Blog: Writing about all things pulplish

‘The Purple Monster Strikes’: a serial in 15 chapters

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, December 2, 2016 in Movies, Serials

‘The Purple Monster Strikes’: a serial in 15 chapters
 Poster for The Purple Monster Strikes.

Poster for The Purple Monster Strikes.

This week I review one of the classic Republic cliffhangers, and as you read it, you’ll see why it’s a classic. This serial was produced as World War II was ending. America was winning, and this chapter play reflects the prevalent fervor of patriotic bravado. An invasion from Mars? Bring ’em on! We’re licking the Nazis, we can lick Mars!

As our story opens, Dr. Cyrus Layton sits in his observatory, looking through his huge telescope. He sees a strange, purple meteor heading toward earth. Except, it turns out that it’s not really a meteor; it’s a small, one-man spaceship from Mars! And inside is the Purple Monster. Okay, it’s not really a monster; it’s just a guy who acts really mean. And maybe he’s wearing purple. It’s hard to tell in black and white.

The spaceship crash lands near Dr. Layton’s observatory, so naturally, Layton has to investigate. He arrives just as the Purple Monster jumps out of the burning wreck of the spaceship. The alien doesn’t give his name. “My name would mean nothing to you.” Dr. Layton takes the alien Martian back to his observatory. Seems like the logical thing to do when you encounter an alien life form for the first time.

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‘The Shadow’: a review of the 1994 movie, part 2

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, November 25, 2016 in Movies, Old Time Radio (OTR), Pulp, The Shadow

This week my blog features part two of a long review of the 1994 motion picture The Shadow, which also discusses the differences between The Shadow in the movies, the pulp magazines, and on radio. Picking up from last week

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shadow6The movie shows us a scene where Shiwan Khan meets with Lamont Cranston in the sanctum. This never happened in any of the four pulp Shiwan-Khan novels; it was strictly created for the movie. The two have a civilized talk before Shiwan Khan leaves The Shadow a special Bronzium coin and disappears.

I thought it was interesting to note some differences in this scene, compared with the pulp versions of The Shadow’s sanctum visits. For one thing, he appears in the sanctum in his street clothes as Lamont Cranston. In the pulps, he always visited the sanctum in his black cloak and slouch hat.

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‘The Shadow’: a review of the 1994 movie, part 1

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, November 18, 2016 in Movies, Old Time Radio (OTR), Pulp, The Shadow

The following review of the 1994 film The Shadow is taken from my book The Shadow in Review: The Ultimate Guide to the Pulp Magazine Series. Since it’s pretty big, I’ve split it into two parts. This week, part 1.

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Poster for The Shadow.

Poster for The Shadow

1994’s The Shadow motion picture was a unique combination of The Shadow character in both the pulp magazines and radio broadcasts. It was not 100-percent faithful to the pulps. It was not 100-percent faithful to the radio dramatizations, either. It was an amalgam that creatively met the special needs of a motion picture. I’ve read every single Shadow pulp novel ever written (all 325 of them), and I’ve listened to over 200 of the radio dramatizations and read the scripts for probably 200 more. From this perspective, I’d like to examine the film and its ties to the pulp novels and radio dramatizations.

The movie’s plot is a mixture of the radio and pulp versions of The Shadow. The radio and pulp versions were necessarily different because they had to work within the medium upon which they depended.

In the pulp version, The Shadow had no power of invisibility and was not Lamont Cranston. (He often disguised himself as Lamont Cranston, though.) In the radio version, he could literally make himself unseen through hypnotic means and he really was Lamont Cranston.

Similarly, the movie version had to be adjusted to fit the visual medium of the motion picture. In the 1994 movie, Lamont Cranston is The Shadow, and he controls the power of invisibility. Those are the major parts taken from the radio shows. The movie takes much more from the pulp Shadow, however, than the radio incarnation.

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The Spider #35: ‘Satan’s Sightless Legion’

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, November 11, 2016 in Pulp, The Spider

The cover just screams 'buy this pulp!'

The cover just screams “buy this pulp!”

“Satan’s Sightless Legion” was originally published in the August 1936 issue of The Spider Magazine. Richard Wentworth is first to feel the dread hand of that Master of Darkness &mdash: The Blind Man, and his satanic weapon. Wentworth’s best friend, Kirkpatrick, commissioner of police, is strangely attacked by the forces of evil; his beloved Nita van Sloan spirited away into a fearsome fate… And The Spider himself destined to a horrible life of pain and misery.

A pretty good Spider story, but it suffers from the same weakness so many of The Spider stories also do… a rushed and unresolved ending. Things that were important plot points throughout the story are hastily explained away with a few words, and readers are expected to find that satisfactory. Here’s one reader who didn’t. But up until that rushed ending, I really enjoyed the story.

It all revolves around the super-villain of the month, a guy who calls himself the Blind Man. He wears the typical blind-man getup, including dark glasses, tin cup, and a sign around his neck. He’s not really blind; that’s just his guise. But he does dispense blindness. He has this fluid called the Darkener that he squirts in people’s eyes via an atomizer. They quickly go blind… then their sight comes back slightly for a few hours, then they go blind again… and this time permanently. This nasty solution even wipes the pupils from the eyes, leaving a white, glistening globe in the eye socket.

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Perry Mason novels: #23 and #24

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, November 4, 2016 in Novels, Perry Mason, Pulp

 Raymond Burr and Erle Stanley Gardner

Raymond Burr and Erle Stanley Gardner

What’s the connection of Perry Mason to the pulps? Well, you should know by now. But for those of you who came in late, it’s all in the author.

Pulp author Erle Stanley Gardner also wrote the Perry Mason novels. He was a prolific writer who honed his skills in the pulp magazines starting way back in 1921. His first Perry Mason mystery was published in 1933, and after that he just kept churning them out until there was a whopping 85 of them. That alone would keep most writers both busy and happy. But Erle Stanley Gardner also wrote a ton of other stuff, both for the pulps and the hardback book trade.

I am proud to say I have read all 85 of the Perry Mason books, and there wasn’t a dud in the bunch. In this week’s blog, I am going to give you a quick look at his 23rd and 24th Perry Mason novels. All in the hopes that this inspires you to seek out and read some of the many Perry Mason books out there.
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‘Man With the Steel Whip’: a serial in 12 chapters

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, October 28, 2016 in Movies, Serials

Poster for Man with the Steel Whip.

Poster for Man With the Steel Whip.

To paraphrase Will Rogers, “I never met a serial I didn’t like.”

Until now.

The serial that changed my mind was Man With the Steel Whip.

Western serials were always among my least favorites anyway, and this one is a cheap knock-off of the Zorro character. Plus it comes from 1954 when serials were a dying breed and Republic’s serial budgets were thinner than onion skin. Every budget-cutting method was utilized, from employing the lowest-price actors to recycling old film footage for half of the serial.

This serial seems to be an excuse to use all that Zorro footage accumulated over the years, without having to pay any royalties to the Zorro copyright owners. It just cries out “cheap!”

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TMM#2: Dark Accusations

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, October 21, 2016 in Pulp, The Shadow, Two-Minute Mystery

A series of puzzlers starring a classic pulp figure

A series of puzzlers starring a classic pulp figure

Here is another in my rotating series of Shadow Two-Minute Mysteries. Two minutes? Yeah, that’s about how much time you’ll invest in reading it. But can you solve the mystery along with The Shadow? That may take more than two minutes. Just look at the clews, and test your sleuthing skills.

This mini-mystery originally appeared on my old Shadow in Review website. Perhaps you’ll remember this mystery, and remember the solution, as well. Perhaps…

This mystery is based upon the original 1930s pulp character, The Shadow. Not the radio version. No clouding men’s minds, here. Just a black cloak and slouch hat.

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