Category Archives: 1953

DVD News #320: Crazylegs (1953).

Directed by Francis D. Lyon
Written & Produced by Hall Bartlett
Starring Elroy ‘Crazylegs’ Hirsch, Lloyd Nolan, Joan Vohs, James Millican, The Los Angeles Rams

Seems like everybody’s talking about football these days (sure hope Damar Hamlin’s OK). Well, here’s something for us old movie nuts to talk about — Kit Parker has brought Crazylegs (1953) to DVD. It’s the story of Elroy ‘Crazylegs’ Hirsch, a football star at the University Of Wisconsin and the University Of Michigan — and later with the LA Rams.

Hirsch plays himself and does a fine job. He’d go on to have a pretty solid, if short-lived, run in the movies. Hall Bartlett wrote and produced the picture, with Republic handling distribution.

Kit Parker has loaded the DVD with some nice old extras — and a new featurette on Bartlett from Ballyhoo. I’m a big fan of Ballyhoo’s work and got to work on the script for their piece here. It’s a cool little movie and a very nice presentation. Recommended.

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Filed under 1953, DVD/Blu-ray News, Kit Parker, Republic Pictures

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.

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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

Blu-Ray News #309: The Abbott & Costello Show, Season 2 (1953-54).

The Abbott & Costello Show, Season 1 Blu-Ray set from The 3-D Film Archive and ClassicFlix was really something to see. It blew everybody away. Well, now they’re getting started with Season 2. The Kickstarter campaign has begun, and I encourage you to get in on it. The restorations/transfers (from the camera negatives) and extras will be incredible, as we’ve come to expect from these folks. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1953, 1954, Abbott & Costello, ClassicFlix, DVD/Blu-ray News, Television, The 3-D Film Archive

DVD News #403: The William Castle Adventures Collection (1953-54)

We can all use some good news these days, and this is good news indeed. Critics Choice has announced a DVD set featuring four adventure pictures from William Castle and Sam Katzman — The William Castle Adventures Collection — coming in September.

All four films were shot in Technicolor (none were in 3-D). The transfers should be terrific. The 1954 films should be widescreen, either 1.66 or 1.85.

Sam Katzman, Rhonda Fleming & William Castle. Fleming holds the Serpent Of The Nile.

Serpent Of The Nile (1953)
Starring Rhonda Fleming, William Lundigan, Raymond Burr, Michael Ansara, Julie Newmar

Castle’s first film for Katzman (he’d been at Columbia in the 40s), it’s an epic done on the cheap (as you might expect). Rhonda Fleming is Cleopatra, wandering around on sets left over from Columbia’s much bigger (but not nearly as much fun) Salome (1953). Another director from Katzman’s unit, Fred F. Sears, serves as narrator.

The Iron Glove (1954)
Starring Robert Stack, Ursula Thiess, Richard Stapley, Alan Hale Jr.

In this two-week swashbuckler, the Columbia backlot doubles as Scotland. Robert Stack would soon do The High And The Mighty (1954), which would give his career a boost. Katzman wanted Cornel Wilde in the lead, and at one point the title was to have been The Kiss And The Sword.

Charge Of The Lancers (1954)
Starring Paulette Goddard, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Karin Booth

Castle and Katzman raid the costume department again, this time going for the Crimean War of the 1850s (don’t expect any actual historic accuracy). One of Paulette Goddard’s last films. 

The Saracen Blade (1954)
Starring Ricardo Montalbán, Betta St. John, Rick Jason, Carolyn Jones

This was the last of Katzman and Castle’s pictures like this, and this one takes on the Crusades. There was talk of filming this in Italy, but it was probably just that, talk. In his wonderful book Step Right Up! I’m Gonna Scare The Pants Off America, Castle wrote that for “three years I had been up to my ass in queens, kings and jokers.” He’d also been making plenty of Westerns for Katzman, and in 1958, he’d go independent and make his own series of gimmicky horror pictures, most of which Columbia would release.

These cheap and tacky little movies are a lot of fun. I cannot recommend this set highly enough. Can’t wait to get my hands on it!

Thanks to John Hall for the tip!

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Filed under 1953, 1954, Carolyn Jones, Columbia, Critics' Choice Collection, DVD/Blu-ray News, Fred F. Sears, Julie Newmar, Karin Booth, Rhonda Fleming, Sam Katzman, William Castle

4K News #400: When Worlds Collide (1951) And War Of The Worlds (1953).

Paramount is bringing George Pal’s masterpieces When Worlds Collide (1951) and War Of The Worlds (1953) to 4K as a double bill — which is how I saw these back in 1977. They were re-released, with the poster above, when everybody went sci-fi nuts over Star Wars (1977). Those of us who were lucky, got to see original IB Tech prints. They were glorious!

These pictures have already made it to Blu-Ray and they both look great. This 4K bump sounds exciting.

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Filed under 1951, 1953, DVD/Blu-ray News, Gene Barry, George Pal, Paramount, Paul Frees

Blu-Ray News #390: I, The Jury (1953) In 3-D!

Directed by Harry Essex
Starring Biff Elliot, Preston Foster, Peggie Castle, Margaret Sheridan, Alan Reed, John Qualen, Joe Besser, Elisha Cook, Jr.

Peggie Castle appears in the first film based on one of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer novels — and it’s in 3-D shot by the great John Alton. And to top it all off, the folks at The 3-D Film Archive are getting I, The Jury (1953) ready for Blu-Ray for ClassicFlix.

Will come through with more info as it comes available. Man, I can’t wait!

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Filed under 1953, 3-D, ClassicFlix, DVD/Blu-ray News, Elisha Cook, Jr., John Alton, Peggie Castle, United Artists

Blu-Ray News #386: Invaders From Mars (1953).

Directed by William Cameron Menzies
Starring Helena Carter, Arthur Franz, Jimmy Hunt, Leif Erickson, Hillary Brooke, Morris Ankrum, Douglas Kennedy

Finally! Ignite Films has announced a new 4K restoration of William Cameron Menzies’ Invaders From Mars (1953), coming to Blu-ray and 4K this Fall.

This is one movie nuts have been wanting since the minute high-definition reached our homes. Young David MacLean (Jimmy Hunt) discovers an alien invasion of his hometown — and no one will believe him. After all, he’s just a kid — and the townspeople are increasingly coming under the aliens’ mind control. David finds a couple of scientists (Arthur Franz and Helena Carter) who will believe him, and it’s up to them to thwart the alien invasion.

This plays a bit like a kid’s version of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956), brilliantly designed and directed by William Cameron Menzies in SuperCinecolor. Menzies uses David’s point of view throughout, even keeping his camera at kid-level. Jimmy Hunt is excellent, which is a big part of the picture’s effectiveness. 

Absolutely 100% completely totally essential.

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Filed under 1953, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hillary Brooke, Morris Ankrum

The Abbott & Costello Show, Season 1.

I’m hesitant to actually review a DVD or Blu-Ray title that I have something to do with. But I have to say something about this one.

It was a real honor to provide a commentary for an episode (“The Western”) of new The Abbott & Costello Show, Season 1 Blu-Ray set from The 3-D Film Archive and ClassicFlix. The restorations/transfers (from the camera negatives) are incredible and the package is first-class.

Of course, the series itself is terrific, one of my all-time favorite TV shows. So if you’re a fan of it, this set is an absolute must.

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Filed under 1952, 1953, Abbott & Costello, ClassicFlix, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hillary Brooke, Television, The 3-D Film Archive

Blu-Ray News #296: The War Of The Worlds (1953).

Directed by Byron Haskin
Starring Gene Barry, Ann Robinson, Les Tremayne, Jack Kruschen, Henry Brandon

The Criterion Collection has announced that they’ll unleash a Blu-Ray of the 4K restoration of George Pal’s The War Of The Worlds (1953) in July. In typical Criterion fashion, it’ll be piled high with extras.

Saw this in a re-release in the late 70s, paired with When Worlds Collide (1951). The War Of The Worlds was terrific — one of the best science fiction films of the 50s (hell, ever!), and they were both beautiful to look at. Can’t wait to see how that incredible Technicolor will look after a 4K touch-up. Absolutely essential.

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Filed under 1953, Criterion Collection, DVD/Blu-ray News, Gene Barry, George Pal, Paramount

Blu-Ray News #286: The War Of The Worlds (1953).

Directed by Byron Haskin
Starring Gene Barry, Ann Robinson, Les Tremayne, Jack Kruschen, Henry Brandon

Here’s one we’ve all been waiting for. The Australian label Imprint has announced a brand new 4K restoration of The War Of The Worlds (1953), coming to Blu-Ray on May 27.

This is one of the films caught up in the widescreen push of 1953-54. Wonder how it’ll be presented? Sounds like it’ll be piled high with extras. Not sure about its Region status, but this will be essential.

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Filed under 1953, DVD/Blu-ray News, Gene Barry, George Pal, Imprint Films, Paramount, Uncategorized