Category Archives: 1961

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.


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).


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.


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.



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

Blu-ray News #63: Hammer Horror 8-Film Blu-ray Collection.


Universal has announced a terrific Blu-ray set of eight Hammer horror films, coming in September.

Brides Of Dracula (1960)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starrings Peter Cushing, David Peel, Yvonne Monlaur

The Curse Of The Werewolf (1961)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Clifford Evans, Oliver Reed, Yvonne Romain, Catherine Feller

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Phantom Of The Opera (1962)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Herbert Lom, Heather Sears. Thorley Walters, Michael Gough

Paranoiac (1963)
Directed by Freddie Francis
Starring Janette Scott, Oliver Reed, Sheila Burrell


Kiss Of The Vampire (1962)
Directed by Don Sharp
Starring Clifford Evans, Noel Willman, Jennifer Daniel

Nightmare (1964)
Directed by Freddie Francis
Starring David Knight, Moira Redmond, Jennie Linden

Night Creatures (1962; UK Title: Captain Clegg)
Directed by Peter Graham Scott
Starrings Peter Cushing, Yvonne Romain, Patrick Allen


The Evil Of Frankenstein (1964)
Directed by Freddie Francis
Starring Peter Cushing, Sandor Eles, Peter Woodthorpe, Katy Wiuld, Ducnam Lamont, Kiwi Kingston

These are some key Hammer films, and I’m dying to see Night Creatures — which I’ve somehow never seen.



Filed under 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, DVD/Blu-ray News, Freddie Francis, Hammer Films, Oliver Reed, Peter Cushing, Terence Fisher, Universal (-International)

Blu-ray News #60: William Castle On Blu-ray.


I’d better type this quick — before I have a heart attack. Four William Castle classics, including 13 Ghosts (1960), are coming to Blu-ray from Mill Creek Entertainment. If I didn’t have a Blu-ray player, I’d be shopping for one now.

EPSON scanner image

The other three pictures are Homicidal (1961), Mr. Sardonicus (1961) and 13 Frightened Girls (1963). They will appear in July as two double bills: 13/13 and Homicidal/Sardonicus. This is essential stuff, folks.

It’s hard to tell from the info available whether we’ll get both the B&W and color versions (to preserve the Illusion-O process) of 13 Ghosts. The DVD, which has been out for years, gave us both — and some reproductions of the Ghost Viewer.



Filed under 1960, 1961, 1963, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Martin Milner, Mill Creek, William Castle

DVD News #37: Vintage Sci-Fi Six-Movie Collection.

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Mill Creek has brought out a number of these collections, scooping up stuff from the Columbia vaults (some might say from the dumpster) and bringing them out at great prices — and in their proper aspect ratios! It’s hard to keep up with ’em all. I’m really excited about this one, which gives us another picture from the underrated, overlooked Fred F. Sears.

The Night The World Exploded (1957)
Directed by Fred F. Sears
Starring Kathryn Grant, William Leslie, Tristram Coffin, Raymond Greenleaf, Charles Evans, Frank J. Scannell

The 27th Day (1957)
Directed by William Asher
Starring Gene Barry, Valerie French, George Vaokovec, Arnold Moss, Stefan Schnabel, Friedrich von, Ledebur

Twelve To The Moon (1960)
Directed by David Bradley
Starring Ken Clark, Michi Kobi, Tom Conway, Anthony Dexter, John Wengraf, Robert Montgomery, Jr.

Valley Of The Dragons (1961)
Directed by Edward Bernds
Starring Cesare Danova, Sean McClory, Joan Staley, Danielle De Metz, Gregg Martell, Gil Peerkins

The H-Man (1958)
Directed by Ishirō Honda
Starring Yumi Shirakawa, Kenji Sahara, Akihiko Hirata, Eitarô Ozawa, Koreya Senda, Makoto Satô

Battle In Outer Space
Directed by Ishirō Honda
Starring Ryô Ikebe, Kyôko Anzai, Minoru Takada, Koreya Senda, Len Stanford, Harold Conway





Filed under 1957, 1958, 1960, 1961, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Fred F. Sears, Gene Barry, Ishirō Honda, Mill Creek, Toho, William Asher

DVD News #35: William Castle Horror Collection.


With their William Castle Horror Collection, Mill Creek’s brought together five Castle pictures into one budget, two-disc package:

13 Ghosts (1960)
Starring Charles Herbert, Jo Morrow, Martin Milner, Rosemary DeCamp. Donald Woods, Margaret Hamilton

Mr. Sardonicus (1961)
Starring Ronald Lewis, Audrey Dalton, Guy Rolfe, Oskar Homolka

Homicidal (1961)
Starring Glenn Corbett, Patricia Breslin, Eugenie Leontovich, Alan Bunce

13 Frightened Girls (1963)
Starring Murray Hamilton, Joyce Taylor, Hugh Marlowe, Khigh Dhiegh

The Old Dark House (1963)
Starring Tom Poston, Robert Morley, Janette Scott, Joyce Grenfell

EPSON scanner image

All are presented widescreen, as they should be. You don’t get a Ghost Viewer for 13 Ghosts, but a pair of red-blue 3-D glasses will work just fine. A terrific set for less than 10 bucks.


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Filed under 1960, 1961, 1963, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Mill Creek, William Castle