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BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ (U.A.1962) Olive Films Blu Ray

BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ (U.A.,1962) b&w 149 minutes new release by OLIVE FILMS DVD. $18.99 BLU RAY $21.99
https://olivefilms.com/product/birdman-of-alcatraz/

John Frankenheimer (February 19, 1930 – July 6, 2002) is one of my favorite directors of the 1960s. The New York born Frankenheimer first began filmmaking while he was in the Air Force. In 1948, he began as an assistant director at CBS, working his way up to director on the popular YOU ARE THERE series in 1954. He showed himself a fast worker who never sacrificed quality, and soon directed his first theatrical feature in 1957 (THE YOUNG STRANGER, RKO) when he was 26. He had directed the episode “Deal A Blow” for CLIMAX on which it was based two years earlier.

It was a modest success so Frankenheimer returned to television, where he excelled in live dramas. His production of “Turn Of The Screw” (STARTIME, NBC) starred Ingrid Bergman, so he was used to working with star powerhouses.

In 1961, he directed THE YOUNG SAVAGES (U.A.), starring Burt Lancaster and Telly Savalas. Producer /star Lancaster must have liked what he saw, so when he fired British director Charles Crichton from his next pet project, he brought in Frankenheimer to take over BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ.

 

Lancaster was a huge star, and one of the first to create his own production company (Norma Productions, for whom he had begun making films in 1948 with KISS THE BLOOD OFF MY HANDS, Universal). A perfectionist, he was a hard person to work for, as the slightest weakness he would tear into you (thus the departure of Crichton).Luckily, Frankenheimer would prove his mettle with this film, and go on to make classics like THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE(U.A. 1962 ,starring Frank Sinatra in one of the best political thrillers ever made),SEVEN DAYS IN MAY (U.A.1964 with Lancaster again), THE TRAIN (U.A.1964 again with Lancaster) and SECONDS (1966 Rock Hudson’s best performance).

 


All these films were shot in stunning black and white, with Frankenheimer wisely moving his camera as little as possible, letting the performances play out.

Back to BIRDMAN:


The real Robert Franklin Stroud (January 28,1890 -November 21,1963) was a murderer who in 1909 killed a bartender and took his wallet when the victim refused to pay services to a woman Stroud was pimping. Due to his violence (he stabbed an orderly), he was transferred to Leavenworth, Kansas. In 1916, when he was refused a visit by his brother, Stroud stabbed a guard to death. He was sentenced to death and put in solitary confinement while awaiting his punishment to be meted out.

 


His mother succeeded in convincing President Woodrow Wilson to commute the sentence to life, though remaining in solitary confinement. Over the course of 30 years in Leavenworth, he saved sick birds, and wrote books upon their treatment and care, as well as developing medicines for sale.

He married a woman though more to help him keep his birds and business than any real love on his part, as Stroud was a homosexual, and indeed was considered a violently predatory one.

 


When it was discovered that his medical equipment had also been used as a still, he was transferred in 1942 to Alcatraz, ironically without his birds or equipment (I guess BIRDMAN OF LEAVENWORTH has less of a ring to it). He spent 6 years in solitary and 11 in the prison hospital, then in 1959 until his death from natural causes in 1963 he remained in The Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield Missouri. He was never allowed to see the film based upon his life.

Besides the publicity generated over the years by Stroud, his wife, and mother, author Thomas Eugene Gaddis wrote a biography of Stroud, BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ (Random House, NY 1955). Gaddis later wrote KILLER: A JOURNAL OF MURDER (1970) about serial killer Carl Panzram. This story too was adapted for the screen, starring James Wood (Legacy/ Republic ,1995). BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ was a nationwide best seller, which of course brought it to the attention of Hollywood.

The story of Stroud and his birds intrigued Lancaster and screenwriter Guy Trosper (JAILHOUSE ROCK, MGM,1957), who turned the violent Stroud tale into a terrible man redeemed by his love of birds, as well as a story of a little guy who took on the system and, while if he didn’t win, came out better than expected.

 


Lancaster was a lifelong liberal, having grown up poor, and always wanting to make the world better. In this tale, he saw a story of redemption, and indeed Lancaster campaigned unsuccessfully for years to get Stroud released, and for the rest of his life Lancaster was an advocate for prison reform.

Like many cinematic biographies, though following the central story, certain elements were altered to make the main character more likeable (i.e.-General Custer in THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON (WB,1941). In this case, Stroud is whitewashed from the sociopath who inspired the tale. The film works on its own strengths, though knowing the facts makes it harder to enjoy. It also does show the dehumanizing treatment in some prison systems, which is also an important issue.

 

 

The plot
Robert Stroud (Burt Lancaster) is a troublemaker prisoner. On the train to prison for a murder that he committed in Alaska (the film dialogue makes it appear he came to the rescue of a woman’s honor, but in real life he was a pimp who killed the man who refused to pay his working girl), he breaks the window in their car, so the other prisoners can get some air.

Warden Harvey Shoemaker (Karl Malden) notes that he will be keeping a special eye upon his newest prisoner during his stay in Leavenworth Prison. He has several points against him when he is told that his mother was turned away for a visit and told to return another time (in real life it was his brother who was turned away. The brother is eliminated from the screenplay, but in real life Stroud’s mother was a major force ).

After trying to convince a guard not to revoke his visitation privileges, the guard berates him in front of everyone in the dining room and tells him to sit down. Angered, Stroud knives the guard ,who slumps to the floor, dead.

 

Now charged with the additional murder, he is sentenced now to be executed. While awaiting the sentence being carried out, he is placed in solitary confinement. His mother (the wonderful Thelma Ritter, who in real life was the real-life mom of John Ritter) pleads with President Wilson’s wife for mercy for her son. Amazingly, her campaign works, and his sentence is transmuted to life in solitary.

 


Prisoners in solitary were allowed one hour into the courtyard alone, and one day, Stroud finds a wounded bird. He takes the injured creature to his cell and begins to care for it. Soon, he has turned his cell into an aviary, and even gets a prisoner in the next cell Feto Gomez (Telly Savalas, who made his film debut in THE YOUNG SAVAGES) to also begin caring for some. He also receives some aid from his guard, Bull Ransom (Neville Brand, on the other side of the bars, after his wonderful performance in RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11,A.A.,1954)

However, they become ill, and begin dying. Frantic, Stroud scours the library of the prison, and creates a makeshift medicine that seems to cure the birds. The prison doctor (the great Whit Bissell) offers help and suggestions. He publishes a book on his findings and gains some notoriety.

 

One of his fans, Stella Johnson (Betty Field) goes to meet him and Stroud decides that they should go into business. Stella falls in love with Stroud, and they are married. This proves a breaking point for Stroud’s mother, who decides that he has put another woman before her. They never speak again.

 

Stroud gets upset and uses his lab to make some makeshift alcohol. This is what prison officials have been waiting for, and he is sent to the new maximum-security prison, Alcatraz (a federal prison from 1934-1963). Most heartbreaking, he is sent immediately with only the clothes on his back, his equipment and birds they make him leave behind.

At Alcatraz, he finds that his old warden Shoemaker is in charge there. The prison is more modern and the food better, but it is also restrictive of what is allowed. Stroud finds that Feto is also there, now as a trustee. Stroud is visited by Stella, who offers to move nearer so she can still see him, but he tells her that she should find someone else.

Years pass, and Stroud, still rebellious, even manages to help stop a 1946 prison rebellion that became known as The Battle of Alcatraz. The event began when Bernard Paul Coy and five accomplices attempted to escape. Scaling the cages that formed the gallery (known as Times Square and Michigan Ave by the prisoners), Coy also bent some bars with a crude device that he had fashioned. He was able to then get a guard’s Billy club and over power a guard (in the film he uses a gun). Soon he was distributing weapons to other prisoners and the guards were held prisoner.

 

Unable to escape, as one of the guards had hidden the key they most needed, Joseph Cretzer began shooting into the cell where the captured guards were held. The Coast Guard and the marines were called in.


Stroud tried to end the shootout. At 56 years old, he climbed railings and then lowered himself to the second tier, dropping to the floor of D Block. He closed doors to safeguard the wounded, and that there were no weapons now in D block but that if they kept firing the would be killing unarmed guards and wounded prisoners. In the film, he is shown tossing out the remaining weapons, but the battle raged on in another area, with the leader found dead in a guard’s uniform. In real life, two correction officers and three prisoners died, with two others executed together for the murder of a guard, while a third was given an additional 99 years to his life sentence.

It did not seem to do anything to help Stroud, however, and he stayed in Alcatraz until, due to petitions and his failing help, he was transferred to the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield , Missouri in 1959 .Arriving on the mainland after decades , the handcuffed older Stroud is met by reporters who asks him how it feels to be entering a world so changed. He makes a joke after someone asks him about television (“From what I hear I m not missing much”) then shows how much he has learned, as he looks up to the sky and sees a plane, describes its make and its working specs. He even meets Thomas E Gaddis (played by Edmond O’Brien) who had written his biography. He is going to a facility which will be less restrictive, and he feels free and at peace.

The film received several Oscar nominations :
Lancaster(losing to Gregory Peck in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, Universal ), Thelma Ritter(who lost to Patty Duke in THE MIRACLE WORKER,U.A.) , Telly Savalas (losing to Ed Begley in SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH,MGM) ,Burnett Guffey for cinematography (losing to Jean Bourgoin, Walter Wottiz and Henry Persin for THE LONGEST DAY, Fox) and failing to win a Best Picture or Best Director nod . The film was also not a financial success, though a critical one, which is being appreciated more as time goes on.

BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ had been released in 2014 by Twilight Time, but its 3,000-print run quickly sold out. Olive Films picked up the release to make it available to fans who missed the prior release. It is not quite the same, however, as it has some different extras.

Not having the prior version,  I must say that the Olive Film releases is stunning.


The sound in 1.0 DTS-HD MA is clear and sharp and the dialog and Elmer Bernstein’s score is never overpowering but emotionally effective. 1962 was a great year for the composer, as he also wrote the understated but powerful music for TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (Universal,1962). The prison riot scene I had to lower the sound a bit, but it was not overwhelming, and no fake stereo was added.

The picture quality (1080p/AVC MPEG-4) is sharp and clear, and I found it one of the best presentations of the title which I have ever seen. Some reviewers found the transfer dark, but I had no such quibble.

The optional subtitles (English only) are easy to read and follow the action and dialog precisely.

Where the Olive Film differs from Twilight Time’s release is the different extras.

There is no isolated score track, and the audio commentary is different.

The running audio commentary here is by Lancaster biographer Kate Buford (BURT LANCASTER: AN AMERICAN LIFE, Knopf,2000). Ms. Buford has a radio program on NPR, but here, she seems a bit ill at ease in front of a microphone. Studied pacing and a continuous monotone show the importance of a commentator to not only be knowledgeable but also able to transfer their excitement about the subject. This should not dissuade you from listening, as Ms. Buford delivers a wealth of information about the film as well as the real-life subjects upon whom the film is based. I also liked her opinion that BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ could have worked very well as a silent film, since the acting and direction tells us much without dialog.

The original Theatrical trailer also appears on this disc (as well as the o.o.p Twilight Time).

Extras aside, the main thing is, is this BLU RAY worth adding to my collection. I would wholeheartedly say YES, due to the quality of the film itself, as well as the audio and image quality of the disc.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for fans of prison pictures, true story adaptations, Burt Lancaster, Telly Savalas, and the superb supporting cast, as well as the work of John Frankenheimer.

-Kevin G Shinnick

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WUTHERING HEIGHTS (1970) Twilight Time Blu Ray

Wuthering Heights ,1970 A.I.P ( Twilight Time Blu-ray – limited pressing of 3,000 only)
Region free. Color . 1 hr 44 mins List Price: $29.95
https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/wuthering-heights-blu-ray/

AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURES never won an Academy Award. It was too busy making money on low budget features. While the larger studios saw their profits dipping due to changing audience demographics and the lure of television, A.I.P was able to make films that would appeal to certain demographics, seeing trends and making films cheaply and quickly.

Teenage themed -movies, horror movies, and later rebel outsider films were popular with the younger crowds who were filling drive -ins.

Then Roger Corman threw off their formula. He made a horror film, yes but it was as expensive as two of their regular films, in color and wide screen.

It made money. Lots of it. Better, it got good reviews. AIP was getting respectability.
It was a heady experience to finally stop being the Rodney Dangerfield of studios.

Oh, they kept grinding out Beach blankets stuffed into a wild bikini on wheels two headed transplants, but they also would continue to do, for them, a prestige picture, usually with the name of Edgar Allan Poe attached.

The zenith of these films was MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (AIP ,1964) which was incredibly stylish (thanks to the magnificent cinematography of Nicholas Roeg).

 czech poster WUTHERING HEIGHTS 1970

AIP kept grinding out films, doing quite well but reviews were of the nature of “good for its kind”.

In 1970, they took a chance again on some “prestige” pictures, picking up for distribution the independent produced feature JULIUS CAESAR (1970) starring Charlton Heston, Jason Robards, John Gielgud, Diana Rigg, and many others. It flopped both financially and critically.

However, Louis M.” Deke” Heyward, who oversaw A.I.P. productions lensed in the U.K. (and whose career included the tv animated series WINKY DINK & YOU ,1953)pushed for something more ambitious.

Franco Zeffirelli ‘s ROMEO & JULIET (Paramount,1968) had been a huge cross over hit with both young audiences as well as their parents, and Heyward felt that he had a classic romance that would appeal to a similar cross over crowd.  Also in 1970 , M.G.M. was going to release a big historical romance ,RYAN’s DAUGHTER, so A.I.P. probably felt that this would a trend worth taking part in.

With one of the largest budgets ever accorded an American International film (publicity bragged about 3 million dollars, equivalent to what United Artists spent on their 1971 prestige period film THE MUSIC LOVERS by Ken Russell. In comparison, another U.K. production from AIP in 1970, SCREAM & SCREAM AGAIN, cost about $350,000.).

Emily Bronte’s only novel, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, was published in 1847 with a pseudonym used for the author (“Ellis Belle”). Emily Bronte died the following year at age 30 from tuberculosis. Charlotte edited the novel and had the novel published again under her sister’s proper name in 1850. By then the name Bronte was known due to the other sister’s works, Anne’s AGNES GRAY (1847, under the pen name Acton Bell then under her own name in 1850) and Charlotte’s JANE EYRE (1947 under the name Currer Bell, then the following year in the United States by Charlotte Bronte)

The tragedy of Emily’s early death adds an air of tragic Romanticism that already permeates the novel. The work was received with mixed feelings, some due to its criticism of Victorian mores. It was, however, a big seller, and has become required reading in many college literature classes.

To me, revisiting the book recently, it seemed to me to be a story of a dysfunctional destructive relationship that would not be out of place in a 50 SHADES OF GRAY story! Her playing with his affections and his obsessiveness destroys them both, with events of mental and physical abuse that make a modern reader ponder, so one can imagine how readers of that more gentile time reacted.

 

Still ,the basic story stayed popular with readers ,and it’s basic structure served as a frame work for future popular novels as GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell (1936 ,MacMillan) REBECCA by Daphne Du Maurier(1938 ,Victor Golanz,U.K.) and DRAGONWYCK by Anya Seton (1944,Houghton Miffin ).Incidentally ,Twilight Time has just released a magnificent must have Blue Ray of the film of DRAGONWYCK https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/dragonwyck-blu-ray/

 

The first film version of WUTHERING HEIGHTS was a 1920 British silent, now sadly lost.

 

In 1939, often called the greatest year for movies, Samuel Goldwyn produced the version now best remembered telling of the tale, with director William Wyler guiding a superlative cast and crew through a stirring moving version of the tale. Laurence Olivier became a movie matinee idol (though he had starred in several films before as well as being a star of the stage in two countries) due to his brooding portrayal of Heathcliff. The director and star often clashed, but in the end, Olivier was glad that Wyler how to truly focus as a film actor. Merle Oberon embodied Cathy, David Niven the good but weak Edgar, Donald Crisp, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Flora Robson…. An embarrassment of acting riches. Add to that a literate screenplay by FRONT PAGE creators Charles MacArthur & Ben Hecht, a beautiful Alfred Newman score and cinematography by the magnificent Gregg Toland, it is little wonder that the film in 2007 was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry.

Eliminated from this version was the son that Heathcliff fathered nor Cathy’s daughter, both of whom are major characters at the end of the novel. However, the ending of this film retains a powerful gothic and supernatural finale that leaves people weeping.

The BBC over the years has done various versions for tv and American television produced various adaptations , such as this heavily abridged production for CBS in 1950, starring a very stiff Charlton Heston as Heathcliff https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbiaEgjgJX8 .

 

The 1970 version had a screenplay by Patrick Tilley, who seemed to have had a limited career. An episode of an obscure U.K. tv series starring Patrick Allen called CRANE (1963-5, A.R.T.), additional dialogue for a 1968 caper film called ONLY WHEN I LARF(Paramount)and then this. Later he went on to write for Amicus /AIP the film THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT (1977), the disappointing THE LEGACY (Universal,1978) and another supernatural obscurity, GUN OF THE BLACK SUN (2011).

Like many previous versions, the second half of the book is jettisoned to concentrate on the obsessive love/hate relationship of Heathcliff and Cathy.


Chosen to oversee this adaptation was former art director turned director Robert Fuest. Fuest had mostly done television, helming several episodes of THE AVENGERS (A.B.C.,1961-9). He changed his style for his directorial debut to a more subtle one in his superlative thriller AND SOON THE DARKNESS (1970, Associated British/EMI) before moving on to WUTHERING HEIGHTS. A.I.P must have liked what he did, as they let him go back to his flashier style in the brilliant ABOMINABLE DR PHIBES (1971) and its sequel.

Composer Michel Legrand gave the film an extra feeling of class, as he had worked on such major films as ICE STATION ZEBRA (MGM ,1968). Here, he writes a classical theme that underlines the tragedy and romance of the piece.

His choice of cinematographer John Coquillon had a wonderful feel for period, as he lensed AIP/Tigon’s WITCHFINDER GENERAL in 1968. The color and cinematography help create the sense of mood, of isolation and madness. Coquillon would go on to be a director of photography on several later Sam Peckinpah films, including STRAW DOGS (ABC/Cinerama ,1971).

The opening shot right away sets up the film. A close shot of a beautiful field and babbling brook, then the camera tilts up and, in the background, we see a funeral taking place. We observe the sad mourners as the body is lowered into the grave. One of the mourners looks up and the camera shows a lone horseman silhouetted against the gray barren sky. This is our introduction to Cathy (already dead) and Heathcliff (and aloof figure apart from the rest).
After the titles (by Maurice Binder, not what we expect from the dazzling eye of the designer of the magnificent James Bond openings), we flash back to a family awaiting the return of their father.

The children are awaiting gifts, and even the servant girl as been promised something special. However, when Mr. Earnshaw (the marvelous Harry Andrews) finally arrives, he has with him a small orphan boy, looking almost wildly feral, that he claims that he found in London. Mrs. Earnshaw (Rosalie Crutchley) is angry, feeling that the husband has in fact brought home the result of one of his affairs (adding a dark hint of incest to the rest of the tale, if true). Mr. Earnshaw says no, but that he has named the child Heathcliff, in memory of a son they had who died some time before.

Turkish poster

Their son Hindley takes an instant dislike to Heathcliff, as he sees that a gift that his father has brought him is broken, blaming his new “brother”. The mother implores her husband that he not forget Hindley in his inheritance, and not favor the cuckoo in their family nest. Their young daughter Cathy seems fascinated by the young man.

 

Years later (the film, like the original tale, is set during the mid-1700s), Hindley (now played by Julian Glover) is master and treats Heathcliff (now portrayed by Timothy Dalton) as little more than a servant.

The resentment between the pair is palpable, but the only thing that keeps Heathcliff there is his love for Cathy (Anna Calder-Marshall). Fuest’s first shot of the now adult young woman hints already at her unstable nature, which will see grow as the story goes on.

When Hindley’s wife dies in childbirth, his already sadistic nature comes out full force, sending all his pain and anger towards Heathcliff. Hindley’s drinking exacerbates the problem.

Catherine accepts the proposal of wealthy neighbor Edgar Linton (Ian Ogilvy) but confides to servant Nelly (Judy Cornwall) that she still loves Heathcliff. However, because of the social stigma, she cannot marry someone below her station.

This drives Heathcliff to his vow of revenge, which ends up in destruction for the main characters, with Heathcliff cursing his love to haunt him forever.

While the 1939 adaptation had a sense of heightened almost operatic passion, the 1970 version due to it’s location filming, has a feeling of being more grounded. Therefore, though the film was rated G, the brutality seems more violent. Bucking the trend of many films of the time, the sex is not shown onscreen but that the destructive passion between the two leads is quite palpable, with Heathcliff becoming a brutal Stanley Kowalski in ruffles dealing with his mad paramour.

 

This was Timothy Dalton’s first leading film role, after making his screen debut in THE LION IN WINTER (Avco Embassy,1968) as the scheming King Phillip of France. He also played the weak Prince in the big budget CROMWELL(Columbia,1970) and the next year the weak Henry, Lord Darnley in MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS (Universal ,1971). Here, he is a brooding, barely contained wounded animal, who slowly comes undone due to his obsession. While Olivier in the 1939 version always seemed to be thinking, Dalton is almost animalistic, with his moments of passion turning quickly into wounded anger, lashing out at all.

Anna Calder-Marshall is fascinating in her portrayal of Cathy. As mentioned, she hints at the inner demons that are growing within her, so when we see her eyes when she reappears at the end to tempt Heathcliff to his death, her eyes (in close ups shot during reshoots to patch up studio cuts) have an evil madness that would fit in perfectly with any Roger Corman Poe villainess. Sadly, she did not do a lot of film and television (she was a marvelous Cordelia to Laurence Oliver’s Lear in the 1983 ITV tv adaptation), seemingly satisfied to be married to David Burke (one of Jeremy Brett’s two t.v. Dr Watsons) and mother to actor Tom Burke.

The film was the first A.I.P. motion picture to premiere at the RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL. Critical reviews were mixed, and though the film did decently at the box office, it was not enough for A.I.P., and so several planned classic story adaptations were dropped.

 


When the film was released on VHS, the color was muted, and the image seemed compressed. Later, when MGM took over the A.I.P library, they released a much cleaner version of the film to DVD (including one that was sold along with the cliff notes of the book!!).

TWILIGHT TIME, once again, has released what perhaps is the best version of this film that we will ever see. The color palette seems to be a proper gray, brown and gray tone, conveying the feelings of the rustic and lonely wild countryside. The film is presented in 1:85:1 widescreen in a 1080p transfer.


The sound is 1.0 DTS-HD, which is fine for the film. There never were any major audio effects, but the music and sound are all crisp.

There are optional English subtitles that follow the dialogue and action and are quite easy to read.


Other extras include the isolated music score by Michel Legrand. Originally released on vinyl (on AIP’s short-lived AIR RECORDS, A-1039) and later a limited-edition CD from LA LA LAND, LLLCD 1087), you can now enjoy his beautiful score seeing how much it supports the imagery of the film.

 

The original theatrical trailer is also presented, where we are “introduced” to Timothy Dalton, and told Timothy Dalton is Heathcliff, Heathcliff is Timothy Dalton and Anna Calder-Marshall is Cathy while Cathy is Anna Calder-Marshall. Got that?

 


The greatest extra is the information packed running commentary by film historian Justin Humphreys (Interviews Too Shocking to Print, Bear Manor, 2016). While he gives some interesting background on the film’s history (including that director Curtis Harrington was originally developing the story before AIP moved him to WHOEVER SLEW AUNTIE ROO? (1971) and that Bryan Forbes of EMI recommended Fuest for the project, and that Ian Ogilvy and Hillary Dwyer are reunited after working on WITCHFINDER GENERAL), what is most fascinating is how he discusses the original cut of the film that seems no longer to exist.

Having a copy of the original screenplay, we are informed of sequences that makes us wonder why they were cut, while others we can understand their loss for clarity and running time. Sam Arkoff’s son does not think that a complete print exists, and that the original negative was cut to produce the version that stands. Humphreys also explains what is now missing, and that the voice overs were meant to patch over missing and reshot sequences.


Finally, once again Twilight Time provides us with a lovely booklet with an essay about the film by the always informative Julie Kirgo.

The disc is region free, and like most releases from the company, are a limited edition pressing of only 3,000.
Highly recommended for fans of classic Gothic Dramas.

Kevin G Shinnick

 

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ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES/D.O.A.-A RIGHT OF PASSAGE special editions Blu Rays from MVD REWIND

ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES (1978) (MVD Rewind) 2-disc special edition Blu Ray/DVD combo. 87 minutes color.

https://www.amazon.com/Attack-Killer-Tomatoes-Special-Blu-ray/dp/B075MYG9XC

Back in the 1970s and 80s, it was possible for independent films to get theatrical releases. A lot of these films would play their one week run and then disappear, unless they would end up as second features later for another film, or, perhaps a sale to television.

 

With the advent of the home video market, people were able to program their own films, whenever they wanted to view a film. Magnetic Video was one of the first companies to license titles (most were from major studios) and offer them for sale to consumers. The high mark up (many were $100) meant that people were more likely to rent than purchase, thus giving rise to video rental stores.

The offerings available on Beta (then VHS) were limited, due to studios wishing to prevent bootlegging of their titles. Smaller companies lept into fill the void for demanding renters (as well as the adult video market, which drove a lot of business for the video marketplace, but that is a different part of the story).

Suddenly, older public domain titles were appearing on store shelves, along with many independent films that had pretty much vanished after their original run. One of those indie labels was Media Home Entertainment, started in 1978 by filmmaker Charles Band. In 1981, one of the titles the company released was ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES (Four Square Productions).

ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES, unlike a lot of independent films, had a bit of name recognition. Johnny Carson, then at the height of his popularity as the star of THE TONIGHT SHOW, had mentioned the film on the program, and interviewed star Jack Riley (who at the time was known for his role in tv’s THE BOB NEWHART SHOW, MTM Productions) who survived an accidental helicopter crash that ended up in the final cut of the film.

 

It was one of the first films that I ever owned on video, and thus it has fond memories for me.

Who would have thought that the film would spawn three sequels (so far), a video game, comics, a novel, and an animated television series?

For the five people who have never heard of the film, the film is a spoof inspired by the bad horror films that the filmmakers grew up loving.

A series of mysterious killings (including one that spoofs JAWS ,Universal,1975) baffle everyone, until it is discovered that Tomatoes have become sentient and are murdering people in various ways. At one point, one knocks a helicopter down, causing it to crash. They say tomatoes can’t fly and the response is well tomatoes cannot kill people either!

Finally, it is discovered that an obnoxious teen song “Puberty Love” causes the members of the nightshade family to flee in horror. People size their chance and smash and mash them, until they are vanquished. However, just at the end, we see that the carrots are now preparing to arise….

The film is like the big budget spoof THE BIG BUS (Paramount,1976), which exaggerates and satirizes their respective genres (THE BIG BUS spoofs the popular “disaster films” of the 1970s) and were the forerunners of the everything AND the kitchen sink humor of AIRPLANE (Paramount,1980).

A.O.T.K.T. was inspired by a short film that the filmmakers had done years earlier and raised the funds to expand on the simple premise into a full-length feature. That they were able to raise between $90,000 -$100,000 is an amazing feat.

At times, though, the film feels a bit padded to fill it’s running time. Indeed, some of the best scenes are recreations of those that appeared in the original Super 8 short (plus the astounding helicopter accident of course). Also, a major drag is the use of many non-professionals in featured roles. Working with people like Jack Riley shows how uneven the performances are.

That said, the film hits the mark more often than misses, which is more than many bigger budgeted films can claim (I’m looking at you, VAMPIRE ACADEMY (Weinstein,2014, $30 million budget). Indeed, some of their throwaway jokes may be missed by the non-genre fan, but truly tickle the horror aficionado. My personal favorite is the dubbed Japanese scientist, which no one in the scene notices or comments upon!

The film’s fame even extends to being referenced in a foodie festival! 

 

Now, MVD/REWIND has given the film the deluxe treatment, giving it the kind of extras one would expect and find on the DUNKIRK (WB,2017) blu ray release.

First off, MVD REWIND has given the film a 4k remastering, with a hi-def (1080p) Blu-Ray as well as a standard definition of the film for DVD. The aspect ratio is 1.85.1.

Pulling out an old vhs copy shows how much the film has been given a facelift. Gone is the heavy grain that made me always think that it had been shot on 16mm and blown up to 35mm.

Now you can see the sharpness of the original 35mm photography, which is impressive for an independent production. HALLOWEEN (Compass,1978) also was shot in 35mm (as well as Panavision), which also elevated it from many indie films of the period.

Grain remains in some of the effects sequences, but that is from the original negative.

The sound is presented in LPCM 2.0 mono that is clean of pops and hisses. Some of the dialogue is low, but that is due to the original recording rather than any loss in the mix. The music does not drown out any of the dialogue or effects, which is a good or bad thing, depending upon how much of a fan that you are of the film.

We have a tomato basket full of extras for this release though I am unsure of how many of these are ported over from the long out of print Rhino 25th Anniversary .

There is a running audio commentary from the original team of John DeBello, Steve Peace, and Costa Dillon. The team recall their long friendship their original friendship that endures, and the process of putting together this cult feature. some 38 years ago.

There are three scenes that were deleted and while it is interesting to see these (which are in rougher form than the rest of the release), they would have added nothing to the film and in fact might have slowed the picture down.

LEGACY OF A LEGEND -is a collection of interviews with the team who created the original, as well as John Astin (who would star in the three sequels as well as provide his voice to the animated series), film critic Kevin Thomas and fan Bruce Vilanch, among others.

CRASH AND BURN is a brief discussion of the accidental helicopter crash, how the secondary camera kept rolling while the first shut off as the crash began, and how the actors came up with a way to work the incident into the plot, and work in one of the funniest lines about flying tomatoes.


FAMOUS FOUL– the San Diego Chicken reminiscences how he ended up in the film.


KILLER TOMATOMANIA – a man on the street interview with people walking along to see what they know of the film.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW– This was to me quite interesting. Many returned to their regular jobs ,but Steve Pearce went on to be a Democratic Senator in California (not to be confused with the New Mexico G.O.P. Congressman, who as far as I know, has never met a killer tomato , that the film had the first appearance of Dana Ashbrook , now best known for playing Bobby Briggs in the various incarnations of TWIN PEAKS, made his debut as an uncredited boy in boat ,and that the teenage vocalist of “Puberty Lovehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jViBFzytVXo is drummer Matt Cameron (Soundgarden ,The Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yO2FzVvA3TQ )!

WE TOLD YOU SO– a spoof investigation into killer tomato conspiracies.

    An actual NY POST cover also referenced the film for a salmonella scare!

SLATED FOR SUCCESS -a short bit about the original film’s slate woman.

ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES” – the original super 8mm short film. Running about 18 minutes, it begins with the scene of the tomato coming out of the sink and killing the woman, and several other major scenes that were later recreated in the feature. There is even the model tank sequence with miniature houses, and the surprise ending. There is also a commentary track by the original team.


GONE WITH THE BABUSULAND– another super 8mm short by the team. This one is over 32 minutes long but seems more self-indulgent. Having done my own super 8mm shorts, sometimes improv would bring out unexpected brilliance, and other times, well, editing comes in handy. A silent film made for a Kodak Film Festival  (which yours truly also submitted films) this also comes with commentary by the original team.

The original theatrical trailer.

Production Design Photo Gallery -six images.


Radio spots– these play over images from the film.

Vintage Retro Video Store Style Slipcover /O -Card (first pressing only). -For those old enough to remember the joy of discovering films lined along the video shelves, this was a nice touch.

Collectible Poster– to replace your long-tattered poster that you got when the video store was done with it.

In a press release, MVD Entertainment Group’s Eric D. Wilkinson , in charge of the MVD Rewind Collection , explains, “I’m a dedicated collector of movies on disc, with over 8,000 plus discs in my collection and I want collectors to know that the MVD Rewind Collection Blu-ray + DVD sets are being overseen by a collector and I will do my best to create the kind of releases you will look forward to adding to your collection every month.”

The other inaugural release from MVD REWIND is

D.O.A.: A Right of Passage Special Edition, 2-Disc Special Edition
https://www.amazon.com/D-Passage-2-Disc-Special-Blu-ray/dp/B075DSLWFS

D.O.A.: A RITE OF PASSAGE is a raw gritty Super 8 documentary about the 1978 Sex Pistols tour of the U.S. that ended with the group breaking up, practically all captured on camera as it happened. Mixed into the mix is footage of other bands like The Dead Boys, The Rich Kids, and others, plus some The Clash and Iggy Pop music tossed into the mix.

This title has long been unavailable, so for fans of Punk Music, this is a must have.

The film has been cleaned up as much as possible, but its graininess also feels right for the subject matter. It is a great time capsule of the period, though seeing Sid Vicious and girlfriend Nancy Spungen sends a chill down the spine (Spungen died in 1978 from a stab wound to the stomach. Sid was charged with the crime but died from a drug overdose before he could be tried. The Hotel Chelsea, where it happened, has been closed since 2011, but is scheduled to re-open this year).

Besides the feature (on separate Blu Ray and DVD discs), they have also added a feature length documentary on the making of the feature, with new interviews with people who were involved with the original production, as well as Sex Pistol Historian Mick O’Shea, and Ultravox lead singer Midge Ure.

A 12-page booklet by John Holmstrom, founding editor of PUNK magazine.

A photo Gallery

Reversible Cover Artwork

A collectible two-sided poster (I am going to need more wall space)

The original Theatrical Trailer.

 

In a press release, MVD Entertainment Group’s Eric D. Wilkinson , in charge of the MVD Rewind Collection , explains, “I’m a dedicated collector of movies on disc, with over 8,000 plus discs in my collection and I want collectors to know that the MVD Rewind Collection Blu-ray + DVD sets are being overseen by a collector and I will do my best to create the kind of releases you will look forward to adding to your collection every month.”

Should MVD REWIND  can continue the quality of these two-disc sets, the company  will be the Criterion of B Movies and Obscure Titles to watch out for.

Recommended.

Kevin G Shinnick

For more tomatoes merchandising go to
https://killertomatoes.com/

 

The Master of Disguise from ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES  .

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ENGLAND IS MINE (2017) Blu Ray

ENGLAND IS MINE – (Cleopatra Blu Ray) 2017. color.94 mins. Region A. $29.95- https://www.amazon.com/England-Mine-Blu-ray-Jack-Lowden/dp/B074R49SZX/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1513794098&sr=8-2&keywords=ENGLAND+IS+MINE

 

Indie icon Morrissey continues to stir controversy. His first album in three years, LOW IN HIGH SCHOOL, was released on a new label that he created after he felt his last release was mishandled.

 

He claimed that HMV was refusing to carry the album due to it’s anti -monarchy cover art as well as throwing his support behind an anti-Muslim politician in the U.K. (who was trounced) rather than throwing his arms around Paris. After seemingly defending Kevin Spacey and other serial abusers (“When you are in somebody’s bedroom, you have to be aware of where that can lead to. That’s why it does not sound very credible to me. It seems to me that Spacey has been attacked unnecessarily”), he has sworn off any future print interviews, saying that he was misquoted.

 

Plus, he has cancelled a recent spate of performances for a variety of reasons (one because the venue was “too cold”), so he has been front and center in the public’s eye, and not for his music. Even today as I write this, an hour ago he claimed that he was interviewed by the Secret Service after a flip comment about Donald Trump.

 

ENGLAND IS MINE is a film that seeks to explore what turned shy socially awkward intellectual became the darling of the alt rock scene as well as a dissent magnet.

 

 

Steven Patrick Morrissey (born 22 May 1959) to Irish Catholics who immigrated to Manchester, a poor working-class area. The film opens with Morrissey (marvelously embodied by Olivier Award winner Jack Lowden, also in the epic DUNKIRK( W.B,2017 )and to portray Lord Darnley in the upcoming MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS (Focus,2018) deep in thought about his place in life observing churning waters that seem to reflect his own inner turmoils.

He and his friend and confidante Anji (Katherine Pearce, recently in MY COUSIN RACHEL, Fox,2017) go to local clubs wherein he writes blistering letters to N.M.E.(New Musical Express). She says he should stop complaining about others and start his own band. To this end, she contacts another musician, who shows up at the appointed place, but Morrissey’s shyness has him run away before even chatting.

 

Meanwhile, all is not good at home, as his father abandons the family at Christmas, forcing the young man to take a dead-end job at the Inland Revenue Service. His outlook is bleak until he meets free spirited artist Linder (Jessica Brown Findlay, so good in VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN, Fox,2015). She exemplifies what he would like to be, and so he finally joins a band.

 

There first gig is so well received that an agent gives them his card. Morrissey quits his dead-end job, thinking that stardom is now his but finds that the agent only wanted their guitarist.

 

Morrissey plunges into a massive depression, made worse by Linder leaving for London due to her art.

 

The film ends just as Morrissey joins up with Johnny Marr (Laurie Kynaston, THEY FOUND HELL, Cinetel ,2015) to form The Smiths.

 

Lowden & Kynaston as Morrissey and Marr

 

Sadly, since this was not an authorized biography, the movie was not allowed to use any of Morrissey’s music. Instead, music that he loved and inspired him is used as a soundtrack to events happening. One would have liked music by the composer to be used, especially with The Smiths (The title ENGLAND IS MINE comes from “Still Ill”, a Smiths song (“England is mine, and it owes me a living”). The film began production as “Stevie”).

The real Marr & Morrissey

 

However, since this is set just prior to their formation, one could be forgiven that absence if more New York Dolls and Sex Pistols had been used. Instead, we are treated to Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, Diana Dors, The Shangri-Las, and The Marvelettes pops up. Mostly, it is not even used as ironic counterpoint. It might have been wiser to have had a completely original score.

 

Heaven Knows, I’m Miserable Now” (another Smiths hit) may have been a more appropriate title for the film, as this kitchen sink drama gets caught up in the depressive side of the singer composer’s life.

 

First time director Mark Gill (who co-wrote the screenplay with William Thacker) get the air of depressiveness that overwhelmed England during the time of Margaret Thatcher, but makes his lead a most unlikeable smug egomaniac (accurate perhaps, but not one with whom you wish to spend 90 minutes of cinema time).

 

It is odd that one of the producers of ENGLAND MADE ME was involved with CONTROL (Weinstein, 2007) which dealt with the life and early death of Ian Curtis ,the lead singer of Joy Division, at age 23. That film got it so right.

Another rock star biopic by a first-time director that works was NOWHERE BOY(Weinstein,2009), about young John Lennon.

The filmmakers make a lot of assumptions that the audience for this are die hard Smiths fans alone, and so no explanation is given for example of the fixation for the Moor Murders by the characters. For those who do not know, The Moors murders were of 5 children sexually assaulted and murdered between 1963 and 1965 around Manchester. Ian Brady and Myra Hindley were both convicted for the killings, Brady dying in prison in 2002, and Hindley just this past May,2017.

The Blu Ray disc from Cleopatra accurately reproduces the dark drab grays and blues of cinematographer Nicholas D. Knowland (The Quay Brothers’ INSTITUTE BENJAMENTA, Image 1995). It is presented in a widescreen ratio of 2.35:1

The 5.1 Dolby Digital 5.1 is serviceable, but nothing memorably outstanding.

The extras include:
SMOKE & MIRRORS: an onset chat with cinematographer Nicholas D Knowland .

Audio Commentary: Actor Jack Lowden and director Mark Gill discuss the making of the film. Both have a great deal of respect about each other’s work. Stand out moment to me was when Lowden said the most difficult thing for him to learn was to use a record player (! I’m old).

SAD FACTS WIDELY KNOWN: Some behind the scenes footage. It is without commentary, so it is best to check this out after watching the film to see what is going on.

Optional English subtitles: this may come in very handy for those not accustomed to English accents, and it follows the action quite well.

Original theatrical trailer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DHJa10Sa8A

The film will be of interest to

Fans of Morrissey (of course) who may say “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want”.

British Drama.

  –  Kevin G Shinnick

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ONE MILLION B.C. (V.C.I. Blu Ray)

ONE MILLION B.C. (Roach, 1940) (V.C.I. Blu Ray) B&W,82 minutes. S.R.P. $29.95

https://www.amazon.com/One-Million-B-C-Blu-ray/dp/B071XF71PD/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1513128658&sr=8-1&keywords=one+million+b.c+1940

Hal Roach (1892-1992) began producing short silent comedies in 1915 after receiving a small inheritance. He became the second largest producer of silent comedy shorts ,right after Mack Sennett.

After distributing through Pathe ,he switched over to MGM selling his product in 1927.

 

He began producing talking short subjects in 1929,often re-shooting in several language, his casts(including the Our Gang kids) learning the foreign languages phonetically.

 

In 1931 he began making some full length features (PARDON US) ,and except for The Our Gang/Little Rascals ,which he sold to MGM completely in 1938 ,he ceased production on short subjects.

Roach had a series of hit films like TOPPER (MGM,1937) and switching to United Artists to release his features, he put out such classics as OF MICE & MEN (1939).

One of his biggest and best known non Laurel & Hardy features from Hal Roach is the unique and well loved fantasy feature ONE MILLION B.C. (1940). The #1 box-office attraction of 1940 (excluding the roll-over receipts for Gone with the Wind (M.G.M. 1939)), the film was a special effects wonder ,whose dinosaur battles and earth splitting images were used as stock shots well into the 1960s .

The last film to have any involvement by the silent screen master D.W. Griffith (he directed many of the screen tests but not the actual film itself) , it earned two Academy Award nominations : Best Musical Score (Werner Heymann,losing to Disney‘s PINOCCHIO ) and Best Special Effects (Roy Seawright, Elmer Raguse, who saw that award go to Alexander Korda‘s THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD team).  Griffith had already dealt with cave men in his 1912 comedy MAN’s GENESIS (Biograph ,1912)

Hal Roach Sr & Junior both are credited as directors, they worked together seamlessly ,aided by superb camera work by Norbert Brodine,who was the studio’s chief director of photography on a majority of their films.

Stan & Ollie in FLYING ELEPHANTS (Roach/Pathe,1928)

 

I never noticed how much sweeping camera moves that were used in the film until I got this  Blu Ray,especially travelling around the studio filled sets created by Charles D Hall .Hall is best known for his stunning design work which defined the look of the Universal horror classics ,with his work on DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN(both 1931) .

This film is probably the closest any film came to creating the sense of wonder that KING KONG (RKO,1933) inspired ,as well as the box office results.Dinosaur pictures movies had been made since the silent era when Windsor McCay’s GERTIE THE DINOSAUR (1914). Sadly, few would use the time consuming stop motion that Willis O’Brien had become the undisputed master. ONE MILLION B.C. was another film that eschewed stop motion for men in T-Rex suits and animals and lizards portraying their prehistoric ancestors.

The film begins with a prologue meant to ease audiences into the main story.When a group of modern hikers take shelter in a cave, they meet an anthropologist (Conrad Nagel, billed as The Narrator) who interprets the cave drawings, saying they are about a young couple, similar to two in the hiking group, namely Carole Landis and Victor Mature .

The film then jumps into the story proper ,where we see the violent Rock Tribe ,led by Akhoba (Lon Chaney ,Jr.,who was about 33 ,wearing old age make up and grayed wigs). Tumak (Mature, who was only in his mid-twenties when he appeared in this. Many say that tHis was his debut ,but he had a small role as “Lefty ” in THE HOUSEKEEPER’S DAUGHTER the year prior)has his first kill in a hunt ,though an elderly man is injured and left to die.

 

The beast is roasted, and after Akhoba, the men fight for their piece, leaving the women and children with what remains. Akhoba is still hungry, and grabs the food that Tumak is eating, who strikes his father. Enraged, the pair fight with staffs, resulting in Tumak falling from a cliff. The tribe return to their cave, without only Tumak’s mother to mourn him.

He is not dead, but has to flee from a mastodon ,climbing a tree to avoid the creature. It knocks the tree over another cliff and Tumak and the tree float down river (an amazing combination of miniatures and rear projection combined with live action) .He is discovered unconscious by Loana (Carole Landis ,20 years old,who had worked as a dancer since age 15,had mostly only done extra work and uncredited bits until this role made her a star.It seems D.W.Griffith pushed for her, due to her natural athleticism ,something that the role would require). She is a member of the more social Shell People .She calls for her tribe, who take the stranger in and care for him.

 

He is not sure how to deal with these strangers, who share their food freely. When he takes food from a young boy, Loana gives her food to the child. Tumak,seeing this ,does his first kind act and gives his bowl to her. The tribe applauds, and Tumak then gets some other food that he has hidden and adds it to the communal pile.

Akhoba is gored during another hunt and and left to die. Another takes over as leader .Akhoba, maimed, crawls back to the cave, but now is a figure shunned by most.

Tumak is finding life is good with his new tribe, and he even saves a small child from death by killing the beast with a spear ,a weapon which the Shell Tribe have just introduced to him.

However, he feels the spear should be his due to his courage, and when he is made to return it, he determines to steal it.

For this ,he is once again banished. Loana has fallen for him ,and follows. They feed on apples (a reference to Adam & Eve perhaps? After all, we have humans around the same time as dinosaurs ) and are chased by one creature, then witness a fight between others .

Loana is captured by the Rock Tribe, and Tumak races to her rescue. Tumak becomes the new leader, and tries to show his people about kindness and sharing, even showing kindness to Akhoba.

The next day the men go hunting .A small child wanders off and Loana goes in search of him. At that moment, a volcano erupts, killing many in the lava flow(including the child’s mother!), though Loana does find the lost boy .

Cut off from the Rock Tribe , she returns to her own people with the child. Tumak finds scraps of clothes and thinks that she has perished.

However, he finds out that she is indeed alive and goes to find, arriving to find that she and her tribe are trapped in their cave that is being attacked by a dinosaur.

Quickly, Tumak gets the Rock Tribe to help him. Akhoba advises someone distract the beast while others while others cause a rock slide which kills the monster.

The two tribes unite, and the film ends with Tumak ,Loana, and the child looking to a brighter future.

Tumak, Loana and the rescued child are framed in the dawn of a new day.

The plot, though simple, works . Griffith probably had a hand in story construction,as the film could have worked as a silent feature. Indeed, except for the opening sequence and Nagel‘s narration, most of the dialogue is in a fake cave dialogue , which we follow by gestures and tone.

What the film is best known for is it’s “depiction” of prehistoric life. This is done by disguising modern animals in furs (i.e. ,the Mastodon is merely a fur clad elephant, an armadillo and a snake are used on miniature sets, as are some poor lizards.Nowadays, the ASPCA would not allow such animal cruelty to go on, but here, they are made to fight, dropped, hit with rocks, etc.

The miniature disaster,combined with on set effects ,makes for effective depictions of the earth cracking open, and volcanoes erupting their destructive forces.

The new VCI Blu Ray is a wonder to see. Most prints I have seen of this film have been muddy and lack sharpness. Indeed, I have read (unfair) criticism of previous VCI Blu Rays quality.

This print, however, is a revelation. It is so sharp that one can at times see where certain matte shots merge ,which gives away the trick but not the charm of the film.The elements come from the UCLA Film Archive ,and are remarkably clean (also aided by a 2K scan)and have wonderful graduations of gray ,and strong whites and blacks.

The audio is also crisp and clear mono . It is fun seeing the pseudo cave language appear on screen when the optional subtitle open is applied.The subtitles ,however, are also serve as good descriptive subtitles for the hard of hearing .

As to extras, there is a non stop and informative enthusiastic commentary from Toby Roan ,whom I first recall enjoying from his commentary on Olive Films’ NIGHT OF THE GRIZZLY Blu Ray. He is obvious a fan of the movie but is not above pointing out items of interest along the way,all the while dropping tid bits about the films production history,its cast ,and reception.

Also, a 10 minute (!) long slide show of ultra rare production stills, private photos, international posters, and re release lobby cards from the films re issue as CAVE MAN .

In 1966 ,Hammer/ 20th Century Fox remade the film ,they added a “Years” to the title, ran about 20 minutes longer(original U.K. release),in color, with incredible special effects by Ray Harryhausen and the incredible effect that was Rachel Welch in a fur bikini.

Both are fun fantasy films but there is a wonderful charm in the original that any fan of classic movie would make this a must have to add to your collection.

Highly recommended .

-Kevin G Shinnick

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BAT PUSSY(Blu ray) AGFA/SOMETHING WEIRD

BAT PUSSY (1970?) (AGFA/SOMETHING WEIRD BLU RAY) Color 50 minutes plus second feature ROBOT LOVE SLAVES (54 Minutes ,1971, color) $21.99 S.R.P http://www.diabolikdvd.com/product/bat-pussy-agfa-blu-ray/

ShowpagePoster_BatPussyCensored_240_356_81_s_c1

Many years ago, I recall a book on the newsstand called HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN PORNOGRAPHIC MOVIE. It was a how to do it yourself instruction book about editing, sound, camerawork- a basic how to make film book, only about x rated filmmaking.

Watching BAT PUSSY, I felt that the nameless creators of this film had the book on hand, but were missing several pages. This may have been the first porn parody of Batman, though it is far from a good one.

Anyone who tells you that Ed Wood was the world’s worst filmmaker needs to apologize after they see this film.

That is not to say the film is without interest. Quite the contrary. You stare but cannot look away. It is perhaps the most unsexy sex film ever made, and certainly one of the weirdest.

 

It is as if two characters from a local production of WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF decided to carry on their haranguing from the stage to the bedroom. Only here, they are not George and Martha, but Buddy (who looks like an out of shape Bo Hopkins) and Sam (a freckled redhead with a bouffant that would make the B -52’s envious).

batpussy7

(reading? Nahh,just lookin’ at the pictures! )

 

Buddy is reading SCREW (the issue is from 1970, so that is a possible date for when this film was shot over the course of an afternoon.) as Sam lays upon their bed. Buddy decides that they should try some of the stuff he sees in the paper, and so they go at it. Poorly. Buddy is someone for whom Viagra would come in handy some twenty odd years later. No matter what, his Little Buddy refuses to awaken.

BatPussy1973BudSam

 (The Burton & Taylor of BAT PUSSY )

 

The un-erotic oral and fingering sex session leads to a lot of swearing and insults to and about each other. You wonder for whom was this film meant to appeal? Just when we feel that we are trapped in a cell of Hell forever with these two, we cut to another location (it’s almost a shock that we escape, however briefly.).

 

crop

A nightie clad woman lays in a dingy cellar that a scrawled BAT PUSSY HEADQUARTERS on ruled line paper identifies as -well, Bat Pussy’s headquarters! The bored woman senses sex is happening elsewhere and decides she must get there. Every expense is spared on this one take wonder, and on the table in front of her is a paper cup, a can of soda, and some furniture polish spray left upon the table. That’s as far as they go with set dressing.

 

She gets up and whips off her nightie (getting it caught around her head while trying to pull it up) and finds a makeshift costume, transforming herself into BAT PUSSY!

Quick, to the Hopper Ball!

What?

 

Yep, she climbs aboard one of those big rubber bouncy balls with a handle and bounces her way across the screen, along a highway, into a field by a creek (stopping to pee. All that bouncing you know) and into a park where she stops long enough to sock a guy harassing a woman. Then back to her original sojourn. The two in the park are never identified but must have been just friends of whomever shot this flick. Most of this journey is shot in long shot so we feel and experience how slow it is to bounce to an event rather than running or even walking.

highway

 

Finally, Bat Pussy shows up at Buddy and Sam’s , where she is quickly grabbed, undressed, and becomes part of a most unerotic ménage à trois. Finally, it seems Bat Pussy gets bored (or angry at Buddy getting her name wrong, calling her Bat WOMAN), grabs her clothes and leaves. The end. That’s it.

 

 

Did they run out of film? Did they just get tired of each other’s company? Did they have to get the Hopper Ball back to the kids? Who knows? All you will know is that you have experienced something quite weird. Tommy Wiseau all that this film is missing.

 

It is fitting then that SOMETHING WEIRD is the company that “saved” this film from disappearing. Back in the 1990s, Mike Vraney bought a bunch of 16mm films that were abandoned and rediscovered in a Memphis Tennessee theatre, among them was the film that Mike himself christened “Bat Pussy”. There were no title cards, no way to identify who the performers or “filmmakers” were.

 

“Let us punish the guilty. Let us reward the innocent” to quote Ed Wood. That at present is not possible, though the good people at Something Weird certainly tried, along with many others. No one has stepped forward to acknowledge of their involvement in BAT PUSSY.

 

It is thought that this was made for an indie porn theater for local consumption. Seeing how much the distributors made on these films, the local theater owner must have decided that he wanted 100% of the profits.

old new

So, what if the boom mike drops into the shot? No one is coming to see these films for their technical quality. It’s for the trench coat crowd. Look it’s in color and has sound. Yes, the colors were ugly and yes, the sound is dialogue that sounds like Angry trolls possessed by Don Rickles with Tourette’s are talking. It was cheap and ran long enough to live up to the claim it was a feature.

 

It is thought to have been made in Arkansas, due to the accents as well as an Arkansas Razorback tattoo on Buddy’s unattractive posterior. We are told (via the commentary track, more on that later) that this was just a blur in the old prints but thanks (?) to hi-def, we can see this and other little details that once viewed cannot be erased from your mind.

CENSORED

 

 

Back to the restoration (sorry, this film plays tricks with your sense of continuity). The film was from a 16mm print, which may] and almost certainly the only copy still in existence. Like most 16mm films shown constantly, it had wear and tear upon it as well as faded color.

 

Enter American Genre Film Archives (and hopefully not riding in on their own hopper balls). Along with Lisa Petrucci and Tim Lewis of Something Weird, the film was scanned to a 2K  1080p transfer in 1.33:1 ratio. The images are more likely the sharpest that they have been in 40 plus years.

 

That of course is not saying much. No one would confuse the camera work here with that of Geoffrey Unsworth and the “director” is no Kubrick. Set the camera and let it run, and the locked off camera makes me wonder if Buddy, Sam, or Bat Pussy herself were the person who pushed the button and let the camera run, and dashed into the scene, letting the machine run until the film ran out.

AGFA has sharpened the image, but left a lot of the blemishes and scratches to retain its grindhouse feel. The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 mono track does nothing to make the dialogue any clearer and indeed subtitles would have been helpful, though it is interesting to try and understand some of what is mumbled. Does Buddy say he is going to “fuck someone in the nose “?

 

Like most SOMETHING WEIRD releases, this disc has a collection of interesting and eclectic extras:

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A theater intro about a minute long warns that the film about to be presented is sexual in nature and if you cannot deal with such things to leave the building. Was that made for legal reasons at the time? Or had someone possibly wandered into the theater thinking this was legitimate Batman tie in feature? I kept waiting for William Castle to warn of Emergo, which would be of a completely different nature in a film like this.

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A running audio commentary by is supplied by Something Weird’s Lisa Petrucci and Tim Lewis, Bleeding Skull’s (http://bleedingskull.com) Annie Choi, and AGFA’s Joe Ziemba (also from Bleeding Skull) and Sebastian del Castillo. The team are enthusiastic and laugh along at the nonsense on screen, which would probably be the reaction if you popped it on for other like-minded fans of schlock to view at a party. They also supply as much info as they can on the project, especially on its discovery and rebirth into video and now Blu Ray.

 

THE SHOPLIFTER (Highway Safety Foundation,1964,20 minutes, color) is supposed to be a warning to store workers, but is a how to as well to become a shoplifter!

 

DATING DO’s & DON’T’s (Coronet,1949,13 minutes, color) is one of those sincere but laughably date films that were brought out for high schoolers when teacher needed to rest.

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A TRIP TO THE STOREFRONT THEATER (no info ,1970s,2 minutes) has a happy couple go the said theatre and see a guy in a werewolf mask have sex with some bored woman, the couple leaving after viewing this, smiling! Is there a lycanthropic fetish?

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CRIME SMUT TRAILERS: a collection of Black & White and color “cumming attractions “from such wonders as THE BLACK ALLEY CATS (1973) and 7 others. A lot of unattractive men ogle and sometimes grind upon some women who probably thought that this was a good career move when they did these flicks.

ROBOT LOVE SLAVE

Speaking of unattractive men pawing prettier young women, we are given another full-length feature, ROBOT LOVE SLAVES (also known as TOO MUCH LOVING, no releasing company info ,1971 ,54 minutes). A soft-core film that at one point had hard core inserts (some of which only remain in its trailer, not on this disc), it is another film where attractive women are once again paired with gangly and just plain ugly guys. I am sure that they looked like the trench coated crowd who went to these films but if these guys were the only choices for the females in real life, the race would quickly go into extinction.

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Clark (uncredited) is a geeky, glasses wearing looking nerd (though that could also describe yours truly!) who’s wife (also uncredited) nags her husband for attention (a theme for the two features- Nagging Sex Flicks!).

 

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Clark has been busy in the basement creating naked robot female love slaves, beating WESTWORLD (HBO,2016) by a few years. These robots exist for one purpose, pleasure, be it with Clark, his neighbor Harry, Harry’s wife (Candy Samples, who probably is best known as Chief Nellie in FLESH GORDON, Mammoth Films,1974. This may have been one of if not her first film, having begun nude modeling at age 40 sometime in 1968-69), and finally Clark’s wife.

I assume that the filmmakers felt that no one would admit to seeing this film, as they seem to use some famous songs in instrumental versions.I mean,who would admit they went to such a film in the theater ?

The print of this is from a well worn 16 mm copy, with scratches and splices, but it does add to the grind-house feel.

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(Something Weird’s DVD-1 )
The final cool extra is a booklet by Mike McCarthy called “I Saved Bat Pussy”.

Having worked in a film storage house, I saw first hand how easily films could be mislabeled and lost ,so I have great  respect for Lisa Petrucci and team continuing the work of Mike Vraney .

 

Lately, SOMETHING WEIRD has been experiencing an odd sort of censorship. Credit card companies for months were refusing to deal with the company, due to S.W. carrying pornographic films! This, from credit card companies that make fortunes due to letting people download porn in hotel rooms, buy in adult stores, etc. It seems that they were targeting an independent company for no good reason, as their argument does survive even a cursory scrutiny.

 

 

By removing one or two titles from their site, Credit Card companies are grateful to once again make money on both purchasers and Something Weird.

 

 

Amazon has decided that the title  BAT PUSSY is too pornographic for their consumers (while carrying kindle porn like “After The Ball Game: Annie Plays With Coaches Bat”-look it up) so it is great that companies like DIABOLIK have stepped up to carry the film.

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Show your support of these indie companies that support films beyond the mainstream.

 

AGFA & SOMETHING WEIRD have also released (so far )THE ZODIAC KILLER (reviewed by SCARLET https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/2017/08/23/the-zodiac-killer-agfa-something-wierd-blu-ray-released-july-252017-another-son-of-sam-34-95/ https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/2017/08/23/the-zodiac-killer-agfa-something-wierd-blu-ray-released-july-252017-another-son-of-sam-34-95/ ) , and the Ed Wood written THE VIOLENT YEARS (https://www.amazon.com/Violent-Years-Blu-ray-Jean-Moorhead/dp/B073ZWJWQ8/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1512571396&sr=1-1&keywords=VIOLENT+YEARS+blu+ray ).

 

AGFA has also released the long-neglected EFFECTS, created by several people, including Tom Savini, who worked with George Romero. (https://www.amazon.com/Effects-Blu-ray-Tom-Savini/dp/B06ZYRPZH8/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1502209114&sr=1-1&keywords=effects+blu+ray )

Keep up the great work, AGFA ( https://www.americangenrefilm.com/ ) and SOMETHING WEIRD (https://www.somethingweird.com/).

 

RIDE THE HIPPITY HOP!
Kevin G Shinnick

YOU NEED A BELT WITH

By the way, if you want to read more, there is even a Wikipedia page about the film. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bat_Pussy

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2000s, 2017, Blu Ray, CONTEST, Creative, Uncategorized, WELL GO USA, wierd

We have a winner! BETTER WATCH OUT from WELL GO USA

Here is the winner of our WELL GO USA contest to win a copy of the DVD/BLU RAY of BETTER WATCH OUT .

Contestants had to turn a classic Christmas tale into a  horror story . The winner was drawn at random .

 

Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer

Son of Sam Snowman Welcomes you to Christmas Town at the North Pole
Where Mrs. And Mr. Satan Claus Live now known as Mr and Mrs Santa Claus,
I Will tell you the story of how one murderous reindeer saved Christmas !

Mr. Satan Claus was a evil man that got by making money off the holiday season he would show up with his pack of reindeer led by Donner and make ends meet off the donations an cookies !

This year was a bad snowstorm and the pack wouldn’t be able to make it to town through the woods.

This year was also the year that the lead Reindeer Donner gave birth to his son Rudolph upon birth though everyone notice something not quite right with their new fawn.

He had bright bloody nose and it would bleed whenever he cried, as he grew older in the next year others noticed other differences like when he was angry things would mysteriously break on their own.

Objects would fly about like they were being controlled by thin air.

Donner was quick to try and hide his sons bloody noses and pretend he was normal not wanting to lose his job or spot on Satan Claus’s Team.

Donner went about training his son for the annual reindeer games, Once there Rudolph meets a nice fawn named Clarice he is very attracted to her and is seen talking to her but some other reindeer they come up and pick a fight with Rudolph an one shoves him down knocking off his disguise an angering him in a fit of rage Rudolph flies through the air and attacks the other throwing him so far that he instantly killed him summoning with magical forces shards of broken barn fence he pierces the hearts an heads of the other attacking reindeer ! By default being the last man left to win the Games !

Satan Claus notices his power and ability to fly and how it can be used to his advantage !

He sees the flying reindeer as something to become famous an therefore bring him in money in fame plus now he would be able to not only go to his town but every town with his fast flying reindeer.

They enjoy many years of fortune and murderous rampages stealing from all the boys and girls parents wallets taking their hard earned money and shelling out nothing but cheap foreign made toys in return.

The end…… Merry Christmas !!

Tommy Freeman

(Congrats ,Tommy. We will be sending you your prize-THE DVD/BLU RAY combo of BETTER WATCH OUT from WELL GO USA.

This contest is closed. Our thanks to WELL GO USA http://www.wellgousa.com

Follow SCARLET THE FILM MAGAZINE on WORDPRESS and FACEBOOK to read future articles and contests.

 

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