1940s, Blu Ray, Carol Landis, Carole Landis, cult, D.W. Griffith, FILM HISTORY, genre, Hal Roach, https://www.facebook.com/scarletthefilmmagazine/, LON CHANEY JR, monsters, review, reviews, SCARLETTHEFILMMAGAZINE.WORDPRESS.COM, SCIENCE FICTION, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Uncategorized, UNITED ARTISTS, V.C.I., Victor Mature, weird, wierd

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highly recommended .

-Kevin G Shinnick

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1950s, CARL FOREMAN, CLASSIC, cult, dvd, FLOYD CROSBY, Gary Cooper, genre, GRACE KELLY, HIGH NOON, LON CHANEY JR, review, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Uncategorized, UNITED ARTISTS, Western, westerns

HIGH NOON – Olive Films Blu Ray and DVD Signature Release

high-noon-boxHigh Noon -1952 United Artists. b&w 82 minutes. – (Olive Films Signature Edition) Blu-ray $39.95

http://store.olivefilms.com/Western.68/Olive_Films.38/High_Noon___Olive_Signature__Blu-Ray_.6289.html

Also on DVD $19.95 http://store.olivefilms.com/Classic_Cinema.62/Olive_Films.38/High_Noon__DVD_.5412.html

HIGH NOON to me is one of the great westerns yet until the very end it has little in the way of out and out action. Instead, the film is a very tense thriller that literally uses a ticking clock leading up to an explosion of violence. Instead the movie is a tense character study of what makes a hero.maxresdefault-1

The film was done on a modest budget ($750,000) on a 31 day shooting schedule, by a behind the camera team who had never done a western before. The modest film upon release became the 8th most profitable films of 1952 (in a year that gave us SINGING IN THE RAIN(MGM), THE BAD & THE BEAUTIFUL (MGM)THE QUIET MAN (Republic), and THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH (Paramount).

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Then fifty-one-year-old star Gary Cooper was in poor health (yet continued to star in 14 more films and one uncredited cameo over the next nine years) and took a pay cut for a percentage of the profits when he took the role of Sheriff Marshall Will Kane. His 22-year-old leading lady (Grace Kelly) had made only one film prior (and several TV roles) to starring with this cinematic icon, yet her personal charm kept her from becoming a merely decorative character.9402c4104d6186400401d879d33830e5

The filmmakers surrounded the leads with marvelous supporting players, such as veterans like Lon Chaney Jr (in one of his most subtle and moving performances that it still surprises me that he was not even nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar) and Thomas Mitchell as well as rising character performers as Jack Elam (here playing a town drunk) and making his film debut in a silent but important role, Lee Van Cleef.high_noon_lon_chaney_jr

The production partnership of Stanley Kramer and Carl Foreman, as well as writer Herbie Baker, publicist George Glass formed Screen Plays, Inc. in 1947. Their first film SO THIS IS NEW YORK (MGM,1948) flopped but their second CHAMPION(U.A.,1949) was a big hit both critically and financially. CHAMPION won an Academy Award for film editing as well as nominations for star Kirk Douglas and screenplay writer Carl Foreman (both of their first two films were Foreman’s adaptations of two Ring Lardner stories).

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The team went on to produce HOME OF THE BRAVE(U.A.,1949), the first of the social dramas that Stanley Kramer would be known for and again written and co-produced by Foreman. Next came THE MEN(U.A.,1950), with an original screenplay by Foreman and the first time that Kramer would work with director Fred Zinnemann. Their string of hits continued with CYRANO DE BERGERAC (U.A.,1950), based upon the 1897 Edmond Rostand, translated by Brian Hooker and a screenplay by Carl Foreman and an uncredited Orson Welles. The film flopped at the box office but earned an Oscar for star Jose Ferrer.

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Columbia Pictures offered the production team a five-year contract to form a production unit to make films of their choosing for roughly a million dollars each movie. The offer was accepted but first they had to complete their final independent production,
HIGH NOON.high-noon2-1952Ironically, for a film about a man who stands up for what he believes in as others abandon him, Kramer abandoned his partner Carl Foreman and his personal ideals for commerce. Foreman had been a member of the Communist Party ten years earlier and was called before the House of Un-American Activities (HUAC). He was considered an “uncooperative witness” by the committee. To save his deal with Columbia, Kramer dissolved their partnership. He still gave Foreman credit for his screenplay, but did not let him get a producer’s credit.

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Kramer went on to be a major Liberal voice in his films until 1979, making many films that have become classics of cinema. His treatment of his former partner is a black eye to his memory, though, to be fair, few could stand up to the monster that was HUAC. The partners never spoke again. Foreman took his family to England, as did many who were blacklisted, and continued to write screenplays for such classic as BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI (ironically for Columbia ,1958, and Foreman was only awarded his Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay posthumously).

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(producer Stanley Kramer)  

The film’s story is simple enough. Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald, who had appeared in WHITE HEAT, WB ,1949, as the truck driver who recognized undercover agent Edmond O’Brien), a criminal whom Sheriff Will Kane (Cooper, looking world weary) sent away is being released from prison and will be arriving in the small town that day on the noon train. He has vowed to kill Kane in revenge. Kane has also just married his Quaker wife Amy (Grace Kelly) who urges him to leave the town. Kane wants to stand his ground, and ties to organize the townspeople to stand up to the criminal and his gang. However, the town is more than willing to leave Kane handle things alone if it will ultimately bring peace to the town. Only a shaky eye patched man is willing to stand by Kane and he of course would be of little help. The former sheriff, Martin HoweLon Chaney Jr )would like to help but his illnesses prevent him from being of any use either. Kane sends his wife away as the time for the confrontation draws near. The sheriff now must stand alone against the murderous outlaws as the time arrives.

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The simple description above does not do justice to this wonderful film. The acting, the direction by Fred Zimmerman , the cinematography (by Floyd Crosby, who won a Golden Globe for his work on this classic, later ended up lensing a lot of A.I.P.’s horror and science fiction classics, and by the way is the father of David Cosby of THE BYRDS fame), the editing and the music all work perfectly to tell this tale of courage.

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Critics at the time were rather mixed in their reception to the film. Even John Wayne (who turned down the role of the Sheriff) attacked the film, and often said that he and Howard Hawks made RIO BRAVO (WB,1959) in response.fred-zinnemann-seated-floyd-crosby-gary-cooper-and-the-crew-ofhigh-noon-michael-j-cinema

 

Audiences, however, flocked to the film, and the film made $3.4 million dollars on its $730,000 investment. The film also won many awards, including four Oscars (Best Actor, Best Film Editing, Best Music (Dimitri Tiomkin) and best song (Dimitri Tiomkin & Ned Washington for “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin’”, sung by Tex Ritter). Incongruously, John Wayne accepted the Oscar for Gary Cooper. Here is a clip from the 25th Academy Award, held March 19,1953, and the first one televised:

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The film was nominated for but lost Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Writing/Screenplay. Katy Jurado won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Helen Ramírez, the first Mexican actress to receive the award. Crosby’s cinematography also was a Golden Globe recipient.

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The OLIVE FILMS BLU RAY reviewed here puts CRITERION on notice that there is another company that knows how to give classic films the Deluxe Treatment they deserve. HIGH NOON and JOHNNY GUITAR (not seen by this reviewer) are the premiere films from Olive Films’ Signature series, and if this film is any indication, film lovers will be happily paying to get these collectible treasures for their collections.

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HIGH NOON has been beautifully presented in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio. You will note black bars or both the left and right side of the screen but after a few moments, you will cease noticing them. The 1080p 4 K scan brings out the very rich black and white details, letting you see the beads of sweat on Cooper as he desperately seeks out his posse, as well as detailing in the costuming and the sets clearer than they have been seen in years.

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The sound is presented in its original mono audio in a hiss free DTS-HD Master Audio track. Whether using the television sound or outside speakers, the sound is rich and clear. The yellow subtitles are clean and follow the action and dialogue perfectly.

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The work above would make the Olive Films Signature Release worth having, but they have added some superior extras.

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Inside the cardboard cover is a clear digipack slipcase containing the single disc. The cover art can be reversed and used with a panoramic view of Cooper walking the town’s empty streets.

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Besides the disc is a nice little booklet written by Nick James of Sight & Sound Magazine called ‘Uncitizened Kane “wherein it talks about Cooper in THE VIRGINIAN (Paramount,1929) and the Cooper in this classic film. This is also available on the disc to read by skimming through using your directional arrows.

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Also on the Disc:

“A Ticking Clock” – Director (THE PUNISHER, New World,1989) / Editor Mark Goldblatt talks in detail about the importance of the editing of HIGH NOON.

 

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“A Stanley Kramer Production”-Producer Michael Schlessinger (DARK & STORMY NIGHT, Shout Factory,2009) talks about Producer/Director Kramer and his career.

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Ulcers & Oscars: The Production History of High Noon” – the late Anton Yelchin (Chekov in STAR TREK: BEYOND, Paramount ,2016) narrates this marvelous behind the scenes story.

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Trailer – Not the original 1952 trailer (“Stanley Kramer’s Masterpiece of Suspense!”, Presented by World Entertainment Corp.), this gives you an idea how the film used to appear before the painstaking restoration.

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The only quibble (am I too greedy?) that I had is that I wish that they had found and added the 2 hour PBS documentary “Darkness at High Noon: The Carl Foreman Documents “(PBS,2002), though it was made when all the people involved were long dead, and perhaps unable to defend themselves against various charges (it was not very favorable to Kramer). Perhaps someone will release the documentary as its own separate disc.

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Still, this is a must have for any collector of classic American Films.

HIGH NOON continues to resonate in society today. A Polish Political Poster in 1989 even used the iconic Cooper sheriff image.w_samo_poludnie_4_6_89-tomasz_sarnecki

There have been indirect sequels and remakes for television, and it was recently announced that Relativity Pictures is remaking the film, though setting it Present Day. http://variety.com/2016/film/news/relativity-remaking-high-noon-present-day-1201862842/

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However, none of these have come close to the film that was the first film selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

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Rush out and get the Olive Films Signature Release of HIGH NOON.

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HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.

-Kevin G Shinnick

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