Category Archives: 1957

Blu-Ray News #119: From Hell It Came (1957).

Directed by Dan Milner
Starring Tod Andrews, Tina Carver, Linda Watkins, John McNamara, Gregg Palmer, Suzanne Ridgeway

From Hell It Came (1957) is a really terrible movie with laughable special effects. I love it and can’t wait to see it in high-definition. It’s coming from Warner Archive — 2017 is really gonna be some year for old movies on Blu-Ray.

The monster was originally designed by Paul Blaisdell, AIP’s favorite (cheap) monster maker, but constructed by Don Post Studios. It looks every bit as ridiculous as you’d imagine a walking tree to look.

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Filed under 1957, DVD/Blu-ray News, Monogram/Allied Artists, Paul Blaisdell, Warner Archive

The Kino Lorber March Madness Sale.

Kino Lorber has a terrific sale going on this month — great discounts on a number of their Blu-Rays, including one of my favorites, The Monster That Challenged The World (1957). Have at it, folks!

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Filed under 1957, DVD/Blu-ray News, Kino Lorber

Blu-Ray News #103: Hell Drivers (1957).

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Directed by Cy Enfield
Starring Stanley Baker, Herbert Lom, Peggy Cummins, Patrick McGoohan, William Hartnell, Sean Connery, David McCallum

Cy Enfield’s Hell Drivers (1957) gets my vote as one of the all-time coolest movies to ever come out of the UK. It’s a hard-boiled story of corruption in the shipping business, with Stanley Baker and other blazing through the British countryside in some really bitchin’ trucks — all in gorgeous B&W VistaVision. Of course, Baker and Enfield would get together again to do Zulu (1964).

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This is a terrific action movie. And it’s coming to Blu-Ray from the British label Network Releasing on February 20 with a slew of extras. If you find out if this is Region Free, please let me know! Highly, highly recommended.

Oh, what’s The Heart Within?

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Filed under 1957, Cy Enfield, DVD/Blu-ray News, Sean Connery, Stanley Baker

Blu-Ray Review: The Return Of Dracula (1958).

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Directed by Paul Landres
Story and Screenplay by Pat Fielder
Music by Gerald Fried
Director Of Photography: Jack MacKenzie, ASC
Film Editor: Sherman A. Rose, ACE

Cast: Francis Lederer (Count Dracula/Bellac Gordal), Norma Eberhardt (Rachel Mayberry), Greta Granstedt (Cora Mayberry), Gage Clark (Doctor/Reverend Whitfield), Ray Stricklyn (Tim Hansen), John Wengraf (Merriman), Virginia Vincent (Jenny Blake), Jimmie Baird (Mickey Mayberry), John McNamara (Sheriff Bicknell)

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The late 50s were a good time for movie vampires, thanks largely to the first of Hammer’s Dracula films, Horror Of Dracula (US title, 1958). But there was also The Vampire and Blood Of Dracula in 1957 and Blood Of The Vampire and The Return Of Dracula in 1958. Oh, and let’s not forget the vampire Western, Curse Of The Undead (1959).

What’s interesting about all these blood-guzzling movies is how each took a different approach to the traditional vampire lore. Hammer, with Christopher Lee in Dracula (1958), dialed up the sex and blood — all of it in alluring Technicolor. The Vampire made vampirism a medical condition. Blood Of Dracula fits right in with AIP’s I Was A Teenage Werewolf (1957), with a teenage vampire created by hypnotism, not a bite on the neck. The Return Of Dracula, which Olive Films has just released on DVD and Blu-Ray, goes in a different direction entirely — following in the steps of many of the Dracula movies that came before it, while moving the Lugosi-ish proceedings to modern-day California.

The Return Of Dracula comes from director Paul Landres and writer Pat Fielder. So did The Vampire. Landres worked mostly in TV, but his low-budget features from the 50s (Westerns and monster movies) are well worth seeking out. Pat Fielder also wrote the excellent The Monster That Challenged The World (1957) — and a number of episodes of The Rifleman.

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Fleeing Transylvania, Count Dracula (Francis Lederer) kills an artist and assumes his identity. Arriving in California, he moves in with the victim’s family, who only know him from letters. They eventually notice that their guest sleeps all day, goes out at night and doesn’t like mirrors or the local priest. Teenage Rachel (Norma Eberhardt) also becomes concerned when her friend Jenny (Virginia Vincent) starts wasting away.

Lederer makes a pretty good Dracula, aided by his Hungarian accent. Norma Eberhardt tries hard to convince us she’s a teenager, and almost pulls it off. And Jenny Blake has a great part as Rachel’s friend turned Dracula’s minion.

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But it’s the assured, creative direction of Paul Landres that keeps things interesting, and the cinematography of Jack MacKenzie that adds the atmosphere these movies rely on — both to create the right mood and conceal how cheap the sets are. MacKenzie shot Isle Of The Dead (1945) for producer Val Lewton, which should tell you something.

Olive Films has The Return Of Dracula polished up and shining like a brand new chrome-covered 1958 Impala. It’s a beautiful Blu-Ray, with contrast levels and aspect ratio (1.85) right where they need to be — and a cool color effect toward the end. Revisiting films like this, in this kind of quality, has been a real joy the last few years, and a number of them have come from Olive.

For fans of these things, or of the people who made them (I’m a big admirer of Landres’ work from this period), The Return Of Dracula comes highly recommended. And I’m hoping Olive gives The Vampire the same treatment.

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Filed under 1957, 1958, AIP, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Hammer Films, Olive Films, Paul Landres, United Artists

DVD Review: The Vampire (1957).

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Directed by Paul Landres
Screenplay by Pat Fielder
Director Of Photography: Jack MacKenzie
Film Editor: John Faure
Music: Gerald Fried

Cast: John Beal (Dr. Paul Beecher), Coleen Gray (Carol Butler), Kenneth Tobey (Sheriff Buck Donnelly), Lydia Reed (Betsy Beecher), Dabbs Greer (Dr. Will Beaumont), Herb Vigran (George Ryan), James H. Griffith (Henry Wilson)

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Made in six days for just $150,000, The Vampire (1957) shows the kind of miracles director Paul Landres could perform with no time and no money. The fact that it made it to the screen to begin with is quite a feat — then consider that it’s a pretty solid little monster movie.

Dr. Paul Beecher (John Beal) is a small-town physician who becomes a bloodthirsty monster after he mistakenly takes an experimental drug extracted from the blood of vampire bats. That the vampire here is the product of science, not the undead, is an interesting twist — and so 1950s. What’s more, it serves up a pretty good, and certainly early, depiction of the perils of drug addiction.

Landres began as an editor, cutting series Westerns and serials at Universal, and made the move to director in the very early 50s — both in features and TV. He retired after a 1972 episode of Adam-12. The late 50s were a particularly interesting period for Landres. He directed a few Regalscope pictures (including the terrific Frontier Gun in 1958) and a handful of cheap horror/sci-fi movies that transcend their budgets — The Vampire being one of them.

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Along with Landres’ direction, what helps elevate The Vampire are its thoughtful script by Pat Fielder — who wrote a number of good science fiction pictures, including this film’s co-feature, The Monster That Challenged The World (1957) — and the solid character actors who make up its cast. John Beal does a superb job of keeping Dr. Beecher sympathetic, even as he’s killing an old lady. Coleen Gray and Kenneth Tobey are always a treat. And Dabbs Greer and James H. Griffith steal the show was two guys from the university that sponsored the drug research. Then there’s Jack MacKenzie’s moody photography. He worked with Val Lewton at RKO on Isle Of The Dead (1945), so he’s no stranger to shadows and atmospherics, and he puts them to good use here.

With a cast and crew like this, how could The Vampire go wrong?

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The scene where John Beal stuffs James Griffith into the incinerator is one of those monster movie moments that has stuck with me since I was a kid. Part of a genre, and an era, I adore, this one comes highly recommended.

The Vampire is available on DVD as part of one of the old MGM Midnite Movies collection, paired with The Return Of Dracula (1958), another little gem from Paul Landres. The version I watched this week was the Movies 4 You: Horror set from Timeless Media Group — which also includes a pretty good transfer of The Screaming Skull (1958). The widescreen transfer of The Vampire is excellent, allowing for some artifacts coming from cramming four features onto one disc, and a real bargain at five or six bucks.

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Filed under 1957, Coleen Gray, Dabbs Greer, James H. Griffith, Kenneth Tobey, Paul Landres, Timeless Media Group

Why Isn’t This On DVD?

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How To Make A Monster (1958) has always been hard to track down, which is a drag. When Cinemax ran it in the early 90s as part of their AIP series, I was overjoyed. Here’s a comic-type ad for it, plugging the Certificate Of Bravery you got for making it all the way to the end. With that gimmick and the last reel in color, this thing’s a real hoot.

It’d be terrific to have AIP titles like this on Blu-ray, such as I Was A Teenage Frankenstein (1957) and Machine Gun Kelly (1958).

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Filed under 1957, 1958, AIP, Charles Bronson, Morris Ankrum

DVD Review: Not Of This Earth (1957).

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Produced and Directed by Roger Corman
Screenplay by Charles B. Griffith and Mark Hanna
Photographed by John Mescall
Music by Ronald Stein
Titles by Paul Julian

Cast: Paul Birch (Paul Johnson), Beverly Garland (Nadine Storey), Morgan Jones (Harry Sherbourne), William Roerick (Dr. Rochelle), Jonathan Haze (Jeremy Perrin), Dick Miller (Joe Piper)

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Beverly Garland is one of my favorite actresses, thanks to terrific performances in movies like this. Sure, she was capable of much, much more, as she proved later. But Beverly was such a pro, and so good, she can pick up a cheap picture like Gunslinger (1956) or The Alligator People (1959) and carry it on her back for 60-plus minutes. In Not Of This Earth (1957), Paul Birch is on hand to help out, and the two of them helped Roger Corman knock out what is probably the best of his early monster movies.

Not Of The Earth LCPaul Johnson (Birch) requires a lot of medical care, so he hires a nurse (Garland) to tend to his ongoing need for transfusions. Turns out, he’s from the planet Davanna, whose populace is dying of a blood disease, and he’s come to check out the earth as a possible supply.

Of course, this is pretty silly stuff, but Charles B. Griffith and Mark Hanna’s script really works, the cast puts the dialogue over (Birch somehow makes the alien’s stilted lines feel natural), location shooting in real homes and around Griffith Park add some production value, and it leaves us with a genuinely creepy ending. Good stuff.

Then there’s Paul Julian’s titles. He was a world-class background artist for Warner Bros. cartoons, and his work for Corman really classes things up. They’re so cool, so simple and so effective. Also worth noting is the beautiful advertising art by Albert Kallis — one of my favorite posters ever.

Not Of This Earth is available as part of Shout Factory’s Roger Corman’s Cult Classics Triple Feature. The other two pictures are Attack Of The Crab Monsters (1957) and War Of The Satellites (1958). We get crisp anamorphic transfers for Earth and Attack, while Satellites is full-frame — but nice and sharp. You’ll never pull these movies out to show off your spiffy new TV, but Shout Factory has ’em looking better than you ever thought they would.

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Allied Artists sent out Attack Of The Crab Monsters and Not Of This Earth as a double feature. Watch them back to back — it’s only a little over two hours. Recommended.

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Filed under 1957, Beverly Garland, Dick Miller, Monogram/Allied Artists, Roger Corman