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THE ZODIAC KILLER (AGFA /SOMETHING WEIRD Blu-ray released July 25,2017) ANOTHER SON OF SAM $34.95

THE ZODIAC KILLER (Prudential Pictures ,1971) (AGFA /SOMETHING WEIRD Blu-ray released July 25,2017) Color 86 minutes /plus bonus feature ANOTHER SON OF SAM color 67 minutes $34.95

https://www.amazon.com/Zodiac-Killer-Blu-ray-DVD-Reed/dp/B06Y1C49BD/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1491924197&sr=1-2&keywords=zodiac+killer

 

Back in the early 1980s, I worked in a film storage company . While many television suppliers would keep their 16mm prints with us for broadcast, and studios would have their 35mm theatrical prints (mostly weekend children matinees ,like MAGIC OF LASSIE (Int. Picture Show Co, 1978) ,a large majority of our films sat in boxes and rotting film cans.

 

Located in a pier in Edgewater NJ , our storage facility had the original negative of THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (Fox,1939) as well as NIGHT OF THE GHOULS (Ed Wood ,filmed in 1957, no known release). How these two California produced films negatives ended up in our facility is a mystery. Both were in containers with only lab numbers,without identifying titles.

 

Shipping errors, mislabeling, human mistakes, hundreds of titles ended up misplaced in storage facilities around the country. Some prints were not returned at all ,and ended up remaining in movie theatres, in the hands of private collectors , or buried in cement .

 

 

Add to that film rot (deterioration ) and color shifts (prints turning pink) – it is little wonder that so many films vanish .

 

While major studios have started to preserve their heritage , the independent film, those made outside the system ,or taken by smaller distributors with either shady practices or /and firms that went belly up, a lot of film prints and original elements lay unclaimed in various film labs due to unpaid services or forgotten . Corruption of the film stock had many turn to jelly or dust ,others tossed due to storage fees unpaid.

 

 

Luckily ,in 1990 the late Mike Vraney began the painstaking and time consuming task of finding films in horror and sexploitation ,among the many genres, that he found ,saved from literal oblivion, and released onto the home video market .His hard work turned grind-house filmmakers like Herschell Gordon Lewis and Doris Wishman into cult figures .

 

The incredibly friendly Mike and his lovely wife Lisa Petrucci ,equally friendly as well as his business partner and who wrote up many of the synopses and designed the various covers, were always welcome dealers at various conventions across the country.

 

When he passed , Lisa continued the company , and has kept the legacy of SOMETHING WEIRD alive (check out https://www.somethingweird.com/ ) and now has teamed up with newcomer AGFA ( The American Genre Film Archive ) to restore and release some titles in her catalog onto Blu Ray .

AGFA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit located founded in 2009 in Austin, Texas. AGFA exists to preserve the legacy of genre movies through collection, conservation, and distribution. (Want to donate? http://americangenrefilm.com/about )

 

After a successful Kickstarter campaign ,they are releasing THE ZODIAC KILLER . This is promised to be the first of dozens of titles that AGFA and SOMETHING WEIRD plan to release .

THE ZODIAC KILLER is an incredibly unique film . Created by Tom Hanson who was not involved in film making prior (owning a chain of successful Pizza Man Restaurants) ,his idea was not to make money or for any artistic ambition. Tom felt that his cinematic effort would be a huge aid in helping to capture the Zodiac Killer .

 

The infamous Zodiac Killer claimed his first known victims on December 20,1968 and his last known one on October 11,1969. There are other suspected deaths that are suspected to be the victims of the unknown assassin (he was never apprehended) that go back to 1963 and up to 1970 . The infamous executioner was self named due to a series of taunting and cryptic letters which they sent to the police and newspapers(that continued until April 24,1978) , signed with an enigmatic sketch that resembles a cross hair of a rifle.

 

Hanson thought that if he made a film about the events , the Zodiac Killer would be drawn to see the film ,at which point the filmmaker and friends would perform a citizen arrest!!

 

The plan was the following. Tom Hanson rented out the Golden Gate Theater in San Francisco and premiered the movie on April 7, 1971 (the killer had written his Los Angeles Times letter just three-and-a-half weeks earlier). They thought that his ego would draw him moth-like to a flame to see how his story was portrayed.

Somehow ,he got Kawasaki to donate a motorcycle for a prize giveaway.Entrants would fill out questionnaires with the statement “I think the Zodiac Kills because …” and see if an of the entries matched the handwriting of the Zodiac.

To that end, they constructed elaborate and inane traps with which to apprehend their subject ,including a fake ice cream freezer which had an accomplice of Hanson’s within supposedly ready to leap out at the appropriate moment . He must have consulted Wile E Coyote ‘s beloved Acme products, as the person within the box nearly passed out due to insufficient air holes!

Hanson feels that the had indeed captured the mad man at one of the screenings,but had to let them go due to lack of evidence .

The film was also later handled by an unscrupulous distributor and so Tom Hanson ,needing to make money again, stepped away from the maverick world of indie film making. The film was reportedly shot for $13,000,an incredibly small sum to shoot a film even back in 1970.

 

What we are left with is this incredible document of the time .

 

The motion picture you are about to see was conceived in June 1970. Its goal is not to win commercial awards but to create an “awareness of a present danger”. Zodiac is based on known facts. If some of the scenes, dialogue, and letters seem strange and unreal, remember — they happened. My life was threatened on Oct. 28, 1970 by Zodiac. His victims have received no warnings. They were unsuspecting people like you…
Paul Avery. Reporter
San Francisco Chronicle

 

That is the opening credit to give the film it’s bona fides. Paul Avery was a real life police reporter for the San Francisco Examiner who was drawn into the investigation when he received a Halloween card with the cryptic symbol with the warning”you are doomed” . Avery was later heavily involved with covering the Patty Hearst kidnapping .

 

Having his name associated with the film was meant to lift it up from mere exploitation. The result ,however,while sincere ,is brought down by bad acting and inept technical aspects. That does not mean that the film is without merits.

For one thing, the killings are pretty brutal and sudden . The film also has a dark sense of evil lurking everywhere ,with the killer having the last words :”I’ll be seeing you”.

While claiming to be the true life events of the serial murders, certain facts are played with and a lot of characters who are not involved with the events were invented for the story line .

 

The film is in the end, in spite of all its good (?) intentions , an exploitation film (not that there’s anything wrong with that!!).

 

SOMETHING WEIRD had released THE ZODIAC KILLER prior with two other films on DVD , THE SEX KILLER (Barry Mahon,1967 ,about a Times Square psycho ) and ZERO IN & SCREAM (Lee Frost,1971,a man kills women who reject him in Hollywood). That release is now out of print .

 

This new Blu Ray is a 4K scan 1080p HD transfer from the surviving16mm blow up elements (it was shot in 16mm to be transferred to 35 for theatrical release). The audio is a DTS-HD Master Audio 2 channel track . While the picture quality and sound is improved ,AGFA is taking great pride in not altering or punching up sounds or pictures ,to give the closest presentation to the original release (take that George “let me C.G.I. the soul of it it “Lucas) . Therefore, flaws in the 48 year old film elements remain (some hazing common in 16mm blow ups,and a hair in the gate when it was printed. The sound too isn’t played to jump around your sound system.

 

Other extras on this AGFA/SOMETHING WEIRD release are

 

A brand new commentary track with several of the surviving creative team like Director /Producer Tom Hanson ,Producer Manny Nedwick and several of the AGFA team .

 

A four minute film interview with Nedwick and Hanson have the two discuss how the film came together is material covered in the audio track but it is interesting to put faces to the voices .

 

Finally, a second feature fills out the extras. Whether you think this is a bonus or not depends how much you enjoy ANOTHER SON OF SAM (1977). This film was given a new 2K scan from a 35 mm print.

This film’s most interesting moments are the long list of serial killers going back to Jack The Ripper. I mean it goes on for quite a while. QUITE A WHILE . Almost as if they are trying to delay the start of the movie as long as possible. It finally runs out of murderers to name(though I kept expecting another title to pop up during the course of the film ,reading : “Oh we forgot to mention…”)and we take a leisurely journey down a river, to a couple’s boat house ,and then to a night club where a singer named Johnny Charro,portraying himself , in full lounge lizard attire ,sings “I Never Said Goodbye” ,a tune that rates with “The Words Get Stuck In My Throat”from WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS (Toho,1966) as most responsible for killing nightclubs. Johnny ,by the way ,is still with us and performing .http://www.johnnycharro.com/about.htm

 

“L-l-l-ladies….Johnny Charro”

Finally, just when we think we are watching someone’s vacation films , we cut to a local mental institution . Our killer named Harvey (not a killer bunny) breaks free of his restraints (I wonder if Rob Zombie saw this to inspire his Halloween remakes ?) after receiving electro shock and a sedative (did he hear Johnny Charro??) . A quick flashback implies that Harvey was sexually abused by his mom, causing him to go off on a murder spree.

Somehow ,we try to follow a group of college girls ,whose lives meet up with the killer, and swat teams are called in, and a lot of running around happens ,a few odd freeze frames happen while the sound continues , and mother is called in to confront her son at a police stand off, where he is killed by multiple gun shots (with some of the most obvious blood packs ever used on screen).

The end.

Really.

I watched it twice just to make sure that I didn’t miss something. If anything it seemed more confusing the second time around. Were it not for the sync sound in certain scenes ,I might have thought it was made by Hal Warren of MANOS THE HANDS OF FATE ( Emerson ,1966 ) infamy. It was that level of ineptness. Warren ,however ,had an excuse as he had never made a film before (or after).

ANOTHER SON OF SAM (shot under the title HOSTAGES) was written,produced ,and directed by stunt man Dave A Adams ,who also handled the stunt co ordination .Adams had at least been on film sets before (TRUCKER’S WOMEN ,1975 ,which was released regionally,then on Paragon Video,before Troma picked it up), but you would never know it. Filmed in Charlotte,North Carolina , the film seemed to have been shot in 1975 before finally getting a nominal theatrical in 1977.

 

It is just 67 minutes but it seems ten times longer .This is a film that is crying out for a Rifftrax treatment.

 

 

ANOTHER SON OF SAM is at least much clearer than the old Neon Video VHS copy that was around for years at video stores. That said, poor sound work cannot be improved and this film suffers from a lot of that (though with some of the dialogue,maybe that is a blessing. “No,you can’t come into the shower with me,Henry!”may sound like something sexy is about to happen but the character is talking to a stuffed plush animal!!).

Kudos to AGFA and SOMETHING WEIRD for saving these film obscurities , though your enjoyment will depend upon your enjoyment of
SERIAL KILLER FILMS
1970s EXPLOITATION CINEMA

I assume that if you have read this far, then this Blu Ray /DVD combo is needed for your collection.

This Is Not The End (well actually it is ).

-Kevin G Shinnick

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Riccardo Freda: The Life and Works of a Born Filmmaker

Riccardo Freda: The Life and Works of a Born Filmmaker
Roberto Curti Price: $45.00 40 photos, notes, filmography, bibliography, index
376pp. softcover (7 x 10)McFarland  2017                                                http://www.mcfarlandbooks.com/book-2.php?id=978-1-4766-6970-0

Like many American film fans, my knowledge of director Ricardo Freda was mostly limited to his
Horror films I Vampiri /THE DEVIL’S COMMANDMENT (Titanus,1957),Caltiki il mostro immortale /CALTIKI,THE IMMORTAL MONSTER(Lux,1959),L’orrible segreto del Dr. Hichcock /THE HORRIBLE DOCTOR HITCHCOCK(Panda,1962) and Lo specttro /THE GHOST (Panda,1963).

• However, Freda had a career in cinema that lasted from 1937 (Lasciate ogni speranza /LEAVE ALL HOPE ,Juventus Film) until 1994 (La fille de d’Artagnan /REVENGE OF THE MUSKETEERS ,Canal+ )starting and ending his career as a writer.

• Writer Roberto Curti of Cortona Italy has done a remarkable job tracking down an amazing amount of information on Freda’s life and career.His love for the subject comes though with his very detailed synopses of these rarely seen (outside of certain countries), providing the history behind many of them, production facts, and their success or failure in various territories as well as changes made to them .

Curti uses Freda’s memoir Divoratori di celluloide (Emme Edizioni (1981),164 pages)as a starting point ,but also researching though film magazines and newspapers from several countries, as well as tracking down and watching the titles from the director’s long career. Curti points out that the director could often be petty and recall incidents that might not always match the facts.Curti’s interviews and research sometimes contradicts what Freda put into his book.

• Still ,the Egyptian born Italian director lived La Dolce Vita, being an extravagant personal spender and gambler as well as womanizer. It is ironic that he despised films like Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (Riama,1960) as well as the entire neo-realist movement of films like Ladri di biciclette/THE BICYCLE THIEF(Ente Nazionale,1948).

He was more a storyteller who felt that film should be escapist,and take us out of reality. Not only did he have those skills, he was also able to make limited budgets look richer than they were, due to his understanding of film editing and camera placement ,as well as working with innovators like the great Mario Bava. Indeed, the short tempered Freda walked off the set of a I Vampiri ,leavinng it to be  finished by Bava. We see throughout the book that Freda had a habit of walking off set, much to the detriment of his films and career.  I Vampiri has an important place in Italian horror films ,as it was the country’s first true sound horror film (the first Italian horror film may have been Il monstro di Frankenstein(1920) a now sadly lost silent picture).

Freda had prior to I Vampiri had done a lot of regional comedies ( he cared little for the comics in many of his films ,but put in many physical gags inspired by the likes of Buster Keaton ,historical dramas and swashbucklers . Indeed ,his love of classic novels and adventure tales seemed to have merged into Caccia all’umo /LES MISERABLES( Lux,1952) ,making it more of an action thriller!

His swashbucklers seemed to have broken new ground in storytelling in Italy, being more inspired by American filmmakers than the home grown artisans. His love of tracking shots to get a lot of detail within a long take was developed during this period .Having reviewed the Italian historical drama La cena delle beffe / THE JESTER’s SUPPER* (Società Italiana Cines,1942 ,not by Freda, but by a contemporary),I would love to see more these  rarely motion pictures                (see review at https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/2017/05/07/the-jesters-supper-dvd/ ) .

Freda also was one of the first to leap into the sword and sandal films ,even telling an earlier version of the tale of SPARTACUS(Spartaco(API,1953),released in the U.S. by RKO as SINS OF ROME ). He hopped from genre to genre with various budgets and varying success. Comedy (at which he seemed to have a lot of success),drama ,spy thrillers ,Krimi( he faced off and WON against the antagonistic Klaus Kinski) ,swashbucklers,historicals, and of course horror.

His indifference to some parts of the movies he made show with some sloppy work (in ROGER LA HONTE( Comptoir Francais du Film Production ,1966,one of his later films with a decent budget, he allows a major stunt to show clearly that a “woman” passenger is actually a stunt man since his trousers are clearly visible ),as well as his indifference to actors (he was notorious for using doubles when actors gave him any grief). Yet in staging ,he often surpassed the budget with strong imagery and tracking shots that convey a lot of information .Plus several actors who worked with him praised the director .

Curti’s book makes me want to revisit several of Freda’s films and seek out some of his rarities. Curti has done what any film researcher should do, and that is evaluate and place into historical context the work of the subject.

McFarland is to be commended once again for putting out such a detailed volume about a filmmaker not as well known as perhaps he should be. Each film has b&w illustrations of the film posters or on set photographs, The graphics are sharp and easy to see.

This is a MUST HAVE for lovers of film, especially for those who love Euro-Cinema.

Highly Recommended.

Kevin G Shinnick

 

                  "Acquista il libro o ti farò del male ..."

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When Comedy Was King

when comedy was king

WHEN COMEDY WAS KING (VCI) DVD $19.99 DVD | 1 DISC | 81 minutes | 1960 | B&W | NR | English language | 1.37:1 | Dolby Digital Mono | All REGION /

http://www.vcientertainment.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=1096

Back before the easy availability of YouTube, Turner Classic Movies, and Home Video, it was not always easy to see classic films. You had to scour the television guides and hopefully a classic film would be airing on one of the smaller channels. If you lived in a larger city, you might have a revival movie house that would for one or two days show a film made long before you birth.

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Robert Youngson was a documentary film producer who loved bringing the past to movie goers. From 1948 to 1956, he produced a series of nostalgia laden short subjects for Warner Brothers, most often using old silent movie clips. They were popular enough to win Youngson Six Academy Award Nominations for Best Live Action Short Films (One Reel), winning two in the process.

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Youngson made a feature length historical documentary in 1950 for Warner Brothers called FIFTY YEARS BEFORE YOUR EYES. Rumored to have taken three years to make, the look back over the first half of the Twentieth Century was narrated by Arthur Godfrey and came and went with little fanfare.

1996

When Warner Brothers and the other studios began shutting down their short subject departments, Youngson decided to chance another full-length feature. With his contract with Warner Brothers over, he at first contracted with a small distributor, Distributors Corporation of America (DCA). DCA existed from 1952-59, beginning as a releasing company for foreign films like ALRAUNE (1952) and ANIMAL FARM (1954). The company folded after it released PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE (1959). Before that happened, they released Robert Youngson’s  THE GOLDEN AGE OF COMEDY  (1957). The compilation was later picked up and got a wider distribution from Twentieth Century Fox.

The film was successful enough that it brought a renewed popularity for Laurel & Hardy who featured strongly in the documentary. Sadly, Oliver Hardy died in August of that year, and Stan Laurel retired, so they didn’t personally get to take advantage of this renewed interest, though their films were now being shown regularly on television.

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Three years later, WHEN COMEDY WAS KING was released (by Twentieth Century Fox) and was again a popular success. Once again, the film opened with Chopin’s Etude Op. 10, No. 3 that was used under Youngson’s credit on his films from 1957. Many feel that this is the best of his compilation films , though I would say that this and DAYS OF THRILLS & LAUGHTER (Fox,1961,also available from VCI on DVD http://www.vcientertainment.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=507 ) which covers a wider range of films are tied for  his best , but it is nit picking on my part.

DAYS OF

Once again, Youngson put together a wonderful collection of clips from the golden age of silent comedy. While there are clips of Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel & Hardy, the film also brought Ben Turpin, Harry Langdon, and Mabel Normand among others back into the public view. The movie was well reviewed (“Here’s a toast to this sort of comedy !”-Bosley Crowther, NY Times, March 30,1960) and financially successful.

Youngson made six more feature compilations before his untimely passing at age 54 in 1974. His wife Jeanne Keyes Youngson, by the way, has had an interesting career of her own. An animator and documentarian, she produced a short called “MY NAME IS DEBBIE” about a post-operative male to female as well as helping to found The Count Dracula Fan Club in 1965.In 2000 they changed their name to The Vampire Empire.

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V.C.I. has done a marvelous job on this release. Sprocket Vault and Kit Parker Films went out and retimed and corrected footage from the original 35 mm negative (which had been in a series of mislabeled film cans. Having worked in a film storage house, I saw firsthand how common this problem was and how easy it was for films to get lost or dissolving Nitrate films).

I know that Kit has a lot more classic films coming down the pike, so I just want to make sure he gets the credit, where credit is due.

Best regards,

s-l500

The picture quality of this DVD is as perfect as one could hope (some film deterioration had already started happening from the original silent elements that Youngson had used, and so this compilation is also important as film PRESERVATION as well).

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A nice new addition is a very informative running commentary by Richard M Roberts, a collector and silent film historian who I first heard of as programmer for Slapsticon, where many a rare two reeler was unspooled. Not only does he speak about the films shown, but also about director Youngson. I kept smiling at our common reference points like Blackhawk Films, where many a collector could buy many a classic film on 8mm and 16mm. I also chuckled at how his detestation of collector Raymond Rohauer is palpable. Rohauer (or as my friends referred to him*** You Raymond Rohauer”) was falsely claiming to own rights to certain classics, which kept many like Universal’s THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932) out of the public eye, as well as nuisance lawsuits on films like BIRTH OF A NATION (D.W. Griffith/Epoch,1914).

when-comedy-was-king-movie-poster-1960-1020245937

 

If that was not enough, Richard M Roberts has added three rare bonus short silent, with a piano score by Donald Sosin, who has been providing music for silent films for 45 years! Roberts provides more informative commentary on these shorts.

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AN ELEPHANT ON HIS HANDS (Security ,1920) Hughey Mack gets a letter that he is getting an inheritance which turns out to be TWO elephants. The title card is different from the rest of the titles, making me think that it was from a 16mm home collector release. His wife is not amused. This film is not restored, but is such a rarity I am grateful that it exists at all. Dot Farley plays a comic maid.

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FAST & FURIOUS (Educational,1924) seems to be complete with original titles. Director Norman Taurog had a long film career, including directing several Elvis movies! Star Lige Conley somewhat resembles Chaplin when he was out of his Tramp makeup and does some amazing physical work, including a high fall from a ladder onto a countertop. . Nothing to do with later Vin Diesel films, Conley works in a store and his misadventures. There is a cute bit of stop motion in the short. The films second half earn the film its title with chase by motorbike, car and even atop a moving train (so maybe it did inspire Vin Diesel =)). It reminded me of the short PLAY SAFE (Pathe,1927) starring Monte Banks that appears in DAYS OF THRILLS & LAUGHTER.

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Finally, A TON OF FUN in HEAVY LOVE (Standard,1926), a Joe Rock produced comedy. Joe Rock, a former stunt man/comedian, he had produced several of the early Stan Laurel solo comedies. The Three Fatties (as they were referred to) Frank Alexander, Hilliard Karr and Kewpie Ross are carpenters. The big men do some very physical comedy that belies their size, though their weight is often the catalyst for much of their comedy. This film seems to be in the best shape of the three (some frame jitter appears). It reminded me of the Buster Keaton comedy ONE WEEK(Metro,1920).

 

You must play the three shorts in order, without the option of picking and choosing. A minor problem, as you will want to see them all.

If you are a lover of classic silent comedies, or want to introduce someone to them, WHEN COMEDY WAS KING is the film you need.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

-Kevin G Shinnick

March 8,2017 UPDATE :  I gave VCI most of the credit for this new release. However, I was informed that most of the credit for this new DVD release should go to Kit Parker’s new DVD LABEL : THE SPROCKET VAULT . 

 VCI did work with Kit to digitally restore the new HD master and authored the DVD, but this is a Sprocket Vault release. Thank you to those involved for the correction .

VCI is the releasing company of DAYS OF THRILLS AND LAUGHTER though.

Kit Parker, I am also told,  has a lot more classic films coming ,and I look forward to seeing.

PSThe 2017 Rondo Awards were just announced .

http://rondoaward.com/rondoaward.com/blog/

SCARLET THE FILM MAGAZINE REVIEWS (https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/) was somehow overlooked.

scarlet

When you vote, would you write in SCARLET THE FILM MAGAZINE REVIEWS ( https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/)
under the category #17 BEST WEBSITE OR BLOG ?

Thank you .

Deadline to vote April 17,2017.

*REST IN PEACE ROBERT OSBORNE *

rest

 

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SABOTAGE (1939)

sabotage

SABOTAGE(Republic,1939) B&W.67 minutes – Blu Ray released by Olive Films. $29.95 http://olivefilms.com/product/sabotage/ (also available on DVD $19.95 )

 

 

SABOTAGE is one of those films that very few film fans may be aware of. Not to be confused with Hitchcock’s earlier SABOTAGE (aka A WOMAN ALONE, General Film Distributors,1936) or his later SABOTEUR (Universal,1942), it does have certain parallels with those two films, especially the latter film.

 

While not a classic, it is a solid example of film making that came out of the Hollywood Dream Factory regular to fill cinemas.

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Filmed under the title ‘HEADLINE NEWS’, it had been announced that Sidney Salkow was supposed to direct. When it went into production on August 12,1939 (wrapping by the end of the month), it was under the direction of Harold Young (who had directed the Leslie Howard THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL (London Films,1934) and later several Universal horror films like THE MUMMY’S TOMB (1942).

 

At the time, studios were being cautious of making product that might end up banned in Europe, and the U.S. was going through an isolationist mood.

 

republic

Republic made most of their films for rural America, keeping their budgets low to make profit easier. Not being as dependent on overseas income, they were freer to tackle issues of spies. They may also have been encouraged by the box office returns by the then daring CONFESSIONS OF A NAZI SPY (Warner Brothers, released in May,1939), which did outstanding business despite being banned in certain countries.

 

War began September 1,1939 when Germany invaded Poland and in response England and France both declared war in response. Within a month and a half (October 13,1939) SABOTAGE was on movie screens.

 

While the Republic film does not name who is doing the espionage (as the United States would not officially enter the conflict for over two more years), audiences would infer that it was German interference going on in American factories.

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Tommy Grayson(Gordon Oliver ,a good looking character actor who later switched back and forth from acting and producing for television on shows like PETER GUNN(Spartan,1958-1961) ,a mechanic at the Midland Aircraft Corporation ,has convinced actress Gail(Arleen Whelan, who played Sarah Clay in YOUNG MR LINCOLN,Fox,1939) to leave showbiz and marry him .She was afraid of the small town reaction to actors (we see later how they look down on her, so she was not being paranoid) but is convinced to stay when Tommy’s family goes out of their way to embrace her and welcome her.

 

The day before their marriage, a new plane is being tested, and the whole town turns out to watch the test flight. However, the test ends in disaster, with the plane crashing and burning (superb as always model work by the uncredited Lydecker brothers).img_20170118_150639

 

There have been other failures due to engines from the plant, and tests point to Tommy, as all the failing pistons came from his bench.

 

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Major Matt Grayson (Charley Grapewin,most beloved as Uncle Henry in THE WIZARD OF OZ(MGM) from the same year) , and his Civil War Vet friends Mel(J.M. Kerrigan, THE INFORMER(RKO,1935)) ,Smitty (Frank Darien (Uncle John in THE GRAPES OF WRATH ,Fox,1940),and Eli (Lucien Littlefield(Dr Horace in SONS OF THE DESERT (Hal Roach,1933)) investigate to clear Tommy’s name .

 

The film surprisingly shows the dark side of Middle America (they readily turn on the Grayson family, blaming them for the factory closing). However, it also shows that when we work together we can defeat evil (subtly done by having vets from both side of the Civil War working together).

 

 

SABOTAGE is full of wonderful character actors, including Joe Sawyer as Gardner, who also works at the factory with Tommy. Sawyer is one of those actors who could go from good guy to bad guy with ease, and be acceptable as both.

 

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Towards the end of the film, there is a scene that harkens back to the underworld capture of M(Nero-Film,1931), though here it is the vets from the various wars who capture the spies and bring them to the factory. Extra tension is within the scene as there is a bomb planted by the terrorists that is set to go off shortly.

The old vets are played very slapstick to provide comic relief throughout the movie so that they solve and fix everything is a nice twist.

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One little continuity goof at the very end of the film has the happy hero & heroine flying off for the honeymoon. You see that a string of pots and pans afe attached to the tail as it taxis for takeoff, but when the plane is in flight the items are not there.

Olive Films has released a superlative clean and sharp print of SABOTAGE. The mono sound is pop and hiss free. The optional English subtitles ae clear and easy to read. There are no extras, though that such an overlooked film is released in such a magnificent print is reason enough to buy it.

I don’t recall seeing this film airing on Turner Classics Movie, so for many, this will be the discovery of a small gem of a film.

Recommended.

Kevin G Shinnick

(note -frame grabs are not mine and do not do justice to the sharpness of the actual print).

 

PS- for those surprised that there were still Civil War Vets in 1939, here is a photo from that same year of an actual Civil War Survivor .http-%2f%2fa-amz-mshcdn-com%2fwp-content%2fuploads%2f2015%2f04%2fcivil-final-15

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Two Stocking Stuffers- RAY HARRYHAUSEN FAIRY TALES/STRANGE & UNUSUAL CHRISTMAS FILMS

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RAY HARRYHAUSEN’S FAIRY TALES
– COLOR http://www.oldies.com/product-view/7875D.html

STRANGE AND UNUSUAL CHRISTMAS FILMS-Color/b&w -http://www.oldies.com/product-view/7871D.html

$7.98 each. Oldies.com

Just in time for the Christmas Season come two fun stocking stuffers from OLDIES.COM.

The first is probably the one that people will feel is the must have . Ray Harryhausen is a god to anyone who grew up watching fantasy films made between 1953 (BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (WB)) through 1981 (CLASH OF THE TITANS,MGM). You were at some time enthralled and in awe of the stop motion wizardry that this one man special effect auteur brought to the cinema screen. While ILM and others can do the same thing now via computer, recall that Harryhausen for most of his work was creator, camera person, and director ,single handedly doing what now takes teams of CGI experts to try and emulate.

However, unlike Athena born fully grown from the skull of Zeus, Ray Harryhausen’s artistry came from experimenting . Some of these experiments are to be found on RAY HARYHAUSEN’S FAIRY TALES.

After working as an animator on a George Pal Puppetoon (TULIPS WILL GROW,Paramount,1942),Ray continued to refine his talents as both cinematographer and animator on shorts produced for and by the U.S. Army.red-stare

After his service, he returned to his family home, where he got a 16mm camera and some Kodachrome color film to produce a series of shorts. It was a family affair, with his parents helping with costuming and set building. He completed five of his Fairy Tales between 1946 and 1953 ( a final film not on this collection ,TORTOISE & THE HARE, was started in 1952, but never completed when Harryhausen began making features. That is , it remained unfinished until 2002, when Ray and two fans who worked on tv’s ROBOT CHICKEN (Cartoon Network,2005-2015)decided to complete it.).

The films were released to schools as well as television filler but while they probably did not make Ray much money, he was able to learn his trade and improve his technique on each film .

The first film, THE MOTHER GOOSE STORY (1946) consists of very short vignettes, silent save for some public domain classical music. The influence of George Pal’s animated shorts is quite obvious in the style of puppetry design. The faces use a variation of Pal’s system of substitution faces rather than animating the features. A quick dissolve is used to smooth the transition of facial reactions.

The next film ,THE STORY OF LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD (1949) ,showed more confidence ,experimenting with camera movements ,and lighting. It also boasted a voice over narration by actor Hugh Douglas.

hanselTHE STORY OF HANSEL & GRETEL (1951)was once again narrated by Hugh Douglas ,has more reassured camera moves, and even uses some rear projection for a giant oven fire mixed with the stop motion animation figures .

THE STORY OF RAPUNZEL (1951), this time narrated by Del Moore ,seems a bit more stilted than the previous effort ,and the witch figure seems to be just a repainting of the witch from the previous film.

THE STORY OF KING MIDAS (1953),the final of Harryhausen’s short stories on this disc, is the most assured. Once again narrated by Del Moore, the character work on the faces is much more assured, and the villain of the piece is a marvelous piece of villainous design.midas

As a bonus, we get a variation of Little Red Riding Hood, this time via a short 1949 color film of the Wahmann Hand Puppets. The film was released by Encyclopedia Britannica Films, and was produced by Helen Wahmann Lanthop and Lee Wahmann Keel, co-founders of the Children’s Artist Series and the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, North Carolina (still in existence today). It is a straightforward recording of a well rendered puppet show telling of the familiar tale.

Back in 2005, RAY HARRYHAUSEN: EARLY YEARS (Sparkhill /Global Entertainment) was a two disc Special Edition that included the Harryhausen shorts on this disc, as well as a completed TORTOISE & THE HARE and many other extras. That collection is out of print and selling for over $100 . The Alpha/OLDIES.COM Collection is an affordable alternative to that release, and their prints are quite clean and acceptable.rh-the-early-years-collection-dvd-pal
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Next up is the well named STRANGE & UNUSUAL CHRISTMAS FILMS. The films are an odd mash up of color and black & white shorts made between 1945 through 1961. Many of them have been used and featured in recent Rifftrax Comedy Christmas specials, and once you see them, you will know why .

behind-scens-xmas-dreamThe 1945 Czech made “Vánoční sen” was released in the U.S. to tv and home video by Castle Films in 1948 as A CHRISTMAS DREAM . This was the first film that director Karl Zeman mixed live action and stop motion animation . He later become world famous for fantasy films like THE FABULOUS WORLD OF JULES VERNE (Czech: Vynález zkázy /The Deadly Invention,1958,released by WB in 1961).Consider that this short was made when there was devastating rationing due to Nazi occupation until April,1945, it is astounding that the film has such a magical feel.In effect, a young girl neglects her old toy for a new toy,and the older one comes to life.

The English dubbing, however, makes the film enter into the realm of creepy. The high pitched voice of the doll will make a younger generation think of Mr Hankie from tv’s SOUTH PARK (Comedy Central,1997-still running) .

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Next up is SANTA CLAUS‘ STORY (Board of Education,Buffalo,1945).In this story,Santa appears to two little children and tells them “A story you‘ ll always remember“ – about monkeys. That’s right, lots of footage of monkeys. Did I mention monkeys? These first two films have been satirized by the Rifftrax team during their various Christmas specials .

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS(Castle Films,1946) is a live action telling of the the classic Clement C Moore tale, with bits of cartoon animation thrown in. The only thing wierd about it is how it haphazardly jumps from cartoon animation to live action, but is probably the most “normal“ film on the disc.

SANTA IN ANIMAL LAND (Art Reels Production/Official Films,1948)- A bunch of big headed animals get together and go to the North Pole to ask Santa Claus for gifts. This is basically a puppet show that was filmed. However, the behind the scenes history is very interesting. Puppeteer Alfred Wallace (1914-1985) was a Native American puppeteer who had a strong career in the nightclubs during the 1930s through the 1950s. His specialty seemed to have been political satire ,using puppets such as FDR as a baby, or a Senator puppet with two faces. This production seems more like a work for hire piece.

 

 

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The 1945 Czech made “Vánoční sen

 

 

SANTA & THE FAIRY SNOW QUEEN(Sid Davis Productions 1951)is probably the longest film in the collection(26 minutes) and the first in color .Sid Davis is a man best known for his public scare films, mostly about not talking to strangers ,running with scissors or you’ll impale yourself ,or the ‘dangers ‘of homosexuality .fairy Here, he seems to be showing you the dangers of community theatre telling a Christmas tale . Using public domain music , several annoying toys come to life(someone stop Jack In The Box,please!),an  female Elf named Snoopy and a drunk sounding Santa encounter a thick accented Snow Queen. This episode too has been spoofed by the Rifftrax team, but here you can experience it in all it’s bizarre glory.sfq100

THE ELF & MR. LITTLE (1953)seems to be a short made for local television (due to the chroma-key titles) Christmas tale shot in Arizona . It features marionettes by Rex Crum,better known as Rex Castle,who while Arizona based,toured and performed all over the world,even on Cruise ships and Las Vegas Night Clubs.In this a toymaker and his wife meet a Christmas elf.

 

SILENT NIGHT: THE STORY OF THE CHRISTMAS CAROL (Coronet ,1953)is a live action telling of how the famous song came into being.Though shot in color, the print appears at times to have faded almost to black and white.

THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL (CASTLE FILMS,1954)- Hans Christian Anderson’s 1845 story was shot as a live action French short in 1952,that Castle Films re-dubbed and sold on 16mm as well as to television syndication. While many of us think of a the Danish story teller as making lively children’s stories, a lot of his tales are damn depressing ! The Brave Tin Soldier has the title character melted with his ballerina love, the Little Mermaid in its original incarnation had the title character wanting to murder the Prince to get his blood , and then there is this ,the most depressing and saddest of all his stories.

A little barefoot Match Girl is forced into the cold by her (unseen) father to sell her wares. Hungry and cold, she lights her matches for warmth to no avail.As she dies, she sees a vision of the Virgin Mary (in the original story, it is her grandmother who greats her )who floats her off to Heaven. Actually, Anderson was ,like his contemporary Charles Dickens ,was pointing out the inequities of the poor and wanted to show how we neglect our fellow humans.

THE LITTLE LAMB: A CHRISTMAS STORY (Castle Films/United World 1955) is a live action film where a mother (Maureen O’Sullivan), after having her brood of five children say their prayers, tells them a story of a lost lamb and the Nativity. Morris Ankum, known mostly for playing generals and judges, here plays Azur The Shepherd. Not so much strange as a straightforward Christian tale.

CHRISTMAS FAIRY TALE (1961), seems to be a Canadian made film about a little girl who looks at a book and suddenly it dissolves to barely moving clockwork mechanisms. In fact, over 6 minutes of its nearly ten-minute running time is footage is of a revolving diorama with non-moving figures that have a narrator filling in the story!hqdefault

If you want another interesting animated stocking stuffer ,check out also the just released                                                                                 LOST COLD-WAR PROPAGANDA CARTOONS-Color –                                                                       http://www.oldies.com/product-view/7874D.html

 

Kevin G Shinnick

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     (Go Home,Santa, you’re drunk !)

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BLINDMAN – ABKCO dvd review

blindman-movie-poster-1972-1020377327BLINDMAN (Il Cieco ,Italy, November 15,1971 /U.S. release by 20th Century Fox Jan.15,1972)-color -105 minutes-release by ABKCO -$12.99-release date November 4,2016

https://www.amazon.com/Blindman-Ringo-Starr/dp/B01LXU311M/ref=pd_sbs_74_img_0/166-8333352-5114628?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=HTM8B2YSKEX4QFHXZ38R

“I want my fifty women.”

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The Spaghetti Western reigned from about 1964 until sometimes into the mid-1970s. While there had been, westerns filmed in Europe before and after that time, Sergio Leone’s Per un pugno di dollari/Por un puñado de dólares/Für eine Handvoll Dollar, best known as A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (released in Italy in September 12,1964, released in the U.S by United Artists) was the first international success of the Euro Western. Many of these films were produced multi-nationally via German, Yugoslavian, Spain, the U.S., even Israel, along with Italian producers.blindman-2

 

Usually in the Spaghetti Western, the definition of bad guys and the good guys, unlike the classic American films, became blurred. The level of violence also escalated. As the westerns went along, they also developed interesting eccentricities and characterizations. Also, a dark sense of humor permeated a lot of them. DJANGO (1966 Euro International) and the coffin exemplified these.
However, by the 1970s, Kung Fu films became the rage, and the westerns slowly rode off into the cinematic sunset. Before they did, they left us with BLINDMAN (ABKCO FILMS, released in 1971 in Italy,1972 U.S. via 20th Century Fox).

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BLINDMAN was a bit more violent than many of the westerns and had a great deal more nudity. The original American release was pared down to 84 minutes in some areas. I saw it upon its original release, due to the casting of Ringo Star as a Mexican Bandito(!)and seeing this new release from ABKCO, I do not recall the film being as explicit .westward_the_women

Many of the Spaghetti Westerns had inspirations in other films, and BLINDMAN seems inspired by WESTWARD THE WOMEN(MGM,1951). In WESTWARD, Robert Taylor (WATERLOO BRIDGE, MGM 1940) is consigned to deliver 140 (not 200 as the poster declares) mail order brides to California. Indian attacks, renegades, even natural disasters, dwindle the numbers. The film was a huge hit when it came out, though it is not well remembered today.

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Tony Anthony an American born actor who had a good career in Italian Westerns, and later help bring about the 3D revival with his film COMIN’ AT YA (U.S. release Filmways ,1981), stars as the title character and who also wrote the screenplay for BLINDMAN, however, seemed to have been at least partially inspired by it. For good measure, he mixed into the blend a bit of the legend of the blind masseuse/ swordsman, Zatoichi. First filmed in 1962 as THE TALE OF ZATOICHI ( Dalei Studios ),the long running series had already had 22 entries by the time BLINDMAN was into production.

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The Blindman (he seems to have no other name), it seems, was contracted to bring fifty women to some miners in Texas. However, his partners double cross him and bring the women to Mexico. Blindman thus needs to hunt down his associates, who often end up dead, as he tries to regain his female consignment and honor his contract.

Blindman sets up the film by establishing that he is indeed blind ,but no less deadly, when he blows up a character named Skunk(an unbilled Renato Romano, DEATH LAID AN EGG / La morteha fatto l’uovo,Italy 1968) and an unnamed compatriot and woman companion after Skunk lets Blindman know his cargo is now in Mexico with Domingo(American born Lloyd Batista,who had appeared in Tony Anthony ‘s THE STRANGER/Lo straniero di silenzio,Italy 1968 ),his brother Candy(Ringo Starr* )and their sister called Sweet Mama(Magda Konopka,WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH,WB 1970) and their gang.

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The bandits shower down the kidnapped women while Sweet Mama and Dominic discuss if Candy might want one of the captives. However, Candy is sweet (sorry about pun) on Pilar (Agneta Eckemyr, later to appear in ISLAND AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD (Disney, Dec 20,1974)). The women are being offered to a General (Raf Baldassare, who appeared in Mario Bava’s ERIK THE CONQUEROR/Gli Invasari, Italy 1961) and his drunken battalion.

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However, even more double crosses happen and El General is captured for ransom. More betrayals occur and more characters end up dead (including Ringo!), and The Blindman is at times caught and tortured.blindman12

The actors seem to be having a good time in their various roles. The women, however, to be blunt, are for the most part, sex objects, and spend a great deal of time being naked and pawed by the various cast members. Konopka, hints at a sick sadistic pleasure of watching this, and that she is closer to her brother Dominic that would be considered acceptable.cropped

The at times surreal western was directed by Ferdinando Baldi was a very busy in the 1960s through 1980s, jumping genres but most comfortable in the oater genre. He later would direct the two 3-D films that Anthony would write and star in. The film was lensed in Almeria, Spain, a desert like stretch that was used in numerous westerns as well as films like LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (Columbia ,1962) and HOW I WON THE WAR (U.A. ,1967). In fact, Ringo had visited John Lennon on location there while Lennon was filming HOW I WON

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Music by Stelvio Cipriati, who had scored THE STRANGER RETURNS (Italy,1967) and is still scoring films today, does a Ennio Morricone -like score with a lot of jangly sounds and odd vocals. Ringo did not contribute to the soundtrack, though on the flipside of his song single “Back Off Boogaloo”, he wrote and performs a song called ‘Blindman” that sounds inspired by Cipriati’s score https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5EXfCMyibw

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Allen Klein, the head of ABKCO Films, was the former manager whom Paul McCartney blames for his exit from The Beatles. Ringo obviously had no ill will to Klein, and took the supporting role. Being the most famous name in the film, his prominence in ads and trailers was expanded. Ringo acquits himself quite well in the atypical bad guy role. (See trailer : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5454Qe6uoaM )ringo-starr-and-allen-klein-holding-gun-spain-july-1971

     Ringo & Klein(holding gun) clowning on set.

The DVD transfer shows off cinematographer Riccardo Pallottini (CASTLE OF BLOOD/ Danza macabra, Italy,1964) sharp images, thanks to a HD transfer from an original 35mm negative. The film is also available as a digital download, though no word of any planned BLU RAY release (if they do ,perhaps a commentary by Anthony, or even Ringo?). Sound quality is a 5.1 transfer with no noticeable pops or hiss. The only extra on the DVD is a trailer.mpw-20184

BLINDMAN was one of those films that had been available on the gray market in variable quality prints. In fact, SCARLET reader John Crummett informed us when BLINDMAN was first announced for DVD that some time ago he had attended a screening of GET MEAN**(Italy ,1975, U.S. release through Cinemation)  at the Silent Movie Theatre in Hollywood and director Tony Anthony himself doubted there would ever be an ever be an official release due to all the bootlegs. ( You can see how bad a typical bootleg looked here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l95IUUNnpjg )

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I am glad that Tony Anthony was wrong about that, and that the film is finally available in a good quality print. One small note about the ABKCO website- they really don’t sell their DVDs very well, concentrating more on their musical releases. The most important thing, though, is you can finally get BLINDMAN in a high-quality release.

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Recommended for Italian Western Fans, as well as Beatles completists.
Kevin G Shinnick

*-Was Ringo’s name CANDY a reference to his first non-Beatles film, CANDY (A.B.C/Cinerama ,1968)?candy1968

**-GET MEAN, also directed by Baldi with performances from Baldassare and Battista, is available on BLU RAY from BLUE UNDERGROUND.blu-bd-8005_l

PLEASE “LIKE ‘ and SHARE SCARLETTHEFILMMAGAZINE on WORD PRESS, as well as SCARLET THE FILM MAGAZINE REVIEWS on FACEBOOK, to get our latest reviews and articles. Also ,check out our earlier reviews and articles starting with https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/2015/10/

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THE SPIDER (1931)

the-spiderTHE SPIDER (Fox Film Corporation, released September 27,1931) b&w. 59 minutes.  $15.00  DVD-R from 16mm print offered by John Carpenter. Contact him via email at pixthatmove@gmail.com .

THE SPIDER is a film that deserves to be better known. Released after DRACULA (Universal, February 12,1931) but before FRANKENSTEIN (Universal, November 21,1931), this film, while in the end a murder mystery, has several strong supernatural elements.thespidertc

The film was co-directed by Kenneth MacKenna and William Cameron Menzies. MacKenna was an actor who also directed several mostly forgettable films between 1931-1934. mackennaMacKenna, born Leo Mielziner, Jr, is today mostly remembered for sponsoring and helping his brother Jo Mielziner (Tony and Academy Award winning set designer). He also was an early “angel” (theatrical financial backer) who introduced his friend Richard Rodgers to the James A. Michener’s book “Tales of The South Pacific” (MacMillian, NY,1947), feeling it might make a good musical. He was right. It became the 1949 musical SOUTH PACIFIC (Majestic Theatre, April 7,1949).tales_of_the_south_pacific_michener

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The real visual director of THE SPIDER would be Menzies. Menzies entered films in 1919, after his service in WWI. Training in effects and 004_thiefstaircasefilm design, within a few short years he was the art director and production designer of classics like THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD (United Artists, March 18,1924). Pictured above his sketch and the fully realized design in the film. He is perhaps best known for his design of GONE WITH THE WIND (MGM, December 15,1939). Not only did he design the look of the film, he even designed some of the famous shots like the massive pullback shot at the train station.

He also later directed the 3D horror film THE MAZE (Allied Artists, July 26,1953) and the classic science fiction film INVADERS OF MARS (20th Century Fox, April 22,1953). He was a visual stylist who made the most of his budgets, big or small.

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(Menzies ,as photographed by Karl Strauss)

 

The screenplay was written by Barry Conners. Conners was a former stage actor who was blacklisted when he tried to unionize actors against corrupt producers.barry-conners He turned to playwriting and had a few Broadway successes, including HELL’S BELLS (Wallack’s Theatre, Jan 26, 1925 – May 1925)which was the Broadway debut of both Humphrey Bogart and Shirley Booth.

He used his success to become a screenwriter for MGM and then Fox Films (later to merge and become 20TH Century Fox). Among his screenplays were an adaptation of his play THE PATSY (MGM,April 22,1928 ). At Fox, he exhibited a strong ability with mysteries, writing the screen adaptation of several of the early Charlie Chan films (including two “lost “Chan films (…Carries On, (Fox, April 12,1931), …. Chance (Fox, Jan 24,1932), as well as THE BLACK CAMEL (June 21,1931).

 

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Later, he would be one of a team of writers who adapted the radio series into CHANDU THE MAGICIAN (Fox, August 4,1932), another mystical adventure directed by Menzies and best known for starring Bela Lugosi as the villain Roxor. Starring as Chandu was Edmund Lowe. Lowe had already gotten his magical bona fides, starring in THE SPIDER as the film’s star, magician Chatrand. Lowe had begun in vaudeville before getting into silent films. When sound began, his good looks and voice established him as a reliable leading man in the thirties and forties, right up to THE STRANGE MR. GREGORY (Monogram, Jan 12,1946), wherein he starred as—a magician!!!!mv5bytu5yzhkogitngewns00yjy4ltk0nzgtmdqxyzc4zjg2mju0xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymzi2mdewna-_v1_

THE SPIDER was adapted from a stage play by Lowell Brentano and Fulton Oursler that played Broadway at Chanin’s 46th St Theatre (3/22/1927- 5/28/1927) before moving to the Music Box Theatre (5/30/1927-12/17/1927) for a successful run of 319 performances. THE SPIDER: A Play of The Varieties, to give it its full title, was a three act Mystery Melodrama. The setting was the fictional Tivoli Vaudeville Theatre, where the action takes place. The play starred Broadway actor john-halliday(John Halliday )

John Halliday as Chatrand, and featured a lot of vaudeville performers Mack & La Rue, billed as The Skating Marvels of The Century, and Lytell & Fant, listed, intriguingly as The Chocolate Cake -Eaters.0002334_spider_the_300

Oddly, the play had several lawsuits brought against it for plagiarism, one of which went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1933 before it was dismissed.

Writer Brentano worked on Broadway writing thrillers as well as musicals, including the intriguing thriller ZEPPELIN (National Theatre, Jan14,1929-March ,1929), set aboard the cabins of the air vessel. He also worked in Hollywood on films like THE PENGUIN POOL MURDER (RKO December 9,1932).

 

 

 

Fulton Oursler was a magician who wrote for several pulp magazines. He joined Harry Houdini in discrediting fake mediums in the 1920s, going so far as to write an expose Spirit Mediums Exposed (New Metropolitan Fiction) under the pseudonym Samri Frikell. fulton_oursler_magicianoursler-a-spirit-mediums-exposed

After converting to Catholicism in the 1940s, he wrote THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD (Doubleday,1949). It was later adapted into the 1965 movie by the same name.

The film of THE SPIDER obviously cut the play down to its barest storyline, as a three-act play would have run at least 90 minutes. With many of the within the show vaudeville routines cut, time was filled by adding the comedy of Elmer Goodfellow Brendel, better known as El Brendel. Born to an Irish mother & German father who entered vaudeville as a German dialect comic but when anti-German sentiments grew during WWI, he became a simple Swede, often named Ollie, Oley, or Ole.

He began working in films, appearing in the classic silent WINGS (Famous Players/Paramount, August 12,1927). After a brief return to vaudeville, he signed a contract with Fox Studios, taking advantage of the innovation of sound movies. His biggest starring role was in the musical/science fiction film JUST IMAGINE (Fox, November 23,1930). He was billed as the most popular comedian at the time but he soon was reduced to supporting roles and starring in B-comedies. To be honest, to modern audiences, a little El Brendel goes a long way. However, it was probably thought getting El Brendel for THE SPIDER was a good idea at the time.39

The film takes place in the Tivoli Vaudeville House, where the Great Chatrand (Edmund Lowe) is packing them in. Chartrand’s show is being broadcast, and he announces that assistant whom he calls Alexander (Howard Phillips, making his film debut. He only made 11 more films up to 1938, none of which was as good as THE SPIDER. ) is an amnesiac whom he found two years earlier. However, he seems to have lost his memory but developed psychic mind reading powers which they use in the act.vlcsnap-763909

Beverly Lane (Lois Moran, who is said to have been the inspiration for the character “Rosemary “in  F.Scott Fitzgerald’s TENDER IS THE NIGHT (Charles Scribner’s Sons, April 1934 ) has been looking for her brother Paul who disappeared about the same time ,but her uncle John Carrington (Earle Foxe ,who began in silent films back in 1912.He had starred in an odd silent fantasy feature LAST MAN ON EARTH (Fox, November 2,1924) as well as the lost early talkie THE GHOST TALKS (Fox, February 24,1929 ) says it is only a publicity stunt and that it cannot possibly be Paul. However, she insists that they go to see the next performance and Carrington begrudgingly agrees.mv5bngq4nwi4ngitngyyos00mdnllwfly2mtmznindm3n2mymzfmxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtq2mjqyndc-_v1_

During all this, we have comedy where Ole (El Brendel) and his young charge (Kendall McComas, who started in the silent Mickey McGuire comedy shorts and in 1932 appeared in some of the Our Gang comedy shorts) are considering what type of tickets to purchase. The ticket taker, by the way, is a cameo by co director MacKenna. When they finally do, and go to their seats, it ends with El Brendel putting a hole through the top of his bowler.48

Chatrand peers through the curtains and recognizes Beverly from a photo that Alexander has. The act begins, and Alexander is blindfolded as Chatrand walks though the audience and holds up various objects. When Chatrand holds up Beverly’s locket, which is like the one Alexander has, Carrington begins to try and take it away from Chatrand. The lights go out, and a someone shoots Carrington. The staging of this scene is quite well done, with rapid cutting between all the parties, and Alexander acting as if possessed, finally ending with the shooting, and Alexander collapsing.vlcsnap-763749

The police arrive and find a gun by the unconscious Alexander. Beverly recognizes Alexander as her lost brother. Now revived and out of his trance, Alexander/Paul blurts out: ‘He tried to kill me! I had to do it.” That’s all the police need to hear, and arrest Alexander. Chatrand escapes via a magic trick, and the police seal off the theatre. No one can leave. Can Chatrand, with his magic skills, find out who the killer is?72

The film moves along at a good pace, and it is a fun movie worthy of rediscovery. The highlight of the film is towards the end during a superbly staged séance sequence.32

The movie is a rarity, and as far as I know, it has not aired on any television stations for decades (indeed, there is hardly anything about it on the Turner Classic Movies site), and it is a shame.img259

It is a short, fast paced little thriller with supernatural elements that deserves to be better known.

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(announced but unmade version)

John Carpenter (no not the director, but this one is known as “The Movie Man” due to his extensive movie collection) is offering a special deal to SCARLET THE FILM MAGAZINE readers .The sound and picture quality is good, especially when you consider how truly are this film is . John will make a DVD-R of this rare film from his own 16mm print. Cost $15.00 within the continental U.S.A. Contact John directly at pixthatmove@gmail.com . Let him know that SCARLET sent ya!img258

Recommended.
-Kevin G Shinnick

 

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