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The OTHER Men in Black

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This weekend we get the latest installment in the “Men in Black” movies, and I’m looking forward to seeing Josh Brolin’s take on a young Tommy Lee Jones. But let us never forget that Will Smith and Co. are not the only men in black to come down the pop culture pike. Feast your eyes on these guys.

DARTH VADER

Give it up for Lord Vader, the tragic centerpiece of the “Star Wars” mythology. Voiced by the immensely talented James Earl Jones, Vader is a villain for the ages.

ZORRO

Zorro, the heroic alter ego of Don Diego de la Vega, has been rocking the black hat and mask for generations. From Douglas Fairbanks and Tyrone Power to Antonio Banderas and the ever popular Duncan Regehr, there’s been a Zorro for just about every era.

“THE MATRIX” CREW

For all the cutting edge technology and funky spirituality at the heart of “The Matrix,” it’s also undeniable that part of the fun of the original film is seeing Morpheus, Neo and Trinity in their black-clad personas. “The Matrix” is sort of like the coolest clothing store ever.

SNIDELY WHIPLASH

What kind of guy would tie a pretty girl to a railroad track? Snidely Whiplash, of course. He was the gleefully evil counterpoint to Dudley Do-Right on the old Bullwinkle show. Part of the reason he was so memorable is because he was voiced by the terrific Hans Conreid.

DEAN MARTIN

Nobody looked more natural in a black tuxedo than Dino. He had a masterful ease and assurance, whether he was singing with Sinatra, clowning with Jerry Lewis or pretending he was hammered on TV.

RICHARD LEWIS

Lots of comedians wear black, but Richard Lewis takes it to another level. Black is the perfect manifestation for his neurotic style of comedy and it brands him better than any catch-phrase. He’s a gem in a black jacket.

THE GRIM REAPER

You may also know him as Death. He’s a grim symbol of our impending date with…something, and he finds his way into everything from Charles Dickens to “Family Guy.”

BORIS BADENOV

Here’s another man in black from the “Rocky and Bullwinkle” stable. Bumbling spy Boris Badenov is hilarious, especially when he’s outsmarted by “Moose and Squirrel.” He’s actually charming in his badness.

RICHARD BOONE AS PALADIN

Few are likely to remember Richard Boone as the gunslinger Paladin on TV’s “Have Gun – Will Travel,” but he was wonderful. Boone’s character was a highly-educated, Shakespeare-quoting gun for hire who made the black outfit a statement in style and menace.

THE MAN IN BLACK FROM “THE PRINCESS BRIDE”

Here, the “Man in Black” is a Zorro-like character intended to instill fear by reputation, as well as physical prowess. Cary Elwes played him to perfection in one of the sweetest films of all time.

THE MAN IN BLACK FROM “LOST”

Sweet is not a word to describe Titus Welliver’s character on TV’s “Lost.”  Welliver’s ancient, angry “Man in Black” is the malevolent force riding roughshod over that crazy island.

JOHNNY CASH

My apologies to those reading through this entire list thinking, “Where’s Cash? He’s got to include Cash, right?” In a word, yes. Johnny Cash is my favorite man in black. His scowl was black, his sneer was black, and often his songs were tinged with a darkness fueled by anger, passion or pain.

Those are my picks. Who are some of your favorite men in black?

8 Great Cinema Sword Fights

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For all the wonders of computer graphics and special effects in modern movies, few things compare with the excitement of a great sword fight. Two combatants (in most cases), two swords and a lot of action. In honor of the great movie sword fight master Bob Anderson, who passed away recently after a career that started with Errol Flynn and went right up to “The Lord of the Rings,” here are some sword fighting gems.

THE MARK OF ZORRO (1940)


We’re starting strong here. This is an incredible fight to the death between Tyrone Power as Zorro and Basil Rathbone as the bad guy. Don’t be fooled by the stilted dialogue. This is straightforward, no-frills action, where the fighters are confined to a single room.

KILL BILL: VOL. I (2003)

Uma Thurman is dazzling as The Bride, who seeks revenge on some former associates who did her wrong. Her epic battle against an army of Japanese gangsters, The Crazy 88’s, is the stuff of gory greatness.

THE PRINCESS BRIDE (1987)


Here’s one that’s not gory, but still great. Cary Elwes is The Dread Pirate Roberts and Mandy Patinkin is Inigo Montoya. Their duel is playful, inventive and sharp – just like the rest of this one-of-a-kind movie. And guess who choreographed this fight? Mr. Anderson, naturally.

THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1948)

You can’t very well have a list of movie sword fights without including one Three Musketeers flick. This one, with Gene Kelly, is my favorite (probably because it’s the first one I ever saw). Kelly plays D’Artagnan, and his joyful athleticism is on full display. His sword fights are filled with jumps, tumbles, taunts and vaults. They’re terrific fun to watch.

ROB ROY (1995)

Liam Neeson and Tim Roth engage in one of the most brutal, realistic looking sword battles in movie history. Part of the reason it works so well is because they give the fight time to evolve. There are bursts of effort and there are moments of mind games. And lots of tension.

CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON

It’s a sword fight AND a wire fight! Ang Lee’s masterpiece is a stunning blend of beauty and violence, with visuals you’ll never forget, such as warriors balancing on tree limbs.

THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938)

Rathbone is the bad guy again, going up against the one and only Errol Flynn as Robin Hood. What you have here is a sprawling, iconic sword fight that was copied to some degree by dozens of films in later years. Movie historians have noted that Rathbone was an excellent fencer in real life, making his work here all the more believable.

STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999)

I love, love, love this lightsaber fight. Some “Star Wars” fans will prefer the Darth Vader-Luke Skywalker fight (which Mr. Anderson worked on), or the Yoda-Count Dooku fight, or the Anakin-Obi-Wan fight, but not me. This one – with Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon Jinn and the evil Darth Maul is fast, slow, dramatic, operatic and a feast for the eyes. Plus check out the double-bladed lightsaber. I mean, come on.

So which ones are YOUR favorites? Add to the List!