Weekly Reading Round-Up : 03/03/2019 – 03/09/2019


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Another week, another stack of first issues. It’s like it’s getting to be a pattern or something. Or maybe it has been for the last, I dunno, ten years or so —

The so-called “Black Hammer Universe” at Dark Horse keeps expanding, but Black Hammer ’45 #1 is its most radical “step out of the nest” yet, re-purposing the label to apply not to a solitary hero, but to a Blackhawk-esque WW II flying squadron, the members of which all hailed from diverse backgrounds — thus, sadly, ensuring they never really got their due. Split between the present day and the latter stages of the conflict in the European Theater, Ray Fawkes’ script (Jeff Lemire is on hand only as co-plotter) concerns a top-secret mission to rescue a family of scientists from Nazi captivity, but it looks like it’s probably gonna be another tale focused on Third Reich occult…

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Made Man: Martin Scorsese’s MEAN STREETS (Warner Brothers 1973)


cracked rear viewer

Let’s talk about Martin Scorsese a bit, shall we? The much-lauded, Oscar-winning director/producer/film historian has rightly been recognized as one of out greatest living filmmakers, with classics like TAXI DRIVER, RAGING BULL, GOODFELLAS, GANGS OF NEW YORK, and THE DEPARTED on his resume. Yet Scorsese started small, directing shorts and the low-budget WHO’S THAT KNOCKING AT MY DOOR? as a film student. He got work as an editor (UNHOLY ROLLERS) and assistant director (WOODSTOCK) before directing a feature for Roger Corman called BOXCAR BERTHA, starring Barbara Hershey and David Carradine. When Scorsese and Mardik Martin cowrote a screenplay based on Martin’s experiences growing up in New York’s Little Italy, Corman wanted to produce, but only if the film could be turned into a Blaxploitation movie! Fortunately, Warner Brothers picked it up, and the result was MEAN STREETS, which put Scorsese on the map as a filmmaker to be reckoned with.

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All Hail Jan-Michael Vincent: Red Line (1996, directed by John Sjogren)


Jan-Michael Vincent, back in the day

When Jan-Michael Vincent died on February 10th, we lost a legend.

For obvious reasons, the life and career of Jan-Michael Vincent is often held up as a cautionary tale.  Vincent went from being a rising star in the 70s to being nearly unemployable in the 90s.  When you watch Vincent in one of his early film, like The Mechanic or Big Wednesday, you see an actor who had both the talent and the looks to be a major star.  He was such a natural and deceptively low-key performer that it is not a surprise that he was twice cast as Robert Mitchum’s son.  He could play everyone from a hippie to a cowboy to a surfer to an assassin.  Unfortunately, once the 80s rolled around, Vincent became better known for his struggles with drugs and alcohol than for his talent.  After a brief but profitable stint starring in Airwolf, Jan-Michael Vincent found himself appearing mostly in straight-to-video action films.  By the mid-90s, he was a mainstay on late night Cinemax.  Even though the films had gotten smaller and his famous good looks had been ravaged by years of hard living, Vincent was still capable of giving a good performance.

It is impossible to talk about the legend of Jan-Michael Vincent without talking about Red Line.  In this direct-to-video car chase film, Vincent was cast as a gangster named Keller.  When an auto mechanic named Jim (Chad “Son of Steve” McQueen) makes the mistake of taking one of Keller’s cars for a joyride, Keller blackmails Jim into stealing a corvette from a police impound lot.  Red Line was typical of the type of films that Vincent was usually offered in the 90s, an action-filled crime film with a handful of recognizable faces.

It was also a film that Vincent nearly didn’t live to make.  Two days before filming was to begin, Jan-Michael Vincent was nearly killed when he crashed his motorcycle.  Vincent suffered severe facial lacerations and he would later tell Howard Stern that his eye was nearly popped out of his head as a result of the accident.  Vincent was rushed to the hospital and put in intensive care.

However, Jan-Michael Vincent still had a movie to make.  So, what did he do?  Two days after his accident, he checked himself out of the hospital and, unexpectedly, showed up on set.  With his face noticeable bruised and swollen and with the stitches and sutures still visible, Vincent played the role of Keller.  If you watch carefully, you can even spot his hospital ID, still hanging around his wrist.  The script was hastily rewritten to explain Vincent’s injuries and, though he could barely speak or walk, he still delivered his lines and filmed his scenes.  And goddamn if Jan-Michael Vincent didn’t steal the entire movie.  Even after years of hard-living (not to mention just two days after nearly dying), Jan-Michael Vincent still had it.  Even though he had to whisper his lines and film most of his scenes sitting down, Vincent was still credibly threatening in the role of Keller. He even points out his own injuries, saying, “I’m sick of looking like Frankenstein!”

Jan-Michael Vincent in Red Line

The rest of the cast was made up of an eclectic collection of familiar faces.  Dom DeLuise played Chad McQueen’s boss.  Michael Madsen and Corey Feldman (!) both played rival gangsters while Roxanna Zal played the young woman who becomes McQueen’s partner in crime.  B-movie fans will want to keep an eye out for Julie Strain, Robert Z’Dar, and Chuck Zito.  None of them make as much of an impression as Vincent, though.

Red Line was meant to be an homage to the type of car chase films that Steve McQueen made famous.  Chad McQueen even gets to drive a replica of the car that his father drove in Bullitt.  Some of the chase scenes are exciting but Chad doesn’t have his father’s screen presence and the film never overcomes its low-budget.  Watching the movie is a lot like watching someone else play Grand Theft Auto.  Red Line is a forgettable movie but it will always be remembered as an important chapter in the legend of Jan-Michael Vincent.

Jan-Michael Vincnet, RIP

Like Catching Fish In A Barrel : Chloe Handler’s “Astonishing Gaters”


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Are some targets too easy?

Well, yeah, I suppose they are, and given that the reactionary fan “movement” that bills itself as “comicsgate” pretty much exists entirely within the realm of unintentional self-parody, one could be forgiven for actively wondering what need there even is to poke fun at this bunch of sad MRA/alt-right/incel clowns who have so much free time on their hands that they can do things like “review-bomb” the new Captain Marvel movie because its lead actress “doesn’t smile enough,” or mercilessly hound female Marvel staffers for months because they had the temerity to go out for a milkshake one day and post a “selfie” of it.

In point of fact, the only people who don’t find these morons to be absolutely insufferable are “comicsgate” partisans themselves, and any comic written and drawn for the express purpose of lampooning them may, to the reasonable outside observer, seem…

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