Sunday, December 31, 2017

Well, there goes another year that I'm glad I managed to sweat through relatively intact! As if there were any good years these past few decades that graced my being but man, this one was worse than most, leaving me a mass of balled nerves and shattered tendons on the brink of total breakdown! Unfortunately for you I made it through relatively intact and even sane for that matter which means we just MIGHT have another year of BLOG TO COMM for all of you to shudder and toss epithets at...aren't you glad???

Well at least I did manage to get more'n my share of fun in having read about as many comic books during the past 365 as I did twixt 1975/2016, not to mention my getting into some more crucial (meaning more'n just weather bulletins) television viewing thanks to the appearance of programming that' WORTH tuning into (THE JACK BENNY PROGRAM, ROY ROGERSSOUPY SALES, PERRY MASON, TWILIGHT ZONE...). And there were many good rock fanzines (both old and new) and rock books to occupy my precious time, and best of all there have been many good records made by exemplary musical acts released in 2017 which helped keep me further and further away from the noose, or in my case a Ny-Quil overdose! And hey, knowing that the Droogs are still up and active after all these years does give me hope for the future I'll tell ya.

But if I hadda do it over again I would prefer doing it 1958 style, and I wasn't even ALIVE then! Dunno how 2018'll fare but frankly, I ain't bettin' for much in a positive direction. I mean, we all gotta decay sometime.

And with that well, here are the bests of the year which I gotta say I am going out on feeling slightly chipper about despite a gloomy outlook for the following rotation. Match your list with this one and see that mine is much better, smoother, easier on the touch...

CEE-DEE ALBUM OF THE YEAR!-The Droogs' YOUNG GUN (Plug 'n Socket)-Welcome back guys, we missed you!
VINYL ALBUM OF THE YEAR!-The Lords of Thyme's THE FUTURE OF THINGS PAST, brought to you by the team of Byron Coley and Nigel Cross, and when two great saints meet it sure is a humbling experience!
LIVE ALBUM OF THE YEAR!-Gary Wilson and the Blind Dates' LIVE AT CBGB, one reason why I think the creative surge of the mid/late seventies in rock 'n roll (or in this case jazz rock) was even more important than the magic mid-sixties, albeit on an underground, more offensive level!
SINGLE OF THE YEAR!-I don't think I've even heard a new single this year so I'll have to rely on an old one that spun my heels like mad! Namely Treatment's "Stamp Out Mutants"/"Dontcha Know" which came out like 1981 way but really captures the seventies space rock mantra as well as any of those leftover psychedelic warlords did!
REISSUE OF THE YEAR!-Jacques Thollot's INTRAMUSIQUE (Alga Marghen Records)
GUITAR AND STRINGS CEE-DEE OF THE YEAR!-Tom Crean's 3 HEADS TAME (Kendra Steiner Editions)
FANZINE (IN THE GRITTIEST SEVENTIES SENSE MORE OR LESS) OF THE YEAR!-VULCHER, what else (other'n UGLY THINGS which isn't gritty anymore and might just have made that transition into being a serious mag after all these years!)? OK, maybe this one.
BOOK OF THE YEAR (ROCK 'N ROLL DIVISION)!-even if if came out last year just has to be TOTAL CHAOS, the history of Iggy and the Stooges the way we like it, up front and raw. Lotsa neat illios of items and stories that'll curl your insides, plus even more insight into one of the better concepts in rock 'n roll from the late-sixties/early-seventies cusp. Runner Up---the John "Inzane" Olson LIFE IS A RIPOFF collection I reviewed in (I think)'s been soooooo long ago...
BOOK OF THE YEAR (SECULAR DIVISION)!-BEHAVING MADLY, which only goes to show you that imitation is the sincerest form of trying to make a quick buck and failing miserably at the newsstands!
MOOM PITCHER OF THE YEAR!-WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH HELEN? which came out in 1972 but it was my fave popcorn popper into the mouth sitdown and enjoy yourself of this year!
DEATH OF THE YEAR!-No bout a doubt it...CHARLES MANSON, the true spokesman (notice I said spokesman and not the neutered anti-male choice of the day spokesperson!) for a generation who was way more revealing of the true state of late-sixties/seventies youth than all of those other spokesmen ever could be!
BLOG POST OF THE YEAR!-this HIGH SIX tickles my fancy, for obvious reasons.
BLOG OF THE YEAR (OTHER'N MINE)-BoP-PiLLS, which is all in French but has the same spirit of those French fans of the seventies who helped put the likes of Patti Smith and Buddy Holly on the fandom radar. Plus they linked up my review of the classic French fanzine SNEAKERS which somehow egged 'em on to locate the editors of this one-shot wonder, and for that I somehow feel warm and toasty inside!

Had enough? Howzbout some reviews (items courtesy Bill, Paul, P.D. and myself for that matter)...

Derek Bailey/Anthony Braxton-ROYAL 2-LP set (Honest Jon's Records England, available via Forced Exposure)

I'm sure most of you olde tyme BLOG TO COMM readers remember the days when Anthony Braxton was considered one of the hotcha up-and-coming stars in jazz? It sure seemed a miracle considering just how outta-the-bowtie and tux loop Braxton was, but at least his brief time in the spotlight allowed for many small labels to capitalize on his notoriety and release old sessions with him either as leader or sideman...a capitalist ploy even Archie Shepp would like. Some of these records even made their way into the local record shops especially if they were on small domestic labels like Muse or Inner City, and considering just how blahsville a trip to the record shop became a good five years later it's amazing that the karmic alignment was all whooziz to the point where things like Anthony Braxton albums could be sold in record bins at the same time groups like the Flamin' Groovies and Stooges were being hawked! As the old song goes, "Them days are gone for-ever!!!"

This session with noted avant garde guitarist Derek Bailey was recorded during Braxton's ascent into major label territory and shows the reedsman in relatively fine form going through all those contrabass bleats and post-Ayler squeals as Bailey gets even more expressionist than usual on his instrument. It might seem too aht-ty to some but I find it perfectly in that pre-pretentious seventies experimental mode that didn't reek so much once things got too experimental to the point where Braxton would eventually end up performing with a comedian (!---even concertos for 100 tubas seems sane in comparison). This is a driving sound that comes off like the soundtrack to my mental breakdown, not overbearing but forceful and (best of all) nerve shattering.

I still have an affinity for these sixties/seventies jazz trailblazers who were taking the music into areas many deemed unimaginable, and if you still harbor some thrills for the days when music had become more of an adventure than mere backdrop I get the feeling you might have a hankerin' for this as well.

Sounds like one of those guys who spent a good portion of their upbringin' hangin' 'round the Southern States until some whiteguy Northerner (read: modern day carpetbagger) who was coppin' a whole lotta blues in his music went down 'n got the guy rediscovered 'n all making a FORTUNE in the process. Not that bad an encapsulation of the early pre-electric guitar slide sound that sounds drivin' enough even without the electricity or a full band behind it. Loads of drive and passion in this music and even a guy who is cool to the blues like myself can appreciate it for what is was and the whole barrel o' jamz this music ultimately led to!
Martin Escalante-DESTROYED ON EVERY LEVEL CD-r burn (originally on Sploosh Records)

Leave it to Fadensonnen to brighten up my holidayze with a wild off-the-wall platter such as this. And I wondered where the new generation of nose splicers was coming from...outta nowhere Escalante (on "modified alto sax") comes upon us to present some of the most uncompromising, distorted and thus PURELY ENERGETIC jazz to be heard in some time...reminds me of this one Lester Bowie track I heard on WKSU-FM one night back '83 way, or maybe even Frank Lowe before he read that review about his "over-blowing" and changed his style for perhaps the worse.  Whatever, this is one of those little pit stops in life that prove to you that maybe all in music isn't quite lost...yet.
The Feelies w/Richard Lloyd-LIVE @ MAX'S KANSAS CITY 1/19/78 CD-r burn

As you all know I never cared for the Feelies who, like a number of the under-the-covers New York acts of the late-seventies, just didn't translate into high-energy driving rock 'n roll the kind of which makes up my sustenance or something like that. However, these live recordings with soon-to-be ex-Television guitarist Richard Lloyd sound pretty good even if they're nothin' but jammin' the night away. Hot riffage based on everything from "Baby Come Back" to "Sister Ray" is utilized as the group goes in and out of the usual (and not-so) lines making for something that probably was not only fun to play, but definitely is fun to listen to! A dowload look-see on your part is something shouldn't be out of the question.
Normil Hawaiians-MORE WEALTH THAN MONEY 2-CD set (Upset the Rhythm Records England, available via Forced Exposure)

Like a lotta these early-eighties English avant garde thingies, the brilliant is at times washed out not only by the effete, silly and repetitive. But as you would have expected the synthesized strings wash everything out. Still, in between the casiotones and the maudlin vocals one can discern snatches of Syd and the usual variety of interesting tidbits that were tossed into many a project such as this during those rather confused times. An interesting peek into the workings of the young English rock mind but be warned...exciting and perhaps even downright exhilarating passages will lead to tracks of total boredom and if discretion needs to be advised for anything it is an effort like this.
Les Rallizes Denudes-5-13-87 MEGUMA ROCUMEIKAN CD-r burn

After a spell of nada it's sure good hearing Mizutani and company (whoever they may be this time!) again. Great performance including the same faves they've been performing for years, great sound and even the jazz drummer sitting in doesn't get in the way. What more can I say but...deep dark droning psychedelic rock that, unlike the San Fran brethren, continued its dark mission long after the hippoid affectations wore thin and all that came out was pure hackery.
UFO w/Larry Wallis-MARQUEE CLUB 1/3/72 CD-r burn

I believe some of this came out on that UFO boot I reviewed a year or two back (don't have the hard info in front of me because y'see, I'm typing this while I should be working 'stead of at home on my own time) but it's still a MUST HAVE for those of you who still stand by the early-seventies Third Generation era of hard scrunch before it became so simpy that even your pudgoid ten-year-old cousin could like it. AGAIN, if you like the first three UFO albums and shudder at those later ones that seemed to speak for everything BAD about what heavy metal had become whilst we all were looking, look no further than a burn such as this.
Various Artists-RED HOT SCHLITZ HOLIDAY TWIST CD-r burn (Bill Shute)

Boy does this thing start out pretty inner city ifyaknowaddamean what with the great hunking blob of downright r&b/soul selections from the likes of the Moroccos and Bill Doggett to some Rudy Ray Moore tracks just custom made for the Holiday Season. Hey Bill, thanks for the warning now that EVERYBODY inna fambly got an earfulla his "Night Before Christmas" while I left the room! For a minute I thought this burn was gonna come with an invitation to join the Urban League! Then allava sudden the thing gets real backwoods country twang making for a shift in storm fronts that woulda caused a tornado in real life! Then it's back to the dirty stuff (the Couplings) before I get hauled off to bed with no really know how to spring them surprises on me Bill!!!
And with that, piss on earth, good will toward none!

Thursday, December 28, 2017


Only once in a blue moom does a film affect me in a gut-churning, high adrenaline sorta way, and since the previous picture I saw that did such to me was FLOPPY BUNNY IN THE FUNNY FOREST let's just say there ain't that many flickers out there I can relate to in a hard-edged, get involved way. But man does this particular pelicula make up for years of "recent" (and for me recent can be anything from American Mutoscope and Biograph's PRESIDENT McKINLEY TAKES A STROLL WITH HIS SECRETARY on) footage that just doesn't soothe my inner maniac or reinforce my life energy forces in any way suitable. Now I must admit that although the sixties and seventies were filled with these bruised knuckle bared-wire intensity flicks I haven't had the opportunity to see many of these so-called "neo-noir" films but if POINT BLANK is any indication of what else is in store then get me a wheelchair, remove half my jaw and call me Roger Ebert!

One time he-man ideel Lee Marvin goes on a heist at Alcatraz with longtime character nasty John Vernon, who proceeds to not only shoot and leave his "best friend" for dead because there just wasn't enough moolah in the package to pay off a huge debt to "The Organization", but skedaddles with his unfaithful wife as well! Miraculously (and unbelievably!), Marvin manages to survive the two bullet holes, swims from Alcatraz to safety and boy does he want his 98 thou portion of the deal and like now!

A year later who does Marvin (who goes by the name "Walker" only) meet up with but a guy (Keenan Wynn) who wants to take over The Organization and occasionally appears on the scene to give him some handy names and other tips in a mutual effort for Marvin to get the dough and Wynn to get to the top.

Of course getting the money leads to person after person to the point of utter frustration (at least on my part).At times POINT BLANK kinda reminds me of a certain story in an Archie comic book where Betty, as "Superteen" (this being done during Archie Publication's cash in on the whole Batman camp craze) has to find the "Big Boss" of the crime ring, only to discover that there's an even Bigger Boss to contend with on and on and on. It can get to you, but there are some pretty hotcha scenes of revenge and pure unadulterated violence to keep you going from the one where Marvin wrecks that car while trying to extract info from a stooge to the wild nightclub fight and the one where Angie Dickinson as the cyster of Marvin's now dead wife just keeps hitting and slapping him as he merely stands there unflinchingly until she collapses in exhaustion. These scenes really are good enough for you to forget the artzy shots and angles that occasionally pepper up the screen, not to mention an ending that I believe the standard viewer would deem

This moom does pop up inna middle of the night on cable but maybe you can score parts if not all on youtube. However you snatch it, POINT BLANK's a fantastico way to get your own ya ya's out especially after being constipated by decades of flaccid fudge being presented to you as top notch just what the average sorta Joe out there wants entertainment and I kid ye not!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017


Among the many male stars of 1920’s silent films (not including here the stars of comedy shorts or action films, but of major studio productions), JOHN GILBERT has aged better than most. He did not have a florid or stagy or over-stated style, and his under-stated charm and his self-deprecating quality and his mastery of the subtleties of purely visual acting have kept his work fresh over the decades. He was the man that women wanted to be with and men wanted to be. Unfortunately, the untrue claim that his voice was not “right for sound” stuck on him for decades. From my perspective, the truth is that at the coming of sound, Gilbert had the misfortune of starring in two mis-fires (one was so bad that the studio was not going to release it) where the lousy dialogue would have sounded bad coming out of ANYONE’s mouth, and as new careers were being built with the coming of sound and old careers were declining, Gilbert was kind of left at the gate, and by the time he was able to prove himself as a fine sound actor (which he did--watch him opposite his old friend and romantic partner Greta Garbo in QUEEN CHRISTINA, or as the sleazy chauffeur in DOWNSTAIRS (which was based on a story he wrote), or as the master of disguise in THE PHANTOM OF PARIS (a property originally intended for Lon Chaney Sr. but given to Gilbert after Chaney’s death) or in his final performance, as a drunken novelist in the outrageous THE CAPTAIN HATES THE SEA), his career had slipped, his health deteriorated (not helped by his drinking), and he passed away at the age of 36 in 1936.

Gilbert’s silent-film style and persona were taken up and adapted for sound by such actors as Clark Gable and Errol Flynn, and because of their influence, many later male stars were channeling Gilbert second-hand without even knowing it.

DESERT NIGHTS was Gilbert’s final silent film. He’d wanted it to be a sound film, but the MGM brass would not authorize the money. Oh, let me correct myself....this WAS a sound film to some extent. No, not one of those proto-sound films like THE JAZZ SINGER or LONESOME which have three or four minutes of awkwardly recorded dialogue scenes awkwardly shoe-horned into a silent narrative. DESERT NIGHTS was one of those “synchronized sound” films which had an original music score that went out with the film and matched the action plus an occasional sound effect. This was an odd hybrid seen mostly in 1928 films, but also in late 1927 and throughout 1929. Laurel and Hardy made a number of comedy shorts done in this way. I recently saw the 1928 Marion Davies vehicle SHOW PEOPLE, and that also was a “synchronized sound” film with its original score still intact. The original 1929 score really helps DESERT NIGHTS to create mood and it echoes the sounds the audience imagines based on the action they see up on the screen.

DESERT NIGHTS is a lean film, running only 62 minutes (I have not been able to determine whether it was cut or if this is the original running length--reviews from the time cite a 62 minute length), but that keeps things moving quickly and keeps the audience on their toes. The director, William Nigh, is another one of those people (like, say, Phil Rosen) who directed “A” pictures in the silent era but moved into “B” programmers in the sound era. Both Rosen and Nigh worked extensively at Monogram in the 40’s, directing many excellent crime and detective films. They no doubt worked quickly and efficiently and knew how to pace a film, which is why Monogram used them, and the roots of that can be seen here, even though this was an MGM production.

It’s essentially a three-character piece. Gilbert is the manager of a diamond mine in southern Africa, on the edge of the Kalahari Desert. It’s announced to him that “Lord and Lady Stonehill,” two British aristocrats, are coming to visit the operation, Gilbert prepares for them, and when they later arrive at the mine he takes them on a tour, shows them the inner workings of things, and shows them many large uncut stones. He then gets a message from the home office that the Lord and Lady were detained and will arrive a week WHO are these people who are posing as them? Crooks, of course, and they take Gilbert prisoner and escape into the desert with their ill-gotten gain. The phony Lord is played by Ernest Torrance, a Scottish actor who had a successful career playing villains (and also Buster Keaton’s father in STEAMBOAT BILL JR.), and pulls out all the stops here, poisoning water-holes in the desert and being brutal (although in the early scenes, he shows his comic skills when posing as the eccentric and bumbling Lord!). The phony “Lady” is played by Mary Nolan, who’d been in the Ziegfeld Follies and made a number of films in Germany under another name in the 1925-1927 period. Of course, a romance has to happen between her and Gilbert, and it does.

The proposed title for this film was THIRST, and I wonder if that was tapping into the residual memory of the film GREED, which remained the classic of bleak films with desperate people clawing at and destroying each other in the desert. Presumably filmed in the Mohave Desert, the film (which was shot by legendary cinematographer James Wong Howe) is intense even by today’s standards, as the three stagger on, near death and without water, trying to kill each other. Gilbert retains his unique charm even when he’s injured and filthy and near-death in the desert, and the combination of his star-power and the melodramatic plot--and the austere and beautiful desert vistas--keeps the viewer’s attention throughout. This must have looked amazing on the big screen back in the day. The resolution comes quickly and is a bit contrived, but with a major heart-throb like Gilbert, you know he’s not going to get killed and you know he’s going to get the girl, even when the girl’s been literally trying to “get” him for the entire film. Well, evidently she was just under the spell of her svengali partner the whole time, don’t you know, and she now is capable of reform.

DESERT NIGHTS was well-reviewed in its day, but it was lost among the sizzle and flash of all the fully-sound films that were coming out in 1929, and frankly, it had little shelf life left after its initial release as few theaters outside the hinterlands were still showing silent films by mid-1930. John Gilbert’s career hit a roadblock with the coming of sound, and DESERT NIGHTS was quickly forgotten. However, it’s a great star vehicle for Gilbert, it’s great looking with the wide and bleak desert setting, it’s got non-stop back-stabbing excitement as Gilbert and Torrance try to kill each other, and Nolan keeps switching sides--or does she? John Gilbert closed out his silent career with style and class.

As this is an MGM film, it pops up every year or two on TCM (watch for it around John Gilbert’s birthday, January 9), and it’s also available from the Warner Archive. It might be a good choice to show someone who’s never actually sat through an entire silent feature film. Dialogue is not really needed here, and I’d doubt most people not used to watching silent films would even notice it was missing. Of course, we love silent films here at BTC (there was a period in the late 1980’s when I watched mostly silent films, and my children grew up with silent films always in their mix of what we watched together), and we’re happy to see that silent cinema is getting more attention now than at any other time in the last 40 years. D. W. Griffith’s INTOLERANCE may be over 100 years old now, but it’s never too late to experience the purity and the power of the silent cinema....and DESERT NIGHTS might be a good place to start.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Happy Christmas Eve! I know that you readers are all anxiously awaiting the big day tomorrow which should cop you lots of goodies that you can buy for yourself just about anytime, but with others buying 'em for you it's a whole lot better dontcha think?!?!?! I hope that the Christmas gifts I sent your way arrived safe and sound, and in case you lucky few are wondering why your parcels are so small this year well...look at it this way. Y'see, the more things I send your way means the less money I have to spend on myself and like, well, you just don't know just how hard it is for me to come upon the long leafy green these days! Besides, the less presents I buy for you only means there's more moolah to spend on myself, and as you all know I am a firm believer in self-preservation! So be thankful for what you have, and just console yourselves in the big hotcha fun I'm gonna have buying things for myself this yuleturd season!

Got a bunch of (who am I kidding... a  few) Christmas cards I thought I'd share with you because hey, it ain't like you're gonna be comin' over to the abode to see two of 'em all taped up on the banister! Biggest surprise of the season comes from none other than the Droogs who sent me the card printed directly to your left or right, or directly above or below, or something like that depending on your computer screen. What a surprise---I mean here I am, a FAN, getting a card from a rock 'n roll group I've been hot and bothered about for years 'stead of the other way around! I mean this sure ain't no fan mail from some flounder! Maybe if they slipped some money in the card like Aunt Mabel does I'd really flip out, but the fact that they remember me is good enough cheer for the season!

Here's another card, this time from Paul McGarry and his brood which accompanied a number of Cee-Dee Ares that he sent my way. No money in this one alas, but then again it's pretty hard for me to exchange Canadian currency for the Amerigan long green when I go to the bank. Dunno how McGarry got hold of an artist's rendition of what my anus looks like after eating Indian cuisine but whoever did that 'un sure got the look down just right and the sentiments that are expressed on the right really do fit the Holiday bill of cheer 'n all that even if they are hokey beyond belief. But it ain't the card that matters, it's either what comes IN it or WITH it as we all know, and the burns that Paul sent me really do fill the bill since there's not one Neko Case or Beck platter to be found! Now that's what I would call a MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

Dint get many other cards other'n from family and my stockbroker which don't count, so let's just end it at that. Thanks to all who sent me gifts like Bill and Brad (who sent me a nice portion of the music that is to be discerned this week) and Paul, because if it weren't for you guys this weekend's record-a-rama woulda been pretty sparse! Extra special thanks to P. D. Fadensonnen whose stack of hotcha and BTC-approved burns'll keep me busy for a few months to come! Expect some hot review jamz in the upcoming weeks thanks to these guys!
I was told by someone who wants to (or maybe prefers to...not sure) remain anonymous that it might not be wise to post the Murdoch Murdoch A KANGZ CAROL video to celebrate the holiday season, so I'll just link it up for you instead. Too bad I'm such a coward...this is one of the funniest things I've seen in ages and it's of our own time frame as well! Just goes to show you that things can be high-larious these days, as long as you attack all of those sacred cows that have sprung up while we weren't looking these pasty twennysome years!
A nice selection this week if I do say so myself...maybe you'll be persuaded to part with your own precious pounds to purchase these soon-to-be classics, but then again I never got rich estimating the tastes of some of you readers out there.


In the past, the well-seasoned old timers used to play music for the kids the way them old timers thought it should be nice, quiet and TASTEFUL if only to tell them young upstarts that the music that they're making is loud, crass and definitely something that will not stand the test of time (a remark my uncle once made about the Electric Eels after he heard me playing the "Spin Age Blasters" single!). Nowadays the oldsters play the music to tell the kid that their sounds are just too pleasant and polite to even exist, which is I guess why ex-Crime guitarist and singer Johnny Strike leads this particularly seventies-oriented group that comes off particularly Crime-ish if you ask me. The cover of "Hot Wire My Heart" sounds almost exactly like the original. Sheesh, when I get to be Strike's age I hope that they still have Geritol on the market.
Sun Ra-NUCLEAR WAR 10-inch EP (Modern Harmonic Records)

The should-be-legendary-by-now title track sure reminds me of all those nuclear cold war scare tactics that were being used  on impressionable dolts like me during the early-eighties. Well at least this thing holds up a whole lot better'n the infamous nuclear war tee-vee moom pitcher THE DAY AFTER not to mention that all-time weeper MISTER ROGERS TALKS TO CHILDREN ABOUT CONFLICT. On the a-side Ra and band can be heard chanting about just what "a motherfucker" the Big Bomb is and how you'll kiss your ass goodbye once it is dropped, all to a haunting early-sixties styled jazz dirge that sounds like something from one of Ra's early forays into the ether. I didn't know that annihilation could be so much fun! Flip's got a selection of earlier tracks that keep to the Ra interplanetary rhumba, and as far as Ra-items go it ain't an original El Saturn but it'll do you just swell.
Redd Kross-HOT ISSUE LP (Bang Records, Spain)

I was cooled, no---make that frozen---on Redd Kross's NEUROTICA album back '87 way, but that was only because of Chuck Eddy's upsnoot proclamations against my better judgement that these guys weren't punks because of that "no punk rock ruts for me" line as if that really said anything about their ultimate punkitude! But since I got this album as a gift from Brad Kohler I felt obligated to review the thing, and I gotta say that these guys were good even in their "post" punk guise as well. Sounds really 1973 Rodney's English Disco to me what with a Fowley cover as well as a number of tracks that sound like they coulda came right out of a demo session for ABC-Dunhill records. Dunno about you, but this one does bring back memories that I personally don't mind being reminded of!

You know how much I hate the entire tribute album concept (or concept tribute album) but I'll cut this one some slack not only because of some surprisingly good performances but for the booklet notes courtesy of top notch fanzine writers Jeremy Gluck and Lindsay Hutton. This could have made the "ROCK 'N ROLL READ OF THE YEAR" year-end awards if I had only gotten hold of it sooner, and the original version of this is over twenny years old! Good enough that even the tracks by all of those hotter than you'll ever be acts like Luna, Mudhoney and Thin White Rope sound just as mind-twisted early-seventies punk rock in a CREEM sorta definition of the term as all of those groups that I listen to on purpose!

From what I can tell this is the John Peel "live" session coupled with the side-long Glastonbury show that came out on that once-rare 3-LP set, but whatever it is it's sure great getting that Pink Fairies crunch back into my system. Of course this all leads to the question about even MORE live tapes being discovered and disseminated as well as some of those Pink Fairies-inspired acts of the day who have been all but forgotten (and I'm sure that there were more than a few!). A good collection of a band that never did get the kind of dues that should have been due them ages ago!
Michael Cousins-AKA MAGIC MICHAEL CD-r burn (available via Cherry Blossom Records, England)

Given this guy's remarkable and I would ass-sume detailed history (which I will lightly touch upon in a future post) it's amazing that Magic Michael has such a limited recorded output. This download-only EP rectifies the situation somewhat but not enough as if his unreleased Vertigo LP or some other career-spanning collection had come out way back when. But at least we have this nice tastes of Michael circa 2014 which ain't that much different than the Michael of 1972 (or so I get the impression) the man strums along rather fine on what sounds like a way cheaper electric'n the one he touts on the cover as he makes his way through some pretty lackadaisical yet spry numbers singing with that wild neo-Sinatra voice that certainly belies Magic's English origins. Imagine a tougher Syd Barrett orbiting Saturn instead of Pluto and you'll be part way there. As a bonus P.D. stuck on some Stiff-era numbers that proved that the man could rock out with the best of 'em. I'm waiting for the book but like, who's gonna write it???
NEGRO PRISON BLUES AND SONGS CD-r burn (originally on Legacy Records)

I wonder why Paul McGarry sent me this one, or why he would be in possession of a copy in the first place. Perhaps he was a member of the same chain gang that Alan Lomax recorded back inna forties and felt nostalgic for it all or somethin' like that, but given his pigmentation I kinda doubt it. An interesting look into these down-home hard-time tunes as they were meant to be---sung while the work was bein' done and the clankin' of the sledgehammers was the beat. Features an early version of "Bald Headed Woman" done up way before the Who got their hands on it making me wonder if these guys got any sorta royalty payments in the meanwhile.
Bill Kirchen-TIED TO THE WHEEL CD-r burn (originally on Shout Factory Records)

Former Commander Cody guitarist Kirchen does swell on these truck driver cantatas that really capture the whole country music ramalama better'n most pretenders onna Newer Than New Country bandwagon ever could. Pretty straightforward musings here that'll become as real to you as the linoleum on a truckstop table with even a few nice and tasty more pop-oriented toonz for youse to peruse added! Don't miss the cover of Dylan's "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" which closes out the proceedings and hey Bill, if you really wanna be smart howzbout issuing some of those Seventh Seal tapes for us, eh?
Various Artists-PEACOCK BABY DESPERADO BULL CD-r burn (Bill Shute)

Another good if brief slice of Shutemania that I sure can enjoy this time of the year (which is certainly better than "this time of month" when my cyster was much younger). The "Aigles" tracks were good 'nuff for a start (and no, they ain't the "Eagles" under an alias!) while the "song poems" are entertaining as they usually are even if you don't know who that unemployed janitor from Muncie who sent 'em in hoping for fame and fortune was, and the closing tracks by the Searchers kinda make me wish they had more hits here in the U.S. of Whoa than they most certainly had! The old ads that were sprinkled about helped too, especially the Texaco gas one with Jack Benny and Dennis Day which Bill must love to no end because he also stuck it on two other "floor sweepings" efforts of his. Either that or he's gone loonier than I'll ever be!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

BOOK REVIEWS! OUR BOARDING HOUSE SUNDAYS 1937 and ROOM AND BOARD SUNDAYS 1937 (Golden Age Reprints, available here and here)

The year of 1937 must have been rip roaring for fans of Gene Ahern. Not only was the creator of Major Hoople lured away to King Features for beaucoup bucks, but his original creation stayed on at NEA Services with hardly any drop in artistic or writing quality (though the former could come, on and off, much later). Now true Ahern believers could now enjoy two versions of what was essentially the same strip even if they were probably competing against each other in those areas where two or more papers were being published but hey, that's why we kids used to scour the trash bins, right?

OUR BOARDING HOUSE was still cooking swell at the time what with the art being totally indistinguishable from Ahern's and the stories still tossing out those old gags and tall tales regarding the Major's definitely improbable deeds. It's no wonder why comics were so popular at the time with the skill and care that had been put into them, and whoever was working on HOOPLE at the time (I believe future THIMBLE THEATRE artist Bela Zaboly) really did study the Ahern pattern down to the ol' "t" what with the sly turn of events jokes, hilarious boisterousness on Hoople's part not to mention the art which certainly doesn't look like the dashed off kid stuff that women affirmative action cartoonists have been dishing out these past few decades.

The NUT BROTHERS "topper" strip is also worthy of mention. A bastion of bad gags done up swimmingly well, Ches and Wal deliver on even more "screwball" humor that would have done Joe Cook proud in these visually and joke-pleasing panels which definitely take up more space (as a mere page-filler) than most of today's strips do. And they're much funnier'n most of the "humor" that's seen these days what with the sly visual gags that predate SMOKEY STOVER not to mention the way general corniness can be worked into something downright devious, or is it vice-versa?

Ahern's ROOM AND BOARD might have been a tough one to follow HOOPLE up with, and thankfully it was a good enough knockoff of the original to lead to confusion on any late-thirties comic strip kid's part. Judge Augustus Puffle was a sly Hoople lookalike (though in these early appearances he has a small beezer and of course wore a beret 'stead of a fez), his wife scrawny yet just as mean as Hoople's Martha, and the roomers practically carbon copies of longtime BOARDING HOUSE residents Clyde and Mac (though no overweight guy like Buster is to be seen). Heck there's even a version of the black handyman Jason here though he has yet to appear (this guy being the head of the "International Chore Company"). However, I gotta admit that the two guys in strip-topper THE SQUIRREL CAGE do bear a slight resemblance, at least at this point in time, to Ches and Wal Nut. Well, I can't blame Ahern for basically doing a new version of HOOPLE given that strip's popularity, and naturally he pulls it all off with that famed aplomb that seems to have been lost in the comic strip shuffle over the years.

The stories and dialog are straight outta HOOPLE and every bit as good (though Ahern later on complained that King Features held a strict reign on what he could or couldn't spoof---no more quadriplegic jokes for he!), but I gotta say that it's THE SQUIRREL CAGE that really gets me up and going. The same NUT BROTHERS-styled gags are trotted out true, but the appearance of the famed Hitchhiker of "Nov Schmoz Ka Pop?" fame is what really leads credence to just how good this strip was in the pantheon of classic fun 'n jamz. Unfortunately some of the strips reproduced here are either missing this topper or the local paper had replaced it with a cartoon ad featuring George Burns and Gracie Allen hawking Grape Nuts but eh, I think I got enough to help satisfy my own screwball tendencies at least for the next week or so.

Just get a gander of these books and you'll know why I've been reading long-gone and mostly forgotten comics like these 'stead of more "meaningful" and "relevant" books that are reviewed in the pages of THE NEW YORK TIMES LIST OF SNOOTY READS. Channel the inner suburban slob in ya for once, willya?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


FOXBAT did not get a theatrical release in the US, alas (it premiered on TV), but I do remember seeing a poster for it in Variety back in 1977, which I would read at the library to learn about obscure independent and foreign films that I could then wait for in hope that they’d play in my area. The film belongs to that curious phenomenon of the Hong Kong-made western-style action film (meaning not a martial arts film) with an American star (another example being THE AMSTERDAM KILL with Robert Mitchum), meant to compete in the international market with both European crime films and American action films.

There are three American stars in FOXBAT, but the main one is surely the great HENRY SILVA, fresh off a series of excellent and internationally popular Italian crime films, bringing his usual jaded badass persona to the role of CIA agent Mike Saxon (!!!!)--now there’s a name that could exist only in the world of pulp male-fantasy spy fiction and/or films. A Soviet MIG 25 experimental fighter plane winds up in Northern Japan when its pilot pretends engine trouble to break out of the formation and try to defect by crash-landing in Japan. The Russians want the plane (and its errant pilot) back--the Japanese and their Western allies want to study the plane and interrogate the pilot. Silva uses such outrageous comic-book spy tactics as a hidden camera in a glass eye (had the makers of this film seen SPY IN YOUR EYE, the 60’s Eurospy film with Dana Andrews as a CIA man with a similar spy-eye?) and microfilm hidden in a cough drop.

The womanly charm in the film is provided by another spy, played by Vonetta McGee, whose impressive filmography includes everything from one of the finest Eurowesterns (THE GREAT SILENCE) to Clint Eastwood films (THE EIGER SANCTION) to urban action-crime films (HAMMER, DETROIT 9000) to REPO MAN!

The head of the CIA is played by Rik Van Nutter, whose second to last film this was (two years later he was in the Filipino WWII film PACIFIC INFERNO, starring Jim Brown). He’s best known for having been in the James Bond film THUNDERBALL (which no doubt got him this gig), but he’s already known to BTC readers for a film he made under his alternate moniker “Clyde Rogers,” the 60’s Italian historical adventure REVENGE OF IVANHOE, which Chris reviewed here in January 2016. Besides the Bond film, Van Nutter is also known for having been married to Anita Ekberg. I’ve always liked him, as he has both leading man looks and charm along with a sly, eye-winking humorous quality which suggests to the audience that he’s not taking things seriously and they don’t need to either.... (he even played Buffalo Bill once in a Eurowestern--as did Gordon Scott--which I’ve never seen called SEVEN HOURS OF GUNFIRE, which also features Austrian actor Adrian Hoven as Wild Bill Hickok!). He’s a bit older here than we’re used to seeing, and with his long graying hair he vaguely resembles the wrestler Ric Flair!

The film is full of subtle humorous details (often the particulars one finds in the rooms the characters are in), and when you add that to the non-stop action and double-crosses and Henry Silva’s star-power (and Vonetta McGee’s classy and seductive presence), FOXBAT is a must-see for the fan of 70’s off-shore action films.

The film also features a musical score by Roy Budd (of GET CARTER fame), after DIAMONDS and before THE WILD GEESE. While some online sources credit Terence Young as co-director, the film’s actual director (Po-Chih Leong) and other reputable sources state that Young was merely brought in as a script consultant, to tweak the dialogue and make it more like a European action/spy film, a genre Young knew well, and supposedly he contributed only a handful of lines. To drag in a few other interesting (I hope!) coincidences, Young was born in Shanghai, China, and directed THUNDERBALL. With THUNDERBALL alumni Rik Van Nutter and Terence Young both being involved in FOXBAT, I'm getting the idea someone on the production team was a big fan of that 1965 James Bond film (which, according to Wikipedia, is the most financially successful entry in the Bond franchise, when adjusted for inflation).

This kind of Asian action film has a very different tone from its American or British or European cousins. That unique feel adds another level of interest to FOXBAT. Any fan of Henry Silva or of films such as THE AMSTERDAM KILL will want to check it out.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Sheesh, I really must be getting old(er) because for some reason the Christmas Season just ain't hittin' the ol' headbone the way it should, or at least the way it did back when I was a mere turdler and the entire ramping up via tee-vee and older kid chatter just had me goin' nutzo. Of course there are many factors contributing to my lack of ho-ho-ho, the main one being that besides being an old turd there just ain't that same ol' spirit that used to permeate the last days of the year that there used to be, and ya can't blame any grinches for that! You know who I blame of course...the same snooty higher ups who think that alla that same fifties/sixties (and before) entertainment and general jamz that many of use grew up on and had so much fun engaging in was nada but evil Kapitalist Konsumerism that we should ALL be rescued from! So let's just bore on and accept our miserable holiday fate...after all it's good for us, and our betters won't stop letting us know that!

Of course that won't stop me from remembering the good ol' X-mas days back when I used to get all confused over that sexually ambiguous "Ghost of Christmas Past" on the ol' MR. MAGOO special, but sheesh if we only had that feeling and kultur of yore o go along with these days that we did long before they hadda get rid of kids (all they have today are small adults poppin' right out the womb and don't kid yourself!) wouldn't life be just dandy???
BEDDY BYE SPIN OF THE WEEK---ROCKET FROM THE TOMBS AGORA CLEVELAND 5/5/75 RADIO BROADCAST!-the "George Belden" tape complete with Paragon doing a feh Hendrix impression and Left End not living up to their hard rock image with some rather slow and not-quite-there numbers that must have disappointed their hard-edged fans. But Rocket were on all cylinders that night as the more complete (but not en-toto) tape circulating will attest to with a sound that comes off like the culmination of everything the sixties had to offer us updated to mid-seventies underground rock appeal levels. I only hope that more Rocket'll make its way to us because hey, how can anyone live on the tidbits and morsels that David Thomas dares to toss out for our consumption anyway?
Not much else to say in the realm of my preramble so why not just get to the part you've been waiting for (with baited breath...preferably a nice juicy worm!)...da reviews!!!

Charlemagne Palestine-ARPEGGIATED BOSENDORF WITH FALSETTO VOICE LP (Alga Marghen Records, Germany)

I never was as head over heels for Palestine as I was for some of the other new minimalists who were working in areas related to rock 'n roll, but this 1974 effort which has only seen the light of day recently seemed too tasty to pass on. This was undoubtedly due to the presence of Mayo Thompson as recording coordinator, and as you readers know I really do need a hook such as this to legitimize my listening preferences!

Pleasurable sounding piano arpeggios, the kind that Gumby ruined when he landed on that asteroid, help ease you into a nice worry-free state as soothing high pitched singing come off almost as if some angels were up and about exercising their lungs. Then the drugs wear off and everything is back to normal, but it was a good enough experience. Limited edition too, but they'll always press up more don't you worry.
Mika Pontecorvo, G. Calvin Weston with Cartoon Justice-TERRA LINGUA (SKETCHES) CD (Cartoon Justice Records)

I always enjoy these little outta nowhere surprises and this platter is one surprise that I sure needed especially in these usually snoozier than usual times. Other'n for Weston I know nada about who these people are and what they've been up to ever since they picked up their gear, but Pontecorvo, Weston and Cartoon Justice sure put out a mighty hot jazz rock (as in fusion done up right!) that keeps my attention going.

The nearest thing that I can compare this to is Noisetet Obscure, this hot jazz rock act that used to pop up at the old CBGB Lounge back during the final days of that club's history, and their electronic yet rock take on everything from Dolphy on used to give me hope for a future of bright blare. (Just pop their name into the search window above to see what I had written on 'em way back when.)

Like Noisetet, these guys deal in a sorta rock jazz avant hybrid of everything I thought jazz would sound like in the here and now only nobody calling the jazz shots these days would fess up to it. Maybe you could call it a Human Arts Ensemble update with heavy synth sounds permeating or what I would have hoped Sonny Sharrock woulda been up to had he lasted this long down the music line. Frantic and cluttered, yet with a clear musical vision that sure sounded good back in the seventies when you were young and upstarting, yet it sounds even better in the here and now giving us all a bright glimpse of musical hope!

Hey Mark (the guy who sent me this on Bill Shute's advise), can you tell us how to get a copy? Seems like all the links listed on the back cover are no good at least on my outdated machine! (Or, if you want to write to 3105 Henderson Drive, Richmond CA 94806, write now.)
Myriam Gendron/Dorothy Parker-NOT SO DEEP AS A WELL LP (Feeding Tube Records, available via Forced Exposure)

I must admit that most of what I knew about folk music was learned through infrequent viewing of HI HOOT (local tee-vee folk music showcase that ended up featuring high school chorales...the host's name was Dick Yanko....really!!!) and HOOTENANNY where Bob Linkletter played host to the cleaner cut singers at a variety of college campuses, but dang if there just ain't whatcha'd call a downright and nasty trend towards bared wire intensity when it comes to the baser forms of the element. Tim Hardin comes to mind as does this recent addition to the Future Freedom Riders sweepstakes, none other than Myriam Gendron who is perhaps the last in a long line of downhome gnarled folkies who has such names as Byron Coley (he did the liner notes) and Richard Meltzer on her side.

Well, since Myriam's from Montreal maybe she won't be doin' any Selma bridge marches soon, but the femme sure does the entire folk music idiom right on this 2014 debut where she sets noted snob Dorothy Parker's poesy to music and does a pretty good job of it as well. Gendron plays like the better folk strummers of the time with a deep gnarl that I'm sure some experts on the form can explain to me, while her voice is reminiscent of Maureen Tucker and boy can it (with the aid of her guitar) ease out various emotions and feelings in your system that you thought you had expurgated ages ago!

I am reminded of a few CHELSEA GIRL tracks without the string glop, while her rendition of Parker's words seem to fit her aw shucks girlisms rather well. Woulda loved to have heard Laughner tackle this material just as much as I'd like to hear Gendron do "Eyes Eyes" and the best thing about it is that I get the feeling that the gal's probably more early than late-sixties flopabout in her appearance and perhaps even hygiene. Just won't wanna know if she does/doesn't shaves her armpits because that might ruin the entire aura.

The best folkie outta Montreal since Erica Pomerance? Hmmmmm, just might be!
Jimi Hendrix-JIMI HENDRIX LIVE--BIRTH OF SUCCESS CD-r burn (originally on Hor Zu Records, Germany)

One of those Curtis Knight-era recordings that got rushed out in the wake of the big choke, BIRTH OF SUCCESS benefits from the raw Hackensack New Jersey club sound quality and the hard-edged performance that fortunately doesn't bring out all of Hendrix's"showmanship" (as some might call it). All of the old blooze faves are trotted out (tho we get two originals courtesy Knight) and it's even good enough to make you forget about all of those doped up empty-eyed fat girls who wanted to plaster caster him like anything. This is the German issue (available elsewhere as EARLY JIMI HENDRIX) which I'm sure an older brother who was stationed overseas in the early-seventies brought back home and which you probably sold at a flea market only a few years later.

Like many of these bottom of the barrel uterine scrapings this selection is really for the maddest of mad Beatles completest out there. Shards and shreds of various bits of singing, chanting, dialogue, old Beatle hits done up as orchestral faves or lounge tinklings. Nothing earth-shattering in this half-hour batch, but I'll betcha that had I heard this one at age fifteen I would have thought it the dandiest slice of Beatledom that I could lay my ears upon.
Various Artists-BEAT!FREAK! VOLUME  7 CD-r burn (Particles Records, England)

As you might have expected, even more English beat rock has been uncovered over the years than any of us would have guessed existed in the first place. And as usual a good portion of it has popped up on these samplers that have been issued by guys who know a good movement to cash in on! As you also might have expected, this particular volume of BEAT!FREAK! mixes tracks by the familiar (the Rockin' Berries and the Iveys---future Badfinger for those not in the know) with groups I and presumably you have never heard of before. The results are great hotcha teenage moptop slop that used to get the gals screamin' back during those pre-social conscious times. Too bad more of this didn't make it over to our sure coulda edges some of the sloppier adult singles off the charts that's for sure!

Pure Marin County hippie get downs done up by a bunch who probably sniffled like anything while watching that sensitive old tee-vee series SUNSHINE.  Folksy (as opposed to down-to-earth folk...see Gendron review above) acoustic guitars plunk along while congas cong although an interesting enough violin does seem to careen just when the careening is needed. Otherwise this is just more of that front porch gettin'-it-all-together down on the commune stuff aimed directly at the Boone's Farm crowd. But don't worry---in ten year's time they'll all be reading MAXIMUM ROCK 'N ROLL.
Various Artists-DAYBREAK STRANGER DANCE CD-r burn (Bill Shute)

Not quite the blockballser that Bill usually sends, but it has enough goodity to it to keep me from chucking the thing in the trashcan. The positive points include Lightnin' Slim's sleazo blooze, Roky Erickson's Rhino Records version of "Bermuda", Rachel and the Revolvers doin' a nifty mid-sixties teenbo dance step and a really hot early-seventies vintage Mickey Dolenz single called "Daybreak" (produced by Harry Nilsson, and it sure has his sound to it!) which coulda been a hot Rodney's English Disco hit had it only gotten out more. Feh parts include Frijid Pink's blues swipes which were starting to sound way past their half-life by the time this 'un got out, some cheap Ross Bagsadarian-influenced country swing courtesy Shirley Anne and the Country Rogues, and a bunch of fifties pop that just doesn't sound right now that Snookie Lanson is dead. As usual the "Song Poems" are as guffaw-inducing as ever with their cornballlus lyrics and performance...keep an extra ear out for Gene Marshall's "I Love Canada" which is bound to get even Bruce Mowat gagging way up their in the wilds of the Northwest Territories. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

MOOM PITCHER REVIEW! BULLETS DON'T ARGUE starring Rod Cameron, Angel Aranda and Horst Frank (Italy, Spain, W. Germany, 1964)

I kinda get the impression that by the time this film was made Rod Cameron was too old to play Pat Garrett, but he still does fine in this Eurowestern made during the early years of the form.

In BULLETS DON'T ARGUE the Clanton Brothers (who come off as a rather unsettled pair with older brother Billy bordering on psychotic) decide to rob the bank located in their home town at the exact moment that Garrett is getting married in order that the confusion of it all'll give the gang time to make a quick get-out. George murders the bank president and teller when their cover is blown and naturally the brothers skedaddle for Mexico with Garrett in hot pursuit. He captures them in one of those Mexican bandit hideaway towns and heads back for the US with them in tow, but when a local bandit gets wind of the huge bankroll the funzies really start.

In all a very watchable film that only lets you down during a few slow moments which I think were added to not only pad the film out but relieve some of the tension that had been building. Cameron is pretty good as the aging sheriff who seems to do better in the hot desert clime than his younger prisoners, while Horst Frank as Billy's so great in his own evil (if "cool") way that you'll be rooting for him a good portion of the pic just like I was! And Angel Aranda as the kinda/sorta good brother's also believable even if there are times (like when he chickens out on killing the bank teller and prez) that you'll wanna slap him around even more'n Billy does!

Hokay, the slight romantic angle just doesn't seem "right", but there really is little of that to make you head for the nearest vomitorium and the gal's cute enough anyway in that mid-sixties pre-hairy pit way to the point where it don't matter. And hey, if you can find a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon'n watching something like this (unless you know a flea market that's still selling the kinda stuff they did inna seventies, and at seventies prices!) well man, go to it! But somehow I don't think you will. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


I’ve always loved the phenomenon of Western film stars who featured their horses and saw that their horses got special billing and special attention in their films: Ken Maynard had Tarzan, Roy Rogers had Trigger, Tex Ritter had White Flash, Charles Starrett had Raider. Some horse stars of Western films even had their own comic books (I should review one of those here at BTC!). Going even beyond that in affection for horses would be that curious sub-genre of films that FEATURE the horse, where the humans take a back seat. WILDFIRE is to some extent one of those.

I was not raised on a ranch with horses, alas, but I did have a friend down the street who had horses, which I enjoyed spending time with, and I worked off and on as a 14-year-old at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds in the barns picking up after horses, helping to get them hay, etc. And I’ve been a lifelong horse-racing fan….in fact, I skipped school once in 6th grade to go to the track. They would not allow unaccompanied minors in, so I had to wait outside and approach a friendly-looking hard-core gambler to let me come in as his “nephew” or whatever. No wonder I enjoy a film like this one.

WILDFIRE was an independent western, sort of.ACTION PICTURES made three features in 1945-1946, two of which starred Bob Steele (his other one was a Mountie film, also recommended), and the other starring Robert Lowery (my favorite Batman) and Buster Keaton. Action Pictures eventually became SCREEN GUILD, which eventually morphed into Lippert Pictures. According to Kit Parker, Lippert was co-owner of Action. Screen Guild and Lippert made and distributed many excellent modest-budgeted films, all the way through 1955. Lippert then ran the B-unit of 20th Century Fox until the mid-60’s, again producing many enjoyable genre films made for the bottom of the bill. Chris reviewed his RAIDERS FROM BENEATH THE SEA (from 1964) here at BTC a number of months ago. The gimmick with these three Action Pictures releases was that they were in CINECOLOR, one of the many second-tier color processes, like TRU-COLOR. There’s actually a fascinating Wikipedia article on Cinecolor here: Color was still quite a novelty in 1945, especially in the low-budget genre-film arena, so offering a COLOR Bob Steele western to exhibitors, for whom Steele was a proven box-office draw, would certainly have made WILDFIRE stand out from the pack.

Steele had been a reliable western star with a distinctive and energetic style since the late silent era. No one was a better horseman, and Steele did a lot of his own stunts too. He’d worked for the majority of the production companies heavily involved in B-Westerns (though not Columbia, to my knowledge), and in the early 40’s, he’d had his own series at PRC, he’d been one of the Three Mesquiteers at Republic (and the entries in that series are quite good, especially where he’s teamed with Tom Tyler!), and he’d been one of the trio The Trail Blazers at Monogram, paired with Hoot Gibson and Ken Maynard (and after Maynard left, with Chief Thundercloud). Steele was also active as a supporting actor in non-Westerns, having had key roles in such classics as OF MICE AND MEN and THE BIG SLEEP. He continued working as a supporting actor with regularity once he had his last above-the-title starring roles in B-Westerns in 1946 (he had a regular role on the F-TROOP TV series in the 60’s). He is probably my favorite B-Western star, as he always gives a film 110% effort, no matter how ragged and slipshod it might be (and among the most ragged and slipshod would probably be his series for Metropolitan Pictures in 1939-1940). Interestingly, Steele’s B-Western career was given a second wind years after he made his last one in 1946 when all his old films (and he’d made A LOT of them) became staples of early TV in the early 50’s. He even got his own comic book at that time, years after he’d stopped starring in films, but his films were all over TV then, so perhaps he was even a bigger star in the early 50’s. You know you’ve made it when you get your own comic book….at least that’s the way WE judge things here at BTC!

Steele and his sidekick Sterling Holloway (!!!!)—yes, Winnie The Pooh himself, also try to check out his Columbia comedy shorts!—are traveling horse traders and see a wild horse being shot at by two seedy looking characters. They defend the horse, who’d already been shot by these guys, and chase the horse-abusers away. They then nurse the horse back to health. Evidently, a local crook is blaming Wildfire for chasing away horses from their owners’ ranches when he himself is actually stealing the horses. So Bob Steele and Sterling Holloway are not just saving Wildfire and nursing him back to health….they are protecting his reputation and his good name!

If all this is not enough, the Sheriff is played by Eddie Dean, who was just then starting his own musical B-Western series, and who does get to sing briefly here—it’s almost like a coming attraction for his solo films over at PRC (“hey, who is that handsome guy singing there and looking so elegant on that horse? Eddie Dean? Oh, one of his pictures is playing down the street. I’ll have to go see it.”). And if you want more random connections, some of Eddie Dean’s PRC westerns were released in Cinecolor!

Of course, everything works out well in the end. Eddie Dean gets the girl, Bob Steele sends the recovered Wildfire back to be with his herd of wild horses, and the bad guys get what’s coming to them….all in 57 minutes and all in Cinecolor.