Thursday, 18 November 2010


Hero: A matinee idol, a super man. Jet-black hair glows blue. Eye-mask doesn't protect his identity, it is his identity, and without it, he is an anonymous citizen. Portrayed by loved strongman Rockmond Beach, his adventures are recounted to us in an episodic format, similar to many from the time; his invulnerability is evident, always. He reminisces, from the comfort of comfort, about the victories that keep the city safe. His protection of the populace is so complete that he enjoys finding ways to bring that very public into the action as unwitting accomplices; stunning a thug so that he falls into the path of a bystander, who bemused, collars the cad, and so forth.

Fashion shoots for local department stores, modelling swimwear. Radio spots, multiple public appearances, weight gain. Complacency sets in. His senses are dulled to such an extent that the doubts collecting in the distance, the ones that would be spotted by a normal person, are almost invisible, a distant mist.

Scene: Hero, in everyday disguise (sports coat, fedora), enters large and busy supermarket, unaware of a crucial detail: He has been shot with a tranquilizer dart that will very soon begin to cause him to panic and lose control. Villain knows he only has to wait; fire alarm or similar will cause an anxious riot in the building. Doors will lock, crowds will push, and the hero will be trapped. We follow the hero, unable to tell him that firstly his secret identity will be exposed when he loses consciousness, and secondly that the villain already must know his secret identity, or suspect it enough to shoot him with a dart.

('The hero is preoccupied with a dream he keeps having: 'Killer plants. A fairly generic villainous plot: vines, warehouses, the discovery of an antidote that is far too minor to be effective. The plants evolve to fire razor sharp leaves at scientists. I leave, and take a tram, sometimes a bus, into town. (Which town? I don't know... an ersatz London, but it feels American; the layout of the train stations feels like Berlin, but no. Must locate.) I have to change at the next stop to get the returning vehicle, as I'm going the wrong way. I pretend I meant to do this, because after all, this is a town I know; others do the same. They follow me out of duty and expectation. Why?')

It plays out according to certain conventions: Panic grows, artfully; hero fights crowds, clothes, looking for a breath; riot escalates... and just at the point at which the hero seems to have regained some semblance of control over his powers, right when that the smoke or water has cleared (or at least seems behind him, or assailable) and he is close to a rear door, and to air and escape... just then the villain breaks a window, leans in, and pulls our hero out, like low hanging fruit; as he could have, the feeling goes, at any point in the last ten minutes. Hope turns into helplessness, and ultimately the former seems pathetic; hindsight casts an embarrassing pall on the way our brain tried to push the hero to awareness, and to strength, and to safety.

(He hears a tannoy announcement, among the panic, for a man by the name of Steve Wilson. As he is dragged into sleep, he tries to place that name; it is one he is sure has, at some time, been correctly attached, in his head, to a face. Steve Wilson, Steve Wilson... he holds the label aloft, turns it around.... No sli we vets, we've still son... and then someone presents the face to him, from nowhere: Steve Wilson is his name, his alter-ego, his cover. As he falls asleep, he tries to forget the name, like a child closing his eyes to hide from the world.)

And then, later, a different helpless: In an upper room of a house, a machine gun in hand. We are with him, and he has somehow begun an escape. He hides in a corner as a group of goons lean in and shoot and smirk. The feeling is that these are the first of many, and like baddies on an early level of an endlessly regenerating computer game, by no means the toughest. We should get past these guys, and onto bigger challenges, but somehow we cannot get into a position to shoot them. The fear grows that our journey out may never even begin, and that we may even have to contemplate the absurdity of dying in this small room.

The Squeezing Of A Benevolent Ventricle Should Suffice Directed by Sty Statula Produced by Lex Loveless, Pal True Starring Rockmond Beach, Tweet Van Smith, Lola Finn Written by Tex Lewis RKO/ARCO Pictures Release Date US: May 1932/ UK: Oct 1933 Tagline 'Oh No!'

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