Thursday, September 22, 2022

The Hitchcock Project-Kathleen Hite Part Three: The Morning of the Bride [4.19] and wrapup

by Jack Seabrook

Kathleen Hite's third and final teleplay for Alfred Hitchcock Presents was "The Morning of the Bride," based on a short story of the same title by Neil S. Boardman that was published in the June 1957 issue of Harper's Magazine.

In the story, a woman meets a man during the Second World War, while he's in the city on furlough. He is six years older than she and says he lives in the country with his widowed mother. The man and woman date for 13 years without getting married. He claims that his mother depends on him and he can't leave her. The woman never meets the mother and the years pass, until she finally quits her job, gets a marriage license, and issues an ultimatum: marry me tonight or not at all!

He agrees and they are wed. They spend the night at his house, where he cautions his wife to be quiet so as not to disturb his mother. In the morning, he slips out of the house quietly and his bride stands by the window watching him walk out of sight. She goes to his mother's room and knocks on the door, entering when there is no reply. She finds the room clean and furnished but empty. In a desk drawer she discovers an envelope containing sympathy cards received after her husband's mother died twelve years before, in 1945. She hears her husband return and he enters as she drops the envelope to the floor.

"The Morning of the Bride" is told in flashback, narrated by the wife, and no character names are given. It begins as she awakens in the morning and watches her husband leave. She then describes their past and the events leading up to the wedding. The story concludes with her entering the mother's room and discovering her husband's secret. The reader never learns the reason why the husband lied to his wife for a dozen years, nor is it revealed what happens when she confronts him with the truth. The surprise ending must have appealed to the producers of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, since the story was soon adapted for TV, airing on CBS on Sunday, February 15, 1959.

"The Morning of the Bride"
was first published here
Hite's teleplay does a great job of opening up the story, which is almost entirely narrative. She gives the characters names and uses a structure that alternates between short scenes in the present and longer scenes in the past, going back and forth until near the end of the show, when flashback scenes follow each other until the story returns to the present for a conclusion more disturbing than the one in the short story.

The show opens with a scene with no dialogue, where visual clues set the stage for what follows: a closeup of a bridal bouquet; a shot of Helen asleep in bed, wearing her wedding ring; she wakes up, finds her husband gone, picks up the bouquet and admires both it and her new ring before getting out of bed. Without any narration, it's clear that it's the morning after her wedding day.

Her husband Philip is seen outside as she gazes out the window; the first suggestion of his boyishness is provided when he is shown playing with a dog. Helen puts on a robe, looks at herself in the mirror, and picks up a framed photo of her mother-in-law from her husband's dresser. The first words of the show are heard in voiceover, and all of the subsequent dialogue in the present will be in voiceover until the final scene. "'I hope you like me,'" Helen thinks as she looks at the photo before she steps into the hallway, and there is a point of view shot of a door that is clearly meant to be the door to her mother-in-law's room. In voiceover, Helen says that they will meet for the first time today and comments that she's been waiting nearly five years; perhaps Hite thought that the 13-year courtship in the short story was too long to be believed.

Barbara Bel Geddes as Helen
The screen goes blurry to indicate that a flashback is beginning, and the first flashback scene finds Helen setting a table for three in her apartment, expecting Philip and his mother to come for dinner. Her roommate Pat enters and encourages her; Helen is nervous about meeting Philip's mother and, when he arrives alone and in uniform, he explains that his mother couldn't come and that he just received his orders and is leaving for Korea tonight. Context clues later in the show clarify that the wedding took place in 1956, so nearly five years before would be right in the middle of the Korean War, not the WWII of the short story.

For the first of many times, Philip makes an excuse to prevent Helen from visiting his mother while he is away, telling her that Mother is going up to Boston to stay with his aunt while he's gone. The actress playing Helen is six years older than the actor playing Philip, so the ages in the short story have been reversed for the TV show; instead of Helen being younger than her beau, she is older, and this increases her anxiety and underlines his boyishness. After Philip leaves his girlfriend with only a kiss on the forehead, Pat returns to the room and comforts Helen, who reveals that she has only known Philip for four months and that she did not have a family of her own while growing up and never knew love. This helps to explain her naivete and her willingness to stay with Philip and to believe his increasingly outlandish lies about his mother.

The flashback ends and the scene returns to the present, with Helen in the hall and more voiceover as she recalls Philip's return from the Korean War. The screen goes blurry again and the second flashback shows Helen and Philip sitting on a park bench together. Once again, he acts like a boy, saying that "'I feel like a kid with a good report card. I want my head patted.'" Helen accepts the role of surrogate mother, unaware of the truth regarding his real mother. Philip explains that he works for a publishing house run by a man who is a long-time friend of his mother's; he adds that, for years, the boss would not publish a book "'unless Mother read it first.'" The missing Mrs. Pryor is a domineering woman whom her son reveres. Philip continues to perpetuate the illusion that his mother is alive, telling Helen that the woman is proud of her decision to go to night school. However, when Helen pushes Philip to tell his mother that they plan to wed, he is visibly uncomfortable and says that he wants to wait a couple more months.

Don Dubbins as Philip
The alternating scenes in present and past continue with a return to Helen in her room, looking at Mother's photo and speaking in voiceover as she recalls taking the train last Spring to Philip's house to pay an unannounced visit to his mother while he was at work. The next flashback shows Helen arriving at the gates to a mansion by taxi; she goes through the gates and sees a woman emerge from the front door in the distance. Helen yells at her, calling her Mrs. Pryor, causing the woman to pause and respond that there's no one home before she scurries away. Helen is left confused and upset.

After another brief scene in the present, with more voiceover as Helen looks at Mother's photo, another flashback follows; soon after her unsuccessful visit to his house, Helen had dinner with Philip. The time of the flashbacks has slowly been moving closer to the present throughout the show, and with this scene the pattern of flashbacks alternating with short scenes in the present is interrupted. At dinner, Philip presents Helen with a gift from Mother: a copy of David Copperfield, a book about a boy's journey from childhood to maturity, a journey that Helen will soon learn was interrupted for Philip. Helen tells him about her attempt to visit his mother and he ties himself in knots trying to explain it away, finally claiming that the woman Helen saw must have been Mrs. Beasley, the housecleaner, who said the house was empty because Mother was out for a drive with friends.

Pat Hitchcock as Pat
After Philip tells Helen that Mother has a weak heart and he must guard her from shocks, a scene follows back at Helen's apartment, where Pat tries to point out some of the problems with Philip's relationship with his mother. In this episode, Pat represents the viewer and her straightforward, optimistic approach to life contrasts with the agonized path taken by Helen. Pat tells Helen to insist that Philip marry her right away or she'll leave him and, in the next scene, Helen does just that over dinner. They have been together nearly five years and, ignoring his excuses, she gets up and walks away, forcing him to chase her and propose immediate marriage.

There is a cut to them entering his mansion later that night, after the wedding; Philip, still happy to be dominated by a woman, tells Helen, "'After all, you're the boss now,'" suggesting that she will take the place of his mother. He tells Helen that Mother is asleep and Helen says she can wait until morning to meet her. There is a dissolve back to the present for the last time, as Helen puts down the photo and a tracking shot follows her down the hall toward Mother's door. She knocks and enters to find an empty room. Unlike the short story, where she snoops in the desk drawer, in the TV show Helen opens the drapes and a breeze through the open window disturbs papers on the desk. Helen rushes over to keep them from blowing off and finds a copy of a newspaper obituary reporting the death of Mary Pryor on June 2, 1949. The camera focuses on the date so the viewer can't miss it, and the effect is even worse than it was in the short story, where Helen had met Philip before his mother's death.

Helen Conrad as
Mrs. Beasley
In the TV show, Mother had been dead for two years before Helen met Philip, which makes his duplicity even worse. Helen is understandably confused and looks around the room, touching a dress laid out on the bed. Philip suddenly appears in the doorway and it is clear that the story is about to be taken further than it was on the printed page; the short story ends with Helen dropping the envelope as Philip stands in the doorway, "a queer smile on his face." On TV, she speaks to him, saying "'I don't understand. She's been dead for seven years...'" (for the first time the viewer realizes that the present is 1956, not 1959, the date the show aired). Philip walks past her, opens the closet, takes a shawl from a shelf, walks over to a chair, and says, "'You never remember to keep warm, Mother! You'll get another chill if I don't watch over you every minute!'" He looks down at Mother tenderly, then his gaze shifts to Helen with a look on his face that is both insane and challenging, as if daring her to break the spell. There is a cut to Helen, who says "'Oh no!'" as the realization of her husband's insanity dawns on her.

Is the "morning" of the episode's title a homophone for "mourning"? The last scene certainly gives Helen reason to mourn her innocence and her love for Philip. What happens next? There is no indication that Philip is violent or that Helen is any danger, but the look on his face is unhinged. Online comments about this episode have noted parallels to Psycho, which was released less than two years after this episode aired. Like Norman Bates, Philip Pryor is obsessed with his mother and pretends that she is alive long after she's dead. Unlike Norman, Philip does not keep her corpse in the basement, nor does he dress up like her, assume her identity, or murder anyone.

Mother sure looks like Patricia Collinge!
"The Morning of the Bride" is an effective episode, carefully structured by writer Kathleen Hite with alternating scenes in the present and the past until the timelines converge at the end. Adding the character of Pat gives the viewer someone to identify with and adding many scenes with dialogue and location changes serves to keep interest high. Hite also uses subtle clues along the way to portray Philip as an immature boy, making the final revelation more believable. Most difficult is the character of Helen, who seems to accept Philips's excuses and lies for far too long. Hite solves this problem by compressing the length of their relationship and by making Philip a particularly charming man right up until the final scene. "The Morning of the Bride" is a surprisingly good episode that improves on the short story it adapts and adds a depiction of chilling insanity in its final scene.

Neil S. Boardman (1907-1974), who wrote the short story, was a librarian at Indiana University from 1948 to 1973, writing short stories from 1948 to 1959, two novels, various nonfiction articles, and a book.

The show is well directed by Arthur Hiller (1923-2016). Born in Canada, Hiller had a long career as a director, from 1954 to 2006, starting out in TV and ending up in film. He was president of the Director's Guild of America from 1989 to 1993 and he directed 17 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "Disappearing Trick," the first episode written by Kathleen Hite. He also directed three episodes of Thriller and the classic comedy, The In-Laws (1979).

Philip's last look at Helen is unhinged.
Barbara Bel Geddes (1922-2005) stars as Helen. She started as a stage actress in 1941, moving into film in 1947 and TV in 1950. In addition to a key role in Vertigo, she appeared in four episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "Lamb to the Slaughter," and she later starred in the television series Dallas from 1978 to 1990, winning an Emmy in 1980. A website devoted to her career may be found here.

Both boyish and chilling, Don Dubbins (1928-1991) plays Philip. His screen career lasted from 1953 to 1991, with many TV roles, including an appearance on The Twilight Zone. This was his only role on the Hitchcock series.

Patricia Hitchcock (1928-2021), the master's daughter, plays Pat. She began her career on TV in 1949 and she began appearing in films in 1950. She was in three of her father's films and appeared in ten episodes of the half-hour TV show, including "The Older Sister," "The Glass Eye," and Robert Bloch's "The Cuckoo Clock." She had a handful of other TV and movie roles over the years.

Seen from a distance as the housekeeper, Mrs. Beasley, is Helen Conrad, in her first screen role. She had a brief career on TV from 1959 to 1962.

Read the GenreSnaps take on this episode here. Read the short story for free online here. Watch the episode here or order the DVD here.

Sources:

Boardman, Neil S. "The Morning of the Bride." Harper's Magazine, June 1957, pp. 41–45. 

The FICTIONMAGS Index, http://www.philsp.com/homeville/FMI/0start.htm.

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

IMDb, IMDb.com, https://www.imdb.com/.

Indiana University Bloomington Faculty Council Minutes - Document View, https://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/bfc/view?docId=B13-1975.

"The Morning of the Bride." Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 4, episode 19, CBS, 15 Feb. 1959.

Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, https://www.wikipedia.org/. 


*  *  *  *  *

Kathleen Hite on Alfred Hitchcock Presents: An Overview and Episode Guide

Kathleen Hite wrote three episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents that aired over ten months, between April 1958 and February 1959. All three were based on short stories that had been published in 1957.

Her first teleplay, "Disappearing Trick," was directed by Arthur Hiller and features a strong female character. The TV version improves on the short story. Her second, "Tea Time," focuses on two women and is also better than the story on which it was based. Finally, "The Morning of the Bride" centers on a woman who narrates the show. This episode, too, is better than the short story version.

Kathleen Hite wrote three very good teleplays for Alfred Hitchcock Presents in less than a year and then no more. She joined other women writing teleplays in this period for producer Joan Harrison: Rose Kohn, Sarett Rudley, Marian Cockrell, and Kathleen Hite together wrote ten episodes for the series during the third and fourth seasons combined. It's too bad that Hite did not write more!

                                                                               *  *  *  *  *

EPISODE GUIDE-KATHLEEN HITE ON ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS

Episode title-"Disappearing Trick" [3.27]
Broadcast date-6 April 1958
Teleplay by-Kathleen Hite
Based on "Disappearing Trick" by Victor Canning
First print appearance-Argosy, September 1957
Notes
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-yes

Episode title-"Tea Time" [4.10]
Broadcast date-14 December 1958
Teleplay by-Kathleen Hite
Based on "Two for Tea" by Margaret Manners
First print appearance-Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, May 1957
Notes
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-yes

Episode title-"The Morning of the Bride" [4.19]
Broadcast date-15 February 1959
Teleplay by-Kathleen Hite
Based on "The Morning of the Bride" by Neil S. Boardman
First print appearance-Harper's Magazine, June 1957
Notes
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-yes



Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "Alibi Me" here!

Listen to Annie and Kathryn discuss "Post Mortem" here!

In two weeks: Wait...David Goodis wrote an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour? And it was based on a paperback original novel by Henry Kane? Find out more about "An Out for Oscar" right here!

Monday, September 19, 2022

Batman in the 1980s Issue 62: July 1986

 

The Dark Knight in the 1980s
by Jack Seabrook &
Peter Enfantino


Miller/Janson
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #2

"Dark Knight Triumphant"
Story by Frank Miller
Art by Frank Miller & Klaus Janson

The Mutant crime wave in Gotham City is getting worse. Commissioner Gordon is attacked by one of the scoundrels and responds by pulling out his gun to shoot and kill his assailant. None of this deters a young girl named Carrie, who dons a Robin costume and heads out into the night to fight injustice. The head Mutant makes a statement that he will kill Gordon and Batman, adding that he plans to "rip the meat from his bones and suck them dry." Complicating matters is that little Kevin Ridley, heir to a chewing gum fortune, has been kidnapped.

Batman quickly tracks down the mutant kidnappers, beats them senseless, and rescues wee Kevin. Despite his seeming heroics, people remain divided about whether he's a good guy or a bad guy. Ellen Yindel is named new Commissioner of Police and announces that her first act will be to issue an arrest warrant for Batman. Undeterred, the Dark Knight heads out in his new, improved Batmobile/Sherman Tank to the city dump, where the Mutants have gathered. Unbeknownst to Batman, Robin has also arrived on the scene and is watching as events unfold. Batman is goaded by the chief Mutant into exiting the safety of his tank and engaging in hand-to-hand combat; the Mutant gets the upper hand until Robin comes to the rescue by distracting him so that Batman can knock him out with a gas pellet.

In the White House, the President asks Superman to get involved in the Batman/Mutant fracas and settle down the Caped Crusader. Batman is badly injured but realizes that the new Robin saved his life, so he welcomes her to the Batcave. Outside the sanctuary, things remain dire as a madman shoots three people in a movie theater. The mayor makes the mistake of visiting Mutant #1 in jail and is murdered for his trouble; Batman is on the mend and tells Robin that her training will begin tomorrow. Batman arranges for the Mutants to gather at the city dump and for Mutant #1 to be released from prison. At the dump, Batman and the head Mutant engage in extreme mud wrestling and, when Batman wins the fight, the Mutants suddenly shift their allegiance to the Dark Knight.

Peter: I continue to be astonished at how fresh, imaginative, and groundbreaking this series was/is. So many startling images and ideas, all emanating from the brain of one man. I mentioned last time how you can spot all the iconic scenes that influence the Batman movies from Burton's blockbuster all the way up to Matt Reeves's dour, pensive, and exciting The Batman. With this second chapter, I can see the bits and pieces used for Todd Phillips's Joker, particularly in the way Batman influences the young of Gotham to follow his ways blindly. Miller can't help getting in several digs at then-president Ronald Reagan and the squeaky-clean image of DC's other powerhouse, Superman. More on that next time.

Jack: Am I alone in strongly disliking this issue? The cover is ugly and Miller amps up the violence in a transparent bid for realism. I still can't figure out what year this story is supposed to be set in; the President seems like Reagan and everyone dresses like its 1986, yet there are Mutants running wild. Many of Miller's ideas and plot points seem obvious and one-sided; the Batmobile is a tank, Superman is a fascist, the Mutants talk like a cross between bad science fiction characters and Black characters written by Bill DuBay. The idea that the mayor would visit the head Mutant in jail alone and be murdered is ludicrous; even more ridiculous is that the same Mutant would then walk out of prison.

Miller's writing seems like that of a frustrated, angry man who thinks things have gone very wrong in his country and someone needs to Make it Great Again. I am not sure whether this version of Batman was the cause of bad things to come in the comics and films or a symptom of what was already developing, but I loathed this comic and I think it was the start of Batman going in the wrong direction.




Mandrake
Batman #397

"Binary Brains"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Tom Mandrake

Two-Face is back on the street and, while Batman discusses the villain's escape from Arkham Asylum with Commissioner Gordon, the fiend is telling his gang that he plans to rob a computer genius. In addition, someone just put a black wreath on the Sionis crypt! Batman and Robin start looking for Two-Face while Catwoman goes on the hunt for Circe to see if she knows anything about the wreath.

While Two-Face forces computer guy to sell him the "Binary Brains," a pair of computers that reach different conclusions when fed the same data, Catwoman locates Circe, who is performing at a strip club and removing everything but her mask. Circe tells Catwoman that her brain is concocting schemes of revenge while her body is busy gyrating. The Dynamic Duo fail to locate Two-Face who, two weeks later, uses the computers to determine the best method to heist a bank. In subplot land, Lucius Fox informs Bruce Wayne that he is considering running for mayor.

Two-Face and his gang successfully rob the bank, despite the arrival of Batman and Robin, who choose the wrong one of two getaway cars to follow. Back at his lair, Two-Face learns that Circe wants to meet with him and may be able to provide him with a new face.

Peter: It seems, between Doug's anemic scripts and Mandrake's loony doodles, the regular Bat-titles just keep getting worse and worse. Several laughs this time out. Gordon tells Batman that Two-Face broke out of Arkham using his infamous two-sided coin and Bats doesn't even question why the lunatics he risks his life to put behind bars are allowed to keep their tchotchkes in their cells with them. And how about that Gordon dialogue: "Two-Face has escaped Arkham Asylum by putting on a "second face"--actually a third face, I suppose, considering he's already got two..." On the splash, Robin looks taller than Batman despite his pre-teen age. Check out the panel on page four where Batman's cape appears to be approximately a third the length of the building. Circe sheds clothes to Pat Benatar's "Hit Me with Your Best Shot," not my idea of a striptease number (but the extra-risque cheesecake panels are a nice treat). So, if guffaws are all you need to enjoy a funny book, have at it. Me, I hope we climb out of this pit (deeper even than the one Bruce Wayne had to climb out of in The Dark Knight Rises) real fast.

Jack: Had I not been so disturbed by this month's issue of Dark Knight, I would've been quicker to dump on this issue of Batman. The Mandrake art remains amateurish, with panel after panel looking like fan art at best. There's one panel on page 21 at the top where I suspect Dick Giordano lent a hand, since Batman looks significantly better than he does anywhere else. As for the story? Yes, it's silly, but it's more of what I expect from a comic book and it didn't upset me the way Miller's narrative did. I wish we could have Moench's writing and Miller's art together. I wonder where the Catwoman saga is heading? In this issue, she tools around on her Catcycle and seems like a substitute for Batgirl.


Colan/Giordano
Detective Comics #564

"Double Crosses"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Gene Colan & Bob Smith

Circe approaches Two-Face with a request: she wants Harvey to bust Roman Sionis out of Arkham so she can kill him for disfiguring her face. In exchange, she'll let Two-Face in on a fabulous heist plan she's cooked up involving a pharaoh's tomb on exhibition. Two-Face tells Circe he'll consider it while he's pulling his own heist at Dos Cruces Brewery. His fancy shmancy computer will decide his heists from here on in.

Meanwhile, the chipper pre-teen/teenage/young adult Jason Todd prepares for a night out with girlfriend Rena, a trip to the movie theater to see Steven Spielberg's controversial new film, The Color Purple. Could this be Spielberg's masterpiece or, as his nerd fans proclaim, an icky history lesson with no flying saucers or deadly arks? Also meanwhile, we discover through a trip backstage of the Ecdysia strip joint, that Circe is acting with the Batman to trap Harvey Dent with her sarcophagus heist. Outside the nightclub, Catwoman observes and, of course, believes Batman has visited Circe for a/ romantic reasons or b/ because he doesn't trust Selina.

Thanks to the computers of Lucius Fox, Bruce Wayne deduces that Harvey's next robbery will be at Dos Cruces and he heads there, sans partners. But it turns out Two-Face is smarter than Batman gives him credit for; the rip-off is a set-up. Harvey traps the Caped Crusader in a giant beer vat and shouts "So long, Batbrains" as he rushes out the door (Holy 1966, Batman!). Bats uses the explosive device from his utility belt to blow the lid off the sucker and exits the vat to find Circe standing above him. After a bit of dialogue wherein Bats confesses he doesn't trust Circe, she lifts her mask to reveal... Catwoman! Inexplicably pissed that her Dark Knight beau doesn't trust Circe (women!), she storms off, leaving Batman to ponder the mysteries of the female of the species. Across town, Harvey flips his coin, blasts his computer, and decides to enter into an agreement with Circe.

Peter: "Double Crosses" is just as maddeningly sub-par as the last umpteen issues of Doug's tenure. The initial powwow between Harvey and Circe drags on for three pages and nothing seems to be said. The dialogue is awful and zigzags between subjects. The continual seesawing of the Circe character (she's bad... no, she's good... she's evil... no, she wants to redeem herself...) is as nauseating as the equally up-and-down relationships Bats has with his two partners. Now we have to deal with Selina's jealousy of Circe as well as the obligatory rantings of Jason. And, hey, could someone send a memo to the Bat-title artists that we need a little consistency regarding Robin's height and age? 

Jack: Easily my favorite Bat-story of the month, and probably in the running for my top five of 1986, "Double Crosses" features excellent art by Colan and Smith along with not one but two plot twists that took me by surprise: when we see that Circe is working with Batman behind Two-Face's back, and when Circe takes off her mask and turns out to be Catwoman. It's rare that any plot twist is unexpected, so kudos to Moench. Kudos also to Colan and Smith, who not only tell a good story but do it with style; Colan's gruesome Circe face is one for the books. There is a spot of questionable proofreading on page four when Circe repeats an entire word balloon in two successive panels, but what really shocked me is Two-Face saying, "'You've screwed yourself.'" In a DC comic? Times are changing.

"This Masquerade"
Story by Joey Cavalieri
Art by Jerome Moore, Steve Montano, & Rodin Rodriguez

If Mayor Bolt doesn't allow a drug shipment to enter Star City's harbor, real estate man (and sometime drug kingpin) Marty Costa will kidnap Bolt's son. Green Arrow and Black Canary attempt to find out where Bolt hid his son so that they might get him to safety. Meanwhile, Bolt dons his faux-bad guy outfit and hits the streets as Steelclaw. He arrives at the mansion where his son is being hidden at the same time as Canary and Arrow. Mistakenly believing that Canary has gone over to the dark side, Steelclaw puts Dinah Lance out of commission and calls the police to haul her away. Meanwhile, within the house's walls, Ollie meets a similar fate when a door blows up in his face. Across town, Onyx gets her obligatory one-panel cameo.

Peter: Joey sure makes things hard on himself, concocting a plot so convoluted and contrived that there's no way he can write himself out of his corner. The title of this episode is perfect, though: Bolt's a good politician masquerading as a bad one while he moonlights as a good superhero posing as a villain. Nothing confusing there. And can we just get a full-story arc for Onyx out of the way once and for all? If you pasted together all her appearances in the last year, you might be able to fill one page of story. Hey, whatever problems I have with the story, I've got none with the art. Why wasn't someone in the editorial office taking notice of the Moore/Montano/Rodriguez team here and giving them the chores on the woefully drawn Batman title?

Jack: I thought the art was inconsistent, probably due to having two inkers. The story is decent and they replace the scene of GA chatting with BC across the kitchen table with one of them chatting on her motorcycle. The Onyx cameos bother me, too!

Next Week...
Creepy tackles the horrors of the media.
This should be... interesting.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Journey Into Strange Tales Atlas/ Marvel Horror Comics Issue 69

 





The Marvel/Atlas 
Horror Comics
Part 54
November 1953 
by Peter Enfantino



Adventures into Terror #25

“The Terrible Trophy” (a: Matt Fox)  ★★1/2

“The Corpses Come Back!” (a: Gene Colan) ★★★

“A Very Grave Matter” (a: Bill Benulis) ★★

“The Speed-Up” (a: Tony DiPreta) ★★1/2

“Snakes Alive”


No one down at the club wants to hear Rocky Martin brag about his complete mounted head collection but every time there’s a meeting, there’s Rock at the dais telling the story of how he fought a gorilla with one hand tied behind his back. The natives were so impressed they tattooed a gorilla’s head on Rocky’s chest. If the other club members so much as complain about the man’s endless stories of bravado, he’ll knock them upside the head. Then the new recruit, a puny little guy, takes an interest in Rocky’s tattoo. An average Atlas horror story with a Matt Fox upgrade, “The Terrible Trophy” has a very funny and unexpected twist.


Three brothers stare aghast at the condition of their parents’ gravesite. Poor drainage has led to the coffins being exposed to the public. The men confront the owner of the cemetery who pulls a gun and tells the men they should have read the fine print. Heartbroken, the brothers head for home but “The Corpses Come Back!” from the grave to take matters in their own skeletal hands. Pure pulp fun with artist Colan obviously enjoying the hell out of himself; Gene’s splash, of the decrepit cemetery, complete with perching vulture, is poster-worthy material.


Coffin-maker Ignatius Zekel has been fleecing his customers for years, making his products out of cheap orange crates but when a “customer” falls out of the bottom of his resting place while being lowered, Zekel has to hoof it out of town. Using better (but still cheap and stolen) materials, Zekel makes a fortune in another city and decides it’s time for him to have a nice home built. Now, the tables are turned on the miser when his builder uses stolen tombstones for material and the angry spirits come a-calling to reclaim their property. The silly plot of “A Very Grave Matter” is slightly evened out by flashes of Benulis brilliance (the splash detailing the collapse of the coffin is a particularly jarring image).


What is the secret of the comic artist nicknamed Whiz? He can pump out page upon page of material when his peers can do only a fraction of that. Three co-workers decide to get to the bottom of the mystery by forcing Whiz (with a hot poker!) to divulge his secret. The answer is not to their liking! “The Speed-Up!” is an enjoyable look behind the scenes of the funny book business with the usual DiPreta visual flair. I’m sure the artist had fun biting the hand that feeds him. The finale this issue, “Snakes Alive,” is a ludicrous tale about a family dying off one by one from snake bites. Turns out the killer is Uncle Markov who, for a reason not explained, has snakes for fingers! How this oddity was never noticed by any of the other family members (nor the police, for that matter) is swept right under the rug.





Men’s Adventures #24

“The Screaming Beasts!” (a: George Tuska)

“The Torture Master” (a: Russ Heath) ★★1/2

“No Guts!” (a: Joe Maneely) 1/2

“Buried Alive!” (a: John Romita) ★★


Big game hunter Braun is mauled by a leopard, completely changing the way he looks at animals. He accepts the offer of a zoo to capture apes and baboons but, after the big hunt nets Braun lots of “The Screaming Beasts!,” a huge storm leaves his boat afloat with no food. The baboons make do with Braun. The heartless hunter is given yet another glossing over, with the results just as bad as most of the previous efforts. Tuska’s art is bland and his characters look so much alike that confusion soon takes over.


Though he was only a simple butcher before the SS recruited him, Heinrich von Brenner, in his new capacity as Commandant of Kesselwald Prison Camp, convinces his underlings that he was once a famous surgeon. Very soon, von Brenner earns the nickname, “The Torture Master,” in honor of his devilish experiments on POWs. Unbeknownst to the Commandant, one of his prisoners is actually an “electronics genius” and plays a part in bringing the Torture Master down. Truly gruesome Heath art elevates the pedestrian script.

“No Guts!” is the maudlin story of Johnny Hoyt, boxing champ of 1935, who catches a few unlucky breaks and is tagged with a “gutless” label after his manager throws in the towel during a big match. Determined to shrug the moniker, Johnny goes into the ring against Torpedo Tate and gives it his all, dying in the process. Not all the Men’s Adventures stories were horror, as witnessed by “No Guts!” That’s not a bad thing, but this script is so moldy and sappy that the reader can easily guess what the next panel will bring.



Titus Warwick is the stingiest man on the planet and his miners are paying for his penny-pinching. Titus’s son, Clyde, continually berates the old man for cutting corners and turning his head away as his employees die horrible deaths. Clyde finally walks out on his father in disgust but the two are reunited after “one of the greatest mining disasters in history” leaves them both dead. “Buried Alive!” is an engaging non-horror story (well, not horror in any kind of conventional way) that reads more like an expose, as if Titus Warwick was an historical figure rather than the creation of a funny book scribe.









Uncanny Tales #14

“The Victims of Vonntor!” (a: Russ Heath) ★★

(r: Vault of Evil #21)

“The Hidden Martians” (a: Dick Ayers) ★★1/2

(r: Crypt of Shadows #19)

“For the Birds!” (a: Ed Winiarski) ★★

(r: Vault of Evil #22)

“The Horselaugh” (a: Mort Lawrence) ★★★

“Find a Pin and Pick It Up!” (a: Joe Sinnott) ★★★

(r: Tomb of Darkness #17)


Patrolman Mike catches the evil Vonntor right in the act of strangling an innocent man in a dank, dark alleyway. Mike hauls the perp into the precinct and tells his Captain the whole story but Vonntor feigns innocence. When the fingerprint analysis is received, sure enough, the prints on the dead man and those from Vonntor’s fingers don’t match up. The cops are forced to release the murderer. The murder spree continues until, one night, Mike snaps a pic of Vonntor in the act.


Sure that this time he’ll be able to deliver the goods, Mike hands Vonntor and the developed photo over to the Captain. No dice, says the boss. Yep, the pic clearly shows Vonntor in the act but, again, the prints don’t match. In a rage, Mike pulls his service revolver and nearly ventilates Vonntor! The chief has no alternative but to put Mike on leave. That same night, Vonntor goes hunting in the fog and descends on his latest victim; the prey swirls around to reveal Mike with a revolver. The cop plugs Vonntor and finally learns the killer’s secret: he had four sets of arms! Though “The Victims of Vonntor!” is hopelessly and hilariously stupid (the crown jewel in this treasure of inanity is a scene wherein Mike snaps a photo while Vonntor strangles his victim!), the reveal and the Heath art make the story at least bearable. But how is it that Vonntor could be taken to police headquarters and not frisked or ordered to take off his overcoat? Would have answered a lot of questions a heck of a lot sooner!


Seven hundred years in the future, Earth has enslaved the people of Mars and we are extricating every mineral we can use from their world. The Martians finally find a way to fight back by going undercover, but our best agent, Bill Hamilton, is assigned to root out “The Hidden Martians.” Bill soon finds he can trust no one, as all his friends are revealed to be dirty stinkin’ Martians. But the biggest surprise of them all for Bill awaits him in the twist climax. “The Hidden Martians” is nothing original and a good portion of the dialogue borders on illegible (“[The Martian spaceships] will hover over Earth beyond radarscope and spray radiation into this planet’s atmosphere that will kill every human being on Earth!”), but the yarn is undeniably goofy fun and contains some of Dick Ayers’s best 1950s art.


In “For the Birds!,” embryologist Professor Gorey discovers there’s a boatload of money to made in stealing bird eggs from other planets. But Gorey’s greed gets the best of him when he lands on a planet populated by gigantic birds. One of the locals decides that Gorey’s ship looks just like an egg. Silly, but cute, sci-fi fluff.


In "The Horselaugh," Johnny Arrato is a nasty punk but he’s also one of the nation’s best jockeys. To keep lovely Ruby happy and in the green, Johnny strikes a deal with the mob to throw his next race but when he discovers that his nag has opened at 15-1, the mope decides it’s time for a little double cross. Arrato wins the race, Ruby gets her green, but the mob goons take Johnny for a ride and cave his head in. Very soon after, Johnny is riding a carousel horse for the benefit of his fellow inmates. A really nasty, delicious slice of pre-code bleak, served up with equally dark graphics by Mort Lawrence. The final panels, of Johnny astride his faux nag, are genuinely chilling.


Miles Keston, a decrepit old bookshop owner buys a copy of the rare The Black Craft of Bast, an ancient tome filled with incantations and spells. Naturally, Miles uses it to summon the demon, Bast, in order to kill his hated partner but, in the grand tradition of murder plots in the Atlas comics, something goes very wrong. Though we’ve been up to our ears in demonic tomes and deadly partnerships, “Find a Pin and Pick It Up!” benefits greatly from a picture perfect realization by Joe Sinnott, who certainly gets what a Lovecraftian book dealer should look like (I think only Ghastly Graham Ingels drew uglier old men). There’s also something supremely charming in Sinnott’s presentation of Bast as a simple red-robed figure with a crocodile head. Nothing fancy, but it does the trick. 


In only fourteen midnights...