Thursday, May 31, 2012

Carpathian Castle

Another purchase from last years' Book Fair that I finally just got around to reading. For those that are interested, the 2012 Printer's Row Book Fair will be held on June 9th and 10th. James Bond author Raymond Benson will be attending as well.

Carpathian Castle by Jules Verne
Published by Ace Books in 1963

A traveling merchant stops by a small village in the Carpathian Mountains and sells a telescope to a shepherd, in fact, it's the first telescope that anyone in town has ever seen. The village is situated close to an old castle that once belonged to Baron Rodolphe de Gortz, who hasn't been seen for the past twenty years. Enjoying the new telescope, Frik, the shepherd, begins to study the mysterious castle when he notices smoke coming from the castle's keep. Believing that evil spirits are living in the castle, Frik heads back to the village to confer with the towns people on what he has seen. They meet in the village inn where it is decided that Nic Deck, the forester, and Dr. Patak will hike to the castle and find out what is going on. It is then that a mysterious voice warns them not to enter the castle. A search is made of the entire building, but no one is found.

Nic Deck and Dr. Patak, reluctantly I may add, leave early in the morning for the Carpathian castle. The way is treacherous and they don't reach the castle until after nightfall. The drawbridge is up so they are forced to camp outside. Time passes and the castle lights up with an unholy light and the bell in the chapel tower rings frantically until it suddenly stops and it is dark and silent once more.

When morning comes, Nic is determined to enter the castle and searches for a way inside. Seeing none, they go down into the moat and Nic begins to climb the drawbridge chain. Dr. Patak wants to run away, but he is stuck in place as if he is caught in some kind of trap. Nic grabs begins to climb when he is suddenly shocked, looses his grip on the chain and falls to the bottom of the moat, unconscious.  Another day passes and a group of men from the village set out to find Nic and Dr. Patak. They don't make it far when they find the pair making their way back.

While Nic is recovering, a two strangers come to town, Count Franz de Télek and his servant. The count takes a passing interest in the goings on at the castle and tries to convince the townsfolk that it is more likely that a band of brigands has taken up residence in the castle and is using local superstition to keep them all away. That is, until he finds out the castle belongs to Baron de Gortz. For Count de Télek knows that de Gortz is alive and holds him partially responsible for the death of his beloved La Stilla.

The Count stays at the village a few days and then sets out for the castle, unbeknownst to the villagers. Upon his arrival, he sends his servant on to the next town to await his arrival or to fetch the police and come to his rescue. de Télek sees La Stilla on the battlements and believes that she has been kept prisoner by de Gortz for the past five years. He must rescue her at all costs. Finding the drawbridge down, the Count enters the castle. He is so enthralled with his mission, he takes no notice that the gate is shut after his entrance. After being locked in the crypt, Count de Télek escapes and finds his way to de Gortz's private chamber where he hears La Stilla singing. He is prepared to strike de Gortz down and rescue his beloved until he sees her, he drops his weapon and is entranced by her - but it's not her. It's only an illusion created with mirrors which the Baron smashes causing the Count to faint.

de Gortz grabs a mysterious box and runs out of his chamber just as the police arrive. A stray shot destroys the mysterious box, de Gortz blows up the castle and himself with it. It is then that the story sheds its inspiration from Stoker and Leroux and becomes purely Verne as all the supernatural elements are explained away as scientific inventions.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Collectible World of 007

After watching the new Skyfall trailer a few times, I finally decided to start working on this project I've wanted to do for quite a while now. I enjoy collecting movie memorabilia and have amassed quite a few items; most of them being James Bond related. Years ago, I even toyed with the idea of creating a website devoted to James Bond collecting, but it never really got off the ground. Besides, I think these short little videos might be more fun.  Let me know if there is any interest in this series, and more episodes will follow.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Such A Tease

It has been a rather exciting time for Bond fans these past few days. First we've had the release of the teaser poster for Skyfall and now the first teaser trailer has just been released.  It was nice to see 007 using the trusty PPK once again, but I would have liked to hear the familiar theme music.  But as teaser, it worked; it has caught my interest.  It looks like James Bond Will Return... and in Imax too.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sharpe's Enemy

Sharpe's Enemy is chronologically, the fifteenth book in the Sharpe's series by Bernard Cornwell. It was first published in 1984, making this the fifth book that Cornwell wrote in the series. It has to be said that Bernard Cornwell is one of my favorite authors and he doesn't disappoint here.
For those that aren't familiar with the character, Richard Sharpe is a soldier in the Peninsular War and is promoted from the ranks after he saves Lord Wellington's life on the battlefield. The stories follow Sharpe, his friends and his enemies through the war.
Sharpe's Enemy by Bernard Cornwell
Published by Harper Collins in 1994
Sharpe's Enemy begins in December of 1812 when a ragtag army of deserters from the British, French, Spanish and Portuguese take over a small Spanish town, raping and pillaging it during a holy day. Two women who were visiting the old convent are captured and spared the indignities of Pot-au-Feu's men - which includes the most odious Obediah Hakeswill.  Lady Farthingdale and Madame Dubreton are taken prisoner and will be held for ransom. To make matters worse, the survivors of the massacre are saying that the British are responsible, making the shaky alliance with Spain all more shakier.

The task falls to the newly promoted Major Sharpe to deliver the ransom money and retrieve Lady Farthingdale, the wife of Sir Augustus Farthingdale. Sharpe and his good friend Patrick Harper travel to the town where they meet French Colonel Dubreton who has come to pay the ransom on his wife. They gold is taken, but they are not allowed to have the women. Further ransom is demanded and the heroes leave, heading back to their own lines.

Major Sharpe is then given command of a small force to rescue the hostages on Christmas Eve; which he does, capturing Pot-au-Feu in the process, but the slippery Hakeswill escapes. Lady Farthingdale isn't all she appears to be as she is really Josefina, someone who Sharpe is intimately familiar with.  Lord Farthingdale arrives in the morning with the main force to clean up the rest of the deserters from the adjoining castle. Hakeswill is eventually caught, stripped and thrown into the castle's dungeon with the remainder of the deserters.

The French arrive after the battle has been won and pleasantries are exchanged. The French are adamant that the British leave in the morning. They have been sent to destroy the castle and they intend to do it, even if the British are there. Seeing himself up against an insurmountable force, Sir Augustus agrees to the French demands; which doesn't sit well with Sharpe. Sharpe's wife, Teresa, who is fighting with the Spanish partisans arrives to wish her husband a merry Christmas. He sends her to get reinforcements as he intends to hold the castle as something doesn't seem right the story the French have told them.

After effectively blackmailing Sir Augustus with the knowledge of who is "wife" really is, Lord Farthingdale agrees to head back to the British lines, leaving Sharpe in command. The French are amassing troops to occupy the castle and invade Portugal in an effort to drive the British forces out of Spain. Under the expert command of Major Richard Sharpe, the British are able to hold the castle until reinforcements arrive and thwart the French plan. During the battle, Hakeswill is able to escape yet again, this time killing Sharpe's wife in the process and then surrendering to the French.

Colonel Dubreton witnessed the death and returns Hakeswill to Sharpe. Lord Wellington praises Sharpe for his actions and offers his condolences on the loss of his wife. Colonel Hogan, Harper and a few of Sharpe's friends get him drunk to help get him on the road to recovery. Obediah Hakeswill is executed by firing squad for desertion and the final bullet is fired by Sharpe himself, thus ends the life of Sharpe's Enemy.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Thief of Budapest

Season 1 - Episode 3
Directed by: John Patterson 
Co-Starring:  Bruce Abbott
Michael Constantine
Sid Haig

The opening gambit sees MacGyver going after an unnamed king's stolen horse. A tribal leader has stolen the horse to provoke the king into a small war. Mac sneaks into the camp, knocks out a guard, saddles the horse and rides off all while the tribal leader is out playing with his sword. A chase ensues and it seems as if MacGyver is about to be caught for good when a helicopter with a tow cable appears out of nowhere and picks up Mac and the horse.

The main story begins with Mac in Budapest on a mission to retrieve a list of KGB agents from his old buddy Nicolai Grodsky with a road rally being in town as a bonus. While waiting around for his contact to show, a young gypsy girl named Jana picks MacGyver's pocket. He catches her in the act only to let her go and she steals his knife again. Grodsky appears, so he has to forget about it, for now. It turns out the KGB are also watching him. They are waiting to see who he meets to pick up the list of names, which is concealed in an old pocket watch.

They begin to leave to make the exchange when our little friend Jana picks Grodsky's pocket and steals the watch. In the ensuing confusion, the KGB confront Grodsky who takes off and his hit by a truck and killed. The Russians naturally assume that MacGyver has the watch until they review their surveillance footage. The race is on to locate the girl and obtain the list.

Mac tracks Jana down at the same time that the Russians find her family. They are taken to a work camp and Mac has to bust them out as Jana gave the watch to her brother and only he knows where it is. Using this episode's only MacGyverism, Mac uses some salt, sugar and weed killer to cause a chemical reaction which makes an explosion; which is all he needs to steal a truck and break the gypsy family out of the camp.  The only problem is that Jana's brother has already sold the watch.

Needless to say, Mac tracks down the fence who has the watch and is able to talk her into giving it to him. Unfortunately, the KGB has also tracked her down. Mac makes a quick escape out the back where Jana and her brother are waiting to pick MacGvyer up, but they want something in return for helping him. They want to go tot he US.
Mac comes up with a plan using the road rally as a cover. They steal three Mini Coopers and borrowing footage from the Michael Caine film, The Italian Job, Mac causes a traffic jam and the three cars race about the city while being chased by the police and KGB. A good portion of the chase from the film is used in this episode, only slightly re-edited and a few cutaway shots of Richard Dean Anderson and the other actors in the cars added. Our intrepid heroes manage to cross the border into Austria just as the KGB catch up to them. A short phone call later and the gypsy family has been cleared for entrance into the United States. Mission accomplished.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Dead or Alive Western Collection

Another month is here and it's time for another budget label collection of Spaghetti Westerns. This time around it's the Dead or Alive Western Collection released by Pop Flix back in 2010. This set features five movies on two discs.
The Cover Art
This two disc set comes packaged in a standard two disc DVD keep case which features an image of actor Klaus Kinski from the His Name Was King movie poster. The reverse shows the original movie poster for each film in the set while giving it a write up which includes the running time and if the films are widescreen - all of them are.

The Discs
The Dead or Alive Western Collection includes one single sided, dual layer disc and one single sided, single layer disc. The first disc holds three movies, while the second features the remaining two. The same image of Klaus Kinski appears on the discs.

The Menus
The menu loads after the obligatory FBI warning and Pop Flix advertisement. Just like the Gunslinger Western Collection, there is a Main Menu where you can select which film you'd like to watch which leads to the film's menu which features a four chapter stops and the option to play.

The Movies
This set contains five movies, two or three per disc, and all of them are spaghetti westerns. Again, the plot summaries will be taken from the back cover while the reviews are from Spaghetti Westerns: The Good, the Bad and the Violent by Thomas Weisser.
Disc One
Black Killer (1971)
Starring:  Klaus Kinski
Directed by:  Carlo Croccolo
Music by:  Daniele Patucchi
Original Aspect Ratio:  2.35:1
DVD Aspect Ratio:  2.35:1 (anamorphic)
Original Runtime:  95 minutes
DVD Runtime:  95 minutes
Synopsis:  Violent outlaws overrun the town of Tombstone until a mysterious lawyer teams with a newly appointed sheriff to end their reign of terror!
Review:  Here's a textbook example of the spaghetti western genre, incorporating the "revenge for a slaughtered family" theme with the "evil town boss" motif. There's even a pair of mysterious gunfighting strangers, and (as a special bonus) there's a nasty gang of seven Mexican brothers discordantly named O'Hara, plus Klaus Kinski in a prominent full-length role.
Notes: As far as I'm aware, this is the best release of this title in the United States. It's the full film, in anamorphic widescreen and the print is pretty good too.

His Name Was King (1971)
Original Title:  Lo chiamavano King
Starring:  Richard Harrison, Klaus Kinski
Directed by:  Giancarlo Romitelli
Music by:  Luis Enríquez Bacalov
Original Aspect Ratio:  2.35:1
DVD Aspect Ratio:  2.35:1 (anamorphic)
Original Runtime:  96 minutes
DVD Runtime:  73 minutes
Synopsis:  Searching for the men who murdered his family, a mercenary tracks an unscrupulous sheriff and a vicious gang of gunrunners across the Mexican border.

Review:  Another variation on the revenge for a slaughtered family theme. Klaus Kinski's participation in this one clocks in at five minutes.

Notes:  This release seems to be the longest version available to date and the best version released in the US.

There's A Noose Waiting For You... Trinity (1972)
Original Title:  Il ritorno di Clint il solitario
Starring:  George Martin, Klaus Kinski
Directed by:  George Martin
Music by:  Ennio Morricone
Original Aspect Ratio:  not listed
DVD Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (anamorphic)
Original Runtime:  89 minutes
DVD Runtime:  80 minutes
Synopsis:  A wanted gunman with a mysterious bounty hunter on his trail returns home after five years to find his town terrorized by a gang of outlaws.
Review:  A particularly significant film, primarily because it is the only spaghetti western directed by a genre actor, George Martin. It's a series of episodic encounters, strongly benefiting from the participation of Klaus Kinski plus an Ennio Morricone soundtrack.
Notes:  Again, this would appear to be the longest version currently available. Wild East released this as a double feature with Clint the Nevada's Loner as Volume 18 of their Spaghetti Western Collection; however, the Pop Flix version is anamorphic.

Disc Two
Heads I Kill You, Tailes... You're Dead... They Call Me Halleluja (1971)
Original Title:  Testa t'ammazzo, croce... sei morto... Mi chiamano Alleluja
Starring:  George Hilton
Directed by:  Giuliano Carnimeo
Music by:  Stelvio Cipriani
Original Aspect Ratio:  2.35:1
DVD Aspect Ratio:  2.35:1 (anamorphic)
Original Runtime:  96 minutes
DVD Runtime:  92 minutes

Synopsis:  A bounty hunter must outwit bandidos, a Russian prince, and a secret agent posing as a nun when he is hired to steal a fortune in jewels from Emperor Maximillian.

Review:  A "wheels-within-wheels" double-cross movie directed by the number one most prolific spaghetti western champ with 13 films to his credit. And this one is among his best.
Notes:  An uncut version was released as part of the Halleluja Italo-Western Box from Koch Media in Germany.

The Moment To Kill (1968)
Original Title:  Il momento di uccidere
Starring:  George Hilton, Host Frank
Directed by:  Giuliano Carnimeo
Music by:  Francesco de Masi
Original Aspect Ratio:  2.35:1
DVD Aspect Ratio:  1.85:1 (anamorphic)
Original Runtime:  92 minutes
DVD Runtime:  89 minutes

Synopsis:  Two infamous gunmen leave a trail of corpses on their quest to recover a cache of lost Confederate gold!
Review:  Here's another genre western lensed by future cult director Stelvio Massi.  It's an effective double-cross movie...
Notes:  The print used here is fairly washed out, and the worst looking one in this collection.  Volume 30 of Wild East's Spaghetti Western Collection features this title paired with Full House for the Devil. The same print could have been used for both releases. It's also the longest one available.

Special Features
"You'll hurt your eyes looking for the chicken."  In other words, no special features are included with this release.

The Bottom Line
I'm beginning to be a fan of Pop Flix. Both of their collections that I own are solid releases and very affordable.  If you need any of these films for your collection, you could certainly do a lot worse than the Dead or Alive Western Collection.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Paperback Crusades

My last few posts have all been book related, so lets continue the trend with an article about Rob MacGregor's Indiana Jones series from issue 179 of Starlog.

Indiana Jones and the Paperback Crusades
by Rich Harvey

Harrison Ford has moved onto other projects (like this summer's Patriot Games), but Lucasfilm, Ltd. has been busy keeping Indiana Jones alive. While reminiscing about his heroic past on ABC's The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, the swashbuckling archaeologist has also returned in new book adventures by Rob MacGregor.
The first installment of his new series, published by Bantam Books, quietly appeared in bookstores in February 1991, but there were a few pitfalls awaiting Indiana Jones in the leap from film to paperback adventure.
"Originally, Ballantine Books was going to do this project," says MacGregor. "They had published the novelizations of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, so they had pretty much worked exclusively with Lucasfilm on different book-related projects. I prepared by proposals, they asked me to do some revisions, and I had done everything as they required. Then, Ballantine suddenly backed out and just didn't want it.
We started going out to other publishers, wondering who else might be interested. We got several rejections, and I was afraid that Lucy Autrey Wilson (of Lucasfilm) was going to give up. But she kept plugging away until Bantam said they were interested, so that saved the day."
MacGregor has a writer's credentials for adventure. He has written articles for the Miami Herald, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe and Newsday. He's a regular contributor to Omni. He also penned The Crystal Skull, a novel of hard-boiled intrigue and high adventure, and co-authored The Rainbow Oracle with Tony Grasso ("It's non-fiction, a book of divination. I guess it fits into the New Age category"). But his best known (and best selling) work is the novelization of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
These new stories trace Indy's pre-Raiders adventures, set in the 1920's, beginning with his graduation from college (after nearly being expelled). The time period offers further opportunities to explore Indy's personality and his past, through readers won't see other characters from the films and TV series, except for Dr. Marcus Brody. Indy will occasionally catch up with his college friend Jack Shannon, created by MacGregor, a student who spends as much time playing saxophone in jazz joints as he spends ribbing his adventuring friend.
"I wanted to write a book where Indy meets Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen in Raiders) for the first time," says MacGregor. "When he meets her again in Raiders, it's obvious that they had something going on when they were younger. I proposed some of these things, and most of them got shot down."
Lucasfilm expressed concern over continuity problems arising between MacGregor's stories and the TV series. As such, readers also won't see Indy's first confrontation with rival archaeologist Rene Belloq (from Raiders). The bitter relationship between Indy and his father, Henry Jones Sr. (Sean Connery in Last Crusade), won't be expanded upon either.
"It would be perfect for that to be developed," MacGregor says. "But I had to be very cautious about bringing up characters from the movies because of the TV series, where he's younger than my version. Otherwise, there may have been few problems between the novels and The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, because it's a separate time period. My stories pick up where the Chronicles leave off, when Indy's out of college and starting his career as an archaeologist. These novels are really meant to fill a gap in two different ways - the events in Indy's life between the Chronicles and the movies, and also the time gap between Last Crusade's release and the TV series."
With the first novel, Indiana Jones and the Peril at Delphi, Lucasfilm scrutinized his manuscript very closely, making sure it was faithful to the character. "There's still a basic format in which Indy has a confrontation with the unusual, as in Raiders of the Lost Ark. There has to be that mystical aspect of the book combined with the adventure. I played it low-key in my first draft of Peril at Delphi and Robert Simpson, my editor, emphasized that aspect. I rewrote the ending, and it came out much better."
This first adventure leads Indy to an archaeological dig in Greece, where the Oracle of Delphi's hidden tomb is located. A sultry professor seduces Indy, using him as her pawn to learn the secret of the Oracle's powers, which lie in an ancient relic know as the Omphalos.
In the sequel, Indiana Jones and the Dance of the Giants, the Omphalos is put inside Marcus Brody's museum for safe keeping. It's promptly stolen by a British Parliament member who intends to gather the pagans of Britain for a bi-annual ritual at Stonehenge. A very nervous Indiana Jones, who knows all too well the relic's terrible powers, sets out to stop them.
"The third book, Indiana Jones and the Seven Veils, takes place in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, Bahia and in the Amazon," says MacGregor. "It's a search for a missing adventurer named Colonel P.H. Fawcett, a real person who actually disappeared in the Amazon jungle in 1925."
MacGregor may have been destined to write the Indiana Jones adventure yarns. When he was assigned to novelize Last Crusade, the Ballantine editors found an author who not only share Indy's interests, but his background as well.
"I sort of fit in with the character somewhat," MacGregor adds hesitantly, "and I can relate to Indy. When I was in junior high school, we had to do these little reports of what we were going to be when we grew up. I was a freshman at the time, and I was the only one in the school who wanted to be an archaeologist."
More than just a childhood dream, MacGregor's archaeological desires were fueled by an interest in travel and exploring. He led the first group of UK journalists to the Lost City of Sierra Nevada in Columbia's Santa Marta Mountains in 1987, and has organized numerous adventure tours to South America for travel writers. He admits that they provide good background color for the globe-hopping Indiana Jones and private eye Nicholas Pierce, hero of MacGregor's Crystal Skull, but not much fodder for storylines.
"The tours are actually pretty tame," MacGregor admits. "The most unusual thing happened in the Lost City, where I was separated from the group and got left out in the jungle for a day. The helicopter couldn't get back to pick me up, and nobody knew what had happened to me. The tour group was out on the beach having lunch, and I was gone. I was out there with the Kogi Indians on this mountain that night and had a great time. It was an unusual experience. I enjoyed myself, and the next morning it was clear, so the helicopter landed and I gout out of there."
Being a man after Indy's heart, MacGregor's great interest in mythology, history and travel is quite evident throughout the series. Each novel is rich in detail of ancient myths and documented history, blending fact and fiction almost seamlessly. In the movie theaters, however, MacGregor felt he was watching a different story unfold with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Archaeological history was downplayed.
"When I saw the movie, I was disappointed," MacGregor confesses. "They had worked with the same script and condensed to get everything into two hours, and I was doing the opposite. I was expanding it, writing three pages for every one page of script, going into much more depth."
"The Holy Grail is handled quite superficially in the movie, almost mentioned in passing. In the novel, I was able to get into the background on the Holy Grail, and then build up the story."
MacGregor's greatest challenge was describing the rapid-paced action scenes in a manner that still made sense in cold print, which called fro him to trim away a few extra punches and motorcycle crashes. The scene with the tank posed a problem.
"With a novel, you're working in a different medium and you have to emphasize different things," MacGregor says. "You have to get those action scenes in there, of course, because it's an adventure novel. Likewise, there are things you can't show in the movie which can be brought out much better in the novel. But the special FX are what George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are known for, and I could never describe these scenes and equal the feeling you get from watching them."
MacGregor hopes that fans will give the paperbacks a chance, though many fans don't know about them or the Indy comics series from Dark Horse.  "I did a signing recently in Orlando." he recalls, "and I had Last Crusade, Peril at Delphi, and my other novel, The Crystal Skull. And they sold in that exact order. People related to Indy, and they related to what they knew, which was the movie."
When he's not trying to create new problems for the two-fisted hero, MacGregor temporarily hangs up Indy's bullwhip and fedora, scouting for other projects. One idea took him to Utah during 1991, one of the locales for Indiana Jones and the Unicorn Legacy, with the possibility of collaborating on a John Wayne biography. That has been shelved, due to a spate of similar books, but MacGregor has another idea he may develop in The Three Golden Pools.
"Ed Smarts, my collaborator, is somewhat of an adventurer himself, and he and John Wayne formed this mining company. He found these three pools in Panama, in a remote jungle region, which are filled with gold and gold nuggets. Twice - once around the time of Christopher Columbus and again around the turn of the century - they were dredged and a lot of gold was removed. This is real stuff. It's not fiction."
A gold mine of reference for the fourth Indy novel was unearthed. "Ed Smarts was a good source for Indiana Jones and the Genesis Deluge," says MacGregor. "I gave him an acknowledgement, because part of the story takes place in the 1927 Chicago ganglands. This guy lived in Chicago at that time, and has all kinds of journals and recollections. He sent me about 80 pages of notes pertaining to the period! It really helped.
"It sounds totally off-the-wall," MacGregor laughs, "but in The Genesis Deluge, Indy goes in search of Noah's Ark. He also gets punched in the face by Al Capone."
Given word by Bantam Books to continue the series, MacGregor has produced two more novels, which have actually fallen under more scrutiny from Lucasfilm than the original quartet. The TV producers are concerned that the paperbacks may be missing its core audience, but MacGregor kept writing, completing Indiana Jones and the Unicorn's Legacy and Indiana Jones and the Interior World.
"These started out to be very much adult novels," says MacGregor, "and I still consider them in that manner. But because the TV series is oriented to teens, they're figuring that my books will be purchased by that age group. They're concerned about things that I consider silly, like language and sex.
"Basically, it's not the kids we're worried about," he laughs, "but it's what their parents are gonna say. It's pretty mundane stuff compared to what the average kid knows and does. The last thing I was told was to remove all the 'hells' and 'damns.' It's silly, but they're protecting their asses, I guess."
Indiana Jones and the Unicorn's Legacy, due in September, takes place in the Southwest near the Anasazi ruins. This time, the main conflict involves the search for the mythical Alicorn, the unicorn's horn, and the folklore surrounding its healing and protective powers.
"In the Middle Ages, the Alicorn was thought to be a talisman of healing and protection, and there were actually historical records of one Alicorn being kept in Tower of London. There were a couple of other well-known ones in St. Mark's Basilica in Venice. Of course, we don't know exactly what these things were - people in the Middle Ages accepted unicorns as creatures that existed.
"These spiral horns did exist, but what they actually were is another question. They may have been related to a type of Arctic whale called the narwahl, which has an ivory spiral tusk. These were considered mystical relics, talismans, and this story follows what happened to one, how it came into possession of a certain family and how it was handed down."
Of course, Indiana Jones sets out in pursuit of this archaeological find, leading him to another two-part adventure. "There's always a myth and a relic involved," MacGregor explains, "and that's the basic context of all these stories. The Omphalos was it in the first two stories - Peril at Delphi and Dance of the Giants - and now it's the Alicorn."
Indiana Jones and the Interior World, to be published in December, follows Indy's journey into the mythical interior world, continuing the storyline after an unsuccessful attempt to forever seal away the Alicorn.
"Indy sealed the Alicorn away at a point in an outside the ruins of Hovenweep, where - at the spring and summer solstice - the sun comes through this crack in the wall, and two daggers of sunlight come together and touch. This is the exact beginning of the solstice or the equinox.
"Where Indy left the unicorn's horn turns out to be the entrance to the underworld. This relic falls into the hands of someone in the underworld and Indy is the only one who can confront this individual because he has already handled the Alicorn. The person who has the Alicorn can't be harmed.
"This being is trying to form a pact with Adolf Hitler. This sounds very far-out, but, historically, Hitler had a very strong interest in the underworld, and he believed that there was a race of super-humans that lived within the Earth. So, once again the Nazis and Hitler come back into play with Indy."
MacGregor has fulfilled his second commitment to produce Indiana Jones adventures, leaving his schedule open for other writing assignments. He may contribute further to Indiana Jones' legacy, though the series' continuation depends on Bantam and Lucasfilm. No one at The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles plans adaptations of the paperbacks either.
"They're pretty much avoiding anything relating to my stories," he says. "I've heard nothing, such as plans to so anything with these adventures."
For the present, Rob MacGregor will again hang up Indy's bullwhip and fedora, and begin anew his quest for other projects. Judging by his recollections, he may end up somewhere even Indiana Jones never dreamed of.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Man From O.R.G.Y.

While perusing the wares of the various vendors at the Printer's Row Book Fair last year, I stumbled across the Man From O.R.G.Y. books written by Ted Mark. Judging by the cover, which used the poster artwork for the Eurospy flick Dick Smart 2.007, I assumed these would be a more risque James Bond spoof, so I purchased the first two books in the series. Well, I finally got around to reading the first one, The Man From O.R.G.Y., and it's not what I expected at all.

From some cursory internet research, it appears that during the heyday of the Bond Phenomenon in 1965, Lancer Books began publishing this series starring Steve Victor who isn't really a secret agent. There were a total of fifteen books in the series which ran up until 1981. The Man From O.R.G.Y. also paved the way for a whole slew of other Bond spoof series.

The Man From O.R.G.Y. by Ted Mark
Published by Lancer Books in April 1968 (Fourteenth Printing)

The story begins with Steve Victor explaining that he is an expert in sex and has a Ph.D to prove it. He set up O.R.G.Y., the Organization for the Rational Guidance of Youth, as a way to receive grants to support his lifestyle. He is walking around the red light district in Damascus and hears a woman scream. He comes to the rescue of a beautiful woman who has run away from a Shiekh Taj-ed el Atassi's  harem. Unfortunately for Steve, the three men intent on raping the young woman are too much to for him to handle. Luckily, the police arrive, the thugs run off and Steve and Teska are brought to the police station.

And here is where our story really gets under way. The local police question Steve and hand him over to the American embassy where he is recruited by the mysterious Charles Putnam to find Anna Kirkov, the daughter of a Russian nuclear scientist. To do so, it will appear that he is a defector working with the Russians. Anna was last seen at the Shiekh's harem. 

I'm sure you can see where this is going. Steve agrees, beds Teska (multiple times) and she agrees to get him into the harem and befriend the Shiekh. Steve finds himself traveling to the seedy areas of Baghdad, Kabul, Calcutta, Vietnam and Tokyo.  Along the way he finds himself enjoying some horizontal refreshment from two or three more women, watching a lesbian sex show, refusing oral stimulation from a Chinese boy, being captured by and escaping from the CIA, being captured by and escaping from British Intelligence, being captured by and conning the Russians, avoiding the Red Chinese, being captured by and conning Shiekh Taj-ed el Atassi and finally being captured by the man who kidnapped Anna Kirkov, Moustafa Ben Narouz.

The ending was not really what I expected. Needless to say, Steve Victor killed the bad guy and saved the girl. Miss Kirkov, who was kidnapped by Ben Narouz so the Red Chinese could get Russia's nuclear secrets, is handed back over to the Russians. The Russians believe that she is a defector and she can't expect any help from her father, the well respected party member, because he has defected to the Red Chinese. It's a rather good cold war twist. But Mr. Victor's conquests are not complete because he doesn't get to bed the sexy British Intelligence agent who caught him earlier, so what does he do? Why go to a brothel, of course.
The book contains quite a few sexual situations including one particularly nasty rape scene when Ben Narouz has Anna Kirkov gang raped by four Chinese thugs and a dog in his attempt to convince a woman to give herself to him freely. I found that scene quite distasteful, to say the least. Some of Steve's sordid encounters are written in a way to appear somewhat sophisticated by making reference to the Kama Sutra and the sexual practices of other cultures.  There was one clever bit where the villain reveals that the Gulf of Tonkin crisis is his doing in order for their ship to make port in South Vietnam without being detected by the Americans.

I haven't decided if I liked this book or not.  I wasn't offended and it was a somewhat enjoyable read, for the most part. I'll eventually read the second book, but it's not a high priority.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Make My Day

Back in the early eighties when Dirty Harry was at the height of popularity, Warner Books put out a series of twelve Dirty Harry novels as part of their Men of Action lineup. The books were all written by Dane Hartman, which appears to be a pseudonym for authors Ric Meyers and Leslie Alan Horvitz. Just remember, "a man's got to know his limitations."

Duel For Cannons (1981)

Dirty Harry - The crimebuster nothing can stop, not even the law!

"Dirty Harry" Callahan blasts his way from the mean streets of San Francisco to the blazing byways of San Antonio. His target - a crime boss who's got the whole town, including the cops, under his thumb. Harry's all alone now, with nothing but a .44 Magnum and a bagful of dirty tricks between him and instant death!

Death on the Docks (1981)

For "Dirty Harry" Callahan, it's a labor of hate 
when he busts a labor racketeer!

There are some guys in this world even dirtier than Harry Callahan. Like union czar Matt Braxton, the biggest deal on the docks. He's corrupt enough to be cozy with the Mob, rich enough to afford friends in the highest places, ruthless enough to kill anything that stands in his way. Dirty Harry's standing there all right - and he doesn't intend to give an inch.

The Long Death (1981)

Dirty Harry - The cop more savage than any criminal alive!

Someone is grabbing young women from the bars, campuses, and streets of San Francisco and doing unspeakable things to their minds and bodies. Someone is setting up cops against black nationalists in a violent inter-city war, playing both sides for bloody fools. Someone is looking for deadly trouble when a gorgeous policewoman baits "Dirty Harry" Callahan into a showdown that can only be settled by bare fists and Magnum lead!

The Mexico Kill (1982)

"Dirty Harry" is on a rampage against a mob-run dope network 
only he can bust!

Not even losing his badge can keep "Dirty Harry" Callahan away from Magnum-powered action. Now Harry's working for a millionaire, and battling dope-running sea pirates from San Francisco to Mexico's heroin-packed shores. Behind the scenes and the big guns is his old enemy Father Nick. An underworld kingpin and ex-con, Nick can't let the past die - and Harry won't let the mobsters live!

Family Skeletons (1982)

For "Dirty Harry" it's a homecoming in hell as he blazes through Boston's combat zone!

"Dirty Harry" Callahan stalks a mass murderer through Boston's infamous underworld where crooked cops are usually looking the other way. Once it was the Boston Strangler - now the killer's got a knife and is carving up college girls. Dirty Harry will slice through the slime to find him.

City of Blood (1982)

Only "Dirty Harry" Callahan can stop the "Snuff" Psycho 
on his 'Frisco rampage!

Winos brutally slain on San Francisco's skid row. Beautiful young women butchered in the act of sex by a perverted killer. The acts of two men - or one? Not even Dirty Harry knows. But he's going to find out, if he has to break every law to do it. From 'Frisco's sexual underground to the boardrooms in the city's sky, Harry plunges into a blood-streaked manhunt that will leave only one survivor.

Massacre At Russian River (1982)

"Dirty Harry" Callahan - He fights for the law of the land, 
he lives by the rule of the gun!

A lot of grass - the illegal kind - grows in the hills of Northern California. Where there's marijuana, there's money. Where there's money, there's murder. And where there's murder, there's Dirty Harry. In a wilderness where even the local cops are criminal, Harry must live - and kill - by a law higher than the law of the land: his own.

Hatchet Men (1982)

East meets West in a blaze of fury!

From the hills of San Francisco to the towers of Chicago, a savage struggle for power rages between Japanese and Chinese mobsters, expert killers with hand, sword, or gun. Then they kidnap Harry Callahan's beautiful, part-time lover. Enter the dragon, Dirty Harry - Magnum blazing!

The Killing Connection (1982)

Damned if he does, damned if he doesn't. Dirty Harry stands alone!

Anything goes in San Francisco, but now it's gone too far! Somebody is carving up beautiful lesbians - and that somebody has the right friends. Only Harry can stop the slaughter, but now both the gays and the cops stand in his way. Will he have time? The answer is at the end of a barrel - a .44 Magnum barrel!

The Blood of Strangers (1982)

Dirty Harry - Breaking the rules and making his own!

Terrorists! Airports and public places are their stage. Civilians are their targets. The spread of chaos is their game. Now Dirty Harry wants to play - for keeps. On battlefields from Frisco to Beirut to El Salvador, in the company of a beautiful TV newswoman, he leaves a trail of hot blood and bullets as he searches beyond the Libyan connection for the source of this savagery. Dirty Harry - breaking every law to get the criminals, making his law to fit the crime.

Death in the Air (1983)

Dirty Harry is gunning for blood - stalking a killer protected by the power of the US government!

The Magnum-powered action doesn't stop for Dirty Harry - not even on Christmas Eve. Now Harry's after a killer who celebrates the holiday season by shoving women beneath the wheels of speeding subway trains. But when he unmasks the killer as a hitman for a renegade government scientist, Harry himself is marked for death. With the most powerful handgun ever made in his hands, Harry must blow that scientist to kingdom come or never live to see the New Year himself.

The Dealer of Death (1983)

Mad dog vigilante cop!

That's what the papers are calling Dirty Harry. Some dude who's no friend of Harry's has lifted his prize Magnum and is blasting some of his worst enemies out of this world.

Harry wants to get his name clean, his gun back, and put an end to the "dead man" who's playing Harry's hand in a game of life and death.