1940s, Academy Award Winner, Blu Ray, CHRISTMAS, CLASSIC, Classic Hollywood, comedy, Drama, film, https://www.facebook.com/scarletthefilmmagazine/, INGRID BERGMAN, LEO MCCAREY, OLIVE FILMS, RKO, Uncategorized

THE BELLS OF ST MARY’S (Olive Films Blu Ray $29.95 or DVD $19.95)

 

THE BELLS OF ST MARY’S (Olive Films Blu Ray $29.95 or DVD $19.95, December 2019). Original Release: RKO, December 1945. B&W. Not Rated. 126 minutes. Region 1/A. 1.37:1
https://olivefilms.com/product/the-bells-of-st-marys/ (The Blu Ray Release is the version used for this review).

 

The holidays are here, so I won’t make this a very long review, only to make sure that I say
that if you love the Christmas season, you need to add OLIVE FILMS ‘SIGNATURE COLLECTION edition of
THE BELLS OF ST. MARY’S.

 

The story to some may now seem a bit cliched, with Bing Crosby’s priest character parodied endlessly in various television shows (including THE SIMPSONS (Fox,1989- forever ). However, when you return to the original classic film, you see how well it stands up, and makes you laugh and cry with ease, ending with an unexpected feeling of joy in humanity.


Released by RKO on December 5,1945 in New York at Radio City Music Hall, the film was an immediate hit both with critics (with a few Scrooges) and audiences alike, becoming the highest grossing 1945 release and RKO’s most profitable film in its erratic history.

 

St. Mary’s Parish is one that caters to the poor. The Church is trying to decide as to whether it is worth keeping open or close it. The school attached is in disrepair as well, with many feeling it too needs to close and the students transferred to a more modern school.

Enter Father “Chuck” O’Malley (Bing Crosby, reprising his Oscar winning role from GOING MY WAY, RKO ,1944). His job is to access the situation. The barrier he faces is Sister Superior Mary Benedict (Ingrid Bergman, who, the opening titles informs us, appears by arrangement with David O. Selznick). Sister Superior and her fellow Sisters all feel that things will soon turn around and that God Will Provide.

The Father and the Sisters then spend the rest of the film dealing with a local businessman donating to the Parish, troubled students and various incidents both funny or/and touching. Bing even manages to squeeze in six songs (both singularly and with a choir), four of which were later released as popular singles.


The film was nominated in several categories ,including Best Actor (Crosby , the first actor to be nominated a second time for portraying the same role), Best Actress(Bergman),Best Director(Leo McCarey, DUCK SOUP, Paramount ,1933)Best Editing, Best Music, Best Song ,but only winning for Best Sound Recording (Stephen Dunn, two years after he won for THIS LAND IS MINE, RKO,1943).

OLIVE FILMS SIGNATURE FILMS are always the best of the best when it comes to restoration as well as extras, and this package is no exception.

 

The film has been given a brand new 4K restoration. The movie has never been out of public view and the previous releases on tv, video and DVD have all been fine. This new release, however, is so sharp, that it looks like a film shot this year, and not 74 years previously.

 

The DTS-HD Master Audio Mono sonic has been given a marvelous boost as well, showing why it won the Oscar. There is nary a pop or hiss to distract from the sound effects, dialogue, and of course, music in this classic.

As to extras:


Audio Commentary : Bing Crosby biographer Gary Giddins (A POCKETFUL OF DREAMS Back Bay Books, 2002) has an informative and pleasant running commentary about the production and reactions to the picture. It is astonishing to discover what a Nativity scene with a bunch of children was nearly cut because there was fear that it might offend Catholics!)

FAITH & FILM: Sister Rose Pocotte, film critic and founding Director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies in L.A., brings a combined critical as well as faith-based point of view to the classic.


HUMAN NATURE: LEO McCAREY & THE BELLS OF ST. MARY’S : Film Historian Steve Massa (LAME BRAINS & LUNATICS, Bear Manor 2013) discusses the career of the director, from his works in comedies to more serious themes in his work after a car accident influenced his world view.

 

BEFORE SEQUEL-ITIS: THE ORIGINS OF HOLLYWOOD FRANCHISES : Professor Emily Carman of Chapman University discusses the need to see more of certain popular characters.

VINTAGE RADIO ADAPTATIONS :Radio adaptations of popular movies were quite common from the 1930s up to the early 1950s. Both  recordings heard here were on the popular Screen Guild Theater radio series (August 26, 1946 and October 6,1947). Both Bergman and Crosby repeat their roles in these 30-minute abridgements. I used to own these on a 1981 vinyl LP release from the old-time radio specialty company Sandy Hook Records, so it was nice to hear them again.

Booklet : an 8-page illustrated booklet with an essay by Film Reviewer Abbey Bender gives a nice overview of the picture.

The holidays are now upon us, so if you want a perfect gift for people who love

CLASSIC MOVIES
CHRISTMAS
BING CROSBY
INGRID BERGMAN
LEO MCCAREY
Then this is the perfect stocking stuffer for them—or you (go on -you’ve earned it!).

MERRY CHRISTMAS and thank you to Olive Films Signature Series.

Previous releases include


Orson Welles’ MACBETH https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/2016/11/17/orson-welles-macbetholive-films-blu-ray/

HANNIE CAULDER

A BUCKET OF BLOOD https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/2019/09/21/a-bucket-of-blood-olive-films-signature-blue-ray/

A NEW LEAF

HIGH NOON https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/2016/09/26/high-noon-olive-films-blu-ray-and-dvd-signature-release/

THE QUIET MAN https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/2016/10/25/the-quiet-man-olive-films-signature-blu-ray/

Review by Kevin G Shinnick

Please Like and Follow us on https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/SCARLETreviews/.

Our reviews are also shared upon TWITTER, LINKEDIN, LIKER, and other social media.

Contact: Kevin at scarletthefilmmag@yahoo.com

 

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NOIR ARCHIVE 9 Film Collection Volume 2 (Mill Creek Blu ray)

NOIR ARCHIVE 9 Film Collection Volume 2 (Mill Creek Blu ray) Region A/1 $35.99 b&w / color 907 minutes

https://www.amazon.com/Noir-Archive-1954-1956-Collection-Blu-ray/dp/B07PNK9W7D/ref=asc_df_B07PNK9W7D/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=366315610017&hvpos=1o4&hvnetw=g&hvrand=2671436127413592497&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9067609&hvtargid=aud-802037562948:pla-783588578090&psc=1&tag=&ref=&adgrpid=75136391966&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvadid=366315610017&hvpos=1o4&hvnetw=g&hvrand=2671436127413592497&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9067609&hvtargid=aud-802037562948:pla-783588578090

The second collection (out of three, as of this writing) of classic noir style films released through Columbia Pictures between 1954 -1956. Mill Creek and Kit Parker Films have licensed a collection of Columbia titles that are rarely screened, even on classic film channels like TCM. Many are B titles (co-features for bigger budget films) some have a bit more production value, a few are British (with one, FOOTSTEPS IN THE FOG,1955, the only color film in the collection) but all are entertaining and well worth your discovery of them.

 

 

BAIT (1954, not to be confused with Ed Wood’s JAILBAIT, Howco, that same year) was co- written, produced, and directed by Hugo Haas (1901-1968). A famous Czech performer, he was forced to flee from his home country when the Nazis invaded. In the U.S., he became a character actor, who, in the 1950s went the independent film route and make his own B pictures, making nearly a dozen films through the decade. He wanted to return home to his home country but was denied this when the Russians invaded. He died in 1968 in Vienna. BAIT has The Devil (Sir Cedric Hardwicke (ROPE, WB,1948) introduce the story of Marko (Haas), who asks Ray (John Agar, THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS, Howco,1957) to help him find a gold mine. Ray accepts with the promise of an equal share.


When Ray does find the mine after several weeks, Marko tries to renege on the deal. Marko trick local waitress Peggy (Cleo Moore, who would star with Agar in HaasHOLD BACK TOMORROW, Universal, the following year), whom Ray is attracted to, into marrying him.

Marko then manipulates the two as all three are isolated in a mountain cabin during the winter. He hopes to catch the two in an intimate encounter so Marko can kill them, claiming a jealous rage. Marko is so low; he even kills Ray’s dog (boo!).

The film gains points for casting Bruno VeSota (himself a triple threat on FEMALE JUNGLE, A.R.C.,1955), a character actor in many early AIP films, as a bartender in an early scene. However, it is odd that John Agar asks if the bartender knows a “heavy fellow with a mustache” when VeSota is …. a heavy fellow with a mustache! An odd little film.

 

THE CROOKED WEB (1955) has Frank (Richard Denning, who had appeared in the 3D feature THE GLASS WEB ,Universal,1953)desperately needs money to take care of some debts, and so tries to get his Stan (Frank Lovejoy,HOUSE OF WAX, W.B.,1953 ) to aid him . Stan gets intrigued, hoping it will help him make enough money that he can marry waitress*Joanie (Mari Blanchard, ABBOTT & COSTELLO GO TO MARS, Universal ,1953), the sister of Frank.

Don’t poke his eye out…

The film has a lot of major surprises that still work today, and so I will refrain from describing more of this wonderful little gem. Suffice it to say, that many of the characters are not what they seem, and just when you think you know, they pull the rug out from under you again. The cast really make the most of these roles in a juicy script by Lou Breslow (CHARLIE CHAN AT THE RACETRACK, Fox, 1936), and the direction is by Nathan Hertz Juran ,a director of some of Ray Harryhausen’s best 1950s films, as well as fun schlock like THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS.

Produced by Sam Katzman, a producer so frugal he would make Roger Corman seem extravagant. Still, he produced a lot of films well-loved today (IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA, Columbia ,1955) while major films of the era are forgotten, so maybe Katzman knew best.

CELL 2455 DEATH ROW (1955) has William Campbell (most famous for his wonderful appearance as The Squire Of Gothos on the original STAR TREK series, Paramount, 1966-9) portrays Whit Whittier. Real life criminal Caryl Chessman wrote the book (Prentice Hall,1948) upon which the film is based, Whittier being his middle name. The real-life Chessman was found guilty of robbery, kidnapping and rape. Acting as his own lawyer, he appealed 8 times to delay his execution, finally going to the gas chamber in May 1960. By a horrible comedy of errors, a court secretary misdialed the prison number, and so a stay of execution was delivered too late.

 

In the film, Whittier shows that bad company and bad decisions had him end up on death row. Along the way, there are bad girls who lead him astray (Kathryn Grant, the Princess from THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, Columbia,1957) and bad company that gets him to be a driver. This leads to a spectacular stunt scene, where evading a roadblock, their gas tank explodes into flame as they continue to race away, the police in hot (I couldn’t resist) pursuit. After a stint in prison, he continues his criminal ways until his arrest and trial as “The Red-Light Bandit”. He defends himself but ultimately is found guilty on 17 of the 18 charges against him.

Former actor turned director Fred F Sears keeps the film moving at a fast clip, wasting none of its 72-minute running time. Sears is perhaps best known perhaps for the flying monster turkey THE GIANT CLAW (Columbia 1957) but he also was a director of skill with films such as this and THE WEREWOLF (Columbia,1956). Sadly, he died in 1957 at only age 44, directing 20 various tv shows as well as 34 films and serials in just a ten-year period!

 

5 AGAINST THE HOUSE (1955) is more a caper film, with 4 friends stopping in Reno for some quick gambling. Two of them get caught up by the police when someone tries to rob the casino, but after they clear themselves of the crime, they get an idea to commit a perfect crime. What they plan and what happens of course are two different things.

A good cast that includes Kerwin Matthews (now and forever Sinbad from THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD) in his first starring film role, Kim Novak (VERTIGO, Paramount,1958) in her third featured film, William Conrad (famous as the T.V. detective  CANNON, Quinn Martin, 1971-76), Guy Madison (1954 Golden Globe Award Special Winner-Best Western Star), Alvy Moore (best known as “Hank Kimball “on the television series GREEN ACRES, Filmways,1965-71) and especially Brian Keith. Keith may best be known for his more loveable roles in films like the father in Disney’s THE PARENT TRAP (1961) as well as the family friendly T.V. series FAMILY AFFAIR (Don Fedderson ,1966-71) will be blown away by his tortured character here. The screenplay is by Stirling Silliphant (Oscar winning screenplay adaptation of IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, UA,1967) based upon a novel by Jack Finney (most famous for his serialization and then novel THE BODY SNATCHERS, 1955).

THE NIGHT HOLDS TERROR (1955) is based upon a true event from 1953 wherein Edwards Air Force Base worker Gene Courtier picked up a hitchhiker that led to his wife and two children being held captive by James Canigan, Leonard Mahon, and an A.W.O.L. marine named Donald Hall.


The film follows the true events accurately until final third. The movie was shot in 18 days on a $78,000 budget (according to Time Magazine, August ,1955) around where the actual events took place. The flick was produced, written, directed and edited by the husband and wife team Andrew & Virginia Stone (who produced another hostage family film in 1958 called CRY TERROR! For MGM and later Andrew directed the big budget SONG OF NORWAY, ABC Pictures,1970).


In the picture, Gene Courtier (Jack Kelly, Brother Brett in the tv series MAVERICK, WB,1957-72) picks hitchhiker Victor Gosset (Vince Edwards, pre-BEN CASEY(BCP,1961-6) fame. Interesting note, while the family’s real name is used, the rest of the names are changed in the picture)who pulls a gun and has the driver pick up Robert Batsford (John Cassavetes ,later world renowned for his indie films like FACES,Continental,1968 ) and Luther Logan (David Cross, later one of the “clickers” in THE CREATION OF THE HUMANOIDS (Emerson,1962).

The trio plan on killing the good Samaritan, but Gene convinces them to go to a town where he will sell his car. The dealership, however, only gives him a few dollars and a check, and so the crazed criminals go to the Courtier home and terrorize the family until the morning.

The dialogue is typical tough guy gangster stuff but the villains, in particular Cassavetes, who seems to be on the edge of gleeful sadism even when standing, make it truly suspenseful.

 


NEW ORLEANS CONFIDENTIAL (1955) is a pre – ballyhoo William Castle (HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, AA,1959) drama. Castle had made many serviceable and entertaining films in various genres since he began directing in 1939.
Dan Corbett (Arthur Franz, MONSTER ON THE CAMPUS, Universal, 1958) needs money to buy a boat he plans to live and work upon, and so he begins to work for crooked Zero Saxon (Michael Ansara , HARUM SCARUM ,Paramount 1965) which leads him to get involved in smuggling and even murder. Also, in the cast was Beverly Garland(NOT OF THIS EARTH, AA ,1957) but most of the roles, shot mostly on location, featured real dockworkers and local politicians. Some of the flat line readings from the locals makes you wonder why Castle didn’t just budget for some quick dialogue looping, but that’s part of the tribulations of low budget filmmaking.

 

 

 


FOOTSTEPS IN THE FOG (1955) is probably the biggest budgeted and best-known film in the set, as well as the only picture in color. I first became aware of the picture when the late lamented fanzine PHOTON mag used it on the cover of issue 21.

 

FI.T.F. was based upon the short story “THE INTERRUPTION” that was printed in Colliers Magazine (July 4,1925). The rights were bought by director Arthur Lubin, who intended to make the picture in 1949 but instead was hired to direct FRANCIS THE TALKING MULE (Universal,1950)!


After several different cast and title changes were announced but never started, producer Mike Frankovich finally got the production going, with Lubin directing. The director said that leading man Stewart Granger didn’t care for him, but that the final product was a good film. I agree.


Stephen Lowry (Granger,KING SOLOMON’S MINES,MGM,1950) has poisoned his wife for her money and he is blackmailed by his maid Lily (Jean Simmons,Academy Award winner for HAMLET,Rank/Universal,1948). Stephen decides he must do away with this new woman complicating his life, and during a London fog, attempts to do so in a most violent fashion.

To tell more would be to remove the many wonderful twists and turns of this delightful gaslight era little thriller, populated with so many wonderful British character actors, like a pre-Doctor Who William Hartnell and many more. This is probably my favorite film in the collection. Sadly, the film is often ignored, perhaps due to it not being a hit when it was first released.

 


SPIN A DARK WEB (1956 aka SOHO INCIDENT, its original U.K. title) was another British made thriller produced by American born (adopted son of comedian Joe E. Brown) producer Mike Frankovich. Director Vernon Sewell (CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR, AIP/Tigon,1968) shot on location in seedy parts of London to make this noir picture, making the film interesting for those who wish to see how the city has changed over the decades.

 

A down and out boxer (a profession that pops up in many of these films) named Jim gets involved with Rico Francesi’s (Martin Benson, THE STRANGE WORLD OF PLANET X ,Eros, 1958 )gang ,which leads him to become involved with the murder of another fighter as well as the pleasant though dangerous act of becoming the object of amour by Rico’s sister, Bella (Faith Domergue,THIS ISLAND EARTH Universal,1955). Domergue really is the focus of this picture and dominates the production until its rather weak ending.

Fred F Sears and Sam Katzman pop up again with RUMBLE ON THE DOCKS (1955) in a film that seems to want to cash in on the previous year’s ON THE WATERFRONT (Columbia,1954),though on an even lower budget that that picture, using rear projections and stock shots for the New York local ,as well as some San Pedro locations. James Darren (TV’S TIME TUNNEL, Irwin Allen ,1966) makes his film debut as Jimmy, the leader of a local gang. Jimmy’s father Pete (Edgar Barrier,an original member of Orson Welles Mercury Theatre,he was  Banquo in the 1948 Republic MACBETH) a former longshoreman until the mob broke his back now runs s mall shop, one day, he turns down a bribe from Joe Brindo (Michael Granger,CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN ,Columbia 1955), who was responsible for crippling Pete. Jimmy cannot understand why his father doesn’t take the money which angers his father and his mother (Celia Lovsky ,a former wife of Peter Lorre, known as the deaf Mrs. Cheney in MAN OF A THOUSAND FACES, Universal,1953).

Brindo tries to use Jimmy to use as leverage against his father. The film thus becomes also an ersatz REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (WB,1955) with a lot less self-indulgence by Darren as he is being “torn apart” by his real father’s morals and the easy money offered by Brindo. With his natural charm and talent.

The Region A three-disc Blu Ray set all look fine, considering their age and rarity. While there is no mention of restoration, the print quality on all is sharp, with DTS-HD Mono Audio, and optional English subtitles. There are no other extras, but the collection and price point for 9 films makes this a minor quibble.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

For Classic Film Lovers

Mysteries
Noir Fans
1950s Movies

-KEVIN G SHINNICK

*The moral of Noir films- AVOID WAITRESSES AND SERVANT GIRLS.

 

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THE PRESIDENT’S LADY (Twilight Time Blu Ray)

THE PRESIDENT’S LADY (Twilight Time Blu Ray) – August 2019. original Release: Twentieth Century Fox ,1953. 96 minutes. B&W. Blu Ray Limited to only 3,000 copies. 1080 High Definition transfer .1.33:1. Region Free. $ 29.95 https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/presidents-lady-the-blu-ray/

“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”- Carleton Young, THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (Paramount,1962)


Twilight Time has once again released a beautiful Blu-ray of a classic film, though on a subject that may draw some controversy.

Andrew Jackson (March 15, 1767 – June 8, 1845), the seventh President of the United States from March 4, 1829 to March 4, 1837, was and is a controversial figure. A lawyer who served in both the House and Senate, as well as a Justice on the Tennessee Supreme Court, he became a General who fought in the Creek Wars against indigenous Natives, as well as the War of 1812 against the British (1812-1815).

Jackson was a slave owner, which, along with his harsh treatment of the American Indian Populace has led to the current controversy about removing his likeness from the $20 bill. Indeed, his treatment of his slaves was keenly cruel, beating them, once a brutal public whipping of a woman he felt was “putting on airs” and when one escaped, he offered an extra $10 (about $200 in today’s dollar value) for every 100 lashes given! He also opposed any policies that would outlaw slavery in the expanding Western territories.

Jackson also pushed through the INDIAN REMOVAL ACT, which resulted in the forced displacement of nearly 50,000 Native Americans whom he viewed as savages. This led to the infamous ‘Trail of Tears”, wherein over 4,000 Cherokee died in forced marches, and the displacement wherein the ancestors of these tribes are still suffering in poverty.

 

 

Most of this is whitewashed, overlooked, or non-existent in Irving Stone’s biographical novel, THE PRESIDENT’S LADY (Doubleday, Hardcover, 1951). Stone first gained fame for his brilliant LUST FOR LIFE (Grosset & Dunlap,1934), still one of the best and most well-known books about the tortured genius Vincent Van Gogh. He followed it up over the years with seven more biographies of historical political figures and artists, before writing THE PRESIDENT’S LADY.

 

 

The novel covers the early years of Jackson’s life, but concentrates heavily upon the at the time scandalous romance between Jackson and his love, Rachel.

It was quickly optioned by Twentieth Century Fox, becoming the first of Stone’s works adapted into a film (LUST FOR LIFE was adapted in 1956 by MGM, and his 1961 novel THE AGONY & THE ECSTASY (Doubleday,1961) was adapted by Fox in 1965).

 

Fox assigned Sol C Siegel (PANIC IN THE STREETS, Fox, 1950) to produce and John Patrick (MR MOTO TAKES A CHANCE, Fox,1938) to write the screenplay, which focused heavily upon the romance /scandal aspects of the tale. Director Henry Levin (CRY OF THE WEREWOLF, Columbia,1944) Director of Photography Leo Tover (THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, Fox,1951), makeup artist Ben Nye (THE GHOST & MRS MUIR, Fox,1947) also joined the team.

 

In 1789, Andrew Jackson ( 30 year old Charlton Heston, in his fifth Hollywood film)rides into the frontier town of Nashville (some sources say 1788) to become a boarder to a family friend, the widow Mrs. Donelson (Fay Bainter, THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY, Goldwyn ,1947).There he meets her daughter Rachel Donelson Robards           ( Susan Hayward, DAVID & BATHSHEBA ,Fox,1951) . They start getting close and even dancing that evening at a family gathering until interrupted by her jealous husband.

 

The film follows their tumultuous courtship and scandal that nearly destroyed his career, even as he became known as a major general and politician who would achieve the position of U.S. President.

A sumptuous historical drama,  the picture is well researched and well-acted, concentrating upon their love story that leads up to tragedy just as he ascends to the highest office in the land.

Twilight Time has given the film a REGION FREE 1080p High Definition 1.33:1 release, with rich blacks and marvelous shadings of gray that never muddy.

The English 1.0 DTS-High Definition Master Audio is crisp and pop free, with cannons seeming to have an extra ring when fired.

Extras include

English subtitles

-An isolated Audio track of Alfred Newman’s score as well as sound effects. The score goes from bombastic military to classic Newman romance (as well as period sounding music for the dances). It really is a wonderful example of how music helps underline the dramatic storytelling of film.

 


The President’s Lady Radio Show– back in the 1940s and 1950s, many major films were adapted for radio, often using the original film stars to recreate their roles. Often, they would be truncated versions of the films, with narrators filling in gaps. The Lux Radio Theater had started as a Sunday afternoon radio show in 1935 that adapted popular stage plays but soon moved into doing the same weekly for various films, ending after 906 episodes in 1955. The programs were performed live before a studio audience of about a 1,000 people, with a full orchestra and sound effects.

The September 28,1953 broadcast had Heston reprise his role, with Joan Fontaine taking on the role of Rachel. The 55:22-minute drama is a highlight version of the film, with narrator Paul Frees deep tones a bit over dramatically telling us what happens between scenes. Screenwriter John Patrick also worked upon this adaptation, as well as playing a small role. It is a fascinating addition to the disc, and Twilight Time is to be commended for seeking it out.


Original Theatrical Trailer

Booklet– once again, Twilight Time provides a lovely booklet with photos from the film, as well as an overview on the film.

Limited to 3,000 copies, the film is well-recommended to fans of

Historical dramas

Charlton Heston (who later reprised the role of Andrew Jackson in THE BUCCANEER, Paramount ,1958)

Susan Hayward.

-Kevin G Shinnick

Like and Follow us on https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com

and on https://www.facebook.com/SCARLETreviews/

 

One of the tie-ins to the film NOT included was an interesting recording by Jackie Gleason and his Orchestra.

A 7″ 1953 Capitol Record ,45 rpm,
side one THE PRESIDENT’S LADY
side two WHITE HOUSE SERENADE

https://archive.org/details/78_the-presidents-lady_jackie-gleason-and-his-orchestra-alfred-newman_gbia0043493b/The+President’s+Lady+-+Jackie+Gleason+and+His+Orchestra.flac

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THE CHAIRMAN (Twilight Time Blu Ray)

THE CHAIRMAN (Fox,1969) TWILIGHT TIME Blu Ray July,2019. Color 98 minutes. Region Code: Region Free (A/B/C) Limited Edition of 3,000 Units $29.95
https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/chairman-the-blu-ray/

 

The 1960s was a time when spy stories were incredibly popular. James Bond of course became a cultural phenomenon, but also the pop culture reflected the tensions that had been growing since the Cold War began in 1947.

 

Most of the films dealt with the conflict between the United States and the U.S.S.R. Indeed, The Berlin Wall became a physical demarcation line for the cultural and political differences between these two superpowers.

 

Few stories, however, dealt with the other large Communist nation that was at social odds with the West. Red China had become Communist in 1949, and, under the leadership of Mao ZeDong, a cruel regime was established that had millions dying from starvation, or inhumane torture and imprisonment.

One of the only movies to deal with the political tensions between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (which Mao led until his death in 1976) is the 1969 Twentieth Century Fox production, THE CHAIRMAN.

 

 

The novel was written by Jay Richard Kennedy. Kennedy worked as Harry Belafonte’s manager for years, before becoming V.P. of Sinatra Enterprises, as well as a story editor. He began to develop an idea for Sinatra (along the lines of his hit THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, UA 1962) that would film in Hong Kong, and costar Spencer Tracy and Yul Brynner. When that didn’t happen, he turned it into a novel. Kennedy had some inside knowledge of the spy game, as, feeling that Communists were infiltrating certain political groups, he also worked as an informant for the FBI and CIA.

 

Fox picked up the rights to the novel, and a screenplay was fashioned by Ben Maddow (who was Oscar nominated for his work on THE ASPHALT JUNGLE (MGM, 1950) before being blacklisted and forced to work uncredited through a “front” writer until 1958. Producers Mort Abrahams (who began producing early tv sci fi like TOM CORBETT,SPACE CADET,CBS ,1950-1955) and Arthur Jacob were able to bring Gregory Peck (Oscar winner for TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, Universal,1962) into the project (Jacobs’ formerly had a company wherein he had been Peck’s publicist) giving the project some star power.

 

Also added to the cast was Golden Globe nominee Anne Heywood, Tony Award winner Arthur Hill, classic film favorite Keye Luke (number one son to Warner Orland’s Charlie Chan in seven films), Burt Kwouk (Cato in six Pink Panther films),and actor Conrad Yama. Yama had been Mao in Edward Albee’s avant-garde play “Box-Mao-Box,” which premiered in Buffalo and opened on Broadway in October ,1968, which led to his casting in this film. The American actor of Japanese descent even portrayed the Chinese leader for several advertising agencies!

Action director Lee Thompson, who had directed Peck in GUNS OF NAVARONE (Columbia,1961) and CAPE FEAR (Universal,1962), was brought in to direct. Thompson also directed Peck in MACKENNA’S GOLD(Columbia,1969) that same year.

 

Due to the closed society of China and the film’s subject matter, the production team decided to film in Taiwan, with some exterior locations filmed in the rougher terrain of Snowdonia, Gwynedd, Wales! Some other location work was done in London, as well as some sets being built at Pinewood Studios.

The science fiction tinged tale concerns a University Professor, Dr John Hathaway (Peck) being asked to investigate a possible new Chinese discovery, which allows them to grow food in areas formerly considered too inhospitable or harsh to sustain growth prior.

 

A one-way transmitter is implanted into his skull (he can transmit but cannot receive messages) that also can be used as an explosive device to prevent him from falling into Chinese hands, should he be captured.

Peck goes to Hong Kong, under the pretense of visiting an old colleague (Keye Luke). Suspicion abounds, and he is the subject of intense interest by the Chinese and the Russians (who, like the U.S., do not want China to be the only mega-power with this special growth enzyme.). Things get a bit more intense when Mao himself wants to meet with the Professor.


Double crosses and murder follow, leading to a chase leading up to the Russian border.

As I am writing this, Hong Kong is in it’s second week of protests and marches against China ,while  there are also massive marches taking place within Russia against their oppressive government.

This film suddenly has gone from a relic of cold war geo-politics as possibly reflective of what is to come.

When first released, the film was not a financial success, losing to audiences flocking to the flashier ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (UA). Hitchcock’s own political thriller, TOPAZ(Universal) also failed to find an audience in that summer of MIDNIGHT COWBOY (UA) and EASY RIDER (Columbia).

In England, THE CHAIRMAN  was released as “The Most Dangerous Man in the World”, whose title makes you wonder were they referring to Mao or to the character Peck played?

 

The Twilight Time presentation, need I say, is, as always, first rate. The Region Free (A/B/C) 1080p High Definition print is as good as one has come to expect from the company, with the work of cinematographer John Wilcox (GUNS OF NAVARONE) and an uncredited Ted Moore (A MAN FOR ALL SEASON, Columbia ,1966) shown to fill the full 2.35:1 ratio frame ,particularly in shots as the camera pans through the Hong Kong clubs or at the ending during the final chase.


The sound is available in English 2.0 DTS-HD MA or English 1.0 DTS-HD MA .The original Mono sound has been cleaned up, and I noticed no pops or hiss upon the soundtrack, but I noticed very little difference switching back and forth between the two tracks (except for the explosions seemed a bit louder on the 2.0). There is also optional English SDH that follows the dialogue and action accurately.

 

The extras:

Jerry Goldsmith’s score is available on a separate isolated music /sound effects track. Though not as strong as his score for THE SAND PEBBLES (Fox,1966), even lesser Goldsmith is superior to the best work of many other composers. The OST on CD, released in 2011, is now commanding prices of nearly $100, so this alone makes the Blu Ray a bargain.

 

Audio Commentary with Film Historians Eddy Friedfeld and Lee Pfeiffer. The duo has done many other Twilight Time commentary tracks (OUR MAN FLINT, Fox 1966), and, as usual, are very relaxed in tone but informative.

The Chairman Mini-Film – This little oddity is an abridged version of the movie, almost as if it was one of those Super 8mm versions available in the 1980s. I assume it was made to give the press an idea of the film without showing the entire production.

Two Alternate Scenes from the International Version. -Even until 1969, filmmakers were shooting two versions, one for general audiences and for more restrictive markets, and then a bit racier (i.e. female nudity) for certain foreign markets.

Original Film Trailer.

RECOMMENDED for fans of
GREGORY PECK
Political Thrillers

-Kevin G Shinnick

 

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NEXT STOP, GREENWICH VILLAGE (Fox,1976,111 min.color) Blu-Ray Twilight Time $29.95

                                                                                NEXT STOP, GREENWICH VILLAGE

(Fox,1976,111 min.color) Blu-Ray Twilight Time $29.95 https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/next-stop-greenwich-village-blu-ray/ released May 22,2018 limited to 3,000 copies only.

 

While not as well known or as financially successful as AN UNMARRIED WOMAN (Fox,1978) or BOB &CAROL & TED & ALICE (Columbia ,1969), to me NEXT STOP GREENWICH VILLAGE is writer/producer/actor/director Paul Mazursky’s masterpiece that can be revisited again and again.

A semi-autobiographical work, N.S.G.V. perfectly captures the mood of a vibrant bohemian culture that defined the Village scene until the early 2000s, when the area grew too expensive and the quirky and energetic art, individualism, and yes, just plain fun crazy inhabitants were driven out, and the cozy brownstones and shops turned into expensive high-rises and expensive pretentious stores that lack any personality.

 

Much of the credit must go to the casting geniuses of Juliet Taylor and Sylvia Fay (background). Ms. Taylor and the late Ms. Fay (if you ever saw tv’s  FRIENDS(W.B.,1994-2004), actress June Gable obviously based her character of the chain-smoking Estelle on the late Sylvia Fay) were the unsung heroes of NY casting.

Unlike many casting directors today, they would attend Off -Off Broadway shows, seeking out new interesting faces and talent.

That is how Ms. Taylor came across actor Lenny Baker. The actor was busy working in Off Broadway shows, when she brought him to the attention of director Mazursky very close to the start of actual filming. The role fit the actor to a “t”, and he went on to win a Tony Award in 1977 for his role in the musical I LOVE MY WIFE. It is a major shame that illness took him from audiences too soon, dying from AIDS in 1982 at age 37.

   Ilene Graff as Cleo and Lenny Baker as Alvin in I Love My Wife

 

The film is also filled with a lot of New York stage actors who were still unknown at the time, including leading lady Ellen Greene (later most famous for her star turn both on stage and off as a blonde tressed Audrey in the musical LITTLE SHOPPE OF HORRORS) and a blink and you’ll miss him Bill Murray. This film and many New York lensed films of the 1970s truly did live up to the maxim, ‘They had faces then”.

 

Surrounding the talented newcomers were seasoned stars and supporting actors like Shelley Winters, Lou Jacobi, and Mike Kellin (whose last film role was as Mel in SLEEPAWAY CAMP, American Eagle, 1983).

 

• The Lapinskis are a nice if eccentric working class Jewish family living in Brooklyn ,1953 when son Lenny Lapinski (Baker) decides it’s time for him to move to Manhattan and pursue his dream of becoming an actor, much as the idea brings agita to his mother Fay (Winters) and his somewhat henpecked dad Ben (Kallin).

• Finding a flat in a Village brownstone, he is soon surrounded by loving bohemian friends who are artistically hungry, assured self-centered intellectuals, or creating lives and backgrounds for themselves that help them survive the real world. Among this idiosyncratic crew are Anita (Lois Smith), a high-strung friend who contemplates suicide, Robert (Christopher Walken) as the smug poet Robert, and Bernstein a black gay man who is full of fanciful stories of his life (Antonio Vargas, whom if you only know him as Huggy Bear from tv’s STARSKY & HUTCH, Spelling-Goldberg,1975-79, you will be astonished by his brilliant and touching turn here), hanger on Connie (Dori Bremmer).

The cast and director Mazursky

 

Lenny also a girlfriend, free spirit Sarah Roth (Greene). Their relationship is very sexual, in contrast to the normal conformity of the era. She enjoys their relationship but doesn’t want to be merely someone’s girlfriend. The problem is she isn’t sure exactly where she fits in the world.

 

That is not an issue with Lenny, who goes to acting classes, hoping like so many to be the next Brando, while working in an health food shop run by Herb (Lou Jacobi) and his wife (Helen Hanft, a fixture in Off -Off and Off-Broadway productions).

 

Along the way, we have many funny and tragic events happen along the way to Lenny’s journey to achieve stardom. Moments perfectly capture what feel honest and true of the period, including rent parties (a $1 a head, when a flat could be had for $50 a month!).

 

Among the names mentioned above, keep an eye out for Jeff Goldblum as a self-centered actor who studied at “The Studio” whose big mouth costs him from even being able to audition, Joe Spinnell as a cop who watches Lenny performing on a subway platform, and Rutanya Alda as an uncredited party guest.

 

The film was lensed by Arthur J. Ornitz (son of one of the Hollywood Ten ,Samuel Ornitz),who had been behind the camera for such films as THE BOYS IN THE BAND (National General,1970),SERPICO (Paramount,1973) and DEATH WISH (Paramount,1974) ,which all used a similar grainy look and brown palette in color, but he was also the cinematographer on HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS (MGM,1970), so he was not limited in his color use or cinematic style .

 

Bill Conti was the composer, the same year that he wrote his score for ROCKY (U.A.,1976). For N.S.G.V., his score is a bluesy jazzy score that perfect evokes the era, often using pieces from the Dave Brubeck Quartet (the 1953 set film has Brubeck’s 1959 composition ‘Blue Rondo a la Turk”) or Charlie Parker.

 

 Don’t you hate when your parents walk in during sex?                                                                    

 

 

The film was mostly shot on location in NYC, though you would be hard pressed to find many of the locations nowadays. A shot looking toward the city from the subway platform clearly shows on the far-left buildings that were not there in the 1950s, but this, like the Brubeck note, are so nitpicky, that if you notice them while seeing the film then you aren’t paying attention to the brilliance of the storytelling.

 

You can still recognize the location on 7th Avenue South and Christopher Street (Village Cigar is still there) and you can still a nice meal at Café Reggio on 119 MacDougal Street, as well as Julius’s Bar at 159 W 10th Street, which is NYC’s oldest Gay Bar (it was also used in a scene for the film of THE BOYS IN THE BAND).

The commentary track by Mazursky (more on in a bit) mentions that Alan Ladd Jr, then head of 20th Century Fox, gave the director a lot of input on the film, up to and including the poster design by graphic designer Milton Glaser. Mazursky leaves it at that, but I was curious as to why he felt that was important to reference.

 

 

Though his imagery is well known even when his name is not (the original Broadway production of ANGELS IN AMERICA, for Bob Dylan, and the I LOVE NY logo, this is one of the illustrators few movie posters.

 

The more Norman Rockwell-ish design is by artist Birney Lettick, whose artwork graced movie posters for many a major American film across the genres..

 

The Blu Ray from Twilight Time is another winner from this company. An upgrade in picture quality from the previous DVD release from Fox, this is a 1080p High definition transfer in 1:85:1 ratio. The original grain and dark colors perfectly capture the look of the film when it played theatrically in 1976, to critical praise but small audiences in the U.S. It found a more appreciative audience for its European screenings, but slowly and surely it has been discovered by new audiences with each release. This stands as the one that fans will want to own.

The sound is available to listen to in DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo as well as the original mono sound. I really didn’t notice any major difference, but since this is a dialogue driven score, it really doesn’t affect the overall enjoyment.

 

There are optional English SDH subtitles.

 

Other extras include

A very warm and informative commentary track recorded for the 2005 DVD release by director Mazursky and Ellen Greene. Though recorded separately, they are very nicely edited together for a commentary track that you may wish to listen to more often than other more technical but cold commentaries heard on bigger budgeted new releases. The joy that each have on recalling the film, and how it affected each one, is engrossing.

 

Another audio track allows you to hear the music track isolated in DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo. This is a fun score to listen to while you are doing things, like perhaps writing a film review.

The Original Theatrical Trailer- this will give you an idea of how much the film elements have been cleaned, as well as idea of how the studio sold films at the time.

 

 

There is a reversible case sleeve as well as a nice booklet with liner notes by Julie Kirgo, ending with some more personal commentary than usual that shows the power of this film.

This is a must have addition to anyone who

-Loves Great Independent Style filmmaking (ironically, it was greenlit by Alan Ladd Jr, then head of 20th Century Fox)
-seeing famous actors in their early works
-Nostalgia
-Superlative Storytelling.

 

 

Heck, I think I am going to watch it again right now.

HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION!
Get it now- remember -only 3,000 pressing.

-Kevin G Shinnick-

If you enjoyed this film, may I also recommend MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/moscow-on-the-hudson-blu-ray/
And
BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE
https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/bob-carol-ted-alice-blu-ray/
, also directed by Paul Mazursky.

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KISS OF DEATH (Twilight Time Blu Ray)

KISS OF DEATH. (Twilight Time Blu Ray) 20th Century Fox 1947. B&W. 99 minutes. Region Free. $29.95 .Limited to pressing of 3,000 discs. https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/kiss-of-death-blu-ray/

People who have never seen the complete film know of it due to the iconic scene of a giggling insane Tommy Udo (essayed by Richard Widmark in his stunning film debut) pushing a helpless wheelchair bound woman (Mildred Dunnock) down a flight of stairs as she screams in abject horror.

 

KISS OF DEATH is a classic example of film noir that needs to be in every film lovers collection. Dark storytelling with the sense that violence and death permeates the entire story. Shot mostly in New York City at many actual locations (though, in my humble opinion, I think the interior apartment scenes and stairwells are sets, as knowing the size of the old Mitchell 35mm cameras, as well as lights needed, that is a heck of a lot of equipment and people to squeeze into such small spaces, not to mention loading in and out). around the city.

Ex con Nick Bianco (Victor Mature, at the height of his stardom) and three others botch a jewel robbery that results in Nick getting arrested.

Rather than turn on his accomplices, Nick is sentenced to twenty years at Sing Sing Prison. Nick thinks that his accomplices will protect his family, but three years into his stretch, Nick’s wife commits suicide and his two daughters are sent to an orphanage. Nick tries to make a deal with the Assistant D.A. D’Angelo (Brian Donlevy) but too much time has passed to make a deal. However, if Nick will help the A.D.A. on another case, Nick will get paroled.

 

 

 

On the streets, Tommy Udo(Widmark)who served time with Nick, tracks down the mother of Rizzo. Rizzo, who is unseen in the film, was supposed to guard Mrs. Bianco, but instead it was hinted that he raped her, which resulted in her committing suicide. Tommy looks up to Nick (and many critics feel an almost homoerotic passion) and so when Rizzo’s mother (Dunnock) lies to him, we end up with the famous stairwell killing.

Udo tries to show off to Bianco, taking him to various establishments and talks freely about his previous crimes, to impress his “friend”. Nick, however, turns the info over to the Assistant District Attorney, who indicts Udo and grants Nick his pardon.

Nick tries to restart his life on the straight and narrow, marrying friend Nettie Cavallo (Coleen Gray ) who used to baby sit his daughters when he first went to prison. However, despite evidence, Udo is acquitted and wants revenge.

The film when it was first released was not an enormous success, but over the years its status has grown to where it is now acknowledged as one of the great film noirs of all time.

The film has been available on video and DVD in previous releases from Fox Video, but TWILIGHT TIME has really gone all out with its definitive release of this classic piece of cinema.

First off, the 1080p High Definition scan has increased the sharpness of the imagery, showing off the beautiful cinematography of Norbert Brodine. Brodine began working in the silent era (including Lon Chaney’s A BLIND BARGAIN, Goldwyn,1922), and during the early sound period he hopped around from major studios to independents (Bela Lugosi’s THE DEATH KISS, KBS,1932; DELUGE, Tiffany 1933) before finding a home at Hal Roach (TOPPER ,1937; OF MICE & MEN,1939; ONE MILLION B.C.,1939).

By the mid-1940s, he went over to Fox, where he had prior to KISS OF DEATH had lensed the noirish HOUSE ON 92nd STREET (1945).and the overlooked gem SOMEWHERE IN THE NIGHT (1946). His black and white photography has deep blacks and various shades of gray.

The sound is mono (DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0) and there is really no need for surround sound, as the music dialogue and sound effects are crisp and crackle free. David Buttolph’s music is sparse but always efficient when used.

As to extras:

There are two audio commentary tracks that are well worth listening to.

Original to this release are popular Twilight Time Film Historians Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman, who have a more conversational style and while knowledgeable, still have the joy of fans.

Kirgo, for example, points out that she grew up in NYC and recalls how it looked somewhat as the film presented it. They also go into the homoerotic feelings that Widmark’s character may have had for Mature (“Ya can’t have fun with dames about”).and how Widmark originally thought the script hilarious (!) and read the script to friends in the voice he used in the movie. It made me wonder if the erotic undertone was added by Widmark, similar to  what Stephen Boyd did years later to Charlton Heston in BEN HUR (MGM,1959).

Ported over from the prior Fox Film Noir series DVD release is the Audio Commentary with Film Historians James Ursini and Alain Silver has a more scholarly tone but never monotonic while delivering so much information on the making of the film and behind the scenes going ons (for example, Miss Dunnock had to be flung down the stairs TWICE because the cameraman was not ready!). They also discuss the (loose )1995 remake.

The music score is also available on a separate audio track. The trailer features legendary columnist Walter Winchell praising the film with hyperbole that must have made the publicity team go crazy about. The optional white English subtitles are clean and easy to read, and follow the dialogue and action.

Get it and add it to your collection or Tommy may have to visit you!

 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Kevin G Shinnick

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PANTHER GIRL OF THE KONGO (Republic,1955){Olive Films Blu Ray,2017}

PANTHER GIRL OF THE KONGO (REPUBLIC,1955) {OLIVE FILMS BLU RAY,2017} 2 HRS 48 Min. B&W. DTS-HD Master Audio English. Optional English subtitles. $29.95. https://olivefilms.com/product/panther-girl-of-the-kongo/ (Also on DVD for $19.95

 

Olive Films has done a masterful job of releasing Republic’s penultimate movie serial (the final and 66th one, KING OF THE CARNIVAL, was released later in 1955).

 

Filmed between 16 August and 4 September 1954 as “Panther WOMAN of the Kongo”, the 12-chapter serial was filmed on a budget of $179,341. To put it in perspective, Roger Corman filmed the 69-minute APACHE WOMAN (ARC) that same year for $80,000 and Ed Wood shot his 75-minute BRIDE OF THE MONSTER (Banner) for $70,000.

 

To stretch their budget, Republic had star Phyllis Coates (Lois Lane for the first season of T.V.’s ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN (Motion Pictures for Television,1952) wear the same outfit as Frances Gifford wore in the earlier 22nd Republic serial JUNGLE GIRL (1941) and a lot of footage was lifted from this earlier serial. By the way,14 years earlier the 15-chapter JUNGLE GIRL had cost $177,404!!

Jean Evans is a jungle adventurer who is handy with both a rifle and a camera. Due to a past incident wherein she saved the village, the Utanga tribe refer to her as Panther GIRL (Ms. Coates, who is still alive today at age 90, was 28 at the time.). While out on a photo shoot for a foundation, they spy some very large crustaceans. The natives suggest she get Larry Sanders (Myron Healey in a rare good guy role), a great white hunter.

 

Evil chemist Dr. Morgan (Arthur Space, a nicer doctor on T.V.’s LASSIE (20th Century Fox,1954-71)) has discovered an abandoned gold mine in the area is full of diamonds (when life gives you lemons….) which he covets. To scare of the natives and interlopers, he has developed is “hormone compound “(steroid abuse even then??) to turn ordinary crawfish into the giant ‘Devil Beasts”.

Since the monsters do not scare off Evans and Sanders, Dr Morgan enlists human goons Cass (character actor John Day) & Rand (Mike Ragan, more commonly seen in westerns) who use the personal touch of shooting at, and knock down fights with Sanders, with heroine often knocked out or tied up.

The Lydecker Brothers, wizards of special effects, did what they could to make crawfish look gigantic. Mostly it involved the hard-shelled stars on miniature sets or people against rear screen projections. The interaction involves one giant claw reaching from above rocks of from off frame to grab Panther Girl or some poor native. I wonder if Roger Corman somehow got it and used the claw for his late ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS(A.A.,1957). Probably inspired by the giant ants in THEM! (WB,1954), these creatures also have a mighty roar. Bert I Gordon must have studied this serial, as many of his effects seem to be inspired by the techniques used here (his first film KING DINOSAUR, Lippert,1955, used a lizard magnified via rear projection and double exposure).

What is interesting for a film of the period is that there is no romance between the two leads. Maybe the studio felt that the youngsters would not put up with “icky kissing” getting in the way of the monsters, fistfights, and perils. The villain, too, is not out to rule the world as many serial villains seemed to be trying to attempt, but was motivated by old fashioned greed.

 

What does date the film in many cringe worthy ways are its portrayal of the natives. Easily frightened and superstitious, they are often reliant on the white actors to protect them. They speak in pidgin English, and another tribe (The Returi) is bribed to attack the heroes after being bribed by an elixir (alcohol!).

Plus, for the title character, Panther Girl seems to spend a lot of time tied up, screaming, or knocked out while Sanders punches and shoots his way out of the situation. She is also grabbed by the claw at one point and later ape handled by a murderous gorilla (ape specialist Steve Calvert). A lot of Jean Evans‘ action are lifts from JUNGLE GIRL of her swinging from vines and riding an elephant. She does save Sanders (the name maybe a reference to “Sanders of The River” by Edgar Wallace (U.K. first edition by Ward, Lock & Co. (1911))?) from quicksand*, so she is not completely unhelpful.

The production has a very studio bound feel to it, like many television productions of the time. Republic, through its subsidiary, Hollywood Television Service, had been involved with the earlier COMMANDO CODY (1953). The 12-part serial had been originally envisioned as a television series with each chapter running about 25 minutes. The serial finally aired on NBC television in 1955, the year PANTHER GIRL OF THE KONGO was released. One wonders if this too was planned as a television series?

During the 1950s up to the 1970s, movie serials, especially those from Republic, were aired on television regularly. In 1966, it was edited into a 100-minute feature called THE CLAW MONSTERS. When Super 8 home theatre came out, it was released in silent and sound edits. In the 1990s, they started to receive less air time. The home video market kept the titles out in front of fans for many years thereafter, but few have been released in their entirety on DVD and Blu Ray.

The print quality is of the high standard we have come to expect from Olive Films. The picture is quite sharp with few blemishes. The sound is DTS-HD Master 2.0, though the sound has not been remixed to make use of the new sound systems but instead is a clear replica of the original track. The optional yellow English subtitles are very legible and follow the dialogue and action.

Oddly, there were no extras, not even a trailer. It is a shame, as the trailer is unique, with the star narrating part of it before an announcer takes over:

 

For fans of Republic Serials or the lovely Phyllis Coates, this is one you will want to add to your collection.

Kevin G Shinnick

*- Coates once recalled in an interview that after filming in the swamp, Healey insisted the two of them go get penicillin shots!

 

 

No animals were harmed during the making of the film, though I assume many of the monsters met a boiling pot of water for the wrap party .

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