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Saturday’s Comfort Zone Wrapup

Finally, our conclusion.

Here’s part one, part two, and part three. I really had intended, when I first outlined this, to keep it to one or at most two columns. What can I say? Comfort food’s a staple around here lately. Between cold and flu season, and then hosting our godson Phenix for a couple of days, the old standbys have been in heavy rotation a lot.

Anyway, these are the last ones  — my go-to list of SF, fantasy, and superhero comics and books and movies that I never get tired of.

Let me reiterate that these aren’t my picks for the best in their genre, or even my all-time favorites, exactly. (Although many of them are favorites of mine.) One of the reasons I started writing about ‘comfort food’ entertainment was to try and explain the idea a little better. The defining characteristic of these works is they aren’t particularly innovative in an artistic sense — they’re hitting genre beats in a classic way, there’s nothing in them that’s going to set the world on fire. But at the same time, they’re doing it so well, so reliably, that even when you can see a plot development coming a mile off it’s okay. Because you enjoy it so much that you just don’t care, it’s like greeting an old friend.

What I notice, as I write these columns, is that when I just want something relaxing I tend to go back to my ‘firsts.’ For example, my first encounters with science fiction were Irwin Allen’s various television efforts  and the original Star Trek.

You never get over your first. These haven't aged well at all, but I still love them.

So my preferred comfort SF tends to be something heavy on the adventure, enough science fiction in it to be fun but not enough that it’s taxing. For example, The Omega Man is comfort food. 2001: A Space Odyssey is not.

Yes. Totally. No, no, no. Too much quality.

All of this is by way of explaining why my comfort picks tend to be… well, quality-challenged, one might say. Very few of these works are going to end up on anyone’s “Best Of” lists, especially in science fiction or fantasy circles (superhero fans are more forgiving.) But I still love them. These are the stories I pull off the shelf when I just want to relax, or when I need something to cheer me up on a bad day.

There are lots of great science fiction movies out there, some real classics. But for pure enjoyment, I keep coming back to the aforementioned Omega Man.

I love this movie. I couldn't tell you why.

Damn dirty zombies!

Objectively, I couldn’t tell you why. It’s not a good adaptation of I Am Legend. It’s terribly dated– ironically, mostly from its effort to appear fresh and hip. It’s hammy and pretentious and the allegory comes off as painfully heavy-handed.

I doubt the Manson family dressed like this...

But… I love it in a way that I just don’t The Last Man on Earth, which is by the way a much better movie, or even the original Matheson novel I Am Legend which I think is a brilliant book. The thing is, neither one of those are really what I’d call fun. They’re intense stories that demand a lot from the audience. They’re Art. Compared to those, The Omega Man is cheese. But it’s really tasty cheese.

Maybe it’s the era – The Omega Man is a very seventies movie, and so are my other SF picks, come to think of it.

Between the cancellation of the original Star Trek in 1969 and 1979′s Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Gene Roddenberry tried his hand at four other science fiction and fantasy TV series pilots. In the olden days, these would air as made-for-TV movies and I loved every one of them.

Technically, the first one he tried twice. Genesis II was the story of Dylan Hunt, a man from our time who was trapped in a cavern during a suspended animation experiment, revived a couple of centuries later into a world trying to recover from nuclear war. Alex Cord did well enough as Hunt, and he was ably supported by Ted Cassidy as Isiah, the white savage as well as the young Mariette Hartley as the hot mutant babe Lyra-A.

Lots of Roddenberry standard stuff in this. In the Roddenberry future, mutant chicks are HAWT.

That one aired on CBS, and they ended up picking up the Planet of the Apes TV series instead. The following year we saw Planet Earth, a somewhat re-imagined sequel (It was roughly the same relationship the new Edward Norton Hulk movie had to the Eric Bana one, if that helps you.) This one was on ABC.

This Dylan Hunt was cooler than the first one and knew kung fu besides.

This Dylan Hunt was cooler than the first one and knew kung fu besides.

Honestly? I like this one better than Genesis II even though, again, objectively Genesis II is the better movie.

For one thing, Planet Earth is simply more fun. Roddenberry was determined to prove to ABC that he still had what it took to do an action show, he was able to do a TV series that wasn’t just about Making A Statement about Humanity’s Bold Future. So the movie opens with a big action sequence between Dylan and his team and the killer mutant Kreegs (“A species obsessed with militarism and war!”) and goes on from there.

The new Klingons in their killer future jeep. BRING IT BUMPYHEAD!

The cast is better too. The only holdovers from the first are Ted Cassidy, who was simply too cool to lose (The creator of Mr. Spock and Data knew a cult hero when he saw one) and of course Majel Roddenberry has a small role. But John Saxon is much better as Dylan Hunt than Alex Cord was, he brings more of that Jim Kirk swagger to it. And the late Janet Margolin is wonderful as the naive but determined Harper Smythe.

Janet Margolin totally has that Hot Girl Next Door thing going on.. If this series had sold she would have been every geek boy's dream, even more than Dana Scully. Hurt me, baby.

Diana Muldaur also does a nice job as the matriarch Marg, and on the whole everyone looks to be having much more fun than the cast of Genesis II. The gender-politics stuff is about as ham-handed as one would expect, but it does sort of work on a satirical level. (Here’s a clip.)

But the real draw of the thing is the old-school adventure vibe, especially the big fight at the end with Ted Cassidy and his exuberant warrior’s yell. It’s one of my favorite film fights ever. Most people remember Ted Cassidy as Lurch from The Addams Family, but for me he’ll always be Isiah.

I can't help thinking this show would have been great fun. Sigh.

I can't help thinking this show would have been great fun. Sigh.

This pilot didn’t sell either. ABC took one more swing at it, with Saxon and without Roddenberry, in an awful movie called Strange New World. We’ll just ignore that one.

I’m also very fond of the other two failed Gene Roddenberry TV series pilot movies from this time, Spectre and The Questor Tapes.

Spectre was an idea that predated The X-Files by a couple of decades.

This would also have been a way cool show.

It featured Robert Culp as the very Holmes-like occult investigator William Sebastian, and the late Gig Young as his even more Watson-like friend Dr. “Ham” Hamilton.

SPECTRE often has the feel of a Hammer film, honestly.

SPECTRE often has the feel of a Hammer film, honestly.

In their initial outing they are up against a demonic cult that worships the lizard-god Asmodeus, “Prince of Lechery.” With all of the vaguely unsettling Roddenberry riffs about sexual liberation and free love that you’d expect to be included. (Watch all these movies in a row and you are left with the overall impression that Gene Roddenberry had some weird ideas about women.) Nevertheless, it’s an entertaining little movie, there’s something very Hammer-esque about it.

Hot girls and dinosaurs in capes! This one's got it all.

Hot girls and dinosaurs in capes! This one has it all!

The plot is a bit oddly-structured in places, but overall it holds up well, and Culp is always a treat. There’s also a very young John Hurt as a prissy Satanist type. I don’t know if a series would have worked, but it’s a fun movie.

The Questor Tapes is widely regarded as the best of the Roddenberry pilots from this era, and it’s easy to see why fans love it so. This story of an android and his search for his creator is very, very Trek-like. In fact it originally was going to star Leonard Nimoy as the android Questor, but Robert Foxworth got the job instead.

Before there was Data.......there was Questor.

Most of the ideas Roddenberry is trying here he came back to with the character of Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation, but this is quite a bit looser and more entertaining than the early episodes of that show ever were. Most of this is due to Foxworth’s mannered performance — I think he did it better than Nimoy would have, honestly — and additionally, Mike Farrell is simply charming as engineer Jerry Robinson.

These four films have all been convention bootleggers’ evergreens for decades, but Planet Earth and Genesis II are finally getting a legitimate DVD release from Warner Brothers Archive.

About damn TIME.

About damn TIME.

Sadly, nothing yet for the other two, but there are paperback novelizations a determined web surfer could probably track down.

This is a competent but unmemorable prose version. This one is very cool... good luck finding this edition, though.

The one by Dorothy Fontana for Questor is actually pretty good, and stayed in print for years after the movie was forgotten by TV viewers. Of course there are the bootleggers, but I can’t really recommend that option. I think the entirety of Questor is on YouTube in ten-minute chunks, as well.

The whole Dylan Hunt/Genesis II concept eventually got retooled into Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda, but that’s so far away from the original that it’s hardly applicable here.

This was okay, I guess, but I'd rather have had PLANET EARTH as a series.

This was okay, I guess, but I'd rather have had PLANET EARTH as a series.

Although I did like bits of the first and second seasons of that show okay, I always felt a vague sense of injustice that it was the version that actually succeeded. I wanted the John Saxon one with Ted Cassidy as Isiah, damn it. (I occasionally wonder if Saxon or Alex Cord actually ever guested on the Kevin Sorbo show. That would have been a really nerdy piece of stunt casting. Dueling Dylans!)

*

When I want that same kind of undemanding comfort-food entertainment in a fantasy comic, well, there’s really only one that does it for me.

Really, who else is there?

Conan. I enjoy pretty much every version of Robert E. Howard’s mighty barbarian that has appeared in comics, and the current Dark Horse take on the character is a class act all the way. But my first choice is usually something from Savage Sword.

My favorite Conan.... not the best, just my favorite. There were a LOT of good stories in Savage Sword.

I love that Dark Horse is putting the Savage Sword Conan stories out in paperback, but honestly, I like the actual magazines. They’re exactly the right-size hunk of reading material when you just want to kill some time and relax — especially the earlier issues that also included fun text pieces, real articles and reviews, along with the comics. That was something I’m sorry to say doesn’t get included in the Dark Horse reprint trades, and it’s why I’m not as enthusiastic about them as I want to be. I liked the rhythm you got in the old Savage Sword magazine of a long lead story with Conan, followed by an article about Conan’s pulp appearances or the unlicensed Mexican Conan comic or Bran Mak Morn or something, and then a short second feature comic. It was a nice package.

I’m not terribly picky about who does it. I liked the Thomas/Buscema stuff best, but I also quite enjoyed Chuck Dixon’s Savage Sword work, and even the Michael Fleisher version of Conan is okay by me once in a while, though it’s my least favorite.

My filthy secret is that I’m just not a Conan purist. It comes back to that “first encounter” thing. See, I can appreciate that there are now nice Howard-only collections of the original Conan stories…

Yeah, yeah, this is the GOOD edition....

Yeah, yeah, this is the GOOD edition....

…but you know, after I bought those I ended up giving them away and spending an absurd amount of time prowling book dealers for the old Sphere paperbacks that are half Howard and half L. Sprague de Camp.

...but this one is MY edition, damn it. Look, the cover, the FEEL of the book, that's part of the experience.

It just didn’t feel right unless it was one of those old paperbacks with the Frazetta covers, complete with the nerdy chronological notes and the lame pastiches and all the rest of it. Because that’s my Conan. I can’t help it.

(Yes, of course I can tell the difference between the authentic Howard Conan and the other stuff, and yes, Howard’s is easily the best. But I just like getting it in this package. Don’t judge me dammit!)

Truthfully, while we’re on the subject of lame knockoff versions of things, I’ve always thought that the best Conan movie anyone ever made was actually The Sword and the Sorcerer.

The best Conan movie not called Conan.

Lee Horsley as Talon isn’t nearly beefy enough but by God he nailed everything else. He’s simply so much better than Arnold Schwarzenegger was in the actual Conan movies that it’s ridiculous.

Yeah, he's too skinny, but look at the attitude, man!

And the script is a fun mishmash of Howard’s Conan stories. You can see pieces of “The Scarlet Citadel,” “A Witch Shall Be Born,” “Black Colossus,” and a couple of others. It’s like a Greatest Hits collection. Pity that it was, you know, uh, plagiar — well, let’s say a devout homage, okay? –and not an actual Conan film.

This is so Howard.

Because everything else about this is just so… right. The plot, the atmosphere, everything, it feels so much more like a Conan story than either of the official Conan movies ever did.

Of course, there’s that howler of a plot hole near the end with the crucifixion scene — I really can’t believe that Talon could tear himself down off that crosstie, leap thirty feet in the air, grab his thirty-pound triple-bladed sword, and lay waste to Cromwell’s entire army while he still had gaping bloody holes in his hands. Not to mention the final duel and so on and so on, before waving at everyone and taking Kathleen Beller off to bed.

Ladies love the holes in the hands.

I mean, seriously, even Conan had to rest up after tearing himself off the cross in “A Witch Shall Be Born,” where that scene is stolen from. It’s just not something you bounce right back from.

Even Conan had a little trouble bouncing back from this.

But even with the idiocy of that one scene, even with its bizarre casting (Joe Regalbuto as a savage pirate mercenary? The guy from Murphy Brown? Seriously?) …I can’t help myself, I still love The Sword and the Sorcerer. I first saw it in the theater when I was in college — my friends and I must have gone three or four times — and I made it a point to grab it as soon as it showed up on home video.

The sequel’s finally getting made, too, featuring former Dylan Hunt (and, okay, Hercules and Kull) Kevin Sorbo.

Even if this is bad it will still be AWESOME!

Even if this is bad it will still be AWESOME!

It’s embarrassing how delighted I was to hear this. Lee Horsley actually came out of retirement for it, even; he makes a nice living writing Western novels, these days, but by God he put on the old loincloth again for this. I am so jazzed.

*

Well, I can see that this spun away from me again. I appreciate your forbearance, if you made it this far. Let’s see if I can wrap things up.

The last comfort-food genre pieces I wanted to talk about are superheroes, but really, in some sense almost all mainstream superhero stories have that reassuring sense of the expected about them. The hero is going to fight the villain and the good guys are going to win. Hell, during the years the Comics Code Authority was enforcing stuff, that was actually written into the rules.

That’s why the stories that break away from that template — Watchmen, Animal Man, Astro City, etc. — are usually hailed as genius and visionary. But the comfort-food stuff is where a lot of us find our inner fan at his most devoted.

For example, I’ve always been a Batman guy…. but in seventy years of published Bat stuff, that could mean a lot of things. So my favorite Batman stories tend to be the ones that fall into line with what I think Batman should be like.

Now, I can give you a lot of well-reasoned arguments about why I think Batman should be done this way and not that way, but really? At its core? I think it’s the comfort-food, don’t-screw-with-my-expectations factor. That certain satisfaction that comes with the nod of, “Yes. That’s how that needed to go.”

My favorite Batman. why? Because it's the way I think it should be done.

That’s why I adored Batman Begins so much when I first saw it. Not just that it was a good movie — although I think it was a terrific movie — but it was my Batman, absolutely. The Bronze Age model.

This story still holds up. Damn but I miss Don Newton.

Started with Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams’ “Secret of the Waiting Graves,” peaked with Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers, and finally ended with Doug Moench and Don Newton. That’s my guy. And he’s up there on the screen in Batman Begins, which is why that movie is so soothing for me. It really is like visiting an old friend for a couple of hours.

The challenge for most superhero writers of today is to evoke that happy feeling of recognition while at the same time not giving us something we’ve seen a zillion times before.

That’s really goddamn hard. And gets harder every year.

…but I digress. I could do a whole column about the current challenges of writing illusion-of-change superheroics — I may have even sort of done it once or twice already — but that’s not what this series of columns has been about. This was just where I wanted to mention a few of my personal favorite superhero stories that evoke that comfortable, quiet feeling of satisfied pleasure, that moment of Yes. Exactly.

For the classics, well, I already mentioned Batman. In particular, the movie Batman Begins and the collection Tales of the Demon.

I never get tired of this book.

I never get tired of this book.

And over at Marvel, there’s the Lee-Romita Spider-Man. In particular, the early part of that collaboration, #40 to #50.

Again, this is one of those things where intellectually I know the Ditko stuff was better — but the Romita stuff is mine.

The nice thing is that in 1992 Marvel put it all between two covers for me.

No matter how badly my day is going, reading this book will always make me smile.

No matter how badly my day is going, reading this book will always make me smile.

Marvel Masterworks volume 22, pictured above, is the only Marvel hardcover I own that I paid full price for when it came out. I had to have it. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve pulled it off the shelf to look up something or other and just ended up reading it again.

Comfort-food superheroics of a more modern vintage? That’s harder. Really the only book I can think of that gave me that “of course” vibe, that wasn’t particularly groundbreaking but nevertheless was completely satisfying, would be JLA under Grant Morrison and Mark Waid.

Just the right balance. This is simply what I think the League should look like.

That was really a tour de force of looking exciting and fresh while underneath it all, the Justice League was just going back to basics — all the heroes in one story fighting menaces too big to handle alone. It was loud and fast and fun and had nice character bits and evoked the best of the old while still feeling new. It’s no wonder DC ran it into the ground. But while it was cooking, JLA was my go-to superhero book. Always reliable.

*

And there you have it. Those are my picks for the days when only an old favorite will do. Feel free to list your own in the comments below, or anything else you feel like mentioning for that matter.

Me, I think it’s time to dig out an old favorite and throw it in the DVD player. Maybe something from George Pal. This might be a night for Seven Faces of Dr. Lao. Or Doc Savage.

I love this movie... George Pal was so awesome...

Or, hell, maybe both.

See you next week.

17 Comments

I agree completely that Sword and the Sorcerer is a better Conan film than either Conan film we actually got. It’s just a really fun, enjoyable film.

And while I am a Howard purist, I will acknowledge that the pastiche collections have the better covers. Of course, it’s hard to beat Frazetta when he’s on his game.

Sorbo *and* Lambert? Win.

The deal with the Omega Man is that it is unapologetically awesome. Charlton Heston, dressed as Jon Pertwee’s Doctor Who, firing a machine gun out of his window just because the evil albino mutant cult is fucking with him. And his girlfriend is a blaxploitation character. And every line of dialogue is either hilarious or kickass. It easily shot up to my favorite Heston picture, beating out Soylent Green and Planet of the Apes– man, that guy loved his dystopias.

My comfort food, anyway, is Burton’s Batman ’89 and Ghostbusters, I or II. Love ‘em both. Watched these hundreds of times since I was a youngster, and I never get tired of them. Other films I’ve included into this comfort zone over the years include Army of Darkness and, yeah, Batman Begins. And probably Dark Knight. I loves me some Batman.

The Romita, Sr., Spider-Man is easily the best Spider-Man. I might go a little further than you did into the run, though, for my favorites– I think it really picks up steam after issue #50, when the Kingpin appears, and then the next three years or so are Spidey at his peak. Can’t disagree those early issues are also special, though.

If I remember correctly, there was a sequel promised at the end of ‘Sword And The Sorceror’. I gave up waiting for it years ago. But if they’re finally doing that, does that mean that they might finally deliver the sequel promised at the end of ‘Buckaroo Banzai’ as well?
I can’t believe you discussed that film without mentioning that it had one of the coolest final lines of all time.

You mentioned that the attempts to be hip are the parts of ‘Omega Man’ that are most dated. I think that’s true of every movie (or TV show, or Book, or anything else) that has ever tried to be hip. I don’t know why anyone even tries to be hip anymore. It never works well.

I still haven’t seen ‘Genesis II’ or ‘Planet Earth’, but I read once that the evil mutants can be recognised because they have two belly-buttons. Supposedly this was an inside joke by Roddenberry, because he was never allowed to show female bully-buttons on Star Trek, and he wanted to make up for it by doubling the number of them on his new show.

And I loved ‘The Questor Tapes’ when I was a kid.

I think super-hero comics are pretty much the comfort zone of everybody reading this blog; SF & fantasy were always an additional personal comfort zone for me. I totally, totally agree with that “not pure Howard” Conan series with the awesome Frazetta covers – as I recall, there were 12, and the last two or three didn’t even have Howard stories in them, right? I got into those at about the same time I started reading Burroughs’ Tarzan and Martian Tales books, and the young comics geek in me loved the way all of the storie were tied together into some kind of continuity. (And I can’t believe there’s other people out there who even remember Sword and the Sorcerer, much less kind of like it, although I shouldn’t be surprised. And I didn’t really like Schwarzenegger as Conan either.)
Thanks for the tips on those Rodenberry movies which I have never seen, or even heard of. I have to track those down. Otherwise, I mentioned in an earlier comment that any of the Star Trek series or movies constitute a favorite personal comfort food.
I have to say, as far as reading material goes, when I am literally sick as a dog and stuck in bed, besides comics, some of my favorites are actually what can be considered children’s fairy tales: Tolkein’s “Farmer Giles of Ham” and “The Hobbit” (which I’ve read many, many times and always like – unlike ‘Lord of the Rings’ which I like less and less with each successive reading) and Tanith Lee’s “The Dragon Hoard.” I guess I just enjoy more or less satirical takes on those fantasy epics than the real thing…

Time Tunnel was all kinds of awesome. Doug and Tony lost in time. I will never forget the moment when the Tunnel folks had saved them from their latest predicament, they found themselves on an ocean liner, then walked past a life preserver that read Titanic. That was the longest week of my childhood.

Land of the Giants was another favorite from that era.

I loved The Sword and the Sorcerer, but I HATED that ridiculous three-bladed sword.

Anything is better with John Saxon in it.

Oh man, I actually *remember* watching some of those movies in TV or VHS. Does that make me feel old?

A little. But more in a “I enjoyed that then, it was OK” (and some of them hold out very well still) not in a “I’m old and outmodded” one. If anything I sometimes pithy people who can’t appreciate the simple taste of movies (or other pieces of work) that aren’t too complex or wold-weary. ;) I need to focus one day on revisiting that stuff. Maybe I’ll go watch Questor on YouTube.

I pretty much agree with Greg, except for one character: Conan. I don’t know why, but I never liked him. Maybe because he was not really a hero- he fought for personal reasons- friendship, hatred, greed, lust etc.- but never for the common good. Nothing wrong with that, but I preferred other “barbarian” character types who were more noble. Conan may be more realistic for his time (so to speak) but hey, comfort food and all that, eh? :)

I’m surprised you haven’t mentioned “Soylent Green” with Charlton Heston. A depression-like era science fiction type movie, that leaves you with a sick feeling at the end. I first saw this a week ago on the SPACE channel (the canadian equivalent of american SYFY).

When I was 12 or so, I used to watch on tv, a BBC serial called the Tomorrow People. A weekly series that I could never keep up with ‘cuz life kept interrupting. I never DID find out what happened to the pregnant woman who was put into a lethal tube-like chamber and looked like she was being tortured and being enlarged. Don’t ask me — that series wasn’t even in close-captioned and VHS wasn’t popular then.

Dug Batman Begins. AND the DARK KNIGHT. My guilty pleasure also extends to Batman and Batman Returns.

I’ve always felt that The Questor Tapes was an inspiration for Machine Man. (Walter Koenig was also in it.)

Time Tunnel was good enough for its time, but that set for the main control room was cheesy. Time Tunnel was very much the Quantum Leap of its time.

Count me as someone else excited for the Sword & The Sorcerer sequel.

I had seen that movie as a kid and for years I couldn’t remember the title or figure out which movie it was. All I remembered was the 3-bladed shooting sword and the dual at the end with the lizard guy. While scouring the internet a couple years ago, I finally stumbled across a fan site that answered my question. Of course, by then the DVD was out of print, and I had to pay a tidy ransom for a copy on Amazon, but it was definitely worth it.

And speaking of tracking things down, I still need to see about looking for some of those non-Howard Conan books. I love the Howard stuff, but I would love to read some of the other novels too.

Speaking of Soylent Green and attempts to be hip that leave a movie feeling very dated: There is a scene where Heston visits the apartment of a wealthy man. He’s soooo wealthy that he actually has A VIDEO GAME IN HIS OWN LIVING ROOM!!!

What makes it even funnier is that the video game is one of those big, rounded, sparkly-yellow arcade cabinet Asteroid games.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

November 15, 2009 at 5:48 pm

My comfort food films, that I’ve watched an insane amount of times are Wes Anderson’s films, and I Heart Huckabees.
They’ve got that bizarre thing where the more I’ve see them, the more I love them.

When I was younger though, it was the Dalton Bond films – they guy is hands down the best in the role: everything people complimented Brosnan and Craig on are already on show in the Dalton films… although oddly, I think Living Daylights might work a little better than License to Kill because it was written for Moore, so it’s got those horrifically cheesy one liners, but instead of mugging the camera for them, Dalton just growls them out – and oddly, Ghostbusters 2, but not Ghostbusters 1.
It’s only because that’s the one I saw at the cinema and had on VHS, but despite being able to see these days that it’s totally naff and the first one is stronger, it’s the one I love the most.

Timothy Dalton remains my favorite Bond to this day due to his performance in those two movies.

I first watched SPECTRE when it ran on TV several years back. Being a huge Robert Culp fan thanks to I, SPY and THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO, I was thrilled at the prospect of him teaming up with Gene Roddenberry. This was one of Gig Young’s last appearances and made a good sidekick for Culp. Too bad that it never became a series or that it’s even on DVD yet.

The Omega Man is a fun film and one of the best from Heston’s horror/fantasy period. Anything with John Saxon in it was always cool around that time. And I had completely forgotten about Lee Horsley starring in The Sword and the Sorcerer! Jesus, he looks more like…well, Jesus, rather than Conan in those pics. I remember him better as Matt Houston but it is cool to read that he’s coming back for a sequel after all these years.

Your Batman is pretty much mine, too. It begins with O’Neil/Adams and ends just before Frank Miller revamped him even as the first Burton film was on the way. Some of the 90′s stuff by Alan Grant or Chuck Dixon was kinda 70′s-ish, and we still had Jim Aparo on the art until Knightfall, but it wasn’t the same anymore by then. Spidey, I began reading with Stern and Romita Jr. on board, but I enjoy the classics and most of it I eventually read through Marvel Tales, so I didn’t miss out on those early stories.

I’ve enjoyed reading your columns so much that it’s tough to come up with my own list of comfort stuff. I really wish this became a regular feature from now. Or maybe others can send in their favorites and share some stories through you? In any case, thanks for these great trips down memory lane!

I’m surprised you haven’t mentioned “Soylent Green” with Charlton Heston. A depression-like era science fiction type movie, that leaves you with a sick feeling at the end.

I love Soylent Green, but it hardly seems like ‘comfort food’ to me. Actually I love all the Planet of the Apes movies too; we have them all here, including the TV series and the cartoon… except for the new Tim Burton movie, which I just didn’t care for. But I wouldn’t count any of the Apes movies as comfort food till you get to the TV series. I was trying really hard to stick to my personal definition of unchallenging fun with a happy ending. The only movie that breaks that rule is The Omega Man, but as Bill points out, it’s so full of awesome that I think it still slots in there; I mean, the good guys still sort of win. But yeah, Heston sure did love his dystopias.

(Fun fact — years ago, one of the first magazine review pieces I ever sold was a writeup of Soylent Green. I take a quiet pride in being one of maybe two or three reviewers on the planet Earth that did NOT give away the ending of that movie, even though I was writing it up for a videophile column in the early 90s. I think me and Baird Searles over at Fantasy and Science Fiction are the only ones that were careful about it. Soylent Green is still a detective story and reviewers, one of the cardinal rules of the job is that you don’t spoil the goddamn ending of a detective story.)

Also, Timothy Dalton is my Bond pick too. I think he’s anyone’s Bond pick who came to James Bond from the books. He absolutely is the guy Fleming wrote about. Although Daniel Craig is pretty damn good, he looks a bit thuggish for Bond to me.

Well for me the first 2 Star Wars movies will do it every time (I know, how very original). I think I could watch The Empire Strikes Back for a week straight. Blade Runner gets watched at least twice a year, it’s my wife’s favorite movie. I actually find 2001 to be comfort food, I love the slow methodical pacing, a sedative in movie form.

I haven’t seen all of Omega Man, but the line that sticks out to me is when the black zombie talks about Charlton Heston “living up there in his honky paradise” – I love it! That would make a great album title.

As far as fantasy goes, I adore The first Amber Chronicles by Roger Zelazny, it never fails to pick me up.
Sad, but I often find myself asking “What would Corwin (or Hunter S. Thompson) do?

The Great Shark Hunt by Hunter S. Thompson is also something I can pick up at any time and really get into.

Very interesting series of post Greg, thanks.

BTW: THANK YOU I’ve never heard of Janet Margolin, but I’m going to search out some of her stuff now, whata beauty!

FunkyGreenJerusalem

November 16, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Although Daniel Craig is pretty damn good, he looks a bit thuggish for Bond to me.

Apart from ‘From Russia With Love’ and ‘You Only Live Twice’, I find Connery to be too thuggish.

Heck, in ‘Thunderball’ and ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ it’s like watching a drunken seedy old man in a club that’s too young for him, grabbing at passing ladies.

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