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The Spinning Image Newsletter #4

Set phasers to stunning!

Atomic Batteries to power! Turbines to speed!

Bam! Pow! It's the superheroes' electronic newsletter of choice, it's the fourth Spinning Image not-so-Daily Bugle.

Just slightly behind the times as ever, this is our comic book movie issue. So we'll take Hear'say off the stereo, and put that Blair Witch Project DVD to one side (apparently it's a true story!) and get to turning the brightly coloured pages of this installment.

STAND UP AND BE COUNTED

At last - a new feature has been added to the site - Polls are now up and running. Feel free to join in the fun! To start the ball rolling - and to keep the Superhero theme we're asking - What is the best Superhero movie? Ideas for future polls welcome at the usual address.

As a member you can send your own news items for inclusion in future issues. These can be interesting anecdotes, snippets you've heard or picked up off the net, ideas for future newsletters or anything you think might interest other readers.

FLYING OFF THE PAGE

A good comic book movie is a difficult thing to get right. You have to sum up in a couple of hours a story that may have taken hundreds of pages to tell. Then you have to contend with hard-to-please fans who are just itching to be unimpressed by what you've done to their beloved characters. Not to mention converting the average filmgoer to your cause.

On the way are films of The Hulk, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Daredevil, Ghost Rider, Hellboy, Catwoman and The Fantastic Four. So what masterpieces do they have to live up to? Here are some of the best, in our humble opinion...

  • Superman
    Sure, Superman's enjoyable. The Daddy of superheroes was turned into a pretty good blockbuster - a great cast headed by Christopher Reeve and Gene Hackman, stirring music, fine effects. But you just knew that the best was yet to come. Step forward General Zod, who makes Superman II his own. Terence Stamp acts the greatest villain in comic book movie history - "Is there no one on this planet who can challenge me?" he wonders, and you feel cheated when he's beaten.
    After him, you get Robert Vaughan as a poor man's Lex Luthor in Superman III, although that evil supercomputer was pretty impressive for all of the five minutes it's in action. But Nuclear Man in Superman IV was feeble. Result? Superman is vanquished by his own sequel. Breaks your heart, so it does.
    http://www.deceptions.net/superman/ ...is the only Supes site you need - trivia, bloopers, extra footage, everything you could possibly want to know. It even includes the serials and 1950's movie starring the TV Superman, George Reeves. Plus news on the upcoming Batman vs Superman movie.
  • Spiderman
    He might have trouble getting out of the bath - a-ha ha ha! But seriously, Spidey turned out to be one of the biggest successes of all time, managing to pack in the whole origin thing into one neat hour, leaving its second hour for Saturday morning cartoon style shenanigans to finish things off nicely. Spacey Tobey Maguire was tailor made for the Peter Parker role, and the supporting cast were spot on. There should be at least one decent sequel with director Sam Raimi on board. Catches thieves just like flies, you know.
    http://www.spider-man-movie.com/ ...is the official site which has loads of clips that will doubtless appear on the DVD, along with meaningless polls and stuff that I couldn't be bothered sitting through. Typical movie site, really.
  • Batman
    The Dark Knight is a rotten role to play because his foes always have the most fun. Jack Nicholson's Joker stole the show in the 1989 film, and everyone turned up to see The Penguin and Catwoman in Batman Returns (a blockbuster for social outcasts).
    Then Tim Burton lost interest, and Joel Schumacher stepped in to camp it up in that style of the 60's TV show for Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. Well, not entirely - the TV show was actually funny. And entertaining. Stick to the 1990's animated series if you want to see Batman done right.
    I couldn't find a decent Batman movie site, unless anyone knows better?
  • X-Men
    Obviously fashioned as the first in a series, X-Men makes a good introduction for non-fans, and isn't too painful for the initiated. Plus it shows the supderhero team really working as a team - no one grabs the limelight and everyone has their place.
    http://www.x-men-the-movie.com/ ...is the official site, which now seems to consist of an ad for the sequel, and an order to register for updates.
  • From Hell
    Strong on atmosphere, the Hughes Brothers' handsome-looking adaptation of Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's graphic novel is a welcome addition to the long line of Jack the Ripper movies, even if they do pack too much in, and Johnny Depp sounds like David Beckham. http://www.fromhellmovie.com ...starts with a decidedly unimpressive intro, but the site itself is informative enough, even if the knife noises begin to grate after a while.
  • Josie and the Pussycats
    This bright 'n' breezy musical comedy was taken from the Archie comics and managed to be an example of a genuinely fun teen movie, with a cynical undercurrent that you didn't get in the cartoon show. If you're happy and you know it clap your hands!
    http://www.josiethemovie.com/ Cute movie, cute girls, cute site. Light and fluffy, with downloads, info and extremely short clips of the songs. There's also a horoscope thing, which, um, I could live without, frankly.
  • Flash Gordon
    Erm, we've pretty much covered this one. It's fab.
    http://www.gosub600.com/flashgordon/ ...is a really nice FG site, with pics, sounds, interviews and a "Random Quote Deliverator".
  • The Crow
    Death seemed to haunt this project: inspired by the death of artist Jay O'Barr's girlfriend it turned into a movie most memorable for the death of its star, Brandon Lee. But if you like that goth rock atmosphere, then the deaths make this pretentious action horror just a little more powerful.
    There are a few amatuer Crow sites out there, but nothing worth recommending...
  • Mystery Men
    Before X-Men came out, audiences ignored Bob Burden's super team of flawed, working class heroes. Powers on display include getting angry and bowling - surely we can all relate to these guys? Now, where's the Flaming Carrot movie?
    The official MM movie site appears to be defunct, so here's Burden's MM site (which hasn't been updated for a while): http://www.mysterymen.net/
  • Ghost World
    Terry Zwigoff opened out Daniel Clowes graphic novel just enough to make it cinematic, but not so much that the humour of Enid and the people she meets is lost. But is that a sad ending or a happy ending?
    http://www.ghostworld-themovie.com/ ...is a pretty good site, the FAQ is worth reading and I like the animated Enid that appears when you're waiting for a page to load.
  • The Rocketeer
    Dave Stevens' sleek and simple World War 2 rocket pack exploits was opened out into a nicely designed Disney movie. A pity we lost the Betty Page aspect of the original, but we did get an actor made up as Rondo Hatton amongst the in-jokes. There isn't a Rocketeer site, so here's the Dave Stevens official one: http://www.davestevens.com/ ...which contains "artistic nudity" - the best kind, I'm sure you'll agree.
  • Supergirl
    This gaudy fantasy was a surprise flop when it opened but it's a lot of fun, Helen Slater isn't so bad in the title role and - what? What do you mean it's rubbish? It has Peter O'Toole and Peter Cook in it! OK, not in the same scene, but, nevertheless... A rather obsessive SG site can be found here: http://argocity.8m.com/ ...with stuff about the movie and loads of pictures (no artistic nudity, though).
  • Dick Tracy
    Well, it looked nice and the baddies were good. I'm running out of suggestions, now.

UDOWATCH

As far as we know, Udo Kier has only turned up in one comic book movie: Blade. In a surprise bit of casting, he played a vampire, but wasn't in the sequel 'cause he gets a touch of the sun.
Oh yeah, he was in that Prince Valiant remake, too. Any other sightings of Udo? Let us know.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

From the "close but no cigar" file we could add those movies that were based on comics, but not so that you would notice. For example The Mask was turned into a vehicle for Jim Carrey, and Men in Black was transformed into two jokey sci-fi blockbusters. Steel could have been any straight to video action flick.

The Addams Family movies were supposedly taken from Charles Addams' classic cartoons, but were more closely related to the 1960's TV series. Barbarella differed from Jean Claude Foret's original by actually making sense. The St Trinians films started out well with Ronald Searle's cartoons for their basis, but the less Alistair Sim you see, the worse they get.

There were two movies based on (loud voice) Herge's Adventures of Tintin, but they didn't adapt any existing books. Asterix and Obelix Take On Caesar was more in the spirit of its source, but loses a lot if you don't speak French.

As for the non-live action, R. Crumb's Fritz the Cat (and its sequel) and Heavy Metal were simply comic stories animated for the big screen. But Charlie Brown and his friends from Peanuts managed to make four pretty good movies.

Erm, I suppose I should mention that Monkeybone is based on a comic book, but I've no idea how faithful it is.

FOOLS! I SHALL DESTROY THEM ALL!

And now for the comic book movies that weren't so good. That were pretty diabolical, in fact.

  • The Punisher
    The ultraviolent vigilante becomes just another shoot-em-up Dolph Lundgren movie - he doesn't even wear the suit! Notable for the way in which practically everyone who appears onscreen ends up getting shot.
  • Judge Dredd
    For the first twenty minutes it looks promising, but then it all goes horribly wrong when Dredd whips off his helmet. After that, you've got yet another sci fi star vehicle - Sylvester Stallone should have made that Demoliton Man sequel instead.
  • Swamp Thing
    Wes Craven offered us this tacky vegetable-man hokum, a million miles away form Alan Moore's version, with some of the worst monster suits you'll ever see. The sequel had a better suit, but no more sense.
  • Captain America
    The dynamic wartime hero fizzles out in this shoddy adventure. Cap must have been chilly, because he keeps his coat on for most of the film. Watch out for those rubber ears.
  • The Phantom
    Sub-Indiana Jones boredom might have been alright, but how seriously can you take a hero who wears a purple suit?
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
    You know those cheap 1980's cartoons that were simply a twenty-minute advertisement for a range of toys? Well the Turtles movies were the ninety minute equivalent, with the added bonus of having to pay to see them.
  • Tank Girl
    Another great character turned into a braindead movie. All the laddish humour is gone, and Tank Girl gets a new name but barely enough intelligence to tie her bootlaces. Why didn't they film the Italian Job-style excursion to find more beer?
  • Howard the Duck
    Or how to take Steve Gerber's cool, offbeat character and turn him into a mallard munchkin who's sure to get on your nerves. Throw as much money at it you like, George Lucas, all the great special effects in the world won't make up for a crappy script. It's more of a turkey than a duck! Ha, ha! Did you see what I did there?
  • Spawn
    Diabolical (in both senses of the word) horror, where Todd MacFarlane's hero is lost in a sea of horrible CGI effects. blaring music and muddy plotting. It's got to be one of the worst, if not THE worst.
  • The Adventures of Barry Mackenzie
    Barry Humphries' cartoon strip was brought to life in the 1970's, but when the highlight is a bunch of Australians pissing on a burning TV studio, the laughs don't exactly come thick and fast.
  • Jane and the Lost City
    The under-dressed newspaper strip heroine is stuck in this ghastly jungle romp with Jasper Carrott as an evil Nazi. Even Glynis Barber's migraine-inducing TV version was better than this. Is it true Jane takes 'em all off these days?
  • That Spiderman TV movie...
    I saw in the cinema when I was a kid and was so boring my friends started running around the auditorium because being told off by the usher was more exciting than watching the screen.

    Yeah, nuff said.

ONLY CONNECT

http://www.ugo.com/channels/freestyle/heroMachine/ Ever watched one of them superhero movies and thought, "Pshaw! I could do better than that!"? Here's the website to prove you wrong. A variety of hero styles are on display, but you can't have a hero with "super projectile vomitting" powers or "highly skilled at making soup" abilities so it's all pretty conventional.

It doesn't look as if there are any comic book movie sites that take a look at the history of the genre, but here is a site that tells you what's coming up:

http://www.comics2film.com/...has news and reviews, plus a "Digital Concept Gallery" where you can have a laugh, er, i mean, look at some fans' interpretations of superheroes and villains.

WHAT'S ON THE OTHER SIDE?

TV has rarely had the budget to do justice to superpowers, but who could forget these primetime timewasters?

Batman took a colourful, humorous approach to the caped crusader, with some excellent guest stars such as Burgess Meredith as the Penguin, Julie Newmar as Catwoman and Vincent Price as Egghead. Oh, yeah, there was a movie too.

The Incredible Hulk had Bill Bixby as Bruce Banner who would get run over or stub his toe or whatever and be transformed into a titan of green-hued rage, as played by Lou Ferrigno. At least his tailor was kept busy. If you were looking for more pulchritudious delights, Lynda Carter was Wonder Woman, with that unforgettable theme tune and that uncomfortable-looking costume. She was strong, could jump high and tell what men were thinking about her. Or something. Superman arrived on the small screen in the padded shape of George Reeves in the 1950's, and romance was in the air with the Dean Cain version of the 1990's. Currently we have Tom Welling in the superhero Dawson's Creek called Smallville. Spiderman was the subject of TV specials in the 1970's (I use the term "specials" loosely), and the Flash zoomed onto our screen in the 1990's for a short while. And let's not even start with the cartoons...

IN DEVELOPMENT

OK, so we've seen which comic characters have made it to the big screen - which comic strips should be adapted next? Here are some brilliant ideas, even if we do say so ourselves...

  • Dan Dare
    A mega budget blockbuster could recreate those 1950's Eagle stories with style. Proper space rockets and everything! Not sure about the casting - maybe Jude Law for Dan, Bob Hoskins for Digby and Kate Winslett for Professor Peabody. And for the Mekon, paint Michael Berryman green and give him a giant saucer to sit in.

  • Madman
    All that "gee whiz!" weirdness of Mike Allred's creation would make a great movie, what with all those robots and aliens and bizarre plottings abounding. John Cusack for Frank Einstein, I'm thinking.

  • The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers
    If you liked The Big Lebowski but felt that the mystery element got in the way, then an adaptation of Gilbert Shelton's stories could be just what you're looking for. It's a pity Chris Farley is dead, he's make a great Fat Freddy. You might feel a bit hungry after watching this, though.

  • Concrete
    With a Ghost World approach, Paul Chadwick's stories could bring a whole new take on superpowers. Marvel as the practically indestructible Concrete tries to save trapped miners - and fails! Gasp as Concrete attempts to swim the Atlantic - and fails!

  • Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth
    Actually, maybe not. Too depressing.

  • Burp the Alien
    Straight from the pages of Oink! comic - the answer to E.T. And also the answer to taste and restraint. Sure it would be disgusting, and wouldn't make any sense, but plot is overrated these days, don't you think?

  • The Numskulls
    The cast of the Ocean's Eleven remake reunite to create the ultimate in bodily function movies. Actually, didn't Woody Allen do this already?

  • Fred Bassett
    With Nicolas Cage and his hangdog features in the lead (lead - geddit?), Fred could take to the silver screen in style, following in the footsteps of Lassie, Rin Tin Tin and Benji for some slipper fetching, walk in the park action.

  • The Gambols
    Naturally the action would have to be transferred to America, with Jack Black as George and Cameron Diaz as Gaye, but with the right script this could be a surefire the-mother-in-law-is-coming-round, dinner's-in-the-oven hit! [That's enough comic book movies - Ed]
ARTICLES

As a member you can send your own articles for inclusion on the site. These can be on any cult movie related subject - although you might like to email me before embarking on a massive project which is then deemed unsuitable. On the whole though, if you think it might interest other readers it's good enough for us.

REST IN PEACE

Director and writer Chang Cheh died in June aged 79. He was mentor to many Hong Kong filmmaking talents such as Bruce Lee and John Woo; some of his films include Blood Brothers, 5 Deadly Venoms, Shaolin Avengers and 5 Masters of Death.

John Entwistle, bass player with the Who, died of a heart attack aged 57 at the end of June. Quadrophenia and Tommy (which Entwistle appeared in) were two films based on Who albums. The Kids are Alright was a documentary about the Who and they performed in Woodstock and Monterey Pop.

Singer Rosemary Clooney died aged 74 at the end of June. She starred in White Christmas and was George Clooney's auntie.

Singer and dancer Dolores Gray died at the start of July aged 78. Her few films included cult musical It's Always Fair Weather and Designing Woman. For most of her life she carried a bullet in her lung from a gangfight she was involved in as a youth.

Stage and screen actor Francois Perier died aged 82 at the start of July. In films from the thirties, he starred in Orphee, Nights of Cabiria, Le Testament du Orphee, Le Samourai and Z, among many others.

Actress Katy Jurado died in July aged 78. A star in her native Mexico, her Hollywood films included High Noon, One-Eyed Jacks, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid and Under the Volcano. She was once married to Ernest Borgnine and even made a movie with Elvis (Stay Away Joe).

Director John Frankenheimer died aged 72 in July. He had a great run of quality films in the 1960's with The Birdman of Alcatraz, cult classic The Manchurian Candidate, Seven Days in May, The Train and Seconds (another cult favourite). Come the 1970's, the films were less impressive: French Connection II, Black Sunday, Prophecy, 52 Pickup and 1996's The Island of Dr Moreau, but he showed an unexpected return to form with one of his last movies, Ronin.

Animator Ward Kimball, who was one of Disney's chief animators, died in July aged 88. Films he worked on included Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Cinderella, Peter Pan and Mary Poppins.

Actor Rod Steiger always gave his perfomances 100%, whether he was starring in On the Waterfront and The Pawnbroker, or turning up in The Amityville Horror and End of Days. Some of his cult movies include The Big Knife, The Loved One, No Way to Treat a Lady, A Fistful of Dynamite and Mars Attacks. He also appeared in Oklahoma, The Longest Day, Doctor Zhivago, In the Heat of the Night (for which he won an Oscar), The Illustrated Man, The Specialist and The Hurricane. He died aged 77 in July.

Actor Gerald Campion gained fame on British TV in the 1950's as Billy Bunter. His film appearances included Carry On Sergeant, School for Scoundrels, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Sorcerers. He died aged 81 in July.

Stage and screen actor Leo McKern died in July aged 82. Best known from his TV role of Rumpole of the Bailey, he appeared in The Mouse That Roared, The Day the Earth Caught Fire, A Man for All Seasons, Help!, Ryan's Daughter and The Omen. He also played Number Two in cult TV series The Prisoner in three episodes.

Actor Maurice Denham appeared in around 100 films, often in small roles. Some of these include Day of the Jackal, Some Girls Do, Animal Farm (he provided all the voices), Countess Dracula, Torture Garden, Night of the Demon and Our Man in Havana. He died aged 92 at the end of July.

Stage actor Peter Bayliss took small roles in such films as From Russia With Love, Please Sir!, Darling, Vampira, It Couldn't Happen Here and The Magic Christian. He died aged 75 in August.

Peter Hunt edited the first three James Bond movies and directed On Her Majesty's Secret Service. He also edited Sink the Bismark! and Night Games, among others, was a co-producer on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and directed a few thrillers like Shout at the Devil. He died aged 77 in August.

Character actor of film and television Jeff Corey died aged 88 in August. After being blacklisted in the 1950's, he returned to the screen from the 1960's in films such as Seconds, Mickey One, In Cold Blood, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Getting Straight, Little Big Man, Moonshine County Express, Battle Beyond the Stars, The Sword and the Sorcerer, The Color of Night and many, many others.

NEW REVIEWS

New reviews on the site include:

Versus
The Return of the Living Dead
The Black Hole
Donnie Darko
Hatchet for the Honeymoon
Horror Express
Afterlife
Lifeforce
Love at First Bite
Sur Mes Levres
Yakuza Graveyard
Trouble Every Day

UP, UP AND AWAY!

By our reckoning, we've mentioned just about every superhero movie ever made this issue. Our work here is done. It's left for me to say, as your faithful protector, that you can send us any comments via the little box on the Spinning Image site (come on, we must have missed somebody out!).

For now, farewell. And stay out of trouble.

 

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Last Updated: 1 November, 2004