Category Archives: 1965

Blu-Ray News #179: The Naked Prey (1965).

Directed by Cornel Wilde
Starring Cornel Wilde, Gert Van Den Bergh, Ken Gampu

Cornel Wilde did a great job with The Naked Prey (1965), directing and starring in a movie that is exhausting to watch — can’t imagine what making it must’ve been like. Wilde’s a safari guide chased across the African veldt after the hunters he’s guiding offend a local tribe. Along the way, he goes through all kinds of awful stuff, even having to eat a snake.

The Criterion Collection is bringing it to Blu-Ray in October. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1965, Cornel Wilde, Criterion Collection, DVD/Blu-ray News

Blu-Ray News #170: The Knack… And How To Get It (1965).

Directed by Richard Lester
Starring Rita Tushingham, Ray Brooks, Michael Crawford, Donal Donnelly

In between the Beatles movies A Hard Days Night (1964) and Help! (1965), Richard Lester won the prize at the Cannes Film Festival with The Knack… And How To Get It (1965).

It’s a very funny film, for starters. But the real standouts here, to me, are the cinematography by David Watkin and the editing by Antony Gibbs. They’re on top of whatever crazy idea Lester tosses into the movie next.

The BFI is bringing The Knack to Blu-Ray in July, filled with extras. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1965, DVD/Blu-ray News, Richard Lester

Blu-Ray Review: A Study In Terror (1965).

Directed by James Hill
Screenplay by Donald and Derek Ford
Based on characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Cinematography: Desmond Dickinson
Music by John Scott
Film Editor: Henry Richardson

Cast: John Neville (Sherlock Holmes), Donald Houston (Doctor John Watson), John Fraser (Lord Carfax), Anthony Quayle (Doctor Murray), Barbara Windsor (Annie Chapman), Adrienne Corri (Angela Osborne), Frank Finlay (Inspector Lestrade), Judi Dench (Sally Young), Charles Regnier (Joseph Beck), Cecil Parker (Prime Minister), Robert Morley (Mycroft Holmes)

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Who knows who thought of it first, but pitting the brilliant Sherlock Holmes against the insidious Jack The Ripper was an inspired idea. Just scratching the surface, the two have squared off in several books, a video game — and two movies I like quite a bit: A Study In Terror (1965) and Murder By Decree (1979). A Study In Terror has recently been released on Blu-Ray by Mill Creek Entertainment. Seemed like a good time to revisit it.

The premise is really simple. Jack The Ripper is doing his thing in Whitechapel, and someone decides Sherlock Holmes is the one man who bring the murderous fiend to justice. And indeed he does. Along the way, we get dense fog and plenty of Hammer-inspired bloodletting. (The influence of Hammer and James Bond really made for some cool movies in the mid-60s.)

The victims bear the actual names, but they look more like runway models than streetwalkers. (That kind of historical inaccuracy I can live with.) John Neville makes a fine Holmes — intense, aloof and entirely logical. David Houston, who appears in Hammer’s The Maniac (1962) and my all-time favorite film, Where Eagles Dare (1969), makes a good, typically-bewildered Watson. Frank Finlay makes a great Inspector Lestrade (though I wish he had more screen time), and Robert Morely is fun as Holmes’ brother Mycroft. And Dame Judi Dench has an early role in this thing.

The picture’s executive producer was Herman Cohen, who’d made a lot of great movies at AIP, before heading over to England to produce the wonderful Horrors Of The Black Museum (1959). Cohen hated the ad campaign put together by Columbia for A Study In Terror, which leaned on the camp approach of the Batman TV show — “The Original Caped Crusader!” — completely missing the bloody, lurid Hammer-ish-ness of the whole thing. I’m sure it had a big impact on the film’s disappointing box-office.

Mill Creek has done us a huge favor with this Blu-Ray, featuring a superb-looking 1.85 transfer at a rock-bottom price. Desmond Dickinson’s color photography is well-presented, and the sound nicely preserves every scream and police whistle. It even comes in a slipcover bearing the original UK post art. Very nice.

James Mason and Christopher Plummer in Murder By Decree (1979).

While we’re on the subject, the Holmes/Ripper thing spawned another film. the terrific Murder By Decree. This time, Christopher Plummer plays the great detective and James Mason is wonderful as his trusted friend Watson. Interestingly, Frank Finlay is back as Inspector Lestrade. This one needs a US Blu-Ray release.

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Filed under 1965, Columbia, Desmond Dickinson, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Herman Cohen

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

Blu-ray Review: Giant Monster Gamera (1965), Or Gammera The Invincible (1966), Or Gamera The Giant Monster.

Directed by Noriaki Yuasa
Starring Eiji Funakoshi, Harumi Kiritachi, Junichiro Yamashita
American version stars Albert Dekker, Brian Donlevy

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Mill Creek’s Blu-ray Gamera sets, Gamera: Ultimate Collection Volumes 1 and 2, have gotten some lukewarm reviews. They don’t look all that good. The detail’s fine, but things are a bit flat. Same goes for the audio: flat. But what I think folks are forgetting is that this is right in line with the way we’ve always seen these Japanese Daiei monster movies in the States. Growing up in the 70s, I saw them on TV — pan-and-scan and perforated by used car commercials. Later, when they started showing up on videotape, they looked just as bad, only you could stop them to go to the bathroom.

What I’m taking forever to get around to is this: in my mind, these kinds of movies aren’t supposed to look all that good. An iffy transfer? If you insist. Scratches? Yes, please. Splices? A few, just for authenticity. And grain? It’s a must. When these start looking too good, they lose some of their appeal. (Grindhouse didn’t look like that just to be obnoxious.)

And, be honest, did you buy a set of Gamera pictures to demonstrate your swanky TV next time your brother-in-law comes over?

A Brief History Of Giant Flying Turtle Movies, Part One.

Gamera: The Giant Monster (1965) was produced by Japan’s Daiei Motion Picture Company, clearly inspired by the callossal worldwide success of Toho’s Godzilla films.

Gamera is a giant prehistoric fire-breathing flying turtle with tusks, who’s released from the North Pole or someplace by a nuclear explosion. Gamera makes his way to Japan, where all hell breaks loose. The first attempt to get rid of him fails (explosives underneath him simply flip him onto his back), and he’s lured into a rocket and sent to Mars.

It’s clearly a Godzilla knock-off, with its meager budget evident in almost every frame. It’s black and white and Scope, which is always a good look, regardless of the picture’s budget (Lippert’s black and white Regalscope pictures were notoriously cheap).

A special version was prepared for the United States, called Gammera The Invincible (note the extra M), with sequences added featuring Albert Dekker and Brian Donlevy. This version played theaters in 1966 and was a constant on TV throughout the 70s.

The first volume in the Mill Creek Blu-Ray set includes the original foreign version, in Japanese with English subtitles. It looks nice and sharp — it’s terrific to see it widescreen, and the original Japanese audio tracks give the picture a slightly more sophisticated feel. (Very slightly — remember, this is a movie about a giant flying turtle.)

Personally, I would’ve preferred the Dekker/Donlevy American version I saw countless times on TV as a kid. It adds an extra layer of cheese, and for me, has added nostalgia value. Some of the dubbed voices are cats you’d recognize from Speed Racer and Ultraman.

By the way, there was a theme song, “Gammera The Invincible” by The Moons, released as a single in 1966 (that’s the sleeve to the right). It’s suspiciously similar to Neil Hefti’s Batman TV theme.

The picture was a success in Japan, particularly with kids, and a series was quickly launched, with Gamera taking on one crazy monster after another. The followups were all in color — and in the States, they all went straight to TV. Only Gammera The Invincible played US theaters.

Gamera: The Giant Monster was followed by six additional Gamera films, released between 1966 and 1971 —
Gamera Vs. Barugon (1966; AIP-TV title: War Of The Monsters)
Gamera Vs. Gyaos (1967; AIP-TV title: Return Of The Giant Monsters)
Gamera Vs. Viras (1968; AIP-TV title: Destroy All Planets)
Gamera Vs. Guiron (1969; AIP-TV title: Attack Of The Monsters)
Gamera Vs. Jiger (1970; AIP-TV title: Gamera Vs. Monster X)
Gamera Vs. Zigra (1971)

Daiei ran into money trouble and went into bankruptcy, leaving an eighth Gamera picture unmade. But just like Gamera busting out of the ice after that long repose, the series was back in theaters in 1980 with Gamera: Super Monster from New Daiei. It includes footage from the seven previous movies. The fiery flying turtle was revived again in 1995 for series of films I have absolutely no interest in.

Mill Creek’s Gamera: Ultimate Collection Volumes 1 and 2 give these eight Gamera movies in hi-def, looking pretty splendid (as I see em). All are in the correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio, are all in color but the first one, and all feature what seems to be a solid job of subtitling. And, to top it all off, the pricing is terrific.

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Filed under 1965, 1966, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Kaiju Movies, Mill Creek

Blu-Ray News #143: Orgy Of The Dead (1965).

Directed by Stephen C. Apostolof (as A. C. Stephen)
Written by Edward D. Wood, Jr.
Starring Criswell, Pat Barrington, Fawn Silver, William Bates

A couple (Pat Barrington and William Bates) crash their car and wander through a graveyard on their way to help. They end up being tied to stakes by a mummy and a werewolf — the evil minions of the Emperor Of The Night (Criswell) and the Black Ghoul (Fawn Silver). They’re then forced to watch some strippers in the titular Orgy Of The Dead (1965) — one of which is Pat Barrington again, painted gold like Shirley Eaton in Goldfinger (1964).

Exactly what you’d expect from a script by Ed Wood — who also wrote the novel!

Edward D. Wood, Jr. holds Criswell’s cue cards.

Emperor Of The Night (Criswell): “This is a story of those in the twilight time. Once human, now monsters, in a void between the living and the dead. Monsters to be pitied, monsters to be despised. A night with the ghouls, the ghouls reborn from the innermost depths of the world.”

While the sets are pitiful — not even the fog can’t conceal the lameness of the cemetery — the camerawork by Robert Caramico features gorgeously saturated color. He shot a bunch of low-budget movies, including Tobe Hooper’s amazing Eaten Alive (1976), before landing in TV with stuff like The Waltons and Dallas.

This whole crazy mess is coming to Blu-Ray from Vinegar Syndrome on September 26. You can bet they’ll have Caramico’s color looking better than ever — it’ll restore the original 1.85 cropping — and the extras will be extra-extraordinary.

Note that the novel (up top) features a “special introduction” by Forrest J. Ackerman of Famous Monsters!

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Filed under 1965, DVD/Blu-ray News, Ed Wood, Famous Monsters Of Filmland, Forrest Ackerman, James Bond

Blu-Ray News #133: Rat Fink (1965).

Directed by James Landis
Starring Schuyler Hayden, Hal Bokar, Warrene Ott, Judy Hughes, Eve Brenner
Cinematography: Vilmos Zsigmond

It’s always good when a lost movie turns up. For me, when it turns out to be something from 1965, directed by the guy that did The Sadist (1963), then it’s a really big deal.

Rat Fink (1965) has been presumed lost for decades. Well, a 35mm print has been found and it arrives on Blu-Ray this month from Retromedia Entertainment. Limited to a thousand copies, it’s something you might wanna snag while you can. They say a DVD may come along later. Either way, here’s to another lost movie returning from the Land Of The Lost.

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Filed under 1965, DVD/Blu-ray News, Retromedia