Monday, January 26, 2009

Rest In Peace: Ricardo Montalban!

This announcement has been delayed, because it’s difficult to find a place to begin cataloguing the achievement of this extremely talented Mexican born actor, who left us on January 14, 2009.
For most fans and admirers of Ricardo Montalban, regardless of age or era, it would be his iconic portrayal of genetically enhanced uber-dictator Khan, in the classic STAR TREK episode “Space Seed”, a performance strong enough for a return – not as a TV sequel, but as a feature film: Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan.

He also starred in FANTASY ISLAND, a show I never cared for, despite his well-crafted contributions and was a well-known spokesman for Chrysler automobiles. But to me, his best moments were spent guest-starring in various television series.

In recent years, Montalban was plagued with pain and confinement to a wheelchair, as a result of back surgery. At this time, he embraced animation voice acting, as detailed by FREAKAZOID! co-creator Paul Rugg

He excelled at animation voicing as he did at “live, on camera” acting – with such roles as over the top villain “Armando Gutierrez” on FREAKAZIOD! to a talking cow on FAMILY GUY!
Witness these quotes from what would seem to be two polar extremes in acting…
From I SPY star Robert Culp on a DVD commentary: “General Vera [an I SPY episode’s featured guest character] was written specifically for Ricardo Montalban. He brought the exact degree of strength, and totally unexpected passion and dignity, and just a touch of stuffiness that made his character revelations throughout the story more believable than I had thought possible.”
And, from FAMILY GUY creator Seth McFarlane: “Ricardo Montalban ended up being hilarious. It was that much MORE incongruous because he’s such a dignified guy that… [McFarland is interrupted and resumes] …I gottta tell you… this guy… He has that back injury, so he’s in a wheel chair… but you shake his hand and he’ll [Bleeping!] rip your arm off! [As the Cow] Ricardo Montalban has this absurd speech and he SELLS IT 100 Percent! We gotta bring that Cow back!”
…Alas, unless there’s something “in the can” I’m not aware of, that is not to be!
Ricardo Montalban was a frequent and always memorable television guest star. Here are a few of my favorite places to enjoy his work – episode title and DVD collection in which it can be found – and the character he played:
STAR TREKSpace Seed” (1967) STAR TREK Season One. (1990s superman Kahn). 'Nuff said!

THE WILD WILD WESTThe Night of the Lord of Limbo” (1966) THE WILD WILD WEST Season Two. (Embittered Civil War Colonel who, quite ironically, has lost his legs and is confined to a wheelchair! He plans to manipulate time to change the outcome of the war and restore his physical health. Oddly, near the beginning of this episode, AN AIRPLANE is briefly and inadvertently glimpsed flying overhead – thanks to new DVD clarity! Perhaps Montalban was already manipulating time!)

After Kahn, in my opinion, the above may be his best television performance!
I SPYMagic Mirror” (1967) I SPY Season Two. (Deposed Latin American Island Dictator, playing the United States and the Soviet Union against one another. Echoes the all-too-then-recent Cuban Missile Crisis.)
THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.The Dove Affair” (1964) THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. Season One. (Balkan intelligence official secretly helping U.N.C.L.E. oppose T.H.R.U.S.H.)

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.The King of Diamonds Affair” (1966) THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. Season Two. (Notorious master jewel thief)
IRONSIDEThe Sacrifice” (1968) IRONSIDE Season Two. (Detective sergeant investigated for murder of a suspected criminal)

FREAKAZOID!The Chip Parts One and Two” (1995) FREAKAZOID! Season One. (Corrupt and ruthless corporate CEO “Armando Gutierrez” is inadvertently responsible for creating the unconventional superhero Freakazoid!)
FREAKAZOID!The Wrath of Gutierrez” (1996) FREAKAZOID! Season One. (Gutierrez becomes a cyber-being and seeks Kahn-level revenge on Freakazoid!)

FREAKAZOID!Hero Boy” (1996) FREAKAZOID! Season Two. (Gutierrez makes his obligatory second-season appearance and, madder and more over the top than ever, imprisons Freakazoid!)
FAMILY GUYMc Stroke” (2008) FAMILY GUY Volume Six. (A talking cow that Peter Griffin saves from slaughter by a fast-food conglomerate! Yes, really!)

And that’s only the merest fraction of the achievements of the Ricardo Montalban! Rest in peace.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Yogi Bear in “Slap Happy Birthday” (to me!)

It occurs to me that there aren’t very many short cartoons with a birthday theme, but let’s celebrate my own birthday – today, January 24 – with one of the few I can recall… Yogi Bear in “Slap Happy Birthday” (1961). Back when I was knee-high to a pic-a-nic basket.

This is one with its full credits sequence left intact, has a redesigned “title card pose and logo” for Yogi (differing from the original one pictured above) – and opens with my favorite rendition of the Yogi Bear theme song. An earlier version of this same theme comes equipped with lyrics:
“Who keeps cool when things are hot? Who does? Yogi Bear!...”

That one’s nice, but I prefer this lively instrumental version better. And it was the one used most often.

Notice that the cartoon occurs in fall – and there are fall-like backgrounds to complement the script. Notice, too, the odd type of running done by Ranger Smith as the cartoon winds to a close. He’s not “leaning into the run” as he should. More of a fast foot-shuffling, as he remains up straight! …
Oh, those wacky Hanna-Barbera guys, the things they could do!

This is from the later period when Yogi’s cartoons became less “slapstick-y funny” and more personality oriented. In fact, there are some Yogi cartoons that, with careful planning, could have actually become half-hour shows a la Top Cat.

Installments like this one, Gleesome Threesome (Yogi and Boo-Boo follow Ranger Smith on his Florida vacation) and A Bear Pair (Contest winners Yogi and Boo-Boo win a trip to Paris, where they are mistaken for ambassadors) would fall into this category. Even the football cartoon Rah Rah Bear, which you can see HERE would qualify. It would have been interesting to see what a half-hour Yogi would have been like…

But, for now, let’s join the great Daws Butler as Yogi, Don Messick as Boo Boo and Ranger Smith, and writer Warren Foster as they celebrate “Mister Ranger’s” birthday… and mine!

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Most Unusual Day!

It is a day worth noting. A day I never imagined.

As I become more and more disenchanted with the type of storytelling by and overall direction of DC Comics these days, the outrageously irresponsible gaps between issues that have plagued Image’s Savage Dragon and certain DC Comics in recent years (...Consider the catastrophicly disruptive delays that plagued "Last Son" in ACTION COMICS, for instance), and the irregular publishing schedule of Gemstone’s Disney comics, the day has finally come that I have ordered NO NEW COMIC BOOKS THIS WEEK!

Nope, not a one!

This is the first week since 1982 that this has been the case!

There’s just not enough to interest me anymore… and they cost too much for too little return.

Don’t feel bad for me, though. I have decades worth of old and relatively recent comics to read. Enough reading to last me for the rest of my life. And, I will still buy some new comics. I may never give them up completely… but there will be fewer and fewer from now on.

And this is the first week in 27 years that there have been none!

Yes, this was a most unusual day!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Rest In Peace: Bob May!

Bob May, the man inside the Robot on LOST IN SPACE passed away on January 18, at age 69.

For more click HERE.

May, the grandson of vaudevillians, brought an amazing sense of personality and (believe it or not) comic timing to The Robot – basically a shell-on-wheeled-tracks – that he squeezed into every week for three television seasons. (1965-1968)

Never credited, perhaps to create the illusion that the The Robot was “real”, Bob May never even SPOKE for his greatest creation. The Robot’s voice was dubbed over May's by famed television announcer Dick Tufeld – who also brought incredible personality (and some amazingly melodramatic emotion) to the character with his vocal performance.

However, there is one instance where Bob May’s voice is actually heard speaking for The Robot during an episode.

It was the climactic ending scene of “The Ghost Planet(On DVD in LOST IN SPACE Season Two, Volume One), where the Robinsons are pushing the semi-disabled Robot back to the ship, as they are under fire from automatons. Dick Tufeld apparently failed to cover the Robot’s dialogue in this scene, as he frantically urges his friends to “Heave and Push!” Listen to it, and you will hear the difference. (Above and Below: The Robot in "The Ghost Planet" 1966)

I never considered it before, but it may very well be an inability of the technology of the time that did not allow for the “isolation” of Bob May’s vocal histrionics over that of the others (John, Don, Will, and Smith) – who, uncharacteristically, all seemed to be shouting over one another in their frenzy!

Without such isolation, perhaps Dick Tufeld’s voice could not have been overdubbed in that instance. May often sung for the Robot, including “Santa Lucia” in the very same episode, but that was a rare opportunity to hear him speak!

Oh, and Bob May was also did a silent cameo as Hitler in the TIME TUNNEL episode “The Kidnappers” – on DVD in The Time Tunnel Volume Two. Del (“Kowalski”) Monroe, from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was also in that one as a time traveling android.

Rest In Peace, Mr. May… you’ve entertained several grateful generations! May your “Power Pack” always be fully charged and never pulled out!

Could Bob May have asked for a better Honor Guard than THIS? ...I don’t think so!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Barack Obama President of the United States of America!

Congratulations to President Barack Obama!

Yes, we can! And, yes he DID!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Quick Draw McGraw in “Scat, Scout, Scat!” (1959)

When in doubt, post another early Hanna-Barbera cartoon, I always say. They tend to get favorable comments, and they keep this Blog from going dormant during busy times.

With Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear already represented at TIAH Blog, here’s H-B’s third early star, Quick Draw McGraw, in one of his earliest cartoons. Maybe the first. If not, certainly among the first two or three.

As for why I think it may be the first: The animation is a littler “rougher” than it would become. Quick Draw is a bit more cagey than his character usually is. And Baba Looey has a slightly different voice than would become his norm.

Quick Draw is said to have been based on Red Skelton – combining his characters of Clem Kadiddlehoper and Sheriff Deadeye. Maybe, maybe not… you decide.

Our guest-starring character is the wonderful one-shot adversary Big Chief Little Runt, who is clearly based on comic actor Joe Besser. Besser was popular at the time as the “Third Stooge” following Shemp Howard, and for his appearances on the Abbott and Costello TV show.

So, enjoy the great Daws Butler as Quick Draw, Baba Looey and Big Chief Little Runt, and Doug Young as the Narrator – and one of the first cartoon scripts for Hanna-Barbera by the legendary Michael Maltese.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year – from Yogi and Me!

Let’s ring in the New Year with a Yogi Bear cartoon – set in winter, of course!

Enjoy the great Daws Butler and Don Messick – and a great script by Warren Foster.

Here’s another wonderful early Hanna-Barbera cartoon that WB has not elected to release on DVD! Let’s hope for 2009. Happy New Year!