susan sends Flora home early; the numerous shots through the stacks are a pointless exercise in trickery that distracts from rather than enhances the content of the scene. Outside the building, the camera briefly takes Cooley's point of view as he watches Flora drive away. Susan is left alone in the library, waiting for Will to arrive and take her home, when we see a shadowy figure approach the outside door and unlock it. We are meant to think it's Cooley coming for Susan, but the show's second commercial break postpones the truth.

After the break, Susan panics when a stranger enters the library, but it turns out to be Bib Hadley, whom we had seen briefly at the ravine, telling Susan about Frenchy's murder. He exhibits bizarre behavior and there is more showy camera work with the camera looking out from behind the stacks. The lighting and Bib's unusual proclivities make him seem like he might be the killer, but since we have already seen John commit the crimes, we know he is innocent. Susan does not, however, and as Bib talks about how much he used to enjoy slaughtering animals, she runs out the door and into Will's arms. Will puts her in his car and enters the library, gun drawn, to confront Bib in an anticlimactic, unnecessary scene. The entire section with Bib is a tasteless waste of time and feels like padding.

The real danger follows, as Flora is home alone. John Cooley knocks at her door and she lets him in, ironically commenting that he and Will are the only men she would admit. John asks her if she killed his son and confesses to killing Frenchy; she faints and he puts on gloves before the camera cuts away from her murder. For the second time in "Terror at Northfield," the story suffers a significant change; in "Terror Town," Frenchy and Flora are found dead in the same spot where Tom's body was found, but in the TV show we witness their murders (or the lead up to them) at the hands of John. The only mystery in the TV show is why Cooley is killing these people. In essence, a mystery short story has been converted into a TV show where suspense is more important than whodunit.

Dennis Patrick as Frenchy Lafont
As in the story, a town meeting follows, but even here it looks like Harvey Hart thought the dull teleplay needed some help, so he puts the camera in an odd place for a few shots, as if it's showing the point of view of someone in the back of the crowd. This dull scene goes on too long and ends on what is supposed to be a high note right before the third commercial break when Frenchy's mother walks to the front of the room and announces that Frenchy killed Tom. The short story ends with no one ever knowing which of the car's drivers actually killed Tom, but in the TV show, Mrs. Lafont hands over a confession that Frenchy wrote  before he died, explaining that Tom's death was due to a drunk driving accident, after which he sold the car to Flora.

In the story, Linc thinks about the clues before visiting Cooley's house, finding the piece of broken glass and realizing what must have happened. In the TV show, Mrs. Lafont's confession leads to Will's understanding the sequence of events and he rushes off to try to save Susan's life. Meanwhile, she is at home when she gets a call from John, who tells her that he is going to be with his son. He hangs up and she fears he means to commit suicide. A bit of suspense is created by using alternating shots to show Will telephoning Susan and the phone ringing in her empty house; we suspect that she has gone to try to prevent John's rash act.

Curt Conway as Dr. Buxton
Will then drives to the Cooley farm and the ravine where the bodies were found, looking for Susan. As he drives away from the ravine, we see John peek out from behind a bush. Susan drives up and stands at the edge of the road, calling for John, who comes up from behind, grabs her, and drags her down the side of the hill. He holds a hammer over her, but before he can kill her, Will appears and stops him, telling him that Frenchy killed his son. Will and Susan embrace and he explains what happened; he confronts John, who admits that he wanted to kill all of the car's owners because he did not know which one of them killed Tom. He hands Will the piece of broken glass and the show ends with everyone climbing up and out of the ravine, symbolically exiting the pit of Hell and returning to normal life on Earth's surface.

"Terror at Northfield" is a poor adaptation of a good story, where Leigh Brackett tries to turn an intriguing mystery into a TV film focused on suspense. The weak teleplay forces director Harvey Hart to resort to showy camera placement to try to create viewer interest, but it just ends up calling attention to itself and distracting from the events on screen. Dick York is miscast as the heroic, small town sheriff, and Jacqueline Scott gives a dull performance as Susan, the heroine of the short story, who is reduced to just another woman in peril in the adaptation. The best performance among the leads comes from R.G. Armstrong as John Cooley, though even he is saddled with repetitive dialogue that finds him constantly talking about the Lord.

Gertrude Flynn as Flora Sloan
Harvey Hart (1928-1989), the show's director, was born in Canada and worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Company from 1952 to 1963 before moving to the U.S. and working in Hollywood. He directed, mostly for TV, from 1949 to 1989 and this was the first of five episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour where he was behind the camera. Another was the classic episode, "Death Scene."

Dick York (1928-1992) stars as Will Pearce. York was born in Indiana and his screen career lasted from 1953 to 1984. Plagued by terrible back pain caused by an injury sustained on the set of a film, he nevertheless appeared in seven episodes of the Hitchcock show, as well as being on The Twilight Zone and Thriller. York's most famous role, however, was as Darrin Stephens on Bewitched, the popular situation comedy where he co-starred with Elizabeth Montgomery from 1964 to 1969, when he quit the show due to his back problems. Among his other episodes was "The Blessington Method."

Co-starring as Susan is Jacqueline Scott (1931-2020), whose screen career stretched from 1956 to 2009, mostly on TV. She was on The Twilight Zone once and The Outer Limits twice, but her most significant role was probably as the sister of Dr. Richard Kimble on The Fugitive, a part she played in several episodes.

R.G. Armstrong (1917-2012) plays John Cooley. He was on four episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "Final Vow," and had a long career, spanning the years from 1954-2001. He was also in many westerns. Online sources report that he grew up in a family of fundamentalists and that his mother wanted him to be a pastor, but he became an actor instead and his onscreen roles sometimes played off the tension between his upbringing and his profession. One wonders what he thought of the character of John Cooley.

In smaller roles:
  • Katherine Squire (1903-1995) as Mrs. Lafont; she was on Broadway from 1927 to 1959 and on screen from 1949 to 1989. Squire was in five episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "Man from the South," where she plays the scolding wife of Peter Lorre's character, and she was seen on Thriller and The Twilight Zone. Later in her career, she was a regular on the soap opera, The Doctors (1970-1975).
  • Peter Whitney (1916-1972) as Bib Hadley; seeming like a cross between Andy Devine and Pat Buttram, Whitney was busy in films from 1941 to 1970 and on TV from 1951 to 1972. He appeared in Fritz Lang's The Big Heat (1953) and his final role was in an episode of Night Gallery.
  • Dennis Patrick (1918-2002) as Frenchy Lafont; he was on the Hitchcock series three times, including "The Last Escape." Patrick made more than 1800 TV appearances in his career, including "Age of Peril" on Tales of Tomorrow and a recurring role on Dark Shadows.
  • Curt Conway (1913-1974) as Dr. Buxton; he was on screen from 1947 to 1974. He played Adolf Hitler on The Twilight Zone episode "He's Alive," appeared on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode, "Beast in View," and was in two episodes of The Outer Limits, but he is best known for his role as the judge in The Odd Couple episode, "My Strife in Court," when Felix Unger uses a blackboard to break down the word "assume."
  • Gertrude Flynn (1909-1996) as Flora Sloan; she was active on the Broadway stage from 1929 to 1952 and on screen from 1952 to 1987, including an episode of The Twilight Zone and five episodes of the Hitchcock series; one was "A Tangled Web."
Watch "Terror at Northfield" online here and judge for yourself.



Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. OTR Pub., 2001. 

Grost, Mike. Ellery Queen - by Michael E. Grost, 



Nevins, Francis M. "[Editor's Note.]." Hitchcock in Prime Time, edited by Francis M. Nevins, Avon, New York, 1985, p. 293.

Queen, Ellery. "Terror Town." Hitchcock in Prime Time, pp. 264–293. 

"Terror in Northfield." The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, season 2, episode 3, CBS, 11 Oct. 1963. 

Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 

Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "The Better Bargain" here!

Unfortunately, Annie and Kathryn have suspended their podcast on Alfred Hitchcock Presents indefinitely; click here for a list of episodes they reviewed.

In two weeks: Harlan Ellison on Hitchcock? Don't miss "Memo from Purgatory," starring James Caan!

Monday, January 23, 2023

The Warren Report Issue 102: April 1979



The Critical Guide to
the Warren Illustrated Magazines
by Uncle Jack
& Cousin Peter

Jordi Penalva
Eerie #100

"Master of Ti Chi"
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Alfredo Alcala & Jim Janes

Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Isidro Mones

"In a Strange Land"
Story by Leo Durnanona & Cary Bates
Art by Leo Duranona

Story and Art by Jim Starlin

Restin Dane has traveled back to the Arizona desert in 1875, looking for Ti Chi, the legendary retreat of ancient Oriental warriors. Overcome by the heat, he finds an oasis and drinks from its water.

Meanwhile, in 1979, an alien spaceship crash lands in the Florida Everglades. Soon, the Pentagon pages Restin Dane, but since he's traveling through time, only Bishop Dane and Manners are available to respond. General Waxton T. Bean tells them that aliens have landed in Florida!

Back in 1875, Restin is captured and taken to Ti Chi, a city that lies beneath the desert floor in a massive cavern. In his prison cell he meets Lo Yang, guardian of the holy city, who explains that the tyrant Chekiang rules with an iron fist. In his chambers, Chekiang worries that Restin is the savior whose arrival was prophesied and who will remove him from power.

In 1979, Bishop and Manners hop into one of Restin's ships and head for Florida.

In 1875, Restin is brought before Chekiang, insisting he is no savior. Despite that, Chekiang explains that Restin will be sacrificed in front of the people in order to show that Chekiang is the rightful ruler. Restin attempts to escape.

Bishop and Manners arrive in the Everglades, while Restin is made ready to die in the arena. Chekiang's daughter explains how things have gone steadily downhill in Ti Chi and helps Restin escape so that he can confer with her rebel band. Before long, Chekiang finds the rebels and confronts Restin.

In the Everglades, Bishop realizes that the reports of an alien invasion have been exaggerated, while a deaf and dumb local man tries to help the injured alien, who only wants to bring peace and goodness to the people of Earth.

In Ti Chi, Restin is again imprisoned and again visited by Lo Yang, who grants Restin the wisdom of the seven fathers, making him the savior that he was thought to be. Restin breaks out of his cell and rescues the rebels.

In 1979, the general vows to destroy the alien, Bishop calls him an egomaniac, and the alien prepares to bring his positive message to the Earthlings.

Restin confronts Chekiang and his warriors and fights them off with ease; once Chekiang sees the spirit of Lo Yang emerge from Restin's body, he begs for mercy but is impaled on iron spikes.

In 1979, the general and his men see the alien and kill him; Bishop tells him off and shows him the alien's message of warmth and kindness.

In 1875, Restin is knocked in the head by one of Chekiang's men and suddenly returns to 1979, where Manners welcomes him home.

Alcala or no Alcala, "Master of Ti Chi" is a 30-page stinker of a story. The art is mediocre at best and the narrative mixes warmed over plotlines from Master of Kung Fun with an aliens among us plotline that was old in 1970. DuBay relies on cheap Christian imagery, with both Restin and the alien being compared to Jesus and treated accordingly, and the back and forth from 1875 to 1979 gets tiresome very quickly. Hopefully, this series will improve soon.

A decayed humanoid searches the rubble of a city and finds a tub of lard to eat; a spaceship appears, pulls him skyward with a tractor beam, and incinerates him. On the ground, a human named Juda looks on disapprovingly. Inside one of the huge domes that dot the ruined city, an older woman named Nightshadow and a young man named Chaddo sneak in to view the Orion warships that arrived from outer space and caused "Gotterdamerung!" on Earth in the course of a single day. Nightshadow and Chaddo are caught by a robionic (part human, part robot), who holds them at gunpoint for the benefit of the aliens monitoring the scene but who quietly informs his prisoners that he is on their side. The robionic had been a pilot in one of the ships that opposed the Orions; his broken body was rescued and rebuilt so that they could take advantage of his knowledge.

The robionic exiles the duo outside the dome, where they meet Juda, who tells them that he thinks the few Earth people who have survived are soon going to rebel against the Orions. Just then, an Orion ship attacks, but Juda blows it out of the sky with a heat-seeking missile. He tells Chaddo of a repeated radio message he's been getting that consists of a single word: "Soon." In the weeks that follow, the trio sneak into the dome and train for rebellion with the robionic; Orion soldiers discover them just as the quartet successfully starts a beaten-up old spaceship and takes off, bursting through the outside of the dome to freedom!

I realize that it's a Star Wars knockoff, but I enjoyed "Gotterdamerung!" quite a bit. I liked the creepy scavenger with flesh falling off its body and I didn't mind the Han Solo (Juda) and Luke Skywalker (Chaddo) knockoffs. One panel, a close up of Chaddo, has to be a swipe from a still of Mark Hamill. The beaten-up ship at the end looks like the Millennium Falcon. What can I say? It's a fun story. Maybe I need to watch Star Wars again sometime soon.
Winner of the award for Best Warren artist of 1978!

Picking up where "The Horizon Seekers" left off last issue, the man and woman float along over post-apocalyptic Earth, comparing notes on what little they remember. They had both succumbed to the Big Sleep (no, not that one) and awoke to find civilization destroyed and humans behaving like animals. Neither has any memory of their lives before the Sleep and now it seems like they are strangers "In a Strange Land." Suddenly, below them, they see a jeep with Shexa, the sheik from whom they escaped, chasing their balloon. One of his men blows holes in the basket and the balloon, forcing the duo to abandon the basket and cling to the balloon, which drifts off into the distance before crash landing in a snowbank. Seeking shelter in a crevice, the duo identify themselves as Jesse and Allison and wonder if they knew each other prior to the Big Sleep.

Midway through this issue we are treated to the 1978 Warren Awards which, if you can believe it, give the title of Best Artist to our favorite whipping boy, Leo Duranona! His art in this story is about on par with what we're used to; I guess someone (Jim Warren?) must have liked it. Even though I read part one of "The Horizon Seekers" saga only a few weeks ago I had forgotten it (it's not memorable) until the sheik in the jeep turned up.

Darklon the Mystic and his father, Kavar Darkhold, face off in a "Duel." Now that Darklon has promised his birthright to the Nameless One, Kavar must kill him, since "no heir may be chosen while an issue of the throne still lives." The duel ends with Kavar's death; the Nameless One quickly appears on the scene to take over as ruler of Nebularia. Nameless banishes Darklon, only to see himself and the planet explode due to a contamination agent placed by Darklon.

Meanwhile, in a hospital in a New England suburb in 1979, two doctors watch two patients who are unconscious but whose active pupils reveal a dream state. The doctors don't know it, but the patients are Darklon and Kavar; when Kavar dies in the duel, he dies on the table, and when Darklon survives, his vital signs stabilize.

"Duel" reads like a really good issue of a Marvel comic circa 1975. Starlin writes and draws it and he really gives it his all; the story is exciting and the art is superb. But he's no Leo Duranona!-Jack

Peter- All you gotta do is tell me I have to read a 30-page Rook story and I'll tell you anything you want to know. The password for my bank accounts. Where the bodies are buried. How I convinced Jack to take on these miserable funny books in the first place. Just please, don't make me read "Master of Ti Chi." All right, you win. I'd rather read this than watch another season of Yellowstone. I'm the world's number one Alcala fan, as anyone who reads our various blogs knows, but thirty pages of dense, complicated, head-scratching, eye-rolling, dictionary-challenging dialogue from the typewriter of Bill DuBay is no one's idea of a good time. There should have been a drawing of a curtain halfway through the story to let us know there was an intermission. Bill's oh-so-deep religious messages were delivered with such a heavy hammer, it left a dent in my forehead. While an overbearing feeling of narcolepsy overcame me, I must also begrudgingly respect the fact that Bill delivered what looks to be ten thousand words in those thirty pages. I'd be in awe if they amounted to something.

"Gotterdamerung!" is yet another excruciating rip-off of Star Wars in both script and art (though I would argue Juda looks more like Lee Majors than Harrison Ford) and helps further the argument that very little Warren sci-fi was digestible. At least the Mones art here is better than in this month's Vampi. While I'm blathering about pop culture larceny, can anyone find me a reference to a "First Encounter" before Christmas 1977? Even though the second chapter of "The Horizon Seekers" neither advances the plot much nor delivers any stunning twists, I liked it. Perhaps because I disliked so much this month and was grasping for anything... any little crumb... that might provide entertainment. Duranona's art wasn't all that bad, so I assume this is the story that garnered him that Best Artist bowling trophy. The final Starlin "Darklon" (there will be another appearance far down the road, but Rich Margopoulos and Al Sanchez tackle the writer/artist chores on that one so obviously Starlin didn't own the character he created) is gorgeous to behold and a lot of fun to read. The series had a lot of the cosmic vibe that made Starlin so popular but it's still an odd choice for a Warren series. This has Marvel written all over it. A colorized version of the Darklon stories was released in 1983 by Pacific Comics.

Barbara Leigh
Vampirella #77

"Shadow of the Dragon" 
Story by Bill Dubay
Art by Gonzalo Mayo

"The Night of the Yeti!" 
Story by Michael Fleisher
Art by Russ Heath

"The Night the Birds Fell" 
Story by Nicola Cuti
Art by Moreno Casares

"Siren of the Seekonk" ★1/2
Story by Jonathon Thomas
Art by Rafael Auraleon

"Weird Wolf" 
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Jeff Easley

"Futura House is Not a Home" ★1/2
Story by Nicola Cuti
Art by Isidro Mones

Conrad and Adam Van Helsing are summoned to Hong Kong by Con's old friend, Inspector Avery LeGrande, to help investigate and put a halt to a series of chilling and vicious murders. In each case, the victim is slaughtered on the docks of Hong Kong Harbor and the killer (purportedly non-human) dives into the bay after its supper. Con, Adam, and Avery discuss the possible explanations for this paranormal activity but Con can't help wishing that Vampirella and Pantha were with them to assist.

Coincidentally, Vampi, Pantha, and Pen pull into the exact same port (what are the chances?) on the yacht of a movie producer who's hoping to talk our Drakulonian into starring in his next big-budget epic. The director leaves Pen and the gals in the hands of a deliciously gay assistant named Bruce (but it should be Mick), who drops Pen off at a local pub and takes the girls on a sightseeing tour. As is his wont, dopey Pendragon manages to cause a ruckus in the bar and is escorted out the door by a burly sailor (we know he's a sailor cuz he's wearing a cap and a striped shirt). What foul deed is on the mariner's mind? Stay tuned...

This is an odd one. Not that any of the Vampi adventures are what you'd call conventional, but "Shadow of the Dragon" is like three unfinished vignettes sewn together. No narrative is advanced. How is it possible that the girls land in the same port as the VHs without either side having advance word? Is the Warren World that small? The Detective Avery section is little more than a relating of Asian myths and giant dragons don't seem to be a possibility here. I assume Vampi's director has something to do with the mayhem, since they usually do. Is it me or has Pantha had a complete makeover? She doesn't look anything like the girl we've seen in past episodes. Perhaps the powers that be had finally relayed the message that the gals were starting to look a little too much alike? The art is great, as always, but I can't shake that weird feeling that none of the characters are actually talking to each other. The girls are usually holding their hips and throwing back their hair and the guys just look off into space. Oh, my burning question for the issue has nothing to do with where Popeye is hauling Pen off to, but rather, what the hell is holding up Pantha's bikini top? 

Anthropologist Phil Templeton has always been obsessed with the myth of the Abominable Snowman and, in an effort to prove the legend is flesh-and-blood, the science nerd heads into the Himalayas with his gorgeous wife, Joanne, and their bestest friend, Stephen Strange Bill Cummings. Alas, disaster hits in the shape of an ice storm and Phil is whooooshed off the side of the mountain to his (alleged) death. Phil's companions survive and Bill decides it's a good time to tell Joanne he wants her for his girl. Joanne insists Phil is still alive and she loves him, so no dice.

Sure enough, thousands of feet below, Phil awakens with nothing more than a few scratches and a hungry tummy. He makes do with the little furry animals he can catch and holes up in a convenient cave on the side of the mountain. A few days pass without incident until the night Phil discovers he shares the cave with a giant bear. The vicious beast takes a whack at Phil and rips open his throat, severing his esophagus. With nothing but a knife, our hero kills the bear and tends to his own wounds. Slicing the bear open, he uses the pelt for warmth and heads out into the cold to find his partners.

Bill, never having learned the definition of the word "no," once again forces himself on Joanne and gets a slap across the face for his troubles. The peeved woman heads out into the night to gather her thoughts just as Phil comes traipsing up the mountain. Since he has no voice box, he's wearing a bearskin rug, and amazingly has grown a ZZ Top beard and Robert Plant mane in a matter of days, Joanne does not recognize him as her betrothed until his moanings reach a fever pitch and the lightbulb, as they say, comes on over her head.

Hearing a ruckus outside his tent, Bill grabs his rifle, sees what he believes to be a Yeti attacking his prime cut, and sets a bullet in motion. Joanne jumps in front of Yeti-Phil and takes one right between the 44DDs. Not one to give up, Bill then shoots Phil in the head, triggering an avalanche. Bill is killed but Phil rises from the snow to become the legendary Yeti!

I was tempted to give this Ed Wood-ian pile of road apples a four-star rating since I haven't laughed this much since the 2020 Republican Convention. There's not one original idea within these ten pages. We've seen this Abdominal Snowguy plot dozens of times... ditto the horndog buddy and busty femme fatale. All that's left then is Russ Heath's art, which is pretty good considering he really isn't given anything cool to draw besides icy mountains and glistening tatas. This must be the warmest Himalayan mountain on record as Joanne has no problem wandering around with no snowsuit and the golden globes on display for all the sherpas to see (Heath obviously had some fun with those panels). And let's address the amazing rapid growth of hair on Phil. Mike Fleisher lets us know a few days have passed so a five o'clock shadow is certainly not beyond believability but Yeti-Phil has a head of hair Trevor Lawrence would covet. If you're looking for serious commentary on the plight of the Yeti, pick up a DVD of Snowbeast but if you just need a few minutes to escape the grind of the day and pine for the time when editors gave Michael Fleisher free rein to transmit his goofiness, "The Night of the Yeti" might be just what you need.

After experiencing a near-midair crash, Eddie, an air traffic controller, starts imagining that birds are attacking him. He has a bit of a calm-down coffee with an air stewardess, who's obviously upset by Eddie's post-traumatic stress, and then heads back into the tower. He murders his co-workers and then deliberately causes a crash between two 747s (one of which, of course, has the air stewardess on board). 

Seriously, "Night the Birds Fell" is one of the stupidest and most aimless stories I've read in a Warren comic. Eddie's childhood trauma (birds and airplanes disturb him) is as head-scratching as his vocation. I thought air traffic controllers were vetted to the Nth degree even in the primitive 1970s, but obviously not. The story itself seems jumbled, as if Cuti had three or four fragments and decided to tie them together. They don't fit. The art looks like Casares sent the Warren offices some rough sketches and ideas and Louise misunderstood them to be the finished product. Eddie as a child looks to be in his early teens but talks like he's three. The final panel, with its Hitler comparison, would be a big guffaw if it wasn't in such poor taste. Tripe.

Despondent over the break-up of his marriage, Will LeBlanc stands on a bridge over the Seekonk, contemplating suicide. Just before jumping (and thereby extending the reader's tortuous journey), Will believes he sees a water woman beckoning him from the river. When Will's ex, Lisa, threatens to commit him, he strangles her and chops her corpse up into little pieces, feeding her to the siren. For a moment, Will is happy, until he sees a male rise from the waves and help Will's beautiful vision munch on Lisa's entrails. Will jumps from the bridge to be with his beloved ex-wife.

Jonathon Thomas stands in the Warren cafeteria, having just read Nick Cuti's wretched script for "The Night the Birds Fell," smiles, and says "Hold my beer!" Two truly awful stories in a row isn't exactly unheard of in the Warren canon, but "Birds" and "Siren of the Seekonk" represent a new one-two punch pinnacle in disposability. Perhaps if these stories weren't so pretentious, I could see some ray of light, but both are  unrelentingly depressing and (here's that word again) aimless. The big laugh is when Lisa contacts the nice young men in their clean white coats to come take Will away and tells them she'll go into his apartment and calm him down but that it might take a while. In the meantime, Will throttles and then carefully dissects the woman in his bathtub and stuffs the parts in a big bag, all while the guys are waiting outside! I mean, it took me a few hours to do that. The one aspect of "Siren" that kept me entertained was Will's delightful boss, who seems to live for firing and re-hiring the poor nut. Only Auraleon's decent art saves this from being a one-star disaster.

In the blessedly brief "Weird Wolf," Elmo Reagan is a lycanthrope vacationing in the hick town of Sutter's Falls, but his reign of terror will soon come to an end thanks to a very sharp sheriff and very curvy bait. There's no explanation for why Elmo is referred to as a "weird wolf" rather than werewolf, but with three pages to unravel a "plot" and wrap it up there's not a lot of room for expository, so I'll just chalk it up to Gerry wanting to be different. Jeff Easley, in his first of six Warren appearances, has a decidedly amateurish (almost "underground") style that reminded me of Ralph Reese, but it's palatable. Certainly not something you can say about the 1978 Artist of the Year.

When her family moves into the robot-controlled Futura House, teenager (at least I think she's a teenager!) Kari Brand becomes suspicious of the house itself. Sure enough, she discovers Futura is duplicating the Brand family and replacing them with androids. Kari breaks into the basement, finds what she thinks is the duplicate family and wipes them out with her blaster. Surprise, Kari is a twin and she's killed the real Brands!

I couldn't follow why this evil corporation wanted to hatch this devious scheme (something about robots being easier to manipulate than humans but then, if the home buyers are all "cloned," who pays the mortgage?), but that's the least of the problems with "Futura House is Not a Home." You can't even accuse Nick Cuti of pretension, as the script is just plain dumb and avoids all the "robots would take care of the planet" underlying themes. Cuti wastes enough paper to deliver what he believes to be an "Oh my God!" climax that hinges on what may be one of the most overused twists in science fiction. Love how the tin god in the basement is revealed to be R2-D2. I'm too lazy to go through my notes and combined ratings for each back post, but let's just say this would have to be among the Top Five Worst Vampirella Issues Ever! -Peter

Jack- Vampirella 77 was one of the worst issues I can recall since the end of the "Dark Ages" at Warren. The only story I thought was good was "Weird Wolf," and it was just three pages long. The art reminded me of Crumb and Corben and I didn't expect the surprise twist at the end. "The Night of the Yeti!" is more fun from Fleisher with the usual above-average art by Heath. It made me wonder if Warren was increasing the number of topless panels to try to sell more mags around this time; the rest of the stories in this issue confirmed my suspicion.

"Futura House Is Not a Home" at least makes sense, though it's not original or particularly well drawn. I wish I could say the same for "Shadow of the Dragon," with its atrocious spelling, posed figures in panels, and lack of any meaningful role for Vampi. At least Pantha got a haircut so now I can tell the women apart. "Siren of the Seekonk" seemed longer than eight pages and the last time I recall someone trying to pass off a bald woman as sexy was in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Worst of all was "The Night the Birds Fell," a dreadful story on all fronts. The Nazi reference at the end came out of nowhere!

More baffling bowling trophies!

Next Week...
The unexpected return 
of an old friend

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Journey Into Strange Tales Issue 78: Atlas/ Marvel Horror


The Marvel/Atlas 
Horror Comics
Part 63
April 1954 Part I
by Peter Enfantino

Syd Shores
Adventures into Terror 30

“They Fly By Night” (a: Bob Correa) ★★1/2

(r: Giant-Size Dracula #5)

“The Dead Don’t Sleep” (a: Al Eadah) 1/2

“The Man in the Shadows”

“Don’t Nod” (a: Sy Grudko) ★★★

“A Scream in the Night” (a: Vince Colletta) 1/2

(r: Vault of Evil #20)

John Burton and his wife take their son,Tom, on a trip to Hungary but at the inn where they stay, they are attacked by a vampire. Tom survives but both his parents die and are buried in a local cemetery. Tom grows up hating vampires, swearing some day to return to the village of Mirov to avenge the death of his parents and, once he’s a grown man, he does just that. He stays at the same inn and leaves his window open at night, hoping to attract the monsters. The bait is taken but Tom is horrified to see the vampires are his parents, come to convince their son to join them in undeath. Our final panel shows Tom walking towards the two vampires, but will he join them or stake them? “They Fly By Night” contains the first of four contributions to the Atlas catalogue by artist Bob Correa, an adequate and sometimes atmospheric penciler, known primarily as one of the initial artists on Dell’s popular Turok, Son of Stone.

In “The Dead Don’t Sleep,” the spirit world becomes quite tired of being disturbed by a local seer so they put an end to the medium's career. Almost a quasi-sequel to last issue’s “The Horrible House” in that Al Eadah resurrects the same ghosts that haunted that tale. A bank teller meets an exotic woman who has expensive taste and embezzles five grand to keep her happy. The money is lost at a roulette table and the dope discovers the girl is a con artist. He kills her and her partner in a lust-filled spree of violence. But who is “The Man in the Shadows” and why does this all seem like deja vu all over again? Never mind. The answer is not worth your trouble.

Communist tyrant Chung-Ku abhors the modern methods of genocide and asks his master assassin, Li-Po, to put aside the machine gun and perfect his sword skills. Li-Po does his master proud, crafting a weapon that leaves nary a hair out of place on the dead noggin. Unfortunately for Chung, all despots fall some day and, very soon, he becomes next in line for Li-Po’s blade. Chung talks his old friend into simulating the execution and allowing him to walk away just for old time’s sake. Li agrees and come the dreaded deadline, Chung swears he feels the blade fall but his head still sits upon his shoulders. Later that day, after escaping, Chung calls to thank the headsman, only to hear the warning, “Don’t Nod.” Perplexed, Chung turns his neck and loses his head. These “red scare” strips were usually pumped out by Stan, but he was busy with Menace about this time and I can’t see “The Man” not signing the splash, as was his wont. “Don’t Nod” has a steady pace, telling its story at just the right speed. Most of us know how this will end but the climactic panel, of Chung sans head (as ludicrous a concept it is), is a hoot. 

Wrapping up this issue is “A Scream in the Night,” the tale of Kent, a washed-up horror writer who stumbles onto a satanic cult in the forest and must swear (with his blood) never to tell a soul what he’s seen. Unable to control himself, Kent writes what he believes to be a dynamite story revolving around, what else?, a meeting of devil worshippers in the forest. The members of the cult don’t take this betrayal lightly and, through a series of events, have Kent committed to an asylum. 

Harry Anderson
Adventures into Weird Worlds 28

“Heads Will Roll” (a: Paul Reinman) ★★★

“The Supreme Test” 1/2

“In the Bag!” (a: Doug Wildey) ★★1/2

“The Strange Shop!” (a: Ed Moline)

“From the Dead” (a: Sam Burlockoff) ★★1/2

In 16th-Century London, James Jurgens is in charge of hoisting, on poles, the severed heads of those convicted and executed. The Crown pays Jurgens a good salary to maintain the grisly poles, so when there is a downturn in violence in the city, the headsman has no problem accusing innocents of bad behavior in order to earn a living. One night, while admiring his handiwork, Jurgens hears the severed heads whispering to each other. As two guards pass, one of the heads screams out that a man is trying to burn the bridge down and, in the scuffle, Jurgens is beheaded. Soon, his noggin rests alongside those he accused. Though the climax is one hundred per cent predictable, the morbid sight of staked heads leaning against the rail of London Bridge makes “Heads Will Roll” a deliciously sick pleasure.

The Commies kidnap scientist James Vance, who has invented a revolutionary new A-Bomb, one that dwarfs all those other 1950s devices. Once in Russia, Vance is told he’ll be tortured until he gives up the secret. Vance agrees to spill his guts once he’s had an aspirin for his headache. Holy cow, those Russians sure are dopes! The aspirin sets off a “chain reaction” in Vance’s atoms, transforming him into a human atom bomb. Moscow is reduced to rubble. 

“The Supreme Test” is another in a line of endless “red scare” thrillers designed to ease the worried minds of readers waiting for the big one to fall. “Never fear,” we hear Stan typing on his Smith-Corona, “America will always come through because we are the greater good. And besides we have bigger bombs!” What a wonderful country America is in the 1950s Atlas Universe, devising human bombs.

Carl wants to know what Joel has “In the Bag!” he’s carrying on his shoulder. Joel tells him he’s got a bag full of rocks but Carl insists that it’s the body of Melissa, Joel’s adulterous wife. Unaware of his wife’s infidelity, Joel takes one of the rocks out of his bag and kills Carl, puts the body in the sack, and heads home to have a talk with Melissa. It’s quick but effective and darkly humorous. The look on Melissa’s face, moving from smug to terrified in four successive panels, is priceless.

Cops can never find evidence of stolen property at the most popular pawn shop in town but that’s because the owner is Satan. The twist at the climax of “The Strange Shop!” is certainly not the most original but perhaps there might be a bit more surprise for the reader if the pawn shop owner didn’t have pointed ears and a satanic goatee from panel one.

In “From the Dead,” Charles Chute is paid to debunk fortune tellers and seers but runs into a brick wall known as Guirraini, a man whose pencil is used as an instrument of communication with the dead. Chute can’t prove the man is a phony and it drives him to murder. In the end, Chute gets the chair after Guirraini reaches out from the dead to force a confession note. 

Harry Anderson
Astonishing 32

“The Werewolf Takes a Wife” (a: Paul Reinman) ★★

”Arrival” (a: Tony Mortellaro)

“Her Other Face” (a: Chuck Miller)

“Initiation Fee!” (a: Mannie Banks)

“Double or Nothing” (a: Tony DiPreta) ★★1/2

While they’re busy having supper, a farmer and his three daughters are terrorized by a werewolf who huffs and puffs and blows their front door down. Thinking fast, the farmer makes a deal with the lycanthrope: if he leaves them be, he can stay in the house as long as he wants. The werewolf agrees and becomes immediately smitten with the farmer’s youngest daughter, Essie, who makes it quite evident that the affection is a two-way street. Essie finally gets the werewolf to propose to her and they live happily ever after at the farm, with Essie’s two vampire sisters bringing home enough victims for them all to eat. Silly beyond compare, “The Werewolf Takes a Wife” is goofy fun and does not take itself seriously for one second. This werewolf reclines on the couch and moans about the hard day he had. The cover advertises this one as “The Vampire Takes a Wife” (which is odd since the character depicted is awfully shaggy).

Professor Kurtz watches as a spaceship lands and out pops a handful of aliens. The space travelers discuss their upcoming invasion and then turn invisible in order to infiltrate the Earth society. Kurtz tries to get the top brass to listen to him but no one will believe him. He’s finally committed to an asylum and we see that the doctor in charge of Kurtz’s case turns invisible. Boring as hell, and loaded down with some truly awful artwork, “Arrival” uses one of the oldest reveals known to comic writers. And they’d use that hook many more times afterwards. 

    Con man Jeff marries Matilda for her millions but quickly tires of her homely face. He insists that his new wife get plastic surgery but she nixes that idea, claiming she’s already had a face lift and another might bring up bad memories. But Jeff is persistent and the surgery occurs; Matilda is beautiful until Jeff kisses her and her face cracks apart. Two layers down is Matilda’s real face, that of a vampire. Ludicrous horror story almost makes it into the “so bad it’s good” file but it’s not quirky enough. After “Her Other Face” pops up, Matilda magically sprouts fangs as if the first surgery hid those as well! When the surgeon refuses to put Matilda under the knife due to her protestations, Jeff simply triples his offer and the doc caves! Women’s lib has come far since 1954.

Carlton Jones (nicknamed “The Pusher” for his underworld dealings) has worked himself up the ladder in the community but he still can’t buy respect. He decides that joining clubs might do the trick but there’s one very exclusive club that won’t have him until he bullies its most famous member. Too late, he discovers he’s joined a “suicide club!” Filled with more limp scripting and dreadful art, “Initiation Fee!” is nothing more than talking head panels and stuffed expository balloons.

Professor Wendell Witt has discovered the secret of cloning and it’s going to make him a very rich man. The first thing he thinks of is duplicating diamonds and being the world’s most powerful man but fate pees on his cornflakes. The formula will only create doubles of living objects like rats and monkeys, so diamonds, greenbacks, and nice suits are out of the question. Wendell sighs and realizes he can still make a bundle by cloning himself, so he does just that. Unfortunately, the nutty professor didn’t wait long enough to see if there were any ill effects from the formula, and he finds out much too late that the clones turn jealous and violent. Wendell’s clone has something special planned for his big brother when he gets home. The art is a bit shaky (the professor’s head size seems to change from panel to panel) but the climactic twist is a good one. 

Sol Brodsky
Journey into Mystery 15

“Satan Can Wait” (a: Paul Reinman) ★★★1/2

(r: Vampire Tales #1)

“Till Death Do Us Part” (a: Vic Carrabotta) ★★1/2

(a: Vault of Evil #4)

“The Face That Followed” (a: Al Luster) 1/2

(r: Vault of Evil #4)

“Bewitched” (a: Mannie Banks) ★★

(r: Vampire Tales #2)

“The Man Who Was Nobody” (a: Ed Winiarski)

(r: Journey Into Mystery #8)

Danny is a friendly, hard-working chap with a lovely wife and great kids. He likes to pal around with his buddies at a bar on Friday nights and on this particular visit, the idea of true evil is debated. Is there a Satan? Danny scoffs at the thought, even though his friends keep open minds. At that moment, a stranger approaches the table and offers Danny one million dollars for his soul. Just for kicks, and to prove to his friends how silly the situation is, Danny signs the contract. Oddly enough, the stranger vanishes in thin air.

When he arrives at home, his wife meets him to give him the bad news that his father has died, leaving Danny a factory worth a quarter of a million. In short order, Danny becomes a workaholic, loses his family, and is told his fortune has reached one million dollars. Just at that moment, the stranger returns to inform Danny that the whole thing was a joke. Danny murders the man and heads out into the lightning storm, ready to pay up on his unholy pact. Though the climax is a bit of a letdown (honestly, the revelation that the man was actually Satan probably would have been anticlimactic as well), “Satan Can Wait” is a thoughtful and intelligent tale, filled with some very good dialogue (especially during the round table discussion between Danny and his bar buddies) and one of those rare “innocent” protagonists who doesn’t deserve the fate that’s handed to him. The final panel, of newly-minted murderer Danny heading out into the storm to meet whichever maker claims him, is very powerful: He walked into the raging night and a cloud, blacker than all the others, hovered low over him! Then Danny disappeared into the darkness… forever!

Herbert can’t stand his wife, the lusty adulterous trollop named Stella, but she knows all about his shady business dealings and has sent her lawyer the obligatory “Open upon my death” letter, so life moves on at a miserable clip. Finally, Herbert decides he’s had enough and jail be damned, he’s going to strangle his shrewish wife. Just then, an atomic bomb blast rips through the house (no, seriously!) and life on Earth changes. Herbert’s worst nightmare becomes true; he will spend eternity with Stella by his side. Literally, since the bomb grafted the two lovebirds into one body. “Till Death Do Us Part” has some great Carrabotta art, a wild twist, and a smile-inducing climax. 

In the simple “The Face That Followed,” convicted killer Tony Trent escapes prison and heads into the swamp, the dogs trailing just behind. Trent’s destination is a summer cottage in the fishing village of Bedford. There, beneath the floorboards, lies a quarter-million in cash. But first Trent must shake his posse. The con comes across a shack and enters, but is pulled up short by the sight of a shotgun pointed at his chest. The old man attached to the weapon explains that he knows who Trent is and the price for his silence is a quarter million. 

Knowing he’s facing an electric chair if he’s caught, Trent draws the old man a map leading to the cash and then gets a face full of buckshot. Dying, Trent promises the old man that he’ll see the con’s face until his dying day. The old codger buries Trent under his shack and heads out to his big payday. But, once he gets the green, the cops close in, sure the old man is Trent. Despite his protests, the police blast him full of holes and, once his body has been turned over, we see he has Trent’s face. The only surprise coming in the Paul S. Newman-scripted “The Face That Followed” is that Trent is dispatched so quickly and the story’s bad guy becomes the old shack owner. Al Luster’s graphics are suitably histrionic.

There’s some striking Mannie Banks visuals in “Bewitched,” but the script is microwaved. It’s that old chestnut about beautiful Prudence in 17th Century Salem, who refuses to marry the old neighbor, Caleb, so he rats her out as a witch to the town elders. The woman is set to be hanged but through a series of misadventures she escapes. The climactic showdown between Caleb and Prudence reveals that innocent Prudence was an authentic broom-rider the whole time. That reveal had been done to death already by 1954.

In “The Man Who Was Nobody,” Greg Garlan applies for a passport only to discover every trace of his past has been wiped out. No birth certificate, no school records, no work papers. There’s no explanation except that… you guessed it, Greg is actually an undercover  Martian, sent to worm his way into society and report back to his bosses. 

Harry Anderson
Journey into Unknown Worlds 26

“The Haunted House” (a: Pete Tumlinson) ★★★

“Unharmed” (a: Bob McCarty) 1/2

“It Floats in Space” (a: Bill Savage) ★★★

“The Hiding Place” (a: Seymour Moskowitz) ★★

“Betrayal” (a: Bob Forgione) 1/2

A paranormal expert named Ben is hired by a man to rid his house of his father’s ghost. The man’s mother wants no part of it and she inserts herself into every nook and cranny in order to delay Ben’s findings. After much research, the specter is traced to the property’s well; it’s there that Ben finds the skeleton of the elder Anderson, a hatchet embedded in its skull. Ben brings the bones up and dissolves them in lime, thus releasing the spirit into the “other side.” Unhappy that her secret has been unearthed, Mrs. Anderson buries a hatchet in Ben’s head and dumps his body down the same well. Now Ben’s ghost haunts the Anderson place and a new paranormal expert is hired. “The Haunted House” is a clever, violent little gem that contains more creepy Tumlinson work; Anderson’s ghost is not your jolly, happy spook. The only thing that jumped out at me in terms of a reality check would be Ben’s ignorance of the fact that a murder had been committed and that the police should be called in. The axe in the skull might have been a red flag to me.

Physicist Eric Sands receives a “Make-a-Martian” kit from an unknown source for his birthday. Thinking the gift a joke, he builds the miniature robot but then is amazed that the thing can't be destroyed. When an A-Bomb test on the base is announced, Eric has a brilliant idea and hides the little android in one of the test buildings. The Martian survives the blast “Unharmed,” and radios Mars that the best weapon Earth has is like a peashooter compared to Martian arms. “It is safe to attack!” Suffering greatly from the unexciting pencils of Bob McCarty, “Unharmed” is a generic “menace from Mars” yarn that can’t work up much enthusiasm.

A spaceship comes across a derelict craft in the middle of nowhere and boards it, finding one crew member dead, with an expression of pure fright on his face. A journal tells the story of the ship’s captain coming across the frozen body of an escaped criminal (recognizable by the etched “x” in his forehead) and bringing it on board. The “corpse” thaws and comes to life, with the escaped con telling the captain to turn the ship away from Earth. He’s not going home. Unfortunately, the craft runs out of fuel and the two men starve. So, why the frozen fear on the captain’s body and where is the fugitive? The extremely ridiculous final panel of “It Floats in Space” explains those two mysteries. Otherwise, this is an imaginative space opera, with some (literally) chilling scenes provided by Bill Savage. But why does the ship’s captain man his controls in a suit and tie?

A jewel thief hides in a freshly dug grave and discovers, to his horror, that a funeral is about to take place and a coffin is being lowered down on him. The choice is: scream and lose the jewels to the authorities or keep quiet and spend eternity in “The Hiding Place” with his beautiful treasure. Guess which choice he opts for. In the loopy final tale, “Betrayal,” aliens from the planet Torz kidnap and torture Howard and Laura and try to make them reveal earth’s weapon capabilities. Howard’s all for the torture route but Laura gives in lickety-split since the lead alien is a dreamboat. After the girl spills the beans, the Torzians kill Howard and whisk Laura back to their planet, where they take their “itchy suits” off, revealing ant-like beings. Laura isn’t thrilled. At one point, Howard actually calls the alien captain a “brutal swine!”

In Just Two Weeks...
More Twisted Tumlinson Terror!