Category Archives: 1951

Blu-Ray News #109: The Man From Planet X (1951).

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Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer
Starring Robert Clarke, Margaret Field, Raymond Bond, William Schallert

Another no-budget miracle from the incredible Edgar G. Ulmer. The Man From Planet X (1951) movie creeped me out so bad as a kid — and it still has an odd, unsettling quality to it unlike any other film I can think of.

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Filmed in just six days at Hal Roach Studios, on sets left over from Joan Of Arc (1948), it looks like most of the shoestring budget went to juice for the fog machine. It ended up being one of the first ( some say the first) alien-comes-to-earth movies. And I’d put it near the top of my Edgar Ulmer list.

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Shout Factory has this one touching down on Blu-Ray this summer. Highly, highly recommended. Let’s hope more Ulmer makes its way to Blu-Ray.

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Filed under 1951, DVD/Blu-ray News, Edgar G. Ulmer, Shout/Scream Factory, William Schallert

Superman And The Mole Men (1951).

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Directed by Lee Sholem
Original Screenplay by Richard Fielding
Cameraman: Clark Ramsey

Cast: George Reeves (Clark Kent/Superman), Phyllis Coates (Lois Lane), Jeff Corey (Luke Benson), Walter Reed (Bill Corrigan), J. Farrell MacDonald (Pop Sheridan), Stanley Andrews (The Sheriff)

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Judging from what little I’ve seen of them, the comic book movies they churn out these days aren’t my cup of tea. Far from it. Superman And The Mole Men (1951) is more to my taste. (For what it’s worth, my other favorite comic book/strip movies are the first Blondie feature, Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome,  The Lone Ranger with Clayton Moore, the 1966 Batman feature, Mario Bava’s Danger: Diabolik and The Rocketeer.)

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Clark Kent and Lois Lane travel from Metropolis to Silsby to do a story on the world’s deepest oil well. Out of that hole come the mole men, a group of maybe-radioactive midgets in furry suits and bald wigs who live in the center of the earth. The frightened townspeople, led by Jeff Corey (who’d soon be blacklisted), try to get rid of them, but Superman saves the day (along with the mole men).

Superman: “You’re not going to shoot those little creatures. In the first place, they haven’t done you any harm. In the second place, they may be radioactive.”

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Superman And The Mole Men kinda served as a pilot for the Superman TV series — and it would be split in half to create a two-part episode to wrap up the show’s first season. The movie’s the first time we see George Reeves as Clark Kent and Superman, and Phyllis Coates as Lois Lane. Shot (in a hurry) on the RKO-Pathé lot, it made use of some oil derricks down the street. Lippert Pictures released the feature, and the TV show would go into production not long after. Director Lee Sholem did a number of the episodes, too.

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It’s a cheap affair, to be sure. The mole men’s weapon appears to be a vacuum cleaner (Electrolux, perhaps?) with a funnel attached to one end. Superman doesn’t have all that much screen time, with much of the picture’s 58 minutes devoted to a couple of mole men trying to outrun the citizens of Silsby. But, Superman And The Mole Men has the distinction of being the first feature film based on a DC comic book. (I’m not counting the Batman and Superman serials.) And there’s a ragged charm to it you’ll never see in the big-budget, computer-effects-laden movies of today.

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On DVD, Warner Bros. added Superman And The Mole Men to the first season of the Adventures Of Superman TV show, which also includes the two-episode version. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1951, George Reeves, Lippert/Regal/API, Phyllis Coates, Television

Blu-ray News #55: Fixed Bayonets! (1951).

Fixed Bayonets poster

Written and directed by Sam Fuller
Starring Richard Basehart, Gene Evans, Michael O’Shea, Craig Hill, Skip Homeier, James Dean

Sam Fuller’s terrific tale of the Korean War, Fixed Bayonets! (1951), is coming to Blu-ray later this year from Kino Lorber. While there are plenty of reasons why this is such a good movie — the outstanding performances and Lucien Ballard’s camerawork are two key ones, it’s got a little footnote in movie history as the first thing James Dean appeared in. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1951, DVD/Blu-ray News, Kino Lorber, Sam Fuller

Blu-Ray News #51: The Thing From Another World (1951).

The Thing LC2Directed by Christian Nyby
Produced by Howard Hawks
Starring Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey, Robert Cornthwaite, Douglas Spencer, Paul Frees, John Dierkes, James Arness

It scared me to death as a kid. It’s one of my Top 10 favorite films. And it’s coming to Blu-ray in Japan. The Thing (1951) deserves a gorgeous hi-def transfer. Let’s hope it gets it.

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Filed under 1951, DVD/Blu-ray News, Howard Hawks, RKO, Uncategorized

The Jack Webb Blogathon: Behind The Badge.

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This post is part of The Jack Webb Blogathon, a celebration of his huge, and hugely influential, body of work. For more Webb on the web, appearing October 17-19, visit Dispatch (or click on the banner below).

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As The Jack Webb Blogathon comes to a close, here’s some interesting trivia about Jack Webb and his work.

In lieu of compensation for assistance and information, what did Jack Webb’s Mark VII Production Company do for the Los Angeles Police Department?
The Company made generous contributions to the Los Angeles Police Orphans and Widows Fund.

How did Dragnet get the stories as basis for their episodes?
Through an arrangement with the Los Angeles Police Department, an officer wrote up a three-page report void of names and intimate details. Dragnet writers filled in the blanks and wrote a story around it. They were not given access to actual police files.

Where did the number 714 come from on the famous badge?
Jack Webb thought 7 was a lucky number. The television series began in 1949 and Webb thought badges issued in the 700s was way in the future for police. So, he choose 7 as the first number and just doubled it for the last numbers – 14.

Mark VII Productions, Inc. was Jack Webb’s production company. What is the meaning behind the logo that can be seen at the end of Dragnet episodes (iron door with a hand pounding the Roman numerals with a hammer)?
Jack Webb “stole” the idea from Arm & Hammer baking soda. He said he liked the look of it as a kid. The door to him also meant strength. The VII for 7 was probably, again, use of his lucky number.

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Jack Webb used a real badge and revolver during the first run of Dragnet. What happened to those items after the show ended and what did he use for a badge and revolver in the new Dragnet show?
When the show ended in 1958, he returned the official, registered items to the LA Police Department, which had issued them to Webb for the show. He got them back from the Police Department for the new Dragnet show.

What Emergency! regular doubled for Jack Webb’s Joe Friday character in long shots on the original Dragnet?
Marco Lopez. He also had small parts on Dragnet, as well. He admitted that he liked to cook while on that show and the cast and crew got to partake in his hobby to their delight. This led to the fully-equipped kitchen at the firehouse on Emergency! — he could not only be a regular on the show, but keep on cookin’.

Which actor did Jack Webb want as Sgt. Joe Friday in the original series, but reluctantly took the role himself, when it didn’t pan out?
Lloyd Nolan, best known for his acting roles portraying private detectives Michael Shayne and Martin Kane.

In 1953, a famous movie producer friend and his wife sold their house to Jack Webb, so they could be closer to a park for their son. Who was this producer and what special thing did they do to the house to sell it to him?
Stanley Kramer. He and his wife replaced the doorbell with one that played “dum-da-dum-dum.”

What was the “Jack Webb Special?”
A deluxe, chartered airplane provided by Warner Brothers for Webb’s cross-country tour promoting Pete Kelly’s Blues (1955). It had an eight-person crew, dining room, bedroom and even a conference room.

Speaking of Pete Kelly’s Blues, Herm Saunders played the pianist. What was his relationship to Jack Webb in real life?
At the time, he was Webb’s press agent.

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Jack Webb directing Martin Milner and Kent McCord in the Adam-12 pilot.

How did Ozzie Nelson (of Ozzie And Harriet fame) come to direct a segment in an episode of Adam-12?
Nelson phoned Webb and requested the assignment. He said he wanted to work with his old family friend Kent McCord again. (As you may remember, McCord was a regular on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.) Nelson did such an impressive job, he was asked to direct the episode called “The D.A.”

Jack Webb turned down the chance to make a movie, which lead to great animosity between the guy who wrote the story for the movie and Kent McCord. Who was the author, what was the movie and why all the hostility?
Joseph Wambaugh wrote The New Centurions, among other books about police like The Onion Field and The Blue Knight. He also created and advised on the television show Police Story. After Webb declined to do The New Centurions, according to McCord, Wambaugh set out to tarnish the badges of Jack Webb and his Adam-12. In interviews, Wambaugh would misquote McCord, trash the show’s acting and call into question the realism of the characters they portray. McCord was hot under the collar about Wambaugh’s mouthing off and was quoted as saying: “He spends his days sitting on his rear and reading burglary reports. I think he‘s out of touch with the guys who patrol the streets,” and “He shouldn’t be telling me how to act. I don’t give him advice on how to read burglary reports.” He also didn‘t like how Wambaugh‘s police characters were “jerks“ or “petty criminals,” which of course was an insult itself to Jack Webb’s style. McCord went on to say about Wambaugh, “If he had anything to say he could tell it to my face or I’d punch him in the face,” and “I’m tired of picking up newspapers and magazines and seeing Wambaugh rap me. If he keeps it up I’m going to rap him.”

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Hopefully, this blogathon has you wanting to see more Jack Webb, or better yet, own it. (I can’t wait to revisit The D.I.) Here’s where you can get the stuff written about over the weekend. Physical evidence, I guess you could say.

Dragnet (TV, 1951-59)
Public domain episodes are available from various companies. Quality varies from pretty darn good to absolutely wretched. You can also find some on YouTube and Roku.

Dragnet (Feature, 1954)
Available from Universal’s Vault program. If I didn’t consider this movie absolutely essential to life as a human, I’d tell you to wait till it was redone, preferably for Blu-ray.

Dragnet (TV, 1967-70)
You’ll find Dragnet on MeTV and Hulu Plus, along with Adam-12 and Emergency! They’re also on DVD from Shout Factory, complete with some really terrific extras, including the 1966 TV movie.

He Walked By Night (1948)
Several DVD sources for this one. Stay away from Alpha, and you’ll be OK.

Dark City (1950)
This is available on DVD from Olive Films—and in the same Blu-ray noir set as Appointment With Danger.

Appointment With Danger (1951)
Olive Films has brought this to DVD as a stand-alone disc and on Blu-ray as part of a film noir set.

Pete Kelly’s Blues (1955)
Warner Brothers brought this out on DVD, and Warner Archive recently announced a Blu-ray. Can’t wait.

The D.I. (1957)
You can get this one on DVD from Warner Archive (and you should).

-30- (1959)
Again, our friends at Warner Archive can set you up with this one on DVD.

SOURCES: Various newspapers, 1954-1976
Thanks to my wife Jennifer for researching and writing the trivia stuff.

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Filed under 1951, 1954, 1955, 1957, 1959, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, DVD/Blu-ray News, Harry Morgan, Jack Webb, Janet Leigh, Kent McCord, Martin Milner, MeTV, Olive Films, Shout/Scream Factory, Television, Warner Archive