62 Years Ago Today.

These guys knew what they were doing, and were clearly using the William Castle playbook, when they promoted the hell out of his House On Haunted Hill (1959).

If I’d happened upon this display as a kid, my mom couldn’t have drug me away from that spot.

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Filed under 1959, Elisha Cook, Jr., Vincent Price, William Castle

Adam-12 And Ahna Capri.

Saw the first-season Adam-12 episode “Log 172: Boy…The Things You Do For The Job” for the 743rd time the other day. It’s one of my favorites. Ahna Capri plays Penelope Lang, a free-spirit rich girl pulled over by Reed (Kent McCord) and Malloy (Martin Milner). 

Miss Lang takes a real shine to Pete, but he’s not amused. She keeps calling the cops for one thing or another, hoping Malloy and Reed will be dispatched to help. She turns up at the station. She even sends him a 1969 Porsche 911S with a Targa top. But Pete’s just not interested, and he does the slow burn throughout the episode. Eventually, in order to get all this to stop, Malloy gives in and sets up a date with her. The episode ends and we never know how it went. 

 

Ahna Capri was great, one of those actresses you get excited about when they turn up in the credits. On TV, she was on about every cool show of the 60s and 70s — shows like The Wild Wild West, Mannix, The Mod Squad, The Invaders, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (above), Dan August, The F.B.I., Baretta, Ironside, Cannon, Police Story and Kojak.

She did some cool movies, too — The Girls On The Beach (1965), Darker Than Amber (1970, above), Payday (1973) and The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars And Motor Kings (1976). But the one she’ll always be remembered for is Enter The Dragon (1973) with Bruce Lee and John Saxon.

 

Ahna passed away on August 9, 2010. A truck hit her car in North Hollywood. She was on life support, in a coma, for more than a week before she died. What a shame.

She’s lovely, she’s funny and she’s a joy to watch. Keep an eye out for her.

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Filed under 1969, Bruce Lee, Jack Webb, Kent McCord, Martin Milner, Television

The Corpse Vanishes (1942).

Directed by Wallace Fox
Produced by Sam Katzman & Jack Dietz
Story & Screenplay by Harvey Gates, Sam Robins & Gerald Schnitzer
Photography: Arthur Reed
Film Editor: Robert Golden

Cast: Bela Lugosi (Dr. Lorenz), Luana Walters (Patricia Hunter), Tristram Coffin (Dr. Foster), Elizabeth Russell (Countess Lorenz), Minerva Urecal (Fagah), Angelo Rossitto (Toby), Frank Moran (Angel), Vince Barnett (Sandy), Kenneth Harlan (Editor Keenan), George Eldredge (Mike), Joan Barclay (Alice Wentworth), Gwen Kenyon (Peggy), Sam Katzman

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No matter where you look these days, the United States is falling apart, so it seems like the perfect time for The Corpse Vanishes (1942). One of Bela Lugosi’s Monogram Nine, its glorious nonsense is a nice alternative to the hideous, venomous nonsense just oozing out of every pore of our society.

Brides are collapsing at the alter, then they disappear during their ambulance ride. A spunky girl reporter (the lovely and tragic Luana Walters) discovers that all the unfortunate brides wore the same odd-smelling orchid, which leads her to Dr. George Lorenz (Lugosi), an authority on orchids — and a mad scientist who’s using the young girls to create a serum to keep his wife, Countess Lorenz (Elizabeth Russell), young and beautiful.

Toss in a family of freaks that lives in Lugosi’s basement, and the fact that Lugosi and Russell sleep in his-and-hers coffins, and you’ve got The Corpse Vanishes. It’s not a scary movie, but it has a real creepiness about it, thanks to its overall air of extreme weirdness and dread — along with a typically committed performance from Lugosi. As crazy as it may sound, this is one of the more coherent and logical of Lugosi’s Monogram Nine.

Speaking of being coherent, a guy once told me he thought the brides were alive, not dead. Well, the title is  The Corpse Vanishes, and when Luana Walters finds them, they’re in drawers like the morgue, so I stick to the dead idea. Besides, if they aren’t dead, why does Lugosi have to keep getting more of ’em?

Dr. George Lorenz (Bela Lugosi): “You are beautiful. And I shall always keep you that way.”

Since every copy of The Corpse Vanishes you see is a varying degree of bad (warning: the Blu-Ray is not an upgrade), it’s hard to get much of an idea of what Arthur Reed’s camerawork looks like. It’s hurried, for sure — shooting began in early March, and the picture was in theaters the week in May. Reed spent his entire career shooting pictures for tiny little studios like Tiffany, Argosy and Cameo — and places we’ve heard of like PRC and Monogram. Wonder what the longest schedule he ever had was? If it was more than two weeks, I’d be surprised.

Director Wallace Fox toiled on Poverty Row a lot, too, though he worked for Universal, RKO and Columbia from time to time. He started out at the end of the silents, making cheap Westerns. That continued with talkies, starring guys like Tom Tyler, Jack Randall, Grant Kirby, Tex Ritter and William Elliott. Powdersmoke Range (1935) with Harry Carey and Hoot Gibson is a good one. In the 40s, came the East Side Kids and Bela Lugosi pictures. Pillow Of Death (1945) with Lon Chaney, Jr. is part of Universal’s Inner Sanctum series. He made his way to TV in the 50s, and after a 1954 episode of Annie Oakley, he retired. 

The producer was one of my heroes, the great Sam Katzman, who was cranking out glorious junk like this by the train car load. He produced seven movies in 1942; Lugosi was in three of them.

So, with the world a big fat ball of despair, The Corpse Vanishes provides 64 minutes or rather grim, delirious fun. And an escape from a time that sure can use some escaping from. For that, Mr. Fox, Mr. Lugosi, Ms. Walters and Mr. Katzman, I can’t thank you enough.

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Filed under Bela Lugosi, Luana Walters, Monogram/Allied Artists, Sam Katzman, The Monogram Nine, Wallace Fox

Blu-Ray News #326: The Time Travelers (1964).

Directed by Ib Melchior
Starring Preston Foster, Philip Carey, Merry Anders, John Hoyt, Joan Woodbury, Delores Welles, Forrest Ackerman

Who can resist a picture from American International in 1964 that gives you a Playboy Playmate (Delores Welles, June 1960), hideous mutants and Forrest J. Ackerman and promises to let you “SEE women use the Love Machine to allay the male shortage!”

Merry Anders and Delores Welles dig the future.

Ib Melchior’s ideas were too big for his budget, but he still managed to pull off a pretty big-looking sci-fi flick. This thing just oozes mid-century, early 60s cool — from the costumes and hairstyles to the sets and the tacky Pathécolor (shot by the great Vilmos Zsigmond).

Scorpion Releasing is bringing this crazy thing to Blu-Ray, distributed by Kino Lorber, in April. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1964, AIP, DVD/Blu-ray News, Forrest Ackerman, Ib Melchior, Kino Lorber, Scorpion Releasing

RIP, Barbara Shelley.

Barbara Shelley
February 13, 1932 — January 4, 2021

I grew up watching Barbara Shelley in pictures like Dracula – Prince Of Darkness (1966) and Quatermass And The Pit (1968). She was always terrific. She passed away today at 88.

Miss Shelley was one of those actors or actresses that didn’t look down on material like this, and her performances were as good as the genre ever saw. I’d have a real hard time picking a favorite — so I guess I’d recommend you watch ’em all. Which is what I plan to do.

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Filed under 1966, 1968, Barbara Shelley, Christopher Lee, Hammer Films, Terence Fisher

2021 Ain’t Lookin’ Too Bad, So Far.

From our friends at The 3-D Film Archive.

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Filed under 3-D, Abbott & Costello, Budd Boetticher, DVD/Blu-ray News, Julie Adams, The 3-D Film Archive

Blu-Ray Review: Giant From The Unknown (1958).

Directed by Richard E. Cunha
Produced by Marc Frederic & Arthur A. Jacobs
Written by Ralph Brooke
Frank Hart Taussig
Music by Albert Glasser
Cinematography: Richard E. Cunha

Cast: Ed Kemmer (Wayne Brooks), Sally Fraser (Janet Cleveland), Buddy Baer (Vargas the Giant), Bob Steele (Sheriff Parker), Morris Ankrum (Dr. Frederick Cleveland), Oliver Blake (Cafe Proprietor), Jolene Brand (Anne Brown), Billy Dix (Indian Joe), Gary Crutcher (Charlie Brown), Ned Davenport (Townsman), Ewing Miles Brown (Townsman)

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1957-58 was an interesting time for the Horror Film. For starters, Hammer kicked off their rethink (I hate the word “reboot”) of the classic monsters with Curse Of Frankenstein and Horror Of Dracula. Jacques Tourneur gave us the masterful Night Of The Demon. And William Castle launched his string of gimmick-y horror pictures with Macabre. But there was something else brewing, with a bunch of unknowns, independents and upstarts cooking up their own scrappy little monster movies. Pictures like Attack Of The Crab Monsters, Earth Vs. The Spider, Curse Of The Faceless Man — and Giant From The Unknown. And while they’re lacking in what we normally think of when it comes to Good Movies, they’ve been beloved by fans since they first played drive-ins and turned up on the late show.

Giant From The Unknown works from a pretty kooky premise. After 500 years in the dirt, a Spanish Conquistador, Vargas the “Diablo Giant” (Buddy Baer), is resurrected by lightning and goes on a killing spree. The sheriff (Bob Steele), a geologist (Edward Kemmer) and a group on citizens from Pine Ridge, California, eventually take him down.

Shot around Big Bear Lake for about $55,000 — and going from idea to answer print in just 60 days, Giant From The Unknown is a hoot. Director Richard E. Cunha and producer Arthur A. Jacobs were making commercials before this first feature. Cunha would make three more low-budget monster pictures in the late 50s: She Demons, Missile To The Moon and Frankenstein’s Daughter. On this one, he was a cinematographer and editor, too. 

The Giant’s makeup was done by none other than Jack Pierce, the genius behind all the Universal Monsters. And it boasts a couple of terrific character actors, Bob Steele and Morris Ankrum. Buddy Baer is, of course, the father of Jethro Bodine himself, Max Baer.

The Film Detective brings Giant From The Unknown to Blu-Ray in a “Deluxe Edition” using a 4K scan of the camera negative. It’s absolutely startling, especially of you remember how it looked on TV or VHS. It looks like it was made yesterday, unbelievably sharp and clean. It comes with a terrific stable of extras — a couple commentaries, interviews, the trailer and a nice booklet.

I’ve loved this movie for decades, and I love what The Film Detective has done with it. It’s wonderful to have movies like Giant From The Unknown get this kind of treatment. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1958, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Jack Pierce, Morris Ankrum, Richard E. Cunha, The Film Detective

Merry Christmas.

My junior year in high school, I got to choose the movie that ran in the school auditorium on our last day before the Christmas break. (There was also a band playing in the cafeteria.)

I chose Freddie Francis’s The Creeping Flesh (1973), starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. It was a beautiful 16mm print from Films Incorporated.

Now I don’t want to get callouses from patting myself on the back, but I think I made a wise choice. And ever since, I think of it as a Christmas movie. 

Here’s wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

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Filed under 1973, Christopher Lee, Freddie Francis, Peter Cushing, Tygon

December 24, 1974.

On Christmas Eve, 1974, the Adam-12 episode “Christmas” aired. It’s a good one.

Remember, while you’re sitting at home tonight enjoying eggnog and watching It’s A Wonderful Life (1946), or maybe Donovan’s Reef (1963), with family and friends, your local police are out on the job keeping us safe. God bless ’em.

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Filed under 1974, Jack Webb, Kent McCord, Martin Milner, Television

Double Deal (1950) — The Marie Windsor Blogathon.

Directed by Abby Berlin
Produced by James T. Vaughn
Screen play by Lee Berman & Charles S. Belden
Story by Don McGuire
Director Of Photography: Frank Redman
Film Editor: Robert Swink
Music by Michel Michelet

Cast: Marie Windsor (Terry Miller), Richard Denning (Buzz Doyle), Taylor Holmes (Corpus Mills), Fay Baker (Lilli Sebastian), James Griffith (Walter Karns), Carleton Young (Reno Sebastian), Tom Browne Henry (Sheriff L.G. Morelli), Paul E. Burns, Walter Burke, Frank Felton

This is an entry in The Marie Windsor Blogathon, a celebration of the actress’s life and work.

Bel-Air Productions cranked out some terrific little movies in the 1950s, such as the B crime pictures Big House U.S.A. (1955) and Hot Cars (1956). The very first Bel-Air film was Double Deal (1950), released by RKO Radio Pictures. It was the first time Marie Windsor received top billing.

Double Deal concerns oil wells, the extremely dysfunctional Sebastian family, gambling, a monkey and murder.

Richard Denning is Buzz Doyle, an engineer who steps off the bus just as the Sebastian family squabble turns deadly. (Have you noticed how many noir pictures open with a guy getting off a bus in some strange town?) Marie Windsor is Terry Miller, a nice girl who takes a shine to Buzz, inherits an oil well and ends up a murder suspect. Fay Baker is a conniving hag who doesn’t care who gets hurt as long as she gets what she wants. Taylor Holmes is an attorney and “walking gin mill.” And James Griffith is a slimeball who runs a crooked dice table.

Double Deal is a cheap little mini-noir that gets almost everything right. It was shot in nine days on the RKO lot, and the completed picture runs just 65 minutes. There’s a whole lot of story packed into that 65 minutes, from a couple murders, lots of wildcatting for oil and a truckload of double crosses. 

Throughout the picture, Fay Baker and James Griffith are perfectly despicable, while Richard Denning is completely likable (at one point, Kevin McCarthy was up for the part, which would’ve been his movie debut).

Marie Windsor is charming, cool and beautiful — whether she’s all dolled up for a night on the town or wearing jeans, t-shirt, baseball cap and a smudge of oil on her cheek. 1950 was a busy year for Windsor: Dakota Lil, The Showdown, Frenchie and Double Deal. Each was for a different studio — Fox, Republic, Universal International and RKO, respectively.

Director Abby Berlin was on Broadway and vaudeville as half of a comedy team with Ken Brown. He headed to Hollywood and worked as an assistant director, until he got the chance to direct with Leave It To Blondie (1945). He directed a number of the Blondie movies and quite a bit of TV before passing away in 1954.

The story for Double Deal came from Don McQuire. He had an interesting career, from acting in Armored Car Robbery (1950, the same year as Double Deal) to directing The Delicate Delinquent (1957) to supplying the story for Tootsie (1982). Screenwriter Charles S. Belden has a story credit on both Mystery Of The Wax Museum (1933) and House Of Wax (1953). He also wrote some Charlie Chan and Hopalong Cassidy pictures.

Director Of Photography Frank Redman spent the 40s and early 50s at RKO. He shot a lot of Falcon, Saint and Dick Tracy pictures. Leaving RKO, he went to TV, where he stayed plenty busy. He shot over a hundred episodes of Perry Mason, among other things. His work on Double Deal is nothing flashy, looking like so many other RKO pictures from the period.

Double Deal is not classic film noir. It’s no Narrow Margin (1952). And it was certainly done on the cheap — the crew on the oil well is limited to Denning, Windsor and Paul Burns. But I wish there were a hundred movies around just like it — cheap, short and cool.

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Filed under 1950, Bel-Air, James H. Griffith, Kevin McCarthy, Marie Windsor, Richard Denning, RKO