Kickstarter Campaign For Jack And The Beanstalk (1952).

Robert Furmanek restored one of Abbott & Costello’s funniest films, Africa Screams (1949), for its stunning Blu-Ray release, and he and his team have set their sights on Bud and Lou’s Jack And The Beanstalk (1952).

Working with the only surviving 35mm color camera negative footage, this should be incredible. The Kickstarter campaign has already, well, kicked off, so let’s make this happen!

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Filed under 1952, Abbott & Costello, DVD/Blu-ray News, Film Preservation

Blu-Ray News #318: The Norseman (1978).

Directed by Charles B. Pierce
Starring Lee Majors, Cornel Wilde, Mel Ferrer, Jack Elam, Susie Coelho, Christopher Connelly, Jimmy Clem, Deacon Jones

When it comes to costume films, I tend to prefer the cheap, cheesy exploitation pictures to the serious epic ones. And they don’t come much cheesier than the gloriously stupid The Norseman (1978) starring Lee Majors.

The premise is pretty simple: the Six Million Dollar Man is a Viking who comes to North America about 500 years before Columbus got here — and has to fight it out with the Indians. And in a subplot that’s never fleshed out, the Viking Jack Elam must’ve fraternized with the Native American ladies, since his wild-eyed bloodline turns up in lots of Westerns in the 1950s.

Lee Majors did The Norseman between The Six Million Dollar Man and The Fall Guy. He got half a million bucks and a percentage. Cornel Wilde and Mel Ferrer round out the cast. Charles B. Pierce (The Legend Of Boggy Creek, The Town That Dreaded Sundown) wrote, produced and directed it, and American International handled the distribution. It’s pretty terrible, but that’s of little consequence here.

I love to see anything bearing an AIP logo make it to Blu-Ray, and Kino Lorber and Scorpion Releasing are bringing The Norseman to the format in February of 2021. See, once we get out of 2020, things are gonna get better.

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Filed under 1978, AIP, Cornel Wilde, Kino Lorber, Scorpion Releasing

Happy Birthday, Bela Lugosi.

Bela Lugosi
(October 20, 1882 – August 16, 1956)

Okay, so this photo is a cheat. It was actually taken on Boris Karloff’s birthday, but it’s got the great Bela Lugosi (in his Ygor getup) eating a piece of birthday cake, so it’s close enough.

Taken on the set of Son Of Frankenstein (1939). Left to right: Boris Karloff, director Rowland V. Lee, Bela Lugosi and Basil Rathbone. Note that Karloff is smoking as he eats cake.

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Filed under Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff

Blu-Ray News #317: Duel Of The Titans (1961).

Directed by Sergio Corbucci
Starring Steve Reeves, Gordon Scott, Virna Lisi

Germany’s Explosive Media, through Koch, has announced a January release date for Duel Of The Titans (1961, AKA Romulus And Remus). Bringing Steve Reeves (Hercules) and Gordon Scott (Tarzan) together as Romulus and Remus, with Sergio Corbucci directing, and with Virna Lisi — not to mention “primitive passions,” “volcanic thrills” and “pagan worship,” how could it go wrong?

Paramount cut the picture to less than 90 minutes for the States. Koch seems to be offering up the fill 109-minute version. These peplum movies have really suffered over the years, with wretched pan-and-scan transfers and faded Eastman Color. The few that have made it to Blu-Ray have looked splendid. So while the pictures themselves are a matter of taste, it’s hard to knock ’em on Blu-Ray. For fans of this stuff, this one comes recommended.

Thanks to the mighty John Knight for the tip!

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Filed under 1961, DVD/Blu-ray News, Explosive Media, Gordon Scott, Paramount, Peplum, Sergio Corbucci, Steve Reeves

Sgt. York (1941) Restoration Before And After.

Before. And After.

Warner Archive has released a couple of minutes of Sgt. York (1941) to give us glimpse of what their upcoming Blu-Ray will look like — from a 4K scan of the best surviving 35mm nitrate elements.

Unbelievable. Coming October 13.

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Filed under Gary Cooper, Howard Hawks, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #316: The Train (1964).

Directed by John Frankenheimer
Starring Burt Lancaster, Paul Scofield, Jeanne Moreau

The Train (1965) is a terrific action picture – and though it takes place in the later days of World War II, it’s not a war movie in the usual sense. It was shot on location in France, blowing up real stuff and wrecking real trains, with Burt Lancaster doing his own stunts. 

Lancaster is a railroad worker and part of the French Resistance, near the end of the war in Europe, trying to keep the Nazis from leaving France with a train loaded with plundered artwork. He spends most of the film doing all he can to delay the train — knowing the Allies will arrive soon. Whether he’s wrecking trains, running around with a German MP 40 machine gun, or just standing around smoking, Lancaster is unbelievably cool in this movie.

Lancaster, Frankenheimer and The Train.

Arthur Penn was to direct, but he was fired after a few days. John Frankenheimer was brought in — and he stopped everything to rethink the picture a bit. As much as I like Arthur Penn, I think The Train was better suited to Frankenheimer. It’s a top-notch suspense film.

The B&W cinematography from Jean Tournier and Walter Wottitz is really something — so is the editing by David Bretherton. If the Kino Lorber Blu-Ray (coming in January) looks like the previous Twilight Time release, it’ll be stunning. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1964, Arthur Penn, Burt Lancaster, DVD/Blu-ray News, John Frankenheimer, Kino Lorber, United Artists

Blu-Ray News #315: Hell And High Water (1954).

Directed by Samuel Fuller
Starring Richard Widmark, Bella Darvi, Victor Francen, Richard Loo, Cameron Mitchell, Gene Evans, David Wayne

This terrific Sam Fuller Cold War paranoia picture was released on Blu-Ray a few years ago by Twilight Time. Now it’s on the way from Eureka, giving those of us who missed it last time a chance to pick it up.

High And High Water (1954) has so many things going for it. First, it’s a Sam Fuller picture, which is recommendation enough. It’s got a incredible performance from Richard Widmark, who could do just-short-of-unhinged better than about anybody. It’s an early CinemaScope movie, which comes with a particular stack of visual pros and cons — and encouraged longer takes that let the actors really do their thing. And, best of all, it’s a whacked-out anti-commie movie, the kind that could only come from the 50s.

The old Fox DVD left a lot to be desired, with the Twilight Time Blu-Ray treating Joseph MacDonald’s camerawork with respect. We can count on the same thing from Eureka, I’m sure. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1954, DVD/Blu-ray News, Eureka Entertainment, Richard Widmark, Sam Fuller

Let’s Help Bob With Bud And Lou And Jack!

Robert Furmanek restored one of Abbott & Costello’s funniest films, Africa Screams (1949), for its stunning Blu-Ray release, and he and his are are back with Jack And The Beanstalk (1952).

Working with the only surviving 35mm color camera negative footage, this should be incredible. As before, there will a Kickstarter campaign to help cover the restoration costs — and to let you help make it happen. More details to come!

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Filed under 1952, Abbott & Costello, ClassicFlix, DVD/Blu-ray News, Film Preservation, Jean Yarborough, Warner Bros.

Happy Birthday, Stella Stevens.

Stella Stevens (Estelle Eggleston)
(Born October 1, 1938)

Here’s wishing a happy birthday to Stella Stevens, an actress who was often wonderful — and always under-appreciated.

Working on a commentary for her picture Rage (1967) recently, I’ve been reminded again and again of how good she is. She’s seen here in The Silencers (1966), the first of the Matt Helm movies starring Dean Martin. She easily walks away with the movie.

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Filed under 1966, Dean Martin, Phil Karlson, Stella Stevens

DVD News #314: The Jungle Jim Movie Collection (1950-55).

The Jungle Jim Movie Collection from Critics’ Choice Collection gives us six of Sam Kaztman’s Jungle Jim pictures starring Johnny Weissmuller.

Mark Of The Gorilla (1950)
Directed by William Berke
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Trudy Marshall, Onslow Stevens

Pygmy Island (1950)
Directed by William Berke
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Ann Savage, David Bruce, Steven Geray, William Tannen, Tristram Coffin, Billy Curtis, Billy Barty

Fury Of The Congo (1951)
Directed by William Berke
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Sherry Moreland, William Henry, Lyle Talbot, John Hart

Jungle Manhunt (1951)
Directed by Lew Landers
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Bob Waterfield, Sheila Ryan, Rick Vallin, Lyle Talbot

Jungle Man-Eaters (1954)
Directed by Lee Sholem
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Karin Booth, Richard Stapley, Richard Wyler, Bernie Hamilton

Jungle Moon Men (1955)
Directed by Charles S. Gould
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Jean Byron, Helene Stanton, Bill Henry, Myron Healey

The transfers on these films are usually terrific. Let’s hope Jungle Man-Eaters (1954) and Jungle Moon Men (1955) are widescreen. They were 1.85 in theaters.

A few years ago, Umbrella Entertainment in Australia put out a six-movie/three-DVD set, The Jungle Jim Movie Collection. Get both sets and you’ll have 11 of the 16 Jungle Jim pictures.

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Filed under 1950, 1951, 1954, 1955, Columbia, Critics' Choice Collection, Johnny Weissmuller, Jungle Jim, Lyle Talbot, Myron Healey, Sam Katzman