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Tag Archives: Mr. Blog

My Review of The Whispering Gorilla, by Wilcox and Reed

8 Dec

December 8, 2018

The Whispering Gorilla by Don Wilcox & Return of the Whispering Gorilla by David Reed.

Wow, where to begin?

First, if you have not checked them out, look at the other titles published by Armchair Fiction. They publish a huge number of stories from the pulp era.

As for this book, it may be the best story of a gorilla with the transplanted brain of a man fighting Nazis that I have ever read. On the other hand it is also the worst. (I’ve only read one, of course.)

And that really does sum up this book. The first story is short, about 79 pages, but it is a fast read and deceptive. It reaches 79 pages only because it is printed in a larger font than the longer second story. However, it is the better of the two. It is written in a simple and straightforward style but it is surprisingly realistic. Although the Whispering Gorilla talks like a man and dresses and acts like a man, he is still in the body of a gorilla. A sillier story (and yes, I know how silly this already sounds) would have him simply accepted as a talking gorilla. But that never happens in this book. Everyone suspects he is a very eccentric man in a gorilla suit to hide his identity. Not for a second does anyone think he is a real gorilla. As for the plot, the gorilla continues his previous human life as a crusading journalist (whom everyone thinks is a man in a gorilla suit, for some reason) and brings down a ring of war profiteers, before apparently dying at the hands of the police. Ridiculous as it sounds, it is a fun tale.

The second, longer story, is written by another, arguably better, author. I say “arguably” because while the writing is more complex and sophisticated than in the first, the plot is ridiculously laughable. The Whispering Gorilla did not die at the end of the first book but was secretly transported back to Africa to recover at the home of the scientist who created him. The problem is that he is slowly losing his humanity, while also becoming leader of all the jungle apes. Well, if it stopped there, this could be a somewhat interesting variation on Tarzan. Problem is the author didn’t stop there. The Whispering Gorilla is not the main character in this story. Neither is the scientist, who had a large part in the first book. Here, the scientist is bed-ridden and does little at all. The main plot is about a group of Nazis who plan to train gorillas to command submarines to sink allied destroyers. In the jungle!

I’ll let that sink in. A group of Nazis who plan to train the gorillas to command submarines to sink allied destroyers.

To that end, they build silly gorilla-sized ships and submarines on wheels and ride them around the jungle like oversized tricycles to teach the gorillas maneuvers that will destroy the enemy ships. This takes only a couple of days, believe it or not,  and the head Nazi is ready to put his plan into action. To say it doesn’t work is really not necessary, is it? The rest of the plot is about resistance fighters and a beautiful girl, with whom the gorilla -of course- falls in love.

This was certainly one of the stranger books I’ve read. I really enjoyed the first story. It was a great example of 40’s pulp fiction. The second story had delusions of grandeur and never lived up to the fun of the first. I’m glad I read it and I’ll probably reread the first story again, but not the second.


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The Best Line Ever Written In All Of Star Trek

3 Dec

December 3, 2018

Back in 2015 I introduced you to The Worst Line Ever Written In All Of Star Wars (“space diapers.”)

Today I’d like to introduce you to The Best Line Ever Written In All Of Star Trek. And appropriately, it comes from The Best Film Ever Made In All Of Star Trek, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

(I’ll skip the spoiler warning as I’ll assume that you already know that Spock dies at the end. )

During the climactic battle with Khan, The Enterprise’s engines have been disabled and warp drive is offline. Khan, in his final act of defiance (“From hell’s heart, I stab at thee. For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee”) has activated the Genesis device, which will wipe out anything it’s energy touches.

There’s some terrific writing in this scene, as the sense of impending doom is palpable. The Enterprise, flying as fast as it can, is swiftly being overtaken by the detonation and it is only a matter of minutes before everyone on the ship dies. This is driven home by Mr. Sulu, who was always  one of the more positive members of the crew. “We’re not going to make it, are we?”

Sulu looks at Captain Kirk, heroic and unstoppable, who during the course of the film discussed the many ways he’s beaten the unbeatable. Kirk, completely uncharacteristically, is sitting with his arms tightly folded across his chest, and simply looks at his son, David, a scientist behind the Genesis device.

David quietly shakes his head no.

There is doom, there is dread, and there is Mr. Scott, to whom Kirk had earlier said “Scotty, I need warp speed in three minutes or we’re all dead.”

It is a perfect Star Trek line, one we’ve heard dozens of times in the TV series. Scotty is a miracle worker. He’ll get the engines back online. He’s done exactly that in situations as bad as these many times over. It’s almost a joke. So when Captain Kirk tells Scotty he needs warp speed in three minutes, he’s pretty sure he’ll have them back in two.

But he won’t. And we know he won’t, because down in engineering Scotty is barely conscious and being treated by Dr. McCoy. We know but Kirk doesn’t. But Spock does. It is Spock who saves the ship, who sacrifices his own life. (“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one.”)

But Jim Kirk doesn’t know it. So when the engines come online, the ship goes to warp speed and everyone escapes certain doom, Kirk says the best line written in all of Star Trek:

“Bless you Scotty.”

Because we know it wasn’t Scotty. We know it was Spock. We know he’s dying, probably already dead. We see his empty chair on the bridge but Kirk hasn’t seen it yet. In the moment Kirk is blessing his miracle working engineer, we the fans are already mourning his best friend’s death. The line, delivered so thankfully by Kirk, is actually painful to us watching the film.

Alfred Hitchcock defines suspense as, in a nutshell, the audience knowing something bad that the characters do not. It is us seeing the bomb under the table while the couple slowly drinks their morning coffee, oblivious to the countdown. It is good writing. And it is also good writing with us knowing Spock has died while Kirk is praising the wrong man for saving the ship.

But Kirk soon finds out, and it’s when he calls engineering to congratulate Scotty, only to hear Dr. McCoy grimly say, in what is the second best line written in all of Star Trek, “Jim… I think you better get down here.” Followed by “Better hurry.” Kirk looks at Spock’s empty chair, and he knows.

The whole ending of the film, leading up to Spock’s death, is dark and portentous. It is heavy and funerary in a way Star Trek has never gone before. This one film is full of fantastically quotable lines, from the campy “Khaaaaaan!” to the subtle “how we face death is at least as important as how we face life. ” Star Trek II is well-written in the same way every single Star Trek film since 2009 has not been

“Bless you Scotty.” The best line in all of Star Trek. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, written by Jack B. Sowards and Nicholas Meyer.


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