Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
Formerly Reviews and Stuff at Rotten Tomatoes, 2005 - 2009.

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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween song: Numa-Numa & 'Resident Evil'

Shadowleggy and cartoon versions of the "Resident Evil" characters offer up a "Resident Evil Musical"!

Be a Ninja in 30 Seconds or Less

Halloween is here, and Michelle Phan has a last-minute quick and easy costume tip for all you proscratinaters. Or a quick and easy way for you to get ready for the Nine Days of the Ninja, which start tomorrow.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Time traveler or hard of hearing?

Sometimes, too much useless knowledge can spoil the fun.

A friend sent me a link to this video last night, because he's either heard of/or been subjected my love of time travel tales via playing in one of my roleplaying game campaigns. (I think he might have been in the game where D&D characters were sent back to ancient Blackmoor.)

When I saw the video, I thought, "Isn't that just a hearing aide?"

Many years ago, I did a little article on hearing aids for I-don't-recall-where-anymore, but during the course of that, I discovered an early development that had been created by Siemens in the 1920s. Back then, I even came across some old print ads that showed an elderly gentleman holding a hearing aid exactly like the woman in the footage is holding whatever she's holding. I spent entirely too long trying to find that ad online, and I discovered that the collective wisdom of the internet has once again sapped the life out of a really cool urban legend (and beaten me to the punch, once again).

While I never did find the ad I remembered, I did find this page at the Siemens website that has a black and white crop from the ad I had been seeking, as well as an image of the hearing aid that woman is using in the clip (I'm fairly certain).

While the cell phone tale is a cool one, it has an additional problem: How would a cell phone operate without cell towers and satellites? And while I'm thinking about it, could a cell phone even connect with the phone networks of the 1920s, with all of the hardwires and operators manually switching plugs from one outlet to another?

Of course, it that WAS a time traveler in the footage, it's possible that she came from a space ship or a TARDIS-like vessel that is itself a "cell tower" or "satellite".... Perhaps all of us non-imaginative nay-sayers have this all wrong!

Starting Monday: Nine Days of the Ninja!

Once Halloween is behind us, comes November, and the celebration of men and women who wear masks better than anyone in all of history: Ninja!

November 1 - 9 brings Nine Days of the Ninja, a blogathon that will span cross through several of my blogs and possibly even beyond!

If you want to take part in Nine Days of the Ninja--if you want to help draw back the curtain on these deadly and secretive assassins--assassins who may have killed David Carradine and who may have Randy Quaid in their deadly sights even as you read these words--all you have to do is post something Ninja-related on November 1 - 9 and then send me the link. I will make sure to post it here at Cinema Steve.

But if you fear the Ninja and choose not to take part, I can understand. But I hope you will come here to read and learn about Ancient Ninja Secrets (or at least check out the reviews I'm going to be posting).

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Scientists Find 'Liberal Gene' | NBC San Diego

Who would have guessed that genetics would become the foundation for the 21st Century's version of phrenology?

Scientists Find 'Liberal Gene' | NBC San Diego

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Alleged dirt-bag sues blogger for linking

There's a character in Canada who allegedly likes to use their somewhat wacky libel and anti-discrimination laws as a)a lottery, and b)a way to silence anyone whose views he doesn't agree with.

It seems this person is inadvertently revealing the so-called Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) as a vile bunch of speech-code enforcing thought police. The CHRC are willing participants in his outrageous lawsuits, to the point where he is suing bloggers for linking to articles about him and allowing readers to comment.

Blazingcatfur--a Candadian blogger I have no personal connection to, but who was a fellow traveler for "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day"--is the target of one of this alleged dirt-bag's lawsuits. You can read about the situation here:

Blazing Cat Fur: Richard Warman Sues Blazingcatfur For Linking To "Far Right" Mark Steyn

Blazingcatfur is seeking donations to help him with his mounting legal bills. I encourage you to lend a hand.

I'm grateful for living in the United States of America where, unlike in Canada, legally sanctioned bodies can't work toward this:

I know there are some dimwits out there who think that America needs to limit free speech and impose laws like they have in Canada. But if you actually use your brains for a moment, do you REALLY want it to be this easy for alleged dirt-bags to go after and silence anyone they don't like while pretending they are doing it to further human rights?

I hope not. But if you do, I hope you'll join Randy Quaid north of the border.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Hollywood Star Whackers prowl the night....

From the AFP...

American actor Randy Quaid and his wife Evi will Thursday claim asylum in Canada, saying they fled there in fear of their lives to escape a group they have dubbed the "Hollywood Star Whackers."

I find this interesting, particularly because I observed in my Saturday Scream Queen profile of Brittany Murphy that Murphy and her husband reportedly died of the exact same accidental cause. Which happened to be almost the same drug-and-illness related "accident" that killed the media-sainted Heath Ledger.

You can read the full article here: "Randy Quaid and wife fear for their lives, seek asylum in Canada"

Is there anything to this? Have some of the "accidental over-doses" that have befallen actors, musicians, and other public figures in recent years actually been murders carried out by some shadowy organization? And are these killers terrorists, devil-worshipers, or Ninjas? And when will there be a "Law & Order" episode ripped from this headline?

Or maybe there won't be such an episode, because anyone who contemplates making it will turn up dead from an accidental overdose of OTC cold medicines.

There is DEFINITELY a movie in this!

Myers he? Myers who? Myers ha-hah!
The Halloween Numa-Numa!

Best Part: It gives you insight into what Michael Myers does the rest of the year...

(I bring you this bit of silliness with inspiration from Dr. Blood and this post at his Video Vault.)

For more frightful Halloween fun,
visit Terror Titans and Shades of Gray!

Alexander Anderson Jr dead at 90

Alexander Anderson Jr., a pioneer television cartoonist who created  Dudley Doright, Crusader Rabbit, Rags the Tiger,  and two of TV's most enduring characters, Rocky and Bullwinkle, has died. He was 90.
Anderson,  who had Alzheimer's disease, died Friday at a rest home in Carmel, his son, Terry M. Anderson, told the "LA Times."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Win "The Dead Path" at Terror Titans!

In celebration of Halloween (and thanks to the kind folks at Random House, who want to make sure EVERYONE is properly frightened this Fall), I'm giving away a copy of Stephen Irwin's debut novel "The Dead Path" over at my Terror Titans blog.

Click here for all the details. Good luck to all those who enter the drawing.

Mike Esposito dead at 83

Mike Esposito, a comic book artist best known for his exceptional collaborations with fellow artist on "The Amazing Spider-Man" for Marvel Comics and "Wonder Woman" for DC Comics, died Sunday, October 24 at the age of 83.

Esposito was a prolific inker whose career in comics spanned close to four decades. He enhanced the pencils of just about every major artist you'd care mention during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, but it was his career-long pairing with Ross Andru that was the most fruitful for both artists. It is one of artdom's legendary pairings, and a case of two styles meshing perfectly to create a spectacular result.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

31 Nights of Halloween: Week Three

Here's this week's retrospective of Cinema Steve's month-long run-up to Halloween. More chilling images and reviews of fright films to get you in the Halloween spirit...

Movie Reviews
The Craving
The Ghost Breakers
Horror Rises from the Tomb
Moon Over Tao
The Mummy (1959)
Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Fear-filled Phantasms
The Art of Steven Kenny
The Catty Paulette Goddard
Marcos and the Monsters
Saturday Scream Queen: Yvonne Furneaux
Vampirella: The Queen of Halloween

Horror at Home
Japanese Kids Will Stop the Zombie Apocalypse!

For more October monsters and horror,
visit Terror Titans and Shades of Gray!

There's a Samuel L Jackson movie in this!

Crocodile blamed for plane crash in the Congo -

And coming soon to a screen near you....

Crocs on a Plane (2011)
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Milla Jovovich, Halle Berry, Robert Downey Jr, Flex Alexander, and Christopher Walken
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson

FBI Special Agent Neville Flynn (Jackson) is part of a detail sent to the small African nation of Narongo in order to escort reknowned terrorist Abu Abu (Walken) for trial in the United States. But al-Qaeda agents have managed to smuggle crocodiles onto the plane... crocodiles in duffle-bags designed to break and free them once the plane is in flight over the deepest of the African jungle.

"I want those [bleep] crocodiles off this [bleep] plane, right [bleep] NOW!"
The plane crashes in a crocodile-infested swamp where Neville and his fellow agents (played by Downey and Jovovich) must fight to save themselves and to keep their prisoner from escaping. But the crocodiles are the least of their worries, as al-Qaeda operatives are coming to rescue Abu Abu. Things get even worse when our heroes come upon a tribe of Amazons who have been living in the jungle since the fall of Atlantis and their leader, Queen Tahtahz (Berry) decides Jackson makes the perfect breeding stock. Everyone else will be sacrificed to the crocodile god the Amazons worship.

(Yessir... I could write a Hollywood blockbuster if I felt like it! Or at least an episode of "Law and Order" or "CSI: Crime Scene Investigations"!)

Friday, October 22, 2010

'150 Movies You (Should Die Before You) See'
on sale now!

Although the official release date for my book about a bunch of movies to stay away from for a range of different reasons isn't until November, it is already on sale at, at roughly 30% off cover-price!

The Amazon listing even gives you an opportunity to get a real preview of the book by clicking on the cover image with the "Look Inside" label. The Table of Content, index, and a handful of pages can be viewed. Go take a look! And if you decide to pick up a copy, my cats and I thank you! They need kitty litter, and I need a new pair of shoes!

(And I really DO review both the original and remake of "Attack of the Giant Leeches". That is not an error on the ToC. And yes, someone DID remake "Attack of the Giant Leeches". And the remake is WORSE than the original.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Visions of Vampirella, the Queen of Halloween

The undisputed Queen of Halloween is Vampirella, and few artists have painted her better than Joe Jusko. Click on the Royal Portraits to view larger versions.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Zachary Chesser is goin' to the Big House

It looks like Zachary "Abu Talhah" Chesser will have his butt in the air five times a day in honor of a different Mohammed... this one being jail-house rapist Mohammed Jermaine Lincoln, who is serving a 20-year sentence for aggravated sexual assualt while wearing a Sailor Moon costume that left nothing to the imagination. But have no fear, all you other jail-house rapists! Mohammed is not a jealous or possessive man... he will gladly let the entire cell-block wage Jihad on Abu Talhah's ass!

Here's who you need to look out for:

Zachary Chesser will be going away for at least 20 years as punishment for "two counts of communicating threats and soliciting crimes of violence," the charges to which he pled guilty. His whoreish wife--who by some accounts is an even bigger terrorist wanna-be than he is--is currently under indictment, and hopefully she the pair will soon have matching rap sheets.

This article from the Washington Post gives a nice factual summary--while tossing in a couple of stealth editorial comments to continue their effort to make Their Boy Zachery look like a misunderstood puppy that wasn't properly house trained (how else can you explain the quote from some anonymous "childhood friends"?)--but this editorial from Wired gives the sort of indepth information about Zack and his true nature that the Islamophobes at WaPo and elsewhere are probably too frightened to mention.

Another documented case of Islamophobia?

NPR today fired commentator Juan Williams for uttering the following words:

But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.

Or maybe they fired him because CAIR issued this demand, via the premiere press release masquerading as news articles service.

If it's the former, why is a partially taxpayer-funded organization carrying water for Muslims in an effort to chill and silence the national debate? And if it's the latter, why are a bunch of Islamophobes in charge of a partially taxpayer-funded organization?

For more, check out this editorial at Big Journalism.

Juan Williams' comments amounted to nothing more than the way he feels. And they're rather silly feelings, because even the dumbest terrorist is unlikely to board a plane in his full Afghan outback costume for the very reason that he'll attract suspicion. But they're hardly words and feelings that should get an otherwise decent reporter like Williams dismissed from his job. (Now, it is entirely likely that Williams' fears may not be as silly as all that. It is very likely that some Lion of Islam may publically cross-dress in his gay lover's burka, because he's certain to be able to smuggle all sorts of goodies onto the plane. A burka plus his well-expanded anal cavity almost guarentees he'll get anything on the plane that won't set off a metal detector.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Advertising money can't buy...

The Only Infidel Creation as Halal as Mullah Omar's Donkeys.
Toyota Trucks: Taliban Tested, Taliban Approved.

Aliens and Sorcerers and Samurai--oh my!

Moon Over Tao--Makaraga (1997)
Starring: Yuko Moriyama, Toshiyuki Nagashima, Hiroshi Abe, Taka Aki Enoki, and Sayaka Yoshino.
Director: Keita Amemiya
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

"Moon over Tao--Makaraga" has everything... a spell-casting monk, a hard-bitten samurai, and a plucky roguish girl sidekick on a quest to stop an evil sorcerer and uncover the secret behind a magical sword; a pair of superpowered, sexy alien women on a quest to retrieve a weapon forged by their hyper-advanced culture before the evil sorcerer uses it; and a giant rampaging monster that threatens to destroy Earth if our heroes can't stop it.

I'm not much for having bizarre monsters like the one here in live-action movies, but everything else in the flick is perfect! The script is well-crafted, featuring excellent pacing, interesting characters, and witty dialogue. The fight scenes are equally well-staged. This film also does quite well in the special effects department... which is where many Asian films fall down when compared to American standards. Heck, even that goofy giant monster is tolerable because of the well-done costuming and animation work. The cinematography was also well above average for what I have come to expect from this kind of movie. Last, but far, far from least, "Moon over Tao" sports an excellent cast of actors. Everyone gives top calibre performances, even the woman playing the aliens... a remarkable feat since she hardly shows any emotion. She radiates presence, though.

"Moon over Tao--Makaraga" is a fine merging of several Japanese film genres, and it is well worth a look. It features *some* graphic violence, just enough to earn it an R rating--I don't recall anything worse than what I've seen in "slasher flicks"--so it's probably not appropriate for kids.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Japanese kids will stop the Zombie Apocalypse!

Is it any wonder that America didn't dare invade the main Japanese island during WW2?

(I feel for the youngest of the three kids, though. He's so scared he's paralyzed.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

In which I do Roger Moore's research for him....

There's a documentary that's reportedly critical of the Obama administration's financial policies opening this Friday on 500 screens here in the United States. Titled "I Want Your Money," it appears to have gotten very little advanced publicity, something that seems to bother movie critic Roger Moore.

Moore, in a brief preview that can read here, frets over the fact that he hasn't heard of the film until now, a few days before its release. He also frets over the fact that he doesn't know who has funded or produced the film. Equally disturbing to him is that it's "agitprop in a far right vein."

Agitprop? Really? I skimmed Moore's reviews of "Sicko," "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "Religilogous," three "agitprop" films of a leftward bent, but he didn't see fit to describe them in that fashion. Yet he applies such a negatively loaded word to a film he knows nothing about, save what's in the preview.

As far as I can tell, the producers and director of this film are motivated by the same impulses that drive Michael Moore, except they are coming at topic of economics and politics from the conservative side of the political spectrum.

I didn't see Roger Moore complaining about not knowing who was funding Michael Moore's movies. Is that because they're major studio releases who are run by executives who fund Moore's favorite political figures? Or might he have issues with filmmakers working outside the Hollywood studio system? Why is Moore concerned here, but not in the other cases? Or maybe he's stung by the fact that Obama the Sainted is perhaps being criticized?

As far as the shadowy, perhaps even sinister, funding sources behind "I Want Your Money," a simple visit to reveals the film is a joint production between RG Entertainment and Reminiscent Films, with Ray Griggs, owner of RG Entertainment, serving as the film's executive producer and director. Ray Grigg makes no bones about being a conservative.

By visiting the film's website, I also learned that the film apparently "contrasts the two paths the United States can take using the words and actions of Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan" and tries "to tell the story in the plainest terms of the choice between the Obama and the Reagan views of the role of the federal government in our society."

Maybe Roger Moore, journalist and respected film critic that he is, should read up on a movie instead of posting off-the-cuff screeds? The off-the-cuff screeds and wild speculation is my job!

I will most likely not be reviewing this film when it opens, not only because it's not my cup of tea, but because there doesn't appear to be any theater in the Seattle area that are showing it.

To learn more about "I Want Your Money!", click here to visit the official site.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A case of genuine Islamophobia?

This editorial was just called to my attention:

Greg Gutfeld: ‘WaPo’ Pulls Muhammad Cartoon That Doesn’t Show Muhammad

It is either another example of either base cowardice and hypocrisy that is rampant among American media people, or one of  the few cases of true Islamophobia that exist.

Whichever it is, this comment from the editor who apparently wets himself when he even gazes upon the almighty name of Muhammed in print, is particularly disgusting. He must think the world is inhabited by idiots.

Admirably, Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander asked his Style editor why- and he said, “it seemed a deliberate provocation without a clear message.” He added that “the point of the joke was not immediately clear.”
 The very fact that he pulled the cartoon is clear evidence that he did get its point. Which is why his cowardice or Islamophobia wouldn't let him print it.

Oh.... and just in case you don't want to click on that link, here's the horrible cartoon that was too offensive (yet utterly obscure in its meaning) to print in the "Washington Post":

Makes me even more content and comfortable with the concept of Mohammed Mondays. I'm more convinced than ever that I'm not going too far. In fact, I may not be going far enough. Maybe keeping out the pigs and the scatological humor was a bad call.

Don Knotts plays a real space case

The Reluctant Astronaut (1967)
Starring: Don Knotts, Leslie Nielsen, Arthur O'Connell, Jesse White, and Joan Freeman
Director: Edward Montagne
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

A small-town carnival kiddy-ride operator (Knotts) is thrust into local fame when his pushy father (O'Connell) submits an application on his behalf to NASA... and the application is accepted.

This film is something of a nerd fantasy. Knotts plays a kindhearted loser of limited talent and ambition (but with plenty of dreams) for whom everything works out in the end. There really isn't much else to this movie, other than the fact that it features a decent cast that all get their individual funny moments.

While I remained mildly entertained throughout the film, I think this is a movie that time has left behind; I suspect it would have seemed a lot funnier in 1967, at the height of space-program mania. (The film is an interesting historical artifact in another way: Leslie Nielsen is featured here as a sqaure-jawed, handsome straight man. It's often forgotten that his career took a hard turn into comedy in the mid-Seventies, and that he actually started out as a dramatic actor.)

What exactly were they predicting?

By now, everyone reading this surely knows that the Mayans, Merlin, and my personal fortune-teller Psychic Bob, have predicted the end of the world in 2012. But none of them have been able to get the exact date.

Is it 12/12/12? Is it 12/24/12? Maybe 6/6/12? Perhaps it's 8/4/12 or 4/8/12?

Maybe the Mayans and other Wise Ancients (and modern possessors of Sight Beyond Sight and/or a large assortment of mind-altering substances) weren't predicting the end of the world, but rather then end of the Democrats?

Maybe Doomsday is 11/6/2012, the end of the Obama Presidency and the end of the modern Democrat party, with votes being cast in favor Democrat candidates during the election being between 20% and 12% of the total, depending on the state?

Or maybe this is the answer....

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Roy Ward Baker dead at 93

British director Roy Ward Baker passed away in London on October 5, 2010. He was 93.

Baker started in the film industry as a tea boy at Gainsborough Studios, but he soon worked his way up to assistant director, contributing to the Hitchcock classic "The Lady Vanishes." He went onto direct many acclaimed and noteworthy pictures, including the epic tale of the Titanic, "A Night to Remember" and the first fusion of horror and martial arts "The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires".

Baker spent the latter half of his career working primarily in television, directing episodes of "The Avengers",
"Minder" and many other series. He also directed Peter Cushing in his final appearance as Sherlock Holmes in the made-for-television movie "The Masks of Death".

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Speaking of Obama
and the Nobel Peace Prize....

One Year After Obama Wins Nobel, World Looks for Signs of Peace - ABC News

Personally, speaking as an armchair general, Obama hasn't done ENOUGH on the war front. He's managed to make the United States look even weaker than we have been while not achieving any visible progress in Afghanistan, Iraq, or in crushing the various terrorist bugs that annoy us.

That Hope and Change doesn't seem to be working out, does it? (Well, I suppose if you want to build a mosque in lower Manhattan, or threaten the lives of American artists, it's a great time to be alive.)

A pattern of criminality or business incompetence?

Over on his blog, artist and writer F. Lennox Campello is posting a series of reports on an art dealer who at best appears to be very, very incompetent and who at worst may be the con artist and thief that she is alleged to be.

Campello's most recent post involves an artist who is owed over $5,000 in commissions from the dealer. Her name is Isabelle du Toit, and she paints cute pictures of babies and birds. Here's a sample of her work (and you can see more of her paintings at her website):

I seems to me that one case--the Bowland matter, described earlier--could be explained by a series of unfortunate events and misunderstandings that converged and ended up with a dealer selling a painting she had no license to sell. But the addition of a second artist to the mix, as well as the possible timeline that Campello presents in his recent post, seems to demonstrate a pattern of intentional criminality. Even the most generous interpretation leads one to view the art dealer's skills as a business person approaching criminal incompetence. (That said, there are things in the quoted emails that remind me of the smoke blown up the skirts of freelancers by any number of publishers I have known over the years as they were going out of business. Including myself.)

Another little part of the mystery-loving child in me has died. If what is alleged is true, then Campello's coverage is yet more proof that there is no such thing as a criminal mastermind. Even art thieves are pathetic little scavengers.

31 Nights of Halloween: Week One

Here's a handy-dandy index of all the spooky posts that have appeared on my blogs as part of the month-long run-up to the grand night of Halloween!

Each movie or graphic novel is rated on my usual scale of 0 to 10, with 5 and 6 behind low and high average respectively.
Movie Reviews
Arsenic and Old Lace (9/10)
Case 39 (6/10)
Despiser (5/10)
Dracula, 1931 (7/10)
The Fall of the House of Usher, 1960 (8/10)
Fanatic (4/10)
Frostbiter: The Wrath of the Wendigo (3/10)
Insaniac (1/10)
The Mummy Lives (3/10)
The Seventh Victim (6/10)
Something Wicked This Way Comes (9/10)
White Zombie (9/10)

Graphic Novel Reviews
Batman: Haunted Knight (10/10)
Werewolf By Night, Volume One (8/10)
Wrath of the Spectre (9/10)
Zombies Calling (8/10)

Fear-filled Phantasms
Nan Grey & the Great Pumpkin
Saturday Scream Queens: Renee Zellweger & Jodelle Ferland

Menacing Music Videos
Jan Terri's "Get Down Goblin"

For more October monsters and horror,
visit Terror Titans and Shades of Gray!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Jailed Chinese dissident wins Nobel peace prize

Well, this year's Nobel Peace Prize winner has actually done something to deserve it. Unlike Barack Obama.

Chinese human rights campaigners celebrate as Liu Xiaobo wins Nobel peace prize | World news | The Guardian

It's a shame that all those Chinese people working for human rights are wasting their time and blood and lives. China traded one Emperor for another--with the title of "Chairman" put on the org chart instead--and otherwise continued on with the same basically feudal society they've had for thousands of years.

There was a brief moment in history when things COULD have been different for the mainland Chinese, but another such moment probably won't show up for a very, very long time.

'Wrath of the Spectre' is worth beholding

Wrath of the Spectre (DC Comics, 2005)
Writer: Michael Fleisher
Artists: Jim Aparo, Ernie Chua, Frank Thorne, Mike DeCarlo, and Pablo Marcos
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

"Wrath of Spectre" collects all thirteen tales of DC Comics' Wrath of God on Earth--the Spectre, a being who rose in place of hardboiled police detective Jim Corrigan after he was murdered by gangsters. This restless spirit takes Jim Corrigan's form until it comes across criminals so violent and evil that there is no waiting for earthly justice to deal with them. Then Corrigan melts away and the terrifying figure of the Spectre brings strange and painful ends to the evil-doers... such as melting them like candle wax, turning them to wood and cutting them to pieces at a sawmill, or causing the emblem of a terrorist group to animate and kill its members.

Although several writer/artist teams have come close to matching the wildness and weirdness of the Fleisher/Aparo stories (Aparo pencilled, inked, or handled the full art chores on all of the stories), none have quite succeeded. The team of John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake came close during an extended run on the character in the 1990s, and their Spectre more or less picked up where Fleisher and Aparo left off. (I will probably review that Spectre series at some point in this space.)

In "Wrath of the Spectre", each tale sees the grim ghost of vengeance going after particularly violent and heinous criminals. Each story sees one or more villains commit a crime that they go out of their way to make unneccesarily violent. By the end of the tale, the Spectre visits a gory and hideous revenge upon the evil-doers, sometimes reflective of their crimes, sometimes just bizarre and violent. As the stories unfold, a young woman named Gwen Sterling and a tabloid reporter named Earl Crawford become tangled up in the Spectre's otherworldly mission of vengeance, bringing a view on the Spectre from a normal person's perspective to the story. Gwen Sterling in particular lends some interesting twists to the story, as the bond she forges with Jim Corrigan leads him to long once again to be a living human being.

The thirteen Fleisher/Aparo tales (funny number that, given the supernatural subject matter) are among some of the very best American comics created. Like all classics, these stories have a timeless quality to them, and they are well worth a look by anyone who loves comics... and who needs to be reminded that there ARE good non-superhero comics that have been published by American companies.

(As I post this review, "Wrath of the Spectre" is out of print. But here's hoping DC Comics will bring back this excellent group of horror comics.)

For more October monsters and horror,
visit Terror Titans and Shades of Gray!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A true-life story of an art theft from the National Portrait Gallery in D.C.

Here's a painting with a very cool Halloween vibe:

I spotted it on F. Lennox Campello's blog, and it's by an artist named Margaret Bowland. You can see many more of Bowland's equally spooky illustrations by clicking here and here. I hope Ms. Bowland doesn't take offense at my referring to her artwork as spooky, because I mean it as a compliment. I find her art very interesting, and so do others, as demonstrated by the fact the painting at the top of this post won the People's Choice Award Winner for the 2009 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition.

It has also been stolen.

Campello posted an interesting account of how the painting fell into the hands of a crooked art dealer. Click here to read the story.

As I was preparing this post, I noticed that Campello published a follow-up to his original article, in which the National Gallery offers a response.

I think I'm going to keeping an eye on this case, just to see how it all turns out.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Does it take one to know one?

I've watched this clip twice. Oliver Stone, noted anti-Semite and admirer of murderous dictators like Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, states that conservative commentator Sarah Palin is a moron. He then seems to goes onto claim that those who supported equal rights for women--including the right to vote--in the 1920s were somehow also morons. 

Is that really what he said? I can't tease any other meaning out of his statement, but I also can't believe my ears. Watch and let me know what you think. (Especially you liberals out there, who are fond of telling the world how smart you are. Perhaps even in the Reply section. What exactly was Stone trying to say with his blather? Because from where I sit, he sounded like a moron.)

Maybe when Oliver Stone is done showing us all how Hitler was just a scape-goat for corrupt American/Jewish insterests, he will make a documentary series about how the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution was a bad thing. I'm sure his pal Ahmadinejad would agree with him.

(By the way, I don't necessarily disagree with Stone on Sarah Palin. But this does seem to be a case of the kettle calling the pot black.)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Helen of Troy causes more trouble in 'Lion of Thebes'

Lion of Thebes (1964)
Starring: Yvonne Furneaux, Mark Forest, Rosalba Neri, Massimo Serato, Pierre Cressoy, and Alberto Lupo
Director: Giorgio Ferroni
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

Helen, Queen of Sparta, and the lust-object by just about every male character to ever be mentioned in the Illiad and the Odyssey (Forneaux), escapes the fall of Troy with her faithful bodyguard Aryan (Forest) to safety in the Egyptian city of Thebes. But succor is not to be found, as Pharaoh Rameses (Cressoy) is dazzled by her great beauty and wants to make her his queen.

"Lion of Thebes" is one of the better examples of the "epic" boom of the Italian film industry in the 1960s. With excellent costumes, great sets, attractive cast, and a better-than-average script, it's a film that should be on the "must-see" list for anyone who likes low-fantasy movies.

The scenes with Menelaus (Alberto Lupo), Helen's one-time husband, are priceless, by the way. His "what trouble is that skank causing now?" respoonse to Aryan when he seeks him out for help are among the best moments of the film.

The biggest weaknesses of the film is that its a bit slow in getting in going, the director and/or cinematographer had no clue how to shoot the obligatory goofy dance performance at the obligatory feast of honor--we're treated to lots of views of the backs of the audiences' heads, as if a proud parent with no clue how to run a camcorder was filming their daughter's dance recital--and that once again we have a movie where a supporting actress is actually more beautiful than the one playing the legendary Helen of Troy. (Not that I wouldn't mind sharing a bed with 1960s-era Yvonne Furneaux, but I wouldn't have kicked Rosalba Neri out of it for her.)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Stephen J. Cannell dead at 69

Prolific television writer/producer, and occasional actor, Stephen J. Cannell lost his battle with melanoma and passed away at his Los Angeles-area home on Thursday, September 30. He was 69.

Cannell was a tireless creative mind whose constant pounding out of ideas on typewriters, as shown in the memorable filmic logo for his production company. Virtually anyone reading these words has been entertained by Cannell creations, be it The A Team, The Rockford Files, The Greatest American Hero, Hunter, 21 Jump Street, Wiseguy, Cobra, Black Sheep Squadron, Silk Stalkings, Renegade (in which he also had a recurring role as the main villain), and many other successful series--and a few not-so-successful--or any one of dozens of made-for-TV movies he wrote and produced.

Al-Qaeda and radical environmentalists:
Green peas in a pod?

Osama bin Laden and his groupies lay awake at night and masturbate to fantasies of murdering anyone who doesn't agree with them. So, apparently, do members of some well-funded environmental groups. How else can one explain this little video?

The group that created the video has posted a statement on their website that "apologizes" for it and calls it a "mistake." My guess would be that they regret revealing what their true and sincere dreams are for anyone who doesn't worship as they do, just like members of al-Qaeda... only with less courage of their convictions.

Classic Batman Halloween adventures

Batman: Haunted Knight
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Tim Sale
Steve's Rating: Ten of Ten Stars

During the mid-90s, when "Legends of the Dark Knight" was helmed by editor Archie Goodwin and at its peak as an outlet for unusual Batman tales that may or may not be "true", three excellently creepy Halloween Specials were published. All three were created by the team of Loeb and Sale, and all three have been collected in "Batman: Haunted Knight".

In addition to three of the best Batman stories ever published, there's an introduction by Archie Goodwin that puts them in context of the editorial philosophy he had for the "Legends" title. He wanted to present self-contained Batman "novels" that presented tales that were moving and exciting not only on an action level, but also on an emotional level; he wanted the stories to explore possibilities of the early years of Batman and characters associated with him from many different angles and he wanted all those angles to provide new depths and insights into those characters. Each story is particularly interesting, because it reveals facets of Batman's character to both the reader and to the character himself; each story has a component of self-discovery that ends up making Batman and even stronger hero than he might otherwise have been. (Interestingly, from a "continuity geek" standpoint, the stories seem to be saying, "Batman was once a psycho... but he healed and grew emotionally, and now he's a defender of justice.")

With "Batman: Haunted Knight", we see three examples of that editorial philosophy operating at full power. We also get a character who is the perfect vehicle for Halloween stories fighting some of his strangest foes under the dealiest of circumstances. Fans of Batman, fans of spooky stories, and fans of well-done comics will all find something to like here. All of the above goes double for those of you who liked "Batman Begins", as the tone in these three stories resemble the one found there.

The first story in the book is "Fears". In it, Batman squares off against the Scarecrow, while in his true identity of Bruce Wayne he meets what seems to be the perfect woman. However, while Bruce is caught up in and blinded by the hope of ending his decades of emtional isolation, Alfred discovers that Bruces' new lady love may be more dangerous than a supervillain.

Then we have "Madness", a story that is just as much about Batman's hunt for the Mad Hatter (who has been kidnapping children) as it is about Jim Gordon and his relationship with his adopted daughter Barbara. Fans of movies like "Seven" and "Along Came a Spider" and similar thrillers should enjoy it. It's another story that also gives Bruce Wayne some more chances to heal old emotional wounds and put to rest some ghosts.

Speaking of "Ghosts", the third tale is a "A Christmas Carol" take-off with a Halloween theme. After an introductory fight with the Penguin, the story becomes a psychological drama as Bruce Wayne/Batman is visited by the "ghosts of Halloween". It's got pretty much the same message as "A Christmas Carol", and Loeb and Sale pull it off with such grace and skill that a tale that might have seemed hackneyed or silly instead becomes touching and creepy all at once.

Get "Batman: Haunted Knight", and you'll be treated to three great Halloween stories that also rank among the best Batman comics ever published.

For more October monsters and horror,
visit Terror Titans and Shades of Gray!