Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Overlooked Films: Mike Hammer in MY GUN IS QUICK (Watch it here!)

Here, from 1957, is the third of Mike's six big screen outings. Star Robert Bray was later a regular on the TV series Stagecoach West and guest-starred on a passel of western and other shows before finishing his career as a regular on Lassie. Co-writer credit on the screenplay went to Richard Powell, author of the hardboiled novels A Shot in the Dark and Say It With Bullets

Monday, April 28, 2014


Stalwart Almanack reader El Kabong (How ya doin', El?) issued a special request to see a holster, and I am pleased to comply. I possess a few, and some are pretty fancy, but back in the day my rig of choice was this no-frills Genuine Top Grain Cowhide job from Mattel. 

This wasn't the same one I wore, of course. My ma gave that to the Salvation Army as soon as I outgrew it. But this one's identical, no doubt tucked high on a shelf by some other kid's ma - who didn't even let him play with it. Thanks, Other Kid's Ma, you kept it in great shape for its next owner. The holster still has that great cowhide aroma. 

The Fanner 50 itself is just a guest star in this post. I'll be slavering over the gun, in its several varieties, in weeks to come. 

More Cap Guns HERE

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Toy Soldier Saturday: LIDO KNIGHTS

I came upon this box one happy day at a thrift store. The knights, horses and accessories were still attached with antique rubber bands to the inside tray. A few of the figures bore sloppily-applied paint in strategic spots, so I assumed it was done at the factory. Interesting that every figure's armor, from boots to helmet, is different in every detail. 

These guys are 54mm, standing about 2 1/4" tall. The horses in the box were all hard ("durable," says the box) plastic, while those I acquired elsewhere were soft ("unbreakable miracle plastic"). The charging horse in the first pic, like all the figures and accessories, is soft. The other two are hard. 

The two Merry Men below were not in the box. Don't know if they were sold with knights (who would have been the villains in their set) or by themselves. 

Our growing Toy Soldier gallery is HERE.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Forgotten Books: DANGER ZONE by Raoul Whitfield (1931)

After reading Raoul Whitfield's Danger Circus (discussed HERE) I expected Danger Zone to be the same sort of book - semi-juvenile with plenty of action and mystery, but not much plot.

Well. I was right about plot (in fact, this book has so little it's barely worth the name), but wrong on the other counts. While the writing is less sophisticated than that of Whitfield's five mystery novels, there's nothing here - aside from the book's design and illustrations - to indicate it was aimed at a juvenile audience.

In fact, Danger Zone doesn't read like a novel at all, but like the memoir of a young pilot heading off to war. Though I don't know enough about Whitfield's life to say for sure, I suspect this to be a semi-autobiographical account of his own journey to France during WWI. I'll be curious to see what Whitfield authority Boris Dralyuk has to say on the matter.

The story begins with a brief scene in Texas, where our narrator, Cadet Ben Shirley, is making a qualifying flight to get his lieutenant's commission and earn his silver wings. Then it's on to New York, where Ben (now a lieutenant) and two fellow pilots are on board a ship preparing to cross the Atlantic. After many realistic slices of life on board, consuming at least fifty pages of the book, the ship finally leaves harbor and joins a convoy bound for France. There follow many more slices of life involving their duties on board and what they perceive as minor persecutions by small-minded majors. There''s also a lot of talk about  what might happen when they enter the "danger zone," where they're likely to encounter enemy submarines.

Well, they do finally encounter a sub, and one of an untold number of ships in the convoy is sunk, but the scene is quickly over. Ben and his pals are never in any danger, and are mere observers to the action. Nothing else happens (except more life slices) until the final chapter, when Ben takes the air for the first time in France, and then the book ends.

Adding to the memoir feel are numerous footnotes defining military slang and telling us what happens to certain characters during the war or later in their careers.

All in all, this is an interesting book and a good read, it just isn't much of a novel, and the title is false advertising.

I've now read all four of Whitfield's juvenile books and am surprised to report they have almost nothing in common. Silver Wings (HERE) is a collection of sometimes-related moralistic short stories. Danger Circus (HERE) is a mere novelette about melodramatic doings at a circus. Wings of Gold (review coming soon) is a full-length, but simple-minded novel of mystery-adventure set in the New West, and Danger Zone is only marginally fiction. I knew Raoul Whitfield was a versatile writer, but I didn't expect this much versatility in his kids' books.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Overlooked Films: Mr. Moto in DANGER ISLAND (Watch it Here!)

Legend has it that this, the sixth of eight Moto movies featuring Peter Lorre, was intended to be a Charlie Chan film, but was quickly rewritten following the death of Warner Oland. The Chan movie was to take place in Trinidad, while in this one the "danger island" is Puerto Rico. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Cap Gun Monday: HOPALONG CASSIDY Shootin' Iron

The George Schmidt Company made several styles of Hopalong Cassidy guns in the early '50s. This 9-inch beauty was also issued with white grips and black busts.