Sunday, September 17, 2017

Tarzan of the Movies 4: THE SON OF TARZAN (1920)

After rereading and reviewing this fourth novel in the Tarzan series (that's HERE), I decided to poke around and see what Hollywood had done with the book. This is it - a 15-chapter serial made way back in 1920, when the story was only four years old.

I haven't seen this one, so I'll just be looking at what posters and pics I can find, and make guesses about how they relate to the book.

Our story begins on Jungle Island, off the coast of Africa, where nudity is apparently acceptable.

This geek, I assume, is Alexis Paulvitch, second-banana villain of The Beasts of Tarzan, who, due to his evil deeds in that tale, was stranded on the island for ten years. The actor in the ape suit, I assume, is playing Akut, who's been missing his pal Tarzan for lo, these many years.

Akut is mighty smart ape, so Paulvitch takes him to London for a stage show. But Paulvitch, by nature a mean S.O.B., is no pleasure to work for.

Cut to stately Greystoke Manor, where ten-year-old Jack Clayton has been kept in the dark about his pop's ape man days. Jack is strangely obsessed with all things African and anthropoid. Denied permission to see the Akut show, he sneaks out and goes anyway.

Paulvitch acts up one too many times, and Akut kills him. Jack decides to escort Akut back to Africa. On the ship, Akut kills another evil human. I'm not sure which killing this poster portrays, but the result is that Jack is stranded in Africa with no money and no I.D.

Jack eventually goes native and changes his name to Korak, which is apese for "Killer." Enter Meriem, stolen when very young from her French aristocrat father by an evil Sheik. After years of torment, Korak spirits her away to a life of fun and games with his pal Akut.

In the book, Korak becomes sexually aware when Meriem is kidnapped by a bull ape with a gleam in his eye. After kicking the ape's butt, Korak gets a similar gleam. Meriem, though, is still too young for that birds-and-bees stuff. Apparently our movie Meriem blooms sooner.

So, unlike the young couple in the book, their movie counterparts begin a jungle romance.

But - and you had to know this was coming - Meriem is snatched by evildoers, and after being rescued from a couple of fates-worse-than-death, she ends up as a guest on the Greystoke Ranch. Poor Korak believes her dead until he spots her out riding with a snooty English dude. In the book, our pure-hearted hero realizes that a now-sophisticated babe like her could never go for a dirty ape man like him, and resolves to help her find happiness with her new (apparent) love. Not so in the movie, where hatred fills his heart.

In the book, the unlucky gent at left would likely be the evil hunter who has those fate-worse-than-death designs on Meriem. But because the movie takes place in a parallel African universe, it might just as easily be her horse-riding partner.

This scene is straight out of the book, and was considered important enough to grace the dust jacket of the first edition (see that HERE). The evil Sheik returns to cause more trouble, catches Korak, and plans to burn him at the stake. Luckily, Tantor the elephant storms in, yanks the stake out of the ground and carries Korak away. Unluckily, Tantor is too dumb to free him, and too pig-headed to allow anyone else to do it, so the junior ape man is carted around for a couple more chapters until Tarzan saves the day.

Tarzan, in his third big-screen appearance, is portrayed by a guy in a bad wig named P. Dempsey Tabler. He soon retired from acting and made a fortune in the advertising business.

Korak, in this first big-screen appearance is portrayed (in adult form) by Hawaiian actor Kamuela C. Searle. Legend has it that Searle died during the filming of Chapter 15, when the elephant dropped the stake and crushed him to death. That tale may be slightly exaggerated, since Searle was uncrushed enough to make a film the following year for Cecille B. DeMille. Searle's brother insisted he died of cancer in 1924.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

YouTube Theater: TEXAS JOHN SLAUGHTER episode 1

Here's the first episode of this 17-part Wonderful World of Color series, plus the catchy theme song by Stan Jones, the guy who wrote it. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Forgotten Books: THE SPY WHO LOVED ME by Ian Fleming

I started reading James Bond (along with Tarzan and Doc Savage) when I was twelve years old, and have been through the whole original series at least a couple of times since. I remember most of them pretty well, but have almost no memory of The Spy Who Loved Me. So now, as I’m working my way through the audio versions, all I knew was that the story was narrated by a woman, and was looking forward to the novelty. Big mistake. This one is Bad with a capital B.

Ian Fleming began the book with this prologue:

I found what follows lying on my desk one morning. As you will see, it appears to be the first person story of a young woman, evidently beautiful and not unskilled in the arts of love. According to her story, she appears to have been involved, both perilously and romantically, with the same James Bond whose secret service exploits I myself have written from time to time. With the manuscript was a note signed 'Vivienne Michel' assuring me that what she had written was 'purest truth and from the depths of her heart'. I was interested in this view of James Bond, through the wrong end of the telescope so to speak, and after obtaining clearance for certain minor infringements of the Official Secrets Act I have much pleasure in sponsoring its publication.

A "fantasy" cover, though a pretty good one, with art swiped from Jubal's Children by Lenard Kaufman.

Fleming’s pleasure was short-lived. The book’s reception was so bad he prevailed upon his publishers to see that no paperback edition would appear in Great Britain until he had gone to his grave.

One reviewer called it “as silly as it is unpleasant,” and “boring.” One called it “cornography.” One said it was “as if “Mickey Spillane had tried to gatecrash his way into the Romantic Novelist’s Association.” And sadly, they were all right.

The novel is divided into three parts: ME, THEM and HIM.

ME, which consumes half the book, opens with an exceedingly dumb and aggravating scene in which our heroine, called Viv, is in a rural New York motel being frightened out of her wits by a storm. Then we flashback to her girlhood in Canada, a move to England and a lot of coming-of-age nonsense involving sexual encounters with a British boy. This is followed by some coming-of-another-age nonsense revolving around her career as a journalist and sexual encounters with her boss. It’s all, as the reviewer noted, silly and unpleasant and boring, and has zero story value. It is absolutely devoid of plot.

THEM, starting just before the mid-way point, takes us back to the motel from the beginning of the book, and introduces a couple of over-the-top gangsters called Sluggsy and Horror. The plot, such as it is, is finally underway, as they set about terrorizing her in silly, boring and unpleasant ways until the doorbell rings and the third part of the book begins.

HIM, of course, is Bond, and he’s looking for a room at the motel, having conveniently suffered a flat tire nearby. Compared to what has gone before, this is great stuff, but set against the rest of the 007 canon, it’s of only passable interest.

My gut feeling was that Fleming had an old unfinished and unsalable manuscript lying around and, with no inspiration for a follow-up to Thunderball, hit upon the idea of adding Bond to the mix and passing it off as a novel. Apparently that ain’t so. So the story goes, Fleming had recently suffered a coronary, was having marital problems, and was still reeling from the legal difficulties of getting Thunderball published (he had collaborated with film producer Kevin McCLory on the story)  He had even been tempted to do a Conan Doyle and kill Bond off in that book. (This was all before the appearance of the first true 007 film, Dr. No, which would turn Bond into a household name.) So Fleming deliberately set out to something different, perhaps in hope of acclaim as a serious writer. You gotta feel for the guy.

Another "fantasy" cover, much better than the real one Pan came up with.

When the film called The Spy Who Loved Me finally appeared, the producers wisely chose to scrap everything but the title. There was not so much as a sniff of the rest.

Probably the most interesting thing about the book is that the men’s sweat mag Stag published it in abridged form as “Hotel Nymph.” The fact that Viv is by no means a nymph apparently deterred Stag not at all. (Prior to meeting Bond, she has sex with only two men, first to be “a sport,” and then to be a good friend.)

I have not seen the abridgment, but am reasonably confident they cut out the entire ME part of the book, and began with the arrival of Sluggsy and Horror. That portion of the book is light on sex, but more than makes up for in violence. We present herewith some of the illos from the magazine appearance.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

DAVY CROCKETT AT THE ALAMO by the Plymouth Players (1956)

Okay, you've seen the Disney version, and the John Wayne version, and maybe the Billy Bob Thornton version too. But who's to say how it really was? Maybe, just maybe, it was closer to this 1956 dramatization by the Plymouth Players, with Davy bursting into song whenever the spirit moves him. But probably not. No, most decidedly not. But hey, as long as you're here, give a listen to the theme song, and then you'll be into the action, and you can see what you think. My guess is the guy doing the singing is named Scotty McGregor, but it ain't really clear. 

The YouTube file above features only Side 1 of the album. I had hoped to post the whole thing, but it was just too long. Side 2, titled "Songs of the West" by Cowboy Slim, had nothing to do with Davy, anyway. It featured several obscure cowboy songs, a couple about Swiss yodelers and one that was just plain silly. Five of them were infested with some of the wackiest yodeling I've ever heard, so I posted them in the video-free video below. The guy pictured here listened to all five. Consider yourself warned. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

World's UGLIEST Bluetooth Speaker?

Yeah, it probably is. If you've seen an uglier one, I'd like to see it. No, I take that back. I wouldn't like it at all. This Skullcandy Shrapnel wireless speaker also comes in black or camo, but I found this little sucker at Ross for half the regular price, and figured hey, I'll be listening to it, not looking at it. So far I've been mighty pleased (except, of course when it happens to catch my eye). (Ouch.) It sounds great, has plenty of volume, and works everywhere in the house, regardless of where my computer is. And chances are I ain't never gonna lose it.