1950s, 2020, Action Adventure, Adventure, Blu Ray, CLASSIC, Classic Hollywood, cult, Drama, film, https://www.facebook.com/scarletthefilmmagazine/, John Ford, John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, OLIVE FILMS, Uncategorized, Victor McLaglen, Western

RIO GRANDE (Olive Films Signature Blu Ray)

RIO GRANDERepublic, 1950 . 105 mins. B&W. Directed by John Ford. John Wayne ,Maureen O’Hara . Olive Films Signature Blu Ray release : November 17,2020 . $39.95 SRP. Region A. https://www.amazon.com/Grande-Oliver-Signature-Collection-Blu-ray/dp/B08K41T14H/ref=pd_sbs_74_4/133-3018232-7020546?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B08K41T14H&pd_rd_r=4077fff0-70dc-464e-87c8-7080f7300ada&pd_rd_w=xY9uI&pd_rd_wg=tUrFF&pf_rd_p=ed1e2146-ecfe-435e-b3b5-d79fa072fd58&pf_rd_r=1741FCC3Z575QNJ40SF7&psc=1&refRID=1741FCC3Z575QNJ40SF7


John Martin Feeney ,better known as John Ford, was and remains one of the cinemas greatest storytellers. From 1917 until 1976 , he was able to tell adventure filled stories with a lot of humanity and heart, developing a stock company of performers and technicians who would work with him again and again, bringing a uniformity of quality to his numerous projects.

He basically saved John Wayne from low budget B movies and turned him into an international star with STAGECOACH(Walter Wagner/U.A.,1939) and Wayne would return again and again to work with “Pappy”(his nickname for the director),with both delivering some of the best films of their respective careers , reaching their apex with the romance comedy THE QUIET MAN (Argosy/Republic ,1952, was also available from Olive Signature on Blu Ray ,and has become a sought after collector’s item).


Ford and Wayne made three films that have come to be known as the “Cavalry Trilogy”, made up of
FORT APACHE ( Argosy/RKO ,1948), SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (Argosy/ RKO ,1949) ,and this film ,RIO GRANDE (Argosy /Republic,1950). Though not directly related to each other, and made at two different studios ,with Wayne and various actors reappearing in the films, there is a unity in the stories about courage and honor .

The great Victor McLaglen


The film was also the first of five films that Wayne would co star with the wonderful Maureen O’Hara , three of which Ford directed them together in.



In 1879, Texas settlers are being attacked by Apache warriors who after the skirmishes, flee over the border to Mexico, outside of U.S. jurisdiction. During a recent attack, they have captured an Apache leader . Lt Col Kirby Yorke (Wayne), is hampered in his efforts due to lack of adequate troops. He is sent a group of mostly raw recruits to deal with this problem, among them is his son Trooper Jeff Yorke (16 year old Claude Jarman,Jr.,who had won an Academy Award for his wonderful work in 1946 for THE YEARLING,MGM). Jeff had flunked out of West Point, which does not make the relationship between father and son any better.



Adding to the tension is the arrival of Kathleen (Maureen O’Hara), Kirby’s estranged wife. She has arrived to buy out her son’s enlistment , only to discover her son does not want her to. Adding to the frisson is Sgt Major Quincannon(Victor McLaglen , Oscar winner for THE INFORMER ,RKO,1935),Kirby’s right hand man, who, during the Civil War, set torch to Bridedale, Kathleen’s Southern Estate.



The troops experience another attack from the Apaches who free their leader. Lt General Phillip Sheridan (J Carrol Naish , HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN ,Universal ,1944 ) orders Kirby decides to pursue the Apaches even into Mexico.



Yorke goes with two of his older troopers, Travis Tyree (Ben Johnson ,a former ranch hand who turned stunt man and small uncredited film roles, before Ford gave him a nice role in THREE GODFATHERS,Argosy/MGM ,1948 and becoming one of Ford’s stock company) and Daniel “Sandy”Boone (Harry Carey Jr ,the son of an actor who also was part of Ford’s reliables and was active until 2005,age 84 ). Also along is Jeff.

Ben Johnson



To complicate matters, they find out that a group of children have been taken hostage.

RIO GRANDE was a film that wasn’t originally planned by Ford. He was desperate to do THE QUIET MAN(finally made at Republic, 1952), but he could not convince any studio to produce it for him. Finally ,studio head Herbert J Yates made a deal with the director – he could make his passion project ,which Yates felt would be a prestige film but money loser , if he made RIO GRANDE for the studio as a more likely money maker.



Oddly, while RIO GRANDE did well , the little prestige film THE QUIET MAN was the bigger hit, becoming one of 1952’s top ten money makers. Still , RIO GRANDE made back double it’s cost for the studio .



The Olive Film release was previously released in a bare bones 1080p release in 2012. Now it has been given a special edition (Signature) release full of extras. The film is presented in DTS-HD 1.0 Mono that is very clear, whether it be the songs of The Sons of The Pioneers ,the battles, or a quiet scene between Wayne and O’Hara.



Ported over from Olive Films DVD release in 2002 is an informative Leonard Maltin documentary on THE MAKING OF RIO GRANDE .



Audio commentary track by Nancy Schoenberger (author of Wayne and Ford: The Films, the Friendship, and the Forging of an American Hero,Deckle Edge Publishers, 2017 ) who goes into great detail about the relationship of the director and actor, as well as the making of the film). Newly recorded for this release.



STRENGTH & COURAGEPatrick Wayne ,who made his uncredited debut as one of the kidnapped kids in the film, talks about his father.



New mini featurette ,BIGGER THAN LIFEClaude Jarman Jr talks about working on this film which he says is his personal favorite.



New mini featurette TELLING REAL HISTORIES – Actor Raoul Trujillo (native actor, JAMESTOWN ,Sky ,2017-19) discusses how Native Americans were depicted in films.

Raoul Trujillo in JAMESTOWN




• New Interview –SONGS OF THE RIO GRANDE – film historian Marc Wanamaker (Early Poverty Row Studios by E.J. Stephens and Marc Wanamaker ;Arcadia ,2014)discusses The Sons of The Pioneers and their work in this film.




Booklet by Paul Andrew Hutton (American Cultural Historian,who has acted as historical consultant on several films, like THE MISSING ,Columbia, 2003) with original essay about the film.


Original Theatrical Trailer

RIO GRANDE is indeed a classic of American Moviemaking , and should be in the possession of any lover of films.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


-Kevin G. Shinnick


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THE OTHER SIDE OF MADNESS -Film Detective Blu Ray



THE OTHER SIDE OF MADNESS (1971) Film Detective. Release November 13,2020. B&W. 81 minutes. Region A.

Ltd Edition (1,500 copies) Blu Ray $29.99 https://www.amazon.com/Other-Side-Madness-BONUS-Blu-ray/dp/B08HGPPRRS/ref=sr_1_2?crid=22CB1CDJH7Z7V&dchild=1&keywords=the+other+side+of+madness+blu+ray&qid=1606010306&sprefix=the+other+side+of+madness%2Caps%2C168&sr=8-2

DVD $21.95 https://www.amazon.com/Other-Side-Madness-BONUS-CD/dp/B08HGRZRJ9/ref=tmm_dvd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1601923760&sr=1-1



Back before we had non stop reality show and true crime recreations , including entire T.V. networks and podcasts dedicated to same, there were a lot of films released in the late 1960’s and 1970’s that dealt with shocking murders, a few being made by Hollywood, but more often rushed and amateurish , concentrating on salacious details to pad out the running time, or just making things up around the few details that were known at the time.

THE BOSTON STRANGLER (Fox,1968) and IN COLD BLOOD (Columbia,1967) were two of the big budget studio pictures that set the tone about true crime recreations, having the benefit of big budgets and major studio backing. Independent filmmakers were not going to leave such a profitable subgenre go unmined.



THE ZODIAC KILLER (Adventure ,1971, which has been restored and released on Blu Ray by AGFA/Something Weird) was made with the idea that it might even capture the infamous murderer , making it quite unique , though wildly conjectured . GUYANA: CRIME OF THE CENTURY (1979) was another quite inaccurate and exploitive film based upon the Jim Jones/Jonestown massacre, that got distribution by a major studio (Universal).


Somewhat in between is THE OTHER SIDE OF MADNESS, now being released on DVD and Blu Ray by Film Detective in a 50th Anniversary Edition. The film was possibly the first* to deal directly with the Charles Manson cult , the savage murder of a pregnant Sharon Tate and four others in her home, and then two other murders soon after ( all taking place between August 8-10,1969). So savage and senseless were the killings , that it became an international fixation on the police search and eventual arrest and trials of Charles Milles Manson (né Maddox) and his insane cult followers.


Manson had spent at least half of his life in and out of institutions, he ended up in California in 1967. The changing mores and the urge of many to question authority as well as explore alternative ideas was perfect for a con artist like Manson. People who feel adrift often join gangs or cults to feel that they belong to something greater than themselves, and Manson was obviously able to convince several people, mostly women, that he was the solution.


Manson’s dogma was a Doomsday Cult that would result in a Race War (Manson was a White Supremacist), that would somehow end up with Manson and his true believers leading the remnants of the human race. A failed musician, he read dark meaning into the Beatles song ‘Helter-Skelter”. In British English, a helter- skelter is a fairground attraction consisting of a tall spiral slide winding round a tower, but the phrase can also mean chaos and disorder . The murders were supposed to start the war. Later, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, another cult member tried and luckily failed to assassinate President Gerald Ford.


On July 15, 1970, the trials of Manson, Leslie Van Houten, Susan Arkins and Patricia Krenwinkel began (Tex Watson was tried later). One of the people who was fascinated by the case and attended the actual trials was producer /film collector Wade Williams. Williams was so fascinated by the case that he somehow even got to interview Manson in prison, even buying the rights to two of his songs. He chose first time director Frank Howard(who also was the cinematographer and editor on this, his only credit) to helm the script written by J.J. Wilke Jr. (screenplay), Duke Howzer (additional dialogue). They gathered a cast of unknowns for whom the majority that this film would also be their only known film credit.



The film was shot in black and white to give it the look of a documentary, as had been used in IN COLD BLOOD or THE HONEYMOON KILLERS (Cinerama, 1970). The film chooses to jump back and forth from the courtroom (using actual court transcripts) to the events leading up to the murders, wherein Manson gathers his followers. There is a surreal moment wherein we are shown what to expect when the projected race war happens, with black militants murdering everyone in the suburbs(one wonders if this film was viewed by donald trump ?) , but it is rather clumsily staged.

The director fades into color for a brief sequence about Sharon Tate’s acting career. The costumes used are obviously referencing Polanski’s THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS (MGM ,1967). Interestingly, since the trials were still going on while the film was being made, the real names were not used , and thus Tate is only referred to as ‘The Starlet “. Debbie Duff, the actress who portrayed her, certainly has a resemblance to Sharon Tate. Duff is one of the few performers who had more than one credit (HONKY, Getty & Fromkess Pictures Corp,1971). The name Charlie is used several times, though actor Brian Klinknett (who appeared in SLIME TOWN BLUES, NB Releasing,1974) is only referred to as “Killer “in the credits.

Debbie Duff
Sharon Tate


The actual murders, which, while not gory, are staged with almost fetishistic attention to details. The poor acting detracts from the frisson that the film works so hard to create. One character, after escaping from his bonds, stiffly walks toward the insane killers saying, ‘What the hell is going on?” before being shot dead is a prime example. The film often has stretches without dialogue (which, given how bad some of the actors are, is a bit of a blessing), with the court room scenes doing most of the heavy lifting in that area.

Much of the score is by Sean Bonniwell ,but Charles Manson himself is heard singing his composition “Mechanical Man “, a monotonic recitation with twangy guitar joined halfway through by mournful chanting ,showing Manson was also delusional about his dreams of being a rock star. The new Film Detective release has a bonus CD of “Mechanical Man “and “Garbage Dump” for you to listen apart from the film to judge for yourself.


The film ends with a credit crawl that makes one think of REEFER MADNESS (G& H, 1936) with its warning about the need to control drugs, which completely avoids the complexity of cults.



In a 1970 Box Office article, producer Williams stated that the film was in post-production for a November ,1970 release. The film’s production company, Auric Ltd, had announced it would be in “Auramation”, a “special cellular film treatment designed to heighten or depress the emotions …by subliminal monochromatic suggestions.”. Checking out the Blu-Ray, I saw no subliminal effects, so it may have been either ballyhoo or dropped.



Of note is that some parts of the film were shot on the actual Spahn Movie Ranch, where the Manson Cult had lived from 1968-69. Indeed, some of the remaining Manson followers appear in the footage. Shortly after the scenes were shot, the Spahn Ranch burnt to the ground. The ranch, established in 1947, had been used in several films, including THE CREEPING TERROR (Crown Int.,1964). Spahn was 80 years old, going blind and living at his ranch when he allowed the Manson Family to move in, rent-free, in exchange for labor .He was unaware of their nefarious activities.


The film was submitted to the MPAA in October ,1971 and slapped with an “X’ rating. To give it a chance for wider distribution, some further cuts were made to the film, garnering a re-release an R Rating. No record of what was cut, but the film went from an announced 91 minutes at a Cannes screening to its present length of 81. The film’s original rating may have hurt its box office originally, so the later R rating probably was too little too late. In 1976, the film was retitled as THE HELTER SKELTER MURDERS. For a time, the film was banned outright in Los Angeles.


Released theatrically by Prestige Pictures (BLACKENSTEIN,1973), it sat virtually unseen after it is 1976 reissue until the ever- hungry video market was born, which was desperate for product, any product. Media Home Entertainment released it on VHS as THE HELTER-SKELTER MURDERS (1989) before Wade Williams took it back, releasing it on his Englewood Entertainment label in both VHS and DVD.


Now, Film Detective has made a new deal with Wade Williams to release his vast library in brand new restored versions for the current DVD /BLU RAY market. THE OTHER SIDE OF MADNESS is their first release to mark it is 50th Anniversary in 2021.


First off, they have gone back to the original 35mm camera negative, they have given a clean up and a new 4K transfer that is a vast improvement over the previous home video releases. Sound is in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Optional subtitles are available in either English or Spanish.

Then there are the extras

There is the already mentioned CD of Manson performing “Mechanical Man” & “Garbage Dump”, taken from the original 7” vinyl soundtrack.

Ballyhoo Motion Pictures has created two original featurettes for this release:

– ‘The Other Side of Manson: An Interview with Producer Wade Williams”-an interview with the producer.

Wade Williams with Martin Scorsese


– “Mechanical Man: Wade Williams Meets Manson” – the story of how he got to have a meeting with the madman.

Two Trailers: the original release and as THE HELTER SKELTER MURDERS.

A 12-page booklet packed in the case with liner notes by filmmaker Alexander Tuschinski (MISSION CALIGULA ,2018) examining the film and its history.



THE OTHER SIDE OF MADNESS is of interest to those who wish to study the infamous history of Manson and his followers, especially from the context of it’s closeness to the actual crimes and trials, as well as use of actual songs by the master monster himself and footage of the Spahn Ranch.

-Kevin G Shinnick


*-A film called THE COMMUNE (1970) was purportedly the first to deal with the actual crimes, but I can find no information about this picture .



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THE SIN OF NORA MORAN (Film Detective Blu Ray)

THE SIN OF NORA MORAN (Film Detective Blu Ray and DVD. July 29,2020) Film original release December 13,1933(US). Produced by Majestic Pictures. Crime /Drama. B&W. 65 minutes. With 20 Minutes of Special Features. Blu-Ray $24.99. DVD $19.99. https://www.moviezyng.com/the-sin-of-nora-moran-bluray-dvd-zita-johann/810044715644

THE SIN OF NORA MORAN is a pre-code above average programmer probably mostly known for it’s beautiful poster by Alberto Vargas. The beautiful artwork really has nothing to do with the film, but oh does it draw your interest.

That said, THE SIN OF NORA MORAN is an entertaining drama from the early 1930s. At times, while watching it, I kept thinking of I WANT TO LIVE (U.A.,1958). The film is told in flashback form to tell the tragic story of Nora, played by Broadway actress Zita Johann. This was one of the seven films that she made between 1931-34, the best known being THE MUMMY (Universal,1932).

Nora ‘s early life was filled with tragedy, so when the star struck woman gets the chance to join the circus as part of a lion taming act for Paulino (John Miljan) she accepts. Paulino is a sadistic bastard, whose act it seems to consist of whipping and even punching a lion! It is no surprise then that Paulino is not above raping the poor woman. She survives and goes onto becoming a dancer in a small night club. There, she meets D.A. John Grant (Alan Dinehart). Things look like they are going better for her at last. Alas, it was not to be. It seems that Nora will die because of love.

The film is very daring for the period, with a woman who seems to be suffering from the aftereffects of the sexual attack upon her. Add to that, the unique jumping from present to past and back again in telling her story is quite unique. It had been done before (Griffith’s INTOLERANCE, Triangle, 1916) but very rarely, and I cannot recall any other sound films of that period doing so. The Griffith connection continues with the casting of with Griffith regular Henry B Walthall as Father Ryan, as well as Johann herself who appeared in THE STRUGGLE (U.A. ,1931).

 



Writer Willis Maxwell Goodhue had written several Broadway shows, mostly comedies. The film claims to have been based upon a Broadway play, but I can find no record of it playing upon the Great White Way. I suspect it is based upon an unproduced script of his called “Burnt Offering”. Filmed under the title of THE WOMAN IN THE CHAIR, its publicity claimed that it took five months to make the picture, a claim that I find a bit hard to believe. KING KONG (RKO,1933) took EIGHT MONTHS to make, and that was due to its extensive effects.


Majestic Pictures was a poverty row studio that was active from 1930 until 1935, when it and several other studios were absorbed into Republic Pictures. During their time, they produced THE VAMPIRE BAT (1933), perhaps their best-known picture, as well as THE SCARLET LETTER (1934). Larry Darmour, the founder of Majestic, had begun releasing the Mickey McGuire shorts in 1927, starring an incredibly young Mickey Rooney. After Majestic folded, Darmour went on to take over Columbia Pictures serial unit from 1938 until her passing in 1942.


Producer /Director Phil Goldstone worked in the industry from 1920 until 1942. His best-known contributions were as a producer for both WHITE ZOMBIE (uncredited; Halperin/ UA ,1932) and THE VAMPIRE BAT (Majestic ,1933). His most infamous title as director seems to be DAMAGED GOODS (Grand National,1937), a film about sexually transmitted diseases.

It is therefore quite surprising to witness his adventurous camera set ups and editing tricks of playing around with the timeline as he does. A scene near the end reminds one of Hitchcock whereas we see from a character’s point of view as he commits suicide by pistol (though not as successfully as the Master, it is indeed impressive for a small indie of the period).



The film fell into obscurity for many decades until film historian and filmmaker Sam Sherman (editor of the late lamented SCREEN THRILLS ILLUSTRATED ,and head of Independent International Pictures) was shown a 16mm print of THE SIN OF NORA MORAN and became fascinated with the picture. He even went so far as to get a print for himself and tracked down the lead Zita Johann, who was at that point already retired and living in West Nyack NY. She herself did not care for the film’s playing with time, preferring the original straightforward narrative that had been planned. Over time she began to appreciate the ambition of style that the film possessed. She even briefly came out of retirement to appear in a cameo in one of Sherman’s I.I. titles. Sherman also was able to repackage the film under a new title for tv distribution, VOICE FROM THE GRAVE, making it sound more like a horror film.



Now, thanks to Sam Sherman, film preservationist David Shepard, The Film Detective, and the UCLA FILM & TELEVISION ARCHIVE, an original 35 mm camera element was found, and a new 4K print was struck.



This release from The Film Detective is the definitive version of this film. Unlike other prints found elsewhere, the film is incredibly sharp and clear. The cinematography by Ira H. Morgan (who also filmed THE DEVIL BAT and DAMAGED GOODS, as well as working on Chaplin’s MODERN TIMES(!) (U.A.,1936) is as clear as many a major production of the era, with strong blacks and clear levels of gray shadings. The mono sound has been cleaned up and was as far as I noticed crackle free. Dialogue, sound effects and music did not blur or overpower each other as many indie films of the period do.


There are optional English subtitles for the dialogue.

The music by Heinz Roemheld is uncredited. In fact ,it seems that for most of his career, his music was written for stock music libraries ,being used into films into the 1960s. One of the films he did receive screen credit was for THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD (U.A.,1957) . The unusual thing about his score here is that it is used throughout the films entire 65 minutes running time.


Many films of that period were still coping with sound, and many used music sparingly, if at all. KING KONG (RKO,1933) was a major film that same year that showed a running musical score could work with a film’s storytelling.


Roemheld’s score is no where near as memorable as Max Steiner’s classic compositions. Indeed, at times it sounds a bit like music one would hear in an Our Gang short of the period, especially in a sentimental moment. At other times, it is quite sparse and effective.


As a bonus on the disc, Ballyhoo Pictures put together a nice 20 minute documentary, ‘The Mysterious Life of Zita Johann” (“mysterious” being misspelled on the back cover of the case )wherein Samuel M. Sherman talks about Johann and his connection to the film and the actress.

Inside the case there is also a booklet written by Sherman and illustrated with some rare movie clippings, lobby cards and photos.

 

All and all, a nice little collectable of a by gone era of filmmaking.

 

 


If that is not enough, for the limited edition blu ray release (1500 copies) ,within one of the packages will be a special certificate for one lucky purchaser to win a free 27” x 41” hand pulled lithograph of the Vargas poster , printed on Coventry 100% cotton archival paper with a certificate of authenticity .

 

No, it was NOT me.

 

 

 

the original Vargas sketch (here in a Lithograph) was more undraped

 

Kudos for all involved for the extraordinary amount of care given to this picture. Would that every movie be given this kind of treatment.


Check out THE FILM DETECTIVE’s gorgeous print of THE VAMPIRE BAT, which replicates the brief hand colored sequences that were used in certain release prints of the time. https://www.amazon.com/Vampire-Bat-Special-Detective-Restored/dp/B01LTIAUJ2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1490377335&sr=8-1&keywords=vampire+bat+the+film+detective+restored+version

RECOMMENDED.

-Kevin G Shinnick

the end

 

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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

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Contact: Kevin at scarletthefilmmag@yahoo.com

 

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FORGOTTEN & OVERLOOKED : SKULLDUGGERY (Universal,1970)Burt Reynolds, Susan Clark)

FORGOTTEN & OVERLOOKED will be a series of articles on science fiction ,horror, mystery ,and fantasy films that have somehow either been overlooked and /or not been made easily available for viewing . I am open to other suggestions and indeed other writers/creators who might wish to contribute to this series.

Contact Kevin at ScarletTheFilmMag@yahoo.com

Skullduggery – a forgotten Universal science fiction film

SKULLDUGGERY – 1970 Universal – A forgotten science fiction adventure film that has a lot of ideas behind it, even if the execution is a bit muddled.

A scientist ,Dr Sybil Greame ( Susan Clark ,COLOSSUS:THE FORBIN PROJECT, Universal, 1970) ,and a pair of guides, Douglas and Otto (Burt Reynolds, two years before his break-out star making turn in DELIVERANCE ,WB,1972 and Roger C. Carmel ,forever to be known as rascally Harry Mudd from his two appearances in the original STAR TREK television series,Paramount ,1966-69) go into the wilds of the New Guinea jungles (a few stock shots, then the rest mostly filmed on location in Jamaica), where they discover a skull of a half human -half primate throwback ,or the missing link.

 

Going further in the primeval forests, they come across a tribe who guide them to The Tropis. The Tropis are a small humanoid group (mostly played by college students from the University of Djakarta), a friendly primitive tribe of hirsute people. Childlike, the tough Douglas becomes very protective of them. Otto, however, develops a strong attraction to one of the females, Topanzia (Pat Suzuki, who starred in the original Broadway production of FLOWER DRUM SONG).

The rest of the “civilized” people look to exploit the Tropis. Father Dillingham (Chip Rafferty ,MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY, MGM,1962) wishes to baptize the Tropis until someone mentions it might be a blasphemy if they are not human, while Dr Greame’s boyfriend and financial backer Vancruysen (Paul Hubschmid ,THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS, WB,1953) figures that by he can exploit the creatures into near slavery to work in a mind that he has found .

Things take a dark turn when Topanzia gives birth to a still born child. After Douglas at first confesses to possibly killing the infant, he is put on trial, which brings in the idea of defining what humanity is.

Topanzia is kept in a cage in the courtroom, while a local District Attorney (magnificently played by William Marshall,BLACULA,AIP,1972) tries the case.

The project was based upon the 1952 French novel,” Les Animaux denatures” (First edition publ. Album Michel)) ,written by Jean Bruller under the pseudonym,”Vercors”. Bruller, who had fought in the French resistance, wrote several science fiction themed novels, as well as historical works.

 

The novel was translated into English by Rita Barrisse, and released under the name “YOU SHALL KNOW THEM” (aka “Murder Of The Missing Link” ;1953, Boston: Little , Brown) . The reviews were quite favorable at the time but it has become a rather overlooked work. One of the main differences between book and novel is that the baby is DELIBERATELY killed so that the case will be brought to trial.

 

Bruller adapted his work into a stage play called ZOO that was produced in Paris, and still is performed by many amateur groups(https://vimeo.com/272149857) . Director Otto Preminger (LAURA,Fox,1944) optioned the stage rights ,and hired Nelson Gidding to write a screenplay, that became  known as “The Case Of The Troublesome Topis”,dropping the “r” from the hominids name while making the story sound like a forgotten Perry Mason tale.

Gidding  finished the screenplay, but Preminger got busy in other projects, and so it seemed like it would end up as one of the many unproduced scripts in Hollywood.

 

However, producer Saul David had bought the novel rights, and brought it to Universal, after a misunderstanding with the newly formed ABC Pictures resulted in their dropping the project. Gidding, who adapted the 1969 Robert Crichton novel “The Andromeda Strain “(Knopf) into the classic Robert Wise film of 1971 for the studio, got his screenplay to the producer’s desk.

 

Burt Reynolds took the leading role, which required him to turn down a part in the motion picture M*A*S*H (Fox, 1970).

 

Filming began on January 6, 1969, under the direction of Richard Wilson (INVITATION TO A GUNFIGHTER, U.A.,1964). However, after just one day, producer Saul David (who had produced FANTASTIC VOYAGE, Fox,1966, and later LOGAN’S RUN, MGM,1976) fired the director. This would be the last project Wilson worked on, save for some contributions to the documentary IT’S ALL TRUE (Paramount,1993).

David brought in director Gordon Douglas, with whom he had worked on IN LIKE FLINT (Fox, 1967).

Karl Malden was considered for the role of Otto, but was deemed to thin (in the screenplay, the character was described as a heavy man). Roger C. Carmel was cast, only to have him arrive on set much thinner, having lost weight for the role!

Also in the cast were Edward Fox ( a year before he won a Best Supporting actor BAFTA for THE GO-BETWEEN ,Columbia,1971) , Alexander Knox (the title role in WILSON, Fox,1944) and the ever popular character actor Wilfred Hyde-White(Col. Pickering in the classic W.B. film adaption of the musical MY FAIR LADY, 1964).

 

The Tropis look was created and applied by Jack H Young (who had done make up for Bert I Gordon’s WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST, AIP,1958) Marvin G. Westmore (uncredited in this film, who had also worked uncredited on PLANET OF THE APES, Fox,1968 ) and Bud Westmore (DARK INTRUDER, Universal,1964). One suspects that Marvin was brought in due to his work on PLANET OF THE APES.

Indeed, the success of that film may have had some impetus in his being hired, as Fox also created a sequel to that film (BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES) in 1970. Interestingly,  PLANET OF THE APES was also based upon a Fremch novel , Pierre Boulle‘s  1963 “ La Planete des singes “(  First Edition :Editions Julliard).

 

IMDB claims that the estimated budget for SKULLDUGGERY was $4.5 million which seems a bit high (THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN cost  6.5 million, and was a far bigger picture).

 

When the film was released,the reviews were mixed, and the box office was not strong, so the film quickly ended up on some bottom bills at drive ins.

Burt Reynolds never talked badly about the film and indeed blamed the studio for not knowing how to sell the picture. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWoxl2KYUcM .

 

Oddly, the film was never released to home video in any format, and while it was shown on television in an edited version (brief nudity in a GP film), it has remained mostly unseen for nearly 50 years.

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SKULLDUGGERY is by no means a classic, and at times quite dated, but at other times the ideas behind it seem very timely.

Issue 1,Vol 1 of CINEFANTASTIQUE review

 

When films like BILLY THE KID MEETS DRACULA (Embassy ,1966) now getting the Blu Ray Special Edition treatment, perhaps Universal (or SHOUT! Factory, who have been doing a bang-up job on Universal’s genre films) might wish to release the picture to home video finally, so this missing link in Burt Reynold’s career will be missing no longer.

 

-Kevin G Shinnick

 

PLEASE like and Follow us on

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MEA CULPA – (correction  11/2/2019) -the original posting of this article listed CANDY Clark in the heading,

even though in the body of the article, SUSAN Clark was properly credited for her role in the film.

My apologies  to these two fine actresses.

 

CANDY CLARK  (AMERICAN GRAFFITI )

 

SUSAN CLARK (COLOSSUS THE FORBIN PROJECT)

 

I have properly chastised myself for this error.

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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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CRUISING (Arrow Video Blu Ray)

CRUISING (Arrow Video Blu Ray) – released August 20,2019 Color. 102 min.
$39.95 U.S. REGION A/1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aezm39HOBY

Original Theatrical Release February ,1980 Lorimar /U.A. (production cost estimate: $11 million .domestic gross – $19,784,223) Rated R.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Cruising-Special-Blu-ray-Al-Pacino/dp/B07SJHGNVZ/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?crid=2PYFLLZV3FOGR&keywords=cruising+blu+ray&qid=1566827996&s=gateway&sprefix=cruisin%2Caps%2C156&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUEyT0JVN1pUNjlJT1g2JmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUExMDQyNDQ5MjhXRlJQTjZXMTNXNiZlbmNyeXB0ZWRBZElkPUEwMzMxMzA0MzlGOU1BWUZIUDVUSyZ3aWRnZXROYW1lPXNwX2F0ZiZhY3Rpb249Y2xpY2tSZWRpcmVjdCZkb05vdExvZ0NsaWNrPXRydWU=

 

Ten years after directing THE BOYS IN THE BAND (National General ,1970), director William Friedkin took on another controversial gay themed subject, CRUISING. In the years since THE BOYS IN THE BAND, Friedkin had established himself as a director of thrilling films, such as THE FRENCH CONNECTION (Fox,1971) and the box office mega-hit THE EXORCIST (WB,1973).

 

At first, when producer Philip D’Antoni (THE FRENCH CONNECTION) broached the idea of a film based upon reporter Gerald Walker’s 1970 novel, CRUISING (Stein & Day, hardback), the director was not interested. D’Antoni then tried to interest an upcoming new director called Stephen Spielberg, but who finally also gave the project a pass.


The novel deals with an undercover cop named John Lynch (renamed Steve Burns in the later movie adaptation). Lynch is asked to go undercover into the leather bar s&m scene of the gay bars in Greenwich Village. We learn that a serial killer who cruises the leather bars has already killed four men. A straight male who is repulsed by the gay lifestyle, he sees the assignment as one that can help him advance in his career quickly, so he accepts.

The Stonewall Riots were less than a year old at the time, and before then, homosexuality had been treated as a perversion, with police regularly rounding up homosexuals . Indeed, it wasn’t until 1980 that the NY Court of Appeals abolished laws against private consenting homosexual conduct between adults (New York v. Onofre). That this was the same year as CRUISING was released probably added to the tension/controversy of the film but more of that later.

Lynch has a relationship with a woman, but while he is undercover, he starts to develop feelings for one of his gay neighbors. Will he be able to solve the murders and prevent further killings, while he deals with his own personal confusion?

As a mystery, CRUISING the novel let’s us know who the killer is early on so it is just a matter of when Lynch will cross the murderer’s path. Also, Lynch seems to be a bit of an Archie Bunker, with a lot of stereotypical comment by our “hero” against Gays (“fags”), Puerto Ricans, blacks, etc. The picture it paints of New York City seems to be the same one that Travis Bickle would cruise in his vehicle years later in TAXI DRIVER (Columbia ,1976).


Indeed, New York had begun a decline that it took several decades to climb slowly back out from. Drugs, murders, homelessness, prostitution, rape, and urban flight caused the city that never sleeps to become what many viewed as Hell On Earth, an image not helped by films like DEATH WISH (Paramount ,1974).

 

The rights next went to agent turned producer Jerry Weintraub (NASHVILLE, Paramount, 1975) who approached Friedkin with the work. This time, the director was more receptive to a cinematic re-imagining of the novel.

In the intervening years, a series of murders of homosexual men had occurred in New York that were chronicled in The Village Voice by reporter Arthur Bell.

Friedkin was acquainted with undercover police detective Randy Jurgenson (who acted as a consultant on THE FRENCH CONNECTION). Jurgenson, a purple heart awarded veteran who had fought in the battle of Pork Chop Hill in 1953, told the director that he had served uncover investigating the gay culture of New York.

Another odd co-incidence was that Paul Bateson, a doctor’s assistant who appears in THE EXORCIST (the hospital exam scene, which many find more frightening than the more supernatural occurrences) was charged in the murder of Variety Reporter Addison Verrill.

Friedkin worked upon the screen adaptation himself in consultation with Jurgenson and Salvatore “Sonny” Grosso (whose exploits with Eddie Egan inspired THE FRENCH CONNECTION, on which they also provided consultation). Both detectives  took small roles in the film . The writer-director, along with several of his team, made several trips to the various notorious hardcore gay clubs ,such as the Mineshaft and the Anvil, both located in the meatpacking district of the city. It was known as that as during the day that is where beef and other meats were delivered, while at night it became an area that most people stayed far away from. The clubs were closed during the height of the AIDS crisis in the Mid- Eighties, and now the district is gentrified and high priced shops, restaurants and hotels.

  The Liberty Inn now occupies the space of the infamous Anvil. 

 

 

Friedkin says all the details was accurate, no matter how far fetched they may have seemed. Friedkin gave camera operator James A. Contner (THE BRINKS JOB) his first chance to be Director of Photography. Contner wanted to shoot the film in black and white but drained the color down in most of the scenes in the clubs while shooting at night nearly accomplished the same effect.

Friedkin also brought on editor Bud S Smith (with whom he worked on SORCERER (Universal/Paramount ,1977 and THE BRINKS JOB (DeLaurentiis /Universal, 1978). An under acknowledged part of filmmaking is casting. Friedkin turned to Louis Di Giaimo who had worked with the director in the past. He presented the director with a short list of actors who he felt would be right for the roles, and Friedkin seemed to agree with the choices of mostly stage trained New York performers for the featured speaking roles. The people who are members of the club scenes are actual people who frequented the clubs, and as Friedkin said, they realized the filmmaker was not being judgmental but merely working almost as a documentarian in those scenes. The sex scenes were to give the MPAA and the filmmakers major headaches when it came to a rating.

The filmmakers had originally wanted Richard Gere for the lead role, probably due to his role in the 1979 Broadway production of BENT, wherein Gere had portrayed a gay man in a concentration camp. Al Pacino expressed interest and finally won the part. This would lead to some problems for the filmmaker, as he felt that Pacino came to set unprepared. It might have been that Pacino wanted to approach each scene like the character, surprised by what he experienced.


Filming was often disrupted by protests. Arthur Bell, whose articles had somewhat shaped the events within the screen play, somehow got a copy of the script and he urged the gay community to protest. To this end , production was disrupted by loud noises, requiring massive ADR work (dubbing). This may have worked to the film’s advantage, as several suspects and characters were dubbed by the same actor, helping to throw off audiences guesses as to who the killer was. Also, the sounds of keys and leather were amplified, both items of importance in this sub section of gay culture.

 

Several times there was need of police protection and escort for the actors to get to and from locations. Luckily, though there were a few arrests, there is no record of any violence or injury to anyone involved.

 

The plot involves several body parts found floating in the Hudson River. Fingerprints from one of the hands found leads them to discover that the killings are of several gay men. The police decide to send an officer deep undercover to see who is killing these men. Officer Steve Burns (Al Pacino) an ambitious officer sees this as a chance for advancement when he is picked for the assignment.

He moves down to the Village, and sets up a false persona, becoming friends with his next door neighbor, Ted (Don Scardino, SQUIRM, AIP ,1976).One of the people that Burns suspects of being a suspect gets brutalized by the police. Burns almost quits, but his captain (Paul Sorvino, THE BRINKS JOB). convinces him to stay and chastises all who harassed the hapless falsely accused man.

What Burns discovers during his investigations starts to play games with his mental well being ,as well as hurting his relationship with his girlfriend ,Nancy (Karen Allen, who would leap to international recognition for her starring role alongside Harrison Ford in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK ,Paramount ,1981).to whom he cannot tell what his assignment is or what it entails.

The film drops a lot of suspects and clues, but many find that the ending is a cop-out, leaving many frustrated as to who indeed is the killer. Revisiting the film again ,I now find that the ending is a perfect finish for this unique production

The cast includes a fine selection of character actors, including Joe Spinell (the same year he would also make New York extra creepy as a psychopath killer in MANIAC (Analysis,1980),appearing here as a cop who abuses the transvestites ; Ed O’Neill (tv’s long running MODERN FAMILY, ABC,2009- still running as of this writing) ,here as a detective, James Remar ( Dexter’s father on the long running tv series DEXTER ,Showtime, 2006-2013), portraying Ted’s abuser lover ; and Powers Booth (SIN CITY, Miramax ,2005) as a store owner who explains the significance of certain handkerchiefs and how they are worn in the gay world. Except for Karen Allen, women hardly exist in this society.

The attacks upon the film didn’t end with the end of production, as the MPAA kept slapping the film with an X, a kiss of death at the box office. Friedkin submitted about 40 minutes of graphic sex that he knew the MPAA would want cut, so he cut keep the majority of what he wanted as a compromise. There are subliminal flashes of gay sex during the murder sequences, with the idea of sex and the knife melded into one (two forms of penetration).

 

The critics also for the most part savaged the film, with few exceptions ,so it is surprising that the film, that cost nearly $11 million to make, nearly doubled its cost, making it, if not a hit, at least not a money loser.

It is also interesting that 1980 was also the year that Brian DePalma mixed sex and violence in his DRESSED TO KILL(Filmways/Orion). While there were protests about the combination in this film, audiences were more willing to be titillated by heterosexual love mixed with slashing, becoming an international hit, making about 5 times it’s budget.

By the way , did anyone ever notice that the 1982 Paramount film PARTNERS , written by Frances Verber, who created the original LA CAGE AUX FOLLES (French ,U,A,,1978) seems to be a buddy picture reworking of the plot of CRUISING?  In PARTNERS ,Ryan O’Neal is a straight cop assigned to go undercover to find a killer targeting homosexual men , only here he is paired with an actual gay officer ,played by John Hurt channeling Kenneth Williams.

 

Over the years, opinions have changed upon how the film is viewed, with many feeling it is among Friedkin’s best works.

It was released to VHS and seen widely at video stores, first released in a large box, and then a small box when it was reissued.

 

It became perhaps viewed when it was released to HBO cable, showing at midnight or later.

Finally, in 2007, it was released on DVD by Warner Brothers (who had acquired Lorimar) in a special edition version with extras like
• Commentary by director William Friedkin
• The History of Cruising
• Exorcising Cruising
• Theatrical trailer

and then later a burn on demand without extras from Warner Archives in 2013.

 

Arrow Video has now given us what may be the definitive version of this film.

First off, this is a Director Approved Special Edition with a 4K Scan H9 Def (1080p) Blu-ray of the original camera negative, supervised and approved by William Friedkin .

 

The sound has also been given a newly remastered 5.1. DTS-HD Master Audio track again supervised by Friedkin.

 

Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing. This follows the dialog and indicates sounds quite accurately for those wishing to use this captioning.

A new audio commentary with Friedkin and film critic Mark Kermode. Friedkin is very frank about the film, talking about how the opening title card has been removed for this release, since it was only put on as a sop for those who might have been squeamish or offended by the film. Kermode knows the director’s body of work pretty well, and prompts quietly the conversation, often commenting on actions on screen while diverting effortlessly of the behind the scenes problems and joys of the production.

Friedkin mentions that he felt Pacino would arrive seemingly unprepared for the day’s set ups, while talking about how he tried to keep the actors unbalanced and on their toes. It could be that Pacino, method actor that he was, wanted to go into the scenes with the same wide-eyed innocence that his character would feel walking into the strange new world that has such people in it.

Also original to this release is an enclosed booklet with an excellent overview by film historian F.X. Feeney, who talks about seeing the film on it’s opening day.

Reversible Blu Ray cover

Ported over from the 2007 DVD release are

An archival audio commentary by William Friedkin. It is interesting to compare the two commentaries. The original is fact filled but a bit dry, while the newer one as stated the director seems a lot more engaged and relaxed. Both are definitely worth listening to, so kudos for Arrow for making the extra effort.

The History of CRUISING -interviews with several of the people involved in the film such as Friedkin, Grosso, and many others.

Exorcising CRUISING -examines the controversy and aftermath of the film’s release. Many of the same people from the previous featurette appear, as well as actors like actor Richard Cox.

 

Original Theatrical Trailer- the trailer tries to avoid mentioning the homosexual aspects of the film, which makes the film seem more like a generic police procedural (though with lots of leather!).

CRUISING is not a film for everyone. It is a challenging film on a subject that many people will not wish to explore. The film’s ending is not an easy clear cut one, open to debate as to its meaning .

Those reason though also make the film Highly Recommended to those who appreciate films that challenge you and your perceptions .

In an age of superhero franchises, CRUISING is a film that no major studio would even consider creating, making it all the more unique and worth seeking out.

Another Arrow Video must buy release.

For fans of
AL PACINO
WILLIAM FRIEDKIN
POLICE PROCEEDURALS
NY BASED THRILLERS
ORIGINAL,THOUGHT PROVOKING FILMS

-Kevin G Shinnick

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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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THE INTRUDER (Sony,2019)

THE INTRUDER (Sony) Thriller. PG-13. Color .84 Minutes.

Blu Ray /DVD/ download and streaming available from Apple TV, AMAZON, Google Play and More

Reviewed DVD. Available July 30, 2019

THE INTRUDER* was one of those films that snuck out into the market in May before its release upon home video on July 30th. The $8 million film took in a domestic box office of $35 million, a tidy profit for the flick.

The movie harkens back to earlier “crazies in your home films” like PACIFIC HEIGHTS (Fox,1990) as well as aiming at audiences who jumped out of their seats at GET OUT (Universal,2017).

 

While not as strong as either of those two films (few are), THE INTRUDER is a good evening’s entertainment.

The Russells , Scott (Michael Ealy, starring in the soon to be released remake of JACOB’S LADDER, Vertical, 2019) buys his wife Annie (Meagan Good ,star of the upcoming Paul W.S. Anderson sci fi film , MONSTER HUNTER ,Screen Gems,2020 ) a house in Napa Valley . When they meet the current owner, Charlie Peck (Randy Quaid, BENEATH THE DARKNESS, Image 2011), they should have turned around and said nope this is going back on sale.

 

Charlie jumps out of some bushes, shoots a deer, then stands over it and proceeds to shoot the helpless animal some more. Seeing this, I was reminded of Eddie Murphy’s routine about black people starring in horror films.

“You can’t make a horror with black people in it cause the movie would stop.

Wow, baby this is beautiful, we got a chandelier hanging up there, kids outside playing, it’s a beautiful neighborhood. I really love this.”

“Getttt Ouuuuutttt”

“Too bad we can’t stay …”

Unluckily, it seems the Russell’s never heard that classic routine, and move in.

The problem becomes that Charlie just can’t leave his beloved home, which has been in his family for generations, and where we learn that his wife died from a shotgun blast, suspected at being self-inflicted. Charlie pops up riding his lawn mower around and starts yelling at workers drilling to install security systems, as if he still owns the place.

Annie, ever the gracious hostess, invites Charlie to a dinner. At the dinner, Mike (Joseph Sikora, also appearing in the upcoming JACOB’S LADDER), a friend of the Russells, insults Charlie and puts out a cigarette on the lawn that Charlie had earlier mowed.

The following day, there is a cigarette burn on the driver’s seat of Mike’s car, and he starts warning the couple that Charlie is looney tunes.

 

Joseph Sikora

Charlie keeps showing up at the house, more unhinged but Annie keeps letting him in, defying logic as well as warnings from Scott.

It results in a final showdown between Charlie and the couple.

The film requires audiences to suspend belief (and logic) several times for the film to work, but we keep watching, due to the fine cast.

Director Deon Taylor had directed a similar type film with TRAFFIK (Lionsgate, 2018).

Writer David Loughery wrote DREAMSCAPE (Fox, 1984), which incidentally had starred a younger Dennis Quaid as a hero. He also is infamous for STAR TREK V (Paramount, 1989) so make of that what you will.

The picture quality is fine, with no outstanding flourishes.

 


Sound is fine (5.1 Dolby), though some of the gunshots seemed to be a bit louder than expected. The audio is available in English and subtitled in Spanish, English SDH, and French.

Extras include

An Alternate Ending

Deleted Scenes

A Gag Reel

A Cast and Filmmaker commentary

And a short making of: Behind the Scenes of Foxglove (Foxglove being the name of the House).

A decent B movie and fun to watch Quaid go full Jack Nicholson towards the end.

-Kevin G Shinnick

*No connection to the Sony 2015 horror film THE INTRUDERS, the 1999 Canadian film THE INTRUDER, THE INTRUDER (1975), a lost Mickey Rooney(!) thriller, or the Roger Corman THE INTRUDER (Filmgroup,1962), starring William Shatner.

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