Saturday, June 30, 2012

Naked Lunch (1959)

I'm trying to get through reading Naked Lunch. I really am you know.

I had made a previous attempt to read the book fifteen or sixteen years ago. Having enjoyed On the Road by Jack Kerouac, I thought I'd give his contemporary William S. Burrough's a try. What you need to understand about young men between the ages of 19 to 23 is they go through a really pretentious phase. We want people to think we're intellectuals in our shaggy hair, scraggily beards, military jackets we bought at a thrift shop and being seen in public reading the works of Kerouac and Burrough.

Whether we are really reading it is beside the point. We want to give the impression that we're really, really deep. But in fact we're just really pretentious. I have pictures of me during that time period to prove my point.

Back to the story, I'm finding I'm having the same problem I had with Naked Lunch that I had fifteen or so years ago. I'm just finding it hard to follow and really dull.

My last attempt I merely got three or four pages into it with every intention of picking it up again. Fifteen or so years later, I'm about 70 pages further into the book and it's doing very little to keep my interest.

I just find the book to be an incoherent mess. Some of that is probably due to the fact Burroughs was most likely on many of the drugs such as heroin and morphine while writing the book. Or so he mentioned in the beginning.

I think I've always been more fascinated by Burrough's writing technique than the suject matter of his writing. What he would do is write an entire manuscript. Cut it up. And then take sentences and piece them back together to make an entirely new story. David Bowie adopted that method with his songwriting. I believe he started to employ the "Burrough's technique" with his album Diamond Dogs. Which is probably his most interesting album since it was initially intended to be a rock opera based on George Orwell's 1984.

I know some of you are probably saying "Who do you think you are?" and "How dare you say that?" and "Burrough's is a genius! Who the (insert expletive) are you to criticize him?" and "Who cares about your opinion anyways?"

Good point. And if you don't care about my opinion then why are you bothering reading this?

I'm not saying you should hate Naked Lunch. If you think it's brilliant, go on thinking it's brilliant. I think Burrough's writing techniques are brilliant. But I don't think the book is.

I just find it a big disjointed mess.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Dark Shadows Proposal for Dynamite

I just completed a few Dark Shadows sample pages for a submissions I'm preparing to send out to Dynamite Entertaiment.

Dynamite has a really great roster of titles and the cult classic gothic soap Dark Shadows is one of them. Although I am aware Dynamite's portrayal of Barnabas Collins is his much later incarnation which he is cured of his vampirism I'm just more fascinated by the dynamics of his earlier Dracula/Renfield redux relationship between himself and Willie Loomis.

And being a fan of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, I decided to render the pages in sepia tones.

PAGE ONE

Page Three

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Police Squad! (1982)


I think nowadays if I were to mention the show Police Squad! most people wouldn't know what I was talking about. However, if I were to mention the Naked Gun movies, I'd probably get an "Oh! I've seen those!" from a few people.

Much like Mel Brook's television series When Things Were Rotten (you might not remember that) would find a second life as Robin Hood: Men in Tights (but that you might remember), the series Police Squad! would ultimately find new life and success as the Naked Gun movies.

Police Squad! was just one of those shows that just wasn't appreciated in it's time. Produced by the Zucker Brothers and Jim Abraham who had success with movies like Kentucky Fried Movie and Airplane somehow just could not manage that same success on television with that same formula. Cancelled after six episodes due to either an unreceptive audience that just didn't take to their style of satire or television exec's that were just plain stupid.

I'm going with the second one.

The show was the first time we would see Leslie Nielsen in the role of Lt. Frank Drebin. A role he would reprise in the three movies. The series parodied the entire genre of police shows as well as the whole television format in general even announcing that the series was "In Color" during the opening credits. This was a spoof of something television shows used to do in the 1960's when shows were predominantly in black and white and color was still new. So needless to say this was used ironically.

Another particularly funny running gag at the end of every show they would have a freeze frame of the characters in the style of TJ Hooker about to laugh and doing something like pouring coffee.

Of course it wouldn't actually be a freeze frame so the coffee would start spilling out of the cup.

Some of  the gags and supporting characters from the series would also find new life in the movies. And since movies have a bit more freedom from censorship than television did back in the day, they could get away with a bit more "racy" humor than the series did.

Just another example of a show ahead of its time and the powers that be just did not "get it".

The complete series is out and relatively inexpensive on DVD. So if you're curious, I'd highly recommend you check it out.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Take a Cartooning Class this Summer at Annie's Book Stop of Worcester


Annie's Book Stop of Worcester has invited me to teach cartooning classes on fridays from July 20th till August 31st at their store at 65 James Street in Worcester, MA.

You have a choice between taking either a morning or afternoon session for $87.50 each or you can take both the morning and afternoon class together for $175.00 total.

In Session One, I will be teaching Cartooning in the morning from 10 AM till 12 NOON and in the afternoon I will be teaching Comic Art.

In Session Two, I will be teaching Create Your Own Super Hero in the morning and Drawn Animation in the afternoons. These classes are scheduled for the same time periods as the first session.
If you wish to sign up for two classes, you can either sign up for consecutive classes in the same session or sign up for one class in the first session and another in the second session.

If you're interested you can either stop by Annie's Book Stop of Worcester during normal business hours to pick up a sign up sheet or e-mail me to find out more about the classes.

Deadline for sign up is Friday July 13th!! So don't miss out!! Sign up today!!

Nora Ephron: May 19, 1941 – June 26, 2012

I have to confess I've never actually seen any of her movies (I've never seen either Sleepless in Seattle or You've Got Mail) or read any of her books. However I do have a great deal of respect for Nora Ephron.

She was the key speaker at my graduation from the Savannah College of Art and Design back in 1999. I don't remember every bit of the speech (you try and remember what you were doing 13 years ago dammit) however I remember it being very uplifting and motivational.

Which at that point I needed. The cold reality had hit me the year before that I was graduating, saying goodbye to many friends, I had just lost my Aunt Joann a couple months prior and I didn't even have a career lined up. But her words, "You never have to worry about having something to fall back on" struck a chord with me. Your art is who you are. It was something I needed to hear at that point.

I don't remember much else about graduation because I had to really use the bathroom the whole time. So, that was the only thing on my mind.

With that said, I was very sorry we lost Nora Ephron this week at the age of 71. Although, I never met her in person, I do owe her a great deal for giving me hope at a time when I just felt hopeless. And the world is just a little colder without people like her.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

MAYOR OF WISSAHICKON CREEK

Taken from Flying Kite Media website
My good friend, former roommate, wedding emcee and real live bona fide cartoonist A-Town Krolikowski has launched his new ongoing web comic called Mayor of Wissahickon Creek. He told me all about what he had in mind at my wedding last year and it sounds like it's going to be part Wind in the Willows and part Walt Kelly.

And knowing A-Town, it should prove to be a must read strip!!

Click on the link below to find out more about the strip and about upcoming episodes!! You won't want to miss it:

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Smokestack Urban BBQ

Syd and I were mighty impressed with our visit to Smokestack Urban BBQ located near the Canal District in Worcester Massachusetts. We decided to give it a go coming home from work on Saturday night and we're already looking forward to our next visit.

It was first brought to our attention when we recently took part in stART on the Street's Spring Show on Green Street. A kid had been passing out menu's to everyone at the show. He had also mentioned that the vegetarian chili was even more popular than their regular chili. Since Syd's been a vegematarian for the past 20 years, it's always nice to find places that accomodates the veggie crowd.

And there are actually quite a few in the Woo that do.

The restaurant is located in what appears to be an old Mill Building. Parking could be a bit of an adventure, but we were able to find a spot. The first thing that struck me when we walked in was how spacious the place was. Even though it seemed to be hopping even around 8:30/9PM, you don't get the feeling like you're cramped in a phone booth waiting for a table the way some places can be.

And it was very clean while maintaining that funky old mill look.

And the food was great!! I had a Stacker Burger which is a burger topped with Pulled Pork. Syd had a vegetarian burger which looks like it could rival the one she had at Local Burger out in Northampton. It was equally as hearty looking.

And they had a decent beer selection. Any place that has Narragansett Lager for $2.25 is tops in my books.

I recommed checking it out. Great BBQ and great ambience.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Happy 10th Anniversary stART on the Street!!


A photo of the Fall Show taken from the stART website

stART on the Street has been taking place since 2002. One would be inclined to think it's hard to believe that a little art show that first took place on Main Street in Worcester 10 years back has turned into pretty much the premiere venue for artist and crafters in the area and beyond!!

However! Knowing many of the people involved in making stART  a success every year, it's very little surprise that little art show has become one of the most highly praised events to attend and one of the most coveted for local artists and artisans to take part in every year. The Spring Show on Green Street almost filled up immediately with people participating and despite stART having to use their rain date for the first time in event history, it was still a success and very highly attended.

What has made the show a success and very popular with artists is the fact that the people involved LISTEN and take people's suggestions on how to improve the show very seriously.

My first experience with stART on the Street was back in 2005 when I took part in a show called Spring Art at the Station. I had picked up a sign up sheet at CC Lowell. I believe at the time the show was being hosted by several artists groups. Including stART. But on a whim I signed up for it.


I was 29 at the time. I had been working at the Art Museum for a couple years. I had nothing published at that point and I was working hard to break out of my introverted shell and get more exposure for my work. I had a few small art shows at that time but nothing monumental.

A show at Worcester's Union Station intrigued me. Especially since it had been only five years since they renovated it to it's original glory. The following year after such a great experience with the show at Union Station I took part in the first year they hosted what was to become the flagship show on Park Avenue.

A lot has happened in seven years since that initial show both for me and for stART itself. I now have eight more books published which I sell along with my prints and small works and a wife who is now selling her own original fun household items at the shows now.

And stART itself just seems to get better every year. And this year it's their 10th Anniversary. So you know the boys and girls who put stART together have something big planned for the Fall Show that stARTed it all.

Syd and I have our application signed and mailed in. Like I said. Looking at how fast the Spring show filled up, we weren't taking any chances.

But with all that said, Happy Anniversary stART on the Street!! Here's to the 10 years working up to this and here's to 10 years more!!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dr. Julia Hoffman

As my wife Syd and I make our way through the third DVD collection of Dark Shadows we both agree that we hate Dr. Julia Hoffman. I'm sure Grayson Hall who played the part was a very nice and charming lady but ever since she was first introduced to cure Maggie Evans of her trauma inflicted amnesia, we have absolutely hated the character and really wished Barnabas Collins just strangled her to death instead of accepting her offer to cure him of his vampirism.


However, I did find Helena Bonham-Carter's approach at playing her like a drunken mess in the movie to be very amusing.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Alice in Wonderland (1966)


 
Four our last stop in Wonderland we look at possibly the most unique adaptation in our journey. Produced and directed for the BBC by former Beyond the Fringe writer and humorist Jonathan Miller. It's unique in the sense that Miller made a conscious decision NOT to have the actors dressed as animals but instead have them simply appear in Victorian dress.

Miller justified his approach as an attempt to return to what he perceived as the essence of the story: "Once you take the animal heads off, you begin to see what it's all about. A small child, surrounded by hurrying, worried people, thinking 'Is that what being grown up is like?'

Those who are too young or unfamiliar with British Satire and the counter culture movement of the 1960's might find this take on the tale confusing and boring.

Matter of fact, Anne-Marie Mallik, the young actress playing Alice comes off as very disinterested and bored at her whole "Wonderland" experience. Then again, Alice seemed very much that way in Sir John Tenniel's artwork, didn't she?



Apparently,  Miller had envisaged an Alice "with no stage experience, not very pretty but curiously plain, sallow and a bit priggish".
Well, spot on!!

But to be fair to Ms. Mallick, this was her first and only acting job.

The movie itself is awash in the feel of the 1960's culture as far as it's off-beat and somewhat experiemental interpretation of Alice. Music is composed and performed by Ravi Shankar who was beginning to catch the public eye due to his association with George Harrison and the Beatles. Though not to detract for his own talents as a great musician.

It is almost entirely filmed at Netley Hospital, which was a 19th Century Building which incidentally got demolished shortly after this film was made.

This was also a time of the Satire Boom in the 1960's. There is quite a bit of that visually in many of the scenes of the movies. Especially in the scenes with the Queen of Hearts as well as the courtroom scenes.

Comedy in England became more cerebral and pointed. As was as socially and politically charged as the way people began to look at the world changed. Satire became a way for many writers and comedians to express themselves. Jonathan Miller, Peter Cook, Alan Bennet and Dudley Moore would influence many of these young would be satirists. Most notably, Eric Idle who would later gain fame as a cast member of Monty Python's Flying Circus.



Much like the later 1972 version of Alice, this film is a veritable "who's who" of British actors with Jonathan Miller's Fringe cohorts Peter Cook and Alan Bennett as the Mad Hatter and Mouse respectively. Also featuring Wilfrid Brambell as the White Rabbit, Leo McKern as the Duchess,  Michael Redgraves as the Caterpillar, Michael Gough as the White Rabbit, Sir John Gielgud as the Mock Turtle and Peter Sellers as the King of Hearts.

As mentioned in a previous blog, Sellers would later play the part of the March Hare in the 1972 version of Alice.

There is also an uncredited appearance of future Monty Python star Eric Idle in the courtroom scene. This film is actually Mr. Idle's first television appearance.

All the portrayals of the characters are different from what we have come to expect. Most notably Peter Cook's take on the Mad Hatter, Michael Gough's March Hare and Sir John Gielgud's playing the Mock Turtle like a retired thespian rather than the baleful creature we know from the story.

For me, I enjoyed the take on the story. But as I mentioned earlier. If you don't have any interest in either British satire or comedy. Or really know or have much interest in 1960's culture, you may find this version to be a tad on the tedious and boring side.

But I would give any of these films a try. Even the ones I said weren't particularly my favorites I would try them anyways. Even if I don't particularly care for them, doesn't necessarily mean you won't care for them.

Never judge anything bad just by what someone else says. Judge it for yourself and draw your own conclusions. The only way you're ever going to know if you like something or not is to actually watch, listen or read something.

You might find yourself pleasantly surprised with what you discover.

Alice in Wonderland (1999)

Okay the pro's:
A cast that includes Gene Wilder, Ben Kingsley, Miranda Richardson, Sir Peter Ustinov, Joanna Lumley, Robbie Coltrane, Christopher Lloyd and the Jim Henson Creature Shop.

The con's:
I didn't like it.

PASS!!

Up next... Alice meets Victorian Gothic, the Far East and Beyond the Fringe!!

Alice in Wonderland (2010)


Well, I suppose it was inevitable I would talk about this one.

I have made mention of this before but Tim Burton has always had a very "Hammer Films" approach to his adaptations. His movies like Sleepy Hollow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and even Batman are not entirely faithful adaptations.

 However, they're not bad ones either.

I really didn't hate this film. I wasn't entirely in love with the overall "Tween Disney" feel to the film. Or how it was given a very Chronicles of Narnia vibe to it by giving the characters and what the "drink me" bottle contained.

However, I'm not the film's intended audience for this film. Then again. I'm not the intended audience for the original Alice story.

Much like the original Alice tale, it was intended to delight and amuse children and not have craggy 36 year olds to endlessly debate and philosophize over it.

Although in this case, I think the film is geared more towards the tween crowd. And it's in 3D. And it's Disney. So of course there's going to be a pop hit and the Mad Hatters hip hop style dancing thrown in. Yes. That annoyed me.

But again. Read above.

As I mentioned before, Tim Burton creates his own version rather than doing the original. So instead of young Alice discovering Wonderland (or Underland) for the first time, we have a much older Alice escaping her engagement party from a potential fiance who could quite easily win the Upperclass Twit of the Year Award.

By establishing this is a much older Alice, Tim Burton doesn't treat his audience like they're stupid by making them believe Mia Wasikowska is supposed to be playing a seven year old girl. It gives Burton a chance to tell a slightly older action/fantasy style story.

And older kiddo's will connect with an older Alice rather than a seven year old one. I suppose it also allows filmmakers to get away with more too. Like the insinuation of a giant naked Alice standing behind a shrub. Try and film that with a seven year old and yes you will have police stopping by your house to question you  and probably confiscate your computer Ala Gary Glitter.



Tim Burton seems to have casted all my favorite actors in one film with Stephen Fry as the Chessur the Cheshire Cat, Michael Sheen as Nivens McTwisp The White Rabbit, Alan Rickman as Absolem, the Caterpillar, Christopher Lee as the Jabberwocky and Michael Gough in his last screen performance as the Dodo. Gough had retired from acting. However, he would break from retirement to star in one of Tim Burton's movies.

It wouldn't be a Tim Burton movie without Johnny Depp someplace as some character. I know Burton has received some criticism for working too much with Depp over the last decade or so. And that Depp has become a bit over-exposed between that and the Pirates of the Caribbean series.

But in Johnny Depp's defense, as an actor you want to work. If you don't work you don't get paid. Although, I suppose there's also royalties. But I digress.



But it's Helena Bonham-Carter who absolutely steals the show as the very childish Red Queen. She is an actress I really like because she puts everything she has into her performance. Despite how silly the role seems, she plays it like it is the most important role in the world.

And I respect that!!

I did not get to see this film in all it's 3D glory. So watching the film without the aide 3D glasses many of the objects and characters flying towards me made me feel as though I was watching the Paddle ball scene from Vincent Price's House of Wax. Another film made during the 3D craze of the 1950's that seem to lose a bit of it's Oomph without the aid of 3D... you know the scene I'm talking about.

But as stated, it's not a bad film and worth at least one viewing. 3D glasses or otherwise. If you take it at face value as a fun adventure story, it's enjoyable.

If you over-analyze it... well... think of it this way. You're over-analyzing a children's booking.

Up Next... Alice: 1999

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dreamchild (1985)



Dreamchild produced in association with the Jim Henson Creature Shop is a great film, but really ones of those films you can only watch once because it's so damn depressing. It stars Sir Ian Holm as Charles Dodgeson who would later gain fame under his penname Lewis Carroll. I really can't say enough about Sir Ian. He is probably one of the most underrated actors out there. Was great as Bilbo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and made a very chilling Jack the Ripper in From Hell. Probably the only good thing about that movie. The film itself focuses on both Charles Dodgson and his relationship with Alice Liddell.

If the information of the movie is historically accurate, then the man who would be Lewis Carroll was a painfully shy man with an equally painful stutter. And Alice was a mean-spirited little brat that grew up to be a miserable old bag of worms.



You finish watching the film feeling heartbroken for Charles Dodgson. Especially the scene in which Alice and her would be fiance snicker cruelly at him as he tries to recite the Lobster Quadrille before her elder sister finally stands up for him.

I admit, I did finish watching the film with a lump in my throat. The film itself is set later in Alice Liddell life as an old woman trying to reconcile her past association with Charles Dodgson in her mind with the scenes between her and Charles Dodgson set in flashbacks.

She is clearly troubled by her recollections and the movie does brush upon briefly the insinuations made over the years of Dodgson's possibly infatuations with young Alice. But not in a way which suggests he was or wasn't. Alice herself finds it hard to remember as she becomes old and forgetful.



The high point of the film itself is some truly wonderful interpretations of the inhabitant of Wonderland created by the Jim Henson Creature Shop.



Jim Henson had previously done a version (of sorts) of Alice on an episode of The Muppet Show with Brooke Shields. Having seen some of his more fantasy oriented work like the Dark Crystal and Labryinth, I would have loved to have seen Henson do a version of Alice in Wonderland in that vein.

Although the Jim Henson Creature Shop would go on to do the creatures for a 1999 television adaptation of Alice, it would have been great to see Henson do a version of Alice in the style of Labyrinth during his lifetime.

Besides, the 1999 telefilm is probably my least favorite version of the story.


I enjoyed the film. Although it's a frustrating film to watch. But, the all-encompassing message at the end of the film is mutual apology and forgiveness as young Alice and Charles Dodgson reconcile in a fantasty sequence set in Wonderland. A very good cast with Jane Ashner as Mrs. Liddell and Alan Bennett (of Beyond the Fringe Fame) as the voice of the Mock Turtle and the addition of Jim Henson's creations make this a very unique and visually intersting account in the life of both Alice Liddell and Charles Dodgson.

It looks as though they finally released the film on DVD, so I would definitely give this film a try if you wish to rent it on Netflix or stop by your local library.

Up next: Tim Burton's vision of Alice... you probably had a feeling I would get to this one...

Alice of the Silent Age

I think of silent movies as the motion picture industry's embarrassing baby photo's. We all have to start somewhere and so did movies.
I love silent movies. Warts and all. I think it's their raw quality. Knowing filmmakers were really learning the trade as they go along and finding new tricks to use in their movies. For those of you not familiar with old films, there are two rules of thumb. Just because it's old doesn't necessarily mean it's bad. However, just because it's old doesn't necessarily mean it's a classic.

I found two gems of the silent era. The first photo is from what I have been lead to believe is the very first film adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, created nearly 100 years ago in 1903. The second is from a later silent film created in 1915.

I actually find the first version far more interesting in it's attempts at effects whereas although the later film is more streamlined than it's predecessor, the later film does not make many attempts at visual effects. True the effects are choppy and imperfect. But that's why I love silent films.

Since both films are very short and available to watch on Youtube, I've posted them below so you can make your judgement which is the better film.
Well, without further ado, here are both films:

Alice in Wonderland (1903)


Alice in Wonderland (1915)

Up next in our theatrical adventures through Wonderland: The Jim Henson Creature Shop gets into the act with a unique look at both the creator of Alice as well as the girl who inspired the tales.

Alice in Wonderland (1949)

Quite possibly the strangest of the Alice in Wonderland movies I've seen. A lot of that thanks to the really bizarre stop motion puppets that inhabit "Wonderland" in this film created by Bunin Puppets.

Some of you Hammer Horror films might recognize Carol Marsh who would later go on to play Lucy in The Horror of Dracula starring Christopher Lee. Since I associate her so closely with that film, I half expected Peter Cushing to appear out of nowhere and burn her forehead with a crucifix.

20 years old when she played the role, Ms. Marsh was quite possibly the oldest Alice to date.

The film itself did garner some controversy. Apparently, Disney got their pantaloons in a bunch over the British company releasing their version around the same time Uncle Walt was releasing his. Disney even went so far to sue the British company to prevent them releasing theirs in the United States.

Incidentally, both film did poorly in the United States.

The film itself starts in a very similar way to it's 1972 counterpart, with the real-life Lewis Carroll telling the real life Alice Liddell about her adventures in Wonderland. They even go so far to mention in the film some of the real life historical figures who the key characters such as the Red Queen and the White Rabbit were based on.

As someone who enjoys animation a great deal, I found the blending of the live action Alice with the stop-motion puppets to be a very intriguing combination. Even some of the camera techniques the filmmakers used to blend the live actor with the animated characters to be very cleverly done given the obvious limitations to the visual effects they could achieve. And Carol Marsh wasn't bad as Alice.

Unfortunately, the film just did not captivate me on a whole. There were far too many scenes (especially the beginning) that were just too long long and drawn out. And the background visuals just reminded me of some of the public service messages I used to see on UHF Channels back in the 1980's. I suppose the filmmakers were trying to go for a storybook feel. But the flat backgrounds just did not grab me.

Both the very limited animation and visual effects were just too jarring to watch after a while.

Some of this could very well be that the quality of film has wased out and aged so poorly. Much like the '72 Alice, the only copies that of this film that are available on DVD are public domain versions. A lot of the time these films are re-released to cash in on a big budget version of the film being released. So they try and release every single version they can possibly find.

However, in the case of the '72 Alice, despite the age of the film, it's still enjoyable to watch. I just found myself losing interest after a while.

It's really the type of film for those who are fans of Lewis Carroll's classic story or from a film history point of view. Otherwise I think most will just find it very slow and tedious. And much like Alice, you may find yourself nodding off.

Up next: Alice from the Silent Era...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1972)

My favorite of the Alice movies despite having some truly terrible musical numbers. I've never been a big fan of musicals save the Marx Brothers early films for Paramount. But that's because most of the musical numbers were as satirical as the rest of the film.

But this adaptation remains my favorite out of all the productions. Produced in England and starred a veritable who's who of British actors at the time. Most notably Peter Sellers as the March Hare. This would not be Sellers first time in a production of Alice. He had played the King of Hearts in a previous production for British Television directed by Jonathan Miller of Beyond the Fringe fame.

The film features Fiona Fullerton in the role of Alice. Ms. Fullerton was 15 when she took the role. Again, still not the age Lewis Carroll originally wrote the character to be. But still. Considering some of the actresses were over the age of 20 playing the part, Fullerton is probably the closest to the way Carroll wrote the character age wise. She would later gain notice as the Anastasia in Nicholas and Alexandria as well as cuddling up in a jacuzzi to an aged Roger Moore in the 1985 James Bond film A View to a Kill.



Other British actors of note was Michael Crawford (of Phantom of the Opera fame) as the White Rabbit, Dudley Moore as the Dormouse, Spike Milligan as the Gryphon, Sir Ralph Richardson as the Caterpillar and Roy Kinnear as the Cheshire Cat.

Michael Jayston, who would later star with Fullerton as Tsar Nicholas in the movie Nicholas and Alexandra appeared in the film as Lewis Carroll... or as he's referred to by his real name Charles Dodgson in the film.
Doctor Who fans would come to know Michael Jayston as the Valeyard. Whom the Doctor discovers is in fact an evil future interim regeneration of himself.

Although the costuming in the movie still has that school play look to them by today's standards. It's a very well done school play look. Unlike the previous 1933 Alice, the make up allows the actors they natual expressions. In the case of Peter Sellers, who loses himself in a role, you truly believe him to be the March Hare.
Being able to see the actors eyes and expressions makes their performances more believable for me. Well, as believable as a story like this CAN be.

As far as the last 30 or 40 years are concerned, this version is still the best adaptation of the story that has been produced. Sadly, it is only available copies of the film that are available are VHS versions copied to DVD and it has not been fully restored and remastered. Which is a shame. Especially given this year marks the movie's 40th Anniversary.

Despite that, I would highly recommend checking the movie out. There are some really great performances for a really great cast. And for the time, the costuming and set designs are pretty good!

Tomorrow we look at quite possibly the strangest adaptation of Alice from 1949.

Alice in Wonderland (1933)


This is the first in a series of blogs spotlighting a few big screen adaptations of Lewis Carroll's classic tale Alice's Adventure in Wonderland.

The 1933 adaptation of Alice in Wonderland isn't a great film. But at the same time, it wasn't an awful film either. To be honest, there has never been a perfect interpretation of Lewis Carroll's classic stories on film. There have been some very good attempts. Even the 1972 version featuring Peter Sellers as the March Hare, which is probably my favorite version of the story, isn't a perfect adaptation either.

I've come to think that Alice tends to suffer the same thing Sherlock Homes has suffered. No not cocaine. But most producers seem to cast actresses over the age of 20 to play the part of a young girl who is supposed to be not much older than 7. In the case of Sherlock, he was supposed to be in his late 20's. But because he appeared much older looking due to the fact Walter Paget, who his brother Sidney Paget, used as the physical model of Holmes, had a receding hairline. Which is probably the reason many of the actors who have portrayed Holmes (with a few exceptions) have all for the most part been 40 and older.

In the case of Alice, it may come down to the fact that it's much easier to give direction to an older actress pretending to be a 7 year old rather than trying to give direction to a child star.

In the case of Charlotte Henry who is the Alice in this tale, apparently the studio press department made much of her uncanny resemblance to Sir John Tenniel's original artwork.

There is no attempt in the film at an English accent. But films were just like that back then. There really wasn't the push for authenticity and realism as they is in today's films. Films were made to escape reality. Not replicate it back them.

The film itself chose to adapt both the first Alice story and it's sequel Through the Looking Glass as one adventure. The biggest faults of the film is it tends to be slow in scenes and some of the segues into the next scenes do not flow very well.

But the scenes that did work very well make the film worth watching.

And some of the things the film DID have working for it was really unsettling costumes and a stellar cast. I really like the costumes. The look like they came out of someone's "Panto" from hell. Knowing these costumes would have frightened me as a child is proof that they're perfect. The attempts to make them cute are just nightmarish. So they work for me.

This was the first really big budget live-action movie of a children's classic with an all-star cast including Cary Grant as the Mock Turtle (seen above), W.C. Fields as Humpty Dumpty, Gary Cooper as the White Knight, Malden Massachusetts native Edna May Oliver as the Red Queen and Edward Everett Horton as the Mad Hatter.

For those of you unfamiliar with Edward Everett Horton, some of you might remember him as Mr. Witherspoon in Arsenic and Old Lace. And some might remember him as the Narrator for Fractured Fairytales in the Bullwinkle Show.

And, for those history buffs out there, W.C. Fields nemesis Baby Leroy played the Joker in the film. Fields never hid the fact that he hated working with children. But luckily for Fields he didn't appear onscreen with young master Leroy in this particular picture.

There was even an animated presentation of The Walrus and the Carpenter created by Leon Schlesinger Productions who would later rise to fame with the creation of such characters as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig.

Although very highly detailed and cleverly done for the time, one of the factors that made the film a box office disappointment was the fact that despite having this star-studded cast, nobody could recognize them under the mask. The movie cast doubts whether a live-action film featuring characters in strange costumes could be a success until the Wizard of Oz was released in 1939.

This film is worth watching at least once if you happen to catch it one night on Turner Classic Movies or rent it on Netflix. It is not the first adaptation of Alice, nor is it the first talking picture of the story either. However, it's historic because  it's the first big budget live-action version of the tale made in the United States. There wouldn't be another big screen version made in the States until Tim Burton's 2010 film which was more of a sequel than a retelling of Alice.

But it's worth checking out nonetheless.

Tomorrow's Alice Spotlight will feature the 1972 adaptation Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Much like the 1933 film live action. But this time produced in England. AND unlike the '33 film you can recognize the actor playing each character.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Take a Cartooning Class This Summer!!

Nothing to do? Why not take a Cartooning Class this Summer!!

Annie's Book Stop of Worcester has invited me to teach cartooning classes on fridays from July 20th till August 31st at their store at 65 James Street in Worcester, MA.

You have a choice between taking either a morning or afternoon session for $87.50 each or you can take both the morning and afternoon class together for $175.00 total.

In Session One, I will be teaching Cartooning in the morning from 10 AM till 12 NOON and in the afternoon I will be teaching Comic Art.

In Session Two, I will be teaching Create Your Own Super Hero in the morning and Drawn Animation in the afternoons. These classes are scheduled for the same time periods as the first session.

If you wish to sign up for two classes, you can either sign up for consecutive classes in the same session or sign up for one class in the first session and another in the second session.

If you're interested you can either stop by Annie's Book Stop of Worcester during normal business hours to pick up a sign up sheet or e-mail me to find out more about the classes.

Friday, June 15, 2012

NEW After Hours: 3 Popular Children's Characters That Secretly Hate Animals

Well, here's the finale of Season Two and it's a beauty!! I've been doing art for After Hours from the get go and I have to say this is probably the best work I've done on the series yet. Some of that is a great deal of thanks to animator Cody Johnston who added color to my Flintstone background. Which I will probably be adding color to my artwork from here on in.

It was a lot of fun doing my Nightmare Before Christmas version of Fred Flintstone.

Incidentally, congratulations to everyone at Cracked.com for being the People's Voice Winner for Best Humor Site at the Webby's. Everyone involved has done a great job creating a really funny site. I'm already looking forward to contributing to Season Three of After Hours!!

Mail-Order Mysteries: Real Stuff from Old Comic Book Ads!

Continuing our chat from yesterday... no! not about Invisible Woman's costume... if you grew up too late to remember the mail order advertisements inside comic books, there's this great book out called MAIL-ORDER MYSTERIES: REAL STUFF FROM OLD COMIC BOOK ADS! by Kirk Demaris.

What makes this book great is not only does it show the vintage ad in all is gritty washed-out newsprint glory. But it also shows you pictures of WHAT you actually got when you sent away for the item.

I can only imagine some poor kid gleefully excited when their Polaris Submarine arrived thinking it was at least going to be made of plastic so they could take it for a spin around their parents pool. And upon opening it being stung with the cold bitter reality it is made of cardboard in the shape of something that resembles a minnow rather than a nuclear submarine.

And if they were to launch it in their parents pool, their $6.98 investment would have been reduced to soggy cardboard. Then again, even if it were made of plastic, getting into a swimming pool with something that has a top that has the potential of getting stuck isn't be best idea on the planet.

This book is a great find for anyone who has wondered the truth behind those X-Ray Specs, Smoking Pets and Charles Atlas Books.

You can order your copy on Amazon.com for a mere $13.57!! Click on the link below to check out the book and perhaps order yours today:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sometimes the mind boggles...

I think any kid who has ever read comic books has fallen into the trap of the nefarious COMIC BOOK MAIL IN AD'S.

Even I have fallen victim. As a kid I had seen scissors based on Daffy Duck and Sylvester the Cat. Two of my favorite Looney Tune characters. So my Grandmother had sent away for some.

When they arrived, not only were they the most crappiest renderings of the characters but the scissors were completely useless to cut with. I think I gave myself blisters trying to cut something.

And I'm not alone. My buddy Andy Fish has mentioned on his own blog being duped by an ad for a life size Frankenstein's Monster. So imagine his horror thinking that this life sized version of Karloff's creature would be arriving in a crate, only to find it being delivered in a tube.

Instead of a larger than life replica, he had actually ordered a six foot tall poster of the monster. WITH A DOPEY GRIN!!

There are a lot of ads which make me just shake my head and think, "Did people actually fall for this??" The Polaris Nuclear Sub which two kids can ride in and the Sea Monkey's usually tops my list.

But sometimes I come across old ad's and I think to myself: "HOW DID THEY GET AWAY WITH THIS???" The ad above is one of them. Even though this ad was printed in the 1970's and the rules were a bit less stringent than they are now. Still!! This seems more suited for Playboy than the latest issue of Billy the Kid.

Especially if you consider who the target audience of most comics books back then. Young boys either just about to or had already hit puberty.

Then again I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by an ad like that in comic books. I'm reminded of Marvel's decision that it seemed like a great idea to "sex up" Invisible Woman of the Fantastic Four's costume in the 1990's.
For those of you who were either very young or not born yet. This was a time in comic books when the most important accessory on a female superheroes costume was a painful looking wedgie.

But it still makes me shake my head that they were able to get away with selling what is technically a blow up doll!! I can't imagine a parent entering their son's room and finding the doll on the floor with her wig a mess, her clothing in disarray and Jr. sitting on his bed with a deer in the headlights look gripping the deflating doll saying: "This is not what you think."

Has anyone ever bought this? That's my question? If you have, please leave a post on this blog. You will not be laughed at since we've all bought something crappy out of a comic book at one time or another.

But given the history of false advertisement in these ads, I am very curious what these things actually looked like when you got them.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Thoughts on Spring stART and the Canal District

The last time I actually drove down Green Street was about 10 or 11 years ago. And it was as a passenger. And it was not pretty. And neither was the Lucky Dog at the time I went.

I know talking with my Dad who remembers a time in the 1950's and 1960's Green Street used to be a nice area and it's a shame that it got to the point that it did.  And he's right. I hate to sound mean, but the last time I was there, Green Street was pretty much a slum. And there are still areas on Green Street that were still pretty rough.

But I have found my second trip to what is being referred to as the Canal District for the Spring Edition of stART on the Street to be a bit better than my first trip. It seems as though there are people that are making an honest effort to revitalize the area with a few nice restaurants and businesses.

As for this year's Spring stART, it was also a vast improvement over last year's event. Despite some shortcomings as mentioned above, Green Street was the ideal area for the venue. We had the option of either setting up either on the street itself or setting up in one of the parking lots. Syd and I decided we wanted to set up in what I referred to as the Derek Ring Lot. Named because famed Illustrator Derek Ring had set up shop there.

Despite being slightly off the beating path, as far as room and being able to set up is concerned, it was the ideal place. Syd and I also decided it was time to invest in a tent. Which given how really hot it was on Sunday, we spent the rest of the day feeling very pleased with our purchase. If we had been in the direct sun all day we would have felt a lot worse.

The only complaint I heard from people attending stART was parking. But given this is a new location this year, I know the people involved in stART will probably have all that ironed out and improved next year.

However, I have nothing but great things to say about this year's Spring stART on the Street. For one thing, the rain date actually ended up being a blessing. The weather on Sunday was much better than the previous week. And despite said rain date, the show itself seemed to be well attended.

Both Syd and I did very well with our sales. This was Syd's first show as a vendor and people took a great interest in her Vinyl household items. Her bracelets and jewelry were probably her biggest sellers. And she had one business card left when we were packing up.

But I hope stART does their Spring Show on Green Street next year. I thought as far as room was concerned, it was actually better space-wise than even their Fall Show on Park Avenue. And that's saying a lot considering that the Fall Show is their most successful event.

But much like the Fall Show has planted roots on Park Ave, I think the Spring Show might have finally found a place to plant roots and create their own identity on Green Street.

If you missed it this year, hopefully you will check out stART in Spring next year.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

New Print!! Scooby Doo? Where Are You?

Well the powers that be decided to postpone stART on the Street: Spring Edition till next Sunday due to the unpredictable weather. Which it looks like it may have been a good idea looking at some of the ominous clouds and it started to rain.

But it's given Syd and I the opportunity to work on a few extra goodies as well as finally buy a tent for the show next Sunday. Which we will use for future shows. Including Sowa's Market in Boston which the two of us have seriously considered taking part in.

But if you come to Green Street next Sunday from 11AM till 5PM, the print above is just one of the new goodies you will be seeing at the show. Hope to see you all there!!