Tag Archives: Balladeer’s Blog

THE FIRST TWENTY IRON MAN STORIES FROM THE 1960s

Robert Downey Jr as Iron ManBalladeer’s Blog continues its Top Twenty Lists for 2020 while simultaneously providing another item for this superhero-hungry world. It’s the first 20 Iron Man stories, beginning in 1963.

Iron Man 1TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #39 (March 1963)

Title: Iron Man Is Born

Villains: Wong Chu and his Red Guerillas

Synopsis: Tony Stark is living the dream. He’s a multi-millionaire, women consider him very handsome and he has all the inventive genius of a new Thomas Edison but without the litigiousness. He has multiplied the fortune he inherited from his parents many times over through the value of his tech and weapons creations instead of through the ruthless big business savvy shown by his late father.

After Tony demonstrates his latest inventions for the Defense Department to an audience of Generals he is flown to Vietnam to watch his devices in action in the field. This will help him refine them for the front-line troops.

While accompanying a squad of soldiers through the jungle, Stark accidentally triggers a Viet Cong booby trap and the subsequent explosion kills his soldier escorts. Tony himself is left with a piece of shrapnel lodged dangerously near his heart and inching closer by the day.

Wong Chu, the North Vietnamese Warlord, is holding the injured millionaire captive in the village he rules with an iron fist. Wong Chu knows that Tony Stark has only days to live but lies to him and tells him he will set him free if he devises a high-tech weapon for him and his VC forces. Continue reading

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CHINESE MYTHOLOGY: YI THE DIVINE ARCHER

BALLADEER’S BLOG’S TENTH YEAR OF BLOGGING CONTINUES … 

 I.WHAT’S UP WITH YI?  – Yi the Divine Archer from Chinese mythology deserves to be remembered in one breath with some of the other great heroes and monster slayers from belief systems around the world. Most people are only familiar with his feat of shooting down multiple suns that appeared in the sky one day, but this article will provide a light- hearted look at all of his fantastic adventures. 

Yi is pronounced “Yee” according to some sources, but according to others it’s pronounced “EEE”, so you can insert your own Ned Beatty joke here. Continue reading

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VITO GESUALDI: MOVIE AND GAME CRITIC EXTRAORDINAIRE

masc chair and bottleRegular readers of Balladeer’s Blog are familiar with my fondness for laughably bad movies. Vito Gesualdi at YT is one of the funniest and most irreverent critics to be found. I would recommend any of his reviews but for newbies I can tell you he does what may be THE funniest takedown of the disastrous Rise of Skywalker.

Because that review is over an hour long here is his much shorter review of the virtually worthless COMPANION BOOK to the Disney Sequel Trilogy. If you like it, you can watch Vito’s Rise of Skywalker review HERE  

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KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE PARK (1978) ON THE TEXAS 27 FILM VAULT

KISS Meets the Phantom of the ParkIn the middle 1980s/ Way down on Level 31 –

Randy Clower and Richard Malmos of The Texas 27 Film Vault (both lower right) featured in a Movie Host article with Stella from Saturday Night Dead and Elvira.

Randy Clower and Richard Malmos of The Texas 27 Film Vault (both lower right) featured in a Movie Host article with Stella from Saturday Night Dead and Elvira.

Before MST3K there was … The Texas 27 Film Vault!

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of this neglected cult show from the mid-1980s.

EPISODE ORIGINALLY BROADCAST: Saturday May ??, 1987 from 10:30pm to 1:00 am. Exact date is still being debated. Any Vaulties with further information please feel free to contact me.

EXTRAS: Every single nanosecond of this film is riff-worthy, so with the usual comedy sketches from the Film Vault Corps (“the few, the proud, the sarcastic”) added on plus commercials there was no time for an episode of a Republic or Columbia serial before the movie this time. Randy and Richard, our machine-gun toting Film Vault Technicians First Class were able to get to the movie quickly.  Continue reading

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MALDOROR: A NEGLECTED MASTERPIECE OF SURREAL HORROR

“Maldoror and His Smile” by Lord Orlando

Balladeer’s Blog has done a comprehensive examination of The Songs of Maldoror, often referred to as just Maldoror. The original 1868 French language work by the self-designated Count de Lautreamont (real name Isidore Ducasse) was in verse form, which is great for poetry geeks like me but if you prefer prose there are plenty of prose translations available. 

This work of surreal horror was so far ahead of its time that the author himself, in one of the few existing copies of his correspondence, expressed fears that he might be jailed or thrown into an insane asylum and requested that the publisher literally “stop the presses.” Just 88 copies of the book were completed in that initial run and for a few decades The Songs of Maldoror languished in obscurity.  

By the 1890s those few copies of Maldoror had been circulating among the more adventurous literati of the time period and the work began to be hailed as a forgotten masterpiece by Maeterlink, Bloy, Huysmans and de Gourmont. This new acclaim ultimately resulted in a new run of copies – this time in the thousands instead of dozens like the first run. This also accounts for why some reviewers mistakenly refer to The Songs of Maldoror as an 1890s work, despite its original publication date of 1868. Continue reading

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PULP HERO G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES – STORIES SIXTEEN THROUGH EIGHTEEN

Death MonstersBalladeer’s Blog resumes its examination of the neglected Pulp Hero G-8. This continues a story-by- story look at the adventures of this World War One American fighter pilot who – along with his two wingmen the Battle Aces – took on various supernatural and super- scientific menaces thrown at the Allied Powers by the Central Powers of Germany, Austria- Hungary and the Ottoman Muslim Turks.

G-8 was created by Robert J Hogan in 1933 when World War One was still being called simply the World War or the Great War. Over the next eleven years Hogan wrote 110 stories featuring the adventures of G-8, the street-smart pug Nippy Weston and the brawny giant Bull Martin. The regular cast was rounded out by our hero’s archenemy Doktor Krueger, by Battle, G-8’s British manservant and by our hero’s girlfriend R-1: an American nurse/ spy whose real name, like G-8’s was never revealed. 

X-Ray Eye16. THE X-RAY EYE (January 1935) – Add another mad scientist to the pile of G-8’s Rogue’s Gallery of villains! This story features our hero and his faithful sidekicks going up against Dr Gurnig, another Teutonic terror of the technical sciences. Dr Gurnig has created a HUGE remote- controlled flying head-like object with a single eye that shoots highly concentrated X-Rays.

Those X-Rays pass through a specially designed prism that amps up their power like lasers do with light, so maybe the concentrated X-Rays could be jokingly called “xasers”. Continue reading

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DJANGO: OPERA VERSION OF THE 1966 MOVIE

HAPPY FRONTIERADO! As this edition of the holiday winds down, here’s one last seasonal post.

Franco Nero as DjangoDJANGO: AN OPERA – Here at Balladeer’s Blog I love sharing my enthusiasms. My blog posts where I provide contemporary slants to Ancient Greek Comedies to make them more accessible have been big hits over the years, so now I’m trying it with operas. A little while back I wrote about how Philip Wylie’s science fiction novel Gladiator could be done as an opera. This time I’m addressing the 1966 original version of the Spaghetti Western titled Django.

IF YOU HATE OPERAS AND YOU’D RATHER JUST READ MY MOVIE REVIEW OF THE 1966 DJANGO, CLICK HERE 

DJANGO

Original Django posterLANGUAGE: Spanish. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that most of my fellow English-speakers find English-language operas to be silly. The prosaic nature of the forced rhymes in a language we are well-versed in does seem to rob opera of its mystique and its grandeur. 

I fall into that trap myself. I’ve noticed I can never lose myself in a Gilbert & Sullivan work like I can with La Forza del Destino or Tales of Hoffmann or any other opera sung in a less familiar language. At any rate, I’ve chosen Spanish for this opera because so much of the story takes place in Mexico during the war to dethrone Emperor Maximilian.

SINGERS: A Tenor, 2 Baritones, a Soprano, 3 Basses and a Mezzo-Soprano

For Django, I’m making it a two-act opera as opposed to the three-act format I used for Gladiator.

ACT ONE: MARCH 1867. A STRETCH OF BARREN DESERT ALONG THE US/ MEXICO BORDER. 

Django and coffinScene One: The opera would open with a stage version of one of the most iconic visuals from the 1966 film. Our title character, DJANGO, clad in his long blue jacket with his well-worn Union Army uniform underneath it, slowly, wearily drags a coffin behind him as he walks along singing his mournful song. He pulls the coffin via a rope slung across one shoulder.

The coffin symbolizes the burden of grief that Django has carried with him ever since his wife was killed during the U.S. Civil War by Confederate MAJOR JACKSON. Django has pursued his ideological and personal enemy across the west and now to this battle-scarred border town.

The vile Major Jackson and his former Confederate soldiers have turned into outright Klansmen. Jackson and his men are among the former Confederate military men who took up Emperor Maximilian’s offer of land and citizenship in Mexico (where slavery was still legal). In exchange they had to fight to help Maximilian retain his throne. Continue reading

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TOP THREE FRONTIERADO MOVIES

gunslinger costumeAnd with many people home from work for the day the 2020 Frontierado Holiday Weekend has started! The actual holiday is tomorrow, August 7th, but many of you have indicated that you’ve taken to getting started on the Thursday night before, or “Frontierado Eve” I guess we could call it.

So with the big outdoor meals scheduled for tomorrow, let’s kick off this three-day weekend tonight with some Tumbleweed Pizzas and a variety of drinks. For the mixed-drink fans there are Cactus Jacks and Deuces Wilds (both red and black).

Devils River BourbonOr if you prefer your drinks with no mixers there’s plenty of the OFFICIAL bourbons of Frontierado – Devils River Whiskey and Horse Soldier Bourbon. Barrel strength (117 proof) is my personal preference but your tastes may vary.

Anyway, for tonight’s movies, here at Frontierado Headquarters we’re doing a mini-marathon of the Top Three films for the holiday. Below are my reviews of those three:

NUMBER ONE

Top Frontierado Movie

Top Frontierado Movie

SILVERADO (1985) – I’ve never made any secret about how Silverado is, to me, THE official movie of the Frontierado holiday. The film has all the high spirits and family appeal of Star Wars plus the well-choreographed action scenes of Raiders of the Lost Ark. On top of that Silverado features all the  highly stylized gunplay of the best Spaghetti Westerns but NOT the mud, blood, sweat and brutality of that genre.

This movie is pure escapism and features the kind of preternaturally accurate gunslingers that I jokingly  describe as “Jedi Knights in the Olllld West”. These guys (as well as most of the villains) can literally shoot the needles off a cactus, simultaneously draw and shoot with pin-point accuracy and can just “sense” when some low-down hombre might be pulling a gun on them, even with their backs turned and from half a room away.   Continue reading

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MORE WILD, WILD WEST (1980)

The three-day Frontierado Holiday weekend starts this Friday, August 7th. (Well, technically the good times start Thursday night, August 6th.)

more wild wild westMORE WILD, WILD WEST (1980) – Awhile back, Balladeer’s Blog reviewed the 1979 telefilm The Wild, Wild West Revisited, the previous reunion movie for the 1965-1969 Robert Conrad series in which he starred as wild west Secret Service Agent Jim West. Regular readers may remember that I tore that tv movie to pieces, on the grounds that it was more like a failed comedy than a sequel to the fun action series of the 60s.

This second attempt at a Wild, Wild West reunion special was – against all odds – EVEN WORSE. It repeated all the horrible decisions of the first one while introducing new creative disasters of its own.

more wild wild west 2Robert Conrad was back as Jim West with Ross Martin once again appearing as his sidekick Artemus Gordon. But that’s about all that went right.

From the very start More Wild, Wild West was bizarrely unoriginal. EXACTLY LIKE its predecessor it opened up with the retired Jim West, still a ladies man, getting interrupted mid-erection and Artemus Gordon, still a ham actor, getting called away from a stage career for “one last mission.” The characters frequently refer to the previous movie, so it’s not like you can say they were trying to erase the memory of the first one and start over. Continue reading

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LATITUDE ZERO (1969)

Latitude ZeroLATITUDE ZERO (1969) – Just as absence makes the heart grow fonder, the unavailability of certain movies over extended periods lends them a certain mystique that they can’t possibly live up to when they are finally released once again to the public. Recently Balladeer’s Blog dealt with this while reviewing the long locked-away movie Toomorrow, starring a young Olivia Newton John. Now it’s Latitude Zero‘s turn.

This Toho Studios movie is noted for being the final collaboration among Director Ishiro Honda, Special Effects Artist Eiji Tsubaraya and Musical Conductor Akira Ifukube. A few decades back Latitude Zero was locked away in the Toho vaults and was unavailable on home video, leaving all of us fans of cult movies panting for the day when it would be re-released.

Latitude Zero picUnfortunately, it’s neither the “science fiction classic” nor the “so bad it’s good masterpiece” that it was hyped as during its period in video exile. A bathysphere containing two scientists and a newsman is rescued from destruction by a futuristic submarine and taken to an underwater utopia. Japan misleadingly marketed the movie as if it was a sequel to Atragon, oddly enough. 

The usual Raymond Burr Syndrome applies as we get American actors sprinkled in with the Japanese performers. Continue reading

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