Two More From Mandy Ord : “Kyoto Pants Down”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

In fairly short order, I’ve become convinced beyond any shadow of a doubt that  Aussie Many Ord ranks right up there with the likes of Alison McCreesh and Eleanor Davis as one of the great “travelogue” cartoonists of our time, But whereas her previous globetrotting works concerned themselves with singular elements that tied the experiences together, with her 2019 self-published mini, Kyoto Pants Down, she take a different, and frankly more standard, approach, focusing on a set of general impressions of, and experiences set in, Kyoto, Japan. But hey — please don’t take “standard” to be at all synonymous with “dull.”

In point of fact, the narrative in this thick (52 pages!) little book book is as tight as Ord’s always-agreeable line is loose, and that balance between plotting/storytelling precision and fluid, organic art gives the comic a distinct vibe all its own, a flair and flavor that accentuates…

View original post 547 more words

An Offer You Can’t Refuse #8: Force of Evil (dir by Abraham Polonsky)

The 1948 film noir, Force of Evil, plays out like a fever dream of dark and disturbing things.

The film begins on the third of July with attorney Joe Morse (John Garfield) telling us that, by the end of the 4th of July, he will have made his first million dollars, something that he describes as being “an important moment in every man’s life.”  Joe has an appreciation of money that one can only get from growing up poor.  By his own admission, Joe spent most of his youth on the streets, committing petty crimes.  It was his older brother, Leo (Thomas Gomez), who held things together back home and who kept Joe from getting into any truly serious trouble.  Now, years later, Joe is an attorney and Leo is a small-time player in New York’s numbers racket.

(The numbers racket, as the film explains, is an illegal lottery in which people — mostly in working class neighborhoods — bet on which three numbers will be drawn at the end of the day.  In this film, those three numbers are the last three digits of “the handle”, the amount race track bettors placed on race day at a major racetrack, published in the major newspapers in New York.)

Joe now works for Ben Tucker (Roy Roberts).  Tucker may look like a respectable businessman and he may operate out of an office building but he’s actually a gangster.  He got his start as a bootlegger and then, after prohibition ended, he moved into the number game.  He and Joe have come up with a scheme to consolidate and take over the entire New York numbers racket.  They’re going to fix the handle so that, on July 4th, everyone who picks “776” as their three numbers will win.  (As Joe explains, a mix of patriotism and superstition leads to thousands of people picking 776 on every Independence Day.)  When the small time operators don’t have the money to pay off the winners, Tucker will loan them the money to stay afloat.  However, by accepting the loan, the operators will now be in debt to Tucker and Tucker will basically control their operations.  Anyone who doesn’t want to work for Tucker will either be out of work or dead.  It’s all strictly business.

The only problem is that Joe knows that the plan will basically bankrupt Leo.  When Joe goes to Leo and tries to warn him, Leo refuses to listen to him.  Leo may be a criminal but he’s an honest criminal and he has no interest in getting involved with someone like Ben Tucker.  Leo watches out for the people working underneath him and treat them fairly, a concept that men like Ben Tucker will never understand.  In fact, the only thing that Leo asks from Joe is that Joe make sure that Leo’s longtime secretary, Doris Lowry (Beatrice Pearson), is taken care of.

Needless to say, things get even more complicated from there….

Force of Evil presents us with a world where everyone — with exception of maybe Doris — is corrupt and where everything — from blackmail to murder — is strictly business.  Greed is the motivator for every action and the more money that comes in, the easier it is to justify every ruthless act.  Joe makes his fortune over the course of one of America’s most sacred holidays but it comes at the expense of his brother.  His brother tries to do the right thing as far as his employee are concerned, just to discover that the Walter Tuckers of the world don’t care what happens to the people who work for them as long as the money keeps coming in.  It’s a dark and cynical movie, a gangster movie were the cops are just as dangerous as the people they’re arresting and where concepts like love and loyalty mean nothing when there’s money to be made.

As directed by Abraham Polonsky, Force of Evil plays out like a filmed nightmare.  Every interior seems to be full of ominous shadows and the exterior scenes always seem to find characters like Leo Morse and his timid accountant (Howland Chamberlain) dwarfed by the city around them.  Gangsters like Ben Tucker and his associates emerge from the darkness, with the film’s final shoot-out taking place in complete darkness and featuring characters shooting at shadows despite not knowing who that shadow might belong to.  It’s a dark and claustrophobic world that Polonsky presents, one that always seems to be closing in on the Morse brothers and the people unlucky enough to be around them.  (The real world would later close in on Polonsky, an unapologetic Marxist whose ideology is obvious in the film’s portrait of crime just being another form of big business.  Polonsky was among those blacklisted in the 50s.  Force of Evil was the first of only three movies that he would ever direct.)

John Garfield plays Joe Morse with a barely contained anger.  Even after he’s made his first million, he’s still angry at the world.  Getting rich is his revenge on a society that predicted that someone like him would never amount to anything.  Roy Roberts is perfectly sleazy as the outwardly respectable Walter Tucker and Marie Windsor has a few wonderful scenes as his vampish wife.  Perhaps the film’s best performance comes from Howland Chamberlain, playing an accountant who soon finds himself in over his head as Tucker makes his move on Leo’s operation.

Tough, violent, and visually unforgettable, Force of Evil is an excellent gangster film and a classic noir.  It’s definitely an offer that you can’t refuse.

John Garfield in Force of Evil

Previous Offers You Can’t (or Can) Refuse:

  1. The Public Enemy
  2. Scarface
  3. The Purple Gang
  4. The Gang That Could’t Shoot Straight
  5. The Happening
  6. King of the Roaring Twenties: The Story of Arnold Rothstein 
  7. The Roaring Twenties


Two More From Mandy Ord : “Galapagos”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Ludicrously impressed as I was by a couple of Mandy Ord minis — Water and Cold — that I scored awhile back from John Porcellino’s Spit And A Half distro, I was delighted to explore more of this talented Australian cartoonist’s work, and to find that the first thing I opened up in the new (okay, newer, it was published by Glom Press in 2018) package of books that I got from her represented something of a step out of her usual autobio nest and into the realm of horror. Or slapstick horror. Or nature horror. Or maybe it’s all (or mostly) autobio after all? Or something.

Anyway, it’s called Galapagos, it’s 48 pages long in a riso-printed “chapbook” format, and it’s pretty weird and cool and off-kilter and great. And it has zombies. Right on the cover. And inside. And people like zombies. In fact, they…

View original post 544 more words

Hail, Hero! (1969, directed by David Miller)

After going away to college, Carl Dixon (25 year-old Michael Douglas, in his film debut) has returned to his rural hometown.  Though Carl comes from a family with a long military tradition, he’s against the war in Vietnam and is considered to be a hippie by his family.  As soon as his stern father (Arthur Kennedy) sees Carl, he sits him down in the kitchen and, after declaring that no one is going to mistake his son for a girl, cuts his hair.  Meanwhile, Carl’s mother (Teresa Wright) stays out of the conflict between her husband and her son while Carl’s older brother (Peter Strauss) continues to resent Carl for the accident that injured his spinal cord and kept him from going off to war.

Carl has an announcement to make.  Despite being against the war in Vietnam, he’s joined the army.  He will soon be going overseas, where he’ll get a chance to be a hero and where he says he hopes to love the enemy.  No one in his family can understand his decision, though they certainly spend a lot of time talking about it.  Carl can’t explain it either, though he certainly keeps trying.  Eventually, Carl ends up going for a swim with a local girl (Deborah Winters), smoking weed with a woman who lives in a cave with a mummified baby, and painting the family barn with a mural that’s supposed to explain it all.

Hail, Hero! is an extremely talky film that wants to say something about the war in Vietnam but it doesn’t seem to know what.  The film’s too sincere in its confusion to be a disaster but it’s also too muddled to really be effective.  Carl is opposed to the war but he drops out of college and enlists because it’s what his father would have wanted him to do but his father doesn’t seem to be impressed with the decision and Carl doesn’t seem to like his father to begin with so why volunteer for something that you find to be immoral?  The film would have been effective if Carl had been drafted into the war and had to choose between reporting for duty or fleeing to Canada.  But having him drop out of college and volunteer to serve makes it more difficult to sympathize with him when he talks about how opposed he is to the war.

If the film gets any attention today, it is probably because of Michael Douglas in the lead role.  This was Douglas’s film debut.  He was 25 when he made the film and he was already a dead ringer for his father.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t give a very good performance.  He’s miscast in the lead role.  Carl Dixon is supposed to be insecure and conflicted.  Insecure is not something that comes to mind when you think about Michael Douglas.  Instead, Carl just comes across as being petulant and self-righteous.  Hail, Hero! tries to say something about the war in Vietnam but Carl Dixon’s the wrong messenger.

The Shocking Covers of Super-Detective

by Hugh Joseph Ward

From 1940 to 1943, Super-Detective Magazine kept the world up-to-date on the adventures of Jim Anthony.  Anthony was a crime fighter, described as being “half-Irish, half-Indian, and all-American.”  Much like contemporary pulp heroes like Doc Savage, Phantom Detective, and the Shadow, Jim Anthony fought gangsters, saved damsels in distress, and even thwarted a few spies.

As you might be able to guess by looking at the covers below, the adventures of Super-Detective were, for the time, considered to be very racy.  There was a greater emphasis on both sex and violence.  As opposed to chaste and stoic heroes like Doc Savage, Jim Anthony was frequently very emotional and very flirtatious with his clients.  Still, Jim Anthony did what had to be done to fight crime and keep America safe.

Here are a few of the covers of Super-Detective!  Where known, the artist has been credited.

Artist Unknown

Artist Unknown

Artist Unknown

Artist Unknown

by Harry Lemon Parkhurst

by Hugh Joseph Ward

by Hugh Joseph Ward

by Hugh Joseph Ward

by Hugh Joseph Ward

by Robert Maguire

Music Video of the Day: Just Can’t Get Enough by Depeche Mode (1981, directed by Clive Richardson)

Just Can’t Get Enough is about as upbeat of a song as you are ever going to get from Depeche Mode.  That has a lot to do with the fact that it was written by Vince Clarke, who was a founding member of the band and who was considered to be the band’s leader until he left in November of 1981.  While Clarke went on to become best known as a member of Erasure, Depeche Mode went in a harder, less pop-orientated direction, with Martin Gore eventually taking over Clarke’s role as the band’s main songwriter.

Just Can’t Get Enough was the third single from Depeche Mood’s debut album, Speak & Spell.  The song was written as the punk scene was winding down and London club kids were looking for new music that wasn’t quite as aggressive and self-destructive.  Just Can’t Get Enough was the first Depeche Mode song to become a top ten hit in the UK.

The video, which was directed by Clive Richardson, was the band’s first and it remains the only Depeche Mode video to feature Vince Clarke.  The outdoor scenes were filmed at the Southbank Centre in London.  Though the video did occasionally air on MTV, it wasn’t placed in the station’s regular rotation.  In fact, MTV didn’t really embrace Depeche Mode’s videos until the release of Personal Jesus in 1989.