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BEST OF JANUARY 2022

Balladeer’s Blog’s annual end of year retrospective kicks off with this look at January’s best:

death machines 1976 movieDEATH MACHINES (1976) – Martial Arts meets science fiction meets spy antics in this odd, feverish cult film starring a young Ron Marchini. You can read my review of the movie HERE.

FIREPOWER (1979) – Sophia Loren, James Coburn, Eli Wallach, Jake LaMotta, O.J. Simpson and others star in this espionage/ caper film that I reviewed HERE.

UGLY MOVES TOWARD A ONE-PARTY NATION – Read it HERE.

hunterwaliHUNTERWALI – India’s films about their Zorroesque masked heroine who uses her sword and whip against a tyrannical Vazier and his men. There were Indian-made movies about the character in 1935, 1959, 1972, 1977, 1988 and 2017.

        There was also a movie about the Daughter of Hunterwali (again with Fearless Nadia in the title role) in 1943. Read about all of them HERE.

AUSTRALIAN NEWS ON JOE BIDEN’S UNFITNESS FOR OFFICE – Watch it HERE.   

brum pictureBRUM (1991-2002): FORGOTTEN TELEVISION – A neglected children’s series from the U.K. I reviewed the adventures of the living toy car HERE

CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON: 1970s CLASSICS – My reviews and cultural examinations of memorable Cap and Falc stories pitting them against the Red Skull, the Secret Empire, Nightshade, Solarr, the 2nd Baron Zemo and others.

See the Falcon get his wings from the Black Panther, see the long-lost Peggy Carter return, see Captain America get his Spider-Man level strength (that lasted from 1973-1978) and so much more HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.

jirel of joiry picJIREL OF JOIRY – Female author C.L. Moore’s short stories about her 1930s sword-wielding warrior woman Jirel of Castle Joiry.

Jirel really was what a lot of people mistakenly think Robert E. Howard’s Red Sonya (not Sonja) was. My review of Jirel’s six stories can be read HERE

A BOTTOMLESS MORASS OF POLITICAL CORRUPTION – Multiple accounts of such covered HERE. Continue reading

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BALLADEER’S BLOG’S COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF AND BOWL RESULTS: DECEMBER 3rd

NAIA

Keiser SeahawksFIRST SEMIFINAL – The KEISER UNIVERSITY SEA HAWKS visited the GRAND VIEW UNIVERSITY VIKINGS (should be the Zebras) in this game. The 1st Quarter ended with the Sea Hawks up 7-0 before expanding that to a 21-7 advantage by Halftime. After the break, Keiser University outscored Grand View 17-14 for a 38-21 Upset and a trip to the title game on December 17th. 

northwestern ia redSECOND SEMIFINAL – Up next the NORTHWESTERN (IA) COLLEGE RED RAIDERS took the field against the INDIANA WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY WILDCATS. A 17-0 Red Raiders lead in the opening Quarter remained unchanged at the Half. The 3rd Quarter ended with Northwestern College on top 31-0 and the 4th in a 38-7 Red Raiders win. It will be Red Raiders and Sea Hawks in the Championship Game.

NCAA DIVISION TWO

Colorado Mines Orediggers NEWFIRST QUARTERFINAL – The COLORADO SCHOOL OF MINES OREDIGGERS faced their hosts the ANGELO STATE RAMS. The Orediggers led 14-7 in the 1st Quarter and 21-10 at the break. From there Colorado School of Mines managed a bit more separation from the Rams for a 42-24 Upset victory. Continue reading

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SUPERHEROES OF CENTAUR COMICS

This weekend’s light-hearted, escapist superhero blog post examines the Golden Age superhero pantheon of the company called Centaur Comics.

Air ManAIR MAN

Secret Identity: Drake Stevens

Origin: Drake Stevens’ father, Ornithology Professor Claude Stevens, was murdered and when the police were getting nowhere Drake donned a costume equipped with various technical gimmicks and set out to bring the killers to justice.

As always happens in comic books Drake decided to continue fighting crime under his new nom de guerre Air Man.

First Appearance: Keen Detective Funnies #23 (August 1940). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1941.

Powers: Air Man’s costume boasted feathers filled with an experimental anti-gravity gas as well as a jet-pack. In addition to that he sported guns plus a Chemical Belt loaded with egg-shaped explosives. On top of that Air Man was highly skilled at unarmed combat and had Olympic-level gymnastic abilities. 

Comment: Air Man was one of those Golden Age superheroes who didn’t hesitate to kill off his adversaries when the situation called for it.  

Blue LadyBLUE LADY

Secret Identity: Lucille Martin, novelist

Origin: Returning from a trip to China on board a luxury liner, Lucille Martin was given a priceless statue by a Chinese woman named Lotus. She was told to guard the statue from some men who were pursuing Lotus and by way of payment the Chinese woman also gave her a blue ring.

When the men pursuing Lotus killed her, Ms Martin accidentally discovered that the ring gave her super-powers. She donned a costume, called herself the Blue Lady and brought Lotus’ murderers to justice as the start of a crime-fighting career.  

First Appearance: Amazing-Man Comics #24 (October, 1941). Her final Golden Age appearance came in 1942.

Powers: Accidentally breaking the blue-bird shaped gem on the Oriental ring released a gas which bestowed upon the Blue Lady the strength of ten men, invulnerability and the ability to teleport via blue mists. She could also generate those blue mists to hide in and to disorient her opponents. In turn, other gasses were the Blue Lady’s weakness.  Continue reading

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BLACKADDER’S CHRISTMAS CAROL (1988)

blackadder's christmas carolBLACKADDER’S CHRISTMAS CAROL – Balladeer’s Blog’s 13th Annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon continues! Long-time readers know what a big fan I am of Rowan Atkinson’s work – especially his Blackadder programs. Hell, I’m even an enormous fan of his more serious work in Full Throttle. And I never tire of telling anyone who will listen that I think he’d make a perfect Dikaiopolis in Aristophanes’ comedy The Acharnians

As to why it took me so long to finally get around to reviewing Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, it’s the same reason that applied to the George C Scott version: I wanted to handle some of the more obscure Carols before hitting the well-known ones.

This Christmas Special is set in Victorian England with Atkinson starring as Ebenezer Blackadder, owner of a moustache shop. Tony Robinson is on hand as yet another member of the Baldrick family line.

In typically perverse Blackadder fashion the storyline reverses the usual sequence of events. Ebenezer starts out as a kind-hearted and generous soul but soon the Christmas Spirit (Robbie Coltrane) shows him visions of Blackadders Past, Present and Yet-to-Come.     Continue reading

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JUNGLE JIM ON SCREEN

jungle jim johnnyNews of the disastrous reaction to screenings of the unwanted and unneeded fifth Indiana Jones movie, starring a 136-year-old Harrison Ford, caused me to reflect on the 1980s flood of Indiana Jones imitators. Studios even revived the old H. Rider Haggard character Allan Quatermain by casting Richard Chamberlin as Quatermain in a few movies.

Conspicuously absent from that 1980s eruption was Jungle Jim, the former comic strip character who had been depicted in a film serial, several movies and a television series from the 1930s to 1950s. Obviously, the same attempts to update Allan Quatermain would have to be made in reviving Jungle Jim, but it certainly could have been pulled off.

After all, decades before Raiders of the Lost Ark, “Jungle Jim” Bradley, mercenary jungle guide and adventurer, was fighting Nazis and other menaces while finding lost cities & ancient artifacts, all while romancing lovely ladies. Throw in the occasional giant spider or huge, man-eating eel and enjoy!

A 1980s Jungle Jim series could have combined the best elements of Indiana Jones, Crocodile Dundee and Allan Quatermain.  

At any rate, all this led me to write this examination of the big and small screen escapades of Jungle Jim in all their fun, outdated, absurd and So Bad They’re Good glory. Johnny Weissmuller, the former Tarzan actor, actually had to speak in complete sentences as Jungle Jim, emphasizing his poor thespian skills.

jungle jim 1937JUNGLE JIM (1937) – This 12 episode serial from Universal starred Grant Withers as the title character in the pith helmet. The story involved Joan Redmond, a wealthy young heiress who disappeared in the African jungle with her parents years earlier.

Sightings of a white woman in command of a pride of lions have inspired media speculation that the now teenaged heiress was still alive. Two rival jungle expeditions set out to find her, one launched by the tale’s heroes and another launched by the tale’s villains. 

The good guys, guided by Jungle Jim, want to bring the young Lion Goddess back to her home country and her inheritance. The bad guys, led by the young lady’s villainous relative Bruce Redmond, want to kill Joan, thus allowing Bruce to claim the inheritance for himself. Further complicating things are two international criminals who have been stranded in the jungle with Joan for years and have been passing themselves off to her as if they are her parents. Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER PART 66: JULY 1913

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT IN THE 1850s, CLICK HERE

Fool Killer wardrobePART 66 – Some of the Fool Killer’s targets on both sides of the aisle in the July of 1913 edition of James Larkin Pearson’s version of the folk figure:

*** Democrat Walter Hines Page, President Woodrow Wilson’s Ambassador to Great Britain. Page was part of the plutocrat or “plute” class that Pearson and his Fool Killer despised. Page had provoked Pearson’s ire through his public claims of simple living, all while he was renting a $20,000 per year mansion in England for himself, an enormous amount for the time.

*** Modern day gun owners. Pearson and his depiction of the Fool Killer defy categorization, since the attitudes expressed would annoy people on both the political right and the political left. Going back to 1910, Pearson’s Fool Killer openly disdained gun ownership in the 20th Century, yet many of his other positions would be placed on the political right.

*** Pearson’s fellow Christians, whom he thought bestowed most of their affection to the devil with their lifestyles, rather than to God. Here we see a position usually attributed to the political right. One of the intriguing things in every installment is the way Pearson and his Fool Killer cannot be pigeon-holed as left-wing or right-wing. Continue reading

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2nd CHANCE FOR CHRISTMAS (2019): CHRISTMAS CAROL-A-THON 2022 CONTINUES

Christmas Carol-A-Thon 2022 here at Balladeer’s Blog continues with a review of this 2019 item.

2nd Chance For Christmas2nd CHANCE FOR CHRISTMAS (2019) – (Special thanks to Balladeer’s Blog reader Lee Ann for recommending this Carol to me.)

Directed by Christopher Ray, this is an adaptation of the Dickens classic and sets the story in the present-day. The Scrooge stand-in is a Country Western singer named Chance Love (Brittany Underwood). My fellow Carol enthusiasts will immediately be put in mind of A Diva’s Christmas Carol, reviewed previously here at Balladeer’s Blog.

2nd Chance For Christmas shrewdly stakes out its own territory so that it stands out from the Vanessa Williams flick about a pop starlet named Ebony Williams. In addition the film shrewdly used a numerical designation for the first word in the title rather than spelling out “Second” ensuring it will be listed ahead of movies whose titles begin with any letters at all.

Brittany Underwood does a very good job as Chance, the mean-spirited and selfish singing starlet who abuses everyone around her. Every step of the way Underwood is up to the demands of the storyline and manages her comedic parts well, always the toughest challenge.

In fact nearly all the comedy bits in 2nd Chance For Christmas are well-written and well-executed, so I will avoid any spoilers regarding the jokes so as not to ruin them for first-time viewers.    Continue reading

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BALLADEER’S BLOG’S COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF AND BOWL RESULTS FROM NOVEMBER 26th

NAIA PLAYOFFS

Keiser SeahawksFIRST QUARTERFINAL – In this game the KEISER UNIVERSITY SEAHAWKS delivered the Upset of the Playoffs so far on a visit to the defending National Champions – the MORNINGSIDE COLLEGE MUSTANGS. The Mustangs led 21-3 in the 1st Quarter but felt their grip slipping when the Seahawks pulled to within 21-10 by Halftime. The 3rd Quarter ended with Morningside up 28-16, but in the 4th Keiser U. exploded for a 29-28 win.

northwestern ia redSECOND QUARTERFINAL – The NORTHWESTERN (IA) COLLEGE RED RAIDERS played the MARIAN UNIVERSITY KNIGHTS. The Red Raiders shut out the Knights in the opening Half, leading them 35-0 going into the locker room. Marian’s offense perked up after the break, but were in too big a hole. Northwestern won out 52-27. Continue reading

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SPIDER-WOMAN: HER EARLY STORIES

This weekend’s light-hearted and escapist superhero blog post will look at Marvel’s original run of the Jessica Drew version of Spider-Woman.

marv sp 32MARVEL SPOTLIGHT Vol 1 #32 (February 1977)

Title: Dark Destiny

Villains: Hydra

NOTE: The origin of the Jessica Drew character presented in this issue, which claimed she was a creation of Marvel’s hero-villain the High Evolutionary, was soon retconned. In the new version, her father was a scientist working with the High Evolutionary, who injected her with experimental chemicals and spider DNA to save her life from radiation poisoning, and that was how she gained her super-powers.

           Those powers: Spider-Man level strength, bioenergy “venom blasts” that she shot from her hands, wall-crawling abilities and limited flight through her web-wings.

spider-woman picSynopsis: Misled into working for Hydra, Spider-Woman is sent on a mission to assassinate S.H.I.E.L.D. chief Nick Fury on the Riviera. Nick survives her initial assault and then uses news and intelligence reports to show her how she was deceived into thinking that Hydra was a revolutionary organization rather than a criminal cabal.

Jessica, furious over the way she was used, leads a S.H.I.E.L.D. assault on the Hydra base from which she was sent to kill Nick Fury. After the base is shut down and all the Hydra agents are captured, the heroine declines to join S.H.I.E.L.D. and goes off to contemplate what she wants to do with her life. Continue reading

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SCROOGE IN THE HOOD (2011): CHRISTMAS CAROL-A-THON 2022 BEGINS

mascot chair and bottle picIf it’s the Friday after Thanksgiving, then regular readers of Balladeer’s Blog know it’s the day when I kick off my annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon in which I review several versions of A Christmas Carol. I look at movies, television shows, radio shows and books which adapt the Dickens classic. Every year I present new reviews and a few old classics since newer readers will have missed them.

scrooge in the hoodSCROOGE IN THE HOOD (2011) – This is easily the worst attempt at a comedy version of the Carol that I’ve ever seen. It’s also a failure in terms of production values. Acting is nonexistent, props are below Cable Public Access levels, dialogue is often impossible to make out and the writing is like something from a 14-year-old trying to be edgy.

The premise behind this failed comedy is that Scrooge is a pimp, and gangsters from outside the Hood are trying to muscle in on his business. They’ve already killed his colleague Marley and are gunning for him, now.

This flick has one joke – inserting profanity, bloodshed and sexual situations into A Christmas Carol – and repeats it over and over and over for 83 minutes. Even porno adaptations like Ebenezer Screwed show a more inventive approach. Continue reading

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