Monday, February 26, 2024

Journey Into Strange Tales Issue 106: Atlas/ Marvel Horror & Science Fiction Comics!


The Marvel/Atlas 
Horror Comics
Part 91
November 1955 Part II
by Peter Enfantino
and Jack Seabrook

Mystery Tales #35
Cover by Carl Burgos

"It Walks By Night!" (a: Manny Stallman) ★1/2
"A Stranger in Our Midst!" (a: Tom Scheuer) ★1/2
"The Old Man!" (a: Gene Colan) 
"The Wrong Face!" (a: Bill Benulis) 
"Something in the Sky!" (a: Bill Everett) ★1/2

Poor old Dan Foresby. He loves his house, but the city has condemned the property so it can build a new super highway. Dan mopes until he gets a great idea: he'll hire a company to move his house to another piece of property. It won't be ideal but, hey, it's better than living in a trailer, right? 

So Dan pays to have 609 Hollow Grove moved to a nice piece of land and settles in. The next morning, Dan awakens to find his house on the edge of a river. But there was no river the day before! In fact, the whole landscape is different. But what's a poor old man to do? The next day, the exact same thing happens again; Dan finds his home has moved to a new locale. In fact, every day, Dan rises to a new view out his bedroom window. 

But when 609 Hollow Grove settles itself down on private property one day, that's when the proverbial poop hits the fan. The police are called in and, despite evidence before their very eyes, the cops don't believe the house has legs and a brain. When the police bring Dan back to the site, the house is gone! It's not long before the authorities track down the wandering abode; it's sitting right smack dab where it started. But now it's surrounded by the new freeway!

The cover illo for "It Walks By Night!" sure is a cheat, showing a mysterious hand reaching around a door. A year before and those fingers would have ended in long, menacing nails. In any event, the story itself is not bad; it's charming in its own naivete. I'm not sure why 609 Hollow Grove decided to move around so much; why not just stay on the new (legal) property until the freeway was built and then do your trekkin'? I love Manny Stallman's work, even after it's been neutered by the CCA.

In "A Stranger in Our Midst," a partygoer entering a masquerade ball is stopped for having the same costume as one of the other revelers. The house's butler stops the man and insists he leave and come back in another costume. This repeats several times before the butler gives up and allows the man access. But when a diamond necklace goes missing, suspicion falls upon the newcomer. He makes a quick exit and heads back to his flying saucer. Yep, he was an alien shapeshifter. 

When he discovers that he only has months to live, Professor Norton fears he'll die as a simple history teacher unless he can commandeer a time machine and go back to 15th Century Portugal and change history. Luckily, the loony scientist in the office next door to his has just put the finishing touches on the vehicle Horton needs. So he breaks into the lab one night and hijacks the machine, setting the wayback to 1490, with an eye to captaining one of those famed ships that discovered America. 

But who could believe someone who claims the world is round (certainly not Kyrie Irving)? Horton's promises of adventure fall on deaf ears and he dies without changing the world. Luckily, one man in the crowd listened to Horton's ramblings and thought there might be something to the story. That man was... Christopher Columbus! And the rest is history. "The Old Man" is worth a read mainly for Gene Colan's moody graphics; the story is old hat. It seems there was a scientist inventing a time machine in every town in the mid-1950s.  I laughed out loud when the time machine inventor said he's finished up but he's waiting for the Nutty Professor's Convention to unveil this earth-shattering and game-changing vehicle! 

A con man changes his face to look like that of the son of a dying millionaire in hopes he can reap the benefits of the estate when the man kicks off. Unfortunately for this dummy, the plans go awry when the dummy steals "The Wrong Face!" Like "The Old Man," the only positive is the art, this time by the dazzling Bill Benulis (who remains one of my three or four favorite "finds" during this journey).

In the finale, "Something in the Sky," Lewis begins his new job as traffic controller but is immediately thrown off guard by a phantom plane, which circles the air field in the heavy fog. No one can come up with a logical explanation, so Lewis and his comrades just monitor the thing in amazement.

Then, one night, a doctor drives up to the office and explains he's meeting a small plane on the airfield. Lewis insists it's too dangerous to land while the pea soup is so thick but the doctor explains that the cargo is a shipment of rare blood, needed to save a child back in town. The plane eventually lands and, in the distance, the pilot and Lewis witness an explosion. When they investigate, they discover an exact replica of the plane that just landed. Yeah, I was quite confused by the climax as well; imagine how the 8-year-olds felt. But the "Wild" Bill Everett art is aces, a throwback to 1940s comic strips. So, a very good issue for art but another step down the ladder as far as original, clever scripts go.-Peter

Mystic #41
Cover by Carl Burgos

"The Test!" (a: Dick Ayers & Ernie Bache (?)) 
(Reprinted in Chamber of Chills #9)
"They Pass By Night!" (a: Bob McCarty (?)) 
"I Can Hear You Think!" (a: Vic Carrabotta) ★1/2
(Reprinted in Journey Into Mystery #9)
"The Man Who Took a Walk!" (a: Robert Q. Sale) 
"One Who Dared" (a: Mort Lawrence) 
(Reprinted in Chamber of Chills #9)

Professor Marshek has been training hamsters to respond to electrical impulses. When they want food, they approach a door. If they receive a shock, they search for another door. Eventually, they learn which door is safe. Marshek believes that the survivor instinct will be passed down to the hamsters' descendants.

Unfortunately for this nutty professor, he's achieved success and then some; the rodents are just as intelligent as their tormentor and escape their cage. Working at night while Marshek slumbers, the super-hamsters rewire the entire house so that when the scientist awakens, he'll be literally shocked when he learns what his test subjects have been up to. Luckily, it's all a dream! But, to be safe, Marshek gives all of his hamsters away to good homes. The real twist to "The Test" is that, after the Prof. wakes up, the entire story doesn't start over again as in so many of these silly yarns. So, with a whimper, I guess.

As a married couple speed along Highway 13, a bus seems destined to crash into them. It doesn't help that Bea, the female of the couple, keeps harping on her husband to slow down, to stop at every way station, to avoid anything that suggests bad luck; this guy has the patience of Ricky Ricardo. What does help is that the aforementioned bus is actually cruising down Highway 13 on the planet Mercury! So, no vehicular dust-up. "They Pass By Night!" is an inane bit of fluff, written by our favorite pulp writer, Carl Wessler. Here, Carl doesn't seem to know what to do with the two vehicles, so he does the most outlandish thing. These Mercurians look pretty comfortable, considering the temperature on their planet.

For some reason, several children in the United States have developed mind-reading abilities. One of those is little Johnny, who amazes his dad by bringing the newspaper to him without the older man asking. Johnny does the same for his mom with some grocery shopping needs. Though Mr. and Mrs. Downes are astounded by their boy's new gift, they're also worried about what it will lead to, so they consult child psychiatrist, Dr. Wright.

Wright informs the couple that the same miracle is happening to several other families. At that moment, Wright's waiting room is filled with telepathic brats. A month later, Johnny confides to his father that he's just "overheard" a man thinking about launching a missile attack on America. Mr. D. contacts Dr. Wright, who informs the man that all the other children have heard the exact same thing! Wright contacts the defense department, which launches its own missile to destroy the incoming warhead. Ka-Bloooooey! 

Unbeknownst to the families involved, the entire event was staged by the military to test their new weapons, the telepathic toddlers! Paul S. Newman crafts a clever anti-war comic strip that doesn't end in a cutesy style, thank goodness. Stan must have been vacationing while this one was being put to bed; there are no evil Reds involved. Paul S. Newman also write the anti-war plea, "The Man Who Took a Walk," about a stranger who gains access to high security weapons facilities and leaves a formula for world peace and the solution to starvation amid the ticker tapes of death for any brilliant scientist to find. Turns out the wanderer is from Atlantis and he doesn't want the surface world to destroy his undersea kingdom. Hey, that sounds familiar!

In the gorgeously-rendered "One Who Dared," earth's population has gone underground after some cataclysmic event. Now, it is taboo to mention the "old times," but young Junar has an inquiring mind. He wants to know what kind of world exists on the other side of the emergency hatch. One day, Junar decides to give it a go. There's really not much to the story here but, as noted, the Mort Lawrence graphics are pretty darn sharp. Again, I can't help but imagine how different the stories would be had they been delivered a year before. Doubtless, little Junar would have encountered killer dinosaurs or walking corpses.-Peter

Strange Tales #40
Cover by Joe Maneely

"This Dark Cave" (a: Bill Benulis) 
"A Stranger on Earth" (a: Bill Everett) 
"The Man Who Caught a Mermaid!" (a: John Forte) ★1/2
"The End of Time!" (a: John Forte) 
"No Place to Hide" (a: Paul Reinman) 

A man emerges from "This Dark Cave," where he has hidden, all alone, for three years. Certain that nuclear war was coming, he prepared a safe place for himself, in spite of mockery by others in town. When he comes out, he finds the town empty, covered with dust, assumes the nuclear holocaust has happened, and rushes back to his cave, fearing dangerous radiation. He seals himself back in, planning to stay for another twenty years, having missed the sign that identified the town as a nuclear testing site that has been evacuated.

Not a bad little story, but the art doesn't do the writer any favors. It's a bit of a stretch to accept that the man doesn't notice the big sign; the caption explains this by telling us that it was dark and his vision was blurred.

Lok, of Tarsus III, an alien from outer space, veers off course when his ship is damaged. He lands on Earth, hoping to get help repairing the ship and looking for food. He is thrown clear of the ship in a rough landing and a bull runs at him, but a dog intervenes and chases off the bull. Lok communicates telepathically with the dog and learns that man is the dominant species, but when he approaches a farmhouse, he is shot at by the fellow who lives there. The dog helps him escape and Lok returns to space in his ship. He is about to shoot a ray that will destroy Earth, following a law in his galaxy that requires the extermination of planets whose dominant race has not reached space, when he hesitates, thinking of the friendly dog. Perhaps dogs will help lift mankind from savagery, Lok thinks, and the planet is spared.

I know Peter loves Bill Everett's art, and it's not awful, but it's nothing special in this story, either. The ending is telegraphed and the five pages pass without much of interest happening.

A pair of fisherman spot several mermaids frolicking in the water and try to catch one in a net, to no avail. Wealthy Jeremy Torgan relates the story to Joe Blair, who thinks it was cooked up for the tourists. Later, Jeremy arranges for a girl to be made up as a mermaid and dropped in the sea the next day. In the morning, Torgan's yacht is out on the water when a net is cast over the side. A mermaid is pulled in and Blair insists she's real, but Torgan orders her to be tossed back in the water. He tells Blair it was all a joke, but when they get back to shore--wait for it--Torgan is informed that the girl who was going to play the mermaid got sick and couldn't make it!

"The Man Who Caught a Mermaid!" follows the old "Banquo's Chair" formula from start to finish, though I wasn't clear on why Torgan plays the joke on Blair only to have the mermaid thrown back in the sea before the truth is revealed.

In the future, all of the clocks in the world stop keeping time. Everyone starts to relax, much to the chagrin of those whose business it is to drum up war. One bright fellow finds a reference to the last sundial on Earth and all of the computers are quickly programmed to take a reading from it and apply variances, but when everyone arrives at the sundial, a big, black cloud hangs overhead, preventing it from showing the time.

It's funny--John Forte's art looks much better on the mermaid story than it does on "The End of Time!" Could it be different inkers? The story itself is a throwaway and, fatally, the end is completely predictable. Once again, I'm puzzled--are we supposed to think that the cloud will stay over the sundial indefinitely? It's not there seconds before the men arrive to read it. Why not just hang out for a while and wait for the sun to return?

Judge David Reynolds is a tough barrister! Joshua Swift appears before him, charged with vagrancy and insisting that he lost his wallet. The judge sentences him to 90 days in the workhouse and Swift tells the judge that, someday, he may be judged unfairly. That night, the judge heads out of his house to buy a box of cigars and finds himself in the 17th century, where he is arrested by colonial guards and hauled before Judge Joshua Swift on charges of working black magic. He doesn't help his case when he hands the judge a photograph of his family and then lights a cigar with a lighter. Reynolds is sentenced to 90 years in prison and makes a run for it. He reaches home and is safely back in 1955. The next day he frees Joshua Swift, who hands him the photograph that the judge turned over 300 years before!

By default, "No Place to Hide" is the best story in this issue, even though the art by Reinman is routine and the story follows a pattern we've seen many times before. In these weak issues of Atlas comics, we have to take enjoyment where we can.-Jack

Uncanny Tales #37
Cover by Carl Burgos

"The Rescue" (a: Bob Forgione & Jack Abel) ★1/2
(Reprinted in Vault of Evil #21)
"Something Strange About Sarah!" (a: Dick Ayers) 
"Never Double Cross a Martian!" (a: Mort Drucker) 
(Reprinted in Weird Wonder Tales #12) 
"The Flying Horse!" (a: Ed Winiarski) ★1/2
"The Master of Men" (a: Joe Sinnott) ★1/2

In 1917, Sidney Collins is full of enthusiasm when he signs up to fight in Europe, but once he reaches the front, he finds himself lost and alone in No Man's Land. He comes upon a futuristic plane, whose silent pilot leads him to safety. Thirty-eight years later, he watches his son become an Air Force pilot and recognizes him as his 1917 savior.

Odd that an Atlas comic would start with a four-page story, since they usually follow a formula and start with a five-pager, but "The Rescue" is slightly above average due to the art by Forgione and Abel. The story is nothing new.

Fred Royce is a fortune hunter who sets his sights on Sarah Silvan, the only child of "the richest landowner in all Scotland." Fred doesn't know it yet, but there's "Something Strange About Sarah!" He takes her out for dinner and dancing, then follows her to London, Paris, and Venice until she finally agrees to marry him. After the wedding, Sarah's father presents Fred with the deed to a million acres of land, but Fred is surprised when the castle suddenly blasts off for Mars! It turns out the castle was a rocket ship and the million acres are on Mars!

The end of this story should win a special Atlas award for sheer stupidity. As I read it, the Silvans are not Martians and none of them live or have lived on Mars. Instead, Papa Silvan just happened to give Fred a million acres on Mars, so Sarah and he flew off in their castle/rocket ship to settle there. It makes no sense whatsoever. The GCD credits the first four stories in this issue to Carl Wessler, so that kind of explains it.

Bruce Dawson is so certain that Earth is headed for war, he resolves to leave the planet and head for Mars. He contacts Emperor Szh of Mars by radio and invites him to visit Earth, promising that his flying saucer won't be attacked. Bruce also asks Szh to bring a Martian gal along for Bruce to marry. Soon, the emperor and his daughter Aiila arrive and Bruce agrees to make her his bride. The emperor plans the ceremony for the next day, so that night Bruce and his friend Don steal the flying saucer and fly to Mars, leaving Szh and Aiila stuck on Earth, a fate they welcome. When Bruce and Don reach Mars, they discover that there is a war on with Jupiter and they are expected to fight!

Mort Drucker must have taken extra time with this one, because the pages on "Never Double-Cross a Martian!" look great. Aiila has short, curly, white hair, which is unusual, but then she's a Martian. The surprise ending is no big surprise, but then again, it's not a complete dud like so many Atlas twists. The writing, by Wessler again, is unusually good--witness Bruce's final lament:

"I've been a fool...I realize that now! I should have stayed on Earth and faced my problems, as the         others did! I shouldn't have run away like a weak coward! Why was I such a blind fool? Why?"

It's unusual to see something this good in an Atlas comic of this era, based on what I've seen so far.

When dimwitted Jerry Williams's horse, Peg, follows some birds off the edge of a cliff, she starts flying and lands safely. After some initial hesitation, Jerry realizes that Peg is his ticket to wealth, so he signs a contract with a fair and begins flying for crowds of onlookers. Everything is great with "The Flying Horse!" until Peg spots some racehorses and tries her hoof at that, only to be disappointed when she loses. Now that Peg won't fly anymore, Jerry sells her to a milkman for $26, says goodbye to the fair owner, and promises to let the man know if he comes across anything else unusual. Then Jerry nonchalantly flaps his arms and flies away.

Another nonsensical ending mars this silly, pointless story, which features mediocre art by Ed Winiarski. Why did Peg fly? Who knows? Why did she stop? Who knows? Why does Jerry fly? Who knows? And if Jerry could fly all along, why do we only see him do it in the last panel? Ask Carl Wessler.

Henry! Don't overthink it.
Henry Fritter is a government accountant whose humdrum life is upended when he discovers plans for an experimental spaceship that will be launched soon. He manages to sneak aboard the ship and it carries him to a planet where his every wish comes true. Eventually, he wishes for the comforts of home, including his annoying wife, but after a while they grow bored and wish their way back to Earth. The planet is lonely and wonders why they left.

The title, "The Master of Men," refers to Henry's final wish, in which he wants his wife to think of him as a master of men when they are back on Earth. I was expecting some sort of twist where they return to a planet wiped out by nukes, but instead we get these weird final panels with the planet missing them. The GCD doesn't credit a writer, but this sure has all the hallmarks of another Wessler dud. At least Sinnott can draw.-Jack

Reworked cover for Mystic #41
Chamber of Chills #9 (March 1974)

Next Week...
The Boy Wonder
Gets Super Powers!

Thursday, February 22, 2024

The Hitchcock Project-Irving Elman, Part Two-The Door Without a Key [7.15]

by Jack Seabrook
Claude Rains as Eldridge

The last teleplay that Irving Elman wrote for Alfred Hitchcock Presents was "The Door Without a Key," which aired on NBC on Tuesday, January 16, 1962. The show was adapted from a short story of the same name by Norman Daniels that appeared in the March 1961 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.

The story begins in the police station of Farmingham, an Eastern manufacturing town, where Captain Shaw mans the front desk on a Saturday night. A well-dressed man of about 65 years enters and announces that he cannot recall his own identity. He is given a seat, from which he observes the ebb and flow of events at the busy police station until an eight-year-old boy, who gives his name as Mickey Holland, walks in and sits beside the old man.

"The Door Without a Key"
was first published here
Mickey tells Captain Shaw that he has been living with his widowed father, who travels by car from town to town and who mistakenly drove off and left the boy behind. The old man begins to recall memories of his own childhood on a farm, conversing with Mickey while Shaw listens in and keeps up with the busy station. One of the men who enters lies about a parking violation, which leads Mickey to admit that he was lying about his own situation. The boy explains that his father took up with a new woman and dropped Mickey off at a "'home for kids.'" Mickey walked around for a while and ended up at the police station.

As Captain Shaw's shift nears its end, he considers his options regarding the little boy and the old man, who wistfully recalls a few details about his late wife. A few minutes before the end of his shift, Shaw decides to act; he tells the old man that he'll have to be locked up and he tells Mickey that he'll be sent to the home for kids. Suddenly, the old man takes charge, announcing that he is powerful Leonard Eldridge, friend to people in high places. He recalls that he grew tired of his busy, stressful life and had to get away. Shaw suggests that Eldridge take Mickey with him, check into a hotel, and have his staff come for them in the morning--the details can be ironed out later.

John Larch as Sergeant Shaw
When Lt. Brady relieves Capt. Shaw just after midnight, Shaw heads home, happy to have helped solve the problems of two people and sad to lose their company.

"The Door Without a Key" is a charming story about two lost people who find comfort and companionship together in an unlikely environment, aided by a gruff police captain whose years of experience and big heart help him solve problems in ways that aren't always by the book. The title has two meanings: the first is explained when Captain Shaw tells a story about the dedication of the new police station years before, when Shaw was a patrolman and Chief Rawlson was in charge. After the station house was built, the mayor presented the chief with a key to the front door, but the chief tossed the key in the middle of the road, saying that "'one thing a police station can do without was a key to the front door. It would never be locked.'" The second meaning is more subtle: the "door without a key" represents the old man's mind, which sudden amnesia has closed and which he can't find a way to open.

Billy Mumy as Mickey
The TV version of "The Door Without a Key" follows the plot of the short story in most important ways, but Irving Elman makes minor changes, deletions, and additions that make it work well on the small screen and take budgetary limitations into account. The first shot establishes the location by focusing on the outside of the station house at night, but unlike the short story, there is no narration to provide details of Captain Shaw's thoughts, so the story's explanation of his family and home life are omitted. Shaw has been demoted a couple of ranks to sergeant in the TV show; the first scene includes a second policeman, a lieutenant who is never given a name, getting ready to go home, and the inference is that he manned the desk during the shift before Shaw arrived.

Connie Gilchrist as Maggie
The lieutenant interacts with Eldridge when the old man first enters, immediately diagnosing amnesia and prescribing a trip to the city hospital. Shaw calls the hospital but the line is busy and so Eldridge must wait; none of this occurs in the story. The lieutenant's departure is interrupted by Mickey's arrival and, again, this other policeman, not Shaw, has the initial conversation with the little boy. The lieutenant tells Shaw to send Mickey to Juvenile Hall, so Shaw calls the facility and asks them to send someone to pick up the boy and drop the old man off at the hospital. Shaw lets them sit at a table next to his desk.

Budgetary restrictions come into play in the TV show since, up to this point, there are no other people coming in or going out of the police station. A new character is added to replace the crowds in the short story; she is Maggie, a drunken, middle-aged woman who joins Mickey and the old man at the table. The captain demonstrates his kindness when he agrees with her request to call her sister to come and pick her up rather than having a police car drop her off at home.

David Fresco
Another bit of business is added to the TV show when we see the policeman who brought Maggie in drop a few coins in an upside-down, old-fashioned policeman's helmet that sits on the front desk. Maggie gets weepy and Mickey backs away from her; she spends the rest of the show with her head down, asleep on the table. The next part of the show follows the story closely, even lifting lines of dialogue almost word for word from the story as the old man tells Mickey an anecdote from his own boyhood.

A delivery man arrives with food and drink for the visitors and the upside-down helmet is explained after Shaw tells the man to "'take the money out of Callahan.'" Shaw reveals that the helmet belonged to a policeman named Callahan, who is now dead; he would "'always pass it around for some worthy cause'" and they still use it to "'carry on the good work.'" This anecdote takes the place of the one in the story about the former chief throwing the key to the front door in the street; it's a good story but it robs the viewer of the explanation of the episode's title.

Sam Gilman
The next scene is as close as the episode gets to showing a busy police station on a Saturday night. Three motorcycles pull up in the alley behind the station, followed by a police car, and the three motorcyclists--two young men and one young woman--enter, followed by a policeman. They had been at a motorcycle rally in nearby Mayfield and are perhaps the least threatening trio of motorcycle riders ever presented on TV. They chat with Mickey and the old man and drink coffee, passing time until Shaw confirms by telephone that they are not wanted for any mischief and they leave.

The lack of a window into Shaw's thoughts makes his transition from kindly to tough near the end more unexpected than it is in the story, but Eldridge's memory returns right away and Shaw smiles, demonstrating that his seemingly harsh threats to send the old man and the little boy to the hospital and the Juvenile Home were really done in a last-ditch effort to get the old man's memory to return. The show ends with Mickey and Eldridge leaving together, followed by a scene that replaces the one in the story and wraps things up with a smile. In the story, Shaw is replaced by another policeman and heads for home, while in the show, a man named Harris from Juvenile Hall walks in the back door of the police station and Shaw tells him that he's too late, remarking, "'Better luck next time--those two got away" and smiling as the screen goes dark.

Andy Romano
"The Door Without a Key" is an enjoyable TV show that successfully adapts a charming short story to the small screen. It benefits from excellent acting across the board, with the three leads giving strong performances that are supported by a cast of mostly familiar faces. The viewer today smiles at the ending; allowing an old man who just recovered from amnesia to march off with a young boy whose father just dropped him off and drove away is not something that would be allowed today, and it may be looking at the past with rose-colored glasses to think that it was anything but fantasy in 1962.

The short story was written by Norman Daniels, which was the most familiar pen name of a writer named Norman Danberg (1905-1995), who wrote hundreds of stories for the pulps and the digests from the early 1930s to the late 1960s. He also wrote many novels, as well as scripts for the radio and a few teleplays. Two of his stories were adapted for Alfred Hitchcock Presents; the other was "Conversation Over a Corpse."  His papers are archived at the Browne Popular Culture Library at Bowling Green State University. In 1981, Daniels was quoted as saying that "I also have a number of TV shows to my credit—Hitchcock, G.E. Theatre, etc. This was, and is, the worst form of writing in history."

Jimmy Hawkins, Susan Hart, Jeff Parker
Directing "The Door Without a Key" is Herschel Daugherty (1910-1993), a prolific TV director from 1952 to 1975 who also directed a couple of movies. He directed 27 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents in all, including "The Blessington Method," and he directed 16 episodes of Thriller.

Claude Rains (1889-1967) was 72 years old when this show aired and he gives a wonderful performance as Eldridge, though his British accent is never explained. He seems distinguished, polished, civilized, and utterly believable as the character. Born in London, Rains was the son of a stage actor. He emigrated to America in 1913 but went back to Europe to fight for England in WWI. After the war ended, he acted on the London stage before returning to the United States, where he began working on Broadway in 1926. A film career followed, from 1933 to 1965, and his many great films included The Invisible Man (1933), The Wolf Man (1941), Casablanca (1942), and Hitchcock's Notorious (1946). He was in five episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "The Horse Player." He won a Tony in 1951 for Darkness at Noon and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Robert Carson
Sergeant Shaw is played by John Larch (1914-2005) in his only appearance on the Hitchcock TV show. He served in the Army in WWII and starred in a radio show called Captain Starr of Space (1953-1954). His screen career lasted from 1954 to 1990 and included a role in Dirty Harry (1971) and a stint as a regular on the TV show, Arrest and Trial (1963-1964). Larch is probably best known for his three appearances on The Twilight Zone, including "It's a Good Life," where he played the father of co-star Billy Mumy.

Billy Mumy (1954- ), who was only seven years old when this episode aired, is outstanding as Mickey. He also appeared in "Bang! You're Dead" earlier in the last season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. On and off screen since 1957, Mumy appeared in three episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "House Guest," as well as three episodes of The Twilight Zone. He is still acting as of this writing and a website devoted to him is here.

In smaller roles:
  • Connie Gilchrist (1895-1985) as Maggie; a busy character actress on screen from 1940 to 1969, she was in three episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "A Home Away from Home."
  • David Fresco (1909-1997) as Dave, who delivers food to the station; he was on screen from 1946 to 1997 and he was blacklisted in 1956. Despite that, he appeared in twelve episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "The Day of the Bullet," as well as episodes of The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery.
  • Sam Gilman (1915-1985) as the cop who brings in the motorcyclists; his career is interesting. He started out as a comic book artist for Marvel and Centaur from 1939 to 1942, drawing a text illustration for Marvel Comics #1. He then served in World War Two. On returning to civilian life, he became an actor and befriended Marlon Brando. He moved to Hollywood and got his first role in Brando’s film, The Men (1950). He went on to a career on screen that lasted until 1983 and he may be seen in five episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "Insomnia." He was also on Thriller.
  • Andy Romano (1936-2022) as Perry, the patrolman who brings in Maggie; he was on screen from 1961 to 2003, including an appearance on Batman and parts in eight episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "The Black Curtain."
  • Jimmy Hawkins (1941- ) as the lead motorcyclist; although this was his only appearance on the Hitchcock show, he was on screen from 1944 to 1974 and a regular on two TV series: The Ruggles (1949-1952) and Ichabod and Me (1961-1962). His final credit was in an episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker in 1974. His most famous part was as Tommy, one of George Bailey's sons in It's a Wonderful Life (1946).
  • Jeff Parker (1934-1984) as the other male motorcyclist; he was mostly on TV from 1961 to 1969 and also appeared with Billy Mumy in "Bang! You're Dead."
  • Susan Hart (1941- ) as Marti, the female motorcyclist; born Dorothy Neidhart, she was on screen from 1962 to 1971 and she was married to AIP executive James Nicholson from 1964 to 1972. This was her only role on the Hitchcock show.
  • Robert Carson (1909-1979) as the lieutenant; he was the brother of actor Jack Carson and he appeared on the Hitchcock show eleven times, including "Mother, May I Go Out to Swim?" His career as a character actor lasted from 1939 to 1974.
Watch "The Door Without a Key" online here. Thanks to Peter Enfantino for providing a copy of the short story, which does not seem to have been reprinted.

*   *   *

Irving Elman wrote the teleplays for three episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "On the Nose," "Murder Me Twice," and "The Door Without a Key." Of the three, "Murder Me Twice" varies the most from its source, taking the story in a new direction and changing the ending. Elman's episodes are not among the most well remembered of the series, but they demonstrate competence and a good ability to translate the stories from the page to the small screen.


Daniels, Norman. "The Door Without a Key." Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March 1961, pp. 151-162.

"The Door Without a Key." Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 7, episode 15, NBC, 16 January 1962.


Galactic Central,

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


"PCL MS 001 Norman Daniels Collection." Omeka RSS, Accessed 11 Feb. 2024.


Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "One for the Road" here!

Listen to Annie and Kathryn discuss "The Door Without a Key" here!

In two weeks: Our series on Calvin Clements begins with a look at "Beta Delta Gamma," starring Burt Brinckerhoff!

Monday, February 19, 2024

Batman in the 1960s Issue 16: July/ August 1962


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

Batman #149

"The Maestro of Crime"
Story by Jerry Coleman
Art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris

"The Invaders from the Past"
Story by Jerry Coleman
Art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris

"Batman Tunes In On Murder"
Story by Jerry Coleman
Art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris

A concert pianist named Payne Cardine has a bad reaction when he gets a poor review in the paper. His "twisted, brilliant mind" concocts a scheme that he soon begins to carry out. Wearing a mask, he crashes a concert and plays a strange tune on the piano. That evening, Commissioner Gordon receives a letter signed by "The Maestro of Crime," who promises to commit crimes and give advance notice, certain that the police will fail to stop him.

Batman and Robin enlist the aid of Professor of Musicology Ambrose Weems, whom they dress up in a sparrow costume to protect his identity. The Maestro succeeds in robbing gems from the Palace of Glass, even though Batman figured out where they had planned to strike and arrived during the robbery. The next clue leads to an Old West Parade, where the Maestro plans to steal gold ore that is on display. Again, the crook makes his getaway, and again, Batman, Robin, and the Sparrow figure out the next crime.

That evening, Batman pops out of a piano as the Maestro and his gang try to rob an expensive necklace at the exclusive Skytop Club. This time the Dynamic Duo are ready for the Maestro's tricks and capture him without much fanfare.

I like the way Jerry Coleman is writing stories with unusual villains. It looks like this was the only appearance of the Maestro of Crime, but I'm more interested in Prof. Weems, who seems happy to wear a sparrow costume throughout the story. In one panel, he is pictured sitting in the front seat of the Batmobile, dressed as a sparrow, between Batman and Robin. This seems to prove that, as of 1962, the Batmobile had a bench seat in front.

Strange things are happening in Gotham City! A medieval archer appears out of nowhere, shoots an arrow at a car, and disappears. A pair of armored knights appear at an exhibit of ancient coins, steal the coins, and make their escape in a railroad yard. Batman and Robin give chase but have to prevent an accident from a runaway train car and lose track of the knights, who disappear. Who are "The Invaders from the Past"? Is it all due to the work of Dr. Alpheus Roberts, a scientist whose experiments must have created breaches in the time-space continuum?

The next visitors from the past are a pair of Mongol warriors who rob a gem shop; this time, Batman and Robin are drawn away by a fire at a chemical plant and the Mongols disappear. A few hours later, two Vikings appear and drag the Dynamic Duo into the past with them! This is great news for criminals Ben Ryder and Slick Ronson, who discuss how the disappearance of Batman and Robin is an amazing coincidence, since the twosome faked all of the invasions from the past! The pair head to the lab of Dr. Roberts, thinking that his experiments will help them travel to the past to steal things, but they are met by Batman and Robin, who faked their disappearance in order to get to the bottom of the crimes.

This one may not feature any aliens, but it does follow the tried and true pattern of the seemingly inexplicable occurrences that turn out to have been masterminded by run of the mill crooks. I've read enough of these by now to have figured out that Batman and Robin faked their own disappearance, so the conclusion was no surprise. The art by Moldoff and Paris is routine at this point and does nothing to elevate the plot.

At a reception at the Jaharian Embassy, Batman meets a Rajah who wears an unusual ring whose rays are rumored to confer occult powers on those whom they strike. Suddenly, a ray of sunlight comes through a window, bounces off the ring, and hits Batman's eyes, causing him to feel dizzy. When he steps outside, Batman hears a fragmentary message from somewhere that mentions a murder that is being planned. He and Robin work out that something is happening at a radio exhibit and they race there; they fight two crooks but are unable to stop them from making off with the tiniest radio receiver in the world.

Another deduction leads them to the new city hall, which resembles a giant top hat; again, Batman and Robin are unable to stop the crooks from escaping. Fortunately, Batman tells Robin that he has worked everything out, and they later attend a ceremony at the Jaharian Embassy, where the Rajah is presented with the key to the city. The Rajah transfers the key to his representative, Ambassador Plethi, who suddenly says he has to go. Batman kayos him and reveals that the key contains the stolen radio transmitter and an explosive, all part of a plan to kill the Rajah in an explosion.

"Batman Tunes in on Murder" turns on Batman's sudden and mysterious ability to listen in on a conversation that is occurring somewhere else. This ability is given to him magically, by the Rajah's ring, yet it is never explained away by a mundane criminal trick. We're left believing that the ring really does have magical powers, but Batman seems unconcerned and the story ends with that issue unresolved. Will this power ever return? Doubt it.-Jack

Peter- As I note below in my review of Detective #305, I find Charles Paris's inking to be vastly improving, at least in the respect that it looks like he gives a damn. In spots, the shading is downright atmospheric. Panel of the month, for me at least, would be the Sparrow sitting in the Batmobile with his new chums. I love how Batman seems to think it's imperative that Weems be dressed as silly as possible. Robin shows evidence that, if he's not the World's Greatest Detective, he's certainly the brightest pre-teen in Gotham when he exclaims, "This looks like the beginning of something--but I can't imagine what!" when faced with a 12th Century arrow in "The Invaders from the Past!" The dog of this issue is the finale, "Batman Tunes In On Murder," a murder mystery without... ulp... a murder. It's a boring mishmosh and perhaps an answer to why we're getting so many stories about aliens.

Detective Comics #305

"Targets of the Alien Z-Ray"
Story by Arnold Drake
Art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris

"J'onn J'onzz vs. Futureman"
Story by Jack Miller (?)
Art by Joe Certa

Batman and Robin are chasing two bank robbers into the woods when they happen upon an amazing sight: a gigantic insect-like creature destroying trees in its path. Suddenly, two aliens jump out of the bushes and zap the monster with a strange lamp-like gizmo, but to no avail. The alien beast continues its rampage, taking its ire to a nearby power plant. After busting in and out of the plant's walls, the creature suddenly keels over dead.

Batman and Robin don't even have time to catch their breath when a brave officer of the law approaches and informs the Dynamic Duo that another monster, this one a gorilla with a bird's head, is heading toward Hillman High School. Wasting no time, the Caped Crusaders head to Hillman just in time to see one of the aliens they'd seen in the forest blast the birdorilla with the same laser beam. Once again, the creature seems unbothered by the ray and continues its onslaught. Batman dumps a conveniently-placed truckful of sand on the thing but it simply digs its way out. The world seems destined to end when the thing suddenly gives a sigh and drops dead.

The world's greatest detective opines that maybe the weapon the alien used on the creatures has a delayed reaction. Batman is reveling in his own brilliance, so he doesn't notice the alien tiptoeing up to him and Robin. They are suddenly enveloped in the deadly yellow ray and the space invader disappears into the woods. The heroes know they have only minutes to find their attacker and somehow reverse the process. 

They discover that the two bank robbers have stolen a very important part of the alien spaceship and are holding the contraption hostage. The only way for the visitors to board their ship and take off is if they kill Batman and Robin! But, with the help of their new friends, the Dynamic Duo regain control of the vital cog in the ship's engine and receive good news from the alien leader: they're not going to die. Our heroes slap the cuffs on the bad guys and wish their new friends a safe trip back to their faraway home.

I like Arnold Drake's scripts for the Doom Patrol and his late-1960s work on the X-Men, but here he's doing nothing more than commenting on what's going on in the panels. That is, when he's not overcomplicating things, as in the unnecessarily convoluted and complicated exposition in the last batch of panels. I will say, as much as I give Moldoff and Paris crap about their stick figure/no background art, this is probably some of the duo's better Batman work. Paris, in particular, looks like he might have taken a course in how to ink since the previous issue.

J'onn J'onzz is attacked by a man in a silly red jumpsuit and big yellow helmet who proclaims he's from the future and is here on Earth to arrest J'onzz. After the obligatory skirmish dies down and the Martian Manhunter has disarmed the fashionable bounty hunter, the two have a chinwag and J'onn discovers it's all been a case of mistaken identity.

The "Futureman" (as J'onn so pithily monikers the easily defeated super-cop) is here to track down another Martian, this one by the name of B'enn B'urnzz. With the help of J'onn, Futureman is able to track down B'urnzz (well, okay, it helps that the green dope was spotted driving down the street at the time) and puts the renegade Martian out of commission. I've resigned myself to accepting these Martian Manhunter yarns for what they are and just try to get through them. There are way too many coincidences for my well-defined funny book strip taste and the art is as simplistic as... well, DC art of the 1960s, I guess. I think I'd even take Frank Robbins over some of this unimaginative tripe.-Peter

Jack- Sigh...more aliens. Their process for killing the beasts and nearly killing Batman and Robin is awfully complicated, isn't it? I was most surprised by Batman's exclamations of "Great Scott!" and "Jumping Jupiter!" What's next--"Great Caesar's Ghost?"

As for the J'onn J'onzz story, I thought it was better than usual, partly because the Martian Manhunter isn't skulking around, hiding his powers. When I saw B'enn B'urnzz, I had to wonder if all Martian males dress exactly alike and are bald. If J'onzz can masquerade as a human, why not B'urnzz? It would have been a lot easier to avoid capture. I may start signing my name as J'acckk.

Batman Annual #3

"The Mad Hatter of Gotham City"
Story by Bill Finger
Art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris
(Reprinted from Detective Comics #230, April 1956)

"The Human Firefly!"
Story by Ed Herron
Art by Dick Sprang & Charles Paris
(Reprinted from Detective Comics #184, June 1952)

"The Mental Giant of Gotham City!"
Story by Edmond Hamilton
Art by Dick Sprang & Charles Paris
(Reprinted from Detective Comics #217, March 1955)

"The Joker's Aces!"
Story by David Vern
Art by Bob Kane, Lew Sayre Schwartz & Stan Kaye
(Reprinted from World's Finest #59, August 1952)

"The Gorilla Boss of Gotham City!"
Story by David Vern
Art by Bob Kane, Lew Sayre Schwartz & Charles Paris
(Reprinted from Batman #75, March 1953)

"The New Crimes of Two-Face!"
Story by Bill Finger
Art by Bob Kane, Lew Sayre Schwartz & Charles Paris
(Reprinted from Batman #68, January 1952)

"The Mysterious Mirror-Man!"
Story by Bill Finger
Art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris
(Reprinted from Detective Comics #213, November 1954)

Jack-This is easily the best annual I've read to date and perhaps the single best issue of a Batman comic from the 1960s that I've read! It's interesting that the two stories penciled by Moldoff--"The Mad Hatter of Gotham City" and "The Mysterious Mirror-Man!"--were the least entertaining. On the other hand, I loved the rest of the stories! Dick Sprang's art is a highlight in "The Human Firefly!" and "The Mental Giant of Gotham City," which features a lowly janitor whose brain and head suddenly expand.

I also really enjoyed Lew Sayre Schwartz's art on "The Joker's Aces," "The Gorilla Boss of Gotham City," and "The New Crimes of Two-Face!" In the Joker story, we are treated to a panel of a nearly naked Bruce Wayne, who lies sunbathing on a table. The gorilla story is pre-code and features a crook who is executed in the gas chamber before his brain is transplanted into a gorilla's body. Later, a scientist nearly switches brains between the gorilla/gangster and the Caped Crusader! It's kind of like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein crossed with King Kong and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Finally, Schwartz's art is a highlight of the Two-Face story, where an actor playing the crook suffers the same injury and goes crazy in the same way.

If the annuals keep being as fun as this one, they'll leave the regular issues in the dust.

The man recognized the world over as the "Greatest Living Detective" knows that the Mad Hatter is impersonating sculptor Brumer because the Real McCoy has a calloused right thumb, but he doesn't recognize the Hatter (with his wild orange hair and mustache) when the baddie dons a Zorro mask? Though he's clearly a bit unhinged already (who wouldn't be a bit doololly when your chief vice is a nice hat), the Hatter would become quite a bit more psychotic decades later (also more diminutive). My favorite moment of "The Mad Hatter of Gotham City" would have to be when Bats suspects the Hatter is disguised as an atomic scientist and Robin grabs the guy's beard. Oops!  Of all the Rogues, I think this character's design was the most improved when it comes to the '66 TV show.

The rest of the stories are just as delightful and all contain moments that shall linger with me for... minutes: The Mental Giant scolding Robin for the Bat-Cave's "poor wiring"... Bruce and Dick sun-bathing and Hop Dooley, cross-dresser, surely gave Dr. Wertham the cherry he needed for his seduction sundae... the giant gorilla busting through the jewelry store walls... the breakdown of Batman's Frog-man suit (complete with little pointy ears just in case no one recognizes him)... best of all, no aliens!

Detective Comics #306

"The Wizard of 1,000 Menaces"
Story by Bill Finger
Art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris

"The Last Days of Jonn J'onzz"
Story by Jack Miller (?)
Art by Joe Certa

Because of his rich ancestral history, playboy millionaire Bruce Wayne is invited to take part in the Gotham City Historical Society Pageant. He and Dick attend the opening festivities, in which a contemporary Gotham resident impersonates their famous ancestor in a recreation of an historical event. While D.A. Barnes dresses as "Bengal" Barnes and recreates the infamous taming of the tiger (in which "Bengal" tossed crockery full of water at a raging tiger and somehow tamed it), a mysterious needle is shot into the animal and it grows to ginormous proportions, menacing the crowd. Dick and Bruce duck into a tool shed and emerge as Batman and Robin!

With the help of a conveniently-placed crane (these construction vehicles are everywhere in Gotham!) our heroes lasso the tiger and save the day. Still, they're puzzled as to the origin of the offending needle. The next day is Bruce's turn to pay tribute to his great-great-great-whatever (none of these proud descendants seem to know exactly how they're related to these famous figures) by jumping off Gotham's highest bridge dressed as a bat. Yep, his great-great-great was the first Batman! As Bruce prepares to leap from the apex of the bridge into the harbor, a boat appears in the water and fires a burst from its lightning-cannon, shattering Bruce's wings and rendering him helpless!

With a daring and perfect gainer, Bruce slices through the water like a beaver's teeth through wood, immediately changes into his bat-suit (the real Bat-suit), and emerges with an empty sack of clothes, in order to fool the crowd. Bats heads for the offending boat but the thugs aboard hop on to skis just as the craft explodes. The Caped Crusader overhears the goons talking about a "professor" as they make their escape. It's at this point we learn that the "professor" is the brilliant scientist, Professor Hugo, who's a bit upset about being snubbed by the Gotham Historical Society. As he explains to no one in particular, his ancestor was a great warrior and deserved some acclaim. He'll make the whole world pay for the slight!

He pops on his recently invented "Brain-Stimulator," designed to increase his "thinking capacities" a thousand-fold. His forehead expands in keeping with his larger brain, and some might say the transformation has cost Professor Hugo his sanity! Back out of flashback-land, we find ourselves at the third day of the pageant (two disasters should never be an excuse to cancel such an important event) and Batman and Robin are monitoring the proceedings very closely. Suddenly, the Dynamic Duo are lifted bodily into the sky by invisible arms and whooshed to a secluded island... the home of Professor Hugo!

Our heroes are locked in cages and the insane genius informs them that the traps will slowly move towards each other and when they meet, the cages will drop into the water below, drowning the pair and effectively ending this blog. In the best 1966 tradition, Prof. Hugo says he'd like to stick around and watch but he has to attend to something more important. Incredibly, that task (just wait!) is to intercept a U.S. satellite with his Magnotronic Beam and transform the gizmo into a second moon, thus alerting the entire world to the birth of a new genius.

Said genius must not have made it through high school science cuz even a dolt would know that creating a second moon can cause disruption with the existing moon. Luckily, with the aid of a ballpoint pen, Batman frees himself and the Boy Wonder and diverts the deadly beam from its target. Professor Hugo goes straight to jail and Batman and Robin sigh with relief, having saved the world again.

"The Wizard of 1,000 Menaces" is goofy fun and I'm questioning whether I liked it because it contained no aliens or because of its sheer inanity. By far, my favorite scene would have to be Bruce's attempt to recreate his ancestor's leap from a high cliff into a river, wearing a low-budget bat uniform. How did the Gotham Society think it was a good idea to let its number one resident jump off a bridge into the harbor? Granted, we're told Bruce will be wearing "a padded suit to cushion his impact on hitting the water..." but what if said playboy billionaire should land on his head or trip while leaping and hit a girder? I gotta say, simply as an innocent bystander, I don't approve of the lengths the Society will go to to celebrate its history. Runner-up on the giggle-meter is D.A. Barnes tossing water jugs at a tiger. Tame or no, you won't find me doing something that stupid. 

While engaging in a series of battles with giant robotic animals, the Martian Manhunter seems to be losing his energy. Turns out a meteorite has landed nearby and the fire contained within its blazing outer husk is kryptonite to J'onn J'onzz. The crime boss (dressed as a cross between a circus barker and a magician, I think) takes advantage of the Martian's downtime but, thankfully, the meteorite finally burns out and J'onn regains his power. He puts the kibosh on the evil crime genius and his robot zoo and then has a laugh with gorgeous Diane.

Jack notes below how Joe Certa's art looks rushed, but I'd say the real rush here was in the script department. Once again, we're introduced to an evil genius who's taken his engineering skills and built incredible weapons, but why bother crafting such intricate phonies? The bear and gorilla both have fur! The buzzards can fly!  These bogus beasties must have cost millions. In fact, maybe our unnamed evil genius has to rob banks just to keep the Sears account up to date.-Peter

Jack-At first, I thought the Batman story was dopey, but as it went along, I warmed up to it. We haven't seen Ace the Bat Dog in a while, and certainly not unmasked! This is the first I've heard of Lancelot Wayne. It's funny that DC would run a story about a big-headed scientist in Detective in the same month that a story with another big-headed genius ran in the Annual. The end is kind of absurd--I wonder if Bill Finger was starting to figure he might as well try anything?

The J'onn J'onzz story was similar and a bit all over the place in that I didn't like it at first but by the end I kind of enjoyed it. Certa's art looks more rushed than usual and haven't we had enough giant monsters/animals/aliens/teapots by now?

Next Week...
Intelligent Hamsters...
The Mind Boggles!