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"The Man Without A Mask"

“The Man Without A Mask”

The New Yorker has a profile of Saúl Armendáriz, the luchador Cassandro, and his fellow exóticos of lucha libre. “Exóticos have been around since the nineteen-forties. At first, they were dandies, a subset of rudos with capes and valets. They struck glamour-boy poses and threw flowers to the audience. As exóticosgot swishier and more flirtatious, and started dressing in drag, the shtick became…

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Interview with Filmmaker Peter Strickland

Interview with Filmmaker Peter Strickland

The Gutter’s own Carol interviews Peter Strickland (Berberian Sound Studio; The Duke of Burgundy) about his films, sound design, mole crickets, pheromonal perfume and the pressure to put on a persona. Read it at the Toronto International Film Festival’s official Vanguard Program blog.

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aa-bugI don’t remember how it was I first came across Adam Adamant Lives!, though I suspect it was the culmination of a plot put into motion the day I was born, my sole purpose for existing being so that I might one day discover a British television show about a swashbuckling Edwardian gentleman adventurer who is frozen by his mortal enemy and revived in swingin’ sixties London, at which time he teams up with a hip young woman and resumes his life of derring-do and crime-fighting. It’s as if the creative team at the BBC sat down one day and thought, “Well, some day Keith Allison going to be born, and he’s going to want to see this show.”

That Adam Adamant is dressed in full Edwardian regalia, complete with cape and walking stick, makes no difference. It’s the London of mods and hippies and go-go kids, after all, and his anachronistic outfit is actually substantially more reserved than some of the sartorial outrageousness birthed from that era. And never mind that, after a one-episode period of adjustment (featuring the requisite scene of a dazed and confused Adam Adamant wandering into the street and almost being run over by a car), he’s not only adjusted to his new surroundings but has learned to drive, acquired himself a swank secret lair accessed through a secret door in a parking garage, and runs around London slashing ne’er-do-wells with his cane sword with the complete blessing of the police, MI5, and if need be, MI6. If these things concern you, Adam Adamant Lives! is not for you. It has no time for shoe-gazing and ennui and the alienation of a man out of time. After all, there’s adventures to be had! Criminals to be caught! Nefarious schemes to be defeated!

Adam Adamant Lives! was the BBC’s reaction to a number of things. Firstly, it was a jab at critic Mary Helen Lovejoy Whitehouse, who was beating the “television is a sign of our moral decay. Why can’t things be like they used to be?” horse. It was also an attempt to develop their own version of the lavish adventure series The Avengers. And it was an effort to come up with something other than the network’s big hit. The BBC’s fortunes were, at the time, largely invested in Doctor Who, and it’s not surprising that their answer to The Avengers would very closely resemble Doctor Who: a man in dandy Edwardian garb travels through time and battles villains in a black and white show with a fairly tiny budget. Originally planned as an adaptation of the old Sexton Blake stories, when the rights to that character did not come through, the BBC created their own character, cycling through an astounding number of deliciously terrible names (Cornelius Chance, Rupert De’Ath, Magnus Hawke, Dick Daring, Aurelian Winton, and most improbably, Darius Crud) before settling on Adam Adamant.

Similarities to Doctor Who didn’t stop with the time travel and the hero’s fashion. Adam Adamant Lives! was created by producer Verity Lambert and Sydney Newman, the two people largely responsible for creating Doctor Who, and writer Donald Cotton, who wrote the series’ pilot episode, “A Vintage Year for Scoundrels,” as well as two Doctor Who serials: The Myth Makers and The Gunfighters, both of which sought to make the show more humorous, neither of which star William Hartnell cared for, and neither of which are known to still exist. Given his taste for comedy and puns and playfulness, Cotton was probably a better fit for Adam Adamant Lives!, which pretty successfully mimicked the sly, tongue-in-cheek attitude of The Avengers. The Doctor Who connection didn’t end there. Future Second Doctor Patrick Troughton appeared in an episode, and the Third Doctor’s companions — first Jo Grant then the legendary Liz Sladen as Sarah Jane — were younger, hipper companions, perhaps thanks to the influence of Adam Adamant’s groovy sidekick, the tomboyish mod girl Georgina.

As Adam Adamant, Gerald Harper is infectiously charming without being cutesy or manic — something that plagued more recent incarnations of Doctor Who (though David Tenant was born to play Adam Adamant in a reboot of the series). At times he’s ruthless, sometimes old-fashioned in his attitudes, but always as quick with a wink and a smile as he is with a sword cane pointed in the direction of a typical “well, well, well, wot ‘ave we ‘ere?” British street thug. His Doctor Who-style companions, swingin’ Georgina Jones (who grew up on stories about Adam Adamant and his mysterious disappearance in 1902) and former carnival worker Jack May (William E. Simms) make for an entertaining trio of amateur adventurers who, despite being a carny, a go-go club girl, and a guy from 1902, are given free rein to pursue whatever case might cross their path.

AdamAdamantLivesI

Measured against even the early episodes of The Avengers, Adam Adamant Lives! is a decidedly more ramshackle, small-scale production — but it also has a boundless energy, a shaggy dog charisma that overcomes the budgetary restraints. It is tremendous fun, even during its weakest moments. Original intentions of using the show to explore shifts in morality from the Edwardian era to the hippie era never come to more than superficial lip service, as the series and its star are more interesting in being dashing and slinging zingers at the audience. The series only lasted two seasons and was classified as a “near miss,” The BBC’s version of Hammer’s eventual Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter.

It’s a hit for me, however, and a substantial one at that. Campy in retrospect, but never mean-spirited, and always enjoyable. And who can help but love Kathy Kirby’s Shirley Bassey/Goldfinger style theme song, which is just fantastic! And best of all, it features perhaps my all-time favorite type of character: the gentleman hero who has adventures not because he is predestined, not because he is motivated by revenge or forced to by circumstance; but rather, because he wants to have adventures. He wants to fight the bad guys and cut a swathe through the underworld with his trusty cane-sword simply because it is something to do, and the right thing to do.

The Gentleman Adventurer I don’t remember how it was I first came across Adam Adamant Lives!, though I suspect it was the culmination of a plot put into motion the day I was born, my sole purpose for existing being so that I might one day discover a British television show about a swashbuckling Edwardian gentleman adventurer who is frozen by his mortal enemy and revived in swingin’ sixties London, at which time he teams up with a hip young woman and resumes his life of derring-do and crime-fighting.
RIP, Stan Goldberg

Comic Artist Stan Goldberg has died. Best known for his work on Archie Comics, Goldberg also worked for Marvel and DC. He drew romance comics including Patsy Walker and Millie the Model. He worked on Archie Meets The Punisher. And recently he drew Nancy Drew and the Clue DrewComic Book Resources, The Comics Beat and Newsday have obituaries. Here’s a 2012 interview with Goldberg. Here are pages…

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At The Gutter: All The Gin Joints

Romance Editor Chris looks at some novels set in the Twenties.

I’m going to flat out admit I know very little about the Roaring Twenties. What little I do is mostly cribbed from still images  and movies like Chicago. You know: jazz! Drinking! Dancing! More drinking! Guns! And did I mention drinking?

Not exactly what you might call a rigorous examination of an era that contained seismic changes in the social, political, and economic landscapes. The Great War changed everyone’s understanding of The Way Things Worked. Many old traditions died — sometimes because there was no one left to keep them — and new ones were created. The Spanish flu proved that disease respected borders even less than aggressive armies. The revolution in Russia made it clear that divine right was wrong, and the US moved into a position of real world power. Commoners moved into positions held previously by only the titled (or super-rich). Women, having kept industry running while the men were away being uselessly sacrificed, showed no desire to retire from the fields previously barred to them, and in fact began to demand more access. The world was suddenly smaller, more fragile, and more interconnected than ever before. And suddenly, shockingly, more elastic.

Photograph taken near the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Via Madame Pickwick Art Blog.

"Blaxploitation Horror Films: Backlash and Concerns"

“Blaxploitation Horror Films: Backlash and Concerns”

At Graveyardshift Sisters, Ashlee Blackwell writes about the complexity of Blaxploitation horror. “What is visceral, real to the fears of the oppressed, ignored, and patronized are often symbols of empowerment, showing true courage in the face of what’s on the screen and everyday circumstances to see a character figure who takes on the world. Whether that attempt is successful or not, Pandora’s…

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"Cinema’s Black Women Werewolves"

“Cinema’s Black Women Werewolves”

At Graveyard Shift Sisters, Ashlee Blackwell looks at “Cinema’s Black Women Werewolves.”“At first viewed as monstrous, a deeper look would allow some semblance of compassion as horror films have originated in giving the monster character outside of its supposed and/or actual threat. Here, I wanted to look at two contrasts of the Black female as a werewolf to help us consider past attempts and…

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Apocalypse Games

Three articles on the end of “gamer” as an identity, on the end of gatekeeping and the end of gaming culture: Leigh Alexander at Gamasutra; Dr. Nerdlove; and Dan Golding. “And the sad thing is: nobody’s trying to destroy games.

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