Friday, July 30, 2010

Twitter Blows It with "Who to Follow" Feature

There is an old saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Unfortunately, it seems as if most major websites simply will not follow this rule. It was a few years ago that IMDB rolled out a new version of their website that is vastly inferior to their old one. Facebook constantly seems to be changing, to the point that often things simply do not work there. Last week Google rolled out a new version of Google Images that is so inferior to the old version that Google users are still complaining. Sadly, it now seems Twitter has gotten into the act of fixing that which is not broken.

Today Twitter rolled out a new "Who to Follow" feature. Basically, this feature was designed by Twitter's user relevance team to suggest Twitter users one does not currently follow. The "Who to Follow" feature relies upon an algorithm that draws upon such factors as the people one currently follows and the people they follow. If one does not like a suggestion made by the feature, he or she can simply click "hide" and that particular suggestion will never show up again. The "Who to Follow" feature can be found near the top of the right hand sidebar of one's Twitter. It can also be accessed through the "Find Friends" link.

Now as changes go, the "Who to Follow" feature is not as drastic as the sort Facebook makes on a regular basis and not nearly as horrendous as the change Google made to Google Images last week. It does not seem to interfere with the operation of Twitter and I must admit, that for the most part its suggestions seem to be on the head (except for Lady Gaga--why on Earth would I follow her?). That having been said, the "Who to Follow" feature is objectionable for a number of reasons.

Not the least of these is the fact that its name, "Who to Follow," is grammatically incorrect. It should be "Whom to Follow." Beyond that minor caveat there is the fact that it sits near the top of the right sidebar, which means users have to scroll down even further to see their Lists, the Trending topics , and whom they are following. Worse yet, there is no way to hide the "Who to Follow" feature as there is no way to hide it as there is for Lists, Trending Topics, and Following. Another problem is that for users such as me, who have been on Twitter for quite some time, the "Who to Follow" feature is nearly useless. I already follow over 170 people. Unless someone is terribly interesting, I see no reason to add more people whom I follow. The "Who to Follow" feature is then something that just sits there on my screen for which I have little use.

I will confess, I am only mildly irked that Twitter has added a feature for which I have no use and which cannot be hidden. There are others who seem to be very angry that the feature was added. One only has to type "Who to Follow" in the search box to see the many complaints. Some examples: "Don't tell me who to follow, Twitter, that's what Fridays are for;" "Am not liking this 'Who to Follow' (censored by me) on my sidebar;" "Ugh. I'm sick of this "who to follow" (censored by me). I wouldn't follow that Paramore (censored by me) if I was paid to;" " I hate that "Who To Follow" thing they added;" and so on. Quite clearly Twitter has angered many of its users by adding a feature they not only did not want, but they openly detest.

I sincerely hope that Twitter does not take the same path taken years ago by IMDB and on a recurring basis by Facebook of ignoring the gripes of its users.  The plain fact is that websites depend upon their users to survive. It is also a plain fact that when users become too unhappy they will leave. There are those who claim that MySpace fell so far because it was simply a fad. I do not think this is the case myself. I think it is because MySpace changed so much of late to the point that at times it is hardly functional. I know that is why I do not go to MySpace very often any more, and I suspect that I am not alone in that. Ultimately, if Twitter wants to keep its users happy, it had best do away with the "Who to Follow" feature or at least give users a means of hiding it.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Headquarters of Literary Heroes

Everyone needs some place where he or she can work. It may be an office, a shop, a military camp, or even their own home, but every one needs some place from where they can work. This is as true in literature as it is in real life. Indeed, in various genres of fiction, from mystery to pulp adventure, many characters have their own very specialised headquarters from which they work. Whether it is Nero Wolfe's brownstone or Batman's Batcave, many heroes have bases of operations very different from the places from which most of us work.

It is difficult to say where this literary convention originated, but it may have been in the pages of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. As everyone knows, Holmes lived in a flat at 221B Baker Street in London. At the very least, it was one of the earliest residences of a character who appeared in multiple stories to have been described in detail. Indeed, the stories establish that Sherlock Holmes' apartment was a suite of rooms situated above a flight of seventeen stairs in a lodging house. Sherlock Holmes' study, from where he did much of his work, faced Baker Street itself. His bedroom was right next to the study and was located to the rear of the building. Dr. Watson's bedroom was situated on the second floor (the third floor to Americans) towards the rear, overlooking a backyard with a plane tree.

Over the course of the stories, Conan Doyle elaborated a good deal on 221B Baker Street. Holmes' study included a bearskin rug, Holmes' desk, a velvet lined chair, Holmes' chemistry equipment, and many other items. One wall included a fireplace, complete with the coal scuttle where Holmes kept his cigars. The great detective seems to have been a bit messy, something which sometimes brought him to heads with his landlady, Mrs. Hudson, who valued tidiness.

Compared to many later literary heroes' headquarters, Sherlock Holmes' flat was very basic. To a degree this was not unusual for private detectives, some of whose bases of operations were downright Spartan. This was particularly true of Philip Marlowe's office. Raymond Chandler's famous detective worked out of an office that was originally on the 7th floor of an unnamed building and later said to be on the 6th floor of the Cahuenga Building in Los Angeles, located on Hollywood Boulevard. The office itself occupied a room and a half. The office itself was very basic, consisting of a glass top desk, behind which was Marlowe's squeaky swivel chair, a few chairs, and five green, metal filing cabinets. In the drawer was always a bottle of some sort of alcohol. Marlowe had no secretary at all, doing all the paper work himself!

That Philip Marlowe's office should be so basic  should not be surprising. His apartment is equally. basic. It was an efficiency apartment located on the sixth floor of a building (Marlowe must have liked the 6th floor of buildings). Besides the obvious necessities such as a bed, Marlowe has only a few items in his apartment: a radio, a chess set, a few books, a few pictures, and old letters that he had saved.

While Holmes and Marlowe both had very basic apartments, Nero Wolfe's brownstone was simultaneously a fortress and a refuge from the outside world. Indeed, it would do some superheroes proud. The address of the brownstone varied throughout Rex Stout's novels and short stories, but it was always said to be on West 35th Street. As to the brownstone itself, it had three floors, as well as a furnished basement with living quarters and a rooftop greenhouse also with living quarters.The brownstone's entrance was designed for Nero Wolfe's privacy as much as his security. The front door featured a chain bolt, as well as a pane of one way glass so that Wolfe's legman Archie Goodwin could see who was at the door without himself being seen. Nero Wolfe's office as similarly secure. When the doors to the brownstone's front room and the hallway were closed, his office was more or less soundproof. The office also featured a trick painting of a waterfall, which covered a peephole, through which Archie could see and hear what went on in the office without being observed. Behind Nero Wolfe's desk was his chair, which had been custom made with springs to support the great detective's considerable weight. Near the desk was a red leather chair, in which clients and other visitors to Nero Wolfe's office would sit.

Even Nero Wolfe's living quarters were designed with privacy and security in mind. There was an alarm which would go off in Archie's room if someone got close to Nero Wolfe's bedroom. Of course, the living quarters were also designed for comfort. Wolfe's bedroom had a device on a time which would open the windows to control the temperature in the room. On the roof was the greenhouse, which was temperature controlled. The greenhouse featured over 10,000 plants. Nero Wolfe was well known for growing orchids. The brownstone has a lift, although only Wolfe uses it.

The brownstone also had a rear entrance which led to Wolfe's private gardens in the back. It was there that his cook Fritz tried to grow herbs for cooking. A passage through the gardens led directly to 34 Street, specially designed so one could leave the brownstone and evade notice. More so than either Holmes or Marlowe's bases of operation, Nero Wolfe's headquarters was an extension of his personality, designed for maximum comfort, privacy, and security.

Of course, most private detectives did not have as extravagant headquarters as Nero Wolfe. On the other hand, the superheroes of the pulp magazines often had HQs that put even Nero Wolfe's brownstone to shame. This was no less true of The Shadow. What his sanctum lacked in size, it made up for in style. The sanctum was located in the north section of the basement of a small office building in New York City that had only a few tenants. Its walls were covered by black curtains and its floor by a black tufted carpet. It had a Victorian style lamp that emitted  a blue light.  The sanctum is equipped with a tables, file cabinets, and a complete laboratory. In addition to the main exit, the sanctum also had a secret back exit.

As extravagant as The Shadows' sanctum was, it was nothing compared to Doc Savage's headquarters. In fact, Doc had not one, not two, but three different bases of operation. The primary one, and the only one known to the public was on the 86th floor of an unnamed skyscraper in New York City. Because there was only one building with that many floors in New York City in 1933 (when Doc Savage began publishing), it has most often been assumed that the unnamed skyscraper that was home to Doc's headquarters was none other than the Empire State Building itself, although this is never made explicit in the novels. Doc's 86th floor headquarters is reached by a high speed elevator accessible only to Doc, his aides, and his cousin Pat (sometimes Doc would try to find a way of locking her out, but she always figured out a way to get in). For added security, Doc also rented the 85th and 87th floors to keep people from spying on him. References are made to offices in floors other than the 86th which deal with such ordinary matters as security, correspondence, and so on.

Perhaps the headquarters of no other superhero or private eye was as well equipped as Doc Savage's 86th floor abode. It had sufficient accommodations not only for Doc and his men, but also several guests as well. It also had a fully equipped laboratory, a library with thousands of books, and a gymnasium. As might be expected, Doc's headquarters was protected by the same sort of gadgets which he uses on his adventures. Not only did Doc rent an entire three floors (and possibly others) of the skyscraper, but there was also a secret basement garage where Doc's various vehicles were located. Indeed, Doc not only owned cars, but planes, autogyros, boats, a submarine, and a dirigible. These were stored at another one of Doc's headquarters, a secret hangar on the Hudson River disguised as a warehouse belonging to "The Hidalgo Trading Company ." The secret hangar was accessed by a pneumatic tube system linked to the skyscraper where Doc's offices were.

Not only did Doc have three floors of what may have been the Empire State Building and a hangar, but his own hidden retreat as well. This was the Fortress of Solitude (if it sounds familiar, it because a certain comic book company ripped off the idea from the Man of Bronze...). Its whereabouts were initially unknown even to his aides and to his cousin Pat. It was here that Doc went for periods of time to develop new gadgets, conduct experiments, and engage in intense study. The Fortress of Solitude was located in a remote region of the Arctic. In the novel suitably entitled Fortress of Solitude, the Fortress is described as a "Strange Blue Dome." It is said that it resembled "...the perfectly spherical half of an opaque blue crystal ball--of incredible size, of course. It surface appears perfectly smooth, with no obvious openings, no doors or windows of any kind. It was made of an unknown substance, that was not glass or metal but resembled both." Within the Fortress of Solitude one can assume there were the same amenities as Doc's 86th floor headquarters--a laboratory, a library, and a gymnasium at least. Unfortunately it was also where Doc stored those gadgets which he thought were too dangerous for mankind to possess. This nearly led to disaster when his archenemy, John Sunlight, discovered the Fortress and stole two of these gadgets (in the aforementioned novel Fortress of Solitude), weapons with which he hoped to start World War II (keep in mind Fortress of Solitude was published in 1938).

Not to be outdone by Street and Smith's superheroes Doc Savage and The Shadow, Popular Publications' character The Spider also had his own special headquarters.In fact, because villains occasionally invaded his headquarters, The Spider's alter ego Richard Wentworth would find himself moving from time to time, which also meant The Spider's base of operations would change. As of The Spider March 1937, Richard Wentworth would be based out of Hopecrest Apartments. It was in October that he would move to his most famous headquarters, "..erected partly on filled-in land between two piers behind Sutton Place, was a walled and armed fortress."  Steel shutters covered the windows. Inside it had a series of passages designed to confuse any invaders and hidden elevators so Wentworth could leave without detection. Its garage was filled with armoured cars, and a boathouse on the Hudson filled with boats. The Spider would remain at Sutton Place for many years.

In November 1942 Richard Wentworth moved his base to 5th Avenue, in a penthouse atop Park Amrs. The penthouse featured a drawing room and a music room, where Wentworth stored his Stradivarius and a pipe organ. By tapping three of the pipes of the pipe organ, Wentworth would open a hidden panel which led to a room containing racks of clothing for disguises, a dressing table with make up for disguises (not to mention to transform himself into The Spider), weapons, and, most importantly, the robes of The Spider. A panel in this room led to a lift which would take The Spider down to the basement and his many vehicles.

The superheroes of the comic books would be directly influenced by the superheroes of pulp magazines, so it was natural that superheroes would have their own headquarters as well. Indeed, perhaps the most famous base of operations of any literary character is the Batcave, Batman's headquarters. As hard as it may be to believe, the Batcave was not always a part of the Batman mythos. Originally there was merely a tunnel that ran from Wayne Manor to an old barn where the Batmobile and Batplane were stored. It was in Batman #12, August-September 1942, that writer Bill Finger mentioned "secret underground hangars." It would be the movie serial, The Batman, that would introduce the Batcave  in 1943, although called "the Bat's Cave" in the film. Essentially, the Batcave was a secret, underground crime lab accessed through a grandfather clock in Wayne Manor. The Batcave then appeared in the Batman daily newspaper strip on October 26, 1943. In the comic strip the Batcave already featured a study, crime lab, garage, hangar, and workshop. It first appeared in the comic books in Detective Comics #83, January 1944. By the Sixties the Batcave would even include a computer, featured prominently in the TV series starring Adam West.

As mentioned earlier, a certain comic book company would pretty much plagiarise the idea of Doc Savage's Fortress of Solitude, right down to its name. To be fair, however, Superman was said to have a "Secret Citadel" on a mountain on the outskirts of Metropolis in  Superman #12, September-October 1941. Very little was ever done with the Secret Citadel, and by the Fifties it was nearly forgotten. It is perhaps for this reason that Action Comics #241, June 1958 (nearly a full twenty years after the publication of the Doc Savage novel Fortress of Solitude and 35 years after it had been first mentioned in Doc Savage magazine) that Superman's Fortress of Solitude first appeared. Like Doc Savage's Fortress of Solitude, Superman's Fortress of Solitude was located in the Arctic. It was located within a steep cliff in a mountain. Its door could only be opened by a giant key which only someone of Superman's strength could lift. It contained an alien zoo, a laboratory, a communications room, a computer, and (like the Batcave) trophies from his past adventures. Sadly, Superman's Fortress of Solitude is now better known than the Fortress of Solitude, the refuge of Doc Savage.

The often very specialised headquarters serve multiple purposes for their characters. At their most basic level, they provide the characters with a workspace from which they can solve mysteries, fight crime, develop new gadgets, and so on. In the case of many of the superheroes, they also offer an added measure of security. It is safe to say that if Richard Wentworth's homes had not been fortresses, he would have died only a few months after The Spider magazine debuted! In the cases of superheroes with secret identities, they also offer the privacy and secrecy they need. Visitors would become suspicious if Bruce Wayne had a complete crime lab in Wayne Manor, and villains would constantly be attacking his home base if it was publicly known, hence the need for the Batcave. Particularly in pulp magazines, heroes often lead dangerous lives and have need of the privacy and security of a secret headquarters.

To a large degree, however, the headquarters of various literary characters also act as an extension of the characters themselves. Philip Marlowe's office reflects the simplicity and practicality of the man himself. Nero Wolfe's brownstone reflects his desire for both privacy and comfort; it is literally a refuge from the outside world. That such headquarters reflect the characters themselves even holds true for pulp magazine and comic book heroes. The Spider's various HQs were all designed to help in his constant battle with crime.

Regardless, such headquarters have become a part of Anglo-American pop culture. There are those who know Doc Savage's Fortress of Solitude or The Shadow's sanctum as well as their own homes. Indeed, among the most memorable lines from the old Batman TV show remains Bruce Wayne's "To the Batave, Robin!" It is safe to say there are many who would like to go there with them.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Late, Great Maury Chaykin

Actor Maury Chaykin, who played Nero Wolfe on the series A Nero Wolfe Mystery, passed yesterday at the age of 61. It was his birthday. He had experienced problems with his kidneys of late.

Maury Chaykin was born in Brooklyn on July 27, 1949. He attended the State University of New York in Buffalo. He trained with Buffalo's American Contemporary Theatre. He later fought for roles in New York City. Offered a place a role in Toronto's underground theatre in 1974, he moved there. Mr. Chaykin made his film debut in the movie Me in 1975. He made his television debut in the series King of Kensington in 1978. He appeared in the telefilm Riel in 1979. In 1980 he appeared in the films Double Negative, Nothing Personal, and The Kidnapping of the President.

In the Eighties Maury Chaykin appeared in such films Death Hunt (1981), Soup for One (1982), Highpoint(1982), WarGames (1983), Harry and Son (1984), Mrs. Soffel (1984), Def-Con 4 (1985), The Bedroom Window (1987), Twins (1988), and Dances with Wolves (1990). In Dances with Wolves Mr. Chaykin played one of his most memorable roles, as the slightly crazy Major Fambrough. He appeared on television in the series Seeing Things, Philip Marlowe Private Eye, Adderly, Night Heat, Diamonds, The Twilight Zone, and Street Legal.

In the Nineties Maury Chaykin appeared in such movies as The Pianist (1991), My Cousin Vinny (1992), Hero (1992), Somersby (1993), Exotica (1994), Cutthroat Island (!995), The Sweet Hereafter (1997), Mousehunt (1997), The Mask of Zorro (1998), Mystery, Alaska (1999), and The Art of War (2000). He appeared in such television shows as La Femme Nikita, Due South, and Lexx. It was in 2000 that Mr. Chaykin would play legendary detective Nero Wolfe in the telefilm The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery.

In the Naughts Maury Chaykin played the lead role of Nero Wolfe in the television series A Nero Wolfe Mystery, which ran from 2001-2002. In four episodes of the show Entourage Mr. Chaykin played the role of movie executive Harvey Weingard. He was a regular on the series Less than Kind, which ran from 2008 to 2010. He also guest starred on the shows CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Stargate SG-1, Boston Legal, and Eureka. Mr. Chaykin appeared in such films as Hostage (2002), Being Julia (2004), Heavens Fall (2006), Production Office (2008), and Casino Jack (2010). His last appearance on screen will be in Conduct Unbecoming, set for release later this year.

Maury Chaykin was definitely one of the most talented and versatile actors of his generation. Indeed, speaking as a fan of Rex Stout's original novels, Mr. Chaykin gave by far the best performance of brilliant but curmudgeonly detective Nero Wolfe. For me it is a rare thing when an actor captures a beloved literary character on screen. Mr. Chaykin was also great in the brief role of Major Fambrough in Dances with Wolves, convincingly playing a character whose mind was not quite all there. Indeed, he was so great an actor that he, a native of New York who spent most of his life in Canada, could convincingly portray a Southern yokel in My Cousin Vinny, right down to the drawl. Maury Chaykin was a brilliant, talented, and versatile actor who left us all too soon. Fortunately, he left us a number of great roles by which he will forever be remembered.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Actor Carl Gordon R.I..P.

Actor Carl Gordon, who played the father on the television series Roc, passed on July 20 at the age of 78. The cause was Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Carl Gordon was born Rufus Carl Gordon Jr. on January 20, 1932 in Goochland, Virginia. He was always caleld by his middle name. While young his family moved to Brooklyn. He served in the United States Air Force from 1951 to 1955. Afterwards he attended Brooklyn College, but dropped out to look for work. Mr. Gordon worked at such jobs as a sheet metal worker and stockroom clerk before he started acting in his thirties. He made his debut on Broadway in 1970  in The Great White Hope. In 1972 he appeared on Broadway in Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death. He made his film debut in Gordon's War in 1973 playing a pimp. Carl Gordon appeared in such films as The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings (1976), Violated (1984), The Brother From Another Planet (1984), No Mercy (1986), Better than Ever (1997), and Somebody's Hero (2010).

Mr. Gordon appeared on television in the two part telefilm The Murder of Mary Phagan in 1988. From 1991 to 1994 he played the role of Andrew Emerson on the sitcom Roc. In the Nineties and Naughts he made frequent guest appearances on television, including Burke's Law, Malcolm and Eddie, Felicity, ER, Nash Bridges, and Law and Order. He appeared on Broadway in The Piano Lesson  in 1990 and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom in 2003.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Actor Larry Keith Passes On

Larry Keith, an actor who appeared in television, on Broadway, and n film, passed on July 17 at the age of 79. The cause was cancer.

Larry Keith was born Larry Korn in Brooklyn on March 4, 1931. Originally a singer, he earned a bachelor's degree in music at Brooklyn College. He was doing graduate work at Indiana University when he was drafted into the United States Army. While in service he performed in musical revues for troops in South Korea. He changed his surname as a young actor.

In 1961 he received his big break as the understudy to Michael Allison in the Broadway production of My Fair Lady. He would become the first American to ever play Henry Higgins in the play. Mr Keith would appear on Broadway several more times. Over the years he appeared in High Spirits (1964), I Had a Ball (1964), The Best Laid Plans (1966), Gigi (1977), Titanic (1997), Cabaret (1998), and Caroline, or Change (2004).

Larry Keith made his television debut in a bit part on NET Playhouse in 1966. He appeared on the soap opera Another World from 1967 to 1968. He was a regular on the TV show The Baxters in 1979 Over the years he guest starred on Tales of the Unexpected, Stingray, The Equaliser, Law and Order, and Damages. From 1971-1997 he played the role of Nick Davis on the soap opera All My Children. He appeared in the film Eulogy for Jack (2007).

Sunday, July 25, 2010

1961: The Year Anime Arrived in America

Most people know that anime television series first arrived in the United States in the Sixties, the first being Astro Boy in 1964. What many do not know is that this was not the first time the United States was exposed to anime. Three years earlier, in 1961, three anime feature films were released in the United States within a few months of each other.

The first of these was Hakujaden, also known as Tale of the White Serpent, originally released in Japan in 1958. The film was an adaptation of "Madame White Snake," a tale from Chinese mythology dating back to the Song Dynasty. It was a product of Toei Animation, a company founded in 1946 as Japan Animated Films. In 1956 it was bought by Tokyo-Yokohama Films, which promptly renamed it Toei Animation Co. Ltd. The goal of Toei was, quite simply, to become the "Disney of the East." Hakujaden was then largely modelled after Disney films. The subject was a fairy tale to which Toei added songs and even an animal sidekick. Indeed, Hakujaden was the first Japanese animated feature film ever released in colour. It was Toei President Hiroshi Okawa who decided they should adapt a Chinese fairy tale, in order to strike a reconciliatory tone with China. Its production would also be the most complex of any anime feature film up to that time.

It was in the late Fifties that American International Pictures began importing foreign films. AIP released sword and sandal films, spy movies, and giallo from Italy, and throughout the Sixties would release the various Godzilla and Gamera movies from Japan. It was perhaps natural that they would set their sights on importing animated feature films from Japan. Hakujaden would be the first. Like many anime features and series later imported to the United States, Hakujaden would be heavily edited and Americanised. The film would be retitled Panda and the Magic Serpent. Oddly enough, among the changes was that the animal companion, Mimi, a small red panda, would be reinterpreted as a cat! Every single Japanese name was also removed from the credits. Despite having received critical acclaim elsewhere in the world, Panda and the Magic Serpent would make an inauspicious debut for anime in the United States on March 15, 1961.The movie bombed at the box office.

The second anime feature film to be released in the United States would be Shōnen Sarutobi Sasuke. Shōnen Sarutobi Sasuke was the second animated feature film for Toei Animation. Like Hakujaden, Shōnen Sarutobi Sasuke was shaped in the Disney mould, complete with songs and adorable animals. Like Hakujaden, it was also shot in colour. What set it apart from Hakujaden was that it was original tale, although one done in the spirit of a folk tale. Shōnen Sarutobi Sasuke followed a young peasant boy who becomes a ninja and  learns magic to fight an evil witch. It was released in 1959 in Japan. It would be MGM would would bring Shōnen Sarutobi Sasuke to the United States. Its American title incorrectly given as The Adventures of the Little Samurai by MGM's publicity department, Shōnen Sarutobi Sasuke was renamed Magic Boy (here it must be pointed out that while samurai were known to the American public in the early Sixties, ninja were not). Amazingly, MGM left the vocals in the majority of the songs in their original Japanese rather than redub them with vocals in English.  Magic Boy received generally positive reviews upon its release. Unfortunately, it did not do well at the box office.

The third anime feature film to be released in the United States was Saiyuki, literally "journey to the west." Saiyuki was based on the manga Boku no Son Gokū by Osamu Tezuka (creator of Tetsuwan Atomu, known as Astro Boy here in the States). Although named as a director of the film, Osamu Tezuka later stated that his only role on the film was as a script consultant. It would be this adaptation of his manga that would lead to his interest in animation and hence the TV series he created over the year.  Boku no Son Gokū was itself based on possibly the most famous Chinese legend of them all and one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese Literature Journey to the West. Like the legend and novel, Saiyuki dealt with the adventures of the Monkey King, known in Chinese as Sun Wukong and in the Japanese feature film  Saiyuki as Son-Goku. Despite being based on a manga by Osaku Tezuka and a Chinese legend, Toei once more utilised the Disney treatment on the feature. The Monkey King was portrayed as a cute monkey, in keeping with the Disney tradition of cute animals, while there were plenty of songs.

While American International Pictures had spent little in Americanising Panda and the Magic Serpent, it spared no expense on Saiyuki. The transformation of Saiyuki into Alakazam the Great was given a fairly large budget. Bandleader Lee Baxter wrote an American score for the film. Not only were the names of the characters Americanised, but they were voiced by such names as Arnold Stang, Dodie Stevens, and Jonathan Winters. Peter Fernandez, who would later provide the voice of Speed Racer, provided the speaking voice of Alakazam, while Frankie Avalon provided his singing voice. AIP released Alakazam the  Great  in the United States on July 26, 1961.

Alakazam the Great received fairly positive reviews upon its initial release. It also received the Parents Magazine Family Medal for September of 1961. Despite the acclaim it received and some well known voice talent, Alakazam the Great, did poorly at the box office. Despite this, of those first three anime released in 1961, each one within months of each other, Alakazam the Great remains the best remembered. Much of this may be due to the well known voice talent who worked on the Americanisation of the film. Even more of it may be due to the fact that it was based on the work of Osamu Tezuka, the legendary Godfather of Anime, as revered by anime fans in the United States as he is in his native Japan. Whatever the reason, its fame is such that there are those who mistakenly believe that it was the first anime feature film ever released in the U.S., even though there were two released before it!

There would only be three more anime feature films released in the Sixties.The Littlest Warrior (Anju to zushio-maru) was released by Signal International in 1962. Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon (Wanpaku ôji no orochi taiji) was released by Columbia Picture in 1964. The Lost World of Sinbad (Dai tozoku) was released by AIP in 1965. All of these films bombed at the box office, just as the first three anime feature films released in the States had. In 1964 the television series Tetsuwan Atomu came to the United States. It was a verified hit and was followed  to American shores by other hit anime series, such as Tetsujin 28-go (Gigantor), Jungle Taitei (Kimba the White Lion), Mach Go Go Go (Speed Racer), and Kaitei Shōnen Marin (Marine Boy). Despite this, the fact that the first several anime feature films released in the United States bombed at the box office meant that no others would be see an American theatrical release until the Eighties.

Despite the fact that no anime feature film would be released to American theatres for nearly twenty years, these features would have a lasting impact on American pop culture. Namely, it was the film Saiyuki (Alakazam the Great) which led Osamu Tezuka to become interested in animation. Once his contract with Toei expired, he founded his own studio, Mushi Production, whose first production would be the legendary animated adaptation of Tetsuwan Atomu. It would become a phenomenal success in Japan, to the point that it would be imported to the United States as Astro Boy.This in turn would create a boom in anime television series being imported to the U.S., the first exposure the majority of Americans would have to anime of any kind. It must be pointed out that Alakazam the Great would also give Peter Fernandez his first work in adapting anime to America. He would go onto work on Astro Boy, Gigantor, Speed Racer, Marine Boy, Star Blazers, and many others. Although these films, beyond Alakazam the Great, are today largely forgotten, they would be the first anime feature films released in the United States and would have a lasting impact.