25 Days of SuperChristmas - Dec 21
Right on, Superman.
SEXCRIMS 4th PRINTING COVER
25 Days of SuperChristmas - Dec 16
Young, tow-headed me picked up this oversized comic in November-December 1975, and read it voraciously. Essentially a collection of reprinted stories from Superman’s Christmas Adventure #1; Batman #219; House of Mystery #191 (the Cain story); Sensation Comics #14 (the Wonder Woman story); and Adventure Comics #82 (Sandman and Sandy, there in the back of the sleigh).
Peter O’Toole died yesterday, and you’ll be reading a lot today about his most indelible achievements, his definitive roles. His defiantly enigmatic yet supremely empathetic portrayal of Lawrence of Arabia. His winking self-parody in My Favorite Year. His strangely grounded monomania in The Stuntman. His never-to-be-matched, virtuosic cinematic twofer, playing Henry II in both Beckett and The Lion in Winter in such a way as to suggest how one becomes the other. (And my favorite O’Toole performance ever, as Jack Arnold Alexander Tancred Gurney, the 14th Earl of Gurney, in The Ruling Class — a broad film whose satire is sharpened immeasurably by having at its center O’Toole’s unerrring, effortless precision.)
Leave such encomiums to the cineastes. Let’s you and me talk Supergirl.
Supergirl is a bad, dumb movie that retains a certain fantastical charm, if you squint.
In Superman: The Unauthorized Biography, I said that “Peter O’Toole looks sheepish as the wise Argo City artist Zaltar — in his quieter moments, he adopts the faraway expression of a man anticipating cocktail hour.”
That wasn’t particularly fair of me. Because even half-assed O’Toole is still game O’Toole. (For the record, this is the faraway expression to which I refer.)
I know. You want to talk about the sweater. Lookit, we all want to talk about the sweater, but we’d be here all day. It’s Cosby by way of Chess King by way of Aunt Miriam’s Hannukkah Party. It hurts, this sweater.
O’Toole plays Zaltar, Argo City’s artist-in-residence, who steals the city’s power source (the Christmas ornament, above) to make some sculpture with his matterwand (the pink Kryptonian glowstick, above) and to create a dragonfly that ruptures Argo City’s protective membrane and dooms the population — unless Kara (Supergirl) can get it back. Look, it’s a weird movie, stay with me.
O’Toole’s in full-on barking fop mode here, and there’s a fun moment when he’s asked how he’ll leave Argo City, and in some early draft of the script he was doubtlessly called upon exposit about the interdimensional pod he’s created which can pass through the “binary chute” that exists as a portal between Argo City’s inner space to the outer space of our universe.
In the film, however, he simply gestures with the glowstick, and says, “In THAT. Through THERE.” Because Peter O’GoddamnToole, is why.
When the glowy orb-power source flies the coop, Zaltar calls after it, leading to one of my favorite moments in the film, becaues O’Toole’s accent turns “Kara! The power source!” to “Kaaa! The pow sauce!”
"Pow sauce" was the name of my favorite BBQ seasoning at this place over in Glover Park, back when I first moved to DC.
Supergirl goes and has adventures (well, she engages in wacky hi-jinx at a girls’ school) and ends up getting sent to the Phantom Zone, where she meets Zaltar again, though by now he’s gone from bad sweater to weird Kente cloth … caftan? … and has become addicted to an intoxicating substance he calls …
Well, he covers it himself, when he offers Kara a spritz from his atomizer, leading to the moment when O’Toole proves his mettle, and makes even the dumbest line of dialogue in a powerfully dumb movie work. The line in question:
(Kara refuses, causing him to deliver the second dumbest line in a powerfully dumb movie:)
Oh, and then he gets eaten by the “Quantum Vortex” look you know what never mind that’s not important. Here’s what’s important.
RIP Peter O’GoddamnToole, you magnificent man. I raise my atomizer to your memory.
I’d say “Squirt, old man,” but that just really grossed me out as I typed it, so we’ll leave it at that.
25 Days of SuperChristmas - Dec 14