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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Tarzan and the Mermaids (1948) – Review

Tarzan and the Mermaids would be Johnny Weissmuller’s twelfth and last outing as Edgar Rice Burroughs legendary Ape Man. Producer Sol Lesser, feeling that Boy had grown too old for the part of a Jungle Boy, had given Johnny Sheffield the boot after Tarzan and the Huntress, and he also moved the production to Mexico giving the film a very Latin American feel.


The movie opens with a narrator guiding us through the world of Tarzan’s Africa until we stop at the forbidden island of Aquatania, “There dwells a cult of strange people, known as Aquatigans.” We are told they are a hardy people, living on the bounty of the sea, and happy in the enjoyment of their exotic existence. When they aren’t basking in the sun, fishing or swimming, they are diving for pearls that they give freely to their god Balu. The never ending narration continues with the telling of the legend of Balu, “Many years ago, strangers came, destroyed their ruler, and robbed them of their pearls. Their conqueror ordained himself a god, dwelt in a temple on an island, which he declared taboo, and interrupted his will to the people through a cohort he named the High Priest.”


Step one in becoming a god. Find the most gullible people on the planet.

This con is being run by an unscrupulous trader by the name of Varga (Fernando Wagner) and his partner and fake High Priest, Palanth (George Zucco). Their scam is a pretty good one, Varga dresses up in the mask and robes of this god Balu and Palanth “interrupts” the will of the god, and of course the will of Balu usually involves the procuring of more pearls which Varga will then smuggle out of the country. Like I said it’s a pretty decent swindle, one easily pulled off considering they are fooling a bunch of superstitious idiots that are cut off from the outside world. Unfortunately neither Varga nor Palanth had read Rudyard Kipling’s novella The Man Who Would Be King or else they could have avoided their one big mistake, and that would be telling the Aquatigans that Balu wishes the fair maiden Mara (Linda Christian) as his bride.


The Bride of Balu.

The problem with this is that they chose, of all the pretty maidens on this island, the one who doesn’t believe Balu is a god, and who is in love with someone else. Varga is so hung up on Mara that he even banished her boyfriend Tiko (Gustavo Rojo) to the outside world. Once again thinking with the little head completely messes up a perfectly good scam, and when Mara makes a break for it during the wedding ceremony everything starts to go to shit. Palanth orders a search party to go out and bring her back because Varga’s penis…I mean Balu’s will demands it. Mara escapes to the outside world but before she can locate her beloved Tiko she finds herself in Tarzan’s net. She panics and tries to escape Tarzan,swimming madly away, and almost drowns in the attempt. Why Tarzan felt the need to chase after some random girl to the point of her passing out from exhaustion is not made clear, but it does help move the plot along. Tarzan brings the unconscious woman back to the treehouse and a strangely understanding Jane (Brenda Joyce).


Is bringing home strange women just a thing Tarzan does?

Tarzan and Jane befriend Mara who then gives Jane a large flawless black pearl worth a small fortune, but our heroes do not like to except gifts so they decide it'd be best to have the pearl taken to commissioner (Edward Ashley) in Nyaga, where it could be used to fund the construction of a school or hospital. The person given the job of delivering the pearl to Nyaga is Benji (John Laurenz), a Latin American singing postal carrier who had brought a message to Jane and Tarzan from Boy who are told is getting schooled back in England. The calypso singing lothario Benji character is one of the big tip-offs that this film was shot mostly in Mexico as he and most of the cast are Latin American, and the terrain looks nothing like Africa.


Canoeing down an African river via Acapulco.

Eventually the Aquatigan task force catches up to Mara, and after a brief struggle she is captured and taken back to Aquatania. Tarzan is able to track the abductors all the way back to Aquatania, and after a little snooping around has figured out the whole “False God” con going on. Meanwhile Benji returns to the treehouse with the British Inspector-General (Matthew Boulton) and then when Tiko shows up they all decide to head to Aquatania. So Jane, a calypso singer, an inspector, and a love sick Aquatigan, all completely unarmed, make their way to Aquatania where they are immediately captured.


You’d think with hanging out with Tarzan some jungle smarts would rub off on you.

The prisoners are taken before Palanth but before they can be sentenced to death Balu strides in, much to Palanth’s surprise as Varga was off running the Nyaga trading post end of the operation and so couldn’t possibly be in the costume. Much to Palanth’s consternation Balu and indicates that the prisoners should all be set free, including Mara. Palanth learns that it was Tarzan posing as the god and confronts the ape man, “If my people knew anyone posed as Balu, they would destroy him.” Tarzan counters with, “If people know Balu a man, they destroy you.” Check and mate. It’s great when the series remembers that Tarzan is a smart and canny foe and not one to be screwed with.  As often is the case in this series just when my faith is restored in the character something monumentally stupid will happen. In this case it’s the idiotic decision for everyone to stay in Aquatania for partying and aquatic sporting events. Have none of these bozos heard the term “Getting out when the getting's good.” Neither the villains nor the heroes have any sense of when it’s best to cut and run.


“We can't leave now, it’s time for the Aqua-Jousting.”

Back in Nyaga the commissioner consults with the local pearl expert who unfortunately just happens to be Varga. Realizing things must be going bad back in Aquatania Varga and his goons rush back, sneak in and retrieve the Balu costume, and through Palanth, orders that the intruders be killed. Tarzan is able to fight his way passed a large octopus, sneaks up behind Varga to rip-off the mask and to give us one of the biggest anti-climactic endings in the franchise’s history. Once their god is revealed to be just a man the Aquatigan’s turn on Palanth, tearing him apart, and then Tarzan punches out Varga, sending the villain to his deaths on the rocks below.


“Totally should have seen this coming.”

Director Robert Florey doesn’t bring much to the party with this outing; much of its short running time is wasted on lame song numbers, and very little action. The movies conclusion happens so abruptly that one wonders if they had just run out of money or maybe someone with a stopwatch was there to ensure that the film did not exceed 77 minutes. Someone should have told screenwriter Carroll Young that if you are going to rip-off Kipling you shouldn’t have just skimmed it when reading the original.


In all fairness Kipling never thought to put in an octopus fight.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Son of Kong (1933) - Review

It had been years since I last set eyes on Son of Kong, and I had forgotten just how disappointing this film actually is, but it does go to show us that quick cash grab sequels are as old as the film industry itself. Released a mere eight months after the blockbuster King Kong this sequel pales in comparison on practically every level. RKO decided on two key factors that would insure it made a ton of money; first cut the budget in half (cause that always results in bigger profits), and make it more “kid friendly” as the youth market is where the money is, though during the depression I’m not sure what disposable income kids had, but then again I’m not a big movie exec so what do I know. Ruth Rose, Son of Kong's script writer, made no attempt to make a serious film out of this sequel on the grounds that there was no way it could surpass the success of the original, stating, "If you can't make it bigger, make it funnier."
Son of Kong - 1sht b 1933 600

The film starts out promising enough with Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) hiding out in a boarding house from process servers, because everyone and his aunt is suing him for the carnage caused by the escaped Kong. Eventually he hooks up again with Captain Englehorn (Frank Reicher) and Charlie the ships cook (Victor Wong) as the only other returning cast members from the original. They set sail just ahead of a Grand Jury indictment and then try to make a go of it by shipping cargo in the Dutch Indies. It’s in the port of Dakang that we meet our other two key players; Hilda (Helen Mack), daughter of a drunken ex-circus ringmaster, who helps her father make a living by singing badly while playing the guitar, and Helstrom (John Marston) who in a drunken brawl kills Hilda’s father, and burns down the tent. Now Helstrom has a connection with the original film as he is the man who provided Denham with the map to Kong’s Island, and now that he really needs to get out of Darkang, what with Hilda threatening to tell to the magistrate that he murdered her father, he convinces the incredibly gullible Denham and Englehorn that there is treasure on Skull Island.


"Also I've a got a bridge for sale and some great land in Florida you may be interested in."

Hilda, who also wants out of Dakang, stows away aboard the Venture not knowing that her father’s murderer is now one of the crew.  Helstrom, a coward at heart, has no intention of setting foot on the dangerous island so he fills the unruly crew with stories of how several of the previous crew died during Denham’s last trip to Skull Island, and in all fairness he’s actually telling the truth about this. There is a quick mutiny that finds Denham, Englehorn, Charlie, and Hilda being dumped into a lifeboat, but before Helstrom can wallow in his victory the crew toss the traitorous bastard overboard as well, and so lily-livered Helstrom ends up joining the group on their trip to Skull Island.


"I'm sure the place has mellowed out since we were last here."

Now here is one of the film’s major problems, we are now at about the 40 minute mark in a 69 minute movie yet we’ve just now gotten to Kong’s island. This is obviously caused by the reduced budget, and the fact that the events on the island itself seem really rushed doesn’t help.  After getting a rude welcome from the natives, a thrown spear and threats indicate that they aren’t all that happy with how Denham and company lead a rampaging Kong through their village during their last visit, so the group is forced to make their way to the far side of the island, and that is where they meet the son of Kong.


"If that's Kong's kid we better keep an eye out for the mom, she'll really be pissed at us."

While Englehorn, Helstrom, and Charlie march off to look for provision, Denham and Hilda stumble on a small version of Kong trapped in quicksand. Feeling a bit guilty over getting this guys dad killed, Denham knocks over a tree and helps young Kong escape. Denham’s line, “He’s not a patch after his old man” pretty much sums up the whole film. The 12-foot white haired ape is played completely for laughs, and not particularly effective laughs either. They have given him the cooing sounds of a baby chimp, and the slapstick antics of a Max Sennet silent comedy star, none of which makes him a very effective character. When Denham and Hilda are threatened by a giant cave bear, looking more like a guy in a terrible bear suit than a ferocious animal, young Kong charges to the rescue.   We are then treated to a fight that is more reminiscent of a couple of two five year olds fighting over a favorite toy than it does a titanic struggle between titans.


And by titans we mean overly large gorilla and really big bear.

Meanwhile Englehorn, Helstrom, and Charlie had been chased into a rocky nook by a styracosaur. Trivia Note: The styracosaur was a left over dinosaur that was cut from the original King Kong.   It was the dinosaur that chased the sailors onto the log bridge that Kong topples them off of, and here once again it is proven that the styracosaurus is not very effective when it comes to catching humans as all he does is eat their gun, and that it’s for that exciting moment.


"I am a herbivore after all.

After stumbling upon some ancient ruins Denham is sure he will find the treasure behind a rock wall, and with little Kong’s help they break into an old temple. Inside they find a huge altar and hanging from a nasty looking idol is a necklace containing a huge diamond, but of course as you know a dragon must guard all treasure, and so another lackluster fight ensues. The encounter between young Kong and this refugee from a fantasy film is less slapstick in comparison to the cave bear fight, there is certainly less eye rolling and tweetie bird sound effects, but it is in no way in the same league as the Kong/T-Rex fight from the original.


Son of Kong in the Temple of Doom.

When Englehorn, Helstrom and Charlie return, the styracosaur we assume became as bored as us viewers and had just wandered away, the group is shocked to see this large ape hanging with Denham and Hilda. Helstrom’s panicked reaction to seeing a 12 foot ape is a bit much, after all compared to the dinosaur that chased them the night before little Kong isn't very threatening, yet he flees like the coward he is. He is then quickly eaten by a sea serpent, so that makes it all right.


Helstrom versus the Loch Ness Monster.

Then the island sinks. Yep, it’s that out of the blue. One minute Denham is holding his treasure and then the next the whole island is being racked by earthquakes, and set upon by hurricane level rain and wind.


The natives on this island just can't catch a break.

Why did this happen? Was the temple cursed? Did removing the necklace anger the gods of the island? Your guess is as good as mine. While Englehorn, Hilda, and Charlie were able to make it to the boat, and get free of the cataclysmic events on the island, poor Denham and little Kong had to flee to higher ground as the island sank beneath them.   All seemed lost, but the heroic son of Kong was able to hold Denham above the turbulent waters long enough for him to be rescued by his friends. Then his hand slips beneath the waves.


Kong's lawyers should join New York City in suing Denham.

Our heroes float around the pacific for a while before being rescued by a passing ship, and it’s while on board that Hilda basically asks Denham to marry her. The End.  Not quite the poetic "It was beauty killed the beast" ending we got in the original but at least we know no one is going back to that dangerous island ever again.  It's reported that Robert Armstrong preferred Son of Kong to it's predecessor, and I can see why, this time out Denham is the romantic lead and the script goes out of it's way to make the once callous film producer more likable.  When they've been rescued at the end of the film he tells Hilda that, "We'll split the treasure four ways," and what's great about that line is that it means Denham is giving millions to the Chinese cook without a second thought, which coming from a character in the 1930s is pretty impressive.  Way to go Carl.


"I may be responsible several deaths and countless amounts of damage, but I'm not a racist."

More than the rushed production and reduced budget it’s the tonal shift that makes this film really an unworthy successor to King Kong. The Skull Island we saw in the original film was a place fraught with danger at every turn, from the moment Ann Darrow was plucked from the altar by Kong to the battle atop the Empire State Building, the pace never let up.  Yet in Son of Kong you never really get the sense of urgency or danger which was so prevalent in the original. Of course the slapstick antics of young Kong certainly didn’t help, between his rolling his eyes and other goofy antics he really was more of a cartoon character than anything the viewer could become emotional involved in.  I seriously doubt we are ever getting a Peter Jackson remake of this one.


But seriously, where is this kid's mom?

Galactica 1980: The Return of Starbuck – Review

With the ratings plummeting faster than a crippled Viper it was only a matter of time before the Network pulled the plug on Galactica 1980, so producer/writer Glen A. Larson, who hated the direction the show was going due to Network interference, decided to basically say “Fuck it” and do his own thing for one last hurrah.  He managed to talk his good friend Dirk Benedict into returning for one last episode, one that would be basically a two-man radio play, which is not something an actor can turn down, and what we got was an episode that was better than anything seen on either Galactica 1980 or the original series, and simply put we got one of the best hours on television…period.


The episode opens with Dr. Zee (James Patrick Stuart) asking Commander Adama (Lorne Greene) if he thinks dreams are relevant, and when he tells Adama that the dream dealt with a great warrior named Starbuck (Dirk Benedict), the shocked Commander asks to hear what the dream was about.


"I dreamed a dream in time gone by, when hope was high and life worth living."

The dream/flashback begins with Starbuck and Boomer (Herbert Jefferson Jr.) battling it out with a group of Cylon Raiders when Starbuck’s craft is crippled during a daring maneuver. All the attacking Raiders had been defeated but Starbuck knows he won’t be able to make it back to the fleet, and with the Cylon threat still out there the fleet can’t risk coming this way looking for him. Boomer a reluctantly returns to the Galactica, which is fighting off its own Cylon attack, and is told by Adama that Starbuck was right, they cannot go back, “There is no going back! Our enemy pushes us on and on and on! And until we're strong enough or can find Earth and get help, we can never stop or turn away or look back!” This scene is bloody incredible, with Lorne Greene packing every ounce of emotional weight as he looks off into space, and with a voice choked with tears he states...


“Goodbye, Starbuck. I love you. We all love you.”

This is the Commander Adama we’ve been missing all season, and is why you cast someone like Lorne Greene in the first place, because he can pull off the emotional gravitas like nobody’s business. Why you’d turn him into a doddering second banana to a “super genius” kid is beyond me.
It’s at this point that the episode turns into Glen A. Larson’s Hell in the Pacific, a favorite film of his, and he does a brilliant job at adapting it into a science fiction story. Starbuck crash lands on a barren rocky planet, and his first decision is to name this place Planet Starbuck. As one would do.  He then begins a trek across the hostile landscape in the hopes of running into a primitive culture that would worship him like some sort of "winged god from the heavens." Unfortunately all he finds is the crashed remains of the Cylon Raider he shot down earlier. At first Starbuck just uses some of the wreckage to make a crude shelter against the planet’s frigid nights, but come morning he finds himself talking to the “dead” Cylon's as if they are part of his crew. Eventually loneliness gets the better of him and he decides to actually repair one of the Cylons.


“I do hereby give you life.”

This shows the complete desperation of Starbuck, and how being alone is one of the worst thing that could happen to him, because a Cylon’s sole purpose is to kill humans so “waking” one up is not conducive to living a long life. So is Starbuck subconsciously planning a suicide?  Maybe, maybe not, but he does set-up a handy kill switch so that he is able to dissuade the Cylon from killing him, but the odds of this working in the long run are certainly not in his favour. When he explains to the now functioning Cylon that he repaired him because he was "lonely" and needed a friend, the Cylon (voiced by Gary Owens) responds, "We are enemies," Starbuck’s retorts "No,we're cultural dissidents," as they are the only two on the planet any war between their kind is now irrelevant. Starbuck spends the next little while teaching Cy, a name he gives the Centurions, all there is to know about humans. Over time a friendship does develop between the two, even surviving Starbuck cheating at cards, but robot companion can only provide so much. Cy comes to the conclusion that Starbuck is only cheating at cards because he is bored, and that Starbuck would prefer the company of a woman. Promising to bring back a woman Cy heads out into the bitter cold, and returns the next morning, carrying an unconscious, pregnant woman.


“Starbuck, I have brought you a surprise.”

Needless to say this comes as a bit of a shock to Starbuck, and as he’d been haunted by visions of, “The face of a girl I’d never met," it is even more disturbing. Just how does a Cylon go out and find a beautiful woman, on a barren planet I might add, and one who just so happens to match the one in his dreams? This kind of thinking doesn’t cross the analytical mind of the Cylon, and the following conversation highlights just how awesome Cy is.

Starbuck: “She’s alive”
Cy: “I presumed you’d prefer her that way.
Starbuck: “Cy, this isn’t funny. This is a living breathing human being.
Cy: “Yes, I feel I have already compromised everything I believe in. What’s helping one more human going to matter more or less?
Starbuck: “Cy, this is more than a woman.”
Cy: “I’m sorry if you are displeased. There wasn’t much of a selection.

Not only is this a brilliantly funny scene but it also beautifully shows the evolution of a Cylon from a being that previously desired to exterminate all human life, to one that would wish to make a friend happy. Gary Owen’s Cy is very reminiscent of Dick Tufeld's work as the robot in Lost in Space with a dash of the depressed Marvin the robot from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The relationship that develops between Cy and Starbuck, in this single episode, is more fleshed out than anything we saw between Starbuck and Apollo during the entire run of the original series. And it just keeps getting funnier, when Cy is informed that the woman he brought Starbuck is going to have a baby he responds…


“I’m rapidly being surrounded.”

A week goes by and this new member of the group does not say a word (He assumes she can’t understand English). To fill this void in conversation Starbuck regales her with stories about his life, and speaks openly about his relationship with women, saying that he found it difficult to commit to any one woman as he was afraid of getting hurt, "That's why I never cared if they got hurt first.” Her response is to just walk away. Cy steps up to Starbuck and states, “I may not find your incessant talk fascinating, but at least I don’t walk off.” An oblivious Starbuck turns to Cy, “Did you say something?”


No of course not. What could I possibly say to you? I’m nothing but a machine.

It’s clear that Cy is jealous of this strange woman, and because Cylons have never had the need of the “Bros before Hos” code, he is confused by the situation. Starbuck becomes even more confused than Cy, and even a bit angry, when the mysterious woman suddenly blurts out, after not saying anything for a week, “Will you die for me?” That’s what I call a real conversation starter. The woman, that he learns is named Angela (Judith Chapman), tells him not to be angry, and that she is from “Dimensions Beyond” and came in “The usual way.” These tidbits of information are less than helpful.  She tells Starbuck that, “We must prepare a vehicle for our child.” She informs him that the Cylon emergency beacon will soon bring hostiles searching for their own.


“Wait, what was that about “our” child?”

She tells Starbuck the baby is his “Spiritual Child” which I guess is a clever way to get Child Support from the only other person on the planet. Over the next few days a grumbling Cy helps build a craft out of the escape pod from Starbuck’s Viper and the engine from Cy’s Raider. Starbuck’s focus on Angela and the coming baby increases Cy’s bad mood, and he often stomps off to have a good sulk. Eventually the baby comes but so do the Cylons, and Starbuck knows that the only chance Angela and the baby have in being found by the Galactica is if they go alone. The pods resources would not sustain two adults and a baby for long.


Starbuck shown here being better ship designer than Jor-El.

When Cy learns that his Cylon brethren have arrived he tells Starbuck he must go to them. Starbuck threatens to shoot Cy if he leaves, but he can’t do it. When the little ship lifts off Starbuck immediately find himself under fire from the three newly arrived Cylon Centurions, but before the can finish him off Cy appears. The world’s greatest Cylon approaches his comrades and states, "I extend my weapon that I may perform the following function." He then blasts two of the Centurions, but then gets shot by the third. Starbuck is able to take out the remaining Centurion, and then rushes to the mortally injured Cy. When Cy tells Starbuck his circuits are fading Starbuck frantically responds, “No Cy, no. Cy it’s just you and me now. One human and one Cylon.” A dying Cy looks up at Starbuck and says…


“No, Starbuck. Not human, not Cylon. Friends.”

Just writing that down for this review still causes me to choke up. This is simply fantastic storytelling with wonderful characters, and if made a bit longer it could easily have made for an excellent feature film, which of course Wolfgang Petersen would later do in 1985's Enemy Mine.
In an interesting twist we later see Angela, unbeknownst to Starbuck, standing on a ridge looking down at him and the dead Cylon as she pronounces him, “Good.” It’s never stated outright what kind of creature Angela was, but one can assume she is one of the “Beings of Light” that the Galactica crew encountered in War of the Gods. It is of course then revealed that the “Child from the stars” is in fact Dr. Zee, that his ship was picked up by the Galactica years ago. Dr. Zee asks, “Adama, could I be Starbuck’s son? And if I am who is my mother?


“The answer is still out there amongst the stars.”

This is my favorite episode, and actually rivals many of the episodes in the Ron Moore reboot. It is incredibly funny, but also loaded down with heart and pathos. Galactica 1980 was not a good show, even by television standards of the time, but with this episode Glen A. Larson proved that when he wanted to he could really bring his “A” game to the table. Sadly Galactica 1980 was cancelled before this episode even aired.  Now as much as I love this episode it is not perfect, in the pilot episode Galactica Discovers Earth we are told that Dr. Zee is a mutation, not some "Child From the Stars" and you'd think at some point a super genius would have got around to asking Adama, "Don't I have parents?"  We also never find out what happened to Apollo.  He's never mentioned in this episode so I guess we are to assume he's dead.  But more importantly, with the cancellation of the show, we don't find out what happens to Starbuck.


Goodbye Starbuck, you are still the man. Where ever you are.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Jessica Jones: Season One Review

Who is Jessica Jones? This is certainly a question many Netflix viewers may be asking as this Marvel character does not have the same recognition cache of the likes of say Spider-Man or Captain America, but that kind of anonymity can work to show-runner Melissa Rosenberg’s advantage.  How many people watching this show are going to be yelling at the television set, “Jessica Jones in the comic would never do that!” or "They totally screwed up her costume!" Jessica Jones first appeared in the comics book Alias by Brian Michael Bendis back 2001, and if you’ve never heard of this comic you are not alone. Though now having binged watched the first season of Jessica Jones I may have to track down some trade paperbacks of that comic.


Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), at one point in her life, tried the superhero bit, it did not end well.  Now she runs her own detective agency out of a rather rundown apartment building and does her best to not beat her clientele senseless (It's harder to get paid when the are unconscious). She is of the hard drinking (bordering on alcoholic) variety of private investigators, but who is also suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder which leads to keeping her circle of friends very small. There is her childhood best friend Trish Walker (Rachel Taylor), a radio talk show host and ex-child star, who Jessica keeps at a distance for fear of the one person she cares about getting hurt, we have Jeryn Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss) a cast iron bitch of lawyer that throws the occasional job Jessica's way, then there next door neighbor Malcolm (Eka Darville), a sad sack junkie who Jessica looks after as one would a half-drowned kitten (if you didn’t particularly like cats), her upstairs neighbours Robyn (Colby Minifie) and Ruben (Kieran Mulcare) are fraternal twins who have a decidedly weird relationship and wh0 drive Jessica nuts, and then there is Luke Cage (Mike Colter), a hunky bar owner that Jessica has a dark connection with.


A connection that develops into an even more complicated relationship.

Steamy sexual drama is not something we can expect to see in the big Marvel tent pole movies, which is why Netflix is the perfect place for the darker underbelly of the Marvel Universe. With the launch of Netflix’s first Marvel show Daredevil we were treated to a view into Hell’s Kitchen, a bleak and violent world that is rarely visited by bright spandex clad heroes, and now with Jessica Jones we take an even grimmer peak into a seedy world populated by very dangerous people. None more dangerous than this season’s big bad, Kilgrave (David Tenant).


AKA The Purple Man.

Originally a Daredevil villain, before moving on to terrorize Jessica Jones, Kilgrave is one of the creepier villains to ever grace the pages of Marvel comics. He has the ability to control people's minds to the extent that when he tells someone to do something they not only do it they NEED to do it. For this Netflix series his history with Daredevil has been jettisoned in lieu of a darker connection to Jessica, one that is directly related to why she left behind the superhero biz, and for her PTSD. A sociopathic bastard stalking you would be terrifying thing in any world, but when said stalker also has the ability to control your mind your in a never ending nightmare.  And this show does not steer clear of the subject of rape in all its forms.  None of this is shown, thankfully, but the implication of what Jessica's past with Kilgrave was like is made abundantly clear.

Note: In the comics Jessica was never used by Kilgrave sexually, that is not the case here, and it's hard to believe a villain devoid of any semblance of morals would not use it against woman, so that change certainly makes sense.

David Tenant is not bringing us a cartoon villain to boo and hiss at, his Kilgrave is a fully realized evil sadistic fuck who, despite all the cruel and appalling acts he commits, we at times understand where he is coming from. That takes some fancy writing and extraordinary acting chops, which Tenant has full on display here. Strangely enough this leads to my only real criticism of the show, the lack of variety in it's episodes as pertaining to villains. Kilgrave is an amazing villain to have Jessica face off against, but it would have been nice to see her taking on more than just one baddie.


"Could the Kingpin have been behind this...or maybe Stilt-Man?"

There is an episode where one of her cases puts her in the cross-hairs of someone who really does not like superheroes, and blames them all for the carnage and death that the “New York Incident” caused. It was a good episode, and the show could have used more of that flavor, but not only does it add a bit of variety but it also connects the show to the wider Marvel Universe.  Unfortunately Jessica Jones does not have the same kind of rogue’s gallery that Spider-Man or even Daredevil have to draw from, but that doesn’t mean we can’t spend a little more time away from the hunt for Kilgrave. In the very first episode a case she is on is revealed to have all been set up by Kilgrave, who she had assumed was dead. Would it have hurt to wait until episode two before revealing the season's main villain? Sure, they only have thirteen episodes to tell this twisted story arc, but maybe they could have left out some of the zany neighbor antics, or possibly trim some of Kilgrave’s stalking scenes as they got a bit repetitive, and then they could have given us a couple more side cases to show us that Jessica is actually really good at her job, and not just a victim of Kilgrave’s particular brand of evil. That quibble aside this is an outstanding show, and most of that comes down to how good Krysten Ritter.


And she is really, really good.

Jessica Jones is a mess and being able to lift up the back end of a moving car, and jump really high, does not help her win friends or influence people. Her humor is of the dry and sarcastic nature and she can be a total asshole at times, and Krysten Ritter is able to balance all of Jessica’s faults while also letting us get glimpse at her true hidden nature, which is that she is basically a person who may just care too much. Now this series isn’t just a crime drama it is also a badass comic book superhero show, and when Jessica Jones and Luke Cage throw down against either one another in bed or in a fight it is no holds barred affair that is immensely fun to watch.

Note: Luke Cage is of course known to comic book readers as Power Man and who is one half of the “Heroes For Hire” team with his best pal Danny Rand aka Iron Fist. Mike Colter will continue to play the unbreakable skinned power house in Marvel’s Luke Cage (2016) which will then be followed by Marvel's Iron Fist, before leading into the miniseries, Marvel's The Defenders.


As a follow up to Netflix’s beautifully handled Daredevil this show has me just drooling at the thought of more and more of these superbly put together comic book adaptations. These are dark and gritty shows which work because the source material lends it to that look, unlike a certain Superman movie that I will not mention here. So whether you watch the episodes on a weekly basis or binge all thirteen episodes in one sitting as I did, you will find yourself in a Marvel world well worth your time.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Tarzan and the Huntress (1947) – Review

Tarzan and the Huntress is the last of the Tarzan films to feature Boy played by Johnny Sheffield, at the time of this picture's release Sheffield was sixteen and producer Sol Lesser had come to the startling conclusion that maybe the kid had outgrown the role of cute jungle boy.  Thus the character of Boy would no longer appear in further Tarzan movies.


This entry begins with your standard idyllic jungle moment with Tarzan and family, of course white man will enter the picture and ruin all this, but until then Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller) is having fun swinging through the trees, Boy (Johnny Sheffield) is making a fishing rod, and Cheeta is doing her Winnie the Pooh impression while trying to steal honey from bees. Jane (Brenda Joyce) informs Tarzan and Boy that it’s time to leave for King Farrod’s (Charles Trowbridge) birthday party, and the trio head off down the river. Tarzan gives the raft's pole to Boy and tells him, “Boy man now. Do man’s work.


“If I'm a man now does that mean I’m finally going to get a real name?”

The other key players in this jungle drama are Tanya Rawlins (Patricia Morison), one of the world’s foremost animal trainers, her financial backer Carl Marley (John Warburton) and Paul Weir (Barton MacLane) the ruthless hunter who will do anything to get the job done. Tanya Rawlins has come to Africa to bring back as many animals as possible due to a shortage of animals in American zoos following World War II. She is quite upset to find out from Marley and Weir that King Farrod will only allow them to take two of any one species. This is disastrous for Tanya as all her money is tied up in this expedition, and getting just two of each animal will not be enough.


“I really should have looked into that quota thing before coming all the way here.”

They attend the King’s birthday celebration with the hopes of Tanya sweet talking the King into lifting the quota, but the kindly ole codger sticks to his decision. Weir suggests to his compatriots that they pull an end run around the King and secretly deal with his nephew Oziri (Ted Hecht). This evil bastard wouldn’t care if they emptied the whole jungle as long as he got a cut, but he’s not even satisfied with that, during the hunt he orchestrates the assassination of King Farrod.


“I’m sorry, I thought he was coming right at me.”

The young Prince Suli (Maurice Tauzin) does not buy it being an accident, and after spotting the killers lurking in the jungle he runs after them. Sadly this results in him being tossed off a cliff overlooking a pool of crocodiles, and he is left for dead. Now that Oziri is king pillaging of the jungle can proceed post haste, and a sad Tarzan and family return to their home across the river. Unfortunately before leaving Boy was shown a flashlight by Smithers (Wallace Scott), Tanya’s pilot and comic relief, and is offered a trade, “I’ll swap it for the chimp.” Boy tells Smithers that Cheeta is like family, and cannot be traded for.  But later Boy spots a lioness and her cubs and thinks they’d make for a perfect trade.


Boy is a dick to jungle friends.

Eventually Tarzan finds out about this trade and returns to the American encampment to get the cubs back. When Tarzan arrives at he is shocked to find more animals than the late King’s decree would have allowed. Weir isn’t a fan of Tarzan and tells the jungle man mind his own business and, “Take the cubs back to your side of the river and stay there, if you know what’s good for you.” When the Ape Man says, “Tarzan stay on his side of river, hunters stay on theirs.” Weir thinks he has won, but nothing could be further from the truth because Tarzan is one canny son of bitch, and he just uses his stock jungle call to bring ALL of the animals in the jungle to HIS side of the river.


"AAAAaaahh Ooo AAAHHhhh Aaa!" That’s ape talk for “You're screwed!

This doesn’t stop that bastard Weir though, he just marches the men right across the river and proceeds to hunt and trap on Tarzan’s land. How they manage to remain unnoticed for so long, trapping and shooting off their guns as they do, without Tarzan noticing is beyond me, but eventually the idiots try and cage Cheeta. Big mistake. The chimp escapes and lets Tarzan know about the intruders, and what follows is some fun with Tarzan and Boy sneaking into the camp at night, knocking out the sentries, and stealing all the guns. Our two heroes hide all the apprehended guns in cave behind a waterfall, and without those guns the chances of those bozos surviving in the jungle is very slim. Tarzan let’s Tanya know that if they release the animals they’ve trapped so far he will safely guide them out of the jungle. Sadly the idiots won’t deal


“The rape of the natural world is my right as an American!”

In the previous film Tarzan and the Leopard Woman Cheeta was practically the bloody hero, rescuing Tarzan, Jane and Boy multiple times, that will not be the case here. The stupid chimp tries to steal Tanya’s compact and when caught at it she decides to trade for it,  and she retrieves one of the guns from the cave. Tanya tells Cheeta that she will only part with the compact if Cheeta leads them to the rest of the guns. Cheeta’s kleptomaniac tendencies have been well documented, but never with such disastrous results. Tanya even stiffs Cheeta, by keeping the compact anyway.


No honor among thieves, or hunters…or whatever the hell these guys are.

Meanwhile Tarzan and Boy stumble upon the actually not quite dead Prince Suli, saving him from an approaching python, and after sending Boy back to Jane Tarzan offers to take the young prince back to his people. Of course they will run into the killers who murdered King Farrod, and Tarzan will return the favor by murdering the hell out of them, and when evil Ozir shows up with coterie of armed men Tarzan does the only thing a man can do in a situation like that.


Elephant Stampede.

Marley is trampled to death, all the animal cages are smashed freeing the poor beasts, and Weir is chased by the herd into a pit trap that that just so happens to be holding a very pissed off lion. Irony is the most brutal killer in the jungle. Tanya and Smithers escape to their plane, but Cheeta, who really wanted the compact, sneaks aboard to get her “rightful” property.


“I think there is someone here to see you.”

As a Tarzan movie this has a lot going for it, but as a send-off for Boy it’s a tad disappointing. As an almost grown man, one who has lived in the jungle with Tarzan and Jane since he was a baby, I don’t buy him trading any animal for flashlight. Did he not pick up any of Tarzan's moral codes over the years? He certainly keeps forgetting that any interaction he's had with “helpful white men” has gone badly for him. So is Boy just a callous teen or is he just a stupid idiot? I'll let you the viewer decide.  Now don’t feel too bad for Johnny Sheffield, once he got kicked out of Tarzan’s jungle he landed a gig in his own series Bomba, the Jungle Boy.


“For crying out loud I’m sixteen, I’m not a boy anything!”