A Thousand Words: They Saved Hitler’s Brain

They Saved Hitler’s Brain

This movie is probably best remembered for its title-the originally shipped one the “The Madmen of Mandorus” is not nearly as clear or memorable. In that movie, the Nazis, facing defeat, cut off Hitler’s head while keeping it alive, fly it out of the country, and keep it safe in the fictional Mandorus until they can launch their evil plot to take over the world with poison gas.

Besides the title, there are two more things that make this movie stand out. The first is, of course, the novelty of Hitler’s head in what looks like a glass cake container. The second is what turned it from “The Madmen of Mandorus” to its most famous name.

The movie needed to be lengthened for TV, so an additional, completely unrelated opening act was filmed with UCLA film students. Since pop culture and film technology had changed so much in the few years, it stands out dramatically. All that amounts to in terms of actual plot  is a bunch of people with bad post-Sgt. Pepper Beatles mustaches getting in and out of cars before they all die. Then the actual movie starts, and, barring the Hitler Head, is a conventionally bad B-movie. It’s very stupid all around, but it’s the kind of distinctive “fun-stupid” that’s enjoyably bad.

A Thousand Words: Dr. Strangelove

Dr. Strangelove

Welcome to A Thousand Words, my attempt to expand Fuldapocalypse into visual media. Since this is a blog that’s technically about World War III, I figured I’d open it up by reviewing the movie that probably, more than any other, represents World War III in popular culture. This movie, obviously, is the Stanley Kubrick/Peter Sellers classic Dr. Strangelove.

The movie itself is excellent. I could complain about how some of the humor seems a little forced at times, but the positives vastly outweigh the negatives. It’s a classic for a reason.

What I find more intriguing is how utterly different Dr. Strangelove is from, say, Red Storm Rising. The entire plot centers around nuclear war, as opposed to the sidestepping most of the “WW3s” I knew did. It’s started by an American general, and there are only a few characters. Granted, some of this is the movie format at work, but still.

Review: Seven Days In May

Seven Days In May

Fletcher Knebel and Charles Bailey’s “foil the American coup attempt” novel Seven Days in May is one of those interesting books. I’d liken it to seeing the original Street Fighter, Wolfenstein 3D, Command And Conquer, or any early, genre-defining video game.

On one hand, it’s clear to see how much of a foundation it set for countless “Nation In Crisis” thrillers to follow.  One the other, well, even after accepting that this is the kind of book that isn’t centered around explosions, it’s still too dry for my tastes.

It’s almost exactly like seeing an old fighting game, realizing what it laid out for the genre-and then finding that in actual gameplay, it’s a clunkfest where a special attack is almost impossible, but if you can pull it off, it’s an instant match-winner. The prose is stuffy even by the standards of the time, and even by the standards of nonviolent political novels, I’ve seen better-written suspense elsewhere. But at the same time, I’d think it would come across as far fresher if actually read at the time it was originally published, and can appreciate it for its historical value if nothing else.

Review: War Against The Mafia

War Against The Mafia

I figured I’d go straight to the source. Don Pendleton’s War Against The Mafia is what kicked off the Mack Bolan series. This spawned hundreds and hundreds of books-by one rough calc, a Mack Bolan novel of some form or another has released every thirty days. And this isn’t even counting the even more numerous knockoffs throughout the decades, including a certain Marvel Comics character who likes wearing shirts with skulls on them.

The modern cheap thriller as we know it owes its origins, or at least its popularity, in no small part to Pendleton’s tale. So I knew I had to check it out.

Who and What

This tells the story of super-veteran Mack Bolan as he wages the conflict depicted in the title. Reading this, I feared that this would fall victim to the “seen so many imitators that the original doesn’t seem so original” effect. And in some ways it came to pass and in some it didn’t.

The stock two-dimensional cheap thriller characters I recognized instantly. This is definitely not a series that started highbrow and was cheapened by the mass market. But the prose was different, and not necessarily for the better. It feels kind of clunky, and it’s the style I’ve recognized from other books written in the 1960s.

DEEP HISTORY OF TEM

There aren’t that many extraneous infodumps here compared to a lot of later cheap thrillers. Especially not infodumps about weapons-for the most part it’s the caliber, the brand name, and not much else. At most.

There’s still plenty of infodumps, and they serve as part of the hindering style of writing mentioned above, but a lot of them are at least germane to the plot. I think the worst explanation came from telling and not showing Bolan’s exploits in Vietnam.

Zombie Sorceresses

Whatever contrivances are needed to make an action hero occur here. Bolan in this book isn’t the absolute strongest or most capable compared with some later heroes-he feels more human and vulnerable than The Survivalist’s John Rourke, for instance-but he’s still very much a larger than life figure.

While the blurbs alone make it clear that the zombie sorceresses are a lot busier in later Bolan books (let me put it this way, you can only fight mobsters so many times), they can take it easier in his debut.

Tank Booms

The action is not bad, and there is lots of it. But the writing style just makes it not feel as action-y as it could have been.

The Only Score That Really Matters

War Against The Mafia is worth reading if only for its influence. But it feels more like something that was just in the right place at the right time than something that could stand on its own terms. It would probably just be a middle of the road action adventure thriller like so many of its follow-ons undoubtedly were.

Still, I enjoyed reading it. It’s not a bad book by the standards of its genre, as clunky as its prose could be in places. I’m undoubtedly biased by having read so many adventure thrillers that were at least indirectly influenced by it.