Monday, April 30, 2012

The Flying Saucer Mystery



I have been wanting to see THE FLYING SAUCER MYSTERY for years. According to what I had read of it, it was a "short documentary" that dated from the early 1950s. It is cited as the first-ever dedicated non-fiction film on the UFO story.

Well, calling it a "short documentary" is stretching things more than a little. It's a newsreel. Based on the contents, it is almost certainly from 1952. That doesn't make it less interesting. It's a bit sensationalistic in places, but also goes out of its way to offer more skeptical theories.

I'm actually impressed by THE FLYING SAUCER MYSTERY. It gives time to people like Frank Scully and Donald Keyhoe, who were deep in the UFO thing (check out Scully's wild assertions), but also never descends entirely into hysteria. It's pretty even-handed. I'd have been super-disappointed if I'd bought it and discovered it was less than 15 minutes, but it's a fascinating time capsule of its era.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Fickle Finger Of Doctor Fate, Addendum

In reading my last installment on the Golden Age Doctor Fate, I noticed that I brought up the return of older villains Mr. Who and the Clock as "evidence" of something. However, I never quite connected the dots as far as what that something was. This is one of those times when something made so much sense in my head, but never made it into the text.

Basically, I have the feeling that the Doctor Fate stories in More Fun Comics #89, #91, and #92 are inventory scripts which were written and purchased prior to the strip's change of direction in #85. With a few minor changes, they were slotted onto the schedule well after they should have been written off. I won't hazard a guess as to why, but it is telling that after these stories, Fate was de-emphasized before finally being phased out entirely after #98.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Super Riders - Now With Chinese

The Super Rider movies were, as far as I know, the first inkling Western fans had that there were Chinese/Japanese hybrid superhero movies. I credit Damon Foster with bringing them to light, though a picture from FRANKENSTEIN'S KUNG-FU MONSTER had turned up sans explanation in an issue of FAMOUS MONSTERS in the 1970s. The Super Riders are by far the most famous of these anomalies, and are also the ones we know the most about. However, that doesn't meant they aren't still filled with mystery.

When I started my discussion of these movies a few weeks ago, I was hashing over some of my findings and conclusions with Igadevil. He finally threw up his hands in frustration and declared that it was all entirely too confusing. I fear this entry will do nothing to change his mind, despite the fact that I've had to rethink some of the ideas that set me on this path in the first place.

First, let's get one thing straight. There are THREE Super Riders films, not just two. Unfortunately, it appears the one based on FIVE RIDERS VS. KING DARK has not resurfaced. This is the movie referred to as KARATEKAS DEL ESPACIO in some Spanish language lobby cards. It has an entry on the Chinese language Wikipedia, but no entry on the HKMDB. I get the feeling it hasn't been seen in any form since the 1970s.

Here are the three Super Riders entries from the Chinese Wikipedia, in order of their supposed release date. Original running times and primary English titles are also supplied.


閃電騎士V3 - THE SUPER RIDER V3, November 11, 1975 (91 min.)

閃電五騎士 - THE FIVE OF SUPER RIDER, January 23, 1976 (97 min.)

閃電騎士大戰地獄軍團 - THE SUPER RIDER aka SUPERRIDERS AGAINST THE DEVILS, SUPER RIDERS WITH THE DEVIL, July 17, 1976 (98 min.)


So, did you notice the real oddity there? No, I don't mean the FIVE RIDERS movie bearing the unwieldy title THE FIVE OF SUPER RIDER (though that is admittedly pretty great). I mean the bizarre chronology of these movies. If the Chinese Wikipedia is to be believed (and it specifically points this out), the V3 came FIRST, then the 5 Riders movie, and the story of Super Riders 1 and 2 comes LAST!

I am of two minds on this revelation. On the one hand, I suppose it's possible that someone screwed up the dates on Wikipedia and the order really should be the same as the Japanese counterparts. On the other hand, this is just so bizarre that it has the ring of truth to it. I mean, would they really call attention to this anomaly if they didn't have a basis in fact for it?

Only why? My best guess would be that Kamen Rider V3 was the one who got over big in other parts of Asia. That might make him a good candidate for remake treatment as "Super Rider V3" (worth noting that 閃電騎士 literally translates as "Lightning Knight"). Since the original and its follow-up were apparently successful, all that was left as far as theatrical 35mm Rider movies after them were the first two. That could explain why the third/first film comes several months after the others - it was a "prequel" that wasn't part of the original plan at all.

This does go a long way in explaining the differing marketing approaches to the two Super Rider films in Germany. SUPER RIDER V3 came out as FRANKENSTEINS KUNG-FU MONSTER, cashing in on both the German penchant for including Frankenstein in titles randomly and the kung-fu movie craze. SUPER RIDERS WITH THE DEVIL came out as KRIEG DER INFRAS and was implied as a follow-up to INFRA-MAN (which was INVASION AUS DEM INNEREN DER ERDE in Germany). Now I get it. The V3 movie was FIRST, and the Super Riders came out after INFRA-MAN. That also might explain how THE FIVE OF SUPER RIDER seemingly fell through the cracks there, as it is unknown to German fans, too.

The Super Riders movies are a product of the Tong Hsing Film Co, Ltd. 東星電影事業股份有限公司, which Google tells me means "East Star Film Company." As I noted previously, this name is suspiciously similar to the name of the allegedly Hong Kong-based production company responsible for MARS MEN. There doesn't seem to be much data on this company, since it is only listed for the single SUPER RIDERS WITH THE DEVIL movie on the HKMDB. I guess that's not much of a surprise. What is a bit surprising is there is some question over whether these movies were authorized by Toei or not. Western fans had sort of taken it for granted that they were, based on their quality costumes alone. If it turns out these ARE unauthorized movies like the Chaiyo Rider flick (more on this too), they are far and away some of the best of their kind.

Speaking of the HKMDB, I'd be remiss if I didn't link the entries to the Super Rider movies there. Regrettably, as noted earlier, THE FIVE OF SUPER RIDER is M.I.A. However, both SUPER RIDER V3 and SUPERRIDERS AGAINST THE DEVILS are listed. It's cool to finally be able to put names to some of the people we've been just referring to as "that guy" for years.

Man Kong-Lung is Super Rider 1
Li Yi-Min is Super Rider 2
Woo Gwan is Super Rider V3
Sung Ling-Yuk is Super Rider 4 (female Riderman)
Seung Fung is the "Chinese Tobei Tachibana"
Koo Kwan is the "Chinese Dr. Shinugami"

So while there are still mysteries aplenty, it's nice to have some solid grounding with these films. They are real, the people in them have names, and they have release dates. My only problem is that learning all of this has completely shot my little theory about HANUMAN AND THE FIVE KAMEN RIDERS totally to pieces!

In Thailand, หนุมานพบ 5 ไอ้มดแดง (literally, "Hanuman and the 5 Ant Men") was the sequel to Chaiyo's Hanuman/Ultra Brothers movie. It was released on March 15, 1975. Take note of that date. It is TEN MONTHS prior to the Taiwan release of THE FIVE OF SUPER RIDER! There is no possible way for these movies to be connected, other than the fact that they are both based on the same Japanese film.

So if I'm so smart, NOW how do I explain how Chaiyo has never gotten their pants sued off for their movie? How are they able to keep it available? Well, my somewhat feeble idea is that perhaps they legitimately purchased the Thai release rights to the first available Kamen Rider movie (which happened to be FIVE RIDERS VS. KING DARK) and then built their movie around it in much the same way American distributors handled Toho's films like GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS, VARAN THE UNBELIEVABLE, TIDAL WAVE, etc. This makes a certain degree of sense, and depending on the contract, they might be able to retain the rights. I'm not sure if FIVE RIDERS VS. KING DARK has gotten a legit release or not in Thailand in recent years.

This is all, of course, pure speculation on my part. Maybe I'm wrong and the explanation is as simple as everyone has always postulated. How Chaiyo obtained a print of FIVE RIDERS VS. KING DARK if that's really what happened is anyone's guess. But hey, anything's possible!

Speaking of anything being possible, get a load of this:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Autobahn

Our journey back in time with Casey Kasem and AMERICAN TOP 40 this past weekend was to April 19, 1975. I have to say, the middle part of the decade might just be my favorite when it comes to music. There is such a wide range of things that were popular, and even disco had not yet descended into utter monotony. Look at how many songs on that list are really good.

One of the more striking entries on that countdown for me was Kraftwerk's "Autobahn". Now, as I said, the Top 40 was pretty eclectic in that period, and truthfully, oddball songs have always found a place on the charts. Still, has there ever been a more unlikely Top 40 hit? Kraftwerk's music seems wholly different than anything else that was populating the American airwaves. I know there is an urge to include it with disco, but it doesn't even match up with that style very well.

"Autobahn" made it as high as 25 on the U.S. charts, and that seems to have been unexpected by everyone. Here is a video of the single edit. I'm sparing you the album cut, which is over 22 minutes. Not that it's bad by any means, but that might be more Autobahn than most people could take.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

GMB-7SL Contest 2012: Noman


GMB-7SL Contest 2012: Noman by ~celamowari on deviantART

Oh dear, I hadn't posted this here yet, had I? Well, since I am still working on some stuff for this blog (including the long-promised Super Riders entry), now is as good a time as any to post this picture. Besides, the contest is almost entering the voting stage!

This is my entry in the 8th(!) annual GMB-7SL Contest sponsored by my pal Lewis over on dA. The objective is to draw fan art of one of his creations. This year, I chose Noman from Seven Spheres Legend

I usually make my choices for a reason, and this one was no exception. I figured the connection I had made to NoMan of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents would come as a surprise to no one, given that this is me we're talking about here. Ah-ha, but did anyone see a reference to THE ODYSSEY in the cards? I wager they did not.

All I can say is that cyclops with his propeller beanie is my New Favorite.

Monday, April 23, 2012

TV Sherpa: Kitten


Kitten is another public domain superhero. In fact, she's the sidekick of Cat-Man, as seen in our last "TV Sherpa" entry. So it's only natural she'd be Entry #2.

Rather than have Kitten be a young girl or a teenager, I elected to have her portrayed as a grown woman. Specifically, she's a woman inspired by Rene Bond. That accounts for the brunette hair and the exciting proportions. The latter, by the way, are perhaps toned-down a bit from Rene's actual measurements after she blazed a trail with breast implants in the 1970s.

The actress is named Eve East. This is one of my more obvious inside jokes, but darn it all, I love the name. Beyond that reference, I wouldn't read too much into it. Eve plays a significant role in the more contemporary Captain Satellite world, too. After leaving acting, she went into politics and wound up getting elected mayor of El Oceano. Maybe one day, we'll do a latter-day pic of her in that role.

Another five star commission by Kabuki Katze! But hey, you don't have to just tell me about how great it is. You can tell her, too!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Who Created the Comic Books?

I have something in mind for next week, assuming my Internet doesn't keep going down when a cloud floats across the sky. This likely means yet ANOTHER delay in my long-promised Super Riders entry, with the only solace in that respect being that it should be following soon afterward. Sorry about this - it's another reason I'm loathe to serialize anything here. It just takes me too darn long to follow up on things!

Meantime, I'd like to point out that I've added a number of new sites to my blogroll. I'm not 100% certain all of them will be staying there indefinitely, but they're all worth a peep. Particularly recommended if you enjoy comics and the occasional amateur detective work I do here is Martin O'Hearn's Who Created the Comic Books?. This blog is dedicated to assigning credit to previously uncredited comic books. It's a fascinating and valuable read!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Club Devo - Now All-New!

Well, it looks like Devo is striking out on their own as an indy band again! Referring to "these post-Warner Brothers days", their website at Club Devo has relaunched and has a whole new look. They're already doing some exciting things over there!

I'm a big fan of Devo, and anything that gets their message out is OK in my book. Duty Now For The Future!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ideal's Robot Commando



As I procrastinate in working on a couple of planned entries, I thought I'd point you to David McRobie's Xenorama. He's been doing theme months lately, and April is TV commercials. In that spirit, I post this video for Ideal's Robot Commando toy.

I love this ad, since it emulates giant monster movies so well. This is the kind of thing that won't fly anymore, due to the FCC's pesky regulations about depicting things that can't actually happen. Those flying planes would nix this one now.

Still, it's a great spot. I was never so dumb when I was a kid to think my toys could perform super feats, but hey, I guess that's a thing.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

TV Sherpa: Cat-Man


Bit of an explanation for this series, yes? Yes.

Cat-Man is a Golden Age superhero who has fallen into the public domain. This is an important distinction, because it's why I drafted him into my particular universe in the first place. I wanted Captain Satellite's world to have its own pop culture, and that meant it would need its own specific set of comic book heroes to make the rounds of other media. It seemed silly to divert time into crafting brand-new characters for such a limited role, so I instead latched onto the concept of re-imagining PD heroes for this purpose.

Cat-Man was an easy choice in this regard. He sort of looks like Batman. His costume is appropriately silly, and went through so many permutations that there's no one "right" way to depict him. I wanted to create a fictional TV show in the mold of the 1960s BATMAN, and Cat-Man was perfect for the part.

As far as "Bruce Chase", that's the name of the ACTOR, not Cat-Man's in-story alter ego. The name was one that originated as a possible secret identity for Captain Satellite, and I thought it would be fun to reuse for an overblown superhero thespian. Bruce is a guy that I imagine as a synthesis of William Shatner and Adam West, only even broader and more exaggerated. Hammy acting, for the win!

This series is the work of Kabuki Katze, and it owes its name specifically to her work. You see, "TV Sherpa" was HER joke, and it came from this series of commissions. She was delighted to recycle it for this series when I asked for it, and I really think it adds to the feeling to have a faux TV Guide cover with Our Hero.

I keep referring to this as a series, don't I? Yes, my friend, there will be three more of these in your future. While you await them, why not peep out Kabu's gallery page for this piece?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Shigeru Araki

"The heavens call...
The earth cries out...
The crowds roar...
All calling on me to strike back at evil.
Now listen up, villains!
I am the warrior of justice,
the Masked Rider Stronger."

(Translated quote courtesy of Igadevil's old Kamen Rider Stronger page.)

I'm preempting my examination of the Super Riders for a few days (look for it Thursday at the earliest) to reflect on some sad news. My pal Igadevil reported over the weekend that Shigeru Araki, best known as Kamen Rider Stronger's alter ego Shigeru Jo, has passed away at the age of 63. Araki is only the second Showa Rider to go to his final rest, and the first was Akira Yamaguchi (Joji Yuki/Riderman) way back in 1986.

It's a sobering thought, but as time marches on, this sort of news will likely become more commonplace. It wasn't that long ago that Shunsuke Ikeda (Ichiro from KIKAIDA-01) left us. Though most of these guys were young when they starred in shows in the 1970s, the calendar pages keep turning. They're not immortal, even though they seem that way to us as their fans. That's why it's important to appreciate these folks while they are still around to hear the accolades.

In a sad irony (as I noted in my comment on Iga's entry), Kyoko Okada, Araki's co-star in STRONGER as Yuriko Misaki, passed away in 1986 at the age of 27. That means that the three main cast members of KAMEN RIDER STRONGER - Araki, Okada, and Akiji Kobayashi (died 1996) - are all gone. Doesn't seem possible.

Friday, April 13, 2012

This Is Hardcore Service

Not that long ago, I was discussing my power supplier with my friend Kabuki Katze. Why? The reasons escapes me, but she was fascinated that a local company like Beauregard Electric even exists in this day and age. And I have to say, despite grumbling on occasion, I'm glad it does.

Remember, I live in what is essentially a rural area. That means there are a lot more things that can knock out our power. Generally speaking, it's usually restored in a reasonable amount of time. We get quality service and we pay reasonable rates. Plus, there's the sense that the people there care about doing a good job.

Don't believe me. Check out this picture:

We recently had some storms that not only knocked out power to certain areas (not mine this time), but led to impressive flooding. Those are BECI workers rowing a boat into a flooded forest to try to find the source of an outage and gets lights back on for those folks. Hardcore service, man.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Burger Chef

Burger Chef was my favorite fast food chain restaurant as a kid. It even trumped the mighty McDonald's for my affection. Now, whether this was due to the quality of the food or the "Funmeals" (which predate the Happy Meal), I have no idea. Probably, it was a bit of both.

Somewhat amazingly, I still have some of my Burger Chef stuff from way back in the day. Some of the King Kong glasses (from the 1976 movie) are still in the cabinet in my mom's kitchen. I cannot tell you if I still have THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK posters, but I was the proud owner of all three back in 1980 (and they were wicked awesome). That was another thing Burger Chef had going for them - tie-ins to STAR WARS at its height. But they also had their own stable of characters, like Burger Chef and Jeff and an array of friendly monsters. In my record collection, I even have one of their flexi-discs featuring those characters.

Of course, Burger Chef did not survive the 1980s. I bet there are a lot of folks reading this that have never even heard of it. Many of our local stores were converted into Mr. Cook Restaurants, but that regional chain has since passed into memory as well. My personal favorite was the one on U.S. 171 (Martin Luther King Highway), where a motel currently resides. That one never became a Mr. Cook, and was torn down many years ago, but the memories still persist.

For more memories of this long lost chain, you can visit Burger Chef Memories and JSF's Burger Chef Tribute. I also found this collection of Burger Chef commercials which someone very thoughtfully strung together. You can glimpse a little of the KING KONG and STAR WARS themed promotions in them! Oh, and if you want to blame someone for this entry, blame David McRobie. I know I do, ha!

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Fickle Finger Of Doctor Fate, Part 3

(Once again, I take too long to follow through on these things. Please see Part 1 and Part 2.)

Someone with more knowledge than your humble blogger once offered the theory that the changes in the Doctor Fate strip could be attributed to a new editor wanting to switch things up. This works pretty well when the shift from Whitney Ellsworth to Mort Weisinger (even though Ellsworth was still the "official" editor) signaled a new direction for the feature almost immediately. However, the arrival of Jack Schiff to replace a drafted Weisinger doesn't quite coincide with the next radical alteration in tone. It appears to have been in the works and Schiff just went along with it.

So what exactly was this "new" Doctor Fate being introduced in More Fun Comics #85 supposed to entail? Well, believe it or not, the hook was that he had been studying medicine in his spare time and was going to become a real (medical) doctor! Inza is delighted by this and puts forth the idea that she might become a nurse. Thus, in the span of one page, Kent Nelson goes from playboy to doctor, with barely any lip service given at all to medical school. Oh, and he also drops the cape from his heroic identity.

It's a BIZARRE change that appears designed primarily to give a little direction to a strip that had lost its way in the transition to traditional superhero feature. Certainly, the next few installments focus heavily on this new setting. It just seems like an unusual concession to literalism to make Doctor Fate into a medical doctor. Certainly, Dr. Mid-Nite in All-American Comics had those bases covered.

To make matters even more confusing, over in All-Star Comics on the All-American side, this new change in Doctor Fate was never reflected in the JSA. Fate still hung onto his cape and the business of being a doctor was never even alluded to as near as I can remember. What makes this even crazier is that Gardner Fox wrote both!

Be that as it may, Doctor Fate made the leap into superhero medical drama over the course of the next few issues. He went to work at the Weatherby Free Clinic and even gained a new supporting cast member in Dr. Roland. There were also prominent speaking roles given to a nurse (or nurses) that went unidentified. I suspect this might have been meant to be Inza, but it looks like they changed their minds about that detail. Inza did stick around, though she never became a nurse.

Then things get strange and sort of hard to explain. More Fun #89 has a story that had absolutely nothing to do with the doctor thing and never depicts Kent Nelson as a doctor. Old script pulled out of mothballs? Could be, especially since #90 has another medically-themed story. But then, in #91, we see the return of Mr. Who!

To backtrack, Mr. Who was last seen in #79. Another sequel was teased, but unlike the quick follow-ups in the early months of the half-helmet Fate, it didn't come. That is, not until a year later. #92 saw a return bout with the Clock, a minor villain who had previously appeared in #81. What was going on?

It looks for all the world that Schiff, Fox, and company had abandoned any notion of Dr. Fate being more than a page-filler by this point. The medical angle was dropped, and though some mention was made of it here and there, it never figured into a plot again. Kent Nelson was only sparingly shown as a doctor. Inza finally disappeared entirely, with #90 being her last appearance in More Fun. The page count shrank. Doctor Fate had finally fallen from being a cover feature to just being something to round out the book.

There is speculation that some of the last few Fate stories were not written by Gardner Fox, though he believed he wrote the whole run of the character. Given the tone shifts, it's not hard to imagine another hand somewhere in there. There's also the fact that an unidentified wizard is claimed to be the one who gave Fate his powers, rather than Nabu. Nevertheless, it's accepted that Howard Sherman DID finally depart, and he was replaced by Jon Chester Kozlak for the last few stories.

The handwriting was on the wall for Doctor Fate. When More Fun Comics shrank to 52 pages, was anyone truly surprised that it was Fate that was given his walking papers? More Fun Comics #98 (July-August 1944) was the character's last appearance until Justice League of America #21 (August 1963). He had lost what made him unique and just sort of puttered along until getting squeezed out. It would take the Silver and Bronze Ages to restore what made Doctor Fate a cool character.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Captain Satellite, Sketch Commission Style


Why look, here's another commission by Sean Moore! This time, it's Captain Satellite, the centerpiece of my little Owariverse. Sean gave Cap a "facing the future" sort of pose that I am really digging. Plus, he included the Multi-Gun! Who doesn't love retro ray guns, I ask you?

Sean has this piece on his dA account, too. Drop by, say hello, leave some feedback and take a look around. I suspect you'll like what you see!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Not The Vigilante (Really)


So this image popped up on my Tumblr dashboard the other day, posted by a fella named Dudesmacdougal. It set off alarm bells immediately. For one, that cowboy looks suspiciously like DC's Vigilante. For another, that pulp magazine is called Leading Western? Seriously? If you're familiar with DC's Golden Age, you know that one of the books that featured the Vigilante was Leading Comics.

Obviously, someone was working us. This cover had to be a fake - a relatively recent piece of artwork. Someone had skillfully doctored it up and made it look vintage. Heck, I've been party to a few fake covers myself! The cover was awesome, but there was no way something so "on the nose" could be real.

I went looking for the artist. That's what I do when I find something unattributed that I think is cool. Trouble was, nothing really came up. I even tried searching for some of the "clues" embedded in the piece. No dice. All I found was the cover in someone's Flickr account. But I did learn that there really WAS a "Leading Western" pulp. Huh.

Out of curiosity as much as anything else, I joined the Western Pulps group. I brought the cover to them and asked them to clear up the mystery for me. If nothing else, they could confirm for me that there was no real pulp like this. Things didn't turn out the way I had anticipated.

Holy cow, it's real! Specifically, this is Leading Western V.2, #5 (Nov. 1946). That means that about one year after the Vigilante disappeared from the pages of Leading Comics (which switched to funny animals and ultimately evolved into Leading Screen Comics), an identical cowboy was featured on cover of Leading Western! The mind wobbles!

Is this just a crazy coincidence? Apparently, yes. The Vigilante was still a year away from his highest profile (starring in his own Columbia serial), so I cannot see this as being a deliberate allusion to the character. Or is it? The artist (still don't know who it is) could have conceivably modeled his cowboy after Vig. After all, it's a powerful look. But there's also a little fact about Speed Publications, Leading Western's publisher, that I either didn't know or had forgotten. "Speed" was an imprint that had been used by Culture/Spicy Publications after they needed to change their name due to some legal unpleasantries. Trojan (the name of the company by 1946) was owned by Harry Donnenfeld and Jack Leibowitz.

You know, the same two guys who then owned what we now think of as DC Comics.

Mysteries within mysteries. Still, it really does fill my heart with happiness to know the world is crazy enough that, somehow, this pulp magazine cover is totally real. I had it pegged as something modern, but am happy to be proven wrong.

EDIT: Commenter Joe Moore revealed that the cover artist is Joseph Szokoli. Given Szokoli's connections, it sure seems likely he was at least aware of the Vigilante. Furthermore, this painting is featured in Illustration Magazine #35 (Fall 2011), reproduced from the original art!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Midnight Plane to Houston

Wait, don't I mean "Midnight Train to Georgia"? The song made famous by Gladys Knight and the Pips? That one, right?

No. But also, yes.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"noisy annoying noisy room?"

Continuing our ongoing quest to sort out the assorted Chinese and Thai permutations of Japanese superheroes, today we return our attention to MARS MEN. As you may recall, it was an English language poster for that film which started this off in the first place. Confusingly, the poster came from Japan's Shochiku Company. That indicated the possibility that they were the ones who distributed the film abroad, possibly on behalf of Tsuburaya Productions.

First, we need to back up and consider the Thai version of this movie for a moment. To do this, it's helpful to consult the Thai Wikipedia entry for it, which is under its original title ยักษ์วัดแจ้งพบจัมโบ้เอ. As best I can tell, ยักษ์วัดแจ้งพบจัมโบ้เอ is literally "Yak Wat Jang Wu Jumbo A" (spelling varies). However, the English name for that stone idol seems to be "Giant" or "Titan". The Japanese name for the movie (despite it never getting released in Japan) is ジャンボーグA&ジャイアント ("Jumborg Ace and Giant"), while the Thai translation is given as "Titan and Jumbo A".

Regardless of what you call it, the Thai Wikipedia gives a premiere of March 16, 1974 for this movie. That's sort of intriguing, since that means it precedes both Chaiyo's Ultra and Rider films by months. Other sources list "April 1974", but the fact remains that the Jumborg Ace film came out before the more familiar 6 Ultra Brothers film by six months. Kinda surprising, if you ask me.

I found a clip from ยักษ์วัดแจ้งพบจัมโบ้เอ on Youtube that is subtitled for some reason. Though I don't think I still own a copy of MARS MEN, I can tell you that is definitely not a part of it. Believe me, I would remember. This clip is notable for having the worst English subtitles I have ever seen. Both David McRobie and Igadevil found this claim dubious until they watched the clip. See what you think.



If you still have functioning brain cells after that (and I understand if you don't), we'll proceed.

There is helpful information on MARS MEN at the end of the Chinese entry for SUPER RIDERS WITH THE DEVIL, just like there was for ROBOTER DER STERNE. If anything, this sub-section is slightly more helpful than the one on the Mach Baron movie. It tells us that MARS MEN (literally 火星人 in Chinese) was released July 4, 1976 and ran 94 minutes. It also lists the production company for it as 星華電影事業(香港)有限公司 (Star Chinese Film Industry (Hong Kong) Co., Ltd.?) and the releasing company as 太子電影事業有限公司 (Prince Film Industry Co., Ltd.?).

Some things jump out at me from this information. One, MARS MEN came out over two years after "Titan and Jumbo A". This blows a hole in my theory that it was part of an exchange between Chaiyo and the Taiwanese film company. An even bigger hole is created by the revelation that MARS MEN is also of Hong Kong origins, just like ROBOTER DER STERNE! However, I should point out that the Hong Kong company responsible for producing MARS MEN has a name that is suspiciously similar to the Taiwanese company responsible for the Super Rider movies. The presence of one of the Super Riders as the male lead does nothing to dispel the notion that something is going on here.

My best guess at this point is that MARS MEN was an arrangement with Tsuburaya Productions rather than Chaiyo. The existence of the Shochiku poster tips my inclination in that direction. The sizable gap between Thai and Chinese versions is another point. Tsuburaya had to know that Chaiyo's movies were not going to fly outside of Thailand and it took a HUGE demand for Ultra product for 6 ULTRABROTHERS VS. THE MONSTER ARMY to even get released in Japan 5 years after the fact. As for why Tsubraya attempted something with MARS MEN, that will likely remain a mystery for the time being. We can only surmise it wasn't considered a success, since a similar makeover for 6 ULTRABROTHERS never happened.

Finally, for the sake of completeness, I wanted to include a little background on a few folks involved with MARS MEN. This was complicated slightly by the fact that the movie is missing from the HKMDB, which was the resource I was using. However, I did some cutting and pasting and put together this li'l list.

MARS MEN

DIRECTED BY: Chan Huang-Man
(credited as "Chen Hong Mein" on poster; while having his fair share of directorial credits, he seems to be primarily an editor. For this film, that makes perfect sense.)

STARRING:
Man-Kong-Lung ("Wen Chiang Loon" on poster)
Wong Bo-Yuk ("Wang Pao Yu" on poster)
Yeh Hsiao-Yee ("Yeh Shao Ye" on poster)
Fang Mian

PRODUCED BY: Fu Ching-Wa

Our next entry on this journey will fill you in on the films that probably interest you the most. There will be answers, but paradoxically, even more questions, too!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Holy Smokes! New ROJ Episode 2 Notes!

It is my profound regret that doing these updates for Return of Jetman usually fall so low on my list of priorities that it even shocks me when they happen. Oh well, we're still in the home stretch as far as getting everything done for the site. I guess that's something, huh?

As you may have gathered, I've just posted the notes for New ROJ Episode 2. Even today, almost 7(!) years later, there are a lot of things in this episode that I think are a lot of fun. Maybe reading the notes will inspire you to check out the episode again? That's my hope anyway.

No promises, but I'd like to at least get the notes for the next three episodes scheduled. We'll see how that works out.