Monday, August 29, 2022

The Warren Report Issue 92: March-April 1978

 

 

The Critical Guide to
the Warren Illustrated Magazines
1964-1983
by Uncle Jack
& Cousin Peter



Photo of Barbara Leigh
Vampirella #67

"The Glorious Return of Sweet Baby Theda" 
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Jose Gonzalez

"The Quest" ★1/2
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Ramon Torrents

"Fish Bait" ★1/2
Story by Nicola Cuti
Art by Alex Nino

"Home Sweet Horologium" ★1/2
Story by Nicola Cuti
Art by Paul Neary

"Choice Cuts" 
Story by Cary Bates
Art by Russ Heath

"The Last Dragon King" ★1/2
Story by Roger McKenzie
Art by Esteban Maroto

With a little help from Starpatch and Quark, Vampirella and Pantha return to Earth, with Pantha jonesing for a trip to Hollywood. Once there, she's sure, she can become a movie star. Vampi is hesitant but decides that if it's what her friend wants, she'll assist her in satisfying her desire. The girls get a break at an audition for the title role in a biography of Sweet Baby Theda, one of Hollywood's most beloved child actresses, now grown old and senile.

Vampi and Pantha are driven to Theda's mansion by her butler, Jeeves, and made to feel comfortable. What's not made clear to the girls is that they are to be the subjects of an evil experiment by Theda's alcoholic doctor, who intends to graft Vampi's face and Pantha's "woman parts" onto the aged diva. The girls are shackled and drugged, but just before the evil deed is done, Jeeves clocks the doctor and sets the girls free, explaining that the old bird is out of her gourd and he couldn't sit still while the experiment proceeded. Vampi and Pantha exit the house and Theda goes back to watching her old movies. "Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up!"

Whether it's an homage or a rip-off (the Warren stories are usually the latter), "The Glorious Return of Sweet Baby Theda" punched all the right buttons for me, which is highly unusual for one of these Vampi tales. Obviously a patchwork of (in no particular order) Sunset Boulevard, Eyes Without a Face, and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, the story is goofy as all get-out and a lot better than the usual demon cult tales Dube has been pumping out lately. Hilarious that Pantha can't seem to keep her clothes on, but let's thank our lucky stars that the undressings happened while Jose Gonzalez was around.

A barbarienne finds herself the only defense when a horde of warriors attack her city. There's a goofy twist at the climax (turns out the Red Sonya clone and all her city mates are but germs on a spaceship used to fuel the ship's engines), but essentially that 15-word synopsis is all you need for "The Quest." The message here, received loud and clear, is that Ramon Torrents is the new Esteban Maroto.


A base on the ocean floor finds itself attacked by sea monsters. The greatest threat, though, may be the spy who's infiltrated the complex. The plot for "Fish Bait" is almost indecipherable; it's extremely confusing, so it might be best to think of it as a 1970s disaster movie done the Warren way. It's also got an EC-type reveal in its climax that's telegraphed from the very beginning. Having said all that, I can still survive the ambiguity thanks to Nino's offbeat artwork. 

On the planet Horologium III, Cal Drumm must fight off a slimy monster named Dathra, a beast that is intent on kidnapping Cal's son, Keni. The boy is the first "off-worlder to be born on Horologium" and, evidently, the creature wants the boy to remain on the planet when his father blasts off back to Earth. 

Cal hunts Dathra down and mortally wounds it but then receives a startling surprise when the tentacled horror exits the swamp and heads for Keni. Another very confusing space opera, "Home Sweet Horologium" could have been at least slightly better with some clarity. The twist, that Keni is Dathra, was a surprise as I figured it would turn out to be the kid's dead mom, but one good twist does not a good story make. Odd that Starpatch tells Vampi in the opening yarn that he's heading for "the Horologium star system" but then doesn't make an appearance in this story. Paul Neary has the same kind of style as Rudy Nebres; it looks like it was concocted on a computer.

"Choice Cuts" is a rarity. No, it's not a great story, that's not what I mean. At only three pages, I have to believe this is the shortest Warren story thus far (discounting those one-page Loathsome Lore things, of course). Dr. John Elton (oh, my sides are splitting!) and his fiancé crash in the desert and survive sixty-plus days, with "plenty of water" (good trick that) but no food. After the burning sun drives them mad, Elton does what must be done: he ties his companion down, stakes her to the desert floor, and then cuts his own legs off to feed the two of them. He then goes on Dick Cavett's show to tell his story. Three pages was plenty for me.

Lyssalyn of Smith enters the village of Tucwel seeking riches and adventure, but what she stumbles onto is a winged vampire who tries to put the bite on her. Luckily for Lyssa, she has a guardian angel in the form of Drudd, a dragon-riding king who zaps the bloodsucker with a lightning bolt and sweeps the barbarian girl off her feet. Later, the two marry and sire "The Last Dragon King," named Gwan. 

An attack by a serpentine enemy leaves Gwan bleeding and dying. Fortunately, all those years ago, Lyssa was bitten by her attacker and became a vampire herself. She passes on the "curse" to Gwan moments before he dies and he becomes a vampire himself. He rides off on his dragon as his mother is reduced to ashes by the rising sun. "The Last Dragon King" provides evidence that Maroto is still a master (unless, of course, this is one of those stories pulled from a foreign source years before), but the story is a jumble of half-events and unexplained plot twists. Who are these marauding demon warriors attacking Lyssa and Gwan? Does Gwan know that he'd better get his ass to cover before that sun comes up? 

The placement of the story (in color) at the back of the book is a weird twist as well since, usually, the insert would arrive in the middle of the zine. By the way, we get the first of seven covers featuring the lovely Barbara Leigh as Vampirella, a role she was supposed to play in the Hammer film that never got made (with Peter Cushing as Van Helsing). As Hammer was well on its way to extinction by 1978, we're all probably better off not seeing it come to fruition.-Peter

Jack-I had a hard time telling Vampi and Pantha apart in "The Glorious Return..." The women's fashions on Drakulon seem to resemble those worn at a strip club. Also, the story refers to all of the adventures shared by Vampi and Pantha, but they didn't make much of an impression on me, since I can't remember them. The art is excellent but the story is derivative and contains no surprises. "The Quest" is a fairly interesting story with a dumb twist ending and art that looks too good to be by Torrents. Nino gives us another overly detailed, sideways story in "Fish Bait," which has one heck of a last page.

We haven't seen Paul Neary in a while, as best as I can recall, and reading "Horologium" shows that his art is not up to what we saw in this issue's first three stories. He manages to depict a character with a helmet on, which is always the best thing he draws. "Choice Cuts" is just yucky. I did not expect the ending, but yuck! Finally, Maroto's work on "The Last Dragon King" looks great in color, which partly makes up for the confusing story. This is a mediocre issue of Vampirella with some strong art but the usual weak writing. How many times have we said that?


McQuaite
Creepy #96

"Predation" 
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Rudy Nebres

"Trilby and the Star Rovers" 
Story by Budd Lewis & Bill DuBay
Art by Luis Bermejo

"Bonga and Me" ★1/2
Story by Nicola Cuti
Art by Esteban Maroto

"Alien!" 
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Martin Salvador

"The Green" 
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Luis Bermejo

"Alien Strain" 
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Alex Nino

A frog-faced alien and his wife, Kiann and Diaott, arrive on their spaceship to visit Africa. They fall in love with the exotic animals and, being shapeshifters, decide to assume the bodies of a lion and a lioness. At the same time, millionaires Rodger and Sharon Hathaway vacation in just about the same spot, chaperoned by guide Reed Hadley. Sharon has a Jones for bagging a lion, while Rodger just wants to tend to business in their tent.

Sharon and Reed head off into the wild alone and soon come across a water buffalo; Sharon takes a shot but only wounds the animal. The two settle down and wait for the buffalo to come back out into the open so they can finish it off. One thing leads to another and Sharon and Reed get to know each other better in the tall grass. Playtime over, the pair retrieve their rifles and head into the brush to surround the wounded buffalo.

At the same time, the lioness Kiann is foraging for food and comes across the bewildered Sharon, who raises her rifle and aims. The two stare each other down and, just as Sharon is lowering her weapon, Kiann crouches. Fearful, Sharon fires, and Kiann falls to the ground, wounded. Diaott bursts into the clearing just as the wounded buffalo charges Sharon and the two animals fight a battle to the death! As Kiann and Diaott lay dying, their spaceship blows and they telepathically send "I love you's" to each other. Later, Sharon and Reed break the news of their new relationship to Mr. Hathaway and he gives them his blessing. Kiann and Diaott, in their new human bodies, smile and head off into their new world.

"Predation" is a fairly cheesy romance story made a bit more palatable by Nebres's artwork (although there are a few sketchy spots where my eyes couldn't translate to my brain what was going on in the pictures) and that final panel switcheroo. I couldn't help thinking about Sharon and Reed making love in a grass full of spiders, snakes, ticks, and all sorts of yecccchy things. The husband who goes along with his beautiful wife just to keep her around has been done to death in the funny books, but at least Bruce didn't throw in the obligatory murder plot.

Poor Toby can't get his dad to believe he's been in constant contact with "Trilby and the Star Rovers," an unseen band of planet hoppers who (evidently) rescue little children from unbelieving parents. When his pop invites a psychiatrist friend over to evaluate his mentally unbalanced tyke, it's the last straw, so Toby begs Trilby to transport him to the big spaceship and appoint him the new Star Rover. And so, right in front of mom, dad, and headshrinker, that's exactly what happens.

A lot of the running time of "Trilby" is given over to Toby whining about his dad's mocking ("Okay... so I'm at that awkward age..." says Toby in one particularly hard to swallow segment) and conversations with the unseen Trilby. What saves the story from complete boredom is its wallop of a climax. Despite their flaws, Toby's parents seem to be caring and loving people and to see their kid shot into space on a light beam would be something of a life-changer. How do we know Toby is in good hands? Will he lead the way in the inevitable sequel, when Trilby uses Toby's hatred of his fellow man to spearhead the conquest of Earth? 

In what we can only surmise are prehistoric times, Felci is tossed out on her shapely (and naked) ass by her tribesmen and vows she'll be back to kill them all with her bang-stick. Very shortly after, Felci stumbles across a giant lizard, domesticates it, and lays the name "Bonga" upon the poor thing. Bonga grows huge and Felci leads it back to the camp of her tribe, ordering the lizard to chomp on the leader who insulted her by casting her out of the village. 

Unfortunately for Felci, it turns out Bonga is a creature who was originally from the planet Alamak-3 and who was accidentally teleported to Earth by its alien owners. The Alamakians zap their "Cobidia" back home and Felci is left holding her bang-stick and not much else against her former comrades. She hightails it but is quickly set upon by a pack of wolves. To her rescue come the Alamakians, who admit they cannot tame their Cobidia and need a helping hand.

An abrupt and strange finish to "Bonga and Me," which reads like it might have been the rough draft of the third (unmade) Hammer dinosaur flick. You know, the ones with dialogue like "Me Totonga. Make fire!" Of course, the dialogue here, in a Warren script, is immensely more goofy and awkward. These prehistoric people talk pretty much like we do, but Nick Cuti throws in a "bang-stick" or a "short-bear" here and there so we won't forget that these cats truck with T. Rexes and Woolly Mammoths. Maroto, as has been the case lately, completely phones his work in. Wait, no, it's so sketchy and un-Esteban-ish, he might have telegraphed it in. Compare this with the work he was doing on Dax and you'd swear this is a different guy. Perhaps, after collecting so many paltry paychecks, he is a different guy. Oh, and one more thought. Take a look at the panel reprinted here and join me in wondering if this was meant for Eerie #90.

While patrolling, G.I.s Spider and Cotton Boy come across an abandoned air base populated by the "enemy," giant frogs from outer space. After discovering that one of the female amphibians has given birth to a half-human baby, the men leave the aliens alone and search the rest of the base. There they find another half-human child, its throat cut, discarded in a trash bin. The men trade oaths and scrunched-up faces before a grenade rolls into the room and Spider leaps on it, saving his friend's life. Cotton Boy exits the building with machine gun a' blazin' and discovers he's mowed down the mother and child he and Spider had spared. Oh, what fresh hell is this?

Man, I really hate the Warren message stories; especially the wrong-headed ones like "Alien!" You can picture Dube in the Warren cafeteria reciting Cotton Boy's closing monologue to McGregor, McKenzie, and Moench, and the boys standing and applauding when he's done. "Wouldn't change a word!" shouts Moench. "You've dug to the heart of what's wrong with this country!" screams McGregor. "Any more Ding-Dongs in the cabinet?" queries McKenzie. Of course, you have to have the men be African American, as it adds to the irony of Dube's message that we, as a people, just can't leave... well... them other peoples alone. Add an extra irony that Dube's mouthpiece is named Cotton Boy. Let's go back and count how many times Cotton exclaims "Oh God, Spider!"

Private Richard Sanders is "The Green," a newbie assigned to deliver ammunition to Alpha-7. With him on the journey is his C.O., Sgt. Caldwell, a man used to long space trips. Sanders become bored of checkers after a short period of time and, sensing a bit of star madness on the horizon, Caldwell begins filling Sanders's head full of fanciful stories of beautiful and grateful Alpha-7 babes, the wonderful food to be found there, and the glorious battles the duo will face. But once they've landed and Sanders sees nothing but a vast wasteland of rock, Caldwell admits he might have exaggerated the bounty a bit to keep the young pup's eyes on the prize. Sanders smiles and asks Caldwell to repeat his favorite story again.

Now we're talkin'. Just when you thought this issue might be a complete and total dud, Bruce Jones and Luis Bermejo ride to the rescue. "The Green" is a fun, fanciful science fiction tale with no racial undertones, no murderous, jealous suitors on board, and no realization that our protagonists have landed on the bombed-out remains of Earth. I literally smiled out loud at that final panel.

A deadly parasite is killing and using the pretty street girls of Beta IV as hatcheries. Once the girls are opened, the millions of worm-like creatures exit and look for a warmer place to live, namely more Beta-IV girls. Scientists at the Beta-IV morgue identify the critters as Banggi larvae and prepare for the worst. Meanwhile, on the streets of Beta-IV, Banggi Chessie and his female companion, Holly, are harassed by a mob of Banggi haters. They attempt to lynch Chessie, but he's got a few (living) tricks up his sleeve.


The plot for "Alien Strain" is a bit hazy (I'm not sure how the parasites are transferred to their hosts, if not sexually), but it's a quick read and it has a great finish. The Nino art is certainly more enjoyable when presented horizontally. What strikes me is how much imagination goes into Nino's creatures; any of the other stories in this issue could have been dramatized easily on a Twilight Zone-esque TV show for a small budget. Not so a Nino presentation. -Peter

Jack-I also thought "Predation" was well done, but I was confused by the ending. I thought the aliens were finished and suddenly they popped into the human bodies. I always liked Nebres's work for the Marvel B & W mags. I had an idea of what was going on in "The Green" fairly early on, but I really liked the ending. Bermejo's art elevates "Trilby," which has an unusually gentle story for a Warren mag but a disappointing finish.

I found "Alien Strain" to be nearly incomprehensible, and I don't like the sideways presentation, but that Nino art is spectacular. The simplistic dialogue in "Bonga and Me" is annoying and the nudity is even more pointless than usual; the unexpected ending was the best thing about this one. I'm right there with you on "Alien!"--the anti-war message is heavy-handed and the story is fairy disgusting.



Maitz
Eerie #91

"The Incredible Sagas of Sludge the Unconquerable, 
Helga the Damned, and Marmadrake the Magnificent!"★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Luis Bermejo

"Elijah Arnold and the Angel's Egg"
Story by Jonathan Thomas
Art by Leopoldo Duranona

"Francesca: Part Two"★1/2
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Gonzalo Mayo

"Against the Sun"★1/2
Story by Bob Toomey
Art by Jose Ortiz

Restin Dane is in a terrible mood! He is so nasty to Bishop that the old man hops in the Rook and travels through time, landing centuries before amid Vikings. Being a mean old cuss, Bishop subdues the warriors, is crowned king, and becomes the object of an overweight Valkyrie's affection.

Restin's bad mood also extends to his treatment of Manners, who is told to take Jan and Kate into the city. In the city, the trio encounter a mad magician named Marmadrake, who plans to use robots to take over the world. Kate easily defeats the magician with her powers of concentration.

And what of Restin Dane? It turns out he is being controlled by Sludge, an evil, talking brain from outer space with designs on stealing Earth's weapons to transport to his home world. Kate, Jan, and Manners return just in time and Kate uses Marmadrake's magic metal to defeat Sludge. Restin sends Manners to retrieve Bishop from the Vikings and all ends happily.

Twenty pages of fun, well drawn by Bermejo, is how I'd describe "The Incredible Sagas of Sludge the Unconquerable, Helga the Damned, and Marmadrake the Magnificent!" DuBay does his usual trick of moving back and forth between stories every few pages, and this time the Bishop story and the Manners story are both funny. Once again, Restin's story is the least interesting.

Old Mr. Arnold tells the men from the planning commission a strange story when they announce that his barn must be demolished to make way for a superhighway. Back in 1800, his ancestor, Elijah Arnold, had a farm that was doing poorly until a spaceship landed on his property. Inside he found alien animals, one of which he mated with a cow. An alien farmer came for the ship but left the half-breed monster behind, imprisoned beneath the barn. The men from the planning commission are unmoved and the barn is demolished to make way for the new road. The monster, grown big and hungry, is now free to wreak havoc.

"Elijah Arnold and the Angel's Egg" is interesting in fits and starts but suffers from Duranona's shaky art. There's never a doubt about what's going to happen and the way there tends to meander.

Jean and Scott Harmon adopt 16-year-old "Francesca," a gorgeous teen whose terminal illness had required her to be frozen until a cure was found. Jean begins to see horrible visions and, while they at first seem to be nightmares, she soon discovers that Francesca is possessed by the spirit of a Medieval woman who escaped from Hell and now wants to be reunited with her dead lover. Only divine intervention, in the form of a lightning bolt, prevents Scott's death.

What a mess! If Mayo's posed figures aren't bad enough, Jones's incredibly convoluted plot kills any sense of cogency in the tale. References to Dante don't make up for an utterly unbelievable plot, and it's so hard to follow and ridiculous as to be laughable.

Moonshadow, the assassin who never fails, is old and weary. After a particularly bad murder involving a holy man, he retires and meets Death on the road. Moonshadow bargains with Death and is given the power to kill by will alone; sent to take the life of a sick little girl, the assassin tricks Death by killing the germs causing her illness. Death keeps his promise and gives Moonshadow twenty million lifetimes but takes him to the realm of the Changer, who drives men insane. Moonshadow sets off to face the Changer.

I so enjoy Ortiz;s art that I liked "Against the Sun," at least until the end, when it seemed to be forced into a continuing story. Had it ended with him tricking Death and saving the child I would have rated it higher.-Jack

Peter-Bill DuBay may be the only human being on Earth who ever laughed at the one-liners that line the Rook litter box, and this installment, which goes on and on and on, is stuffed full of inanity. I'm still trying to figure out what Restin Dane means when he tells an opponent that he's the "meanest mother this side of 1984!" He's from the Old West; what does he know of 1984 (Orwell or otherwise)? And to think, this snoozer of a series will be launching its own title in a few months! I do like Restin's Fiend Without a Face helmet though!

I found "Elijah Arnold" to be more readable than Rook, but way too long. Couldn't Mr. Arnold have cut to the chase and told the two developers that there was a giant murderous bull with bowling pins on its back underneath the weirdly lettered concrete, rather than spinning a long, drawn-out saga? Sheesh, those builders probably fell asleep in the middle of Arnold's story (just like I did) and never heard the punchline. UFOs were really big at this time and the Warren writers were scrambling to find original things to say about aliens. Good luck... to us.

Bruce Jones must have been cackling inside when he handed over the script for "Francesca" to Louise Jones. "This epic tale of burning desire cannot be told in a mere eight pages. I need twenty!" And twenty he got. To paraphrase Jerry Reed, Jones got the gold mine and we got the shaft. The screwiest Giallo homage I've ever read, with Jones throwing everything in the mix, including a cameo from Elijah Arnold's bull-man and plenty more Mayo poses. I'm hoping Bruce had his tongue firmly tucked in cheek when he wrote this. I don't know what to make of "Moonshadow, Chapter One," but the pitch is intriguing at least. We'll get three installments of Moonshadow and then a further three of a prequel series ("The Open Sky") in 1979.


Enrich
Vampirella #68

"Orphee, Poor Orphee, They Made Him in
a Jar Right There in the Lab!"
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Jose Gonzalez

"October Man"
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Leo Sanchez

"Night of the Alley Cats"★1/2
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Ramon Torrents

"By Degrees"
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Jose Ortiz

"The Munificent Ali Addan and Son!"★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay & Esteban Maroto
Art by Esteban Maroto

In his laboratory, a mad doctor has created a creature he calls Orphee, which looks rather like Tennessee Tuxedo's walrus pal, Chumley. Is Orphee responsible for killing and eating six people? Outside the lab's window, Vampi is starring in a schlocky movie when she is attacked by aliens. Orphee witnesses this and rushes to her aid! Vampi defends herself by taking a bite out of the creature and, when the real cannibal is caught, Orphee's name is cleared.

"Orphee, Poor Orphee, They Made Him in a Jar Right There in the Lab!" features twelve pages of DuBay stupidity, with better art than the story deserves. The first panel, depicting the mad doctor, looks just like the ads in the back of the mag for the Aurora model kit.

Paul and Miranda adopted a little boy when tests revealed that Paul was sterile. He has never been able to muster up love for little Ricky and his relationship with Miranda has suffered as a result. Paul and Miranda go to a party and leave Ricky with Charlotte, the babysitter. At the soiree, Paul runs into childhood friend Jack Westley and they lament the fact that the children of their old gang have all died tragically. They recall an incident from childhood when they bullied and chased a boy who ended up being killed by a speeding train. Realizing that Charlotte the babysitter took care of both of their children, Paul rushes home to find Ricky gone.

Paul calls Jack and hatches a plan, then races to the railroad tracks, where he finds that Charlotte has tied up Ricky and laid him out to await death under steel wheels. Jack suddenly drives up and runs over Charlotte, saving Paul and Ricky. Paul comments that now everything will be fine.

"October Man" is an unusual story that might have been better with a different artist. As it stands, it's hard to tell Miranda from Charlotte and this leads to confusion. A second read-through cleared that up for me, but it doesn't help with the far-fetched nature of the plot and the bizarre finish. Won't Paul and Jack be prosecuted for killing Charlotte? How does this all bode well for Paul's relationship with Ricky? I'm glad Bruce Jones tried to write a thoughtful story with no monsters or aliens, but it could have used a bit more work.

A swipe from The Exorcist?
Soon after learning that she is pregnant, a young woman named Maria is knifed to death in an alley. A jacket belonging to Frankie Prado, a member of the Alley Cats gang, is found near the body, so suspicion falls on him. Fleur, a gorgeous, reincarnated witch, is visiting Dr. Martin Barris, a psychologist who works with juvenile delinquents and who knows Frankie. Barris insists that Frankie was framed, so he and Fleur begin to search for the young man. Maria's brother, Tony, vows to find Frankie and kill him.

Fleur transforms into an alley cat to help with her search. She learns that Dr. Barris is the real killer but, when the gang attacks her, she incinerates them. She then encounters Dr. Barris and incinerates him as well before he can kill Frankie.

"Night of the Alley Cats" is terrible and it is only redeemed slightly by the gorgeous panels of Fleur that Torrents provides. The plot is nonsensical and there is no explanation for why Dr. Barris would insist that Frankie had been framed when he was the one who framed him. The art by Torrents is a series of posed panels, making me wonder whether he used live models or photos from magazines. If he used photos, where did he get all of those poses?

Norman really hates Christmas shopping, and his marriage to Elaine isn't very happy, either. She forgot to buy someone a present and goes back into the crowded department store, telling him to wait in the book section. As he stands there, getting more frustrated "By Degrees," Norman begins to worry and decides to go and look for Elaine. Unable to find her, he decides to go back to the book department, only to find that it no longer exists. He heads outside but can't locate their car, either. Norman tries to call home, but the number doesn't connect to anything. He takes a cab home, but their house is gone. The cab disappears, the present in his pocket disappears and, finally, Norman realizes that he is disappearing.

Warren writers really hated Christmas, didn't they? They didn't seem to have a very high opinion of marriage, either. Ortiz draws a lot of muddy panels and the story essentially goes nowhere. It's set in 2028  but, other than an ad for a gizmo that makes things disappear, it could be 1978.

The son of the legendary Ali Addan is shipwrecked and washes up on a remote island, where he meets a beautiful jinn. She claims to have been imprisoned by the demon who is master of the isle; she is chained to the rocks to attract sailors whose bodies the demon loves to consume. Addan Jr. heads off to slay the demon, succeeds, and returns to the woman, who reveals that she is the daughter of the jinn betrayed by Addan Sr. Mom is a monster who proceeds to eat junior.

In the past, we have excused many a story illustrated by Maroto as having been drawn first and then had words added in later. What are we to make of "The Munificent Ali Addan and Son!" when the credits say Maroto co-wrote it with DuBay? Perhaps it was just pretty pictures, or perhaps it made sense in Spanish and DuBay helped Maroto attempt to make it coherent in English. Whatever the case, they failed. It makes very little sense.-Jack

Peter-Dube follows up perhaps his best Vampi script with perhaps his dumbest. This drivel made absolutely no sense at all and was conjured up, no doubt, to cash in on that big-budget Hammer Vampi movie that never got made. "October Man" may very well be the worst Bruce Jones story I've ever read. It starts out as some sort of pretentious malarkey and then winds up being just plain malarkey. The single panels of the train tracks interspersed with the faux-Hitchcock revelatory dialogue made me want to hurl. Oh, and isn't it wonderful that this awful event changed Paul from a heartless prick into father of the year?

Those of us who swear by Bruce Jones's talents for terror would do well to avoid recommending either BJ tale this issue. I'm not sure what Jones wants to say in the interminably long and boring "By Degrees" other than Christmas shopping will suck in 2028 just like it did in 1978 (actually, speaking from 2022, BJ might want to amend that message slightly since hardly anyone waits in lines at Christmas anymore), but most readers will have nodded off by the fifth page. 

The first Fleur solo story since Vampirella #35, "Night of the Alleycats," has some really nice artwork by Torrents but a rambling, nonsensical script by Boudreau (I sense a pattern) with a JD angle that was old hat by 1961. All I could think was, how does Fleur keep that hair from going flat? Only her hairdresser knows for sure. "Ali Addan and Son!" features more great boobie work from Esteban Maroto, but the sideways thing is a pain in the ass to read and the climax just sits there. Thank goodness someone was bright enough to put END on that last page. I wouldn't have known otherwise.

The 1977 Warren Awards perform the same function as last year's: to pat all the popular kids on the head. Frazetta's win for Best Cover is a joke, since the damn thing sat on a shelf for years and is one of Frank's lesser works. The Best Artist of the Year, Best Art of the Year, and Special Award for Excellence in Art for the Year only further the perception (on my part at least) that the Warren Awards were tantamount to the little leagues, where everyone who participates gets a trophy. Hard to believe that Esteban didn't nab the coveted "Breast Art of 1977" punch bowl.



Next Week...
Yep! We sure are!

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Memories of William Fay

The post about writer William Fay and his family (here) was read by his youngest son, John Hartley Fahey, who contacted me with more information about his father. I have edited his correspondence into the following reminiscence.

--Jack Seabrook

Memories of My Father, William Fay

by John Hartley Fahey

William Fay and family in 1955.
John Hartley Fahey is the little boy in the sailor suit.

My father's life was never easy. He was born William Jerome Fahey on July 27, 1909. When my father was five years old, his father, Dr. James Charles Fahey, M.D., died from complications of alcoholism. Prior to that--due to Dr. Fahey's use of drugs and alcohol and other acts of abusiveness--my grandmother, Clara Hayes Fahey, had taken her three children, Marian, Jimmy, and Billy, from Northampton, Mass., to New York City, where she had family. For a time, all three children were "farmed out" to relatives while Clara joined the Navy and was appointed head of personnel for the Customs House in New York City.

When it came time for Billy to enroll in school, at age five, Clara changed the spelling of his last name to the less ethnic sounding "Fay," something she chose to do for herself as well. Jimmy and Marian never changed the spelling of their names; they were already enrolled in school and remained Faheys. When I was a boy, I asked my father about it. He seemed unconcerned and said it really didn't matter all that much which way the name was spelled. I legally changed my last name (restored it) to Fahey when I turned 21.

Bill and Peggy Fay, probably at Point Lookout on 
Long Island, NY, just before they were married.
Billy was expelled from Fordham Preparatory High School for fighting. He took to boxing and fought several opponents in the Golden Gloves of America, New York Metro Division, during the years from 1927 to about 1932. One of my father's biggest fans was retired NYPD officer John Jay Waters, father of Margaret Celestine (Peggy) Waters, the apple of my father's eye. Grandpa attended Pop's fights and approved of him but made it clear that no prizefighter would marry his daughter until he had a real job. If Billy wanted to marry Peggy, her father made it abundantly clear that a profession would be key.

With only a high school education, he faced a challenge. On the other hand, he was always handy at spinning yarns, and writing stories came to him rather readily. I believe it was in 1933 when Billy was hired by Popular Publications as an editor and to write stories for a pulp fiction conceit named G-8 and His Battle Aces, tales of heroism in the skies above Europe during WWI. Some years later, in 1935 or 1936, he sold his first short story to Ladies' Home Journal, which then led to short stories being written for various publications, including The Saturday Evening Post, Collier's, Good Housekeeping, etc. His career as a writer underway, Pop and Mom were married on September 11, 1937.

He flew to Italy in 1950 to research a book that he ghost-wrote for a priest about Our Lady of Fatima. Pop was a devout Roman Catholic, and when we lived in Hollywood in the sixties, he donated his services more than once to his Jesuit priest friends at the Blessed Sacrament Church on Sunset Boulevard, occasionally editing or even rewriting their homilies for them. It was a point of contention for my mother, who did not approve of him doing work for which he received nothing besides effusive thanks, enthusiastic signs of the cross, and a quick sprinkling of holy water.

Ward Bond on Wagon Train
One of Pop's closest boyhood friends was Bill Cox. Together, they co-wrote the first episode of Wagon Train, featuring Ward Bond (with whom Pop became a close, personal friend; the two of them went golfing the morning before Ward Bond died). Billy Fay and Bill Cox had a third close friend named Billy Holder. All three were prizefighters in their youth and they were known around the Bronx as "The Three Billys." Legend has it that there were a few bars that had to close down due to commotions caused by this wily, animated trio. All three made a living as writers. Bill Cox was instrumental in getting my father to throw his hat in the Hollywood TV ring, which he did about the year I was born, 1954. Soon, Bill Fay was writing for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Kraft Mystery Theatre, and other series from the so-called Golden Age of TV. By 1957, his career in Hollywood had taken hold well enough that he sent for Peggy and the kids to join him. All eight of us climbed into our Ford Country Squire Station Wagon, leaving New Rochelle with our irrepressible mother to make the 3000-mile drive across the U.S.

In 1960, Bill Fay was hired to write the script for Kid Galahad, featuring Elvis Presley as a prizefighter fresh out of service in the U.S. Army. Naturally, I am biased, but to my mind it is the best script of any Elvis movie, precisely because Pop wrote precious little dialogue for Elvis, leaving him to gyrate & sing, while leaning on the considerable acting talent of the many brilliant co-stars: Gig Young, Joan Blackman, Charles Bronson, Lola Albright, Ned Glass, Ed Asner, David Lewis, Liam Redmond, and others. The highly suggestive scene where Charles Bronson gets mugged and brutalized by thugs still gives me chills. Besides, Elvis was privy to some of the best pre-Beatles rock & roll songwriting of the Kennedy Era.

Other noteworthy achievements of Pop's included a four-part episode of Dr. Kildare featuring Fred Astaire as the father of a nun who is dying of cancer. These episodes were written when one of my sisters was already a nun and another was about to enter the novitiate. Both sisters eventually left holy orders to become wives and mothers.

Other shows he wrote included Combat!--the first episode of season four, "Main Event," in which a fight manager played by Jack Carter threatens Saunders's squad when he tries to keep his boxer out of a demolition mission. Combat! was by far my favorite television show, so I vividly remember the day Pop told me that his agent, Bill Stanton, had asked him if he wanted to write an episode. He scrunched his nose and said something disparaging about all the "Blood 'n T'under" in war shows, whereupon--wide-eyed--I implored him to PLEASE write an episode, which of course he then did.
 
On August 18, 1968, he died of a heart attack at the dinner table in our house at 2831 Hollyridge Drive. He was working on his second feature film at the time, a story entitled "Brother John" that was never completed. After Pop's death, actor Steve Forrest expressed interest in purchasing the storyline to "Brother John," but Mom turned him down, much to my relief.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

The Hitchcock Project-Kathleen Hite Part One: Disappearing Trick [3.27]

by Jack Seabrook

Kathleen Hite (1917-1989) was born in Kansas, the daughter of a cattleman, and after graduating from college she went to work for a radio station in Wichita. By 1943 she had moved to Los Angeles, where she was hired as a secretary for CBS Radio. Within a year, she had become the first female staff writer at the network and, when TV began to replace radio in the early 1950s, she began writing teleplays. Hite wrote for TV from 1954 to 1982, including three episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, 42 episodes of Gunsmoke (she also wrote for Gunsmoke when it was on the radio), and 25 episodes of The Waltons.

Kathleen Hite
Hite does not seem to have written any short stories, novels, or film scripts; instead, she concentrated on radio and TV. Her work for Gunsmoke and The Waltons has garnered some attention online; there is a collection of her radio and TV scripts at her alma mater, Wichita State University, and there is a website devoted to her here.

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Kathleen Hite's first teleplay for Alfred Hitchcock Presents was "Disappearing Trick," which aired on CBS on Sunday, April 6, 1958. The script was based on a short story of the same name by Victor Canning that had been published in the September 1957 issue of the British digest Argosy; it was reprinted in the 2010 collection of Canning's stories called Crime and Detection. A comparison of the short story with the TV show demonstrates that Hite made changes to improve the tale.

"Disappearing Trick"
was first published here
Walter Richmond, the protagonist of the short story, works in a London bookie's office and prefers to spend his free time playing tennis. He recalls the prior May when he was going to Brighton for the weekend. His boss asked him to check on Herbert Gild, a client who had not placed a bet in three months. When Richmond visited Gild's seafront apartment, his wife, a pretty woman named Laura, answered the door and showed an immediate interest in Walter, but all he could think about was tennis. Laura explained that her husband drowned in a boating accident six months ago, leaving her with little money. Walter visited a pub and wondered what became of all of the cash that Herbert had won at gambling.

Looking through old newspapers, Walter discovered that Herbert's body was never found. The next morning, he began to suspect that Gild faked his own death in order to get away from his wife. Walter decided to look for him, blackmail him, and use the money to focus on tennis instead of work. His plan to pump Laura for information was set in motion when she approached him in the bar of the hotel where he was staying. Walter turned on the charm and, when they went for a drive, they shared a kiss. He spent the next five weekends at Brighton with Laura, learning all he could about her missing husband.

Robert Horton as Walter
At the start of week six, Laura visited Walter in London and mentioned that Herbert loved cricket. Walter attended a big match and soon spotted Herbert, who had dyed his hair black and grown a bushy mustache. Walter found out where Herbert lived and pretended to be an insurance salesman when he paid a call on Herbert, quickly confronting the man with the knowledge of his true identity. Herbert offered to pay him off and Walter accepted 5000 pounds. He left and walked to his car, where he found Laura waiting for him, claiming that she wanted Herbert's money and Walter's company; she knew that Walter was up to something and followed him.

Walter and Laura returned to Brighton together to find Herbert waiting for them with a gun. When Walter tried to overpower him, Herbert shot him in the shoulder. They tussled and Laura hit Herbert over the head with a heavy glass ashtray. Walter and Laura left Herbert, wounded but alive, and drove off along the coast. Walter passed out  from his wound and woke up in the car alone--Laura had absconded with the 5000 pounds he got from Herbert, leaving Walter with no money, no woman, and an injured shoulder that ended his tennis career.

Betsy von Furstenberg as Laura
"Disappearing Trick" is an odd story that features a man who lives to play tennis. A beautiful woman and 5000 pounds are only means to an end, and that end is the game he adores. Ironically, his attempts at seduction and blackmail serve to destroy his ability to do what he loves.

When she adapted Canning's short story for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Kathleen Hite moved the location of the events from England to Southern California and removed any references to cricket. She also streamlined the ending and toned down the focus on Walter's love for tennis, which is mainly conveyed to the reader in the short story through his narration. The first scene of the TV show has Walter arriving at the booking agency; people take bets by phone and there is mention of Santa Anita, a racetrack near Los Angeles, so the location is set right away. In addition to a briefcase, Walter carries a tennis racket, which he twirls so the viewer doesn't miss it.

Perry Lopez as Julio
Walter takes a bet by phone and then has an exchange with another booking agent who asks how he "'made out with those rich ladies over at the club.'" The themes of the episode have been established quickly: betting on horses, tennis, and Walter's penchant for women; he replies that "'I've got a lot of charm.'" Walter's boss, Regis, assigns him a weekend job ("'between sets'" is added sarcastically to underline Walter's interest in tennis) to locate Herbert Gild, who lives in La Jolla, about two hours down the coast near San Diego. Herbert stopped calling in three months ago and Regis wants to get him "'back on our books.'"

Raymond Bailey as Herbert
Herbert is said to live in the "'best apartment hotel in La Jolla,'" and there is a dissolve to the exterior of the hotel, which is actually the swanky Hotel Coronado, about 20 miles south of La Jolla. Walter is invited into Laura's apartment and, despite her husband's death, she is coy and flirtatious. A photo of Herbert shows that he was much older than his wife. Instead of staying put in the town where Laura lives, as he does in the short story, Walter returns to the booking agency for another chat with his boss. He reviews Gild's betting records and confirms that he placed his last bet three months ago, which conflicts with Laura's statement that he has been dead for six months. This dichotomy is present in the short story but it is not highlighted; Hite adds the scene between Walter and Regis to make sure that the viewer (and Walter) understands the importance of the dates. Walter visits a newspaper archive and, after confirming Gild's death in a back issue of the newspaper, Walter learns from the archivist that his body was never found.

Frank Albertson as Regis
There is no discussion of a plan to find and blackmail Herbert. Instead, Walter visits Laura again and, before long, they are embracing and kissing. They discuss money and it is clear that they both want it and what it buys. Laura is open about having married Herbert for his money, and Walter suggests that he faked his own death to get away from his unfaithful wife. They play tennis together and kiss again; Laura tells Walter that she wants to go away with him and the next shot is taken from a car as it approaches the Mexican border. In the following shot, a Mexican bookie and friend of Walter's named Julio is introduced as Walter asks if he knows Herbert. Walter tells Julio about the discrepancy in dates between Herbert's death and his last bet, again highlighting this critical piece of evidence for the viewer.

Percy Helton
Back in La Jolla at Laura's apartment, Walter surreptitiously takes the photograph of Herbert from its frame. In the next scene, Walter is back in Tijuana, alone this time. He visits Herbert, whose appearance is changed only by a toupee. There is a nice, subtle touch in this scene when Herbert offers Walter a glass of sherry. Earlier in the show, when Laura first met Walter, she had disparaged her late husband, remarking that he "'looked like sherry'"--a dull drink compared to the whiskey favored by Walter. Herbert gives Walter $10,000 in cash to leave him alone and Walter walks out to find Laura waiting in his car, as in the story.

Thomas Wild
One flaw in the short story is corrected here: rather than have Herbert drive faster than Walter and beat him back to Laura's apartment, in the TV show, Walter's car gets a flat tire on the way and he has to change it. When he and Laura get back to her apartment and are confronted by Herbert holding a gun, he tells them that he passed them while Walter was fixing the flat. As in the story, Walter tussles with Herbert and is shot in the shoulder, but Laura does not add to her husband's pain by hitting him with an ashtray. They do not drive off together. Instead, there is a dissolve to a scene where Walter is being tended to in a doctor's office. The nurse goes out to the waiting room to get Laura but she is gone; the nurse brings Walter's jacket to him and he checks his pocket to find the money gone. The doctor underlines the irony of the situation with the final line of dialogue, telling Walter that his shoulder will always be stiff, which is fine "'unless you happen to be a tennis player.'" In one short scene, Walter loses his lover, his money, and his passion.

Dorothea Lord
The TV version of "Disappearing Trick" works better than the short story, mainly because there is not such an effort to focus on how Walter loves tennis above all else. In the TV show, he is a tennis player, but he is also a ladies' man and he is not above blackmail. The irony at the end of the story is that he will never play tennis again; the irony at the end of the TV show is more complex.

Victor Canning (1911-1986) was a prolific British writer whose many short stories and novels were published between the early 1930s and the 1980s. He served in the British Army in WWII and is best remembered among fans of Alfred Hitchcock for his novel, The Rainbird Pattern (1972), which was adapted as Family Plot (1976). Other films and TV shows were adapted from his works beginning in 1950, but "Disappearing Trick" was the only one for the Hitchcock TV series. Canning's papers are at the University of Wyoming and there is an extensive website about him here.

The show is 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 directed 17 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "Forty Detectives Later." He also directed three episodes of Thriller and the classic comedy, The In-Laws (1979).

Joe Conley
Robert Horton (1924-2016) stars as Walter Richmond. He had been active in film since 1945, but from 1952 to 1989, he was a busy TV actor, co-starring in Wagon Train (1957-1962) and then starring on the short-lived series, A Man Called Shenandoah (1965-1966). A website devoted to his career is here. This was one of seven episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents in which he was featured, including "Crack of Doom," and after his television career ended he spent many years on stage.

Making the first of two appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents is Betsy von Furstenberg (1931-2015), playing Laura Gild. She was born Countess Elizabeth Caroline Maria Agatha Felicitas Therese von Furstenberg-Herdringer in Germany and she moved to New York City as a child to study ballet. A teen model, she acted on Broadway from 1951 to 1976 and on screen, mostly on TV, from 1951 to 1983. She also appeared in "The Diamond Necklace."

In smaller roles:
  • Perry Lopez (1929-2008) as Julio, the Tijuana bookie; he was onscreen from 1954 to 1994 and he was seen in Chinatown (1974) and its sequel, The Two Jakes (1990).
  • Raymond Bailey (1904-1980) as Herbert Gild; a busy character actor, he is best remembered as Mr. Drysdale on The Beverly Hillbillies; he was on the Hitchcock show 11 times and had a small role in Vertigo (1958).
  • Frank Albertson (1909-1964) as Regis, Walter's boss; on screen from 1923 to 1964, he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and he appeared in four episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "Out There--Darkness."  He was also on Thriller and he played Sam Wainwright in It's a Wonderful Life (1946). He had small parts in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) and Psycho (1960).
  • Percy Helton (1894-1971) as the man in the newspaper archive; he was in vaudeville from age two and served in the Army in World War One. He damaged his voice permanently while yelling in a stage play and thus had a distinctively squeaky way of talking for much of his career. He was on screen from 1915 to 1978 and appeared in seven episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "The Creeper"; he was also in the classic episode of Bus Stop, "I Kiss Your Shadow," as well as on The Twilight Zone and Batman.
  • Thomas Wild (1916-2005) as the doctor in the final scene; also known as Thomas Wilde, he had a brief career on screen from 1952 to 1959 and also appeared in "Lamb to the Slaughter."
  • Dorothea Lord (1920-2000) as the nurse in the final scene; she had a short career on TV, from 1958 to 1962, but managed to appear in seven episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "No Pain."
  • Joe Conley (1928-2013) as Walter's colleague in the booking agency whom he chats with in the opening scene; he was on screen from 1950 to 2001 and had a regular part on The Waltons from 1972 to 1981.
Watch "Disappearing Trick" online here or buy the DVD here. Read the GenreSnaps take on this episode here.

Sources:

Canning, Victor. "Disappearing Trick." Argosy, September 1957, pp. 7-18.

"Disappearing Trick." Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 3, episode 27, CBS, 6 Apr. 1958.

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

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

Higgins, John. Victor Canning Home Page, http://canning.marlodge.net/.

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

Kathleenhite.com. http://www.kathleenhite.com/. 

Stephensen-Payne, Phil. Galactic Central, http://philsp.com/.

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


Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "Toby" here!

Listen to Annie and Kathryn discuss "Apex" here!

In two weeks: Our coverage of Kathleen Hite continues with "Tea Time," starring Margaret Leighton and Marsha Hunt!

ALERT! WATCH THIS SPOT SATURDAY FOR A SPECIAL POST ABOUT WRITER WILLIAM FAY!!