Category Archives: 1957

Blu-Ray News #148: The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957).

Directed by Jack Arnold
Screenplay by Richard Matheson
Starring Grant Williams, Randy Stuart, April Kent, Paul Langton, Raymond Bailey

Arrow Video’s bringing Jack Arnold’s The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) to Blu-Ray in November. It’s one of the best sci-fi movies of the 50s, easy, and Arrow is promising lota of extras. This should be a really nice package.

Special Features and Technical Specs:
• Original uncompressed PCM mono audio
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Auteur on the Campus: Jack Arnold at Universal – an extended documentary about the early career of director Jack Arnold at Universal-International studios
• There Is No Zero: Writing The Shrinking Man – an in-depth conversation with author Richard Christian Matheson about his father and the creation of the original Incredible Shrinking Man novel
• Super 8 cut-down version
• Original Theatrical Trailer
• Teaser
• Reversible sleeve featuring original, newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck
• First pressing: Fully-illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Kim Newman

1 Comment

Filed under 1957, Arrow Video, DVD/Blu-ray News, Jack Arnold

Blu-Ray Review: From Hell It Came (1957).

Directed by Dan Milner
Cinematography: Brydon Baker
Film Editor: Jack Milner
Original Music: Darrell Calker
Written by Richard Bernstein and Dan Milner
Produced by Jack Milner

Cast: Tod Andrews (Dr. William Arnold), Tina Carver (Dr. Terry Mason), John McNamara (Professor Clark), Linda Watkins (Mae Kilgore), Gregg Palmer (Kimo), Grace Mathews (Orchid), Chester Haynes (Tabonga)

__________

When it comes to 50s sci-fi movies, I find that Quality and Entertainment have an often inverse correlation. (I’m tossing the concept of inverse correlation in here to prove I actually paid attention in those economics classes decades ago.) In other words, the more production values you pack in there, the bigger the budget, the less fun they seem to be. With that in mind, I’m happy to report that the super-cheap From Hell It Came (1957) is largely quality-free.

On some South Seas island, a prince is (unjustly) convicted of murder, and he’s executed with a knife in the heart — all orchestrated by the witch doctor. They bury the prince upright in an old tree trunk. Turns out the place is lousy with nuclear fallout, which reanimates the prince as a walking tree with the ceremonial dagger still sticking out of its chest. Called Tabonga, it quickly sprouts and starts killing people.

Some American scientists are on the island studying radiation levels or something. They get to the bottom of it all after spouting page after page of B-movie scientific nonsense — and putting away an awful lot of booze. And if all that isn’t enough, there’s some quicksand in the Big Finish.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, this thing is great. It’s a whacked-out mix of the usual 50s science fiction monster trappings, the goofy pseudo-Polynesian aesthetic of the period, and concern about the perils of the Atom Age.

If it all sounds ridiculous, and it does, imagine seeing it on screen — somebody shuffling around in a cheap rubber tree costume. The Tabonga is the work of the great Paul Blaisdell, AIP’s favorite (cheap) monster maker, but constructed by Don Post Studios: “I designed the Tabonga the way I thought it should look in terms of the script, and the people that built it did a damn good job of reproducing a prop that was a nice concept and certainly an original one, but one that was very awkward. My hat goes off to the guy who had to act the part of the walking tree (Chester Haynes). I think he did a helluva good job under the circumstances.”

What’s interesting about From Hell It Came is that in some ways, it looks and plays like a fairly-decent movie. The acting is passable, most of the time. The cinematography, from Brydon Baker, certainly seems professional. The editing’s not bad. It’s the premise itself — a revengeful, walking tree — and the godawful dialogue that sink this one, and make it the hoot that it is.

Back in ’57, From Hell It Came played twin bills with The Disembodied. It’s not any good, either, but it features the always-wonderful Allison Hayes as a “killer-witch of the jungle.”

Quicksand is a terrific cheesy movie thing, and I love it. (Do you know someone who perished by sinking into quicksand? Or someone who’s even seen quicksand?) As a kid, I was always on the lookout for it — after all, South Georgia isn’t all that far from Louisiana, where Kharis (Lon Chaney Jr.) had reposed in quicksand in The Mummy’s Curse (1944). Later, Christopher Lee’s Hammer The Mummy (1959) took the Scroll Of Life with him into the quicksand. Movies with a quicksand scene get extra credit from me.

Speaking of extra credit, Warner Archive gets high marks from bringing something like From Hell It Came to Blu-Ray period. Then factor in that it’s a stellar presentation, with its incredible clarity and perfect contrast giving us a chance to really study the rubbery goodness of that Tabonga outfit. You also get a trailer. Highly recommended.

3 Comments

Filed under 1957, Allison Hayes, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Hammer Films, Lon Chaney Jr., Monogram/Allied Artists, Paul Blaisdell, Warner Archive

DVD News # 129: Decoy (1957-1958).

Film Chest Media Group has announced an upcoming set of all 39 episodes of Decoy (1957-1958). This cop show, starring Beverly Garland as policewoman Casey Jones, was shot on location in New York.

Like a lot of 50s TV, some outstanding character actors turn up each week. Decoy boasts Simon Oakland, Martin Balsam, Peter Falk, John Cassavetes, Suzanne Pleshette, Vincent Gardenia, Clifton James, Colleen Dewhurst, Ed Asner, Miriam Colon, Al Lewis, Diane Ladd, Larry Hagman and Albert Dekker, along with many others.

I’ve seen a few episodes of Decoy over the years, and they’re really cool — with a bit of a Dragnet vibe. Of course, the 50s New York locations are terrific. Beverly Garland is one of my favorite actresses, so I’m really excited to see how this set looks. The release date is listed as May 30.

2 Comments

Filed under 1957, 1958, Beverly Garland, Film Chest Media Group, Peter Falk, Television

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.

8 Comments

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!

Leave a comment

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

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

helldrivers1-1

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).

4720032_l2

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?

4 Comments

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

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

return-of-dracula-lc8

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)

__________

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.

norma-eberhardt-and-francis-lederer-in-the-return-of-dracula-1958

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.

return-of-dracula-ad-slick

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.

3 Comments

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