The Home of the Creative Mind

Welcome to PooBahSpiel, the online voice and home of the creative mind of Mark Monlux, Illustrator Extraordinaire. Prepare yourself for an endless regaling of art directly from the hand of this stellar artist. And brace yourself against his mighty wind of pontification. Updates are kinda weekly and show daily sketches, current projects, and other really nifty stuff.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Comic Critic Reviews "Hell is for Heroes"

Hell is for Heroes is a unique war movie. It doesn’t play up war in the least. There is no significant objective mentioned. No general provides us with a clue of strategy. There’s just a squad of men hoping to go home and not face the terror of being on the line. That hope is dashed, along with the private plans the soldiers have made. The men are sent to the front. They don’t know why. They don’t really care. They just want to survive. Only a few of the men are fully up to the task of being a soldier. But Hell is for Heroes shows how most of the soldiers are out of their element. In case the cruel comedy of this is somehow lost on the audience, we are given Private Driscoll. Played by comedian Bob Newhart with his now well-known deadpan delivery, Pvt. Driscoll blunders onto the front with a jeep full of typewriters, a clerk plunged abruptly into the life-and-death struggle on the front line. All the men are trying to make the best decisions that their own experiences have given them. But with its unrelenting deadly nature, war is cruel, taking any decision and turning it into one that cost lives. Hell is for Heroes’ message is that war is men killing and dying. And not much else.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Comic Critic Reviews "The Egyptian"

During World War II, a Finnish writer by the name of Mika Waltari explored an ancient Egyptian text known as the Story of Sihuhe. Waltari’s goal was to create a narrative so thoroughly researched that it would entertain not only a casual reader but also bring a smile to the lips of Egyptologists. The book “Sinuhe egyptiläinen” was published in 1945. The book became very popular and was printed in English in 1949 under a simpler title, “The Egyptian.” Its tale of the hero’s disillusionment and war-weariness impressed readers who had just endured a world war. 20th Century-Fox thought The Egyptian perfect for CinemaScope. Never to let a good  thing go to waste, another studio, Paramount, would reuse The Egyptian’s wardrobe, props and sets two years later for The Ten Commandments. And, as was often the case in the studio era, some of the actors and extras appeared in both movies. Also, two well-known studio composers shared the workload to create the score for the soundtrack. The Egyptian fared well at the box office. And was nominated for an Academy Award for its cinematography. While it didn’t win an Oscar, Bella Darvi did receive a New Star of the Year - Actress award at the Golden Globes for her portrayal of Nefer, the seductive Babylonian courtesan. I always loved watching The Egyptian. I saw it regularly on television when I was growing up. And it was in our family’s collection of books, where I discovered a copy of the novel that inspired the movie. I was overjoyed to read a lavishly expanded version of the story where I envisioned Victor Mature, Peter Ustinov and others in their designated roles. When I discovered the musical score was available digitally, it didn’t take me long to find my wallet. It’s hard to explain why The Egyptian captivates me so much, why I’m such a fan. I’ve been rattling off trivia about the film, but not going into the story. I guess the same chord that struck readers in 40 countries through the novel and millions via the box office struck me, too.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Comic Critic Reviews "Convoy"

Citizens Band Radios were another craze that swept the country during the seventies. When technology reduced the size and cost of transistors, suddenly owning a citizens band radio became affordable. Truckers were the first to make use of mobile CBs for practical reasons. With gas shortages a serious problem, truckers were able to network and locate stations that had supplies. And it wasn’t long before average citizens started to take to the CB airwaves. Their popularity was so high that what little licensing was required was eliminated altogether as enforcement become impossible. C.W. McCall, aka Bill Fries, wrote the song “Convoy” to perfectly capture a slice of America, that of the American trucker dealing with the economic and fuel crises gripping the country. The use of CB jargon was a hook that set deep with the radio listener. While it’s common for books to be made into movies, songs doing the same thing are a bit more rare. When Convoy was released, the storyline of the movie didn’t quite match that of the song. Knowing when to adjust to a good thing, Bill Fries rewrote the lyrics to match the storyline of the movie and re-released the song. Trucker movies like Convoy, employing car chases, out-witting police, and heavy use of CB radios would remain a staple through the ‘70s, with homage paid to them in subsequent films. And later, CB radios would remain in basements, rec rooms, dens where they would eventually gather dust as the Internet and cell phones became the next big things.
My copy editor John Markuson would like you to know:
[Chip Davis, later of Mannheim Steamroller, wrote the music.]
[Fries was inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009.]

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Comic Critic Reviews "Becket"

Becket is one of those historical movies created more for entertaining audiences than for being accurate. In the movie, Henry’s mother is alive; in history, she’s dead. In the movie, he has three children; in reality, it was eight. In the movie, the wife says she will return to her father; in reality, he’s been dead for some years. In the movie, both women torment him; in reality, he relied on their counsel. And perhaps the most glaring inaccuracy is portraying Becket as a Saxon when he was, in reality, a Norman. But film writers were never ones to adhere to facts when a good rewrite would create drama to intrigue audiences,  who probably forgot all their history lessons and now hear the name Becket only in plays and dramas. And audiences came to the theater because two of the best actors of the day are the leads and all the talented filmmaking professionals are doing their best to make Becket an award winner. Both Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton give tremendous performances. But it is the ever-talented, history-revising writers who would walk away with the statue.
Received an Academy Award out of eleven nominations.