R.I.P. Christopher Lee

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The last of the classic horror movie stars that I grew up watching in movies, Sir Christopher Lee, passed away on June 7th.  Along with Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Vincent Price and Peter Cushing, Lee was a true horror/fantasy film genre star. His performances as Frankenstein's monster, Fu Manchu, the Mummy, Saruman, Sherlock (and Mycroft) Holmes, and of course, Dracula,  made him well known and liked by movie fans everywhere.  And that terrific voice! 

Greenwich Library carries about a fraction of Lee's film work (possibly 250 movies altogether!) in our collection, but the ones we do carry are worth checking out.   Some suggested titles include the following:

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957):  Lee's first major horror role, opposite frequent co star Peter Cushing as an arrogant Baron Frankenstein.  Both actors give great performances, with Lee turning in a subtle turn without using dialogue as the monster. Here's my 2010 review.  Available as part of a horror double feature DVD set with Lee's Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970), which is just okay. 

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959; available on Hoopla from us): Fun, atmospheric remake with Cushing's Sherlock Holmes trying to protect Sir Henry Baskerville (Lee) from a family curse.  

The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960),  Scream of Fear (1961), and The Gorgon (1964) all feature strong supporting turns by Lee.  Here's my 2009 review of all three.

Dracula, Prince of Darkness (1966):  Lee's second go around as Bram Stoker's undead Count.  Available in this collection from us. 

Count Dracula (1970; available on Hoopla): Lee teamed up with Spanish cult film director Jesus Franco and co-stars Herbert Lom and Klaus  Kinski in what was supposed to be a more faithful adaptation of Stoker's character.  Despite poor staging and an obvious low budget, Lee rises above the mess. 

Lee (dubbed by another actor!) had played  Sherlock Holmes in the German made Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (1962) but that film is currently unavailable.  However, Lee returned to the Holmes universe as the detective's brother, Mycroft, in director Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970; available on Hoopla), an affectionate take on the title character. 

Horror Express (1972);  Lee in a rare and solid turn as a heroic lead alongside Cushing.  The film's not bad either.

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974): Lee's title assassin goes after James Bond 007 (Roger Moore).  Some good moments -the two stars are fine-, but the emphasis on comedy over suspense hurts the film.

These films, and others starring Lee, can be found on the library's online catalogue here.  And if you want us to get more of his films, go here

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On Thursday, June 11, at 6:30 PM in the second floor meeting room, Greenwich Library Cult Films will present Mad Max (1979) starring Mel Gibson.  The first film in the series that recently released a new installment (Mad Max: Fury Road), this is a powerful thriller set in a post-apocalyptic future where civilization has broken down and wild gangs roam Australia's highways. 

Directed in a sweeping, exciting style by George Miller (Babe), Mad Max is part biker film, part Dirty  Harry cop picture and part horror thriller.  Below is the original US trailer (with dubbed in American voices) for the film:



Mad Max is in color, runs 90 minutes and is rated R. 

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Back in September I reviewed the first volume of IDW's Batman:  The Silver Age Newspaper Comics, which covered the strip's first two years (1966-67).  Now IDW has put out Volume Two, which covers the Batman newspaper comic strip from January 1, 1968 to May 31, 1969. Click here to reserve our copy.

Picking up the "Shivering Blue Max" storyline from the last volume, writer Whitney Ellsworth and artist Joe Giella tie up loose ends with a massive (for a newspaper strip) body count.  Giella is then replaced by former Superman artist Al Plastino, who takes over the penciling and inking of the strip, with some help from then current Superman artist Curt Swan (check out panel 2 of the July 30th 1968 strip; I'd swear that head shot was drawn by Swan).  And sure enough, who should guest star alongside Batman and Robin in Plastino's first storyline ("Diabolical Professor Zinkk", which ran March 18-August 6, 1968) but Superman himself, who gets the Caped Crusaders to help him find out who's been stealing his powers.

Another DC Comics superhero, Aquaman, makes appearances in two storylines, a brief one in the aforementioned "Zinkk" continuity, and "Breathing Underwater" (August 7-December 15, 1968), where Batman, without Robin (who seems to be getting phased out of the strip at this time), must aid a scientist's daughter against an underwater smuggling ring. That's followed by "I Want Bruce Wayne's Identity!" (December 15, 1968-May 30, 1969), a suspenseful entry where Batman, as Bruce Wayne, gets amnesia, and winds up being replaced by a sinister lookalike and his gang, with only a suspicious Batgirl to help him. 

Ellsworth's scripts, while sometimes emulating the style of the 60's Batman TV series (which went off the air in March, 1968), are pretty good.  The Superman/Professor Zinkk storyline is the best, with genuine tension and some welcome humor.  Ellsworth's not afraid to dispatch various characters if he has to; lots of villains end up usually dead by the climax of each story. Plastino's style hues closer to the work of then current Batman comic book artists Irv Novick and Bob Brown (both of whom were inked by Joe Giella), but is otherwise solid and compelling.

Volume Two ends with the start of a new storyline involving a mysterious woman with designs on Bruce Wayne.  How will that end up?  Guess we'll have to wait for Volume Three to find out! 

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Greenwich Library Cult Films presents the 1965 James Bond 007 thriller (the fourth in the series) Thunderball on Thursday May 14 beginning at 6:30pmin the second floor meeting room.  The film is in color, runs 130 minutes, and is rated PG.

The plot:  SPECTRE has stolen two atomic bombs from a NATO jet and is holding the world hostage.  Bond (Sean Connery) suspects that there's a link between  a man he saw in a medical clinic who looked liked one of the NATO pilots and the pilot's sister Domino (Claudine Auger), who just happens to be vacationing in Nassau. With her guardian Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi), who just happens to be SPECTRE's second in command...

Lots of fun action sequences in this one!  Plus a lot of it takes place underwater.  (SPECTRE has hidden the bombs underwater, see...) And some terrific gadgets as well.

Connery and the supporting cast (some of whom are dubbed) give polished performances under Terrence Young's taut direction.  Check out Thunderball for yourself this Thursday!

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We'll be showing the 1965 James Bond thriller Thunderball in the second floor meeting room on May 14th beginning at 6:30 pm.  This will be part of our continuing Cult Films program.  Watch for future posts on this upcoming event.

Meanwhile, here's the original trailer for the film:


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Tough guy private eye Mike Hammer returns in a "new" thriller, Kill Me, Darling, begun in 1954 or thereabouts by Mickey Spillane and completed very nicely by Max Allan Collins.  (Click here to reserve our copy.)

Set in the aforementioned 1954, Hammer comes out of a four month bender (set off when his secretary Velda had left him with little explanation) to investigate former colleague Wade Manley's  murder.  With the help of old buddy Captain Pat Chambers of the NYPD, Mike discovers a connection between the murder victim and Velda, the latter now the latest girlfriend/mistress of Miami Beach gangster Nolly Quinn.  But what connection does Quinn have with the case?  Mike decides to head down to Miami to find out.  And then stuff happens...

Fun from start to finish, Kill Me, Darling (the title is uttered by a character during the end of the book) is a good roller coaster ride with plenty of sex and violence (lots of hoods get dispatched by Mike) to please the audience.  While the plot uses some familiar tropes -Hammer's bender was eventually used by Spillane in his 1962 novel The Girl Hunters (pointed out by Collins in his nice introduction), plus there's a surprise revelation at the climax about another character that harkens back to an earlier Spillane Hammer novel*- , there's still plenty of unexpected twists to be found. I loved hearing the reasons behind other gangsters wanting to hire Hammer to take out Quinn, for example, as well as the backstory that connects Hammer, Chambers, AND Velda to the late Manley. 

Kill Me, Darling is definitely recommended! 

*(If I tell you which Hammer novel, you'll know what I mean.)

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Greenwich Library Cult Films will be showing 2001's Donnie Darko, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, in the second floor meeting room this Thursday, April 9th, beginning at 6:30 pm.  Details here.  To say more would spoil your enjoyment of this powerful film.  It's THAT good! 

Below is the trailer for the film:

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Spectre, the next James Bond 007 film starring Daniel Craig, is due to open in theatres this November.  Yesterday, the producers released the first official trailer for the film:



Boy, I can't wait to see this!  They even have a new modified version of the old SPECTRE pinky ring that was seen in the Sean Connery Bond films in the sixties!  And just who is that  guy in the shadows at the end? 

Check out our online catalog for all the James Bond-related material we carry here.

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TALESPOSTER.pngIn connection with the current "Ka-Pow!  When Comics Imperiled America" show in the Flinn Gallery, Greenwich Library's Friends Friday Films will present Tales From The Crypt on Friday March 27th beginning at 8:00 pm.  The 1972 British film adapts five short stories from the infamous EC Comics horror line that were published between 1950-55.  (Although, oddly enough, only two of the stories in the film are from  the actual Tales comic; the other three were adapted from EC's companion books The Haunt of Fear and The Vault of Horror.)*

Five people  get separated from a tour group in a series of catacombs and find themselves trapped  in a strange stone crypt.  A mysterious hooded crypt keeper (Ralph Richardson) appears and proceeds to tell each one of them their possible future.  Or is it their future...?

"...And All Through The House"  (from Vault of Horror #35) stars Joan Collins as a woman who murders her rich husband on Christmas Eve.  Meanwhile, a homicidal killer dressed as Santa Claus is prowling the neighborhood.  "Reflection of Death" (Tales From The Crypt #23) depicts a businessman (Ian Hendry) abandoning his family to run off with his secretary, but unforeseen events intervene. "Poetic Justice" (Haunt of Fear #12) has a rich snob (Robin Phillips) harassing an elderly garbage collector (horror legend Peter Cushing!) to force him out of the neighborhood, with deadly results.

"Wish You Were Here" (Haunt of Fear  #22), an acknowledged retelling/revision of W.W. Jacobs' "The Monkey's Paw", focuses on a newly bankrupt arms dealer (Richard Greene) whose life takes a turn for the worse after his wife (Barbara Murray) foolishly makes three wishes to regain their lost fortune. And "Blind Alleys" (Tales  From The Crypt #45), the best of the five stories, has mistreated blind rest home residents get revenge on the institution's uncaring director (Nigel Patrick).

Tales From The Crypt was produced by Milton Subotsky (who also adapted the original stories for the film) and Max J. Rosenberg, and directed by Freddie Francis.  All three had worked together before on such horror films as Dr. Terror's House of Horrors and The Skull (both 1965), and  Torture Garden (1967).  With a solid cast, script, and direction, along with some welcome black humor, Tales From The Crypt is a lot of good scary fun.  (Yes, there is some gore; a character's final fate in Wish You Were Here" is especially graphic.)  Rated PG-13, Tales runs 92 minutes. Check it out.  If you dare!

*(Ballantine Books released paperback reprint anthologies of Tales From The Crypt and The Vault of Horror in 1964-65. The stories in this film were taken from these two editions.)

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Fans of the classic EC Comics line may want to check out the Flinn Gallery's new exhibition "Ka-Pow! When Comics Imperiled America" that opens tonight at 6:00 pm and will continue until April 29th. It'll spotlight Robert Reiner's  original art collection of these highly sought comics. Greenwich Time ran a very good story on the show here.  And yours truly contributed an article on the library's collection of hardcover reprints of some of the EC books here

For more info on the exhibition, click here.

And on March 27th, Friends Friday Films at the library will be showing the 1972 EC Comics movie adaptation  Tales From The Crypt.  Details here. Below is the trailer for that film:

I'll be discussing that film in an upcoming post.   Look for it!

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