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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.

images (2)

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

 

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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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TWO EVIL EYES (Blue Underground Blu Ray 3 Disc Limited Edition)

TWO EVIL EYES (Blue Underground 3-disc Ltd Edition Blu-Ray/4K Restoration) $49.99 Special Edition Release Date October 29,2019 Region A.

Original Theatrical release U.S.A. -Taurus Entertainment ,1990.

Color.  120 mins.
https://www.amazon.com/Evil-Eyes-Blu-ray-Harvey-Keitel/dp/B07VGTYMKB/

 

  • Warning -review illustrated with gruesome effects shots. No animals and we suspect few actors were harmed

 

When TWO EVIL EYES came out, George Romero had just worked with a major studio on MONKEY SHINES (Orion,1988) but had a bad experience wherein his work was edited without his permission. *

Argento ‘s last feature OPERA (aka TERROR AT THE OPERA) was a huge success in his native Italy but was denied a theatrical release in the U.S. by Orion, instead letting the small video company Southgate release the film in an R and Unrated version.

The two filmmakers decided to go independent again to retain control of the final product and picked two different Edgar Allan Poe tales to adapt.

 

 


Romero chose “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” (published simultaneously in The American Review and Broadway Journal ,December 1845) . The story had been adapted previously in an Italian short film (Il caso Valdemar,Italy,1936 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3qGwCPKhdI ) as well as segments in the portmanteau films MASTERWORKS OF TERROR (Argentina ,1959, redubbed and released by Jack H Harris as MASTERS OF HORROR ,1965) ,Roger Corman’s TALES OF TERROR (AIP,1962) and on the Spanish horror series Historias para no dormir (Stories to Keep You Awake, Televisión Española 1966). It also is one of the stories in the recent EXTRAORDINARY TALES (Mélusine Productions 2015 ).

a 1969 Japanese Illustration, inspired by TALES OF TERROR

 

The Black Cat by Alphonse Legros 1860

Argento chose “The Black Cat” (first published August 19, 1843 in The Saturday Evening Post). The story has been adapted with varying degrees of faithfulness, starting in 1934 with both Universal’s THE BLACK CAT as well as MANIAC (Roadshow), Universal again in 1941, AIP’s TALES OF TERROR again, the 1966 THE BLACK CAT (Falcon) ,Lucio Fulci’s 1981 version(Italian Int.) and recently a marvelous independent short in 2012 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKN_I6ouswg .

 

The film :

Warning -turn your sound down for the opening credits of Pino Donaggio’s dissonant title theme.


The film opens with a succession of quick shots of Edgar Allan Poe’s statue, one of the great author’s home and burial plot, as a narrator intones: “To Edgar Allan Poe, whose stories have inspired this motion picture.”

 

We then immediately go to

THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR (screenplay by Romero ; Dir of Photography  Peter Reniers, who has worked on such television series as LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT, Dick Wolf /Universal ,1999- ).


Jessica Valdemar (Adrienne Barbeau, returning to work with Romero again after CREEPSHOW, Laurel/WB ,1982) is hoping to inherit the money from her mortally ill husband Ernest (the wonderfully named Bingo O’Malley ,who also appeared in CREEPSHOW, and sadly in real life passed away June 2 ,2019).

 

To that extent, she gets Dr Robert Hoffman (Ramy Zada, tv’s DARK JUSTICE, Lorrimar,1991) to hypnotize the sickly Ernest to better control him. Dr Hoffman is most willing to do so, partly from a past relationship with Jessica, and partly from the desire to share in the millions that she will inherit. The problem is that Jessica has been taking money from Ernest’s account, so much so that if anything were to happen to her husband over the next three weeks, the police will surely investigate the wife.

E.G. Marshall as a lawyer warning Barbeau

Of course, Ernest dies, and the pair dump his body into a basement freezer. During the night she hears moaning and discovers that due to the hypnosis, the spirit of her dead husband is trapped between worlds, and that other entities wish to use his corpse to enter our sphere!

 

THE BLACK CAT (Screenplay by Argento & Franco Ferrini, who worked together on OPERA ; director of Photography Beppe Maccari, who was the camera operator on the Visconti classic THE LEOPARD, Titanus 1963)-
Argento’s take on the famous tale is a delirious and trippy over the top gorefest that references several other Poe tales.

Keitel in a Corman-like dream sequence with an Argento touch

 

 

Rod Usher (Harvey Keitel, TAXI DRIVER, Columbia,1976) is a police crime scene photographer who we first meet when he is taking pictures at a murder scene. This killing  was a bit extraordinary, since it is a scene of a nude women bifurcated by a huge pendulum blade. To Usher, it is just work as usual, and he tries to frame the scenes with a sense of aesthetics that belie the horror of the scene.

 

At home, his girlfriend Annabel (Madeline Potter ,THE SUICIDE CLUB, Angelika Films ,1988) has brought in a black cat that Rod takes an instant dislike to. This mutual hatred comes to its zenith when Rod viciously and cruelly strangles the animal during a photo shoot. Rod, however, in a sort of A BUCKET OF BLOOD (AIP,1959) moment, decides that the murder deserves to be the over of his newest photo collection.

Sally Kirkland has a new kitty for Rod .

When Annabel sees the cover some time later in a store window, she realizes what has happened, and rushes home to confront Rod. Rod , in the interim , has been given a cat that is identical to the one he killed ).He takes the animal home to destroy it once and for all, but Annabel comes home ,saves the creature but she herself is killed gruesomely.

Rod conceals the body behind the wall, but suspicion continues to grow against him, resulting in more murders and gore before Rod receives poetic justice.

John Amos as a detective who grows suspicious of Usher

 

A huge title assures us that none of the animals were harmed in the making of the film as the picture’s end credits roll.

The film, which reportedly cost over $ 9 million to make,  opened in only 150 theatres throughout the U.S. for just one week, taking in only $349,000.

 

It was released on VHS through various companies (Anchor Bay, budget label Video Treasures) as well as DVD and Blu Ray previously by Blue Underground.

Now , Blue Underground has gone back to the original camera negatives and given it a 4K 1080p restoration. The colors, especially in the Argento segment, really seem to jump out.

 

Martin Balsam  & Kim Hunter,Spanish Lobby Card

The audio is available in either English: 7.1 DTS-HD, or to duplicate the theatrical release sound, English: 2.0 DTS-HD (or in French: Dolby Digital Mono). Again, watch that opening bit of music in the beginning!
Optional subtitles are English SDH, French or Spanish.

Where this becomes the must have edition of TWO EVIL EYES is the immense number of extras, some ported over from BLUE UNDERGROUND’s previous release of the title, but many brands new and exclusive to this limited edition.

Extras include

Disc One Blu Ray- a brand new audio commentary by Troy Howarth (author of the upcoming book “Murder By Design: The Unsane Cinema of Dario Argento “). Troy has done audio commentaries on other Blu ray releases, and his love and well researched talks always have the feel of a well-informed fan joyfully sharing his thoughts and insights throughout the running time of a film, and this one is no different.

Theatrical Trailer

Poster & Still Gallery

Disc 2 Blu Ray
Two Masters’ Eyes – Interviews with Directors Dario Argento & George Romero, Special Make-Up Effects Supervisor Tom Savini, Executive Producer Claudio Argento, and Asia Argento. These are ported over from the 2003 Blue Underground 2-disc Blu Ray release.

Savini as a Poe like character who digs up corpses to steal teeth.Or is it just his character from THE RIPPER (United Ent.,1985 ) reprised?

Savini’s EFX – A Behind-the-Scenes look at the film’s Special Make-Up Effects. Also, from the 2003 release, Savini takes us on a behind the scene tour of how some of the effects work was done.

At Home With Tom Savini – A personal tour of Tom Savini’s home. From 2003, this segment is not only a master of his craft but also a fan sharing with fellow fans.

Adrienne Barbeau on George Romero.- From 2003. The still lovely and charming actress shares her thoughts about working with the director.

Tom Atkins makes a horrific discovery

 

NEW! Before I Wake – Interview with Star Ramy Zada. The actor talks about his career and working with Romero.

NEW! Behind The Wall – Interview with Star Madeleine Potter. The very busy actress, who shuttles back and forth from the U.S. and London to perform, talks about Harvey, Dario and cats.

NEW! One Maestro And Two Masters – Interview with Composer Pino Donaggio. Subtitled. The composer talks about his career

NEW! Rewriting Poe – Interview with Co-Writer Franco Ferrini, who has often worked with director Argento, as well as upon the screenplay ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA (W.B.,1984) .

NEW! The Cat Who Wouldn’t Die – Interview with Assistant Director Luigi Cozzi (who also directed the cult hit STAR CRASH, New World, 1978).

 

NEW! Two Evil Brothers – Interview with Special Make-Up Assistant Everett Burrell (who has worked with Savini several times, as well as Greg Cannom, and Kevin Yagher.).

NEW! Working With George – Interview with Costume Designer Barbara Anderson who worked with Romero from KNIGHTRIDERS (Laurel/UFD, 1981) up to THE DARK HALF .

Finally,

Disc 3-A CD of Pino Dinaggio’s score. This alone might be enough for some to wish to buy this collection, as this soundtrack it seems has never been issued legitimately before. It is a sharp moody score, which fits the film perfectly, but many pieces can be listened to and enjoyed on their own.

 

Adding to the welcome extras is an informative booklet by Michael Gingold, who was one of the guiding forces of Fangoria magazine from 1990 (when the film came out) until 2015.

Fango #95 ,which covered the film 

 

Once again, BLUE UNDERGROUND has put to shame many major studios Blu Ray releases, due to the care and multiple goodies adding entertainment, value and collectability for horror film lovers.

RECOMMENDED
For fans of
ROMERO
ARGENTO
EDGAR ALLAN POE
BLU RAY EXTRAS!

-Kevin G Shinnick

*-right after filming TWO EVIL EYES, he worked upon THE DARK HALF for Orion, which sat on a shelf for two years.

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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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A BUCKET OF BLOOD (Olive Films Signature Blue Ray)

A BUCKET OF BLOOD (Olive Films Signature Blue Ray) released 2019. B&W. 66 minutes. 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio. Original Theatrical Release. October 21, 1959. AIP. $39.95 limited to only 3500 copies

https://olivefilms.com/product/a-bucket-of-blood-olive-signature-blu-ray/

 

Back in 1959, Roger Corman (THE PIT & THE PENDULUM, AIP,1961) made a five-day quickie for $50 grand, that was different from his previous productions. While it still fell into the horror genre, it was also a dark comedy. The film went on to make back profits of  almost quadruple its production cost, leading Corman to try two more with the same writer, Charles B Griffith (who had written many of Corman’s early films, and later wrote the cult classic DEATH RACE 2000 (New World ,1975);LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (Filmgroup, 3 days, plus pick up shots, $34,000, not a success upon its original release) and CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA (Filmgroup, 1959, released in 1961, shot on location in 5 days, a failure upon its original release).

 

Corman thus stayed away from comedies until a segment of his TALES OF TERROR (AIP,1962) and THE RAVEN (AIP ,1963).

A BUCKET OF BLOOD works mostly because of the wonderful work by Dick Miller. When ABOB was released, it was unique, being a time capsule of the beatnik era.

 

“Beat Generation” was a phrase first popularized by author Jack Kerouac to describe the counterculture developing in post war New York, particularly in the bohemian Greenwich Village. The word was basically a way for Kerouac and others of the time to describe the beaten down and off beat. “Beatnik “was first used in 1958 in a news column as a derogatory term. The phrase stuck, however. ‘Beatniks” slowly morphed into what are now better known as “hippies”, or the counterculture movement of the 1960s.

 

Until the beginning of this century, one could still find in the Greenwich Village several coffee shops and bookstores that had been part of the Beat Generation of cool, all slowly removed and replaced by Starbucks and sterile chain stores.This film gives a glimpse of how similar the beat culture was on both coasts.

 

OLIVE FILM’s SIGNATURE series release of A BUCKET OF BLOOD goes all out on this little gem, something we wish that every film would get.

First off, the 4K scan print is amazing, especially considering how many bad to downright unwatchable P.D. prints have been circulating for years. Olive Films had released a bare bones Blu ray version (still available for $14.95 https://olivefilms.com/product/a-bucket-of-blood-dvd/) but I am sure that even that print pales in comparison to this new version.

The mono sound works fine for the film, being almost hiss free, with dialogue, sound effects, and music clear and distinct, even with lines that formerly had sounded a bit mumbled.

 

The extras are the reason that make me prefer Blu Rays over streaming films, and what a nice collection of goodies that Olive Films has added.

CREATION IS, ALL ELSE IS NOT! *- 93-year-old Roger Corman reminisces about the making of ABOB. The man shows that his memory is clear about a film made 60 years ago, and it is remembered with great affection.

CALL ME PAISLEY – a 2018 interview with Dick Miller (who died January 30,2019 at age 90) and his wife Lainie. His voice is hoarse but Dick Miller was still lively, and a wonderful raconteur , prompted by his Lainie. The movie has extra importance to Lainie, as she met Dick when he was beginning production of the film, and they were married by year’s end just as the picture was being released. There are some marvelous home movies of Dick wrestling with tigers and lions. As he states, they are not trained but wild, that have been fed, and have no reason to attack humans unless hungry or aggravated to attack. Miller speaks of how he knew Jonathan Haze and Bruno VeSota prior to working for Corman, and how Corman formed his little stock company of players.

 

The Cabinet Of Professor Bondi ? How does this German retitling of HOUSE OF WAX tie in with ABOB?Read on.

-Audio Commentary by Elijah Drenner, director of the wonderful documentary THAT GUY DICK MILLER (Autumn Rose Productions, End Films,2014). Elijah enthusiastically shares his information about Miller and this film with an infectious enthusiasm for his subject. When not commenting directly on the action of the film ,he pulls out illumination on the film location (the studio were it was filmed was formerly The Chaplin Studios and now is the home of Jim Henson Productions .) and the people involved both in front and off camera. At the end, you almost feel that Drenner wishes the film were longer, as he seems to have so much knowledge on the production to share.

http://blog.thatguydickmiller.com/p/dick-miller-store.html

 

-Archival Audio Interview with screenwriter Charles B Griffith. The screenwriter (who passed away in 2007) speaks clearly and with clarity about how he got involved in the business due to Myrtle Vail, a relative who helped create the radio soap opera in 1932(!)and who played the landlady Mrs. Swickert in ABOB. An amazing recollection from the subject, and a real bonus finds we should be grateful that Olive Films found and added this.

 

 

 

 

Griffith & Vail  Sounds like a Vaudeville Act ?

Well , Vaudeville was in their family blood .

 

 

 

BITS OF BUCKET – a comparison of the shooting script to the final product. Since an average of 1 minute of screen time is one page of script, the 66-minute feature need to trim a lot from the 95-page screenplay. It results in a few lines cut here and there, as well as some character development. It is interesting to see, and kudos for the effort (the original shooting script was titled “THE YELLOW DOOR’, which is the name of the club in the film), but the movie in it’s current state is quick ,and wastes no time. Would adding and shooting these bits have added to the film, or just slowed it down? An interesting alternate shot exists of Paisley’s hanging scene from the end, where his eyes are open, staring right at the camera. Was the other take used as the image was considered too gruesome?

 

Rare Prologue from the German Release . – This alone should make you rush out and buy this disc. In his commentaries, Elijah Drenner mentions the odd way a German distributor tried to tie ABOB to THE HOUSE OF WAX (aka DAS CABINETT DES PROFESSOR BONDI, THE CABINET OF PROFESSOR BONDI ,WB,1953)!!! To do this, a black and white prologue was filmed with an unknown German actor in heavy makeup going into a long speech about his wax experiments (so we are to assume that this is the Vincent Price character ,who somehow survived the finale of HOW)rambling on about his techniques, and only his relation Walter Paisley can carry on! You will probably want to re-watch this immediately after seeing it to make sure that you are not imagining it! Picture and sound quality are quite good, especially when one considers its rarity. AKA – THE LEGACY OF PROFESSOR BONDI (Das Vermächtnis Des Professor Bondi )

 

Not only did they try to tie A BUCKET OF BLOOD with HOUSE OF WAX,they even stuck a vampire on their poster, which seems to be “borrowed “from the French poster of BRIDES OF DRACULA !

 

-Super 8 Silent Version– one of those old silent 8 abridgements of films, with burnt on subtitles. Ken Films (a Fort Lee N J company that ceased production in 1981) released the film for home use. For those only know easy access streaming as the norm, there was a time when it was quite difficult to get your favorite films in any form, so these abridgements were as good as we could get. The Super 8 version begins with the murder of Detective Lou (Bert Convy, later a likeable staple on tv game shows) and goes to the murders following, a highlight reel that makes ABOB look like no more than a mad killer flick.

 

 

Theatrical Trailer US

Theatrical Trailer Germany (see my earlier comments about the prologue)

-A slide show of rare Production Stills.

 

-Inside the  Disc case , you will find an enclosed booklet Essay (“OH GIVE ME THAT BUCKET OF BLOOD “** by Caelum Vatnsdal, author of YOU DON’T KNOW ME, BUT YOU LOVE ME: THE LIVES OF DICK MILLER , Arbeiter Ring Publishing ,2018). Informative and illustrated with some rare on set production shots.

                                             Not with the Disc , but worth seeking out 

 

The plot of the film  has waiter Walter Paisley (Dick Miller, the first of many times his characters during his long career would be referred to as “Walter Paisley” ) working in a beatnik club fall in love with hostess Carla (Barboura Morris, whose whole film career seemed to be for AIP ,save her last role, in the T.V. movie HELEN KELLER & HER TEACHER (1970), with Ms. Morris playing Annie Sullivan. Ms. Morris died tragically young, one day after her 43rd birthday in 1975).

 

When he accidentally kills a cat, he covers in sculpting clay, including the knife still sticking out of the poor beast. He suddenly shows off his “creation” and is hailed as a true genius. However, to keep his masterpieces coming, he needs to keep getting a fresh supply of bodies.

 

The movie was released as a co-bill with ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES (AIP,1959) ,which also featured actor Bruno VeSota. One wonders how audiences reacted at the time or were even aware that it was the same performer in both pictures.

 A BUCKET OF LEECHES with two Brunos for the price of one

 

A BUCKET OF BLOOD was one of Roger Corman’s old scripts that he had reworked for Showtime’s ROGER CORMAN PRESENTS, that ran from 1995 until 1997. The 1995 remake was later released to VHS under the title THE DEATH ARTIST (Concorde,1995). This retelling is 17 minutes longer, in color, starring Anthony Michael Hall and Justine Bateman as Walter and Carla respectively, and is more brutal but a lot less fun. The biggest recommendation for seeking it out is to see a young Will Ferrell in a small role https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mUqaNaaPhY as well as Paul Bartel and Mink Stole as two art lovers.

 

Stick to the original.

Get this OLIVE FILMS Blu Ray release.

HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.
Recommended for fans of
Classic Horror
Horror Comedies
Dick Miller
AIP
Roger Corman

-Kevin G Shinnick

 

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Please contact Kevin at SCARLETTHEFILMMAG@yahoo.com

*-a line said by the pompous poet Maxwell H Brock (Julian Burton)

**-Dick Miller mock singing at the idea of a musical version of ABOB, like THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS.

 

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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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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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