Category Archives: 1963

Blu-Ray Review: It Happened At The World’s Fair (1963).

Directed by Norman Taurog
Produced by Ted Richmond
Written by Si Rose & Seaman Jacobs
Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg
Film Editor: Fredric Steinkamp
Music by Leith Stevens

Cast: Elvis Presley (Mike Edwards), Joan O’Brien (Diane Warren), Gary Lockwood (Danny Burke), Vicky Tiu (Sue-Lin), Yvonne Craig (Dorothy Johnson), H. M. Wynant (Vince Bradley), Kam Tong (Walter Ling), Kurt Russell

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After Elvis Presley movies like Blue Hawaii (1960) were big hits while more serious stuff such as Flaming Star (1960) underperformed, the King’s move career settled into a pattern. Give Elvis a unique profession — circus performer, race driver, crop-duster (in this one), rodeo cowboy, Navy frogman, etc., throw in a couple of girls, a handful of songs, color and Panavision. The kids’ll love it.

When that routine worked, it really worked. Viva Las Vegas (1964) or Roustabout (1965), for instance. When it didn’t, well, it was Elvis — and for a lot of folks, that was enough. 

Which brings us to It Happened At The World’s Fair (1963). Elvis and Gary Lockwood are crop duster pilots who end up in Seattle. Thanks to a little girl (Vicky Tiu) he’s babysitting, Elvis meets a lovely nurse (Joan O’Brien). As he tries to get involved with the nurse, he ends up involved with some crooks and smuggled furs, too.

What really sets this one off is its location shooting at the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle, also called the Century 21 Exposition. It was shot in September 1962, a month before the fair ended. The picture’s like a Metrocolor and Panavision time capsule of a pretty amazing time — monorails, the Space Needle, GM’s Firebird III dream car, the Pavilion of Electric Power, computers and some really cool-looking mobile homes. The Fair footage is gorgeous, and the Blu-Ray’s picture incredible quality gives you a chance to really study all that’s going on. It’s surprising you don’t see people gawking at the King as he makes his way from ride to game to food joint to the dispensary.

By this time, the music in Elvis’ movies could be pretty hit or miss. The best tune here is probably “One Broken Heart For Sale,” which with a bit more bite to it, could’ve been a good one. Written by Otis Blackwell and Winfield Scott, it was the first Elvis RCA single to not hit the Top Five (it made it to 11). I’ve always felt the songs hurt Elvis’ movies as much as anything. If every tune was as good as, say, “Mean Woman Blues,” “Viva Las Vegas” or even “A Little Less Conversation,” the pictures would’ve had more life to ’em. Face it, some of that stuff is embarrassing to listen to — imagine having to get up there and sing it like you mean it. Poor Elvis. Plus, not only are some of the songs pretty lacking, but there’s too many of ’em — two or three strong ones is a lot better than 10 forgettable ones. (Remember, when Elvis staged his comeback in ’68, he did it through great music, not another movie.)

Joan O’Brien, Elvis and Norman Taurog.

It’s really easy to slam these movies. There’s not a lot to them. But you can look at them as the last reel of the studio system — Hollywood was a very different place by the time the 70s came along. These pictures were put together by real pros — from director Norman Taurog to cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg (got an Oscar for ’59’s Gigi). Maybe someone like Ruttenberg was just trying to pay his bills or prepare for retirement (his last picture was Speedway), but he was incapable of making a shabby-looking movie.

Elvis and Yvonne Craig.

And for me, that’s the real benefit of Warner Archive’s Blu-Ray of It Happened At The World’s Fair. The movie just shines. The 1962 World’s Fair was a place of hope and promise for the future, and it comes through perfectly here. This Blu-Ray reminded me how blessed we are to have old movies look this good today. (Do you remember what something like this looked like on your local station’s afternoon movie — or even VHS?) It’s bright and sharp with gorgeous color. The sound rings loud and clear in glorious mono. The DVD looked fine, but this is a whole new level. The only extra is a trailer, which is fun. 

Is It Happened At The World’s Fair Elvis’ best movie? Not even close. I’d put it somewhere in the middle. It’s fun and pretty to look at — and it gives us a great peek at the World’s Fair. And, of course, there’s Elvis. That’s plenty to recommend it.

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Filed under 1963, Elvis Presley, MGM, Warner Archive, Yvonne Craig

Blu-Ray News #345: It Happened At The World’s Fair (1963).

Directed by Norman Taurog
Starring Elvis Presley, Joan O’Brien, Gary Lockwood, Vicky Tiu, Yvonne Craig, Kurt Russell

Warner Archive is bringing Elvis to Blu-Ray this June with Norman Taurog’s It Happened At The World’s Fair (1963). Elvis plays a crop duster pilot named Mike Edwards who ends up at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.

This one doesn’t have any of Elvis’ best songs and the plot’s nothing to write home about, but the mobile homes are really swank in a mid-century modern sort of way and the whole thing was shot by Joseph Ruttenburg, who did lots of great-looking movies for MGM. His last was Speedway (1968). It should look terrific on Blu-Ray. Can’t wait!

Dig that original mono copy of the soundtrack LP!

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Filed under 1963, DVD/Blu-ray News, Elvis Presley, MGM, Warner Archive, Yvonne Craig

Dialogue Of The Day: It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963).

Benjy Benjamin (Buddy Hackett): Look! We’ve figured it seventeen different ways, and every time we figured it, it was no good, because no matter how we figured it, somebody don’t like the way we figured it! So now, there’s only one way to figure it. And that is, every man, including the old bag, for himself!

For Mr. Richard Vincent.

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Filed under 1963, Buddy Hackett, Dialogue Of The Day, Mickey Rooney, United Artists

Blu-Ray Review: Hercules And The Captive Women (1963).

Directed by Vittorio Cottafavi
Produced by Achille Piazzi
Executive Supervision: Hugo Grimaldi
Cinematography: Carlo Carlini
Music Supervision (US Version): Gordon Zahler, General Music Corp.
Title Design (US Version): Filmation Associates

Cast: Reg Park (Hercules), Fay Spain (Queen Antinea), Ettore Manni (Androclo, Re di Tebe), Luciano Marin (Illo), Laura Efrikian (Ismene), Maurizio Coffarelli (Proteus, The Monster), Leon Selznick (Narrator, US Version)

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Let’s not take for granted the fact that Blu-Ray technology has become prevalent enough that niche genre films like Hercules And The Captive Women (1963) are getting the kind of deluxe treatment usually given to pictures widely acknowledged as “classics.” As someone who seems to only watch movies that fall into some kind of goofy niche, I’m so thankful to the companies putting these things out.

That makes reviewing something like The Film Detective’s new Blu-Ray of Hercules And The Captive Women a bit odd, since I’m overjoyed by the thing before I even know what it looks like. With that out of the way, lets get to it.

Hercules And The Captive Women was released in Italy in 1961 as Ercole alla conquista di Atlantide, which translates to “Hercules At The Conquest Of Atlantis.” Shot in Technicolor and Technirama, it was Reg Park’s first time as Hercules. The picture played in the UK as Hercules Conquers Atlantis.

In 1963, The Woolner Bros. brought it to the States. They re-cut it, re-dubbed it, replaced the score, gave it the title Hercules And The Captive Women and opened it with new animated credits from Filmation. This is the version The Film Detective has brought to Blu-Ray, and it’s beautiful.

This time around, Hercules takes on Antinea, the Queen of Atlantis (Fay Spain), who’s planning on taking over the world with an army of odd-looking blond warriors. Along the way, there are all kinds of fights, plenty of posing and posturing and lots of crazy dialogue — you know, the stuff that makes these peplum movies what they are.

Hercules And The Captive Women one was one of my favorite peplums as a kid, thanks largely to the lizard monster Hercules (Reg Park) takes on. Fay Spain appeared in everything from Dragstrip Girl (1957) to The Godfather Part II (1974). I liked Park’s next one, Mario Bava’s Hercules In The Haunted World (1961), even better. This was probably the peak for peplum.

Thanks to the Technicolor and Technirama, Hercules And The Captive Women has a bigger, lusher feel than the rest of these things, which is where The Film Detective’s really pays off. The transfer — a 4K Restoration from the original 35mm camera negative — is as sharp as a tack. Sharpness and deep focus were the key benefits of Technirama, surely one of the best of the many film processes to turn up in the 50s. The audio here is, well, it is what it is. The dubbing and effects are as wonky as you remember, but quite a bit cleaner and clearer. You might recognize a music cue from Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954) — it’s also in Bend Of The River (1952) and King Kong Vs. Godzilla (1962).

There’s a mighty batch of extras: a commentary by Tim Lucas, a nice booklet with notes from C. Courtney Joyner, a documentary on peplums, Hercules And The Conquest Of Cinema, and MST3K’s take on the film. This is a really nice package. The Film Detective is a company to keep an eye on — they’re really on a roll these days. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1963, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Fay Spain, Mario Bava, Peplum, Reg Park, The Film Detective, Woolner Brothers

DVD/Blu-Ray News #338: Hercules And The Captive Women (1963, AKA 1961’s Hercules Conquers Atlantis).

Directed by Vittorio Cottafavi
Starring Reg Park, Fay Spain, Ettore Manni, Luciano Marin

Next month, The Film Detective is unleashing Hercules And The Captive Women (1963), the Woolner Brothers’ US version of 1961’s Italian peplum picture Ercole Alla Conquista Ai Atlantide. Coming on both DVD and Blu-Ray, it’s been given a 4K Restoration from the original 35mm camera negative. Being that this one was shot in Technicolor and Technirama, it should be quite a treat.

Hercules And The Captive Women one was one of my favorite peplum things as a kid, thanks largely to the lizard monster Hercules (Reg Park) takes on (see above). It was Park’s first film. His next one was Mario Bava’s Hercules In The Haunted World (1961).

The Film Detective has promised a mighty batch of extras, including a commentary by Tim Lucas, a documentary and MST3K’s take on the film. But the biggest bonus, for me at least, will be seeing it in its proper aspect ratio and high definition. Can’t wait. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1961, 1963, DVD/Blu-ray News, Peplum, Reg Park, The Film Detective

Blu-Ray News #329: The Eurocrypt Of Christopher Lee Collection (1962-72).

Severin Films has announced The Eurocrypt Of Christopher Lee Collection, an exhaustive eight-disc set coming out May 25.

The Castle Of The Living Dead (1964)
Directed by Warren Kiefer
Starring Christopher Lee, Gaia Germani, Philippe Leroy, Mirko Valentin, Donald Sutherland
Lee plays a 19th century Count who lets a theatrical troupe spend the weekend in his creepy castle. As you’d expect, it would’ve been better if they’d turned down his invitation. 4K restoration from the Italian negative; English audio.

Challenge The Devil (1963, AKA Katarsis)
Directed by Giuseppe Vegezzi
Starring Christopher Lee, Giorgio Adrisson, Vittoria Centroni
One of Lee’s most obscure films. He turns out to be the devil. 2K restoration from the Italian negative; Italian audio.

Crypt Of The Vampire (1964, AKA Terror In The Crypt and Crypt Of Horror)
Directed by Camillo Mastrocinque
Starring Christopher Lee, Adriana Ambesi
Another adaptation of Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, with Lee as Count Karnstein. 2k restoration from a fine-grain 35mm master print; Italian and English audio.

Sherlock Holmes And The Deadly Necklace (1962)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Christopher Lee, Thorley Walters, Senta Berger
Lee and director Terence Fisher follow Hammer’s The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1959) with Sherlock Holmes And The Deadly Necklace, giving Lee and chance to play the world’s greatest detective. (It was Peter Cushing in Hound.) Written by Curt Siodmak, based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Valley Of Fear. 2K restoration from the German negative; English & German tracks.

Theatre Macabre (1971-1972)
Christopher Lee hosts an anthology TV series, providing and intro and wrap-up for each episode. 24 surviving episodes have now been scanned in 2K from the original negatives.

The Torture Chamber Of Dr. Sadism (1967, AKA The Blood Demon, The Snake Pit And The Pendulum, Castle Of The Walking Dead)
Directed by Harald Reinl
Starring Christopher Lee, Karin Dor, Lex Barker
Count Regula (Christopher Lee) is executed for killing 12 virgins in his dungeon. Years later, he comes back for revenge. 4K restoration from from the original German negative; English and German audio.

Relics From The Crypt
A collection of interviews with Lee over the years and other related horror featurettes.

In addition to the Relics From The Crypt disc, each disc is packed full of extras, from commentaries and interviews to trailers and still galleries. There’s a CD of Angelo Francesco Lavagnino’s score for The Castle Of The Living Dead, and an 88-page illustrated book by Lee biographer Jonathan Rigby. This is really gonna be something. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1962, 1963, 1964, 1967, 1971, 1972, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray News, Karin Dor, Peter Cushing, Senta Berger, Severin Films, Sherlock Holmes, Terence Fisher

A Night At The Movies: Halloween – Illinois, 1967.

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Filed under 1959, 1963, 1964, 1966, 1967, A Night At The Movies, AIP, Boris Karloff, Dick Miller, Herman Cohen, Jack Nicholson, Mario Bava, Michael Gough, Roger Corman

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 #276: X – The Man With The X-Ray Eyes (1963).

Directed by Roger Corman
Starring Ray Milland, Diana Van Der Vlis, Harold J. Stone, John Hoyt, Don Rickles, Morris Ankrum, Dick Miller

Bring on the AIP and Corman! Second Sight out of the UK has announced a Blu-Ray release of Roger Corman’s X – The Man With The X-Ray Eyes (1963). It’s a terrific movie that does wonders with its small budget (you could say that about most Corman movies, I guess).

Ray Milland is researching ways to boost man’s eyesight, who in typical horror movie fashion, tries his serum out on himself — with the usual results.

One of Corman’s best, with outstanding camerawork from the great Floyd Crosby. And Milland is really, really good. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1963, AIP, Dick Miller, Don Rickles, DVD/Blu-ray News, Morris Ankrum, Ray Milland, Roger Corman

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