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The Creep Behind The Camera (Synapse S.E. Blu Ray)

The Creep Behind the Camera (Color,111 min .2014)/The Creeping Terror (B&W,75 min.1964) / (Blu-ray) (Synapse )All-Region $24.99 s.r.p.
http://synapse-films.com/synapse-films/creep-behind-the-camera-the-blu-ray-special-edition/

 

Back in the late 1960s, I caught this awful science fiction film on an UHF channel. At that time, you had to adjust antennas to get a good signal ,as weather could affect your receiving a broadcast. I thought that film was going to be THE CREEPING UNKNOWN (1956, aka THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT,Hammer).

The film I experienced was another matter entirely. I mean, it had a spaceship and a creature, but– this seemed awfully inept . And the sound ! Where was the sound for long stretches ? Adjusting the antenna did nothing to bring it in.Oh there it is-narration?? Dubbed voices?? I realized I was watching an American made cheapie, but in those pre VTR days ,as a Monster Kid, you sat and watched what you could get.

For a short film ,it seemed mercilessly drawn out , with nothing happening for what seemed like ages. When it ended ,I remember thinking well I’ll never watch that again.

 

Wrong. Years later it was released by several Public Domain companies (as well as more reputable ones ) who would find a poor 16mm dupe of films and put them onto VHS for a hungry new video market. Ah, while working at a video store, how often it would be brought to the counter and I’d stay silent unless asked for my opinion.

The Creepie Crawlie Meets the Troops

 

Later, the film was “discovered” by a larger audience when Mystery Science Theatre 3000 “riffed the show in their sixth season (episode 606 ,September 17,1994) . The inept film had finally found its audience ,who all laughed at the pictures dreadfulness.

What the majority of us were unaware of was that the true monster was not the carpet creature, but the sadistic sociopath who convinced many that he was the next Orson Welles ,while abusing and using women and possibly even being involved with child pornography.                                                                                         Vic Savage

Writer/Director Pete Schuermann (who directed the comedy Star Trek Spoof ,HICK TREK:THE MOOVIE(1999,ATOZ Films) was someone fascinated by the film THE CREEPING TERROR ,and started to look into the history of the film.

What began as a straightforward documentary developed into a hybrid recreation/documentary/true life film on the project and it’s insane creator Vic Savage .

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Savage was a perfect moniker for him, as he was seemed to be the poster boy for Anti Social Personality Disorder (ASPD). Those who have this may show symptoms as far back as childhood.Those with ASPD tend to lie, break laws, act impulsively, all with a lack of regard for the well being of others or them selves. That seems to be Savage to a T”.

Born in was born August 14 ,1933 in Bridgeport, Connecticut as Arthur Nelson White , one of the lies he would tell people is that he was born in Oklahoma of Cherokee descent .

Somehow, he met actor Joseph Sargent ,and for some reason Savage gave Sargent his first opportunity to direct . Savage co-produced the film (under his real name Arthur N. White) with Karl Kappel while co-writing the screenplay with Lois White (his long suffering spouse?? ).Savage also cast himself in a supporting role as a 26 year old street punk in the film STREET FIGHTER (1959,Joseph Brenner Associates).

The film ,shot in Savage’s own Bridgeport Connecticut , tells the story of an arrogant teen gang leader who when his girlfriend is murdered, decides to clean up his life .

Star Dora Conn seemed to have appeared only in this one film but actress Ann Atmar appeared in INCUBUS (Contempo III Productions ,1966 , itself a film that was briefly lost )as well as a COLD WIND IN AUGUST(U.A.,1961). Ahmed Bey had appeared in an Arabic film, EL zanati Khalifa in 1952, and was a boxing champ.

Director Sargent went on to direct television episodes of STAR TREK (Paramount,1966-1969) and feature films like COLOSSUS THE FORBIN PROJECT (Universal,1970).

STREET FIGHTER the  film is practically lost. In an odd footnote, in October 2014 , Savage’s ex-wife placed her VHS copy of the film up for auction. The original film print was destroyed by her after it was transferred to this VHS copy, supposedly the only existing copy of the movie . I could not find if this print had been sold .

 

                                                                                               Old DVD cover

Savage bummed around for awhile ,until he got the idea of making a monster movie ,originally to be called ‘Dangerous Charter”. Here ,his con man skills sparked into full gear, fooling nearly everyone that he was a star producer ,getting people to donate materials ,locations, and most of all money to his project .

He also slept around ,often in front of his terrified and abused bride , basking in her helplessness. He also was drugging himself to fuel his excesses, and may have also been involved with creating children pornography. All facts that will make it harder to now sit and laugh through the resultant mess that was and is THE CREEPING TERROR (released by Crown International in 1964).

Pete Schuermann with his THE CREEP BEHIND THE CAMERA creates an appropriately interesting hybrid film, interviewing certain surviving members of the film which are inter-cut with the dramatic recreation of the insanity and terror behind the scenes.                                                                               (A weird fetish of the director ? )

The film definitely holds your attention, thanks in no small part to the powerful performance of actor Josh Phillips. A working actor , this film is a showcase for Phillips, as he goes from goofy to terrifying, often within the same scene. One hopes he was not as method as Daniel Day Lewis, for to be around a personality like that would be too much ,especially on a low budget film.

 

He is matched by the performance of Jodi Lynn Thomas, who suffers more abuse than anyone should or could imagine. That the real life Lois survived and indeed is interviewed for the film is a testament to her inner strength .She even co-wrote a book (HOLLYWOOD CON MAN by Lois Schwartz and Janice Wenger ,iUniverse (January 4, 2001))wherein she changes names of many of the people but tells a sad compelling tale of physical and mental abuse since childhood.

Thinking she found love when she married, she soon realized that another even more vicious abuser had her in his control. That she escaped and is now happily remarried is a reassurance about her but makes you wonder how many thousands of others go through such hell on a daily basis ?

The technical aspects of the film are fine with the early 1960s well recreated ,again on a low budget. The photography and sound are sharp and serve the story, rather than drawing attention to themselves.

Imagine if you will a much darker ED WOOD (Touchstone,1994) and it will give you an idea of what to expect from THE CREEP BEHIND THE CAMERA .

 

                                                                             (Model kit of the Creepie Crawlie)

The Synapse single disc Blu Ray release of THE CREEP BEHIND THE CAMERA is a hi-definition 1080p (1.78:1)presentation with a super sharp image and DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround sound .

Synapse has not skimped on the extras on this release.

They include :

-An all new 2K Scan of the original THE CREEPING TERROR. Having only seen this film in dupey washed out prints ,it is nice to see it as how it probably looked upon its original release. That said, there is nothing that can be done about the QUALITY of the actual acting and storytelling.

-An informative running commentary by Schuerrmann, along with Producer Nancy Theken and actors Josh Phillips and Jodi Lynn Thomas. The group seem to enjoy recalling the making of their film with a lot of laughter as well as awe for the work that was put into their project .

-A Behind The Scenes – MAKING OF documentary

                                                                          (Another VHS box cover )

HOW TO BUILD A CARPET MONSTER– this multi part doc shows the progress of creating their recreation of the infamous thingie,though done with materials that were probably unavailable to the original creators.

Breaking Down Art’s Death Scene

Monster Movie Homages

ONE MICK TO ANOTHER Byrd Holland (the original Sheriff from CREEPING TERROR ) and Allan Silliphant (screenwriter, later known for directing /writing /producing the successful 3-D nudie cutie THE STEWARDESSES (Hollywood Films, 1969) over 50 years later about their experiences and lives since CREEPING TERROR.

                                                                                  And another VHS Cover

Alternate Ending

The Original Theatrical Trailer

SCREAMFEST Promo Trailer

SCREAMFEST Q&A with Frank Conniff (TV’s Frank from MST3K ).An interesting talk with the director and two stars ,with Josh looking like he is auditioning to join the band THE MISFITS !

 

                                                                                   (Annnnnd another VHS release)

Removable SDH English subtitles .They seem to follow the dialogue fairly closely.

As I am writing this review, Harvey Weinstein  of Miramax /Weinstein  fame is becoming a Pariah due to his long history of sexual misconduct and abuse. He says his attitude was due to the work enviornment of the 1960s.  Vic Savage would smile in sadistic delight.

 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Kevin G Shinnick

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HOUR OF THE GUN (Twilight Time Blu Ray)

HOUR OF THE GUN (U.A.,1967) Twilight Time Blu Ray. 1:41:26 length.  Color . $29.95  . Region Free (A/B/C).https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/hour-of-the-gun-blu-ray/

I grew up watching Westerns. During my childhood , the major channels and the syndicated ones all carried series that dealt with the Wild Frontier.  I found that I never cared for most of the ones wherein they battled the American Indians, feeling that the natives were just defending their lands from invaders ,but I was most fascinated with those tales  that were built around law and order ,and the attempts to enforce it and civilize the society.  ryan-slappin-leather-the-hour-of-the-gun

Often it was the American ideal, of one man ( or perhaps a small group) who took on lawlessness and injustice , and won. As the 1970s rolled around, westerns began to fade from popularity ,perhaps from oversaturation , perhaps from changing tastes. Still ,tales of the old west still resonate with our culture .

The story of the Earps and the O.K. Corral is one that is known by most, though the details for most are sketchy. They know there was a famous gun battle ,of which the Earps survived. The true facts are much more muddy .Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp was at different times a brothel keeper, gambler,  bar keep , miner, stage coach guard , as well as a lawman .

(Tombstone Today ,with the Gun battle recreated )

Earp and his brothers (James,Virgil, and their younger brother Morgan ) and their familes ended up in Tombstone in 1879 ,wherein they encountered “The Cowboys”,a gang of outlaws that included Tom  and Frank McLaury, and Ike & Billy Clanton , The Earps were lawmen ,and they were threatened with death over the course of their time in Tombstone. It resulted in the Earps , and friend,  a former dentist turned gambler dying of tuberculosis named John “Doc”Holliday. facing The Cowboys at the O.K. Corral on October 26,1881. The battle, which took all of 30 seconds with 30 shots being fired,resulted in Bill Clanton and the McLaury brothers dead,with Virgil ,Morgan, and Holliday all wounded. Clanton and Clairborne fled.

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Sheriff John Behan , who witnessed the shootout, charged the Earps and Holliday with murder. A  Tombstone judge found the men not guilty at trial a month later, ruling that they were “fully justified in committing these homicides”.

Virgil was later shot and crippled by hidden attackers, and Morgan was murdered by other killers  while  he was playing pool with his brother Wyatt.

Unable to get proper justice, Wyatt deputized Holliday, and with some other volunteers, tracked down and killed the men they felt responsible. Another local sheriff issued a warrant for the arrest of Earp and company on charges of murder. They fled to the New Mexico Territory. Earp arranged a pardon for Holliday ,who died of T.B. at the age of 36.5524g

Earp escaped punishment for the murders, and led a colorful life ,even becoming an unpaid consultant on silent westerns, before dying January 23,1929 at the age of 80. He spent most of his life defending his actions of the faithful shootout, which many in the press and friends of the Clantons and McLaurys sought to disparage the Earps.

Several books published about Earp (he could not get his own authorized biography published) turned him into the modern myth whom we know of today. That he was never wounded in any of the gunfights he took part in increases this legend.

Oddly, considering how popular Westerns were in the silent era (Edison’s 1903 THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY for one) and with Earp serving as advisor, it is surprising that the earliest film to deal with the legend of the infamous Tombstone shootout did not happen until 50 years after the event.

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LAW & ORDER was a 1932 Universal 75 minute sound film starring Walter Huston,written by his son John with additional dialogue by Tom Reed . Based upon the  novel SAINT JOHNSON(A.L.Burt Publishers,NY 1930) by  W.R. Burnett(who also wrote the book that LITTLE CAESAR (WB,1931) was based upon),Walter Huston plays Frame Johnson ,a stand in for Wyatt Earp. Harry Carey plays the Doc Holliday character ,whose death in the movie leads to the gunfight ! Huston is the only survivor, and he drops his badge and walks off, foreshadowing the ending of HIGH NOON (U.A.,1952) by 30 years.  The story was remade in 1940(Johnny Mack Brown) and 1953 (with Ronald Reagan).

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FRONTIER MARSHALL(Fox,1934) had George O’Brien as MICHAEL Earp. This version is apparently “lost”. It was remade in 1939 by Fox with  Randolph Scott finally playing a character named WYATT . Caesar Romero was Doc Holliday and John Carradine  is also in the flick .Both films are based upon the novel WYATT EARP FRONTIER MARSHALL   by  Stuart N. Lake (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,NY 1931).Earp’s widow had sued the studio about the novel and the films, getting  a nice settlement.

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THE ARIZONIAN(RKO,1935,remade as THE MARSHALL OF MESA CITY (RKO,1939)) featured a shootout  inspired by the OK Corral events.  TOMBSTONE,THE TOWN TOO TOUGH TO DIE (Paramount,1942) had a fairly accurate recreation of the battle,with Richard Dix as Wyatt, the part he essentially played in THE ARIZONIAN.

MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (Fox,1946) is another inaccurate but immensely entertaining telling of the legend .As director John Ford had Carleton Young  later say in THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (Paramount 1962) “No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” .Henry Fonda as Wyatt is out to avenge  the murder of his brother James ,and meets   hard drinking Doc Holliday (Victor Mature,who looks pretty healthy for a T.B. sufferer) who joins Wyatt in his final fight with the Clantons.

Hour-of-the-Gun

On television , there was THE LIFE & LEGEND OF WYATT EARP (A.B.C.,1955-61) starring Hugh O’Brien in the title role.

The June 20,1961 episode called “Gunfight At The O.k. Corral” does a fairly accurate recreation that seems to mirror the actual events.  Also, and most unusual for a show from that era, it depicts the gunfight in slow motion. Hugh O’Brian had been a member of the United States Marine Corps, and he was actually the fastest quick draw of all his fellow actors on TV Westerns. He was able to draw at .08 of a second.

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The final episode “The Outlaws Cry Murder” ( June 27,1961 )deals with the trials and Johnny Ringo’s plot to kill the Earps.

O’Brien returned to the role for two t.v. movies, THE GAMBLER RETURNS( N.B.C,1991) where he cameos to the main story about Kenny Rogers’ gambler , and WYATT EARP : RETURN TO TOMBSTONE ( C.B.S, 1994) a film that lifts and colorizes various scenes from the t.v. series, and bridging new footage .

 

STORIES OF THE CENTURY “DOC HOLLIDAY” (Republic, March 25,1954) also covered the story in under 27 minutes. Kim Spalding  played “Doc” and James Craven as Wyatt .

GUNFIGHT AT THE OK CORRAL(Paramount,1957) is an exciting if inaccurate telling of the tale starring powerhouses Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas , and directed by  powerhouse John Sturges .

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 Lancaster is a hard drinking Wyatt (the real man was a non drinker) powerhouse ,while Kirk Douglas is a pretty healthy Doc Holliday (like Victor Mature , not bad for a man trying to fight consumption).John Ireland is great as fast gun Johnny Ringo. The real Ringo was a loose  associate of the Clantons ,who was suspected of having taken part in the shooting of several of the Earp family .  The final battle happens at sun up and last an exciting 8 minutes (the real battle took all of 30 seconds in the mid afternoon). Still , this is the film that most people thought of when they referenced the shoot out.

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Sturges obviously was drawn to the story, as ten years later , he convinced The Mirisch Corporation  to produce HOUR OF THE GUN (United Artists, 1967).

The picture is based on the non-fiction book   Tombstone’s Epitaph  (Univ of New Mexico Press, 1958), with a screenplay by Edward Anhalt (the Oscar nominated screenwriter of the 1964 screen adaptation of BECKET ( Paramount).

Lucien Ballard (RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY,Fox ,1962 , and later THE WILD BUNCH ,WB,1969 ,both for Sam Peckinpah) was the director of photography ,and his work shines in this film.  The score was by  the great Jerry Goldsmith, and a good budget of $1,800,000 ( by comparison, BONNIE & CLYDE (WB,1967 ),another period film that same year , cost $2.5 million).5215823122_a17673f25a_b

Tombstone Arizona was not one of the locations used, although Sonoita,Elgin, and the Empire Ranch in Elgin were all used.  The rest of the film was shot in Mexico, including the famous Estudios Churubusco Azteca in Mexico City.

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The film opens with the famous gun battle (that in real life took place in a vacant lot next to a photography studio , not in the actual corral itself.It occurred in late afternoon, and unlike the hot sunny weather of the film, it had snow upon the ground) . Doc  ( a marvelous Jason Robards ,who had his own battles with alcoholism  ) and some of the Earp  brothers were wounded ,while a few of the Clanton gang are killed .Wyatt (a stoic James Garner) emerges unscathed (which is something that added to the real life legend .He was never shot in any of his gun battles.Indeed , he was better known for coldcocking his adversaries with the barrel of his Colt).913full-hour-of-the-gun-poster

Ike Clanton (Robert Ryan) does not draw his weapon during the battle ,and survives, and wants the local sheriff to charge his opponents with murder .In real life ,Ike was never the leader of the gang, but Ryan makes an imposing figure in the role.  The  movie changed the name of the County Sheriff from John Behan to Jimmy Bryan  (played by Bill Fletcher) but they accurately got the debate as to whether he could arrest the Earps and Holliday .hourofthegun_biggerandfasterthan_FC_470x264_071220160740

A trial is held , presided over by Judge Herman Spicer ( William Schallert ).Though false testimony is given by  several of the Clanton gang, the judge shows that they were in fact lying ,and finds Holliday and the Earps not guilty and had indeed acted within their authority.

Ike does not take well to the news and conspires to assassinate his opponents  When one of his brothers is again wounded and another murdered viciously as they are playing billiards, Earp decides that he will step outside the law and do what he must to stop the Clantons.320full-hour-of-the-gun-poster

The film deals with a lot of the issues that the Earps dealt with, such as that the Clantons had a lot of supporters,  local elections , and even how when they finally get permission to bring in the Clantons, they are told there is no money for deputies!

HOUR OF THE GUN is an exciting telling of the famous tale, with a wonderful group of supporting players taking on minor if important roles.  A young Jon Voight plays  Curly Bill Brocius  ,here shown as a minor gun slinger. In real life, Curly Bill, along with Johnny Ringo , led the “Cowboys” after old Man Clanton died in 1881. Voight was two years away from his career defining role in MIDNIGHT COWBOY (U.A.,1969) . In 1967 ,Voight was a guest star on an episode of the TV series “N.Y.P.D.”,that starred Frank Converse. Converse appeared in HOUR OF THE GUN  as Virgil Earp.

William Windom portrays a drunken gambler who owes Doc Holliday money ,while Monte Markham was Sherman McMasters. McMasters had once been a member of the “Cowboys” but switched sides and actually rode with Wyatt Earp in his vendetta.images

The film was not a success when it was first released ,and indeed is often called dull or slow moving.   This may have been due to the influx of the “Spaghetti Westerns” of Clint Eastwood ,and the changing styles of film making. Indeed HOUR OF THE GUN still harkens back in style to classic Hollywood. However, what sets it apart is that it concentrates on the causes and effects of the violence and with the passage of time, we can now appreciate these factors which makes the tale less a black and white good vs evil story.  24c052ff6d4737bc4d82434470078468--bill-obrien-guns

TWILIGHT TIME has given this film a marvelous Blu Ray release. The film film has been cleaned up with a 1080p resolution in an aspect ratio of 2.35.1 . The sound has been mixed in 1.0 DTS-HD MA . It is clear without any special sound mixing (though the gunshots did have me reaching to lower the volume ).6c17e591a70539f368c46e9e8bd2ba72--maverick-tv-western-movies

As for extras, they are rather spare .  The original theatrical trailer is here and gives you an idea how the film looked in the past. The effects and Jerry Goldsmith’s score can be heard together on a separate track . Julie Kirgo supplies some nice facts in the enclosed booklet  The film itself is the real reason you should pick up this disc.

For anyone who thinks that TOMBSTONE (Touchstone ,1993) was the most accurate telling of the tale of the Earps, I suggest that you check out THE HOUR OF THE GUN .

RECOMMENDED.

 

-Kevin G Shinnickgiphy (2)

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Riccardo Freda: The Life and Works of a Born Filmmaker

Riccardo Freda: The Life and Works of a Born Filmmaker
Roberto Curti Price: $45.00 40 photos, notes, filmography, bibliography, index
376pp. softcover (7 x 10)McFarland  2017                                                http://www.mcfarlandbooks.com/book-2.php?id=978-1-4766-6970-0

Like many American film fans, my knowledge of director Ricardo Freda was mostly limited to his
Horror films I Vampiri /THE DEVIL’S COMMANDMENT (Titanus,1957),Caltiki il mostro immortale /CALTIKI,THE IMMORTAL MONSTER(Lux,1959),L’orrible segreto del Dr. Hichcock /THE HORRIBLE DOCTOR HITCHCOCK(Panda,1962) and Lo specttro /THE GHOST (Panda,1963).

• However, Freda had a career in cinema that lasted from 1937 (Lasciate ogni speranza /LEAVE ALL HOPE ,Juventus Film) until 1994 (La fille de d’Artagnan /REVENGE OF THE MUSKETEERS ,Canal+ )starting and ending his career as a writer.

• Writer Roberto Curti of Cortona Italy has done a remarkable job tracking down an amazing amount of information on Freda’s life and career.His love for the subject comes though with his very detailed synopses of these rarely seen (outside of certain countries), providing the history behind many of them, production facts, and their success or failure in various territories as well as changes made to them .

Curti uses Freda’s memoir Divoratori di celluloide (Emme Edizioni (1981),164 pages)as a starting point ,but also researching though film magazines and newspapers from several countries, as well as tracking down and watching the titles from the director’s long career. Curti points out that the director could often be petty and recall incidents that might not always match the facts.Curti’s interviews and research sometimes contradicts what Freda put into his book.

• Still ,the Egyptian born Italian director lived La Dolce Vita, being an extravagant personal spender and gambler as well as womanizer. It is ironic that he despised films like Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (Riama,1960) as well as the entire neo-realist movement of films like Ladri di biciclette/THE BICYCLE THIEF(Ente Nazionale,1948).

He was more a storyteller who felt that film should be escapist,and take us out of reality. Not only did he have those skills, he was also able to make limited budgets look richer than they were, due to his understanding of film editing and camera placement ,as well as working with innovators like the great Mario Bava. Indeed, the short tempered Freda walked off the set of a I Vampiri ,leavinng it to be  finished by Bava. We see throughout the book that Freda had a habit of walking off set, much to the detriment of his films and career.  I Vampiri has an important place in Italian horror films ,as it was the country’s first true sound horror film (the first Italian horror film may have been Il monstro di Frankenstein(1920) a now sadly lost silent picture).

Freda had prior to I Vampiri had done a lot of regional comedies ( he cared little for the comics in many of his films ,but put in many physical gags inspired by the likes of Buster Keaton ,historical dramas and swashbucklers . Indeed ,his love of classic novels and adventure tales seemed to have merged into Caccia all’umo /LES MISERABLES( Lux,1952) ,making it more of an action thriller!

His swashbucklers seemed to have broken new ground in storytelling in Italy, being more inspired by American filmmakers than the home grown artisans. His love of tracking shots to get a lot of detail within a long take was developed during this period .Having reviewed the Italian historical drama La cena delle beffe / THE JESTER’s SUPPER* (Società Italiana Cines,1942 ,not by Freda, but by a contemporary),I would love to see more these  rarely motion pictures                (see review at https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/2017/05/07/the-jesters-supper-dvd/ ) .

Freda also was one of the first to leap into the sword and sandal films ,even telling an earlier version of the tale of SPARTACUS(Spartaco(API,1953),released in the U.S. by RKO as SINS OF ROME ). He hopped from genre to genre with various budgets and varying success. Comedy (at which he seemed to have a lot of success),drama ,spy thrillers ,Krimi( he faced off and WON against the antagonistic Klaus Kinski) ,swashbucklers,historicals, and of course horror.

His indifference to some parts of the movies he made show with some sloppy work (in ROGER LA HONTE( Comptoir Francais du Film Production ,1966,one of his later films with a decent budget, he allows a major stunt to show clearly that a “woman” passenger is actually a stunt man since his trousers are clearly visible ),as well as his indifference to actors (he was notorious for using doubles when actors gave him any grief). Yet in staging ,he often surpassed the budget with strong imagery and tracking shots that convey a lot of information .Plus several actors who worked with him praised the director .

Curti’s book makes me want to revisit several of Freda’s films and seek out some of his rarities. Curti has done what any film researcher should do, and that is evaluate and place into historical context the work of the subject.

McFarland is to be commended once again for putting out such a detailed volume about a filmmaker not as well known as perhaps he should be. Each film has b&w illustrations of the film posters or on set photographs, The graphics are sharp and easy to see.

This is a MUST HAVE for lovers of film, especially for those who love Euro-Cinema.

Highly Recommended.

Kevin G Shinnick

 

                  "Acquista il libro o ti farò del male ..."

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When Comedy Was King

when comedy was king

WHEN COMEDY WAS KING (VCI) DVD $19.99 DVD | 1 DISC | 81 minutes | 1960 | B&W | NR | English language | 1.37:1 | Dolby Digital Mono | All REGION /

http://www.vcientertainment.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=1096

Back before the easy availability of YouTube, Turner Classic Movies, and Home Video, it was not always easy to see classic films. You had to scour the television guides and hopefully a classic film would be airing on one of the smaller channels. If you lived in a larger city, you might have a revival movie house that would for one or two days show a film made long before you birth.

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Robert Youngson was a documentary film producer who loved bringing the past to movie goers. From 1948 to 1956, he produced a series of nostalgia laden short subjects for Warner Brothers, most often using old silent movie clips. They were popular enough to win Youngson Six Academy Award Nominations for Best Live Action Short Films (One Reel), winning two in the process.

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Youngson made a feature length historical documentary in 1950 for Warner Brothers called FIFTY YEARS BEFORE YOUR EYES. Rumored to have taken three years to make, the look back over the first half of the Twentieth Century was narrated by Arthur Godfrey and came and went with little fanfare.

1996

When Warner Brothers and the other studios began shutting down their short subject departments, Youngson decided to chance another full-length feature. With his contract with Warner Brothers over, he at first contracted with a small distributor, Distributors Corporation of America (DCA). DCA existed from 1952-59, beginning as a releasing company for foreign films like ALRAUNE (1952) and ANIMAL FARM (1954). The company folded after it released PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE (1959). Before that happened, they released Robert Youngson’s  THE GOLDEN AGE OF COMEDY  (1957). The compilation was later picked up and got a wider distribution from Twentieth Century Fox.

The film was successful enough that it brought a renewed popularity for Laurel & Hardy who featured strongly in the documentary. Sadly, Oliver Hardy died in August of that year, and Stan Laurel retired, so they didn’t personally get to take advantage of this renewed interest, though their films were now being shown regularly on television.

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Three years later, WHEN COMEDY WAS KING was released (by Twentieth Century Fox) and was again a popular success. Once again, the film opened with Chopin’s Etude Op. 10, No. 3 that was used under Youngson’s credit on his films from 1957. Many feel that this is the best of his compilation films , though I would say that this and DAYS OF THRILLS & LAUGHTER (Fox,1961,also available from VCI on DVD http://www.vcientertainment.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=507 ) which covers a wider range of films are tied for  his best , but it is nit picking on my part.

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Once again, Youngson put together a wonderful collection of clips from the golden age of silent comedy. While there are clips of Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel & Hardy, the film also brought Ben Turpin, Harry Langdon, and Mabel Normand among others back into the public view. The movie was well reviewed (“Here’s a toast to this sort of comedy !”-Bosley Crowther, NY Times, March 30,1960) and financially successful.

Youngson made six more feature compilations before his untimely passing at age 54 in 1974. His wife Jeanne Keyes Youngson, by the way, has had an interesting career of her own. An animator and documentarian, she produced a short called “MY NAME IS DEBBIE” about a post-operative male to female as well as helping to found The Count Dracula Fan Club in 1965.In 2000 they changed their name to The Vampire Empire.

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V.C.I. has done a marvelous job on this release. Sprocket Vault and Kit Parker Films went out and retimed and corrected footage from the original 35 mm negative (which had been in a series of mislabeled film cans. Having worked in a film storage house, I saw firsthand how common this problem was and how easy it was for films to get lost or dissolving Nitrate films).

I know that Kit has a lot more classic films coming down the pike, so I just want to make sure he gets the credit, where credit is due.

Best regards,

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The picture quality of this DVD is as perfect as one could hope (some film deterioration had already started happening from the original silent elements that Youngson had used, and so this compilation is also important as film PRESERVATION as well).

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A nice new addition is a very informative running commentary by Richard M Roberts, a collector and silent film historian who I first heard of as programmer for Slapsticon, where many a rare two reeler was unspooled. Not only does he speak about the films shown, but also about director Youngson. I kept smiling at our common reference points like Blackhawk Films, where many a collector could buy many a classic film on 8mm and 16mm. I also chuckled at how his detestation of collector Raymond Rohauer is palpable. Rohauer (or as my friends referred to him*** You Raymond Rohauer”) was falsely claiming to own rights to certain classics, which kept many like Universal’s THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932) out of the public eye, as well as nuisance lawsuits on films like BIRTH OF A NATION (D.W. Griffith/Epoch,1914).

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If that was not enough, Richard M Roberts has added three rare bonus short silent, with a piano score by Donald Sosin, who has been providing music for silent films for 45 years! Roberts provides more informative commentary on these shorts.

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AN ELEPHANT ON HIS HANDS (Security ,1920) Hughey Mack gets a letter that he is getting an inheritance which turns out to be TWO elephants. The title card is different from the rest of the titles, making me think that it was from a 16mm home collector release. His wife is not amused. This film is not restored, but is such a rarity I am grateful that it exists at all. Dot Farley plays a comic maid.

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FAST & FURIOUS (Educational,1924) seems to be complete with original titles. Director Norman Taurog had a long film career, including directing several Elvis movies! Star Lige Conley somewhat resembles Chaplin when he was out of his Tramp makeup and does some amazing physical work, including a high fall from a ladder onto a countertop. . Nothing to do with later Vin Diesel films, Conley works in a store and his misadventures. There is a cute bit of stop motion in the short. The films second half earn the film its title with chase by motorbike, car and even atop a moving train (so maybe it did inspire Vin Diesel =)). It reminded me of the short PLAY SAFE (Pathe,1927) starring Monte Banks that appears in DAYS OF THRILLS & LAUGHTER.

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Finally, A TON OF FUN in HEAVY LOVE (Standard,1926), a Joe Rock produced comedy. Joe Rock, a former stunt man/comedian, he had produced several of the early Stan Laurel solo comedies. The Three Fatties (as they were referred to) Frank Alexander, Hilliard Karr and Kewpie Ross are carpenters. The big men do some very physical comedy that belies their size, though their weight is often the catalyst for much of their comedy. This film seems to be in the best shape of the three (some frame jitter appears). It reminded me of the Buster Keaton comedy ONE WEEK(Metro,1920).

 

You must play the three shorts in order, without the option of picking and choosing. A minor problem, as you will want to see them all.

If you are a lover of classic silent comedies, or want to introduce someone to them, WHEN COMEDY WAS KING is the film you need.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

-Kevin G Shinnick

March 8,2017 UPDATE :  I gave VCI most of the credit for this new release. However, I was informed that most of the credit for this new DVD release should go to Kit Parker’s new DVD LABEL : THE SPROCKET VAULT . 

 VCI did work with Kit to digitally restore the new HD master and authored the DVD, but this is a Sprocket Vault release. Thank you to those involved for the correction .

VCI is the releasing company of DAYS OF THRILLS AND LAUGHTER though.

Kit Parker, I am also told,  has a lot more classic films coming ,and I look forward to seeing.

PSThe 2017 Rondo Awards were just announced .

http://rondoaward.com/rondoaward.com/blog/

SCARLET THE FILM MAGAZINE REVIEWS (https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/) was somehow overlooked.

scarlet

When you vote, would you write in SCARLET THE FILM MAGAZINE REVIEWS ( https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/)
under the category #17 BEST WEBSITE OR BLOG ?

Thank you .

Deadline to vote April 17,2017.

*REST IN PEACE ROBERT OSBORNE *

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1960s, Art house, Blu Ray, CLASSIC, Classic Hollywood, crime drama, cult, film, FILM HISTORY, FILM NOIR, Fox, genre, review, thriller, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Twilight Time Blu Ray, Uncategorized

BOSTON STRANGLER/PRETTY POISON Twilight Time Blu Rays

2-coversTHE BOSTON STRANGLER ( 1968 Fox)116min        http://www.twilighttimemovies.com/boston-strangler-the-blu-ray             / PRETTY POISON (1968 Fox)89min         http://www.twilighttimemovies.com/pretty-poison-blu-ray/Twilight Time Blu Rays      $29.95 each Limited to 3000 pressings each

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1968 was a banner year for movies: 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY(MGM), OLIVER(Columbia), ROMEO & JULIET(Paramount), ROSEMARY’S BABY (Paramount), PLANET OF THE APES(Fox). Among those films were two marvelous murder thrillers, both from 20th Century Fox, one a box office and critical success (BOSTON STRANGLER) the other a box office failure that has developed a strong cult following that continues to grow (PRETTY POISON).600full-the-boston-strangler-poster

First, we have THE BOSTON STRANGLER.

 

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THE BOSTON STRANGLER was a big budget ($4.1 million) film released October 16,1968. Critical reaction was mixed for director Richard Fleischer (20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA(Disney,1954) and his then daring split screen and multiple images to show various points of views at the same time (also used in GRAND PRIX (MGM,1966) as well as THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR (U.A.,1968)). There was a more unanimous consensus of praise for Tony Curtis and his daring and solid performance as split personality Albert DeSalvo. Curtis won a Golden Globe for Best Actor, which must have been thrilling for him, considering that he was not considered able to play the role, but had to win the role by taking photos of himself in makeup and having director Fleischer slip them to the studio head, who said that was the type that they were looking for!

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                                                                   (old VHS  print from Key Video)

 

Based upon Gerold Frank’s best-selling well researched non -fiction book of the same title (Hardcover, New American Library,1966), there was difficulty in finding the right screenplay adapter. The original choice, Playwright Terrence Rattigan who wrote stage plays like THE WINSLOW BOY(London,1946) was a friend of producer Robert Fryer. However, the screenplay that he turned into a comedy! Luckily, cooler heads prevailed and writer Edward Anhalt (winner of an Oscar for the adaptation he co-wrote with his wife Edna for PANIC IN THE STREETS (Fox ,1950) produced a script that was more faithful in feeling to the Gerald Frank book.

 

Henry Fonda portrays John S Bottomly, who leads the investigation into a series of Strangle Murders in Boston. The police get so desperate they even resort to a Psychic to aide them. The killings continue unabated until plumber Albert DeSalvo is apprehended for attempted breaking and entering. A series of incidents and clues lead them to believe that DeSalvo is killer whom they have been seeking.fg11295-the-boston-strangler
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Tony Curtis is superb playing the family man who has a dual life and even a dual personality. The fractured screen shots and isolated images also perfectly encapsulate the isolation and separation that DeSalvo seemed to be suffering from. That he was not nominated for an Academy Award (the best actor award going to Cliff Robertson for portraying another person suffering from mental problems in CHARLY (Cinerama,1968)) is one of the major shames in the whole award process mentality, as he gives a superlative performance.reel-vs-real

Besides Fonda, other great performances are given by George Kennedy (a year after his best supporting actor Oscar win for COOL HAND LUKE(WB,1967)) and Murray Hamilton (who had performed on stage with Fonda, but is perhaps best known as playing the Mayor in JAWS(Universal,1975)as two of the detectives who piece together the various bits of evidence, as well as various members of law enforcement and society being portrayed by William Marshall(BLACULA,AIP,1972),Sally Kellerman (MASH,Fox,1970),Hurt Hatfield (forever Dorian in THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY,MGM 1945),Jeff Corey (SECONDS,Paramount,1966),James Brolin (still a struggling contract player at Fox at the time before rising to fame as a T.V. heartthrob on MARCUS WELBY,M.D.(Universal,1969-1976) ,and many more .wm-marshall

William Marshall

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(William Hickey as a suspect )

 

 

 

 

The 1080P transfer Region Free transfer is sharp and clean. Audio is an optional 2.0 or 3.0 DTS-HD Master. There are optional English (SDH)subtitles.

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Extras on the Blu Ray reviewed include:

-An isolated music and sound effect track. The score by Lionel Newman (COMPULSION, Fox, 1959) is effective, but, to me, not memorable on its own.boston-strangler-2

-An informative and nonstop Audio Commentary with Film Historians David Del Valle and Steven Peros that covers both the production history of the film as well its cinematic style, as well as a lot of information about the actual murders, the doubts that exists that if DeSavlo was the killer of all the victims, and where the film deviates from the facts of the case.e284dd9161031cb9263860acc4bf01ef

– “Real Killer, Fake Nose”- is over a half hour long documentary about the making of the film, and how innovative its cinematography and editing was for the time. Interviews include Sally Kellerman (who plays one of the victims) and Mark Fleischer (the director’s son) and D.P. Richard H Kline.9208-2284hqdefault

– “Split Screen Personality” -has director William Friedkin (THE FRENCH CONNECTION,Fox 1971) discuss the real-life events and the film, plus how the film influenced his style.f7242f42ecf78b86b83c9636bd8

-Original Theatrical Trailers (approximately 4 minutes)tony

-An 8-page booklet by Julie Kirgo about the film

Two extras ported over from the Fox 2004 DVD release are

– “AMC Backstory: The Boston Strangler”- a nice overview of the film made for The American Movie Classics channel when it was still about movies.

A Fox Movietone News clip (roughly 3 ½ minutes) from the era about Albert DeSalvo.desalvo

Like Most of Twilight Times releases, this is limited to a print run of 3000.boston_strangler_mug_shot

Highly recommended.

 

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Next we have PRETTY POISON.
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PRETTY POISON was and is a quirky little thriller that failed to find an audience when first released. The screenplay by Lorenzo Semple Jr (fresh from T.V.’s BATMAN (Fox,1966-68)) is a fairly faithful adaptation of the short novel “She Let Him Continue “by Stephen Geller (first edition: Hardcover E.P. Dutton,1966), save for a reduction of the pill taking so prevalent in the book.e-p-dutton-1st-edition-1966hardcover

 

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            (note,this paperback edition says filming for EMBASSY PICTURES!)

 

Director Noel Black had only had a short film released by U.A. before he was given his feature film debut. He had seen Tony Perkins on Broadway, and thought he would be perfect for the part of Dennis Pitts, a young man who had killed his aunt when he set fire to their home when he was 15. So, sure that Perkins was right for the role, that Black waited at Perkins’ request until the play closed before filming began.6ku

Dennis Pitts, after his release, is stuck in a dead-end job at a local chemical company. To break up the monotony, he thinks of young Sue Ann Stepanek (Tuesday Weld, who had been acting since age 13 in ROCK ROCK ROCK (DCA,1956)). Weld was a perfect choice for this role of the young innocent who it turns out is not as innocent as she first appears.s-l225

Dennis tells Sue Ann that he is secretly a CIA operative spying on the factory for dumping chemicals into the river. His harmless fantasies however fuel an amoral side to Sue Ann, who becomes the dominant partner in both sex, wanton destruction, and finally murder, starting with her mother (Beverly Garland, star of many Roger Corman 1950s films).sddefault

Weld supposedly hated her director, and would often refuse to do as he asked or would break down in tears. Perkins had no such problem with Black, and the finished film was affected by the behind the scenes dramas. Weld & Perkins would work together again in PLAY IT AS IT LAYS (Universal,1971), another wonderful film that was also a box office failure.prettypoison_toppage

Though not hired with it in mind, it is hard to escape the idea that this is a variant of Norman Bates for Perkins. Indeed, parts of it could be a template for PSYCHO II (Universal ,1983). The film also seems to me to be a precursor of Terrence Malik’s BADLANDS (WB,1973), albeit with a darker sense of humor than that latter film.

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Shot over 30 days on location in Massachusetts, with only an additional day of studio work, the film was brought in for a 1.3-million-dollar budget.dolce-veleno-italian-poster-by-enzo-nistri

Sadly,1968 was a year when random gun violence was on the rise, with the murders of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr happening earlier. The studio, which didn’t seem to have much faith in the finished film, dumped it into 42nd Street double bills. However, when Pauline Kael and Rex Reed championed it, the studio gave it a more halfhearted art-house release, again with little support.nxcgmsszzyldoylqfq4dhklhxil

Director Noel Black never seemed to have ever gotten the chance to ever match this film. Several aborted projects, some barely released (MIRRORS,1978, First American Films), and a lot of tv work.

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His biggest theatrical success was the teen sex comedy PRIVATE SCHOOL(Universal,1983). Towards the end of his life, Anthony Perkins tried in vein to get Noel Black as director for PSYCHO IV, which eventually was directed by Mick Garris from an awful Joseph Stefano script (Universal TV,1990).

 

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It was only when PRETTY POISON began showings on t.v. in a heavily edited edition that a wider group of people began to discover the movie. A rather bland vhs release and a no frills 2006 DVD from Fox (the region 2 DVD at least had a commentary by director Black) were also both released without fanfare.

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TWILIGHT TIME, once again, has gone all out on bringing this gem to the attention of the movie loving public, and what a wonderful job that they have done.

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First, we have the beautiful 1080p High Definition transfer. The magnificent cinematography by
David Quaid (whose previous work varied from SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS(Embassy,1964) to THE SWIMMER(Columbia,1968)) gets a proper framing and clean sharp images.

The original mono sound can be heard in crisp 1.0 DTS-HD MA, with optional English SDH subtitles.

As for extras:
At this point (January ,2017), I think of those who worked on PRETTY POISON, only producer Lawrence Turman (age 90!) is still with us. Turman’s latest production was the 2011 remake of THE THING(Universal), so we are lucky that TWILIGHT TIME could get him for the audio commentary. With him are film historians Lem Dobbs and Nick Redman. The trio keep up a lively commentary.

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Also included is the audio commentary from the 2004 region 2 DVD. This has director Noel Black and film historian Robert Fischer discussing the history and tribulations of the film,

Johnny Mandel’s music and the films effects sound track are given an isolated sound track on the disc. Mandel’s score strikes the right balance between a thriller and a romance.

Optional English Subtitles are also available.

Julie Kirgo once again supplies an informative 8-page booklet about the film.

The BluRay sleeve is reversible with a stylized drawing of Perkins & Weld.

Also included is the audio commentary from the 2006 region 2 DVD. This has director Noel Black and film historian Robert Fischer discussing the history and tribulations of the film,

An interesting extra is a text script scene that was deleted that has commentary by Black and Fischer.

This TWILIGHT TIME release is limited to only 3,000 units.

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Once again, I must say, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. I may just have to save time at this rate and say TWILIGHT TIME -HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for all future reviews.

Kevin G Shinnick

 

1996

(Did I mention the 1996 remake?I didn’t? Good, because it was pretty bad.) 

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Two Stocking Stuffers- RAY HARRYHAUSEN FAIRY TALES/STRANGE & UNUSUAL CHRISTMAS FILMS

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RAY HARRYHAUSEN’S FAIRY TALES
– COLOR http://www.oldies.com/product-view/7875D.html

STRANGE AND UNUSUAL CHRISTMAS FILMS-Color/b&w -http://www.oldies.com/product-view/7871D.html

$7.98 each. Oldies.com

Just in time for the Christmas Season come two fun stocking stuffers from OLDIES.COM.

The first is probably the one that people will feel is the must have . Ray Harryhausen is a god to anyone who grew up watching fantasy films made between 1953 (BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (WB)) through 1981 (CLASH OF THE TITANS,MGM). You were at some time enthralled and in awe of the stop motion wizardry that this one man special effect auteur brought to the cinema screen. While ILM and others can do the same thing now via computer, recall that Harryhausen for most of his work was creator, camera person, and director ,single handedly doing what now takes teams of CGI experts to try and emulate.

However, unlike Athena born fully grown from the skull of Zeus, Ray Harryhausen’s artistry came from experimenting . Some of these experiments are to be found on RAY HARYHAUSEN’S FAIRY TALES.

After working as an animator on a George Pal Puppetoon (TULIPS WILL GROW,Paramount,1942),Ray continued to refine his talents as both cinematographer and animator on shorts produced for and by the U.S. Army.red-stare

After his service, he returned to his family home, where he got a 16mm camera and some Kodachrome color film to produce a series of shorts. It was a family affair, with his parents helping with costuming and set building. He completed five of his Fairy Tales between 1946 and 1953 ( a final film not on this collection ,TORTOISE & THE HARE, was started in 1952, but never completed when Harryhausen began making features. That is , it remained unfinished until 2002, when Ray and two fans who worked on tv’s ROBOT CHICKEN (Cartoon Network,2005-2015)decided to complete it.).

The films were released to schools as well as television filler but while they probably did not make Ray much money, he was able to learn his trade and improve his technique on each film .

The first film, THE MOTHER GOOSE STORY (1946) consists of very short vignettes, silent save for some public domain classical music. The influence of George Pal’s animated shorts is quite obvious in the style of puppetry design. The faces use a variation of Pal’s system of substitution faces rather than animating the features. A quick dissolve is used to smooth the transition of facial reactions.

The next film ,THE STORY OF LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD (1949) ,showed more confidence ,experimenting with camera movements ,and lighting. It also boasted a voice over narration by actor Hugh Douglas.

hanselTHE STORY OF HANSEL & GRETEL (1951)was once again narrated by Hugh Douglas ,has more reassured camera moves, and even uses some rear projection for a giant oven fire mixed with the stop motion animation figures .

THE STORY OF RAPUNZEL (1951), this time narrated by Del Moore ,seems a bit more stilted than the previous effort ,and the witch figure seems to be just a repainting of the witch from the previous film.

THE STORY OF KING MIDAS (1953),the final of Harryhausen’s short stories on this disc, is the most assured. Once again narrated by Del Moore, the character work on the faces is much more assured, and the villain of the piece is a marvelous piece of villainous design.midas

As a bonus, we get a variation of Little Red Riding Hood, this time via a short 1949 color film of the Wahmann Hand Puppets. The film was released by Encyclopedia Britannica Films, and was produced by Helen Wahmann Lanthop and Lee Wahmann Keel, co-founders of the Children’s Artist Series and the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, North Carolina (still in existence today). It is a straightforward recording of a well rendered puppet show telling of the familiar tale.

Back in 2005, RAY HARRYHAUSEN: EARLY YEARS (Sparkhill /Global Entertainment) was a two disc Special Edition that included the Harryhausen shorts on this disc, as well as a completed TORTOISE & THE HARE and many other extras. That collection is out of print and selling for over $100 . The Alpha/OLDIES.COM Collection is an affordable alternative to that release, and their prints are quite clean and acceptable.rh-the-early-years-collection-dvd-pal
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Next up is the well named STRANGE & UNUSUAL CHRISTMAS FILMS. The films are an odd mash up of color and black & white shorts made between 1945 through 1961. Many of them have been used and featured in recent Rifftrax Comedy Christmas specials, and once you see them, you will know why .

behind-scens-xmas-dreamThe 1945 Czech made “Vánoční sen” was released in the U.S. to tv and home video by Castle Films in 1948 as A CHRISTMAS DREAM . This was the first film that director Karl Zeman mixed live action and stop motion animation . He later become world famous for fantasy films like THE FABULOUS WORLD OF JULES VERNE (Czech: Vynález zkázy /The Deadly Invention,1958,released by WB in 1961).Consider that this short was made when there was devastating rationing due to Nazi occupation until April,1945, it is astounding that the film has such a magical feel.In effect, a young girl neglects her old toy for a new toy,and the older one comes to life.

The English dubbing, however, makes the film enter into the realm of creepy. The high pitched voice of the doll will make a younger generation think of Mr Hankie from tv’s SOUTH PARK (Comedy Central,1997-still running) .

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Next up is SANTA CLAUS‘ STORY (Board of Education,Buffalo,1945).In this story,Santa appears to two little children and tells them “A story you‘ ll always remember“ – about monkeys. That’s right, lots of footage of monkeys. Did I mention monkeys? These first two films have been satirized by the Rifftrax team during their various Christmas specials .

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS(Castle Films,1946) is a live action telling of the the classic Clement C Moore tale, with bits of cartoon animation thrown in. The only thing wierd about it is how it haphazardly jumps from cartoon animation to live action, but is probably the most “normal“ film on the disc.

SANTA IN ANIMAL LAND (Art Reels Production/Official Films,1948)- A bunch of big headed animals get together and go to the North Pole to ask Santa Claus for gifts. This is basically a puppet show that was filmed. However, the behind the scenes history is very interesting. Puppeteer Alfred Wallace (1914-1985) was a Native American puppeteer who had a strong career in the nightclubs during the 1930s through the 1950s. His specialty seemed to have been political satire ,using puppets such as FDR as a baby, or a Senator puppet with two faces. This production seems more like a work for hire piece.

 

 

ACD Systems Digital Imaging

The 1945 Czech made “Vánoční sen

 

 

SANTA & THE FAIRY SNOW QUEEN(Sid Davis Productions 1951)is probably the longest film in the collection(26 minutes) and the first in color .Sid Davis is a man best known for his public scare films, mostly about not talking to strangers ,running with scissors or you’ll impale yourself ,or the ‘dangers ‘of homosexuality .fairy Here, he seems to be showing you the dangers of community theatre telling a Christmas tale . Using public domain music , several annoying toys come to life(someone stop Jack In The Box,please!),an  female Elf named Snoopy and a drunk sounding Santa encounter a thick accented Snow Queen. This episode too has been spoofed by the Rifftrax team, but here you can experience it in all it’s bizarre glory.sfq100

THE ELF & MR. LITTLE (1953)seems to be a short made for local television (due to the chroma-key titles) Christmas tale shot in Arizona . It features marionettes by Rex Crum,better known as Rex Castle,who while Arizona based,toured and performed all over the world,even on Cruise ships and Las Vegas Night Clubs.In this a toymaker and his wife meet a Christmas elf.

 

SILENT NIGHT: THE STORY OF THE CHRISTMAS CAROL (Coronet ,1953)is a live action telling of how the famous song came into being.Though shot in color, the print appears at times to have faded almost to black and white.

THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL (CASTLE FILMS,1954)- Hans Christian Anderson’s 1845 story was shot as a live action French short in 1952,that Castle Films re-dubbed and sold on 16mm as well as to television syndication. While many of us think of a the Danish story teller as making lively children’s stories, a lot of his tales are damn depressing ! The Brave Tin Soldier has the title character melted with his ballerina love, the Little Mermaid in its original incarnation had the title character wanting to murder the Prince to get his blood , and then there is this ,the most depressing and saddest of all his stories.

A little barefoot Match Girl is forced into the cold by her (unseen) father to sell her wares. Hungry and cold, she lights her matches for warmth to no avail.As she dies, she sees a vision of the Virgin Mary (in the original story, it is her grandmother who greats her )who floats her off to Heaven. Actually, Anderson was ,like his contemporary Charles Dickens ,was pointing out the inequities of the poor and wanted to show how we neglect our fellow humans.

THE LITTLE LAMB: A CHRISTMAS STORY (Castle Films/United World 1955) is a live action film where a mother (Maureen O’Sullivan), after having her brood of five children say their prayers, tells them a story of a lost lamb and the Nativity. Morris Ankum, known mostly for playing generals and judges, here plays Azur The Shepherd. Not so much strange as a straightforward Christian tale.

CHRISTMAS FAIRY TALE (1961), seems to be a Canadian made film about a little girl who looks at a book and suddenly it dissolves to barely moving clockwork mechanisms. In fact, over 6 minutes of its nearly ten-minute running time is footage is of a revolving diorama with non-moving figures that have a narrator filling in the story!hqdefault

If you want another interesting animated stocking stuffer ,check out also the just released                                                                                 LOST COLD-WAR PROPAGANDA CARTOONS-Color –                                                                       http://www.oldies.com/product-view/7874D.html

 

Kevin G Shinnick

edmund-penney-in-santa-and-the-fairy-snow-queen-1951

     (Go Home,Santa, you’re drunk !)

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ANY WAY I CAN: 50 YEARS IN SHOW BUSINESS by John Gay with Jennifer Gay Summers

SCARLET THE FILM MAGAZINE BOOK REVIEW

ANY WAY I CAN: 50 YEARS IN SHOW BUSINESS by John Gay with Jennifer Gay Summers

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$19.95 BEAR MANOR MEDIA 240 pages

Available via

http://www.jennifergaysummers.com/book.php

or
Available at BEAR MANOR MEDIA

 http://www.bearmanormedia.com/any-way-i-can-50-years-in-show-business-by-john-gay-with-jennifer-gay-summers

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Many people know the actors who star in their favorite shows and movies, and others know the directors. The person who is most forgotten is the writer, the person who basically creates the world in which the stories take place.

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One of these artists is screen, teleplay, and stage play writer John Gay. Now Mr. Gay, with the assist of one of his children, daughter Jennifer Gay Summers, has put out his autobiography.jennifer-gay-summers1

 

And what a fascinating life it is. The California born Mr. Gay talks about the lure of acting and how it drew him across country (after serving our country in WWII ) to become an actor. Working in summer stock, he soon gained a great deal of experience as well as meeting his partner and wife Barbara “Bobbie” Meyer.

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Venturing to New York, their attempts at gaining acting work led them to entering the new media of television ,broadcasting live several nights a week from the top of the New Amsterdam Theatre (the former home of the Ziegfeld Follies and now the House of Mouse where the hit musical ALADDIN currently resides).o

 

The show, APARTMENT 3C had only two actors (the husband and wife team) and due to the low budgets, Gay had to also write the shows himself! The program became the second show broadcast from fledgling station WOR in 1949. A modest hit, it gave John Gay not only an extra avenue for revenue but a career for which he would greatly excel.brewster_fig35

Their second show ,MR & MRS MYSTERY had a larger budget (they were allowed to hire other actors ) and Mr. Gay was able to parlay those into other writing assignments for the Golden Age of Television (KRAFT TELEVISON THEATRE ,PLAYHOUSE 90 )and crossing paths with such greats as Rod Sterling and Sidney Lumet.wor_tv_xmtr_room_color

 

His first screenwriting assignment was for the Burt Lancaster /Clark Gable submarine drama RUN SILENT RUN DEEP (1958/UA). His second screenplay earned him an Oscar nomination (along with co-writer Terrence Rattigan) for SEPARATE TABLES (1958/UA).h

 

From there he was now a full-fledged screenwriter, working with the likes of Vincente Minnelli (twice, neither of which were happy experiences) as well as actors like Rod Steiger (twice, in two gems well worth seeking out (NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY (1968 Paramount) and HENNESSY (AIP 1976)) and Paul Newman (SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION 1971/Universal).gd

 

He nearly worked with science fiction great Ray Bradbury on the troubled production of WHITE HUNTER BLACK HEART, which remained unmade until Clint Eastwood and different writers turned it in a feature.

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In the 1970s, when television really began turning out movies of the week and adaptations of classics, Mr. Gay seemed to have been involved with almost every great production. Many of my well-remembered favorites had a title mentioning John Gay as the Adaptor or Teleplay By credit. KILL ME IF YOU CAN (NBC,1977) had Alan Alda embody killer Caryl Chessman ; Anthony Hopkins as THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (CBS HALLMARK ,1982) ; LES MISERABLES (CBS HALLMARK 1978) and so many others. Plus he did superior TV remakes of mystery classics DIAL M FOR MURDER (ABC, 1981) WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (CBS HALLMARK 1982), and SHADOW OF A DOUBT (NBC HALLMARK 1991). The list goes on and on .f

 

 

He took his skill as a story teller to the stage, having VINCENT PRICE remind people what a brilliant and versatile actor he truly was in DIVERSIONS & DELIGHTS, a play about Oscar Wilde. Price took the play all over the world, doing well everywhere but NYC (when the New York Times critics could still kill a show).

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Mr. Gay is a wonderful writer, telling his life story with wit, good grace and honesty. Indeed, it is one of the few books that I have read lately that I wish had been longer (Mr. Gay dismisses his work on the troubled George Pal science fiction film THE POWER (MGM, 1968) with just a line or two).b

Having turned 92 this past April,2016 , we are pleased that he and his daughter have shared his wonderful story with us. I have been careful not to give too much away so that you can discover the wonderful life of John Gay within the pages of ANY WAY I CAN.a

 

RECOMMENDED.

Kevin G Shinnick

Full Disclosure: I have been in contact with the author and his charming daughter for several years now as I attempted and finally successfully directed the first NYC Equity Production of DIVERSIONS & DELIGHTS in 35 years. The chapters 40 and 43 deal with this wonderful gem of a play.

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originally published March 30,2015  SCARLET THE FILM MAGAZINE Facebook page

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