Green Hornet (2011) Movie News

A fondly remembered pulp hero, the Green Hornet was born on the radio in 1936 before making the move to Columbia serials and more. Direct descendant to the Lone Ranger, Britt Reid combated the forces of evil with unique weaponry from a stun gun to darts. Along with his manservant Kato, the pair patrolled the streets in the rolling arsenal known as the Black Beauty.

A remarkable twist in the series involved the Green Hornet being hunted down as a vigilante by the police. Reid cannily decided to use this to his advantage and let it be known that not only was wanted by the cops for taking the law into his own hand but he was in fact a crime boss of the most ruthless variety. This allowed him to play both side of the same coin and operate in the criminal underworld as one of their own and thereby take them down fro within.

In 1966, William Dozer had a hit on his hands with the Adam West Batman series. Seeking to extend the range to include another costumed hero, he developed the Green Hornet. Starring the dashing Van Williams as playboy Britt Reid and international star Bruce Lee as Kato, the TV program had difficulty finding an audience but remains a cult program. Part of the problem may have stemmed from the fact that whereas the Batman series was comedic and absurd, Green Hornet was an action/adventure drama played straight. It is actually a remarkably good series and I recommend viewing it if you can find it.

Green Hornet (Van Williams) and Kato (Bruce Lee)

More recently, a modern film version of the Green Hornet started to build momentum. Directed by Michael Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and starring Seth Rogen as Britt Reid/Green Hornet and Chinese singer/entertainer Jay Chou (in his feature film debut) as manservant Kato, the movie has been in development limbo for about three years (witness the June 25, 2010 release date in the film logo).

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Normally associated with comedic films, Rogen has adamantly defended the assumption that his Green Hornet would be a spoof, confusing many. He’s hardly a dashing action hero and he’s certainly no Van Williams. The actor has faced plenty of criticism before the first images of production work were released, so I’m not about to add to the negativity. I have to admit that it’s a bold move for Rogen to sign onto such an unusual movie as his foray into the comic book genre. Nevertheless, the film has slowly but surely progressed, signing Cameron Diaz as the romantic interest and Edward James Olmos as the forthright reporter determined to reveal the Green Hornet’s identity and Christoph Waltz (replacing Nic Cage) as a new villain.

Last Summer, fans were treated to the real Black Beauty to be used in the film but news has otherwise been scant. The first trailer will accompany Rogen’s appearance tonight on Jimmy Kimmel live.

The script was co-written by Rogen as well. What I find very interesting is that Gondry was as replacement director for Gondry replaced Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle) who would also have starred as Kato. The studio was apparently adamant about their Green Hornet being a serious action film and not a comedy. Now that the trailer has been released, I wonder what changed at Columbia Pictures as this looks very much like an action/comedy/spoof.

TRAILER UPDATE:

Green Hornet will premiere in 3-D, IMAX 3-D, and regular old cinemas on January 14, 2011.

I don’t want to jump to conclusions or anything, but the trailer for the Michael Gondry/Seth Rogen film looks predictably goofy and written down to the audience (witness Rogen mugging to the camera and actually explaining the premise behind his character and even defining Kato’s character in the trailer… as if we could not figure any of this out for ourselves). In short, the trailer is flashy but it’s not doing the movie any favors. Maybe ‘the kids’ that studios are always trying to reach will like it.

Coincidentally, an excellent Green Hornet short movie was released this year by Reservoir Films. It’s interesting to see what can be done when a filmmaker is not self-conscious about the material and simply produces a great action flick that is faithful to the source material yet modern enough to attract attention from the uninitiated.

Related:

THE GREEN HORNET: A History of Radio, Motion Pictures, Comics and Television

Green Hornet 4-DVD Ultimate Collection Digipak

Green Hornet Strikes Again, The

Green Hornet Strikes Again, The

Green Hornet, The

Green Hornet: Year One Volume 1 TP

The Green Hornet Chronicles

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Rogen’s Green Hornet a go… really

Green Hornet (2010)

Green Hornet and actor Seth Rogen

Green Hornet and actor Seth Rogen

Columbia Pictures has officially announced that the adaptation of the former radio adventure star the Green Hornet is about to start filming. The cast includes Seth Rogen as the crime fighter Green Hornet, Jay Chou as Kato (the part made famous by Bruce Lee), Edward James Olmos (probably as DA Scanlon in league with the Green Hornet), Cameron Diaz (as secretary Lenore Case), Tom Wilkinson and David Harbour. Nic Cage is in talks about playing a newly created super villain to battle the emerald-clad hero.

Green Hornet (Van Williams) and Kato (Bruce Lee)

Green Hornet (Van Williams) and Kato (Bruce Lee)

I had written about the history of Green Hornet and the film as being in production over two years ago here, as well as my reluctance to accept that Rogen was the right guy to make a film based on this pulp hero. I’ve read that the movie has been in production for 10 years… which makes me very worried about how this character will be treated in the upcoming movie adaptation.

A Green Hornet Primer

His origins in the age of radio adventure in 1936, the Green Hornet exploded on the small screen in the William Dozier TV series in 1966. Released in conjunction with the campy Batman series, many viewers were no doubt confused by the serious nature of the Green Hornet causing it to be canceled after only one year on the air.

A straight-forward pulp only slightly modernized for the swinging 60’s, the program followed the adventures of the scourge of the underworld and public enemy number one of the police, the Green Hornet. Secretly newspaper publisher and socialite Britt Reid, the Green Hornet fought crime with the assistance of his manservant and martial artist Kato along with the assistance of District Attorney Scanlon. Prowling the streets of San Francisco in the rollinf arsenal called the Black Beauty (this thing was a TANK, the Batmobile had nothing on this car), his Hornet’s sting capable of stun rays and emmitting knock-out gas, the Green Hornet often played both sides of villain and hero in order to keep the criminal element in check.

Dashing and handsome Van Williams caused many a female viewer to swoon while Bruce Lee’s dynamic kung fu mesmerized absolutely everyone. The signature tune and fight sequences kept viewers comong back for more but not enough to keep the program on the air. An overseas sensation, the Green Hornet was aired in Bruce Lees’s home of Hong Kong as ‘The Kato Show.’ An enduring program, the Green Hornet may not have been a smash when it was on the air but it is responsible for making enough of an impact that it is still remembered to this day.

Green Hornet Tribute

New film not a comedy… really

With director Michael Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) on board, I honestly cannot say that I know where this film is headed. Rogen has gone on record as stating that his Green Hornet will not be a comedy despite the fact that the chubby comedic actor cuts an unlikely action hero. I’m reminded of the rumors of a Batman movie starring Bill Murray… but at least that is an actor with some range. Rogen… I’m not so sure. The new version of the Black Beauty was on display at this year’s San Diego Comic Con (which confused me to no end since it looks exactly like the old one), revealed by Rogen as a publicity stunt to promote the upcoming film.

Developments are still far too early to make any serious judgements on this movie. In fact it has only just been firmly established that it is definitely going to happen. The film is set for release December 17, 2010.

The Green Hornet

the-green-hornet-and-kato

The Green Hornet is one of the comic book hero ilk referred to as ‘mystery men,’ on account of their secret identities. Created in 1939 by George Trendle and Fran Striker (also creators of the Lone Ranger) as a radio program for station WXYZ (later ABC) in Detroit, The Green Hornet fought evil doers for 16 years.

The daring and deadly Green Hornet was actually suave and cool Britt Reid, newspaper publisher. Reid posed as The Green Hornet by night to acquire knowledge in his fight against crime. Due to his being stamped a vigilante by the law, the crooks thought of him as a crimelord horning in on their business. The Green Hornet took advantage of this misunderstanding to walk among the seedier parts of the city’s underworld protected by his kung-fu fighting valet and bodyguard, Kato.

Many of the mystery men of the time were of a similar cookie cutter design, the classic bored socialite who roams the streets at night in a fedora and domino mask. One of the key differences here was the signature tune, Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ mixed with a theremin-induced hornet buzz.

It was the key element of the theme tune that stuck with most audiences, leading to the pull hero’s debut in his own Republic serials.

Classic Green Hornet serial trailer

In 1966, the success of the Batman series lead to the creation of The Green Hornet TV series much in the same vein. While The Green Hornet retained it’s pulp edge, the incidental music and direction were almost identical to Batman.

The series starred Troy Donahue look-a-like Van Williams as Britt Reid/Green Hornet but it was Bruce Lee as Kato that really caught the viewers. The program was fraught with behind-the-scenes trouble as Williams felt overshadowed by Bruce Lee and Lee himself felt at odds with the program in general. The popularity of kung-fu, comic books and campy television serials surrounded the TV project, saddening Lee who tried to be a good sport about The Green Hornet‘s silliness but yearned to make meaningful films.

Short documentary on the Batman/Green Hornet cross-over

While not a television success, The Green Hornet TV series did gather a devoted fan base in its short time on the air. What it lacked in substance it more than made up for with style.

Much like it’s sister program, Batman, The Green Hornet came complete with a roadster, a modified 1965 Chrysler Imperial, called Black Beauty, so big you could lose a marching band in it. The car had all kinds of tricks and gimmicks, including ‘infra-green’ lights so that the heroes could stalk their prey at night, a gasp-spewing nozzle and even rocket-firing bumpers.

The cult following of the TV series carried over into film with Quentin Tarantino‘s film ‘Kill Bill.’ A memorable scene featuring identical Bruce Lee/Kato-like fighters (called Crazy 88s) was backed with the familiar ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ tune that fans would instantly recognize.

After the success of the 1989 Batman movie, directors and actors have been chomping at the bit to develop a modern version of The Green Hornet.

A 1990 film featuring George Clooney and Jason Scott Lee was mentioned only to fall from rumor radar almost as quickly as it appeared. Most famously, Kevin Smith has been stating his interest in the property. Smith mentioned that he saw Jake Gyllenhall and Jet Li as the stars… but finally dropped the idea after roughly three years of kicking it around the rumor mill.

This past March, Columbia Pictures announced that Seth Rogen (Knocked Up) has been developing the property for the big screen. It’s still unclear if Rogen has his mind set on directing, writing or starring in the picture, but the recent addition of Stephen Chow as Kato has everyone interested. Chow set the film world in hysterics with his movie ‘Kung Fu Hustle’ in 2005 and will surely bring a unique character to the project.

As of the writing of this entry, production has not begun, so there is still no release date set. With the oncoming storm of the new Summer movie franchise with films such as Transformers, Batman, The Hulk, Iron Man, Speed Racer and Superman, everyone is trying to develop the next big thing.

Maybe The Green Hornet will surprise everyone and grab the brass ring over them all. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Suggested viewing/reading/listening:

Green Hornet Radio Show
Green Hornet’s Black Beauty
Captain Action The Green Hornet Uniform & Equipment Set
Captain Action Kato Uniform & Equipment Set
Green Hornet TV Series – Vol. 1
Kill Bill, Volume 1
Kill Bill, Volume 2
Biography – Bruce Lee: The Immortal Dragon (A&E DVD Archives)