1990s, Blu Ray, BOUND, Christopher Meloni, CLASSIC, crime drama, cult, Drama, film, FILM NOIR, genre, Gina Gershon, https://www.facebook.com/scarletthefilmmagazine/, Jennifer Tilly, Joe Pantoliano, John P. Ryan, Mystery, nudity, OLIVE FILMS, review, reviews, SCARLETTHEFILMMAGAZINE.WORDPRESS.COM, sex, The Wachowski Brothers, thriller, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Uncategorized

BOUND (Olive Signature Blu Ray)

 

BOUND (Olive Signature Blu Ray) 1996, Gramercy, color. 108 min Theatrical & 109 min unrated. 1:85:1 aspect ratio. 1080p Resolution. DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo .1-disc $39.95 Limited edition 3500 pressing only. Region A. August 28,2018 release.

https://olivefilms.com/product/bound-olive-signature-blu-ray/

 

Back in 1996, a new and exciting film noir thriller opened to nearly universal raves. It reminded one of the excitement from 12 years earlier, when BLOOD SIMPLE (1984, Circle Films) won the praise of critics due to its clever plot and style.

 

Like BLOOD SIMPLE, this film was also the work of a dynamic brother writer/ director duo.

BLOOD SIMPLE was our introduction to the dazzling Coen Brothers Joel & Ethan while BOUND was the brainchild of Andrew (now Lilly) and Laurence (now Lana) Wachowski.

While BOUND was a critical darling, it failed to make back it’s $4,500,000 estimated production budget. However, when it was released to video by Republic video, the film was a major seller and was discovered on cable by an even larger audience.

 

The video remained popular, being released by Republic in 2001 on DVD. This release was the uncut version that had trailers, a behind the scene featurette, a commentary with the brothers, Tilly, Gershon, Pantoliano, film editor Zach Staenberg and tech advisor Susie Bright. However, the print was not the best, with a rather flat look that did not do the movie justice.

 

Paramount bought the Republic library and they licensed OLIVE FILMS to release a DVD and Blu Ray of the title in 2012. Unlike the previous releases, the Olive Film version was released in an anamorphic print that showed off the superb cinematography of Bill Pope (who would dazzle people with his work on the MATRIX trilogy for the Wachowskis for Warner Brothers) along with an improved picture along with the choice of viewing either the theatrical or unrated cuts (really, only 14 seconds difference). The extras were dropped in favor of offering the two versions. There were complaints at the time by some tech fans that the Olive Films release was only Dolby Digital 2.0, while oversea versions had an DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track.

 

These people will be disappointed,then, as this release is DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. However, I found nothing to complain about with the sound, as it was clear and clean, and a wide range (so much so that I had to turn the sound down during one of the more violent sequences). Indeed, I had no complaints with the audio or indeed anything about this presentation.

 

Both versions of the film are presented in a beautiful 1080p transfer in the film’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio with optional easy to read white English SDH subtitles.

BOUND tells the story of Corky (a superbly confident performance by Gina Gershon), an “out” lesbian (whom we first see IN a closet!)  an ex-con now doing repair work in a mob owned apartment building. When she meets Violet (Jennifer Tilly, an often-underrated actresses), the girlfriend of mobster Caesar (the always marvelous Joe Pantoliano), they begin a torrid affair. Violet wants out of her 5-year-old relationship with Caesar, who launders money for the mob.

Shelly (Barry Kivel) is caught and tortured for stealing money from the mob, and then killed by Johnnie (Christopher Meloni), son of Mob Boss Gino (Richard C Sarafian). Caesar returns to the apartment with a bag full of bloody bills and will now have to literally launder the money!

Violet hatches a plan to steal the $2 million and leave Caesar to face the wrath of the mob, but of course, like all good noir stories, things spin out of control, with a lot of people being brutalized and murdered.

The film was praised (as well as condemned by conservatives) for its lesbian romance, wherein the characters enjoyed their relationship (indeed sex consultant Susie Bright loved the characters. And had high praise for the main sex scene that was shot in a single take).

This plot point made it difficult for studios to back the film (all wanted it if they changed Corky to a man), but the Wachowskis stuck to their guns, being saved when Dino DeLaurentiis backed the project. The 38-day shoot was carefully planned, even though their original cinematographer quit feeling he could not do the film in the time allotted. Bill Pope stepped in and indeed helped plan some of the films visual look.

The film is a superb example of style serving the story. The colors often reminded me of a Dario Argento film, and often the camera often takes a god like view looking down on the action.

 

The original leads were Linda Hamilton as Violet and Tilly as Corky, but when Hamilton had to step out, Tilly switched roles and Gina Gershon was cast as Corky. Gershon then recommended Joe Pantoliano. The rest of the cast is top notch with Christopher Meloni as the not too bright but violent Johnnie stealing every scene he is in. No easy feat, when you consider marvelous performers as John P. Ryan (as mobster Mickey Malnato) are also in the cast.

As noted earlier, the previous OLIVE FILMS release had no extras. This Limited Edition goes out of its way to correct that.

 

Besides the Hi-Def digital restoration the original Republic audio commentary has been restored. One of my favorite things is hearing how the creatives behind a project feel about their finished work and the enthusiasm runs throughout this commentary.

Ported over from the 2014 Arrow U.K. Blu Ray /DVD release by Red Shirt Pictures in conjunction with Arrow :

• “Here’s Johnny!” – with Christopher Meloni– “My character had poor impulse control” is the first thing Meloni says about his character, which must be a major understatement in this new video interview with the actor and how he gives major credit to Joe Pantoliano for his career and how he infused humor into his character.

• “Femme Fatales” – with Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly -new interviews with the two leads on how they got cast and their work process. 

• “Modern Noir: The Sights & Sounds of Bound” – with cinematographer Bill Pope, editor Zach Staenberg, and composer Don Davis) the crew speak with great pride of their involvement with the project, and how they became attached to it. . Pope, for example, got hired due to his work on ARMY OF DARKNESS (Universal,1992) and he worked cheap!

New for this release:
• “Part and Parcel” – with titles designer Patti Podesta – a (2017) video interview with the  designer on how she created the noirish titles in the era before CGI took over.



• “The Difference Between You and Me” – with B. Ruby Rich (Prof of Film/Digital Media U, C, Santa Cruz) and Jen Moorman (Prof of Film Studies & Gender Studies, Loyola Marymount U., L.A.) discuss BOUND and its importance in Neo -Noir ,as well as an examination of Film Noir.


• Theatrical Trailer-the original Gramercy Theatrical trailer which makes it look like a RESERVOIR DOGS (Live,1992) rip-off.


• Essay by Guinevere Turner -an interesting 4 page read as to why this film is so important to LGBTQ cinema, and especially for its portrayal of lesbians.

 

 

 

 

This is a MUST HAVE for anyone who loves classic thrillers, well-made cinema done with style and dark humor, superbly acted and directed in an engrossing story.

HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION!

-Kevin G Shinnick

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THE STRANGERS:PREY AT NIGHT (March ,2018, theatrical Aviron) Review by Sean Fallon

For what I, Sean Fallon, consider to be the absolute all-time greatest acting performance by a teenage actress in a horror movie, I highly recommend THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT.

On March 9th, this sequel to 2008’s THE STRANGERS (Rogue), hit the big screen. Director Johannes Roberts does an amazing job with this horror movie that is written by Bryan Bertino and Ben Ketai, and is based on true events.

Bailee Madison who was only seventeen at the time of the filming excels in the leading role of Kinsey, by convincingly selling every line, expression, emotion, and reaction. From sarcastic teenage rebelliousness to extreme panic that borders on hyperventilating, Bailee Madison delivers it all as if she was personally experiencing everything that Kinsey was enduring, whether physically, intellectually, or emotionally. Her acting was so strong that it never looked like acting, but like live footage of a terrified teenage girl fleeing for her life.

The premise behind the movie is that a family of four goes to an aunt and uncle’s trailer park, during the off-season, which leaves it vacant, to spend the night, on the way to bringing the daughter, Kinsey, to a boarding school, after Kinsey got in serious trouble for a behavior (minor spoiler alert) that remains undisclosed in the movie. When they arrive in the trailer park, the aunt and uncle are not there to greet them, but the keys are left for them to get into their trailer. Three masked homicidal maniacs, however, are lurking about.

Martin Henderson and Christina Hendricks portray Kinsey’s parents who are good with her, despite their frustrations. Their love for their children and love for each other is clearly demonstrated, making them both likeable and believable.

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Actor Lewis Pullman plays Luke, Kinsey’s older brother. Luke and Kinsey have a typical sibling relationship, with the bickering in the car, the name calling and fighting, but with ultimately the love for one another that is above all their conflict. Luke is the central male character in this movie, and the one with whom a male audience will most likely identify with the most. Lewis Pullman’s strong acting performance makes Luke a very believable and relatable character.

The dynamic of a brother/sister relationship at the heart of the movie, rather than a romantic relationship enhances the genuine concern that a male audience has for the well-being of Kinsey, as well. There are no obnoxious teen fornication scenes, and Kinsey is always modestly dressed, never objectified the way teen actresses, or older actresses who portray teenagers typically are in movies and television.

It is much more cinematically effective to watch a fellow human being, an equal journeyer through life, fleeing for hers, than to watch an objectified bimbo making stereotypically stupid decisions. Identifying with Luke and how he wants to protect his younger sister out of genuine pure love furthermore, from a Christian perspective, makes it very easy to obey 1 Timothy 5:2 towards Kinsey. You end up truly caring about Kinsey as a person, irrelevant to whatever misbehavior she may have shown in the past. It no longer matters.

Music from the 1980s, mostly with female lead singers is heard throughout the movie. This is another dynamic shift that works quite well, as the backdrop for emotionally intense scenes.

 

This movie avoids those obnoxious quick cuts that in other horror movies often create viewer frustration by preventing the viewers from mentally processing what is happening on the screen. Instead, the action is clear and present, with intensity that draws the moviegoers right into the world of Luke and Kinsey, keeping us constantly on edge, in a good way, of wanting to see Luke and Kinsey overcome their three biggest obstacles, the three masked homicidal maniacs.

The writing, directing, acting, score, and editing all work together to create a truly great horror movie that contains all the positive elements of horror, while avoiding the stereotypical pitfalls. While there are some cuss words and scenes with blood, the quality of this movie is unmistakable. I highly recommend THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT.

Sean Fallon

The original THE STRANGERS (Rogue,2008)cost about $ 9 million and made over $52 million during it’s theatrical run .

The new film’s budget has not been released, but in it’s first four days, STRANGERS:PREY AT NIGHT has made $11,270,512 . This is Aviron‘s second release, the first being the Halle Berry thriller KIDNAP (2017) .That film broke even, considering it cost $21 million to produce ,and an estimated $9 million advertising. KIDNAP brought in $30,718,107

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SABOTAGE (1939)

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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.

 

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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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DOWN FROM THE ATTIC (book review)

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Down from the Attic: Rare Thrillers of the Silent Era through the 1950s
By John T. Soister and Henry Nicolella -(McFarland; June ,2016 )248 pages $39.95

 http://www.mcfarlandbooks.com/book-2.php?id=978-0-7864-9831-4

This wonderful follow up to UP FROM THE VAULT: RARE THRILLERS FROM THE 1920S AND 1930S (McFarland ,2010) has author John T Soister joined by Henry Nicolella to track down and view where possible twenty-four films that are ignored and unknown by the majority of genre fans.

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Some are at present lost (i.e. deteriorated nitrate negatives and thus no longer in existence) and others available in truncated forms. Yet that we have still so many of these films for viewing is in itself miraculous, as according to Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation claims that “half of all American films made before 1950 and over 90% of films made before 1929 are lost forever.”

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Beginning with the silent era and going up to 1951, the pair of author sleuths tracked down films and prints from around the world, viewing whatever prints are still extant, and delving deeply into research about productions and reviews buried long ago in musty volumes and microfilm. Their summaries and plot synopses of the films covered makes one seek to look for many of these films, and some make you wonder why a few of them are not better known. Hopefully, their research may bring a few of these films to being found and perhaps preserved.6676769_1

What also makes this book invaluable is their willingness to seek out films that were made outside of the United States. Movies from The U.K. Germany, the Czech Republic, and South America are also explored, many perhaps for the first time in such detail outside of their borders.

THE EMPERORS BAKER

Plus, they cover the odd career of filmmaker Bud Pollard, responsible for the elusive and obscure THE HORROR (Bud Pollard Productions ,1932) as well as the first sound version of ALICE IN WONDERLAND https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6O8kbTi4WNo .

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Soister and Nicolella have done a wonderful job of finding these films and bringing them to the attention of genre fans. As they point out, not all of the films can be considered classics, but their importance cannot be denied.

UNA LUZ EN LA VENTANAa-15-00

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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-Kevin G Shinnick

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CIRCUS OF FEAR /FIVE GOLDEN DRAGONS

BLU-BD-7060_lCIRCUS OF FEAR / FIVE GOLDEN DRAGONS (Blu-ray) (Blue Underground, June 28 2016) $29.98 1966(91 min.),1967 (104min.) color. 2 films on one disc.

https://www.amazon.com/Circus-Fear-Golden-Dragons-Blu-ray/dp/B01DALQ0YK/181-1307412-0049847?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0
BLUE UNDERGROUND has gone all out with their restorations of obscure but fun films that deserve to be in your collection. This current release of CIRCUS OF FEAR (1966) and FIVE GOLDEN DRAGONS (1967) continues their winning streak of superlative quality restorations.
Billed as an EDGAR WALLACE DOUBLE FEATURE, the Wallace connection is tenuous at best.

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Writer Edgar Wallace (1875-1932) was a prolific writer of plays, newspaper articles, short stories, and novels. He was also a screenplay writer, writing the script for the 1932 HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (Gainsborough,1932). He died of diabetes in 1932 while he was working on the original story that developed into KING KONG(RKO,1933). Besides working on KING KONG, he is best remembered for his numerous crime dramas, which, unlike so many of his contemporaries, made the Police the hero, rather than amateur sleuths.
His works had been very popular in Germany in the late 1920s until the early 1930s. A few of his stories had been adapted into very popular films. However, when the Nazis came into power, his works were banned.
However, from 1959 to 1972, German “krimi” (an abbreviation for the German term “Kriminalfilm”) were extremely popular in Germany and several other European nations, especially if the name EDGAR WALLACE were somehow stuck onto the poster or/and film.
Harry Alan Towers was the ultimate globe hopping film producer, producing films of various quality and subject matters from 1962 up until his death in 2009, putting together deals in various countries with international funding.
This collection more rightly should be named an “Harry Alan Towers” double feature, but I am sure that there will be more films to come that might earn that title.

First up is CIRCUS OF FEAR (1966). I recall seeing this film in a theatrical release. It must have been in Ireland where I saw it, because I do recall it being in color. In the U.S. when it was released in 1967, it was cut to a short 65 minutes, retitled PSYCHO-CIRCUS (A.I.P.), and printed in black and white. What has always stood out in my memory was the opening caper, a daring day time robbery on Tower Bridge that led to an escape along the Thames as a mournful jazz score fills the soundtrack.circus-of-fear
Seeing the film on BLUE UNDERGROUND’s cleaned up new Blu Ray (I do not have access to their 2003 DVD release as a comparison) is a revelation. I always recall the film being very muddy with very dark color. This print has very vibrant imagery with a wonderful sharp sound track.

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The film is supposedly based upon the 1926 novel “The Three Just Men “by Edgar Wallace. I say ‘supposedly” as the film resembles nothing in the novel at all (to see for yourself, read it at
http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks07/0701211.txt )

The “Just Men” series began originally in 1905 as “The FOUR Just Men”, and concerned a group of men who punished wrong doers in ways that are outside of conventional law enforcement. One of the characters “died” during the first world war, but they continued on, recruiting others along the way.
Nothing in the film smacks of the books storyline, but the producers chose to sell the film as a Wallace adaptation.

Circus of Fear (Psycho-Circus) (John Llewellyn Moxey, Reino Unido, 1966).avi_000194694

The film’s story has a gang commit a darng robbery with the help of one of the guards, Mason (Victor Maddern, best known here as the deformed Hunchback assistant Carl in BLOOD OF THE VAMPIRE (Artistes Alliance/U.I. 1958)) and flee with their loot but only after Mason shoots the second guard.

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The police, led by Scotland Yard Inspector Elliot (Leo Genn, very impressive in the 1965 TEN LITTLE INDIANS (Warner -Pathe/Seven Arts), also produced by H.A. Towers) and Detective-Sgt. Manley (Lawrence James, who starred in the original ITV Play of the Week “The Night of the Big Heat “, June 14,1960, later made into a theatrical film starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing), are quick on the scene and after the gang. Two of the gang in a van are chased by police cars until the driver loses control and crashes. One man dies but the survivor tells the police that the guard was murdered by Mason.

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The other surviving gang members (including a very ratty looking Klaus Kinski, star of many a Krimi since 1960’s THE AVENGER/ Der Rächer; Kurt Ulrich Filmproducktion) are none too happy with Mason. However, Mason is told to bring the unseen mastermind’s share of the loot to another lonely location. Upon arriving, Mason is swiftly dispatched by a knife tossed with deadly accuracy. The camera dollies to a close-up of the dagger’s hilt that displays a silver triangle upon it, a mark that is to play an important role in the unfolding mystery.
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Twenty minutes into the film and we jump suddenly to Barberini’s Circus (actually Billy Smart’s Circus, which also had appeared previously in CIRCUS OF HORRORS (Anglo -Amalgamated /A.I.P.,1960,) and later BERSERK(WB,1967)). The circus plays into our story as we discovered that the spot where Mason was murdered was their winter quarters and the police wish to investigate to see if one of the performers is involved in the heist. Kinski, playing a character named Manfred, also shows up at the circus, ostensibly to seek work, so the gang is thinking along similar lines.

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Among the many suspects are Christopher Lee (need I say who he is ?)as Gregor , a lion tamer whose features are supposedly destroyed from an animal attack, thus requiring him to wear a black hood at all times, and “Skip” Martin as Mr. Big ( Hop Toad from MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (A.I.P.,1964) as well as being very evil as Michael in VAMPIRE CIRCUS (Hammer/Fox 1972),as well as the lovely Suzy Kendall (BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE,UMC,1970) and Margaret Lee (THE BLOODY JUDGE ,AIP ,1972 also produced and written by H.A. Towers). More mayhem ensues before the killer and leader of the crime gang is uncovered.

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This is an entertaining programmer that moves along at a brisk pace, courtesy of its director John Moxey (HORROR HOTEL, Vulcan/Trans-Lux,1960). Done for a modest budget, it doesn’t skimp on the mystery or the thrills, though it would be wrong to label this film as a horror, which it is often referred to, due to the presence of Lee, Kinski, and director Moxey.

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Besides giving us a brand spanking new Blu-Ray transfer of the film in 2K 1080p HD anamorphically enhanced 1.66:1 widescreen, the English DTS-HD audio is clean clear and crackle free. The removable subtitles are quite easy to read, and replicate the dialogue fairly accurately.

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Now this alone would have been enough to recommend buying this Blu Ray, but BLUE UNDERGROUND has added a few nice extras.
First is a commentary track with director Moxey that is moderated by David Gregory. This 2002 session is ported over from the 2003 DVD release. Moxey and Gregory have a nice conversational tone, with the director quietly and modestly describing the making of the film. Nice little tid bits of shooting on a Sunday to avoid traffic problems (good luck doing that on a film shoot now) on the bridge and his opinions of working with the international cast and crew (very complimentary) as well as clearing up the mistaken belief that there were TWO directors on this film. There are long stretches without any commentary, as I feel that the director had not reviewed the film prior to recording his comments. Still, he is a delight and it is wonderful that we can have his thoughts about a film that was 37 years in his past.

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(“Wait ! I lost my hood!”)

Also as extras we get the international trailer as well as the B&W American trailer, the different ways both trailers circus-of-fear-movie-poster-1966-1020251277sell the film is funny and interesting. Finally, there is a still and poster gallery.

The Second film on this Blu Ray is FIVE GOLDEN DRAGONS (AIP,1967). This is one of those films that try to emulate better movies but doesn’t quite make it. Here, it is Robert Cummings  as a man who is mistakenly drawn into international murder and intrigue, a la Cary Grant in NORTH BY NORTHWEST (MGM ,1959). Sadly, the film doesn’t take itself seriously, and it’s leisurely pace make its limited budget seem more obvious. Still it gives many aging actors a chance to have a nice vacation in Hong Kong courtesy of Producer Harry Alan Towers.

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Here, once again using his Peter Welbeck nom de film, the producer doesn’t so much as reference any particular Wallace book as a character that he created.
In 1911, Wallace wrote ‘Sanders of The River “, about the adventures of District Commissioner Sanders. Sanders appeared in a total of 12 novels between 1911 and 1928 (“Again Sanders”) The character was the very epitome of the great British White hunter/soldier /adventurer who sadly seemed to be too the very worst of Colonial Africa’s white man helping the poor savages.

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(Sanders NEVER went up the river with companions like these!)

Rupert Davies’ character in the film is  Police Commissioner Sanders, so that was enough to convince investors that yes this was another Edgar Wallace tale.

 

mr porter (unknown)The film opens in Hong Kong with a character named Porter (uncredited) who swiftly is tossed off a balcony by Gert (Klaus Kinski again). Unfortunately, Porter has sent off a note to be delivered to Bob Mitchell (Robert Cummings, from Hitchcock’s DIAL M FOR MURDER, WB,1954). The police intercept the note and go to interview Mitchell, who claims that he knows little about the dead man other than a brief meeting in Manila. He also doesn’t know the meaning of the note with the words “Feel The Bern” (Just kidding – it read ‘Five Golden Dragons”).
fgd101However, two German sisters, Ingrid (Maria Rohm, THE VENGEANCE OF FU MANCHU (Warners-7 Arts,1967) and real life wife of producer Towers) and Margret (Maria Peschy, THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU, Anglo -EMI/Int Cinema Group 1972) that he meets do know it’s meaning. Margret thinks Bob is there to kill them so she tries to beat him to the punch. When Bob convinces her that he knows nothing about the phrase, she explains that she used to work for the crime cartel known as The Five Golden Dragons. When they killed her boyfriend, she fled, and feared that they had now found her.

 

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(Do you feel warm in here?)

We next see the leaders of the illegal gold syndicate meeting in ridiculous dragon masks and Asian robes. Each sits at a table facing a multi doored miniature pagoda. They each have a key to open the door in front of them, and should they be a fake and not open it properly, a gun within will shoot the imposter. Removing their masks, we see that the first three are actors who have seen better days :

five golden dragons

 

dan duryeaDan Duryea (SCARLET STREET, Universal ,1945),

 

 

 

 

 

 

george raftGeorge Raft (SCARFACE, United Artists,1932),

 

 

brian dunlevyand Brian Donlevy (THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT, Hammer/U.A. 1955). Dragon #4 is played by Christopher Lee (also from CIRCUS OF FEAR, and probably getting sick of wearing these masks). The fifth Dragon remains a mystery.chris lee

Meanwhile, Margret IS found dead and sadly for Bob Mitchell it is in his bed. He escapes but now he is being pursued by Shakespeare quoting Police Commissioner Sanders (the wonderful Rupert Davies, the disapproving Monsignor from DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE, Hammer/WB, 1968) and his Chinese counterpart Inspector Chiao (Roy Chiao ,whose career involved him dubbing a lot of Hong Kong films into English).

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Bob finds himself at the Blue World, a nightclub managed by a sinister Peterson (Sieghardt Rupp, A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, U.A.1964). He is intrigued by the lovely chanteuse Magda (Margaret Lee, another CIRCUS OF FEAR alum). Bob thinks that these two can lead him to the Five Golden Dragons, and they do, but not in the way he would like.

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Another multi nation co-production, this film is trying to be a Hitchcock thriller, James Bond spoof, and crime caper spoof, and fails miserably at all.

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(Klaus Kinksi demonstrating his actual dating techniques )

Bob Cummings is supposedly a young playboy but the actor at the time was in his fifties. He looks good admittedly, but it still seems odd that all these women fall for him. Did Hong Kong have a dearth of younger actors? Was Frankie Avalon too busy to walk over from the set of THE MILLION EYES OF SUMURU (AIP,1967) that Towers was also producing at the same time in Hong Kong and seemingly used many of the same sets. Supposedly the lead was offered to actor Tony Randall (who starred in OUR MAN IN MARRAKESH (AIP, Anglo- Amalgamated,1966) for Towers, who turned him down. Cummings was an actor of great personal charm in many of his films but he seems very uncomfortable and forced here (though whether that is him the direction or the script it is hard to determine). This was in fact his last theatrical film, with less and less work on television.

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The plot makes very little sense and our hero contributes almost nothing to the story, with the police actually doing all the real work.

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The transfer is quite lovely to look at in its new HD anamorphic transfer. Subtitles are clear and easy to read and follow the action well. Extras are scarce here except for a photo gallery and an original trailer.

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Of the two films on this disc, CIRCUS OF FEAR is definitely the more enjoyable movie. For one, it moves! Still, for the price, BLUE UNDERGROUND is keeping B movie fans in Blu Ray heaven. A major studio would never invest the time and energy that BLUE UNDERGROUND has given to releases like this and so they are to be commended.

CIRCUS OF FEAR– recommended.
FIVE GOLDEN DRAGONS– nice restoration. Recommended for completist. Look at it as a really cool extra for CIRCUS OF FEAR.

-Kevin G Shinnick

EddiArentinCircusofFear

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