Category Archives: 1962

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

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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

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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

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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.

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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 Review: The Brain The Wouldn’t Die (1962).

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Directed by Joseph Green
Produced by Rex Carlton
Screenplay by Joseph Green
Story by Rex Carlton and Joseph Green
Director Of Photography: Stephen Hajnal
Film Editors: Leonard Anderson and Marc Anderson
Music: Abe Baker and Tony Restaino

Cast: Jason “Herb” Evers (Dr. Bill Cortner), Virginia Leith (Jan Compton), Leslie Daniels (Kurt), Adele Lamont (Doris Powell), Marilyn Hanold (Peggy Howard), Bruce Brighton (Dr. Cortner), Eddie Carmel (Monster)

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One of the great things about the DVD/Blu-ray era we find ourselves in is that somebody like Shout Factory will come along and make a cheap movie look like a million bucks. And with The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962) — a picture that’s probably available at your local dollar store looking like crap — that’s exactly what they’ve done.

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Dr. Bill Cortner (Herb Evers) is a brilliant surgeon who’s conducting some bizarre transplantation experiments at his family’s country estate. When his fiancé Jan (Virginia Leith) is decapitated in a car wreck, Cortner preserves her head in a pan while he heads out to burlesque houses in search of a new body. In the meantime, Jan begins to communicate telepathically with a hideous mutant (Eddie Carmel) locked up in Cortner’s basement. From there, it gets weird.

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Shot around Tarrytown, New York, in 1959 under the title The Black Door, it wasn’t released until AIP picked it up in 1962. (Somewhere along the way, it was going to be called The Head That Wouldn’t Die.) AIP trimmed the picture a bit for release, and that’s the way I saw it countless time on the late show as a kid. As cheap and crummy as it may be, I always found it creepy and unsettling.

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The new Blu-ray from Shout Factory was transferred from the original negative. It’s finally offered up uncut — 100% of its gore and sleaze are intact. It’s absolutely stunning to look at — which makes you realize just how (surprisingly) well it was shot to begin with. The contract levels are perfect, making this a superb example of high-definition black and white. There are plenty of extras, too, from a commentary to some “international” scenes to the MST3K episode featuring the film.

While I can’t really recommend the movie itself — a 53-year-old no-budget gore movie is a bit of a niche product, it’s easy to recommend the Blu-ray. We’ve come to expect this kind of video treatment for something like Casablanca (1942), 2001: a space odyssey (1968) or the Bond films. To see a picture like The Brain That Wouldn’t Die given such attention makes my heart feel good. Thanks, Scream Factory.

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Filed under 1962, AIP, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Shout/Scream Factory

Blu-ray News #43: The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962).

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Directed by Joseph Green
Starring Herb Evers, Virginia Leith, Leslie Daniel, Adele Lamont, Bonnie Sharie, Eddie Carmel, Sammy Petrillo

This independent piece of junk was released by AIP, ensuring it better distribution than it deserved. And while The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962) is really terrible, it’s a lot of fun — something you can’t say about a lot of good movies!

A scientist’s fiancé is decapitated in a car wreck. He preserves her head in a pan while he heads out to burlesque houses in search of a new body. In the meantime, the fiancé is communicating telepathically with a hideous mutant locked up in the basement — she doesn’t like the pan, she wants to die. Sheer genius.

Our friends at Scream Factory are giving it the full treatment on Blu-ray, with a new hi-def transfer from the uncut negative. Supplements include the episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 that featured it, a commentary, an alternate scene, trailer and still gallery. It’ll be released in December.

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Filed under 1962, AIP, DVD/Blu-ray News, Shout/Scream Factory

Blu-Ray News #41: Journey To The Seventh Planet (1962).

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Produced and Directed by Sidney Pink
Starring John Agar, Greta Thyssen, Ann Smyrner, Mimi Heinrich

Kino Lorber has promised some more glorious junk from AIP for 2016 Blu-ray release — Sidney Pink’s Journey To The Seventh Planet (1962).

John Agar headed to Denmark to star in this tale of a United Nations expedition to the planet Uranus (cut the jokes). Before long, a giant pulsating brain is reading the astronauts’ thoughts and presenting them as hallucinations. Hence, all the girls seen in the lobby card below.

Sidney Pink has already produced The Angry Red Planet (1969), which I always liked, and Reptilicus (1961), which even at eight I thought was pretty crummy. If you know those films, you probably know what to expect here.

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Filed under 1962, AIP, John Agar, Kino Lorber

Blu-ray News #40: Panic In Year Zero! (1962).

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Directed by Ray Milland
Starring Ray Milland, Jean Hagan, Frankie Avalon, Willis Bouchey

Ray Milland directed this AIP picture about a family that’s on a camping trip when an atomic bomb is dropped on L.A. They end up having to take on all sorts of human vermin as society begins to fall apart. If there’s a moral to the story, it might be to be sure to take a shotgun along on a camping trip.

Panic In Year Zero! (1962) is in black and white ‘Scope, features a score by Les Baxter and was shot at the Iverson Ranch — no wonder I’ve always had a soft spot for it. It was sometimes paired with Roger Corman’s Tales Of Terror (1962).

Kino Lorber has announced it for Blu-ray release in early 2016 — if mankind lasts that long!

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Filed under 1962, AIP, DVD/Blu-ray News, Frankie Avalon, Kino Lorber, Les Baxter, Ray Milland, Roger Corman, Vincent Price

DVD Review: Hand Of Death (1962).

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Directed by Gene Nelson
Written and Produced by Eugene Ling
Director Of Photography: Floyd Crosby, ASC
Music Composed and Conducted by Sonny Burke

Cast: John Agar (Alex Marsh), Paula Raymond (Carol Wilson), Stephen Dunne (Tom Holland), Roy Gordon (Dr. Frederick Ramsey), John Alonzo (Carlos), Jack Younger (Mike), Joe Besser (Gas station attendent), Butch Patrick (Davey)

You know you’re having a good day when a black-and-white CinemaScope monster movie starring John Agar that you’ve never seen shows up in your mailbox. In my case, such a day came courtesy of Hand Of Death (1962), a 60-minute cheeseball masterpiece from Robert Lippert’s Associated Producers, Inc. It’s a picture that’s been almost impossible to see over the last few decades, especially in something resembling its original CinemaScope.

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Working in a desert laboratory, research scientist Alex Marsh (John Agar) develops a powerful nerve gas. Accidentally exposed to it, he becomes a hideous, burned, swollen monster — and anyone he touches dies. The last half of the picture finds Agar driving around L.A. in a Chrysler station wagon, killing a cab driver, and eventually winding up in Malibu where he terrifies his girlfriend (Paula Raymond) in a beach house before the cops catch up with him.

Hand Of Death gave musical actor Gene Nelson his first directing credit. He’d go on to direct the two Elvis movies Sam Katzman produced, Kissin’ Cousins (1964) and Harum Scarum (1965).

John Agar: “Hand Of Death was [Gene Nelson’s] first shot at directing, and I thought he did a very good job for his first go at it.”

Nelson was mentored along the way by Maury Dexter, who seemed to be cranking out one of these API features about every week. Nelson’s job was no doubt made even easier by having master cameraman Floyd Crosby on hand. This was around the time Crosby was collaborating with Roger Corman on pictures like Pit And The Pendulum (1961), working wonders on a low budget. Carlos, Agar’s lab assistant, is played by John Alonzo, who’d leave acting to become a cinematographer (his work on Chinatown is beautiful). Wonder if watching Crosby at work influenced Alonzo’s career change?

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Bob Mark, a veteran makeup man who spent years at Republic Pictures, handled Agar’s bloated, crusty head and hands — which resemble The Thing from Marvel’s The Fantastic Four comics.

John Agar: “First they got some long johns and padded ’em to make me look like I weighed about 400 pounds. Then they had this grotesque mask — a complete hood — and very large hands, to make me look burned… It wasn’t that bad — except at the very end, when I finally died. We went out to Malibu for a scene where I run into the ocean trying to get away from the police, and they shoot me. When I fell, the waves started knocking me around, and with that mask over my face I didn’t know where I was! My eyes were set way back and the mask was sticking way out in front, and the only thing I could see was just directly straight out. I couldn’t see the waves coming — that water was crashin’ on me, and I was flopping around, supposed to be dead! That was quite an experience.”

The monster getup is pretty impressive. It doesn’t let Agar get very expressive, but since all he’s called to do is grunt and get mad and bust stuff, it’s fine. Of course, by the early 60s, Agar had been in a slew of these movies, from great ones like Tarantula (1955) to The Brain From Planet Arous (1957). He’s pretty good here, delivering the typical pseudo-science dialogue with authority. Paula Raymond is able to make her role a bit more than the usual screaming girlfriend.

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The picture also benefits from Sonny Burke’s jazzy score, which mixes organ, theremin and bongos to great effect. It gives the picture a little extra snap, and I’d give my right arm for a soundtrack LP. (I knew Burke from my Frank Sinatra records and his work on 1969’s The Wild Bunch.)

Hand Of Death is a cheap monster movie. You could even say very cheap. Agar becoming a monster isn’t a cosmic punishment — he simply knocks over a flask and gets the stuff on his hands, so it doesn’t have the Beware Of Science message you find in so many of these things. It doesn’t build to a Big Finish, though it has its moments (usually when someone first sees Agar’s deflicted* head). But for some reason, it all comes together — the cast, the cinematography, the music, the makeup — into something I love.

There have been complaints about a few of the transfers from Fox’s Cinema Archives collection, namely pan-and-scan versions of Scope pictures. But I can’t imagine how Hand Of Death could look any better than it does. It’s clean and crisp, with contrast, grain and framing the way they should be. This isn’t the kind of movie you’re likely to see turn up on Blu-ray, and since this DVD-R (available from major online retailers) looks so good, that isn’t a problem.

For Hand Of Death to go from practically lost to looking like this, is wonderful. Is this a good movie? No. Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Source: On The Good Ship Hollywood: The John Agar Story by John Agar and L.C. Van Savage.

* Deflicted is a Frank Zappa word, not a real word.

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Filed under 1962, 20th Century-Fox, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, John Agar, Lippert/Regal/API

DVD News #26: The Day Mars Invaded Earth (1962).

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Produced and directed by Maury Dexter
Starring Kent Taylor, Marie Windsor, William Mims, Lowell Brown

In the late 50s, Lippert Pictures made a slew of low-budget, black-and-white, widescreen films for 20th Century-Fox — released under the name Regal Films, with CinemaScope renamed Regalscope. The arrangement continued into the 60s under the name Associated Producers, Inc.

The Day Mars Invaded The Earth (1962) is one of the better ones, I think. Made on a shoestring, Maury Dexter makes sure we see more on the Scope screen than the budget would have you expect, thanks largely to the use of Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills. It’s an odd take on the whole alien invasion thing, with some creepy moments that continue to haunt those of us who saw it as a kid.

Maury Dexter (in Tim Weaver’s I Talked With A Zombie): “…On this one I was keenly aware of wanting to try to get… a weird feel, if that’s the right word. Something a little different, a little eerie.”

Dexter got what he was aiming for. It’s a creepy little movie. And we can get it April 7 from Fox’s Cinema Archives collection. Released the same day is API’s Hand Of Death (1962) starring John Agar.

I recommend another one of Dexter’s API films, House Of The Damned (1963), which also makes good use of Greystone Mansion.

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Filed under 1962, 1963, DVD/Blu-ray News, John Agar, Lippert/Regal/API, Marie Windsor, Maury Dexter, Robert Lippert