About Me

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Montreal, Quebec, Canada
I am a Montreal-based actor, writer and comedian. When U.S. President John F. Kennedy was shot, I was three days old. I cried all day. My favourite books of all time are Moby Dick by Herman Melville, The Last Temptation by Nikos Kazantzakis and The Ewoks Fun Time Activity Book by Chirpa and Pamploo. I am a member of The Vestibules, On The Spot Improv and The Best Buy Battery Club. Except for the Battery Club, I've been at all this stuff for over 20 years. Enjoy my blog.

Monday, February 27, 2012

My Oscars 2012 Timeline

Sunday night, after a frightfully busy week (and an almost as busy weekend), I hunkered down on the couch in my comfy clothes, next to IS, with some Sun Chips and red wine for a ritual I have observed annually since 1976: watching the Oscars.

Here is the breakdown of my timeline of randoms, thoughts observations and other silliness that occurred to me as I watched the show.

Just pretend it's a Twitter time capsule...

6:30 PM: It's still two hours from the 84th Annual Academy Awards. I decided in to tune into CNN's red carpet coverage. CNN's Showbiz Tonight's special Oscar Red Carpet fashion commentator, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills "star" Lisa Vanderpump, makes the observation that more stars are wearing ostentatious jewelry this year than they have in the past few years. She points out that the stars must be less self conscious of wearing expensive glitter this year, thus creating is a clear indicator that the economy is recovering and that the four year recession must be coming to an end. There she goes quoting Paul Krugman again.

8:03: I have now switched over to ABC's Oscar pre-show.  It's much slicker show than Showbiz Tonight's. Now just 30 minutes away, I tune in to see Bradley Cooper doing, for some reason, his Christopher Walken impression. For better or worse, Christopher Walken has now joined Ed Sullivan, Elvis Presley, Jack Nicholson, Bob Dylan and William Shatner as one of every supposed funny man's go-to impersonation. And, honestly, I've seen it done better, like by Christopher Walken, say.

8:21: Just before showtime, ABC runs a trailer for Disney's new CGI action adventure blockbuster epic, John Carter. One of the quotes from a film critic  that appears on-screen reads "Full of action". As far as vague generalizations go, that's a veritable rave review.

8: 30: The show proper begins. Morgan Freeman introduces the evening. He is wearing a black glove on his left hand. Apparently, he's just returned from a light saber duel with Darth Vader.

8: 36: Billy Crystal, not surprisingly, appears in another one of those tour-de-force short films where, through the magic of digital effects, he appears in all of the nominated movies. The one thing that really stands out the most to me is that the inserting-Billy-Crystal-into-any-given-movie technology sure has come a long way since the 90's.

Crystal took some heat for his black-face Sammy Davis, Jr. impersonation in the opening short film.
It ain't the 80's no more, Billy.

8:43: Martin Scorsese's Hugo wins The Oscar  for Best Cinematography. As cinematographer Robert Richardson walks up to the stage to accept his statue, they then proceed to a show a scene from Hugo that is made up entirely special effects and little or no actual cinematography.

8:52: Is it just me or does this year's excuse for a montage of memorable movie scenes have no clips from films before 1970? I thought they decided not to care about the youth audience this year.

9:06:  You know you're watching an American brodcast when, as the nominees for Best Foreign Language Movie are announced, a large map behind presenter Sandra Bullock lights up to show which part of the world the nominated countries are in.

9:08: A Separation, a film from Iran wins Best Foriegn Language Film. The director gives a "Why can't we all just get along?" speech. And cue Fox News going apeshit with manufactured rage, now...or, at least, Stephen Colbert.

9:09: They cut away to some of the stars in the audience. Yikes. Nick Nolte sure has seen better days.

9:11: Octavia Spencer wins Best Supporting Actress for The Help. All I can think about during her emotionally moving acceptance speech is that upstaging goofy guy that helped her up the stairs.

9:16 Hey, CTV, that's 9th time this hour that I've seen that lipstick commercial. Relax, I was sold on the stuff from the first time I saw it.

9:22 The cast of Mighty Wind, Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show are featured in a short film depicting a focus group at a pre-screening of the Wizard of Oz in 1939. Eugene Levy is awesome. Best line: "Cut the rainbow song".

9:25. The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo wins for best Film Editing. Editor Kirk Baxter has the acceptance speech line of the night as he says at the end of some very brief comments, "Let's get out of here".

9:38 That Cirque du Soleil  presents a totally awesome movie themed acrobatic show. Makes me wish I'd last more than two hours in those auditions.

10:01 Christopher Plummer gets a standing ovation as he wins Best Supporting Actor for his role in Beginners. If being 82 isn't a sign of Mr.Plummer's impending mortality, wining his first Oscar at 82 sure is.

10:14 John Williams is nominated twice for Best Score. He still loses. Good. The guy's really kinda over accoladed.

10: 18 K, so there were only two nominated songs this year. Yet for some reason, the producers of the show decided not have either of them performed during the broadcast. One of them was a song from The Muppets. Yeah, good call. The Muppets performing a song live at The Oscars really woulda brought the proceedings to a grinding halt.

Brett Mackenzie, half of the New Zealand musical comedy duo, Flight of the Conchords wins for his original song composition,“Man or Muppet”. He thanks Disney for making "movies with songs in them".

10:21. Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis do a bit physical comedy bit with cymbals. It's the kinda thing you could have easily seen Martin and Lewis doing at like the 1956 Oscars. It is funny, though. That kinda stuff is timeless.

10:28 The Descendants wins best screenplay. I'm surprised to hear that director Alexander Payne and his co-writers are former members of the LA-based improv troupe, The Groundings. Well, that is until they get on stage and start speaking.

10:30 Woody Allen wins  Best Screenplay for Midnight in Paris. I am shocked and stunned to see that Woody is not in attendance. What do they have to do get him to back? Make another Nora Ephron montage  of New York movies?

10:37 Douglas Trumbull, the incredible visual effects pioneer who created the effects for 2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Blade Runner and The Tree of Life gets a life time achievement award. His tribute takes up almost 38 seconds of screen time.

10:54. The Artist director Michel Hazanavicius wins the Best Director Oscar. He thanks the "crazy people" who put up the money for him to make the movie. Yep, that's film investing, alright.

10:58 A tribute to legendary Hollywood make up artist Dick Smith (The Godfather, The Exorcist) takes up all of 23 seconds of screen time. Guess he's less important to the medium than Douglas Trumbull.

11:07 No James Farantino in the dead person's reel. I guess not many members of the Academy are big fans of The Final Countdown.

11:14 Boy that thing where last year's winner for Best Actor addresses each of this year's nominees is awkward as hell. Colin Firth did do his best with it, though.

11:29 I'm with Meryl Streep when she says, "Oh, come on!", to the standing ovation. She then points out that half of America is probably saying the same thing as well. True dat.

11:32 Tom Cruise is presenting the Best Picture Oscar. I wonder what  having such an honour bestowed on him did for his Thetan levels.

11:35 The Artist wins Best Picture. Aside from it being the odds on favourite and this year's darling of the critics, the win was inevitable for another reason. The movie was distributed in the US by Harvey Weinstein. Let's face it, when it comes to Oscar voting campaigns, the guy is Karl Rove.

Until the 85th Annual Academy Awards...or next week.

Whichever comes first.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Swamp Thing vs Man-Thing

Sorry, gang.

That's not real. Just yet another example of someone out there who owns Photoshop and has a lot of time on their hands.

Which, unfortunately, I do not this week. "He Had on a Hat" will return in its regularly scheduled time slot next Monday. Check it our for my moment by moment commentary on this year's Oscars.

Until then, watch this fun thing:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Saint Valentine's Day, The Massacre and The Movie

The Saint Valentine's Day Massacre. Almost everyone is familiar with the name.  Yet, for the most part, they are not as familiar with the event itself.

Sure. The Saint Valentine's Day Massacre is on one of those great anti-Valentine's day go-to phrases. I've often heard it jokingly used to describe any Valentine's Day activities that go horribly wrong.  Or it's an anti-Valentine for those who have issues with the 14th of February: you're not celebrating a silly "Hallmark holiday" (which is a myth, BTW, check out last year's blog on the subject) you're celebrating the anniversary of the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre. Or I've sometimes seen as the theme of a dance or a party held by someone with a supposedly irreverent sense of humour.

Given the historical facts of the actual mob hit that went down at 10:30 AM on February 14, 1928, such references are, well, just a tad glib at best. The Saint Valentine Day Massacre was a vicious, bloody and brutal attack, even by today's organized crime violence standards. That the massacre is still referred to at all some 83 years later speaks to the brutal impression the killings made on the public consciousness.

The first newspaper headlines of The Saint Valentine's Day Massacre.

One of the strangest and most fascinating periods of American history is the Prohibition Era. It is also one of the most violent. In 1920, with the implementation of the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution, alcohol was effectively outlawed in the United States of America. It was rather a stunning move, looking back on it now. I mean, think of it in the context of the current US election cycle debates on the role of  "big government" in people's lives.  As Ron Paul would tell you, a move like that should be, well, majorly out bounds in terms of government power.  The movement to outlaw alcohol in the US was motivated by religious morals, the desire to address a wide range of social problems and big business interests. Not so different than the motivation for legislation today, in other words.

As anyone who's been following the last two seasons of HBO's Boardwalk Empire can tell you, the outlawing of alcohol in the US, lead to a massive boon in, not surprisingly, the illegal alcohol trade. When booze is illegal than only outlaws will have booze, kinda thing. The era gave rise to the largest and most powerful system of organized crime the US had ever seen up to that time. Through a combination of intimidation, brute force, political corruption and bribery, organized crime controlled almost all of the alcohol flow in the US between 1920 and 1933, a period commonly know as The Prohibition Era.

Prohibition Era protests or just your average Saturday night?

Just as an aside, prohibition in the US was also a massive boon to Canadian distilleries and breweries like Seagram's and Molson....but that's another story.

The most infamous gangster of the era was a guy named Al Capone. You know, the guy who according to the British 70's flash-in-the-pan pop group, Paper Lace, "Tried to make that town his own". The town in question, of course, was Chicago. Capone was, it's safe to say, the most powerful and, yes, the most infamous gangster in that city at the time. One of the things that made Capone so infamous was The Saint Valentine's Day Massacre.

Chicago tourist stores sell Al Capone merchandise. Kinda sick, huh?
By 1929, Al Capone, at the age of 30, had risen to the top of the organized crime heap. He was in control of much of the booze, gambling, prostitution and just about any other illegal stuff going in Chicago. Capone had only one major rival, a gangster named George "Bugs" Moran.  The two gang leaders had been vying for control of Chicago and trying to kill each other off in the process for years by the late 20's. Capone, not a man generally known for his patience and understanding, is thought to have ordered the hit on Moran to eliminate the rivalry between the two gangs once and for all.

Contrary to popular belief, Capone's plan was not take over Moran's gang but to weaken his organization and its potential threat to Capone's operations by eliminating Moran along with some of his higher-ups. One of Capone's up and coming lieutenants, and the object a recent hit attempt himself, Jack McGurn, came up with a unique plan to take out Moran.

The idea was to lure Moran and his men into a garage on the North Side of Chicago. The garage, located at 2122 North Clark Street in the Lincoln Park neighbourhood, is where Moran allegedly did much of his business. He was to be lured there on the pretense of a supposedly big booze purchase. The booze was, of course, all part of ruse, set up by McGurn.

Gunmen, disguised as cops would then raid the place, disarm everyone and line them up against the wall. The idea was to lull Moran and his men into a sense of false security, thinking that they were in the midst of a routine raid that would later easily be ironed out by greasing all the right palms. Once Moran and his gang were up against the wall, as the cliche goes, the plan was to "fill 'em full of lead". The fake cops and some extra gunmen dressed in civilian garb were all hired killers brought in from outside of Chicago (some believe NYC) so that the hit could not be directly linked to Capone, should anything go terribly wrong and there were survivors or witnesses.

At 10:30 AM on February 14, 1929, the plan was executed flawlessly (pun intended). The timing of the hit on Valentine's Day is generally believed to be pure coincidence. More than likely, it was not motivated out of any sense of irony on Capone's part (ie: brutally murdering his enemies on a day dedicated to love).

You need only to look at photos taken after the massacre to know that the incident was was indeed both brutal and bloody. Seven people were killed in that garage that day. They were Peter Gusenberg (Moran's main enforcer), Frank Gusenberg (Peter's brother, also an enforcer), Albert Kalchellek (Moran's #2 man, though he was retired at the time),  Adam Heyer, (a bookkeeper), Reinhart Schwimmer (a gambler and associate of Moran's gang), Albert Weinshank (who managed the cleaning and dyeing operations for Moran) and John May (a mechanic who was not a member of the gang). All were shot upwards of fourteen times each by at least two Thompson sub machine guns or "Tommy Guns".

The gruesome photos of the aftermath were, amazingly, run by many of the newspapers of the day totally uncensored. It was also the newspapers who immediately dubbed the incident with the moniker it is known by today, The Saint Valentine's Day Massacre. The sensationalistic coverage of the hit made Capone a national celebrity, both in the media and with federal law enforcement.

The massacre was the beginning of the end of Capone's career. Previously celebrated as an amusing colourful, if somewhat unsavory character, in the media, the story turned public opinion against Capone.  Consequently, the heat on Capone was turned up by both the FBI and an fresh new young US Treasury agent named Eliot Ness.

On top of everything else, Capone never succeeded in killing Moran.

See what I mean?

Moran, as it turns out, was running late on the morning of the 14th. Seeing the cop car outside the garage, he suddenly decided to literally go grab a coffee. One of Moran's men, Albert Weinshank, had a similar enough build to Moran that Capone's lookouts positively identified him as the gang leader from a distance. It just goes to show you that  there are times when being a disorganized mobster really can pay off.

Frank Gusenberg was the only survivor of the massacre. Well,  for about three hours he was anyway. Chicago police attempted to question Gusenberg during those few scant hours that he clung to life in the hospital. However, even then, the Code of the Mobster was firmly in place.  All Gusenberg would say to the cops was "Nobody shot me.". He had fourteen bullet holes in his body at the time.

Sounds like a scene from a movie, huh?

Surprisingly, though, there is only one movie about The St.Valentine's Day Massacre.

Allusions and fictional versions of the massacre turn up in many different movies like the classic Billy Wilder comedy Some Like it Hot (1959) and the original 1931 version of Scarface (for the record, "Scarface" was originally Al Capone's nickname).  Most famously, of course, there is an episode of The Golden Girls where the character of Sofia claims to have been present at the massacre.There are no existing historical records that can effectively refute that claim.

The only movie that directly depicts the actual events of the mass murder itself is the 1967 film, The Saint Valentine's Day Massacre, directed by Hollywood's indie low budget B-movie master, Roger Corman. Ironically, one of the least memorable scenes in Corman's film takes place in the hospital when Gusenberg says, "Nobody shot me".

The Saint Valentine's Day Massacre was based on Seven Against The Wall, a live TV play that was broadcast on CBS Playhouse 90 in December of 1958. Harold Browne, the playwright of the TV piece, also wrote the screenplay for the '67 film. The film also featured several cast members from the TV broadcast reprising their roles.

Despite Corman's reputation as an outsider to the Hollywood establishment, The Saint Valentine's Day Massacre, was one of the rare instances in which he worked directly for a major studio (Fox, in this case).  It is also one of his few films in which he worked as a director rather than just as a producer. Well, actually, in this case "rare" is a relative term.

According to IMDB, Corman is credited with producing 399 movies but only directing 56 times.  Among Corman's better known films as director and/or producer are the original non-musical version of Little Shop of Horrors, The Man with the X-Ray eyes and Death Race 2000 (both the original '75 version and the 2008 remake).

The Saint Valentine's Day Massacre is a pre-Godfather depiction of the mob. There is no sympathetic portrayal of the mobsters as tragic figures to be seen here. That interpretation would become de rigueur after Francis Ford Coppola's 1970 mafia masterpiece and would continue to dominate the genre from then on right through to as recently as The Sopranos.

Back in '67, though, these gangsters were portrayed as larger-than-life caricatures, almost comical in their egotistical disregard for human life.  There are times in the film that the performances are so over-the-top that it almost feels like watching a 20's gangster sketch from the Carol Burnett Show or A Piece of the Action, the campy Star Trek episode where the crew of the Enterprise encounters a planet that is amazingly similar to Chicago in the 1920's (irresistible trivia note: both the episode and the film were shot on the same backlot).

We are lead to laugh at these supposedly real life underworld figures from history more than we are lead to sympathize or identify with them. The only thing close to a truly sympathetic portrayal in the film is that of a very young Bruce Dern, in the role of mechanic John May. Despite the fact that May worked for Moran, he was attempting to lead an honest life. He just needed the work to support his wife and seven children. He's the guy who was tragically in the wrong place and the wrong time when the shooting started. Therefore, the audience is allowed to like him.

Kinda doesn't work
Jason Robards as Capone delivers what, for my money, is the most over-the-top portrayal in the film. He manages to pull off a massively big performance without ever letting Capone seem in any way likeable. Robards is, to put it simply, totally miscast in the role. Don't get me wrong, the guy is a great actor who has delivered some incredible performances in films Like All The President's Men (1976), Magnolia (1999) and, my personal obscure fave, as US President Ulysses S. Grant in an awful reboot attempt known as The Legend of the Lone Ranger (1981).  Nonetheless, Robards as Al Capone is a bizarre choice for the role at best. He is the wrong physical type (tall and thin vs short and plump) and the wrong age (Capone was about 30 during the events depicted in the film while Robards was 44 when the film was shot) for the role.

Al Capone has been played by no less than 16 actors in the history of film and TV. The best on-screen Capone in recent memory has got to be Robert Deniro in Brian DePalma's 1987 film, The Untouchables. Deniro's performance as Capone in that film ushered in a new stage in the actor's career in which Deniro shifted from playing leads and meaty character roles to playing smaller yet prestigious "And Robert Deniro as..." parts in big movies. Perhaps the most interesting Capone, from an obscure trivia angle, is actor Nicholas Turtruro (brother of John and star of, among other things, NYPD Blue) who played Capone in a 1993 episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.  Special note should also be made of English actor Stephen Graham who plays Capone on the current HBO historical series, Boardwalk Empire. Capone experts believe that Graham's is the most realistic on-screen Capone yet.

Apparently, Corman's first choice for the role was Orson Welles. Welles was reportedly vetoed by the studio as they thought he'd be far too much of a mavericky pain in the ass. They were probably right, though it woulda been better for the movie. Corman would return to the Capone story as a producer of the 1975 film simply titled Capone. Ben Gazarra played Capone in this biographical film that only briefly touched on The Saint Valentine's Day Massacre.

In The Saint Valentine's Day Massacre, there are many other fine actors cast and miscast as the major gangsters. George Segal plays Peter Gusenberg. Ralph Meeker, who played Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer in the seminal 1955 noire film, Kiss Me Deadly, plays Moran. All of these accomplished actors have been directed to play the gangsters so big that any sense of humanity has been systemically removed from the characters. Meeker is the only actor amongst the impressive cast who is able to rise to the occasion of delivering a highly stylized performance while still keeping his role emotionally grounded.

The film is made in a supposed docudrama style.  It's got that voice of authority style narration that was very familiar in crime dramas and police procedurals back in the day.  It was the kinda thing that turned up on TV in shows like Dragnet and The FBI.  Interestingly, every character/historical figure gets their own voice over bio, including (if they were not one of the people killed in the massacre), when and how they would later die (in some cases, that's more than thirty years after the events depicted in the film).

The film is more or less historically accurate. Though, artistic license is taken with some events and characters. The two out-of-town hitmen dressed as cops, for instance, are both named in the film. Though in reality, nobody to this day is sure who those guys actually were.  In some cases, historical research on the massacre since 1967 has made some parts of the story and other details inaccurate. For instance, it was thought, at the time the movie was made, that Capone was born in Italy in 1899 but it has since been learned that he was, in fact, born to Italian immigrant parents in Brooklyn, NY, in 1899.

The larger problem with the film, though, is that it's hard to tell why Corman wanted to tell this story. His direction avoids both deifying or crucifying the mobsters at the same time. They are neither heroes, nor antiheroes or even villains. Nor are they the classic tragic figures of Hollywood's cautionary morality tales like Public Enemy (1931), Little Caesar (1931) and The Roaring Twenties (1939).

The narration, by legendary voice actor Paul Frees, effectively keeps the film from displaying any kind of sentiment, even a nihilistic one. The scenes of massacre itself are strongly reminiscent of scene in Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde (released in the same year so probably not an influence), in which the two eponymous antihero outlaws are gunned down by police in a brutally violent bloodbath. The massacre in Corman's film, while similarly gory, simply does not have the same emotional impact.

Despite numerous ongoing investigations, no one was ever arrested or charged in connection with The Saint Valentine's Day Massacre. Capone, famously, was only ever arrested for tax evasion, never for his role in the massacre or for any of his other infamous crimes. Technically speaking, it remains an open case.

So it seems somehow fitting, then, nobody's ever made a really good definitive movie of the The Saint Valentine's Day Massacre either. And, you know, the 85th anniversary is coming up. Just sayin.

A 100% completely historically accurate reenactment of the brutal event

Happy Saint Valentine's Day Massacre Anniversary Everybody!

(see what I did there with the irony there?)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Mighty Memories of Mightor

Excerpt from the  short lived comic book based on the 60's animated series Moby Dick and The Mighty Mightor

I've just spent the last couple of months revisiting one of my very first favourite TV shows ever. There seems to be a digital age mandate that every TV show that ever aired anywhere at anytime must be made available to everyone everywhere (whether it be via DVD, Blu-ray, streaming video or digital download). Thanks to that unofficial internet mandate, I have got see, for the first time in over 40 years, an old Saturday morning cartoon called Moby Dick and The Mighty Mightor.

Regular He-Had-on-a-Hatters may recall that I previously blogged about Moby Dick and The Mighty Mightor in a post of mine from around  a year ago concerning some of the weirdest cartoons ever made for kids.

As coincidence would have it, Moby Dick and the Mighty Mightor was released on DVD just months after I first blogged about the show. Thanks to some lucrative TV work over the summer, I was able to indulge in the so frivolous a thing as the complete series DVD set of a cartoon that I barely remembered from my early childhood.

Contrary to what the order of names in the title might suggest, the feature attraction of  the 1967-69  animated series was a prehistoric superhero known as The Mighty Mightor, and not a cartoon version of Herman Melville's infamous white whale  The show was produced by Hanna Barbera, the animation production company famous for creations such as Tom and Jerry, The Flintsontes, The Jetsons, Yogi Bear,  Johnny Quest, The Super Friends, Josie and The Pussycats and,  in perhaps their greatest contribution to ironic Gen X pop culture kitsch, Scooby Doo.

Until a few months ago, I had only vague memories of Moby Dick and The Mighty Mightor. That's understandable. I would have between 3 and 5 years old during its original run (possibly a bit of older if I caught it in reruns).

Looking at the show "again", made me realize that I really didn't remember much about it at all. It was only seeing the opening titles on Youtube that even made me aware of the Mightor's prehistoric setting. I also had forgotten that Mightor's adventures were lumped in with the Moby Dick cartoons. I did remember that there was a Moby Dick cartoon but I never connected it with Mightor. I also remember somehow knowing that Moby was a pre-existing character from a book or something like that. More than likely,  Classics Comics Illustrated had something to do with that knowledge.

Given how vague I was on Moby Dick and The Mighty Mightor, I sure as hell can't expect my readers to know anything about the show either.
Time for some background.

Moby Dick and the Mighty Mightor had the classic 60's Saturday morning cartoon structure. It was divided into three seven minute-ish cartoons: one about Mightor, followed by one about Moby Dick and then another with Mightor to close out what really was a pretty offbeat cartoon sandwich.  Moby and Mightor were always shown in completely separate self-contained adventures. They never crossed-over. The belief behind this popular format at the time was that younger kids did not have the attention span for longer and more involved 25 minute stories (yep, 25 and not today's standard of 20 to 22 minutes-there were way less commercials back then).

I gotta say that, even after just having seen the entire series over a four month period,  I still find the show's prehistoric superhero and happy albino whale premise just a tad on the bizarre side.

The Moby Dick segments could generously and humorously be described as a very loose adaptation of Herman Melville's classic American novel. Aside from potentially agitating Melville purists no end, the Moby Dick segments featured some of the most basic cartoon chases this side of the Road Runner. Two perpetually scuba diving kids named Tom and Tub seemed to be continually attacked and chased by any number of undersea creatures, mutants, mad scientists, aliens or all of the above. Inevitably, they were saved by a friendly yet somewhat scrappy heroic whale named Moby Dick. If one really wanted to got out on a limb, I suppose one could argue the "scrappy" part is somewhat true to Melville...but I guess one doesn't.

Any other tenuous connections to Melville end there. Moby is essentially a superhero whale in these cartoons . He is able to smash and destroy many a ship, submarine, or sea monster just by head butting 'em with enough force .Moby never dispenses with Tom and Tub's nemesis without having a bratty bullying smirk cross his  face. Kinda creepy, if you ask me.

In one cartoon, Moby cements his cetacean superhero status when he is actually able to tie himself into a knot and then quickly snap himself undone in order to produce enough inertia to swim after the bad guys at record speed (marine biologists can confirm the complete scientific validity of this  maneuver -look it up on Wikipedia).

Tom, Tub and Moby are accompanied by a seal named Scooby.  Apparently two kids and a happy-go-lucky heroic whale just didn't provide enough cute for one cartoon. And yes, that's right. The seal's name is Scooby. However, unlike like his canine successor, this Scooby did not speak, let alone pronouncing every word as if it begins with the letter "R". Nor did this Scoob have a pothead level obsession with munchies and snacking.

One episode worth checking out features a Captain Nemo-esque submariner who escapes to a "mysterious island'. It's the closest thing you'll ever get to a Herman Melville-Jules Verne crossover.

You can take a look at a more typical Moby Dick episode by clicking here.

As for The Mighty Mightor, this intro explains the show's premise more concisely and eloquently than I ever could:

"And Tog is transferred into a fire breathing dragon"? What is he? A crosstown bus? Maybe the word you were looking for is "transformed"?

Sorry. Had to get that off my chest.

Superheroes and dinosaurs. It's a no brainer, really. Undoubtedly, every five year old boy in the world would be glued to the TV.

I know I was.

And, no,  despite the prehistoric setting that features a dinosaur-human coexistence, I don't think the creators of this show were creationists. Back then seeing people and dinosaurs together was just plain everywhere in pop culture. It was in everything from The Flintstones to One Million Years BC. It represented a common misconception of the day. I doubt there was any kind of overwhelming creationist agenda in Hollywood then, except maybe for not wanting to offend some religious groups (and doing so was particularly bad for business back then, especially when it came to kids shows). Indeed, the human dinosaur co-existence convention goes back to the earliest silent films set in prehistoric times. No doubt those early movie producers felt that people fighting dinosaurs just plain made for more exciting stories, not to mention a more lucrative bottom line at the box office.

It wasn't until Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park in the early 90's, that the human dinosaur co-existence misconception (among other dinosaur misconceptions) was finally put to rest in the popular consciousness. After that, the primitive man-thunder lizard connection was strictly the domain of the creationists.

A typical Mightor episode would revolve around some kind of attack or plot against mild mannered cave dweller Tor's village. Tor would then have to sneak away to transform into Mightor in order to defend the village. Usually, the chieftain's daughter, Sheera, was somehow directly or indirectly threatened as well. Sheera ,with her bold red hair and Bedrock original designer cave dress, was a cross between Wilma Flintstone and Raquel Welch in One Million Years BC. The anachronistic prehistoric babe next door, in other words.

This clip kinda gives you a good idea of  what usually went down in Mightor's world. 

Some of the comments below this clip on Youtube, for obvious reasons, degenerate into a heated creationist vs. evolution debate. Um, folks, did you notice that Mightor flies? That he has a wooden club that fires energy bolts? That he uses that same club to transform his physical being? That his sidekick is a fire breathing dragon? That his adventures often involve giants, rock monsters, insect people and vampires? That it's a cartoon?

See, it's this thing called Fantasy, there, guys. Look into it.

On less contentious note, notice how Mightor has a sorta British sounding voice. He speaks in that "standard English" accent that was often taught in theatre schools in the pre-James Dean/Marlon Brando method acting  era. It was the kind of voice that was de-riguer for any Saturday morning hero in those days.

Most annoying of all and not seen in the above clip is the character of  Little Rok, Sheera's younger brother. Little Rok is a kid who has a major hero fixation on Mightor. He is always dressing up like Mightor and trying to take on the bad guys and monsters himself. Such ventures would, of course, would end up with Little Rok getting into trouble, leaving Mightor to come rescue him. Mightor truly is a superhero in that he has incredible patience towards this essentially really dumb kid. Mightor keeps rescuing Little Rok over and over again without complaint. Not only that, but doesn't even attempt to turn these incidents into some kind of teachable moment. You know, so that Little Rok could learn the valuable lesson that it's really not a good idea throw rocks at an Allosaurus.  The 1970's era of preachy, hammer-over-the-head message-y Saturday morning cartoons was still, thankfully, a few years away.

It's very clear that Mightor was made by the same guys that made The Flintstones. Sheera, for instance, rides around on a mini mammoth that, as any good fan can tell, is clearly the Flintstones' vacuum cleaner. That guy sure worked a lot back then.

Alex Toth's Mightor designs
Like many of Hanna-Barbera's 60's creations, Mightor was designed by the legendary comic book and animation illustrator, Alex Toth. Toth spent years in the comic book industry, drawing the early Green Lantern and Justice Society of America comics. By the time Mightor came around, Toth was lending talents to most of Hanna Barbera's action adventure shows like Jonny Quest, The Herculoids, Space Ghost, Birdman, and later, in a return to his roots, The Super Friends.

However, the Mightor design is not totally Toth's. Some of the credit has to go to Jack Kirby. Yes, Jack Kirby, the legendary Marvel Comics artist. In 1967, Hanna Barbera had made an animated series based on Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's classic creation, The Fantastic Four. As a follow-up, Hanna-Barbera had a series in development based on another popular Marvel character, The Mighty Thor. For some unfathomable reason, Marvel decided instead to go with a deal with with the bargain basement animation of production company known as Grantray Lawrence. They were hired to make animated versions of the rest of  Marvel's major characters (except Spider-Man who had his own series elsewhere at the time). Grantray-Lawrence created animation for the Marvel characters so bad that it made Rocket Robin Hood look like Fantasia.

Why anyone would forfeit this...

...for this...

...is beyond me.

Not wanting to waste the time and money they'd already put into the development process, Hanna-Barbera turned The Mighty Thor into The Mighty Mightor . You can kinda see the similarities: the cape, the horned helmet and the hammer/club that helps the hero fly. Though, for my money, the Mightor's transformation seems closer to that of Billy Batson becoming Captain Marvel than it does to Dr. Donald Blake becoming Thor (keep up with me here, geeks).

Still waiting for this crossover...

Personally, I just wanna see Kenneth Branagh's film version of the Mighty Mightor. Mightor could be played by a dark haired Chris Hemsworth type but he should definitely be voiced by Branagh himself, just to keep things consistent with the original series.

For now, though, I guess we'll just have to settle for Mightor's recurring role as Judge Hiram Mightor on the classic Adult Swim series, Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law. 

Finally, I want to leave you with the opening titles of the Moby Dick and the Mighty Mightor. Mightor does something that I have never seen any superhero do; he makes his enemy hit themselves.

Take a look at 0:21 to see what I mean...

Now I know where all those schoolyard bullies picked up that "Stop hitting yourself! Stop hitting yourself!" move.

Thanks a lot, Mighty Mightor.