Blu-Ray News #139: The Green Slime (1968).

Directed by Kinji Fukasaku
Starring Robert Horton, Richard Jaeckel, Luciana Paluzzi

With Kubrick’s 2001: a space odyssey (1968), MGM took science fiction, and filmmaking in general, a huge leap forward. With The Green Slime, later that same year, they took it backwards just as far. The result, a wonderfully cheesy Japanese/US co-production, is coming to Blu-Ray from our intergalactic friends at Warner Archive later this year.

Some astronauts visit an asteroid (and destroy it), and one of them comes back with some kinda green goo on his spacesuit. The goo soon transforms into nasty-looking green monsters with tentacles.

Filmed in Japan by a Japanese crew, with an American cast (and script), it’s slightly related to a series of sci-fi pictures from Italian director Antonio Margheriti (Wild, Wild PlanetWar Of The PlanetsWar Between The Planets; and Snow Devils, all from 1965).

Green Slime 45.jpg

If you have one of these, please consider leaving it to me in your will.

The title tune is terrific. And if all that doesn’t promise an hour-and-a-half of cheesy goodness, note that it features Luciana Paluzzi, an actress with one of the greatest 60s and 70s filmographies of them all: Bonanza, Muscle Beach Party (1964), Thunderball (1965), Hawaii Five-O and more.

The Green Slime announced for Blu-Ray — this is a red-letter day.

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Filed under 1968, Antonio Margheriti, DVD/Blu-ray News, MGM, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #138: Freebie And The Bean (1974).

Directed by Richard Rush
Starring Alan Arkin, James Caan, Loretta Swit, Jack Kruschen, Mike Kellin, Paul Koslo, Linda Marsh, Alex Rocco, Valerie Harper

Warner Archive has announced Freebie And The Bean (1974) for an upcoming Blu-Ray release. Some will probably ask why.

This highly un-PC movie, which switches from violent action flick to comedy almost frame by frame, divides film fans more than about movie I can think of (those that even remember it). Many hate it for the reasons I just listed. Me, I love it — partly for those same things.

But there’s more to it than that. It’s a master class in vehicular stunts — they tear up a lot of cars in this thing, and it always looks like actual pedestrians are in real peril. It’s got both Alex Rocco and Paul Koslo in it. Alan Arkin is as good as ever, and James Caan was on a real roll at this time — The Godfather (1972), Slither (1973, a personal favorite), The Gambler (1974), The Godfather: Part II (1972) and Rollerball (1975).

Laszlo Kovacs (behind camera) shooting Arkin and Caan on a construction crane.

What’s more, the Blu-Ray will give us a chance to really appreciate Laszlo Kovacs’ Panavision San Francisco photography, which takes us to places you don’t see in more scenic SF films like Vertigo (1958), Bullitt (1968) and What’s Up, Doc? (1972). It’s a great-looking, gritty movie. And, in my opinion, it’s a thousand times better than the cop/buddy movies that came later, like those Lethal Weapon things. I can’t wait to see it in high definition.

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Filed under 1974, Alan Arkin, DVD/Blu-ray News, James Caan, Laszlo Kovacs, Richard Rush, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray Review: From Hell It Came (1957).

Directed by Dan Milner
Cinematography: Brydon Baker
Film Editor: Jack Milner
Original Music: Darrell Calker
Written by Richard Bernstein and Dan Milner
Produced by Jack Milner

Cast: Tod Andrews (Dr. William Arnold), Tina Carver (Dr. Terry Mason), John McNamara (Professor Clark), Linda Watkins (Mae Kilgore), Gregg Palmer (Kimo), Grace Mathews (Orchid), Chester Haynes (Tabonga)

__________

When it comes to 50s sci-fi movies, I find that Quality and Entertainment have an often inverse correlation. (I’m tossing the concept of inverse correlation in here to prove I actually paid attention in those economics classes decades ago.) In other words, the more production values you pack in there, the bigger the budget, the less fun they seem to be. With that in mind, I’m happy to report that the super-cheap From Hell It Came (1957) is largely quality-free.

On some South Seas island, a prince is (unjustly) convicted of murder, and he’s executed with a knife in the heart — all orchestrated by the witch doctor. They bury the prince upright in an old tree trunk. Turns out the place is lousy with nuclear fallout, which reanimates the prince as a walking tree with the ceremonial dagger still sticking out of its chest. Called Tabonga, it quickly sprouts and starts killing people.

Some American scientists are on the island studying radiation levels or something. They get to the bottom of it all after spouting page after page of B-movie scientific nonsense — and putting away an awful lot of booze. And if all that isn’t enough, there’s some quicksand in the Big Finish.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, this thing is great. It’s a whacked-out mix of the usual 50s science fiction monster trappings, the goofy pseudo-Polynesian aesthetic of the period, and concern about the perils of the Atom Age.

If it all sounds ridiculous, and it does, imagine seeing it on screen — somebody shuffling around in a cheap rubber tree costume. The Tabonga is the work of the great Paul Blaisdell, AIP’s favorite (cheap) monster maker, but constructed by Don Post Studios: “I designed the Tabonga the way I thought it should look in terms of the script, and the people that built it did a damn good job of reproducing a prop that was a nice concept and certainly an original one, but one that was very awkward. My hat goes off to the guy who had to act the part of the walking tree (Chester Haynes). I think he did a helluva good job under the circumstances.”

What’s interesting about From Hell It Came is that in some ways, it looks and plays like a fairly-decent movie. The acting is passable, most of the time. The cinematography, from Brydon Baker, certainly seems professional. The editing’s not bad. It’s the premise itself — a revengeful, walking tree — and the godawful dialogue that sink this one, and make it the hoot that it is.

Back in ’57, From Hell It Came played twin bills with The Disembodied. It’s not any good, either, but it features the always-wonderful Allison Hayes as a “killer-witch of the jungle.”

Quicksand is a terrific cheesy movie thing, and I love it. (Do you know someone who perished by sinking into quicksand? Or someone who’s even seen quicksand?) As a kid, I was always on the lookout for it — after all, South Georgia isn’t all that far from Louisiana, where Kharis (Lon Chaney Jr.) had reposed in quicksand in The Mummy’s Curse (1944). Later, Christopher Lee’s Hammer The Mummy (1959) took the Scroll Of Life with him into the quicksand. Movies with a quicksand scene get extra credit from me.

Speaking of extra credit, Warner Archive gets high marks from bringing something like From Hell It Came to Blu-Ray period. Then factor in that it’s a stellar presentation, with its incredible clarity and perfect contrast giving us a chance to really study the rubbery goodness of that Tabonga outfit. You also get a trailer. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1957, Allison Hayes, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Hammer Films, Lon Chaney Jr., Monogram/Allied Artists, Paul Blaisdell, Warner Archive

It Came From Beneath The Sea (1957).

Here’s a cool comic-style ad for It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955). This one has it all: Kenneth Tobey, Faith Domergue, Ray Harryhausen and Sam Katzman. Click on the ad and you can see it much bigger.

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Filed under 1955, Columbia, Faith Domergue, Kenneth Tobey, Ray Harryhausen, Sam Katzman

Blu-Ray News #137: Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy (1955).

Directed by Charles Lamont
Starring Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Marie Windsor, Michael Ansara

Another day, another Abbott & Costello movie on Blu-Ray. This time, it’s Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy (1955), their last picture for Universal (and their last monster meeting). It’s already available in hi-def as part of Universal’s The Mummy Complete Legacy Collection.

Meet The Mummy features Marie Windsor, my all-time favorite actress. Eddie Parker, Lon Chaney’s double on the three previous Mummy movies, plays Klaris throughout this one. The scene where Costello eats a hamburger with an ancient medallion hidden in it had me in hysterics as a kid.

The 1.85 transfer, which I’m sure will be the same one in the Legacy set, splendidly shows off the picture’s backlot and soundstage version of Egypt. Nowhere near the team’s best, but highly recommended anyway.

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Filed under 1955, Abbott & Costello, DVD/Blu-ray News, Marie Windsor, Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray News #136: The Noose Hangs High (1948).

Directed by Charles Barton
Starring Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Joseph Calleia, Leon Errol, Cathy Downs, Mike Mazurki, Fritz Feld

I’ve always felt that The Noose Hangs High (1948) was one of Abbott & Costello’s funniest movies. The team was on a real roll at this time — this one came out a couple months before the immortal Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). Africa Screams (1949) would soon follow.

The Noose Hangs High is coming to Blu-Ray from ClassicFlix. It was their first independent production, and when on their own, they tended to just write a picture around their old tried-and-true  routines. Maybe that’s why they tend to be some of their best films. This one contains “Mudder And Fodder,” which alone is worth the price of the Blu-Ray. High recommended.

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Filed under Abbott & Costello, ClassicFlix, DVD/Blu-ray News

Screening: Jaws (1975).

Directed by Steven Spielberg
Screenplay by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb
Based on the novel by Peter Benchley
Director of Photography: Bill Butler
Film Editor: Verna Fields
Music by John Williams

Cast: Roy Scheider (Brody), Robert Shaw (Quint), Richard Dreyfuss (Hooper), Lorraine Gary (Ellen Brody), Murray Hamilton (Vaughn)

I love the fact that Jaws (1975) turns up in theaters every summer. This year, it’s making the rounds as part of the Flashback Cinema series — timed perfectly for the 4th Of July.

Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton): “Martin, it’s all psychological. You yell ‘Barracuda,’ everybody says, ‘huh, what?’ You yell ‘Shark,’ we’ve got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July.”

Check the Flashback Cinema listings to see if it’s playing near you: http://www.flashbackcinema.net/schedule/

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Filed under 1975, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider, Screenings, Steven Spielberg