Dialogue Of The Day: Goldfinger (1964).

Q (Desmond Llewelyn): Now this one I’m particularly keen about. You see the gear lever here? Now, if you take the top off, you will find a little red button. Whatever you do, don’t touch it.
James Bond (Sean Connery): Yeah, why not?
Q: Because you’ll release this section of the roof, and engage and then fire the passenger ejector seat. Whish!
James Bond: Ejector seat? You’re joking!
Q: I never joke about my work, 007.

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Filed under 1964, Dialogue Of The Day, Guy Hamilton, James Bond, Sean Connery

DVD/Blu-Ray News #198: In The Heat Of The Night (1967).

Directed by Norman Jewison
Screenplay by Sterling Silliphant
Cinematographer: Haskell Wexler
Film Editor: Hal Ashby
Music by Quincy Jones
Starring Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger, Warren Oates, Lee Grant, William Schallert, Matt Clark, Scott Wilson

In The Heat Of The Night (1967) has stood for more than 50 years as proof you can make a movie about a subject like racism and still offer up something exciting, suspenseful and entertaining. A quick look at the pictures usually covered on this blog will show I don’t care much for Message Movies, and I firmly believe issues like racism are better handled in “regular” movies like the 1956 Westerns The Searchers or Reprisal! And in the case of In The Heat Of The Night, the “regular movie” is a murder mystery in a small Southern town.

Fact is, In The Heat Of The Night is just a cool movie, period. It’s directed, shot, edited and scored in that distinctive 60s style that makes for so many cool movies. Sidney Poitier is terrific, and Rod Steiger makes his tendency to overplay things work to his advantage. Everybody brought their A game to this one — and it toted off a stack of Oscars to prove it.

Here, the South isn’t portrayed in a positive light, but at least the accents aren’t an insult to those of us with Southern accents. Interestingly, the TV show that followed almost 20 years later is the movie’s complete opposite — it was heavy-handed in a way the movie’s not, and the fake accents will make you cringe.

This was Scott Wilson’s first movie; next came In Cold Blood (1967) and many other great things. He passed away last week, and I hope the upcoming Criterion release will remind folks of all he could do. He was so good, and so overlooked.

I can’t recommend In The Heat Of The Night enough, and I’m sure Criterion will do a terrific job with it. It’s coming in January.

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Filed under 1967, Criterion Collection, DVD/Blu-ray News, United Artists, William Schallert

Blu-Ray News #197: The Plague Of The Zombies (1966).

Directed by John Gilling
Starring André Morell, John Carson, Jacqueline Pearce, Brook Williams, Michael Ripper

The Hammer horror films and coming fast and furious to Blu-Ray these days — and it’s terrific. The latest news is that Scream Factory is bringing us The Plague Of The Zombies (1966).

It’s been great re-visiting these films in high definition. I’ve been really floored by the cinematography in these things, especially the use of color. Before Hammer came along, horror films were almost always black and white. That was probably a financial decision more than an artistic one — but as has been proven a thousand times, black and white is perfect for horror movies.

Hammer used color as a marketing tool — and the promise of red blood served them well. The Plague Of The Zombies (1966) doesn’t offer up the blood that the Dracula movies do, but it has some really cool, innovative lighting things — particularly in the graveyard and mine scenes — that really set it apart. They liberal use of the fog machine is quite effective, too.

John Gilling’s direction and the cast are excellent. I have a soft spot for Brook Williams (he’s the first of many people who wind up dead in my  favorite movie, Where Eagles Dare). Everything comes together to make The Plague Of The Zombies a really creepy movie (as the stills above make pretty obvious).

Back in 1966, Hammer sent this out with Dracula – Prince Of Darkness, which is also on its way from Scream Factory.

FYI: These are the voodoo-type zombies, not the Romero-type zombies.

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Filed under 1966, Hammer Films, Shout/Scream Factory

RIP, Scott Wilson.

Scott Wilson
(March 29, 1942 – October 6, 2018)

Scott Wilson, a criminally underrated actor, has passed away at 76.

He made his debut in In The Heat Of The Night, followed immediately by In Cold Blood (both 1967). Lots of good stuff followed, from The Gypsy Moths (1969) to The New Centurions (1972) to The Right Stuff (1983) and beyond.

Wilson was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor for The Ninth Configuration (1980). He’s so good in that one, it’s scary. More recently, he appeared in a few seasons of The Walking Dead, which I hope sent folks looking for his earlier work. It’s certainly worth the effort.

Mr. Wilson was from my home town: Thomasville, Georgia.

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Filed under 1967, 1969, 1972

Blu-Ray News #196-A: Thunder Bay (1953).

Directed by Anthony Mann
Starring James Stewart, Joanne Dru, Gilbert Roland, Dan Duryea

Always liked Thunder Bay (1953), and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that all its technical stuff is where a lot of my enthusiasm comes from. It was shot for 1.37, but Universal-International made it their first widescreen film — cropping it to 1.85, giving it stereophonic sound and making a very big deal about it all.

It’s turned up on DVD in various parts of the world in both 1.37 and widescreen. Not sure how the upcoming Kino Lorber Blu-Ray will be presented, but one thing’s for sure — I’m working a commentary for it. They’ve got it listed as an “early 2019” release.

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Filed under 1953, Anthony Mann, Dan Duryea, DVD/Blu-ray News, James Stewart, Kino Lorber, Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray Review: The Cyclops (1957).

Written, Produced & Directed by Bert I. Gordon
Cinematography: Ira Morgan
Music by Albert Glasser
Film Editor: Carlo Lodato
Special Voice Effects: Paul Frees

Cast: James Craig (Russ Bradford), Gloria Talbott (Susan Winter), Lon Chaney (Martin ‘Marty’ Melville), Tom Drake (Lee Brand), Duncan Parkin (The Cyclops, Bruce Barton), Vincent Padula (The Governor)

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The Cyclops (1957) is 66 minutes of one-eyed wonderful-ness. It was the first in a string of pictures from writer/producer/director Bert I. Gordon where regular-sized people became very big, (oftentimes) very ugly, and ultimately very destructive. His other big pictures include The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), War Of The Colossal Beast (1958), Village Of The Giants (1965) and Food Of The Gods (1976). How does all that and Gordon’s initials, B.I.G., figure into the whole auteur theory thing? Of course, let’s not forget his change of pace, Attack Of The Puppet People (1958), where some folks (including John Agar) get smaller rather than larger.

The Cyclops goes something like this. Susan Winter (Gloria Talbott) and a group of three “adventurers” head to Mexico to locate her fiancée, Bruce Barton (Duncan Parkin), who went missing three years ago. They crash their plane in a jungle valley with very high levels of radiation where, you guessed it, all the animals are really, really big. Birds, bugs, snakes, lizards — all huge. Then, along comes a giant bald guy with a really messed-up face and a voice that sounds exactly like Paul Frees grunting and groaning.

The special effects (also by Gordon), well, they ain’t so special. The cyclops and other monsters are often oddly transparent, and it looks like very little thought went into keeping the scale of the creatures consistent from one shot to the next. A papier-mâché rock seems to dress up the oft-used entrance to Bronson Caves, but it actually provides something to superimpose the cyclops behind. (It’s weird to think that the climax of a masterpiece like The Searchers and a slew of movies like The Cyclops were shot in the exact same spot.)

All that, and it’s got Lon Chaney, Jr. in it!

The Cyclops is terrible in all the best ways. There’s a charm to it the movies will never be able to recapture. As Hollywood goes for the bigger, I’m drawn to the smaller (and older). That said, Warner Archive has The Cyclops livin’ large on Blu-Ray. It looks better than I ever thought this cheap picture would ever look. It’s sharp, the contrast and grain are absolutely perfect, and the audio is as clear as it can be. I’m so glad movies like this are getting this level of attention.

In short, The Cyclops on Blu-Ray is easy on the eye (sorry, couldn’t resist) — and highly recommended.

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Filed under 1957, Bert I. Gordon, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Lon Chaney Jr., Monogram/Allied Artists, Paul Frees, Warner Archive

Happy Birthday, Frankenstein.

Saw the other day that Frankenstein is 200 years old, with Marry Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, Or The Modern Prometheus first published in 1818.

The great Boris Karloff.

So here’s to Dr. Frankenstein, his monster, the monster’s bride, and anybody who ever helped bring the many Frankenstein movies to the screen — particularly the Universal and Hammer films.

Peter Cushing sits while his monster (Christopher Lee) hangs around.

It was a very shrewd move for Hammer to focus their series on the doctor and his misadventures rather than inviting strict comparisons to the Universal classics, which would be very hard to top. And, of course, casting Peter Cushing in the role was simply inspired.

So happy 200th, Frankie. You’re holding up pretty well.

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Filed under Abbott & Costello, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, Glenn Strange, Hammer Films, Jack Pierce, James Whale, Peter Cushing, Terence Fisher, Universal (-International)