Saturday, January 15, 2011

My buddy Steve has sworn off eBay, but before he took the oath, he bought me something I had been eyeing: a fumetti starring Tom Tyler.

I didn't bid on it as its cover featured an action shot with Richard Arlen and I've discovered over the years that many people mix up the various B-Westerns stars. It's easy enough to do as they'll all a bunch of white guys in cowboy hats.

Although the term "fumetti" is used in Italy to describe comics in general, we use it specifically for stories told with photos rather than drawings.

So this publication, "Photo Adventures," is in French and was produced in 1961. It reproduces the 1935 Tyler Western "Rio Rattler."

Eddie Gribbon, a comic actor who started with Mack Sennett, plays Tom's sidekick in the film.

The film itself was pretty standard for a Tyler Western cranked out like so many sausages by director Bernard B. Ray. Tyler was under contract at this time with Reliable Pictures, a company that used the same sets and supporting actors over and over. Although Tom clearly tries his best in this film, it's interesting to see him rise to the acting challenge as the good bad guy in "Powdersmoke Range," made the same year at RKO.

What always fascinates me is how pop culture is recycled. Here is a 1935 creaky low budget American B Western turned into a French language fumetti in 1961. Although it's been made clear to me the reach B- Westerns and serials have had is surprising – consider the 1970s Turkish remakes of Republic serials from the 1940s – I'm always amazed by artifacts such as this one.

© 2011 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

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