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Encyclopedia Of Weird Westerns -a SCARLET book review

wierd westerns cover

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF WEIRD WESTERNS by Paul Green (McFarland, publication February 2016) 320 pages-softcover $39.95 www.mcfarlandpub.com .

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Ever since seeing PHANTOM EMPIRE (1935, Mascot) on television, I have enjoyed westerns that not your typical gunslinger tale. It seems that I am not alone in my enjoyment of these genre mash ups, as author /comic artist Paul Green has tracked down horror, fantasy, sci fi tales of the Old West (or western tinged tales).

Green casts a wide lasso to hog tie in film, stories, games, and comic books that touch on these hybrid tales.

Some of the titles may raise a few eyebrows for their inclusion (STAR WARS, Fox 1977) as Space Westerns, and a few for their omission (THE TERROR OF TINY TOWN, Principal 1938) though the author clarifies why he feels certain titles don’t fall under the definition “Weird Western”. However, where is GHOST TOWN (Empire,1988)? He lists several other Charles Band produced films so I am surprised he missed this one.

 

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(GHOST TOWN disappeared from the book )

Most fascinating was how far back in literature these oddball oaters went. In 1868, “The Huge Hunter or The Steam Man of the Prairies “by Edward Sylvester Ellis was published, featuring a steam powered robot (true STEAM punk!) . Dime novels, pulps, and magazine serials all spun out tales of when the uncanny went West.

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I do recall in the 1960s a lot of comic books have science fantasy and outright horror stories mixed in with the six gun slinging chronicles. Many of these inspired big (and not so big) budget films and tv series such as COWBOYS & ALIENS (Universal ,2011).

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There are even several role playing games for those so inclined ,such as DEADLANDS (Pinnacle Entertainment Group,1996 )and it’s follow ups.

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Author Green choses some pretty choice illustrations for the comic art, giving small bios on artists like John Severin who did a lot of work in the craft. Likewise, he provides some rare lobby cards and photos from the cinematic world.

All and all, a pretty good research book on this subgenre of sage brush strangeness.

Kevin G Shinnick

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VENOM (1981) blu ray/dvd Blue Underground

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VENOM (Blue Underground) Blu-Ray & DVD combo, May 10,2016 release date, $29.98)92 min Color.

http://www.amazon.com/Venom-Blu-ray-Combo-Sterling-Hayden/dp/B01BPQG3IA/

VENOM is a film that has been unfairly neglected. When it first came out the critics were mixed in their reviews of the film (“If Venom doesn’t turn out to be the silliest film of 1982, it’s a good bet that it will land within a hoot and a holler of that distinction.”-Vincent Canby, NY Times, Feb 5,1982 while Variety Dec 31,1981 said “Venom is an engrossing traditional suspense thriller [from a novel by Alan Scholefield] about a kidnapping, hypoed by the genuinely frightening plot gimmick of a deadly black mamba snake on the loose.) and the film was a box office disappointment (according to box office mojo, it made $5,229,643 in a 900 theatre wide release by Paramount ). At the time, releasing a movie in January (January 29,1982 to be precise) meant a studio had little faith in a film). The film had suffered I feel due to being wrongly advertised as a horror film when it is in fact a thriller along the lines of I, THE JURY (1982, Fox).

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Paramount didn’t even release it to VHS, letting Vestron video release the title two years later. Even then, the film suffered, because in 1984, a Canadian horror film called SPASMS (aka DEATH BITE) was released to video stores in the U.S. by Thorn EMI. That film (with effects by the great Dick Smith) also starred Oliver Reed so video store customers quite understandably thought they were the same film with different titles.

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Cable channels like H.B.O. used to show it, but then it vanished pretty much from sight. In 2003, BLUE UNDERGROUND released the film onto DVD to a new audience. Now, thirteen years later, BLUE UNDERGROUND has gone to the expense of making a brand new 2K High Definition transfer from the original negative for its Blu Ray /DVD combo release.

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Based upon a 1977 novel by Alan Scholefield (London: Heinemann, 1977, U.S.: Morrow :1978) the story is more a siege thriller than a horror story. In the book, A Black Mamba snake hitches a ride to London inside a crate from Africa and wreaks havoc when it gets dropped off at a local pet shop. A young boy receives what he thinks is a non-venomous snake but instead the Mamba ends up in his house. Two kidnappers break in to the plush Eaton Square house. Detective Chief Superintendent William Bulloch and the police surround the house. Now all inside are trapped, trying to avoid the deadly serpent.

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Producer Martin Bregman (SERPICO,1973 Paramount) with funding provided by members of the Guinness (as in beer) family, bought the rights and went through various writers to make a workable script. They announced that they had picked director Tobe Hooper, acclaimed as an expert in thrills due to his indie hit THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974, Bryanston) and the successful T.V. miniseries adaptation for CBS Television of Stephen King’s SALEM’S LOT (1979, Warner Brothers).

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This is when things started to unravel for the production. Hooper had problems with his cast (Klaus Kinski later bragged that he had driven Hooper off the film after only ten days), and the producers had to find a director -fast! Enter director Piers Haggard (former theatre and T.V. director who had made his theatrical debut with the superlative BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW (1971, Tigon). Haggard had very little time to change much on the film (save for making Kinski’s outfit look less Nazi like) but soldiered on.

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 Klaus Kinski had turned down a role in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (Paramount 1981) to appear in this film, a decision I am sure the volatile actor later regretted. His biggest problem on the film was his co-star, Oliver Reed. Since Reed was his fellow kidnapper, he had little chance to avoid the actor, who delighted in badgering the German performer. Haggard was used to working with difficult actors (having directed the infamous and supremely difficult Nicol Williamson on stage), the battling stars made his life probably more difficult than dealing with the actual snakes. That the film holds up so well is a tribute to the director.

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(“I wish this gun was real” is what Klaus Kinski is probably thinking here with Oliver Reed )

International criminal Jacques Müller (Klaus Kinski) plan to kidnap and hold for ransom the rich asthmatic ten-year-old Phillip Hopkins (Lance Holcomb). To this end, he enlists the aid of the boy’s nanny Louise. (Susan George) and chauffeur Dave (Oliver Reed). They learn that parents will be leaving the boy in the care of his grandfather Howard (Sterling Hayden in his last film role). They feel this is the perfect time to initiate their plans. Unfortunately, Philip has just brought home a snake from a local store, unaware that a mix up has resulted in him getting a deadly black mamba delivered instead. The first victim of the deadly creature is Louise, who gets several strikes to the face.

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We learn Black Mambas are an aggressive species which can deliver a strong neurotoxin in their venom which can result in a painful death if not treated. The snake escapes into the house ventilation/heating system, meaning you are never aware of where the creature will strike.

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The importer meanwhile realizes his mistake and the police are dispatched to the Hopkins home. Dave panics and shoots the constable (played by John Forbes-Robertson, who had played Dracula in Hammer’s 1974 THE LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES). The police, led by Cmdr. William Bulloch (the aforementioned Nicol Williamson) respond and surround the home.

VENOM, Lance Holcomb, Sterling Hayden, 1981, (c)Paramount

VENOM, Lance Holcomb, Sterling Hayden, 1981, (c)Paramount

Now there is a standoff- will the snake pick off the people trapped within the house? Or will it be the deadly kidnappers?

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The film holds up very well as a thriller, with some really nice surprises. The cast also features some very well-known British performers of the era. Besides the actors mentioned, also appearing are Oscar nominated (for RYAN’S DAUGHTER, MGM 1970) Sarah Miles as a Doctor called in to help, Edward Hardwicke (one of the best Dr. Watsons ever) as a Lord, and Michael Gough (HORROR OF DRACULA,1958, Hammer) as a snake specialist.

VENOM, Klaus Kinski, Sarah Miles, 1981, (c)Paramount

VENOM, Klaus Kinski, Sarah Miles, 1981, (c)Paramount

I had not seen the previous DVD release from BLUE UNDERGROUND, but I am sure that current 1080p High Definition restoration has sharpened the images to resemble what they must have first looked like upon their theatrical release (lensed by Gilbert Taylor, director of photography on Roman Polanski’s MACBETH (1971, Columbia). The All Region discs have sound options of either the original 2.0 DTS-HD, 7.1DTS-HD or 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround. Also there are optional subtitles in English, French and Spanish.

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     (Death by Trouser Snake for Oliver Reed)

Ported over from the 2003 DVD is the Jonathan Sothcott commentary with director Piers Haggard. Haggard does not belittle Hooper (whose ten days of footage were not used in the finished film) but is quite honest on the problems that he had with Reed and Kinski. He does talk of the project though with grace and fondness, even though he was basically brought in as a director for hire.

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There are also a collection of trailers and tv spots for the film as well as a poster and still gallery.

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New to the Blu Ray release is an informative booklet written by former Fangoria editor Michael Gingold as well as a reversible cover art sleeve.

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I recall watching this film a long time ago and enjoying it very much. It is nice to revisit it again and find it still a very enjoyable thriller. BLUE UNDERGROUND once again saves another fun movie from undeserved neglect.

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Recommended.
Kevin G Shinnick

 

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            (Blue Underground had also previously released VENOM as a two DVD disc set with                                           RATS  NIGHT OF TERROR(1984) )

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Fantastic Films of the Decades – Volume 2: The 30s

Front Cover only-1Fantastic Films of the Decades – Volume 2: The 30s by Wayne Kinsey .
256 pages. Limited run 500 copies . ORDER NOW Only £32 + p&p
http://peverilpublishing.co.uk/fantastic-films-of-the-decades-the-30s/

Following is one person’s take on The Good, The Bad and, uh, The Neutral of Fantastic Films of the Decades – Volume 2: The 30s by Wayne Kinsey.

First comes a mainly here-nor-there random observation. Readers of Volume I will feel comfortable with the first portion of Volume II. The early 30s are full of films that redid characters and themes from the silent era. To wit, right off the bat we have Alraune (1930), The Bat Whispers (1930), The Cat Creeps (1930) and The Gorilla (1930) not to mention a couple of Fu Manchu movies, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), Dracula (US and Spanish versions from 1931 and both essentially Nosferatu redone) and, of course, Frankenstein (1931).

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Actually, rather than log that item as a neutral, maybe it should be entered slightly to the Credit Side of the Ledger insofar as the reader can pick out trends like this; these volumes are well organized.

That leads us to the rest of the “Good” of Volume II. A genre fan can certainly learn a lot from it. For instance, I’m not sure I’ve ever even heard of the all-but-lost Gorilla film called Ingagi (1931 and one of the few early 30s pictures not redoing material) and read the full page write-up eagerly. A number of pages later is a fine ½ page bio of Gorilla impersonator extraordinaire Charles Gemora (yes, he played in Ingagi) which was equally illuminating. The author has definite a knack for giving appropriate coverage; the more key the topic or individual, the more words are spent. Boredom is minimized.

Some other items among many that rate as personal highlights: the coverage of production starts and stops of The Invisible Man (1933), The “Did you know?” tidbits of The Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), the lowdown on changing censor ship guidelines in the United States and the United Kingdom during the 30s, the recycled props of the Flash Gordon serial and on and on.

Another aspect that I enjoyed is that if the film under discussion was an adaption of a book or play or was later done in film and other media, it’s noted.

Like the previous Volume, this one is generously illustrated with some fine color.

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Now, on to the “not so good”. When I think of the term “fantastic” in regards to moving pictures, I think of three sub-genres: Horror, Sci Fi and Fantasy. Despite the fact that the 30s experienced a famed cycle of horror films, Volume II seems even more unbalanced in its coverage than Volume I when it comes to the non-horror entries.

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As a glaring example, I – as a sci fi geek – was left wondering after reading Volume I whether the well-known futuristic 1929 film High Treason might be covered in Volume II (since it was both a sound and silent film). It was not and even director Maurice Elvey’s Volume II mini-biography compounded the oversight with “Despite his long CV, his genre films were few; The Lodger [1932] and The Clairvoyant (1934)”. It seems that if “Gold” is of the “Haunted” variety as in Haunted Gold (1932) coverage is warranted but the well-known dual-language science fiction based Gold (1934) with Genre Queen Brigitte Helm is neglected. A quick glance at a recent Sinister Cinema Catalog in the “Science Fiction and Fantasy” section indicates other obvious omissions: La Fin Du monde / The End of the World (1931), F.P. 1 Doesn’t Answer (1931 in French, German and English), Der Herr der Welt a.k.a. The Master of the World (1934) featuring an enormous electric robot, yet another Maurice Elvey (!) s.f. work called Transatlantic Tunnel (1935) and its earlier German parallel Der Tunnel (1933), Gibel Sensatsii a.k.a. The Robots of Ripley (1935) and Bílá nemoc a.k.a. The White Plague (1937 based on famed a work by S.F. author Karel Capek). That’s quite a lot of heavy hitters to be excluded. Perhaps if the basically superfluous 10 full pages devoted to News Headlines of the Year had been jettisoned, room for these items may have been available.

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When someone has a passion and possesses an affinity for a topic, it’s always refreshing. It seems clear that the author possesses same toward the horror genre but it seems equally clear that his interest in the other genres is only in passing. Whether this book is right for you depends on where your interests lie as well.

Fantastic Films of the Decades – Volume 2 is limited to only 500 copies and only available direct from http://www.peverilpublishing.co.uk

Front Cover only-1

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VAMPIRES (1988)

VAMPIRES (1988)- released May 10,2016 by FILM CHEST-DVD -80 minutes-color -$17.98.

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http://www.amazon.com/Vampires-Duane-Jones/dp/B01DMV2ZUG/ref=sr_1_3?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1462900471&sr=1-3&keywords=duane+jones

‘Wouldn’t you like to live forever? Are you sure? You see, I thought so too. Until I began-to live- forever.” That opening line sets up the soul weary vampire’s angst for the film VAMPIRES (1988) starring Duane Jones (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, Continental,1968) fame. Sadly, things go quickly downhill from there.

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The obscure film is set at a prestigious art school in New England that has seen better days and restorations are underway. Supernatural forces are unleashed and students start to disappear.

Two young students after making love (providing required nudity) experience a supernatural vortex, which, due to the sound, makes them seem to be pulled into the toilet, as a deep voice intones “iiiiitttt woooorrrkkks”!

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Dr. Harmon (Duane Jones, looking very dapper in his mustache and Billy Dee Williams style clothes) drives foreign student Ione (Orly Benyar, NINJA ACADEMY) to the school, and tells her ominously should she need anything to call him.

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It is good advice as more and more fellow classmates vanish, she takes it upon herself to investigate. The head mistress, Madeline Abadon (Jackie James) explains that the school has been in the Abadon family for centuries ad was nearly destroyed by fire some time back. The students are warned never to go down into the basement. Of course you know that is where everyone seems to head.Fright House_aging

The film seems to be influenced by Dario Argento’s SUSPIRIA (International Classics,1977) with its art school setting and stylish photography (courtesy of the great Ernest Dickerson, who lensed several of Spike Lee’s classics, as well as being a director in his own right on such projects as TALES FROM THE CRYPT: DEMON KNIGHT (Universal,1995). This film is not listed on his IMDB credits. Some of the film was also lensed by Larry Revene (spelled as Revine in the credits) who toiled on such films as DOOM ASYLUM (1987, Academy).

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This is an indeed a true rarity, not even mentioned in the majority of film reference books. It seems to have been originally shot as a film called NEGATIVES in 1988 starring Debbie Rochon and Duane Jones. The film was nearing completion when the crew discovered that their checks had bounced and so walked off. The director, Len Anthony, somehow cobbled footage together to make the film into a part of an obscure horror anthology FRIGHT HOUSE (release on video in 1989 by Studio Entertainment Films). That film has Al Lewis (“Grandpa” of Munster’s fame!) as a Captain Levi in a sinister tale of summoning demons. The second part is called “Abadon”, and is I assume an edited version of VAMPIRES. FRIGHT HOUSE is listed as running at 110 minutes. Debbie Rochon is no where to be seen in any of the existing variations.

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(FRIGHT HOUSE ,not currently available.Al Lewis)

 

Mr. Anthony seemed to feel he could get more mileage out of his work, and so seems to have cobbled together the film VAMPIRES. That title is a bit misleading, as there are no traditional fanged vampires at work are vampiric in that they drain life force from their victims due to some obscure machine that has caused Duane Jones and Jackie James to become immortals, a reason that is never made clear.

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The acting, except for Duane Jones, is risible at best. The scene in the acting class nearly had me howling with laughter, as I felt that an acting class was just what was needed by all involved. Jones rises above the material and one wishes that he had been cast in projects more challenging of his notable talent. His scenes make this movie worth watching. It is a shame that this marvelous actor passed away July 22,1988 at age 51 shortly after completing his footage. He would also appear posthumously in Academy Entertainment’s vampire film TO DIE FOR (1989).

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The film obviously had footage missing though the sound remained. To replace the gap, shots of tarot cards are shown as the sound plays out. The print used appears to be from a video tape master, and thus looks more like VHS tape quality. Perhaps though, that is fitting, as this would have been one of those films that lined local mom and pop video store shelves.

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     (mummies?what mummies? lost in the edit?)

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The soundtrack is very 80s, so expect to hear a lot of synth music. Also, some sub-par imitation TEARS FOR FEARS songs. Supposedly there was to have been a soundtrack to FRIGHT HOUSE, which advertised a lot on MTV and VH1 upon that video’s release. One wonders were that album ever released? Also beware of some very frightening 80s fashions.frighthousead (1)

One wishes that someone had tracked down the mysterious Mr. Len Anthony to discuss the history of how one unfinished movie became two. His commentary would probably be a film class for indie filmmakers on the struggles of movie making and getting your product released. As it is, this is a bare bones DVD release, with no extras.

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Still kudos to FILM CHEST MEDIA for saving this rare Duane Jones film. Now maybe they can search the film vaults for another 80s obscurity that I worked on that was ever released called MIDNIGHT RENDEVOUS ……

-Kevin G Shinnick

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  (an out of print DVD of Len Anthony’s FRIGHT HOUSE and an action film MURDEROUS INTENT )

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John Carradine Goes Fishing

089218777591JOHN CARRADINE GOES FISHING (1947) (Alpha Video/Oldies.com) $7.98 color /B&W http://www.oldies.com/product-view/7775D.html

Definitely one of the most unique titles that I have ever reviewed, the title basically tells all.

FISH STORY (1947 F.B. Mannon) color-
Carradine and reporter “Tubby” Toms and “wizard of the casting rod” “Stu” Pritchard go off into the Wisconsin woods and we see every detail of their trip set to jaunty cartoony stock music.

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1947 was the year John’s son Christopher was born to Carradine and his second wife Sonia. He appeared in only one film that year, THE PRIVATE AFFAIRS OF BEL AMI (U.A.). In late December he would appear on Broadway for six performances as the Inquisitor in the Charles Laughton starring vehicle, GALILEO. He also appeared in his first television role as Ebenezer Scrooge in A CHRISTMAS CAROL (Dumont Network, December 25th). Along the way he supplemented his income by doing road company theatre tours.

 

         Carradine doing theatre 1960scarradine 1961

This oddity has to be one of the most unique in the Carradine oeuvre. See John Fly Fishing. Hear him sing. See him in Kodachrome color in a red and black checkered shirt. Have him respond to his fellow fishermen who mouth such inanities as “I never thought of actors as people. Tell me how it feels to be a movie star.” Have him thrill in Mock Shakespearean tones and then switch to a cockney accent? See John in huge rubber waders. See him give his SAG (Screen Actors Guild) card over to one of the fishermen. Carradine seems to be having fun, but the other two are very stiff on camera.

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If you are a fisher person, this film will probably thrill you, but as a fan of Carradine, it is an interesting (if staged) part of his private life that you would rarely get a chance to see. FISH STORY is so rare that IMDB does not even list it so kudos to ALPHA on rescuing this film. I could find nothing on the distributor F.B. Mannon and so do not know how widely this piece was ever shown.

 

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CRUNCH & DES: “Spare The Rod” – B&W
Next up is CRUNCH & DES starring Forrest Tucker as Crunch Adams and Sandy Kenyon as Des Smith. This was a 39 episode half hour NBC -TV series that was shot on location in Bermuda and at the RKO-PATHE studios in California. Crunch and Des have adventures aboard their sail fishing craft the Poseidon. In this episode, a young boy (Pud Flanagan) who feels neglected by his businessman dad (Alan Heath) becomes friends with the two stars and they take him aboard and teach him to fish. However, the young man steals then loses Crunch’s prized fishing rod. Lots of great location shots mixed with rear screen and very cramp studio sets. This was Tucker’s first television series, and he takes the show seriously. Des is his sad sack Gilligan, who seems to have little to with the story or its outcome. Another interesting rarity that I had not heard of until now.

Three further documentaries then fill up the rest of the disc:

BATTLING SILVER KINGS (Van Buren Corporation,1931) B&W -is an early sound film that continues the fishing theme of the disc. Sound is a bit muffled and the print scratchy but considering its rarity (Van Buren was best known for his animation studio, but also released travelogues like Frank Buck’s BRING EM BACK ALIVE ,1932). His films
were released through RKO until the studio dropped him to distribute animation rival Walt Disney.

DEMONS OF THE DEEP(Pictoreel,1944) B&W- Such “exotic” species as turtles, reptiles (pronounced “reptill” by the narrator), sting rays, moray eels, and the like are shown. Pictoreel seems to have been a home movie film distribution company, but I could find no info on their history.

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DEEP SEA ADVENTURE (Castle Films /United World Films,1953) killer clams, skin diving, and fishing. See humans stalk and destroy aquatic life. Print is quite scratchy but again rare. This was created for the 16mm home movie collector.

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This is an indeed an offbeat though rare collection of short subjects. I feel that many of these scream out for the MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATRE 3000/RIFFTRAX treatment but it is indeed nice that ALPHA/OLDIES.COM have saved these films for a new generation.

the-face-of-marble-movie-poster-1946                                                           Carradine’s last Monogram film, made a year before FISH STORY

-Kevin G Shinnick

check out the other reviews here including
THE GIRL FROM RIO/ THE MILLION EYES OF SU MURU
FANTASTIC FILMS OF THE DECADE VOL 1 THE SILENT ERA
CITY OF THE DEAD
10 RILLINGTON PLACE
COUNT YORGA VAMPIRE
BROKEN HERO
COMIN’ AT YA!
AMERICAN HORROR PROJECT

and many more

plus articles like
Boris “Frankenstein” Karloff lives on in KARLOFF The Play!
and
JOAN FONTAINE :THE LIONESS IN WINTER

and interviews like
STILL ROCKIN’ ON MUSCLE BEACH! A Conversation with the First Mr. Olympia, Larry Scott By Rod Labbe

 

Feel free to “like” SCARLET THE FILM MAGAZINE REVIEWS on Facebook  and /or

https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com

 

comments welcome at scarletthefilmmag@yahoo.com

son-of-fury-the-story-of-benjamin-blake-1942-tyrone-power-john-carradine

                   SON OF FURY (1942) Tyrone Power-John Carradine

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The Girl From Rio (1969) / The Million Eyes Of Sumuru (1967) (Blue Underground) color. Blu ray

91ARmVGtRTL._SL1500_ The Girl From Rio (1969) / The Million Eyes Of Sumuru (1967) (Blue Underground) color. Blu ray- release date April 26,2016. $29.98
http://www.amazon.com/Million-Eyes-Sumuru-Girl-Blu-ray/dp/B01AKUNOAW/

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I have to admit that I had often heard about but never seen THE MILLION EYES OF SUMURU (A.I.P.). Maybe because it had very little television air play, or that I had trouble with the idea of
Frankie Avalon of Beach Party film fame as an action hero, bedding women and tossing hand grenades at gun totting female assassins (both of which he does in the film).

 

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However, it does have a great cast that includes Wilfred Hyde White (TEN LITTLE INDIANS, WB/1964), Klaus Kinski (NOSFERATU, Fox/1979), George Nader (ROBOT MONSTER Astor/1953) and of course, Shirley Eaton (the golden girl of GOLDFINGER, U.A./1964) as the title villainess, Sumuru.

 

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Producer Harry Alan Towers had at the time been having great success with his series of Fu Manchu films starring Christopher Lee, and so turned to another Sax Rohmer character. The character first appeared in “Shadow of Sumuru “for the BBC radio in 1945 in eight half hour episodes. Rohmer turned the episodes into a novel in 1950 called “The Sins of Sumuru”, though the title was changed to a more exploitive “Nude In Mink” for its American publication.

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Towers, jumping from country to country since jumping bail in NYC in 1961 (he was accused of running a vice ring!), amazingly was able to set up various multinational productions while still staying one step ahead of authorities (the charges were dropped in 1980). MILLION EYES was one of five films he produced in 1967, including THE VENGEANCE OF FU MANCHU (WB)and many other A.I.P. releases.

 

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Director Lindsay Shonteff (best known for DEVIL DOLL, Gordon Films/1964) does a serviceable job of directing this tale of crazed world domination. Intoning lines that echo Fu Manchu (“For I am Sumuru!”) , the female arch villain plans on a world ruled by women, and will kill for world peace! Sumuru (Eaton in a dark wig) rules remotely, letting her female assassins do all the actual work.

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Opposing her plans are Colonel Sir Arthur Baisbrook (Wilfred Hyde-White), CIA agent Nick West (George Nader) and rich playboy Tommy Carter (Avalon). Both West and Carter seduce Helga (producer Towers wife Maria Rohm) to help them in battling the distaff megalomaniac.

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The film plays out at about 79 relatively painless minutes, resembling an average television spy thriller of the period, but with some actual foreign locales rather than back lot work. Still, there is not much else to differentiate this theatrical release from similar tv fodder of the time. Sadly, Sumuru is missing from a great deal of the story, letting her bikini clad henchwomen drown a traitor (no not Avalon!), or strangle someone to death with their thighs. Nader seems more in line with the Euro Spy Dramas of the period rather than a man from UNCLE or a License to Kill, but he acquits himself well in the role (so well he ended up in a similar role in another Tower film that year, HOUSE OF A 1000 DOLLS, AIP/1967). Some of the temples used seem similar to those used in the Fu Manchu films, but the sets seem much smaller, especially the cave tunnels where a major part of the final action scenes take place. Keep an eye out for Klaus Kinski in black face as President Boong !

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For a film of the period, it looks pretty good. Having checked out a clip on YouTube, it looks like BLUE UNDERGROUND found a fairly clean print for their BLU RAY. The only extra on this title is the original trailer.

Two years later, Towers had begun his relationship with Jess (sure I can shoot two movies for you by Tuesday) Franco. Obviously having funds frozen in Brazil, the two cranked out three films, THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU (1968), 99 WOMEN (1969), and THE GIRL FROM RIO/RIO 70(1969).

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Jeff Sutton (Richard Wyler, star of the 1958/59 British lensed T.V. series THE MAN FROM INTERPOL), a poor man’s international playboy and thief, is in Brazil due to their lack of extradition laws. Almost immediately, he is putting the moves on Leslye (Maria Rohm again) Leslie, it seems is in the employ of Sunanda (Shirley Eaton, clad in a ridiculous green outfit with a large S emblazoned on the front ,playing Sumuru in all but name ).

Also after Sutton’s fortune is master criminal Sir Masius (George Sanders), who is also hoping to relieve Sunanda of her wealth as well.

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The film has an intentional high camp value to it, with a production design along the lines of a DANGER DIABOLIK (1968, Paramount) or BARBARELLA (1968, Paramount) with a great deal more nudity. I have to admit that I while I am not a big fan of Franco’s oeuvre, I thought that this was one of his more entertaining films.

 

The print is quite sharp with great 60s colors that pop and probably has not looked this good since it was first run through a projector during its original theatrical run

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Extras for this movie include interviews with Shirley Eaton (who had wanted to retire from filmmaking, the sex scene of her character using a body double confirmed her decision), Jess Franco (with subtitles) describing his comic book film, and even producer Harry Alan Towers on how the film came to be. Also included is a poster and still gallery.

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Both films are presented in 1080p HD.

Now while not the type of film I might have sought out, I have to admit that the co bill Blu Ray was an entertaining way to spend a Saturday afternoon, especially with all the lovely ladies in various stage of undress in Franco’s film.

Entertaining mindless fun. Thanks to the fine folks at Blue Underground.

By the way, Towers was not finished with Sumuru. In 2003, Towers produced SUMURU (no official U.S. release ,2003) as well as contributing to the script (under his Peter Welbeck pseudonym). This version had less to do with Rohmer and more to do with John Norman’s “Gor “novels (of which Towers had produced two films for Cannon in the 1980s). The South African lensed SUMURU is set in a far flung future ruled by women where men do all the grunt work.

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Kevin G Shinnick

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