A team of highly trained individuals, each with their own special talents and skills are led by a mysterious man of intimidating demeanor. This man displays a near superhuman emotional discipline that makes him appear cold and unfeeling. He is an exceptional physical specimen who has superior ability in physical combat and with weapons. He is driven by a need to see justice done at any costs and does not stop in the pursuit of evildoers until they are caught and/or killed. His past is a secret even to his closest friends and he only reveals details when he has to. His team is fiercely loyal to him. His team is notable in that they are all significantly eccentric in habits, traits, interests and speech.
Now, just on the surface that description could be applied to Doc Savage and his Iron Crew. Or The Avenger and Justice, Inc. Or The Shadow and his aides. But since this is New Pulp I’m talking about, the team I’m describing is NCIS, led by Leroy Jethro Gibbs, played by Mark Harmon.
Gibbs himself is a former Marine sniper, one of the best who now commands an elite Naval Criminal Investigative Service team, all of the members he himself handpicked. And quite the crew they are. His right-hand man is former Baltimore police detective Anthony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) whose goofball, juvenile attitude disguises a keen, even near brilliant investigative mind. Abigail “Abby” Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) is the team’s resident all-round genius as over the course of the show’s 12 seasons has displayed her proficiency in ballistics, traditional forensics, computer forensics, DNA analysis and hacking. She shares with Gibbs an addiction to caffeine and is a dedicated Goth.
Caitlin “Kate” Todd (Sasha Alexander) was a former Secret Service agent who left that position at the suggestion of Gibbs himself to join his team. Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard (David McCallum) is the team’s chief medical examiner and if Gibbs has a best friend, then it’s Ducky. He’s also a trained psychologist and has a habit of talking to the dead as if they can hear him while performing autopsies on them.
Timothy “Tim” McGee (Sean Murray) is the team’s computer/techno geek. He and Tony DiNozzo have a relationship that is extremely similar to the Monk/Ham relationship and like Mon and Ham did to Doc, the bickering and insulting between McGee and DiNozzo quite often exasperates Gibbs. Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) is a former Mossad agent trained in at least half a dozen martial arts, espionage, counter-terrorism, assassination and speaks ten languages fluently.
That’s quite a crew and for the first couple of seasons, the show really didn’t give them a solid workout of their talents. It wasn’t until in later seasons that they got involved with weirder and wilder mysteries (such as the case where a modern day smart phone is found inside a Civil War coffin that’s just been dug up. Or the case where a woman digs herself out of her own grave with no memory of who she is but she knows that a bomb has been planted on a Navy ship somewhere) and once the team’s missions became more international and started dealing with shadow government conspiracies and supervillain-level terrorists it really took off. Chances are that you’ve seen an NCIS episode. USA runs all day marathons at least once a week it seems. But if you haven’t, all 12 seasons are available on Netflix.
If I haven’t said it before, let me re-iterate: I love The Internet. There’s tons of stuff that I read and loved back in the 1970s and 1980s that I either lost, lent out and never got back or just threw away that I thought I’d never be able to find again. One of those things is the DOCTOR ORIENT series by Frank Lauria.
I first read the books when they were originally published back in the 70s and they were the perfect books for that time. Reincarnation, Satanism, psychic powers, astral projection, astrology, transcendental meditation, ESP, all that stuff was hotter than fish grease back then and Frank Lauria gleefully strip mined those concepts and more for his Doctor Orient adventures.
To nutshell Doctor Orient himself, let’s put it this way: imagine if Doc Savage was a psychic investigator. Dr. Owen Orient is a wealthy New York physician/psychologist who yearns for a simpler, more spiritual way of life. To this end, while he was studying conventional medicine of the body and mind he also studied the occult and is quite a formidable adept in several mystical disciplines. This naturally leads him into conflict with practitioners of Black Magic, some of whom lust after nothing less than world domination. It’s up to Doctor Orient and his team of students who he himself has taught and trained to use telepathy, telekinesis and astral protection to stand between these evil forces and mankind.
It’s also fair to say that Doctor Orient is a hipper, sexier version of Dr. Strange. The eight books in the series are not only full of supernatural action but sexual as well. Now, back in the 70s, the kind of sexual perversions that go on during the course of Orient’s adventure were considered quite titillating indeed but nowadays you can see far more daring sexual hijinks on any given episode of “Scandal”. Still, it makes for highly entertaining reading and I highly recommend the series. Frank Lauria was one of about a dozen writers who during the 70s were writing New Pulp decades before it was ever given a name. I would read what these guys were writing and say to myself; “Self, I dunno what this is but I know I want to write it.” The first seven DOCTOR ORIENT books are available only as ebooks from Amazon, all with brand new covers. The eighth book; “Demon Pope” you can get either as an ebook or in paperback.
This third example of New Pulp I was going to include in a separate post with two other movies of the 1980s that I think it has a lot in common with: “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension” and “Big Trouble In Little China.” All three movies were ahead of their time and each one of them contained multiple elements and mixed genres in a way that audiences really couldn’t grasp at the time they came out but now we can appreciate.
But due to the recent passing away of Denise “Vanity” Matthews I felt that a mention of THE LAST DRAGON would be appropriate now and a more in-depth look later on when I get around to writing that other post (which knowing my slothful ass should see print sometime around August)
THE LAST DRAGON is a delightfully goofy mash-up of martial arts, glitzy musical numbers, Kung Fu mysticism right out of a Marvel comic book (I’m convinced that The Glow is related to The Iron Fist somehow) comedy, romance and satire. The movie follows the quest of Leroy Green (Taimak) a young black man who lives in Harlem and studies Kung Fu with your typical wise old Kung Fu Master. Leroy’s expertise in the martial arts is so great that he is known as “Bruce” Leroy. This doesn’t sit well with Sho’Nuff, The Shogun of Harlem (Julius J. Carry III) who sees “Bruce” Leroy as the only thing standing in his way of being the supreme Kung Fu Master of Harlem. But all “Bruce” Leroy wants to do is achieve such a sublime state of spiritual and physical perfection that he acquires “The Glow”, a mystical energy that only a true Master can control. “Bruce” Leroy’s quest is sidetracked when he meets the gorgeous dance club hostess and pop star Laura Charles (Vanity) who has gotten on the bad side of video arcade mogul/petty gangster Eddie Arkadian (Chris Murney)
Most of the comedy in the movie comes from Leroy Green himself. Although he is indeed black, he acts, talks and dresses as if he’s in a Shaw Brothers movie. His little brother is a streetwise hustler and it’s a nice contrast. Julius J. Carry III as Sho’Nuff is one of the most memorable bad guys in movie history, wearing this really funky and bizarre outfit that looks like something a modern day Shogun would wear. The scene where we first meet him and his outrageous posse when they take in “Enter The Dragon” at the same 42end Street theater where Leroy Green is watching the movie while eating his popcorn with chopsticks is downright hilarious.
And Vanity is nothing less than stunningly gorgeous. As well as talented in both singing and acting. She and Taimak have a genuine chemistry that lights up the screen and they sell their characters and the story. If I don’t stop now I’ll easily write another 1000 words just about THE LAST DRAGON because it’s one of my favorite movies of all time and a movie I consider a solid example of New Pulp. Besides, if I write everything I want to write about it now, I’ll have nothing left for the other essay. Just let me say that if you haven’t yet seen it, I highly recommend you stop what you’re doing right now and hunt up the Blu-Ray. There’s a 30th Anniversary Edition available on Amazon. Enjoy.
And that wraps this entry up. When I think of three more examples of New Pulp, you’ll be the first to know. Peace!