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"The Haunt of Fear Volume One"

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Greenwich Library has made yet another collection of classic EC comics from the 1950s available to fans.  The Haunt of Fear Volume One collects the first six HoF issues from 1950-1951, complete with the original covers and house ads in full color!  (Click here to reserve our copy.)

These are EC Comics at their most embryonic, with the artists & writers (the latter included editor Al Feldstein, Gardner Fox, and even publisher William M. "Bill" Gaines)   feeling their way through.  There's an okay Poe take-off ("The Wall") with art by Johnny Craig.  Future Mad magazine creator/artist  Harvey Kurtzman (who hated the horror genre) contributes the okay "House of Horror" ( a college fraternity initiation in a haunted house goes very wrong) and "Television Terror!" (another haunted house tale, this one focusing on a live newscast and with a more shocking climax). Craig returns for the moody, atmospheric "Vampire!" (why does the tux-wearing Mr.Winslow keep a coffin in his basement?) and the black comedy "Seeds of Death" (a woman searches for her missing husband, unaware that he's been killed & the murderer is after her; great ironic climax). 

Plus there's great stuff by artist like Jack Davis ("Cheese, That's Horrible!" & the goofy "The Living Mummy"), "Ghastly" Graham Ingels ("the Frankenstein-like "Monster Maker!" & the ghoulish "The Hunchback!"), and Jack Kamen ("The Tunnel of Terror", with a "huh?" ending & the better plotted and twisted "A Grave Gag!!"). You also get to see artist Wally Wood beginning to develop his own unique storytelling style from the early crudeness of "The Mad Magician!" (with future science fiction author/artist Harry Harrison) to the horrific (and sexy) vampire tale "So They Finally Pinned You Down!".

It's not perfect, but The Haunt of Fear Volume One is a LOT of fun!

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Last March I did this post on the EC Comics line which linked to this article listing the recently published hardback black and white reprints of those comics by Fantagraphics.  Now there's another new collection spotlighting the work of artist Joe Orlando (1928-1998). (Click here to reserve our copy.)

Judgment Day and Other Stories collects 23 stories illustrated by Orlando (scripts by Al Feldstein and Jack Oleck) culled from EC's Weird Science, Shock SuspenStoriesWeird Science Fantasy, and Incredible Science Fiction magazines from 1953 to 1956.  Included are such frightening entries as "My Home" ( a disembodied alien being falls in love with a female  astronaut from Earth, with horrifying consequences), "The Automaton" (a man's efforts to escape a totalitarian government in the future leads to the ultimate loss of his humanity), "Home Run" ( why does a top scientist insist that the Army's first manned moon mission be rerouted to Mars, with him on board?), and "The Reformers" ( a group of aliens intent on "improving" the moral and social climate of other planets, whether they want it or not, get a BIG surprise on their new assignment!). 

Not all the stories are downbeat. Adaptations of Otto Binder's "Adam Link" stories, about an intelligent robot's efforts to fit in with humans are also included here, as is an adaptation of Ray Bradbury's  poignant "The Long Years!".  And the titular tale, "Judgment Day!" a then controversial and powerful narrative about an astronaut from Earth, whose face we never see until the last page (for a good reason), discovering racial segregation being practiced on a world populated only by robots, still resonates even more strongly today. 

Included in this collection are pieces on the stories themselves, a short biography of Orlando, who went on to work as an editor at DC Comics for 30 years, and a brief history of EC Comics.  If you're looking for solid storytelling delivered by one of the best artists in comics, Judgment Day is for you!

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"Bone Tomahawk" (2015)

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The other western starring Kurt Russell that came out this year in theatres, writer/director S. Craig Zahler's Bone Tomahawk, is a solid, suspenseful horror thriller that grabs the viewer from the get go.  (Click here to reserve our copy.)



 
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Director Guy Ritchie's big screen version of the 1964-68 TV series, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., opened in theatres to less than enthusiastic response last August.  That's too bad.  Despite some creative missteps, U.N.C.L.E. (hereafter referred to as UNCLE) is actually a terrific spy flick.


 
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Real life keeps getting in the way of my updating this blog. But while I get organized, here are some of the titles on my figurative nightstand I'm currently reading (and also available from the library) that you might find interesting:

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr:  A really compelling story of a young blind French girl and a tech-obsessed German boy whose paths cross during World War II.

The Man With The Golden Typewriter: Ian Fleming's James Bond Letters, edited by Fergus Fleming: Fun look at what went on in Ian Fleming's life while crafting the original 007 novels & short stories.

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins:  The basic plot is derivative -I'm thinking Agatha Christie's 4:50 From Paddington- , but first time author Hawkins keeps you riveted throughout.

The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin (translated by Kin Liu):  The 2015 Hugo Award winner for best novel, this first installment of a Chinese science fiction trilogy is an offbeat take on the usual alien invasion plot, complete with really bizarre virtual reality sequences. 

More in-depth reviews to follow.

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Not bad.  Aside from a weak theme song, the by-now-overused plot of Bond going rogue, and a dragged out ending (that otherwise sets up a sequel), the latest James Bond 007 film Spectre, currently out in theatres, is an exciting, well shot and directed film.  Daniel Craig's fourth outing as 007 features his most relaxed and confident performance to date. He's even cracking jokes! 

I'll have more to say about it when the library gets the DVD, but in the meantime, if you're a 007 fan like me, you'll enjoy watching this film!

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The new James Bond 007 thriller SPECTRE hit theatres in the US today after having been released a week earlier in Europe and looks to be another big international hit.  But where did S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (yes, it's actually an acronym, at least in Ian Fleming's Bond novels) first appear?


 

Horrors On Hoopla!

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Halloween's almost here and Greenwich Library's  DVD collection of horror films is already bare.  But if you have a PC or iPad (an iPhone would work too, although it's murder on the eyes), you can download some classic and not so classic -but still fun- genre thrillers from our Hoopla page. 

 
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After having read the last attempt to resurrect Ian Fleming's James Bond 007 in literary form by another author, I was convinced the secret agent's life in prose was over and done. Happily, Anthony Horowitz's Trigger Mortis (click here to reserve a copy) made me realize there can be an author who "gets" 007 as Fleming portrayed him. 

In fact, Fleming, via an unused outline he worked on for a potential 007 TV series in the late fifties that was used as a starting point for Horowitz, is partly responsible for the way Trigger Mortis (it's a technical term used by NASA that figures into the plot) turned out.  Set in 1957, directly after the events of Fleming's Goldfinger novel, Mortis finds Bond wondering what to do with the previous mission's heroine, Pussy Galore, when his boss M promptly gives him a new assignment.

Lancy Smith, a world famous British race car driver (loosely based on real life racing champ Sterling Moss) has been targeted by SMERSH, the covert Soviet  assassination and terrorist organization, for death.  Bond is assigned to protect Smith while they both compete in the Grand Prix.  But while keeping his eyes and ears open for possible threats, Bond discovers that SMERSH also is in league with  the mysterious Korean-American millionaire businessman Jason Sin. Apparently Sin is targeting America's space program, but what's his plan? 

With the initially reluctant help of a female "writer" named Jeopardy Lane, Bond quickly discovers that more than just the American space program is in danger.  But can he and Jeopardy stop Sin in time?!?

I can't give away anything more.  Trigger Mortis is a nonstop thrill ride from start to finish.  Horowitz captures Fleming's literary voice much better than others (I was always sorry the late but otherwise excellent thriller writer John Gardner was unable to write a really good, exciting Bond novel back in the 80s), as well as giving a good sense of historical perspective. The nasty Sin may invoke some memories of Bond's previous foe, Doctor No, however, and the cultural biases (which include ethnic slurs) that Bond and Fleming had back in those days are still present, which may make present day readers uncomfortable. 

If you can overlook the attitudes that characterized guys like Bond back then (and who'd ever thought the previously homophobic 007 actually had a gay friend, as seen in this new novel), you'll enjoy Trigger Mortis!  Recommended, and here's hoping Horowitz gets to do another Bond installment. 

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The Spy Command is a blog devoted to Ian Fleming's James Bond 007 and "The Other Spies".  It cover new and past spy films, TV shows & books, and it's recent coverage has been on the upcoming Bond film SPECTRE and last August's Man From UNCLE film (which I liked BTW). Check out the SC by clicking here.

Speaking of Bond, I'm working my way through Anthony Horowitz's 007 pastiche, Trigger Mortis, and hope to have a review up next week.  So far, it's much better than the last Bond novel by somebody who's not Ian Fleming.

(Follow me on Twitter.)

 

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