Entertainment Today and Beyond

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Green Hornet Review: New Life for a 75-year-old Crime Fighter and his more famous sidekick, Kato

By: Contributing Editor, Michael Cooper

I had all but written it off and then the trailer appeared out of nowhere…

Seth Rogen, who seemed to be the worst choice to play a superhero since Tim Burton picked Michael Keaton, has followed in Keaton’s footsteps by pulling it off.

Rogen plays an irresponsible playboy living off daddy’s money until his father is killed and, all of a sudden, responsibility is dropped in his lap. Last year at Comic-Con, the new Black Beauty was unveiled and all of a sudden the greatly anticipated Green Hornet movie actually looked like it was finally going to be made.  Next Month on July 22nd The Black Beauty will be on hand once again in San Diego, but this time on screen and in 3D!

With the release of the first screen trailer earlier this month (see below) The Green Hornet is really here.  It certainly was a long strange journey; first in the hands of Kevin Smith, who dropped out saying he was in over his head, and then, as if Smith wasn’t a strange enough choice, comedian Seth Rogen suddenly enters the scene. He drops 40 pounds and announces that he is not only writing the Green Hornet but is actually going to play the lead!

Next we have Martial Arts expert Stephen Chow, the logical choice to play Kato, but when he isn’t allowed to direct he drops out. The next thing you know Taiwan pop star Jay Chau who, to the best of my knowledge has never swung a set of nunchucks in his life, is the new Kato.

To top it all off Michel Gondry, best known for a Levi Blue Jeans ad and writing the screenplay/directing Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a movie I find close to unwatchable, is at the helm of the project

The trailer shows comedy, but subtly wrapped up in what appears to be a very dramatic story. Count me impressed…. now for a little Green Hornet history…

Did you know that the Green Hornet made his debut on radio way back in 1936?  The creative team that, three years earlier, had introduced the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Fran Striker, and George W. Trendle, brought The Hornet and Kato to life. They linked the masks of both the Lone Ranger and the Green Hornet by making newspaper publisher Britt Reid, the son of the Ranger’s nephew Dan Reid. WOW! How’s that for some strange continuity. Also, the original Black Beauty was a Pierce Arrow and Kato was Japanese.
  Like so many other crime fighters on the radio, the Hornet made the transition to the movies in the 1940’s. Since it wasn’t politically correct to have a Japanese crime fighter, Kato quickly became a Korean from Chinese descent.

Picked to play Kato in the second of two movie serials was none other than Charlie Chan’s #1 son, Keye Luke, who later went on to fame as Master Po in Kung Fu and Mr. Wing in the Gremlins movies.  Warren Hull was the Hornet and the radio sidekick’s secretary, Lenore Case, investigative reporter Mike Axford and Walter Brooke, the rock-solid District Attorney, also followed from Radio to the big screen.

The Hornet’s creators tried to follow the success of the Lone Ranger in the 1950’s to television but there were no takers. The 1960’s restored the Hornet’s heartbeat. The popularity of The Batman TV series in the 1966  sent ABC executives looking for another crimefighter in the Batman mode and new life was breathed into a forgotten character.

In 1966 Van Williams and Bruce Lee became the best known Green Hornet / Kato, but the ABC series died after just 26 episodes. 

Van Williams continued to make public apperances as the Hornet and, with the success Bruce Lee was having, the show continued to run in syndication for the next 20 years. In Japan it became known as “The Kato Show”.  Williams is the only surviving cast member and hopefully we’ll see a cameo in the movie.

The next sign of life for the franchise came in an homage from Quinton Tarrantino in 2003 with “Kill Bill.” The Japanese bad guys all wore Kato masks and the legendary Hornet theme music ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ was featured.

For the remainder of 2010 we’ll continue to get sneak peaks of The Green Hornet. It has now been pushed to a January 2011 release so the 3-D special effects can be perfected. I can’t wait to see it!

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June 27, 2010 - Posted by | And Beyond - Trailers & News, Reviews | , , , , ,

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