Happy Thanksgiving Day, all!

by  in Comic News Comment
Happy Thanksgiving Day, all!

It’s a special early Holiday Edition of the Friday column! Because I’m on fire with holiday spirit.

Of course, around here that means something a little different than one might normally suppose. My bride recently suggested to me that we should maybe have a more traditional Thanksgiving celebration this year.

I stared in horror. “We should invite snippy relatives over to bombard us with thinly-veiled insults while we squirm in awkward silence?”

What? That’s traditionally how it was done among MY people.

No thanks. As soon as I was old enough to be on my own, I instituted the Hatcher household’s We Hate Traditional Holiday Celebrations celebration. It involves unplugging the phone, ordering takeout Chinese food and screening a host of gloriously bad movies.

Should you wish to indulge, allow me to suggest a few possibles that we are enjoying this year…

The mighty William Shatner at his shirtless 60’s peak in White Comanche.

Julie and I were awestruck at the sheer amazing lunacy of this effort. What’s better than William Shatner in a double role as both the cowboy hero and his evil twin? Why, Shatner as the cowboy hero and his peyote-eating Comanche war leader evil twin. Shot in Spain in 1967 during a Star Trek hiatus, this was possibly William Shatner’s finest cinematic hour until The Wrath of Khan. Yeah, I said it. Taste the awesome in this clip here.

We got this oddity included on a 20-movie collection called Spaghetti Westerns that set me back a cool $4.98 at the drugstore.

On this same discount Western boxed set is another piece of grindhouse genius, The Flying Fist of Shanghai Joe.

Originally released as My Name Is Shanghai Joe, it’s kind of like The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly if that had starred Bruce Lee instead of Clint Eastwood. Or, alternatively, it’s like the old Kung Fu TV series with David Carradine if that had been made by Sergio Leone. Or if Jackie Chan’s old-west martial-arts comedies had more blood and gore in them. Or if… oh, hell, I give up.

At any rate, it’s the kind of culture-clash genre mashup I can never resist. And Julie liked it too. Chances are more films from this fine Spaghetti Westerns discount collection will figure into our holidays this year, but I assure you we’ve already gotten $4.98’s worth of fun out of it. And since I gave you a clip from White Comanche, I think you should see one for Shanghai Joe, too. Fair warning– the last couple of seconds of this are not for the squeamish.

I’ve spoken before of my unholy love for Patrick Swayze’s deranged hero quest, Road House. So naturally we had to investigate this…

That’s right, there really is a Road House 2. This straight-to-DVD effort suffers a little in that it’s more earnest than its predecessor, and there’s no Patrick Swayze or Jeff Healey Band or (sniff) Sam Elliott. But the fight choreography is fun and I love all the little nods to the original that got sneaked in there. It’s really more “Road House: The Next Generation,” as it takes place twenty years after the first movie and the hero is Dalton’s son, Shane Tanner, who takes time off from his job as a maverick DEA agent to go help his uncle clean up his Louisiana tavern and keep it safe from drug dealers. Johnathan Schaech, who plays Dalton junior, actually helped write this thing. I have to admit that we enjoyed this a lot, especially Will Patton as Shane’s aging-but-still-badass uncle. (You get the feeling this role was originally written for Swayze himself, but sadly, he passed on this. Can’t imagine why.)

Here’s a clip of one of the fights, and here– because it’s too hilarious not to share– is the trailer dubbed in German. Amazingly, you still totally get what it’s about even if you don’t happen to speak German. It’s that kind of movie.

And of course, we could not neglect the classics.

We bought this for At The Earth’s Core. Doug McClure actually made several of these 1970’s Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptations for AIP. (My favorite of them is The Land that Time Forgot, a remarkably faithful adaptation of the Burroughs book; Michael Moorcock actually contributed to the screenplay for that one.) But At The Earth’s Core has its charms as well, chief among them Peter Cushing as Abner Perry, and of course there’s also Caroline Munro falling out of her ragged bikini (which kind of sums up her career, really.) The sense you get, watching these, is that everyone involved loved the books but had no money.  So you just kind of have to go with the rubber dinosaurs and so on. But if you can look past the incredibly low-budget effects, they’re a lot of fun and very much in the spirit of Burroughs’ breathless pulp-adventure romances. Trailer here for At the Earth’s Core (and here is the one for The Land That Time Forgot.)

We have yet to screen War Gods of the Deep, but hey, it’s Vincent Price. And the trailer looks promising.

“But Greg,” I hear some of you saying. “This is a COMICS site! Are there no comic-related offerings in your Thanksgiving festival of B-movie awesomeness?”

Why, yes. Yes there are.

Somebody at Warner’s finally got smart and decided to go ahead and issue these cartoons on DVD instead of allowing convention bootleggers to clean up on them. I have rambled on at length on how these cartoons were my gateway to the DC comics of yore and I won’t go through it all again– however, it is a very nice set, with a pleasant little documentary featurette about Lou Scheimer and the Filmation studio. The cartoons themselves don’t really hold up, the animation is terrible and roughly half the voices are by Ted White going up and down an octave. But I can’t help loving them. When I was six years old, these were hardcore.

There are a couple of quirks about this DVD set– first of all, on the interior menus, someone goofed and put a picture, not of Hawkman, but of Birdman in the group collage illustration. Which is just odd.

I mean, I know that on TV Birdman was way more bad-ass than Hawkman, but still. Does no one check these things?

And it’s kind of funny that although Aquaman is pictured on the box and even in the animated intro to the JLA cartoons, the King of the Seven Seas is actually nowhere to be found in any of the three Justice League shorts. (Here is my favorite of them, just to give you a taste.)

Still, as hokey as these are, it’s nice to have them. In fact, with the Superman and Aquaman Filmation cartoons available on DVD as well, they’ve very nearly cleaned up the whole backlist of the original Superman/Aquaman Hour. All that’s left are the Filmation Superboy shorts… but I suppose with the Siegel & Shuster legal foofaraw over the “Superboy” name, that won’t be happening soon. Pity.

Now, if only they’d figure out that the Filmation version of Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle is a similar convention bootlegger’s evergreen and get THAT rights mess sorted for an official DVD release, we’d have next year’s holiday film festival dealt with as well. (But here’s a clip for those that are curious. It really was probably the single most faithful ERB adaptation anyone has ever done…. at least, so far.)

Anyway, you can’t tell me all that doesn’t look like WAY more fun than turkey dinner with a roomful of dysfunctional relatives. Trust me, once you try it, you never go back.

(Although, I have to admit, I caved on Julie’s desire to have turkey instead of takeout. One mustn’t be rigid.)

Have a great holiday, everyone, however you choose to spend it… and I’ll see you next week on the regular day.