Blu-Ray News #269: Day The World Ended (1955).

Produced & Directed by Roger Corman
Starring Richard Denning, Lori Nelson, Adele Jergens, Mike Connors, Paul Birch, Jonathan Haze, Paul Blaisdell

Scream Factory just keeps coming up with the gold! They’ve announced a March Blu-Ray release of Roger Corman’s Day The World Ended (1955). It’s got Corman directing — his fourth time. It’s got a perfect B-picture cast — Denning and Nelson are both veterans of the Creature movies and Adele Jergens is always terrific. Plus, it’s got a great Paul Blaisdell monster, which he plays. What more could you want?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: seeing these cheap movies get the white-glove treatment on Blu-Ray makes my heart feel good. Glad there’s enough demand to make such efforts worthwhile — wish 50s Westerns had a fanbase of the same size (or, no offense, willingness to part with their money).

Not sure what the extras will be, but given Scream Factory’s track record, it’ll be quite a haul. And it’ll be a treat (maybe a grainy one) to see it in its original Superscope framing. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1955, Adele Jergens, AIP, DVD/Blu-ray News, Paul Birch, Paul Blaisdell, Richard Denning, Roger Corman, Shout/Scream Factory

Blu-Ray News #268: Some Girls Do (1969).

Directed by Ralph Thomas
Starring Richard Johnson, Daliah Lavi, Beba Loncar, Robert Morley

Network Releasing in the UK has announced their upcoming (February) Blu-Ray release of Some Girls Do (1969). The second picture with Richard Johnson as a revamped Bulldog Drummond, coming after Deadlier Than The Male (1967), Some Girls Do is a fun, lively 60s spy movie.

Some of the film was shot at Pinewood Studios at the same time as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) — Joanna Lumley and Virginia North appear in both. And by the way, Terence Young wanted Richard Johnson to play James Bond when he directed Dr. No (1962).

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Filed under 1969, DVD/Blu-ray News, Network Releasing, Richard Johnson, United Artists

Blu-Ray News #267: Night Tide (1961).

Written & Directed by Curtis Harrington
Starring Dennis Hopper, Linda Lawson, Luana Anders

The fine folks at Indicator have given the Cadillac treatment to another sub-compact movie, Curtis Harrington’s Night Tide (1961). And even by Indicator’s lofty standards, this one’s a real class act.

Dennis Hopper, in his first starring role, is a sailor on leave who meets a mysterious young woman who plays a mermaid at a seaside carnival — and who just might be a real, and murderous, one. This AIP horror picture is much more than a see-a-famous-actor’s-early-work curio. It’s dream-like, it’s dreamy and it’s one of those movies where you find something new every time you see it. Plus, it has Luana Anders in it (always a plus).

As usual, Indicator is offering up a stellar transfer and sweetening the deal with plenty of incredible supplements. A few highlights:
• Audio commentary with Curtis Harrington & Dennis Hopper
• Audio commentary with Tony Rayns
Harrington On Harrington (archival interview)
• Image Gallery
• Limited Edition Second Disc: Dream Logic – The Short Films Of Curtis Harrington (Eight short films spanning Harrington’s seven decades as a filmmaker)

It’s easy to recommend Night Tide. And it’s just as easy to recommend what Indicator is doing with it. I can’t wait to see this thing.

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Filed under 1961, AIP, Curtis Harrington, DVD/Blu-ray News, Indicator/Powerhouse

Blu-Ray Review: Moonfleet (1955).

Directed by Fritz Lang
Produced by John Houseman
Screen Play by Jan Lustig & Margaret Fitts
Based on the novel by J. Meade Falkner
Director Of Photography: Robert Planck
Film Editor: Albert Akst
Music by Miklos Rozsa

Cast: Stewart Granger (Jeremy Fox.), Jon Whiteley (John Mohune), George Sanders (Lord Greenwood), Joan Greenwood (Lady Greenwood), Viveca Lindfors (Mrs. Minton), Liliane Montevecchi (Gypsy), Jack Elam (Damen)

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Fritz Lang’s Moonfleet (1955) is a movie people seem to delight in tearing down. It helps that it’s a long way from Lang’s best work — there’s plenty to criticize. But me, I’ll take Lang’s bad over About Anybody Else’s good. And there’s a lot for movie nuts to appreciate here.

If Disney had asked Fritz Lang to direct Treasure Island (1950), you might’ve ended up with something like Moonfleet. There’s a young boy. There are smugglers instead of pirates. And there are lots and lots of opportunities for the kind of deep, dark, moody scenes Lang excelled at.

The story suits Lang so well it’s hard to believe he was brought in as a director-for-hire just a few weeks before the cameras rolled. You see, MGM hated Lang. Fury (1936), his first film for the studio — his first American film period, had been a big hit. But they hated him so much they didn’t work with him again until Moonfleet. They gave him a paltry budget, a script he wasn’t allowed to fine-tune and no approval of the final cut. Lang was not the dictatorial artist here, he was an employee, plain and simple.

Lang was never loved in Hollywood. From studio heads to actors to crew members, few people worked with him more than once.

George Sanders (far right) made three movies with Fritz Lang.

Lang: “In Moonfleet we tried to create a period film entirely in the studio; we shot everything there, even the exteriors.”

Along with being assigned a set-bound period picture with very little time to prepare for it, Lang was handed CinemaScope as part of the package. The director was not a fan of the process, and as Moonfleet shows, it threw a monkey wrench into Lang’s style. ‘Scope pictures at the time relied on longer takes and fewer closeups, giving Lang a helluva time when it came to his usual way of cutting, and types of shots, to create rhythm and suspense. He’d never make another ‘Scope picture.

John Mohune, an orphan (Jon Whitely), arrives in the village of Moonfleet looking for Jeremy Fox (Stewart Granger), an old flame of his deceased mother. Fox is a gentleman wrapped up with a group of smugglers (one of them is Jack Elam!) — and with little time, aptitude or interest, for caring for a young boy. But the search for a hidden diamond brings them together — and makes them the targets of pirates, soldiers and the greedy, crooked Lord and Lady Greenwood (George Sanders and Joan Greenwood). Sanders comes off like his Nazi creep in Man Hunt (1941), just with a wig.

There are some terrific scenes here and there, particularly the ones set in the church graveyard and tombs. Lang keeps the picture planted in the boy’s point of view, much in the way William Cameron Menzies did with Jimmy Hunt in Invaders From Mars (1953), and it works well. It’s probably why I liked this so much as a kid (when I didn’t know, or care, who Fritz Lang was). After all, to a young boy, what’s cooler that pirates and thieves and skeletons? Some lazy editing — the last 10 minutes must’ve been cut at four o’clock on a Friday afternoon — makes it quite obvious that Lang wasn’t able to see his movie across the finish line. But when it’s good, it’s really good, and when it’s not good, well, it’s still good.

Warner Archive has done Lang and DP Robert Planck a great service with their new Blu-Ray of Moonfleet. We can now appreciate the somber color palette (the Eastmancolor looks quite good), the glorious painted backdrops and the sheer enormity of some of the MGM sound stages. Maybe that makes this more of a treat for those who want to look at how the movie was made rather than just watch it. But what’s wrong with that? Lang’s movies have always appealed more to us Film Geeks anyway.

Highly recommended. (Remember, it has Jack Elam as a pirate.)

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Filed under 1955, Fritz Lang, George Sanders, MGM, Warner Archive

Help Save Africa Screams!

Robert Furmanek of The 3-D Film Archive is the author (with Ron Palumbo) of one of my all-time favorite film books, Abbott & Costello In Hollywood. He recently kicked off a Kickstarter campaign to restore one of Bud and Lou’s funniest films, their independently-produced Africa Screams (1949). It’s one of the team’s absolute best, released right after Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). They were really on a roll.

My love of this movie stems from Bob’s terrific, extras-packed laserdisc from the late 80s. I played that thing about a million times. And I’m really stoked about the opportunity to take a part in this restoration.

The existing 35mm material (camera negative and fine grain positive) is on nitrate stock, which is difficult, dangerous and expensive to work with, but can make for stunning results. The plan is to do 4K scans of these reels, then do a thorough clean-up for a DVD and Blu-Ray release. When I checked, Bob was over halfway to his goal of $7,500, and we have till the end of December to help make this happen. Click on the image up top to do your part.

Not sure what’s more exciting about this — being able to help preserve a movie I adore, or the thought of seeing it look like a million bucks on Blu-Ray.

unnamed-1UPDATE: In a little over a day, the goal has been met. Thanks to everyone who pledged to bring Africa Screams to Blu-Ray.

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Filed under Abbott & Costello, Charles Barton, Hillary Brooke, Shemp Howard, United Artists

Happy Thanksgiving.

Not sure what you’re doing this Thanksgiving, but I hope it’s fun and delicious and safe.

I’m enjoying Warner Archive’s terrific Blu-Ray of Operation Crossbow (1965) — and I have to say, I’m quite thankful for it.

Will have a review up soon. In the meantime, here’s a maze that promoted the picture in newspapers and theatre handouts back in’65. Enjoy!

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Filed under 1965, DVD/Blu-ray News, George Peppard, MGM, Warner Archive

RIP, Michael J. Pollard.

Michael J. Pollard
(May 30, 1939 – November 20, 2019)

Michael J. Pollard, who’d receive an Oscar nomination for his role in one of my favorite movies, Bonnie And Clyde (1967), has passed away at 80.

He was terrific at creating endearing, oddball characters in pictures like Little Fauss And Big Halsy (1970) and Melvin And Howard (1980). And it was great to see him back with Warren Beatty in Dick Tracy (1990).

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Filed under 1967, Michael J. Pollard, Warren Beatty