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Put me in the “Not” category – Ripley’s Believe It or Not! #69

July 29, 2010

I associate the Ripley’s franchise with one thing — the distinctive, breathy verbal cadence of Jack Palance. Here’s the intro of the early 80’s TV show with a little taste of Jack’s diction, plus some cool music from Henry Mancini (please pardon the commercials at the end):

And here’s a clip of Palance at his Palance-iest with some funky foreign subtitles:

The weird thing about Ripley’s was that Palance was in some ways the most unbelievable thing on a show about unbelievable things. And I loved him for that. When he showed up years later in the first Tim Burton Batman movie, my reaction was “Hey, it’s the Ripley’s guy! Cool!” I could listen to that guy read soup ingredients. Seriously.

On to the comic.

“When Hands Reach Out” is our first story and it’s illustrated by Jack Sparling (I could only find art credits, so that’s what you’ll see for all the stories here). A 15th century nobleman is haunted nightly by phantom hands:

Lord Berry confesses to the local village bishop the source of the hands in the hopes that he’ll get some help from that quarter. He had romantic feelings for his cousin (incest is best), but found her with another man. In what Inspector Clouseau would call “a rit of fealous jage,” he killed the man:

I’m a bit underwhelmed by the “Ow!!” I’d think that getting run through would merit at least an “Argh!!” or “Yee-ow!!”

Lord Berry then watches in horror as his beloved cousin kills herself:

The Bishop, for these evil deeds, condemns Lord Berry to be haunted by these phantom hands for the rest of his life. Thanks for your help, padre.

The next story, “The Tortured Spirit,” is set in Hong Kong (it’s drawn by Amador Garcia). The studious young child of a magistrate becomes possessed, and the magistrate soon guesses the identity of the possessing spirit:

What soon follows may be the easiest exorcism in the history of the spirit world:

And that’s the end of that. For a guy who was a bigwig in the underworld, the spirit self certainly gave up pretty quickly.

“Death Leap” (Frank Bolle) is set in India. A young British Lieutenant investigates the nocturnal sound of hoofbeats and sees a spectral horse and rider:

When he returns to camp, one of the native servants clues him in on the identity of the rider and horse. An arrogant captain who had once been stationed at this encampment tried to show off the speed of his horse one day and his showboating had disastrous consequences:

“The Day You Die!” (Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez) is our last story. The foppish son of a wealthy 17th century nobleman wants to know when his father will die and leave him his inheritance. The magician (Layton) whose counsel he seeks informs him that they’ll have to rob a fresh grave to get answers, and the young man reluctantly tags along. Things get all fouled up when the exhumed spirit gets pissed and, instead of relaying the date of death for the wealthy lord, informs Layton that he (Layton) is going to die in a matter of days. Well played, “magician.”

This causes Layton to pace and mutter all the next day:

Apparently loose lips don’t just sink ships.

Layton continues blabbering in court and drags his young accomplice into the mix:

The lord disinherits his son and the court accepts this as a substitute punishment for death. Layton, meanwhile, heads for the gallows.

I wasn’t overly impressed with any of the stories in this book. The core ideas might have worked if they had been a little more fleshed out, but as they are they’re way too brief. I suppose the brevity fits in with the usual Ripley’s presentation — the shows and strips always used brief vignettes instead of long form presentations. But it just didn’t work that well in this medium, at least for me. I needed a chance to catch my breath.

Speaking of breath…Maybe I’ll have to re-read it with Jack’s voice in my head. Now there’s an idea.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. David Morefield permalink
    July 30, 2010 9:27 am

    Palance was awesome on that show; right up there with Christopher Walken for weird speech patterns and crazy mannerisms.

    It was great how he got that twinkle in his eye when he said “Believe It………….Or Not” (I left out about 16 “dots”). He really projected the persona of a shady carnival barker who may be ushering you into a tent filled with cheap illusions, or then again maybe into the waiting arms of Satan himself. And that was *perfect* for this show.

    Jack’s twinkle seemed to say, “For all you know, we just made up this entire segment and not one word of it is true. Because we CAN. It’s in the title, schmuck.”

    • July 30, 2010 10:23 am

      Well put. He had a scary quality about him, but in a good “crazy uncle that lights off illegal fireworks in his back yard” sort of way.

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