Category Archives: 1961

How’s The Weather?

Yesterday was Raleigh’s hottest day of the year so far. Today, it’s 94 degrees, and I swear the humidity has to be 413%. Anyway, this movie came to mind.

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Filed under 1961, Val Guest

DVD/Blu-Ray News #168: Doctor Blood’s Coffin (1961).

Directed by Sidney J. Furie
Starring Kieron Moore, Hazel Court, Ian Hunter

This one slipped by me — it’s available now. Doctor Blood’s Coffin (1961) is an English zombie picture that was very influential in how movie zombies work. These are resurrected corpses, not the voodoo-type zombies of I Walked With A Zombie (1943).

Nathan Juran came up with the story, and its setting was moved from the US to the UK. Sidney J. Furie does a solid job on a 10-day schedule, demonstrating some of the stylistics that he’d let run rampant on The Ipcress File (1965).

Doctor Blood’s Coffin is a pretty cool movie, and I’m so glad it’s received the white-glove Scream Factory treatment. Previous versions have never been all that great. By the way, this Eastmancolor picture played some US theaters in black and white.

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Filed under 1961, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hazel Court, Nathan Juran, Shout/Scream Factory, Sidney J. Furie

Blu-Ray News #166: Hammer Vol. 3 – Blood And Terror.

Indicator has announced their upcoming boxed set Hammer Volume 3 Blood and Terror. It gathers up four non-horror pictures from Hammer’s glorious do-no-wrong period. The set includes —

The Camp On Blood Island (1958)
Directed by Val Guest
​S​tarring Carl Möhner, André Morell, Edward Underdown, Walter Fitzgeral​d, Barbara Shelley, Michael Ripper

Yesterday’s Enemy (1959)
Directed by Val Guest
Starring Stanley Baker, Guy Rolfe, Leo McKern, Gordon Jackson

The Stranglers Of Bombay (1959)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Guy Rolfe, Jan Holden

The Terror Of The Tongs (1961)
Directed by Anthony Bushell
Starring Geoffrey Toone, Christopher Lee, Yvonne Monlaur

POWs, firing squads, Thuggee cults, Chinese crime families — this set’s got something for everyone.

Chung King (Christopher Lee): “Have you ever had your bones scraped, Captain? It is painful in the extreme I can assure you.”

As a kid, The Terror Of The Tongs haunted me for days after catching it on TV. Yesterday’s Enemy is one of the best films Hammer ever did. The Camp On Blood Island and The Stranglers Of Bombay (in Strangloscope!) are both wonderfully exploitive. Coming in July. It’s gonna be great.

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Filed under 1958, 1959, 1961, Christopher Lee, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, Terence Fisher, Val Guest

Blu-Ray News #161: The Colossus Of Rhodes (1961).

Directed by Sergio Leone
Starring Rory Calhoun, Lea Massari, Georges Marchal, Angel Aranda

Warner Archive is bringing Sergio Leone’s first picture as director, The Colossus Of Rhodes (1961), to Blu-Ray. Rory Calhoun stars, replacing a fired John Derek.

It’s certainly a notch above the usual Italian sword-and-sandal stuff of the period, with the well-orchestrated battle scenes you’d expect from Leone. And while it has its stylistic quirks here and there, they just hint at what the director would put into the Eastwood pictures. Of course, Leone’s use of the wide screen, called SuperTotalscope here, is incredible. And the statue, the colossus of the title, is very cool.

Some will see this as little more than a curio, a glimpse at Leone’s development as a director. Mistake. Others will see it as the usual peplum stuff with a bigger budget and better director. But it’s a very unusual, stylish movie with some terrific sequences — and an interesting performance from Rory Calhoun. Recommended.

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Filed under 1961, DVD/Blu-ray News, MGM, Rory Calhoun, Sergio Leone, Warner Archive

Merry Christmas.

Here’s Christ’s birth as staged by the great Nicholas Ray for King Of Kings (1961), a movie I find really moving in places.  It’s also got some of the most breathtaking widescreen photography you’re ever likely to see. Ray’s mastery of the Scope-shaped image is unmatched.

I’d like to wish you all a 70mm Super Technirama holiday. Toby

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Filed under 1961, Jeffrey Hunter, Nicholas Ray

Blu-Ray News #154: Two More Hammer Double Features From Mill Creek.

A couple years ago, Mill Creek Entertainment treated us all to a couple of twin-bill Blu-Rays of some Hammer horror pictures. While some folks had problems with the transfers — I thought they were terrific, you sure couldn’t complain about the price. My hope was that those titles would sell enough to warrant more, and it looks like they did. The next two double features pair up Scream Of Fear (1960) with Never Take Candy From A Stranger (1960) and The Maniac (1963) with Die! Die! My Darling! (1965). All four of these were originally released by Columbia in the States.

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

These four films come from Hammer’s string of often Psycho-inspired thrillers of 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. This is a good one.

Never Take Candy From A Stranger (1960)
Directed by Cyril Frankel
Starring Patrick Allen, Gwen Watford

In a way, it’s hard to believe this story of an old man praying on young children even exists. But it does, Hammer made it, and while it’s hard to take (especially is you have a teenage daughter), by implying what’s happening rather than showing it, it becomes all the more effective. That’s a lesson I wish all filmmakers would learn. Not for everyone, for sure, but it’s excellent.

Oh, it was called Never Take Candy From A Stranger in the UK.

(The) Maniac (1963)
Directed by Michael Carreras
Starring Kerwin Mathews, Nadia Gray, Donald Houston

Aside from the psycho freak (Donald Houston) wielding a blowtorch, what strikes me about Manic is what a slimeball Kerwin Mathews is in it. To see Sinbad himself hitting on both a teenager and her stepmother, as he pounds gallons of brandy, is a little jarring.

Michael Carreras’ direction is a bit flat, and the movie suffers for it. He was a much better producer or writer than a director — his dad ran Hammer. What the picture really has going for it is DP Wilkie Cooper’s black and white Megascope — love those B&W ‘Scope pictures!

For some reason, Columbia dropped the The from its title in the US.

Richard Burton (center) is about to kick Donald Houston’s teeth out in Where Eagles Dare (1969)

Donald Houston, the picture’s maniac, would go on to appear in my all-time favorite movie — he’s the Nazi agent Richard Burton kicks in the face during the cablecar fight in Where Eagles Dare (1969). In Maniac, he’s appropriately over the top, and stills of him with his torch and goggles fascinated me as a kid.

Die! Die! My Darling! (1965; UK title: Fanatic)
Directed by Silvio Narizzano
Starring Tallulah Bankhead, Stefanie Powers, Peter Vaughan, Yootha Joyce, Donald Sutherland

This time, Hammer aimed for something more in the vein of Robert Aldrich’s What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) and Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964). They wisely got the great Richard Matheson to write it and the incomparable Tallulah Bankhead to star. Good, creepy stuff. This would be Bankhead’s last role, aside from her turn as Black Widow on Batman.

Mill Creek has these scheduled for a March release. I’m eternally grateful for their ongoing efforts to bring movies like these to hi-def at such low cost.

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Filed under 1960, 1961, 1963, 1965, Alfred Hitchcock, Christopher Lee, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, Mill Creek, Richard Burton, Richard Matheson, Robert Aldrich

Blu-Ray News #91: The Day The Earth Caught Fire (1961).

day_earth_caught_fire_poster_02

Directed by Val Guest
Starring Janet Munro, Leo McKern, Edward Judd

The Day The Earth Caught Fire (1961) is an almost impossibly good science fiction movie from Val Guest. It’s coming to Blu-Ray, with a new 2K restoration, in 2017 from Cohen Media Group.

The premise is very simple. Nuclear blasts at the North and South Poles knock the Earth off its axis and send it headed straight for the sun. Sweating and panic ensue as London prepares for what may be The End.

Seeing it as a kid, in a crappy pan and scan late-night TV airing, I was glued to the screen — wanting to throw a brick through the tube when the station went to a commercial break. Back then, I knew Leo McKern from Help! (1965) — “Psst! Hey, Be-a-tle! You shall have fun, yes?” — and Janet Munro from The Crawling Eye (1958) and Darby O’Gill And The Little People (1959). I was surprised to see them in something so dark and intense — and her so near-naked.

day-the-earth-caught-fire_19

Val Guest’s direction here is top-notch. He got a tremendous amount of movie out of his paltry budget, masterfully using stock footage and matte paintings (by Les Bowie) to create London’s brink-of-desctruction weather. Today, we’d just throw CGI at this story and render it soulless — in 1961, writing, acting and craftsmanship came together to create something really special.

Also of note is Guest and DP Harry Waxman’s use of Dyaliscope, a French anamorphic process. The thought of their work in high definition has me giddy. As you can tell, I am a big fan of this movie. Can’t wait to slide this thing into my Blu-Ray player. As I see it, this one is essential.

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Filed under 1961, DVD/Blu-ray News, The Beatles, Val Guest