Category Archives: 1957

Forgotten Filmcast #167: The Night The World Exploded (1957).

A while back, Todd Liebenow was the guest on my podcast, The Carbon Arc. We talked about The Great Race (1965).

Now I’m the guest on his terrific podcast, The Forgotten Filmcast. Todd’s up to 167 of these things, quite an accomplishment! We talk about Fred F. Sears’ The Night The World Exploded (1957), an hour-long sci-fi thing from Sam Katzman. Click on the half-sheet above to listen in.

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Filed under 1957, Columbia, Fred F. Sears, Podcasts, Sam Katzman

Blu-Ray News #313: Sci-Fi From The Vault: 4 Classic Films (1955-59).

Mill Creek Entertainment has two new Blu-ray sets coming in December: Sci-Fi From The Vault: 4 Classic Films and Thrillers From The Vault: 8 Classic Horror Films. Here’s a look at the Sci-Fi Vault.

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

A scientist has figured out how to reanimate dead people and make them obey his commands. A gangster finds out about the discovery and decides he’ll use the dead for his own purposes. Produced by Sam Katzman.

It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955)
Directed by Robert Gordon
Starring Kenneth Tobey, Faith Domergue, Donald Curtis

Kenneth Tobey commands a submarine that is attacked by a giant octopus, cooked up by Ray Harryheusen. Before long, Tobey and Faith Domergue are battling it along the Pacific Coast. Produced by Sam Katzman.

The Ymir and Ray Harryheusen. Ray’s the one on the right.

20 Million Miles To Earth (1957)
Directed by Nathan Juran
Starring William Hopper, Joan Taylor, Frank Puglia

When a spaceship crashes on its way back from Venus, some eggs brought back as a souvenir get lost. Soon a really cool, quickly-growing monster from Ray Harryheusen is running loose.

The 30 Foot Bride Of Candy Rock (1959)
Directed by Sidney Miller
Starring Lou Costello, Dorothy Provine, Gale Gordon

Lou Costello’s fiancé Dorothy Provine is exposed to radiation and grows really big. This was Costello’s only solo film after he and Bud Abbott parted ways. Lou died before it was released.

Columbia’s transfers are always top-notch, so expect these pictures to look fabulous. 

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Filed under 1955, 1957, 1959, Abbott & Costello, Angela Stevens, Columbia, Curt Siodmak, DVD/Blu-ray News, Edward L. Cahn, Faith Domergue, Kenneth Tobey, Mill Creek, Nathan Juran, Ray Harryhausen, Richard Denning, Sam Katzman

Blu-Ray Review: The Brain From Planet Arous (1957).

Directed by Nathan Hertz (Nathan Juran)
Produced by Jacques Marquette
Written by Ray Buffum
Director Of Photography: Jacques Marquette
Supervising Film Editor: Irving Schoenberg
Music by Walter Greene

Cast: John Agar (Steve March), Joyce Meadows (Sally Fallon), Robert Fuller (Dan Murphy), Thomas Browne Henry (John Fallon), Kenneth Terrell (Colonel), Henry Travis (Colonel Frogley), E. Leslie Thomas (General Brown), Tim Graham (Sheriff Wiley Pane), Bill Giorgio (Russian), Dale Tate (voices of Gor and Vol)


Many 50s science fiction movies were plagued by paltry budgets and skimpy schedules. But seen today, there’s a charm to them money just can’t buy. The Brain From Planet Arous (1957), a cheesy gem from Nathan Juran starring John Agar, is a perfect example of this.

In the early 50s, the owners of two independent cinema chains — with theaters spread across Virginia, North and South Carolina, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi* — got together and entered the production side of things as Howco International. They knew the kind of pictures that worked in cinemas like theirs, and that’s exactly what they made. One of their offerings was The Brain From Planet Arous.

According to just about every criteria used to size up a movie — production values, effects, writing, acting, etc. — this picture comes up lacking. But it might be a better movie, or at least a more enjoyable one, because of it.

Steve March (John Agar), a scientist, and Dan (Robert Fuller), his assistant, head to Mystery Mountain to investigate a “hot burst of gamma.” Deep in Bronson Caves, Steve and Dan are confronted by a floating brain-monster named Gor from the planet Arous. Dan shoots at Gor and is promptly burned to a crisp, while Steve’s body is possessed by the sinister brain. “I need your body as a dwelling place.” 

Through Agar, Gor announces that he’s going to take over the earth, and he’ll wipe out the capital of any country that doesn’t play along. Help arrives when Vol, a friendly brain from planet Arous, shows up and inhabits the body of George, a dog belonging to March’s fiancee Sally (Joyce Meadows). Turns out, Gor is Public Enemy Number One back on Arous. 

It also turns out that Gor has a thing for earth ladies, and while dwelling in Agar, he puts the moves on Joyce Meadows. “She appeals to me.”

By the last reel, the fate of the world depends on Sally and her alien-possessed dog. What does Sally do? Get out the encyclopedia, of course.

One of the best things about The Brain From Planet Arous is that it’s absolutely, completely nuts, in a way we wouldn’t really see until Hollywood’s open-border policy for whacked-out Mexican and Italian monster movies came along in the early 60s. The story comes from a short story cameraman and producer Jacques Marquette liked as a kid. Screenplay duties went to Ray Buffum, who also wrote the film’s “co-hit” Teenage Monster.

By this time, architect turned art director turned director Nathan Juran had shown himself to be quite adept at sci-fi and fantasy stuff with The Deadly Mantis and 20 Million Miles To Earth (both 1957). With this one and Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman (1958), he had himself credited as Nathan Hertz. As I see it, there was no need to hide behind a pseudonym. He does a good job with what he had to work with. The performances are fine, across the board — with Agar completely over the top when inhabited by Gor. Marquette’s cinematography is quite good, especially in the cave sequences. It doesn’t look near as cheap as it clearly was. And Irving Schoenberg’s no-frills editing keeps things moving well.

I’ve loved The Brain From Planet Arous since I was a kid, when I was actually frightened by Gor and creeped out by Agar’s chrome-looking contacts. So I was absolutely thrilled to learn it was on its way to Blu-Ray from The Film Detective. I knew Phil Hopkins and his gang would come through — and did they ever! The movie itself looks terrific, but not perfect. That’s the way I like ’em! The sound is clear as a bell. The extras are nicely done (Ballyhoo’s work here is up to their usual high standards), including an intro featuring Joyce Meadows. 

With movies like The Brain From Planet Arous getting Cadillac Blu-Ray releases like this, this is a wonderful time to be an old sci-fi movie nut. I’m surely not the only one out there with this picture one near the top of their Blu-Ray Want List. Highly, highly recommended.

Oh, and the picture started shooting 65 years ago today.

* This is the kind of stuff that makes me proud to be from the South!

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Filed under 1957, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Howco International, John Agar, Nathan Juran, The Film Detective

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 Review: Monster From Green Hell (1957).

Directed by Kenneth G. Crane
Produced by Al Zimbalist
Written by Endre Bohem & Louis Vittes
Director Of Photography: Ray Flin
Music by Albert Glasser

Cast: Jim Davis (Dr. Quent Brady), Robert Griffin (Dan Morgan), Joel Fluellen (Arobi), Barbara Turner (Lorna Lorentz), Eduardo Ciannelli (Mahri), Vladimir Sokoloff (Dr. Lorentz)


A wasp hitches a ride into space on an experimental rocket, grows to mammoth size upon returning to earth and starts chomping on natives near the rocket’s African crash site. A team of scientists lead by Jim Davis heads to the Green Hell region to investigate — and finds a giant queen wasp and her colony.

Monster From Green Hell (1957) is a typical blend of stock footage (from 1939’s Stanley And Livingstone), pseudo-science dialogue, location work at Bronson Caves and decent special effects to create a fun entry in the 50s Big Bug sub-genre. It’s wonderful. (Why do I love movies like this so much?)

Producer Al Zimbalist had already done Cat-Women Of The Moon (1953), Robot Monster (1953) and King Dinosaur (1955). He would later give us Don Siegel’s Baby Face Nelson (1957) and Young Dillinger (1964). My kinda guy.

The giant wasps were built by the great Paul Blaisdell, without credit (or payment, according to Blaisdell). The stop-motion work by Gene Warren is quite good. The miniatures and full-size effects cut together pretty well.

Jim Davis narrates, smokes a lot of cigarettes and figures out how to kill off the great big wasps (while wearing an odd safari outfit to match Spencer Tracy in the Stanley And Livingstone footage), but the picture’s acting honors probably go to Joel Fluellen. Director Kenneth Crane was an editor making a career move here. DP Ray Flin shot hundreds of TV shows — this is one of his few features. And the score by Albert Glasser is up to his usual standards.

Distributed by DCA, Monster From Green Hell played theaters and drive-ins paired with Half-Human (1955), a Toho picture directed by Ishirō Honda. DCA’s American version added footage with John Carradine and Morris Ankrum — would you expect anything else?

The Film Detective folks have done their usual fine work on this one. It looks great, offered up in both the 1.85 and 1.33 aspect ratios. While it would’ve played theaters at 1.85, the 1.33 version gives us a little better peek at the monsters. I really liked seeing a line or two from the original print. They’re never distracting, and they’re gone in a few seconds, but to me that’s part of what film look like.

Monster From Green Hell played in its original run with a tinted climax — about two minutes. Since I’d only seen it on TV and VHS tape, with the ending in B&W, it was great to see the sequence restored here. What was shocking is that while the dying wasp shots are tinted red, the scenes with the actors are in full color! [Glenn Erickson, Robert Furmanek and Jack Theakston get to the bottom of this tinted vs. color business here.]

Of course, The Film Detective never holds back on the extras, and here we get a nice featurette on Jim Davis from C. Courtney Joyner, a commentary by Stephen Bissette and a nice booklet with an essay by Don Stradley.

It’s an excellent package all-around. For fans of this kind of thing, it comes highly, highly recommended.


One last thing: They say the wonderful Horrible Hamilton toy from 1964, which gave youngsters giant toy bugs and army men to feed to them, was based on the wasps in Monster From Green Hell. I always wanted one.

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Filed under 1957, Big Bug Movies, DCA, Don Siegel, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, John Carradine, Morris Ankrum, Paul Blaisdell, The Film Detective

Blu-Ray News #378: The Brain From Planet Arous (1957).

Directed by Nathan H. Juran
Starring John Agar, Joyce Meadows, Robert Fuller

I love The Brain From Planet Arous (1957), and I’m ecstatic that it’s coming to Blu-Ray in June. A big thanks to the folks at The Film Detective. Will add more details as they’re announced. Can’t wait!

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Filed under 1957, DVD/Blu-ray News, Howco International, John Agar, Joyce Meadows, Nathan Juran, The Film Detective

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 #364: Monster From Green Hell (1957).

Directed by Kenneth G. Crane
Starring Jim Davis, Barbara Turner, Robert Griffin, Joel Fluellen

Another wonderfully cheap monster movie is making its way to Blu-Ray from The Film Detective. Monster From Green Hell (1957) concerns giant wasps created by an experimental launch into outer space. Jim Davis is one of the scientists who has to take on the massive, deadly insect.

I absolutely love 50s Big Bug movies. Lucky for me, there are quite a few of them. The Film Detective has been releasing some terrific stuff of late, and I can’t wait for this one to arrive at my hive in early 2022.

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Filed under 1957, Big Bug Movies, DVD/Blu-ray News, The Film Detective

Blu-Ray News #362: Love-Slaves Of The Amazons (1957).

Written & Directed by Curt Siodmak
Starring Don Taylor, Gianna Segale, Eduardo Ciannelli, Harvey Chalk, Wilson Vianna

Kino Lorber has announced an upcoming Blu-Ray release for Curt Siodmak’s Love-Slaves Of The Amazons (1957). It’s a little over 80 minutes of the usual “guys end up someplace (planet/island/jungle) populated entirely by women” thing. Of course, the women want to enslave the men for their own vile purposes.

It’s got some shooting in Brazil, in Eastmancolor, and a poster by the great Reynold Brown (the art’s up top). Is Love-Slaves Of The Amazons terrible? Maybe. Is it wonderful? Absolutely. Coming sometime in early 2022.

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Filed under 1957, Curt Siodmak, DVD/Blu-ray News, Kino Lorber, Reynold Brown, Uncategorized, Universal (-International)

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