Saturday, 21 September 2019

BARRY PEARL PRESENTS - U.S. COMICS AND CULTURE IN 1972 (BY ARTHUR ASA BERGER)...


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

Another guest post provided by the Bold-but-Bashful BARRY PEARL, Criv-ite chums.  Straight over to Barry to explain things in his short intro.

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As a comic book “Discoverer” I enjoy finding new things, even if they are old.  In 1972, Arthur Berger discussed how comics were then being recognized as part of the American culture.

He is right that in 1972 comics were mostly ignored and there were few books about them, though  I very much disagree with his views on Spider-Man and one of my favorite Fantastic Four comics, “This Man, This Monster!”  I don’t think he got the “humanity” of the story.  I edited down the 4,000 words, eliminating his comments on comic strips, but the essence of his article about comic books remains.

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From “Side Saddle on the Golden Calf: 1972 Social Structure and Popular culture in America”.

COMICS AND CULTURE - Arthur Asa Berger, 1972.

…there were a few books on the comics.  There were also occasional articles in literary magazines and news magazines, but for the most part comics have been neglected.

There is a widespread misconception about who reads the funnies.  Many people assume that they are essentially a "lower class" phenome­non, and the essential reading fare of juveniles and quasi-illiterate adults.  This is wrong.  The funnies are read by all classes, but essentially by mid­dle and upper class families for the simple reason that middle and upper class people read more of everything.  Young people do read comic books in great numbers, as the following statistics demonstrate:

Age Percentage:

5-7 82%

8-10 92%

11-14 94%

18 60%

Youth are the primary readers of comics, though certain books such as Marvel Comics are now popular with high school and college students.  Readership figures for comic strips in newspapers run into the hundreds of millions each month.

The comforting thing about the comics is that we are always certain of the resolution of the adventure; we don't know the means by which it will be resolved, but we do know that "Tracy will win," for example. Thus, what the comics do is raise moderate levels of anxiety which they then satisfy.  We keep coming back for more, getting our daily emotional charge, but it is not intense enough to do much more than make us want to read the strip the following day.
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Probably the most significant innovation in comic books is the devel­opment of humanized, occasionally neurotic, multi-dimensioned charac­ters, instead of the bland superheroes who were found in the comics of the "old days".  The Marvel Comics Group, which publishes The Amazing Spider Man, The Fantastic Four, and The Silver Surfer (among many many others) probably saved the comic book when it introduced this kind of "real" character.  Ben Grimm, one of the Fantastic Four, looks like a jigsaw puzzle and is often shown as angry and upset over his looks.  In this series women become pregnant and have babies, and frequently biting political comments are made, usually as asides, during the course of the adven­tures.

There has been an interesting change in the looks and character of Peter Parker, The Spider Man.  In the earliest issues he was shown as a rather "square" type of individual with thick glasses.  The whole strip actually was rather crudely drawn.  In current adventures he looks some­thing like Elvis Presley, rides a motorcycle and is always in the company of beautiful and sexy young women.  There are many Negroes in the strips along with much talk about drugs and other social problems.

The comic books have gained a new audience - high school and college students - have become "relevant," and now deal increasingly with social and political issues.  Marvel Comics has an American Indian hero, Red Wolf, and two black heroes: The Falcon and The Black Panther, while Superman, Batman and Robin, and many other characters have be­come modernized and more realistic.  If there has been some kind of revo­lution in American culture, or in American youth culture, this revolution is reflected graphically in these comic books.


It has been argued by Lindsay and Lawrence Van Gelder, in an article appearing recently in New York magazine, that the comics have become "radicalized":

'. . . the recognition of the limits of powers among the superheroes, and beyond that their accelerating social consciousness, their deep­ening anxiety, the proliferation of their neuroses, their increasing involvement in issues with no clear solutions, and most of all, their burgeoning radicalization, have restored excitement, interest and merit to a once crippled industry.'

The changes that have taken place in these heroes are significant in many ways not directly related to the present social problems and con­flicts of American society.  The diminution and humanization of the super­heroes suggests a new and emerging conception of the role in our culture.  We have, in effect, rejected the old version of the superhero as the strong father who rescues the weak and powerless from the forces of evil.  When one realizes that there isn't any superhero who can intervene at the last moment and straighten everything out, one is on the road to maturity.  The weakening of the powers of the superheroes reflects, correspondingly, a new sense of strength in our own abilities and capacities.  In addition, the comics generally show a new conception of the rela­tionship between the individual and society.  The old idea of the self-reliant "individualistic" hero who can do everything on his own, with no help from anyone else - who can save the world because he is a Superman, for example, has been replaced by a view of each one's fate being related to the fate of everyone else.  It is a much more complex and sophisticated view of man and society than we found in the "caped crusader" comics of the forties and fifties.

The subject of machines and technology is important, and one about which the comics have much to say.  There is a considerable difference in attitude, as far as science and technology are concerned, in the works of our elite artists and popular artists in extremes such as the novel and the comic book.  The dominant thrust of "high" literature has been a sense of revulsion against science and the machine.  For some reason our novelists and poets see science and technology almost invariably as a threat to humanity.  They recoil against the machine in panic.  Thus many contem­porary novels are dystopias, which see societies of the future as totali­tarian and antihuman.

This is due in part to a bias in our higher arts which have traditionally looked toward nature for a source of inspiration and wisdom.  The Fantas­tic Four reflects a much different attitude towards science and the ma­chine.  Although the various villains are able to use technology for their evil purposes, they are always defeated by heroes who are superior morally and technologically.  Rather than refusing to face the contemporary world and returning to the older and simpler days of the pastoral, many comics use science and technology as their subject matter.  The victories of the "good guys" (who now have faults of their own) may be, in part, an ex­pression of a fundamental optimism which is said to infuse American cul­ture.  The triumph of the heroes reflect an awareness of the potentialities for good and evil in machines and a faith in man's ability to control them - that is, a realism and an awareness of the moral dilemma posed by science and technology.

We can see this if we look at a Fantastic Four adventure entitled This Man . . . This Monster! (#51 June).  Here, a machine is given an entire page.  There is a sense of threat from the very size of the device, a "radical cube" which dwarfs the figures who are to use it, and from its function - sending people into "subspace".  But the purpose of the experiment with the radical cube is to gain information on the "space-time principle" which is needed to defend the human race and the earth, so the size of the machine be­comes of secondary importance.  The Fantastic Four are, in their own way, larger than life, so the cube becomes even less menacing.

The machine sends Reed Richards, the "leader" of the Fantastic Four, into subspace, which is represented by a rather magnificent full-page spread of worlds, galaxies and space. The presentation of landscape in The Fantastic Four is particularly interesting, with brilliant panoramas of gothic castles and modern super megalopolis.  The settings for the adven­tures tend to be extreme - either urban or primitive - however, urban ad­ventures tend to dominate, reflecting the readers' acceptance of the city as the environment for modern man.

It has been suggested that these comic books, and perhaps science fiction in general, play around with technological gadgetry but do not really exhibit the kind of thinking found in science or an understanding of what science is really about.  I'm not so sure such is always the case.  But what is at issue is not whether comic book science fiction writers under­stand science but how they and their public feel about it.  A radical cube may be bad science; however, it reflects an attitude about science and technology that is quite positive - though not worshipful.  Science can be manipulated by dedicated scientists or mad fiends.  Progress is a function of moral character as well as intelligence.

… the comics reflect a basic confidence in man's ability to dominate the forces of technology and industrialization.  For every fantastic monster or problem we find an ingenious solution and remark­able hero.  Despite the violence and terror in the comics, they display an underlying confidence about man's possibilities.  We may question, then, whether this really is an age of the antihero?  It may be for some elements in society, but it does not seem to be the case for millions of Americans who read comics - even though the heroes of Marvel Comics and their imitators are "flawed".

It should be obvious by now that clichés about comics being useless dribble cranked out by commercial hacks and fit only for wrapping garbage are not valid.  Nor were they ever valid.  The comic strip and comic book are art forms, and as such they have served people of genius as well as of mediocrity.  I would argue that though there have been only a handful of first-rate comic strip artists, the same can be said about novelists, poets and artists in every medium.

The fact is, comics are a distinctly American idiom and are one of the few things that we all have in common - one of the few things in our soci­ety that cuts across class barriers (for the most part), regional differences, ethnic distinctions - whatever you will - to give us a communality of experi­ence and of reference points.  There have been major changes in the fun­nies and the comics, just as there have been significant changes in Ameri­can society.  We have now become urbanized and industrialized, and our comic book heroes have taken on new personalities in the face of new functions which they serve.

There is more than meets the eye in the comics; the fact that increas­ingly large numbers of people are beginning to read them and study them is, strange as it may seem, a sign of intellectual sophistication and cultural maturity… thanks in part to the youthful rebellion and the various counter-culture movements, as well as a sudden curiosity about the significance of many everyday aspects of our daily life, we are beginning to mine our own treasures. It's about time.

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And thanks once again to Barry for providing this article first posted over on Facebook.  Be sure to let him know what you think in the comments section.

Friday, 20 September 2019

RUMINATING REPOST - SUBTLETIES, SHADOWS, AND SHADES...



Hail, Criv-ites!  I was trawling through the archives earlier and saw this post, which is similar to my 'Plodding At Random Across The Plough' entry of a couple of days ago.  It reminded me of my tendency never to lay any subject to rest, but to recycle it again and again.  It's certainly along the same theme (and even includes a reminiscence repeated in my more recent post), but I think there's enough of a difference, a bit more detail, to stand another airing.  I trust you'll find something of value in it.

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I've lived in a lot of houses in my time.  By the age of 24 I was in our sixth house, which works out, on average, as four years per house.  But forget averages - I've only actually lived in a house for four years on two occasions, the other periods of tenancy ranging from as far apart as one and a half years to eleven years.

Anyone who's ever read Scots-born author KENNETH GRAHAME's classic book The WIND In The WILLOWS will no doubt be familiar with the fifth chapter, DULCE DOMUM, which (roughly) means 'home sweet home'.  In this episode, MOLE, while out on a ramble with RATTY one Winter's day, picks up the scent of his old home, long forgotten and neglected since he unwittingly abandoned it in pursuit of adventure one fine Spring morning many months before.



The chapter relates how Mole re-aquaints himself with many dear and familiar possessions and memories, and reminds him (and us) of the value of having an anchorage - a place to return to - in life, no matter how far and wide one may roam in the meantime.  As the author writes (and as Mole thinks): "...it was good to think he had this (Mole End) to come back to, this place which was all his own, these things which were so glad to see him again and could always be counted upon for the same simple welcome."

Funny thing is, I feel that way about every house I've ever lived in.  If ever I'm walking along a street in which once resided, I almost find myself walking up the path to the front door and unconsciously putting my key in the lock.  If were lost enough in thought, it's no stretch of the imagination to envisage such a thing actually happening.  (Once, while out walking our dog Tara, I was passing a previous home when she turned in at the stairs as though we still lived there.  I almost followed. It's that kind of 'instinct' - or 'force of habit' that seems to dwell within me also.)

Or should I espy a former home lit up at night, I can 'see' (as though with x-ray eyes) my father, pipe in mouth, sat beside the fire, watching TV or reading his paper;  I can also see my mother, darning socks or busy in the kitchen with domestic chores, or my brother in our bedroom listening to records or reading comics. Furniture, ornaments, wallpaper - everything as it was.


Each house beckons to me, summons me to obey its call to 'come on home', regardless of however many years have elapsed since I actually lived there, almost as if I'd only just popped out to the shops or to visit a pal mere moments before - with such clarity that the intervening years since we vacated whichever house seem like only a dream that never really happened.

Even more bizarre is when I seem to see a younger version of myself beyond the gleam which radiates from behind the curtained windows, engrossed in some book, or sat at the dining-room table, doodling or building an AIRFIX kit.  On occas-ions such as this, it can be disconcerting to suddenly have the moment disrupted by the intrusion of a stranger looking out of the window, or entering or exiting through the front door.


Then, just like Mole and his chum Ratty as they stand mesmerised by a lit-up window, the bitter winds of reality catch the back of my neck and return me to the present - though usually unwillingly, and not without a strange, sad sense of loss and longing.

The past continually calls to me, but never more so than when I revisit the scenes of my youth, where shades of my younger self and family, and friends long departed to either the other side of the veil or the globe, yet inhabit these enchanted places from so many years ago.

If ghosts do exist, I wouldn't be surprised to find that they aren't only ghosts of the dead, but also of the living from an earlier time.  That would perhaps explain why the shadows of yesterday dance forever before me.

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If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy this one.

S.O.S. - SAVE OUR SPIDERS...?



What's your view on spiders crawling around your house?  I used to leave them be when I saw them up on the ceiling because they weren't doing any harm, but then there were a couple of instances where I saw one scuttling across the floor and I became concerned that I might inadvertently stand on one and kill it.  Since then, I capture them and let them out in the front or back garden, but I feel a bit guilty because I don't know what their chances of survival are.  Maybe they'd be better taking their chances with me?

What's your view on the matter, fellow Criv-ites?  Do you let spiders be, squish 'em, or release them into the 'wild'?  I saw a tiny one the other day that looked like it was wearing a blue and red costume with a mask on, so I gave it a bit of cheese and let it out the door.  (Hang on - maybe I only dreamt that.) 

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

PLODDING AT RANDOM ACROSS THE PLOUGH (PLOW TO U.S. READERS)...



Anyone who's read The WIND In The WILLOWS by KENNETH GRAHAME will surely be familiar with the chapter entitled DULCE DOMUM, in which MOLE and RATTY are returning home over the fields (after a day out with OTTER) one winter evening near Christmas.  Suddenly, Mole senses his own home which he'd 'abandoned' months before to stay with Ratty (come now, we won't be having any of that kind of innuendo - their relationship is purely platonic), and feels compelled to visit it again.  It's a very touching episode, and speaks about the importance of having one's own place to return to, and the comfort which can be derived from being able to reconnect with one's 'roots'.

I feel like that about every house I've ever lived in.  They call to me, plead with me to return for a visit and relive the memories associated with the times I stayed there during my childhood.  I've mentioned before that, whenever I'm in any of my former neighbourhoods, I almost feel that I could stroll up the pathway to whichever old home it happens to be, insert my key in the lock, and go inside to find everything as it was in 'my day'.  It's an instinct.  I recall that, late one dark night in '83 or '84, I was walking my dog TARA (not to be confused with her successor ZARA) along one of my old streets, when she turned in at the steps of the house we'd left several months before, glanced 'round to see if I'd caught up, and made to ascend the few steps leading up to the door.  Instinct (and memory) y'see.  She seemed slightly confused when I walked past and called her to my side.

Like I said, it feels like the most natural thing in the world to me to walk up the path to any of my former abodes as if I still inhabited them, presumably due to a similar 'instinct' to that which animals possess.  (At least, that was my defence in court when I was charged with several counts of attempted burglary.  Relax, I'm joking.  I just claimed it was a case of mistaken identity.)

Tonight, I again felt the 'summons' to revisit the house and area where I lived between 1965 and '72, and I was all ready to do so when I remembered how many changes had occurred in the last 30 years (which seems like only 3 or 4 to me).   The alterations had taken place incrementally over a prolonged period, until they eventually overwhelmed some aspects of the street and the surrounding environs, to such an extent that revisiting is not entirely the happy experience it used to be.  I want to visit the place as it was in my day, not the place it's since become, and which sours things for me to an extent.

So I resisted the call, and instead entered the past via the portal of modern technology - namely my computer.  I have large folders of photos (and some video footage) of how the area used to be in younger and better days when I lived there, and I found my 'virtual' visit almost as satisfying as my actual ones before the face of the landscape had been altered, in many ways, almost beyond recognition.

Any Criv-ites do this sort of thing, or am I the lone inmate in an asylum of my own construction?  ("Trapped... in a world he DID make!" would perhaps be the comicbook subtitle.)  Feel free to say I'm bonkers in the comments section - but be polite about it.  (You know what a sensitive soul I am.)

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What's that - the title of this post?  It'a a line from the first paragraph of Dulce Domum.  Give it a read - you'll enjoy it.       

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

KID'S KLASSIC (KIRBY) KOMIC KOVERS - THE INCREDIBLE HULK #5...


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

Have I shown this cover on its own before?  I don't care, I'm showing it again 'cos I love it.  I hope MARVEL do a facsimile edition of this issue.  In fact, it would be nice if they did all six - the first issue is out in October, and we've already had #6 in the form of a TRUE BELIEVERS mag.  Hey, Marvel, are you listening?  Do all six as individual facsimile issues please.

Monday, 16 September 2019

TIME ALWAYS WINS - BY A KNOCKOUT!


Copyright relevant owner

Increasingly, these days I often find myself as much dismayed and frustrated by the things I can no longer remember as I'm surprised and grateful for the things that I can.  Take the 1972 KNOCKOUT Holiday Special for example.  I purchased this in the newsagent's across from my old house while at school one day, not long after flitting from my former neighbourhood, and I recall taking it from my schoolbag to gaze at on my way home.  (I still attended the same school after flitting, you see, which accounts for my presence in the area.)

I remember being fascinated by the striking blue and red on the cover, and also the pristine, uncreased newness of the comic.  What I can't recollect is exactly how long I bought it after moving to our 'new' house - was it mere days, or perhaps a week or so? I know it couldn't have been very long because we'd moved halfway through June, and the comic couldn't have been on sale in the shop for any great period of time, otherwise I'd have noticed it sooner as I was in every day.  For all I know, I could've bought it the very next day after flitting.

Another thing I no longer recall was whether I bought it during the lunch hour or after school - vague vestiges of seeming memory for both scenarios compete with one another in my mind.  What's certain is that it was either one or the other, and as I'd probably have been at the shops (just up the road from the school) between 12 and 1 to get my 'dinner' (a Devon Split most likely), let's just go with the former.  In fact, having typed that, I seem to remember being anxious for the afternoon to be over, so that I could get the comic home to read undamaged, which could've resulted from any overly-enthusiastic tussles with classmates.

The two replacements I now own of the comic (one acquired many years ago, the other having arrived only today) aren't in the pristine condition of their '70s predecessor, but they're both tidy enough to remind me of its shining newness, and of that walk home from school on a golden afternoon 47 years ago.  A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then, but I'm glad that the simple sight of a comic's cover can return me to an earlier age when I thought I had forever.

Time has disabused me of that illusion, but I'm grateful that I can occasionally recapture that feeling again, even if it's only for a fleeting, bittersweet moment that's as soft and swift as a butterfly's sigh in the face of a hurricane.  Here's to yesteryear - long may its echoes reverberate.

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As a special treat, below is The HAUNTED WOOD strip from the above comic.  I'll maybe show more of the contents if enough Criv-ites request it.


Sunday, 15 September 2019

A WORD TO THE WISE...


Copyright DC COMICS

Just where do I begin? By going over old ground I suppose, and drawing your attention back to the recent facsimile edition of HOUSE Of SECRETS #92.  On page 5 of the SWAMP THING tale, part of the word 'the' had been clumsily relettered (presumably because the 'th' was too faint or hadn't reproduced properly, if at all), transforming 'the' into 'me'.  Made absolutely no sense, as you can see above.  (Click on images to enlarge.)


I recently re-read SUPERMAN's KRYPTONITE NEVERMORE! series (for the umpteenth time), but instead of digging out my original issues, referred to my DC COMICS CLASSICS LIBRARY collected edition of the nine issue saga.  All the stories were scanned from actual published comics, and this would've required parts being digitally (and maybe manually) cleaned up, especially on the lettering.  On page 9 of #237, the 'o' (and the tilde above the 'n') of 'Senorita' must have dropped out, so a badly angled 'a' had been scrawled in.  (The tilde was again missing over the word on page 16, but at least all the letters remained.)  Again, see image above.


Back on page 13 of the same story, the 'hi' of 'his' was missing (see above), but at least no random letters had replaced them to transform the word into something else. Then, on page 12 of #241, the word 'transmissions' must've been smudged, because it'd been retouched to read 'transnussions' (see below), suggesting that whoever did it paid no attention to the rest of the speech balloon in order to understand what was being said.  It's almost as if they isolated the word in their mind and then tried to work out what it was (and failed).


Or perhaps there's a simpler explanation. Maybe the person responsible was a foreigner (no, that's not a dirty word, Melvin, behave) who couldn't understand English, and simply took a stab at guessing what the faint or missing letters actually were, hence the less than satisfactory result?  Whatever the reason, DC needs to up its game when it comes to reprinting their material, and ensure that any 'restored' dialogue matches what the writer originally wrote.  There's just no excuse for the kind of carelessness I've described here.

What think the rest of you?

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The HOS error was also included in the two reprints below.  For further details, see comments section.

Saturday, 14 September 2019

IN MEMORY'S GOLDEN GLEAM...


Copyright DC COMICS

Long-time readers with good memories will recall that I've shown these covers before, but there's a reason for their reappearance - a story behind them, if you will. Y'see, something I only just realised while looking through the SUPERMAN edition of the DC COMICS CLASSIC LIBRARY series (which reprints the covers and the tales they represent), is that it took me around 14 or 15 years to acquire all nine issues - out of sequence and while living in three different houses.  Let's call them houses A, B, and C.

I was living in house A when I acquired #s 233, 234, 240, 241 and 242, house B when I bought 237 and 238, and house C when I obtained 235 and 236. (I'd previously read the main strip from 236 in a b&w UK reprint mag in 1980 or '81, but as it contained no reference to the 'Sand Thing', I was unaware of its connection at the time.)  Houses A and B comics I bought new off the spinner-racks in the early '70s (US comics didn't always appear in sequence in the shops back then and sometimes showed up again months or even a year or two later), whereas house C comics were purchased as mail order back issues around 1985 or '86.  However, by this time, the other comics in the run were replacements (bought in my last two or three years in house B, I think), not my original copies.

Predating that though, in 1972 or '73 while living in house B, I bought new copies of 241 and 242 again, even though I still had my originals from house A. However, pristine issues of comics I already owned often called out to me to re-buy them and I usually found it hard to resist.  It's because of this that I associate these two covers with both house A and B, and I had to double-check the back-up reprint stories to confirm that, yes, I had originally bought my first copies in house A.  (In memory, I strongly associate these particular tales with house A.  In fact, I clearly recall reading them while 'perched on the porcelain' in that house, sometime in 1971 or '72.)

You don't care a rat's @rse about all this trivial detail of course, but as my memory continues to fade with my advancing years, it's important to me to record this for my own future reference "ere the gate shuts to behind me" (to quote Kenneth Grahame).  But the point I wanted to make is this:  it never seemed to me all those years ago that it had taken 14 or 15 years and three houses to acquire a mere nine issues.  Nowadays, when I'm not really thinking about it, it feels that I had all nine comics together at the one time and in the one place, not obtained piecemeal in different locations over so long a period.

In fact, I have actually now owned all nine comics at one time in one place for well-over 30-odd years, but that's not how I acquired them before the run was complete. (A task which took well over half my life at the time, from start to finish.)  Funny how the mind can sometimes play tricks on us, eh?  Anyway, seeing as you're here, enjoy looking at the covers again.

(Incidentally, #239 was a Giant reprint issue unconnected to the 'KRYPTONITE NEVERMORE' saga, so I've not included it here.  Besides, without digging it out to look at and seeing what memories it may prompt, I'm not exactly sure of which year and which house I was living in when I got it.)








Friday, 13 September 2019

TRUE BELIEVERS - AKA THE INCREDIBLE HULK #6...


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

As all true believers know, The INCREDIBLE HULK's own mag lasted for only six issues back in the '60s, but he was eventually awarded his own strip again in the pulsating pages of TALES To ASTONISH.  STEVE DITKO, who'd drawn Hulkie's final individual issue, again took up the art chores in Greenskin's new home, but that's a whole other story.  What we're here to rap about today is this great reprint in, appropriately enough, MARVEL's TRUE BELIEVERS series, of the Jade Goliath's sixth and last ish of his own mag.  Ain't it a beauty?!  Run out and buy one right away.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

MR. KISS KISS BANG BANG...


Images copyright relevant owners

"Ah, Mr. Pearl - you persist in trying to provoke me - into writing interesting blogs just like yours.  However, I don't need to because you keep doing it for me."  Yup, it's time again for Bashful Barry to write another guest post for this blog. However, the minute I see him walking up the pathway to Castle Crivens, holding his suitcases, I'm heading for the hills.  Over to the bashful one.

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The name's Pearl... Barry Pearl, and I'm a James Bond fan, books and movies. I suspect that when the next Bond arrives, we'll get a box set of the 25 films that Eon Productions have made released in 4K.  Currently there is a Blu-ray set that leaves out three productions that weren't made by them.  I thought it would be fun to list all 27 and see how they are represented in comparison to the books.

The Bond movies are all photographed well, but in the current individual discs and the box set, the picture quality varies a bit, but is mostly very good.  Some of the Roger Moore movies look a bit faded.  (Not in my scene-by-scene remastered DVDS they don't, Barry.  They're perfect.)

A note on Surround Sound!  On home DVDs, there has been two kinds of surround sound: 1: The James Bond Surround and 2: The George Lucas surround (THX).

1.  The James Bond surround realizes that you are in a movie theatre and what you are watching is in front of you.  Therefore, unless a 'plane goes overhead or there's an explosion off-screen, most of the surround is left and right in front of you.

2.  The George Lucas surround sound places you in the middle of the action, so the surround is all around you, not mostly in front.  The later Bond movies go this way too.


The first production of a James Bond novel was Casino Royale, which appeared on CBS TV in 1954.  (Also available on Blu-ray.)  It was a live, one hour broadcast that starred Barry Nelson as American agent “Jimmy Bond”.  Great to watch for what we know is coming, but it was badly done.  Ian Fleming, now a husband and father, wanted Bond to be bought by the movies, or be a TV series (which were new then)  to make some money.  CBS said it was too violent and too sexy.  This is exactly what made it a hit a half a century later.  In the Moonraker novel, they mention that secret agents should be 35-45 years old and then retire.  This won't be true of the actors who take on the role!  Verdict: ** out of four stars, just because it is a curiosity to watch.


When Eon productions' Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman began their franchise, Casino Royale, Bond’s debut novel, was not available, so they started with Dr No, the sixth book.  This 1962 movie was low budget and appeared mostly in drive-in movie theatres in the U.S.  It followed the book closely, but instead of fighting the Russians, Dr. No worked for SPECTRE, which wasn’t introduced in the books until Thunderball, Fleming's ninth.  Fleming was a snob and a racist and many racist elements appear here.  Director Terrance Young, who does not get enough credit, changed the snobbishness to sophistication and worked so well, especially with Sean Connery.  In Bond’s opening scene with M (Bond’s boss), they discuss an assassination attempt on Bond that occurs in the next movie, but in the previous book!  Verdict: *** ½ stars out of four.

Three Bond Formulas are introduced: 

1.  A beautiful girl is introduced and spends the last half of the move being rescued by Bond.

2.  Bond is captured and the villain simply must tell him every detail of his plan.

3.  The movie ends with Bond and the girl together, usually on water or some other secluded place.


From Russia With Love, 1963.  Simply one of the best Bond movies, with a great cast and great villains.  More serious than most, it also uses SPECTRE, which hadn't yet appeared in the bond books.  Verdict: **** stars out of four

Goldfinger, 1964.  Again, one of the best and most entertaining movies, even the John Barry music is famous.  It closely follows the book, substituting a laser in place of a mechanical circular saw.  Here they show that a movie can be better than a book.  That is, in the book Goldfinger attempts to rob Fort Knox, a long process and completely impractical. In the movie he tries to detonate an atomic bomb to radioactively contaminate the reserves of gold, thereby rendering them worthless. Verdict: **** stars out of four.


Formulas introduced:

1.  The film begins with a “mini-movie” that has nothing really to do with the main plot.

2.  Bond meets a beautiful girl at the beginning of the movie and she doesn't live to see her name in the end credits.  They are often very pretty and cannot act.

3.  Villain has an interesting henchman.


Thunderball, in 1965, remains to this day, the biggest ticket seller of all the Bond films (Inflation-adjusted.).  It does follow the book, and other Bond movies lift scenes from this.  In 1959, trying to get a movie contract, Fleming wrote this screenplay with Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham, and there will be 50 years of legal hell.  McClory sued and got the rights to the screenplay while Fleming got the rights to the book.  Thunderball, the book, introduced Ernst Stavro Blofeld and SPECTRE.  A bit too long and not as memorable as the last two, but still fun.  McClory is listed as the producer of this film.  This was the first movie shot in surround, by the way.  Verdict: *** stars out of four.

Casino Royale, 1967.  Colgems (Columbia Pictures) bought the rights to Casino Royale from CBS and produced one of the worst movies ever made. Allegedly a satire, it ain’t funny.  The music, however is great, and the song The Look of Love comes from this movie.  More on this picture later!  Verdict: Zero stars out of four.


You Only Live Twice, 1967.  This is the first Bond movie that has nothing to do with the book, except the location and the names of some characters.  In the books, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service came first, where James Bond's wife is murdered by Blofeld.  In the book of YOLT, Bond goes after his wife’s killer.  Shot out of sequence, this does not touch on that plot at all.  Instead it has a plot about stealing rockets.  Verdict: A watchable ** ½ stars out of four.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, 1969.  One of the Best Bond movies, even with the worst James Bond, here played by George Lazenby.  The movie follows the book closely and former Avengers girl Diana Rigg is beautiful and perfect. But!!!!  The movie was supposed to end with the marriage of Bond and Tracy (Rigg), and the next movie was to begin with Blofeld killing Tracy.  However, Lazenby, after one movie, thought that he was too big a star to do a second movie and quit.  So they tacked on the sad scene to the end of the movie.  The movie is still great and ends like the book, but the sad ending really hurt at the box office. Verdict: **** stars out of four.


Diamonds are Forever, 1971, doesn’t work well.  After the disappointing box office of the previous movie, United Artists (not the producers) wanted Connery back.  He was now a bit too old and too heavy.  The movie pays little notice to OHMSS, and, as with YOLT, takes the location and characters from the book and nothing else.

Two important points:

1.  This is the first Bond movie where Bond is portrayed more like a super-hero than a spy.  The humour, which overwhelms the Roger Moore movies, actually starts here.  The plots are more silly than threatening.

2.  Remember McClory?  He claims the legal rights to Blofeld and SPECTRE.  They will not be used in a Bond movie for over forty years!  This was a ** ½ stars out of four movie for me.


Live and Let Die, 1973.  Roger Moore takes over and, frankly, these are the worst of the Bond movies.  He doesn't have the presence or sophistication of Connery, but after Lazenby, the producers wanted an experienced actor.  However, he plays the part like a comic strip character, not a secret agent, and the humor goes overboard. Again, this doesn’t follow the book closely, but uses the locations and characters.  Sadly, the book is filled with racist comments and the movie includes a lot of them.  It is painful to watch, but Jane Seymour is a sight for sore eyes. Verdict: * star out of four.

The Man with the Golden Gun, 1974, continues the worst portrayal and writing in a Bond movie, which looks rushed.  Christopher Lee is such a great actor and a relative of Ian Fleming, but he can't overcome a bad script.  Again, this has little to do with book except setting and character names.  Verdict: Another * star out of four movie.

The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977.  The actual book was really a long 'short' story where Bond has a cameo.  Here the girl is a Russian Spy, which has nothing to do with the book.  It steals a lot from Thunderball.  The highlight is the incredible beginning and the introduction of the villain, Jaws.  Verdict: ** ½ stars out of four.

Bob Simmons opening

Moonraker, 1979.  The book was a story about a villain named Hugo Drax, who wants to launch a missile with a bomb on it, directed at the heart of London. However, the relatively recent Star Wars movie was such a big hit, that the producers wanted to make this a space, sci-fi movie.  The beginning, where Bond is thrown from an airplane without a parachute is fantastic.  And then it gets really silly.  This is the first Bond movie to feature the return of a villain, with Richard Kiel reprising his role as Jaws.  Verdict: ** stars out of four.


For Your Eyes Only, 1981, was originally a book containing five short stories. Three of them are written into the script here.  It is the best and most serious of the Roger Moore films.  For that reason, Moore wrote, it is his least favourite, but it's my favourite.  It lifts scenes from the book of Live and Let Die too.  Verdict: *** stars out of four.


Octopussy, 1983.  This was a short story that is quickly mentioned in the movie, which has nothing to do with the story.  It steals from Goldfinger.  Just silly, but with really pretty women and silly scenes.  Verdict: * ½ stars out of four.

Never Say Never Again, 1983. Remember McClory?  Well, he owned the Thunderball script and was legally able to make a remake of the original without the aid of EON Productions. He hired Sean Connery, now 53, who now hated the original producers, and they produced a boring movie. I had seen it all before.  Everything seemed wrong and out of step for me.  (Except for Kim Bassinger.) This came out the same year as Octopussy and didn't do as well.  Verdict: ** stars out of four.

A View to a Kill, 1985.  Moore’s last picture.  Just bad.  It has nothing to do with the short story that the title came from.  Verdict: Zero stars out of four.  Broccolli, the producer, doesn't want to embarrass Moore by “firing” him, so instead asks Moore to announce his retirement.

Timothy Dalton opening

The Living Daylights, 1987.  United Artists, the movie studio, is in financial trouble and is sold to MGM, which is also in financial trouble.  This causes severe problems in budgeting and money for advertising.  So the next two Bond films don't do well and the blame is placed on their new Bond, Timothy Dalton.  (Pierce Bronson was originally slated to do Bond, but his contract with NBC could not be broken.)

This movie is sort of a generic Bond, with every cliché and formula being used.  It borrows a bit from the short story it's named after.  Timothy Dalton, at this point, is the closest to the serious Bond in the books, but is the audience ready for him?  (I liked his performance very much.)  This movie moves back into the politics of the Cold War, where Bond should be.  But as serious as Dalton is, the movie gets frivolous.  Verdict: ** ½  stars out of four.

License to  Kill, 1989.  The most controversial and violent Bond film to date, it was rated PG 13.  The story, about drugs, takes very violent scenes from the movie Live and Let Die.  Some bad casting, Wayne Newton and Talisa Soto.  I liked that it wasn't following the Bond formulas too closely.  Dalton, blamed for the lack of success of this and the previous movie, is asked to announce that he's leaving. Verdict: *** stars out of four.


Goldeneye, 1977. The financial problems of MGM cause a six year gap in the Bond films.  Pierce Bronson, a fine actor, finally gets his chance as Bond.  For me, he was not quite suited for the role.  He was too slight and not fearsome enough.  He replaced Sean Connery rather than played James Bond.  With the Cold War over, they “jiggered” his part to make him seem more like an anachronism.  Judy Dench as M is just wonderful.  Again, this is a formula movie.  (Goldeneye was the name of Ian Fleming’s home in Jamaica.)

Tomorrow Never Dies, 1997.  An interesting idea, that a media mogul (obviously  Rupert Murdoch) would manufacture news to supply his media outlets and sell papers.  Too much formula, but Teri Hatcher, someone who could act, is the girl who will die in the second reel.  Verdict: ** ½ stars out of four.

Airfix model kit from the '60s

The World Is Not Enough, 1999.  This was a more interesting film, primarily due to the casting of Sophie Marceau and the expansion of Judy Dench’s M. Here, M finally gets to see Bond in action and what he has to go through both physically and emotionally.  This changes her impression of Bond a great deal from what she thought of him in Goldeneye.  Denise Richards, the pretty girl who can’t act, survives to the end.  Many wished she hadn’t.  Verdict: *** stars out of four. 

Die Another Day, 2002.  The first hour of the movie was terrific - 2 stars.  It broke from formula and showed the acting chops of Bronson as he is captured by the enemy. It then becomes pure formula, complete with an invisible car and very below par.  Rosamund Pike’s first film and she and Halle Berry are top notch! Verdict: I guess ** ½ stars.  (2 for the first hour, ½ for the second, though if the whole movie had been as good as the first hour, I'd have given it **** stars out of four.)

Daniel Craig opening

Casino Royale, 2006.  Sony had partnered with McClory and owned the movie rights to Casino Royale when it bought Columbia Pictures.  But Sony didn't have the right to make another movie of it, so they traded their rights to CR to MGM for their rights to Spider-Man.  So Sony made Spider-Man and MGM made this.  Bronson was set to do another movie, but Casino Royale gave them a chance to start over, so Daniel Craig was hired.  The opening of this film was still a Bond mini-movie, but the movie mostly followed the book, except they played Baccarat (something like Blackjack)  in the book, Poker in the movie.  Daniel Craig is definitely the James Bond Ian Fleming had in mind.  Verdict: **** stars out of four.

Quantum of Solace, 2008, had nothing to do with the short story on which it is based.  (That was about a marriage gone wrong.)  It connects to the first movie, but this, for me, was horrible and made no sense.  The producers are hoping and preparing for a big reveal to come soon.

Skyfall, 2012:  A great movie, particularly because Judy Dench as M is fully in it.  The movie borrows a lot form the books, especially James Bond's biography from OHMSS.  There's little formula here, it's a brand new plot and what happens to Judy Dench is unexpected.  (Not when you knew her contract was up, Barry.)  Bond movies are also usually as good as the villains, and Javier Bardem is cold, ruthless and perfect.  Verdict: *** ½ stars out of four.

Roger Moore opening 

Spectre, 2015.  McClory died in 2006 and on 15 November 2013, MGM acquired all the rights and interests of McClory's estate, bringing "amicable conclusion to the legal and business disputes that have arisen periodically for over 50 years.”  So this movie links all the Craig movies together using SPECTRE, which they couldn't use since Diamonds are Forever.  MGM also acquired the rights to Never Say Never Again.  Scenes are taken from Thunderball in particular, and a few other books.  I was surprised I did not like this movie more.  They “pretended” that the identity of Blofeld would be a big reveal, but every Bond fan knew who he was so a lot of the suspense was gone.  Verdict: *** stars out of four.

So that's my personal evaluation of all the Bond movies so far.  Hope you're not too shaken or stirred if your personal favourite doesn't measure up in my eyes.  Why not let me know why you disagree in the comments section.  And if you do agree, then let me know about that too.

******

And below is a couple of photos of Barry's Bond Collection.


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