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The Mandarin's Revenge!
The Moleman Strikes
The Death Of Tony Stark!
If I Die Let It Be With Honor
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Iron Man: Volume 1

creator: Larry Lieber
87 minutes (U) 1966
Maximum DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Tom Matic
"Tony Stark makes you feel/
He's a cool exec with a heart of steel"

So begins the jingle that introduces this fascinating slice of McCarthy era kitsch, in which the Marvel hero is shown as a cold warrior vanquishing preposterous Red and Yellow perils. The first is the Mandarin, a lisping, pointy-eared Fu Manchu figure, who spends all his time in his laboratory devising various ingenious ways of doing away with our hero. Later we meet a kind of Goliath in Red Army uniform, who dons the USSR's own answer to Iron Man's body armour, inaugurating a set-piece battle between the two champions - Iron Man for the 'free world', his opponent in the Red corner, an atomic age jousting match or gladiatorial contest. Whatever next? Witchfinder General McCarthy meets the hulking Uncle Joe Stalin? In another episode, a scientist working on another suit of body armour (called the Crimson Dynamo) to rival Iron Man's defects to the West, just to show the Ruskies aren't all bad. The Chinese don't fare so well, their sole representative being the slant-eyed hobgoblin Mandarin. The crude racial/national stereotyping here makes contemporary scare mongering about fanatical Arab terrorists, in TV shows such as 24 and 'public service' documentary dramas like the BBC's Dirty War, seem sophisticated (and all the more insidious for that).

As for their nemesis, a prototype 'RoboCop' helping to fulfil America's historical role as global policeman, his alter ego Tony Stark is not that different from his superhero persona. Most Marvel and DC superheroes have 'day jobs' with no relation to their crime-fighting costumed crusading. Stark on the other hand seems to run the whole American military industrial complex single-handedly by day, from his factory where he develops rockets and missiles to give the 'free world' the edge in the space/arms race. When he isn't busy inventing super weapons, he's being one himself! And yet he still finds time to address the Pentagon on security matters.

The primitive animation, more like a series of moving cardboard cut-outs than a proper cartoon, resembles a Roy Lichtenstein picture complete with 'kapow' type graphics, a device more familiar from the Adam West Batman series. Batman exploited superhero camp more knowingly of course, and these Marvel adaptations are a more artless example of this subgenre. This very artlessness gives Iron Man and its ilk a certain endearing appeal, but its charm does tend to wear thin after awhile. Eagle-eared viewers may notice that it uses the same library stock music as Rudolf Cartier's production of Quatermass And The Pit, a TV SF classic that couldn't be more different from this hokum.
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