Friday, May 30, 2008

Mark of the Hampire

Ah, the children of the night…what music they make!

I watched a double feature on DVD last night: Mark Of The Vampire, starring Lionel Barrymore, Jean Hersholt and Bela Lugosi from 1935, and 1932's The Mask Of Fu Manchu with Boris Karloff, Myrna Loy and Jean Hersholt.

Of course I've seen Mark before, but I have to watch it every few years just to remind myself how outrageous the plot is. What seems like a near remake of Dracula turns out to have a twist in the plot that has to be seen to be believed. Well, actually I don't believe it. It is such a crazy twist that it just defies logic. Still, it's an atmospheric movie, made especially so with Lugosi teamed up with the gothic "it" girl, Carol Borland. Now there's a chick who could sink her fangs into me anytime. Tod Browning, he of Freaks fame, among many others, was responsible for Mark Of The Vampire. Here's the trailer:

Too bad the trailer doesn't show Lionel Barrymore chewing the scenery, curtain, proscenium, dressing rooms, you name it. That guy, along with his famous brother John, was a true ham. It was the early days of sound movies, and the overacting began on stage and continued into silent films, and then it took a while for actors to learn that in sound movies less was more. In the era that Mark was made more was more! And I thought Bela was a hammy actor. Well, he was, but he and Lionel could make a really big ham sandwich if they were put between two slices of bread.

Mask of Fu Manchu wasn't quite as good a movie, although it was notable for the (comparatively speaking) understated performance of Karloff as Fu Manchu, and for the appearance of a very young Myrna Loy as Fu Manchu's daughter. In those days you didn't have to be Chinese to play a Chinese, and to the white mind the Asian races were considered sneaky and dangerous. Dr. Fu Manchu was a super villain in the Yellow Peril mold; the chief archetype of all those similar villains that came later. I had a few laughs out of this movie, but less than I had from the acting and audacious plot surprises of Mark Of The Vampire.

Here's a kinky clip where Myrna gets off watching hero Charles Starrett (who was later the Western hero, The Durango Kid), get whipped by some black guys.

Fu Manchu was the villain in a whole series of books by Sax Rohmer (real name Arthur Sarsfield Ward).

He wrote other potboilers, but the Fu Manchu series is what made him famous. A Sax Rohmer website explains a lot about him and his work.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Will Elder

Mention the name Will Elder and the Hairy Green Eyeball starts to sparkle. Elder was one of the hairy one's heroes in the 1950s and 1960s, via his Mad comic book stories, reprinted in the Mad series of paperback books. Mad Reader, Inside Mad, Mad Strikes Back….

Oh man, a tear starts to glisten when I think about them…

Will Elder, who was born Wolf William Eisenberg, died last week. He was 86 years old. For several years after he did Mad he collaborated with Harvey Kurtzman on Little Annie Fanny for Playboy magazine. The Hairy Green Eyeball bounced lovingly off many of those pages, sure enough!

But, this amateur fanzine covers just the work that Elder did in the EC comic books of the early 1950s, both for his friend and editor, Harvey Kurtzman on Mad and the Mad imitator, Panic, published by the same company. It's Melvin, printed by photocopy, was published in 1995 and was the only issue. The editor, writer and publisher, Par Holman, had plans to cover all of the artists that lit up the Eyeball: Jack Davis, Wally Wood, and Harvey Kurtzman, but like a lot of plans they went by the wayside. Only about 10 copies of this magazine were distributed, and the Eyeball is lucky to have one. Now you get to see it too, and all you have to do is click on the images to make them BIGGER!