Thursday, May 30, 2024

The Hitchcock Project-Mink by Irwin Gielgud and Gwen Bagni [1.36]

by Jack Seabrook

A woman's misguided desire for a quick path to status leads to trouble in "Mink," an original teleplay by Irwin Gielgud and Gwen Bagni. In the opening scene, Paula Hudson walks into a store and asks a furrier to appraise her mink stole; she claims it was a gift from her husband and says that she needs to know its value for insurance purposes. The furrier, Leslie Ronalds, consults with his tailor in a back room and they agree that the item brought in by Mrs. Hudson is the $1800 crystal mink stole that they made for a customer named Mrs. Wilson and that was stolen from her two weeks ago. Ronalds calls Mrs. Wilson and tells her to bring the police, while he stalls for time.

Mrs. Hudson begins to get nervous and her story seems fishy as she tells Ronalds that her husband bought her the stole at an out-of-town furrier, she has no receipt, and there is no label on the stole. Paula is clearly lying, something she is not very good at, and the men in the store know it. Realizing that her story is not holding up, she rushes out of the store and the tailor follows her across the street to the Claremont (a hotel?), where he telephones Ronalds and describes the women he sees by the furs they wear: "the crystal mink ... met a full-length royal pastel."

Vinton Hayworth as Sgt. Delaney
In the powder room at the Claremont, a scene unfolds that seems like something out of another era as Lois, a friend of Paula's, praises the stole, commenting that "'I felt so sorry for you when you were wearing that little cloth thing.'" Clearly, a mink stole or coat equals status among women in the world of 1956. Lois adds, "'A good mink does more for a woman than a psychiatrist,'" suggesting that possession of a fur contributes to a woman's sense of self-worth and improves her mental health. Paula and Lois agree that wearing mink affects how people react to a woman.

Ruth Hussey as Paula Hudson
Two other women enter the powder room and sit next to Paula, in front of the mirror. The woman next to Paula admires the fur and then reveals that she is police Sergeant Bradford and that the woman sitting next to her is Mrs. Wilson, whose pilfered stole may be on Paula's shoulders. When the lining of the stole does not match Mrs. Wilson's description, Sgt. Bradford takes Paula to police headquarters, where she meets another male authority figure, Sgt. Delaney, the third man to appear in the episode, none of whom believe her story of how she got the mink.

Vivi Janiss as Sgt. Bradford
Paula soon admits that she bought the stole herself and lied when she said that it was a gift from her husband. Not only does Paula wear the fur to impress others and improve her sense of self-worth, she also felt the need to say that it was a gift from her husband. Paula tells Sgt. Delaney that her hairdresser told her about a woman who had a stole for sale and Delaney asks about her husband, whom Paula says is out of town, in Henderson, Nevada, near the gambling mecca of Las Vegas. At first, the viewer wonders if Delaney is casting aspersions on Mr. Hudson's character by pressing Paula to admit that he stays at a hotel in Las Vegas, but it turns out that, according to the sergeant, the mink was stolen last weekend in Las Vegas, despite the furrier in the first scene having said that it was stolen two weeks ago.

Desperate to provide evidence to back up her story, Paula offers to take Sgt. Delaney to see the woman who sold her the mink, and the trio of Paula, Delaney, and Sgt. Bradford go to an apartment, where they meet an attractive young woman who identifies herself as Dolores Dawn. At first, she says she recognizes Paula as the woman who was looking at the apartment across the hall from hers; she speaks in a breathy voice like that of Marilyn Monroe and explains that she works at a local store modeling clothes. She denies having sold the stole to Paula and now claims that she never saw her before. She also denies knowing Lucille, the woman at the beauty parlor whom Paula claims told her about Dolores and the stole.

Sheila Bromley as Lois
Paula grows increasingly frantic, revealing that she paid $400 for the mink and insisting that she bought it from Dolores. A trip to the beauty parlor yields more of the same when Lucille, the hairdresser, fails to support Paula's story. It's clear that she is being gaslighted and that there are two separate worlds operating here: that of the men, like Sgt. Delaney, Mr. Ronalds, and the tailor, all of whom think that Paula is lying and treat her paternalistically, seeming somewhat amused by her predicament, and that of the women, who meet and make deals among themselves in powder rooms, beauty parlors, and apartments.

Anthony Eustrel as
Leslie Ronalds
The truth begins to emerge after Paula and the two sergeants leave the beauty parlor. Lucille telephones Dolores, who is no longer putting on her breathy, innocent act; in fact, she is smoking a cigarette and tells Lucille that, for the benefit of the police, she "'acted all girlish and innocent.'" This scene presents a question to the viewer: who is in charge here, the men, seemingly representing authority, or the women, who have no trouble manipulating the men? Dolores hands the phone to Charlie, presumably the boyfriend she referred to in the earlier scene, but he is not shown on camera; the reason why will become apparent later in the show.

Back at Paula's house, the sergeants take her written statement and she asks if she can call her husband. She goes up to the bedroom to use the telephone in private and, while she is gone, Sgt. Bradford admires the mink stole, while Sgt. Delaney looks on, amused, and asks, "'What's mink got for you women, anyway?'" Paula comes back downstairs and says that the telephone circuits were busy, so she could not reach her husband. She tells the police to leave and they do, with Sgt. Delaney admitting that they can't prove that the stole is not hers.

Paul Burns as the tailor
Later, a man rings the doorbell and, when Paula opens the door, he claims to be Mr. Jonas from the Indemnity Insurance Company. He offers to pay her $600 for the stole in order to avoid paying Mrs. Wilson the $2000 for which she insured it. Paula refuses, saying that she wants to keep the stole, and he suggests that she unknowingly bought a stolen item. When she again refuses, Jonas admits that his real name is Charlie Harper (the unseen Charlie from the prior scene at Dolores's apartment) and that he stole the mink and needs to return it to avoid being sent to prison. Incredibly, he offers to steal a full-length mink coat from someone else and give it to Paula in place of the stole; he tells her a sob story about needing the money to take care of his sick child. This story is not credible, since he also admits that stealing minks is something he's done before, but usually he ships them out of state to avoid the situation he now faces.

Eugenia Paul as Dolores Dawn
The telephone rings and Paula rushes to answer it, hoping that the caller is her husband. She tells Harper to leave but, when she answers the phone, she is told that her husband still can't be reached and when she goes back to the front room, she sees an empty hanger swinging in the closet; Charlie has stolen the mink and run out the door. Resolved to her fate, she telephones Sgt. Delaney.
Later, the sergeant arrives at Paula's house and finds that she has packed a bag and is ready to be taken to prison. She asks if she can wait for her husband to call, so Delaney comes in and sits down. Paula blames her friends for what happened, explaining that they did not think her husband was a success because she didn't own a mink. Delaney surprises her by revealing that the police arrested Charlie at Mrs. Wilson's home when he tried to return the pilfered stole. Harper confirmed all of the details of Paula's story and cleared her.

Veda Ann Borg as Lucille
The telephone rings and Paula finally speaks to her husband, telling him nothing of her experience and urging him to drive home from Nevada, which suggests that the events of the show took place in California, which is within driving distance of Las Vegas. As Delaney is about to leave, Paula asks him for an apology, and he tells her that she is the only person who will ever know for certain if she bought the mink stole with the awareness that it had been stolen. The episode ends with a close-up of Paula's face as she is uncertain how to take his statement. Does she wonder if it's true? Based on her behavior in the fur shop in the show's initial scene, Paula must have suspected that there was something fishy about the purchase of the stole, but she convinced herself that she had done nothing wrong.

James McCallion as Charlie Harper
"Mink" is a well-crafted episode, a time capsule from an era when relations between men and women were very different than they are today and the popularity of fur coats and stoles among women was common knowledge among television viewers. The characters' behavior is foreign to today's eyes and the events could no longer take place, at least not as they are presented.

"Mink" was directed by Robert Stevenson (1905-1986), a British director who came to Hollywood in the 1940s. He directed movies from 1932 to 1976, including King Solomon's Mines (1937) and the 1943 Jane Eyre with Orson Welles. While working in TV from 1952 to 1982, he directed seven episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "And So Died Riabouchinska." He was best known for his work for Walt Disney, directing 19 Disney films, including Mary Poppins (1964), as well as many Disney TV episodes in the 1960s and 1970s. Stevenson later told interviewer Patrick McGilligan that his television work in the '50s led him to be noticed by Disney, and he went on to direct Disney's best live-action films.

Mary Jackson as Mrs. Wilson
Gwen Bagni (1913-2001), who co-wrote the teleplay, wrote for radio in the 1940s and 1950s, then wrote a handful of films and many TV episodes between 1950 and 1987. She wrote with three husbands in sequence: first, John Bagni, who died in 1954; then, Irwin Gielgud, whom she married in 1955 and who died in 1961; and finally, Paul Dubov, whom she married in 1963 and who died in 1979. She did not remarry after Dubov's death, but she kept writing for TV. She and Gielgud contributed two teleplays to Alfred Hitchcock Presents (see "Never Again") and her papers are housed at UCLA.

Her co-writer and husband at the time, Irwin Gielgud (1919-1961), does not have as long a list of credits as Gwen Bagni, having written four screenplays between 1949 and 1956 and having co-written teleplays with his wife from 1956 to 1961.

John and Gwen Bagni wrote a radio play called "Mink Gloves" that aired on December 5, 1948, on The Prudential Family Hour of Stars. The show starred Humphrey Bogart as a down-on-his-luck fight manager who sits in a bar and tells the story of how he saved the career of Johnny Richards, "the greatest middleweight in the racket," and wrecked his own career in the process. Nick buys Johnny's girlfriend, Georgia, a mink coat to get her to talk Johnny out of throwing a fight; the gloves of the title are boxing gloves. The show is lost but the script is in Gwen Bagni's papers at UCLA. (Thanks to Maxwell Zupke at UCLA Special Collections for providing a copy of this rare radio script.) "Mink Gloves" has nothing to do with the TV show "Mink" that aired on Alfred Hitchcock Presents; Bagni wrote the original teleplay with Irwin Gielgud, whom she married in 1955, the year after John Bagni died.

Ruth Hussey (1911-2005), who plays Paula Hudson, was a stage actress and model who appeared in films from 1937 to 1970 and on TV from 1951 to 1973. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This was her only episode in the Hitchcock series.

Vinton Hayworth (1906-1970) plays Sgt. Delaney; he started on radio in the 1920s, moved into movies in the 1930s, and then began a long TV career in the 1940s. He was the president of AFTRA from 1951 to 1954 and the uncle of both Rita Hayworth and Ginger Rogers. He was a semi-regular on I Dream of Jeannie from 1968 to 1970 and he may be seen in four episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "Night of the Execution."

Vivi Janiss (1911-1988) plays Sgt. Bradford. Born Vivian Jacobsen, she was married first to Bob Cummings and later to John Larch. She was on TV from 1949 to 1979 and appeared in a few films; she was on The Twilight Zone twice, Alfred Hitchcock Presents twice (see "You Got to Have Luck"), and she was the voice of Daisy Duck for Disney.

In smaller roles:
  • Sheila Bromley (1911-2003) as Lois, Paula's friend in the powder room; she was on screen from 1930 to 1975 and she was also known as Sheila Le Gay and Sheila Manners. She was in two other episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "The Evil of Adelaide Winters."
  • Anthony Eustrel (1902-1979) as Leslie Ronalds the furrier; he was on screen from 1936 to 1972 and appeared on Batman. This was his only role on Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
  • Paul Burns (1881-1967) as the tailor; he made a career out of bit parts that were often uncredited and he was on screen from 1930 to his death. He was seen on The Twilight Zone and in two other episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including a small part in "The Blessington Method."
  • Eugenia Paul (1935-2010) as Dolores Dawn, the model; born Eugenia Popoff, she was a dancer turned actress who appeared on screen from 1954 to 1959, when she retired after marrying Pep Boys heir Robert Strauss. She was also seen in "Alibi Me."
  • Veda Ann Borg (1915-1973) as Lucille, the hairdresser; she was a model-turned-actress who was on screen from 1936 to 1963. She appeared in Mildred Pierce (1945) and this was her only role on the Hitchcock TV show.
  • James McCallion (1918-1991) as Charlie Harper, the thief; he was on screen from 1931 to 1976 and appeared in Kiss Me Deadly (1955). He was on The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Night Gallery, and he also appeared on Alfred Hitchcock Presents in "The Hands of Mr. Ottermole."
  • Mary Jackson (1910-2005) as Mrs. Wilson, whose fur was stolen; she was on screen from 1951 to 1997 and appeared on The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. This was her only role on the Hitchcock TV show.
"Mink" aired on CBS on Sunday, June 3, 1956. Watch the episode online here or buy the DVD here. Read the GenreSnaps review here.


Bagni, John, and Gwen Bagni. “Mink Gloves.” The Prudential Family Hour of Stars, CBS, 5 Dec. 1948.

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



"Mink." Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 1, episode 36, CBS, 3 June 1956.


Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "Mink" here!

Listen to Annie and Kathryn discuss "Mink" here!

In two weeks: "Lonely Place," starring Teresa Wright, Pat Buttram, and Bruce Dern!

Monday, May 27, 2024

Batman in the 1960s Issue 23: September/ October 1963


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

Detective Comics #319

"The Fantastic Dr. No-Face"
Story by Dave Wood
Art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris

While demonstrating his brand new super-duper Rejuvenation Ray for a group of scientists, Dr. Harvey Paul Dent accidentally gets a blast of the ray and loses every feature on his face. He is now "The Fantastic Dr. No-Face"! Since Gotham scientists who become victims of their own research usually transform into thieves, murderers, or candy store robbers, Dr. Dent follows the logical next step: he begins torching famous art showcasing facial features.

Of course, Batman and Robin won't be sitting idly by while this Two-Face False-Face No-Face destroys Gotham's most treasured artifacts, so they hit the ground running, attempting to interfere with the madman's plan for destruction. Alas, all their hard work is for naught as the crazed eraser-head manages to escape time after time until, finally, the Caped Crusaders slap the cuffs on after Dent takes aim at Mount Gotham and its famous Batman bust.

But, unknown to the Dynamic Duo, this was Dr. No-Face's plan the entire time, to be arrested and let off on a "temporary insanity" plea (as opposed to pleading guilty and serving "hard time" in Gotham's penal system). That's because... Dr. No-Face is, in reality... criminal mastermind, Bart Magan! You see, Magan wanted Dr. Dent to erase a nasty scar on his forehead so the cops wouldn't be able to identify him, but Dent refused. So Magan, who took a little science in middle school, performs the ceremony himself (see the first paragraph for more details) and... no more scar!

Batman is way too smart to let Magan pull off his dastardly plan. Since the real Dr. Dent is afraid of heights, Bats had been more than a little suspicious when No-Face was high atop Mount Gotham and ran the criminal's fingerprints back in Gordon's office. Now Magan can only sit in his cell and await the plastic surgeon who might be able to bring back his face. 

I thought this was a pretty good little adventure, with lots of action and a couple decent twists. I'd love to know how Dent breathes, eats, and sees, since there are no holes on his face. No-Face has the same surname as Two-Face; just a coincidence or...? Are there any bankers, bakers, shoe repairmen, or tradesmen in Gotham? They all seem to be unknown geniuses working on some fabulous invention to better mankind. Do they all live in a development? Genius Acres? That's a story I'd read.-Peter

Jack-Dr. No was released in the U.S. on May 8, 1963, and this comic came out on July 25, so it's safe to say DC was capitalizing on the popularity of the new James Bond movie as well as looking back to Hitchcock's North By Northwest with the big granite face of Batman carved into Mt. Gotham. The twist about two thirds of the way through was a good one but the story then devolved into a talk fest till the end.

Batman #158

"Ace--the Super Bat-Hound"
Story by Dave Wood
Art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris

"The Secret of the Impossible Perils"
Story by Bill Finger
Art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris

"Batman and Robin--Impostors"
Story by Dave Wood
Art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris

The Bat-Signal summons the Dynamic Duo to the Gotham Ice Company, where the Logan Gang has been hiding out since robbing the Diamond-Mart last week. Batman and Robin are getting the better of two gang members when Bat-Hound suddenly appears, flying through the air and saving them from dangerous machinery with his bare teeth. Ace then uses his new super-powers to prevent the hoods from escaping!

Back at Stately Wayne Manor, Bruce and Dick wonder what's gotten into their faithful pooch, unaware that our favorite inter-dimensional imp, Bat-Mite, is back and decided to give Bat-Hound super-powers just to see what would happen. The Bat-Signal interrupts dinner and this time, Batman and Robin hang on to "Ace--the Super Bat-Hound" as he flies to the Dalton Mines, where a hold-up has just taken place. At first, Ace is helpful, but some gas fumes in the mine cause Bat-Hound to let the crooks escape.

The next day, Batman and Robin report to the Egyptian Import Company, where they encounter the same hoods who got away at the mine. Bat-Hound starts to round them up, but one of the crooks produces a vial of gas, and when Ace sniffs it, he turns on the Dynamic Duo. Bat-Mite sees that things are not going as planned, realizes the problem, and removes Bat-Hound's super-powers, causing the dog again to be an enemy of crime. The crooks are vanquished and Bat-Mite pops back to his own dimension.

Dave Wood delivers yet another terrible Bat-Mite story and Moldoff and Paris are uninspired by the insipid plot. Have I mentioned how much I'm looking forward to the New Look Batman in 1964? One thing that puzzles me is how Ace puts on his mask when no one is around to help him.

Matt Carter tells the Gotham Explorer's Club about his father's discovery of a lost golden city in South America but, without proof, Matt's father will never be admitted to the club's inner circle. Fellow club member Bruce Wayne tells Matt that his friends Batman and Robin will go to South America to help Matt find proof. Matt shows the Dynamic Duo a map that his father drew, depicting the Valley of the Golden City and some of its notable features, including the giant moving head, a dinosaur, and the great cat. What is "The Secret of the Impossible Perils"?

After a quick flight to the South American jungle by Bat-Plane, the trio locate the giant head, which isn't moving. Batman sends Robin off to look for firewood to cook lunch and Matt and Batman are set upon by natives dressed like ancient Aztecs. Suddenly, the giant head begins to move and to breathe fire; the natives flee in fear and Robin emerges from behind the head, having discovered a system of hidden pulleys and wheels that allow it to move. The next peril to be faced is a giant armadillo that looks like a dinosaur; after fending it off, the trio discover a pool of water that makes any creature who drinks from it into a temporary giant.

Finally, Batman, Robin, and Matt find the lost city, but it's made of stone, not gold--until the sun reflects off of a bronze mirror and gives the stones a golden hue. Back in Gotham City, Matt's father is welcomed into the club's inner circle, now that Matt and his pals have proved his claims.

Bill Finger provides a straightforward narrative in this one, though the "perils" don't seem very perilous. It's awfully nice of Bruce and Dick to help Matt and I can only imagine the number of robberies that must have taken place in Gotham while the crime-fighters were away.

Early one evening, Batman and Robin rush into a swank jewelry store, where they and staff take cover and watch as thieves pilfer the jewels. Batman tells the store owner that it's part of a plan to smash an underworld jewel syndicate, but it turns out that the Dynamic Duo were impersonators and the jewels are gone. A pair of crooks known as Spence and Li'l Red are "Batman and Robin--Impostors"!

Newspaper headlines alert the citizens of Gotham to be on the lookout for the fake crime-fighters, but Spence and Li'l Red manage to trick the cops and help their gangster friends pull off a bank robbery. The hoods plan one more big job and show the fake Dynamic Duo the real utility belt that Batman dropped by accident last week when he and Robin were battling an airport terminal heist. The fake Batman triggers a smoke bomb capsule in the utility belt and he and Robin overpower the crooks.

It turns out that there was no fake Dynamic Duo--Batman and Robin were pretending to be Spence and Li'l Red in order to recover the utility belt.

Holy cow, Batman will go to any lengths to get back his property! The best part of this elaborate masquerade is that Batman wears a blond wig as Spence and Robin wears a red wig and Li'l Red. Robin then has to put a brown wig over the red wig when he's impersonating Robin! This wasn't a good issue of Batman, but the next issue looks like a humdinger!-Jack

Peter- I usually complain that shorter yarns do not allow the writer room to invest in character development and concoct clever plot twists, but when the guest stars are Bat-Mite and faux-Caped Crusaders, I say "let's hear it for shorter yarns!" The most ridiculous, and therefore most fun, of the three mini-adventures this issue is easily "The Secret of the Impossible Perils!" It not only spotlights Robin's incredible intellect and quick judgment skills, but also raises the question: just what outstanding exploit did Bruce Wayne perform that he could actually admit before a panel of peers? That he took the subway to Wayne Enterprises one morning and stopped at Starbuck's for a Venti Frappuccino without being accosted by bums on the street? Seriously. And is that Gordon on the panel or has Moldoff exhausted his quota of three different character profiles in one issue?

Detective Comics #320

"Batman and Robin--the Mummy Crime-Fighters"
Story by Dave Wood
Art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris

While out enjoying a country drive, Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson stumble on yet another UFO crash. Since the hatch has conveniently popped open, the pair enter the capsule and find its pilot, an automaton, out of commission. Just then, a green gizmo atop the control panel starts clicking and then explodes in a terrifying ball of green light. Both awestruck individuals are bathed in the emerald glow and discover while driving home that their skin has turned pea green!

Realizing that this transformation might hinder crime-fighting and allow their worst enemies to guess their true identities, Bruce and Dick stage an elaborate ruse for the Gotham police at the sight of the spaceship crash. The duo use the "special effect lighting" stored within their utility belts to give off the appearance that they are shining bright yellow. Batman tells Gordon that he fears he and Robin might be dangerous to others and that the Duo must head back to the Bat-Cave to do some research. Gordon mumbles something about "damned UFOs and their space diseases" and heads back to his office. 

The Crow gang, however, react in glee to that afternoon's Gotham Gazette headline of "Batman and Robin Out of Action!" and head right over to the Gotham Light Co. (rather than, I don't know, a bank) to pull off a heist. Heading out of the building with dozens of LED light bulbs, the gang is terrified by the sight of two mummies swooping in on ropes (attached to???) to break up their party. "It's Batman and Robin! Wrapped like mummies!" says one brilliant henchman, as they pack into their getaway car. Despite the disadvantage of bandaging, Batman and Robin nab the bad guys and hand them over to the cops. On the sidelines, a very suspicious Vicki Vale wonders if it's just a coincidence that Bruce and Dick are green and the Dynamic Duo are playing dress-up.

Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, Vicki heads over to Stately Wayne Manor to grill her would-be beau but is stymied when Bruce explains that he and Robin are green while the Caped Crusaders are glowing yellow! The facts are out there for those with eyes big enough to see. Vicki admits the billionaire has a point and heads back to the office to work on some other headline grabber ("Does Liz Know About the Night That Burton Turned Into a Monster?"). That night, Batman and Robin have to quash yet another odd heist (this one at a steel factory) and Bats gets into serious trouble. Just as the bad guys are about to erase Batman from the world, Robin gets one of his bright ideas and unrolls his facial bandage, screaming "I'm radioactive! I'm radioactive!" The thieves get away, but the boys live to fight another day.

That next day, Vicki Vale is on hand for a four-alarm fire where B&R, sans bandages, save a bunch of hopheads who accidentally set their mattress on fire while smoking crack. [Huh?--Jack] She sees the heroes are back to normal and jumps into her sports car, destination: Stately Wayne Manor! She bursts in the door, shoves Alfred aside, and demands to see his boss. Bruce and Dick are enjoying a quiet day, reading the paper in front of the fire, when Ms. Vale races into the room, unhinged. Seeing that the boys are still green (and therefore can't be Batman and Robin), she harumphs and exits stage left. Later, downstairs in the Bat-Cave, Dick and Bruce laugh while cleaning off their green make-up. 

Not that these Batman adventures are intricately plotted, but "The Mummy Crime-Fighters!" seems to be more disjointed and random than usual. It's obvious that Gotham has become the go-to city on Earth for spaceships to land but, seriously, the almost qui s'en soucie attitude of Gordon and his non-existent police force is laughable. No perimeters around the crash site, no scientists, not even a "Yeah, This Area Might Be Contaminated--Who Knows?" sign.  And the World's Greatest Detective is more worried that his green skin might put a damper on his night gig than if his exposure to an unknown deep space virus might infect the rest of the world. Well, they did put on bandages, I guess!

For all her reputation, the matronly Vicki Vale seems to be the stupidest journalist on the planet (at least until Rupert Murdoch begins selecting new piggies from his sty a decade later), propping up her chin with a No. 2 and looking skyward while pondering 2 + 2 = giraffe. She's brainy enough to be the only one in Gotham who suspects Bruce Wayne might be Batman, but then constantly second-guesses herself over the stupidest things: "Well, yeah, dreamy Bruce might be the Dark Knight, but how can that be when he's still got green skin? There's no way that's make-up!"-Peter

Jack-This one would've fit right in with "The Strange Lives of Batman and Robin" theme in the last Batman annual! Is wrapping yourself from head to toe in bandages really the best way to hide green skin? How about tights and a long-sleeved shirt and a mask for the Boy Wonder?

Next Week...
Nature Strikes Back!

Monday, May 20, 2024

Journey Into Strange Tales Issue 112: Marvel/ Atlas Science Fiction and Horror Comics!


The Marvel/Atlas 
Horror Comics
Part 97
February 1956 Part II
by Peter Enfantino
and Jack Seabrook

Mystery Tales #38
Cover by Bill Everett & Carl Burgos

"The Man With Two Faces!" (a: Bob Powell) 
"The Ice Man!" (a: Bill Benulis) 
"The Searching Wind!" (a: Manny Stallman) 
"The Globes That Vanished!" (a: Al Hartley) 
"Lost in the Black Tunnel" (a: Tony DiPreta) 

Wandering the mountains of Tibet, really ugly sculptor Jon Carlton runs into a lama (not the four-legged kind) who tells him that beauty is only skin deep, ugliness is a reflection of the soul, and a lot of other mystic mumbo-jumbo. Jon balks and heads back to the States, where he discovers he can only create really ugly art. No one will buy his pieces and Jon is going broke. What he needs is a really good-looking woman.

Jon finds a hot dame in Marie Trevor, who is not only blonde, but intelligent! What a find, he thinks, but Marie would never date a gargoyle like Jon. Something has to be done, pronto. So the artist makes a mask and pops it on. He goes out socializing, hits it off with Marie, and before you know it, they're making wedding plans. Jon knows he has to confess about the big clay mask on his face because... well, you know, wedding night and all. So he tells Marie to turn her back and he whips off the mask, only to discover his real face has become the handsome Jon he'd only imagined. We'll never know if Marie was a superficial gold digger because she smiles and wonders what Jon is up to. If only she knew.

"The Man With Two Faces!" is another of these post-CCA tales that would doubtless have been completely different without restrictions. Jon, when it comes right down to it, is a good guy with a good heart (he's just a bit homely), so no real "just desserts" were on the menu. I'd love to see how long Jon's solution to his ugly mug would have worked in "real life." We never see him go back to his artist's studio and craft new masks every hour or so, but I gotta imagine after a while that face was getting pretty stiff. Poor Bob Powell; now that the comic industry has been gelded, he can't whip up the old ghoulish magic and has to make do with a whole lot of talking faces.

Deep in debt, 16th-century pauper George Wembly accepts an offer from King Edward himself and allows a scientist to place George into suspended animation. Four hundred years later, George is awakened from his slumber by a passing whaling ship. George vows to not slip into old habits of incurring debt, but when he falls in love with beautiful Eleanor, he discovers women of the 20th are not much different than women of the 16th. George grabs a rowboat and heads for his old iceberg.  "The Ice Man!" is a funny, sweet strip that I would call a "cautionary tale" if we men didn't already know. As with Bob Powell, Bill Benulis puts in extra effort even when it's a simple dialogue panel.

In "The Searching Wind," two 21st-century scientists theorize that hurricanes are plotted rather than random. When they take their jet up into the eye of the storm, their ship is forced down, but something is following them. Turns out aliens from another planet are testing out their weapons in preparation to invade Earth. The final panel, where the military prepares for space war, is a great wrap-up. I always like reading these stories set in the then-future to see how close the writer came to guessing how advanced we'd become. Pretty close.

All the globes in the world suddenly fly off their perches and head for space. Scientists are baffled until the orbs return and display a new world on their surface. The land masses are now underwater and the seas have dried up. When one of the eggheads spins his globe, a message appears: "The alternative to Peace." "The Globes That Vanished!" is preachy in a boring way and is caked with a mediocre sheen, care of Al Hartley. In the equally inane "Lost in the Black Tunnel," three thieves attempt to hide from the cops in a Tunnel of Love and stumble across a race of subterranean four-armed creatures.-Peter

Mystic #44
Cover by Carl Burgos

"Man from the Saucer!" (a: Bill Everett) ★1/2
"Those in Hiding!" (a: Bob Brown) ★1/2
"The Footprints" (a: John Forte) 
"Defeat!" (a: Vic Carrabotta) 
"Danger in the Night" (a: Mac L. Pakula) 

A flying saucer that's buzzing the skies over London has the populace in a state of confusion and panic. The alien vehicle also has everyone doubting the identity of their neighbor. In fact, over at the Soho Cafe, the waitresses and diner owner, Edwin Rudley, suspect that top server Flo's new beau has another set of arms under that marvelous suit. The truth is predictable. The plot and reveal of "Man From the Saucer!" have been done to death (and don't think this will be the last time we'll see them, either), but who cares when you've got the devilishly good art of Bill Everett to ogle. Everett's women are unparalleled in funny books. Don't argue with me.

In "Those In Hiding," John Carter is about to be operated on when he gives the universal sign of hope, the crossed fingers. Suddenly, the surgeon stops the operation and orders Carter to be taken back to his room. Later, the doc visits Carter and explains that he is one of the "secret sorcerers" that invented the magic that made airplanes, nuclear bombs, and porta-potties; Mark's crossed fingers are a sign to the sorcerers that they've been recognized. Mark tries to explain that he's completely in the dark, but the doctor is hearing none of it. He sighs, apologizes, and lets Mark know that extreme measures will have to be taken. Yes, I'm afraid Mark is put into a trance and wakes up to remember only a bad dream. Talk about brutality. These post-code villains were ruthless. As is Bob Brown's stiff and elementary artwork. It's not horrible; in fact, it's serviceable. That's the problem; there's no life in any of the panels.

Little Freddy discovers there are elves hiding in the woods surrounding his parents' property. He can't get his Ma and Pa to believe him, but he knows better. Meanwhile, one of the elves is trying to convince his Pop that giants exist. "The Footprints" is a cute little fantasy with some sharp John Forte graphics.

Retired army general Ryder spends every waking hour trying to recreate Waterloo, with Napoleon as the victor. If only Ryder were there instead of Napoleon. Presto! He is there and in the midst of battle. Can this old fart succeed where Napoleon failed? Spoiler alert: Nope. "Defeat!" is another anemic variation on the overused "if you go back in time, you will alter history" plot device.

The final story this issue, "Danger in the Night," is an overlong and weakly-scripted rip-off of Orson Welles's famous War of the Worlds broadcast. In this version, a rural police chief receives an airing of an invasion of Saturnians and alerts the White House. Inexplicably, the Air Force bombers are scrambled and army boots hit the ground in neighboring towns but, in the end, it's simply a dramatized invasion of Earth. This one from Saturn itself. Mac Pakula's art seesaws between sketchy and too heavily inked to salvageable in spots.-Peter

Spellbound #26
Cover by Carl Burgos

"The Things in the Box!" (a: Dick Ayers) 
"The Stranger's Eyes!" (a: John Romita) 
"The Brain" (a: Robert Q. Sale) ★1/2
"Prisoner of the Dwarfs!" (a: Art Peddy) 
"Beware: The House!" (a: Bill Benulis) 

A miserable, 35-year-old man named Jan Elliot works as a janitor and lives in a dreary basement room. A large box is delivered to him and he thinks it's a mistake, but when he opens it, it's a birthday gift: a Rejuvachange Kit, with chemicals to change his appearance. He mixes the chemicals, drinks the potion, passes out, and wakes up to find himself suddenly handsome.

A man with a white beard and a strange outfit appears and tells Jan that he comes from two hundred years in the future and the box was delivered to Jan by mistake. The wonderful world of the future was made possible by the Galactic President, the first super-being, and the bearded man was supposed to receive the box. Jan hands it over and the man begins to fade away. As he disappears, he explains that he is the Galactic President of the future and he's also Jan Elliot!

I know that's supposed to be a big, surprising ending, but I don't really get it. Jan took the potion by mistake and will now be a mutant who changes the world for the better and lives another two hundred years. That part I get. But why does the Jan of the future need to drink it again? Is it to become young and handsome again? "The Things in the Box" doesn't make a lot of sense.

Sitting at a cafe, Howard Gleason complains about being an ordinary guy. The man sitting next to him proclaims that "there is nothing a man can't do if he concentrates hard enough!" Howard gazes into "The Stranger's Eyes!" and rushes out the door to catch the last bus home. As he runs after it, he concentrates hard on catching it and suddenly takes flight! At home, his wife Nina isn't happy with the change in Howard; she likes him just the way he is.

The next day, at work, Howard shows what concentration can do. By the end of the week, his boss has given him a big raise and a promotion. On his way home, he flies over a railroad crossing and prevents a crash, but a policeman complains that he could have handled it without help. Howard begins to feel sad that no one likes him anymore. He discovers that the man at the cafe was Sabatini, the world's greatest hypnotist, so he visits the performer in the middle of his show and has him reverse the spell. Within a few days things are back to normal, until Howard is late for his bus and again takes flight.

It's interesting to see the 1950s' work of John Romita, since his style would later become so familiar. Here, some of the panels look a bit like the work of Jack Davis, while others hint at the future Romita style.

Professor Stowe discovers a large, strangely-shaped brain in a jar in his lab one morning and wonders how it got there. No one knows, but when he opens the jar, the brain disintegrates. Another brain appears the next day and, like before, "The Brain" is labeled, "Martian Brain." With the help of a scientist named Keller, Stowe studies the brain through the jar. Keller draws what a Martian must look like, based on Keller's calculations, and sketches what looks like a giant ant. Finally, Keller notices that the jar magnifies objects inside it by a thousand times, so the brain is actually tiny. It turns out to be an ant's brain, so Stowe concludes that Martians are ants. Two ants on the lab floor wiggle their antennae excitedly now that interplanetary contact has been made.

Yeesh! That was dumb. Hard to believe two scientists could study the brain so thoroughly and not notice the glass was really thick. The ending, where we learn that ants put the brain there so they could make contact with humans, is ridiculous. Maybe they could crawl under the jar and put the teeny, tiny brain in, but how did they write the full-sized label saying it's a Martian brain?

Park Ranger Dave Morrow becomes a "Prisoner of the Dwarfs!" when he seeks out the source of a mysterious forest fire. Underground, the wee folk show him a dynamite charge that will destroy the Earth if the dwarves are discovered. Dave struggles and suddenly finds himself back above ground. Other rangers find the dwarves' hole and the dynamite blows up, but instead of destroying the planet, it just closes the hole. Somehow, in his underground struggle, Dave changed the angle of the explosives and saved the planet.

Too bad dynamite didn't blow up this script before Art Peddy was assigned to draw it. We all would've been better off.

Jack Delaney inherits a big, old house, moves in, spiffs it up, and finds that every aspect of his life seems to improve. Why, the house even seems to anticipate his needs! He makes the mistake of bringing pretty Jane Farley home as his wife and the house rebels, eventually catching fire. The couple manage to escape out a window and, in the charred remains of the structure, Jack finds a wooden heart, cracked in two.

"Beware: The House!" is not much of a story, but I see what you mean about Bill Benulis's art. It's clean and reminds me a bit of Krigstein's work.-Jack

Strange Stories of Suspense #7
Cover by John Severin

"Closed In" (a: Werner Roth) 
"Old John's Secret" (a: Bill Everett) 
"The House That Wasn't" (a: John Forte) ★1/2
"Turnabout" (a: Ed Moore) 
"The Eyes!" (a: Vic Carrabotta) 

Val Kenyon is slowly going crazy due to overpopulation in the future. He takes a dangerous job in exchange for some privacy for himself and his wife and soon discovers that he is being trained to be on the first colonizing spaceship to the stars.

Werner Roth's art on "Closed In" is not bad--certainly better than I expected when I saw his name. I think of him as one of the X-Men artists I was never happy to see. The problem of overpopulation is one that used to be addressed frequently in science fiction stories but doesn't get talked about much nowadays.

Old John works in a factory manning a riveting machine, but he's poorly paid and makes frequent mistakes. One night he stays late to finish his work and there's a knock at the door. He admits a man who asks him to rivet together two split sections of a strange metallic plate. Old John tries his best, but half of the plate is held with broken rivets. The stranger is in a hurry; he grabs the finished product and pays John before rushing off into the night. In the driving rain, the stranger tears off his plastic mask to reveal that he's a green mutant from the future! He puts the riveted piece of metal in place on the side of a time machine and he and his fellow mutant take off for the future, having made note of the weapons of our time so they can later return and rule the world! Unfortunately, the poorly-riveted metal fails and the time machine explodes and crashes. "Old John's Secret" is that he'll never tell about the after-hours job he did, unaware that he saved mankind.

Bill Everett does a nice job with this one, though he doesn't get to draw any pretty girls as he did in "Man from the Saucer!" The story is one we've read before and the end is no surprise. The highlight is the panel I've reproduced here.

After arguing with his strong-willed wife Alice in the morning before leaving for work, Dan Reed returns home at day's end to find a duplicate house next to his own, with a duplicate Alice who is completely subservient to his needs. He quickly tires of her agreeing with everything he says and goes next door to the real Alice, grateful for her independence. He assumes he imagined "The House That Wasn't," but how can he explain the hair clip in his pocket from the other Alice?

John Forte's art looks nice on this four-pager, which is essentially just a series of panels showing Dan and Alice talking to each other. The replacement Alice seems like the ultimate 1950s wife, but the ending with the hair clip is unnecessary.

Lou and Emmy are in the attic, trying on clothes from 1910 and wishing they could go back in time and be young again. Suddenly, they begin to notice some unusual things. A grandfather clock that they sold thirty years ago is back in its place, the old telephone is hanging on the wall, all of the old furniture has returned, and on the piano is a copy of "Latest Hits of 1909." Emmy and Lou look at each other and realize they are young again and they're back in 1910!

Outside, they run into friends who remark about a wedding the night before, and Emmy and Lou hop into their old jalopy for a drive down the street. They return to the attic and decide they'd like to go back to 1955 but, no matter how hard they wish, they remain stuck in 1910. In 1955, another couple have just finished putting on unfamiliar clothes and look out the window to see a jet plane fly overhead. They realize that they're now in 1955 and happily exclaim that "'we got our wish!'"

"Turnabout" starts out charmingly, very much like one of Jack Finney's 1950s' time travel stories. The art by Ed Moore is clean but, like so many Atlas stories, the writer doesn't know where to go after three and a half pages and ends it with a letdown of a twist.

The day after he robs a store, Barney Harper hides out in a run-down room, afraid that the police will catch up with him. When he opens the shade to let in some light, he sees a detective staring in at him. The second time he looks out, he sees strange creatures watching him! Barney leaves the building, but everywhere he goes, the detective seems to follow. Upset by all of "The Eyes!" that he's sure are watching him, Barney turns himself in at the police station and confesses to his crime. The desk sergeant shows him the daily paper and Barney sees that the detective and the creatures were really giant balloons in the annual Christmas parade! When he's put in a cell, the prisoner in the cell next door has eyes like those on the balloons.

I was going to give this story a star and a half, mainly due to the art, but I let out a loud laugh when I saw that the detective and the creatures were really big parade balloons. A laugh is worth an extra half star, even if the writer blew it by tacking on a second twist that's less effective.-Jack

Next Week...
Jack and Peter will try to figure out
how the enigmatic No-Face actually eats!