Category Archives: 1954

Blu-Ray News #352: Columbia Noir #4.

Indicator/Powerhouse’s terrific noir series continues with Volume Four, and I’m proud to be playing a tiny part in this one. All six films are coming to Blu-ray for the first time anywhere. Among the extras are commentaries, documentaries, trailers, six Three Stooges shorts and a 120-page book.

Walk A Crooked Mile (1948)
Directed by Gordon Douglas
Starring Dennis O’Keefe, Louis Hayward, Louise Allbritton, Carl Esmond, Onslow Stevens, Raymond Burr, Art Baker. Frank Ferguson 

The Commies have infiltrated an atomic research center in California. It’s up to an FBI agent (Dennis O’Keefe) and a Scotland Yard detective (Louis Hayward) to find ’em. Gordon Douglas directed. Look at that cast. It’s gotta be good.

Walk East On Beacon! (1952)
Directed by Alfred L. Werker
Starring George Murphy, Finlay Currie, Virginia Gilmore

This time the FBI agent is George Murphy, and he’s after Commies in Boston, trying to stop ’em from snagging a top scientist. 

Pushover (1954)
Directed by Richard Quine
Starring Fred MacMurray, Phil Carey, Kim Novak, Dorothy Malone, EG Marshall

Fred MacMurray’s a cop tempted by $200,000 in bank heist loot and one of the robbers’ girlfriend, Kim Novak (in her first movie). Can you really blame him?

A Bullet Is Waiting (1954)
Directed by John Farrow
Starring Jean Simmons, Rory Calhoun, Stephen McNally, Brian Aherne

Rory Calhoun’s a prisoner who gets away from sheriff Stephen McNally after a plane crash. They both end up in a cabin with Jean Simmons. She doesn’t know who to trust, and the tension builds for a solid 90 minutes.

Chicago Syndicate (1955)
Directed by Fred F. Sears
Starring Dennis O’Keefe, Paul Stewart, Abbe Lane, Allison Hayes, Xavier Cugat

An accountant (Dennis O’Keefe) helps the FBI crack the Syndicate in Chicago. A solid crime picture from Sam Katzman and Fred F. Sears, with a terrific performance from Paul Stewart as a mob boss and great location work. The commentary for this one comes from some clod named Toby Roan.

The Brothers Rico
Directed by Phil Karlson
Starring Richard Conte, Dianne Foster, Kathryn Grant, Larry Gates, James Darren, Paul Picerni

Eddie Rico (Richard Conte) is a Mob bookkeeper, and his plan to go straight does not go over well with his brothers (James Darren, Paul Picerni) or his boss (Larry Gates). Another tough, essential movie from the great Phil Karlson.

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Filed under 1954, 1955, Allison Hayes, Columbia, Dennis O'Keefe, DVD/Blu-ray News, Frank Ferguson, Fred F. Sears, Fred MacMurray, Gordon Douglas, Paul Picerni, Rory Calhoun

DVD Review: Jungle Man-Eaters (1954).

Directed by Lee Sholem
Produced by Sam Katzman
Story & Screen Play by Samuel Newman
Cinematography: Henry Freulich
Film Editor: Gene Havlick

Cast: Johnny Weissmuller (Jungle Jim), Karin Booth (Dr. Bonnie Crandall), Richard Wyler (Inspector Jeffrey Bernard), Bernie Hamilton (Zuwaba), Gregory Gaye (Leroux), Lester Matthews (Commissioner Kingston), Paul Thompson (Zulu), Vince Townsend, Jr. (Chief Boganda), Louise Franklin (N’Gala), Tamba

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Critics’ Choice and Mill Creek have released a six-movie set of Jungle Jim movies (there are 16 of ’em, 1948 – 1955), pulled from the middle to the end of series (’50-’55). The next-to-last picture in the set is Jungle Man-Eaters (1954).

The later Jungle Jim movies look even cheaper than the early ones, with a very heavy reliance on stock footage. Even some of the Johnny Weissmuller shots look like footage from previous entries, given away by the new 1.85 framing. In this one, Jungle Jim (Weissmuller) gets involved in a war between tribes largely orchestrated by Leroux, a French diamond smuggler. Pretty Kari Booth (I’ve always liked her) is a doctor along for the ride, and she gets caught up in the birth of the son of one of the warring tribes’ leader. Tamba dresses up like a doctor, torments Karin Booth, does plenty of flips and eats a lot of bananas.

Despite the title and ads, there are cannibals, no man is eaten (“human banquet”) and Karin Booth’s legs are never threatened by fire.

While there are three more pictures in the series, this is the last one where Weissmuller is actually called Jungle Jim. Producer Sam Katzman has Weissmuller use his own name for the rest of the run, probably because Screen Gems had signed with King Features to use the character in a TV series, again with Weissmuller. It debuted about the time the last feature, Devil Goddess, hit theaters in October 1955.

Jungle Man-Eaters features the work of the couple of guys who toiled quite a bit on Katzman pictures: director Lee Sholem and cinematographer Henry Freulich.

Sholem was known as “Roll ‘Em Sholem” for how quickly he worked. He directed over 1,300 features and TV shows over the course of four decades. They say he never went over schedule. One of his masterworks is Superman And The Mole Men (1951).

Henry Freulich had been behind the camera since the Silents. He was a cameraman on The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (1922). He was at Columbia for years and years, shooting everything from It Happened One Night (1934) to over a hundred Three Stooges shorts to all sorts of wonderful things in the 50s — pictures like William Castle’s Masterson Of Kansas (1954), It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955), Fred F. Sears’s Teen-Age Crime Wave (1955) and George Sherman’s Reprisal! (1956).

Freulich’s work on Jungle Man-Eaters looks terrific on DVD in this set. In fact, all six boast the gorgeous transfers we’ve come to expect of cheap Columbia movies from this period. A lot of us have been waiting quite a while for Jungle Jim to make his way out of the jungle and onto DVD. This collection is worth the wait — and hopefully the first of several volumes. Recommened.

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Filed under 1954, Columbia, Critics' Choice Collection, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Johnny Weissmuller, Jungle Jim, Karin Booth, Lee Sholem, Mill Creek, Sam Katzman

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

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

Blu-Ray News #282-A: Dragnet (1954).

Directed by Jack Webb
Starring Jack Webb, Ben Alexander, Richard Boone, Ann Robinson, Stacy Harris, Virginia Gregg, Victor Perrin, Georgia Ellis, James Griffith, Dennis Weaver, Dub Taylor

Update: Kino Lorber has announced a November 17 release date for their Blu-Ray of the 1954 Dragnet feature. They’ve also provided some info about what’s coming.

Special Features and Technical Specs:
• NEW 2K RESTORATION 
• TWO PRESENTATIONS OF THE FILM: IN 1.75:1 & 1.37:1 RATIOS
• Audio Commentary by Toby Roan
• Theatrical Trailer
• Optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature

When you do one of these commentaries, of course, you end up going through the movie many, many times. You can get kinda sick of it by the time you’re through. Not with this one. There was always a rant from Jack Webb, a cool LA location or something around the corner to look forward to. It never got old. 

It’s easy to recommend this one, and if you get it, I encourage you to stick to the 1.75 widescreen version. It gives it a fresh, crisp look — and it’s what Webb and DP Edward Colman were going for. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1954, DVD/Blu-ray News, Jack Webb, James H. Griffith, Kino Lorber, Television, Warner Bros.

Blu-Ray News #282: Dragnet (1954).

Directed by Jack Webb
Starring Jack Webb, Ben Alexander, Richard Boone, Ann Robinson, Stacy Harris, Virginia Gregg, Victor Perrin, Georgia Ellis, James Griffith, Dennis Weaver, Dub Taylor

A friend and I were talking a couple months ago about the movies we really wanted to see on Blu-Ray. That’s the kind of thing movie geeks do to pass the time. Well, I put the 1954 Dragnet feature in my top spot, and Kino Lorber has announced it for Blu-Ray later this year. You can imagine how stoked I am.

aadrag10This movie’s got everything that makes the original Dragnet TV show so perfect, only more of it. The same no-nonsense style (with a few camera moves here and there), the same character actors and the same Joe Friday (Jack Webb) talking smack to every crook he comes across. There’s more violence (Dub Taylor gets shot in the face before the WB shield even shows up!), widescreen, WarnerColor and a majestic version of the theme song from the Warner Bros. orchestra. This is one of my favorite movies, and the old DVD is atrocious.

UPDATE (2/12/2020) — I will have the extreme privilege of doing a commentary for this one. It may present the film in both 1.37 and 1.75 aspect ratios. It was a very early non-anamorphic widescreen film.

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Filed under 1954, DVD/Blu-ray News, Jack Webb, James H. Griffith, Warner Bros.

DVD News #273: The Jungle Jim Movie Collection.

Boy, am I stoked about this! Umbrella Entertainment in Australia has put together a six-movie/three-DVD set, The Jungle Jim Movie Collection, something Sam Katzman fans have been screaming for for years. It includes:

Jungle Jim (1948)
Directed by William Berke
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Virginia Grey, George Reeves, Lita Baron

Voodoo Tiger (1952)
Directed by Spencer G. Bennet
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, James Seay, Jean Byron

Savage Mutiny (1953)
Directed by Spencer G. Bennet
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Angela Stevens, Lester Matthews, Nelson Leigh

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

Cannibal Attack (1954)
Directed by Lee Sholem
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Judy Walsh, David Bruce

Devil Goddess (1955)
Directed by Spencer G. Bennet
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Angela Stevens, Selmer Jackson

The six pictures in the set range from the first to the last of the 16 Jungle Jim movies. Every indication is that this is Region Free. This is the kind of stuff that will make 2020 a very good year!

Thanks to Graham Carter for the news.

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Filed under 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, Angela Stevens, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, George Reeves, Johnny Weissmuller, Jungle Jim, Lee Sholem, Sam Katzman, Spencer Gordon Bennet, Virginia Grey

Happy Halloween!

What better way to commemorate Halloween than with the Collegeville Creature From The Black Lagoon mask (from the early 80s)?

Maybe with the Ben Cooper one! Ether way, here’s hoping you have a safe, fun holiday — and get all the candy you like.

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Filed under 1954

Blu-Ray News #248: Godzilla – The Showa-Era Films (1954-1975).

If I had a nickel for every minute I stared at this FM cover as kid…

For their 1000th release (or spine number), The Criterion Collection has gone very big with a great big giant box of Godzilla movies. Not those new things — no thank you — but the real ones.

Of course, this being a Criterion release, you can count on each of these the films — all 15 Godzilla movies released from 1954 to 1975 — shining like a jewel. And naturally, there will be tons of extras, from alternate versions to commentaries to documentaries and trailers and so on. Does my heart good to know the work of Mr. Honda and Mr. Tsuburaya will get the level of respect these folks will give it.

The films are:
Godzilla (1954)
Godzilla Raids Again (1955)
King Kong Vs. Godzilla (1963, 2.35 AR)
Mothra Vs. Godzilla (1964, 2.35 AR)
Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster (1964 2.35 AR)
Invasion Of Astro-Monster (1965, 2.35 AR)
Son Of Godzilla (1967, 2.35 AR)

Destroy All Monsters (1968, 2.35 AR)
All Monsters Attack (1969, 2.35 AR)
Godzilla Ss. Hedorah (1971, AKA Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster, 2.35 AR)

Godzilla Vs. Gigan (1972, 2.35 AR)
Godzilla Vs. Megalon (1973, 2.35 AR)
Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla (1974, 2.35 AR)
Terror Of Mechagodzilla (1975, 2.35 AR)

I absolutely love some of these movies. One of them I hate with a passion. Son Of Godzilla is criminally lame, and at 10, I considered it the worst movie I’d ever seen (that was before The Witches Of Eastwick). The very thought of making my way through this thing (yes, even Son Of Godzilla)  makes me happy.

Stomping its way to TVs everywhere in October. Make sure yours is one of them.

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Filed under 1954, 1955, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, AIP, Criterion Collection, DVD/Blu-ray News, Eiji Tsuburaya, Famous Monsters Of Filmland, Ishirō Honda, Kaiju Movies, Toho

DVD Review: The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters (1954).

Directed by Edward Bernds
Produced by Ben Schwalb
Written by Edward Bernds and Elwood Ullman
Music by Marlin Skiles
Cinematography: Harry Neumann
Film Editor: William Austin

Cast: Leo Gorcey (Terrance Aloysius ‘Slip’ Mahoney), Huntz Hall (Horace Debussy ‘Sach’ Jones), David Gorcey (Chuck Anderson), Bennie Bartlett (Butch Williams), Bernard Gorcey (Louie Dumbrowski), Lloyd Corrigan (Anton Gravesend), Ellen Corby (Amelia Gravesend), John Dehner (Dr. Derek Gravesend), Laura Mason (Francine Gravesend), Paul Wexler (Grissom), Steve Calvert (Gorilla)

__________

This post is dedicated to my friend Dan Conway. A while back, he and I got to talking about The Bowery Boys, which prompted me to task myself with a series of posts on the Boys and their movies. This is the first.

The basic plot point of Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) — that Dracula needs a simple, pliable brain to put in the head of the Frankenstein monster, so naturally he’s after Costello — is pure genius. Wish I’d come up with it. Evidently, so did the folks behind The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters (1954), because they took that idea and ran with it. If one monster after a brain was funny, how about a bunch of monsters after a couple of brains?

The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters goes like this. Slip and Sach wind up at the creepy old mansion of the Gravesend family. Turns out each Gravesend is in need of a brain or body. A brain that’ll fit inside a gorilla’s head. Another brain for a robot. Some meat for a carnivorous tree. And, of course, somebody always needs some fresh blood. The boys are encouraged to stay at Chez Gravesend, and the chase begins — with the rest of the Boys coming to the rescue.

The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters comes from the back end of the Boys’ filmography, when everyone was getting a little tired. But if you find this stuff funny, you’ll find something to laugh at here. Everything you expect is in place: Slip’s butchering of the English language, Louie’s Sweet Shop, some kind of chase, and so on. The addition of monsters and the typical old-dark-house stuff — and yet another guy (Steve Calvert ) in a gorilla suit — add a certain something. You’ve got the usual folks behind the camera — Edward Bernds directed from a script he wrote with Elwood Ullman. Harry Neumann shot it, obviously in a hurry, but he was always dependable. Great character actors like Lloyd Corrigan, Ellen Corby and John Dehner do a lot for this movie, and it looks like they were having fun.

Let’s talk about the gorilla. Steve Calvert, a bartender at Ciro’s, bought Ray “Crash” Corrigan’s ape suits and turned monkeying around into a career. He was in several of the Jungle Jim pictures with Johnny Weissmuller, starting with the first one, along with Road To Bali (1952), Bela Lugosi Meets A Brooklyn Gorilla (1952) and the late-in-the-game Republic serial Panther Girl Of The Congo (1955). I love these gorilla suit guys. Luckily, someone interviewed Calvert before he passed away.

Of course, every frame of this movie is stupid. Which is a good thing. The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters is included in Warner Archive’s The Bowery Boys, Volume Two. This terrific four-volume series packs 12 movies on four discs in each set. They look terrific — Meet The Monsters is even presented widescreen! — and if you’re a fan of this stuff, they’re absolutely essential.

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Filed under 1954, Bela Lugosi, Bowery Boys, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Edward Bernds, Gorilla suit guys, Johnny Weissmuller, Jungle Jim, Monogram/Allied Artists, Warner Archive