Friday, May 26, 2017

Forgotten Books: THE MALTESE FALCON Comic Book - Chapter I: Spade and Archer


When I started this blog eight years ago, one of my first grandiose plans was to post this comic book. It was too good not to share. So I trotted down to my storage unit and started digging through boxes. And came up empty. Undaunted, I kept searching until I'd been through all four or five hundred boxes. And found zilch. In the years since I've kept an eye out on every visit. The lesson I've learned from storage hunting is that you almost never find the thing you're looking for when you're looking for it -- you find it when you're looking for something else. But in the case of the Maltese comic book, that never happened. 

Then a few weeks back I came across some online photos of 3-D Tarzan gum cards (watch for those in a future post), and started thinking fondly of the stack of 3-D comics sheltered in the back of my top desk drawer . . . Mighty Mouse, Batman, Superman, Crypt of Terror, EC Classics, and others. And I had a thought. Could the Falcon be there too? Nah, wouldn't make sense. It's not 3-D. But it was worth a look. And there it sat, shining like the Holy Grail. Right where it had been for at least twenty years, less than two feet from the tip of my nose. 

So at long last, more or less direct from 1946, just in time for Hammett's birthday (it's tomorrow), here it is. Or here, at least, is Chapter I. I'll be presenting a chapter a day until all 18 have been laid before your eyes. Hope you think it was worth the wait. 

The stylish artwork is by Rodlow Willard, best known for his work from 1946-1954 on the Scorchy Smith comic strip.





Tomorrow - Chapter II: Death in the Fog

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The SEQUEL to the MALTESE FALCON: "The Kandy Tooth" starring Howard Duff (1948)


This broadcast of Suspense from January 1948, featuring the return of Caspar Gutman and Joel Cairo, is especially cool because it's introduced by my favorite screen Marlowe, Robert Montgomery. The story reportedly first aired in two parts in late 1946 on The Adventures of Sam Spade program, but I've seen no sign those episodes are circulating. 

The title has been variously listed as Kandy, Kandi, Khandi, and even Candy. Until yesterday, I was in the Kandi camp, because Sam mentions India, and there's a real Indian city named Kandi. But a little late night googling hipped me to the fact there's a city of Kandy in Sri Lanka (which until 1972 was called Ceylon, the "province" mentioned in Effie's encyclopedia), just off the southern tip of India, where the tooth of Buddha still resides in the Temple of the Tooth. So now I know. The Kandy Tooth, it is. Listen . . .



Howard Duff as Sam Spade

And while we're listening, let's offer a quick salute to the second sequel to the Falcon, from 1975 . . .


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

37 different looks at THE MALTESE FALCON (1941)


Lauren Bacall's bronze figurine of Bogart as Spade sold at auction two years ago for $16,250. To me? I wish.










The Conrad falcon, so-called because Jack Warner gave it to actor William Conrad. 47 pounds, made of lead, reportedly used in the film. This might be the one currently viewable only as part of the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, which will cost you $75. Or it might not. Falcon facts are elusive.





The other lead statue used in the film. This one has a bent tail, supposedly due to being dropped by Bogart. It sold for $4,085,000 at auction in 2013. No, I didn't buy this, either. Nuts.







This four and a half pound resin version, also used in the film, sold in 2010 for a mere $305,000 to Leonardo DiCaprio and some associates, none of whom was me. Life's not fair.


















Tomorrow: The sequel to The Maltese Falcon
Friday: The Maltese Comic Book begins

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

JIMI AFTER DARK (Yep, a Jimi Hendrix novel) by Stephen Mertz


Sex, drugs, rock and roll, ass-kicking, kidnapping and murder. They’re all here raring to rock your world in Jimi After Dark, the latest mystery/thriller from Stephen Mertz.

It’s 1970, and Jimi Hendrix is at the peak of his fame. But behind the scenes his world is coming apart. His music business associates are cheating him. His illicit business associates are hounding him. And unknown forces, playing a deeper game, are trying to kill him. It’s all too much, driving Jimi into a purple haze of alcohol and drugs. So he calls for help, to an old friend we know only as Soldier, and things really start hopping.

Soldier storms into London on a two-week leave from active duty in Vietnam, to find himself in a different kind of war. The world has changed while he’s been away, and Jimi has changed with it. Soldier is thrown into a time and culture he doesn’t really understand, and has to fight, both physically and mentally, to get his bearings and survive.

Jimi After Dark is a multi-layered novel, with several stories rolling along at once. On the surface, Soldier is our guide to the hip London scene, with its clubs, music and counter culture, as he struggles with the cops, gangsters, drug dealers and women in Jimi’s life. On another level we’re up close and personal with Jimi himself as he battles his own demons, past and present, real and self-induced. Soldier’s inner conflict, juxtaposing his Vietnam reality (complete with flashbacks) with the seeming fantasy world of London, is a powerful tale of its own. And underlying it all is a theme of transformation, dealing with barbarians and Buddhists and their potential for evolution in times of war and peace.

There’s some fine prose here, as in “Time is a speeding silver phantom that won’t slow down.” There are insights into the psyche of Soldier (if I had to guess, I’d say his first name is Stephen). There are looks into Jimi’s past (his time as sideman for Little Richard) and present (his uneasy relationship with the German beauty who wants to be his wife). And there are scenes of wild abandon, as when Soldier uses Jimi’s guitar like a war club.

Jimi After Dark is part murder mystery, part political thriller, part war story, part action adventure, part love story and part rock and roll history. The author put his heart and soul into this one, and clearly had fun doing it. The result is a book that will make you happy, sad and thoughtful all at once. You'll have a mighty hard time putting it down. 

Get your own here: 

For further reading, I direct you to Paul Bishop's fine new interview with Mr. Mertz, here:

Monday, May 22, 2017

SATAN MET A LADY, the whacked-out Maltese Falcon (1936)


While gearing up for our presentation of The Maltese Falcon comic, here's a post I've run before about the second film version of the novel (the Bogie classic was the third), complete with the film, so you can check it out for yourself.

The bad news is, this is a really silly movie. So silly that even Warren William can't keep a straight face, The good news is that it stars Warren William and Bette Davis, who are always interesting to watch, even when the movie sucks. And I wouldn't really say this one sucks. It's just . . . silly.

Watch it and see:




To lay the groundwork . . . Warner Brothers had purchased the screen rights to the Hammett novel and released the first (relatively faithful) film version back in 1931, with Ricardo Cortez as Spade. The film bombed. But by 1936, following the film version of The Thin Man, Hammett’s star was flying high, and they decided to exploit it. Trailers for Satain Met a Lady touted it as being from “Dashiell Hammett, author of The Thin Man.”

Because only five years had passed, they must have figured it was too soon for a remake of the Falcon, so they turned the story inside out and upside down and tried to disguise it as something different. And in that they succeeded. It’s different as hell.

First, as you already know, the title was changed. Then the falcon became the Horn of Roland. And the characters got new names, and - in some cases - new genders and sexual preferences.



Sam Spade morphed into a goofus named Ted Shane, portrayed like a maniac off his meds by Warren William. Bette Davis, who got top billing, is actually only a bug-eyed bit player in the ersatz Bridget O’Shaughnessy role. Arthur Treacher, as “the tall Englishman,” fills in for Joel Cairo. Instead of Wilmer the gunsel we get a pudgy dork in a beret. And the Casper Gutman substitute is a woman.

Warren William, who behaved like a reasonably sane human being in the first Perry Mason movies, seems to have completely lost it here, launching into giggling fits or roaring like King Kong with no provocation. Many scenes are so goofy they leave you wondering What the hell was that?, but the worst was the all-important history lesson laying out the origin and importance of the Horn of Roland. The tale is tossed off between gags as Shane and the Englishman cavort around his apartment playing ring-toss with a lampshade.



Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? Actually, the film does have its moments, like whenever the Effie character (here known as Miss Murgatroyd and played by Marie Wilson) is on stage. Yeah, she’s goofy too - in a Lucille Ball sort of way - but I like better her in the role than the real Effie in the Bogart version. And the dialogue, while almost entirely Hammett-free, is sometimes snappy.

So. What possessed Warner Brothers to turn the Falcon into a slapstick farce? I have a theory. In 1936, Hammett’s fame among movie-goers was based mostly on the movie version of The Thin Man that had hit it big two years earlier. To them, Hammett meant Nick and Nora characters who were always clowning around. So that’s what the studio tried to give them, twisting The Maltese Falcon into their version of The Thin Man. To me, that’s the only way this movie makes sense. What do you think?

Warren William as Ted Shane

Shane and the bug-eyed Lady

Marie Wilson as Miss Murgatroyd (Effie)

Arthur Treacher as Travers (Joel Cairo)

Maynard Holmes as Kenneth (Wilmer)

Alison Skipworth (left) as Madame Barabbas (The Fat Lady)


The Horn of Roland as The Maltese Falcon