Category Archives: 1958

Blu-Ray/4K News #366: Touch Of Evil (1958).

Written & Directed by Orson Welles
Starring Orson Welles, Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Joseph Calleia, Akim Tamiroff, Marlene Dietrich

Orson Welles’ Touch Of Evil (1958) is one of my all-time favorite films, one of the damnedest things you’ll ever see on a movie screen — and one of those pictures where you find something completely new each time you see it.

The story of its making, un-making and eventual reconstruction has been told a million times, and Kino Lorber is bringing all three versions to both Blu-Ray and 4K, filled out with all sorts of extras. With its incredible visuals, shot by Russell Metty, if there was ever a film that needed to be in 4K, this is it.

Coming in February. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1958, Charlton Heston, DVD/Blu-ray News, Janet Leigh, Kino Lorber, Orson Welles, Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray Review: Frankenstein’s Daughter (1958).

Directed by Richard E. Cunha
Written by H. E. Barrie
Cinematography: Meredith Nicholson
Film Editor: Everett Dodd
Music by Nicholas Carras

Cast: John Ashley (Johnny Bruder), Sandra Knight (Trudy Morton), Donald Murphy (Oliver Frank/Frankenstein), Sally Todd (Suzie Lawler), Harold Lloyd Jr. (Don), Felix Maurice Locher (Carter Morton), Wolfe Barzell (Elsu), John Zaremba (Lt. Boyd), Robert Dix (Det. Bill Dillon), Harry Wilson (The Monster)

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With Frankenstein’s Daughter (1958), The Film Detective has topped their exquisite Blu-Ray of Giant From The Unknown. Shot in less than a week in May of 1958 for about $65,000, Frankenstein’s Daughter is a typically glorious, wonderful late-50s junk movie.

Richard Cunha directed a handful of films, including Frankenstein’s Daughter, that I have a real fondness for, regardless of whether they’re any good or not. Caught this one on the late show as a teenager, when I was soaking up as much of this stuff as I could get my hands on.

At the time, I was enticed by stills in some monster movie books and magazines, and by the fact that John Ashley was in it. I’d seen Ashley in Larry Buchanan’s abysmal The Eye Creatures, a 16mm AIP TV movie from 1967 (and a remake of 1957’s Invasion Of The Saucer Men) — and, of course, the Beach Party pictures.

John Ashley: “Frankenstein’s Daughter was really rock bottom. But the people involved were very nice, especially Dick Cunha, the director.”*

Richard E. Cunha was born in Honolulu in 1922. He attended LA’s Art Center School. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, Cunha enlisted in the Air Force and served in their First Motion Picture Unit, making training films at the Hal Roach Studios (nicknamed “Fort Roach” at the time).

After the war, Cunha started his own company, making industrial films and commercials — and he shot some early TV shows. He’d later work as DP on Death Valley Days and Branded.

It was in 1957 that Cunha began his run of low-budget monster movies: Giant From The Unknown, She Demons, Missile To The Moon and Frankenstein’s Daughter. Each were done in about a week for around $65,000. They’re a load of cheeseball fun, with personal favorites being Frankenstein’s Daughter and Missile To The Moon (I’m a sucker for those guys-reach-another-world-and-find-a-society-of-women movies). It’s hard to put your finger on what makes Cunha’s movies somehow better than the other one-week wonders from the same period, but they are. 

But our focus today is on Frankenstein’s Daughter. It’s got yet another member of the Frankenstein family conducting the family business under an assumed name (the very lame Oliver Frank). Oliver is working as a lab assistant and spiking the fruit juice of his boss’s niece Trudy (Sandra Knight) with a secret formula that contains something called Digenerol. While all this is happening, Trudy has recurring dreams of turning into a monster. And if all that’s not enough, Oliver is also assembling a female version of the typical Frankenstein brand of “perfect being.” All that, and it’s got a Playboy Playmate in it (Sally Todd, February 1957). Sounds awesome, don’t it?

On Blu-Ray, this thing looks terrific — nice and clean and sharp, framed the way it should be (1.85), with surprisingly punchy audio. Never thought I’d see it look like this.

Then there’s all the extras, and The Film Detective really piles ’em on. For starters, there’s a commentary from Tom Weaver (who also wrote some stuff for the packaging). Then there are two terrific documentaries: Richard E. Cunha: Filmmaker Of The Unknown (complete with some interview footage) and John Ashley: Man From The B’s. I loved ’em both. This is an all-around wonderful release, my favorite so far from The Film Detective.

It’s really easy to recommend this thing, especially to fans of such nonsense. Here’s hoping that The Film Detective gets around to She Demons soon (Missile To The Moon got a pretty solid Blu-Ray release from Snappy Video).

* From Interviews With B Science Fiction & Horror Movie Makers by Tom Weaver

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Filed under 1958, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, John Ashley, Richard Cunha, 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 #361: Blood Of The Vampire (1958).

Directed by Henry Cass
Starring Donald Wolfit, Barbara Shelley, Vincent Ball, Victor Maddern

Blood Of The Vampire (1958) is often mistaken for a Hammer film, with its subject matter, use of color, Barbary Shelley in the cast and a script from Jimmy Sangster.

But it was produced by Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman, who’d give us Jack The Ripper a year later. Of course, they were clearly inspired by the success of Hammer’s Curse Of Frankenstein (1957) and Horror Of Dracula (1958) — and they serve up lots of Eastmancolor blood.

What’s interesting about the picture is that despite its Transylvania setting, Sangster goes for a more science-fiction approach to the whole blood-drinking thing, and this doesn’t play much like a vampire movie at all. Paul Landres’ The Vampire had taken a similar approach a year earlier — and Fred F. Sears’ The Werewolf went a similar route in ’56.

Nucleus Films in the UK is bringing Blood Of The Vampire to Blu-Ray, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with. I’ve always wanted a nice clean copy of this, with all its lurid color lovingly preserved. Here’s hoping that’s what we get!

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Filed under 1958, Barbara Shelley, DVD/Blu-ray News, Fred F. Sears, Paul Landres, Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray News #358: Frankenstein’s Daughter (1958).

Directed by Richard E. Cunha
Starring John Ashley, Sandra Knight, Donald Murphy, Sally Todd, Harold Lloyd, Jr., John Zaremba

Here’s another little-over-a-week wonder making its way to Blu-Ray thanks to our friends at The Film Detective. Frankenstein’s Daughter (1958) was shot in eight day for around $65,000, and it’s a real treat for lovers of such junk (count me as one).

Sandra Knight’s a teenager who dreams she turns into a monster at night. Little does she know she really is — she’s being slipped a serum that turns her into something deadly and hideous. Rest assured, it’s every bit as ridiculous, and wonderful, as it sounds.

The Film Detective is on a roll these days, and I can’t wait to get my hands on Frankenstein’s Daughter. Sorry, that sounds a bit creepy. Let’s just say I’m excited about this release.

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Filed under 1958, DVD/Blu-ray News, John Ashley, Richard Cunha, The Film Detective

February 1975.

While researching something completely unrelated, I came across this ad for a double feature of Hercules (1958) and Hercules Unchained (1959) playing a number of theaters in New York in February 1975, including the UA Rivoli, which was one of the only Dimension 150 houses around.

Seeing those great Steve Reeves peplum films, shot by Mario Bava in ‘Scope, on that deep curved Dimension 150 screen must’ve really been something.

By the way, the Rivoli ran Jaws that summer, which would’ve been cool on that curved screen.

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Filed under 1958, 1959, Avco Embassy, Mario Bava, Peplum, Steve Reeves

Blu-Ray Review: Giant From The Unknown (1958).

Directed by Richard E. Cunha
Produced by Marc Frederic & Arthur A. Jacobs
Written by Ralph Brooke
Frank Hart Taussig
Music by Albert Glasser
Cinematography: Richard E. Cunha

Cast: Ed Kemmer (Wayne Brooks), Sally Fraser (Janet Cleveland), Buddy Baer (Vargas the Giant), Bob Steele (Sheriff Parker), Morris Ankrum (Dr. Frederick Cleveland), Oliver Blake (Cafe Proprietor), Jolene Brand (Anne Brown), Billy Dix (Indian Joe), Gary Crutcher (Charlie Brown), Ned Davenport (Townsman), Ewing Miles Brown (Townsman)

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1957-58 was an interesting time for the Horror Film. For starters, Hammer kicked off their rethink (I hate the word “reboot”) of the classic monsters with Curse Of Frankenstein and Horror Of Dracula. Jacques Tourneur gave us the masterful Night Of The Demon. And William Castle launched his string of gimmick-y horror pictures with Macabre. But there was something else brewing, with a bunch of unknowns, independents and upstarts cooking up their own scrappy little monster movies. Pictures like Attack Of The Crab Monsters, Earth Vs. The Spider, Curse Of The Faceless Man — and Giant From The Unknown. And while they’re lacking in what we normally think of when it comes to Good Movies, they’ve been beloved by fans since they first played drive-ins and turned up on the late show.

Giant From The Unknown works from a pretty kooky premise. After 500 years in the dirt, a Spanish Conquistador, Vargas the “Diablo Giant” (Buddy Baer), is resurrected by lightning and goes on a killing spree. The sheriff (Bob Steele), a geologist (Edward Kemmer) and a group on citizens from Pine Ridge, California, eventually take him down.

Shot around Big Bear Lake for about $55,000 — and going from idea to answer print in just 60 days, Giant From The Unknown is a hoot. Director Richard E. Cunha and producer Arthur A. Jacobs were making commercials before this first feature. Cunha would make three more low-budget monster pictures in the late 50s: She Demons, Missile To The Moon and Frankenstein’s Daughter. On this one, he was a cinematographer and editor, too. 

The Giant’s makeup was done by none other than Jack Pierce, the genius behind all the Universal Monsters. And it boasts a couple of terrific character actors, Bob Steele and Morris Ankrum. Buddy Baer is, of course, the father of Jethro Bodine himself, Max Baer.

The Film Detective brings Giant From The Unknown to Blu-Ray in a “Deluxe Edition” using a 4K scan of the camera negative. It’s absolutely startling, especially of you remember how it looked on TV or VHS. It looks like it was made yesterday, unbelievably sharp and clean. It comes with a terrific stable of extras — a couple commentaries, interviews, the trailer and a nice booklet.

I’ve loved this movie for decades, and I love what The Film Detective has done with it. It’s wonderful to have movies like Giant From The Unknown get this kind of treatment. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1958, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Jack Pierce, Morris Ankrum, Richard E. Cunha, The Film Detective

Blu-Ray News #321: Giant From The Unknown (1958).

Directed by Richard E. Cunha
Starring Ed Kemmer, Sally Fraser, Buddy Baer, Bob Steele, Morris Ankrum

The Film Detective has announced an upcoming Blu-Ray release of Ricard E. Cunha’s Giant From The Unknown (1958), due in January 2021. As you can see from this trailer, the 4K scan of the camera negative is stunning.

The set will come with all kinds of goodies —
• Audio commentary with Tom Weaver and guests
• Audio commentary with co-star Gary Crutcher
You’re A B-Movie Star, Charlie Brown, interview with actor/screenwriter Gary Crutcher
• The Man With A Badge: Bob Steele In The 1950s
• Interview with author/film historian C. Courtney Joyner
• Original trailer
Booklet with still gallery and liner notes by Tom Weaver

Available before that release, in time for the holidays, is a Limited-Edition Giant Cult Film Box Set with “exclusive collectibles that will thrill any cult classic film fan, including a 13-month cult film calendar, bookmark, magnet, custom playing card deck and lapel pin inspired by Vargas the Giant himself. And that’s not all!  Each box set will also include a surprise, TFD Vault cult film, recently restored from the original camera negative in stunning 4K and a one-year subscription to The Film Detective app.” The pre-order date for that one is November 13. Act now!

Giant From The Unknown has a number of things to recommend it. The giant’s makeup was done by Jack Pierce, who did Karloff’s Frankenstein (1931) and other Universal classic monsters. It’s good to see Bob Steele in a more sizable part, and Morris Ankrum is always a treat. And there’s something about Richard E. Cunha’s low-budget, one-week pictures I like — he was the cinematographer on this one, too. It played in twin bills with his She Demons (1958) starring Irish McCalla.

Between my two blogs, I’ve said this about a million times — seeing cheap movies like this get such stellar treatment makes me feel good. And for fans of this kind of stuff, this one is easy to recommend.

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Filed under 1958, DVD/Blu-ray News, Morris Ankrum, Richard Cunha, The Film Detective

Blu-Ray News #308: Hammer Films – The Ultimate Collection (1958-1971).

I’ve been really impressed with Mill Creek’s Hammer releases. They don’t have the extras we get from someone like Scream Factory, but they look good, they’re often in double bills or sets (with us DVD/Blu-Ray collectors, shelf space is always a concern), and the price is certainly right. 

Mill Creek’s newest Hammer project is the 20-picture Hammer Films – The Ultimate Collection. It’s got some great stuff — some are repeats from previous MC releases, some not. It focuses on Hammer films that were distributed by Columbia in the States. Here’s the lineup:

The Revenge Of Frankenstein (1958)
The Snorkel (1958)
The Camp On Blood Island (1958)
Yesterday’s Enemy (1959)
The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll (1960)
Never Take Candy From A Stranger (1960)

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The Stranglers Of Bombay (1960)
Cash On Demand (1961)
Scream Of Fear (1961)
Stop Me Before I Kill! (1961)

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The Terror Of The Tongs (1961)
The Pirates Of Blood River (1962)
These Are The Damned (1962)
The Old Dark House (1963)
The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb (1963)
Maniac (1963)
The Devil-Ship Pirates (1964)

The Gorgon (1964)
Die! Die! My Darling (1965)
Creatures The World Forgot (1971)

I can’t wait to get my hands on this thing. These films are essential stuff. A few of these I haven’t seen in quite a while — and never on Blu-Ray. It’s coming in November.

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Filed under 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1971, Arthur Grant, Christopher Lee, Columbia, Don Sharp, DVD/Blu-ray News, Freddie Francis, Hammer Films, John Gilling, Kerwin Matthews, Mill Creek, Oliver Reed, Peter Cushing, Stanley Baker, Terence Fisher, Val Guest, William Castle

Blu-Ray News #299: Universal Horror Collection, Volume 6.

I’m really excited about this one, as Shout Factory’s Universal Horror Blu-Ray series moves into the 50s. This is announced for release on August 25.

The Black Castle (1952)
Directed by Nathan H. Juran
Starring Richard Greene, Boris Karloff, Stephen McNally, Rita Corday, Lon Chaney, Jr., John Hoyt, Michael Pate
You could say this was the last of the true Universal-type horror movies, with all the trapping and a few of the actors we associate with such things. It was Nathan Juran’s first time as director. He was on the film as art director, but was moved into the director’s chair when Joseph Pevney walked.

Cult Of The Cobra (1955)
Directed by Francis D. Lyon
Starring Faith Domergue, Richard Long, Kathleen Hughes, Marshall Thompson, Jack Kelly, William Reynolds, David Janssen
This story of a cult of snake worshippers, a deadly curse and the beautiful, deadly snake goddess (Faith Domergue) making their way to New York went out as the second feature behind Revenge Of The Creature (1955).

The Thing That Couldn’t Die (1958)
Directed by Will Cowan
Starring William Reynolds, Andra Martin, Jeffrey Stone, Carolyn Kearney
Running just 69 minutes, shot by the great Russell Metty and with terrific poster art from Reynold Brown (up top), this played with Hamer’s Horror Of Dracula (1958) in the States. It’s about a telepathic head that’s discovered in a box at a dude ranch.

The Shadow Of The Cat (1961)
Directed by John Gilling
Starring André Morell, Barbara Shelley, William Lucas, Fred Jackson
A cat witnesses a murder, then helps both solve it and bring the culprits to their just rewards. Shot in black & white by Hammer’s ace cameraman Arthur Grant.

Scream Factory has come up with some real gold in this one, and it’s good to see these more obscure Universal horror pictures get a chance to shine. They’ll be seen in their original widescreen aspect ratio, with the exception of The Black Castle, which predates the shift to widescreen. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1952, 1955, 1958, 1961, Arthur Grant, Barbara Shelley, Boris Karloff, DVD/Blu-ray News, Faith Domergue, Hammer Films, John Gilling, Lon Chaney Jr., Marshall Thompson, Nathan Juran, Reynold Brown, Shout/Scream Factory, Universal (-International)