Category Archives: 1957

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

Blu-Ray News #343: Silver Screams Cinema Collection (1945 – 1957).

Imprint has announced their upcoming Silver Screams Cinema Collection, six pictures (complete with extras) on three Blu-Ray discs. You might dismiss this as a bit of a random, grab bag assortment of old horror movies. But that downplays all the cool stuff that’s in here — some Republic stuff, one of Bela Lugosi’s Monogram Nine and a couple of Regalscope pictures. You get:

The Phantom Speaks (1945)
Directed by John English
Starring Richard Arlen, Stanley Ridges, Lynne Roberts, Tom Powers

The Vampire’s Ghost (1945)
Directed by Lesley Selander
Starring John Abbott, Charles Gordon, Peggy Stewart, Grant Withers, Emmett Vogan, Adele Mara

Valley Of The Zombies (1946)
Directed by Philip Ford
Starring Robert Livingston, Lorna Gray, Ian Keith, Thomas E. Jackson

Return Of The Ape Man (1946)
Directed by Philip Rosen
Starring Bela Lugosi, John Carradine, George Zucco, Frank Moran, Judith Gibson

She Devil (1957)
Directed by Kurt Neumann
Starring Mari Blanchard, Jack Kelly, Albert Dekker

Unknown Terror (1957)
Directed by Charles Marquis Warren
Starring John Howard, Mala Powers, Paul Richards, May Wynn

To me, the real jewel here is the last film, Unknown Terror, a pretty solid Regalscope picture. You won’t find this one in widescreen anywhere else, and having it in high definition is an added treat. It’s a pretty good example of the ultra-cheap Regal films. It concerns mutants and rampant fungus — and has a good part for the lovely Mala Powers.

Imprint always does really nice work, so you can count on this set being top-notch. Recommended.

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Filed under 1957, Bela Lugosi, Charles Marquis Warren, DVD/Blu-ray News, George Zucco, Imprint Films, John Carradine, Lesley Selander, Lippert/Regal/API, Mala Powers, Mari Blanchard, Monogram/Allied Artists, Republic Pictures, Sam Katzman, The Monogram Nine

Blu-Ray Review: The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957).

Directed by Terence Fisher
Produced by Anthony Hinds
Screenplay by Jimmy Sangster
Based on the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Director Of Photography: Jack Asher
Production Design: Bernard Robinson
Makeup Artist: Phil Leakey
Music by James Bernard
Film Editor: James Needs

Cast: Peter Cushing (Baron Victor Frankenstein), Melvyn Hayes (Young Victor), Robert Urquhart (Paul Krempe), Hazel Court (Elizabeth), Sally Walsh (Young Elizabeth), Christopher Lee (The Creature), Valerie Gaunt (Justine), Noel Hood (Aunt Sophia), Paul Hardtmuth (Professor Bernstein)

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With its first color film, and first foray into Gothic horror, Hammer Films created a brand that would change their direction, launch the horror careers of a couple of iconic actors, and ultimately change the horror movie itself. That’s accomplishing quite a bit, especially when you’re talking about a little company in the UK with a $250,000 monster movie — and working out of a house, not a proper studio.

Of course, we’re talking about is The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957) starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. And it’s just been given an incredible restoration and Blu-Ray release by Warner Archive.

While it varies quite a bit from the Shelley novel, it’s right in line with the cinematic Frankenstein story. A brilliant, obsessed doctor (Peter Cushing) assembles a man (Christopher Lee) from parts of dead bodies and brings it to life — with less than the desired result.

Seen today, it’s still a nasty little movie. Victor Frankenstein isn’t just an overly-driven medical researcher, he’s a manipulative lech. Actresses seem to have been chosen, and costumes designed, to highlight the female form. And every gruesome opportunity to dwell upon a lopped-off head, a severed hand or an eye in a jar is taken with relish. And remember, this is the first time audiences had ever seen such gore in color!

But what’s really important, and what makes this new Blu-Ray so essential, is we get to see the level of craft that went into Curse Of Frankenstein. Bernard Robinson’s sets are incredible, especially when you consider he was working in such tight spaces. Jack Asher’s cinematography, his first time working in color, uses shadow and light to draw  the eye to exactly what he wanted us to see and making those tiny sets look as big, as opulent, as possible. His experiments with color and light would continue with each film, making watching these early Hammer horror pictures in order of release a fun exercise.

Phil Leakey touches up Christopher Lee’s hairdo.

For Christopher Lee’s Creature, the makeup had to steer clear of the classic Universal/Karloff look, and Phil Leakey went in an effective stitched-up, patchwork direction. The Blu-Ray’s restored color really aids our appreciation of the look of the Creature, and we can see that Lee’s wounds seem to “heal” as the film goes on. 

James Bernard’s score is kinetic and dynamic, creating a signature sound (with an obviously small orchestra) that instantly IDs a Hammer film. A friend and I had dinner with Mr. Bernard in the early 90s. What a nice, charming man — and so humble.

Terence Fisher, Hazel Court and Peter Cushing on the set.

Terence Fisher’s direction brings all these elements together, beginning to set the tone for what Hammer would make into the mid-60s. He gets pitch-perfect performances from his cast. His camera rarely moves, but when it does, it’s always to great effect. But what probably makes the biggest difference is that he makes sure no one, from the cast to the cameraman to the caterer, looks down on the material. That made all the difference.

Warner Archive has done a remarkable job bringing Curse Of Frankenstein back to life. It’s sharp, the color is a huge improvement over anything I’ve seen before. (This one was shot in Eastmancolor.) We also get the original aspect ratio(s) — from the UK’s 1.66 to the 1.85 seen in the US to the 1.33 we saw on TV and videotape. (I recommend the 1.66.) The supplemental stuff is a real home run — a casket-load of commentaries, documentaries and a trailer. I was particularly happy to see James Bernard and Jack Asher singled out, with a short video on each. They’re key to the lasting impact of these films. 

While Horror Of Dracula* (1958) may get a lot of the glory, Curse Of Frankenstein is where it all began. It’s an important film, and a really cool one. As essential as they come, both as a movie and as an upgrade to whatever format you might currently have it in. 

* Also available (and stunning) on Blu-Ray from Warner Archive.

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Filed under 1957, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Hammer Films, Hazel Court, Jack Asher, Terence Fisher, Warner Archive, Warner Bros.

Blu-Ray News #319: The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957).

Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Peter Cushing, Hazel Court, Robert Urquhardt, Christopher Lee

Boy, this is going to be great! You get The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957), the first of Hammer’s Frankenstein series three different ways (on two discs), restored from preservation separations — the 1.66 UK aspect ratio, 1.85 as it played in the States and 1.37 as we saw it on TV for years and years. There will be commentaries, documentaries and a trailer. And if you’re familiar with what a lot of Warner Archive’s stuff has been looking like lately, you can only imagine how stunning this one would be. Essential!

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Filed under 1957, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, Hazel Court, Peter Cushing, Terence Fisher, Warner Archive, Warner Bros.

Blu-Ray News #307: Attack Of The Crab Monsters (1957).

Produced & Directed by Roger Corman
Starring Richard Garland, Pamela Duncan, Russell Johnson, Leslie Bradley, Mel Welles, Richard H. Cutting

Shout Factory has announced that Roger Corman’s Attack Of The Crab Monsters (1957) will be released on Blu-Ray on August 25th (that’s next week) in a limited edition of just 1,000 copies. Act now, folks!

This pretty much sums up all that was wonderful about Hollywood in the 1950s.

Made for just $70,000, Attack Of The Crab Monsters played in a double bill with Corman’s Not Of This Earth (1957) — which Shout Factory will hopefully get to soon, and made over a million bucks.

Attack Of The Crab Monsters was shot at Leo Carrillo State Beach, Bronson Caverns and Marineland by the great cinematographer Floyd Crosby, and it features a good score by Ronald Stein. The crab monsters were made out of styrofoam, so getting them to go underwater was tough (and destructive). Everything about this movie is terrific.

This Blu-Ray promises a new scan of a fine-grain print (in its original 1.85), a new commentary, the theatrical trailer and a tribute to Mr. Corman. It’s available exclusively through the Shout Factory website, and only 1,000 of ’em will be pressed. Highly, highly recommended. Click on the half sheet up top to order yours!

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Filed under 1957, DVD/Blu-ray News, Floyd Crosby, Monogram/Allied Artists, Roger Corman, Russell Johnson, Shout/Scream Factory

Blu-Ray Review: The Abominable Snowman (Of The Himalayas) (1957).

Directed by Val Guest
Written by Nigel Kneale
Based on his 1955 TV play The Creature
Cinematographer: Arthur Grant
Film Editor: Bill Linney
Music by Humphrey Searle

Cast: Forrest Tucker (Tom Friend), Peter Cushing (Dr. John Rollason), Arnold Marlé (The Lhama), Maureen Connell (Helen Rollason), Richard Wattis (Peter Fox), Robert Brown (Ed Shelley), Michael Brill (Andrew McNee)

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The Western part of North Carolina certainly gets its share of Sasquatch sightings. So many, in fact, that a small town (Marion) held its second Bigfoot Festival back in September. With all the talk of Sasquatch/Yeti/Bigfoot going on around here, Scream Factory’s Blu-Ray of Hammer’s The Abominable Snowman (1957) seems almost topical.

It’s a movie I’ve loved since I was a kid, and the chance to see Arthur Grant’s B&W Regalscope cinematography in high definition is a huge deal.

Stanley Baker and Peter Cushing in The Creature, live on BBC TV in January 1955.

The Abominable Snowman began as a live TV program from the BBC, The Creature, written by Nigel Kneale — drawing on recent Yeti sightings and Mount Everest expeditions for inspiration. It starred Stanley Baker as Tom Friend and Peter Cushing as John Rollason. Two performances were aired live in January 1955 — neither were recorded. What a drag.

Hammer Films had turned a Kneale TV serial, The Quatermass Xperiment, into a successful film in 1955 (they’d do the same with its TV sequel), and they bought the movie rights for The Creature. Val Guest, who’d directed the Quatermass feature was brought back. Peter Cushing, who’d not only starred in The Creature, but had begun an association with Hammer with The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), was also put on the payroll. Forrest Tucker was cast as Tom Friend, making the explorer/entrepreneur an American.

Nigel Kneale turned his own teleplay into a screenplay, calling it The Snow Creature — until someone realized there already was a picture with that title. (The Snow Creature is a cheap piece of junk from 1954, with the distinction of being the first Bigfoot movie.) Hammer eventually settled on The Abominable Snowman. In the States, the title was extended to The Abominable Snowman Of The Himalayas. Kneale gets solo credit for the script, but Val Guest did a rewrite cutting back on a lot of the dialogue.

The production kicked off with a small crew doing some location shooting in the French Pyrenees in mid-January 1957. None of the cast made the trip; they used doubles. Some of the impressive mountain scenes used a helicopter, others were snagged from a cable car. Principal photography ran from January 28th to March 5th at Bray and Pinewood studios. The monastery set was built at Bray (with waiters from local Chinese restaurants playing the monks), while the snowy mountain stuff required the larger space to be found at Pinewood.

The story is pretty simple, at least on the surface. Tom Friend (Forrest Tucker) brings an exhibition to a monastery in the Himalayas, where Dr. John Rollason (Peter Cushing) is conducting botany research. Tucker’s after the Yeti, and he convinces Cushing to come along. It would’ve been better for all concerned if they’d stayed home. They do indeed find the Yeti — gentle, intelligent creatures waiting around for us to wipe ourselves out so they can take over.

Tucker and Cushing are perfect for their roles, and they really put this one over. Guest’s direction is quite good — keeping things moving, building tension and doing a great job of cutting together the location and studio stuff — they say he kept a Moviola on the set so he could refer to the mountain footage. This was cinematographer Arthur Grant’s first film for Hammer, and it looks terrific. He’d eventually replace Jack Asher as Hammer’s go-to DP.

I’ve raved about Scream Factory’s previous Hammer Blu-Ray releases, and The Abominable Snowman continues their stellar track record. When they received the HD material, they found it five minutes short. That footage has been reinstated from an (upscaled) SD source, though you can watch the shorter, all-HD version if you prefer. Either way, it looks terrific (go with the complete one), with the B&W ‘Scope a real knockout. The sound’s good, giving real power to the windy sound effects and Humphrey Searle’s score. There are plenty of extras, too — commentary, trailer, Joe Dante’s Trailers From Hell piece, etc. A nice package all-around.

​In the UK, ​The Abominable Snowman was often paired with Mamie Van Doren in Untamed Youth. Now that was a nice night at the movies. I highly recommend The Abominable Snowman Of The Himalayas. It’s still the best movie ever made about Bigfoot (to be honest, it doesn’t have much competition) — and this Blu-Ray is the perfect way to see it (especially if you’ve got a big TV).

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Filed under 1957, 20th Century-Fox, Arthur Grant, Forrest Tucker, Hammer Films, Lippert/Regal/API, Mamie Van Doren, Peter Cushing, Shout/Scream Factory, Val Guest

The Unknown Terror (1957).

Directed by Charles Marquis Warren
Produced by Robert Stabler
Written by Kenneth Higgins
Music by Raoul Kraushaar
Cinematography: Joseph F. Biroc
Film Editor: Michael Luciano

Cast: John Howard (Dan Matthews), Mala Powers (Gina Matthews), Paul Richards (Peter Morgan), May Wynn (Concha Ramsey), Gerald Milton (Dr. Ramsey), Charles H. Gray (Jim Wheatley) Gerald Gilden (Raoul Koom)

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By the mid-50s, CinemaScope had done what it was supposed to do — help bring back the audiences lost to television. With TV still black and white and mono, 20th Century-Fox decreed that all their CinemaScope pictures would be in color. B producer Robert Lippert approached Fox with the idea of having his Regal Films, Inc. produce a series of second features for the studio — two black and white CinemaScope pictures a month. Lippert wanted to combine the economy of B&W with the draw of CinemaScope. To get around Fox’s no-color, no-‘Scope policy, and to work around Fox’s fear that these low-budget films would damage the prestige of their CinemaScope process, a new name was cooked up: RegalScope.

RegalScope is black and white CinemaScope, nothing more. Lippert made around 50 RegalScope features between 1956 and 1959 — all of them cheap, many of them Westerns or horror movies.

I absolutely love the RegalScope pictures. But it’s almost impossible to watch them today, since most of what we see, when we can find them at all, are terrible pan-and-scan (or just the middle of the wide image, no panning or scanning) transfers often taken from battered 16mm TV prints. No movie should be seen that way.

The other day, I received a fairly watchable copy of The Unknown Terror (1957), taken from an adapted ‘Scope print. “Adapted ‘Scope” is what we later called letterboxed. These prints don’t give you the entire 2.35 image, but they’re certainly an improvement over the 1.33 versions.

The Unknown Terror follows the typical RegalScope business model. It runs 77 minutes, with minimal sets, a small cast (with character actors getting rare lead roles), long takes and more dialogue than action. When these movies work, it’s usually because someone cleverly wrote around these constraints to tell a solid story — the Western The Quiet Gun (1956) is a terrific example.

In The Unknown Terror, three American explorers (John Howard, Mala Powers and Paul Richards) travel to the Caribbean in search of a friend who went down there to find the Cave Of The Dead — and never came back. This leads them to an American scientist (Gerald Milton) doing fungus research, a gaggle of fungus-infested mutants and lots of fake rocks (AKA the Cave Of The Dead). Eventually, the fast-growing fungus goes completely nuts and covers up pretty much everything — which means the last few minutes feature lots of shots of something like soap suds running down the fake rocks, all set to loud gurgling noises. I loved it.

Unknown Terror stillMala Powers and Paul Richards discover the secret of the fungus and the Cave Of The Dead — and set out to put an end to the whole icky, gooey, deadly mess. They’re terrific at carrying this nonsense through to its conclusion, playing it all completely straight, something 50s character actors became quite adept at. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but who said that was a requirement for a movie like this?

Cinematographer Joseph Biroc handled the B&W ‘Scope, filling the wide frame and doing a good job of concealing how set-bound it is — and how tiny those sets are. I’m sure the last reel was a real drag to shoot, with gallons upon gallons of the “fungus” being poured on everything and everyone — and probably smelling terrible in the heat of Biroc’s lights.

Charles Marquis Warren directed, not long after leaving Gunsmoke. He made another RegalScope horror picture, Back From The Dead starring Peggie Castle that went out with The Unknown Terror as a double bill. Warren did a few RegalScope Westerns, too. Copper Sky (1957) is quite good.

Olive Films released a handful of RegalScope films on DVD and Blu-Ray a few years ago — and they look terrific. The Unknown Terror was not one of them, which is a shame. I’m sure there are plenty of classic horror fans who’d find this one a lot of fun.

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Filed under 1957, 20th Century-Fox, Charles Marquis Warren, Lippert/Regal/API, Mala Powers, Peggie Castle