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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


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

 

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

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

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


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

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

 

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

 

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

As to extras:


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

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


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

MERRY CHRISTMAS and thank you to Olive Films Signature Series.

Previous releases include


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

HANNIE CAULDER

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

A NEW LEAF

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

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

Review by Kevin G Shinnick

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

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

Contact: Kevin at scarletthefilmmag@yahoo.com

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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


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

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

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

 

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

Don’t poke his eye out…

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

 


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

 

 

 


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

 

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


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


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

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

 


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

 

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

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

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

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

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

For Classic Film Lovers

Mysteries
Noir Fans
1950s Movies

-KEVIN G SHINNICK

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

 

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THE 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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BORIS KARLOFF COLLECTION (VCI)

3D-Boris-Karloff-Collection-500x500

 

BORIS KARLOFF COLLECTION (VCI,2 discs, DVD) Released September 2018. Color.  $14.99

https://www.vcientertainment.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=1104

Many years ago, when the late great Boris Karloff passed away in February 2,1969, Jim Warren’s and Forrest J Ackerman’s FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND provided two fitting tributes.

One, was issue #56 of FMOF with a beautiful  Basil Gogos cover of Karloff as his most famous role.

download

The other was a paperback by FJA called THE FRANKENSCIENCE MONSTER (Ace,1969, a cover not by Gogos but paperback cover artist Verne Tossey.). At the time,before the ability to google, this was the source for any monster news. Many of us though that Karloff’s final film was a classic of modern cinema, Peter Bogdanovich’s   TARGETS  (August 1968,Paramount).

karloff_cult_02_dvd

However, thanks to Uncle Forry , we found out that 80 plus year old Karloff had signed with producer Luis Enrique Vergara and Azteca Films of Mexico (who in turn had a distribution agreement with Columbia Pictures) for a four-picture deal at a salary of $400,000. The actor could have said no to the projects and easily retired, having a comfortable sum saved up over the years. No one could have blamed him, either, as his lungs were barely functional (due to years of smoking as well as damage from pneumonia he contracted in Italy filming BLACK SABBATH,1963,AIP , leaving him dependent on oxygen tanks to aid his breathing) as well as crippling arthritis that made walking difficult.

karloff_at_01_dvd

Still, as he often said, he wanted to die with his boots on, doing the job he loved if audiences wanted to see him. An example was when he filmed an episode of THE RED SKELTON SHOW (“He Who Steals My Robot Steals Trash” aired September 24,1968, CBS), rather than do the show before the live audience in a wheel chair as rehearsed, he willed himself to walk with the aid of a cane rather than have the people see him so confined.

Thus, the quartet of Mexican horror films were jobs that he readily accepted, feeling fortunate that audiences still wished to see him.

karloff_dod_01_dvd

Difficulties for the productions arose when it was discovered that Karloff’s health would not permit him to film in Mexico, and his sequences were shot in a small studio in Santa Monica, California in April/May 1968, while the rest of the films were completed in Mexico, often with a double for the star.

karloff_tort02_dvd

The four films were to be made over a 5-week period, so this extra expense of two crews, duplicating sets, and flying up some of the Mexican cast to work with Karloff must have frayed the already low budgets.  Juan Ibáñez directed the Mexican main unit, while cult director Jack Hill (SPIDER BABY,1967, American General) handled the American Karloff unit, as well as contributing to the screenplays.

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Hill it seems was hampered because the producer wanted to use an early form of video playback by tying a primitive video camera to the top of the 35mm Mitchells used to film the movie. Jerry Lewis had pioneered the idea and it is now the common practice, but Hill felt that it slowed down his process.

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With all these problems somehow the four films were filmed and completed. Karloff did not live to see the release of these films, which seemed to have been held back until 1971 for their limited distributions (Cannon also got around to distribute Karloff’s 1967 Spanish lensed CAULDRON OF BLOOD the same year, which got a wider release in the U.S. than the four Mexican thrillers).

 

Over the years, the films have been released on various video labels, including MPI and United American budget label, as well as several of the titles getting a DVD release by Fred Olen Ray’s Retromedia label.

 

VCI has now for the first time put all four films together in an affordable (less than the cost of some single DVD releases) two-disc collection.

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The four titles in the collection are

menu_boris_karloff_m01_blu-ray.

(Disc One)

DANCE OF DEATH (aka HOUSE OF EVIL, SERENADA MACABRA)

TORTURE ZONE (edited version of FEAR CHAMBER)

menu_boris_karloff_m02_blu-ray.

(Disc Two)

ALIEN TERROR (filmed as THE INCREDIBLE INVASION, Invasión siniestra)

CULT OF THE DEAD (edited version of ISLE OF THE SNAKE PEOPLE, La muerte vivente)

 

The discs seem to be sourced from the old MPI videos, with the same video generated titles (©1987 by the Parasol Group). The prints of the four movies are a bit dark and sometimes the color is a bit off.  The copy  of TORTURE ZONE seemed in the worst condition, with several visible splices.

fear_chamber_1968___5a53f0e99d7d4.mp4

 

It is a shame that they did not seek out the Retromedia or Elite release of FEAR CHAMBER, as both of those are in the original aspect ratio with sharp picture and color quality, as well as extras such as an audio commentary by Jack Hill and a deleted scene.MPI’s TORTURE ZONE is an edited version of this film ,so all of the nudity Is eliminated .

Fear Chamber 14

Only TORTURE ZONE was set in present day, with the rest set at around the turn of the 20th Century. ALIEN TERROR was supposedly the last one filmed, and the only one NOT starring Julissa, giving actress German actress Christa Linder a chance.

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The 2.0 Dolby Digital sound for the films is clear with no noticeable loss in quality of dialogue or the sound effects.

There are no extras to the discs, but again, to get these four films together at such a low price, one should not expect any special edition treatment.

While we would all like to get the best possible and most complete versions, certain films have limited audiences and the profitability is to say the least, narrow.

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One wonders, for example, if VCI had gone out of their way to get new prints, cleaned up and loaded with extras, would fans shell out $29.95 for each of these films?

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DANCE OF DEATH -this film is perhaps the most traditional horror film, with obvious influences of the Roger Corman Poe films. The film even claims to be based upon a Poe story, though none that I am familiar with.hoise of evil                                                  original Spanish language credit

 

Wealthy toymaker Matthais Morteval (Karloff) summons his family to his mansion to discuss how his estate will be divided. Recent murders in the nearby hills has a macabre touch, wherein the victims have had their eyes removed makes Matthais suspect that a member of his family is the killer.

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Karloff has an ancestral portrait that looks exactly like him (these old families have strong genes), and Karloff gets to play huge pipe organ. Matthais supposedly suffers a fatal heart attack half way into the film, and shortly thereafter, one by one his greedy relations die. Keeping with the Corman Poe- like feel, the film ends with a huge fire, as Matthais, obviously not dead, plays his final concerto as the walls burn around him. It is quite amazing that the octogenarian actor is working so close to such huge plumes of flames, controlled or not  .

firebug

 

Karloff perhaps passed away before being able to loop dialogue, or the final lines were an afterthought , but they are not his voice.

People who dismiss the Karloff Mexican quartet of films have obviously not seen them, as DANCE OF DEATH was quite entertaining.

FEAR CHAMBER POSTER

TORTURE ZONE – (which in the original titles also claimed to be Poe inspired, though I would say more Lovecraft, like Karloff’s own DIE, MONSTER DIE! 1965 ,A.I.P. ). This one is a bit of a mess, no two ways about it. Psychedelic zooms & colors, and jump cut edits do not make this film any more interesting, and indeed, show how little sense the plot has.  A living rock is discovered within the depths of the earth. Scientist Karl Mantell (Karloff), who spends much of this film either sitting behind his office desk or behind a lab computer table, discovers that the creature feeds on the blood of young women, particularly those who are frightened. Naturally, our loveable scientist and his staff create a fear chamber to terrorize young women who come seeking employment. The rock (no, no that one) starts to grow tentacles, and only then does Mantell seek to stop it.

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Mantell is supposed to be a kindly scientist, but his actions here are in opposition to that appearance. Still, at least, Karloff gets to survive to the end credits. The topless scenes that are edited out of this print were probably shot later, added to try and keep audience attention. Probably one of Karloff’s worst movies, though, as always, he is worth watching.                                                                              .firrreee

Karloff tries to blow up all prints of FEAR CHAMBER .

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ALIEN TERROR– Another period piece, this one is another science fiction/horror hybrid. In an 1890s European country, Professor John Mayer (Karloff) is working on a new power source, when a lab accident sends a pulse off into space, attracting the attention of an alien spaceship passing by. The alien comes across a Jack the Ripper style killer and takes over his body. More killings continue as the alien tries to get to the professor’s invention and destroy it. Mayer uses his invention to defeat the killer, and later, when the alien hops into his niece, he uses the machine again to drive it from her. Mayer lets the machine destroy itself and, in the process, burns down his home.c3f80e4ebb33139abba0d67198ef960c

 

The final shot of the surviving cast members watching the house burn has an obvious Karloff stand in facing away from the camera with hair that looks like it was streaked with shoe polish.

A confusing picture, as if two different scripts were dropped into a blender, yet it held one’s interest and it tried to be original. As mentioned, this was Karloff’s last work in a motion picture.karloff_at_03_dvd

An alien Spaceship, lit and designed to look like a Dario Argento sequence !

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CULT OF THE DEAD – On the island of Korbai, Carl Van Molder (Karloff) is a major plantation owner. A police captain comes to Korbai to try and bring order when it is discovered that voodoo is rampant. This is a much more entertaining film than Karloff’s earlier film VOODOO ISLAND (1957, U.A.), which was one of the only roles I felt the great actor seemed to walk through.

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In this film, Karloff seems fully invested in the part and brings his great screen presence to each scene.  The voodoo scenes are well staged, though once again at the end of the film, a voice not Karloff’s is used for the line: “I’m dying! “followed by some sputtering coughs. The picture ends with a big explosion as the hero and heroine escape with their lives. This too was an entertaining piece of cinema fluff and does not deserve all the scorn heaped upon it.

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To sum up, two of the films (DANCE OF DEATH and CULT OF THE DEAD) I would say are quite entertaining, a third (ALIEN TERROR) is just odd enough to hold your interest with a feeling of “WTF?” throughout and only one (TORTURE ZONE) is close to a complete disaster. Karloff is always giving his all in each work, and for that alone these are well worth seeing.

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Are the prints the best? No.  However, unless some deep pocket cinema collector seeks out original negatives, gives them a 2 K scan and restores them, and licenses the Elite and Retromedia commentaries, this VCI set will be the best way of getting affordable copies of these final films by the Master of Horror, Boris Karloff.

 

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Recommended for – Karloff completists. Fans of Mexican Horror. Cult films lovers.

 

-Kevin G Shinnick

 

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PATIENT ZERO (2018)

PATIENT ZERO (Vertical Entertainment) R -now playing limited theatrical and available as V.O.D. 87 Min. Rated R. horror/science fiction.
patient-zero-2018

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mn-wBZwQdRA

Imagine if you will Bub from Romero’s DAY OF THE DEAD (1985, U.F.D.) were fully cognizant of his situation, and able to have a full conversation about it (MY DINNER WITH BUB? ). Throw in a bit of 21 DAYS LATER (2002, Fox) and you have a pretty good idea of what to expect from PATIENT ZERO.

Filmed in 2015 by Screen Gems, it sadly sat on a shelf until now. Why? Screen Gems opened the abysmal ULTRAVIOLET (2006) wide, and that was nowhere near as good as PATIENT ZERO.

In 2013, Mike Le’s script for PATIENT ZERO was called “the Most Liked “unmade script of the year in the annual Black List poll. A bidding war between several studios took place, with Screen Gems winning the rights to make a feature of the script. Matt Le had prior only worked on a few reality shows and later some forgotten thrillers like AMNESIAC (2014, XLrator) (get it? forgotten? Amnesiac?) and DARK SUMMER (2015, IFC). The frenzy was no doubt due to Paramount’s mega zombie blockbuster WORLD WAR Z that came out that year.
Patient+Zero

Director Stefan Ruzowitzky had directed the German horror thriller AUTOPSY (Sony,2000) and won the 2007 foreign language Oscar for his film THE COUNTERFEITERS (released in the US by Sony)and so there a bit of buzz around his second English language film (his first ,ALL THE QUEENS’S MEN ,2001,Sony,starred Matt LeBlanc & Eddie Izzard ,was a fun little film that came & went).

patient-zero

Adding to the buzz was the casting of Matt Smith (popular from DOCTOR WHO, portraying the character from 2010-13, with a guest appearance in 2014, BBC) and Natalie Dormer (GAME OF THRONES, appearing from 2012 to 2016 in the HBO series) and Stanley Tucci (Oscar nominated for THE LOVELY BONES ,2009, Dreamworks).

The majority of the film was shot in a massive set at Shepperton Studios that was built to resemble an underground military missle silo built into caverns.

In the near future, a new pandemic has broken out, driving people into a bloodthirsty rage. The world is so caught off guard by how quickly this spreads that a large group of survivors, men, women and children, take refuge in said underground military bunkers. There, they work frantically to try and seek some sort of cure, and if they can, discover Patient Zero, the first of the infected (Odd Doctor Who trivia (Matt Smith’s first full episode as the Doctor, “The Eleventh Hour”, he spent a good bit of time looking for PRISONER zero. Back to the review.).

Morgan (Matt Smith, sporting a Midwestern accent) has been bitten but unlike many, has not turned into one of the rampaging creatures (referred to as “the infected”). Instead, he can communicate with the transformed in their own language (that this is never explored in more detail made me wonder if the film had been drastically cut down) as well as using music to set off the murderous victims of the plague.

153694078162355269 Then one day, they bring in The Professor (Stanley Tucci), who not only is unaffected by the music, but also speaks in a calm clear manner. However, we also feel that underneath his demeanor is this seething rage, waiting to get out, and tear out the throats of all around.

The scenes between Smith and Tucci work wonderfully well, as if in a zombie film version of the Clarice /Hannibal Lector scenes from SILENCE OF THE LAMB (1991, Orion).

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Scientist Dr Rose (Natalie Dormer) is trying to get Morgan to hurry up while trying to placate Col. Knox (Clive Standen, star of the recent NBC Universal series TAKEN (2017-18) based upon Luc Bresson’s films) whose attitude is shoot them all let god sort it out.

Morgan also wants to find a cure, not only for himself but also his wife Janet (model /actress Agyness Deyn). Can they before the bunker is overrun by the ever increasing infected? Plus, watch out for those damn raging rats!!!

I don’t understand the general dismissal of this film. The cast is good, and the production values are decent.

The accent that Matt Smith uses is a bit jarring, and since most of the cast is British, why didn’t they just set the story in the U.K.?

Also, as I mentioned, there are a lot of very interesting ideas brought up but then never fully developed in the finish film, making me feel that there was some drastic editing to the movie.

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However, once Stanley Tucci shows up, PATIENT ZERO hums along quite nicely, with the exchanges between Morgan and The Professor holding our attention. The idea that the disease is merely releasing the rage contained in all of us is a good one and adds a bit of brains to the usual zombie fare.

I don’t think you will be disappointed if you watch this film without comparing it to films like DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978, UFD). It is a nice variation to the apocalyptic zombie film, with some novel additions.

I do hope that a Blu Ray with commentary track is in its future, as I would love to hear about the behind the scenes of PATIENT ZERO.

Currently, director Ruzowitzky is working on The Last Voyage of the Demeter, which is based on Bram Stoker‘s Dracula . I look forward to his new additions to genre films.

Check out PATIENT ZERO.
Kevin G Shinnick

ZOMBIES
Apocalypse
Matt Smith
Natalie Dormer
Stanley Tucci

Climax

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Kevin G Shinnick

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

 

 

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

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