Tarzan the Ape Man (1981)

b5-tarzanDirector: John Derek
Starring: Bo Derek | Richard Harris | Miles O’Keefe | John Phillip Law
Music: Perry Botkin
Based on characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs

The most misleading thing about this movie is the title – TARZAN THE APE MAN. While Tarzan does appear in the film – from about the 60 minute mark – the story is primarily about Jane Parker (Bo Derek) and her journey to Africa to find her estranged father, James Parker (Richard Harris). James Parker is a drunken 18th Century Irish explorer – slightly eccentric, verging on mad – fixated on finding the fabled ‘Elephant’s Graveyard’, high on an escarpment in deepest darkest Africa. Legend has it, that a one-hundred foot tall white ape named Tarzan lives on the escarpment – but no one can be sure, as no one has ever returned alive.

Richard Harris knows the role of a drunken Irishman too well and puts in a lazy performance, fluctuating between soft philosophical whispers and histrionic yelling. Mr. Holt (John Phillip Law) is the other white man on the expedition party. Holt is the photographer, along to chronicle Parker’s heroic exploits. He has little to do, but be a bystander to the fates of the other characters. But as I mentioned at the top, the film is all about Jane – or more precisely, Bo Derek, in various states of undress, which, if that’s your bag, man, then you’ll find a great deal to enjoy over the film’s 110 minute running time.

Naturally enough, Jane finds her father and joins him on his latest expedition into the interior. Little do they know a savage primitive tribe also live on the escarpment. Luckily for Jane, when danger threatens, she has a protector in the form of Tarzan, who becomes infatuated with her.

As a Tarzan film, there’s a lot to dislike about this movie. Firstly the absence of Tarzan (Miles O’Keefe). And when he does appear, the poor fellow gets no dialogue – not even a grunt, let alone a “Me Tarzan, you Jane.” The film also refuses to present the audience with an action scene – the few action sequences are shown in ridiculous exaggerated slow motion, which I guess is supposed to represent power, but instead creates the opposite. Worst sequence in the film is where Tarzan wrestles a python, utilizing an ‘arty’ multiple exposure technique, the scene goes on waaayyy tooo looonnnggg, and makes it impossible to follow the action. Later, when the primitive tribe attack Parker’s expedition, the viewer sees their arrival and the aftermath, but not the battle itself. Those expecting a vigorous jungle adventure will be sorely disappointed.

However the film is not all bad. The cinematography is gorgeous – I believe much of the film was shot in Sri Lanka. Remember this film was made before CGI and digital grading. The actors and crew must have spent many and hour waiting around for the light to be just right – when the ‘magic hour’ was upon them.

The animals in this film, lions, elephants, chimps and apes, are well trained and gave a sense of realism to many scenes. There’s a sequence where a bull elephant scoops up an unconscious Tarzan on his tusks and carries him to a stream, that is very impressive. In this day and age, I’d expect a similar scene to be done with CGI.

In closing, and it must be reiterated, TARZAN THE APE MAN is not for fans of the Lord of the Jungle. But if the thought of watching Bo Derek, in her prime, cavorting around in very little clothing, in exotic locations, appeals to you then give it a whirl. On that level, at least, it succeeds.

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Tarzan and the Great River (1967)

tarzan-and-the-great-river-movie-poster-1967-1020193276Director: Robert Day
Starring: Mike Henry | Jan Murray | Manuel Padilla Jr. | Diana Millay | Rafer Johnson
Based on characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs

I remember watching Tarzan and the Great River on television as a child and really enjoying, but watching it all these years later – while I admit still enjoyed for nostalgia reasons – it comes of as rather juvenile and sluggishly paced in places.

It was made in 1967 when spymania still had some legs in it (1965 was the peak), so Mike Henry’s Tarzan is a suited and booted globe-trotting trouble shooter – not quite a Bondian superspy but certainly a jet-setting man-of-the world. The film begins with Tarzan arriving in Rio (cue grainy stock footage of a jet airliner coming in to land). Soon after he finds himself at the home of an old friend he refers to as the ‘Professor’. What the Professor’s actual job is, is never fully explained. It would appear he is some kind of civic leader, because, as he explains to Tarzan, he is concerned that jaguar cult tribe – under the control of a powerful leader named Barcuna (Rafer Johnson) – have been raiding other villages. Barcuna’s men kill some of the villagers but also take many of them as slaves to work in what I guess is a diamond mine. We never see the mine, only the slaves working in the river.

Wherever Barcuna’s men go, they leave their calling card – a staff with a jaguar’s clawed foot on the end. Tarzan agrees to head into the jungle to investigate. But before he does so, he has one chore to attend to – and that is to visit with his animal friends. Let me explain this the best I can, as it is extremely contrived. The Professor also appears to be the zookeeper in Rio, and some time back, Tarzan donated a menagerie of African animals to the zoo. The featured creatures happen to be Cheetah – the chimpanzee (one of the chimps on this film was put down after it bit Mike Henry on the chin); and Baron – the Lion. While Tarzan is getting reacquainted with his ani-pals, one of the jaguar cult sneaks into the Professor’s office and strikes him down with a jaguar clawed staff.

The Professor’s murder only strengthens Tarzan’s resolve. He ditches the suit for a loincloth, and with Cheetah and Baron by his side, he races off into the jungle to find the jaguar cult and stop the killing.

During the journey he comes across a steam boat captain (Jan Murray) and his first mate – a boy named Pepe (Manuel Padilla Jr. who would later play Jai in the Ron Ely Tarzan television series). They are traveling up river to deliver medical supplies to Dr. Anne Philips (Diana Millay) who is stationed at Keema village. After rescuing the Captain and Pepe from attack, Tarzan and his ani-pals board the boat and head up river – a journey that will ultimately lead to a confrontation with Barcuna.

Tarzan and the Great River features a large amount of stock footage – possibly lifted from previous Tarzan movies – and what makes it all the more obvious, is that it appears to be African stock footage. As far as I’m aware, there are no hippos in the Amazon River.

One thing that amuses me is the film poster featured at the top of this post. It may be hard to make out, but if you look carefully, it showcases three setpieces that a viewer could reasonably expect to be in the movie. The first proclaims, “TARZAN… kills the ferocious jaguar barehanded!” It doesn’t happen. Tarzan wrestles a lion and an alligator, but no jaguars. Next it says, “TARZAN… trapped by the erupting volcano!” Sorry folks, no volcanoes in the film either. A native village is burned to the ground, but there’s no lava, or raining hellfire and brimstone. Lastly, “TARZAN… plunges into the raging rapids from which no man ever returned!” Yep, you guessed it, there are no rapids in the film. I don’t know whether the poster is simply a classic piece of exploitation or – as I mentioned earlier – when Henry was bitten by the chimp, maybe the production was delayed to such an extent that sequences were cut from the story. The cynic in me likes to be believe it is purely exploitation.

So that’s Tarazan and the Great River. Not one of the greats – but it should amuse kids and those with a bent for nostalgia.

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Gravedigger: Hot Women, Cold Cash

GravediggerTitle: Gravedigger: Hot Women, Cold Cash
Author: Christopher Mills
Illustrator: Rick Burchett
Publisher: Action Lab: Danger Zone
Year: 2015

The first thing you’ll notice about the character, Gravedigger McCrae, is his resemblance to Lee Marvin. In my mind this elicits thoughts of Point Blank, The Killers and Prime Cut, which is quite okay if the story delivers that kind of tough guy mayhem and action. I am happy to report Mills and Burchett knock the ball right out of the park. It delivers exactly that type of action and more.

The two stories in this collection, The Predators and The Scavengers are first-rate, tight crime thrillers that are a great deal of fun to read. If you like Richard Stark’s (Donald Westlake) Parker novels – or the aforementioned Marvin flicks you’ll find a lot to enjoy here.

I can’t wait for more.

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Lie Catchers

Lie Catchers Cover imageTitle: Lie Catchers
Author: Paul Bishop
Publisher: Pro Se Productions
Year: 2015

Lie Catchers is a police procedural with a twist. The two heroes of the story, ‘Calamity’ Jane Randall and Ray Pagan, have unique gifts which aid their investigation. Randall is a synesthete – which means she can see when people are lying – and Pagan is an empath and can tap into how people feel. Together this odd couple must solve the mysterious abduction of two children in L.A.

At first glance, the two abductions seem unconnected. One child was the daughter of a big-shot music producer. The other was the son of a single-mom struggling to make ends meet. Their worlds could not be further apart. But there is a connection. Randall and Pagan must untangle a web of lies to get to the truth.

Lie Catchers had me engrossed from first page till last, and the universe created by author, Paul Bishop, is one I would gladly visit again.

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The Scroll of the Dead

ScrolloftheDeadTitle: The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Scroll of the Dead
Author: David Stuart Davies
Publisher: Titan Books
Year: 2009

The Scroll of the Dead is a fast paced yarn that hits all the beats a Holmes and Watson story should. Some of the twists are a tad predictable, but don’t really detract from the story. The tale wastes little time getting started, assuming readers are already familiar with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson; their relationship, and the world they live in. It’s a fair assumption considering the amount of Holmes material in the marketplace – be it books, film, and television shows – and that number appears to be growing exponentially every day.

The story concerns the theft of a piece of ancient papyrus from the British Museum’s Egyptian collection. The papyrus was written by a high priest named Seraph, who was said to know the secret to eternal life. His coded text on the papyrus was a guide to the location of The Scroll of the Dead, which outlined his formula for achieving life beyond the normal plane of existence.

Naturally enough, evil doers who dabble in the black arts want the scroll and are prepared to kill to get it. The game is afoot, and treachery and deceit ensue.

While The Scroll of the Dead is a thoroughly entertaining read from go to whoa, if I have a problem with it, it’s that the coded secret of the papyrus is never revealed. Holmes cracks the code off screen, as it were, and the reader (and Watson for that matter – as he is the narrator) misses out on what could be argued is the most important piece of information in the case… Then again, somebody could suggest if I want that type of story, then maybe I should stick to Dan Brown!

None-the-less, The Scroll of the Dead is a fun adventure romp that can easily read in one or two sittings and should please most fans of Holmes and Watson.

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Welcome to the Jungle, Mr. Love!

Ambrosia V3My latest retro-spy thriller, THE AMBROSIA KILL was published last week by Pro Se Productions (you can track it down on Amazon or Smashwords if you’re so inclined), and I thought I’d tell you a little bit about it and some of my influences.

I am a big fan of spy stories from the 1960s, in both film and literature. It is therefore, not so surprising that I have set my Jarvis Love retro-spy series during that decade. I like the 1960s as a setting for several reasons. The first is simply escapism. I want readers to escape from their everyday lives for a few hours, and setting the story in the past gives me that opportunity. It’s another world – a simpler world – but one full of danger and excitement. I also don’t want technology to interfere with the story. I like the idea of a man (or woman) dropped into a foreign location and having to figure out things on the fly. No back up; no-one in an earpiece sharing the latest intel. I want the hero to work it out for themselves, and hopefully the reader will enjoy making the journey with them.

One of the tropes inherent in those classic spy stories from the ’60s was JET-SETTING or GLOBE-TROTTING. It was like a holiday on the printed page. The tales featured international globe trotting secret agents fighting crime and evil masterminds in exotic locales all around the globe. Beautiful people in beautiful locations doing particularly nasty things was the maxim. In some cases the stories were barely more than glorified travelogues, but the locations provided fantastic backdrops for the action. Perfect examples of these were the James Bond (I know Bond was first published in the 1950s), Matt Helm or Sam Durell stories, but even many of the lesser known tales of espionage liked to work in foreign locations. In fact, the locations used were often a selling points for these films or novels. If a spy story utilised an exotic location, it wasn’t unusual for that location to be mentioned in the title. The role call of destinations included, Our Man In Havana (book in ’58 / film in ’59), Funeral In Berlin, The Berlin Memorandum, That Man In Istanbul, Espionage In Tangiers, The Girl From Rio, Assassination In Rome, Our Man In Marrakech, Fury In The Orient, Hong Kong Hot Harbour, Our Man In Jamaica and many, many others. The tradition of globe-trotting is an element I have tried to incorporate in my spy stories. In THE LIBRIO DEFECTION (2012), I had G.I.N. operative Jarvis Love travel to Florence in Italy. For THE DANAKIL DECEPTION (2014), I went right off the beaten track, and took readers to Ethiopia and the volcanic desolate terrain of the Danakil Depression, the hottest place on earth.

For my latest novel, THE AMBROSIA KILL, I set most of the story on the island of New Britain, in the Bismark Archipelago. New Britain is one of the regions that make up Papua New Guinea, and much of the island, to this day, remains unexplored. So gear up for a rugged jungle adventure. It’s getting more and more difficult to find new locations to explore, but I like to think I have succeeded.

THE AMBROSIA KILL picks up right after the end of THE DANAKIL DECEPTION. The story finds Jarvis Love with a new assignment. Kerryn Foxworthy, the daughter of a prominent English Lord, has run off and joined a religious cult called the Twin Hearts of Fire. Their compound is in Almeria, Spain, and is run by a shadowy figure called Brother Myron. Love’s mission is to retrieve Kerryn and bring her back to London, however there is a catch. Accompanying him on the assignment is Kerryn’s twin sister, Merryn. Love is not pleased at the prospect of chaperoning the high-spirited young woman, but, as the mission progresses, Love finds himself falling for her. Love and Merryn succeed in rescuing Kerryn, but the cult sends out armed acolytes to stop them. The final confrontation occurs in a gas station in the Almeria Dessert. As Love attempts to escape with the Foxworthy girls, there is a tremendous explosion. The car they are traveling in is struck by the blast and overturns. Merryn’s face in burned. She will be scarred for life.

Love blames himself for the tragedy. Struggling to live with the guilt, he becomes addicted to seconal – or Red Devils – a drug that takes away his pain. He even contemplates quitting G.I.N. His superior, Rupert Fenwyck, knows the only way that Love will recover, is if he is thrown into the thick of it again. He assigns him to investigate the murder of a G.I.N. operative in Port Moresby – Papua New Guinea. It seems like a nothing assignment. The killer was shot during the attack, and died soon afterward. However, nothing is as it seems. Upon arrival, Love discovers the operative was looking into the disappearance of Professor Lincoln Jess, a prominent botanist, who had only recently returned from New Britain. The Professor’s most recent discovery is Bulbophyllum ambrosia, a blood red orchid with mind-altering properties. Used for good, it could cure anxiety and depression, but used for evil, it could be used for mind control.

After several attempts on his life, Love realizes the assignment is more complex than anyone could imagine. And soon finds himself teamed up with the Professor’s daughter, Miranda, and a jungle guide named Haggert. Their plan is to retrace the steps of Lincoln Jess – a journey into the wild unforgiving jungle of New Britain – a land full of danger at every turn. Naturally enough, the events in Spain still haunt Love. He is not keen to have Miranda along. He does not want to be responsible for her safety, fearing he may let her down. Concerned for her father’s safety, Miranda insists she make the journey, and Love can do little to stop her. Their expedition leads them to a lake in the black heart of the jungle. The final confrontation pushes Love and Miranda to the brink of human endurance. Can Love excise the demons of the past? Can he save Miranda from the horrors of the jungle? All this and much, much more, in THE AMBROSIA KILL. Welcome to the Jungle, Mr. Love!

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Happy New Year

G’day friends. Happy New Year to you all.

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 7.54.59 amAs we say good bye to 2015, I thought I’d take a look back at the last twelve months and all that I acheived. On the surface, it didn’t seem like a very good year. There were some personal hurdles to climb – which I won’t bore you with here – suffice to say sometimes life can kick you in the guts when you least expect it. And on the writing front only three shorts stories were released. When I realized this, for a brief moment I was pretty down (Oh, shut up you whinger!) Then I sat down with pen and paper and jotted down everything I had achieved. It wasn’t so bad.

January saw the release of CUTTER’S LAW – the first story in the Vengeance trilogy – and a part of the Pro Se Single Shot Signature line. The follow-up stories, GET CUTTER! and CUTTER AND THE KINGSNAKE unfortunately got held up when the Signature series went off the rails. But I have been told the project should be back on track early this year – so hopefully those of you who have been waiting for the next installments will be rewarded very soon. The reviews for CUTTER’S LAW were great – most people seemed to get exactly what I was trying to do. Here’s a couple of snippets.

For readers mourning the demise of the famed Executioner series and the whole Men’s Action sub-genre subsequently spawned and reaching a fever-pitch peak in the ’70s and ’80s … take heart. In the capable hands of James Hopwood, a new kick-ass hero for the new century is at hand. His name is Nathan Cutter. He’s an ex Aussie soldier returned home for revenge and retribution and the Devil help anybody who gets in his way.

Wayne D. Dundee

This is all the men’s action stories I read in the 70’s & 80’s boiled down to their lean, bloody core. I enjoyed this story immensely. I miss action stories that don’t take 600 pages to get to the point.

J. L. Stubblefield

While I could not–and still can’t–decide whether this was supposed to be a throwback, homage, or parody of ’80s men’s adventure fiction, one thing that was never in doubt was how much fun I was having while reading it. It took all the vital elements of the genre–tough hero, tragic loss, big guns, high body count, etc.–and boiled them down to their bare bones essence in a brisk 25-page short story. Again, not sure how serious we’re supposed to take this stuff, but anyone who enjoys the genre cannot help but grin like an idiot when the hero emerges from a vehicle brandishing a Skorpion machine pistol in each hand and begins to simultaneously gun down the bad guys. Or even better, when the villain, on the cusp of his comeuppance, yells at Cutter, “Who are you?” and the only answer our hero gives is, “I am Vengeance!”

Mark Allen

BULLET GAL_Its Not You Its Me_Collection_COVERIn early April, the graphic novel, BULLET GAL: IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S ME, written by Andrez Bergen hit the shelves. Hidden in its pages,was a rather 80’s retro pin-up poster of the heroine cobbled together by me. My contribution won’t shake up the art world – or the comic book world either – but it was a fun project, and it’s nice to see it out there in the wild and to do something a little different. It is available from Underbelly Commix.

In May, UNDER THE RADAR, written by Aaron Smith, was released by Pro Se Productions. The novel, which is a rapid fire spy thriller, featuring globe trotting agent Richard Monroe, was edited by me. Despite fantastic cover art by Jeffery Hayes, the novel hasn’t received the recognition it deserves – so if you enjoy a good old fashioned spy story, check it out and give it some love. Monroe previously appeared in NOBODY DIES FOR FREE.

RadarSeptember saw the release on the 2015 WRITER’S BLOCK Anthology, which featured my short story SHERMAN’S SECRET. By nature I am a pretty shy guy, so getting out there and talking about my writing is difficult, but in early 2015, I started attending Writer’s Block. They are a truly a great support network – never judgmental – always encouraging, which has helped me more than I can say.

Through Writer’s Block I also wrote my first radio play. Entitled SONG BIRD, the piece was a tight little beat-the-clock thriller, set on the Mornington Peninsula. Unfortunately, the project seems to have stalled. Hopefully the wheels may begin to turn this year. It would be great to hear it on air sometime.

In October, THE GREAT BIG BOOK OF AWESOME ADVENTURE TALES was announced by Clan Destine Press. My contribution, THE LOST LOOT OF LIMA introduces two new heroes, Mark and Sarah Page – dubbed The Pages of History. This promises to be a fantastic collection of Antipodean adventure stories, and I can’t wait to see it hit the shelves in mid 2016.

Just before Christmas, LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION was released by the crew at Airship 27. The anthology is a benefit for friend, publisher, editor and mentor, Tommy Hancock. My contribution was a rollicking action-adventure tale entitled THE PIRATE KING.

So that brings up up to date. But what’s in store for 2016, I hear you ask? Of course, things may move about a little – and some things I can’t talk about – but here’s a few highlights for the coming year.

As I mentioned above, the VENGEANCE series should start up again very soon, so look out for GET CUTTER! and CUTTER AND THE KINGSNAKE. Also THE GREAT BIG BOOK OF AWESOME ADVENTURE TALES should be out mid year.

Ambrosia V3I am pleased to announce the next Jarvis Love novel, THE AMBROSIA KILL is just around the corner. I don’t have an exact release date, but start preparing now for the greatest thrill ride ever committed to the written page. Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration – but believe me, I have pulled out all stops on this one. If you liked THE DANAKIL DECEPTION, then AMBROSIA is going to blow your mind. I kid you not!

In May, Beat Girls, Love Tribes, and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950-1980 will be released by Verse Chorus Press. Put together by Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre, this promises to be an amazing book that every student of Pulp Fiction will need on their shelf. I have contributed a couple of articles and an interview with George Snyder – who wrote the OPERATION HANG TEN books. Here’s the spiel.

Beat GirlsThe first comprehensive account of the rise of youth culture and mass-market paperback fiction in the postwar period, Beat Girls is a must-read for anyone interested in retro and subcultural style and popular fiction.

As the young created new styles in music, fashion and culture, pulp fiction followed their every step, hyping and exploiting their behavior and language for mass consumption. From the juvenile delinquent gangs of the early fifties, through the beats and hippies, on to bikers, skinheads and punks, pulp fiction left no trend untouched. Boasting wild covers and action-packed plots, these books reveal as much about society’s desires and fears as they do about the subcultures themselves.

Featuring over 300 pulp covers, many never before reprinted, as well 70 in-depth author interviews and biographies, articles and reviews, Beat Girls offers the most extensive survey of the era’s mass market pulp fiction. Novels by well-known authors like Harlan Ellison, Lawrence Block, Evan Hunter/Ed McBain, and by filmmakers Samuel Fuller and Ed Wood Jr., are discussed alongside neglected obscurities and contemporary bestsellers ripe for rediscovery. More than 20 critics and scholars of popular culture contributed to this celebration of a fascinating body of work.

The western series I have teased on a few occasions has hit a few snags of late – and may be looking for new publisher. I hope it finds a new home and finally sees the light of day. There are also a few short adventure stories scheduled to appear in anthologies over the year, so keep your eyes peeled.

2016 promises to be a pretty exciting year for me, and I hope yours is too.
All the best, D.

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Legends of New Pulp Fiction

Legends

G’day everyone. I trust you had a great Christmas – and wishing you and yours all the very best for the New Year. I have just returned from a short break in the mountains (in Jindabyne) with family which was very pleasant and relaxing (and thankfully not too hot). On the downside I think I’ve put on a few extra kilos (ha ha). With turkey-drumstick in hand, while I manfully gazed at the lake and the wind rustled my unkempt hair, another of my stories escaped into the wild. It is called THE PIRATE KING and it’s part of a new anthology called LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION. The book, which is an absolute monster – more like a phone book – is a benefit anthology for a gentleman named Tommy Hancock – who is editor-in-chief at Pro Se Productions (a US publisher who put out my first novel – THE DANAKIL DECEPTION – and have released several of my short stories). Earlier this year, Tommy was diagnosed with congestive heart-failure – and consequentially hit with medical expenses after undergoing treatment/surgery. The New Pulp community (of which I consider myself a part) decided to band together and see what we could do – the end result is a collection of rollicking adventure tales.

When the call was put out for stories, I immediately jumped on board, despite other writing commitments I had. The deadline for the submissions was tight too. I knew if I wasn’t going to let the team down, I wouldn’t have time for universe building – that is to say, start a story from the ground and work my way up. I needed characters and a world I was already familiar with. The obvious choice was Mace Bullard – a character from BISHOP & HANCOCK’S PULSE FICTION. Bullard is a character – a French Foreign Legionnaire – created by Paul Bishop. For PULSE FICTION, I took the character and ran with him in a story called HONOR OF THE LEGION.

I contacted Paul and asked if he had any objections to me using Bullard once again. He didn’t. With Paul’s blessing I was on my way. The resulting story, THE PIRATE KING was a blast to write – and while it is a Foreign Legion tale, it also harks back to great old-fashioned swashbuckler movies I used to watch as a kid, such as THE SEA HAWK, CAPTAIN BLOOD, THE BLACK SWAN and THE CRIMSON PIRATE – to name but a few.

I am proud to be a part of LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION. From early on in my writing career Tommy Hancock has been there offering his support. Even before I was part of the Pro Se family, when I self-published my novella THE LIBRIO DEFECTION, Tommy asked me to appear on the PULPED podcast to talk about my work. He got nothing out of it – he was simply helping a new author get a little recognition and exposure for his work. Now, in my small way, I am glad I can repay not only that favor, but many others ever since. Thank you Tommy – all the best my friend.

The press release from Airship 27 follows…

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS
Proudly Presents
LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION

Earlier in the year we learned that New Pulp writer/editor/publisher Tommy Hancock was suffering from congestive heart-failure. A relatively young family man, this was a dangerous condition that threatened not only Tommy but his entire family. Almost immediately after this news was made public, several members of the New Pulp community began putting their heads together to see if anything could be done to help the Hancocks.

“Jaime Ramos proposed the idea of doing a benefit anthology,” says Airship 27 Productions Managing Editor, Ron Fortier. “It was such a great idea, I realized it needed to get done and we began planning such a project.” The first thing Fortier did was bring aboard his partner in Airship 27, Art Director Rob Davis. “There was no way this was going to fly without Rob handling the book’s overall artwork and design.” Fortier then went to Hancock and informed him of their plans. With Hancock’s blessings, he then posted an ad on Facebook explaining the project and seeking submissions from both writers and artists. “It was always our intention to do this as a traditional pulp tome and thus artwork would be a major element in the final product.”

Much to Fortier’s surprise, and delight, the first creator to volunteer his assistance was Douglas Klauba, one of the finest artists in the field. Klauba volunteered to paint the anthology’s cover once the book was assembled.

“Honestly,” Fortier confesses, “I was in shock. Doug is an amazing artist and his offering to do the cover was very much an omen that we were about to put together something truly unique.”

Within 48 hours after posting his recruiting ad, Fortier had received 57 commitments by New Pulp writers while 36 artists signed on to do the illustrations. Amongst these creators were some of the most popular New Pulp writers and artists in the field. In fact, getting so many promised stories in just two days, Fortier begrudgingly realized he and his associates were being handed a giant book and he publicly closed the admission call.

“It was crazy,” he recalls. “Fifty-seven stories in just two days! Of course there were naysayers who warned me we’d never get all of them. They were right, we got 62 instead.”

And so the project began with Fortier reading each entry and then assigning it to an artist to illustrate. Each tale features one black and white illustration. Ramos acted as his assistant editor proofing each story after Fortier. Then, months into the project, Ramos, who suffers from diabetes, found his own health in jeopardy and after having handled half the stories, was forced to sideline himself. What looked to be a major set-back was averted when writer/editor Todd Jones, a protégé of Fortier’s, volunteered to take on the task of finishing the proofing.

And so, after months of ups and downs. Airship 27 Productions is extremely proudly to present LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION. A giant treasure chest of some of the finest New Pulp fiction ever produced in an 800 page collection. Representing the varied genres of pulp tradition, this volume features tales of horror, mystery, suspense, pirates, fantasy, private eyes, crime-busting avengers and westerns to name a few.

“Rob and I kidded during the long months of production that we had everything pulp save for a romance story,” quips Fortier. “Then in the final days of story submissions, we were sent a romance. No lie!”

LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION is now available at Amazon.com in both hard copy and on Kindle. All profits earned by this amazing book are going to Tommy Hancock and his family. Sure to become a valued collector’s item, LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION is a one of a kind title pulp fans young and old, will cherish in years to come.

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS – PULP FICTION FOR A NEW GENERATION!

Available now from Amazon and on Kindle.

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The Curse of the Sphinx (2008)

Curse of the SphinxAKA: Riddles of the Sphinx
Country: UK | Canada
Director: George Mendeluk
Starring: Dina Meyer | Lochlyn Munro | Mackenzie Gray | Donnelly Rhodes | Emily Tennant | Dario Delacio
Writers: Brook Durham | Kevin Leeson
Music: Michael Richard Plowman

The front cover for The Curse of the Sphinx DVD features the Sphinx coming angrily to life, a skeletal mummy dragging itself out of the earth, and a bi-plane fleeing from an explosion. The back cover has a lightning bolt – possibly the power of God – striking the top of a pyramid. Unfortunately none of these cliches are in the movie. However, another set of adventure movie cliches are present in their stead.

The movie begins with Thomas (Donnelly Rhodes), an aged archaeologist, discovering two parts of a key that will open a legendary secret chamber beneath the Sphinx, which houses the lost library of Alexandria. Accompanying him to the site is Jessica (Dina Meyer), who is armed and outfitted very much like Lara Croft from Tomb Raider. Thomas inserts the key and opens the chamber, however, a Sphinx – that is a head of a demon, body of a lion, and wings – bounds out of the temple and mauls everyone in its path. Jessica unloads her weapons at the beast but to no effect. In the end, Thomas sacrifices himself giving her time to escape.

She heads to America to notify Thomas’s son, Robert (Lochlyn Munro) of his father’s death. Robert wants to live a simple life. He is a history teacher at a high school, and has a teenage daughter, Karen (Emily Tennant), who he is bringing up on his own. He doesn’t want any part of his father’s globe trotting archaeological adventures. He soon finds out he has little choice when the Sphinx arrives at his home – having followed Jessica. Legend says the Sphinx must be killed in three days or a great plague will sweep the world. With the Sphinx trying to kill them, Robert, Jessica and Karen flee and reluctantly embark on a quest to solve a series of riddles – leading to the sites of several of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Their they will learn how to kill the Sphinx – and save the world from the plague. Before long, Robert is dressed in a leather jacket, wearing a battered fedora – looking every inch a cut-rate Indiana Jones.

The biggest problem with this film – ignoring the crappy CGI – is that doesn’t know if it’s a kid’s film (appropriate for 8-10 year olds) or a horror film. It probably works better as a kid’s film, as the horror moments (which are gory, rather than scary) appeared to be shoe-horned into the story.

At the end of the day, The Curse of the Sphinx is a harmless diversion, buoyed by the presence of Dina Meyer pretending she is Lara Croft – firing two pistols at the same time – which isn’t a bad thing.

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One Down, Two To Go (1982)

One DownCountry: USA
Director: Fred Williamson
Starring: Fred Williamson | Jim Brown | Richard Roundtree | Jim Kelly | Paula Sills | Laura Loftus | Joe Spinnell
Written by: Fred Williamson
Music: Herb Hetzer | Joe Trunzo

Featuring four of the biggest and baddest blaxploitation stars of the 1970s, Jim Brown, Richard Roundtree, Fred Williamson, and Jim Kelly, One Down, Two To Go is a kick-ass action adventure, written and directed by Fred “The Hammer” Williamson.

Watching movies is such a subjective thing. Reaction to, and appreciation for a film can be affected by so many factors. Where you alone or in packed cinema? Was the film viewed on a worn VHS tape, DVD, or Blu-ray disk? Did you see it at the cinema? Or did you see it on the big screen at 5:00 o’clock in the morning, the fifth film in an all-night Fred Williamson marathon? I ask these questions because they can truly change your perception of a film.

I have read some negative reviews of One Down, Two To Go that criticize the prolonged opening of the film, in which two of the film’s stars, Jim Brown and Fred Williamson, don’t appear for the first half hour or so. I understand that frustration. However, my experience, which was at a Fred Williamson marathon, is that the tension generated in that lead up is pivotal to enjoyment of this film. It is perfect timing. There was almost a tangible sense of electricity in the air, waiting for Jim and Fred to tun up on screen. I knew, when they stepped out of their cars – looking sharp and ready for business – ass was going to be kicked and the rulebook thrown out the window. I had to restrain myself from punching my fist into the air and whooping for joy. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s have a look at the story.

The film opens at the L.A. Tournament of Champions – a karate competition – and the two final teams are competing for the grand prize, four hundred thousand dollars. One of the teams is run by Chuck (Jim Kelly – Enter The Dragon), and as the first bout takes place, he notices his fighter is taking a lot more punishment than he should. He becomes suspicious – believing something fishy is going on. Chuck leaves his team in the care of his good friend, and promoter, Ralph (Richard Roundtree – Shaft), and heads back to the changerooms to investigate. There he discovers the opposition is loading their gloves with pieces of iron. It appears the manager of the opposition team, who has ties to a mobster, Rossi (Peter Dane) is looking to ensure he collects the grand prize.

However, before Chuck can report his discovery to the match referee, he is spotted and set upon by thugs working for Rossi. Chuck fights his way clear, but in the carpark, one of the thugs draws a pistol and shoots him in the shoulder. Though bleeding and in pain, Chuck manages to avoid capture and goes into hiding.

Meanwhile in the auditorium, when Chuck doesn’t return, Ralph realizes something has gone amiss. He searches for Chuck but cannot find him anywhere. Hiding in the shadows, Chuck makes his way to a bar, where his girlfriend, Trei (Paula Sills – who appeared in No Way Back with Williamson) works. Chuck knows mafia hoods will be watching and waiting for him, so he hides out back. When Trei steps outside to empty the trash, he asks her to contact Ralph, to arrange transport, so he can slip away. He also asks her to make two other phone calls. He has two friends (guess who?), whose help he is going to need if he is going to get out of this alive.

Trei makes the calls, and Ralph collects Chuck and Trei, and spirits them away to a safehouse on the edge of town. Unfortunately, that night, Ralph’s car is spotted by informers, and a cadre of goons is sent to the location to silence Chuck for good. When they arrive, Ralph is knocked unconscious, and Trei is sexually assaulted, but Chuck, once again, manages to escape disappearing into the woods.

But the hoods don’t intend to let up. They know Chuck will show up sooner or later. But what the hoods don’t count on is the arrival of Jay (Jim Brown – The Dirty Dozen) and Cal (Fred Williamson – Black Caesar). Jay and Cal don’t know what’s goin’ down, but know their friend is missing and needs help. They intend to get to the bottom of the mystery in their own unique way. Fists and bullets fly. Cars explode. General mayhem ensues.

As I mentioned at the top, sometimes One Down, Two To Go gets a bad rap. I thought it was an absolute blast from first frame to last – but I did watch it under different circumstances to most, and I am sure that colours my perception. My perception may also be clouded by the fact that so many of the current breed of action heroes are aided and abetted by CGI and special effects. I find it enjoyable, almost refreshing, watching a film such as One Down, Two To Go, where I see old school heroes doing their thing without the aid of visual trickery.

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