Category Archives: 1954

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

Making Movies: Don Siegel At Work.

Don Siegel’s films are scattered throughout my list of all-time favorites — if I was to ever sit down and make such a list. Here are some photos I’ve come across while researching him for various things (some of these images have appeared on this blog before, but are worth repeating).

Up top, there’s Siegel directing Clint Eastwood in Two Mules For Sister Sara (1970). The original screenplay was by Budd Boetticher, who was supposed to direct (he ended up with only a story credit). Budd not happy with the finished film, which co-starred Shirley MacLaine. The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner called the picture “a solidly entertaining film that provides Clint Eastwood with his best, most substantial role to date; in it he is far better than he has ever been. In director Don Siegel, Eastwood has found what John Wayne found in John Ford and what Gary Cooper found in Frank Capra.” They’d make five movies together.

Here he is with Ronald Reagan and Vinveca Lindfors (Mrs. Siegel at the time) shooting Night Unto Night (1949).

Neville Brand and Dabbs Greer (?) get direction from Siegel on Riot In Cell Block 11 (1954).

Nick Adams and Siegel go over the script for Hell Is For Heroes (1962).

Siegel, Angie Dickinson, Claude Akins and John Cassavettes (back of his head) on the set of The Killers (1964).

With Eastwood on the set of Coogan’s Bluff (1968), their first picture together.

Andy Robinson goes over the script with Siegel on Dirty Harry (1971).

Siegel and Walter Matthau having a laugh on Charley Varrick (1973). I think Don’s wearing the same hat he has on in the photo from The Killers.

Eastwood and Siegel on location for Escape From Alcatraz (1979).

I was trying to find a picture of Siegel working on Baby Face Nelson (1957), one of his best, but had no luck. It’s highly underrated, probably because it’s almost impossible to see.

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Filed under 1954, 1957, 1964, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1979, Angie Dickinson, Budd Boetticher, Clint Eastwood, Don Siegel, Nick Adams, Steve McQueen, Universal (-International), Walter Matthau

Blu-Ray News #379: Human Desire (1954).

Directed by Fritz Lang
Starring Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, Broderick Crawford, Edgar Buchanan, Peggy Maley

Human Desire (1954) is small-town noir as only the great Fritz Lang could do it — and Kino Lorber is bringing it to Blu-Ray later this year.

Glenn Ford’s a train engineer who gets involved in murder, blackmail and about every kind of seediness you can think of — all thanks to Fate and Gloria Grahame.

Lang and DP Burnett Guffey come up with some stunning widescreen visuals, especially around the railroad yard. And while it’s not quite the seedy masterpiece The Big Heat (1953) is — which first brought Lang, Ford and Grahame together — it shows how Lang’s stylistics can elevate substandard material. (There were all kinds of problems with this thing as it came together.)

I’m a huge fan of Lang’s Hollywood pictures, film noir and trains, so this one’s a real favorite. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1954, Broderick Crawford, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Fritz Lang, Glenn Ford, Kino Lorber

DVD/Blu-Ray News #377: Nineteen Eighty-Four (1954).

Directed by Rudolph Cartier
Written by Nigel Kneale, based on the George Orwell novel
Starring Peter Cushing, André Morell, Yvonne Mitchell, Donald Pleasence

Boy, was I excited to hear about this one. BFI is bringing the 1954 BBC adaptation of Nineteen Eight-Four to DVD and Blu-Ray. It stars the great Peter Cushing as Winston Smith. It’s coming in April, restored from film elements from the BBC. Highly recommended — and a bit too timely for comfort.

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Filed under 1954, Donald Pleasence, DVD/Blu-ray News, Peter Cushing, Television

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

__________

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.