Category Archives: Humour

Famous Adverts of Filmland (2)

Last time I talked about the American magazines which appeared in Albert Taylor’s newsagent’s shop from time to time during the early 1960s. They all had one thing in common. They had advertisements for what we all thought were rather bizarre products which were largely unobtainable in England. On the other hand, had a lorry arrived in our village, full of “Crawling Hands”, we would have been fighting each other for the chance to purchase this amazing toy for only $4.95, plus an extremely reasonable 50c for postage and handling:

Wow and double wow!! It walks across the room and the ring on the third finger sheds light over the floor. What a bargain.  I wondered how much $5.45 in 1960 might be worth today. Well, it’s between $45-$50. In English money, that’s around £34-£37. I repeat. What a bargain!

I’m not so sure about the next one though.  A whistle for dogs?

What kind of trick is that? You can’t hear it but the dog can? What rubbish. How do you know if it works?

And how will you know the dog has heard it if he is habitually disobedient? And why should he obey a whistle that you cannot hear when he can pretend he hasn’t heard it and you are none the wiser?? He’ll just carry on in the same old way and you’ve wasted your money.

This is a much better product. While my friends join the Boy Scouts, I can put on my black mask and become a member of the Judean People’s Front, or perhaps the Judean Popular People’s Front, or even the Popular Front of Judea.

What have the Romans ever done for us ? “Romanes eunt domus“:

As an adult, I can see now that the majority of the adverts appeal, for the most part, to two categories of customer. The first category is that of the person who is perhaps less intelligent, shall we say? He does not know the names of the simplest dinosaurs. He needs pictures to distinguish between a cave BEAR and a Giant BIRD, or between a GIANT WOOLLY MAMMOTH and a thirteen inch long JUNGLE SWAMP :

In the intelligent section of the magazine, however, much more technical language is used. And if you’re intelligent enough to know what a Styracosaurus is, you’ll definitely want one with a wind up motor :

It isn’t the most intelligent kind of person, though, who will pay money for an authentic fingerprint kit, but is unaware that it will be completely useless without access to the FBI fingerprint database and three years at Police College:

Other adverts just offer products for customers who want to frighten people. They want to scare the living daylights out of the last few friends they have. Perhaps they’ll do it with a monster fly:

They’d like a mask that makes them look like their movie heroes:

Or, the only full colour advert that I could find, a zombie mask:

Presumably, they will wear their mask with their eyeball cufflinks:

And what a slogan.

“NO–THEY’RE NOT REAL, BUT THEY LOOK LIKE IT !

Surely that has a future with a publicity hungry plastic surgeon. It’s certainly better than this excessively subtle 1950s ad :

I borrowed that advert from a website which boasts 39 more. Take a look. It certainly shows how attitudes towards women have altered over the years.

Or have they?

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Famous Adverts of Filmland (1)

In our little village in the early 1960s, all of the various American magazines which appeared from time to time in Albert Taylor’s newsagent’s shop had one thing in common. They had advertisements for products which were largely unobtainable in England. I don’t know if this was in the aftermath of World War II or because of rationing, but none of the shops around where we lived had giant monster feet for sale, and neither did they have giant inflatable snakes.

If truth be told, very few of these American adverts had any relevance to our lives in a grey Midlands mining village. They showed us television programmes we could not watch. We had never seen “Land of the Giants”, still less his snake, and “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”, “Star Trek”, “Lost in Space”, all of these were still in a distant future. Well, four years or so in the future:

Furthermore, nobody I knew had the money for a film projector, still less the facilities to accommodate a “Killer Gorilla”:

Mind you, I would have been pretty happy to have received an astronaut space suit, even if no size is mentioned at any point. Just look at the blurb:

“Elastic air compression chambers run the entire length of both arms and legs and along the sides of the body. These chambers are easily inflated with any hand pump or gas station air pump through the three air hoses and air lock valves.”

Wow! Elastic air compression chambers !! And three air hoses !!!

And only a limited number available. How many’s “a limited number”? Four million?

 

Some of the things advertised you absolutely could not live without, of course. Just take a look at this radio.  And what does that mean?……..“It does not connect to any source of power”.

Beyond the usual claims, of course, the radio may even be useful during a nuclear war:

“In the event of a power failure the GERMANIUM RADIO will allow you to hear the news & civil defense broadcasts”.

Wow !!No Dirty Commie’s ever going to creep up on you.

Finally, my favourites. The first is the official make up kit, as used by Olivia de Havilland in “Gone with the Wind”:

If you follow soccer, you’ll recognise the man in the mirror as Arturo Vidal who used to play in midfield for Juventus, Bayern Munich  and FC Barcelona and has now moved on to Inter Milan.

My second favourite is a handy inflatable ten foot plastic snake:

And most of all, back to the days of the Raj with your very own pith helmet. It’s never too late to revive the British Empire:

Mind you, if you do want to revive gin and tonics on the verandah, you may want to buy one of these. A snip at the price at $19.95.

Just look at the address you have to write to, if you want a live monkey. It’s Grand Central Station, New York. I bet if you paid a little bit extra for a clever one, he’d catch the train, get off in your town and then walk round to your house.

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What would you do ? (10) The Solution

“What would you do ?” used to figure on the cover of a boys’ comic called “Boys’ World”. This was a publication, obviously, aimed at boys, and first appeared on January 26th 1963. There were 89 issues before the comic was merged with Eagle on October 3rd 1964.

I used to buy “Boys’ World”, and this was mainly for the front cover which always featured a kind of puzzle.

It was called “What would you do ?” and was based on somebody being in what Ned Flanders would call “A dilly of a pickle”. Here’s the situation, as always, explained in the coloured box:

So, you’ve finally been promoted to Rear-Admiral in the US Navy, and you are in charge of a squadron of ships in the Pacific Ocean. It is World War Two and you have just spotted an enemy fleet on the horizon in the growing darkness. They are on their way to invade a nearby island.

You MUST attack but the Japanese fleet has greater fire-power than you have and your chances of defeating it seem slim. What orders would you give, as you sail in to attack?

And the answer is on page 2 and here it is:

So, you order your squadron to manœuvre as per the diagram on the back of my packet of cigarettes. Steaming in the dark, the Japanese suddenly found the head of their column confronted by the American squadron broadside.  The Americans were able to bring all their guns to bear, while the Japanese were only able to fire forward, with their foremost ships. Outgunned , the Japs fled.

Well, well, well. How many of you got that one correct? I know I didn’t. Certainly the most difficult one so far.

 

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Filed under cricket, Film & TV, History, Humour, Literature, military, Pacific Theatre, Personal, the Japanese

What would you do ? (10) The Puzzle

“What would you do ?” used to figure on the cover of a boys’ comic called “Boys’ World”. This was a publication, obviously, aimed at boys and first appeared on January 26th 1963. There were 89 issues before the comic was merged with Eagle in 1964. The last issue of “Boys’ World” came out on October 3rd 1964.

This is issue No 18 which came out on May 25th 1963. This was the day that the idea of amateur and professional players in cricket was abolished—and rightly so. It was also the Saturday when Mike Myers was born:

In 1965 it was the day when Muhammad Ali knocked out Sonny Liston in the first round of their world heavyweight title rematch in Lewiston, Maine:

I used to buy “Boys’ World”, and this was mainly for the front cover which always featured a kind of puzzle. It was called “What would you do ?” and was based on somebody being in what Ned Flanders would call “A dilly of a pickle”. Here he is again:

And here’s this particular front cover:

The yellow box sets the scene, and the task is for you to solve the situation. This time, there’s a white circle  to worry about,which explains that the Japanese ships are in two columns.

Perhaps you might like to write your idea in the “Comments” section.

Here’s the yellow box enlarged:

And in case you are reading this box through a glass, darkly, or perhaps you are colour blind, there is some good news for you. You’ve been promoted to Rear-Admiral in the US Navy, and you are in charge of a squadron of ships in the Pacific Ocean. It is World War Two and the last rays of daylight have just lit up an enemy fleet on the horizon. They are on their way to invade a nearby island.

You know that you MUST attack but the Japanese fleet has greater fire-power than your own and your chances of defeating it in a straight fight seem slim. What orders would you give, as you sail in to attack?

And don’t cheat by asking an expert!!!

For what it’s worth, my squadron will switch all their lights off, and then join onto the two Japanese lines. Our two front ships will torpedo their back two ships. Then our next to front ships will torpedo their next to back ships, and so on, until  we have sunk the lot. Then I will be writing to the Head of the US Navy to tell him that we need more than one torpedo per boat.

 

 

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The Supermarine Walrus (5)

Here is the Airfix kit of the Walrus:

Assembly tended to be a rather fiddly process for an impatient young boy. I, for one, was completely unable to stick the numerous struts into the bottom wing, and then wait overnight while everything dried, so that the struts could then be lined up accurately with the holes in the top wing. If you didn’t do this, of course, you finished up with a very tricky sticky situation with an ever increasing amount of glue spreading from the top of the tube to clumsy little fingers to the flat surfaces of the wings.

And finally….

The Walrus was sometimes known as the “Steam-pigeon”, the name coming supposedly from the steam produced by water striking the hot Pegasus engine. Usually, though, its nickname was the “Shagbat”.

People ask, of course, “What is a shagbat?” Well, according to a book I found about British military aircraft, a shagbat was…

“a legendary bird, whose reputedly ever-decreasing circular flightpath had its own inevitable conclusion”.

So….. is there any other definition of a shagbat.? Well, I don’t think there is, but I can offer you a couple of twos for you to add together and produce at least fifty-five.

First of all, as a verb, “shag” is a word beloved of young men down the pub, and means “to have sex,” I tried very hard to think up some examples, but none of them were suitable, although the one about the hole in the fence was jolly funny. The Urban Dictionary expressed it very well, however:

“Used by people who think the term “making love” is too innocent and ” f**** ” is too coarse.”

And what does the “bat” bit mean? This I found in a second on-line dictionary:

“Any annoying post-menopausal woman, but especially one who applies a considerable amount of make-up….She may even scare small children with her appearance. An example would be “I try to be nice to the old bat.”:

Put the two words together and you have “shagbat”. The sort of woman you wake up with after a wild Saturday night in a small town whose name you cannot, for the moment, remember:

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Famous Monsters of Filmland (2)

I thought I’d cheer you all up with a few more covers from the American  horror film magazine from the 1960s called “Famous Monsters of Filmland”. There was nothing subtle about them. Here’s Boris Karloff, real name William Pratt, as “The Mummy”:

And here’s the long forgotten film star Duncan ‘Dean’ Parkin in the long forgotten film, “The War of the Colossal Beast”:

They’re all here. King Kong. And tonight, it’s Kentucky Fried Pterodactyl. Save me a wing :

And here’s Lon Chaney senior in the silent film of “The Phantom of the Opera”, still the best version to watch:

And here’s the little Martian guy from “War of the Worlds”, and I don’t mean Tom Cruise. This is the 1953 version, one of my favourite sci-fi films ever, produced by George Pal, one of my favourite sci-fi directors ever:

This is a very stylised cover based on the film “Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man” Note the damsel in distress and her gravity defying bosoms:

Having said that, it is arguable that the magazine cover does no more than echo the feel of the original film poster:

In a strange twist the two protagonists are played by Lon Chaney junior (the original Wolf Man, and completely expected) and Bela Lugosi (playing Frankenstein’s monster, an incredible piece of irony, given that Lugosi rejected the chance to be Frankenstein’s monster in the original film and let Boris Karloff take the role. Apparently, the monster wasn’t worthy of his acting talents).

Here are two wonderful Wolf Men (or Werewolves, or perhaps even Werewolfs). (Or even Wolf People). They look as if some buffoon has put them through the wrong cycle in the washing machine. This is the first one:

And here’s his younger brother. What a strange dental arrangement:

Here’s “The Monster from the Black Lagoon”, wishing he’d never used that cheap moisturising cream  :

This cover is about the silent film that does not exist any more in its fullest form, “London after Midnight”. It is available only in a reconstructed version. It looks like it’s back to strange dental arrangements again:

Not all of the artwork is good. Here’s a daubed Frankenstein, painted with a brush big enough to clean the garage out with:

Only the covers of the magazines are in colour, but there are some very striking black and white photographs inside. I have chosen some characters from my favourite horror films, the old 1930s Universal productions:

Here’s Doctor Pretorius. The man with all the best lines:

His toast:    “To a new world of gods and monsters! “

And:     “Do you like gin? It’s my only weakness. “

And:   “Have a cigar – they’re my only weakness! “

And then, in the mausoleum when the Frankenstein monster makes a sudden unexpected appearance:

“And I thought I was alone!”

And here’s the studio where Godzilla trashes Tokyo on a daily basis. Occasionally his Monkey Mate, King Kong, comes along to help him. The original film, “King Kong v Godzilla”, of course, was voted “Best Film for a late night beer drinking session” for eighteen consecutive years:

And finally, John Cleese’s entry in the Christmas Competition at the Ministry of Silly Werewolves:

 

 

 

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The Supermarine Walrus (3)

The RAF’s provisions for Air Sea Rescue during much of the Second World War were absolutely abysmal. Nowadays there would be Public Inquiries and the newspapers would be explaining to their readers exactly what corporate manslaughter was.

Throughout the first two years of the conflict the RAF had twenty eight ships and no search aircraft. During the Battle of Britain, recent research has revealed that around two hundred pilots died unnecessarily when they ditched in the English Channel:

Indeed, in August 1940, Air Vice Marshal Sir Keith Park, who commanded the fighter group in the south east, actually ordered his flight controllers not to vector pilots over the sea because “too many were getting drowned:

The problem was that most of them perished once they hit the water because they were only visible until their parachute folded up into the waves and both pilot and parachute sank.

There was just no effective means of looking at all those waves from above and finding a downed pilot.

It all came from that lack of decent search aircraft. Making up the deficit in reconnaissance aircraft with Avro Ansons and Westland Lysanders was no use. Their range was not long enough. The Anson was 660 miles, and the Lysander just 600 miles. A limit of 600-700 miles didn’t allow them to carry out patrols of either the required time or the required distance.

Overall therefore, there was very little chance of survival if you ditched into the sea, and only the occasional flier was picked up by a passing destroyer or fishing boat:

On one day in August 1940, fifteen of the eighteen RAF pilots who baled out over the North Sea and the English Channel were lost to the cold, cold, waves. Overall, the statistics showed that if a pilot baled out over land, he had a fifty per cent chance of survival. Over water that fell to twenty per cent. In the words of one writer, “The ditching of a British aeroplane in the Channel or the North Sea usually doomed its crew.”

The men to blame, of course, as always, were the top brass who sat in their offices and decided:

“There are so many ships constantly sailing round British waters that nobody could possibly fail to be picked up, and picked up pretty damn speedily at that, don’t you know, what ? what?”

 

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Famous Monsters of Filmland (1)

When I was a little boy of ten or eleven, I used to go up the road to the shop which sold newspapers and magazines to see if anything new had come in. One day, the proprietor, Albert Taylor, had taken delivery of some recently arrived American magazines called “Famous Monsters of Filmland”. In 1963, they were absolutely amazing from a ten year old’s point of view.

They allowed me to meet people I had never encountered before. Elsa Lanchester as the Bride of Frankenstein in the Universal film of 1935, one of the very few sequels better than its original:

I met Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula in 1931, with his wonderful line of “I never drink….. wine.”  and  “To die, to be really dead, that must be glorious! ”

Here’s the werewolf who, in 1961, barked at the postman and chased cars in “The Curse of the Werewolf”:

There were also more recent monsters such as Gorgo, who I later found out was, more or less, the British Godzilla:

Here is the demon from “Night of the Demon”, a film from 1957, which certainly spent most of its life in the UK at least, banned completely, as being too horrific even for the censor to watch:

Occasionally, some of the magazines actually featured a compilation of all the monsters. Can you find Christopher Lee, or Claude Rains in this one? Lon Chaney Senior? More difficult to find is Fredric March:

I was actually quite disappointed when I eventually found out that only the cover of the magazine was in colour. This was because the majority of the films inside the magazine had been made in black and white.

In actual fact, the black and white photographs could still be very striking. Here’s Boris Karloff and Una O’Connor waiting for a bus:

Or what about this wonderful shot from “The Bride of Frankenstein” ?:

To finish with, look at Boris Karloff’s spiritual son, Christopher Lee. In this shot, Lee was playing Kharis, the muddiest boy ever to lose his mummy. See how Tommy Cooper on the left is still working on one of his magic tricks:

Who’s Tommy Cooper? Never  heard of him? Well you have a treat in store:

I hope you watched Tommy Cooper. He could make statues laugh. He actually died of a heart attack on stage and people laughed because they thought it was part of the act.

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The Supermarine Walrus (2)

Last time, we were looking at the Supermarine Walrus amphibian which was used by the RAF in the second half of the Second World War:The Germans entered the war completely prepared for air-sea-rescue, of course. They had a dedicated arm of the Luftwaffe called the Seenotdienst and they made extensive use of the Dornier Do24, one of the comparatively few three engined aircraft used in the conflict:

The Dornier Do 24 was initially built for the Royal Netherlands Navy, the Koninklijke Marine, to be used primarily in the Dutch East Indies, today’s Indonesia. The Do24 was very much admired by the Seenotdienst so, in the words of Adolf Hitler, “I invaded the country and I stole all six of them.”

The Germans also made extensive use of the Heinkel He59 which was unarmed and painted white with big red cross:

These floatplanes would cheerfully rescue both Luftwaffe and RAF aircrew. Nevertheless, there was a suspicion that the Germans might have been using their aircraft for proscribed reconnaissance activities and the RAF was told to shoot them all down in Bulletin 1254, which indicated that “all enemy air-sea rescue aircraft were to be destroyed wherever they were encountered”. In retrospect, perhaps a little disappointing as a decision.

The older He 59 was much more comparable with the Walrus, perhaps, than the Do24. This Heinkel biplane was much slower than the monoplane Dornier (and was therefore much easier to shoot down as part of Bulletin 1254). Both aircraft made extensive use of the invention of Ernst Udet, the yellow-painted “Rettungsbojen” or rescue buoys:

These buoy-type floats were highly visible and they held emergency equipment such as food, water, blankets, dry clothing enough for four men, and an assortment of board games including, of course, “Risk”, for the Germans. Here’s a cut-away of the buoy:

And here is a rare picture of Admiral Donitz about to begin his famous speech announcing that all the lighthouses of the world were now part of the Greater German Reich:

Shot-down airmen from both sides were strongly attracted to these buoys and many a desperate game of Schcrabble or Buckaroo was played to decide who had first dibs with the rescue buoys’ bratwurst or their assortment of smoked cheeses. British airmen and seamen called the Rettungsbojen “Lobster Pots” for their shape:

The rescue buoys also attracted the close attentions of many sailors in both German and British rescue boats. They would come to inspect the buoys from time to time and “friendly” downed airmen were rescued, but enemy aircrew automatically became prisoners of war.

 

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The Supermarine Walrus (1)

In a recent blog post, I wrote about the most famous flying boat of World War Two, the Short Sunderland. I was lucky enough to visit the RAF Museum at Hendon in north London, where the aircraft is positioned in a very large space, unlike the way it was rather cramped way it was displayed when I went to Duxford in 2009:

With the Sunderland, under its starboard wing almost, is a Supermarine Walrus, which is not a flying boat but an amphibian, an aircraft which can go on land as well as on water.

The Walrus is an extremely unattractive flying machine, and it is extremely difficult to imagine that it was designed by RJ Mitchell, the man who designed the world’s most beautiful aircraft ever. This was the fighter that was originally to be called the Supermarine Shrew, until the name was changed to Supermarine Spitfire (“just the sort of bloody silly name they would choose.” (Mitchell)).

The Walrus was intended to be a gunnery spotting aircraft for sea battles between big warships, but this only happened twice, in the Battle of Cape Spartivento and the Battle of Cape Matapan. In actual fact, the Walrus’ main task was to patrol the seas looking for German or Italian submarines and surface warships. By 1941, the Walruses, or perhaps Walri, had air-to-surface radar for this purpose, although by 1943, all catapult-launched aircraft on Royal Navy ships, including the Walrus, were being phased out as the catapult and the hangar took up too much deck space.

The Walrus was then used at sea only on aircraft carriers as its landing speed was very low and neither flaps nor a tail-hook was necessary. The Royal Navy didn’t have that many aircraft carriers, so the main use of the Walrus now became chiefly air-sea rescue from land bases.

Before the Walrus, the British had not had any aircraft specifically designed for air-sea rescue in home waters.

Here’s the Walrus from the front:

And here it is from the back. Notice how the four bladed propeller is so close to the rear gunner that it may give him a short-back-and-sides haircut if he is not careful:

Here are the wheels which the pilot would lower before landing in the normal way on a runway. As I mentioned above, the Walrus had such a low stalling speed that it could land on an aircraft carrier without recourse to an arrester hook or to any safety nets. Presumably this allowed the Walrus to transport very badly wounded casualties to an aircraft carrier for immediate medical treatment, if the wounded man was too badly injured for a long flight to land :

Here are the floats underneath each wing tip. They appear to have about three thousand of Rosie the Riveter’s finest holding them together:

And to finish up, here’s an overall view of a Walrus:

It flies at about 55mph, but finds long climbs rather challenging. No, just joking!

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