William Claude Dukenfield
(January 29, 1880 – December 25, 1946)
The Great Man was born 143 years ago today (though I believe there’s some questions at about that birth year).
As I see it, there’s never been anyone funnier than W.C. Fields.
Arthur Lake was put on this earth to play Dagwood Bumstead from Chip Young’s Blondie comic strip. That’s an absolute fact. And he did it marvelously in 28 features from 1938 to 1950 — and again in a TV series in 1957. And that series is coming to Blu-Ray from ClassicFlix in April, transferred from original 35mm elements of all 26 episodes.
Blondie is played by Pamela Britton, who many of us know from My Favorite Martian. (Penny Singleton played Blondie in the movies.) The show perfectly captures the spirit of the strip, with many episodes directed by Paul Landres. Funny stuff, easy to recommend!
January 25, 1931 – September 1, 2015
Dean Jones was born 92 years ago. For me, he will always he Jim Douglas from the Herbie movies. The Love Bug (1969) is a real favorite around here (proven by a load of Herbie books and toys).
While it’s easy to think of him as just the guy in all the Disney movies, he was also in great stuff like Tea And Symphony (1956), Jailhouse Rock (1957) and Torpedo Run (1958). Oh, and he owned the Herbie with the Porsche motor in it, used for the racing scenes.
Directed by Walter Summers
Starring Béla Lugosi, Hugh Williams, Greta Gynt
ClassicFlix is doing us all a big fat favor, bringing another Bela Lugosi picture — 1939’s Dark Eyes Of London (released in the States in 1940 as The Human Monster) to Blu-Ray.
Though distributed in the US by Monogram, this is not one of Lugosi’s infamous “Monogram Nine.” This is a British adaptation of an Edgar Wallace novel. It was the first British film to receive an “H” certificate (for “Horrific”) from the British Board of Censors. Children under 16 weren’t allowed to see it.
Lugosi sailed over on the Queen Mary to do this one, shot in about a week. He has a dual role, as Dr. Feodor Orloff and John Dearborn, in this story of a series of murders traced back to insurance policies with the Dearborn Home For The Blind as the beneficiary.
This is great stuff, and I’m dying to see it in high definition. Coming at the end of February. Highly, highly recommended.
Here are two late-70s pictures from Sir Lew Grade. Shout Factory is bringing the twin-bill Blu-Ray out in just a few days.
Escape To Athena (1979)
Directed by George P. Cosmatos
Starring Roger Moore, Telly Savalas, David Niven, Stefanie Powers, Claudia Cardinale, Richard Roundtree, Sonny Bono, Elliott Gould, Paul Picerni
Escape To Athena has a crazy cast (Sonny Bono?), gorgeous Greek locations, a terrific motorcycle chase and a cameo from William Holden.
Roger Moore made some interesting pictures in-between his Bond films, and this is one of them — though I’m a bigger fan of Shout At The Devil (1976) and The Wild Geese (1978)
March Or Die (1977)
Directed by Dick Richards
Starring Gene Hackman, Terence Hill, Catherine Deneuve, Max von Sydow, Sir Ian Holm
They tried to make Terence Hill a star in the US, and it didn’t work. Me, I much preferred the Trinity films. Anyway, this is a pretty lavish production, but it should be better than it is. Hackman is always good, of course.
I’m so glad films like this are making their way to Blu-Ray. I’m looking forward to seeing Escape To Athena again.
It’s a terrific 13-chapter Universal serial, one of my favorites, with Britt Reid and Kato up against The Chief. Can’t wait to see this thing in high definition! Highly recommended.
Mill Creek has scooped up four Peter Falk movies, all done for Columbia, and made a Blu-Ray set out of ’em. Since I love Peter Falk, I see this as a really good thing, even if the movies aren’t his best.
Directed by Clive Donner
Starring Jack Lemmon, Peter Falk, Elaine May, Nina Wayne, Harrison Ford
The 60s brought a lot of change to Hollywood, thanks to films like, say, Bonnie And Clyde (1967). It also brought about a lot of weird things like LUV (1967). It’s got Falk and Jack Lemmon in it, and that’s enough.
The Cheap Detective (1978)
Directed by Robert Moore
Written by Neil Simon
Starring Peter Falk, Madeline Kahn, Louise Fletcher, Ann-Margret
Funny stuff, though I preferred Murder By Death (1976), which clearly inspired this one. While Murder By Death spoofed Agatha Christie mysteries, this one pokes fun at Bogart pictures. Bet Neil Simon had a blast writing these things. Peter Falk, Madeline Kahn — can you really go wrong?
The In-Laws (1979) was wonderful, and a big hit, so Falk and Alan Arkin (and Beverly D’Angelo and Richard Libertini and writer Andrew Bergman) were reunited for this one. Falk’s friend John Cassavetes was brought in to direct — it was his last film. The results are mixed, for sure, but I’m really looking forward to seeing it again. And since I saw it on VHS in the early 90s, I can count on it looking 47,000% better this time around!
Happy New Year (1987)
Starring Peter Falk, Charles Durning, Tom Courtenay
A caper comedy with Falk and Charles Durning, and Falk dresses up in all sorts of disguises. I’ve never seen it, but it sure sounds promising.
Thanks to Mill Creek for putting these kinds of movies out on Blu-Ray. It’s sure appreciated, so keep ’em coming!
Then I saw that the price wasn’t too bad, and that one of the shorts was Steamboat Willie (1928), which I saw about 150 times as a kid in the wonderful 16mm Milestones In Animation collection. If Steamboat Willie is there, then I’m in. Haven’t been able to find a complete line-up, but here’s some of what you’ll get — Steamboat Willie, Brave Little Tailor, Hawaiian Holiday, On Ice “and six more delightful stories!”
June 24, 1944 – January 10, 2023
The great Jeff Beck has passed away at 78.
The Yardbirds’ scene in Blow Up (1966), with the band playing “Stroll On” (“The Train Kept A-Rollin'” with new lyrics) and Beck destroying his guitar when his amp develops a crackle, made a huge impression on me — even though I didn’t care for the movie all that much.
Beck was a virtuoso, for sure, and abrasive, innovative and incredibly creative. His guitar work during his time with The Yardbirds is just incredible.
Still I’m sad.
Written & Directed by Curt Siodmak
Starring John Bromfield, Beverly Garland, Tom Payne
Wow, here’s one I never thought I’d see. Vinegar Syndrome is bringing Curt Siodmak’s Curucu, Beast Of The Amazon (1956) to Blu-Ray — from the 35mm dupe negative.
It’s got a great cast of 50s sci-fi/horror veterans (I’d watch Beverly Garland in anything). Writer-director Siodmak had already written The Wolf Man (1941), Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man (1943) and I Walked With A Zombie (1943) — and the novel Donovan’s Brain.
So, there’s a bird monster in the jungle and it gets ahold of an expedition looking for a drug used by natives to shrink heads. It’s sort of like a Jungle Jim movie in color, with the added benefit of a bird monster. In other words, it’s perfect.
Curucu, Beast Of The Amazon was shot in Brazil in Eastmancolor for about $150,000. Universal International distributed it, pairing it with The Mole People (1956) — what a night at the movies! And it got a glorious poster from Reynold Brown.
Since U-I had it in 1956, it played at 2.00:1, which is how Vinegar Syndrome is presenting it. There will be a commentary and other supplemental things. Recommended!
Thanks to Dick Vincent for the news!