1970s, American International Pictures, Blu Ray, BLUE UNDERGROUND, british, Christopher Lee, cult, Donald Pleasence, dvd, fantasy, film, genre, gore, Horror, independent film, international, monsters, review, reviews, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Uncategorized, wierd

DEATH LINE from Blue Underground Blu Ray/DVD combo

DEATH LINE (aka RAW MEAT)Blue Underground Blu Ray/DVD combo (DEATH LINE ,K.L. Productions/released by Rank (U.K.)1972; A.I.P,1973 as RAW MEAT ). color. 87 minutes. Region Free. $39.98 https://www.amazon.com/Death-Line-Limited-Combo-Blu-ray/dp/B06ZZZN1TS/

“MINDDADOORS!”

The 1970s was a time when horror films were changing. Hammer Films biggest hits were their t.v. based comedies,while their final pairing of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee was the barely released THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA . Traditional horror was on it’s way out ,as major studios would soon be pouring millions into the type of films that smaller studios used to make .,among them THE EXORCIST (W.B.). Still ,there were still several intelligent and interesting British horrors made although they too got minimal releases outside of the U.K.,such as THE WICKER MAN (British Lion)and DEATHLINE (K.L.Productions,released by J.Arthur Rank in the U.K. ,aka RAW MEAT via A.I.P. in the U.S.).

 

When people start vanishing in the London subway system ,the police ,led by Inspector Calhoun (Donald Pleasence ,seemingly having a grand time in the role) is put in charge of the investigation. What he discovers involves a cave in from the late 19th century and cannibalism.

The film was writer /director Gary Sherman’s debut feature (he had made a short film in 1966 called THE LEGEND OF BO DIDDLEY). Sherman had the original story idea which was expanded by Ceri Jones into the screenplay. Producer Paul Maslansky had previously backed Michael Reeves debut features (CASTLE OF THE LVING DEAD (1964 Italy,released by Tigon in the U.K. and Woollner Brothers in the U.S. IN 1965;and SHE BEAST (1966 Italy,released by Europix in the U.S. in 1967)as well as John Hough’s debut SUDDEN TERROR(1970,MGM- EMI,NATIONAL GENERAL in the U.S. 1971),so he was a producer willing to take a chance on a creative novice.

 


J.Arthur Rank Film distributed the film in the U.K. where it had some success as a co-bill to the Mark Lester starrer NIGHT HAIR CHILD . However, in the U.S., it was re-titled as RAW MEAT in 1973,with a misleading poster that made it seemed that the underground was swarming with a group of near naked zombies,and the film did sluggish business.

When it was released to television in the early 1980s ,it was in dark murky prints and edited for broadcast. It seemed to have been completely over looked in the U.S. VHS release marketplace, only getting a bare bones (get it?) DVD release by MGM in 2003.

                                                                      BARE BONES-get it?

 

Now ,BLUE UNDERGROUND has done horror fandom a great resurrection, restoring the film and releasing it in a BLU RAY/DVD All Region combo pack.

 

The film has been cleaned up and given a new 1080p transfer from a 2k master,restoring it to a Wide-screen 1.85:1 / 16×9 ratio . The film has some grain,due to it’s low budget but the miracle that the lighting crew did on lighting vast areas of the subway with little lighting equipment is addressed in the commentary track.

Indeed, the commentary track is one of the most fun and informative that I have heard in some time. It involves director Sherman, producer Maslansky, and a.d. Lewis More O’Ferrall discussing the genesis of the film ,its cast, shooting and distribution. There recollections are quite vivid for a project that they worked on some 46 years years ago,and you can sense the affection that they have for the project.

One interesting bit was the cameo by Christopher Lee . It was hard to shoot a dialogue scene between he and Pleasence due to their height difference and so the director used it to his advantage ,for they shot the men in separate takes, and the camera edged higher on Pleasence to show that he was being diminished by his bowler hatted superior, Stratton-Villiers, MI5 (Lee).

Donald Pleasence is credited for a lot of the humor that the character he portrayed displayed in the film.The actor seemed to have been universally revered and respected.

 

Also discussed is Norman Rossington (best known to American viewers for his role as The Beatles ‘ manager Norm in A HARD DAY’S NIGHT(U.A.,1964) but in the U.K. he was a very well regarded and well known performer.

Actor Hugh Armstrong is  rightfully given credit for his exceptional sympathy that can switch to savagery quickly in the role of “The Man”. I doubt he ever forgot his dialogue, as his lines consisted of the one phrase :”Minddadoors” (Mind The Doors,which was often shouted as the doors on the railway carriages closed) .That he can put so many different feelings and emphasis on that one phrase is a credit to his acting skill.

The film script had to be submitted to the London Underground for approval ,and so a false script was provided and given approval. The film’s U.K. release poster also caused some stir with the London Underground as well.

Vic Flair’s original Transparency Art

Interestingly, Marlon Brando was attached to the production but dropped out when his son Christian became ill.

Back to the BLUE UNDERGROUND release. The sound DTS-HD Mono / Dolby Digital Mono .It is perfectly adequate and quite clear,with no need to play around with shifting speakers.

 

Tales From The Tube – is a short video Interview with Co-Writer/Director Gary Sherman and Executive Producers Jay Kanter & Alan Ladd Jr.

From The Depths – another short video Interview with Star David Ladd (grandson of the legendary Alan) and Producer Paul Maslansky.

Mind The Doors -An Interview With Hugh Armstrong. The charming gentleman talks about how he became an actor and his role in DEATH LINE, which involved a lot of improvisation.

Also included are original RAW MEAT TV and radio spots ,both U.K. and U.S. movie trailers,and a posters and still gallery.

If that isn’t enough for you ,there is a marvelous bonus collectible booklet written by Michael Gingold of Fangoria as well as author Christopher Gallo (THE FILMS OF DONALD PLEASENCE http://www.bearmanormedia.com/the-films-of-donald-pleasence-softcover-edition-by-christopher-gullo).

The DVD cover can be reversed ,as one side is for DEATHLINE and the other is the RAW MEAT poster.

The sound DTS-HD Mono / Dolby Digital Mono .It is perfectly adequate and quite clear,with no need to play around with shifting speakers.No Head Splitting Sound…

DEATH LINE was screened at Lincoln Center as part of their Horror Series in 2002, and director Guillermo Del Toro declared it to be one of his all time favorites. That is a pretty major endorsement for the film.

I think that if you pick up this BLUE UNDERGROUND release of DEATH LINE, that it may become one of your favorites as well.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNVVjYhketY

Highly Recommended !

Kevin G Shinnick

 

Advertisements
Standard
1970s, BLUE UNDERGROUND, CAMP, Canadian, Carol Lynley, cult, Harry Alan Towers, international, Jack Palance, John Ireland, SCIENCE FICTION, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Uncategorized, wierd

Shape Of Things To Come(79)Blu Ray – Blue Underground

shapeofthingstocome_bd_keyart4c

SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME (1979)98 mins. Color. BLUE UNDERGROUND BLU-RAY. ALL REGION. Release Date: September 27, 2016 PRICE: $29.98 http://www.blue-underground.com/product.php?product=272

Many years ago, John Mathews (the News Hound) & I took a 45-minute walk to a now long demolished theatre in Hackensack NJ to see a new Science Fiction film. It was the height of the great science fiction craze that had exploded in movies, books, comics and television since STAR WARS( Fox ,1977) hit the scene.images
We should have known something was up when the two of us were the ONLY audience members. However, we settled back to have our private showing, hoping for the best. Well, we enjoyed, but for all the wrong reasons. Remember the audience reaction in THE PRODUCERS(Embassy,1967)? tumblr_n2evlqgunn1sbf1mqo5_500I am sure that our faces somewhat resembled that. About 45 minutes in, the screen suddenly went black, and the manager came down and said if we would take two tickets for a future film, they could all go home early. John & I happily accepted.

shapeofthings2
Now, in 2016, I finally get to see the entire film. There was no offer for a refund this time, though, even though I got through the entire picture.
H.G. WELL’S THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME, to give the film it’s full onscreen title, was a film that referenced the great writer’s 1935 treatment that became the Alexander Korda THINGS TO COME. *

tsottc-01
Released in 1936, the film was the 16th most popular U.K. film of 1935-36. However, the film fared less well at the U.S. box office and so was viewed as a box office failure. Now it acknowledged as a classic and admired for how prophetic Wells was at his prediction of a second World War (he was only off by a few months).
The 1979 film was a Harry Alan Towers (international film producer whose product ran the gamut  of quality from classic TEN LITTLE INDIANS(WB,1965) to dire (SHE,Prophecy,2001)production funded using private investors and the Canadian Capital Cost Allowance of 1974.

 

This allowed investors to deduct 100% of their investment in feature films that were certified Canadian. To earn that designation, a film had to be at least 75 minutes long, have at least one producer and 2/3 of the “above the line” creative team be Canadian as well as 75% of production and post be done in the country. **

sparks4
Canada had had some science fiction tv in the 1950’s (a young James Doohan starred briefly in SPACE COMMAND(CBC,1953) which also had a guest appearance by William Shatner! ) but for the most part there was not a lot of Canadian film science fiction product. Their previous science fiction “epic”, STARSHIP INVASIONS (1977, Hal Roach/W.B.) had an inflatable spaceship and Christopher Lee in a very unflattering spandex outfit and Robert Vaughn missing the high standards of TEENAGE CAVEMAN (A.I.P.,1958).f468f96c9cdb160d7b6f0e0a576be273-1

Photo: Andrew AnthonyPhotography Date: November 1953.

Photo: Andrew AnthonyPhotography Date: November 1953.

 

 

SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME was not a lot better. The film has almost NOTHING to do with Wells, except having a Dr. John Caball (Barry Morse), wherein there was Raymond Massey as John Cabal/Oswald Cabal (one” L”).

 

The “plot” set in the future has Earth recovering from devastating war, forcing the human race to flee and inhabit the moon. To survive mankind needs an anti-radiation drug called ‘Raddic-Q2”, produced only on a faraway planet called DELTA 3 (as opposed to spice from Dune?).

shape_02
A cargo ship from Delta 3 is deliberately crashed into New Washington by self-proclaimed New Emperor Omus (Jack Palance, who must have been in deep to H.A. Towers, having worked for him since 1969’s JUSTINE(AIP) and later in the misogynistic GOR (Cannon,1987)).

shapeofthingstocome1
The master computer Lomax (voiced by the Laurence Olivier of Canadian theatre, William Hutt) feels a counter -strike would be imprudent.screen-shot-2010-10-25-at-3-27-33-pm Senator Smedley (John Ireland, THE HOUSE OF SEVEN CORPSES, Int. Amusement Corp,1974 ),however, secretly disagrees , and sends a crew off in the space vessel Starstreak to stop Omus .

The crew is made up of  Dr Caball(Barry Morse ,who had appeared in the Canadian WESTWORLD(MGM, 1973) rip-off ,WELCOME TO BLOOD CITY(EMI,1977)with Palance, but is best known for chasing Richard Kimble on t.v.’s THE FUGITIVE (Q.Martin,1963-1967) and, perhaps the reason he was hired for this film, SPACE 1999 (1975-77,ITC ) ),hqdefault-1Caball’s son Jason (Nicholas Campbell, later quite effective in David Cronenberg’s THE DEAD ZONE ,Paramount,1983)and Smedley’s daughter Kim (Anne-Marie Martin billed here as Eddie Benton .Later Ms. Martin starred in the cult horror film THE BOOGENS(Taft Int.,1981)).

 

Caball is accidentally exposed to radiation within the ships reactor room but keeps this information to himself as to not jeopardize the mission.
Also on the ship is “Sparks”, a malfunctioning robot rescued from the crashed spaceship from Delta 3. Sparks ranks among the most annoying robots in film history, or as a friend called him,”the Jar Jar Binks of mechanicals“.vlcsnap-00005
Starstreak malfunctions (this film is full of malfunctioning machinery, making one suspect that writers Martin Lager, Mike Cheda, and Joseph Glazner were secret neo-Luddites) and the vessel is forced to land upon Earth. There they find  children who have survived on Earth  after the Robot Wars. Finishing their repairs, the space voyagers  promise to return once their mission is complete.

vlcsnap-00012
Meanwhile, back on Delta 3, the rightful Governor Nikki (Carol Lynley, a long way from THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, Fox,1972) is trying to lead a revolt against Omus and his robots.the-shape-of-things-to-come-20 However, her inept fighters are soon overcome by the clunky collection of clanking  robots controlled by the evil Omus.
Starstreak is racing towards Delta 3 at light speed, when it encounters a space anomaly that threatens to destroy the ship. The weightlessness scene does not even go for wire work, but instead as a slightly tilted camera angle as the actors WALK to the other side of the shot.shape_05
They survive (you doubted it?) and finally reach their destination, only to be surrounded by Omus’ robots, while a giant Hologram of Omus appears in the sky above them (an effect that appears as if a video camera was used as Palance sat in a chair slowly spinning in a chair reciting his threats).shapeofthingstocome3 Caball demands to meet with Omus and the villain surprisingly agrees. Caball is bought to Omus who does stock villain rant #3 that fails to move the Doctor to join the dark side. So, Omus dons a helmet and turns torture device whose sound will painfully kill Caball. The device- a spinning disco light (no kidding).

Jason & Kim get to Caball too late to save the Doctor, but Kim discovers that the scientist had radiation sickness and would soon have died anyway (that makes it better??) Jason is captured by Omus and his robots and was about to be subjected to the same torture disco ball when suddenly Sparks has all of the robots turn on Omus. Donning the helmet, Jason gives Omus get a dose of his own medicine until he discovers that the planet is about to explode.the-shape-of-things-to-come-61

Sparks teleports onto one of Omus’ ships to take over the control system .Sparks takes the cargo ship full of Raddic -Q2 off as explosions begin to rip through the city. The remaining humans get back to the Starstreak just in time and lift off as the planet explodes, taking care of Omus and his evil robots.

images-1

But wait, it has also destroyed the only planet where Raddic -Q2 comes from? What will happen when the cargo ship’s supply runs out? Oh well, don’t think on that, just run the end credits.

The film is definitely a product of the 1970s, with the jumpsuit outfits, the square computer buttons and green computer screens. The space ship model work is surprisingly good shape_07(Wally Gentleman had worked on 2001(MGM ,1968)), but the robots, however, are throwbacks to the arm waving cardboard wearing creations from THE PHANTOM EMPIRE(Mascot,1935), only with less charm in their design.

phan

shape_11The film has the flat white look of a lot of tv science fiction of the time, most notably the Saturday morning SPACE ACADEMY (Filmation,1977-79, with Jonathan Harris) or JASON OF STAR COMMAND (Filmation,1978, starring —James Doohan).
The acting goes from competent(Campbell) to better than the role  deserves (Ann-Marie Martin) to “I’m just here for the paycheck” (John Ireland) to “Oo I see scenery I’m chewing it “(Palance and Morse).

 

That could be blamed on the indifferent direction by George McGowan (who also directed the cult classic FROGS(AIP,1972) as well as the so so horror film SHADOW OF THE HAWK (Columbia,1976).

 

The music is definitely disco era by Paul Hoffert (who wrote a much more effective score for GROUNDSTAR CONSPIRACY (1972, Universal)), even to the damn drum machines.

shape_12

Now, to the Blu Ray, BLUE UNDERGROUND has done an exceptionally fine job of making this film look as sharp and as clear as it has ever looked or sounded. They have created an all new Hi Def print from the original negative and a 5.1. surround sound mix DTS-HD & DTS-HD Mono. There are also optional subtitles in English, Spanish & French.

shape_of_things_to_come_poster_02
Blu Ray Extras include:
JASON’S JOURNEY-Interview with star Nicholas Campbell. (made for the Blu Ray release). The still active actor has fond memories of going from acting with Laurence Olivier to working on this film, with a special note about Jack Palance and his need for “weed”.

the-shape-of-things-to-come-43
SYMPHONIES IN SPACE- Interview with composer Paul Hoffert (made for the blu ray release) The composer talks proudly of his score, and how his floating in space theme is still used by ice skaters, as well as his use of a then new toy drum machine.

shapeofthings5
Additional extras ported over from the DVD release of 2004 are
A French Trailer
A Film Ventures TV Spot (rated PG).
A Posters & Still Gallery

There are those who will appreciate the campy charm of the film and its cheesy effects and hammy acting by some of the stars.

I, for one, am not one of them.
Kudos, though, to Blue Underground for their usual high caliber restoration of an obscure title.

-Kevin G Shinnick

*Wells screenplay of Things to Come was based on two of his books, “Shape of Things to Come “(1933) and “The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind” (1931). He originally titled the screen treatment “Wither Mankind?”.

*- the CCA was reduced to 50% in 1982 and the Canadian film boom was over.

Standard
1960s, American International Pictures, Blu Ray, BLUE UNDERGROUND, Christopher Lee, circus, crime drama, cult, genre, john moxey, KLAUS KINSKI, obscure, review, thriller, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Uncategorized

CIRCUS OF FEAR /FIVE GOLDEN DRAGONS

BLU-BD-7060_lCIRCUS OF FEAR / FIVE GOLDEN DRAGONS (Blu-ray) (Blue Underground, June 28 2016) $29.98 1966(91 min.),1967 (104min.) color. 2 films on one disc.

https://www.amazon.com/Circus-Fear-Golden-Dragons-Blu-ray/dp/B01DALQ0YK/181-1307412-0049847?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0
BLUE UNDERGROUND has gone all out with their restorations of obscure but fun films that deserve to be in your collection. This current release of CIRCUS OF FEAR (1966) and FIVE GOLDEN DRAGONS (1967) continues their winning streak of superlative quality restorations.
Billed as an EDGAR WALLACE DOUBLE FEATURE, the Wallace connection is tenuous at best.

ED
Writer Edgar Wallace (1875-1932) was a prolific writer of plays, newspaper articles, short stories, and novels. He was also a screenplay writer, writing the script for the 1932 HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (Gainsborough,1932). He died of diabetes in 1932 while he was working on the original story that developed into KING KONG(RKO,1933). Besides working on KING KONG, he is best remembered for his numerous crime dramas, which, unlike so many of his contemporaries, made the Police the hero, rather than amateur sleuths.
His works had been very popular in Germany in the late 1920s until the early 1930s. A few of his stories had been adapted into very popular films. However, when the Nazis came into power, his works were banned.
However, from 1959 to 1972, German “krimi” (an abbreviation for the German term “Kriminalfilm”) were extremely popular in Germany and several other European nations, especially if the name EDGAR WALLACE were somehow stuck onto the poster or/and film.
Harry Alan Towers was the ultimate globe hopping film producer, producing films of various quality and subject matters from 1962 up until his death in 2009, putting together deals in various countries with international funding.
This collection more rightly should be named an “Harry Alan Towers” double feature, but I am sure that there will be more films to come that might earn that title.

First up is CIRCUS OF FEAR (1966). I recall seeing this film in a theatrical release. It must have been in Ireland where I saw it, because I do recall it being in color. In the U.S. when it was released in 1967, it was cut to a short 65 minutes, retitled PSYCHO-CIRCUS (A.I.P.), and printed in black and white. What has always stood out in my memory was the opening caper, a daring day time robbery on Tower Bridge that led to an escape along the Thames as a mournful jazz score fills the soundtrack.circus-of-fear
Seeing the film on BLUE UNDERGROUND’s cleaned up new Blu Ray (I do not have access to their 2003 DVD release as a comparison) is a revelation. I always recall the film being very muddy with very dark color. This print has very vibrant imagery with a wonderful sharp sound track.

-The_Four_Just_Men-_(novel)
The film is supposedly based upon the 1926 novel “The Three Just Men “by Edgar Wallace. I say ‘supposedly” as the film resembles nothing in the novel at all (to see for yourself, read it at
http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks07/0701211.txt )

The “Just Men” series began originally in 1905 as “The FOUR Just Men”, and concerned a group of men who punished wrong doers in ways that are outside of conventional law enforcement. One of the characters “died” during the first world war, but they continued on, recruiting others along the way.
Nothing in the film smacks of the books storyline, but the producers chose to sell the film as a Wallace adaptation.

Circus of Fear (Psycho-Circus) (John Llewellyn Moxey, Reino Unido, 1966).avi_000194694

The film’s story has a gang commit a darng robbery with the help of one of the guards, Mason (Victor Maddern, best known here as the deformed Hunchback assistant Carl in BLOOD OF THE VAMPIRE (Artistes Alliance/U.I. 1958)) and flee with their loot but only after Mason shoots the second guard.

Circus_of_Fear07

The police, led by Scotland Yard Inspector Elliot (Leo Genn, very impressive in the 1965 TEN LITTLE INDIANS (Warner -Pathe/Seven Arts), also produced by H.A. Towers) and Detective-Sgt. Manley (Lawrence James, who starred in the original ITV Play of the Week “The Night of the Big Heat “, June 14,1960, later made into a theatrical film starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing), are quick on the scene and after the gang. Two of the gang in a van are chased by police cars until the driver loses control and crashes. One man dies but the survivor tells the police that the guard was murdered by Mason.

circus10

The other surviving gang members (including a very ratty looking Klaus Kinski, star of many a Krimi since 1960’s THE AVENGER/ Der Rächer; Kurt Ulrich Filmproducktion) are none too happy with Mason. However, Mason is told to bring the unseen mastermind’s share of the loot to another lonely location. Upon arriving, Mason is swiftly dispatched by a knife tossed with deadly accuracy. The camera dollies to a close-up of the dagger’s hilt that displays a silver triangle upon it, a mark that is to play an important role in the unfolding mystery.
psycho-circus-horizontal

Twenty minutes into the film and we jump suddenly to Barberini’s Circus (actually Billy Smart’s Circus, which also had appeared previously in CIRCUS OF HORRORS (Anglo -Amalgamated /A.I.P.,1960,) and later BERSERK(WB,1967)). The circus plays into our story as we discovered that the spot where Mason was murdered was their winter quarters and the police wish to investigate to see if one of the performers is involved in the heist. Kinski, playing a character named Manfred, also shows up at the circus, ostensibly to seek work, so the gang is thinking along similar lines.

624full-circus-of-fear-screenshot
Among the many suspects are Christopher Lee (need I say who he is ?)as Gregor , a lion tamer whose features are supposedly destroyed from an animal attack, thus requiring him to wear a black hood at all times, and “Skip” Martin as Mr. Big ( Hop Toad from MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (A.I.P.,1964) as well as being very evil as Michael in VAMPIRE CIRCUS (Hammer/Fox 1972),as well as the lovely Suzy Kendall (BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE,UMC,1970) and Margaret Lee (THE BLOODY JUDGE ,AIP ,1972 also produced and written by H.A. Towers). More mayhem ensues before the killer and leader of the crime gang is uncovered.

cf1
This is an entertaining programmer that moves along at a brisk pace, courtesy of its director John Moxey (HORROR HOTEL, Vulcan/Trans-Lux,1960). Done for a modest budget, it doesn’t skimp on the mystery or the thrills, though it would be wrong to label this film as a horror, which it is often referred to, due to the presence of Lee, Kinski, and director Moxey.

Circus of fear - psycho circus - 1966 - lobby003001

Besides giving us a brand spanking new Blu-Ray transfer of the film in 2K 1080p HD anamorphically enhanced 1.66:1 widescreen, the English DTS-HD audio is clean clear and crackle free. The removable subtitles are quite easy to read, and replicate the dialogue fairly accurately.

cf19
Now this alone would have been enough to recommend buying this Blu Ray, but BLUE UNDERGROUND has added a few nice extras.
First is a commentary track with director Moxey that is moderated by David Gregory. This 2002 session is ported over from the 2003 DVD release. Moxey and Gregory have a nice conversational tone, with the director quietly and modestly describing the making of the film. Nice little tid bits of shooting on a Sunday to avoid traffic problems (good luck doing that on a film shoot now) on the bridge and his opinions of working with the international cast and crew (very complimentary) as well as clearing up the mistaken belief that there were TWO directors on this film. There are long stretches without any commentary, as I feel that the director had not reviewed the film prior to recording his comments. Still, he is a delight and it is wonderful that we can have his thoughts about a film that was 37 years in his past.

Circus_of_Fear34

(“Wait ! I lost my hood!”)

Also as extras we get the international trailer as well as the B&W American trailer, the different ways both trailers circus-of-fear-movie-poster-1966-1020251277sell the film is funny and interesting. Finally, there is a still and poster gallery.

The Second film on this Blu Ray is FIVE GOLDEN DRAGONS (AIP,1967). This is one of those films that try to emulate better movies but doesn’t quite make it. Here, it is Robert Cummings  as a man who is mistakenly drawn into international murder and intrigue, a la Cary Grant in NORTH BY NORTHWEST (MGM ,1959). Sadly, the film doesn’t take itself seriously, and it’s leisurely pace make its limited budget seem more obvious. Still it gives many aging actors a chance to have a nice vacation in Hong Kong courtesy of Producer Harry Alan Towers.

fgd99

 

Here, once again using his Peter Welbeck nom de film, the producer doesn’t so much as reference any particular Wallace book as a character that he created.
In 1911, Wallace wrote ‘Sanders of The River “, about the adventures of District Commissioner Sanders. Sanders appeared in a total of 12 novels between 1911 and 1928 (“Again Sanders”) The character was the very epitome of the great British White hunter/soldier /adventurer who sadly seemed to be too the very worst of Colonial Africa’s white man helping the poor savages.

five-golden-dragons (1)

(Sanders NEVER went up the river with companions like these!)

Rupert Davies’ character in the film is  Police Commissioner Sanders, so that was enough to convince investors that yes this was another Edgar Wallace tale.

 

mr porter (unknown)The film opens in Hong Kong with a character named Porter (uncredited) who swiftly is tossed off a balcony by Gert (Klaus Kinski again). Unfortunately, Porter has sent off a note to be delivered to Bob Mitchell (Robert Cummings, from Hitchcock’s DIAL M FOR MURDER, WB,1954). The police intercept the note and go to interview Mitchell, who claims that he knows little about the dead man other than a brief meeting in Manila. He also doesn’t know the meaning of the note with the words “Feel The Bern” (Just kidding – it read ‘Five Golden Dragons”).
fgd101However, two German sisters, Ingrid (Maria Rohm, THE VENGEANCE OF FU MANCHU (Warners-7 Arts,1967) and real life wife of producer Towers) and Margret (Maria Peschy, THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU, Anglo -EMI/Int Cinema Group 1972) that he meets do know it’s meaning. Margret thinks Bob is there to kill them so she tries to beat him to the punch. When Bob convinces her that he knows nothing about the phrase, she explains that she used to work for the crime cartel known as The Five Golden Dragons. When they killed her boyfriend, she fled, and feared that they had now found her.

 

five-golden-dragons

(Do you feel warm in here?)

We next see the leaders of the illegal gold syndicate meeting in ridiculous dragon masks and Asian robes. Each sits at a table facing a multi doored miniature pagoda. They each have a key to open the door in front of them, and should they be a fake and not open it properly, a gun within will shoot the imposter. Removing their masks, we see that the first three are actors who have seen better days :

five golden dragons

 

dan duryeaDan Duryea (SCARLET STREET, Universal ,1945),

 

 

 

 

 

 

george raftGeorge Raft (SCARFACE, United Artists,1932),

 

 

brian dunlevyand Brian Donlevy (THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT, Hammer/U.A. 1955). Dragon #4 is played by Christopher Lee (also from CIRCUS OF FEAR, and probably getting sick of wearing these masks). The fifth Dragon remains a mystery.chris lee

Meanwhile, Margret IS found dead and sadly for Bob Mitchell it is in his bed. He escapes but now he is being pursued by Shakespeare quoting Police Commissioner Sanders (the wonderful Rupert Davies, the disapproving Monsignor from DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE, Hammer/WB, 1968) and his Chinese counterpart Inspector Chiao (Roy Chiao ,whose career involved him dubbing a lot of Hong Kong films into English).

51713591

Bob finds himself at the Blue World, a nightclub managed by a sinister Peterson (Sieghardt Rupp, A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, U.A.1964). He is intrigued by the lovely chanteuse Magda (Margaret Lee, another CIRCUS OF FEAR alum). Bob thinks that these two can lead him to the Five Golden Dragons, and they do, but not in the way he would like.

b3d420b09031063c54502adf32b
Another multi nation co-production, this film is trying to be a Hitchcock thriller, James Bond spoof, and crime caper spoof, and fails miserably at all.

five-golden-dragons_326573_28105

(Klaus Kinksi demonstrating his actual dating techniques )

Bob Cummings is supposedly a young playboy but the actor at the time was in his fifties. He looks good admittedly, but it still seems odd that all these women fall for him. Did Hong Kong have a dearth of younger actors? Was Frankie Avalon too busy to walk over from the set of THE MILLION EYES OF SUMURU (AIP,1967) that Towers was also producing at the same time in Hong Kong and seemingly used many of the same sets. Supposedly the lead was offered to actor Tony Randall (who starred in OUR MAN IN MARRAKESH (AIP, Anglo- Amalgamated,1966) for Towers, who turned him down. Cummings was an actor of great personal charm in many of his films but he seems very uncomfortable and forced here (though whether that is him the direction or the script it is hard to determine). This was in fact his last theatrical film, with less and less work on television.

fgd103
The plot makes very little sense and our hero contributes almost nothing to the story, with the police actually doing all the real work.

five-golden-dragons_326575_16368

The transfer is quite lovely to look at in its new HD anamorphic transfer. Subtitles are clear and easy to read and follow the action well. Extras are scarce here except for a photo gallery and an original trailer.

5-altin-canavar-ffive-golden-dragons-die-pagode-zum-

Of the two films on this disc, CIRCUS OF FEAR is definitely the more enjoyable movie. For one, it moves! Still, for the price, BLUE UNDERGROUND is keeping B movie fans in Blu Ray heaven. A major studio would never invest the time and energy that BLUE UNDERGROUND has given to releases like this and so they are to be commended.

CIRCUS OF FEAR– recommended.
FIVE GOLDEN DRAGONS– nice restoration. Recommended for completist. Look at it as a really cool extra for CIRCUS OF FEAR.

-Kevin G Shinnick

EddiArentinCircusofFear

Standard
1960s, Blu Ray, BLUE UNDERGROUND, british, CAMP, HONOR BLACKMAN, JESS FRANCO, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Uncategorized

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

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

the-girl-from-rio6982820.3

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

 

million_eyes_of_su_muru_poster_02

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

 

sins of s

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

Million Eyes Of Sumuru 008

 

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

 

A1c5iVBIJBL._SL1500_

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

sumuru

 

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

million

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

Million Eyes Of Sumuru 230.jpg klaus kinski

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

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

seven_secrets_of_sumuru_poster_02

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

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

A1uh6QLImjL._SL1500_ (1)

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

 

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

honor

 

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

affiche-sumuru-la-cite-sans-hommes-the-girl-from-rio-1969-2

Both films are presented in 1080p HD.

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

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

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

Sumuru-2003-film-images-0a376a97-f4c5-4134-b094-86dc3ea6617

Kevin G Shinnick

Standard