I’ve become a co-programmer! Niall Greig Fulton at Edinburgh International Film Festival hatched the bright idea of putting together a retrospective look at the first real wave of live-action comic-book movie adaptations, which broadly occurred in the sixties and seventies. This will happen in June, and asides from BATMAN: THE MOVIE (pictured) we will be running such classics and oddities as BABA YAGA, BARBARELLA, DANGER: DIABOLIK, FLASH GORDON, FRIDAY FOSTER, GOLGO 13, MODESTY BLAISE, POPEYE, SWORD OF VENGEANCE and TINTIN AND THE MYSTERY OF THE GOLDEN FLEECE. The focus is international and aims to cover the field fairly thoroughly — quality control accounts for the omission of KRIMINAL, and cost accounts for the absence of KAGEMARU OF THE EGA CLAN and all the LONE WOLF AND CUB sequels (which we wouldn’t have time foe anyway, alas).

I have to put together a show with Niall tracing the evolution of the form, from TILLIE THE TOILER and SHOW GIRL through the DICK TRACY movies, BLONDIE, and all that. Should be fun, though God knows when it’s going to get prepared…

Still to be announced — a big job for Criterion, just completed, and two for Masters of Cinema, about to be begun. THE NORTHLEACH HORROR is mired in post but I see light ahead, possibly shed by some vast, ectoplasmic predator…


16 Responses to “Socko”

  1. david wingrove Says:

    It hasn’t happened for years but…miracle of miracles…this is an EIFF season I actually want to see!!

  2. Ha! Well, there’s a lot of entertainment on offer here…

  3. I would love to see the program notes on GOLGO 13 alone.

  4. We should make sure there are ice-cream cones for sale with that one.

    Fiona asked Mike Hodges “What are bore worms?” but he just shrugged.

  5. La Faustin Says:

    Please tell me FLASH GORDON will have a sing-along showing.

  6. kevin mummery Says:

    Are you going to be showing the RKO Dick Tracy’s? Just had a sort of mini-film festival a few weeks ago at home and watched one each of four nights, and they held up pretty well…much better than the ’40’s Batman and Captain Marvel serials did.

  7. I like those Dick Tracys but we had to limit the scope somehow so it’s 60s-70s-early-80s pop art stuff all the way. And features, not serials, live action, not animation.

    But we’re doing an illustrated talk, Origin Story, which will look at everything before this period.

  8. I was going to pitch for “Prince Valiant.” Robert Wagner takes a lot of heat for this one, but ALL the insistently American actors (the only obvious Brit is James Mason, the villain) have to share the credit for the movie being stubbornly but enjoyably Saturday Matinee fodder. Janet Leigh in a bullet bra makes a sexy 1950s Aleta, but she’s demoted from Queen of the Misty Isles to a minor lord’s daughter.

    Maybe an evening of TV episodes? Instructive how “Wonder Woman”, “Spider-Man” and “The Incredible Hulk” were stripped of their bigger-than-life comic universes to fit into thin “Charlie’s Angels” type stories. “The Tick” (live action) was a respectable and usually funny attempt to visualize the original. “Shazam”, a live action Saturday morning version of Captain Marvel, was cursed by minimal budgets and an excess of Learning Moments.

    Two marginal items: “How to Murder Your Wife” has Jack Lemmon as a cartoonist who lives the life of his James Bond-type comic strip creation. Marriage turns him — and his strip hero — into Dagwood Bumstead. “Condorman” is a big Disney misfire about a comic book artist (Michael Crawford playing American) who is mistaken for a spy by defecting Soviet Barbara Carerra, and is enlisted to use his comic book gimmicks to outwit Soviet spymaster Oliver Reed.

  9. I remember reading all about Condorman — and also The Spaceman and King Arthur — and then they never came to my local cinema. Maybe I missed the latter because, as I just discovered, the title changed to Unidentified Flying Oddball. It’s terrible.

    Oliver Stone’s The Hand is another neurotic cartoonist drama, seemingly inspired by Stone’s irritation at being rewritten on Conan the Barbarian. Michael Caine plays the creator of a sword-and-sorcery newspaper strip whose drawing hand is knocked off by a truck.

    There are two Li’l Abner movies I’d like to have included if the scope had allowed it… but Al Capp is unknown in the UK.

  10. The first L’il Abner is nigh unwatchable. The awfulness of some of the actresses takes on new significance in view of Capp’s later history of sexual assaults under cover of auditions for non-existent “Li’l Abner” projects. Granville Owen, who has trouble figuring out how to play Abner, later gained weight and changed his name to Jeff York. Fess Parker, who worked with him at Disney, admired York’s now-assured comic chops and scene-stealing moxie.

    The second is based on a Broadway musical, and does a great job of capturing both the look and feel of the strip and the brassiness of contemporary Broadway. It still plays, even without a familiarity with the strip.

    The first Abner is in public domain; many of the cheap DVD releases used art and even stars’ names from the musical version.

  11. I was contacted re: a search for a good print of DANGER: DIABOLIK. Did you folks ever find one?

  12. The first L’il Abner does have Buster Keaton as an Indian (good casting). He has some good moments, even though I’m not sure if he was still drinking at this point.

    Yes, Capp seems a horrendous individual. His latter attempts at being a sexual predator were regarded almost with pity by his would-be victims (he had only one leg).

    Danger: Diabolik — we’re on the case, and we’ve found SOMETHING.

  13. I remember when I saw The Spaceman and King Arthur I thought it was the best film ever. Never seen it since. I’m ASSUMING I was wrong.

  14. Film4 just showed it under its alternate title. It’s dreadful. Casting Jim Dale as the heavy, which seems like a bold and interesting idea on paper, turns out to be part of its general incompetence.

    I remember being very impressed by The Strongest Man in the World around that time. But I’ve never seen The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes. I’m a failure as a cinephile and as a man.

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