Category Archives: 1963

Blu-Ray News #239: Johnny Cool (1963).

Directed by William Asher
Starring Henry Silva, Elizabeth Montgomery, Richard Anderson, Jim Backus, Joey Bishop, Telly Savalas, Sammy Davis, Jr.

William Asher’s 1963 gangster picture Johnny Cool is terrific, and I’m so stoked it’s making its way to Blu-Ray later this year from the folks at Scorpion Releasing.

In the early 60s, the gangster picture enjoyed a small resurgence, thanks to stuff like Budd Boetticher’s The Rise And Fall Of Legs Diamond (1960), Murder Inc. (1960) and Portrait Of A Mobster (1961). Asher’s picture might be the most brutal and violent one of the bunch. Most stylish, too — thanks in large part to the great cinematography of Sam Leavitt.

William Asher was in the middle of his Beach Party movies at AIP when he took on Johnny Cool. He and Elizabeth Montgomery became an item after she auditioned for the picture, they’d marry, and he’d go on to direct the bulk of her Bewitched TV show. The cast is really something, from Henry Silva to Jim Backus to Mort Sahl to Telly Savalas (with hair) — with a great part for Sammy Davis, Jr.

Johnny Cool has a great score from Billy May, with Davis singing the title tune. This is an overlooked, under-seen little movie, well worth (re)discovery in high definition. Recommended.

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Filed under 1963, DVD/Blu-ray News, Elizabeth Montgomery, Henry Silva, Jim Backus, United Artists, William Asher

Reno, Nevada, November 1973.

In the fall of 1973, there was evidently a wave of UFO sightings all across the US. There were a couple in the Reno, Nevada, area. The Granada Theatre acted quickly, booking a couple of sci-fi pictures for a midnight show — The Day Mars Invaded The Earth (1962) and The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951).

Fun local bookings are something I really miss, whether they’re Halloween marathons at the drive-in or something more topical like this one. Going to the movies used to be so much fun.

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Filed under 1951, 1963, 1973, Lippert/Regal/API, Marie Windsor, Maury Dexter, Robert Wise

Blu-Ray Review: The Maniac (1963).

Directed by Michael Carreras
Screenplay by Jimmy Sangster
Director of Photography: Wilkie Cooper
Music by Stanley Black
Film Editor: Tom Simpson

Cast: Kerwin Mathews (Paul Farrell), Nadia Gray (Eve Beynat), Norman Bird (Salon), Liliane Brousse (Annette Beynat), Arnold Diamond (Janiello), Donald Houston (George)

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(The) Maniac (1963) contains many of the things I love about 60s movies. It’s black and white ‘Scope, with some really cool camera stuff every once in a while. It wallows in what they could now put on the more-permissive screen — such as death by blowtorch, though they do it without actually putting it on the screen. It’s got a terrific jazzy score by Stanley Black. I could go on.

Being that Maniac is a Hammer film, none of this should come as a big surprise. In their hey-day, they pushed the envelope big time. What is a surprise is just how good this post-Psycho psychological horror picture really is — and how it holds up today. As a kid, I was cheesed off that it had no Frankenstein or Dracula. Now it’s creepy, lurid and downright cool.

So here’s the story. A young woman is assaulted by a man in a small town in the South of France. Her father kills the guy with a blowtorch and is sent to an insane asylum. An American artist (Kerwin Mathews) comes to town and is attracted to the girl, now a pretty young lady (Liliane Brousse), and her mother Eve (Nadia Gray). Mathews begins an affair with Eve, and they devise a plot to spring dad from the nuthouse. He says he’s give Eve a divorce if she’ll help him. From there on, nothing is as it seems.

Aside from the psycho freak (Donald Houston) wielding a blowtorch, what really strikes me about Manic is what a slimeball Mathews is in it. To see Sinbad himself hitting on both a teenager and her stepmother, dumping a body into the bay and pounding gallons of brandy, is a little jarring. The previous year, he’d been in Hammer’s Pirates of Blood River (1962). Of course, Nadia Gray will forever be known for her stripping scene in that Fellini thing La Dolce Vita (1960).

Michael Carreras’ direction tends to be a bit flat, but this is his best picture. He was a much better producer or writer than a director — his dad ran Hammer. Jimmy Sangster’s script offers up some unexpected turns here and there. But what the picture really has going for it is DP Wilkie Cooper’s black and white Megascope photography. He gives the picture real flair, but pours on the shadows when needed. The whole thing is total claptrap, but it’s so well put together, who cares?

Cooper’s work is served very well on Blu-Ray by Mill Creek Entertainment. Maniac is paired with Die! Die! My Darling! (1965; UK title: Fanatic), and both look like a million bucks. Black and white tends to take on a lot of depth in high definition, and with Mill Creek’s incredible price point on these things, this thing’s a must.

The other Hammer double feature pairs up Scream Of Fear (1960) with Never Take Candy From A Stranger (1960). It’s every bit as nice as this set.

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Filed under 1963, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Hammer Films, Mill Creek

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

RIP, Jim Nabors.

Jim Thurston Nabors
(June 12, 1930 – November 30, 2017)

Here’s Jim Nabors behind the scenes on The Andy Griffith Show episode “Barney’s First Car” — the one where Barney Fife (Don Knotts) buys a clunker from Myrt “Hubcaps” Lesh (Ellen Corby). Of course, Nabors was Gomer Pyle.

Nabors passed away on the 30th at 87.

That’s Andy in the black sweater vest in front of the Mitchell camera. I had no idea Barney’s car was blue — the episode’s black and white.

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Filed under 1963, Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, Television

Blu-Ray News #150: Irma La Duce (1963).

Directed by Billy Wilder
Written by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond
Starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Lou Jacobi

Kino Lorber has announced a Blu-Ray of Billy Wilder’s Irma La Duce (1963), from a recent 4K restoration. While I love Wilder and Jack Lemmon, and this is certainly a funny movie, I have to admit that I wanted to post something on it so I could mention the great Saul Bass, who did the poster.

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Filed under 1963, Billy Wilder, DVD/Blu-ray News, Jack Lemmon, Kino Lorber, Saul Bass, United Artists

Blu-Ray News #98: The Pink Panther Film Collection.

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Directed by Blake Edwards
Starring Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom, Burt Kwouk, etc.

Shout Factory has announced the arrival in April of a very, very funny thing — The Pink Panther Blu-Ray Collection. It gathers up all six of the Peter Sellers Inspector Clouseau films, from The Pink Panther (1963) to the after-his-death thing, The Trail Of The Pink Panther (1982), and presents them in hi-def.  We all have our favorite of these films, and our favorite gags — mine is A Shot In The Dark (1964) and the gag with the parallel bars in Strikes Again (1976).

The Pink Panther (1963)
Starring Peter Sellers, David Niven, Robert Wagner, Capucine
“Oh well, if you’ve seen one Stradivarius, you’ve seen them all.”

A Shot In The Dark (1964)
Starring Peter Sellers, Elke Sommer
“Yes, it is my coat.”

return-of-pink-panther-hs

The Return Of The Pink Panther (1975)
Starring Peter Sellers, Christopher Plummer, Catherine Schell, Herbert Lom
“Swine bird.”

The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976)
Starring Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom, Burt Kwouk, Lesley-Anne Down
“It is obvious to my trained eye, that there is much more going on here than meets the ear. ”

Revenge Of The Pink Panther (1978)
Starring Peter Sellers, Dyan Cannon, Herbert Lom, Burt Kwouk
“Ooohhh, sixteen chests on a dead man’s rum, Yo-ho-ho in the bottle of the chest.”

Trail of the Pink Panther (1982)
Starring Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom, Burt Kwouk
“I am André Botot, mustard salesman from Dijon.”

Personally, I’m glad they left out the non-Sellers pictures. This set is coming from Shout Factory’s new Shout Select line, and they promise a slew of extras. Funny as all hell, and absolutely essential.

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Filed under 1963, 1964, 1975, 1976, 1978, Blake Edwards, DVD/Blu-ray News, Peter Sellers, Shout/Scream Factory