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CHRISTMAS CAROL-A-THON 2020 BEGINS!

masc graveyard smallerIf it’s the Friday after Thanksgiving then it must be the start of Balladeer’s Blog’s Annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon! As always I review obscure versions of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol AND well-known versions. I also post new reviews each year PLUS rotate in old favorites from the past. Long past? No, YOUR past.

Kicking off my Eleventh Christmas Carol-A-Thon is this look at many truly rare versions of the Carol. Long-time readers are aware of the obsessive lengths I have gone to over the years to obtain some of these gems but this post doesn’t bore you with those details. 

Ghost of Christmas PresentAren’t we all pretty fed up with the same versions of A Christmas Carol being rammed down our throats like Razzleberry Dressing every Christmas season while many of the clever but lesser known variations of the Dickens Yuletide classic languish in obscurity?

Drawing on the extensive, albeit geeky, expertise that I’ve gained in this subject over the years I’d like to spread the word about some of the versions of the story that can be found in the remote hinterlands of home video or audio.

This post will be a look at variations of the actual Dickens story, set in London in the 1840s. An entirely separate article could be written about adaptations of A Christmas Carol set in different time periods and locales, like Rod Serling’s anti-war parable Carol For Another Christmas, or the 1975 conservation short The Energy Carol or even the year 2000 Brazilian version depicting the Scrooge figure as a drug lord who repents. Just think of me as the Ghost of Christmas Carol Obscurities.

After reading this list you’ll hopefully conduct your own search for versions of the Carol beyond the limited world of Mr Magoo, Alastair Sim and George C Scott (“Dickens, you magnificent bastard! I read yer booooook!”) . 

The man all mimes aspire to be ... damn them.

The man all mimes aspire to be … damn them.

Marcel Marceau Presents a Christmas Carol (1973) – Marcel Marceau is possibly the only name that comes to mind if you try to think of famous mimes. In fact “Famous Mimes” would make for one easy  Jeopardy category because the response would always be “Who is Marcel Marceau?” Anyway, this BBC presentation featured Marceau acting out a pantomime of the Carol and playing every role.

This was accompanied by narration by another actor who once portrayed Scrooge, Michael Hordern. If you prefer versions of the Carol devoid of any and all speaking there are several silent movie Carols available out there.   Continue reading

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A THANKSGIVING TALE FROM THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR

HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM BALLADEER’S BLOG! 

truro-massTwo thousand fishermen from Cape Cod had gone off to enlist in the Continental Army, and in their absence the British had repeatedly landed raiding parties to harass the citizens.

Every man, woman and child on the Cape hated the soldiers and sailors of King George and would do anything to work them harm. When the Somerset was wrecked off Truro in 1778 the crew were helped ashore, but they were immediately marched to prison.

It was November – the night before Thanksgiving Day in fact – and ugly weather caused a British three-decker warship to yaw wildly and drift toward land with a broken tiller. No warning signal was raised on the bluffs; not a hand was stirred to rescue. The New Englanders who saw the accident watched with sullen satisfaction.

Ezekiel and Josiah Breeze – father and son – stood at the door of their cottage and watched the warship’s peril until three lights twinkling faintly through the gray of driving snow were all that showed where the enemy lay, straining at her cables and tossing on a wrathful sea.

They stood long in silence, but at last the boy Josiah said “I’m going to help the ship.”

“If you stir from here to help King George’s men, you’re no son of mine,” said Ezekiel. Continue reading

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OLIVER! FOR THANKSGIVING EVE

"Please, sir, may I have some more?"

“Please, sir, may I have some more?”

It’s that time of year again! Just a note in the spirit of the holiday season to mention my favorite Thanksgiving Eve movie.

Every Wednesday before Thanksgiving I make a point out of watching the musical Oliver! And yes, I know it has nothing to do with Thanksgiving.

I know the musical sentimentalizes  several characters that Dickens portrayed in a sinister way in the book (especially Fagan and The Artful Dodger) but the finished product has always seemed very holidayish to me. Continue reading

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LEO FONG: HIS BEST B-MOVIES

Leo FongThanksgiving week rolls along here at Balladeer’s Blog with this look at some of the most enjoyable – on whatever level – B-movies from the one and only Leo Fong! Leo’s been called a poor man’s Bolo Yeung cross-bred with an even poorer man’s Joe Don Baker … but I was drunk when I called him that, so make of it what you will.

All lovers of Psychotronic filmmaking worship at the altar of Fong and his many action flicks from the 1970s through today are still watchable in a very odd way and will always leave viewers smiling. We may snark away at the abundance of errors and absurdities in Leo’s movies but there’s no denying that a Leo Fong film has more heart and sincerity in it than any corporate blockbuster has in decades. 

Murder in the orientMURDER IN THE ORIENT (1974) – Leo Fong IS Lao Tsu, but not THAT one, in this lethargic treasure quest/ revenge story. Leo (He’s ALWAYS Leo to me no matter what his character is named) learns his sister has been killed by the Golden Cobra crime gang. That gang is after a pair of samurai swords on which Imperial Japanese war criminals serving in World War Two engraved a split map leading to a fortune in stolen gold.  

Leo’s sister was collateral damage in that quest, and her death brings down on the Golden Cobras’ heads the stone-faced revenge of our man Fong and his late sister’s equally deadly boyfriend, Paul Martelli (THE Ron Marchini). All the performers seem like reluctant draftees rounded up and forced to “act” at gunpoint. Even the action sequences reek of half-heartedness in this odd little honey. Continue reading

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL RESULTS FROM NOVEMBER 21st

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Southeastern Fire helmet REALA TALE OF TWO HALVES – The SOUTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY FIRE took it on the road against the AVE MARIA UNIVERSITY GYRENES. The Gyrenes led 7-0 in the 1st Quarter and 13-10 at Halftime. From there the Fire shut out Ave Maria University while going on top 17-13 to end the 3rd Quarter and ultimately winning the game 24-13.

Pittsburg State Gorillas“GORILLA” WARFARE – Over in D2 the PITTSBURG (KS) STATE GORILLAS visited the WEST TEXAS A&M BUFFALOES. The Gorillas were out in front of their opponents 14-7, 28-21 and 35-28 in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Quarters, respectively. In the 4th, Pitt State polished off the Buffaloes by a final count of 42-28.

Dordt College DefendersSPIRIT OF SIXTY-FOUR – This game pitted the DORDT COLLEGE DEFENDERS against their hosts the BRIAR CLIFF UNIVERSITY CHARGERS. The Defenders seized a 23-0 advantage in the opening Quarter and never looked back. Ultimately, Dordt College obliterated the Chargers to the tune of SIXTY-FOUR to NOTHING!  Continue reading

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IRON MAN VS THE BLACK KNIGHT

robert downey jr iron manHere at Balladeer’s Blog I like to listen to you readers. Many of you have enjoyed my takes on the earliest adventures of Marvel Comics characters like the Avengers, X-Men, Captain America, Thor and the Hulk. The MOST popular so far was my look at the first 20 Iron Man stories in the 1960s, so here is a bonus I.M. blog post picking up where that original one left off.

tales of suspense 59TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #59 (November 1964)

Title: The Black Knight

Villain: The Black Knight (Nathan Garrett)   

Comment: This issue of Tales of Suspense allows for a lot of side notes about the evolution of Marvel Comics’ particular iteration of the Black Knight figure AND the nature of the Marvel vs DC competition of the time. 

           The reason that Marvel Comics began pairing up some of its heroes in one particular comic book was because of a new agreement with their rivals at DC. Each had agreed, “arms limitation”-style, to limit the number of titles they published per month for a time. Instead of having two separate comic books for Iron Man and Captain America, Tales of Suspense featured both heroes in individual adventures.

            Similarly, instead of having separate comic books for the Hulk, Giant-Man & the Wasp and the Sub-Mariner, they shared Tales to Astonish in different combinations for a time. Strange Tales was likewise shared by Dr Strange, Nick Fury and the Johnny Storm Human Torch.

All of this stayed within the title-limitation arrangement made with DC while still allowing many of Marvel’s most popular characters to remain on newsstands along with Spider-Man, Thor, the Avengers, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four.

iron man vs black knightSynopsis: The Black Knight (Nathan Garrett), usually a supervillain opponent of Giant-Man & the Wasp, was in prison following the recent clash between the Avengers and Baron Zemo’s original Masters of Evil, of which he was a member. The Knight’s winged horse Elendil at last located its master’s cell window, allowing him to retrieve some chemicals from its saddle-bag. With those chemicals the Black Knight dissolved the bars of his cell, mounted Elendil and flew off, wanting revenge. Continue reading

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EIGIL HOLST: RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1973)

rivals of sherlockFor Balladeer’s Blog’s review of the first episode of this 1971-1973 series about London by Gaslight detectives from both the Victorian and Edwardian Ages you can simply click HERE   

HolstEpisode: THE SENSIBLE ACTION OF LIEUTENANT HOLST (March 4th, 1973)

Detective: Eigil Holst, created by Danish author Palle Rosenkrantz. The first Holst mystery was published in 1903.

Comment: Palle Rosenkrantz is considered the Grandfather of Danish Crime Authors and Denmark’s Palle Rosenkrantz Prize is the equivalent of America’s Poe Award. His 1903 novel The Forest Lake Mystery, which introduced his police detective Eigil Holst, is considered the first Danish crime novel.

Synopsis: In Copenhagen, harried and put-upon Detective Lieutenant Eigil Holst gets two fresh cases added to his pile – a missing persons case involving the wife of a local merchant, and a Russian Countess who claims her brother-in-law has pursued her with the intention of murdering her.

Holst and DimitriJohn Thaw portrays Lieutenant Holst but neither boozes like Inspector Morse nor manhandles suspects like he did in his Sweeney days. Holst displays a casual savviness and a street-smart air, especially when dealing with a slippery hotel front desk employee. “Professional” is the defining adjective for Thaw’s Holst. 

In any event this particular case isn’t a “whodunnit” but a “who’s telling the truth” mystery. Continue reading

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PULP HERO G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES: STORIES THIRTY-FOUR THROUGH THIRTY-SIX

Curse of the Sky WolvesBalladeer’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.

Curse of the Sky Wolves34. CURSE OF THE SKY WOLVES (July 1936) – As we all know if there’s one thing more dangerous than wolf-men it’s wolf-men involved in aerial combat. This exciting adventure introduces a new villain – Amed Ghezi, an Ottoman Muslim Turk who wields the secret of turning men into deadly, relentless werewolves.

Since G-8 and his Battle Aces have proven to be the most dangerous opponents of the Central Powers Amed Ghezi and his lycanthropic shock troops are called to the Western Front to eliminate our heroes once and for all. G-8, Bull Martin and Nippy Weston have survived mummies, walking skeletons, headless zombies and intelligent gorillas but will these supernatural foes be their downfall? Find out amid dogfights, gunfights, fist-fights and desperate battles with savage wolf-men on land and in the skies over No Man’s Land!   Continue reading

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MALDOROR 3:5 – THE RED LANTERN AT TWILIGHT

Maldoror 3 5 red lantern

Balladeer’s Blog resumes its examination of the macabre 1868 French language work The Songs of Maldoror. This is one of the most twisted sections of a book loaded with them. And be forewarned … when I say this is twisted I mean TWISTED. You’ve been warned.

THE RED LANTERN AT TWILIGHT

All of the action in this stanza takes place at twilight and the first moments of darkness. The supernatural being Maldoror comes upon a French brothel that used to be a convent centuries before. A rough wooden bridge leads across a stream of filth to the establishment. Customers take their leave by crawling out through a grate into a courtyard littered with chickens and chicken filth.

Continue reading

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL RESULTS FROM NOVEMBER 14th

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Saint Thomas FL Bobcats helmetFIRST RESPONDERS & MILITARY APPRECIATION DAY – The SAINT THOMAS UNIVERSITY BOBCATS (should be the Tomcats) welcomed the WARNER UNIVERSITY ROYALS yesterday. After a scoreless 1st Quarter the Royals led 7-6 at Halftime. That became a 10-6 edge in the 3rd Quarter before the Bobcats tied things up at 20-20 in the 4th. In Overtime STU won out 27-20.

Merchant Marine AcademyS.A.M. – SERVICE ACADEMY MANIA – Saturday saw the annual rivalry game between the UNITED STATES MERCHANT MARINE ACADEMY MARINERS and the COAST GUARD ACADEMY BEARS. A 7-7 1st Quarter tie became a 10-7 Mariners advantage at the Half. The 3rd Quarter ended with the USMMA up 17-7 before exchanging Touchdowns with the Bears in the 4th to win it 24-14.

Valley City State Vikings helmetVIKING VALLEY – The VALLEY CITY STATE VIKINGS traveled to face the DAKOTA STATE TROJANS. The Vikings kept the Trojans off the scoreboard until the 4th Quarter as they led 7-0 in the opening Quarter and 14-0 by the midpoint. Neither team scored in the 3rd Quarter and Valley City State won by a final count of 14-6. Continue reading

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