Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Happy Birthday Foxy!

A very happy birthday to the always sexy Pam Grier, star of many of my favorite films - Coffy, Foxy Brown, Sheba Baby, Scream Blacula Scream, Above The Law, Friday Foster, Bucktown, Black Mama White Mama, Jackie Brown....

Ms Grier is a stunning 61 today.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Book 'em, Danno

There's a new, revival series of Hawaii 5-0 on the way, and that means an updated title sequence and new arrangement of one of the most memorable themes in TV history. The new show stars Alex O'Laughlin as McGarrett, Lost's Daniel Dae-Kim and Galactica's Grace Park (once again taking on a role in a revival show originally played by a man. Interesting niche she's got going on there).

In 1997, there was an unsuccessful attempt to re-launch the franchise with Gary Busey and Russell Wong. Here's that version of the theme/credits:

And here's the original, classic Hawaii 5-0 opening credit and theme:

Maine Comics Arts Festival 2010 - This Weekend

This Sunday, I'll be appearing at the Maine Comics Arts Festival (MECAF) at Ocean Gateway in Portland, Maine. I'll have copies of Femme Noir, The Spider Chronicles and some of my other works for sale, as well as some cool promotional postcards on hand to pass out. If you're in the area, you might want to stop by. Admission is only $5 (kids free), and there are over a hundred comics creators scheduled to attend.

Hope to see some friendly faces there!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Tales Of An Ancient Empire Red Band Trailer

TALES OF AN ANCIENT EMPIRE - RED BAND TRAILER - HD version from Albert Pyun on Vimeo.

This is the recut, improved version of the trailer I discussed in my previous post. I still think the CGI looks, well, just awful, but overall the pace and feel of the trailer is much better, and not quite as claustrophobic and grim as the earlier cut.

I am really quite surprised at how much Pyun is considering the input of the fans, both in the preparation of this trailer and in shaping his film. It's certainly a different way to approach film making, and it wouldn't be possible if he wasn't producing his movies independently now.

I've been very critical of Pyun's movies over the years, and now that he's working outside the studio system, it will be interesting to see how much or how little the lack of influence/interference from producers/backers actually matters to the final results....

Friday, May 14, 2010

Expectations Vs. Reality

In 1982, I went to see The Sword And The Sorcerer, directed by Albert Pyun, at my local cinema. I pretty much loved it. To my 17-year-old sensibilities, it was a near-perfect movie: swashbuckling heroes, naked women, old-school make-up effects, and a rousing score. The balance of humor and adventure was just right, and if certain aspects of the film were a little absurd, hey - it was a fantasy. At the end of the movie, a title card came up, promising a sequel: Tales Of An Ancient Empire. I couldn't wait. I was ready for another adventure like the one I'd just enjoyed.

As it turned out, I could wait. In fact, I had to. It's taken Pyun 28 years to finally create that sequel, and it's coming out on DVD very soon. When I first heard that Tales was actually being made, a year or so ago, I was thrilled. I was even more thrilled when Pyun actually stopped by this blog to talk it up. And when he announced, a few months ago, that people could pre-order the DVD directly from his company, I scraped up the cash and placed my order.

Since I pre-ordered, Pyun e-mailed me and offered (and the others who already paid for their discs) an opportunity to view the trailer for Tales online before it was made available to the general public. I watched it yesterday afternoon... and was disappointed.

Now, the fact is I was disappointed because, for the last 28 years, I've been wanting another film experience like Sorcerer, and, based on the trailer, that's not what Pyun's served up. The trailer for Tales looks more like a horror movie about vampires that just happens to be set in a medievalesque fantasy setting. All dark shadows, pretty girls with fangs, frankly unconvincing CGI effects, and almost no humor. Whatever else Tales may be, it doesn't look like a swashbuckling adventure full of heroic swordplay and tongue-in-cheek humor. Instead we get - of all things - vampires.


Along with zombies, they are just about the most played-out, unscary "monsters" around.

It's like, "You got your vampires in my sword and sorcery!" "No, you got your sword and sorcery in my vampires!" Are they really two great tastes that taste great together? Or is it just that vampires are particularly commercial in this Twilight-saturated marketplace?

But it's not Pyun's fault that I'm disappointed. It's his movie. He made the movie he wanted to make, and rightfully so. He's under no obligation to meet my expectations, which are pretty much those of a 45-year-old manchild nostalgic for the memory of his first R-rated movie, and 28 years of fantasizing what shape a sequel would take.

Pyun solicited opinions over on Facebook, and I obliged, admitting that it wasn't what I hoped for, and that I missed the sense of adventure and swordplay that had made Sorcerer so much fun. To my surprise, he took down the trailer, and based on my comments (and others, of course) actually recut the trailer! The second version does play somewhat better, but it still doesn't look like the movie I was hoping for....

I'm still enthusiastic about the film, and glad that I pre-ordered it. I've waited 28 years for it, after all. And when it arrives, it's going into the player as soon as I can get it unwrapped. I'll try to approach it as objectively as possible, and judge it on it's own merits; for what it is and not what I expected it to be. And, with luck, I'll enjoy it on those terms.

Still... vampires? Really?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wednesday Covers: VAMPIRELLA

Frank Frazetta's cover for Vampirella #1 from Warren Publishing, 1969.

And his cover for the Vampirella 25th Anniversary Special from Harris Comics in 1996.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Frank Frazetta, R.I.P.

I discovered Frank Frazetta's art and Edgar Rice Burroughs' writing at the same moment, when I came across the Ace paperback edition of ERB's Pellucidar in a box of books in my grandmother's basement when I was about twelve years old. I have no idea how that book came to be there - perhaps it had once belonged to one of my uncles or my late grandfather - but that Frazetta cover (above) with that amazing woman, sabertooth and swooping pterodactyls (Mahars, actually, but what did I know from Mahars?) grabbed me like a strong fist around my throat.

There was always something visceral about Frazetta's art, no matter what the subject, that no other painter, regardless of talent or skill, has ever matched. In his use of color, his idealized, heroically-muscled women and men that appeared ready to jump right off the page, his imaginative, awe-inspiring vistas - he was unequalled. In the field of fantasy illustration, Frazetta had no rivals (and still doesn't) - Frazetta cover paintings guaranteed the sales success of the titles they graced, and publishers and art directors fell over themselves to commission him. For generations of fantasy fans, he will always be the definitive illustrator of the worlds of Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs, and countless other fantasists.

Other artists - however technically proficient or talented - simply could not duplicate the raw sensuality and pure, primal energy of his work. A documentary about his art was released in 2003, entitled, Painting With Fire. A more apt description of his style, I cannot imagine. Frazetta painted with fire.

Frank Frazetta died today at age 82, leaving behind a tremendous body of inspiring, breathtaking masterworks, and a legion of artists, writers and readers who couldn't help falling passionately in love with his stunning, unique vision.

Rest in Peace, sir!

Gravedigger Noir

Here are three preview pages from the new Gravedigger comic story, "The Predators," which will be included in the new graphic novel, Gravedigger: Hot Women, Cold Cash. (Click on images for a larger view.) The scans aren't great - and I had to piece them together in Photoshop, so the tones aren't quite matching up - but it'll give you an idea of how the story's going to look.

The art is fully rendered in gray markers by artist Rick Burchett. I love it! It looks like something out of an old Warren or Marvel B&W magazine; in specific, it reminds me of the B&W work of the great Russ Heath.

Anyway, we're closing in on it, and I still hope to have it completed and turned in to Ape Entertainment sometime in the next month or so. I know it's been a very long time coming, and I hope folks ultimately decide it was worth the wait.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Lawrence Wollsey presents... MANT!

Universal just re-released the 1993 Joe Dante film, Matinee on DVD. My review of the disc can be found at the DVD Late Show site.

Unfortunately, the geniuses at Universal chose not to include any extra features on the new disc, not even the "complete" Mant! - the monster movie-within-the-movie that so perfectly sends up sci-fi thrillers of the 1950s. Mant! starred Cathy Moriarty, and - uncredited - three stalwarts of the genre, William Schallert, Kevin McCarthy and Robert Cornthwaite This was included on the old laserdisc, though, and someone has thoughtfully uploaded it to YouTube. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Wednesday Cover: Modesty Blaise

Another Wednesday, another cover and another obituary, sadly. Peter O'Donnell, creator of the legendary comic strip Modesty Blaise, passed away on May 3rd, just a week after his 90th birthday.

He’s best known for creating the classic newspaper strip Modesty Blaise with artist Jim Holdaway. The strip appeared in the London newspaper, The Evening Standard, beginning in 1963 and chronicled daily the adventures of the seductive adventuress for nearly forty years. In 1966, O'Donnell sold the rights to a feature film and wrote the screenplay. The producers changed it so much though, that, in frustration, O'Donnell turned his script into a novel. It was a huge success and led to a dozen or so Blaise novels and a couple of short story collections.

The paperback edition above features a striking image by the legendary Robert McGinnis, and was a tie-in to the film, which starred Monica Vitti and Terrence Stamp. The movie's a mess (though still kinda fun to watch), but the novel is a great adventure story. I only have about half of the books, and I'm always on the lookout for more.

R.I.P. Mister O'Donnell. You had a great run.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Another FEMME NOIR Review!

Blogger Nick Ahlelm recently reviewed Femme Noir: The Dark City Diaries miniseries on his site as part of a "Pulp Month" theme. He had some very nice things to say, such as:
Each issue gives a done-in-one that builds on top the mystery of the character even as she fights villains that take the noir elements and push them straight in to pulp, whether it be a jungle woman or an evil robot. All of it seems to fit in place in the slightly strange city of Port Nocturne. It all works incredibly well together, but I don’t want to give away too much of the fun of this book.
You can read his full review here.

Nick also reviewed Air Fighters #1 from Moonstone Books, which included my first Captain Midnight comics story, "Pyramid of Fear."

You can read that review here.