A Mandy Ord Two-Fer : “Water”


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

The second self-published mini from earlier this decade by Australian cartoonist Mandy Ord that we’ll be looking at here also focuses on a natural theme, this one being water, and like its “companion” comic, Cold, this one — titled, simply and appropriately, Water — broadens its basic premise out to encompass Ord’s personal experience with the subject in question at key junctures in her life.

We’re treated to four interconnected strips in these 40 pages, and the interesting thing is that Ord has chosen to relate autobio experiences focusing on both water’s absence (desert hiking), its abundance (a heavy rainstorm), and its conservation (water collection), thereby covering the extremes of human interaction with, and dependence upon, water from both extremes, as well as all points between. It’s a simple enough idea, I suppose, but no less bold and resonant for that fact.

Plainly speaking, some premises are so obvious…

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The Octagon (1980, directed by Eric Karson)


A ninja named Seikura (Tadashi Yamashita) is running a training camp where he shows mercenaries and terrorists how they can use martial arts to assassinate their enemies and disrupt the political system.  Someone has to stop him.

This looks like a job for CHUCK NORRIS!

In this one, Chuck plays Scott James, a retired karate champion who, though a massive series of apparently unrelated coincidences, is drawn into the fight against Seikura’s terrorists.  (Speaking of coincidences, Seikura just happens to be Scott’s half-brother.)  One of the fun things about The Octagon is that there’s no real rhyme-or-reason as to how Scott gets involved.  He just keeps running into people who want him to fight terrorists.  His former mentor (played by Lee Van Cleef) tries to recruit him.  Immediately after turning him down, Scott just happens to run into a woman (Karen Carlson) who is having car trouble and the woman tries to recruit him.  Scott’s old friend, A.J. (Art Hindle) tries to recruit him.  Even a dancer (Kim Lankford) who goes out on a date with Scott is more interested in talking about the terrorists than anything else.  Even when the terrorists decide to go after Scott, it’s mostly just because he keeps talking to their enemies.

Scott does eventually get involved.  He goes undercover, which means that he gives everyone a fake last name while asking them if they know where he can sign up for the terrorist training camp.  (But he doesn’t shave his mustache or anything else so he’s still obviously Chuck Norris.)  Eventually, Aura (Carol Bagdasarian) defects from the terrorists over to Scott’s side and the two of them launch an assault on the terrorist camp.  While this is all going on, Scott has doubts about whether or not he can really defeat his half-brother and we hear them in voice over.  It’s an interesting attempt to show what’s going on in an action hero’s head but, because Chuck was such an inexpressive actor early in his career, the contrast between his worries and his stone face creates a strange effect.

It doesn’t matter, though, that Chuck wasn’t an expressive actor or that the film’s plot is needlessly convoluted.  The fight scenes are frequent and they all rock and that’s what really matters.  Chuck throws a lot of punches and kicks in this film and, as opposed to some of his other early films, the director of The Octagon made sure that we could see every single one of them.  Whether he’s fighting in a small hotel room and fighting off a dozen enemies in the terrorist camp, Chuck’s exciting to watch.  Also exciting to watch is Carol Bagdasarian, who makes her role more than the typical action movie love interest.  At times, she seems like she might even be a deadlier opponent than Chuck himself!

Finally, Lee Van Cleef!  In this one, he drives a truck with a “Have You Hugged Your Gun Today?” bumper sticker.  No film featuring Lee Van Cleef can be that bad.  In fact, most, like The Octagon, are pretty damn entertaining.

18 Days of Paranoia #13: They Call Me Mister Tibbs! (dir by Gordon Douglas)


The 1970 police procedural, They Call Me Mister Tibbs!, opens with a murder in San Francisco.

A prostitute has been found dead in a sleazy apartment building and, according to witnesses, she was visited, shortly before her death, by the Reverend Logan Sharpe (Martin Landau).  Rev. Sharpe is a prominent civic leader, an outspoken liberal who is a friend of the civil rights movement.  Sharpe is currently at the forefront of a campaign to pass a city referendum that will add a “mini city hall” to every neighborhood and will help to fight against the gentrification of San Francisco.  If Sharpe’s guilty, it will mean the death of the referendum.

Despite the fact that there’s a ton of evidence piling up against him and he kind of comes across as being a little bit creepy (he is, after all, played by Martin Landau), Rev. Sharpe insists that he’s innocent.  Yes, he’s been visiting prostitutes but he’s not a client.  No, of course not!  Instead, Sharpe explains that he’s simply counseling them and praying for their souls.  In fact, as far as Sharpe is concerned, this whole thing is just an attempt by the establishment to discredit his efforts to help the poor and underprivileged.

Heading up the investigation is a friend and supporter of Sharpe’s, Detective Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier).  That may seem like a good thing for Sharpe, except for the fact that Tibbs is an honest cop and he’s not the type to let friendship stand in the way of doing a thorough investigation.  Tibbs admits that he supports Sharpe’s campaign and he wants the reverend to be innocent.  But Tibbs is all about justice.  Whether it’s teaching his son an important lesson about smoking or tracking down a potential serial killer, Virgil Tibbs is always going to do the right thing.

There are other suspects, all of whom are played by suitably sinister character actors.  Anthony Zerbe plays a criminal who lived near the prostitute.  Ed Asner plays her landlord, who may have also been her pimp.  Is Sharpe being set up by the powers that be or is Tibbs going to have to arrest a man whom he admires?

They Call Me Mister Tibbs! was the second film in which Sidney Poitier played Virgil Tibbs.  The first time he played the role was in 1967, when he co-starred with Rod Steiger in the Oscar-winning In The Heat of the Night.  In that film, Poitier was a Philadelphia cop in the deep south who had to work with a redneck sheriff.  In They Call Me Mister Tibbs!, Virgil is now working in San Francisco and he has to work the case on his own.

They Call Me Mister Tibbs! is a far more conventional film than In The Heat of the Night.  Whereas In The Heat of the Night had a wonderful sense of place and atmosphere, They Call Me Mister Tibbs! could just as easily have taken place in Los Angeles, Phoenix, or even Philadelphia.  With the exception of some slight profanity, They Call Me Mister Tibbs! feels more like a pilot for a TV show than an actual feature film.  Perhaps the biggest problem with the film is that there’s no real surprises to be found within the film.  You’ll guess who the murderer is within the first 10 minutes of the film and you’ll probably even guess how the movie will eventually end.

On the plus side, just as he did in In The Heat of the Night, Sidney Poitier brings a lot of natural authority to the role of Virgil Tibbs.  He’s actually allowed to show a sense of humor in this film, which is something that the character (understandably) couldn’t do while he was surrounded by bigots and rednecks during his previous adventure.  Virgil gets a few family scenes, where we watch him interact with his wife and his children.  The scenes feel out of place but, at the same time, Poitier plays them well.

With Sharpe attempting to get his referendum passed and the possibility that riots could break out if Sharpe is indeed guilty of murder, there’s a slight political subtext to They Call Me Mister Tibbs!  Sharpe’s argument that he was being set up by the establishment undoubtedly carried a lot of weight in 1970.  Still, this is ultimately a shallow (if adequately entertaining) film that, for the most part, is only made memorable by Poitier’s commanding performance.

Other Entries In The 18 Days Of Paranoia:

  1. The Flight That Disappeared
  2. The Humanity Bureau
  3. The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover
  4. The Falcon and the Snowman
  5. New World Order
  6. Scandal Sheet
  7. Cuban Rebel Girls
  8. The French Connection II
  9. Blunt: The Fourth Man 
  10. The Quiller Memorandum
  11. Betrayed
  12. Best Seller