Hillary Brooke.

This week, I’ve been polishing up my commentary notes for “The Western Story,” an episode of The Abbott & Costello Show. It’s reminded me how much I love Hillary Brooke. She appeared in about half the show’s episodes.

From Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (1943) to Fritz Lang’s Ministry Of Fear (1944, above) to Road To Utopia (1945) to Africa Screams (1949) to Invaders From Mars (1953) to The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), she’s one of my favorites.

From one role to the next, she could be funny or sinister or sympathetic — but always lovely and always worth watching.

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Filed under Abbott & Costello, Alfred Hitchcock, Fritz Lang, Hillary Brooke

Brilliant!

As someone who grew up watching Tom & Jerry cartoons, I couldn’t believe how great this was.

Then I got to thinking: why’s it take so long for someone to think of this?

Thanks to Jennifer who came across this last night.

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Filed under Cartoons, Hanna-Barbera, MGM

Blu-Ray News #358: Frankenstein’s Daughter (1958).

Directed by Richard E. Cunha
Starring John Ashley, Sandra Knight, Donald Murphy, Sally Todd, Harold Lloyd, Jr., John Zaremba

Here’s another little-over-a-week wonder making its way to Blu-Ray thanks to our friends at The Film Detective. Frankenstein’s Daughter (1958) was shot in eight day for around $65,000, and it’s a real treat for lovers of such junk (count me as one).

Sandra Knight’s a teenager who dreams she turns into a monster at night. Little does she know she really is — she’s being slipped a serum that turns her into something deadly and hideous. Rest assured, it’s every bit as ridiculous, and wonderful, as it sounds.

The Film Detective is on a roll these days, and I can’t wait to get my hands on Frankenstein’s Daughter. Sorry, that sounds a bit creepy. Let’s just say I’m excited about this release.

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Filed under 1958, DVD/Blu-ray News, John Ashley, Richard Cunha, The Film Detective

Blu-Ray Review: A Life At Stake (1955).

Directed by Paul Guilfoyle
Produced by Hank McCune
Screenplay by Russ Bender
From a story ideas by Hank McCune
Director Of Photography: Ted Allan
Film Editor: Frank Sullivan
Music by Les Baxter

Cast: Angela Lansbury (Doris Hillman), Keith Andes (Edward Shaw), Douglass Dumbrille (Gus Hillman), Claudia Barrett (Madge Neilan), Jane Darwell (Landlady), Gavin Gordon (Sam Pearson), Charles Maxwell Lt. Hoff), William Henry (Myles Norman)

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Between my two blogs, I’ve said this about a thousand times (and I’m sure you’re all sick of hearing it) — it makes my heart feel good to see low-budget movies get the high-end treatment on DVD and (especially) Blu-Ray. One of the companies making these happen is The Film Detective, and their new Blu-Ray of A Life At Stake (1955) joins their growing (and very interesting) list of great-looking pictures.

A Life At Stake (1955) is an independent mini-noir starring Angela Lansbury, Keith Andes and Douglass Dumbrille. It was shot in about a week in 1954, then it sat for nine months or so before finally making it to theaters. This delay explains why a 1955 release is still in the 1.37 aspect ratio.

Andes is a down-on-his-luck architect who ends up part of a life insurance caper cooked up by a wealthy couple (Lansbury and Dumbrille). They take out a hefty policy on Andes as part of a large development project, then plan his lucrative demise. (Her first husband croaked off under kinda shifty circumstances and with a nice insurance payoff.) As you’d expect, once Andes finds out about all this, he’s not in favor of it.

Of course, life insurance thing may sound like a riff on Double Indemnity (1944), which I’m sure it is, but writer Russ Bender steers clear of obvious imitation and his ending is a bit of a surprise.

Angela Lansbury is lovely and diabolical as the femme fatale. Her career was in a bit of a lull here, not too long after she left MGM. After years of making movies there, the budget and schedule for A Life At Stake must’ve been quite a shock. She did A Lawless Street (1955) at Columbia not long after this. 

Keith Andes is pretty good as the sap who gets involved with people he shouldn’t, namely Lansbury. He was a stage, radio and movie actor. He appeared in Fritz Lang’s Clash By Night (1952) at RKO, then like a lot of others at that studio, went a long time between pictures, which might’ve hurt his career’s momentum. He wound up at Universal International where he was in pictures like Pillars Of The Sky and Away All Boats (both 1956).

Douglass Dumbrille is, of course, Douglass Dumbrille, and that’s about as good as it gets. He doesn’t have a tremendous amount of screen time here. The great Jane Darwell — from Ford’s The Grapes Of Wrath (1940), My Darling Clementine (1946), Wagon Master (1950) and The Sun Shines Bright (1953) — plays Andes’s landlady. She’s always a treat.

The picture’s director was character actor Paul Guilfoyle. He only directed three features, but did quite a few TV shows. As an actor, he’s the guy in the trunk in White Heat (1949).

By the way, Lansbury’s crazy-looking convertible is a 1954 Kaiser Darrin. They had fiberglass bodies and pocket doors. Only 435 production cars were built.

The Film Detective has done a terrific job with A Life At Stake. It looks and sounds quite nice, with a few blemishes (and perhaps some warping) that happily remind us we’re watching an old movie. With something like this, you have to work with what you can track. In this case, they gave it a 4K restoration. Les Baxter’s score has a nice range.

You can always count on The Film Detective for an extra or two (or three). There’s a commentary and essay from “film noir scholar and critic” Jason Ney, along with a short documentary on The Filmmakers, Ida Lupino’s production company that had a hand in A Life At Stake. All are top notch.

There was a film at stake, a pretty good one, and The Film Detective came through. Recommended.

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Filed under 1955, Douglass Dumbrille, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, The Film Detective

54 Years Ago.

Nobody who went that night had any idea what they were in for.

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Filed under 1967, Angie Dickinson, John Boorman, Lee Marvin, MGM

4K News: The Guns Of Navarone (1961).

The guns built for the movie. Navarone is not a real island, by the way.

Directed by J. Lee Thompson
Starring Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Stanley Baker, Anthony Quayle, Irene Papas, Gia Scala, James Darren, Richard Harris

Sony has announced a 60th anniversary 4K edition of J. Lee Thompson’s The Guns Of Navarone (1961) — in both the US and the UK. The Blu-Ray from 2011 was a huge upgrade from the DVD, and I’m eager to find out how much more resolution can be gotten out of this thing. (It’s never been a super-sharp-looking film, as far as I can tell.) Sony has listed a lot of extras, some carried over from the Blu-Ray. I’m excited about the restoration of the picture’s original four-track stereo.

The Marx Navarone playset is a really cool thing.

Of course, no matter how you see it, The Guns Of Navarone is terrific. Alistair MacLean’s “impossible mission” novel made a great movie — and everyone from director J. Lee Thompson to that stellar cast to composer Dimitri Tiomkin brought their A game. What always strikes me about it is how quickly its 158 minutes go by. (The same can be said for another MacLean picture, 1969’s Where Eagles Dare.)

I haven’t taken the 4K plunge yet, and it’s terrific to see these older pictures getting this UHD treatment. The movie itself, of course, is highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1961, 4K, Anthony Quinn, Columbia, David Niven, DVD/Blu-ray News, Gregory Peck, J. Lee Thompson, Stanley Baker

Happy Birthday, Glenn Strange.

George Glenn Strange 
(August 16, 1899 – September 20, 1973) 

From a bad guy in countless B Westerns to playing Frankenstein in several of the later Universal monster rallies to a long, long run on Gunsmoke, Glenn Strange enjoyed quite a career. Let’s remember him on his birthday.

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Memphis ’69 (2019).

For a limited time, you can watch Joe LaMattina’s terrific concert film Memphis ’69 (2019) for free on YouTube — thanks to the fine folks at Fat Possum Records. Click on the poster to see it.

The footage was originally shot by Adelphi Records founder Gene Rosenthal and crew, shooting as the heat reached 106 degrees. With over 40,000 feet of film, the entire budget was used up just to process all the film. Fat Possum’s Bruce Watson came on board in 2016, bringing with him filmmakers Joe and Lisa LaMattina. The LaMattinas edited the footage, crafting it into the finished film. 

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Filed under 1969, Documentary

Blu-Ray News #357: Woody Woodpecker – Screwball Collection.

Guess who? Universal is bringing Walter Lantz’s Woody Woodpecker cartoons to Blu-Ray, promising 25 shorts and some extra featurettes and stuff. So far, I haven’t seen a listing of what the 25 shorts will be.

It’s coming in September. 

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Filed under Cartoons, DVD/Blu-ray News, Universal (-International)

“What if that aircraft came here not just to visit the earth, but to conquer it? To start growing some kind of horrible army?”

The family took a walk around Broughton High School here in Raleigh tonight and came across a little garden. These cucumbers remind me of the James Arness “seedlings” in The Thing From Another World (1951), growing a platoon of little Things.

That scene, with the little pods hooked up to the plasma, and breathing, never ceases to creep me out — even after seeing it dozens of times. What a movie!

I want to take this opportunity to thank Warner Archive once again for releasing their exquisite Blu-Ray of The Thing. It’s perfect.

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Filed under 1951, Howard Hawks, Kenneth Tobey, Paul Frees, RKO, Warner Archive