Category Archives: 1960

Assignment: Outer Space (1960, AKA Space-Men).

Directed by Antonio Margheriti (Anthony Dawson)
Screenplay by Antonio Margheriti & Ennio De Concini
Cinematography: Marcello Masciocchi
Music by Lelio Luttazzi

Cast: Rik Van Nutter (Ray Peterson, IZ41), Gabriella Farinon (Lucy, Y13), David Montresor (George the Commander), Archie Savage (Al, X15), Alain Dijon (Archie, Y16), Franco Fantasia (Sullivan)


Antonio Margheriti worked on documentaries, did special effects work and wrote screenplays before directing his first feature, Assignment: Outer Space (1960). This kicked off a career that went from whacked-out Italian science fiction and spaghetti westerns to peplum and horror movies to spy movies and action films.

When you crank out more than 50 fad-chasing genre pictures, it’s understood that quite a few of them will be less than great. But Margheriti had a real knack for no-budget special effects — and he loved science fiction. He certainly knew how to get a movie done quickly and efficiently — using multiple cameras to get everything from master shots to closeups at the same time. With the Gamma One series, for instance, he shot four films simultaneously, using the same actors, props and sets — shooting scenes from four color-coded screenplays each day. Margheriti’s ingenuity and love of cinema is baked into most of his films, especially the ones from the 60s, and it helps put a lot of them over.

Space-Men — or Assignment: Outer Space, as it’s known in the States — is a picture with more ideas and scope than its budget could bankroll, but Margheriti manages to make it work. The story is pretty basic — a broken-down spaceship is on a collision course with Earth, and the team on a single space station are mankind’s only hope. The special effects are passable, nothing more. And its pacing is pretty leisurely for a story with so much natural suspense.

But these liabilities become assets in Margheriti’s hands. The story serves as a framework for some imaginative sequences that may, or may not, advance the story. Margheriti devotes lots of screen time to showing us the (speculative) ins and outs of space travel, in a way that plays a bit like a precursor to Kubrick’s 2001: a space odyssey (1968) — with a waking-up-from-suspended-animation scene that was clearly an influence on Alien (1979). The special effects are quaint, cool, surreal and charming — especially for those of use who consider CGI a nail in cinema’s coffin. (Larger models would’ve made a big difference, no pun intended.) It’s a very visual experience throughout, which makes it a real shame that it looks so consistently, and internationally, lousy on video.

They say that while Margheriti was shooting Assignment: Outer Space, Mario Bava was hard at work on Black Sunday (1960) on the soundstage next door at Scalera Film studios. One thing I found brilliant was the use of letters and numbers on the characters’ uniforms and space suits, so we know who’s who in longer shots — much like numbers on a baseball jersey. And one more thing: Rik Van Nutter would go on to play Felix Leiter in Thunderball (1965) — and was married to Anita Ekberg.

Antonio Margheriti would follow this with Battle Of The Worlds (1961), which is on its way to Blu-Ray from The Film Detective, and a few years later would come the Gamma One pictures (available from Warner Archive). In between, some spaghetti westerns and gothic horror — all of it worth your time. And though his work from the 70s and 80s doesn’t have the same ingenuity and creativity, it’s a real shame that Margheriti isn’t better known, and appreciated. 

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Filed under 1960, Antonio Margheriti, Mario Bava, The Film Detective, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #375: Son Of Samson (1960).

Directed by Carlo Campogalliani
Starring Mark Forest, Chelo Alonso, Vira Silenti, Angelo Zanolli

Kino Lorber has announced that they’re prepping another Italian peplum picture for Blu-Ray, Son Of Samson (1960). It will be available later in 2022.

Inspired by the success of Hercules (1959) starring Steve Reeves, Italian producers starting hiring American bodybuilders — Mark Forest, in this case — and putting them in sword-and-sandal “peplum” pictures as fast as they could. Son Of Samson is one of the better ones.

Those of us who saw these movies on TV have no idea what they looked like in theaters — many in Scope and Technicolor. And that’s why Blu-Ray releases like this are such a treat. Thanks to Kino Lorber for wrestling up so many of these!

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Filed under 1960, DVD/Blu-ray News, Kino Lorber, Mark Forest, Peplum

RIP, Yvette Mimieux.

Yvette Carmen Mimieux
(January 8, 1942 – January 17, 2022)

Yvette Mimieux has passed away, just a week after her 80th birthday.

She’s best known for her first feature, The Time Machine (1960, above). She played Weena, one of the Eloi, the folks Rod Taylor comes across when he travels to October 12,802,701.

But for me, I’ll always remember her for another picture with Rod Taylor, Dark Of The Sun (1968). It’s really something, and she’s very good in it.

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Filed under 1960, 1968, Rod Taylor

Blu-Ray News #368: Edgar G. Ulmer Sci-Fi Collection.

Man, I can’t wait for this! Kino Lorber has announced a three-picture Blu-Ray set of Edgar G. Ulmer science fiction movies, coming in late March. Of course, Mr. Ulmer was a master at making a decent movie for an insultingly paltry amount of money and time. Just look at Detour (1945) or The Naked Dawn (1955) for evidence of that. These three science fiction things show that same level of ingenuity, along with Ulmer’s habit of giving bigger parts to actors normally seen in second lead or character parts.

The Man From Planet X (1951)
Directed by Edgar G, Ulmer
Starring Robert Clarke, Margaret Field, William Schallert

Shot in a week on leftover sets from Joan Of Arc (1948), you’d think that the biggest line item in the budget was the smoke machine, since the picture uses tons and tons of fake fog to approximate a Scottish moor and hide things they don’t want you to see. The alien’s suit is really cool and the overall effect — from the fog to the spacesuit to the alien’s musical language — is creepy as hell. 

The Amazing Transparent Man (1960)
Directed by Edgar G, Ulmer
Starring Marguerite Chapman, Douglas Kennedy, James Griffith, Ivan Triesault

Beyond The Time Barrier (1960)
Directed by Edgar G, Ulmer
Starring Robert Clarke, Darlene Tompkins

Ulmer did these two pictures back to back over two weeks in Dallas, Texas, for Miller-Consolidated Pictures. Robert Clarke, the star of The Man From Plant X, had just directed and starred in The Hideous Sun Demon (1960). He was the producer of Beyond The Time Barrier and brought in Ulmer to direct. When Miller-Consolidated Pictures went broke, AIP bought these up (for pretty much just the lab costs) and released ’em as a twin bill. 

Seeing these in high definition is gonna be a real treat. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1951, 1960, DVD/Blu-ray News, Edgar G. Ulmer, James H. Griffith, Kino Lorber, William Schallert

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 #297: The Flesh And The Fiends (1960).

Directed by John Gilling
Starring Peter Cushing, June Laverick, Donald Pleasence, Dermot Walsh, Renee Houston, George Rose, Billie Whitelaw

The Flesh And The Fiends (1960) — aka Mania, aka The Fiendish Ghouls, aka Psycho Killers — has been sitting near the top of my Blu-Ray Want List since, well, Blu-Rays first started showing up. By whatever name you want to call it, The Flesh And The Fiends is a wonderfully nasty telling of the Burke and Hare story. This was Peter Cushing’s first non-Hammer horror film after becoming a star in the genre with pictures like Curse Of Frankenstein (1957) and Horror Of Dracula (1958). He’s terrific in this one. It was produced by the Robert Baker – Monty Berman team that gave us Jack The Ripper (1959).

Kino Lorber has given their upcoming Blu-Ray, with two cuts of the film and other extras, a release date of July 7.

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Filed under 1960, Donald Pleasence, DVD/Blu-ray News, John Gilling, Kino Lorber, Peter Cushing

Blu-Ray News #287: The Thousand Eyes Of Dr. Mabuse (1960).

Directed by Fritz Lang
Starring Peter van Eyck, Dawn Addams, Gert Fröbe, Werner Peters, Wolfgang Preiss, Andrea Checchi, Howard Vernon

The Thousand Eyes Of Dr. Mabuse (1960) was the great Fritz Lang’s last film, made after his return to Germany. The picture revives/revisits the sinister villain of his earlier Dr. Mabuse The Gambler (1922) and The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse (1933). It’s so cool that Lang was able to circle back to Mabuse, since the themes in these things were obviously close to him. (His 1952 Western Rancho Notorious features a variation on the network of criminals idea found in the Mabuse pictures.)

Thousand Eyes would spawn a series of Mabuse films from the same producer, Artur Brauner. Some of those sequels are pretty good — especially the one Hugo Fregonese did (1964’s The Secret Of Dr. Mabuse), but Mr. Lang is sorely missed.

Eureka Entertainment, the folks who gave us those beautiful Blu-Rays of Lang’s two-part “Indian Epic” a while back, has announced an extras-laden Blu-Ray of The Thousand Eyes Of Dr. Mabuse for May. Along with commentaries and interviews, it will feature the original German track and the Lang-approved English dub — and an alternate ending.

As a huge Fritz Lang fan, I can’t wait to get my eyes (all four of ’em) on Eureka’s The Thousand Eyes Of Dr. Mabuse. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1960, DVD/Blu-ray News, Eureka Entertainment, Fritz Lang

Blu-Ray News #266: The League Of Gentlemen (1960).

Directed by Basil Dearden
Starring Jack Hawkins, Nigel Patrick, Roger Livesey, Richard Attenborough, Bryan Forbes, Kieron Moore

Basil Deardon’s classic British caper film The League Of Gentlemen (1960) is coming to Blu-Ray from the UK label Network. I’m hoping this turns out to be region-free, since this is a picture that has somehow escaped me over the years. I’m dying to see it.

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Filed under 1960, Basil Deardon, DVD/Blu-ray News, Jack Hawkins, Richard Attenborough

Blake Lucas On Psycho (1960) For MUBI.

Blake Lucas recently completed a terrific piece on Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) that might make you look at the movie a little differently.

Click on Hitch and Anthony Perkins to read it.

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Filed under 1960, Alfred Hitchcock, Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh

Blu-Ray News #257: Hammer Volume 4 – Faces Of Fear.

The folks at Indicator have done a terrific job with their Hammer Blu-Ray sets — and I expect just as much from this one.

Scream Of Fear (1961; UK title: Taste Of Fear)
​Directed by Seth Holt
​Starring Susan Strasberg, Ronald Lewis, Ann Todd, Christopher Lee

Hammer made a string of Psycho-inspired thrillers in the early 60s. One of the best of the bunch is Scream Of Fear, which borrows more from Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques (1955) than it does from the Hitchcock picture. Susan Strasberg is terrific as the handicapped young woman who is being systematically scared to death by a conniving couple. Jimmy Sangster’s script, Seth Holt’s direction and Douglas Slocombe’s black and white photography are all top-notch.

The Revenge Of Frankenstein (1958)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Peter Cushing, Eunice Grayson, Francis Matthews, Michael Gwynn

The Revenge Of Frankenstein (1958) is the second entry in Hammer’s Frankenstein series, coming after The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957). Hammer went a different route than Universal — they follow the Doctor, not the Monster, which lets the stories go in all sorts of different directions. And more important, it established Peter Cushing as a leading horror star through the 70s.

Revenge picks up where Curse left off. Frankenstein escapes the guillotine, flees to Carlsbruck and builds a successful practice under the name Stein. Of course, he’s conducting his usual experiments on the side — and they go horribly wrong. Frankenstein transplants the brain of a willing assistant into the newly constructed monster, giving the crippled young man a stronger, straighter body. Or that’s the idea anyway.

This, for my money, is one of Hammer’s finest films. Cushing is terrific as the brilliant doctor completely taken over by arrogance and misguided ambition (making it quite appropriate during this Presidential election). Eunice Grayson and Francis Matthews are good as the nurse and young doctor caught up in Frankenstein’s mayhem. Michael Gwynn is really superb as the monster, perfectly balancing the sympathy and horror the part requires. His performance is what makes the movie work as well as it does. Jimmy Sangster’s script is more disciplined than usual, free of the diversions that can lead his films astray. And Terence Fisher’s direction is as assured as ever.

The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll (1960; US Title: House Of Fright)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Paul Massie, Dawn Addams, Christopher Lee, David Kossoff, Oliver Reed

Hammer always put their own spin on the horror standards they tackled, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde is no exception. Their Dr. Jekyll (Paul Massie) is rather boring, but his potion transforms him into the suave, yet lecherous and murderous Mr. Hyde. Minus the murder part, this seems like a precursor to Jerry Lewis’ The Nutty Professor (1963). This framework provides ample opportunity for everything from rape and murder to snake-charming — the kind of stuff censors pounced on, resulting in a cut-up American release from American International.

The Damned (1963; US Title: These Are The Damned)
Directed by Joseph Losey
Starring MacDonald Carey, Shirley Anne Field, Viveca Lindfors, Oliver Reed

Fleeing the harassment of a motorcycle gang (lead by Oliver Reed), a couple (MacDonald Carey, Shirley Anne Field) winds up in a cave occupied by a group of children — the product an experiment to create a race of radiation-friendly humans.

Hammer sat on this one a while before releasing it, and in in the States it was cut to just 77 minutes. It’s never been given its due, though it’s cherished by fans of Joseph Losey. Indicator, of course, is offering up the original cut, not the chopped-up American thing.

Coming November 18, this Region-Free set loads each picture up with extras — from interviews and trailers to commentaries and photo galleries. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1958, 1960, 1961, 1963, AIP, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, Indicator/Powerhouse, Oliver Reed, Peter Cushing, Terence Fisher