Category Archives: 1956

Blu-Ray News #321: Curucu, Beast Of The Amazon (1956).

Written & Directed by Curt Siodmak
Starring John Bromfield, Beverly Garland, Tom Payne

Wow, here’s one I never thought I’d see. Vinegar Syndrome is bringing Curt Siodmak’s Curucu, Beast Of The Amazon (1956) to Blu-Ray — from the 35mm dupe negative.

It’s got a great cast of 50s sci-fi/horror veterans (I’d watch Beverly Garland in anything). Writer-director Siodmak had already written The Wolf Man (1941), Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man (1943) and I Walked With A Zombie (1943) — and the novel Donovan’s Brain.

So, there’s a bird monster in the jungle and it gets ahold of an expedition looking for a drug used by natives to shrink heads. It’s sort of like a Jungle Jim movie in color, with the added benefit of a bird monster. In other words, it’s perfect.

Curucu, Beast Of The Amazon was shot in Brazil in Eastmancolor for about $150,000. Universal International distributed it, pairing it with The Mole People (1956) — what a night at the movies! And it got a glorious poster from Reynold Brown.

Since U-I had it in 1956, it played at 2.00:1, which is how Vinegar Syndrome is presenting it. There will be a commentary and other supplemental things. Recommended!

Thanks to Dick Vincent for the news!

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Filed under 1956, Beverly Garland, Curt Siodmak, DVD/Blu-ray News, Reynold Brown, Universal (-International)

DVD/Blu-Ray News #395: Congo Crossing (1956).

Directed by Joseph Pevney
Starring Virginia Mayo, George Nader, Peter Lorre, Michael Pate, Rex Ingram, Raymond Bailey

Explosive Media has a great run of Universal International 50s Westerns coming out throughout the summer, and now they’ve announced Congo Crossing (1956), a U-I jungle picture with a great cast (including Mr. Drysdale himself, Raymond Bailey), Russell Metty cinematography (shot for 2.0) and the Arboretum and Botanic Garden in LA doubling for Africa. This is one I’ve never seen, and I can’t wait!

Thanks to John Knight for the tip!

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Filed under 1956, DVD/Blu-ray News, Explosive Media, Joseph Pevney, Peter Lorre, Universal (-International), Virginia Mayo

Blu-Ray News #365: Johnny Stool Pigeon (1949).

Directed by William Castle
Starring Howard Duff, Shelley Winters, Dan Duryea, Tony Curtis, John McIntire, Gar Moore, Leif Erickson

Kino Lorber is continuing their terrific noir Blu-Ray series Film Noir: The Dark Side Of Cinema with Volumes VI and VII.

Volume VI contains John Brahm’s Singapore (1947), with Fred MacMurray, Ava Gardner and Roland Culver; George Sherman’s The Raging Tide (1951) with Shelley Winters, Richard Conte, Stephen McNally, Charles Bickford, Alex Nicol and John McIntire; and William Castle’s Johnny Stool Pigeon (1949).

In Castle’s picture, Federal agents need Johnny Evans (Dan Duryea), who’s doing time in Alcatraz, to rat on some drug dealers and hit men. Johnny’s not to hip to the idea. It’s a solid effort from Castle. Recommended.

Volume VII will contain Byron Haskin’s The Boss (1956) starring John Payne; Sidney Salkow’s Chicago Confidential (1957) with Brian Keith, Beverly Garland and Dick Foran; and Dana Andrews, Dick Foran and Marilee Earle in Jacques Tourneur’s The Fearmakers (1958).

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Filed under 1956, 1957, 1958, Ava Gardner, Beverly Garland, Dan Duryea, Dana Andrews, DVD/Blu-ray News, Film Noir, Fred MacMurray, George Sherman, Jacques Tourneur, John Payne, Kino Lorber, Richard Conte, Tony Curtis, Universal (-International), William Castle

Blu-Ray News #353: Cold War Creatures – Four Films From Sam Katzman (1955-57).

Some days, the world seems so rotten and godforsaken, it’s hard to get out of bed. Then along come four Sam Katzman movies on Blu-Ray.

If you look at my blogs with any regularity, you probably know that Sam Katzman is one of my all-time favorite humans. His cheap movies, from The Bowery Boys to Jungle Jim and from Jesse James Vs. The Daltons (1954) to Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (1956) and from Hootenanny Hoot (1963) to Harum Scarum (1965), are a complete and utter joy. Arrow has gathered up four of his best 50s sci-fi/horror pictures for Blu-Ray, giving us a high-def version of Columbia’s Icons of Horror Collection: Sam Katzman DVD set — now loaded with extras.

Creature With The Atom Brain (1955)
Directed by Edward L. Cahn
Starring Richard Denning, Angela Stevens, S. John Launer, Michael Granger, Gregory Gaye, Linda Bennett

An ex-Nazi scientist has created a gang of radio-controlled zombies. Unfortunately, the experiments were funded by a gangster who wants to use the zombies for his own purposes. Cheesy and a bit creepy at times.

The Werewolf (1956)
Directed by Fred F. Sears
Starring Don Megowan, Joyce Holden, Eleanore Tanin, Kim Charney, Harry Lauter, Steven Ritch 

An interesting rethinking of how the whole werewolf thing works, with solid direction from Fred F. Sears and excellent performances across the board, especially from Steven Ritch as the werewolf. One of the best werewolf movies ever made, if you ask me.

The Giant Claw (1957)
Directed by Fred F. Sears
Starring Jeff Morrow, Mara Corday

A perfectly respectable 50s sci-fi movie is destroyed by maybe the worst monster in cinema history. Katzman’s attempts to save a buck backfired on him with this one. Jeff Morrow and Mara Corday take on what looks like a marionette of a turkey with a skin condition.

Zombies Of Mora Tau (1957)
Directed by Edward L. Cahn
Starring Gregg Palmer, Allison Hayes, Autumn Russel

The best thing Zombies Of Mora Tau has going for it is the lovely Allison Hayes, which for most men with a pulse is more than worth 69 minutes of your precious time. Along with Ms. Hayes, there are diamonds, a sunken ship and — oh, yeah — some zombies.

Arrow’s making the world a better place with this terrific set in September. Absolutely essential!

Thanks to John Knight for the tip.

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Filed under 1955, 1956, 1957, Allison Hayes, Angela Stevens, Arrow Video, Benjamin H. Kline, Edward L. Cahn, Edward Linden, Fred F. Sears, Mara Corday, Richard Denning, Sam Katzman

Blu-Ray News #322: The Court Jester (1956).

Directed by Melvin Frank
Starring Danny Kaye, Glynis Johns, Basil Rathbone, Angela Lansbury and Cecil Parker

Paramount is bringing the very funny Danny Kaye movie The Court Jester (1956) to Blu-Ray in January. A 6K (yes, 6!) should make for an eye-popping presentation of its Technicolor and VistaVision. This is one a lot of folks have been wanting to make its way to high-def, and it sounds like it’s gonna be worth the wait.

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Filed under 1956, Basil Rathbone, DVD/Blu-ray News, Paramount

RIP, Little Richard.

Richard Wayne Penniman
(December 5, 1932 – May 9, 2020)

The great Little Richard has passed away at 87.

Maybe due to his over-the-top personality, lots of folks today don’t realize just how incredible Little Richard was. Take a look at his scenes in Frank Tashlin’s The Girl Can’t Help It (1956, above), and you’ll see what I mean.

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Filed under 1956, 20th Century-Fox, Frank Tashlin

Dialogue Of The Day: The Killing (1956).

Sherry Peatty (Marie Windsor): You don’t understand me, Johnny. You don’t know me very well.

Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden): I know you like a book. You’re a no good, nosy little tramp. You’d sell out your own mother for a piece of fudge. But you’re smart along with it. Smart enough to know when to sail and when to sit tight, and you know you better sit tight in this case.

Sherry Peatty: I do?

Johnny Clay: You heard me. You like money. You got a great big dollar sign, there, where most women have a heart.

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Filed under 1956, Dialogue Of The Day, Marie Windsor, Stanley Kubrick, Sterling Hayden

Hot Cars (1956).

Directed by Don McDougall
Produced by Howard W. Koch
Screenplay by Don Martin & Richard Landau
Based on a novel by H. Haile Chace
Photography by William Margulies
Edited by George A. Gittens, ACE
Music by Les Baxter

John Bromfield (Nick Dunn), Joi Lansing (Karen Winter), Mark Dana (Smiley Ward), Carol Shannon (Jane Dunn), Markel (Arthur Markel), Dabbs Greer (Detective Davenport)

__________

Every once in a while, you need a 50s crime picture. Nothing else will do. I recently landed on Hot Cars (1956), a Bel-Air picture produced by Howard W. Koch. Look at that poster — the title, the cast, Joi Lansing as a “stop-at-nothing blonde,” the guy falling off the rollercoaster. Consider that it was shot mostly on location around Santa Monica and it’s only 60 minutes long, and you just know it’s gonna be great.

Nick Dunn (John Bromfield) and his wife Jane (Carol Shannon) are in a bad way financially when their son gets sick and needs an operation, so against his better judgement (and to their quick regret), Nick takes a job at a used car lot run by Markel (Ralph Clanton), Karen (Joi Lansing) and their sinister flunky Smiley Ward (Mark Dana).

Hard to decide which is prettier — Joi Lansing or the 1955 Mercedes 190 SL.

They turn out to be a pretty shifty bunch — they’re selling the hot cars of the title, and before you know it, a cop looking into the operation (Dabbs Greer) turns up dead. I probably don’t need to mention that Karen puts the moves on Nick — and that he’s suspecting of rubbing out the cop.

Hot Cars makes use of Jack’s At The Beach (#17) and the rollercoaster at Pacific Ocean Park.*

The big finish takes place on the rollercoaster at Pacific Ocean Park (POP) in Santa Monica, with some great POV stuff on the old attraction as Nick and Smiley duke it out. The picture’s location shooting is probably its strong suit, featuring a couple of cool Culver City car dealers (Big John’s and Johnny O’Toole’s) and Jack’s At The Beach, a Santa Monica restaurant near POP that you might recognize from The Rockford Files.

Koch and Bel-Air excelled at these low-budget, lurid little crime pictures — Shield For Murder (1954), Big House USA (1955), Three Bad Sisters (1956), Untamed Youth (1957, with Mamie Van Doren and Eddie Cochran!) and so on. A few of my favorite 50s movies came from Bel-Air.

John Bromfield made quite a few cool B movies, stuff like The Black Dakotas (1954) and Revenge Of The Creature (1955). He starred in the TV series The Sheriff Of Cochise, which was also called US Marshal. He retired in 1960 when the show was cancelled and became a commercial fisherman. He’s quite good in Hot Cars, appearing in about every scene. Joi Lansing does what’ she normally does in movies like this — stand around and look sultry. She’s really good at it.

Director Don McDougall stayed plenty busy doing TV, from the 50s well into the 80s. Lots of cool shows, from The Roy Rogers Show to Bonanza and from M Squad to The Night Stalker. He also did the Star Trek episode “The Squire Of Gothos.” Hot Cars is one of only a handful of features he directed, and while it’s nothing flashy, he and DP William Margulies avoid the studio-bound staginess of a lot of cheap movies from the period. They must’ve had a blast manning those cameras on the rollercoaster! Margulies spent the bulk of his career at Universal, where he shot tons of TV, Gunpoint (1966) with Audie Murphy and the great Ghost And Mr. Chicken (1966).

Hot Cars also boasts an ultra-cool jazzy score from Les Baxter. Baxter composed music for quite a few Bel-Air movies, and some Regalscope pictures, before hitting his stride at American International. Of course, at the same time, he was making great records like 1958’s Space Escapade. Wouldn’t you love a big fat CD boxed set of Baxter’s 50s an 60s movie work?

Truth be told, Hot Cars is cooler than it is good, and its appeal might be limited largely to fans of cheap noir. But if you fall into that group, you’ll find it quite a thing. You can get Hot Cars on DVD as part of MGM’s MOD program. It’s full-frame, but it looks pretty good. A Blu-Ray would be terrific.

* This map post-dates Hot Cars.

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Filed under 1956, Bel-Air, Dabbs Greer, Howard W. Koch, John Bromfield, Joi Lansing, Les Baxter, United Artists

Happy Birthday, Sam Katzman.

Sam Katzman
(July 7, 1901 – August 4, 1973)

Here’s producer Sam Katzman with Little Richard on the set of Don’t Knock The Rock (1956). It’s a Rock N Roll picture directed by Fred F. Sears. Little Richard does “Long Tall Sally” and “Tutti-Frutti” in it. You need to see it.

Click it make it legible.

Sam Katzman was born on this day back in 1901. As a little kid, I noticed that his name turned up in the credits of a whole lot of movies I really liked. And for all the joy his cheap little pictures have given the world — everything from the Batman serial to the Jungle Jim movies to The Werewolf (1956) to Harum Scarum (1965) with Elvis, he should have a postage stamp, a national holiday, something. He sure made my world a better place.

Incidentally, today is Fred F. Sears’ birthday, too. Wonder if a great big birthday cake was ever shared on the Columbia lot?

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Filed under 1956, Elvis Presley, Fred F. Sears, Jungle Jim, Sam Katzman

One Quick Thing.

The second volume of Kit Parker’s Noir Archive series showed up yesterday. In a year filled with really great stuff coming out on Blu-Ray, this might be my favorite so far.

Four of my favorite B directors are here: William Castle, Nathan Juran, Phil Karlson and Fred F. Sears. Some of my favorite actors, too — John Agar, Robert Blake, Mari Blanchard, Timothy Carey, Richard Denning, Faith Domergue, Vince Edwards, Beverly Garland, Brian Keith, Guy Madison, Kim Novack and more.

All nine pictures look terrific — the Columbia transfers are almost flawless. Proper reviews will follow, but I can’t recommend Noir Archives Volume 2: 1954-1956 highly enough.

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Filed under 1954, 1955, 1956, Beverly Garland, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Faith Domergue, Fred F. Sears, John Agar, Kit Parker, Mari Blanchard, Nathan Juran, Phil Karlson, Richard Denning, Sam Katzman, Timothy Carey, William Castle