Monday, September 25, 2023

Batman in the 1960s Issue 6: November/December 1960


The Caped Crusader in the 1960s
by Jack Seabrook
& Peter Enfantino

Detective Comics 285

"The Mystery of the Man-Beast"
Story by Bill Finger
Art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris

"The Good-Luck Prophet"
Story by Jack Miller
Art by Ruben Moreira

"The Menace of the Martian Mandrills!"
Story by Jack Miller
Art by Joe Certa

An incredible find has been found! A caveman, trapped in ice in suspended animation, has been recovered and brought back to the Gotham Museum, where it's put in a special, refrigerated room. But, as we know from similar, then-current, real-life cases fictionalized,  Dinosaurus! (1960, director: Irvin Yeaworth) and Reptilicus (1961, director: Sidney W. Pink), cooling units cannot be trusted! Before the very eyes of Batman, Robin, and a few ascotted professors, the "Man-Beast" thaws out and escapes onto the streets of Gotham.

Just then, gorgeous and athletically-endowed Kathy Kane hears a police bulletin about the kerfuffle and dons her Batwoman suit, hoping to lend a manicured hand to her compadres. Man-Beast climbs to the top of the Luxor Hotel and Batman and Robin follow in their Whirly-Bats, while Kathy heads for the hotel's kitchen to buy a roast chicken. Tossing their amazement at the random spectacle of a woman facing a big fight by seeking out sustenance to the side, the boys corner the caveman on the roof, but he evades capture. Kathy arrives with her roast chicken and offers it to Man-Beast, who thanks her with a muffled "R-ruh!" Bats gasses the beast and transports him back to the museum, where the prehistoric brute is locked in a giant cage.

No sooner do the boys make it back to the Batcave than they receive word that the Man-Beast has escaped, killing Professor Lacy in the process. But when Batman inspects the broken lock on the cage, something doesn't sit right with him. He heads to Lacy's private file cabinet and inspects the Professor's journal. Our hero runs across a note that the Prof suspected some of the relics in the museum had been replaced with identical forgeries! They head to a curio shop owned by a shady old man named Drager and, sure enough, find the real museum antiques! Drager enters with his requisite amount of henchmen and a battle royale ensues. But gun-toting hoods are no match for the multi-talented and specially trained Dynamic Duo and the thugs are rounded up quickly.

Just then, Batman and Robin get yet another police bulletin, reporting that the Man-Beast has been spotted at the Gotham Observatory. Racing there, they meet up with Batwoman, and the Terrific Trio enter the building to capture the super-caveman. For some reason, Professor Lacy's assistant, Harbin, is lurking in the shadows, and the caveman exits the building right past him, not laying a hand on the astonished egghead. Once outside, Kathy is threatened by a passing mountain lion, but Man-Beast comes to her rescue and caveman and cat tumble over a cliff to their deaths. 

Batman reveals that, for some time, he's known that Harbin has been selling the museum's antiques and replacing them with worthless lookalikes. Lacy discovered this dastardly deed and threatened to bring the thefts to light. Harbin killed the Prof and pinned it on the Man-Beast. Batman gives the murderer a right upper-cut and hauls his ass to Gotham Prison, where the killer will serve the maximum sentence of three months. Gotham justice served!

Why is it that whenever a prehistoric man is unsuspended from his animation, he's got super-powers? I'm not sure we ate as healthy back in the Cro-Magnon years or spent much time at the gym, and yet here's "Rr-Ragh-Hhh" (my affectionate nickname for the big galoot) climbing skyscrapers and tossing cars at the Caped Crusaders. The dialogue between Bats and his pre-pubescent partner, when Kathy heads for the cafeteria to scout for chicken tenders, is priceless. It seems that, even at the young age of 11, Dick Grayson has no understanding of women. Join the club, young feller.

There are so many threads running through Bill Finger's script and it all seems to be tied together nicely in the end. I just knew Harbin was no good; never trust a professor's assistant who wears an ascot. Ditto antique trader, Drager, who pulls a gun on Batman while wearing what appears to be a tuxedo. Gotham's bad guys might have been dumb but they were sharp-dressed men. Put a bat-a-rang to my head and I'd have to say "The Mystery of the Man-Beast" is my favorite Bats story of 1960.

A friend asks Roy Raymond, TV Detective, to look into Provo the Prophet, a seer who predicts only good fortune for his clients. Roy's buddy has built a small plane and Provo has predicted great success for the venture. Roy smells a rat and, sure enough, discovers the Prophet has a motive worth 250 thousand clams. The art continues to be great but the script for "The Good-Luck Prophet" is a clunker, built around a whole lot of coincidences and far-fetched events. The expository, where we get the full story, is a laugher.

A cargo ship with a trio of Martian Mandrills has crashed in New York and crooks have taken advantage of the "unintelligent creatures" by commanding them to rob banks and other cool stuff. Fortunately, we have a Martian Manhunter who understands the strengths and weaknesses of the Martian creatures. J'Onn J'Onzz saves the city from "The Menace of the Martian Mandrills!" and ponders a time when he will return to Mars. But that's after his work on Earth is finished. I've become used to the fact that the Martian Manhunter series throws out all aspects of reality and grabs at anything whimsical. The idea that a group of thugs could stumble on a spacecraft and figure out its components in a matter of hours just blends in with the kooky stuff we've seen in this strip since beginning this journey.-Peter


"Women are unpredictable, Robin... men can never tell what they'll do next!"

"Beaten by a woman, no less!"

Add to these gems the panel where Batwoman uses a powder puff to take the shine off her nose while the caveman chows down on roast chicken, and you have a classic 1960 Bat-tale. I liked the twist ending of the Roy Raymond story, where Roy explains that the bills are too small to have been in circulation in 1961. As for J'onn J'onzz, we knew that we'd run into some simians sooner or later while reading DC comics of this era--these seem to have one real power, and that's expelling hot air. Fitting for the Martian Manhunter series!

Batman 136

"The Case of the Crazy Crimes"
Story by Bill Finger
Art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris

"The Town That Hated Batman"
Story by Bill Finger
Art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris

"The Challenge of the Joker"
Story by Bill Finger
Art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris

One night, while patrolling the back alleys of Gotham, the Dynamic Duo encounter a robot who warns them about a mysterious Mr. X right before Mr. X appears and blows the robot to smithereens with a ray gun. Mr. X escapes and Batman finds a clue: the S.S. Gotham City, a sightseeing boat docked at Pier 15 for repairs. At the boat, Batman and Robin battle strange sea creatures that multiply when a punch lands! Mr. X again appears out of nowhere and disintegrates the creatures with a shot from his ray gun.

More gorillas!
Batman and Robin hop aboard a pair of riderless horses that gallop by, only to be taken to a castle unfamiliar to the crime fighters. The castle is inhabited by gorillas, all serving a gorilla king; Mr. X stands next to the throne. After a brief sword fight, the whole thing is revealed to be a prank engineered by Bat-Mite, who chuckles and disappears, taking gorillas, castle, and Mr. X with him.

"The Case of the Crazy Crimes" sets up a new story structure for Bill Finger--build one outlandish event upon the next and then, at the end, have it all turn out to be a prank by Bat-Mite. I wonder if we'll see more stories like this? It's not bad, it just doesn't go anywhere.

Batman and Robin chase gangster Bert Collins to a former ghost town, where Mayor Cobb says he hasn't seen any strangers. Batman sees a clue and realizes the mayor is lying, which leads a mob of the townsfolk to go after the Dynamic Duo with fists and clubs. Things are not as they seem, since a giant, outdoor storage vat that should be filled with sulfur is empty. The townsfolk knock the good guys out and lower them into the empty vat, but a quick escape is made by shimmying up a couple of pipes.

Hawaiian readers, please weigh in!

The townsfolk reveal themselves to Collins to be Vordians, aliens from another solar system who are bent on world destruction. They have a powerful Grav-Ray that can't be replaced because ... oh, never mind. Batman tricks the aliens, who fly home in shame, and he and Robin march off with Collins in tow, leaving "The Town That Hated Batman" and heading for the Gotham City Jail.

Whew! That was a close one! Those Vordians sure are dumb. They can travel through endless space, build a dangerous Grav-Ray, masquerade as bumbling earthlings, and yet when Batman picks up Collins and tosses him at them they fall like bowling pins.  Bill Finger sure loved his aliens--even more than gorillas.

The Joker sits and fumes in his lair, watching Batman discuss the four elements--air, earth, fire, and water, and how modern, scientific policing methods have helped in the fight against crime. The next day, "The Challenge of the Joker" arrives on a sheet of paper at Commissioner Gordon's office. The Joker's first crime involves air, as he uses a gigantic vacuum cleaner to rob all of the airmail from an airplane. He also sucks Batman and Robin into the machine before reversing the air flow and sending them skyward.

Crime number two concerns earth, as the Joker causes an earthquake under an amusement park but is foiled from robbing the park's vault. Fire inspires the third crime, as the Joker flies overhead on a Joker-faced sky-sled and shoots fireballs at the Dynamic Duo, intending to keep them occupied while he commits crime number four. They manage to escape sooner than he expects, however, and they head to Gotham Bay, where he plans to execute his water crime by stealing a necklace from singer Jenny Linden. Not so fast! says Batman, who ends the Joker's crime wave by trapping the Clown Prince in a giant bottle that was on stage.

It's wonderful to see the Joker, even as drawn by Moldoff and Paris as a fairly non-threatening entity. Still, it's interesting to see that most (all?) of the villains in 1960 Bat-comics had one thing on their mind--robbery! There was very little killing, terror, or just plain havoc for the heck of it. They were good, old-fashioned capitalist villains, living in the Eisenhower era! I wonder if 1961 will show anything new.-Jack

It took a whopping twelve months for us to get to our first DC gorilla! This, in a decade dominated by DC gorillas. I didn't think much of "Crazy Crimes" (nor do I have a fondness for Bat-Mite, like my 60s-crazed partner, Jack), but I loved the splash (right) where Batman almost seems annoyed by his young partner's whining. "The Town That Hated Batman" is just uninspired, answering its own mystery by relying on the "these guys are aliens!" ploy we're subjected to at least twice a month. I wonder when the alien guest stars will start to dry up. The art on this one is just pedestrian, but that may be due to my being spoiled by Ruben Moreira's art. The backgrounds and detail in Moldoff's panels are non-existent. Imagine what Moreira might have done with a Batman story.

No surprise, the highlight of the issue is "The Challenge of the Joker," our first look in the 1960s at DC's greatest villain. As interested as I am in watching the exit of space aliens, I'm doubly interested in watching the progression of the Joker from the cheerful clown, who has no problem stealing the Riddler's gimmick of leaving clues for the boys, to the psychotic madman he became in the 1970s. Will that transformation begin in the 60s? 

Detective Comics 286

"The Doomed Batwoman"
Story Uncredited
Art by Sheldon Moldoff and Charles Paris (?)

"The Legend That Came to Life"
Story by Jack Miller (?)
Art by Ruben Moreira

"His Majesty, John Jones"
Story Uncredited
Art by Joe Certa

Batman and Robin are called to action at the never-more-popular Gotham Museum. Another villain is searching for a prized antiquity that's gone missing. This time it's the super-powered Star-Man and he's looking for a belt deemed less than interesting by museum curators and sold to Carter's Curio Shop. After showing the Dynamic Duo a few feats of strength, Star-Man exits the museum and heads for Carter's.

Alas, the purple-caped villain discovers that the belt was bought by a stunningly good-looking and athletically built mystery woman just the day before. Batman and Robin arrive shortly thereafter and are witness to still more stunning acts of super-power before Star-Man gets away yet again.

Meanwhile, we learn that (holy coincidence, Batman!) Kathy Kane is the scrumptious babe who purchased the belt in Carter's and she's dressing for a date with Bruce Wayne. This belt would make such a good complementary piece to her wardrobe. She slaps the green belt on and feels a strange tingling vibration rip through her innards (no, it's not the three pick-me-ups she had at lunch). There's something odd about this belt!

That night, Kathy is dancing with Bruce when she is struck with a feeling of weakness and asks her date to drive her home. The next day, Kathy is to appear with Batman and Robin at a charity circus and she dons her Batwoman costume, throwing the belt on just for the heck of it. Kathy is suddenly reeling with energy and power. While searching for a really good western on TV, Star-Man comes across a telecast of the charity function and immediately recognizes the green belt Batwoman is wearing. He heads to the circus.

Batman and Robin are in the middle of their death-defying, double-looped motorcycle jump when Star-Man appears and moves their landing ramp. Only quick-trigger reflexes on the Caped Crusader's part save the Duo from dismemberment. Star-Man discovers that, as Batwoman comes closer to him, he loses his super-strength. As he's escaping (yet again), he realizes his powers are returning and swears he'll rip that belt right off Batwoman's slim but athletic midsection at a later date. At this point, Kathy begins weakening again and Batman hypothesizes that her belt neutralized Star-Man's strength but that the extra strength she soaked up will eventually kill her (or something like that).

Trying to piece together as much info as he can, Batman visits Malcolm Frazier, the explorer who discovered the belt, and is told the belt is actually composed of three parts. According to Frazier, the third part resides with a "buckle manufacturer" and ancient legend has it that when the three parts are put together, the bearer receives immortality. No wonder Star-Man wants this belt so badly! The boys race to the buckle manufacturing plant but are once again overpowered by their new nemesis, who ties them to a buckle stamper while he takes the star from his helmet and pieces it together with the ancient buckle. On cue, Batwoman arrives and neutralizes Star-Man's powers. Unfortunately, it's vice versa and Kathy is frozen in mid-stride. Fortunately, the boys manage to slip their bindings and save the day. Star-Man is taken to the state pen and Batman vows the three pieces of the belt will be destroyed.

"The Doomed Batwoman" is nicely illustrated fluff that doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense. If you're an archaeologist (or whatever Malcolm Frazier would call himself) and you've heard this belt comes with awesome powers, why would you dismantle it and spread it across Gotham? I mean, you at least wear the darn thing a few times and rob some banks, right? This Star-Man should not be confused with the classic hero Star-Man who dates back to the 1940s and who appears with the Justice League (Society) now and then. Why would Kathy Kane shop for wardrobe accoutrements at a curio store? Wouldn't this belt come at a very high price? I'll give Bill Finger (or whoever wrote "The Doomed Batwoman") extra credit for actually thinking about a costume design for once. Yeah, he's called Star-Man and there's a big star scotch-taped to his forehead, but that's there so it won't drop out of his pocket while he's fighting. These Gotham one-and-done villains seem to be getting smarter.

Neither of the backups is strong this time out. I'm used to the Martian Manhunter being lightweight, but the scripts for Roy Raymond have become increasingly substandard. In "The Legend That Came to Life," Roy unwittingly unleashes a giant monster on a small jungle village but uses his cunning intelligence to make things right. My complaints about the strip do not extend to the striking visuals by Ruben Moreira, who continues to be the best artist working in any of these titles. His panels are detailed and beg the eye to linger for just a few seconds more. J'Onn J'Onnz is mistaken for royalty in "His Majesty, John Jones," which leads to all kinds of hilarious hijinx and quick costume changes. Reading these inane adventures makes me wonder how the character was rebooted and considered a serious character in decades to come.-Peter

Jack-I'm becoming fascinated with Batwoman, a character who is appearing more and more as we read into the 1960s. As best I can piece it together, she dates Bruce Wayne but doesn't know he's Batman, while he is aware of her secret identity. Does she know that he knows? I agree that "The Doomed Batwoman" is a crazy story, one where the rescue at the end hinges on Batman's ability to catch a falling shard of glass with his feet. Pretty long odds if you ask me. The Roy Raymond story is a stinker and, while I usually like Moreira's art, I don't think he draws the giant very well. He's better at depicting people standing around smoking and chatting--just the opposite of the Batman artists. The J'Onn J'Onnz story has a ridiculous premise but the Martian Manhunter does get to face a fun set of perils.

Next Week...
Get ready for...
Atlas Era Frazetta!

Thursday, September 21, 2023

The Hitchcock Project-Dick Carr, Part One-Triggers in Leash [1.3]

by Jack Seabrook

Richard "Dick" Carr (1929-1988) wrote for radio, film, and television from 1947 to 1981. He wrote three teleplays for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, all in the first season, including "The Big Switch."

Carr's first teleplay for Alfred Hitchcock Presents was "Triggers in Leash," based on the story of the same name by Allan Vaughan Elston that was first published in the July 1925 issue of The Frontier. In a small restaurant on the prairie, Del Harte and Red Delaney come face to face after months of waiting to encounter each other. Old Maggie Flynn owns and runs the small establishment and finds herself standing between the gunmen. Rain pours down outside and a cuckoo clock announces noon. The men have sworn to kill each other but Maggie refuses to move out of the way because she knows they won't shoot her. She tells them that she'll be a witness to say who shot first and they holster their guns, since neither wants to be guilty of murder.

"Triggers in Leash" was
first published here
At Maggie's urging, Red and Del sit across from each other at a table and she cooks ham and eggs and feeds the men as they eye each other warily. The tension mounts as the gunslingers taunt each other across the table, each man waiting for an opportunity to shoot. The ticking of the clock on the shelf is loud in the small room; the men finish eating and stand, agreeing that they will wait to fire until the cuckoo emerges at one o'clock. As the hour approaches, Maggie takes a heavy marble crucifix from the other end of the shelf in order to prevent it from being hit by a stray bullet. Before one, the clock suddenly stops and she claims that it was due to the hand of God intervening to prevent slaughter.

The men drop their gun belts to the floor, honoring their agreement, and sit down to a friendlier meal, not hearing Maggie mutter that they don't know that the clock won't run when the shelf on which it sits is not level. She replaces the crucifix on the shelf but the clock no longer runs.

"Triggers in Leash" is a thrilling story set in the Old West, though the events it depicts could take place just as effectively in a contemporary bar between any two men with guns. Maggie is portrayed as a simple, hardworking woman, so it is a surprise at the end to see her trick the gunslingers into ending their standoff. The story was reprinted in the 1947 collection, Alfred Hitchcock's Fireside Book of Suspense, which is probably where Joan Harrison read it and chose it to be adapted as the third episode of the TV series to be broadcast, premiering on CBS on Sunday, October 16, 1955.

Gene Barry as Del
The very first shot shows us the objects that will figure in the show's conclusion. The camera starts by focusing on a small window in Maggie's restaurant before panning across the shelf that holds the crucifix and the clock, then down to Maggie, who pulls the chain to wind the clock. Ben, a new character, is added for one reason: he will reveal the surprise at the end of the show rather than having Maggie mutter it under her breath, as she does in the story. Ben wants more food but Maggie sends him out to fetch wood for the stove, clearing the way for the arrival of Del, who enters alone; in the story, he and Red enter simultaneously from two doors at opposite ends of the single room building. The first interesting shot occurs here, making me think, in error, that the show is directed by Robert Stevens, for whom unusual shots are a hallmark; the camera is set at the level of the stove and looks up at Del and Maggie.

Ben walks back in, carrying wood, and Del pulls his gun, thinking it's Red and causing Ben to drop the wood in fright. The viewer sees that Del is jumpy and refuses to remove his gun belt, but why? The TV version of the story increases the suspense in these early scenes by making the viewer wonder why Del is so nervous. There is another unusual shot with Del looming large in the foreground while Ben and Maggie converse, their figures smaller in the background. Ben leaves and Red suddenly bursts through the door; Del leaps to his feet and the men face each other, ready to draw their guns. There is a third interesting camera angle here, looking from behind Del at the level of his wrist, showing Red and Maggie positioned in the space between his gun and his hand.

Darren McGavin as Red
The dialogue that follows between Del and Red establishes their reasons for wanting to kill each other, something that is absent from the short story: they had a disagreement the night before during a card game and Red thinks that Del ran away out of cowardice, while Del explains that he left in order to avoid having to kill a hotheaded Red. Maggie controls the situation first with her remark that she will be a witness and then by cooking the men breakfast. As the men sit at the table, the cuckoo clock sits in the distance but in the center of the shot, establishing it again in the viewer's mind before it is revealed as a central object in the story. The pendulum swings back and forth as suspense mounts; this visual motif was not available to Elston in the short story, where the clock's ticking is represented by repeated use of the onomatopoeic words, "pink, pank; pink, pank."

Maggie's history is expanded in the TV show, where we learn that she is a widow whose husband Charlie was a gunfighter who died; this gives her all the more reason to abhor gunplay. Suspense mounts as the men stand, agreeing to draw when the cuckoo emerges, and we learn that the crucifix on the shelf also has sentimental value to Maggie, since she tells Del and Red that her late husband gave it to her on their wedding day. This is another detail not present in the original story. At the climax, Maggie cowers in a corner, clutching the crucifix, and the clock stops just before noon. The tension breaks and the men approach the clock, staring in awe. In the short story, they sit down to eat together, but in the TV show they leave together. Instead of Maggie muttering the truth about the clock to herself as she relights the stove, Ben rushes back in, sees the shelf, and provides the explanation for why the clock ceased ticking. He replaces the crucifix and, unlike the short story, where the clock does not resume running, in the TV version it not only starts up again but the cuckoo emerges to sound noon, and this is the show's final image.

Ellen Corby as Maggie
"Triggers in Leash" is a superb adaptation that expands its source story at the beginning to spend more time setting the scene. It adds the new character of Ben in order to increase the impact of the final revelation, and it ratchets up the suspense. For a one-room drama, it never seems crowded; the small space where the events take place only serves to increase the tension. Don Medford's direction is excellent and the pace never flags. The acting is outstanding as well. Gene Barry, as Del, and Darren McGavin, as Red, give powerful performances and are utterly convincing as two men whose determination not to back down nearly leads to tragedy. Both actors show off: Barry twirls his gun while holstering it and McGavin similarly twirls his hat while hanging it. Casey MacGregor makes the most of his small role, playing the character of Ben like Gabby Hayes.

The short story's author, Allan Vaughan Elston (1887-1976), had a degree in civil engineering and worked on railroads and as a cattle rancher in the early decades of the twentieth century before turning his hand to fiction. In his long career as a writer, he had scores of stories published from the 1920s to the 1940s; he then began writing novels, mostly westerns, and these appeared from the early 1940s to the mid-1970s. His stories served as the basis for a few films and a number of TV episodes, two of which were for Alfred Hitchcock Presents; the other was "The Belfry." Elston's papers are held at UCLA.

The camera looks up from the stove.
"Triggers in Leash" is directed by Don Medford (1917-2012), the stage name of Donald Muller, who was a busy director of episodic TV from 1951 to 1989. In addition to two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, he directed five episodes of The Twilight Zone and also the final, two-part conclusion of The Fugitive. He was a quick worker--in an interview for the Archives of American Television, Pat Hitchcock mentions that his other episode, "Into Thin Air," the first of the series to be filmed, took only two days. She adds that, after that, they realized that the time was too short and subsequent episodes were given three days.

Gene Barry (1919-2009) gets top billing as Del; he had a long career on screen as a leading man. Born Eugene Klass, he started out on stage in 1940 before appearing on TV and in the movies from 1950 to 2005. His most memorable film, The War of the Worlds (1955), came early in his career; he then had a recurring role on the TV series Our Miss Brooks (1955-1956) before starring in four series over the course of fifteen years: Bat Masterson (1958-1961), Burke's Law (1963-1966 and 1994-1995), The Name of the Game (1968-1971) and The Adventurer (1972-1973). Barry appeared on the Hitchcock series three times, including "Dear Uncle George," and there is an informative website devoted to his career here.

Del is large in the foreground, while
Ben and Maggie are smaller in the background.
Giving an equally thrilling performance as Red is Darren McGavin (1922-2006), who appeared on three episodes of the Hitchcock TV series. Born William Lyle Richardson, he appeared on stage, film, and TV from 1945 to 2008. He starred in five TV series: Crime Photographer (1951-1952), Mike Hammer (1958-1959), Riverboat (1959-1961), The Outsider (1968-1969) and, of course, The Night Stalker (1974-1975), which followed two very popular TV movies featuring the same character, Carl Kolchak, who kept encountering supernatural menaces while working as a newspaper reporter in Chicago. McGavin also had a memorable role as the father in A Christmas Story (1983) and there is a website about him here.

Ellen Corby (1911-1999) portrays Maggie; born Ellen Hansen, she started out as a script girl in Hollywood and played many uncredited roles on film from 1928 until she got her first screen credit in 1948. Her career continued until 1997 and included appearances on Thriller, Batman, The Odd Couple, and Night Gallery. She was in Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958) and she was featured in five episodes of the Hitchcock TV show, including "Party Line." She is best remembered for her role as Grandma Walton on The Waltons (1972-1980), for which she won three Emmy Awards.

Casey MacGregor as Ben
Finally, Casey MacGregor (1904-1988) plays Ben; he was on screen from 1942 to 1971 and this was his only appearance on the Hitchcock TV show.

There were not very many Westerns in the ten-year run of Alfred Hitchcock Presents/The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. In the fall of 1955, when the series premiered and "Triggers in Leash" was broadcast, there were a number of Western series running on prime-time TV, including Cheyenne, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, The Lone Ranger, and Gunsmoke, but the television landscape was not yet overrun with Western shows as it would be later in the decade. The film, High Noon, had been released a few years before, in 1952, and won four Oscars in 1953; perhaps it was the memory of this classic that led Dick Carr to alter the timing of the clock in "Triggers in Leash" so that the hands creep toward noon as the show progresses.

Watch "Triggers in Leash" online here or buy the DVD here


Elston, Allan Vaughan. "Triggers in Leash." Alfred Hitchcock's Fireside Book of Suspense. Ed. Alfred Hitchcock. NY: Simon & Schuster, 1947. 215-224.


Galactic Central,

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



"Triggers in Leash." Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 1, episode 3, CBS, 16 October 1955.


Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "Triggers in Leash" here!

In two weeks: Our series on Dick Carr concludes with a look at "Salvage," starring Gene Barry and Nancy Gates!

Monday, September 18, 2023

Journey Into Strange Tales Issue 95: Atlas/Marvel Horror


The Marvel/Atlas 
Horror Comics
Part 80
March 1955 
by Peter Enfantino
and Jack Seabrook

Journey Into Mystery 23
Cover by Carl Burgos

“Gone… But Not Forgotten?” (a: John Forte) ★★1/2
“Yvette” (a: Marvin Stein) ★★
“Revenge!” (a: Ed Winiarski) ★★★
“The Doll House!” (a: Gene Colan) ★★1/2
“Clinging Vine” (a: Manny Stallman) ★★1/2

An ocean liner magically appears in the middle of Times Square and major New York landmarks are disappearing into thin air. The world’s biggest brains have no answer for these paranormal phenomena. What no one knows is that a precocious alien child from another galaxy is popping onto Earth and stealing these objects for his playroom. “Gone… But Not Forgotten?” is a fun fantasy yarn, but you have to ask yourself (and direct the question toward our uncredited writer as well), “How come no one sees a really big kid standing over the buildings before they vanish?”

Two ghosts search the streets of post-World War II Paris for each other in the maudlin “Yvette.” This was Marvin Stein’s first contribution to the Atlas horror/sf titles, with twelve more to follow. Much better (at least script-wise) is “Revenge,” this issue’s Red Scare fable. Former Kremlin police chief Noris Vasily is tossed into a labor camp for traitors. As he sulks, he sees the man who turned him in, Ivan Gregorivitch, marched in as well.

From that moment on, Vasily’s only focus is killing his betrayer. One night, Vasily sees Gregorivitch marched into a small cabin and recognizes his best chance at evening up the score. He sneaks into the building and stabs Ivan to death. Too late, Vasily realizes he followed his enemy into the gas chamber. At least one thing will remain constant as we slip away from the pre-code and gird ourselves for the post-code years: the big, bad commies. Winiarski’s art remains crude but, at times, effective.

With the coming of the code and the banishment of werewolves, vampires, and other nasty juvenile-delinquency feeders, Stan and the boys were forced to come up with new ideas focusing on psychology and the spirit world. Paul S. Newman’s “The Doll House” is a perfect example of the new norm. Twelve-year old Nancy is still obsessed with her childhood doll house and its occupants and that makes her parents nervous. They take the house away from their daughter and place it in storage in the attic. A decade later, a newly-wed Nancy returns to the attic to find the dolls inside have aged and the house has become run-down and decrepit. The finale is too abrupt (but, of course, we are talking about a four-page strip here) and the startling revelation is left unexamined, but “The Doll House” succeeds because of its eerie atmosphere.

Orde Wilson is convinced that mankind’s next great war will be with ivy! The “Clinging Vine,” Orde claims, has a brain and is plotting the takeover of Earth. Orde details the history of ivy to anyone who will listen but, usually, the reaction is laughter, not awe. Finally, Orde goes too far when he attacks a wall of ivy and is arrested. That night, our unsung hero is strangled in his cell; the authorities have no idea who the culprit is, even as tendrils of ivy pull back through the jailhouse window. Another fanciful yarn, with some solid Stallman graphics, but too much of this reads like a Wikipedia entry on ivy.-Peter

Marvel Tales 132
Cover by Sol Brodsky

“Poison Pen!” (a: John Tartaglione) ★★

“The Old Couple!” (a: Sid Greene) ★★

(r: Tomb of Darkness #23)

“Hail the Hero” (a: Robert Q. Sale) ★★★★

“The Man Who Lost Yesterday!” (a: Ed Winiarski) 1/2

“The Man Who Wasn’t” (a: Dick Ayers) 1/2

Cal Collins is New York’s most popular gossip columnist; his “Poison Pen!” can make a star or destroy a life. Now Cal has set his sights on the daughter of a disgraced accountant who committed suicide years before. While working on the piece, Cal is approached by a man who claims he can predict events yet to happen. After a few predictions come true, Cal begins to rely more and more on the stranger’s fortune telling. Bad idea. Collins gets his comeuppance in the predictable finale.

Bessie and John fall asleep in front of the fire while remembering the good old days. Bessie wakes up from her nap, but John has drifted into the eternal sleep, never to awaken. After a brief viewing ceremony, Bessie is left alone with John’s corpse in her living room. Feeling a chill, she descends into the basement to bring up more wood for the fire. There, she sees a younger John beckoning to his wife to join him. “The Old Couple” are reunited again!

Odd that John’s body would be left with Bessie rather than sent to the mortuary or on to the cemetery and even odder that the casket is left open. The climax, where John convinces Bessie that the “other side” is a better place, opens up a can of worms as well. Did Bessie’s heart coincidentally give out or did she commit suicide? Sid Greene’s graphics are reminiscent of Colan’s.

In the future, spacemen are not allowed to marry. That causes some discomfort for Desmond, the world’s most adept outer space pilot, who has fallen in love with the gorgeous Dina. In steps Desmond’s best buddy, Clarke, who convinces Desmond to forget Dina and concentrate on chasing immortality. That’s, of course, because Clarke has fallen hard for the fetching femme. Desmond blasts off for the moon and then to Mars and then to Saturn and on and on while Clarke stays back on Earth and marries Dina. Years later, jobless and married to an overweight couch potato, Clarke stares out the window and wonders what might have been.

Though the code has clipped the violence and monsters from the Atlas stable, it hasn’t yet diminished the acidic wit the bullpen could write into their scripts from time to time. Clarke’s closing monologue (”What a fool I was!… All because of a woman… a woman who turned into a shrew, who aged quickly, who speaks only of Desmond and looks on me as a worm!”) is more effective poetic justice than a dozen resurrected corpses. “Hail the Hero” is a darkly funny sci-fi tale with some nice Sale art.

In “The Man Who Lost Yesterday,” a murderer tries to remember what happened after he rubbed out his business partner. The fog clears when he realizes he’s a ghost, killed by police while fleeing the scene. Equally disappointing (and confusing to boot) is “The Man Who Wasn’t,” which spotlights Charlie Correl, an inventor working on a new toy rocket. Charlie is aided by his next-door neighbor, the mysterious Mr. Manley who, we later find out, is from the future. Scientists have sent Manley back into the past to help invent a new “principle of levitation” and stall the end of mankind. I’d tell you more but it’s not really worth it and, to be honest, I didn’t quite understand Manley’s logic anyway. In the trivia department, “The Man Who Wasn’t” might well be the most over-used (and dumb) title in the Atlas horror/sci-fi titles, having been utilized at least three times prior.-Peter

Mystery Tales 27
Cover by Joe Maneely

“The Buildings That Vanished!” (a: Dick Ayers & Ernie Bache) 

“Feet of Clay” (a: Ross Andru and & Mike Esposito) 

“Costume Party” (a: Ed Winiarski) ★1/2

“Lonely Hearts” (a: John Forte) ★1/2

“Welcome Home!” (a: Al Hartley) ★1/2

Citizens are understandably concerned about "The Buildings That Vanished!" It starts with skyscrapers and moves out into the suburbs, where serene homes crumble to dust. Only Alex Conrad isn't panicking, since he knows the truth: he developed indestructible building materials and partnered with an entomologist who has developed a line of brick-eating termites. Conrad lets the termites loose, certain that they'll destroy old buildings and he can make a mint selling his product. Sadly, he locks himself in one of his own indestructible buildings and leaves the key outside; the building is also soundproof, so no one hears his cries for help. Years later, he sits alone, a bitter old man, watching cars speed by on the highway built after the government paid everyone to move out of the town just as the termites devoured its buildings.

Dick Ayers and Ernie Bache show the influence of EC artists in this tale of poetic justice; the profile of the entomologist at the bottom of page three looks like it was drawn by someone from EC and, in the following panel, his entire head is colored red to signal his malevolence. The story depends on some huge coincidences but, for five pages, it's surprisingly effective.

Shorty Smith is a nerd who has never had a date and spends his evenings peering at couples making out in the park. A guy named Harry promises Shorty a date the next evening, but the gal turns out to be a mannequin. Shorty takes Mildred home and attempts to will her to life, but instead he becomes a statue.

The highlight of "Feet of Clay" is the early art by Andru and Esposito, who have yet to develop the annoying style that they would exhibit in DC war comics and Spider-Man comics in the '60s and '70s. The punch line, which is the point of all of these stories, is a letdown.

At a "Costume Party" meeting of the Science-Fiction Cartoonists League, the guests are all dressed like aliens from other planets. League President Burke shows up in a suit and tie and explains that aliens would surely arrive disguised as humans. His fellow members toss him into the backyard pool, only to see another alien arrive. He is unmasked as Burke, and they see a spaceship taking off from the pool.

Was anyone surprised that the person who claimed to be Burke was really an alien? If so, you haven't been paying attention to the many prior comic stories that used the same twist.

Virginia is a sexy chorus girl who makes no secret that she wants a man with money. She answers an ad in the "Lonely Hearts" column in the paper and is matched up with a fabulously wealthy Martian; he puts a tentacle around her waist and leads her to his spaceship.

John Forte can sure draw a sexy chorus girl! His Martian is pretty funny, too. Virginia gets what she wants, I guess!

It's a surprisingly pleasant "Welcome Home!" for Captain Thomas Elwood after the rocket ship he's piloting crash lands on Earth. Why, everything is just the way he remembered it from childhood! Too bad it's a dream and he's really dead, just like the rest of his crew.

Another tale told way too often, this one ends curiously. Elwood returns home and is welcomed, then remembers that everyone died long ago. He learns he is dead, but then in the last panel he's suddenly a little boy again. Huh?-Jack

Mystic 36 
Cover by Carl Burgos

“The Warning!” 
“Which Wish, Dish…?” (a: Jay Scott Pike) ★★1/2

(r: Journey Into Mystery #15)

“The Hands of the Clock!” (a: Art Peddy)

“The Eavesdropper!” (a: Vince Colletta)

(r: Dead of Night #8)

“The World Champion” 1/2

Cal Kemp warns the President of the United States that Venusians have landed and plan to conquer Earth. At first skeptical, the President becomes a believer when he has his Defense Secretary check the situation out. When the Army approaches the landed spacecraft, they are fired upon but, after a fierce battle, humankind has eradicated the Venusian threat. Cal then goes back to his spaceship to alert Jupiter that Earth is ripe for the picking.

The first story of the final issue of the pre-code era, “The Warning!” feels just like one of the stories that will appear in the post-code era: bland, lifeless, and safe. The UFO design is ripped off from George Pal’s The War of the Worlds, the art is sketchy and amateurish (though uncredited, the artist seems to have taken some inspiration from Bernie Krigstein), and the plot and reveal have been milked so many times it almost seems fresh.

Mary is startled to see that her old friend, Helen, who used to beg for loans, is now loaded with cash. What’s her secret? Helen won’t tell, so Mary follows her and discovers that this newfound wealth is due to Helen having saved a blind beggar’s life and being granted one wish. Not one for originality (or working for an honest buck), Mary arranges for a near-accident and she’s in the right place at the right time to save the blind beggar. When the man grants her one wish, Mary wishes she was the “most beautiful and richest queen of them all!” Suddenly, Mary is hurtled back through the ages and finds herself sitting on a throne. Mary’s ecstatic until she exits the castle and an unruly mob rushes Marie Antoinette to the guillotine.

“Which Wish, Dish…?” contains some nice Jay Scott Pike art and a clever twist, but I’d like to know exactly how Helen phrased her wish. This was Pike’s 15th and final pre-code tale, but the artist would go on to contribute 15 more times during the Atlas/Marvel post-code years of 1955-57.

Ludwig, the clockmaker, goes on a rampage and almost murders one of his customers for abusing his clock. Later, after the police leave, Ludwig breaks into the man’s house to “feed” the clock and is arrested. Behind bars, Ludwig dies and the medical examiner discovers that the dead man is a clock as well. Ludicrous and, like “The Warning,” a tale told way too many times. Even more dull is “The Eavesdropper,” wherein a con man overhears a planned murder and attempts to blackmail the would-be assassins. Of course, in the climactic panel, we discover the dope has eavesdropped on his own murder. Artist Vince Colletta was just getting his start at Atlas when the bottom dropped out. He had a total of 10 stories appear in the various titles and would see 11 more tales of mystery and suspense in Atlas’s post-code material. Of course, Colletta went on to fame as a big-name inker at both Marvel and DC (enjoying a very long stint as Jack Kirby’s assistant on Journey Into Mystery/The Mighty Thor) for more than two decades.

When one athlete wins every event in the Olympics, thousands cheer in admiration until the man opens his mouth and reveals he’s a Martian. The Red Planet deemed it a good idea to show what stamina their inhabitants possess before the big invasion. But when a female fan lays a big kiss on “The World Champion,” he drops dead from the bacteria. The War of the Worlds is shamelessly plagiarized not once but twice in the same issue! To anyone paying attention, gone were the zombies, werewolves, and vengeful corpses. The artistic pabulum courtesy of the post-Senate hearings had been fully introduced.-Peter

Uncanny Tales 29
Cover by Carl Burgos

“Only One to a Customer” (a: Sy Moskowitz)
(r: Vault of Evil #12) 
“The Albatross!” (a: Pete Tumlinson) ★1/2
(r: Vault of Evil #14)
“The Barefoot Man” (a: Robert Q. Sale) ★1/2
(r: Giant-Size Werewolf #2)
“Deep Down” (a: Art Peddy) 
(r: Dead of Night #5)
“Sarah” (a: Joe Sinnott) ★1/2
(r: Dead of Night #6)

A sidewalk toy salesman thinks he's hit it big when he finds a bunch of self-winding mechanical men. He charges fifty cents a piece and sells out, but that night he discovers more toy men in his valise then he thought he had. Back on the street the next day, his customers from the day before complain that the toys walked off on their own! He runs down an alley, the valise falls open, and one of the toy men shoots him with a ray gun. Next thing he knows, he's on another planet being sold as a unique mechanical giant toy!

"Only One to a Customer" starts out intriguingly and then flubs the ending, a twist that would be reused in several years on The Twilight Zone in "People Are Alike All Over." Unfortunately, Sy Moskowitz has an art style that can charitably be described as "underground," with his main character looking like something Robert Crumb might draw.

"The Albatross!" retells "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" with a modern-day crew. Pete Tumlinson's art is average at best and the only "uncanny" thing about this tale is that the seaman telling it turns out to be a ghost at the end. Yawn.

Pablo, "The Barefoot Man," wishes he had a pair of boots. Oh, the places he could go and the things he could do if only he were shod! One day, he murders a traveler on the road and steals the man's fine boots. He is soon apprehended by Federales, who tracked the boot prints in order to catch the man who wore them--a robber and a murderer! No one listens to Pablo's protestations of innocence.

So far, these tales aren't very uncanny and the art isn't very good. It's surprising that all five stories in this issue were reprinted in Marvel horror comics of the 1970s.

One spooky night, a man walking through the woods sees numerous other men crawling out of holes in the ground. They ask for his help, promising to make him rich. He follows them "Deep Down" into a hole; at the bottom, he sees a huge nugget of gold. The men explain that the gold blocks the entrance to a cave that contains a fearsome Dragila and they ask him if he can figure out a way to remove it without unleashing the beast. It seems that the first man descended in 1899 and shoved the gold in place. Every year since then, he's come up and brought someone else down to try to solve the problem. After another year passes, the latest member of the club suggests that there is no solution and all of the other men agree and emerge from their holes.

Just when I think this issue can't get worse, it does! "Deep Down" features a ridiculous story, poor art, and an insipid ending. Can Joe Sinnott save the day?

Nope. "Sarah" is an obese, middle-aged woman who collects rare historical objects and will do anything to get what she wants. She hears about a sword that belonged to Benedict Arnold and, when its owner won't sell it to her, she returns at midnight to steal it. She opens the door to leave and is confronted by a well-dressed man whom she assumes is a rival collector. Sarah is consumed by shame and runs out to confess to a passing policeman; too bad the man at the door is just a puzzled French tourist who speaks no English and stopped by the house to ask for directions.

Hoo boy, is this comic bad. Sinnott's art isn't impressive, there's nothing mysterious or uncanny about this story, and the ending is just plain dumb. Should we go back to reading lousy Warren comics?-Jack

Next Week...
Finally, the Joker!