Monday, June 09, 2008

On the Road to 141

VIDEO WATCHDOG #140 is currently wending its way out to our subscribers and retailers, so first class customers should have it in hand very shortly.

Donna and I are now starting to work on our next issue, which will include Justin Humphreys' wonderful tribute to the late AIP/New World screenwriter Charles B. Griffith, Bill Cooke's detailed review of the FOX HORROR CLASSICS box set (which a more informed world would have called "The John Brahm Collection"), Kim Newman's continuing inspection of Fox's CHARLIE CHAN sets (covering VOLUME 4, introducing Sidney Toler and Sen Yung and containing the wonderful CHARLIE CHAN AT TREASURE ISLAND), and my own epic-length review of Sony's SPIDER-MAN - THE HIGH DEFINITION TRILOGY, which in fact contains four different Spidey features in Blu-ray (the fourth being SPIDER-MAN 2.1). And that's all the teaser you get. For now.

I'd like to think that my flu has finally flown, but some minor coughing and audible respiratory crackling persists. I am feeling much more like my old self, though.
Had a fairly diverting weekend poring through Kino on Video's HOUDINI - THE MOVIE STAR set, which collects all of the surviving material from Harry Houdini's five-picture flirtation with film stardom. (Thanks to a Fire Department inspection of the suburban house of Houdini's brother and business partner, the highly combustable original nitrate elements of his complete screen works were ordered onto the curb for the morning garbage collection!) Consequently, several reels of the 1919 serial THE MASTER MYSTERY are missing, as are two entire reels from the surprisingly rousing 1920 jungle adventure TERROR ISLAND. These are the two most enjoyable films of the bunch, I thought, and it was interesting to discover that both films were co-authored by Arthur B. Reeve, a now-obscure hero from the dawn of American pulp fiction. Reeve was best-known for his scientific deduction stories about Prof. Craig Kennedy, a forerunner of Doc Savage, which originally appeared in COSMOPOLITAN magazine and were collected in a dozen hardcover books by 1918.
The characters Houdini plays in the Reeve-scripted films are basically Craig Kennedy with a different name. THE MASTER MYSTERY is also of interest for its memorable antagonist, a robot that is supposedly operated from within by a live human brain. This automoton is tall, flat-headed and large-footed, with two surprisingly familiar-looking bolts on either side of its head for ears... and, to my sights, a possible point of inspiration for Jack Pierce's makeup design for the Frankenstein Monster. I've done a review for my next SIGHT & SOUND column, but there remains so much else to be said that I'll probably be buckling down to a fuller study of the set for VW once my work on the next issue is out of the way.

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