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Category Archives: Pre-80’s movies

Barbarella

Barbarella 1968

I had heard a little bit about this film and always had in the back of my mind that it was based on a comic book but for some reason it hadn’t made it to my master list before now. But this month I was granted a new free trial of Netflix and went through all of their superhero and comic book offerings and came up with a list of eight films to try and watch during this month. For whatever reason, this was the first film that I decided to check out from that list, I guess I was in the mood for a cheesy sci-fi movie, and while I knew it was going to be somewhat of a sex romp, I was still a little surprised at how much nudity and sexuality came through in this film even though much of it was edited out during some theatrical releases of the film in the US. Barbarella originally started out as a comic strip in a French magazine before being collected in a series of graphic novels and eventually translated into English. It even ran in Heavy Metal magazine. As for the movie, it’s generally notable as it stars Jane Fonda but is basically a B-movie sci-fi film with a mix of sex and adventure.

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The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger 1956

The more I look into the history of the Lone Ranger, the more I question my decision to include the Lone Ranger in my list of comic book heroes but not Zorro. They’re both period heroes that hide their identity behind masks. Neither one have super powers, they only have their trained fighting abilities to help them out, they also have their calling cards, with Zorro’s slashed Z and the Lone Ranger’s silver bullets. Also, neither one were originally comic books; Zorro started out as a serialized pulp novel while the Lone Ranger began as a radio drama. The one thing I can fall back on is that while Zorro transitioned into films well before it made it into a full fledged comic book in the late 40’s, the Lone Ranger became a comic strip in the late 30’s which were collected into comic books in the 40’s and eventually included original stories all before its first feature length film in 1956. This came out near the end of the long running TV show and included the two main stars of the series. I’m not familiar with the show myself, but I would imagine that it follows a fairly similar format as this film does. For the most part, it was a fun enough film that didn’t have anything wrong with it per se, but neither did it ever stand out as a great film.
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Dr. Strange

Dr. Strange 1978

One thing that I find somewhat interesting when comparing this film to the Marvel animated film that came out almost 30 years later is that this film is almost always referred to by the abbreviation Dr. Strange. Meanwhile, the animated version and the upcoming live action film are both referred to in the long form Doctor Strange. I mainly reference this random fact because there is not really a whole lot to discuss when it comes to this failed pilot turned made-for-TV movie. It was produced a year after the successful Incredible Hulk pilot films which went to series and the limited series The Amazing Spider-Man. But when this pilot movie aired, it didn’t get nearly enough ratings for it to transition to a full series. Watching it now, the biggest problem seems like during the entire run time of the movie, nothing really happened. It’s extremely slow and very boring. I watched it over two sittings and found it hard to pay attention it was so dull, though I did happen to catch a little Easter egg where at one point Dr. Strange pulls out an Incredible Hulk comic. I would easily say that this is the worst movie based on a Marvel property that I’ve seen so far.
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Mr. Freedom

Mr. Freedom 1969

In my search for 100 of the most important and influential superhero movies, this is the last of those films that I’ve sought out to watch. I gave it a certain measure of importance mostly due to the label that released it on DVD. When a film is released under the Criterion label, it gives it an extra bit of prestige as they don’t just seek out any films to release. Instead, Criterion is generally known for releasing films that a cinephile would be most interested in. And considering that Mr. Freedom is the single, solitary superhero film released under the Criterion label, I assumed that it’s a mark of quality. I won’t go so far as to say that I was completely mistaken, but this was not the film I expected it to be by a long shot. While there is still a hefty amount of social satire and striking visuals, it’s marred by quite a bit of heavy handedness, low budget, and a nonsensical nature.
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Rat Pfink A Boo Boo

Rat Pfink A Boo Boo 1966

No, that’s not a typo in the title, the movie I’m talking about today really is called Rat Pfink A Boo Boo. Well, technically it very well could be a typo, but it’s one made by someone who worked on the film though the director claimed later on that it was intentional. Before I get to the actual movie, I do want to talk about the site where I watched this film. Which is appropriate as the film feels like about half filler anyway so you’re not missing out on much. Anyway, I found out about Fandor last year because they were promoting a meet and greet with director Jeremy Saulnier with his film Blue Ruin. While looking through their site, I also noticed that they had the Wild World of Batwoman streaming. The other day, I finally decided to watch that film and signed up for their 2 week free trial and tweeted, asking for suggestions on what films to watch during my trial. @Fandor actually responded the next day with a martial arts superhero film I hadn’t heard of that’s available at their site. I was just really impressed that they took that extra effort to check my profile and suggest an appropriate movie to me instead of just some random film. Then I noticed that they also had this film which I always assumed was going to be an obscure film that I would have to track down so I decided to go ahead and watch it. And even at just over an hour long, it felt nearly twice that, not to mention the jarring shifts in tone, both color and narratively.

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The Wild Wild World of Batwoman

The Wild Wild World of Batwoman 1966

This is one of the last couple films that I’ve put on my 100 Essential Superhero Movies list that I had yet to see. There are a couple reasons that I added this film instead of a more well known, or better film. One is that it was essentially one of the first fan films, or probably more accurately a mockbuster. It was made by Jerry Warren who didn’t have the rights to the Batman character, but wanted to capitalize on the TV show’s popularity and so he made this Batwoman movie. There were enough changes made to the characters that even though he was sued for copyright infringement, he actually won the case. It was also one of very few superhero movies that became popular as a cult film when it was featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Watching it today, it is very obviously along the lines of an Asylum mockbuster where the characters seemingly know that they’re in a parody of a film even though it’s all supposedly being taken seriously.
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Captain America 2: Death Too Soon

Captain America 2: Death Too Soon 1979

I imagine the thought process at CBS or whatever studio financed the two Captain America films was that the first one would be so popular that people would be clamoring for a sequel and so it went into production before the first one aired. And however the ratings were for the first one, it was essentially either too late or the ratings had enough merit to continue the production. There’s even an unlikely chance that these films were produced back to back but the true details are a little bit too far buried than my ten minutes of internet research will allow. It is interesting to note that this film was aired as essentially a two part mini-series, airing the first hour – counting commercials one night, and the second hour the next. And similar to the first Captain America, that is honestly one of the most interesting things about the entire film next to the fact that the villain was played by none other than the late, great Christopher Lee.
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Captain America

Captain America 1979

There are only a small handful of Marvel movies that I have yet to watch, and they all happen to fall within the realm of the dark days of Marvel in the late 70’s when they first started shopping their properties around to other live action studios in order to make TV shows and TV movies. One of the first ones was the famous Incredible Hulk TV show with Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk and Bill Bixby as David Banner, and just one year after that came out, there was this attempt at turning Captain America into a similar television property just one year after a full slate of superhero television properties like the Six Million Dollar Man, the Bionic Woman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, and the Incredible Hulk. It started out with this introductory TV movie which aired in January and followed with a sequel that aired in two parts in November. Even though it’s called Captain America it barely resembled anything close to the Marvel comic, and changed nearly everything about his origin in order to help fit within a limited television budget. Not only that, but it barely made for an interesting TV movie regardless.
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Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome

Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome 1947

And here we’ve come to the final film in the Dick Tracy theatrical run in the mid ’40s which came out in the very same year as the previous film Dick Tracy’s Dilemma which was released in July where this one was released in September. This means it’s also still relevant to the 1947 Blogathon which is still going on through today at least. It again has Ralph Byrd in the role of Dick Tracy but brings in Boris Karloff to play the heavy named Gruesome. This film also brings back quite a bit of the humor and quirkiness present in the first two films to end on a high note. And, like the last three it is currently available to watch via Hulu. It’s well worth the still quite short sixty-odd minute runtime.
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Dick Tracy’s Dilemma

Dick Tracy’s Dilemma 1947

Over halfway through these Dick Tracy films I’ve finally hit the first of two released in 1947 which fit in with a certain 1947 blogathon going on. Dick Tracy’s Dilemma interestingly keeps much of the supporting cast of the first two films. But replaces Morgan Conway’s Dick Tracy with Ralph Byrd who actually was the original Dick Tracy in the earlier serials. With the change in leads came a slight change in tone, where Dick Tracy vs Cueball has been the lightest of the three films so far, this one would be the most serious in tone as well as the most suspenseful. Even with the more serious tone, it was still an overall fun watch with enough comic relief from the side characters to help lighten the overall tone.
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