29 January 2013

Poetry in Action: The Return of the Mucker by Edgar Rice Burroughs

The Return of the Mucker (1916)
By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

This upfront: The Return of the Mucker is less effective a novel than The Mucker. The strange genre-mashings of the first book give way to the more familiar settings of the American southwest and northern Mexico. The Return of the Mucker plays as an outright Western for most of its length, and offers nothing as lunatic as samurai cannibals. As a story, it doesn’t hold together as well as The Mucker, getting weighed down with too much plot “business” while the first book stripped away extraneous aspects the farther the story advanced until it came down to only the hero and heroine, Billy Byrne and Barbara Harding.

Yet The Return of the Mucker is still a strong work that glosses over its shaky plot elements with a breakneck action finale, fitting developments of Billy Byrne’s personality that merge together his extremes, and one of Burroughs’s most intriguing characters: a hobo-poet hero named Bridge.

Burroughs’s working title for The Mucker’s sequel was Out There Somewhere, the name of a poem that inspired the character of Bridge. (More about that later.) Burroughs submitted the novel to All Story in March 1916 soon after completing it. Editor Thomas Newell Metcalf purchased the story immediately, and the first of five installments appeared two months later under its more marketable title. The Return of the Mucker was published in hardcover in 1921 from A. C. McClurg as Part II of a volume simply called The Mucker.

21 January 2013

Yes, The Mucker by Edgar Rice Burroughs Really Is That Good

The Mucker (1914)
By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

I spent last year on an extended trip to Mars exploring Edgar Rice Burroughs’s fantastical version of the Red Planet. But after reviewing all eleven books in the Barsoom series, the time had arrived to return to Earth and the early phase of ERB’s career. Spending too much time with the final sputterings of Burroughs’s Martian stories, when much of his talent was ebbing, has a strong depressive effect. Let’s relive the enthusiasm of youth. Or middle age, in the case of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Yeah, he was a late bloomer.

So, on the centennial of its writing, I land back on Earth with one of ERB’s grubbiest, most “realistic,” and finest works of adventure, The Mucker.

15 January 2013

Childhood Resurfaced: The Bermuda Depths on DVD

The Bermuda Depths (1978)
Directed by Tsugunobu “Tom” Kotani. Starring Leigh McCloskey, Carl Weathers, Connie Sellecca, Burl Ives, Julie Woodson.

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

The rise of Manufacture-on-Demand (MOD) DVDs from major studios has at last permitted numerous obscure and second-tier features to reach the trembling hands of collectors. Movies that a small coterie of fans despaired would only be available on bootlegs are now only one-click shopping away on a DVD-R. MOD eliminates the need for “demand” and “profitability” that once stood between the collector and a decent legal copy of The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing.

Apologies to that great Burt Reynolds Western, it’s The Bermuda Depths that best exemplifies the MOD movie and gives a reason for the format to exist: a work unknown to most, but holding in the minds of a few the status of a childhood Holy Grail. And now the Warner Archive Collection, the MOD branch of Warner Home Video, has made available the first and only romantic tropical ghost story with a giant turtle.