Category Archives: 1961

Blu-Ray News #317: Duel Of The Titans (1961).

Directed by Sergio Corbucci
Starring Steve Reeves, Gordon Scott, Virna Lisi

Germany’s Explosive Media, through Koch, has announced a January release date for Duel Of The Titans (1961, AKA Romulus And Remus). Bringing Steve Reeves (Hercules) and Gordon Scott (Tarzan) together as Romulus and Remus, with Sergio Corbucci directing, and with Virna Lisi — not to mention “primitive passions,” “volcanic thrills” and “pagan worship,” how could it go wrong?

Paramount cut the picture to less than 90 minutes for the States. Koch seems to be offering up the fill 109-minute version. These peplum movies have really suffered over the years, with wretched pan-and-scan transfers and faded Eastman Color. The few that have made it to Blu-Ray have looked splendid. So while the pictures themselves are a matter of taste, it’s hard to knock ’em on Blu-Ray. For fans of this stuff, this one comes recommended.

Thanks to the mighty John Knight for the tip!

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Filed under 1961, DVD/Blu-ray News, Explosive Media, Gordon Scott, Paramount, Peplum, Sergio Corbucci, Steve Reeves

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)

Blu-Ray News #290: The Curse Of The Werewolf (1961).

Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Clifford Evans, Oliver Reed, Yvonne Romain, Catherine Feller

Hammer and Terence Fisher continued their reimagining of the classic monsters with The Curse Of The Werewolf (1961), with the same results they’d had with Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy. It’s the next installment in Scream Factory’s terrific Hammer Blu-Ray series, and I can’t wait to see what a 4K cleanup does to this one. Highly recommended. Coming, loaded with extras, in April.

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Filed under 1961, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, Oliver Reed, Shout/Scream Factory, Terence Fisher

Blu-Ray News #274: The Pirates Of Blood River (1962).

Directed by John Gilling
Starring Kerwin Mathews, Christopher Lee, Glenn Corbett, Marla Landi

Our friends at Indicator/Powerhouse have dug up some real treasure with their latest Hammer set — Passport To China (1961), The Pirates Of Blood River (1962), The Crimson Blade (1963) and The Brigand Of Kandahar (1965).

John Gilling’s Blood River is absolutely essential. Christopher Lee is terrific in it.

Called Hammer Volume Five: Death & Deceit, the set is limited to 6,000 units. Coming ashore in March.

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Filed under 1961, 1962, 1963, 1965, Christopher Lee, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, Indicator/Powerhouse, John Gilling, Kerwin Matthews

Blu-Ray News #267: Night Tide (1961).

Written & Directed by Curtis Harrington
Starring Dennis Hopper, Linda Lawson, Luana Anders

The fine folks at Indicator have given the Cadillac treatment to another sub-compact movie, Curtis Harrington’s Night Tide (1961). And even by Indicator’s lofty standards, this one’s a real class act.

Dennis Hopper, in his first starring role, is a sailor on leave who meets a mysterious young woman who plays a mermaid at a seaside carnival — and who just might be a real, and murderous, one. This AIP horror picture is much more than a see-a-famous-actor’s-early-work curio. It’s dream-like, it’s dreamy and it’s one of those movies where you find something new every time you see it. Plus, it has Luana Anders in it (always a plus).

As usual, Indicator is offering up a stellar transfer and sweetening the deal with plenty of incredible supplements. A few highlights:
• Audio commentary with Curtis Harrington & Dennis Hopper
• Audio commentary with Tony Rayns
Harrington On Harrington (archival interview)
• Image Gallery
• Limited Edition Second Disc: Dream Logic – The Short Films Of Curtis Harrington (Eight short films spanning Harrington’s seven decades as a filmmaker)

It’s easy to recommend Night Tide. And it’s just as easy to recommend what Indicator is doing with it. I can’t wait to see this thing.

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Filed under 1961, AIP, Curtis Harrington, DVD/Blu-ray News, Indicator/Powerhouse

Blu-Ray News #263: Goliath And The Vampires (1961).

Directed by Sergio Corbucci & Giacomo Gentilomo
Starring Gordon Scott, Gianna Maria Canale, Jacques Sernas, Leonora Ruffo, Annabella Incontrera, Mario Feliciani

After their terrific Blu-Ray of Mario Bava’s Hercules In The Haunted World (1961), I was hoping Kino Lorber would keep the peplum coming. Well, with Goliath And The Vampires (1961) coming in early 2020, there’s at least one more in the works. This one has Gordon Scott as Goliath and was co-directed by Sergio Corbucci (there’s some debate about how much input he actually had). Dino De Laurentiis is credited as executive producer — I think it’s the only one of these pictures he did.

AIP released it here in the States, but didn’t get around to it until 1964. Reynold Brown’s poster art was typically beautiful. Like Hercules In The Haunted World, Goliath And The Vampires stirs a little Gothic horror into the usual peplum stew, which I always appreciate.

These movies looked like crap when I saw them on TV in the late 70s and early 80s — usually faded color and always a brutal pan-and-scan job on the ‘Scope camerawork. Can’t wait to see this one looking like it should. Recommended.

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Filed under 1961, AIP, DVD/Blu-ray News, Gordon Scott, Kino Lorber, Mario Bava, Peplum, Reynold Brown, Sergio Corbucci

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

Blu-Ray News #249: Hercules In The Haunted World (1961).

Directed by Mario Bava
Starring Reg Park, Christopher Lee, Leonora Ruffo

Nobody can elevate a cheap movie quite like Mario Bava, and for my money, his Hercules In The Haunted World (1961) is the best of the peplum movies. And Kino Lorber is elevating the whole thing with this two-disc set — you get the European, the UK and the US versions (three, count em!), restored from the camera negative. There’s a commentary from Tim Lucas, an interview and trailers. And it’s all coming in October. Can’t wait.

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Filed under 1961, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray News, Kino Lorber, Mario Bava, Peplum

Blu-Rays News #242: The Secret Ways (1961).

Directed by Phil Karlson
Starring Richard Widmark, Sonja Ziemann, Howard Vernon, Senta Berger

Phil Karlson is one of my favorite directors, and it’s always good to see one of his films come to Blu-Ray (from Kino Lorber in the fall). The time, it’s The Secret Ways (1961), a pre-007 spy movie. Karlson and Widmark didn’t see eye to eye on the approach to the movie, and Widmark took over direction of the last week of the shoot. There’s plenty of the typical hard-edged vibe you get with Karlson to recommend this one. A very cool movie.

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Filed under 1961, DVD/Blu-ray News, Phil Karlson, Richard Widmark