DVD Review: William Castle Adventures Collection (1953-54).

My copy of the eagerly-awaited Critics’ Choice Collection four-feature, two-DVD William Castle Adventures Collection arrived yesterday. Will have a proper, more in-depth review of one of the titles soon, but thought I’d go ahead and share some thoughts on the collection as a whole.

The four films here are Serpent Of The Nile (1953), The Iron Glove (1954), Charge Of The Lancers (1954) and The Saracen Blade (1954). They were all shot in Technicolor in that crazy transitional period when Hollywood went through all sorts of technical turmoil — Scope, 3D, Eastmancolor, stereophonic sound and a number of spherical aspect ratios. From all that comes the trouble with this set.

The color’s quite nice from one picture to the next. Putting two features on a single DVD may affect the overall picture quality a bit, but I don’t have any complaints there.

Then we get to the aspect ratios, and things get pretty whacked out. Charge Of The Lancers was released in 1.66, and that’s the way it’s presented here. A nice anamorphic transfer — the jewel of this package.

The Iron Glove and The Saracen Blade were both 1.85. That’s how they’re framed here (once you get past the Columbia logo), but they’re not anamorphic. So, as you’re probably aware, that means they appear as a rectangle centered in the middle of our 16×9 TVs. Not ideal, but certainly watchable. (If your TV has a zoom feature, that’ll help.)

The real trouble comes with Serpent Of The Nile. Released in 1953, it was shot full-frame (1.37). Here, it’s cropped for 1.85 (after the titles) and non-anamorphic. There are plenty of heads and titles cut off throughout. It’s a real mess, even though the color is excellent. (There’s currently a decent, properly-framed version on YouTube.)

These goofy little movies from Sam Katzman and William Castle, two my favorite filmmakers, are junk, perhaps, but they’re wonderful junk. Critics’ Choice (and Mill Creek) license these films from Columbia and work with the material the studio provides. Usually, stuff from Columbia is beautiful. In this case, what Critics’ Choice was sent for three of the four films should’ve been sent back. Happy to have this set, but have to admit I’m disappointed.

Advertisement

20 Comments

Filed under 1953, 1954, Carolyn Jones, Columbia, Critics' Choice Collection, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Julie Newmar, Karin Booth, Mill Creek, Rhonda Fleming, Sam Katzman, William Castle

20 responses to “DVD Review: William Castle Adventures Collection (1953-54).

  1. John W Hall

    Got mine yesterday and I was very unhappy with the set. Usually these Sony sets from Critics’ Choice look amazingly good. I have the Durango Kid, Buck Jones, Bill Elliott and Jungle Jim sets just to name a fwq. This is the exception to the rule.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. john k

    As you can see I am having the usual WordPress probs which
    happen from time to time here and on other blogs
    I think I’ve solved it so here goes…….
    These Mill Creek/Critic’s Choice sets take some time to turn up
    on Amazon or ebay UK so I’ve not been able to order yet and
    due to Toby’s review and John’s comments I don’t think I will-
    there is just so much out there to buy at the moment.
    There is so much lurking in Columbia’s vaults especially for
    B Movie lovers-more Boston Blackie would not go amiss-
    especially the one where Steve Cochran plays an escaped psycho.
    Also a Crime Doctor set would be very desirable.
    Normally these Mill Creek sets are fine the recent Alan Ladd
    triple was very good and their version of THE BLACK KNIGHT
    was superb in lovely widescreen too.
    THE BLACK KNIGHT was the sort of stuff Sam would have done
    if he had more cash but it’s just as silly with scantily clad Pagan
    dancing girls cavorting around Stonehenge and Peter Cushing
    and Patrick Troughton (for Dr Who fans) as the two despicable
    villains…..a guilty pleasure if ever there was one.

    Like

  3. Barry Lane

    I usually have no interest in Bill Castle or Same Katzman, especially Sam, but based on the cast I made it point to see Serpent of The Nile. My bias was confirmed. Just terrible.

    Like

  4. john k

    I may be wrong but I believe only CHARGE OF THE LANCERS
    has had an official DVD release so the other titles are pretty
    rare and perhaps not all of Columbia’s masters are in tip top
    condition. The quality on their “Choice Collection” DVD’s were
    very good indeed.
    I’m very keen to see a couple of early (1946) John Sturges
    Columbia B’s THE MAN WHO DARED and SHADOWED
    I’d love Mill Creek to issue those in a double bill.
    The Sam Katzman William Castle films were just fun movies
    nothing more and yes,Barry, Fleming and Lundigan were much
    better suited to INFERNO well worth tracking down.
    Some of Castle’s early B Pictures are excellent especially the
    “Whistler” films-I’d love to see some of his Crime Doctor and
    Boston Blackie movies.
    I’ve been after a very early Castle Monogram picture
    WHEN STRANGERS MARRY not knowing Warner Archive
    released it several years ago as BETRAYED it’s alternative
    title.
    BETRAYED is a really cool little movie with Robert Mitchum,
    Kim Hunter and Dean Jagger and it’s a model B Flick if ever
    there was one rather creepy and very Noirish.

    Like

  5. Barry Lane

    John,
    The Whistler series were studio productions and Castle an employee, but not much more. In all of his personal products, there are gaps in logic and taste, despite occasional adequate casting. As for Fleming, Lundigan, and Burr, they were the attraction. Unfortunate.

    Like

    • With pictures from Castle and/or Katzman (and many others), whatever I know about how a good film works is totally stomped into the ground by nostalgia.

      Plus, it’s films like these that made me love movies to begin with. Objectivity, for me, is impossible.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Walter

        Toby. I’m in the same boat with you on this one. Sure, these movies aren’t masterpieces, but as John K says they are, “just fun movies, nothing more.” As a youngster, back in the 1960’s, I would get home from school, after a 20 mile school bus ride, and turn on the black and white 26 inch RCA tv and see what was airing on Memphis’ WREC Channel 3 EARLY MOVIE. These and other movies, of their like, were shown and I enjoyed them for what they are.

        Personally, I’m very nostalgic right down to the bone, for all the movies that I saw on those EARLY MOVIE’S. All the Westerns with Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea, Audie Murphy, Rod Cameron, William Elliott, and others. The Gangster movies with Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney, George Raft, Humphrey Bogart, and others. The ladies, well what can I say, Joan Crawford, Joan Blondell, Claudette Colbert, Jean Arthur, Carole Lombard, Bette Davis, Maureen O’Sullivan, and so many others. The Science Fiction and Fantasy movies. The Horror, War, Adventure, Screwball, Biblical, and so many others that made me fall in love with movies from the get go.

        Those were they days. LONG LIVE NOSTALGIA!

        Like

  6. john k

    Up until now,as far as I know these Critic’s Choice sets are
    compiled of previously released material-a lot of it from Sony
    ChoiceCollection MOD DVD’s so the quality has always been
    good as all films issued on that series were remastered in high
    definition.
    With this Castle set again, as far as I know, SERPENT OF THE
    NILE, THE SACARCEN BLADE and THE IRON GLOVE have
    never appeared on disc before.
    I find this quiet exciting as as mentioned before there are just
    so many unreleased B Movies wasting away in Sony’s vaults.
    With vintage B Movies like the Boston Blackies and The Crime
    Doctor series these were all B & W and all 4×3 so no ratio
    problems there.
    I always find with old B & W movies as long as the quality
    is not horrendous you can always make adjustments by
    varying the brightness controls on your TV along with the
    controls on your disc player-to come up with something pretty
    decent.
    I will look forward to further Mill Creek Critic’s Choice sets
    with great interest.
    Castle was an expert of making something out of nothing
    and his Whistler movies and WHEN STRANGERS MARRY
    have a rather unique feel about them which raise them far
    out of the ordinary.

    Like

    • What really bothers me about this is that Serpent Of The Nile could be lovely — just get rid of the cropping at the top and bottom. The picture itself — what little of it we can see — is really nice.

      Not trying to knock Critics’ Choice. They’ve done some really nice stuff and I’m sure they will continue with that. Jungle Jim volume 2, anyone?

      Like

  7. john k

    With Noir even more popular than ever I don’t think that they
    can go wrong with Boston Blackie and Crime Doctor….OK they
    are not really Noirs but have many Noirish elements and most
    Noir fans will love them. I’m all for 30’s/40’s B Movies
    getting released-the more obscure the better and if branding
    them as Noir generates sales-well what’s wrong with that.
    The early John Sturges B I mentioned earlier SHADOWED
    just sounds like a Noir even if it’s not…that’s the sort of title
    that I’d love to see get releases.

    Good old Sam….God Bless Him he always drives up the
    responses whenever he appears on the H8.

    Like

    • Yes indeed, Sam’s good for the blog business around here!

      Those Kit Parker noir sets through Mill Creek were wonderful. Imagine going back to the 30s for similar crime/noir-ish stuff — like maybe Hillyer’s State Trooper from 1933. I’m in!

      Like

      • Bert Greene

        Hmm. A Columbia ‘Vintage Police” Collection. Pretty nifty idea. It could include “State Trooper” (1933), “Police Car 17” (1933), “The Line-up” (1934), “Highway Patrol” (1938), “Homicide Bureau” (1939), and “The Officer and the Lady” (1941).

        Although, I actually believe “Highway Patrol” is considered lost. Sorry to hear that the Castle ‘Adventure’ collection is a bit flawed. I was really looking forward to that one.

        Like

  8. Walter

    Bert, you always have a list of movies that intrigue me. POLICE CAR 17(1933) a non-Western starring Tim McCoy, Ward Bond, and Evalyn Knapp. Also, it was written and directed by Lambert Hillyer. HOMICIDE BUREAU(filmed 1938, released 1939) with Rita Hayworth, Bruce Cabot, and Marc Lawrence. THE OFFICER AND THE LADY(1941) with Rochelle Hudson, Bruce Bennett, and Sidney Blackmer. Also, written by Lambert Hillyer.

    HIGHWAY PATROL(1938) with Robert Paige, Jacqueline Wells(Julie Bishop), and James Millican, Also, it was photographed by Lucian Ballard. A lost movie, which I hope turns up somewhere. Maybe in Argentina or Australia. The movie was aired on New York City television in 1958.

    POLICE CAR 17, HOMICIDE POLICE, and THE OFFICER AND THE LADY can be found online.

    STATE TROOPER(filmed 1932, released 1933) with Regis Toomey, Evalyn Knapp, Barbara Weeks, Raymond Hatton, and Ward Bond. Also, story by Lambert Hillyer. THE LINE-UP(1934) with William Gargan, Marion Nixon, Paul Hurst, and Francis McDonald. Also, written by George Waggoner. Can these two movies be found anywhere?

    Like

    • Bert Greene

      Hey Walter! Well, I’ve been keeping my eye out for “State Trooper” and “The Line-Up” for decades, but haven’t encountered them anywhere. I have a single original still for each, but that’s it. Some of those Columbia films of that vintage still seem tightly locked away in the vaults to this very day.

      There’s also another little Columbia film I’ve hoped to catch with Johnny Mack Brown and Sally Blane, entitled “Against the Law” (1934), but it’s not a ‘police’ film necessarily. I think Brown plays an ambulance driver. Films as these are admittedly modest little affairs, and usually don’t provide big aesthetic kicks, but they can be fascinating little cultural relics of their eras, both visually and attitudinally.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Walter

        Bert, AGAINST THE LAW(1934) another obscure movie directed by Lambert Hillyer. I don’t think this one was ever released to television.

        I haven’t viewed POLICE CAR 17, HOMICIDE POLICE, and THE OFFICER AND THE LADY yet, but I intend to. Thanks for the heads up and I agree that these movies are cultural relics of their eras, but that is what makes them fascinating.

        Like

  9. john k

    Dear Bert & Walter,
    Your backtracking to these rare 30’s Crime Flicks has really made
    me drool-I enjoyed reading your posts so much.
    Guys like Lambert Hillyer really deserve more respect-I’ve seen
    clips of POLICE CAR 17 on line and it look incredibly violent-
    almost an earlier version of DIRTY HARRY.
    These are the kind of pictures I’d love Mill Creek/Critic’s
    Choice to release.
    I also agree about the cultural references in these old movies-
    jumping ahead to the 40’s I recently tracked down a Euro DVD
    of YOUTH RUNS WILD (1945) a Val Lewton production-not
    great as drama or indeed as a thriller but as a social document
    intriguing.
    Also considering the 40’s I’ve been watching a whole heap of
    Lawrence Tierney films from his heyday-these were wonderful
    little thrillers (THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE,SAN QUENTIN…)
    and really MOVED.
    Bert-I recall that you had a none to memorable encounter with
    Mr Tierney some time back-he may not have been a very nice
    guy but those movies are great.

    Like

  10. Bert Greene

    John, oh I harbor no ill feelings towards Tierney whatsoever. In fact, I enjoy his work. Just found him to be a mental nutburger. Never had much truck with crazy people over the course of my life, so the encounter certain stood out!

    Isn’t there some rights problem keeping “The Devil Thumbs a Ride” (1947) from being released officially? I still have an old VHS copy I taped off-air, but it would be nice to upgrade.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Walter

    John K and Bert.

    John, talk about drooling over these movies. What a gem of a list you brought up. YOUTH RUNS WILD(filmed 1943, released 1944 in USA), THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE(filmed 1946, released 1947), and SAN QUENTIN(1946). These movies are right up my lane. I’d add STEP BY STEP(filmed 1945-46, released 1946) starring Lawrence Tierney and Anne Jeffreys. Tierney is a good guy in this one and where else are you going to view Tierney and Jeffreys both in swimsuits.

    Bert I viewed POLICE CAR 17(1933) online(John K, I know you don’t like to view movies online, but in my case, sometimes a viewer has to do what a viewer has to do). I really enjoyed this time capsule. Tim McCoy and Ward Bond as radio car patrolmen. This movie is a fast-paced 58 minutes, with a lot packed into it. I got a kick out of the car chase scenes involving the early 1930’s automobiles. I don’t think officer Tim Conlon’s(Tim McCoy) method of interrogating Johnny Davis(Harold Huber) would go down too well today, but you have to see it to believe it. Also, I enjoyed the carnival and masquerade party scenes with Evalyn Knapp. Good movie.

    For anyone who may have missed Bert Greene’s comments on meeting Lawrence Tierney, you can find them here:

    https://thehannibal8.wordpress.com/2018/10/25/blu-ray-review-queen-of-outer-space-1957/

    Like

  12. john k

    Bert & Walter……….

    Firstly Walter thanks so much for that link to Bert’s encounter
    with Tierney-too bad-at one point he really had a career but I
    guess the studios got wise to his antics… to think in BORN TO
    KILL he had top billing over the already very well established
    Claire Trevor.
    DVD Beaver reviewed the Spanish DVD of THE DEVIL THUMBS
    A RIDE back in 2012 and stated that rights issues are preventing
    the film getting released.
    The Spanish DVD is still available and has subtitles that
    cannot be removed by the disc’s menu-but I was able to
    delete them via my players add on features.
    The picture quality is just OK I’ve seen worse!
    THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE is a model B Movie and Tierney
    is so good at doing what he does best.
    There’s all sorts of obscure RKO titles appearing in Spain
    HIGHWAYS BY NIGHT I enjoyed very much with Richard
    Carlson and Jane Randolph-the picture quality is pretty good
    I thought and the Spanish subs can be removed from the discs
    menu.
    Even more obscure is ONE CROWDED NIGHT with a very young
    Gale Storm. ONE CROWDED NIGHT is no classic-it’s more
    of a curio, and I like curios.
    Some of these Spanish DVD’s of old RKO films have nest little
    booklets (in Spanish) with nice color pics of posters/lobby cards.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s