Blu-Ray News #91: The Day The Earth Caught Fire (1961).

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Directed by Val Guest
Starring Janet Munro, Leo McKern, Edward Judd

The Day The Earth Caught Fire (1961) is an almost impossibly good science fiction movie from Val Guest. It’s coming to Blu-Ray, with a new 2K restoration, in 2017 from Cohen Media Group.

The premise is very simple. Nuclear blasts at the North and South Poles knock the Earth off its axis and send it headed straight for the sun. Sweating and panic ensue as London prepares for what may be The End.

Seeing it as a kid, in a crappy pan and scan late-night TV airing, I was glued to the screen — wanting to throw a brick through the tube when the station went to a commercial break. Back then, I knew Leo McKern from Help! (1965) — “Psst! Hey, Be-a-tle! You shall have fun, yes?” — and Janet Munro from The Crawling Eye (1958) and Darby O’Gill And The Little People (1959). I was surprised to see them in something so dark and intense — and her so near-naked.

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Val Guest’s direction here is top-notch. He got a tremendous amount of movie out of his paltry budget, masterfully using stock footage and matte paintings (by Les Bowie) to create London’s brink-of-desctruction weather. Today, we’d just throw CGI at this story and render it soulless — in 1961, writing, acting and craftsmanship came together to create something really special.

Also of note is Guest and DP Harry Waxman’s use of Dyaliscope, a French anamorphic process. The thought of their work in high definition has me giddy. As you can tell, I am a big fan of this movie. Can’t wait to slide this thing into my Blu-Ray player. As I see it, this one is essential.

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Filed under 1961, DVD/Blu-ray News, The Beatles, Val Guest

DVD/Blu-Ray News #90: The Alligator People (1959).

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Directed by Roy Del Ruth
Starring Beverly Garland, Bruce Bennett, Lon Chaney, George Macready, Richard Crane

Anolis Entertainment, a company out of Germany, has announced a DVD/Blu-Ray combo release of The Alligator People (1959) from 20th Century-Fox and Robert Lippert’s Associated Producers, Inc.

This is one of those 50s monster movies that is 100% carried by its cast. Beverly Garland, one of my favorite actresses, is terrific here — as she always was in these things. This kind of hokum needs just the right touch to really work, and Bruce Bennett, Lon Chaney and George Macready are on hand to help pull the whole thing of.

Garland’s new husband (Richard Crane) suddenly disappears during their honeymoon. It takes her a couple years, but she tracks him down to his family’s Southern estate, where a botched medical treatment has turned him into an alligator.

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It’s clearly inspired by The Fly (1958), and it’s a load of fun. 20th Century-Fox proudly boasted that The Alligator People (and its co-feature The Return Of The Fly) were in CinemaScope, no longer releasing their black-and-white Scope pictures under the Regalscope banner. The domestic DVD presents the picture in gorgeous widescreen and stereo. The Blu-Ray can only be stunning.

Thanks to John Knight for the tip.

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Filed under 1959, 20th Century-Fox, Beverly Garland, DVD/Blu-ray News, Lippert/Regal/API, Lon Chaney Jr., Vincent Price

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Alfred Hitchcock certainly knew a thing or two about birds. Here’s hoping yours comes out as nice as Hitch’s did back in 1956.

This Thanksgiving, enjoy your meal, enjoy your family and friends, and enjoy a good movie (or a favorite bad one).

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Filed under 1956, Alfred Hitchcock

Blu-Ray News #89: The Film Detective’s Roger Corman Collection.

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The Film Detective has gathered up three Roger Corman pictures and repackaged them on Blu-Ray at a special price. Sounds like a good idea to me.

The Terror (1963)
Directed by Roger Corman (along with Francis Ford Coppola, Monte Hellman, Jack Hill, Jack Nicholson)
Starring Boris Karloff, Jack Nicholson, Sandra Knight, Dick Miller

A crazy patchwork quilt of a movie. Boris Karloff’s scenes were shot as the wonderful sets for Corman’s The Raven (1963) were being torn down. The rest was made up, with a script by Leo Gordon and Jack Hill, and shot later by a revolving door of cast and crew. It all comes together much better than you’d think, and with repeat viewing almost starts to make some sense. Almost. The Film Detective has this one looking good — and in 1.85 (which AIP called Vistascope).

Dementia 13 (1963)
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Starring William Campbell, Luana Anders, Patrick Magee

With just $40,000 and nine days, Francis Ford Coppola made one of the best Psycho ripoffs, even though you can feel the fact that it was written in a hurry. However, Coppola the director saves Coppola the writer.

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A Bucket Of Blood (1959)
Directed by Roger Corman
Starring Dick Miller, Barboura Morris, Antony Carbone

A goofy/funny/scary little gem of a movie with a rare lead role for Dick Miiler. Of course, he’s terrific. The Film Detective offers it up 1.85, the way it oughta be.

It’s easy to recommend this set. I grew up on these things, and it’s great to see them treated with the respect some people (like me) feel they deserve.

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Filed under 1959, 1963, AIP, Dick Miller, DVD/Blu-ray News, Francis Ford Coppola, Leo Gordon, Monte Hellman, Roger Corman, The Film Detective

Blu-Ray News #88: The She Beast (1966).

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Directed by Michael Reeves
Starring Barbara Steele, John Karlsen, Ian Ogilvy, Mel Welles

Michael Reeves died at 25 with only three movies to his credit. The last of those is the excellent Witchfinder General (1968, known as The Conqueror Worm in the States). The first was an Italian-British co-production, La Sorella Di Satana (1966) — also known by a number of titles like Revenge Of The Blood Beast, The She Beast and Il Lago Di Satana.

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The whole picture was shot in 21 days. Horror icon Barbara Steele was hired for a single day — which turned out to be 18 grueling hours of work. Raro Video US will bring The She Beast to DVD and Blu-Ray in January.

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Filed under 1966, Barbara Steele, DVD/Blu-ray News, Michael Reeves

Blu-Ray News #87: Nightmare (1964).

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Directed by Freddie Francis
Starring Jennie Linden, Moira Redmond, Brenda Bruce, David Knight, George A. Cooper, Clytie Jessop

It’s a Hammer horror movie. It’s directed by Freddie Francis. It’s in black and white CinemaScope. Those are plenty of reasons to be excited about its upcoming Blu-Ray release in the UK from Final Cut Entertainment.

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Filed under 1964, DVD/Blu-ray News, Freddie Francis, Hammer Films

Bob Dylan On Tour, 1966.

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There’s a new 12-minute promo film out to promote the new Bob Dylan 36-CD set of live recordings from his infamous 1966 tour. Bob had the shows filmed by D.A. Pennebaker — and some of that footage can be seen in this little film, The Untold Story Behind The Recordings.

This is my favorite Dylan period, and I love the “screw-you” spirit of these shows. I could watch hours upon hours of this stuff. If you any interest in Dylan at all, you really owe it to yourself to check this out.

Thanks to Dick Vincent for the tip.

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Filed under 1966, Bob Dylan