Blu-Ray Review: The Killer Is Loose (1956).


Directed by Budd Boetticher
Screenplay by Harold Medford
From a story by John Hawkins and Ward Hawkins
Cinematography: Lucien Ballard
Music by Lionel Newman
Film Editor: George Gittens

Cast: Joseph Cotten (Det. Sam Wagner), Rhonda Fleming (Lila Wagner), Wendell Corey (Leon Poole), Alan Hale (Denny), Michael Pate (Det. Chris Gillespie), John Larch (Otto Flanders), Dee J. Thompson (Grace Flanders)

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To me, there’s nothing more satisfying than a little movie that pays off big. And Budd Boetticher’s The Killer Is Loose (1956) is that in spades.

Detective Joseph Cotton accidentally shoots Wendell Corey’s wife while arresting him for bank robbery. On his way to prison, Corey swears he’ll get his revenge. And when he escapes, his only thought is to put Cotton through the same pain he suffered: the loss of his wife.

Where do you begin with this thing? From Lucien Ballard’s cinematography to Budd Boetticher’s crisp direction to the editing by George Gittens to the terrific cast, this movie knocks  everything out of the park. Wendell Corey was never better than he is here as the milquetoast banker turned robber and murderer. You somehow feel sorry for him, even as you wish they’d hurry up and blow him away. Rhonda Fleming is quite good as Cotton’s wife, Corey’s target. It’s a part that’s pretty unlikable — she hates her husband being a cop, forcing Cotton to not only search for Corey, but conceal the fact that Fleming is who he’s after. Then there’s the great use of LA locations and the decision to set some of the film’s tensest scenes in the most mundane of places (kitchens, suburban neighborhoods, lettuce fields, etc.).

1956 was a great year for movies, and many of the folks behind The Killer Is Loose were on a roll. Boetticher was about to begin his wonderful Ranown Cycle with Randolph Scott — Seven Men From Now would arrive in a few short months. Rhonda Fleming’s next picture was Allan Dwan’s Slightly Scarlet (1956). And Lucien Ballard would continue working with Boetticher on the Ranown pictures and shoot The Killing (1956) for Stanley Kubrick.

Ballard (beside camera with scarf) and Boetticher (in front of Ballard) shooting on an LA bus.

Ballard’s camerawork not only sets this movie apart, it allows the new Blu-Ray from ClassicFlix to really shine. This is exactly how a black and white film should look in high definition. Film grain is present throughout, in a good way. Contrast levels are near-perfect, the blacks are very true and the proper 1.85 aspect ratio is preserved (the full-frame DVD looks awful clunky in comparison). And the lossless audio is rock solid.

The Killer Is Loose is a picture I’ve been lifting up for years, and this Blu-Ray is just as easy to recommend. Trust me, you need this.

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Filed under 1956, Allan Dwan, Budd Boetticher, ClassicFlix, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Joseph Cotton, Rhonda Fleming, Stanley Kubrick, United Artists, Wendell Corey

Blu-Ray News #135: John Wayne Sets Sail In HD — The Sea Chase (1955) And Blood Alley (1955).

John Farrow, John Wayne and Lana Turner working on The Sea Chase.

Two mid-50s John Wayne pictures are making their way to Blu-Ray from Warner Archive. Both were shot in early CinemaScope by William H. Clothier, so an upgrade to high-definition is certainly worthwhile.

The Sea Chase
Directed by John Farrow
Starring John Wayne, Lana Turner, David Farrar, Lyle Bettger, Tab Hunter, James Arness, Paul Fix, John Qualen, Alan Hale, Claude Akins

Wayne’s a German freighter captain trying to make it home from Australia in the early days of World War II. Production in Hawaii was cursed with all sorts of problems: Wayne had a terrible ear infection, Lana Turner hated John Farrow, etc. But it’s hard to beat that cast.

Blood Alley
Directed by William A. Wellman
Starring John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, Paul Fix, Mike Mazurki, Anita Ekberg

This was to have starred Robert Mitchum, but he and director William Wellman had a falling out. Mitchum was fired and Wayne took his place — it was produced by his Batjac company.

Wayne is an American sailer who’s broken out of a Red Chinese prison by a group of villagers who want him to help them sail away to freedom in Hong Kong. Wellman’s great at this kind of stuff, and Blood Alley is a solid adventure picture with a great cast and terrific Scope photography from William Clothier.

This is the movie Wayne was plugging on I Love Lucy, when Lucy and Ethel stole his footprints from outside Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

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Filed under 1955, DVD/Blu-ray News, James Arness, John Wayne, Warner Archive

Screening: Jaws (1975).

tlrJaws001

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) continues to make its way to theaters in the summer. Here’s one I wish I could make it to.

Thursday, June 29, 2017
The Starlight Drive-In
Christiansburg, Virginia
www.starlitedrivein.info

The show starts around dusk. They’ve got the full digital rig in place, so it should look and sound terrific.

The image up top is a faded frame from an original 35mm trailer. It in no way reflects on what you’ll see at the Starlite, which I’ve heard many good things about. Wish it wasn’t three-and-a-half hours away!

And here’s my Father’s Day present from my daughter. I love it. But why did it take forty-something years for somebody to get around to making this thing?

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

Blu-Ray News #134: One Million BC (1940).

Directed by Hal Roach and Hal Roach, Jr.
Starring Victor Mature, Carole Landis, Lon Chaney, Jr., John Hubbard

One Million B.C. (1940) has dinosaurs that are real lizards with fins and stuff glued on. It’s got a guy in a pretty primitive Godzilla-type suit. It’s got Lon Chaney Jr. as a caveman. Some of it was shot at the Iverson Ranch. Oh, and the beautiful, tragic Carole Landis is in it. And even if you haven’t seen it, you’ve no doubt seen stock footage from it in something.

One Million B.C. is one of those movies that’s suffered the horrible injustice of having been available in all sorts of shoddy tapes and discs over the years. VCI Entertainment seems to be about to change all that with an upcoming Blu-Ray transferred the 35mm negative. Hopefully, come July, they’ll have pre-history looking brand new.

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Filed under DVD/Blu-ray News, Lon Chaney Jr., VCI

The Bat Signal.

Just when it seems that everything’s gone Wrong in this world, something comes along that is 100% completely Right.

Tonight at 9 at City Hall (200 N Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90012), L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti and L.A. Police Chief Charlie Beck will light the Bat Signal in honor of Adam West.

If I had a stash of frequent flyer miles, my family and I would be there for sure.

UPDATE: Here’s a photo of the real thing.

west16f-6-web

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Filed under 1966, Adam West

RIP, Adam West.

William West Anderson (Adam West)
September 19, 1928 – June 9, 2017

To me, Adam West is a big part of summer. Growing up, we typically spent the summer at my grandparents’ place in Texas. It was always a great time, with a particular benefit being that one of their local TV stations (out of either Dallas or Abilene, I guess) ran Batman every afternoon. Our Raleigh stations weren’t hip enough for it. I always looked forward to those few weeks of Batman. The chance to watch the Caped Crusader was a real treat, something special, and it still feels that way today.

Like so many other kids, to me, Batman was high adventure, not high camp. And as I got older and got the joke, I appreciated it all even more. Especially the fine work of Mr. West. The success of the whole enterprise rested on his shoulders. The colors, the camera angles, the sets, the cliffhangers — none of it mattered if he didn’t pull off his part of the whole affair. He was perfect and he’ll be missed.

Batman (Adam West, from the ’66 Batman feature): “Let’s go, but, inconspicuously, through the window… Our job is finished.”

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Filed under 1966, Adam West, Television

Remembering D-Day.

This is a movie blog, so we’ll pay tribute to those who fought on the beaches of Normandy via color stills from The Longest Day (1962, which is in glorious black and white CinemaScope), itself a tribute to the many sacrifices that helped push World War II toward its end.

Here’s the crew hard at work recreating the events of June 6, 1944.

Richard Burton (as Officer David Campbell) and Richard Beymer (as Private Dutch Schultz). Burton took time off from Cleopatra (1963) to shoot his scenes. Cleopatra was bleeding 20th Century-Fox dry at the time, which had a huge (negative) impact on Darryl Zanuck’s budget for The Longest Day.

Robert Mitchum as Brigadier General Norman Cota.

Richard Todd as Major John Howard. Todd’s voice is one of God’s great gifts to mankind — I would listen to him (or Richard Burton, for that matter) read the phone book.

John Wayne as Lt. Colonel Benjamin Vandervoort.

From the Army’s website: “The cost in lives on D-Day was high. More than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded, but their sacrifice allowed more than 100,000 Soldiers to begin the slow, hard slog across Europe, to defeat Adolf Hitler’s crack troops.”

To quote John Wayne in an entirely different movie (John Ford’s She Wore A Yellow Ribbon): “Lest we forget.”

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Filed under 1962, 20th Century-Fox, John Wayne, Richard Burton, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, Roddy McDowall, Sean Connery